October 30, 2011

Smelling the Sweet Smell of Success

My parents decided, when most people try to cruise easily toward retirement, to follow my dad's dream of owning a business in the food industry.  When I was a kid, everyone who ate his pizza told him that he should open a pizzeria.  He grew up in Chicago, where really good pizzerias like Lido's, Pizzeria Uno/Dues (the ones in downtown Chicago, not the franchises), and Geno's are a dime a dozen.  When we moved to St. Louis, it was apparent that we would have to make our own pizza, since, in our decidedly unhumble opinion, Pizza Hut was the best pizza St. Louis offered, though that was over twenty years ago and the situation may have changed.  He worked for years trying out different crust recipes until he found a winner in the Foccacia Romana recipe in "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks the Three Ancient Cuisines."  Then he played around with sauces and different Italian sausages.  My mom is a baker extraordinaire, coming from a long line of excellent women bakers.  It is no wonder I had problems with weight over the years.  For Christmas, she would bake at least five different butter cookie recipes from my great grandmother, GiGi's, recipe book, sometimes doubling them.  One year, at her peak, she produced enough Christmas cookies to last us until February, though I might be exaggerating slightly.

Over five years ago, he and my mom decided to pull up their temporary stakes in Arizona to move to Memphis and follow his dream of making delectable desserts.  They chose Memphis because my brother was working there as a chef and could help them out and becuase there weren't a lot of bakeries that offered what they envisioned.  And just as he worked for years on perfecting the pizza, my dad has worked throughout the start of his business, trying different recipes, making little modifications here and there to produce cakes that are 100% lusciously decadent.  They now have six staple cakes—caramel, carrot, chocolate, coconut, red velvet and strawberry.  They also make pumpkin cakes for the holidays.  They don't use mere buttercreme frosting, but add cream cheese for extra richness.  The strawberry cake has four layers, with two of them separated by homemade strawberry filling.  Their chocolate cake satisfies the most ardent chocoholic junkie's desires.  In fact, all the cakes have dense flavors without being overpowering, or treacly.  They are not flamboyant cakes, but aesthetically pleasing in a simple way.  They currently sell them to deli's, restaurants, coffee houses and upscale marketplaces.  With these six cakes and some "momma's cookin' cakes" like Gooey Butter Cake and Mississippi Mud brownies, their business has grown steadily over the past three years.  Each month for the past nine months they have broken sales records.  And they are starting into their prime season, when everyone is out a lot getting ready for Christmas. 

I had that in mind when I planned to visit them in the middle of October.  The last time I saw anyone was last Thanksgiving because running your own shop before sales take off and require outside help does not allow for many vacations.  I also planned it around my SIL's fall break schedule.  However, a series of events created a lot of work for my folks the week I was there.  I actually had fun hanging out in the bakery for two mornings, helping the pitiful little bit that I could.  I am pretty sure my kids enjoyed watching movies on the iPad in their office while I was helping there, though it wasn't exactly what we had planned when we traveled to see them.  I felt especially honored (and nervous) when my dad allowed me to spread the first coat on the cakes.  The kids helped frost some cupcakes that were intended to be brought home as taste samples and got to see how the cakes and frostings were made.  To be sure, I was disappointed that I wasn't able to hang out and relax with them as much as I thought I would and that they weren't able to spend as much time with their grand kids, but I also know that in addition to being a dream, this business is their livelihood and their retirement plan.  And we worked it out that, in the future, we would make tenative plans for all non-Thanksgiving visits, to be postponed if extra work unexpectedly came up that would prevent them from being able to spend time with their grandkids.  We are currently planning to celebrate the sesquecentennial celebration of the battle of Shiloh in April.

If you are ever in Memphis, for whatever reason, or you live there, when you eat out, ask if they offer cakes by All American Sweets for dessert.  If they do, be sure to try them.  But beware, they are addicting.

