Animal Kingdom

Waking up yesterday was HARD … after finally getting myself and the kids to bed around 1:30am the night before, that 6:30am wake up call came way too quickly but we had early dining reservations at Tusker House, so it had to be done.   I knew we were in for another exhausting day but we would power through it because I had an easy day planned for our 3rd day.  Everyone was grumpy getting on the bus and getting to Animal Kingdom, but we arrived on time for our reservation and after a little bit of breakfast and some great character interactions, the kids were happy and ready to start the day!   Tusker House breakfast is good … everyone raves about it and yes, the food is delicious, but its pretty much just breakfast.  There’s a wide variety available – from regular breakfast foods, pastries (Krispy Kreme donut holes!) to a few more adventurous options – strangely enough, my favorite thing was the curried chicken!   The characters we saw were Mickey, Daisy, Goofy and Donald … both of the kids loved them!

From there, I knew I’d have to follow a touring plan to get stuff done … I was most excited about Pandora, but our FastPass wasn’t until later in the day.   Disney went and threw a wrench in our Animal Kingdom day but #1.  Opening the park an hour earlier than we originally planned for (our breakfast was supposed to be pre-park opening).  #2.  Both Pandora and Kilimanjaro were set to close at 6pm, another thing that wasn’t originally in the plan  #3.  Our original Safari FastPass was for the nighttime safari but Disney erased this one and replaced it with a “free” FastPass that could be used for “any experience” … they fail to tell you that both Pandora rides are excluded.  I thought we were going to be able to use it for Na’vi River but NOPE!

We were already right by Kilimanjaro Safaris and the wait time was posted as 15 minute … perfect, lets get this over with (I’m not a fan of this ride, or really any of the animal related things in Animal Kingdom).  While we were in line, the wait time went up to 50 minutes … I think we waited about 40 minutes … no one was happy about this but thankfully, we had a really fun safari experience!   We saw tons of animals and the kids both said it was worth the wait … yay!   We are off to a great start!

From there, we walked along the Gorilla trails so that Emelyn could do some of the Wilderness Explorer spots.  Hayden enjoyed taking photos with my camera while she did this.  From there, we decided to head to Pandora.  We stopped at the little coffee place for the kids to get iced coffee then at Dawa Bar to get my first drink of the trip – Lost on Safari, a delicious rum drink … yep, this is going to be a great day!

Our Flight of Passage Fastpass was for much later, but I figured we could spend some time exploring and I wanted to try and use the free FastPass for Na’vi River.  Pandora is beautiful … its so neat how they just incorporate all of the “Pandora” plant life in with the real stuff, so it all just blends in and looks like it belongs there.  This land fits seamlessly into Animal Kingdom.   We weren’t able to use the FP for Na’vi River, which was disappointing because I knew there was no way we would wait in line for it so we weren’t going to experience it this trip… oh well.   We had plenty of time to explore Pandora … we sat down and watched the drummers for a bit, which we loved!   After that show, the kids were able to play with the instruments.  We stopped for another “mama drink” (the margarita in Pandora, I don’t remember the name, but it was a fruity margarita, maybe strawberry, with boba balls on top.)  I’ve never had boba balls before  but the kids and I loved them … they are fun to pop in your mouth!   We stopped at the gift shop and Emelyn turned into a Na’vi princess … she bought braids, a Na’vi princess crown and a knife … then decided to grab some lunch.

Satuli Canteen is the quick service place in Pandora and the food was good.   Emelyn got the kid’s rice bowl, which she didn’t really like … I feel like they could have used just regular rice for a kids dish instead of brown rice mixed with quinoa, or whatever it was.   Hayden and I split the cheeseburger pods with veggie chips … the pods were ok, nothing special but the chips were good!   By this point, it was time for our Flight of Passage FastPass!

This ride is nothing short of incredible … there isn’t much more to say about it … from start to finish, its awesome!   It literally took my breath away at points … I did have to close my eyes a couple of times b/c simulator rides with 3D screens can sometimes make me sick … it could have been the mix of drinks I had right before, too!   All 3 of us went on and on about how amazing this ride is … I wish we could have done it again, but there’s no way I’d wait in a 2 hour line for any ride!

After Pandora, we decided to head to Expedition Everest to use our “free” FastPasses.   We did a rider swap and Emelyn and I went first, then Hayden and I.  Both of them liked it … I’m not sure if they LOVED it, but they enjoyed it!   We were running on fumes at this point, truly exhausted … but I really wanted to see Rivers of Light and there wasn’t enough time to go all the way back to our room, then turn around and return for RoL.   We decided to go see Nemo the Musical (it was extremely hard to stay awake through this) then we hopped on a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I thought this would be an easy way to recharge, let the kids explore a resort and grab a bite to eat.  Hayden loves searching for hidden Mickey’s, so that’s what he did while we walked around a little then went to the quick service area to eat.  After we ate, we headed back to Animal Kingdom to see Pandora at night and Rivers of Light.   I was excited b/c I thought we wouldn’t get to see Pandora at night, with it closing at 6pm (I guess there was a special event or something) but when we got there, it was dusk and very slowly, we started to see things light up.  We walked around for a few minutes and Emelyn decided she wanted to purchase a banshee.  By the time we did that, it was close to 6pm, when Pandora was supposed to close … as we were walking past Na’vi River, I noticed the wait time was down to 55 minutes … did we want to wait?  YEP!  All 3 of us decided it would be worth it and maybe it wouldn’t be that long … 30 minutes later, we were on the ride!   I’m so glad we decided to try it … its a beautiful ride and the Na’vi animatronic was incredible!!

