Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 of 2011

My favorite post of the year, I get to look back and read my blog from January 1st to today and pick my favorite events.  This year was a hard year to narrow down 10 things and hard to choose our favorite, biggest events.

10. teeth, teeth and more teeth- Landry lost teeth, Read gained teeth, and Bella got over her fear of the dentist.
9. a combined birthday party - celebrating 2 girlie girl's birthday's in a pink room, with pink cupcakes, pink nail polish, hair and make-up, how could that not make a list?
8. fitness for a family of 5 - Ben started working out again, the girls discovered zumbatomic which excited Mommy and Read learned to crawl.
7. strabismus was diagnosed - Landry had to get glasses and Read has an appt with Landry's specialist after the new year for possible strabismus tendencies.
6.  planning the biggest family vacation to date - I compare planning our DW vacation to 9 months of pregnancy.  I cannot believe the time and prep it took.
5. movie productions began - Ben got his first job working on a feature length film working on the visual effects (he is still at Dell, working on the film on weekends and evenings).
4. fitness jobs and more fitness jobs - Kristi went from teaching two fitness classes to teaching 8 different fitness formats; yoga, silver splash, cardio fit, cardio circuit, muscular strength (all for seniors), aqua fitness, aqua zumba and zumbatomic for kids. 
3. someone turned one- too bad he discovered he liked cake after his birthday!
2. a whole lot of learning going on- I cannot believe all of the projects the girls worked on this year.  I think my favorite accomplishments would be Bella learning to read, and both girl's passion for writing and art (thanks to their weekly art lessons).
1. DISNEYWORLD - By far the biggest, most memorable event of our year. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

gingerbread houses

The tradition continued, but this year we enlisted help from Grandma (my grandmother), Mimi and Emmie.  We made mini houses this year and the girls had just as much fun. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Play

Everyday the girls have to write in a journal.  Some days I give them prompts, other days they get to choose their topics.  LE got inspiration from a C-mas book and wrote her own C-mas play.  She had speaking parts for Mary, Joseph, an angel, 2 shepherds and 3 wise men.  She told her Paw-Paw she wanted him to create her a manger and animals, specifically 2 camels, 3 sheep and a donkey. 
Knowing we didn't have enough people to do all of the parts, we decided to wait till we went home for C-mas and present the play at Mimi's.  Mimi made cookies and hot chocolate and we had a small play date with time to practice and then present our play.  She agreed to allow the younger cousins be the wise men and they didn't have to recite lines.  LE was Mary, Cameron was Joseph, Adom was a shepherd and Bella was an angel.  They each got to pick their costumes out of Mimi's fabric closet.  The wise men presented Jesus with C-mas presents and most posed long enough for a photo.
It was a memory I know I will cherish forever.  Paw-Paw and LE have already started planning next year's production.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Crafty Christmas

With my fascination of pinterest and my desire of always wanting to make C-mas presents I was finally able to do it (with a few exceptions) this year.  I made these for the siblings that lived near by.  I combined souvenirs from DW and C-mas this year by giving every niece and nephew on of these.  I made my grandmothers personalized calendars with the great-grandkids pics and everyone's bdays and anniversaries.  The girls created personal artwork for the grandmothers and R2 made baseballs with his handprints for his Daddy. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

wrapping the presents

I was so thankful to have little elves help me with all of my wrapping this year. 

Merry Christmas!  Happy Birthday Jesus!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas ornaments

Remember our yearly tradition of exchanging ornaments?  This year, I hit the jackpot (six retired ornaments) for Ben's collection.  I was able to find an R2D2 for Read and the rest were ornaments that Ben did not already have. 
When we opened the ornaments while we were decorating the tree I discovered R2's box only contained the bubble wrap.  I have yet to find another ornament for my R2. 
I got the girl's ornaments from Disney World and had the bright idea to have them sign their ornaments each year so I can document their signature as they mature each year.  I also got my souvenir/ornament for DW.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Party

Ben and I attended the Silver Sneakers Christmas party at the Y while the kids went to the gym's family Friday for a night of games and pizza.  We had a home style potluck and ornament exchange.  It was so low-key and just my kind of party.  They blessed me and the other 2 instructors with a cash gift, which I have no idea how to spend.  I finally went to get Read b/c everyone was asking for him.  He had so much fun crawling from Grandpa to Grandma that would take him.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas lights

