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Old 10-17-2012, 03:47 PM   #91
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That is a beautiful picture of you and your family, Hope! Gorgeous!
Thanks!

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Old 10-19-2012, 08:20 AM   #92
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I think we are finally settling back into a routine after our trip to the beach. I'm not entirely convinced that this is a good thing since I really, really didn't want to leave!

It does however mean that I have some time to be on the Dis (other than on my phone) and can give a proper update.

So, for those who may not be up to speed we went to Gulf Shores, AL with my parents.



Our first frustration occurred when our GPS took us on a route which included a trip on a ferry. It would have been fine except the ferry was closed! All signs said it was open so we waited for about half an hour. It came in and and a worker came over to tell us they weren't going to run the last one due to high winds! This meant driving around the bay and an additional two hours to our trip (which had already been delayed by driving to the ferry and the wait for it to return). I was frustrated but taking it in stride UNTIL my mom tried to talk me out of being frustrated. This was a running theme- if my face showed the slightest sign of frustration my mom would start talking incessantly trying to convince me that my feelings were ridiculous. At one point I told her I'd be fine but she had to let me feel what I was feeling and then it would pass... she said okay and then kept on doing it. All week.

We stopped for wine on the drive home but as soon as we got to the rental house and unloaded the Suburban (did I mention we all rode together too??) I kicked off my shoes and walked down to dip my toes in the Gulf and it all just melted away.

We spent every morning the next week watching the sunrise over the gulf from our deck.


One of us would make coffee and we'd enjoy it from the deck. Some time after the sun would rise the fishing boats would come in and they were generally followed by dolphins! I loved watching them and would sit out until they disappeared. Then I generally went for a barefoot walk on the beach, letting the surf splash my feet. Sometimes I went alone, sometimes my mom or one of the kids would join me. One morning Robbie even came along (in his work boots) even though he really doesn't enjoy the beach...


Mid morning to early afternoon was usually spent sight seeing.

Over the course of the week we saw a shipwreck...


Explored Fort Morgan...


Went to a place called The Track which had an arcade, mini-golf and go-carts...




There were supposed to be bumper boats as well but it was under repair.

Our best outing, by far was a dolphin watching cruise. Even though we could see them from our deck it was really cool to see them closer...


And just so you don't think it was all serene and happy I'll tell you that on the way back from the dolphin excursion my parents started fighting and it lasted into the next day. It wasn't just normal bickering it was a full blown, dysfunctional family fight. I was beyond furious that they were doing this on our family trip but I knew if I jumped in it would only make things worse so I just attempted to steer clear of them and keep the kids distracted until it blew over.

When everyone was getting along (or even if they weren't I'd just take the kids by myself) we would spend mid-afternoon to evening in the water. The water temp was perfect this time of year.

This was another point of contention because Robbie didn't really like the beach, it hurt his feet to walk barefoot, even in the water (he ALWAYS wears shoes, even in the house because his feet are so sensitive). My parents like the beach but only on their terms. My mom wanted to sit on the beach, get hot then get in the water to cool off only to hop right back out. My dad spent the entire time hunting for seashells. This is fine, they both deserve to do what they want. But they were not willing AT ALL to just spend some time doing what the kids wanted. If I wanted the kids to be able to play in the surf with the boogie boards it was all on me to do it with them. Robbie did come down and help once because I asked him to but that was it. I really don't understand the mentality of kids being expected to just make do with what the adults want to do. I don't think the adults should NEVER get to do what they want but I don't think the kids should NEVER get to do what they want either. Robbie agrees and this is why he was willing to come out that one afternoon even though he hated it. But my parents never just did what the kids wanted. All of the time they spent with the kids was when the kids did what THEY wanted.

(I came back to edit here because I realized it might sound a bit whiny to complain about my parents not helping with MY kids.) The real issue is that we had only one car and the time at the beach was only one example of them doing this. They have the idea that the kids should always just go along with the adults, never complain, and never ask for much. They are more than willing to buy them things and junk food but not always willing to spend time doing things that aren't their priority. And they get put out and act like their feelings are hurt if the kids don't want to what they want. Soooo frustrating. Please don't misunderstand, my parents are wonderful grandparents, they just have some old fashioned ideas about adult/child dynamics.

