Saturday, November 29, 2014

Photo Shoot at Wilderness Lodge/Ft Wilderness

We headed over to Disney to take our Christmas picture this year.  We saw the parks decorated for Christmas when we did our January 2013 vacation, but didn't get a chance to see any of the resorts decked out for the season.. so we've been very excited to explore all the resorts we never bothered with because we were too busy riding rides.

Our first stop was the Wilderness Lodge, and I was super excited.  I've heard wonderful things about the resort, and it's definitely right up my alley - I love the style/theming and if I could live there, I totally would.

We got photos in a bunch of different spots so we'd have lots of options.  The lighting wasn't the best, and I was only using our point and shoot (with four kids to wrangle, it's not worth it to me to mess around with different settings).

The kids loved looking down into the lobby from the upper floors.  Seriously.. this has got to be one of the most beautiful resorts, Christmas or not.

We headed outside to check out the grounds and decided to take the boat over to Fort Wilderness since it was such a lovely day.  The light outside was amazing for pictures, but kind of hard on the eyes during the boat ride.

We got this great picture at Ft Wilderness, which we ended up sending with our Christmas cards.   I think it's funny how they're all wearing (relatively) nice clothes, but flip flops and Crocs.

We let the kids play on the playground for a few minutes, then went over to the Tri-Circle-D Ranch, which is where they house all the horses they use at Disney World (that pull the trolley and whatnot).  The kids thought that was pretty awesome (and so did Doug and I).  Fiona was especially excited about the horse that kept nickering in response to her blowing raspberries.

We headed back to Wilderness Lodge after a bit and got these photos near the waterfall.  There was a lot of construction going on, but we found some good spots for pics.

This one is my favorite, hands down.  I was trying to get them to just stand next to each other, but Fiona and Niall were being silly, and I got this shot just before Colwyn and Lachlann pushed them away.  Adorable!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our first holiday in Florida!  We were invited to spend the holiday with family down near West Palm Beach, but we were (are) so exhausted from unpacking that we weren't up for the 6 hours in the car that would require.  A nice quiet Thanksgiving in our new home was just what we needed.

I made the acorn squash and butternut squash the day before, which let me have a nice lazy morning watching the parade with the kids while Doug got the turkey going.  I got my gouda mashed potatoes done just as the turkey finished, and Doug took care of the stuffing.  It was a gorgeous day outside, not quite 70 degrees and sunny, so we decided to eat out on the lanai.  It was actually our first meal out there, and it was a good one!

I asked the kids to put on some decent clothes instead of just t-shirts, and this is what they came up with.  The hat is from Colwyn's Indiana Jones costume, but it reminds me a lot of Carl from Walking Dead.  It's a bit unnerving.

I don't know if Niall was pretending to punch the camera or what.  Fiona and Niall ate as little as they could get away with so they could go play with some toys in the Jacuzzi.  Doug and I cleaned up super quick because we promised we'd take the kids to see Big Hero Six.

The closest theater to us is actually the AMC at Downtown Disney.  We were excited to try out the new parking garage which is right next to the AMC.  We'd heard many a rant about the parking situation at Downtown Disney and this parking garage that they took forever to build, so we were really surprised to pull up to see that it's maybe halfway done, and only partially operational.  It was painfully (and hilariously) clear that they were getting way too many complaints about the lack of parking and opened it up as soon as they had a few spaces that people could park in.  It was quite convenient to the West Side, though, but I'd have been pissed if that was the only parking and I only wanted to go to the Marketplace (which is a good long walk at the other end of Downtown Disney).

We all absolutely loved Big Hero Six.  Baymax totally stole the show.  Doug and I were giggling at his antics right along with the kids.  Aside from that, the movie had a lot of heart and I really loved the emphasis on STEM.  I have a lot of favorite Disney movies, and this one is definitely close to the top.

We had decided to skip the pies and other desserts because we knew the kids would want to get candy at the movie theater.  But we got there so soon after gorging ourselves at lunch that we weren't hungry, so we made the long walk to the Marketplace and Goofy's Candy Company.

