Big kids, big problems

Now that Truett and Kirsten are 9 and 10, parenting looks very different from when they were helpless little babies. In most regards, it’s a whole lot easier when you can use words to communicate (as opposed to screamy voices and tears). On the downside, using words can be frustrating because they are talking back like smartypants big kids and questioning all my rules and I’m like “Okay new rule, I’m the only one who gets to talk here, you guys.

Few days ago, I had a situation with them whereby Tru and Kirsten got themselves banned from all electronic devices for a day.

The infraction? Overusing their allocated time and refusing to stop even when they were asked to.

All they had to do was abide by the ban for 24 hours and they were done.

But instead of being good about it, they decided to secretly use the phone for 5 minutes hoping that we wouldn’t find out. I know that in the grand scheme of things, it was just 5 minutes and the actual using of the phone wasn’t a big deal. The issue was being duplicitous and blatantly disregarding instructions instead of having a conversation about it (we usually encourage them to talk it out if they wanted us to reconsider the ban – it works about 50% of the time, which are fantastic odds).

Well, I did find out and I had a very strong word with them about the importance of earning trust. I told them how disappointed I was that they went behind my back and that if I couldn’t trust them, they would have all their privileges revoked. Consequently, I extended their ban for another 7 days.

They were both visibly subdued and retreated to their respective corners with a book for the rest of the day.

That evening, while putting the big kids to bed, the husband was talking to them about whether they thought we were too strict.

Kirsten: Yah, sometimes.

Truett: Actually, for me it’s ok. The things that you guys are strict about are important so I think it’s fair.

Husband: Wow, that’s very thoughtful and I’m so glad to hear that. Kirsten, do you want to tell daddy about how you feel?

Kirsten: Oh, um, exactly what he said.

I often think about whether I should be so strict with the kids because am I overreacting to them using the phone for 5 minutes? I remember feeling frustrated about my parents being too strict when I was a teenager and now, having to be the strict parent is a difficult place to be in. It’s not that I need their adoration or approval in the face of being disciplined (although wouldn’t that be nice??!), but I need them to understand that we have their best interests at heart even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Hearing them say this makes me feel like maybe we’re not doing such a bad job. :)


Part IV: Universal Orlando

Ever since our last visit to Universal Orlando, we were certain of two things: 1. that one day our kids would become proper potterheads and 2. we would be back to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with them.

We just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

To be honest, during our last trip to Universal, we had sort of decided that it would be the last visit for a while. It was a fab time for us adults but we were touring with two kids who were visibly bored while interacting with the animatronic goblins at Gringotts bank(?!) and having lunch at Three Broomsticks(??!!). But understandably so because the magic of Diagon Alley isn’t immediately clear if one hasn’t read Harry Potter 1 through 7.

The kids couldn’t understand why their parents were fascinated by pointy wooden sticks and boring train stations so we ended up rushing through the park instead of soaking it in like one is supposed to. Okay, they did enjoy Honeydukes but I suspect it was mostly because of the candy.

Turns out that 2017 was the year that Truett and Kirsten got acquainted with Hogwarts and they loved it. I had planned to ease them in with books 1-3, then let them pick up on books 4-7 when they got a little older, like maybe 12? When Tru finished book 3, he made it clear that it was impossible for him to wait 2 more years before reading the next book and he presented a pretty good case. I remember having to wait an entire year for the next book to drop and it was excruciating; I couldn’t be this cruel to my kids so he has since devoured the entire series.

Kirsten got up to book 4 before deciding that her brain couldn’t handle this amount of darkness and it was a good call because I was 18 when book 4 dropped and I was terrified by the opening Frank Bryce scene with Voldemort + Nagini. This kid is so mature it makes me incredibly proud.

The point is, Truett and Kirsten have been suitably introduced to the magic and they were ready for a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


Universal Orlando is made up of 2 parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. There are some decent rides for older kids scattered around both parks but the headliners are clearly the Harry Potter sections (Hogsmeade in Universal Studios and Diagon Alley in Islands of Adventure).

As far as theming goes, both areas are amazing. The level of detail is staggering and there are enough easter eggs for any hardcore potterhead to go crazy over. Like meeting Stan Shunpike and the Knight Bus complete with interactive shrunken head was such a treat. The kids were so thrilled to have a hilarious conversation with the shrunken head even though Theo ran away once the head started talking back.

