Posts about being a father, son, brother and husband.

Musicals and Mira

Jekyll_And_Hyde_Complete_Works_The_Gothic_Musical_Thrillerby Aaron Einhorn
I’m a huge fan of Broadway musicals, and by extension, many film musicals. I think that my love of Disney films at least partially is due to that.

I’ve been trying to share some of my favorite musicals with the girls lately. And while Cordy is pretty indifferent to them, Mira finds them quite enjoyable, although I have to spend a lot of time while we’re listening explaining them to her. “Ok, so in this song, Tarzan’s ape father, Kerchak, is talking to Kala to show that even though he banished her and Tarzan, he still loves her.”

We started with Broadway adaptations of Disney, logically enough. At least in those cases she knows the characters and the stories, and some of the music. Tarzan was the first stretch there, but she got through it. And both Cordy and Mira have loved listening to the music of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog.

At her school, Mira and Cordy are both a part of the Chess Club, so I thought I’d share Chess: In Concert with them. It’s got good music, they enjoy the game of chess, and that version at least features the voice of Elsa from Frozen. And they’ve liked it a lot.

Recently, Mira has been asking me about the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and while I’m going to grab a copy of the book for her to read, it made me think about one of my favorite musicals that I haven’t listened to in years, so I figured I’d get Jekyll and Hyde (the concept album, not the Broadway cast recording) downloaded back onto my iPhone for them to listen to in the car. I haven’t actually been in the car with them since we discussed this, but I’ve been listening to it myself over the past two days and remembered how much I loved it.

I also made some observations on this listen-through.

1) Linda Eder is freaking amazing. The way she mixes in the lower-class London accent with her amazing singing voice in the same line is nothing short of astonishing.

2) “This is The Moment” is right up there with “Love is an Open Door” (from Frozen) for Most Ironic Song in a Production. In any other film, “Love is an Open Door” would be a really great, really cute love song between Hans and Anna. The problem with it, of course, is that in the rest of the film you discover that Hans is a manipulative sociopath who was playing Anna like a fiddle. Similarly, “This is the Moment” is an incredible, awesome, inspiring “Seize the Day!” kind of song… until you realize that it’s the song where Jekyll decides “Ok. Going to use the formula on myself.” In other words, if you look at the rest of the show, “This is the Moment” is really a song that should make you go “Ya know, maybe not. Maybe I’ll think about this a little longer and not do something rash and life-altering.”

Happy Birthday to Hurricane Mira

by Aaron Einhorn

Eight years ago at this time, Christina and I were sitting at OSU Hospital, after a long night of “fun,” waiting to meet her for the first time.

The day before had seen us at Marcon and the Zombie Walk, and on our way back to the car, Christina said to me “Huh. I’m feeling some cramping.”

That night, we called her mother to watch Cordy, tried to get some sleep before true labor started, and then when we woke up around 1:00, called her doula.

It would be another 8 hours before Mira finally chose to make her appearance. It’s been another 8 years until now.

She is Hurricane Mira. An unstoppable force, full of energy, and completely fearless, but when she gets tired she suddenly reminds us that she is, in fact, a very little girl, and sometimes she gets scared. She loves to bully her sister, but is amazingly sweet. She understands how to play social games, but can’t comprehend why people choose to be mean. She is brilliant, funny, and always on the go. A living paradox who I hope to spend the next several decades trying to understand.

I sometimes joke that as a parent, my job is to protect Cordy from the world, and the world from her. At other times, I say that she has the choice of learning to use her powers for Good or for Awesome, and I am trying to point her towards the girl.

At eight years old, she has already shown that she has earned a spot at the gaming table, and she is desperate for Daddy to decide she’s old enough to attend the movie marathon.

She is our Mira, and I love her absolutely and completely. Happy Birthday.

mira

Photo taken at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Mira had gone through her mermaid makeover that morning, and one of the outstanding Disney photographers took this picture for us, giving us the magical surprise of adding in Sebastian.

Watching My Daughter Lose Her Belief in Magic and Find it Again

by Aaron Einhorn
One of the greatest moments of joy for me as a parent was when Mira let me know that she doesn’t think that the characters at Disney are real.

Let me explain.

I love the magic of theatre. I’ve been a theatre person my whole life – I loved going to productions when I was a kid, it was my favorite activity in High School, and it was my major in college. I am, in fact, a part of the last BFA graduating class from Miami University. I met Christina when we were performers at the Ohio Renaissance Festival, and I still perform in whatever way I can as often as I can. I love theatre.

I love stories. I love to write. I love to read. I love watching well told stories in film and television, and it makes me really angry when I see people given such a large audience and not telling stories well. As the Doctor once said…

Of course, with such a love of stories and theatre, naturally I work in IT.

But the point is that I love stories, and I love the magic of storytelling and theatre.

Mira is, of course, at the age where her friends are starting to tell her that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the like aren’t real. And most significantly, that the characters at Walt Disney World aren’t real and that there is no such thing as magic.

I’m not naïve. I know that my little girl’s innocence is a transitory thing, and that someday she’ll look at the world with wide, cynical eyes, and see that things in this world are very often not as we would like them to be. Someday she will know that Santa isn’t real, and that Mickey doesn’t actually have the power to keep anything bad from happening inside Disney property, and that Cinderella is really just an underpaid twenty-something actress in a dress and a wig.

