Monday, November 14, 2016

Our Disney Trip: Epcot

This post is the last post in the series from the Disney trip we took in September.  You can read about our time at Animal Kingdom here, Hollywood Studios here, and the Magic Kingdom here.  Details about how I planned our family vacation are here, and what I packed/how we traveled with two young kids are here.  Thank you for following along with my family's journey to Disney!  I hope you have gained some insight that helps when planning your own trip - or that you just enjoyed reading about our adventures!  I really can't wait to go again!

I took a lot of advice from family and friends when planning our trip to Disney.  However, one piece of advice that I received (several times, in fact) I ignored:  that was to not go to Epcot because our kids were so young (2 and 4).  I chose to ignore this advice because I remember loving Epcot as a child, and couldn't stand the idea of not going.  And boy am I glad we did!!!

I only made two FastPass+ Reservations for our day at Epcot:  Spaceship Earth, and Frozen Ever After.  We chose to start the day with Spaceship Earth - it's an "oldie but a goodie" that everyone enjoyed.

We headed next to The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion.  Next to 'Elles', fish are Baby Sage's favorite animal,  with him loving Nemo in particular, so you can imagine how much fun this was for him!  Actually, both of my kids really enjoyed this, and we could have literally spent hours there!  The adventure starts by boarding a "clamobile" and searching for Nemo - it was just sweet and precious.  We then saw the aquarium, which was real-life characters from the film.  One tank was full of Clownfish - which of course, is what Nemo would be.  There was another tank that had various characters from the film, where we spotted, Dory, Nemo, and Marlin.

From there, we saw the 5.7 million gallon tank! (Yes, you read that right and yes, that IS a lot of water!!!!)  This housed sharks, stingrays, sea turtles - and a lot of other small fish.  We loved watching a diver feeding the stingrays - it was amazing!

Before we left the pavilion, we attended Turtle Talk with Crush.  There is only one word to describe this:  PRECIOUS!!!!  You sit down in the theater and have a live Q&A session with crush!  Dory, Marlin, Nemo, and Squirt also stopped by to say hello.  It was the best time ever.  (OK, I must confess:  the adults in the group may have actually enjoyed this more than the kids!!!!)

Of course, in typical Disney fashion, you have to exit through a gift shop!  I think Sage and I were already outside when we realized the grandmothers and grandkids were still inside... Baby Sage walked away with a Nemo stuffed animal, and Emma decided to pick something out in "Norway" (from the Frozen exhibit).  Yes, it's true:  my kids came home from a LOT of stuffed animals, but I will say, they are still sleeping with them all each night!

Once we put Baby Sage (and Nemo) in the stroller to head to the World Showcase, he was asleep immediately.  Our first stop was Norway to meet Anna & Elsa in their summer home.  Emma will tell you this was her favorite part of the entire trip - yes, even better than getting her hair done the first night.  She truly was in little girl heaven.  We stood in line roughly half an hour here, but the line moved quickly, and we stayed entertained weaving through their home.  Not bad at all!

We met Anna first, and she was extremely friendly and really took her time with Emma.  She asked Emma if she liked to build snowmen and Emma responded that it doesn't snow in Alabama!  While all of us were laughing, Anna quickly invited Emma to Arendelle to build one.  Emma gave her the sweetest hug before we moved on to meet Elsa.  I have to say, while Elsa was just as sweet to Emma as Anna had been, I truly think that Anna is Emma's favorite of the two (in the movie and in 'real life').  I'm so glad we did this at the end of the trip, because I'm afraid that it might have ruined the rest of it for Emma if we had done it sooner!


Once we met Anna and Elsa we used our FastPass+ to ride Frozen Ever After.  Without the FastPass+, the wait was over 2 hours, so if you are planning to go on this ride, the FastPass+ is a must!  This ride just opened this summer so it's still extremely popular.  Of course, poor Baby Sage slept through this ride!  (But don't worry, there was plenty of gift shops in the area, so Emma had no problem finding her toy!)

We grabbed a quick lunch at La Cantina de San Angel (in Mexico).  The food was delicious and I had one of the best margaritas EVER!!  The heat (and kids) made us all want an adult beverage.  We paid a ridiculous $10 per drink, but both Sage and I agreed it was worth it.  (I had the aforementioned margarita and he had an ice-cold beer.)

Before we could leave Mexico we had to take a quick (it's actually a slow) boat ride through Mexico! We boarded the small boats for the Gran Fiesta Tour, starring The Three Caballeros.  Once done with that, we left Mexico to walk slowly through the World Showcase.

The kids were getting tired by this time, so they relaxed in and enjoyed the stroller ride.  (Yes, in case you were wondering:  I wished I could climb in the stroller, too!)

Germany had this big miniature train set that Baby Sage just LOVED!  Emma was actually pretty excited about it, too!  Both kids hopped out of the stroller to watch/run after the trains.  The best part was when the train went under the walkway and came out of the other side.  We literally had to pry Baby Sage off the metal railing he was having so much fun.

