Monday, June 26, 2017

Rockstar Weekend

I've never been good at concerts.

I mean, I've only been to a small handful of them in my life, but every time I find myself watching the people there as much as, if not more than, the performer on stage.

I think, maybe because I have trouble "letting go".

Here's a for instance:

You know when you're at a concert, and the person on stage yells "Are you guys excited?!" and you're supposed to scream something back at them...

No matter how excited I am, whatever leaves my mouth (if anything) in response to that question just doesn't sound natural. It sounds... pained.

Have you seen those videos of vocal goats? That's me trying to fit in at a concert.

I don't yell good.

I'm not a "yeller".

Don't get me wrong, I love music. I listen to it when I shower. I listen to it when I draw. I pay extra to not listen to commercials on Pandora when I'm driving.

I've just never been good at concerts.

I say all of that, because this week Shelly and I went on our anniversary date to see Chris Stapleton in Tulsa.

Now the concert, was amazing.

Not a real fan of country music myself, I was a little hesitant about how much I was going to enjoy the evening (even though I knew my wife was going to have a blast, which made going exciting anyways) - but this guy is legit.

Regardless of the genre, there's something about listening to an artist who's truly talented, doing something they're passionate about.

I don't like country music or concerts, and this guy put on one hell of a country music concert.

Couple that with the enjoyment of watching someone I love enjoying something she loves - and we had a blast.

At the concert however, I saw a LOT of people who are "good at" concerts.

Even in our little section (up in the nosebleeds), people were singing their hearts out, screaming at the right times, and - in the case of the highly inebriated girl sitting next to Shelly - dancing to nearly ever other song.

Seriously. It was hilarious.

As she drunkenly swayed back and forth in her goin' out dress, Shelly leaned into me at one point and whisper/yelled "Her fringe keeps hitting me!"

Oh, what a strange problem to have.

But still, it's amazing to see how much people can just let go in a situation like that - truly living in the moment.

I envy that.

There was a guy there two seats ahead of us who was up on his feet more often than not, singing his heart out and raising his lighter to his favorite songs.

At one point, Chris and his wife covered the song "You Are My Sunshine", and this guy was just... there.

Fists in the air, he belted out every single word with them in a way that I never thought I'd see a grown up commit to such a simple song.

I commented to Shelly "If they play Bicycle Built for Two, this guy is going to lose his mind."

But all in all, the concert was amazing. Before things got started, we met up with my friend Amanda and her husband Mark - and Shelly saw a few people there that she knew as well. Tons of people came out for this thing.

(Including a large man with a foot long beard in a Punisher shirt and Superman belt who REALLY wanted to get in a fight when someone dropped their beer on him. Admittedly, they dropped it from two stories up... but still...)

At one point, Chris asked the crowd to turn their phone's flashlights on (this generation's lighter in the air) and the arena LIT UP. Quite a sight to behold.

Due to the high number of people we thought might turn out, we opted to take a Lyft from the hotel to the concert. In what I thought was clearly one of my brighter moves, we avoided traffic and paid 12 dollars for the ride there instead of 10-20 in parking alone.

What I didn't know was that there are also "prime hours" on services like Lyft and Uber where due to the high volume of rides requested, prices go up by 600%.

The 12 we paid to get there made me feel like a genius.

The 60 we paid to get back... didn't.


The day after the concert, we went to IHOP for breakfast and then went and got "anniversary tattoos". 

True to form as a sappy couple, Shelly and I have our own "cute" way of telling each other (and the kids) "I love you". 

Years ago, one of us pointed out that "I love you" in sign language resembles the letters J, m, and l. Over time, "I love you" was shortened to "Jml" for texts, greeting cards, and short messages. 

For our fourth anniversary, we decided to get Jml tattooed as a fun way to commemorate the event. 

Interestingly enough, JML also happened to be the initials of the artist who worked on us. 

Deep down, I wondered if he thought we were stalkers he just hadn't ever noticed before. 


Saturday night, we drove to Tulsa and met my parents, brother, and soon to be sister in law for dinner at Texas de Brazil (a Brazilian steakhouse) and the comedy club. 

The steakhouse was something else. 

