Today was a great day!

Historically I haven’t really been much of a Busch Gardens fan because A) I’m scared shitless of “real roller coasters”; and B) I tend to spend half the time comparing everything to Disney and just being perpetually disappointed.

That said, somehow the stars aligned today and what was our first of likely many visits in 2019 was actually pretty great. Granted, it certainly didn’t hurt that admission for our family of 5 only cost us about $120 … for the entire year! … thanks to a buy 1, get 1 free offer on their Fun Cards that they offered for Black Friday last year coupled with free preschooler cards for all of our kids.

We pretty much spent the entire afternoon just walking around, looking at animals, and the boys absolutely LOVED it!

I ended up with Christopher and David because Matthew was cranky and Sara was trying to get him to fall asleep, but it was pretty awesome just how engaged they were with each and every new animal that we came across – whether it was something big like the giraffes or lions or even smaller stuff like lizards and snakes and whatnot. We took a little time to learn something new about each one, and I think they really liked being able to call the shots by picking which animals we were going to check out next…

…even if I did have a hell of a time actually finding some of them!

If I had to rank our favorites, I think it might look something like this:

  1. Hippo
  2. Elephants
  3. Gorillas
  4. Flamingoes
  5. Duck fishing in the Hippo pond

After our animal hunt, we ended up over in the Sesame Street area, which I absolutely loved the last time we were here because I think that Busch just did a really great job of making it so fun and colorful and interactive for the kids.

David was still a little nervous going on rides, but he really enjoyed the ones that he could do with Christopher.

Christopher, on the other hand, would’ve lived there if we’d given him the chance, and one ride in particular was pretty amazing. He and David were going to ride their Snuffleupagus version of a Dumbo ride, but it turns out that while they were both tall enough to ride, Christopher wasn’t tall enough to supervise his little brother on the ride, so he rode by himself while David rode with Sara.

Watching that kid slowly realize that he could make the elephant go as high or low as he wanted all by himself was absolutely wonderful, even if it felt like he was literally growing up before my very eyes!

I wish I would’ve gotten a better picture of the GINORMOUS SMILE on his face, but darkness + spinning ride doesn’t make for good pictures… 😛

It was almost the same with their last ride of the night – the two boys were able to drive a car for The Count together, and boy, do I wish that I could’ve had a GoPro strapped to the dashboard to catch a glimpse into that little joy ride! 😀

On our way out, we got to enjoy the lights and Christmas decorations during their final weekend, which was a nice way to wind down the evening as we slowly headed out to the car. The kids split a couple of giant cookies, Sara and I each got to indulge in some holiday-themed desserts, and before we had even pulled out of the parking lot, two of the three kids were already fast asleep in their car seats…

Ultimately the weather was great – a bit chilly with the wind, but nowhere near spring or summer heats that make theme parks more challenging, the kids were amazingly well behaved, and it’s nice that we’ve got another option to entertain them that’s a little closer than driving all the way over to Disney World.

And I didn’t have to go on a single roller coaster!

2018 Holiday Advent Blog – Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2018 9:00pm
Tagged with:
  1. Look at the Christmas!
  2. Merry Plex-Mas!
  3. A Funko Pop Christmas
  4. The Great Hot Chocolate Quest
  5. The Gift of Water Safety
  6. It’s About Freakin’ Time…
  7. Mickey’s Very Merry Monorail Ride
  8. The ABCs of Christmas
  9. The Truth About Santa Claus
  10. Holiday Hospital
  11. Caroling a la Car
  12. Strike a Family Pose
  13. Once Upon a Christmastime at Christmas
  14. Dinner with Mickey & Friends
  15. At Home with the Animals…
  16. The Great Santa Wait!
  17. The Gift of Date Night
  18. You’d Better Watch Out…
  19. Glittery Porch Pirate Revenge
  20. How to Celebrate Without Going Crazy
  21. Best. Christmas Special(s). Ever.
  22. The Sevener Family Christmas Card
  23. More Family Christmas Pics…
  24. Putting the Band Back Together…

Christmas Day is here again.

All in all, I think we had a pretty good day. There were definitely some stressful moments, which probably should’ve been anticipated given our house with three toddlers and their tendency to fight over toys and whatnot, but there were also some really great moments where sharing surprised us, so that was nice!

It was definitely a real treat watching Christopher unwrap his brand new monorail because that kid has been looking forward to that thing all year long. We actually talked about whether to make it wait until last, but I just couldn’t do that to him after how much he’s been anticipating it, and to be honest – the kid was on cloud nine the second he started tearing the paper away…

The monorail was definitely the toy of the year for 2018 and hopefully it’ll stand up to being fought over for many months to come.

