Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Step into my time machine...

Well... if you're in the mood for a delightful trip through time and space; you're welcome!


















Apparently, this is the year my kids decided to turn from little kids to big kids/tween. Be still my heart.  People said it happens in the blink of an eye.  Most days, I would deny that to be true... in fact a few days this summer they acted like the 3 year olds at the top of the page.  But as I started scrolling through old pics yesterday, it was like a punch in the gut. Yep, I blinked (and turned 44 yrs old and this happened!!!)

Seriously... they are becoming people with definitive and distinctive interests, personalities (I would say opinions, but that is one thing that has NOT changed...) they've had those for a really long time!

I so enjoy who each one is becoming.  They make me laugh... a lot!  They challenge me.  They amaze me.  They humble me.  I love remembering them as littles, but I really love watching them grow up.  What a gift they are.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Time marches on

May!?!?  Seriously, that's the last time I was here to update.  Oops.  I guess with the start of a new school year, I am always hoping that I'm going to make a little more time and space to keep things a bit more documented.  So... true to form, here I am again.

Our summer was one of the most enjoyable in our family history.  We traveled so much, even I didn't know if we were coming or going.  The entire month of June, our family lived in a fraternity house on the campus of USC as we did an inner city missions trip with AIA.  It was the most integrated mix of fun, hard, exhausting and memorable as you can get.  I have not been so emotionally and physically challenged in a long time.  Getting up at 5:30am (most days) and heading to bed near mid-night is not my norm.  While it nearly killed me, I can honestly say, I made the most of my time in Los Angeles.

I cashed in on my Valentine's Day gift from Steve as we headed to Chicago for an over night to see Sting.  An all time bucket list concert and he did not disappoint.

We turned around the next week and drove to Ashtabula, dropped the kids off at Gramma and Papa's and Steve and I headed to NYC for a two night work/personal trip.  When we got married, my "pre-nup" agreement stated an annual visit to NYC... so far my amazing groom has held up the bargain.

When we returned from there, we spent most afternoons at the outdoor pool. (We had to get our membership money out of it.)  Somehow, in between the pool, we managed to get to the James Taylor concert (my 44th birthday present) and Olivia, her friend Lila and I went to see Rachel Platten perform at a sweet little outdoor venue in town.

Because we are gluttons for punishment we packed up the van and headed 8 hours north to Sutton's Bay near Traverse City, Michigan for a week long family vacation with every member of Steve's side of the family.  It was a week long jam packed adventure full of tubing, boating, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, Olympic watching, pigging out mayhem.  We rolled home 2 days before the first day of school...

Which is TODAY.  Whew!  I'm exhausted.  It was full of fun and memories but this girl is ready for some routine and structure.  My house is ready to be cleaned and my body is ready to regulate.

I am so thankful for all of the amazing opportunities we had this summer.  It was magical.  Now, bring on 3rd and 5th grade.

That was then

this is now

Where did my babies goooooooo?????

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

13 years and going strong

In spite of the fact that my new year's resolution went the way of 1/2 the ladies in my aerobics class (my "I'm going to turn over a new blogging leaf" lasted exactly 21 days) all is well with the Koproski family.

Seriously, since I last blogged, we have had so much life under our belts.  Weddings, weekend trips, a spring break to Arizona, a daughter who has officially it double digits (but is still waiting for a party to commemorate the 10th birthday) and a variety of other exciting and not so exciting events.

We had a great time visiting my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Tom in Tucson, AZ.  It was a trip full of adventure and laughs.  My kids were so enthralled with all things desert.  They loved the cactus, the wild life, the flowers and the weather.  We hiked, walked, explored and saw a ton of sights.  It was really fun to be with my family over Easter.  I realized a few weeks before heading out there that I have not had a holiday with anyone from my side of the family since my dad died (it will be five years in September.)  So it was a welcomed event to be sure.

