It's a Great Big Beautiful World! Let's Discover it Together

Showing posts with label Family Updates & Traditions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family Updates & Traditions. Show all posts

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Legos & Cookies

Adventures with Legos and cookies today. My awesome staff gave me the Disneyland Main Street Station at the conclusion of our Wood Badge course in September and I finally opened up the packaging to begin this afternoon. I got the engine built for the train today and will build the rest over the next week. I also got the second batch of my favorite Norwegian Christmas cookies made today (the last kind of several types I make). I've been making them for 28 years now since my grandmother died, and have been excited to see Matthew learn how to make a couple of the different varieties this year. Traditions can be cool, especially when they get passed on to the next generation.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Quality Resort Time and Family Fun

Coloring, scrapbooking, reading, and baking cookies. What a fun, relaxing kind of evening in the room, after a fun-filled day at the water park. As much as I love the theme parks, these trips where we don't go to them are so nice. Hanging out at the resort, lots of swimming, and enjoying some of the other wonders of Walt Disney World.

#makingmemories #familyvacations #itsthetimetogetherthatcounts

Monday, April 15, 2013

stopher's stuff - Should We Build an Ark?

Last Monday I said it, and I’m going to say it again.  WOW.  What a crazy week last week turned out to be.  Regardless of all your plans and good intentions, sometimes you just have no control over how a week might turn out.  And that’s exactly how last week was for me.  I went into it with lots of great plans and ideas for following up on previous contacts and leads from the Bridal Show that I participated in last weekend, but a bit of a curveball was thrown my way. 

Typically water is a very good thing.  We use it for drinking and replenishing our bodies, cooking, washing, taking care of our gardens and so much more.  It’s cool and refreshing.  But also at times menacing.  Noah discovered the power of water long after God told him to build an ark.  It had never rained on the earth prior to that time, so he wasn’t quite sure what God was instructing him to do, but soon enough realized the power of water.

This past week we too learned the power of water.  Though it felt like we might need to at time, we didn’t quite need to build an ark, but I will say we could have had a mini regatta in our garage and kitchen.  We had a slab leak.  Thankfully we discovered it before too much damage had been done – the operative phrase being “too much”.  Damage was certainly done, and our lives about to be disrupted for a while.  But it could have been much, much worse.  In the end our entire kitchen floor has been ripped out (there was a huge pond of water beneath the laminate, all over the slab) and we currently have four very large, industrial drying machines working on drying out the floor, walls and under the great big hole that was opened up within our slab.  They are big.  They are loud.  They make it difficult to sleep at night.  But they are working. 

One of my favorite characters in Les Miserables is Gavroche, the little boy who claims he “runs the town”, and that little people are basically a force to be reckoned with.  As all first-time parents understand fairly quickly, little people can have a huge impact on life.  So too can other little things, like openings or holes.  The culprit of our troubles ended up being a tiny, less than 1/8 of an inch, opening in a copper pipe. But that little opening might as well have been a big opening in the amount of water that it let creep out and scatter through the walls, and across the floors.  Until this week I never knew that there were people specializing in doing ultrasound scans of walls and floors before.  I also never knew that there were people who specialized in floor removal.  But I do now.  And it’s actually been quite fascinating watching these different specialists “do their thing.”

In my business, a tag line or marketing strategy that I use is that we sell adventures and experiences to create memories to last a lifetime.  And we do.  Well this week was our own personal adventure.  It’s been an experience that has certainly created new memories for my family that will last us all a lifetime.  We will laugh about it later.  I still remember the year from my youth when the house I grew up in was being added on to.  My parents decided that adding up to our single story house would be better than selling and moving to a different neighborhood.  So the process began, and literally took a year to complete.  It was frustrating for my mother, fun for my brother and I, and yes, VERY neat to watch the transformation.  So too is this relatively minor project in comparison to what my parents dealt with for that year. 

Our journey is not complete, but we are on the good side to recovery.  The problem was identified and fixed.  Now the resulting damage is being undone and repaired.  Will it take a while?  Probably so, but we can deal with it.  At first I was quick to complain that we had no hot water, but then I stopped myself and recognized that in the scheme of things, my water problem was trivial.  There are people all over this world who don’t have the LUXURY of plumbing in whatever they call home.  People that don’t have the LUXURY of clean water near their village or town and have to walk miles each day just to draw water from a well, or worse, a pond, creek or river that is shared not just with other people, but with animals who also drink from it, bathe in it or live in it. 

As a whole, those of us living in North America often can be very spoiled in that we have so much that we simply take for granted.  And that is a big part of why I am going to Kenya this fall.  To not only remind myself of that fact, but also to do what I can to help bring both physical water to the village of Isinon through the well that our church is funding, but also the living water of Jesus Christ.  I am not ashamed to say that ministering to people in His name is why I’m going to Africa.  The trip won’t be a vacation, nor even a research trip for my business – though I certainly WILL learn a lot and get to experience a lot while I’m there.  It will also give me, no doubt, information to come home and share with others. But it will be about transformation – life transformation for me, and for all those on the trip who will be impacted in very real, personal ways in how we approach our daily lives when we return home once again. 

