Thoughts about Star Wars Celebration 2017

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Starting tomorrow, the annual Star Wars convention, also known as Celebration, will start in Orlando, Florida. I won’t be attending, but I will be trying to follow along virtually via twitter and the various bloggers out there.

One such blogger,  at Inside the Magic, wrote his top 5 things he hopes will be announced at Celebration here.

I was going to reply on his blog with my own thoughts, but decided to post them here (so I didn’t complain about The Force Awakens on another person’s website).

I am on board with almost all of his hopes.

(5) George at the 40th Anniversary of the release of Star wars panel.

Say what you will, but George created this world and his absence is noticeable in the lack of originality and cohesive character actions in The Force Awakens (no, Han and Leia wouldn’t have failed parenting so hard and no, Luke wouldn’t have run away – I may have blogged about that in excess over the last couple of years). He needs to be there to celebrate the 40th. I hope Disney invited him, and I hope, as you say, he decides to attend.

(4) Announcement of Luke Skywalker / Ben Solo fill-in novels set between Episodes VI and VII

I don’t really care about Ben Solo/Kylo Ren so I am not at all interested in a book about him. I found him to be an entirely annoying character. Yes, I am one of those old “get off my lawn” Original Trilogy folks who really didn’t like TFA (but find things in this rebirth to love: like Rogue One, and especially the TV cartoon Rebels). On the other hand, more Luke Skywalker is always good!

(3) Lando in The Last Jedi! You bet. We need some “hello what have we here” after the depression of TFA. Fingers crossed.

(2) An Obi-wan Kenobi spinoff movie with Ewan and I am there opening day.

(1) Original theatrical release cuts on blu-ray without the special features would make my year. I’m more excited about that potential than The Last Jedi. 🙂

Are any of you going to attend Star Wars Celebration? I wish I could but I can’t convince the rest of my family to go with me, and I’d feel guilty leaving them. Plus, when you add up ticket prices and then the cost of autographs and photos (because why go without getting an autograph), and it’s a rather expensive few days. Still, Star Wars! Maybe next year. I have a feeing there will be many more Celebrations to come.

RSM

 

The return of the All About the Mouse Disney Podcast

aatm-disney-podcastAs you all know, I am a huge Walt Disney World fan. I’m also an ardent member of the Apple ecosystem since forever. So it is natural that I’m also a podcast listener. One of my favorite podcasts on the topic of Walt Disney World was the All About the Mouse Disney Podcast.

It was a sad day back in 2010 when AATM went “off the air” as the two co-hosts decided that life had made it difficult for them to continue to bring out a weekly dose of Magic and Mayhem. Thankfully, just this summer, Bryan and Jonathan decided they had been retired from Disney podcasting long enough and came back better than ever, complete with a new website: All About the Mouse Central.

They’ve been back for about six episodes at the time of my writing this blog post, and each episode has had the same or better level of energy, professionalism, production value and fun as what I remember. Both Bryan and Jonathan have a lot of love for Disney and it shows. They segment their shows with a little banter, some Disney news, some interaction with their listeners, and then a highlight segment which consists of either reviews or interviews with notable folks in the Disney community. The episodes have been a bit long, but since I’ve got a long commute to work, one episode can easily fill both my morning and evening drives.

I’m a bit personally invested in this one because I had the honor of being “interviewed” during one of their episodes through a segment they call MouseCalls. They will randomly call listeners who have signed up and given them their phone number and ask them a series of questions about their favorite things at Disney World. It was a heck of a lot of fun, and I’d encourage all their listeners to sign up and give it a try.

Podcasting is hard. It takes a lot of work both to produce the episodes and to find your nitch and keep it. I’d like to see All About the Mouse continue for a good long while before the guys decide to retire again.

Welcome back guys. You’ve been missed.

RSM

 

Taking Your Children out of School for a Walt Disney World Family Vacation

I am trying to write a blog post about my thoughts on taking my children out of school for a family trip to Walt Disney World. My thoughts and feelings about it have shifted around as my children have grown and continued through school. Basically, I take them out as long as I feel they can make up the work. This is getting harder as they get further along in school.
I started with the following bulleted list of pros and cons. I thought I’d post those here to my blog as a sneak peek into my thoughts and also to ask for inputs from anyone who might read this.
 
