Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another year gone by

The end of 2010 is here- and is just me, or does it seem like it still should be about June??? This year has flown by.

When I look back over 2010, there are some things that stand out:

February- SNOW, SNOW, and more SNOW! We had over 70" of snow- much of it at the same time. Luckily, for the second half of this blizzard, I was in sunny (although cold) Florida enjoying the Disney Social Media Moms conference (see my posts on that here, here, and here).

May- We spent a wonderful weekend in New York City.

June- We were busy in June! We went to our first NASCAR race in Pocono and had an amazing experience (check it out here). We then started a two week swing along the West Coast visiting family. Matthew and Mike both had the chance to meet my grandmother who they had never met before. I was especially grateful for this after she had open heart surgery later in the summer that she never recovered from. We spent a couple wonderful days in San Francisco and then Disneyland.

August- We headed to Disney World for 8 wonderful days where we got to meet many of our friends and had a wonderful vacation.

September- We had 20+ people come to our house for a wonderful, relaxing, and fun Labor Day weekend. That weekend holds many great memories!

October- #EpicOctober2010. Need I say more?

December- We took another Disney trip and got to see many of our great friends again. My parents came for a visit over Christmas and we had a great time. Oh, and I won this little contest.

But for me, what stands out the most in 2010 is friendship. I had to say goodbye to some friends, but I gained so many more. I have met so many wonderful people on-line that I am lucky to call my friends. I may not have met these people in person, but that doesn't mean they aren't my friends. We all know that I don't think we have to have met in person to become friends! (see my thoughts on that here!) I thank you all for your friendship.

But, I was truly blessed with several wonderful, special friends. As one of these friends said, these are my pocket friends. These friends don't live near me, but they are always close by my heart. Somehow, we came together and developed a special bond. They are the people that I want to call first when I have good news. And they are the people that I want to call first when I need a shoulder to cry on. They live in my phone, and are never farther apart than a phone call. They are always in my thoughts, and there aren't enough words to truly explain how much they mean to me. I would say thank you to all of you, but it just doesn't seem like enough.

So- as we look forward in 2011, I hope each and everyone of you has a wonderful and magical year. I hope it opens doors that leads you down the path of happiness and contentment.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What a Christmas!

First and foremost, let me wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope that you were able to spend the day with your loved ones and had a wonderful and relaxing day.

I've had quite the Christmas day. We were fortunate enough to have my parents here to celebrate with us. We had a very relaxing and wonderful day opening our presents. I got a great Mickey suitcase and a Disney watch. My dad got an iPad, and both my mom and my son got iTouches. We spent the afternoon giving the technologically challenged (meaning my mother) a lesson in using her iTouch. I spent the afternoon relaxing and chatting with friends on Twitter. And then...

About 2:55 this afternoon, I saw a tweet reminding everyone that Denny Hamlin (a NASCAR driver for all you non-NASCAR people) was doing a Christmas contest giveaway. He would be doing a trivia contest, and the winner would get airfare, 3 nights hotel, and spending money to any destination in the continental United States. All you had to do was be the 11th person with the correct answer. The question he posed was this
"Q: If you received every gift in the song "12 days of Christmas" how many presents would you have????"

I quickly tweeted my answer along with the required hashtag #11in11. I waited a few minutes but then had to go back to my Lego building duties with my son. I came back a few minutes later to see that my Twitter timeline had exploded with tweets to me- I had won the contest! I was floored! I was beyond EXCITED! I couldn't believe that I had won!!!!

My husband and I started talking about where we go. We quickly decided we wanted to go to a NASCAR race. Then, we started discussing which one. We talked about Daytona and the Coke 600. But we are in Florida several times and year, and we could drive to Charlotte. We wanted to really make this a special trip and go somewhere we would't go on our own. So we decided to go to the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis.

Needless to say, this has been a Christmas that I won't forget. Thank you to my family for the great day and all the wonderful gifts. And thank you to Denny Hamlin for his generosity and the amazing contest.

Oh- and the correct answer was 364 presents :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Trip report- December 2010

We've been back from WDW for over a week, and somehow with the hustle and bustle of the jumping into the holiday season, I haven't managed to find the time to do a trip report. So, here's a quick one with some high lights (and a few low lights)

  • Renting a car was one the smartest things we did. Once again, the monorail went down (how do you run your car into one of the monorail pillars? Seriously people). It was so nice not to worry about leaving extra time to get to places and waiting for busses and such.
  • Once again, the weather in December was completely unpredictable. We had a few days of wonderful weather, and a few days where it was cool and windy. But, we only had 20 minutes of rain on one day all week, so that was a plus.
  • Breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe is an event. Plan on at least 90 minutes to wait for your food and to eat. However, hearing your friends yell inappropriate things to the kids doing pony rides is a great memory!
  • Doing Space Mountain 5 times in one day is enough to make anyone a little dizzy. And same with Everest.
  • I am so glad I didn't take Matthew on his fifth ride of Everest for the day (thank you Cade and Rora!). Someone on the car ahead of them puked- and even though I am a mom and a nurse, I don't do puke.
  • Journey into Imagination makes me want to poke my eyes out. And so does Circle of Life. And so does the Norway movie. All of which we did on the same day. Low point
  • Watching Lights, Motor, Action from VIP seating is AWESOME! Matthew loved that show, and watching his face as Herbie split in two was priceless.
  • The Osbourne Lights are so cool! I never realized it snowed during the show!
  • Dinner at 1900 Park Fare was great- we walked in not knowing quite what to expect and we were pleasantly surprised. Matthew still doesn't know what to make of the face characters- but us adults had fun interacting with them.
  • Breakfast at 'Ohana was a fail. It was the same food as Whispering Canyon, but not as good. And it just seemed very rushed and uncoordinated.
  • Hoop Dee Doo Review is a great show- and the best part is watching Matthew laugh his way through it.
  • It was wonderful seeing so many friends on this trip. Spending time with them at WDW during the holiday season was a memory I will always love!