So this slab leak, however frustrating it’s been, really is only a bit of preparation for me as I prepare to go to “the other side of the world” in less than 6 months and experience for myself the stories of those who have gone before me.  The conditions will certainly not be 5-star, and that is perfectly okay.  As I said earlier in this whole slab leak mess, “Thank you Lord for disrupting my oh-so-comfortable life.” 
Until next time,


Monday, April 8, 2013

stopher's stuff - So Much Going On

WOW.  Sometimes that’s about all you can say.  There has just been so much going on this past week, and there’s a LOT coming up this week as well.  I’m trying to breathe and stay focused, but it can be hard at times.  But you know what being very busy is like, I’m sure. 

This past week was a good one in many ways.  First, our tenants have moved in!  We are excited about that.  We signed the lease late last week, and they spent the weekend moving in and starting to make it their new home… at least for the next year.  That was a big scramble to make it happen by Friday, but we did.  Then the weekend was filled with a Bridal Expo that I was a vendor at, and Saturday was my daughter’s 9th birthday – both happening on the same day, which made for a) a very full day, and b) a very tired guy by the end of the evening.   Sunday was going to church, and then later spending time outside tending to my yard… the first time this season!  It was great to be able to be outside in the sunshine digging in the dirt, fixing some flower bed walls that had gone askew during the winter, and prepping the soil for some new plants to be added, as well as moving some existing plants from one location to another.  I do enjoy being out and working in my yard – I always have, even way back as a kid.  The feel of dirt on your hands, and the thrill of watching things that you plant begin to blossom and grow, is such an enjoyable feeling.  At least to me it is.
Another exciting thing that happened this past week was the news that I have surpassed the one third mark of my needed fund-raising goal for my Kenya mission trip this fall.  That is huge, and I’m very excited about that.  I’m waiting for the list of donations to be provided to me by my church at our upcoming team meeting on the 21st so that I can then start to thank those who have supported me financially.  I’m really looking forward to this trip, and continue to pray that the rest of the needed funds will be raised.  The team itself going to Kenya has grown too, now up to about 25 people now, and might even go a bit higher as well.  I’m really excited about it, and looking forward to being used by God in this way to make a difference. 

Other “fun” of the past week was the completion of our income taxes for 2012, and the reorganization of my garage (another thing that got quite askew during the winter months).  Neither of these were fun tasks, but things that had to be done.  Which then leads me to the first task of the week this week… one that I’m torn about.  It is taking place today, and is just the first of several more to come… our son’s first college visit.  It is not something that I’m overly thrilled about (the acceptance that he’ll be moving on to college in just a little over a year is something that I’ve been struggling with for a few months now), but of course he is growing up and we all knew it would come eventually.  Way back when he was just a little guy, who loved to hold daddy’s hand, and wanted to be with me all the time – I couldn’t even fathom him going off to college because it was just so far away in the future.  But now, as he drives off in my car to hang out with his buddies, or other events… naturally it’s not that far off.  So I’m just a bit melancholy as the realization is growing on a daily basis. 
And so, I will close, as I have a hundred things to try and get done throughout this week in preparation for taking the Scouts to Summer Camp, business needs, and of course, family needs as well.  I hope you have a phenomenal week.  I’m going to do my best to do the same.

Until next time,


Monday, March 11, 2013

stopher's stuff - The Years Have Just Flown By

Today I not only say that another week has flown by, but I’ll say that another YEAR has flown by as well.  But not only that, this week marks the beginning of the end of a another DECADE as well.  What’s that all mean you say?  Well, tomorrow I get to mark a very special day with the one person in this life whom I love the most, and have spent the most intimate and quality time – my lovely bride. Tomorrow is our 19th wedding anniversary, and as such, we are closing out another great year together, but also embarking into the final year of our second decade together as a married couple. 
To my lovely bride...

It hardly seems possible though that it has already been 19 years since we made our vows, and then later enjoyed a cool party with many family and friends, before embarking out on our own to enjoy that all-important honeymoon period prior to officially “starting life”.  For many that honeymoon might be spent on a tropical island, or enjoying the art & culture of the “old world” in Europe.  For us, it was in a tropical location, and we did enjoy some “old world” charm, granted re-created charm, but charm none-the-less.   We honeymooned at Walt Disney World, and had a wonderful time.  It was my third visit to the Central Florida resort, and my lovely bride’s first.  And in those 19 years, a LOT has changed at my favorite Central Florida destination.  The resort of choice … The Grand Floridian Beach Resort as it was known back then (today it’s Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa). 
We married in March, because my lovely bride wanted a winterish wedding, without being in the actual midst of winter.  Had we known then that if we’d just waited about 2 more months we could have stayed at then brand-new Wilderness Lodge (known now as Disney’s Wilderness Lodge), we probably would have delayed it just a bit.  The Lodge is just about our favorite resort at all of Walt Disney World (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a close second).  That woodsy, Pacific Northwest feel is right up our alley thematically, and honestly, you just can’t beat the quiet, quaint ambiance that just exudes throughout the Lodge.  But we didn’t know back then that a) it was under construction, or b) that it was schedule for a grand opening in early May.  Back then the internet was still a relatively new phenomenon that hadn’t reached the masses yet.  Many of the very popular Disney fan sites weren’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eye yet, beside that - we didn’t even own our own computer yet! 

Since then the resort has added about 8 new resorts, added a water park, added the "West Side" to the Downtown Disney Area (then known as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village), and added a theme park - plus a wide array of rides, attractions, shows, shopping & dining experiences, ticketing options, and so much more.  A LOT has changed. 

