Tubing at Sugar Mountain, North Carolina

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Tubing at Sugar Mountain, North Carolina, February 11, 2017

This weekend, my son and I visited Sugar Mountain, North Carolina and had a fun afternoon tubing.  The temperatures were very mild, and there were light sprinkles throughout the afternoon on February 11.  We were overdressed for the weather, and were too warm as we observed the artificially-made snow melt around us.

I’m an expert skier and was eager to hit the slopes, though my son is a beginner, and was not as confident, which is totally fine.  Sugar Mountain has ice skating, tubing, skiing, and snowboarding, so we had many different activities to choose from, and did not have to stick with skiing.  Tubing was really fun, and likely, less potentially hazardous, especially with the large crowd of people who were there this weekend.

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Sugar Mountain, North Carolina Tubing, February 11, 2017

Sixteen years have passed since I first visited Sugar Mountain for skiing.  Sugar Mountain is awesome for skiing, but it is a long drive from our home.  With a stop or two, it takes six hours to get there.  Too bad it’s not a bit closer to Atlanta so we could enjoy it more often!

Skiing Fun at Sapphire Valley, North Carolina (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

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My son following his skiing lesson at Sapphire Valley, North Carolina, February 20, 2016

Last weekend, my son and a group of his peers had the opportunity to ski at Sapphire Valley, North Carolina.  This was my son’s second visit to Sapphire Valley.  Last year, he tried snowboarding there.

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My son, learning to ski, at Sapphire Valley, North Carolina, February 20, 2016.

 

This year, he opted for skiing, and found it to be much easier and more enjoyable.  Hopefully, he will get to go back and enjoy more skiing there in the future!

Building Gingerbread Houses! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My son with his Disney-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

My son with his Disney-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

One is never too old to enjoy some holiday fun of building and decorating gingerbread houses, which is what my son and I did today.  WalMart now offers a large variety of gingerbread houses and cookies to decorate.  Just in the past couple of years, the many choices of gingerbread houses have exploded onto the scene.

Showing off my Hello Kitty-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

Showing off my Hello Kitty-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

This year, I bought Disney and Hello Kitty-themed gingerbread houses at WalMart, made by Brand Castle at BrandCastle.com in Bedford Heights, Ohio.  They were a little more pricey than the usual style, but for $3 more each, it was worth it.  The cookies not only came with frosting and candies, but also cardboard and plastic platforms.  The cookies were extremely well-packaged, and none of them were broken upon opening the boxes.

Examples of Character-Themed Gingerbread Houses by Brand Castle

Examples of Character-Themed Gingerbread Houses by Brand Castle

While we never create and/or decorate gingerbread houses that look nearly as nice as what the pictures on the boxes show, we always have fun.  And, another great thing about building and decorating gingerbread houses is that they can also be eaten – yet an additional way to enjoy our work!  Happy holidays!

Fun at the Snellville First Baptist Church Trunk and Treat 2015 (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My son as a Pokemon Trainer for Halloween at the Snellville First Baptist Church in Georgia, October 30, 2015

My son as a Pokemon Trainer for Halloween at the Snellville First Baptist Church in Georgia, October 30, 2015

What a beautiful evening it was on October 30 for the Trunk and Treat event at the Snellville, Georgia First Baptist Church to celebrate Halloween!

My son as a Pokemon Trainer for Halloween, with Minions, at the Snellville First Baptist Church in Georgia, October 30, 2015

My son as a Pokemon Trainer for Halloween, with Minions, at the Snellville First Baptist Church in Georgia, October 30, 2015

The multitude of people giving out candy and kids receiving it made for an enjoyable event for the many who came to the event.

My son being "eaten" by the red M&M at Snellville's First Baptist Church Trunk and Treat, October 30, 2015

My son being “eaten” by the red M&M at Snellville’s First Baptist Church Trunk and Treat, October 30, 2015

I dare say this was probably the most fun my son has ever had trick or treating for Halloween.  Thank you to everyone for making this such an outstanding event! 🙂

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Pumpkin Patch 2015 (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My son (as a werewolf) and I with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy at Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Pumpkin Patch, Whittier, North Carolina, October 2015

My son (as a werewolf) and I with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy at Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Pumpkin Patch, Whittier, North Carolina, October 2015

This month, my son and I had fun at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Pumpkin Patch.  Each year, the railroad has the Charlie Brown Pumpkin Patch, and we have attended it many times.

My son and I at Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Pumpkin Patch, Whittier, North Carolina, October 2015

My son and I at Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Pumpkin Patch, Whittier, North Carolina, October 2015

This will probably be my son’s last year going to the pumpkin patch.  This is a great family event, and we have had a wonderful experience throughout the years!

My son at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, October 2015

My son at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, October 2015

Note: The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is headquartered in Bryson City, North Carolina.

