Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Belated Solstice

In our house, we celebrate the Winter Solstice. On Solstice Eve, we have a nice dinner, then create a fort in the living room. We light dozens and dozens of candles, crawl inside, and stay up late telling stories. This year, we modified it a bit. With my youngest still being such a troublemaker, we knew he'd pull down even the stoutest sheet fort. So instead, we got out the futon mattress and the air mattress, all of our blankets, comforters, and pillows, and created a huge bed. Then we lit a fire in the fireplace, and set out our customary candles. We had also done an advent lighting of sorts - on our altar, we had three white pillar candles and a lovely yellow-y orange candle in the center. On the Wednesdays leading up to the Solstice, we lit the white candles, and on Solstice Eve, we lit all four.

So we stayed up late, telling stories about the sun (the children made up their own.. in past years, we've read Celtic and Norse myths). The children went to bed, and then my husband and I set to work. On Solstice Eve, the fairies create a special door to come from the realm of fae and into our world (using chalk, of course), and then cause all sorts of mischief. This year, they created an obelisk of toys, with a host of stuffed animals bowing down before it. They hung toys from the curtain rods and the chandelier. They put boots on the sconces, and replaced portraits hung on the wall with Crocs. They also toilet-papered the couch. While my husband was setting all that up, I worked on the gift the Solstice fairies would leave. Here it is:

In previous years, the Solstice Fairies have left little gnomes, so this year they got a gnome house. It was actually pretty easy to make, it took about two hours. I need to see if there's some sort of floral fixative to spray it with so it won't rot, because I'd love to keep it for next year, too.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Colwyn's Progress Report

Here's the progress report we submitted for Colwyn, for the previous school year:

READING: Our literature based program this year has involved reading to Colwyn a variety of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. In addition to the two dozen or so picture books we check out from the library every other week, we have read several chapter books, including Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series and R.L. LaFever’s Nathaniel Fludd: Beastologist series. Besides these family read-alouds, Colwyn reads consistently at a third grade level, and reads a variety of books independently.

WRITING: Colwyn can easily form all lower case and capital letters. He writes notes and letters spontaneously, and also writes thank you notes and birthday cards frequently. Colwyn also enjoys making books, writing and illustrating his own stories. For a book club we attend, Colwyn produces journal entries and reports on the books he reads.

MATHEMATICS: This year, Colwyn completed the Singapore Primary 1A and 1B workbooks. Topics covered include addition, subtraction, ordinal numbers, number comparisons, common shapes, comparing and measuring length and weight, picture graphs, adding three numbers, multiplication, division (sharing and grouping), fractions, telling time, and money. His math workbooks were greatly reinforced by real life applications including cooking, shopping, board games, and using our family calendar.

HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES: We use the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History as a basis for our history studies and progressed through the sections on ancient civilizations. We supplemented his learning through many fiction and non-fiction books checked out from the library. He also read many mythology books, including Roman and Norse myths, and a child’s version of Gilgamesh. Colwyn has also participated in monthly Earth Scouts meeting that have focused on human rights. He has completed several service projects including earning money for Heifer International, making blankets for Project Linus, sending cards and pictures to soldiers overseas, and holding a bake sale to raise money for Save the Children’s relief efforts in Japan. He has studied several modern countries using Highlight’s Top Secret Adventures and has supplemented that learning by planning mock vacations to each of those countries (planning which includes finding airfare, lodging, choosing historic sites and/or attractions to visit, tallying costs, and budgeting).

SCIENCE: Colwyn’s science education this year has focused on earth science. He has studied volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and plate tectonics. He has studied geology and panned for gemstones and fossils, which he then identified. He participated in several science club activities, the topics of which included magnetism, human physiology, and early humans. He supplemented the human physiology lesson with library books on various topics, including the circulatory system and reproductive system. He also studied animal husbandry, physical and behavioral adaptations in wild animals (focusing on African species, but also applying his knowledge to local species). Besides this more formal science education, Colwyn enjoys observing nature (specifically living creatures we find in our neighborhood) and experimenting with a variety of media outdoors. He has also studied freshwater pond ecology and helped plan, install, and maintain a freshwater pond in our backyard.