So yeah, a lot has changed in those 19 years, and not just at Walt Disney World.  Here are just a few fun facts from our life since we married 19 years ago:
  • we’ve lived in 3 states – California, Michigan and Indiana
  • we’ve belonged to 2 churches – North Orange Christian Church and White River Christian Church
  • we’ve grown our family by 3, having 2 sons and 1 daughter
  • we’ve watched all 3 grow too quickly… the eldest will be graduating high school about 2 ½ months after our 20th anniversary
  • we’ve owned 4 computers (the first was purchased a full year after we married), plus went through 4 different work-provided computers
  • we’ve each replaced a vehicle twice
  • we’ve each changed jobs twice
  • we've started 2 of our own businesses
  • we’ve lived in 4 different domiciles – 1 townhouse, 2 duplexes, and 1 house
  • we've added to our portfolio an investment home plus several vacation home options thanks to the Disney Vacation Club
  • we’ve had 3 different pets – 1 box turtle and 2 different cats (NOT my choice at all…I am allergic to and hate cats, but I love my wife and thus tolerate having a cat in the house for my wife’s sake)
  • we’ve used 8 different cell phones (only in the last 11 years though as we never had one prior to coming to Indiana) – 5 for me, and 3 for her
  • we’ve visited 24 states together (I’ve been to a lot more, but here I’m just referring to the two of us together)
  • we’ve enjoyed 6,935 days as a married couple or nearly 166,440 hours as a married couple or nearly 9,986,400 minutes as a married couple (though the hours and minutes are approximations based on total days)
  • we’ve had our ups and downs – but LOVE has been at the heart of our relationship in each of those years.
Until next time – make it a great week.  Do something positive for someone else.  Tell those special people in YOUR life how much they mean to you.   Celebrate the big and the little things.  I know I will.   

Monday, March 4, 2013

stopher's stuff - Rentals, Scouts & More

Another week has come and gone, and once again it’s Monday morning.  For many it’s the start of a work week, for others in a less “traditional” schedule – this could very well be the last day of your work week.  It does seem more and more that I’ve been encountering a greater deal of “flex” schedules since I have been self-employed.  Not as many Monday to Friday folk as I once knew.  Personally my work week entails some of every day of the week, though I don’t put in the same hours each day of the week.  Since I tend to meet clients and take their calls or reply to their emails when possible, I could be in front of my computer at many times throughout the week that are non-traditional.  But then I’m also flexible enough to spend time with my family and work on our other venture throughout the week as week.  This past week, once again, saw me spending a fair amount of time in the bathroom… of our rental house once more.  However instead of installing floor tile, this past week I have been re-installing cove molding, fixing a couple of leaky valves, painting and installing new faucets.  All in the spirit of getting the house ready to rent out – and bonus, prospective tenants are coming to look at it this week!  The hard work may pay off soon.  We’re excited about that. 

As many my faithful readers know, I’m very involved in the Boy Scouts of America, and it is once again, the Summer Camp season.  As the Summer Camp Director for our Troop – a large Troop who annually takes upwards of 95+ boys to  camp, plus several dozen adult leaders… the planning and preparation for it can be daunting for the uninitiated, but for me, it’s old hat.  I’ve done this for 5 years now, and have fairly regular routines of what needs to be done and when.  There are lots of details to pay close attention to, such as deposit deadlines to the Council, ordering of new Class B T-Shirts, and more… but everything pretty much happens in a certain timetable.  Mobilizing a large group can certainly be difficult, when you don’t have a good system.  Thankfully years of practice have allowed me to put together a very good system.  Once again I am very much looking forward to spending a week in the woods come mid-June. 

And finally, I mailed out my announcement/support letter for my upcoming mission trip to Kenya this October.  Raising money has never been my forte, but then, it’s not about me.  I have been praying about this trip for 2 years now, and believe that God has been calling me to go.  So with God behind it, I’m not overly concerned about the funds.  They will be provided by those who feel called to participate in it.  I’m looking forward to experiencing Africa and all that this trip entails.  October seems so far away right now… but it really isn’t – 7 months will fly by, no doubt. 

Until next time – make it a great week.  Do something positive for someone else.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

stopher's stuff - Tile, Awards and More

This past week has seen me spending a lot of time in the bathroom.  No, I haven’t been sick, nor do I have weak kidneys. Rather I’ve been working on floor tile - putting in a new floor in our rental property.  The last time I did floor tile was about 6 years ago, when I redid the floor in my own house’s master bathroom.  It’s a time-consuming job, but very rewarding to know that you can do it yourself.  My dad first showed me how to do flooring many years ago in the house that I grew up in, as we redid rooms numerous times through the years.  I’ve done vinyl, ceramic, laminate and parquet floors multiple times through the years.  I may not be able to repair my car, but I can redo floors, and I like that. 

Other notable things that happened this week include replacing a vehicle that we’d had for 12 years, painting, designing posters & graphics for the business, and receiving another certification – this time from Universal Parks & Resorts.  I am once again thrilled to share the news of a new certification.  

And then there was the annual spectacle and celebration of film last night with the 85th Academy Awards telecast.  I still have fond memories of my days long ago working at the Los Angeles County Music Center, (when the Oscars were hosted at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion), and I worked as an usher.  It was a fun time of my life, and watching it on tv brings back some of those fun memories.  My favorite film, and second favorite both won several awards…did yours?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Thanksgiving to Christmas Transition and Family Time

Thanksgiving has now come and gone, and our attentions have been turned over to Christmas decorating and preparations.  The outside lights were installed a week or so ago, and finally turned on for the first time Thanksgiving night.  The inside decorations are being completed this weekend - we traditionally start Thanksgiving night by “un-decorating” all of the fall / Thanksgiving decorations, and pulling out the assorted boxes of Christmas decorations.  Some of the Christmas things start to appear that night, while most remain in boxes until Friday and Saturday.  As of last night, each of the boxes had effectively belched out their contents, and our dining table, which just 2 short days ago held a beautiful feast for the family to enjoy – now held a vast array of decorations, books, Christmas towels and pot holders to be moved around the house and placed into their respective spots for the next 5-6 weeks. 