Enjoying the Gwinnett County Fair (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

View of Gwinnett County Fair from atop Ferris Wheel, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

View of Gwinnett County Fair from atop Ferris Wheel, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

Last weekend, my son and I took the opportunity to visit and enjoy the Gwinnett County Fair in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  We do our best to visit the Fair each year, doing so many of the fun things that fairs have to offer.  Last Friday evening was perfect for riding several rides, including the swings, Ferris wheel, coaster cars, and walking through the fun houses and 4-H small animal building.

My Son Enjoying a Fun House at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

My Son Enjoying a Fun House at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

Last year, my son and I volunteered with the 4-H small animal building and had a great experience, but we missed out on doing so this year.  We also enjoyed eating pizza, snow cones, and cotton candy; playing some of the many games; and winning a gold fish at the ping pong ball toss.

My Son Petting a Rabbit at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

My Son Petting a Rabbit at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

In all, it was another experience of great fun at the Gwinnett County Fair, and we were happy to come away exhilarated and refreshed!

An Amazing Day at the Circus! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

Yesterday, my son and I went to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Georgia!  What an absolutely fabulous and fun time we had! The circus performance was so much more and better than I ever imagined it would be!  Oh my gosh!  I have never seen any performance quite as amazing and incredible as that which I saw yesterday at the circus!  I recommend to anyone who can go, to see these wonderful and astounding performances.

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

At the circus, my son and I sat in the third row, right up in front. I got great tickets from StubHub.com for $25 each only a couple of days before the show. It was incredible to save about $40 on the ticket prices, and still get such fantastic seats! I still can’t believe it!  The money I saved was then spent on food and souvenirs. Thank you, StubHub!

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

There were so many performances and shows that my son and I enjoyed seeing at the circus. Alexander Lacey – the lion tamer – put on a great show with several lions and tigers doing many tricks.  We had prime seats to watch as he rubbed a lion’s tummy, and kissed lions and tigers. He also rode through the arena in a fancy, motorized circus car with a leopard that he hugged and kissed!

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

We watched as Joseph Frisco, III, and Mario Bovio superbly-handled up to six elephants at a time. There was one portion of the show in which four elephants stood up on their hind legs, with most of them placing their front feet on the backs of the other elephants. It was really incredible to see!

Some of the Many Circus Performers

Some of the Many Circus Performers

We saw the Tuniziani Troupe perform on the flying trapeze, with at least one performer doing a triple somersault while flying through the air. There were the men of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe whose acrobatics included jumping through hoops that were up to ten feet off of the floor. The women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe skillfully spun and twirled diabolos in the air in synchrony. And, the men and women together formed a giant peacock while either riding and/or standing on top of two bicycles and each other while on the bicycles.  It was pretty neat!

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

The Torres Family, who ride motorcycles while inside a giant steel ball, left my son speechless and myself both amazed and concerned for their safety. Beginning with a group of four motorcyclists, they steadily increased their number up to eight during their final performance.  All of the motorcyclists rode in circular patterns inside the steel ball, while not having any collisions!  Their performances amount to a world record achieved every day!

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Tchalabaev Cossack Troupe gave astounding performances by riding their horses. These riders did not just “ride” horses by sitting on them, but also stood atop of them, sometimes standing with one foot on each of two horses galloping next to each other. There were also performances of men in the group who hung off the horses in what was called the “dead-man rag,” in which it appeared that the horses would nearly kick them. Other performers (two at a time) also climbed over and under a horse while it was galloping. They also performed a five-person pyramid while the horses were at a gallop. It was all pretty amazing!

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

There were performances of clowns, dancers, dogs, goats, and the motorcycle highwire – which was almost directly above us, with no nets – that were also wonder-inducing. My son was amazed to watch a dog jump into a man’s arms from 16 feet off of the floor. Hans and Mariya Klose, and Vicki Zsilak and Alex Petrov, respectively, did a great job with the dogs and goats. The clowns were so funny, too, and kept us laughing. The dancers added even more vigor and vitality to the overall show.  The performances of the goats, dogs, and miniature ponies were great, too.

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

The folks on the motorcycle highwire, riding back and forth, and even spinning around the highwire, were incredible to watch. Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos, the Ringmaster and his sidekick, were the gel that pulled it all together in this cool show. To top it all off, the Ringling Brothers Band played live music during the circus performances!

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

If I might have changed one thing in the circus, it would be for the elephant that wore the mammoth suit to have it removed. Elephants are such wonderful, intelligent, and sensitive creatures, and to see an elephant dressed up in a full-body costume was distressing. Certainly, the animal was alright and was not being hurt, however it leaves me to wonder how much stress it really creates in this creature.

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

The one and only previous time that I had ever been to a circus was a Barnum & Bailey event sponsored by the Shriner’s. I went with my brother and other children on school buses when I was seven-years-old.  I think I remember seeing some elephants, but we were seated so highly up in Buffalo’s War Memorial Auditorium – and because the adult chaperones with us showed absolutely no eagerness or excitement at all – I don’t remember much of it except getting separated from the group when we left.  Thankfully, I was able to flag down a friendly policewoman who was directing traffic, and she took my brother and I to our school bus. That is the most I remember about going to a circus as a child – being left behind and having to step up to fend for my brother and myself amidst a sea of people. I expect that was the reason I never got to go see the circus again as a child – due to the careless “supervision” I experienced.

