Winter Happenings

2.23.2020

Admittedly, this winter has been a tough one.  While the weather has been mild with no snow for January and February, germs are still around, and boy do they linger!  I've been battling what seems to be the same cold for close to 12 weeks, and this week I came down with some sort of virus with flu-like symptoms.

The constant exhaustion, head congestion, sore eyes, achy muscles, dull headache, and upset stomach have definitely interfered with some of our weekend plans.  My exercise routine has been placed on hiatus, too.  Lewie has had a few colds, but thankfully, both my boys (husband and son) have been relatively healthy.

Here are a few things we've been up to this winter 2020.

1) Little Lewie and I made an unexpected visit to the Fairfield University Bookstore to greet my long-time, bloggy friend and her daughter.  They are always involved with interesting projects; this January, they spent countless hours making bookmarks to support the wildlife in Australia that had been devastated by the raging bush fires that have been burning since July 1.

Between selling bookmarks, raising awareness through local TV and radio interviews, and creating a GoFundMe page, my friend's daughter has raised $3,500 and counting.  Of course, we had to stop by and buy some of her adorable bookmarks!



2)  On a cold weekend in February, we decided to go to a bowling fundraiser.  I'm proud to say I beat my two boys with a score of 100!  We had so much fun that Lewie decided he wanted to buy Wii Sports, so we could continue the bowling fun at home.  After tracking down a refurbished disc, we've been playing the game ever since.  Now, Little Lewie is the grand champion at bowling, with my husband second, and me in third place.  (At least I know I can kick butt at "real" bowling.)



They wanted to show off their bowling shoes.


3)  During Lewie's February break, we visited some friends for dinner on Valentine's Day, we spent a morning Roller Skating, and then we made our annual trip snow tubing at Ski Butternut.  This time, our snow tubing trip included Lewie's best friend Ryan with his mom!  Last year he came with us and said he would have rated the day a perfect 10 except his parents weren't able to come.  This year, I forgot to ask about his rating, but I'm pretty sure we may have earned that perfect 10.  Here's to creating a new annual tradition, which now includes both of our families!







Now I'm back to a weekend at home, nursing a cold and some sort of stomach bug.  Lewie went to his cousin's "paint party" for her 9th birthday today, and tomorrow he plans on spending time with our beloved Aunty Kiki.  If I'm able to kick this illness and scrub down the house, it would be fun to have her over for a game of Wii bowling.  We shall see what tomorrow brings...

Happy Valentine's & Random Acts of Kindness Day!

2.15.2020

This year, both Valentine's Day and Random Acts of Kindness Day fall during Lewie's February vacation.  For school, Lewie made cute ruler Valentines and handed them out on the 13th (before his break).  On Valentine's Day, we drove to my mom's place of work and surprised her with a beautiful flower arrangement.  For Random Acts of Kindness Day (February 17th), I will be doing my usual and surprising friends with a few unexpected gifts.

Here is what we've been up to!









For Lewie's Valentines, I want to make sure to give credit where credit is due.  As you can see, we fell in love with two different designs (which are not my own).  The first design, by TidyLadyPrintables, can be bought on Etsy HERE.  The second design with the stars were absolutely free; they were created by an awesome blogger named Crystal from the blog Little Bit Funky.  The "You Rule Valentine" design with the stars can be found for free HERE.

The last pic are my "care packages" that will be hand delivered to friends this year for Random Acts of Kindness Day.  I'd also like to do something like treat a random person or family to dinner by paying for their meal.  A few short weeks ago, Little Lewie and I were recipients of the very same kind gesture.  On a random Sunday, Little Lewie and I ordered breakfast at Friendly's (his favorite restaurant in the whole world).  When it was time for us to pay, the waitress told us there was no charge because a gentleman already paid for our breakfast.  "What?" we asked, completely in shock!

The kind man had left the restaurant before we could ever thank him.  I quickly asked Lewie, "Would you like to pay it forward?"  There was a young man with two little girls eating breakfast next to us.  I  quietly gestured over to them.

Lewie smiled and replied enthusiastically, "Yes!"

"Can you pay for their meal?" I said to the waitress as I gave her my credit card.

She took my card and commented how much she loved it when an act of kindness starts a chain reaction.  Evidently, this mysterious gentleman has paid for other peoples' meals before.

We paid the bill and left with only a quick smile cast in the direction of the young man with his two girls.  He didn't know at that moment that we paid for their breakfast, and we wouldn't be around to be thanked.  We would be just as mysterious as the kind man before us.

As we got into our car to leave the parking lot and go home, I said to Lewie with tears in my eyes,  "Didn't that feel good?"  He was teary-eyed, too.  "See, there's a lot of good in this world, Lewie.  There's really a lot of good."

This February 17th, I want to share this type of joy again...  There's a lot to be said for being KIND.

