DeSoren Abbey

 

DeSoren Abbey

Since Sam has left, getting back that extra room and space in the house has really underscored the need for a bigger house. Having that extra room has really changed how our household runs, and we like it! So we have jumped back into the house hunting market. Last time we did this was before Jayme came into our lives, back when we lived in SE Portland… Seems like 3 lifetimes ago.

Our goal this time is a 3-4 bedroom house with a master bathroom with a tub and a nice big shower. We need a fenced backyard and a nice open family space inside. We need a bigger house for some elbow room. We also need to stay in Clackamas and more importantly inside Jayme’s school district. Once we find the perfect home, we do have some big plans for it. Jayme and Anthony want to plant a garden… There has been a lot of discussions about raspberry plants, loganberry bushes and a treehouse. They also wanted a swimming pool, but the Joshua has issued a big no on that idea.

We have been looking in Happy Valley (our preferred location), the unincorporated Clackamas area, Milwaukee and now Damascus. So far, we have put in offers on three homes and each time we have been kicked to the curb. But each time we have learned a bit more about what we are really looking for and what we would be willing to settle for, which only adds to our depression.  It seems that home inventory is down 30% from this time last year and what is on the market seems to be priced pretty high. Or another way of looking at it is our taste preference is priced higher then our means. We are also a bit worried that even with most of the homes on the market being short sales and foreclosures this might prove to be a weird upside down sellers market. But we have not lost hope yet… Sort of.

The first house was great, located in Happy Valley, a short sale priced to move. Four bedroom home with a pretty nice hillside view. It had a great upstairs area, a kinda scary, but fixable deck and this amazing unfinished basement that had SO much potential. Visions of a huge family space and theater room and a 5th bedroom  danced in our heads as we signed the offer. Knowing it was going to be popular we even offered more then asking and got rejected. This was kinda of a blow to us. We really felt we had it. It was then that this house hunting process started to feel a lot like the adoption process we had just gone through. The waiting, the rejection, the weird rules and forms.

The second home we found that we loved was a fixer upper. But one priced very very low for the area it was in. The prior owners had done some very interesting home improvements, which would be easy to remove, but there was also some water damage. Even that would have been pretty easy to fix. We got pretty excited about this house and even did a run to Home Depot to check out diferent flooring options and paint colors. Like the first house, we offered more then asking and just like the first house we were rejected. This time we didn’t feel as bad because there were 13 other offers on the table. But it was still a blow to us. Seems we are still a bit raw from the adoption roller coaster…

The next house was a great 3 bedroom house with a nice master and great backyard for Jayme. Only two problems, first they were asking WAY to much for it and second – it is in Damascus. Not that Damascus is a bad place, but its a long commute for 2 people who work in downtown Portland. (That and we will never get Scott S. to visit us out there) The house was  a short sale that had been on the market for almost a year and it needed a little bit of work. Our wonderful agent did comps that showed that the house was $25k overpriced and even at that price we felt it was overpriced… mostly because of the very strange neighborhood. The house across the street just had sold for 50k less, but the house behind that sold for 50k more and they are all the same cookie cutter houses, nice cookie cutter homes, but what’s with the huge price differences?  So we came in with a bid  we felt was fair. More importantly one we felt comfortable with and could sleep through the night with. They came back with a counter offer of 40k more then we offered and the inglorious positon of backup offer if we wanted it. So we happily walked away from the deal.

Perhaps we should move to Disneyworld, prices down there are much better, but the commute to work each day to downtown Portland might prove to be a killer.

Tony and Anthony’s High School Reunion

The idea of coming back years later, a huge success and showing off to those who had vexed me in high school; has always been very appealing.  I remember thinking even at graduation, that I would come back in a limo or some fancy car with photographers taking my pictures, personal bodyguards and seeing everyone who would want to kiss up to me. I would be a superstar of some sort. Perhaps a famous actor or rock star.

I have always had my head in the clouds a bit, I will admit that. Growing up I wanted my family to be more like the perfect TV families I loved, and my vision and expectation of what my big high school reunion would be like has forever been set in stone since watching Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.

So when none of that was going to happen on the last big number class school reunion; I kinda skipped it. Apart from not being able to make the huge splash, my pie in the sky imagination demanded, but mostly from the real fear of saying something extremely cunning and satisfying to people who had vexed me as a weird awkward and misunderstood teenage homo.

But now many more years later, I found myself in a weird position as the next big date reunion appeared. Now that I am older, more mature, a father and former international world leader.  My imaginative expectation of what should happen  was now,  perhaps,  a bit lower. Perhaps things have changed, perhaps I have changed enough to go back and see what I loathed so much when I was a young teenage thing.

So when I noticed on the the PAA website that the Alumni weekend was only a week away, I became a bit nostalgic. Blame it on male PMS or whatever (Joshua blames the full moon), I found I wanted to walk the old halls again. Yes, a little bit of me still wanted  to pour gasoline on the floors of those hallways and strike a match or two, but there had to be a few good memories of the forgotten past to explore.  The more I thought about it, the more I knew it was the latter and not the former, so I felt I could attend without any kind of prison time occurring afterwords. The one thing I really did dread, was seeing anyone hateful. Again, mostly for the fear of my mouth opening or worse holding my tongue and adding another high school related moment of regret and trauma to my addled brain.

First I did a shout out on Facebook to see if anyone from my class was going, because it’s no fun being a Romy without a Michele (and vice versa). The responses I got back should have been my first warning:

“Not on my list of fun things to do”
“Mmmmmmm, gonna have to go with nope….. “
“Connecting with friends sound FABULOUS, walking back thru the gate….next to impossible.”

I started pestering Josh to see what he thought. It was pretty clear he was NOT supportive of the idea and he had no interest in attending a Adventist church service in a gymnasium. After a  million years as a Roman catholic alter boy, he has done his jail time. I really didn’t  blame him for not wanted to attend with me as the happy homo spouse.  So… Without any confirmed classmates attending I threw caution to the wind and left the decision to a 7 year old and asked Jayme if he wanted to go see my old school. The weekend’s events started off with a concert evening with the school band and choir performing. Jayme loves music so at the worst, at least he would have a good time. I picked him up from school on Friday afternoon and asked him if he wanted to good see my old school that night. I got a short, NO. Well that was that. Joshua didn’t want to go and now neither did Jayme. And there was  no way I was walking in there alone. At least with Jayme I could use him as a cuteness shield.

But as luck would have it, following video game time, Jayme changed his mind. We jumped in the car and headed over to the school. I drove up to the front door only to find it was locked. I quickly checked my iPad to see if I had the right time and date. Information confirmed, we drove around the block looking for an entrance. The old side gateway I snuck out of for so many lunches, was shut and padlocked. Seems since my time, they have opened a new gate as the main entrance, located all the way on the south side of the school. Entrance found, we parked and headed in. Walking up to the check in desk, we were greeted by some teenagers (assumed they were seniors) and they checked us in and I was given a very fetching name badge with a color photo with my old senior picture upon it… With my wonderful mushroom bowl shaped 90’s hair.

Curse of the Fuchsia

The concert was not for an hour, so the two of us toured the school.. alone. The school website mentioned that there were going to be tours, but no one was leading any. Which was fine by me. I showed Jayme my old lockers (which he wanted to open) and we looked into every classroom. We headed down the honor wall area and found my classes photo frame. I even pointed out my mother’s photo from 1960 something (mushroom hair seems to run in the family). The one thing missing was the schoolmates and teachers. NO one from my class was present and no teachers. The school was empty.

At 7:00 p.m. the concert began.  The gym was mostly filled with parents of the preforming students. Jayme and I sat down near the band and listened to the show. Miss Neel and the band came out first. Miss Neel was my choir teacher when I was attending PAA, so this was a blast down memory lane. The band wore all black, a color I was very impressed with. Back in my day we all were forced to wear bright floral polyester fuchsia. They did have a touch of the fuchsia curse with pink ties, but it was a huge improvement.  Plus, there is nothing wrong with a little manly pink.

Jayme loved the band, as with other musical events that he has attended, he ate it up. He spent the evening parroting Miss Neel’s hand motions as she directed the band, only jumping a few times when the cymbals crashed.

After the band performed, the school choir came out. It seems that they had not escaped the PAA fuchsia curse. Snow-white polyester dinner jackets, light pink shirts, bright blinding pink bow ties and black polyester pants. My heart wept a bit for them.

Once the concert ended, Jayme wanted to meet Miss Neel, who was nice but clearly, she did not really remember me. Not even with my wonderful name badge with my senior picture upon it… With my wonderful mushroom bowl shaped 90’s hair. As a friend said in a Facebook post, perhaps she did not recognize me out of my fuchsia. She was very nice and made a nice effort to talk with Jayme, but then beat a hasty retreat (perhaps she did remember me LOL).

So that was that, reunion done. I had no wish to attend the church service the next day and Jayme could not attend anyway due to T-Ball practice. But… On the way home, all Jayme could talk about was how he loved my school and wanted to come the next day if it was raining and T-Ball was canceled. He had also found a Big Lake brochure and wanted to go to camp and go to MY high school when he was older.  So with all of his excitement, the two of us made a plan. I would attend the church service the next day (OMG) and we would get Joshua to drop him off after T-Ball practice.

