My Cup Runneth Over.

I cut the grass this morning.  That tends to be one of "my jobs" around the house, and I really enjoy it.  While the girls were playing near the back porch in the sprinkler, I paced back and forth with the push-mower along the rear of the yard.  I enjoy mindless tasks like this because it gives me the opportunity to let my brain go.  My mind races and bounces back and forth between topics - for those of you at the Young Married Marriage Series last January (2010), it is most definitely a time of "Pop-Ups".  It's also a great time to converse with God over these very random thoughts.

As the girls squealed with delight, running through the cool water from the sprinkler, playing together so nicely, cheating the water restrictions a little bit by providing recreation for my kids in the form of watering my grass, my heart swelled.  I felt so blessed.  I thought to myself, "My cup truly runneth over."  

If you don't live in central Georgia, you might not be aware that we are, yet again, in the midst of a pretty serious drought.  I'm talking the you-better-wear-shoes-when-you-walk-on-the-grass-'cuz-it's-crunchy kind of drought.  Because we're so industrialized, the average homeowner doesn't have to concern themselves with this fact much.  Most of them hear about watering restrictions, and blatantly ignore them on the quest for the perfectly green lawn.  It was this fact that really hit me this morning.  As my neighbors and I utilize our timer-operated, pop-up sprinkler heads to water our lawns with treated, potable water whether in accordance with the watering restrictions or not, I got a pit in my stomach.

Here we are - essentially wasting pure, treated water on our grass when so many people in third-world countries don't even have water to drink.  It's not a matter of having pretty grass there.  It's a matter of life or death.

I'm not really sure what the solution to this is.  It's not like I can bottle up my sprinkler water and ship it to Ethiopia.

But do you see what I mean?

We are completely blind to our blessings.

I thank God every time I remember to for the privilege of living in the United States of America, but what is the cost of living here?  We are so consumed with ourselves and the pursuit of the American Dream that we simply put the sufferings of others out of our hearts and minds and replace it with our own "sufferings" - like not being able to match the paint on our walls to our bedspread and falling short of attaining a golf-course-like lawn and feeling a need to fill our closet with exceedingly frivolous choices of attire, all of which, if it's not obvious, are completely meaningless when you consider our purpose for this life.

When looking through my kids' wardrobes this year, I noticed that Abby was lacking summer shirts and Ben was lacking shorts.  They have some of each of those things, but those were the things I decided they "needed" when I went shopping at Kohl's yesterday.  And here I am, today, convicted about those purchases.

I could give away 90% of my possessions and still not "need" a thing.

I know it's not just me that's guilty of this mentality.  It might not be all Americans or just Americans.  It might be an infection on anyone in the whole world that is able to want frivolous things.  I don't know.  But, today, I find myself convicted.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
When I lost my job in December, it was barely a month later that Sam applied for and received a promotion at work.  And any minute of time I'd spent considering the implications of my lost income were revealed to me as a complete and total waste of time.  Because God had sent us a message.  Essentially, it was this - "Jennie, relax.  I've got this."
24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!  (Luke 12:24-28)
One day (just not May 21, 2012), Jesus will return.  On that day, according to 2 Peter 3:10,
10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Basically, all of this "stuff" - the paint colors, the lawn, the clothes, the 401k - it's going to be gone.  Whether it's the day the Lord returns or the day we die.  It doesn't matter.

Instead of running ourselves into debt over TVs, cameras, new cars, and vacations, we need to consider the debt that was paid on our behalf.  And what we "owe" in return.  One of the ten books I read recently was entitled Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.  Short of the Bible itself, I don't think a book has ever convicted me in such a way before.  David Platt talks about our "debt".
Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell. We owe Christ to the world - to the least person and to the greatest person, to the richest person and to the poorest person, to the best person and to the worst person. We are in debt to the nations. Encompassed with debt though, in our approach to missions, we have subtly taken ourselves out from the weight of a lost and dying world, wrung our hands in pious concern, and said, "I'm sorry. I'm just not called to do that." 
Paul essentially wrote this very thing in Romans 1:14-15 - "I am in debt to the Jews and the Gentiles."  That's all-inclusive.

