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How to do Disney with Small Children

22 Mar

Okay, friends, here’s my Disney How-To post at long last! So, I’ve geared my info/advice toward those traveling with small kids because that’s my most recent experience and my particular area of expertise. Obviously, if you don’t have small children, ignore the parts about breastfeeding and naps and carry on.

 

Here we go!

 

 

Go Ahead, Take ‘Em When They’re Young – Everyone always says they want to wait to take their kids to Disney until they’re old enough to remember it. I get it, Disney is expensive. But kids 3 and under are free…so go ahead and take ’em when they’re young if you want. In my opinion, I don’t think a trip is any less valuable if my kid doesn’t remember every single detail in a few years. Did we have fun in the moment? Did we enjoy each other at the time? Did the entire family have a good time? Do I remember how cute they looked riding Dumbo with their wispy baby hair blowing in the breeze? If the answer is yes, then I’m cool. Now, you may differ on this if you’re only going to go to Disney World one time in your whole entire life. But if you’re like us and you know you’re probably going to be back at some point, just go ahead and take the babes.

 

 

Do it Big – If you’re going to go to Disney, my suggestion is to do it big. Go into it knowing that it’s going to be expensive. Trust me, the convenience is worth your money. Disney has a reputation for making things super convenient for guests. They’ve thought of everything, and while it might cost a little more money, take advantage of it. It truly makes for an awesome vacation. Disney isn’t cheap. I know that there are cheaper ways to do it, and if that’s your thing, go for it. But, in our experience, it just made for a better experience if we budgeted a lot of money ahead of time, paid for as much in advance as we could, and didn’t stress about money once we got there. Mickey Premiums for everyone!!

And speaking of snacks, go ahead and get the meal plan. This lets you prepay for all of your meals and it truly makes feeding a horde of toddlers a lot easier.It’s just one less thing for you to think about. You’ll get two quick service meals, one sit-down meal, and a snack per ticketed person per day. That’s a lot. You can also use it however you’d like. So, in our situation, we didn’t buy a ticket for Everett, so he technically wasn’t covered under the meal plan. But we could use an extra kid’s meal every day for him if we wanted to and then split our sit-down meals into extra quick-service meals or snacks later on. Basically, it’s fairly flexible and it was plenty of food for errabody. (Edited to add: There are a few different choices as far as the dining plan goes, this was just the option we chose. Make sure you check out all the different meal plans when you book your fantastic vacay!)

As far as where to eat, the one place we think is not to be missed is Whispering Canyon at the Wilderness Lodge. Aside from the fact that it’s located in my favorite resort, this place is SO fun. They have stick ponies that the kids get to ride around and there are lots of surprise shenanigans I won’t spoil here. Basically, if you can handle a joke and like a big breakfast, this is your spot. We love it!

Stay on property. The Disney resorts have amazing amenities and buses will take you wherever you need to be. If you’re flying, they’ll pick you up from the airport and drop your bags at your room for you. AND you can check your bags and get your boarding passes right at the resort, when it’s time to leave.

Stay for a week. It’s probably still not enough time to do everything but I think a week is the right amount of time to get the most out of an experience without pushing your kids too far. A week gives you time to spend at least one day at each park and then a couple of extra days to go back and redo the things you loved or pick up stuff you missed.

 

Don’t Do Everything – A huge part of our culture is consumed by Fear of Missing Out. We’re also ruled by scarcity, that feeling that there’s never enough time, money, whatever. If you let yourself be sucked into these mindsets, your Disney trip will suck. Say it with me, “I don’t have to do everything in order to have a good time.” Y’all, it is physically impossible to do everything that the Disney parks and resorts offer in one vacation…unless by “vacation” you mean, “I’m moving to Disney World and living there for five years.” It’s just not doable. So, borrow from Brene Brown and write yourself a permission slip. Yes, physically write a slip that says “I give myself permission to not do everything at Disney.”

On our trip we did not see fireworks once. Not one time. Also, we didn’t meet Mickey Mouse. Or the princesses. Nope. We certainly didn’t. Were those things that we kinda wanted to do? Sure. But doing those things was not worth pushing our children or ourselves to the point of absolute misery. It just didn’t work out and that’s okay.