October 26, 2011

Walking in Memphis

Two Saturdays ago, the kids and I started our trip that went over the mountains and several rivers, through six states and the woods to Grandmother's (and Grandfather's) house. Afternoons are weird times to start a big journey, but one daughter and I had a fiber arts class in the late morning and one son and my husband wouldn't get back from his first cub scout campout until the early afternoon. My plan was to drive from the Phoenix area to Albuquerque, NM on the first half day, travel to Little Rock, AR the second day and spend a leisurely two hours on the road the third day to get to our destination in the Memphis area. It was crazy, I know. I wouldn't have done it if my kids weren't veteran travelers and able to be amused by drawing, listening to audiotapes and watching movies. And as an added bonus, my oldest is now able to ride "shotgun", which was an even greater help.

 Part of the plan was to stop at a park the second day and have a picnic lunch in Amarillo to get some sunshine and let the kids work out some wiggles so that they would go to sleep easily. The problem with choosing a park, however, without knowing the area, is that it may not be in the best area. In this case, the area surrounding the park looked okay, though we passed through an iffy area to get to it. Just as we were sitting down to each lunch with a crowd of people that I thought were just enjoying a warm Sunday in the park, one of them came up to me and asked if I was planning on eating the free food handed out at 5 p.m. that day. I was still on mountain standard time in my car and told him we were eating lunch. He looked confused and one child wanted to eat closer to the play area to escape the smell of cigarrettes, so we moved. It turns out that the park I had chosen was the "homeless park.". One of the guys we met was pretty nice, though after an extended conversation, I wasn't sure how intimate with reality he was.  We shared our food with him and prayed for him.  For dinner, I wasn't initially planning to stop and eat, but I felt that I really needed a break from driving if I was going to make it to Little Rock, AR, so we stopped at a Love's Gas/Subway stop outside of Oklahoma City for a quick meal.  The break definitely helped.  The kids watched a movie and settled into their chairs for some sleep until we reached our destination about12:30 local time, though it was "only" 10:30 AZ time.

The next morning, we slept in, knowing we only had two hours before reaching Memphis.  The original plan was to meet my folks down by Mud Island and take a tour of the museum and grounds.  There were two complications to this plan however, the biggest being that the Mud Island museum was closed on Mondays.  My folks also had some unexpected business with their bakery that kept them at work until the late afternoon.  So, instead, we parked at a Lee Park, on the riverside, to play for a bit.  As we prepared to take a walking tour of Memphis, an older gentleman stopped and asked me if we would pay him to wash our car windows.  I have no problem helping someone who wants to work and after two evenings of driving, our windows were pretty buggy, so I consented.  I wondered why he picked us out of the people milling about until I later realized Elz and I had shirts on with messages from Matthew 25:37-38 about helping the poor and downtrodden.  I guess that would make us pretty good "marks."  He did a great job and I gave him the rest of our fruit and some of our veggies as well as some money.

Memphis is built on a bluff, which meant we had to walk up three flights of steps to get from the river to the city.  We walked up Huling avenue to Main Street and then across to Beale.  That section of Memphis is eerie.  It does not appear to be a bad part of town because there are no bars on the windows and the streets are relatively clean and buildings look well-cared for.  However, none of the shops were open on Monday afternoon.  There were also many buildings standing empty, like a neighborhood that is either in its twilight or the dawn of experiencing renewal.  There is trolley service that runs along Main street, which the kids really wanted to try.  I figure that since we have family living there, we can try that another time.    We saw a statue of "Young Elvis" along the way to Beale. I had wanted to see Beale street ever since the song, "Walking in Memphis" became popular ("Walking in Memphis;  Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale...).  Memphis actually closes down parts of Beale street to all vehicles, the parts with the highest concentration of bars.  This is really nice in the afternoons.  I am sure it has saved a lot of lives in the evenings, too.  All along the sidewalks were little brass stars with names of early blues musicians, most of whom I was not familiar.  The kids were not interested at all in Beale street, especially when a band started to play some 60's blues in a marketplace square.  They wanted to see the ducks at Peabody Hotel.  We had read John Phillip Duck by Patricia Polacco many times, which is a fictional account of how the ducks came to be swimming in the lobby fountain.  For those of you unfamiliar with the hotel or story, ducks are trained to march in line to a fountain in the lobby of the hotel, jump in the fountain, and remain swimming all day until around 5 p.m. when they march in formation back to their home on the hotel's roof.  The lobby is opulent, filled with marble and gold, with lots of elegent sofas, tables and overstuffed chairs for hotel guests to relax after a long day of sightseeing.  However, there were also little notes on all the tables indicating that the services of the lobby were for hotel patrons only.  My kids were complaining about being hungry, since we had skipped lunch after a big, late breakfast.  I would have been glad to give them money in exchange for coming in to look at the ducks and using their restroom;  however, those little unwelcoming notes discouraged me from even trying to order anything.  We walked back to our car, taking the same route, since the kids were afraid we would get lost and drove to my parents' bakery for some snacks and a tour of the new equipment.