But for the longest time, I wanted to make sure that she could understand that both things can be true. That Mickey might only be someone wearing a costume and an over-sized head, but that with the magic of theatre behind it, that he could also still be the “real” Mickey Mouse. The care and attention that goes into crafting the illusion – and the willingness of the audience to accept the reality – that can make a thing real, or at least, real enough to take you away from the world where taxes are due and your boss is being a jerk and to a world where Fairy Godmothers can wave a wand and make everything better for a little while.

Heck, one of my favorite moments from our trip to Walt Disney World during our honeymoon was while we were waiting to go to dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and we saw the backstage area where the Fairy Godmother was being getting ready for her entrance. As theatre folk, we found that part of the show (which we had watched earlier in the day from the front) just as interesting as the show itself, and so we looked and commented on it. The Fairy Godmother noticed us looking and immediately slipped into character, pointing to our Bride and Groom Mickey and Minnie Ears and making a heart with her hands. The woman was backstage, being prepared to go on, and she still took the time to make us smile about being at the Happiest Place on Earth on our Honeymoon.

Disney-honeymoon

No pictures of the backstage moment, but this was the trip. We wore those ears all day… and that’s it’s own kind of magic.

That’s every bit as magical as transforming a pumpkin into a carriage.

The thing is, of course, that bringing up this topic is tricky. You don’t want to preemptively tell her “Hey, Mira, you know, Tinkerbell isn’t really flying over the castle. That really is a zip line she’s attached to,” too soon. Because you want her to still be able to believe once she knows better, but you don’t want to kill her belief ahead of time.

(And Cordy in her innocence, is a whole different story. She still absolutely Believes with a capital “B”. Mira is starting to question. Cordy never will until we flat out tell her.)

We’ve started hinting about it to her, explaining that magic is real when you want it to be. That to someone who doesn’t believe in the magic, that Mickey is just someone in a costume, but that for those of us who are willing to believe, she has met the “real” Mickey each and every time. And that most importantly, Stitch’s hugs all came from the real Stitch.

Seriously, you would not believe this child's love for Experiment 626.

Seriously, you would not believe this child’s love for Experiment 626.

It’s further complicated, of course, by my Heroes Alliance activities. Mira knows that it’s Daddy and his friends in superhero costumes, but she also understands the importance of letting other kids believe that we really are Superman and Captain America and Wonder Woman and Batman and Rogue and Gambit and Iron Man and so on. Which, of course, has to contribute to her ability to see through the illusion. She’s also been reading Ridley Pearson’s “Kingdom Keepers” series, which presents an interesting mix of showing behind the illusions that keep Disney working while also bringing in real magic of having the Disney characters come to life when the parks are closed. Beyond that, two years ago, during our first family trip to the park, we met Cinderella at the Town Square just an hour before our dinner reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Christina made a comment to Mira about how Cinderella would have to move fast to get back to the castle in time for dinner, at which point Mira said “Or it’s just someone in a costume.”

So, I actually felt some relief last night while we were all out at dinner at Red Robin and the discussion of what the girls want to be when they grow up came up. Through the course of the talk, the topic of the Disney College Internship program came up and both girls thought that might be something fun to do. Christina asked what they would want to do at Disney, and Mira answered “Be Princess Anna.”

Christina and I shot each other a look. Was this the moment when Mira finally said that she no longer believed that the characters were real? But then she continued. “You know, the people they have in costume for when the real one has to be somewhere else.”

I don’t think she still believes. But I think she still wants to believe, and wants to make us believe she believes. And that’s enough for now.

Magic is real. Magic is about the stories we can tell each other, in print, in person, on stage or screen, or from a performer at an amusement park taking pictures with delighted children. And I think Mira is starting to understand that. In some ways, I’d rather she believe in that kind of magic, even if she does have to start to understand that when Maleficent becomes a dragon during “Fantasmic”, it’s all just special effects.

Besides, Mira will always be my Princess Anna, so who am I to argue with her?

This cast member stopped us and said "Princess Anna! You're my favorite Princess! Can you take a picture with me?" I of course had to take their picture, and then "promise" to send the picture on to the CM. She put such a smile on Mira's face you wouldn't believe.

This cast member stopped us and said “Princess Anna! You’re my favorite Princess! Can you take a picture with me?” I of course had to take their picture, and then “promise” to send the picture on to the CM. She put such a smile on Mira’s face you wouldn’t believe.

Remembering To Be Proud of What I Can Do, Not Ashamed of What I Can’t

by Aaron Einhorn
In the words of Baymax, I am not fast.

I’m closer to 40 than I am to 30, and I spent most of my life not exercising and eating like crap. I’ve been paying at least some attention to my physical fitness for about the last ten years, but kids and jobs and life and a lifetime of bad habits have kept me from ever being serious about it, although I’m getting better.

I enjoy running (mostly), and I’ve been doing it with some regularity for almost five years now. I enjoy the benefits of running. And I feel a lot of pride when I look at medals from past races and can think to myself “Yeah, I did that.”

But I am not fast.

I do run/walk intervals, and on a good day, I can keep a 10 min/mile pace for a 5K, or an 11 min/mile for a 10K. My only Half-Marathon to date I did at just over a 13 min/mile, although I’m shooting for a 12 min/mile or less for Cap City in a little less than a month.

This puts me in the back half of the pack, although still fairly close to the middle at most races I’ve done. Which upsets me. I don’t mind being in the middle, but I’d love to be on the other side of the bell curve.

