Our 11-year-old earned her 1st Literary Award in a competition she entered back in Spring. She submitted a mini version of her 1st novella. It’s the 38th year of this competition & is open worldwide.
When Phillip read us the letter aloud, she jumped with pure delight feeling the fruits of her accomplishment after having spent months writing. We are so happy for her and very proud of her!
This gorgeous English countryside was captured on my cell phone! Breathtaking. Lush. So British.
During our 2-week trip to Europe to visit family, we went with some good friends to Northumberland. The girls loved that parts of Downton Abbey and Harry Potter were filmed here at Alnwick Castle.
Lots to do here including bamboo mazes, ventures through the magic fairy gardens, the famous Poison Garden and, of course, flying broomstick classes!!
On our way back to Grandma’s, we pulled off the highway to see the Angel of the North, a massive copper & steel statue in Newcastle Gateshead, believed to be the largest angel sculpture on the planet. The wingspan reaches wider than a jumbo jet and the angel stands 65 feet high, more than 4 double-decker buses! We’ve seen her on the hillside from the highway for over 15 years. This ride home, we actually pulled off the exit and made time to visit. Those are the life-changing things we have found we do facing this awful journey of cancer, click: Kicking Cancer!
Yes, actually seizing the day and doing what we wish at a moment’s notice because no one knows how many moments we all have. More than 150,000 people visit each year. This year, we’re one of those people.
The Bright Spot – Visiting family & friends…and pulling off the highway to really seize the day!!
I have written many stories about fueling your child’s passion. Offering many opportunities for your kids to explore what it is they really love. For our son, it was photography & cars. Next month, his photographs will appear in an international car magazine!
For our daughter, it’s music, writing, animals & marine life. If you scroll through my archive, you’ll see many stories about her special beluga, swimming with dolphins in Jamaica, Florida & in Bermuda training 9 dolphins for a full day – gating, feeding, measuring, exercising & frolicking with these sociable, small-toothed whales, click: Favorite Day.
So when in England we heard about SeaTrek – known as Europe’s 1st Sea Bed Walk at Sea Life – we made sure to book it! The staff said they’ve never had a more enthusiastic participant! We’ll let the photos & 8-second video speak for themselves.
Our 11-year-old loved the sting rays, sea turtle, gorgeous fish, urchins, simply everything!
When I say we have a budding marine biologist in our midst, I think one might agree.
The Bright Spot – Oh, just everything about this story. Empower your kids. Fuel their passion. If you are in England, enjoy SeaTrek by clicking Sea Life to get more information: Sea Life.
We had a 2-week window between Phillip’s last chemical injection and the start of his radiation. It will be 40 rounds of daily radiation from June through August. He wanted to see his Mum. Click: Amazing Grace. Everyone needs their Mum at a time like this!
So we took our little one out of school late May/early June for this family emergency and visited relatives in Europe. Aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, Godchildren, close friends, everyone we could see within 2 weeks.
Phillip’s mother was overjoyed! Her 89th birthday was in June and she said seeing her son was the best gift ever!
Naturally, everyone we saw wanted to know how treatments were going. We could not rehash the details over and over. Not only is it draining for us but we didn’t want these conversations to overwhelm or frighten our youngest. Most of the time, we can shield her from it but when you’re traveling from home to home – or pub to pub, as is the case in England – folks want to catch up and we’re very sensitive to little ears in range.
Plus, we have striven to reclaim normalcy in the household & beyond for our family. Playing with friends & doing cool things was a mainstay.
And Legoland was awesome but laying on the grass topped all!! Why? Because there are no ticks or pesticides for ticks at all where Grandma lives and Darling was so happy!! It’s the little things, isn’t it?
While staying for an overnight with dear friends about a hundred miles south of Scotland, we ventured with the girls to a nearby castle where parts of Harry Potter & Downton Abbey were filmed, click: Castles & Angels
Later, we drove nearly 300 miles south to Oxford to visit the university and delve into the history of this beautiful medieval city, click: Oxford
And because our budding marine biologist, during these 2 weeks, would unfortunately be missing a highly-anticipated field trip to the beach to explore the biodiversity of the water’s ecosystem, we wanted to do something special for her and booked her for Seatrek at what’s known as Europe’s 1st Seabed Walk: SeaTrek
Her 5th grade teacher kindly allowed our daughter to give a full presentation to her class on the 3 adventures above & what made each so special.
