Random pictures

I’ve got pictures from before our Disney trip that I’ve been meaning to post.  Sorry that my blog is not in chronological order right now.

Bill’s sister and parents visited us the week after Christmas.  The days they left, we said, “Hey, we didn’t take any pictures.”  Nobody minded taking a picture with Aunt Margaret, who left before New Year’s and who is surrounded by the flotsam of Christmas gift giving.  But cooperation was scarce for the grandparent picture.  It was too sunny, they all felt.  I finally bribed Mary with a candy cane to get that last picture.

Epcot: Part I

After 6 hours at Hollywood Studios, the younger crowd was spent.  We went back to the hotel and decided that I would take the older three to Epcot, while Bill chilled out, watched kid movies, and got the younger ones off to an early, and much needed, bedtime.

Jenny was most unhappy about being left behind, but her mood had been awful.  We suggested that a better attitude during the day would garner her more priviledges some other day.  She was much more pleasant the remaining days of our trip.

I didn’t realize the dial had been
rotated to the black and white selection.

Same thing, only different.


A little big.

The country after Mexico is Norway.  I didn’t get any pictures, because I was too busy talking to a young man who normally worked in that section.  It was his day off.  He personally escorted us through the Fast Pass line to the ride in Norway and stayed with us the whole time we were in that area.  We talked about Eric the Red and the scale of a model ship, which was erroneously labeled.

Then I pretended the kids were my older sister’s children, and we exchanged phone numbers.

Just kidding.

We did not buy any hats.


Germany.  St. George.
Notice that it’s getting dark?

Remember that the day did not
begin particularly warmly?

And when the sun went down, it was quite cold.

One of the first things we had done when we got to Epcot was to get Fast Pass tickets to the Test Track.  The ride time was 2 hours away, so we didn’t intend to linger long in the foreign countries.  The dropping temperatures also convinced us to keep moving.

Every 5 minutes, Billy kept reminding us of the time.  I told him we didn’t need to be at the Test Track right at the exact beginning time.  But he wanted to.  He actually ran the last 50 yards to get there right on time. 

This is the child who most closely resembles a 3 toed sloth when it’s time to get ready for school.

After the ride, we had 2 hours to go until the laser light show.  We went into a store, but we had seen all the stuff already, and we weren’t buying.  I found an indoor ice cream store…key word: indoor.  Bonus: they also sold hot chocolate.  We loitered.

A bad photo, but as we sat around I realized that
there was a whole line of characters waiting to be
met, photographed and hugged.  Character greetings
at the Magic Kingdom have very long lines.  Not as
many visitors to Epcot want to see Mickey Mouse.

Enjoying hot chocolate.

I let Fritz use my camera.
Katie has not learned how to eat without getting
food all over her face.

I let Katie take a picture too.
Fritz is Katie’s role model in eating habits.

Of course, I had to let Billy take one too.

I think after this, we went to Mission: Space, and then it was time for the laser show.  All of the good spots were taken by people who had dressed more warmly than we did, hence they did not mind standing around for 30 minutes in the freezing cold.  Fritz and I had a mediocre view, Katie had a slightly better vantage as I piggy-backed her, but Billy wormed his way in front of the adults blocking us and had a decent look.

Again, take any weather forecast with a grain of salt.  And if you’ll be out past sundown, be prepared for the lowest of the low temperatures.

As we hustled through the park (from beginning to end), I kept asking Fritz, “Did I lose anybody yet?”  It’s amazingly freeing to fly through public places without a stroller or pokey little puppies.  And when mom walks with a purpose, even the most wide-eyed 10 year old star gazer will step it up and stay on target.  As we strode, Fritz and I had a lively debate about whether it would be more cost-effective to lose a 9 year old, who still had 9 years left under our roof, or the 12 year old, who had more expensive needs (shoes and jeans, alone, are killing me for the constant replacement), but who would be out of the house in less time.  Fritz, understandable, argued in favor of losing the 9 year old over the 12 year old. 

And he stayed very close to my side.