We also saw Olivia complete another season of gymnastics.  She and her teammates were the Level 4 Rec Champions this year.  It has been a magical group of girls and parents.  Things are about to change a bit this next season.  Olivia is super excited as she and her teammates move from Rec level competition to USAG level competition.  This summer will be a motivated summer as she needs a few more skills to move up to the particular level that she wants to compete at.  Her coach and I see that she has what it takes, I hope that she can believe it about herself!

The school year is also winding down.  It has been a busy and fun semester.  I continue to volunteer and lead an effort to connect the American parents with the large population of immigrant parents. One fun surprise recently has been my friendship with Nisreen.  She is a mom from Iraq and she is an amazing person.  I have learned so much from her.  She is smart, funny, stylish and has given up so much to make a better future for her kids.  She has invited me to a celebration of Iraqi women next weekend and I can't wait to go and learn even more about her culture and meet her friends.

Today is a special day as well.  Steve and I are celebrating 13 years of marriage.

These 13 years have been filled with a ton of adventures.  They have been filled with tears, laughter and surprises.  He is my partner in crime.  Life is really so much more fun with Steve by my side, I don't know what I would do with out him.   We weren't exactly kids as we stood at the alter 13 years ago.  We each had a bit of life experience under our belts.  We had two distinct lives coming together. In some ways that made it harder, but mostly it made our transition into marriage easier.  We knew who we were.  Adjustments for sure, but we didn't have to grow up together.  We simply got to merge our lives and it's been a blast.

From loving our City together

To Raging the storms

Lots of travel

Adventures around the world

Plenty of Silly times

And plenty of Hard times

There is no one I'd rather do life with!!!

Happy May 3rd!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Whip and Nae Nae in the unexpected

Well, my plans changed unexpectedly this afternoon.  After I worked out and was returning something at the grocery store, I got a call from Turner's teacher saying he wasn't feeling well.  She put him on the phone and he sounded reasonably sick.  So here we are on the couch as he is jamming to music on his ipod and currently doing the Whip and Nae Nae.  Sick or not sick, that is the question.  It is probably that poor parenting choice of several nights ago when I took the kids ice skating while the wind chill was seven below.  That is my version of my winter fender bender.

Changing plans due to illness is something I reflect upon this time of year.  Exactly 5 years ago this week, my cancer diagnosis came in.  5 YEARS.  I CAN'T BELIEVE IT.  I remember the day like it was yesterday.  The call came the same night as my Cat scan, "The doctor would like to see you tomorrow morning to go over the results of your scan."  That can only mean one thing... the results are not good.  When a doctor wants to waste no time to go over test results it is terrifying.  I begged the nurse to give me a hint, lucky for her she is not permitted to do so.  But it sure is torture for the patient.  Cruel, really.

Steve rearranged his day to go with me and because there were no other options, we dragged our two 3 year old sons with us to the doctor.  I sometimes think about that morning.  When I think back to that day, it is with much dread.  I try not to go back there too often, but I find that this time of year makes me do it.  As we all 4 sat crammed into the examining room and the doctor walked in, it was obviously not going to be good news.  He wasted no time and did not beat around the bush.  "I hate delivering this kind of news..."  and from there the rest of the conversation was pretty much a blur.  Have you ever been on a really scary roller coaster where in an instant your stomach drops to the floor?  Your mouth goes dry and you wonder, why am I doing this?  Pretty much the same thing without the desire to get back in line and do it all again.

There were phrases like, "I'm not going to use the "c" word yet until you have surgery and find out for sure."  "There are two large masses attached to your ovaries."  "Your blood work indicates a very elevated marker for the "c" work."  "I'm going to set you up with an oncologist- get you an appointment tomorrow."  "In all my years practicing medicine, I've never met anyone with ovarian cancer.  The odds are in your favor."  "I'm so sorry."

