D-DAY

At 1:00pm PST the committee starts

We are hoping to have the answer if we are selected by around 4:00pm.

A new rule allows the committee to think about it for 24 hours so we might not know until tomorrow.

We will post here and on Facebook the results either way.

Thank you everyone for your support and prayers.

 

(Content below reposted from www.lanecountyheartgallery.org)

The committee consists of three members who are usually DHS caseworkers, retired caseworkers, or social workers experienced in the adoption field.  The committee meets for three hours, usually 9-Noon or 1-4 p.m.  Occasionally it lasts longer, but not often.

Committee starts with a presentation of the child by the CW.  Sometimes the child’s foster parent, therapist, court appointed special advocate (CASA), or attorney, is also present and invited to tell about the child as well.  The CW usually brings pictures, or the child’s Life Book, so the committee can view photos.  The goal is for the committee to have a thorough understanding of the child’s identity, personality, and special needs.  The committee members may have questions during this time about the child based on what they hear, read, or otherwise observe.

Once the child has been presented, any representatives for the child, except the CW, are dismissed and the AWs for the families each have a turn telling the committee about the family they represent.  Again, the committee members may have questions for the AW based on what they hear or what they have read in the family’s home study.

The committee members then remark on or list the strengths they heard or read about each family and the concerns they have about each family.  Then they vote.  If the two junior members each vote for a different family, the chair must break the tie with a vote for one of those two families so that we leave committee with a decision.  We nearly always leave committee with a decision about who will adopt the child.

When committee ends, the families receive a call informing them whether or not they were selected by the committee.  The AW who represents each family takes notes throughout the committee, types them, and forwards them to the family, usually the next day.  If a family lives outside Oregon, then at this point our agency will step aside and the family’s AW will work directly with the child’s CW to proceed with the placement.

The CW comes to committee prepared with the child’s files, which are given or sent to the family’s AW.  There is a 7-day blackout period then to give the family an opportunity to review the files more thoroughly with physicians, psychologists, teachers, and whoever else can help the family be certain this is what it wants.  During this time, the CW and AW will work with the family to make a transition plan.


We are just F.I.N.E.

F.I.N.E.

Tuesday we attended our second and perhaps last Pre-Adoption support group, at least as a Pre-Adoptive family. The numbers were down from last time, just 4 families. But we did get a chance to show our hello book to the other families. The Boys and Girls Aid staff member who was running the meeting broke into our caseworker’s office to get it, which is the 2nd time someone has done that. But it was worth it as everyone really liked it, which was a great moral boost. We just hope the committee likes it and more importantly, that the kido loves it.

We did have one moment of dread when one of the support group members asked if we had done a video for the committee to watch as well. Turns out that video presentations are rare and generally not used or super recommended. But for a moment, we started to have a real fear that we had failed to do something.

This whole week has become very emotional. Joshua has become highly irritable and is hiding at work plus doing his best to avoid stressful people. Anthony has lost the ability to sleep, Advil PM has become his new friend. Even Sam is showing some signs of stress. The cats, of course, have no clue what might be about to be unleashed upon their little world, perhaps thats for the best.

We have finished our new video games and are now frantically looking for new things to distract us. The dreaded weekend is quickly approaching, we need to come up with a plan soon of what to do to keep busy. Joshua was going to go skiing but didn’t want to leave Anthony home alone, at least not on this weekend.

Last night the first of the 2011 Oscar movies arrived from Netflix, Toy Story 3. All we can say is WOW, the last threads of our manhood elapsed by the end of the movie. Both of us crying like little girls. In retrospect, probably not the best type of movie to watch when your emotionally on edge. Crying during Pixar movies aside, we really ARE holding up pretty well. No really…..

We completed the last possible thing we could do before the committee meeting last night. We called and spoke with the foster mom. It was a good conversation and we are looking forward to meeting her if all goes well.

We should add this call also gave us our closest contact with the kido that we have ever had, as we could hear him playing in the background during the call. In Oregon, the adoptive parents do not meet the child until after the committee has selected them. So just hearing him playing felt a bit like cheating. It also made it a bit hard to listen and comprehend what the foster mother was saying, while straining to hear anything we could from the kido.

Yes, we are pretty silly.

Just not going to think about it

The weekend started off Friday night. Earlier in the day our adoption clinician came over to meet with Sam. She had only heard good things about him from us and our old Clinician.  With the committee meeting a week away, she wanted to meet him and get a to know him better. She came over Friday afternoon while we were at work. Apparently the meeting was a good one. We came home to this note from her written on our dry erase board: Have a great weekend, it’s probably one of your last quiet ones!

We spent the weekend trying to keep busy and tried not think about her message.  We got up late Saturday morning and decided right way to leave the house. Neither of us wanted to stay indoors all day. With no real plan on what to do we stopped by Target and picked up some new razors and undershirts. Then had lunch at the Olive Garden, which was surprisingly not bad. But, we did only have soup and salad.

After lunch we walked over to the World Market. We loaded up on Jelly Babies & Soft black licorice. Joshua also found a poster. 24×36 on a shiny red metallic paper, BE CALM AND CARE ON.  Buying it was a huge no brainer for us. But what to do with it? And where to put it?

We remembered that Michaels was having a framing sale, so we headed over to see what they might have in ready made frames. After a long debate we picked up a nice brown frame that matches the rest of the house for $34.99.

