It seems as if I’m writing these posts every time I blink. Whoever first said “time flies” must have been referring to raising children. As I’m frantically over here searching for the pause button, the clock is spinning in front of my eyes.
Fifteen years … I honestly can’t grasp that we’re here. It has been a whirlwind of joy and excitement as you’ve been the guinea pig of me (and your dad) learning to parent. When I look at you, I realize that perhaps we have been better at this than we imagined. You are an amazing person, Avery. You truly are.
This past year was anything but typical as you started high school and so much was new. I remember dropping you off at the first day of drumline camp and you all but saying aloud “I’m only doing this for one year … so just know that.”
You got out of the car as one kid … and before I knew it, you were someone else. Your freshman year brought an expanded group of friends, a love for band (your dad and I are so thrilled!), and a better sense of who YOU are.
Your class schedule made my head spin. HOURS upon HOURS of homework every night. I know you wanted to throw in the towel so many times. You spent most of the year exhausted and honestly, it broke my heart. But, you were a trooper – you trudged on and finished the year with fantastic grades and a GPA that will get you into any school that you might ever want to attend.
We’ve seen you come into your own this year. You’ve found your voice and are more outspoken about what you want. You are such a great friend and I love to see you in your element. You laugh with your entire body – seeing you joking with your friends makes me smile because happiness just oozes from you. Most of all, you are kind and courteous. Honorable traits that will serve you well your entire life.
Being a teen is so hard and I hope, as your mom, that you know that I will do anything I can to make your life easier. You will hit bumps in the road and I know that people aren’t always as good to you as they should be. But, boy, do I hope that you know that you have an entire army of family and teachers and friends that are behind you every step of the way.
Avery, your dry sense of humor, easy personality, and creativity make me love you so much! I look forward to our time in the car every morning, enjoy your taste in music, and smile at how you roll your eyes when I think I’m funny (and clearly, I’m not).
A few of my favorite moments with you this year were:
ice skating with you at the Gaylord Opryland – Piper was in dance convention classes (what else is new LOL) and you and I went skating. We don’t have much time one-on-one, but I had the best weekend. Even when I was trying to skate and video you at the same time and bit the dust … it was the best day!
the football game where the pit learned the dance team chant – Those nights are what makes high school band fun. Seeing you with your friends, laughing and having a ball – my heart grew!
every day with you and Gidget – Never has anyone been a bigger animal lover than you. Gidget adores you and you are so good with her. My favorite time of day is at night when you are going to sleep and I tell you goodnight. One day Gidget will turn on us as we make her jealous just to hear her little 5 pound body growl. I laugh just thinking about it!
Avery Click, you are my complete world and I love you with my entire heart. Happy birthday, baby boy!
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 leaves Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and thrilling world of the internet—which may or may not survive Ralph’s wrecking. Video game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) must risk it all by traveling to the world wide web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, Sugar Rush. In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet—the netizens—to help navigate their way, including a webite entrepreneur named Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site “BuzzzTube.”
In “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck It Ralph 2,” Vanellope von Schweetz—along with her best friend Ralph—ventures into the uncharted world of the internet. When she finds herself surrounded by Disney princesses, she’s surprised to learn that she actually has a lot in common with them. The scene, highlighted in a new trailer for the film, features several of the original princess voices, including Auli‘i Cravalho (“Moana”), Kristen Bell (Anna in “Frozen”), Idina Menzel (Elsa in “Frozen”), Kelly MacDonald (Merida in “Brave”), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel in “Tangled”), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog”), Ming-Na Wen (“Mulan”), Irene Bedard (“Pocahontas”), Linda Larkin (Jasmine in “Aladdin”), Paige O’Hara (Belle in “Beauty and the Beast”) and Jodi Benson (Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”). Featuring Sarah Silverman as the voice of Vanellope, “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck It Ralph 2” opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 21, 2018.
Photos used with permission of Walt Disney Studios
This has been such a unique year of school for us. It started with my grandfather’s funeral on the first day of school, followed by Hurricane Harvey just two weeks later. Avery’s freshman year of marching band was a complete hit and I had the joy of seeing him come to love an activity that shaped my life in the best way possible. (Piper participated as well at the end of the season — she LOVED it!!!) Piper made the 7th grade cheer squad (so much fun!) and switched dance studios – lots of change in her life.
After promising my grandmother that I would stay close and help her adjust to my grandfather’s passing, I took the kids home to Kentucky for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then we started a whirlwind dance season with 7 Tremaine cities where Piper was on the Performance Company and 5 additional conventions with her studio. Lots of airport time!!!
Both kids did solo and ensemble for band (both got division 1 ratings) and took private lessons. We had multiple snow days — a complete rarity that only happens in Texas on “hurricane years”. Avery and I went on the best beach band trip I’ve ever had. And, he started his Invisalign treatment!