We missed it on our last vacation, so the kids were really excited to get to pick out a treat from here (and even more excited to not have to stick to items on the Dining Plan!).  Lachlann got a giant chocolate-dipped chocolate chip cookie shaped like a Mickey head, Fiona got a pink Mickey cake pop, Niall got a M&M and chocolate covered Mickey Rice Krispie treat, and Colwyn did a make-your-own Rice Krispie Treat which ended up being just like Niall's.

 They had an amazing time, and it was lovely to be out at Downtown Disney.  The Christmas decorations looked great, and it was cool and breezy - such a difference from the last time we were there!

On the way home, we decided to swing by Walmart because they had a good deal on Disney Infinity figures, among other things, but when we pulled up, we were shocked at how packed it was.  Their oversized lot was full, as was the (closed) Lowes' lot next door, and the couple of fast food restaurant lots closer to the road.  It was bonkers!  So instead we went home, had a little bit of leftovers and cuddled, then put the kids to bed.  Then I ran out to Michael's and Target, both of which were packed as well.  I wasn't expecting so many stores to be open Thanksgiving evening and for it to be so busy.  We're not in Massachusetts anymore!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Littles' Bedrooms Are Unpacked!

We read a lot of advice before moving, and one of the things everyone suggests is to get the kids' bedrooms set up first before you devote a lot of time to the rest of the house.  We took that to heart and while the rest of the house is in disarray, the littles's bedrooms are mostly done.

Here's Fiona's room before:

The whole back wall is basically her play house area, with the toy kitchen, doll beds and clothes armoire, and strollers.  A giant basket of stuffed animals and her rolling Barbie storage drawers are at the foot of her bed.  We draped her Rapunzel braids over the valance, but we'll switch out the valance as soon as the rest of the house is unpacked.  She's also got Colwyn's comforter on her bed right now because hers is packed away somewhere and I'm not sure.

Some of her dress-ups are hung up on Command hooks on the closet doors (the rest are in her closet), and her dollhouse is up on the nightstand.  I'm hoping that it will get played with more this way since it's a little easier for her to access, compared to when it was just on the floor.  More dolls under the nightstand.

Random bins of toys (all nicely sorted.. for now).  Her bookshelf has her Rapunzel decor, and next to her bed on the IKEA bins are some trinkets from her Amma and Disney Princess peg people that Auntie Kristine painted for her.

I'm pleased that I managed to get Niall's room done today, too, 'cause it was almost as overwhelming as Fiona's!  We had to take an extra twin bed out of here (the headboard moved into Fiona's room and Fiona's came out - hers was wicker and just kind of hideous).  He picked out the Thomas comforter himself and is quite proud of it.  All of his toys fit in here neatly (unless there are some toy boxes still in the garage.. god, I hope not).  Amazingly, his room was still clean at bedtime.. woohoo!

More toys, neatly organized in bins, and his teeny dresser.  So cute.

Obviously, the artwork has to come down out of his room, but that won't happen until the garage is cleared out a bit more.  I'm thinking about painting some canvases for each of the kids' rooms as Christmas presents.. we'll see.

Colwyn's room is mostly unpacked, too, but we haven't decorated.  He wants to decorate with all the Harry Potter birthday party props we have, so that shouldn't be too hard.  Mostly we just need to get rid of the froufy decor up there.  And Lachlann's room is liveable, but he's still got a box or two (Legos) that aren't unpacked yet.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Around Town

We finally have Internet!  Thank god.  Oh, and the TV.. the TV!  We have our trailer and we're unloading it.. which is not nearly as bad as loading it.  But I now that we have Internet, I can finally update the blog with the posts I've written over the past week or two.  Sorry for all the back-dated updates, but oh well!

So we got out and checked out the area a bit this week.  We've hit up our local Target, one of the Publix stores, and Petco.  Next up on our list is the other Publix and the Walmart.  We're on the search for seltzer, which nobody seems to carry around here.

On the fun side of things, I asked on one of the homeschool group lists which parks are close by and good, and it turns out the best one in the area is about two minutes away from us!  We headed over there on Wednesday and it was indeed pretty cool.  And cool, as you can see by the pictures - we all have our hoodies on.

All the play structures here are 'natural' themed - the big structure looks like it's made out of trees and rocks, and the jungle gyms look like various creatures.  Lachlann here is on top of a giant spider.