We made out yearly trek to see the lights on 37th Street and took the wagon along for R2's first wagon ride.  We went pretty early in the evening and seemed that almost half of the houses hadn't turned on their lights yet.  I am thinking if I spend that much on my yard decorations I would invest in the $10 timer to turn them on each night at dusk.  The weather was perfect and we came home to enjoy hot chocolate and a Christmas movie. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cookies

Another badge the girls are diligently working on is their baking badge.   They have to learn to bake 3 different types of cookies.  Baking is not Mommy's forte, luckily, Mimi was very happy to help with that badge.  She helped to make sugar cookies and they kids have been taking them to their teachers at the gyms.  We have 2 cookies down and still trying to get rid of them before we make the last batch. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

new glasses

Landry was recently diagnosed with strabismus by a pediatric opthalmologist.  We noticed her eyes were crossing when she was sitting at the table across from us.  I had her eyes checked at her yearly check-up last year, but nothing was detected.  This year, her nurse practioner (whom I love) noticed and referred her to him.  It took us 6 weeks to get into see him.  We decided to hold off till after DW to find the glasses.  And then it took another 2 weeks for them to come in.  Talk about testing a six year-olds patience.  She is so excited, but has quickly learned they are not too comfortable with headbands. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Big kid now

Read has outgrown his baby carrier car seat which means Landry gets her booster seat again.  All is peaceful in the accord again.

Christmas Cards

Thank you to everyone for all of the beautiful Christmas cards.  A couple years back, I decided to skip the card b/c I felt most of those who I would send it to knows of our family blog.
Two of the badges the girls will be working on in keepers is a stamping and cardmaking badge.  We combined the 2 projects and the girls decided to make C-mas cards.  We still have a few more cards to make and distribute, but they are taking their time on them to get them just right.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Judge me by my size, do you?

Another really great moment on our trip was when the girls decided to take on the dark side at Hollywood Studios.   I was really surprised they wanted to, but they did it without hesitation.   When the Jedi Master saw them, he said "Oh look, they are cloning them."  They earned a special certificate and a training lightsaber is on top of their C-mas wish list (pink one not required). 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Monkey's birthday party

 One of Read's many nicknames is my little monkey.  Erica created a really cute invite for his party and Ben had the idea to have a banana split party.  Mimi made cute monkey cupcakes.  He loved the ice cream, but is not into feeding himself so did not enjoy the cupcakes.  He got lots of great toys including a Buzz Lightyear ride-on toy, balls, blocks, a train, and fun noise makers.  He has had so much fun with his new things. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

and even more...characters

Apparently we spent a lot of time visiting and waiting in line to see characters, but looking back at these and their autograph books makes me think it was all worth it.  One of my favorite experiences (besides Pooh) was meeting Princess Tiana and Naveen.  They were the most into their true characters.  Naveen kept leaping about (as if he had once been a frog with ADHD).  When it was our turn he asked the girls where they were from and told them, "Louisiana and Texas, well, we are neighbors".  LE told them we had stayed the night in LA and that we had eaten cajun food on our way.  I told her to ask Tiana for her recipe for gumbo, and she proceeded to tell us she had written a cookbook.  Naveen asked LE what her fave food was and she said chicken and dumplings.  They were both quite impressed she knew and even liked dumplings.   He told her he liked green beans and it was in the cookbook, Naveen's Green Beans.  It was a very personal meet and greet and kind of special.  For some reason LE really wanted to meet Chip and Dale.  So, we were very excited to see them at the end of our last day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How we do Disney

