When our daughter turned 9, The Pearl Princess movie launched that week. “Wouldn’t it be great if I could be a mermaid, too,” our little future marine biologist dreamed.
Her party revolved around The Pearl Princess, aquariums & water events but her greatest joy was the sparkly blue fintail that awaited her!
The Bright Spot – Everything about birthdays & mermaids!!
Birthdays are a big deal in our household. Turning double digits?
Well, that’s just momentous.
These photos are the tickets to an adventure of a lifetime: We took Little One on a Tweendom Extravaganza to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Titanic Artifact Exhibit, Disney’s Epcot Center, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to visit Winter & Hope of Dolphin Tale 1 & 2, CoCo Key Water Resort & Mystic Aquarium.
We walked over 120,000 steps – thank you, pedometer – which translates to 52 miles!
In blue are links to Parts 2 & 3 of this story – yes – so remarkable, they deserve their own posts!
To explore the magical world of wizards & wands, chocolate frogs, Butterbeer & Platform 9 3/4, click Part 2: Harry Potter World
To see Winter, the sweet dolphin who lost her tail when she was only 2 months old, click Part 3: Winter & Hope
Animal Kingdom, Tree of Life, Rainforest lunch, up close with Little One’s favorite bird, Safari
Disney World’s beautiful Main Street and big smiles!
Cinderella’s castle, reserved birthday spot to see Disney’s Fantasy Parade & meet the characters,
Enjoying Disney’s Ferry Boat ride, power lines on the I-4 – cool!! and Epcot Center
Gorgeous Annual Flower Festival at Epcot, Space Center, coral reef cuddles
Dad & Little One enjoying the water resort where we stayed. That slide was insane!
♥♥♥ And best of all was celebrating at Mystic Aquarium & CoCo Key Water Resort with family & friends. ♥♥♥
Incantations, frothy Butterbeer, chocolate frogs & interactive wands. Hogsmeade & Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express & Flight of the Hippogriff…all wizarding wonders our young Harry Potter aficionado enthusiastically embraced.
Humidity & sunny 90 degree weather in a full-length black satin & polylined cloak ~ with a touch of heat exhaustion on the 2nd day ~ could not stop this 10-year-old from soaking in the sights & sounds of Universal’s magical adventure.
The conductor at Hogsmeade, spotting her special birthday pin, suddenly stopped the crowd of hundreds in the station to heartily announce the arrival of our birthday darling to which the crowd spontaneously erupted into thunderous applause.
It was a movie moment. A memory to last a lifetime.
Enjoy this 30-second video of Little One going through Platform 9 3/4, the fire-breathing dragon atop the amazing Escape from Gringotts 3-D ride & more.
Harry Potter World Snippets
Hogwarts Castle is simultaneously breathtaking & ominous.
The paintings move & talk just as they do in the movies.
The Birthday Girl enjoyed a special breakfast in the Leaky Cauldron & a Butterbeer toast followed by…
…an adventurous visit to Gringotts.
The Hogwarts Express took us on a fascinating journey to Hogsmeade…with Harry, Ron & Hermione!
Then lunch at the Three Broomsticks & more spellcasting lessons from a passerby witch.
And what would a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter be without a stop in Honeydukes sweet shop or Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes store with Wildfire Whiz-bangs or Every Flavour Beans…
Okay, seriously, how excited is this reader ~ broomstick in hand, all her Potter books have come to life!!
From the Muggles’ perspective, Phillip & I were thrilled for our Little One and her magical week!!
The Bright Spot – A wonderful adventure for Harry Potter fans. Highly recommend it!!
To see part 1 & 3 of this story, click Part 1: Double-Digit Extravaganza for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Titanic & Animal Kingdom.
For Part 3, click: Dolphin Tale-Winter & Hope for the Clearwater adventure or just keep scrolling, it’s next.
Thank you for sharing and we hope you enjoy a trip to these family-fun places in the near future.
As part of our daughter’s 10th birthday extravaganza, we surprised her with a special visit with Winter, the beautiful dolphin who lost her tail when she was only 2 months old. Her tail was caught in commercial fishing lines.
She is now 9 years old & lives with her best friend, Hope, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Our budding marine biologist was thrilled to meet them both and all the marine animals under treatment in the hospital.
Winter’s real-life rehab story has captivated audiences worldwide in Dolphin Tale & Dolphin Tale 2.
Both movies, starring Harry Connick, Jr. & Ashley Judd, were filmed on location at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium with Winter.
A look at the timeline these past 9 years and how Winter has inspired suffering children & veterans:
Our fintastic trip wrapped up with a trolley ride between the filming site rehab center & museum, dinner on the water, and the best memories of Winter & Hope!
The Bright Spot – Empowering your children to grow up living their dreams.
Our 9-year-old led us on a 14-mile bike ride to the Freedom Tower on Mother’s Day.
