Tag Archive | family

Harry Potter Vacation

Brace yourselves, friends: this one has a lot of photos! But they’re all super fun, at least if you like Harry Potter (and who doesn’t?). We took an actual family vacation recently, our first real vacation in about three years. The kids and I are HP nuts, and I really wanted to take them to the theme park at Universal Studios before the girl grows up and moves out. She’ll be a senior this year, so my time was limited, and I managed to convince the husband that we should do it this year. We kept it short (only three days in Florida) but managed to pack a TON of fun into those three days.

I wanted to make the most of the experience and do the whole typical tourist thing, so I chose a hotel onsite. We stayed at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which was a super-fun 60s-themed hotel with bright decor, mid-modern furniture and oldies playing in the lobby. There was even a bowling alley and a diner. The kids and I loved it, but found out why it was the cheapest onsite hotel: despite being advertised as “within walking distance”, it was about a mile away. And when you’re walking all over the theme park, you don’t want to walk a mile to and from your hotel. Thankfully, there was a fast and free shuttle that got us there easily. The first two days were spent almost completely at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

We got a first glimpse of Hogwarts as we entered the park, and it was awesome! We started at Hogsmeade and went to Ollivander’s to watch the little show there: Ollivander chose a boy from the audience and went through the wand-choosing with him. Then we went into the shop, where we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of wands to look at! None of us could decide right away, so we moved on. There were a ton of fun storefronts, plus several real shops where you could buy any kind of souvenir you wanted. We went to Honeydukes, had lunch at the Three Broomsticks, tried Butterbeer, had drinks at the Hog’s Head, and rode the rides, and the girl discovered she loves roller coasters! Even the boy rode them, and enjoyed them! I discovered I don’t like scariest ones as much as I did in high school. The Quidditch ride in Hogwarts was scary but fun, the Flight of the Hippogriff was tame but my favorite, and the Dragon Challenge coaster was terrifying for me. I kept my eyes closed and was too scared to scream; the girl and the husband ended up riding it three more times!

A short ride on the Hogwarts Express took us to London, where there were intriguing (but sadly fake) bookstores. We saw the Knight Bus, caught a glimpse of Stan Shunpike, and tried the door at 12 Grimmauld Place. We looked around but didn’t see Diagon Alley, but we did see people going through an alley next to a brick wall…

And there was Diagon Alley! It was amazing! I loved it even more than Hogsmeade. So much attention to detail, so much like the movies. I just wanted every single storefront to be real. We did go into Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, Ollivander’s, Florean Fortescue’s, and Madam Malkin’s. I wanted the wool store, with the window display of self-knitting needles, to be real, but alas it wasn’t. By then the girl had chosen her wand (Luna Lovegood) and she’d gotten an interactive one to be able to do spells throughout the park.

Diagon Alley was even more impressive at night, when the lights came on and the dragon atop Gringotts roared. The Gringotts ride was fun, but only good enough to ride once. We definitely preferred the rides at Hogsmeade. Still, it was so fun to go through the bank and see the lobby and the chandeliers and the goblins!

Over the two days, we went back and forth several times. I finally chose my wand (Cho Chang) but also came home with a beautiful Death Eater wand. We ate all the food and bought all the souvenirs and candy, and walked until our feet were ready to fall off. It was marvelous.

The last day in Florida was planned for the husband, as a reward for being a good sport about the theme park. We spent most of the day at the Kennedy Space Center, and we all ended up loving it.

My favorite part was seeing the actual Atlantis shuttle. It was immense; I still can’t fathom how things so huge get into space. The husband was in his element, more excited than he’d been at any point at the park. He spent just as much money there as I did at the parks! It was all fascinating, so many shows and exhibits, and we learned a ton about the space program. The girl and I were too scared to ride the launch simulator, but the boys loved it. My only regret is that we didn’t have time to do any of the bus tours. I can see another trip in the future.

