Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 2010 Round Up

Click mosaic to biggify. Created using Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker.

Wow, this month was such a blur, it's really hard to remember. I tried to take notes, but I didn't manage as well as I would have liked.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
I'm sure I flipped through a magazine at the doctor's office, but I don't recall what I read, so I guess that doesn't count.

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
* TV Time: Shows all started back with new episodes after the Olympics, so all the usual suspects, and new episodes of Mythbusters (Luke is thrilled!). We are now tripled up on Mondays with the return of Dancing With the Stars and Rules of Engagement in addition to Chuck (Heroes ended last month, whew). Thank goodness NBC and Comcast are in cahoots these days; Chuck is now available on demand!
* New Films: DH saw Wolverine and said it wasn't even worth me wasting my time, so I took his word for it.
* Old Favorites: Cars, Finding Nemo, The Abyss, Peter Pan, Ice Age. There may have been others, but I surely don't recall.

What special days did I celebrate and how?
We celebrated my grandfather's 90th birthday by throwing a party for him at his assisted living home.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
I sent out several of Luke's school portraits to various folks.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
I had some difficulty breathing when smoke (and ash!) from a nearby brush fire descended on Disney. Took some Mucinex and managed to avoid anything settling in, but I was wheezing for a good 2 days, which is not fun when doing all that walking. Then I came down with a headache that lasted 6 days, which sent me to the doctor. I'm now on a secondary medicine to try and break the headache cycle. Hopefully I can come back off of it in the next few weeks. Luke threw up again the night I got back from Florida. It happens often enough that it concerns me, but not often enough that I can even begin to pinpoint what might be causing it.

What fun things did I do with my friends and/or family?
Disney, of course! Meeting up with my college friends in Florida, always a good thing. Plus watching gymnastics with my parents, which was so much fun!

What new foods, recipes or restaurants did I try this month?
I went to Sliders in Neptune Beach, which was quite good.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
New Droid phones for DH and me, which were unusual and unexpected.

What were this month's disappointments?
Work. Big change happened March 31/April 1. Lost one coworker, gained a new one. That's all I have to say about that.

What were my accomplishments this month?
Spending so much time in the car without losing my mind! Work and travel took a heavy toll, both mentally and physically. I think just making it through the month with my sanity intact was accomplishment enough. (No 101 Things update this month; too busy to get anything in other than a new restaurant.)

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

Okay, so I cheated a bit with that last photo and used one that DH took when I wasn't here (since I apparently haven't taken any photos of my kid in 2 weeks, bad mom!). A couple of the others are actually photos by my father. I took pictures those days, but his turned out better, so I used those.

Luke has really done well this month with all of the traveling we've done. There have been some issues, of course, but he has really done very well with us dragging him hither and yon all over the city and state. Now that the weather is warming up, we hope to be able to do some outdoor fun things locally and have some time to just go outside and play. He didn't get to do much of that this winter with so many weeks of either cold or rain (or snow), and we're all looking forward to sticking around here for a while in April.

Anything else noteworthy to record?
I thought I had lost my camera at one point (I know!). Neither DH nor I could find it *anywhere* in the house before we left for my grandfather's birthday weekend. Mom let me borrow hers (same model), and I didn't take many photos, but I felt like I was missing a part of me. Found it under my recliner when we got back, though DH and I are sure that each of us checked that before we left and it wasn't there. But it's back now, so no real harm done.

Monthly Round Up courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady.

Currently feeling: borderline insane

Monday, March 29, 2010

Florida and Friends

As some of you know, my best friend Connie lives in Texas. You may recall her from the disastrous baby shower weekend of 2007. In fact, I haven't seen her since that very weekend, which obviously means I also had never met her daughter who was born the following September. Until last weekend!