Sunday the real problem began. Where do we hang it? The walls in our  house are mostly covered by bookcases. The one area that is open and free is the stairwell hallway. The only concern with hanging items in the stairwell was, what if it falls on some ones head. Both of us mentally pictured our kido running/crashing down the stairs (like kids do) and being bonked on the head.

So Anthony drove down to the Home Depot and found a french cleat hanging kit. It’s made up of two interlocking strips of metal. One goes on the wall the other on the frame. To take the frame down off the wall you need to lift it up and out. There is no way anyone walking, running, crashing or jumping down the stairs could do it on accident. The only way this thing will fall is if the wood stud gives out. And if that happens we have much bigger problems. 🙂

Now mounting the metal strip to the frame took 1 min. Mounting the strip to the wall took 30 mins of measuring and finding bits, tape, levels, power cords, ect. Not to mention trying to screw into the wall while leaning over a 30 foot drop. It was fun.

A few of you have asked us what’s up with the poster. Well it kinda means something different to each of us. It has started to mean more to us as we get closer and closer to our committee date. But the real history of the poster is this:

Wikipedia: Keep Calm and Carry On was a poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of World War II, intended to raise the morale of the British public under the threat of impending invasion…

Now we just need to find a MIND THE GAP poster and our little british themed wall will be perfect!

Keep Calm and Carry On

14 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds until we go to committee. Not that we are keeping track or anything…

So this past week we had an update meeting with our adoption clinician. It was a very positive meeting. We also were able to do a follow up conference call with the kido’s therapist at the same time, which was super helpful. We had a lot of post FAS workshop questions. It’s funny the more you know the more questions you can come up with.

We have another followup phone conference with the kido’s caseworker set for next week to do one last run of follow up questions. But other then that, and barring any new ideas we might come up with or be given to prep ourselves, we are feeling pretty ready.

The hello book is printed and done, we have both finished all of the suggested books & articles and the kido’s room is prepped and ready to go. We are feeling pretty prepared. That in itself is a bit unnerving. But, no matter what the committee decides we both feel we have done all we can and done our best.

So now, we just have to keep ourselves busy and try our best not to think about it. To that end we have picked up 2 new video games for the house. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood & You don’t know Jack. All three of us are big fans of the Assassin’s Creed games, so there has been much negotiating and bribing on who gets to play it and when. You don’t know Jack is a funny Quiz game that all three of us can play. It has very funny and obscure questions.

We also have a new upcoming project. Joshua’s eldest brother Shiloh is getting married in May. He has asked Joshua to be his best man. So you know what that means… Anthony gets to plan the Stag party!!!!

The party right now looks like it will be a night of bowling. The whole party will be very family friendly as we expect Shiloh will to want to bring his daughter to his bachelors party, and we hope our new son. Not to mention, that this will be in Salt Lake City.

This past weekend we had a conference call with Shiloh and his bride to be and talked wedding stuff. And YES, Anthony starting channeling David Tutera. It was a very amusing phone call as 4 people, 2 laptops and 1 iPad all searched the Men’s Warehouse tux rental website.

So the weekend of May 14th, we are heading to Salt Lake city. Still have not decided if we are driving or flying. We will have Sam with us and perhaps a new kido to introduce to the Familia. Price it going to be the biggest factor, because 2 weeks after the wedding we have Joshua’s Birthday trip. This seems to be our new unintentional thing, visit La Familia, then take a vacation. 🙂

Rainpoclypse 2011

So remember our post a week or so back “When it rains it pours”? Well welcome to the THUNDERSTORM 2011.

In fact this should be like one of those manic news broadcasts with zippy storm tracker sound effects and our own seasonal logo…. YOUR Watching Super Action News Five. The Northwest’s leading weather news team. Rainpocalypse 2011! Sponsored by Richman Umbrellas. Now here is news anchor of the year Tom Tucker…..

• First weather system

We now have a date for committee set for kido#1, March 7th 2011. By close of business on the 7th we will know if we are happy new parents or still hopefuls. For this last week we have been quite literally been bouncing off the walls in excitement. The stress level in our house is also on the rise.

We have also started to update our hello book for the kido. The Hello book is a little book we have put together that introduces us, our house, the cats and the kidos room to who we hope will be our son. It’s something he can look at before we meet and before he moves in. The goal and hope is this will make his transition smoother and help take some of the scary parts out for him.

Anthony has been working on the book for 2 years now. So we only need to adjust it to match the kidos personal quirks and likes. We have been told our book is amazing. We just hope we get a chance to use it.

• Second weather system

Got an email from our adoption clinician. The caseworker on kido #2 has set a date for committee and would like to take us as one of the families three families.  She was REALLY excited about us as a match.

Our first reaction was shock. We had asked for some better info on the kido and never really heard back. And kinda had become very fousced on kido #1

The punch to the gut detail was the date for kido #2’s committee meeting March 2nd 2011. For those of you keeping track that is 5 days earlier then the kido we have been targeting.*best Charlie Brown impression here* ARRRRGGGH

We have been VERY focused on kido #1 and have been doing a lot of prep work for that committee, to try and jump tracks now seemed unfair and really did not feel emotionally right. It also did not seem fair to other families or either of the kidos, perhaps we are just to sensitive and not cut throat enough. But after a long conversation with our adoption clinician we decided to see if we could get a later committee date on kido #2 after kido #1’s.  If not we would pass on going to the committee with kido #2. We felt we did not have enough good information on kido #2 to put a potential placement with kido #1 (who we do have good intel on) in jeopardy.

