Disney Top Ten

So…we went to Disney World a month ago.  It was a GREAT trip, and I’m so thankful to my awesome parents for making it happen.  We can’t wait to go back.  I think Russ and I may even make that our 10 year anniversary trip.  My parents went for their honeymoon and Russ’ brother and sister-in-law went for their 10 year, and we think they’re onto something.

There is no way I could tell about everything we did, because we had five full days in the parks, but here’s my Disney Top Ten list. (Warning, it’s still way long – I want to make sure I remember it all 10 years from now)

10.  The Food – we were on a “free” meal plan because we came during a low season and got a deal.  We ate so much food, and I love how Disney incorporates the Disney magic into everything – even Mickey shaped pasta!  It was all so good.  We had a character meal everyday that was included in our meal plan.  The kids loved these (and so did the adults).  When you ask Taylor what her favorite thing about Disney was, she’ll tell you having lunch with the princesses.  Good Times.

9.  Charlie’s – OK, so we’re still on food.  We left one night after the kids were ready for bed to go to a steak place called Charlie’s that the boys went to when they went down to Orlando for the bowl game in January.  Special thanks to Grammy for staying behind with the sleeping children (we didn’t leave them unattended).  The boys had been raving about these steaks for eight months, and boy, were they not exaggerating!  SO GOOD.  The bison was my favorite (I ate bison!).  If you go to Orlando, I highly recommend it.  It’s expensive, but so worth it if you want a night to treat yourself.

8. Family.  It was so much fun to spend the week with my family.  We haven’t done a family vacation since a cruise the summer before Russ and I got married – NINE years ago.  So, we were due!  It was so much fun to hang out with my family of origin and to see the kids all hang out together for more than just a day or weekend here and there.

We were on a little ride, but it went through a dark section.  My niece was not a fan.  When we came back out into the light, we saw that Taylor had put her arms around her to keep her safe and reassure her.  GAH!

7.  Timing.  We picked the perfect week (Labor Day) to go.  Sunday and Monday were a little crowded, but the rest of the week was so great.  Little to no lines for everything.  We got to ride everything at least once.   And thanks to my sister’s connections and planning, and special extended hours, we timed things well even on the days that were busier, so that we rarely waited.  Tuesday at Hollywood Studios, it was almost like a ghost town in the morning.  So great.  I don’t think we’ll ever be able to go in peak season again.  We are Disney pros now 🙂

6. The Shows.  The talent at Disney is quite impressive.  The Festival of the Lion King had former Olympic gymnasts playing the acrobatic monkeys!  Finding Nemo, the musical was just spectacular!  All of the shows kept even Caleb’s attention for 30-40 minutes, which is a small miracle.  During Nemo especially he sat so still, memorized by the puppets and bubbles.  Just fantastic!

5. The little touches.  Yes, Disney is expensive.  But, all of the little touches that make it special that are “free” once you’re in the park.  The park attendants were constantly giving the kids stickers, which they love.  We were at lunch one day next to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and they gave Taylor a treasure chest with a cookie and more stickers.  She loved that.  It made her day.   Everyone was just so nice and made our kids feel special throughout our trip.

4. The characters.  We (meaning my sister and I) became a bit obsessed with meeting the characters.  The kids loved it, and we encouraged it!  I was so impressed with how much time each character spent with the kids, especially the characters who could actually talk.  They really made the kids feel special.  The two girls were in awe.  Caleb took a while longer to warm up to them, but once he did, he loved it, too.

Showing her princess bracelet to Cinderella

Taylor dancing with Pooh

We were taking a girl picture with Minnie (the pink wasn’t planned), but Caleb had to get in on the action.

Their faces!  This is my new favorite family photo, with cousins Chip and Dale

3. Riding rides with Caleb.  These were his first rides because he was too little at last year’s fair.  He was a fan.  His face on Dumbo and the little dinosaur rides were just priceless.

2. Riding big rides with Taylor.  I knew she loved the little rides at the fair and was always bummed when she was too short for the bigger rides.   We’ve been telling her for several months that she needed to eat well so she would be big enough to ride the rides in Disney World.  A few days before we left, I looked up the height requirements for some of the bigger rides and realized that she was tall enough for Tower of Terror and Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad among others.  When she got measured before going in, she told the attendant that she was tall enough because she ate a lot.  I’m glad she grew, because she had a blast on the big rides.  Who knew?

