Monday, May 2, 2016

Disney, Pt. 1: Star Wars Kids' Races

We're back from an awesome long weekend at Disney (two weeks ago already!), and I have so much to share! We had such a blast.

We had planned to drive down the morning of Friday, April 15th, but that week we got a little eager and decided it would make life much easier to just go down Thursday after Eric got off work. So, I spent Thursday morning running around like a crazy person getting everything ready and loading the car before picking Ellie up from school and springing the news on her that we were Disney-bound a day early. (I think she was excited, but she did express a wish that my after-school "surprise" for her had been a Belle dress, so who can say.) As soon as Eric got home, we piled into the car and off we went!

Here we come, Disney!

We stayed in the same hotel where we stayed for marathon weekend last year, and it was great. We had three bedrooms, a giant jacuzzi tub in the master bedroom, a full kitchen and a washer and dryer. They also had a pool that ended up being great for the kids, but more on that later. We arrived at the hotel with plenty of time to settle in and let the kids run around like lunatics for a while before putting them to bed.

Now that the kids are in bed, Mama's vacation can begin.

On Friday morning, we got up and ready and headed out to Wide World of Sports for the first running event of the weekend: the Star Wars Kids' Races. I should backtrack and explain that the entire reason for this trip was the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side running event. Disneyland does a Light Side run, and this was the first year Disney World hosted a Dark Side counterpart. We signed up for the 10k in the fall, when I had barely ever run at all in my life. I'll share more about that decision and how it has turned out for me in my next post, but we kicked off our entire weekend with a race for the kids, followed by a 10k for the parents the next day. Exciting!

My mom and Gary met us at the race expo at Wide World of Sports, where we retrieved our numbers and t-shirts and perused the goods for sale for a bit. We also snapped some pictures and got the kids ready for their race.

Family race bibs!

Getting the kids ready

They look ready to run!

We're ready, too!

The kids' races kicked off at 11:30 a.m., starting with the 100m dash for the one-to-three-year-old division. So, E.J. was up first! Eric accompanied him on the track, and when his turn came, he darted off. He did fizzle out a little bit after the opening stretch, but he picked it back up in time to cross the finish line like a rock star. And thus, the first medal of the weekend was in hand!

Go, E.J.!

Heading towards the finish line!

Crossing the finish line!

The first W. family medalist of the weekend!

Ellie went next, in the 200m dash for the four-to-seven-year-olds. To our surprise, she told Eric she wanted to run it by herself! To be honest, we expected E.J. to be the more independent one on race day, but Ellie surprised and impressed us immensely. She lined up by herself, while Eric kept and eye on her and the rest of us waited down the track for her. The "solo runners" came out with some speed (they looked like little lightning bolts compared to the wee ones from the previous group!), and I was afraid I would miss Ellie in the crowd. In fact, I nearly did miss her, because just as I gave up looking, thinking she must be in the next heat, there she was: back there behind them all, running steadily at her own pace, just rocking it. That little girl ran the entire 200m, all by herself. As her parent, it was truly amazing to watch. It was not what I expected of her, but I should know by now that I should expect anything because all she needs to do is get it in her head that she's going to do something, and it's as good as done. She ran the whole way. As she passed the D.J. booth, they called out, "Let's hear it for our princess in pink!" to her, and the "Jedi" they had along the course came out to run with her for the last bit. Because she had let all the other kids run ahead of her, she had the stage all to herself for her big performance and she killed it.

Ellie waiting with the rest of the kids (she has her pink ear muffs on!)

Here she comes!

Eric recording her great run!

Crossing the finish line! Way to go, Ellie!

We're so proud of her!

Look at these two running, and also, tell me the music they ran to wasn't so perfect:

VIDEO: Ellie and E.J. running their races
(If you can't see the video embedded above, click here to watch it on YouTube)

Proud mama over here, folks.

Nice job, kids!

After the race, we hung out a little bit longer. Wanting to keep her athletically impressive streak going, Ellie asked to try her hand at a little obstacle course they had set up for the kids, and again, she was awesome.

Go, Ellie!

She's a natural!

Before we could head back to the hotel for lunch, we had one last objective: take a picture with BB-8! He was stationed inside a tent with roughly an hour wait, but we couldn't pass up the chance to meet the latest droid sensation. Luckily, they had Star Wars clips playing on big screens on both sides of the line, so the kids hung out with Grammy and danced, snacked and watched Star Wars while Eric and I waited in line for our turn.