OK- there was so much more that happened on this trip, but this will have to do for now!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Goodbye to a Friendship

I guess it's really over. After you unfriended me on Facebook and gave me a sneer the other day when we saw each other, I guess our friendship is really over.

So how did we get to this point? I know it was a little rocky over the past year, but I hadn't realized the depth of your utter dislike for me. What went wrong?

When you sat in my living room this spring and told me that you valued our friendship, I believed you. When you said you were happy for me finding new interests (social media). But was that true? Or is that you just can't adjust to the fact that my family isn't as dependent on your as we once were?

My little family of 3 is becoming content with who we are and learning to do things on our own. But I can never express to you what you and your family meant to us those first few years we moved here. And I had never really had a friend to go shopping with, to go to lunch with, and just to sit and have talk to. And our husbands enjoyed each others company too. And our kids played so nicely together.

But no more.

Is it because I have new friends? Yes, most of my new friends are "Disney people". But that doesn't mean they aren't snarky and snide. They like to yell inappropriate things in restaurants, make fun of each, and *gasp* they don't think Disney is perfect. You would have liked them. And my being friends with them doesn't mean I couldn't be your friend too.

And you know what else hurts- and yes, this all hurts... That you have taken other friends with you. We used to be a happy group, but now, I never hear from the others. I guess when one person has such close contact to them and one doesn't, it's bound to happen. I'm sure there have been things said about me that are less than flattering. It's apparent that you're mad.

I still held out hope for our friendship. After your vacation, I asked you how it was. When we got home from our trip and got no such note, it hurt. When I got no "Happy Birthday" from you, it hurt again. You knew my grandmother was having open heart surgery- but you never asked once how it went. But then I discovered you had unfriended me on Facebook... I guess that was when I knew it was really over.

So, what I ever I did to make you so mad at me, I'm sorry. And I also just want to thank you for being a friend to me and my family for several years- I have many good memories of that time together. But, I guess it's over.

And so this is goodbye...

Friday, December 3, 2010

We've come so far!

As I was watching my son at his pre-team swim practice last night, it struck me (again) just how far his swimming has come.

Matthew has always loved water and loved to swim, but swim lessons were a different story. He didn't like being with a group of kids and spending a lot of time waiting. And honestly, the instructors at the Y where he was taking swim lessons left a lot to be desired. Many of them were young teenagers, who really had no idea how to teach kids how to swim, or how to deal with kids. Matthew went through more than one class in tears, but kept getting passed up level. He also would refuse to go in deep water with clinging to someone and freaking out. It got so bad that one day he refused to get in the water. Well, at that point, we pulled him out of swim lessons.

Mike and I both grew up around swimming pools in Arizona, and have a firm belief that you need to know how to swim for safety. While Matthew was always safe in the water (never going where he couldn't touch) and was able to swim, he wasn't a strong swimmer and had no stamina. We knew that had to change.

This summer, Matthew made it his goal to pass the wristband test at our Y, which would enable him to go down the waterslides and swim on his own. Passing the test involved swimming 25 meters free-style (with face in water), treading water for 1 minute, and back floating. Well, we knew the only way he would be able to pass this test was by taking more swim lessons, but we were very reluctant to put him back in group lessons. Finally, we decided to place him in private lessons at the Y. After the first half-hour, I knew this was the best money we ever spent. His instructor, Joyce, pushed him, yet didn't frighten him- she was perfect! His swimming was improving, and better yet- he was no longer afraid of the deep water.

One day Matthew decided he wanted to take the swim test. I didn't think he was ready, but hey- this kid has surprised me more than once- so I let him. I have never seen him work so hard for anything. It was the slowest, ugliest 25m swim ever- there were times I knew he wanted to give, but he never did. And treading water- well, let's just say it's a good thing it wasn't for 61 seconds... So he passed the swim test and continued to do well.

In September, we decided to change the Y location where he was taking lessons- and after talking to the coach, we decided to put him on a pre-swim team. This is a team for kids ages 5-8 (although at almost 7 he is one of the youngest) who aren't quite ready for competition, but ready for more intense swim practice.

Oh my goodness- what an amazing difference! The coaches are all so good with the kids. Some are very fun loving and relaxed, while others are stricter, but you can tell they all love working with the kids. And they push the kids- I would have never thought Matthew could swim for an hour straight, but he does, twice a week! And his skill have taken off- I watched him swim freestyle relays last night, and was amazed. His freestyle is FAST- and he has great strokes, and rotary breathing. And his backstroke is pretty good too (when he goes straight...) Now, they are working with him on his breaststroke and butterfly- but for now, when he does fly, he looks like a worm dangling on a hook.

Watching him yesterday, I would have never believed that this is the same kid that 6 months ago cried about getting in 5 feet of water. He has come so far, and I am so proud of him!

Monday, November 29, 2010

My goals for 2011

I know- it's not the end of 2010 yet, but I have already decided on some goals for 2011. These aren't New Year's resolutions- they are goals I have set for myself.
Quite simply, I want to run a personal record (PR) in every distance in 2011. I'm not looking to run a PR in every race- I simply want to finish 2011 with better times in every distance than I have in 2010. What really made me want to accomplish this goal is my time in the half-marathon. When I ran my first half, I wasn't sure I would ever want to run another. But within a week, I knew that I didn't want that time to stand as the best I could do in a half-marathon.

