We are in the midst of the second major snow fall in a week, one of a record string of winter storms to hit the mid-atlantic over the last few weeks. Over the weekend, we easily received over two feet of snow and early on, about 3AM Saturday, lost power. We shivered our way through until we managed to get kerosene for a new portable heater on Monday, about three hours before power was restored.
Both boys held up admirably throughout the sixty hours without power. For the first day and a half, they plugged away at their portable game systems, actually playing in bursts to extend play time rather than immediately burning through their batteries. They are both active readers so were happy to quietly read while bundled up for warmth after the batteries died. As a treat, I popped in a disc of cartoons Sunday night into my laptop which I left unused for that very reason. We managed to watch about two hours of cartoons before its charge ran down.
We got out Monday night and early Tuesday to re-stock for the front currently making its way through the area. We’re now loaded for bear with a good stock of foods we can cook on the grill or eat cold if needed. We have a full tank of propane and two and a half tanks worth of kerosene for the heater. Andrea also snagged an overflowing bag of books from the library. Hopefully we are over-prepared but rather that than getting caught, like the weekend, not ready for an extended black out.
Andrea’s aunt lives in Winter Park, pretty close to Walt Disney World and the other attractions in Orlando. We decided to take a mini-trip, driving up from south Florida to spend the day at the Magic Kingdom and stay over night in Winter Park.
Andrea took the opportunity to try one of the spa’s at the Disney resorts while I took the boys into the park. It was pretty crowded when we arrived early afternoon and we immediately got stuck in line for lunch. The lines continued to be long the rest of the day but unlike the food line, the ride lines moved very quickly.
Before we met up with Andrea, we explored Adventureland. We led off with a ride through the Haunted Mansion, then a trip around Tom Sawyer’s Island on the Liberty Belle. I though the river boat would take us over but I was mistaken. It was probably just as well since it gave us all a chance to sit rather than running around the island. Next we defied the 40-minute wait sign and rode The Pirates of the Caribbean. The additions from the movies were nowhere near as obnoxious as I would have feared. We finished out Adventureland with a walk through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, at the boys’ insistence. I was a bit surprised but they clearly enjoyed it.
After we collected Andrea in front of Cinderella’s castle, we hit Tomorrowland. We started with a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority so the boys would get a sampling of the rides and attractions in that part of the park. We all enjoyed it, especially the sneak peek into some of the newer additions. We snagged a Fast Pass for the Buzz Lightyear ride then got in line for the Speedway. Liam of course wanted to drive while Calum showed his budding pre-teen sulk and just passively rode alongside Andrea.
We then decided to see the Carousel of Progress for a lark. It was as dated and silly as we expected, even the relatively new addition from the 80′s.
We caught a very nice dinner at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe then headed over to Main Street. We had some ice cream then shopped for the souvenirs I had promised the boys for their patience and good behavior. I really was surprised at how well they dealt with the lines and the heat. Better yet, their good behavior was unprompted. They were so enthralled with the park that they didn’t squabble or fuss.
With Goofy hat firmly planted on my head, I led everyone back to Tomorrowland. We had just enough time before our Fast Pass came up for one more ride, so we tried out the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. It was better than I expected. The live audience interaction made it more enjoyable than a themed comedy act would have been on its own.
The Buzz Lightyear ride was definitely worth the wait. It reminded me of the long gone Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, frenetic and crazily lit. Each car in the ride had a joy stick to spin it and a pair of blasters to shoot out targets scattered throughout the tide. The long line and multiple hour wait for the Fast Pass definitely seemed justified.
We got a bit snarled in the crowd watching the Main Street Electrical Parade. It was quite a bit different than the version I remembered from my youth but enjoyable nonetheless. We managed to fight the crowd, moving upstream back to the monorail.
The boys had such a good time they asked to go back the following morning. Thankfully, they took it in good graces when we said no since we spent the morning with Andrea’s aunt and then had to get on the road back to Grammie’s.
