Disney race weekend

The Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side race was our first RunDisney experience, and we really didn’t know what to expect. We decided to err on the side of caution and did not buy park admission tickets, opting instead to lounge by the pool (Lola Gray loves a Disney pool party!) and check out a few Disney restaurants – we revisited the fantastic Hoop De Doo Review, which was as full off rootin’ tootin’ fun as we remembered, and ate a giant banana split at Beaches and Cream. I’m so glad we didn’t try to fit in a park day, because those early mornings were exhausting!

On this visit we stayed at the Art of Animation resort, which has been on Lola’s dream list ever since it opened. My hope is that we will one day work our way through all of the Disney resorts, but we have a long way to go!!

So far we have stayed at only value and moderate level resorts, and I honestly think I prefer the value resorts in many ways. The pools are better at the moderates, but we just really love the giant character statues at the value hotels and always have so much fun wandering around to find them all and take photos!



Run to the Dark Side

It’s really no secret that I love all things Disney, and Raymond loves all things Star Wars. Fletcher and Lola? They love both. Throw in a weekend of running with some pretty sweet medals, and there was no way we were going to miss this.

The Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon weekend was held in Disney World April 15-17, 2016. The kids and I ran the 5K on Friday morning, bright and early. Actually, so early that there was nothing bright about it. I made a mistake when registering us, and put us in the super slow corral. I thought that was a good call at the time, so there wouldn’t be any pressure to go fast, but in reality it meant a lot of waiting around while the other corrals got a nice head start and having to run around a big crowd of walkers once it was our turn to start the race. Lesson learned for next time – and I have a feeling there will definitely be a next time. We had SO much fun!

Once we got out on the course, it didn’t take long for the Disney magic to kick in. We ran through and around Epcot, and all along the course were Star Wars scenes and characters for photo ops. We stopped for lots of photos.

Seriously. Lots of photos. And not just Star Wars ones. The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival was going on, so the park was filled with amazing character topiaries and the whole park smelled like flowers.

Nice people even stopped and offered to take photos for us – because Disney has that effect on people!

We waited longest for photos with Chewbacca – and it was totally worth the wait.

After the race there were more photo ops and character greetings.

Fletcher and Lola had an amazing interaction with Darth Vader that was a serious highlight of the day.

The next morning Raymond ran the 10K, and the morning after that he ran the half-marathon to complete the Dark Side Challenge – and in the process collected some serious bling. Check out those medals!

When we returned from Orlando, I checked out the official Disney photopass pictures from the race, and I learned a few things. The first, is that I look ridiculous running. The second is that I don’t care. Not one little bit. Because in every single photo, I was smiling. Smiling while running. Amazing.

Fletcher & Lola have decided that next time we are going to run the 10K, which scares me a little bit. But if anyone can get me to do it, it is those two!



He blinded me with SCIENCE!

I’ll admit to you now, one of the hardest things for me, when Fletcher decided on The STEM Academy at Bartlett as his middle school of choice, was the inevitability of more science fairs in our future. Ugh. The 5th grade science fair was not kind to Fletcher, though I honestly couldn’t understand why because I had thought his project was pretty darn interesting. So clearly, I was missing something. Again, ugh.

But lucky for all of us, STEM has a dedicated research class where students learn the scientific method and how to conduct research. When all was said and done, we felt like Fletcher had pulled together a pretty good project. His title was “Stopping Taylor Swift” and the premise was figuring out which common household materials have the best sound reducing qualities so he didn’t have to listen to his sister’s music. Pretty clever, no?

Apparently, very clever. Because not only did his school select his project to move on to the regional competition at Savannah State University, but at the regional he scored high enough to move on to the state level competition in Athens at the University of Georgia!!

And are you ready for the real kicker? At the Georgia Science & Engineering Fair, our boy spent a very long day standing next to his project while judges circulated and interviewed each student and scored each project, and it seems they liked what they saw and heard – Fletcher not only won Best in Category for Middle School Material Sciences, he also won the Director’s Choice Award!!!

Once again, this kid simply amazes me. I guess he knew what he was doing when he picked the science school over the art school, huh?



Spring Break in Virginia

What a treat to spend almost a week in Virginia over Spring Break! We spent a beautiful day visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (at Lola Gray’s insistence – she loves visiting historic sites she has learned about in school!) We took the kids to see the church where we got married, and though it was closed and locked so we couldn’t see inside, it was so fun to go back. After finding the church we wandered through the woods and found a little stream full of frogs. Of course we also managed to fit in lots of grandparent and cousin time, though it is never enough.





Now we are twelve

We have this lovely little book of poems by A. A. Milne called Now We Are Six. It was a gift for Fletcher’s 6th birthday. I’m sorry to say I have no idea who gave it to him, but I adore the book. It’s full of sweet little gems like this one:

“When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”

But NOW, we are twice six. Now we are twelve. No one writes poems about twelve. Maybe they should. Because from what I can see so far, twelve is awesome.

Twelve seems to forget about schoolwork more often than I would like (and, let’s be honest, it forgets about things like bathing and wearing clean socks more often than I would like too.) Twelve can be sassy, and is pretty sure it knows everything. (Or at least more than you.) Twelve really wants to use swear words, but always asks permission first. Twelve is loud and frustrating a more than a little stinky, but it hasn’t outgrown morning hugs and bedtime kisses. Twelve has a wicked sense of humor and it’s friends can carry on hilarious conversations (you learn a lot driving carpool.) Twelve likes the same movies as you do, and is totally up for a Netflix binge. Twelve drinks coffee and sleeps in late and sends you emails from school. Twelve has its own YouTube channel. Twelve has seen some struggles – it knows it doesn’t always win, that there aren’t always happy endings. But it is still endlessly enthusiastic and eager and ready. For anything. For everything.