We continued to walk through the different countries, but stopped at Japan for the Pick-A-Pearl station located inside the Mitsukoshi store.  I remembered doing this as a little girl, and was excited it was Emma's turn!  First you go to the register near the oyster tank, pay for your oyster selection, and then wait for your number to be called.  When Emma's number was called she was asked to pick an oyster out of the tank.  We had a very enthusiastic cast member who, prior to opening Emma's oyster taught us how to count to three in Japanese.  As we all counted to three, she began banging a drum.  When she opened Emma's oyster, there wasn't just one pearl, but two!  Emma called them twins!  They were a beautiful silver color that the cast member cleaned up and even measured for us.  Emma was so proud of her pearls, and G-Daddy was pretty proud of Emma's luck.  In fact, he wanted to buy more oysters to go with her luck.  We told him that we think since he paid for the oyster, it's only fitting he pay to have them set at Jimmy Smith Jewelers.  He didn't laugh at that quite as hard as the rest of the adults did for some reason... Either way, when Emma gets her ears pierced, you know what her first pair of earrings will be!






















We continued through the World Showcase and then headed back to the hotel around 2:30 to rest a bit and freshen up for dinner that night.  We had dinner reservation at Chef Mickey's inside the Contemporary hotel.  I wanted to end our trip with a bang and what better way than with Mickey and his crew dressed in chef's attire???

At dinner, we got to meet Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto.  Dinner included lots of dancing, and swinging napkins over our heads!  You know, all the things we teach our kids they are not allowed to do at the dinner table!

Don't worry:  to loosen us up, adults have the opportunity to enjoy some cocktails with dinner - it helped with the rule breaking.  The cocktails were great:  the buffet, not so much.  But we were there for the characters and the fun right?!?!  I will say the dessert buffet was delicious, and that, among all of us, we probably tried every single dessert!

 After dinner, we headed back to the Magic Kingdom.  We had purchased the Park Hopper prior to our trip.  Without the Park Hopper you are limited to one park a day (the park you start in).  With it, you can obviously switch between parks.  We thought we would use this a lot, as I originally believed we would probably end each day back at the Magic Kingdom, but we were truly too exhausted each day to even consider it.  With the age of our kids, we did not need the Park Hopper.  If you have older kids, it might be worth it, but it definitely wasn't needed for us.

So why, on our last night there, did we go back to the Magic Kingdom?  We had not seen Wishes yet, and the only thing Emma said she hadn't gotten to do was meet Tinkerbelle.  So you can guess where we headed when we arrived!  Luckily, the line for Tinkerbelle was only 10 minutes.

We got a great surprise with Tinkerbelle!  While we went for Emma, I actually think Baby Sage may have enjoyed it the most.  The whole trip, he wasn't exactly scared of the characters, but he also didn't really want to interact with them.  That all changed when he met Tink.  He was absolutely smitten with her!  Both he and Emma gave her lots of hugs and also got her autograph.  Baby Sage had a smile on his face the entire time!  I was so glad we had gone back for that.

And, of course, we exited into a gift shop!  In the end, it was a good thing, because we hadn't purchased any Mickey Ears, and what is a trip to Disney without Mickey Ears???  It has been a little late in the trip, but oh well!  They made good use out of them for Halloween!


We then took a spot on Main Street for Celebration the Castle Light Show.  I won't lie.  I was skeptical about how great this would really be, but I was amazed!  It really did wow me.  (And everyone else.)  After the light show, it was time for the Wishes Firework Show - which is, naturally when Baby Sage decided to fall asleep on me!  This child can obviously sleep anywhere and through anything, because those fireworks are LOUD!

It was an amazing firework show, and we all loved seeing the beautiful castle lit up.  Emma especially enjoyed seeing Tinkerbelle fly - especially since she had just met her!  I hate that Baby Sage missed it, but maybe he'll be able to stay awake for it on our next trip!

I was so happy with how it all ended.  It was a really fabulous five days with family!  I am so glad Sage agree to take us, thankful for the helpful (and generous!) grandparents who went along for the ride, and for sweet children that had the time of their lives!  I'm ready to do it all again.

Well, maybe in a year.  It takes some time to plan, you know.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Our Disney Trip: Animal Kingdom


















This post is a continuation of our series from the Disney trip we took in September.  It is the 5th post in the series.  You can read about our time at Hollywood Studios here and the Magic Kingdom here, how I planned our family vacation here, and what I packed/how we traveled with two young kids here.  My last post will be about our time at Epcot.

On our fourth day in Orlando, we headed to the Animal Kingdom.  I had made FastPass+ reservations for the Kilimanjaro Safari, Festival of the Lion King, and Expedition Everest, but we actually started at the Tree of Life to see It's Tough to be a Bug.

You were suppose to wear 3D glasses while watching it, but neither of my kids was too keen on that.  I will say - it was a great show!  You get sprayed by a stink bug, stung by a bee, and sneezed on by another bug (I don't remember what it was called).  To me, the best part happened at the very end:  they ask that all of the bugs exit the theatre first, and you can feel them underneath your bottom!!!  All of the adults really enjoyed this and laughed, but my little princess was not a fan at all.  In fact, I think Emma would have preferred to skip all of It's Tough to be a Bug.

We left there to use our first FastPass+ on the Kilimanjaro Safari.  Let me just say - my kids LOVED seeing all the animals!!!  I actually think this may have been one of the highlights of the entire trip for Baby Sage.  He loves elephants (which he calls Elle) - in fact, his love kind of borders on obsession.  (Sage and I are a little concerned all the money we have been saving for college may end up going to Alabama instead of Auburn he loves elephants so much... but I digress.)  You can imagine his excitement when he got to see the "Elles" - he was just in his element!