Have you been to a Brazilian steakhouse? Basically it's a carnivore's dream. 

They give you these coins for your table - everyone gets one. One side is red, which means that you're either eating or not hungry at the moment. Flip the coin over though, and servers that walk the restaurant will come by offering you cuts of whatever meat they're carrying.

They had multiple types of steak, chicken, bacon wrapped jalapeños, and sausages. 

They also offer a gigantic salad bar, which I've heard referred to as a "rookie mistake". 

I mean, why fill up on lettuce in a place that literally serves all-you-can-eat steak. 

... Please don't reference this blog if you ever hear me griping about my weight. 

After the restaurant, we went across the street to The Loony Bin. 

There were three performers that night, and while they were all great - the first one (and host for the night) stole the show. 

Well, he may have tied with the HORRIBLY drunk girl behind us that ran her own commentary for the length of all three comedians. For the uninitiated, comedians ask a lot of rhetorical questions. 

She answered every single one of them. 

And - while I've spent at least 30 minutes on Google trying to find the stellar comedian's name to share, I've been completely unable to. 

Maybe my memory's getting bad. 

Maybe it's because Kelsey and I ordered drinks that came in mini-pitchers. 

... the world may never know.

That night, after the comedy club, we went back to Mom's house in Sand Springs, played games, opened birthday presents, and watched Netflix. 

To cap off the night, Adam asked me to be the best man at his wedding this August. 


At the end of it all, it was a whirlwind of a week. 

Had a great anniversary trip with my wife, got some special quality time with my family, and did a lot of fun things that I hadn't done for some time. 

This week, I'm out of town for work. 

I'm sure I'll have a lot of interesting things to talk about when I get a chance to settle back in next week. 

Now, I'm going to wrap this up and then go out for my birthday dinner with Shelly and the kids. 

They're taking me to Buffalo Wild Wings. 

Seriously, why am I overweight??

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day

My whole life, June has been a very busy month. 

When I was a little kid, it was because my little brother, mom, dad, and I all have June birthdays. 

Now, it's also got two of my best friends' birthdays, Father's Day, and my wedding anniversary. 

Suffice to say, while it's a busy and (sometimes) expensive month, it's also a very fun one - all things considered. 


This week Shelly and I celebrated our fourth anniversary. 

Four years ago I married the love of my life, and the crush that I had on her back then has only intensified since then. 

Being married, like so many other worthwhile things in life, is very challenging. It's not enough to just love someone - or to want someone to love you back. You have to actively work together to make a marriage work. 

We fight, we gripe, we frustrate and often want to shake the hell out of each other - but at the root of it all through those times, we know that when the dust settles, we still want to be us

And that's a powerful thing. I think, because people are imperfect. 

We both know that we have bad days (also bad habits, memories, and baggage) - so when they happen, we tie ourselves to the nearest solid structure like Bill Paxton in Twister and wait for the storm to pass. 

Because on the other side of the scale from all that bad is a world of wonderful things that we both have together - and that side is always heavier. 

People always say that they married their best friend, and I get it. 

And, while we typically go spend the night in Tulsa for our anniversary, this year we had to put it off for a couple of weeks because of work and a couple of other responsibilities. Thankfully though, this year our Tulsa trip also contains a Chris Stapleton concert - so expect to read about that in the near future. 

(One of my anniversary gifts from Shelly was a keychain with the coordinates of where we first met - at the conference table where I interviewed for my first job in the mental health field.)


This weekend we went to a good family friend's house for a cookout. 

When I married Shelly, meeting her family was a bit overwhelming - strictly due to the sheer number of individuals that meeting her "family" entailed. 

It wasn't until after we'd been together for some time that I realized many of the family I'd been meeting weren't biologically related. 

There were "cousins", "uncles", and even "brothers" that while they weren't related by blood - they had been around for so long that they were counted as family. 

Suffice to say, it took me a long time to get to know everyone - but now that I have, with the size of this group, there are always things going on. 

The cookout was a blast, though - minus the flies. 

In addition to having fun whenever we go to Brad and Tanya's house, I have to say there's a part of my brain that freaks out whenever their son is home from college. 

