Sunday, December 26, 2010

Looking Back at 2010

The rundown for 2010, just a few quick notes on the year. Pictures and more details are in the items posted throughout the year.


January

Doctors. Dec 2009 I was advised to get breast pictures taken and in Jan 2010 I had a series of biopsies done. All turned out to be nothing, but was basically a nuisance and an expense.


February

I fell on my head in a parking lot after a lovely get-together with my dear friends Nanci and Lorraine. Thank god for good friends, who insisted I visit the ER. I had a slight concussion and stayed the night in Frederick, MD with Lorraine before driving back home in the morning.


March

Zack's black belt test. It was a grueling text and he came through like a champ. Katie's teeth continued to get straighter and she was also a champ at keeping the braces maintained and putting up with all the metal in her mouth.


April

The Holes in the Ground tour! The whole family set out to cover some of what we didn't finish on our interrupted RV trip. It was great to have Pete with us this time. We started in Tuscon, headed north to the Grand Canyon, over to Albuquerque, down to Carlsbad, over to White Sands and back up to Albuquerque to head back home. The weather cooperated and we had a great time.


May

Katie and Zack turned 12. We also headed down to NC for a bricklaying for my dad. Got a bit of closure from it and it was good to have most of the family there.


June

Dizzy! I had started to get tiny dizzy spells before our trip in April, but came down with full-blown vertigo in June. So started another odyssey with doctors, scans and, later, surgery.


It was also our big celebration for Zack's black belt ceremony. Pete folks and my mom came out to lend support and help celebrate. I missed my dad a lot, knowing that he would have been there and proud along with everyone else.


July

A visit with my mom in NC and hit the beach and a new favorite, MagiQuest.


August

A fairly quiet month. Katie started in with a new GS troop and has loved it ever since. Lots of prepping for the Disney trip.


September

Disney. A great trip with the whole family right after the school kids went back to school. Parks were far from empty but not crowded either.


I also had that sinus surgery when we got back and spent some time getting over that.


October

A low-key month, starting back in with schoolwork and enjoying Halloween. We also brought home Toby—our great little dog. He was skinny and mostly hairless but we love him and he is now fuzzy and fattening up.


November

The kids went on a plane alone to visit their grandparents in Boston! They did great and had a fun time. Pete and I got away for the weekend to Shenandoah National Park and enjoyed the mountains and trails.


December

Pete toured the UK with his band, a long-time dream come true. They had a great run and he enjoyed every minute of it. The kids and I went to NYC and to Great Wolf Lodge while he was away and I got most of the Christmas preparations done.


And now Christmas has come and gone. It has been a pretty good year, despite many firsts without dad around. We are happy and healthy and have wonderful friends and family.


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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What's New? (before it's too old)

I misplaced my datacard adapter, so had many pictures trapped on my phone. Here's the update--as best as I can remember from the photos (roughly moving back in time):



Last week, Katie's GS Troop ran a fundraiser and had a popcorn booth.

While Pete was in England on tour with The Jet Age, we went to NYC. See more about Pete's tour here.

The Met, looking like Egyptians.


The Prospect Park Zoo. Let me plug Brooklyn here. It's great! There's tons to do, the crowds are smaller than in NYC and it's easier to park. Go!


The Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

We also hit NYC--the Toys R Us in Times Square--never go during Christmas season again. Could not move without a ton of people all around us. The American Girl Place-note to self, no street parking during the week. Jekyll and Hydes. Economy Candy. And also spent some time with my cousin who also let us stay at her place just thru the tunnel in NJ.


Katie and Zack went to see Pete's parents in Boston. Pete and I got away for the weekend to Shenandoah NP. Beautiful!


The kids and I went to a Pow Wow. We went with a homeschool group during the week, not realizing that the main event happens over the weekend. We enjoyed the colorful outfits and the dancing, but there was not much else going on. We did not enjoy the storyteller all that much, but we did enjoy the fried oreos we ate while we listened to her!


We got our dog, Toby!!!!!!!! Here he is the day we took him home. He has a lot more fat and fur on him now.



Zack got sized up for his invisilign braces which he will start wearing in January.