And speaking of 5th grade, the Friday we left for the airport was the same day her class was split into just girls/just boys earlier that morning for “The Talk.” You know the one. Menstruation, growing bodies…
But unlike the lecture we had in school when I was that age – along with a cartoon movie with dancing flowers depicting our blossoming into young ladies – this talk was not only about girl stuff…but boy stuff, too! Would be shocking, but the school explained that with the advent of the Internet, kids see much more than we did at this age and need to know more material to educate and protect themselves.
Humm… Still found it shocking. But it certainly made for fits of laughter – of which we need much of these days – and especially with a silly 5th grader! as we passed by unassuming pubs like the Dandy Cock, or were served Nobby Nuts (salted peanuts) or when we read Spotted Dick on the menu – a British sponge pudding made with raisins & served with custard – but I mean, seriously, come on!
When we all revived in the car from laughing so hard, we arrived at one of Phillip’s oldest friend’s for a lovely meal. No, not at the Dandy Cock. We walked over buttercup-covered hills and along lakes & clifftops.
The Bright Spot – finding the hilarious things in life out of the simplest moments! And appreciating the glorious countryside with our loved ones.
During our 2-week stay in Europe, we visited the medieval city of Oxford, coined the “City of Dreaming Spires” by poet Matthew Arnold.
Our 11-year-old daughter & I just finished the 7 books by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, & the epic trilogy, His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman, both alumni of Oxford University, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, established 1096.
What was completely remarkable was that there was only 1 parking spot available in this bustling college town when we arrived and it just so happened to be in front of the Eagle & Child pub – we were hungry, but we didn’t know how significant the place was until we walked in!!
Built in 1650, this favorite watering hole was frequented by Lewis, Pullman, J.R.R. Tolkien and other members of “The Inklings,” the famous literary group!
So, of course, that’s where we had lunch!
Seriously, out of the whole city, what’s the chance of finding that one parking spot!
Our daughter, a published author & speaker by age 8 and now a prolific writer working on her 1st novel, felt the wall behind where we sat and breathed, “I’m touching history.”
Couldn’t be more perfect!
She ogled the Harry Potter Golden Egg in one of the store windows but opted for the snitch.
Before leaving historic Oxford, we stopped for tea & scones and some lovely smoked salmon.
The Bright Spot – Being surrounded by spirituality, architectural magnificence & educational brilliance, it was nourishing for our well-being at this most challenging time: Kicking Cancer
The point of this story need not identify of the owner of the 1-eyed teddy bear, but rather WHO this fellow is made all the difference in saving our son’s cuddly animals.
The man actually cannot be identified because he is a secret agent on a very significant level. He is close to our family and we all adore him but we keep conversation limited to family stuff, old friends, or school happenings. He signs his holiday envelopes as James Bond. It’s all very cool in a surreptitious kind of way, the “secret” in secret agent makes it sound so hush-hush, and the undercover missions we are never allowed to know about are wrapped in clandestine mystery. All very exciting, so what does this have to do with stuffed animals?
Our eldest is a strapping 24-year-old dude with beer posters in his room and a steady girlfriend at the helm.
Rewind about 14 years and here was a kid with a ton of stuffed animals, some from babyhood, others won at the amusement park, many from the big glass box with the grabber handle thingie at the diner. An admirer of big cats, one of his favorite was a huge white tiger with sharp blue eyes.
For a long time, my husband felt our son needed to unload his cuddly animals. I’d protest seeing the quiet sadness in our child’s eyes. The subject came up at significant milestones, like award ceremonies, moving from elementary to middle school, etc. I understood my husband’s point of view: he wanted to make our son grow up, be a man, get tough. I understood my son’s point of view: at that time he was still an only child and he wasn’t ready.
Then one year we visited Washington, D.C. and James Bond invited us to stay in his home. He was away, as usual, and he couldn’t say where he was, except that he would leave the key for us under the mat. Under the mat?!? He lives with all this enigmatic secrecy but leaves the house key under the mat!