Note: It was not I who wanted to meet and greet the characters.  Nor was it Fritz nor Billy.  It was mostly Jenny, and somewhat Katie.  Jenny spent some of her souvenir money on an autograph book (not the first one she saw, but the cheapest one she ended up finding…good girl).  I noted the accessibility of the characters at Epcot for future reference, and we did not go to them that night.  If you or your children want to get autographs of or pictures with the characters, I suggest you try the other parks first, and only do the Magic Kingdom lines if you have to.

Perfect Saturday: a checklist

Homemade muffins for breakfast: check.

Team effort house cleaning spree: check.

Confession at the cathedral: check.

Family rosary in the car on the way home: check.

Afternoon run in the fabulous 70-degree temps: check.

Vigil Mass with boys as altar servers: check.

Plenary indulgence for confession, rosary and Eucharist (times 5): bonus points.

Homemade stew for dinner: check.

Babysitter: check.

Two hours uninterrupted conversation: check.

Kids asleep when we get home: 5 out of 6.

The kids in Lafayette Park.
What a beautiful day.

The cathedral in the background.
Bill and I went to Lafayette College
and love that Lafayette Park is next
to the cathedral.  There’s a gorgeous
house for sale right across the street, too.

Hollywood Studios

We’ve had a crack down here on people not doing what they’re supposed to be doing (that would be me, primarily).  This may seem like a no-brainer, but half-days for schoolwork for, um, three months, will put you behind schedule.  Really.
So, it’s my lunch hour and I’m hoping I can post pictures of another Disney day before I have to put my nose back to the grindstone.  Or rather, pick up the whip.  {It is now bedtime and I’m hoping to wrap up the first part of our vacation day…}

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, Monday was so exhausting that we took Tuesday off.  Bill and I went for a run, and then we all went to Downtown Disney, which is a shopping and restaurant district designed to part people and their cash.  There is a LEGO store there, and that is where most of my little fools bid farewell to their souvenir money.  I checked out the ticket prices for Cirque du Soleil and decided that my children will never see this show if I have to pay for it.
Wednesday dawned sunny but cold.  The 10 day forecast had predicted temps in the mid-60s, but every day, the reality became lower and lower.  We ended up having highs in the mid-50’s with morning temperatures in the 30’s or even lower.

And I left winter coats and gloves at home.  Brr.  We tried to avoid the shade.

The older kids wanted to go to Hollywood Studios, and friends had said the Toy Story Mania ride was a lot of fun, so that’s where we headed.  I went to get Fast Pass tickets fairly early (~10 am), and our ride time was something like 2:30 pm (and when we went for our turn, there were no more Fast Pass tickets available, so keep that in mind if you go).

No short sleeves.  Yes, Jenny is shivering.

One of the participatory shows allows kids to become Padawans.  It’s for kids ages 4-12, and of my 5 eligible children, only one was interested: Billy, of course.  Another note if you go, you have to sign your child up for a time slot, then they have to come back 30 minutes before the show.  But if you have a Star Wars fan, it is a lot of fun.

In line for Jedi training.

Listening to instructions.




And again.

And again.

And again…

And again.

Darth Vader cometh.

Billy bravely ready to fight evil.

Take that!


Not sure if this is a defensive or offensive move.
I think it’s supposed to be offensive..

The class stands firmly opposed to the Dark Side.
Check out the cutie on the far left.  Bad to the bone.

This happy face made standing in the cold worth it.

After this, Bill took the older 3 to an Indiana Jones stunt show, and I took the younger half over to see Beauty and the Beast, abridged.  Both shows were outdoor venues.  In the shade.  On metal benches.

“Indiana Jones”

Throwing punches.

We met up and ate our packed lunches.  I’m not partial to smushed sandwiches.  If I were to pack lunch for the office, I would guard it carefully or pack it in a hard plastic (reusable) container.  Throwing a sandwich wrapped in foil in a backpack along with 7 other sandwiches and snacks and water bottles guarantees smushed sandwiches.  Solution: Bill and I and Fritz opted for wrap sandwiches.  Same fixings, but in a large tortilla.  Doesn’t smush up like bread does.

After our lunch we split up again.  Bill took 4 off to some of the indoor shows while I took Billy and Katie, the Daring Duo, to ride the Tower of Terror and the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  Although I like for us to do things together, it’s not much fun for little kids to sit and wait for big kids to get off rides…nor is it fun for big kids to sit through things geared for a younger audience.  And going separate ways gets you through a park faster. 

