Mission: Party (Halloween Edition)

Alpha and Beta put together a Halloween party with over a dozen on their friends.  We’re not typically party people, but we do enjoy the chance to have people over.  I especially like it because it means I get a clean house.  🙂

We had a great time planning for, shopping for, and decorating for the party.  (Really.  The house looks great.)  Beta enjoys decorating, planning, and being surrounded by large groups; I don’t know how she came to exist in a family full of introverts.

Meghan and I tend to take a particular approach to events: plan very little and let things come together naturally.  The kids were happy to follow our lead.

One little personal detail: this party happened to coincide with our anniversary.  It couldn’t happen any other day, unfortunately: Halloween is mid-week; we had a birthday party to attend on Sunday; and Halloween parties after Halloween are just no fun.

Fast-forward to the appointed day, and a nor’easter bore down on us from the early morning onwards.  This wasn’t such a bad thing: I had wanted to keep the fireplace lit for the duration of the party and cold, bad weather is very amenable to that. Meghan made a (gluten-free) cake that made the house smell fantastic.  Beta and I rearranged the seats into one long couch, plus another smaller love seat back-to-back with the big one.

Guest started arriving promptly at one, and very quickly we had a dozen teenagers, not related to us and all dressed in costumes, in the living room of our house.  For some reason they all packed into the living room and refused to spread into the kitchen, dining room, or even the front room.  The decibels rose and Meghan and I retreated, occasionally checking on the kids, the fire, and the food.

The first movie of the day was Young Frankenstein, chosen through first-past-the-post voting. (I believe it had two votes, which was one more vote than any other option.)

Around 4 pm, as the first movie was wrapping up, I headed out to pick up pizza and more soda.  I came back to a relatively quiet room watching the Blair Witch Project.  You kind of have to pay attention to the movie to get the full effect, but I there was also an air of the forbidden – that movie has a reputation.

As people finished up pizza, the movie was just finishing the setup and was about to get scary, the power went out.  Whoops!  We checked with neighbors to make sure it wasn’t just us, checked the power company to see if they knew yet, and lit candles and lamps.  The kids took all this in stride and got busy socializing.  I was honestly impressed how they acted — sociable and comfortable, even though many had never been to our house before.

Power was restored in about an hour, and the movie resumed.  The end of the movie led to discussion of what the hell happened, because not everyone had paid attention in the beginning.

Unbeknownst to us during the week, Beta had been telling people that the party was planned to go until 10 pm.  The first kids dropped out shortly after pizza, and most kids had left by 8:30 or so, but a couple stayed for the duration and were picked up right at 10 o’clock.

All in all, it seemed like everyone had a lot of fun.  Even at the end, with three kids left, everybody was in a good mood.

Lessons learned: Megh and I now know to double-check what the plan’s details are before it’s announced, and Beta knows that a) 10 pm is just too late and b) nine hours is just too long. (She was exhausted, we all were, and I think she was glad to wrap up.)

Biggest lessons of all, though: Megh and I still know how to throw a good party, and Alpha and Beta saw how to make it come together by being a part of it and seeing how it’s done from the inside.

Flim Flam and Minutia

Sitting around the dinner table, Meghan shared a work story about hearing her name as she passed, only nobody said her name. The math teacher across the hall said, “bar graph.”

I also mis-heard it, at first, as “bargra.”  I’m trying to get it to stick as her new name.

A minute later, Beta is sticking something between her toes while we’re talking and Meghan blurts out “Stop that!  Now it’s all covered in toe groods!” (Nobody knows what that means or what she was trying to express, not even Meghan.)

And then we realized that Meghan accidentally revealed her orc-name: Bargra Togroods.

Cape Cod 2018

Another change of venue this year: Wellfleet, MA.  We seem to be creeping further up the Cape every year.

Day 0: Driving and Arriving

We left the house around mid-afternoon, planning to arrive fashionably late.  Our intention worked as planned; we rolled into town around 6 pm and got busy making a pasta-and-meatball dinner for everyone.

