Monday, December 15, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth

Friday - Scott took the day off. We finished packing and getting things together and then left after the kids were done with school. We drove over to the grandparents to say goodbye, and then we were off. We left their home at 4:30pm. We stopped at 10pm for the kids to go to the bathroom and brush their teeth and they fell asleep right after that for the night.

Saturday - Scott drove until around 2am (I did some dozing while he drove). I took over until we were past Jacksonville, FL but still a ways from Orlando (which was about 6:30am and the point where both kids were now awake) we stopped to eat breakfast (should have called one of the Jax girls). We arrived at hotel #1 (Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista) at 9am. Lucky for us, our room was ready! We all got showers, brought in our luggage, and were off to Gatorland for the day. We ate at CiCi's for supper and then went back to the room for an early goodnight (about 7:30pm we were all fast asleep).

Sunday - We ate breakfast (free) and then checked out of our hotel by 8am and checked into our new room at Disney's Port Orleans - French Quarter. Our room was not ready yet, but we hopped on a bus to go to Hollywood Studios and actually got there before opening. On our first ride we were awarded the 2008 Dream Passes (part of Disney's Year of a Million Dream Event) so we had fast passes for all the rides. We had so much fun!! We left the park at 3:30 and went back to the hotel to get checked into our room and eat supper in the alacart restaurant they had on premises. We bought a free refill travel mug for each of us $13.00 each, so meals were not too pricey at the hotel restaurant when we ate there. (under $25.00 for lunch and dinners and under $15.00 for breakfasts). We went back to Hollywood Studios and stayed until 8pm and then went back to the hotel for the night.

Monday - We woke up early and headed out to the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom for breakfast. It was so yummy!! We finished up and got out of the restaurant before the park opened. We rode a ton of rides and then noticed the park was REALLY filling up. Miley Cyrus had been at the park over the weekend and I heard it was a MAD HOUSE). Thank Goodness we missed that!! We had a moderate amount of crowds, but it was warm and the kids were tired, so we went back to the hotel for some quiet and swimming for the kids. After swimming we ate at the hotel and then went off to go back to the park for Juliet and Dylan's 6pm appts. at Bippity Boppity Bootique.

Sidenote: Our economy is bad??? Its hard to see that when you see what you see at that shop. Now, mind you, we spent $60.00 for both kids to get their hair done...yikes Dylan was only $9.00. Juliet also got her makeup done and was given a bag full of makeup to take home. It is still a TON of money for us, which is why it was her birthday gift! In addition, she has been wanting this done everytime we go, and I realized that window of time in which she would like it is quickly coming to a close - my little girl is growing up. Now, as I said... we were just doing the hair ("Coach package" for Juliet and "Cool Dude" for Dylan), but most people were doing the large package that includes full outfit, shoes, wand, and nails for a whopping price of $250.00. And the place was JAM packed at 7pm. The person in front of us had 4 daughters and spent over $1000.00!! It made my $60.00 investment feel less painful. There were about 12 stations (heck... maybe more) and the place was full with many people waiting to get done. We had to make reservations months before our trip because it gets booked up so quickly. Mind you, the above is not a judgement... just an observation.

We left the castle (Bippity Boppity was in Cinderella's Castle) and the park was absolutely jam packed. I don't know why, but it was HIDEOUS. Absolutely hideous. We rode some rides, did some walking around the park, and left around 9pm. Back at the hotel I wrapped Juliet's hair with toilet paper and put it into a shower cap (per the hairdressers instructions). Dylan was horrified that his hair was crunchy, so we washed his Cool Dudeness out of his hair. We went straight to bed!

Tuesday - We slept a bit in on Tuesday and then we ate breakfast in our hotel. Jules was thrilled to learn that her hair was still PERFECT. I brought along cheerios, juice boxes, and raisins, and purchased milk... so we were good to go! We did not arrive at Epcot until 9am, but were quite lucky and got to ride on everything we wanted to right off the bat. We did have to fast pass Soarin (since we did not want to wait 40 minutes), but otherwise it was easy breezy. We ate at a Japanese counter service restaurant for lunch (my kids LOVED this meal the most I think). We spent the afternoon exploring the World Showcase and truly had a perfect afternoon. We had dinner reservations at the Garden Grill for 7pm and we were all STARVED by the time we got there. Soon after dinner was over we left the park and let the kids swim at the hotel until 10:30pm!