So Saturday morning I cooked Jayme’s breakfast and headed to my closet for my suit (which was too big, yeah for losing weight!).  I had to borrow a smaller belt from Joshua to keep my dress pants up. Joshua and Jayme headed off to T-Ball and I headed off to dear old PAA.

Wasted paper at the check in desk

I arrived and looked around. Hmmmm… No one I knew, the coast was clear. Being casually late, I assumed I would sneak in – not be noticed – find the cool people – and sit next to them. Well it turned out I “was” the cool people.

The gym was laid out with all the class honor years highlighted and seated in the middle of the room under very large signs showing their graduating year. Every year had a small to large group huddled around their sign. But when I looked across the room to my class’ sign, it was a lonely wasteland.  So dateless and alone, I headed over to my class’ area and plopped down. Why the heck was I here again? I sat alone and a became little desperate for those vexing people to show up and distract me with their perceived hateful stares. The belt holding my oversized pants was starting to dig in to my side. My arms were getting all sweaty under my tent-like suit jacket and did that woman on stage just ask everyone from my class to stand???  Oh God…. she did.

So now I stood, alone as the whole gym filled with geriatrics and bored high school students stared at me and applauded my special efforts to keep my pants up, I mean showing up. Thankfully once the applause ended, the lady on the stage asked for all the classmates from the 1990’s to stand up with me, so I would not be alone. I start looking around the room, then the whole room start looking around the room as well. No one was standing up with me. So round two of applause begins for me and me and my belt, the sole representative the of the 1990’s, as my belt was new right from China.

Shortly after my two moments of heady fame, Joshua texted that he and Jayme had arrived outside and were waiting in the parking lot. So I headed out to meet them. After a short exchange, we did the hand off. Then Joshua ran for his life and Jayme and I headed in. Once back down in the wasteland of my class’ reserved seating area, Jayme got a feel for the overwhelming excitement of an SDA church service, in a gym, while sitting on PUA metal-folding chairs.  It only took about 10 minutes for him to declare that he was bored to tears and honestly, so was I.  This was not what I was hoping for. I was looking forward to talking to old buddies, cracking jokes, and exchanging stories throughout the service. Having to sit up and pay attention like a real grown-up… no no no.

So Jayme and I headed outside to run around and play a bit. As we left, we saw Miss Neel, who smiled and waved, perhaps she does remember me. We headed out the backdoor towards the covered passageway to the art department. It was a bit surreal standing there watching Jayme run back and forth down the cloister that I use to walk each day. Thoughts of old friends, teenage enemies and cool teachers fill that walkway.

We killed time until the service was over, playing in the soccer field. Following the service was the potluck.  Jayme REALLY wanted to eat lunch in the cafeteria for some odd reason. Even the promises of a store bought pizza would not even budge him. So we hung around and waited…

Official Class Photo

From the stage, they announced that the offical class photos would be taken before lunch and for the honor classes to follow their class year signs. Jayme and I slowly walked over and thanked the teenage girl, who stood alone with us holding our class’ sign. They offered to take the full class photo of just the two of us, but I quickly declined, remembering what a Facebook classmate predicted how VERY sad a one person class photo would be. But I took a few funny photos of Jayme playing with the sign, which he loved and hammed up.

They soon announced that lunch was served and we entered into the cafeteria. Years ago (eons ago when Ellen DeGeneres walked the earth with Dinos and Bill Nye the Science Guy) I used to work a shift in the school kitchen. It was then, I was privileged to work with the greatest school lunch lady/sabbath school teacher/pathfinder leader and mom; Mrs. Tate. It seemed a bit sacrilegious to be served store-bought Stouffers Lasagna from her kitchen. But we got our plates and found a seat, sitting at the back table where I use to sit with all of my old crowd. It was here at lunch I really noticed how differently Joshua and I, have been raising Jayme from the way I was raised.

Jayme asked if he could have some chips with this lunch. I told him they were not serving chips. Then he pointed to a vending machine next to us, “You can get me those chips.”.  Now how do you explain to a child, who is hungry, about Seventh Day Adventist Sabbath Dogma? How do I explain the look of shock and disapproval that would explode from a room full of Seventh Day Adventist Octogenarian’s slurping up their Stouffer’s?  I sat there for a moment and thought. Was Jayme better off or worse for not having these customs thoroughly programmed into him? Deep, unexpected thoughts now began churning in my head; all on a day that was supposed to be just a fun day, down memory lane. Well, I wanted to be a parent. I leaned down and told him, that this was a church school and one of the church rules is no buying or selling on Saturdays. He was a bit miffed and really didn’t understand.

As I sit here writing this, I really marvel that even years down the road from my own days of daily indoctrination in the SDA church:  My programing still stands, still a good manchurian. What is the worst they could they have done to me if I stood up and bought Jayme some chips? It’s not like I knew any of them or would ever see them again. Or that Jesus would even care, he would have made chips fall from the sky. Oh dear, a new high school regret to carry around for all time. Oh… how I now wished I would have bought those chips.

Great! A new high school REGRET! Well… At least now, I know what to do at the next reunion… Bring quarters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That New Car Smell

So after almost 9 years driving our little 2001 Chevy Metro, we have upgraded to a new car. It only took 5 months of discussion, which is GREAT for us. Took us twice that long to pick a new sofa for the house. Before we left for our trip to Hawaii we had our eyes on a Ford Explorer or Honda CRV, but after driving 3 different Dodge Calibers on the islands, we started to rethink our plan.

We first started looking in Portland, but ended up in Vancouver. We drove to our local our Dodge dealer (well local as in Gresham), but they didn’t want to work with us over the phone and via E-mail and we got that slick car salesman vibe from the dealership. So we contacted Dick Hannah Dodge in Vancouver Washington. They were able to work with us and answer all our questions over the phone and via E-Mail.

Our one big demand was it had to fit our budget and it HAD to come with as many the bells and whistles we could afford. After driving our no frills Metro for all these years, we needed gadgets. Anthony wanted the uber hard to find blueberry/black color, Joshua wanted iPhone attachments.

After a bit of searching the dealership found a Uptown version of the 2011 Caliber in Idaho for us, it has power everything, Navigation, Iphone compatibility, steering wheel controls, cruise control and more! Once we signed some “fun” paperwork and had an agreed on price, it only took 4 days before we had the car in hand.

Our car salesman was and is a pretty incredible young man. A Iraqi veteran, we had a very frank conversation with him about our respect for his service and how he feels about the current and that past POTUS. No icky car salesman vibe from this guy. (If anyone needs a Dodge we have his card!)

Jayme loved the new car, he told Anthony that we should throw the old car away. He kinda got mad that we told him we would be keeping the old one as our second car. He made sure that his pink car seat was only kept in the Dodge. Clearly he had made his mind up, until he found out that the car has remote auto start. He thinks the car is broken because it keeps starting everytime he gets in the car 🙂

The biggest issue now is who gets to drive it to work each day… So far Anthony is winning, but Joshua is known to be super sneaky. The battle lines started at the dealership when Anthony moved the car seat over behind Joshua’s back and ran out the door with Jayme, only to castle in the new car with a cheezy grin on his face.

We feel we did really well getting the car on our terms, still we only plan to keep it for 3 years as we know we will need to upgrade to a bigger soccer-dad car later as Jayme grows, but for now we are pretty happy and we have new gadgets!

 

 

Independence Day 2011

Our first 4th of July together as a family was a BLAST!

The night before the big day, Jayme and Anthony headed into the kitchen and mixed up 2 batches of ice cream base. Jayme loves to cook and loves to be apart of cooking for the family. Once the ice cream base was in the fridge chilling Joshua took Jayme out to the fireworks store and picked up a little over $50.00 in fireworks. For our holiday weekend, Joshua was our pyrotechnics master and Anthony was cook master.

When the big day came we started cooking our 4th of July feast we had homemade hamburgers (which Jayme helped with), we also had a big batch of hot sweet buttered corn on the cob. YUMMY!

The hardest part of the day was Jayme having to wait. His normal bedtime starts at 7:00pm, but we all decided that he should and would stay up late to see the fireworks at night. We tried unsuccessfully to get him to take a nap. He agreed to the nap and headed to his room, pulled the covers over his head…. and watched a movie on his iPod. This did not go over very well with the Dad’s. We had a hard time not taking away fireworks from him and us.

When the sun was setting we started the fireworks setup. We found a extra floor tile in the garage and wrapped it in tin foil, this served our as flat base for our fireworks. Sam and Anthony gathered up the deck chairs and moved them out to the driveway. Joshua got a bucket of water and ran the hose out to the curb and attached our hand held garden sprayer. Anthony & Joshua then sprayed down all the plants and the roadway that was downwind of our launch area. Yes, we were the over protective parents…

We started out with sparklers, the sales lady told Joshua that they were the old fashion type, the type we “had as kids”. So we were expecting metal rods of hot white Magnesium death, what we got was paper and wood sticks that kinda fizzed… a bit for 10 secs. A big let down for the grown ups, but UBER cool for Jayme and the neighbor kids.