7 miles down Manhattan Island & 7 back along the Henry Hudson River South Waterfront Bike Path in sunny 75 degree weather.
As we rode along New York City’s beautiful path, we enjoyed an air display, basketball games, families picnicing at the many parks on the water, the famous ballerina statue, the Intrepid, Concorde & space shuttle, views of the George Washington Bridge & distant Tappan Zee, and best of all…discovering a mama bird feeding her newborns on Mother’s Day in a blossoming tree!! Breathtaking!! (precious video below)
After stopping for ice cream, we enjoyed a lovely dinner and then Phillip gave me one of the most wonderful, thoughtful gifts ever!! Ever!!
To put into perspective how special this Mother’s Day gift was to me, may I just say that one year, he surprised me with a beautiful Mercedes convertible in the driveway; another year, matching silver Mercedes’ with huge green bows. Yes, those were exciting.
But the gift he gave me this evening made my eyes tear & my heart swell! I’ll explain at the end of this story.
Stopping for ice cream after the 14th mile:
Mama Bird & her babies:
…………………………………….47 & 14
Having always been a big animal lover, my favorite childhood activity was horseback riding. Now years later, one of my favorite date nights was when my husband surprised me with horseback riding at sunset.
I love them big. I love them small. And I love them fast.
I dream one day of owning a sanctuary for rescued horses & ponies.
Summers in England attending Newmarket & Royal Ascot were a favorite pastime. Being picked up in a Rolls Royce with a personal chauffeur (his name happened to be Arthur), enjoying strawberries & cream, endive-wrapped smoked goat cheese and escargot in a private box within the Royal Enclosure & my own personal winning streaks at Ascot in years gone by are fond memories.
I took our little one to the Belmont Stakes a few summers ago. The only differences were that the courses I attended in England were grass, and the track at Belmont is the largest thoroughbred dirt racecourse in the world, plus, we did not go via Rolls, but instead in our Mom supermobile minivan, chauffeured by yours truly .
It rained that day but it didn’t dampen our spirit. Our daughter watched with awe as the horses thundered past.
And guess who called the winning horse, race after race?
Yup, our little one. It became quite the topic of conversation as folks heard about the streak of winners.
What surprised everyone was how the horses were chosen ~ she picked her favorite color of the saddle pad in the current race lineup. As the horses pranced by, she would say, “That’s the prettiest blanket, Mommy, that’s the one I think will win.”
And sure enough, as luck would have it, horse after horse with the pretty-colored blanket would cross the finish line.
The Bright SpotTM – I would have had a bit of fun placing a bet but I never had the chance to since each choice was made just as the race was about to start…but the best part of the day was sharing Mommy/Daughter time and visiting the jockeys and horses after the races.
Today – after 37 years! – the Triple Crown trophy was won by American Pharoah
– the thoroughbred racehorse who is only the 12th horse in 147 years to earn the title of Triple Crown Champion! Phenomenal!
Our Little One is older now and loves horses so much. Watching this event will surely last with her for a lifetime.
My husband met Harry Bell by happenstance.
If anyone understands the value of early intervention, positive thinking, and the reinforcement of basic values, it is Harry Bell.
He was born in Bridgeport to a troubled young mother, and raised by his aunt, who realized he needed a male role model.
His aunt connected him with a local family who had a son that ended up being Harry’s 3rd grade teacher.
Their efforts paid off. Today Harry Bell is employed by both the Bridgeport Board of Education and the University of Bridgeport as a Security Officer.
Seeing so many children going through some of the same problems, Harry was determined to do something about it. He developed a very special coloring book, Color a Positive Thought! He explains how it’s an anti-bullying, self-empowering, positive thinking tool in our May 12th broadcast on WGCH radio (archived links below.)
The book has had such a positive impact on children & the community. It can be found in schools, pediatrician offices, everywhere!
Our 10-year-old loves Color a Positive Thought and gives us her perspective on it as a child. Here are some snippets of the second half of the interview, just click image below:
May 12, 2015 ChitChat with Children – a 10-year-old’s perspective
Our daughter’s principal & teachers enjoyed the interview and her 4th grade teacher even played it in the classroom.
We were thrilled to give voice to a man who’s had such a difficult upbringing, was able to pull himself up, surpass expectations and fulfill his dream. To hear the full hour, click: Full Interview.
The Bright Spot – This was his 1st radio interview and Mr. Bell & his liaison, William King, were amazed at how much this 10-year-old gleaned from Mr. Bell’s book. Very inspiring!
Click here to order the book: Color a Positive Thought
Blessed with lovely skin & timeless English beauty, my mother-in-law, Grace, and the Queen have always borne a striking resemblance. A woman ahead of her time, Grace, always gave new things a shot.
