"When you called me to be a Mama, You didn't ask for perfection. But that with every breath, I'd point them to You."

Thursday, September 29, 2016

39/52

"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2016"
 

Jaden: We have a big final decision to make by the end of this weekend, but this kiddo had a pretty neat opportunity open up for him this week. One that will allow him to pursue something he loves in an even bigger way, but will also stretch our family in more ways than one. I admittedly lost some sleep last night thinking about how we will make it all work but also about what this could mean for him now - and potentially down the road. I'm proud of him and excited for him and trusting that when God opens a door like this, we need to take the steps to walk through it. Right before this picture was taken, I was helping my boy warm up for another football game. Being the wife of the coach and the keeper of the equipment, we always have to get to the fields before everyone else. He needed to warm up his passing and receiving and Mommy was the only one around to help at the time. And during those 15 minutes or so, I thought about all the cool things I get to take part in when raising these boys of mine. I love watching him do what he loves, and I love having a small part in it all. How I wish these years would go slow.


Brandon: This is the normal state of his room these days, and this picture doesn't even show it all. His door is always shut to keep the cat out, and I have stepped on more Lego's this week than I have in the previous eight years of parenting. And lately he's been getting really good at being able to follow the building instruction books all on his own without our help, which is good, because some of that stuff can take hours to put together! Lucy does not like being forcefully kept out of his room and can often be heard pawing at the door and crying for her little buddy. The next house might need one big designated Lego table because that dresser by his bed is quickly running out of space!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Our Disney Vacation // Port Orleans French Quarter

One of the first decisions to make when planning any Disney World vacation is where to stay. Having been to Disney several times myself, we have done it both ways. Some years we've stayed on Disney property in a Disney resort, and some years we've stayed at a generic hotel off of Disney property. It really comes down to budget, what type of experience you're looking for, and what your desires and needs are for that particular trip. Staying on Disney property provides you with the full Disney experience. The resorts are themed with great detail and décor, you receive the Disney "magical touch" with customer service and hotel staff, you have complimentary and frequent transportation to any other location on Disney property, and each hotel is equipped with a pool, places to eat and is close to all the Disney parks and shopping areas. Staying off property probably gives you a little more freedom of movement, since you will most likely be renting a car or driving your own vehicle for your transportation needs, and this provides you with the ability to visit other places near Orlando besides Disney World - if your trip and time allows.

When it comes to budget, Disney does offer resorts in a few different price tiers. The lowest tier is no more expensive than what you would find in any normal hotel, and in some cases, probably cheaper. You still get the full benefits you would have when staying at any Disney property, but with a few less amenities - and probably a pool with fewer water slides. ;) There are also moderately priced resorts and the more luxury-style properties, as well. The options for pricing and resort type and style are almost endless if you choose to stay on Disney property. They have so many resorts, and they're all worth the cost, from our experiences.

For this trip it was not a hard decision to stay on Disney property. We knew we were going to Florida only for Disney World; we weren't going to be trying to see the beach or visit Sea World or any other local attractions, which meant being able to utilize the complimentary Disney transportation was almost a must - and part of the fun of the experience. Also, since it was Cody and our boys' very first Disney experience, we wanted them to get the full feel of it all. I would choose staying on Disney property nine times out of 10, and I'm glad we did for this trip.

So without further adieu, a look at our resort of choice for this vacation. This resort came highly recommended by our travel agent and friend, Brady, and it did not disappoint.


Modeled after the historic French Quarter of New Orleans, Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter resort features cobblestone streets, gas lamps, wrought-iron balconies and magnolia blossoms throughout the property. Mardi Gras characters greet you as you enter the main building and the pool facilities, and the Sassagoula River, which runs right alongside the resort, provides the perfect backdrop and gateway to other Disney properties, as well.





Though some Disney properties can be massive in size, this one was just right. A lot smaller than many, it was just a two minutes walk from our room to the main building, food and gift shop areas and heavily-used Disney bus stop. Our rooms, thanks to Brady, were located in the perfect spot - in the corner of Building 2 - level 2 - right alongside the pool and with a view of the river.




The loading dock for the ferry boat ride to Disney Springs was right outside our door, and my parent's room was conjoined with ours, which was a lot of fun for the boys. We had our separate spaces for sleeping and showering, but we all got to be together every morning and night, just by opening up the door in between our rooms.






The rooms themselves were spacious enough but cozy, with double sinks, two beds, a television that played all the best Disney cartoons and shows, as well as videos and shows from right inside the Disney parks, as well as a refrigerator for stocking our morning juices and applesauces and a table and chairs perfect for Brandon to build his new Lego sets on before bed. (There are no early bed times at Disney World!)





Each night we would return to our rooms to find some little surprise waiting for us with towels and our stuffed animals. The boys loved to see what Mickey and Donald were up to when we returned! And I loved that in the short time we were there, this place did feel like a home away from home. The rooms greeted us at the end of each long day with cool, air conditioned hugs and comfortable beds that we all loved piling into together.