Disney is smart about their planning:  you exit the safari right into an outdoor gift shop.  Of course, Sage and I immediately took the kids in the direction of the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, attempting to bypass the gift shop.  Well, we might have, but the grandmothers apparently spotted some stuffed animals they were sure the kids needed!

While on the trail, we saw gorillas, meerkats, birds, and a hippopotamus!  Actually, we saw a lot more than those four creatures, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind the most.  Again, my kids were in heaven.  They really enjoyed this portion of the Animal Kingdom.

Once we finished the end of the trail, we headed out to brunch.

We had a dining reservation at 10:30 at the Tusker House.  We purposely chose that last breakfast reservation there for a few reasons.  While we were eating this as our lunch meal, we thought breakfast food might be a better choice for my two kids as lunch was "African cuisine."  Also, I'd been told their breakfast buffet was fabulous, and I didn't want to miss that!  It was the right call for our family because the food was great, the kids ate well, and they got to see a bunch of their favorite characters!

Mickey, Goofy, Donald Duck, and Daisy all came around to meet us.  Baby Sage had started warming up to the characters, and he loved interacting with them from his high chair. He also got his picture taken with them (still from his high chair, but baby steps!).




The grandmothers decided after lunch was the perfect time to mention what all they thought the kids might need from that outdoor gift shop.  Once in there, Baby Sage immediately ran towards an Elle, and Emma chose a Cheetah.  What can I say?  We left with happy kids and happy grandmothers.

Once everyone was please with their gift shop purchases, we made our way to the Festival of the Lion King.  I must say, this is a MUST DO for any family!  It was an amazing 30 minutes packed full of swinging, dancing, acrobatics, and some good old fashioned fire throwing!  The kids loved every minute, but the adults also enjoyed it as well.  A win win!

We put the kids in the stroller to head to use our last FastPass+ at Expedition Everest.  This was going to be an adults' only ride again, and one I decided to skip out on as I had developed a splitting headache.  Momma G and AA were starting to get nervous about riding it, so we naturally sent Daddy and G Daddy first.  They received the following warnings:
  • Brace yourself for when it goes backwards
  • Brace yourself for the double looping turn
  • And brace yourself for the 80-foot drop
Oh yea, and we could also hear the screams as we stood near the entrance of the ride and we saw it fly by.  No big deal.

Daddy and G Daddy actually really enjoyed the ride, and insisted that AA and Momma G do it, too.  And since I wasn't riding and neither was Emma, they opted to go use our passes and go with them again.

I had to laugh as they all exited the ride - it was very obvious that three out of the four were not feeling so hot...  I'll let you guess which three!  We let them rest to collect their thoughts and bodies when they were done, as they were all a touch rattled.  Once they were all recuperated, it was off to the TriceraTop Spin!

Emma was actually the only one who rode that, as sweet Baby Sage fell asleep the moment he sat down in the stroller after Festival of the Lion King, and had been sleeping the entire time.  We decided it might be a good idea for all of us to go back to the hotel and get some rest - but not before we each grabbed a Mickey Ice Cream Bar!  As luck would have it, Baby Sage chose that time to wake up, which is good, because he loves ice cream!  He would have been super upset to miss out on that treat.

We opted to spend the rest of the evening in the hotel.  The adults had cocktails around the pool while the kids swam, and then we all ate dinner together before opting for early bedtimes.  We were all exhausted and wanted to make sure we were ready for our last day at Disney.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Our Disney Trip: Hollywood Studios


















This is post 4 in the series of my family's trip to Disney.  I encourage you to read all of the posts as they each cover a very different aspect of the trip!  I outline the planning process here, packing for/and traveling with toddlers here, and our first day and a half at Magic Kingdom here.


After a very magical day and a half at Magic Kingdom, we headed to Hollywood Studios the next morning!  We actually arrived just a few minutes before the park opened, which was a fun experience.


I had pre-booed us three FastPass+ reservations (Toy Story Midway Mania, Frozen Sing-Along, and Tower of Terror).  We had been told repeatedly we would want to ride Toy Story Midway Mania twice because it was so much fun, so we decided to make use of our first FastPass+ there.  It was the first place we headed.

As did EVERYONE else once the park doors opened.

  It was like a scene from a movie, with people running from all directions, yanking kids out of strollers all while running/pushing the stroller - it was a mad dash.  Everyone in our group kept laughing at the mayhem as we tried to pick our jaws up off the ground.

Both kids ended up really enjoying it, so we did ride that one twice that day.  Before lunch we saw Disney Junior Live on Stage and rode The Great Movie Ride.

We actually had a really awesome experience at Disney Junior Live on Stage that we weren't expecting.  Since we were first in line, they dubbed us the "First Family," which gave us the ability to use the "secret word" to open the doors (and go in first, of course).  In addition, we received a "First Family" certificate with had been signed by some characters.  It was just a super fun surprise we weren't expecting!  If this is something you think your kids would really enjoy, it might be worth it to do this first when you go!

Oh yea, the secret word was really more of a "secret phrase":  Meeska Mooska Mickey Mouse!



Lunch that day was scheduled at Hollywood & Vine.  It was buffet food, and definitely wouldn't go down as our favorite of the trip.  However, we were able to meet Doc McStuffins, Jake, Princess Sofia, and Handy Manny, so that made it all worth it!  (At least to Emma it did - ha!)  Emma really had a hard time sitting still and eating lunch because she was so excited to see all the Disney Jr. characters.

