spreadsheets and suitcases

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Flights and Mice- Part 3

This is our last installment, where my sis boldly (ha!) details her adventures on the flight home from Honolulu.  My comments in RED.  I’ll be back soon with a regular post, lots of Disney news lately 🙂

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Flights and Mice- Part 2

WE LAUGHED, WE CRIED, IT WAS BETTER THAN ‘CATS’

This is a combo post.  My sister’s words are bolded, and my comments are in RED again.

I think I speak for most of us when I say that it’s hard to be friends with your sibling when you are young, simply because of forced togetherness.  My sister and I shared a room our entire lives until she went away to college.  We went to the same small grammar and high schools, just one school year apart.  We lived in a bad neighborhood and our parents did not let us play outside unattended.  In short, we couldn’t ever get away from each other. Read the rest of this entry »

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Flights and Mice- Part 1

Hello, there! Something exciting: my sister has graciously agreed to share the details of her experience traveling with my favorite niece.  It’ll be her report of the travel TO Hawaii, then I’ll interject an Aulani Report and some reviews of other local activities, and then it’ll end with her travel FROM Hawaii.  These are her words- any comments I add will be in RED.

and away we go

And away we go…

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Quinceañera Trip Report Part 5: making our way home

Unfortunately, it was time to leave NJ.  As arranged, my husband left first, driving the rental car to the Budget return area, and taking all the checked luggage with him.  He was flying American, first to Dallas from Newark, then onto Honolulu after a 2-hr layover.  I woke up with him to say goodbye, but let the kids sleep, since it was 5am.  I put the last bits & pieces away in the carry-ons, and woke up the kids about 90 minutes later.  Once they were dressed and ready, we did a last sweep of the room to check for easily-left-behind items.  Having my original packing list in hand to use as the Repacking List helped quite a bit.  I triple-checked that the envelope w/DD’s cash gifts was deep in my backpack, and that the carry-on with her new fancy jewelry was securely fastened shut.  Pro-tip: I used DS’s carry-on for the jewelry, and included the tiara and corsages, plus saved some space to shove our gloves and hats on top.  I figured anyone casing us for valuables wouldn’t check the bright green bag with the monkey on it first. Room cleared, we made our way downstairs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quinceañera Trip Report Part 4:one day more

I just reread the ending of my last post and cried again!  Jeez, I need to get it together.  OK, let’s continue…

Today was Saturday, our bonus day to do whatever we wanted before traveling home to Honolulu on Sunday.  We definitely slept in.  We had only one concrete plan for this day besides packing, and it was to eat at Olive Garden.  Did you know that Guayaquil, Ecuador has an Olive Garden, and the US state of Hawaii doesn’t?  I would like to enjoy overpriced chain-restaurant Fauxtalian food, too, you know!  There was a location planned for Kapolei Commons, but it is on indefinite hold.

patience

“Patience, Iago.”

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Quinceañera Trip Report Part 3: eyebrows, holograms, and the Circle of Life

The day of my daughter’s Quinceañera dawned bright and sunny.  In fact, we had excellent weather during the whole trip.  It was cold but not freezing, and clear for the most part, with just a few sprinkles here and there.  Anyway, I had gone to sleep mentally reviewing the list of things that needed to happen today.  First, we got up and dressed, and stopped by the front desk to check into the extra room we reserved for tonight.  Then we made our way to my parents’ house, where DH and DS would be heading to the bus stop.  They were going to my beloved American Museum of Natural History, one of my favorite places in the world.  To use a British term, I was gutted not to be going with them.  My husband made my son very happy by spending the day with him at the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth & Space, since he’s been pretty into space and planets for a while now.  They made sure to stop and get some yummy NY food, too.  This worked out well, because everyone else was getting ready or doing last-minute things and my son would have been bouncing off the walls with boredom.  He got to ride the bus, go through the Lincoln Tunnel, then ride the subway and be in this room, which I love: Read the rest of this entry »

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Quinceañera Trip Report Part 2: showers, donuts, Thanksgiving

At the end of Part 1, we had arrived at my parents’ house after the long journey to NJ from Honolulu.  They were, of course, thrilled to see us, and it was mutual.  DD had a hair appointment right away, to get her ready for the extensions she was getting for her party ‘do.  First, we had to buy the actual hair, and the boys had to go get fitted for their tuxes.  We split up, with my dad, DH, and DS headed for the tux shop, and my mom, me, and DD off to the beauty supply place. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quinceañera Trip Report Part 1: HNL to JFK

Me upon hearing/seeing the name “JFK airport”…

disgust

This is because, despite it being only 20 miles away from where I grew up in NJ, it can take over 2 hours and nearly $30 in tolls to get there.  Plus, the most direct driving route takes you through midtown Manhattan, so you need nerves of steel, a healthy rage-vocabulary, and catlike reflexes as well.