Pros
  • Able to pick times with Lower crowds (potentially)
  • Able to pick times with potentially cooler temperatures
  • Might help to coordinate multi-family trips
  • Hard ticket special events: MNSSHP, MVMCP, WDW’s anniversary (Oct 1st), Walt’s birthday (Dec 5)
  • Educational opportunity
Cons
  • Missing class time, especially the first time teacher goes over something
  • Having to make up homework, classwork
  • No perfect attendance
  • Too much work to make up upon return (higher grades especially)
How to mitigate issues
  • Plan long in advance
  • Don’t pick the beginning of the school year when your child and the teachers are just getting into things
  • Let the teachers, school know long in advance of the trip and work with them to make up homework/classwork
  • Pick out dates that are best in terms of testing, homework, projects
  • know your child, Can they make up the work or will they fall behind
What are your thoughts? Send me comments and I will add to what I’ve captured above.

Worrying about an Ahsoka/Vader showdown

As I’ve made perfectly clear, Star Wars: Rebels is currently my favorite Star Wars property outside of the original trilogy largely because of my love for Ahsoka Tano.  I’ve enjoyed watching this season’s episodes because of her addition to the cast of characters, but that enjoyment has been one of hesitance.

Ahsoka was Anakin’s apprentice, assigned to him by Yoda during the Clone Wars. She started out young and reckless, like a couple of Skywalkers we know and love. Her relationship to Anakin is the one thing for me that made his descent toward the dark side real and painful (not his relationship with Padme). Their relationship was more than best friends and something deeper than romance. Yes, Anakin loved Padme, but he had an admiration and protection and deep respect for Ahsoka. When she left the Jedi order, it devastated him.  A new Anakin/Ahsoka preview has been released that beautifully captures their relationship in devastating brilliance.

When she survived the Clone Wars (I cheered!), I knew it was a matter of time before she’d have to face Vader. We know from A New Hope that the Jedi are all but extinct, so her fate has always been one of speculation of when, not if, she would die. We were meant to believe that Obi-wan was the last remaining member of the Jedi Knights. As the Empire Strike Back showed, “all but extinct” probably covered Obi-wan and Yoda. I contend that it can also mean Ahsoka (and Kanan and Ezra for good measure).

As you know, I’ve had enough of the death of major characters in the mythos I enjoy. If the audiences these days have an affinity for death, I wish they’d get their fill from things like Game of Thrones and Daredevil and leave my stories alone. In Star Wars, I want my hope. Yes, characters might die, but you all already got Han Solo. You should be satisfied. That’s more than enough to last for the rest of the Star Wars movies as far as I am concerned.

Count me firmly in the camp that believes Ahsoka does not have to die in order to maintain the established history of the state of the Jedi as told in A New Hope. Technically, she’s no longer a Jedi. She left the order. She’s just a rebel with Force sensitivities now.

Anakin/Vader senses her, and we’ve been shown in the Rebels season 2 mid season trailer that the two of them will meet. I firmly believe that it would be great storytelling to have Vader be unable to defeat her, not because she bests him, but because in his heart, he cannot kill her. Luke knew that there was still good in him. Having him spare Ahsoka’s life should give us a glimpse of it.

The one hour season finale is, rumored to be entitled Twilight of the Apprentice I and II. This could mean that David Filoni has filmed what will be Ahsoka’s last episodes, or twilight could mean something else entirely. I’m hoping that it is a bit of misdirection.

In my opinion, Ahsoka should live to provide continuity and proof of the light side of the force still within Anakin Skywalker that Luke knew all along. And because Star Wars is supposed to be about Hope.