We put Baby Sage in the stroller and he was once again out as we left lunch.  He really napped so good the entire time in the stroller.  I even considered trying to bring one of those strollers home with us!  Because he was sleeping, Baby Sage completely missed out on Voyage of the Little Mermaid, but he did wake up to enjoy the Frozen Sing Along.

While we did take two small children, don't think there was no fun for all of the adults involved!  One thing I did just for the adults was book us on the Tower of Terror.  We just left the kids sitting in the stroller and went on our merry way!  Just kidding - we did it the junior high way of Girls, then Boys.  Based on the photos we got, it would seem that I was a teeny, tiny bit terrified - and I wanted to be 100% sure my seatbelt was fastened... I guess it is safe to say the ride is aptly named!


We actually left around 2:30 that afternoon for some much-needed rest.  We had dinner reservations that night at 'Ohana and we wanted to make sure everyone was rested enough to enjoy it.  The grandparents decided they didn't need a nap (so hey - good news!  Once you become a grandparent you get some energy again!), and instead wanted to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.  Funny thing, though:  we got a picture of them drinking margaritas while we were resting...

About 'Ohana - it is a must-do!!!!  It was a Hawaiian-style feast, and just simply fabulous.  Everyone loved it - the men included!  Our waitress just constantly continued to bring around chicken, steak and shrimp, until we were all so stuffed we wondered if someone could push us back to our rooms!

Unfortunately for Baby Sage, he had fallen asleep again on the way to dinner, and slept through the entire feast.  The hostess was super sweet and let us just push the stroller up to the table.  I guess all the fun of the two days before had gotten to him, and he pretty much slept that entire afternoon out of pure exhaustion.

After dinner, we headed back to get some sleep for everyone before we headed to the Animal Kingdom the next morning.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Our Disney Trip: The Magic Kingdom

This is post #3 in my Disney series.  You can read all about how I planned our family vacation here, and what I packed/how we traveled with two young kids here.

Since both of my kids are so young (Emma just turned 4 and Baby Sage just turned 2 this summer), we felt that starting our vacation at the Magic Kingdom was the best answer.  I don't think we chose wrong!

We arrived in Orlando around noon, and chose to eat lunch at the airport before going to our hotel.  Once we got to the hotel, we freshened up, and headed straight for the Magic Kingdom!

I should preface this by saying that Sage and I (with the grandparents on board with our decisions!) had already decided that we didn't ever want the trip to be too much for our kids.  Therefore, if they were too tired - we would go back to the room.  We didn't want to push them to stay awake to see something, because frankly, I'd rather deal with a happy kid that saw less, than an ornery kid who saw more.  And since there is just no way you can see EVERYTHING anyway, I knew we'd be going back.  (We will be going back, right Sage????)

I also didn't plan anything that might scare Emma.  Since she is very cautious, I knew she wouldn't be interested in some of the rides, so I didn't even consider them for our itinerary.  I didn't want to have an unhappy child at Disney World.  Know then, that what we did at each park might not work for your family, but if you have kids that are close in age to mine, and have temperaments like mine, this could definitely work for you!

As we arrived at Magic Kingdom, we happened to catch the end of the Festival of Fantasy Parade.  It was a great way to start our trip!  Especially for my two kids, as Mickey and Minnie were at the very end, and Emma and Baby Sage just love them!  Emma was sitting on top of G-Daddy's shoulders so she could see, and she was waving continuously at everyone.  I might have spent more time watching her than the parade.

After the parade, we told Emma that she would get to have her hair done by the fairy godmothers at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and we would follow that up with dinner in Cinderella's Castle!  From that moment on, she could not WAIT until 5:30 arrived!  You can just imagine her excitement, then, when she saw the castle for the first time!  And sweet Baby Sage - when he saw Emma's excitement over "Rella" (that's what he calls Cinderella), he got excited, too!

We took our time walking through Main Street after the parade.  They had all of their beautiful Halloween decorations out, and we loved them!  We had pre-booked three FastPass+ rides (Dumbo, Under the Sea, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train).  Because of this, we were able to ride all of the following before our Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservation:  Mad Tea Party, Dumbo Prince Charming Regal Carousel, and Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid (do this if you have the chance - it was precious!!!!).

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservation was actually held in Cinderella's Castle, so we went straight there after our rides.  It was the most wonderful experience from the first moment we walked in!  Emma was treated like royalty - they called her Princess Emma all night!  They immediately took us to get in her Elsa dress.  I have never, in her whole life, seen Emma so excited to do something!  (When it's time to get her hair done back home, I have to hold her.)  To see her this excited was just amazing.  It made the whole trip worthwhile!  As we were waiting to hear her name called, Baby Sage fell asleep:  he slept through her entire appointment, and woke up just in time to see "Rella" before dinner.

When they took Emma to her chair with her fairy godmother, you could see the happiness radiate from her.  I'm pretty sure that's when Sage knew this entire trip had been worth it.  She might not remember that moment, but we'll never, ever forget it.  If you have a little girl, this is an absolute "must-do" thing at Disney!





 They put a bun and crown on her head, and she also got her nails painted and had some light makeup put on.  The final step?  Her fairy godmother added glitter to her hair with the wave of her magic wand.  While she did this, Emma was told to make a wish.  She didn't say, but I can only guess that her wish was to do this again!  She told us that night it was the BEST.DAY.EVER!!!!  in her opinion. And honestly, it was one of mine, too, getting to see her enjoy this.

