Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Thanksgiving Anti-Nap

Usually, on Thanksgiving, I eat, I nap, I chill.

But this year a friend convinced me to shake things up a bit. She had something much more exciting planned...

Yes, I actually went Black Friday Shopping. (Dun dun duuuunnnn!)

Don't worry... the earth is still orbiting the sun in the same direction it always has.

For those of you who know me, you know that I do not particularly enjoy shopping. I pretty much have what my family calls a "short shopping span." I shop with a goal in mind, hit the store where I can find that particular item, and am done.

The shopping gene skipped me.

However, I am capable of shopping for slightly longer periods if I am shopping with friends (or family). Because then it's not really shopping... it's spending time with my friends and getting a chore out of the way at the same time. (Yes, I just called shopping a chore!) The fact that I'm with someone makes it much more fun.

So there I was Thanksgiving night... actually wandering through the masses. We started about 10pm, although many stores had opened hours earlier. We did think it was a little ridiculous that a few places were open at 7pm or even 4pm!!! Anything to make an extra buck I guess.

At first, it felt a little foreign. But before long, I was actually having fun shopping. (Yes... the words "fun" and "shopping" just collided in a sentence by me.) We hit the mall, we hit a couple strip malls, we hit other stores. The majority of my Christmas shopping was completed that night. Oh... and let me say that when 6am found us winding down our shopping at a local Einstein's, I was still energized.

Will I do it again?

Absolutely! long as my friend is there to make it fun again.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How many times do I have to say "Thanks?" - part 2

Thanksgiving is TOMORROW! I'm looking forward to it. There is just sooo much to be thankful for.

Last time, I listed my top two things I'm thankful for. Well, now here's a few more to add to the list...

3. My Parents - I have them to thank for my love of learning, musical talents (OK, the talent's from my mom, but the love of music is from my dad), creative writing, and wacky sense of humor. Plus, they're just stinkin' cute together. There's a reason my friends dubbed them "The Lovebirds."

4. My Mother-in-Law - What?!? Some of you may be shocked, but I actually get along with my mom-in-law and our relationship has really grown over the years. Plus, if I ever need to complain about dear ol' hubby, she's the one I turn to. Why? Because I don't want to complain to my friends and have them not like hubby just because of something I said in anger. Instead, I turn to the one woman who completely understands and usually has some really good advice on how to deal with the man in my life.

5. My Sister - We used to be frienemies, but now we're just friends. I love hanging out with her. And Little Dude loves hanging out with her son. What could be better than raising our kids together?

6. My Sis-in-Law & Niece - Again, I seriously scored in the in-law lottery when I married. We all have so much fun together.

7. My Friends - You know who you are. You're probably reading this right now. Yep... you! Some of you I've known for a few years shy of forever. Others I've known only a few years. Some sit next to me in church or praise band every week. Others I haven't sat next to for years. No matter what, I love you all!

Other things I'm thankful for: my relationship with God, my wonderful church family, the fact that I still have a job, living in a free country, and so much more!

I hope you all have a terrific Thanksgiving! And I hope you find many things to be thankful for!

Next time: Will I join the Black Friday madness this year? It's very possible. Get a non-shopper's take on it!

Friday, November 18, 2011

How many times do I have to say "Thanks?" - part 1

Wow. Thanksgiving is next week? Where do the weeks go?

I'll keep it short and sweet today (heavy on the sweet) with a list of a few things I'm saying Thanks for!

1. Big Dude (a.k.a. My Husband) - OK, he doesn't read anything I write so I'm safe to brag about him here without his head exploding to gigantic proportions. He's handsome. He's handy (seriously... master carpenter). He cooks. He vacuums. He's always helping other people. And although seriously challenging at times, he supports me in all the crazy things I want to do.

2. Little Dude (a.k.a. My Son) - He amazes me every day. He's smart. He's funny. He's outgoing most of the time. His laugh makes my heart sing. I love watching him learn how to read and sound out the letters. I love the duets we sing in the car on the way to school. I love his hugs and "hundred kisses." Oh, I could go on and on and on. Just know this... I LOVE this kid!