Here’s what I knew in advance: the party was going to be the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I would stay at a hotel because a bunch of relatives were coming from all over and I didn’t want to inconvenience anybody by taking up all the space at Hotel Mami/Papi with my people and a fluffy dress.  I would need a car to go back and forth to the hotel, to arrive early at the party, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

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13, 437 miles and 4 different airlines later…

…I’m back!  I successfully made it from Honolulu to Guayaquil, had my surgery, recovered really well, and traveled to my parents’ place in NJ for 2 nights before flying back to Honolulu.

This was a nice trip in that I got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with my mother, without husbands or kids!  Plus, since she was helping me after the surgery with everything from scheduling medical appointments to getting dressed, I felt like a little girl again ♥. She flew down to Ecuador a few days before I did, and then did the whole trip back with me, first to NJ, and then to Honolulu.  She stayed about a week to hang with my babies- her grandchildren, and is now, after a month away from NJ, comfortably back in her own home.

We had some airport adventures, and you know what that means…lessons learned.

  • my itinerary to Guayaquil was as follows: Honolulu (HNL) to Phoenix (PHX), Phoenix to Miami (MIA), Miami to Guayaquil (GYE).  Three flights in a row, which I was fine with because I was traveling solo and with only carry-on luggage.  I booked this trip using Alaska Airlines miles, though all 3 flights were on American Airlines.  Because I hold the Barclay Aviator AAdvantage card, I had Priority Boarding, which was AWESOME in Miami when I finally got on my flight.  The first 2 legs went like clockwork.  I was supposed to have a 2-hour layover in Miami before boarding the flight to Guayaquil.  Well, we boarded, left the gate, taxied to the runway, and the captain mentioned some “weather” nearby that was causing some takeoff delays.  We sat on the runway for a bit.  When we were next for takeoff, the captain announced that the weather radar on our plane was not working, and we had to return to the gate to have the mechanic look at it.  Back to the gate for about 30 minutes, then the captain announced that it was not fixable and we needed a different plane.  Off the plane.  They announced a new gate, so we all trooped over.  Waited another 45 minutes.  Gate agents announced that we had a new plane.  Waited some more.  They announced that our new plane was at yet another gate.  Trooped over.  Plane was not there yet.  They provided free sandwiches, chips, and drinks 🙂 Waited some more for the crew to arrive.  The captain finally showed up once the plane was there, and proceeded to grab the gate area microphone and say that this “plano es muy bueno.”  Listen, I don’t need him to speak fluent Spanish, but he should at least know the word for airplane!  It’s ‘avión,’ sir. Anyway, a bunch of people were upset and confused about the new boarding process and clogging up the gate entry, so I took advantage of the Priority Boarding benefit, sailed by all those folks, and calmly took my seat.  We finally took off after we should have landed- 5 hours late, landing at 3am Ecuador time.  As a cherry on top, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a harder landing.  Whatever, I was grateful to finally be there.  I had a moment when I thought the passport control lady would make a stink about the fact that my Ecuadorian National ID card and my passport have slightly different last names (because I got married in the US and the name change doesn’t transfer over to the Ecuadorian Government’s records), but nothing happened.
  • what did I learn from all this? Basically, patience.  I half-heartedly checked the AA app for other flights to Ecuador that night, and there were two: one to Quito (no thanks), and another to Guayaquil scheduled to depart 1.5 hours after my original flight, but was disrupted in much the same way ours was (I later found out they landed 3 hours after my flight did, so good thing I didn’t jump ship).  So I ate some yummy food from Lorena Garcia’s quick-service kiosk near the Bacardi Mojito bar and chilled, thankful that I alone was inconvenienced by the delay vs the whole family.
  • On our way from Guayaquil to Newark, we had a short layover in Panama City, for which I needed wheelchair assistance.  The wheelchair helped our case when we realized that our seats were not together anymore- we were 2 rows apart!  My mom spoke to the gate agent, who saw me sitting there looking positively green (the breakfast sandwich they gave us on the Guayaquil-Panama City leg on Copa Airlines did not sit well), and moved some stuff around so we could sit together on the United flight to Newark.  Lesson learned: none- I knew that since we had booked separately, our reservations weren’t linked, and could be subject to seat changes.  Luckily, my condition helped us to change it back.
  • Traveling back to Honolulu, we had a very long layover in Seattle- about 8.5 hours.  These flights (Newark [EWR] to Seattle [SEA], then SEA-HNL) were on Alaska Airlines, for which I had used my Alaska Airlines Visa companion fare.  I had the airport agent wheel me to the Board Room, Alaska’s lounge.  I was able to purchase 2 day passes ($45 each) for me and my mom to be comfortable during the layover.  It worked well, we had Ivar’s clam chowder and various other snacks and drinks.  Happily, that’s the last time we will ever have that superextended layover on the Newark to Honolulu journey- Alaska announced a 3rd daily flight from Newark to Seattle starting in the next 6 months, which should cut the layover down to 4.5 hours, enough time to pop out to Pike Place market and back before going home to Honolulu 🙂  Lesson learned: the day pass is a great option for very long layovers.  Keep in mind, if the club is full, they will only accept full members of the lounge.
  • Alaska Airlines finally did something wrong!  We used the Self-Tag Express program, where you print your own bag tag and slide it into a reusable plastic tag holder, then attach it to your luggage.  At the airport, you just drop your tagged luggage at the kiosk and head to the security area.  Well, with the Alaska Visa we were each entitled to one free checked bag, and additionally, the website gave me the option to check a carry-on for free as well.  So we had a total of 3 bags.  2 made it to Honolulu just fine, but the 3rd (my mom’s!) somehow went to Portland and Anchorage.  The Alaska agent here in Honolulu was quick to make a report and issue me a customer service voucher towards a future flight (he was so quick to do it in fact, that I didn’t get a chance to say that I would prefer to have Alaska miles instead of the credit, per their Baggage Guarantee.  Oh, well.)  Unfortunately, it took them 2 days to deliver the bag to my house.  So I am waiting on the reimbursement for clothing we bought for my mom on the meantime.  Lesson confirmed: always keep those baggage claim tickets safe, we needed the # on them to identify the bag and for them to deliver it to us.

