Thursday, November 1, 2012

Defending Autumn

I was telling my husband tonight all about my feelings regarding fall while eating pumpkin pancakes at our local Ihop.  It was a lengthy conversation, one I will spare you, but it all came down to this: People say all the time we don't get "fall" in Florida. We don't get the leaves changing color (ok, some do...but mostly not until winter). We don't get the crisp, chilly air (it gets cooler at night, but it's still warm during the day). **Edited to add since writing this post: It dipped into the 50's and 60's during the day here in Orlando this past week. It was nice.**  We don't get the "fall smell". Those in northern states know what I'm talking about, right?

Here's the thing folks. They are wrong. We DO get fall. Seasons are not marked solely by weather. When you think of fall..what do you think of? Sure, crisp air, dead leaves and "that" smell comes to mind. But, really, for me it's about pumpkins and apples. Hayrides and corn mazes. It's buying all the pumpkin flavored items I can get my hands on. It's about fun crafts and Halloween. Apple cider and caramel apples. Candy corn and Thanksgiving. Scary movies and campfires. You can get these things ANYWHERE. Anywhere, folks. It might be 80 degrees in the shade here in Central Florida, but all those things I mentioned? They are here.

So, you can tell me all day long that your fall is better than my fall, because it's in Michigan or Pennsylvania or New York. I get it. I was born and raised in northeast Pennsylvania.  You know what though? My fall? The fall in my own home. In my town. In Florida. It's pretty awesome, too. While you are creating your fall wherever you are, I am creating mine. My kids will look back and remember fall being about pumpkin patches, trick or treating and cooler weather. Just like yours. Sure, it will be greener and warmer than some but it's all my kids have known.  Inside our home, the seasons change because we make it happen for our children. My husband and I step it up a notch in the holiday and special occasions department for our kids because we want to create wonderful memories for them. We can't give them cold, crisp air or crunchy, dead leaves, but we can give them memories that will conjure up "fall" for them years down the road. They will know what fall is all about..because it's not about weather. Oh no. It's about family, traditions and love. Oh, and pumpkins, too.

"The story my kids will tell someday depends on me. I am writing their book, and I want their childhood chapters full of traditions and stories and memories of the comforts of home."--Kelle Hampton.

And don't even get me started about Christmas!

Monday, August 22, 2011

In The Meantime.....

We are slowly ticking off our summer checklist one by one...hopefully to have most of it completed by the end of summer. Since we home school year round, our "summer" is really just the hottest months of the year...not when we are on leave from school. Honestly, summer is my least favorite time of year. It's so stinkin hot here in Central Florida. It rains almost every single afternoon as well. Everything is crowded because EVERYONE seems to be on summer break. But this time of year (end of August and all of September), while everyone else is heading back to the scheduled life, the kids and I get to enjoy some much needed down time at the parks, playgrounds and museums. So, we have a lot of fun things coming up that I will be sharing with you all! For now, though, let's look at some more of our summer fun that has happened these last few hot and sticky months!

We hung out at Sea World.

Had some fun at Busch Gardens.

Went tubing at Kelly Park (a freshwater, cold spring).

Like I said, it's been a fantastic summer so far!!!! Hoping to pack a whole lot more in this September!

Ho Ho Ho!!!

Every year we say we are going to have a big Christmas In July party and every year we forget. Not this year!!!!! Ok, it wasn't "big" and it wasn't exactly on the 25th...but it was still fun!

With Christmas music playing in the background, the lights twinkling on the small tree and turkey roasting in the oven, the boys awakened to the return of our beloved elf, Jingles! Jingles came from the North Pole for a little vacation in the sunshine state before the mad rush of toy making for the holidays. He came bearing gifts, as well!

I don't have any pictures of our turkey feast (turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, mac and cheese, corn, and Christmas cupcakes for dessert), I do have a pic of our appetizers!

After watching a few holiday movies, we moved our CIJ fun to Disney's Winter Summerland Miniature Golf! The boys played 18 holes of Christmas golf while I snapped a few pics and laughed along with them.

We got home much too late for the littlest one to decorate cookies or play a Grinch board game, so we saved that for the following day.

And we ended our festivities by decorating cookies with lots of icing and sprinkles!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Marry me Selena?

