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Friday, September 29, 2006

The Water Cycle

I found a great experiment to do with the kids to help them understand the water cycle. We set a small container inside a bigger bowl containing water then covered the bigger bowl with plastic wrap. We put a weight in the middle of the wrap so that it would all tilt towards the middle...where the smaller container was. We put it out in the sun and went back the next day to see what happened. Just like the water cycle, the water from the big bowl (ocean) evaporated up to the plastic wrap where it formed condensation (clouds). Once the condensation got too heavy, it slid down toward the magnet where it dripped into the small container (rain). The kids were so excited to see that it had "rained" into the smaller container. It was a great visual to help them understand the cycle!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Disney Family Pics

Here are some family shots from Disney that we have just gotten in.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Back On Track

We have settled back into our schedules around here. I hated to see Jeff return to work after having him with us for 10 days. I can't believe how fast it went by. Even though I know in my heart that I work hard at home with the house and kids, it still seems so unfair sometimes that I get to be home while Jeff has to return to work. That's what I love about vacation...just being away from responsibilities that pull us apart and being in a situation where all we have to do is have fun together.
The week has gone well with schooling. The kids settled back into their routine very easily. We got a lot done and stayed on schedule. I look forward to a 5 day school week next week...no playing catchup. Hopefully nothing will distract us!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pensacola Beach

We left Disney around 10:00 this morning with plans to drive 7 hours to Pensacola. We made it to our hotel around 5:00. Once again, the kids did great riding the distance. They were very quiet and content. We settled into our hotel and surprised the kids by taking them to Pensacola beach! It was a beautiful evening and the beach was great. We stayed until the sun went down. The atmosphere was so relaxing with the music streaming from the pubs along the beach and the kids content to play in the sand and waves. Afterwards, we went out to eat and then back to the hotel. While I missed home, I was also a bit sad that it would be our last night away. I love time alone with my family…away from the everyday things that keep us busy and away from each other. Even the 20 + hours spent in the car was special time because we had only time to spend together. Even though I am with my kids every day at home, I always feel like I know them better after vacation. I especially feel closer to Jeff. I don’t realize how much we have to be apart until we have time together. I thank God for this time that He has given us to spend as a family and for bringing us all home safely. It was a magical week….everything that we hoped it would be!


Today was bittersweet for me. I was so excited to be at Epcot, while at the same time sad that it was our last park to go to…our last piece of Disney and a wonderful vacation. We had a great time!!! Three things made Epcot worth going to….Fast Track, Mission to Mars, and Soaring. The last time Jeff and I were at Epcot was 12 years ago. All of these things have been added since then, so they were new to all of us. I was most excited to see Soaring. It is a simulated flight over California, ending with a beautiful shot of Disneyland at Christmas. It was amazing!!! The rows of seats were lifted high into the air and a huge screen wrapped around so that you felt like you were flying over the different areas of California. To make it even more realistic, they even added smells for each area….orange for the orange groves, pine for the forest, etc. We rode it three different times. The ride that I was hesitant about going on was Mission to Mars. I was originally really excited, but then was told by a few people that it was VERY intense. However, when we got there I knew that I had to try it. I am SO GLAD that I did. We all went on it the first time. Everyone is divided into teams and given certain jobs to do for the mission. The teams are put into capsules…tight little spaces. As the ride begins the seats are tilted back so that the screen is over you and all you see is the launching pad straight up above you. The countdown is done and suddenly it feels like you are propelling up the launching pad and into space. It is so intense that you can feel your face being pulled back and can barely lift your hands up. IT WAS AWSOME!! We all enjoyed Test Track and did it a few times. The kids were excited to go on Spaceship Earth…inside the big round Epcot ball.