I'm just going to stop there for the moment. I'll add more later because there is so much more to be thankful for!

Watch next time to find out what family member I'm thankful for that might surprise some people!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Bedside Manners of Child Nurses

Aren't mothers supposed to inherit some sort of immunibility gene when they give birth? Wasn't there something in the contract about never getting sick again, if only to attend to the needs of your family while they are sick? Isn't motherhood supposed to give you a super-strength immune system?

When I was growing up, it seemed like my mom hardly ever got sick... other than seasonal allergies. There are very few times I remember her actually being ill. In fact, nobody's mom seemed to ever get sick. It was like they were in another category of their own. Some sort of super hero power kept them from getting the flu or catching cold.

So when I became a mom myself, I thought I would suddenly be blessed with an inhuman ability to ward off all disease.

Boy, was I wrong.

Within the last month I had severe allergies, a cold, and full-body hives. Luckily the hives didn't last long. But the allergies almost made my head explode on a flight back from Florida. The sinus congestion moved to my chest, and you know the rest of that story.

Mothers are expected to be sympathetic when their families are ill. But what happens when Momma doesn't feel well?

Let me tell you...


I realized this when I had an unavoidable coughing fit and my son scolded me.

"No, mommy, don't cough into your hands. You'll cough the germs into your hands and then touch other stuff and the germs will go everywhere and get everyone sick. Cough into your elbow like this." Then he proceeded to demonstrate a fake cough into his sleeve.

I had tears in my eyes - not because I was so impressed with the preventative medical instruction I had just received from a 4-year-old, but because my throat felt like sandpaper rubbing against a cheese grater set on fire.

Immune to my pain and the fact that I was stifling another coughing fit in order to pay attention to my petite nurse, my son continued, "Or you can cough into your shirt like this." And he did exactly that.

The icing on the cake was being told by the same child nurse to immediately go wash my hands... so I don't get everyone else sick.


A few days later, hives broke out all over my body. Luckily, it wasn't as bad as I've had before, but it was still painful. I heard my husband on the phone telling someone about my unfortunate condition and stating, "but she's a trooper. She doesn't let it bother her."

That's when I finally had my aha moment. It's not that moms don't get sick. It's that we often have no choice but to suck it up and carry on. All those mothers I watched never get sick while I was growing up probably did have the flu or bronchitis or colds. But they had families to take care of and jobs to do so they just sucked it up and carried on.

So I'll just grab my vitamin C and box of Kleenex and fight off my own infirmities so I can be ready for when my family is stricken with illness. Because, after all... I didn't cough into my elbow!

Just a Note: To be honest, my family is usually pretty healthy. We hardly ever have to visit a doctor. And that includes me. :-)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Anatomy of Insomnia

It has been 40 hours since I last slept.

And I'm not tired.

I'm not really worried about it though. I'll eventually sleep at some point.

The dance with insomnia is a routine I know by heart. I've been doing this two-step since childhood. I remember being in 3rd grade and freaking out because the minutes on the clock next to my bed were ticking by while I lay there completely unable to will my body and mind to sleep. With every soft tick announcing another 60 seconds had passed, my mind would launch into a quick calculation of how many hours and minutes I had left before the alarm would go off. Every moment brought a sense of doom. What if I never fall asleep? What if I fall asleep in class? What if I fall a test because I'm too tired from not getting a full night's sleep?

And, of course, the more I worried about it, the harder it was to fall asleep.

In the early years, my insomnia was often cured by calling out for my dad. I found comfort in listening to his soothing voice pray aloud for his daughter to find rest. The lilting cadence of his words were my lullaby.

As I got older, the insomnia aged with me. Instead of worrying about school, my mind would lie awake at night making lists of things I had failed to do that day or ruminating over something that had happened earlier that day. For a while i had a wonderfully monotonous recording of the Bible on tape. I'd just pop in Matthew 1 ("and someone begat someone who begat someone who begat someone else..."), and before all the begats were over, I was usually asleep. I also had learned some mental exercises to help my body and mind relax. Those sometimes helped too.

