The Disney Wonder

Just before the weather got cold in Ohio in early November, I had the opportunity to board the Disney Wonder on a two night test cruise! Uncle Tyler scored us this awesome opportunity. However, Brian wasn’t really up for going, and I didn’t want to take Coraline myself. I thought two young kiddos myself might be a little much. It really worked out perfect though because Aunt Holly wanted to go, and we had a limited number of tickets anyway.

So Jameson and I boarded a plane (or three) for a three nights away from home. I tried to get us cheap flights since this was such a short stay, so the travel day was pretty grueling. Jameson was a trooper, and I hadn’t flown Delta before, but they treated Jameson like royalty. I really enjoyed our flights, aside from layovers (which was my own fault, trying to be cheap). That’s probably the last time I will do two stops for a trip unless there is literally no other choice.

Our first night, we stayed with Uncle Tyler in his apartment, and ate out for breakfast the next morning. Then we had a drive and wait time to board the ship. Our two night vacation was really spent with a lot of waiting. An exhausted Jameson was a little slow picking up on the surprise- we hadn’t told him anything. Though he was pumped about using a booster seat in the car! The ships were easy to see in the distance about 10 minutes before we pulled up, and it took Jameson until we were right upon them to notice!

We did have a cranky first evening after a couple long a days of flying, driving, waiting and standing. Jameson is therefore not in this photo.

We enjoyed the launch party complete with singing and dancing, but were disappointed that the kids pool area wasn’t open. The center pool was, so Jameson swam around in that instead and loved it, but we were all a little bummed because the kids splash area looked really fun! After all that standing, flying, driving and waiting though, we did have a cranky first evening, so, Jameson wasn’t in this photo, ha!

We sent Jameson away to the kids area that night while us adults watched the “Golden Mickeys” show the first night because of that, but Jameson enjoyed himself there despite that (I was truly surprised he let me leave him there, but it helped we had walked around to introduce him to the kids stuff earlier during the parent visit period Open House). It was pretty awesome, particularly the Toy Story themed area.

On board, he enjoyed more ice cream, the hot tub and pool, and awesome new kids play spaces. Stayed up late, met Louis the alligator, watched Frozen the musical, went shopping.

I got up early to get some shots with the good camera for the sunrise. We were graced with the presence of a helicopter, shooting footage for future marketing, which was pretty cool.


Overnight, we had been traveling to the Disney private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay (pronounced Key). This was such a blast!

The whole crew

Swimming in the Bahamas at Castaway Cay

Enjoyed his very first (ocean) beach day yesterday. Bar was set pretty high.

We buried Jameson in the sand twice, used snorkel fins and swam to the first buoy, had ice cream 3 times, drank “fuzzy” lemonade, biked the island, loved the beach.

When you bike around the island, you get to bike down a huge landing strip. The expanse of that huge road narrows to proper biking paths. We made sure to explore all the roads before we returned our rentals.

Jameson didn’t really get a feel for the snorkel very well, but wore the goggles and fins pretty far out. It was hard work! I couldn’t get him to look in the water much once we were further out though, because he was convinced there were things at the bottom which were cause to fear. He was so brave despite and was pumped to reach that first buoy! If you go further, there is more stuff to see, almost like a scavenger hunt in the ocean.

Buried in the sand twice, used snorkel fins and swam to the first buoy, had ice cream 3 times, drank fuzzy lemonade, biked the island, loved the beach.

That evening was much more pleasant for him than the first. On board, Jameson enjoyed more ice cream, the hot tub and pool. He stayed up late, met Louis the alligator at Princess Tiana’s restaurant (a truly stunning venue), watched a spectacular performance of Frozen the musical with us, and went shopping. He was introduced to Sprite, which is now his drink of choice when going out to restaurants. He loves the fizzy pop now.

We made sure to visit with another character, since Jameson missed out on the first one. We had to dance a little for our photo, haha.

Also saw Chip and Dale! Always a favorite. We danced for our photo.

The most hilarious moment of our short vacation was the family photo. The photographer assumed Uncle Tyler and I were parents to both Aunt Holly and Jameson. She made sure to snap some shots of just “the kids” together, and got some awkward and hilarious photos of Tyler and I posing together. We really weren’t containing our giggles, but played along.

Overnight, we sped back to port, and I made sure to capture some photos of the gorgeous sunset before our trip was officially over.





