Posted by & filed under discovery, vacation.

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Can Austin, Texas really be the place I have gone to the most?

I’ve been thinking about this question all week, where have I gone the most? Could it really be Austin, Texas?

Greg here, well, actually not here where you are, I’m currently down in Austin Texas for the SXSW Interactive Festival. This is my sixth time attending this five-day conference, and if you throw in a quick two-day trip to Austin as well, that’s going to tally 32 days in Austin in the past seven years, that’s over a month of my life spent here.

And it got me wondering, if in that short time period it has rapidly ascended to be the place I have gone the most. My definition of “gone” in this context filters out any place I was have called home or work. So goodbye Hockessin, Newark, New Castle and Wilmington DE, State College PA, Orlando FL, Alexandria VA and Columbia and Rockville MD.

So what remains? Without far more research that I am willing to put in, I cannot come up with a means to get accurate numbers, so I’m going to make a lot of solid guesses here and say I think the top five would be:

5) Lawreneville, Georgia
~2-3 weeks
Numerous trips to visit family near Atlanta

4) Fenwick Island, Delaware
~4 weeks 
Multiple week long trips

3) Austin, Texas
~5 weeks  
Mostly SXSW Festivals

2) London England
~6 weeks
Primarily a study abroad program in college

1) Ocean City, Maryland
~3-4 months
This where our family beach house was growing up, lots of one week or smaller trips

And depending how strict I feel like being, I could argue that my family had a secondary residency in Ocean City and I was being put up by the University in London, so they would not qualify, and that would make Austin, TX my #1 go-to destination. Wow.

How about you? Eliminating the places you’ve lived and worked, what is the place you have gone to the most? Go ahead your answer in the comments.

Posted by & filed under awesome, family, vacation.

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Kaylee meets Cinderella

What a fun trip to Disney World we had this past week. There were memories made there that will last a lifetime.

We went to Orlando to get away from the cold, to visit my family, and for Selena and my step-mom Michelle to wear tutus and tiaras and run 13.1 miles in the Disney Princess Half-Marathon.

Beyond the race, we knew Selena and I wanted to see the new Harry Potter land in Universal, so we went there the following day. It was brilliantly done, well worth checking out, but maybe not so much with kids – at least little kids like Kaylee.

Theme parks are just not make for two-year olds. There was very little for Kaylee to do in Harry Potter world, and not even that much in the kid-oriented Dr. Seuss landing either. At age two, she is too young to ride many rides beyond the carousel, she doesn’t have the focus to enjoy the shows, and is a picky eater (if there really is any good food to dine on in the theme parks). So what can she do?

She can meet the characters.

I worked at Disney’s Character Breakfast many years ago as Goofy and remember how many kids cried when I came to their table. The main characters are big, way bigger than expected, and that can be scary. To no surprise, when I took Kaylee to see Mickey Mouse she wouldn’t go near him and is bawling and clutching me tightly in all the pictures.

But there are more characters than just Mickey and Goofy and friends. There are characters perfectly suited to a two-year old little girl – the Princesses.

Ever since dressing up as Belle for Halloween this past year, Kaylee has taken a great interest in the Disney princesses. We read stories of them almost every night and she knows them all by name and by color and by silhouette even.

When I found the FastPass to meet the Disney Princesses I signed us up. When Selena and I took the girls into that room where Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel were waiting, Kaylee’s eyes lit up. Unlike Mickey, these characters look normal and can talk and they did, inviting our little princess (she was again wearing her Belle outfit) over to chat and take photos. Kaylee warmed up quickly, was receptive and engaging and by the end of the meet and greet was leaping, literally leaping, on her way to the exit.

Great timing allowed us to go straight from that magical moment to meet back up with my family holding a fantastic spot right as the afternoon parade was starting to come by. In the parade Kaylee was able to enjoy Mickey and Minne and friends from a safer distance, as well see the favorite Princesses she hadn’t seen yet like Ariel, Snow White and of course Belle.

A week later, Kaylee is still talking about how she met the Princesses. It saddens me to think she won’t remember this forever. I don’t think it’s possible – she’s two. I don’t think anyone can remember moments from when they were two.

