I never win ANYTHING. If there was a choice between me and no one winning something, I’d bet on no one. That is until I won a ticket to Type-A Parent Conference through Twitter. Can I get a woot-woot!
I am no stranger to conferences, but normally I am repping my day job employer in a world full of academics. Though, not an academic, I am one of the people who actually performs social media duties inside higher education, so sometimes, people will actually be interested in what I have to say. I’ve grown used to this role at these conferences. Type-A is a different ball game.
Type-A Parent is THE conference for mom and dad bloggers. It also happens to be held in Atlanta this year (it’s also being held 5 days after I got back from my trip with The Kid). The attendee list alone reads like a celebrity blogger list. The credentials of these people are astounding. The sponsors and speakers are just fantastic! Since I am so new to the blogging game, I am so excited to be able to learn from all of these professionals.
I leave in just about an hour, so I better get ready. I’m super nervous since most of these people already know each other, even if it’s only through the interwebz. My Geeky nature manifests itself in being totally awkward in a crowd of strangers, so this is sure to be interesting. Let’s all hope that I don’t show up in someone else’s blog as “That Girl Who…”.
What advice do you guys have for me? I’m all ears!
On Monday, September 28 in the VERY early morning, I plan to wake up the Kid, and head to Florida to go to the parks at Disney and Harry Potter parks at Universal. Currently, she has no idea, and I’m not even sure I will tell her when she wakes up. I may wait until we get closer into the Orlando area. I really hope it will be a fun trip.
Monday also happens to be the 7th anniversary of the day I was admitted to the hospital 20 weeks and 5 days pregnant with our twins. Little did I know that I would still be in that same hospital bed 110 days later. What an interesting time that was for our family, but it took a toll on the Kid who was only 3.5 years old at the time.
The Kid has been having some self esteem issues due to someone close to her making her feel “less than”. I am hoping this trip, with just the two of us, will help her remember that being her Geeky self, is the best way to be.
The two Harry Potter parks at Universal and several parks at Disney are on the list of places to visit. What are your “must go to” places in Orlando? What are some SUPER GEEKY things to do at Universal and Disney? Let us know, and I’ll let you know how our trip is going on our Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Instagram page. Make sure to follow along!
While prepping for my Art of Disney DisneySide Party, I started searching for an easy, eye catching project for the party. Since I knew that all of our guests doing the art projects would be under the age of 10, I wanted something that would be a great keepsake while being easy on my wallet. I had seen these DIY Marbled Mugs everywhere, but I wanted something that the kids could Disney-fy. Then came my idea, DIY Nail Polish Marbled Frames! HP, graciously, sent HP Photopaper as favors for my DisneySide guests, so it wasn’t too far of a jump to picture frames. It would be a perfect takeaway for my guests.
First, you need your supplies and make sure to set up in a WELL ventilated area:
–Disposable pan or container you can get nail polish on (I got mine at the Dollar Tree)
–Nail polish–Very warm water
–Frame with a smooth surface (raw wood won’t work). I got mine for about $2 a piece.
–Rubber or nylon gloves (optional if you don’t want to get your hands messy)
How to make it:
–Take the back off and glass out of your frame. You will be left with just the outside part of the frame.
–Pour very warm water into your pan or container. Make sure the container is deep enough and you have enough water to submerge your frame.–Pour your nail polish in the warm water. Drizzle the colors around to ensure you will have enough coverage of the frame. Blow the polish around if you want it to spread more. You can also use the toothpicks to swirl the paint.
–As soon as your last color is in, dip your frame into the pan. Repeat, as necessary to get the coverage you want on the frame.
–Take out and let dry completely. We used a hair dryer to speed up our process during our DisneySide party. Otherwise, the sun works nicely.
–Once dry, decorate with scrapbooking supplies, stickers, ribbon, etc, or leave it as is and enjoy your masterpiece.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that one of my Geeks is all things Disney and to show my DisneySide whenever possible. After our trip last year to see the Mouse, this has only intensified. I was so thrilled to have another opportunity to host a DisneySide party this year. As usual, Disney Parks, and all of the other sponsors, were amazing to send all kinds of goodies to help us throw the party and show our DisneySide.