And what about the dragon on top of Gringott’s bank that breathes real fire periodically throughout the day? Let’s just say that it still takes my breath away.


First off, when you’re visiting Universal Orlando, you want to get the park-to-park pass that allows you to visit both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in the same day. That’s the only way to ride the Hogwarts Express, which is an actual train connecting both parks.

I’d recommend riding it in both directions because each experience is different, although if you only have time for one direction (haha!), do it from King’s Cross station at Universal Studios because that’s where you get to see platform 9 3/4.

The new addition since our last visit was the wand-activated side quests one could find at various corners marked with medallions on the pavement. One has to purchase a special interactive wand in order to perform spells at these designated areas but if you ask me, it is the one merch item in the whole park that is worth purchasing.

Some of the quests were straightforward, like using Wingardium Leviosa to levitate a quill or Silencio to make a bird stop chirping. Others were very elaborate and super fun, like one where you could activate a moving skeleton on a screen to mirror your movements.

Then there are the rides. There aren’t many rides at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter but it’s clear that a lot of thought has been put into creating an excellent experience for each ride. Escape from Gringotts is easily the best ride in all of Universal Orlando, combining a thrilling track roller coaster with insane 4D effects. The queue for this is consistently 2 hours long but for good reason (because it’s magnificent!!) and there’s a single rider queue if you don’t mind riding alone (no, we do not mind at all!).

And as if all of that is not enough, the thing to top it off was the Christmas fireworks light show that lit up Hogwarts castle every evening.

Right, I think that about covers it. I’ll wrap it all up with this video. :)


Part III: Legoland Florida

As usual, we saved the best for last and this next leg of the trip was all about the theme parks.

It was an easy flight in to Orlando from Buffalo airport and the kids were practically high from excitement the moment we landed; they were singing and dancing their way through TSA clearance, which I suppose is the best way one could clear TSA checks.


Another first for this trip was a visit to Legoland Florida. We had considered checking it out during the past few visits but it’s about an hour’s drive out from the main Disney/Universal cluster and it was always a “let’s do it next time” sort of situation.

Well, this time was finally the next time and now we’re like, we totally should have done it earlier.

Legoland is a dream come true for any Lego fan because there’s Lego everywhere: Lego castles, Lego dragons, Lego trees, Lego coasters, Lego farm animals, hands on Lego building stations, Lego robotics, basically anything one could want to see made of Lego can be found there.

Incidentally, this was Theo’s first proper experience of a theme park and this boy was in absolute heaven. It was full on wide eyed wonder at everything, like “YOU MEAN I SPENT 3 YEARS OF MY LIFE NOT KNOWING SUCH AN AWESOME PLACE EXISTS??!!! Is this made of Lego?? How about this? And this??? And I can ride as many times as I want??!! NO WAY!!! 

He was dragging us everywhere making us go on every single ride multiple times, it was like experiencing a theme park for the first time all over again and I loved it. :)

If you’ve been to Legoland Malaysia, most of the areas + rides are pretty similar. It’s a very toddler friendly park with a handful of big kid type thrill coasters. Which is to say that it was perfect for these two boys, who were having the time of their lives.

And unlike the insane crowds that can be found in Legoland Malaysia, the one in Florida was so quiet it was like having the whole park to ourselves. It was such a treat to basically walk on for every ride.

Usually, after every ride, they’ll be like “That was awesome, let’s do it again!!” and we’ll look at the queue and be like “Ummm, maybe later” which is code for “OH HELL NO.” But with a quiet park, they rode all the rides again and again and again and it’s totally an obnoxious first world problem but by the afternoon, the husband and I were having to rock, paper, scissors to see who would get to go on the spinning ride with the kids one more time.

By unanimous agreement, the best ride in the whole park was Lego Ninjago The Ride.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the kids have been crazy about Lego Ninjago, such that Theo has been telling me not to call him by his actual name. Instead, the only name that he will henceforth be responding to is Green Ninja. I told him that Green Ninja is a ridiculous name for a boy and I will not be calling him that. He was adamant, like “Yes mom, you are calling me Green Ninja.” And ok yes, as of this morning, I’m still calling him Green Ninja.

Back to the ride. This ride is amazing, it’s so much fun. You get to be one of the Lego Ninjago characters to go on an interactive mission to defeat bad guys via some advanced motion detection technology. The way to activate your powers was to wave your hands around wildly and you can be sure that there was some nerd level hand waving going down while we were riding.