Here are my current PR times for the distances I have run-
5K (3.1 miles) - 29:40. Set in April 2010.
8K (5 miles)- 49:50. Set in November 2009.
10 miles- 1:48:49. Set in May 2010 (only 1 race at this distance)
1/2 marathon (13.1 miles)- 2:56:04 (only 1 race at this distance)

So- there you go- by the end of 2011, I want each of these times to be lower than what they are now. I am really going to dedicate myself to my running in 2011, and hope that I am able to meet my goals.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A total fail by Verizon- and how they could make it right

Back in July, I was beyond excited to have joined the smart phone world- I upgraded my old Motorola Razr to a new HTC Incredible. I had never had any complaints or problems with the phone until about a week ago. Now, thanks to Verizon Wireless, I am going on my 5th day without a phone. Here's what happened---

Last week while traveling, I was prompted to download an update (not the Froyo update- that downloaded with no problem a few months ago) and immediately started receiving an error notification that my application data space was too low. I didn't have many apps on my phone, but I deleted a few that I never used. On Wednesday, I gave the phone to my very tech savvy hubby to look at. He couldn't figure out why I was getting the error message either. In the middle of looking at some apps, my email program on my phone force-closed, and caused a restart of the phone. Well, the phone got stuck in the power-up cycle. It kept going to the screen where it says "DROID" and then would restart. As you can imagine, after the first few times, this got very annoying. Mike took the battery out and tried all sorts of things to reset the phone. None of them worked.

So, Thursday morning I headed down to our local Verizon store. The tech specialist, Ryan, took a look at the phone and had no luck. He then called tech support, who also had no luck. 45 minutes later, Verizon said they would send me out a replacement, factory-restored phone. We picked up the phone from Fed Ex on Saturday and turned it on to make sure it worked. Everything looked ok, so we went and put a ZAGG Invisi-shield on it.

So Sunday, after the 24 hours of waiting for the coating to dry, we attempted to use the phone. And guess what- the phone didn't work. As I said, the phone Verizon sent to replace my 4 month old phone wasn't new- it was a factory-restored/refurbished phone. It was supposed to go through a 100-point checklist before it was sent out. Turns out, the checklist needs item 101- that the phone connects to the Verizon network and can make a call. Yep, the phone wouldn't connect to the network or make a call. So, Mike went BACK down to the Verizon store with both phones (neither of which worked).

He again dealt with Ryan with no luck. In fact, Verizon said we couldn't have a replacement for the replacement phone because we hadn't sent the first phone back yet. So, Mike came home and called Verizon Customer Service. After 30 minutes and 3 different people, Verizon finally agreed to send out a new phone- to arrive on Tuesday. But really, it's not a new phone- it's another factory restored/refurbished phone. Like the one we got that DOESN'T work.

Needless to say, I am NOT happy with Verizon right now. I am looking at going on almost a full week without a phone. And they have done very little to help. We have had several dealing with Verizon customer service, and have found that they don't care. In fact, when Mike was on the phone with them yesterday, they asked him if sending a replacement phone would make him happy. He told them "No, I want a new phone." Their reply "I'm sorry you're not happy, but this is what we will do. This should make you happy."

So what do I want Verizon to do? It's simple. Send me a NEW phone- not a restored or refurbished phone. It's obvious that the 100-point checklist those phones go through miss some important points. And I want a credit on my account- I am paying for a data plan and minutes that I have not been able to use for a week due to THEIR issues with the phones. That's all- a working, new phone and a credit for the time I haven't been able to use what I am paying for...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back to the 90's

EEK! Last night my cell phone died! I thought it was something that could be easily fixed, so I took it down to Verizon. I thought, as a worst case scenario, they would have to wipe my phone and I would be starting over with my contacts.

Well, that's not what happened. My poor little Droid Incredible was so dead there was no fixing it. And, like that wasn't bad enough, there are no Droid Incredibles in the area to replace my phone. So I have to wait for Verizon to send me a new phone. According to Verizon, my new phone should be here by tomorrow. But for today, I am without a phone.

I hate being without a phone- it's a safety net when I leave the house, and I keep things in my phone that I don't keep elsewhere. I don't know my friend's phone numbers- I just have to touch my screen and my phone dials them. I can't just call them when I am out running errands. And this morning, I was out and my husband needed to get in touch with me. He had to call the house and leave a message- just like in the 90's!

Our technology is great, but man, does it stink when we are without it!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Behind-the-Scenes experience

First off, a warning- settle in for a long read. There was no way I could make this post any shorter without taking out some good stuff, so it's long. Deal with it :)

I recently had one of the most amazing experiences I could have ever imagined- a Behind-the-Scenes look of the new Times Square Disney Store! I was able to have this wonderful experience courtesy of the Disney Store President (Jim Fielding) and a contest he had on Twitter. The event was a pre-opening behind-the-scenes look of the new store that included a continental breakfast, remarks by Jim Fielding, and the chance to meet Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. It was everything, and more, that you would expect.

I had entered the contest on Twitter, never expecting to win. When I got the Direct Message from Jim Fielding, I literally squealed with delight. I was on the phone with my mom, who doesn’t completely understand my Disney obsession. I replied to the DM with my email address, as requested, so his team could be in contact with me.

Very soon after that, I got the first of several emails. I was surprised, although I shouldn’t have been, at the efficiency of the team. The emails contained information about the event, making me even MORE excited. Then, a little bit later that evening, I got a phone call from Mark congratulating me again and discussing a little bit more about the event. I didn’t know who Mark was, but I assumed he was an administrative assistant or someone along those lines. When I got home, I Googled Mark (oh come on- you would do it too….) and my jaw dropped when I realized he is in charge of Experiential Marketing and Guest Experience at The Disney Store. Wow- Disney does this right!

I couldn’t keep the grin off my face that whole evening. I was so excited I was ready to burst- I finally called up my friend Lea, who I knew would understand and share my level of giddiness.

When it dawned on Mike and I that the NYC Marathon would be going on that Sunday morning, we decided not to hassle with trying to get into the city on Sunday, so we booked a hotel room and went into the city on Saturday (that experience will be a whole other blog post!).

We arrived at The Disney Store about 7:20 in the morning. Check-in started at 7:30- luckily we were able to wait in the small lobby of the store, and not outside. It wasn’t the warmest day in NYC. Promptly at 7:30, they opened the doors and let us in. When I told them my name, the person checking me in exclaimed “Hey- you’re the Twitter winner. Congratulations!” I have to admit- that was pretty cool. We got our wristbands and entered in.

