The Baby Tigers are Here!

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Sohni, the Sumatran female tiger at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, relaxes on the Maharaja Jungle Trek

Yesterday, on the Disney Parks blog, Disney announced the birth of two little adorably cute baby Sumatran Tigers at their Animal Kingdom resort. Sohni, their Sumatran Tiger female, gave birth sometime this month to two really cute little tiger cubs. They don’t have names yet, and it wasn’t announced whether each of them were male or female, only that they are here.

(In looking through my photos from our last trip to Disney World, it turns out I did have a photo of Momma Tiger, Sohni. My previous blog post featured a photo of Malosi, the proud father.)

They put up a short video of Mom and babies in their nursery. The images are shot with a black and white camera, positioned over above them, and you can see the two little sweeties rolling around as they try to learn how to crawl their way to their mom. If you need a little smile in your day, definitely watch this beautiful video.

These species of Tiger are endangered in the wild, and thanks to the hard work of the conservationists at Disney and the other Zoos around the world, we now have two more little tigers in the world. I wish them health and long lives and hope that they are only the first in a long line of more new tigers so we can eventually repair the damage and repopulate Tigers in the wild.

In the meantime, I cannot wait to get down to Disney World to meet these little angels!

 

 

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Rogue One: My initial reactions

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6I saw Rogue One this past Saturday, during opening weekend. As I reflected on that, it occurred to me that Rogue One is the first Star Wars movie to come out since I have been an adult, that I did not see on opening night. In fact, even though I wasn’t old enough to drive yet, my parents indulged me and took me to see Return of the Jedi on it’s opening night way back in 1983.  Up until a week ago, I wasn’t even sure I was going to go see it at all, let alone during opening weekend. I’ve lost much of my interest in the new Disney Star Wars movies after they undid everything Luke, Han, and Leia accomplished with The Force Awakens. These new stories just don’t feel like my Star Wars.

Happily, my initial impressions were very positive. Perhaps it’s because I went in really expecting not to like it at all. Or that this one was set during my favorite part of the Star Wars story: the rebellion. Or that I also went in anticipating the fates of the main characters. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it here, but suffice to say that I was correct in what happened to each of them and found I didn’t really get attached to any of them. It felt, sounded and looked like the Star Wars universe. The call outs to the original trilogy and to the current cartoon show on Disney XD Star Wars: Rebels were wonderful. I found myself laughing in delight and pointing at the screen several times.

I left the theater pronouncing that I really enjoyed and even liked this one. That it made up for my disappointment and dislike of The Force Awakens and all of its depressing storytelling choices. I thought the story of Rogue One was good, and the characters interesting. The special effects were, for the most part, wonderful. The last act was action and triumph and space battles. I even posted to my Facebook wall to let my friends know that this time I wasn’t let down by Disney.

Then I lived with the movie for a few days and now I am conflicted.

Rogue One’ story follows in the tradition of the great hollywood westerns or Shakespeare, but  I am one of those ‘not really grown up, grown ups’ who wishes that Star Wars would stay the gee-wiz happy story of my youth. (I know that it probably won’t given the story telling styles and interests of audiences of today.) Had I seen Rogue One as my first introduction to the Star Wars saga, I doubt I’d be the fan I am today. It was the sense of hope and triumph over bad guys in A New Hope (then just Star Wars) that so enchanted me when I was 8 years old in ’77. So, as much as I loved each and every shout out to the original trilogy and was overjoyed at the easter eggs for Star Wars: Rebels (my favorite of the new Star Wars offerings), I was still bummed at the ending. I saw it coming, but I wished I was wrong. If I could change anything, that’s what I’d change, but only for me. I realize that most of the audience loved it and would probably revolt if it were the way I would like it.  I also realize that changing it would change the gravity of the story and take away from what occurred.

(now I am reading that when the movie was originally pitched, the ending might have been closer to what I’d have rather seen).

As for some of the special effects, I will use initials here so I don’t spoil anyone. They shouldn’t be hard to crack, and those who can crack them probably have already seen the movie by now. I agree with a number of bloggers that the GMT CGI was a bit much. It stuck out as fake to me every time he was on screen. The reflections in the glass, or some holographic images would have been a better use of the technology. LO was better because she was used sparingly. These two instances are probably the only special effects I’d change, but it was an interesting attempt, so I can forgive it being a technology that’s just not quite there yet.

As I think about the movie and all of the things I love about it, I find that they had nothing to do with this new story or these new characters. All of the things I loved had to do with the easter eggs to A New Hope, and the original universe that George set up for us.  Aside from the wonderful K-2SO and Donny Yen‘s character, Chirrut, I didn’t find I cared at all about the new heroes. What I loved about Rogue One was the Star Wars goodness that came from George, not the new stuff from this new director. It was a good movie, even and enjoyable movie. I liked this one but not for the reasons I should.

