Category Archives: family

Florida Family Vacation 2016

We just returned Wednesday from a 9-day family vacation in Kissimmee, Florida. Get ready for a photo dump!

We hit all the usual tourists sights, starting with Disney Springs for some shopping on our first full day there.

cousins, family vacation, disney springs

The kids outnumbered the adults this year!

merry-go-round, carousel, disney springsThe following day we donned our family vacation shirts and hit up Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. They wanted to take a silly picture…vacation shirts, family vacation, disney world, magic kingdom

… but I think only half of them got the message.

I must say the vacay shirts were an awesome idea! It made it so easy to find each other when needed in a crowd. We wanted something lightweight in a bright color. Next time we need to splurge for a dri-wicking shirt, but the color was perfect and really stood out. We received a lot of compliments on them from other park goers and extra attention from staff members.

disney, goofy

disney, donald duck, cousins

The following day we were all still tired from a 14-hour day in the park, so we relaxed and did a bit of shopping.

Hoppy bought her very first Vera Bradley bag and wallet using her own money she made selling some of her crafts!

shopping, vera bradley

She was so cute comparing all of the patterns, sizes, and prices. She really wanted a crossbody bag like my girls and I all have and she got one!

The next day we were all ready for a beach day. The original plan was to go to our favorite Clearwater Beach, but their forecast called for storms all day. No bueno. We decided to switch directions and head to the Atlantic coast. Cocoa Beach was the closest so that’s where we ended up.

cocoa beach

cocoa beach, waves, atlantic ocean

It was so fun! I had picked up a bodyboard the day before to try out. The kids and I loved it!

Another first for me? Seeing a sea turtle nest! How cool is that? The only thing cooler would have been actually seeing them hatch.

sea turtle nest, beach, cocoa beach

Then another first!!! We happened to be there the day they were launching a rocket from Cape Canaveral.

rocket launch

See the gray clouds right above the middle of the pier? That’s where the rocket took off from. We watched it go higher and higher with its fire boosters (orange arrow). It was pretty far up in the sky before the sound of its lift off ever reached us. Amazing.

After we wore ourselves out in the waves and sun, we needed food ASAP!

family dinner, family vacationAnd adult beverages! Midday adult beverages because VACATION. And seven adults and eight kids in one house for nine days. Lord have mercy. Kidding! It was totally fine. We rented a house with 7 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms at the same resort in Kissimmee as our last family vacation there the summer before last.

emerald island resort, florida

There was plenty of room for everyone! The cost of renting a house is so much cheaper than a hotel. And we got to cook our own meals. We cooked breakfast at home everyday. And had at least one more meal at home each day. Plus, we had our own pool! I think almost all of the houses at that resort have private pools, plus a large pool for the entire resort at the clubhouse. We again made the most of our pool with nightly volleyball games.

swimming pool, water volleyball

Notice the net? Last vacay’s “net” was something we pieced together. Tragic. This year we came prepared, lugging that net all the way from home! Worth it.

The next couple of days were spent at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. All the rides!

universal studios islands of adventure

cousins, universal islands of adventure

As a family, we had a great time, but of course, we were right in the middle of the saddest time in Orlando. All three tragedies (the murder of Christina Grimme, the worst mass shooting in American history, and the alligator attack and death of 2-year-old Lane Graves) happened while we were there. As you can imagine, the entire area was in mourning, in shock, and on high alert.  So very, very sad.

orlando

Another incident that didn’t make the national news really scared us. Monday while we were at Islands of Adventure, we could suddenly see a large black cloud of smoke rising. We couldn’t tell if it was coming from inside the park or very close by, but I could tell it was a massive fire. I asked a couple of park workers, but they hadn’t seen it and then were shocked when we pointed it out. We didn’t know if we should leave the park or wait for more information. At that point, I was beyond nervous given the terrorist attack the previous day. I finally called the local fire department’s non-emergency number to inquire. They informed me it was a structure fire at a construction site at the theme park next to ours. We were relieved to find out it was not another attack on innocent people.

Tell me your summer vacation plans!

Any firsts for you lately?