So our adoption clinician went back to the caseworker and it turned out the caseworker was NOT willing to move the date.  Seems the caseworker is going on a long vacation in a few weeks and she wants to finish up all her open cases before she leaves.  So we ended up passing.

But doing so turned out to be a big relief.  Even thinking about going to two committees at once created a huge stress jump in our lives. Sticking to one committee not only lowered the stress levels it will help us remain focused and give us more time to prepare for the best case scenario, a PLACEMENT with kido #1!

Pre-adoption support group & FAS workshop

Pre-adoption support group So a few weeks ago we got an E-Mail from our adoption agency inviting us to a new waiting parents support group that they were starting up. So we signed up. We are BIG fans of our agency and were excited to see what the group would be like. Because this is a private group we will not mention here about anything said for confidentiality reasons. But we will blog about our experience, which was a pretty positive one. Out of the whole group, we have the oldest home study and it seems that we have also been actively processing this for a lot longer than some of the other members. Most of our fellow members are just starting their active adoption journey, which was a real shock to us. As the meeting started and we all started to talk and share, it seemed like we all were a bit tight lipped on details. There was also a weird vibe in the air. Everything was discussed with broad strokes. You have to understand that the group itself is made up of other families that could be competing for the same kido. We don’t feel anyone in the room feels hostility to anyone else, but there was a weird self protective vibe. But by the end of the meeting as everyone got more comfortable talking the vibe was a bit more normal, if there can even be such a thing. Since were were the old farts in the room we actually felt a ton better since we mentally got to say to ourselves, “Been there, done that.” FAS Workshop This past weekend we  completed a 3 day FAS / FAE  (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome / Fetal Alcohol Effect) workshop. The Workshop was hosted by FASCETS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Consultation, Education and Training Services). The funny thing was it was held at the Mark Spencer hotel. A hotel both of us know well from our work with the ISRC. It was a bit weird spending 3 days in the coronation hospitality room. It was also a bit weird to discuss alcohol and it’s effects then step outside and see Boxxes/Redcap & Scandals and the Roxy. The workshop was a very detailed course and we feel a must for anyone who will be working with children. The numbers of kids born with FASE is crazy and the training was invaluable. The course gave us a new understanding and way of looking at some of the kidos we have been submitting our home study on. We were the only pre-adoptive family in the workshop. About half of our classmates are parents of children with FAS or FASE. The remainder of our classmates where teachers and child care professionals. We also had one Lawyer and one legal advocate. Thanks to the class diversity, we had several interesting class conversations. It made for some very interesting discussions and we feel it gave us some better tools in our parenting box.

THE NEXT STEP

So Monday (January 24th 2010) we got an E-Mail from our adoption clinician. She had heard back from the caseworker for the kiddo who we did a conference call with 2 weeks ago. She told us that the kiddo s caseworker had decided to send us to committee. She also mentioned that at this point the caseworker had yetto identify any other families to send to committee Also; no date has been set for the committee meeting, so we don’t know if this will be weeks or months of waiting.

We have only gone to committee once before. Some families go multiple times before they are matched to a child. Just because you’re sent to committee doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a placement.

Because we don’t know how long we will have before the committee meeting, we have decided to spend this time prepping for a hopeful placement. So we have started to improve our knowledge base, this time learning more on how to directly meet the needs of this particular kiddo better. This is turning out to be a good thing and a bad thing.

On the good side we have time to go back through the house and re-kid proof it. We also are going to upgrade our child proofing of the house to have High Focus, something the kiddo’s therapist mentioned about be very helpful. We are still looking into this and will post as we learn more. We have also started reading a new book, Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today’s parents, which was also recommended by the kiddo’s therapist.  Also, based off another recommendation by the therapist, we have signed up for a 3 day workshop here in Portland to get a better understanding of this kiddo s needs.

On the “bad” side we have found ourselves becoming, perhaps, a bit too optimistic. In conversation the generic term “kiddo” has slowly and unconsciously been replaced with the kiddo’s real name (something we are fighting). When arranging for our two upcoming family trips in May, more and more of the planning seems to be centered around this child’s special needs, you know, just in case. We have even started to identify which children in the neighborhood OUR kiddo will not be playing with and which ones look safe.

All of this is great news if we are selected in committee, but probably not the best emotional thing for us if we are not. Right now, we are trying to find that proper balance of excitement, necessary planning and the elusive emotionally distant safe point.

We know that this kiddo might not be the one, but it is very hard not to hope and dream.

When it rains…..

Today (1/12/11) we had our first conversation with the kido’s caseworker and therapist. The conference call was a really good one. It’s clear that the people in this kiddo’s life are really looking for the best fit for him. They had a lot nice things to say about the kiddo and where very frank about his strengths and the areas he is still working on. They also had a lot of cute stories that helped describe him and his needs better.

The weird part was they had some follow up questions for us. This was kind of new as the last 2 times we have done similar conference calls, all the questions had been one sided coming from us only. This change got us really got us excited. In the past two times, the tone and answers made us feel that once and if the placement happened, we would be on our own. But this time by their questions and answers, clearly is would not the case. They described the strong team of support and services for before, during and after the adoption for the kiddo and our family.  The funny thing was they seemed to be worried we would want to grab the child and go it alone, which is SO not us. It was really hard not to yell out “YES, this is so what we want!” or comments like “If you hire us we promise to work really, really hard.” :)

At the end the call, we all were a bit jazzed. This kido feels like a match to us and more importantly it also feels like we are a match to him.  But, and there are some big buts, he is not ours to just take. First, he is still considered legal risk. Meaning that there is still a very small remote chance his status will change from an adoption track back to one that would try to reunite him with the family he was removed from. Second, this is a great kid and as we mentioned before, we will not be the only family who will see how great he is. This means that there could be some real competition. Third, just because we think it’s a match, the caseworker may not or might think there are stronger matches. Even if she picks us as one of the three families for committee, the adoption committee will make the final decision.

