Sunday, March 30, 2008

Smooth sailing and rocky days ...

You know, somedays life is smooth sailing. Everything melds. Everything goes easily. Everything just works.

Then there are other days that are a bit more rocky. Things go wrong. Things are frustrating. Things just don't seem to go right.

I must say that lately it's been more smooth sailing than anything. I've been feeling the joy of how harmonious life can be. I am loving the ages the kids are at, loving how they still like to be with us but are independant enough to do things without our constant supervision. I've been feeling fairly confident in the kids new school and happy with the results of their 2nd report cards (YEAH for Chase, who got straight A's, and kudos to Tristan and Carissa who got great marks but who don't get letter grades yet). I've been loving the joys of being married to Brian. Life is good in so many ways. Even my migraines have slowed down immensily. Everything has been fairly smooth and I love that!

Then there are days like today. Days where it all comes crashing down. Where worry about the one bad teacher haunts me. Where worries about money and bills start nagging at my brain. Where the kids irresponsibility plays on my last nerve. Where I feel down on myself and my body. Where the pulls and tugs of my overfilled schedule starts stressing me out. Where I can feel the tension build up inside of me. Where I shout and overreact too easily. Where I feel as if nothing is right.

Thankfully I know tomorrow will bring different things. Tomorrow I will wake up and start a new day, a fresh start, a chance for smooth sailing again. But for now it's just getting through today. Getting through the rocky times. Getting through the worries of my life and trying to remember that I am blessed with so many days where life is good. And most of all, remembering that I am so lucky that I have it all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The good and the bad ...

It's spring break. YEAH!!! I LOVE not having a schedule, not having to get up early, not having to go anywhere. It's wonderful!

Of course, the bad side of this is that the kids aren't thinking it's so wonderful, because Mom insisted on spring cleaning during spring break. They've spend the better part of the last two days in their room, first throwing everything on the floor, then moving furniture and cleaning it off, then reorganizing everything. Of course, there is the inevitable evil mommy moments where I make them throw away the piles of paper they have everywhere or make them filter through their stuffed animals and put some in the garage sale pile. But overall it went fairly well and I'm happy to say that their rooms are now MUCH imporved. We threw away at least a full garbage sack of garbage from each kids room and 1-2 full garbage bags of garage sale stuff. Brian and I even went through and spring cleaned our bedroom. It is so lifting to feel so clean and new again.

The other good side/bad side was Chase's evaluation with the orthdontist today. The good news is that he's not ready for anything yet. He still has 3 baby molars left to lose and those should take about 6 months. The bad news is that he wants to see him in a year to reevaluate him and probably put on braces. Chase has a fairly signifigant overbite which is really more of an issue of his top teeth angling out just a little. The other good news is that the ortho thinks that this can be corrected in about a year with braces. The bad news is that we have zero ortho coverage and will have to somehow manage the estimated $4000 bill for this. YIKES!

Oh well, life will work out. It always does.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hello Disney Stuff ...

Oh yes, the vacation is over but all the Disney designing is still yet to be done. I've started my scrapbook albums (yes, there are 2 of them) from our WDW trip but decided to take a little break from that to start on an idea I had before I left.

You see, when we are at Disney parks the kids like to do pin trading. This means that they have a lanyard of pins around their neck and they swap pins with cast member working at the Disney parks. They are all very specific about what they traded for this year. Carissa traded for only "girly" ones, like princesses, Minnie and Tink. Tristan had remarkable restraint and traded only for Stitch pins. Chase went crazy for hidden Mickey pins.

In addition to their trading pins they also purchase one pin from each park as a souvenior. The boys now have 3 parks worth of pins - WDW in 2001, Disneyland in 2006 and WDW in 2008. Carissa was just a baby when we went to WDW so she had just two trips worth of pins.

Well, I had finally decided to make a display for all of their pins. I stared with Carissa, as she had the fewest number of pins.