We collected our coats and my two small children and the world around me moved in a blur.  We called some friends and met them at a bounce house so the kids could play and we could talk.  We went to McDonald's after.  My friends stood beside us as shocked as we were.  They prayed for me.  They gave me words of comfort.  That was a Tuesday, by Friday I was in surgery... finding stage III Ovarian Cancer.  What followed were months of treatment.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Depression.  Hair loss.  Weight loss.  Sleepless nights.  Tangible acts of service and kindness from friends, family, strangers.  Healing.  Strength.  Hope.  Survival.  Recovery.  Health.  Joy.  Thankfulness.  Restoration.  Travel.  Family.  Ups.  Downs.  Missions.  Fights for Justice.  Compassion for those in hard times, health or otherwise.  Empathy.  Courage.  Weight gain and subsequent efforts in weight loss.  Normal life.

From time to time I live in fear that I will one day re-live that doctor's visit.  January serves as a very fresh reminder.  The weather, the short days, the annual events that occurred that season that will always cast my mind to "that year I was in treatment."  At 5 years they will call me cured.  I will be "official" in June when my treatment was over.  I am rounding up in faith, declaring myself cured.  There were days I wondered if I would make it to see this day.  I hate wishing time away.  I believe I have lived fully the days within those 5 years.  Who knows what tomorrow will hold and perhaps I won't see the 5 year mark.  But to live each day to the fullest is one lesson cancer taught me (among so many others.)  I think there are not many days that go by where I think, "Boy, I really wasted that day."  I squeeze all that I can out of most of them.  Some may think my schedule and my days are insane.  Honestly, I like it like that.  Mostly because I remember months of being incapable of doing anything for myself and others and I am extremely grateful for these days!!!

So today as my plans changed due to illness, it makes me pause in thankfulness.  As I snuggle my son and raise an eyebrow as to how sick he really is (I can live with a faker if it means a snuggle on the couch just the two of us for the afternoon) I couldn't be happier that God held my hand through that time 5 years ago and He holds it today and tomorrow.  While I still can't say that I am thankful for my cancer, I can say that I am thankful for how my cancer taught me to live!  Some moments you're down on the couch and others you are whipping and nae naeing... life is made up of both.  So, kill it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Winter Rodeo

It's January.  In Ohio.  Although its been a "mild winter" as they say, the days are still short, gray, cold and did I mention gray?

Today, the Miami Valley region got "hit" with a mild winter storm.  Mother Nature dropped about 1"-2" right before the morning commute.  That is about an average "winter storm" for around here, although it is not unusual at least once a winter to have a bigger storm with 4-8 inches.  This morning there were big white puffy flakes and to my kids' disappointment, Dayton Public Schools were one of the few districts that didn't close for a snow day.  I drove them to school and I will admit, I had to dial back my speed.  The roads had not been plowed or salted, but with the small amount of snow on the ground, we were able make it with no problem.

Here is what astounds me... after 12 winters in Dayton, it seems as though the news channels, weather people and general public FREAK OUT when we get more than a dusting. Every single time.  I can understand people's fears if they are new to the North.  Perhaps someone has just arrived from Texas, Arizona, Iraq, Africa (in case you think I am mocking, I am not.  We have many families who have arrived just days ago from another country in which they have never seen a light switch, let alone a winter coat or gloves.. to them I give much grace and patience.)

It's the other knuckle headed born and bread Ohioans that I just can't figure out.  Its the speedsters on I-75 who don't take it down a notch and cause a 7 car pile up.  Its the people who take that stop sign at the intersection like its a June day.  Its my ridiculous 8 year old son who goes ice skating when it's -7 degree windchill and wont wear a scarf.  (Hmmm..  perhaps that one is due to bad parenting.  I'm open to that.)  It's the school districts who can't figure out a rhyme or reason to have school or not have school.  On the days it seems they should cancel, they don't, and when it seems perfectly fine to send a child, bundled up into the elements, we close.  Either way, we Daytonians complain- like it's our JOB!