After her hair, makeup, and nails were done, it was time to meet Cinderella before dinner. (Baby Sage has perfect timing and woke up just in time!)  Cinderella was so sweet, and Emma loved her instantly!  She gave her a big hug and talked to her.  I was a bit surprised as this was the first character/princess Emma got to meet, but she was all about it!





















(We chose to have several different character dining reservations throughout the entire trip so that we didn't have to stand in line to meet them.  We met them at breakfast, lunch, and dinner instead!  We did stand in line to meet Buzz, Woody, and Jessie - Baby Sage's favorites - but all the others we met at meal times.)

That night we dined with princesses.  Princess Emma, of course, Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, Aurora, and Jasmine!  Each time one would come by, Emma jumped out of her chair to get a signature, photo, and to talk with them!  Where my shy little girl had gone, I didn't know, but I loved it!  Baby Sage wasn't exactly scared, but slightly hesitant.  He would just smile and giggle at them from a distance.  I think our favorite was Jasmine - she had such a wonderful personality!  She talked, and talked, and talked with us!  We loved it.

At the end of dinner, they passed out magic wands and swords.  Can you imagine Baby Sage with a sword?  We'll leave it at that.

The firework show (Wishes) was getting ready to start, so when we walked out of the front of the castle, everything was packed!  After being treated like royalty all night, we suspected Emma might think everyone was there for her!  While we waited for the fireworks show, the kids wanted to ride the carousel again, so we did.  We put Emma in the stroller after that, and she fell asleep immediately.  Baby Sage didn't take long either.  We saw part of the fireworks from where we were - not the best viewing - but once both kids fell asleep, we decided it was time to leave anyway.  As it was, with the huge crowd, it was almost 11 when we got back to our room, and we had to convince Emma to let us clean her hair.  (It might be a battle with your daughter, but make sure to clean it that night.  All that gel was already a mess - I can only imagine how bad it would have been the next morning!)

Despite such a late night, both of my kids woke up with a ton of energy the next morning.  I think they had already gotten some Disney Magic!  We immediately headed back into the Magic Kingdom, and who should we see as we walk in?  Minnie Mouse!  Emma ran up to her and gave her the biggest hug immediately.  I almost cried I was so shocked!





















We rode the following rides before our lunch reservation:  The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (has a great play area for kids while waiting in line), Meet Rapunzel, Prince Charming Regal Carousel, and Peter Pan's Flight.  I had pre-booked Meet Rapunzel, Peter Pan's Flight and Enchanted Tales with Belle through FastPass+, but we never got to do Enchanted Tales with Belle because we spent so much time waiting in line for Baby Sage to meet Woody & Jessie.  The lines were so long, and I wasn't able to get another FastPass+ that would work with our schedule.  But, Baby Sage has loved Woody and Buzz since he was 18 months old, and we had to see them for him.  We waited in the hot sun for at least 45 minutes before it was our turn.  He was excited, but definitely didn't want to touch them.  No hugs for my little man!

Our lunch reservation that day was at Be Our Guest.  Emma loved the idea of having lunch in Belle's castle!  There were no characters at this lunch, but the scenery was amazing!  Since we were on the dining plan, lunch was a "quick service" meal.  I would, however, recommend that you pre-select your food online.  (We didn't.)  The line was extremely long to order - like, way too long for hungry and tired children.  In fact, Baby Sage fell asleep on me as we were waiting in line!

Once you have placed your order, you have your choice of three dining areas:  The Grand Ballroom, The West Wing, or The Castle Gallery.  We chose to sit in the Grand Ballroom because we could see the snow falling outside!  (It was so hot, I kept wishing it was real snow!)  Baby Sage continued to sleep on me throughout all of my lunch, so when were were done, we decided that since he had gotten his nap, we would skip going back to the room, and instead just enjoy the afternoon in the park, have an early dinner, and go back to the room earlier.

To Adventureland we headed to ride more rides:  Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Magic Carpets of Aladdin.  I was a bit concerned that Pirates of the Caribbean might scare the kids as it has some 'dark' moments, but both kids were fine with it.

At 3 p.m., there is a Festival of Fantasy parade, so we grabbed a spot in the shade in Frontierland where the parade starts to watch that.  To occupy the kids, we gave them snacks:  popcorn for Baby Sage, and a (first of MANY) Mickey Ice Cream Bar for Emma.  Of course, there was some music playing through loud speakers before the parade, and my kids started dancing.  They had the stroller rockin'!  It was sweet to watch how much fun they had together.


Once the parade started, both of them were mesmerized.  I swear - it seemed like every princess in the parade looked right at Emma, waved, and blew her a kiss.  (And if they seemed that way to me, I'm sure it was even more so to her!)  She waved until I thought her arm might fall off.  I have truly never seen my kids so happy.  We heard a lot of, "Mom, it's Elsa! Look Dad, it's Belle!"  So much fun!

After the parade, we headed to Tomorrowland so Baby Sage could meet his hero, Buzz Lightyear.  On the way there, we stopped by the Mad Tea Party.  If Emma had her fun getting her hair done, Baby Sage's favorite part may have been getting to see Buzz.  He was seriously so excited, it took all of our control to contain him from skipping through the line!

I had actually booked us a FastPass+ to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin during lunch, so we did that, Carousel of Progress, and the Tomorrowland Speedway while we were in Tomorrowland.

