Osborne Family Light Show

We went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to see the Osborne Family Light show Saturday night. These 2007 videos are good, and they give you some idea of the number of lights and the work that goes into the light “choreography” alone, but there’s just NOTHING like standing in the middle of all those lights, surrounded by the music. It always gives me goose bumps.

Some find it too loud, but to them I say, plug your ears and complain somewhere else.

This is a video from this year, but the camera man tends to move around a little too much, so if you get motion sickness, be forewarned.

tv “inventory”

Sandy at Jesus and Dark Chocolate posted a question:

“How much is too much TV? I also realize it’s also important to monitor what they watch, so what do you think about The Disney Channel and other networks geared towards kids? All thoughts are good thoughts, so bring it on ladies. 🙂 I really want to hear what you think!!”

If you have time, click on over to Sandy’s “watching tv” post and give her a little feedback!

I started to answer in a comment until I realized I was hijacking her blog. So. I’m posting my response here and letting her know about it.

How much TV?

It varies. We don’t have a certain number of minutes per day. I have a feeling that if I set a maximum time limit, they would make sure to watch that much, when in fact, they have days where they don’t watch at all (so far today, nobody has been interested.)

We stay pretty busy, even in the summer – with the (near daily) rain, swimming, play practices, basketball camps, podcasting camp, clay animation camp, “play dates” with friends, family outings, guitar practice, computer time, video games (we play together) . . . and OF COURSE (in this house) reading! We’ve been so on the go this summer, it seems like we only had one week without anything on the schedule – and then we filled it with a beach trip to Daytona. I admit, after a stint of fast pace scheduling, we have “lazy days” where we completely veg out. Overall, TV is watched more during the summer than during the school year. During school we have extracurricular activities (we limit each kid to two things at a time – if their grades stay up) and youth group/children’s ministry starts back up on Wednesday nights.

Given all that, we don’t necessarily have “rules” – more like TV “habits.”

1. MOST of the time, we watch shows recorded with our DVR. NO commercials – saves time and sensors the junk.

2. The kids mostly watch Disney Channel, some Discovery. We have no idea what shows are on Nick. No interest at all. When Brittany’s sister got pregnant, my kids had no idea. Didn’t care. On the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) the only show we DVR for family viewing is American Idol.

3. TV goes OFF if nobody is in the room, watching it. TV background noise is like Chinese water torture for me.

4. The layout of our house is such that I can see and hear everything being watched. It’s made for some good conversations about choices and communication. We’ve also adopted a few family jokes and quotes we use on a regular basis. Basically, there’s not a show the kids watch that I don’t know the content, the characters, the plotlines . . . I love the layout of our house. (NO TVs or computers in the kids bedrooms.)

5. On school nights, all electronics are off at 7:30 p.m. – TV, computer, cell phones, mp3 players – ALL electronics off. NO TV in the mornings before school.

6. Shows get paused OFTEN for chore and homework breaks. Chores and homework get done very quickly when a TV show is paused.

7. We also have a library of family oriented DVDs, many of them Disney movies. One of my favorite? The Emperor’s New Groove.

This post has prompted me to do a little TV watching “inventory.” I went to each of the following network websites and looked at their listing of shows. Here’s what we watch:

Disney Channel:
Family – Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Hannah Montana, Life with Derek, Phil of the Future, Wizards of Waverly Place.
PinkGirl – Phineas and Ferb, Cory in the House (Personally, I HATE Cory in the House. FavoriteSon says “me too.”)

Discovery Channel:
Family – MythBusters
FirstHusband and I – Deadliest Catch (LOVE the editing on the beginning of the opening sequence! The timing with Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” is great.)

Family – Every once in a while we catch an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or a SuperNanny.
FirstHusband and I: Grey’s Anatomy.

Family – Nothing
FirstHusband and I: We’ve been strongly encouraged to watch the Big Bang Theory and after watching a clip, I’ll be setting the DVR. We are that geeky.

Family – Nothing
FirstHusband and I: Nothing

Family – American Idol. Every once in a while, we catch “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader.”
FirstHusband and I – Nothing.

Family – Who wants a CLEAN HOUSE! PinkGirl and I love Niecy Nash. PinkGirl LOVES “How Do I Look?”
FirstHusband and I – Nothing. (But he and FavoriteSon will watch Clean House with us sometimes.)