But their parents can.

And that is what I mean by memories were made that will last a lifetime.  Selena and I can and will treasure those moments that we saw our little toddler go from reserved to beaming as she discovered so much joy in her first real Disney experience.

Here’s a bunch of photos of the trip. Enjoy!

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Selena trying Butterbeer in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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Great shirts from Aunt Katie outside of Hogwarts. Kaylee’s sets the Marauder’s Map in motion with “I solumnly Swear that I am up to no Good” and Ginelle’s breaks the spell with “Mischief Managed”

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The family at the rain-soaked castle in the heart of the Magic Kingdom

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It is not actually Kaylee’s “First Visit” so she gave the button to her doll.

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Selena got in trouble for riding double on this carousel in Seuss Landing in Universal. It’s a story worthy of it’s own blog post.

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Pop-pop getting a little time with his baby granddaughter

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The running princesses, complete with tutus and their metals for completing the 13.1 mile run.

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My dad and my daughters posing. Kaylee is already showing signs of being a ham.

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Ginelle’s very first amusement park ride, in the bjorn, with her mom, on the carousel in Fantasyland.

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Helping the excited princess down the steps after watching the parade.

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Kaylee waving to her favorite princess Belle during the Disney parade.

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Kaylee posing after meeting with Disney princess Rapunzel

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Kaylee meeting with Disney princess Aurora (better known as Sleeping Beauty)

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Once more, cause this was the moment the magic started, when Kaylee met her first princess – Cinderella.

Update: Answering Jeff’s comment, here’s a great one of Selena and I with he and Katie in Hogsmeade.

With Jeff and Katie in Three Broomsticks pub in Hogsmeade, Harry Potter Land.,

Oh, and bonus – because Ginelle was too young to appreciate any of this trip, we’ll be able to have this same wonderful experience of seeing our little girl discover the magic of Disney all over again in just a few years. I can’t wait.

Posted by & filed under holiday.

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Look at those kids in that picture. They are so young. That was taken in March of 1999 and is the earliest picture I can find of Selena and I.

Before we picked up a Wedding Anniversary (October 6th) this was the day we celebrated – March 5th. Today, according to Selena, is the anniversary of our first date in 1999, now fourteen years ago. We went out to an Italian restaurant, La Casa Pasta just outside our college town in Newark, DE and then went to a movie – Shakespeare in Love.

Like so many things over the years including the direction of the silverware drawer should face and whether Tom Hanks is a good actor, this is a point of ongoing contention for Selena and I, because I still believe that the actual first date was three days earlier, on March 2nd, when we went for coffee at Brewed Awakenings. Selena’s argument is that she didn’t actually know that was a date at the time, so it doesn’t really count.

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Taking the Girls to Walt Disney World

Taking the Girls to Walt Disney World

We’ll be taking the girls in the coming weeks. At age nine months, this will be Ginelle’s first to the Happiest Place on Earth. This will not be Kaylee’s first trip. She actually, at age two, has already been to Disney World and Disneyland. We make a day trip to Anaheim to Disneyland and California Adventure while out in Los Angeles for my brother’s wedding in the summer of 2011 (Kaylee was 15 months old) and then three months later my Dad watched her in Orlando while Selena and I continued south to the Florida Keys for our friends Rachel and Ben’s wedding at Coconut Cove. Part of the babysitting for my Dad was an afternoon in the Magic Kingdom.

Despite those multiple trips, since she was so young, I don’t think Kaylee has any recollection of experiencing the Disney Parks before, so this is somewhat of a clean slate. We probably have one or two days tops for her first real immersion into Disney World. She is a big fan of Minnie Mouse and the Princesses – most notably Belle and Arial.

Any recommendations? What is the best way for a two-year old to experience Disney World. What will be the most magical, the most memorable (making a great leap of an assumption that she’ll retain any memories from such an early age).

Thoughts, suggestions?

 

Posted by & filed under holiday.

