Another day trip and another day…


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Barb with her parents Les and Joan Ralstin. Picture is from our driveway of our house in Indiana. Timing is somewhere between 1999 and 2001. The only reason I have small of a range is the size of the young man hiding next to Barb . Most likely the boy is between 2 and 3 at the most. So that gives us a good time range (moved to house in Indiana in October 1999, boys turned 4 in March 2002). You can still see a little bit of the military picture taking in Les. He served in the US Navy (in the Pacific) during World War II. He was a signal officer on a landing craft. It is also a funny stair step, Joan was a lot shorter than Barb and Les. She would always proclaim that she was 5 foot 1/4 inch and never less. If you argued that point, she would just ignore you. The next time she was asked how tall she was she would say 5 foot 1/4 inch. Joan is one half a set of twins as a by the by.  That said, she and Les welcomed me into their family December 1990. We drove to Hot Springs that December to visit them. They had never met me. But they welcomed me into their home and into their lives, site unseen. Boy did they come to regret that decision Smile.

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That picture above and a few others were in a folder labeled Connor Prairie. For a long time I would shoot pictures until I remembered to empty the memory card. Based on that I would label a folder the last event completed and put all the pictures into that folder. This folder was from a trip to Connor Prairie. Connor Prairie as you can decipher from the name is a Prairie just north of Indianapolis. Connor was the name of the family that settled in that area in the 1800’s. It is now an interactive history museum where you can go and see life lived as it would have been more than 150 years ago. We went there many times over the years, personally I took 5 different classes of school kids to the facility. It is a wonderful experience of pioneer Indiana. I loved touring the Connor mansion on the property. It was a huge house for the time, but looks small now.

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The first of our digital video cameras (its huge). The Sony took both stills and video. Pretty good video overall but far from HD (back in the SD video days). The still images were also ok, nothing to write about in terms of quality. It weighed quite a bit as well. I don’t mind carrying my DSLR at times, the quality is so much better than anything else, but I also like carrying the smaller camera at times also. Cell phones just don’t capture everything. Its nice to have a small digital camera that takes better stills than the old Sony did, as well as taking higher quality video.

Over the next couple of weeks I have a lot of early am work meetings so my apologies if I miss a couple of blogs. I’ve gone 368 days since the last time I missed a blog so we are due a couple of misses.

.doc

Family Historian

Our last day in Florida and another potential animated character scare…


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So what do you do after a bunch of days running around Disney World and a relaxing cruise, you get back on the horse of course. We spent out last full day of vacation at Universal studios. I have been several time over the years, it is more fun when you get to watch kids eyes light up then when you are just standing in line to ride the rides. We wandered the park the entire day, doing all the stuff the kids wanted to do. We had to stay away from animal characters though, Nick was still terrified of them. He was always looking around to see if he could see them. Luke and Jakki were fine with eh characters. Nick was still a little nervous. It was a delightful day however wandering Universal.

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Shortly after lunch we wandered over to the area that had a Barney stage. Jakki and the boys all loved Barney. We were really nervous however because of Nick’s fear. We figured this was going to be a really tough show so Barb and I decided that Nick would sit with me. That way I could quickly stand up and get him out of the outdoor theater and wait for the rest of the crew near the strollers. I could talk to Nick, calm him down and Jakki and Luke could watch the Barney show live. Except as is often the case with kids, the unexpected happened. As the show was nearing I was getting more and more anxious checking to see if I had a clear route to the exit.

Then Nick saw Barney. He jumped up in my lap with an excited squeal and at the top of his lungs shouted Barney, Barney. He loved that purple dinosaur. He then promptly watched the first ten minutes of the show and was so excited he ended up falling asleep in my lap missing most of the show. He wasn’t scared by Barney, his whole gang and Captain Hook.

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We would visit Florida a few more times but always Tallahassee where Barb’s brother lives and her parents lived for four years. We should probably take the grown kids to Disney World now that they are full sized and can ride the rides (well Jakki can ride most of them). Time slips away so fast. You turn around and the little guys that you could hold in your hand, that their big sister could feed both of them easily, now dwarf their older little sister (which is actually what they call her) their little big sister.

.doc

Family Historian

The Nick face and the encounter…


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We never had “a boys face” there was always a Nick face (see there in the picture) and a Luke face (not shown). The two were distinct and very different. But as people they are distinct and very different. It seems strange to me somehow we are heading into the summer of their Senior Years in high school. I remember my senior year. Many things have changed since then but I remember it. This is Nick, chilling on the little porch/deck we had on the Disney Magic. This was the morning we were docking at Castaway Cay so we were moving kind of slow. Jakki was already with the adventure crew below ready to head to the dinosaur dig. The dinosaur dig was the beach activity planned by the kids group. Barb and I were moving a little slower with the boys.