Anyway, after an afternoon of fun in the sun we generally made dinner ourselves. However, one night we ventured out to one of our favorite Gulf Shores attractions, Lulu's!


This is a restaurant owned by Lucy Buffett, Jimmy Buffett's sister. It's open air, has live music and makes the BEST fried crab claws on the planet.

After dinner sunset on the deck was a perfect way to end each day...


I usually went inside after that because the bugs were horrible! However, on our last night I braved the mosquitoes because my girl really wanted s'mores...


That's pretty much it. We had a great time, despite a few ups and downs. I always say no matter where you go, there you are. People don't magically change just because they're on vacation so all of the things that frustrate us about each other are still there. But I'd rather be frustrated in a warm sea breeze than a cold, drizzly one.

Some plans were made for our trip to UO as well since Mom and I had all week to discuss but that will have to wait for another update!

Last edited by -Hope-; 10-19-2012 at 10:27 AM.
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Old 10-19-2012, 05:55 PM   #93
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I'm sorry there were frustrations, but I'm glad that you had a nice vacation. It looks beautiful! Your family pictures are absolutely gorgeous, too.
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Old 10-19-2012, 06:20 PM   #94
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I'm sorry there were frustrations, but I'm glad that you had a nice vacation. It looks beautiful! Your family pictures are absolutely gorgeous, too.
Thank you!! It really was a nice trip. Poor Karen probably doesn't believe me when I say that because u kept texting her to vent about the frustrations but was happily quiet during the food bits.

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Old 10-20-2012, 05:40 PM   #95
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Did I scare everyone away with my ranting?? Seriously, I wasn't trying to make it sound like it was ALL bad. We had a lovely time, just with some ups and downs. I did send Karen a few texts that said NEVER AGAIN- and I'm already going back on that decision.


The thing is, we'd already invited my mom to come along with us to Universal and we can't very well un-invite my mother! And then my mom went and told my brother that we should just all go next year and make it a split stay between Universal and the beach... we had briefly discussed this as a possibility but now with everyone on board it's a done deal. Robbie refuses to go though, for a variety of reasons, so we'll do something close to home with the four of us in the late spring and then the kids and I will do Florida in the fall with my parents and brother.

So, without further justification, those updates to our actual UO trip I've been promising are...

A beach trip to the Clearwater/Tampa/St. Petersburg area (still narrowing that down) interspersed with several day trips that will be optional for everyone including at least one night (possibly 2) on site at the UO resort.

Our main accommodations will be a beach front townhouse/condo/house (again, still narrowing it down) from Saturday to Saturday beginning September 21. The night(s) that the kids, my mom, my brother's girlfriend and I go to UO my dad and my brother will still be at the beach house and probably do some deep sea fishing while we're visiting Harry and friends.

We also still have plans for a trip to Legoland and Clearwater Marina but those will both be day trips while we're at the beach house. Legoland is only about an hour and a half from the area we plan to stay in and doesn't open until 10 AM (parking lot opens earlier) so we'll have no trouble getting there on time. Clearwater Marina is in the direct vicinity so again, easy for an outing.

Both of these are going to be open to whoever wants to go. This is one of the things I'm tweaking with this trip to try to avoid some of the frustration from the last one. I'll have my own car so I can take the kids to do the things they want and others can choose to join us or not. This way we aren't dependent on anyone else for transportation and they don't feel like they're chauffeuring us around when they just want to sit on the beach or look for shells. At any rate, I think Legoland will end up being just me and the kids, and even Kya is undecided about it. I'm not sure who will want to go to the marina either but I know the kids and I will. Two vehicles means not having to know or worry about what everyone else wants.

We'll also be flying instead of driving this time and then just rent two cars for the week. Again, avoiding one of the biggest sources of frustration from our recent trip.

I really wanted to find a duplex or smaller condos across the hall from each other so we'd have our own space but I'm not sure that's going to happen within the budget. I'm going to keep looking but I'm hopeful that even if we end up sharing a condo the other changes we've made will be enough.