1.  What I will probably remember most was a moment during the parade on our first day.  We had a great spot.  Taylor was waving widely at Ariel on her float as she rode by.  Ariel made eye contact with her, and Taylor yelled out “Ariel, you’re my favorite”.  Ariel waved to her then as she rounded the corner, she turned back around to face Taylor, blew her kisses, and yelled, “I love you!”  GAH, the look on Taylor’s face!  You guys, I teared up!  I looked over at my mom, and she was teary, too.  This Disney Magic stuff; it’s real.

Good Times, Good Times.  Can we go back now?

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sabbath taking

When I see people out and about, especially people from my church or the presbytery, they always ask how my sabbatical is going and what I’ve been doing (as well as comment on my tan).  They usually seem disappointed when I say something like, just hanging out – spending time with my kids (especially fellow pastors).  It’s like they expect to hear about a great pilgrimage or study.  Nope….I just need time to enjoy life with my family and friends.  That’s what’s renewing my spirit.  And it’s really hard to sum up all the greatness of this summer (so far) with just a few words.  We’ve been busy.  I’ve been spending much more time on twitter and instagram this summer than facebook because all my church peeps are on facebook and it’s hard to disconnect when you see their updates and they comment on yours.   But here’s the gist of our Sabbath seeking:

We had our annual 4th of July Cook-Out with my dad’s family on the hottest day of the year.  The kids didn’t mind.

We hosted 12 people in our house for a week.  The best week of the year:  Vacay 2012!  (more on that later)

We went to Fort Mill to spend a few days with my college roommate (and high school friend – gosh, we’ve been friends for a LONG time) and her sweet boys.  It’s amazing how good time with old friends is so good for the soul!  I even got the bonus of hanging out with four of my friends from high school one night over mimosas and wedding invitation assembling.

Caleb turned TWO (more on that later)

He also had a party with all of his crazy cousins, of whom, he is the craziest

Then he had his two year-old check-up and got rewarded with a cupcake (so did his sister who helped him be brave and who also answered all the nurses questions and accompanied him to the scale.  They didn’t really need me)

For a break from the 90+ heat EVERY.DAY in July, Taylor went to an ice skating party for her BFF

Taylor and I had a mother-daughter day at the waterpark

Caleb, Grammy, and I had a great day at the Fire Museum

Caleb, Taylor, and I got decked out for Tie-Dye Free Donut Friday at Dunkin Donuts

Taylor went to her first play.  She sat on the edge of her seat and clapped enthusiastically at the end of every scene.  SO. FUN.

Taylor and I had another mother-daughter day in which we played in the fountains downtown, went on a carriage tour of Charleston, and saw Ice Age: Continental Drift (which Taylor thought was HI-larious – she was the loud laugher the whole movie)

We have also had several beach days which were not photographed.   On Friday, Russ and I got to go to the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course with my sister and brother-in-law, but unfortunately didn’t take a single picture of that either!   The day before that, we celebrated our 9th anniversary.  It was pretty pathetic, so we are already planning our 10th anniversary celebration to make up for it.  Speaking of Russ, you’ll notice that he isn’t a part of our sabbatical shenenigans…that’s because he’s been working like a crazy person.  Residency is B-A-N-A-N-A-S (more on that later).  I have also been watching a ridiculous amount of Olympics and even watched the whole first two seasons of Downton Abbey (while Russ was on night float for a week and I had trouble sleeping).  I have also had the pleasure of church hopping and seeing some good friends do what they do so well (picking up some pointers along the way).

I remember in high school when I was voted Most Likely to Succeed, I had a mixed reaction because I knew that I would not be successful in the way that most of my classmates viewed success.  So I don’t know if most would say that my sabbatical has been successful so far, but man, has it been fun and full of good things.  I’m hoping the rest is just as fun, with hopefully a little more working out and a little less time in front of the TV now that the Olympics are over, but I’m making no promises.

THE bridge

In the Lowcountry, we have the Ravenel Bridge, sometimes called the Cooper River Bridge, but most people just call it THE Bridge.   It has it’s own website.  It’s a pretty bridge; it’s on a lot of Charleston merchandise, second I would say to Rainbow Row.  People run on it – I even saw a woman running the steep incline part while pushing a double stroller, so the bridge obviously has magical powers.  There is the Cooper River Bridge Run with some 40,000 participants (crazies, I say).   We walked on it at 11:00 pm with 12 middle school girls wearing glow jewelry during a lock-in a few weeks ago.   It has some pretty impressive views from the top.  For us, it’s Pops and Grammy’s bridge because it’s the way we get to their house….you know, over the river to grandmother’s house we go.

As we were out and about yesterday, we caught the bridge from several different locations.