By the time we made it to the World Showcase, it was nearly dark. I mostly wanted to see “O Canada!”, a CircleVision 360 movie in the Canada pavilion. We did make it to that, but the rest of the countries we had to just walk through on our way to Mexico, where we ate outside by the water so we could watch Illuminations….a firework/laser show over the water. Of course, it was amazing. The food was good and it was nice to sit and enjoy the show. We were very tired by the time we made it back to the room that night. Once again, Marta had left us a nice surprise. She made a water slide out of pillows and clear garbage bags and sat Minnie on the top of it with Mickey at the bottom waiting to catch her. It was precious. The night before, she made an elephant out of pillows and towels and sat Stitch, Patrick’s new stuffed animal, on his back. It was always exciting to see what she had for us.
I was very sad to leave Epcot because I knew there would be no more Disney parks this visit. It was a very fun, busy day and a great ending to four days full of new things to see and old things to revisit.

Islands of Adventure

Today we went to Islands of Adventure…part of Universal. I was a little hesitant to go as it has a lot of big rides. I didn’t know if Patrick would be willing to ride them with us. I was wrong. He rode them right along with the rest of us. Even when he chose not to ride one, he would eventually get on as we did the fun ones over and over. The crowds were low again so we were able to ride the fun stuff over and over. We rode some amazing rides today….Incredible Hulk, Dr. Doom, Fire and Ice. The boys couldn’t go on Incredible Hulk or Fire and Ice because they weren’t tall enough. However, Madison was more than willing to go. There was nothing that she wasn’t willing to do. She has no fear! Carter was upset about not being able to go on those rides, but there were plenty others that he got to do. He loved Dr. Doom the most…..it accelerated into the air at an extremely high speed. It was awesome!! Patrick sat it out the first time, but jumped right on the second time around. He loved it too!! One of the funnest things that we did our entire time was the Spider Man ride. It was a 4D simulator ride. The car was taken through a building with different scenes and battles with super heroes. Spiderman was always there to save us just in time. At one point we did a 40 foot virtual drop and caught in Spiderman’s net right before hitting the ground. As much as I love Disney, I have to say that there is no ride there quite like Spiderman. It was amazing!!! We got off and right back on it 4 times….no lines whatsoever!! Once again, the characters were out. There were so many super heros, and they were so available for pictures with the kids. It was great. There was a section called Seuss Landing that was amazing. It was everything that you can imagine a Dr. Seuss play area would look like. The entire place even smelled like candy. There was so much to see that we would have had to spend hours to see it all. We saw an amazing interactive show called Poseidon's Fury. It was a show that put the audience in the middle of the action. We walked from room to room as the show played out. It was a bit scary for the kids, especially Carter, but only scary enough to make it fun! The visual effects were amazing. It was like nothing that we had ever done before!! The really fun part of the park were the rides that got us soaking wet. I was glad that I dressed the kids in their swim suits. We laughed so hard on the first one that got us wet. Jeff and I couldn’t believe that we were completely drenched by the time it was over. After that, we just didn’t care how wet we got. We all had wet shoes and socks and just didn’t care. I can’t believe how fast the day went. Before we knew it evening had come and we were rushing to redo all of the funnest things before the park closed. We ordered pizza from the resort’s restaurant when we got back to the room and then went back to the pool for a swim. It is amazing to me how fast the kids all fall asleep after a busy day like today!! They can keep going and going and then as soon as their heads hit the pillows, they are asleep! We are going to Epcot tomorrow! We didn’t go to that park last time we came to Disney because we thought the kids were to young to enjoy it. I am excited to take them this time!

The Magic Kingdom

This is the day that I have been looking forward to since the day that Jeff told me that we were going to Disney….The Magic Kingdom!! It is what Disney is all about. From the moment we walked into the front gates, we were in a magical world. The characters were all standing around, the Disney music was blaring over the loud speakers, and the Princess show was happening at the Castle. We couldn’t take it all in fast enough. The first thing we did, after Madison watched the Princess show, was head to SPACE MOUNTAIN!!! The kids were too young to ride it last time we were at Disney, but we felt sure that they would all get on with us this time. THEY DID!!! We rode it the first time then went right back on it again!! Just like at Universal, there were NO LINES. I just couldn’t believe that we were going to get to ride whatever we wanted to ride as many times as we could in that day. That’s exactly what we did. If we enjoyed it, we did it as much as we wanted. Once again, we all enjoyed the big rides like we were teenagers and the kid rides like we were preschoolers. We rode Dumbo, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, the Teacups…all of the classic Fantasyland rides.