 

MTFBWY

Star Wars Rebels: The Shroud of Darkness

Star-Wars-Rebels-Shroud-of-Darkness-Featured-03012016Star Wars Rebels, oh, I am loving it so much and so terrified at the same time. The Jedi are my most favorite thing in the Star Wars universe. Not the arrogant Jedi we saw in the Prequels or the Clone Wars, but Obi Wan, Luke and Ahsoka.  Especially Ahsoka. She’s been a favorite of mine since she sprung onto the mythos with her “sky guy” antics as the Padawan assigned to Anakin by Master Yoda. I love her character development from precocious preteen to the strong and wise woman she’s become.

This week’s episode, The  was very Jedi Heavy. In the Shroud of Darkness, we see Ahsoka, Kanan and Ezra return to Lothal and enter the Jedi Temple they visited in season one. Here, the three of them have their own visions through meditation with the Force, that offer glimpses to their future and their path.

My heart broke for her in this episode, when she finally learned what had become of her Jedi master Anakin; learned what she already knew with her head but didn’t want to accept with her heart. The guilt at having left him when she left the Jedi order and wondering whether she might have been able to prevent his fall are heavy burdens. Yet, I believe she can handle that weight, because ultimately we are all responsible for our own choices. She knows this, more than most. I am so proud of her. When she stood outside the Jedi temple on Lothal and wouldn’t open it with Kanan and Ezra because she’s no longer a Jedi I had ultimate respect for her. She lives what she says.  I always felt that for all his faults, Obi wan did the same. (I’ve a special place in my heard for old Ben).

So my terror comes from my worry over her fate, and the fate of Kanan and Ezra. We have always assumed that there no other Jedi when we meet Luke and Old Ben Kenobi in a New Hope. Lucas intended that aside from Obi Wan, there were none left. That is why Luke was so key to the building of hope to overcome the darkness. So, these three force users can’t survive past the next four years or so (assuming Ezra is Luke’s age at present ~ 15 or so, and we meet Luke at aged 19 in ANH). I can’t believe they’d kill them off on what is arguably a children’s show, so their fates might be decided in something off Rebels like, perhaps, Rogue One coming out this year. Or as a fellow in my office says, they all end up on Alderaan with Bail Organa when Governor Tarkin says “You may fire when ready“.

(As an aside, I am happy with the fact that this show is staying what I would call appropriate for children immensely. Much as I ended up liking the tv show The Clone Wars, it was decidedly not for kids and neither my son nor daughter watched it much past its first or early second season. I want Rebels to stay kid friendly.)

In this week’s episode, Shroud of Darkness, I found a lot of Jedi goodness. The whole temple scene could have played as either real (meaning Yoda reached out through the force and was actually talking to Ezra and waving goodbye to Ahsoka) or something mystical produced by the force. Sort of a spirit walk based in metaphors. Kanan’s encounter with the Temple Guard who turned out to be the grand inquisitor made me cry. I haven’t been his biggest fan, but watching him finally understand the power of not fighting and acceptance of the way things are (something I struggle with) and then being knighted a Jedi was really beautiful. Unlike some others on the internet who see “descnet into darkness” wherever they can, I interpreted him picking up the red lightsaber to add to his blue one when he was battling the Temple Guard as a symbol that to bring balance to the force, we have to accept both the light and dark within us all. We are all neither completely bad nor completely good. At least that’s what I think the new helm of Lucasfilm is trying to say with the mythos they are setting up.

I think I need to talk to, send an email/open letter/desperate plea, to David Filoni and tell him that I, too, adore Ahsoka and he’s can not kill her off! And yes, while a showdown between her and Darth is inevitable and will be really awesome, I do not want her to die at the hands of her former master. Instead I want him to be unable to kill her, allowing us a glimpse of the conflict, the good, that Luke knew was in him all along.

I want to be able to wear my Ahsoka Live t-shirt from Heruniverse for many many years to come.

May the Force be with You.

Day one of our Multiple Family Disney World Vacation

Port Orleans Riverside dockDisney World trip report time. I promised I’d start going through the Multiple Family Walt Disney World trip that my family and I went on this month (December 2013). In all, five families, myself, my three siblings and our parents, traveled down to spend a week together at Walt Disney World. Not surprisingly, we weren’t all able to arrive at the same time. Based on everyone’s work schedule, and the number of days they wanted to stay at disney, everyone arrived in more of a phased approach.

