Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mother's Day

We walked in the Race for the Cure again for the 14th year. We walk in memory of my aunt Marsha and in honor of my aunt Yvonne among many others. We have a family BBQ after the walk. We were lucky to have such a beautiful day.

 Walking under the huge flag at the start

 The little ones who make us moms

 Mile 3

Great Grandma Lois

Leo's 3rd Birthday

Leo is three!! It is hard to believe that we now have such a big boy. We spent his birthday evening at the Mall of America's Nickelodeon Universe. Notice in the first picture he picked truck #3 all on his own. Crazy! The kids rode a bunch of rides and we grabbed a quick dinner. It was a fun night to celebrate as a family.

His birthday party was the Saturday following his actual birthday. We celebrated with both sets of grandparents, Great Grandma Lois, both sets of aunts and uncles, 2 cousins, 2 great aunts and 1 great uncle, and 2 second cousins. Phew! We had ham sandwiches, cheesy potatoes, fruit and jello salad for dinner followed by gifts then cake and ice cream. Leo absolutely loved his party and all of the attention. He didn't cry when we sang to him which was a great improvement over last year! Thank you to all of those who helped make his birthday such a special one!

My favorite poses from Leo's 3 year photo session by Mandi on May 6th. (AmandaLea Photography)
Isn't he a handsome little guy? Yeah, I think so too!


Leo (3 years)

Grandpa John (2 years?)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Julie's Birthday Week

As most of you know, Julie turned 50 while we were at Walt Disney World. I knew I needed to make it as special as her 40th (I took her on a surprise trip to Montreal then she had a surprise party). I planned for months to create a weeks worth of surprises. I created 10 envelopes. Inside was a note card with a message on one side and a quote about aging on the other. They were each associated with a gift.

Here is the list of what she received throughout the week:

1) A personalized ipod playlist with 15 songs from past and present, ranging from the #1 song the day she was born to Forever Young by Rod Stewart.

2) A trip to the Nike Factory Store where she could get a few things for herself. (G & G watched the kids for us). She also got a bag of red licorice.

3) A birthday shirt to be worn to the park on her birthday.

4) A Shutterfly book of her first 50 years. I wrote to both her parents and her brother for input in the book. I asked them questions about her childhood and put some of their responses in the book. This project took me the longest because I had to sneak into her parent's house, scour for photos, scan them all in and create the book all without her knowing. She got awfully annoyed at me spending so much time on the computer :) Below are just a three of the over 100 photos I used in the 30+ page book.

5) I only used portions of the responses from her parents and brother in her book, so I typed up the full responses so she could read everything they wrote.

6) I created a Magic Kingdom Scavenger Hunt where Julie had to find or do at least 5 things on the list. I know her pretty well so I didn't pick anything too crazy. She did officially do/see 9 of them without help. Here is the list:

Julie’s Birthday Adventure - Magic Kingdom 2012 

______ Get a photo with Mickey

______ Find the Roy Disney statue

______ Take a family photo in front of Cinderella’s Castle

______ Try a Dole Whip

______ Find a bottle of water for under $3.00

______ Get more than 10,000 points on the Buzz Lightyear Ride

______ Count the number of Dumbo “cars”

______ Point out someone else wearing a birthday button

______ Make a wish in the Castle wishing well

______ Point out someone wearing a first visit button

______ Try to remove the sword in the stone

______ Find a cast member from Minnesota

______ Find the window on Main Street that has Walt Disney’s name

______ Find 5 hidden Mickeys

______ Buy yourself a Disney World souvenir

7) For my big compilation gift I utilized the service of to create a video of phone messages of friends and family important to Julie. There were 46 messages that totaled almost an hour's worth of birthday greetings and fun memories. I split them into two parts, so #6 was part 1.

8) At breakfast on her birthday I had her watch other videos I had put together. I captured the kids and my nephew singing happy birthday and also went to the kids' school to record their two classes also singing to Julie. I labeled this one as wishes from those "truly young at heart".

9) This one was part II of the phone messages.

Bonus: I brought 5 (for 5 decades) floating candles in gold (as in 50th anniversary) and lit them on her birthday night once the kids were in bed. My parents and I toasted her on this special day and we had a nice recap of the week out by the pool.

10) Her final surprise was on our way home. It was a bag of Swedish Fish and a promise of dinner just the two of us. We accomplished this on Monday after we got home. We went to the Timberlodge Steakhouse, our favorite place. 

I know she enjoyed having her birthday week in Florida spending it with her family and my parents. She was true to form in her low key attitude but I knew she was impressed when she said she'd have to hire a party planner for my next big birthday. It surely was a birthday to remember from my perspective. I'm sure from her's too.

