Saturday, May 9, 2020

Get Inspired

Once upon a time on facebook, a friend of mine posted an article from a newspaper that contained an interview of her. She was explaning how she got into stand up comedy. I was envious of her newfound fame as a stand up comic. I harbored a secret desire to try stand up comedy. I wanted people to watch me on stage and laugh. The fact that she was doing it and suceeding at it prompted me to find out just how, even as a mother, she could find a way to do stand up comedy.

In the article, she cited how hard she worked at it, about dealing with hecklers, failure and motherhood. In reading her story I felt the feeling of Envy change. Envy is really just that feeling of respecting something about someone else that you wish you could apply to yourself. When we transform that feeling of Envy into a positive, we are left with Inpsiration. You can use the feeling of wanting what someone else has for good instead of letting it eat away at you. So I decied to get inspried by her success as a comic instead of saying to myself, "Why her?"

Instead, I decided to ask myself, "What can I take away from her experience and use in my own experience?"

Well, me not pursuing stand up comedy was one thing. I really don't want to have to work that anything! I also really, really enjoy my bedtime. Having to stay up late and be funny in a comedy club (the reality of being a stand-up comic) isn't for me.

However, the part of her interview that inspired me was the fact that her stand up comedy career all began becuase of a list. She had made a list of "30 Things to do before I turn 30". On that list was to try an ameteur night as a comic. Just get up on the stage one time to say you did it. (After that, she liked it so much she did it again, and again...and so on until she is now touring with other comedians.)

So, the Inspriation for me was to make a similar list.

My list is now called "40 Things to do by my 40th year". I included the entire year I turn 40 becuase, well, my birthday is in Februrary and there are lots of things I want to do that year related to turning 40 that won't all fit in the first two months.

Also I started this list when I was 37. So I had a 4 year window in which to accomplish as many of the items on that list as I could (counting the year I turn 40.) I have lots of gal pals from all over that are wanting to plan trips for our 40th year. Some of those are on the list. There are bucket list type items on there as well, things I have personally always wanted to do. Some items are silly, some items are unmentionable. There are also items on the list that I have already checked off, like taking the kids to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (Yep, that one was on the list.)

Since many of us are staying inside these days, none of the list is even on my radar. I can't go ride a mechanical bull right now. But what I can do is go through the list and share the applicable parts of it with the readers of Fun Dollars, becuase guess what? As I go through some of these, you are going to hear about it. How else do you think I am going to fund my little list? With Fun Dollars, of course!

So, in an effort to maybe inspire you to create your own post-pandemic bucket list (or whatever you want to name it) here is my list of things I want to do before the end of 2022, the year I turn 40.

1. Take the kids to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter- done
2. Take the kids to Nauvoo to tour the historcal village and eat dinner at the Hotel Nauvoo. (This would have been my son's feild trip this year, minus the dinner, and he missed it. My item was to chaperone his 5th grade field trip, but that was cancelled due to Covid 19.)
3. Take my kids to the Ice Cream Social at the church where I grew up. (It's a small-town event I want to share with my kids.)
4. Take a trip to Savannah, GA. (I went twice when I was much younger, but I want to go back as a grown-ass woman and really enjoy the town! I have plans with a besite of mine to take her for her 40th next year.)
5. Take the kids to Chicago for the weekend to see Museums and the downtown. (Maybe even have the grandparents come along too!)
6. Take the kids to St. Louis for the weekend to see the Science Center and the Zoo.
7. Spend the weekend in a cabin int he woods. -done
8. Go Kayaking- done
9. Canoe Sugar Creek with my family. (My kids, parents and my sister's family)
10. Go to a Cub's Game at Wrigley Field.
11. See Hamilton! (I have tickets for this one, but due to COVID it is rescheduled...but there's  not a date yet becuase we don't know when this will be over. The good news is, my tickets are still good!)
12. Tour a Frank Lloyd Wright house.- done (I took the kids to the Dana Thomas House last year in Springfield. That is when I discovered the joy of making my own dreams come true!)
13. Go Camping (in a camper) somewhere other than the park down the road.
14. Get Divorced- done
15. Change my legal name- this one is up for debate. I really want to have my own last name at some point now that I am divorced, but I will do this in my own time. It might not happen before I turn 40, so this one might get axed from the list...)
16. Visit Edinburough, Scotland
17. Eat Brunch at St. Mary of the Woods on a Sunday. (possibly with my parents becuase they live close to there.) This was a Sunday tradition from when I was in kindergarten. The people from church would caravan out there after church every so often in the summer time. I remember the vast dining hall feeling like the Great Hall in Hogwarts. I want to go there again as an adult. It's been about 30 years, but mom says they still do brunch there on Sundays...when there isn't a global pandemic that is.)
18. Visit a Hindu Temple.
19. See The Cursed Child on stage.
20. See the Book of Mormon on stage.
21. something silly I don't want to share- done
22. something inappropriate I don't want to share- done
23. Watch a Shakespeare play.- done
24. Attend a concert that is entirely Mozart music.
25. Start a Massage Business- done
26. Take my kids to see Barb, my sit-down dance partner, dance on stage.- done (Barb and I use the term "Sit-down dancer", meaning she is in a wheelchair, she is a dancer who dances while sitting. I wanted my kids to experience the wonder of seeing someone dance on stage that moves in a different way than what people would expect a dancer to move. Barb and I were fortuanate enough to be in a dance together last December. My kids got to see both of us dance on stage together again.)
27. something else silly I don't want to share- done
28. Something romantic I don't want to share- done
29. Take the kids to Mark Twain Cave- done
30. Read the remainder of the Nancy Drew collection I started when I was in 5th grade.
31. Visit my friend's micro brewery in Quincy.
32. See the Aurora Borealis in person.
33. Live entirely on my own.- done
34. Attend my 20th High school reunion.- It was supposed to be this might still happen, but it also might not,depending on how this covid thing shakes down.)
35. Ride a Mechanical Bull.
36. Visit my Bestie from AZ. Take a girls' weekend somewhere.
37. Take a vacation with my friends from grade school the year we all turn 40.