But the insomnia never left me.

I never liked the idea of taking pills to fight off the sleepless nights, partly be because I never know when it will strike. There are no warning signs. I go to bed. I'm tired. I'm sure I'll fall asleep right away. Then before I know it, it's 1am and too late to take something that's not going to leave me groggy the next day, which is worse than pushing through without sleep.

I start off the night tired and ready to sleep, but just as the setting sun dips below my mental horizon, it starts rising again. By 3 or 4am, I'm wide awake and ready to start the day.

So i learned to live with it. Accept it.

When I had roommates, I used those nights to write. When I lived alone, I'd clean. Now, with a husband and child, i find other things to do. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I pray. Sometimes I just sit in the dark listening to the peaceful sounds of my slumbering neighborhood.

But I stopped letting insomnia rattle me. I stopped letting it have control.

If you can't beat them, join them... Right?

So what if I miss a night's sleep every now and then? Most likely, I'll get a good night's sleep the following night.

And if I don't? Well, then maybe I'll spend that time writing!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Boy and His Sword

Last night, Hubby and I were watching Auction Kings, and they had somebody bring them an interesting little sword to sell in their next auction.

If you haven't seen the show before, basically, it's a reality show that follows a group who work at an auction house. People bring in interesting things for them to sell at auction. And before the auction, they have experts come in and tell them the history of the item and value. Basically, it's kind of like Pawn Stars, but set in the South and you actually get to see the items sold at auction.

OK, so back to my story... we were watching them bring in an expert to tell them about the sword. The expert first pointed out that it was a three-edged sword. He said, "They made it that way because if you get stabbed with a three-edged sword, the wound doesn't heal." Interesting... and brutal. He examined how extremely sharp the sword was and how beautifully made it was. The owner of the auction asked about the size of the sword. And this is where things got interesting...

The expert said that swords like that were often given to princes (basically a smaller version of what dad carried around). We're not talking about full-grown princes like William or Henry, but children! Then he said that this sword was made around the time of the Civil War and would still have been given to a child.


The expert explained that kids back then grew up in a different world and were used to seeing stuff like that every day. The gallery owner asked more and the expert said that kids would have probably played with it!

OK, so this is where my mind goes... I'm thinking about my own 4-yr-old and how he can make anything into a sword - a stick, a drinking straw, even a stuffed animal! He likes to have pretend duels with us. You would have thought that we raised him on Errol Flynn movies.

But now I'm thinking about that same 4-yr-old with an actual sword! Yikes! The damage he could inflict would keep an ER busy!!!

Oh, but wait... don't forget the part about it being a three-edged sword! That's right. So not only did some child have the capability to wound others, but the ability to inflict a wound that would not heal.

No wonder children didn't live as long in those days!

I know that times are different, and that they probably weren't handing out swords to 4-yr-olds back then. But I'm definitely glad that today's kids get to play with swords and toys made out of foam. And I am glad to live in a time where we have safety features and medicines (you know... like Tetanus shots) available. And I'm also glad my son won't be playing with a real sword anytime soon!

Friday, September 23, 2011

A bug in the hand is worth two in the bush!

Yesterday morning, I was watering my potted plants on our back porch when I noticed something green fly through the air. I looked down and saw a little green grasshopper sitting in the puddle of water.

Since my son had so much fun catching giant grasshoppers in Florida, I called for him to come check out the new creature in our backyard.

When we were in Florida this summer, Papa bravely caught giant lubber grasshoppers for Little Dude to touch and hold. At first, I was a nervous Mama and screeched when I saw my child reaching a precious fingertip toward what looked to be a ferocious man-eating bug the size of a small bird. But Papa convinced me it was an important "boy thing" to do - a critical milestone in his development. So I acquiesced and let Little Dude hold, prod, poke, and chase all the grasshoppers Papa could find.

In Florida, the grasshoppers were the size of his hand!

But now in our backyard, Little Dude nervously hovered over the bug and asked, "Is it going to jump?"


"Is it going to jump on me?"

