November 2009

Lotsa Lights. And possibly Gandhi.

I only had the 50mm on the cropped sensor camera… so getting the full scope of these lights was a challenge.  The Osbourne family made themselves supremely unpopular with their neighbors for the abundant light displays they put up each holiday season… so Disney brought it down to Hollywood Studios.  And added a few gazillion more lights, just cuz.

The overwhelming exhibit was pretty cool.  Also?  It snows.  Resist the urge to taste it.

But one question.  That last picture.  Who are those figures?  Best we could come up with was Gandhi, providing sage advice to the Power Rangers.

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Walt Disney World 101, The Introduction.

I grew up going to Disney by virtue of having employees of The Mouse in my immediate family, so I have no idea what it is like to not have had the experience of the Walt Disney World parks.  I can imagine that without the foundational knowledge and memories of The World that I would be hesitant to try it out.  For one, it’s expensive.  For another, the ‘classic’ stories irk me a bit (although after seeing “Enchanted,” I now adore Snow White because she is so utterly ridiculous.)  But mostly, I would have guessed that the environment was too perky, that it reflected some strange 1950s family perfection, and was just too American white-bread for me to handle.

Ultimately, this would have be a shame because I would have let my impressions rule my judgment.  I would have missed out on quite a lot.  Disney is a wonderful, amazing experience… even for cranky academic curmudgeons who have suburban allergies and an affinity for bargain travel in lesser-developed countries.

Here’s the deal.  Disney does entertainment – parades, fireworks, attractions, special effects, you name it – better than anyone.  Going to one of the Disney parks isn’t like going to a mid-way carnival or amusement park.  It’s a theme park – and excellently and uniquely themed – so that each and every experience is distinct.  It sounds completely cheesy, so very cheesy that it hurts to say it, but there is a magic to being here.  And with small children?  Well, it’s even more magical.

That said, unless you’ve got money to burn, time to waste, and absolutely no care in the world – you are going to need some help to visit this place.  It’s unfortunate because Walt Disney adored families and envisioned these parks as places that celebrated them.   But the reality is that travel and entertainment are a considerable expense and as a result, can be stressful for families.  Planning is the way to mediate that stress and expense.

I’ve given advice about the parks for years, but will start posting more specifically here.  Please feel free to send questions.  As much as I love the entertainment potential in public melt-downs, we do use some tricks to keep things… like costs, time, and tempers… under control.  Stay tuned.


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It’s not a stutter.

Wonderful Mariachis play in the background.  Kate, desperate to say something, struggles to find her words. “I…. I…. I…. I….” she repeats.

I turn to Paul.  “I think our daughter’s record is skipping.”

“Nah,” answers Paul, “I’m waiting for her to say ‘Canta y No Llores.'”


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New Orleans Inspiration …

… parade, riverboat, friends, food and fun …

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View. And notes.

View of EPCOT Illuminations, from Boardwalk Villas, at 1/2 second exposure because I didn’t set up the tripod.  I came inside to check on the kids before the finale.  MENTAL NOTE: have tripod ready before 9pm and WAIT!


And notes.  So I don’t forget.

– Boardwalk is an incredibly short walk from EPCOT International Entrance, which is very very very uncrowded, uncomplicated, and easy.  Walk to Hollywood Studios is further… we’ll check it out later in the week.

– The boat ride is fun and quick, but it’s faster to walk if you need to wait for the boat.  The walk is wonderfully scenic and peaceful, too.

– There are no stroller rentals at this entrance.

– Self-parking is in Georgia.  Best option is to use bell hop to bring up your bags when the room is ready.  NOTE: you must be in the room to receive the bags, they won’t just put them in the room for you, like they do with Magical Express.

– If it’s during a peak season, you probably won’t get your room before 4pm.

– Renting points for DVC is simply unbeatable.

– Only rent an actual Disney stroller on days when you’re getting them first thing in the morning.  Otherwise, find someone about to return theirs and offer them a few bucks for it.  It makes them some money and saves you money for the best strollers on the planet.  If you need a stroller outside of the park, consider

– If you have a boardwalk view, the further from the Epcot entrance you are, the better your view of Illuminations will be.

– There is no zero entry in the Luna Park pool.