After such a good conference call it’s hard not to get hopeful, but we are trying very hard to be realistic and pragmatic. We are still long ways off from the happy dance time.

Oh… remember those adoption loop-de-loops we mentioned in our last post?  Well, an hour and half before our conference call, our adoption clinician got a phone call from another kiddo’s caseworker asking if we would still be interested in learning more about her kido that we submitted on.

489 days later…

So we have returned from our vacation and survived the holidays. Time to get back on the emotional adoption roller coaster, with all the emotional rushes, crazy happy highs with super fast sad lows, mental inversions and those fun loopy loops that get thrown at you along the way.

• Four hundred and eighty nine days ago we completed our homestudy.

• Four hundred and eighty nine days ago we sat and looked through the big bulletin book and found 12 kidos profiles that we liked.

• Four hundred and eighty nine days ago at the top of our list, our very first selection was a cute 4 year old boy.

Well, today (1/3/2011) four hundred and eighty nine days later, we got a response back from that kido’s caseworker and attorney coupled with 66 pages of additional information on the now, still cute, 5 year old boy.

The funny thing is Anthony woke up this morning and said that we would hear from adoption clinician today. That he had a weird premonition that we would. And sure enough we did! Now why can’t he get some premonitions on some Powerball numbers?

On our last ride on the adoption emotional roller coaster our stress level got  pretty high and it got pretty emotional as we de-boarded the ride vehicle  (see old post). But those experiences have seemed to have had a tempering effect on us. So far we are handling the first big hill on the adoption roller coaster pretty well. That or it was the Disney World Therapy.

Our adoption clinician is setting up a conference call with the kiddo’s caseworker and therapist for sometime next week. So we have started creating a list of questions for the conference call. We have done this twice before on other kiddo’s so we get to kinda cheat and use our old questions as a guide for the new questions LOL.

Again, just to recap the process. This is step two of many many steps, so hold the applause. If we still like the kiddo after the confernce call and the kiddo’s caseworker still likes us, there likely will be more questions and more follow ups.

If at the end of that process the caseworker will select  up to three families from a pool of unknown (to us) hopefuls.. They only take the best three matches and we don’t know how many other families the caseworker is talking to. Based on how cool this kido is on paper, it should be a lot! We could be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. We will not know for a long time.

So to make a long story short (too late), it’s WAY to early to get excited about anything… other then the first drop. Arms up everyone!