After a short dinner, we took everyone to the closest beach to let the little ones burn off some energy.  The Fox family had been on the road since morning, and rolled in around 7pm; the kids were exploding with pent up energy and excitement.

mayo beach at sunset
Mayo Beach @ Sunset, Wellfleet MA

Day 1: Rain!

Meghan and I woke up on our usual schedule, 6am.  (This continued for the duration of the week.)  The weather was forecast to be poor, and it proved true for most, but not all, of the day.

We headed out to a full-size super market in search of a coffee maker (the house’s was AWOL) and groceries for dinner.  I prefer to spend a little extra money rather than pack the car with perishables.

After breakfast, the weather cleared enough that almost everyone headed to the beach — I stayed home and napped to catch up on a week of poor sleep, and missed seeing a Great White shark off Marconi Beach.

Dinner turned out to be an unpleasant adventure: we had picked up a pair of roasting chickens that morning, but after unsealing the packages we discovered that the fowl had gone very foul.  Tim and Kelly started cranking out their dinner planned for the following night, and Meghan and I dashed back to the store to get our money back.

After dinner and the little kids had gone to bed, we sat down to play Cards Against Humanity —with Alpha and Beta.  It was a night that they will not soon forget… nor will I.

Day 2: Chatham

I woke up early to a beautiful day and took a bike ride around the perimeter of Wellfleet.  The ocean side of the cape was still socked in with fog, but the land and western side were clear.

fog at white crest beach
The fog bank on the ocean side stopped abruptly at the edge of the water.

After breakfast we took a ride down to Chatham for some shopping and lunch.

Top Shark: Artist Mary Dunn Cauley, Middle Shark: Pati DuVall, Bottom Shark: Dennis Predovic

We introduced the Fox kids to Ponyo.  Tim and Kelly don’t seem to be big on anime, but the kids were fascinated.  (Sorry, guys!)

A documentary of Ted Williams premiered on PBS that night, which was important to Joan, so we cleared the deck, got the kids in bed, and watched with her.

Day 3: Marconi

We chose to go hiking around the Marconi Wireless Station on Tuesday.

artsy-fartsy picture of some snow fencing

Quinn and Beta looking out over the sea.
Listening to the Navy Band at the Old Salt Pond Visitor’s Center at the National Sea Shore.

Day 4: Biking and A Guest

Meghan and tried out the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which has a trail head in Wellfleet.  Our goal when we started was Marconi Beach, but the ride was so easy we kept going and made it to Orleans before turning around.

Kappa sleeping on the couch, take 1. He refused to sleep in his own bed until we bought child-proof door handle covers. We found him like this on Tuesday morning.

While we were gone, the Foxes hit Mayo Beach in Wellfleet.  When Meghan and I got back we headed to the beach with the girls as the Foxes were leaving.  We stayed about an hour and a half, and came away with minor sunburns, but the water was warm and the swimming was easy.

We hosted a friend of Joan’s who lives on the Cape, and her young daughter, for dinner.

On this night an issue withe the youngest of the Fox clan, Kappa, not going to bed at bedtime became particularly troublesome.  We pledged to find doorknob covers the next day so that he would have to stay in his room at night, even if he wasn’t going to go to bed.

Day 5: P-Town

After a very slow start to the day, we headed to Provincetown with Joan while the Foxes went back to the beach.

We started at the far eastern end of the main drag and worked our way westward.  People watching in P-Town is always an adventure.  The girls are still young enough to not really notice how bizarre the crowd is and have more fun shopping.

Day 6: Cape Code Lighthouse and Pilgrim Monument

Meghan, Alpha, and I spent the day being tourists.

We checked out the Cape Cod Lighthouse, where Meghan went up –and down– the spiral staircase of the lighthouse.

Quinn climbing up onto the light platform of the Cape Cod/Highland’s Lighthouse.
Quinn and Megh at the Cape Cod/Highland Lighthouse 7/27/2018

We then went to the Pilgrim museum and tower in Provincetown.  I, however, was the only one to climb the tower.