THE ARTS: Colwyn enjoys creating artwork using a variety of materials, including crayons, markers, colored pencils, water colors, and tempera paints. He also likes to be creative with clay, Play-Dough, and recycleable materials like boxes, plastic containers, and so on. He has made gifts for friends and family, puts on puppet shows, and likes a wide variety of music. He has learned about stop motion and created several short movies. In addition, he has made music videos and helped with the video editing.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE: Colwyn has completed the Song School Latin curriculum this year. He has also assisted in teaching his younger siblings American Sign Language and continued to grow his ASL vocabulary.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION: Colwyn loves riding his bike, going for walks with his family, and exploring the hiking trails at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. We attend weekly park days in warm weather where he plays boisteriously with other homeschoolers. In cold weather, we make frequent trips to Monkey Joe's and often coordinate private rentals of Strike One for our homeschool group.

HEALTH: Colwyn understands and practices good hygiene and personal safety. He has learned a great deal about good nutrition and has helped grow nutritious vegetables and fruits in our yard.

FIELD TRIPS: Field trips are an important part of Colwyn’s education. Our field trips this year have included everything from visiting Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut, to the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Science, to attending concerts in Boston, to the Essex Ship Building Museum, to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Moms Need Gyms

This morning, I tried to do some floor exercises. I lied down and got to the eighth sit up before my 15 month old climbed onto my belly. First, he smooshed his face to mine and gave me several slobbery kisses. Then he spun around so his feet were kicking my face, then laughed hysterically at the way my belly moved up and down while I laughed. I managed to distract him with some toys and finished my sit ups. Then I figured I could do some leg lifts while I was lying on the floor. As soon as my leg started moving, he made a beeline for me. He grabbed onto my leg and did his best to keep it on the floor. I'm quite out of shape, so I really don't need any extra resistance, especially not the full weight of a 26 pound toddler.

We also had some trouble when I tried using the weights for upper body exercises. He either wanted to hold them, or kept getting nearly bonked by them, or just insisted on being held.

Well, I got the exercises done in the end, so that's what counts, right?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Art

This summer, we were able to attend a wonderful art program put on by the local library. Each week, they created artwork based on the art of a certain region - things like Aboriginal dot art, American quilts, and Chinese fish kites. Here are some pictures of what they created:

The kids had a great time. It was one of the few times they've consented to participate in a class where I wasn't involved and not really even present. They could see me for much of the time, and come get me if they needed me, but I wasn't in the room with them. Lachlann especially thrived on the praise from the librarian. He was very insistent on making sure she knew he was done so he could hear how much she loved his artwork.

Yesterday, we tried a project from the Story of the World activity book. I'm not really a fan of Story of the World - it's a little too Christian and a little too dry. But the activity book is wonderful. It's much easier to skip any activities we don't like, and there are so many creative ways for the kids to explore history. For example, yesterday the kids made cave paintings:

They really enjoyed themselves. We listened to shamanic drumming while we worked. Tomorrow we'll add some white and red highlights to the paintings.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Birthday Cakes

I sat down at the computer with a half-written blog post about our plans for this coming year floating around in my head. Then I saw that my last entry was about Niall's birthday party, with a picture of his cake. It seems more natural that I write about some other cakes I've made recently.

Yesterday was Lachlann's birthday party. He chose a dinosaur theme, much to my surprise. We played a few games, whacked the you-know-what out of a pinata, swam, ate pizza and cake. This is the cake I made:

It was quite the hit, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. Usually I'm at least a little disappointed with how my cakes turn out, so this was a nice surprise.

For Fiona's birthday, I made a Snow White cake. Again, everyone really loved it, but I was less than thrilled. I really should have used fondant. Here's a pic:

You can also see the Snow White dress I made her, which looked great on her. She still wears it frequently.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lack of Crafting

I was supposed to be the proud owner of a Silhouette SD
, my Mother's Day gift, but I got an email from Amazon on Tuesday saying that the package had been returned as undeliverable. The address looked fine, so my guess is that the label got damaged or something. I'm rather annoyed, as I now have to wait for the refund to go through before I can order another one. Ugh.