So, that's it, the new plan. I still need to scour the boards to find out a few things, mostly how early can we check in at UO. I know our room won't be ready until later in the day but how early we can check in will help determine if we do one or two nights on site. We'll want our room keys for the EP and if we can get those near park opening and then actually check into the room later in the day then we'll do that. Lots more research to do with these changes!

Last edited by -Hope-; 10-20-2012 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 10-20-2012, 06:08 PM   #96
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to answer the last thing you mentioned, you can checkin as early as you wish at the onsite UO resorts.


check in and all get a room key.
with that, you go to the kiosk in the hotel to have your picture made for the express pass usage.

your room key is not valid for the ex lines but the picture hotel pass will be.

i have checked in as early as 6:30 am before.
the park isn't open at that time but you can get your room keys and picture card made early.

you can store your belongings with valet when you check in early.
at your request, the belongings can be put in your room when it is ready.

your hotel key will be preprogramed w/ room number once assigned, therefore, you don't have to stop in at the front desk for room information.


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Old 10-20-2012, 10:39 PM   #97
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to answer the last thing you mentioned, you can checkin as early as you wish at the onsite UO resorts.

check in and all get a room key.
with that, you go to the kiosk in the hotel to have your picture made for the express pass usage.

your room key is not valid for the ex lines but the picture hotel pass will be.

i have checked in as early as 6:30 am before.
the park isn't open at that time but you can get your room keys and picture card made early.

you can store your belongings with valet when you check in early.
at your request, the belongings can be put in your room when it is ready.

your hotel key will be preprogramed w/ room number once assigned, therefore, you don't have to stop in at the front desk for room information.
Thank you! I thought this was how it worked but wanted to be sure. I was really hoping you might stop by and clear this up for me.

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Old 10-20-2012, 11:06 PM   #98
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After dinner sunset on the deck was a perfect way to end each day...

Gorgeous!
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Old 10-21-2012, 03:07 PM   #99
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Gorgeous!
It really is a beautiful beach, and so peaceful. I have this particular pic as the background on my phone so I can "go back" anytime I need/want to.

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Old 10-22-2012, 08:21 AM   #100
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Another beautiful family picture! That sunrise looks amazing! It must have been wonderful to wake up to that every day. Oh my goodness, dolphins? I would love to see them, too! That is a cute picture of Kya going barefoot and Robbie in his work boots! Wow, I spoke too soon about the dolphins! You were really close to them on the cruise! That is so cool! I’m sorry to hear about the issues with getting your parents to do what the kids wanted. I didn’t think you were being whiny at all Their generation just has more old fashioned child rearing ideas. My aunt is the same way. That must have been frustrating on vacation, but that was really nice for Robbie to ignore his feet and go out on the beach with the kids that time I want to try a fried crab claw! I’ve never heard of that before. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip!

OK, I’ll admit that I laughed when you said you couldn’t un-invite your mother to UO! Well, I think a split stay between UO and the beach is a fantastic idea! It’s good that you will have two cars so that you guys can do your day trips. I’m so excited that you are going to stay on site! Any idea of what hotel?
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Old 10-27-2012, 07:30 PM   #101
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Another beautiful family picture! That sunrise looks amazing! It must have been wonderful to wake up to that every day. Oh my goodness, dolphins? I would love to see them, too! That is a cute picture of Kya going barefoot and Robbie in his work boots! Wow, I spoke too soon about the dolphins! You were really close to them on the cruise! That is so cool! I’m sorry to hear about the issues with getting your parents to do what the kids wanted. I didn’t think you were being whiny at all Their generation just has more old fashioned child rearing ideas. My aunt is the same way. That must have been frustrating on vacation, but that was really nice for Robbie to ignore his feet and go out on the beach with the kids that time I want to try a fried crab claw! I’ve never heard of that before. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip!

OK, I’ll admit that I laughed when you said you couldn’t un-invite your mother to UO! Well, I think a split stay between UO and the beach is a fantastic idea! It’s good that you will have two cars so that you guys can do your day trips. I’m so excited that you are going to stay on site! Any idea of what hotel?
Thank you! I am really so pleased with all of the family pics we got.

