Monday, August 29, 2011

Stranded in Disney World

I know, it's every Disney fan's dream, mine included, but this is the tale of how it happened.

First of all, I know a lot of you are waiting for a post about my daughter's wedding, which is why we are here in the first place. That will come soon - when my exile to Disney's Boardwalk Resort is ended. (Okay, I can hear all the sarcastic groans out there!!!) Let me just say that while the weather was hot and humid, the day went beautifully and I will post a fuller report and pictures when I am home and can do it properly.

But here we are, days after we were supposed to return home. In that time my home neighborhood has experienced a hurricane (rare) and an earthquake (much rarer)! My flight home has been canceled and the soonest flight available to return home was 4 days later!

Originally we had fears that Hurricane Irene might put a damper on the wedding day here at Boardwalk, but it missed Florida and headed up the east coast. A few days before we were to return home I was checking my flight status and found that it was posted that my flight was eligible for a free change due to the expected hurricane in the NYC area. The original flight ended up being canceled by the airline. Since neither my wife nor I had any commitments back home, we rebooked. We had hoped to book a flight for Tuesday, staying an extra 3 days - 2 past the anticipated hurricane - but by then the earliest available flight was on Wednesday morning. We booked it, changed our reservation with Disney's Magical Express, and extended our (nicely discounted) huge room at Boardwalk. (Disney was later discounting rooms for guests who were stranded like me, but with my daughter's discount we were already in good shape. I have gone ahead and put in a claim on my trip insurance for the expenses. Now just hoping it gets approved. [NOTE: It was!] )

To make things better, a pair of Annual Passes come with a Disney Fairytale Wedding, and naturally, my daughter and her new husband don't need them, so my wife and I inherited them. Now we don't have to wait for her to pass us in to the park, we can go on our time schedule.

Happily, since the reason we were here was my daughter's wedding, my son, daughter-in-law and my grandtwins were already here as well, and also had to extend their stay. As it turned out, though my house was not in a mandatory evacuation zone, my sons house, which is just minutes from me, was. (Note: as of now we have heard that both of our houses are okay, so we can end our stay here by enjoying our time in Disney World.)

So it has been like 2 separate trips to Disney World - the first for my daughter's wedding, and the second one where it is all about visiting the parks. I sit here in my room at Boardwalk writing this, having been in EPCOT this morning, and returning there later for dinner and Illuminations. We have been watching Illuminations from the balcony of our room most of the week, but tonight we hope to actually be in World Showcase to see it for the first time this trip.

Being stranded is never a good thing, but if you must get stranded, Walt Disney World is the place to be!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Today I am in Walt Disney World. As related last week, this will be a very different visit from all of those we have ever made. Today my daughter is getting married.

This is the second time one of my children is getting married, and once again my thoughts have been very reflective. It's hard to separate the memories of my son from those of his older sister since they were very close as they grew up, sharing so many interests and activities.

My wife and I tried for two years before she became pregnant with our first child-to-be. In fact, because of her schedule, I was the one to call the lab to get the results of the pregnancy test. (This was before home tests were available.) So I was the one to call her to tell her that she was indeed pregnant.

It was a very happy and exciting time over the next nine months.

My daughter was born at the time during which fathers were just starting to be part of the birth process, rather than spectators, waiting with the rest of the family in the hospital waiting room. I was there in the delivery room, and was the first to discover that the baby was no longer an "it", but a "she", and though my father-in-law told me not to worry, the next one would be a boy, I was thrilled.

We loved watching her grow up, and all the firsts as they occurred. When her brother was born two years later, they immediately formed a wonderful sibling bond. My daughter became the big sister, and her brother's protector. There was even the time when my son was in first grade that she forged my signature on a note home from his teacher so that he wouldn't get into trouble. (It didn't work, my wife discovered the note.)

As they grew older, they shared many activities, not least of which was our (almost) yearly trips to Disney World, but also including baseball, instrumental music, and Broadway - all things close to my heart as well.

They played together on the same Little League team, and would take turns spending time with me at Mets games, having season tickets for 14 years while they grew up. There was no better quality time than the time we spent at the ballpark.

In elementary school they both started playing an instrument. He started on the clarinet while she started playing flute. Since I had played viola for more than two decades at that point in time, it was yet another thing that we could all share. (My wife plays piano.) And over the next many years we did. When she was ready for high school, she joined the school's marching band because each President's Week vacation, they would perform in Disney World. (There is that connection again.) Two years later, my son would also join that band, and not only was it a school activity, but the basis for their social life as well. My son would, in his senior year, have the honor of being one of the drum majors of the band and lead them in Disney World.

About this time, I committed to being the Musical Director of a local summer theater group, and had the privilege of having both of them in my show bands for many years. What a great time that was!

Then came college, and they both attended the same out of town university. For the first time since my daughter was born, it was only me and my wife at home. No running around with activities or running a taxi service - which had ended previously as each of them earned their own drivers licenses. We were being prepared for the next stage of our life.

While she was performing in Disney World with her band during her senior year in high school, I heard my daughter tell a friend that after college, she intended to return to Central Florida and work in Disney World. This was when my son and my daughter discovered the Walt Disney World College Program. The first semester of my son's sophomore year in college was spent in Disney World, working in the Haunted Mansion, and earning 12 credits in Theme Park Management. My daughter would actually do two semesters of the College Program after she had graduated from college, one in Disney's Animal Kingdom and one at the Caribbean Beach Resort. As she predicted, she graduated college and then moved to Central Florida to work in Disney World. Today she is still there as an IT Analyst.