We went to the Science and Engineering Festival on the National Mall. It was huge and fantastic. I wish we'd had more time to spend at it, but am hoping this will be an annual event.

Here the kids are with Mr. Neuron.


Katie looked far too grown up in this "pageant" dress, for a Girl Scout mystery event for Halloween.



Zack getting into the Halloween Spirit.


video

It snowed a bit. I think you can see that the dog is looking better since living with us.

I'll have the year-end entry in soon. Hope you had a great 2010.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I still don't like Thanksgiving

I can't remember a time that I looked forward to Thanksgiving or particularly enjoyed the holiday when it arrived.

Yes, I have many blessings and try to take time often to count them and be thankful for them. This past year was no exception. There has been a lot of good to be grateful for--just look back at the entries for the year. But this has never had an effect on my feelings for the Thanksgiving holiday. It is an obligation that at least comes with my mom's great cooking--definitely a bright spot in an otherwise yucky day.

Death and disaster hang over Thanksgiving for me. It has often been the first holiday that comes close after someone dies. In fact, one year, a cousin died in a traffic accident that very day. I used to dread the coming of fall, wondering what catastrophe would hit and have to be the elephant in the room over Thanksgiving.

I'm not making this up, here's just the ones I remember off the top of my head:

Sept
My father died last year

Oct
a bad breakup for me in the 80s

Nov
my grandfather
my mom's cousin
my cousin
my grandmother
hospital visits for both of Pete's parents

So, not the holiday for me.

But--now I choose not to hold my breath from Sept-Nov. I take it a day at a time and try to appreciate whatever is going on right at the moment. If something bad does happen, then I'll walk through that with my family and friends when it comes. But why miss out on all the great stuff of life in the meantime?

Plus, there's mom's stuffing, yams, turkey and a thousand vegetables. And pie--one of the great joys of life. Man, I like pie.




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Friday, October 15, 2010

Dis pt 9 & Pictures

The Photopass disc finally came! I took advantage of pre-ordering the disc and then split it with a friend (Disney releases the rights to you so no problem making copies) which brought the price down to a reasonable sum. The photographers are a mixed lot, but I think we got some nice shots:
















9/11 Pete heads home and check out day at the beach club.

No park today. We had to pack up the room and store our stuff with the hotel. Originally, the kids and I were going to start back to NC this day, but then I heard all sort of horror stories about AirTran cancelling evening flights. I figured, if Pete was stranded in Orlando for the night, I wouldn't want to be in Jacksonville. So, I booked the kids and me in a value resort, a level we'd never stayed in before.

After checking out, I wanted to hit some shops and possibly use our waterpark or DisneyQuest tickets before Pete took off. I added the option on at the last minute because the homeschool price made it affordable and I was willing to skip it if it was just too much.

We headed over to Downtown Disney around lunch time. The Lego store was on our list and we spent a good amount of time there. Katie and I also wanted to hit World of Disney to buy some souvenirs. We also got pixie dusted! Had no idea that it would last for days despite showers!


World of Disney


Giant Lego dragon

Pete, again, was very patient with us.

We ate at Wolfgang Puck Express, which we remembered from our last trip and still liked very much.

Then we hit DisneyQuest. Not really Katie's thing but we did enjoy the pirates game. Zack was in his element and disappeared off to the arcade games. I thought Pete would also get into it, but he was way too tired to really enjoy it.

The morning went too fast. Even though Pete's flight wasn't until almost 7pm, Magical Express wanted him at the bus stop by 3:30pm. So we trekked back to the car (next time I would definitely move the car from one end of DTD to the other, the walk was long and HOT).

We hugged Pete and said goodbye :-( and off he went on the bus. We headed over to Pop Century to claim our luggage and find our room.

Really Pop was fine, but after the Beach Club, a total let down. In future, I'd probably vote for off-site than stay in a Disney Value again. The room was tiny, the distance to the pool and lobby was huge and it was mobbed and the food court was really awful. I found our stay at Country Inn and Suites a lot more relaxing on our first Disney trip than I found Pop.


These were pretty fun though...