While I was out there mowing the grass, consumed with guilt over my extravagances, convicted about my witness, I thought of this exchange from Schindler's List.  There at the end, when Oskar Schindler realizes the gravity of the situation.

Oskar Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I'd just... I could have got more.
Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.
Oskar Schindler: If I'd made more money... I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I'd just...
Itzhak Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.
Oskar Schindler: I didn't do enough!
Itzhak Stern: You did so much.
[Schindler looks at his car]
Oskar Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.
[removing Nazi pin from lapel]
Oskar Schindler: This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.
Oskar Schindler: I could have gotten one more person... and I didn't! And I... I didn't!

He may have been talking about Jews during the Holocaust, but this is how we should feel as Christians.  When our numbered days come to an end, will we be able to say that we did everything we could to save our brothers & sisters while we had the chance?

If this were my last breath, I know what my answer would be.  (Hello, Holy Spirit.  Yes.  You have convicted me.)

Maybe I should have waited until I determined what it is that God wants from me before I wrote and posted this, but the fact remains that I have been put on my face today.  We are all so blessed - and this includes the very next breath that we are permitted to breathe.  We are here for a short time, so we need to concern ourselves with things eternal.  Not the temporary things - because these temporary things are just that.  Things.

When you consider that even those in the higher echelons of the lower-class in America are more wealthy than 80% of the world population, it tells you something about met needs.

It's not just my cup running over.  It's yours too.

So we have food, shelter, and clothing.  But where are our hearts?


Mom Diggity (Things)

You're used to getting answers that don't make sense.  For instance after asking, "Abby, where did you learn to dance like that?" you hear,  "Because!  I like to."

You've fallen victim to the kid-induced A.D.D. syndrome otherwise referred to as mommy brain.  The most recent example of this was forgetting to unpack a cooler full of watermelon slices before putting it up in the 100+ degree attic.  Just a public-service announcement to anyone considering doing this - Don't.  Rancid watermelon does not smell like bubblegum.

You prefer the summertime when your kids wear sandals/flip flops because it's an in-your-face reminder to keep their toenails trimmed and pretty.

You know that "It spits the butter went up the water spout" actually means "The itsy, bitsy spider went up the water spout."  And if it doesn't, it's still appropriate for your butter-loving toddler to change the words to meet her preferences.

Your independent toddler is not daunted by normal childhood impediments like being unable to open a string cheese by herself.  That's right.  She just gets the scissors.  Yet another example of the "I do it!" phenomenon.

Your toddler was so proud of getting her shirt on all by herself you didn't have the heart to tell her it was backwards.  So, in spite of your obsessive-compulsive tendencies, she slept like that all night.  Kids are good for curing these types of issues.

Many, many months after your toddler started catapulting herself over the side of the crib, rendering the function of a crib completely useless, you finally made the switch to a toddler bed, and much to your surprise, she handled it like a champ.  Well, she stayed up an extra hour due to uninhibited access to toys, puzzles, and books, which she all carried back to her bed to play with.  And she got up an hour early, just because she could.  But once she fell asleep her little, chubby arm dangled over the edge in a way that made you just want to eat her.  You're calling it a success.

Usually your toddler calls popcorn "pop" and sometimes just "corn", and occasionally, it's a mashup of "porn".  As in, "Mommy, I want porn.:"  As a result, you try to avoid popcorn in public and keep laughing at her in the privacy of your own home.

You don't own your own derby car racetrack, but that doesn't stop your seven year old from making one out of the big pile of bricks and leftover wood in your backyard.

You love the dichotomy of your four year old in a dress on the playground with all boys, wielding a stick and not just a tiny bit of attitude.

When your four year old says, "Trust me", you find it incredibly hard to do so.