Rocky has spent the better part of his life collecting video games, so his room is like a shrine to electronic entertainment. He has nearly every system ever made with a ton of games for each setup. Inevitably, any time we go out there for an event, a handful of us always end up in Rocky's room playing some game together. 

It's gotten so predictable that whenever Shelly looks around and realizes that I'm missing from the conversation, she just knows that I'm off playing games with the rest of the adult children. 

(When we got home, the kids wanted to try crawling from the trunk of my car into the front - something they saw as we were putting lawn chairs in at the end of the cookout.)


Other than that, it was  pretty uneventful weekend. 

The thunderstorm that nobody expected threw off my plans to mow; so we stayed in and spent the majority of the weekend acting lazy. 

We finished the new season of Orange is the New Black. I caught up on Better Call Saul. I played some xbox with my friends. 

All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend. 


Today though, is Father's Day. 

Father's Day has turned into somewhat of a bittersweet day for me these last couple of years. 

Being a step dad, it's hard to know what role to play on Father's Day. 

Due to Shelly's custody agreement, the kids always spend the bulk of the day (or at least the first half) with their biological dad. Thankfully though, he and I have always had a functional/respectful relationship - so he always brings them home with time for me to spend with them. 

I don't speak of it often, but my own dad and I had a falling out a couple of years ago. After a series of disagreements and fights, we decided to cut ties and I haven't talked to him for two years this month. 

Father's Day is hard, because it always reminds me of what could be. 

I made the decision to sever that relationship after it became clear that it had become toxic - and while I didn't make the decision lightly or flippantly, it's been really hard for some people to accept for what it is. I get told to "Just call him" regularly, but in his own way - he's made it clear that he doesn't want a relationship either. 

I did try to write him a letter a few months ago, but he didn't reply. I've learned second hand that he's quoted me as saying hateful things that never left my mouth (or entered my mind) - and two weeks ago I learned he tried to block my contact from my grandmother's phone so I couldn't talk to her either -which was pretty much the last nail in an already airtight coffin. 

As a therapist, I know that sometimes you have to cut your losses. Sometimes when a relationship becomes unhealthy, you do more damage trying to fix it repeatedly when damage is done. 

When I married Shelly and inherited two children in the process, the world became that much more real - and that much scarier. I'm still the same loving person that I was before we got together - but my priorities have shifted in a way that I'll do anything to protect the people I've promised to care for, and things that threaten them or their happiness have no place in my life. 

...long story short, Father's Day is kind of a rough day. 

Last year I got drunk and watched Netflix all day feeling sorry for myself. 

This year, I decided to spend the day doing things that were more fun. I played xbox, opened gifts from Shelly and the kids, called and talked to my step dad (seriously one of the best men I've ever met) and my grandparents. I worked on a page from the book I'm half way through, and I also took a nap. 

(Seriously, between my anniversary and Father's Day, I got some amazing new t shirts.) 

We also rented and watched Big Daddy (which the kids hadn't seen) and I took Jade to the store to spend some money she had earned. 


This evening, we met Shelly's parents at Braum's for a Father's Day dinner, and now we're home relaxing and preparing for the week to start. 

This week we've got the aforementioned concert on Thursday night, then we're spending the night in Tulsa and doing anniversary things while we're there. Next weekend we're meeting my parents and my brother and his fiancée in Tulsa for dinner and some form probably either a movie or to go to the comedy club.

I'm speaking to a group this week about a therapy group that I put on at work, and then next week I'm actually going out of the state for a work training. 

So, while the next couple of weeks are going to be hectic - there's a lot of opportunity in there for some fun and memorable experiences. 

Wherever you are as you're reading this, I hope that your day was beautiful, and spent with someone you care about. While not every relationship in my life is perfect or the way that I'd have it if given the choice, I do have some amazing people around me to help the bumps and bruises make less of an impact. 

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there. See you guys next week. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Empty Spaces

If you didn't notice, there wasn't a new blog on Sunday.

This is mainly because Shelly and the kids left to spend the next four days at church camp, and I spent the better part of the day playing videogames was in mourning because the house felt so empty.

In truth, the last couple of weeks have been very eventful, and I guess it's time to sit down and document them. I see now why I started writing once a week - because experiences are easier to recall when you're only working with seven days' worth at a time.