Rock 'n' Adventures, Epic Stunts, Jedi Training, & Muppet Madness at Disney's Hollywood Studios

1.25.2020

On Wednesday, right after our visit to Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, we headed right over to Disney's Hollywood Studios.  During my Florida trip in 1986, Hollywood Studios didn't exist, so needless to say, this was my first visit right along with Hubby and Little Lewie.


The two Lews were probably most excited about visiting Star Wars Launch Bay along with watching the Jedi Training and going on the FastPass+ attraction, Star Tours--The Adventures Continue.  (Star Wars Galaxy's Edge would not be open yet.)  However, I was most excited about seeing the Muppets and checking out Toy Story Land.  In both cases, our "inner-child" ruled that day as we all got to live out our childhood memories and fantasies.

We started out the day on "Sunset Boulevard" where Big Lew and Little Lewie went on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.  Knowing it was a real-deal roller coaster, I skipped out and instead, used the time to check out the gorgeous scenery, which, of course, was even more spectacular with the holiday decorations.   After the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster ride, both Lews felt a little lightheaded from all the loops and twists, so they were happy to hear that we had some tamer adventures ahead.



Our next FastPass+ ride was the Muppet Vision 3-D Theater on Grand Avenue.  Just as I had hoped, the theater looked just like the one from Jim Henson's TV sitcom, The Muppet Show.  My inner-ten-year-old came out as I laughed hysterically at all the antics from Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Sam Eagle, Beaker, the Swedish Chef, and of course, the two old men in the audience, Statler and Waldorf.  Kermit, of course, was the star and main character of the attraction.  I repeatedly told Lewie how this was one of my FAVORITE shows when I was his age.  Thankfully, the humor is timeless.  He loved it just as much as I did.




Next up was the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Echo Lake.  The 30-minute show provided a "behind the scenes" look at how the movie's stunts and fighting scenes were pulled off in real life.  We watched as stage props were switched, stunt doubles performed gymnast tricks, and live explosions went off.  My favorite part was when a 12 foot rolling bolder chased "Harrison Ford" out of the temple.  When the director instructs "Harrison Ford" to do the scene again, he easily pushes the bolder (probably made out of styrofoam) right back into place!


Once the Indiana Jones demonstration ended, we headed to the Prime Time Cafe for our lunch reservation.  Although we arrived early, the cafe was so busy that we actually ended up waiting a bit past our reservation time to get seated.  A friend of ours recommended the restaurant, saying her kids had a blast.  It ended up being one of our favorite experiences at Disney, too!




The cafe, designed to reflect what family kitchens looked like circa 1955, offered seating by old fashioned TVs showing blank and white sitcoms.  Our waitress repeatedly reminded us to "watch our manners" at the table.  She scolded Little Lewie for putting his elbows on the table and slurping his milk shake.  My husband, in typical fashion, made a mess at the table.  I told the waitress to get him in trouble, and instead, I got in trouble!  She retorted back, "No one likes a tattletale.  Remember, snitches get stitches!"  Oh, how we laughed.  I tried telling on him again (after all, my husband was grabbing food off my plate without permission).  Again, I got scolded for tattling.  The food was delicious; Big Lew chose Cousin Megan's Traditional Meatloaf while I selected Dad's Stuffed Pork Chop.  Little Lewie, the picky eater that he is, asked for a special plate of buttered noodles.  Still, it was the experience and non-stop laughter that made it so memorable.



With full bellies, we headed to watch some Jedi Training and a Star Wars show, which brought Big Lew (yes, Big Lew) to tears.  Nostalgia from his early Star Wars memories, particularly of the movies in the 70's and 80's that he first watched with his dad, took over.  "You don't understand," he said, wiping the tears away.  "My dad and I loved Star Wars so much that he would take me to the theater four, five, or six times to watch the same movie."  Our next FastPass+ ride was Star Tours--The Adventures Continue, where we rode on a "StarSpeeder," a type of flight simulator, which took us on a fast-paced, somewhat turbulent adventure.  It was probably my next-favorite experience--after the Muppet Vision 3-D Theater, of course.



While the boys chose to explore the Star Wars Launch Bay, I ran to Toy Story Land to catch the Toy Story Mania attraction.  The ride wait time had dropped from an hour to 30 minutes, and quite honestly, the line ended up being shorter than that.  In less than 20 minutes, I was on the ride using my toy cannon to aim virtual pies, rings, and darts at screen targets.  It would have been more fun for all of us to do the ride together, but by then, the two Lews had lost steam.  The Slinky Dog Dash was right around the corner, but the wait time for that ride never dropped past 90 minutes.