I was SO GLAD that we decided to take the kids’ autograph books back with us this year. They had a lot of pages left, so I just labeled 2006 and started the new autographs there. We could have gotten new books, but I want all of the different years in the same book. They enjoyed having them signed so much, and I enjoyed getting pictures of them with the characters. The Captain Hook experience was really funny. True to their characters, they were so mean…haha. Really. He even threw their books into the flower bed when he was done with them. It was all in fun, though. Jeff was great with the camera this year. I was able to just enjoy myself and let him deal with the pictures a lot.

What can I say about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Slash Mountain!!! THEY LOVED IT!! We rode both of them over and over and over. We rode them a couple of times to begin with then went back in the evening to ride them more. The evening was beautiful and we had free reign on the rides…..it was a Disney happy moment!! We rode the Astro Orbiter again at night when all of the Magic Kingdom was lit up and the castle was changing colors in all of its glory. It was a beautiful sight. And of course, a trip to Disney would not be complete without Small World. I don’t know what it is about that attraction, but it puts chills on me every time. Then, as if the day weren’t already absolutely perfect, it was time for the fireworks over the castle!!Since the crowds were do low, we were able to sit RIGHT in front of the castle. We sat down on the ground among everyone else….ate our Mickey ice cream bars and enjoyed the show. It was AWSOME!!! I don’t think the kids spoke a word for the entire show…they were in awe of it all. The show was so synchronized with the music and storyline that it drew you in. At that moment, nothing else in the world existed..just us and the Magic Kingdom.
As if the day hadn't been fun enough, we got back to our room to find that our housekeeper, Marta, had made a man out of our towels, sheets, pillows, my hat, and my houseshoes. It scared us when we walked in to see "it" lying on our bed. We had a good laugh about it and then took some pictures with "it". After that, the kids were always excited to see what Marta would make the next day!

We Are Home!

Awsome....Amazing....Wonderful!!! We had a great time this week at Disney/Universal!!! It was our best trip to Disney ever and a vacation we will always remember!! There's so much to tell that there is no way that I can do it at one time. I don't want to leave anything out, so I'm not going to try to post it all at one time.

We left at 7:45 in the morning with plans to drive 9 hours to Tallahassee Florida…our first stop on the way to Disney! We had a good day. The kids were so excited to get up and get started with our vacation. They were excited about playing with all of the things that I had packed to entertain them. They all got along so well and never complained of being bored the entire way. We made it to Tallahassee around 5:00…of course, it was 6:00 after the time change. It was a real life lessons for the kids for the time zones. We’ve studied about them, but it was neat for them to actually see it in real life.We let the kids swim for a while at the hotel while Jeff went to get something for us all to eat. We ate out by the pool then went in to turn in early so we could get up at 4:00 the next morning. We wanted to get to Orlando as early as possible so we could check our bags in at our Disney hotel and head to Universal Studios.

