Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hello...Is This Thing On??

Wow...time flies when you're having fun...and it flies even faster when you're completely overwhelmed and have little hope of getting caught up!!

Yes, the blog is still alive...I've just had one of the most intense few months I've had in a long time.  I took on quite a bit more than I could handle, and some things had to "go to the back burner" for a while.  The blog was one of those items.

While I still am busy (we all are), there appears to be a little respite from all that has been going on: the training for the half-marathon (and the corresponding fundraising efforts) is wrapping up; the job search is over for now (I didn't get the tenure-track position, but I learned a lot in the process, and I know that there will be another position opening up in the next few years at the same institution); I am now so close to having the proposal of my dissertation taken care of that I can almost taste it; some of my A.D.D. projects have been finished; my Committee work for Cub Scouts is over for now (I'm still Aaron's den leader and the Tiger Cub partner for Eric, but the really time-consuming portion as Tiger Cub Coordinator is done until next September)...and the popcorn sales/distribution is DONE; my night class is done (I LOVED teaching that class...most were MBA students, but I left for work as soon as Sheri got home and didn't get home until after the boys were in bed); my role as academic advisor has slowed down for a bit (it will pick back up in February/March, but I'll take the break!); ...the list goes on and on!  For the most part, I absolutely love what I do, and, as many friends and family members tell me, I'd probably be bored out of my mind if I weren't overwhelmed.  This was one of those times, though, where, despite my best efforts, I just couldn't keep all the balls in the air at the same time without dropping one or two.

One casualty of all that has been going on is the set of posts for the Disney podcast updates.  As you can probably guess, this, sadly, is something I just can't do any more.  I feel bad, because I had a few readers who really looked forward to seeing those.  There are a few others in the Disney Universe who are doing similar things with regards to keeping people in the loop on what's going on with the podcasts, and they are able to keep it more current than I would be able to.  To those who do the shows (Lou, Ricky, Matt, Mike, Mike, Len, Rikki, Mike (lots of Mikes), Paul, Shawn, Katie, Scott, Tracey, Mortis, Matt, Nate...I could go on for hours listing y'all), keep up the great work!  To the Betamouse crew...happy trails!  While I will definitely miss hearing the shows, it sounds like many of the hosts are moving on to new and better things.  Best of luck!

I'll work on getting some more posts up here in the coming weeks.  I still have 1.5 trip reports to get up here, and there will be another trip coming in over the next couple of weeks (Marathon Weekend).  If nothing else, I can post chapters of my dissertation for you to critique :)  .

Hopefully everyone has a safe and happy Christmas and New Year!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

We Interrupt This Trip Report to Bring You This Public Service Announcement

Well, technically, this is somewhat of a continuation of the June 2010 report, but there's a more important theme.

The cast members at the Walt Disney World resort always seem to go above and beyond what you would expect at any other place…that’s one of the main reasons we love going there over and over again.

But then there is the rare diamond in the rough who is so amazing at what he or she does that you will remember them for a very long time, if not forever.  This post is part trip report and part acknowledgement to one such cast member.

We were introduced to Aladdin by some good friends of ours.  Mare and I hung out at an online community and first met in-person in December of 2005 at (where else) Epcot.  You can read about that one here.  We quickly became friends with Mare, her husband Mark, and their daughter, Renee (we affectionately call them the Badelves family...inside joke).

In October of 2007, Sheri and I were down at WDW for a great meet-up with nearly 70 friends, all from the same online community that Mare and I hung out at.  During the main meet-up, we walked around with Mare’s crew as well as with another close mutual friend (Debbie, Dan, Lexie, and Austin).  It was this trip that we first met Aladdin.  He didn’t know me from Adam, but, taking a cue from Mare, he starts interacting with us like we’re close friends (i.e. talking with Genie about how the Moose Meet was going, repositioning the order for the pics so I could be next to Jasmine (THANKS, MARE!!!), etc).  It was a very brief meeting, but it was the first of several memorable ones.

Fast forward 2 months.  In a record number of trips to WDW that has since been unmatched, the entire Mushfam found themselves back down at WDW in mid-December.  We met up with Mare’s crew and Debbie’s crew on our arrival night.  After touring DHS that evening, we met up with the Badelves again the following morning along with Todd and Maureen’s family (another online friend) at MK.  Our boys think it’s totally awesome being in the parks with friends, so we try to find a time to meet up with others again.  The goal was to meet up with Mare and Renee at MK on our last night.  While we were coordinating via text, I mentioned that we were going to do the AAA Storytime, and Mare replies that she thinks that “our Aladdin” (that’s what everyone started calling him) was doing that.  Sure enough, he was…you can read it by clicking here.  The funniest thing was that Mare talked to Aladdin prior to the Storytime, and he joked around with me about Jasmine not being there, called Sheri by name, etc.   That is one of his special gifts…he makes every meeting a personal event with whoever he’s with.  Check the top of the blog page, and you'll see the pic from that meetup.  Oh, and the boys still have the bookmarks signed by him.

We met up again with Mark/Mare and Dan/Debbie in December of 2008, but we didn’t see our Aladdin during this trip, unfortunately.  Well, technically, we did see him at Epcot, but we didn’t get in line as we were on a mission to do an attraction.  Still, I paused for a quick minute to watch him interact with a family.  Sheri saw me stop, and she also paused for a moment to see what he was doing.  We both left the meeting area with smiles…the people who just met him were all smiles, and the children were wide-eyed with excitement – they had just met the real Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie.

Now we come to June of 2010...this is where the trip report picks up.  After returning from DHS (the previous installment of the trip report can be found at this link), we returned to Epcot, knowing (thanks to Mare), that Al was currently in Morocco.  The boys protested vehemently as we told them that we were going to check out Morocco.  Mare told us when he’d be there, and we made it to the meet-and-greet area in the Nick of time as Aladdin was coming out for his last set before heading back to Agrabah for the night.  While we waited, I was in a text-fest with Mare.  I mistakenly told her that I thought Jasmine was drop-dead gorgeous…she replied with “I’m going to have to find out who’s there today and let her know.”

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the Badelves know a lot of the cast members at WDW.

