Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bonus Tip #11: Have Kids That Aren't Scared of the Disney Characters But Don't Really Care to Meet Them

My kids are awesome. While most parents were waiting in lines for hours and hours to meet countless characters, dine with Princesses, and hug Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too, we were riding rides, eating cheap meals with no wait time, and just cruising through the parks at record speeds.

Granted, if your kids like the characters in the theme parks, that's awesome. And I know it's well worth every minute of waiting to see the joy on their faces when they meet these "kiddie celebrities" and get their autographs. I truly do think it's awesome, kidding aside. Disney is all about the kids, and I know anything that makes our kids happy, makes us happy.
But my kids just aren't into that, and instead of dwelling on the fact that I would never have that "perfect picture of Jake hugging Sully" or "Brooklyn gazing adoringly at Sleeping Beauty," I had a fabulous time as the kids willingly posed with as many inanimate objects as they could.

(not really inanimate, but Jake loved the hundreds of "Nemo's" in the fish tank at Epcot)

Now, I did play the Mom Card ONE TIME and saved it for the Big Guy himself. But, I didn't make them wait 40 minutes- 2 hours at the Magic Kingdom to meet the one that talks to you. (I mean, Lord, the kids would have peed their pants.) We waited just about 20 minutes at the beginning of the day at Hollywood Studios, met Mickey, got a great group picture and went on our merry way. No kids (or mice) were harmed in the making of this photo, and I was a happy, satisfied Mouseketeer the rest of the trip.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to gain only 2.6 pounds in a week (and other helpful Disney vacation tips)...

We are back from a fabulous vacation to sunny, warm Orlando, Florida! I'll tell you what...hitting up Florida in late October, right when the weather in NC is getting cold and dreary, was the best thing to give me one last bit of "spring/summer" before fall and winter hits us hard.

We traveled for 6 days with 8 people. I'm sure it's no surprise to you all that I have some words of wisdom for you. Especially if you are planning a future trip similar to one we just took.

Keep in mind that there are a million and one ways to take a Disney vacation (and a million and one websites and blogs to read about this). This is just one way. But since it worked for us, I thought I would share. :-)

1. Fly: We've done the driving thing in a 12 passenger van that took 2 days, an overnight in Jacksonville, and multiple tanks of gas. It is so worth the teeny bit of extra cost to fly. We drove one hour to a nearby airport to get a direct flight.

Which leads me to Tip #2...
 2. Get a Direct Flight: It's only 1 hour and 40 minutes of flying (translates to just two episodes of a show on the portable DVD player or a few bracelets made on the Rainbow Loom). Make sure your flight is direct. No changing planes, no rushing to get to a gate that is at the opposite end of the airport. Less chance of lost luggage. No connection in Atlanta- need I say more?

3. Have Low Expectations for Pictures: The kids are excited, they don't wanna sit still, but you are all together in one place with someone else to take the pics. Just take plenty of them and one is bound to come out. And bribe with money, as needed.

4. The Smart Phone is Your Friend: When waiting in lines, waiting on others riding rides, waiting for meals....did I mention there is a bit of waiting in Disney?

Speaking of waiting....
5. Go "Off Season": There will be waiting no matter what time of year you visit, BUT there are definitely times that are less busy than others. Late October was awesome both weather-wise and crowd-wise.

6. Invest in a Stroller: In our normal life, my 8 year old and 4 year old do not use a stroller. However, in our normal life, my children do not start their day at 7am and end at 9pm with about 7-8 miles of walking, ginormous meals, a few live action shows, thrilling rides, and ice cream treats in between. I was all about "meltdown prevention" this week, so it was well-worth the $31 a day for a double stroller rental that the kids could use at their leisure (and a few times that I mandated). They were happy, and we were happy. And Brooklyn was not the oldest kid rolling around in a stroller, so I felt better as a parent. I wised up Day 3 and got the "multi-day pass" that saved me about $18 over the last 3 days. By having the stroller in the park it definitely allowed the kids to have enough energy to be able to walk back to the bus stop and then back to our room at the end of each of the long days.

7. Use Afternoon Ice Cream as a Bribe...In the Stroller: Want to sneak in a few adult rides? Visit a few counties in Epcot? Promise Disney ice cream for later in the day. Play that card too early and you are screwed for the rest of the 10 hour day.

8. Trust in the Disney Magic that is the NEW "Magic Band": It's your room key, your park pass, your FastPass ticket, your charge card, and your photo pass all in one. It pretty much does everything for you except tell time and knock that piece of cheesecake out of your hand. Disney has it going on, ya'll. I will always recommend booking your trip through a Disney resort. (We love the Pop Century resort, which also happens to be the cheapest. Fantastic room, great commissary, and extra exercise because your bus stops are the farthest from the park entrances.) We did the Disney package with the Quick Service Meal Plan, and because of the dates we traveled, the meal plan was actually included free this time around. Saved us around $500-600 for our family of 4- which was awesome, needless to say. The meal plan is good anyway, even if you pay for it, because food is paid for up front, and I didn't have to play the daily game of "how hungry are my children and will they share or will they waste food?"

