Wednesday, July 27, 2011

B is for Baby Shower

Last weekend I hosted a baby shower with my friends Bekah and Pam for our friend, Robyn, who is expecting a little boy next month. She is doing an alphabet and animal themed room, so we followed suit for the shower. Here are a few pics of the decorations.

The games got everyone laughing (drawing babies on a paper plate on top of your head was a hit), and Robyn got some really cute stuff for Baby Luke. Here is a picture of the hostesses and the guest of honor. There are more pictures of the fun in the album.

Pam, Bekah, Robyn, & E

Bedtime Fun

Here's what Jackson and Audrey are like just before bed...they typically have us rolling in laughter!

The Circus

Every year, Jackson and Audrey's school do a Circus performance during the summer. This year was no exception!

Jackson's class did a separate performance in the morning, and he had a solo part. He was a lion, which some of you may guess is one of his favorite animals because he loves to ROAR!

In the afternoon, the entire school performed. Audrey was an adorable dancing bear. She actually danced a little after the initial shock of being in front of so many strangers. Once she spotted me in the crowd though, she was pretty cute. She wasn't sure if she was allowed to come to me, so she slowly started stepping forward. When she reached the edge of the crowd, she put her head down and continued her little steps forward until she reached me. At that point, she lifted her head, grinned, and climbed into my lap to watch the rest of the show.

We always suspected Jackson might be the class clown, and he was that day! He did a great job "juggling" (throwing balls in the air) and making people laugh and smile.

Everyone did great and enjoyed the show! There are more pictures in the album.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Zappos customer service

Last week, I bought some running shoes from This week they arrived along with a pair of size 9.5W tan Type Z Darla Peep Toe high heals. So I contacted Zappos customer service, via the online chat option, and thanked them for the free shoes but pointed out that I was not particularly interested in wearing them and they were too big for my wife. In a quick and friendly chat, the customer service rep, Ebony, identified the order, told me I could dispose of them how I wish because she didn't want to hassle me with the return and then proceeded to give me a membership in their VIP club and a $50 coupon for my trouble! I just wanted to make sure some lady got her shoes. This service shouldn't surprise me, I've written about Zappos before.

So, does anyone want the shoes?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Disney's Animal Kingdom!

By Sunday morning we had the routine down and got to Animal Kingdom before they opened, which meant Mickey and Minnie greeted us, along with the crowd, at the entrance. Emma and Ross spent the previous evening planning our adventures for the day, and it worked out great again! The kiddos and adults enjoyed their rides!

Without a doubt the highlights were the safari ride and The Lion King show! Pictures don't do the show justice, but here are some from the safari ride.

Animal Kingdom didn't take as long as Magic Kingdom, so we were headed back to New Smyrna aroun 2 PM. The kiddos napped in the car, and we all enjoyed a little down time at the rental house before heading out to dinner by the water and another trip to the beach.

The entire trip was a huge success, and we are all so thankful the shuttle launched on time and we were able to do so many fun things in such a short time! We all laughed hard and played hard. Jackson and Clara are great friends now, and we've got some wonderful memories to take with us!

To see more pics of the fun, check out the albums!

Disney's Magic Kingdom!

Saturday morning we woke up early again and headed to Orlando. Our destination for the day was Disney's Magic Kingdom, and it lived up to the hype. We all had a blast! Emma was our planner for the trip, and boy did it pay off! Another friend of mine, Whitney, passed along some invaluable information about what to do, how to plan, etc., which I passed along to Emma. With that information, Emma planned a full day of fun activities for the kiddos and adults. We did most rides and shows together, but we also took turns watching the kids so the adults could ride the roller coasters. It worked out perfectly!

Apparently, I was taking too many pictures because I got the hand!

Jackson's Hand

Don't worry though...the hand doesn't stop me!

In case you were wondering what hot and tired looks like, here you go!

They recovered just in time for the afternoon parade, and we had great seats!

Jackson and Clara were both mesmerized by the parade as by most things at the park. Jackson's response was to become very serious and study what's going on, but we did manage to have him wave a few times.

We rounded out the day with a visit to see Mickey and Minnie while Clara went to see the princesses. Jackson was so excited while waiting in line, but when his turn rolled around, he got a little scared. We managed to get a picture with Jackson in between us and Mickey and Minnie on either side. This was pretty typical for the trip. Jackson didn't want anything to do with the characters!

The Taylors with Mickey & Minnie

When all was said and done, we had two exhausted kiddos and four exhausted adults! We made our way to Downtown Disney for dinner before heading back to the rental house, but the kiddos crashed in the car, which was good since we did it all over again the next day at Animal Kingdom!

There are more pics in the album!

Beach Time!

When we got back to New Smyrna after the shuttle launch, we made our way to the beach. This was Clara's first time at the beach, and Jackson hadn't been since we came for the shuttle launch last year. Both loved it! I loved watching their initial reactions to the water...

After that, there was no containing their excitement!

There are a few more pictures of the sandy fun in the album!

