Sunday, January 27, 2013


Ok, so maybe I should have just printed all these pictures out and put them in an album and called it a day, but I have this thing about finishing something I have started.  Here's to seeing it through.

It had been such an incredible week so far.  We were really trying to see it all and doing a pretty good job of it.  We had hit all the Disney parks except for one.  My love and I were stoked about Epcot, which would be the last new park to visit before our final park hopping day.  We were just praying the kids would like it too.


They could hardly wait to go inside the "big ball."


I thought about it a minute.  I was sure the "big ball" could wait.  I was sure there were much more interesting things to do and a better plan of action.  For example, I thought the internet told me to hurry on to the world tour and go counterclockwise while bouncing on one leg.  Well, not the last part, but sometimes reading all that stuff online just felt as stupid as that.

I learned a long time ago that well thought out plans are not the best for we rode the "big ball" first.  The kids loved it and wanted to ride again.  It really is cool.  Just remembering it right now made me think of something.  If I thought it was sort of neat, then the kids thought it was really, really neat.  Everything is magnified in a child's eyes.  The simplest things become enormous memories for them.  So, yeah, we liked the "big ball" a lot.

But then, we had to go on a little mission...a Mission to Mars!  Now, you know I was so excited about this one.  We had two choices...ride A or ride B (I forget what they really called them, so I'm going with A and B.)  Ride A was for beginners and less intense. Ride B was for trained Astronauts.  We decided to take ride A, and then we quickly decided we were ready for Ride B.


I finally got to experience it.  I was amazed at how the kids handled themselves.  We all had responsibilities in the flight.  At one point during the "B" mission, I was holding on during an intense maneuver while Jesse was playing with buttons.  The girl was a natural and seemed completely unaware of the significant force we were feeling.  It was a beauty to watch.


Jinx put Mickey in Space?  If you haven't seen Space Camp a million times like I have, that comment means absolutely nothing to you.  I'm sorry about that.


I was amazed by the aquarium at Epcot.  We spent a lot of time here.


Absolutely amazing.

I heard a lot of "Look over here!" and "Wow!" from them both.

Hey Nemos.  I love your story.

We also road the ride, Soaring, before heading off towards the countries.  That one is a must do as well.  You really feel like you are soaring across the country.  It is a beautiful experience.

It was time to travel the world though.  I couldn't wait!

I was amazed by the first beauty we saw.

I wanted to jump the fence and do cartwheels on the grass.


I'm sure Jesse wanted to pick the flowers.


I liked this place they called Canada.

Wait though..."Is this the telephone booth that takes us back to Hogwarts asked the kids?"  They didn't actually ask me that.  They just loved playing in it.


Nice to have been there.

Let's move on!


I love how Disney really thought this through and how much we felt like we were really experiencing each country.  Beer really helped too.


I'm not going to give a break down of everything we ate and everything we saw.  I will say that we ate and drank all that was humanly possible.



In France, we stopped here.  We walked in to see, smell, taste the fresh pastries.


I will say this though.  Jonah, you had a warm croissant with heavenly ham and luscious cheese.  I have tried to mimic the sandwich.  It was amazing.  Jesse, all you ate was anything with chocolate.  My taste buds are alive and well in you my sweet girl.


We spent some time in a beautiful shop here.  Jonah was very impressed with French soap.  I went on a little wine tour.  It was lovely.

One day we will do this for real guys.

It is still really cool leaving one culture and entering another.


I don't know when or if I would ever get to take the kids to all these places, so I am proud to have this journey at least.

I think one of our favorite places was Germany.

It was beautiful.


We stopped here.


Heaven help me.

If only I could have tasted one of everything.

I remember the smell...the chocolate and the caramel.  Heaven help me.

And the shops here were fantastic!  Jesse stopped to color.


Then, we were home.


Our tour ended in Mexico.  This is truly where we belonged.  We dined in the most fabulous restaurant and went on a boat tour when we were done with dinner.  It was Margarita heaven, and the food was divine.  I think I could move in and be just fine.


But all things must come to an end.  We were going to stay that night for fireworks, but the bottom fell out.  This was the hardest rain we had seen.


We were running with our ponchos on...trying our best to catch the earlier bus back.

Till the kids saw this along the way and had to stop and make some music.  I absolutely adored this moment.  We also stopped at a tiny, little table and umbrella to eat some chocolate on our way to the bus.  We ate chocolate in the rain.  I have to say, it was one of the best moments of my life.

