Family Fun at Legoland Florida

If you know almost nothing about our family or our son, you probably know our son is a Lego fan. He and Lego go way back–he’s got the Lego camps and Legofest and Brickfest trips to prove it, but the one thing he didn’t have was a Legoland trip.

Back in January, I started looking for a fun family trip for us to take the boy on around Spring Break. We were hoping to enjoy some one-on-one time with our guy before a baby made its debut. I inadvertently thought the days marked for standardized testing were the days marked for Spring Break, booked our trip, and never looked back. Until I did. And saw that now the boy would be missing school and I would be missing work. Oops. We kept it all under wraps until we didn’t. While we wanted it to be a surprise, we always wanted him to be able to build some anticipation and get excited. (Plus, we had already pulled off the big surprise in Cloudcroft this year, but that’s another blog for another time–like January, when we went.)

Turns out, this booking pre-Spring Break was not a terrible mistake. We flew out Thursday evening after school and work. It made for a late evening getting into Florida, but the airport was easy to navigate, we grabbed our rental car, and got into our Airbnb pretty quickly. (Not an Airbnb fan? Don’t knock it ’til you try it! We have found some truly great places to stay that way! Try it here. Referral link; you get a credit and I get a credit.) We skipped the Legoland Resort the first night since we would be getting in so late, but they were very accommodating when we arrived for our early entry (a resort perk) the next morning. We left our luggage with the concierge, headed to the resort entrance of the park, and waited for security. I read previously to start at the back of the park and work forward, so when we got in, that’s just what we did. Although we had early access to the park, the rides didn’t open until the park did. It still gave us time to get to the back and get situated before the main gates opened. We waited for the Ford Driving School first because the boy had seen something about it on YouTube and was really looking forward to it.

Once we got to the back, though, the boy was dying to get back to Ninjago World, which had just opened prior to our trip. We went on and did the rides between Driving School and Ninjago World while we were back there, but he wasn’t so sure about that idea! I think we rode Ninjago World three or more times when we got to it. (I won every time.)

We continued to work our way back to the park entrance, with plenty of time to do rides multiple times, stop and rest, or browse the shops (again, we’re talking the Friday prior to the Friday when most places’ Spring Break would actually begin). A couple of roller coasters were closed while we were there, but the boy had no interest in riding them, anyway. Mr. Gray and I made them little mini-dates!

 

When I was booking this trip, I had no idea what we were going to do after 5:00 when the park closed. Turns out, that’s what the resort is for! They completely entertain your kid until well after their normal bed time. We didn’t book the meal plan (because it was for four, and it was cheaper for us to just pay for our three meals) for supper, but we did eat there one night prior to the pajama party. They had a buffet with foods of every kind. All of us found something we were able to enjoy.

We anticipated Saturday would be a little more crowded at the park, so we took the day to drive into Orlando and watch a spring training game at ESPN World. Great venue, great set up, super hot!

We made it back to the resort for some pool time and pajama partying before heading back up to our room. (Did I mention we did the pirate room?)

Sunday morning, we headed down for breakfast at the resort and back over to the park for early entry. We didn’t go quite as early this time since we knew the actual rides wouldn’t be open early. We did go on back to the back since Driving School got fairly crowded Friday afternoon and required quite a wait. We knocked out all the must-dos first and then made our way around to things we didn’t get to Friday.

We were only in the park until about mid-afternoon. Then we grabbed our stuff from the concierge, loaded up, and headed back to Orlando. We were staying at the airport hotel to catch the early flight out Monday morning.

Overall, I don’t think we could have planned a better trip at a better time. It fun for all of us, and the heat wasn’t terrible yet, so we could do the whole day in the park if we wanted.