I miss sweet little six year old cheeks and that sweet little six year old voice and the simplicity of those long and lazy six year old afternoons. Twelve is complicated. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Hello 2016

Midlife crisis? Maybe. Ok, probably. But I don’t care. Walt Disney World is my happy place. And what could be better than ringing in the new year in my happy place with some of my favorite people in the world?

For the second year in a row, we spent New Year’s Eve at Fort Wilderness with our dear friends the Heidels. This year was even more special because they recently moved to Costa Rica, so we hadn’t seen them in far too long!

The weather was perfect on New Year’s Eve, and we made the most of it with an outdoor movie followed by a dance party on the beach. Lola Gray and I had so much fun dancing, and even dragged Raymond and Fletcher onto the dance floor for a while. (I got really upset with Raymond for taking not-so-flattering photos of me dancing, but then I saw how happy Lola looks . . . and honestly, who cares what I look like? It was fun!)

The rest of the weekend was spent riding bikes, hanging at the pool (water slide, arcade, pool games, Mickey ice cream bars – we could stay there forever!)  and exploring Fort Wilderness. We ventured out of the resort only once, to visit neighboring Wilderness Lodge for dinner. I love visiting all the different resorts, and have set it as a goal to stay at each of them one day. Oh dear. That midlife crisis thing is getting harder and harder to deny.

Merry, Merry

Christmas cookies. Gingerbread houses. Lessons and carols, silly paper hats and new pajamas on Christmas Eve. Santa and surprises under the tree and Christmas Day oysters with friends. But mostly, the smiles. I never get tired of those smiles. What a lucky girl I am to share my life with these amazing people!


Welcome to New York!

It finally happened. We finally got the kids to New York! There was all sorts of drama with our flights, but at the end of the day we found ourselves in Times Square. Fletcher and Lola were awe-struck. Honestly, one of the best things about being a parent is getting to experience things like Times Square for the first time all over again through their eyes. I think they could have just stood there all night long! We ate dinner at Juniors, compete with egg creams and mile-high cheesecake, then headed over to the Shubert Theater for Matilda, the Musical. Our seats were waaaaaayyyyyyyyy up in the highest balcony, but the view was fantastic and the show was spectacular. Our sweet girl now has serious Broadway fever!

The next morning we headed to the Natural History Museum via the Plaza Hotel (because it’s The Plaza!), crossing though Central Park and enjoying a warm pretzel along the way. The Natural History Museum wasn’t exactly our favorite thing in NYC. Lots of taxidermy, and that doesn’t go over well with Lola Gray. But Fletcher enjoyed the dinosaurs, and we all enjoyed the Hayden Planetarium. As the sun started to set, we headed back through Central Park and down Fifth Avenue to look at the Christmas windows. What we didn’t anticipate was the mad crush of people trying to do exactly the same thing! We hit a few highlights, made a blissful bathroom stop at Tiffany’s, and then found ourselves outside the American Girl store with an hour long wait just to get inside the store! No thank you. We decided to call it a night and start fresh the next day.

One of Lola Gray’s main requirements for the trip was a visit to the Statue of Liberty. In all the time I have spent in New York, including the years I lived there, I had never set foot on Liberty Island, so this was a new experience for everyone! Our ferry tickets were for early Sunday morning and the weather was spectacular – bright blue skies and warm for December. We all had a fantastic time touring the museum and climbing the base of the statue. Next time we will get tickets to climb all the way to the crown!

After the ferry returned to Manhattan, we took a few turns on the amazing Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park, wandered through lower Manhattan, visited Ground Zero and the 9-11 Memorial before exhaustion drove us back to the hotel.

Our last full day in New York, we got an early start on those fabulous Christmas windows (without the crowds!) and finally visited the American Girl store where Lola Gray designed and had made a dress for her new doll. We spent much of the day in the fabulous Metropolitan Museum of Art, then headed down to Bryant Park for ice skating and dinner at the Winter Village (vegan fried chicken legs!) before the grand finale of the trip, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular!

There is so much more we still need to see and do in New York, but I have a feeling we will be back again before too much more time passes. Lola Gray in particular really fell in love with the city and is already talking about other Broadway shows she wants to see the next time we go. I guess I need to start saving my pennies!


T – E – N

I don’t even know how exactly it happened, but my baby girl is ten. Double digits! This child amazes me every day. She is sweet and kind and brave and still very much a child, but with ooooooooohhhhhhh so many opinions. The tween drama is already rearing it’s ugly head, and I fear for us all when it hits for real. But when she snuggles in my lap, she is still my sweet baby with those incredible, kissable cheeks. I melt every time.

Lola Gray has been wanting to go to New York City for years, but the timing (and money) just hasn’t seemed right. But this year, finally, we were determined to make it happen. She’s been patient for so long. She knew that we had bought plane tickets and were flying up to the Big Apple the weekend after her birthday, but what she didn’t know was that we surprised her with tickets to the Statue of Liberty and to see both the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes and Matilda the Musical. I wish I had made a video when she opened the presents – her squeals were unbelievable. It is going to be the trip of a lifetime, and I’m so happy I get to share it with my favorite girl in the whole wide world!