Then, we had to start moving.  A rocket lit under my love and all of the sudden, he and Jonah were almost out of my sight in the dark rain.  How were they moving so fast?  Was it the chocolate?  I didn't have that kind of chocolate.  I was pushing Jesse along and trying to keep up.  I realized I needed to start sprinting to make it.  Now, this was not a lovely moment.  I believe I got to the bus stop and admitted that I might have peed my pants a bit.  Jesse will never let this go.  She says all the time, "Remember when we were running and you wet your pants?!  Ha ha ha ha ha."

Oh my, my, my.  Some things you just shouldn't say out loud...not even to family.  She's going to bring this up in public soon.  I just know it.

But Oh Epcot, I love you.  J&J, I think you are going to love it even more when you are older.  I can imagine all of us sitting in a pub together later in life (when you are of age of course.)  It's a beautiful moment in my mind.

I just hope you stop to play drums with me again.  Love you guys.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Universal's Islands of Adventure

I really don't know how to contain my excitement about this post.  You see...we are a Harry Potter loving family.  I can't even tell you how many times we have watched the movies.  Harry and Hermione and Ron...well, they are special to us.  They have been wonderful role models to my children, and I will forever be grateful for that.  We have adored their journey, and I wasn't about to take a trip to Orlando without seeing them.  The rest of the park...well, I just considered that a bonus.

We arrived on a Thursday morning.  Universal's Islands of we come.

It was a good day.  It wasn't raining like a few days before.


And as usual, I wasn't quite prepared.

I didn't have a clue how to get where I wanted to go first, but I did know it was going to be an adventure.

There were beautiful shops and stores near the entrance.  Too bad we didn't stop.  Next time.  I didn't come here to shop.


There was only one thing on our mind, and that was that map in Jonah's hands.  "Jonah, take us to Harry!"

We passed an entire section of Super Heroes that was super cool.  There was a giant Hulk coaster!

Then, we walked through this Comic Strip section that looked really neat.  Do you see how bare the place was?

Then we saw this.  We stopped and looked in amazement.  Oh my goodness I thought.  I believe we are going to get wet at Universal!  I wasn't thinking about that beforehand, but I did bring extra clothes!  (By the way, this ride was as awesome as it looked.)

It almost distracted us from the mission at hand, which was...FIND HARRY FIRST!

And we turned a corner...and there it was.


My heart still skips a beat looking at the photos.  I am sure I cried a tear.  It just felt so real.  We were there.  We were there.


Wow, this is where everybody else was too!  The entire park was there and they were all as pumped as we were I think.

I don't know.  Maybe you have to love the stories like we do.  But it is kind of like walking into the Magic Kingdom for the first time.  It is magical.


One of my very favorite shops was Honey Dukes.

You can't go into this candy shop and not feel like a kid.


Exploding Bon Bons...


Every Flavour Beans...


Eyes wide open...

Not that you really want to eat them...but Every Flavour Beans!


Blood Pops...yum!


I am pretty sure this is the stairway to Heaven.  I adore this photo.  I adored my daughter in this moment. If I could go back right now and had a million bucks, I would rent the entire store out just for her.  I would play music, and we would twirl around the store and eat candy all night long.


Oh now...I know you remember these!  Poor, poor Ron.


Butter Beer!  Can I tell you how good this is?  Butter Beer is so sweet and refreshing.  You have to try Butter Beer!


Ok now.  I have to tell you a very important story.  As I have said before, I didn't have time to do much research before we went on this trip.  I had really good intentions, but work got pretty stressful in the weeks before I left.  I didn't have any time to study up.

We were walking though this beautiful place, and I saw the sign above.  I also saw a crowd of people waiting to get in.  I was intrigued.  What could this be?  I told M to wait, and I went to the lady in front to ask.  She said, "This is Olivander's Wand Shop."  Like duh lady...what the heck do you think it is?  "Oh, OK," I said, "Thanks!"  I knew who Olivander was, but I honestly had no idea exactly what this was all about.

All I knew is that I wanted to see every single bit of what this place had to offer, and I didn't care how long it took me to get inside to see Mr. Olivander for whatever he was doing.  The kids were a little restless in line.  M and I were drinking Butter Beer and Pumpkin Juice.  We had no idea what we were waiting for, but we were waiting.

It took us about 45 minutes to get to the entrance (if I am remembering correctly).  It was the only line there!  Must be good I thought!