The view from Waterfront Park in Charleston

The view from Shem Creek Park in Mt. Pleasant

The view from Memorial Waterfront Park in Mt. Pleasant

The view from the bridge, on our way home after a busy day

my fair lady

Taylor has been talking about going to the fair since we went last year.  She associated it with the time of year in which her birthday and football also occur, so she’s been talking about it A LOT lately.  We finally went tonight, and it did not disappoint.

We saw farm animals.

Caleb was a big fan.  He mooed at all of the animals…not just the cows.  There was also a lot of excited yelling and pointing.

Taylor is a daredevil.  She didn’t want to ride the boring kiddie rides, she wanted the big roller coasters.  She was quite bummed that she was too short, but at least she got to ride the big Ferris wheel.

She even wanted to ride the swings…which we couldn’t ride with her.  I was a bit of a nervous wreck, but she thought it was great.

Caleb was pretty sad that he couldn’t ride any of the rides…but was content once we gave him some funnel cake.  He would sit in the stroller and yell “TAYLOR” (of course it sounded a bit more like “TA-ER”) over and over again until she got off the ride.

On our way out (after eating pizza, sausage, burgers, raw fries, and funnel cake), we heard the announcer for the bull riding competition and had to check it out.  We were ring side – and it was a little bit awesome.  I’ve never even watched bull riding on TV, but I was completely enthralled – and my southern accent got thicker the longer I was there.  You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. I would have stayed for the whole competition/match/game if it wasn’t getting so cold and late.  The best part, however, was while watching the cowboys get introduced beforehand, Taylor said, “After the cowboys will come the cowgirls”  That’s my girl – I love how for her it’s not a question that a girl could do whatever a boy could do (although, we know girls are too smart to ride bulls, so there were none).

After watching three riders ride and fall and nearly get stomped on, we headed out again.   Then we saw the sign.  The sign for elephant rides.  I’m sure the work “SUCKER” was stamped on our foreheads as I handed over the money to ride…but come on!  We got to RIDE AN ELEPHANT!

If you’re looking to throw some money away, there is no better place than the fair.  Good Grief.  We may be eating PB&J for the next week, but it was worth it.  We love the fair.

bliss

People keep asking me how my vacation was, and I can’t truly describe it well enough to give it justice.  You may think a 13-hour car trip with a 3 year-old and 11 month-old to go to Kentucky and spend six nights/seven days in a house with 8 adults and 7 kids (ages 11M, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7) sounds like a recipe for disaster…but it was quite the opposite.

There was nothing remarkable about the trip, what we saw or what we did.  It wasn’t restful or relaxing (see above:  7 kids).  But it was completely rejuvenating and refreshing in ways that I just can’t describe.  It was good time with our family, with whom I hadn’t spent much time after two weeks of back to back Montreat and VBS and Russ’ six weeks of surgery rotation (which FYI is the worst specialty EVER).

We got to see a part of the country that we had not seen before…driving through the breathtaking mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee and the picturesque farmland of Kentucky.

We got to watch a farmer farm.

There was a lot of running free

But above all else, it was amazing time with amazing people.  We do this group chaos vacation once a year…and it is the best week of the year.  Each day, we enjoy time with the kids, but we also strive for the goal of bedtime so that we can just hang out.  There was a lot of laughter, catching up, stories of woe and of goodness.  It was the opposite of restful because we would stay up until midnight (even 2:00 am the first night), but then get up with the kids at 6:30am everyday.  But no matter how tired I was, it was so hard to go to bed…I even found myself falling asleep in the living room a couple of nights because I just couldn’t go to bed for fear I would miss something.

And possibly my favorite part of the week (even though the guys and the kids are swell) was the ladies day out on the last day.  We toured a winery.

We were done with the tour, wine tasting, and lunch by 12:30, but then just talked and wandered around the vineyards for the rest of the afternoon.  And it was marvelous.  It amazing how you can feel isolated in your issues but after a few samples of wine and a few hours of talking you find yourself saying or thinking or hearing “oh, me too” more often than not.  It was just what I needed.

These women (and their husbands and kids) are some of the best people I know, so it was an honor and a privilege to spend a week with them in the middle of nowhere, KY.

It’s a shame we can’t do this more often, but coordinating the schedules of 15 people with crazy lives for one week a year is a pretty big success I say.  But even so, Vacay 2012 can’t come soon enough.

first trip to the fair

We’re all about firsts this fall.

Last night, we went to the Coastal Carolina Fair.  Until last night, the fair was my enemy.  It makes traffic horrible.  We were trying to get home after the USC game last Saturday to find the exits to our house WAY backed up.  I think if we had waited in the traffic, it would have taken over an hour.  But a couple of U-turns, driving in the median, getting pulled over, and a “warning” later we did make it back to another exit and took the “long way” home.

