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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Miami Open 2021


Last year, just before the entire world shut down for the Coronavirus pandemic, we won box seats to the 2020 Miami Open through our tennis club. Andrea and our friend Gina had submitted a photo to a tennis photo contest and our photo got the most "likes" so we had first choice on tickets. Unfortunately, the 2020 Miami open ended up being canceled as everything started to shut down. 

This past week, the 2021 Miami Open started. The tournament was being run at 20% capacity and we really didn't expect to ever hear about the tickets again. We were pretty surprised on Wednesday from our club's tennis director that they had tickets for the tournament this year. I called Grandpa Rick to see if he'd be available to watch the kids and thankfully he was available and willing to watch Connor and Paige. 

Andrea and I drove down on Friday for the tournament and we stayed at a hotel a few minutes to the north of the Hard Rock Stadium. We charged our car and ate some brunch on Saturday morning and then drove to the tournament. Andrea and I like to watch tennis on TV and we tend to watch mostly the womens' matches. We took our seats in the Grandstands and at 11am we watched #1 Ash Barty play against Jalena Ostapenko. It was a super sunny day and we got pretty hot while we watched. We took a break and found some shade after the first match and then relaxed until the 3pm match Azarenka vs Kerber. The kids watched the 3pm match for a while with Grandpa and actually found a moment when Andrea and I were on the TV broadcast. Once that match finished, we realized that it was likely going to be a long wait until the next matches. We had planned to stay the night, but realized that we would probably sleep better in our own beds and decided to drive home. We washed up at the hotel, changed in to some comfy clothes, and made it home a little before midnight. 











Huge thanks to Grandpa for being available on short notice, taking the kids to tennis matches, a golf lesson, and to ice cream. It wouldn't have been possible for us to have this experience without him!

Second Middle School Match

 

On Thursday, both kids played line 1 singles for their tennis teams. The match was in our neighborhood on a fairly warm day and I went with Millie Mae to watch them. Andrea was pretty busy as she is the tennis mom for Paige's team and was pretty busy getting the kids organized. The match was the second one that the kids played for their middle school teams and both won 4-0, 4-0. Great work kids!




Millie Mae update


Millie Mae is getting bigger, cuter, and more mischievous every day. She has learned a lot of tricks like come, sit, stay, lie down, roll over, shake, settle, and "sit pretty" which is "beg". We changed from saying "beg" since I think she thought we were saying "bad" and would look very sad while we were trying to make her do the trick. We can tell that Millie's a smart cookie, although she definitely isn't as eager to please as some other dogs we've worked with. I hate to always compare her to Chloe, but once Chloe figured out what you wanted, she was eager to please. Millie Mae likes her treats and will perform if you have treats. If you're trying to get her to listen to you while she's busy, or while she wants to do something else, tough luck.

I've been giving her a bath each week and she doesn't enjoy it, but tolerates it nicely. She has also gotten better about tolerating her nail trimming. Millie is getting to a point that I believe she may actually enjoy going on walks. She doesn't cry or whine during the walks and will "heel" and come next to you if you give her a tug on the leash. I've also been working with her to sit when we stop, and as long as there aren't too many distractions, she does really well.

The last couple weeks, Millie has become a sneaky pooper. She will go on the puppy pad most of the time, but she will also sneak off and poop random places. Connor found some behind the couch the hard way while the Gobles were in town. Ryan was chasing Connor around the house and Connor stepped, barefoot, right in a big turd which was on the carpet behind the couch in the family room. Amanda thought it was one of the funniest things she'd ever seen, and if you've ever seen the way Connor reacts when he has to pick up one of Millie's poops, you would understand how traumatizing it was for him.

We are still working with the kids to get them to help out more with Millie. They can do a lot, but only with a lot of direction and on demand, which can get exhausting.