I’m now back at work, and still a bit sore, but doing just fine considering I had major surgery.  I missed my babies something fierce.  I had handwritten them each a note to read every morning that I was gone, so they could start the day with some words from Mama, and talk to her every night via FaceTime.  I was able to send regular pics and updates to my husband, and he did a great job doing all the things he already does, like keeping the house clean, the children alive, and his cool during situations like this:

crayons

Last, some highlights:

  • I got to see my grandfather again, daily for almost 3 weeks.  Bliss.
  • More time in Ecuador is always good for me.  The language, the culture, my relatives, etc.  Plus, they sell ceviche in the mall food court, you guys.
  • My doctor found something major that my Hawaii docs missed, and was able to repair it during the surgery.  Dodged a bullet there.
  • I got to see my niece during my very short stay in NJ.  Now she’ll for sure recognize me more easily when we’re at the Quince in November.
  • Laughed with my mom SO MUCH.
  • Played cards with my Aunts a bunch of times- competitive and hilarious.
  • My new carry-on backpack.  10/10, would recommend.  My sister said that if I were transformed into a bag, I would be that backpack.
  • My health was greatly improved by the procedure, and I can now publicly shout that MY HUSBAND WAS RIGHT, and we needed to spend the money on my surgery rather than on another vacation.

Still planning on that post re: Unaccompanied Minors, I promise I didn’t forget.  Talk soon!

 

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Guest post: DH’s reflections on Disney

Editor’s note: These thoughts are DH’s!  My comments are in RED.

I’ve been putting this blog post off for a few months now. My DW, your host, asked me to talk about my half of the “kid-split” day at Disney this October. She also asked that I recount how she “Disney-fied” me. That’s the part that made this difficult. You see, I am old. (LOL, true) When I was a kid, along with Disney’s terrific TV show, wonderful cartoon features, and nature documentaries, there was also Walt Disney’s ever-increasing right-wing backlash against all thing counter-culture. And I was nothing if not one of the most enthusiastic inheritors of the counter-culture. I say inheritors because as a teen in the early 70s I was one of the millions who watched and learned from the first wave of Boomers who made glorious music, love, not war, etc. And Old Walt (not to be confused with the Genius Walt who invented Mickey, Fantasia and theme parks) was one of the captains of Reaction with a capital R, against all that thrilled me about the 60s. Right up there with John Wayne. It didn’t help that in the late 60s and the 70s Disney products were unfortunately milquetoast and out of touch not only with the times, but with what had made Disney great until then… leaving aside the racism in many Disney films, the jingoistic nationalism, etc. that had always been there.

