Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter Jam 2012

Last year, we planned a trip to Winter Jam as part of Max's birthday present. He took off early from work, we drove over to Jacksonville, and took the boys to the concert. We enjoyed it...except maybe Andrew, who fell asleep during the Newsboys performance (crazy, right?).

This year, we didn't really talk about it. We had the trip to Orlando planned for Max's birthday and didn't give Winter Jam much thought....until two days before the concert. I was on the phone with Kristy (my sister, in case my two non-family readers don't know her) and we got to talking about concerts.

Long story short, I find out the concert is that coming Friday. So I say to Max (while Kristy is still on the phone), "Winter Jam is on Friday. We should go." After approximately 60 seconds of discussion, we decide to make the trip. I think Kristy was amazed at how quickly we made the decision...we're crazy like that in the Hopkins' house. :)

I would have loved to have flown Kristy down for the concert, but the airline prices were not agreeable to my budget. I have hopes for next year though.

So, come Friday afternoon, the boys and I fill the van with gas (well, I pumped while they entertained me from inside), swing by Dairy Queen for dinner and ice cream, and grab Max from work. Since we were running late, I drove while we ate and Max changed clothes in the van. Thankfully, no cops were out on radar duty and we made it safely to the arena in record time.

Unfortunately, once we got into the arena, we couldn't find seats. After huffing around for about half an hour, we find a space on the floor next to some folding chairs occupied by a line of teenagers. Max asked, and they were out of chairs, but we were welcome to sit on the floor. We had prayed about finding seats, and while these were not what we expected, they suited our needs perfectly. We didn't have to worry about anyone stepping over us, we were near a bathroom (which is always a plus) and the boys had room to spread out:

God does provide.

Max and I have always felt strongly about exposing the boys to as many Christian concerts as we can. As cheesy as this sounds, music really speaks to my soul, and I feel that there are certain truths that are conveyed a million times better by song than by the spoken word. That's not to say that our lives are completely focused on music, but I know and I see its impact on us. I love hearing the boys singing Jeremy Camp, or the Newsboys, or tobyMac. And the best part is that they know what they're singing. We have had some amazing conversations based on the lyrics to some of these songs. It's powerful.

I could go on, but I want to share some of the highlights of the concert. We were able to see Group 1 Crew, Kari Jobe, Newsong, Building 429, and Sanctus Real. I do think I was the only person in the arena who wasn't swaying to "Lead Me" - I used to like the song, and apparently, so did the local Christian stations, who felt the need to play it 27 times a day.

The most unexpected (and happy) surprise came when Peter Furler took the stage. He started off with "Shine"...and let me tell you, I was back in the '90's in a hurry. He also brought Phil Joel along - I love me some old Newsboys. ;)

He even let Phil sing (disclaimer - the videos are a bit shaky at times...Andrew was "helping" me):

This song holds a special place in Max's heart - he even remembers Josh Ricketts debuting it on their radio show in college. The song released before Max became a Christian (see how this ties in with the whole music speaking to our souls thing from earlier?), so it's kind of a big deal to us.

I really enjoyed when Peter spoke at the end of his set:

I struggle with anxiety/fear, and I really needed to hear what he was speaking (of course, it's God's can't really go wrong). It's powerful. Seriously, take 3 minutes and listen to God's truth. This is the only non-music clip I took that's that good.

The boys were most excited about the headliners...

In case you're unfamiliar with them (hi, Mom!), this is Skillet. Christian and Andrew were relaxing, watching the show (pyrotechnics = entertained boys):

Will took a more active role. Please excuse the dark video...if you squint at the lighter blob (his head), you can sort of follow his air guitar action. Or you can just wait for the lights to flash (fast forward to 20 seconds in):

I'll finish with Andrew's favorite song. Because sometimes he feels like a monster. And yes, we do have discussions about the sinful nature (see Romans 7). Because that's how we roll.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Max's Birthday Trip

 A few years ago, Max decided that instead of gifts for his birthday, he'd like an experience.  With that in mind, this year, we took some Christmas money and had a mini-vacation in Orlando.

Our first stop was Legoland Florida.  I scored some buy-one-get-one-free tickets thanks to google, and we left early New Year's Day.  The Legoland portion of our trip was a complete surprise to the boys.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a reaction shot when they first saw the sign in the parking lot...thrilled was an understatement though.  :)

Once inside, I scored a map and used my planning skills from our Disney trip to set a course for our day.  The park is a decent size...we were able to hit everything we wanted in the one day we were there without being overwhelmed.

The first stop was the Duplo Play area.  They had an indoor farmyard with slides and climbing toys for the younger set.  There was also an outdoor play area (seen below) and a couple rides.  Christian and Andrew rode the rides in this area...Will decided he was too big.  

Andrew enjoyed the stocks in the Lego Kingdoms area.

And Christian made friends with one of the guards.  Max, Will, and Christian enjoyed the Dragon roller coaster in the Kingdoms area and rode it twice.  It was behind the castle, so I didn't get any pictures. 

The last attraction the boys visited in the Kingdoms area was a jousting ride.  The kids got their own horse and went through a circuit.  Christian took it very seriously.