Zack was eager to go back to DisneyQuest, so I agreed to head back in the evening. It was nice to see DTD all lit up too. I was starting to feel a bit of the cold Zack and Katie had cycled through, so we made it a fairly early evening while still feeling like we had seen everything at DQ.

Pete's flight took off fine and we settled in for our last sleep in Orlando.

9/12 The End

We got up pretty early so we could hit the Magic Kingdom before heading back to my mom's in NC. A long day, but I wanted just a bit more Disney Magic before we left.

I decided the best way to park would be to go to the Contemporary and then walk to monorail over to the park. It worked out great. We stopped in to the hotel to grab some breakfast, and then jumped on the monorail to the park entrance.

The park was basically empty when we got there and we were able to hit our favorites very quickly. Pirates first, Big Thunder Mtn twice!, Haunted Mansion, Laugh Floor, Space Mtn, not sure if we hit buzz again...


Can you see the hidden Tinkerbell?

Then we did a bit of shopping, heading back to Adventureland to get Zack a sword and, natch, MORE DOLE WHIP!!! This time we tried floats--DELISH!



Then on to Main Street and then it was time to say goodbye. We walked back to the car and off we went. Until next time ;-)



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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dis pt 8

9/8

This was supposed to be a Beach Club day, but the kids really didn't take to the pool like I thought they would and preferred to have an easy morning, but then head to Epcot. Katie wanted to see the tea shop in England and Zack wanted to do another Kim Possible mission.

Pete took a little time in the morning again while the kids and I rode Ellen's Energy Adventure, a strange ride, and the kids rode Mission Space again. Katie voted for the milder version this time and was underwhelmed. I think we rode Test track again too.

We all went over and it turned out that the mission was in England anyway, so we traveled around the shops there. Zack even got a tea sample as part of his clues.

Here's where I made my big mistake. We didn't know what to have for lunch. Generally, I made sit-down reservations for lunch, but because this was going to be a hang around day, I had made a character dinner res instead. I completely forgot that I had also made reservations at via Napoli in Italy for lunch. Bummer! Pete went back to Morocco to pick up food and the kids and I split some fish and chips. The pizza would have been better :(

Not sure if we went back to the room or not. We may have just continued around the World Showcase. We did go to Italy, France again, where we met up with Sleeping Beauty (still waiting for our photopass CD with those picts though), Mexico to ride the boat and shop, and I think that about covered it.


Very difficult not to buy this mask in Italy, but the price was unreal.


Hola Zack!

Pete was way over Disney by this day and the character dinner didn't really help this. I wanted to skip it, but Katie was looking forward to it. Pete was a real trouper though and put on a pretty good face for the meal. I didn't like the restaurant at all. The food was ok, but the place itself could use an update and I thought it was unacceptable that there was no photopass photographer at the meal. Katie and Zack had a good time, so that was good.

Characters!




Pete giving it a good effort!


Good Dessert

We picked a nice spot near Japan to watch the fireworks at the end of the night. It was nice to avoid the crowd which tend to gather more toward the front of the park for a quick exit at the end. The show was great, but the wind shifted and blew ashes right at us after the finale. Not as fun but a good day all in all.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Dis pt 7

9/9

Epcot Day! So easy to get there! Pete was pretty tired, so the kids and I went over first and Pete was going to hang around and sleep in the room. I think there was an issue with room cleaning or something, so he ended up relaxing in the lobby instead, but still had the morning off.

The kids and I headed over to Future World to ride Soarin (Katie's and my favorite), the Land Boat ride and hang around the Seas a bit. I left them to go grab some fast passes, but we ended up skipping turtle talk with crush. We did ride Spaceship Earth and got some funny videos.



Pete joined us around 11am when we grabbed lunch at Les Chefs de France. It was a great meal. Pete's French is actually very good but he was a bit shy about it, he still did nicely.

We headed back to FW and hit all the majors--test track, Pete and the kids did Mission Space. I had planned on doing that ride on the easy level, but was not feeling up to it and didn't want to risk dizziness for the rest of the day just for one ride. I loved the arcade at the exit though, and we all spent a lot of time there. Pete and Zack talked Katie into the more intense version and the look on her face afterward was pretty hysterical.

