May 5, 2010

Back to the Island. Japan, that is.

"We have to go back!"

Well, it looks like we're getting our chance!

It's so wonderful to be back amongst friends back in Japan...

May 3, 2010

Biking NYC - The Five Borough Bike Ride

42 miles through the five boroughs of New York. Great ride. Great day. Nothing more fun than to ride through the closed off to traffic streets, highways, and bridges of NYC with 32,000 of your closest friends!!

Here are some pictures from the event. We'll be back next year (with kids?), and are signing up for the NYC Century Ride in the Fall!

April 29, 2010

Baseball, Soccer, and Basketball - Oh My.

Sports are upon us in full force for both kids.

Well, Lauren plays soccer. Completely adorable. She can run with the best of them, is a great teammate, and bounces around the entire time.

Jacob is playing soccer, basketball, and baseball. A young Bo Jackson, or something. It sure makes for busy Saturdays (and the rest of the days too!), but we are all having so much fun with it. Its a terrific social outlet for the kids and for us, and it is incredible how much Jacob has improved in all three sports. He is a total sports junkie (wonder where he get's that from) and is a joy to watch.

In soccer, he and his buddy Samson are a dominating pair . . . Really amazing to watch for a pair of eight year olds.

In Little League, Jacob tried out for and made the 9 year old "Minors" team. Mike "played up" with him as an assistant coach for the team. Nothing more all-American than little league baseball. Life lessons. Sports. Great kids. All rolled into one. Mike and Jacob are just loving it. Jacob has done some pitching too, which he loves. He is very calm and collected on the mound and very loose and relaxed at the plate. He is also a seriously good and sweet team-mate.

Finally, hoops. When this league started, it was painful to watch. Kids traveling all over the place. No shooters, bad passes, bad dribbling. Makes you realize how many moving parts there are in playing basketball. These kids have come so far so fast. The coaches who run the league are terrific - patient and firm and knowledgeable. Jacob plays center. He has developed a pretty nice shot, is a great passer and defender and again, a great team-mate. He always wears the white head-band. Nice.

April 26, 2010

Disney - Hollywood Studios (But We're Still Gonna Call it MGM)

Our last day was spent in Hollywood Studios, fka MGM Studios. GREAT time. Fun rides, and we are total suckers for awesome cartoon animation. The highlights follow:

Our day started off with a character breakfast - Lilo and Stitch at the Polynesian Hotel.

Really? You own this shirt AND you wear it to Walt Disney World??

The Lights, Motors, Action Stunt-Show is a must see. Awesome.

Power Rangers!

Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground. Always a classic. Almost impossible to get the kids to leave here:

American Idol show - with audience participation:

Star Tours! (Mike came home with a nice plush Yoda doll. Cool Yoda is.)

Next year. Kasdan's are dressing up as the Incredibles for Halloween. There, I said it. Love these guys!

Classic and modern animation and cartoonage- just can't get enough!

Happy kids - just before passing out!

April 25, 2010

Disney - Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom was a super-pleasant surprise. We had low expectations (at least lower than the know commodities, Magic Kingdom and Epcot), but it was really terrific. Another big perk is that the people working at Animal Kingdom don't say "Have a magical day!" and are in fact the friendliest of all the park employees!

We had a great time on the Safari, got to see a team of veterans operating on a lion (!), all went on Everest (a forwards and backwards loop de loop roller coaster), got drenched (twice) on the Kali River Rafting Ride, saw an awesome Lion King show, took in a great (Lion King on Broadway themed) parade, and enjoyed exploring the many animals and birds.

It was also nice to leave a park at a decent hour, not carrying dead-weight children!

Some observations:
  • Disney Dining Plan - totally worth it; good healthy choices; great sit-down dinners
  • It's so nice to meet people from all over the US and all over the world
  • Jacob and 3D movies don't mix. We learned this after trying out the Honey I Shrunk the Audience Movie in Epcot and the 3D Bug's Life Movie in Animal Kingdom. He is scarred for life.
  • We acquired a "golden ticket" Fast Pass for seven of us, as a gift for supposedly sub-par service at a restaurant. (It really wasn't too bad!) The ticket was supposed you get all of us to the front of the line of one ride. We used it on the Safari, but they forgot to collect it. So we used it again on Everest. Between that, and our own Fast Passes, we zipped to the front of many a line.