Colwyn and Lachlann pretending to be some 'too-cool' bees in some honeycomb.

I'm not sure if Fiona was trying to scare me, or if she was pretending to be scared.  She and Niall like these fake hollowed out logs, though.

Of course Lachlann (and Colwyn) need to use the playground in unorthodox ways.  Yes, my children have become the kids I hated when I only had toddlers.  Well, sort of - the difference is that my kids are very aware of little kids and are careful around them - I don't think they've ever knocked down a little kid.  They're just bad influences.

The one kind of bug Fiona isn't scared of!  This is a giant dragonfly, if you can't tell from the picture.  You can ride on it like Fiona is or you can use the wings like a see-saw.

 And here she is on the tongue of a frog jungle gym, pretending that the frog is eating her.  And that's Niall in the background, looking stuck.

I had to laugh a bit at this playground, though.  There was big sign prominently displayed at the entrance, bragging about this being the only 'natural' playground in the area, and how this playground allows children to reconnect to nature and experienced more unstructured, creative play.  Um.. yeah.  The jungle gyms are shaped like interesting things, sure, and the siding of the big play structure looks like bark, but that doesn't make it a natural playground.  When I think of natural playgrounds I think of big boulders to climb on or slide down, trees to climb, etc.  Oh well.. it was still fun, well kept, and close by.  Win!

On Thursday, we went to a homeschool group meeting at an indoor trampoline arena.  I couldn't get any good pictures except the one above of Fiona resting because the kids were just blurs as they bounced about.  It was super fun, though, and there were a TON of homeschoolers.  We definitely have to get the kids to build up their stamina, though, because they tired out real quick!

The best part of the week was last night, though.  I wanted to wait until Doug could come with us before heading into Disney.  We didn't even make it a whole week in Orlando before heading on property!  We obviously don't have our annual passes yet because you need to have a Florida license to get the resident prices, but we couldn't wait any longer.  Niall was very cute as we were getting ready - I asked Doug to grab him a Disney t-shirt, and Niall impressed me by asking for his "Toad's Ride" shirt.  I didn't think he'd remember it, but while we were waiting for Doug to get it he told me all about how funny it is that there's a car on the train tracks about to crash into a train!  So cute.

We went to our favorite resort, Port Orleans Riverside, to get magic cookie bars (and chocolate cake for the littles).  I thought the food would be the highlight, but I was surprised by the emotional aspect of just walking into the lobby.  I couldn't tell whether I felt sad or happy to see the places where some of our fondest memories happened.  Even the small things like the bench where I would wait with Fiona and Niall in the stroller while Doug and the bigs filled up our mugs in the morning got me all choked up.

After we ate, we decided to take the bus over to Magic Kingdom and ride the resort monorail.  I was kind of expecting to feel disappointed that we couldn't go into the park, or to be bored with just riding the transportation, but I think we really just felt a sense of well-being.  It was cool and breezy, and just being near the MK was so pleasant.  We ended up getting off at the Grand Floridian to check out the gingerbread house, which we'd never seen before.  Wow!  Not only did the house really impress, but the smell inside the whole main building was just incredible.  It was an amazing balance between ever-present, sweet and Christmas-y, but not sickly or overbearing.  

Of course, we're looking forward to getting our passes so we can go into the parks, but in the meantime, there are tons of free, fun things to do that we never bothered with on our vacations because we were so obsessed with getting in as many rides as we could!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Home At Last!

I'd like to say that the last part of our long drive, from Atlanta to Orlando, was uneventful - but it wasn't.  Just after crossing into Florida and picking up Popeye's for lunch, Fiona lost a tooth!  I thought I was going to have to pull over because she tends toward the dramatic and it was bleeding a bit, but I passed her some napkins and she took care of it all by herself!  I was so proud of her.  The one hiccup was that she dropped the tooth when she was passing it to me and we thought it was lost under the car seat, but Colwyn saved the day and found it once we arrived at our hotel that night.  And yes, tooth fairies visit hotels!