The Last Shuttle Launch

We were fortunate enough to be able to watch the final Shuttle launch in person from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Causeway. Ross won the lottery to get a Causeway Pass, which allows you to take up to 7 people in a vehicle to see the launch, so we invited our friends, the Fulliloves (Chris, Emma, and Clara), to join us. We left Audrey at home with my Dad, AKA Pop, since it was going to be a long and very busy weekend. Audrey did get to see a shuttle launch last year, which she's not likely to remember, but we have pictures to prove it! We missed her terribly and feel guilty for leaving her behind, but I don't know that we could have squeezed as much into this trip if she'd come. I'll limit this post to the details of the launch, but we went to Disney's Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom while we were there too!

We all flew to Florida on Thursday. Chris arrived earlier in the day, so he killed time by picking up our rental car and running to the grocery store. We stayed in a rental house in New Smyrna Beach, which worked out great! We awoke early Friday morning, loaded the car, picked up breakfast, and made our way to KSC. Traffic got heavy about 10 miles away, and we were there 4 hours early! Once we made it to the causeway, we set up camp, had some snacks, let the kids play, and eagerly waited!

Chris and Emma rented this awesome lens, which we used like a telescope prior to launch.

We each checked our phones every few minutes for the latest updates on the launch. Weather was forecasted to be "no go," so we were mentally preparing ourselves to make the trek out and back again the next day. Then about 10 minutes prior to the scheduled launch time of 11:26 ET, an announcement was made over the loops to the Shuttle Commander, Chris Ferguson, that things were looking good and we were likely going to launch today! (The loops were being played over loud speakers on the causeway.) I literally started bouncing up and down with excitement! Here are the pics from just after the announcement.

The countdown resumed at T-9 minutes, and we all took our places to watch the final Shuttle launch! At T-31 seconds to launch, a call was made that paused the sequence while retraction of the Gaseous Oxygen Vent Arm, or "Beanie Cap," was verified. As a former flight controller, I was filled with pride by the way the team managed everything. It's a lot of pressure to make that type of call during such a dynamic event and then resolve it quickly allowing the launch to resume, which it did! The crowd counted down from 10 seconds, and we watched the Space Shuttle, Atlantis, liftoff.

From where we were standing you could see the main engines ignite, the plume surround the vehicle, and Atlantis powerfully lift off the ground. It was a cloudy day, so she disappeared a little too quickly for us, but about the time Atlantis went through the clouds the rumble from the launch began to reach us. It's a sound and a feeling I won't forget.

Here's one of the amazing pictures Chris took during the launch followed by my snapshots of our view.

STS-135, Atlantis' Final Launch

While we waited for the MECO (Main Engine Cut Off) call, which assures the crew has safely made it to orbit, we took some pics with the plume in the background.

Once Atlantis reached MECO, we packed up our stuff and headed to the car. A very nice gentleman even gave us a ride in his golf cart so we wouldn't have to walk as far! Because there were estimated to be over 1 million people at this launch, it took a while to get back to our rental house. The kids passed the time with naps and movies, while the adults talked non-stop about how amazing the launch was!

There are more pictures of our launch experience in the album, and there's more to come from the weekend!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Shuttle Motion Base Simulator

The Shuttle's Motion Base Simulator will be decomissioned and shipped off to Texas A&M when the last shuttle mission ends. Today Ross and I were given the opportunity to "fly" the shuttle in this simulator. We got to experience a little of how the astronauts train for both ascents and landings. Part way through the launch our pilot, Mark Sonoda, who is also my former boss, declared an abort of the launch, which lead to a return to launch site landing. Ross got the honors of landing the shuttle on that run, and he did awesome! Here are some pics of him in the commander's seat.


Here are a few pictures of the simulator. It's a very realistic model of the shuttle cockpit!

Shuttle SimulatorShuttle SimulatorRoss

Here's the simulator from the outside. It actually tilts up so you're on your back for the launch simulations. It's really pretty incredible.

Shuttle Simulator

When Ross was done the simulator was reset, and I got a chance to land the shuttle too!


When we were done it was a bittersweet moment to realize we were a part of history by going on this ride. We signed the log book, received our print outs that showed how well we actually flew the shuttle, and headed out.

The reality of the shuttle program coming to an end has hit hard. The final shuttle launch is planned for Friday. Right now the weather is causing the probability to only be 30% chance of launch on Friday, but the chances get better over the following days. Ross and I are taking Jackson and heading to Florida in hopes of being able to see it!

Monday, July 04, 2011

4th of July

We spent our 4th of July weekend in Leakey with Ross' family again this year. We spent most of the day Saturday enjoying the town events. The parade was the highlight for both Jackson and Audrey. They even got to watch a helicopter land and take off before and after the parade.


Sunday we spent some time at "The Three Oaks," which is the new name for the Taylor's property. We made our way over early enough in the morning that it wasn't too terribly hot, and we went for a ride in the Polaris with Ross' Dad, John. Jackson and Audrey both loved riding around, and I just love these faces!

Polaris Ride

When we started getting hot and hungry, we headed back to the house where we met up with Susan, Leslie, and our nephew, Mitchell. Mitchell is 18 months now, and he's just adorable!


The kiddos had fun playing around, and at some point Audrey found a cordless phone, which caused me to imagine what life will be like in 10 or so years...I can just imagine what they will be saying!

Telephone Time

Here are a couple more pics of the kiddos enjoying the beautiful day!

Mitchell & AudreyJD

As always, there are more pictures in the album!