After college, my son returned home for a while during which time he worked as a lab assistant for a year before becoming a high school science teacher. He was the first of the two to get married, and now is the father of (almost) two year old twin boys.

Now, my daughter is getting married.

It has been an adventure, and one I wouldn't trade for anything!

Video for Wedding Day

Sunday, August 14, 2011

10 Days to a Disney FairyTale Wedding

One week from today, my wife and I leave to spend a week in Walt Disney World. Usually, that in itself is enough cause for celebration. But this time it is different. While we are looking forward to being in the parks - at least part of the time - another attraction is front and center this time. My daughter is getting married!

Eleven years ago she moved to Central Florida to work in Disney World, so she has had the job of handling almost all of the planning. It will be a small wedding, but it will be a Disney FairyTale Wedding. They have decided on Sea Breeze Point at Disney's Boardwalk Resort as the location of the wedding. It's a beautiful outdoor location right on the water, and I definitely can see why they chose this spot. As of today the long range forecast is calling for a sunny day, and while things can change quickly when it comes to the weather, I am looking forward to a perfect day for the ceremony, after all, this is Disney World, isn't it? So we are expecting a lot of Disney magic on that day.

As a dad, of course, I have such mixed feelings going to my daughter's wedding. I have always been "the man in her life", and while I know that our special relationship will not change, her new husband is now going to be the primary man in her life. And, of course, that is how it should be. What makes it special is the man whom she is marrying. Sometimes you meet someone and right away you feel comfortable with them, and her about-to-be husband is one of that type. From the first time I met him, I liked him. I remember being a bit apprehensive as my daughter brought us to meet him for the first time, but within minutes of that initial meeting, it was as if he were an old friend. I couldn't be happier for her.

I suppose the fact that she has lived 1100 miles (that's 1800 km for you metric types) from home for 11 years now, makes the transition easier on us, since she isn't just now moving out of our house. In reality, not much is changing in my wife and my every day lives, but we are adding another member to our sometimes whacky family.

The wedding ceremony will be a beautiful one, and I will be the one you hear sniffling during it. Heck, I have a tear or two falling from my eyes even as I write this - can you imagine how I will be at the wedding itself? I had my mom sniffling in my ear during my wedding ceremony, my daughter will have me. (I guess she now knows where her own propensity to cry comes from.)

I know that I don't say it often enough, but I love her and am so proud of my daughter, and the woman she has become. I know that this new chapter of her life will be a wonderful adventure.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My photos have a new home

Rather than fill this blog with the photos I hope to be sharing, I have started a new blog to show what I think will be the best of the best of my photos. You will be able to find it here.

Please take a moment and stop by.

See you there.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The 3 year old and the Spanish restaurant

In the past few days, I have been hearing many stories of children in restaurants and the discomfort that comes about because of them. In response to this, I have found myself relating - or wanting to relate - this story a number of times. Since the topic seems to be making the rounds now, I thought I would share it with you.

My daughter was 3 years old, and we were in Manhattan (henceforth referred to simply as "the city") to see the circus at Madison Square Garden. My son was only a year old at this point, so it was just my wife, myself and my daughter.

After the show, we decided to visit a small, out of the way Spanish restaurant that we often frequented. It is not in a location where tourists to the city would be, and unless you actually knew about this restaurant you wouldn't simply walk in off the street. It is in the back of what looks like a seedy bar from the outside ... probably because it is a seedy bar on the inside. However, in the back of the bar is a wonderful restaurant. Not high on ambiance, but the food is terrific! It's run and frequented mostly by folks from Spain, though some of us Americans go there as well.

When we entered, we were seated in a small room which can accommodate three parties. One table was empty and the other was occupied by a woman in her 30's (?) dining alone. When we walked in we could see that she was upset by our presence, but continued with her meal and her book.

We ordered, and our food came. As we were finishing our main course, the woman had finished her meal and got up to leave. As she passed our table she stopped and asked us if she could ask a question. "Are you and your daughter American?" I thought that was an unusual question, but was pleased to answer, in the affirmative of course. She then responded by telling us that she had never seen an American child, especially one so young, sit through an entire meal as well behaved as ours did. Needless to say we thanked her and were properly proud of our daughter at that moment. (Not the first or last time we were of course. We still are!)

In our case, with both of our children, we started bringing them to restaurants, and other places, when they were very young ... well under a year old. As such, they were used to being in those places and situations, and were not overwhelmed. They were also taught right away what was acceptable behavior and what was not. We were lucky parents in that they learned those lessons early and well. Today, I see children being brought into restaurants who clearly do not know how to behave. I have seen video players immediately placed on the table (and played at high volumes!) to keep the child occupied. I suppose this is easier than actually teaching the child restaurant manners and proper behavior. Video players have a time and a place, but I don't think a restaurant is one.

I will admit that there are times I do see parents trying their best to have their child behave in an appropriate manner, but for one reason or another their efforts do not work. However, all too often I see parents who simply allow a child to do whatever they want, regardless of the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of the behavior. These are the parents who have stopped parenting in my opinion and are deserving of the dirty stares and harsh words they may encounter. Though my children were generally well behaved in restaurants, there were times when things did not go smoothly, perhaps they were tired, or not feeling well, or just plain uncomfortable for some reason. In that case, either my wife or myself would remove them from the surroundings so that they would not interfere with the dining pleasure of others.

How do you feel about this?

For another take on this topic, please read my friend Tania's blog.