“Wizards and Rollercoasters and Sun, Oh My”

Wizards:

Walking through the Brick Wall to enter Diagonal Alley is always memorable, but experiencing it for the first time is special. I’ve done it (multiple times) and Jax did it last time we visited the sunshine state (although he had been there before). This time though it was time for Oliver to walk through the fabled brick archway that leads to one the most magical places in the Wizarding World.

I love the picture above because not only is Oliver sitting in the exact place that both Jax and I took photos in years prior, but in the background you can see the Quidditch Supplies Store in the background. Remember, Oliver was named for my favorite character in the series, Oliver Wood, who was a Quidditch junkie and Gryffindor superstar keeper.

Of course there is no Wizarding World without a couple of mandatory stops… when in Rome right?!??? First to grab a few of the required readings for first years like Ollie… and Flourish and Blotts provides just that. And then off to Knockturn Alley where Oliver was able to vanish a bird a lot quicker than Draco was ever able too. This Syltherin was all smiles when she met Ollie and I’m pretty sure they’ll be exchanging owls over the summer.

Both Jackson and Oliver LOVE trains so the trip to Hogsmeade on the Hogwarts Express was that of fantasy for them! Between Oliver yelling “choooo-choooo” every five seconds to Jackson building the LEGO Hogwarts Express this was a dream come true! I love that Jackson is still innocent enough to follow along with the CGI and really believe in what he was seeing, “dad, it’s Harry Potter he’s outside, LOOK!!!”

Bottom line with Harry Potter… it’s Hogwarts or Bust!! In a weird way for me this place feel like home.

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Rollercoasters:

I’ll say it now and I’ll say it again later… I do not like rollercoasters. I don’t like heights and of course I married a daredevil. Luckily for the boys they have their mom to take them on anything that goes above 20 feet high.

When you’re a parent and your child asks you to have a tea party, you sip that pretend tea like it was the best you’ve ever tasted. When they ask you to give them a horsey ride you neigh like you’re part stallion even though your back is shot and when your kid asks you to go on a wooden rollercoaster of course you swallow your fears and agree.

However I have to draw the line somewhere. So when my five year old strapped himself in the seat for his first rollercoaster ride ever and asked me if I was scared… I did what any respectable dad would do… I held him so tight and told him I wasn’t scared at all (I peed in my pants just a little on that ride). Damn you Buckbeak and The Flight of the Hippogriff for making me fake this smile:

Mom took our daring adventure seeker on the next ride while I wandered Hogsmeade with Oliver. Jax was just under the “you just be this tall sign,” but dive Steph was with him they waiting in a 75 minute line. Now I don’t know how many people have attempted to keep a five year old standing in a sow moving line for over an hour, but I would assume by the texts I was getting that it was not easy!

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And Sun, Oh My:

Listen there isn’t much I can say for this one. It was hot. It was unbelievably HOT. Orlando in July… extremely hot!

Don’t let the snow topped roofs fool you… it’s hotter than the Face of the sun out there!!!

A few years back we visited in mid December and even then as we escaped a winter snow storm In the northeast it was about 85 degrees in FL, which isn’t terrible, but factor in humidity and it was sweltering… IN THE WINTER. Fast forward to the spring and especially summer and you’re looking at unbearable heat. I always wondered why they made the Wizarding World at Universal look as if it were winter… fake snow on the roofs in Diagon Alley do not equate to cooler temperatures for visitors, as a matter of fact it’s like looking at a mirage in the middle of the desert! Here’s the thing, when you sign up to visit Hogwarts in Orlando in July… the heat, but more importantly the magic are a package deal.

Until next time… Mischief Managed.

Scott’s Brats (The Lambeau Field of Aruba)

I feel like it’s been about 100 years since the last time I visited Scott’s Brats, a small beach front stand that serves authentic Wisconsin food. The best part is Scott, the owner, is a HUGE Packers fan.

His stand covered in Palm leaves and surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, but what stood out most (besides the amazing brats or Italian sausage on a Italian bread) was the Packers memorabilia and amazing license plates from all around the world, most depicting some sort of Packers saying. I took a picture with Scott before we left and told him we’d be back one day. I also asked him if I could buy one of his license plates. He told me he was still collecting them and the next time I came he’d give me one.

Well years later we came back. I had been telling the boys all about the guy in Aruba who loves the Packers. They were exited to meet him. Scott’s Brats is still standing, unfortunately no more Scott (he sold it to retire to beach life a few years back) and now that authentic Wisconsin food has a with a touch of Aruban flavor).