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

We don’t roll that way man…

Last two days in the parks (Saturday & Sunday) were set at the slow wander pace on our speedometers. Saturday we scheduled ourselves to spend the whole day in the Magic Kingdom. With a projected high of only 67 we called it close enough and broke out the shorts. We had breakfast reservations at the Poly for 8:00am so it was another early day for us. But was it worth it! Kona Cafe for Breakfast, best breakfast maybe meal of our whole trip and really restored our faith in Disney Dinning. The Cafe was EMPTY, we a nice corner booth table and a great service. Anthony ordered the Macadamia Pineapple Pancakes – Served with Macadamia nut butter, pineapple sauce, and your choice of ham, bacon or sausage.  And Joshua got the Big Kahuna – French Toast, pancakes, eggs your way, home fried potatoes, ham, bacon, and sausage. Joshua also ordered a LARGE press pot of 100% Kona Coffee! We simply love the Polynesian Resort, no matter what the cost is next trip we are so staying there! Service was great and the food was great! After breakfast we took the Monorail to the Magic kingdom from the Polynesian Resorts Monorail stop. Did we mention we are staying at the Poly next time?  Thanks to the warmer weather most the flowers frost blankets were not gone and most of  the holiday gardening was out to see. We spent the wandering round the park. We did the train twice! Lunch was at the Liberty Tree tavern… nothing to write home about. After lunch we decided it was nap time, and jumped one of the Disney busses back to our dump/resort. We had such a good parking spot we wanted to keep it for when we left for good later in the night. Bus took 30mins to get to the resort… another 30 mins later and we were in nap land. After our nice nap we dressed and took the bus back in to the Magic kingdom and from their hoped a boat to the Wilderness Lodge Resort for a nice dinner at the Artist Point restaurant. On our way back from dinner on the boat  we noticed a thin layer of fog forming on the lake. It was supper romantic. The boat ride only takes about 10 minutes but by the time we deboarded and made it past the railroad archway, the light fog had rolled in and gotten much thicker. We headed over to Tomorrow land and killed some time before the fireworks and walked out to the top of Mainstreet USA about 200 ft from the front of the Castle and watched as the fireworks began. At first it was cool, the hazy Castle with defused lights shining all round it. Then the fireworks started  popping though the haze. But once the fireworks started to really go, the smoke and fog mixed and it go harder and harder to see the fireworks. Then the castle itself disappeared into haze and only the largest explosions cut though the smoke and fog. We found ourselves getting cloeser and closer as the crowds poured out of the park all upset at the fog. By the time the music for the fireworks ended and the castle ice lights came back on we were in front of the castle alone. We loved it! The fog was so cool. But we seems to be the only ones with that feeling. We hung around and rode some more rides and waited for the Main Street Electrical Parade which was scheduled for 10pm. Now here is the funny part, they ran the Fireworks in 0% visibly but 10 mins before the ground level parade was set to start they announced that it was delayed due to weather. So we decided to shop and look for new coffee mugs, Joshua has a great Stitch one and Anthony needed one (so he will stop using Joshua’s). Just as we were wrapping up our shopping the Parade began. Joshua kinda went crazy and too 250+ photos. SOME of them are online to view. After the parade we headed out and drove back to our hotel. Walked up to the front door and swiped our key card. And then swiped our key card. And then swiped our key card. And then swiped our key card. And then swiped our key card. And then swiped our key card. And then swiped our key card. And then swiped our key card. WTF!!!!!! Yes, we were locked out of our room. And to make it just a bit more fun all the fog had gotten into Anthony’s lungs and his inhaler was in the room. It took 45 mins standing outside in the cold and two trips to the front desk to get someone to come to our room and let us in. Aggghhhh did we mention never again at a Disney Value hotel? Sunday Morning we got up late (sine we were up late waiting to get in our room) and finished packing. Loaded the Kia and waved goodbye to the movie resort… well not yet. Seems on our final bill they had billed us twice for the same tip, our posh breakfast at the Grand Floridian Cafe. Took about 10 mins waiting in line, 10 mins to find a manager to ok the refund and another 10mins to figure out how to do it. Did we mention never again at a Disney Value hotel? Using our best and most refined rude gestures to the inanimate main-gate sign for the All Star Movies resort, we drove off and headed towards EPCOT. Sunday’s weather was cool high 50’s. After a week of cold weather Anthony was on the cusp of getting sick. Running nose and a general feeling of death. Because of events from this youth, it takes much yelling to get him to take medicine. So finally today he broke down on the way to EPCOT and took some meds as we parked. We had lunch at the Paris Bistro and argued about which French waiter boy to kidnaped to take home with us (I see a trip to Paris in our future) We also finally got to ride the Universe of Energy ride (Anthony’s Favorite ride). But as the weather got cooler and Anthony turned paler, we decided to head to the airport early stopping off in Downtown Disney for some final shopping and a early dinner at the Earl of Sandwich. Our flight home was at 8:30pm on US Airways. Our last official time ever flying with them if we can help it. We made that ruling back on our November PHX trip, but our Disney trip already booked by then. US Airways planes are just too dang cheap, seats are too small, planes are too old and crews are underpaid/tired/rude. On our last trip to Orlando in 2007 we got bumped off our US Airways flight home so another flight could have our plane. This caused us to had to spend the night at the airport in the Hyatt hotel. In the end we have had just too many bad events happen with them That said we were secretly hoping for another plane issue so we would get bumped again and could cuddle up together in a nice plush king bed. It didn’t happen, but we did get some great customer service from our Jamaican check-in lady. She called is right up to her area, there was no line which was nice! As we pulled out our fight confirmation numbers she started the check in process. First she had us weigh our bags and paid the baggage fee for each bag. Both just under the limit! When the fee was paid Anthony asked for our boarding passes. Her reply was (in a Jamaican accent) “We don’t roll that way round here.. Man. First we take the money for the bags then we deal with the people.” YES!  We had a new Mantra for the evening…. ‘We don’t Roll that way man” Feel free to use it as well, but remember the Jamaican accent. Knowing how bad and tight the seating is on US Airways we checked into see how much an upgrade to first class would be, but at $300.00 per person, we had to be happy with our cheap small seats. Blowing and extra $600.00 was not in the stars. Our flight was Orlando to PHX then we had to switch planes for the final leg to Portland. On our landing in PHX, the plane made the normal approach, lowered the wheels and was about 50 feet from touchdown when suddenly the plane shot violently back up into the air. Seems there was another plane on the runway and our pilot wanted to live. Our near miss in PHX caused us to be late for our connection home, but luckily they held the plane for us. We landed at home at 1:30am tired and glad to be home.

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.

 

One Taste of Africa, Two Cob Salads & TRON

We woke the next day to a freezing 32 degrees and full sun. After going through the morning bathing and dressing rituals we jumped back into the Kia and drove over to the Animal Kingdom Resort. The high temperature for the day was suppose to be 71. Silly weather channel.. Still we held on to our heavy coats and jeans.

We had 9:00am breakfast reservations at Boma. We got a little lost on the way to the Resort as the road wasn’t clearly marked, so we arrived a bit late, but they took us right in. Boma is a buffet, they take you to your seat, take your drink order then send you off to the buffet. We kinda were expecting something more African and food weird. But everything was pretty american normal.The most daring menu item was a corn beef hash furtada. Oh that and jungle juice…. the waitress came by while we where eating and asked us if we would like some jungle juice. Weird images from our youth came quickly to mind of teenage parties where jungle juice was a weird mixture of strawberry flavored boones and cheap beer. So we asked what is it, the guy sitting at the next table to us chimed it, “Oh it’s great! You’ll love it!” The waitress said, “It’s passionfruit, orange & guava.” We both yelled out a bit relived “Oh it’s POG!” Only to get sour faces back. Both the waitress and other diner clearly preferred to call it jungle juice and looked a bit miffed.

After breakfast we headed over to Animal Kingdom theme park. Now this park in the past visits has been our least favorite, so we had no intention of staying to long. Plan was to hit Expedition Everest a few times, have lunch and then go take a long nap. Turns out as we left the park later that afternoon, we found ourselves reflecting on a nice day. We skipped the Kilimanjaro speedway Safari and the water rapids ride (too cold to be wet). Got two good rides in on Expedition Everest and were happy that some age on the tracks has help make the ride feel a bit more like a runway train rather then the super smooth ride it was before. On our last visit we didn’t make it up to the train ride to the conservation center, so it was our 2nd attraction on the list.