And yeah, I’m super competitive. Mostly with myself, but also with people I know, and probably 80% of the people I know who run can do so faster and farther.

Which always makes me nervous about doing big events. Because I know that on those courses where we do a loop, I’m going to get lapped. I know that while on the back half of the course, I’ll see people going home already with their shiny medals around their neck, and I still have miles and miles to go. And I know I’ll never be one of those people.

But then I see posts like this one, and it makes me feel a little better, and resolve to lace up my shoes and do another couple of miles.

Besides, I’ve got two kids who I’m trying to set an example for. Mira has run her first mile race, and is ready for her first 5K, and Cordy isn’t far behind. How can I let them down? How can I tell them “Be proud of what you did, and as long as you tried your best, know that your mother and I will always be proud of you too,” when I’m beating myself up because I ran a 10K in 1:10:48 instead of the 1:06:00 I was aiming for? I need to be better about accepting myself – for them.

This little girl is my inspiration. Ignore the make-up - her mermaid makeover from the day before hadn't quite washed away yet.

This little girl is my inspiration. Ignore the make-up – her mermaid makeover from the day before hadn’t quite washed away yet.

We Run! Tales of a Slow Runner Completing The Walt Disney World Princess Half Marathon

by Aaron Einhorn
expo_photoWe’ve made a family vacation trip out to Walt Disney World in Florida for the past three years now, usually in late February or early March. The first trip occurred as Christina and I celebrated our 10th Anniversary in 2013, which was also the time that Cordy was eight and Mira was five – the perfect age for their first trip to Walt Disney World. (As opposed to not getting to go until you were in your mid-twenties. Not that I’m bitter towards my parents or anything.) The second trip was in conjunction with my wife attending the Type-A Parent Bootcamp, and the third was just a few weekends ago.

That first trip was notable because, aside from the obvious reasons, it was also the Princess Half Marathon weekend. We arrived too late to be involved with the race, but our interest was piqued, and we spent a lot of time that week discussing runDisney.

Fast forward two years, into an interest in running for us both, and Christina running a two-mile fun run at Disneyland, and we found ourselves signing up to do the races at the Princess Half weekend this year. Christina did the Enchanted 10K, the girls each did the kids’ one mile race, and me? Well, I bit off the big bite and ran the Princess Half.

Pre-Race

portorleans

Welcome home.

We arrived on Friday of the race weekend, narrowly missing the Frozen 5K race (which lived up to its name with freezing temperatures), but more importantly, missing out on the first day of the Expo – which meant that there were no more themed tumblers for the weekend, and the race-specific Dooney & Bourke purses were long since gone – much to Christina’s dismay.

The expo was busy and crowded, and I quickly realized it was not my scene, so after collecting our race bibs and t-shirts, meeting Jeff Galloway (whose Run-Walk-Run technique has renewed my interest in running), and buying some merchandise, we escaped back to the resort.

expo_magicband

My new Magic Band, that will be with me for many more Disney trips.

Most of this day was quiet. We hung out at beautiful Port Orleans, got our Magic Bands working (I bought a runDisney Magic Band, which I adore), then had a short evening out at Magic Kingdom where we met Rapunzel and Cinderella (who both signed my race bib), riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and with Mira and I sticking around a little later to take a ride through the Haunted Mansion, before heading home and getting some sleep so Christina could be ready for her 10K and the girls could get prepared for their race.

The next morning came way too early (Christina was up at 3:00, which meant I was awake at 3:00), and shortly after she left, the girls woke up and I drove us over to Epcot so we could meet her for breakfast and see her cross the finish line, and then get the girls in to their race.

Although not as cold as the day before, a chilly morning meant that we mostly stayed inside the race breakfast until I got the text message telling me that Christina would be crossing the finish line around 7:40 a.m. So, right at 7:30, we left the breakfast, made our way to the spectator area, and then watched until we saw Queen Elsa in her coronation dress coming towards the race finish.

christina_finisher

Queen Elsa (Christina) with her Enchanted 10K finisher’s medal.

“Go Mommy!” Mira shouted over Christina’s headphones, and she stopped and gave us a smile. We watched her run on and cross the finish line, and then made the long walk to meet her. She had done it, meaning I just had to live up to my end of the bargain the next day.

mira_postrace

Princess Anna (Mira) finishes her mile!

From there, we went on to have the girls compete in their race (Mira finished with an 11:18 mile, while Cordy had a respectable 12:30), and then returned to the resort before we went off for a short day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom was crowded and busy, but we managed to get a ride in on Expedition Everest, a trip through Kilamanjaro Safari, allow the girls to earn about ten of their Wilderness Explorer “badges”, and for me to meet Pocohantas and get her signature on my race bib (since I knew we wouldn’t have another chance to see her this trip). From there, it was off to Sanaa for dinner (because they have gluten-free naan, and that was the best thing ever), and then back to the room for an early bedtime so I could awaken at 3:00 for my own runDisney trial.

Race Day: Before the Race

Waking up at 3:00 to get dressed as Doctor Doofenschmirtz (complete with the Princessinator!) wasn’t the best thing ever, and the walk through the resort to get to the bus was filled with thoughts of “Oh god, why am I doing this?” Once I got on the bus, I was one of two men on there, but I still put on my best smiling face and got ready to ride on over to the Epcot parking lot.

The "Flat Me" of my Doctor Doofenschmirtz costume.

