Monday, August 29, 2011

So not cool...

Remember when you were a kid and you'd hear an adult say something was "cool" and you'd think to yourself, "Wow. He/She is way too old for that. Awkward." I recently realized I am that lame adult.

So, a few months ago, the radio alarm went off, and I really liked the song that was playing. Later that day, I Googled some words I remembered from the song which led me to the Neon Trees. Despite the fact that I am sure I am clearly fifteen years older (at least!) than their average listener, I quickly added a Neon Trees station to my Pandora account. When I listened to them while cooking dinner, I felt pretty hip. (Me using the word "hip" is positive proof that I am definitely not hip, but I digress...) So anyway, fast forward to me driving the car without the Ipod last week. I was flipping through the radio stations, and happened upon the song I originally heard that made me like the band. Feeling pretty cool, (and that I'd lucked upon a decent radio station,) I left it on said station. All my dreams of hipness vanished when a smooth voiced d.j. came on and let me know I was listening to "Lite Rock 99" or whatever and transitioned into a Michael Bolton song. Michael freaking Bolton. I am lame and old and listen to an old person radio station. But I'm okay with that. Kind of. (Also, I'm telling myself that the d.j. was the rebel of the station. Whatever works. I don't think the band is for lame old people ;) )

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jack's Sixth Birthday!!!

When Jack came to me a few months ago and said he wanted a Harry Potter birthday, it was one of my proudest moments as a parent. I had been waiting to hear that phrase since becoming a parent. (And the fact that he was planning his birthday party months in advance is further proof that he is truly my son!) I was excited for th opportunity to combine three of my favorite things, Jack, Harry Potter, and birthday parties, into one awesome event! I began planning immediately, and here are the results! (I will include a list of all the websites I used as resources at the end of the post.)

The Menu
There are so many different foods mentioned in Harry Potter, it was hard to narrow down what to make! I decided to focus on the sweets that Jack was most familiar with from the movies and from reading the first book. I made chocolate frogs with a mold from Amazon. I also made pumpkin pasties, cauldron cakes, butter beer, pumpkin juice, and licorice wands. Cory made fruit wands (fruit kabobs) and a great cake with Harry Potter fighting the basilisk. I also served veggies and cheese and cracker (so there would be at least a few healthy options!) and Bertie Bott's Beans (Jelly Bellies.)

When the kids came in, they got their pictures taken in costume (thanks Mandy and Jessica!) in front of Platform 9 3/4. (Awesome printout from Steph and Jake. Thanks, you two!!) I used those pictures to give each child who attended the party a personalized thank you card. (Grandparents got pictures of Jack as thank you cards ;) ) After that they were sorted into houses. I made nametag necklaces with pictures of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw crests (I didn't want to make anyone be in Slytherin. And really, who wants to be a Hufflepuff?) on them. The kids chose them from a hat, which put them into teams for the games. It was really hot out, so we spent most of the party inside, but we went outside to play Quidditch (a relay race where the kids rode a broom and threw balls into laundry baskets. The last kid had a snitch to put in the basket.) We also did a magical creature hunt through the forbidden forest (stuffed animals of dragons, unicorns, etc. hidden in the yard.) Inside, we played pin the sock on Dobby. (Again, big thanks to Steph and Jake for the great printout!) The kids also made wands at "Ollivanders."

My little wizards
Magical Creature Hunt
Making Wands
Pin the Sock on Dobby

Favors and Decorations
The kids took home broom treat bags filled with Bertie Bott's Beans, chocolate frogs, and Harry Potter Silly Bands. (Thanks Stacy!) They also each got a "Care of Magical Creatures" textbook ( they could choose from different books about nocturnal animals, strange sea creatures, snakes, etc.) For decorations, I just printed out Hogwarts and house crests and hung them on ribbons to make banners. I also printed out signs to hang up with names of businesses from Harry Potter ( an Ollivanders sign at the wand craft, a Three Broomsticks sign by the drinks, etc.)

Here is a list of websites I used for ideas, printables, etc.
Most of the recipes came from here.
I found lots of ideas for games, favors, and more at The Hostess With the Mostess.
I used this template for the invitations.
Everything I needed for chocolate frog boxes was found via The Enchanted Tree.

It was an awesome party, and Jack and I are already thinking about ideas for next year! Now only six months until Harry's birthday party!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Disney World!

We have been back from an eleven day Disney World trip (yes, eleven days!) for about two weeks. Jack's birthday party was five days after we got home, (another blog post next week?)then we had a week of VBS, so I just now finally have time to sit down and tell you all about it. My mom, Aunt Elaine, the kids, and I were there for six days when Cory flew in to join us, and drive back home with us. We had lots of fun. We went to each park twice, except for Animal Kingdom. We also went to the Daytona Beach on the way there and the way back, which meant my kiddos got to see the ocean for the first time! And Addie started walking! I think the easiest way to break down the trip is by park. I'm just going to combine the days we spent at each park into one description.