Because my Mom and I were the ringleaders of this magical trip, and because we’re Disney nerds, we were there first, staying from Saturday to the following Sunday. Eight days. Arriving first gave us a chance to set up everything, and make sure things were ready for the two families arriving the next day and the third family arriving two days later still.

It is a very good thing that we did.

When we booked this trip, through the lovely Disney specialist travel agency Mousefan travel, our agent made sure to code things with Disney as “travel with” to make sure they kept all five of our hotel rooms as close together as possible. When Mom and I (and my family) arrived, we found that four of the five families were together in the same building, and the fifth family was half way across the resort.

This was not good.

My Mom freaked out just a little bit. (It was all internal, but I could tell).

This was also not good.

As it turns out someone on the Disney side of the resort booking messed up . I verified with my travel agent, that she had made sure we were all “travel with.” She had even called earlier that week to make sure the reservation was all set and we’d end up together. So, it was entirely on the part of the Port Orleans Riverside folks.

We had specifically chosen the Port Orleans Riverside because we had a couple of families with five, and didn’t want to go up to either the Art of Animation or a Vacation club resort based on price. The trouble was that two of our five families have three children, making for a family of five but only one of them was seen as an “actual” family of five. The second family of five had a two year old as the fifth. At Disney,under three only counts as half a person in resorts and free at park entry. So, the family with three kids over three was placed in Alligator Bayou somewhere, and the rest of us were in the Magnolia bend section.

This was not at all acceptable to my Mom.

Thankfully, there were two lovely cast members working the check in at the resort, and they worked with the back office (I don’t know what to call reservations, but they had to do a lot of calling to some folks off site) to get us all together.

They offered an option (and I think at this point, it was our only option) where my family and my Mom (my step dad was joining us later because he couldn’t get the whole week off of work) had to rooms in one section of the resort (the Magnolia Bend) that first night, then we would move our stuff over to Alligator Bayou the next night, where we’d be joined by the rest of the families as they arrived. They didn’t have rooms all together until the next night.

That is what we ended up doing. It was hassle for us, because we had to wait for our bags to be picked up in the morning before heading to the parks, then wait for them to be redelivered when we returned from the parks. But in the end, bell services saved the day and managed to get everything where it needed to be.

For the rest of my siblings, they arrived and checked in, then found us in the Alligator Bayou section, never knowing anything had been amiss. In fact, we were all together on the same floor of the same building. The cousins spent every morning, running from room to room as they all woke up. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Everyone enjoyed the resort, and loved the theming over in the bayou section.

Hitch one successfully handled. Much love and thanks to the kind cast members at Port Orleans check in who helped me to keep my Mom from having a very bad day and managing to get her kids and grandkids all together.

Day one down.

Stay tuned for more Disney magic.

My Multiple Family Disney World Vacation was a success.

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As I’ve posted here, I have been planning a DIsney World trip for multiple families as a gift to my Mom for the past couple of years.  It’s been her dream for some time to take all of her kids and grandkids down to Disney. We totaled five families in all (myself, my three siblings, my Mom and Step Dad).

It’s been a couple of weeks now, and it is hard to believe but that trip is now in the past. We went the second week of December; all 19 of us aged 2 to 70 something.   It was a most awesome time.

We made it there and back again, with nary a meltdown (well not a complete meltdown anyway). It was a most magical vacation. Everyone had a better time than I could have possibly hoped for.  There were some rough patches at the beginning, but it all worked out by the time all of the families were in attendance.
I caution anyone who ever plans a multiple family trip to Disney World, that you set the appropriate expectations. Not everything will go perfectly. It’s impossible to do that, even with the best of circumstances.  But roll with the little things, and work with Disney. They will do what they can to fix things. If they don’t, keep talking to a new cast member until you get someone who can.
I need to go through our trip and summarize the things that went great, not so great and what I learned.
All in all, I hope that we actually do this again in a few years when the youngest ones are a little older, and the baby that didn’t end up coming (and his Mom) have a chance to enjoy the magic.
Stay tuned for the trip report installments!

