Merry, merry, merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from me to all of you. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the start of a new year as well.  Cheers to 2017!

I jinxed myself a bit earlier when I told my sister I was totally ready for Christmas. I’m not. I’m going to be scrambling tomorrow. Busy is good. Details tend to work themselves out, right?

But, I am vain. And, I’m thrilled with my half-done Marauder’s Map tree skirt. So, I stopped scrambling for 10 minutes to share it.  I’ll finish the rest over 2017.  Along with about 100 other ideas for the giant Harry Potter tree.

I hope to be back before the new year but, no promises. Stay warm, dry, cool or whatever your world demands.  Sending low-stress vibes to everyone. Remember this time of year is supposed to be fun. (I mostly typed that as a reminder to myself.)

Love, hugs and best wishes.


The plan is never the plan . . .

I’m still in Florida. As the wise Stephen King said (in Duma Key) “God punishes us for what we cannot imagine.” As I’m sure you’ve gathered things here are weird and I can’t provide details (not my story – I’m a bit player). Still, prayers all around would be welcomed by all of us. Honestly, I shudder when I recall I used to think having toddlers was hard. Send me your toddlers! (Actually, toddlers ARE hard. I just thought that once they were actual people it would get easier. Yeah, yeah. Shut up, Stephen King.)

So, I am here and warm.  Here are more pictures of my Harry Potter tree. What a wonderful diversion this monstrosity has been. A little later I’m going to work on the Maurader’s Map tree skirt.  Because I took them, the pictures are not great. Ian and Tim will both be here next week and I’m sure they can get better pictures.  In the meantime, I’d like to thank the sites that gave me inspiration and good instructions:  Over the Moon, Practically Functional (for the Sorting Hat) and EpBot.  I have learned so much from people who take the time to explain what they’re good at (and even take pictures!).  I’m already thinking about what I want to add next year.

If you click on the picture it will tell you what you’re seeing. Or you can use your imagination! It’s all good.

From the top of the stairs.


Danny is home.  I have all four boys home for a few weeks. It’s loud and fun and funny here.  And, I am trying hard to keep the horrific killings in CT at a distance. I’m trying to not cling to my great huge children. I am also avoiding the news vultures like crazy. Yikes – talk about how to make something terrible even worse.  

To that end, I’ve been watching a lot of really terrible Hallmark Christmas movies.  Wow! They are terrible.  I could be a screenwriter if that’s all they need. While I watch, I’ve been revamping some of our Christmas decorations and making new ones. You’ve seen the wreath which, in my own humble opinion, is pretty and worthy of a much nicer house.  Now, meet the Harry Potter Garden Gnome Tree Angel!

 From Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:  “The Weasleys and their guests were sitting in the living room, which Ginny had decorated so lavishly that it was rather like sitting in a paper-chain explosion.  Fred, George, Harry, and Ron were the only ones who knew that the angel on top of the tree was actually a garden gnome that had bitten Fred on the ankle as he pulled up carrots for Christmas dinner.  Stupefied, painted gold and stuffed into a miniature tutu and with small wings glued to its back, it glowered down at them all, the ugliest angel Harry had ever seen, with a large bald head like a potato and rather hairy feet.” 

Yep.  That’s going to top our tree this year. I think we’ll secure it with some twine. Mike thinks I’ve gone completely around the bend, but the boys think it’s a riot.  And, it’s much funnier in real life than in the pictures my little camera takes.  And, really, who cares? It makes me happy. It makes the boys and most of their friends crack up and Mike is coming round to the ugly little thing. 

In other news, the stoopid-1960 tree has lights – lots of them and what an odd combination of them. We are still struggling to find a time when everyone is home to decorate the tree.  It’s not looking likely. Someone is going to be left out this year.  :::sniff:::: I knew it was coming, but I had hoped for another year or two of all of us being home to decorate the tree while we watched Christmas Vacation. 

Not much else is new here. Scout’s head is all swollen up again. She had been doing pretty well after the last bout of whatever this is.  The vet wants to try another round of antibiotics, but I think this is going to be the last thing we do. She’s so sad and old and, right now, swollen.  It’s breaking my heart, this cannot continue.  It’s not fair to Scout. 

Hope you all are well and enjoying your holidays. 