I altered this canvas for them and think it turned out wonderfully. It certainly fits her personality and room decor. All of the pins inside the Mickey head are her special souvenior pins from our trips. The ones hanging from the ribbons are her trading pins that she might one day want to remove and trade on our next Disney trip.

This was such a fun project and I can't wait to work on the boys displays sometime in the near future.

Monday, March 10, 2008

All good things must come to an end ...

Sadly, my Disney posts have come from the end. I've tried to stretch them out as long as I could. But it's been a month since our return from Disneyworld and the trip report has come to an end. Now it's time to update you on what happened since our return.

Chase finally had a turn to use his telescope for something really fun. We pulled it out and set it up to watch the lunar eclipse. It really gave us a great view and was lots of fun.


Chase crossed over to Boy Scouts. This was a really exciting time for Chase, especially because he got to spend it with his 3 friends who have complete this entire journey, since the age of 6, with him.
He has worked 5 1/2 years on attaining the highest award in Cub Scouting, the Arrow of Light. He received that award (check out the golden arrow on his forehead)
and then went on to the ritual of crossing to boy scouts. The Order of the Arrow group showed up to do the ceremony, dressed in their version of Native American costumes.
The ceremony was solemn but filled with so much meaning and capped off by a welcome to his new troop.
Chase was absolutely thrilled to have completed Cub Scouts and is now enjoying his new activities as a Boy Scout.

Tristan had his first Tae Kwon Do tournament last weekend. It was a very large event, attended by about 300-400 competitors. He participated in two events and did really well for his first tournament.

First up was breaking. He was slightly disappointed because these boards were very thin and "too easy" for him to break, but he got up there and did wonderfully. He broke 4 boards using 4 different kicks and ended up with a silver medal in his group.
Last up was sparring. PhotobucketAs mentioned, this was his first tournment. That explains why he was so fascinated with the scoreboard. Unfortunately, that fascination got the better of him and he was glued to it. As soon as he'd hit or kick he'd turn around and look at the screen to see if he'd scored. This was, of course, not a winning strategy and he lost the round. He ended up with a good lesson learned and a bronze metal for his efforts. (He's blue in the photos below.)
He came away from this tournament so energized and excited, even more than before, about Tae Kwon Do. And he was SO proud of himself!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Disney Day 8: See you Real Soon ...

We woke up this morning to the realization that our vacation had come to an end. All we had left to do now was pack up and fly home. So we did just that. We had a late flight but had to be out of the hotel at 10am so we had a quick breakfast and then got to packing. Boy, what a chore that is. Trying to seperate the clean from dirty, trying to pack the souveniors all so very carefully, trying to make sure we remembered every little thing. But by 10am we were ready to go. We checked out and left some bags at the hotel, since we had a late afternoon flight.

Since we had time to kill we really discussed what to do with that time. Brian really wanted to see a beach on the East coast, with the tide coming in from the east instead of the west like we're accustom to. So we headed that way. Along the drive I could tell that Brian was starting to worry. He was worried that we wouldn't get there and back in time, that we would miss our flight, that we would stress out about it all. So we decided not to push it and turned back around. On our way back we saw signs for Gatorland and thought about heading there but decided against it. We finally ended up back at Downtown Disney.

We walked the west side of DTD for a while, not buying much and really not all that interested in the stores there. We jumped on a boat and proceeded to the east side, where all the Disney stores are. We did a bit more shopping and I talked everyone into eating lunch at the Earl of Sandwich. Can you just say "YUM!" I absolutely loved it. I had eated it the day before and was craving it again and everyone just went along for the ride. Unfortunately, I guess I was the only one who absolutely loved it. The rest of the family just thought it was okay. Nothing special. I, on the other hand, had absolutely fallen in love with this sandwich:

Let me tell you, I don't think I will ever live down all the jokes I get because I took a picture of my sandwich. But it was worth it, I tell you. This sandwich was the best I've ever had! It's a Hawaiin BBQ Sandwich ... chicken breast strips topped with thinly sliced ham, swiss cheese, Hawaiin BBQ sauce and FRESH pineapple slices. YUMMMMMMMY!