Last year, our DisneySide party was full of fun, food, friends, and family, and it was LARGE! We had a blast, but this year, I wanted to keep it smaller. I wanted to focus on one of my favorite elements of Disney–the Art of Disney. Since the beginning, Walt Disney and the Disney Company have always put ingenuity, innovation, and creativity first. As a homeschooling parent, these are some of the core values that I try to instill in my children. One of the best ways that Disney shows these elements in what they do is by their art and design, so I decided that the Art of Disney would be my theme this year.
With the theme decided, I was able to come up with several ideas for projects to do during the party. I decided on watercolor (with nail polish) picture frames, design your own cup, freestyle paintings, and to make sure the kids’ clothes stayed clean-ish (thanks to all for cleaning all of the paint off of the towels and shirts that it did get on), a decorate your own art apron–all with a DisneySide spin.
The aprons were a big hit! A friend was nice enough to make some iron-on mouse heads. It was really easy to iron onto the 3 for $5 aprons I got at Hobby Lobby. I have visions of Bubba using his to help me cook in the kitchen. He told me during the prep for the party that he would really like to be a chef at Disney since they took such great care of him and his gluten issues while we were there.
In the South, if there is a party, there has to be food. Lots and lots of food. Because the party was small, I didn’t have to go too crazy, but from the silence of the guests while eating, I assume that they liked it. Kids can always be a little picky, so as a parent, I always try to have a variety of food that I know most kids will eat.
As you can imagine, they loved being able to decorate their own cupcakes. I wasn’t able to use the awesome Duff Tie Dye Cake Mix for our party, since my son could not eat those particular goodies, but I’m planning on using it for our pre-Spring Break fun in the Kid’s Irish Dance class. Oh, I have plans for that mix!
We moved onto making our frames. This was so much fun, so make sure to check out the tutorial. Of course, you can make these with any sort of decoration, but why wouldn’t we show our DisneySide in everything we do! They turned out so wonderfully, and they were perfect for the HP Photopaper that we got in our box. I’m in the process of sending several DisneySide pictures to each family that will fit perfectly inside the frames.
Our next artistic ode to Disney was a super simple Dollar Tree DIY cup. Prior to the party, I used the provided interior paper and added a Mickey head sticker. The kids LOVED being able to show their DisneySide on their cups knowing that they would be able to take them home and use them immediately.
Our last project was free painting. I showed the kids a few pictures of Disney concept art that illustrated many different styles of art. I explained that, at Disney, creativity drives much of what you see as the finished product in the parks and on the screen. Being creative and thinking outside the box are cornerstone’s of how Disney is run, and it was time for them to get a chance to be as creative as they wanted to be on a real canvas with real paint. They had a blast, and their creations were amazing.
Our DisneySide bingo and Pin the Smile on Mickey were so much fun. Everyone at the party loved playing those games, and it got seriously competitive. The amazing prizes included in our box made the games even more fun! The nail polish, Mickey card games, and Palace Pets were loved by all of our winners!
All of our guests went away with an awesome arty gift basket that had the DisneySide Word search, DisneySide Match Up, Disney Parks luggage tag, Disney pencils, Beyond Meat coupon, painting supplies, and some Disney soap and a washcloth…because, you gotta clean up after creating amazing pieces of art, right?
Thank you to all of the amazing sponsors and facilitators:
A special thanks to my friend Nathan McFarland for helping me take pictures throughout the event. Thanks to all of our guests, MomSelect, and Disney Parks. It wouldn’t have been as much fun without you! We all had the most amazing time showing off our DisneySide!
Disney sent some of the products you see for us to throw a party, mmm-kay. The opinions and fun had with my kids are all my own.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the first of many reviews that you will see here at The Geeky Southerner this year. I won’t reveal too many spoilers in my reviews, but if I do, I will ensure you know where they start and end. this way, you can ensure you can avoid any spoilers if you so choose.
