Once upon a time I blogged at the end of every day. I carefully documented our mornings, afternoons and evenings. I made up cutesy post titles and skipped more days between washing my hair than writing a blog post. 

I miss having all that time to write, but this season of life is filled with less babies and more big kids. Those big kids do things like read books and tell stories and request that I check homework or help them with projects. I would love nothing more to write and tell stories and create sentences with my words that make meaning for others... but for now I will relish the time in between the tender and the tired and live the life that otherwise I'd simply write about. 

So with that... here are random pictures from the last two weeks or so telling a tiny bit of our great big lives!

We met with our favorite photog/friend to snap some fall pictures. I am the least sure that I've ever been about how these clothes will actually mesh together... 

but I'm 100% sure that I am in love with the models!

Don't tell Radley I posted this one!

Kindergarten is full of "family projects" and this pumpkin is always a fav. We used the advanced "tissue paper" technique. Landry cut out half of these squares and glued 100% of them down!

Our CAMP teachers are fantastic about documenting days and lessons with each grade. Kinder was learning about quarter notes and a familiar face popped up on my feed!

This is how Emmy does Landry's gymnastics class. Some weeks she's practicing spelling words and some weeks she's leading the younger siblings on a journey. Either way, she makes sure to take plenty of breaks to cheer on her sister!

Radley and I took a quick trip to Florida last weekend...

You could say that we were in Hogwarts Heaven.


Favorite shirt...

favorite treat...

favorite bathroom sign...

favorite 10 year old!

We had an awesome welcome crew that were all pretty pumped about their souvenirs! 

I was pretty pumped about the one I bought myself, too!

And that's us in an instant!


Welcome to Hogwarts...

Sunday morning started dark and early - we were out of the hotel by 6:45am. The plan was to stop next door and grab a quick breakfast but we all know how plans go. Radley COULD NOT wait to get to Universal, so instead, we headed to the park. (Our hotel was directly across from Universal so the walk took about 15 minutes). I was happy to get there early so when the gates opened we could head straight to Diagon Alley. I didn't realize that our express passes got us into the park EARLY so we just kept scanning our tickets and they just kept letting us further and further into the park.

By 7:30am this was our view!

I need to confess that I was so nervous about this entire day. I wanted him to just LOVE everything and have the BEST time. You may or may not know this, but I'm **kind of** a control freak and I was nervous because I couldn't control the crowds, or the weather, or how the rides operated that day. I couldn't control the lines or whether or not he would get picked for something fun. 

As you probably know, this was just INSANE for me to worry about. He got exited about seeing a DOOR y'all (12 Grimauld Place to be exact) and was even more ecstatic when Kreacher popped into a window. 

Yeah... the day was going to be just fine. 
(Please note, that the shrunken head talks back to you - he may have been my favorite). 

And then we turned a corner and we were there.

Like really THERE.

Imagine your very favorite book. You've thought about the places and the people, you've imagined what it may feel like to live like the characters. You've thought about which character you would be. Now imagine being able to just pop into those pictures as if Mary Poppins herself added some magic to your life. 

That was our day. 

He got to walk in the pictures of his favorite books.

First stop... Ollivander's to get this wizard a wand.

I made an intentional decision to not bring my "big" camera into the park. Partly because the day called for scattered thunderstorms and partly because I didn't want to be so caught up in "capturing" the moment that I completely missed the moment. I'm so glad that I let this need go because I just walked with him while he went through all the wands instead of making him pose next to all the wands. (He was pretty glad I didn't have that big camera, too). 

Wand in hand, magic done and off to Gringotts. 

The attention to detail in the park was incredible. The goblins at Gringotts were SOOOO realistic and interactive and clearly awesome. And the rides are so well done, I mean even the 3D glasses were wizardfied. 

He was ready to go again as soon as we got off!

By 10:30am we gotten his wand, ridden a ride, walked around Diagon Alley and decided on all the souvenirs he wanted to buy...including his top picks from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. 

He was ready to get on the train and head to Hogsmeade. 