After lunch we headed to the nearby "Once Upon A Toy" store just for a quick look. We ended up staying an hour and spending lots of money ... you see, Brian and the boys had found the "make your own lighsaber" toy and they each had to have one. They had a good time putting them together and deciding what they wanted them to look like.
Carissa couldn't be left out, yet she didn't want a lightsaber either so she bought a Jasmine costume for her new "My Disney Princess" doll.

By the time we were done with the toys it was time to head back to the hotel for our luggage and then onto our flight bound for home. We were all sad to see our magical Disney vacation come to an end.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Disney Day 7: Saying Goodbye

Today was our final day at Disneyworld. We had seen all the parks and done nearly all the rides and shows so we planned today as our "best of" day. Last night we all sat down and made lists of our favorite things and today we rode them yet again.

It was no surprise that we returned to Hollywood Studios today. For most of us our favorite ride was Rockin' Rollercoaster. So we got up early and made a beeline for DHS. While we were there in time for rope drop, this rope drop was quite a bit different than the first time we were at DHS. This time it was packed and there were cheerleaders everywhere. We talked to a few who said that there was some national competition happening in the Indiana Jones theater, thus the plethora of squealing girls all huddled together in a big group. Of course, they were all heading for RnR too, so we changed our plan just a bit.

I rushed ahead of our group, who is slowed down as mom's wheelchair makes it hard to get through a crowd. I got to RnR and got in the long lines for the Fastpass machines. Man, did I get the wrong machine! It was slow for all those in front of me and didn't like my passes. I kept trying and it kept spitting them out. DOH! And then I had the rude person behind me saying "let me try mine ... mine should work and then you can keep trying yours." He was almost pushing me out of the way. RUDE! I did manage to get our fastpasses and then hurried to the top of Tower of Terror where my family was waiting for me.

We rode Tower of Terror again, getting on the ride with a screaming woman who did NOT want to ride but whose family kept telling the attendant that she was fine. Of course, this made for an interesting ride as this lady screamed almost the entire time.

Next we headed over to RnR for another spin on our favorite ride. On our way to RnR we noticed that the dream team had just been there handing out dream Mickey ears. DOH! We just missed them. Oh well. Brian and the kids had a great time posing for the camera ...

After RnR we headed over to see the Little Mermaid show that we had missed our last visit. I thought it was cute and Carissa certainly liked seeing the mermaid

but Brian and the boys didn't like it much at all. I guess when you compare it to the other stage shows like Beauty & the Beast, Nemo and Festival of the Lion King then the Little Mermaid does pale by comparison.

Our plan next was to wait until the big car stunt show started, but that was still several hours off. We started walking around and realized that we didn't want to spend our day just waiting in this packed park for one show so decided to say goodbye to DHS. There was only one more thing to do before we left - get Chase's picture taken with his hero, Walt Disney.
Next up was a stop at Downtown Disney. We hadn't made it there yet this trip and we were excited to see what they had. We had a quick bite to eat (nachos for Tristan and Carissa, McDonald's for Brian and Chase and the Earl of Sandwich for me). We shopped several stores, looking for some last minute souveniors for ourselves. Then we walked around a while before finding this place:
I had heard about the design-your-own candy that they had and I thought this would be a fun and unique experience for the kids. We went inside and made our selections then watched while they made them.

It took a LONG TIME so Carissa had fun looking at herself in the playhouse mirror

Finally, the candies were ready. Here's what they looked like:




Gross looking, right? But the kids really loved them.

