Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Journey NORTH--Day 2

Shortly into the second 8 hour drive, Kendra and talked about how the second day is the worst of the three days driving up to Michigan.  On the first day, you are psyched up to get going and on the road, and the hotel stay is a novelty that we don't often engage in.  The third day brings the anticipation of finally arriving and seeing everyone.  But day two is a DRAG.  You know that you have ANOTHER really long drive with another hotel at the end.  Nothing to get excited about at all!

Today's journey was uneventful, which is a really good thing.  Car purring like a kitten, dog snoring in the back seat, and Kendra being the amazing traveler that she is.  When Kendra was younger, she would watch movies for any longer journeys, and she would watch them the WHOLE time.  Now she amuses herself with other things, including just listening to the radio and watching the scenery go by.  She watched one movie only on each day.  And lo and behold, she even got out a book to read without prompting!  Woah! 

No pictures tonight...nothing worthy of pulling out the camera.  We are happily laying on the plush king sized bed at a Holiday Inn Express having just finished a take-out Applebee's dinner.  One more day! 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Journey NORTH--Day 1

Here we go again...our long trek to see the family up north.  We do it in three days because my bo-hiney and back can't handle more than 8-9 hours in the drivers seat.  First stop this year:  Memphis.  Thanks to Kendra's dad, again, we are staying at nice hotels with his hotel points.  In Memphis we are at a Fairfield by Marriott and were greated by a very enthusiastic young lady who emphatically thanked me for my loyalty to their line of hotels.  Didn't have the heart to tell her that I'm not loyal---just someone bumming the loyal person's hotel points!

The drive was very nice---big, fluffy cotton ball clouds and sunshine the whole way.  Even nicer still was knowing that my parched lawn and flower beds were getting drenched at home!  Grady was a trooper as usual, and Kendra is the ever-wonderful traveler.   We charged up our laptop computers and Kendra watched a movie on one while I took myself back in time and listened to a Chicago CD and belted the songs out with enthusiasm and earned odd looks from passers-by. 

Every year, we seem to stay at hotels that have indoor pools, and they won't let dogs on the pool decks (understandably!).  This hotel had an outdoor pool and I asked if could sit out there with Grady on a leash while Kendra swam.  To Kendra's delight, they said of course we could do that!  Here are a few cute pics of the swimmer and the hound who watched...

Next stop:  Indy!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

There's nothin' like the view from the cheap seats!

Remember that Alabama song?  It kept running through my head as my good friend Missie and I were climbing and climbing to get ourselves and our little chickens up to the nosebleed seats at the Ranger game! 

The evening started with us trying to figure out where on earth to park.  We were irritated that we had purchased our parking pass online for a discounted $7 because regular parking was $12, only to find out that it was $5 Friday for parking.  We drove around in circles finding full lots everywhere, but we actually found a great spot, parked and headed to the stadium.

We had "teacher appreciation" tickets that were half price, and we decided to get the cheapest we could find in the upper reserved area.  Turned out to be great seats because it drizzled rain for the first half of the game and we were protected by the cover at the top. 

The Rangers had been carrying a nice 10 game winning streak, so we were hoping for a great game.  Kendra told me that she hoped she wasn't a bad luck charm because it seems like every game she goes to the team loses. 
Of course, the food was a big attraction for the kiddos, starting with cotton candy!  The evening also included popcorn, roasted peanuts,  and Lemon Chills, which were VERY yummy frozen lemonade cups.  Kendra and I ate hot dogs at home and brought some drinks in a small lunchbag cooler to offset the costs of eating at the park, but you gotta have some of the treats!

It is really awesome that my really good friend's daughter is one of Kendra's closest friends,too.  Love how that works out!

Yep, that's a Rangers ballcap.  When in Rome....
We may have to adopt this team since our home club, the Detroit Tigers, are not much of a team to root for.  I'll never stop rooting for my Detroit Red Wings, though!
This is just a random shot of Kendra, but I thought she looked a lot like my little sis as a kid in this one!

Every Friday night, they have fireworks after the game, which was another reason we chose to go on a Friday.  Today happened to be the anniversary of Michael Jackson's death so they played a whole medley of his music during the fireworks show.  It was awesome!

That's a full moon out there behind the fireworks.  I loved how this picture turned out!

With the game starting at 7 and then fireworks after, it was after midnight before we got home.  The kids were pretty pooped out on the way home!  The little smile on Kendra's face tells you she was posing here...she never really fell asleep...
We had a great time!  It had been a long time since I have been to a game and Kendra never has been to a professional game.  Of all the sports, I just love going to a baseball game---I guess because it just feels so summery!  Funny note:  when we were getting ready to go to the game, she said something about going to the restroom before we left, and then she said, "I don't like having to use the Port A Potties."  Her frame of reference for ball games is attending her cousin's games and that is the only kind of restrooms available.  When she first saw the view of the field as we entered the section to our seats, I heard, "Oh my goodness!"  No worries about Port A  Potties, eh, Kendra? 