And nothing slows her down! Approaching 90, she has a personal trainer at the gym, Skypes us every Saturday without fail, uploads her digital images to her hard drive and e-mails family nearly every day.
The epitome of Englishness, she is gracious, discreet and always polite. During tough or sad times, Grace keeps a stiff upper lip and her chin up.
Her mainstay, of course, is proper English tea. It must steep in a silver pot and the teacup must have a white interior.
She keeps her gardener busy and has redecorated parts of her home four times in the past 10 years.
In Grandma’s Gardens:
Grace is an avid reader & animal lover. She enjoyed many years dancing with her dashing husband, Geoff, whom she misses very much.
I’ve learned lots of things from my mother-in-law over the years, from baby tips and awesome authors to food advice, fabric care and beauty tips.
One of my favorite gifts from my mother-in-law was this beautiful statue sent from England shortly before I gave birth to our daughter.
A few months old (above) 4 years old (below)
To avoid arthritis in her hands, Grace knits and knits and knits. Beautiful sweaters and hats and any request our little one desires.
I mean any! Like the day our 7-year-old said, “Grandma, can you please knit me a cuttlefish & grimpoteuthis?” And in short order, the beautiful cuddly sea creatures arrived in the gift package made with grandmother’s loving hands. A whole array of knitted marine life:
Knitted headbands & sweaters, ballerina shrugs and ponytail hats!
The loss of her beloved husband took a toll on her but did not stop Grace from living life. She hopped on a plane to surprise my husband for his birthday and stayed for Christmas that year.
Grace flew over every summer to stay with us. In 2001, my Mom took Grace and me to Mohegan Sun, the big casino upstate for a grand shebang before my mother-in-law headed back to England. It was the 1st time she visited a casino. My husband warned, “My mother may weary, don’t stay out late.”
Honestly, nothing wearied her the past 8 decades… so when I arrived home at 4 AM with two happy grandmas, my husband was speechless. Not only did his mother have a marvelous time, she even won!
A few hours later, the towers came down and the world changed forever. Flights were canceled that week and Grace stayed with us longer that year. Phillip worked by the towers and felt the 2nd building crash to the ground. It took hours and hours and hours for him to get out of the City and back home. It was a mother’s nightmare and
a wife’s torment. Late that night, he finally made it home. We were grateful to be together as a family again, safe and sound.
The Bright SpotTM – A Grandma’s love. Every visit with Grace has been memorable. The stories she tells, reminiscing the history of the family and her great love of Britain; she is a treasure in our lives and all who know her.
My mother-in-law and the Queen were born the same year…Grace is our very own queen xoxo
How time has flown!! Little One turns 10, what a wonderful decade it’s been!
Video: Here is a look at the early years with her very own Superhero Big Brother:
VIDEO: Here is a look at the early years with her very own Superhero Big Brother:
Everyone kept asking me what Phillip was planning for my 50th. He’s arranged some pretty spectacular things for me over the years so I knew whatever it was I’d be thrilled. Our son captured the moment:
Good Lord! What could it be? Well, prior to opening this envelope, Phillip planned a weekend of delights including dinner at La Panetiere.
We visited the Cloisters on the northern tip of Manhattan overlooking the Hudson to enjoy the stunning array of more than 5,000 pieces of European Medieval works of art from the 12th – 15th centuries including the famous Unicorn Tapestries. The Cloister’s Library contains over 15,000 volumes of books.
Later, we toured the World of Wings butterfly atrium where I had my 1st opportunity to take photos with my gorgeous new Canon from my son. For the amount of time I invest in my photography, this latest Canon with touchscreen, image sensor & built-in Wi-Fi was the p-e-r-f-e-c-t gift!! Thank you, darling!
And if anyone knows our family well, you’ll know why the logo above is so significant!!
As you can see, this day was magnificent with brilliant sunshine & deep blue skies. But 50 years ago, there was a blizzard and my mother arrived at the hospital with a police escort. That’s one way to make an entrance.
Mom recapped the story over dinner. Then she surprised me with a very special gift…a piece of jewelry I’ve admired for 45 years. It was given to mother by my father’s mother when I was 5.
I’ve worn it in the past with great delight (photo on right), but on this special night, my mother said it was now mine. Overjoyed is an understatement. It means so much to me on many levels.
So what was in the envelope in the opening pics? Let me first explain that my greatest gift ~ now & always ~ is being loved by my family & friends. Flowers & cards, emails & posts. All is appreciated. The kindness, the thoughtfulness, the time spent to make my day special. Thank you all!!
The above cards from my children touched my heart deeply. My son chose a card that says I make him feel understood, happy and loved. Wonderful, wonderful!! And our little one says I make her happy every day…down to even the school snack. What more could any mother want? Happy, thriving kids – this was, by far, the very best gift of all!!