We had an early dinner that night (I'd guess around 5ish, but I rarely looked at a clock while we were there!) at Casey's Corner.  That was a nice, relaxing, fun time.  We sat outside and enjoyed corn dogs and chili dogs.  As we left for the night, we browsed a few shops on Main Street.

Here's a pro-tip:  one great thing about traveling with grandparents is that you don't ave to worry about buying your child a single souvenir - they'll take care of it!  I told Sage that counted as one more "free" thing at Disney!  The kids were actually very good - Emma got an Elsa light-up/spinner toy, and Baby Sage got a Buzz Lightyear.  They got the satisfaction of seeing how excited the kids were.

Bedtime came early that night, for everyone, so we could prepare for the next day at Hollywood Studios!  I can't speak for the kids, but I know this Mom was ready for some shut-eye!


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Our Disney Trip: Packing and Traveling


























This is the second post in the series about our trip to Disney.  You can read the first post about the planning process here.  

When I started the whole process, the one thing I wasn't really looking forward to was the travel to and from Disney.  I mean is anyone EVER really all that excited about going that far with two little kids?  Didn't think so.  Since I know my personal limit in the car is the beach, there was never any debate around flying vs. driving for my family - I knew all along we would be flying.  (Luckily, Sage knows me well, too, and also knew immediately driving wasn't an option!)

We booked a direct flight into Orlando International Airport, and I would recommend anyone flying with little kids do the same.  The flight was about an hour and a half, and I think that was perfect!  While the kids were both really excited about flying, and I felt like I brought them a good amount of things to keep them occupied (more on that later!), anything else would have been too long for Baby Sage I think.

Since we arrived in Orland right around noon, we decided to have lunch immediately in the airport food court.  It is good sized, and we figured eating before anyone got too hungry and cranky was the best decision.  It worked perfectly for our family, because that 45 minute travel-time to the hotel would have been a bit much on empty stomachs.

We had arranged transportation on Disney's Magical Express, which is complimentary motor coach service from the airpot to the hotel.  My favorite thing about this is that we never had to go to baggage claim!  About two weeks prior to our trip, I received a set of yellow luggage tags.  All I had to do was place these on the bags, and Disney arranged to have those bags delivered directly to our rooms.  It was amazing!  I definitely recommend going this route, but as a tip:  make sure you pack anything you might need upon arrival in your carry-on luggage, because the delivery service can take up to three hours.

Since we had planned to go into the Magic Kingdom on the day we arrived, I made sure to also pack a small rolling carry-on suitcase with some things we would need immediately.  This included a change of clothes for myself, Emma's Elsa dress (for the reservations we had at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique followed by dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table), and of course, our Magic Bands!  The rolling suitcase also held the kids' backpacks with activities until we boarded the plane, and they both got all of their own stuff.

I started packing about a week in advance so that there was no way I would forget something.  I'd pack, discuss with friends, add to it, repeat.  So what did we (I) pack?

  • Travel-size dishwashing liquid (used to clean sip cups each night in the hotel)
  • Bottle Brush
  • Sippy Cups
  • Disposable Bibs
  • Snacks
  • Gallon & Quart size Ziplock bags (to hold ice, clothes, etc)
  • Sunscreen
  • Ponchos
  • Medicines & Thermometer
  • Clothing for each of us
  • Diapers, & Wipes
  • Travel-Size First Aid Kit (Neosporin & a variety of bandages were in it)
  • Blister Bandages
  • Autograph Pillow Cases:  A lot of people do "Autograph Books" but I knew those would get shoved in a drawer.  So instead, I bought pillowcases on Etsy, and then got a clipboard, some binder clips, and fabric pens for each kid.  And if the number of times Emma has brought it out and looked at the signatures is any indication, this was a good idea!!!
  • Activity stuff for the plane for the kids

Each day, Sage carried a backpack into the park.  This was typically stuff that we might need throughout the day, but didn't need at our fingertips at all times.  When it was time to go on rides, he just left it with the stroller.  We made sure there was nothing in it couldn't be replaced if needed, but we did not have any issues!  In that bag, we had the following things every day:

  • Autograph Pillowcases
  • Change of clothes for both kids (never know when an accident can happen or when a Mickey Ice Cream Bar can make a total mess).  I put these in gallon size bags in the bottom of the backpack.
  • Snacks
  • Changing Pad, Diapers, & Wipes
  • First Aid Kit
  • Disposable Bibs for Baby Sage
  • Sippy Cups
  • Sunscreen

In turn, every day I carried a cross-body purse that held the things we might need immediate access to, like:

  • Travel-size baby wipes
  • Travel-size Kleenex
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Travel-size Advil
  • Cell Phones

If you've made it this far, I'm willing to bet you still have two questions, the first of which would be, "So just what did you pack for the kids for the airplane????"

Disney-related stuff of course!

So, we decided to surprise the kids with the trip.  This was done partly (ok, mostly) to preserve my sanity - I knew they would need a heads-up, but I also knew I couldn't handle questions like Emma asked about her trip to visit Momma G.  Originally, we had planned to only tell them two days prior to departure, but since Emma can be extremely quiet, reserved, and shy, we wanted to have time to prepare her for the trip.  This worked out really well, as Emma never hesitated to hug the characters, ask for autographs, etc., which is all very out of character for her.  If you have a shy child, definitely take the time to prepare them!!