The dolphins were awesome! Watching them in the mornings while enjoying my coffee was one of the best things about the trip. The cruise was great too and seeing wild dolphins that close was awesome.

Thanks also for not thinking I was whiny! I do think next time will be better. I know there will always be vacation frustrations but I figure its okay if we learn from it and use it to make our next trip better.

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Old 10-31-2012, 08:41 AM   #102
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Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!



HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!!!

We had another Universal family night last night! Last month we had lots of fun with Despicable Me! but I really want to focus on some of the older movies and themes so the kids are more familiar with them when we go to the parks. I figure they'll get more out of it and have more fun that way. So, last night I knew Beetlejuice was going to be on TV and I decided to make it festive.

Since we are a Tim Burton loving family this wasn't the first time the kids had seen this movie but it had been a while and they've only seen it once or twice so a lot was new to them- and they LOVED it! It's campy and corny but that's part of the appeal- we laughed so much! I can hardly wait to experience the Beetlejuice review with them next fall.

Our tablescape:


I didn't want to spend a lot of money because Christmas and property taxes are upon us so it's really more generically Halloween than Beetlejuice specific but the kids didn't seem to mind.

In addition the the tombstones we had skulls and bones but just to Beetljuice it up a bit we added some black stripes to our white table.


We had "Beetlejuice burgers" and "freaky fries" for supper but everyone was hungry so I didn't get pics of those. I did manage to snap some pics of our buggy deviled eggs and cemetery dessert:




The dessert was cream cheese mixed with icing, topped with crushed oreos with Vienna fingers for tombstones. The bugs on the deviled eggs are black olives, cut in half with one half sliced into legs. The dessert was my own concoction based on stuff I had (except the Vienna fingers) but the buggy eggs were an idea I saw on Pinterest.

The kids let me snap a quick pic of them with the table but it's not the best quality.


I used my phone because I'm trying to learn to take better pics with it. I'd like it to be my main camera for our trip since I'm trying to avoid lockers and don't want to buy a small p&s just for this trip (my camera is a DSLR and quite bulky). I'm pretty happy with the quality of pics (especially since the i OS 6 upgrade) when I have time to frame it for the best lighting. ALL of these pics were snapped with my phone and the last one is the only one I'm unhappy with. That's mainly because the kids don't usually want to wait for me to find the best angle which means I sometimes end up with bad lighting and grainy shots. I'm going to have to keep practicing so I can learn to find those best lighting angles much quicker or I'm going to end up with great scenic shots and crappy family pics on our trip!

So, another successful movie night. The kids are more familiar with one of the attractions AND I think I learned some things about the camera on my phone (just need more practice) that will be useful for our trip.

And just so you don't think I've gone completely over to the dark side, I'll leave you with one final pic. Kya's Jack-o-lantern...

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Old 10-31-2012, 08:46 AM   #103
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OMG! When you said ALL the pics had been taken with your phone, I had to go back and look at them, I had no idea when originally looking at them, I thought they were taken with your camera. NICE! Especially for low lighting!

What a fun night! Perfect right before Halloween too. LOVE the pumpkin.
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Old 10-31-2012, 08:57 AM   #104
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OMG! When you said ALL the pics had been taken with your phone, I had to go back and look at them, I had no idea when originally looking at them, I thought they were taken with your camera. NICE! Especially for low lighting!

What a fun night! Perfect right before Halloween too. LOVE the pumpkin.
Yep, I really am pretty happy with the camera on my phone when I have time to do it right. Just need more practice. I think I'm going to try using it exclusively for a while (except for photo shoots of course) just so I'm forced to get better at it.
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Old 11-01-2012, 11:47 AM   #105
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I’m glad your kids liked the movie! I couldn’t get around to responding to this yesterday, but I did read it yesterday and I was so glad that I did! I was able to find Beetlejuice on TV, too, and I recorded it so that I could show my kids soon It really is a funny and crazy movie! I liked your decorations and that was smart to add the black stripes! Cute! I saw those eggs on Pinterest, too. They turned out well! The graveyard dessert was very cute. You take great pictures with your phone!
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