Where do I even begin with this post? If you know my son, you know his love for Selena Gomez has been ongoing for year. YEARS. And he's only 10. It first started when he saw her on Spy Kids and immediately started crushing on her. By the time she was on Wizards of Waverly Place, it was a full fledged case of puppy love. He's followed her every move for almost 4 years, obsessing over her beauty AND brains. He doesn't just love her because she's beautiful, no. He loves her for caring about kids (UNICEF). He loves her because she helps protect the environment. He loves her because she's funny. But most of all, he really does love her because she's also beautiful. LOL Don't worry...If I ever see any "Lindsey Lohan type behavior" coming from Selena, I will try to sway him away. So far, so good. :)

I've often thought about taking him to a concert, but Selena never seemed to perform in Orlando. When she was rarely here, it was for a taped ABC special or because she was passing through. I had even thought about getting tickets in PA last year, but they were sold out before I even had the chance to consider FLYING to see her. Then, we heard the news! Selena was going on tour! Unfortunately, we were vacationing in NYC when her tickets went on sale. Fortunately for us, my parents were on the phone and the Internet trying to score these coveted tickets. As luck would have it, they scored 3 awesome 3rd row seats to see her in St. Augustine for her 3rd concert of the tour. So, then, we waited...and waited...and waited.

Finally, we trekked to St. Augustine with my Mom to see her, live and in person. The anticipation was really getting to A. He was nervous, excited and even a little scared. It made me nervous, excited and even a little scared!

We waited, not so patiently, outside the venue to be seated for the show...along with about a million other St. Augustine preteens and their parents. A's shirt was seen and talked about by many, as he was one of the only young males in well as the only boy I saw with a message for Selena. The front said, "Marry Me Selena?" and the back said, "Selena's Other Man".  Once we were let inside, the ushers directing us to our seats even made comments! Oh, the excitement was HUGE at this point.

Before the show, waiting outside the venue..glow sticks in hand

Slowly but surely, we made our way to our seats alllllllll the way at the bottom of the steps. We were given green wrists bands so we could go in and out of the pit area without showing our tickets. And then we found our seats. HOLY MOLY. We were so close, it was crazy! We had the end of the aisle as well, and since the way they situated the seats was in a unique way, no one was in front of A! He could practically reach and out touch the person on stage if he wanted too! Also, the stage had a T shape, so she would be walking down the runway to our right...also extremely close (4 seats away). We settled into our seats, and A started to get a little nauseous. They showed some pretaped Selena videos for us to watch and sing karaoke along with. It was pretty neat and we were SO ready for this concert to start!!!!

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the show started with Christina Grimmie (incredible) and then All Star Weekend (also very good...never even knew who they were before this). One of the band members took a liking to my Mom. It was very odd and weird. He was MAYBE 18 or 19...flirting with my mother. LOL

Thank you, weird kid, for making us all uncomfortable. :)

Could your pants be any tighter? And, he was wearing ankle socks with anchors on them. So, they were tight AND too short.

At around 8pm, the lights dimmed. We heard the beginnings of the song "Year Without Rain." I started to cry when I looked over at my boy....smiling ear to ear, standing and clapping and cheering for his lady love. And then...the moment. He caught a glimpse of her, and he immediately looked at me. Somewhat embarrassed, somewhat shy but a whole lot of happy. I hope he remembers that moment of seeing her forever. His first real crush.

He was tearing up here...about to cry. It was the moment right after he saw her on stage. And yes, he's wearing earplugs...he has some issues with loud noises.

As Selena approached the front of the stage, A got EXTREMELY nervous. He was clearly agitated and upset. He said he was worried she'd see him (and she clearly could), and he was concerned she wouldn't "like" him. So, he was rather grumpy for a few songs...but as time went on, he got more and more into the concert and let his fears subside. By the end he was once again standing, clapping and smiling. At one point, we are fairly certain Selena smiled at him...but she most definitely could see us. Could she read "Marry Me Selena?" written on his shirt? I don't know....but A is convinced that, yes, she did in fact read it. And she broke up with Justin because of it?! I'm going to let him think that for the time being. I told him though that she can't be his girlfriend til he turns 18, so she'll have to wait until then. :)

Sorry the pics are blurry...I wasn't allowed my big camera and she moved A LOT. There was a lot of dancing. But I may have gotten a lot of video for the kiddo to look back on. Shhhh....