I can’t thank Tyler enough for letting us join him and see all his hard work aboard the Disney Wonder!

Continue Reading

Thanksgiving 2016

For Thanksgiving, Brian and I had to separate because we didn’t have a kennel spot for Luna. So I took the kiddos to my parents house, while Brian stayed home.

Brian was going to spend Thanksgiving with his parents but that ended up being pretty spotty because Luna got sick from eating a plant! He spent most of Thanksgiving Day driving back and forth trying to eat dinner at their house and check on Luna, which was unfortunate. Luckily she ended up being fine, but we have really had to watch this eater!


Instead of doing the rec center’s Christmas lights at Christmas this year, they started them early, so we went during our Thanksgiving visit and really got in the holiday spirit!







Yes, that is Coraline being read to by Grandpa from a Reader’s Digest magazine. She even requested the story again! Grandpa did a good job making up a story for her. She and Jameson adored Grandpa this visit. Jameson really started to get good at Wii Bowling, so much so that we set up our Wii at home later this winter.



Aunt Holly got a new dog named Artemis! So we got to meet her and experience her craziness. She’s not barking as much these days, but even then she was super well behaved with the children! Better even than miss Luna, who is always trying to get them to play with her.


We tried to get Coraline in a few outfits from my childhood. One birthday cape I’m hoping to get her in for her birthday! Coraline was less than thrilled with our fashion show, ha!



The kids and I had a good time, even though we had to be separated from daddy during this visit!


Continue Reading

59 and a Half

I started thinking about this event right after my parents turned 59 last year. I debated what would be the best celebration for their 60th. With their two birthdays bracketing Christmas and New Years, I knew I would have to rent some place due to weather, and how would I get people to attend during the holidays?

Brian’s dad had a winning suggestion: Just don’t do it around the 60th birthday. The 59-1/2 dual surprise birthday party was born. Or rather, planned and fretted over, with labor and love.


We really struggled with how to get them out of their house. Holly and I ended up doing all the decorating labor, table and tent set up and shopping. Brian and Tyler (who was also sick) had to visit the Air Force museum with them and the kids to keep them away until the scheduled time.



Mom was super surprised and jumped right in. She told us that she didn’t think she had really had more than one other dedicated birthday party before. Both of them seemed to have a great time with as many friends and family as we could gather from their combined contact lists.



We had catering from City Barbecue, iced tea and lots of drinks. It was a sweltering day, but we enjoyed the shade from the tents we rented and the deck awning.




It was pretty windy. Mom’s candles went out before the song was over!




Some good friends and family lingered for birthday present opening.





All the invitees were provided with notecards to write good wishes and memories to our parents, and we included those with photos into a little book (mini project life style).

Since Mom’s siblings were all able to make the trek to their house, we couldn’t go without some reunion style photos.






As for the kids: my cousin’s girls came to the party and they all got along famously. They had a great time.



I don’t recall the kids asking why Meemaw and Grandpa were having a birthday party when it wasn’t their birthday but we’ll see what happens this winter when the big 6-0 actually approaches.

Continue Reading

Disney Vacation Arrival

In April, we went to Disney for the second time as a family. I’ve been a few times to do some races with my parents and siblings, but we haven’t taken the kids since Coraline was a baby.

This time, in comparison, was a piece of cake to pack! No bottles or baby toys, teething rings or double strollers! We took one stroller and the kids took turns (with lots of whining, don’t get me wrong). But the maneuverability of the regular stroller was very nice. However, Coraline is quite a bit heavier, so carrying her around on occasion was less fun. Her delighted faces made up for it!


Jameson was actually a wonderful helper at the airports and was happy to help pull luggage!


Ipads and snacks are made for airplanes! Jameson declared “Can I have the iPad when we blast off?!”

The early flight, while a little hectic, wasn’t as bad as Brian remembers from our last family trip (I’ve blocked all bad memories from our previous trip. In my mind, the last Disney trip was magical from the moment we woke up to leave, ha!).


We took the Magical Express bus to our resort hotel at Disney. This time, we stayed at Art of Animation, a much more budget friendly option than our last choice of Grand Floridian which was on the monorail and more convenient for baby transport. Brian and I both enjoyed the extra space we had with this family suite. While we didn’t have adjoining rooms with my parents for babysitting purposes, we did have a separate room for us while the kids slept on the pull out couch. Amazing!