The short train ride takes you semi-backstage to see some animal pens and allows you walk around and peek in to the vet treatment rooms and watch procedures being performed. This was nothing new for Joshua since we works for Banfield. So we moved pretty fast though this area, but it would be very cool for a kido who is into animals. Lunch was at the Tusker House, which turns out was another Buffet. We didn’t stuff ourselves on breakfast so we had some room for lunch. The buffet selections were good. Again nothing weird or adventurous. After lunch we wandered down and out of the park and headed home for a long nap.

After our nap we decided to cancel our dinning reservation we had back at the Animal Kingdom villas and try to do a walk up at EPCOT. We had skipped illuminations the night before to the weather, so the new plan was to find some dinner and some fireworks. We got to EPCOT about 6:00pm and after a ride on spaceship earth we walked up via mexico to Italy to see if we could get a seat at one of the new italian restaurants. Turned out to be a big no, so we started walked down towards England and walked right into a lady standing in the street in Morocco. Turned out this is a good thing as she was promoting the Moroccan restaurant. She wrote down a little note in Arabic and gave us directions on were to go. A few minutes later were sitting at our table.

After another americanized meal we found a great spot down in England and watched the illuminations fireworks and the special holiday fireworks ending.

Friday Morning we got our first long sleep in. We had lunch reservations at 11:50am at the 50’s Prime Time cafe and nothing on the books for breakfast so we slept in and took our time getting over to Hollywood Studios. With a high of 77 we finally broke out the shorts!
We got to Hollywood Studios with plenty of time to spare for lunch so we made a beeline for Pixar Place to get fast passes for Midway Mania. We got the passes but for 6:45pm, tonight was our 7:00pm showing of TRON. So we decided with a small tear that we didn’t like that ride (complete lie..) anyway and jumped on the Great Movie Ride.
Lunch was at the 50′ Prime Time Cafe. Which is a cute restaurant that has 50’s TV’s playing video clips. All of the staff pretend that MOM is cooking and make sure everyone follows moms house rules. No elbows on the table, no games at the table… ect. Anthony had lunch here back in the 90’s and wanted to share the cool place with Joshua. WOW was that a mistake.

The first hiccup came when our name was called. Half way to our table (in the good area) the server realizes that our table already has guest at it. So back we all go to the waiting room to wait. A moment later we get taken to what can only be an after thought room. The server pulls apart a 4 top table and converts it to two 2 tops with a 3 inch gap between the two tables. The room is bare, white. One TV in corner that we can’t really see. No cool theming like the main restaurant. So we were a bit bummed but played along, not everyone can sit in the cool area and at least we are not in the bathroom like our dinner at the Blue Bayou. We as we looked at our menu the server came out again and seated two more people at our table, or rather the table that is 3 inches from our table. SO begins the uncomfortable non-verbal lunch by both tables.

What food we did get was not worth any hype. Joshua ordered the chicken pot pie and Anthony the Fried Chicken. Instead of the wonderful lunch Joshua was expecting he got the meatloaf. Our waitress was also a walking mess as she seemed a little perturbed.. Lunch took over anhour and 45mins of that was us waiting for her. This was the only restaurant for our whole vacation were we left ZERO tip. This was the worst dinning experience we had for the whole trip! So now came the hard part of the day and the main reason that Hollywood Studios is now our least favorite park. After lunch there was nothing to do…. Well almost nothing. Joshua did Tower of Terror once. But the lines for Midway were over 90mins and so we the Aerosmith roller coster. Even star tours was closed.

So we did the short backlot tour and checked out the animators area and demonstrations. The real highlight of our day we Dinner at the Brown Derby, a restaurant we LOVE. Problem was killing time between lunch and dinner. We ended up doing a lot of walking and pre-shopping. For dinner at the Brown Derby we had a mission… Cob Salad.

We love the Brown Derby’s Cobb salad. And joy of joy it is no longer served as a 2 person appetizer. Which really would not have matter too much as we both wanted it. Problem was the single serving is still the double serving portion. So we ending up with 2 HUGE bowels of salad! It was so funny as both of us tried to eat as much as we could, just like two little kids, as we loved it so much. So you know what they say don’t fill up on bread you will spoil your
dinner. Well we kinda did. When our main course came we both kinda poked at them, they were good but the salad was SO much better. Josh had the double bean vanilla creme brûlée for dessert and was in seventh heaven.. Next visit we are going to get the Cobb Salad as our main course and split one order between the two of us!

So after dinner at the Brown Derby we headed over to  the Osborn Lights. They were very very pretty! Over 3 million LCD lights! The streets were packed and just
as we got to the middle it dawned on us that we only had 40mins to get to our movie!
We speed walked all the way to the furthest parking lot in 10 mins! We burned off most of dinner LOL!

TRON legacy was showing at the Downtown Disney AMC theater, which was about a 10min drive from Hollywood Studios. We both are Sci-Fi geeks and Anthony LOVED the original TRON movie as a child. So seeing TRON legacy on Disney Property on opening night was like a little kids dream come true.We have a large screen TV in our home and rarely go see movies in a theater. We find it too noisy and hate the high cost. But we where really impressed with this theater. Super comfy seats and the picture quality and sound was amazing.