Things we would do again:

  • Go on a non-holiday or school break time
  • Start at the back of the park
  • Eat the pizza buffet for lunch
  • Stay at the resort
  • Book park tickets through the resort
  • Fly in the night prior to planning to be at the park
  • Not spend the extra money to stay at the resort when getting in late
  • Purchase the photo pass (and the additional day)
  • Watch the pirate show
  • Go on an event weekend; we loved the different activities for Lego Batman Movie Days

Things we would do differently:

  • Add an extra day at the resort (the boy had so much fun meeting other children and playing in the downstairs common area)
  • Check out Legoland Beach Retreat (it hadn’t opened yet when we were there)
  • Not rent a car from Budget (man, what an experience that was)

 

 

Sweet Summer!

I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t proud that the boy wanted to give gifts to his classmates to celebrate the end of their kindergarten year.

I’d be an even bigger liar if I said I wasn’t proud that he came up with his own tag for his treats–and it was perfect! He told me he wanted to give everyone M&Ms. When I suggested I could make the word summer out of the logo, he immediately said, “We could put, ‘Have a sweet summer!'”

Why, yes. Yes we could. I am just eating it up. A boy after my own heart.

However, in case that’s not the way your heart beats, I’m linking the printable for you here. Just print it, let them sign, and attach to the candy! (We printed on Avery 8376 business cards so we didn’t have to cut. Affiliate link.)

Currently…

Currently, I am winding down my first year back in the classroom full-time. I forgot what a whirlwind that can be.

Currently, I am thinking of things I want to write and share, and hoping that summer and the end of baseball season brings the time.

Currently, I am reading three or four books simultaneously, which is highly unlike me.

Currently, I am anxiously awaiting products for our June Purpose Box and our KiDS Purpose Box. I love when I am able to try something new on the business end of things!

Currently, I am counting down the days until our trip to Barbados.

Currently, I am training our donkey to come to food. He’ll be a pet donkey before we know it!

Currently, I am drying tears from reading a post I wrote last year about the end of the boy’s preschool days. I still can’t believe we are first-grade bound in just six school days.

Currently, I am wishing I had an adoption update to share or some news to pass along on that front. We are still waiting, nothing’s changed. Time is part of the process.

Currently, I am planning summer fun and trips in my head. Hoping to make some of them a reality before too long!

Currently, I am longing for the slow mornings, the warm sun, and the quieter pace of summer. While I have loved the routine school and work have provided this year, I am ready for some rest.

 

Worthy is the Lamb

Undoubtedly, Good Friday is sad. It’s a terrible day in history; one where we recount the slain Messiah. The mockery, the abuse; the sheer torture that He endured. I mean, the sun stopped shining. Such a dark day. A day when He declared, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

And while Friday is sad, indeed, it’s always Saturday that impacts me. I wake up the Saturday morning before Easter and think of how Jesus’ friends and disciples must have felt when they woke that morning. He is dead. Buried behind a heavy stone, tucked deep into a tomb, Jesus is gone from them. Sure, He told them He would conquer the grave (Luke 24:6), but that first Easter, they didn’t know like we know. (Luke 24:11)

Oh, but friends, Sunday comes! After the dark, after the doubt, after the pain, Sunday comes! The stone is rolled away! The tomb is empty! The perfect lamb. The greatest sacrifice. He is not there. (Mark 16:6; Luke 24:2-3)

Where ever you are in your dark, your doubt, your pain, Jesus will meet you there. He doesn’t need you to do anything–just receive the grace he poured out for you. A worthy Lamb. The most precious Gift.

“God paid a ransom to save you from the impossible road to heaven which your fathers tried to take, and the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver as you very well know. But he paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but only recently was he brought into public view, in these last days, as a blessing to you.” –1 Peter 1:18-20

He lives! Happy Easter to you and yours!

On Purpose

(I received products prior to making this post; all thoughts and opinions are my own.)