His time to be off-shift was just about to be up before we even made it near the front, but he and Jasmine stayed out there to make sure every guest got their time with them.  As we made it to the front of the line, I got to see the family in front of us talk to them.  One of the girls in the party was wheelchair-bound.  The attention that he and Jasmine gave her was unparalleled, and you could see tears welling up in her parents’ eyes.  The best part was that they were having fun while they were talking with the family.  For example: both girls had coloring books that they were hoping to have Jasmine and he autograph.  Aladdin flips through to the page he was looking for and said that the girls colored in Jasmine really well.  Then he opens up the book for everyone to see, and it’s turned to a page with Maleficent.  Jasmine, of course, puts her hands on her hips and turns away (I think trying to stifle a laugh).

I was so awestruck at what he did for the family before us that I almost forgot that we were next.  We let the boys go up by themselves, while we stood back to watch.

Aaron brings up Renee, and they get to talking about them a little.

(someone on Facebook thought Aaron was checking out Jasmine in that last pic…he truly is my son).

As we talked, the BeeGees tribute band started up nearby in the America Gardens Theater, and he paused momentarily to comment on a garbled refrain that got me, Sheri, and the Photopass guy laughing.  We hopped in for a family Photopass pic and, as we say our goodbyes, I quietly said to him that it was absolutely amazing what he does and he truly is Aladdin to so many people.  We talked a bit about Mark/Mare/Renee before thanking him, saying goodbye, and relinquishing them to the next excited family ready to meet them.
Sheri and I just turned to each other, smiled, and watched the interaction of the next family out of the corner of our eyes as we started towards the Japan pavilion.

I recall Mare posting an emotional entry  where “their Jasmine” was leaving WDW to head to the Theme Park in Hong Kong.  While the Badelves have come to know the alter egos of Aladdin and Jasmine outside of the parks for a while before that day, reading what Mare wrote and seeing the pictures with Renee inside Epcot shows that, while it can be just a job for some, the tears being shed by everyone shows that the cast member makes the character.  It was the last time Jasmine was going to be Jasmine, and it was like a part of her was going to be gone forever.  I then realized how much personality “our Aladdin” puts into Aladdin.  He makes Aladdin who he is because he, in essence, becomes the character.  I have seen it in others, too…not just face characters.  Bus drivers, food service workers, attraction operators, janitorial staff…I have seen a remarkable job done by all sorts of cast members.  They create and evolve the role that they do in ways that get what needs to be done actually done while still entertaining those around them.

All too often, I see guests in the parks take the cast members for granted.  Some think that, simply because they paid money, they are entitled to 100% perfection in an imperfect world.  There have been times where I have seen so many members in Guest Services having to patiently accept being screamed at because the weather forced the parks to cancel an event.  I have read on discussion boards about how mad people are because they heard one family having “X” (where “X” is a ‘cool’ event) happen, but, when they tried it, they didn’t have “X” occur.  The things that most would consider special about Disney are expected to be routine to them.  They fail to see the magic.  They also fail to realize that it’s the cast members who are responsible for the magic.  Imagine trying to be a magic maker when only one or two out of every hundred guests are disinterested or upset, yet it’s the one or two who are upset that you hear about rather than the other 98 who are happy.  Aladdin breaks the mold when it comes to creating memories for people.  I hope that he, and all cast members, see the appreciation and gratitude in the guests’ eyes and expressions, if not in reviews.

If you see a cast member do something that meets that “wow” factor, please take the time to thank them and, if you have time, stop by Guest Services to give them some positive feedback (trust me…they’ll appreciate it as 98% of those in there will be giving not-so-positive feedback).

This post is also for those anonymous CMs who go on stage every day without fail and create the magic that is Walt Disney World.  This post is a reminder for those guests in the parks who take what the CMs do for granted in the hopes that they’ll appreciate what it takes to provide you with the experience that makes us go back over and over again.

But mostly, this post is for you, Al…you rock!!! 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mushfam Disney Family Vacation Vacation, June 2010; Day 5, Part 2: HOT! HOT! HOT

Part 1 of this day can be found HERE.

Eric’s not big enough to do RNR, but Aaron is, so I run up and grab FPs for it since the wait is already over 60 minutes. We then stop at Starring Rolls for the first entry in the battle of the best snack at DHS: the Butterfinger cupcake! We walk in just as they were taking the newest batch out of the chiller. We grab some water and a cupcake and head outside. The verdict? Not bad…extremely rich, but not bad. It’s a mess to eat, too, especially when trying to split it four ways. I can’t wait to try the carrot cake cookie to see which is better.

Eric is a total mess, so we hose him down and make our way out. The crowds are really swelling now, and the sun is baking everything in sight, so we decide to look for a long, cool respite. That can only mean one thing in DHS…the Great Movie Nap!!! Wifey was thrilled because we were in the holding room while a lot of Mary Poppins was showing. Eric was so enthralled with the movie that, while trying to walk through the switchbacks in the queue while watching the screen, he missed the turn and face-planted the end of the queue line. The bruise formed immediately. DCFS was almost called.

This is another one of those rides that Sheri likes a lot more than I do. Still, we’re out of the heat, and it’s the first experience for both boys. I’m a little concerned about the Alien scene, but I go along with it. We start off with a female CM for the beginning, and we could barely hear much of what she was saying. We’ve done this attraction probably 3 times (2 times too many for my liking), and we get the Western scene for the first time. The CM swap gives us a guy who we can hear with no problem whatsoever (it was distorted…yeah, that loud)! At Indy, we get the girl again and continue on through. Sheri and the boys loved Oz sequence, and you can’t prove that I sang during this part. The alien scene was fine because we were near the back of the vehicles and weren’t near the scary part. One of my favorite parts of the attraction is the end…no, not because it’s over. I like watching the montage of movies in that last room. I’m still “meh” on the attraction, and, judging by the boys’ reactions, they’re with me on this (though I don’t think GMR is geared toward children anyway).

We head out into the convection oven that is the Florida heat and make our way down towards Muppets! This is Sheri’s penance for making me do GMR…I’ve always loved the Muppets and watched the show religiously in the 70s when it was on (those born after 1974 can keep quiet about this). This is our first experience with the film cleaned up and the new TVs in the preshow area.


The boys again loved this attraction, and I even think Sheri was a bit impressed with the cleaned up film.