I’ll start by saying that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. With that being said, I won’t wax poetic about his fairy tales for any age, and how his words feel like listening to someone telling you a story when you were little.
This was a great book to start my 2015 reading challenge with. The Ocean at The End of the Lane is actually a Fairy Tale, but unlike the ones you read when you were little. I saw Mr. Gaiman read from this book just as it was released, and he said he was unsure at what age this story would truly resonate. I can imagine any child interested in R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps would enjoy reading this story…to go on this journey.
I read the book first, then I listened to Mr. Gaiman read it to me via audio book. I realized that this is the kind of story that makes you feel like a child again, and I confess, recently, this is a challenge. I remember vividly crawling under bushes and sneaking peeks in drawers where I wasn’t supposed to be. I was curious, and I wonder when that changed. This book will creep into your conscious, and you won’t want to put it down until you’ve read the last sentence.
So many monsters look innocuous, and so much good hides in plain sight. This is a quick read, and you will want to go on this journey again and again. Lettie, the young boy, and old Ms. Hempstock, I’ll be seeing you again.
With every new year comes new adventures and new resolutions, and 2015 means a book challenge. This year, I wanted to really challenge myself. With everyone’s increasing dependence on mobile devices and technology, I wanted to get back down to basics. I want to read. Not read on a device, but read actual books. Yes, I have an e-reader and Nook and Kindle apps on my iPad, but there is something about turning actual pages in a book.
The challenge is to read 40 books starting on January 1, 2015. I have through December 31, 2015 to get through all 40…and maybe more. This means that I have to read a book every 9 days (give or take). I’ll be starting with Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End Of the Lane.
I’ll be having themed months. January will be Neil Gaiman month. He’s one of my favorite authors, and this will be a great warm up to digging in and reading again. I’m hoping for a Classics month, a Geek month, a Non-Fiction month, a local author’s month, and Southern author’s month.
What are your recommendations? What other themes do you think I should try? I’m excited, but I’m definitely going to need your help! Make sure to let me know which books need to be on my list this year.
The morning of the 2014 Space Camp TweetUp & Aviation Challenge was amazing, but the afternoon was all adventure!
Just after lunch we all changed into our swim clothes for our water adventures! The first activity was the zip line!
Do you see that tower? It’s huge! Well, okay, not huge, but it’s around 35 feet up in the air. It looks a lot higher than that when you have to climb up the stairs and walk up to the platform to get harnessed in. Space Camp and it’s staff are very aware of safety, and because of this, it makes it much more enjoyable to zip line backwards 150ft into the largest man made lake east of the Mississippi River. The part of the lake that you see in the picture is lightly chlorinated and felt great on such a hot day! The other part of the lake, not pictured, is just a normal lake with turtles, fish, and other aquatic life.
The next adventure was the Helicopter “Helo” Dunker. This thing is nuts! It’s a large, metal cylinder that fits 6 adults in it sitting on benches. This mimics the interior of a military “chopper”. There are two seats in the front that are front facing for the pilot and co-pilot. There are two bench seats facing each other in the back with room for four adults total. What you can’t see is that the floor, front, and rear of the Dunker are made out metal mesh…all the better to let water in. Gallons and gallons of water are let in. Let me rephrase that, gallons and gallons of water RUSH in around your feet. However, as you can see, we all had helmets and life jackets on. I HATE wearing life jackets, but it was imperative that we all wore them because when that water starts rushing in, your first instinct is to panic. Once you start to float, however, you realize that you are having a great time. Well, we were having a great time until one of us died, others had limbs amputated in the crash, another decided upon crashing that he hated water, and another teammate decided they were Tom Cruise. You get to run scenarios at Aviation Camp. What would it really be like to have to think under that kind of pressure in that kind of emergency scenario. It’s all very safe and highly simulated, but the point is made. It was more fun than should be had by a group of adults who had only known each other for about 4 hours at that point.
