Universal Happiness

My sisters are incredible.

Sarah is spunky, intelligent, witty, hilarious, gracious, kind, glass is totally full, and go with the flow.

Amy is creative, hysterically funny, completely selfless, generous, intelligent, honest, trustworthy, and super protective.

Next to them, I sometimes feel rather blah. They are both beautiful, inside and out. Amy has such a strong personality and Sarah is incredibly funny. So where do I fit in?

Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m probably just the overly sensitive, cries at everything, totally oblivious, unoriginal, quiet one. Yup. That’s me.

How am I seriously related to them??

I am so blessed to have two sisters whom I consider best friends. We don’t always get on perfectly and we don’t always see eye to eye, but we wouldn’t trade each other for the world! And though we can’t always be together, when we are it’s such a blast.

Last October we all met up in Florida (where Amy lives with her husband and daughters). It was completely serendipitous! I discovered one month before that I’d be in Florida while Hoban went through the Air Force’s Squadron Officer School nearby, and my mom was able to book Sarah a ticket out for her uni’s Fall Break.

Not three days before Sarah arrived, Amy, John (her husband), and I had the brilliant idea of surprising Sarah with a trip to Orlando (a 10 hour drive from where they live). We bought park hopper tickets, booked a hotel, made Harry Potter shirts for each of us according to our house sorting on Pottermore (we even had matching flip-flops for us girls), purchased Dark Mark tattoos and kid-sized Harry Potter glasses, packed the car, and finally, picked up Sarah from the airport.

While she was distracted by saying hello to everyone and cooing over our adorable niece (10 months old at the time), I put her bag in the trunk with the rest of our luggage and jumped in the car.

We told her we weren’t going directly home in order to buy us some time before we broke the surprise – with that knowledge and with super cute Penelope distracting her, Sarah didn’t get suspicious for a couple of hours.

When she finally realized what was happening, her response was priceless! I captured it all on my old iPhone (which I unfortunately lost to an expanding/volatile battery) so I don’t have the footage, but I won’t forget her reaction any time soon!

As the only first-time visitor in our group (aside from my niece), Sarah’s excitement was infectious. We had an incredible day at the parks made even more memorable by our time together.

Tomorrow I’ll be with Sarah again (Amy couldn’t make it as she just had beautiful baby #2!). This time however we’ll be in China, not Florida. I’m so excited to see my sister and to share another incredible adventure with her – one we’ll definitely be talking about for years to come.

The only thing that could make this trip better would be if Amy could tag along, too. Keep us in your prayers for safe travel please! And in the mean time, take a brief moment to enjoy some of our photos from that surprise-weekend at the park.

 

During our rest stop about two hours north of Orlando, we all got out to unwind for a bit. I decided to get some photos of my wonderful brother-in-law John and my niece Penelope. I particularly love how they are both reaching for each other in this photo!

Penelope needed some time to unwind outside her car seat, so we spent about twenty minutes at a rest stop just north of Orlando. She is such a champ though! She hardly fussed at all the entire way there and the entire way home. Just to be clear, that’s nearly 21 hours in the car!

They are so cute together!

They are so cute together!

We tried putting John's sunglasses on her which she seemed to like

Daddy’s little girl!

Penelope is just too cool

Penelope is just too cool.

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So. Stinking. Cute!

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Sarah came over to play with Penelope and still (8 hours in) had no idea we were almost to Orlando...and yet she's still happy to hang out in the car all day!

Sarah coming to join us at the rest stop on our way to Orlando

On our way to the park! Notice the green shirt for Amy, the red shirt for John, and the blue shirt for Sarah. Three guesses as to which house I was sorted into! #dysfunctionalfamily?

On our way to the park the next morning! Notice the green shirt for Amy, the red shirt for John, and the blue shirt for Sarah. Three guesses as to which house I was sorted into! #dysfunctionalfamily

We had Dark Mark tattoos for our day at the park. All of them worked pretty well except for Amy's. She'd applied hers incorrectly but was determined to wear it like the rest of us and so taped it on her arm. I suppose the bandaged-look that resulted appeared so realistic that she was asked numerous times throughout the day if her tattoo was real.

We had Dark Mark tattoos for our day at the park. All of them worked pretty well except for mine (pictured – it faded pretty quickly that day) and Amy’s. She’d applied hers incorrectly but was determined to wear it like the rest of us and so taped it on her arm. I suppose the bandaged-look that resulted appeared so realistic that she was asked numerous times throughout the day if her tattoo was real.

We bought the 1 day park hopper pass so that we could check out Diagon Alley and London's Kings Cross Station (at Universal Studios) as well as Hogsmede (Islands of Adventure)

We bought the 1 day park hopper pass so that we could check out Diagon Alley and London’s Kings Cross Station (at Universal Studios) as well as Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure)

On our way to Diagon Alley we stopped at the Rock It Roller Coaster which was amazing - and had virtually no line!

On our way to Diagon Alley we stopped at the Rock It Roller Coaster which was amazing – and had virtually no line!

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Universal Studios!

Walking through "London" on our way to Diagon Alley we saw 12 Grimwauld Place. The level of detail at the parks always impresses me.

Walking through “London” on our way to Diagon Alley we saw 12 Grimmauld Place. The level of detail at the parks always impresses me.

About to pass from London into Diagon Alley!

About to pass from London into Diagon Alley!

Quality Quidditch Supplies! I only wish we'd had more time at Diagon Alley. There was SO much to see and SO many stores to go in. I really felt like I was in the magical world.