We head out and almost stop for the carrot cake cookie (thanks to Lou Mongello for introducing us to this), but we’re still in a sugar coma from the Butterfinger cupcake, and our pancreas would likely have shut down had we gotten the cookie. I make a mental note to make sure I try this next time I’m in DHS. It’s about 30 minutes before the Star Wars Weekend parade, so we decide to start making our way to our lunch location – the 50s Prime Time Café and watch the parade a few rows back so we can bolt over to the restaurant for our ADRs. A woman with a couple of boys around the boys’ ages notices us behind her and offers to let the boys grab some pavement next to her boys. We weren’t planning on getting up front, but we graciously take her up on the offer. About 15 minutes before the start, 3 families sign an alliance to guard the area around us as there was no more room for anyone, though many were trying (all adults, I might add, except for the family who walked up 2 minutes before the start of the parade and expected to sit up front on the road). They boys don’t know what the parade is about, so we surprised them again. One of my online friends from Lodgeboards was also in the Studios today and, after a few texts back and forth, was trying to get across the street before the parade started. We weren’t able to meet up before the parade, unfortunately.

Now, if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll love the series of videos below as well as the pics that Sheri took (it was hilarious…she was taking pics as fast as she could, even though she had no idea who most of the characters were). If you’re not a Star Wars fan, just scroll down about 10 feet to the end of the parade. The video is chronological…the pics, well, I have no guarantees on the order.



Sandra and I continue texting to find each other, and we eventually meet up near the entrance to Indy. We talk for a few minutes and introduce the families to each other.

There's never enough time to catch up, especially since this is our first in-person meeting (we've known each other for several years from talking online, so it wasn't like we didn't know each other).  After a few minutes together, we say our goodbyes and head over to 50’s PTC before melting commences.

EVERYONE was trying to see if they could get in to dine because of the heat, but only the ADRs could get in (which is why I always tell the folks I help plan trip for to make those reservations EARLY!!). We head inside and wait for our kinfolk to call us to dinner. While waiting, I grab the video camera to zoom into the bar to see what they have on draft.


They call the Mushrush kids in, and we’re seated in the kitchen (for those who haven’t eaten there, every dining area is a kitchen/dining area setup from the 1950’s…thus the name).

As we look around, our server, Cousin Nicole, stops by to say “Hi.” As start to say “hi there”, the puts the silverware in front of me and orders me to set the table. Then she walks away.

That’s all the boys needed to see…they were in love with this place.  They were even excited to meet a new relative (to this day, they think Nicole is our cousin).

After a couple of minutes, she stops back to ensure that I distributed the silverware properly and then takes our drink order. Both Sheri and I order a Blue Moon, which elicited a long and loud “BLUUUUUEEEEE MOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNN” (a la the Marcels…always loved that song, and it was my first acapella song that I did..yes, I had the “bompapabompabompabombom” part. I’m still waiting for the Dapper Dans to call me).

That’s all I needed to see/hear…I was in love with this place.

While we were waiting, Sandra texted me…just as Nicole walked by. Yes, I got in trouble for having the phone on at the table. The boys wanted Sheri’s phone so they could call me and get me in trouble. They also tried pulling my elbows up on the table every time she walked by.


They rewarded the boys with extra straws…check out Eric’s drink:

I ordered the meatloaf, and it was good…not the greatest I’ve ever had, but it’s not bad at all for mass-produced food. Every few minutes, our cousin would walk by and give us another rousing medley of “BLUUUEEEEE MOOOOOOONNNNNNN”. It worked…I ordered another one. Sheri’s chicken was also good…again, not the best, but still pretty good.

Dessert was up next, and the boys got the make your own sundaes (duh). Sheri got the cobbler, and I had a brownie sundae with caramel.

We got a pic with our long-lost cousin:

It was fun…the food was a bit better than anticipated, and the server really did make the experience memorable.

We headed out and started to make our way over toward RNR for the fastpass return. Sheri and Eric bear off of the road and head into a store, more so for the cooler air than anything. Aaron’s already getting a little nervous about the coaster, after thinking back to the terror of Tower of Terror. Still, he’s doing okay as we make our way through the FP return line. We’re in the recording studio within a couple of minutes, and Aaron gets cold feet. When we get into the final queuing line he starts saying that he doesn’t want to ride it. I try talking him down (as do 5 others around us), but his mind is made up. I decide not to push him, and we take the chicken exit out just before our limo arrives.

Sigh…maybe he’ll ride California Screaming next summer. (Foreshadowing for the July 2011 Mushfam trip).


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mushfam Disney Family Vacation Vacation, June 2010; Day 5, Part 1: HOT! HOT! HOT!

Link to the previous day...

Somehow, wifey and I got some sleep, probably because of exhaustion. I think the wake-up call actually woke us up! We’re up, lightly fed, dressed, on the balcony to wave to the animals, and out the door in pretty good time. Today is Hollywood Studios day, and another surprise is awaiting the boys – Star Wars Weekend! I would put Eric up against most adults when it comes to Star Wars trivia (yeah, the 5-year old is THAT obsessed with it). Sufficed to say, I’m looking forward to the boys’ reactions to all that’s going on. It’s going to be another sweltering day, but we have hopes of getting the boys on TOT for the first time as well as getting Aaron upside down on RNR for the first time.

Yeah, I’m stoked.

The bus takes a bit longer than we are accustomed to; granted, it was still only about 10 minutes, but we’ve been pretty much spoiled with the “walk-up-and-the-bus-arrives” wait we’ve had. There are a few on the bus with us, but not as many as I anticipated. I want to make sure we get there early so we can see the Stormtrooper spiel at the turnstiles.

The bus arrives, and the crowd doesn’t seem too bad where we are; the queuing line for the Fastpasses for actor meetups is huge, though.

Good…they’re over there and not over here.

Sheri eyes a turnstile that appears to be open with (relatively) few people in it, so we head to that line. We’re somewhat under the overhang, but we can still see the patrolling trooper.

We get through the turnstiles in record time, and I take a minute to look around (this is a park that I haven’t taken a ton of time to explore…sorry Matt). As I look towards Sid Cahuenga’s, immediately recognize a face and start walking towards the cast member. Sheri is wondering what the heck’s up. I just turn to her and say “Muchoney”.

I may as well have said “akxcbouarnxgfyeet” to her, because that word means nothing.