View up the Pilgrim Monument
View from inside the Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, MA.
I was curious about how good a picture from this distance would come out. Very surprised everything is as sharp, considering the haze!
detail of view from top of pilgrim tower
The view of Provincetown Light from the top of the Pilgrim Monument tower

After dinner at home, the adults stayed up to watch Jaws with the RiffTrax overlay.

Day 7: Leaving

We were supposed to vacate the house by 9 am.  We missed the time by less than five minutes (WE were ready, but the Foxes have a small army to move.)

We ate an excellent breakfast at Laura & Tony’s kitchen, and hit the road for home.  Others in the party were hitting the beach one last time, but we were all ready to be home.

Assorted Snapshots

Mom hanging out, waiting for breakfast 7/28/2018
Cousins on the Group Shark Bench. Chatham
Will they swim or won’t they. Marconi Beach at the Cape Cod National Seashore.
We’re off to the Cape! 7/21/2018
A view of the fog over the ocean from the top of the Nauset Light House.
Quinn and Megh climbed this amazing lighthouse. The view from the top was breathtaking
Delta and Kappa when we woke up. Kappa had been on the couch all night, apparently. This was escape # 2.

600Inside the Nauset Lighthouse

Cape Cod/Highlands Light House
View down the Cape Cod/Highlands Lighthouse. There are a combination of a ladder, several platforms, and stairs, all made of cast iron.
View of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown, MA from the Cape Cod/Highland Lighthouse’s windows.
View up the inside of the Cape Cod/Highlands Light House.
Beta and Delta looking for shells
Kappa and Baba waiting for breakfast
Alpha took a nap on Quinn’s lap for an hour or so.
Getting ready to climb the Nauset Light House! Kelly is having fun talking to the docent.
Delta and Kappa with Kelly “up to their ankles” which meant they totally got their shorts wet.
Delta checking out the Nauset Light.
Kappa checking out the Nauset Light.
After we all got in on Saturday night, we had a dinner of pasta and meatballs, and took the kids out to work off some energy and collect some shells at Mayo Beach in Wellfleet.

Maine 2018

We made an impromptu trip to Maine with our friends Sam and Joanne.

There’s a back-story: we were supposed to be camping this week with Sam and Joanne (and others) but a conflict with school forced some to cancel, and eventually everyone canceled.  Since we all had the time off already scheduled I had the idea for a quick road trip with S&J.  Meghan made the arrangements when they bought in, so game on.

dock and reflection
Found this very stereotypical Maine view while biking on Friday morning

Day 1: Foul Weather, Destination Southport

We left home on Thursday.  S&J had the longer drive, but our house was on the way so we met up here and caravaned the rest of the way together.

A bundle of rain followed them from Connecticut, and would continue to follow us all the rest of the way.

Meghan and I neglected to pack until they arrived, as we were running around all morning doing chores, so they got in a short, much-needed break from driving in the rain.

We rolled into the Ocean Gate hotel around 5 pm.  We had rented three rooms: one for S&J and their son; one for Alpha and Beta; and one for Meghan, me, and Butter-the-dog.  We were spread across different buildings in the resort, but the girls were close to S&J so that was ok.

Our room, unlike the others, had a full kitchen — indeed, that was one of the selling points for us.  It was billed as “not having a view” but that was a lie: the view was, in fact, beautiful.

sunrise
Sunrise on Saturday morning. I didn’t mean to wake up at 5 am, but I’m glad I did since I got to see this.

We went out to dinner at a tiny-but-tony restaurant called Oliver’s at Cozy Harbor.  The food was excellent, btw.  Joanne went high-end and got a “lobstertini,” lobster meat served in a martini glass, but most everyone else went basic with burgers or fish-and-chips.

group photo
Sitting down to dinner at Oliver’s. Everyone was tired. and nobody but the server saw me taking the picture, which is why everyone looks bored

We did check out some of the “traditional” Maine sight-seeing, which is to say we took pictures of the fog:

foggy harbor
The very foggy view from Oliver’s [click to expand]

Day 2: Swimming, Shopping, Dinner at Home

Sam and I started Friday off with a bang: we went biking.  The kids started off with fun: they went swimming in the pool.  Meghan and Joanne started off with style: they took a dip in the hot tub.