As a Mom, this was one of the happiest moments of my life. Being able to do something like this for him is beyond words. Yes, it's a case of puppy love of a teen idol by a 10 year old. It was so much more than that though. If you are a parent, you will know what I mean. Seeing the huge smile on your child's face that is so pure and so real...well, THAT is worth millions.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York City: The Final Day!

Today was our last day of our little getaway, and it was so bittersweet waking up in the morning. We were sad to end our vacation, but happy to be flying back home to Am today! We missed him so, so much while we were away.

We packed up the rest of our stuff, trying to find a place for all our souvenirs we had purchased, and we each took a few minutes to look out the window and take in the sights one last time. I'll never forget our time with our oldest boy.  I hope he remembers the special alone time he had with us, and the experience of taking in the city at nearly 10 years old.

We had to leave for the airport around 9:30am but first we had a little reunion! Stephen's brother, Calhoun, lives in the area;  so he drove up to have breakfast with us at the hotel restaurant. It was so nice to chat with him over eggs, fruit and pastries. I think A misses him more than any of us (He'll always be Uncle Racoon to the boys). It was sad to say goodbye, but we will see him again hopefully in December!

Before we left the W, we hung out in The Living Room of the lobby for a few minutes to take some pictures. Isn't it pretty?

Earlier in our stay, I had consulted with the concierge and they booked us on a return trip to JFK using their car service. He was right on time, picking us up in a "luxury SUV". We hit a few traffic jams, but our driver was great about finding some side street in Manhattan, and then again in the outer boroughs, to get us to the airport on time.

Check in was surprisingly easy at JFK. Jetblue has it's own security line and terminal so there was absolutely NO ONE at check in or security. We breezed through and immediately grabbed some drinks and snacks at the food court. We browsed in Borders and the airport store, and A picked up a few small trinkets for everyone back home. Oh, and he bought himself ANOTHER souvenir. LOL
A Jetblue plane. :)

We had nearly two hours to kill, so A played on the netbook while Stephen and I took turns walking around the terminal a little bit.

Notice the Jamba Juice next to him? Yup, that's mine. I have an addiction!

Our flight home was rather uneventful. We watched a lot of TV (LOVE Jetblue's seat back TV consoles), took a few pictures and tried to take a nap.

Yes, my lips are chapped. I'm not used to the cold!!!!! What?!

The best part of the day? Walking into our home and seeing our favorite little toddler!! Am was so excited we were home as well, but I think he was most excited about seeing his big brother. We gave him all our gifts, talked to my parents about our wonderful trip and looked through all the pictures using the Wii. New York City: we miss you, but Orlando: it's good to be home!

Final Thoughts:
1.Staying in Hoboken was definitely the right choice for us. We felt safe and secure in our rooms, the views were amazing and it was just as convenient as staying in Manhattan. The rooms were quite large (hard to find in the city) and the staff was fantastic!

2.Eat at Shake Shack. Period

3.A day in Central Park is one of the best days I've ever had in the city. Take the time to really explore the park and all it has to offer. I wish we would have had even more time to do more exploring! Next time we'll be sure to take the boys to the zoo (I've been, but the boys haven't).

4.My love for Jetblue was reaffirmed on these flights. Wish I could take them everywhere!

5.You'll never be able to see and do everything, no matter how much you plan.

6. I'd pick Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building again, no contest. Lines are shorter and the views are better.

7.The American Museum of Natural History is BIG. Instead of spending our entire day here, we took the time to research beforehand what we really wanted to see and did those areas first. Also, the admission is pay what you wish. You don't have to pay the suggested what you are comfortable paying. We used the subway entrance, and there were no lines.

8.Next time, I won't rush A quite as much as I did this time. What I mean is, New Yorkers are statistically the fastest walkers in the US. I was constantly telling A to walk faster (except in Central Park, we were slow pokes here). I regret that now. I wish I would have slowed down and just let people complain that I was walking too slow.

9.I wish we would have had time for the Roosevelt Island Tram, Serendipity 3, South Street Seaport, Gray's Papaya, the High Line and more street food!! Next time!!!