Otherwise, we just kind of hung out around the house all day with no particular place to go, so it was a nice bout of family time that we all probably needed.

With any luck, maybe next year’s festivities will be marginally less stressful, but thankfully we’ve got another 11 months at this point before we find out.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and be sure to have an extra piece of gingerbread for me!

Today was on and off stressful, as most days with our kids tend to be, but this picture represents one of the happy, little moments when everybody was in a good mood and looking in the same direction and everything!

I’m honestly not sure who gave him the stickers, or why they gave him so many, but I’ll have you know that he was definitely somehow wearing one curled up as a tail while this particular shot was taken… 😯

I don’t really like to sing in front of other people.

Call it anxiety, call it reality after my bizarre stint back in high school when for like a year and a half I was somehow the singer for the rock band I was in, but as much as I’ll sing along with the radio like anybody else in the car when I’m by myself, I normally just can’t do it with any sort of an audience – even if it’s just my wife.

Yet tonight I found myself singing Christmas carols in the car with Sara and Christopher, and it was both different and kind of nice.

Part of it was because we were desperately trying to distract David from whatever the heck he was crying about, and another part of it was sheer amusement/amazement each and every time that I looked over my shoulder to see Christopher smiling and singing along with us like he knew all of the words by heart!

Considering how much he really struggled with speech over the last couple of years, and even looking back to his end of the year program at school last year where the whole class sang a couple of songs and he just sort of stood there … it was really awesome to see my kid happily singing about Rudolf and Santa and Frosty like it was just another one of those things you do for fun at Christmastime.

…before life and anxieties convince your brain that you have no business emitting any tones other than your normal speaking voice, anyways!

It’s probably hard to tell much from the picture, but I still thought it was kind of neat to notice before going to bed for my unexpected second night in the hospital. It seems that the iconic, blue lights that run the edge of the building’s roofline actually change colors, and in fact are currently set to alternate red and green for the Christmas holiday!

Admittedly I think all of these medications and the general awesome care I’ve been getting are making me a real sap right now, but I thought that was kind of neat to see as I turned out all of my lights to go to bed tonight. 😉

Being a parent of toddlers, right now I’m more so just enjoying the kids experiencing the magic and excitement of Santa for the first time … even though Christopher is four now, I’m not sure in previous years he really understood the whole presents thing. But nonetheless, I haven’t really put much thought into the next next phase where they start to pick at the thread and ask questions like, “How does Santa Claus – who’s built like a dump truck – get down all of those skinny, little chimneys in one night???”

That said, I really liked this anecdote that Erik shared on social media the other day as an awesome way to transform the whimsical kids tale into an inspirational message for adults to lead their own lives by.

In my experience so far, a huge part of how we teach our kids to be the best people we can is through leading by example. It makes me very proud whenever someone remarks that Christopher is so polite, and a lot of that comes from him just being around me and mimicking whenever I tell someone please or thank you.

And if the idea of Santa Claus is a way to push forward those acts of kindness through the whole year by tying them to such a special, childhood favorite, well, talk about the gift that keeps on giving, indeed! 😉

TWO YEARS, I WAITED!!!

I stalked the Amazon, and Target, and Walmart websites.

I randomly showed up at stores when I heard that shipments were due in.

I even got the inside track from a stockman at Toys ‘R Us, who basically hinted that regular customers have no chance at getting coveted items when they show up six at a time and there are at least six employees who are even moderately interested in buying one.

Eventually I gave in like many others and built a RetroPie instead, and it still works great day!

And then I come across an entire stack of the things in the Nintendo aisle at Best Buy like they’re a part of some big holiday promotion or something!

So yeah, I bought one.

I don’t really need it because my RetroPie has all the games on it already, but I have the Super NES Classic and it’s a cute, little option for playing games in the bedroom late at night, so if nothing else I can set it up alongside that and recreate the nostalgic combo that got me through elementary and middle school!

Let’s be honest – I’d play The Legend of Zelda on a shiny rock if Nintendo released it; plus, all of the knock-offs … at least the ones that are bold enough to be sold at the freaking mall … kind of drive me nuts.

I still think it makes a cute way for my generation to relive the classics – especially if they’re not necessarily geeks and don’t want to jump through hoops and whatnot.

Swim lessons are expensive for three kids, but it’s nights like tonight when I’m beyond satisfied with the investment we’re making in these crazy, little swimmers.