After everyone felt ready to start their day, we packed into the cars and took a short ride to Boothbay Harbor.  It was hot so we had an ice cream lunch.  The girls shopped, while I took Butter on a walk up and down the main drag.  She’s truly an adorable dog and we stopped to talk to several people that wanted to “say hi” to her.

sam in kayak
Sam braved rumbles of thunder to discover that a nearby island is not, in fact, an island.

We all took a siesta in the late afternoon back at the hotel, except for Sam who ignored the impending thunderstorm and went kayaking.

After a brief downpour and a bit of lightning, we got going on our planned “traditional get together” dinner: spaghetti and sauce.  This is why the in-room kitchen was important, you see.

For years, when we lived near each other, we would gather at one house or the other and feed everyone with a simple pasta, meat sauce, and garlic bread dinner.  From time to time we do it even now, but the drive is much longer.

I made the pasta, Sam made the garlic bread, and the kids watched TV.  This was about as traditional as you can get without being home.

preparing dinner

After dinner I washed up while everyone else played a game at the table until bedtime.

Day 3: Freeport and Home

Our stay was intentionally short because we were trying a too-good-to-be-true hotel and everything came together last-minute.  Much too short.

After a big breakfast we packed up and rolled out, destination: Freeport.  Sam had only passed through Maine before, never stopping, and Joanne has never been at all.  Both wanted to see the main L.L. Bean store in Freeport.  Meghan is always game to go there.  I walked around with Butter while everyone wandered inside the store for an hour because I just can’t even.  We also made time for the Ben and Jerry’s store, of course.

We made our final leg home, where S&J paid us a final visit before making their way home as well.

Patio Furniture FTW

kids on new patio furniture
There was at least one of these three ensconced here for the remainder of the afternoon

Bought some new patio furniture on a lark today, now I just need to finish preparing the patio.

We stuck it on the deck in the meantime, where it attracted some squatters almost immediately.  I think they like it.  They should, as the human children gave me puppy-dog eyes until I caved and agreed to buy it.  (Butter had nothing to do with the purchase, but she spent the most time of anyone on it today.)

Beta Goes Rock Climbing

Way back at Christmas, Meghan came up with a most appropriate gift for Beta: time at the local rock climbing gym.

We didn’t use it right away because we were out of the country, and then something always seemed to come up or we just weren’t thinking about it, until this past week.  I remembered about the rock gym, Meghan arranged a time, and this morning (Mother’s Day to boot) we showed up for the first of five sessions.

A rock climbing gym, in case you’ve never been, is a series of walls with a random assortment of hand-holds embedded into the surface.  It’s meant to simulate rock climbing enough to help you build strength and skill.

rock wall climbing
Beta nearing the top of a difficult ascent

You wear a harness and clip onto a rope.  Some faces have auto-belays, some have ropes slung and wrapped over a bar above the face (pulley-style) so a partner eases you down.  The ‘cave’ wall has no ropes, as the entire face is inverted.  It has a very thick pad to land on instead.

We booked two hours, and Beta made it through impressive one and a half hours of it.  By the end she had “spaghetti arms,” but she was talking about going back before we were even back in the car.  Score one for mom!

Camping @ Hammonasset

Our southern friends from Connecticut invited us to go camping at Hammonasset Beach State Park with them.  They go every year as a big party, with family and friends.

I only recently found out that this is a thing; our neighbors/friends from across the street go up to a campsite in New Hampshire every year to meet with other friends, some of whom they only know from camping.

tent
Our tent [click to see more of our campsite]
This was our first time going camping as a family, ever.  I’ve gone deep-woods camping by myself. (No facilities, no roads, no people, no nothing — I’ve never smelled worse than three nights of that.)  Meghan had been camping at Pennsic and Gulf Wars during college.  (She has stories that amaze.)  Beta has been overnight camping (in cabins) as part of Girl Scouts.  We’ve all been “camping” in the backyard.  This trip was a first for being away from home and trucking everything we would need.

