A List Maker's Life

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventures at #UniversalOrlando

As a family of readers we love getting caught up in a great story.  Sometimes the characters are so well developed their emotions are felt deeply, in real time.   The author pulls us along on a roller coaster plot ride.  Some plots are predictable and the endings just as perfect as imagined.  Other times the conclusion leaves us wishing for a choose your path option like the books we remember from middle school - the books written from a second-person point of view handing over the role of protagonist to the reader, giving choices to determine the main character's actions and the plot outcome.

Universal Orlando puts exceptional detail into each of the stories it retells through their action packed attractions.  No matter the story, one can not help but get caught up in the elements.  Throughout the parks they have also built in opportunities to personalize the plot, change the course, and choose your own adventure!

Disaster Ride
Our family really enjoyed Disaster Ride.  It is described as a major motion picture starring you! Each group entering Disaster Ride has a unique opportunity to be involved in the action and production of a feature film. While I am convinced Kevin would have made the perfect hunky, strong guy he unfortunately was not chosen this time. Part of the ride is a humorous demonstration of behind the scenes creating of outrageous movie effects, but it ends with an actual runaway car ride through earthquakes, floods, and fires. Screams of fear or screams of laughter?  You won't know until you get into the movie!

Gringott's Goblins
While waiting for the incredible Escape for Gringotts experience visitors weave through an elaborate re-creation of the inside of a magical bank.  If your family is anything like ours, you will be too caught up in the chandeliers and marble floors to even realize this choose your own ending option.  After the fact we learned, if you strike up a conversation with the bank's head teller you may be surprised to hear him answer your question.  Each unique question receives an equally unique & appropriate answer. Spend the rest of your time in line contemplating how Universal made the talking goblin magic possible.

Men in Black: Alien Attack
 We lost count of the trips collectively taken through Alien Attack.  Every ride through Men in Black ends with a different outcome.  The number of passengers per vehicle, the speed of the trigger fingers, and the accuracy of aim alters the score and accolades in the final moments of the ride.  Collaborating with others his age in the #FamilyForward crew, Gavin continually improved his game by figuring out secret spots and tricks to aide in his promotion to professional MIB agent status. For our younger children, the creepy aliens were just outrageous enough to not be frightening. Fire up and save the planet or stand down and submit to the scum?  Dun, dun, dun...

High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Ride
This attraction provides a great overview of Seuss Landing from high above (and through) the roof tops.  While it is obvious there are two separate tracks, the kids did not know until they tried both the tracks not only follow different paths, they tell different stories.  A simple switch from the ABC Line to the Star Line will change the adventure and the ending.  High in the Sky Trolley is by far the most talked about favorite from our three year old theme park go-er, and our whole family enjoyed the view from a cart with just enough speed to catch some wind in our hair. "Again! Again!"
Hogwarts Express
Being careful to not give away too much of the magic before you are able to experience it for yourself we will keep this one short and sweet.  Be sure to travel both to and from Diagon Alley for two unique experiences.  The destinations are not the only difference on the round trip train ride. Aren't you curious how Universal replicated the famous Platform 9 and 3/4?  We were too!

Interactive Wands
Throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, Potter enthusiast have multiple opportunities to change the story, the characters, the displays, and the problems with a flick of their interactive wizarding wands.  In addition to being the perfect souvenir, the interactive wands have the potential to provide a day's worth of engaging in the story.

The Knight Bus
While visiting Diagon Alley strike up a conversation with The Knight Bus driver. Each conversation is authentic, individualized, and entertaining.  The Shrunken Head is a humorous and quirky conversationalist as well. Not only will you create a new dimension to the Harry Potter experience, you will walk away from The Knight Bus with silly stories to tell and a case of the giggles.

Are you ready to get in the story?  Have you visited Universal Orlando?  What Choose Your Own Adventure moments drew you in to the story?
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Show Stopping, Jaw Dropping #FamilyForward Moments

This year Mom It Forward blew us away with another amazing Family Forward Universal Orlando Adventure.  There are so many notable moments, but I wanted to share a list of the top show stoppers
Happy Flash Mob
In a theme park as exciting as Universal Orlando everyone's focus is driven toward riding the next great attraction, meeting the next fun character, and getting quickly to the next express line. Yet, a crowd of hundreds milling around and breaking into a groove upon the first beat of Happy by Pharrell is still a significant attention grabber.  We loved the unique opportunity to learn this dance from a group of Universal Creative Team dancers, as well as a crew of dancing minions, before heading out to the street with our performance.