Matthew showing off his wristband

We had about a half hour to explore the lower level of the store. We made a bee-line for the special vinyls- we got the Statue of Liberty 3” vinyl, one 9” Taxi vinyl, and one 9”graffiti vinyl.

What stands out the most about the shopping experience was how helpful the Cast Members were- it was like having a personal shopper in the Disney Store. They were getting merchandise for you, escorting you places, carrying bags… Really- could it get any better than that??? We also picked up one of the limited edition prints of Ariel that were created just for this event.

The Limited Edition Ariel print

Somehow, with all the time and looking around we did on the first floor, we totally missed that they had pins. Mike was bummed when he found out, because they have some really cool NYC pins. They had some new t-shirts and such that were really cool! People who know me, know that I don’t wear much Disney apparel, but even I couldn’t pass up this cool Cinderella shirt!

My Cinderella shirt- the headband is sparkly :)

I believe they let in about 150 people for the event, and seems that they had about 75 Cast Members on hand to help. We felt totally pampered and special!

At 8:00 we were allowed to go upstairs into the “Imagination Park” section of the store. My first thought upon going upstairs was simply “Wow”. There was a ton of merchandise, but the store had a nice wide-open feel. All above were cute murals of various Disney scenes and characters- there was one scene with Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and the Darling children flying above a London skyline that featured Mary Poppins. There was another section of wall that featured Winnie the Pooh floating above a scene from Alice in Wonderland.

They also have three trees located throughout the second floor- each tree has a Hidden Mickey on it somewhere.

Can you find the Hidden Mickeys?

And no, I never did find any of them. Of course, I didn’t really spend the time to look either- there was just so much going on! I was amazed at all the different merchandise in the store - a whole wall for Tangled, an entire alcove devoted to Marvel Superheroes, and sections for Toy Story, Cars (complete with RideMakerz experience), and even Phineas and Ferb.

Some of the Phineas and Ferb merchandise

A Tor Story plush- where's @JimGarth?

As we walked around the upstairs, I just went around with my mouth open. We grabbed a little bit of breakfast, and grabbed a spot to listen to Jim Fielding say a few words.

I have followed Jim on Twitter for a while (and if you are a Disney fan and not following him at @disneystoreprez- shame on you!!!) and he is an absolute genuine, down-to-earth person. He spoke about the history of the store and what the expectations of the store are. It was really interesting hearing about the back story of the store, why they wanted that particular Times Square space, and what it takes to keep that store going- there are Cast Members working 24 hours a day! He also surprised me when he noticed me standing there and called me out as the winner of his Twitter contest. And even more surprising, he did this unprompted and without having met me in person yet- he really does value his Twitter experience.

After Jim spoke, we were introduced to Jodi Benson- the voice of Ariel. At this point, Mike just glazed over and became focused on meeting her. His favorite princess has always been Ariel (I think it’s because of the sea-shells), and he was so excited to get a chance to meet her and have his picture taken with her.

Meeting Jodi Benson. Notice where Mike is...

She also signed our print that we bought.

After this, we continued to walk around the store and just marvel at everything that was there. One focal point of the second floor of the store is Imagination Theater. This is a small theater section where they have a video screen that plays Disney videos and clips.
Imagination Theater

What makes this different than other Disney stores is that it’s interactive- using a touch screen, you can select what you want to see. Well, every day, they pick a child to “Unlock Imagination” in the morning. One of the Cast Members that we met was Suzanne, the general manager. She asked Matthew if he wanted to be the child who “Unlocked Imagination”. Matthew jumped on this chance and was beyond excited to be able to do this. The employees made a big deal of walking the huge key out to him and then making an announcement for everyone to come and watch.

Unlocking Imagination

After Matthew unlocked Imagination, he was able to go in and pick what he wanted to see on the screen (the “Squirrel in my Pants” music video).

The Cast Members then gave him his own, smaller, replica key.

My son also experienced the RideMakerz car-building experience. He picked out his own car parts and got to put them together.

Picking out parts

He picked out the black Mater (because he looks like we went though a fire- the mind of a 6 year old) and found wheels with his favorite colors.

Putting Mater together

He then put various number decals on him. When he was done making his car, the Cast Member made a big deal about presenting him with the key to his very own car. I don’t think I have ever seen my son with a grin so big!

Getting the key to his car

This was such an unbelievable experience for us all. We were in the store about 2 hours, and barely scratched the surface. The Cast Members are some of the best we have ever met and really represent some of Disney’s best. We came away remembering that Disney is more than just princesses and a castle- it’s something you hold deep inside of you. But I think the whole experience can best be summed up by Matthew’s words as we were leaving- “This was too amazing to be real.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We're going to WHAT at Disney???

I feel like I'm about to cheat on Disney. No, I'm not going to Universal or anything that extreme (really, lets not be silly here!). It's just- gulp- when we go to WDW in December, we're going to rent a car...

There- I said it. We're going to use our OWN transportation around Disney World.

Epic October gave me new insight to the joys of having a car at Disney World. There's no waiting for busses. You want to go from one park to another- just hop in your car and go. You don't have to wait. It was so easy and nice. And with the right driver, driving around WDW can be like it's own thrill ride!

I mentioned my thoughts to my hubby when I came back from Epic October, and he just scoffed and said "No- we don't need a car. Their transportation is just fine." Then hubby went for a weekend where he had access to a car. And guess what he said when he came home... Yep- he agreed that having a car would be nice.

Now, I have always been, and still am, a supporter of the Disney transportation system. For someone on their first or second visit, you can't beat the simplicity of the system. From Magical Express, to the busses, to the monorails. It's easy- you just get on the right bus and they will take you there. No worries. But, I have also noticed a decline in Disney transportation over the last few years- the monorail seems to be down more than it runs, the busses come at longer and longer intervals, the busses are always packed, etc. For us, it's time to try something different.

