Thursday, September 24, 2009

Preschool, Mickey, Shamu, and Radars

I decided to take Vanessa Halloween costume shopping in an effort to give mommy some more free time. In a mild upset, she chose Cinderella over what I thought was a lock in Ariel. Here she models her costume for Nana in preparation for her visit to Disney World.

Vanessa has also started school! She goes to school literally a half a mile a way, so Sarah and Elizabeth can drop her off and pick her up in a stroller. Vanessa goes back and forth about being excited about school and not wanting to do it. Usually if we remind her that you have to be 3 to go to school she gets excited about it.

Elizabeth on the other hand loves school and its hard for Sarah to pull her away. She wants to be just like her older sister. Here they hang out after school on the playground.

Switching gears here, as part of my transition to new responsibilities at work, I signed up for a Basic Radar Concepts course in Orlando, Florida. It's an introductory radar course offered by Georgia Tech. I figured that since I'd be in Orlando for three days, I might as well extend my stay, bring the family, and visit some famous theme park in the area.

We stayed at the Disney All-Star Music resort. Because we were going during their "offseason", we got a great deal of $69 a night. Here we are riding the free bus to Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios).

No sooner had we walked into Hollywood Studios than a Block Party Parade broke out. Vanessa decided she needed an aerial view of the festivities.

One thing about Florida during the summer/fall is that you should expect some form of rain every day and lots of sun, very little in between. Here you can see that as one smart soul heads for cover, our girls head on out to play.

They really liked playing in really warm rain. I enjoyed a nice sheltered view.

Here is a perfect example of the difficulty of taking pictures of our girls. Right now they look absolutely soaking wet and miserable outside Mickey's hat.

Just 30 seconds later they look so happy! I don't know what Sarah did to elicit that response.

Day 2 of Disney took us to the Animal Kingdom. Here the girls enjoy the tram ride from our car to the front gates.

This was my first trip to the Animal Kingdom since it had been built more recently than I had visited. As you can see, this day's weather was much more typical for Florida in the summer.

Animal Kingdom is sort of a combination zoo and theme park. Here we are on the way to check out some birds.

While waiting for our safari ride, we walked through one of the animal exhibits. We spent a good time here looking at the fish and the hippo (not appearing in this picture).

Here we are on the safari ride. This was really cool. You basically are on a Jurassic Park style ride through the wildlife reserve.

Here the girls check out some elephants. Elizabeth loves elephants.

After getting off the safari, we stumbled upon some drums. My girls are never one to pass up playing some music, so we took a break for a brief jam session.

Walking a little bit down the road, I saw a small sign that said Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger. I knew that Vanessa was just fine with meeting larger than life characters as she had previously tackled the Chick-fil-a cow. She was SO excited to meet Pooh et al. Elizabeth was a bit more tenative.

Vanessa actually smiled for the camera here. Elizabeth is still a bit unsure.

She seemed to like Eeyore a bit more. Here she gets in some peek-a-boo with him.

Once again, Vanessa snuggled up close. Elizabeth was still keeping her distance.

I think of these three, Vanessa was most excited to see Tigger.

Elizabeth also warmed up to Tigger. I suspect she'll inherit Vanessa's Tigger costume for Halloween, so this was a good meeting for her.

One thing Disney does well are their variants of Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Here Vanessa demonstrates that she knows how to make her Triceratops go up and down.

Tuesday was the first day of my class, so Sarah took the girls to the pool at the hotel and headed out to Epcot later in the day. I think they spent most of their time in the water fountains. I headed over to Epcot for dinner, but we spent the least amount of time there. It's a bit much for the youngins.

Wednesday marked the arrival of Nana to Orlando. She arrived around lunchtime and took the girls to the Magic Kingdom while I was in class.

By the time I got out of class, I found the girls playing in Ariel's grotto.

Think Elizabeth likes the water?

I decided to give Nana and Sarah a break and take Vanessa to meet her favorite little mermaid.

I think she's a bit excited and happy to be sitting next to someone special.

Ariel was very nice. Vanessa was hopping up and down so much it was difficult to get her to sit for a photo.

Elizabeth loved the extra time with Nana.

This is my favorite picture we got there. We're all smiling, looking at the camera, and you can tell where we are. Good job Disney photographer!

On Thursday, Grandma Lou drove over from Lakeland and took the girls to Magic Kingdom while I continued to get firehosed with radar range equations and electronic countermeasures. Vanessa sure loves her Nana.

Apparently Sarah couldn't get the girls away from these cactus statues of Goofy et al in Mickey's backyard.

One thing I really like about Disney is that they let you bring in your own food and drinks if you want. Sarah and the girls took full advantage of this. Just don't try to take those crackers away from Vanessa.

Vanessa enjoyed taking the family for a spin in tea cups from Alice in Wonderland. She insisted on doing the spinning all by herself.

The girls loved all the playgrounds at Walt Disney World.

Vanessa and Elizabeth loved chasing each other in a nice shaded area.

Right near by were there of the princesses. Here we are with Princess Aurora, aka Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty. Vanessa was a bit shy and insisted that Daddy sit with her.

That shyness completly disappeared when we met Cinderella.

Very excited. VERY excited.

By the time we had gotten to Belle, Vanessa was willing to be more open. After telling Belle her name, she also tells her how old she is. Belle shows her that there are many ways to sign three.

Vanessa really enjoyed her visit to the princesses. They were very polite, kind, and patient.

Here the girls wear their matching outfit while in line for the Jungle Cruise. Aren't they cute?

They do love each other so much.

My cousin Cynthia and her daughter McKenna drove over to see the electric parade with us. Here Grandma Lou is laughing as Vanessa decided to eat her ice cream like a cat. It was pretty silly.

On Friday we headed back to Hollywood Studios to see what we missed. Vanessa was a bit scared of the bad guy. That hasn't stopped her from continuing to ask to see him everytime we scan through these pictures.

This was part of the same Jedi Academy show. Basically they pull 12 children from the audience, put them in Jedi robes, give them a lightsaber, teach them how to swing it, and then each in turn gets to fight Darth Vader. Then they get a Padawan diploma. The family in front of us had seen the show six times because their two daughters had already gotten chosen but their son hadn't. Good thing this wasn't around when I was kid, I would have driven my parents nuts.

We finally found Mickey hiding out in the Animation gallery. The girls were very excited to meet him. This might end up being our Christmas card photo this year.

Nana agreed to get in one picture to prove to her coworkers she was at Disney and not just playing golf.

On Saturday we went to Sea World. It's hard to see, but here Vanessa and I are feeding the Dolphins. She LOVED this.

I think Elizabeth liked Sea World even more than Vanessa. She loved watching the rays and sharks whenever she got a chance.

Finally, on our last day in Florida, we went to the Magic Kingdom one last time. I had taken Vanessa on Goofy's Barnstormer the first time, but Mommy loves roller coasters. Here you can see them just coming around the bend.

Finally, on our way out we ran into Jasmine and Aladdin. Vanessa was so excited she couldn't contain herself.

I love this picture because she looks terrified. In reality, she's doing her smile combined with overstimulation because she's so excited. Overall the girls were amazing and definitely encouraged their parents to take them again in a couple of years.
I also highly recommend that Basic Radar Concepts course if you're looking to learn about radars. The professor who taught the class was one the best presenters I've seen, and trust me, I've sat through several degrees worth of college classes at this point in my life. ;)

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