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Type-A Parent Conference

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!

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!

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.

DisneySide party decor

It’s Party Time! #DisneySide Party -Part 1

After showing y’all all of my goodies that Disney sent us to host our very own #DisneySide @ Home Celebration, I am super excited to show you the details of our party!

A few weeks ago, I decided we would invite several family members and friends, who are like family, over for a little Mickey get together.

DisneySide Invitations

This was our guests’ first hint at what was in store for them!

I had a bit of a hard time figuring out exactly what we were going to do for our party to really show off our DisneySide. I hadn’t thrown a big par-tay at our house in about three years, and I wanted to make sure all of our guests would have a great time. Because we had such a range in ages, I wanted to make sure Mickey was well represented, but I also wanted to ensure that our teenagers felt cool enough to enjoy the day. Needless to say, I also wanted it to be EASY!

First, I checked out Spoonful.com to see what sorts of Mickey ideas they had for me. Bubba loves the new Mickey Mouse classic type cartoons, so I definitely wanted to have that kind of feel. Then, I decided to go to the fabric store to see if there was anything that inspired me, and Voila! there it was. A red felt Mickey fabric next to rolls of cheap burlap and different black and white fabrics. I was in heaven. Did I mention I like lots of pattern? I got a few yards of fabric, and the rest took care of itself.

DisneySide party decor

A little glimpse into our party. A Mickey wreath to greet you at the door and hidden and not-so-hidden Mickeys everywhere.

Once everyone arrived, we got right down to the food! It’s my favorite part! I think my favorites were the super easy Mickey cupcakes. My DisneySide likes cute cupcakes!

DisneySide Food

Come on. You know you wanted to see the food. Right? Check out our Mickey Mix. It has Craisins (provided by Ocean Spray), Mickey popcorn, and chocolate covered Mickey pretzels. Yummy!

After everyone was sufficiently full, it was onto the games!

At our parties, we always have a large jar of candy of varying shapes and sizes. Anyone can take a guess at how many pieces of candy are in the jar. I always use different shapes and sizes of candy, and occasionally, just to be super sneaky, I tie several candy bars together and hide them in the middle. Everyone writes down their guess, and you can’t change your answer once it’s written down. We always announce the winner, the person closest to the actual number, at the very end of the party. Let’s just say it can get very mathematical around our house as our guests try to estimate close enough to be able to take home the candy. Who knew math could be so tasty?!?

DisneySide candy jar

The jar of candy requirement. Trust me. Guests of all ages LOVE this game. If they win, they keep the candy.

We also had everyone try to draw Mickey’s head. I had no idea that adults and kids would all get so competitive over sketching little ole’ Mickey. It was vicious, y’all!

DisneySide Game

Who knew that drawing Mickey would bring out such competitiveness? See those serious faces?

We also played the #DisneySide trivia that was sent in our box, and I took a few of the song questions out of our Disney Beat the Parents board game to play Disney movie song trivia. We all had so much fun, and everyone loved their prizes. All of the winners’ names were placed in a hat to win our grand prize, a Night at Home at the Movies! I got a popcorn container and filled it with candy and a box of popcorn. My amazing friend and Disney travel agent for Joyful Journeys, Lisa Lacey, provided the movie, Enchanted.

DisneySide prize baskets

I think our prize baskets might have encouraged a little too much competitiveness out of some of our guests!

All of the kids had a blast taking snaps in our #DisneySide photo booth. I think the mustaches and hats were the favorite accessories. As you can see the kids ranged in age from 19 months to 18 years old. They are all such wonderful people, and I love it when they can all see each other and hang out at our house.

DisneySide photo booth

Looks like all of the kids had a good time at our #DisneySide photo booth! Thanks to Nathan McFarland for helping out with picture taking duties!

Before everyone left, all of the kids got goodie bags, and each family got a great packet of travel information from Joyful Journeys about Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Lines. Those also included one of the HP Photo Packs that HP generously provided that would let the families print out pictures from their next Disney vacation.

DisneySide Gifts

Check out the kids’ gift bags with their goodies! The Dollar Tree and the Dollar Spot at Target really helped out on this.   Lisa Lacey helped us with our family bundles. Great info, and the HP Photo Packs were a perfect add!