By the time we got out of this ride, Pandora was completely lit up … this land at night, though, is DARK … its very hard to see where you are going.   We got tons of neat photos, though, of the glowing plant life and even the ground … its really beautiful!   At this point, we were done so we headed out of the park.  On the way out, we caught a few minutes of the Tree of Life Awakenings, which is also really cool … Disney truly has some amazing technology!

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Guess who’s back?!

Its been 6 years since I’ve done anything with this blog, but with all the traveling we’ve done this year, I’m really excited to start documenting our family again.  I think its so important to keep these memories fresh and make sure they are recorded for our kids in the future.  I always love going back and reading posts from years ago and laughing or reminiscing about those times in our lives; poignant memories from when the kids were babies, those times when the nights were sleepless and the days were long; when we didn’t think we’d ever make it out of the “Terrible Two’s” alive.  I know we have many, many challenges ahead of us, but I feel like we’ve come to a point in our lives where we can sit back and enjoy things a little more – the kids are a lot more independent but they still want to be around us.  How much longer will we be able to enjoy family movie nights, weekend canoe trips and 10 day road trips before the kids don’t like us anymore?

This summer was one of the best we’ve had (although I think I feel that way every year!)   We took some amazing vacations and made some wonderful, lasting memories together – I don’t want to let those feelings slip by without documenting them.  I want to be able to look back in 6 more years and remember how it feels at this moment.  I have 2 amazing kids who are kind, funny and smart.  I couldn’t ask for better children.  Yes, we’ve got our challenges for sure and things are not always easy, but I feel incredibly lucky and, as cliche’ as it is, #blessed.

So with that, its on to document the last 8 or so months … I hope you enjoy keeping up with the Heyl family!

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Hurricane Isaac

4am. The storm made its 2nd landfall about an hour ago right about Fourchon. Looks like the the eye is going to move right over us. Isaac is said to be a category 1. This is actually the first real storm that I’ve really experienced, particularly since living on my own. Right now, we still have power and direct tv, which is kind of amusing since the satellite tends to go out if it sprinkles on a normal day.

As Far as conditions, I’m hearing a constant roaring of wind with frequent gusts. The whole house seems to be creaking, the rain is pelting the windows and although I slept for a few hours earlier, I dont think I can fall asleep now. This storm is very slow moving and has all but stalled where it is.

Power went out again briefly; it’s gone off a handful of times but always comes right back

5am and still insane. The power has been out for good about 30 minutes or so. The wind is still really loud and scary. I’m lying in the dark, listening to my family snore and sleep peacefully while my heart pounds every time a stronger gust comes through. I’m so angry that I didn’t persist with boarding up the windows, but we also didn’t expect it to be this bad. A lot of reports are saying this has to be higher than a cat 1 because of pressure and wind speed. I guess we will know more when it’s said and done. I’m just willing daylight to get here so I can see what’s going on and hopefully retreat to a room without windows, or at the very least, the back of the house since the wind is blowing right at the bedroom windows.



Around 6:30 when it started to lighten, the only damage I really saw was the kids’ playhouse tipped over onto our back fence. It’s a pretty massive playhouse so I’m sure that fence is messed up. I finally fell back asleep closer to 7 when things died down a bit. It’s now 9am and we are in the eye of the storm so things have died down considerably. Unfortunately, wade has been keeping an eye on the water levels down by the camp (myrtle grove) and he water has risen several feet in the last couple of hours. Wade estimates there could be 2 feet in the camp and with it only going up, it could get much worse. The boats and the ranger could be gone. Worst of all are the personal items of wade’s dad that are still down there :(


2:40. The eye sat over us for hours today. No winds or rain, felt like any regular overcast day. We watched a movie, the kids played Legos, we had sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. The weather is just starting back up again, this time the backend and winds from the south. The officials say this will be the worst of it, so we will see. At least it will. E mostly daylight, not quite as scary that way (I hope!). The kids are working on a pinterest project with another one lined up. We are in for another long night.


The only casualty so far!

A few more pics from the last few days:

Hayden said this is his “hurricane face”


The humidity was so high and the kids were playing in the rain a bit so Em’s hair was in ringlets. Here is her hurricane hair


Emelyn slept through everything last night



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