The Christmas CD’s have been moved into a place of prominence too, as the sounds of the season fill our home daily.  And the various recipes that are traditionally only used at Christmas-time have started to come out for their annual incorporation into our cooking and baking regimen… soon the smells of Christmas will permeate our home as well. 
I love the Christmas season.  I always have.  Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  It’s always been a time to spend with family and loved ones.  A time to enjoy one another, and put aside many of the junk that goes on during the year. 

As a young person, my Christmases were always divided between both sides of the family.  We always spent Christmas Eve with my mother’s side of the family – my grandparents, great aunt & uncles and assorted cousins, and sometimes my aunt & uncle (my mom’s sister) and their girls. We would rotate between our house, my grandmother’s house and my great-aunt’s house (grandmother’s sister), as we all lived within just a few miles of each other.   Christmas Day was at home, and my grandparents (the same ones as Christmas Eve) would show up at our house around lunch time for the afternoon.   

We would also celebrate Christmas with my dad’s side of the family, but it was always either before or after Christmas, depending on my aunt & uncle’s (dad’s sister-in-law & brother) family schedule.  There we would see my aunt & uncle, and their boys, as well as my grandparents, and assorted great aunts & uncles.  Those gatherings are fond memories today as many of those beloved relatives are all long gone, not to mention the fact that 14 years ago my lovely bride and I moved out of California for the first time, leaving those types of family gatherings behind.  It’s just not possible to gather like that any longer when you live 2200+ miles away from the assorted family members. 

These days our family gatherings take place when family comes to us, or if we are able to transport ourselves back to California for a visit, which is typically not done at the holidays.  As my own family grew, my bride and I decided we wanted to be at home each year for Christmas, and in the 14 years of being in the Midwest, we’ve done just that for 13 of those years.  Only one time did we venture somewhere else, and that was in 2010 when we traveled back to California to spend Christmas there with her dad, who essentially dying of cancer (it was protracted, but did happen before Christmas rolled around again in 2011, so we were all glad we went).  Even our kids have determined the same thing – they all want to be home for Christmas.  Even their love of all parks Disney won’t sway them, and you won’t find us in a Disney theme park for Christmas.  We’re just homebodies that way, I guess.  But it’s a good thing.  We’ve created traditions, and the kids don’t want to forgo them.  I can definitely appreciate that, as I didn’t want to forgo the traditions I knew as a kid either.  There was a nice sense of stability and security in knowing that even though some things might modify each year, the holidays were going to be the same. 

This year marked the second year in a row that my folks have been with us for Thanksgiving.  It’s been a great visit, and we’ve had a lot of fun together, just hanging out and enjoying family time.  Last night we spent a couple of hours just playing UNO together.  The laughter around the table was contagious.  The smiles were genuine, and the memories being created were priceless.  I remember times just like that when I was a kid, sitting around the table playing UNO and other games with my grandparents.   I want my children to fondly remember their grandparents in the future when they have families of their own.  And I cherish every opportunity that we get. 

This year also marked a milestone for my kids and their grandparents, well – at least for my middle son – who has now surpassed his grandmother in height.  Yes, my son is now taller than my mother, and he is beaming about it.  He’s on his way to surpassing his own mother, but hasn’t made it just yet, but wow was he excited when he realized he was taller than his “Pama.”  Another rite of passage that I know he’ll remember for a long time. 

My daughter learned – or rather re-learned how to knit with this visit as well.  My mother taught her last year on their visit, but she quickly forgot after their departure home.  But this time she’s picked it up quickly and has been doing a great job with her Christmas present of a scarf for her American Girl doll.  She’s already started another project now, and thinks she won’t forget how as quickly this time around;  only time will tell, but it’s been fun to watch her emulate her grandmother so much in the creative arts.  My mother has sewn, knitted and crocheted all her life, spending her working years as a professional tailor.  Seeing my daughter take after her grandmother in some of those areas is pretty neat. 

My daughter has also been the featured "model" for my lovely bride's new Etsy shop, where she and my mother have teamed up to sell some of my mother's hand-crafted wares.  They offer a number of items for American Girl dolls and their mommies - or - little girls and their favorite dolls.  This really wasn't meant to be a pitch for their site, but the photography throughout the past week, and a couple of trips to the store so that mother could purchase more yarn for the projects she's been working on this week alone, and the new tubs filled with hats, sweaters and more taking up space in my house have all been part of my Thanksgiving weekend.  So with that said, if you have a little girl in your life who likes American Girl dolls, and you'd like to get something for her that is unique and not going to be found on the A.G. website, I invite you to take a moment and check out the shop here.

I love the holidays and have shared a few of my favorite things about them… what do you love about the holidays, and why?

Until next time,


Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanks. Giving.