I left a few spots open becuase, well, there are some things that maybe I don't know that I want to do yet. Also, as I have started this list there are some things I realized I don't really want to do, they were just passing fancies. But everything else on this list are things that I have thought at some point or other, "Wow, I think that would be fun to do and I have never done that before." Notice that none of these include stand up comedy. It's becuase it's not something that was really importnat to me as it turns out. It was one of those passing fanices. Also, there are things that I would like to do that I don't necessarily have to do before I turn 40. (Like see the Pyramids in Egypt or visit Mayan ruins.)

This list gives me a place to go when I feel antsy or bored lately. I have started doing research on the cost of some of these items, timing, details, etc. I look them up just for fun. It's my Vision Board. It gives me hope. It INSPIRES me.

So, what is it that YOU want to do with YOUR Fun Dollars when this is all over? Where do you want to travel? What do you want to experience? What do you want to see happen in your life that you can decide to make happen all on your own? Make your own list and Get Inspired.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes

Happy Birthday to Fred and George Weasley! Yes, these two tricksters were born on April 1, according to J.K Rowling.

In honor of the Weasley twins, and April Fools Day, I thought what better Fun Dollars story to share than my time at their joke shop in Diagon Alley?

The storefront to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes was the most austentacious shop on the street. Painted orange with a giant wizard appearing to "wear" the shop window, it looked exactly like the storefront from the movie.

Once we were inside, I felt like I was in an M.C. Escher painting. There were stairs running this way and that. The shop felt very cramped walking around. I imagine that is how it felt with all those witches and wizards in the shop when it first opened. Hardly any elbow room at all. 

The stairs were for effect only. They were blocked to admittance.

There were baskets of pygmy puffs, bottles of love potion, decoy detinators, extendable ears, and skiving snack boxes. (Of course, we are all skiving these days...) (For you non-Brits, that's their word for playing hookie.)

They also had T-shirts sporting the name of the shop. There was one in particular that caught my eye. I decided to call upon my "Fun Dollars Discipline" and not buy the shirt. I wanted to make sure that was the purchase I really wanted to make. I knew that we had two more days at the park for me to shop and hunt around. So, at the end of our stay, if I still wanted the shirt, I could make the purchase. 

It was a unique shirt. I had not seen anyone at the park wearing it yet. It was entirely purple with orange, gold and purple printing. It did not indicate anything about Hogwarts or the Houses, which I liked. 

As a Ravenclaw, I was deeply offended that in the one place on earth I would expect to see an Eagle on Ravenclaw swag, all I was given was a RAVEN! I refused to buy anything Ravenclaw at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because they all bore Ravens instead of Eagles. So, that was another reason this shirt stood out to me. It related to the Harry Potter experience without being offensive to the proud house of Ravenclaw. 

Also, the shirt was unique to the experience of travelling to this destination. No where else would I be able to say, "I bought this at the store where it came from." You can buy Hogwarts gear at Target these days, but nothing from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes can be found. (Although I won't say the same about Etsy. Apparently that is where all the Ravenclaw with Eagle swag can be purchased.)