Family – Nothing
FirstHusband and I: The Closer and Saving Grace (both are summer series).

On Friday or Saturday night, FirstHusband and I watch TV. Sometimes we “rent” a Movie on Demand from Brighthouse. I think the last one we saw was “Fool’s Gold” with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. What can I say. I’m a cheap date.

We also own a few series on DVD and will watch episodes (in order, of course) on weekend nights. TOTALLY giving away my geekiness here, but we actually own the entire Farscape series on DVD. And our favorite, all time show? Sports Night.

It’s inspiring.

It’s funny.

It’s got the fast paced wit of Aaron Sorkin. (The best part of this clip is at the end.).

Every show, a BEAUTIFUL view of the twin towers is shown (its last season was in 2000).

I got FirstHusband Quantum Leap for Christmas, and we recently started watching, so those will take a while to get through.

Oh! FirstHusband and FavoriteSon watch sports, mostly college football and pro basketball. (I watch enough sports to be able to ask intelligent questions and I understand the terminology enough so that when they are watching one sport on tv and listening to another on the radio, while switching to a third during commercials – I don’t get too confused anymore.)

If I remember something else, I’ll edit the post to add it, but I think that’s it.

DisneyQuest. pros and cons.

June 2008. PinkGirl is 50.

INCHES, that is.

And that is a GOOD thing. It is a VERY good thing. We’ve been WAITING for this for a VERY long time. Thank. You. GOD!!!!!

We went to DisneyQuest this weekend and for the first time EVER, PinkGirl didn’t go home angry or in tears. DisneyQuest is a 5 story arcade. For a VERY long time, for our family, it has been a 5 story source of sadness. Weepiness. A 5 story source of frustration and . . . temper tantrums. Because the COOLest things to do at DisneyQuest (according to PinkGirl) require the cool “enjoyer” of such cool things – to be a minimum of 51 inches tall.

Today, PinkGirl is . . . .

50 and 1/2 inch tall. But she wore the right shoes. (Well, they were her regular shoes. But still.)

So, Friday, June 6th, 2008 was a MOMENTOUS day in our family! PinkGirl got to ride BOTH the Cyberspace Mountain virtual roller coaster AND the Buzz Lightyear bumper cars! FINALLY!

We’ve been going to Disney Quest for years, and FavoriteSon has always had fun there. But he was taller than 51 inches the first time we ever set foot in the cybrolator (elevator) and watched Genie on the “magic mirror.” When you are more than 51 inches tall, the only things between you and every single ride/game at Disney Quest are the que lines and your own level of courage and adventure. When you are under 51 inches tall, the ride attendants stop you.

Take a look at these great photos and don’t miss the video link to see the Cyberspace Mountain “barrel” in action. (Skip the idealistic plea by the site owner to call or email Disney’s guest services to stop them from shutting down. I haven’t heard any “closing” rumors myself, but if Disney wants to close Disney Quest they’re going to do it, no matter what “guests” say. The only way to “save” Disney Quest is to buy tickets. Lots and LOTS of tickets.)

Let me give you my view of the “Pros and Cons” of Disney Quest.

The “Cons”
Some may not agree with me, but Disney Quest is not the best place on Disney property to bring a baby, a toddler or an elderly family member. Preschoolers are a little easier, and there are actually some things they will even enjoy, but the height restrictions will limit their fun.

First of all, strollers are NOT allowed. That makes for either a tired kid or a tired parent (from carrying said tired kid). Usually both.

There’s not a lot of seating near the action. There’s some dining seating near the games, but very, very little. So if a parent plans to sit and watch kids, they’re going to have to wait on a spot – and in some areas of the arcade – there is no “spot” to sit. There is a room full of dining tables, but it is surrounded by walls so you can’t see anyone in the game/ride areas. Lack of seating and the “no stroller” rule make for a LOT of standing for everyone.

It it is LOUD. The kind of loud that causes you to yell, “WHAT?” when someone talks to you. After a few hours of this, any little one can become overstimulated and, thus – cranky. I USUALLY have the ability to tune out background noise, so I don’t notice it so much. If you or a family member can’t take extended, loud noise, this isn’t the place to go. Consider splitting up and letting the “noise sensitive” members of your group explore Downtown Disney. There’s lots to do.