Outside Mission Space


Dude!


Cruisin'

It was especially nice to have a lot of time at Epcot. We didn't last trip and I think we all enjoyed it more having several trips over there this time. The kids are a really good age for it now--although I didn't realize that one of the Horizons buildings has quite a lot for smaller kids. I don't think we even entered the buildings last time.

We were feeling hot and it seemed like the perfect time to hit Club Cool. Pete actually LIKES the Italian flavor of Coke. It reminds me of the yellow Triaminic medicine my mom used to make me take as a kid and even the smell of it alone can give me chills! Refreshing, air conditioned and free--all great in my book.

Chugging.

Refreshed, we hit the Horizon's buildings, which Zack was looking forward to. We all got into it in the end, but the first one (East?) was not especially interesting to Katie and Pete and I were tired and sat around quite a bit. The other building was much more interesting for all of us. Katie and Zack designed their own roller coaster, although Katie's bossiness backfired on her when she insisted she and Zack go together and he insisted the coaster go upside down!


I enjoyed my first ride on a Segway

Pete and I left them there to ride Spaceship Earth on our own.

The evening is a bit of a blank for me, but Katie reminded me that we ate dinner at Seasons and the food was great for quick service fare. I know we all rode Soarin together and I think we called it a night.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Dis pt 6

9/8

Animal Kingdom day. I find this the hardest park to plan for and RideMax was only a slight help. The problem with the RM plans is that if you run them as-is, it schedules you for the safari in the afternoon, when the animals will be less active or hiding. So, in order to work around this, I started our schedule as though we'd arrive late and didn't schedule the safari. All this, ofcourse, hinged on arriving at rope drop and doing the safari first, then starting the RM plan.

BUT-

This morning, Zack woke up with a sore throat and feeling pretty under the weather. I should have changed the entire plan to just hang at the hotel all day but instead decided to hunt down some lemon and honey--the concierge was great and got us both plus a knife to cut up the lemon--give him some hot lemonade and see how he was feeling.

He rallied, so we ditched the idea of driving over to the park and took the bus.

We arrived late and never quite caught up. By mid-day, we had ditched the idea of doing any of the trails in the heat, they would not be open for late night hours and we only had a ride or two left to finish up. THAT'S where we went wrong. Instead of heading back to the hotel, taking a break and going back to the park, we decided to hit the rides. But this also meant crossing the park several extra times. Not fun and exactly what I'd wanted to avoid since doing the same thing the last trip.

So once again, I left the park feeling like we really didn't get to see it as fully as we seem to cover all the other parks.

We did do some very cool things though. The safari was nice, and I got to see baby rhinos--increadibly fun!


We went to Rafiki's Planet Watch this time, which was right up Katie's alley. She asked lots of questions.

Jiminy was at Rafiki's! Wish a PP photographer had been as well.

Katie rode Expedition Everest for the first time! (I watched.)


We got soaking wet, twice, on the rapids ride. I left my hat on the rapids ride and had to go back for that (are you noticing a trend here?).

We went on Dinosaur and liked it better than Indy at Disneyland. I thought it seemed like a longer ride.

We had Mickey Bars! We weren't completely crazy--when we decided to stay in the afternoon heat, we got some Mickey bars, sat in the shade and just sat for a while. Still, it was not the hotel pool or air conditioning. Next time, we get the bars to-go!


We saw the 3-D bug film--but I can't find the picture Pete took of us in the bug glasses, wonder what happened to that one? Anyway, I was once again freaked out by the spiders.

We also had lunch at Tusker House and thought the food was good and it was nice to stay in the park for lunch.

Don't get me wrong, we had a good time, but it was hot, we got pretty cranky and even though we had the night at the hotel, Zack was not feeling great and the rest of us were knocked out so we ended up hitting the sack at 8pm.

Live and learn to stay at the hotel and move the park to another day when one of us is under the weather.

If you hit play on the vid below, then hit pause, you can see the photo of Zack in front and Katie and Pete in the second row on their Everest ride.

video

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dis pt 5

This delay in our trip report was brought to you by...Sinus Surgery! After 10 years of being mis-diagnosed with allergies, I came down with vertigo and was at last referred to an ENT specialist. He had me get an MRI taken and said that it was obvious that I'd had an infection for many years.