Our last adventure for our day was the one that all of us were super excited about! We got to fly F-18 Super Hornet flight simulators.This went beyond a video screen and joystick. This was a full mock up of the dials, buttons, switches, and feel of a fighter jet. We all got to practice taking off and landing. Then, we got our ammunition, and we tried to shoot each other down. Yeah, that screen on the bottom right. That’s what happens when you get shot down. Looks like it was a good thing I didn’t become a pilot.
I would highly recommend taking you, your family, or a group of friends to experience Space Camp or Aviation Camp. Both of these camps have adult and family camps to choose from. Of course, kids can choose between Space Camp, Aviation Camp, and Robotics Camp. All of the camps are held on the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s main campus in Huntsville, AL. You will have fun, learn great and amazing things, and meet amazing people while you are there. Have a BLAST!
Have you ever gone into something not exactly sure what you are in for? Yeah, that was me this weekend for the Year of Aviation #SCTweetUP. A TweetUp is when a group of people on social media meet in real life to share some sort of experience. The Space Camp TweetUp is an annual event, with different themes each year, where social media using people get together in Huntsville, AL on the Space Camp campus to get excited about the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Space Camp, and their programs and exhibits. This year is the Year of Aviation for the Rocket Center and Space Camp, so the #SCTweetUp was all about learning about what it’s like to be in Aviation Challenge camp. I learned so much during such a short amount of time, and wow, did I have a lot of fun!
Being a Geek, sometimes, who am I kidding, often, I am awkward in a crowd of people I don’t know. I also dress like I’m a 14 year old boy more often than not, so that generally doesn’t go over too well. Going into a new group, I never know what to expect, but the amazing thing about social media is meeting and getting to know people before you meet them face to face. When I got the email letting me know that I had been selected for the 2014 Space Camp TweetUp, I immediately went online to see who else would be joining me in Huntsville. After a few days, there was a Facebook group set up, and we started getting to know each other and planning to hang out after our day of adventure. It definitely made the fun start even before I left Atlanta.
The morning of the TweetUp, I wanted to get there to look around a little early. I have never been to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and that’s where all Space Camp activities, including ours, are held. Many more planes like this amazing one greeted me as I walked onto the Aviation Challenge campus, and I knew this was going to be a great day!
We had introductions to each other, our organizers, Charity and Trevor, and our team leaders, Clover and Wi-fi. Our team, the Jolly Tweeters, ended up being like the Breakfast Club…the Geek (me), the Weather-spotter, the Triathlete, the DJ, the Photographer, the TV Anchor, the Quiet One, the Intern, the Non-Twitter-er, the Retiree, and the Pixel Creator. We all had two things in common; we all love Space, and we were all there to have fun!
We started our day with a tour of some of the planes on the campus. We got to stand on the the wing of an F4 Phantom. It is quite a bit sturdier than most people imagine. It was able to support our whole team standing on just the wing. We were able to hear from Gail Williams, one of the former pilots and current restorers of the Lamplighter 342 helicopter that is currently on the Aviation Challenge campus. He and his fellow restorers have hand re-painted the helicopter with the original paint from the original manufacturer. Gail has also hand curved Lexan with a heat gun to replace the windows (one shown in the pic below) in the Lamplighter. It’s a true project of love and respect with the formers pilots and this aircraft. Gail was incredibly generous to let us all climb up into the helicopter to press buttons, pedals, and flip switches. It was a lot of fun!
Then we heard from my new hero, Serena Aunon. I’m not sure that it’s really fair that the first astronaut that I ever meet is Serena. She’s an engineer, physician, and astronaut. She was so great to answer all of our questions. As you can imagine, she is a Women in STEM champion, and I asked her what her advice was for young girls wanting to get into STEM fields. She said that parents should expose their littles early and often to STEM fields in the form of museums and camps, particularly with hands on activities.