I walk up and simply say, “You’re Justin Muchoney!”

I think that, had he had pepper spray, he would have pulled it out at this moment.

I introduce myself and explain that I’ve heard him on several podcasts/vicasts as well as being a Twitter follower/FB friend. He puts the pepper spray away as the CM next to him (currently holding a large video camera that you’d typically see with a local news company use for a live feed) starts recording Aaron and Eric. I introduce him to Sheri, who’s still bewildered and wondering if she should know this guy. I explain Justin’s role as “Chief Magic Official” and his appearances on several of the podcasts that I listen to. The camera-toting CM explained that he was filming the boys for a promotion for the American Idol – The Experience attraction. We talk for a brief minute before saying good-bye and heading up to the rope for the opening. We’re actually fairly close to the rope, which means one thing:

We’re going to get trampled by the runners on our way to Toy Story.

We’ve got about a 15 minute wait near the hat…then the CMs run to the side for their lives as the crowd screams toward Toy Story. We maintain a walk and are in the queue line for the attraction in mere minutes. To ensure a calm and organized flow of traffic, they have the Green Army Men out there directing.

We get inside.

…say hi to Potato Head & get the 3D pic...

...and prepare for battle!

As we spin around in between games, we shout out our scores to each other…well, actually, I shouted my score to Sheri, who replied with some sort of raspberry/growl sound, which I assume meant that her score was lower…much lower than mine. We head out of the attraction and notice that line for the Fastpass machines is longer than our queue was to get in. I look at the watch and notice that it’s 9:20 – and THAT is why you get to the park before rope drop!! We’ve got the most-popular attraction in, and it’s only 9:20. Those coming in to the park now and going straight to TSMM will likely have around an hour wait.

Feeling pretty proud of myself for taking The Unofficial Guide’s advice 5 years ago, we stroll over towards Sunset Boulevard for our first attempt at the Tower of Terror (or the “Tower of Tara”, as Eric calls it). The boys are excited….I’m excited…Sheri’s already green, and we’re not even in the building yet.

Then we enter the building.

The boys are nervous…I’m still excited…Sheri’s different shades of green.

We go through the video spiel and start to make our way down to the boiler room.

The boys are scared…I’m still excited…Sheri’s singing Kermit’s theme song (It’s Not Easy Being Green)

Before the loading area, Eric decides he’s not riding. You should have seen the look of relief on Sheri’s face as she grabbed him and ran to the chicken exit. That leaves me and Aaron. Before Sheri is completely free from the grasps of this attraction, I ask Aaron if he wants to ride it. I get a (quiet) “yes”, so he stays with me as we load. We get put into the middle row on the right, and I quadruple check Aaron’s lap belt to make sure it’s on. I can tell he’s nervous, but I talk him through the build-up to the drop sequence as the elevator makes its stops and its movements around. Finally, we’re in the darkness just before the first drop. Aaron is silent.

The first drop begins.

I hear this blood-curdling scream coming from a girl that is seated where Aaron was at just a moment ago.

Then I realize it’s Aaron.

We pop back up to the top with the daylight allowing me to see Aaron, and the look of absolute terror on his face has me struggling not to bust out laughing. We finish the first drop and ascent, so he knows what the drops feel like…perhaps he’ll be better now.


We drop back down, and almost wondering if I’ll have to catch Aaron when he falls over after passing out from the experience. I keep trying to let him know that it’s all right throughout the random drops, but he’s too freaked out about having his butt leave the seat. I keep reassuring him that he’s safe and that there are probably only a couple of more to go. We get to the top and pause there for a brief second…then do the jolt…jolt…jolt before heading down again. I’m absolutely loving it, but Aaron continues practicing for his eventual role in a slasher film where he gets chased through the house with a guy in a mask holding a chain saw (yes, that’s almost exactly what he looked like!). I think we’re done with the attraction and let Aaron know that he did i….UUUUUUUUPPPPP we go again. Now I’m feeling bad for him.

Finally we’re back down and heading toward the exit. As expected, Aaron is breathing heavy. I ask him how it was. “It was SCAAAAAAARRRYYY!!!!!”.

“Did you like it?”

“Kind of.”

Moment of truth…

“Wanna ride it again?”


Guess that answers that question.

I wonder if perhaps I should have done RNR first, because I’m a bit worried that he’ll be too freaked now after riding TOT.

(Continued HERE)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Team AllEars 2012...How to Help!!!

Okay, folks, here we are for year 2 of my fundraising efforts for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  For those who don't quite know what I'm doing, I'm part of a fantastic group of people who A) have signed up to take part in a race during Walt Disney World's Marathon Weekend; and B) have dedicated to raise a minimum of $500 for Breast Cancer Research/Awareness/Prevention.  We are Team AllEars - Running with Purpose!

One of our members, Dave Aulen, made a great video of who we are and what we do:

While the 2012 team is now at capacity, that video catches our determination, our community, and our friendship.  My story from last year's team can be viewed here.  For 2012, I am again signed up for the half-marathon in the hopes of reducing my time by nearly 30 minutes.

Last year, I finished with around $870, and I am absolutely grateful for all of the support and generosity!!!  For a recap of last 9ear's donations, please visit this page.

Please consider donating to our cause..even if it's a single dollar (imagine how much could be raised if all the online Disney freaks donated just $1).    If you would like to donate online, go to the Avon Walk  (yes, that's a link) donation page and fill it out.  All of us on Team AllEars has agreed to raise a minimum of $500 to go towards Deb Wills' fundraising goals...my goal this year is to break the $1,000 level!!!  To have your money count towards our goals, please add (after your name) the following in the "How would you like your name to appear" line: Team AllEars (name of runner).  Example for those who want to have your donation go towards my goal...you'd enter: John Smith, Team AllEars Chris Mushrush.  You can even make it an anonymous donation if you prefer - just leave out your name and put in "Team AllEars (runner's name)".  If you do a donation online, please make sure the runner you're donating in the name of knows about what you've done.