Granted, I take my kids to school.  They don't have to get on a bus in the hands of someone else, they don't have to wait out at a bus stop and wait for a bus that is 45 minutes late or worse yet, never comes.  We have the luxury of living a 5 minute drive from the school.  I am truly sad for the kids and the parents who do not have such a luxury.  My job is flexible, so a snow day is a slight inconvenience for me; while parents of my kids' classmates have to worry about their child's well being.  For these dear ones, I channel my inner winter-hating self and send them deep love and solidarity.  For the others, I say, put on your grown up pants, leave a few minutes early, and don't act so surprised when January hits and we have to choke 'er down a bit on the roads.  Let's all get there safe and sound, m'kay?

I don't know if weather is such a topic where you live.  But seriously, Dayton LOVES her some weather.  I suppose it's like that everywhere.

All I know is, today's snowy non-snow day gave me a chance to do a job that I dread.  I went through the toy box(es).  Ugh.  The boys seem to quickly and systematically acquire and accumulate stuff; more so than Olivia.  I'm not sure why that is.  Perhaps because they share a room, perhaps because they are younger, perhaps because one of my two boys is a borderline hoarder... who knows.  But with all of the Christmas/birthday loot we needed to make room for the new stash.  I strategically have to do it while they are at school and when I have a good block of time to do a thorough job.  Today's blessed weather event gave me that chance.

(I am the opposite of a home body.  I look for every excuse to be out and about, which rarely affords me that nice long chunk of time to get it done.  With the bad roads, I chose to stay put.  Lemons into lemonade...ha.)

I must have bagged up 100 hot wheel cars to donate to our Y's childcare.  I threw out every broken toy, stupid Happy Meal junk piece, random gum wrappers, rubber bands and Lego bits.  I filled an entire tall kitchen bag with that crap alone.  I reorganized by toy category.  A useless endeavor, but it made me feel good even if it only lasts until 7 pm.  A bin for only Pokemon cards... heck yeah!

For a family who moved only 6 months ago and did not move any useless junk with them, we have a lot of useless junk.  Ugh.  It appears as though I didn't waste my time going through the toy boxes before wrapping them in bubble tape back in July.  I just moved all those rubber bands right along with us.  It made for an accomplished feeling on this winter day.

So now that I am clearly proud of myself and feeling a bit self righteous about appropriately viewing winter here in my fair city, I will venture out to collect my children from school.  I will fix them hot chocolate, dodge their outrage over where all of their valuables have gone and put up a strong defense on why I can't take them sledding in only an inch of snow.  And so it goes, another winter in the mid-west.  Mother nature, you will not pull any punches on me!  I am ready for you... this is not my first winter rodeo!  And if I believed in jinks' (which I don't) I've probably just put myself at the front of the list for a fender bender by the end of this one.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The day I opened a can of whoop-sass at Universal Studios

In my previous post I alluded to a story involving my inner beast being released at Universal Studios. This is the rest of the story. In order to fully appreciate this, you need to know a little fact... we spent an embarrassing amount of money to get into the park that day.

Let's just say that the Universal Studios' website is *challenging* to navigate.  Here is my chance to announce to the world that UNIVERSAL STUDIOS has no where near the level of customer service and ease and doesn't hold a candle to DISNEY!  It was like the JV version of a theme park, in my mind, and if it hadn't been for the enthusiasm of my children toward going to the Harry Potter section of the park, we would have gotten our money back and marched right out of there.  But my kids were BONKERS about going to Harry Potter's Diagon Alley.  So we bit the bullet, paid an obscene amount of money and enjoyed our Express Pass (which was the portion of the ticket that proved to be so confusing).

Because Harry Potter was our family's main focus, we rushed directly to that ride.  PS- one of two rides at Universal that does not allow you to use your Express Pass is the Harry Potter ride.  So after you've already sold a kidney and your youngest child in order to have enough means to enter the park with an express pass in hand, you get to stand in line with everyone else.  For ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY MINUTES.