According to Disney… “The AMC Entertainment upgraded auditorium one to be the first Enhanced Theater Experience (ETX™) in the United States. The ETX auditorium includes a 20 percent larger, floor-to-ceiling screen, 3D technology, 12 channel audio and digital projection that delivers higher resolution than HD.” The extra tech really was noticeable! We LOVED the movie, for once the hype matched the movie. Fingers crossed for a third film!

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.

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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.

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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.

Thanksgiving 2010 – Phoenix Style

For thanksgiving this year we headed down to Joshua’s Parents home in Phoenix Arizona for a grand gathering of the Sorensen relatives. We left Portland Wednesday afternoon. Joshua had the whole week off, but Anthony had to work a half day. So we met up at the airport.

Our flight was on US Airways… not our favorite air carrier. US Airways was the airline that left us overnight in MCO back in 2007.  Airport security was quick and painless. After all the news about nude scanners and groping TSA workers.. No body scan, no pat down. Even the lines were quick. So much for the busiest travel day of the year!

The flight down was quick but cramped. Anthony got stuck with the center seat next to young woman of size. Causing him to sit for 2 hours with his arms crossed on the seat crack between his and Joshua’s seat. But Joshua had ripped all of I, Claudiusto Anthony’s iPad, so he was happy.

Even though it was a short 5 day trip we took two checked bags down. Joshua packed 5 bottles of wine to take down to his parents for thanksgiving and their anniversary party. It ending up costing us $40 bucks to check both bags. This felt totally silly as it seems none of the other passengers checked any luggage.  It was shocking to see how many people tried to board with HUGE overstuffed suitcases. All of this hassle to escape having to pay the dumb bag fee.

US Airways should take note and kill the bag fees. A huge amount of time was spent by the flight crew trying to find room for all the unpaid bags. It made us feel like we had been taken in some sort of bag scam, since we were dumb enough to pay the fee.

We rented a car from Thrifty and had signed up for the free blue chip program online, which meant that we got to skip the line and just walk right down to the car. They had our paperwork all printed out and picked the car we wanted and drove off. It was a nice treat as we were both a bit tired.

Now for a word on the Phoenix drivers… There seems to be three types: Fast 50mph-65mph, Faster 65mph-90mph and “That guy is going to get people killed!”. All the main roads seem to be 6 lane highways, no really, they have 6 lanes. Our guess why is to accommodate all three types of drivers in both directions.

We got to our hotel, Hyatt Place.  The time change had kind of messed up our internal clocks and at 8:30pm we realized we needed to eat. We drove over to the mall area and while looking for food found a Disney discount store! Of course we had to stop and buy some pins. They were mostly picked clean but still had one Stitch pin and 4 O-pin house key pins. We of course grabbed them right up.

After an ok dinner at Chevy’s we headed back to Hyatt Place. Our room was nice, the bed a bit hard. The only real issue we had with the hotel came at 3:30 in the morning when we were woken by the hotel’s fire alarm blasting. We of course did exactly what you should never do; we got dressed, grabbed personal items (our iPads, wallets & keys) and exited our room. We did check the door for heat before opening it, so I guess we get some safely points back.

The hallway smelled of smoke, and several other hotel guests had their doors open and seemed to be looking to see what to do. From this point forward we were a bit smarter then the pack and ignored the elevators and headed for the stairs. Fourth floor to the ground floor to 20 secs and 10 secs more we had exited the hotel to the assigned evacuation point. We looked around and we were all alone. Not a single other hotel guest was in sight. Stranger still, no fire trucks, no response trucks, no ambulances. Not even an overweight rent-a-cop security officer to help control the nonexistence crowds.

So we sat on a bench outside for a few minutes, jet-lagged and still half asleep. We didn’t know if we should drive away, stay put or go back in and go to sleep. So we headed back in and over heard the front desk person on the phone yelling at someone it was just a burned out light fixture and everything was ok. So we took the elevator back to our floor and sure enough a few doors down from our room a gentleman was cleaning a burned wall sconce. We returned to bed only to wake a few hours later, exhausted. We headed down stairs for the free toast breakfast then headed right back upstairs and when back to bed. But by 11am we were dressed and headed out to Starbucks.

One of the best people watching events of the trip was watching the Phoenix natives “pretend” it’s cold. It was 63 degrees and sunny, everyone was walking around in heavy sweaters and snow jackets. One lady even did the “shiver body” cold dance, hugging herself for warmth as she came into the Starbucks in a fur hooded ski jacket, long pants and fur trimmed boots. The irony of it all to us was we were a little mad for not packing shorts to wear! It didn’t even dawn on us to pack then as it was 17 degrees in Portland the night before we had left. Seems in Phoenix they pretend it cold wet and Portland we pretend it’s warm and dry.

We spent the Turkey day visiting with the extended family. There were 15 for dinner. Joshua’s father cooked Turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, broccoli with cheese, mash potatoes & stuffing. Which is funny as Joshua’s father doesn’t really like to eat turkey…

http://www.desoren.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/clfood.gifThe next day, Friday, we had breakfast at Millie’s. We picked it because it was close and that there is a Millie’s in Anaheim right next to Disneyland, we thought it would be cute to eat their since we are two weeks out from our Disney World trip. It turned out to be a mistake. The food was kind of gross. We also got sat next to the espresso machine and for some reason Arizonians must love burnt milk. We got to hear cup after cup of milk being destroyed via the espresso steamer. It was like nails on a chalkboard for both of us as former baristas. They did have nice warm muffins and it was pretty cheap. But we will be skipping this place in the future.

