Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
A Magical Kingdom Indeed!
Besides having the worst ten minutes of my life right smack dab in the middle of the day, our day at the Magic Kingdom was by far my favorite. Yes, it's expensive (although we managed to get four of us in for free!), but when you have kids the ages ours are, it's worth every single penny. The place definitely lives up to its name!
If you ever plan to go, go the week we did (the one before Thanksgiving). The only thing we waited in line for was to meet the princesses and that was under 10 minutes. Most things we walked up and walked onto the ride. It was unbelievable.
I love this shot because of Aiden's face. I think he had a bit of a crush on this princess.
Part of the magic is that Disney knows kids. It's designed for kids. Both of these princesses spent several minutes chatting with the kids before posing for pictures.
It just so happened that the two princesses available this day are Mackenzie's favorites. And even though, earlier in the year she had told me that she was getting too old for the princesses (ah, peer pressure), she decided while at Disney that she didn't care what her friends think, she still loves them.
Because of the short or no lines, we were able to ride every ride and see every show. Let me tell you, this is no small task. The place is HUGE. Of course this meant that we didn't stop to eat (we brought snacks), stop to meet many characters (except Donald and the princesses), and we skipped the playground type activities.
Besides the rides and the shows, we also took in the two parades as well as the fireworks show - and the park closed at a relatively early 8 p.m.
We didn't stop in any stores, which saved both time and money. And, because the kids didn't stop to look at anything, they didn't ask for anything. It was great. We did break down at the end of the day before the light parade when the boys spotted these light-up swords. At a whopping $4.50 we decided to go ahead and make the splurge.
While we were waiting for the parades to come by, Disney people handed out bubbles, balls and hula hoops and invited the kids into the street to play in front of the big crowds. Mackenzie is really pretty good with this thing.
At night they light up the castle so that it looks amazing. The picture doesn't do it justice, but if you click on it and take a closer look, you'll see what I mean. And of course, the fireworks display was spectacular.
By the end of it all, we were exhausted. We still had two monorail rides and a long run through the parking lot to catch the free shuttle back to our place. Trust me, by the end of day two of hitting it hard, I was NOT running at a good pace. In fact, I told Nelson to run and let me walk quickly with the kids. I figured he could talk the bus driver into waiting for a pregnant woman and three kids. Thanks be to God, he did.
All in all, it was a nearly perfect day, even though at the end of it, Nelson and I cried a few more tears as we tucked our precious children...all three of them...into their beds.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
We hit Sea World on yet another perfect Florida day. We decided on this park because when we got the tickets at the discount place, they offered us a second day for free. Yet another part of the week full of surprises was that my brother, Fr. Aaron, was going to join us Thursday through Saturday and it was his park of choice. So we spent two full days packed with fun.
They offer some of the hands on kind of fun my kids adore. We all got to pet the stingrays and then...we also got to feed them. The kids started off a bit fearful of falling in but after feeding them, they were hooked.
As you can see by our attire, the weather took a much colder turn on Friday (highs in the 50's), which we were not exactly prepared for wardrobe wise.
The highlight of the two days for me was definitely feeding the dolphins. I've never done that before and it was beyond cool to have them eat out of my hand and then to be able to really pet them. When Mackenzie reached out to pet this one, it blew from it's blowhole into her face. That's how close we were!
The kids and baby Shamu had a mutual admiration society. They were standing there watching the mama swim around when her baby came right up to them to say hello. He stayed there for several minutes and continued to come back again and again. I think they thought they had a new pet.
Luckily for us, Uncle Aaron was more than game to ride the rides. Between my pregnancy and Nelson's motion sickness, we opted to let good old Uncle Aaron take them for a spin, and another spin and another spin. They thought they were big stuff with their hands up in the air.
This one was called the Flying Crab and shot up into the air and then bounced its way down. The kids were crazy about it.
It was a great two days. It allowed us time to see all the shows and to take our time seeing the sights. It also allowed Aaron and Nelson a chance to attend a beer tasting for free. Did you know Sea World is run by the Anheuser-Busch company? Beer, fish and fun! You just can't beat it.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Two Weeks Ago..