Magic Kingdom
If you can only go to Disney World for one day, make sure you spend it at the Magic Kingdom. (We spent two days there.) The kids were so, so excited as "Mickey's Castle" came into view on our ferry ride to the park the first day. With the help of The Unofficial Guide to Disney World, that I borrowed from my friend Stacy, and the companion website,, and their amazing phone app, Lines, we were able to ride every single ride that the kids were big enough to ride. (I think there were maybe four that we didn't do.) We rode many rides multiple times. I don't think we ever waited in line more than 25 minutes. Jack's favorite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean. Harry loved Winnie the Pooh. Addie danced the whole way through It's a Small World. After pretty much every single ride, Harry cried because he wanted to ride again. We assured him that every ride would be fun, but he seemed to forget that each time a ride ended. Here are some pictures of us at Magic Kingdom!

We spent two days at Epcot. Thanks to fast passes, and the fact that Harry was too little for the ride, but could still get a fast pass, Jack was able to ride the totally amazing ride, Soarin', four times! Right next door was a boat ride that took us through the innovative gardens that Epcot was cultivationg. Harry totally loved this ride, even though it was kind of for adults. My kids LOVED the Tres Caballeros ride in the Mexico part of the world showcase. It was kind of like It's a Small World, but absolutely no lines, and it starred Donald Duck. Also, the very friendly workers plied my children with dozens of Mickey Mouse stickers every time we rode :) Another super fun thing we did there was the Kim Possible Mission game. They gave the kids a cell phone looking "communicator" that played videos telling where to go for their next clue. When they got there, something interactive happened. (They made a guitar play, a puppet dance, etc.) I have to say, I thought it was pretty cool! And, the very nice worker let us pick where we wanted to do our mission (Mexico) instead of making us walk far in the downpour and risk missing our Soarin' fast pass!

Hollywood Studios
This park had a lot of shows, and most of the rides Harry was too little for( and Jack was scared of some of them, even if he was big enough. Tower of Terror lived up to its name for him!) But it was still fun! The Star Wars ride was really neat (even though poor Harry was heartbroken he couldn't ride.) We loved the Indiana Jones show, the Little Mermaid show, and the Muppet 3D movie. And the Toy Story ride was ridiculously fun!!! On the second day at Hollywood Studios, just the boys and Grandma went. Jack got to go to Jedi training and lightsaber fight Darth Vader! Then they got picked to go on stage during the Indiana Jones stunt show! And a popsicle seller gave them a free popsicle, just for being cute!

Animal Kingdom
We spent one day at Animal Kingdom. The safari was really neat, and got us really close to the animals. (We were about half way through before Jack realized they were real animals!) The kids LOVED the Boneyards playland. (They would have happily spent all day there! And the Lion King and Finding Nemo shows were amazing! There was also a really fun Bug's Life show.

Universal Studios
As an added bonus, Cory and I got to go to Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Thanks Chris!!!) And an added bonus to that, we went kid free (Thanks mom and Aunt Elaine!!!) It was our firt kid free outing since going to see the last Harry Potter movie in November, (eight months ago!) and it was the day before our anniversary, so it was perfect! I will just say it was completely awesome, and not go into tons of details like I am tempted to. We spent about eight hours in the park, and probably seven of them were spent in the Harry Potter section. That's how awesome it was (or how dorky I am?) I will now show restraint and only put two pictures up.

I will end this very long post with a few tips for taking little kids to Disney:
*If you have a baby in a stroller, bring a carrier with you too, as strollers are not allowed in any lines. The stroller parking is often far away from the rides, and one "stroller parking lot" can serve for an entire section of the park. This means you could end up holding your baby for a long time!
*We didn't do this, but you have the option of using your multiple day ticket over the course of fourteen days. So if you want a more relaxed pace, you could go the parks every other day (or whatever schedule you want.)
*You can bring pretty much any food or drink into the Disney parks, as long as they aren't in glass containers. You can save a ton of money by packing your lunches.
*Use the Lines app to see if one person should go grab fast passes for a ride, or if you should all just go get in line. Also, if you find out a kiddo is too small for a ride after waiting in line, they will give you a rider switch pass for up to three people.
*Strollers must be folded up before riding on any of the parking lot trams. Good to know before loading your stroller all the way up just to have to hastily tear everything out of it and quickly fold it down! Also, a double stroller is a pretty tight squeeze into the tram rows, so go for the first rows in each car. They are double rows with wider aisles.
*Character meet and greets: The best place to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto is at The Character Spot at Epcot. Go there first thing when you get to Epcot, and you will wait 20 minutes or less to meet them all! (Later in the day, it is 40 minutes or more.) The best place to meet the princesses (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Belle) is the Town Square Theater when you first walk into the Magic Kingdom. Again, go there first for a 20 minutes or less wait.
*Don't waste your time at Stitch's Great Escape at the Magic Kingdom. Super lame!
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