I think to really do this blog justice, we need to start last week.

Or, in other words...


Sorry, I just really wanted to draw a Doc Brown Alex.

There was honestly no other reason.

A lot has happened over the last week and a half though, so instead of inundate you with a rundown of every little thing - I'm going to hit the highlights:

Last Monday night, we went to Shelly's parents' house for her niece's birthday party: "Julia's Facetime Party".

With her sister living in North Carolina, we had dinner and dessert on our end, and sang happy birthday to her niece over facetime.

Before dinner, Jade and I played with the chickens outside. Jade likes to see how close she can get to them before they run away.

They're pretty cool chickens.

Tuesday night, Shelly left to go to Oklahoma City for work. Jade had a much harder time with this than Jaxon.

I ended up taking the kids to the park to play tag, and then out to dinner at the restaurant of their choosing.

Thankfully, my kids are cheap dates, and we ended up going to Taco Bell.

When Shelly got home, Jade threw her (with help from Shelly's mom, Diane) a welcome home party - with indian tacos, chocolate dipped strawberries, and a strawberry cake.

Jaxon mostly played with the balloons.

I mean seriously, she went all out.

Over the weekend, Shelly and Jade went to the grocery store, and Jade came back pregnant with a watermelon.

I downloaded a new app called Prisma on my phone that makes your photos look like digital paintings. I've been having a lot of fun with it. Mostly, I just like the way it makes my beard look.

...and that catches us up to this week.

Shelly and the kids went to church camp Sunday night, and stayed out there every night until today - Thursday. While Shelly would come into town every day for work, the kids stayed out there 24/7.

I have to admit: at first, having the house to myself was nice. It was quiet, I didn't have to compete for bathroom time or internet bandwidth. I didn't have to worry about the kids arguing, or what to make for everyone's dinner.

Shelly, on the other hand, had a bit more unpredictable and hectic week than I did.

At one point, she texted me a picture of herself, drenched, after she tried to fix a broken pipe in the girls' shower.

I Prisma'd it.

So yeah, my week alone in the house was relaxing and peaceful. Until it got dull.

I realized pretty quickly how much I like having my people here. I like the structure of our nights, and the sound of others in the house.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed living alone when I was single. I never got lonely or bored -

- But now, I think I've grown accustomed to chaos.

Today though, the kids came home.

I got home from work, eager to hear about their weeks. Eager for hugs, and eager for noise in the house again.

... and then came home to this:

I guess it's been a long week for them.

So I guess that's it for now. I'm writing this, waiting for the kids to wake up so I can hear about their week away at camp. Tomorrow's Friday, and we start a whole new week in a few days.

I've got yard work planned for the weekend, and not much else.

This blog has been more of a hodgepodge of thoughts and images than it has been a cohesive commentary on our experiences - but that's pretty appropriate for my life.

It doesn't always fit perfectly in it's box.

Until next week.

Monday, May 29, 2017


I know they say you can't go home again. 
I just had to come back one last time.

- Miranda Lambert

Who says you can't go home? 
There's only one place they call me one of their own.

- Bon Jovi

To be frank, this week was quite exhausting.

I spent the better part of it on call for work. Being a therapist who works primarily out of the emergency room and urgent care, being on call typically means I only get called in if there's a patient who is either suicidal or homicidal, and the ER staff isn't quite sure how to field the problem.

Thankfully, most cases like this are pretty straight forward - someone comes in in distress and the ER staff (honestly amazing people) help them find a hospital bed where they can begin working with a counselor and psychiatrist to address whatever the problem may be.

This week, there were a handful of cases that walked through the door that however, weren't straight forward - and I ended up getting called in.

...and while we still don't know everything about mental illness, my 9 years in the field have taught me that if you're on call, you're more likely to get called in once the sun goes down.

I very quickly regretted taking so many on call shifts this week. I had taken Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. When I hadn't gotten called in by Friday, I made the mistake of considering myself lucky.

I was at the hospital from midnight until 2 that night. Then again at 10 the next morning to sign some paperwork - and again at 5 that afternoon.

Never consider yourself lucky when you work in a hospital.