Gobles Visit

On Thursday March 18th, 2021, the Gobles flew to Florida and spent a few days with us. The kids were off of school for Spring Break and although the weather turned cold and wet while they were in town, we enjoyed their company and had fun with everyone. On Friday we went to lunch at TPC and then we went to the beach club to enjoy the only sunny day in the forecast during their visit.








The kids enjoyed hanging out at the house together and they all slept in the bonus room. Paige was cute about setting up the couches, which can be setup as twin beds, and we figured Connor would sleep in his room. Instead, Connor decided he wanted to be a part of the slumber party, and he slept on the floor next to the little ones. The kids all decided to play some Minecraft together and started a new survival world on the Xbox and eventually they all played together using phones, computers, and the Xbox. 

Saturday was quite a bit colder and we had Graydon all to ourselves since Amanda and Ryan had an appointment with a realtor to look at houses and neighborhoods. We went to lunch at Barbara Jean's which was Graydon's choice, and we played outside and went on a bike ride to the rope swing.











On Sunday, Andrea took Ryan and Amanda in her car to a few of the neighborhoods they'd been interested in after lunch at Cheesecake Factory. I hung out with the kids and did some work to get caught up from my time off the week before.


Monday was the last day for the Gobles in town and after lunch together they went with the kids to look at some neighborhoods for one last time. Andrea took a picture of the kids playing together at the park in Rivertown.

We had so much fun with the Gobles, although it was a little cold and a little crazy with all the driving around town. It warmed up just as they had to leave and it was a little disappointing they couldn't have better weather while they were here. They flew out early on Tuesday morning, March 23rd. 




Tuesday, March 23, 2021

COVID19 Coronavirus 1 year anniversary

 

This past week marks the 1 year anniversary of the Coronavirus becoming a global pandemic that affected us directly. I posted about it on 3/18/2020 (http://www.vernonvolumes.com/2020/03/spring-break-wild-dunes-and-coronavirus.html) and we weren't sure what to expect at that point. We kind of expected it to last a few weeks at least and it's wild to see how the world has truly changed since that day. 

For our family, we've been very fortunate. While we do know some people that got sick and that died from the COVID19 pandemic, our family has stayed healthy. The Gobles and Rudolphs contracted the virus this past winter, but thankfully they had fairly minor cases. Andrea and I have been vaccinated and more people are vaccinated by the day. It's incredible how quickly a vaccine was developed and rolled out. At this point, it seems like the world may be turning the corner and there's a lot of hope that anyone who wants a vaccine will likely be able to have it in America by May. It will be interesting to see how soon things return to "normal" following that point, and I wonder if things will ever be the same as they were before the pandemic.

I've included a couple screenshots in this post showing the pandemic's #'s in America as of this date, how they look in the world, and also how they looked a year ago when everything started.


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Disney and Ritz trip with Grandpa Rick and Grandma Alice

This year for Spring break we decided we'd go to Orlando to give Disney a try. With the COVID pandemic still underway, most people are still not traveling and we've heard the Disney parks are much less crowded than average and they're limiting guests to 33% capacity. We got our vaccines recently and decided we'd go with Grandpa and Grandma and make the best of it while being as safe as possible. We drove down to the Ritz on Saturday, March 13th, 2021 and after checking in we spent some time at the pool.






We ate outdoors at the bar patio in the evening and then went to bed.



In the morning on Sunday, we got up fairly early and got ready for the day. Andrea got us some Disney themed masks and we drove to Hollywood Studios with Grandma and Grandpa. 


When we arrived, we snapped a group shot together and then rode the new train ride that is now in the theatre. 







There really weren't a ton of rides in the park and the lines were.... interesting. So people could be apart from each other, the lines were stretched and snaked all throughout the park. There were lines on the ground every few feet indicating where you should stand so you'd be apart from the other guests in line and for the most part people were fairly good about keeping a bit of distance from you in line. The unfortunate part about the lines in Hollywood Studios was the lack of shade. Some of the lines would stretch back and forth in the concrete in the sun and we were starting to bake while we waited. The park was supposed to be at 33% capacity, but in my opinion it felt like it was fully crowded because a lot of the attractions were closed. I guess Disney either couldn't figure out a way to modify the shows to keep the cast members apart and in masks, or they couldn't figure out a way to seat guests in the amphitheaters. As a result, those shows were not running and it seemed like all the guests were waiting in the lines.