9. Speaking of Food....: I wasn't kidding when I said in the title I gained 2.6 pounds this past week. Despite walking 7-8 miles a day (thanks, Fitbit!), I did pack on a few due to eating out for 6 1/2 days straight and enjoying desserts and snacks that I don't ever see in my normal life. But, it actually could have been a lot worse, and I am confident that things will "level out" this week and I should be down again by next week. So my first "food tip" would be to share snacks so you aren't indulging alone. Though I put a good hurting on this funnel cake below, I did make sure everyone in our party took a piece (or two). I also resisted the "free soft drinks" and focused on mostly drinking bottled water and my one morning coffee. We packed "breakfast type" snacks so we didn't have to have a full breakfast meal, and I really enjoy these "Breakfasts to Go" packets. The desserts/sweets were my weakness, especially since a dessert came with each of our two meals a day. But sometimes I would get one dessert and one fruit cup for Chad and I to share. Or, I would have Brooklyn choose the dessert, and we would share since the kids meals did not come with a dessert. No afternoon ice cream for me either. And I tried to limit fried foods to one meal a day, too. Nothing fool proof, and I really didn't stress too much about it (which was a success in itself), but little things do matter and every little bit helps. even getting two cupcakes for 8 people to share for Jake's birthday.

And my final tip for you all....

10. Bring Grandparents: I know this may not be possible for everyone, but I have to say....Grandparents are the BEST. Having 6 adults to 2 kids was by far the best ratio ever. And it really was a fantastic trip with little to no stress. We didn't rush, we didn't scramble, we didn't worry. We were all able to just BE (you know, my new mantra for this fall).

I'd do it all over again....and we will. I can't wait to plan our next trip for 2016!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jake is 4!

Last Saturday, my precious boy turned 4 years old. It just so happens that we were in the Happiest Place on Earth for his birthday. Not too many kids can say they rung in their 4th year in Disney World, and I'm glad that the timing worked out for us to do this. It was great fun, and we made a big deal all day (but with minimal presents since we didn't want to have to transport to and from AND Jake collected enough new stuffed animals as souvenirs that he could probably cast his own Pixar film).

My what a difference each year made!

Happy birthday, sweet Jake-Jake. I hope 4 is just as great as 3 was for you (minus the tantrums and potty training that lasted all of 12 months).

May you always know how much we love and adore you. You brighten our lives every day with your infectious laugh, mischievous grin, and shining eyes.

A Few 4 Year Old "Favorites":
Food- Grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, "squeeze" apple sauce, yogurt, grapes, bananas, goldfish crackers (all the crazy new fancy kinds), Cheez-its
Drink- Apple juice and milk
Movies- Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc.
TV Shows- Bubble Guppies, Berenstein Bears, Dora, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Activities- Playing on the playground/swing set, Legos, playing with his (Brooklyn's) Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, baths, bounce houses
Animal- Zebra
Phrases- "I meanted to say...." and "Juuuuuuust kiddin"

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Looking back on the last 12 months...

Ok- if the first few years went by fast, the last 12 months went by at an unbelievably record pace.

Chad and I have looked at each other more than once and said "Are we hallucinating or is this parenting two kids thing getting a little easier?"

This past year, Jake had his first trip to Bald Head Island, and became quite the (shoeless) fisherman.

He had his first pre-school Christmas performance and rocked it.

We said goodbye to the crib and he got his "Big Boy Room," much to my sadness and resistance.

Jake also became a big cousin. He fell in love with Baby Claire immediately and continues to be enamored by this sweet one.

And we started making him earn his keep around here...

Probably the thing that affected me the most this year was the Big.Boy.Haircut.


His smile was contagious, though, and soon I was smiling and embracing the new do.

He still loved the beach (thank goodness), and Brooklyn and Jake have really recently started playing together.

For short amounts of time.

He's still our Pookie, though, and such a snuggle bunny.
And a bit of a clown.

I fear he may not be a mama's boy for long, though, because he already started doing domestic work with his "wife," Haley.

What a face this one has! Still has that "What? I'm not doing anything wrong" face.

This boy melts me. His smile. His laugh. His engagement with friends and strangers alike. His compassion. His creativity.

This boy is gonna be 4 on Saturday. And I just can't believe it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Year 3: Say What?

Year 3 was the year Mama had to come to terms with the fact that her baby was growing up...
We still loved our pacis this year but they went away soon after the 3rd birthday.

The beach was super fun that summer, and Jake LOVED playing with his Uncle Eric in the ocean.

There seem to be more and more similarities between the two the older Jake gets.

He also had his first S'more.

It was a great year but boy, did he express his independence a lot.

And in the blink of an eye and before anyone could say, "Jake! Get down from there!", "Stop touching that!" and "Brooklyn, stop harassing your brother," Jake was 3.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And then we kicked off Year 2....

Though not walking by his 1st birthday, Jake started walking soon after.

Where he quickly learned the "What? I'm not doing anything wrong" face.

This kid got into EVERYTHING.

But as he got a little more mobile, life got a bit easier. And we took our first trip to the park.

And we were introduced to tantrums.

Now, Brooklyn was no angel but she sure didn't grace us with faces like this very often. So we had to quickly figure out coping mechanisms for that.

I learned the #1 thing to pack for the beach- an 18 gallon plastic tub.

And Jake even took his first plane California and Las Vegas!

And again, in the blink of an eye and faster than you can say "Bla Bla" (Jake's name for Brooklyn this year), he was 2.


Related Posts with Thumbnails