Top Things I recommend for Disney Travel:
1. Stay on-site at Disney
• You get free transportation, to and from parks, Disney Downtown and other resorts all day
• Meal-Plans
• It doesn’t matter which resort you are in, it is Disney and you will be taken care of
2. Travel in the off season
• Free meal plans is an option
• No or very short lines
• Fewer children
3. If your kids need a nap or stroller, they are too small to take.
• There is too much walking for young children and having to push around a stroller will take away from your trip. If they are too small, chances are they will not remember it. You will have a much better time and they will to when they are old enough to enjoy it.
4. Plan with a Disney expert.
• Our travel agent had itineraries for every park based on info I had told her about our family’s needs and likes.  We used Jeri Hall, she is on facebook (please tell her I sent you).
• She made all of our reservations and was the one to be on hold, I just made a list of things we wanted to do and she made it happen.
• She notified me when there was a special that saved us over $600.
5. Skip the character meals. You will have an opportunity to see all of the characters in the parks. The meals are good, but the meals at the resort sit-down restaurants are fabulous. Take the time to leave the parks and escape from loudness, have a sit-down meal and relax.  Plus you pay tips on your meals and it is pricier than all other meals.
6. Take your time. We visited each park with the exception of Animal Kingdom twice (seven day option). We still did not see everything, but we saw what we wanted and the things we enjoyed twice.
7. Get a meal plan.  We chose the table service option.  We had a sit-down meal every day, a quick service meal and a snack.  I took a toaster and our mini fridge (you can rent a fridge there).  We had bagels, juice and fruit every morning in our hotel before we left for the parks.  There is a Target and Wal-mart just miles away.
With planning and a flexible schedule you can do Disney on a budget. We spent less than $2,000 by driving and opting to stay at a budget resort. I would love to share more budgeting tips if you want, just email me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

13 years

We celebrated our 13th anniversary this weekend at Perry's Steakhouse in downtown Austin.  Ben had the signature pork chop (and leftovers today for lunch and again for dinner last night, yes it was that big) and I had the filet.  It was really nice to get away and have a quiet uninterrupted meal.  We had a complementary dessert of a truffle, creme brulee, and a cheesecake sampler. 
I love our family, love our life, love our marriage, and love you, Benjamin.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

new look

I'm so thankful for creative friends who take care of me.  Thanks Erica at Haphazard Happenstances for merry-ing up my blog for me. 

some characters

Saturday, December 10, 2011

day 7 - day 2 of Magic Kingdom

We had an early breakfast reservation at the Crystal Palace, home to friendship day and breakfast with Pooh Bear.  So early that we were the 2nd family in the park and we were able to get great shots in front of the castle.  The girls had mickey mouse shaped waffles and pancakes.  After breakfast, the park still was not officially opened so were able to walk through the castle and right onto the Pooh Ride, Haunted Mansion and Small World.  That was the last no-line rides of the day.  The park was packed by 11:00 a.m. and we could not ride anything for less than a 30 minute wait.  Summed up, it felt as if we walked aimlessly from one side of the park to the other.  We were able to get great seats for the afternoon character parade.  We ventured onto Tom Sawyer's Island, child swapped on Space Mountain, which is still a great ride.  Both of the girls submitted a joke to the laugh floor with Mike from Monsters Inc. and both jokes were chosen.  We decided to skip the 2 hour wait for Rapunzel.  We got front row seats for the night fireworks and castle display.  Another very late night, but a great ending to a great vacation. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

day 6 - return to Epcot

We had one free day in the parks, we went back and forth whether to visit MK for 3 days or go back to Epcot for a 2nd day.  We decided for the latter and I wish we hadn't.  I wanted to spend some more time in the countries and get a little more acquainted with those areas.  We had heard to make sure the girls participated in the Kidcot, where they could get a passport stamped and create a craft in each country.  We ended up not doing the passport, but had a Duffy bear puppet that we stamped at each country.  The girls took their time in France to decorate their puppets, but other than that they really didn't enjoy Epcot's World Showcase.  We did spend a little more time in the Nemo area and took some time to play.  We did Turtle Talk with Crush and both of them were able to ask Crush a question.  That evening we had dinner at Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  It was the best meal we had during the trip.  All four of us tried new cuisines and my new fave flavor is curry!  Afterwards we walked around the lodge and were able to see the giraffes and zebras up close and personal.  The giraffes got a little frisky after this pic and started chasing each other.  It was the funniest thing to watch b/c they were cold and frolicking instead of running.  I wish I had videotaped it. 
Enjoyed seeing the image of the top left pic, the girls (and Pooh) cuddling, while sharing their bed.  I am sure it will never happen again, so had to make sure I snapped a pic.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