I'll just tell you right now, there are not many things I would waste two hours of my life standing in line for, but this ride was TOTALLY WORTH IT.  It was awesome and fun and spectacular and made me laugh and scream.  With that being said, the waiting wasn't the problem... it was the other patrons of the park who didn't want to wait that were the problem.

I know you've been there if you've ever had kids, been to an amusement park or any other event in life when you are so excited. That moment when you round a corner and realize the cost that must be paid in order to enjoy said event.  So it was as we entered the line for the ride and realized all of those black railings that snaked and coiled for what seemed to be an eternity (only to realize this was just the outside portion of the wait.. there were more coils and rails waiting for us inside.)  And we were all in this together... people with casts, boots, wheelchairs and even chemo kids.  No one got the express pass here!

So we chatted it up with the nice family in front of us for the first 10 minutes of the wait.  All decked out in Baylor gear (they were headed to the bowl game later that night.)  We began the chat when Quinn (after only 10 minutes of being in line) was already *exhausted* and went to lean on Steve but accidentally hugged one of the young adult Baylor fans instead.  (This is a crucial detail that comes into play soon.)  We had a chuckle and on we went, snaking and coiling.

Nearly 40 minutes into the wait, I realized three teenage girls were suddenly in front of us.  They looked to be about 15/16 years old.  Hmmm.... interesting.  I spent a few minutes trying to figure out if they were with Baylor.  But clearly they were not.  I boiled inside giving myself the little, "teenagers are stupid and don't use their head all the time" pep talk.  After another 8 minutes and seeing a few more elderly people waiting ahead of us and watching their one friend (we were now down to two girls in front of us) cut the line once again at a *convenient* spot, I mentioned something to Steve and his mom.  What really upset me most were the couple of cancer kids that I saw her cut in front of.

Here is something you need to know about me... I'm not one for confrontation.  I will just as soon eat a crappy meal out than send it back to make it right.  I just don't really like to make too many waves. But when it comes to injustice or breaking the rules or cheating, I can get feisty.

Steve's mom mentioned something to the two girls and asked where their friend went when it looked like they were about to bolt as well.  More of a way to let them know we were on to them.  I wished I would have said something to them immediately when I first realized they had cut in front of us.  They were really slick.  I may not have even noticed they had cut, but remember when Quinn had hugged Baylor's leg?  Yep.  I was very aware of who had started out in line with us from the beginning.  And Cutie Patootie One Direction Groupies were not them!!!

Now it was about an hour into the wait (1/2 down!!! 1/2 to go) and here comes Cutie Pattoties' mom and dad excusing themselves and moving in front of us.  WHAT THE WHAT??!!  (And here I go.  Unable to control myself....)

Me: "Excuse me, did you just go in front of us?"

the "dad":  "Oh, yes.  We are just joining our kids. They were saving a place for us in line."


Me: "OH, well, that's nice except your kids cut in line in front of us about 30 minutes ago."

the "dad" : "Oh, sorry about that."

Me: "No.  Not sorry about that.  You don't get to just come in line and cut an hour into the line when your kids actually cut in front of us. They did not start in line in front of us.  They cut."

Then from behind me another teenage boy says under his breath to the girl he is with, "Geez.  No need to get upset, we are all going to the same place."

So I whipped my head around with what must have been fire in my eyes and said, "True, but its not the same when you jump line like they did.  Not for a line with a 2 hour wait!"

To which he says, "Well, I'm with them too!."


Me back to the dad: "Seriously, you are going to now tell me 7 people have jumped the line and you are okay with that?  Are you seriously okay with that? "

Steve's mom says to the parents, "It's not us but rather all of the people who are unable of standing in line that is the problem.  There are kids with cancer standing in this line but your girls are cutting in front of them."

The mom's conscience must have got the better of her because she insisted that we go ahead of them. At this point we are now making a big scene as Steve is talking to the dad about getting the authorities involved, Olivia is in tears because she thinks we are in a fight and then Quinn says to me, "Mom, what does B*tch mean??"