Either way, between the ER staff and me, we got the patients that needed help taken care of, and I was able to mow the yard and take care of a couple of other things around the house I meant to do (namely, finished 2 pages on the Cherokee children's book) before Sunday hit - because Sunday, I was headed to go to Bartlesville to help my parents move to their new home in Sand Springs.


Have you ever heard a turtle having sex?

It's honestly one of the strangest, most adorable sounds you'll ever hear.

If you haven't, let me enlighten you:

I mention that because apparently, it's turtle mating season. They were on the road EVERYWHERE as I made my way to Bartlesville. Every time turtle mating season hits, I can't help but think that every cute little turtle I see making their slow trek across a busy road is in a relative hurry to get somewhere to make this sound. 

Nature is magical. 

I ended up stopping to take a picture of this guy because he was the biggest non-snapping turtle I'd ever seen in the wild.

When I finally got to Bartlesville, I was happy to see that about half of the large things that needed to be moved had already been moved.

My little brother Adam had gone down on Saturday and helped with the first gigantic load.

We worked for the better part of the day getting things boxed up, hauled out, and neatly stacked in the rented truck that my parents had - which, moving with my engineer step dad was an experience in itself as our versions of loading a U-Haul truck were very different.

I'll give you one guess as to whose version took longer and was more strategic.

Towards the end of the day we actually made the trip - my parents in the truck with their two dogs, and me in my car with Jack, the cat.

Now, I'm not one to believe in conspiracies, but when they were able to fit two dogs in the truck with them, but offered that I take the cat - I should have known something was up.

That cat bitched the whole way.

The. Whole. Way.

I mean honestly, it was like riding with banshee. I talked to him. I patted the crate. I took slow turns, and tried to drive as smoothly as my car would let me. 

At one point, I even tried to sing to him - I think because I spent too much time around Disney princesses last week. 

He wasn't having any of it. 

He didn't want to be in the crate. He didn't want to be in the car. 

...and he was going to make it known. 


I was thankful that I got there before Adam had to head back to his home in Topeka. Apparently his fiance's work had a dinner that he needed to go to that evening, but I still got to see him and he was able to stay around long enough to help us load some stuff, and then to join us for lunch at Simple Simons.

I miss that kid, I truly do.

I thought about that a lot this weekend, mostly while I was in Bartlesville helping box up my mom's house. Family really is a funny, hard to define thing when you think about it.

Ordinarily, you start your life off with people that you grow accustomed to. These are the people you learn to socialize with, you learn to love, and the people you use as a point of reference for most other relationships in your life.

But what happens when things change?

Growing up in a blended family has always made it tough to describe my "family". I've had siblings at times, been an only child at times, and acquired new siblings as an adult. The home I grew up in went away. Most of the people I grew up with did the same.

Even now, I'm married and raising two children whose births I wasn't present for.

But still, I've never felt like I didn't belong somewhere.

I've never felt like I didn't have a "family".


So then, what does that word really mean? How can you describe "home"?

For me, it's less about the definition and more about the feeling you get when you're around someone. It's about the connection you feel to a person, and the capacity to which you want them to be in your life.

When I call my step dad for advice, I don't feel like I'm asking a friend. I feel like I'm asking a father.

When I spend time with my kids, I don't feel like I'm watching another man's children. I feel like I'm with my guys. Two of the few people in this world that I'd die for if it meant keeping them safe.

Family isn't about someone having your last name, or living under the same roof as you. Sure, that can be part of it - and often times, it can make it easier to build a relationship or find things you have in common - but it's not crucial.

It's about knowing someone, but still wanting them around. Letting them see you when you're hurt or scared, and not feeling vulnerable. It's about loving someone and putting them before you when it counts.

It's a few of the people I grew up with and a few of the people I've met along the way. It's the woman I married and those that came with her. It's my friends, my coworkers, and even a few of my neighbors.

To me, that's family - and my family is huge.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Disney World

*This blog is most likely going to run long for sheer volume of things I want to document. If you're looking for a short version of our trip, check out the facebook page for our photos to get an idea of how we spent our week.

You know that old joke, "I just flew in from ____, and boy are my arms tired!"? Right now, I can totally relate.

