Friday, November 16, 2012


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Thought it was the end of this blog, did you?

Yeah, me too, and probably will be. But, for now, Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Learning to Read

I'm 34 years old.  I've never considered myself to be a "reader," one of the prerequisites I believe to being an educated person (although I'm not even sure of my definition of being "educated" yet).  Sure, I've read books throughout my life, but never consistently, and certainly not always for joy.

I remember when I was young reading The Black Cauldron.  I loved that book, and read the rest of the series as well.  I also remember reading Death Valley QTH and loving that book as well.  While the details from the books are fuzzy, I remember strange details about reading them.  For the Black Cauldron (series), I remember reading them with my glasses on, as there was a period I needed to go without contacts in order to test my eyes for surgery.  For Death Valley, the only thing I remember is reading it in a car, on a trip somewhere (where and when I can't remember).  I don't know why those details stick out in my mind, but there they are.  I'm sure I read more than just those when I was young, but can't name a single one, nor any details surrounding them.  The next books I read for pleasure were during my first three years as a teacher at Irving Middle School.  The Lord of the Rings Trilogy took my time as I sat as a monitor for the state assessments.

I've read a number of other books throughout my life, but none for true pleasure.  Most of the books assigned during my high school years were exercises in tedium, the reason for which I only now can look back and see because they were "assigned."  I would read through them lazily, remembering only what I needed to in order to complete the next paper.  I wish I could say I felt differently throughout college, but for the most part, it got worse rather than better.  Reading turned to skimming to save time; I had gained enough practice in cranking out papers there seemed little need to focus on those.  Graduate school was a different story: I found myself really enjoying the literature, as it sparked a passion for what I feel is my purpose in education, and a hunger to learn more.  Even those, however, were not books to read for pleasure, they were and continue to be requirements of some form.

I can think of only three "excuses" as to why I never got hooked on reading:

1. Laziness
2. Not a priority (could always find something else to fill up my time)
3. Betrayal.

Now, the first two are probably self explanatory.  The third one, however, is strange.  I wonder if anybody else has experienced this feeling, as it has kept me from reading a great deal throughout my life.  For some reason, I almost always found myself remembering those Black Cauldron books when starting anything new.  They became my gold standard, and found nothing could quite match up.  More than that, I almost felt if I couldn't feel the same way I felt while reading those books, with the same voices in my head as the characters, it would never come alive as those books did, and ultimately would not be worth my time.  The sense of familiarity I gained with those first books was never present in anything else I read.  I know now this was only because I never gave them a chance.

When most people run, they either run without anything in their ears, or they run listening to music.  I've tried music, but I enjoy podcasts much more to fill the time.  The Totally Rad Show, TWiT, Diggnation, TWiG, Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, and HD Nation are my favorites.  This Week in Tech, hosted by Leo Laporte (one of my heroes, who happens to share my birthday) uses  as one of its sponsors.  After listening to his shows for years now, I finally thought of giving audio books a chance.

By coincidence, I happened to mention this idea to our Librarian at school.  I was shocked by her response, "Hey, if I can get you the same as for free, you can buy me lunch at least once a month, right?"  Much to my disbelief, the Norman Public Library offers FREE audio books, that you can download and play on your portable device.  I'm still a little confused with the whole "free" concept from libraries, but that's another story.

The number of books was daunting, but I landed on one I thought I might enjoy, State of Fear.  I downloaded it, and started listening on my next run.  Sure enough, that feeling crept in early, and I almost went back to my podcasts about a mile into the run.  However, I figured I was running for about an hour and a half that morning, I might as well give it that long before giving up.

For the next seven days, that book was all I listened to.  I hated coming back to the house every morning, knowing I would have to wait until the next morning to continue the story.  I just started Ender's Game, and am just now, at 34, realizing what reading is all about.  I'm ashamed it has taken this long to realize how wonderful reading is, and have a lot of catching up to do, but I sure am excited.

While this post is no surprise to most reading it, I wanted to write it for two reasons: first, to document for myself when I finally figured this out, and second, for the chance that it might motivate somebody else who isn't a "reader" to give it a try.  So, read... Y'all!  (I had to..)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Disney Recap Video

Disney World Final Day

The last day was pretty much a blur, I remember at one point looking at Leslie and telling her, "okay, I'll quit my job today if we can live at Disney World."

We managed to get to the Magic Kingdom with Papa Vinny for just a few rides (the hotel was AWESOME! Got us fast passes to anything we wanted, and got dad a free pass to the park for the last day!). We rode Peter Pan, then that was it for him as he had to go catch his flight home.

We rode a couple more things, I think, then headed back ourselves. The airport was busy, but we were ushered into a "special" line since we had the super duper oversized double mo-mamba-jamba stroller. The first plane ride was... wow. Ben screamed for most of it, and Emily cried for most of it.

