Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cardinals go to Disney: Day 1

By K.J. Cardinal

The Cardinal Blog has been silent for nearly two years, which makes me a little sad, but this week is one of those instances that just demands some action. We are taking the kids to Disney for the first time.

Anna has been waiting patiently for seven years for us to make this trip. We've always told her that she needed to wait until Leo was five-years-old before we'd be making the trip to the Magic Kingdom. So, when we surprised her with the news two months ago, with Leo still being four, her reaction was absolute perfection and one of my happiest moments as a parent.

I just absolutely love this girl...

We flew nonstop out of Worcester and had a great travel day getting down here. It was just the second time flying for both kids, but the first one that Leo will actually remember as he was just two when we went to St. Thomas. Worcester Airport couldn't be smaller or more convenient. Zero lines, super nice TSA officers and no hassle whatsoever. It was a breeze.

Anyway, day one was relatively quiet. We landed around 2 p.m., snagged our rental car and headed to check-in at our hotel for the week. We traded in some timeshare points to stay at Westgate Lake Resorts. The place is OK. Nothing too fancy and rather dated, but we won't be spending much time in the room, so it really doesn't matter all that much... the important fact is that it is only about 15 minutes from Disney.

After checking in, the kids took a quick dip in one of the seven pools at the resort and we went to get dinner at this nice little sushi place we found on Yelp called Mikado Sushi. I highly recommend it as we got a big boat and it was probably the second-best sushi I've ever had and it wasn't all that expensive. Anna never ceases to amaze me when it comes to eating. She absolutely hammered the sushi... we had to remind her that it would be nice if she could "share" some of the salmon with us... Angie got one piece.

After dinner, we stumbled upon another gem for dessert... Private Island Ice Cream Company. This place is located in a little plaza across from Gatorland and they make their ice cream right in front of you, using liquid nitrogen. I'd never seen this done before and the ice cream had a real rustic, homemade feel to it. It was cool...

We then headed back to the hotel and just hung out in our room for a few hours and tried to get as much sleep as we could. We were all very excited for Disney day one... Magic Kingdom.

We woke the kids up around 6:30 a.m. and arrived to Disney around 7:30 a.m. We parked and took the tram over to the monorail terminal. You could cut the tension with a knife as the kids' anticipation level was at an all-time high. As we approached the area to take the monorail over, Anna asked if we could take the ferry over instead. We thought it was going to be a little chilly, but we were all up for it. We decided to snag a couple coffees and hot chocolates to warm us up if it was chilly. As we walked over to the coffee stand, Leo was jumping/running/skipping and tripped, fell and scraped up his knee pretty good. We hadn't even made it into Magic Kingdom and we had a crying, slightly bleeding little boy on our hands. Not a great start to the day, but Leo responded like a champion.

The ferry ride wasn't that cold after all, as it goes pretty slow, and we were at the gates before we knew it.

Angie has put a lot of work in trying to figure out the best plan of attack for Disney, but having "planned" vacations, really isn't entirely our speed. She booked our three fast past trips for the day and a dress up experience for the kids, but other than that, we wanted to shoot from the hip, go with the flow and react to what the kids wanted to do. It turned out to be the perfect plan for us.

As we entered, we saw that we could go meet Mickey Mouse, so what better way to start off our Disney experience, then by meeting the big guy himself. The kids seemed a little tentative and unsure about the whole ordeal when they first laid eyes on him and as we were meeting him, but once we walked out of the room, they were both beyond excited about it all. I got a little video of the meet and greet. Mickey tried to stonewall me with a handshake, but I had to go in for a hug... c'mon Mick, you're killing me.

We walked around, letting the kids soak in all that is magical about this place. We hit up rides like It's a Small World (had to do this first because, let's face it, this ride pretty much sucks in comparison to everything else Disney has to offer, but it's a staple and we had to do it), the haunted house, the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse and more early on, but the first big highlight of our day came at The Pirates League where Angie scheduled the kids to get made up like a pirate and a mermaid.

This whole experience was friggin cool. The makeup artists play the bit up big time as if they're straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean and the kids ate it up big time. Leo was the cutest little Jake the pirate you could ever imagine, but I was absolutely speechless as Anna sat in the chair and was getting all done up. This picture pretty much makes me want to burst out into tears...

One thing I wasn't really expecting was the reaction the kids would get as we walked around Magic Kingdom all day. People were absolutely in love with it. We had fun shocking people that we'd talk to by taking Leo's hat off to reveal his super short, blonde hair. Definitely not what people were expecting.

After The Pirates League experience, we took a quick break for the kids to snag some ice cream and Anna had to FaceTime with Meme and Aunt Kate to show off her makeup. It's an awesome world we live in where you can video chat with your grandmother and aunt from Disney so they can really feel like part of the experience. A GREAT idea by Anna. The way kids think these days is awesome... but I digress... We were off to Splash Mountain. The kids were absolutely wired. Leo enjoyed Splash Mountain just a little...

Priceless. The pirate costume just puts his normal cuteness over the top and the fact that he had to check his makeup had me dying.

We hit up a few more attractions and then decided around 5:30 p.m. that we were going to leave for a bit, go snag some dinner, take a nap at the hotel and return to the Magic Kingdom for the fireworks.

So we hit up an awesome Mexican joint called Chuys that Angie found on Yelp (definitely a go-to app for foodie travelers). It was just what the doctor ordered. We were able to get out of the sun and get into some air conditioning for a while and we all caught a second wind. For the kids, it was because they got dough balls to play with and we had a balloon artist come by our table, but for Angie and I, it was because of the $5 margaritas. Anyway, we had one of the most fun meals of our lives. Just being silly with the kids and each other and we rallied... BIG TIME!