 

Almost Famous

It seems like just last month I was posting about OMG Becky being a senior this year and taking her senior pictures. How are we now just one month away from her graduation?! It’s been such a busy year for her. We had a few college visits in the fall.

college visit, university, campus

college visit, university, campus

She fell in love with the second school! She’s had a major picked out since last year. She applied, was accepted, and we started the housing process. Then a couple of months ago, she decided to change her major. With her new major, elementary education, she can attend a local community college for free (program through our school district) before transferring to the university as a junior. She will actually be a dual-student with benefits at both schools. I’m so happy she has decided to stay home a bit longer!

OMG Becky also got a new car. Very exciting for her! It wasn’t something that was planned, but after her car was totaled, it was a necessity. She was able to get exactly the car she wanted. Lucky girl! I also feel better knowing once she transfers to the school farther away, she will have a newer, more reliable car. This one should last her at least another 10 years.

We have been busy planning her grad party. She decided on a garden tea party theme. We have spent many hours driving around the lake system next to us checking out all of the shelters and what each has to offer. So many things to consider! Playground, bathroom facilities, lake view, flat area, baseball field, sand volleyball courts, basketball court, horseshoes, parking? What are our priorities?!

lake shelter, parkWe finally decided on one and reserved it as soon as reservations opened for the season in January. We were able to get our number one choice on the date we wanted! Now to decide how to decorate it and what to serve. Ugh, more decisions.

She is also having a phenomenal year in her writing. She has always been a great writer and this year is really shining. Last month we found out she was a finalist in a district-wide poetry contest. We weren’t really sure what that meant, other than we were invited to a reception where she would read her poem along with the other finals. Once there, we realized there were three finalists from each grade level 6-12. They would read their poem when they were announced where they placed starting with the 6th grade. It was a long wait, but finally it was time for the senior poems. Third place was announced, they say the school, then the teacher, and finally the name of the student. We tried not to show our enthusiasm as another school’s name was read. Next came second place. They said OMG Becky’s school, then her teacher… we were all holding our breath… then they said her classmate’s name! Trying not to smile at that point was so hard! Finally OMB Becky was announced as the seniors first place winner and invited to read her poem and receive her award.
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So dang awesome! That was really the icing on the cake for her. We also found out last month she will have two of her pieces, a poem and a short story, published in a literary magazine this month. She is officially a published author! What?! I could not be more proud. And I cannot wait to get my hands on a 1000 copies of that magazine! Or at least 500.  =)

Teachers have been telling her for years she should consider writing as a profession. She is really looking forward to getting her teaching degree and having summers off to really devote time to writing while having a steady income. I think it’s the best of both worlds for her!

Next up is prom! Her dress is so gorgeous. Can’t wait to share it with you!

Did you have a grad party? Mine was a small party at home with just family. All I really remember is the cake. It was really good!

What was the best part of your senior year in high school?

Watch Your Rearview

Happy Saturday, friends! How is your weekend going? We are enjoying some fantastic weather over here! I’ve been stuck inside sick for a week now. It has not been fun, but it’s really helped to be able to have the windows open to enjoy the fresh air. Now seemed like a good time to catch up with what’s been happening around here.

Sassy turned 15 a few weeks ago, She had a great birthday that involved a trip to Starbucks in the morning, followed by a surprise pedicure, then lunch with her brother and his fiance who came in town to surprise her. One of her favorite cousins came in town for the party that night. We went to Cheesecake Factory for dinner with her friends and my parents. And then her cousin spent the night. It was a long day, but a good one!

Cheesecake Factory, cousins

Along with turning 15, she was able to get her driver’s permit. It was scary for both of us.

student driver, new driver

Doesn’t she look scared?! She should be. We were practicing in a large, empty parking lot. Then another new driver joined us to do some practicing himself… In a semi truck with a trailer!

semi

Sassy got more nervous, real fast! Ha! Anyway, she did fine and has graduated to a busier area in a nearby park. We are not street ready yet, but maybe soon.

We also had a nice Easter, though it was a quiet one. Sassy was at their dad’s house. Most of the other cousins were out of town, too.

Easter basket, cousins

After church, we headed to my uncle’s ranch for the annual Easter dinner and egg hunt. And playing with cows. Oh my goodness, I could not get enough of them! They were so friendly and cute!

cows, ranch, cattle

And this one with the horns was the most curious, but watch out. If you tried to pet her, those horns would come right at you!

cows, ranch, pond, cattle

The hunt for the $100 egg had to be moved inside due to rain. It was a lot of people running around in a small space trying to find it. My uncle is so sneaky! You just never know where to look. OMG Becky finally found it in a pinecone.