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At this point Nick is still terrified of the large Disney characters but we had to snap a picture with Mickey. You can’t go to the magic kingdom and not take a picture with the head mouse. It was on this day in family lore that a strange event occurred that is and remains unexplained. Nick and Luke both claim that in fact it is because of the nature of the characters being large anthropomorphic animals, and Nick not liking that. But that is for the next picture today. The Cay, Castaway is a well constructed fun island 99% beach with the rest intentionally abandoned construction equipment making it look like it was a castaway island. There were a number of tropical outbuildings on the island. The major structure was the ships docking bay.

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Then, as we were reboard the Disney Magic, Nick spied Captain Hook. The boy who had been terrified of every single character suddenly explains with glee runs over and hugs the captain. The one villain we see in 7 days at this point is the one character Nick loves, remembers and wants to be near. The boys say its because he was the most human looking of all the characters. I don’t know. I think Nick likes underdogs. Captain Hook always loses to Peter Pan. I think Nick identifies with the struggle and fight, the desire to win on occasion. Anyway, he wasn’t scared of the characters after this. Our last night at sea we went to a show and Nick didn’t cover his eyes or try to bury himself in his seat. I guess sometimes we all have to have a Captain Hook to free us from our fears.

.doc

Family Historian

Back to Disney (Day 6) and congratulations to Cleveland!


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My shoulder hurts remembering all the stuff we had to carry. We went on the shorter of the two cruise options but were already by this, the second day of the cruise happily relaxing and adjusting. I like being on the water, there is a natural energy you get from the water I don’t get other places. But back in the day when the boys were little, we were constantly carrying the heavy load. This is Barb and one of the boys my guess is Luke based on color of outfit. The ship docked twice, the second docking was at Disney’s Castaway Cay, the island they own. I have to say their island is one of the nicest relaxation places to go to. I am sure you can helicopter or fly small planes to the island but the majority of visitors come on the Disney Cruise ships (they have two or more now).

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As we did in Hawaii last summer, there were the expeditions once the ship touched ground. We would head off to find exciting new things and places. We were bound by how far, and how many places we could push the stroller into. Not, that I am in any way equating the penalty placed on people in wheelchairs, that is far worse. But the world isn’t really made for those in wheels. It is, far worse for those in wheelchairs than those pushing strollers, but I remember those days. Uneven sidewalks are terrible. The effort to push a stroller over uneven pavement is tough, without jarring sleeping kids even harder. I can’t imagine how hard it is for people in wheelchairs. I guess the lesson there is someone always has a worse situation than you do.

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Captain Mickey! I grew up on Disney movies. If you asked me at age 15 what my favorite movie was it would probably have been the Apple Dumpling Gang. The shakiest gun in the West would be a close second. But the rest of the top five were Disney movies (Apple Dumpling Gang is a Disney movie, but had Bill Bixby one of my personal favorite actors in it). The rest of my top ten would all be Herbie the Love Bug (until the modern one, which destroy the franchise some movies Don’t Need to be REMADE!). My sister Lynne and I used to go to the 1.25 Saturday Matinee (if you had 5 bottle caps you got in at the cheap price. Dad used to collect bottle caps for us at work). We would watch all the current kids movies. It gave mom a Saturday off. Thanks Disney!

Congrats to Cleveland! Truly a wonderful game and a miraculous come from behind series win. LeBron James is the best player in basketball, period! I root for specific teams regardless of their record (Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls) but I also root for great players regardless of where they play. Peyton Manning is the most amazing quarterback I’ve ever seen. So I’ve been a Broncos fan the last few years. I also root for LeBron James because his talent elevates those around him. So Congrats LeBron, you play like a champion and now you are one again!

.doc

Family Historian

The soft launch of Labs Lair!


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On father’s day a break from Disneyworld to post about stuff I want to post about! We have in our 25 years had boats in three states and have bought almost as many boats (3) as houses (4). With the purchase of this boat we also got a professional crew. Admiral Raven and Captain Dylan serve as the masters of the ship. The Admiral/Captain decision came down to who was taller, Raven won by a good three inches. So far they are adjusting (Raven and Dylan) to their new life. They truly love the 1.3 hour car-car ride to the boat. Oh yeah and the restaurant at the marina. They like the restaurant a lot. Interesting story about the back portal. My sister Barbara and her husband Dana, and daughter Courtney were visiting over memorial day weekend. We (me) decided to let air flow through the boat so I removed the rear portal.

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It was snugly attached so I pushed a little, except instead of coming inwards it went outwards. So, it slipped out of my grasp bounced once on the swim platform and then promptly sand into the murky water of the marina. I jumped into the water to see if I could find it, I could not. I did learn a valuable lesson bout Fitbit (they are not water resistant, water proof or water anything). The marina team said they would see if in fact they could find a replacement. After a week they found out it would have to be custom made to fit the porthole. I.e. quite a bit of money, so they sent a diver over. He found the portal and they cleaned it. Then the marina added a Lanyard to the portal to prevent idiot removal (I.e. me). So we are back. This second image is from the Bow of Labs Lair, looking out over the rest of the Marina.