The lines were blessedly short and we joined the rest of the family for a Playhouse Disney show that Mary thoroughly enjoyed.  The rest of us were happy to be sitting and warm.  By this time, our Fast Pass ride time was almost up.  We headed to Toy Story Mania, which is a larger than life 3-D video game, similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride in Magic Kingdom.  Mary really couldn’t figure out her gun, so I ignored her and focused on maximizing my score.

I dogged our group, by a landslide.

Very excited.
Very tired.
The whole place was made to look like you were the scale of
a toy soldier.  We liked the C9 lights…more like C9000 lights.


Having fun.

The “toy” scale carried through outside.  It was cute.


I asked Bill what in the world he was taking a picture of.
The army guys, of course.  They were well done.
As I said, cute.

We had been working hard to quell meltdowns in the younger crowd before Toy Story Mania, and I would have left but for those Fast Pass tickets. Also, unfortunately, we had promised someone we would stop by “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”  As a final stop, that was actually rather nice.  The little ones just want to play, and this is a playground.

She wanted me to hold her up so she could
reach the PlayDoh to get it out.
Her heaven: a lifetime supply of PlayDoh.

The little kids were too scared to get near the ant.
Thank goodness the big kids aren’t too big to pose.

It was mid-afternoon, and we decided that the younger crowd had had it.  Or maybe we had had it with the younger crowd.  We saw what we needed to see, so we left.  I wanted to get a last picture in front of the centrally located hat, and a nice worker offered to take one of all of us.  You might notice that 2 people are highly uncooperative.

Shiny, happy people (not holding hands).

That day wasn’t over, but this day is, and I am signing off.

Needed: shave and a haircut

Here’s my middle aged hippie/rocker husband with a mullet/ponytail.

How in the world does he get away with that ‘do in the Army?

Last night, Bill and I loitered over our dinner.  Most of the kids had excused themselves, but then there were the hangers-on…the ones who suspect that something monumental might be discussed and they wouldn’t want to miss it.  Or perhaps they just enjoy our company so much, that they can’t bear to go into another room.

Jenny was climbing all over Bill, and behind him.  She was making rabbit ears and other annoying gestures which he couldn’t see, and which did not amuse me (her audience) in the slightest.  But when she crouched behind him and spread her hair over his shoulders, I nearly fell off my chair.

I much prefer the high-and-tight cut.

Pray and Work

I count among my friends a certain woman and her husband.  The husband is…notorious.  I’m not naming names, not because I fear what others may think about me because of him, but because I have witnessed otherwise rational people become quite rabid at the mention of his name (in blogs, in comboxes).  It is unfortunate, because a lot of what he has to say is worth hearing.

My thoughts today are not wholly original.  It is my friend, the wife, who used the following scenario to explain her and her husband’s motives for certain controversial actions.

Suppose, one day, a woman is raped on a street corner not far from your home.  Most of us would be upset – it is a horrible crime.  Perhaps we would be concerned for our own safety or that of our friends, daughters, neighbors.  We would want to know what the police were doing about it.

Suppose another woman is raped…and another…in the exact same spot.  We would probably get angry at the situation.  We might organize a neighborhood watch to protect women in the area.  We might storm the town council and demand 24 hour protection for the area.

Suppose we found out that the town, or the state, had decided that raping women on that particular street corner was legal.  We would probably be outraged that such a despicable crime were permitted under any conditions anywhere.  Some of us might fight to abolish that law.  Some of us might stand vigil on that street to warn women.  Some who stand vigil might see women being dragged there by men who want to rape them and know they can legally do it only on that corner.  Some standing vigil might be roused to violence in defense of the woman about to be victimized.

Suppose, despite all these efforts, the act remained legal on that corner and in other parts of the country.  Suppose after a decade, hundreds or thousands of women were being raped every day, legally.  How would we, as a society, cope with that?

Would the outrage remain?  Would we get tired of trying to protect women?  Would we stop the daily vigil and only show up on days that weren’t quite as hectic (no soccer practice today, guess I have time to go rage against the violence)? 