I was so happy for her, but mad at myself. I had touched that pinecone at least twice before she picked it. Ugh! Oh well, there’s always next year. And OMG Becky is now out of the hunt. Once you find the egg, you get a lifetime ban from trying again. It’s very competitive!  =)

You can tell spring has arrived here. It arrived on a Monday. Seriously! It was a Monday that I noticed all the flowering trees had bloomed, So pretty! And it’s been so warm. We have been able to get outside and enjoy several hikes.

hike, lake, woods

hike, lake, woods

I love it! Can’t wait to get back out there. I am also signed up for a race next week that I am not at all prepared for. I signed up just two weeks ago at the intense pleading of a friend. I had hoped to get a few runs in beforehand, but this being sick business has eliminated that option. The best I can hope for at this point is good company and good weather the day of the race and enjoy the walk/run.

When is your next race?

Favorite item at The Cheesecake Factory? I always get the Chicken Piccata, minus the chicken. I can’t help it. It’s that good!

How old were you when you started driving? I was 16. That was the minimum age at the time.

 

Hike, Zoo, and Desserts (A Few of My Favorite Things!)

How was your weekend?

Friday, I took off work a bit early so I could get a hike in before the sun went down. It was much needed after a pretty tough week.

trail, hike, bridge

That evening, both girls went to the basketball game at their high school. I got to enjoy a quiet, empty house. It was heavenly! Why don’t basketball games last longer?…  ;-)

Saturday morning, OMG Becky attended a visitation for her former teacher. Hard morning for her. We then took ourselves to the zoo. It was a gorgeous day, almost 60 degrees. We needed to be outside!

zoo, elephant, daughters, sisterspenguin, zoored panda, zoo

The lorikeets enclosure is just nuts. Those birds fly right at you from all directions!

lorikeets, zoo

The kids wouldn’t even go in there with me. OMG Becky may have a small fear of birds. This “attraction” would not help that.

One of the funnier parts of our day… OMG Becky went into this mock meerkat burrow. As she was trying to come out, that little girl in the purple about knocked her over with an “excuse me!” as she tried to push her way in at the same time.

So funny OMB Becky was almost taken out by a seven year old.

 

We worked up a bit of an appetite after all of that exploring. Froyo for an almost-summer-like day!

froyo

I tried all new-to-me flavors: Salted Caramel Corn, Toasted Marshmallow, Pecan Praline, and Peppermint Stick. Yum, yum, yum, and YUM! Well, maybe except for the Peppermint Stick. It was good the first couple of bits and then started tasting very artificial. Sad, because peppermint ice cream is one of my all-time favorite flavors.

Sunday was another sad day for us. My great aunt passed away last week and we had her memorial service yesterday afternoon. We spent the morning baking cookies for a family dinner after the service.

My niece enjoyed all of the desserts. Literally, one of each type.

cupcake, niece, toddler

Her sugar crash happened shortly after that. I’m pretty sure she fell asleep maybe two minutes into their drive home.

What was the highlight of your weekend? 

What is your favorite animal at the zoo? I love to watch the penguins swimming around. They are so fast!

What Day Is It?

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you honestly have absolutely no idea what day it is several times a day for multiple days? I just had one of those weeks. I think it is due to my being sick the week of Christmas, OMG Becky being in a wreck the following week, and both girls being out of school for a couple of weeks. Then last week, my first full week back since before the holidays, was an extremely busy work week for me. I don’t know which way is up over here!

OMG Becky is having the roughest time. I can’t go into details yet other than to say the car she worked so hard for, saving all her money to pay cash for all by herself is totaled.

volkswagen new beetle

Dealing with insurances companies is always fun.

While we wait for them to get things sorted out, we have been looking at new cars for her. We are leaning towards something newer since it will be the car that needs to last her at least through seven years of college starting this fall. OMG Becky would like a four-door hatchback this time around. Having a separate area for Stella the Boxer is always a good idea and a hatchback fits that need perfectly!

Are you still feeling the effects of the holidays, too?

See Ya, December!

How is your New Year going? We are recovering from a busy December.

OMG Becky turned 18 years old. I’m still trying to come to terms with that one.

bday1

We celebrated with a family birthday dinner party a few days after her actual birthday.

