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Thanksgiving Eve Family Game Night

Saturday, November 29, 2014
We have been having a great holiday weekend with family and friends in town. Kristen came to visit from Atlanta for the holiday and weekend, and Grandmama and Lisa came up to celebrate Thanksgiving too.

Wednesday night we all got together for a little impromptu family game night at the Eckleys. We had yummy appetizers for dinner and played lots of games. And the children ran around playing and being crazy.

We played a round of Headbanz and Happy Family as a big group and then split off into smaller groups to play some other games. We played the Disney version of Headbanz and Perry who knows Disney quite well more than once helped people cheat by walking up and blurting out what was on the card on their forehead.

It is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. And in this case that someone was Perry. At the end of the night he took a tumble while running through the house and hit his lip pretty bad making it bleed. It is not a fun sight to see your toddler come running to you with blood coming from their mouth. But it was nothing a little hug and a "boo boo bunny" can't fix. But it was indication that it was time to get the little guy home and in bed, because it was just one more sleep until Thanksgiving.

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When long dinners are a luxury

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Saturday night Andrew and I got to have a rare child-free night to ourselves. It was pretty impromptu after Granna and Granddaddy asked us on Thursday if Perry over for a sleepover on Saturday. Of course the answer to that was yes.

The Bridgestreet Christmas Tree is so pretty!

We decided to go out to eat to a place that you would never want to take a toddler...the Melting Pot. Multiple hours seated around very hot things is not a very child friendly experience. We tried to get last minute reservations to no avail, so we wound up eating at the bar. But they have burners and a full menu served there, and college football on the TVs, so we were happy. And very happy to not have a child with us.

We hadn't really had lunch, unless you count popcorn at Disney on Ice earlier in the day, so we had lots of room in our tummies and calories left to use on melted cheese and chocolate.

Everything was so good. They were incredibly busy and the waiter kept apologizing for taking so long with the courses. We really didn't notice though and encouraged him that we were fine visiting and in no hurry. We wanted a long dinner. We brought along some "date night" games and activities that Rivertree had posted as a challenge for married couples. We didn't do the entire challenge (we didn't have any play dough at our disposal) but we had fun with the mad libs and would you rather questions. I learned that Andrew would rather be a pirate than a ninja and his new pet name is the big zucchini. See...there are still things to learn after 6 years.

The date night challenge included instructions to let your waiter choose your food for you. We decided to do a variety of this just with the dessert course. All of the Melting Pot's chocolate options are amazing, but we tend to always go with one or two old faithfuls. So we decided to let our waiter choose and surprise us with the chocolate concoction of his choice. It was so fun...we loved the suspense of what it would be. He had fun with it too and actually went off the menu and brought us a white chocolate creme brûlée fondue. It was amazing. And an added bonus was that it meant he got to set it on fire!

Three hours later we were finally ready to leave the restaurant, totally stuffed. We walked around Bridgestreet for a while checking out the new stores and walking off a couple of the calories we had just consumed. We bought each other a couple of christmas gifts...because that is how we roll.

Then we went over to Toys R Us and had a great time buying presents for the salvation army angel child we adopted. We picked a two year old little boy. We love adopting an angel the same age as Perry, because we can pick out things we know Perry would love and hope that he will love them too.

It was a such a fun date night out on the town. So so thankful for grandparents nearby that invite our sweet boy over for special sleepovers. Thanks Granna and Granddaddy!

Disney on Ice

Monday, November 24, 2014
Disney on Ice: Treasure Trove was performing at the VBC this weekend. When we heard it was coming to Huntsville months ago we put an ear mark on our calendar so that we could be sure to go.

Silly selfies have begun to be a fun way to amuse ourselves. And Perry has learned to stick out his tongue. Hopefully he has also learned tongue etiquette. 

We knew Perry would love seeing all the characters perform. It's particularly great for those with little attention spans because it covers a bunch of different Disney stories and stays on no one topic for more than a couple minutes. So in the two our stretch of time we got to see snippets from Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Little Mermaid, Lion King, Aladdin, Snow White, Repunzel and Princess and the Frog. And of course we got to see Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald host the show. 

It was great. Our disney loving little boy sat through the whole thing just mesmerized. Pictures taken of the show however were terrible. Lighting on ice = washed out. In this case, it is not "just like being there..."  It was way way better in person.