Celebraitng President's Day with The West Wing

Celebraitng President’s Day with The West Wing

Happy President’s Day! With both day cares closed, I am probably spending the holiday watching the girls but if time and toddlers allow, I may pop The West Wing on Netflix instant streaming and celebrate the best of the best fictional Presidents – Josiah Bartlett

[Mental note  – Write a blog post about the Mount Rushmore of Fictional Presidents]

My friend Lauren, in planning a West Wing marathon today, asked via Facebook what episodes to watch. My brother Jeff and I started brainstorming, and following that discussion this is the top five list I’ve come up with if you have the time and inclination to spend today in The West Wing.

  1. In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Season 2, Eps 1 & 2)
    This is the best place to start (or if you are really die-hard, go back to the finale of season one – What Kind of Day it Has Been and start there). This is the two-parter right after the assignation attempt set mostly in flashbacks where you see how the group all came together. In my opinion, season one got the ball rolling, and you watched the cast and writing get better, but it really broke through to the next level in Rosslyn.
  2. Noel (Season 2, Ep 10)
    This episode is one of my favorites. Josh has to talk with a psychiatrist to deal with the trauma of the assignation attempt ten weeks earlier. This script could be it’s own stand alone two-man play, but it is just another episode of The West Wing – a damn good one that vaulted Josh to the front of the pack of the President’s Men you root for. I tried to get Selena to watch The West Wing a while back and started her at the beginning. In retrospect, I think I should have shown here Two Gunmen and Noel and I think she would have been hooked and would have gone back to the beginning voluntarily to start from the beginning and work her way back.

    [This is where Selena would interject and put in her nomination for Twenty-Five (Season 4, Ep 22), the episode where the President’s daughter gets kidnapped, but that’s only because it’s the one she remembers. She’s only seen about six episodes in total, and within those six, through dumb luck, she’s seen Twenty-Five three times. Since I do like that episode – and since due to it, I have lasting knowledge of an obscure Constitutional Amendment – I’ll note it here but it doesn’t make the top five.]

  3. Two Cathedrals (Season 2, Ep 22)
    This finale of the second season is when the show was firing on all cylinders, although to really appreciate it, you do have to go back one episode and watch 18th and Potomac. The President is a whirlwind of emotions dealing with personal tragedy and professional conflict struggling to decide to run for a second term. It’s gripping, and moving and just one of the best.
  4. Posse Comitatus (Season 3, Ep 22)
    When Jeff and I were discussing earlier, he was pushing for the Season 3 opener Manchester, where the Bartlett re-election campaign kicks off, but I think the stronger candidate from that season (and there are a lot of good ones, it’s one of the better seasons) is the finale, at the Opera in NYC. There is the heartbreaking love story gone wrong with CJ which sets up the great line from Bartlett to opponent Ritchie “In the future, if you’re wondering: ‘Crime. Boy, I don’t know,’ is when I decided to kick your ass.”
  5. 20 Hours in America (Season 4, Ep 1)
    The motorcade leaves Josh, Toby and Donna behind and then have to fend for themselves in middle America, Sam has to fill in and the President gives the “Streets of Heaven” speech, for  my money, the most moving speech of the whole extremely well written series. I found the clip of that speech and showed Selena a day or so after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut and it brought tears (not saying from whom… okay, both of us).

That’s the list. I recognize it doesn’t touch the Santos story, which I love, but I couldn’t parse out individual episodes that stand out above the rest from those years.

Give me your feedback. What did I miss? What would you replace? And let me know if you do actually watch and West Wing to celebrate your President’s Day.

 

 

Posted by & filed under holiday.

A Valentine's Card from Kaylee

A Valentine’s Card from Kaylee

I came home late last night after a long and tedious day at work to find Kaylee standing at the top of the steps. She should have been in bed and asleep by this point, but she waited up. She had something she wanted to share, that couldn’t wait. And when I went up the stairs to meet her, she said “Happy Valentine’s Day Daddy, I made you this. I love you.” and handed me the card pictured above. I melted. Kaylee beamed. I saw Selena behind her a ways holding back her emotion at how proud she was of our little girl.

Posted by & filed under chinese, holiday.