If you would rather donate without doing it online (and want it to count for my goal), you can send me a check (payable to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer) to:

Chris Mushrush
P.O. Box 55
Downs, IL 61736

There is one other way you can help raise money for our cause if you live in Central Illinois: participating in a dining event that gives a percent of qualifying sales to us.  While I'm still working on getting a couple more set up, here's what is currently on the calendar:

  • Wednesday, September 14th - Avanti's Bloomington and Normal Restaurants - Dine-in, Carry-out, and Delivery...$161.81 raised!!!
  • October 1-31 - Chili's Restaurant in Bloomington/Normal - 10% of all qualifying pre-tax sales that come with a specific Pepper Partners Voucher (which you can print out at http://tinyurl.com/TeamAllEars2011MushChilis) are donated...$30 raised!!!
  • Tuesday, October 25th, Pizza Palace in Gilman will be donating 15% of all dine-in and carry-out orders..$65 raised!!!
  • Monday, November 7th - Monical's Pizza in Bloomington/Normal (all Blo/No restaurants) - Guests dining in with a flyer had 20% of qualifying pre-tax purchases donated...$15.28 raised!!!

Thanks to all participating restaurants for offering to host these events - it truly is appreciated!!


Avanti's Dine to Donate Program......................$162
Jim and Karen Guglielmo....................................139
Dan and Jen Metsch...........................................100 
Pizza Palace Fundraiser, Gilman...........................65
The Melton Family...............................................50
Silicon Labs Matching Donation (Melton)...............50
Robert and Cindy Miller........................................50
Chili's Restaurant, Normal, IL...............................30
Bob and Barb Gilhaus...........................................25
Christa Ryan.......................................................25
Thia Stevens-Wagner..........................................25
TonyNJ and Chris.................................................25
Vicki Killus..........................................................25
Cathy McConnell.................................................20
Patrick and Julie Miller.........................................20
Monical's Pizza...................................................15
Gloria Caruso.....................................................15
IWMS Staff.........................................................14
Rich Buchanan...................................................10
Sandra Perkins...................................................10

TOTAL: $1,000


Mushfam Disney Family Vacation Vacation, June 2010; Day 4, Part 4: Let's Just Say It Wasn't a Good Day

Part 3 can be viewed HERE
 We leave POTC and make a beeline for the tiki birds.
Remember…this was the summer of 2010…before Iago blew up.  This baby was sorely in need of a refurb.  Around 75% of the drummers up on top had some sort of malfunction, several lights were inoperable, one or more of the wooden tiki heads in the columns had their mouth stuck open, etc.
Of all the days…I really need some magic here, and the magic seems to have flown out the window.
I feel like we’re nearing rock bottom, so I’m willing to try anything right now.  I haven’t done the Jungle Cruise since the very first time I was at WDW back in 2001 when I was clueless.  The boys haven’t experienced it yet, so, what the heck…let’s try it!  It was only a 5 minute wait, and we’re off:

Much better than I remember – I needed the low-level humor.  This attraction helped a little, due entirely to the exuberance of the CM we had – if any Disney Execs  are reading this, please watch the video and give our driver, Tammy, a raise or an “attagirl” in her performance file.
The Tree house is next – another one those that Sheri likes and I tolerate.  We head up, look around, and head down.
Okay…it’s still pretty neat, and Aaron is at the age where he’s trying to figure out how everything works, so we’ll put this in the “win” column.
Okay…things are no longer at rock-bottom stage.  Let’s head over to Tomorrowland and see what’s going on over there.  We cut across Main Street, which is getting crowded because the Main Street Electrical Parade is slated to start in about 35 minutes.  We decide to forego it to see it a little later on in the trip.  Upon arriving in Tomorrowland, we head over towards Space Mountain to see what the wait time was (50 minutes) (crap!).  Space is jammed, so we look at each other and come with another plan when I see MILF…I haven’t done MILF for a couple of years, so I start heading that way.  Now, before I get a phone call and angry comments from my parents and members from our congregation, let me mention that MILF is what the Disney Freaks call the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor.  Get your minds out of the gutters!  Sheri’s not looking forward to this one.  We get seated in the nice air-conditioned room, and the show starts.
They boys nearly fell on the floor laughing at the jokes!!! 
This was a huge help…though Sheri is now concerned that the boys have my sense of humor.
Both Sheri and I love Wishes, as does Aaron; Eric, however, is not a fan of fireworks, so we make the tough decision to forego Wishes.  I was looking forward to seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade, but (I think) we put it to the boys, who said “nah”.   Well, then, my vote is to head out before the throngs overwhelm the bus stops.
You know, it always seems like the other three are always teaming up against me. I got outvoted, and we stay in the park.
We head over to the TTA and hop aboard – it’s our first time doing the attraction with the new spiel.  While I’m a traditionalist (is it possible to be a traditionalist when I’ve only been going to the parks since 2005?), the new spiel isn’t bad.  As we loop around over Tomorrowland, I’m able to catch a glimpse of MSEP for a few seconds.  We look over at the wait time for Space Mountain and see that it’s not going down at all, so we enjoy the rest of the Peoplemover (for you non-Disney freaks, the TTA was originally called the Peoplemover, and they’ve actually added that back to the name of the attraction after a significant length of time).  As we hop off, we notice that the wait for Buzz is fairly low, so we hop in line.  I get Aaron as my riding partner, and I’m feeling a little competitive, mostly because Sheri and I are fairly evenly-matched, and she rubs it in on the occasional event when she beats me.  Too bad Aaron was interested in spinning around and around and around and….”WAIT THERE’S A 100,000 point target….STOP SPINNING!!!!!!”

Yeah…Sheri was gloating again after this one.