Day 1

We arrived mid-afternoon and immediately set to pitching our tent, figuring that there could be nothing worse than setting up a tent in the dark when you’re exhausted.  Though the tent was new and this was our first time, it went up pretty quickly and cleanly.

Jones's and Gailey's
Jones’s and Gaileys. The Gailey’s custom campaign tent is in the background; behind are a couple of Hobie Cats that we sailed the next day.

Our friends provided dinner: our traditional Friday night get-together victuals, spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread, only on a Monday.  Being experienced campers with a lot more room to pack stuff, they graciously offered to provide dinner for the two nights we were there.  After dinner there were s’mores around a communal campfire, where we got to meet the rest of the party — more Gaileys and some family friends.

There were kids of all ages, including a few that were right around Alpha and Beta’s ages.  They played boffer swords until dark, then convinced a couple of us adults to play manhunt.

We didn’t tuck into bed until about 10 pm.  As the kids washed up some of us gathered around to chat and stargaze, and we were able to point out some satellites going by.  The other adults hadn’t known that you could see them so easily.  Schwing!

Sleep, for a variety of reasons, was somewhat elusive the first night, except for Alpha who can sleep through pretty much anything.

Day 2

We started the day with pancakes, eggs, and bacon.  The Gaileys possess a propane-fired flattop grill which made cooking a breeze.

sailing away
Quinn and Sam, sailing to Tahiti

Sam wanted to get the two Hobie Cats they brought along into the water.  We got to the beach and set to rigging them, then took ourselves and the kids out for some sails.

We were at the beach for about four hours, and as a group we only got slightly burned — I had planned ahead and coaxed the girls into going to the beach with me for a week leading up to the trip.  Meghan got a bit burned across the shoulders, and oddly enough Mu (the junior Gailey) got sunburned on the tops of his feet.

After packing the boats back onto their trailer, we headed back to camp (with a detour into town to get aloe) in order to make dinner.  Second night was a communal pot luck, with hot dogs, hamburgers, and a bunch of sides.  We got to know the other campers in the party and found that we have a lot in common.

rainbow
A passing shower gave us a rainbow… over the campsite bathrooms.

The rain, which had been holding off all day, finally came in the form of a few brief showers and a rumble of thunder.  I checked the weather radar back home and, wouldn’t you know it, heavy storms were moving through our town.  (I love thunderstorms but seem to have a repelling effect on them.  Even the strongest storms peter out as they reach our area.)

We took the opportunity to coax the girls into bed a bit earlier, though sleep was still hard to find the second night.  Besides possibly being over-tired, the temperature dropped to nearly 50° F so everyone (except me) was cold despite blankets.

Day 3

We all got up early to a beautiful morning.  Meghan and Joanne took a walk back out to the beach to look for some bald eagles we had noticed the day before.

Checkout is 12 pm, and we planned to swing through Noank on the way home to see the folks, so we packed up the campsite right after breakfast (more bacon, eggs, and pancakes, plus sausages) and hung out with the Gaileys until it was time to go.

We bid adieu and headed out right at noon, spent a few hours having lunch and visiting with Mom and Dad Jones, plus Katie Jones and Eta (my niece).  We made it home just in time to get Butter out of doggie daycare.

Alpha and Beta in the Land of Rat

Friday-Sunday: The Planning

The Friday before February vacation, Meghan and I meet up for lunch and she drops a bombshell: “what if we take the girls to Disney next week?”

