Monday, April 27, 2015

Birthday girl

We had an extended celebration for Whit's birthday this year. On her actual birthday, Andrew had church meetings and Whit had dance.

So, we had birthday muffins in the morning. 

And went out for frozen custard after dance. 


The next Saturday, she got to choose her birthday meal. 
She chose Japanese. 
Our bento boxes were delicious!
(Notice her blue souvenir chopsticks.) :)

The following Saturday, we had her party. Let me say, having a crafty, intelligent, organized tween daughter makes party planning a breeze! She came up with her theme (peacocks/blue/green), the menu, the schedule, and even made us shopping lists. She decorated the dining room the way she wanted it and also decorated the cake. She is amazing!!

(Side note: On Saturday, without about two hours to go until party time, she made the comment, "Wow. I never knew how much work went into my birthday parties!" Great life lesson.)

She invited four friends, but only three could make it. It was a nice, manageable gaggle of girlies.

First they decorated gift bags to use as goodie bags. 

Then they went on an awesome treasure hunt that
Andrew put together. 

Next was pin-the-tail-on-the-peacock.
(Oh, yea. She also drew the peacock.)

After that, the schedule said "hang out."
I thought that was so cute of her to schedule time
to just be with her friends.

Dinner was next.
Pizza, fruit kabobs, cheetos, and root beer.

Then time for yummy cake.

 Happy birthday, dear Whitney!

 It was blueberry cake with cream cheese filling
and key lime frosting. I thought those were interesting
choices, but it was yummy.

 Next, it was time for the pinata!

 For the second year in a row, it was
raining the day of W's party, so we had to
do the indoor, please-don't-hit-dad pinata.
(He survived without injury.)

The night ended with a dance party while we
waited for parents to pick up. So fun!

Funny tidbits overheard at the party:

*I love just a hint of randomness.

*When a good group and a good person get together, great things happen.

*All together...1...2...3...PORT-A-POTTY!

*Who's taking the pepper challenge? (Then all the girls agreed to take a bite of one of the pepperoncini's that came with our pizza. And they all did it! I was impressed.)

Grateful for good friends that could share Whit's special day.
And thankful to have sweet Miss Whitney in our family.
She is a joy.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Disney World: Random moments and memories

*Everything is SO expensive at Disney. We try to do what we can to save a buck. That includes eating breakfast at home before we head out and packing in LOTS of snacks and water bottles. It worked wonderfully. We would basically snack for lunch and then either eat a meal around 4 pm in the park or wait until we left the park to get dinner. We brought a stroller and would find a good parking spot and leave our backpacks there, stopping by throughout the day when we were hungry or thirsty. We only hit one snag this time....the squirrels at Animal Kingdom were on to us. And one sneaky squirrel somehow got INTO our backpack and ATE MY PECAN CLUSTERS. What??? It was crazy and hilarious. I couldn't believe it. Darn smart animals.

*When we were at the outlet store, they were selling "Duffy the Bear" souvenirs. I had never heard of Duffy and made a comment about the desperate items they sell at outlet stores. From then on, we saw Duffy everywhere! And Caroline became obsessed.

She got to color two different Duffy's at Epcot and they became her constant companions. It cracked us up. We love Duffy now!

*It's a small world...really. We ran into Brett, one of Andrew's former co-workers at two different parks, two days in a row. What are the chances among the thousands and thousands of people there? We also ran into Steve and Amber, friends who used to go to church with us, at Animal Kingdom.

*One of the days when we ate dinner after leaving the park, we fed the whole family at Taco Bell for $12.37. Ha! I love it! We couldn't feed one of us at Disney for that price!

Taco Bell is the best.

*When we first drove into Orlando, we were enjoying all the sights: palm trees, Universal Studios, skyscrapers. We even saw a big, pretty crane right on the side of the road. As we got closer, that crane decided to take flight right in front of us. I was afraid we were going to hit him! Instead, he hit us...with his droppings. It was crazy. And big. And gross.

*We got to park in the Unicorn Lot one day.


*We didn't buy souvenirs for the kids this time. I warned them beforehand so that they could earn extra money or save what they had. And they got a little money for Easter, too. I loved giving them the ownership over their purchases. Brandon and Whit both decided to buy chopsticks when we were in Epcot at China. What a fun souvenir! We love Asian food and they've already used them twice. Whit also scored $6 Minnie ears from the outlet. And Caroline spent all her money on a spray bottle/fan. It cost $15. The big kids tried to discourage her because it was so expensive. But she was insistent. And she LOVED it. She's our little rosy-cheeked girl who heats up fast, so it was perfect for her. (You can kind of see it around her neck in the pic below.)

*Even though are kids are not into Phineas and Ferb anymore, Caroline had a blast doing Agent P's World Showcase Adventure at Epcot.

We were given a cell phone and Major Monogram
would share clues for us to follow. It was awesome. 

One time she made this creepy robot baby
appear in a gift shop in Japan. That was fun.

Another time, we made Agent P come out on a little motor boat,
set a "charge" and cause an explosion in this moat. Awesome!

*The kids could have spent all day in Japan at the world showcase. 

It was Pokemon heaven!