The next day we got to the realtor's nice and early, but it took for-frickin'-ever to get everything done there.  I've been kind of glossing over the things that went wrong on this trip (almost everything), but I'll mention this part.  The realty office kept losing our paperwork and needing us to fax it or email it over and over again.  Even after Doug went into the office (I had to wait outside because we had the pets in the car), he kept coming out with paperwork for me to sign that I'd already signed several times.  It was crazy.  But we finally got the keys, said good-bye to Doug, and headed over to Davenport (stopping at Taco Bell and Panda Express for lunch, of course).

The house is pretty amazing.  It's incredibly big compared to what we're used to, and the cats really love the high places.  Milky Way wasted no time getting up on top of the kitchen cabinets.

Moxie preferred the bi-fold closet doors.  I don't know why she was so desperate to get up there, but she did it.

The house is furnished, which at first I thought would be a big problem, but it actually is really great.  For one, the trailer isn't going to be here for a few more days, and it's nice having a place to sit, eat, and sleep.  The furniture isn't quite my style, but whatever.  Fiona and Niall love the nightstands in the master bedroom, as you can see:

I just can't get over the kitchen counters!  Look at this!  It's ridiculous.  We definitely won't be complaining about not having any space to prep food.  And the laptop finally has a permanent home now, which should prevent some of the trouble we've been having with the kids being too rough with it.  When they move it from place to place, they damage the power connector so it won't charge - we had to get a docking station for it, which charges it a different way (it was that or buy a new laptop, which we had to do last time).  Anyway.. not a problem any more!

The kids' absolute favorite thing is the pool, though!  Even though it was cold when we got here (like I said, 50's and cloudy followed us from Maine), the kids wanted to jump right in.  It's really kind of surreal - being in Orlando and being cold, and letting the kids swim when it's 52 degrees out.  Not that they swam for long, but still..

Oh well, it made them happy and didn't hurt.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Brief Vacation

We figured out pretty quickly that we wouldn't be able to make it to Orlando by 5pm on Friday to get the keys for our new home, so we decided to stay at Doug's mother's house for a couple of days.  I'm so grateful for her hospitality, and I think she really appreciated the company.  The kids definitely appreciated the break from the car.  I was a little worried that they'd get bored and whiny because we didn't have much in the way of toys (one small bag of Legos and their car stuff), but boy, are those kids creative!  They found more ways to play with those Legos than they ever have before.  I can definitely see the upside to having less rather than more, because it really got them thinking outside the box.

Of course, they did have the DS and the laptop, but we kept that to a minimum.  They watched a little TV in the mornings, but that was it.

More Lego pictures!  Fiona created a Lego bird and Colwyn made a Lego cat (not pictured, unfortunately).  We also checked out the park nearby and the kids had a great time.  It was really cold, though, which I found surprising considering we were in Georgia.  The weather (50's and cloudy) just followed us the whole way.  It even got down into the low 30's at night.

We packed up and thoroughly cleaned up after ourselves Sunday morning to finally head down to Orlando.  Doug had to go to work on Monday, so the plan was to stay at a hotel Sunday night, then pick up the keys first thing in the morning so Doug could get to work, and I'd take the kids and pets over to the house.

We forced Grandma to take a picture with the kids, which I think came out lovely!  Then there was time for one last leaf battle before getting in the car.

Aren't leaves fun?

Friday, November 14, 2014

On The Road

Oh man.  Just a few hours into the actual work of moving and Doug and I were both saying, "That's it, we're never doing this again."  I know we said the same thing last year when we moved to Maine, that we'd never move until we were able to pay movers to do the work for us.. but obviously that didn't work out.  I guess a year was just enough time for me to forget how horrible it actually is!

Here's Colwyn in our ABF U-Pack trailer.  The guy who dropped it off was very nice, and had no problem parking it in our driveway.  It looked huge and considering the amount of stuff we had gotten rid of, I really didn't think we'd need all the space, but we ended up going over our allotted 17' of space and had to use an extra two feet.  Mom, Dad, and Kristine came up to play with the kids and help a bit both Monday and Tuesday.  I'd rather forget the awfulness, so I'm not going to talk too much about loading the truck.  It was very nice to have my family there to help, though.  I spend most of the time cleaning each room as it was emptied, and Kristine did a great job touching up the paint.  It just took forever, and there really wasn't any wiggle room in our departure time, so it was a real rush.