It seems like most any free time that Avery had this year was spent on homework – one subject in particular, AP Human Geography. That class tried to kill all of us, but I’m proud to say — we survived! HOURS upon HOURS of homework every night. I’m convinced that he’ll have neck damage from looking down at his notes and book so much!!!
More than anything this school year, I took complete comfort in watching the kids develop friendships that were broad and diverse. They were so happy all year long. What else could you ask for?
I love a good day at the beach. The waves, the pure vitamin D rays of the sun, and the salt in the air all bring me absolute joy. I never feel better than on the car ride home … and the best sleep that I get is the night that follows. Now science is telling us that, at least for the “salt” part, there is something to it and it’s coming to us in the form of flotation therapy at Healing Waters Float Spa.
Flotation therapy is a therapeutic practice involving custom designed flotation cabins filled with 10″ of water and over 1,300 pounds of dissolved medical grade Epsom Salt, a higher concentration than the Dead Sea. Floaters are free from external stimuli such as sight, sound, touch, temperature, and the force of gravity as they float weightless and effortlessly in water calibrated to match the skin’s temperature (F 93.5).
Flotation therapy is a phenomenal tool to cultivate mental stillness, provide stress relief, and pain reduction. Experiencing deep rest in the float cabin rejuvenates the body and min leading to a vastly improved quality of life and greater level of overall well-being. We traveled across the United States and Europe to research flotation and we wanted to create for our community the most tranquil, luxurious and Eco-friendly atmosphere for one to gain the most blissful experience,” states Joseph Cyrus, co-owner of Healing Waters Float Spa.
Floating allows you to conserve and redirect your natural energy, induce relaxation and heal your body, mind, and soul. The average person can reach a meditative state in 20 minutes. Doctors and pro-athletes have known about the incredible benefits of magnesium sulfate for years but technological advances have no made the experience far better for muscle recovery, pain relief and even enhanced sleep management.
My daughter, Piper, and I had the chance recently to visit the Healing Waters Float Spa and experience a 60 minute float. I’ll admit – we needed this for different reasons. Piper, a dancer putting in 20+ hours on most weeks, can definitely benefit from the healing properties, and I desperately need the relaxation.
The process is very simple and is conducive to complete relaxation. Upon arriving at Healing Waters, you are led to your own spa room. Inside you will find a full shower, changing area, and your pod. First you will take a shower to remove any lotions, oils, etc., from your body. Then you put in silicone ear plugs. (You roll them between your fingers and with your body warmth, they are able to take the shape of your individual ear. Finally, you are ready to step into the spa pod.
When I opened the door, there was a soft blue light and an immediate warmth. I stepped into water that felt amazing immediately. There was gentle spa music filling the air as I sat, then leaned back. I’ll tell you that it was nothing short of the weirdest feeling as I began to float. I wanted to look over to a friend and say “are you seeing this?” But, alas … A friend that experienced this type of spa in another city had recommended that I turn the lights completely off to really get the full experience which I did. For a person who can not and does not relax, 60 minutes is a long time! But I’m happy to report that within minutes, I had dozed off.
With the total darkness and just the soft music, I had the feeling that I suspect being in outer space is like. You still move slightly in the water, so it’s an odd sensation as you feel your muscles relax. I’ll add too that I am the coldest-natured person on the planet – I was never cold, nor was I hot. It was literally the perfect temperature.
Doctors and pro-athletes have known about the incredible benefits of magnesium sulfate for years, but technological advances have now made the experience far better for muscle recovery, pain relief and even enhanced sleep management. And, Piper can definitely attest that this is true! We are adding this to our therapy and recovery regime from now on.
Healing Waters Float Spa has officially opened in River Oaks (Houston) by co-owners Joseph Cyrus and Juan Carlos Mazorra (native Houstonian and one of the original partners who created Hughes Hangar Castro Lounge).
The wonderful folks at Healing Waters Float Spa have given me a code that I can give to my readers.
“CLICKFLOAT” will give you 50% off of your first float ($45). This code is good until June 30, 2018.
After your float, contact me. I want to hear how much you loved it!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post paid for on behalf of Dryel. It also contains affiliate links. The opinions stated are 100% my own. I used this product long before I was chosen for the promotion.
I have a secret: I’ve not walked into a dry cleaners in years. Years. The reason is two-fold, actually. First, if I see “dry clean only” on the tag – I walk away. Second, and more importantly, if it must be dry cleaned and my life won’t move forward without it – I use Dryel.
Dryel has been a saving grace for me for years when it comes to Piper’s dance costumes. After a few competitions, they need to be washed. The fabrics are so delicate and usually contain tons of mesh and rhinestones. It’s quite the production! I know many moms that just put them in the washer on delicate, cross their fingers and hope for the best.
That, in theory, gives me hives.