There was a lady employee at the entrance.  She was talking to us.  She asked us questions.  She talked to us a lot.  She seemed to pick us out of the line in a strange fashion to enter the store.

We were finally there.  It was really dark inside.  Cameras were prohibited.  There were only a handful of us in there at a time.  "What in the world?" is all I am thinking.  I refrained from grabbing my camera.  It was hard, but with no flash, I wasn't going to be successful anyway.

Suddenly, I realized what was about to happen.  Yes, this is just like the movie!  And there was Olivander himself!  The small group of us stood in front of his counter.  Our family of four was sort of singled out to the side.  Olivander said a few words and then next thing I knew, he called Jonah forward.

I wanted to stop time.  I wanted to stop time so badly because I knew something wonderful was about to happen.  I knew I didn't have a camera to capture it and there was nothing I could do about that.  So, in a second, I let it go and I said to myself, "Heather, just soak this in.  Enjoy the moment."

Mr. Olivander asked Jonah a few questions.  He asked him if he had been to his shop before, and Jonah said no.  He asked him if he had a wand and Jonah said truthfully, "Yes, I have a wand."  He was speaking of his Harry wand he had back home.  Mr. Olivander said, "Oh, but you haven't ever received a wand from Olivander's now have you?"  "Oh no," Jonah replied.

Mr. Olivander then proceeded to attempt to find the wand for Jonah.  If you are familiar with the story, you know what happened next.

He gave Jonah his first wand.  He also gave him instruction on what to say and asked him to flick the wand as he did.  Suddenly, books fell from the tall bookshelf wall in front of us!  "Oh no!" Mr. Olivander exclaimed, "this is clearly not the wand for you."

Then, he gave Jonah another wand, and asked him to point it to the light and flick.  Suddenly lights shattered all over the place.  Clearly a bad choice.

Then, he tried once more.  This time Jonah gave a spell and flicked his wand and it was like a light was shining from heaven on his sweet, blond head.  This was it.  This wand chose you my sweet Jonah.

I am pretty sure I was crying in the back watching my boy.  I will never forget this for as long as I live.

The presentation was over and Jonah walked out with his wand and a giant smile on his face.  (And a lady approached me...nice lady...Universal employee...she said, "If you would like to keep the wand, please see one of the cashiers in the store ahead."

Uh, hell yeah lady.  I'm not about to leave this place without the wand that chose my boy.

As we left Jonah said, "Mama, this wand is real isn't it?  It is really magic isn't it?"

"Yes baby, it really is....and it chose you."

Oh my goodness...a moment to remember forever.

We rode the ride in the castle many times.  Jesse was not tall enough, but the cool thing about it was that she could walk through with us!  She got to experience the journey and when Jonah got on the ride, we were escorted to a neat waiting area that was playing the first movie.  As soon and M and Jonah were done, he could sit with her and I could ride.  We did this many, many times.

The ride is absolutely amazing.  It is incredible.  It is freaking fantastic.  You truly feel like you are flying.

Did I tell you we got chocolate frogs?  Oh yeah, we got chocolate frogs.


When we left Harry world, we hit the wet rides and then ate our frogs.


They had famous wizard cards in them just like in the book.

I wanted to collect all the cards.  Jesse just wanted to eat the frogs.

We went back for lunch and ate at The Three Broomsticks restaurant.  Great fish and chips.  Simple, good food and the only real beer we found in the area.  Yum.

It was sort of hard to top all that, but we did explore the rest of the place.  How can you skip Seuss?

We liked this area too.  It is for younger ones.


Jesse adored The Cat in the Hat ride.

It was super neat.


But the other amazing ride that we did at Universal was Spider-Man.  All I can say is Wow.  This is one of those surprising, incredible experiences.  It is a must do.  AMAZING!

So was Jurassic Park!  I almost forgot about this one.  We are a dinosaur loving family too and this is a must do.


Just so much to see.




But at the end of the day, we only wanted to go back to Hogwarts.


We needed to talk to this guy.


"So, when am I old enough to go to Hogwarts?  I think I would be a great wizard."


"Oh, I am sure you both would be fantastic wizards."


"Hogwarts would be lucky to have you fine, brave children."


Oh Jonah.  I don't know who enjoyed this the most.  We all did really.


I love you more than words can say.  I love your passion for Harry Potter.  I love how you lose yourself in the story.  I love how you believed that wand was real magic.  I love you so much.  I believe in you Jonah...always.


Maybe you will get a scholarship.


And here they are.  The loves of my life.  Oh how they make my life...well...magic.