The swim school that we’ve taken the boys to basically since Christopher was born does this program twice a year called Water Safety Week – during which instead of their usual lessons, every kid wears their normal clothes into the pool and gets taught at their level about the core basics of keeping themselves safe around around water. They spend some time in the pool so that they’re not foreign to the shock of being in the water with their clothes on, and then they all try on life jackets and float around the pool in the most adorable choo-choo train formation you’ve ever seen in your life!

They also take a few minutes to talk to us parents about the importance of using safety features with our pools at home and having designated watchdogs when attending or hosting a party where kids will be in or around the water. Some of the statistics shared are just terrifying – apparently in Florida alone, we’ve lost 86 kids to drowning this year … which is the equivalent of four preschool classes of drownings on average each year.

Fortunately, they say that swim lessons reduces the risk of a child drowning by 88%, so that’s something to help us sleep even just a little better at night.

Plus, the kids all just absolutely love their swim lessons, and it’s always fun to watch them trying out the new things that they’ve learned and being pushed towards new skills in an area that I myself very much struggled with growing up, and honestly still kind of do!

Plex has become a mainstay in our home over the last couple of years, expanding from only housing our movies and TV shows to also include educational programs and songs for the kids, series I’ve enjoyed and wanted to archive off of YouTube, and now … Christmas movies, too!

This is a little project that I’ve wanted to do for a while because previously all of our holiday shows were scattered throughout the regular movie and TV libraries, which are then separated by adult and kid content, whereas I always thought it would be nice around the holidays to have a dedicated library where you could look through only the Christmas stuff when you were sipping hot chocolate and looking to get all jolly and bright and whatnot.

There are a couple of different ways you can do it…

  • Create a separate folder and copy all of your holiday movies and shows into it, then add it to a new library dedicated to holiday shows … but this takes up twice as much space.
  • Create separate TV and movie folders for Christmas movies, then add them to both your existing libraries as well as your new holiday library.
  • (my choice) Create a new folder for Christmas shows and point your new library at it, then create symlinks to all of the media in their original locations.

This last option ended up working out well for me because it saved me from shuffling a bunch of files around, plus it gave me a fix for an unexpected problem that arose from certain Christmas specials that are normally organized under TV shows…

See, with the main Christmas library in Plex defined as a Movie library, it doesn’t find a metadata lookup for Garfield – S00E06 – A Garfield Christmas.mkv. The nice thing about symlinks, though, is that the linked name doesn’t need to equal the source name, and so I’m able to turn the TV-friendly filename into something that the IMDB can actually recognize like this – A Garfield Christmas Special (1987).mkv.

The command I used in Linux to create these links looks like this (executed in my new Christmas movies library folder):

ln -s "/path/to/TV Shows/Garfield & Friends/Specials/Garfield - S00E06 - A 
Garfield Christmas.mkv" "A Garfield Christmas Special (1987).mkv"

I’d say it took me maybe a couple of hours spread out over several sessions of searching through each library for the shows & movies I wanted, then copy & pasting the links into a Terminal window to create each symlink. The result is a nice, clean library with nothing but Christmas, and if I need to hide it away come January 1st until next season, that’s easy enough to do, too. 😉

Tonight we put up our Christmas tree, as people often do when the calendar slips over into December and the official countdown is finally upon us.

Also tonight, Christopher ended up going to bed underneath the Christmas tree, so here’s to hoping he doesn’t wake up in the morning wondering where all of his presents are!

I think this is going to be a really fun year for celebrating Christmas.

Money has been pretty tight this year, so we’re not exactly splurging like we tend to do around the holidays (or in general, really), but the spirit of the kids seems to hold a unique promise of joy all on its own. Earlier this week as we were leaving swim class, Christopher saw a bunch of lights across the street and exclaimed, “Deeda! Deeda! Look at the Christmas!”

And it was absolutely adorable. 😉

So tonight we started decorating the house and got the tree put up. The boys then proceeded to decorate the tree with their cars, after which we had a fake snowball fight and listened to Christmas music and they jumped around like crazy people until bed.

We’ve already started threatening that they need to be extra good if they want to get something under the tree from Santa … so we’ll see how that pans out!

And tomorrow, in theory, we’re putting lights up outside … because several of our other neighbors already have and I feel awful that we’ve got young kids and haven’t even put up our lights for them to gasp at every time they come home yet.

Hopefully I’ll be able to find it in me to blog all of the fun this year. I know that I’ve kind of slacked with my advent blogs in recent years, but I’d really like to get back into them, and besides, I’m soooo close to hitting 1,000,000 words on this blog that I figure if I can advent blog the entire month, I should just about hit it!

These kids aren’t going to be little, adorable toddlers forever – better blog these holidays while I can… 😉

© 1999 - 2019 Comedic-Genius Media, All Rights Reserved.