A delicious Chinese New Year celebration

A delicious Chinese New Year celebration

This past weekend was Chinese New Year. I was sad to see this year end, because it was my year – the Year of the Dragon. I’ve always thought I had some pretty good fortune by the Chinese calendar, because dragons are freaking awesome, especially when some of the other choices are a rabbit or a rooster or a pig.

My baby girl Ginelle was born in this year of the Dragon. Because the Chinese calendar cycles only every 12 years, by the time our year comes around again, Ginelle will likely be her own form of terrifying fire-breathing menace – she’ll be practically a teenager.

To usher in the Year of the Snake, we had a feast (pictured above) with the extended Kang family (pictured below) on Saturday night, then watched the festivities on Chinese television including a special appearance of Celine Dion in Beijing singing traditional Chinese songs in Manderin. My understanding is she was not particularly good.

Part of Chinese New Year tradition, as I understand it, is to give the kids red envelopes full of cash. So after Kaylee collected her envelopes on Saturday night, we decided to use this as a teaching opportunity. On Sunday we took Kaylee to the toy store and taught her how she can buy things with money. She bought a Minnie Mouse book.

She seems to always remember who the books were from “this one is from Grandma”, “This one is from Aunt Katie”, so she found it special when I asked who is the Minnie Mouse book from she could say “Me! I bought it with my monies.”

 

The extended Kang family on Chinese New Year

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postoffice

About seven years ago I had an important proposal I needed to get in the mail the very day Selena and I were visiting Williamsburg, VA.

If you’ve never been to Williamsburg, it is like the town that time forgot. Everything is as it was 200+ years ago, and there are people in costume miling about to complete the picture of what it was like to live in a colonial town long long ago.

When we arrived, I grabbed a map (this is before either of us had a smart phone or GPS) and saw there was a post office in town. Thank goodness.  I told Selena we had to put off all the sight-seeing of the old colonial stuff. I needed to go there first to send out the proposal.

As we walked in the direction of the post office, I noticed we were passing a lot of the sight-seeing old colonial town anyway. Great, I thought, I’m not missing the touristy stuff focusing on getting to the post office. As we walked down the path past the miller and shoemaker and weaver, Selena started to see this coming but I was so blinded by the urgency of getting this package in the mail that I didn’t realize til we arrived. I looked down at the map, this was the spot. I looked closer at the map, this was a tourist map. And in front of me was the Ye Old Colonial Post Office fully equipped with feather pens and wrapping string. I brought my urgent package to the post office that time forgot (and that of course was not a real functioning post office).

On the way back to the car to find an actual post office, Selena pointed out all the other things I could do while in Williamsburg. “Didn’t you say you wanted a new Phillies baseball cap? The haberdashery is right over there.”

To this day, that is above all others, the memory we both have of visiting Williamsburg, Virginia.

Posted by & filed under awesome, home.

We went over these individual locations a couple weeks earlier. When we were at the giant floor map again and I asked and Kaylee, I was really stunned that she remembered all the locations perfectly, so  I had her do it again, this time recording it all.

The part I am most proud of is that she is making connections between what she’s memorized (the waterfall is right here) with what she knows (a waterfall goes down like this and over the rocks). While erroneous in this specific context but I love that’s she’s making those associations already. It’s remarkable to watch how she’s learning.

Posted by & filed under tivo.

How I Met Your Mother is renewed for a ninth season.

How I Met Your Mother is renewed for a ninth season.

News came out recently this past week that CBS has come to an agreement with the cast and show creators and How I Met Your Mother will be re-upped for a ninth and final season. Selena and I came late to this show, but caught up on DVD quickly and have been watching it faithfully ever since. It’s one of our favorite comedies. It’s amazing that it will have been with us for almost a decade.

What’s more amazing is that based the premise of the show, this is all one long narrative by Ted (strangely played by Bob Saget in the future) to his two kids. I have to imagine the kids, who have the patience of a saint must at this point be thinking:

This is the longest, most rambling story ever. So far the real takeaway is that Dad and his friends had a lot of adventures and conquests before he met Mom that had nothing to do with actually meeting Mom.  Oh, and Dad has never gotten over Aunt Robin. Really awkward story, Dad. Thanks for sharing.