The Simplest Surprise

When it comes to gardening, I mostly don't.  I love the idea of spending time pruning, preening, and picking, but it's just not practicable.  For now, anyway.  In my relationship with Sam, he is most definitely the green thumb.  I do what I can - which is to say that I mow the grass.  But as far as beautifying, that's really all him.

When we moved into this house nearly five years ago, we had very little landscaping to do.  We added some perennials to the flowerbeds for low-maintenance color and let it ride.

Every so often, the plants get a little unruly and we trim them back or weed them out.  Sometimes, they get more than a little unruly, and we have to spend a full day or more hacking and tugging.  We did that on Tuesday night.

Maybe it's because we were out, knee-deep, in the gardens that I noticed this week's Simple Pleasure, or maybe it's because they just bloomed and I hadn't had the chance to notice prior, but among one of our most successful patches of perennials - our yellow coneflowers - there was a surprise.

A solitary purple coneflower.

Now I'm sure there's some sort of scientific reason for this anomaly.  We do have some purple coneflowers in our backyard that we transplanted from our previous home that, I suppose, could have migrated out front via some sort of critter.  

But for me, I like to think God put it there to make me smile.  And to make me wonder over the glory of God embodied all around us - including in something so simple as a single flower.
The earth is filled with the Lord's glory.  Habakkuk 2:14
Join me and so many others as we recognize and cherish our Simple Pleasures with Dayle at a A Collection of This and That.


Notorious M-O-M [Stuff]

There's a reason you cringe every time your two-year-old is anywhere in the vicinity of  asphalt - that being her affinity for head-butting it.

Your first grader gets a note home in his daily agenda that says, "Hit someone in gym class.  Granted, the other kid hit him first, but he should have said something because it lead to him getting bit."  Your first instinct was, "Hooray!  He didn't immediately tattle!"  That's probably not the reaction the teacher was hoping for, but you are working on finding the positive.  (Take that, bully.  My passive boy is finally standing up for himself.)

One of your 10-gallon buckets goes missing and then shows back up with six-inches of mud in the bottom, and what appears to be a well-planned habitat for tiny little frogs.

Despite behaving well for days, by the time you get to the grocery store, your kids exhibit all of their pent-up tricks, running the gambit from clawing each other in the cart to the continuous, low, whining hum, from shouting "Mine!" about any and every grocery item on the shelves to using the cart as their own personal jungle gym.

You might not have gotten many pictures of your baby girl's second birthday, but you got this one - and it just about sums it up perfectly.

Your first grader brought home his bookbag weighing approximately 50lbs containing all of the "treasures" his desk accumulated during the year.  It was all you could do to put off digging through it until after dinner.  (But you didn't want to spoil your appetite...you know, just in case.)

Speaking of first grade treasures, you found all of this in a pair of cargo shorts - in one pocket alone.  When asked about the pile of rubble, he informed you that they were all digging apparatuses for the school playground, which begs the question - was he going to take all of that back to school in some other pocket?

You've discovered that playing with an inside toy on the back porch (like Geotrax train tracks) is as good as buying an all-new toy.  Who knew a change of venue could be so invigorating?

You love the security your first grader has in his masculinity when he insists you write down the Barbie book entitled "Barbie Girls Club" that he read to his little sister on his Reading Log for school.  (YAY Barbies!)


#74 - Read 10 new "adult" books.

It's both taken longer than I hoped and not as long as I expected.  Nonetheless, the day has arrived when I can affirmatively proclaim that I have read/devoured/enjoyed ten adult books.  This means there were no crayon marks from other library borrowers on the pages.  There were no illustrations of cute little animals acting like people.  There was nary a "...and they lived happily ever after" at the end of any of them.  They were books written by adults for adults.  And they came from all different genres.  Because I'm trying to be more well-rounded like that.  (As opposed to reading 10 John Grisham novels, tempting though that was.)