Continuing my Multi-Family Disney World trip planning – Part 3 – What to bring into the parks

As I am going through the planning for a multi-family Disney World trip for my family, I thought I’d continue my series of posts about what things to do, have, think about for Disney World traveling. This one will be on what to carry with you in the parks based on what I bring when I go.

Walt Disney World has a Security bag check at all gates of all four parks in this post 9/11 world. Naturally, there are things you cannot bring into the parks. Luckily, the list of things you can’t bring is pretty reasonable for families with young children.

I bring a backpack when we travel, and my husband usually carries anything from no bag at all, to a backpack, to his camera bag depending on whether he’s carrying around his good camera to take awesome photos.

Bringing a bag means you have to go through the bag check when entering the parks. It’s not a big deal, just another line to stand in where very nice guards will look through your bag down to the bottom to make sure all is well.

Here’s what I typically have in my backpack organized in categories. No particular order

Necessities:
Small first aid kit
(in case my kids either get paper cuts, fall down and scrape a knee, need first aid cream or bandaids).
Small Medicine bag
(allergy medicine or an inhaler, children’s Motrin, or Motrin for Mom/Dad)
Chapstick
Sunscreen
Antibacterial lotion

Food:
Snacks – You can bring your own food in to the Disney parks!
Gum
Mints or other hard candies (not chocolates or things that will melt)
Bottles of water

I usually bring small tupperware containers filled with cheerios, cheetos, goldfish crackers, etc. for the kids. The containers keep things from getting crushed like they would in zip lock bags while in my backpack. I also carry sippy cups in a small crushable cooler bag with a cooler brick. Helps to keep the water or juice cold for my kids.

Misc:
Zip lock bags – large, quart, and sandwich sized.
Since it rains in Disney often (afternoon showers are a regular occurrence) it helps to have these bags to keep electronics and other things that you don’t want to get wet, dry and safe.
Wallet (I typically only bring credit card, room key, Annual Pass, money) – the New Magic Band might replace some of these.
Sunglasses
Umbrella

Electronics:
Camera, with extra camera SD card, and camera batteries all charged up the night before.
iPhone (I’m an Apple girl)
Extra charger bricks for the iPhone
(we have a Mophie Powerstation, which can be used by any phone, not just iPhones).
Of course, some android phones can swap out batteries, so you might do that.

Entertainment:
Crayons
Pencils and Pens
Paper for drawing, coloring book, activity worksheets (word search, maizes, etc)
Plastic folder to hold completed artwork.
Autograph Book + pen

I found that when the kids have to wait for anything: at dinner, or for a ride, or whatever, having paper and pens/pencils/crayons was the best thing I could have for them to play with.

We check the weather every morning, and if there’s a side of rain. then my husband brings a backpack to carry our fold-up rain coats (Lands’ End or LLBean make nice rain coats that fold up into a pouch), or sweatshirts if it looks like it’s going to get chilly at night and we might not make it back to the room to get them.

There are probably other ideas or things that you might need for your little ones, but this is what’s been working for me the last few years. I no longer have to carry diapers, and changes of clothes. 🙂

Enjoy your trip if you plan one to WDW. Let me know if you’ve got any other things you typically carry with you in the parks.

RSM

Continuing my Multi-Family Disney World trip planning – Bringing your own food

In continuing my series of posts with ideas for our upcoming multiple family Disney trip (and really, these are all based on emails I am sending to my family members to plan our trip), I thought I’d provide some more background to the post I did yesterday about Garden Grocer (the online grocery shopping site).

When my handsome husband (he reads this blog from time to time) and I take our kids to Disney World, we bring snacks for the kids (goldfish crackers, cheerios, granola bars, things our son with food allergies can eat) to supplement the food we can buy in the parks or the restaurants in the disney hotels. Thankfully, Disney places no restrictions (aside from alcohol) on the food you can bring in with you when you go to the parks.