Last minute scheduling aside, this presents some very large hurdles: cost, PTO requests and balances, and arranging transportation.  We kind of, sort of had the money but I had earmarked it for other things.  I don’t get a lot of time off in my new job, and I’m husbanding what I do get for something we’re planning towards the end of the year — and we’re normally expected to schedule PTO in advance.  Last minute plane tickets tend to be expensive, crappy flights.

gecko camoflaged by mulch
If look carefully, you’ll notice that there are geckos everywhere around Disney. This one is particularly well-suited to mulch. (click to expand)

Meghan wanted to do this, I was on the fence, so we compromised and decided to go.  Meghan is vivacious, I’m the responsible one.  A decent life lies somewhere in between, and I’ve learned over time to let go a little while still reigning her in enough that we don’t meet financial doom.  It did mean that I would be working on this vacation.  I’m fortunate to have a job that only needs a laptop and an internet connection, and an accommodating boss.

The most important decision we made was to keep it a secret from the kids.  We had to make all the arrangements, prepare for the trip, and talk about it all weekend without letting them catch on — no small feat.  Oh, and we had already planned to see some friends in Connecticut on Saturday.

We had to come up with a bunch of cover stories.  Beta needed new shorts, and we can’t buy them without her trying them on.  We had to get the dog to boarding before Monday without arousing suspicion, since we needed to be at the airport before 6 am.  We needed to get the kids showered and in bed a little early, even though Monday’s a vacation day.

The final cover story: why we’re getting up before 5 am, which we had to provide the night before so the kids wouldn’t worry when we woke them, but something that wouldn’t make them too excited to sleep.

Monday: Getting There

4:30 am: Mom and Dad rise and shine!
4:50 am: kids roll out of bed and stumble downstairs
5:00 am: in the car
5:20 am: arrive at the airport long-term parking garage
5:30 am: shuttle drops us off at the airport
5:31 am: Alpha asks “why are we at the airport?”
5:33 am: security line, and we can’t keep the secret anymore
6:20 am: take off!

Our flight to Orlando had a long layover and transfer in Detroit.  Both legs were packed solid.  There was a class trip going to Disney that got on the plane in Detroit.

During the layover I got some real work done, while Meghan and the girls got some lunch and amused themselves.

3:45 pm: land in Orlando
4:15 pm: arrange some ground transportation

Orlando airport is huge.  It has monorails to move passengers between terminals and the main building, but each terminal is pretty big in it’s own right.  They’re also building another terminal right now.

We discovered that our on-property hotel of choice, The Swan, is not owned and operated by Disney and does not come with the typical benefits like a free bus ride between the airport and the hotel.

We secured a taxi driven by a guy named Victor, who hails from NYC.  Our ride was very entertaining, as he got more comfortable his vernacular got very… colorful¹ but his stories and running commentary were among the best from a taxi that I’ve ever had.

4:45 pm: check into The Swan
5:00 pm: take a shuttle to Disney Springs to get dinner

Beta and living statue
The living statue would make you think she would stay still, and would then do something surprising (like put her hand on your shoulder or lift your bag out of your hands) then turn back into a statue.

Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, is basically a mall with shops and restaurants dotted throughout.  There aren’t any rides, so it doesn’t require a park pass.  After looking around a bit and engaging in strong negotiations over who wanted what, we picked The Landing because it offered food that everyone would like while dining on a dock over the water.

To be honest, Disney Springs isn’t quite as much fun as it used to be.  The stores aren’t unique anymore — they’re the same as any mall.  The Landing was also a little disappointing, with fine-dining prices but takeout-quality food.  We refused to let it get us down, though, and watched a beautiful sunset from our table.

7:00 pm: head back to the room
7:30 pm: Beta goes swimming in the hotel pool
8:30 pm: bedtime for everyone

Tuesday: Animal Kingdom

Morning dawned clear, bright, and warm.  After a buffest breakfast at the hotel we went our separate ways: Meghan, Alpha, and Beta to Animal Kingdom and I back to our room to work for the day.

At lunch I went exploring to see what was around the hotel and found a beach, playground, and much larger pool complex with a water slide, two hot tubs, and a waterfall/grotto.

About the same time I was wrapping up work, everyone else came back to rest up a bit.  Beta wanted to swim a bit, Alpha did not, so Beta, Meghan, and I suited up and walked down to the pool.  Alpha stayed behind to charge her introvert batteries.