Guess we should explain that last statement, as we started with our sparklers, two kids from down the road came over and started to watch us. First from across the street, then from our driveway. Jayme offered them a sparkler and then they asked us if they could have a sparkler and we made them first go get permission from their parents. They came running back within minutes with the ok, so they joined our family celebration. They quickly took Anthony and Jayme’s seat an Jayme crawled into Uncle Sam’s lap. It wasn’t until about 30 minutes into the show that their dad came over to meet us and see if his kids were safe. (see how fast it took for us to become judgmental parents LOL)

For $50.00 worth of fireworks, we sure had a long show. Joshua lined up the fireworks (small to large) and we set them off  one at a time. Between acts we would hand out the wimpy sparklers to the kids who had a blast with them.

After the last firework was launched and we cleaned up our mess, we said goodbye to our two new friends and headed inside to eat our homemade ice cream. It must have been good as Jayme got in trouble for licking the bowl clean.

 

 

TOP SECRET

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS CLASSIFIED

TOP SECRET

PHOENIX PROJECT

Clearance Authorization Level 6 – Desoren Secret Police

DATE: December 25th 2010

The subject, a Mr. Joshua Desoren, became aware of “Phoenix Project” on christmas morning 2010. Agents are currently investigating how this breach of security happened. We are not sure who gave him this information, but we are currently investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Why not, everyone else is…)

Thankfully the security breach was minor and very little information was received by the subject (Joshua). According to our intelligence sources, we believe Joshua only knows that on Tuesday May 24th 2011 he will taken on a SURPRISE road trip vacation to celebrate his 30th birthday. We have been able to confirm that he currently understands that the trip will end sometime on Saturday June 4th 2011.

We also have been able to confirm that he was NOT given any specific information about where he would be taken or what would happen during the road trip. Joshua only knows that he is going a road trip and it will be fun and he is required to set aside money in the joint banking accounts.

The subject might have knowledge that Samuel and Anthony have been planning and working on the “Phoenix Project” for over a year now. We might have to provide protection services for both of them.

Attached is a copy of the Christmas card Joshua was given on Christmas morning 2010 that we believe was the source of the leaked information. We will post more information on the “Phoenix Project” when the subject is allowed to know more.

WARNING:

If you or anyone you know has information about “Project Phoenix”

or you wish to help Joshua guess, investigate or figure out the details of his surprse trip.

Please be aware that Sam & Anthony will hate you forever and make you suffer!

This is a SURPRISE, lets keep it that way! OR ELSE!


CLICK HERE FOR SAMPLE OF CHRISTMAS CARD GIVEN TO JOSHUA

EPCOT and the Candles

We woke the next day to frigid temperatures. The overnight low was 29, a bit of which we felt up close and personal at Mickey’s Very Merry
Christmas party. So we had to really motivate ourselves to get up and get back into the weather. Today marked the first day WITHOUT
having to wear long johns. The high was suppose to get up to 60’s, so we felt a bit confident. We had breakfast reservations at the
Grand Floridian Cafe, inside the Grand Floridian Resort at 9:00am. So after showering and dressing we jumped in our little Kia rental and drove over to the Grand Floridian.

The Grand Floridian is known for it’s life-size holiday Gingerbread house that they hand make each holiday season. So after we checked in at the Cafe and

got our buzzer we spent a few minutes exploring the gingerbread house and the rest of the amazing resort decorations. The Grand
Floridian’s holiday decorations made our own hotel’s christmas swag look like they had just hung a bunch of cheap junk from the dollar
tree and called it good. The resort and decorations were amazing.

Once we got to the restaurant, it was shocking to see how many people got turned away for not having
dinning reservations, yet we got right thanks to Anthony.

We like simple breakfast places that do traditional american breakfasts well. We love places like Biscuits here in Portland. Every trip to Disneyworld we find ourselfs looking for a Biscuits type place on Disney property. Turns out the Grand Floridian Cafe is not. It was a nice breakfast but a bit high brow and poshy weird. Example, Joshua ordered the Steak and Eggs special. It came out looking all arty, the steak was a bit too charred but the frittata, (ohh the frittata) which was served as an after thought filler was super yummy.

After our Posh breakfast we drove down to EPCOT. EPCOT is hands down our favorite park, we love world showcase. This visit we tried to get in all the
new things they had added since our last visit. First up was Kim Possible World Showcase adventures. You sign up and get a converted flip cell phone. A
little cartoon game then sends you to one of the countries in World Showcase on a secret mission to help Kim Possible catch the bad
guy.
It is really well done. The game is interactive with objects and place in the park. Like window displays will change to fit the story line,
flags will raise ect, all activated from your phone/communicator. It was really cute although not really aimed at our age bracket,
but still fun. We did 2 of the 7 adventures, England and Norway. We saw a lot of parents working with their kids to solve the puzzles. We also saw a few kids fighting over who go to hold the Kim Possible Communicator aka cell phone, it was pretty funny.

The other neat new event going on was the Santa’s around the world. Each country would have a storyteller come out and tell about the Christmas Traditions of their country. Morocco was interesting since they don’t do Christmas and China had a very expressive storytelling telling the Monkey King story. That evening we had Candle Light Processional Dinner reservations at the Nine Dragons restaurant in China.

How to discribe Candle Light Processional…. Well here is what Disney says:

Candlelight Processional is a special holiday event held nightly at the American Gardens Theatre in Epcot theme park as part
of Holidays Around The World. The event retells the stirring story of Christmas with a special celebrity narrator accompanied by a
50-piece orchestra and a mass choir.


Before we flew down we signed up for the dinner package, which gives us guaranteed seating for the show. But do to our last minute trip planning all they had left was headed over for dinner Nine Dragons restaurant. So think of it as The Christmas Story Christmas dinner, just with out the smiling duck. Well that was our spin on it. Dinner was ok, Nine Dragons is a very very tamed down American Chinese food restaurant. Not bad, but not really good. The meal was a bit forgettable so we will talk about dessert. Anthony likes rice pudding, Joshua LOVE LOVES it. So when we saw rice pudding on the menu we both jumped for it. What they brought to the table was black. Rather two bowels of black food substance, with sugared wonton chips on the side. Seems the chef wanted something different for desert. So he made the rice pudding with black rice kernels still in their uneatable hulls. Taste? Bland. Texture? Well imagine rice pudding with quarter inch long strands of straw in it. It was a textural disaster. Straw wallpaper paste.

After “dinner” we walked up towards the Candlelight theater area. The first show was just wrapping up so we figured we should get inline for the next. The line turns out wrapped all the way down to Japan, many of the people in line with us didn’t think we would make it in. As we waited passersby’s would ask what the huge line was for. The best response we came up with “Oh this line? This is the fastpass line for Soarin’ ”

Even at the back of the line we got great center row seating for the show. The special guest narrator was Steven Curtis Chapman (never heard of him, but apparently he is famous or something), he read the story of the birth of Jesus Christ straight from the Bible, Luke’s version. What we and about 25% of the crowd had expected was going to be a nice mix of traditional holiday favorites with some Disney Characters and movie tie-ins (Like every other Christmasy thing in the park). Turned out to be a very religious event. It was like going to church or mass, which is ok but NOT what we were expecting at all in a theme park. It was funny to look around and see other peoples faces and reactions to a religious event in a theme park. It reminded us a bit of the Blackadder Christmas special…….

Blackadder:
Shall I begin the Christmas story?

The Prince Regent :
Absolutely, as long as it’s not that terribly depressing one about the chap who gets born on Christmas Day, shoots his mouth off about everything under the sun, and then comes a cropper with a couple of rum coves on top of a hill in Johnny Arab land. Edmund

Blackadder:
You mean *Jesus,* Sire… ?

The Prince Regent:
Yes, that’s the fellow!
Keep him out of it. He always spoils the X-mas atmos!

The music was great. There was the main professional Disney Choir and then flanking them on each side were local high school choirs. It was pretty moving. One funny thing was as all the high school girls sang out with all their might and the high school boys… well they moved their lips. So you had this very powerful and loud female sound to the evening. It reminded Anthony of his Choir in High School, all the jocks pretending to sing, because singing was gay. As the temperature dropped down to 31 our resolve to stay for the whole event started wane. We also started to regret the lack of thermal underwear. In fact the theater started to clear out as it got colder and colder. We started to feel very sorry for the orchestra who had to play in the cold. We did make it to the end, many did not. Now we sure a few of you will call us Philistines or worse. But when the choir got to the last song, the hallelujah chorus, the couple in front of us stood up. Which completely blocked our view of the stage. At first we though “Hey, would you mind sitting down or moving down the row and out, we still want to see the show?” But then a few more stood and then some more. At this point it was clear half of the audience was unsure why the other half just stood up. There was some real confusion, which totally took our attention away from the performance. It took about a full minute for everyone to cave in and stand up as well. We like dorks just sat there, not sure what the heck was going on and we were sure we did not want to stand like sheep in the cold.