Plus, Disney has great theme style.

After my parents and sister arrived, Tyler drove us to get our race packets picked up before we hit up Magic Kingdom for the afternoon and evening! That’s right, the Disney vacation was an excuse for me to be able to run my 3rd Disney race, the inaugural Dark Side Star Wars Half Marathon.


Another thing we did differently this time was that we bought the Photo Pass. I was convinced after I found out for the first time that Disney would have their own photographers capture the race rather than an outside party. Between the race photos and the 100 or so times I dragged all of us in front of the official Disney photographers, I definitely made it worth our money. Starting with our arrival, of course:


I brought my new wide angle lens, which I really only used the first day, but I had fun getting dramatic shots with it. We walked straight through Cinderella’s castle, which was surprisingly open in the afternoon, and I was happy to see that it finally wasn’t under construction any more!


We had to ride the carousel, of course.



We also did It’s a Small World, and Coraline, on observing all the coins, said excitedly that there was “treasure down there!”


While I debated about booking us too many character meals this time, I pretty much scheduled us one a day again on this trip. It’s just so convenient to not have to stand in line while still getting to experience all the characters! So, we did Crystal Palace for dinner to see Winnie the Pooh and friends. While we were waiting, we observed the most beautiful skyline.







Who knew waiting could be so much fun? Only at Disney.


First to visit was Piglet, which was a great character to start with.





My favorite, as always, was Eeyore. This particular Eeyore was very strong and gave me a tight almost strangling hug which was pretty funny.


When we left, the sun had started setting. Kids were pretty well behaved, so we decided to try to stay until the fireworks! We actually had a few more things scheduled before then though. And I squeezed in another family photo.




We booked fast passes for Enchanted Tales with Belle. We didn’t need the fast passes, but totally worth doing! The kids got to play a part. Jameson was Chip the teacup, and Coraline was a salt shaker. And Brian and Tyler got drafted as knights!!

The kids stand with their parts and then put on a play for Belle, who then leads them around a little parade, and then meets and greets with each of the kids individually. And even the knights!






We also had time to do a quick visit with Ariel, who seems to be one of Coraline’s new favorite princesses! Jameson meanwhile was very shy with miss Ariel.



We also had booked the new Mine Train ride, and I’m glad for Jameson’s sake that it was dark or he might have backed out! As it was, he walked off saying that it was too fast and he didn’t really like it, but within minutes had declared that Brian needed to build one in our backyard.


Jameson had been insisting that he wanted to ride the car rides, so we squeezed that in right before the fireworks! Coraline didn’t ride the mine ride, but she did enjoy the cars. Uncle Tyler was again very popular with the kids and they wanted to sit next to him on most rides, particularly Jameson, who, before the Peter Pan ride said that Uncle Tyler was the better driver so he wanted to ride with him!


And then, we finally got to see the fireworks! It was the one activity I wanted to make sure I got to do with or without kids on this trip, since I hadn’t seen them in all my visits the past couple years. The kids have both said since they they were too loud and didn’t really like them, but Coraline was thrilled to see Tinker Bell flying away from the castle!



We made it! Stayed awake for fireworks!




And so ended our first, long, magical day at Disney!

Continue Reading

Easter Hunts

Easter this year was another gorgeous sunny day, despite being in late March. We managed to get dressed in time for church before the kids were able to find their eggs (though plenty were pointed out before we left).

When we got home, it was egg-seeking time!




This year, the Easter Bunny hid some eggs in the basement, too (but not outside like last year).




In their baskets this year were underwear, pez and gummy bears and a book as well as squishy caterpillars. Jameson had some little marble puzzles while Coraline got some socks, a shirt and stamps and stickers. They each got a craft as well: Jameson got some foldable little robots, since he loves making paper airplanes, and this was a hit. Coraline got a make your own bouncy ball kit which definitely required supervision for them both (Aunt Melissa got to do that), and pretend snow.



At Grandma and Poppa’s house later that day, we always enjoy an outdoor egg hunt. The kids had to wait for Aunt Melissa to come over before seeking, though!

Tackling grandpa








Coraline kept opening her eggs and eating her candy rather than searching for more eggs. Meanwhile, Jameson, who is kind enough to share with his sister, was very seriously looking for as many eggs as he could.