Everyone had such a good time that I suspect we may do more planning around Disney World for next year, for either a longer stay or trying to get a bit more out of the park in a single day than we did this year.
On our second day in town, we headed out to the Sawgrass Recreation Park to take an air boat ride through the glades. Sunday we pretty much just recovered from our late arrival the night before. Monday was very warm so we took the kids to see a movie. Yesterday was just about right, clear and a bit cool. We almost thought we would get rained out on the drive down but the sunshine held out.
After a short wait, we packed into a boat with about two dozen other tourists. The large boat was driven by two enormous propellers, we all got free foam ear plugs with our tickets. The boat captain was able to give us some good information about the wildlife as we rode out. From the dock, I was expecting the ride to be a bit monotonous. Sitting down on the flat boat hull, though, just inches off the water makes all the difference. When he gunned the props, the ride was exhilarating. When the boat coasted, it was calm, almost serene.
Most of the wildlife we saw were birds. We actually got to see some rare ones, notably a flight of glossy ibis. I got many good pictures from both out on the boat and the park’s wildlife exhibits. It was apparently a bit too cooler for the gators, we only saw one though from a very close distance. I was astonished at how well some of the raptors we saw blended into their surroundings and impressed at the distance from which the boat captain was able to spot them so he could bring us in for a closer look.
After the ride, we walked through the wildlife exhibits. The park apparently takes in injured and abused animals, ones that for various reasons cannot be returned to the wild. Liam actually held a baby gator, a small snake and a bearded lizard. There was also a bit of excitement over an escaped chicken pecking around the pens with the domestic and semi-domestic animals. Andrea and I definitely enjoyed the exotic animals section the most, mostly the big cats.
They had a Florida mountain lion, though he was sacked out under a ramp and difficult to get a clear view of. They also had two black leopards. One of the pair got up while we were there and played around about before resettling perched on a large rock. More of a surprise, they had two wolves, a timber wolf and an arctic wolf. Not surprising at all, they were also dozing through the afternoon heat.
As Calum said when I was chatting with him on the way back to the car, it was better than expected. I am glad we went and will be posting my pictures once we return home to our more stable, and definitely faster, fiber connection.
Since we missed seeing my family at Christmas, we decided to take an extended trip for Spring Break. Our flight last night was uneventful other than being about an hour late. We got into the air port with plenty of time to spare and had a delicious, relaxing dinner before heading to our gate.
Both boys now have their own Nintendo DSs and with head phones they can easily disappear into a game for an hour at a time. All the same, they clearly were getting antsy, asking after our plane’s arrival. Given how late we disembarked, I was surprised they did not conk out on the plane. I guess the novelty of having their own individual TV at the seat, even though they have flown almost exlcusively on jetBlue their whole lives thus far, kept them up.
Needless to say everyone’s nerves were a bit frayed when we arrived but we managed to collect our bags and hit the road without incident. A few minutes after we left the airport, soft snores could be heard from the back seat. Grammie spotted a traffic snarl on the way in and we consulted quickly on an alternate route to her place. We managed to avoid getting stuck and got both boys into bed with only a little further pre-adolescent drama.
Today Andrea took them to the pool to splash around for a bit but otherwise it has been a lazy Sunday as we recover from the late night and ponder what to do with the full week and a few days ahead.
It seems like the holiday crept up on us this year. Appropriate given its oh so spooky nature. That and being somewhat distracted as you’ll no doubt have gathered from the last couple of posts about my employment status.
Anyway, we managed to pull together the logistics in time, including pumpkins for both boys, recycled and new costumes, and a sufficient candy supply.
In particular, Wednesday night we were kind of dragging our feet about carving up the pumpkins. Making the boys do the heavy lifting of scooping out the pulp and seeds helped. Really, though, it was the anticipation that was worse. Once we were hands on and carving, Andrea and I both had a great deal of fun alongside the boys.
Year after year our neighborhood gets more festive, making the night out all the more fun. As the boys get older, we can also walk further into the neighborhood. We added a new leg to our usual route, specifically to visit a haunted house a few blocks away. Given the option, neither boy wanted the scary version of the walk through. They enjoyed the home built attraction all the same.