Matt, the new owner has kept the Packers memorabilia up and has added more license plates from all over Aruba. When I told him the story about the first time I met Scott, he grabbed a hammer, took down that Packers license plate from all those years ago and gladly handed it over to me. That golden “GOPACK” plate from “One Happy Island” will display nicely in the basement and remind me and the boys of our first vacation together, of the warm ocean, the hot sun, some great food and the fact that Packers fans are everywhere.

#GOPACKGO

Happy Valentine’s Day

In what seems like 100 years ago I met a young lady with the whole world in front of her. She asked for some help carrying things up to her dorm room and of course the gentleman that I was… Could not leave a damsel in distress. In all reality I volunteered to carry some water bottles up to her room… but so started what would become two children, two dogs, a house, some laughs, some tears and a whole lot of love.

There’s been work. There’s been more work. There’s been interviews that have led to more work. Work that’s lead to more work. And then after that there’s been work because the work we do needed more work to be done. And all that work sometimes leads to frustration, short tempers, and the need for a quiet peaceful night. And then you get home to these two amazing, loving, kind, beautiful children and everything is right in the world again.

There are times that are tougher than others, there are times where you can imagine where the last 18 years have gone. I remember continually limping into the orthopedic on crutches and depressed that my track and field career could be over… I remember her accompanying me time after time comforting me helping me through one of the worst times of my life at that point. I knew then she was the one… She was less confident for a while as she wouldn’t agree to be “my girlfriend.” That was until the cast came off and I thought things couldn’t get any better.

I remember sitting on the rooftop of the hotel in Wildwood. I remember being on the phone with my buddies, I remember the butterflies I remember the nerves I remember walking downstairs and being told by Jay and Brea that I better shave and put on something nice I remember sitting on the rooftop of the hotel in Wildwood. I remember being on the phone with my buddies, I remember the butterflies, I remember the nerves, I remember walking downstairs and being told by Jay and Brea that I better shave and put on something nice.

I shaved, I put on a purple Abercrombie polo, and I wore sandals. I was such a dork. I walked on stage, got up in front of thousands of people and asked the most amazing woman I’ve ever met to marry me. I’m still not sure if she actually said yes… but all these years later we’ve made it through a whole lot of stuff… good and bad… a couple of houses, multiple roommates, doggie hospitals, knocked out teeth, multiple wetlands violations, wiggle ball tournaments that led to broken vertebrae, parties that led to getting “iced,” winter power outages that led to sleeping like revolutionary war soldiers in front of a fire, baseball games, Football games, Backstreet Boys’ concerts (not my idea), glasses, contacts, Lasic surgery, great friends, great neighbors, great family members, a marriage that is stronger than ever… and most importantly… two of the most amazing children any parents could ask for.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” -Ferris Bueller

I’m glad we’ve taken the time to stop and look around a bit. You’re a better mother than I ever thought possible, you deal with my annoying personality daily and you’re not so bad to look at.

I love you more now than the day we met. Thanks for letting me carry your water bottles up to your room.

Love Always,

Me

…and Jackson

……and Oliver

………and Buster

…………and Max

A Christmas Miracle

Christmas. It’s a time to appreciate what you have and reflect on the important things in life. It’s a time for giving and a time to enjoy the most important people in your life. That is unless your have kids. Then it’s about winning. It’s literally about winning Christmas (obviously winning is about being the best present giving “parent” since Santa is the best overall).

Setting aside all the magical gifts that Santa delivers down the chimney and under your barely standing, brown five week old Christmas tree, parents often both agree on an amount to spend on their children, or at least decide together what gifts will be bought for the kids. The thing is… if your anything like us it’s not just about the season of giving. It’s about the season of “who got the best gifts.” You want to try to take it easy… you know, just get little Susie an Easy Bake Oven, but it’s easy to want to go overboard and become the favorite parent. It’s amazing how fast that Easy Bake Oven turns into a live unicorn.

Although, the other side of this… Just understand you may wind up sleeping on the couch once your partner catches wind of your plan. Steph and I haven’t gotten to that point yet, as long as the kids are happy on Christmas morning… that magic of the holiday twinkling in their eyes… that’s the real gift.