Even though I am not a fan of Memphis, I enjoyed our excursion enough to take another walking tour next time we are visiting family.

October 15, 2011

Living in "Olden Times"

The following discussion was instigated when my oldest daughter came down looking like she was wearing makeup.  I asked her if she borrowed my eye liner or somehow had found one somewhere to use in her stash (though I wouldn't know how because I don't buy her that stuff).  It turns out that she used a black crayon.  To her credit, it looked REALLY nice and suttle, not at all like Captain Jack's heavy hand, but I was worried that the crayon might cause problems with her eyes.  I explained it and made her wash the crayon off immediately.  I suppose I should have been thankful it wasn't permanent marker.  When she came down she asked how old she had to be before she could wear make up.  I remember wanting to wear make up when I was her age because there were girls at that age whose parents allowed them.  The other cultural influence of my teenage years was Madonna, who was trying to compete with Michael Jackson as most successful performer of the time by wearing underwear as outerwear or as little as allowed by 1980's censorship standards (search in google for "Madonna like a virgin" pictures to see what I mean if you didn't live through the 1980's).  Like all good mothers, my mom told me I had to wait until I was 16 and also set different dress standards than what the 1980's allowed, much to my chagrin at the time.
Tammy Fay Bakker

So I told her that I was 16 before I was allowed to wear makeup and my mom took me to a makeup counter to have someone show me how to apply it so that I wouldn't look like Tammy Faye (a female version of Captain Jack for those of you born after 1980).  This was her response:

"Mom, I know that you lived in the olden days when people were more modest, but this is MODERN TIMES and girls my age wear make up these days.  Why can't I be like other girls?"

October 11, 2011

Conclusion of "Too Much of a Good Thing?"

It has been several days since I wrote my blog and the offensive room is, as of Saturday, completely clean, with many thanks to my husband for helping in the final push.  He even rented rug cleaner to clean the carpet.  I took a picture on Friday after moving a bed and discovering another "mother load" of stuff to sort through.   I almost cried when I saw it because I knew it meant another 30 minutes of work.  Since it was the third piece of furniture I had moved that had stuff behind it, I also knew that I would need to move the other two pieces of furniture for a full reveal.  I also took a picture last night of the completely clean room and will print it and post it so that they know what it is supposed to look like.

We had a family meeting Friday night to discuss what had come to light and the heart issues behind the problem (root vs. fruit for those of you who speak Christianese).  The idea we wanted to plant in their minds is that, whereas people are a LOT more important than things, we need to take care of the things that God has given us because the money we get to buy the stuff comes from Him anyway.  He provides daddy's job which gives us the money to give them allowance so that they can buy things.  Everything belongs to Him and we are going to be held accountable for all the gifts He has given us.  

I need to make two clarifications from my previous post.  First of all, the children supposed to be cleaning their disaster area just simply played and talked instead of doing their work.  The stuff that was in hiding places never moved.  I originally thought that they simply moved things from one hiding place to another.  In some ways, this bit of news was a relief.  Before the meeting, Eric brought to my attention that I might have given the impression in my blog that we were going to get rid of a LOT of stuff that they hadn't put away.  Initially, that was my intent with the clothing f and toys in general.  However, I had a change of strategy late Thursday to just put the treasures and clothes in bins to be stored in our room for an undetermined period of time, simply because there were too many things that I couldn't give away and too many clothes that had been scattered in every corner.  As the number of bins started accumulating, I realized that in order to prevent my room from becoming a disaster area, I needed to do some purging and re-organizing of my own.  I picked up a book I had acquired at one time about organizing your house and read enough to be able to get my closet layout to work for us for both the short and long term.  It took about three hours to accomplish this.  I even had plenty of space to hold all of of my kids' bins of stuff.