“We have ANOTHER HOLIDAY to worry about.  It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us” laments Charlie Brown, in the annual classic, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving - first seen on CBS television in 1973 and aired in prime-time every year since.  Once we hit Halloween, it seems, we are barraged with holidays and their respective celebrations, festivities, gatherings and fun all the way through January.  In my family it’s actually all the way through the end of April.  It’s the “gift giving” season – between Christmas in December and four birthdays and an anniversary in January, February, March and April.  Whew.  But of all of the various holidays and celebrations, one of my favorites, and honestly one of the most-often overlooked is Thanksgiving.  It just kind of is there, at the end of November, very much overlooked by the traditional start of the Christmas season. Especially considering here in the U.S. “Black Friday” is the very next day, though in the past few years those sales have been creeping further and further over onto Thursday – and continuing to overshadow Thanksgiving. 

As a holiday, it lacks the hype and build-up that both Halloween and Christmas have, and certainly doesn't spark a lot of extra-celebrating as the other 2 do either - no costume parties, or staff parties, or caroling through the neighborhood.  In stores it's truly overlooked, except perhaps in the grocery store where all of the feast supplies will be found.  There may be a few decorator items to be found (and I do mean few), but they're most often relegated to the worst shelf space way behind the more prominently displayed Halloween fare, and often behind the soon-to-be prominently displayed Christmas fare. Very few people send out Thanksgiving cards, and no one puts up Thanksgiving lights on the exterior of their homes.  In fact, many people bypass it altogether by not just putting up their Christmas lights - but turning them ON each night days or weeks before Christmas.  In my neighborhood, there are already more than a dozen homes who have been turning on their outside Christmas lights for the past week or more.  And a couple already have their lit and decorated Christmas trees in their front room window for all to see.  So much for giving Thanksgiving a little bit of prominence, huh? Personally I do install my outside lights, simply because I like to avoid freezing my butt off in the cold whenever possible.  I'd much rather get them up and in place when the temps are still decent, so I like to grab a nice weekend in late October or early November whenever possible...but I never turn them on until after Thanksgiving. I don't want to give Thanksgiving the shaft by heading straight to Christmas.  That's almost as bad in my opinion as just lumping both of your children's birthdays together in one single birthday party.  That might be acceptable if you have twins, but if not, they each deserve their own celebration...even if they were born in the same month, and might have birthdays close together.  They're different people with different friends.  Just as Thanksgiving and Christmas are different holidays celebrating different things.  Don't lump them together.  That's just sad. 

But I do like Thanksgiving.  Sure it is filled with wonderful foods; and since our celebration of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. is always on Thursday, it can generate 2 or even 3 days off from school or work depending on a person’s age and situation in life; and it’s generally a time to spend together with family or friends.  But it’s really so much more than just those things.  Thanksgiving.  Have you ever really stopped to consider it between bites or turkey, mashed potatoes and rolls (or popcorn, buttered toast and jelly beans as Charlie Brown served up on his ping-pong table in the backyard?) 

This year, like last year, my mother and her husband are here with us to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It’s a great time for them to reconnect with the grandchildren, and for us to be able to enjoy with them.  We have always recognized the brevity of life, but after last year’s death of my wife’s father in the fall, the first of any of our parents to leave us, we better understand the importance and opportunity of being able to spend time together.  Throughout our nearly 19 year marriage we have always tried hard to be sure to spend time together with extended family when possible, but living 2400 miles for more than a dozen years of those years has not really made it all that easy to do.  We can’t simply go across town to see them, or call them up and ask them to come over and babysit.  Every gathering is intentional and purposed.  We give thanks that we still have them in our lives, and that they are still able to travel.  We know that one day they won’t be around, or simply won’t be able to travel.   We’re relishing the time that we have. 

Thanks.  Giving.  Two very different words combined together create the name of the holiday.  Here in America Thanksgiving traditionally has its’ roots with the Pilgrims and a feast celebration from 1621 – but there have been days and feasts of Thanksgiving before that.  Even sacrifices and offerings as far back as the Israelites of the Torah section of  Old Testament in the Bible.   Thanksgiving has been set aside to recognize and celebrate with great joy the bountiful harvest, and celebrating all that God has given or provided.  So by name alone it speaks of gratitude for what WE HAVE.  But when further examined, it also is a great opportunity for GIVING.
For the past 8 years, our church has partnered with another ministry in town providing meals for the community – shut-ins, and others in need, specifically on Thanksgiving Day.  Through meals delivered to people’s homes and meals served on-site in the church’s gym, each year nearly 2,000 hot meals are provided free of charge.   In addition they offer a phenomenal Food Pantry, serving more than 200 families each week.  We have used both the Thanksgiving Meal and the Food Pantry as wonderful ways to teach our children the importance of GIVING.  Each year on Thanksgiving morning we get up and head over to the church to pick-up our maps for delivery, and then the corresponding meals that we will be taking.  Many wonderful interactions with people have taken place through the years.  Some older and not able to get out on their own anymore, others simply in need of some help due to bad situations they’ve found themselves in. 

Because of the serving others concept that my wife and I intentionally added in to our Thanksgiving celebration all those years back, for us Thanksgiving has become so much more than merely a parade on tv, food comas and sports in the afternoon.  It’s a time where we can and do give thanks for our own blessings, but also a time to celebrate and give thanks for the lives that we are able to touch by giving to them.  For all the media loves to hype the “door buster” savings to be found in stores – the true blessings aren’t found in any store, but rather, in the people you surround yourself with in life.  Whether they are family, friends or someone you meet in serving others. 
Whatever you do this Thanksgiving week, whether you celebrate together with family or friends, or by yourself, I wish you a wonderful time and hope you’ll find some way to give this year.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,

Friday, August 10, 2012

One Year Ago Today...