One of my favorite things since starting Purpose Box is discovering new for-purpose companies. Global Purpose is just that. Kaylynn and Jon Jordan started Global Purpose to help companies and artisans operate more sustainably and humanely–what’s not to love about that?

global-purpose-noondayI love that each piece is well-made and unique. I can load it up as the perfect compliment to my Noonday goodies or add the sari scarf to add a pop of color to any ol’ boring outfit! (I’d be on the lookout for it at A&M games this fall–did you see that color?) Most of all, I love that it empowers others and allows them a lifestyle that they would otherwise not be afforded.

global-purpose-bag global-purpose-bracelet

Another perk? It’s available in the HEB Blooms department, which means I don’t have to order or wait for an online shipment to arrive.

This Purpose Box journey has been one I wasn’t looking for or expecting, but it has led me to so many neat people and organizations. Truly, I have changed the way I purchase, gift, and spend money through this calling I have been given.

Find more about Global Purpose on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

When Words Escape

This place has been a safe haven for over six years. Sometimes I share a little, sometimes a lot. I don’t aspire to be the next Dickens or Tolstoy, only to come and be open and honest, sharing my heart in hopes that you (or someone you know) might see a little glimpse of Jesus, or a bit of encouragement, or even just a similarity that brings you comfort. I don’t claim to have all the answers or always know the best way to parent or how to be the best wife or the best friend. I come here for recall, as though writing in a journal.

Looking back and seeing the little snapshots of life is so good for my soul. I see times of sorrow and times of joy. I see the lightning speed growth of this little boy who is turning into a big kid faster than I care to recount–and it makes me smile. I see the first time I shared our heart for adoption, and it makes me realize that even though we are waiting–actively waiting–to complete our family that the dates go back much further than I even knew. That tells me we must be doing something right in the wait–that we must be treasuring our family of three while we have it, for once it’s gone, it’ll never be this way again.

gray-family

When I come to this place with sadness, I am encouraged by your words and responses. When I share the antics of a son filled with joy and laughter, you laugh with me. This place is my place, and although I am not always able to put fingers to keys as I would like, I always feel like I am coming home when I do.

For those who have followed along for some time, you know of our struggles to find a new church since moving back to our hometown. For others, you follow and know that we are praying and hoping for a baby sister for our boy, who will be the best big brother around. For still others, you just want to see a fun craft or recipe on the off chance that I get around to posting one.

This season of life we are in now has me feeling a little off my game. I feel like, more than halfway through the school year, I am still trying to get my feet under me. I transitioned back to full-time in the classroom when the boy started kindergarten, and while it was the best possible time to do it, it’s still a big change. I love my job. It’s still a huge change in our lifestyle. I have less time to make sure my cup is full, to volunteer, to attend Bible studies or ministry gatherings. But I get to minister. I just looks different. When opportunities present themselves, I have to look through a new lens of time constraints and priorities. Our time together as a family is much more limited, so we must make the most of the time we have. We say no to more so that we can be fully committed to the things in which we devote our yes.

So many times, I long to write, to share, to give a little tip or trick here and there, but more times, I’d rather leave my computer in the car than get sucked into the vortex. I know once I get it out, I’ll start here, leave to share to social media, mindlessly scroll. It’s not the best use of my time. I’d rather play Blitzball in the yard, drive the golf cart, or bake cookies. Plus, I almost feel like I’m at a loss for words. While our big adventures are noteworthy, our daily life typically involves much less creativity and hilarity than when I was spending most of my waking moments with a funny little guy who kept me full of anecdotes to share.

While this is still a place I come to share updates on our adoption, it seems as though we are at a standstill for now. We covet your prayers as we continue to wait. Some days it’s no big deal and business as usual. Other days, it’s hard. It hurts. I find myself rehashing missed opportunities and doubting things that God said weren’t meant to be. While I trust Him fully and completely in this–I know He knows our daughter already–I am only human.

All that to say, thank you for sharing this space with me. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for being concerned and checking in on us when things are quiet. Sometimes the words just escape.