So, what would you do with $800?  I can configure that amount about 200 ways.  Each of the 200 ways would be helpful to us.  I imagine it’s the same for you.  
But, if you’re Danny, you spent that money on a required Humanities Class called “Ethnicity and Diversity.”  (I will spare you my rant on how much this is a NON-issue for kids in this age group – the school is making it an issue by making this a required class . . .) Anyway, Danny is taking this class.  He (and I) thought he’d finished all of the humanities credits for an engineering major when he was attending the local school.  Oh well.  We told Dan, Dan’s advisor told Dan to just suck it up and get through it.  
He called me Friday after his class.  Dan and I share a lot of traits, but one of the best things he got from Mike is his ability to be sane and rise above people who try to tick you off.  I fail that class every single time I take it. His E&D teacher has been taking the class through US History discussing the issues.  Friday marked the day the were supposed to start on the Civil War and then Reconstruction.  The instructor announced that she doesn’t like talking or thinking about war so they would be skipping those sections.  You know, because they have nothing to do with R&E issues in the late 1800’s or the entire 20th century.  GAHAAHAHAHHHHHH.  And, there you go, that’s about $800.  I’m happy that Dan at least realizes the gap in history and how important it is.  What about the other 200++ kids in Dan’s class?  Are they aware?  I wonder if she’ll skip WWII and the Holocaust as well – those are potentially upsetting.  @@  
Andy and I are losing our minds being quiet and housebound and doing so much sitting.  We have to do this until Thursday!!!!  I have to say that Andy’s best friend (since he was about 3) has been here everyday (and this kid is NOT a gamer or a sitter in any way shape or form).  It means so much that he’s here and he’s willing to tone things down.  (I do wonder what kind of nightmare his parents are facing at the end of each day – we’re all used to having physically tired kids); BUT, it’s working.  No blurring, no swelling, no bleeding.  We can do this.  Right?  

lt’s fall garden time.  Mike is building me a fence that is Cally-proof (as she ate most of the summer garden).  It should be done tomorrow..  I painted the first two panels last weekend.  I painted the next two panels tonight while enjoying the end of the audio version of Salem’s Lot.  (This was extra fun as it’s actually cool here – well, below 80)  Once I figure out what to plant, it had all better grow really well to match up to the fancy fences!!!!!  

Is anyone else on Pottermore?  Dan’s girlfriend got me a spot for the Beta testing.  It’s a total hoot.  I was sorted into Ravenclaw (me and Luna, doncha know?) tonight.  It’s fun, but hugely time-sucking.  I might put Andy to work this week

I can’t believe it’s over.