After Buzz, we decide it’s now or never with regard to beating the crowd out of the park.  We’re on the correct side of the park so we can avoid the traffic jam of people on Main Street by sneaking through the shops and making it out of Town Square (if there’s a parade going on, you can’t get out on the Emporium side because of the parade start/end gate).  The Tomorrowland Bridge and hub area is getting packed with people staking out viewing locations for Wishes, so we cut through the Terrace area and are past the hub.  As we near the ice cream store, a CM with a wand asks us if we’re heading out.  We say “Yep!”, and she directs us to a path to the left.  I never knew there was a path here, but I’m going with it, mainly because the rest of the family has already taken it.  I’m assuming that it takes us into the shops.
After about 20 feet, I realize that they took us off-stage…OFF-STAGE!!!!!
We’re in a roped-off area behind the shops on East Main Street…the music is gone…there are cars…backs of buildings...etc.
You have absolutely got to be kidding me!  If any Disney-employed folks read this, I beg of you to quit doing this!  The magic is completely gone, and I mean completely.  It’s all too real-world, and I’m willing to bet a lot of people would agree with me that they would prefer a packed Main Street to going off-stage in order to exit the park.  With everything else that has gone on today, I was honestly near tears.  Those who know me know that I speak very highly of Walt Disney World at least 95% of the time.  Pecos Bills today?  It happens...no biggie.  Pirates…things break down occasionally (and the park can’t control all the visitors who ignore the “no flash photography” recordings).  Aloha Isle…after dealing with the people in front of me, most anyone would be flustered.  Tiki Birds…more than just a single event…this one needed a refurb (yes, a lot of capital is going toward the Fantasyland expansion, so I’m a little lenient on this one).  Crystal Palace…this one hurt as there was a significant change with multiple issues.  This last item where we are directed by CMs backstage, however…this is a huge mistake.
If there are any readers who are thinking of going down to WDW for their first trips (as many questions as I have been fielding over the past few months, I’m guessing there are quite a few of you out there reading this), if you are near Main Street by the ice cream parlor at night and trying to leave, just go down Main Street unless there is an emergency that requires you to get out of the park as quickly as possible.
The rope barrier directs to the gate near Tony’s Town Square – the only possible saving point of this is that I get to see a bit of the half-marathon route.  We go back on stage, under the train station, and out to the AKL/Kidani bus line (I look over at the Pop Century line – wow, that’s quite a bit farther away).  The line doesn’t seem too terribly bad and, wouldn’t you know it, our adopted family ends up getting in line about 15 people behind us (meaning we can talk to them on the switchbacks).  The bus arrives, and we’re at the sit/stand division point.  Sheri and Eric sit (in the back of the bus), and Aaron and I stand next to them.  As the bus continues to load, wifey nudges me and points to the person standing in front of me.  I look and, not noticing anything, I ignore her.  She then kicks me and mouths “his hat”.  As I rub my calf from her kick, I look up and see this:

 (image Copyright of the Normal Pro Baseball Organization)
WOW!!!!  That’s the logo for the Normal Cornbelters, and they’ve only been in existence for about 2 months!  This guy has to be from around us.  I holler out “CORNBELTERS”, and the guy immediately turns around.  We strike up a conversation with him (he also teaches at Heartland).  The Belters just started playing their first year of baseball a few weeks earlier, and he was trying to get the first picture of Mickey with the Cornbelters hat.  As we talk, we discover that the entire back of the bus was from the mid-west.  The people sitting next to where we were standing were from Kankakee.  The other side of the bus had Minnesota, Indiana, and southern Illinois.  This made the trip back to Kidani much nicer…at least for Aaron and me.  Sheri got to enjoy the experience of a balloon in her face the whole bus ride, thanks to a sleeping girl curled up next to her.  When we get to Kidani, sleeping beauty also gets off the bus (cutting in front of Sheri and Eric in the process…obviously they were more important than us).  Very quietly, Sheri says to me in a higher-pitched voice, “Daddy’s Little Princess is going to love it when they put her balloon in storage.”
I nearly fall on the floor laughing.  That had to be the quote of the entire trip!!
For those who don’t get it, AKL and Kidani don’t allow balloons at the resort for the safety of the animals on the savanna.
Our legs are now getting accustomed to the distance, so the walk back to our room didn’t seem as bad (we talked with our adopted family for a brief moment during the walk).  We throw the boys in the showers, toss them in bed (they crash in no time), grab showers ourselves, and crawl in bed to bring this day mercifully to an end.
 Head on over to Day 5 HERE

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mushfam Disney Family Vacation Vacation, June 2010; Day 4, Part 3: Let's Just Say It Wasn't a Good Day

Here's part 2 from the day
We checked out the times for Splash Mountain and BTMRR.  Big Thunder looked like a walk-on, so we grabbed FPs for Splash and hopped in the BTMRR queue.  It was AFAYCW (as fast as you can walk), and, within minutes, I was yelling “GOAT GOAT GOAT”.  Seeing the boys smile all throughout the ride was a welcome relief.  After that, we started to backtrack and make our way back to Fantasyland for Lou Mongello’s scheduled meet of the month outside Pinocchio’s Village Haus.  We arrived about 5 minutes after it was slated to start, and we found nobody there.
The boys are starting to wonder what’s going on (we had this as another surprise as they consider Lou an uncle with all the times they listen to him), so we divert and hit the bathroom.  We stall in the stalls for a few minutes and then head back out to still find nobody there.  I take a chance and peer into one of the windows and find out that they did indeed move the meet indoors – this was a very smart move as the temperature outside was approaching surface-of-the-sun hot (it blew past Animal-Kingdom hot an hour ago).  We all go inside and get into our longest queue of the day thus far: meeting Lou.  The boys are wondering just what the heck we are doing (they couldn’t see the front of the line yet).

I love Eric's whiplash to see him once he figured out who we were going to talk to.

As I looked around to see if I recognized anyone, I spotted someone who I thought might be from the online world – I was fairly confident that it was Stacy, a grad student who is well-known by many of us Disney Freaks on Twitter and Facebook .  I didn’t know her well enough, though, to stop and ask; partially because the day was totally sucking and because either A) it wouldn’t be her and I'd make a fool of myself; B) it would be her and I’d have to spend the rest of the day explaining to my wife why I was talking to a beautiful woman 15 years younger than me; or C) it wouldn’t be her, I’d make a fool of myself, and I’d still have to deal with the issues in option B.  If that was you, Stacy, sorry for not introducing myself and the rest of the Mushfam to you.
We meet Lou and talk for just a minute.  As he was the last time I met him, he’s just as nice a guy as he sounds on the shows.  He was great with the boys.  We all got pins, and he offered to give us a free copy of his Adventureland audio guide (we’ve since bought most of the rest...if you haven’t bought them yet, they’re awesome pieces of audio that Disney Freaks would absolutely love)! 
This little respite definitely helped…Thanks for planning and putting on the MOTM, Lou.
From Fantasyland, we headed out towards Liberty Square and on to Frontierland for our FP returns at Splash Mountain.  The heat was becoming unbearable, and the people in the standby line were really shooting daggers at us in the FP return line (more so than normally).  It was a really short wait before our log awaited us.  I’ve only ridden this one a couple of times, so it’s still a fairly new attraction for me.  It did not disappoint!  All the Animatronics seemed to be working, there didn’t seem to be any backup at all, and we got just wet enough to get cooled off without worrying about crotch rot.  It ended up being one of the best attractions of the day for us.  We ended up buying the on-ride pic (no, I didn’t flash the camera down the hill).  While we were ordering the pic, we talked with the CM at the register – she was on the Disney College program. 
After Splash, we started to make our way over towards Adventureland to see what the wait time was for Pirates.  Before we get there, though, I hear something I was hoping to hear that I had not heard before.  Wow…that sounded a lot like something Captain Jack Sparrow would say in his typical convoluted way.  Speaking of Jack, we came upon the Pirate Tutorial (groan…terrible segue).  I’ve always wanted to see this but never seemed to time it right.  It’s probably around ¼ of the way through it, but we decide to stop and watch it for a while.  As it nears the end, Jack comes around and starts pulling up several children to become honorary pirates, and he selects both Aaron and Eric to take part:


Definitely a cute show!
The point of spontaneous combustion is rapidly approaching, so Sheri and I give nonverbal cues to each other that we need to start making our way to the only remedy for impending spontaneous combustion: DOLE WHIP!!!  On our way to Aloha Isle, we stop by the tikis to let the boys have a bit of wet fun:


The boys stay with Sheri and find a place to sit while I hop in line to order.  The line at Aloha Isle is tolerable, except for the fact that the person in front of me completely confused the people working there to the point where I think they ended up getting not paying for one of the ones they received (and I almost wonder if they planned it that way).  I get up there and order two Dole Whip soft serves and to orange vanilla twist soft serves (Orange whip?  Orange whip?...name the movie!)  They work on the order and take away 4 well-used snack credits  from the dining plan.  Nothing like this awesome pineapple delight to take my mind off of what has happened toda….waaaaaaaaiiiiiittttttt a minute.  This Dole whip is a pineapple vanilla twist!
So is Sheri’s.
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…in their defense, they just got completely frazzled by the people in front of me, and there were 2 in my order that were supposed to be twists – (Orange whip?).  Having worked in foodservice, I can understand that it was an easy mistake.  The twist was good – just not what my heart was set on.  I’ll chalk it up to the way the day is going.  It’s starting to remind me of one of Gary Larson’s funniest Far Side comics, where a guy is looking out a window with a large bird perched upon it.  The caption reads, “The Bluebird of Happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the Chicken of Depression.”
I look at Sheri, who is staring down at her vanilla dole whip twist with a forlorn look – a look that is similar to how she looks at me most of the time.  She looks up from her snack, and we both mouth to each other at the same time, “Ready to go?”  After a couple of spills by Eric, we clean them up as best as we can and start to make our way towards the hub.  Before we hit Main Street, though, I make an executive decision to stop by the first aid station to see if they might have any ideas for my still-throbbing thumb.  They didn’t, though I think they were both fascinated and grossed out at what my thumb looked like.
Mercifully we head out the exit for the ride back to Kidani.  At the bus stop, we met a woman with a daughter a little younger than the boys.  We struck up a conversation with her while we waited for the bus and found out she was from Belleville, IL (near St. Louis).  We talked the entire ride back to the resort (I think we were the only folks on the bus).  Aaron gets a girlfriend on the bus because he kept her daughter entertained the entire ride.  We get to Kidani and with the Mom/girl best wishes.  We savor the air conditioning, look at the gift shop, and simultaneously decide that we are more than deserving of a drink.  We run in and grab a beer and a bottled margarita.  We also let the boys get a couple of vinylmation figures and something to drink (not beer or margarita).  We gather our strength and trek back to the room, where Mr. Giraffe is waiting for us.

We catch mousekeeping and do a linen exchange – they noticed we used up all the towels/washcloths, so they give us some extras without even asking (THANK YOU!!!!).  They boys don’t fight us for long when we tell them that they need some rest.  3.5 hours later, they arouse from their slumber and basically pull us out of the room towards the buses.  We oblige and make our way back out for the return to MK.  As we get to the bus queue, the Bellville Mom/daughter (now with another daughter closer to the boys’ ages) is also waiting for the bus.  We talk with them while waiting.  When the bus arrives, we get on and let the boys mingle with the girls for the trip.  The bus then gets quieter as Miss June 2010 steps on the bus.  As we get going, Sheri is able to distract me from the beauty long enough for me to hand over my phone so she can call her father to talk about what transpired today.
That was fun.  Not.
We arrive at MK for the evening and head through the turnstiles.  Since we didn’t get a floral pic this morning, we hop in the short line and grab a shot.

It’s then time for the next ritual that we usually do the first evening of MK…dinner at Pecos Bill’s!  We make our way over towards Frontierland and hop in the shortest line we see.  It’s one of the self-order kiosks, so we decide to give it a try.  No prob at all…we get the order in and are paid in no time.  About 3 minutes later, our order is up, but I notice that they were missing my fries and Sheri’s apples.  They look over the ticket (they were on there) and tell us the fries will be up in a minute.  Sheri takes the rest of the food and the boys and grabs a table.  I stick around for the fries and apples.
7 minutes later, I catch someone’s attention (not the one who was helping me earlier) and explain what’s going on.  Having worked in the food industry (I was a server at a higher class steakhouse in college), I understand how easy it is to have something like this happen, so I’m patient and don’t get mad at them.  I get the stuff and find Sheri and the boys…yeah, my burger’s cold, but I’m expecting it.  0 for 3 on the food today, which is simply an anomaly.  That has never happened before… I’m chalking it up to the karma of the day.   This puts me in a funk that is going to take a lot to get me out of.  I need something to really get me back on track.  That can only mean one thing.
Before that, though, we grab another pic:

Okay...on to POTC.  It’s about a 10 minute wait...

...and we’re on…and we’re off for our voyage!!
…and there’s no Davy Jones mist effect.
And, of course, the woman in the bench behind me is using flash photography.
 *****start message*****
Dear Karma,
Please find someone else for a while.  Please.  I hate you.
*****end message*****

Post-Pirates Pic:

Continue on HERE for the conclusion of this really rough day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mushfam Disney Family Vacation Vacation, June 2010; Day 4, Part 2: Let's Just Say It Wasn't a Good Day

Part I of the day can be found HERE.