We got back from Florida late Saturday night (technically Sunday morning), and I've been in recovery mode ever since. Exhausted, slightly toasted - with sore feet and an aching back. But, as it turns out, the well of sympathy is pretty much dry when you ask for pity after spending a week in Florida.

Nevertheless, vacation is over - and it's time to get back to the normal swing of things.

But first, let me tell you about our trip. I tried to take pictures when I remembered - and I'm inevitably going to forget or leave something out, but here's the gist of our last week:

A week ago, we woke up at 3 on Saturday morning and headed to Tulsa.

Unfortunately, we started our trip by finding out that our house (well, really our garage) had been egged - and I couldn't help but think that with our being up so early, we probably didn't miss the culprits by very long.

That would have been interesting, walking out of the house with suitcases in hand only to find some teenagers chucking eggs at our house.

Either way though, when you're headed to Disney World, very few things can break your good mood. This wasn't one of those things.

Our flight went smoothly for the most part, however we did hit a bad spot of turbulence each way. I'd never flown with the kids before, so it was a bit of an experience watching them react to scary flying weather. On the second flight though, the Delta plane we flew on had screens in the back of every seat with a huge selection of movies and games to watch or play. Genius.

We ended up getting to Florida early that afternoon and were bussed immediately to the hotel where our luggage would soon join us. My step dad Warren, who planned the trip, wanted to get in as much Disney time as possible - so that meant hitting the ground running.

But that being said, I have to point out how cool it was to have a Pirate Room. I may be biased, but a ship bed is by far cooler than a race car bed.

We spent our first half-day there at Epcot, and let the kids get their feet wet a little, opening them up to the experience in front of them.

I think one thing we hadn't accounted for however, was just how BIG everything is there.

Remember when you were a kid, and you were excited about something? You'd look forward to it for weeks and then when the day came you'd be mostly prepared for the thing you were excited about. With Disney World, that's pretty difficult to do.

The kids had a hard time deciding what they wanted to do first because surprisingly, "All of the things" isn't easy to coordinate all at once.

Thankfully though, we have great kids and for the most part this week they were able to agree on close to everything, so everyone ended up getting to do what they wanted to do.

After our first half day at Epcot, we retired to the hotel - already exhausted. However, while our room had two full sized beds, Jade decided that she didn't want to share a bed with Jaxon because "He kicks!"

... and so began her nightly ritual of making a cot on the floor because sharing a bed with her brother was way worse than sleeping on the ground.

The room was super though, and we found ways to live together in close quarters for the entirety of our stay there. While Jaxon spent most of his free time there watching Hulu on his phone - Jade fell in love with the magnifying mirror in our bathroom. She ended up putting on multiple shows for an audience of herself in this mirror.

I'm thinking it would make for a good birthday present in the not too distant future.

Also, funny moment from the week: Our bathroom had one of these in it.

Have you ever seen one of these in the shower of your hotel room. I just assumed that everyone knew it was a clothesline that you could put towels/swimsuits on during the day. There was no part of me that thought it would be a mystery to any of my traveling companions. 

Shelly and wanted to know why we had a bell in the shower. 

I was more interested in who they thought would answer a bell in the shower if they runt it...

Day two was Hollywood studios. Basically, everything there is related to the movie side of Disney. The rides and shows are all based on things we had seen time and again - and that made for some really exciting experiences.

While I was hoping to see Marvel represented there a bit more, the nerd in me was still excited at just how much Star Wars there was. I mean, it was everywhere. From the merchandise in the stores to the hourly storm trooper marches that took place down the middle of the park - it was awesome.

I did realize while there however that I've not done my job as a father and a husband when I realized that none of the people I live with have seen Indiana Jones. We went to a stage show there, and while the kids and Shelly loved what they saw - most of it was lost on them because it all correlated to scenes from the first movie.

I mean honestly, the kids I can get. I just haven't shown them the movie.

...but Shelly? You honestly wouldn't believe how many "classic" movies she hasn't seen.

It's overwhelming.

Day three had us at the Animal Kingdom. While there, we went on the safari where I spent more time watching Shelly get excited about how close we got to certain animals than I did looking at the animals themselves.