Performers at the Circus

Performers at the Circus

So, one can imagine what a wonderful treat it was to take my son and watch such an incredible and breath-taking circus!  Anyone who can go to and enjoy seeing the circus should do so in order to enjoy all of the wonderful and astounding performances that are in store!  Thank you to Nicole and Alana Feld for producing such a wonderful show!

Winter Fun (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Me after Snowboarding in North Carolina, February 2015

Me after Snowboarding in North Carolina, February 2015

Recently, my son and I enjoyed some winter fun!  It was a welcome change to get away from the regular routine, even for one day.  We enjoyed a discounted group rate by snowboarding in North Carolina, and camped overnight in the Georgia mountains.

My Son after Snowboarding in North Carolina, February 2015

My Son after Snowboarding in North Carolina, February 2015

As a veteran and experienced skier, I was surprised to find that snowboarding was not as easy as I thought it would be.  You don’t know unless you try, of course, but I think I’ll stick with skiing.

This was the first time in nine years that I had hit the slopes, and my son’s very first time.  It was a great experience, and I hope we can go again…sometime sooner than nine years from now.

“Two Days at Disney” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

View of EPCOT with Flower Show, Monorail, and Spaceship Earth, Disney World, Florida, April 2, 2013

View of EPCOT with 20th Anniversary Flower Show, Monorail, and Spaceship Earth, Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, April 2013

During Spring Break 2013, in the first week of April after Easter, my son and I spent two days at Disney World.  I have visited Disney world numerous times throughout my life, and have taken my son there on some occasions, as well.  He and I enjoyed two wonderful days at this wonderful, get-away paradise, wishing that we could have stayed longer.  For a single parent on a limited budget, even two days was financially difficult to do, though it was important to get away and enjoy some refreshment even for a couple of days.

Flamingos at Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

Flamingos at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

On our first day at Disney World, we visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  My son had not visited the Animal Kingdom for the past seven years, and I promised him that we would go there on this trip.  I am so happy that we went because it turned out to be the absolute perfect day!  The weather was great, and while it was toasty, it was not too unbearably hot outside yet.  The shade of the many trees in Animal Kingdom also helped to keep us cooler.

African Dance Party at Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

African Dance Party at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

The highlights of our visit to Animal Kingdom were going on the safari ride, eating lunch at the Tusker House Restaurant with some Disney characters, and viewing the Lion King Show.  Each of these activities were wonderful, and we really enjoyed them!  On the safari, we saw many animals, including elephants, lions, giraffes, monkeys, crocodiles, and more.  During lunch, Mickey Mouse visited with us, as well as other Disney characters.  And, the acrobatics, songs, and costumes of the Lion King Show were amazing!  Additionally, in the African section, we did some shopping and enjoyed African culture, including music and singing.

The Lion King Show at Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

The Lion King Show at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

On our second day at Disney World, we went to EPCOT.  It was another beautiful, yet humid day, and we often got refreshed in the air conditioned buildings or drank water or juice to cool down.  At EPCOT, we visited different sections, including Canada, England, France, Morocco, and Japan.  We were privileged to see and hear three marching bands troop past us.  We also had our pictures taken with many characters, including Alladin and Princess Jasmin. 

A Marching Band from Ohio, Performing at EPCOT, Disney World, Florida, April 2013

A Marching Band from Ohio, Performing at EPCOT, Disney World, Florida, April 2013

Also at EPCOT, we rode on the newly upgraded and more modernized Test Track, at which my son designed his own red sports car on the computers there.  We extremely enjoyed the 20th Annual EPCOT Flower Show, particuarly with flowers arranged on the ground in the form of flowers and butterflies.  While we did not stay late into the evening to see the fireworks, we still had a fabulous time!

Beautiful Flowers at the 20th Anniversary EPCOT Flower Show, Disney World, Florida, April 2013

Beautiful Flowers at the 20th Anniversary EPCOT Flower Show, Disney World, Florida, April 2013

My philosophy about children is that they grow up very fast, and it is important to provide as many fun, interesting, and memorable experiences for them as possible.  Disney World is a place where I have vacationed very often, having first visited when I was about three or four years old.  Now, I have the pleasure and satisfaction of taking my own son to Disney World for his enjoyment.  I am happy to have the opportunities and ability to provide for such family enjoyment, and look forward to more visits there in the future.

Me with my Son and Mickey Mouse at Tusker House Restaurant, Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

Me with my Son and Mickey Mouse at Tusker House Restaurant, Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

This blog post is a tribute to all those who lost their lives or who were injured – especially children – in the bomb blasts at yesterday’s Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts.  May God bless you all and keep you close.