Here's the list, in chronological order no less:

1.  The Time Traveler's Wife

I read this in December of 2009.  Needless to say, I can hardly remember it by now.  Long story short, I cried.  And I remember being disappointed at the end of it.  But I'm one of those who likes happy endings with nothing left to the imagination...for the most part.  Haven't seen the movie, but that was my motivation to read it...so I could be one of those people who saw the movie and said with an air of superiority, "This isn't anywhere as good as the book."

2.  Bleachers

Because I had to have one John Grisham in the list of ten.  It was completely different from any of his other books.  And I wouldn't say that's a good thing.  I happen to like his formula lawyer-centric tales.

3.  Understanding Exposure

A non-fiction book on photography.  This is the book (so I'm told) for beginning photographers.  I just wanted to understand the differences between my manual settings.  It definitely helped, but I still feel like I've just dipped my toes in.  I'm a far cry from swimming the English Channel.

4.  Chasing Superwoman

I won this book in a blog contest!  I was so pumped.  I found Susan's blog through a network of working moms in blogland.  Lo and behold, she herself had written a book about her life a Christian working mom and how she juggles it all - her family, her career as an attorney, and herself.  Definitely a great read, and one I could relate to on sooooo many levels.

5.  Parenting By the Book

This is John Rosemund's anti-postmodern "How to" parenting book.  He reminds us that we don't need a book about how to parent.  We have one - the Bible.  He rails against the current ideals of pumping our kids full of self-esteem, thereby creating self-centered monsters who put themselves before all others, in complete opposition to the teachings of the Bible.  It's definitely an eye-opener as to the errors of our post-modern parenting.  This is the description from Amazon:
In the 1960s, American parents stopped listening to their elders when it came to child rearing and began listening instead to professional experts. Since then, raising children has become fraught with anxiety, stress, and frustration. The solution, says John, lies in raising children according to biblical principles, the same principles that guided parents successfully for hundreds of years. They worked then, and they still work now!

6.  Radical:  Taking Your Faith Back from the American Dream 

Absolutely.  Amazing.  This book put me in my place by exposing my diluted, Americanized faith.  When I consider what Christians around the world risk for the Word and the Truth, it puts me on my face.
Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell. We owe Christ to the world - to the least person and to the greatest person, to the richest person and to the poorest person, to the best person and to the worst person. We are in debt to the nations. Encompassed with debt though, in our approach to missions, we have subtly taken ourselves out from the weight of a lost and dying world, wrung our hands in pious concern, and said, "I'm sorry. I'm just not called to do that." 
Romans 1:14-15 "I am in debt to the Jews and the Gentiles."

7.  The Christmas Thief

This was a fluff book given to me by my mother-in-law who is so wonderful about giving me things to read over Christmas break.  I read it in a day, I think.  And it was fun, cute, and easy...something I didn't have to think about too much.  (Think Kenny Bania on Seinfeld.)

8.  The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2011

So we went to Disney World in April.  And I read this gigundous book from cover to cover in preparation.  I can only say that it must have played a part as to why our trip was executed so expeditiously, efficiently, and (of course) magically. 

9.  When Did I Get Like This?

My sister lent me this book by Amy Wilson.  I don't generally like to make recommendations, but OH MY GOODNESS.  If you are a mom of young children (and probably if you ever have been), you have to read this book.  Stop what you're doing right now and read it.  I guarantee you'll relate to it.  I intend to write a post dedicated solely to this book, but here are a few snippets from the pages:

On learning not to yell as much:

There are certainly times when a good lung workout is called for - say, when Seamus is about to scooter into the path of a FedEx truck - but that is all the more reason to save the screaming for when I really need it.  The hardest part is recognizing, in the moment, that my kids having the effrontery to whine, "I didn't say I wanted peanut butter with grape jelly" is not an instance where utterly losing my mind is really warranted.