We just got back from Harry Potter, the final installment. It was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. Though it’s 4:00 in the morning, I’m still all wound up and the dogs are insane so I figured I’d come here and ramble for a bit.  
There were eight of us tonight: me, Dan, Tim, Ian, Andy, Bing, Dan’s friend-that-is-a-girl and her brother. We got to the theater at 9:45.  We were all decked out in t-shirts we made last night.  I’ll have pictures of some of them tomorrow. As we walked to the theater, Dan casually asked me if I’d printed out our confirmation for the tickets (I bought them through Fandango over a month ago).  Well, of course I hadn’t printed anything out.  Nothing.  I assured Dan that the ticket office could use my credit card to verify our tickets.  Well, they could have done that had I not received a replacement credit card with brand new numbers just last week.  When the guy told me that I thought I might throw up.  
I figured I had time to run home and be back in time if I had to do that. First, I stopped by the manager’s desk after telling everyone else to go find Tyler and Christi and get in the long, long, long line. I explained it to the manager and I could feel myself getting teary (how insane is that). He was really nice and pretended I was not insane and offered to call the Fandango office.  After he had been transferred a couple of times I started digging for my keys when *poof* he found the right person and they were able to find me in their system. Viola!!! Tickets!!!!!
After walking ALL the way around the building I found our group.  Everyone in the line was hot and sweaty and really excited.  I could not believe the people wearing cloaks and gowns and hats.  It was 90 degrees at 10 pm.  I was dying in my t-shirt and shorts. The line was fun for people watching, though. I mentioned to my mom what a shame it was the girl a couple of groups ahead of us had such a nasty scar on her forehead because otherwise she was adorable.  Yes.  I said this out loud while standing in a line of dressed-up people waiting to see a movie about a boy with a nasty scar on his forehead.  You know that feeling of wanting to grab words out of the air as soon as they leave your mouth? That’s the one. 
Slowly, they started letting groups into the theater, filling one theater at a time. The back of the line wasn’t so bad. Once you could see into the theater and watch all of the people inside NOT sweat, it was kind of like water torture. I concentrated on getting our supplies all together.  I had my giant beach bag stuffed with a box of tissues, a giant sweatshirt, eight little bags of candy and my car keys.  To that we added Christi’s bag with more candy and a couple of sodas. The bag was heavy.  I ended up leaning on Andy’s shoulder so I didn’t walk like a staggering drunk.  
Tyler, Christi’s brother, who I still think of as being Andy’s age and is, in actuality 17 and about 6’4″ tall, had a bag of chips that would not fit into my bag.  My mom offered to stuff them into her wizard’s hat. The hat is decorated with some kind of gold paint, which in the heat had melted off onto my mom’s hands.  By the time we were close to the front of the line, my mom’s hands, face and neck were covered in shimmering gold PLUS she was wearing the hat with a lumpy bag of Frito’s stuffed inside. She looked like a deranged Twilight fan.  Tyler kept staring at my mom as if to say, “Don’t stand near me or at least take off the ridiculous hat.”  Of course the rest of us picked up on that and kept saying things to Tyler like “Why are you being so mean to your grandma?”  Poor Tyler.  He’s a mild-mannered kind of guy. I think he’s a little scared of us. 
We finally reached air conditioning, found our theater and promptly took a row right in the middle.  My mom and I went to the ladies room – funny how glitter just never ever comes off your skin – and then to get popcorn.  Three tubs of popcorn, two sodas and $87 later (kidding, sort of) we headed back to our seats. Our theater was packed. As with most of the HP midnight movies there were costumes, hats, scarves, glasses and all of that fun stuff.  We waited through what seemed and endless number of movie trailers.  I’m still kind of freaked out by the one for Rise of the Planet of the Apes :::shudder:::: Finally, the movie started and the crowd went wild and then fell instantly silent for the whole movie – except for when everyone cheered when Bellatrix bit the dust. Honestly, there was not one cell phone on, no one was whispering, everyone seemed to be sucked right into the movie. Very fun.
The movie itself was an incredibly good end to a fun, if flawed, series of movies. Of all the movies, I felt like this one truly delivered a complete story even, I’m guessing, for someone who hasn’t read the books. It was far more violent and bloody than any of the other movies. If your young kid isn’t intimately familiar with the books, especially the seventh book, I’d suggest previewing it before taking them to see this one.  (By young, I’m thinking under 12 or 13.) I have about ten favorite parts of this movie and I can’t wait to see it again. I was really impressed with how they handled so many difficult parts of the book.  Sure, I’m a geek and I would watch an 18-hour Harry Potter movie, but most people won’t and I think the compromises made were good ones.

Hurry up and go see the movie so we can talk about it!!!!  If you saw it, please comment on your favorite part and your least favorite part.  I’d like to see if our opinions match up. 

Stupid is as stupid does

Friday we went to Universal Studios with Bing, my sister, my brother-in-law and their three kids.  This was our Christmas present from my parents.  For a family of Harry Potter nerds, this was the BEST Christmas present ever!  I’ve talked here in the past about Universal.  I don’t handle 3D rides very well, so it’s never been my favorite theme park.  That’s all changed.
We, of course, picked the only rainy day of the week to go to the parks.  But the morning started off with nice temperatures, high 60’s and just some clouds.  The older “kids” in the group started their day off with the Hulk roller coaster.  I’ve been on the ride several times and opted to stay with the younger crowd.  They rode some horrifying cartoon version of the tea cups.  Next, everyone but me and my niece, Jesse, and Ian, who was wishing he hadn’t had a big breakfast before going on the Hulk, went on the Spider Man ride.  Jesse and I scouted for snacks, hoping for an open ice cream shop, but settling for some very expensive chips and drinks.  We left Ian flopped on a bench semi-moaning.
Once everyone was sufficiently nauseated from Spider Man, we headed to Jurassic Park for the water ride.  It was still warm at this point and it seemed okay if we got a little wet.  Fun ride.  A little intense for young kids, as witnessed by the poor couple sitting behind us with a 5 and 7 year old who were terrified. A little drippy, we headed into Harry Potter world.  
To say I love the Harry Potter books is such an understatement.  The whole thing is a mix of great stories and lots of good memories for me.  I actually thought I might cry as we walked into the venue.  It was perfect. So perfect.  And, like they were waiting for me, the Beaux Baton girls and Durmstrang boys were doing their act when we entered.  I am pretty sure I squealed.  Mike, who is the only one in the family who is not intimately familiar with all things Harry Potter, plowed through like nothing was happening – we lost him for a while.  The rest of us gawked and oohed and ahhed over the details in everything. Behind me in the picture is Hermione’s dress from the fourth movie – can you say WEE?  I could wear that thing as a garter. Still, it was neat to see it real life.
It was really fun because there were people all over from everywhere.  Ian spotted our first manpri of the day.  He was speaking French. Manpri’s are the equivalent of wearing a speedo in the US – sure they might be comfy, but … There was a Brazilian girls soccer team that was having a great time.  There were people from Israel, the UK, Japan, Germany and those are just the languages I could recognize.  And, every single one of them was a Harry Potter nerd.  People had t-shirts, gowns, caps, scarves, wands, you name it.  

