Anniversaries, surprises, and Orlando: a Geeky trip to Disney and Harry Potter.

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!

DisneySide, party, 2015, Disney Parks

2015 DisneySide Party–The Art of Disney

Show Your Disney Side
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.

DisneySide Party Box Reveal

Check out all of the goodies that Disney Parks, Beyond Beef, Palace Pets, and Duff sent. The party box was filled to the brim with party supplies, cake supplies, party games, prizes, favors, recipes, and decorations.

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.

DisneySide, party, art party, mouse, mickey, decorations, rainbow, colorful, theme, party, disney parks

With the Art of Disney theme, our DisneySide was easily shown through a pallet of color.


DisneySide Art of Disney Party Decorations

There were Mickeys and more hidden Mickeys everywhere.

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.

DisneySide; Apron Project; Mickey; Disney; Art Party; Design your own apron

The kids had a blast designing their own Mickey art aprons. They were all so different and colorful!

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.

Disney. DisneySide, food, party food, Mickey, Mickey Mouse, party food, art of disney, art party

You know, since I’m from the South, we had to have tons of food.

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!

DisneySide Art Cupcakes

I’m not sure what they liked more, decorating the cupcakes or eating them!

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.

disneyside frame nail polish marbling watercolor

Aren’t all of these amazing! They were so easy, a little messy, and a ton of fun to make. Make sure to check out our tutorial on how to make them.

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.

DisneySide Cup Project

It’s really important to get Mickey juuuust right.

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.

DisneySide Free Paint

It was the first time most of our guests had ever painted on a canvas or canvas board. They had so much fun being creative however they chose.

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!

Pin the Smile on Mickey

Our DisneySide Pin the Smile on Mickey and Disney Bingo were highly competitive. The prizes included in our boxes were so amazing!

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?

DisneySide Favors

All of our guests left with activities, crafts, and a few things to clean up the small messes that are sometimes made when you are as creative as they are.

Thank you to all of the amazing sponsors and facilitators:

Disney Parks
Duff’s Cake MixHP Create Memories You’ll Keep
(got all of that paint out of our clothes perfectly!)
Beyond Meat

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.




Ridley Pearson Speaking

The Kid Enchants Another Author–Ridley Pearson Signing and Kingdom Keepers

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.

Ridley Pearson Speaking

Ridley Pearson speaking about the final installment of the Kingdom Keepers series at Fox Tale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA on April 8, 2014.

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.

Ridley Pearson Kingdom Keepers

As you can see, The Kid was extremely excited. So much so, she decided to draw a picture for Mr. Pearson. Apparently, the picture for Neil Gaiman made an impression on her.

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.

Ridley Pearson Signing

Ridley Pearson said that The Kid’s love of books was contagious, and he wanted to just bottle it up. I don’t know that she has ever laughed so hard.

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!

Neil Gaiman signs Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Kid Thinks Writers are Rock Stars–How Author Signings Became a Habit

Here in the South, we read…a lot. No, probably not more than most, but we talk about it an awful lot.

For instance, just after the obligatory question about your friend’s or acquaintance’s family (“asking after your family”), we Southerners ask about what you are reading. What someone is reading tells a lot about who someone is. As Southerners, we take pride in being the culture that brought about Mark Twain, Pat Conroy, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and so many others. Book Clubs are as much social events as they are discussions about books. Writers write about the South longingly and unashamedly. We are characters, here in the South, and we LOVE our books.

You see, I was read to, but also, read in front of. My grandmothers read when I was around, my mother was a voracious reader, and I would consider myself a huge book GEEK. I read all of the time, and I cannot go to sleep without reading. I’ve been this way since I could read at the age of 3. The Kid has inherited my love of books, maybe even more so.

The Kid is, what old Southern folklorists would call, charmed. I don’t just say that because I am her parent, it’s simply the truth. Others see it, maybe even more clearly than myself. Authors, well, they say her excitement for books is contagious, and author signings have become her concerts.

I took her to see Neil Gaiman in the summer of 2013 at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. Originally, I planned to go alone, but as she accompanied me to gather my ticket, she asked if she could go. Of course, it was sold out and I explained that there was very little chance I could get another ticket. The cashier at the bookstore where I picked up my ticket explained there was a Haiku contest on Twitter that allowed the winner to get a ticket. Of course, I didn’t think anything would come of it, but of course, a few days after tweeting her Haiku on my Twitter account, we found out she had won. Not only did she win a ticket, but she won VIP passes for seating. See, it’s the charmed thing.

After finding out that she won a ticket, she went into overdrive. She wanted to give Mr. Gaiman a picture, and she asked me many questions about him, the books she had and hadn’t read of his, and what his life as an author was like. After the millionth question, we went on the Interwebz and found out all kinds of information, but she latched on to the fact that a cat and dog of Mr. Gaiman’s had recently passed away. Cheery, huh? So, she drew him a picture of himself outside with his dog and cat. I thought it was sweet, but with his popularity, I didn’t think he would take much notice of a little girl’s picture. Boy, was I wrong.

Neil Gaiman Speaking

Neil Gaiman answering questions during the promotional tour of Ocean at the End of the Lane at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA in 2013.

After sitting for about 5 hours in the blazing, summer sun, we were finally able to get into the auditorium to get ready to listen to the reading of Ocean at the End of the Lane. The Kid found out we could sit in the front row, and sit in the front row we did. She was enchanted by the reading, and so excited to see the hub-bub surrounding a writer of Mr. Gaiman’s caliber and popularity. Not long after the reading, Mr. Gaiman was set up to sign the thousands of books people had bought and brought with them. I gave her a copy of Coraline for an early birthday present since I was unsure she could read his new book immediately. I read most, if not all, of her books prior to letting her read them. Not to censor them, but to ensure I have answers prepared if she has questions.

As we stood in line, I tried to explain that this was going to be really quick. He would sign, say thanks for coming, and we would go on our way. She said she understood and wouldn’t be disappointed. She loves Coraline and The Graveyard Book, so she really didn’t care. She said she just wanted to thank him for his books. When we finally got to our turn, I let her go first. You see, I LOVE Neil Gaiman’s books, and I’ve read them all. BUT, this was her first author signing, and I wanted it to be memorable for her.

Neil Gaiman signs Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman signs his book, Ocean at the End of the Lane for The Kid.

She went up with this huge smile on her face, and introduced herself. As she started to talk to him, she told him how much she loved reading his books, and that she was so excited to be meeting him. I’m pretty confident that he’s heard all of these things a million times before, and will a million times in the future. She told him that she drew him a picture. He was very sweet, and he took a close look at it. He recognized himself in the picture. She explained that I told her about his pets’ passings, and that’s why she included them in the picture. He just sat there, and looked at her for a good few seconds. Then, he told her that he needed a hug from her. After she hugged him and said thank you, she turned around with tears in her eyes. She told me she realized that this was a special moment for her. I wish I captured that moment with my camera. I was so bewildered I think I just stood there in awe.

She rode home in silence that evening and was completely exhausted by the day. She still remembers how she made a famous author stop and give her a hug. This was a defining moment for her, and now she thinks that authors are like rock stars. There are worse things, I guess. We are going to another author signing tomorrow. It’s becoming a habit.