We played at the big pool for over an hour, until we started getting hungry.  We decided to go back to the Animal Kingdom to get dinner, try a few more rides, and watch the light show.

After a light dinner at one of the short-order restaurants we headed over to “the Himalayas” to try out a ride that Alpha wanted to see called Expedition Everest.  It’s a roller-coaster that is partially inside the “mountain” (so it’s pitch black, like Space Mountain) and rolls backwards for part of the ride.  Very intense, very fun, especially after dark.

The girls also convinced me to take two cruises on the Kali River Rapids.  I managed to stay merely damp after the first pass, but I was completely soaked after the second.

We went back to the hotel after that.  The light show was wrapping up and we wanted to beat the crowds back to the shuttles.  It was also pretty late, after 9 pm, when we finally got upstairs.

Wednesday: Epcot

This was a rainy day.  This was also a tricky day, activity-wise, because Meghan was only able to take half the day off and had to work during the afternoon.  We had breakfast at the hotel again, and I headed upstairs while the rest of the family went over to Epcot for a little while.

Everyone was back in the room at noon, as the drizzle started outside.  I knocked off work a little early (hooray for getting my crap done!) and took Beta over to the hotel’s game room while Alpha recharged her introvert batteries again.

About 2pm we decided that we wanted to go (back) to Epcot – me, Alpha, and Beta.  Meghan was still working but had arranged reservations at the Garden Grill at 4:45.  It’s Meghan’s favorite restaurant in Disney.

The rain remained light and drizzley while the girls and I toured the World Showcase in Epcot.  We stopped in a few of the “countries” along the way, from France (where the ferry dropped us off) and counter-clockwise around through China, which is almost exactly opposite.

While we poked around a shop in China the rain picked up, then picked up some more, so we stayed inside and waited for it to slow up — the clock was ticking and we had a date with Meghan in an hour.  I refused to pay $9 per poncho.

A little after 4 pm the rain appeared to lighten up so we made a break for it.  We got out of China and were in front of Norway, the next country over, when the skies opened up into a torrential downpour.  We were soaked to the bone in seconds, before we could even dart under an overhang.  So much for being dry at dinner.

We squished our way up to The Land in time for our reservation inside, a couple of minutes late but sooner than Meghan.  The rain not only stopped after soaking us, but the sun popped out before we arrived at the restaurant.

After dinner we took the slow ride that goes around the restaurant, and headed out to enjoy the rest of Epcot.  We went over to the ride in Mission: Space (not to be confused with Spaceship Earth, a.k.a. the golf ball) which is a pretty cool G-force type ride.

The rain continued to come and go so we wound up buying a couple of ponchos and an umbrella for the walk home.  This was a fortunate decision on Meghan’s part because the rain came back in earnest while we walked back to the ferry.

Thursday: Boardwalk, DVC, and Heading Home

Our last day, but a late flight (9 pm) so we had time to have some more fun.  I arranged with my boss to put off work until late in the day, since there were no meetings scheduled.  Meghan had to work in the morning and doesn’t have flexible scheduling.

kids at the beach
Alpha and Beta on the beach. Across the water is the Boardwalk.

We were a little disappointed with the Swan overall² so we decamped for the Boardwalk, just next door (and a Disney resort) with shops and things to do.  I took the girls out to play and walk around while Meghan sat in the lobby with our bags.  We discovered that Epcot is just a short walk away.

After making a circuit around the “harbor” it was lunch time.  Alpha wanted to read but Beta and I were still a bit restless.  We headed down the walking path towards Hollywood Studios.  Not to go into the park, just to see where the path goes and look for alligators.  (We didn’t see any.)

