Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pax songs

As if there wasn't enough to already love about the Pax Man, lately he has taken to creating songs on the way to school. I can't help but record them. Oh my heart.

Here are three so far...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Big Disney Birthday Surprise!!

Hi gang!!!

I know a boatload of you are curious about how the "big reveal" went down. Well, let me tell ya...
it was awesome!

For about a year we've been planning this moment. Shawn and I decided to start a little family joke; Anytime we had to go do something, like school or dentist appointments, we would say "let's just go to Disney World instead". It became pretty routine around our house, so it played well with the surprise.

We had P Bear firmly convinced that mommy & daddy had a meeting at his school on Monday morning and had to be there early. We got dressed, had breakfast and everything was pretty normal. We headed out with backapack and lunchbox in tow. All buckled in the car, we headed on over to the parking lot by his school and this happened...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

To Buy or Not to Buy - The Do's and Don'ts of Pre-Disney Shopping

My oh my, what should I buy?

As any Pinner will tell you, there are about a grillion and three posts out there saying "buy this before you go to Disney!" To be honest, I got pretty caught up in all the frenetic "I gottta get this" purchasing-palooza before our visit with the main mouse.

Hopefully I can help my pals and others determine what's worth it and what falls under the "not so much" category. I'll start with the stuff I found to be awesome, useful or down right absolutely necessary.

Everyone talks about your "park bag" and what to put in it. So let's look there first. I searched and searched for park bags until I was blue as the Blue Fairy in the face. Backpacks, messenger bags, purses, etc. there are options out the wazoo - most of which are a bit on the pricey side. I wanted something special, preferably something very Mickey-fied and something I wouldn't need Aladdin's lamp to pay for it.

I stumbled on absolute perfection one day as I was strolling through Target. It is the cutest black and white Mickey Mouse diaper bag! There was also a super cute Minnie Mouse diaper bag too!! Tough choice, but I snagged up the Mickey one and am so glad I did! Not only is it adorable, but it is really roomy and has great pockets for keeping things somewhat organized during a long day in the park. The big bonus is, it's pretty water proof and kept all our stuff dry despite Splashes and spills. The strap is adjustable so it can be cross body or over the shoulder depending on your needs/prefernces. Now I never thought I would buy another diaper bag again as those days had flown a few years ago, but this was a great purchase and I am seriously thinking of buying another one to have as a backup for future Disney trips. Yes, it is that awesome!

Now on to what's inside:

Ponchos. We bought ponchos. We used the ponchos - once. Once in seven days. Now, we don't regret getting ponchos. Actually, we're glad we did. We are really glad we bought three good reusable ponchos and did not get a boat load of Dollar Store disposable ones. The three good ponchos will probably come in handy some other time, so we don't feel as though we wasted the money (All five dollars of it per poncho). You see, we camp a lot. We also live in Colorful Colorado where it has a tendency to rain a bunch of afternoons in the summer - almost always during a T-ball game. So yes, the ponchos will get used and loved. However, if we had bought the Dollar Store ones I would be pretty bummed. That's because I'm not a fan of a disposable life. We try to be a bit more ecologically conscious, so I would feel pretty poopy adding a bunch of ponchos to a landfill somewhere. Here's what we bought for the grownups. We bought the one at Disney World for Pax so it could be a souvenir.

Water bottle. This was an awesome purchase! It's also one of the unintentional sacrifices we had to leave for the vacation gods. It was unfortunately lost on our very last day in the parks, but it was great while we had it! This bottle has a filter in it, so it helps keep any icky taste out and any icky ickiness out. The loop hooks easily around most things and makes carrying it a breeze. You can fill up water bottles at any quick serve and there are a bunch of water fountains around. Do yourself a favor and drink a ton of water. You're walking and sweating in the hot, humid Florida climate. Stay hydrated!

Portable charger. Cool product! Was very handy when we needed it, and I'm sure this will come in even more handy on camping trips and what nots. The size is awesome! It's about the size of an iPhone. Things charge pretty quickly too. We didn't use our phones a whole bunch while in the parks, but if that's your main source of picture taking, this could really be a necessity.

Pocket Picnic Blanket. Sooooo many blogs and pins suggest having a towel or blanket or something to sit on and to mark your spot for fireworks and parades and such. So many in fact, I was absolutely insistant we buy this. Never. Used it. Not. Once. It's a cool blanket. Will probably come in handy this summer, but it is not needed in your park bag. The sidewalks/streets in Disney World are really clean. If you find a need to plop on the pavement, just plop. But most of the time, you'll be standing for fireworks and parades. I'd put this in the not so much category.