Wednesday - we ate breakfast at our hotel restaurant (another cheap meal at $10.00) and then headed off to Animal Kingdom for the day. We got in there for the opening and were the first group on the safari. We had an awesome day, with the highlight for me being the Nemo show. It is every bit as good as any show I have seen on Broadway (just quicker). This is the second time I have seen it, and I just love it. I had my normal frozen Chai and we split a couple pretzels. I also carried snacks in my bag everyday, so we always had munchies with us if needed. We left Animal Kingdom at 5pm and went back to our hotel, let the kids swim for about a half hour, and then we jumped on a boat to take us to downtown Disney. We spent the evening there and ate at Planet Hollywood. I guess we left at 9:30ish, and the kids fell asleep on the boat ride back to the hotel.

Thursday - We ate another cheerios breakfast in our room and then headed out to Magic Kington. Now, we KNEW it was supposed to rain, so we wore crappy clothes topped with ponchos. We looked pretty rough!! Luckily there were no crowds at all for the Extra Magic Hour in the morning and we rode tons and tons of rides (starting with Dumbo). The rain poured from about 10-12 and we watched a lot of shows during that time just to stay semi-dry. At 12:30 the sun came out and it turned gorgeous out. Of course, we looked absolutely horrible (dried drowned rats) but did not have time to get back to the hotel and come back for our dinner reservations at Cinderella's we just went with it. Our clothes dried, but we walked around with squishy wet sneakers (yuck).

We stayed at the park until 7pm and then went back to the room to pack (((sigh))).

Friday - We woke up early, got our things packed into the car, checked out of our hotel, ate breakfast at the hotel, and then boarded a bus to Epcot (the kids favorite park - Scott and I like it as well). Dylan loves Mission Space (low intense with me) and Juliet loves that and Test Track. Their favorite is Spaceship Earth (the big round ball). We were there until 3:00 and then boarded the bus to take us back to the hotel. We ate a late lunch and then left the hotel at 4:30pm to head for home. We stopped at 8pm for another small bite to eat (McDonalds) and kept going. Scott drove from 4:30-10pm and then I drove from 10pm until 5am (Richmong Va). It was a LONG night. I drank 3 large diet cokes and listened to a chick lit on CD.

Saturday - Scott drove us home and we arrived at 9am. I only had time to get the stuff out of the car and then I had to go to choir practice for 10am! I made it!! I had told them I may not make it, but was so glad that I was able to get one last practice in! When I got home we jumped back into the car and got groceries and then went to 2 different train display layouts and then went out to eat (per tradition).

Looking back, it was a wonderful trip. We had so much fun just being together. I do have to say though, that when we arrived back home and saw that the house was still standing I felt I could breathe a bit easier again. Despite the billions of dollars spent to make DisneyWorld a magical place; the happiest place on earth is home.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Bare Necessities of Life

I was listening to a Retail expert speaking about the economic crisis and the tremendous impact on retail stores. I am horribly saddened by the impact that the slow down of our economy as it affects many in the retail industry (owners, employees, investors, etc). but I am also encouraged by a change of direction by us as Americans.

As I was listening to this expert, he said that the huge crunch to the industry has been caused by people just buying the necessities. People are trying to make each dollar count, and are making careful considerations before spending anything. The days of the buy now, pay later (sometimes with big interest) may be over.

On one hand I am glad that we've come to this realization. I am just sad for the many casualties left behind - and those inevitable ones which have yet to feel the swift kick of reality. Our lives are changing; it us up to us to choose whether we will make it change for the better or worse.

Money will not bring happiness, but it does help offer security. Faith without works will not pay the electrical bill, and positive thinking without effort won't buy groceries. What am I getting at? We must make a consious decision to take the life that is now upon us and make it work for us. It may be hard, but the rewards will be great; perhaps far greater than if these days had never occured in our lives.

Consider what are the necessities in your life. Spend time with those that you love. There are some estimates that go as high as 40% of a decline of the time that Americans spend with their children compared to 30 years ago.

I pray that we as a society come out of this a stronger more grounded group of people. I pray our children learn as a result that they cannot buy their soul; and they are more than what they own. My hope is that our bare necessities, priorities and goals will mesh creating within us a more contented, fulfilled individuals immersed with gratitude for what we have, rather unrest for what we seeminly want.

Enjoy the bare necessities in your life...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My #2 is #5

I did it again. I blinked!! How in the world did my little boy turn five years old? I wonder if there is anything better in the world than holding the complete admiration of your son in your hands. I do not know if I am prepared to face the pain when he sees my apron strings as an anchor; yet I know the day will be inevitable, and important for him - yet devastating for me...

Dylan Scott Kramer came into our world a bit early. A boy after my own heart; super punctual albeit a bit too early. He literally has a smile that could melt your heart, and big bright brown eyes. His kisses are sloppy and his hugs are tight.