Before your trip, make a list of your must-do’s, your maybe’s, and your whatever’s. Book your fastpasses for the things that you’re absolutely dying to do and then let. it. go. Some days in the parks just don’t play out the way you think they will. Sometimes attractions are closed, shows get cancelled, kids/parents meltdown, lines are long, lunch takes more time than you anticipated…whatever. Just release yourself from the idea that you have to do everything and be flexible. I promise you’ll have a lot more fun.

 

Be Kind – On our first full day on vacation we witnessed a woman freak out on her husband and in-laws at the bus stop. Her father-in-law accidentally told the bus driver that they were taking another bus. I’m not going to pass judgement on this girl. I’m sure she had put in months of planning, weeks of packing and organizing, and had dealt with whiny kids and long breakfast lines that morning. Also, we all know it’s hard to travel with a big group. But, guys, it completely broke my heart to see her be so ugly to her family. We’ve all done it, though. We get wound too tight and just snap and lash out at people.

If you find yourself being ugly, feeling indescribably grouchy, or just generally being a hag, you’re probably trying to do too much. Take a step back and chill out. This is your vacation. It seems like it’s high stakes because it’s Disney and you spent a lot of money and you’re tired, but it’s just a vacation. If you’re wound too tight, it’ll suck. Your family wants to remember that time you all got soaked in the rain and then rode Splash Mountain and got soaked again, not the time you wigged out on Grandpa at the bus stop. Give yourself some grace and be nice.

 

Take Advantage of Playgrounds – Kids implode if they don’t get unstructured playtime. It’s a fact. So take advantage of the awesome playgrounds on Disney property. I promise you won’t be “missing out” on anything by taking some time for free play (see above).

Most resorts have at least one small playground and several pools. The “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” playground at Hollywood Studios is awesome, as is the Boneyard in Dinoland at Animal Kingdom (it was actually closed when we visited, but I do know that it’s been renovated and is amazing). I’ve overheard people in the parks telling their kids that “you can slide at home,” and while that may be true, these playgrounds are way better than the one that’s down the street from your house.

Things to know: These playgrounds are big, y’all. Like, I sort of got nervous that I’d lose a kid in the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” one because it’s all tunnels and climbing webs and there’s just one of me and four zillion kids, so try to plan this when you’ll have an extra set of hands. Know that children are never allowed to exit the playground area without an adult; there are cast members at the exits to ensure this, so that’s good. My observations were that a 5 or 6 year old would probably be completely fine on their own in these playgrounds. Lily (3) was cool to hang with Maggie, but that was contingent upon Maggie slowing down for her. Vin followed Ev (2) around, and they handled the thing just fine (says the woman who didn’t have to bear crawl through tunnels).

 

Split Up – If you’re traveling with little guys, odds are you’re not all going to be able or want to do the same things for the entire trip. That’s okay. Really. We ended up splitting up quite a bit of the time. Now, we have a bit of an unfair advantage at Disney because we know the parks like the back of our hands, having worked there. You can just study up on some maps and be cool, I bet. Either way, we had a great time with Vin taking kids to do bigger or scarier rides while I hung onto the guys who either weren’t tall enough or were scared or otherwise uninterested. This basically means that everybody gets to do fun stuff at the same time without feeling like they’re being held back. While Vin and Maggie waited for Tower of Terror, the little guys and I saw Voyage of the Little Mermaid (during which Ev fell asleep and I ended up carrying him out while wearing Remy and herding Lil…I get a Mama Merit Badge for that one!), changed diapers, and saw some characters. While the big guys did Mine Train, we met Merida, rode the Teacups, and did Small World. Split up and everybody wins.

 

Don’t forget that you can get Rider Switch passes that allow one parent to wait with smaller kids and then go through the fastpass entrance and ride when the other parent returns. Easy peasy.