So, in December, we will rent a car and drive ourselves around Disney World. This should be interesting...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bullies and parents

Let me preface this post with this disclaimer- these are MY thoughts only. I have NO evidence or experiences to back this up. These are only MY thoughts...

Bullying is a situation that is in the news quite a bit lately. As the mother of a 6 year old, I am very aware of bullying and the consequences it has on children. We have been very lucky so far not to have any bullying issues with my son.

But, a situation occurred to me this week that made think about bullies. I found the following description of bullying, which I think is pretty clear:

Bullying behavior may include name calling, verbal or written abuse, exclusion from activities, exclusion from social situations, physical abuse, or coercion. Bullies may behave this way to be perceived as popular or tough or to get attention. They may bully out of jealousy or be acting out because they themselves are bullied.

When we hear about a bullying situation with children, we tell the kids to tell a parent or a an authority figure, such as a teacher or principal. We then rely on that authority figure to put an end to the bullying. Often that authority figure talks to the parent about the child, and asks the parent to help end the bullying.

But what if the parent themselves is a bully? Yep- there are parents out there who bully, or try to bully, other adults. Usually, parents don't engage in physical bullying like kids do- parents most often engage in verbal, social or cyber bullying. So how do you expect that parent to help stop the behavior of their kids when they are engaging in that same behavior? Of course, I bet most parents who engage in bullying would say that they would NEVER bully anyone and wouldn't condone their kids being a bully. But, actions speak louder than words.

Believe, I am not saying that I am a perfect parent... Hubby and I often say that we aren't putting money in a college fund, it's going into a future therapy fund. These are just some thoughts that occurred to me after what could be perceived as a social and cyber bullying event this week. They are MY thoughts, and MY thoughts only...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm NOT perfect

Breaking News: I am NOT perfect...

Lately, it seems that because I am a Disney fan, I am expected to be perfect- I shouldn't curse, I should always be overly chipper and unfailingly polite.

Guess what- I fail all three of those criteria. I have been known to curse a little (or sometimes a lot). I try not to do it around children, but it happens. And I think that anyone who knows me will quickly agree that I am more along the lines of sarcastic and snarky than chipper and polite. But this doesn't make me a bad person.

Being a Disney fan doesn't mean you have to be perfect. Yes, Disney has an image of family friendly, but they too have a little bit darker side. They own ABC, which produces shows like Desperate Housewives. They have produced the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which include drinking and cursing. And even good ol' Walt liked an occasional cigarette and drink. And I'll bet there was some less than 'family friendly' language used in some Disney board meetings.

I have many friends who are Disney fans- and none of them are perfect either. I am a Disney fan- not a Disney employee. I do not represent Disney in any fashion. And being a Disney fan isn't the only thing that defines me. I love NASCAR racing, kickboxing, running, reading, my family... the list goes on. Being a Disney fan is one part of who I am.

It's taken me 35 years to become really happy with who I am- imperfections and all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No Second Round- Now what?

Well, for the third year in a row, I didn't make it past the first round of applications for the WDW Moms Panel. This year, it seems very few people made it into the second round. Although everything I know is based on rumors and people self-reporting, it appears that only about 40 people have made it into round 2. This is about 1/5 of the expected 200 people. And I don't know any of the people that made it- even peripherally.

This whole thing strikes me as odd. If Disney truly did go from 20,000 people to less than 50, they missed WAY too many excellent candidates. Before you jump down my throat, I'm not saying that the ones that moved onto Round 2 aren't worthy- just that there are so many others out there too. And I find it odd that I don't know any of them- and my friends don't know any of them either. Between all of us, we know over a thousand on-line Disney fans... It just strikes me as odd...

So, how does that leave me feeling? I'm a little disappointed, but I didn't really expect to make it into Round 2 anyway. I am more disappointed for some of my friends who I believe who have been an AMAZING addition to the panel. And honestly, the way this whole process is playing, leaves me feeling a 'blah' about the whole thing. With so few people appearing to move on to Round 2, there is very little on-line buzz about the panel. I guess we'll all go back to living our lives like we did before we submitted our applications on Sept. 13.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Epic October recap

Epic October has come and gone, but I will definitely carry the memories from last weekend with me forever. I met so many wonderful people and had so many amazing experiences.

Here are just a few of the many highlights of the weekend.
  • Crossing two more Disney hotels off my bucket list- I stayed at Old Key West and All-Star Sports for the first time.
  • Crossing Biergarten, Paradiso 37, and Olivia's off my Disney restaurant bucket list.
Dinner at Paradiso 37
  • Going to breakfast at a public restaurant in my pajamas.
  • I will never look at potato dumplings the same again.
  • All weekend, I was part of a group of "those" people. And being "those" people in the stretching room of the Haunted Mansion- awesome is not a strong enough word.
  • As much as I love Whispering Canyon Cafe, the service at there was an epic failure. (OK, so this is a low-light, but the service was SO bad it really stands out)
  • Seeing the Witch from Snow White, the 7 dwarves, and Cinderella's coach at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Cinderella's Coach at MNSSHP
  • I was a little underwhelmed with the Food and Wine Festival. The lines at the booths were always so long you couldn't really get any food.
  • Running in a 5K at WDW through a relatively empty Magic Kingdom.
  • Getting to meet and talk to Steve Barrett (AKA the Hidden Mickey Guy).
  • Going three days on just 9 hours of sleep.
I could go on and on and on, but I'll force myself to stop now. And to everyone I met this weekend, thank you for helping make this such an amazing weekend.

And to those special few people, until next time!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Week 3 of first grade

It's week 3 of first grade, and this is what work has to be done this week-

11 pages of math homework
1 page of writing homework
1 "About Me" poster to be filled out by child
15 minutes of reading out loud to a parent EACH night
Math test on Wednesday
Spelling test on Friday

I think I need to invest in pharmaceuticals. Or a winery. Or both

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I have an addiction

I have an addiction. There, I said. Oh wait... You want to know what my addiction is to...