Note: that dragon caused more small children to scream than I can count. I'll be honest, the random shouts of terror were almost comical because you could tell that these kids were not expecting to look up and see a giant beast that actually breathes real fire. 

Next stop... 

and we were there!

So many people told me "make sure you watch for the platform or you will miss it!!" so I was basically in panic mode as we entered King's Cross. I walked up to a nice gentlemen and asked:

Me: Where do we go through the brick wall?
Employee:  in realistic British accent Excuse me, mum? A brick wall?
Me: in Texan Yes... to get to Hogsmeade...
Employee: Hogsmeade? What's that, mum?
Me: You know... to go to Hogwarts?
Employee: A brick wall? No idea...

Y'all... he would not drop character and it took me forever to figure it out. Luckily I picked up on it and then he politely told me I couldn't miss it... the thing is you don't see yourself going through it, you have to be looking for the well placed window pane. The line was not crowded at all and the people behind us were super sweet and let me record Radley walking through and before you knew it... we were at Platform 9 3/4. 

And it was every bit as awesome as we knew it would be!

Hogsmeade was fantastical! The crowds were still pretty slow, so Radley wanted to go straight to Hogwarts for the ride. 

Basically how he felt all day long. 

We put our bags in our lockers and were on the ride within 5 minutes.
So we rode it again.
And then again.

And then I said... "Buddy, I am dying from hunger and I'm dizzy. We have to eat."

So I bought him a frozen butter beer and headed to lunch.

He bought an interactive wand and had the best time making magic happen all day. Witches and wizards were on hand throughout to help the newest students perfect their technique. You had to be really exact with placement and motion to make it work and Radley got really good by the end of the day.

Diagon Alley closed at 5pm so we hopped back on the Hogwarts Expressed and headed back for some shopping and the best ice cream I have ever tasted in my life. Seriously, Blue Bell needs to come out with Butterbeer ice cream!!

My favorite part of Diagon Alley may have been Knockturn Alley - hidden next to The Leaky Cauldron we missed it the first time. We spent nearly an hour walking through, testing out his wand, looking at creepy dark magic stuff in Borgin and Burkes before heading out to make his final purchases. We got all of his "school supplies" including extendable ears, pigmy puffs for his sister, a coffee mug for me and a brand new Hufflepuff hat and bid Diagon Alley adieu. 

We really wanted to take Hagrid's motor of choice but got on the train instead. 

We had three hours left to do whatever he wanted. We ventured out from Hogsmeade and rode one non Harry Potter ride and he insisted that we go back and just enjoy it all over again. I love that he was so excited. I love that he chose exactly what he wanted to do and soaked up every single minute of the experience. I love that this place was really just as magical as we both wanted it to be and I especially love that we got to enjoy it together. Just us.

As we were enjoying dinner at the Three Broomsticks we looked outside and noticed that it hadn't just started to rain, but down pour. Y'all - so much water. I had purchased some cheap ponchos at Academy that fit perfectly in my purse so we were all set to head out and make the most it. 

We headed back to the castle for one last ride before the park closed. He just didn't want it to end. We stalled and walked slowed and when he finally realized that the day was over, he teared up and just said, "Thank you, Mom.... thank you for reading the books with me...and watching the movies and taking me here to see it all. This has been the best birthday ever!"

I would read every single page over and over again. 

A ton of people have asked for my tips/suggestions... so here goes:

1. Buy an express pass - worth every single dollar. We waited less than HALF the time the regular lines so we got to ride his favorite rides over and over and over again. 
2.  70% of the entire park attendance felt like it was at HP. If you choose to venture out you can probably ride tons of rides in under 2 hours. 
3. Buy the interactive wand. We did this early in the day and Radley had so much fun with it. You can purchase basically anywhere in the park. The line in Ollivander's was long even early in the morning, so you could skip the "experience" and just purchase a wand if you choose. 
4. You can mail letters FROM Hogsmeade. We didn't realize this so if you're going, then I would order Harry Potter post cards and have them pre-written with postage and then just get them stamped and mailed there. We purchased postcards (only sets of 10) and stamps were only sets of 20. He used these as his thank you notes for the people that gave him trip spending money!
5. Don't bring a giant bag. We were just fine with my cross-body purse. I was able to put plenty of snacks in there and didn't have a hard time shoving my bag into the lockers. Most of the rides require you to stow your belongings so having a giant backpack would have been cumbersome.
6. iPhone pics work just fine.
8. Eat the Butterbeer ice cream. Twice.
9. Talk to the people in line. We met the nicest people and had the best time while we were on the train and waiting. Don't be shy!
10. Go through the long line at Hogswart once. This was the last thing we did that night so the line wasn't long at all. The express pass takes you on a short cut THROUGH the castle so you miss alllll of the amazing detail that goes into Hogwarts. Take a slow stroll through and enjoy every single bit of magic. 

This trip was fantastic for 100 different reasons. The most obvious being I got to spend two whole days with my not-so-little boy. I got to soak him up and let him in and just listen to all that makes him tick. I got to just be. I wasn't worried about the perfect outfit or stopping for a million pictures. I just let the day happen. I was present. Not perfect. And that made all the difference in the world. 


Travel buddy...

The time had finally arrived for Radley and me to head out on our big trip! We were up dark and early on Saturday morning (4AM) to catch our flight to Orlando. This kid could not stop smiling and I was just as excited to spend time with him. At some point I realized that this may be the longest time we have spent together just the two of us since Emersyn was born - maybe even longer. I try to take as much one on one time as I can with the kiddos but three days of just us is hard to come by.

Perks of flying as a kid...I thought about trying the same thing but I doubt the man next to me would have loved my head in his lap. ;)

We didn't have a solid plan for Saturday because I knew that we'd be up early and also had a LONG day planned on Sunday. We talked a little on the plane about things he wanted to do but he mostly just wanted to gaze out the window, read his book, and listen to music. He may be the best travel partner ever.

We grabbed our rental car at the airport and I'm not sure how Ryan managed it, but we were given a brand spanking new BROWN Infiniti. And yes, it was as ugly as it sounds, but Radley's FAVORITE color is brown so he was so excited and could not get over that the car only had 13 miles total on it.  We plugged in our destination and he lead us to our hotel. He was an AWESOME navigator and only got one little thing mixed up but in his defense it was pretty confusing and he's 10. Our rooms weren't quite ready but we were both starving so we grabbed lunch and made plans for the day. First item on the agenda: naps. Ha! 

And then the fun began because with all that new energy we were ready to check out Wonderworks

As we were waiting in a line a woman already inside asked if it was just the two of us; when I replied yes, she handed us a voucher for one ticket. I mean, how awesome was that!? Definitely a sign that this weekend was going to be as awesome as we hoped. 

This place was just FULL of fun. Awesome science experiments, cool exhibits, crazy discoveries. Everywhere we turned we saw something fun to try.

We played for about three hours and managed to do everything twice - and I even splurged and bought these awesome pictures because, obviously.

We headed to Disney Springs for dinner and were on the hunt for some seafood. We landed at the Boathouse and were not disappointed. I think we would have been happy eating nothing but their fresh rolls. But honestly, the best part about dinner was just hanging out with him. We say outside on the water and watched a rainstorm roll in. We talked about what he was excited about for the next day but we also talked about life as a 10 year old kid. 

Then we lived life as a 10 year old kid and headed to the Lego store.

He wanted to take these home.

We grabbed some dessert, walked around and then headed back to the hotel because the next day was going to be long. Awesome, but long. We were ready to rest up for the fun that was yet to come!

Travel with your kids. Be silly. Let them have fizzy drinks and fancy desserts. Listen to them talk. Ask them big questions. Let them play navigator and don't stress when you get lost. (It's just part of the adventure). Don't just watch them have fun - fun in. Wander. Oh, and try not to cry when he grabs your hand on the walk home.