The “Flat Me” of my Doctor Doofenschmirtz costume.

From the bus unloading area, it was a hike over to the party zone, which as I arrived I heard them telling us that we could go on to our corrals now if we wanted to. I knew, being in Corral G, that I wasn’t going to be the first one there, and that being in the front or back of my corral wouldn’t make a huge difference to my time overall, but since I knew no one at the race, I decided I’d rather wait in the corral than to wait at the party. Off I hiked, getting my picture taken a few times and always hamming it up for picture takers with “Behold! The Princessinator!” in my best Doof voice.

There was almost an hour of waiting in the corral, and while the pre-race announcers were great, I realized the fatal flaw in not staying at the party. I needed to pee – badly – before the race even began. I had desperately wanted to get through Magic Kingdom before I stopped for a bathroom break, but instead I realized I’d be breaking off at the very first set of Port-a-Johns.

mile0_collage

We listened and watched as the announcers chatted us up, played music to get us hyped, and interviewed ladies from the crowds. The corral filled in, and before I knew it, the Fairy Godmother appeared to send Corral A off with a “Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo”and a burst of fireworks. The process repeated with Corrals B and C, although by the time Corral D began, it was back to the race announcers sending them off. Corrals D, E and F each had their turn, and before I knew it, there I was… looking at the starting line. I almost teared up. Here we were. Seven months of running and training and dreaming of this event, and it was about to start. I adjusted my tiara, gripped my Princessinator, made sure that Perry the Platypus was clipped to my lab coat, and waited and then it was time to go. With a burst of fireworks, we were off.

Miles 0-3

mile03_collageI knew I was going to zip ahead of most of my corral, and then lose ground as I stopped for intervals. When running, I usually stay at about an 8:00 min/mile, but I do intervals, and I planned to stop for pictures. Then there was that horrible “needing to pee” issue that was looming in my mind. I ran through my first walk interval, like I figured I would (I normally do a 1:30 run followed by a 1:00 walk), and soon enough found the first major bank of port-a-Johns.

Let’s just say the experience was… less than magical. The lock on my door didn’t work, and it’s a good thing I was a guy who could stand up, because someone in the earlier corrals had left their “deposit” sitting on the seat of the toilet. The smell was awful, and the experience was awful trying to pee while keeping my costume from touching anything, and holding the door tight with one hand. But I got in and out and made it back on to the road. That would be my last bathroom break for the next twelve+ miles.

I passed the pirate ship with Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbosa, and saw the group of Disney Heroes, although I didn’t stop for pictures with any of them. I knew I’d see them again on the way back to Epcot, and I was still terrified of being swept. I knew I had a cushion of time, and at my slowest my pace still kept me ahead of the 16:00 minimum pace, but I didn’t know if this would be my only runDisney race, and I didn’t want it to end with a ride to the finish line on a bus. Character stops were going to have to be at a minimum. But grabbing a picture from the side of the road? That I could do.

The sign for the Ticket and Transportation Center showed up shortly before the third Mile Marker, and I had received a text from Christina telling me that she and the girls would be waiting for me before the bridge inside the parking lot.

I passed Valleope Von Schweetz and the very impressive villains stand (with an even more impressive line), was stopping for water and Gatorade at every opportunity, had my first half pack of Honey Stingers at Mile three, and was still feeling good at this point, although I was beginning to notice some uncomfortable rubbing in my shorts. They were probably too tight – something that would come back to bite me. It was here that I began to learn the very first lesson of running in costume – always field test your costumes. I had never worn the shorts that went with this outfit before that day, and if I had, I’d have discovered that they would cause rubbing that would become more and more of a pain as I ran thirteen miles.

Miles 3-6

Seeing my family in the Transport and Ticketing Center was an amazing boost. The girls are rarely able to watch us run, much less having me be able to watch Christina or her watch me, so that was awesome. I’m told that after the race, Mira continued to be a powerful force of encouragement, calling to runners by costume name and putting a ton of smiles on faces. If a seven-year-old brunette hurricane cheered for you right before the bridge at the TTC – congratulations, you met Mira.

At this point, I was hitting the stride for the run. The Magic Kingdom was in sight (the views of the Contemporary Hotel and Space Mountain were great), and I loved seeing the mile markers for Mile 4 in the TTC, and Mile 5 right outside of Space Mountain. That was the moment I knew this was happening. I would be coming in through the backstage, and would soon be running down Main Street, USA.

We burst through the side gates and there we were, in Town Square. We had made it.

mile3-6collage

Running down Main Street was fantastic. There was nothing like it, and at this point, I was not interested in my intervals. I was on Cloud Nine, and ran down Main Street into the turn into Tomorrowland. We looped through Fantasyland, and I stopped to grab a picture of the Prince Charming Carousel, and then saw the Snow Sisters and Kristoff standing on the castle, waving to us as we prepared to run through it. After running through the castle, we made our way through Liberty Square into Frontierland (waving to Woody) and saw the Mile 6 marker, reminding me that we had come near the end of the park time. The magic was done, now we had the reality of only being halfway done with the race (even if we did get to see the Princesses waiting for us just at the edge of the park.)

Miles 6-9

Remember that “rubbing” issue I was having with the shorts? Well, right around the 10K mark is when I knew that was going to be a problem. I could feel the pain from chaffing begin, but I also knew I was a good hour and a bit ahead of the balloon ladies. I wasn’t about to let it stop me. But it sure did slow me down. Walk breaks were coming more often than they should have, and some intervals were skipped entirely. I had a Gu around Mile 9, and that was the worst thing I could have done – it tasted awful.