So the Sunday night before the trip, we gave both kids baskets filled with Disney-related items.  They were both incredibly excited to see the Mickey and Minnie stuffed animals - so excited, they didn't even think to ask what all of this meant!  We had to prod them a bit, and told them "We're going to Disney World!"

And... they both looked at us in confusion.  Emma asked, "What's Disney World?"

Not exactly the response we were expecting, but when we told them it's where Mickey, Cinderella, Elsa, Anna, etc., lived, they started to get excited.  And when we pulled out the Disney Vacation Planning DVD, they got really excited!!  We also watched YouTube videos of kids getting their hair done at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, meeting characters, parades, and more.

Here's a list of what the kids got in their baskets (and then took on the airplane):
  • Crayola Color Wonder and Markers (these are great for travel because markers only work on special color wonder paper!!)
  • Coloring Books and Crayons
  • Melissa & Doug Minnie Mouse Dress Up Play Set (for Emma)
  • Melissa & Doug Mickey Mouse Magnetic Puzzle (for Baby Sage) 
  • They each carried on their Mickey and Minnie stuffed animals
  • Usborne Travel Activity Book (for Emma) sold at Cloud 9
  • Usborne Airport Sticker Book (for Baby Sage) sold at Cloud 9
And naturally, they both got new Disney outfits to wear on the plane!

So, regarding that one last question you might be having - "Bailey, you didn't mention a camera...?  No, I didn't.  Because we didn't take one.

Before you think I've lost my mind, not taking a camera to document this amazing trip, let me tell you about the Memory Maker Package.

Basically Disney has photographers at hundreds of locations across the parks.  These photos connected to your My Disney Experience with a touch of your Magic Band.  You can conveniently view and download your pictures within minutes if you have the Memory Maker Package.

We decided to purchase this add-on package, and I'm so glad we did.  It was well worth the money - never worrying about our camera being stolen, having to be responsible for capturing photos, etc.  We got all the pictures we could have dreamed of wanting, and with no stress!

My next post will be dedicated entirely to our time in the Magic Kingdom.  As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to do so!  I'll be responding!




Monday, October 10, 2016

Our Disney Trip: The Planning Process


















About a year ago, I started to think about taking the kids to Disney this summer.  At least - I think it was about a year ago.  Time moves differently as a Mom so I can't be sure, but we are going to go with that.  Naturally, I took the idea to my husband - and he was almost as against it as I was for it.

"They aren't even going to remember any of it!" was his (frequently repeated) argument.

While I certainly couldn't ague with his logic, my determination won him over.  I argued that I would remember it.  I argued that they would never again be at an age that meeting their favorite characters would spark so much joy and magic in their hearts.  And finally, I argued, who cares???  It will be fun!  (Clearly that was the argument that won him over - ha!)

Once I had gotten him to agree that we would do a Disney trip this year, I suggested we invite the grandparents along.  I had wonderful memories of visiting Disney with my grandmother when I was young, and I kept thinking how much enjoyment Emma and Baby Sage (and their grandparents!) would get out of sharing this experience with them.  This was an easy sell to Dad, and an even easier sell to the grandparents.  They were all in!

Once it was decided we would all go to Disney this year, I bought a Disney book and started planning!  And by planning - I do mean PLANNING.  I would be willing to put money (I no longer have because we just got back from Disney) on the fact that I spent more time planning for this trip than I did our wedding.  No joke.

So, in case anyone has the misguided idea that you just book hotel rooms and buy park tickets (which may have been what I thought prior to all of my research and planning...), this blog post is for you.  I had many friends who offered helpful hints and tips to plan the perfect trip, and I'm going to share my own experiences with you, so that you can better plan for your family.

To start, I called Carey Sutton with Sterling Travel.  This was one of the smartest things I did, as she has done this a time or two (thousand).  One of the biggest things she helped me with was understanding all of the deadlines that come with booking a trip to Disney.  For instance, once we had decided on a timeframe (the first week of September worked best for everyone's schedules), she helped us book our trip - the last week of December.  Take note procrastinators:  that's roughly 8 months prior.

Beyond making our initial reservations, one of the first things she recommended was to set up an account on the My Disney Experience website.  This was a huge step and would be used for EVERYTHING we did.  Definitely don't skip this step!

Dining reservations were the next thing we needed to worry about.  Those were booked 180 days prior to departure (that's 6 months in advance!!!!  6 MONTHS!!!!!).  Of course, I had gone through and done plenty of research prior to that time so that we knew what we wanted for meals, dining times, etc.  And then... I turned that information over to Carey.  She got up early on that 180-days-out-morning and booked all of our meals for us.  She got us within 10 minutes of our preferred time slot every time!

Remember our account on the My Disney Experience website?  Carey linked our hotel and dining reservations right to it, and we were able to view and modify them whenever we wanted!  We used this same account to book our FastPass+ reservations - 60 days out.  Once again, I had done research on the parks prior to booking our FastPass+ reservations - and I totally recommend you to do the same.  This will force you to thoroughly research the parks, determine a route so you aren't wandering aimlessly, and you will get more out of your trip.

You can originally book up to three FastPass+ reservations per day.  Once you have used all three, you are able to book more, one at a time.  We used the My Disney Experience App on our phones to do this on the go.  It was a easy to use as the website, allowing us to book, modify, and even delete FastPass+ reservations.