Would we have less horror of the act of rape?  After a decade of being told that rape was OK, under certain circumstances, would youth brought up in that environment think rape is a big deal at all?  Would we begin to justify it, perhaps thinking that the women deserved it? 

How about after two or three decades?  Wouldn’t we have to begin to believe that women were less deserving of certain rights?  How, after all, can you legally permit unspeakable horrors against other human beings?

Think of the Holocaust.  Dauchau, the first concentration camp, opened in 1933.  The nightmare that occurred in the “civilized” West lasted for just over a decade.  It was only possible by dehumanizing those of Jewish descent, by fearful dominance of the populace, and by citizens who claimed ignorance of the situation.

Slavery.  It’s been with us forever, and is even still in this country, hidden.  One person given the right to decide the fate of another.  But it was ok, legally, because the slave wasn’t a full citizen (full human). 

Now, in places in Europe, doctors have the authority to decide if an older person or a sick person or a handicapped infant has the right to live.  This is not a lengthy ordeal with due process.  Today, the doctor decides and executes.

Time and again, we give legal authority to one class of people over another class of people.  Time and again, we make indefinite exceptions to the concept that each person has the right to life, liberty and property without due process.  It is one thing to deprive a convicted criminal of his liberty.  Quite another to deprive one unlucky enough to be kidnapped from a foreign country.

When we will learn?  And when will we act?  If we do not defend the freedoms of others, there may be nobody left to defend us when we become the target.

Today is the March for Life in Washington, D.C.  My friend, the husband, is actively pro-life.  There are many in the pro-life movement who revile him.  His ways do not meet with everyone’s approval.  For one, he believes that images are vital to the cause, that people need to see the horrific reality of abortion.  He has done other things and been called a self-serving showboat.  That’s not the person I know.  His ways are not my ways, but that doesn’t mean his fight isn’t valid.  There isn’t one way to fight this evil.  We all have to do our part.

Recently I read a criticism of him that suggested he should just go home and pray the rosary.  I believe in the power of prayer, wholly believe in it.  But I believe in going to the doctor when I’m sick and taking up arms against a hostile enemy.  Praying does not make my kitchen floor any cleaner.  St. Benedict said: Ora et labora.  Pray and work.

My friend, the wife, concluded by saying that we each, in the end, have to account to God for our actions.  When there was an atrocity in our midst, He will ask, what did we do about it?  They have been granted the ability to spend more time than most in working against abortion.  We each have our own job to do.  Perhaps, for some of us, praying is all we can do. 

Or blogging.

38 years of abortion.  Over 50 million dead.  No end in sight. 

When are you going to be outraged?  What are you doing about it?

Magic Kingdom

I don’t think I ever blogged about the trip we took to Disney 7 years ago.  I wasn’t blogging back then (almost, but not quite).  I did write about it for an obscure magazine, but I doubt if more than one or two random readers saw it.

It was, in a nutshell, hell.  (The trip, not the article.)

Perhaps I will reprint that article here soon.  I can look back and laugh.

Anyway, it all started with trying to take the kids on the ride It’s a Small World, and the meltdowns we had from the get-go on the morning of the first day of our vacation.  Because of this, I insisted that the first ride on this trip be It’s a Small World. 

There were no meltdowns. 

Taking the ferry over.  Note the short sleeves.  It rained
later, but Monday was our warmest day the whole time.

When going to a large, public spot, we always take a photo
of all the kids to help identify them should they get lost.
Mary did not want to cooperate.

It’s a Small World.  No meltdowns necessary.

Just inane, repetitive singing.  Mary loved it.
It made us all smile.

Meltdowns came later.  Even the 3 year old can’t figure
out what her problem is.

That first day was pretty crowded.  There is a Disney Half-Marathon and Marathon which was the weekend before we went.  You know who had run in it, because they wore medals around their necks.  We saw Santa Claus, and he had a medal.  FYI: it took Santa just under the 7 hour time limit to complete the marathon.  Santa did not work for Disney.  He was just taking a vacation after the busy season.  He was not in uniform, but he did hand out Santa coins to the kids.  I forgot to get his picture.

Her face needs cleaning, but her mom is on vacation.


Never too old for a carousel.

Much happier.


Ready to win.