We rode the Toy Story 3D shooter game, then a spinning ride, then the Slinky Dog rollercoaster. Before we got in line for the rollercoaster, we tried to eat and then realized that you needed to put your order in on the app and then wait for it. Andrea had the good idea of getting in line for the ride while we waited and once we were done on the rollercoaster, our food was ready.







Lunch was surprisingly tasty and we found a nice cool table inside. After lunch, we rode the Aerosmith rollercoaster twice to see if it would make us barf, and the kids absolutely loved it. No barf, lots of fun.



After Aerosmith, we met up with everyone else and went to the Star Wars area to experience the Rise of the Rebellion. It was a new ride in the park and was a pretty elaborate setup. The demand for the ride was so high that they required everyone to queue for it online via the app at 7am. I clicked on the link quickly at 7am that morning and apparently was too slow clicking through the subsequent screen to confirm our party and as a result we didn't get a spot. I was really bummed about it, but there was another opportunity at 1pm to queue and thankfully that time I'd been able to get us a spot. After the Aerosmith rollercoaster it was our turn and we got in the line which was relatively short. 

The ride had multiple phases and started off as we went through a Rebel base, walked past an X-Wing fighter that escorted us after we boarded a transport. The transport blasted us off in to outerspace and we were intercepted by Tie Fighters and a Star Destroyer. The Tie Fighters destroyed our escort and we were pulled in to the hangar of the Star Destroyer and were forced to exit the craft. The Empire troops were waiting for us and the rows of stormtroopers were very intimidating. 


We were taken down a hallway to an interrogation cell and then the Rebel troops broke us out and we jumped in to a cart which took us on a wild ride through the interior of the Star Destroyer until finally we got in to an escape pod and then flew back to the planet's surface. 


Overall, the ride was a pretty neat experience and it was pretty well put together and had some neat elements I'd never seen before in a Disney ride. After the Rise of the Rebellion, we went to the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run ride. Paige and I flew the ship while Andrea and Grandpa fired the lasers. Connor and Grandma did some engineering work, but they had inconsistent stories regarding their performance with their duties. We survived, but just barely and had a fairly low score. I definitely would like another crack at the ride.




Finally, at the end of the day we rode the Tower of Terror. Andrea and Grandma sat it out and both the kids were super excited for the ride and ultimately disappointed. After the Aerosmith rollercoaster, it was a bit of a let down.



When we left the park, everyone listed their "High, Medium, Low" for the day. I meant to do this for every park, but we didn't end up doing it at Epcot and Animal Kingdom.

Grandpa
H. Rise of Rebellion 
M. Aerosmith rollercoaster
L. getting hungry in morning

Grandma
H. Toy Story shooting ride
M. Stormtroopers on rise of the rebellion
L. Slinky Ride getting sick

Paige
H. Aerosmith rollercoaster twice
M. Getting a Stitch backpack
L. Disappointed with tower of terror

Connor
H. Aerosmith rollercoaster. Slinky. Tower of terror rides
M. Eating
L. Lines

Shawn
H. Flying Millennium Falcon
M. Aerosmith rollercoaster twice
L. Not getting 7am slot for rise of rebellion. Worrying we'd miss the ride.

Andrea
H. Slinky dog Rollercoaster
M. Star Wars rise of the rebellion 
L. Waiting on us to ride the rides she didn’t ride on



Monday was Epcot Day. Paige was super excited for Epcot and already had a plan in her head for what we'd be doing. She was determined to start the day with Crepes in France and so we headed over there first thing and started our loop through the various countries. 







The crepes were actually really tasty. We all got them except for Connor. Paige and I got ice cream on ours while Grandpa, Grandma and Andrea all got the strawberry puree. 