You can lose sight of a little one in the BLINK of an eye! This place is not set up like Chuck E. Cheese, where you get your arm stamped and your arm stamp has to match the stamp on the kid’s arm before you can leave with the kid. People are moving and kids are moving faster. The kids pop from game to game as a spot opens up. If they aren’t fast, they stand and wait. and wait. and wait. Lighting is not bright and it’s difficult to keep up with kids if you get distracted for even a second or two. Those parents who make their kids walk with them from game to game are serious “fun suckers” and (at $37 for ages 10 and up) they are throwing away some very expensive fun time. I usually either park myself (standing, of course) in a central location and follow the kids with my eyes or I kick it into gear and keep up.

Some of the rides can be scary for little ones. PinkGirl HATED the Pirates of the Caribbean ride/game last summer. Wearing 3D goggles, four people go into a small room, surrounded by a screen. Standing on a platform that looks like the deck of a pirate ship, the platform tips and sways, while everyone shoots cannons at attacking pirate ships and at some point, the Krakken comes out of the water and you have to shoot it too. This year, PinkGirl (age 7) LOVED Invasion, which is similar, except you are sitting down. You have to rescue people and shoot aliens. What a difference a year made. You just have to know your own kid and make a judgment call.

The food service changed the first weekend of June 2008. One week later – not a good change so far. No more Cheesecake Factory and in the FoodQuest counter service restaurant, the portion size of the BEST chicken Caesar salad I’ve ever had is now less than half. No more pizza by the slice, rather individual pizzas, which are smaller than the slices were. If you bought the plastic cup for refills, they will still honor it and allow you to purchase a large drink at refill price.

The SongMakers are frequently broken, but when the work, they are pretty fun. Up to four people can fit inside an isolated sound booth with a touch screen computer, which is used to create an original song. You pick the style of music, the song title, lyrics and either a male or female singer. Then you pick from over 1,000 rhyming lyric “snippets” to create a song. It comes out to 2,000,000,000 (two BILLION) possible lyric combinations per song. When the song is finished, you pick the artwork for the CD cover. Of course, the CD is available to purchase. Last year, I think it was $12.95.

The “Pros”

It is FUN. Do NOT touch my right arm when I’m busy shooting the Centipede. And, under NO circumstances are you to touch my Superzapper. Seriously. Back away.

There are ALL kinds of video games. LOTS of “retro” games and LOTS of newer games. Pinball out the wahzoo – even human pinball, where you stand on a platform and rock to move your ball around on a big screen with 12(?) other players. (GREAT workout!) LOTS of virtual “ride” type games.

A big favorite is the Cyberspace Mountain virtual roller coaster. With Bill Nye the Science Guy as your guide, you design your coaster, incorporating a sequence of maneuvers varying in thrill levels. You can select barrel rolls, loops, jumps . . . whatever you want. In the end, the computer “rates” your coaster for a fear factor or thrill level, from 1 (nice and easy) to 5 (i’m gonna ralph). PinkGirl’s first coaster measured a “1” and didn’t go upside down at all. FavoriteSon’s measured a 5 and went upside down as many times as was possible. FavoriteDad rode with both kiddos. When the attendant asks you if you have anything in your pockets, trust them when they encourage you to empty them into the little bowl and lock them in the cabinet outside the door to your coaster. (you keep the key.) Ladies? You might want to tuck in the front of your shirt. Leave hats in the cabinet too or you will end up holding it and it will cover your face for the recording. Because you may want to buy the video of yourself riding your coaster. cha ching. Family members are allowed to stand outside your coaster and watch you inside the barrel too.

Another hit for those over 51 inches is the Buzz Lightyear bumper cars. You need a driver and a shooter. The driver tries to roll over the “asteroids” (black rubber balls) because the car picks them up and deposits them inside the car. The shooter retrieves the asteroid, loads it in the shooter, closes the “hatch” on the shooter, points and shoots at one of three possible targets on another car. Since your car has three targets also, the driver’s second task is to avoid incoming asteroids. If you get hit, your car spins out of control for 10 to 15 seconds. If you’re not careful, you could spend the entire ride simulating the Teacups at Magic Kingdom. Oh, and don’t try to shoot before the cars start up. If your shooter jams, you’re going to be annoyed. And sick from spinning because you were defenseless for the entire ride. Good times. Good times.