It was very exciting to walk around his home. Medals, awards, Christmas cards from the presidents over the last 20 years, and as we walked upstairs to pick out our rooms for the night, there, in the middle of the master bedroom, sitting proudly atop the big bed, was a 1-eyed Steiff teddy bear with a worn nose, an untied yellow bow & fur so loved-off and cuddled, it was a treasure to behold.
It was also ammunition to ward off any more attempts to clear out stuffed animals from our son’s room. “If James Bond can keep his teddy bear, so can I!”
So that was that. More than a decade’s passed and on his own, our son has donated his stuffed animals along the way – but that’s the important part of this story – it was on his terms, his timing and his choice of where they went. The huge white tiger is now the centerpiece & reading buddy in a fantastic enrichment school.
I never take anything from my children without asking them. Together we donate what they choose to give up when they choose to. It teaches them to let go, to give to others and to stay organized. (Little One sorting>>)
There is a marvelous organization called YoungLives which helps teenage mothers. Every 3rd Wednesday, the young mothers meet at a church in Norwalk, CT to learn about God and their children, plus, they can choose items they need that people have donated.
When our daughter was ready to donate her toys or princess dresses, etc., we would bring them to the church and she would see firsthand the children light up with joy as they picked out what they would like. She saw a little 2-year-old boy dive into her Elmo chair exclaiming, “That’s mine, I love this chair!” And little girls picking out sparkly dresses. Or Barbies. Or unicorns.
The children were happy and it made our child well up with joy to see the kids’ faces light up while new life was instantly breathed into her cherished pieces. It deeply linked giving to pleasure. You can check out organizations in your area like YoungLives, Birthright, Hopeline or any organization that benefits a cause you believe in. We’ve also donated her crib, baby furniture and Pack-n-Plays.
Our daughter has given up lots of her cuddly animals, even packing & sending many huge boxes to Africa.
The Bright SpotTM – The exciting thing about the missionary we shipped her stuffed animals to is that they sent back photos of orphan children cuddling her animals! A fine day, indeed. Again, on our children’s terms while reinforcing a life skill of giving as a pleasure.
Our darling last year at the renowned New York Renaissance Faire (left).
For this year’s faire, she knew exactly what she was looking for in a gown…
For over 38 years, fairies & fellows, princesses & knights alike have gathered throughout 65 acres of Sterling Forest, Tuxedo, NY to celebrate the Elizabethan era at the Renaissance Faire!
We went again this year with family & friends. Our 10-year-old told us this is her favorite summer tradition, now several years running.
From dragon rides…
…to cuddling baby dragons, there’s an adventure around every corner.
If you love acrobats & magic, sword fights & jousting, this is definitely the place for you.
With 20 stages and over 100 shops, there is something for everyone, young or seasoned.
Our Darling played the flute for the Woodland Fairy, the Acorn Fairy, the harpist and the Queen.
Armor and headdress for every age…
…thundering horses and overflowing … overflowing…well, simply overflowing…!!!…
…overflowing attractions from wenches serving mead!
The Bright Spot – For swashbuckling pirates, jousting, boating on the lake or dancing around the Maypole, be sure to visit a Renaissance Faire near you, so magical, indeed!
I’m looking forward to seeing what our Darling picks out for her dress next year.
Sweet Acorn Fairy kisses farewell till then…
This is part of the memorial engraved at my beloved Father’s resting site.
We miss you, Daddy!
You will best be remembered as a family man, kind-hearted, determined, giving, vibrant, proud, fearless, dynamic, a visionary, and entrepreneur. A loving husband, a true patriot, a mentor & motivator.
An amazing storyteller, an excellent Santa, a funny Daddy & math genius.
You were charismatic, creative, incredible and tough but fair.
But most of all you were larger than life!
God needed you and we thank Him for making you our Daddy!
To read all about my father’s story & see one of my *favorite pictorials*, click here:http://theletstalkmom.com/tea-talk-momversations/daddy/
The Bright SpotTM – Thanks for being such an excellent Santa, a man with great imagination, showing us fun sledding, skiing, boating, horseback riding, skating, bike riding, showing us how to work hard & spending time just chilling out with us, reading to us all the time, and most of all for just being such an amazing Daddy. My heart misses you so so much!! Love, me
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.