Disney Photo of the Day (May 24, 2009)

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While walking from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary resort for dinner (more on that later), we saw many of these tiles on the ground.  Most just contained the names of the people that bought the tiles.  This one (and a couple others that I found) contained a proposal.  I felt the need to take a photo of it as it seemed like a truly great idea for a proposal.  Kudos to Darren, and I hope Tanya said yes.

Our Week In Disney World – Part II – Dreams Come True

When I left off last, we had just arrived at our hotel.  After a quick lunch, picking up our rented double-stroller (rented from Orlando Stroller Rentals, waiting for us at our hotel) and stopping by our room quickly to drop bags off, we headed to the Magic Kingdom.  We didn’t have much time, as we had dinner reservations at Chef Mickey, but we figured we could spend an hour or so walking through the park.  We split up from B’s parents and, after a quick stop to get NHL & JSL’s "1st Time" badges and JSL’s Birthday badge, we walked down Main Street.

We got our first Photo Pass photo taken of all of us (with the kids in the stroller) in front of Cinderella’s Castle.  After taking a photo of all of us, the photographer had NHL cup his hands and look surprised.  NHL complied without asking why.  As we walked away, I let him know that, when we saw the photos online later, Tinkerbell would magically appear in his hands.  This made him quite happy.

We noticed a group of people gathering in front of the castle and stopped to see what was up.  A show was about to start and, as we had some time but not enough to wait on line for rides, we decided to watch the show.  In the Dreams Come True show, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy starred.  Donald thought that no one believed in dreams anymore.  In an effort to prove him wrong, Mickey and his gang had the audience chant "Dreams Come True."  After some fireworks went off around the castle, a few of the Disney Princesses appeared.  Donald and Goofy moved offstage while the Princesses (and their Princes) as well as Mickey and Minnie danced.

Donald and Goofy came back onstage (with Mickey and Minnie leaving).  Goofy said that he always wanted to be a pirate.  On queue, Peter Pan appeared.  Donald got dressed as Captain Hook and Goofy got dressed up as Mr. Smee.  After a short dance number, the real Hook and Smee show up.  Hook attempts to fight Peter pan, but Peter’s too quick for him.  Nevertheless, Hook eventually traps Peter.  Just when things seem grim, Hook gets very nervous at a "Tick-Tock" sound.  No, the croc doesn’t make an appearance, but a clock prop does that the characters toss between themselves frightening Hook away.

Just then, though, Malificent appears.  She declares that she’s going to make nightmares come true instead of dreams.  Everyone onstage prepares to flee, but Donald stands up to her insisting that "Dreams come true!"  Mickey and Donald get the audience to chant it (which NHL dutifully shouted out) and Malificent is defeated.  There’s an ending dance, more fireworks, and kids (both actual and of the grown up variety) leave highly entertained.

When the show was done, we noticed that it was time to meet up with B’s parents and head to the contemporary resort.  Below are some photos from our brief stop in the Magic Kingdom.

Our Week In Disney World – Part I – The Flight Down

As some of you might know (especially if you read my wife’s blog), we just got back from a week-long trip to Disney World this past Saturday.  During the time away, we took notes of the days events so we wouldn’t forget what happened.  In addition to this, my wife and I (ok, mainly me) took a lot of photos.  How many?  Nearly 2,600.  Even after weeding out some of the duds (like many in-door shows with low lighting, no flash photo rules, and swift onstage action), there are over 2,100 photos that I’d like to share with everyone.  So, just like my Charleston trip last year, I’m going to break up the story of our Disney World trip into many posts.  Some will be stories of the days events.  Some will be "Photo of the Day" type posts (with explanations coming the next day).  Some will be series of photos along a common theme.

I’ll start, appropriately enough, with the trip down to Disney World.  By the Thursday night before our trip, I had run a backup of our laptop computers to our main desktop system and was backing that up to an external hard drive.  The idea was to store that off-site in my office in case anything happened to our house while we were away.  Unfortunately, the backup didn’t complete in time (Friday morning), so I let it run figuring that it’d be done by Saturday morning.  Since we were going with B’s parents, I could drop the hard drive off there.

Friday night, we got the kids into bed early and packed until the the clock said 1am.  The next morning, we were pretty much done and ready to go.  All of us except for the backup, though.  It was *still* running.  Finally, we had no more time and I figured that a partially complete backup was better than no backup at all.  I shut down the backup (and our computers) and dropped it off at B’s parents house before the trip.

We dropped our car off at the parking lot and they loaded our suitcases (4 plus 4 carry-ons) onto the bus.  After a short drive to the airport, we made a last-minute decision to use Disney’s Magical Express to handle our luggage.  It was so worth it!!!  4 carry-ons plus 4 checked bags carried by 2 adults just doesn’t work.  We would move forward in line by 2 feet and need to make trips to move all of our luggage forward.  Later on, when we were walking through Orlando International Airport, we counted our blessings that we just had 2 bags per adult and not 4!

When we got to security, NHL melted down.  He started crying and freaking out about taking off his shoes and going through the line.  It was understandable.  Here’s something new for him to do (even though we talked with him in advance) and he was still quite tired from waking up early.  After he went through security, however, he lauded it as his favorite part of the trip.  (This was before the airplane ride, though.)