I'll tell you, if you go to Disney World - get the meal plan.

We started the trip by getting these super hero style wrist bands, each personalized with our favorite color and name - and those wristbands are your key to everything. Literally, you just put your hand up to the hotel door and it opens if you're wearing one.

On the meal plan, you get so many snacks, so many quick meals (fast food type services), and so many dining credits (where you have a waiter and a table).

I say all of that to say that while the food at all of the parks was great, the snacks at the Animal Kingdom were amazing. I got loaded french fries with tzatziki sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes - and I've been thinking about them ever since.

Every day we would use our snack and quick meal credits throughout the parks whenever we got hungry - and most nights we'd use a dining credit at a nice sit-down type of place. I honestly think if we hadn't been walking over 15 thousand steps a day while sweating like maniacs - I would have put on 5-10 pounds.

That night, we went to Disney Springs - a downtown type shopping center with stores and restaurants. The kids got to see their first street performers, and we ate at a restaurant covered in dinosaurs.

(The Hulk is not a street performer. He was just a display at the Lego store that I got excited about - clearly more excited than Jaxon)

Day four we went back to Epcot to spend an entire day there. Sincerely, that park is something to experience. While the front half is more futuristic and sci-fi oriented, the back half is separated into various countries where you can meet workers, see entertainment, and eat food from different parts of the world. I mean, it's not the same as actually going to these places, but for someone who wants to get a super condensed idea of what a country may be like - it gives you a pretty good sense.

... it's also a good place to get thousands of steps into your day. We walked, walked, and walked some more - at one point, we actually watched a show about the history of the United States (eagerly) just because the auditorium had air conditioning.

That evening, we had dinner at a restaurant with a Princess Parade, where the girls got to meet their favorite Disney Princesses.

Watching Shelly meet Belle may be the highlight of my trip.

Most evenings, we opted to stay at the park until nearly closing time - but a few days we went back to the hotel so the kids could swim. The resort we stayed at had a pool for every major block of rooms with one major pool area in the very middle. The pools near our rooms were big but basic - and the middle pool area had slides, a bar, and various entertainment throughout the day.

I think that at least at one point throughout the week, everyone wanted to swim. Something about high temperatures plus humidity really brings out the swimming pool enthusiast in everyone.

This was also where Jade learned that when there weren't many kids around, she could use as many complimentary life jackets as she wanted - turning herself into what I can only describe as a living buoy.

You might not be able to tell from the picture, but she's wearing three life vests here. Two on the top, and one on her bottom - upside down - like a floating diaper.

She looked like a very low budget aquatic Iron Man.

On day five we spent our first day at the Magic Kingdom, where everyone becomes a child.

I mean honestly, walking through the front gate, seeing the gigantic castle in the center of the park just gives a sense of awe. Add to that the fact that throughout the entire place, characters from our childhood were walking around, posing with kids and adults alike - and it becomes a very magical place indeed.

At some point during the week, the kids bought an autograph book and began collecting signatures from the characters they met. I have to say, I was quite impressed in how each character had their own unique (personality fitting) signature, and also with the ease in which they knocked these things out while still making each kid feel important.

Days six and seven were catch-up days. On day six, we went back to Hollywood Studios to take part in the things we had missed on our first time through - and on Day seven, we went back to the Magic Kingdom.

At Hollywood Studios, we met some of our favorite Star Wars characters and competed in a Toy Story themed shooting ride - and at the Magic Kingdom, we endured our rainiest day there to ride Splash Mountain and the Dwarves roller coaster from Snow White.

(the Jawas will actually trade with you if you can give them a trinket they're interested in...)

All in all, it was an amazing week - and one that I can't do justice by writing about it here. We all came back beat, tanned, and worn smooth out - but in this instance, it was a good thing.

Our flight back was a bit scary due to inclement weather - and we didn't get home until SUPER late on Saturday night - but we made it.

Now, we pick ourselves back up and get back to the usual schedule. Make sure you check out the facebook page for our photos from the week. I took a ton!

For now, that's all I've got. I'm going to go take a nap.

I work tomorrow.

(Seriously... we walked A LOT this week.)