It's hard to believe that it's already been a full year since my first, inauspicious (read that - lame) post (and just to prove it, here's a link to that very first post).  

A lot can, and often does, change during a year's time.  Since then, I've posted more than 300 entries - some still lame, some not-so-lame, and others somewhat ok. Along the way I had major technical issues with the website host forcing me to change venues for the blog, I've had fun experimenting with formats and looks to the blog, and several features have been introduced, and /or retired based on changing thoughts and ideas about what I'd like to present or talk about. Some things I'd like to bring back, while others I would like to introduce in the coming weeks and months. 

Certainly during that time changes happened both personally and professionally.  Personally we said good-bye to a beloved family member, as my wife's father succumbed in October to his battle with cancer.  Professional, just about a month after that first post was made, I was laid off from my full-time job of 11 years, and made the decision to pursue my then part-time passion in a more full-time manner.  Thus what began as something to earn some extra on the side became a full-time gig, as we launched our business full-time.  We also switched the host agency that I was working with for a Franchise that we acquired with a national name-brand provider of cruises and vacation packages.  

During the year I went to the Caribbean on a cruise and to Hawaii to explore and check out Disney's new resort there - Aulani (for newer readers, check out the labels to the right on the home page, and search for Aulani to read various entries about the resort and check out photos I took while there.  It is a GREAT resort, and definitely one you should consider visiting).  Trips to California and Florida rounded out the past year, while more cruises and trips are in the works for the coming year.  

I've had fun sharing the variety of Disney trivia, facts and photos with those of you who have chosen to follow along.  I appreciate the readership, and the comments along the way.  I look forward to spending another year sharing and posting - and working to interject more personal anecdotes and information into the blog.  I hope you'll continue to follow along, and perhaps, even bring some friends along with you.  Because really - Disney parks are meant to be shared by family and friends.  In the next year I'm hoping to have some additional entries by guests, who will also share their own love of the parks with  9you - and perhaps their photos and memories of days gone by too.  

So - thanks again for following along and sharing my adventures.  Just as Peter Pan never wanted to grow up - neither do I.  He's always been one of my favorite characters, and Peter Pan's Flight has always been a favorite theme park attraction... which is a big reason why I chose to use Neverland Adventures in the name for my travel business.  

Until next time,

Monday, August 6, 2012

Time Flies By

Wow.  Time has a funny way of playing with our emotions, as sometimes it seems to just drag, and other times it seems to race by us!  This week, it’s been a bit of both.  Here we are at the half-way point for the Olympic Games – really?  Already?  Wow.  For the every-four year event, it seems like it just began – despite all the of various swimming and gymnastics events that have consumed our television screen the past week+.  Despite seeming to have raced by already being at the half-way point, I will admit there have been days during this week (or evenings), where coverage of various events has felt like it has been dragging on FOREVER!!  Especially when any given event is hyped so much, and then after it’s actually over – it gets played and replayed over, and over, and over , and over again.

But there are other things that have been happening, or are being commemorated in my household this week that show that time seems to just fly by!  My kids, for instance, are just growing up so fast!  That’s pretty much a given for any parent (though new parents don’t tend to “get this” fact during the diapers & lack of sleep phases ;-)  and often don’t believe other, more seasoned parents who encourage them to “enjoy every moment dearie, as you’ll blink and they’ll be gone off to college!”).  Off to college… something that we’re facing with our eldest in just two years!  He starts his junior year of high school in little over a week now.  It seems like he was just two and running around the beach with his grandpa, but we blinked!  Time flew by. 

Just a couple of weeks ago we remembered the death of my grandmother – who was my last living grandparent.  The other three all died years and years ago (33, 34 and 21 to be exact).  She outlived her first, and second husband (who she was married to for 25 years!), and even had a boyfriend in her final years at the assisted living facility she was living in.  It was cute… especially when she told me, one day, on one our walks when I got to visit her, that she “wouldn’t marry again”.  At 93, it’s no surprise she wouldn’t marry again!  And here we are more than a year later since she left us all… we blinked, and the year has flown by!

Today, as I write this, I think about an event that took place this morning that was wonderful in so many ways – and another event that took place 33 years ago today that was sad, yet also wonderful too.  33 years ago today, my grandfather (first husband of the grandmother mentioned above), died of a massive heart attack.  He was, as I am, a Christian, and with his passing from this life, I believe that he went to Heaven to live eternally with his savior, Jesus Christ.  This morning, I was blessed and privileged to baptize my daughter after she confessed her faith in Jesus publically for the first time.  I did the same thing with my boys seven years ago (time has flown by, as that seems to have just been yesterday…).  As a Christian, we recognize baptism as following Christ’s example and immersing our sinful nature in the water, just as He was immersed in the grave.  There’s nothing magical or remarkable about the water itself – but the redemptive blood of our Savior.  But what is remarkable – and very special to me – is that both of these individuals – though they never met – will be able to do so someday in eternity when my daughter goes to Heaven as well.  As a father, I was very moved by my daughter’s decision, and her request of me to baptize her.  As a grandson, I look forward to the day that I will get to see my grandfather once again in Heaven through my own faith and relationship with Jesus.  I don’t go about preaching my faith too often, but from time to time, I just have to preach it from the mountaintops.  If I’ve offended you, dear reader, by sharing this faith moment with you here in my blog , please know that you have the right to your beliefs, just as I have the right to mine – but as this is my blog, and I’ll share, or “wear it on my sleeve” every so often as I believe it appropriate to the day’s post discussion.  