Adventure

When we set off on our camping trip this summer, I had the word adventure on my heart. We were off for something new and exciting. It seemed appropriate. You might even remember the art the boy created for us to hang:

Interior Camper Redo RV Remodel on a Budget

Yep, adventure. Right there.

I didn’t give it much further thought, as typically happens before my word comes to me as each year draws to a close. A week or so ago, though, it hit me. That’s the word for 2017. Adventure.

Last week, after attending Revolution’s Christmas services, I posted on social media about my (continued) struggle with leaving.

One of the responses in particular caught my attention, “I admire your time out or as Christ Jesus did went into the wilderness to think and get inspired. A definition of wilderness helps in clarifying our purpose.
WILDERNESS: loneliness; doubt; darkness. Spontaneity of Thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence. MBE Science & Health PG 597″

Adventure had been stirring in my head since before this post, but in that moment, I almost flipped to wilderness, wild, something along those lines. However, I came to realize, the wilderness is part of the adventure.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." --Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9

We are still on an adventure into a new(ish) town. We are not out of the wilderness by any means in our church hunt. Our travel tastes have shifted their way into more adventuresome outings. And, of course, the biggest adventure yet: our journey to parenthood through adoption, is still en route!

JolieHeart

Reflect: Gather

2016 was the year of gather. So many times, it was affirmed that this word truly was meant to be my word this year.

"For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them." --Matthew 18:20
“For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” –Matthew 18:20

I ended the post at the start of this year with, “…let’s gather ’round for some coffee, supper, laughter, and fun!” And, boy, did we. We have gathered more in this home than in any other place I can remember in all of my life. It’s not uncommon for friends or family to just stop by on their way to or from their actual destination–and that’s saying something because we’re out of the way! People recognize our home just from photos and comment on its physical appearance and ask to stop in sometime. God has truly, truly favored this home for His fellowship.

Our ultimate goal of having a permanent gathering place to worship has still not been realized. We sort of took a hiatus from visiting churches after a time, but we are back on the wagon in search of a place to land.

God has continued to gather me and draw me into Him as we wait to bring a baby home. I would be lying if I said I thought we would end 2016 as a family of three. I honestly did not think so at all. With each passing day, each changing circumstance, God is drawing us nearer to Him and preparing us more and more for the baby that will be ours. I don’t know when it will be, or what it will all look like, but I know He is gathering the details for a beautiful story only He could orchestrate.

Gather.

JolieHeart

 

Just for fun, the top posts of 2016:

An A-Maze-Ing Christmas

This time of year is hectic, busy, and magical. The twinkle, the lights, the nostalgia. I love when the Friday after Thanksgiving comes and time to celebrate Jesus’ birth is here. We cut down our tree a day early this year so we could try a new farm; it was a successful trip. (Also, I did not go blond, contrary to what this photo would have you believe.)

We had our annual trip to Sights and Sounds, biscuits and all.

Another Sights & Sounds in the books! Love this time with friends–and FOOD! 🎅🏼🎄

A photo posted by Jolie Gray (@the_graymatters) on

Teddy Elf returned–mostly. He is kind of a slacker now that he is back to work full-time.

Seemingly most important so far, though, is our school treat creations. This year, the boy was really into helping and being part of it. He didn’t want me to just design something and tell him how it was going down before he signed on the dotted line. We worked together to create some cute treats for his friends and his teachers.

Kids Christmas Printable

I ordered mazes from Amazon, but you could grab some from anywhere that has party favors. Now, I know I usually include a printable when I share things like this, but let me tell you a little secret: somehow these are the wrong size. They’re too small. So, if you’d like the file, let me know, and I’ll resize it to send.

I think our teacher gifts are my favorite this year.

Teacher Christmas Gift Printable

I mean, really. Are these not the cutest? (Even if I do say so myself.)

The boy is ready to share them with his friends. He loved playing a bigger part in the gifting this year. He loves giving gifts, just like I do. I’m so grateful for his generous heart.