Diagon Alley: Gringott's Dragon
The newest addition to the Harry Potter experience at Universal Orlando is Diagon Alley.  There is so much to explore in this back alley of London and we have a huge list of memories from our private evening in Diagon Alley, but the Jaw Dropping centerpiece is the famous Gringott's Bank topped with an impressive fire breathing dragon.  The life like dragon caught us off guard with every one of his frightening roars! (side note: each roar was appropriately followed by one of Gabe's impressive screams)

Croc on the Loose
Dr. Brady Bard and the team from National Geographic Kid's Animal Jam joined Family Forward for an informative and engaging presentation on the difference between crocodiles and alligators.  The kids were loving it, in fact the crowd was following Dr. Bard around the room captivated by his every move.  After each child had a chance to safely see the crocodile up close, Dr. Bard explained, once on their backs crocs find themselves very vulnerable and act paralyzed.  This particular croc must have wanted to shake things up a bit and so it did....by defying his norms and leaping off the table into the "pied piper's" captive audience of little ones. Yes, this really happened.  For the record I didn't run, but I may or may not have grabbed a 5 year old and jumped on top of a banquet table

Blue Man Group
Talk about a SHOW!  From the time you are seated until the final curtain call #BMGOrlando is 100% entertaining. The crowd is engaged.  The paint is flying.  The music is loud.  The happy hormones leave everyone with wide smiles. One might think the show has peaked, and the 10 year old boys in the audience could not possibly laugh any harder, when the dancing blue men begin to list 100 different words for their shaking heinies.  No, it is not the end, they finish off the show with the most amazing display of floating lights, bouncing balls, and streamers.  Streamers galore!  Watch out Halloween, the Blue Man Group is on the short list of family costume ideas.
30,000 Give Kids the World Stars
Decidedly, the most moving moment of Family Forward '14 came on our tour of Give Kids the World Village.  At the center of the resort is The Castle of Wishes.  Every child whose Make a Wish gift has brought them to the village is given a star to shine forever in the bell towers of the castle.  Our tour guide reported the 30,000th star was hung this summer. Staggering statistics, but at #GKTWVillage the focus is on making happy memories for families instead of focusing on the sad in each story. However jaw dropping the request from the kiddos retreating at GKTWVillage, the volunteers are taught to never say "no!"  As a result, they serve a whole lot of ice cream for breakfast ;)  While the property, the volunteers, and the offerings here are remarkable everyone reiterated they "would love to close GKTWVillage down tomorrow if it meant there were no more sick children.

Looking forward to sharing more about Family Forward's Choose Your Own Adventure moments soon!

Has your family ever seen the Blue Man Group? Have you ever explored Animal Jam's Kids' Community? Do you know the difference between an alligator and a crocodile? Are the words Gringott's and Diagon Alley new to your vocabulary? 

Have you had any show stopping, jaw dropping moments this week?

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fight or Flight? I Do Run, Run!

Every year as the August days creep by it happens.  Seems to start with a little knot and a few bizarre dreams.  It doesn't take long for it to turn in to a full on fight or flight scenario.  We run.  I plan as many adventures as possible to fill the diminishing daylight hours.  We enjoy a week Up North escaping all routines, technology, and commitments.  This year we kicked it up a notch with a 10 day family Florida road trip - quite purposefully planned to end less than 12 hours before the school bus would arrive in our neighborhood.  If we skip the open houses, miss the orientations, opt out of the kinder camp, and forget about the practice bus ride just maybe none of it will be able to happen after all. 

My not so subconscious thoughts reign.

Sensibility knocks just enough to prompt the laying out of first day outfits, setting of the back to school breakfast table, and celebration of School Year's Eve before running far and away.

  A good thing, I suppose, because this still happened...
...like whiplash.

Our family of 6 vacationing together for 3 weeks, then BAM! 3 of my favorites in a new school. A kindergartener I swore I would never let out of our nest.  I hate it. 

Thankfully, they think it is the best change we have ever made AND they have loads of amazing August memories to get them through until next June.
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P.S. In my continued stat of denial I will likely fill this space with Orlando adventures in the coming days.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The M.I.N.I.O.N. Manual for Building a Super Hero Family

If you've paid any attention to pop culture in the last 4 years you know Minions as denim overall-ed, gibberish speaking, dance loving, mayhem making, Pinterest project inspiring, banana eating, yellow critters.

If you have actually enjoyed watching the Despicable Me movies you know these same endearing and energetic Minions play a significant role in helping Gru and his three adorable orphan girls become a Super Hero family.