Somewhere along this stretch there were the Glass Slipper Bachelors. I skipped right past them. Obviously.

The landscape through here was gorgeous, even with the construction, but I couldn’t appreciate it. I was still smiling when someone recognized Doctor D, and was still taking the time to thank the volunteers at each water stop, but I was no longer having fun. Right around Mile Marker 8, I got this message from Christina “You’re doing great – there were still runners just coming in to the T&TC when we just left” to which I responded “Feel like I want to die. Not even to 8 yet.” At which point she wrote the best thing she could have.

“You can do it. You’re running through Disney and not some seedy west Columbus neighborhood. If you can do the latter, you can do the former.”

Finally, I made it to Mile 9 and sent her the Mile 9 photo, to which I got the response “Yay! Keep going – you’re in the final stretch. Less to go than you’ve already done.”

mile7_collage

Miles 9-12

At this point, everything was a blur of one foot in front of the other. There were more character stops, including seeing the Pirates and Heroes again. I was still putting on a smile for each call out of Doctor Doof I heard, and even met a Perry the Platypus, but as we got closer and I saw Spaceship Earth again, I didn’t know how I would keep going, other than to keep going.

The pain from the chafing was, at this point, getting to be the only thing I could sense. But I didn’t want to let it stop me, so I pushed it aside. I’d pay for that later, and I probably should have stopped at a First Aid station, but I was afraid that once I stopped I wouldn’t be able to get started again.

One thing that I have to say is that the words Christina had written to me just before Mile 9 did come true for me. There is something magical about running at Disney – even once you were past the parks. The landscape is beautiful, and the people who come out to cheer at Disney take the cheering and encouragement to a new level. Whenever I thought to myself “I can just stop, I can take the bus back,” there would be a piece of Disney magic – either from one of the mile markers, from a sign from a cheering spectator, or hearing the people on the course around me supporting each other.

The miles slogged by, and the turn and overpass around Mile 11.5 made me want to die. Sarge (from Toy Story) was hilarious, but I’m glad he had other people to pick on, because I couldn’t have endured it. Finally though, we were on to Epcot property, and the Merida mile marker beaconed to me. Less than a mile to go, all inside a park. I could do this.

mile12_collage

Mile 12-Finish

mile13

I was so happy to see this little mermaid.

It wasn’t a run – it was more of a stagger, but from the time we got into Epcot until the finish line, I resolved to run as much as I could. I pulled my headphones out, completely disregarding my intervals. I took a picture of Spaceship Earth, but skipped taking selfies in the plaza or waiting for a picture with the Fairy Godmother.

At this time, these two text messages flashed across my phone.

“Nearly there. You can do it!”

“Mira asked me to text you “You can do it, daddy!”

Finally, there it was. The Ariel Mile Marker. I had made it to Mile 13. All that was between me and the finish line was .1 mile. I was running on fumes, but I could finish that off without walking any more. And I was going to. I brandished the Princessinator, and I ran.

mile13_finish

The end in sight!

Turning the corner and seeing the finish line was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. I wasn’t going to stop to take the picture, but I fumbled with my phone to shoot the finish line before I crossed. I saw Donald in his running attire, and adjusted my path so I could high-five my favorite duck.

And then it happened. My feet crossed the finish line, and I would later find out that I had made it in just under 3 hours. A far cry from the 2:30 I had planned for, or the 2:15 I had hoped for, but it was done. I had completed my first half-marathon at Walt Disney World.

When I got to the volunteers, I reached for my medal, and was told “You’ve earned this. Let me put it around your neck.” And I almost cried. I looked at my phone to turn off RunKeeper, and saw a final message from Christina.

“You did it! We love you!”

And with that, I made my way to the busses to get back to Port Orleans in time to put the girls on their pirate cruise.

Post-Race

postrace_party

After a shower, at the post-race party in Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs).

I’ll be writing a different post to discuss the rest of our Disney Trip. It was a great trip, but there were some takeaways. Namely, that as Magical as it was (and it was – despite the pain and exhaustion, I loved the race), my next Disney run will not be the Princess. This was a race that was clearly meant for the ladies. By this I don’t in any way mean that the race was any way less tough than any other half-marathon. After all, 13.1 miles are 13.1 miles, and the women who ran the race (and in many cases, kicked the crap out of my time), are athletes who deserve all the praise they get and then some. But the entire race weekend is very focused on women, and as a man running the race, I felt a little out of place. It was a great race, but I think this one won’t make my list of “must do races” again. I’ll be sending Christina off to the Princess Half Marathon weekend in 2016 to earn her Glass Slipper Challenge medal, but for me, I’ll be eyeing Avengers in November at Disneyland or Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, possibly Wine & Dine, and maybe even Tower of Terror when it returns in 2016.

post_race_medalWe also realized that, although the girls like running too, we won’t be combining a Race Weekend with the family trip again. The race was the focus for the first three days which took away from what the girls wanted to do on those days, and we were all really tired and worn down (not to mention the pain from my chafing) when it came time to do our following days in the park.

Still, I got my medal, and the experience is one I’ll hold on to for the rest of my life. This was my first Half, and if it didn’t go as well as I might have liked, at least I finished. And the Magic still remains a stronger memory than the pain that followed.