Around 10:30pm on Tuesday, I loaded the kids and two cats into my car and drove down to my parents' house while Doug finished up at the house.  We got the kids all set up with their air mattresses and crashed, though I couldn't fall asleep until Doug got there (around 1am or so) because I was worried he'd fall asleep and crash on the drive there.  Thankfully he made it with no problems, and even remembered to bring the dog and the other cat.

The next morning we said tearful goodbyes to my parents, swung by the hospital to say good-bye to my sister at work, then hit the Dollar Store and Target for some last minute things before leaving (somehow we forgot to pull out toys for the car ride for Niall).  With the kids set up with breakfast and toys, and the animals properly harnessed, we headed out!

I was imagining that the cats would want to sit on the front seat and I'd be able to pet them, but they preferred the floor, so we set up their cat bed down there.  They were extremely unhappy with me, but thankfully didn't yowl too much.

We stopped once on the Mass Pike for gas, then made it to the Garden State Parkway before needing to stop again.  We fed the dog, let the cats have access to the litter box (none of them used it), stretched our legs, and ate a late lunch.  Doug and I switched cars at that point because Maddy's smell was too overpowering for him.  I did a bit better, but only because I found a way to perch the air freshener in the neckline of my shirt!

We made great progress again on our second leg for the day and made it to Fredricksburg, Virginia.  We had a late dinner (Chick-Fil-A and Panda Express!) and crashed at a super cheap, pet friendly hotel.  The kids delighted in telling Mom and Dad just how crappy it was when we called, but at least it was clean.  I don't care so much about run-down if we're just sleeping there for a night.  And if we can sneak in extra pets and kids without the front desk noticing!

On Thursday, we booked it to Doug's mother's house which is just outside Atlanta.  It was a bit out of the way (added a total of four hours onto our total drive time), but we really couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit.  It was a really long day of traveling, though.  The fun thing was that the cats finally decided to move around a bit within the car, which delighted the kids.  They finally settled on cowering by Lachlann's feet.

We were relieved to finally arrive at Grandma's house at around 10pm.  We stayed up talking for a bit then zonked out in her living room.  It was so good to stretch out!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Saying Good-Bye.. Again, and Again..

The house is mostly packed, the furniture and plants we don't want to bring have been distributed elsewhere, the U-Pack trailer is getting dropped off tomorrow.. this thing is really happening, isn't it?  We've been saying a lot of good-byes in the last week, and they really haven't been getting any easier.  It's not that I want the good-byes to be over with, but having to do it over and over again is kind of rough.  We're really lucky that we've gotten to see most of our really good friends one last time to say good-bye.

Colwyn's birthday party was kind of a pre-good-bye to some of our best friends, but then we had another park day last Wednesday to say good-bye.  It was great to see everyone, but such a bummer to say good-bye.  Some of these friends are people we've known since our oldest kids were 4 years old, and some are newer friends who we've gotten to know quite well in just the last two years or so.  It doesn't really matter, though.. we're going to miss our friends so much!

Thursday was a packing day, but then on Friday, we met up with some of Fiona's new friends from New Hampshire.  Even though we haven't known them that long, Fiona was just so upset to have to leave these girls - but felt a little better when we found out that they're moving overseas in a few months.  The kids had an awesome time at the Children's Museum in Dover, though.  Again, a little bittersweet because we spent so much time there last fall/winter/spring.. but I'm sure we'll find something similar in Florida.

And today we made a sort-of final visit to the North Shore to get in some 'lasts'.  We met up with more good friends (who unfortunately had to miss the park day because they were sick) for ice cream at Richardson's.  We're going to miss these adorable boys so much, and I'm really hoping that my friendship with their amazing, fantastic, super cool mom (yes, she reads this blog, ha!) will survive with frequent phone calls.

After ice cream, we went to the library to pick up some movies that are new or semi-new to the kids for the trip.  The plan is to mail them back once we arrive in Florida.  Everyone tells me I'm silly for feeling guilty about doing that, but I dunno.. it just feels weird.  But we've got a huge stack of movies for the trip, including lots of nostalgia for me (I'm going to need something to keep me awake while driving!) - Labyrinth, Gummi Bears, Tailspin, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and a few others I'm forgetting.  Then we met up with Mom and Kristine at the cemetery for one last visit to our family plot.

