Thursday, July 15, 2010

We just got home from vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia. We met my two sisters and my parents there for Camp Grandma this year because Autumn wanted to visit Southern Virginia University to see if she might want to go there. She is there this week for EFY and will fly home next Sat.

My good friend Melanie made these great shirts for the grandkids and my mom. We got comments on the shirts everywhere we went. They say Camp Grandma on the back and made it easy to spot each other from a mile away. Since Julia is such a great escape artist and runner and we were in many crowded places- Busch Gardens, Water Country and Colonial Williamsburg- this was a good thing. It was crazy hot while we were there- 105-110 for a few days- but we still had a great time. We went to Water Country to beat the heat. They offered a "bounce pass" for these three places where you could go as many times as you want within 7 days for a price that was lower than two regular tickets to the park. So there was no rush to see everything in one day....leaving us time to do things like stop and try honeysuckle.

I think my favorite part of this vacation was watching the way the cousins played together. They had not seen each other for nearly a year, but they just immediately pick up their close relationships with each other. I love this picture of Sean and Kathryn- it just seemed to capture the comfortable ease they felt with each other.

Of course not all children are perfect, and we did have to punish a few for being too rowdy!

But for the most part, it was a wonderful trip with the kids. Makayla, who was the unhappiest newborn we have ever had, has become the happiest infant we have ever had. She travelled like a pro and kept us all smiling.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wonderful World of Disney

For Spring Break this year, we decided to take the kids to Disney. We have not been for about five years. Autumn wanted to go again before she graduated, so it was either this year or next year. Next year, Makayla will be 16 months old, which to me is the worst age imaginable to bring a child to Disney. So we opted to bring her at 5 months old. Not ideal, but it worked out great.

We drove this time, and I clearly had forgotten how long it takes or else we would have flown. That being said, the kids did great. We got there much later than we expected, which made for a late night of preparations for Mike and I to get us prepared for the park in the morning. I think we went to bed at about 1 am. Our plan was to be at the park by 8. We got about 5 minutes down the highway when I realized I left Makayla's formula on the counter, so back to the condo we go. We then decided to stop at Target on the way out to get autograph books for $2 instead of paying $8 at the park (total savings $42). We arrived at that parking lot at 9 am and by the time we got our tickets from will call, took the monorail, got a double stroller ($32 a day- what are they nuts?) it was 10 am and we walked into the park just in time for the morning parade. The kids loved it, but I was looking around and wondering really how we were going to maneuver our huge family amongst the seemingly millions of people that were at the park that day. Apparently, it had rained for two days straight prior to our arrival, so everyone was back at Magic Kingdom to celebrate the return of sunshine. I needn't have worried though, as I have "Super-Mike" on my side. He ran to get fast passes all day, and kept us out of lines. Having a child swap option makes it so easy to avoid waits! We would use 5 of our tickets for fast passes for the rides that everyone including Hunter could ride, and the other four tickets for fast passes for the rides only our 48 inch and over kids could ride. Mike would take four kids on, leaving one to help me with the little ones. At the front of the fast pass line you ask for a child swap and they give you a fast pass good for three more people to come through the line! So after they got off I would ride with two of the kids. It worked great. We didn't have time to go to Walmart to get food for the day because we got in so late, so the only lines we waited in were for food and to get autographs from characters.

We got home from the park at around 11 pm. The kids were fabulous for having such a long day. We were so grateful to have bought a Winnie the Pooh "harness" (fancy name for leash) at Walmart in Texas. It kept Julia from being lost, trampled, drowned.....several times over. Probably the best $20 investment we made for the trip.

We took the kids back to the condo and then Autumn and I went shopping for food to bring to the park on Monday ( Uncrustables, crackers, water bottles, nutrigrain bars, protein bars, pringles, apples, oranges, etc...) and food for Sunday meals (cereal and oatmeal, lunchmeat for sandwiches and lasagna for dinner) as well.

We took the day off from the parks on Sunday and went to a local ward for church. We showed up late because at the last minute we realized we had forgotten daylight savings time! We didn't stay for classes and instead assigned the kids to teach each other. Emily taught Julia's nursery class and did a great job with her providing snack, bubble time and a great lesson. We went to bed early to prepare for the crazy week we had coming up.

The rest of the week went much smoother and we arrived at each park much earlier and had ridden most of the rides before the crowds arrived. We did Hollywood Studios on Monday, Animal Kingdom on Tues, Epcot Weds, Magic Kingdom again on Thurs and Hollywood Studios again on Friday. The highlights were: "Finding Nemo- the Musical" at Animal Kingdom- we loved it so much we bought the CD and Julia goes to sleep to it every night. The rides we loved were "Splash Mountain", "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad", "Space Mountain", "Soarin", "Kilamanjaro Safari" and "Mickey's Philamagic". Our all time favorites were "Expedition Everest", the new roller coaster at Animal Kingdom, and "Toy Story", an amazing 3-D ride at Hollywood Studios where you play simulated carnival games. Disney really is amazing. The little kids loved dining with the Disney characters and meeting them. Julia and Hunter are still in the "magical" ages, where it is all real to them. Their faces lighting up with excitement at every new thing made it worth all the work to get them there.