The other fun part of Saturday morning was a little family breakfast at Dunkin Doughnuts. If you remember back a few months, Perry was originally not a big fan of doughnuts. A statement that has since changed. He has now decided he is willing to overlook the messy sugar aspect of it in favor of it tasting really yummy.

We had fun doing "cheers" with our munchkins.

Sugar and Disney. Pretty much a preschooler's best day ever.

The rest of Saturday consisted of Perry taking a good long nap and me getting together with Kay and Theresa to do our Moreland family Christmas planning. Put three type A organized ladies together and you will have Christmas planned in about 15 minutes flat. We even had typed up handouts. lol.

Saturday evening after nap we took Perry over to Granna and Granddaddy's where he had been invited for a sleepover. This was awesome because it meant date night for Andrew and I. More on that later though.

Let there be lots of lights

Friday, November 21, 2014
It's the middle of November and the weather is already seemingly schizophrenic. The week that began so bitter cold it could have passed as January ended near 60 and sunny. Word on the street that is just the kind of winter we are in for. I suppose time will tell.

But if I had to pick for either the weekdays or the weekends to be nice outside I would gladly choose the weekend. We had earmarked this weekend on the calendar to go walk through the Galaxy of Lights at the Huntsville Botanical Garden because Andrew was off and we knew Perry would like walking (well strolling) through better than looking from the car. We actually went last year briefly on a walking night, but it was so stinking cold we didn't last very long.

Tonight we met up for a quick dinner after I got off work and then headed to the lights. Apparently half of Huntsville had the same idea given the warm temperatures because it was very crowded. You didn't notice it so much walking the lights but getting in and parked was a challenge. But we made it and it was really fun. And I would take some crowds and nice weather over freezing my fingers off anytime.

We made it around the whole trail and had fun pointing out all the animals and shapes with Perry.

Then we came home and put P in bed and cuddled up by the first fire of the season in the fireplace thanks to the nice Propane guys that came and filled the tank today. We didn't really need the heat, but it was cozy and festive beneath our stockings.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And around town too...not just at our house. :)

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
I don't know how this smile wouldn't brighten your Wednesday. It sure has mine!

Happy Hump Day!

Happy Birthday Kate!

Sunday, November 16, 2014
Our favorite niece turned 5 years old today. For her family birthday party she requested an Auburn football party. Convenient since her birthday always falls right around the annual Auburn vs Georgia football game. So we all gathered just before kick off to eat dinner, watch the game and celebrate her birthday.

Only in the south does a preschooler want a college football birthday party. We had yummy tailgating food for dinner.

Football cupcakes were a hit with the kids.

The game was terrible. The first minute was good as we drove down the field and scored on our first drive. And those would be the first and only points we would score the whole rest of the game. The TV stayed on mute most of the night as we watched our Tigers get beat. We still had a fun night though and lots of other things to do and talk about and celebrate.

Ben has gotten into magic and entertained us all with a magic show just before halftime. He did some pretty cool tricks. We were all thankful for a diversion from the game.

Perry had a great time playing with his cousins all night. He struggled with the idea that the presents were not for him and he kept running off to go play in Kate's room to play with her toys which resulting being banished by the birthday girl herself and some tears. Her toys just looked too fun to stay away from. I snapped this picture just as Andrew had gotten to the party from work and I asked Perry if he wanted to go see Daddy and his response was "no, I am going to sit here."

Happy Birthday Kate and War Eagle! We love you so much. Thanks for a great party!

Milkshake thief

Friday, November 14, 2014
Happy Friday (night)!

This week has been pretty much status quo around our house. We haven't had too many plans which has been nice. We have gotten to spend several evenings just hanging at home playing with toys, decorating for Christmas and watching movies.

Perry clearly leads a tough toddler life. lol.

Perry and I had a little mommy-son date night at Which Wich Wednesday night after I picked him up. We have reached that point where you can't eat anything really yummy in front of Perry without him immediately sniffing it out. He knows the difference between a vegetable and a cookie quite well. However we are also getting to the point where we have conversations with them that go like this...