I also asked her about what she would say to university aged female students wanting to give up STEM fields as the classes become increasingly difficult. She told us the story of her father insisting that she re-take Calculus as a freshman even though she took it and did well in it during her Senior year in high school. She said that, though it frustrated her then, it was some of the best advice she ever got. It gave her a very solid and strong foundation in math which she needed to get through her electrical engineering degree. She also told us that she utilized tutors and other resources while she was in college. Serena also told us about the nutrition and exercise regimens on the International Space Station. She also let us know that when the ISS astronauts phone their families or NASA back here on Earth, the caller ID registers with a Huntsville phone number. Serena also showed us samples of some of the kinds of food that the astronauts eat on the ISS. All of the food is labeled in both English and Russian. Who knew the most coveted food on the ISS is…wait for it…tortillas and hot sauce? After meeting Serena, we all hung out and ate lunch. We already had so much fun, and the day was only half way done. Make sure to read the next post about our very adventurous afternoon!
Like every other kid in the world, I always wanted to be an astronaut. At least, I thought that was a real possibility when I was in elementary school. Coincidentally, during that time, the movie Space Camp came out. It was about some teenagers that went to an overnight camp to learn about what it’s like to fly the space shuttle. It’s got some really big teen stars for the time and a very young Leaf (Joaquin) Phoenix. It’s worth a watch on a rainy day.
I didn’t even know a place like Space Camp existed, but I wanted, no needed, to go. I wrote to the camp for more information, and pleaded to my mother to let me go. Back then, it was a lot of money, and we just couldn’t afford it.
The same year that Space Camp came out another little movie came out called Top Gun. Of course, like every other human in existence, it made me want to be a pilot. Then after doing a huge presentation on becoming a Naval aviator, ever the pragmatist, I decided that my lack of perfect vision and lack of desire to go into the military would likely prevent me from ever becoming Maverick.
Flash forward to the advent of social media, and my love of space came alive again. NASA is all over Twitter and Facebook, and not too long ago, Space Camp (the real one, not the movie) popped into my Twitter feed. The Kid has been asking to go to overnight camp for the last year, and next year might be the year for her. As I thought about it, I popped over to the Space Camp website to see if it was even an attainable goal. Boy, was I surprised!
Space Camp has so many more adventures than when I was a kid. It’s located in Huntsville, Alabama connected to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Not only do they still have Space Camp, for kids, adults, families, and educators, they also have an Aviation Challenge Camp (y’all, it’s Top Gun camp) and a Robotics Camp. I was enchanted by all of the possibilities for The Kid, and after looking at the pricing, it’s very reasonable for 5 full days and nights of camp. They also have a camp for homeschooling groups. Gotta love a place that recognizes the homeschool geek contingent.
So, now Space Camp was firmly back on my radar, and I loved seeing the Throwback pictures they would post on social media. So, imagine my surprise when @SpaceCamp on Twitter announced sign ups for their annual Space Camp TweetUp (#SCTweetUp). A TweetUp is a face to face meeting of a group of people connected through Twitter. This year’s TweetUp is to celebrate their #YearofAviation. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to sign up. Only 16 people would be chosen, so I didn’t think there was much of a chance. However, I got an email last week letting me know I was one of the few chosen to attend. This Space Camp TweetUp will allow me to just get a little taste of Space Camp and Top Gun all at the same time! Woot!
It’s now a little more than 36 hours away, and I can’t wait. We will be participating in several of the activities that the Aviation Challenge campers participate in. There will be water rescue activities, aircraft tours, and aircraft simulators. There will be two guest speakers, astronaut Serena Aunon and Gail Williams from the Seasprite Helicopter Restoration Project.
Let me know what questions you want answered, and I will do my best to get them for you. Follow me on Twitter @geekysoutherner for all of the updates, tweets, and pictures on Saturday.
A little more than a week ago, The Kid and I went to the Ridley Pearson signing for the latest Kingdom Keepers novel. The Kid, well, she thinks authors are cool. Actually, in her eight year old world, authors are like rock stars. The Kid’s GEEK is reading. She doesn’t just read; she reads copiously. She devours 700+ page novels in just days. She remembers characters and conversations from books verbatim. She lives in her books. She laughs out loud and cries with her characters. This is her thing, her geek, and because of that, there are an abundance of books in our house.