The Jedi costume has probably seen its last year, at least for Calum. Liam may be big enough in turn to start wearing it. If so, hopefully Calum will decide far enough ahead for Andrea to sew another long lasting costume.
While the boys made out well on the candy front, we got fewer visitors than expected. We had three bags of candy last year and ran out. I picked up a fourth bag just in case as the number of kids has increased each year. We didn’t even open the fourth bag. Well, we didn’t open it to add to the treat bowl anyway.
My guess, the spooky houses a few blocks away drew them to that end of the neighborhood. Maybe it is time for me to pick a project or two from my Make subscription to start turning our house into a destination, too. The boys are old enough to help and learn along with me which would make it all the more fun.
Our entire family enjoys the local Dogfish Head Alehouse. Andrea’s and my only complaint is the cost. Both the food and the beer are superb, it is just a bit pricey for us to afford going there too often.
Thanks to my GPS’ bias towards right turns, a few months back I was driving through Old Towne Gaithersburg. I passed Growlers that from the signage appeared to be a local brew pub. A bit of Googling once I arrived home confirmed that and revealed an excellent beer and food menu, comparable to DFH.
With Andrea’s digestive health issues and amazing progress on her diet, our regular habit of eating out most Saturdays had stopped a while back. This was before I discovered Growlers and made a note of it. We recently chatted about this, though, and formed a new plan to resuscitate this tradition. We’d each take a turn picking the restaurant so that we’d break out of our old rut, also part of the reason we stopped, of habiting the same three places and so Andrea would get equal choice for a place favorable to her restrictions, voluntary and otherwise.
We inaugurated the rebirth of this practice with my choice, Growlers. Everybody was pretty happy with it, too. The food was delicious and the portions were reasonable. The price fit the portion, addressing our main complaint with DFH. They have a kids menu, too, as much as I am coming to hate them but it makes it easier to avoid an argument with the boys.
Not only are we planning on returning, we are hoping our friends, who seem to be defaulting to gathering at DFH, would be amenable to giving this local treasure a try sometime.
Please check out our Flickr stream for some recent pictures. I put Easter up a while ago but also just added pictures from a baby shower at work. I have some pictures from the last weekend, when I took the monkeys down to the National Mall to see some cool NASA exhibits. I’ll probabyl get those posted on Saturday.
Wow, it has been a while since I posted. Sorry about that. Just wanted to take a few minutes to write up our recent holiday travels and experience by way of catching up.
First, all of the holiday pictures are up on Flicker. The most recent three are over there in the sidebar and there’s a link to all the rest.
As for the trip itself, it was pretty pleasant. We got a little delayed on the way down, but jetBlue, as always, was worth the little extra. That includes the direct flight, which is worth twice as much, easily, when traveling with small children.
It was a real joy seeing all of my family, since we are usually hundreds of miles apart. My parents and siblings positively dote on the boys, which suits the pair of them fine. When Dree and I get an afternoon or an evening off, it suits us pretty well, too.
The presents were not too crazed this year, which is appreciated when keeping the boys from being totally taken in by the crass commercialism gets harder as they get older. The gifts were thoughtful and in fairly moderate quantities. The only sad note really had nothing to do with the family but rather that within a few hours of getting home, Calum realized his and Liam’s game cartridges were missing.
Searching has not since turned them up. I called the jetBlue baggage office at Dulles in case we left them on the plane but no such luck. I am pretty sure we had them with us on the flight, so if we did leave them, they didn’t make it to the lost and found. Each boy has the cartridge that was in their respective game systems, but the other three apiece appear to have been totally lost.
Surprisingly, other than some sniffling right when they realized the loss they seem to have taken it in stride. I’m sure they will re-generate their libraries a bit at their birthdays.
Here’s Andrea’s wish list:
- Swedish clogs, size 7.
- Silk long underwear, size 1x
- Valance that matches the dishes
- Rug that matches the dishes
- Orthodox study bible