Disney 2012 - Day 5 Animal Kingdom

We set our alarms as usual and tried to get to the gates at park opening. We did pretty well and we headed straight to the Festival of the Lion King musical. As the rest of the group waited for the rope to drop I went to get a FASTPASS for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. In all the info I read the Safari ride is the most popular and longest wait. Just as I returned the rope dropped and we were swept in the crowd toward the theater. To our surprise Daisy Duck was just hanging out around the corner.

Here is Julie in line for the Lion King wearing the shirt I gave her and the birthday button provided by Disney. She got tons of birthday wishes and since the button had her name on it, they usually caught her off guard. I loved it!

After the Lion King it was time to head for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Our FASTPASS was timed perfectly! We saw a ton of animals even as close as laying right next to the road!

This was the safari vehicle we rode in. There  weren't any visible barriers between us and the animals, amazing. This is definitely a ride we would all recommend. We saw elephants, lions, giraffes, alligators, hippos, and many more.

After the Safari we grabbed a bite to eat and saw Flights of Wonder, the bird show. Though Leo was a bit antsy from sitting we enjoyed as the birds flew over the audience and we saw birds of varying sizes and colors. Here is a photo of 2 audience members having a large bird fly right at them!

After the bird show we had a little while before Nemo the Musical was to start. We picked a shady bench to occupy while we had an ice crean treat. We got great seats for the 3pm show and would also highly recommend it. It is the movie in musical form, a very impressive production.

We caught the parade as we were leaving and saw the characters in their safari gear. It is definitely a different style parade than at Magic Kingdom. Even though we only accomplished 4 major attractions it was now late afternoon and the heat of the day had worn us out. We said goodbye to Disney World and headed back to have dinner and pack for our early morning flight.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Disney 2012 - Day 4 EPCOT

We made reservations in January for the princess breakfast at Akershus Banquet Hall in the Norway area in EPCOT. Our reservations were for 9:20am so we were able to get in the gates before the park opened. This was AMAZING! There were no crowds, just employees, a few others headed to breakfast and a Segway tour group. It was so peaceful and since it was the Flower and Garden Festival we were able to see the topiaries and flower gardens without the crowds in the way. The princess breakfast was a favorite memory for all of us. The kids were completely thrilled to see 5 of the princesses. Once we were in the door we got a group picture with Belle. We were given printed photos of one with just the kids with her then some with all of us. The hot food was served family style and the cold food was buffet style. The food was quite good and just as we were finishing the princesses came out one by one from a door about 3 tables away from us. The kids were able to watch as a few other tables met with them and when they reached us they were about to explode! Just check out their faces!!

After breakfast we rode The Seas with Nemo & Friends ride where you ride inside a clam shell. Nemo's friends try to find him through a variety of animation screens. After that we went to Turtle Talk with Crush (the turtle from Finding Nemo). This was my mom's favorite since she was bewildered watching the turtle on screen interact with the kids sitting in the theater. I have to admit it was pretty cool. We then went into the Land building. We rode Living with the Land ride, saw The Circle of Life movie, and all of us except Leo (due to his height) rode Soarin'. Soarin' was a spectacular ride that simulates riding a glider flying over California. We all recommend it!

We left EPCOT mid afternoon so the kids spent some time back at our resort in our own splash pool and we all had a little happy hour. The kids didn't mind the pretty cool water and quite enjoyed their berry smoothies. Julie requested Sizzler for dinner followed by shopping at Downtown Disney to get our last souveniers. We saw some neat Lego and Barbie displays too. Bedtime was later than planned but we were excited for our last day at the parks.

Disney 2012 - Day 3 Magic Kingdom

Our original plan was to go to Animal Kingdom on day 2 and Magic Kingdom again on day 4 but due to Extra Magic Hours and the crowds they bring we changed our schedule. We got up and out a little earlier so we could be arrive close to park opening. We got through the gates and headed straight to see Mickey (and hopefully Minnie as it turns out). We had to wait about 20 minutes but were thrilled to see them both there.

After meeting M & M we went by the castle and you can't just walk by without more photos...

We then headed to the Dumbo ride, then to the Peter Pan ride, we saw Country Bear Jamboree, rode a raft over to explore Tom Sawyer Island, climbed the Swiss Family Treehouse, rode the Flying Carpets of Aladdin, watched the afternoon parade, then finally took the Jungle Cruise.


We didn't have any lost child scares this day and Dru had on her ID bands so that made me a little less paranoid. Our last stop before we left for the day was the souvenier shop of course. We left around 5:00pm to get some dinner and to get the kids in bed before they fell apart.