the castle

At night in the Magic Kingdom, there is a show called Wishes.  This is the castle at different moments in the show and then it ends in a large fireworks display.  At one point during the day, a DW photographer asked to take a pic of Bella while she was waiting for LE who was riding the Haunted Mansion.  That night, we saw Bella's pic flashed onto the castle.  The bottom left picture is a collage of pictures taken throughout the day in the kingdom that forms Walt Disney.  This was Ben's favorite part of the trip.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

lunch in the castle

The one event I was most excited about was lunch in the castle. We booked our reservation 6 months prior. Thirteen years ago, Ben proposed to me in front of the castle and when I found out it was an option I was all over it.  It was really good food, but probably an event we will not repeat, but it was worth every minute.  I mean, we were in Cinderella's castle, can it get any cooler for a princess (or the queen)?  We met all of the princesses, received wishing stars, and wands.  LE is making her wish (eyes closed).  We received an 8x10 pic of the girls with Cinderella.  And yes, I probably enjoyed it more than they did.  This princess doesn't have to grow up.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

day 5 - Magic Kingdom, FINALLY!

When we originally booked our vacation we were arriving on a Saturday.  We had all of our details planned around that arrival date.  In September, Jeri called to tell us if we postpone our arrival date by one day we could receive free dining (think $600+savings).  That being a no brainer, we had to switch around one of our magic kingdom reservations, but of course those two reservations were on my must-do list, meal in the castle and breakfast with Pooh Bear.  Jeri got our reservations secured, but it meant we would not visit the MK until Thursday. 
It was a perfect day.  We had lunch in the castle (separate post coming) and a fairly empty park.  We were able to ride almost every ride with no wait time.  It was a truly magical day.  I hope it is a day the girls will always remember.  I remember visiting Disney World as a kid and most of the rides were still there (some of them should be retired).  It was so fun to experience them with my girls.  
Landry rode her first roller coaster, Big Thunder Mountain; she hated it.  She cried, no screamed the entire time and yes, it was her idea to ride it.     
We once again stayed all day long in the park.  We had front row seats for the magical light parade, but we were in frontier land, so did not have good seats for fireworks and the special lighting of the castle.  We did not make that same mistake on our 2nd day at MK.  
Best Rides - Many Adventures of Pooh - Bella's choice, Small World - Landry's choice, Space Mountain - Daddy's choice, anything but Tiki Room - Mom's choice 
Best Meal - Cinderella's Royal Table
Best Character meet up - Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen (separate post coming)

Monday, December 05, 2011

day 4 - Animal Kingdom

It was a little harder to get going this morning.  LE is usually an early riser, but this late bed time is taking its toll (on all 4 of us).  We decided to mix up our schedule and do Animal Kingdom on Wednesday.  The park closed at 5, so we would have to make it a shorter day or so we thought.  First thing we did was to hit the Everest Roller Coaster.  Great ride.  We did a child swap, so Ben rode first and then stayed with the girls so I could ride with no wait.  We ended up riding it 3x throughout the day.  The safari was good, but it was already mid-morning and all of the cats were already sleeping.  We did see an okapi (pic top right), which is LE's favorite animal.  She had never seen a real one before (read about them), it is a very shy animal, cousin to the giraffe.   We did not see Bell's favorite the zebra.  The girls were chosen to be in the Lion King Musical.  They marched around the theater in the finale and played maracas.   The girls also participated in Rafiki's Planet Watch.  They had tasks they had to complete around the park in order to get stamps.  After they completed 6 tasks, they got a mini science book.
After the park, we went back to our rooms and rested for a little bit, cleaned up and took the buses to the Magic Kingdom.  We left 2 hours early so we could ride the boats around Lake Buena Vista and the monorail around the World.  Our dinner reservation was at 8:45, a tad late, but at the time of the reservations I was thinking it would be 7:45 to our central time zone bodies.  Dinner was fine, we had reservations at Chef Mickeys, the parental units' least favorite dining experience, but LE's fave.  She liked dancing with Pluto.  We felt rushed, it was a so-so buffet (prime rib was good), but not what worth what we paid even in the tip.  Yes, you have to tip at a buffet at DW! 
After dinner, we were supposed to grab a bus back to Disney Downtown that would transfer us back to our resort.  Buses are supposed to run every 20 minutes, let's just say they must have forgotten to tell our bus drivers.  5 rounds of buses came by before (i.e hours, not minutes) before a bus arrived and then it was packed and no one offered 2 young children a seat.  After finally making it to DD, we had to transfer to another bus, and wait again.  This time we got seats, and for the first time since infancy the girls fell asleep in public.  We had to carry them from the resort bus stop back to our room.  Worst experience of the trip.  I wish we had taken our car, but the hotel staff made it sound so easy to make those "quick easy" transfers.   It was after midnight before we even walked into our room.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