Slowly, I am starting to accept that no matter where Disney takes the Star Wars universe from here on out, it won’t have “That Thing” that George infused into it (a Forbes writer sort of agrees with me here). It might be good but it won’t really be Star Wars. At least not for me. Maybe that’s ok. I haven’t decided yet.

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.

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

Things have a strange way of working out

A while ago, you might remember that I blogged about a bit of Mom guilt I had been experiencing. You can read the recap here.  The short summary is that I missed a performance my son had when he was in second grade, and he was still sad about it two years later. It is the only time I’ve ever let him down and I think that the hurt from it will take both of us a long time to get past.

The day was fast approaching that my daughter was going to perform just as her older brother had, in the living stations of the cross with her second grade class at her school. She had memorzed her lines and was all set to be a soldier who pushes Jesus along his walk with the cross to the crucifixion.

The days leading up to the performance, both she and her brother missed school for various illnesses. She had been sick first with what seemed like pink eye, but was just the same virus that was causing her nose to run. I had to keep her home from school to make sure it wasn’t pink eye. Two days later her brother was home with cold induced asthma.

The day of the performance came, and my son and I were on our second day with him home sick from school. We dropped my daughter off at school, then came home and did a little of his homework to keep him caught up with class. After lunch, we started to pack up for school when we got a phone call from the school nurse. My daughter had come down to the nurse complaining of a headache that wouldn’t go away. Since we were already on our way, I told the nurse that we’d be there in about a half hour, and I would give her something for her headache.

Half way from home to the school, we got another call from the school. This time it was from the front office. My daughter had thrown up, so they were packing her things up and sending her home. No living stations. No performance.

As we arrived at the school, my son smiled for the first time since my daughter started talking about her class doing the stations. He told me that while he wasn’t happy that his sister threw up, he was just the littlest bit  happy that I wasn’t going to see her performance.

So, in the end, it looks like Mom doesn’t get to see either of her children in their second grade living stations performances. I was worried about how I would handle watching my daughter perform when I missed my son’s performance. How would I express my happiness at seeing my daughter without upsetting my son.

It turns out that  I will never have to worry about breaking one child’s heart while showing praise to the other. I missed my son’s performance because I didn’t know I was supposed to go to it. I missed my daughter’s because she, herself, also missed it. Now it’s time for all of us to let it go, myself included, and move forward.

I guess the Lord works in mysterious ways. For those of you who believe in that sort of thing.

The Stations of the Cross and Mom Guilt

mardigras2Today is Fat Tuesday, which means tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for those, like myself, who ascribe to the Catholic faith. Both of my children go to a catholic grade school, so the upcoming four weeks are filled with all sorts of events. I wish I was better informed about all of these events a couple of years ago, but I guess we learn as we live.

My daughter is in second grade, which is a very special time in Catholicism. Second graders go through First Confession (or Reconciliation) and First Communion. Because this is such a special year for them, the second graders often get to do other special Catholic things. For example, during Lent, it is the second graders in my daughter’s class who get to perform the stations of the cross for the entire school. My daughter will be playing the part of a Roman Soldier and will get to push around Jesus. She’s kind of excited about it. She thinks soldiers are cool.

My son is not as happy, because two years ago, when his class did their presentation of the stations of the cross, I missed it.

You see, two years ago, he didn’t convey to me that he was memorizing his part so that he could act out the stations in front of the whole school and any parents who could take time off work in the middle of the day to attend. He didn’t tell me that he expected me (needed me) to be there. He didn’t convey any of this. Instead, I went along thinking that this was something only his class was doing as a class activity in his class room. Smaller venue. Parents welcome but not necessary. I didn’t plan on attending. Work being work, there was plenty of things at the office to keep me busy on the day of the performance.

When he got home on that day, he told me through tears in his eyes, that when he looked into the audience and didn’t see me, he figured he just couldn’t see me. I must be behind someone, because I would have come. He just knew it. He knew I wouldn’t miss it. He told his friends that I must have been there and he just missed me. Disappointing him absolutely broke my heart then and breaks my heart every single day since.

He says he has forgiven me, but he’s never forgotten. The pain, for him, seems to be as fresh now as when he was in second grade. As his sister goes on and on about the stations and her part and how she wants me there, he almost can’t listen. I’ll catch him with a tear in his eye, and he’ll look away.

There’s nothing I can do to go back and change it. There’s nothing I can do to remove his disappointment that I wasn’t there that one time. One time. I’ve been there for every single other thing. I have made time for holiday parties at daycare and grade school. I’ve taken time off work to come read to his class, or bake and host a party or go on field trips. I’ve been that Mom who attends everything. I work full time, but I have made it a point to attend every single event that I knew about. I only have to know about it.

We learned from this. He knows now that he needs to better communicate things. He can’t just expect I’m psychic (although I come close with my kids), but it doesn’t undo it. It doesn’t make him forget that I wasn’t there the one time he really wanted me to be there.

And there is nothing I can do to change it.

Being a Mom who is cursed with being human is very, very hard.
RSM