It was time to reward her for some serious reading she had been doing for the last few months, and when I saw that Ridley Pearson was going to be just up the road at Fox Tale Book Shoppe signing his new Kingdom Keepers book, I knew this was the perfect reward. However, it had been a little while since she read the first 5 Kingdom Keepers books, and we needed to make sure that she was up to date. It was about 10 days from the signing, and I made her a deal. If she could read the first 5 books before the signing, I would buy her the last two books, and we would go to get them signed. That was pretty much all I had to say.
The first book, Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark, was re-read in the first 24 hours (340 pages). The second book, Kingdom Keepers: Disney at Dawn, and third book, Kingdom Keepers: Disney in Shadow, took another 3 days total (900+ pages). The fourth book, Kingdom Keepers: Power Play (449 pages), took a little while longer, about 4 days) since it was a nice weekend outside, and she wanted to play. She finished the fifth book, Kingdom Keepers: Shell Game (560 pages) in the 36 hours just before the signing. That is some serious reading time in just 10 days.
I didn’t know much about the books themselves. I knew about the Kingdom Keepers Quest at the Magic Kingdom for groups of 10+ people at Walt Disney World. I also knew that the books take place inside the parks at Disney World and on one of the Disney Cruise ships. I knew vaguely about villains and the kids that are pitted against them in the books, but that’s about it. The Kid quickly gave me a more in depth overview during lunch, and off we went.
As always, the foxes as they call themselves, at Fox Tale put on a great event. Fox Tale Book Shoppe is a great little indie bookseller that features all kinds of authors. This signing was just one of many this month, and it looks like there are plenty more to keep us busy.
There were quite a few people there when we arrived, and it was extremely well organized. Mr. Pearson, after speaking at two schools earlier in the day, arrived right on time and greeted many of the guests by shaking their hands. Of course, The Kid was able to shake his hand and was completely over the moon. Again, it’s the rock star thing.
Mr. Pearson spoke to the crowd for about 15 minutes about the series, his relationship with Disney, and how several elements of this last book were directly influenced by the fans and their writings. For someone who had been speaking all day, he was extremely kind and gracious. I’ve seen many other authors speak. Sometimes their lack of enthusiasm for their characters peeks through as they continue to talk about the book or series they are trying to promote. His love for writing the series and these particular characters was quite evident. I appreciated this, particularly since all of the kids there loved those books so much.
He was so kind to all of the attendees. Many kids who read are shy, and that was evident at the event. The kids would talk so animatedly to their parents, but would start to get quite nervous as they got the chance to speak to Mr. Pearson. You could tell how he would start to draw them out with questions about their beloved books. By they time each child, and adult, was done speaking with him, they would all want to give him a hug or high five. It was amazing to see how much time he would put into each guest.
Again, The Kid charmed another author. It’s obviously her true love of reading that shines through, but this time it was almost comical. She always wants to ask authors what it’s like to be a professional writer. They often say the same things. It’s difficult, and it takes a long time to come up with what you end up reading. She always nods her head sagely as they talk about their process. Then, this time she wanted to ask Mr. Pearson if any of his friends are also writers. As he let her know that he’s friends with Rick Riordan, of Percy Jackson fame, and Eoin Colfer, the author of the Artemis Fowl series, she started jumping up and down for joy. She let him know that those were some of her favorite authors, and that she just finished reading several of those books. She was obviously elated to know that her favorite authors sit down together and have those conversations that she has with them in her dreams. Her excitement for writers was contagious, then this happened.
See. What did I say. The Kid enchants authors with her love of their books. So much so, that Ridley Pearson wanted to try to bottle it up. He physically picked her up and told her that she was just a great kid. If I didn’t have picture evidence, I don’t know that anyone would have believed me. As you can see from the picture, she was in heaven.
So, we got her books signed, got to spend a little time together around books, and she got a hug and another rock star moment from a famous author. Again, this is becoming a habit. I can think of worse ones.
**Thanks again to the foxes at Fox Tale Book Shoppe for letting me use a few of their pictures from the event. It was great ladies, and we thank you!