Teenage boy had just been saying the "b" word because I had just overheard his saying something to the girlfriend he was with.  That is when I totally lost my mind!!!  (And a part that I'm a touch wishing I could re-do).

I then turn to the dad of this group and say to Quinn :  "Why don't you ask this gentleman what B*tch means.  Apparently his kids are familiar with the word.  Would you like to tell my kid what B*tch means????"  (I'm pretty sure I've never used that word in front of my kids and I had just used it 3 times in 8 seconds at that insane moment.)  Not one of my finer ones.

So the dad says to the teenage boy, "Did you just use the "b" word?"  Teenage boy says, "No, SHE did ----> "  Pointing to Gramma......  what??  I'll tell you one thing I would bet all my money on (which wouldn't be much since we spent it all getting into this asinine park) is that Gramma would NEVER use the "b" word in front of her grandkids.

In which case I was like, "Gramma, did you just use the "b" word in front of Quinn?"  Naturally she answered no.  So now we were dealing with cheaters, potty mouths AND liars.  I couldn't take another minute of it.  I had to just take our rightful place in line and try to calm down.  Baylor finally said something to us and them about the girls cutting and that was that.  For the next 35 minutes we had to stand right in front of them until we got on the ride.  It was terrible and awkward and made my blood boil.

I think the thing that sent me over the top was the parents and how they interacted with us.  Never an admittance of wrong doing.  Never a seek to understand.  Not a word to the girls or their teenage son for cussing in front of an 8 year old.  Saving places was happening all around us, but clearly people were sitting on the ledge or against the wall while their able bodied family/ friends snaked and coiled. What got me was the line hopping and the idea that they didn't want to wait in line... so they didn't.

I will say, I let it rob some of my joy for a bit, but I was able to move on.  It was good to remember that I want to teach my kids what is right and what is not.  Before I cast the first stone, I realize that there will be times that I won't be with them.  They will make bad choices and do bone headed stuff. I will do my best to give them manners and respect for others.  I hope they will live accordingly.  I can teach and guide, but I can't make choices for them for their whole lives.  But I certainly would not support their misbehavior when I know they are in the wrong.

Although the world is obviously filled with WAY more injustices that line jumping at a theme park, it is a slippery slope.  I hope that what my kids will learn and what I will learn to do a better job of is speaking up to those injustices even when it causes discomfort.  Even when there may not be an immediate result.  Even if others think I am making a scene.  I'm hoping that one of those 7 people in that group will walk away considering not doing the selfish act of line jumping (which is most likely a metaphor for how they live the rest of their lives) again.  I also hope that in the future I will speak up immediately when I see something wrong.  I hope I will do it kindly yet firmly.

I also hope it is years before Quinn ever does find out what the "b" word means!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Christmas Story

Happy 2016!  I decided to start the new year off right.  By getting some help.  One thing I have really missed has been keeping the blog current.  I've been complaining about this for far too long.  My biggest hang up has been how long it takes me to chase down all of my photos and up load them.  So I put on my big girl pants this morning and marched myself right into the Apple Store as soon as it opened.  

I'll admit it, I'm intimidated by that place.  (I'm afraid that makes me officially old!)  All of the smart, tech savvy workers in their matching shirts... don't get me wrong, they are super friendly.  Perhaps a bit too friendly for my taste.  It's probably my suspicion that they see me walk in the door and they think, "Oh how sweet, this middle aged lady needs some help."  So rather than admit that I'm totally that lady, I breeze in and out with whatever I'm looking to purchase but have never asked for the help that I ACTUALLY need.  But seriously, a store without cash registers is NOT to be trusted!  Just call me Aunt Mildred!