So I had no love for Disney (sob) and had never set foot in a Disney park (despite having lived in both Florida AND California!), until I met and married a crazed Disney fanatic. I say crazed, but only in the sense that her personality demonstrated real and phenomenal changes when under the influence of Disney culture. Happiness! What a concept. (Readers: my husband makes me very happy, but I don’t jump for joy on a daily basis when at home). As a cynical child of the Nixon era, I was more than suspicious, until she came into my life and began to share that bizarre notion (of complete and utter joy for a capitalist enterprise) with me. From the Katzenberg era on, Disney features had become not only the height of excellence, but even allowed for an adult point of view, within their childlike joy. So I was open to persuasion. Plus, the presence of the 3-year-old DD helped enormously to allow me to experience Disney Magic differently (awww).

We went to Walt Disney World in 2008. For 14 days!!!! I was frightened of staying that long, but the super planner we all know and love set up an itinerary that made it pass so quickly I was anxious to stay longer, not raring to leave. When DD caught the jewel in Mickey’s PhilHarMagic, that was the last straw. I was crying. And haven’t stopped since. This magical fortnight was followed in 2013 by the awesome Disney Cruise to Alaska, where our little DS, just 2, completed the picture. And as DW has written here, the last night at IllumiNations on our recent visit, where we group-hugged, made the full Disney-fication complete. On to the next trip, ASAP!

dark side

Haha.

 

And now, on to my recounting of my half of “kid-split” day:

The morning was Dad and Daughter time. DD had no idea where we were headed. Getting there was an adventure. We had to go to the Magic Kingdom first, then get a van to the Tri-Circle D Ranch, where horses awaited us. I think, after the initial joyous awakening to our destination, that her first reaction was to the gross/wonderful smell of “horse hockey” (in the immortal words of Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H).

ranch

Fun trivia: Andy can be seen wearing a Tri-Circle-D Ranch shirt in Toy Story.

 

We were fitted with helmets, sized up, and, with a half dozen others, led to the mounting platform. DD loved her horse, though it will never receive the affection of her favorite horse ever at Gunstock Ranch on Oahu. My horse was more massive, but very tranquil. We were led onto the trail and into the woods of central Florida, through the Live Oaks and conifers, Spanish Moss and tall reeds. There was a hint of a stream nearby, and I had hopes we might run into a gator (Go Gators!), but no such luck. We did hear, but missed seeing, some deer. And I caught sight of one opossum, though DD missed it. The ride was beautiful, but was over way too quickly. I had hoped for one gallop, but we never got above a trot (which I hate, because even though I rode a lot as a kid, I never mastered avoiding the unfortunate “down-bounce”). After a quick pit stop for a wash and some water, we went back to Magic Kingdom, caught the monorail toward the Grand Floridian and found ourselves stuck mid-route. Turned out DW and DS were on the monorail in front and also waiting. I honestly can’t remember why this happened, but I’m sure our Editor will insert comment. (They were adjusting something on the track).

Once we arrived it was all about finding DW and DS, which happened within two minutes. DS waited with me, while DD and DW changed into their lovely High Tea clothing. We kissed goodbye, and DS and I set forth by way of a boat ride to the Swan Resort for Fantasia Gardens mini-golf. We chose the traditional mini-golf themed to Fantasia (the other course is a putting only version of a real golf course). I decided we’d have more fun with the old-school course and boy was I right!

fgardens

The holes were in 5 groups based on five scenes from Fantasia. DS put his ball down on this first hole and promptly got a hole-in-one! We were off to a great start. DS befriended the English couple playing just ahead of us, who then became his rooting section as he went on to shoot another two holes-in-one and several birdies. I did alright, even had one ace myself, but the kid was the champ of the day. After drinking some sodas, we walked back across the road to the Swan, got the boat across to Magic Kingdom for a few rides, and then headed home to the Art of Animation.

This wonderful day only helped cement my above-mentioned Disney-fication, for which I will be eternally grateful to our faithful blogger and super-vacation-planner. (Woooooooo!  Thanks for writing this, honey!)

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