Well (surprise, surprise) I have an addiction to Twitter. OK, it's not really Twitter. It's all my friends that I have made on Twitter. I take my phone with me everywhere, and I can text, call, and Tweet them at all hours. And I have. I am often tweeting with them before 6am and before I get out of bed. They are the last people I talk and tweet with before I go to sleep. Note- I didn't say before I go to bed, cause I can often be found tweeting in bed.

These people are my peas, my early morning crew, my snarky tiara queens, my morons and others. I love them like they are family! Well, actually, I love them more than family :)

Now, I know I am not the only one with this addiction. In fact, I could name several people out there with this addiction. But, for tonight, the only finger I am pointing is at myself. So- I stand up loud and proud and say it again- I AM ADDICTED TO MY FRIENDS!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My First Half-Marathon

I did it- I ran my first half-marathon this morning in Philly. What remains to be seen is will it be my last half?
I haven't been training for this race like I should have been. Ok, honestly, I haven't run more than 5 miles in quite a while. So, knowing that, I decided to take it nice and slow. I planned on walk-run intervals to help me get through the whole thing. My goal time was 2:30:00, but I just didn't quite make it. I was doing OK through the first 8 miles, but at mile 9, my legs just went dead. And then, to add insult to it all, my iPod went dead at mile 10. I was still maintaining my walk-run intervals, but at mile 11, my I couldn't run anymore. My legs hurt so bad and were just done. There were times on mile 12 I thought I would have to sit down for a little bit, but I didn't. I keep on walking and made it. I did manage to run the last 0.1 mi (through the finish line) and even got another lady to stop walking and run through the finish line, too. My final time was 2:56:something.
It was great seeing Mike and Matthew at the finish line. I went though the finisher's corral and got my food, and then staggered out to find my family.
Doing a half-marathon was a great experience- once I realized I wouldn't die! I'm not happy with my time, which leads me to think that I may do another half after I seriously train to try to better my time.

A few random thoughts-
  • I was in corral 18- that was a long walk from the starting line.
  • The way the course wound around the city, mile 4 was right back at the start line. It was very depressing waiting in the corral to start and seeing the leaders pass us... 18 minutes in, they were through 4 miles.
  • Running through Philadelphia, you encounter many smells. Some good, many sewer-like.
  • Why do people stand as a spectator of a RUNNING race and smoke a cigarette or cigar?
  • It would've been nice if someone had gone through the course on race morning and removed the dead animals from the road- I had a really close encounter with a dead raccoon.
  • ING runs a very organized race.
  • I was very glad we stayed the night before in Philly. It was nice not having to drive downtown and mess with crowds in the early morning, and it was great to be able to have Mike drive me home.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I LOVE Southwest Air

OK- this is a little different blog post, but I just have to say it-
I LOVE Southwest Airlines...

As many of you know, I am going to WDW to run the Food and Wine 5K in October. I had originally made my plane reservations to leave Friday and come home Monday. Since I am leaving both my hubby and my son behind, I didn't think I would be able to eek any more solo time out of the trip. And I was ok with that...

But then I discovered more and more of my favorite people were arriving on Thursday (I know, not all of them, but many- JIM!). So, I hopped on line to and did a little researching. I found that I could save $50 by flying out on Thursday. And Southwest, being the WONDERFUL airline they are, allowed me to change my flights with NO charge, and I even got a credit for the difference in price. Also, I get to take a bag without paying luggage fees and they have some of the nicest (and funniest) attendants around!

Now, I get to leave on a better flight (12:00 instead of 7:00am), and I get in to see my friends a day earlier. I get to eat at restaurant I've never tried at WDW, and I have time to do some Vinyl shopping. And, thanks to one of my bestest friends, I don't even have to get a hotel room that night- she has offered me her extra sofa bed in her 1BR villa!

So Southwest Airlines, I just wanted to say THANK YOU!!! You have totally made my week!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

WDW Mom's Panel- Third Times a Charm???

Well, it's that time of year... No, I'm not talking back to school time or NFL time. It's time to apply to the Walt Disney World Mom's Panel. (If you don't know what the Mom's Panel is, it's a huge honor for any Disney fan. Click here for more info.) Twitter, Facebook, and various Disney boards become obsessed with who has applied, how people answered questions, and when to start expecting emails if you've made it to the next round.

The Mom's Panel caps applications at 20,000. For approximately 10-20 spots. That's a 1 in 1,000 chance of being picked. YIKES!

I have applied the last two years and haven't made it past round one. For some things, that may have soured me on the process and made me not want to apply this year. But nothing could be further from the truth. Over the last year, I have had the privilege of getting to know some of the Moms (and Dads), and they are wonderful people who are truly deserving of being on the panel.

So, tomorrow morning at 9am applications start being accepted by the 2011 WDW Mom's Panel. I'm a bit irritated that I have a work meeting from 9:30-12:00 tomorrow, so I won't be able to get my application in until the afternoon. And then, I will join all my friends in the anxious waiting process!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kid Tips for Walt Disney World- a review

I recently had the pleasure of getting a copy of Kid Tips for Walt Disney World: Touring Advice by Kids for Kids from the author.

I was excited to get a copy of this book and read it, wondering if there were any tips for my son. What I didn't expect was the great tips I got out of the book.

This book is the brainchild of Tracie Cook- when she put the call out for tips, she never imagined she would receive over 8,000 tips in just 2 weeks. Luckily, Tracie ready each and every tip submitted and pulled out the best tips from kids ages 7 to 15 for this book.

The book is broken down into sections that deal with each major park and the rides and food in those parks. The resorts also have their own section. There is an area that focuses on the two waterpark, DownTown Disney, and the holidays. The back of the book has a planning section that is made for kids. This is great for discovering what your kids want to do and what is important to them.