Sadly, the Rangers broke their winning streak and lost to the Astros.  Kendra said, "See, Mom?  I'm a bad influence."  Nah, Kendra.  You win some, you lose some. 

Friday, June 25, 2010


One of my students gave me a very generous gift certificate to a nail salon as an end of the year gift, so Kendra and I went to get pampered.  Kendra has had her toes painted at a salon before, but has never had the full mani/pedi experience, so of course I had to take the camera.  The ladies were really sweet to her, and she especially enjoyed the massaging chair!
The water changed colors (a lightbulb, I'm assuming) and Kendra thought that was pretty neat.  Green being her favorite color, she anticipated it each time it changed.

Soaking the fingers...aahhh...

The end result:  a french manicure on her cute little non-bitten nails (yay!) and red toes with a pretty white flower complete with sparkly gem.  I didn't get any pics of mine, but I also got a mani/pedi, with a french manicure on my hands and a dark pink toe with a similar flower.  Ya gotta love mama/daughter pampering time! 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Definately NOT gourmet...

...but definately SUMMER!  Grilled hot dogs and watermelon for dinner.   YUMMERS!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Really, what's not to love about summer when I am a teacher who gets much needed time off and Kendra is a kid who has super cool friends AND a neighborhood pool???  We have been having a ton of fun already this summer, and this is AFTER our awesome Disney trip.  We love our neighborhood pool and love having our friends come play with us even more.  We've had several of Kendra's friends from school over already, including the Rodgers's, whose mom happens to be one of my closest friends so it works out great!  Missie and I park ourselves in chaise lounge chairs in the shade of the pool canopy and talk while the kids get their fill of swimming!  PERFECT!  Here are some pics of shenanigans by the pool---Kendra and her friends R and J. 
First attempt at a pyramid....didn't work

Second attempt.  Don't you love R's glasses?  They are really 3D glasses she found in her mom's bag!

Today we got to go over and play with our friends, the Ballards.  They are the people who were the main motivation for us to pick up and move to Texas three years ago (yes, we've been here three years!!)  They are such awesome friends, and we are really blessed to have them.  They invited us for a lunch of ground turkey tacos and great conversation, then we went to the boat house where we canoed/kayaked, went swimming and floating, the girls went with Scott on the JetSki for a little bit, then they swam some more, and then Kendra and B did a little fishing (didn't catch anything but had fun!).  OH!  And before we even went to the lake, Kendra and her good buddy O went swimming in the pool for a good hour!  Are we blessed or what?  Superb company PLUS tremendously fun things to do! 

Kendra got to drive on the way back!  Cool!


What a wonderful way to end the day...hanging out with Aunt Sherry, fishin' pole in the water, nice Texas breeze.  Ahhh....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Disney: Day 6 The beach and Epcot round two

Since we had a rental car (TOTALLY would do that again!) we decided to take half the day to drive over to Cocoa Beach.  It was overcast but not rainy, which actually made it pretty perfect.  I would have been fried crispy on the beach if it were sunny--turned out I got burnt anyway even though I did use sunscreen and it was cloudy!  Kendra LOVES playing in the sand and the waves.  I have decided I'm not as much a beach person as I thought.   I really don't enjoy lake and ocean swimming, and playing in the sand only holds my interest for a limited amount of time.  Luckily, I have the BEST KID EVER, and she didn't mind that we only stayed for two hours.
I learned from some locals that Ron Jon's offers free parking with access to the beach, whereas most of the other parking areas charge for the day.

"Toes in the water, toes in the sand..."

Our sand tribute to the Head Mouse.  Don't laugh too hard.  We had limited resources!

One disappointment of the beach was that Kendra adores sea shells, and she wasn't able to find any worth keeping.  We did find these little shells that still had the creatures alive inside!  Kendra put some wet sand in a bowl we brought, and she'd collect these little creatures, set them in the sand, and we'd watch them burrow themselves down into it.  It was fun to watch, and a great lesson as to why we didn't take them with us.  If we took them, they'd die and then stink!!!  We ended up going in to Ron Jon's before we left, she bought a neat shell for a dollar as her keepsake from the beach.

We drove back to Orlando, de-sanded ourselves and headed over to Epcot for our last park excursion of the trip.  Our plan was to enjoy a few more things in the Future World then finish our tour of the World Showcase.

Here is Kendra in the Mission Space ride.  I know it is sideways---I was strapped in next to her and did my best to angle the camera to even get the shot!  Note the slighly concerned look on her face---she was pretty nervous about this one.  We did the "mild" version--the other version comes equipped with air sick bags due to the g-force effect! 