Our Hufflepuff student did have an interesting learning experience with Fun Dollars while we were in the shop. He watched other students make their first pygmy puff purchase. When they do that, they ring the bell on the counter and announce, "Attention, attention, witches, wizards and muggles! We have our friend, (Instert student's name) here adopting their first pygmy puff. They have decided to name it (insert pygmy puff's name)." Then everybody claps. Hufflepuff wanted to make a pygmypuff purchase, and I think it might have had something to do with the excitement of the announcement. 

As he was waiting in line, I asked him about his purchase. He explained that he wanted to buy the pygmy puff for his younger half brother at home. He showed me his choice of pygmy puff and I glanced at the price tag. "How much money do you have left?" I asked. I knew that of all the kids we were travelling with, he had the smallest amount to spend. He had purchased his wand and that was pretty much all his money. I did give him the opportunity to earn more Fun Dollars on the trip, but this purchase would completely exhaust his funds. 

"You know that if you buy this you won't have much left," I gently cautioned him. "We still have two more days at the park. So if you see something else that you like better, you won't be able to buy it." He considered my words for a minute. Then he walked over to the basket of mini puffs and pulled one out, leaving his previous choice on the shelf. Making the change saved him some cash, and allowed him to make one more smaller purchase while we were there. 

I really enjoyed watching him think about what he was doing with his money. He didn't have to swap it out. But after thinking about what the purchase was for, he knew that his brother wouldn't care that it was a regular sized pygmy puff or a mini-puff, he would get a present and be happy with it. Fun Dollars principles getting taught and put into practice: Deeply consider your purchase. It's easy to buy something, but also look at what that will do to your Fun Dollars. Will it deplete them? Is that ok? I would like to think that this moment of financial awareness will plant a seed in this kiddo, that when he does have the ability to spend, he will weigh the cost and the benefit and not just give in to impulse. 

After sitting on my impulse for two days, I was finally ready to make that T-shirt purchase. Yes, I was careful with my Fun Dollars on vacation too. I did not expect to go into this vacation to "save money" or to spend limitlessly. I did a combination of both to strike a balance. Not really buying anything for myself  as a souvenenier, but making sure that the kids had plenty of cash was a part of that plan. So I allowed myself to get the shirt on our last day in the park. 

I changed into my shirt in the loo on the last day in the park after my purchase.
And, yes, that is a glitter fanny pack you spy. I rocked it all week long 

My judicious Ravenclaw didn't find anything in the shop that really made him want to part with his Fun Dollars. He was literally a kid in a joke shop with plenty of cash, but his money discipline is stronger than his urge to spend. He left there with the same cash he went in with, even though this was the shop he looked forward to the most .(Well, this shop and Honeydukes). His favorite characters in the books were Fred and George. He delights in their playful mischief and (somewhat) aspires to follow in their footsteps. He just wants to make people laugh like they did. It mostly comes out as jokes he has made up and the occasional (decent) prank.

I secretly also like Fred and George. They chose to venture out on their own and make a go of their natural talent to bring a smile to people's faces. Remembering that we all need to laugh is as important now as it ever was. Laughter keeps us positive. Laughter can take our minds off our worries momentarily. Laughter just makes us feel better. 

Happy Birthday, Fred and George Weasley!

This is a snippet of the acapella group (with frogs) doing the Weasley's Twins' theme from The Order of the Phoenix. The guy off to the right is doing the fireworks sounds. This was while we were passing by on our way back from the Hogwarts ride. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Dessert First

As I am sitting here eating ice cream out of the vessel we scored on vacation...

I want to skip right to the best part, dessert. 

I want to fast forward all the way to our last day in the park. This was the day we found out that
they were going to close the park to enforce social distancing. Thank
goodness it was our last day because the day after they announced it, we
were on the road and the lines to get in were swollen with eager tourists. 
Everybody wanted to get in knowing that the park had only one day left to 
remain open. You want to talk about perfect timing? This was it. 
We had no interruption to our original travel plans. (Also keep the timeline
of events in context. When we left for our trip the directive was, "wash your hands."
While we were gone, the situation changed and escalated on a daily basis. We
did not take this trip to bite our thumb at the government or its directives. 
Until we had been on vacation for a few days the only instruction was to 
observe safe sanitation practices. So please do  not read this using the lens
of the current climate and the shelter-in order.)

Having no interruption to our travel made eating ice cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice 
Cream Parlor that much


All week we wandered through the streets of Diagon Alley, enjoying the sights sounds
and spells (haha). Every day the kids looked longingly at the window of the ice cream shop,
wishing for a taste of the treats inside.

