April 22, 2014

34 and Big Spring.

So!  Thursday was my 34th birthday.


And instead of having a nice normal day like I was supposed to I decided you know what?  Screw reason!  Screw logic! Screw naptime!  It's my birthday and it's the perfect spring day out so we're going somewhere fun! So I went straight from the preschool pickup line to my favorite Cleveland Spring Event:

 Big Spring at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Big Spring 2014

We had a little time to kill before meeting our friends there so we took a little walk around Wade Oval:

Dinosaur outside of the Natural History Museum
Such a beautiful day!

Wade Oval

 The kids were thrilled to be out and about:

Big Spring 2014

And Big Spring is just so much fun:

Big Spring 2014
We mainly just let the kids play in the outdoor garden pretending to plant things and water things and dig in the sand and dirt:

Big Spring 2014
Big Spring 2014
Big Spring 2014
So much fun!

Big Spring 2014
Big Spring 2014

Although the little guy was not happy I wouldn't let him army crawl all over the place:

Big Spring 2014
So he hung out on some logs for awhile:

My little guy
I'm so glad that I decided to take them.

Big Spring 2014
Big Spring 2014

Even if they were asleep before we were on the shoreway:

Big Spring 2014
3 kids asleep at the same time!  This NEVER happens at home.
I really needed that fun adventure. 34 was a birthday that for some reason really got to me.  The number just seems a lot older than what I feel.  Plus 33 had a whole bunch of really neat numbers associated with.  It's multiple of 11 - my lucky number, I had my 3rd kid at 33, my 9th anniversary was on the 9th, etc.  34 doesn't have any pluses other than that it's a year older.  Blah.

My girl took me to a ballet on sat to celebrate my birthday. #hbd #stevensonpartyof5
On the other hand, though.  33 was easily the toughest year.  I was either super pregnant with 2 little ones to chase or was home with 3 children under 4.  Neither of which is an experience I have any desire to repeat OMG.  Just making it to 34 is monumental.

Big Spring 2014
Pictured:  Way more small children than I have hands for.
But I think it has more to do with life changes and less about the actual number.... haven't had one bother me since 28.  In retrospect that's hilarious - I thought 28 was old!  But between 28 and 29 I got pregnant, had a baby, and quit the job that I thought was going to be my long-term career.  So yeah... I had a right to feel like things were shifting.  And I feel that way now.  We've been in this cycle of pregnancy / newborn / baby since 2008.  That's as long as it took me to get a masters degree!  I can barely even picture a world without any of that baby insanity.  But this is the year that we become the parents of school aged children.  Pretty seismic shift in priorities/lifestyle.

I think 34 is going to be ok. #hbd #stevensonpartyof5 #thisis34
Probably my last birthday feeding a baby a bottle.  Next year this guy will be almost 2.
I'm excited for it.  We have a whole lot of really fun years ahead with this crew.  34 is just the beginning.  I think it's going to be a good year.

Disclaimer:  Tickets were provided to Big Spring.  All opinions and stress over getting older are my own.

April 4, 2014

Captain America in Cleveland!

So!  Captain America:  The Winter Soldier releases tonight!  Which is exciting to me because most of it was filmed in Cleveland.  Even more exciting?  I inadvertently got to watch a crazy intense day of filming because of when my son was born.

Wait... what?

See they filmed for a day on the bridge across the metro parks on Lorain road.  It's a pretty neat looking bridge and with the forest underneath I can see why they picked it.  But the bridge is literally RIGHT NEXT TO the birthing wing of Fairview Hospital - where our little guy was born on June 13.  Their big film date?  June 14.  Yup.

The day that we were in the hospital just hanging with our newborn we got to watch this happen:

Captian America in Cleveland
Pictured:  Captain America, his stunt double in the superhero suit, and his motorcycle.  YES.
While in labor I had quite the chat with my delivery nurse about how neat it was that they were filming in Cleveland.  And how the hospital staff had to use a different entrance tomorrow because of filming.  And how the birth wing would be able to see alot of what was going on.  Clearly this was not my first time at the rodeo.