I could tell he really wanted to touch the bug, but he was clearly nervous about it jumping on him. Just as he was about to reach down, the little thing jumped into the grass where his perfect green exoskeleton camouflaged him.

Without a pause, I did the unthinkable... I reached down and caught the dang thing!

Yep... my hands held a squirming, moving critter.

Thoughts were wildly running through my head: It's just a grasshopper, get over it. Ewww, that feels weird crawling in my hands. What if it poops on me?

Little Dude was super excited. But just as I was about to settled the grasshopper into his hands, it jumped onto the leaves of my potted plants.

We spent the next several minutes played "seek and touch" with the bug. I helped Little Dude stretch his hand across the plants to where the grasshopper was so he could touch it. It would jump to another plant and I would do the same thing over again.

He giggled and hopped around every time the grasshopper jumped to another plant. And I smiled because it was actually fun!

Yep, playing with bugs can be fun!

Eventually the bug caught on to what we were doing and hid under a planter. But it was definitely a great morning moment that I got to share with my son.

On the way to school, Little Dude and I called Papa to tell him about grasshopper. He was proud of me for catching it... because he knows that was definitely not something I wanted to do. Oh, the things we do for love!

Later, during a break at work, I wanted to see what kind of grasshopper it was, and I found out that it was...
...a cricket.


Grasshoppers are one thing, but knowing that I held a cricket... well, what's done it done. At least I have a face to put with the chirping!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Holy Guacamole!

Today is one of my family's favorite holidays...

As I've mentioned before, my kid loves guacamole. This is no ordinary appetizer love or party snack love. No. His is a dig-in-a-spoon-and-eat-an-entire-bowl love.

Look at that pile of guac! And he's already eaten half of it!

We have frequented Mexican food restaurants almost weekly since long before Little Dude was born. We usually went with Big Dude's family and ordered tableside guacamole (best when fresh!). After Little Dude was born, instead of staying home, we continued our family tradition.

One night (after Little Dude was able to start eating solid food), I mashed up little pieces of avocado and let him try it. To my surprise, he loved it! The next week we did the same. That evolved into Little Dude eating full-fledged guacamole, complete with onions, cilantro and tomatoes!

I think it helped that he was fascinated by the server making the guac right at our table.

At least we know he's getting his fruits and veggies, and all the great benefits avocados offer!

Every once in a while, someone comments on the fact that our kid is eating an entire bowl of guacamole for his meal. It's surprising to most people. But to us, that's just a normal Friday night!

Pass the chips!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

White Girl Can't Zumba!

So I tried something new last night... Zumba!

Several of my friends have been telling me how much fun it is and what a great workout they get from it. Although one friend did tell me that a lot depends on the instructor. (Cue dramatic music.... Dun dun duuunnn!)

I went after work, staked out a spot in the back corner by the fan, and quickly chatted up a few other people before class started. One lady said she had taken the class a couple times already and just when she catches on to one move it would change. But she said it was a lot of fun.

Before I knew it, the music started and everyone started moving together like some sort of flash mob. Apparently, the other 70 people in the class had been here before. I, on the other hand, was like a fish out of water. Literally. I flopped around like a dying fish for the first half hour while most of the other people were able to keep up with our instructor who seemed to think she was auditioning for "So You Think You Can Dance."

I have no other Zumba class to compare, but I'm pretty sure most instructors at least shout some sort of direction at some point. The only words I heard this teacher say was at the beginning: "Forget the workout. It's a dance party in here!"

I should have left when I heard the words "dance party."

I was completely lost for the first half of the class. It was some sort of crazy dance fusion that involved the running man (yes, seriously), the electric slide, the macarena, hip hop, and something that looked like an angry hula dance... all set to techno salsa and Indian music. It was rumba in Bollywood.

This has to be one of Dante's circles of hell.

Did I mention that there were at least 70 other people? Yeah, we were packed in tight. Every time the instructor would lead us in a move that required moving more than two feet, the class looked like a sea of bodies being tossed from one side of the room to the other. I could almost hear the sound of crashing waves above the steady pulse of the bass. A few people needed to be thrown a life raft... me included!