drawing lessons

At Hollywood Studios, Ben and the girls got to participate in art lessons (they overbooked it, so I gave up my seat to take pics).  The instructor demonstrated at the front of the room step by step how to illustrate Carl from Up.  I always thought the girls had talent, but to have an illustrator from Disney call their work out made both me and the Papa proud.  She could not believe the girls' age and talent.  (Landry's is on the left, Bella's on the right - middle row.  I actually drew the outline square of Carl for LE b/c she was too busy pouting she could not draw Tinkerbell.  Thankfully she quickly got over it.  The instructor was actually more impressed with Bella's talent, which was great b/c LE usually gets the acknowledgment in the art dept.)

Saturday, December 03, 2011

day 3 back to Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios was probably my favorite park to visit as far as attractions and I think it was more fun on day 2.  We did all of the autograph thing on Day 1, so we got to spend more time on rides and shows day 2.  We were at the park at rope drop, so we went straight to Toy Story Mania, rode it and then got a FP for later.  We ate lunch at Sci-Fi cafe.  Setting is a drive-in movie theater, we sat in cars and watched old time Sci-Fi flicks, so fun and great food.  When you are on the meal plan, your key to the world is your hotel key, meal plan, tickets to the parks all in one.  Since it was dark, Ben gave the waitress Bella's key, so the waitress asked Bella to sign the "credit card" slip.  She was so excited to be so big.  The girls and I were in a flash mob while waiting for my favorite parade of the week - Pixar Pals.
Best Food - Sci-Fi Cafe
Best Ride- Rockin Roller Coaster
Best Show - Illuminations
Best Moments - Girls partricipating in Jedi Training Academy and Art lessons (seperate posts coming soon)

Friday, December 02, 2011

one years old

Happy Birthday Sweet Baby Boy! I cannot believe it has already been a year since you came into our lives. We are so blessed you are our boy and cannot wait to see all you become. We love you Reader.
Accomplishments this month: finally drinks from a cup, no more bottles.  Prefers whole milk, but drinks juice and water.
Still prefers to eat from a spoon, but will feed himself puffs and nilla wafers.
Throws right handed.
Speed Crawls.
Says Go, Doug (dog), Mama, Dadda and Didta (sister).
Loves books, balls, blocks (knocking them over), watching the dogs out the back door, and pulling things out of the cabinets and off shelves.  He is all boy. 
Still has no interest in standing or walking, maybe next month?
He did so great at spoiling his grandparents while we were on our vacation, first time away from home without Mommy and Daddy.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

day 2 Epcot

Epcot is divided into 2 sections, Future World and the World Showcase.  We spent most of the morning in Future World.  We rode Soarin' (which was a little over hyped), Fast Track, Finding Nemo, Turtle Talk with Crush and Mission to Mars.  We traveled through most of the World Showcase and decided to try some Japanese food.  The girls tried and liked Chicken Teriyaki with CHOPSTICKS. 
We decided to break during the day and take a nap at the hotel before our dinner reservations.  I surprised the girls by packing their princess dresses and accessories and dressed them before we entered into the Princess Storybook Dinner.  The girls had their pictures taken with Belle and all princes and princesses were paraded around the castle.  Dinner was pretty good, probably a one-timer.  The girls did not want to change out of their dresses (we saw kids dressed up all day long), but I insisted they put on their tennis shoes.  We visited a few more countries and the girls asked Daddy to dance in the Italian Piazza and watched the Chinese Acrobats before the nightly fireworks display.  Once again closed the park down, but at least most of us had a nap that day.  11pm bedtime, 7 am wake up call.
Best Ride - Fast Track
Best Show - Turtle Time with Crush
Best Moment - Princess Parade at Dinner
Best character - Mary Poppins and Belle