Seems many years ago on March 23, 174, The musical score “The Messiah” was performed for King George the II. Now at the end durring the final Hallelujah Chorus, for some reason the King stood up. Some say it was his gout bothering him, some say the though it was the start of the National Anthem being played so he stood so people could see and praise him better, some say he was moved by the music. But regardless of the why, royal protocol dictates that when the monarch stands, everyone in the monarch’s presence is also required to stand. Thus, the entire audience and orchestra stood when the king stood during the performance, some say initiating the tradition in English speaking countries. The post event irony of this is our contemporary audience all stood directly in front of the US revolutionary war themed American Experience pavilion, you know the one celebrating our nation’s break from the King of England…. not sure if our founding fathers would have approved. After the show we headed out of the park, skipping the fireworks. The cold finally won.

 

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

As the tempature dropped and the sun faded, we drove down I-4 towards the Disney World resort area from Universal Studios. To save some money on our trip we decided to drop down a level to a Value resort but upgraded the dining plan to Deluxe. In the past we have only stayed in the moderate resorts so we really didn’t know what to expect. We picked Disney’s All Star Movies. To cut to the end, we were not really impressed. It felt like a large Motel 6, which is not a bad thing, but we kinda were expecting it to have more of the Disney level of service and quality.

Our semi-sour impression started at check in. We did the online check in, which promised to make check in quick and easy, it wasn’t. Seems they had just started a 3 day computer switch over and no one seemed to know how to do anything. Because of the computer change over we got stuck with 2 double beds, which meant we slept apart for 5 nights as the doubles are more like large twins. Not the arrangement one wants when you on vacation looking for  1 on 1 time….

The room as clean but very worn. Unpainted wall patches, rusty patches on the bathroom tile and the rooms furniture was very dated worn and on dresser drawer was broken. But we were at Disney and the room didn’t really matter that much, or at least that was what we kept telling ourselves. By the end of our vacation we knew one thing very clearly, we would never stay at anything under a Disney moderate hotel again, this hotel was not for us. Every time we where by the Magic Kingdom the conversation was “Which of these Deluxe hotels shall we stay at next time?” Not, should we, but which one…. It was kinda funny. Oh, by the way, Polynesian was the answer.

After inspecting our “room” and unpacking a little. We got back in the car and drove up to the Magic Kingdom. We learned after our first trip that having a car is a huge plus. The Disney bus system is great, but there is nothing like being able to just get in the car and go and not rely on a crowded bus. When your tired or wet, the bus never comes or goes fast enough.

We parked at the transportation center parking lot and opted for the ferry boat crossing to get to the Magic Kingdom. Bay Lake was cold but smooth and glassy.

The park was all decked out for Christmas. Sadly a lot of the flowers and trees where wrapped up to help save them from the frost, but all the other decorations were up and glowing in twinkle lights. We got into the park a little after 4pm, got our wristbands and started to explore.

The Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a hard ticket event. Which means they close the park to only those guests who buy the party tickets. For us it means less crowds! We love Mickey’s not so Scary Halloween party. So we were really looking forward to the Christmas party. The party began at 7:00pm, so we had 3 hours to kill.

Since we are Disney nut jobs and had JUST visited Disneyland in LA a short 6 months ago, we found ourselves lost for things to do. So we headed over to the People mover, which is not in Disneyland anymore and it became our first ride of the night.

It took us a bit to get into the swing of things mostly do to the cold, but by the time we got to the Haunted Mansion the Party had begun. One of the highlights of the party are the free hot cocco and cookie snack stations dotted around the park. Which we took advantage of all night long with the temperature dropping to 28 degrees!

We skipped the first Christmas parade and rode Space Mountain, But we did watch the second Christmas parade from our favorite spot in Frontierland (same place where we watched the Halloween parade). We love Halloween parade and the Christmas parade was just as good! One thing we noticed is that Disney must have hired every short dancer on the East coast. Row after row of short gingerbread men, short toy tin soldiers, short, short short.

The Christmas fireworks were very nice. The accompanying music was a mix of secular and religious music and done very tastefully. The Fireworks themselves were impressive!

The party run until 12:00am, but at about 10:30ish we were cold tired and worried about our 7:00am wake-up call for EPOCT. So we called it an early night and headed back for the car.

CHECK OUT OUR PHOTOS!

The LIGHTS, gasp!

We woke Monday morning tired. This was our first day dealing with the 3 hour time difference. So our 8am wake up call was really a 5am one. We took turns showering and getting dressed. We also broke out the long john’s Anthony had picked up at Target the night before our trip. They proved to be a trip saver!  Layered head to toe, we  headed downstairs for the free breakfast.

The free breakfast wasn’t bad. Several favors of yogurt, bagels, toast, english muffins, juices, assorted cereals & hotel brand coffee. The popular item as the fresh waffles, which we skipped on the first day. The breakfast room was very empty, perhaps 3-5 other people, it was a hopeful sign to us that we would have the park to ourselves today.

We finished breakfast and exited out the side door to our rental car. It was then the weather introdused itself. HELLLOOOO ANTHONY AND JOSH, I AM COLD, YOU CAN CALL ME 49 WITH A 20 MPH WIND. Which at that point we both decided even in our layers to drive and park and pay rather then walk over to the park.

After parking our first stop was to the second floor Starbucks in Citywalk, where they didn’t seem to know what Soy milk is. After picking up 2 Venti caffeine/hand-warmers we walked down to the park walk way. We stood at the split where you walk left for Islands of Adventure/Harry Potter or right for Universal Studios we paused and judged the crowds. 95% were heading left, so we of course headed right.

Universal Studios was EMPTY, we arrived about 30 mins after rope drop. Parts of the park were not open yet and the park staff  had parts of the street closed off. The whole park was decorated for Christmas and looked great. We did every single ride as a walk on, no waiting at all. Men in Black, Mummy Ride, Simpsons Ride and Shrek all ZERO wait.

The best part of the day came when we rode the Men in Black ride. The theming of the ride is very cute. It’s setup as a copy of a 1960’s world fair attraction, you enter and start to hear a tape play back of an announcers welcoming you to the worlds fair, the lights go out and the taped voice garbles out and you find out that you have been selected for Men in Black testing and a hidden door opens and you travel through. Now the funny point came from the Universal Studios cast member. His job is to drop the rope and make sure we all move into the hidden door way. Well, as the lights dropped and the taped annoucer voice trailed off. The cast member said in perfect dead pan monotone voice “The lights….gasp.”. We both burst out laughing. The first thing that ran through our heads was, you really should not read stage direction out loud. “The lights….gasp” became our mantra for the whole day.

By noon we had done the whole park so we decided to walk over to Islands of Adventure and see how bad the lines were for the new Harry Potter ride. We wandered up though Islands of Adventure and did a quick walk through of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Themeing was AMAZING, it’s like being on the set of any of the Harry Potter movies. What was a downer was the crowds, the Harry Potter land area is VERY VERY small, In fact of all of the themed areas in the Islands of Adventure this felt the smallest and did not absorb the crowds at all. Long lines for the wand shop 3 min show (which we skipped).

Hungry, we skipped the 50 wait for the main Harry Potter ride and walked over to an adjacent land “Jurassic Park” and had some fake garden burgers for lunch. It was during lunch we had our first encounter with what we called “Abandoned Grandmothers”. Right across from our table was a little old lady in her wheelchair, clearly left behind by her family because she could not kept up. It was one of the saddest things we saw over and over again during our trip. The senior most member of the family unit, stuffed off to the side ALONE to watch the bags as everyone else had fun. Over the course of our trip we saw it again and again and kept saying, “Oh there’s another abandoned Grandmother…” We even joked that we should take photos to make a shame on you website. The worst was a case of this was on our final Sunday in Orlando. Grandfather in his wheelchair, in the freezing cold, placed alone at the head of the standby line for Candlelight processional at 11:50am, (first show is at 5:45pm). Come on people, what are you thinking?

After lunch and our first abandoned grandmother we decided to bit the bullet and stand in the cue for Harry Potter and the forbidden journey. First impression of the cue line…. WOW. We hit the line with posted 20 min wait which stretched to 40ish minutes due to the ride breaking down. But wow the theming in the cue line is amazing. You walk under Hogwarts castle, and then out to the gardens then back in, past moving and talking portraits, the headmasters stairway and finally run into Harry, Ron and Hermione who explain the story line premise of the ride to you. Harry and the gang are NOT animatronic, they are video done in such a cool way that you swear they are standing there.

After Harry and the gang you then get on the actual ride itself, which is not a roller coster as much as it is super high tech dark ride. You ride most of the time on your back facing the action, movies and animatronics. The seat/bench your on is at the end of a robotic arm that moves you up, down and side to side. There are no inversions and you do not travel upside down. The story is a bit cheesy and they try to pack a bit too much content into the ride, but it was fun. We both did come off the ride feeling a bit light headed and woozy, so be warned.

We spent the rest of the afternoon over in the Islands of Adventure. Joshua loves the Hulk roller coster which Anthony refuses to board. About 5pm we left and headed back over to the Universal Studios park for the Macy’s Holiday Parade. Which we ended up watching twice. Once as it came down and then a second time as it did a loop onto itself. After the first viewing we tried to get around it to get to the mummy ride and ended up stuck on the wrong side of the street across from the Parade termination end point. So we got to see the parade twice.