After crepes we looked at the rides on the app and the lines were super long. We decided to walk around the world area and as we went through the Japan area I decided to just get our Ramen noodles while we were in the area. Paige and I got Ramen and we got Chicken/Beef Teriyaki for Connor. Andrea and Connor ended up loving the Teriyaki and thought it was better than the Ramen. Grandma and Grandpa both got Ramen.


The last time we were at Epcot Paige loved the Mochi from Japan. I think it's not actually official Mochi since it's not made with ice cream, but we got a few packages of the rice cakes for Paige.


After finishing our walk around the world area we split up. Grandma and Grandpa hung out and looked at the flowers and we went to the Test Track.





After riding the Test Track we had a bit of a difficult decision. We hadn't really been at the park that long, but we were pretty uncomfortable. There wasn't much shade, we were getting super hot with our masks in the sun, and there really weren't any other rides we were very interested in. We'd have liked to ride "Soarin" but the line was stupidly long. We decided to ride the Spaceship Earth ride and then we left the park. After our experience at Epcot we were seriously considering a change of plans and were not sure if we wanted to go to Animal Kingdom or not. 

Tuesday we decided to take a day to relax at the resort. We walked around the resort area in the morning and were surprised it felt a bit cooler.




We ate at Uno's for lunch and while we were eating, Paige and I started talking about how the crazy swing ride nearby looked like fun. I looked it up online and decided we'd give it a try. Nobody else was interested, so while everyone finished up their lunch, Paige and I walked on over.



I'm not sure exactly how high you end up going, but it's a bit crazy. The Orlando Starflyer structure is 450 feet tall and you get pretty high up on it once the swing goes to the highest point. As it was going up I was a little uncomfortable, but once it started spinning I was pretty freaked out. It was a crazy feeling to be suspended up so high and you're flying around the structure at 45 mph. At one point on each rotation you go headlong in to the wind and it really hit you pretty hard and got you rocking. Paige was not scared or uncomfortable in the slightest, but I was holding on to her hand pretty hard.





After lunch we went back to the hotel and went to the JW Marriot next door and went on the lazy river. 



Wednesday was our last day in Orlando and after we woke up and got packed, we drove over to the Animal Kingdom. This time around we were a bit better prepared and I brought umbrellas with us in case we got stuck in lines that snaked through the sun.




We started off on the Dinosaur ride and then I went on the Everest rollercoaster with Grandpa and the kids. The kids loved it and wanted to go again. Since the line was relatively short we decided to let them go again, but I was feeling a bit dizzy after the ride. Thankfully Grandpa was game to ride again and he snapped a pic of the kids just before they set off on their second time around.



After Everest, we rode the Safari ride and then we went to the Avatar area of the park. I was determined to ride the Avatar Flight of Passage ride. The last time we'd been to the Animal Kingdom, the ride was new and the line was way too long. This time around the line showed that it was around and hour but thankfully it was a bit shorter when we waited. 







I snapped a pic of everyone right before we boarded the Avatar Flight of Passage ride with their 3d glasses. The ride was pretty awesome and was pretty similar to Soarin at Epcot, except you were strapped in to a weird contraption and the way you were positioned made you feel a bit more like you were flying. The contraption also had pressure points that would press on you at certain times to make you feel like you were falling or turning, so it helped to augment the feeling of movement during the ride.

Once we got done in Pandora we went to get my favorite Disney treat, the Pineapple whip. 


On the way out of the park we stopped off to watch the 3d Bug's Life video and then we got on the road and got home fairly early so we could get our teddy bear puppy from the pet sitter. It was great to be home and see her again!


Overall, the trip was awesome. We had a lot of laughs, got to spend some fun quality time with Grandma and Grandpa, and had an enjoyable Disney experience. We would have preferred the weather to be a bit cooler, but it was actually not so bad as long as you weren't standing around in the direct sun too long. Big thanks to Andrea for planning the trip and making our fun family time together a priority!