 

Breastfeed During Shows – If you’ve got a baby like mine, nursing under a cover is basically like trying to feed a greased squid under a tarp. Also, Florida is hot and humid. So basically, as far as nursing covers go, ain’t nobody got time for that. Here’s my perfect solution for you. Get yourself to Voyage of the Little Mermaid or Country Bear Jamboree or whatever show you’d like and just nurse the baby in there. I’ve gotten really good at nursing modestly without a cover, but the extra privacy of sitting in an actual chair in the relative darkness is pretty great. Obviously, this won’t work every single time your baby needs to eat, but when you can time it right, nursing during a show is gold.

 

Bring Extra Shoes and Socks  – It rains in Florida. A lot. So my advice to you is to take a pair of athletic shoes for everyone (with extra socks) and also to bring along some waterproof shoes. We’re a Croc family. Crocs are especially good in the parks because they won’t fall off as easily as flip flops and they dry a lot faster than most other sandals.

 

Maybe Skip Epcot – I love Epcot as much as the next guy. I worked there for a while and absolutely adored my time there. However, if you’re traveling with preschoolers, I’d advise you to think about skipping it or maybe just doing a half-day there. Lily’s face in the photo below is basically how we all felt at the end of the day.

 

There are a few things of interest to the preschool set at Epcot (The Seas, Journey into Imagination, Test Track if they’re tall enough), but there wasn’t enough to hold our kids’ interest for an entire day. We went early for Extra Magic Hours thinking we’d show them around the World Showcase…but that was closed. Sad trombone. There are some cool characters at Epcot (like Baymax and Mary Poppins) but the lines were consistently long and our little guys just didn’t have the patience for it. So, yes I love Epcot, but no I don’t love Epcot with preschoolers and toddlers. Spend another day at Magic Kingdom and be happy that you did.

So, there’s some insight into how we did Disney with the babes. Thoughts? What did I forget?? Hit me up in the comments!

xoxo,
Mary Susan

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Seven Things: 23

20 Jul

Hay. I’ve missed you. I’m going to flatter myself and imagine that you’ve missed me. Heaps and heaps.

 

Here’s what we’ve been up to!

 

1.) So, Ev has two teeth and he’s pulling up and trying really hard to walk. We just keep pushing him over, hoping to deter him. That kid is ten months old in a few months. I can’t even handle it.

 

 

 

 

2.) Have you guys read the Wildwood series? I just started it, but oh my goodness it’s good. I will report my verdict as soon as I have two minutes together to read it. So, basically, this will be the last you hear about it.

 

 

 

 

.3.) Vin has been out of town for a week watching the world championship of lacrosse. At this point, I think it’s fair to say that my undying respect and admiration goes out to all single parents. This shiz is not easy with two people, but it’s next to impossible for one. Seriously. If you know any single parents, please go hug them. And then take their kids for an evening and give them a six pack of beer and a pillow so they can collapse. They’ve earned it.

 

 

 

4.) So, I saw this thing on Pinterest that was a cutesy little “Library Plan” printable. You know, so you know what books you’re looking for before your passel of little darlings starts ripping books off of the library shelves all willy-nilly. It’s a great plan, actually. 

 

Now, I’m a terrible librarian/mother and I honestly very rarely take the kids to the library. It’s too much work because they go bananas and I get tired of chasing them and I’m enough of a book snob that I’d rather just pick things myself. There. I said it. However, on the occasion that I do take them, I realize that it’d be good to have a plan like the little listy thing. Also they showed Frozen at the library I work at on Friday, so we had. to. go.

 

So, I decided to forgo the adorable printable in favor of a scrap of receipt paper and a marker, because I like to upcycle. The girls were allowed to choose two books each…Mags decided to look for books on koalas and fairies and Lil opted for dinosaur and deer books because she likes alliteration, that’s why.

 

And wouldn’t you know it, miracles happened! When we walked into the library, the girls went to the nonfiction section rather than straight to the toys like a couple of classless hooligans. They chose books and actually sat and read them. Heck, they even gave full reports on earwigs to a couple of my coworkers (because, list or no list, you can’t pass up an earwig book). It was basically the best ever. So, yeah. Make a plan, write a list. Happy library day to everyone.