At the family meeting Eric and I laid out the consequences of the past few days:
  • This would be the LAST time I would pick up for the children.  From now on, they stay in their room until a parental unit determines that the room is acceptably clean.  Extracurricular activities will be missed if they are not quick enough.  Bathroom breaks and time to eat will be allowed if either they decide to put off cleaning up or (shudder) a bedroom turns into another disaster, though I hope it never will.
  • The room layout will change to make it more difficult to hide things.  This has already been implemented.
  • The children who have created the problem will be responsible for only their clothes until they have spent at least a month proving that they know how to care for and treasure their clothes.
  • Other things, likes books, crafts, and treasures, will be returned slowly, to give them time to learn how to take care of them.
  • Allowance is put on hold for the offenders until they prove that they can take care of the things that  they currently have.
  • We will, as a family, spend the next month or so going through each room and organizing it. 
Here are some statistics on the results of cleaning:
  • One bag of clothes and assorted items, four games, and a few toys were given to a fundraising garage sale.  
  • One bag of clothes and three bags of "rags" went to Goodwill from my room.
  • The recycling bin was filled to capacity and a little beyond this week, though a change in pick-up schedule might have also contributed.
  • 7 bags of garbage were filled, one from my room, one from another bedroom and the rest from the  "extreme makeover" room. 
  • We found four pairs of missing scissors, two flashlights, enough crayons to fill at least a 24-piece box, roughly 20 pens and pencils and a few other "missing" items.
One bit of praise in all this is that God helped me stay calm during the whole excavation.  In the past, this hasn't always happened.  He showed me when to call someone for help and He guided Eric and I as to the appropriate punishment.  As a result, one of the offending children has become extremely light-hearted and loving in spite of the "punishment."  When asked if the change in behavior is relief at me doing all the work, relief at the "hidden things" revealed or relief that I didn't blow up at the discoveries, the answer was the last two.  This is another praise to Him, who brings everything to light and can change hearts.  

October 6, 2011

Too much of a good thing?

Do you know the first thing that my youngest son said the day before we left for Walt Disney World?  He did a victory dance because it meant that we wouldn't have to do chores and don't have to pick up while we are on vacation!  I told him that we would probably have to tidy up a bit each morning, but that is easy with only a few things.  I laughed and did a victory dance with him.  Woo hoo!  No cooking or cleaning up after the cooking.  It should have started me thinking, though. Another question had been tickling my brain for months:  How can the bedroom of one set of siblings become a disaster area with wall-to-wall clutter within thirty minutes of vacuuming it?  I mentioned a few times after hearing moans from my request to clean up their room that they probably have too much stuff and need to pare it down.

Since returning from Disney, I have discovered that the last statement was like saying that Niagara Falls is a cute, little waterfall.  On Monday, after their daily clean up/organize routine, I went and did more than a quick visual check.  I opened the closet door.  No, nothing fell on top of me, but I couldn't see two of the walls nor could I get into the closet.  Then I happened to look at the end of one bed which is not quite against wall.  It was stuffed with stuff.  I saw the same thing under the other bed.  And when I opened one child's "project bin", I found shoes, books, as well as clothes of undetermined cleanliness.  I questioned the culprits like I always do about the proper places to put clothes, both clean and dirty, books, toys, precious things.  Yes, they definitely knew where they should go.  The problem was in implementation.  I told them that there would be no video games, TV or pleasure reading (the WORST) until their room was pristine.  I gave them some garbage bags.  I started to take stuff out of the closet, just to make more room to go through stuff.  They informed me that they could handle it and that they would "surprise me."  They brought down two full garbage bags the first day.  The incident sparked an flurry of "organizational desire" in me that resulted in the games and toy closet being culled and organized, a re-thinking of our current LEGO organization strategy to eliminate using coffee cans and just dedicate two of the three-level bin shelf for LEGO pieces and the beginnings of culling clothes in everyone's closet.  The kids have spent an hour or more each day after school on their rooms to pick up the clutter.  Today, the day before we have guests come, I told the kids that anything left on the floor by 2 p.m. would be eliminated in one way or another so that we could start cleaning the downstairs.  A friend is having a garage sale fundraiser and I LOVE giving my stuff to others to help them raise money for good causes.