So After this little guy was born happy and healthy:

Captian America in Cleveland
I - with an hour old baby in my arms - asked the nurse if she could hook us up with a room with a view.  She was all over it.  Our view was fantastic:

Captian America in Cleveland
The motorcycle the actual movie star rode on pulled by that crazy truck/camera thing.  We watched it drive back and forth across the bridge several times.  The trailer in the background is where Chris Evans hung out when they weren't filming him.  YUP.
People were stopping by all day just to watch the filming.

I took a ton of photographs.  But since I had a newborn and THREE KIDS OMG once I got home I never got around to posting them.  I figured with the movie releasing tonight it was a good day to finally post them!  So here we go.  A Captain America via Fairview Birthing Center photodump:

PicMonkey Collage
Really early in the morning we watched them raise this giant green screen with a crane.  Then the stunt man on the motorcycle in the Captain America suit drove across the bridge in front of it a whole bunch of times.  Sometimes he had the shield, sometimes not.  From the stills of the movie that I've found I'm pretty sure they used the green screen to add in this:


Here's the crowd gathered to try to get a view:
merica filming in Cleveland

This is what they were trying to see:
Captian America in Cleveland
The shield!!!!  It's Captain America!!!!
Here you can see them setting up the shot.  The truck pictured above is on the left with the Captain America motorcycle behind it.  He's partially hidden by the trees but that's Chris Evans:

merica filming in Cleveland

Here's them filming. The car is driving across the bridge towards us.
Captian America in Cleveland
Here's one of the cars set up for filming... and wait... is that Buckey?!

Captian America in Cleveland

 It was such a cool thing to see.  I can't wait to see the movie!!!!

Happy Friday, Everyone!
Captian America in Cleveland
Extra fun bonus picture.

April 2, 2014


So!  We went on vacation!  And it was fabulous!  We've been home since Sunday morning - after leaving the Spanish moss, 80 degree weather, and vague swamp smell of Savannah to drive overnight through a straight up snowstorm in West Virginia.  I am nowhere near recovered.  Reentry is hard - yo.

I didn't quite feel like I was home until I saw the lake. It unfroze while we were gone!  Just a few hunks of ice left. #happyinCLE #lakeerie #thisisCLE #greatlake #cleveland #spring
Look the lake mostly unfroze while we were gone!  Yay?
But!  While I'm still digging myself out from a pile of laundry and mail I don't want to get caught in the trap I usually get caught in with vacations.  Where I'm overwhelmed and then never post anything (see also:  our trip to North Myrtle Beach, etc.)  So while I still have to finish going through the 1500+ photos that we took I wanted to throw a few up here. Because one thing is standing out to me:  the looks on my kids faces:

My children have turned into fish. #stevensonpartyof5
So much joy!  So many happy memories!  So much fun!


All three of them grew up so much in the span of the week and a half that we were gone.  A bit of fresh air and sunshine and they are all about an inch taller.  And much healthier looking.  Also covered in freckles:

Tampa Day One.
Since we've been back the dude has expanded his imagination by leaps and bounds.  He used to go along with whatever pretend play his sister had concocted without really being aware of what they were doing.  But now?  He's the YES, AND to her improvisations.

St. Augustine
I have to think that has something to do with spending time in a place driven by imagination.

Dreams are real here, folks.
And the little guy!  While we were gone he learned to point at things that thrill him and clap hands whenever he's pleased.  Again, not a coincidence:

Hollywood studios
At the fantasmic show.  He pointed and made happy baby freaking out noises the whole time.  Until the snake.  Then he grimaced and snuggled into Matt's chest.  Amazing how some things are so visceral.  Snakes = BAD NEWS.

And my girl!  One amazing moment from a trip of amazing moments was when she saw this sign:

She was SO EXCITED that the sign said Stevenson. "Is it talking about me ?!?! " #stevensonpartyof5 #savannah
"IT SAYS STEVENSON!!!!!!  Is it about me?  What does it say?  Why is it talking about Stevenson?"

Travel is so good for kids.  Just getting them out of their comfort zone for a bit expands their horizons so very much.