Right after this ride, we got in line for the Flying Dumbo.  We were almost up there when they closed it all down due to storms coming in.  It poured.  We saw lots of shows.  I regretting leaving my jacket in the car.

We kept thinking maybe we should just leave, but we were so far away from the entrance.

And then the rain stopped.

Then we had meltdowns.

Then they stopped.

Then another kid had a meltdown.

And then it was so late that we decided it would be stupid not to stay for the fireworks.

She will make me delete this photo when she sees it.
She wishes to destroy all evidence of her sourpussness.
That way, when she’s 30, she can pretend that
she was always perfect.  But I’m on to her.

The stockades.  Just punishment.

Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.
Would be a nice picture except for the rear
end of the man in line ahead of the kids.

Finally on the Flying Dumbo ride.


Blurry, but nice.  We’re waiting for the parade.
I am quite chilly and really wishing I hadn’t left
my sweater in the car.  I seem to be the only one though.

Bill got a good shot.  One good shot.  He took about 20.
Fireworks are not easy to photograph.
And you can never capture their essence, so why bother?

The thing is, you can’t really do all of Magic Kingdom in one day.  You have to come back.  Have to.

But 11 hours at the park with little children is much more than normal humans can bear.

We took Tuesday off.

Vacation Tips

As I write, I am downloading 600 vacation photos to my hard drive.  Soon I will deluge my blog with smiling happy faces enjoying the warm Florida sunshine as we relax and have the best time of our lives.


But first, I want to start off with some vacation tips.  Certain aspects of our vacation were fabulous, nearly perfect.  Planning in advance makes things less stressful and everything flows a bit more smoothly.

Vacation Tip #1:  Save more than enough money for the trip.  Vacations are expensive, especially when you go to a place like Disney.  It is much better to not spend all the money you have saved than to not save enough and be upset that you don’t have enough to pay the bills.  That way, when you splurge and go out for just ice cream and the bill is $68 (seriously), you will be annoyed, but not panicky.

Vacation Tip #2: Shop around for a great deal on everything.  There are deals all around, but if you are military, the deals are really easy to find.  Four day park hopper passes to Disney are available right now for $138.  I think they are good through the end of October.  You can buy them in Orlando at Shades of Green, or you can get them on post at the MWR facility that sells tickets to all sorts of things.

If you are a current or retired member of the Uniformed Services, a DoD civilian, or a Disabled Veteran (100%), or an adult dependant, you are eligible to book a hotel through the Armed Forces Vacation Club.  They have deals that can not be beat.  Space-A openings change frequently, so I checked monthly for 6 months before finally booking our place.  Each facility is different, so you have to read the details, but twice we’ve used them and been more than happy.  The place in Kissimmee, Florida, had 2 bedrooms and a pull-out sofa bed, a full kitchen and a washer and dryer.  It cost us $349 (plus tax) for seven nights.  Not $349 per night…it was $349 for the entire week

Having a full kitchen helped to save money and time, and having a washer and dryer meant not needing to pack as many clothes and not having a mountain of laundry on our return.  And staying in a condo meant we weren’t cramped.

Note for non-military: finding a place to stay that fits a large family is difficult.  Several years ago when we went to Williamsburg, VA, I checked the club site and they had nothing available.  However, I at least knew the name of several facilities in the area and made my own reservation without using the club.  We had another 2 bedroom condo with kitchen and washer/dryer.  It was more than the club price, but cheaper and roomier than a hotel room (2 hotel rooms).  So the club site is an excellent resource for vacation condo names.

Vacation Tip #3: Make a packing list.  And make a to-do list.  I finally, finally, finally made an Excel spreadsheet that has generic lists for each person, plus reminders for things like cell phone chargers or Pepto Bismal.  I also made to-do lists from things to do in advance like hold mail or last minute things like turning off the computer or taking out the garbage.  To make things easier for us, I put all three boys’ lists on one page with a to-do reminder for their room (lock windows, close blinds, make beds), and I did a similar page for the girls.  The older kids helped the younger kids get their things together, and they all knew what I expected their room to look like when they were done.  Since the lists were generic, I crossed off things they did not need to pack.  This was easier than making different lists for different types of vacations (winter boots vs. sandals).  Note: check out the weather forecast for your location and pack for 10 degrees up and down.  Trust me on this one.