There are multiple ways to get food once you’re down in Florida. Here are some of the options we’ve used.

1. Bring it with you in your suitcase.
This is my Mom’s favorite when she flies down to Florida to join us at our DVC. She fills her suitcase with as much food at it will hold, then ends up with an empty suitcase to fill with things she buys at the parks for the flight home.

2. Stop at a grocery store
If we drive down we have plenty of room to fit the non-perishables (cereal, granola, chips, etc) and we can stop at the local Winn Dixie with a list to buy some of the perishables (milk, orange juice, soy yogurt).

3. Order from a grocery shopping service (Gardengrocer.com)
As mentioned in f we fly, and don’t have access to a car, rather than renting one for a day or taking a taxi to go to the grocery store, we use this service to preorder food to be picked up and delivered to our resort.

4. Send some nonperishables to yourself via the mail
This last one I am going to touch upon here. You can mail a package to yourself to be delivered to the hotel you will be staying at. They will keep it behind the desk, and retrieve it when you request it when you check in. Give it about a week to get there, so mail it at least a week before you arrive.

Address it to your name, Care of the hotel, write the word GUEST on the front of the package and mark down your arrival date as follows:

Name of Resort
ATTN:c/o Guest Name (GUEST)
Arrival Date: D/M/YR
Resort Confirmation Number
Address of Walt Disney World Resort

You can get the mailing address for any of the Disney resorts by calling the main reservations number at 407-W-DISNEY.

When you arrive at the resort, you can ask about the package at check in. If they have it where the check in folks can get to it, they will bring it out to you. If not, then you can ask Bell Services to bring it to your room once you’re all settled.

Then you can keep the box to mail stuff back home if you end up buying more than will fit in your suitcases.
Best of luck if you’re traveling to Disney World.

RSM

Continuing my Multi-Family Disney World trip planning – Grocery Delivery

As I continue to plan the multi-family trip to Disney World for myself and my siblings and Mom, I thought I’d capture some of the things we’re working on here on my blog. It’ll give me something to write about, and it might be information worth sharing with other folks who are working on their own Disney World plans.

Today’s post is about saving money on food when visiting the parks. You certainly won’t starve at Disney World, but it can get expensive to eat all your meals in the parks and the surrounding resort hotels. It can also get challenging if you have picky eaters or kids with allergies as I do.

Typically, the husband, kids and I drive down to Disney, so we make a stop at the Win Dixie for a quick grocery run before checking into our Disney Vacation Club resort hotel (complete with kitchen and full refrigerator – We’ve been DVC members since the kids were born). This trip, we’re flying down, so we won’t have a car, and taxis can be expensive. But there is an alliterative to getting food down in your hotel room at Disney from packing it and bringing it yourself.

For the trips that we’ve flown down to Florida in the past, we have used Garden Grocer

https://www.gardengrocer.com

We found this one through allearsnet.com and some of the other Disney World related websites that we typically frequent.

To use the service,  you effectively go grocery shopping online, picking out the items you want (refrigerated and otherwise, anything you can find in a grocery store –including baby stuff like diapers and wet wipes). Pick the date you want them delivered and the hotel you will be staying in. Enter a tip amount and your credit card information, and the food you’ve ordered will be delivered to your hotel on that date and time.

If you arrive at the hotel and through check in after the food arrives, the hotel desk will store it in the bell services area and they will keep all cold items in their refrigerated areas. Once you check in and your room is ready,  just call the bell services desk and ask that your items be delivered. It’s actually quite easy.

We are staying in a moderate and not a DVC resort this time, so will only have a mini fridge in the room, (sadly, no freezer), but good enough to keep milk, juice boxes, or other small things cold. That’s enough to make sure you can have milk and cereal every morning instead of eating in the park.

It is a good idea to book the service in advance because the scheduled times of delivery can get filled up the closer you get to your date of arrival.

A second option is to mail a package of non perishables to yourself at the hotel. That will be an upcoming blog post.

Enjoy!

RSM