Carissa did fairly well choosing her toppings. She chose a giant oreo cooking, dipped in milk chocolate, covered in M&M's and topped with chocolate drizzle. It actually looked very yummy.
The boys were a little more adventurous. They tried to add every single thing they liked onto their candies. They both chose marshmallows on a Mickey head straw and had them dipped in milk chocolate. Tristan added rainbow sprinkles, peanuts, Oreo's, M&M's, Butterfinger and Reese's Peanut Butter cup to his. EEEEWWWW ... this thing looked diseased! LOL
Chase chose to add Oreo's, M&M's, Buttefinger and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup to his and then had it drizzled in milk chocolate.
Yes, I got one too! How could I resist? I LOVE candy! Mine was marshmallows dipped in milk chocolate, covered with peanuts and M&M's and then drizzled with caramel. Mmmmmmmmm.

We took these outside to a table and let the kids have at them. The boys dug right in and loved every minute of it! Carissa was a little more tentative and ended up eating only about 1/4 of hers. It was a fun experience and they all enjoyed themselves.

We walked around DTD a while longer, snapping some pictures along the way.


By the time afternoon hit we had decided to return to our hotel for a bit. We hadn't yet had a chance to go swimming and it was 80degrees outside, perfect for a dip in the pool. We got back and changed then left Brian's parents at the hotel and took the kids to the pool. We swam and played for an hour or so before finally getting out.

Back at the hotel Brian's parents had decided to call it a night and stay at the hotel, so the five of us showered while we waited for the Pizza Hut room service. We took it in the car with us and ate it on the way to our final Disney destination today, Magic Kingdom. We knew we had to see our favorite fireworks, Wishes, for one last time. And this time I decided to leave everything at home, meaning no camera. I just wanted to soak up the last moments of vacation with my family.

It would, of course, be today that we got to ride up front in the monorail. And here I was with no camera! Grrrr! This was a very neat experience and a whole different ride when you're sitting up front. Unfortunately they would only let 4 of us sit up front and Brian absolutely insisted that I go with the kids. I felt a little bad about that, as I had ridden up front as a child and he had never done so. But he wouldn't be persuaded so I enjoyed this unique ride.

We arrived at Magic Kingdom about 6pm and noticed the hoardes of people there. I had forgotten that it was Extra Magic Hours, meaning that those who stay on Disney property can come into the park and stay later than the general public. Boy, did that make a huge difference! The crowds were thick! We decided to try to get on one of the big rides, knowing that we would wait a little longer than the 20 minutes we had gotten used to all trip. But first we had a stop to make. Tristan had been wanting a djembe (African drum) like the one Brian has at home and we had seen them in a shop outside the Aladin ride. We had promised him that we would stop by and get one so we did. He spent the last of his money (and some of ours! LOL) on that drum, but he is absolutely thrilled about it.

Next stop was Big Thunder Mountain RR, which had a 90 minute wait. No way were we spending an hour and a half in line for a ride. We decided to jump on the nearby Walt Disney Railroad for a ride to Tomorrowland.

We arrived in Toontown, which is as close to Tommorrowland as the WDW Railroad gets. We hopped off and took that nice, secluded path to Tomorrowland. Space Mountain was also a 90 minute wait and by now it was nearing 7pm. Again, no way we were waiting.

We made the last minute decision to just watch Monsters Inc. laugh floor one more time. Even this was busy and it was 45 minutes until we got out of the show. Knowing that there was only 15 minutes until Wishes we decided to head to the hub. Along the way we found a Photopass photographer who took this shot with the beautifully lit castle in the background.
We found a wonderful spot in the middle of the hub and stood together to watch the fireworks. It was such a wonderful moment and my favorite of the entire trip. Standing togther in this wonderful place, arms around one another just enjoying the feeling of magic and togetherness, watching Tinkerbell flying overhead, ooohhhing and aaahhhing over the spectacular display. It was truly a magical moment.

After the fireworks ended we knew that it would be a mass exodus from the parks. We were in no hurry and made a little family huddle together right in the middle of the hub and just hugged one another. There were tears in my eyes and happiness in my heart. This was my family and in this moment everything was perfect.