In keeping with the theme of the rest of the resort, the pool is all Mardi Gras-themed, complete with King Neptune sitting atop his throne, which just happens to be a giant sea serpent water slide. Gators playing jazz instruments and clamshell water features add to the décor and help you to feel like you're in the bayou itself - except for those towering palm trees overhead!












The kids were greeted each morning in the main building on the way to the bus stop by a wonderful old and jolly jester who would give each of them a gold coin that they would keep in their pockets all day until returning late in the evening when they would then toss the coins in the wishing fountain in the main lobby. I would love to know what they wished for each night - they sure put lots of thought into their wishes before tossing those coins in!

We loved Disney's take on the French Quarter and this place will be a strong contender again for our next visit.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Our Disney Vacation

"There is a place where castle spires gleam in the night sky, where fantasy is real and wishes come true, where happily ever after happens every day. There is a place where magic lives."
 
 
Life is returning to normal around here - or as normal as it ever is - and re-entry is good but somewhat hard, too. For exactly seven months out of this year we talked about, dreamed about, planned for and eagerly anticipated our magical Disney World family vacation. And just like that, it's come and gone. If only Pixie Dust was real, I would have bottled it up and brought it home with us.

On Valentine's Day night several months ago, my mom and dad walked into our house with four little gift bags, one for each of us, and we took turns one by one pulling out a stuffed Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy. I knew what it meant but couldn't believe it. I think my dad was expecting more of a reaction from me but I had trouble forming words, and my hands were shaking as I tried to fathom the enormity of such a surprise - such a gift. We were going to Disney World. Together. All of us. And I had months to plan and anticipate and dream about it. Isn't that half the fun of such a big vacation? The excitement and anticipation?

This would be my eighth trip to Disney. I know that many are blessed to go once, and I was extremely lucky to grow up in a home with a Mom and Dad who valued these trips and saw the magic in them just as much as any kid does - maybe even more so. It's funny that a place so far from home - one I hadn't been to in a little over 10 years - still feels so much like a home to me now. And I also know it's probably not a place for everyone. There are crowds. And lines. And it can be hot. And you have to like rides. But to me, it's always been about so much more than the rides and the characters and the $8.00 hot dogs.

It's about the people of Disney - the cast members as they call themselves - and how each and every one of the thousands of people that work in this place go out of their way - above and beyond - to make each visitor feel special. From the maids that make your beds and leave little surprises for you to return to after a long day, to the resort maintenance guys that stop in the middle of the sidewalk just to say, "Good morning, Princess," to a little girl in a yellow Beauty and the Beast dress. To the Safari drivers at Animal Kingdom that know all about the animals and want to make sure you leave with some knowledge of your own as they drive you through the attraction and ensure that you're able to get that perfect picture during your journey. To the girl holding the 'Park Exit' sign during the Star Wars fireworks show that can't help but tell you how much she loves her job every single day she comes to work in this park. It's about being with your family and feeling like you're in your own little bubble during these days - oblivious to the things going on in the outside world, and feeling like it can't really touch you in this place. It's about "When You Wish Upon a Star" seen through the eyes of your children and leaving on the very last night of vacation, refusing to say goodbye for good, knowing that you will find a way to make it back there again some day.

My dad and I share this in common. We can never leave on the final day without envisioning our next time there. We do not say goodbye. And as soon as we get home, we already miss it.

This trip was everything I hoped it would be. Spending our final night around that castle underneath those fireworks with a little family of my own now, I couldn't help but get teary-eyed. And as we waited in line for the bus to take us back to our resort for one more night's sleep by the Sassagoula River, my dad and I both said, "2018?"

In the mean time, I'll be sharing all about our trip over the next week or two. Because this magical place is a place for memories and this blog is a place for memories, too. So be prepared for a whole lot of Mickey.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

38/52

"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2016"


Jaden: Our first night home from our magical vacation, this one went to bed with heavy tears in his eyes. He was so used to our family all being together in one room as we fell asleep at night, that re-entry back into a normal routine was a little bit of a shock to him. What a week.


Brandon: He never missed a single day of his 145-day vacation countdown, and it's hard to believe it's now come and gone. He was such a trooper through it all, and it was every bit as magical as we all hoped it would be. He braved some fierce roller coasters, walked around for three days with a Goofy hat on and earned his first pair of flight wings. The memories are special, and we already can't wait to go back.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wordless Wednesday // A Sunset Dinner By the River

"If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then Autumn would be the magic hour." -Victoria Erickson
 

If you've been following this blog for a while now, you've probably noticed that one of my favorite things to take pictures of - is water. There's just something about it - the calm, soothing rhythm. It's where I most feel God's love for us. Especially underneath a setting sun.

We couldn't make up our minds for dinner one Friday night so we got in the car and ended up here. With sandwiches and chocolate milks. And we had races on the beach and we waded in the river's edge and we watched that lone pontoon boat motor back and forth alongside the one duck that was enjoying having the whole place to himself. And we stayed until dark when it got just a little chilly and we drove home with the window's down - taking the scenic route through the trees and the gravel roads and past the airport with its grounded planes so that the boys could take a close-up look at what a real one looks like before they board their first one very soon.

And it was a good night.