On weigh-ins at OB appointments during pregnancy:
If Dr. Merman was weighing me, I would take my earrings and socks off first, so as not to add to the grotesque number he would proclaim with the click of his pen.
10.  The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

This is the first book I read to completion on my Christmas gift from Sam (aka my Kindle).  I can't believe it took me 5 months to read a book, but that's par for the course in this mom's life.  All in all, he was a pretty cool dude.  My favorite feature of the Kindle is being able to highlight my favorite quotes throughout.  You're so lucky.  I'm going to share some with you now.
Our sensations being very much fixed to the moment, we are apt to forget that more moments are to follow the first, and consequently that man should arrange his conduct so as to suit the whole of a life.
My conduct might be blameable, but I leave it, without attempting further to excuse it; my present purpose being to relate facts, and not to make apologies for them. 
(Someday when I write my own autobiography [ha!], I'll try to have half as much candor about myself.)
In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride.  Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.
And that, friends, is that.
#74 -You have been checked!


Terrifically Two!

To my sweet and spicy Sarah,

On Friday, almost as if out of nowhere, your second birthday arrived.  We started practicing "How old are you?" a few weeks in advance to prep you for the inevitable inquiries that would come following your birthday.  The night before we sang "Happy Birthday" to you a couple of times, to get you in the mood.  But you know what?  We could have skipped all of that.  Because all you are going to need in this life is that smile.  And that free-flowing, hearty laugh that comes from deep down in your belly that we waited so patiently to hear, after a year of being so very stingy with your giggles.

You, my beautiful girl, are so full of life, so carefree and yet intense all at the same time.  You dance, hop, and run from one place to the next.  We just thought Abby was going to be our most energetic child.  You had a great mentor, but I think you have now become the master.  You can concentrate with the intensity of an air traffic controller, something you no doubt inherited from your big brother.  And, somehow, the combination works for you.  You are all so unique.  All so typical of yourselves. 

You are so tender, always rocking your babies with a "shhh", consoling Abby when she injures herself on a multi-daily basis, and patting your friends at the church nursery on the back when they miss their mommies.  You have a nurturing spirit, and I have never seen a little girl give such strong hugs and juicy kisses more freely than you.

You start dancing at the first sound of music, whether its on tv, the radio, or the kitchen timer.  You really get into it.  You don't just dance, you bounce and jig.  It's inspiring.  We should all be so joyful in spirit.  You have taught me so much, little one.

You lack for nothing, except maybe trepidation or fear.  And even that's because you have such a huge sense of adventure.  You don't get nervous at the tip-top of playgrounds or on the edge of piers or when running at top speed across the asphalt.  I wouldn't call you accident prone, only fearless and wide-open.  You've taught me that moms can never be too careful, but at the same time I just can't stop you from hurting yourself and learning from it.  Though, the "learning from it" part seems slow in coming.  I'm waiting (not so) patiently.  I caught a glimpse of fear when we went to the elementary school playground a few weeks ago and you slipped at the top of the ladder.  You hesitated and said, "Boo boo!  Fall."  It's either because you remember your accident that resulted in stitches or because I have warned you with that very phrase countless times.  No matter, the next day you were back to your usual tricks, disregarding the consequences to your body.

We can always count on you to take attendance.  Whether it's just the five of us at home, or whether we have company, your first thought in the morning is "Where's _(whomever is out of sight at that particular moment)_?"  You can be counted on for more than just roll call, however.  You are the foremost identifier of ownership in our house.  Walking from room to room, you identify the owner of every single item, almost constantly.  "Mommy's coffee.  Abby's baby.  Ben's book.  Daddy's shoes.  Abby's shoes.  Ben's shoes.  Mommy's shoes."  Oh, by the way, you love shoes.  And you will try them on, no matter the size, and continue your dance/hop/run to the next location.  Among your favorites right now are Abby's soccer cleats.  You also love books.  Though you have enough energy to power a small city in that little body of yours, if you have a stack of books and a comfy lap to sit in, you'll stay still for hours, just devouring the pages over and over again.