My Mother's Day weekend was lovely, though. Saturday was Niall's birthday party and we celebrated with the Coopers, the Rubins, and the Taglianis. It was a nice, calm day with lots of socializing and no crazy running around on my part. Here's a picture of the cake I made:

Doug went way overboard for Mother's Day, and I'm not complaining. :) I got delicious chocolate covered strawberries (two boxes instead of one, as they accidentally delivered someone else's to us as well, and yes, we called to notify them of the error), gorgeous flowers, great cards from the kids and from him, and pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Wow! We also went to Dane Street beach with the kids, my parents, and our dog, and had a fantastic time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Birthday Shopping

We had a busy morning today. Our park day got rained out so we spent the morning at Monkey Joe's, an indoor bouncy house place. The kids had a wonderful time, and I struck up a conversation with a lovely woman pregnant with her third child. Afterwards, we went to Michael's and then Target to get supplies for all the birthdays we have coming up.

Niall's first birthday is this Saturday. It will be pretty low-key, no planned activities or anything, just playing in the backyard. The theme is giraffes, which will be cute. I had to get fondant and dyes at Michael's for his cake, then at Target, I picked up favors in the dollar section - pails and shovels, soaker balls/frisbees, horseshoe games, and badminton games.

Target's dollar section also happened to have foam swords that I need for Fiona's birthday party in June. She wants a Snow White party, so one of the activities will be decorating hand-held mirrors (for the girls) and foam swords (for the boys).

We also picked up a new canopy for the deck, as ours got pretty beat up last year.

I was also looking for pre-made sugar daisies for the cake I'm making for my grandmother's birthday next week. She passed away last fall, but we're all going to my aunt's house in Connecticut for a combo birthday/remembrance party and Mother's Day celebration. I couldn't find what I wanted, so I may just make them myself. I've never really done flowers before, but I watched a YouTube video and it doesn't look hard.

And speaking of Mother's Day.. I'm asking for a Silhouette SD, a paper cutter. I'm very excited about this, as I'll be able to make tons of stuff for scrapbooks, cards, party decorations, etc.. and I'll also be able to make freezer paper stencils really easily. I'm hoping to be able to sell some stuff on Etsy, woohoo!

Yesterday, I took the kids to the nursery and we picked up a bunch of plants (mainly petunias, but some pansies and other misc. flowers as well). Normally I have eight or so tomato plants in pots on our deck, but I didn't really feel like doing a veggie garden this year. I also let the kids pick out a bunch of packets of flower seeds. In the afternoon, I transplanted the flowers to the pots, and let the kids go crazy planting their seeds in our raised beds. I have no idea what they did and how it will turn out, but they sure had fun.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Walking 'Round and 'Round

My food choices haven't been stellar this week, but I've gotten out every day with the kids to walk around the block (.5 mile). We've also done a few park days, which usually involve lots of movement as I chase the kiddos around. Today, we all went to the beach and brought the dog. Pre-kids, we really focused on the dog - lots of obedience classes, including beginning agility, lots of outings to the beach, dog parks, wherever.. and so on. We really cut way back once we had kids, and I've been feeling bad about that. So today our Maddy got to run off-leash at the beach, she made plenty of new dog friends, and amazed us with her good manners and obedience. Plus, we all got a workout walking along the very LONG beach.

My goal for next week is to keep up the walks, and to start doing core strengthening on the exercise ball. My back and shoulders have been killing me lately (the baby is just SO heavy) and I really need to work on that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Where Dreams Come True

We don't take vacations. For me to be home with the kids, that was one of the things we had to give up. We did a week in Florida to visit family in 2004 and a long weekend in DC to visit family in 2006. That's been it for vacations since the kids were born. Well, as I'd said before, the last year has been really tough in many ways. When we did our taxes and found out we'd be getting a good deal of money back, we decided to splurge on a trip to Disney World. We didn't tell the kids until after arriving in Florida (they thought we were going to FL to visit family). It was still a budget vacation in many ways (we shipped food to the resort so we wouldn't have to buy breakfast or snacks there, and we had sandwich supplies and milk delivered once there so we could have inexpensive lunches), and I got a great deal on the rooms. I made a bunch of things for the trip, too, including t-shirts, a personalized autograph book, and room decorations for a big surprise from Mickey. I'll post pictures and instructions for everything I made.