Finally, I was saved when some Beyonce came on. As I joined the others in reenacting her music videos, I looked around and realized there were several others who were also a little uncoordinated. It made me feel a little better and realize that they probably were too busy trying to follow the spastic changes to even notice my own floundering.

After shaking our rumps, we did a little Charleston and a little salsa (two things I can manage). I reached a small comfort level and looked deep inside for my inner Shakira. Realizing there was no disco ball trophy at stake, I let loose and had fun at the end.

Will I try Zumba again? Probably not this class. As my dear Hubby pointed out, I'm not exactly the most graceful person around. I'm much more comfortable taking kick boxing or step aerobics. Roundhouse kicks are a lot easier than shaking my hips. But I might try a different Zumba class.... Someday.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Plum Crazy (or The Hedonistic Rituals of Youth)

Slurp. Slurp. Mmm.

These are the sounds I hear as I type.

My child is enjoying one of his favorite treats... A plum!

When he gets a hold of one of these delicious spheres of goodness, he actually settles down (an unusual moment for him) and stops to savor every bite. I joke that he's a "plum vampire" because he likes to sink his teeth into the flesh and suck out the juice before taking a bite.

I'm happy to provide him with any of his favorite fruits and veggies. And, as most moms do, I'm always trying to expand his palate. The plum find was merely by accident. I bought some for myself and didn't think he would be interested. But when I offered him a bite of mine, I was shocked when he took me up on my offer and finished the entire fruit.

Not every fruit/veggie introduction is always as successful. Sometimes I have to find a compromise (he won't eat strawberries, but he'll drink them in a smoothy). And other times I have to pick my battles and focus on the wins (he doesn't like green beans, but he'll eat guacamole by the bowlful).

Guacamole has been a favorite since he started eating solid food!

And while I'm trying to teach my kid about food, he's teaching me about eating.

1. Savor it slowly. Just like Little Dude and the plum, I need to slow down and learn to enjoy each bite. It would help me to think about what I'm actually eating and give my tummy time to tell me when I'm full.

2. Listen to your tummy. Little Dude doesn't determine if he's eaten enough by the amount of space left on his plate. His stomach tells him to stop eating and he does.

3. Don't be afraid to try new things. Ok, so Little Dude isn't always willing to try everything I offer, but it's sometimes surprising what he will try and how often. There are some foods he'll try and spit out, but the next time I offer it, he'll try it again.

I definitely need to start eating like a 4-year-old. It would do my body some good!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Closet of Horrors

I'm going to show you one of the most disgusting pictures you'll ever see.

If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want turn away right now.

It is not for the faint of heart.

But it is something that I finally had to face last weekend.

It is gross.

It is dirty.

It is... hallway closet!

I just never seem to have time to clean it out so it had accumulated quite a lot of stuff.

Horrifying isn't it?

It's actually a fairly deep closet and as I was pulling stuff out of it, I was surprised at how much it could hold. At one point, I think I found spare parts to the International Space Station and a small family of contortionists.

It took 5 hours to clean the entire thing. Luckily, my child and Hubby were both gone so I was free to finally tackle the job alone. And now I can actually find everything I need:

Now I just need to work on my other closets! Yikes!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kid's Say the Darnest Things

The things that come out of Little Dude's mouth often surprise and amaze me. He is quite a master of conversation. He'll throw out large words like "disgusting," "fabulous," and "marvelous," which will surprise us.

My favorite was when he told his teacher at school that his shoelace had "lost its aglet." The teacher didn't even know what an aglet was! (Thanks to Phineas & Ferb, our family is well acquainted with the word.)

Sometimes, Little Dude has a way of stating the obvious that just makes us smile. For instance, before his birthday we were talking about how he'll one day be a teenager and then an adult. He threw up his hands in exasperation and said, "I just keep getting older and older!"

Sometimes, Little Dude will add his own little twist of fiction to fact. Like the other Saturday morning when he informed us (while eating a donut), "If I eat too much sugar, I'll turn into a cow and jump over the moon!"