Plus, they had a tank with pearl harvesting from real oysters!
(but I didn't take a picture.)
It was very entertaining.

*Andrew and I don't watch the Simpsons anymore, but it was SO good back in the day. We found ourselves making references to the Itchy and Scratchy World episode constantly. The Itchy lot and the Scratchy lot for parking. Bort license plates. Your son has been arrested...and so has your older, fatter, balder son.

*I put together schedules for Caroline and Andrew when they were on their own, but they would pick and choose which steps they wanted to follow. At one point in the day when it was just too hot to be outside or standing in line, they rode the Carousel of Progress and the people mover just to be inside and sitting down. And they liked it!

*When we drove through our condo parking lot, there was a shirtless man who would stand in front of one of the parking spots like he was guarding it. He looked very menacing. We named him the leader of the Tiger Gang and were always on the lookout for him when we came home.

*One of the things we saw on the side of the freeway as we were driving: "The Holy Land Experience." 

Can you see the Coliseum-ish building out the back window?
Have you ever heard of such a thing?

According to their website, "The Holy Land Experience is a living, biblical museum and park that brings the world of the Bible to life! It combines the sights and sounds of the biblical world in a unique and interactive way, unlike any other location!" Huh. Interesting.

And that wraps up our vacation re-cap! Grateful for time spent with family, away from school and work, to create memories, share laughs, and walk. and walk. and walk. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

DisneyWorld: Parents' Highlights

*Watching Caroline meet Ariel, Cinderella, and Rapunzel.
Andrew's back surgeon said he could not ride any
roller coasters that would be "jarring."
And Caroline had no interest in riding those types of rides.
They made a great pair!

Disney sure knows how to make moments like these magical!

*Character Meal
We try to do everything as budget as we can,
but we sure enjoyed splurging on this one meal.

*Teacups with Caroline
These are the types of rides that make me sick,
so I was thrilled that Andrew could take her...
and enjoy it, too.

*Car stunt show

 He liked the stunts...

but he LOVED watching C's reactions even more.

*Primeval Whirl
The view from the top.

*Tower of Terror with Brandon and Whitney:
Not realizing it bounced back up and screaming, "NO!" every time.
The view from 13 floors up.

*Getting my sore hips massaged by Andrea at night.
(Not pictured.) :)

*Having so much one-on-one time with Care Bear
She is such a fun buddy!

*Pineapple floats
We had never tried these.
Oh my gosh.
Best cold treat ever!

*Kilimanjaro Safari
This might be my favorite ride out of all the parks!
We rode it twice and I would have gone one more
time if B would have agreed to come with me.
 Animals are amazing.
 And you get right up close to them.
 Look at this rhino posing for a pic with Care Bear!
 I did not even bring my camera with the zoom lens.
 So cute to see the elephants frolicking in the water.
Seriously, I'm blown away every time.
Who needs to go to Africa?

*Not waiting in line longer than 30 minutes THE WHOLE WEEK.

I am a super-planner when it comes to Disney vacations. I bought the newest version of the Unofficial Guide, which is my favorite guidebook. I downloaded a couple of apps on my phone. I stayed up until midnight on five different nights to reserve our fastpasses online. (Not a fan of the new fastpass+ system.) I spend hours and hours in the previous weeks planning out everything. And, it pays off! The parks were CROWDED, but we were able to work the system and choose our rides and shows wisely to minimize wait times. Loved it.

*Riding all the big rides with my kids!
I've been waiting YEARS for this!
I'm so glad that B would ride everything with me
and Whit joined us for a lot of the big ones, too.
 Tower of Terror

 Space Mountain

Big Thunder Mountain.
Woo hoo!

*Animation Academy
I was a fan of this art class, too.
B and I went once by ourselves.
Then we came back with the girls.
We drew Eeyore.



It's fun to learn some tricks of the trade.

*World Showcase

With the different ages and interests of our kids, we split up at the parks most of the days, but I told the kids that I wanted one day where we spent the whole day together. And that day was Epcot. I warned them that we might end up doing things that weren't their favorites, but to just humor me. They did! And all of us ended up loving it. Next time (if there is a next time...) I would love two days at Epcot. There is just too much to see in one!

 The girls loved the Kidcot stations,
where they could color and get their
craft stamped from each country.

A pretty waterfall in Norway (I think...)




*Shows and rides that add smells.

What a fun feature! The three that we tried were Philharmagic, It's Tough to Be a Bug, and
where we could smell the orange blossoms as we soared over
the citrus orchards in California.

*Having our own room to come home to at night.

We stayed in a 3-bedroom condo off property this time. It was a steal! We stayed six nights and it was only $500 total. Isn't that awesome? It took 15 minutes or less to drive to the parks, was quiet and clean. But definitely dated--old bathroom and kitchen fixtures. But I would totally stay there again. It was so nice to come home after a LONG day at the parks and have some space to ourselves.

We spent two days at Magic Kingdom.
On the second day, we left around 2 pm.
Andrew got to take a long nap.
Brandon got to catch up on his video games.

And I took the girls to the pool for a swim.
Everyone was happy!

*Pineapple floats
We still believe that Disney is a great 
place to practice sharing. :)

And we are now trying to recreate pineapple floats at home.
So far, it's just not the same.