The second flight was on one of those itty bitty jets, and after finally getting everybody situated, both kids were out for the majority of the flight.

Chebon picked us up, and we were finally home! Here is the final set of pictures from our trip. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Disney World Day 5

So, I didn’t want to connect for one more day of internet here, so this will come late, but better late than never, right??

This morning started around 7 again. We got up, got ready, and headed over to Hollywood Studios for the morning/afternoon. As soon as we stepped out, we realized we’d need to buy some new clothes, since the 80 some degree weather had dropped to about 40 or so it felt. Granted, there was at least one crazy family still swimming in the arctic breeze, but it was still too cold for us in our shorts. Emily already had a sweatshirt we got last night at Epcot, but Benjamin needed some extra layers, so we got him a shirt as well to wear.

When we got to Hollywood Studios, we first ran down to get fast passes for Toy Story (Per some great advice from the Powers again!) After that, Emily told us she wanted to get a picture with Goofy and Pluto! It took five days, but she was finally ready for some character action! We stood in line for about twenty minutes (freezing) before getting to them for our picture. It was then I was thankful she hadn’t warmed up to this sort of thing earlier 

After meeting those guys we went to see the Disney One Man’s Dream show. It was great! Benjamin napped while we watched the show, which I loved! We then looked around for the best place to go next, and while we were waiting, Emily and I decided to try the Muppet 3d show (Okay, Emily didn’t want to; she’s learned that any time I say “3D” she knows it will be dark, loud, and stuff will come flying out at you, usually accompanied by spraying water and such) which took too long and we were late for our lunch appointment with the Little Einsteins in the Hollywood Vine Restaurant.

We got there no problem, and Emily got to meet most of the characters (she was in the bathroom during June’s appearance, which caused some distress later, but after a final wave from her she was all better), and we got to see them dance a couple of times. After seeing that restaurant I realized that Hollywood studios was.. well.. not the Magic Kingdom 

After lunch, we headed over to the “shrunk the kids” playground, and Emily LOVED climbing up the huge rope “web” and back down. It was set up like a big three dimensional maze, which led you up and over and back down again. She wanted to try it by herself the second go around, and then started screaming half way up, so I got back with her, then we did it a couple more times before needing to leave to make it to the Beauty and the Beast show in time.

The show was awesome! Emily finally got to see Belle in her yellow dress, which made her day. The show was spectacular, even for Magic Kingdom standards, so at that point I just started wondering if it was maybe the restaurant and not the whole place 

So, after Belle we knew we had to get back to the hotel for a nap, in order to have time to go BACK to studios for toy story (had to wait until 5 for the fast pass). We rushed back to the hotel, and two hours later when everybody finally got back up we knew we wouldn’t have time for the ride. Not much of a big deal, after so much sensory overload, one less ride wasn’t going to kill them…

Leslie got the kids all dressed up: Emily in her Cinderella outfit and Benjamin in his scare crow outfit and we headed down to the bus. After ten minutes of Benjamin screaming, we decided to have Papa Vinny watch Ben while the three of us went to the Halloween Party.

When we got to the Magic Kingdom for the party, we soon realized that every ride was completely empty, and with no lines, we could run in and out of anything we wanted, as many times as we wanted! After finding a sweatshirt for me (I finally gave in), we went for some quick trick or treating, then the Dumbo Ride. Right before the ride a “fairy godmother” came out and sprinkled Emily with Pixie Dust. For a while she wasn’t really happy at all about that one, but came around quickly when we told her that was HER fairy godmother, and she had appeared just for her! Next, while Leslie tried out the Snow White ride (to see how scary it was) Emily and I went to Small World and enjoyed it this time around. When we got back, Leslie told Emily it wasn’t too bad, so we decided to brave it. Emily did so well, she wanted to do it again when we were done, so in we went again!

More candy, some quick food, a tea cup ride with Leslie and Emily, then Buzz lightyear a few times came next. We then hurried over and did the “rocket” ride, which was awesome, before heading to the front of the castle for the fireworks show. AMAZING!

Whew! It was almost ten by that point, and Emily was fading, so we headed back to the hotel. Once back here, I went downstairs to see what we needed to do to check out, and while they were looking at my charges (I couldn’t use my room key any more at stores because we had reached our ‘limit’ – never a good sign), they realized that some of the meal plan purchases weren’t used right, so we got about $130 refunded! Always good, especially considering how much money we had hemorrhaged this trip! They were so nice they also got us some fast passes for tomorrow while we’re at the Magic Kingdom again, so that was great as well!

Now we’re back in bed, ready for our final day here at Disney World. We certainly don’t want it to end, but we’re ready to get back to our beds and home!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I knew I forgot something..