And other times, Little Dude is just filled with so much imagination that I don't even know what is wandering through his little brain.

Wednesday night at church, he was learning about Jonah and the whale. He told his Bible study leader that a few weeks ago I got upset with him, but then an alligator swallowed him. He was in the gator's stomach for 5 weeks, and I was sad until Jacob was finally able to get out.


When I asked him about that story the next morning he said, "Well, when I was Jonah I got swallowed by a shark."

"You did?"

"Yes. And other kids got swallowed by the shark too. But I steered the shark."

"You steered the shark?"

"Yes. And we were in there for 3 weeks."

"That's a long time."

"Yeah. But then the shark pooped and we came out."

"Wait... are you sure the shark didn't throw up and then  you came out?"

"No. The shark pooped. It was gross. Ew... poopy shark behind." (Followed by hysterical laughter.)

Sure, I obviously need to read him the story of Jonah a few more times before it sticks, but I do enjoy his wild imagination.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Knight in Plastic Armor

I've blogged before about how Little Dude pretends to be the Red Power Ranger. He's also learned that in order to be a hero, you have to have a bad guy. It's apparently part of the Fantasyland laws - you don't have to have a reason to fight for, just a bad guy to fight. So Big Dude occasionally fills the role of antagonist to Little Dude's hero, and they go to war in our living room armed with foam swords and witty lines like, "I'm gonna get you, bad guy!"

Furry Dude and I watch this bloodless combat from the safety of the couch where I'm usually folding laundry while dodging zingers like, "You're no match for me, bad guy." (Wow. I have got to work on his rhetoric!)

Somehow, the knowledge of how to wield and thrust a sword must be encoded in a dude's DNA. It's not like our son was born at a Renaissance Festival and raised by method actors. Yet, before he even owned his first foam sword, he was already using straws and crayons to engage his enemies.

Understanding a hero's need for proper equipment, Big Dude bought Little Dude his first set of swords. Then his second. ("The foam swords are starting to fall apart.") Then his third. ("These ones glow in the dark.") And by now, Little Dude has amassed quite an impressive armory of plastic and foam swords. If we ever have to go to war against Mattel, this family is ready!

Little Dude has also discovered that you don't have to be a Power Ranger to carry a sword. Papa and Grandma taught him about knights.

As an expert swordsman, Little Dude is able to defeat his foe with one hand.

They took us to Medieval Times.

If you've never been to Medieval Times, you should check it out sometime. They change the storyline quite often, but the premise is that you are attending a medieval tournament.

You get to eat with your hands and scream hysterically... basically, you can behave like a toddler for a few hours.

We were lucky to get a front row seat to the action - horsemanship, jousting, sword fights and more.

Little Dude loved it! It was a fantasy come true for him. He was completely mesmerized by the live action. He was cheering. He was waving a flag with our knight's colors. And most importantly... he got to see a bad guy defeated.


And yes, Big Dude bought a couple more plastic swords while we were there!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Florida! - Leapin' Gators

Yes, I realize that it might seem like my family has a slight obsession with gators. First, there was gator hunting (not quite what you think) near the Everglades and then a visit to Gatorland.

Top Right: Oh, sweet nostalgia! The gator jaw no longer covers the entrance, but it still smiles for a photo op.
Bottom Right: No gators were harmed in the taking of this picture.

OK, you may be asking Gatorland? But I'm here to tell you it is FUN! The first time we visited Gatorland was right after I graduated from high school. While we were in Florida visiting relatives and Disney World, my parents let my sister and I each pick something to go see. I cannot remember what she picked, but I chose the most intriguing billboard I had ever seen... Gatorland!

It was a strange choice, but my parents were willing to humor me. And it ended up being the highlight of the trip. The park's gaping gator jaw entrance led to unexpected entertainment!

Gators, gators everywhere!
Top Right: More of those creepy vultures. They were everywhere we went in Florida.

Hubby had heard us talk about Gatorland with such genuine fondness that he was game to go. Of course, the thought crossed my mind... What if it's not as good as I remember?

Yes, I encouraged my child and hubby to hold a python. What loving mother wouldn't?