I completely eat up Dylan's adoration for me. He picks me dandelions and tells me they are for me because I am beautiful. He walks up to me at least 5 times a day and says, "I love you too, Mom..." and kisses whatever body part is closest to him (sometimes my arm, sometimes my leg, and a few times even my tush! LOL). He even told his teacher that his Mommy is "So very very booteeful."

Tell me this will never end....


5 years old, oh how my world has changed with you in my life, my sweet Dylan.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Carving Pumpkins

Sometimes the greatest joy I get out of life is rewriting the simple memories of my childhood with my children as the new cast members. From picking out the perfect pumpkin, creating the jack-o-lantern's personality, pulling out the slimy gooey guts, and basking in the soft yellow glow from a candle burning bright inside their masterpiece; carving pumpkins is a memory I simply adore.

We spent Sunday afternoon with my husband Scott's family for the annual pumpkin carving tradition. The grandchildren draw on the faces and my father-in-law does all the cutting. My 21 year old nephew even hands over his pumpkin for his Pap to do the careful cutting. My Father-in-law takes his own artistic liberties when he feels the cutting will be made easier with alterations.

Per our family's tradition; after the pumpkins are all decorated, we wait for 24 hours and then roast the pumpkin seeds. The aroma hit us nearly immediately, and it seemed like forever until the seeds were ready to eat. We were greatly awarded for our patience when we indulge in deliciously warm roasted pumpkin seeds.

Want to taste them for yourselves?

Betsy's Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Rinse the pumpkin seeds well and drain

Place clean pumpkin seeds on a non-terry towel and allow to airdry for 24 hours

Preheat oven to 275 degrees

Place the pumpkin seeds in a bowl and drizzle about 1 TBS of olive oil (depending on how many seeds you have)

Add liberal amounts of season salt and garlic powder

Stir the seeds to even distribute oil and seasonings

On a foil-lined cookie sheet, spray non-stick baking spray

Pour seeds on the cookie sheet

Bake for 1 hour, stir after each 15 minutes


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Decade of Blessings

10 years ago I became a mommy. While other kids were making plans to become Doctors, and Lawyers, policemen, and firefighters, all I wanted to do was have a family. I was far too old to play with dolls, yet cuddling and nurturing a toy gave me a glimpse into the future I so desperately wanted.
The road to become a mommy was not simple. There was infertility and loss. I did everything right, yet seemed unable to have a baby. I made the painful conscious decision that if I were not blessed by having a baby of my own, I would make it my mission to be the best aunt, cousin, etc. to the children in my life. Not soon after making the proclamation to myself, I became pregnant... and stayed pregnant, and had my baby girl. The baby girl for whom I had dreamed of since I was old enough to dream.

Now, Juliet Kramer was not born the sweet, kind, and happy girl that you would see in her today. She came into the world with drama (I had pre-eclampsia with her and had to deliver her early), and she made her presence VERY known during the first three months of her life, as she had one massive case of colic that rendered her screaming for hours upon hours upon hours... and so on, and so on, and so on. I cannot believe that her vocal chords, and our dwindling patience, could handle such screaming.

During this time, we burned out 2 vacuum cleaners. It seemed the best thing to calm her was to turn on the vaccum cleaner; so if you had popped by our home during that time, you would find bleary eyed parents, watching closed caption television, and listening to a blaring vacuum cleaner running yet parked in the corner.

Those months are but a brief memory, and her addition to our life is irreplaceable. When we had Dylan nearly five years ago, I realized what completion felt like. Looking at perfection in my arms, my heart felt full, nearly overflowing.

Happiness and contentment for me is being a Mom. Knowing that someday my kids will look to me at where the bar should be raised as a parent is a huge responsibility; and one I do not take lightly. I make mistakes daily, and I wish I knew all the answers and pray that someday they will use my mistakes as lessons for themselves. I know there will be rough days ahead, but I am so grateful for every last day that has been behind us.

The bad moments don't even compare to the blessings that being parents have brought to our lives. Thank you, God, for giving us these two beautiful blessings to take care of for you. Now I just pray you stand by our side even closer as we approach the TEEN YEARS!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Many thanks to Volunteers

This weekend our small town celebrated its 89th annual All Home Days celebration Up until this year I always was so busy organizing different aspects of it that I barely got to appreciate all that it offered. This year I was able to attend it as a community member, as my husband stepped in to take my place and I simply was his helper from time to time.

What would we do without volunteers? So many wonderful things in our communities operate solely on volunteer help and donations, and so often the volunteers are not even thanked, actually from my experience they are often criticized. My parents were always very active in our community and I always felt it to be an obligation to be as well. As I have gotten older and am now having my own children volunteer, I have finally matured to realize that it is not an obligation, rather it is a priviledge to create a better world in my own community.