You are filled with wonder.  "Mommy, wook!"  Whether it's to draw my attention to your incessant spinning (you love to make yourself dizzy and fall down), the fact that you stole the laser pointer from Ben's room and are spastically displaying it on the ceiling, or you see a puppy out the front window.  There is nothing that doesn't amaze you.  We should all see the word through those bright eyes of yours.

Last but definitely not least, your grin and eyes show the tiniest bit of mischief.  Okay, maybe a lot of mischief.   How someone can be so cute, cuddly, and just mischievous all at the same time seems like a mystery, but I need only to look at you and see that it's not just possible, but perfect.

I don't know what the future holds for you, but I know just from your first two years, that though you have just one tiny little heart, you have a world of love to give.  Please don't lose that inherent joy you bring with you wherever you go.  You are one precious, little girl.  I am so grateful God entrusted you to Daddy and me.

Happy Birthday, Beautiful Princess!


Manic Mom-day

You're getting used to being blamed for everything.  Through tears, just last night, your four year old said, "Mommy!  You made me bite my own finger!"  Somehow...

You know you're supposed to celebrate the independent spirit in your toddler, but when she's lying on the floor amid a pile of clean diapers after removing her own poop-filled diaper, attempting to wipe herself, the "I do it!" fight is about the last thing you want to deal with at that moment.

Despite how it was when you were growing up, you've found that the age at which children no longer think their parents know anything isn't in the teens anymore.  It starts around seven.

Since your paper shredder broke months ago, and the pile of to-be-shredded junk mail has officially taken over your computer room, you set your girls loose with a pair of safety scissors and permission to mutilate the papers in front of them.  An hour later, you take the full trash bag of shreds and crumples to the trashcan with the sinking feeling that this "brilliant idea" is probably going to backfire, and you high-tail it inside to better safeguard your important, not-to-be-shredded documents.  But hey, at least the shredding is done.  For now.

You've learned through many a fight with miniature spaghetti-stained clothes that spaghetti night at home means no shirts on the kids.  That's right...keepin' it classy.

You used to think when your kids were toddlers that they were too young to help out around the house.  Now you take advantage of it while you can.  At least at that age they're impressionable and agreeable.  They're great for making deliveries from one room to another.  (e.g. - Here, Sarah, take this toilet paper to the bathroom.)

You realize your four year old is trying to develop a taste for coffee when you find her walking around the living room with a mini-mug into which she's poured a tablespoon of coffee and stirred a cup of sugar and a half a pint of creamer as evidenced by the mess she left in the kitchen.

P.S. - I promise that's not the only mug I own.  But it is my favorite.

It's probably some sort of exploitation, but you let your four year old stay up late as long as she keeps rubbing your head, brushing your hair, and/or putting lotion on your legs and feet.  The greasy spot in your hair from sixteen squirts of No More Tangles while she plays hairdresser is totally worth it.

You might be the worst parent ever, but you tell your child that if he/she scores a goal in soccer they can pick the restaurant of their choice to go to after the game, knowing that the chances of your excessively passive children actually kicking the ball, let alone scoring are slim to none.  (Of course, you don't tell them you think that.)  It worked pretty well at motivating them to go after the ball.  The sad thing is that after seeing them "kick up" the effort you realize how bad eating at home must really be to them.

Your heart swells with pride at your kids' soccer games when in the afternoon heat with temps in the 90's, they persevere and don't even mention how unbearably hot it is out there.  You could stand to take a lesson from them.

Kids are awesome.  (Most of the time.)

[Disney's] Hollywood Studios

The fourth and final park in our Disney adventure was Hollywood Studios (which I couldn't stop referring to all week as Universal Studios, which is not the same thing...it was very Joyce-like of me).  This will be the shortest post of all of the Disney-related posts for a variety of reasons:  it's the smallest park, it was pouring rain the first day we went so I didn't take my camera, and the second day we went we left shortly after lunchtime.