A very neat thing Epcot does to help kids enjoy the more adult-friendly World Showcase is a Kim Possible mission.  You get a "transmitter" as shown here, and they send you on a mission with clues.  Our mission was in Japan, and we had to figure out which cultural displays and landmarks in the area were involved.  When you figured out clues and used the transmitter, it would do things like light up special images in the rocks or other such things.  Kendra really liked it, but she LOVED World Showcase so this was just a bonus.

We had only three countries left to explore in World Showcase.

Here is Kendra in a cute little cottage setting in Great Britain.  We enjoyed fish and chips for dinner here.  They were pretty yummy!  We sat next to a family from England, and I commented that they were eating their "home" food instead of trying other stuff.  The mom said they really had been disappointed in American food! 

Knight-ess Kendra, defending the Realm.

Queen Mom.  One reason there aren't many photos of me (besides the obvious reason that I was the only adult and hence behind the camera most of the time) was because I HATE that my face sweats when I get hot!  I am always so shiny looking--ugh!! 

Kendra decided to try out some new faces/poses on this day.  Here she is with France and the Eiffel Tower behind her.  We went to the French Patisserie for dessert and OH MY WORD.  It was so difficult to choose amongst the ginormous selection of pasteries.  Kendra ended up with chocolate mousse, and I got a dessert called Napoleon which was by no means small!  It was vanilla creme layered between crispy, flaky pastry.  I'm craving it now as I type.  I think that place alone warrants a return trip!

The gift shop in France had this cute little photo set up.  I thought it was hilarious that Kendra wanted a serious shot.

Now, THAT'S more like my girl!

We finished our tour through Canada.  Kendra got a stamp for each country and every representative wrote her a message in their native language in her autograph book.  Very neat souvenir that didn't cost a dime!

On our way out we took this "holding the camera in front of us" picture.  I know it is a little dark but I really liked how the lights of the fountain showed up here.  Plus you can't see my shiny face!  :-) 

We were leaving the next morning and had much packing to do, so we decided not to stay for the Epcot night display.  It was an AMAZING vacation--one I hope neither of us will forget! 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Disney: Day 5 Hollywood Studios

I'll be honest, Hollywood Studios was probably our least favorite of all the parks.  Most of the attractions are shows, which we like, but since they took 15-20 minutes for each show, there was always a huge wait in order to see one.  Kendra and I are not waiting people.  If a ride/attraction had more than 20 minutes in queue, we didn't wait. 

So the big deal ride/attraction at HS is the Toy Story Mania ride.  We followed the crowd to the line for the ride, and at opening there was already a 30 minute wait for the standby line.  Then we saw the line for Fastpasses, and it was just as long!  So, being who we are, we decided to check out some other stuff first.  We toured the shrine to the Walt man himself, which was interesting, and saw the Narnia exhibit (not very good), and when we finished those, lo and behold there was no line for the Toy Story fastpasses.  So we hopped over and got our passes for 1:00.  Perfect! 

Another reason we didn't really like HS is that several of the attractions and rides were not working that day.  We wanted to do the Star Wars and Muppets things, but both were on the fritz.  Bummer.

We did head over to Honey I Shrunk the Kids playland for a short time---it was already blisteringly hot.

Tiny Kendra in a giant roll of film

Even though we didn't ride the Star Wars ride, Kendra got to be a Stormtrooper for a moment:

Hey, where is your helmet?

One of the good shows was the Beauty & the Beast show...

And then we got to do the coveted Toy Story ride:

It is a 4D ride, really fun!

A huge thunderstorm rolled through, so we waited in a line to see the Ariel show for an hour.  Our other option was to get soaked and/or struck by lightning, so we chose the long wait. 

Each park has a big landmark (Cindy's castle at MK, the giant ball at Epcot) and HS has Mickey's sorcerer's hat.

HS also has this attraction called The American Idol Experience.  Any park-goer can go try out to be in the seven daily competitions (no, we didn't try out).  Then they have audience voting in those seven competitions and end the day with the seven winners competing for the big deal--a golden ticket to the front  of the line for the REAL American Idol auditions anywhere in the U.S.  I had no interest in going to see the competitions, but Kendra did so we went.  Turns out it was pretty fun!  The three people who performed at our session were quite talented!  Here's MY American Idol:

The VERY best thing that HS has to offer is their night performance show called Fantasmic.  Totally worth going in an hour before showtime to see.  It includes fireworks, music, all the characters, and really cool water fountains projecting video images.  Very, very cool.  Our favorite thing at this park, hands down.  Since it was a night event, I didn't get any pics, but we had a great time, and even made friends with some fun people who were visiting from England while we waited.