Perry: "dessert"

Perry: "mommy help"

Me: "you can't have dessert until after dinner, eat your sandwich first"

Perry: [takes one bite out of his grilled cheese] .... "dessert"

....and repeat, over and over until a sufficient amount of grilled cheese has been eaten for the little pre-packaged kids meal Rice Krispie treat to be opened.

No tears or whining, just a conversation. I call that a win.

Meanwhile, I was happily eating my sandwich and drinking a chocolate and peanut butter milkshake. And then somehow this happened:

He stole my milkshake. Good thing he is cute, because he is not a very polite dinner date at the moment. He has also decided he is not a fan of highchairs at restaurants. And much prefers to sit in his own chair, or in your lap...with easy access to your milkshake. lol.

I say that jokingly...he is such a fun kid. And I love seeing his personality come out and be able to carry on little conversations with him.

You win some, you lose some

Thursday, November 13, 2014
The last couple of months our weekends have been jam packed and over-scheduled down to the minute. Fall is just full of fun things to experience. Last weekend we had a rare weekend with nothing on the agenda. I left work on Friday afternoon with no plans for the entire weekend. Saturday morning we all slept in and woke up to a discussion of "so what do we want to do today?"

The answer we came up with was brunch at Blue Plate Cafe followed by some Christmas shopping at the Under the Christmas Tree market. Brunch was yummy as always and we let Perry experience chocolate milk for the first time. He was a fan to say the least. He talked about chocolate milk the rest of the day. We ordered him a pancake, which came out as a (not so hidden) Mickey pancake, which was a fun disney surprise.

After breakfast and shopping we headed home for naptime for P and to watch the Auburn game. Travis came over and watched with us since Gina was busy staffing her booth at the market. I am glad we had a friend to talk to, and cheese dip to eat, because the game did not go well...unless you were a Texas A&M fan. We were down by 14 a minute and a half into the game. And almost won the game twice in the last minute or two...only to fumble twice and lose. It was rough to watch. But we still love Auburn and our tigers. War Eagle.

We also planned an impromptu nerdy game night with the Eckleys for Saturday night. This wound up a very good plan since none of us were in the mood to sit around and watch football the rest of the day. We played our own games with slightly less at stake than the college football playoffs. Well I guess if you consider we were trying to rid the world of widespread disease in the game Pandemic, we did have some serious stuff at stake. And if you are wondering...we did not win that either. Sorry world.

Sunday brought another pretty low-key day. We didn't set alarms thinking Perry would wake us up long before we needed to be at church...and we all woke up at 9 and scrambled to get out the door and at church by 9:30. It was really nice to all sleep in though.

Looking back at the weekend, it wound up pretty full of fun...but it was really nice to have the time to be able say yes to impomptu plans and make impromptu plans of our own.

The day we opened Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Hands down, one of the most amazing parts of our recent Disney World trip was getting picked to be the “First Family” and help open the Magic Kingdom. In preparation for our trip I read a few blogs and websites about what it was like getting picked to be this special family and of course wanted it to make it happen for us.

Disney trips are full of all kinds of magical moments, many that you can create for yourself and some that are created for you by cast members. We went into the trip saying that above all we would have fun and play, go with the flow, be extra friendly to cast members and always say “yes” when offered to participate in something.

Getting picked to open magic kingdom is kind of the holy grail of extra special magical moments. Getting picked to do it has a whole lot of luck involved, but some strategy as well. I told myself before the trip that I would not no crazy worrying about it, but my general plan was to pick one day to try to get picked.  And we would keep trying once per trip until we got picked or until I got tired of trying. I had no expectations that we would get picked the first time we tried.

There is no perfect recipe that will ensure getting picked, but this is what we did and how our morning unfolded. First off being there at a less busy time of the year helped by default. Fewer people in the parks means less people to compete with. Really the most critical feature though is to get to the park early. Very early. So early that the cast members question why you are there. 

We were staying at Bay Lake Tower this trip which meant we were walking distance of the Magic Kingdom gates which was handy. We left our room about 7 and were at the Magic Kingdom at 7:15 when the park was not set to open until 9 am. There were some other folks there that had early breakfast reservations (which would preclude you from getting picked…because you wouldn’t be around for park opening), but we were the only people there just waiting for the park to open. We walked up to a turnstile, looked for one staffed by a friendly, experienced looking cast member, and started visiting with him. His name was Darryl (I think?!?) and we enjoyed the almost hour we got to talk to him. It stayed pretty quite around there for a while yet but eventually other people started arriving and creating a crowd. At one point I did disclose to him that we were there early because we had this crazy hope that we might just get picked to open the park.