We improvised,  enjoyed each other's company, spent over 40 hours in the car, told the real Jake that we named our car after his ship, spent time with family and friends, and tried so SO many new things.

Hollywood studios
Overall it was wonderful.  Hopefully I will post more detailed stuff soon.  But until then:
My pirate crew in a real pirate town. Beware the Spanish!  #stevensonpartyof5 #staugustine #florida
My pirate crew in the town of St. Augustine where we went to a festival and a reenactment at a real fort, a pirate gave the kids gold doubloons and told them to beware the Spanish, and we found a pirate flag for Buckey.  All of it totally unplanned.

March 20, 2014

Disney Vacation Planning.

So!  We're throwing all three kids in the minivan and taking them on a road trip to Disney!

You don't get more American than that, folks.

And alot of my friends have been asking about the how.  About the details.  About what the plan is.  Because when you're even considering a Disney trip you want to have a plan.  So I thought I'd write up some of our thoughts and decisions.
Look!  A pinnable image!
I have no idea if they are amazing or terrible or not as this is the the first time we're doing this.  But I have done ALOT of research.  Pintrest, ftw!

Also because I"m not capable of posting to this blog without way too many pictures I thought I'd throw in a little Throwback Thursday action.  Sprinkled throughout are photos from the last time we were at Disney.  In 2003.  For our class trip with the UC Masters of Architecture class of 2004.

Disney 2003
A picture that I will absolutely be retaking for comparison purposes.  Here we are 23 and engaged.  Now we are 33 and have more than doubled our little family.  Heh.

10 things about our Disney Plan.

1.) We are not rich.  We are also not doing the Disney the cheapest way possible thing.  It seems like every one of the tips I've read makes me think "Right.  I'd do that if I had ALL THE MONEY" or "Yeah I'm SO not dealing with that nonsense."  Bottom line we are a normal family who wants to take a normal vacation without either selling our soul to the mouse via $250 tea with a princess (an actual thing) or scrounging for meals comprised of rolls and stolen condiments (an actual frugal Disney tip I've read.)  NOOOPE.

disney 069
As long as we can go to the haunted manor I'm good.
2.)  Our kids are 5, almost 3, and 9 months.  It seemed like there was a perfect storm of reasons to go RIGHT NOW.  Not the least of which is the fact that kids under 3 are FREE.  Yes.  FREE.  So if we went literally a month later it would cost us A LOT more.  And the 9 month old is in the baby sweet spot between being a newborn and a toddler. Also our daughter is right at the point where she's starting to question all of it.  She asks me all the time "is this real?"  She wants to know why she can't have actual pixie dust but doesn't believe that the characters on Jake are people.  It's a delicate line.  One that she'll be across before we know it.  And once past the point of believing seeing the characters won't be nearly as thrilling.  So we wanted to do Disney once while all of our kids are still in the little kid who believes in magic category. 

disney 083
Honestly I'm a little disappointed he didn't mimic the lobster claw jazz hands.

3.)  We are driving.   Flying with a family of 5 would cost 1 BILLION DOLLARS.  So that's not happening.  The plan is to do as much of the driving as possible while the kids are asleep.  Nighttime driving is our friend.  Luckily our good friends live literally at the halfway point.  Like not even remotely out of our way and directly in the middle almost to the minute.  So we're going to break up the trip and spend a day with them in Charlotte.  Also YAY WE GET TO SEE OUR FRIENDS!!!!
Disney 2003
Some friends!
4.)  We are only going to the parks 2 days.   Ok with Disney there is ALOT to see.  So much to see.  SO MUCH to do.  And while I totally want to see ALL OF THE THINGS!  I know that little kids can only handle so much.  Hell parents who are hauling around little kids can only handle so much.  And 2 days out of the week we're traveling seems reasonable without being insane.

disney 070
Another picture I feel we should recreate.
 5.)  We are only going to Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.  This was an easy decision.  Magic Kingdom is clearly is a must.  And Hollywood is where the Disney Jr stuff and the Cars stuff is.  Obviously we need to see Jake and my 2yo boy is Cars obsessed.  So that was a must as well.  Epcot is worthless unless you are drinking (pro tip from my Florida friend).  Plus it's ALOT of walking.  So even though that's the only place the Frozen princesses are (BOO HISS) it was pretty easy to let it go.  Natch.