I’m not willing to risk it – especially in the middle of competition season. I need the costumes clean and don’t have time to do repairs.
I wish this screen had “scratch and sniff” – Dryel smells amazing! It is so fresh, but not in a perfume way. Aside from how easy this product is to use, the smell is another factor that sells me!
If you are a dry cleaning fanatic, give this a shot. It’s so cost effective, and hello – you use your dryer! No more forgetting to pick up the cleaning! It couldn’t be any easier. Once you try it, let me know what you think!
Roughly three years ago, I left a decade long career in church ministry to join a team of fun-loving professionals in the travel industry. I was looking for a change and longing for something different in my life — something that I had never done before in an office setting. Close to home and family-run, I jumped in with both feet and before I knew it, fell in love with the world of international luxury travel that is otherwise known as Ker & Downey. So when a trip to China presented itself to me last year, I couldn’t refuse checking the box off of my bucket list. For 10 glorious days, I partnered with my colleague, Michelle, and we learned as much as we could so that our travel clients could experience the absolute best accommodations, touring, and luxury that is offered in the locations that we visited.
DAYS 1-3, BEIJING
My flight to China was direct from Houston to Beijing. The plane departed at 1AM and was 15 hours in the air. Looking back, I should have upgraded to Business — it only took about 45 minutes to figure out that was no place to cut costs! Air China was great with food service, water, etc. and I had wonderful seat partners, but 15 hours is a long time to be swished in an economy seat. My husband had advised that I try to stay awake as long as possible so that my days and nights would get worked out more quickly upon arrival, so heeding that advice, I watched “You’ve Got Mail” via the plane seatback screen and then fell asleep.
I arrived in Beijing at 6am local time and was met with darkness at landing. One of the services with Ker & Downey is VIP airport assistance. Unlike the man holding a sign at baggage claim that we are used to in the US, my Beijing airport assist met me right at the door of the plane. She was a tiny little lady that was quick as a whip! After sitting on the plane for more than half of a day, she got my blood pumping as we walked swiftly through the airport and into the customs area. She had me sign the immigration papers that were necessary and then led me to a seated area. She took care of everything, and when all was done – came back for me. We avoided all lines (which were SO long) and walked straight to an official who stamped my book and sent us on our way to baggage claim. We grabbed my luggage from the carousel and she led me to my guide, Jessie.
Jessie has the most infectious personality. She is joyful, sweet, so smart, and a pure delight. Because it was so early in the morning, we started our day as one should … with a trip to Starbucks! Our driver was on the way and navigating a small bit of commuter traffic. Soon after we finished our coffee (and tea for me), we hopped into our private car and headed to the hotel. When we arrived at the Waldorf Astoria Beijing, my room wasn’t quite ready yet (I was only 6 hours early LOL!) so they held my luggage and Jessie took me out for a walk though Beijing.
On this walk I saw one of the most spectacular sights of the entire trip: sunrise over the Forbidden City. It was absolutely spectacular and no photo does it justice.
Upon our return, my room was ready and I checked in. I was in the lap of luxury, literally. I was in a Deluxe Room with a king bed and floor to ceiling windows. There were electric darkening shades that could be lowered and allowed me to rest even though the sun was shining outside. The bed was just what I needed after a long flight – it was so comfortable. I made good use of the rainfall walk-in shower and the large soaking tub (with mounted television). Room service had a mix of western and Chinese food which was very nice!
In China, all of the traditional social media that we are used to in the United States is outlawed. So, using WeChat (a Chinese texting and facetiming app) and the wi-fi in the room, I was able to facetime home to chat with my family and show them my surroundings. After that, I laid down for a nap (big mistake – woke up 6 hours later).
The following morning, I met with Michelle (who flew in from LA and landed in the evening) for breakfast. Shortly after, we met up with Jessie and headed out for a full day tour of Beijing starting with Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City. Jessie was so knowledgeable of the history of Beijing and the Ming and Qing Dynasties. I felt like I was walking along with a living history book as she knew the answer to every question that we threw at her. The architecture was gorgeous and it really rattled my brain that ordinary men – centuries ago – were able to build marvels of this magnitude without the help of modern machinery. It’s absolutely mindblowing.After a delicious lunch, we walked to Jingshan Park for a panorama of the Forbidden City. Then we made our way to the Poly Art Museum. In the company of the museum’s Senior Docent, we toured what is considered one of China’s best private museums. They have a great collection of bronze artifacts all original to China, as well as an amazing number of rare Budda’s. Having this private tour with the Senior Docent was incredible and brought the museum to life.
After the museum visit, we returned to our hotel for the evening. We were a bit jet-lagged still, and it was a long day of touring. We had checked out of the Waldorf Astoria when we left for the day and our luggage was transferred to the Peninsula Beijing.