I realized in the middle of the night (yeah, I know, weird time to realize) that I missed mentioning our safari at Animal Kingdom. As best I can remember, I think we went on the safari before the nemo show. It was a lot of fun seeing all of the animals, although right in the middle of it a car ahead of us broke down, so we sat there for a bit waiting. Our big concern was that we were going to relive the Small World incident, but all was well.

Okay, that's it for now.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Disney World Days 3 and 4

The problem with not having time to sit down and write these is that everything has blurred together, and I can't remember much of anything now... Let me try to piece these past two days together.

Yesterday was Animal Kingdom day. We began the day being able to sleep in, which was around 7 or so.. We got up, got ready, and headed out. When we got there, the first place we decided to try was the first show of the Lion King. As we got there (45 minutes early) not a person was in site, so we played on the stairs (see video I posted yesterday morning). While we were playing around on those steps, one of the Disney workers started chatting with us. Leslie took Emily to the bathroom, and while they were gone, Benjamin in all of his cuteness (a rare moment.. :) smiled at the worker. Shortly after, she asked if we wanted to be the "VIP Family" for the show.

Now, any other family would have jumped at this without hesitation. However, I knew better.. "Yeah, so, we'd love to.. but.. what exactly does that mean?"


"Right, well, does that mean you talk to her during the show? As her any questions? Stand her up? Give her anything? Look in her general direction from anywhere closer than sixty yards?"

"... Well, you get to go in first and sit on the front row."

"That's it?"

"... Uh, yeah." (I could tell she was sorry she asked in the first place at this point."

"Great! We're in! But remember all that other stuff, none of that then, okay? Great."

So in we went early. One of the videos posted should show us going in, if you get a chance to see it. The show started, and instead of asking Emily anything, they asked me to get up and snort like a warthog in front of our group. Enjoyable to me, still freaked Emily out.

The rest of the show was unbelievable. Dancing, singing, and Simba was there! Emily was especially impressed at Simba's ability to dance and sing.

After the show it was time for the Rainforest Cafe, so we headed down there. I've realized in my old age that the Rainforest Cafe doesn't hold near as much enjoyment to me as it once did, but oh well, at least the monkey's made noise and all.. Nothing like a $42 cheeseburger to brighten your day.

After that we decided to venture through the "Tough to be a bug" show. Yet another wonderful mistake in the sea of many this trip.. The torture began when the theater was engulfed with smoke, the lights went out, the seats started spraying us with something, and spiders came down from the ceiling. Don't remember it being near that terrifying the last time through, but let me tell you, good times there for a 5 year old and 16 month old!

Surviving that adventure, we headed over to the Nemo musical. This one was tremendous as well, Not quite the stream of tears achieved at the Lion King, but certainly a constant mist. Every event or show we see here continually reminds me of how well things are done here at Disney World. It seems that every moment of every day is planned and designed to be bigger than life, and it scores every time.

After the Musical, Papa Vinny arrived! We found him at the front, then headed back inside for more fun. At this point in the day, now that I look back on it, is where we should have packed up and headed back for a nap. Instead, the series of events that unfolded after led to total physical and mental breakdowns, unmatched by most I've seen, ever.. anywhere..

With Papa Vinny we started by finding a spot for the Animal Kingdom parade. This was about 40 minutes of waiting on the side of the road, and while the parade was wonderful, it took a toll on both kids, who were visibly worn by the end. Did we head back then? Oh no, it was still time to press on, as we wanted to listen to everybody who had told us to push on, at all costs!!!! Well, it cost us alright.. :)

Now that Papa Vinny was able to lend a hand, we decided to take Emily on the Rapids! About ten steps from the line, Emily fell and busted her knee. Stop there, nah... why at this point would we? We carried her to the boat and threw her on with us. Before the ride began Leslie, with her amazing packing skills (and the Power's great help by loaning us some) whipped out Panchos for us. Me? Pancho? Are you kidding? That hot nasty thing will just stick to me, and I won't get wet anyway.. Oops.

Emily, while enjoying the ride as best she could in her almost-coma-stupor was still in agony over the whole knee thing, so we decided THEN to head back for a nap. So, we loaded up, got back to the hotel, and took an hour nap before getting back up to head to Epcot for dinner and the fireworks.

As bad as the decisions before were to press on, the moment we decided to wake both children at 6 PM and drag them both back to the park will take the cake for this trip's mistakomatic prize. They were MISERABLE from the second they got up from their beds. Papa Vinny was nice enough to play along as we dragged them onto the bus, into Epcot and over to the Biergarten restaurant in Germany. I had managed to get reservations at the last minute for it, and it was a great place, so we tried for it. I think I had about three bites total that meal, and we were all pretty miserable throughout the entire meal. My favorite part of that meal was that Emily wanted so very much to be excited, she kept asking me to go dance with her with the polka music. I'd get excited with her, and we'd head down to the floor. She'd get down, dance about three steps, realize how extraordinarily exhausted she was, and just collapse in a heap of crying, jumbled goo. I'd scrape her off the floor and head back to our seat... two times we did this, then it was time for me to go. I took her outside and kept her almost calm while we waited for the rest of the family.