Mike and I were able to sneak away one evening to Downtown Disney for a fun date night.
( Animal Kingdom closes early so that night Autumn babysat for us) I blew my diet at Ghiradelli chocolates but didn't even care because it was so good it was worth it :)

All in all the trip was a great success. We love being together as a family, and I love the way my older children look out so much for the younger ones when we are in situations like this. We will probably go one more time when Makayla is in those magical ages ( @ 4-6 years old) and then we will move on to the other parks that have bigger thrill rides for the older ones. By then we'll probably be bringing Autumn's husband and kids along..whoa, I'm getting ahead of myself there. If I could turn back time, this would be one vacation I would return to over and over!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

An old post, but I have to share!

There is a reason we don't get professional pictures taken of our family very often. That reason was brought clearly back to the forefront of my mind this weekend as I prepared and executed this massive undertaking. I'm just grateful I didn't execute any of my children.

Makayla is a fussy baby at night, which basically means I have been confined to the house in the evenings for the better part of three months. Finally, Friday evening, the day before pictures, I told Mike that I would need to leave her in his care for a few hours so I could get coordinating outfits together. After deciding on a color scheme of cream, tan, grey and pink- based on one sweater that my 16 year old wanted to wear- I pulled together what we had and went out to find what we were lacking. Which was a lot. After racing through Target, Kohl's and Old Navy and purchasing nearly everything that they had in these colors, I went home to let the kids decide what to wear. Amazingly, I had forgotten tights for both little girls, and two cream colored shirts to wear under jumpers. We also discovered that as is customarily announced on Sunday morning but gratefully was caught early this week : two kids had outgrown their Sunday shoes.

I went to bed at about midnight after throwing in necessary laundry that needed to be done before our 11 am appointment. I was up at 6:30 am, showered and ready by 7. Nursed Makayla and woke up our very sick 3 yr old to give her another dose of antibiotics, praying they would kick in by the time we were taking pictures. Woke everyone else up at 8 to eat breakfast and get them headed for the showers. I took Autumn, 16, with me to Target at 9 to get the last needed items. We were home by 9:30, where I found my 14 and 12 and 5 year old boys still in pajamas, and Julia, my 3 yr old girl still asleep. Mike has been dealing with fussy Makayla all morning and had not noticed the lack of obedience of the boys. I threaten my 14 and 12 year olds with myriads of punishments if they are not showered and ready in 15 minutes, and proceed to put Hunter in the bath while I wake the sleeping dragon Julia. It is not pretty. She has not slept well. Getting her into a bath is a master class in negotiation skills. I should apply for a job at the UN. I pull Hunter out and put Julia in. Thankfully, I had the foresight to not get dressed in the outfit I am wearing for pictures yet, because by the time we are done with baths I am drenched. Julia ,however, is happy now. Until I start brushing our her hair, which brings on more shrieking, wailing and gnashing of teeth. She becomes reasonable when I show her the new clothes, shoes and headband she will be wearing. She is immediately the beautifully composed princess. I breathe a sigh of relief and move on to Hunter, who's newly purchased Sunday shoes still do not fit. Children should not be able to skip shoe sizes like that. His black Lightning Mcqueen shoes will have to work. It is now 10:45. Our appt is at 11, and it is 15 minutes away. Perfect....except for the fact that I AM NOT DRESSED YET! Mike loads the kids in the car while I throw on my outfit. Earrings.....where is the other earring? I am losing my mind. I throw a brush in my purse in hopes that I can do something with my hair on the way. Thank goodness I put on make-up at 6:30 this morning- I just hope it is still there. I also now remember that I forgot to put on mascara. Great, my kids eyelashes are crazy long so mine will now look even shorter in comparison. Can you photoshop eyelashes?

During the ride to the hotel where we were having the pictures taken, I find out that Sean has tried to make Julia happy by giving her a Jolly Rancher. When I begin to freak out at the thought of her adorable cream sweater being drizzled with Jolly Rancher drippings, he assures me that it is okay because she didn't like it and spit it out...thankfully missing the aforementioned cream sweater completely. Crisis averted! If I can keep them clean for ten more minutes it will be a miracle.

I have no number to contact Maddie, our photographer, so I call a mutual friend who gives me her cell number. Maddie is so kind in helping calm me down and lets me know that we can still make this work even if we are late. She is just great at what she does. We show up and she gets awesome shots of each individual child, boys with mom, boys with dad, girls with dad, girls with mom, family shots, baby shots....and everyone cooperates and looks great. Even Julia is happily running around. One would look at us and never guess the chaos that had ensued less than an hour earlier in my home to prepare for this event. And I guess that's the point right? To capture us at our best. Which I hope we accomplished. And we don't need to accomplish it again for a very long time.