The little shops, while very, very expensive, were beautifully detailed and full of all kinds of fun stuff to see.  Hogsmeade was perfect from the snow on the roofs to the crooked chimneys to Ollivander’s Wand store.  (I’m ready to go back!) Butter beer is delicious – it’s very sweet – I don’t know that I could drink a full glass, but it was yummy.  Like a very vanilla-y creme soda but less fuzzy and the foam is amazing – not sure how that works.  That’s Andy and Ian in the picture. Dan and Tim had fizzy Pumpkin juice with lunch and they loved it.  I just couldn’t go there.

The younger kids loved the Hippogriff roller coaster.  Dueling Dragons, the bigger, scarier roller coaster, actually had Mike skipping and jumping up and down to go on again and again. I really thought he was going to start hugging strangers, he was that happy with the ride.  The coolest thing, though, was Hogwarts Castle.  

The line for the ride is a trip through Hogwarts and die-hard fans will not be disappointed.  The park was not crowded while we were there. Usually, that’s a great thing.  In this instance, however, it would have been nice to go through the castle at a slower pace.  There was so much to see – talking portraits, ghosts, Dumbledore’s office and so much more.  It was really cool.  

Now comes the stoopid part . . . I KNOW I cannot handle 3D.  Heck, I can’t even handle sitting in the back seat of a car if the ride lasts more than 10 minutes.  But, I really, really, really wanted to see the whole thing.  Danny, who had already been to HP world, assured me it wasn’t that bad.  Danny is a liar.  If you are remotely prone to motion sickness, skip the ride.  Trust me. 

My first instinct as the attendant was lowering the shoulder bar over me was to say, “Wait, I cannot do this,” and get off the ride.  But I ignored my instincts. Stupid is as stupid does. About 3 seconds in, my mom and Mike, who were sitting on either side of me, were shouting “Amy! Close your eyes!”  I did and I spent the rest of the ride in a clammy sweat, praying for death or an end to the ride.  Luckily, the ride ended.  I was sweating and sick and in a panic.  It wasn’t pretty.  

Of course, the ride lets out into a gift shop.  During our visit to the castle, it had begun pouring rain.  The gift shop was packed with people buying ponchos (think $8 garbage bags) and trying to stay dry.  As a rule, I do not shove strangers out of my way.  Friday, I made an exception.  All I could think was “Please God, do not let me throw up on some poor unsuspecting stranger.”  People yelled at me, but I made it safely outside into the freezing rain and I just stood there breathing and breathing.  

Eventually, Mike found me.  I must have been absolutely ghastly pale, because Mike was freaked out.  But, I felt better – the upside to cold rain! We went to the Three Broomsticks for lunch.  Not bad for a theme park restaurant.  And, it was warm and dry. AND, it was the Three Broomsticks!!!!  There was, again, so much detail. If you’re not that into the books you might not be as impressed, but I loved it. We were all wet and I was soaked through after my nausea-induced rain dance. We stayed for a long time eating and watching the kids dare Bing to eat yet another mysterious Bertie Bott’s Bean.  Even after an ear wax AND a vomit, she kept trying them. My mom is a brave hero. Ugh!  

We spent the rest of the afternoon on rides and looking at everything and fuh-reezing!!!!! The rain never let up and we were damp and cold and cold.  Everyone kept going.  We had to leave to get home to get things ready for the Eagle Scout do on Saturday.  Lynne, Paul, the kids and my mom weren’t far behind us.  I don’t think there were ever people more grateful for a warm car in their lives!  (Dan and Ian are actually not as miserable as they appear in the picture.  I just stuck it in because it was funny.)

Luckily, we have 2-day passes, so we’ll be going back within the next two months.  I can hardly wait. 