Glow sticks. The big tip I read most was to buy glow sticks and bring them in your park bag to pull out when the sun goes down, so I did. I bought em. I brought em. They were fun. It wasn't a huge necessity, but it was fun. The only time I saw anyone selling light up toys in a "persistent" manner was for Rivers of Light. Otherwise, it really wasn't a big deal. If your kids like glow sticks, then by all means pick some up. If they're a little "meh" about them, it won't be an issue. There is so much going on, your kiddo probably won't even notice. Mine didn't and we wound up bringing a bunch of glow sticks back home with us. Which is fine because we'll play with them this summer. Never a bad time with a glow stick around!

Other things you'll need/want. Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock! Lip balm, lip balm, lip balm! I would also recommend some sort of hat - preferably some mouse ears! I suggest this because I got a sunburn on the part in my hair! The sun is that intense!

Wipes and tissues are always a good idea as is a small first aid kit with plenty of band-aids for boo boos. We never really needed a stack of snacks because we had so many options with our dining plan, plus we aren't big eaters - especially when we're hot.

You'll also want some sort of autograph thing and a couple of big thick pens or markers for charcaters to sign with. We used the traditional autograph book, but if I had to do it over again I would probably bring a frame mat like this! In addition, bring a bunch of pennies and quarters for pressed penny souvenirs!!! It was one of our most favorite things to do and collect.

Speaking of collecting, trading pins are a must!!! It's a Fantasmically fun thing for kiddos to do with Castmembers as well as other kiddos. My little one met so many fast friends trading pins in line and such. We bought this lanyard/starter kit and filled it up with these pins. You don't get to choose which pins you get in the bunch, but they were all different and we had a bunch of "keepers" in our pack. There were absolutely no problems trading any of these pins in the park. They! Were! Awesome!!!!

Now on to things other than stuff for the bag! 

Shirts!!! We had so much fun wearing themed shirts each day. Plus it made packing waaaaaayyy easier! If there was ever a time and place to embrace your inner Mouseketeer, this is it! Have fun! We wore Mickey shirts (can get them almost aywhere) on Magic Kingdom days, Jungle Book shirts (Redbubble) on Animal Kingdom day, Epcot shirts (Disney Store online) on Epcot day, Star Wars shirts (almost anywhere) on Hollywood Studio day and the most awesome birthday shirts on birthday day (Etsy). Pax wore this  on the plane there and this  on his first day at Disney (also Etsy).

Not only was it a ton of fun to all dress in similar fashion, but it made our experience more magical. Why? Well, people noticed. We got special attention and perks because of our attire. For exaple, because we were wearing all Jungle book shirts we got this special Magic Shot. The photographer loved our theme! We got special VIP entrance to rides because of the birthday shirts as well as Castmembers and Characters came to wish Pax a happy birthday during parades and such. It was so special!

We also wore Disney Vans!!! We had Mickey Mouse and Jungle Book pairs and they were awesome!!! I highly recommend wearing socks with your Vans if you're doing a whole day at the park in them. Soooooo cute and fun!!!

My special little treat for me was this adorable pair of earrings. I got abour a grillion compliments on them and let me tell you about the incredible customer service I got from the seller!!! I contacted her one week before we left for our trip. She was so helpful and amazing and they arrived in time for the big adventure! They are light weight, comfortable and cute as Tinker Bell! You'll love them!

Since this post is getting to be a bit long, I will stop here and do a whole other blog on Memory Maker and Dining Plans. For now, happy shopping!!

And in case you haven't heard...  this place.... oh my!!!

I am not a negative person and generally prefer to stray away from saying something unkind. However, in the spirit of trying to be helpful, I must let you all know about one not so groovy item purchased. It was a red Minnie Mouse shirt from Target (a place I usually adore!) The top is super cute, covers the hiney and looks perfect... until you wear it all day with a pair of white capri pants. This thing bleeds red on everything! Including my little boy's birthday present - a stuffed Perry the Platypus. This shirt = no bueno, but we had fun in spite of it!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Making the Magic

Making the Magic
How to stay happy in the happiest place on Earth! 

You’re all set. You read all the blogs, pinned all the pins, magic bands have arrived and the bags are packed! Wheeeeee!!!! 
Now what…

This is the exact spot I was in just last week. It was our very first trip to Disney World!!! 