After egg hunts and lunch, we played by the creek and daddy let Jameson into the creek for the first time with his new water shoes that he got in his Easter basket at Grandma and Poppa’s house. Jameson was concerned about getting his shorts wet, but thrilled to be walking around in the creek.

It was a great Easter, and warmer than last year. I was excited about Coraline’s last minute dress find. It was such a lovely spring color and she loved wearing it (always a plus).

Continue Reading

Brawny Box Troll

Jameson insisted that we cannot get rid of this box. We let him nap in it on Sunday, and he actually fell asleep, so it’s a permanent fixture (at least for the foreseeable future). He was afraid we were going to get rid of it on trash day, so he told his grandma who was babysitting that she should take it to her house so it didn’t get thrown out.

Continue Reading

Snow Play

The winter has been relatively mild, so much so that I’ve been able to continue training for a half marathon with long runs outside at least once a week. I wasn’t sure if we’d get the snow the kids have been asking for, but we finally did have a couple weeks with some snow on the ground!

Most of their playtime was in the evenings. I think we played outside every evening for 3 or 4 days in a row. The kids loved it! It’s too bad it gets dark quickly. Jameson would stay out all evening. Contrary to last year, Coraline actually really enjoyed it too! She loves the shovel most of all, while Jameson prefers to go all in with his hands.



Brian got a “fat bike” so he could continue to bike ride over the winter. He has also been disappointed at the light winter snow.



We managed to get in regular snow play, sledding, and snow angles. The one things we haven’t been able to do this winter is make a snowman! The snow melted too quickly on the warmer days for us. I feel bad sometimes that they miss out on some things like this when we are working, but I don’t think they feel the lack since they know no different. The best we did was this fairly loose snowball, which I laboriously made and Jameson jumped on.



On one evening we were throwing snowballs at each other, and Brian brought me down into the snow! Coraline declared when I finally got back up clumsily that I had made a “beautiful snow angel” and wanted to lay in my impression. It was adorable, but I definitely know I was not waving my arms around in a snow angel manner.


I got a new wide angle lens which I have really been enjoying testing out on my favorite subjects, the kids. The trick with the lens to get them in the middle so their faces aren’t warped. The edges and background of photos are beautiful in their extremes. It was my first time making a big purchase on ebay, but it was definitely worth it.


One weekend day, we did get out to Grandma and Poppa’s house for some proper sled riding! Last year, Coraline was not a fan. This year, she loved it! Jameson went by himself and raced everyone. Coraline rode with each of us. Eventually she started covering her face with her hands to avoid snow blowing back into her face! But still she requested to go again and again.





I am not great at stopping, but I did keep the snow out of her face!



Brian let her go herself at the very bottom of the hill, and she was so excited!


We hit most of the snow playtime highlights for the kids, and now they are asking when it gets warmer. Soon!

Continue Reading

December Birthdays and Christmas Celebrations

Every year, we try to visit my side of the family before Christmas so we can celebrate both Christmas and December birthdays! Jameson, Aunt Holly, and Meemaw all have birthdays during December. Jameson had some gifts to open from his birthday when we arrived!



This giant box is a giant frisbee, he was very excited! It will be a fun spring.


One very cool gift we got from Aunt Holly and Uncle Tyler was the Disney Playmation. The Playmation game bridges the gap between super hero and real world experiences. You can put on Iron Man’s arm, and fight a host of good and bad guys through various missions. Jameson played it a lot while we visited, but hasn’t pulled it out much since: we have a lot of new toys to play with! But one thing great about this toy is that I think it will grow with him!


Another tradition is doing puzzles with Meemaw! Jameson loves to work on puzzles. We had a really challenging puzzle this year because I bought a custom one for Meemaw from a photo I took during our visit to Venice. The 1000 piece puzzle took us several days to complete. Meanwhile, the kids worked on bear and dog puzzles. Coraline was only so-so at “helping”, haha.


Uncle Tyler also visited this year, driving up with his pup Athena. We were able to all watch Holly graduate from college! Brian dropped me off at OSU on his way with the kids, and Meemaw, Uncle Tyler and I watched her get her diploma.


One warmer day that wasn’t rainy we were able to go to the playground. Jameson, Meemaw and Grampa played fetch with the dogs (and got super muddy), while Coraline and I played on the playground. She found a new little boy friend that made her laugh while we were there, and was a real trooper walking almost the entire way there and home. No strollers for us!