A very proud family indeed!
Later this week we commemorate another “milestone” here in our household.  This is the week back in 2002 that we left California - for the second time – on our cross-country move to Indiana (the first time was in 1998 for our cross-country move to Michigan).  The primary difference between the two moves, is that the first time, the company packed us up, and moved all of our things for us, while we flew over the great mid-section of our nation – and for this move, we packed our stuff ourselves, and drove across the great mid-section of our nation.  We departed on the 8th back in 2002 – this coming Wednesday this year.   So we’ll be marking 10 years – an entire decade – here in Indiana next week.  Again – we blinked!!  Time has flown by.  It seems like only yesterday we were looking at houses to rent or buy.  And then of course, when we came to Indiana we had two children - and in the time since we arrived our family grew to three children - the last who's getting closer and closer to being a decade old herself (she has more than a year to go, but she's getting close!)

Other big events from last year will be creeping up on us very shortly as well… again, making it seem that time has just flown by in the months since they occurred.  It’s hard to believe that almost a year has passed since I lost my full-time job of 11 years;  and since my father-in-law succumbed to his battle with cancer in October;  and since I went into business for myself turning my dreams and passions into reality.  But it has been for all of these things.   Soon the coming months will turn from summer into fall and even winter – with Halloween, Thanksgiving , and Christmas right around the corner.   As a kid I remember thinking how slow time was – but as an adult – WOW – time sure does fly by!  

Until next time,

Friday, July 27, 2012

Walt Disney World Firsts

It Was a Week Full of “Firsts” – and Oh-So TRIPPY…

We just got home a couple of days ago from another terrific and memorable trip to Walt Disney World.  Was I sad to leave?  Always.  But as I tell me kids time and time again, all good things come to end.  And so yes, this trip ended as well, and we had to come home once again.  Was it nice to sleep in my own bed again?  You bet.  I always love sleeping in my own bed again after being gone.  There’s just something about sleeping in your own bed, you know?

Despite all of the dozens of times that I have been to Walt Disney World (and yes, it’s close to five dozen times), this trip was full of quite a few “firsts” for us – both collectively as a family, and for me personally as an individual. 
  • Driving my own car at Walt Disney World was – in a word – trippy.   I have driven rental cars all over the place multiple times there, but never before had I driven my own Jeep there.  Growing up in Southern California, driving to Disneyland was no big deal… but driving to Florida?!?  Something we had never, ever done before.  You have to understand that long car rides… just not something we’ve done much of since the kids were very little.  It’s true our kids have visited 26 states, but most of those trips were taken when they were a lot younger.  Thinking about it, they’ve been on planes nearly as many times as I’ve been to Walt Disney World.
  • My oldest son was part of the driving crew!  Yikes.  He drove about 6 hours on the way down to Florida, and about 6 hours on the way home.  Again, in a word… trippy.
  • We spent a lot of time in the pools… I mean a LOT of time.  We were there just about every single day.  This is so not like us.  While we enjoy the occasional dip, we are just not pool people.  And spending hours at the pool – at Walt Disney World – has just never been something we’ve done.  Sure a dip here, maybe there, once or twice during a visit – but never every single day – until now.  Very trippy.
  • We enjoyed a pool-side movie.  Fancy that.  I’ve talked about them here in my blog previously, and told many people about them – but we’ve never experienced one for ourselves.  We watched “Finding Nemo” while enjoying the pool at Kidani Village.  Huh.  Trippy. 
  • Not going into the theme parks, of course, meant no theme park meals.  We planned to avoid the theme parks all along – but we also ended up not planning any table service meals at all.  So NO ADR’s for this trip.  That was different.  Kinda trippy.    We did end up going to BOMA, thanks to a mix-up on the resort’s part and the subsequent “we messed up” gift card, but we didn’t plan that in advance.  I did arrange a reservation for us 2 days in advance – but again – trippy, since the typical long-term “ADVANCED” in ADR was absent.  Most people don’t make ADR’s 2 days in advance. 
  • We did not buy souvenirs on this trip.  No pins.  Nothing.  We’ve been so often, there really was no need to bring more of the same old crap home.  While I was pleased to see some new resort-specific merchandise in the shops, there really was nothing that made me say “I’ve GOT to have that.”  So the wallet stayed in the pocket, and came home no worse for the wear.   Trippy.  I almost always come home with something.
  • We enjoyed many of the same “free” or “nearly free” things that I have been talking about in my semi-regular “Saturday Savers” posts.  

We took our daughter over to the Tri-Circle D Ranch at Ft. Wilderness to check out the horses. Sadly she was 3 inches too tall to be able to ride the ponies, despite being within the age and weight range.  Sigh.  The tears only lasted a few moments, and then she was happy to at least be able to pet them.  

In the Cars section of Art of Animation

The new DVC resort under construction
 I took the family over to explore new resorts that they had not yet seen - such as the all-new Art of Animation Resort and the Yacht and Beach Clubs - and from a distance we saw the progress being made on the new DVC resort, the Villas at the Grand Floridian, currently under construction.  Kinda trippy doing things with them, that I’ve done numerous times before on my various solo research trips.