The to-do list was extremely helpful to me, since I am often the one with a long list of things that need to get done in my head, while everybody else sits around and wonders why we haven’t left yet.  Children who are motivated to get out the door can look at the list, see what needs to be done and pitch in.  And I don’t have to assign jobs to my husband making me feel like a nag or get mad at him for doing nothing when he doesn’t have the slightest idea what needs doing.  It just worked.

Vacation Tip #4: Each child packs their own backpack full of entertainment or comfort objects.  One backpack only.  If they are bored, it is their own fault.  And no, 25 stuffed animals will not likely fit in one backpack.

Vacation Tip #5: Give each child a set amount of spending money.  It might be $5 or it might be more, but it really keeps kids from whining about wanting snacks or souvenirs if they have to pay for it themselves.

Vacation Tip #6: Remember, if you are traveling with children, vacation does not mean “relaxing time” or “all fun all the time.”  Leave images of a perfect family behind.  It is enough that you are not going to the office or doing school or worrying about the cleanliness of the bathroom for a few days or a week.  It is enough that you are lowering your standards on what constitutes a healthy meal or a reasonable bedtime.  The point is to build your family relationships.  You will still be the same people with the same limitations and imperfections.  Little children will still get out of sorts with a different routine.  Bigger children will still have mood swings.  Parents will still have to discipline and may have less one-on-one time than they would at home with a proper bedtime and their own room.  Focus on the end goal which is to just be a family together without the usual stressors and demands of life.

Vacation Tip #7: No matter where you are, bigger kids will want to do more or different things than little kids.  Or boys will want to do different things than girls.  Or mom or dad will want to spend their time differently.  Be flexible and accommodating to as many people as possible.  For us, Bill took the big kids to Epcot one day while I stayed home with the little kids and read.  Everybody was happy.  Trying to be all together all the time just won’t work for a large family of different genders and/or ages.

Off to Mass.  Perhaps I’ll have time later to start posting photos.  I can’t wait to see them myself.


Mary has been sick all week long.  On Tuesday, it was a low grade fever, but after that, the fever was very high – 104 degrees or more.  At one point, the ibuprofen wasn’t keeping the fever at bay for the full 6 hours.  Adding to my concern was this horrible snoring she developed which highlighted her ragged breathing (and kept me awake).  I felt like a mother with her first infant – afraid that if I didn’t stand constant vigil, she would stop breathing or asphyxiate.

Since she has had more than a few ear infections this year, I decided to take her into the doctor on Friday to make sure this hadn’t become more than a nasty virus that needed to work itself out.  Her ear were fine, but the poor girl had to suffer through a swab of her nose to check for the flu and a swab of her throat to check for strep.  The rapid test was negative, but they decided to put her on antibiotics over the weekend while waiting for the not-so-rapid test results. 

I’m not sure if it’s the drugs, or just time, but she is feeling much better today.  Her weight yesterday was 29 pounds…down from 33 pounds the last time I took her in December.  That’s a lot of weight to lose.  But since she just asked for her third bowl of Cheerios, I think she’ll be back up in short order.

Last Sunday, we attended Mass at the shrine in Orlando, Florida.  Afterward, we stopped by the gift store.  Just inside the doors were statues including one of Mary holding the Child Jesus.  He is reaching up and holding His Mother’s face on the soft underbelly of the chin.  I pointed this out to my Mary, and she said, “Just like me!”  She does this to me, all.the.time.  It is her comfort spot, and it drives me nuts, especially when she starts pulling and pinching.  She does that without thinking, and when I tell her to stop, she apologizes and then gently rubs me, which is almost as nerve-racking. 

Because the poor thing was miserable this week, she spent most of her time in my arms, burning up.  Her sleep was sporadic and light, and she was uncomfortable.  Her hand was almost constantly on my chin, and my thoughts frequently turned to that statue.  I wondered if I would be so annoyed if it were the Christ Child rubbing me.  Remembering that statue was one of the things that got me through an unproductive week without losing my temper every other hour.

Thank God for cherry flavored liquid Advil, antibiotics, and a perfectly timed viewing of inspirational artwork.