Connie and her family (husband, his 3 children, and their 1 together) had finally managed to work out a Disney trip for this March. We did try to get it coordinated to meet them down there, but with work and all, I couldn't manage it. She also planned to stop by our friend Cyndi's house in Jacksonville on the way to and from Orlando. Now, Jacksonville I can manage! So much closer than Texas, LOL. So I took off work Friday and met up with Connie and Cyndi. Cyndi and her husband had spent 18 months or so living in Denmark, so it had been nearly 2 years since I had seen them (May/June 2008). Quite the reunion we had going on! As much as I wanted to bring my boys, I just could not justify putting Luke in the car for that many hours for yet another straight weekend, knowing that we would also be in the car and out of town the following weekend, so of the Gastons, it was just me who went (otherwise there would have been 2 *more* people involved).

I arrived in Jacksonville a little after 9 AM. Most of Connie's family was still asleep, but Connie, Cyndi, and Connie's daughter Sofia were all up, so we had some nice girl bonding time. We really just relaxed and talked all day. Cyndi made homemade pizza for lunch (YUM! must get her dough recipe, which she swears is nearly foolproof), we played Taboo with two of the older kids (for like 2 hours, but it was so much fun!), we wandered down the street to a local seafood place, and we talked well into the night as Connie and her family finished washing clothes and packing. They had to go on and hit the road Friday night to make it back to Texas in time for Jaime to work on Sunday. As I mentioned, I had never met Sofia, I hadn't seen Connie in nearly 3 years, and it had been longer than that since I had seen Jaime and his kids (July 2004 maybe, at Connie and Jaime's wedding). But it was so good to see everyone, even if it was only for a day. We were generally having too much fun for me to think to take many photos, but I did insist on a group shot before they left!

Cyndi and Matt kindly let me stay the night Friday night. I had spent the previous night at my parents house, about an hour north of Jacksonville, and I had plans in Jax with my parents for Saturday afternoon, so that worked out great. I had breakfast with Cyndi and Matt, then headed for St. Johns Town Center mall for lunch at Maggiano's with my parents. After that, we shopped around a little, then headed for the afternoon entertainment.

The Women's SEC Gymnastics Championships were being held in Jacksonville that same weekend. My father had been tipped off by an email newsletter that tickets were on sale for only $14 each, so he went on and bought 4 of them, figuring they would either find another couple to attend with, or just have some extra room to themselves. I think with fees and charges and whatnot, the total cost came to about $70. He'd had the tickets for months when it ended up that this was the same weekend I would be in town (well, nearby), so they asked if I wanted to attend. I knew Connie would likely have had to leave by Saturday afternoon, so it worked out great. I've never seen competitive gymnastics in person before, other than the local club when I was a kid and doing gymnastics myself.

Let me tell you, we got our $70-worth, and then some! It was SO much fun!! Always something going on, and there was no way to watch everything.


We had great seats, in the middle of one of the long sides of the floor, high enough up that you could really see everything.

Floor, Part 1:

We weren't going to see any team in particular (other than "SEC teams," we didn't really even know who would be there), it was just for the experience of it, so we got to cheer for whoever did well, which was fun. For the record, the teams were: Florida, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

Floor, Part 2:

And these girls were good! We didn't find out until after that 5 of the 7 teams are ranked in the top 10 in the nation, and all 7 were in the top 20. And as much as I love the Olympics, it was nice to see *women* out there doing gymnastics (college age, so 18-22 or so), not little girls (15-17 is pretty standard at the Olympics).

Vault (we were farthest from this one):

Dad wasn't allowed to bring the DSLR into the arena (no detachable lens cameras), so we did what we could with our little point and shoot ones. His has a more powerful sensor than mine, so his shots turned out better (i.e. none of mine made the cut!). I know they're noisy and a little blurry, but it's the best we could do. And the last shot of the uneven bars below is the shot of the day, as far as I'm concerned. Go Dad!