In the meantime, the full trip report is below.

We left Tuesday, March 1st. Our flight was scheduled to take off a little before 9:50am, and we barely made it in time. Traffic was crazy, and then Central Parking at the airport was closed. We told a little white lie to the attendant and got to park, but were worried that they’d tow our car before my parents could come to pick it up. We had no time to get a luggage cart, so we somehow managed to transport six suitcases, six carry-ons, an infant carseat, a stroller, and four children all on our own through a the parking garage and into the terminal. The man checking in our luggage nearly blew the surprise to the boys, pointing out the Mickey heads on our luggage tags and asking them where they were going. Thankfully, the boys were too distracted by the commotion to really get what he was saying, and we hastily shushed him. Security went smoothly, despite being Doug’s biggest fear. The actual flight to Orlando went okay: Niall fussed a bit but it wasn't too bad. Colwyn and Lachlann sat by themselves and did great. Fiona was a little nervous but ended up napping. After deboarding, we found an empty waiting area and told the kids where we were. I had read enough to come up with a plan to prevent any disappointment, and that went smoothly. Colwyn’s face was priceless, Fiona told us how excited her grandma was going to be, and Lachlann lied down on the seats, afraid that we weren’t actually going to go to the hotel like I said. That misunderstanding was cleared up quickly, and we headed off to Magical Express.

We got to All Stars Music, picked up the double stroller, and got checked in. The room was a LONG walk and it was super hot, so I was dreading going to MK. We spent a few minutes freshening up, checking out the towel animals and Mickey towel heads, and packing the stroller and diaper bag. Luckily, by the time we got to MK, it had cooled off considerably and there was a nice breeze. The kids were all wearing their First Visit buttons and got some nice comments from CMs. Niall fell asleep in the stroller, so I took the big kids on the teacups first. They were a BIG hit. Then Doug took the big kids on Dumbo, while I sat with Niall. We did Snow White's Scary Adventure after that, which the boys seemed to like but made Fiona a little nervous. Then we rode the Carousel, which everyone loved, then saw Philharmagic. Fiona wouldn't wear her glasses, Niall fussed, and Lachlann hated the show. Doug and Colwyn rode Thunder Mountain, then we got Dole Whips on the way out. It turned out to be the perfect evening, as the weather was lovely and the lines were really short.. the longest was Dumbo at 20 minutes. Thunder Mountain was only a ten minute wait. I was a little disappointed that Fiona didn’t go nuts when she first saw Cinderella’s Castle, but oh well.

That evening, Mickey and the gang left a surprise for the kids in our room, so we took a while getting out of the room the next morning. We just made it to MK just in time to see the rope drop show. Wednesday was supposed to be a very low crowd day, but it was pretty busy. Dumbo was a 20 minute wait right away, so Lachlann and Doug went to use the bathrooms. We spotted Pinocchio right by his restaurant so we stopped to say Hi before riding Dumbo. The kids were shy, but I got a hug from Pinocchio and we got a pic with all of us. After Dumbo, I rode Peter Pan with the big kids while Doug hung out with a sleeping Niall. Peter Pan was great, and the kids were happy during the ride, but Fiona said later that it was ‘creepy’. While we were sitting on a bench putting sunscreen on, we got a wonderful chance meeting with the Tremaines, who were coming out to do a meet and greet. We had our Mickey head tie-dye shirts on, and they stopped and commented on our unfortunate laundry mishap. Fiona was really freaking out (cowering behind the stroller) and Lady Tremaine leaned over and asked (in a very imperious tone), "And what chores do you do?" then saw that Fiona was upset, and asked contemptuously, "Are you crying?" One of the stepsisters commented on how fat Niall was, and how she used to be fat like that when she was a baby, then patted her belly and said she still was a little. I was thrilled to have that chance meeting, because I’d heard that the Tremaines were a lot of fun, and we hadn’t been able to get into their character meal.