Buying for the little one is easy. Oliver would go nuts over a toilet paper roll, or a box of tissue paper. Put a few random legos in a coffee can and you have created the greatest gift of all time. You can’t measure happiness in money or gift amounts, but you can however measure happiness in laughs and smiles. We all want to make Christmas morning as magical as possible, so it’s best to take advantage of how easy it is to please the little ones now.

We try to take it easy. We (Santa) buys lots of books and puzzles. This year we are going to have Jackson pick a few old toys to donate to someone in need, as he replaces those he donates with new ones Santa brings him. We aren’t naive to think that Christmas isn’t about presents, but I think this mom and dad also relish in the little things as well… a healthy and happy family. Two little boys who love each other and most importantly the fact that we got them to sit long enough with each other to get a decent Christmas card! It’s a Christmas miracle.

That’s Newport Livin’

The following events transpired over three days: August 3rd-5th… 

I need a vacation from our vacation. Don’t get me wrong getting away from the office and yard work even for a few days is great and all… It just might be more tiring than sitting in the office and doing yard work! (This was Jackson’s first time away since he started walking.)
Maybe we’re just the worst vacation parents ever, but bringing a one yet old to the beach is a nightmare. Honestly I don’t even feel bad for us, although my one beach day this year consisted of screaming at a tent that seemingly would give Bear Grylls fits and wiping sand out of every crevasse on this poor kids body). Those things I can deal with, a few deep breathes and a few IPAs make things a bit easier.

The kid hung tough though. He was a trooper… He definitely enjoyed the $17 chicken fingers and $9 water. He did not enjoy walking on sand that was hotter than walking on the surface of the sun. We made it through about two seagull attacks before calling it quits. I don’t think had ever been more excited to see his car seat.

I think we realized how really lucky we’ve been over the past 15 months (obviously because we have a healthy, happy baby) also because he’s been on a regular schedule and has been a great sleeper. We learned how a major change in schedule and being away from his own room and crib can effect a one year old… Because this kid literally went two days without sleeping!
That first night was something out of a Wes Craven movie. The screams muted the sounds of the ocean and tears washed away any hopes we had of getting any sleep. I think we handled it well and finally gave in about 2am, putting him in bed between us.

Aside: putting a child in bed with you is worse than anything I’ve heard… Not because “they get used to it and then become reliant on having parents in bed with him,” but because being in bed with parents = Amusement Park. I can’t believe how much energy a child can have at 2am. Where he called the power to complete hundreds of barrel rolls is beyond me. I think we fell asleep at 4:30- Steph on the bottom of the bed and me diagonally with my legs hanging off. 

You would think the next day he would be miserable right? Nope… Ball of energy… We walked the perimeter of the hotel what seemed like 12 times and he spent the rest of the morning and afternoon in the pool. Great thing about a baby with no sleep + sun + three hours of swimming = NAP.
THE FOLLOWING CONVERSATION TAKES PLACE IN REAL TIME:

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He woke up at like 1:45 and started bugging out. So I picked him up and he passed out in the bed on me. I couldn’t move. I tried everything to get out. I considered gnawing my own arm off… But in the end I was finally able to wiggle free and at least move freely in my own room while the little man finally caught some Zzzzzs.

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He met his first vacation girlfriend… Monica… although it was tough he had to end it before we left… Long distance relationships are just to tough when you can’t even ride a tricycle to see each other!

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Overall, three days was just the right amount of time to get away.  Until next time, That’s Newport Living!

Florida Trip Told Through Harry Potter Quotes

We left from Bradley International Airport early Friday morning. On the way, a motorbike overtakes us, and Vernon I complain about them. Harry Jackson explains that he had a dream about a flying motorbike, and Vernon I snappily reminds him that motorbikes do not fly…

“You’re the weak one. And you’ll never know love, or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.” Harry Potter  Seeing friends for the first time in months is not something that can be explained easily.  It is not something to be taken lightly either, because the time you get to spend with the people that mean the most to you comes and goes quicker as you get older, sadly we don’t often tell people how we feel. I was excited for Steph to be able to see Ashley again, I was elated to see Trevor, but I was more excited to have Jax meet two more amazing friends with who he can grow up with, even if it is from the other side of the country.