It’s still a bit early, so we take the opportunity to grab a few hub/castle pics with nobody around:

As expected, the rope is up by the entrance to Cinderella’s Royal Table. We are at the front and take a few minutes to look around at the empty Fantasyland.  Several families exit CRT and start pushing their way up to the rope.  I overlook this…the kids are excited…I’ll scoot over a bit and get behind the boys.

Then the Fairy Godmother comes out and starts talking to the people at the rope.

I could have sworn that it was Justin Bieber with the rush of girls that pushed us aside.  It was a move I had not yet seen – a lateral movement of a stroller by the parent and almost perfectly timed jump by 2 girls to take the space formerly occupied by me.  I utter a couple of choice words sort of under my breath, and wifey tells me to chill out.

The music starts up, which is the queue to let us in.  The rope is being held by a CM, who is waiting for the precise/proper moment to walk it away for us to enter.  He hears the audio he was waiting for, and people start ducking under the rope and making a dead sprint to Tinkerbell’s Treasure.  The 4 of us spread out a bit to block the crowds for a moment while the CM does what needs to be done, and we start walking to our first attraction.  For those of you who follow us, listen to WDW Today, and/or know TouringPlans, you know that Dumbo is the first stop.  As I shoot condescending glances at a couple running past us with a stroller to make sure they were ahead of as many as possible, we enter the queue line.  A few seconds later, I notice a father/daughter also in line, with the girl holding a clipboard.  I wonder if touringplans was collecting data today.  We’re all in the first ride of Dumbo.

We start our way up, and I have the video camera ready to see what’s going on behind the walls with the Fantasyland refurbishment.

For those who know this attraction, you probably noticed that all the elephants moved to the high point, which is what happens just before the ride ends.  Sure enough, after only 2-3 revolutions, you can hear the hiss of the hydraulics lowering everyone.  We’re back down, and we come to a stop.

Hmmmmmmmm….something’s up.

We wait for about 90 seconds as the ride resets, and then we’re off for the actual ride. 

Well, that was interesting.

We head off and make a beeline to Peter Pan.  I notice that the girl with the clipboard and her dad were about 5-6 ships ahead of us.  It then dawned on me that they might be attempting to do the Ultimate Touring Plan.  After this attraction, I’ll ask them to see if that’s what they’re doing.  Pan is a walk-on, and we happily don’t have the attraction break down.  We get off, and clipboard girl is nowhere to be found.  After hopping off, I make the mistake of checking my phone, and the feeling of dread creeps back in.

Okay, let’s cut across the walkway and hit it’s a small world, which is also a walk-on.

Yeah…check out that last pic…the boats are backed up to the BEGINNING of the white room.
We run away from that attraction and look towards Philharmagic before heading over towards Toon Town for a last goodbye.  We all let out a collective “aahhhhhhh” as we entered the air conditioning.  As always, we get the requisite opera glasses pic:

We only have to wait a couple of minutes before Minnie starts giving us the directions for the show.  We’re in, and I end up sitting next to an older couple (I mean ‘70s’ older and not ‘50s’ older) who have never seen it before.  This bodes well because I love seeing people experience this show for the first time.  Sure enough, the show does not disappoint, and the pure laughter and joy I hear next to me really helped me reclaim a little of the magic.  I actually was smiling as I talked to them on the way out of the show.

The happiness was short-lived, however, because the tea cups were next, and Wifey and I always argue about this one.  You see, I’m the kind, caring, compassionate parent who wants his kids to have as much fun as possible.  Sheri, on the other hand, is the evil, mean, uncaring parent who wants to suck out as much fun from any experience as possible. As we approach the cups, Sheri looks at me and says that we’re not spinning (ignoring the melodious chorus of “Spin us spin us spin us” from our lovely children).  I tell her that we have to spin some or it wouldn’t be the tea cups.  The songbirds that usually were hovering around wifey pooped on her and flew over to me. We only wait for one rotation before we hop in a teacup.  The boys increase their “SPIN US SPIN US SPIN US” chant before we start.  Wifey takes one look at me, and the songbirds fly away. 

A tumbleweed blows across the teacup.

A CM starts whistling the theme to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

The attraction starts.



I start to spin.

Wifey hates me.

I stop.

The boys hate me.

I can’t win.

With the teacups done, we head over towards Toon Town when I see the father/daughter/clipboard again.  As they run by, I yell out to them, “You trying the ultimate touring plan?”

Big smile from her


“Good luck!!”

We tour around Toon Town a bit, but I’m just going through the motions now.  Every couple of minutes, I’m checking the phone to make sure I haven’t missed a call.  We see Mickey and Minnie and look around at the houses one last time before they get demolished.  After this, we head back through Fantasyland and over to Liberty Square for a spin on Haunted Mansion.  Both boys flock to Mommy to ride with her.  I grab Eric by the scruff of the neck and force him to get in the doom buggy with me.

Holy cow…not sure what they did, but it was a TON darker in there – it really gave it the ambience that it needed.  The séance scene was perfect with the darkness!

We kick out the hitchhiking ghosts and make our way out.  As we approach the exit, I get a vibration, telling me that the phone’s ringing.  It was Sheri’s Father, and I just missed the call.  Not waiting for the voicemail, I immediately call back.  As I look around, I cannot help but notice that we are right by the pet cemetery.  The boys don’t know why we’ve stopped walking, but they wait patiently.
I’ll spare the details, but, as I put on my Facebook status, “I don't think that giving the order to put one of our cats to sleep over the phone while we're in the Magic Kingdom is quite what Walt Disney had in mind.”  Thanks to all the words of sympathy over there...it was definitely appreciated by all of us.  Again, we decided quickly not to tell the boys – we didn’t want the boys to associate this with WDW.
Now what…
We need to get our minds away from the real world for a while now.  We start to walk to Frontierland, and I make the mistake of looking over at Sheri, whose eyes, despite being behind sunglasses, are filled with tears.  I let the boys go ahead a few feet, grab Sheri’s hand, and give it a squeeze before trying a failed attempt at a joke to make them laugh as though nothing is wrong.  We make the right turn near the parade entry/exit and find Frontierland Donald. 

That helped quite a bit.