But last night, it was quite convenient to live so close to the fair.  Especially since we went at 3:00 when it opened and it was overcast, so there was no traffic or crowds or lines.

We paid the $16 to get us in the gate, but I’m not sure what that fee is for considering EVERYTHING else you do costs money – the rides, the food, the games.  We tried to entertain Piglet with the 4H animal tent, which was “free”.  She usually loves animals and petting zoos, but yesterday, she was terrified of the animals.  She did look briefly at the giant pig who was nursing her 8 piglets, laughed, and said, “those pigs are tickling their mommy’s belly.”   (as a currently nursing mother, that sight was terrifying for me).  But when we tried to look at the cows or horses, she cried real tears, yelling, “I want to leave this place”.   Oh well.

So we walked around for a while.  80% of the people we passed commented on how cute Baby B was in the baby bjorn or how clever it was or how “that’s the way to get around” like they had never seen such an invention – of course, it WAS the fair where they focus on inventions like fried butter and fried Twinkies.  seriously.

After wandering and taking in all of the fried options and odd sights, we finally bit the bullet and bought some tickets for the rides.  Piglet was a HUGE fan of the rides.  She would have ridden for hours if we had an endless supply of money.  But alas, she had to settle for three rides (fortunately, Russ got to ride with her fo’ free).

She started out small with the carousel.

Then she went a little bigger with the flying elephants.

And THEN she went on a roller coaster, which she thought was awesome.

She kept saying that she wanted to go on more rides, but we distracted her with dinner and a funnel cake.  I don’t know which she liked better the funnel cake or the rides, but I know she was a big fan of the fair.  She says she wants to go back today.

first field trip

Way back in June when we were still a family of three and Piglet was still two, she made a statement when we passed by her preschool buses one morning that she could ride them when she was three.  I thought she was a wee bit crazy and optimistic.  But LO and BEHOLD and BY GOLLY, she was right!  She started transitioning to the three year-old class the week before her birthday (yes, that was almost a month ago, I am slack and behind in blogging).   She was spending part of the day in her old class and part of the day in her new class.   I saw on her new class schedule that they would be going to the pumpkin patch the next day.  I checked with the director to see if she would be going on the field trip with her new class or staying behind with her old class.  They deemed that she was field trip ready, but then said, “Oh wait, she’s not three yet, she can’t ride the bus”.  She turned three the day after the scheduled field trip, but rules are rules.  They said that I could drive her to the pumpkin patch.  I decided that it would be fun to see her in action with her new school friends, and I could get to work a little late that day.

I thought we would just go play amidst the pumpkins for a while, pick out a super cute one to call our own, then head back to school.  I was very wrong.   This pumpkin patch was at a church that truly saw this as a ministry to the kids.

We started out getting stickers, which Piglet thought was AWE.SOME.  What is it about kids and stickers?  We can get Piglet to do just about anything with the promise of a sticker, especially if said sticker has a princess on it.

Then we went to hear some stories about pumpkins.  These stories were also about Jesus.  Jesus + Pumpkins = good cheesy story time.  Something about how Jesus scoops all of the yucky sin out of us and puts a smile on our faces and a light inside of us.  I’m pretty sure the message was completely lost on the class of three year-olds who were way too distracted by all of the pumpkins in their line of sight.

After story time, we go to go on a hayride.  But they couldn’t find a tractor or a trailer, so it was a hayride in the back of a truck around the parking lot.  But the kids still thought that was pretty cool.

Then, it was game time.  We tossed hula hoops over pumpkins.  The kids were not so good at this and we had to stop shortly after beginning because kids were getting whacked with hula hoops.  BUT THEN, they had a PUMPKIN SHAPED PARACHUTE.  It was Halloween fun perfection for the three year-old set.

Then we headed over to the craft station, then to the plant a pumpkin seed station, then to the potty, then to snack.  Snack was groovy with orange flavored/colored juice, pumpkin pudding and candy corn – these folks know how to make a theme carry through to the end for sure.

Then we finally got to head to the actual patch of pumpkins.  We started with a scavenger hunt – looking for bumpy pumpkins and gourds and other such things.  Then the much anticipated picking out of their very own pumpkins.  It was like Christmas, except it was Halloween.  Piglet picked hers out and said, “I like this one, mama, it’s a little pumpkin”

Then we loaded back in the car and headed back to school – three hours later.  So much for a productive day at work.  Oh well, the field trip was worth it!  I think I’m going to like being a field trip mom!  (But I will NOT, under any circumstances, wear a fanny pack).  I’ll save that for when dad goes on the field trip.