I told them all I would buy them ice cream for dessert on the last night after hearing, "can we
have ice cream?" for the hundredth time.

View from the inside of the ice cream shop's window

Fast forward to the last night. After eating dinner at the Leaky Coldron, it was
decided that the Mummy was the last ride we all wanted to ride. Thankfully
The Mummy was across the park. Walking gave us a chance to let our tummies
settle before hopping on a roller coaster. (Just one of those things you try not to 
think about while at an amusement park; eating then riding. Just go for it.)

It was also our opportunity to try the "single rider line" method to getting on a ride faster.
We had heard about going in the single rider line from one of the folks in the hot
tub at the resort. "If you don't mind sitting by yourself in a row, you can get in the single rider line.
So you put one adult in the front of the line to ride first, and wait for each kid as they get off.
Then Grown up number two goes last and stays with all the kids till they have all got on the ride."
So while other parties wanted to all ride the ride "together at the same time", we all elected to
hop in the single rider line. So instead of waiting 45 minutes, we only had to wait 20. As it turned
Out I was on the same ride as all 4 kids. They were just in different rows than me. My Slytherin
Adult travel companion was in the cart behind us. So we all just waited at the exit until he got off
the ride.

"Now can we get ice cream?" the kids begged.
"Yes, now we can go get ice cream," I replied.

We started walking our way back across the park. We passed the Fast and the Furious car "showroom"
And Slytherin Adult travel companion said he wanted to pop in while we went to get ice cream. It was down to our last hour in the park, and I knew he really wanted to see the cars. So I agreed and continued to walk with the kids to Diagon Alley.

We were in a hurry,  knowing that the park was going to close shortly.  After we entered the the ice cream shop they allowed one more party in behind us and then they closed the door for the night. Only the people that were already standing in line were served.
We arrived Just in Time!

Standing in line at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor in Diagon Alley

I told the kids to get anything they wanted. They were shocked that they could literally get any
flavor swirled with any other flavor! "You mean it's not just vanilla and chocolate?" Gryffindor asked.
"Any two flavors," replied the witch behind the counter.

Each child put in their order and I made my way down the line to the cash register. It took them several minutes to create the desserts. As I was waiting, a woman came shuffling down the line towards me.
"Excuse me, have you paid for your ice cream yet?" she asked.
"No, not yet," I replied, a little bewildered.
"I have snacks left on this food card. Can I buy your ice cream for you?"
Seriously? A total stranger comes up to me asking to pay for $31.00 worth of ice cream?
"Yes. Thank you!" was of course my reply.

Magic? Who knows. The kids all got their dream desserts finally and they didn't cost me a single Fun Dollar!

Finally some ice cream!

Now that is what I call the cherry on top. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Of Wands, Witches and Wizards

One Happy Ravenclaw

To say that this vacation was perfectly timed would be an understatement. I cannot express how grateful I am
that our trip was not only able to happen, but was not cut short or postponed in any way. So, to give myself
something to think about other than what's in the news, I wanted to recap my dream vacation. What else am
I going to do while in "quarantine"?

Having the memory of this vacation has lit me up since we returned. If I had to cast a Patronus right now, this
memory would  be the one I think of right before shouting, "Expecto Patronum!"  There was nothing that I
would change or do differently about this trip. Every moment added up to what I can only remember as my
favorite vacation to date. (Yes, I loved my childhood vacations, but this was something new...this was a self-
funded vacation with my own kids. Passing the torch in a way. So, it encompassed all those childhood
memories as well as built our own new memories with a new generation.) 

This was Fun Dollars at it's best. I was able to enjoy the feeling of "I did it!" the entire trip. I wanted this trip to
feel like a magical journey for these four kiddos. I made Fun Dollars a part of the trip, which added to the
magic. For starters, the Owls delivered packages to the kids. They all received toothbrushes, goggles and 
sunglasses, which they put to good use all week long. I also gave them all color pencils, a four color pen and 
an activity book, just to have a non-electronic thing to do in the car. There was one point when Hufflepuff 
chimed in from the middle seat, "Look, Rachael, none of us are on our electronics!" I looked behind me, 
and sure enough they were each working hard on their puzzle books.

In general, the kids handled the road travel quite well. They all were happy to entertain themselves, or talk
together. There were a few moments of typical kiddo shenanigans, but that just added to the fun of the trip.
I have to say, I did not expect to return from a trip with four kids and feel that relaxed, but I did.