It lasted about 3 hours, but it absolutely did not feel like it. They just flew by! We hadn't intended to stay until the end, but we couldn't tear ourselves away. By the time we got back to the mall to pick up my car, it was 7:30, so we decided to try and eat somewhere. We settled on Mimi's Cafe, which had a 25 minute wait, but considering it was 7:30 on a Saturday night, I thought that was quite reasonable. After dinner, we picked up my car and headed back to my parents' house, and I left the following morning to return to Atlanta. Just a really fun and excellent weekend all the way around.

And before you go feeling bad for Luke and DH, they were having a fun time of their own. Turner Field was open to the public for free on Saturday. They toured the stadium, they ran the bases, they got to play the games under the stands. They climbed all sorts of stairs and did all sorts of walking, and they were completely tuckered out by the time it was all over! But all photo and video evidence points to a great time being had by all. See for yourself:

Currently feeling: happy we all had fun!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Disney 2010, Day 3: Animal Kingdom

Previously - Disney 2010, Day 2: Magic Kingdom

Saturday was our last day at Disney for 2010, and we spent it at the Animal Kingdom, after we packed the car and checked out of the hotel, once again arriving a little before 10 AM. This year's first objective was The Festival of the Lion King, which is all the way in the back of Camp Minnie Mickey, and nowhere near the front of the park! Lots of quick walking there. It was also something that neither Luke nor Mom had ever done, and it had probably been a good 8-10 years since DH and I had done it (back when it was open air and not enclosed/air conditioned!). I thought we had quite good seats, close to Simba (turns out we were in the lion section):

And it was quite easy to see the various acts:

But Luke didn't really seem to be awake. I thought he might be hungry, but even after two packs of fruit snacks, he was still a zombie. And then, it happened. We were punished for skipping nap the previous day and pushing so hard while we were there. As we left the theater, Luke had a complete and total meltdown. And not just any meltdown, oh no. He wanted to "buy something." Now, this has been a refrain of his since early this year. He always wants to go to Target or Toys 'R Us, which is fine. Up until this year, he has just wanted to walk around and look. But now, he wants to "find something to buy." Um, no, that's not how it works. So with him crying and screaming "I want to buy something," I was flatly saying no. We were not going to just wander around until we found something to buy just to spend money. If you cannot articulate something *specific* that you want to purchase, then we can't even negotiate something. But any question along the lines of "what is it you think you want" was met with more wailing, and it pretty much ended in a full blown tantrum, which I don't think has ever happened anywhere before.

I know I wasn't helping the situation. I was tired and hot and tired and hungry. And did I mention tired? After a good 10 minutes of this (it is a good long walk from the Lion King back to the hub), I had had enough. I walked off (it was either that or likely cause a scene (or a bigger one than I already had)), leaving DH to walk (or not) with Luke as he saw fit. I then plopped down on the first bench I found that was in front of a store, waited for them to catch up (Luke was still crying, though less so), and ordered DH to take him in and buy something just so he would be quiet!! In the meantime, DH had finally pieced together what specifically it was that Luke wanted to buy, and luckily, the store I had found had it. (You will get to see it momentarily.) I also realized while we were there that we had not bought a single pin! Well, we can't have that, now can we? So I picked up some pins inside, then found the pin trading station outside (by a different door than the one with the bench), and picked up a few more. Quite a few dollars later, and even I was feeling better. Retail therapy works on me, too, I guess.

By now, it was after Noon, and we were all getting pretty hungry. We split up, sending DH to get Expedition Everest fast passes, while Mom, Luke, and I headed over to the Restaurantosaurus, which was much harder to find that I thought it should be. How something so large can be so well hidden, I'm not sure, but it was. (Did I mention I was tired? LOL) I had heard a lot about the theming in this restaurant, and it was nice, but not as grandiose as I was expecting. Still, a perfectly acceptable place to eat, and again having the perk of being something we had never done (I think it was closed last year). They also had free refills on drinks. Awesome!

We had a good bit of time to kill before our fast passes were ready, so it was time to catch something we missed on the last trip: the Discovery Island Trails that go around the Tree of Life. Yes, there will be several pictures! Live of some of the beautiful carvings (remember, we only had our point and shoot cameras).