I sat down to read this book shortly after returning from our recent WDW trip. My first thought was "Wow- I wish I had read this BEFORE out trip!" I learned so many neat things from this book. Some of the great tips I like include:

Tell your parents you want to ride Dumbo during the fireworks. It's way better than watching them from the ground

There are some cool acrobats that perform in front of the bar near the Harmabe entrance. They can do some really cool and interesting things.

After I went through the book, I sat with my son, who is 6, and went through some of the book with him. My son is a pro at touring WDW- he has been 6 times in the last 2 1/2 years. I got a kick out of some of the things he enjoyed from the book (and his comments).

Don't miss Club Cool. You get to drink free soda from around the world. Trick your parents into drinking Beverly- it's awful. (I like this one Mom, I like the sodas. But you made me drink that soda and it was icky)

Be sure to meet PUSH while you're at the Magic Kingdom. He's usually in Tomorrowland rolling around. (Remember when I gave him trash. Why didn't you find PUSH on our last trip?)

My son's one complaint was that the pictures weren't in color. But really, he loved the book, and so did I! This is a great read for kids and kids at heart! The book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and for the Kindle. Pick one up before your next trip to WDW- you will definitely learn something new!

Friday, September 3, 2010

What I want to be...

I've been thinking about what I want this blog to be and where it had been going and why I was having so much trouble writing... And yes, it hurt to think that much.

I feel like I had pigeon-holed myself and had to keep my entries to running, Disney, or something similar. I didn't feel like I could just put a short little entry about life up there, and that is what was bothering me.

So, start now, you may notice a little different direction for this blog. In fact, it may often appear it doesn't have a direction. And that's OK with me. I will still write about running, and Disney, and NASCAR, and so on... But I may also have days where I just write about what happened that day or something on my mind.

So there you have it- what I want to be when I become a blogger.

P.S.- you may also notice the design and layout of the blog changing. I'm trying to come up with something a little more fun and whimsical. At some point I'll stick with one :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Identity Crisis

All right- time to be honest. I've been neglecting my poor little blog here because I don't know what to do with it. Yes, I know, you type things and publish it. That's not what I mean. I mean, my blog is having a bit of an identity crisis. I'm not sure which direction I want to take it and my focus for the blog- let's just say there really isn't one right now. So, hopefully in the next day or so, I will be reworking this blog a little bit and coming up with a direction and focus!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mouse of Zen

As many of you know, I like to put Disney with things that you don't normally think it belongs with- such as Nascar. Turns out, I'm not the only person who does this!

Brad Conway is a police officer with a love of Disney. While this isn't unusual, it's how he expresses this love that is different: he writes haiku. (Note: haiku is a form of Japanese poetry usually written in three lines. The first and third line have five syllables, while the middle line has seven syllables.) In fact, Brad has written a whole book of haiku poems dedicated to Disney. The title of the book is, fittingly, Mouse of Zen. There are 351 haiku in this first edition (the second edition is already well under way).

Cover design copyright J.B. Conway and Knell Studio Works
While reading the book, there were several poems that made me just stop in my tracks. For example, this haiku utterly and completely sums up my feelings about Disney World

a place heaven sent
day or night, rain or sunshine
world that never sleeps

And having just returned from a very hot and humid summer visit to Disney World, I find this one very appropriate:

humid afternoon

refreshing treasure unwrapped

chocolate lips licked

There are also poems that remind me of friends and times shared at Disney World

early a.m. sounds

over coffee and pastry

main street crescendo

Every person with a love of Disney, be it Disney World, Disneyland, or Walt Disney himself, will find something in this book that speaks to them. Also, even when the poem doesn't speak to you, because let's face it- they don't all hit home, it's still fun trying to figure out what part of Disney Brad was using as his muse. To sum it up, this book is a must-own for any true Disney fan.

To order Mouse of Zen, click here. Also, be sure to follow Mouse of Zen on Twitter.

All poetry in this post © J.B. Conway

Thursday, July 22, 2010

San Francisco- trip report

While on our recent West Coast vacation, we spent a jam-packed day and a half in San Francisco. We had a wonderful time!

As we drove into San Francisco, we planned our route so we would be sure to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge (thank goodness for GPS!).
Driving over the Golden Gate

After arriving at the hotel, we took a cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch and sight-seeing.
View from the cable car

We at lunch at the wonderful Boudin's Bakery.
Making bread at Boudin's

Both Mike and I had a bread bowl filled with soup and Matthew had a pizza. Then Matthew had some of the tops of both Mike and I's bread bowls. The kid LOVED sourdough bread.
Matthew and sourdough bread

We continued our stroll along the Wharf and bought boat tickets for a boat tour through the bay. As soon as we bought the tickets, Matthew commented that he didn't feel so good. Turns out, he had a little too much sourdough bread. Let's just say, we now call it "Fisherman's Barf"... Luckily after that little episode he was fine.

We took a great boat ride through the bay and got to see the Golden Gate and Alcatraz.

Alcatraz from the Bay

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the boat

After this, we walked around Pier 33 and did a little shopping. We then headed for dinner down at Ghiradelli Square and finished the night off with ice cream at Ghiradelli's.

The next morning, we walked down from our hotel and had a great breakfast. We then headed to Union Square on a cable car, and back to Lombard Street- the crookedest street in the country. It is a very crooked street, with some gorgeous views!
Lombard Street

After this, we went down to Pier 1 to check out their amazing Farmer's Market. We picked up cheese and bread for lunch and ate it while overlooking the bay.

We decided to take a bike ride from Fisherman's Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge. It didn't look that far... Well, it is that far (about 3.5 miles each way!) and uphill on the way to the bridge. But that wasn't the worst part- crossing the bridge was COLD, windy, and foggy.
The view from ON the Golden Gate Bridge
After we crossed the bridge to the Sausalito side, we could either choose to continue into Sausalito and take a ferry back, or just bike back across the bridge and back to the Wharf. We opted to bike back across the bridge.
On the Sausalito side- warming up before crossing back to San Fran
We then returned the bikes and went for a yummy seafood dinner at Scoma's before calling it a night.