Even after all that we had a few hours before we needed to get to the airport so I wandered into the DVC office to gather some information.  Meghan and I have talked about buying back into the vacation club for about a year, as changing fortunes have allowed us to travel and vacation more frequently and the DVC can actually be viewed as a money-saving way to travel.  As the agent brought our information back up we discovered that Meghan had been making inquiries while she was at Epcot the day before.  There was an open house at another resort where we could get all of the information, so game on: I judged that we were both ready to plunge back in, and got us a ride to the open house.

beta posing on swing
Beta posing for the camera as she swings

This was late in the day, getting close to the time we should really start heading to the airport, so we had to hew to a tight schedule with the sales guys.  We arranged it perfectly, though, and got back to our starting point in time to meet Victor (remember Victor the taxi driver? we liked him so much we called him back for our pick-up³) at our pre-arranged pick-up time.

Our flight out was pretty uneventful.  We took off on-time at 8:45 pm and landed at 11:30 pm, a bit of turbulence in between.  The kids stayed awake, I worked for a bit, Meghan napped (a first for her on a plane!).  We rolled back into our driveway at half-past midnight.

All in all, a success!

Footnotes

1: We don’t worry much about letting our kids hear profanity.  We have taught them some simple lessons: profanity is what you say when you don’t have the vocabulary to express yourself; profanity doesn’t make you cool, and certain people will judge you poorly when you use it; profanity is just words.  Moreover, making a big deal about “bad words” just increases the taboo-ness of them, which makes them more desirable. Return

2: Our time at the Swan ranged from merely average to disappointing.  The room was of average quality, but we’ve stayed in downtown Manhattan for the less per night with more included as part of the nightly fee.  Some of the disappointment was due to poor expectations: we thought that it was a Disney resort with same benefits like ground transportation from the airport included; some disappointment was because they nickel-and-dimed us to death (e.g. a $25-per-night “resort fee” to cover the complimentary internet access and pool, which we only got partially refunded). Return

3: Victor’s cell phone is 321-945-1003, call a few hours ahead to arrange a ride with him (dispatch will only send the next available).  His voicemail box was full but he responded promptly to our texts.  He seemed to genuinely appreciate having a guaranteed fare.  There are cheaper methods to get in and out of the airport if you’re by yourself, but none quite so hilarious. Return

NYE 2016

Date: Evening of December 31, 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Event: New Year’s Eve

baba and alpha
Baba and Alpha, watching the carousel

We rang in the New Year in traditional style: a night out in Boston.  This year we had the very good fortune to be joined by Baba (Meghan’s mother, the girls’ grandmother).

Most years we take a train into the city to avoid issues with ‘amateur night’ drivers, but not this year. Being a Saturday, the commuter rail only runs a limited schedule; there are extra trains but not until later in the evening.

We reserved parking right next to the Commons (Parking Panda to the rescue!) but planned to start the night at Quincy Market.  I dropped the rest of the family off there and ran downtown to park the car.  I made the short walk back to meet with everyone again in about fifteen minutes.

The Black RoseWe shopped a bit before getting an excellent early dinner at The Black Rose.  We’ve been there several times; despite it’s location right next to Quincy Market it doesn’t have the air of a tourist trap.  It does have excellent Guinness on tap, though!

Let me back up a few days before I present the next photo: both girls have had braces on their teeth for a long while, until this past week.  Beta will be getting a second round when she gets a little older, but for now they both have brilliant smiles.

Alpha Mom and Beta
Alpha, Mom, and Beta, dinner at the Black Rose in Boston

Dinner was followed by a little more window-shopping, a brief stop for Blink, the Greenway Carousel, and dessert in the market.

We walked from Quincy Market to Boston Common, about a mile.  We stopped for hot chocolate and hot apple cider across the street at The Thinking Cup Cafe.  Both were very good.

Finally, at 7 pm: fireworks.

fireworks
NYE 2016 Fireworks – my phone’s camera cannot do them justice, but they were right over our heads

After the fireworks, our decision to park across the street paid off.  We picked up the car and made it out of the city before the rest of the traffic.

Baba slept over our house to avoid amateur night traffic, rain – the threat of rain made good shortly after we got home – and for a promise of waffles in the morning.  Meghan and her mom stayed up to watch a show, Hinterland, but everyone was asleep well before midnight.