Quality Quidditch Supplies! I only wish we’d had more time at Diagon Alley. There was SO much to see and SO many stores to go in. I really felt like I was in the magical world.

There were awesome drink vendors all throughout Diagon Alley. This was one of them!

There were awesome drink vendors all throughout Diagon Alley. This was one of them!

Sirius Black's motorbike was outside Gringotts

Sirius Black’s motorbike was outside Gringotts

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Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley even had a dragon on the roof (as a reference to the final book). Every fifteen minutes the dragon breathes fire which is impressive (and very loud!)!

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All over Diagon Alley were these medallions in the cobblestone. These show park-goers where they can “perform magic” throughout the park! Simply stand on the spot facing the direction of the arrow, speak the spell written, and move the wand (purchased from Ollivander’s) in the motions shown. Each place, something different would happen. I saw everything from lights turning on to skeletons moving and even rain falling!

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Sarah and I went into Florean Fortescue’s to get a cold snack on the hot Florida day. It was delicious. And check out those flavors!

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Penelope was loving all the spoiling from her two visiting Aunts. She especially loved the clotted cream and Earl Grey ice cream!

Penelope was loving all the spoiling from her two visiting Aunts. She especially loved the clotted cream and Earl Grey ice cream!

From Diagon Alley one could even get to Knockturn Alley which was dark, creepy, and full of shops like this one.

From Diagon Alley one could even get to Knockturn Alley which was dark, creepy, and full of shops like this one.

The line for the Hogwarts Express was the longest we stood in all day, but I'm glad we waited. While passing through the barrier between Kings Cross and Platform 9 3/4 there is a super cool special effect which makes it look like people are actually walking through the wall! Here is a shot of my beautiful sisters waiting in line for the train.

The line for the Hogwarts Express was the longest we stood in all day, but I’m glad we waited. While passing through the barrier between Kings Cross and Platform 9 3/4 there is a super cool special effect which makes it look like people are actually walking through the wall! Here is a shot of my beautiful sisters waiting in line for the train.

We asked someone in line behind us at Platform 9 3/4 to take a family photo for us. He did a great job...sort of. We only noticed later that Penelope is cut out which is such a shame as she was actually looking at the camera!

We asked someone in line behind us at Platform 9 3/4 to take a family photo for us. He did a great job…sort of. We only noticed later that Penelope is cut out which is such a shame as she was actually looking at the camera!

We couldn't get Penelope within a foot of the Harry Potter glasses until she saw Sarah wearing them.

We couldn’t get Penelope within a foot of the Harry Potter glasses until she saw Aunt Sarah wearing them.

This one is super blurry as we couldn't use flash, but we were aboard the Hogwarts Express! (Ignore Amy's purple necklace...Penelope was teething, haha)

This one is super blurry as we couldn’t use flash, but we were aboard the Hogwarts Express! (Ignore Amy’s purple necklace…Penelope was teething, haha)

 

Arriving at Hogsmeade Station! Dragon Alley was very very cool, but Islands of Adventure was definitely the better park overall.

Arriving at Hogsmeade Station! Dragon Alley was very very cool, but Islands of Adventure was definitely the better park overall.

This photo is totally candid and I love it. Sarah was totally enjoying her surprise day at the park.

This photo is totally candid and I love it. Sarah was totally enjoying her surprise day at the park.

Sarah inside the Three Broomsticks

Sarah inside the Three Broomsticks

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“I know you want to take a photo but my butterbeer is more important.” TRUTH.

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks! Shepherds Pie and Butterbeer. Doesn't get much more delicious than that!

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks! Shepherds pie and butterbeer. Doesn’t get much more delicious than that!

I've been to Harry Potter World three times now and each time at Ollivander's I've been picked for the wand ceremony which is just ridiculous! Here I am with the wand that "chose me".

I’ve been to Harry Potter World three times now and each time at Ollivander’s I’ve been picked for the wand ceremony which is just ridiculous! Here I am with the wand that “chose me”.

My owl must have gotten lost, because this is where I should have attended.

My owl must have gotten lost, because this is where I should have attended school. Hufflepuff forever! (Haha)

Sarah and Penelope at Hogwarts!

Sarah and Penelope at Hogwarts! (Penelope was more concerned with snitching food and drink from everybody that day at the park than paying attention to her surroundings! She also was sporting a wicked mohawk by the end of the sweaty day courtesy of her father.)

 

I am so excited to spend more time with Sarah in China! Just looking back at the last time we hung out makes me itching to be there already!

Check back in a few weeks! I have lots of catching up to do including blogs about our trips to New Zealand, Korea, Vietnam, whale watching, Fourth of July, our Summer on Okinawa, and of course, a blog about China with Sarah!

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3 thoughts on “Universal Happiness

  1. So… bets on which house Penny ends up in. I’d say the odds-on favorite has to be Slytherin (like her Mom and everyone else on that side of the family not named “Christine” or “Sarah”), with Dad’s Gryffindor being a dark horse candidate. Geves… probably too soon to tell, but if I had to cast a vote, I’d say you’re going to have company in Hufflepuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dad got Slytherin when he took the test, too, actually. Hoban and John were obviously Gryffindor. So really in the immediate Exners, Sarah and I are the only ones not wearing silver and green. …but Penelope is a lot like her mom so I’m guessing Slytherin for her…and perhaps Hufflepuff for the super chill Genevieve.

      Like

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