We were at the Green Meadows Petting Farm. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and we had a blast. There were so many things to do and to see. It was a quiet place that moved at a pace that was good for all of us.
The best part of it all was that everything was hands on. In order for Mackenzie to hold this duck, she had to catch it herself. I think she'd love living on the farm.
Dawson was a little slower, so Nelson helped him out. But let me tell you, there was no lack of effort on Dawson's part.
After chasing the big ducks, we all got a chance to hold some baby ducks and chicks. They were very cute...and, very squirmy. I was so happy that none of the kids dropped them.
The chickens were a little tougher to catch. It took some serious teamwork to grab one, but it was well worth it for the kids.
One of the highlights of the farm for everyone was milking the cow. It did, however, bring up some very interesting anatomy questions.
Dawson thought it was just as much fun to be in front of the cow feeding him hay.
Believe it or not, there were a lot more animals to see (and a lot more pictures as well). We saw lambs, turkeys, a zorse (half zebra, half horse), a bull, and a gigantic pig just to name a few.
Of course, the hay ride, train ride and large playground were big hits as well.
It was a very fun afternoon. The only complaints we heard were, "Can't we stay longer?" and "Why can't we ride the ponies again?"
If you're ever in the neighborhood, I highly recommend this place. A guided tour is part of the ticket price, so not only do the kids have fun, but they're learning too.
Friday, November 23, 2007
* for eating together with my entire family for the first Thanksgiving in SIX years!
* for being able to celebrate a Thanksgiving mass in my own parents' living room with a brother as the celebrant!
* for a brother who has been having heart trouble, who got a good report at his last appointment and for his wife who lovingly takes care of him!
* for another brother getting ready to graduate who is being courted by corporations around the country!
* for parents who worked so hard to get us to the place we are today, a family who truly, truly loves each other!
* for in-laws who love me dearly and say things like, "No one needs two turkey meals in one day. Let's have our dinner on Friday."
* for a brother-in-law who calls me early in the week to tell me he's going shopping on Friday and asks if there is anything he can get for me and then gets up at 4 a.m. to get the early bird deals...ALL of them on my list!
* for a husband who is diligently working on getting our house ready, while he works full time and lives with a hormonal, achy and complaining pregnant wife!
* for three precious children who are all safe, healthy, loads of fun, and still by my side!
* for the new life inside of me which is already allowing me the opportunity to grow in holiness!
* for my life, my blessings, my love, my faith, my church, my God!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Counting Today's Blessings
This week I have been focusing on the many things I am thankful for. My blessings are simply too many to count.
Today, however, I wore myself out. It was the first marathon day since last week in Florida. So...I will return tomorrow with a list of things I am truly, truly thankful for. Until then, I will focus only on today.
I am thankful that, even though both bread machines I used to make dough broke, I managed to crank out four dozen rolls for our family feasts. I'm not sure how they will taste, but at least they're finished.
I am thankful that while making the sweet potato casserole, when I ran out of evaporated milk, I opened the cabinet to see one appear before my eyes and save me trip to the store.
I am thankful that when I thawed the chicken out for dinner, I had enough to have my entire family over to eat.
I am thankful that after making the rolls, the sweet potatoes, dinner and a run to the store anyway, I was able to whip up a batch of brownies that was devoured by all who came.
I am thankful, really thankful that I made it. I'm thankful I am still able to serve. I am thankful that tomorrow will be a great day full of family and food. I am thankful that finally, it is time for bed!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Aiden's First Commercial
What follows is the result of this day. The voice over could stand to be redone but what can you do when the owner, who is paying for the commercial, insists on doing it himself? Regardless of that, I think Aiden is the cutest thing ever.
Great job buddy! We now have this on record so that when you make it big, we can remember when it all began.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The Most Horrifying Event of My Life
I'll start the vacation memories with the one that makes my heart sink and my eyes well up with tears. On Wednesday, while at the Magic Kingdom (everyone's favorite place in spite of this horrible event), we lost Dawson.
Pause for gasps and a deep breath.
Mackenzie and I were sitting on a bench waiting for the boys and Nelson to emerge from the restroom. When they did, I took Mackenzie's and Aiden's hands and headed towards the stroller. When I got there, I turned around to see a stunned look on Nelson's face. "Where's Dawson?" he asked with urgency.