So, now you want to throw your own party, but don’t know where to start? Check out the DisneySide and DisneySide Celebrations websites. They show you everything you need to know about all of the ways to show your DisneySide and throw your own par-tay! Have fun, and come back here to show me what your DisneySide looks like!

Thank you to the following sponsors of the #DisneySide @ Home Celebrations and our party:

Disney Parks
CraisinsThe Chew
Ocean Spray Craisins
HP and TwoSmiles
American Tourister
Muppets: Most Wanted
runDisney
Joyful Journeys

Is there more? You betcha! Wondering what I did with the rest of the stuff that Disney provided for our party? Well, that’s the other half of our celebration. Click here to find out what we have in store for some people who really deserve a party!

Disney sent some of the products you see for us to throw a party, mmm-kay. Joyful Journeys provided the movie Enchanted for a prize basket. The opinions, obvious issues with chevron and burlap, and creativity are all my own.

Thanks Egon: Goodbye Harold Ramis

When someone asks what some of my favorite movies are, without hesitation I start to rattle off Ghostbusters, Caddy Shack, Animal House, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. There are always others thrown in there, and a lengthy discussion follows as to how I rank movies, why I love these particular movies, and the inevitable friendly debates about why a certain movie didn’t make my list or my friend’s.

Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters

Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters

Today, Harold Ramis died at age 69. Typically, I have little, if any, reaction when some random celebrity dies. Today, my reaction was more of a visceral one upon hearing the news of Ramis’s passing. The only other time this has happened was the day I found out that director John Hughes had suddenly passed away from a heart attack in New York. No, I didn’t know either one of them, but unbeknownst to them, they formed my sense of humor. Today, it felt like a small part of my childhood died.

Unlike today, when you can get any TV show or movie at the click of a few keys on your tablet or laptop, waiting for movies to come on cable, during my childhood, was a true waiting game. After a movie hit the movie theater, it would take a year or year and a half to see it on pay cable. Once there, however, it would play in a seemingly endless loop for at least a month. As a child of a single parent, we can safely assume that I watched my fair share of a television screen. Because of this, Harold Ramis and his movies became integral to a part of my entertainment education.

Ghostbusters is one of those movies I have seen somewhere in the 1000’s of times. It’s a movie that is quoted in our household at least once a week. My boss and I throw quotes around from that movie to alleviate stress or boredom. My children insist on watching it every time it’s on television, despite the fact we own it. Egon Spangler is the quintessential geek on screen. His glasses and awkwardness are obvious, but the strange answers to questions and quirky side comments make Egon my kind of geek. Bill Murray in Caddy Shack still makes me cry with laughter every time I watch that movie. Animal House lead me to believe that college was supposed to be toga parties and having an amazing time with amazing friends while smashing guitars of pseudo-musicians on the staircase in your fraternity house. Stripes was one of the first “grown up” movies that I was allowed to watch. Harold Ramis either wrote, directed, produced, or was a featured actor in all of these, and often was performing more than one of these tasks.

I understand these movies are far from Oscar winners, and I enjoy a good intellectual thriller or drama anytime. But…these movies are my humor foundation. Like John Hughes, Harold Ramis taught me key elements of entertainment to which I still respond. His humor showed that funny could be quick, dry, and witty. It didn’t have to involve pratt falls and spit takes. My husband can attest that it takes a LOT to make me laugh out loud. I rarely laugh when everyone else laughs, and I often embarrass him laughing when no one else “gets it” in a theater. Very rarely do I laugh at a movie the second time, and we won’t even get into multiple viewings. Ramis’s movies make me laugh harder and longer the more I watch them. I get more out of the subtlety the more I watch. That’s what he was; he was subtle. Whether it was his writing, acting, or directing, he had a subtle, smart, dry sense of timing and humor that still speak to me as a viewer and a fan.

In 2007, Ramis played Seth Rogan’s father in Knocked Up. I thought that it was brilliant casting by Judd Apatow. Ramis wasn’t in the movie much, but he delivered one of his better lines. When talking to his Rogan, Ramis’s character reminds his son that “Life doesn’t care about your vision. You gotta deal. You just gotta roll with it.” It was a really fast delivery and subtle, but it stuck with me. Today, I was reminded of this quote when I heard the news of Ramis’s passing.

Thank you, Harold Ramis, for showing a young girl that it’s okay to be a little geeky and humor doesn’t have to hit you on the head to make you laugh.