Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Universal Studios: Day Two

On our second day at Universal, we ventured outside of Harry Potter World. Ruth and Weston rode their favorite ride, The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, over and over, while the younger guys split their time between the Woody Woodpecker roller coaster and the Curious George splash park and ball room. Later, we all met up again to explore some other parts of the park. Somewhere between Woody Woodpecker Kidzone and Springfield U.S.A. we lost a child for a heart-stopping 10 minutes. When he was found, it was definitely time for a drink at Moe's (from the Simpsons). Then it was on to Seuss Landing for some very silly fun. The day ended with several water rides and dinner at a wonderful Italian place at Universal CityWalk.

Max and Clay were thrilled to see a real live transformer

Clay and Sponge Bob shared a moment

Clay and Max's favorite ride was the Woody Woodpecker ride,
and they rode it over and over and over. 

Curious George's splash town was a big hit with the younger guys

Max and Clay wanted to spend most of their time in the enormous ball room

About the time we stopped to look at these Back to the Future relics
was when we discovered Clay was no longer with us.
I was definitely wishing I could go back in time by about 10 minutes!

Duff's Brewery and drinks at Moe's

Fun at Seuss Landing

Ending the day with a splash
(and then stepping into the people dryer)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Universal Studios: Day One

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of adventure and excitement, which began at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We had so much fun and loved it much more than our trip to Disney World a few years ago. If you are a Harry Potter fan, it is a place that should definitely put on your bucket list, in my opinion. You truly get the sense that you are in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, and the experience really does feel magical. The bulk of our first day was spent in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and we really couldn't get enough of it. We did eventually move on to other sections of the park, but Harry Potter World was truly special and a place we all thoroughly enjoyed.

Universal Studios Orlando

Number 12 Grimmauld Place
(Can you spot Creature peeking out the window?)

The Littlest Wizard

Escape from Gringotts was a very cool ride,
and that dragon really breathes fire!

Taking a butterbeer break

Ready to board the Hogwart's Express

Lunch at The Three Broomsticks

Clay and Max really loved The Flight of the Hippogriff ride
and never missed a chance to say hello to Buckbeak.

The one souvenir Clay especially wanted was a real wand.
Here he is casting the "lumos" spell. 

The Hogwart's Castle was amazing, even though the ride made my head spin.

Eventually, we made it over to Jurassic Park

T-Rex on the loose

On Marvel Super Hero Island, Jeff and the younger guys
rode the Storm Force ride several times.

Meanwhile, Ruth and Weston were obsessed with the Hulk ride.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Power of Nine


You're nine! Woohoo! I love writing your birthday letter every year, because it's proof that we both made it through another year and that we are better than we were before. You and I are like iron sharpening iron, and I'm so thankful we have each other to help work out our respective rough edges. We're definitely good for each other!

It's been a great year! Since your last birthday, we've spent time in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Florida. Plus, we've done lots of fun things in Texas as well. We've traveled by train, plane, boat, subway, tuk tuk, bicycle, parasail, zipline, UTV,  and RV to get where we are today. Along the way, you've learned how to surf, attended a robot camp, and shot your first deer. And that's just a very brief overview!

We've been learning about the importance of making good food choices and have been experimenting with how certain foods affect you, either by their addition to or omission from your diet. Your brain seems to work better with regular doses of protein and limited sugar intake. Sometimes it's really hard to enforce, but you and I both know that when we get it right it makes a huge difference in how our days go. You are learning to make good food choices for yourself, and I'm confident this will serve you well throughout your life. You are also interested in cooking and baking, which makes the whole process more fun, as we discover together the best combos of ingredients. You are especially fond of eggs and fruit, so we work those in whenever we can. You love having your own kitchen equipment, and you are getting really good at putting simple meals together on your own.

You have an engineer's mind and are always building and calculating and problem solving. You are curious and are very good at coming up with creative solutions to tricky problems. I'm proud of the way you keep trying new strategies, even when your first idea doesn't work or doesn't work the way you thought it would.

You're an avid reader and have been enjoying checking out huge stacks of books from the library every time we go. You have a wide range of interests and come home with everything from mysteries to cookbooks to books about Morse Code. You are a smart guy and love to learn. In addition to reading for your own entertainment and knowledge, you also spend a good amount of time reading to Clay and helping him learn new things. You're a wonderful big brother!

In addition to looking out for Clay, you have a soft spot in your heart for all kids that are younger than you. You love babies and are super careful with and attentive to little kids when you have occasion to be around them. You are so sweet with your younger cousins, and it is touching to see how protective you are of littles.

Max, you make our days fun and interesting. You challenge us and stimulate us and help us think about things differently. You are really growing up, and I can see that you are becoming more mature all the time. I'm proud of your fierce passion and intensity. You live life to the fullest, and I think that's the way it should be done. I hope your birthday is spectacular and that the year ahead is your best yet! I love you so much!!


Nine Years Old!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Feel Good Friday: Favorite Things

Nothing puts a smile on my face like spending time with my favorite things!

Monday, January 02, 2017

First Adventure of the New Year

Yesterday after lunch, we hopped in our little RV and headed out on our first adventure of the new year:  a road trip to Florida, which will include three fun-filled days at Universal Studios and then a leisurely route back to Texas. Our plan was to drive until we were tired and then find a place to stop for the night. We actually didn't run out of driving steam until 4:00 am, in Tallahassee, where we pulled into a Cracker Barrel parking lot and slept until the lure of homemade biscuits was too strong to ignore. (Cracker Barrel actually encourages RVers to do this, but it was a first for us.) We have now made it to Orlando and will be up at the crack of dawn to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Toasting our first adventure of the new year with sparkling cider

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Feel Good Friday: Truth in advertising

It's Saturday, but whatever. This is my favorite ad of the year, and a good chuckle seems like a good way to end 2016. Happy New Year! May your 2017 be full of things that make you happy and fill your life with peace.