"I thought you had him," was my serene and weirdly non-emotional response.
Then I realized, as Nelson urgently asked where I last saw him and then took off running towards the restroom, that he was serious. Dawson was nowhere to be seen.
I put the death grip on Aiden and Mackenzie's hands and began walking around shouting Dawson's name. It was a surreal, almost out of body experience. I really thought I'd see Nelson walking back with Dawson in hand.
What I saw instead was him running at me with a look of terror on his face. Dawson was not with him. We were all yelling for Dawson and finding every employee we could to tell them our dilemma. No they don't make announcements over loud speakers, but they would get the word out. No one seemed worried.
I went searching in a souvenir shop thinking he might have seen something that caught his eye but he was not there. A clerk must have noticed my desperation and called me over. I told her my son was missing and where we last saw him. She got on the phone immediately and called her manager. She was having trouble with the connection and told me she would be right back and to please not leave.
I stood there still grasping the other two for dear life. I said the St. Anthony prayer with the kids in a shaky voice and quickly scanned the area outside of the store. It was then that I noticed that every boy out there seemed to be wearing a light blue shirt like Dawson's.
When the clerk came back she was concerned but very calm. She asked me for a description of him, which miraculously, I was able to give down to the two stickers on his shirt and the tiny brown bear on his shirt pocket. She hung up the phone and told me, "I want you to know that this is the safest place in the world to lose a child. We've never lost one. We will find him. All you have to do is wait here."
It was at that moment, the words "lost a child", that it finally hit me and I began to cry. I don't know why I didn't before then but suddenly it seemed impossible that anyone would find him in the sea of children walking around. I felt helpless. What would my life be like without my precious baby boy? How did we let this happen? She offered me a tissue as I tried to pull it together so as not to terrify Mackenzie and Aiden.
I looked up to see Nelson running towards me. "They found him! Let's go!"
We all ran out of the store to see Dawson, as happy as a clam, holding the hands of two Disney employees . It was just like a scene from the movies. Nelson scooped him up and hugged him tight as I thanked the employees profusely through my tears. I couldn't wait to hold my baby.
When we had all had our turn hugging him and talking about not wandering off, we headed back to the stroller. I was amazed at the number of strangers who came up to us to tell us how happy they were. "Thank you," I said over and over with my face red and wet.
We finally ran into a pair of elderly ladies with walkers who explained that they had seen him wandering around and noticed he didn't seem to be with anyone. They called him over, asked his name and then took him to the nearest employee.
I am convinced that those two women were my angels that day. In fact, I'm pretty sure they appeared in the park the minute I begged St. Anthony to find my baby. Really. Two women with walkers at the Magic Kingdom with no kids or other company?
I have never been so scared, relieved and grateful in one day. The whole event transpired over maybe 5 minutes but it seemed like eternity...in slow motion. I don't ever want to experience that again. Not ever. And trust me, every time I think about it, I pray for parents who have lost their children and are still looking for them. It makes my stomach hurt just to think about it. In fact, I still cry when I tell people the story (and, come to find out, when I type it as well).
I'm not an irresponsible parent. If anything, Nelson and I tend to be a bit overprotective in situations like this. We still make Mackenzie hold our hands most of the time. I don't know how it happened. All I do know is that it did - in the blink of an eye. He literally vanished.
I'm not sure why it happened. I'm just so very, very thankful that it was so short-lived and had such a happy, harmless resolution. Since then, I have hugged them each a little longer, prayed a little harder, and held onto them a little tighter(much to their chagrin).
Thank you again St. Anthony. Thank you, thank you Jesus. Please, please, please protect my babies.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Self Censoring Ignored
This morning at church I was greeted by a friendly acquaintance. "Wow!" she said staring at my protruding belly. "You really have ballooned out!" She then proceeded to rub my belly.
Now I'm not sure what possesses people to say things to pregnant women that they would NEVER say to anyone else, but I can assure you of this - I don't know any pregnant woman who relishes the big belly comments.