16 years ago, I started the Harry Potter series with our son…reading it in “real time,” that is, waiting each year for another book to be published…standing in line at midnight openings with great anticipation for 1st edition hardcovers. We saw the movies, he had the posters, the comforter set, the throw pillows, the robe, Harry’s wand, etc. He even had a Harry-esque look to him, especially when he got his glasses.
Fast-forward more than a decade and our little daughter & her friends are relishing in the adventures, quoting the spells, whipping up potions and donning the robe. The perfect hardcovers have moved from our son’s room to our daughters’s bookcase. Over the holiday break, we watched all 8 movies (Yes, 8. The last book was filmed in 2 parts).
My friend, Sara, took one of our daughter’s best-est friends (since the girls were infants) to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter last month. The girls are now 9 & 10, the perfect age for the story. Sara posted this video of Platform 9 3/4 on her FB page & that was it!! What more fun could our family have than to venture through the fantastical world of wizards?
CoCo Key water resort & hotel:
We finished up the weekend celebrations with my favorite movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel, with Jane Seymour & Anthony Andrews. Luscious ~ Dreamy ~ Yum!
So many other details went into this weekend that I would just like to say thank you to my husband, my whole family and my friends for marking this milestone with great joy.
The Bright SpotTM – Thankfulness that my mother is feeling better, it’s on & off and for my birthday she was really “on!” Even sparkly! And thank you to all who sent wishes for a beautiful birthday weekend. So ready for this next great decade, bring it on!!
A few years ago, my husband, Phillip, held out his hand resolutely and said to our son, “Please give me your phone.” Our then 19-year-old’s eyes darted to his buddy and then back to my husband. “You, too,” he said to the friend, holding out his other hand.
They both stiffened but did as they were asked, my husband’s calm but firm voice indicated determination so they weren’t about to question it.
Phillip took the phones and dropped them into a basket on the table. Then he added his Android, the I-pad, I-pods, remotes and a Blackberry.
“We are reclaiming dinnertime,” I announced. “No more texting under the table, watching TV or the old ‘Let me just look that up’ on the I-pad. We’re going to have dinner with family and friends and we’re going to t-a-l-k…you know, like in the olden days…”
It was like sucking the life out of these boys. They sat fidgeting in their chairs, eyes shooting to their phones every time they vibrated in the basket. They were jittery, practically sweating, like withdrawal symptoms of plugged-in addicts. These teens were plugged out of the world right now and had to actually communicate for a FULL 30 minutes with real human beings in front of them.
Phillip and I are not against technology in the least. Quite to the contrary, we are social media networkers ourselves connected via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, IM, blogging, texting, and even building a number of websites for several successful businesses throughout our region. Our company, ID CardGuard, purely revolves around technology.
We enjoy the latest gadgets and encourage our children to learn & use technology to stay abreast of cutting-edge innovation and advancements in the modern world. We Skype with family across the ocean and Facetime with friends across the miles.
One of our greatest teachers of the latest technology is our Uncle Danny! 80 years old, he can out-teach and out-talk any techie!
Technology can be very good if used for learning, information and fun with friends far away like playing Barbies or using the screen like the Smart Board at school for math lessons for Skipper and her sisters.
With the increased use and need for technology in our everyday lives, new limits had to be set. Call it Common Sense or pure frustration with overuse, boundaries had to be set!
When it comes to family time, enough was enough! With kids off to school early in the morning, sports and other extracurriculars taking up afternoon time, and little ones going to bed at a decent hour, dinner may be the only chance to spend quality time – so reclaim it!!
Even if it’s only 2, 3 or 4 times a week together, make it count.
Get a basket & sound the call in your family. It’s been years now since we’ve implemented “The Basket” and everyone – the family, teens and friends – all agree dinnertime is a lot more fun. We talk, we laugh, we joke, we communicate and we do it UNINTERUPTED!
One year, I was out with family & friends for my birthday dinner and someone at the table was sending out an e-mail on a small hand-held device. “I’ll only be a minute,” he said hastily when I gave him the eye. I asked him why he was doing it in the first place. “I send out e-mails here and there and it helps me save some time.”
“Save time for what?” I queried. “You’re trying to save up a minute here and a minute there for what? To create a pocket of imaginary “saved time” for something really special…like perhaps a birthday dinner with a loved one?” I don’t even think he hit Send. He pocketed the device, I pocketed my pissed-mist, and the evening was lovely.
There are so many people who are texting, tweeting and Facebook-ing people they aren’t with, can’t see and sometimes don’t really know while they are out with people they DO know who are sitting in front of them waiting for them to stop texting!
The Bright SpotTM – Be present with your kids, your parents and your real friends, they’re waiting for you to “see” them. Put down your techno-paraphernalia, hug your kids, look in your spouse’s eyes and communicate with the people in your real space.
Phew! Yes, I feel better now. Happy Parenting!