On the way to ride Splash Mountain, we stopped to meet Pioneer Donald. Only Lachlann was brave enough to get Donald’s autograph and picture. The line for Splash Mountain was pretty short, so we used the standby line and got child swap passes. Lachlann absolutely loved Splash Mountain. After that, we headed to Crystal Palace for lunch. Fiona was in a grumpy mood and didn't want to meet Piglet or Tigger, but suddenly perked up when Pooh came by. She got very excited and gave him a big hug. After he left, I was praising Fiona for being so friendly, and she said, "I pooped!" We all got a big laugh about her happily meeting Pooh after she had poo'ed. She gave Eeyore a hug, too, when he came by. With Fiona in a much better mood, we rode the teacups one more time, then headed back to the hotel for naps and swimming.

When we went back to MK in the evening, we did Laugh Floor and I was totally picked on, even worse than "That Guy" - I was on screen for a full three minutes and it was mortifying. Lachlann freaked out about it being cold outside (it had been hot midday, but cooled off significantly while we were at the hotel). Doug bought him a too-small Phineas and Ferb sweatshirt, then we met Buzz. The boys made great strong-man poses for the picture, and then Buzz spent a few minutes with Niall. Doug took all the boys on Peter Pan while Fiona and I waited outside (she said it would be too creepy). For a nice calm break, we all rode It's a Small World (pretty much walked on). Fiona had a mini-freak out because she thought she would be able to buy one of the dolls. By then it was dark and the kids were getting cold and tired, so we headed out. We stopped for candy at the Confectionary on the way out, and watched the beginning of Wishes from the bus stop.

On Thursday, we went to Animal Kingdom. We got FPs for Kilimanjaro Safari right away, then did the animal trail. The kids loved seeing the animals and the CMs were very friendly and knowledgeable. The kids picked up the bird ID guides and really enjoyed trying to ID the ones we saw. Fiona also really liked the fish and the meerkats. The Safari was a big hit (Niall slept through it all) and we got to see lots of animals. I felt a little bad though that with Colwyn on one side and Lachlann and Fiona on the other, they had very different rides. The kids didn’t actually seem to mind, though. We stopped to meet Terk, King Louie, Baloo, and Flik with very short lines. We found a Photopass photographer and got a nice shot of all of us with Everest in the background, and did a Tinkerbell magic shot with Colwyn and Lachlann. Then we headed to the Nemo Show (getting Expedition Everest FPs on the way), which Lachlann hated and Fiona disliked. Niall fussed throughout the show. We vowed not to do any more shows, as we'd had such bad luck. We sat on a bench outside the show to eat lunch, but Fiona started totally freaking out about the bugs. I'd never seen her freak out so much: she was literally screaming and shaking over these tiny little flies. We managed to find a not-so-buggy place to sit and eat. After lunch, Doug took Colwyn to ride EE while the younger kids came with me for diaper changes and to meet Pooh and Tigger. Fiona was still freaking out about the bugs every time she saw one, so we decided to cut the day short and head back to the hotel. We tried for a group Photopass shot outside the gates and got the obligatory toddler-screaming-in-the-stroller shot. After naps, we decided to try to head to Downtown Disney, but *four* completely full buses came through the resort with no room for anyone else, so we decided to just have dinner in the food court and do some evening swimming.

Our low key afternoon and evening on Thursday was for the best, because we were up super early to make it to the 8am rope drop at MK on Friday. Our plan was to stay there all day, and have Phyllis and Gloria (Grandma and Great Grandma) come meet us in MK for the fireworks after they had driven up from Ft. Myers. We had a wonderful morning. Lachlann and Doug walked onto the Indy Speedway while the other kids and I got Space Mountain FPs and rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. We met Mickey with no wait. We all rode Buzz (walked on), then Fiona and I walked on to Buzz two more times while the others rode the TTA again. Doug took Lachlann and Fiona on the Astro Orbiters while I waited on a bench with Colwyn and Niall. Fiona loved the Astro Orbiters, giggling madly the entire time. Then we headed to Adventureland, where Doug took Colwyn and Lachlann on the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse while Fiona, Niall (who was napping), and I waited for the princesses. Fiona got to meet Aurora, Cinderella, and Belle, and she loved Belle the best. All the princesses were so sweet and friendly with her, though, and both Cinderella and Belle got hugs from her in the end.