When we left, each child also had their own stash of Fun Dollars. My Slytherin adult travel partner had been
paying his kids for weeks to do chores. Sweeping floors, pet care and taking out the trash were all done by
the Hufflepuff and Slytherin kids. (Although I should note that the little Slytherin realized that he might 
actually be a Ravenclaw. He called himself a Slyther-claw during our trip.)  The Gryffindor and Ravenclaw 
kids (my kids) saved up all of their Christmas money AND all their birthday money this year. Since they both 
had January birthdays, they kept their birthday card cash for the trip. They did some chores as well, like 
putting away their own laundry and dishes. I did not pay them outright for those chores, however. It was 
understood that mom would cover any souvenir expense only after they spent all their own money first. 

And guess what? ALL FOUR children came home with money! Hufflepuff was the first to run out of cash, but I
did give him the opportunity to earn more Fun Dollars on the trip. He earned an extra $30.00 on the trip and
came home with a buck to spare.

I am not sure how much money the "Slyther-claw" kiddo came home with, but I know his mason jar had
money in it when we returned. (That's what he uses as a piggy bank, a pint sized mason jar!)

Both of my children had more than $20.00 left after vacation. But the winner, the child who has been trained
in Fun Dollars since before he was in kindergarten came back from vacation with a whopping $70.00! Now, 
granted he started with about $300.00, but for a child to have free-reign on his spending on his dream 
vacation? I have to say right now that I am one proud Fun Dollars Mama. My little Ravenclaw, who inspired 
this trip, was the most judicious shopper! Even down to his last purchase, he checked with me first to see 
if it was a good buy.

It was for a very nice Jurassic Park baseball cap, and I could not have been happier saying, "Yes." The
confidence he derived from putting that hat on was tangible as he asked me if he could make the purchase. 
He was buying something he actually wanted. Even though he has baseball caps at home, this particular 
one spoke to him. I wanted him to have that hat. I wanted him to have the crown to remember that trip 
every time he puts it on.

He set out with the end in mind. He WANTED to come home with money. Why? "Because I've been saving,
mom! I want to go out and spend my money on things I've had my eye on at home."
This whole time that he has been saving up his Christmas and birthday money, he has been price 
comparing and window shopping at stores here in town. He didn't want to only spend his money on 
vacation. He wanted to be able to come home and spend too.

He even tried to get me to promise to buy him souvenirs if his money dropped below a certain point. To
which I answered, "Then you have to choose if you really want to buy the item or not. I will buy you 
souvenirs only after you run out of money." So he knew that if he spent it all, he would get vacation 
money from mom, but his home spending money would have to be built back up. He didn’t want that. 
So he kept track of his Fun Dollars and only spent down to the amount he was comfortable with.

When we returned to this epidemic, we took a trip to Wal-Mart for a few items. He brought his money
along and wanted to make a trip to aisle 11…Pokemon Cards. Even though that is the last thing I want 
in my house right now, I respected his decision and said nothing about it. He was proud to have the 
money in his pocket to make the purchase. He even ended up taking one of his items off the order 
because he didn’t like how expensive it all was. He still wanted to keep some money in his pocket so 
he returned an item! He did this all by himself with the cashier and did it with confidence. He is cool 
with putting something back and saving his money! (I am seriously getting choked up over here. I 
could not be more proud!)

So, back to vacation. Each child did bring enough to buy their own wands. This was the one big item
each child wanted. It didn't matter that they cost $60.00 each, they were so thrilled to make their own 
wand purchases.

We waited in line at Olivander's in Hogsmeade.

I had no idea what to expect. When it was our turn to enter the wand shop, we all shuffled in and they
closed the door. The assistant arranged the kids in the room in the front row and the adults behind them. 
With a little over a dozen of us in the wand shop, they closed the door and the room darkened. A single 
lamp was lit on the desk of the wandkeeper, who greeted us all with a British accent. Our little Gryffindor
started to pipe up, and our parent alarm went off, "Shh…" came out in unison. The wandkeeper didn't 
miss a beat, "Oh, no, don't sush our young Gryffindor. The student has a question." She asked her question, 
and he kindly answered her. He then asked two other the students from the crowd to come forward. They 
were dressed in their Hogwarts uniforms, and the "show" began. 