If I could post one picture about my predominant memory of Disney's Hollywood Studios,  it would be this one:

Those are our ponchos, drying as they lay draped over the backseat of the van.  Coupled with our umbrellas, we stayed dry enough, but it was a cold, cold rain (atypical for Florida), so our tootsies were frozen in our flip flops as we waded through the inches of water puddling here and there.  Not so much a review of the park, but a recollection of our own personal experience.  And just a word of advice - always bring ponchos & umbrellas in the event it rains.

Despite the rain, it was packed at Hollywood Studios.  I think it's just that way, regardless, because the park is so much smaller than the others.

In the rain we caught a bunch of shows - The Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones' Stunt Show, the Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show (with cars) that was even more impressive in the deluge, and Disney Junior Live on Stage (which, showcasing a bunch of Playhouse Disney shows like Little Einsteins, Jake & the Neverland Pirates, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, was awesome).  We watched a 3D Muppet movie (during which Ben asked, "What's a muppet?" and I felt simultaneously sad and old).  And basically hung out indoors.  Most everything that was outside was closed anyway.   We did manage to ride the Tower of Terror, and got Fastpasses for The Rockin' Rollercoaster, but it broke down while the boys were in line.

When we came back a few days later, we spent our time on the headliners.  Ben absolutely loved the Tower of Terror and I think he was impressed with the Rockin' Rollercoaster, but maintained that Expedition Everest was the best ride at all the parks.

We went directly to Toy Story Mania for Fastpasses but we weren't going to be able to return until nearly 4pm, and we hadn't planned on staying that long, so we endured the alleged 60 minute wait.  There is plenty to look at in the line.  And what amazes me about Disney World in general, is how detailed every, single thing is.  Right down to the giant prop crayons, with paper peeled off.  That's amazing, right?


The ride was awesome, but we voted as a family and we think Buzz Lightyear's ride at the Magic Kingdom is just as fun - and the wait is not as long.  So, take that how you will.  We rode Buzz's ride about five times in two days.  We only managed to ride Toy Story Mania once.  And the rides are very similar to each other.

On our way between attractions, we stopped for a cameo in front of Lightning McQueen & Mater.

We walked through the Honey I Shrunk the Kids set/playground (which again made me feel old).  Check Abby out as she plowed into the kid below her.  She got in trouble.  (But I think the boy who took too long to get out of the way was halfway responsible.  Sound just like a mom, don't I?)

Then we waited on the boys at the Rockin' Roller Coaster.  For the record, this day, it felt like we were in Orlando, Florida.  

And what girl can resist trying on wigs?  


The Rockin' Roller Coaster was the last ride the boys rode before we departed from our inaugural Disney vacation.  It's also the first time in a week we thought we might have lost a kid, due to Sam and Ben getting split up in the single-rider line.  Ben got off about 5 rounds after Sam.  PHEW.

To sum up (I think you might know what's coming), Disney is awesome!

P.S. - We'd have been far less efficient during our trip without the guidance of The Unofficial Guide to Walk Disney World.   It was a huge help!


Long ago in a faraway land...

It feels like about a century ago that we pulled into the parking lot of Epcot and made our way toward the signature, giant silver ball.  It has been about six weeks.  And before my memory fails me completely, I am bound and determined to chronicle our first Disney trip by park for posterity, and by golly, today's the day I knock Epcot off the list.

Maybe not so poignant a beginning as the others, but like I said, I have to get to it before I forget all of the magical details.

We put Epcot off, not knowing what to expect.  I had never been there and all of the literature I read indicated that it was the least stimulating (read: most boring) of the parks.  Maybe it was because of our low expectations, but Epcot pretty much rocked. 

(I recognize that if I keep saying "Disney was awesome!" I'm going to get my name removed from the credible reviewers list...but if I had found something bad to say, I would.)

Perhaps Epcot might have been less alluring back in the days when character greetings were taboo.  But they aren't.  So, pretty much, that's what we did.  And Abby absolutely delighted in it.  Ben was a good sport too.  He had to meet a lot of princesses.