The park is much more commercialized now than when we first visited it. There are Gatorade vending machines all over the place. They have several photo booths where you pose astride a giant gator (or in its mouth). They have a water park for the kids. They have a zip line that goes across the park... over the gator exhibits. And now you can even sign up to wrestle a gator (albeit with it's mouth taped shut) before watching the professionals do it in one of the shows.

Left: Professional gator wrestler. Do not attempt.
Right: Nope... not naptime. The wrestler flips a gator on his back to end the match.

A bird awaits service at the bait shack where you can buy hotdogs to toss to hungry gators.

But the magic of seeing hundreds of gators resting, eating, and leaping through the air still remains.

OK, maybe not leaping through the air, but those guy can jump pretty high when a piece of chicken is dangling above the water! The most popular show at Gatorland is the reptilian answer to the Shamu show at Sea World.

Look at the last picture... he managed to keep all ten fingers! I'd celebrate too!
*Professional. Do not attempt!

So did Gatorland live up to our memories? Absolutely!

Of course, Hubby spotted the most exciting non-gator action in the park. Just before we left, he took us back tough the wooden pathway that led through the gator compound and pointed out a little white fluffy spot among the tree branches.

There were two baby cranes in a nest perched above the gator marsh.

See? Not everything at Gatorland is covered in alligator hide!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Happiness Happens

So I'm taking this brief break from chronicling my vacation to Florida to celebrate Happiness Happens Day!

Despite the fact that it's a Monday, I've been pretty happy so far. I have a family that loves me. I have wonderful friends. I love what I do. I'm pretty healthy. And I have some really fun hobbies that keep me busy.

Plus, today I learned that happiness can actually be trained. Yep! All those sourpusses out there who live with a little dark cloud above their heads can actually be trained to be more cheerful. The first step is forcing themselves to smile. The actual act of smiling (whether fake or real) increases one's endorphins. The next step is to do a random act of kindness for someone. If you do five acts of kindness or expressions of gratitude a week, you'll become happier over time. Another step is to write something down every day that makes you happy... a little "Happy Journal."

Despite the fact the the US Constitution actually guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness, we're not the happiest nation. We're actually the 16th happiest. Of course, as C.P. Snow once said, "The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase: if you pursue happiness you'll never find it."

Here are some other quotes I found...

"Some pursue happiness, others create it." ~ Unknown

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy." ~ Robert Brault

"It is strange what a contempt men have for the joys that are offered them freely." ~ Georges Duhamel

"We are no longer happy so soon as we wish to be happier." ~ Walter Savage Landor

"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have." ~ Frederick Keonig

"If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time." ~ Edith Wharton

"The happiness of most people is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things." ~ Ernest Dimnet

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." ~ Robert Brault

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." ~ Abraham Lincoln

"In order to have great happiness you have to have great pain and unhappiness - otherwise how would you know when you're happy?" ~ Leslie Caron

"You cannot always have happiness, but you can always give happiness." ~ Unknown

"I am a king of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy." ~ J.D. Salinger

"Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." ~ Joseph Addison

"What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." ~ Colette

"Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response." ~ Mildred Barthel

"Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad." ~ Norm Papernick

What's your favorite happiness quote?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Proud Mama

OK, so I'm a proud mama. What can I say?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Florida! - Where the Wild Things Are

We love zoos! After all, our house often resembles one. But there's just something about going to the zoo that is exciting and adventurous. And every zoo has a different set of animals, a different atmosphere.

That's why we were so excited to get to visit Disney's Animal Kingdom.

And just guess what the very first creature we saw when we walked in was.

It was that stinkin' grasshopper we saw back at the preserve! Having done his own research just days before, Jacob was quite an expert. An audience gathered as he gave an oral dissertation on the lubber grasshopper.

Once we got past the bugs, we headed straight for the Kilimanjaro Safari. Our first African safari!

OK, maybe it wasn't actually in Africa, but Disney did its best to make us believe we were.

While we were waiting in line (dang bugs slowed us down), I snapped a few pictures. When visiting a zoo or amusement park, I like taking pictures early in the day before the heat, humidity, and long-lines zap our energy.