At 2:15 p.m., after finishing up in the other siblings' room,  I walk in the room that inspired this organizational focus.  It is STILL a disaster area, but not as much.  I send all kids outside for fresh, cool air and relaxing play and start tackling it.  I see something poking out from under the desk drawers.  I pull out twenty different things, including garments of undetermined cleanliness, garbage and at least one book.  After cleaning up that mess, I look under one bed and find the same situation, but covering the majority of the floor.   It dawns on me that they basically spent two days trying to hide stuff in different places, thinking I wouldn't look.  I stop, livid, and call a friend to talk me down so that I don't torch the place.  She prays for me, which helps tremendously and I go back to work.  I call Eric to tell him the situation and make sure he is okay with me putting a LOT of stuff into the garage sale bag.  Five minutes later, I have half of their clothes in a give away pile.  A thought starts to form in my mind.  I call Eric again and get his approval.  I grab an empty bin and start filling it with stuff on shelves that is not garbage, in desk drawers and under the bed.  If they cannot take care of their treasures, then they will be removed and stored until they learn how to take care of their most basic items--clothes.  By 3:30, I still have half a bed to excavate as well as finishing work on the closet and a few other places.  I am exhausted and thirsty and need to stop to write out some stuff to Eric and get the kids ready for John's Karate practice before leaving for my own commitment at church.  I say nothing to them, but tell the kids whose room I am giving an extreme makeover that they are not allowed in it, or even to see it.  I am realizing that the job will not be completed before I need to go and I REALLY want them to wait until I am done to see the results as well as prevent them from trying to "fix it themselves."  I grab a couple of roller-board suitcases, empty the drawers of their remaining clothes into them and have them join their other siblings.  My husband comes home, we have a quick discussion while I go off to my commitment.  Tomorrow I will finish their room and organize my closet to hold the additional bins of their stuff.

All the while as I was working in the room, I kept thinking of how much time we spend cleaning up our stuff.  The stuff we have has taken control of our lives to the point where the initial joy of the vacation for one kid is in not cleaning as opposed to the joy of going to an amusement park!  For the last two weeks, I have been spending most of my time outside of school time in getting the kids to pick up after themselves, which leaves me feeling grumpy and tyrannical and little time for recreation and rest.  I am not accusing my kids of being lazy or even from being different from their parents, but they have trouble differentiating between trash and treasure in today's throwaway society and they are overwhelmed with stuff to the point that they can't really treasure it as they should.  Even I get overwhelmed with taking care of stuff, which is only partially due to being organizationally challenged.  What is the solution?  The only thing I can think of is to significantly reduce it to manageable levels, taking a minimalist approach.  Do they really need building blocks, Kinex, Lincoln Logs and LEGOS?  Especially when they spend the majority of the time with LEGOs building shelves full of creations?  How much arts and crafts stuff should we keep?  Honestly, I don't have answers, but I feel as if we are starting on a journey that will give us more free time to enjoy each other, enjoy the blessing of our house, and maybe even change our hearts to be content with less.