On my way back to the Sunset Boulevard entrance, I took as many photos as I could, trying to savor my last views, sensations, and impressions of the park.  It was a spectacular day, and we all agreed that our experience at Hollywood Studios was"the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational" just like "what we call the Muppet Show!"  (If you're hearing the Muppet Show theme song in your head now and smiling, then you're welcome.)



A List of Favorite Christmas Memories (from 2019)

1.18.2020

In our home, the holidays came and went so fast that I never had a chance to write a post about them.  Still, seeing that our Christmas tree is still up (I know, I know--having a live tree in the home is a fire hazard), I thought I could get away with writing one post about Christmas 2019 before the memories were lost forever.  Plus, I just learned that people tend to be the most depressed in the month of January.  Why?  Because we're still lamenting the fun we had at Christmas, in addition to the bills we have to pay after overspending.

So, while it seems obnoxious for me to post about Christmas three weeks after it's over, consider this post, instead, a therapy session--a pick-me-up, if you will, to counter the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday (said to fall on the third Monday of January each year).

Christmas 2019 was spectacular.  First, we had a chance to go to Walt Disney World and Universal Studies in early December, which were decorated magnificently for the holidays.  (What better way to begin celebrating than with family, fun, and fireworks!) 


When we came home, it was "go time."  There were only two weeks left to pick out our Christmas tree, decorate, buy gifts, wrap, send out cards, and begin attending holiday parties.  Thankfully for us, we used our Halloween costumes to make Christmas cards this year, and we made sure to schedule our photo session before our vacation; here's what some of our pictures looked like...




The message on our Christmas cards stated very simply: "Merry Christmas, Happy St. Patrick's Day, and May all Your Teeth be White."  My husband, of course, was the tooth fairy, but later my mom thought we could have gotten away with saying he was dressed as an angel!!

A week before Christmas, Little Lewie then surprised me by saying he needed to write his letter to Santa.  (I wasn't sure if he believed anymore.)  "Okay," I said casually. "Would you like me to get the special "Santa" stationary?" 

He wrote out his letter (always straight to the point), and then mentioned the gifts he was asking for..."Mommy, I asked for a $50 Visa Gift Card to buy games, but I only need $25.  I asked for $50, so you could have the other $25."   I was speechless.  That's my Lewie--always thinking about others besides himself.




Family, of course, is what really makes the holiday special.  Aunty Irene, my mom's sister, came up from Delaware, to spend a full week with us.  The weekend before Christmas, we went to see "A Christmas Story" live on stage.  It made us laugh just as much as the original movie from 1983.



Their younger sister, Aunty Kiki, also came to sleep over for two nights.  With a full house, we got out our board games and had a few fun nights playing games like Uno Attack, Gas Out, and Slapzie.  Of course, we also exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve, attended mid-night mass, and saw each other on Christmas morning for breakfast. 

On Christmas day, it was time to go visit my husband's family and Little Lewie's four cousins (Sarah, Brooklynn, Lily, and Elijah).   Our Cub Scout pack had just finished playing the "Oven Mitt Christmas Game," and I decided to see how it would work with the kiddos.  I saw the original Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine in a store and decided this would be a fun gift for everyone to share.  I wrapped it up twice with wrapping paper and then brought two oven mitts and two dice.  For anyone that has never played before, the object of the game is to try and be the first one to unwrap the present using the oven mitts.  However, when the person after you rolls a double, you have to stop trying to open the gift and pass it along to the next person that rolled the double.  Then, that person has to pass the gift along to the next person by him or her that rolled the double.  The game continues until someone can actually unwrap the gift. 



The game was a success and so was the gift!  The girls spent hours afterwards taking turns and making everyone snow-cones. 





Christmas morning, before visiting the cousins, was special, too.  Santa, as usual, came with a variety of gifts.  Some were from Lewie's list, but some were useful items that Lewie had been requesting all year long--an alarm clock, a music stand, a bluetooth speaker...










Finally, if this year's Christmas hadn't been memorable enough, we also had a few milestones that led us into the celebration.  First, Lewie had the honor of being asked to read for this year's Children's Christmas Mass.  In years past, children didn't actually "read" at the mass; they just put Christmas ornaments on the tree.  This year, however, our new priest called for students to read, and Lewie was selected.  He did an AMAZING job.

The very next day after the mass, Lewie performed in his first Christmas concert.  The Chorus (required by all fifth graders) went first followed by band (which was optional).  Lewie played the trumpet, and although the stands hid his face from view, we certainly knew he could play those songs.  He had been practicing them for weeks, plus he played a private concert for the two aunts in our family.











Yes, this past year's Christmas was an exciting whirlwind of family, fun, entertainment, gifts, and milestones.  It's hard to believe we fit everything into one month, and while it was very busy, I wouldn't have changed a thing. 

Now that a brand new year and decade has begun, and life has slowed down a bit, I pray on the ultimate message the season brings: "Peace on earth and good-will to men."