I know we'll be back for visits, probably within a year.  We'll see our friends when we come back, we'll visit the cemetery and our favorite places again.  But it still feels sad when we drive past where we sit every year for the Santa parade the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the place where we sit for the Beverly Farms Horribles Parade on July 4th.  I'm just trying to remember that we were able to cope with only going to Florida once every other year, and that we'll just switch that around and have to cope with seeing our favorite Massachusetts stuff once a year.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

We Have a Home!

I don't know why I thought I'd have time to blog with all the craziness that's going on around here, but I'm annoyed at myself for not getting around to it.  Let's recap:

Colwyn turned 11 and we spent the day in the Beverly area, hung out at Bonkers with my family, at had dinner at Sylvan Street Grill.  The next day, my mom threw us a going away party with our family.  We got to see my aunts Sharlean, Gail, and Asta; my cousins Sam and Alexander; my cousin Ashley, her mom and two brothers.  My great aunt Grace and her husband came by, too.  And of course, my parents and my sister.  Then the next day, Doug left to go to Florida for a week, from 10/26 to 10/31.  Let's just say that I am not meant to be a single mother.  That week was hard.  My parents came up one day to hang out, then on Thursday, we spent the day in Beverly, ending with the downtown trick-or-treating that all the businesses do.  We got home pretty late and I baked cupcakes for Colwyn's party.  Then Friday was co-op; after which we went grocery shopping, then ran home to clean and bake two cakes.  We rushed down to Beverly to have dinner with Mom and trick-or-treat around the neighborhood with Kristine, then picked Doug up at Logan.  We didn't get home until about 10:30pm, at which point I just crashed.  Saturday was Colwyn's party, so we hurriedly decorated and cooked and decorated the cake and cupcakes.  Whew.  In all that was a lot of decluttering, packing, and freaking out about the house hunt.

While Doug was in Orlando, we kept trying to set up showings of rental houses, but apparently the type of home we were looking for just flies off the market.  He ended up seeing three places, two of which were furnished.  Thankfully, we got the call this past Monday that we were approved for our first choice!

It's 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, and just shy of 3000 square feet.  Considering that we live in a 3 bed, 2 bath, 1400 square feet, old farmhouse, this is going to be a huge change.  Here's a picture of the kitchen:

But the best part is the back!  It has a lovely, caged pool with a big covered lanai.  I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about this.  There's even a ceiling fan out there!

It's in Davenport, which is both a plus and a minus.  On the good side, it's very close to shopping and most importantly - Disney!  But it's about an hour commute for Doug, which is the same as what he was doing here.  I know he was hoping for a shorter commute, but we just weren't finding anything in our price range with a big pool out back closer to where he's working.

The only thing I'm really concerned about with this home is that it comes furnished.  On one hand, it's good because we were planning on leaving a lot of our furniture behind, so now we won't have to buy a lot of furniture when we get there.  But it's really not my style, so I'm worried about it not feeling like home, you know?  I'm sure we'll box up most of the decorative stuff and bedding, but there's only so much you can do about the clunky tables and headboards.  I'm pretty sure we'll go out and buy slipcovers for the couches pretty soon, too, 'cause they're just plain ugly.  But I guess ugly (but clean, in good shape) couches are better than only having one small couch and a rocking chair for the living room and massive family room, right?

Our house is about half packed.  Maybe more, but it's hard to say.  A lot of it is just hard to pack early, like clothes and the kids toys.  A lot of the kids toys we'll just move right in their storage shelves like we did last time, so I go back and forth between feeling like it's almost done and freaking out that there's so much unpacked still.

Between the logistics of the move and the sadness at saying goodbye to our friends and family, I'm so incredibly stressed out.  Doug and I are handling it relatively well, all things considered.  But it's so hard saying good-bye.  We're trying to see as many people as we can and do as many of our favorite things one last time.  We had a great last park day yesterday and saw some of our favorite friends (though some were sick, boo!).  I just hope that between Facebook, emails, and regular visits home, we won't totally lose these friends that we've had since our kids were babies.