Another decision we made based on recommendations from several friends was to rent a stroller for our kids.  Next to working with Carey - this was the best decision we made!  We rented from Kingdom Strollers, and booked the stroller six months in advance.  The stroller was delivered to our hotel, and we picked it up at the bell desk upon arrival.  (We dropped it off there when we left, too.  So easy!)  We rented the Double BOB, and I'm so glad we did.

We called the stroller our "hotel room on the go" - and it was.  The seats laid back for our kids to nap (which Baby Sage did EVERY single day), there was plenty of underneath storage, and the canopy was large enough to cover both kids fully, which was great in the hot September sun.  With great tires and suspension, it was easy to push for miles and miles every day.

We added the rain cover and cooler for FREE!  (I made sure to remind Sage that they were free - I loved being able to say something at Disney was free!)  We also added a case of water (24 bottles) to our order for $9 - that might sound like a lot, but compared to buying bottles after bottle in the park, it was super cheap!  Plus, it was so hot when we went, I would say it was just a must.  We got ice from the vending machine in the hotel each morning and iced down the water.  Pro-tip:  pack Ziplock bags.  We used them for the ice so the cooler didn't leak all over everything.  (Turns out the cooler is free for a reason...)

About the last thing we waited on before the trip was our Magic Bands.  We got these about a month before departure.  Of course, we had customized them by color and name prior to that!  Now, let me tell you - these are aren't called "Magic" Bands for no reason!  They were amazing!  They were our room key, park ticket, FastPass+ reservation, AND credit card!  You link everything to your Magic Band and just go!  It was a real downer when I got home and went to Kroger and I had to use a real credit card instead of my Magic Band - and don't even get me started on having to pull out a real key to unlock my house!  One thing I will advise:  If you fly to Disney, make sure you have your Magic Bands in your carry-on luggage because you will need it as soon as you get off the flight if you are taking advantage of Disney's Magical Express (complimentary motor coach service from Orlando International Airport to your hotel)  You don't want to have to try and find it in your packed luggage - or worse, deal with things if your luggage gets lost.

Speaking of luggage, packing and travel, that's what I'll dedicate the next blog in our Disney series to!  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!  I'd love to hear your thoughts on my planning process.

For those who can't wait to hear how the rest of our trip went, I will say that on the very first night we were there, my husband agreed that he was glad we had brought the kids and the trip was worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY to see the kids that happy.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

That time my kids went back to school in 2016


























It may be a cliche, but that doesn't make it any less true:  the summer FLEW by!!!  One minute, I was planning all these educational activities for the kids, and the next minute, I was planning for back-to-school.  And by "planning for back-to-school," I mean looking up from my calendar to realize they were headed back in less than a week!

I think part of it was that I just wasn't ready for them to go back this year.  Maybe it's their ages (2 and 4), but they were so much fun this summer.  They played well together, and I really enjoyed everything we did.  I'm sure you'll be shocked by this, but... I was kind of dreading them going back to school.

(Disclaimer:  now that we are a few weeks almost two months back into our school-year routine and I finally have time to sit down and blog about back-to-school, I have to admit -- I LOVE it!  It's so nice having the structure of school schedules back.)

I guess I should have been better prepared for school to start, because Emma has been asking about it all.summer.long.  What is the name of my new school?  What is the name of my new teacher?  Will my friends be there again?  There were more, but I heard these three all.summer.long.  We even drove by her new school from time-to-time as summer progressed so that she could see it.  (Lucky for Mom, it's less than 5 minutes from our house!!!)

You may remember me writing last year about Emma's acceptance in the Decatur City Schools' inclusion program, which couples special needs children and their "typical peers" with the intent of enhancing the learning and development of both groups.  Because of her participation last year, she was automatically enrolled again this year in their 4K program.

Baby Sage started school on August 9th and I wasn't the least bit worried about him.  I knew before I dropped him off that he would have a fantastic day.  (I truthfully don't know the last time he didn't have a fantastic day!  He is just always happy.)  When I got him there that morning, he walked in, sat down at the table and started on a puzzle.  When it came time for me to leave, he waved to me, and kept on playing!  Not a single tear was shed -- by either of us!  When I know how happy he is going to be, it's easier on me leaving him behind.  Want to guess what kind of report I got when I picked him up?  That's right:  he had a great day!  He played well, ate well, and napped well.  Yep, that's my boy!

Emma didn't start school until the 10th, so that was my real "back-to-school" day for the kids.  Naturally, they wore matching outfits from Cloud 9!  Just like last year, I spent the night before packing Emma's bag and lunchbox, ironing clothes and worrying like crazy.  I just had so many questions!

Would she be happy at her new school?  Would she love it as much as she did last year?  Would she be scared her first day?  Would she love her new teacher?  Well, the answer to all of those questions was YES! -- except for being scared.  Apparently, her momma was scared enough, and Emma didn't take any of that from her.  She was so excited for her first day -- we walked in with no tears, and total excitement!!!  She shocked me for the second year in a row. (Someday, I'll stop worrying.  You know, when she's like 40.)

Luckily for me, both of Emma's first two days were only half days again.  I honestly don't know what I'll do when she goes for a full day her first day back, because I couldn't wait to hear all about her day!  She walked towards my car with the BIGGEST smile on her face I have ever seen, and once she got it, she couldn't stop talking!  She absolutely LOVED school!  Getting to hold Curious George while Ms. B read a story might have topped off her first day, but she was also very excited about her old friends that were back again, and the new friendships she had already made.

I knew right then that it was going to be a great school year.

(But I might also already be looking forward to next summer, too!)