After breakfast and another run to Starbucks to cancel out breakfast, we headed back to Joshua’s parents house. Today was their 30th anniversary party. We got over to the house early before the other guests arrived and dug out a huge box of Legos. The Legos are the combined remains of all 4 of the Sorensen boys’ childhood Legos. We claimed them for our future kiddo and shipped them home. The anniversary party was nice and very laid back. Paul, Joshua’s dad served a Mexican food buffet. We started up a Texas hold-em game with Joshua’s Grandmother, Sam & Kelly and 2 Sorensen cousins.

The next day we slept in and were nice and lazy. We did brunch/lunch with Joshua’s mother at Macaroni grill. (Yes, the hated Italian butter place.) When we walked in and the smell of melted plastic wafted in from the kitchen. So our hopes of an edible meal died pretty fast. But, it turned out to be an ok meal, the company was much better. After lunch we headed over the meet up with Sam and Kelly for a movie and saw the latest Harry Potter,it was good. What was better was how cheap it all was. Kelly had the inside scoop on getting discounts. But even before the discount we were shocked at how cheap the drinks and snacks were and this was not a discount theater. Seems Portland just costs more…

After the movie we headed to a private dinner with Joshua’s Grandparents and Parents. Somehow our private dinner turned into another family gathering. We ended up eating leftovers.

The next day we flew out on US Airways again. Short flight again and Anthony got a window seat!

We both were a little worried that Thanksgiving would be hard on us emotionally because of the adoption and our recent experiences. And it was a bit tough at times. We only really got hit with the”How’s the adoption going?” question twice. Both times we quickly rattled off some facts and justifications and quickly changed the topic. Turns out the hardest thing was watching 3 year old cousin Grace run around being all cute, adorable and not ours.

The alpha and omega experience

The Nephew Unleashed

Last week we got a surprise last minute visit from Anthony’s Nephew. He texted and phoned us to let us know that he was coming up to Portland with his dad and wanted to know if he could crash at our place for one night.  So after some text messages, Facebook messages and a phone call with his dad; it was arranged for him to spend Thursday night with us. On a side note, people we do not use our phone like mere mortals.  You want us? Please email us for a quick reply.  We both suffer from undiagnosed Phone-phobia. Well…. at least that is our story and we are sticking to it.)

He arrived about 6:00pm Thursday night with a HUGE suitcase. This prompted lots of “you moving in?” jokes. After he was settled in, we woke up the Samual and all four of us drove over to Claim Jumpers for nice dinner. Yes, per the norm Anthony got the pot pie and Joshua got his cornbread. Over dinner got to hear all the latest family drama and got a chance to catch up with our nephew. That evening Sam and the nephew glued themselves to the downstairs TV playing Star Wars Unleashed II.

Anthony’s nephew also wanted to visit PSU (Portland State University) on this visit. So Anthony was able to get some last minute time off of work and Joshua was able to get permission to come in late. So the next morning we left Sam in bed and the three of us headed over to Biscuits for breakfast. Then Joshua headed to work and Anthony and the nephew headed downtown on the green line MAX for PSU.

Campus Tour

If you have been a regular reader of our blog you know that for the past few years we have been focusing on adopting a child. This means a lot of time, planning and dreaming about those childhood moments (at least for us) with a child aged 4-9, like first day of school, braces, etc.  So going down and taking a college tour with a 17 year old young man, someone who is ready and eager to break out of the family unit and become independent was a big blow to the system. We are just not ready for that stage. 🙂

PSU holds some great memories for Anthony, lot of his misspent youth was downtown on or near the PSU campus and in the dorm rooms (enough said). So it was kind of a tour down memory lane and made him feel a bit oldish. It was also a very weird pre-adoptive parent experience, almost like reading an imaginary book called “Parenting: The Experience” but reading it backwards.

But the real mindblower was the fact at noon we (Josh & Anthony) had a prescheduled conference call with our adoption caseworker and the foster dad of a child in Washington that we are in the process of learning a bit more about. The PSU tour was scheduled to end right at noon which was the same time as our conference call was scheduled to begin.

Looking back, the tour guide must have though Anthony hated the tour as he had a very “hurry up” look on his face as the clock approached noon. But the nephew loved the campus and was very jazzed. The gods must have been smiling because just as Anthony and the nephew were handing back in their tour headphones, the conference call came in. Nothing like the Doctor Who soundtrack ring tone blasting from a phone set at its highest level and full vibrate right at the end of a quiet tour… Again, it must have been a funny sight to see Anthony make a beeline outside.

The conference call

Recently after hearing back from a child we submitted on and getting more information about him we found ourselves having a hard time trying to get inside this child’s head and get a good idea of who he is and what we should expect if we were luckily enough to be selected for placement. So after submitting some additional questions back to the child’s caseworker, she recommended that we talk directly to the foster family.

It was a fun call. Well… fun from the nerdy logistics of it all. Our caseworker called each of us; one in Washington (the foster dad), one at work (Joshua) and one sitting on a stone bench outside in the cold (Anthony). It was a nice call and very informative and did change our minds about the child’s needs. The foster father was very forthcoming about the child’s past and progress. Expect a post in the near future.

After freezing outside for an hour on a conference call, Anthony took the frozen nephew out for pizza and then home for some “wholesome” Southpark cartoons.

So a weird day and a glimpse of a hopeful future from two very different positions; a young man searching for independence and 2 oldish (Joshua resents this verbiage) men looking for a little dependent.