All in all, it was a great time in San Francisco...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our West Coast Trip- the down and dirty

Well, we survived our 13 day, 1200+ mile trek down the West Coast. A full trip report will be coming later, but I just wanted to share a few of the highlights of the trip...
  • Seeing my husband's family and Matthew getting to know his cousins. They quickly became the best of friends.
  • Watching the changing landscape as we drove from Portland, Or. to Anaheim, Ca. We saw desert, mountains, cliffs, etc. It was quite impressive.
  • Spending time with my grandmother, who I hadn't seen in 20 years and who had never met Matthew or Mike. I also got to see aunts and cousins I hadn't seen in many, many years.
  • Our weekend in San Francisco: Thanks to Matthew we now refer to it as Fisherman's Barf, and we also biked across the (cold and windy) Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Exploring Disneyland and California Adventure- and being lucky enough to see World of Color twice!
All in all it was a great trip!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Friends, revisted

A few months ago, I posted a blog post about the types of friends in this world, as I see it. Recently, the issue of friends has once again been weighing on mind for various reaason. Now, when I posted this originally in Feburary, there were some unforeseen repercussions. I know that I very well risk repercussions again after this post, I think this is important enough to repost. I ask that as you read this, please think not about your friends, but yourself, and the type of friend you are.

Lately, I have been thinking about friends quite a bit. And as I was thinking, it dawned on me that friends can be divided into three categories- Real, Virtual, and Imaginary. Of course, you're probably wondering what the heck I am talking about. Let me explain--

Real friends- These are people that are a friend through and through. They stick by you when the times are bad, they don't expect you to act perfect, they make sure you're OK when you aren't yourself. Real friends are a true find- when you find one (or many) you need to keep them.

Virtual friends- This is my term for the people that you meet online, that you haven't met in person. Many of us have lots of virtual friends- we know them online, and we may know a lot about them- but chances are, we wouldn't recognize them if they were behind us in a supermarket line.

Imaginary friends- These are people that can be either Real or Virtual friends, but what makes them imaginary is that they disappear. They may disappear from your life after a few days, or a few years. But, when things get tough or change, they don't stick around. You always won't know a friend is Imaginary- sometimes you think they're Real until they're gone.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have learned a lot about friends. I learned that, sometimes, when you meet Virtual friends, they instantly can become Real friends. And, I learned the hard way, that people you think are Real friends, are actually only Imaginary.

I was recently with a group of people who started out as Virtual friends- but what was amazing to me was how quickly we all became Real friends. And I miss each and everyone of them everyday. (And yes, I do think Virtual friends can be Real friends without ever meeting in person...)

Real friends are hard to find- and when you do find a Real friend, make sure that you are a Real friend to them, and that you keep them in your life in whatever way works for you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The people make the difference

This past weekend, the family and I went to our first NASCAR race. Having never been to a race, I didn't really know what to expect. Well, I can easily and honestly say- it was one of the best weekends I've ever had. I think it's the only experience I've had that even comes close to the excellence of a Disney vacation.

What made the weekend so great was the way that the NASCAR crews and employees interacted with the fans- specifically my son. When we arrived at our hotel on Friday night, we immediately discovered (to my squeals of delight) that several crews were also staying at the hotel. I was able to meet one of the Crew Chiefs that I follow on Twitter, and he was so nice to both me and Matthew. When we went down to breakfast on Saturday morning, the entire area was filled with crew members- our little table of 3 was the only non-crew table. Matthew was in HEAVEN!

After we arrived at the track, we had passes that allowed us to walk around the garage area- well, see part of the garage area behind a fence. Several crew members (thank you #6 and #12 cars) came over and gave my son lug nuts. They became his most treasured possession.

Crew members of the #6 UPS Roush-Fenway Ford

Back at the hotel that night, we saw the crew member of the #6 who had given Matthew the lug nut. He looked at Matthew and remembered him and then told Matthew "Come see me tomorrow and I'll give you a hat." Well, needless to say, Matthew was on Cloud 9. He woke me up at 3am (yes, 3am!) telling me how he was going to get a hat from the guy...

Sunday morning continued the Swag fest for Matthew. At breakfast that morning, we saw a member of the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing team, who came up to Matthew and asked him if he liked matchbox cars. He came back with two Limited Edition Matchbox Cars for Matthew.

We arrived at the track and started walking along pit road (our passes allowed us onto pit road Sunday morning) as crew members we setting up the pit boxes. All the crew members were so nice- they answered questions that asked them, and never acted as if we were imposing. Of course, they recognized who the most important person in the family was- the 6 year old!

Patrick of the #11 Fed Ex Toyota

Several crew members stopped and took pictures with Matthew, and also gave him more lug nuts! Some of them (again, kudos to the #6) put him up on the wall in their pits for pictures. But the best was yet to come!

More great crew guys of #6 UPS Ford

Matthew started out the morning wearing his Denny Hamlin #11 t-shirt and his Lowe's #48 hat. He went to the #20 Home Depot (Joey Logano) pit box and was seen by one of the pit crew. The pit crew immediately commented on Matthew's hat, and told him it was not appropriate for Matthew to be wearing that hat. The crew guy told Matthew to take off his #48 hat and give it to him. Matthew did, looking slightly confused. Well, the pit guy took the hat (as in NEVER gave it back!) and came back from around the pit box with a signed Joey Logano #20 Home Depot hat. Yes- an autographed hat! I was floored, as was Matthew.

The guy on the pit box is the one who 'traded' hats with Matthew

Of course, after this, we went back over to the garage, where Matthew saw his new friend in the #6 stall, who immediately recognized Matthew and presented him with a hat from the #6 UPS car.

Yes- there was a race, and Matthew was excited that Denny Hamlin won... But what I will always remember about the weekend was how the crew members and everyone at the race really made the difference and made it THE perfect weekend.