 

 

 

5.) Did I mention they were showing Frozen at the library? It was fantastic. I’m going to be honest with you. While all the other parents in the world are ruing the day that Frozen came out on DVD, I’m still going strong. Perhaps it helps that my girls didn’t completely obsess over it, but I think it’s fair to say that I want to watch it / sing it / perform dramatic interpretations of it waaay more than my kids do. Nothing will sway my devotion to the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem. And I’m not sorry. 

 

 

 

6.) Maggie met a sweet boy at Frozen who loved her so much, he insisted that his mother let him walk us to our car…at which point he climbed into said car and refused to leave. I have two thoughts on this: 1. Boys better watch out for her daddy because, and I quote, he has “a saw and a grind plan.” and 2. I am so glad that other people’s kids do crazy junk like that and it’s not just me. I think I’m gonna be best friends with that mama.

 

 

 

 

 

7.) Maggie says the darndest things:

“It’ll be as quick as a cake in a pie!” Sooo, slow. It’ll be slow.

“I’m Mama! Look at my mustache!” Excellent.

“I’m taking your eyebrows!”

“It’s the crystal bow of Africaaaaa!”

 

She’s a weird kid. I have no idea where she gets it.

 

 

 

 

8.) BONUS! Here are some cute pictures of our crazy kids I just can’t stop looking at…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what have YOU been up to?? Spill in the comments! I’ve missed ya!

 

Follow me on Instagram @ohblessyourheart!

I’m Back!

28 Mar

Oh, my law, guys…it has been far, far too long! Hopefully absence makes the heart grow fonder, but regardless, it’s good to be back!

 

Between family visiting from Texas, the Stomach Bug From Hell, a road trip to Tampa for our best friends’ wedding, a visit to Disney, and a road trip home featuring “Return of the Stomach Bug From Hell”, we’re pretty much exhausted. And some of us are still ashamed of the number we did on a gas station toilet somewhere in West Virginia. But then, others of us feel that it was in retribution for the rock slide in West Virginia that caused us to be stuck on the highway for three hours with a two-year-old and a ten-month-old. Fair is fair, folks.

 

So, here are my observations from our trip:

1. Pack with ziplocs. I wish I could remember where I saw this idea so I could give the genius credit, but I can’t hunt it down. Anyway, one of my biggest pet peeves about packing for kids is that all of their things are teeeeeeny tiny, so when you remove one shirt, everything else falls over or unfolds and you’re left with a bag full of chaos. So, the idea is simple: put an entire outfit, shirt, pants, undies, socks, hair accessories, everything you’ll need for a day in a ziploc bag. This way you can see which outfits are which and you don’t have to rummage around for thirty minutes trying to find socks. I ended up using a lot of plastic bags, however, I figure if they’re only holding clean laundry, we can definitely reuse them when we get home. So, here’s what nine days of travel for our two little ladies ended up looking like:

Yowza, that's a lot of clothes...but oh, so organized!

Yowza, that’s a lot of clothes…but oh, so organized!

This method was also nice since it allowed us the ability to grab an extra outfit to take in the diaper bag in case of accidents, emergencies, whatever. I’m definitely doing this again!

 

2. It is 100% possible to traverse the country with two kids under the age of three without the use of electronic devicesBoom shakalaka. Seriously, guys, this is completely doable. Mags got carsick the one time we tried to show her a video in the car so from then on, we’ve avoided traveling with dvd players like the plague.

 

Now, let me say this. I am completely aware of the fact that we’ve been blessed with good travelers. I know that not all kids are cool with being in the car for a zillion hours, or even thirty minutes. My poor mother-in-law was forced to sit beside her youngest on car trips in order to cushion the blows he gave himself by bonking his head against his car seat over and over and over again. Which explains a lot about my brother-in-law.

 

We’re very fortunate that we’re able to load up our phones with tunes and get through the hard times that way. I will say that we listened to a looooot of songs on repeat, but at least the kid has good taste and likes The Muppets soundtrack. (Jason Segel, I am forever in your debt.) We also packed an awesome bucket full of coloring pages, books, small toys, and a few Target dollar aisle surprises that were dispersed along the way. We played a lot of “I Spy” and “Would You Rather” which consists of questions like, “Mama, would you rather be an elephant or a house?” Were it not for the three hour rock slide delay, I think we’d have made it both ways without any meltdowns. Regardless, it was a great trip and I’m so glad we accomplished it without Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja or Leapster, etc.