Obviously, it had already been a long vacation and Big Dude was tired of having his picture taken. (I love his subtle hints.) Little Dude, on the other hand, made sure I took a few extra snaps of him. "Mommy, over here. Take a picture."

As for the safari? Awesome!

It was really, really humid that day. This guy had the right idea...

If I was wearing a fur coat, I'd probably just want to lay around all day too.

Between visiting Africa and Asia, we did manage to spend quite a bit of time visiting with Mickey and other Disney characters. But that's another post.
He posed himself and made me take a picture.

Feeling like globe-trotters, we headed over to Asia. Disney really made the place feel like Asia... it was jam-packed with people! I'm sure the Imagineers worked some special magic into making sure all the people converged somehow to make Asia feel so much more crowded than Africa.

It was a fabulous day. But like I said, it was extra humid. By late afternoon, even our own little Tasmanian devil was starting to run out of energy.

Or maybe he was just posing for another picture.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Florida! - The Last Shuttle Launch

One of the most exciting things our family has ever done is watch the final space shuttle launch!

We gathered at Titusville with 1 million other spectators to watch Atlantis leave for its final mission - delivering equipment and supplies to the International Space Station.

The streets of that small town were filled with people, cameras, and vendors. (My dad almost got run over by a ice cream truck... twice!) Excitement and humidity filled the air.

After claiming our spot in the crowd, my mom and I went over to Space View Park where news crews, families, and vendors selling frozen lemonade and tacos walked over plaques embedded in the sidewalk dedicated to various NASA space missions. We also went over to the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum, which had a happy little gift shop filled with customers.

There was some worry that the launch would be delayed because of the cloud cover and the possibility of a storm on its way. NASA was going to proceed as planned and wait until the last minute before delaying anything. So when someone announced to all of us in the gift shop that the mission was a go, the place erupted in cheers!

Me and Mom
Ready with our cameras!

As it got closer to countdown, the crowd raised their cameras in anticipation. Some people actually let families with children move in for a better view (what a nice crowd!) and others had radios to let us all know when the countdown would begin.

Everyone counted down in unison.. ten... nine... eight... seven... six...

Five... four... three... two... one...

Titusville is 8-10 miles across the water from NASA's launch pad, and you could still hear the boom as the shuttle leaped into the air.

I doubt if Little Dude understood the significance of what he witnessed, but he was pretty excited about watching a shuttle blastoff.

It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event!

Another shuttle shot!

After lunch, we finally join the million other cars crowding the highway leading to Orlando. Traffic was so slow that we watched a minivan let out a mom and kid so they could walk up and down the highway (the kid was burning off some pent-up energy with his scooter). Little Dude fell asleep and the rest of us were still talking about the exciting event we just watched.

What a day!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Florida! - Walks Like a Duck

Being the charmer that is, Little Dude made a friend while we stayed at Papa and Grandma's place.

Friends of a Feather

Little Dude looked forward to feeding the ducks almost as much as the ducks did! He was especially fond of the black duck, who was the more outgoing of the two feathered friends.

These ducks had Grandma trained before we arrived. They would waddle up every morning and evening for breakfast and dinner.

Sometimes the black duck would wait for us to return home after one of our outings. When Little Dude saw him, he would excitedly shout, "My friend! My friend!"

However, not all of us were fond of the ducks.  Maggie was quite duck-intolerant and tried to keep them away when she could.

The ducks share the pond (and the bread) with a bunch of box turtles and soft shell turtles. We had fun feeding them too!

There were also a few ibis that liked to hang around... especially when there were bites of bread being thrown around.

The RV resort also had resident iguanas who lived just a few spaces down. They were very fond of one of the ladies there and actually came up to her and licked her like some sort of scaly, reptilian puppy!

For the rest of us, the iguana kept their distance. Thank goodness! I'm not sure I could take being licked by an iguana!

We were happy enough with the ducks.

Now that he's back home, Little Dude misses his friend... and even calls Grandma to check on how the ducks are doing!