We met up with the boys and rode the Magic Carpets (another big hit), then we caught the end of the Frontierland dance. We got Splash FPs, then met Pioneer Mickey and Minnie (we ate sandwiches while waiting in line). Colwyn, Lachlann, and Doug rode Splash while I took Fiona and Niall to get water and a chicken wrap from Pecos Bill's. She started freaking out again about the bugs, so we headed towards Pirates of the Caribbean looking for a not so buggy place. She flipped out pretty continuously until we got her out of the stroller to ride Pirates, and then she was fine. The kids liked Pirates okay and were only mildly nervous. Afterwards we met Pirate Goofy, and the boys bought pirate swords. We met Jasmine and Aladdin, who were very sweet and funny. Aladdin told the boys that Abu had run off towards Adventureland and was looking for ice creams to steal, and asked for their help finding him. Jasmine commented on how our magic carpet must be huge to fit so many of us, and how the children must be our wishes come true. During that meeting, it started to rain, so we sheltered in Pinocchio's Haus. We rode the Carousel again once the rain had stopped, then Doug headed off to get FPs for Pooh while I took the kids to see how long the wait for Tiana and Naveen was. We ended up stopping to watch the parade and forgot all about Tiana. Then we headed to Tomorrowland where we got popcorn and rode Space Mountain (Lachlann with me, Colwyn with Doug). We all rested in the Hall of Presidents, then got ice cream at Storybook Treats. We rode Pooh, during which a downpour started. I had neglected to cover the stroller, which got totally soaked. Phyllis and Gloria were supposed to have met us in MK at that point, but they were too worn out after the 3 hour drive, so we caught the bus to Coronado Springs and had dinner with them. We left their resort around 8:45 and headed to Downtown Disney to transfer to another bus, and were finally passing Coronado Springs again on the way to All Stars at 9:45. We were back in our room at 10:00. The long evening sort of overshadowed what a wonderful morning we’d had, but it was worth it to get to spend time with family.

Friday was such a long, exhausting day (and with no afternoon nap) that we scrapped the plan to hit Epcot for rope drop and hung out at the hotel until about 2pm. We met Phyllis and Gloria at Epcot around 2:30. They had one wheelchair that they shared, so we walked through the park at a snail's pace (quite literally). First we hit Club Cool, which everyone enjoyed. We rode The Seas with Nemo and Journey into Imagination with Figment, then took the boat to Morocco. We walked over to Germany where we had dinner at Biergarten. Everyone liked the food (especially Gloria) and the show, but my enjoyment was dampened by the fact that Niall spilled Colwyn's full glass of Sprite all over my lap. Luckily, I was mostly dry by the end of dinner, so we took the boat from Germany to Mexico and rode the Three Cabelleros ride, which everyone loved. It was 8pm by the time we were done, so we decided to head out. Unfortunately, it took us a full hour to walk from Mexico to the gates, due to Phyllis and Gloria taking turns in the wheelchair and needing frequent, long breaks. We stopped to watch the little water fountain show, which was pretty at night. We didn't get back to our room until about 9:30, upon which Doug and I looked up motorized scooter rentals. We used a company called Scooter-Rama or something and had one delivered to Coronado Springs Sunday morning.

Even though we were exhausted, we made it to Epcot for rope drop on Sunday. Doug went to get FPs for Test Track while I took the kids to the Character Spot. We met Mickey, Pluto, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. When we were leaving, Rafiki and Jiminy Cricket were meeting in the hallway outside, so we stopped to meet them. Then we headed through Canada to the UK, where Lachlann bought a shield and Fiona bought a Pooh stuffed animal. After a short rest, we headed to France where Fiona bought a Marie stuffed animal (as soon as we told her we were going to Florida, she told us she would buy a little baby cat in Florida, so that worked out well). We met Marie and Belle (in her blue dress), then headed to Morocco to take the boat back to Canada. Doug took Colwyn and Lachlann on Test Track, then Lachlann rode it again with me. We got Mickey ice cream bars and headed back to the hotel for a nap. We got back to Epcot around 4:30 and met up with Phyllis and Gloria. We hit Club Cool again at Colwyn and Lachlann's request, then met Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland in the UK. We found a nice table near the water and had fish and chips for dinner, then went to ride the Three Cabelleros ride again. We tried to ride Maelstrom, but the line was too long. Phyllis and Gloria wanted to ride the monorail, so we did the Epcot loop, then said good-bye to them near the buses.