After a wait for our plane to board, we experienced the Southwest Cattle Call.  You see, Southwest, unlike other airlines, doesn’t assign you seats.  Instead, you get "seating line numbers."  So instead of knowing that you’ll be sitting in row 9 seat B, you know you’ll be boarding with groups A, B, or C numbers 1 – 60.  We were lucky to be in group A31.  After A’s 1-30 boarded, we went aboard and easily secured two rows for ourselves and B’s parents.  I got a window seat with JSL between B and me.  NHL got a window seat behind me with B’s parents next to him.

We soon discovered that one of our flight attendents was a masquarading stand-up comic.  After takeoff, just before snacks were served, he announced that a couples’ "table is ready on the deck."  As we landed and the pilots engaged the breaks, he called out "Woah there Trigger" followed by horse noises.  He definitely made the flight an entertaining experience.  (If any Southwest management types are reading this, I don’t know his name, but I can provide flight numbers/days/times so he can be tracked down and commended.)

The flight itself was rather uneventful.  NHL had fun playing with B’s parents using activities we planned in advance.  JSL liked using his aquadoodle and looking at the snack menu.  He also fell asleep a half hour prior to landing.  Me?  I took photos.  I don’t get the opportunity to take photos above the clouds that often, so I took full advantage of my opportunity.

When we got to Orlando International Airport, we walked (and took a monorail) across the airport to the Disney Magical Express shuttle lines.  As I mentioned before, we were very thankful that we had done Disney Magical Express.  It was hard enough lugging 4 carry ons and two kids with us.  We didn’t need an additional 4 heavy suitcases as well.  When we got to the Magical Express shuttle, we got our first taste of Disney lines.  It was hot (90+) and the lines moved slowly, but we eventually got on the bus for our hotel.  The kids (and let’s face it, us adults too) excitedly saw the Disney World signs just before we got to our hotel.  We were finally in Disney World!

Weight Loss Progress

Back in December, I looked at the scale and didn’t like what I saw.  My weight had not only crept above the dreaded 200 mark, but was all but at 210.  I had worked very hard a few years back to lower my weight from 255 to 185.  Over the years, some weight would come back on and I would respond by tightening the reins on what I ate.  Not so much dieting (which can be bad for you) but watching what I was eating (sometimes by keeping a food journal) and making a conscious attempt to eat healthier.  I am determined to never again weigh as much as I used to.  When NHL gets tired, I’ll sometimes still carry him, but since he weighs over 47 pounds now, I can’t carry him for long.  Inevitably, as I put him down, I think to myself: "And I was carrying this (and more) around every single day?!!!"

So when I saw my weight creep back again, I became determined to return to 185.  My first attempt involved WiiFit.  At first, I liked the workouts and they seemed to be working, but the pounds weren’t dropping off too fast.  So I went back to my reliable "Weight Watchers-esque" method.  I kept a food journal and tracked how much of everything I ate.  I limited my intake of food and the pounds starting falling off.  I’m not going to hit my goal of 185, but I did end up at the not-too-shabby weight of 187.  I can live with those extra two pounds at Disney World.

At Disney World, I’ll be eating a lot of high calorie food including all-you-can-eat buffets which are like kryptonite to my weight loss efforts.  On the other hand, I’ll be walking.  A lot.  In high 80’s – low 90’s.  That should help shed some pounds.  It will be interesting to see whether the walking wins out (leading to weight loss), eating wins out (leading to weight gain), or whether they cancel each other out (leading to no change in weight).  Even if I gain some weight, I’m alright with it.  I’ll go back on my weight loss plan (adding in, perhaps EA SPORTS Active) once I get back.

My Grandmother: A Life In Photos

Last week at this time, I was getting on board an airplane and heading down to see my parents and grandmother.  My grandmother, who turned 94 years old in October, isn’t doing that well.  Her memory has been going for some time, but lately she’s had other issues as well.  Conflicting reports from my parents either had her as heading downhill or at death’s door.  B and I decided that I should head down there to say goodbye as it might be the last time I get to see her.  The boys didn’t come because: 1) I didn’t want them to see great-grandma like that and 2) We didn’t want to pull NHL from school.  B stayed home with the boys, so I was on my own.

After seeing her in person, I don’t think she’s quite at death’s door, but she does seem to be giving up.  All she wants to do is sit and sleep.  I roped her into one game of backgammon but her only real contribution was rolling the dice.  About the only time that my "real grandmother" emerged was when I showed her some videos of the boys that I brought with me.  She smiled and laughed.  My father and I spoke about getting webcams set up so the boys could talk with Bubbe and Grandpa, but perhaps it would be theraputic if they were able to talk with Great-Grandma as well.  Something to think about.

While visiting, I got the chance to see a series of old photos of my grandmother’s.  My mother was trying to decide who to disburse them to when grandma passes away and I decided that they should first be scanned.  The scanned versions could be distributed to all of the kids/grandkids via CD or DVD (depending on how many photos there are).  This way, everyone gets all of the photos even though not everyone gets all of the prints.  My mother and I quickly went through the photos and organized them based on importance.  Photos of my grandparents and father/uncle while they were young got the highest importance.  Photos of me, my sister, or my cousins while they were young were the lowest.

When I went home, I took the 6 highest priority photos with me and scanned them in.  Here they are, along with a photo of my grandmother at her 94th birthday party and a photo of her from this past weekend.

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