Sam and I coordinated a tag-team parenting strategy where one of us would take Ben on the "thrill rides" while the other of us would stand in line with Abby to meet whomever it was available.  She wasn't picky.  And she was perfectly content to meet whomever was in the shorter line.  (For this, her parents were very grateful.)

This is the story of Epcot - in photos (but not exclusively because you know I love captions).

As we made our way around the World Showcase...

In France, Abby elected to pose by the topiary version of  Belle because the live Belle was wearing her common blue dress with apron.  Apparently, Abby can't be seen with princesses unless they're in evening-wear.

With the beautiful Aurora.  (She really was pretty inside and out.)

In Morocco, both kids posed with Aladdin & Jasmine.  (No, really, we made Ben do that.  Hahahahaha.  He got a lot of points from me for that.  He's not usually such a good sport.)  Ben said, "I didn't know Aladdin was from Morocco."  Neither did I, kid.  At Epcot, they just go with "close enough".  I guess they didn't figure our little geography nerd would call them out on it.

In China, they met Mulan.  At first sight, Ben exclaimed, "Who is that!?"  Then he remembered that Mulan didn't always look like a boy.

In Future World, while Ben was off doing things like experiencing G-forces at Mission: Space, designing his own roller-coaster at the Sum of All Thrills, and collecting and disposing of virtual trash at Don't Waste It!, Abby met Vidia and Rosetta. (Rosetta was very chatty.  I think it made Abby nervous.)

We were 2nd in line to meet Daisy Duck.  (Meeting Daisy was almost not optional.  We left her line at the Magic Kingdom in favor of eating lunch.  That was not the choice Abby would have made and was very clear about it.  No worries.  We found Daisy at Epcot.  phew!)

 Stitch was next to Daisy, so when I asked Abby if she wanted to hug him, she said, "Sure."  Just like that.  See...told you she wasn't picky. . (She's never even seen Lilo & Stitch.)

 Obviously this is Bolt, but from across-the-way, I thought it was the clock-wielding rabbit from Alice & Wonderland.  Abby didn't care either way.  "Sure."

The KidCot stops made the more-educational World Showcase a bit more exciting for the kids.  They got to color a bear on a stick at each country with Sharpies (gasp!  No, really...what as Epcot thinking!?  Guess Crayola wasn't interested in sponsoring them?).  They also collected a stamp from each country, kind of like a passport.  A few of the countries wrote the kids' names in their languages.  (That was super cool to me.)

Our favorite attraction (if you will) at Epcot wasn't really an attraction at all, but a retail store for Coca-Cola, Club Cool.  If you've ever been to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, you know that at the end of the tour, they let you sample cokes from all over the world (including the more popular flavors from the U.S.).  Club Cool features only the lesser-known flavors from other countries, after all, that's the theme of Epcot, I think.  They had a delicious ginger-ale that Sam and I enjoyed.  Abby & Ben liked the Mezzo-Mix from Mexico which was an orange-cola.  Beverly, the Italian option, was the talk of the place.  It tasted like battery acid/cough syrup. 

It left such a big impression on Ben that he traipsed all the way over to Italy to ask the stamp guy if he'd ever tried it, and if so, did he like it?  He talked with the man for about a minute and returned to us.  We asked him what he said and Ben said, "I don't know.  I couldn't understand him." 

Glad we did that.  Now we'll never know.  (Guess Ben gets his accent-interpreting skills from his mother.)

Epcot was a great break from the super-scary rides (according to Abby) of the other parks, but had enough rides to keep both kids thoroughly happy.  Abby enjoyed (to our surprise) Test Track, and racing around the track at high speeds.  She's so random. 

Oh, one thing, the worst ride at all of the parks is found at Epcot.  Journey into the Imagination with Figment.  Sam and I just looked at each other and said, "huh?!" at the end.  Feel free to skip it. 

My other tip...definitely get a fastpass for Soarin' first thing in the morning.  We all loved it.  (But I wouldn't enjoy waiting in line for 80 minutes, and that happens fast.)

Epcot, check.  We'll come again some day.  That's a promise.

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