The next morning, we got to Hollywood Studios for our 8am ADR at Hollywood & Vine. Breakfast was good and we got to meet Leo, June, Oso, and Handy Manny. Fiona was shy and didn't want to meet Oso, June, or Leo, but we got a pic of her with Handy Manny. Shortly after rope drop, Doug took off to get FPs for Toy Story Mania, while I took the kids to sign up for Jedi Academy. After signing up, we got to meet two stormtroopers and Darth Vader, then we headed towards Disney Junior. On the way, we met Chip and Dale by the hat. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I looked at the pictures I notice that in one picture, Dale is grabbing Colwyn’s mouse ears, then in the next shot, he’s grabbing his real ears. We watched the Disney Junior show, which Fiona just adored. Then we met June and Quincy, Sully and Mike, and Lightning McQueen and Mater. We made it back to Star Tours to catch the end of a Jedi Academy show, which I think helped Colwyn and Lachlann be confident enough to do it. Fiona and I blew bubbles while staking out our spot in front of the stage, then the boys did the show. It was so much fun, and really cute, and they did great. We let the three big kids build their own lightsabers, then rode Toy Story Mania before heading back to the hotel. TSM was so much fun, but definitely not worth the 95 minute standby line we saw. We got back to the park a little before 5:00, just in time to enjoy the 'characterpalooza' in the Animation Studios. We met Captain Hook (Fiona was scared of him), Frozone (Colwyn and Lachlann copied his signature pose), Stitch, Lotso (Fiona hugged him!), Mr. & Mrs. Incredible, Genie (he tried to sign Colwyn’s hand, then accidentally smacked Lachlann in the head), and a Green Army Man (the boys saluted him, and he returned the salute). We had a CS meal near Tower of Terror, then headed back to the resort because it was freezing.

On Tuesday, we headed to Universal so we could visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was completely packed there, and super hot. We waited an hour to see the 5 minute show in Ollivanders, then went into the shop but had to leave immediately because it was so crowded. We looked around in Zonko's, then had an early lunch in the Three Broomsticks. The kids loved the butterbeer (frozen and regular), but it was a little too sweet for me. After lunch, we watched the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students show, then toured the castle. By then it was shoulder-to-shoulder and so hot (with no shade) that we retired to Suess Landing. That was much better than I expected. The big kids rode the Carousel with Doug (Niall was napping), then rode the elevated train thing with me. We played on the playground for a few minutes, then decided to hit Honeydukes and then go back to the resort. Unfortunately, there was a long line just to get into Honeydukes, so we went to one of the giant Universal gift shops on the way out and the kids picked out their sweets. We stopped at Cinnabon to get a special treat for breakfast, as well as a shake for the kids and a drink for us, and Colwyn spilled the whole drink on the floor. Overall, we were really disappointed with Universal, but I also did very little research compared with how much I did for Disney, so we may have been able to adapt better if I’d researched more. After a little rest at the hotel, we went back to the Magic Kingdom just in time to catch the Electric Parade, the show on the castle, and the fireworks. Colwyn loved it all, Lachlann liked the parade but hated the fireworks, and Fiona adored the parade and liked the fireworks okay. On the way out to the buses, we caught the end of the water pageant.