disney 175
But the jumping fountain!  My kids won't get to play in the jumping fountain!  aaaaaand over it.
From what I remember Animal Kingdom is a glorified zoo that smells like... zoo.  To be fair I was SO SO SO hungover on the day we were there in 2003 thanks to spending the previous night at Downtown Disney.  But we have a great zoo here in Cleveland that doesn't cost Disney money.  Pass.
disney 171
This is the only picture I took at Animal Kingdom other than a really blurry one of an alligator?  Probably an alligator.  I don't know.  I spent the day wishing I could lie down someplace darker.
6.)  We are not staying onsite.  I know.  I KNOW.  Everyone who knows Disney is all STAY ON SITE YOU HAVE TO STAY ON SITE OMG WHY ARE YOU NOT STAYING ON SITE?!!!  Here's the thing though.  Their Value Resorts are just glorified motels.  And I do not understand how the logistics of that could work.  I mean do we just go to bed when the kids go to bed?  That's fun.  And what happens when the little guy gets up in the middle of the night?  We all get up, too?  That should make for some well rested and ready to go kids.  Bottom line:  Staying in a motel room with 3 little kids didn't sound like a vacation no matter how nice the theme.

Us with our pile of kids at the St Patrick's Day parade yesterday. #happyincle #thisisCLE #stevensonpartyof5 @verozarc
Too many people to put in a motel room.
You know what does sound like vacation?  A 3 bedroom condo with a private pool.  And access to the resort pool and splashpad.  And it's own washer and dryer.

A happy baby w spinach on his noes. OH THE CUTE. #baby #8months #stevensonpartyof5
What.  I would never create any laundry that needs to be done OMG NOW GROSS ICK ICK ICK.

7.)  We are doing some character dining but not breakfast.  From everything I've read the little kid version of Disney needs to include some character dining.  This is supposedly the best way to meet the characters and there's tons of options out there - you can even have dinner INSIDE the castle (see also:  ALL THE MONEY).  Most of the character dining events are breakfast but as my Disney expert friend warned us "You guys are going to be pist if you spend $100 on eggs"  TRUTH.  So we're doing the Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner.  I figure we're going to eat dinner out anyways.  And it's at one of the resorts so it's a way to get in an extra bonus Disney day without paying for another day of park admissions.  We gave this to my daughter for her birthday - along with a belle dress to wear to it - and she LOST HER MIND:

I'm really looking forward to it.

8.)  The plan for the Magic Kingdom is to leave at naptime.  Maybe. So rumor has it that the Magic Kingdom is not very magical around 3:00.  Instead it's filled with overtired, overstimulated melting-down kids at what should be naptime.  I have no desire to be the parent of three such horror shows.  So the plan is to leave after lunch, drive back to the condo (only a few miles away), and nap until dinner.  Then go back to the park for the nighttime stuff - the electric parade and the fireworks where Tinkerbell really flies!  Obviously this plan is subject to change and I understand the logistics of getting out and back into the park are daunting and involve the monorail.  We'll see how it goes.
disney 086
And look how pretty the castle is at night!

9.)  The plan for Hollywood Studios is to white knuckle it through a day of no naps:  So Hollywood is all about the shows.  There's a Muppet show!  And a Stunt racer show (McQueen makes a cameo and the Dude is going to FREAK and it's going to be so awesome)!  Our thought is that the kids will have enough downtime to make it through the day without napping.  HOWEVER.  We def. want to go to the Fantasmic show (MALIFICENT!)  that night.  So once again we'll see how it goes.

Disney 2003

10.)  We're going to get the kids "first time visitor" badges.  So yeah.  There's these badges you can get at Guest Services that say "First Time at Disney" and with them everyone gives you extra attention.  Goes the extra mile to make your day that much funner.  YES AND MORE YES.  We will be getting one for each of our kids.

disney 072

So yeah.  I think it's going to be a really great trip.  If anyone has any other tips that I'm missing please do tell.  Clearly I'm new to this game.

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