10.New York City is kid friendly!!!! I promise! Enjoy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

New York City Trip Report: Day 3, Part 3

After our delicious dinner at Shake Shack, we walked a few blocks to the Path Station and we were off for Hoboken in no time. The train was crowded, but we snagged a few seats in the front car.
Back in Hoboken, it was still pretty early in the evening so we decided to take a stroll up to Carlo's Bakery. The boys had no interest in the TV show, but I had seen it a few times in the past. I figured while we were here, we might as well walk by the bakery from the show.

Downtown Hoboken is a really lovely town..if you are ever in the area, you should certainly stop by and see it for yourself! I wish we had more time to do some shopping or get a dessert at one of the little cafes, but we were just so tired from all the walking in the city. We headed a few short blocks back to our hotel, but decided to take a walk down to the pier to see the lights go on in the city. The views were spectacular...I'm so glad we took the time to walk down there.

We had a lot of fun out on the pier and took a lot of silly shots of either other with the camera.

When the sun had finally set and it was dark, we walked back to the hotel to pack up our stuff and watch a little TV before bed. I think we all pretty much fell asleep seconds after our heads hit the pillow!

Next up: Saying hello and goodbye to an Uncle, a happy reunion, and final thoughts!

Friday, June 10, 2011

New York City Trip Report: Day 3, Part 2

Stephen and I had seen the Statue of Liberty, up close and personal, on our honeymoon. It was a fantastic experience, but not something I was in a rush to do again. The lines are long;  it can take alllll day just to see her up close on the island.  We just didn't have that kind of time on this trip, but A still wanted to see the statue. We decided the easiest way to see Lady Liberty and have a little fun at the same time was by taking the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island and back. The ferry gets very close to Liberty and it's FREE. Let me say it again. FREE. IN NEW YORK CITY. So, yeah, that's what we were going to do!

On our short walk from the subway to the ferry, we walked around Battery Park a little bit and checked out all the different artwork and statues. It was a really beautiful day...not too chilly, just a light wind. I could have spent all day people watching here. But, we finally made our way over the terminal and waited for the ferry. There is no security to wait through, no lines or anything like that. The ferry is so large, I would doubt it would ever get extremely full (maybe at rush hour). We waited for the masses to board the boat and then we climbed aboard. We found a whole bunch of seats on the lower level and sat next to an open window. The views were amazing.

We were asked to deboard at the terminal in Staten Island, and along with almost the ENTIRE group who travelled there, we exited and made our way back around to reenter the boat. It was quick and painless, and before long, we were headed back to Manhattan. We passed by Lady Liberty again, but A was more interested in playing his DSi. Apparently, it's enough to see her need to see her twice. LOL

Back on dry land, we took a quick restroom break (take advantage of the public restrooms when you see 'em in NYC...they are hard to come by) at the terminal and then found our subway back uptown. It was just outside the terminal, and no one was underground. Within minutes we were seated on a train to Madison Square.

Our destination: SHAKE SHACK. I've heard so much about this place, we just had to go on this vacation! It seemed like every celeb I follow on Twitter has tweeted about the place, and I read tons of good reviews about it. Shake Shack is located inside Madison Square park. It's an outdoor, permanent booth that sells burgers, shakes, fries, etc all year long, rain or shine...sunshine or snow. I've heard about the extremely long lines, so we were pretty prepared for a wait. A spotted a an outdoor table under a heat lamp (the sun was setting and it was getting chilly), so we snagged it quickly while Stephen waited in line. I'd say he was only in the line about 30 minutes....from start to finish.

I should have taken a pic of the was LOOOOOOONG.

We chatted a little bit with the family next to us while we waited. Turns out, they were from NJ but came into the city for their son's birthday. All he wanted was a Shake Shack burger and fries for his birthday! LOL

Our order was finally up and we chowed down!!!! A had the cheese fries and a chocolate shake. Stephen and I both ordered the Concrete Jungle (vanilla frozen custard, hot fudge, bananas, and peanut butter blended together..YUM) and a Shack Stack (crisp fried portobello mushroom burger on top of a muenster and cheddar cheese burger topped with lettuce, tomato and Shack Sauce). Let me just tell you what it was like biting into this burger. PURE HEAVEN. HEAVEN, I TELL YOU!!!

I'm so, so, so thankful we decided to make this our last dinner in NYC. It was delicious and certainly worth the price and time. After our yummy dinner, we walked around the park and the Flatiron District for awhile.

Recognize it??

Next up: A Cake Boss and a walk in the park.