Birthday spankings on her birthday.

bday2 Dinner with friends the night before.
bday4

We went to see Santa at our traditional location.

crown4

crown1 crown2 crown3

Dinner with friends on the Country Club Plaza.

plaza1

We got there a bit early and the place was basically empty. Then within 15 minutes of taking this photo, the entire restaurant was packed! plaza2

It was a Spanish restaurant with amazing tapas and sangria. I can’t wait to go back!

Christmas Eve was a bit different for me this year. I found out that morning I have bronchitis. I was told to stay away from other people as much as possible. And given a mask to wear. That meant I skipped Christmas Eve dinner and church with my family. I did wear my mask and go over for the gift giving and dessert portion of the evening. I didn’t want to miss everything!

eve3

Annual Christmas Eve photo of my girls with my nieces and nephews.
eve2

There were a few kiddos missing this year.  :-(

Christmas morning, my parents came over for breakfast and to watch my girls open their presents. Then my girls went to their dad’s to celebrate with him for a few days. I usually spend Christmas afternoon at my parents’ house, but stayed home again to keep my germs away.

Our New Year’s Eve was also a quiet one at home. OMG Becky was involved in a car wreck the night before. (It wasn’t her fault and she is recovering. More on that later.) We watched a movie and ordered take-out. We watched the NYC ball drop at 11:00 PM our time and called it a night, but not before we heard our neighbors shooting off fireworks at that time. Apparently, they were on East Coast time, too!

How did you celebrate New Year’s Eve?

Gearing Up For Christmas

How was your weekend? Ours was fantastic! It helped that the weather was in the fifties each day.

sunset

Friday night both of my girls were at sleepovers, so I took the chance to get a bit more Christmas shopping in. I am almost done with it! As someone who waited until Christmas Eve morning to shop last year, this is a big deal! Now to tackle some wrapping…

Saturday morning, OMG Becky and I wanted to try a yoga class at our new gym. (It’s actually the gym we belonged to a couple of years ago. Then we joined Planet Fitness, but are back at this one because we missed group fitness classes.) We didn’t make it to class, but spent some time on the treadmills since we were already there.

treadmill

After picking up Sassy, her and I journeyed to a tennis shop her coach recommended. We were in the market to get her a new racket. When Sassy started tennis lessons over the summer, it was the first time she had shown any interest in the sport. I purchased her an inexpensive racket at Target just to see how the whole thing would turn out. Well, after sticking with lessons all summer, making the school team, and continuing with private lessons off-season, her tennis love is still strong. So Santa thought it was time for a better racket! With the help of the tennis pro narrowing down the choices for her, Sassy picked out her favorite racket (blue & silver) and strings (blue). She can’t wait for the racket to be strung so we can pick it up!

Saturday evening we spent at Christmas in the Park.

Christmas in the Park

“Christmas In The Park is a holiday feast serving up the sights of the season with more than 300,000 glistening lights and 175 colorfully animated holiday scenes.”

We go every year, though this is probably the earliest in the season we have been. It was a last-minute decision to go and we got there just a few minutes before they opened the gates. It’s always fun to see what the new displays are. This year it was Santa in a hammock between palm trees with flamingos standing around. So pretty and different!

Sunday morning included church and a trip to the recycling center to drop off a car load of recyclables. Ugh. That is what happens if we don’t make it to the recycling center every weekend. We didn’t go last weekend because it was raining nonstop. I don’t even know if the center is open during weather like that. Either way, we didn’t go and had double our usual load to deal with.

Then it was time for a little fun on the tennis court. Sassy continues to get better and better! I, on the other hand, am improving at a very SLOW rate. And trust me, Sassy takes great pleasure in beating me.

tennis court

OMG Becky walked Stella around while we played, stopping occasionally to take a picture or two. The tennis balls flying by drive Stella nuts. She wants them all! It’s best to keep her away from the court.  =)

Saturday we received our first Christmas card. I figured it was time to start thinking about what I wanted to do for ours. As we were driving to see Christmas in the Park on Saturday, we drove past the Magic Tree.

Magic Tree

12,500 lights

Christmas card photo location idea solved! This tree is beautiful! We went there Sunday just before dusk to take our photos. I can’t wait to see how the cards turn out!

Have you ordered or sent your Christmas cards yet?

How far along are you on your Christmas shopping?