I got the crazy idea to just head right back to Magic Kingdom and saying heck with the hotel and naps. Everyone was on board... and pumped! So, us crazy folks were headed right back into the lion's den.

As an aside, my only slight hesitation about this plan was that we didn't have a stroller and weren't planning on renting one. At like 11:30 a.m., Leo asked if we could go back to the hotel because his legs were tired. I thought I was in for a long day of carrying the 50+ pound behemoth, but he was a champion. Rides on the shoulder were periodic throughout the day, but  he forged ahead like a champ.

Anyway, we got back to Disney around 7:30 p.m. and we were ready for round two. We got the kids some light up toys and we hunkered down for the fireworks show. Leo was being Mr. Sociable... chatting it up with other kids, talking shop about light up toys and made the 30 minute wait fly by. Anna was taking it all in, like she usually does, and couldn't wait for the show to start.

The kids were blown away by the light show on Cinderella's castle... and I have to admit, I was too. Just such an amazing idea that's executed to perfection and has everyone in attendance feeling like a kid again. It truly is a magical place in that regard.

Immediately after the fireworks, Angie had set us up with a fast pass for the new Seven Dwarfs roller coaster. It was just what we all needed as we were a little sluggish after standing around for the fireworks and waiting for everyone to clear out so we could make our way to the ride. The Seven D coaster was awesome. My favorite of the day. Not sure if it was because it was night time and roller coasters at night are always better, or if the ride is just THAT good, but either way, we all caught our THIRD wind and were ready for more.

We hit up a few more attractions, including the Monsters Inc. Laugh Factory that had us all in stitches, and finally decided to leave the park around 11:30 p.m. On the walk out, Leo summed it up the day perfectly as he was on my shoulders walking down Main Street and said, "Dad, today was the best day of my life."

Hard to argue with that statement, bud. Thanks Walt.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Strong

By K.J. Cardinal

When I started The Cardinal Blog back in 2007, I did so for two reasons. First, to keep my mother updated with the latest happenings of her grand daughter and, secondly, to document the important events of my kids' lives through my eyes. What happened on Monday in Boston is without a doubt one of the most important events of Anna and Leo's lives, so I feel obligated to document it... not only was Boston attacked, but sports was attacked.

Those of you that know me well, know that only my family defines me more than Boston and sports.

Boston is a city that I lived in for nearly a decade and Angie affectionately refers to Boston as "Kim-City". Sure, I was raised in Farmington, but I really grew up in Boston. I became a man in Boston.

I went to Northeastern for five years (just a few blocks from the finish line), got my first real job in Boston, met my wife in Boston and later proposed to her on the Boston Common Bridge and started my business in Boston. I know Boston. I love Boston. And, Boston is truly ingrained in the person that I am today.

As much as Boston has been a part of me for the past 15 years, sports has been there my entire life. From rooting on the Tigers in The Den and watching the Celts with my dad as a kid to working in sports information for eight years and then owning my own business that is based on video production of sports, it's safe to say that I don't know someone that is more submersed in sports than I am. Not only is it my biggest hobby and passion, but also my career and what pays the bills for me and my family.

So, to think that both Boston and sports were attacked on Monday really cuts deeps for me.

Marathon Monday is without a doubt the greatest day of the year to be in the city of Boston. I have said this for years and I hope with all my heart that it continues to be that. I clearly feel this way because it combines two of the greatest things in the world – Boston and sports – and it's really unexplainable unless you have been in town to experience leaving a Sox victory and spilling out into Kenmore Square as runners of the world's greatest marathon pass by. A truly euphoric feeling that can't be duplicated.

My heart is full of sorrow for the families of the victims of this senseless tragedy because they were just trying to enjoy something that will forever be a rite of passage for my kids – Boston and sports.

All I know is that no one does this to Boston... no one does this to sports. The city of Boston and the world of sports will certainly rebound stronger than ever after the cowards that pulled off this senseless act are found and I can't wait for the day when Anna and Leo are old enough to stand by my side to experience Marathon Monday... and hopefully THAT will be one of the most important events of all of our lives.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Puddle jumping

By K.J. Cardinal

Pretty much wrapped up the 2012 Father of the Year award the other day when I asked Leo if he wanted to go for a walk to play in the puddles. I could've offered him a bag full of candy and I think he would've turned it down for the opportunity to wreak havoc in the puddles.

Couldn't get much footage of him as I feared the overspray from a splash, but this should do the trick...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

By K.J. Cardinal

For the first time in nearly a decade we were able to enjoy Thanksgiving up in Farmington. I seriously can't remember the last time I was able to eat my mom's cooking and spend the day with my family on turkey day. It was Angie's first time up in Farmtown and, obviously, the kids as well. As expected, it didn't disappoint.

I consider myself a very, very lucky person with countless things to be thankful for, but this year more than any other, I am thankful for the health of my family... especially my mom.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Feeling like a Patriot

By Angie Cardinal

This afternoon was a special treat for the kids and me...Anna and Leo's first trip to Gillette Stadium for a special "Healthy Kids Summit" event the YMCA put on. I had no idea we were in for so much fun when I registered a month ago. The pictures I took tell most of the story:

The kids were put on the red team, which won the nutrition and fitness trivia. Aunt Kate may have had something to do with Anna's knowledge of these topics.
Leo taking a break from a game of Tag to appease mommy's need to get a shot of him standing on the Pats logo on the 50 yrd line.

She loves to pose.

Patrick Chung, call me if you want to plan a play date in the off-season maybe. 

...and she's OUT.

To cap off the event, we had snacks in the Putnam Club, which is one of the swank lounges above the stadium seats with a gorgeous view of the field. I should inform you two of the volunteers approached us, separately, to let me know Patrick Chung pointed Leo out as his favorite kid. Did I post the above picture on his Facebook page? Yes. Yes I did.