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“Yeah, Mum’s always wishing we had a house-elf to do the ironing,” said George. “But all we’ve got is a lousy old ghoul in the attic and gnomes all over the garden. House-elves come with big old manors and castles and places like that; you wouldn’t catch one in our house. . . .” –George Weasley  So arrival at Ash and Trav’s new house was a sight for sore eyes after three hours in the air (two hours and 45 minutes of which were spent occupying a baby) and another 45 minutes in the car with a hungry baby.  It was literally a whirlwind of bags, clothes, diapers, bottles, presents and drinks.  Brand new house + a one and a half year old + a new born + a seven month old + four adults = Absolute craziness!  The mama’s hugged and Trav and I carried in 756 lbs of luggage (for three days mind you) and the children made messes- balls from the ball pit where flying everywhere! I’m not sure who felt worse… Ash and Trav who’s brand new house was being transformed into a day care facility or us trying to keep the house as clean as we found it… sure could have used a house elf!

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“And now they’re calling you ‘the Chosen One’ – well, come on, can’t you see why people are fascinated by you?”  -Hermione Granger   Something interesting occurred on Thursday… Somehow, someway, Travis and I become the primary care givers of three little humans.  The mama’s walked slowly behind as we wheeled 3/5 of a basketball team through the streets of Lake Worth.  People slowly formed rows on the side of the street to watch two of the manliest, most handsome men saunter down Main Street pushing Britax finest.  The “ohhhs” and “ahhhhs” were deafening.  I heard whispers of, “How could these two roman gods have such a sensitive side?”  There was even a shout of, “You guys are bringing sexy back!” My response… “No we’re not… IT NEVER LEFT!”

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“Ahem — just a few more words now that we are all fed and watered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you.  I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death” –Albus Dumbledore  Here’s the thing about vacations… when you are single they are tiring and event filled… when you are married with no kids they are relaxing… when you have a little one with you on vacation you don’t sleep… you move from one activity to the next without thinking and you squeeze in some food and maybe a nap if you’re lucky somewhere in your day.  From parades, to friends, to take out, to in-laws, to avoiding being eaten by swamp creatures, crocodiles and wild “ebberts” in the backyard… this vacation was a sleep-free trip and we loved every second of it!

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“Three up…two across…” Diagon Alley was waiting for us just behind the brick wall.  Diagon Alley spread out before us. Everywhere you looked was something familiar.  Jackson “wished he had eight more eyes…. There were shops selling robes, shops selling telescopes and strange silver instruments Jackson had never seen before, windows stacked with barrels of bat spleens and eels’ eyes, tottering piles of spell books, quills, and rolls of parchment, potion bottles, globes of the moon….”  A quick stop at the leaky cauldron for some Butterbeer and a traditional British lunch was first (is a chicken sandwich a traditional British lunch?).

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Although Muggle devices do not work in the magical world, we were able to (with the help of a charm from a nice witch outside of Flourish and Blotts) communicate through text messaging.  I assume this was probably a normal conversation during Vold… Volde… He Who Must Not Be Named’s reign:

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A wrong turn took us down Knockturn Alley… according to Hagrid this is not a place anyone wants to visit, “Skulkin’ around Knockturn Alley, I dunno — dodgy place.”  We wound up passing a few shady looking wizards and found ourselves in Borgin and Burkes.  As we walked by an antique looking cabinet we heard a bird chirping… quite an odd sound for such a dark and gloomy place… Luckily, however, we were able to make it out alive to continue our journey.

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After barely surviving Knockturn Alley and a fly by attack from some Cornish Pixies we were on our way! …and by the way, I don’t care what you say… professor Lockhart was right… “Freshly caught Cornish Pixies Jackson, Pixies can be very mischievous, devilish blighters!” IMG_9970.JPG

 

In order to reach our final destination of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry we needed to make quick stop at Gringotts to replenish our sickles and knots.  As we approached the bank was “Towering over the other shops” and etched plainly into the silver doors were the words:

Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.

The trip in and through Gringotts was marked by goblins hard at work until an appearance by Voldemort and Bellatrix almost brought our family trip to a screeching hault.  Luckily we were able to ride safely though vaults and out of the bank by a dragon which was ridden by The trio (surprising to see them in Orlando considering they are supposed to be filming elsewhere…) But none-the-less, thank the (dark) lord we made it out alive, because I hadn’t set my fantasy football line-up for the weekend yet.

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With our pockets full of wizard money we made our way to King’s Cross Station with a quick stop at the Muggle entrance to the Ministry of Magic (62442).

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The steam from the great Hogwarts Express billowed in the distance as we entered the platform.  “Funny way to get to a wizards’ school, the train.  Magic carpets all got punctures, do they?”  -Vernon Dursley. 

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Finally…

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“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” -JK Rowling