The planning and anticipation of the big trip can be a bit consuming, especially if you’re doing the whole “surprise! you’re going to Disney World today”  route like my family did. It’s easy to get swallowed by the Monstro of itineraries and table service reservations and fast pass times. Believe it or not, that hot diggity dog feeling of visiting the Main Mouse can turn to a giant ball of stress if you let it. Which leads us to the question, well how in the high ho do you not let it? 
The first thing I suggest is taking a cue from Elsa, let is go. There will be things you will not see. There will be rides you do not ride. There will be treats you do not taste. The good news is, it gives you something to look forward to next trip!! 
A lot of you are probably saying, “we aren’t planning a next trip. This is a one time thing”. To be honest, that’s what I thought too. But here I am looking up information on which resort we’ll stay at next. (Disney World is a very addictive experience! I think I may  need a Mouservention.) But even if this is a one time trip, those rides, treats and things will be nothing compared to the memories you make with your family. When you look back at your pictures a few years from now, the smiles will be what you notice most. You probably won’t give an ounce of “oh bother” to whether or not you got to try a Dole Whip while watching Wishes from Big Thunder Mountain.
Now I know this is going to contradict some of the other blogs out there, but do not bring something to occupy the kids while they wait in line. Disney is really good at moving people, both physically and emotionally. Let yourself be moved. The queues are all designed to encourage engagement. There are tons of things to see and even to do, but most importantly they are filled with a bunch of stuff to talk about. Spend that line time pointing at things with your little ones and asking questions and making up stories. This is where the most magical magic happens - in between adventures. Take the precious 40 minute wait for Haunted Mansion or The Barnstormer and become your child’s personal Imagineer. 
If you’re wondering what your kiddo will remember from their big Disney trip? You are what they will remember - having fun, playing, laughing and discovering with you. They might not remember what they ate at The Crystal Palace, but they will remember you being silly with Tigger. They might not recall how it felt riding Dumbo, but they will remember how it felt holding your hand under the Big Top. And this advice isn’t just for parents of really young ones, those tweens and teens eye rollingly crave your attention far more than they care to admit. 
This next tidbit is gonna be a little hard in the Florida heat, but please try to keep your cool. Stuff is going to happen - spilled drinks, sibling tensions, stepped on toes, lost toys, etc. Just know this going in and try to have plan for those moments. As ridiculous as this sounds, I like to give myself a little inner “quack”. It reminds me that all of it is water off a ducks back and whatever minor infringement it is, it won’t affect my life 10 minutes from now. In other words, pack a whole lot of patience in your park bag.
Another suggestion is to follow your kid’s lead. Let them set some of the pace of your day. If they keep asking to go dig in The Boneyard at DinoLand USA, go dig. Sometimes a little free play is the best form of decompression from all the go go go. They may be on the verge of a melt down and it’s their way of saying, “hey! I need a break” In addition, if they want to take a few extra minutes to look at something, join them. It could be way cooler than you initially thought. Look at it from their perspective, you never know what you might see! 

Overall I think the biggest thing I can suggest, is to recognize the moments and soak them in all you can. A friend asked me the day after we got back from our trip, what was my favorite part. While rope drop was awesome and watching fireworks dance around Cinderella’s castle brought happy tears to my eyes and I could have gone on Space Mountain a million times in a row, my favorite part was a small, quiet moment that didn’t involve thrills. At the end of  our first day in Animal Kingdom, after we were completely blown away by Rivers of Light, my big guy, little boy and myself wandered over to look at the Tree of Life one more time before closing. We plopped down on the pavement and held each other close. Almost silently we watched in absolute amazement as illuminated animals yawned and stretched and looked around. My big guy and I looked at each other and knew it was a million dollar moment - one of those moments you would give a million dollars to return to one day. We had several million dollar moments over the course of our six day stay. The trick is to notice while you’re in them and to simply let them wrap around you like a cozy blanket. Take the time to watch your kid eat that Mickey shaped ice cream and treasure the sticky mess all over their face. Head over to Tom Sawyer’s island and play together exploring all the nooks and crannies of the fort and Injun Joe’s cave. Don’t watch the fireworks through your iPhone or camera lens. Watch them with your eyes and then enjoy the sparkle in your family’s eyes. Stroll around the parks and take it all in -  sights, sounds, smells. Be sure to touch too, not just things but the people you love. I hope you all stay happy and have the most magically magic time!!!