We did finally have to move. The crowds had died down a bit, just enough for us to make our way into the stores for a little bit of last minute shopping. Chase used the last of his money on this huge A to Z Disney encyclopedia that he had found. He proudly totted along with that book and hasn't put it down ever since. Carissa got a "My Disney Princess" doll with the last of her money. Brian got a new wallet with Mickey on it. I got an address book with a picture of Cinderella Castle on it.

By now the kids had wiped out their spending money and we really had to get on our way. It was such a bittersweet moment. We didn't want to leave, knowing that we wouldn't be back for at least several years. But it was time.

Walking out of the park I could feel it tugging on my heart. The memories we had made here, the fun we'd had, the magic we'd shared. Of course, I could be counted on to tear up on the way out of the park, especially when the final cast member we talked to that day said "Have a Magical Day." I didn't want to talk to anyone else. I didn't want anyone to ruin that beautiful moment. And they didn't. We walked out of the park and onto the boat and to our car without another word from another cast member. Just a final "have a magical day" to send us on our way. And it was ...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Disney Day 6: A Little Sleep Does A Body Good

Last night was a late one ... Spectromagic, Fireworks and leisurely strolls through Main Street means we didn't arrive back at our timeshare until very late. Thankfully, today was our day of reprieve. We got to SLEEP IN! YEAH!!! Instead of our normal 7am wakeup call we were able to sleep as long as our bodies would let us. I will say that they didn't really let us sleep in too awful much, but the little bit of extra sleep really helped.

We got up and went out for a nice, filling breakfast before heading off for our 11:30am family photo shoot at the Grand Floridian. This was something I have been eagerly anticipating for months. It's not often that we do family photos and it's usually in some stuffy studio in a nearby Sears store. But this photo shoot was different ... a photographer, beautiful hotel ground to shot on and ideas galore that I had collected from seeing other photo shoots from the same place.

We arrived on time and waited just a few moments before meeting our photopass photographer. I want to think that her name was Sara, but I can't be positive on that. Prepared person that I am, I speak to her right away and let her know exactly what I'm looking for: photos out-of-doors, especially on the beach, some of DH and I, some of just the kids, some of our family of 5, some of the family of 7 and everything in between. I am notified right away that beach pictures are a horrible idea. The sun is already up and it's a clear day, meaning that it's absolutely glaring on their pristine white sand beach. DOH! Why didn't I think of that? In all my planning I couldn't think about the sun reflecting off the sand. So much for that adorable hammock pose I wanted. Sara did say she would try but wasn't very positive about the results.

We walked outside and did photos in a somewhat secluded area out of direct sunlight. Right away things weren't going great. Chase, my little fair-skinned, freckle-faced boy is having a very hard time with the sunlight. It's bugging his eyes and he decides to just close them for the photos. Oh man! Sara catches it and tries to get him to open them ... no go. I take said 11-year-old aside and politely explain that he must do his best to keep his eyes open or Mom is going to be very unhappy. She sets us back up and gets some shots before moving on to another area. More pictures, more eye issues, new spot for more pictures. On and on this goes for about 1/2 hour. The family were absolute troopers through it all though, not wanting to mess with my photograph-addictive personality. They really did great.

Last stop is the beach and, as promised, the sun is reflecting brightly off the sand. Sara takes several shots and does as best as she can before calling this a wrap. We're left to relax for a few moments at the beach.

before we head on to the rest of our day. I did check out our photos this evening and caught a lot of what I expected - horrible faces and squinty eyes and a plethora of pictures where Chase looks like he's catching flies (eyes half open and mouth wide open ... his way of trying to open his eyes). Yes mixed in there are some awesome family photos.