And Luke with the pterodactyl, and his new constant companion. The receipt says it is supposed to be baby Simba (they have a whole line of "babies" wrapped in various blankets), but the blanket it came with was shaped like a leaf (cute!) and fastened with a pink butterfly. "Are you *sure* that's the one you want? Not the Buzz Lightyear or Mickey Mouse?" Oh no, he was sure. Except that he kept insisting that it was a girl, due to said pink butterfly. Fine. How about we call her Nala (the girl lion from Lion King)? Fine. Nala has gone most everywhere (sans blanket) with us ever since, and continues to do so.

Luke doing his own Lion King impersonation, LOL! And a "front view" of the same turtle (it was huge!).

More amazing carved animals:

And a final group shot with the rhino:

By now, it was time to rest, so we caught Flights of Wonder again. No photos. Most of them only turned out so-so or were a repeat of last year's pictures. Other than the *extremely* rude woman who sat right in front of Luke in a reserved handicapped seat (well, if any handicapped people show up, I'll move), we all enjoyed it. For the first time, Luke showed an interest in being a crowd volunteer. He didn't get chosen, but I consider it a good sign for his development.

And now, the moment we had all been waiting a year for: the return to Expedition Everest! We picked up another set of fast passes for later in the afternoon, then used the current ones and got in line. After that, we headed over to see Nemo again. On the way, we walked behind the absolute tallest man I have ever seen in person. I was literally looking at his waist. At the time, I did not know how tall he was, but I suspected it was at least 7 feet (2.13 m). His wife was easily 6 feet, and he dwarfed her. They ended up behind us in line for Nemo, and a group of folks in front of us asked about his height, which he said was 7'1" (2.15 m). Wow. Based on his accent, I would guess he was from Eastern Europe or a former Soviet nation. I don't know how he ever fit on a plane!

Nemo was still excellent. Our seats were not as good, so I didn't get many good pictures, and many were much the same from last year. I did manage to get the one shot I really wanted and missed last year, though. Nigel!

After that, it was back to Everest. We checked for one more set of fast passes, but they were out, so this would be our last ride of the afternoon before our dinner reservations. At first, I was a bit upset that we were in separate "cars." Up to now, we had been separated into the front and back of the same car on the train. This time, I was in the back of one, and Mom and Luke were in the front of the car behind me. It actually worked out great, though, because I was far enough away to get good unobstructed photos of the two of them together. Going forwards (this is early in the ride, not going extremely fast yet):

And sliding backwards into the Yeti's cave! So much fun!

The park was preparing to close, and we had 5:15 reservations at the Rainforest Cafe back at the front of the parks. You may have noticed that we had not eaten at any restaurant that required reservations to this point in our trip. I knew the schedule would be tight and we would be trying to fit in as much as possible. I didn't want us to feel restricted by having to be somewhere at a particular time, so I left everything open. If we decided we wanted to wait somewhere nice, we could have, but it didn't turn out that way (and I hadn't expected it to). But with Animal Kingdom closing at 5, and with us leaving to head back right after, I thought we'd better have reservations for Rainforest. I can say I was not impressed with our waiter at all. And I didn't even think to take any pictures. (Did I mention I was tired! LOL)

One thing I had not considered is that the parking lot trams quit running an hour after the park closes (I'm sure there is an exception to that when they're really busy and there are clearly still many guests waiting in the queues), so when we finished our dinner, it was about 6:30, and we had to walk all they way out to the car. Yikes!! But it did show me this perfectly beautiful, dusky, and empty shot of the Animal Kingdom front gates. What a nice way to end our trip!

And we'll just neglect to mention that we had to go back to the hotel to pick up Mom's car, and it took us nearly 90 minutes to go 2 miles from the hotel to the interstate. Let's just forget that part, shall we? LOL Still, all in all, a very good short trip. Looking forward to next year! Maybe we can actually get a baseball game in next time....

Currently feeling: done with Disney for another year