Believe me, I don't need anyone to remind me how big my belly is.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
So Easy to Please
Yesterday morning was the big reveal about Magic Kingdom. We woke the kids up early and were feeding them breakfast when we decided to start giving some hints about the surprise.
"Okay," I said cheerfully in a sing-songy voice, "who's ready to guess what the BIG surprise is today?"
"I am!" squealed Dawson. His eyes lit up as he guessed, "Is it...Pizza Hut?"
I laughed but I was thinking, if ever so briefly, that we could have saved a lot of money!
Monday, November 12, 2007
Well we're here. We finally got out of town on Sunday. Since Nelson didn't get home until 6, we thought it more prudent to get a good night's sleep instead of driving through the night.
To answer the kids' questions of where are we going, we told them, "wherever the wind blows us." They were curious but accepted it.
I don't know how, but they still haven't figured out where we are exactly, so we're still playing on the surprise element. Today we went to a great petting farm where the kids got to ride ponies, milk a cow, catch a chicken and lots more. They loved it.
At the end of the day they asked if we could stay just one more night. "Well, okay," we told them, "as long as you're still good."
Tomorrow we'll hit Sea World and then the gig may be up. So far it's been so much fun. They've seen the signs but have no idea we're three miles from the Magic Kingdom. That will come on Wednesday. Nelson and I are having a ball with it. And, hopefully, we're making them memories to last a life time.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go. I'm standing right beside my door. I've been waiting for Nelson to get home since 2 p.m.
It's the same routine we always have when we leave town for the week. The only difference is that the trip is a BIG surprise for the kids. In fact, they don't know we're going anywhere. I packed up everything last night so they'd have no idea.
We're heading to sunny Florida to make some memories together while the kids are all the perfect age for Disney. I'm sure we will have the time of our lives.
Please pray for a safe journey and that I can keep up with them at the parks. For just one week, I need this pregnancy to NOT slow me down. But don't worry, we're not jam-packing the week. I know I can't handle it. But...when we are at Disney, I want to be able to keep up and have fun.
Can't wait to come back and tell you all about it!
Friday, November 09, 2007
Answers to the Question: What Was Your Favorite Part of School Today?
Mackenzie: Today was awesome. It was pet day for show and tell AND we got to sing at assembly!
Aiden: When I got a Superman marker out of the treasure box and I gave it to Dawson, my teacher was so proud of me she gave me another one!
Dawson: Making my flower picture for you!
And me, well my favorite part of the day was hearing these answers and taking note of the gifts I've been given to share with the world.
I have a daughter who loves being center stage and today used that gift to honor our veterans at the Veteran's Day Assembly. I have a son with such a generous heart that others take note of his sacrifice and reward him for it. I also have a son who delights in creating all kinds of things and then giving them away.
What more could I possibly ask for? Nothing. But in about four more months I'll have another gift to unwrap and watch blossom before my eyes.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
The Music of the Younger Generation
Tonight after dinner at my folks' house, the boys were tinkering on the piano. It didn't take long for the tinkering to turn into all out banging.
"Aiden," I yelled over the noise, "stop banging on the piano. It's not good for it."
Half of the four hands quit banging as Aiden replied, "We not banging! We just playing really loud!"
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
In Thanksgiving of Christmas Lights
Tonight I was driving home and noticed that the man known around town for the biggest Christmas display was almost ready for the big reveal on Thanksgiving. He owns four lots and fills each and every one of them with lights and all things Christmas. It is mesmerizing for the young at heart but for us older folks it's more like the Griswold’s yard in Christmas Vacation(we're talking giant birthday cake that says "Happy Birthday Jesus"). Nonetheless, it draws people from miles and miles around.
As I drove by in the darkness, the place appeared to be a cluttered mess. You can see the outlines of the decorations but the only thing with a light on it is a wooden turkey on the porch. However, right across the street is one of those giant inflatable turkeys that is really quite cute.
The kids love seeing this turkey right now and are not even noticing the other four yards across the way. However, come Thanksgiving, all eyes will be on the other side of the street. For a moment, I felt a little sorry for those other people. You see, they also put up lights at Christmas and they are nice too. However the brightness from the other four houses across the way barely even allows you to catch sight of them through the glare. It just didn't seem fair.