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We are waiting for one more piece to be installed to be fully operational (the new AIS system). Here is the crew enjoying lunch from the café. Well the human’s are. Raven is often concerned that the humans aren’t good at sharing. She, like Barb, has a philosophy of sharing (one for you, one for me, second one for you, two for me, third one for you, three for me) at the end of the Ravenization of food, there is little to any food left. Dylan is wondering what I am doing. Our grand-dog Tamsyn came along for the afternoon. It made for a great-prefather’s day on the boat. The fun part about where we choose to be is that we are a short distance from Annapolis, we are a short distance from the Chesapeake Bay and most important we are a short distance from my new favorite spectator sport.Watching traffic crawl across the Bay bridge. Now I wonder, because we have a boat in Annapolis do I have to start rooting for the Navel Academy?

Happy Father’s day to all!

.doc

Family Historian

Off to sea. A sailor’s life for me!!!!


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Upon the Disney Magic. The kids first cruise. First off Disney does it right. The cruise is a fantastic mix of adult and kid fun. Neither intrudes on the other so together everyone has fun. We did things as a family and each of us on our own and had an absolute blast. There were activities focused and organized. We wandered around the Caribbean and beyond sights we traveled in high style. I loved the fact that we had the same crew with us for every meal. Our crew was fantastic and made like so much better. At the first meal we did the buffet. We were exhausted after 4.5 days in the parks. Running at full speed on vacation is fun for a time but you need to unwind and relax a little as well.

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So the first meal was at the buffet. Lucas and Nicolas wanted dessert so I wandered over and found Nick some Vanilla pudding and for Luke, I found something I figured was a risk but wanted to see his reaction. It was passion fruit cake. Little did I know that our family history would be forever changed by that piece of cake. But that is a story for tomorrow. As we headed back to our state room that first evening the crew had turned down the beds and laid chocolates on the pillows like a nice hotel often does. The kids enjoyed noshing on the chocolates and we laid down in bed and watched a movie. It was a Disney Cruise so the Disney channel was running 24 by 7. For whatever reason and I have no clue as to why, the animated movie Fern Valley was on literally 2000 times in the three days. We watched that movie at least 5 times. I was reading/doing other things but the kids had that movie on constantly.

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There were shows and performances every night. It was like the parks came with us. Each show amazing with talented people that sang and danced. The boys were less than intrigued by the shows but Jakki loved the shows. Personally the service and the crew were the best part for me. Again, after being on the move for 4.5 days it was nice to have someone else running around getting things. Jakki made friends in the Kids Crew the very first day. So as I said before she spent the evenings and nights with us. The rest of the time she was in the kids area. Even though, the very first day she said “I won’t be going there.” The joke Barb and I tell is after she said that we didn’t see her again, until the boat docked and we went home. I wonder, after all that fun if Jakki would have signed up to be part of the crew of the Disney Magic.

PS: This is the family vacation portion of the Family History project.

.doc

Family Historian

Day 5, exhausted Disney parents and kids ready to go more!!!!


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Another character incident. I was told yesterday by Nick that his fear of anthropomorphic animals was a natural fear and the rest of us not being afraid of large, humanized animals was unnatural. Not sure how much of the explanation was in fact him yanking my chain but it was an interesting discussion. Luke on the other hand (like Jakki) loved them and enjoyed reaching out, touching them and seeing if the characters were real. Jakki was in Disney heaven. They (Disney) do a really job of engaging young children and bringing them into the world  they have seen but never touched. It is magical for adults as well. But exhausting. By the last day in the parks (we went to all four plus Epcot) I was ready for a relaxing Ocean cruise.

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The bean ready for another day. She seemed to lie down on the bed in the room for 10, maybe 12 minutes and then was back up ready to go. I can’t imagine having that much stamina anymore. I suspect my mother would say that in fact I used to be that way. But now, I need my either hours. This is pre making faces at the camera phase. That actually started about a year or so after this picture and spread quickly. Lately Lucas has been photo bombing pictures which  produces some very interesting results. Jakki didn’t get frustrated or angry when we moved the entire process through Disney world at the speed of a twins stroller. She took that in stride and just really pitched in. So whenever we could one of us split off with Jakki and took her on the rides she wanted to go on.

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As our time in the parks ended we prepared for our cruise. We would be on the Disney Magic. This was the first cruise for the kids, I couldn’t recommend a better first cruise for kids. The Disney crew did everything right. From exceptional service to warm and friendly people the cruise was handled so well. On the very first day we took a tour of the kids section of the boat. Jakki said before hand “I am hanging out with you guys, I won’t be going to the kids area.” That was before we got on the boat. After she saw the kids area, we didn’t see her again until evening each day. She loved the kids area, the activities and hanging out with people her own age. In fact she declared it the best vacation ever, and we weren’t done yet!

.doc

Family Historian