How stupid (and vain) is that?  So 2016, I swallowed my pride, took the bull by the horns and got myself some help.  I took Todd exactly 8 minutes to show me what to do.  And here I am, back in the blog saddle.  Geez, looks like I should have swallowed that humble pie about 2 years ago.  Lesson learned.

Well, now that problem is solved, I can get on with the good stuff.  Christmas 2015.  I have a bold declaration for you:

Christmas 2015 was my favorite Christmas in all of my 43 years.  Actually, I would say it was tied for first place.  I have a favorite childhood Christmas from when I was about 6 or 7 that was purely magical as our whole family gathered at my Granny and Grandpa's and Santa made a mystical appearance and is forever engrained in my memory as "the best."  However, this Christmas (as an adult and parent) is right up there with it.

I am a traditionalist and do not like to stray from the norm too much.  I love holding onto things that have always been a certain way.  So when we started talking about packing up and heading to Florida on the 22nd of December, I just didn't know how I felt about it.  I can tell you the Florida in December part was totally up my alley, just not the waking up in a different place and not being at our own church for Christmas Eve part.  That was a big pill to swallow.

However, when a friend of ours offered us to stay in their empty condo in Naples, how could we say no?  

We traded in our traditional Christmas tree and hauled all the gifts down south.  We drove 19 hours...

for this bit of lovely.  It was a white Christmas after all.  This is the kind of December white I can get behind.  The weather was unseasonably warm with every day being 86-88 degrees.  We spent Christmas Eve at the beach and all day Christmas day.  It was wall to wall people.  Shoulder to shoulder.  And it was a blast.  Everyone was in a festive party mood.  Singing carols on the beach, wearing Santa hats and setting up tents with buffet dinners for their families.  We boogie boarded, we built sand castles, collected shells, and read books.  It was restful, playful and utterly delightful.

We visited a local church for a candle light Christmas Eve service, came back to the condo and had finger foods and opened a few gifts.  Santa came and brought a type writer, boxing gloves and Pokemon cards.  We went back to the beach for a second glorious day and headed into Naples for a lovely seafood dinner.

Although this picture makes us all look like lobsters, I assure you we were just the right shade of pink!

On December 23rd, Steve and I celebrated the 13th anniversary of our engagement.  As Steve told the kids about "this girl that he fell in love with 13 years ago" and how he asked her to marry him, Turner's response was: "So, why are you married to mom then?"  

Our final day in Naples we took a three hour dolphin tour.  It was beautiful.  It was a magnificent way to wrap up that portion of our vacation.  We had just the right amount of relaxation and adventure and celebration and focus on Jesus and family.  

On the 27th we loaded up the van and drove three hours north to Orlando where Gramma and Papa are snowbirding.  It was so nice to transition to some family and some fun in Orlando.  

We had a great day at the water park at the time share.  It was a ton of fun and the kids made some friends which allowed Steve and I to read, relax and visit with Gramma and Papa.  I love the beach and its a real treat.  Its also a lot of work.  All of the sand, the packing and unpacking of stuff.  I rather prefer a day at the pool.  We headed into Celebration, FL for dinner and to watch it "snow" that night. 

 It was perfect.

The next day we headed to Universal Studios to check out the Harry Potter world.

Let me strongly suggest you NEVER go there the week of Christmas/New Year's.  It was downright miserable.  Except for the fact that the kids loved every second of it.

Well, maybe not every second of it.  We might have run ourselves a little ragged.  And then there was a *little* incident with some people who cut in front of us in a 2 hour line for the Harry Potter ride. It takes a lot to get me in a confrontational mode.  My justice button got pushed and let's just say, my inner beast was unleashed.  That's a story for another day!  

We spent the next day at the pool until 3 pm (milking every last glorious 88 degree moment).  Sadly and with tears (mine) we hugged Gramma and Papa and every Palm tree I could get my arms around and headed onward to Atlanta for the night.

It really was one of my favorite Christmas' EVER!  I am so thankful for every second of that trip.  I hope this is one of those magical childhood Christmas memories for our whole family!