Thanks for the experience, runDisney. I’ll be back.

post_race_signedbib

My Super Hero

1276913_10201087475162069_1480911052_oby Aaron Einhorn
Hello, internet. It’s been a busy few weeks. Two weeks ago, the family took a trip to Walt Disney World. Last week, the Heroes Alliance Ohio branch did an appearance for the opening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and I’d really like to get a review of that movie up here (the short version was that I really liked it.)

But there’s something more pressing for me to write about, and that’s to take a moment to thank the hero I look up to more than any other.

My wife.

Christina works tirelessly at her job working for BlogHer, and for all that she works from home, she routinely puts in well over forty hours a week. She tends not to log all of her hours, but I see the time she puts into her job. In addition, she maintains a blog and is involved with the school PTA.

But that’s not why she’s a hero.

She doesn’t always realize it, but she puts in a superhuman amount of effort for taking care of our daughters. Cordy’s autism means that there are a million tiny little challenges that are invisible until you stumble upon them, but she manages a complicated dance of arranging school schedules, outside activities, therapies, school meetings, doctors’ appointments, prescriptions and over-the counter supplements.

And then there’s our local school.

Columbus City Schools have, in the past year, twice caused us to go to war. The first time was with an ill-conceived levy that would have turned too much of the public school system over to private industry and charter schools, and the second time with a plan to change the way the Gifted and Talented programs are administered in a way that will be harmful to many of the kids in the district, and specifically will cause chaos and havoc in the lives of Cordy and Mira.

(You can read more about it here and here.)

Christina beats herself up because she feels like she doesn’t do enough. She apologizes to me for being so distracted and not there for me. She has no idea how much I admire her courage and dedication.

I love you, dear, more than I can ever say. But posting it here for the whole world to see is a start.

Mary Poppins (50th Anniversary Edition): Review

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Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition – Available Now

by Aaron Einhorn
We all know the classic Disney film of Mary Poppins. Even if we haven’t seen the film in its entirety, it’s pretty much impossible to live in 21st Century America without having seen clips from the film, or at a bare minimum, being familiar with the songs “Supercalifragilisticexpalidocious,” “A Spoonful of Sugar” or “Chim Chim Cheree.” But most of us have seen the film, and have been enchanted by P.L. Travers’ enchanted nanny who comes to save the Banks family, and we are lucky to have done so.

Now, just in time for the release of Saving Mr. Banks the film based (loosely) on how Walt Disney acquired the rights to make Mary Poppins, Disney has released Mary Poppins for the first time on Blu-Ray. We were lucky enough to be given a review copy of the Blu-Ray, and we were all-too excited to rip the shrink-wrapping off the case and throw it into our player.

And how is it? Read on.

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Official Synopsis
Released from the Disney Vault in celebration of its 50th Anniversary, this beloved classic shines like never before on Blu-ray with an all-new digital restoration. Winner of five Academy Awards (1964), including Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”) and Best Special Visual Effects, Mary Poppins is a movie experience your family will enjoy over and over again.

“Practically Perfect in Every Way” Mary Poppins flies out of the windy London skies and into the home of two mischievous children. With the help of a carefree chimney sweep named Bert (Dick Van Dyke), the spirited nanny turns every chore into a game and every day into a “Jolly Holiday.” Share the music, the magic, and the joy of Mary Poppins with a whole new generation for the first time on Disney Blu-ray.

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The Feature
I’m not going to waste time recapping the tale of Mary Poppins here. Either you’re familiar with the tale of Mary Poppins, Bert, and the Bankses, or you’ve been living under a rock. I will, however, say that if you haven’t seen the film yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. We shared the movie with Cordy and Mira for the first time on our way down to Walt Disney World last year, and they were so in love with it that they insisted that they had to make sure to visit Mary “along with all of the other Princesses” when we went to the parks. Sadly, due to a freak rainstorm, they didn’t manage to see Mary Poppins when we were in the England section of Epcot, but we’ll be correcting that next time we visit.

All that said, you may have seen Mary Poppins before, but you haven’t seen it like this – unless you’ve been fortunate enough to see one of the restored 35mm prints. The digital restoration of the movie is absolutely breathtaking, and it almost feels like you’re watching a brand new movie when you watch this Blu-ray.

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Bonus Features
Disney has never been one to skimp out on the Bonus Features, and thanks to the depth of the Disney Vault, each new release manages to have something new attached. In this particular case, we get a “Making of” documentary titled “Supercalifragilisticexpalidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins,” which is fun, but is fairly standard fare. We also get “A Magical Musical Reunion With Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman” which is astonishingly fun. It may have been fifty years since the making of the film, but these three show how they really managed to capture magic in a bottle when this movie was made. In addition, we are treated to the deleted song “Chimpanzoo.” It’s a fun song, but there’s no reason why it needed to be included. Still, Disney fans will enjoy it.

These features have been presented in previous releases, but they’re still pretty great.

In terms of new features, we get “Becoming Mr. Sherman” which contains a conversation between Richard Sherman and Jason Schwartzman, who plays Sherman in Saving Mr. Banks as Sherman discusses the process of writing the songs of Mary Poppins, along with an all new “Mary-Oke Sing-Along.”

The one thing I miss is the Second Screen experience which seemed like it was becoming the new standard for Disney’s releases/re-releases. On the other hand, the Second Screen might have just distracted me from the joy of seeing Mary Poppins, Bert and the Banks children all over again, so perhaps they made the right call.