So, another great mistake in this long line was me not remembering the FIRE in this fireworks extravaganza. Have I mentioned how much Emily is scared to death of fire? Yeah, so you can imagine the outcome of that one. We got out of there as quick as we could, got back on the bus, and back to bed. Whew.

Now, this morning we got up around 8. Emily could barely hold her excitement as Leslie got her hair ready for breakfast with the princesses! We got dressed, and headed out, just the three of us, while Papa Vinny stayed back with Benjamin. I cannot imagine how we would have survived this morning with Benjamin with us, so for every attempt for me to keep Papa Vinny away, telling him we wouldn't need his help... This morning, and being able to spend it with Emily and not having to worry about Benjamin, made this trip the trip of a lifetime.

We got to the castle and checked in, only to find out we still had about 20 minutes to wait before we could go in. We decided to shop for a bit, and as we turned the corner in the back of the castle we ran right into Fairy Godmother! At this moment Emily turned a corner in the whole "No pictures, no way" attitude and wanted a picture with Fairy Godmother, so up we went! It was wonderful! As soon as we were done, it was time for breakfast.

We went in, and the first room, as soon as we entered, we saw Cinderella! She was waiting to get pictures with all the little princesses, so we got in line. I tried to hold both the still camera and the video camera as Emily got up to her, which wouldn't have been too much of a problem, other than the fact I couldn't see a thing with all the tears filling up my eyes and streaming down my face. I still haven't looked the pics/vids, so hopefully they turned out.

As if that wasn't magical enough, we then went up the castle tower to the breakfast room, and while we were eating, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Jasmine all came up to spend time with Emily! There was one moment I wish I would have been ready with the camera for, but missed entirely. Emily had leaned back in her chair, her cheek against the back, and her eyes showed complete and utter contentment and enjoyment. I've never seen a look quite like it in Emily in her entire life, and watching her react to those Princesses was one of the most magical moments I've ever seen.

We finished up, walked downstairs back to the room where Cinderella was, and noticed that while the room was now empty, her chair was still there. We decided to sneak on it and take a couple quick pics :)

On our way out and back to the hotel there was another parade, so we watched that for a bit, but Emily was too interested in "some shopping" so we went to the Emporium and picked up some princess figures, which she kept two of for the remainder of the day.

We got back to the hotel and were treated to lunch from Papa Vinny, then back out to see the Disney World Parade (the REAL parade as Leslie likes to call it.. not this party parade stuff we'd been seeing).

We got back to the Magic Kingdom, and waited for the parade at the entrance. As if we hadn't had enough crying already, here came all of the characters around again, dancing, singing, smiling and waving at Emily. She'd scream at them, hoping for a glance or a wave, and when she got one, her eyes would light up and she'd jump around with excitement... It was almost too much to handle!

Leslie had been looking for a Woody Doll for Benjamin, so after the parade we headed over to the only place we thought we'd find one, Frontier land. Sure enough, we found a great one, and his reaction to getting that was about as magical as seeing Emily's reaction at breakfast. It was nice to finally see him not so oblivious to everything going on around him!

Ugh, lots to tell in this post.. Getting tired.. Must press on! Anyway, after the doll we stayed around for a show in front of the big castle, then headed on to the monorail to Epcot.

Now, at the end of breakfast this morning, Emily and Leslie went back to the hotel, and I decided it was time to try to get a fast pass to "Soarin" over at Epcot, and maybe we could get back there later. So, I got to Epcot, only to realize I had given Leslie's and Emily's tickets back to them, so I couldn't get fast passes for them. I decided to try guest services in the hopes that I could work something out, and wouldn't you know it, yet ANOTHER person working here who was willing to do ANYTHING to make sure we were having the time of our lives! He made two new id's for Leslie and Emily, so I could use them on the fast pass!! I ran over there, swiped them, and had our tickets for later!

Now, back to Epcot at night. We got there around 6:30, and while Papa Vinny and Benjamin went on the boat ride near Soarin, Leslie, myself and Emily headed into the big ride. We ended up next to a very nice family who we chatted with for a while who knew EVERYTHING there is to know about Disney World (they have the 800 buck year passses...), and took their advice to get on the front row. It was worth it! The best part was that when we were done, the family showed us their "special" pass to get them in the ride without waiting again! So Emily and I took them up on it.

After the second ride it was getting late.. again.. so we ran over to the mexican restaurant we ate the last time we were there and managed to eat just before the fireworks again tonight. Both kids were about to pass out (Benjamin already had) so we got back on the bus and headed back to the room.

Whew! I left out a lot, but that's all I can muster for now. Just two more days!