April 24, 2010

Disney - Epcot

We began our second morning in a more leisurely fashion - no 6 AM wake-up call this time. We stayed at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, and began the day by taking a walk around to check out the 101 Dalmations, Toy Story, Fantasia, and Herbie the Love Bug decor.

We then headed over to Epcot Center. Epcot was having some sort of garden-topiary type exhibit, with bush versions of many disney characters. Pretty amazing stuff:

Disney Parks all now employ a system called Fast Pass for the most popular attractions, which completely changes the way you see an amusement park. At Epcot, we headed straight for The Land and got Fast Pass tickets for Soarin'. This was easily one of the best rides in Disney; a very realistic feeling hang-gilder simulation over California. They even pipe in local smells, like pine and citrus as you fly over forests and groves. Big wow factor.

We also checked out the nearby Nemo Ride and Aquarium, as well as an excellent Lion King movie with a strong environmental message. Very well done.

Before heading to the World Showcase, we hit Mike's longtime favorite Imagination ride, with Figment! Among the countries, we hit took a boat ride in Mexico, tried on Viking-wear in Norway, lunched at and took in the great 360 degree movie in China, before boating it over to Japan and then heading to Morocco for dinner and music. (Lauren also tried on some stuff at the bazaar!)

After walking back through France, the UK, and Canada, we headed over to Test Track, another of the highlight attractions. Jacob had a fear melt-down in line, but after doing it, he was dying to do it again!

Some observations from our day at Epcot:
  • There are no bathrooms in Mexico. You have to go to Norway. Really.
  • Why is there no Spain, but a Morocco. If I were Spanish, I'd be pissed.
  • Little girls that walk around all day after getting made up and dressed up like Disney Princesses. Well, it looks kind of ridiculous
  • We love our fully loaded Ford Flex rental car. Mike and Ilena went out afterwards (to a GREAT Irish Pub on Pleasure Island), and on the way - for the first time in our life - someone pulled up next to us and said "Hey - what kind of car is that."

April 23, 2010

Disney - Magic Kingdom

As we previously mentioned, we were lucky enough to be able to view a shuttle launch (at 6:21 AM from our hotel parking lot in Orlando). Very very cool. The gaseous residue trail illuminated by the rising sun is shown below.

Aside from being a heckuva way to start your day, our early rise also ensured that we were one of the first to enter the Magic Kingdom. (We got a parking spot right next to the monorail, and were on the first monorail in at 7 AM!).

All that early bird gets the worm stuff has some merit. Given that we were (a) in Disney World; and (b) it was a school vacation week, our expectation level for actually getting on more than a handful of rides was pretty low.

With our early start, however, we had done pretty much every ride in Tomorrowland by 9:30 AM! Lauren braved Space Mountain (not for Jacob!). We did the Speedway, the timeless Carousel of Progress, the Buzz Lightyear shoot-em-up ride, Stitches Great Escape, and the hilarious Monster's Inc. improv, Laugh Floor.

Afterwards, we headed over to Adventureland, where we climbed through the classic Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, took in the (revamped) electronic bird singing show in the Tiki Room, the corny-joke electronic-animal filled Jungle Cruise, and (of course) Pirates of the Carribean. Pirates has been redone to include aspects of the Movie, which was based on the ride. So now the ride is based on the movie, which was based on the ride. But its all good.

We then hopped over to Frontierland, where we explored Tom Sawyer's Island and watched the Country Bear Jamboree show. That seriously took me back to my first trip to Disney! Another fave was the Hall of Presidents. Totally all-American and insprirational. Mike did this one with Jacob, while Lauren and Ilena did the Haunted House (Jacob wanted no part of that one!)

Along the way, we hit the 10, 12, and 3 PM parades, which were pretty rocking.

Later in the afternoon, we did the still-amazingly-great Small World, the Carousel, and the Mad Hatter's Tea Cup ride in Fantasyland, before popping back over to Frontierland for Splash Mountain (best ride in Magic Kingdom) and Big Thunder Railroad.

In that time period before dinner, the kids totally glazed over, but got a second wind after a really nice Italian meal. We decided that 15 hours in the park on the first day seemed about right, so we hung around for the night Spectro Magic Parade. While waiting, the kids hula hooped and played hop scotch on Main Street USA.

It was a truly magical first day. The kids were soooo good. And we all enjoyed so many different things. These Disney folks are in the magic business, and they sure are good at it!