For dinner we left the parks and drove a block to the Cracker Barrel. We had never eaten there before, but we like country cooking so decided to give it a try. The pick turned out to be a good one, we loved it! We even liked the southern waitress that non-committally served us.

After dinner we stopped off at Walgreens and picked up some snacks for the room and some lotion. Both of us had wind burn on our faces from the constant all day cold wind. Our faces looked like we had been skiing all day. Once back at the hotel we curled up in bed and watched an old movie “Guess who is coming to dinner”, before passing out for the night.

The next morning was also our last day at our hotel. We packed put our bags and headed downstairs for a late breakfast. Having skipped trying the waffles the day before, they were top of our list. Unfortunately, we got cut off by a rude staff member. Anthony headed over to the SELF SERVE waffle bar and begin to make 2 waffles, one for himself and one for Joshua. Anthony got the first one loaded and the staff member walked up and shoved herself in front of Anthony, which took some doing as he was standing 3 inches from the hot waffle makers. The staff member then proceeded to make a waffle for another hotel guest. WE both got a bit vocal about how rude she was and we gave up on the waffles. It was pretty clear how steamed we were as retreated to our table. So after she made the other guest waffle for him at the SELF SERVE waffle bar she them made another one for us. You know to do us a “favor”. She was the only negative thing really about this hotel.

Day two  at Universal Studios was another cold one, but not as windy. So it felt much warmer even though it was colder. We left the hotel and it was in the high 30’s. Having done everything multiple times the day before with no lines, it was shocking to see crowds. We had to wait for 4 or 5 mins for several of the rides. We did Harry Potter again and also tried butter beer. Anthony says it tasted like the uber-cheap generic diet cream soda his father would get when he was little kid. They fill the butter beer glass with the soda and then squirt some foam on top to make it look more like beer with a head on it. The foam is very gassy, the one tablespoon they squirt on top foams up quite a bit and in turn made us both burp quite a bit. It was good, very sweet tasting, kinda pricy but worth it for the experience.

We left the parks about 3:00 pm and headed down to Disney to check into our hotel and to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

CHECK OUT OUR PHOTOS

Our 2010 Disney World trip

For our family Christmas present this year we decided to go to Disney World. As normal, this was kind of a last minute  plan, which is not always a good idea when doing Disney as things book up quick. We only gave ourselves about  about 2 months to book and plan. Since we started on our adoption journey we have been very hesitant to use up vacation time. But after some of the stressors we have had recently, we desperately needed some 1 on 1 time together.

In the past, we have only ever traveled down to Orlando during the hot late summer months. So we were looking forword to the cooler but warm weather and the Disney Christmas Events; Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the Candlelight Processional & the Osborne Lights.

We booked 2 nights for Universal Studios Orlando at the Marriot Fairfield and 5 nights on Disney property at Disney’s All Star Movies Resort. This was our first time in a Disney Value resort (more on that later). But with the discounts that we got from booking a cheap Disney resort we upgraded to the deluxe dinning plan which gave us 3 sit down meals a day. With Dining reservations in hand and paid, cheap airfare booked and a car rental for $8.00 a day, we started off on our trip pretty jazzed thinking about all the Disney Pins we could afford to buy.

Our flight down as on Sunday December 12th. We got Sam up early and took him to the airport with us then intrusted him with our car for a WEEK! We underestimated the airport lines…. which where a bit more backed up then when we flew to Phoenix last month for Thanksgiving. We got to the gate with only a bit of time to spare.

Our air carrier was Delta. We both like Delta a lot even though traditionally it  “Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport”. Free internet on the way down was great and our seats were comfortable. Although, we did not  get a window seat, which at first was a bit of a concern as Anthony really likes the window seats, the short travel times and comfy seats made up for it. Portland to Atlanta then Atlanta to Orlando.

Our first sign that the weather might be colder then we would like was in Atlanta, or Hot-lanta as a Facebook friend called it. It was snowing as we landed in Atlanta. The snow didn’t stop for our whole 45 min layover. We stopped by our terminal’s food court and got coffee and pizza for lunch. The African (from South Africa) Barista asked if were from Europe, guess he had never heard a NW American accent before, we were in the deep south….

We got into MCO at about 4:30pm with no delays, walked out like pros to the car rental lot. In past trips we have gotten pretty lost and confused. This time no issues, even figured out the short cut. Grabbed our Alamo rental, a Kia Rio and headed off for Downtown Disney.

The weather, well it was cool. When we left Portland it was in the 50’s. Orlando was about 60ish. So still nice in our book. but on our last trip is was in the high 90’s with 100% humidity. This new weather was a bit of a shock and added to our weather fears a bit . The weather forecast for the Orlando area for the next few days was SCARY, 20-30 degrees overnight with highs not much higher. Luckily we had overpacked to be prepared for any weather, lots of long pants and shorts!

We ate dinner at our tradtional first night place, the Raglan Road. Joshua ordered the Shepard’s Pie and Anthony ordered the Pie in the Sky (chicken pie). But the appetizer stole the show. We ordered the Flat Mate – Guinness banger, caramelized onions, tomatoes and Dubliner cheddar cheese flatbread. YUMMMY! It was quickly devoured as was the complimentary soda bread and honey.

After dinner we walked the Downtown Disney area and pre-shopped all the pins we were going to buy for our pin wall before the week was out. Tired and jet lagged, we drove up to the Universal Resort area and checked into our home for the next two nights, the Marriot Fairfield.

The Fairfield was cheap and right across the street from Universal. We got a king bed on the fifth floor with a view towards the park and  perfect view of the backside of the Wallgreen’s parking lot. The bed was comfortable but came with very very small pillows for some reason. Also the free in-room wireless was nowhere to be found. Our first night the temp dropped to 46 with high winds which continued all the next day.

Chuck E. Cheese

chuckecheese2009-01-09-1231554722

This past Saturday was Shawn’s 9th birthday party. We arrived at right on time for the party, gathered up the gifts from the trunk of the car and walked into the madness. The first thing you notice is the volume. It’s loud, really really loud. Music, games, children yelling and playing music, coin dispensers clinking, ect. It kinda made us take a step back and question if this was going to be a good day or not.

As we walked in we passed through the kid check gateway, having no kids we were waved right in. If you come in with a child in tow, they number you and the child with a matching number. To get the kid out your number must match.

After passing through the gateway, we wandered over to the party area. We didn’t see Shawn or Sara anywhere. There was a  large balloon with his name on it floating over one of the revered banquet tables, but we completely missed this detail. After a few moments of panic that we might be at the wrong location, Sara arrived with Shawn, Shawn’s brother Donny (age 5) and Donny’s brother Ram (age 3), all of the party treats, a huge spiderman cake and a very tired look on her face. She was sick.

After we all got settled at the banquet table we dug out our online coupons walked over to the token lady and came back with 3 buckets of tokens. We each took a huge pocket full and gave a good pile to Sam. We spent most of the party feeding tokens to the three boys and the other party guests.

When we got back to table, most of the other guests had arrived. The gift pile as large and Shawn was in full smile mode. Once all the kids were settled, the pizza arrived. The kids all seems to enjoy it, but it was greasy cardboard pizza. In fact, later that night, a few of the kids had tummy aches, and our bets are on the pizza. Little Ram, who is a big eater normally, helped himself to 5 slices on his plate. Each piece was in a different stage of consumption.

It was about now we had our first child freak out moment. Chuck E Cheese, the giant rat, made his first appearance. The rat walked out and wandered round the room greeting the children. Little Ram completely freaked out and needed constant reassurance that the rat was not going to eat him. It was really hard not to laugh as it was too cute.

The Chuck E Cheese and his helpers then crowned each of the birthday kids (there were 3, one who was also in full Rat terror mode, bawling uncontrollably). They then gave each birthday kido a medal and then oversaw the cake lighting and ceremony. Sam was on video duty and Anthony was on photo duty.

Shawn had a really cool spiderman cake. It had this really cool looking black frosting. Unfortunately when the younger party goers got their cake, and the cake naturally got all over there faces, hands, arms, hair & clothing, the black frosting left stains (oops!). But they loved it!

Once the cake was devoured, it was present time.  We got Shawn a kid’s microscope set (which got a great face reaction) and the complete Captain Underpants book collection. He got quite a few board games, 3 or 4 small lego sets and a really cool drawing set.

After presents the kids all ran off with their little cups of tokens to play. Anthony started to help Sara clean up. After the banquet table was all cleaned up, all of us helped Sara compress all the presents, leftover cake and goodies to a booth table near by.

Joshua took Donny and Ram out to play in the little kid area. This mostly involved standing under the over head play tubes keeping an eye out for Ram, who LOVED the overhead tube play area and decided to take up permanent residence in it.

For the next hour we took turns sitting at the table and chatting with Sara (who was sick) and checking on the little ones. Sam played big brother and babysitter to one of the party guests who’s mom had dropped him off alone.

It was right about then we had our second and final child breakdown. Donny came running back the banquet area to get more tokens and noticed that everyone was apparently gone. He started to cry, lucky Sara was right there and scooped him up and reassured him and we had only moved to a smaller table near by.