The wand keeper walked around the shop and after some thought and consideration, pulled two wand
boxes off the shelf. He brought them back to his desk and removed the lids from the wand boxes. He told 
the students about the first wand and handed it to one of them. "Give it a wave," he instructed. She did 
so, and the flowers in the pot  wilted. "No, that can't be your wand." So then he handed the other wand 
to the other student. "Go ahead and wave it, dear," he said. When she did, the wand boxes went askew 
on the shelf. So then he thought about it and traded wands with the two students. When they held them 
a fan behind the desk blew air at them and the music queued up, just like in the first movie. "Oh, those 
are your wands…" Everyone clapped. Then the crowd was instructed to shuffle their way into the actual 
wand shop to be chosen by the wands therein. 

Oh, wait, back up a bit…My little Ravenclaw thought he would be cheeky and ask questions in a British
accent through the entire ceremony. Go ahead and punctuate that whole scenario with an 11 year old 
asking questions... Since I was told by the wand keeper that I should not shush my kids, I let him handle 
the Ravenclaw comments. And he did. So when the rest of the crew was getting shuffled into the wand 
shop to make their purchases, we were told to hand back. (They only do the ceremony once per group. 
You either get to have your wand choose you, or you get to watch someone be chosen by a wand.) It 
was clear to the wand keeper that this crew of students were curious and eager, he chose to give us a 
"mini ceremony" just for us. 

So, per the wandkeeper's instructions, all 6 of us hung back while everyone else went to choose their
wands in the shoppe. The wandkeeper disappeared into a back room and returned to his desk clutching 
four wand boxes. He called the children forward. They peered eagerly at the boxes. The wand keeper 
took out the first wand and addressed our little Hufflepuff. He told him about the core and the wood 
and a few characteristics of the wand. He did this to each student in turn. After they all heard about 
their wands, they were allowed to pick them up out of the boxes. When they did, the wind blew, and 
just like that, all four wands magically chose each student. It was a mini version of what we just 
wittnessed, but the kids got their own private wand ceremony! What a treasured memory we will 
all share.

Each Child took their wand box through the door and into and actual wand shop to make their purchase.  "
$58.95," said the cashier wizard. Each child took out thier Fun Dollars and paid the wizard.  They had worked
and saved for those Fun Dollars, and they were each making the choice to spend their money on the wand
that chose them. I was so proud of all
of them!

As it turned out, these wands make magic happen all over the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The students
can take the map that comes in the wand box to places marked with medallions on the street. There, they 
can practice their wand movements and recite the incantation. Some of the magic happens inside a shop 
window, some happens with a statue or a fountain, it just depends on where you are what the magic will be. 
But it's all mapped out on the parchment that is included with the wand. 

We discovered also, that sometimes the wands need to go in for "repair". While our Gryfindor was trying to
make it rain in Diagon Alley, a wizard dressed in a black velvet hat strolled up and asked her to show him her
spellwork. "Meteolojinx!" she announced, and she did the wand movement. So the wizard tried to do the
same spell, and his spell worked. So, he asked Little Gryffindor if he could examine her wand. She handed
it to him. He rolled the wand in his fingers. He looked at it, smelled it, then declared, "Your wand needs
repair, young Witch." He explained to me that I could take the wand to any Olivander's location and they
will repair it. It will take two minutes and it's free.

This was where the students could cast the Meteolojinx spell and make it "rain". Ravenclaw enjoyed standing under the umbrella and having it "rain" around him. This was where Gryffindor was told that her wand would need repair. 

The next day we took her wand in to Olivanders in Hogsmeade. There, the witch took her wand to the back
room and brought it out, fully functioning two minutes later. We were told that no matter where the wand 
was purchased, nor when, they will always repair them. It really made me appreciate the purchase that the 
children  made even more. So, even if these students return to Diagon Alley (say in four years when 
Gryffindor turns 11, the wands will still be fun and usable!)

After an exhausting first day at the park, we returned to the hotel to hit up the pool and hot tub. The Next Owl
Post shall be delivered with the magical details of our stay in the edition of Fun Dollars. Stay tuned and stay

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Owl Post

We are travelling. We are en route. All is good....I have been saying prayers for safe travels for weeks now.

The Road trip down started at 1:45 in the morning on Friday.

The idea was that the kids would sleep for a few hours in the car, then wake up in Chattanooga. But in reality, we pulled out of town at 1:45 and ate breakfast in Paducah, KY at the Cracker Barrell.

My motto for the entire trip is, "We are on vacation. We have No schedule." So leaving 45 minute later than "planned" was nothing. We have an entire week with no work, no school, no schedule. We get to leave when we are ready. We get to travel at a pace that works. Whenever we get there is when we get there.

We had originally planned to reach Chattaooga, TN sometime during the day so that we could spend time site seeing. The Inclined Railway up mountain was our first choice, but it still was not open for the season. We pulled into the parking lot, and even though Google said they were opened, the crew was painting and doing repairs.