The newly renovated Peninsula Beijing has just over 230 rooms. I was in a deluxe room and it had a dressing room, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. Everything was connected via iPad like devices so that I could control all.the.things from one device. The tech geek that I am LOVED it!
Let me stop to admit that I’m a bathroom lover. A good bathtub will win me over quicker than anything else in the world. This bathtub was fantastic, but my favorite part was the little iPad remote that you can see in the wall. It had a spa setting. When you pressed that, the television turned off, the lights dimmed, and spa music began to play. I could have stayed in the tub for all 10 days. It was magical.
The following morning, we got up early on a clear and beautiful day and headed to tour the Temple of Heaven. The unique aspect of visiting the Temple of Heaven was that it was filled with locals. The age was definitely on the older side, well past retirement. They were exercising as we came in and it was a sight to see – no wonder the Chinese lifespan is so long. They were flexible and really getting in a workout. We passed by exercise machines (out in the open, in a park type setting. We need these in the US.) Also, there were many doing Tai Chi. Some were alone, and others studying the craft with a teacher. We watched for quite a while and couldn’t get enough.
Just inside the official gate area of the Temple of Heaven, there was a flower show that was set up. The colors were magical and absolutely brilliant. I was really pleased at how well the iPhone 8+ captured the colors in the morning light. I couldn’t help but think about my mom, who has the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen, and how much she would have loved all of these flowers!
The Temple of Heaven reminded me a lot of the Forbidden City with the architecture style and reverence. Sitting high upon the hill, the Temple of Heaven was used by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties to offer sacrifices to heaven and pray for good harvests.
On our way out, the locals that were seen so active on the way in had made their way into small groups to play cards, dominoes, and mahjong. They are a quite competitive bunch. We enjoyed looking in on their games and hearing the laughter. It really was something to experience!
Once we finished, we got back into the van and headed through the countryside to the Great Wall of China – Mutianyu. The traffic was heavy as we headed through the hills and our guide was quick to tell us that it was because it was such a warm and beautiful day. The Chinese families like to go out and enjoy the weather together. So, we rested a bit and chilled until we stopped for lunch and then continued on our way.
To give you a quick few sentences serving as a reminder on the Great Wall, you need to know this: Construction began prior to the birth of Christ (221 BC) and is one of the most extensive construction projects ever completed as it spans over 3,000 miles. The base is anywhere from 15-50 feet high (depending upon the section) and the actual wall is anywhere from 15-30 feet high with guard towers at certain intervals. The Great Wall is the only manmade structure that is visible from space.
To see the Great Wall in person is emotional. I couldn’t help but stare in absolute awe at how human hands – even in massive numbers – could have built such a marvel. We went to one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, called Mutianyu — which used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. Michelle, Jessie and I took a cable car up the mountain to start our great adventure. Let me tell you, that is the way to go! The views are absolutely stunning. (The walk to the cable car though … Shew. I should have been training with the elderly people that we saw earlier that morning. It is a hike right up the side of the mountain – probably 1/4 of a mile!)
Once to our destination, we took our time walking the wall. I wish I had a great estimate of how far we walked, but I’d hate to guess. A few miles perhaps. Word to the wise and in fear of sounding obvious, the wall is not like walking on a track. It is up and down the mountain surface. Some parts of it are absolutely grueling. I was taking off layers of clothing as we walked because I was sweating like crazy.
The Great Wall was built as protection from the enemy and with that, the walking surface is a bit crazy. Some parts are solid, flat stones and other area are stairs. Some of the stairs are tiny (2-3″ high) and other stairs are so big that I had to turn backwards and go down them like a ladder! This is the part they don’t tell you on the History Channel! The photos below can give you an idea of how steep parts are.
But for every odd step, steep hill, and tourist dodge (that actually wasn’t too bad) – there is a spectacular viewing point and a moment that leaves you speechless as you take in the aura of this magnificent structure!
You might think that the fun is over as you’re walking the wall, but if you take the toboggan down the mountain – you’re in for a fun ride! Altogether it takes about 7 minutes to ride down and it is so exciting. You get into the cart – I was by myself – and head off on the metal tubing. You do have a handbrake so you are in control of the speed. I absolutely loved it. I’ll link the video here after the photos, but beware that it’s shaky and a long clip, but it will give you an idea of what it was like!
Looking back upon the entire trip to China, the day spent at the Great Wall is an obvious top highlight. I considered it an honor to take in this piece of history in person, something that most don’t get to do in a lifetime. Doing such a landmark with a Ker & Downey private guide instead of in a large tour group was special, too. I needed the 90 minute drive back to Beijing to get my wits about me again!
Upon arriving back at the Peninsula Beijing, Michelle and I were EXHAUSTED! We ordered room service and hit the sack. Our call time the next morning was early as we had a flight to catch for the next leg of our adventure. I can’t wait to share it with you in an upcoming post!