We don’t know if this location is typical of all of the other locations, but most of the games and video games were focused around getting ticket stubs. There were not a lot of just plain video games. The ticket game concept is you pour token after token into the machine and get a couple tickets.

Before you leave you cash in your tickets for very very cheap prizes (dollar tree would be embarrassed to carry these items). Shawn walked out with a face painting kit and Donny got a plastic spoon, yes really a plastic spoon. Both of them thought they were the coolest and grandest prizes in the world, their little faces beamed with joy and pride!  So kido happiness mission accomplished. Financial prudence… well not so good. Each prize takes a hundred tickets and you only get a few tickets for each .25 token. Even with the coupons we printed out at home we dumped a bundle.

All in all a REALLY fun day. Like each of our experiences with Shawn, we take little mental notes on how we would do things with our future kido.  When it comes to Chuck E Cheese, we are a bit torn. The kids clearly had a blast, but the greasy food and money pit games make us wonder if when we are in the parent seat if this will be the venue we would pick. Mr. Cheese seems to have one goal and that is getting all the parents money.

But one thing was SUPER clear. Sara had given Shawn the best birthday party ever!

My Amazon.com Wish List

Line Cutters, Rude People, Morally Bankrupted Californians and Generally Unpleasant People

300px-Elmosgoodmannersgame

Other Peoples Vacation Manners: A complete lack of them.

As mentioned in a prior post, it just is not possible to accurately describe our October vacation without talking about the poor behavior we witnessed in our fellow Norwegian Star passengers and Disney park attendees. But before we do, we really have to say that we really really did have a good great time on our trip and don’t in anyway blame NCL or Disneyland for the nasty things we witnessed. That said…. bring on the dancing idiots!

Our cruise ship had over a thousand employees aboard. Most, getting paid in bird seed… well certainly less then the federal minimum wage. Most of them working very hard to ensure the passengers have a great trip. For example, it was not uncommon for our room to be made up twice in one day, once in the morning then again after our nap while we were at dinner. There were also times on board were the wait staff out numbered the diners. And even when the numbers were more balanced, most times we felt like kings being waited on. A ship employee’s normal shift is about 10 hours a day for 10 days straight. These guys and gals work hard for the money.

After experiencing how well we were taken care of and seeing the way some of the passengers treated the staff was just ghastly! We didn’t know if it was because most of the staff were foreigners (mostly Asian) and our fellow cruisers were prejudiced or  if our fellow passengers had just checked their brains and manners at the dock and sailed on without them. It was seldom we would have a meal were we would not see some sort of bad behavior by a passenger or walk down a hallway and see some customer talking/yelling at a cabin steward in a unnecessary tone.

We started to notice that we were consciously making it a point to thank each server at every meal (as you are not allowed to tip, unless you cocktail or wine) and tried to beat the cabin stewards to the punch by saying good morning or good evening. Many times the staff seemed shocked and extremely grateful, which of course bothered us even more. Good manner are free and the staff on board (with a few exceptions) were outstanding!

We saw people complaining about the most petty things. Yelling at the top of their lungs to get the staff to correct something that a calm request would have accomplished quicker. And then there were the cutters and shovers.

Hummm how do we  properly describe these people…… Have you ever been driving down the road, traveling at or above the speed limit and some jerk dangerously passes you and cuts you off so he can get to the stop sign 1.4 seconds before you do. Only to find out later as you pull into your destination that you arrived before them? This was the standard type of behavior we witnessed from our fellow cruise members. We had people dive and push past us to steal tables from us (when there were plenty of tables for all), shove us off the deck rails (so they can have the spot we were standing in). We saw people diving in front of little children, handicapped and elderly people to get thru doorways or to the buffet line 1.4 seconds faster.

After a week of witnessing some pretty  awful behavior. So by the end of the cruise we got so tired of our fellow passengers we hung out mostly in our stateroom and were much happier for it!

We are both fairly passive aggressive people and have both been raised with a good set of manners and high level of expected public behavior. (To use kido language, we have learned to use our words.) So for the whole cruise it was rare for us to say a rude word when we were cut off or shoved or got short changed by the staff having to pander to the squeaky wheels first then assist the polite customers second. For the most part, we were on vacation and we turned the other cheek.

6a00d8341c630a53ef00e551df59f78834-800wi

But we hit our limit in Disneyland. With everyone around us acting like jerks, we were starting to get very tired of getting the short end of the stick: Waiting in line, only for some jerk in front of us to let 7 or 8 of his friends to cut directly ahead of us and then get pissy with us for looking shocked and upset by their behavior. Being sat with a reservation at a smelly horrible table so the no reservation mega-complainer can have the better seat and shut up. Watching parents scream at their kids (who they had filled up with tons of sugar and let them skip their n.a.p.) to “Stop crying, have fun or else!.

Both of us have a very high breaking point when in public, it takes a lot of direct abuse or mistreatment for us to snap. But on our second day in Disneyland, we had about all we were going to take. Our first night we watched the Halloween fireworks display from the backside of the castle. It was a mad house for a frontside view, wall to wall people standing room only from the front of the castle all the way to the Train archway on main street USA! So the second night we hit downtown Disney and walked in to Main street USA about 10 mins before the fireworks, walked up as far as we could and planned to watch from there. This worked out great, the crowd was much lighter and there was lots of room for everyone.

Midway thru the fireworks a lady walks up with a sugar intoxicated sleep deprived child on her shoulders and stops 4.25 inches in front of  Joshua, resting her oversized backpack stuffed to the breaking point with cheap direct from china disney souvenirs onto Joshua’s chest. Mind you there was a good 10 foot empty radius round Joshua that she could have stood with a great view that would not have blocked anyone. But she choose poorly! Out of no where this loud stern voice rang out clearly and distinctly over the exploding fireworks “EXCUSE ME…YOUR BLOCKING OUR VIEW, MOVE!” Joshua had reached his breaking point, so much so you might have heard it up here in Portland.

But the hardest thing we had to deal with during our vacation was all the ungrateful and blind parents, both on the cruise ship and in the parks. Even with school in session there were a lot of kids around. Sometimes it was very hard for us to witness how clueless some of the parents were to the wonderful gift they have been given. To watch them squander the chance to be apart of their child’s lives, to be good role models, to be a family. At times it made us very angry, other times it would make us a little sad.

These negative aspects of our trip have really underscored for us the importance of teaching our kido manners and proper public behavior and reminded us how much we are committed to adopting.

A Dull Atomic Weekend

fallout-3-20080710014132672_640w

We had our plans go array this past weekend.

We had intended to spend Sunday with Shawn and Donny and take in the Neighborhood  picnic, which was planned by our HOA to be held in our front yard. (yeah no notice).

But mid-day Saturday we got a call from Sara that changed our plans. Donny and Shawn were fighting and being defiant again. So she felt it best for them not to be rewarded with guy time this week.

Which was huge bummer for us. We have both really come to enjoy our weekend time with Shawn and having his little brother Donny too is like twice for the fun. So we where doubly disappointed. We had planned on making ice cream with the boys to take as our part of the potluck picnic, which would have worked out great for us, as we had no clue what to make and bring. But without the kids, we really didn’t feel like making ice cream alone, so we skipped the picnic.

Joshua had borrowed a PS3 game from our friend John Friday night, Fallout 3. Which turned into our weekend activity. We both use to play a lot of video games. But since we stopped playing EQ2 we have kinda gone off the video game world. So we threw in Fallout 3 and started playing it, and playing it, and playing it.  Ahhh a new additive game…… great.

Beach trip Aug 2009

CIMG0064

We started out Friday night (Aug 14th). Anthony got off work at 4:00pm and took the MAX to the Gateway Fred Myers and started shopping for the last minute items; Marshmallows, Logs for a fire, Roasting Forks, and Hershey bars. He also picked up a new pair of swim goggles for Shawn as the last ones didn’t fit so well.

Joshua picked up Anthony from Freddie’s and we headed down I-205 at about 5pm…. during rush hour…. on a Friday…. Long story short (too late), it took 30 minutes to get from Lake Oswego to the I-5 I-205 junction!

We made it down to Newport Beach and our hotel Shilo Inn Oceanfront about at 8:00pm and checked into our room with an amazing view and then started to look for dinner. The hotel’s café was closed, but their fine dining restaurant was open but seemed much too pricy. So, we jumped in the car and headed down to the next hotel’s restaurant, Georgie’s Beachside Grill.

We walked in and they had a table for us… in the bar. This was not bad, as it was a window table. They carded BOTH OF US, which was a huge treat for Anthony. But that is where the good times ended. We ordered the Deep fried Artichokes. Which turned out to not be fresh but canned… in bitter brine, which is sad as there where farmers market stands all over the freeway on the drive in with fresh ones. They fried the canned artichokes apparently in the same oil they use to fry the fish on the menu, so the crispy tempura coating tasted like old greasy fish… not a great flavor combination.

For our main courses, Joshua had the stuffed salmon. Which was not fresh and very rubbery, stuffed with imitation crab and cheap shrimp. Anthony ordered the chicken and sun dried tomatoes penne pasta. Which comes served in a white cheese sauce… according to the menu. What arrived was a cool, white paste. On a positive note we both loved the bread they served with dinner! We headed back to the hotel room, with upset stomachs and when to bed.