We still journeyed up Lookout Mountain and explored Ft. Oglethorpe. (This is where we would have landed had we taken the inclined railway up Look Out Mountain.)

I have taken enough family vacations to feel OK with whatever happens. I have traveled with kids enough to know that plans  can be changed at the drop of a hat and kids can always be a wild card.

In addition to the site seeing (both in the car and out) I bought a stash of "Road Trip Presents" to keep the kids smiling. They have been delivered by Owl Post throughout the trip. When we stopped at the first gas station, they delivered sunglasses to the kids. When we arrived at the hotel, they delivered toothbrushes.

Today, we are heading further south and will reach our destination. The Owls will deliver colored pencils, pencil pouches, activity books and four-color pens in the car. Goggles will be delivered at the hotel once we reach our destination. All we have to do is check in, open the packages, then hit the 85 degree water waiting for us at Cabana Bay Resort.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Snitch is Caught

It's weird, surreal, and a bit scary to think that in a matter of a fortnight, we will depart on our Hogwarts Journey. Cat

Last night, the kids and I completed the Jim Dale reading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Something about that accomplishment makes me want to cry. It's the end, for the first time. The secrets have been revealed. The mystery is solved. The Horcruxes have been vanquished.

As we were listening to the last disc, I would get excited and shush the kids...hold out my arms for the stillness to fall, and then the words would pour over them. With each secret that was revealed with each explanation that came, their eyes widened. Then we would discuss, summarize and continue. There was so much to absorb, so much to feel, so much to connect.

Image result for harry potter and the deathly hallows

As I watched the kids experience the ending of the Harry Potter series for the first time, I could not have been more grateful that we had the the 7th book on CD so that we could experience it together. I would have been satisfied with just Carrick reading it, but going through it as a family added a power to the story that I had yet to experience. In all the times I have read the books or listened to the book on CD (multiple times on both accounts) I had not shared it with anyone else simultaneously. (Well, sort of. I would listen to it in the car when I would take Carrick on "nap rides" when he was little. It's not quite the same as sharing it with an 11-year-old.) I loved being right there with my kids as they were taken through the forest, into Harry's mind and back into Hogwarts, knowing that the end was drawing ever closer.

This was a journey I began eleven years ago. It has been a long time in the making. When I read the Sorcerer's Stone to Carrick while he was in the NICU, it was like wrapping up in a warm blanket. Reading the familiar story to my first baby as he recovered from his two-month premature birth laid the foundation for this trip. A year later, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was opened. It was then that I made the promise to myself that his 11th birthday would include a trip there.

After saving up for the trip all year long,  (and saving up paid time off) I am finally able to make this decade-long dream a reality. I never knew it would come so quickly! That is part of why the completion of this book holds so much power over me. I have anticipated this for a very long time.

Now, our road trip and vacation are just around the corner. It seems unbelievable.

Part of my preparations are already started. The hotel room for the trip down is booked. The car rental is booked. Some car snacks are purchased, although I will be adding to that this weekend. I want to take the kids shopping for some treats to add to what I already have. My aim is to not buy anything from a gas station and save some cash that way. (ALDI is much cheaper than Circle K for snacks and bottled water.)

I am also taking the kids shopping for "car presents". I will be buying useful and/or fun things for the kids to have on the trip and wrapping them up as presents. Such items will include fanny packs, mini bubbles, sunglasses, puzzle books, goggles, and glow sticks. I figured they would enjoy opening presents on the trip. I used to do this for my kids when they were much younger and we took road trips. This is our first long road trip in three years, so I wanted to go back to that old tradition. (Also that way I know they have certain items for the trip that they might not otherwise have or remember.)

As a side note, the bubbles will be handed out if we are stuck in traffic. Once upon a time when on one of our Family Florida Road Trips with my own parents, we were stuck in Traffic in Atlanta. All four lanes of traffic were at a stand still. So I got out of the car and started blowing bubbles into the car windows of the people around us. It put a smile on everyone's face in a stressful and annoying situation and is one of my favorite memories of the trip south. Don't worry, I won't let the kids out of the car, but if we are stuck in traffic, you better believe our car will be the one with bubbles flying out the windows.

That memory calls to mind the part of this trip that seems surreal to me; I am now on the "adult" side of a Family Road Trip to Florida. Since I was two years old, my parents would drive down to Florida every other year for our big family vacation. Traveling south through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and into Florida is in my blood. It's what I know as a family vacation. I am now the one providing that to my children. Taking them on a memorable journey that will stay with them for a lifetime.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

It's Official!