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The Look
Mary Poppins won the Oscar for visual effects when it was released, and the beauty of the film and the seamless blending of animation and live-action actors has been apparent in all of the previous releases of the movie. But the digital restoration of this Blu-Ray brings the film to visual life in an all new way. If you are especially eagle-eyed, you can find some legacies of the transfer and restoration, but for the rest of us, what we end up with is a beautiful re-release of a film that most of us have seen, but have never been able to see in its full glory.

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The Sound
The music of Mary Poppins is well-known and full of classics, but just as most of us have never seen Mary Poppins in the same vivid splendor that the original theatrical experience presented, we also haven’t experienced the music in the same way. Until now. The soundtrack has received the same tender restoration as the print, and the music is crisp and clear and beautiful in Dolby 7.1 sound.

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Final Thoughts
Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition is a masterful release, and if you don’t already own a copy of the film, it’s a splendid addition to any Disney fans’ library. If you already own the previous DVD release, you don’t need to rush out to replace it with this version, but you certainly won’t be disappointed if you do. Cordy and Mira couldn’t explain why the film seemed so much more alive this time than the last time they saw it, but they could tell that it was “better.” Christina and I could describe the improvements once we stopped to think about them, but this is honestly a hard movie to be a critic of when it simply demands that you throw yourself into the experience.

I am overjoyed to be able to add Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition to my library, and I think you’ll feel the same way.

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Columbus Walk Now For Autism Speaks 2013

by Aaron Einhorn
Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disorder in the United States, and with that in mind, Heroes Alliance Ohio was only too happy to join Autism Speaks at the 2013 Columbus Walk Now For Autism Speaks this past weekend. Speaking on an entirely personal level, my oldest daughter is on the Autism Spectrum, so of all the charities that we’re able to support, this is the one that probably means the most to me. Similarly, I know that our new Thor also has a family member on the spectrum.

Superman, Supergirl, Thor and Wonder Woman were on hand to support children with autism and their families as Autism Speaks raised money to research treatments for autism. The event drew over 20,000 people, mostly children with Autism and their families, and in addition to the team of the Heroes Alliance (working alongside the Ohio 501st and other costumed characters), the event contained a massive resource fair to provide information about services to Autism Families, arts, crafts, food, drink and entertainment.

The Walk took place at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio, and raised just shy of a million dollars to support the cause.

Special Thanks to Stephen Blanzaco and Christina McMenemy for out-of-costume support and picture taking. You’ll notice that Christina also brought the girls out to the event – appropriately, since Cordy is the entire reason I am aware of Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.

To learn more about the Heroes Alliance, visit

UPDATED: Times That I Really Wish I Could Be a Superhero

by Aaron Einhorn
This past weekend, Christina went to the Type-A Moms Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, leaving me to play the role of single parent. This isn’t a big deal – it’s hardly the first time that I’ve been flying solo with the kids, and other than the fact that they probably eat too much fast food when she’s gone, nothing problematic has ever really occurred.

(Advance warning: Please read on, but despite how scared we got, everything worked out ok.)

My Mother-In-Law agreed to help out a bit so that I wouldn’t need to leave work early on Friday to pick the kids up. We had put Cosmo into “Doggie Day Care” on Thursday, and I was going to pick him up on Friday, then return home to relieve my MiL. So, I left work, went to get the dog, and while part of the way there, got a call from MiL asking “When do the kids normally get home?”

The answer is “4:30 p.m.”. It was about 5:25 when she called me.

I told her I didn’t know, and that I would call transportation. I did so, and the phone never picked up. Apparently, there’s no one there after 5:00 p.m. – at least not to answer that line.

By the time I picked the dog up around 6:00 (traffic was terrible), Christina called me from Atlanta. “Mom is calling the police.”

And she was right to do so. Because what other choice did we have? There was no one answering the phone at the school, at the school board, or at the transportation office. My MiL had been at the house since 4:00 to wait for the bus, and had the door opened. And if the bus had come by and no one was there to take the girls, the bus is supposed to keep the kids on the bus and take them to Children’s Protective Services.

So, by the time I got home around 6:30, we still didn’t know what was happening. The officer had taken a statement and was parked in his car at the end of our driveway. I was on the phone with Protective Services, trying to navigate through the automated menu. And my wife, who should have been enjoying her conference, was in her hotel room in Atlanta crying.

Finally, the officer walked up to the door saying he had reached transportation (through some access that the police have which the public does not), and was told that there had been some sort of emergency with the bus, and that it was “about 5 minutes away.” He stayed with us until the bus arrived, and finally I was able to see my daughters.

They were over two hours late. They had been on the bus for over three hours.

Never in my life have I felt more helpless.

Below is the e-mail I just sent to the school superintendent and city school board, with the personal details redacted:

Dear Interim Superintendent REDACTED and members of the Columbus Board of Education,

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure about what happened with my daughters during their bus ride home on Friday, September 27.

My daughters attend REDACTED Elementary on the north side of the city, right off REDACTED. Our home is on the south side, near the border of Grove City. Typically, their bus ride home takes roughly an hour, with their arrival sometime at or around 4:30 p.m. They are scheduled for drop-off by 4:15, but we understand that the school transportation system is currently under some strain. The bus they normally ride is REDACTED.

As much as I would prefer my daughters to have a shorter bus trip each day, I am not writing to complain about that.

