Thursday, July 7, 2016

Personal Post: Where will Spencer serve his mission?

My baby brother (pictured above with my girl at her baptism last month) will be receiving his mission call to serve for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints either this week or next, so we are asking the family guess where he will be going. As email guesses are coming in to my mom, I am compiling them here for all to see.

Also, in case anyone is interested, here is a list of all the missions possible.

Everyone gets one Domestic guess and one International guess.

Below are the guesses:

Andrea: Greece, Athens mission OR Colorado, Denver mission
Anne: Norway OR Puerto Rico 
Armour: Toronto Canada OR Louisiana
Beckee: Any Philippines mission OR Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Cody: Brazil OR Georgia
Deborah: German Alps OR Alabama
Ender G: Russia OR North Carolina
Ender J: Paris France OR Maine
Eric: Finland
Everest: Mexico OR Hawaii
Garry: New Zealand OR Florida
Georgia/XiaXia: Thionville, France (which is the Paris North mission) OR Rochester, New York
Jaxon: Argentina OR New Jersey
Jeremy: Ecuador OR New York, New York
Kindle: Yakima, WA or Hawaii
Kris: Westeros (Ireland) OR New York
Kyara: Australia OR New Mexico
Marie: Rome OR Anaheim
Mary: Mexico OR Indiana
Melanie: Rome, Italy OR New York City
Mike: Korea Busan Mission OR New York, New York (South)
Rochelle/Mom: Fiji Suva or somewhere in Polynesia OR Sacramento, CA
Solace: Philippines OR Louisiana
Stefanie: Greece OR Detroit
Stephen/Dad: Hong Kong OR Cleveland
Steve: The Philippines OR The Bronx
Tiffany: Paris France (Or somewhere French speaking) OR Fresno CA
Tomas: New Jersey OR Mexico
Thomas: South Africa OR New Jersey
Travis: Greece
Wes: Canada Winnipeg OR Yakima Washington

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Universal Studios VIP experience

My husband and I coordinated with Santa last Christmas to do Christmas presents a little differently. Instead of lots of presents, we gave the family "adventures" that the kids wanted to do. For example, our 9-year-old is a huge sports fan and he wanted to see one of his two favorite players play live (Tom Brady or Stephen Curry). We found a Warriors game in January in Portland and took the family to see Stephen Curry play live! They opened an envelope with the tickets in them on Christmas. Our oldest daughter wanted to go see Wicked or another Broadway show. We could not find any Wicked shows coming nearby that we could make work, but Newsies was coming in April. So we got family tickets to that. Our oldest son wanted ski lessons from dad, so we arranged a ski weekend for the fam. AND all the kids wanted to go see the new Harry Potter land in California. So, we arranged to have that happen as well. ALL these experiences (that we likely would do anyway) doubled as Christmas presents. (YEAH! Pay once, get the excitement twice-once when you open the experience description and once when you use it)

Now, Friends, sometimes in life you decide to splurge on something. This is one of those times. Last week we finally had our Christmas "Adventure" to Universal Studios to check out the new Harry Potter area. We only had one day for Universal, and it turned out that day was a Saturday. Which we assumed would be super busy. As we were researching options, we saw online that they have a VIP experience that would give us unlimited front of line passes (plus other benefits). I am not going to lie, it was pricey, but I would do it again in a heartbeat (well, a heartbeat after I had saved up enough money to do it again).
What Is the VIP Experience?

Here are the things included in the VIP experience
  • Exclusive Backlot Access
  • Priority access to all rides and attractions (ie unlimited Front of line Passes)
  • Access to VIP lounge with breakfast
  • Gourmet Lunch in the private VIP dining room
  • Valet Parking 
  • Personal Tour Guide with a small group of other VIP's
One thing to note, guests must be at least 5 years old to experience the VIP tour. Our youngest is just 5 and the next two kids are 8 & 9. We read online LOTS of people saying not to bring kids under age 10. I disagree completely! Our little 5 year old LOVED it and he did not impede the others in our group at all. He was too short for a couple rides, so my husband and I took turns staying off those rides with him. Other than that, having him there was no different than anyone else being there. In fact, it was harder for the expectant mother in the other VIP group than it was for us with our little kids. (BTW, if I was pregnant, I would skip paying the added price to be a VIP. You cannot participate in SOOO much anyway. Just my opinion though.) We did have a pretty awesome group though and they all loved the kids. Yeah for our awesome group!!!

What was MY Experience with it?

We arrived at Universal Studios and headed right to Valet parking. They parked our car as we headed to the VIP entrance at the theme park. Once we were checked in, they sent us up to the VIP lounge where they were serving what they call "a light breakfast". It was amazing. AMAZING! Here are a couple pictures of it (this only shows 2 of the 6 stations full of food):
That breakfast alone had my oldest son sold on this VIP thing! 
At breakfast, our host, Sami (pictured below with my family) explained to us what she had planned for us for the next few hours. We would spend about 3 hours out in the park doing rides and a show, eat lunch, then go to the Backlot studio VIP tour for 2 hours. After that, we would be on our own to do whatever else we wanted to at the park until it closed at 10 (still with unlimited front of line passes).

Besides the 7 of us, there were 8 other people in our VIP group. Here are the rides and attractions we did with our group:

  • Transformers: The Ride-3D
  • Jurassic Park: The Ride
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • Universal's Animal Actors Show
  • Harry Potter Land!
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Ollivander's wand choosing ceremony
Let me just share one picture from that part of the day (from the Jurassic Park ride) because it is hilarious: 

After all that in just a few hours (3), we had our amazing gourmet lunch. It is served Buffet style and you have about an hour to eat and drink all you want. It was truly amazing! I will just let the pictures do the talking for that: 

During lunch we even met a couple characters, like Betty Boop and Count Dracula.

Once lunch was over we did our 2 hour VIP Backlot Studio tour. It was awesome! We joined another VIP group on a comfy bus (not the trams you usually ride in the backlot tour). We got to walk through a real sound set, walk along the streets of the backlot, go through part of the Prop building and wave at the trams go by (they thought we were famous people and took pictures as they passed. It was funny). Here is my family on the steps of the clock tower from Back to the Future (and yes, the 5 year old IS asleep on my husband's shoulders):

After our backlot tour was complete, we went on our own to experience more of the park (like my youngest kids FAVORITE ride in the world, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem) using our front of line passes.

Final Thoughts?

It was a splurge to do the VIP experience at Universal Studios, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was well worth the splurge! It was perfect for my whole family (2 adults and 5 kids ages 5-13). We ALL loved it. We have gone to Universal Studios without front of line VIP passes and enjoyed it, but the VIP tour made us LOVE it. If you want to go to Universal Studios and experience it at it's very best (and you are willing to pay for the splurge), the VIP tour is the way to go!