This week I paid the balance on our Florida trip! Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Here We Come!

We have a six-person suite, park-hopper passes for 4 days of fun as well as early park admission all bought and paid for.

I have never paid for a vacation all on my own before. (There are a lot of things I haven't paid on my own before.) But now that I am living out on my own, I get to learn how to balance bills with Fun Dollars. This trip is ALL FUN DOLLARS. It was funded partially by my tax return as well as the leftovers in my checking account before a paycheck hit. Each week since opening my vacation savings account, I would transfer anything left that was over my "minimum" for the checking account into my vacation savings.

These were separate balance transfers from the ones I made into my "Living Expenses" savings account. That account was funded by the other half of my tax return last year. I would always pay into that account first. So as soon as I received a paycheck, I would bounce some money into my Living Expenses account.

My discipline with savings paid off this winter when my electricity bill reached $432.67. Apparently my new space was wired so that the AC would kick on every time the heater turned on. After receiving that bill (and freaking out...) I paid it...out of my Living Expenses account. NO SWEAT. As it turned out, I had to flip the AC breaker to turn off the AC. (MY AC and heater were competing for temp for a straight month. The air came out cold and both would run 24/7. Thank goodness I got that sorted out.) The good news was that after saving up, I was able to cover my bill an not deplete my savings. I made a dent, but I still have enough to cover bills for two months if necessary.

I won't lie, I was pretty proud of myself for being able to handle that situation. The electricity bill this month was back down to "normal" plus I received assistance from a local agency. I qualified, so I figured, why not use the help if it's there? It basically covers my electricity bill through April.

So now that this vacation is officially paid for, we get to work on finishing the series. We did complete book 6 entirely on audio CD. Carrick began the 7th book on audio CD, but left the CDs at his dad's house when he last visited. So, for two weeks, he gets to go back to reading on his own. I will help a little bit too by reading in the evenings. I decided that since he is so close to the end, we will still go on the trip, even though he won't complete the series before his birthday next Tuesday. I mean, he made it this far, and I would be insane to cancel the trip over a few pages.

I decided to extend a little grace with book 7. Even though I had the idea of him finishing the books by his 11th birthday, I fully understand that this is something he needs to enjoy. The past two books were somewhat "force fed" to get him this far in this amount of time. Part of the issue was him not taking it seriously and him doing other things besides reading (like electronics.)

I especially wanted him to enjoy book 7 because it's the end of the series. Sure he can always do a re-read, but going through the Deathly Hallows for the first time is an experience to savor. I remember reading it for the first time in 2007, immediately after the book release. I couldn't put it down. He is going to remember the completion of the series as long as he lives. For a Harry Potter fan, that is something you will keep with you, the first time you completed the series.

Also, there are so many aspects of the story to process, so rushing through the first read is not recommended.  ***spoiler alert*** I realized this when I saw how he reacted to Hedwig getting hit with a killing curse right off the bat. I thought, "he is going to need to read and talk about this as we go along, even more so than with the other books." I empathized with this feeling of loss. I paused the CD and said, "Ok, from here on out, it gets real...are you ready for this?  Characters die in this book. Characters, plural." He assured me that he was up for the experience.

So we are still working on book 7 and his birthday is on Tuesday. "It's not every day your young man turns eleven," (House points if you know who said that.)

Also, Lily has elected to hear the book along with us. She is now more excited to start over with the Sorcerer's Stone now that we have began listening to the Deathly Hallows. She and I had started reading the first book together before we moved out on our own. The little Slytherin (who is coming on the trip with us) had started reading his brother's copy of The Sorcerer's Stone and wanted me to read aloud to him one night. So he and Lily sat on either side of me while I read. Lily kept asking me to read to her after we moved out, but I had to stay focused on Carrick and his reading. After reading so much out loud in the evening I didn't really feel like doing more reading for her bedtime. (don't judge...) She did get her Book It points by listening to me read from the Order of the Phoenix, though. And, as a side note, little Slytherin is now reading Chamber of Secrets. He continued reading the series after we moved out because he enjoyed it so much! (Which makes my Harry Potter Heart happy!)

So for Christmas, my sister gave me the illustrated Sorcerer's Stone. Lily said with elation, "Now we can start the story over and this time we have pictures!" So even though she will already know how the series ends, it has not put a damper on her pursuing her own Harry Potter experience.

Right now the name of the game is to finish book 7, start making fine-tuned plans for the trip and keep saving those Fun Dollars!

Until Next time, Happy Spending.