Darryl told us he had no idea who picked or what the process was and wished us good luck. He did however tell me that the family the day before had come from that side of the entrance and that being dressed in disney clothes would be to our advantage. And he also asked me if I would rather open the park or be in the afternoon parade, to which I said open the park that we would be back at our room for naptime by the time the afternoon parade rolled around. At this point I was still keeping my expectations low and figured he was just making friendly conversation.

It was after 8 when they let us through the turnstiles and up to the ropes and official entrance to the park. We went left and stationed ourselves right in the front middle of the rope. It may not matter but I had heard the left was the best place to be and sweet Darryl had said the family the day before was on the left. We had brought lots of snacks and toys to keep Perry entertained while waiting outside the park and it worked well. We played and laughed and were going to have a good time no matter what.

We had not been at the rope more than a couple minutes when a man dressed as a janitor walked over to us and told us he had been talking to our friend Darryl. It was about this point when I realized what was happening and my heart started racing. Darryl clearly had more insight into the process than he had let on. The cast member went on to say that he understood we had gotten there quite early and that we might like to help open the park. Why yes, yes we would! After we quickly agreed we were ushered under the rope and given a seat on a bench to wait. We were beyond excited.

Despite reading a lot about it online, we didn't really know what all to expect from our first family experience. Other than the fact that it was going to be awesome.

The first person we met was this sweet lady named Barbara who was our host for the morning. She was so fun. She took us into the park (dancing) and made sure to stop and take a picture of us with the masses of people behind us waiting at the ropes. That made us feel special.

She then took us on a little drive around on the fire truck with a photopass photographer in tow. Perry ran immediately to the waiting firetruck and climbed on up. One of the best parts of the experience is the fact that a photopass photographer stays with you the whole time snapping away and then gives you a photopass card of all the pictures. In addition to a voucher for a free print.

Then Barbara led us up the ramp to the main street train station. 

So this is where trip timing really played to our advantage. You see the Railroad was closed for refurbishments the whole month of October. This bummed us out initially because P loves trains and we knew he would love riding the one at Disney World. However the way the park opening usually goes is all the characters ride in on the Railroad and get off just in time to open the park. Without the train running all the characters had to come and gather in the train station....with us. So what happened next is not typical of the first family experience...but we got several minutes of private interaction time with more characters than you could even count. It was our own little characterpalooza.

It was incredible to see all of them gather around and fuss over Perry. All of the girls loved him and he went around hugging all the princesses one by one. Anastasia gave him a big kiss on the cheek (and left the lip marks to prove it) and asked Perry to marry her...his first proposal at 20 months of age. Meanwhile Elsa and Anna discussed taking him back with them to Arendelle. Of course Perry's favorites were Mickey, Minnie and Pluto.

This is one of my favorite pictures of all time.

We had explicit instructions on how the opening would go. To line up behind Mickey mouse and follow him out over the train tracks and stand between him and the fire chief. Count down from 5 and smile and wave. Simple enough. 

So fun.

And with a countdown and some fireworks the park was open. But it wasn't quite over for us. We followed Barbara back down stairs and re-boarded our firetruck for a trip all the way down main street to the castle. 

We were also handed 3 bonus fastpasses to just about any big attraction or meet and greet in the Magic Kingdom (since it was a few minutes past opening by this point and we missed the prime rope drop attraction time).

We were dropped off at the castle to begin our day not as the first family but as a typical park guest family. At this point we looked at each other and said I think if we did nothing else today it would go down as a beyond amazing day at Disney. But the day went on to be even more awesome.

Whew. And all of that happened in the span of about an hour. Case end point of why it needed a post all it's own. I still have to pinch myself and look back at pictures to convince myself it really happened. Major bucket list check.

I think my biggest tips for getting picked would be to be early (very early), be dressed in cute Disney clothes (mom and dad too…at least in Disney colors), be very friendly with the cast members, have fun (and look like you are having fun), and it never hurts to just ask. I can’t help but think having a cute little red headed boy also may help tip the tables in your favor as well. : )

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