After the Kingdoms area of the park was the Land of Adventure.  Christian and Andrew got cozy with one of the guides.  :)

 I think their favorite part of the park was Pharoah's Revenge, an enclosed area where you could shoot foam balls at other guests.  Max and the boys got into a little battle with a family from Japan.  Random children kept shooting at my head, so I waited outside after taking a couple pictures.

Lego City was the next area of the park.  This area had a really cute show that dealt with fire safety.  We took a little boat trip...Christian had a run-in with a shark.  :)

There was a driving school for kids in this part of the park as well.  Andrew visited the junior version of  the ride while Will and Christian went to "driving school".  They did really well on the course (I have to be honest - I was nervous that one of my boys would crash into one of the other cars).  Christian drives like Max; he was super cautious and took things slow.  Will was a bit more confident behind the wheel.  I'm so proud of my guys!

We hit a pirate show...

Met up with some old friends...

And watched the 4-D show (THREE times!).  Here are Max and the boys posing by the tree outside the theater:

There's a large garden area attached to the park.  Unfortunately, we didn't hit the gardens this time, but we did take a small detour by the waterfall.  All the animals are made of Legos.

This is the second Christmas tree.  It was really cute lit up at night.

The park closed at seven, which worked out perfect for our family because we had a 40-minute drive to Lake Buena Vista.  We didn't go to any of the Disney parks, but we're more comfortable on that side of Orlando (plus I found a great deal on a hotel).

We surprised Max the next day with a trip to Dave & Buster's.  We had lunch and then spent the afternoon playing games.

Max and the boys played a group Pac-Man game and then tested their skills on a racing game...

And since we were in town, we made a side-trip to Downtown Disney.  Of course, we hit the Lego store.  They've added some new Lego sculptures outside.  I enjoyed the Snow White display:

And one last one with the Lego dragon.  We also hit the Disney's become tradition to grab some of the Goofy Cherry Sours when we're in Orlando.  I also scored some popsicle molds.  Now I need to do some pinterest-searching for homemade popsicle recipes.  :)

In the three-and-a-half years we've lived in south Georgia, we've yet to hit a beach.  Orlando we've done five times.  It's all about priorities.  :)

Happy 36th Baby!  I love you Max!

Friday, January 06, 2012

December 2011

It's a new year and all that, and one of my resolutions is to start blogging again.  I like having these memories recorded, and I'm going to really make an effort to stay dedicated.

With that said, here's a small recap of December 2011.

We started out the month by getting the boys the Lego Advent Calendar.  They were really organized and took turns opening a box each day.  I'd take a picture of the finished product, but the pieces are spread out among the boys' bedrooms now.

Rumor has it that my husband has already bought a Lego Star Wars advent calendar for himself for next year. ;)

Moving along, we also visited Wild Adventures.  I'll be honest, I wasn't as impressed with their Christmas program/display this year as in seasons past.  I'll chalk this one up to the economy and hope that next year is better.  Wild Adventures did have the s'mores station set up again...and of course, we had to stop.  I mean, who doesn't like overpriced chocolate-covered graham crackers and marshmallows?

We also baked.  And baked.  And baked some more.  And then we made candy.  Lots of chocolate went through my kitchen this year.  Unfortunately, the only pictures are of some snickerdoodles.  I think I was so traumatized by spending 8 hours (and I really wish that was an exaggeration) making chocolate covered pretzels and oreo truffles that I just couldn't stand the sight of chocolate.  Thankfully, that passed after a few hours, but I still forgot to take pictures.

Back to the snickerdoodles though.  We made about 5 batches of snickerdoodles last month.  Most of those were for a church event, but the boys still went through their fair share.  My family has a thing for cinnamon.  You should see my pantry.  Seriously.

Dad had back surgery to fix a nasty herniated disc.  After a couple weeks, he got the go-ahead from the doctor to make the trip to Georgia.  So Mom and Dad had two weeks at their house down here.  Mom, who attracts bees/wasps/yellow-jackets/anything-with-a-stinger got stung the first day down.  This is her about 10 minutes post-sting.  About 30 minutes post-sting, she called me to take her to the ER.  It's never boring in our family.

In between the sting and the ER trip, we took some pictures for our Christmas cards, which are still sitting on my kitchen counter.  One day...

Fast-forward a week, and Will left cookies and milk for Santa.  I find it amusing that Will chose the diabetic portion plate for Santa's cookies.  On a side-note, the entire mantle is full of snowmen (no, we haven't put our Christmas stuff away yet).  Snowmen make me smile...Max, not so much.  So they've been relegated to the mantle and hutch in the kitchen.  It's all about compromise.

Our tree Christmas morning.  We bought our tree to fit in our rental with 8-foot ceilings.  In the new house, we have 10-foot ceilings.  'Nuff said.  It's truly not so puny in person.  :)

Andrew's pile of gifts Christmas morning.  He got lots and lots of Trio sets.  We now have the entire Trio western town set up in our living room.  yee-haw.

 Will told us the only thing he wanted for Christmas was the K'nex Mario Kart set.  He got 3 sets plus the expansion between Max and me, my Mom, and my sister.  He was a happy camper.  The cars can be battery powered, and have quite a bit of go.  Just ask our cat.

Christian had an awesome Christmas.  He got a Nintendo ds.  He really, really, REALLY wanted a ds.  

Max and I had a good Christmas as well, we're just not captured on camera (except for a stray arm or leg).  I really need to work on that.

Next, up...our New Year's trip.