The Minion {Mini} Manual for Building a Super Hero Family

Mix in a Moment of Magic
Something as simple and silly as a jump in the lake with your clothes, or a dance party at bedtime, might be the magic to keeping a family moment alive in your child's memory for years to come.

Involve Everyone
Make plans and start conversations where family members of all ages and abilities feel included.

Notice Preferences
Figure out family favorites and find ways to incorporate each person's wishes and desires when possible.

 Intentional or Impromptu
Some of the best family memories emerge from last minute "let's go!" moments, yet intentional tradition building fosters a live long love for "home."

Overcome Obstacles Together
Encourage one another as you weather a storm, make something creative, solve a problem, or conquer a fear.

Nibble Now & Then
Many family traditions include a special restaurant, salad, or dessert.  Enjoy!  Intentionally eat as many meals together each week as possible.

Serve & Share
Seek out meaningful ways to serve a mission or another family significant to yours.  Share time, a hug, a meal, a smile, or even a...

                                                      {M.I.N.I.O.N. Check.}

You're well on your way to building strong traditions, making a minion million family memories, and becoming a Super Hero Family!
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P.S. Our family is counting down the days until we join Mom It Forward, at Loew's Portofino Bay Hotel, for #FamilyForward '14!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Label {or Lose} It

Disclosure: kidecals provided complimentary product for the purpose of sharing their site with the readers of alistmakerslife.com.  Any opinions expressed here are unbiased and based on personal experience.

Popsicles, wild flowers, neighborhood friends, tree forts, and learning to ride a two-wheeler.  We are happy to enjoy every fleeting minute of freedom before settling into the school year (although, occasionally reminded to check the ads for necessary classroom supply bargains to tuck away in backpacks).  Last night my neighbor joked we might need two large plastic bins in the side yard to dump toys, hoodies, shoes, lunch dishes and a million other treasures into to trade back all that has been left in the wrong homes during summer play.  Evidently, I have four loves who could use a little help keeping track of their own things when they are too busy having fun! Had I discovered kidecals earlier this season, Gibson might actually still have 2 flip flops that match in his basket full of summer shoes.

When we do switch gears, and head back to the classroom, we need a system for making sure we get through the winter with a complete pair of gloves and boots.  In addition to a mini lecture on responsibility, we are giving our sweet Kinder a little advantage to keeping track of his own things.  Gibson will know which water bottle, pencil box, book, and rain suit are his at all times because they are going to be labeled with durable, washable, and waterproof labels (which just happen to be designed with our favorite team's colors in mind - Go Hope!).

Based on my own highly scientific, firsthand, research I know classroom teachers will return appropriately labeled items to their rightful owners 100% of the time.  Unlabeled items end up in lost and found - and eventually donated  - about 99% of the time.  Staggering statistics, right?! ;)

kidecal labels are printed on premium quality removable vinyl with a non-residue acrylic adhesive. Ideal for delicate surfaces. Ideal for avoiding the lost and found box.  

In addition to name labels for classroom supplies and clothing, kidecals has customizable options for organizing, canning, sprucing up a computer workstation, and decorating.

Currently their site has an offer for 15% off your order when you sign up for their emails.  Shipping is always free!
To learn more about kidecals or connect with them online visit them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

summer fun list '14

marble mazes
garage sale
orange leaf
outdoor movie
art camp
street performers
Fly in for Fun summer kick-off party
glow stick games
attend a festival
character mysteries
backyard bonfire
pick blueberries
lemonade stand
bike parade
day camp
visit a state park
Kids Rock Camp
sock bubbles
bake lemonade cookies
shaving cream bakery
public art display
farmers market
swim in a pool
build a bow and arrow
paper mache sailboat race
nature center hike
bean mosaics
exploding Coke experiments
ABC photo scavenger hunt
play date with school friends
This week we plan to cross off a few more summer favorites
as we enjoy our first full week of summer vacation!
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Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Important Thing About Easter

Easter is important.
It is all about God's son.
Jesus died on the cross.  He rose from the dead.
Jesus IS alive!

Since he is alive again everyone can see him someday.  When Jesus died on the cross they were all really sad and when he rose again everyone was very happy.  Even I am happy he rose from the dead.

Jesus had to die for all our sins.  When he rose again our sins are gone so now he will always be with us.  Then everybody can go to heaven.  What Jesus did makes me feel excited.  I wonder why Jesus is so big? The song at church says Jesus is wider than the whole universe. Maybe he had to be really big to cover all our sins.

~Rev. Gibson

He come'd alive!
Praise him with the rock guitar.

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