A real live celebrity!

Our first character photo of the weekend!

Then, it was back to the hotel for lunch and naps for the kids. Gary headed home but my mom stayed, so she could be our much-appreciated childcare while Eric and I ran the next morning.

On the bus back to our car from the event. I'm ready for a nap!

After naps, we went out to Disney Springs for a quick shopping trip.

Disney Springs

The kids doing a little shopping

A natural Ellie smile, captured on film! Hooray!

Then, back home for dinner and early bedtime for the next round of runners!

Coming up next: The Dark Side 10k!

If you want to see more photos from the kids' races, check them out here!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Eight Years

Today marks eight years since I started this blog! WHAT. I never would have thought it would go on this long. I'm not sure we'll make it until nine years, but today, we'll celebrate eight!

Of course, this is also my 1,299th post. The NEED FOR ORDER part of me is twitching that I didn't make it to an even 1,300 by the eighth anniversary, because it's just so much cleaner to say "eight years and 1,300 posts!" but I guess I'm just going to have to live on the edge a little bit this year.

Anyway, as always, thank you to those of you who read, especially of those who aren't even related to us. I'm touched that you take an interest in our family, and I enjoy sharing our life with you.

In honor of the day, I give you one of the very first pictures I ever posted of Eric and me on the blog (posted after his law school graduation in May 2008, and the most recent one posted of our family! These eight years have been so good to us!

Here's to eight years, friends!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

More March

We had tons more fun in March, in addition to all the Easter celebrating!

We checked out the new Destination: Dino exhibit at the zoo during a member preview:

You wouldn't know it from these pictures, but the kids were actually pretty scared of it.

We toured a local Publix with friends from my moms' group, which included tasting buttercream at the bakery, eating apples in produce, touching a fish in the seafood department, waving to the guy stocking the milk and trying our hands at the cash register:

Publix tour!

We voted in the primaries:

E.J. was very helpful.

E.J. had another Nature's Newbies at the zoo, and he and I went early to have a little lunch date (he LOVED that!). In class, we met a snake that E.J. was intrigued by, but mostly he just kept a safe distance.

Hot dog and french fries and Mama all to himself! Pretty fancy!

He did touch it, but mostly just whined and ran to the other side of the room!

E.J. and I also shared some fun times at the playground while Ellie was in school!

He's looking so big!

When Ellie wasn't in school, she took to decorating her brother with stickers...

I heard E.J.'s little voice calling, "Help! Help!" from the other room, and came to find this. Poor little guy.

...and, to be honest, Ellie and I did a lot of this:

This comic spoke to me in March, as this conversation happened verbatim on several occasions. 

But she also spent more than her fair share of time being the sweetest:

"Look, Mama! I drew you a picture! It's a sun, like you sing [You Are My] Sunshine to me!"

Sweet girl!

We met the Frozen folks at Chick-Fil-A...

The LOVED it.

...splashed in the fountains at the Landing...

Cutie!

...hit the playground together...

E.J. swinging in silhouette

...and journeyed to a galaxy far, far away:

My little Rey and BB-8!

We went to storytime and art class at the Main Library, and checked out the Peeps Invasion at Sweet Pete's:

One kid loved the Peeps, the other...not so much.

Grammy came to visit...

Walking with Grammy

...and we celebrated St. Patrick's Day with her, starting with an Irish breakfast at the Landing...

St. Patrick's Day downtown!

...and continuing with beef stew and festive hat-making, which got mixed reviews.

Yup.

Grammy stayed for a long weekend while Eric went to Washington D.C. for an interview, and he was able to see a few of our old haunts and scope out some cherry blossoms.

The Georgetown Law campus, cherry blossoms, inside the Capitol, & Chinatown

The kids and I spent a morning at MOSH and enjoyed some ice cream by the river:

After our trip to the space center, they were very excited to see the space exhibit at MOSH!

They're both much happier than they're letting on, I promise.

We met Cookie Mouse (of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie fame) at storytime:

They live for meeting characters.