Epcot was our destination for today and, much like yesterday, we were prepared with a plan of action. We stopped for a few Photopass photos on our way in and Carissa FINALLY got to pose with Tinkerbell (though I have no idea what she was doing at Epcot! LOL).We sent Dad in for some fastpasses for Test Track and then made our way over to watch "Honey I Shrunk The Audience." The kids actually liked this a lot and I didn't think it was too bad either.

Chase was thrilled to find the "upside-down waterfall" listed on the scavenger hunt of his "Mickey's Personal Assistant" that he had purchased at Disneyland.

I was very disappointed that the nearby Figment ride wasn't open, as I haven't gone on it since my teenage visits in the late 80's and early 90's.

After that we were ready for a snack, since it had been a while since our late breakfast. On our way to "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" I had spied just the thing the guys had been looking for - hard scooped ice cream in waffle cones. Seriously, the guys have been looking for this all week. Either they would find a place that had hard scooped ice cream and no waffle cones, or they'd find waffle cones with only soft serve. This was our 6th day and they finally got their ice cream!

We sat and ate together, enjoying the down time and the coolness of the ice cream, as the day was already growing fairly warm.

After eating the kids wanted to head over to Innoventions to play for a while. Mom and Dad offered to take them so we made plans to meet up and Brian and I headed out alone for the first time this trip. We didn't really have anything to do so we meandered into the World Showcase. We milled around for a while, stopping to browse the shops.

We ran into a Photopass photographer in Mexico. I don't know what it is about these people, but somehow they convinced us to do this:OK, seriously ... we look like idiot tourists! We did get him to take this shot, a much better representation of us. All too quickly our hour of freedom was over and we met the parents and the kids at Test Track to use our Fastpasses. Mr. Squinty Eyes was at it again ...

After Test Track we were ready to hit the World Showcase. We started over in Canada and slowly made our way around. The kids caused a bottleneck when Chase, who was totting the kids camera today, decided to stop and take pictures at this very busy photo spot in Canada. He was too cute though, taking two pictures of it just like Mom always does! Yet somehow he managed to cut his sisters head out of both pictures! LOL

We kept meandering around the World Showcase but weren't really finding any excitement. The kids were tired of shopping and I was getting quite tired of it myself. Thankfully we had a plan. Carissa had lost the coveted pearl necklace she had purchaed the first day when the hanging clasp on it failed. We were determined to get her another one so headed over to Japan one more time.

Carissa could be counted on for a good pick, as she had gotten the largest pearl we saw on her first pick. She picked superbly yet again. She got this GORGEROUS silver-blue pearl.

It is absolutely stunning! She had it set in a heart pendant with a sturdier clasp than the first and she was thrilled to have a pearl necklace again.

We found another Photopass photographer in front of this beautiful fountain and just had to stop for another photo.

By now we were getting very hungry so decided to head to the one place we knew everyone would eat - Liberty Inn in the American Adventure pavillion. No, we are not adventurous eaters. Sue us. Good old burgers and fries work very well, thank you very much!

After dinner we walked the rest of the World Showcase. The kids really enjoyed buying things in China. Carissa got a beautiful pink fan. Chase got a deer marionette. And Tristan, who LOVES dragons, got both a dragon marionette and a dragon sculpture.

We headed next for Maelstrom, the ride in Norway, and were pleasantly surprised by it. It was fun. What was even more fun was watching Tristan in the Norway gift shop with this Viking helmet (complete with braids!), shield and sword fighting the mighty wooden gnome. He was sooooo adorable!Our last ride for today was Gran Fiesta with the Three Caballeros. The kids were quite entranced with this ride (it had lots of cartoons! LOL) and that made it nice and relaxing. After perusing the shops in Mexico we decided to stake our a spot for Illuminations. I thought we were very early, but by now it was starting to get busy. We did get a decent spot though and waited for about 45 minutes for the show to start.

We really loved Illuminations. It seemed a bit better choreographed than wishes, but the show wasn't better. Wishes is magical. This is beautiful and interesting and neat in it's own way, but not better than Wishes. However it was a wonderful ending to our long day.