I am writing because on Friday, they did not arrive home until after 6:30 p.m.

When the bus driver arrived, we were told that there was a family emergency for the regular driver, and so the regular driver’s route was added to the driver who came Friday night. I’m not unreasonable, and I acknowledge that this was the best option for the available resources. It’s not at all ideal, but I understand the solution.

What I do not understand is why no one notified my family.

At the start of the school year, information cards were collected for both of my daughters. On those information cards are our home phone number and the cell phone numbers for my wife, myself, and other families designated as alternate contacts for emergencies.

While I do not consider a “typical” delay to be an emergency, a delay of over two hours is far beyond typical. What is equally unforgivable is the fact that there is no one available to be reached at the school board offices, transportation, or the school itself after 5:00 p.m.

It was a Friday afternoon, and everyone just wanted to get home to their families, which I understand. That was what I wanted myself. But when there are still busses out for drop off, there needs to be someone who can be reached.

Instead, my two daughters, one aged six, and one aged nine who is on the Autism spectrum, were on a bus for over three hours, and we had no idea where that bus was. We didn’t worry when the bus was half an hour late. We didn’t worry when it was forty-five minutes late. After an hour, we began to worry, and when we could not reach the school, the school board, or transportation, we realized we had no choice but to call the Columbus Police department.

Because at this point, my wife and I had nightmare scenarios of my kids getting off at the wrong stop and being abducted by a stranger going through our heads. And there was no one we could reach to tell us that we were wrong.

The police did come out to our home and took a report, at which point they called some number they have access to which we do not. From this call, we were able to discover that the routes were combined, and that the bus was “about five minutes away.” The officer waited at our home until the girls arrived on their bus, and I asked why no one had called us. The driver did not have an answer – and I am sincerely hoping that you do.

I am a big supporter of Columbus City Schools. I am a product of the system myself, having attended REDACTED. Despite my wife’s frequent fears and worries, and beliefs that we should consider private schooling or moving to another district, I have always been the first to defend the City Schools. We vote for almost every tax levy to support the schools, and we absolutely adore the teachers and administrators at REDACTED School Name who have done an amazing job with helping my oldest daughter overcome the difficulties from her autism, to the point where she is now classified as doubly-exceptional.

But what happened on Friday was unacceptable. Not the delay itself, but the lack of transparency and information about it. Not only should we have been contacted, but we should have been given the option to come and pick our children up from the school if this was the only possible solution.

And I need to know that it will not happen again – either to my family or to any other family – if I am to continue to enroll my children in the Columbus City Schools and to support future tax levies to go to the school system.

Please respond to this message to let me know what steps will be taken in the future regarding making information about transportation available to concerned parents. My wife and I would be happy to schedule a meeting to discuss the situation, if that would be of interest. We can be reached either via e-mail or via our cell phones.

Thank you,

Aaron and Christina

For those hours, I would have given the world to have Superman’s flight, or Batman’s deductive skills, or the Flash’s speed. Instead, all I could do was sit and wonder and worry. I never reached the levels of fear my wife did – but that was because I was still too far into anger. I would have hit scared eventually.

I’m waiting for a response. I hope I get one soon.

UPDATE:
I received the following response from the interim Superintendent of Columbus Schools.

Hi Aaron,

You are correct! This is unacceptable. Deputy Superintendent REDACTED is investigating what happened and what didn’t happen and why. Either he or REDACTED, Transportation Director, will be in touch.

Dan

So, it’s progress.

My Date With Lois Lane

kidderby Aaron Einhorn
Well, perhaps “date” is a bit strong of a word, but I got to meet Lois Lane today, or more precisely, I got to meet Margot Kidder, who while she wasn’t the first actress to be Lois Lane, she will forever be the Lois Lane in my heart.

There have been numerous Lois Lanes through the years, from Noelle Neill and Phyllis Coates to Kate Bosworth and Amy Adams in the films, and from Phyllis Coates to Terri Hatcher to Erica Durance on television, with countless others providing voices to the intrepid reporter/love interest to the Man of Steel.

But in 1978, Margot Kidder appeared as Lois Lane in Superman: The Movie and from that point on, she has been my image of Lois.

Today, Packrat Comics hosted their second Annual “Not at Comic Con” Comic Con, and Ms. Kidder was a guest. I brought my girls out, and we stood in the rain to get inside, only to finally meet Ms. Kidder. Cordy and Mira wore their costumes from Disney, appearing as Tinkerbell and Snow White, and I wore the Superman costume that is responsible for getting me into costuming and for introducing me to the Heroes Alliance.

220px-Superman_ver1I joke that ever since my Superman suit ended up in the pool at one of the Heroes Alliance events, it attracts water, and today was no exception. We had a nice little thunderstorm while I was in line.

The store was crowded, although the atmosphere was fun, and as has become all too common with celebrity appearances, the rules about what you get with each purchase were a bit less clear than they should have been. But none of that changes the fact that meeting “my” Lois Lane was totally worth it.

I still mourn the fact that I never met Christophe Reeve. There are few celebrities who I actually cry over when they pass, and the two I can immediately think of are Jim Henson and Chris Reeve. Jim Henson taught me to believe in magic, and Chris Reeve made me believe a man could fly.

I’ll never get to shake his hand and tell him what his Superman meant to me, but today I at least got to do the same with Margot Kidder. I am extremely grateful for that.

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