From there we drove to Cocoa Beach to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

I took a ton of photos but none of them capture the magic of the ocean so I’ll just share these two. None of us are water lovers, but we all wished we had suits so we could frolic in the water, which was warm and soft and inviting. We learned a very important lesson: when going near the beach, always bring swimsuits just in case.

We’re settled in back at home now, but I’m still wishing I could go back.

IMG_4061

Three Years Gone

Today marks three years since my father died. I still hate those words. I will always hate those words. I’m not in pieces today, not like I was two years ago. Today it’s a mild, pervasive numbing sadness. It still hits me at times with a shock: he’s gone? Wait, how can that be possible? And there are times when out of the blue I just miss him. Miss his hugs, his smile, the way he loved all of us so much. But there are many more times that I can think about him, talk about him, with ease and fondness and laughter. That part has gotten easier in the last three years.

Part of me is just sad that he doesn’t know me now. I’ve changed so much in the last three years, grown so much. I’m a different person in so many ways. I put my family first, and I try to appreciate every family gathering. I value truth and honesty and loyalty, which I always did, but now I don’t put up with the bullshit, the liars, the fakers. I worry less about how I may appear to to strangers, and more about how I’m treating the people I love. I’m not perfect, never perfect, but I try to admit it when I’m wrong. I apologize. I find more joy in a family dinner than I ever did at work. I live a quiet life now. A peaceful life. It’s a much richer life, and for that I’m grateful. I wish it hadn’t taken something like that grief to make such a difference, but at least it happened. I read somewhere that you don’t truly grow up until you lose a parent, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s true. It’s profound, or at least it was for me. Who else is such a big part of you? Who else is so instrumental in shaping who you are?

Today I’ll look at some old pictures, relive some memories. I’ll cry, but I’ll smile too. Tonight we’ll go out with my mom and siblings to have Mexican food and margaritas, his favorite. And when we raise a glass for a toast, in my head, I’ll thank him for bringing us all together. img031

Happiness is contagious. How many people can you infect?

if you’ve read my previous posts, you know I had a wonderful weekend devoted to yarn and crafting. The resulting energy, as well as all my purchases, encouraged me to reorganize my craft room. I packed up my scrapbooking supplies into the large closet, which let me eliminate one of my folding tables to make room for two shelving units. I was able to take all my stash yarn out of plastic tubs and get it out where I can see it and touch it. I grouped it together by fiber for the most part, though there are a couple of project bags and a “shawl yarn” area.

Image

 

The remaining table is my main workspace for when I’m planning projects, packing orders, editing manuscripts, or even working on my own writing. I’ve got my scanner and printer handy, and my head is nearby for when I need to take some photos.

Image

 

Here’s my little desk area that houses my laptop, pen collection and gigantic Edward puzzle. Yes, I’m an unapologetic Twilight fan. I hope you’ll respect me anyway. If it helps, next to it is a signed letter from Dean Koontz.

Image

 

Finally, I was able to bring up all my yarny books and get them together in one bookcase. Next to them are the tins holding all my buttons, so I can match buttons to yarns. I used some black modular shelving to hold random crafty supplies and my current inventory of finished items.

Image

 

I had it set up by Sunday evening, and I was just puttering around in it. It’s a happy room. It’s a welcoming room full of color and imagination. The funny thing is that over an hour or so, my husband and both kids ended up in here with me. No real reason. At first they were just admiring the changes, but then they stayed, and just hung out with me. And the next morning, I was in here working on my computer, and my son wandered in after he got up. He sat in the rolling chair and started looking at the pictures and things I’ve got in here, and he was content to sit quietly in here with me until he got hungry enough for breakfast.

Apparently I have become the peacekeeper. By that, I don’t mean I mediate fights, though of course I do. I mean that I have an abundance of inner peace right now, and I think they’re hoping to absorb some of it. I’m profoundly grateful for the way we have our life set up right now. I’m grateful that I have the time and resources to practice the things that bring me joy. And if I can share my joy with them by sharing my happy craft space, I’m delighted.