– Jiko is an absolutely fantastic dining experience.  The Cauliflower Soup was surprising and full of great flavor.  We’re so proud that the kids tried different African foods.  BONUS: staff signed a birthday card for Will in several different languages common in Southern African countries — Afrikaans, Swahili, and others (Oshiwambo, Khoekhoe, German) reflecting the nationality of the staff (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa).

– Jambo House at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is like a museum with a fantastic collection of African art and history.

We are having a fantastic time!


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Giant Potatoes


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Art & Photography
Family Photos
Mi Familia

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Looking forward to college in 59 years.

Will: “Daddy, how did you learn to drive?”

Paul: “I took classes and practiced.  When you’re 15, we’ll help you practice so that you can learn to drive.”

W: “I don’t think I want to drive until I am…. 20.”

P: “That sounds good to us.”

W: “Yeah, driving is sort of scary.”

Kate: “Yeah, I don’t want to drive until I am 64.”

W: “64?!  That’s SO OLD.  That’s, like, how old you are when you go to COLLEGE.”


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Chip off my block.

Photo by Will, taken last weekend in City Park:

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Drawing of Mickey Mouse and Goofy, by Will, made in the morning hours before school:


Arts & Photography
Mi Familia

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Changes more than skin deep

It took 20 years but I am finally out of puberty.

What I mean is that I have literally had acne, non-stop, for 20 years.  And babies, those babies, only made it worse.  More than 20 years of dermatologists, creams, lotions, soaps, and medicines.  The problem is that my acne is an inside-out thing.  No cream or lotion could impact the painful, embarrassing cysts.  It has to be treated from the inside.  So I took antibiotics off and on for a decade — for so long, that I have blue-tinged scars on my face from the overuse.

Then this summer, with the impending insurance changes looming, I got fed up.  In my 30s and still worrying about breakouts?  Freaking out when the kids touched my face?  Grimacing at every picture of me looking back with shiny skin?  ENOUGH.

I found a new dermatologist and agreed, finally, to Accutane.  Isotretinoin (Accutane is the well-known brand name) a controversial, highly controlled drug, largely because it causes incredibly severe birth defects.  To take it, you must register with a government system and demonstrate use of TWO forms of birth control.  Then you take pregnancy tests monthly via blood work in a lab, and within a 7 day window after that negative pregnancy test, see your doctor, get the 3o day prescription and fill it.  If you miss that 7 day window, you’re out for 30 days.  I’ve been on the medicine since August and I can honestly say that it has completely changed my life.

My skin is unrecognizable from what it was before.  I feel like I finally have the skin of  “normal” person.  The changes are everywhere.  The small bumps that were always present on my face and chest are gone.  My cysts, which were non-stop prior to the medicine, have slowed and disappeared.  Small breakouts have become more and more isolated.  Over my entire body, my skin is smooth and soft.  The oily shine that I always had, that shows up in every picture, is greatly reduced.  I still have the bluish scars, but compared to what I’ve had in the past, this is an absolute dream.

And then, a surprise.

Something about the medicine has changed my attraction to mosquitoes.  I’ve talked about this before — how mosquitoes swarm me, how I can’t be outside at all after 5pm with dozens of bites even while wearing DEET, how getting 20-30 bites during 5 minutes of weed pulling while no one else is bothered is completely normal.  In the last few weeks, we’ve done several evening picnics in the park with mosquitoes all around — and Paul and I have been shocked to find that I’ve walked away over and over again without bites.  Even more surprising, this last time, Will, Paul, and Kate all got bit.  We are convinced that the medicine, which changes how the body makes and releases oils, has changed whatever mosquitoes found so irresistible about me.

So I write this as a message to anyone with moderate acne and particularly with cysts.  My experience has been fantastic.  While it’s not an easy drug to take, the results have been more than worth it.


Also.   On a related note.  Does anyone have recommendations for a good overnight moisturizer?  And maybe a daytime tinted one?


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What a Man Wants

So Paul had a vasectomy a few weeks ago.  Because he is TOUGH MANLY MAN, he jumped (figuratively) to the tasks of parenting within 24 hours of the procedure.  There was infection. Then eventual clearing up.  And now, well, is the task of making sure it worked.

But there’s that whole thing about our insurance changing and pre-existing what-not and wanting to just BE DONE and start out all fresh and healthy and clearly sterile on December 1st.  A date that is closing in fast.

So please send Lego magazines.  Lots and lots of Lego magazines.


And maybe some more Legos.  Because the 20,000 or so currently there aren’t quite enough.

Mi Familia

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