And, E.J. had an opportunity to try out a new "natural playspace" at the zoo:

Painting with nature, water play and climbing through the tunnel

Phew! It sure is nice to be out of that post-holiday activity lull we were stuck in through January and February! We're excited to be busy again!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Easter 2016

We had such a nice Easter this year! We took advantage of a lot of Easter events around Jacksonville (read: we did ALL THE EGG HUNTS), so we really stretched out our celebration. As it has been with recent holidays past, Ellie helped make everything more fun because she was just so into it. As soon as Valentine's Day was over, she was looking for the Easter decorations and shouting "HAPPY EASTER!" every time we left her presence. The kid loves a good holiday.

Anyway, we started things off with an egg hunt at Ellie's preschool church. It was supposed to be out on the lawn but rain forced things indoors, so the "hunt" consisted of kids pulling eggs out of baskets set on chairs and putting them in their own baskets. The kids loved it, but let's be honest, we're really playing it pretty fast and loose with the term "hunt," here! It was really more of a "gather." After the egg-gathering they had a potluck dinner and appearances by the Easter Bunny, which just thrilled the kids. They also loved dancing and running around like crazies.

E.J. gathering eggs

Easter Bunny!

We also went to "Tea Time with the Easter Bunny" at the mall. It was a pretty fun event, with crafts, games, food (and by food, I mean sweets exclusively), storytime and another "hunt."

Ellie listening to an Easter story with the Chick-Fil-A cow, as one does.

Hunting and gathering

Bucket full of eggs!

That same weekend, we went to the Easter egg hunt in Hemming Park. We had such a great time at this event last year, but this year it really blew up and was PACKED. It was pandemonium during the "hunts," and the event's Facebook page was filled with complaints from parents about kids leaving empty handed (to be fair, it sounded like much of the blame for that fell on the parents who were also pretty egg-greedy, and not just on the event organizers). Personally, we had a good time regardless of the heavy crowds! Each of our kids got a few eggs (Ellie got all pink, just like she wanted), and then we headed over to Sweet Pete's to meet the Easter Bunny. The line was loooooooooong, but we ended up with a nice photo for the year!

E.J. checking out his eggs after the hunt for his age group

MESS.

Happy egg-hunter!

Easter Bunny at Sweet Pete's!

On Good Friday, we went to church at the church where I go to Moms' Group. I thought they were going to have a nursery available for E.J. at least, but they did not, so I spent much of the service running around with him in the lobby. Ah well, I tried. That evening, Eric and I continued what has become a nice Good Friday tradition in our house:

Wine, Reese's in their optimal form, and a little Ted Neeley.

The Saturday before Easter we went to the zoo for another egg hunt, though this one did not require baskets. This year, the zoo set up a scavenger hunt. Each guest was given a paper with clues, and you had to find the animal in question and fill in a letter from an egg sign posted nearby. (All the animals you were looking for, of course, lay eggs.) When you completed your form, you took it to the Great Lawn to redeem it for a bag of eggs. The Great Lawn also had lots of fun activities: crafts, food, bounce houses, and the Easter Bunny. (That guy is everywhere!)

Ellie rocking a toddler smile by one of the egg signs

Ellie helped me fill in a couple letters on our form!

Easter Bunny at the zoo!

That evening, we colored our Easter eggs. I'm going to toot my own horn a little bit and talk about what a genius I was in devising a plan for un-dumpable cups of dye: I hot-glued styrofoam cups to a big piece of cardboard. The kids still splashed a bit (I'm looking at you, E.J.), but everything stayed upright!

Coloring eggs

Just go for it, E.J.

Pink eggs for Ellie!

Our finished eggs!

Playing peek-a-boo in his down time!

After the kids went to bed that night, the Easter Bunny came!

Busted!

The kids' Easter baskets!

On Easter morning, the kids woke up and dug into their baskets!

Here they come!

Ellie checking out her palm pet

E.J. playing with his new Millennium Falcon and Chewbacca PEZ dispenser

Then, we got dressed and ready for church.

They're killing me.

We went to church at Ellie's preschool church, and the service was very nice. E.J. hung out in the nursery the whole time, while Ellie came to church with us. When the time came, she went right up front for the children's sermon and then marched off with the other kids to children's church for the rest of the service. She's so grown up!

That evening, we had an Easter feast of ham, potato casserole, peas and rolls.

Easter dinner

Easter 2016 was a great one!

Easter 2016