October 3, 2011

Our Vacation in Walt Disney World

For two years, we saved money so that when our youngest was old enough to remember, we could visit Walt Disney World.  I have been to Disneyland in California at least two times, so I wanted to see what Walt Disney World was like.  Plus, Disneyland did not have the Hall of the Presidents.  We decided to go in September to take advantage of a flexible homeschooling schedule allowing us to be there during off-peak times, when prices are a little lower and there are fewer people.  We started our vacation in the best way--late morning on a Sunday, so that we could work all day Saturday as a family to get packed.  Just having that stress reducer was a wonderful way to keep the previous week from being too stressful trying to do school, clean and pack.  So we left in the morning after dropping off Jacques at a neighbor's house and some final packing.  As with any trip, we managed to forget something--the boys' swimsuits.  We arrived on Sunday evening in time for a late dinner at the hotel's kitchen.  The kids were so wound up from all the sitting on the plane and the excitement of the next day's adventure that it was hard to keep them asleep.  We attended Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom in that order.  Our order was partly determined by what restaurants were available at the times we wanted to attend and by how much time we thought we would spend at the park.  My idea was to spend the first day at Hollywood Studios, which typically does not require a full day because we would still be on Mountain Standard (a.k.a. "Arizona time") and eating at 9 p.m. E.S.T. wouldn't be a big deal.  We wanted to leave the Magic Kingdom for the end of the trip. I am not going to bore you with details, but leave only the highlights, the stinkers, the pleasant surprises, and the disappointments

  • Every sit-down restaurant we ate at was excellent.  We had home cooking at Hollywood studios in a 1950's style table, Restaurant Marrekesh served Moroccan food at Epcot Center, a BBQ Hoedown with some Disney Characters, Greek food at Kouzzina's at the Disney Boardwalk and seafood at Cap'n Jacks (no relation to the "Pirates" franchise) at Downtown Disney.
  • Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom is the best rollercoaster I have ridden.  Ever (I have not gone to Cedar Point, though, so my opinion might change in the future.
  • "Mickey's Philharmagic" at the Magic Kingdom was the best 3D show, maybe because it combined music and scenes from three or four of my favorite Disney movies with Donald being funny.
  • "Toy Story Mania" in Hollywood Studios had the best entertainment during the 85 minute wait AND was the best combination of ride, video game and 3D viewing.
  • "Soaring" at Epcot Center was the best non-rollercoaster ride.
  • "Splash Mountain" at the Magic Kingdom was the best water ride.  It was funny and used the story of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear to extend the ride, giving us several minor drops before "The Big One."
  • "Tom Sawyer's Island at the Magic Kingdom was the best way to have fun that didn't involve stimulating the adrenal glands and/or disturbing your equilibrium.
  • The Kim Possible Adventure was the best use of Disney property and animatronic effects not in a ride.  We were given a cell phone that gave us clues to find somewhere in the World Showcase.  It gave us the feel of being in a very easy episode of "The Amazing Race."
  • Dinosaur was the best animatronic ride.  I loved feeling the gust of wind when the T-rex roared at me.
Attractions I would avoid next time:
  • Captain EO at Epcot:  There was a certain sense of nostalgia driving Eric and I to see the first 3D movie Disney made.  However, it was, in Michael's words "Bad".  The plot was hokey, the dialogue horrible, the dancing was boring, the sound effects when he was dancing would have been annoying if they didn't remind me of Weird "Al" Yankovik's spoof called "Fat".  The kids thought Michael looked, sounded and acted like a girl ("He is the original Justin Bieber" according to my oldest) and they were not impressed with his dancing.  Sorry Michael.  Sorry George.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad rollercoaster at The Magic Kingdom:  no big drops, just a lot of tight corners and dips.  yawn.
  • "The Circle of Life" movie at Epcot.  The movie's plot was Simba explaining to Timon how bad it was to dam a river in order to make an amusement park that would make him rich when it hurt the environment and used humans as an example of how they used to not care about the environment and almost ruined the planet until they came to their senses.  Even Elizabeth saw the stomach churning hypocricy in the movie since all food and drink at quick service venues were offered in disposable containers and that WDW altered the environment to create the park in the first place as a way of giving us joy while making profit.   
  • "Stitches' Great Escape" at the Magic Kingdom:  They put shoulder restraints to make you think you are going on a ride, but you just sit there while Stitch "spits" on you," eats" many different things while you are in the dark and "bats" at your head a few times.  Only Kyle was relieved that there was no ride.
  • "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror":  Instead of one long plunge several stories, you have several short plunges.  All that is left is the creepy factor they create.
  • "It's Tough to be a Bug." at Animal Kingdom.  Short on anything but potty humor, involving lots of bad smells, bug "spitting" at you and poking you.
Pleasant Surprises:
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Hollywood Studios
  • "Walt Disney:  One Man's Dream" at Hollywood Studios.  A nice little homage to Walt Disney and his brother, Roy, who was the numbers man.
  • Awesome fireworks at Epcot Center.  It was the only night we were able to watch fireworks for one reason or another.
  • Journey into imagination with Figment:  John laughed through most of it, which made me laugh.
  • John loved "It's a Small World.", which made it enjoyable for me in spite of the annoying song repeated endlessly through the ride.
  • "Kilimanjaro Safaris" at Animal Kingdom.  A cheery guide takes us on a tour of their African animals. They did a great job of hiding the big ditch keeping the tigers and lions from escaping.  Our guide sounded like Ariel.
  • "Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor":  Very funny with audience interaction, whether they volunteer or not.  You can also text your jokes in the hopes of having them included in the banter.