For us, the fact that many of the virtual rides are suited for groups of 2 or 4 is a good thing. For some families, that won’t work out so well. Before PinkGirl was old/tall enough, we used the Rider Switch Pass, also known as the “baby swap” to allow both FirstHusband and myself to have fun with FavoriteSon while the other stayed with PinkGirl.

If you go in “good” weather, it’s usually not horribly crowded. In bad weather it is very often PACKED. (Think it’s a good place to hang out to avoid the rainy Florida summer afternoons? So does everyone else on Disney property.) Summer during the day is often PACKED with summer camp field trips. Last summer, we would often go to a water park (Typhoon Lagoon is pretty much across the street) and then hop on over to Downtown Disney and Disney Quest for dinner and evening fun just as the summer campers were loading on their buses. Perfect timing.

Disney Quest is also a GREAT place to hang out if it is too early to check in at a resort. If you arrive in town and don’t want to waste a day of your ticket package on a theme park for only a few hours of time, Downtown Disney and Disney Quest are a great option. When we stay at one of the resorts, we often spend the evening there after dinner, sometimes leaving just in time for Extra Magic Hours. It was really great when PinkGirl was little. One of the grownups could stay in the room and get PinkGirl to bed, while the other could take FavoriteSon to Disney Quest for some big kid/one on one time. This was really helpful when we stayed in a one room resort suite. The little kid could sleep, but the big kids (us included) didn’t have to be quiet in the dark. It’s also a GREAT place to have fun in the heat of the day.

The annual pass is GREAT for us. For the last few years, we’ve been premium annual passholders. that means we could get into Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon and Disney Quest ALL year – no block out dates. Our tickets expire June 8th and this year, since we bought the boat, we are going to spend most of our summer vacation time on the ocean. I think we’ve decided to buy Disney Quest/water parks annual passes for $129 and, later in the fall, buy seasonal passes (with blockout dates). With a single admission fee of $37, we only have to go to Disney Quest 3 times before we (almost) break even. That doesn’t even include any water park visits.

Now that PinkGirl is tall enough to do EVERYthing at Disney Quest, we are going to be having a LOT more fun there.

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions at www.allears.com for more insider tips.

a little krunk

I need a little dose of “Krunk” (Patrick Warburton).

I need a little comic relief. This is one of my top favorite Disney movies. In our house, it’s not uncommon for us to reference or quote this movie.

For instance the phrase “Why do we even HAVE that ___(insert something here)____?” is often uttered when something exists and we don’t use it. Like when I’m calling FirstHusband on the cell and he doesn’t answer, I will say, “Why do we even HAVE that cell phone?”

And I frequently say “Weird” in my attempt to imitate Patrick Warburten’s voice.

The kids often do the “uh huh!” “nuh uh” banter that Pacha’s kids do.

We also call FirstHusband “Krunk” when he ends up carrying . . . EVERYTHING.

I need to watch this entire movie (The Emperor’s New Groove).

Okay. Here’s one more.

EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival

We went to EPCOT yesterday for the 2008 Flower and Garden Festival. It was BEAUTIFUL, but, I must admit, a little disappointing. There just wasn’t as much diversity of color as in past years. We went in June of 2006 and (although I didn’t take lots of pictures), I remember it being much more elaborate. I really loved these in 2006 (made entirely out of flowers):

Mickey Stamp

Cinderella Stamp

We REALLY missed the “Hidden Mickeys” too! When we’ve gone before, there have been Mickey heads hidden in the flowers and it’s always fun to find them. (The guide book gave hints.) We were very disappointed that they didn’t do that this year.

All in all, we had a very nice family day. Check out these PHOTOS from yesterday’s visit!

Want an EPCOT “little known fact” from the Mickey Freaks? If you are leaving EPCOT after dark, look for the sparkling lights! We always walk on the RIGHT side of Spaceship Earth and the walkway is covered with squares that light up and sparkle like stars. My daughter loves to run and jump on them as they move around. They look even better without the flash from the camera! Click on the image to see it better. (I’m not sure if they are on the left side too.)

EPCOT After Dark - To The Right of Spaceship Earth