All or nothing . . .

I’m headed to bed but wanted to check in . . . Why do we go for long stretches with nothing that interesting going on and then all the interesting stuff gets bunched together?
In case you’ve never met me, I’m a Harry Potter addict.  I love the books, I love the audio books and I mostly love the movies.  A lot.  For Christmas, my mom surprised me and my family and my sister and her family with tickets to Universal to check out the Harry Potter deal there.  We all went today.  (For the record, my brother was invited, but he hates theme parks, hasn’t read HP and I think my sister and I and our combined seven kids make him twitchy lol).  I’m not going to go into detail right now, but suffice it to say that I LOVED it.  LOVED LOVED LOVED it.  Despite being soaking wet and freezing for most of the day, we all had a blast.  I promise more details in a future post.
Tomorrow is Danny’s Court of Honor for his Eagle Scout rank.  He’s having the ceremony with three other boys/young men that he has been with since they were all about seven.  It’s amazing to have four kids from one troop, much less one little patrol, make Eagle Scout.  I’m so incredibly proud of Danny.  He earned this on his own.  We were lucky to find a great group way back when he was in second grade.  Mike and I have made some lifetime friends and Danny has as well.  
After the official ceremony, because I’m clearly smoking crack in my sleep, we’re having a cookout.  It seemed small and easy when I was planning it weeks and weeks ago, but you all know how that goes.  Three soaps to the person who correctly guesses the first patrol car at the house tomorrow.  We’re expecting between 35-50 people.  No explosives are planned, but who knows. 

Stay tuned for pictures and details on Harry Potter AND our imminent arrest … err… Danny’s Eagle Scout party. (check out the cake – I’ll have more details on this later too – isn’t it just stunningly amazing?????  I can barely bake brownies! I can’t believe someone I know made that in her kitchen!!!!!!!)

Harry Potter + Memories

Nothing new here.  Trying to rest my arm.  Saw this today and, for you Harry Potter fans, thought it was really sweet.  I remember seeing the first Harry Potter movie and thinking that in just a year or two my own kids would be that “grown up.”  Really!!!!  They’re babies in this movie.  The remix thing is kind of fun if you’re familiar with the book or the movie.  More later, I must go to bed now. 

Loved it!

Tonight was Harry Potter!!!!  We’ve been waiting for what feels like forever and it was worth the wait.  I won’t spoil it here for any of you who are planning to see it.  
I will say, I would not take anyone younger than a very tough 9 to see this movie.  It has a much more adult feel to it than any of the other HP movies.  I’ve read the book 2-3 times and listened to the audio as many times as well and I was still caught off-guard at a couple of points.  (Ask Bing – she has the bruises on her arm from where I kept grabbing her!) 
I don’t know if this is my favorite Harry Potter movie yet.  It just might be, though.  The acting was great – it’s amazing to see how far the kids in the movie have come. The casting was also well done – it was fun to see some new characters.  Actually, I can’t wait to see it again, although we’ll probably wait for the dollar theater to see it a second time.
I love my older boys for being excited about the movie AND about seeing it with me and Bing.  Dan bought candy ahead of time (on sale and with his Winn Dixie discount lol!) and mixed up little bags for each of us.  Bing bought the popcorn.  We were already making plans for seeing part two as we left the theater. (A major part of seeing part two will involve us nagging my sister to death until she caves and brings her whole family down to come see it with us! But, shhhh . . . we’re being subtle about it.) Harry Potter, the books and the movies and the audio, have been a huge part of some of my best times with the kids and with my mom.  (Talk amongst yourselves.  I’ll be back in a minute, I have something in my eye.)
I’m up now because Mike gets up in about 45 minutes and if I try to climb in bed, he’ll wake up and his day will be endless.  I figure I’ll sit with him while he eats his oatmeal and finish my glass of wine.  He can go to work and I’ll climb into the still warm bed.  Win-win.  

I’m also up because Andy was complaining of a stomach ache when we got home.  I’m pretty sure it’s exhaustion weighted down by a giant soda, 4 lbs of popcorn and the monster ziploc of movie candy, but I’m waiting to be completely sure.  I don’t want to be sound asleep and suddenly wakened by a miserable sick kid.  It’s easier to stay awake an extra hour and be certain he’s just going to sleep it off.  

That’s my report.  All of you hurry up and see the movie so we can talk about it!! Have a great Friday morning.  I’ll see you sometime after lunch.