The next morning we got up early and headed over to Pig and Pancake for breakfast. We love the Pig and Pancake in Lincoln city. The food is outstanding, good value for money and tastes great. Unfortunately, we ate at the Pig and Pancake in Newport, where the highlight of the meal was seeing someone wearing a Roxy T-shirt.

After a horrid breakfast we drove up to Agate beach. Joshua likes rocky beaches, and Agate beach sounded ideal. Agate beach turned out to be a wonderful soft sand beach. But it did have some neat rocky cliff area’s which we explored.

We then headed up to Depoe Bay and walked around the shops and Whale Watching center. Turns out we arrived on Pirate day. So several hundred folks, all dressed in pirate wear, were walking around and setting off canons. We picked up a gift for our friend, Scott and headed up the road to Lincoln City where we found three new pairs of pants for Joshua at the outlet mall.

The whole reason for going to the coast was that Sara had asked us to come down as a backup support for a trip that she and Shawn were taking for her birthday. So after shopping we started to head back to Newport to meet up with Shawn and Sara who where driving down from Portland.

We met them at Yaquina Head; we all parked in the visitor center and walked out to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the west coast, and we all got to climb to the top! We then walked down to a little cove area and explored the tide pools with Shawn. Shawn really wanted to touch some of the animals he saw so our next stop was the Oregon Aquarium!

If you have never been to the Oregon Aquarium, it’s like EPCOT’s living seas, but just a bit bigger. We ate lunch at their café ….. Strike three for you baseball fans. We decided to share the basket of Fish and Chips ($11.00), which turns out to be just what the sign said… One breaded piece of frozen fish and ½ cup of shoestring oily French fries….aaggghhhhh. The only plus to it all was Shawn had a great time at the Oregon Aquarium.

We all headed back to the hotel, and Sara, Joshua and Shawn decided to go swimming.  After, we all met up for dinner at the Shilo Inn café. And I wish I could tell you we had a good meal. We arrived 45 minutes before they closed which they said was not an issue. They had one other table besides us. The waitress came over and took our drink orders, drinks arrived and order taken, the other table of diners left and we were sitting in an empty room….. No wait staff no diners nothing. We had all ordered pretty easy food items, but the food took over 30 minutes to come out of the kitchen. The service was lousy! The food was just ok.

We then headed down to the beach. After a long walk we found a good spot and Joshua got the fire going while Anthony played mom and got the smore production line ready. It was really windy and the wood Anthony got at Freddie’s was very dry so the fire started easily and burned fast. We make lots of smores and only lost one in the fire and one in the sand.

The next morning, we woke and looked out the window to see Sara and Shawn digging in the sand so we called them. They were having fun so we headed out for breakfast alone with a mission to pick up French toast for Sara. We found a place called the Chalet Restaurant & Bakery, and had a GREAT breakfast with wonderful service. So we headed back to the hotel with French toast for Sara only to have missed them. Shawn had gotten wet and they changed clothes and decided to head up to the Tillamook cheese factory.

So we packed up the car and decided we should head out as well. We stopped in Neskowin, which is just north of Lincoln city. Anthony’s Grandmother took him their once when he was little. It has a few motels that overlook a great sandy cove. We decided that this would be our next beach vacation destination.

We drove up to Tillamook and stopped in at the Blue Heron cheese factory and purchased 2 wheels of their brie (regular & smoked). We then of course stopped in at the Tillamook cheese factory, and it was a mad house! We dove in grabbed our squeaky cheese (cheese curds) and got out of there as fast as we could.

We then drove home and Anthony made dinner. We had Tillamook cheese Enchiladas and reheated French toast. It was a fun trip but next trip is definitely at Neskowin or the beach house in Oceanside! It seems we are way too picky of eaters.

We also had a weekend of pre-shopping as Suzanne would say it. But we pre-vacationed, “When we have the kiddo, we will do this, or we will go here” Or “yeah not doing that again”.

A long long weekend!

timbers

Friday night Anthony’s 16-year-old nephew, Kristian came up for a weekend visit. He spent Friday and Saturday night over out our house and was the first person to try out the new bunk bed and mattress in the kid’s room. Anthony had not seen his nephew since Kristian was very little. So this was a very fun weekend of getting to know each other and reconnecting.

After a quick tour of the house, Kristian found the video games and Anthony cooked dinner, beef enchiladas. Since Sam had the night off we all 4 of us decided to go see a movie, Disney’s G-Force.

Saturday we got up early, had German Pancakes for breakfast, and then headed over to Portland State University because Kristian wanted to check out the campus. This proved to be a little difficult. First, they don’t run weekend tours and second the whole campus was engulfed in a hippy farmers market and Pro Iran event. (They don’t call Portland little Beirut from no reason!)

But luckily, we were able to avoid most of the craziness of the market and wandered though the Student Union and walked around the campus and where able to check out a lot of the buildings. Hopefully he got a good idea of campus life. He still wants to come back later and take the official tour.

After stopping off for Starbucks, we drove down to Pioneer Place Mall. Kristian wanted to pick up a Trailblazer T-Shirt. Unfortunately, the Mall did not have what we were looking for. So, we decided to drive over to the Rose Garden and hit the Blazer Store.

Before leaving downtown we did a walk though of the Nike Store, which brought a HUGE smile and big eyes to Kristian’s face.

After the Nike Store we drove over to the Rose Garden, only to discover that they were holding a Street Jam – 3vs3 Basketball Tournament. Which was kinda fun. Anthony found the Radio Disney table and picked up some stuff for Shawn. But, we struck out again for a Blazer shirt. They had the shirt Kristian wanted, but not in his size.

We walked over the MAX, rode it up to Lloyd Center, and found the T-Shirt in sports shop. T-shirt hunting as followed by lunch in the mall, as we were all hungry.

After lunch we traced back our path, took MAX back to the Rose Garden, picked up the car and drove home. Joshua and Anthony both took a short n.a.p. while Kristian played video games. We then all got back in car and drove down to PGE Park as there was a posted 5:00pm Timbers Soccer game. Which once we got down there and stood in line at the window, turned out the 5:00pm game was in Minnesota. That is what you get when you leave non-sports people in charge of the sports entertainment. There was a 7:00 Beavers baseball game, which no one in the group wanted to stay and watch.

We changed plans quickly, which we seem to be getting much better at. We drove back up I-84 towards home, stopped by Fred Myers for some groceries, and then headed home for a movie night on the sofa. Anthony headed into the kitchen and cooked up a big pot of spaghetti, green beans and sour dough rolls. Josh and Kristian worked on Resident Evil 5 together. After dinner, we watched Kingdom of Heaven.

The next morning, Anthony made pancakes and cheesy scrambled eggs for breakfast. Kristian’s grandfather was supposed to pick him up at 10:00, because we had to pick up Shawn before 10:45. So at 10:15am we said all our goodbyes and Anthony drove like a madman to Tigard to pick up Shawn. About 10 minutes later Kristian’s grandfather picked him up. Sara had an 11:00am appointment, and Anthony made it just in time to scoop up Shawn.

Just like Kristian, Shawn made a beeline straight for the video games. But, he only gets 30 minutes a day. So while I help him find a kid game to play. Joshua set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes. Then Anthony and Shawn when and played in the back yard for a bit with a paper airplane that Anthony picked up the day before at the Street Jam – 3vs3 Basketball Tournament at the Disney radio booth.

Afterwards we had lunch, corn dogs and tatter tots with apple slices. Joshua then took Shawn swimming again and worked on his backstroke and dolphin kick.

Before the movie, Joshua and Shawn boiled some eggs and made egg salad sandwiches together for a afternoon snack. Shawn had never seen a gas stove before and was a little in awe of it. At first, he thought there was something wrong with the stove when he saw the flames shoot out.

We then watched the adventures of Ichabod Crane. Which has the headless horseman in it. Joshua and Shawn had two different theories on the movie. Shawn felt the headless horseman was real while Joshua thought it was just someone trying to scare Ichabod.

After the movie, we noticed it was getting late so all jumped in the car and drove Shawn home. Arriving home we both plopped on the sofa like 2 bags of wet of sand. It was a long weekend!

One cool, yet expensive thing did happen Saturday night.  We got the copy of our home inspection form in the mail, all signed and legal. With it came the $1,500.00 home study bill. And in a week or so we should get then $1,200.00 coordination fee bill as our home study should be done within the next 2-3 weeks.

Both of us feel we are getting so close to being done and the excitement level is getting hard to control. Which we keep trying to do as the next stage could be the longest and hardest to swallow, waiting for a placement. This could take a few months or a few years or never.

Tick…Tock…Tick…Tock

Magic-School-Bus

So this past week we had three great days, that have really kicked the old biological parenting clock into overdrive for both of us.

First a great evening with Jaden. Then the adoption BBQ and then yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening with Shawn (8) and his little Brother  Daniel (4) who was visiting. (Changing names for privacy reasons).

Shawn was recently placed with his forever family. A great lady named Sara. Our adoption clinician referred us to Sara, as Sara needs some respite care help so she can have a well-earned break now and then.

