Monday, February 26, 2018

Captain's Log: Month 94

February: Our first full month back in North Carolina. It's weird to think about it that way, because it feels like we've been here a lot longer. But I guess that makes sense - we lived here before (albeit a different part), so it feels like we're coming home.

Jason started work at the beginning of the month, and his schedule is much better than it was last year. He works twelve-hour shifts, but only like four of them a week, so he has at least three days a week off.

Charley really likes our new house and our yard.

Ellie has continued to enjoy her new school. She loves riding the bus, and I really enjoy walking her to the bus stop in the morning, especially on the mornings Jason is home so Zelda and Sue can stay home and I get to have Ellie all to myself for a couple minutes. It's already starting to feel like spring; the bushes are putting out leaf buds and we see and hear lots of birds on the morning walk. I want to start bringing our binoculars so that we can look at birds while we wait for the bus.

(If it's raining I drive and wait at the bus stop in the car. Sometimes while waiting for Ellie's bus to come after school I get bored, resulting in pictures such as the one above.)

I've been reading War and Peace since the beginning of January and I'm getting sooo close to the end. (I've got like 300 pages left in my print copy/10 hours left on the audiobook.) I love it! It's an incredible book and I would recommend it to absolutely anybody. I feel like it's the foundation of everything and I can't believe I haven't read it until now. If you want to read it, I'd recommend the Maude translation.

My mom came to visit us at the beginning of the month;! We had so much fun with her. She played with my girls the whole time she was here, and it was wonderful to get a break and be able to focus on other stuff while she took care of them.

Here's Sue cheesing it up for Grandma:

This next picture's blurry and the lighting's not great, but look how happy she is to go to Grandma:

We went to the kid's museum with Grandma, too:

Suzy has realllllly loved coloring this month. She colors on papers all day long, and on herself, and on walls...Sigh. But it is really cute when she makes a little scribble on a paper and shouts, "Ta da!"

She was actually sick with a cold or something at the beginning of the month. For a couple nights in a row she ended up cuddling with us in our bed for a little while after her sisters had gone to sleep.

She still had good spirits, and expressed them by making me sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" with her about eight hundred times. (If I ever stopped, she'd demand, "'Gain! 'Gain!" {again, again})

Daddy brought donuts home one morning:

One day this month Ellie and Zelda appeared from the playroom in the following outfits and told us they were pop stars. They had "pop star names" too - something like Gana and Bobo.

And everyone played in the back yard a lot when the weather was warm:

Our little lion.

This chubby little baby girl is mine. And I love her so much and want to eat her up.

Charley hears something in the grass...

And pounce!

I can't remember what Zelda colored herself into this time. A tiger, I think. Her eyes mesmerize me.

Oh, it almost slipped my mind, even though it's a big thing - we got a new car.

It all happened rather unexpectedly. Ever since we moved back to North Carolina, Jason's been saying that his car (a rusty old beater, a 2001 Ford Explorer) had been making bad, concerning noises. Then one night (actually the 13th, I remember) his car broke down on his way home from work. He was stuck in a city about a half hour away. Luckily we got AAA before our move, so he was able to call them and they towed him to a nearby Ford dealership.

Since it happened just a few weeks after we moved here, I didn't know who I could call late at night from church, so I loaded up the girls in our car at home at 11 pm and we drove out to rescue Jason.

The next day the mechanic called us back to say that it would cost something like $1500 to fix the car - but it was really worth barely more than that even if it was fixed. So we traded it in to the dealership for a 2014 Dodge minivan. So we're minivan people now! It really is very functional with the girls and I'm pleased at how it all worked out.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Disneyworld & Hurricane Irma

In September we were lucky enough to be taken to Disneyworld by my incredible dad, along with my sisters and brother and their families. It was an absolutely phenomenal experience. We had so much fun and such a great time with all of the family. I am not exaggerating when I say that Ellie and Zelda have mentioned it almost every day since we went (almost six months ago now!). 

Before we went, we (especially my sister Alyse) spent months planning, choosing which hotel to stay at, which park to go to on what day, where to eat, etc. Alyse made reservations at all the restaurants for us, reserved fast passes for us, and more.

And then, just before we came to Florida, Hurricane Irma began to loom large over the region. And four days after we got there, she hit.

All of our plans were entirely altered. All of the parks were closed for two days, and our hotels were on lockdown. Because the airport was closed, Jason's flight home (he had only been planning to be there for about half the trip, because of work) was canceled and had to be pushed back. The rest of us decided to extend our trip for two days to make up for the two days spent in the hotel, and to use the full number of park passes that my dad had already purchased.

Some of the parks were still operating on a limited level even after they reopened (Animal Kingdom in particular had tons of tree branches down all over the park), so the order that we had planned to go to the parks had to be rearranged. Since the fast pass and restaurant reservations were date-specific, they all had to be rearranged, too. (While a pain, this did open up some opportunities for us, which I'll explain later!)

The whole thing was a wild ride and really just an absolute blast. This post will have the pictures from our first day (which was all traveling) and the days that we were trapped in the hotel during the hurricane.

I flew with the three girls by myself to Orlando, as Jason had to work and then join us later in the week. Here we are on the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport; the girls thought it was a crazy experience to be in a car without carseats:

Ellie and Zelda were great on the airplane, Susie was...not. But we made it there! After we landed we took an airport zippy monorail thingy over to the main concourse, where we got our bags and made our way to the Disney buses. The bus ride to our hotel was about 45 minutes long, and then we were there!

We stayed at Kidani Village, which was awesome. The girls and I were the first out of everybody to arrive, so we rested in the room for a couple hours and then explored the hotel. We came downstairs just in time for a drum lesson, which we really enjoyed.

And here are the pictures from the days we had to stay at the hotel due to the hurricane. Since our hotel (Kidani Village) and another hotel (the Animal Kingdom Lodge) are literally right next door to each other, we were allowed to travel between hotels during the day time, before the hurricane winds picked up on Sunday and after they died down on Monday.

It was actually quite cozy and fun being there in the hotel with all our extended family the night that the hurricane passed over us. Our hotel rooms were full to bursting (Tanner {my sister's husband} had driven up from Miami to join us for the weekend, and brought his cousin, who didn't have a safe place to stay in Miami during the storm), and we all bunkered down as the rain got heavier and the wind got louder and louder and louder.

When we woke up the next morning, we could see from right outside our windows that a lot of tree branches and whole big trees had come down all around the hotel.

Back inside the hotel, Minnie and Mickey spent lots of time with us, coloring with the girls downstairs in the activity room:

And in the (much) larger lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge they had lots of activities set up. Coloring pages, board games, giant jenga, giant connect four, face painting, dancing, and more.

Ellie met Rafiki:

And Zelda got her face painted:

The girls also played for a long time with all the stuffed animals in the gift shop. Unsurprisingly, this ended up with each girl begging, and getting, to pick one to take home.

(As you can see from the change of clothes, we went there on both hurricane days.)

Meanwhile back at the hotel room, Susie was rampaging around and cuddling with Grandpa.

When they were hanging out back in the rooms, too, Zelda and Ezra watched lots of Disney movies. I love these pictures of them together watching some "scary" movie (probably 101 Dalmations, haha).

So even the days that a hurricane hit us at Disneyworld were fun. :)