Then we celebrated Meemaw’s birthday (she opened her puzzle from us early so we could get started on it), and that evening, we also went to our local lights show, another annual tradition.





We celebrated Christmas officially the next day after all the birthday celebrations were complete! Kids opened gifts, and were delighted at all things. Ralphie the Elf even came down to join us at Meemaw and Grampa’s house before he had to fly home to the North Pole. Coraline got a huge set of Frozen figurines, and Jameson got a set of Star Wars ships. I love the photo of his lips making the “vroom” noises a starship makes.




We did go see the Star Wars movie with Jameson while we visited! Brian stayed home with Coraline while the rest of us went to see the movie. We had to encourage everyone to come, because we had a gift for dad that that would only make sense after seeing it. We got him the BB8 robot!

The remainder of the day, Jameson was excited to spend with Grampa playing with airplanes! Grampa made him one of light wood that they shot into the air with a rubber band. Airplanes with Grampa is one of the things Jameson really looks forward to!




Christmas Eve morning, I took the kids to a breakfast potluck at my old friend Tracy’s house. A group of friends and her family were all gathered there, and it was fun seeing everyone and their kiddos and dogs.

Brunch with old friends and new friends

We left for home and arrived home with the light of the full moon.


Continue Reading

Annual North Pole Visit


For the third year, we visited the North Pole on the Polar Express train. This year, grandma joined us for the journey.


Our kids are getting bigger, and the seats seem to be getting smaller, but everyone had a wonderful time. We bought 5 seats but fit ourselves into the 4 seats together. We’re not certain we’ll do this again next year, but it’s been worth the time each year. Jameson asked when we were going to the North Pole again well in advance of our ride, since he had memories of our ride last year.




On the way to the North Pole, they read the story and give out cookies and hot chocolate. This year, they also got glow bracelets.


The “conductor” asked Coraline how old she was to see how many holes to punch in her ticket this year. She has been regularly declaring herself three years old even though she’s only two. Sometimes I forget that she’s two, too.




When we approach the North Pole, the lights go out and the adults move out of the way for the kids to peer out the windows. They see Santa go by, and Frosty, Olaf and Rudolf plus some elves.



Then, Santa boarded the train! Santa was wonderful this year. Santa told Jameson he needed to be a good big brother. The kids got a bell, which is their favorite part, and on the way back, we had the pajama parade and songs.






Jameson was really in his element singing. He is much less shy this year, and didn’t hesitate to belt out the songs he knew, so he got to help one of the elf ladies sing on the way back. Coraline, following his lead, was more than happy to meander around the train with him (and then without him if I hadn’t grabbed her).


Continue Reading

Thanksgiving and Pie

This year we celebrated Thanksgiving with Brian’s family, and got to see his cousin Gabrielle and her son Griffin again, which thrilled Jameson. Despite the age difference, Griffin is wonderful playing with Jameson and they had a great time!


Coraline was a little shy with them but warmed up pretty quick after some time with grandma and Aunt Melissa.



It’s been unseasonably warm so far this time of year, so the kids even got to play outside (sans coats!). Coraline cleaned up pine cones and Jameson played ball with Griffin before Thanksgiving dinner which consisted of turkey, grandma’s homemade cranberry relish, sweet potatoes with pecans this year, and fried cauliflower, among other wonderful tasty dishes.


Yes, this is Brian with a stick poking at Jameson with a sneaky smile on his face.



After dinner, we whipped out the pie we made for the occasion. We’ve really gotten into making our pumpkin pie from scratch, and this year we had a special pumpkin from the farmers market, which is supposed to be like a sugar pumpkin but lighter and fluffier. It did make an exceptional pie! The kids of course just wanted to eat the whipped cream!



For the rest of Thanksgiving weekend, we drove to visit Meemaw and Grandpa.


We had another pumpkin pie for this visit too, plus two more that Holly and my mom made, so we had three different ones to try. The verdict is that homemade pumpkin is better than canned. And the pecan topping we both made for our versions was amazing.

3 Pumpkin Pies

A quick trip, but one filled with shopping for Meemaw and I. It was fun, but short. But don’t worry Meemaw and Grandpa, we’re seeing you again soon!

Bye bye Meemaw and Grampa!

Continue Reading
1 2 3 12