In that moment, God showed me something. Right now, for these two weeks before Thanksgiving, the little house across the way is having its moment to shine.
God gives all of us different gifts. Some of us are like this humble little house with one thing out in the yard. Others seem to have their talents strung out across four yards. Both yards have their time to shine. Both yards have gifts to offer. It's not necessarily about being the biggest and brightest, but about using the gifts God gives you in the best way possible. Instead of feeling sorry for the little yard or jealous of the big one, we should enjoy each for the gift they have to offer.
Today, after I picked the boys up from school, I hit them with a barrage of questions about their day. What was your favorite part of the day? What did you learn? What did you eat? Who did you play with? These are the ones that let me know about what they did while I was gone.
Aiden was talking about his day and mentioned that so and so was his best friend. He talked about how they always play together and share their things.
I moved on to Dawson and decided to ask, "Who is your best friend at school?"
"Mia," he replied with absolute certainty.
"Really?” I questioned, wondering why he didn't pick another boy. "Why do you like Mia the best?"
Without hesitation he replied, "She has really soft hands."
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
We have one rose bush in our yard and it grows up our front porch railing. Because it is so close to the street, the kids are not allowed in that part of the yard if I'm not out there.
Today the boys were playing outside while I whipped up a big pot of chili. Aiden came bursting through the door with a pink rose in his hand. "Mama," he said, almost breathless, "look what I got for you from the fron...no, I mean, the back yard!" He extended his flower as the smile spread across his face.
"Aiden," I said cautiously weighing how to unveil the lie without totally ruining his attempt to impress me, "thank you for the beautiful flower, but you know you're not supposed to be in the front yard for any reason."
He stopped and looked at me with total amazement and awe. "How did you know I went in the front yard?" The evidence was still in his hand.
Monday, November 05, 2007
About the Burn
Friday night I was in charge of a bonfire for Mackenzie's Little Sisters' Group. After praying for everyone's safety, the first order of business was to let the girls roast their own hot dogs.
The girls all lined up with the coat hangers so I could put a hot dog on it for them. One girl thought it would be a good idea to "clean it off in the fire". However, she failed to tell me that.
As you can see here, I grabbed the hanger to put on the hot dog and it took a few seconds before I realized what was going on. I had no idea that it would be hot.
I held an ice cube for the rest of the evening and then was up in pain for several hours that night. I finally fell asleep holding a Ziploc bag of ice which was the only thing that seemed to help.
Needless to say, I am not much of an expert when it comes to campfires and cooking.
Mackenzie worked a few days on this picture for Aiden. She knows he loves basketball and so that's what she did.
Aiden was thrilled when she presented it to him.
When we got home from errands this morning Aiden took to paper as well. He wanted to draw a picture for Dawson. "See Mama. This is the whistle guy and this is the basketball guy. And look I drew the sun and a thing to shade them." Then he ran out of the room saying he was going to write their names so Dawson would know which one was which.
I was amazed at his drawing (which you'll probably have to click on for a closer look to see it better). Dawson was pretty thrilled too.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Why I Can't Blog Tonight
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Happy All Saints!
Thanks to all your encouraging words and prayers yesterday, the lesson for Aiden's class went really well. We ended by putting on the Armor of God and then they did a little activity I made to go along with it. If nothing else, I hope they pray this prayer with their families.
I wish I could have gone home with each of them to see what they remembered. I was impressed that Aiden, on the way to church today, remembered most of the saints we talked about.
Last night, Aiden got to walk around with a host of saints and angels at the All Saints Party. Mackenzie went as Blessed Kateri Tekawitha.
Dawson went as St. Gabriel. He knew he was the one who told Mary about Jesus, but he wanted the armor on anyway. He is an archangel after all.
And Aiden was pleased to tell everyone that as St. Michael, he got to throw the devil into Hell.
The night before this party, I took the kids to the county fair. They adore the fair and have been asking all year when it is coming again.
We spent about 5 hours there. They loved every ride they went on but were almost as excited to watch a man wrestle with an alligator. After the show they got to hold a baby alligator. Very cool!