Our clinician though it would be really good for us to see firsthand what working with a special needs adoption child is really like. And the added bonus is we are also learning what being a special needs parent can be like.

So far, we have three great visits now with Sara and Shawn.  Yesterday Shawn’s little brother was down for a visit, so we got twice the fun! As we walked to the house, Josh headed up stairs to help with a little project with Sara and I became an instant jungle gym for the two boys down in the living room.

Both Joshua and I had a wonderful time with the two boys and it really made us both think even more about looking into sibling groups for our own adoption.

Shawn and I spent the afternoon working on Magic school bus science experiments, as Shawn is a young budding mad scientist. We learned all about how iodine changes color when mixed with bread and sugar. We also learned that the board game Sorry does not work out so well for a 4 year old.

Next weekend, if Shawn has a good week, we are going to take the mad scientist out to OMSI and let Sara have a Sunday off.

Star Wars: The Raspberry Menace

legorass

Last night we had our first big harvest of the Raspberries from the back yard. Luckily Jaden (April’s son, Suzanne’s grandson) was visiting and was able to help us.

It was Jaden’s first time picking berries but he quickly became an expert. Within 10 minutes he had a big bowl full and was carefully eyeing the white ones to see if they where ripe enough to pick.

Jaden then helped Anthony wash the berries and then all four of us (Josh, Sam, Jaden and Anthony) sat outside on the patio and ate some with cool whip.

Jaden let us all know that he doesn’t like berries except sweet strawberries. So we added a little sugar to his and he then magically finished the rest!

After cleaning up, Jaden showed us his new Cars video game and then got very excited to see we had the Lego Star Wars game for the PS3 just like at his “weekend house”

This was cause for a sudden and major shift in video game priorities. It was just as we finished level 3 of Star Wars Lego Jaden’s Mom came by to pick him up.

2 weekends of blisters

The berries are coming!
The berries are coming!

So it’s spring here is Portland. The winter rain as given way to the spring rain. And with it comes the new yearly task of keeping up with the neighbors.

Last year we tried a vegetable garden in our back yard and there just was not  enough sunlight  getting to the back yard area. So this year we are trying to set up the yard so that we have to do as little to it in the future, yet still look cool and groovy. To this end, we spent that last two weekends cutting up the front and back yard.

The old owners of the house had rose bushes scattered all over the yard. We moved them all to the front and in the back built a rose trellis for the 4 climbing roses we found.

In the front yard we cut out a corner of the yard and put in a little bark dust garden with some cute low bushes. We used a neat black trim for the front and loved it so much we are planning to force Sam to install it on all the borders over the next few weekends.

The blueberries and raspberries are coming in great this year. If fact we planted 3 new yellow fall bearing raspberries so next year we should have berries all summer and fall. We also planned nasty weed called rhubarb, which can be made into Joshua’s favorite type of pie.

Joshua has big plans now for the back yard and keeps talking about a pond…..

Love & Logic – The first class

love-and-logic-logo

So last night Joshua and I took our first class in the Love and Logic. The basic idea of the Love and Logic parenting system seems to be helping your kids fail in a good way so they can succeed in life… but don’t quote me on that, we are still learning!  But so far we really like the class.

The class is taught by the same teacher we had for our SNAC training last year. In fact we are meeting in the same room. Our teacher is real hoot. Very funny and very skilled in what she knows and she know A LOT!

Unlike the SNAC training which was a full room, the class size this time was very small. Only 3 1/2 tables of parents. Should be good as we can ask a lot of questions and get a lot more individual attention.

One neat thing is we were not the only same sex couple in the class, we are not alone! Which again really shows how far we have come and helps me at least stop worrying that we will be blocked or denied based solely on our sexual orientation.

 We did have one freak out moment. Joshua came downtown and picked me up from work and as we started driving away, the car died. Luckily it started right up. Then about 10 blocks later on the 1-5 exit, it died again. So our poor car has the flu and is going off to see the car doctor. Normally I would be freaking out, but strangely I was the calm one this time. Joshua does the family finances and only saw more bills, I see it as a chance to get my all Electric car.

Gym Day Two…

fat_ass_south_park-12678

So we had our second morning in the gym today.

Our new habit is to wake up at 5:00am and drive the 4 blocks to the gym. Where Josh runs off the pool to do his laps and I plug my head phones in and walk uphill on the treadmill for a few miles.

Yesterday Joshua was feeling it, now today I am a wreak. Professional couch potatoes are not met to endure this type of punishment!

On the plus side, we have a whole new wardrobe of  gym clothes which we look very sporty in.

And it’s Anthony by a nose….

So I just had my last test run for my adoption medical paperwork. Which means I am officially ahead of Joshua in the race to get our paperwork done! LOL

I just came back from Kaiser. I had to meet with the nurse to have her check my TB test results, which I passed.  Then down to the lab where they  stole 3 tubes of my blood and a cup of the yellow stuff. You know you can never go when you need to go and when you shouldn’t or can’t THEN you have to.

So next step is to finish the 121 questionnaire…. only 96 more essay questions to go!

On a more fun note, we mailed off our form and fee to take a new month and a half round of parenting classes. Love and Logic parenting. Should be good. The class is taught by the same lady who did our adoption classes last year and we both really liked her.

Disneyland 2009 Trip

disney-day-3-015

Day one. We flew down on Alaksa air to Longbeach airport on Monday March 30th.  The airport (longbeach) was very small, old, and a little scary, but we saved $100.00 per person on our tickets by choosing LGB. We had a small gang of people with us this time, Joshua, Me, Sam, our friend Scott and his partner Michel. Michel also invited his friend James to come with us as well as unexpected surprise.
The shuttle that was supposed to pick us up was late. If fact when it did show up to get us they boarded us and then tried to de-board us as they had other people to pick up. After waiting 20 minutes for the shuttle we kindly refused to de-board. So we will be sending a nice letter to Prime Shuttle.

We got to our hotel about 11am. We stayed at the Fairfield hotel directly across the street from Disneyland. We spent the day in Disneyland and California adventure. This was Sam’s first trip to California Adventure and he just loved the Bugs life 3-d movie! We lost Michel and James about 30 minutes into the park and spent the rest of the day with Sam and Scott. For dinner, the four of us ate at Tortilla Joe’s in Downtown Disney. After dinner we found Michel and James, just in time to head back to the hotel and get some sleep.

Day Two was our big trip to San Diego. Sam, Josh, and I all woke up early and walked down thru Downtown Disney to the Alamo car rental location and picked up our rental car for the day. We then proceeded to drive for 2 hours to San Diego. Check out the view point photos we have posted. Thousands of mating squirrels, no really, they were everywhere, it was somewhat biblical. We had breakfast alone the way at a Denny’s like place in Oceanside.

Once we found the Zoo, (adventure) We spent the morning with Joshua’s Aunt and Uncle and met Joshua’s cousin Grace, who is adorable! Around lunchtime, Sam decided to join his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin and they headed home. Joshua and I spent the rest of the day in the Zoo alone. We had a great lunch in Albert’s restaurant and I got to see the Pandas! (check out our photos)

After the zoo, we headed over to pick Sam up and have dinner at the Aunt and Uncles house. We were both dead tired, so Joshua’s Aunt put me on a slant board. After my nap, we had a great dinner of fish tacos. The fish was gladly provided by Cousin Adrian (who likes to skip school to fish). After dinner, we drove the long trip back north to our hotel in Anaheim.

securedownload

Day 3 was our full day in the parks. We got up early again for the 8:00 early park admission only to find out that on Wednesdays they do not do the early morning entrance. So we got out of line and had breakfast at the little café off Downtown Disney. James and Sam both slept in so it was just the four of us.
Later that morning, Sam joined us for lunch at the Blue Bayou, which was wonderful!

After lunch James and Michel headed off alone, again, leaving just the four of us.
That evening Josh and I broke off from the group and had a private anniversary dinner alone at Napa Rose inside the Grand Californian hotel.  We ended the evening watching the fireworks over Disneyland from a great spot by the castle. Scott and Michel headed to bed but Josh, Sam and I stayed late (until 11pm) and road Space Mt & the new Nemo Sub ride, which is not as cool as the old sub ride, but still very very cool.

Thursday was our final day in the parks. It was also extra magic hours. So we got up early again, checked out of the hotel, then checked our luggage into baggage check and hit the park at 8am. I think we did every ride in the park with the exception of big thunder mountain. Which of some reason never made it on our radar.

At 2:00pm we walked over to our hotel unchecked our bags and took the shuttle back to Longbeach Airport (which was on time ). The flight home was uneventful other then Joshua gave me the green light to start  planing for Disney world.

So anyone want to come along?

The DIS Unplugged Podcast


logo-top-lftSo we just had our 15 mins of fame…

We wrote in a thank you letter to the Disney Information Station and their Podcast team and our letter was read on air. We both love this podcast and if you love disneyworld you will too!

To hear our E-Mail read  and the funny response head to http://www.wdwinfo.com/disney-podcast/downloads.htm or head to iTunes and search for the DIS Unplugged Podcast. They read our letter at about 39 minutes and 40 sec into the 03/12/09 E-Mail show.