  • We did NOT sit and watch Stacy!  
  • We did watch "I Love Lucy" - in fact numerous times, as it was requested by my daughter numerous times as we scrolled through the on-screen listings menu.  Anytime she saw it, she would shout out for Lucy! (I love that girl... she loves Lucy almost as much as her daddy does.)  Sitting and watching television while at Walt Disney World has never happened before... except to sit and watch Stacy. 

  • We enjoyed the Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream at Disney's Beach Club.  Finished it, too (well, we did leave some melted ice cream mixed with about 7 or 8 cherries in the bottom that my son kept calling primordial soup… but otherwise, we finished that monstrosity!)   If you’ve never experienced it for yourself, or if you’ve never even heard of the Kitchen Sink… let me elaborate just a bit for you.  It’s 8 scoops of ice cream, topped with EVERY kind of topping they have, plus a whole can – yes, I said it – a WHOLE CAN of whipped cream.  It’s ghastly – yet fun – in a trippy sort of way.  The toppings alone amazed me.  The menu made it seem like just the standard liquid topping variety – but OH NO – there were cake bits, brownie pieces, pieces of candy bars, bananas, pineapple, candied fruit, nuts, and probably an entire jar of cherries, since each of my three kids had at least 6 to 7 cherries apiece (plus those 7 or 8 left in the bottom of the dish).  Crazy.  Fun.  DEFINITELY memorable.  But not something that we need to do again. 

  • We enjoyed spending some time (albeit just an hour or so) with friends from another state, who checked in while were at the World!  In the same resort that we had just checked out that morning no less! (Long story short but due to a relatively last-minute change of plans, we had to change resorts for the last couple of nights of our trip - but it was a blessing in disguise because the original plans would have had us leaving WDW 2 days prior to Mark & Julie's arrival... this way we got to visit with them after all!).  Prior to checking out we were joking that they might even end up with "OUR" room at Kidani Village (sadly, no dice, they ended up on the OTHER end of the savannah). Encounters like that do seem to make the famous (and often famously maligned Sherman Brothers song from that iconic Fantasyland attraction ring true - it IS a small world after all!).  

  • We got to watch Wishes from the Top of the World Lounge at Bay Lake Tower! Not being BLT point owners, and not having stayed at that resort - we have not had the usually exclusive pleasure of experienced this perk previously.  But since it was made available for a "limited time" to any DVC owner staying on points at any DVC resort, we decided to head on over and see if we could get in and watch from there.  Knowing the Top of the World has limited space, we weren't sure if we would get in or not, but tried anyway.  We were told guests could arrive as early as 6pm, but Wishes wasn't until 10pm.  No way were we going to sit over there for that long.  We arrived at 9pm, and figured if we couldn't get in, we'd simply ride the Monorail over to the Polynesian and watch from the beach (something else we've never done).  But we got in with no problem.  All told, when the fireworks began - the Lounge was probably little more than half full - so there was no need to stress about it at all.  Other nights it might have been more crowded - but our night - not at all.  A big bonus right there!  As a show, Wishes, to me, is very stale and needs to be replaced (especially after watching two different far-superior fireworks presentations at Disneyland in the years since Wishes was first rolled out, and were created after Wishes by the same dude who created Wishes in the first place... it's time Steve Davison to put your fireworks focus back on Walt Disney World!) - but I digress, enough to say that it was fun to experience it from a new vantage point - especially to see how truly far behind the Magic Kingdom the shells are actually shot up from.  The show does lose a LOT in the translation when not watching it from within the confines of the Magic Kingdom - BUT it was fresh and new watching it from the 16th floor of Bay Lake Tower.  Despite being stale to me, it was a great final night bit of fun for all of us. 

  • We went in JULY.  For any of you following along who have ever read any comments I have made on the DIS, or any other online spot I may have commented… we do NOT like the heat and humidity of Florida in the Summer time.  I have avoided it like the plague – until this year.  When we realized that this 10 day period of the summer was pretty much the ONLY time during the entire summer that all five of us would be “home” at the same time – and not off on some Scout, Church or other outing.  So way back in February we decided that the only way to protect that time – and give us the much-desired family time that we needed – was to effectively get “out of dodge” and enjoy our timeshare.  That way none of us would be tempted to respond to the various text messages, phone calls, Facebook posts or Tweets that would come around saying – “COME…. Do this, that or whatever else....”  By being 900 miles away from all of that – we could have that coveted family time.  It was a wise choice.  We enjoyed spending time together, reconnecting, being silly, playing games and just hangin’ out together.  Very, very trippy.  I highly recommend taking your own family doing something similar – especially when the busy-ness of the teen years creep in and overtake your household!  With one super active teen, one getting more and more active all-the-time teen, one slightly busy pre-teen and two busy parents – we must SCHEDULE this kind of time in order to capture it – at all.  Otherwise this friend, that friend, this activity or that activity WILL overtake one or more family member each and every week. 

It’s crazy – but it will all change in just two short years when our eldest leaves for college – followed a couple of years later by our middle son, and then it will all come crashing down in just a few short years when the last of the kids is off on her way to college.  It’s very trippy how all those years ago when the boys were but wee ones people would exhort us to “enjoy this time while it lasts” – we were so full of ourselves thinking it would last longer than it actually does.  And here we are – with a son driving us to Walt Disney World, getting ready to start his Junior year of high school and the college information keeps coming in the mail each and every week.   Trippy is definitely an understatement for the week that we experienced – but even more appropriate for the short 16 years that have literally flown by.  Now to start figuring out which week will be the “one week” next summer so that we can hopefully do it all again…

Until next time,