Wednesday morning, we checked in for the flight, then went to the Magic Kingdom again. Doug got FPs for Splash Mountain while the kids and I found out where Snow White would be meeting. We met Snow White near Town Square, and she was completely lovely. We were wearing our tie-dye shirts (and Doug with his "I don't wear matching shirts" shirt), and she asked if Doug was grumpy just about the shirts, or about everything. I said he could be grumpy about a lot of things, and she suggested I make him gooseberry pies, because that works to keep her men happy. I said, "Oh, silly me, I've been making him apple pies.. I'll have to try gooseberry" and she said, "Apple is fine, but I hope they're green ones!" After that, Colwyn, Fiona, Niall and I met Jessie and Woody while Doug and Lachlann rode Splash Mountain. We ate lunch (sandwiches and turkey legs), then went to Tomorrowland to ride Buzz (we had gotten FPs earlier) and we met the Fairy Godmother on the way. Doug took the big boys on Buzz while I tried to put Niall to sleep. Niall was taking a long time to settle down (he had come down with a cold the day before), so I told Doug to take Fiona on Buzz, too. Right as they were coming out, Niall puked spectacularly, all into my shirt and bra. When I passed Niall off to Doug, he puked all over him, too. We had to buy new shirts, and when I went to change, my bra was so nasty that I had to throw it out and walk around the park braless. We rode the teacups again, then I took Fiona and Niall to buy Niall a new shirt and we stumbled onto a great spot to watch the parade. Doug, Colwyn, and Lachlann got Dole Whips then met up with us in town square. That was it for our day, we headed back to our resort and boarded Magical Express to come home.

Our trip went much better than I expected, but it was also more exhausting than I had expected. The main reason it was more tiring than I had expected was because I had anticipated us taking our time, keeping a slow pace. Unfortunately, Niall wasn't very happy in the stroller so we had to move quickly from one attraction to another.. which meant we got to do a lot more than I expected, but Doug and I were just wiped out every night. It was so much fun, though, and Doug even enjoyed Disney. I had spent so much time planning, but while we had to change plans on the fly a lot, all my research enabled us to make good choices. The kids were well behaved and did great. The weather was pretty nice.. cool and breezy in the mornings, hot around midday, then cool and breezy again in the late afternoon. Crowds were pretty low the first few days, then picked up towards the end.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Starting Fresh

Here goes dieting attempt One-Zillion-and-One. But the number of times I've tried before doesn't matter, because this time is it. I'm not worrying about the past or the future, I'm living in the present.

Today's weight: 281.5

This week's goal: No unhealthy snacks. I'm not going to be strict about what I eat for meals, since I eat relatively healthy meals already. I'm just going to cut out the ice cream, chocolate, etc. I'll start counting points once I have the sweets-elimination down.

I'll update this post with my food journal at the end of the day.

Food Journal:

2 cups milk, 1 packet Carnation Instant Breakfast
1 grilled tomato and cheese sandwich
Small handful of crackers w/ hummus
1 Mini Reese's PB cup (stolen from the kids, hah)
Steak tips
Mixed Veggies

Not too bad, right? Portions were normal-sized.. not huge, but not really diet, either.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good of 2010:

Niall's so adorable, and so sweet, funny, and good-natured. It's wonderful seeing my bigger kids take care of their baby brother.

Colwyn has gotten into Harry Potter big time, and I love being able to share that with him.

The kids' birthday parties were all very successful.

Doug still has a job.

My immediate family (me, Doug, and the kids) are healthy.

The Bad of 2010:

My grandmother passed away right after Thanksgiving. We were close, she was a strong, steady presence in my life (she often lived with us). I always looked to her for advice on food, gardening, crafting. Her illness itself was traumatic, and we just miss her so much.

My mother's poor health has continued all year. At the beginning of 2010, we thought she'd be turning a corner soon. Her health still sucks, which severely exacerbates our personal conflicts.

We've been fighting an unfair foreclosure since early March. We've been unsure of where we'd be living in a month.. for ten months.

Due to several families' circumstances, our homeschool group has had a big drop-off in attendance.. and we've been struggling with feeling socially isolated all year.

Niall's birth was difficult and disappointing. I know this sounds petty, but it still weighs on me. The stress of our breastfeeding issues, giving up after a few months, the guilt, and the sadness that I'll never nurse another baby.

The unending sleep deprivation. For over four months now, Niall has woken up on average once every hour, all night long. I'm so, so tired.

My cousin was born with major health issues, mainly due to his mother's behavior while pregnant.

The Ugly of 2010:

Me. To cope with all this, I've been eating. I don't know how much I've gained, as the scale needs new batteries. I'm dreading weighing myself.

In short, 2010 has sucked. 2011 will be better.