 

Diva.

 

 

3. I love Disney World. And I love this picture I forced my family to take.

 

Love.

Love.

For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I met while on an internship at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This picture was taken in the exact spot where we spoke for the very first time, and I thought, “Hey, this guy is pretty funny!” (And then I stalked him until I made him mine…mwuahahahaha!)

 

At some point we’ll collaborate on a “Traveling to Disney” post to share some of the things we’ve learned from being cast members in different parts of the parks, etc. Anyway, here are some more pictures from our quick trip!

 

Please note that all highly traited explorers wear frilly socks and princess shoes.

Please note that all highly trained explorers wear frilly socks and princess shoes.

 

 

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4. I laarve weddings! Especially when they’re the weddings of two dream boats like these two…

 

Photo courtesy of Limelight Weddings..seriously talented!! Check them out at http://www.limelightweddings.net

 

5. Thanks for sticking around!  Seriously, I’m so grateful for all of the people who sent me messages to encourage me to get back to blogging. Sometimes it’s hard to get back in the habit of something…even if it’s something you enjoy immensely. So, yeah…much love and thanks to all of you!

Apocalypse Survival Guide

18 Nov

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but the world is going to end soon. I forget when, exactly, but I’m pretty sure it’s like next month or somesuch.

 

Now, there are many differing opinions as to how this jazz is all going to go down. Some people prefer to believe the Mayans while others take the zombie route. My husband works with a doomsday prepper (yes, really) who vehemently defends the position that an alien race called the Zetas will soon be coming to decide which of us are ready to move on to another “awesome” planet and who won’t. The losers who don’t make the cut get sent to the work planet, presumably to sweat and toil for their alien overlords. Sounds a lot like seventh grade gym, but that’s just me.

 

I, personally like to believe the zombie apocalypse theorists because it’s sexier. (What does that even mean?) Now, in the event of a zombie apocalypse – or any kind of apocalypse, really – I want to have a plan. And I want to model that plan after somebody who is 100 % successful a problem solving. And I know just the guy…

 

I’m not sure if you’ve seen his reality show on Disney Junior, but let me just tell you that crazy stuff is always going down at the clubhouse and Mickey gets biz done. That mouse in unfazed in times of trouble and that’s mainly because he always has a few important tools in his back pocket in the event of emergency.

Clearly these are items that would be incredibly useful in protecting oneself from asteroids, zombies, or alien overlords. Let’s explore said tools, shall we?

The first such tool is a baby elephant. A baby elephant will come in handy if you need to reach something high (a baby giraffe would work in this case, too) or if you need to spray errant zombies with water. The baby elephant is also very useful for balancing giant scales, should the need arise. And it will, oh yes, it will.

The next thing you’ll need to keep on your person is a giant marshmallow. If you’re being chased across rooftops by zombie hordes, you just put the giant marshmallow at the bottom of the building and it will cushion your fall, allowing you to jump off of the building without causing harm to your body. If the marshmallow isn’t your style, you can always go with the giant slide option, but I don’t think it’s got as much flair. A giant candy cane has also been known to work in this instance.

And so festive, too!

Now, should you decide that you want to catch a zombie for closer inspection you just need to use your butterfly net. Butterfly nets are pretty much capable of catching anything. You might also consider employing a baby monkey, but unless you’ve treed your zombie, that won’t really do you much good.

Here are a few other zombie fighting items you’ll want to keep on you:

  • Gooey Fish – It’s a common misconception that zombies like brains, but what they really like are the biggest gooey fish in Mickey Lake, which are located under buoy number five, just so’s you know.
  • Bouncy shoes or a pogo stick – For obvious reasons
  • Magic jumping beans – Feed ’em to the zombies…the beans make their tummies jump and then they can’t chase you. Problem. Solved.

 

I hope I’ve given you enough information to take charge of your family’s destiny once the end times come. I feel pretty confident that, given the usefulness and easy attainability of the aforementioned tools, you’ll be able to sleep the sweet, sweet sleep of prepared bliss.

 

You are welcome.

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