I would like to take this time to thank all of those who take precious time out of their weeks to work as:

Sunday school teachers

PTA members

Volunteer firefighters


Program coordinators for various events

Environmental clean-up crew members

Sport coaches

Scout Leaders

Big Brother/Big Sisters

Library helpers

Meal delivery personal for elderly

and many many others...

My goodness, the list goes on and on...doesn't it? There are many other volunteers than what I have posted here and each one is very necessary and their work is greatly appreciated. If you get a chance this week, thank the volunteers in your own life. I guarantee, they will appreciate it, and it helps rekindle the spark in them to continue when they know they are making a difference in the lives of others.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thicker Than Water

This past weekend a few of my female adult (I term I use loosely) relatives and went away for our annual shopping extravaganza. Our destination was not even 2 hours away, yet we saw it fit to require 2 nights stay at a hotel. Who needs 3 full days and 2 nights shopping? Noone, but we certainly weren't sharing that information with our husbands! It was not the shopping that we needed, it was the time together.

Being the good professional organizer, I was my #1 client for the week leading up to the trip. I cleaned out all of our closets so I had a clear understanding of not only what I needed, but what I did not need (far more important). I created my list and I was ready to go! I remind all of you to make sure you do this before you shop. It is amazing what you forget that you own!

We started this annual shopping trip a few years ago and every year it has become more and more an essential part of our summer plans. To devote a few days to yourself (money & time) is so needed. To allow yourself a little bit of what you freely give to everyone else throughout the year is so welcomed and needed. But even more important, to strengthen your family roots somehow makes your own leaves that much brighter and the fruits of your spirit that much sweeter.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Renewed Spirit of Living

On Friday I saw the news headline that Randy Pausch, the "Last Lecture" Professor, had succumbed to the pancreatic cancer death sentence that had inspired millions of people to engage fully in living life, to become an active participant. (For more info check out his website: ) My heart broke, but at the same time was filled with the memories of the words that had haunted me from his lecture and subsequent interviews. It is a harsh reality that through his family's pain, so many others received hope.

As people worldwide grieved the loss of Randy Pausch, grief hit a bit closer home to us. On the same day, my Uncle lost his father. He was the pillar of his family, well respected and loved by many. I was honored to attend his funeral yesterday. To celebrate a life now passed really helped to renew in me a spirit of living.

While honoring the life of this man, I could not help but ponder my own mortality. I don't just want nice things said about me; I want to earn great memories from others. Not of wealth and popularity, but of a spirit so filled with love for others that it spilled out in every aspect of my life. I want to live my life as a clear reflection of my priorities, so that there is no doubt who I love and to what lengths I would show it. I desire to be a great example of what I preach, that attachment to things is meaningless, yet relationships with people are irreplaceable.

For those of us who still have work to do on earth, I remind you (as I remind myself) that life is such a gift and one that comes with great responsibility. Be mindful to drink all of life's milk before the expiration date, because when the time is up... it is too late. Sure, it makes it a bit trickier when the expiration date is so smudged that it is not legible, but that is why we are to savor each and every day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Blog without a Box

I knew I wanted to put a blog on my website, but was not sure exactly what the rules were. What was the right way, and what was wrong. I started reading as many blogs as I could, to try and discern the proper blogging method. The only common thread that I could find was that the blog was a bit of an excerpt from the mind of the blogger. Just as all of us are unique; so are the blogs that we create. I have read some amazing blogs, and I have read some that caused me to scratch my head in amazement and think, “Whoa, do people really think like that?”

I guess through it all I have realized that there are no rules with blogging; an aspect that I admit I don't feel very comfortable. I like to be firmly placed inside a box of comfort and boundaries. It is not just with blogging, it is with life in general. I like to know what to expect, and know that what I am giving others will meet their expectations. That can't happen when there are no rules, can it?

It is probably no coincidence that my job is to help others put things into boxes, and place the containers neatly away. I enjoy boxes; I like the cleanliness of containerized things. I enjoy order and systems. A line is to be colored inside. It is a rule somewhere... right?
So, here it is. I am stepping out of my world of comfort and giving you an excerpt into my thoughts. In this blog I plan on sharing the everyday ways that I have found to make living my life just a bit more simplified. Organized = Simplified. Does that seem like an oxymoron to you? Do you see people who are organized as having too much time on your hands? I can share with you the secrets to doing more with less time!

Keep reading future blogs and perhaps by me stepping outside of my box, you'll find the strength to push yourself past your own self-imposed limitations.