Monthly Archives: July 2010

Pirate Tutorial

Saturday, I got to take Alexander to the Magic Kingdom. While we were there, Alexander was selected for the Jack Sparrow Pirate Tutorial. As far as cool factor, it’s probably not as fun as the Jedi Training Academy he got to do the week before, but it was pretty fun.

Before we went to Adventureland, we stopped off in Fantasyland to take a spin on the Mad Tea Party. Alexander used to hate it when I spun the teacup fast. Now he loves it.

Here’s how the show goes: A pirate starts the show to warm up the audience before Jack Sparrow makes his appearance. The concept is that Jack is looking for new crew mates, so he teaches them how to sword fight, how to distract your opponent and how to run away. All the pirates take an oath to the pirate code, the kids all get certificates pledging their allegiance to the captain, and then Jack and his buddy Mac lead everyone in a not-quite-rousing singalong of Yo Ho Yo Ho a Pirates Life For Me.

Is it bad parenting to allow your child to be escorted by a drunken pirate?

Alexander crosses blades with Captain Jack.

"Look! It's the governor's daughter!"

It all goes on for a rather long time. But Alexander had fun, and it was another feather in his combat training cap – Jedi, pirate… I hope Norway at Epcot gets a Viking training camp, and Japan gets a ninja dojo.

Taco Truck Taste Test

Mark Baratelli of the blog organizes Taco Truck Taste Tests, opportunities to explore the street food culture we have here in Orlando. Tonight was TTTT #5, and the first one I’ve participated in. Mark is also organizing the Orlando Improv Festival in September. Be sure to check that out at

We met at the parking lot of Tacos Del Rio (9785 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando FL 32837), where there’s a string of taco trucks, each with a slightly different menu. Our taco truck expert Jorge Mendoza was on hand to describe the food and the culture and offer up some suggestions. Tacos Del Rio itself is a nice little storefront Mexican restaurant with a big menu, and I’ll be returning there to give it a try. I grew up in Southern California where good Mexican food is available everywhere. Orlando is not as blessed, so it’s good to find authentic Mexican food nearby!

Truck Number 1

There was a pretty good turnout for the event. The locals were a little put off by our crowd, I think, but everyone was nice.

Jorge was a great guide to the trucks and the types of food they had! Thanks, Jorge!

Alexander and I both had arepas con queso, a white corn meal sandwich filled with cheese, because I'm temporarily vegetarian and Alexander isn't too adventurous.

Alexander didn't really like his arepa, and I must admit, it was different than I've had before. I'm used to an arepa that is a pressed with the cheese more melted. And with just cheese, this just lacked flavor.

Jorge explains the menu at one of the other trucks. I'm excited to go back, now that I know what to expect.

I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.

If you’ve ever been to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you may have seen the Jedi Training Academy that’s adjacent to Star Tours. It’s a very popular show that gets kids on stage to learn the ways of the Force. It used to be that everyone mobbed the stage in hopes that their child would be picked to be in the show as a “Padawan in Training.”

Fortunately, Disney got smart and now allow kids to queue up in front of the nearby Sounds Dangerous building (Sounds Dangerous being a show that is closed). Kids have to be between the ages of 4 and 14, and be able to take instruction. The first 15 kids in line are selected for each show. The Cast Members talk to the kids to make sure they meet the requirements and then give the kids a plastic card to hold so that no one cuts in front of them in the line. Any kids who are in line beyond those first 15 are able to wait for the following show. It’s a very efficient and fair way to do things.

Another great thing is the Disney Photopass Photographer who is on hand snapping pictures that most of the parents aren’t able to get. You’ll get a Photopass card and a slip of paper reminding you which Jedi Training Academy your child was in. After the show, you can go to the Cover Story shop to have any of the pictures that were taken added to your Photopass card. You can either purchase them on the spot, or take the card home and view them at to review at will (as well as any other pictures that were taken on your visit). They have creative borders you can place on the images as well, including Star Wars ones to help frame your child’s experience for a lasting memory.

My son is a HUGE Star Wars fan, and his favorite character has always been Darth Vader. He loved to watch the movies and see the progression of Anakin Skywalker as he succumbs to the dark side of the Force, and is finally redeemed (debatable) by helping his son Luke defeat the Emperor.

We’ve seen the Jedi Training Academy show many many times, but Alexander has never participated. The line was short when we went so he asked to do it. I don’t think it’s possible to imagine what an amazing experience it is to be able to live a fantasy like this for these children. To participate in a sparring match with Darth Vader, twice their size (three times for some of those 4 year olds), is pretty awesome.

My son thanked me about 80 times for letting him do it. It let him live a dream.

Enjoy the pictures!

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For the kids!

You all know that school budgets are getting slashed left and right, and teachers are undervalued and underpaid. And here in Orange County, Florida, over half of the kids are on the free or reduced school lunch program. That means those kids can’t even afford to eat lunch, let alone buy school supplies.

So that means those underpaid teachers end up buying supplies for their kids out of their own pocket. On average, teachers spend over $1000 a year on supplies for their classroom or for their students. Sometimes it’s a LOT more than $1000.

But there’s hope. A Gift For Teaching is an organization that distributes school supplies to those teachers and students here in Central Florida. Every day, A Gift for Teaching provides nearly $40,000 in donated product to teachers.

I’m helping raise money and school supplies this August to make sure the teachers and students start the year off right. I’d love it if you could donate some money to help this great cause! I volunteer often with A Gift for Teaching and their staff are wonderful stewards of donated money and supplies. Through their organization a dollar donated can be stretched to $10 worth of school supplies.

Please consider giving even a little bit! Thank you so much for an outstanding committment to this extraordinary cause!

Click here to donate:

If you would like to make a supply donation, let me know. While the kids always need standard school supplies, they take all kinds of other items as well, new or gently used. Teachers are very creative and can find uses for all kinds of things. Let me know in the comments if there’s something you’d like to give!

Quick update

We are all moved, from our two bedroom apartment to two bedrooms of a four bedroom house. Space is limited, but we’re making the best of it. It’s definitely not the best situation for us, but right now, cheap rent will lead to better situations in the future.

Alexander had a hard time with the move. He can be a little dramatic, but this wasn’t just being dramatic – he seemed to be having an anxiety attack. Some of it was because he wanted to help, and I’d tell him one thing, but then someone else would tell him to do something else, and so he didn’t know what to do. But he also picked up on my own anxiety, I know. But we worked through it and by the end of the weekend, he was doing good. It helps that the development community pool has a big twisty slide. We’ll try and go this weekend.

I’m eating out more because of the move, though. Right now, I am having hotcakes at McDonalds. But they’re playing good music, good cheap coffee, have free wifi. I want to know who sings this version of Waters of March that they are playing.

I saw Toy Story 3 and liked it a lot. It was darker than the first two, but it made total sense in the progression of the characters. I’ve only heard adults say they think it’s too dark – not any parents who say their children are traumatized by it. And I liked all the head-nods to other stuff in the movie… Totoro, Lightning McQueen and Nemo references… Cool Hand Luke references… It was fun. Go see it.

This weekend, we’d talked about going to see The Last Airbender. And then I read the criticism of the Casting choices and I feel guilty for wanting to see it. I know Alexander doesn’t notice race much, but will this movie make him notice it? Why are kids who are Aleutian-ish in the cartoon played by white people, for example? I think we’ll probably go anyway, but maybe have a discussion about the Casting and see what he thinks.

That’s it. Thanks for reading!