  • The Hall of Presidents at the Magic Kingdom.  I wanted more animatronic action, more quotes from different Presidents, more highlights and problems of their adminstrations.  That was what I was expecting and waiting to see for 32 years.  Maybe the problem is me, though and not the show.  My expectations were too high.
  • The Pirates of the Carribean.  Jack didn't add anything to the ride.  
  • The Studio Backlot Tour at Hollywood Studios was closed.
  • Not being able to walk through Cinderella's Castle.  It seemed to be closed most of the time we were there due to some traveling musical show starting.  
  • T-shirts. Very thin material for the price you pay.
  • Quick service food.  We decided to skip quick service lunches, which mainly consisted of tasteless, fried food and focused on eating a late breakfast, which is hard to make tasteless, have a small snack in the afternoon, when we were actually hungry, and then enjoy the excellent dinners at a sit-down restaurant.
  • Kyle freaked out at a lot more rides than I thought he would.  I think he just took the warnings they gave as a reason to freak out.  He also was thoroughly fooled by the Disney designers who strove for realism in their rides and did such a good job that they convinced him that he NEEDED to push a couple of buttons in order for the mission to Mars to be successful (though it also said it involved a 3 month trip, which should have been a clue that it WASN'T real).  I managed to convince him to go on The Big Thunder Mountain ride, but he didn't enjoy it.  He went on the Dinosaur ride, but had his eyes closed most of the time.  He even freaked out on a ride similar to Dumbo because John took us up too high.  By the second day, I think he was freaking out just as a matter of principle.  Or habit.  We accomodated him when we thought it would be too much for him, like Space Mountain and Expedition Everest, and encouraged him to try a ride when we thought it would be okay, like "Soaring" and "Star Tours".  It was funny and frustrating and sad at the same time.  
Other thoughts:
As much as Disney tries to control everything to make sure it is the Happiest Place on Earth, they can't.  They can't force the weather to be a balmy 80 degrees.  It was in the 90's and humid most of the time. At one point, I tried making a Micky Mouse pattern on my shirt from all the sweat pouring down it.  They can't prevent wives from shouting nasty things at their husbands before stomping away, they can't prevent the lightning and rain from closing down car stunt shows or from people booing when the shows are canceled.  They can't prevent grumpy people from mishandling those stupid motorized scooters and bumping into people to try and get them to go faster or for people to be impatient or rude when their drinks take one minute longer than their food to be provided.  They can't prevent toddler tantrum fits when their parents won't buy them a crappy piece of plastic junk that is sold for 1000 times more than it costs to make it.  All of these things were witnessed by me.  I even saw an adult mother snap at another mother who had temporarily misplaced her young daughter about having to miss a show instead of trying to help find the missing child.  However, the people who work there are stars just because they are ALWAYS friendly, ALWAYS ready to start up a conversation, ALWAYS answer politely when a customer is rude to them and ALWAYS do their best to make accommodations for their guests.  I would really like to know their secret.   It was a wonderful five day break from reality, but it is definitely not a lifestyle I would want to live.  Pictures will be coming soon.