Surgery was yesterday and when he got in there, what he thought was thickening of the bone turned out to be fungus! Yuck! I've been growing mushrooms in my head? Really? Well, not exactly but it had been there at least 5 years. Soooooo glad I went for the surgery or who knows how far this would have gone.

And now, back to those carefree days at Disney


9/7

The Magic Kingdom
My favorite place
I get as excited as any child there.

Ofcourse, we got there for rope drop and for the first time, saw the opening show!


Waiting for opening. You can see that some of the Halloween decorations were up already. We really are happy to be there, but looking into the sun was brutal!


A better angle.

I was again armed with a RideMax plan on the slow level. I think we started in Adventureland heading to Pirates.


The place was deserted and the ride was a walk on--just how I like it.

After that, I think the kids and Pete hit Splash Mtn while I picked up fast passes in Fantasyland. Then I met them at Big Thunder Mtn.


Splashing

Then over to Tom Sawyer Island. We just read the book, so Katie and Zack were able to recognize a lot more of the landmarks, which made it more fun. We miss Aunt Polly's cafe and the icecream sundaes you could get there. It's sad and deserted now. We looked for paint brushes but no luck.


Zack at the Fort

At some point, Pete realized he no longer had the spray bottle! Probably left on Splash Mtn. He went back to check, but they had just come to collect for lost and found, so we were told we could check at City Hall on our way out.

We were hot and tired and it was perfect timing to hit the Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch. I'd never been there and we liked it.

I think we hit the Haunted Mansion after lunch, but not sure. I do know that we headed back to Adventureland to get Pineapple whips--only the best dessert in the whole world! The kids and I fell in love with them at Disneyland and couldn't wait to have Pete try one. (although I think the ones in DL were better...)

Time to head out for the afternoon. I ran for Space Mtn FPs while Pete and the kids stopped in at City Hall to see about our spray bottle. We had picked one up at Walmart before our trip and had placed in an old water bottle holder for the strap. Well, they didn't have it but we gathered even more pixie dust when they gave us a brand new Disney spray bottle on the house! Yay!

Back to the hotel to rest up and relax. We were happy to discover that the music on the Beach Club buses was pretty subdued. The music on the Port Orleans buses on our last trip blasted and still rings through our heads. Not easy to take when you're tired.

I guess we swam at the hotel or maybe just hung around. Probably both.

Back to MK. This was Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Peter Pan is a favorite for Katie and me, Pooh's Adventure cracks Pete's back in just the right place and we never seem to miss a 3-D movie at Disney, so we hit Mickey's Philharmagic.



Over to Tomorrowland. Buzz Lightyear, always a favorite was less exciting this time, I think because the Toy Story ride at DHS is so much better. I hope they give it an upgrade some time soon.

I had not ridden on Space Mtn since I was 13 and Katie had never gone on it. We decided to be brave this trip and try it.

Here we are:

Pete was actually in the same car with us, but the pictures must be set up for the three car system, weird.

We all had a great time! Once was fine for me, but there was no wait so the others went back on.

I have no idea what we did for dinner that night....but I think we had food with us when we found a spot to sit for the fireworks. We positioned ourselves on the bridge from TL to Main Street and had a very nice view. I cried, like I always do. This time Katie cried too!



Well, that would have been a lovely end to the evening, but I had one more brilliant idea--if only I'd read my notes correctly. I read that Epcot had evening hours. Pete likes the ride on the monorail from MK to Epcot, so I figured we'd take the monorail, then walk through Epcot back to our hotel.

We get to Epcot and encounter lots of people heading out the exit and no one going in. Uh oh. We ask a nice guard if there are evening hours and he tells us no. Uh oh. We explained our (my) mistake and asked if it was possible to cut through to the Int exit and our hotel. He asked to see our room keys and led us right through the entry gate! Whew! I love Disney. It was a very pleasant walk around the lagoon.



Unfortunately, my camera doesn't take very good night shots and there were no Photpass photographers around.


Next up: It's a jungle out there...

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