We got up this morning at 4:00 as planned. The kids thought it was neat to get up and leave while it was still dark. We made it to our hotel around 11:00. It was so exciting to check in. It’s so great to stay on the Disney property because it makes the entire trip so magical. The kids loved the Mickey soap and shampoo….okay, I did too. We settled into our room then headed for Universal. I know…how strange to settle into Disney then go to Universal, but we really wanted to try it out this time. We are so glad that we did!! It was awesome. There were so many characters walking around. They were so easy to approach. It was so cool to see some of the characters that they love and wouldn’t have had the chance to see at Disney. The rides and attractions were awesome. We rode the ET ride, which was a very cool experience for them because they really like the ET movie. The Terminator was a 4D experience combined with an onstage performance. We loved the Jimmy Neutron ride. It was a 4D simulation ride….we felt like we were right there in the cartoon. The boys seemed a little hesitant to go into Twister and Earthquake, however, we decided to go. They were both amazing. They put us right in the middle of the storm. Even though we knew that it wasn’t real, we couldn’t help but to be drawn in. It was so cool. Those were the kind of things that were there….it reminded me a lot of MGM Studios. There was a kid section with a small roller coaster and play areas. I didn’t know if the kids would be interested in it, but they were. That’s what is so good about their ages right now. They are old enough for the bigger rides, yet still young enough to enjoy the kid stuff. Because of that, we covered every area of the park! The greatest thing was that there were NO CROWDS. We couldn’t believe our luck. We never waited in lines. The wait time on the rides were always 5 or 10 minutes. It usually turned out to be no wait at all. If we enjoyed a ride, we went right back on it as many times as we wanted to. The weather was beautiful and the crowds were low. It couldn’t have been more perfect. We were all really tired by the end of today, but it was great…a wonderful start to our vacation!!! The kids enjoyed a nice swim in the pool when we got back to the hotel while Jeff and I relaxed. I was so excited about going to The Magic Kingdom the next day!!!!!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Hate Packing!!!!

Every time we go on vacation, I feel like we are packing to move! I know that, being the obsessive person that I am, I probably make it harder than it is. I probably have no less than 10 lists going at the time. I just couldn't do it without them. I think I have most every thing packed, except for the things that I can't put in until the last minute. I LOVE the moment when we put the last thing into the car and drive off. I always breathe a sigh of relief.
I've spent most of today cleaning the car out. "sigh" It is unreal how three kids can trash a car. I consider myself a neat, clean person...you couldn't tell it by the condition of the car most of the time. Oh, the front of the car is great. It's the back where the kids are that gets so bad!! Anyway, it's clean now. We'll see how long it stays that way.
Two more days!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Seven More Days!

We have one more week until we leave for our vacation...Disney and Universal Studios. We are counting down. I can't believe that it has been 4 years since we last went to Disney. Jeff and I were looking at our album from that vacation and it occurred to us that the kids were just babies when we took them last. Madison was 6, Patrick 4, and
Carter 3! It will be an entirely different experience this time. I'm glad that we took them when they were really little because of the magical aspect of it. While they will be somewhat interested in the characters, they will be as interested in the different rides and all. We spent a lot of our time before chasing the characters down...yep, you have to chase them down...and getting signatures from them for the kids' little books. I don't think that will be a focus for them this time. Last time, Jeff and I took turns riding some of the big rides...or just didn't bother with them at all. I am hoping that we will all be able to ride them together now. The only one that I am worried about possibly not wanting to ride them is Patrick. However, if we can ever get him to ride one, I think he will be ready for more. If not, we can use the new feature called kid swap. With this, parent no. 1 can ride with the kids who want to ride while parent no. 2 stays with the scared one. When they are done, parent no. 2 can get on the same ride with them without waiting while parent no. 1 stays with the one who doesn't want to ride. What a great thing!! Not only do both parents get to ride, but the kids who want to ride get to go twice in a row :)!!
Jeff made our hotel reservations last night. I am so happy that we are staying on the Disney grounds in a Disney hotel. Staying at Disney makes the experience so much funner. It's so fun to be surrounded with the Disney experience even after leaving the parks for the day.
And of course, I have spent hours making my "vacation notebook" like I do every year for vacation. I have researched Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure and wrote down all of the information about each of the rides and attractions...which ones are best suited for the kids' ages, height requirement, interesting behind the scene facts, best days to go, etc. I know that we could go and have fun without my notebook, but it makes things go so much smoother to have all of those little questions already answered before we get there. Besides, making it is part of the fun for me!
Now, for the worst part of it...Packing!!!!!!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Just Because

Jeff came home one day last week with a wonderful little "just because" gift for me...a Hummingbird feeder. He hung it right outside the kitchen window so that I can watch it everytime I wash dishes or cook. I LOVE IT!! The little birds are so cute! I can't believe such tiny birds can drink so much! We've had the feeder for a week and still get so excited everytime we see a bird at it. Now, if only I could make them be still long enough to get some good pictures!