Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Our First Disney Trip: Magic Kingdom

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Previously: Days 1 & 2 in Disney (but no parks)

We planned our first park day for the Magic Kingdom because I wasn’t sure the kids would really understand they were actually at Disney World until they saw the castle up close. It’s also the park with the most stuff and non-negotiable fireworks (meaning we HAVE to stay for the fireworks) so we knew it would be a very long day.

We got to the park an hour before they officially opened because we wanted Main Street photos with the castle before the park got TOO crowded. We also had breakfast reservations at 9:10 at the very back of the park and needed to be at least at the castle by 9 am. Between security and time to take allll the photos, it was a good call. Disney has done a great job speeding up lines of all kinds – E was chatting with a security manager and he said not having a long line for bag checks is a huge priority for them and we could definitely tell – but being prepared to have them slow you down a little is a good idea. So we got into the park before “official” open time and were right at the front of the castle when they did the morning opening show. It is definitely worth catching if you have kids – that first glimpse of Mickey and Minnie blew Linc’s mind and there were a bunch of characters we only saw during that show. I might have (definitely) cried a little.

These are our PhotoPass pictures:

And these are my photos:

The moment Evan saw the castle:

You’re never too cool for a Disney World castle selfie.

Right after that they lifted the ropes and we walked straight back to Be Our Guest for our breakfast reservation. The breakfast system was incredibly efficient. You placed your order on touch screens, scanned your magic band to pay/use your dining credits, and then picked a table anywhere. I wanted to see the West Wing so we walked through the gorgeous main ballroom (it looked exactly like where Belle and Beast dance in the movie) (also it snows outside the “windows”) and got a table RIGHT under Prince Adam’s ripped portrait from the movie.

Every 5 minutes or so there was a thunderstorm and the portrait would flash with the Beast’s picture instead. It was super cool. Lincoln did NOT like it, so if you have a possibly-scared toddler I would recommend just coming in to visit the West Wing and sitting in a different room. Seconds after we sat down, a waitress brought our food to our table. How did she know where we were??? Ther wasn’t a number or a tracker or one of those buzzers or anything that tied us to the order we placed at the touch screen. I might have been more amazed by the service than by the magical portrait or the very awesome magic rose:

After breakfast, we had time for some stuff with short lines – the carousel, Small World, watching the Sword in the Stone show, and visiting Elena before our first fast pass for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. There are a lot of rides in Fantasyland.

Cinderella’s slipper at Fairytale Hall:

I surprised Caroline with the Elena dress and crown because I knew she was extra exicted to meet her:

Elena photos (and basically all the character meet photos NOT at a meal) are from our PhotoPass. I recommend the PhotoPass.

Linc doesn’t look thrilled in this photo, but he was SO EXCITED about the “diss” from a princess.

This is the part of my recap where I’m going to pat myself on the back a little bit for all that planning I did. It was SO GREAT to be able to tell the kids “don’t worry, we have a Fastpass” for almost every ride they wanted. We also really benefitted from the rider swap system. We would all show up at the entrance and scan our bands to “clear” the FP from our account, then one of the grown ups would go with Evan and Caroline and get a rider swap pass. Sometimes it was a tag, sometimes a ticket, but either way as soon as they got off the ride they passed it to the other grown up and the big kids got to ride again. It was SO GREAT for the big kids, because they got to ride everything at least twice. In theory we could have doubled our FP options with rider swap because only one of us HAD to scan in to get into the FP line. There are other blogs that could explain that method better than me, but we a) weren’t 100% sure it would work on the most popular rides and b) didn’t feel right “cheating” the system even if it wasn’t really cheating. Plus between the Fastpasses I booked 90 days before the trip, shortish lines, and the ability to book more Fastpasses after our first 3 were used, we were fine.

One of the things you don’t need a Fastpass for is Dumbo. They’ve changed it a lot since the last time I was at Disney, so now you go inside to a playground and the kids play (in the air conditioning) while you wait for your turn with a buzzer, like they give you when you wait for your table at Chili’s. It’s great. All four kids got to play while I got to sit down. And then it was time for some classic Dumbo action.

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Then we met Ariel! Mermaid Ariel, which was very cool.

We tried to watch the 3 pm parade…but the weather turned and they canceled it. Then we made our biggest mistake of the day and got in a 60-minute long line for Haunted Mansion. Ugggh. But it was under awnings so we weren’t in the rain and it moved pretty fast and it was on our must-do list so I’m glad if we were going to waste some time in line it was for something good.

 

The rest of our afternoon was spent in Adventureland and Frontierland. We did the Swiss Family Robinson tree house, and the Jungle Cruise and Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates and Aladdin’s flying carpet and the Tiki Room and…I can’t even remember. All of it, I think, except Tom Sawyer’s Island. We even saw the Country Bear Jamboree, which I don’t think I have actually seen before. It was HILARIOUS. And not for children. But hilarious. I laughed so hard I almost cried.

It was REALLY hot so I didn’t care at all if the kids threw themselves in the fountains.

After we exhausted ourselves in all of the park besides Tomorrowland, we headed to dinner at the Jungle Skipper Canteen restaurant (the eatery themed to go with the Jungle Cruise ride). It was not at all crowded, our server was fantastic, and the bread they brought to serve the table was delicious. They just kept bringing more and more and more bread, so Linc and Finn stuffed themselves with that instead of having to share our food. I was going to order a noodle dish, but the server suggested the steak instead which ended up being a much better choice. After I sucked down my first Diet Coke in like 5 seconds, the waitress said “Oh, mama needs more Diet Coke. I gotcha.” And then for the rest of the meal I never had less than two sodas next to my plate. We tipped her extra.

Caroline accidentally spilled soda on herself so she changed into her back-up clothes. And then after she ate she fell asleep on the bench.

After dinner we planned to finish out the roller coasters. We had a Fastpass for Splash Mountain in the evening, but the ride was temporarily broken. They emailed us to let us know we could either use our Fastpass whenever it started working again OR we could use it on something else. Something else = Space Mountain! First we stopped to watch the 9 pm fireworks show, called Happily Ever After. I definitely recommend watching from Main Street. On a different day we saw it from the back of the castle and you miss sooooo much. Even if it’s crowded, find a spot and stand there for the 18 minute show.

p.s. Even when you think the show is over, stand still for a few more minutes or you’ll miss Tinkerbell.

For some reason I thought Caroline was too short for Space Mountain, so we hung out and watched the second fireworks show while E and Evan went to ride. Then we walked over to wait for them so I could rider swap. A lot of people leave after the first fireworks, so we were able to stand right up next to the castle for the second show.

While I was in line for Space Mountain, I noticed the height restriction was lower than I thought so Caroline could ride. But by the time we got off and met up again it was late and all the kids were exhausted. Beyond exhausted. So we just made a note that if we made it back to the park for Splash Mountain we’d try to get Caroline a ride on Space Mountain too.

My main lesson for our Magic Kingdom day is that it is definitely a 2-day park. Maybe even a 3-day park if you’re trying to do absolutely everything. I’m already making a list so if (when) we go back we can finish everything we missed. We never even did the spinning tea cups!

Up next: Wednesday at Hollywood Studios. Star Wars day!

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Our First Disney Trip: Non-Park Days

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

We’re back from Disney World! Well, actually we’re not back, we’re still on vacation. But we are no longer in Florida and I’ve finally had a few minutes to look through the 1800 pictures I took and start to recap our trip.

Even with that many photos, I feel like I missed A LOT of moments. It is hard to take pictures while wearing a baby and I was wearing a baby 75% of the time. I knew that going in and promised myself I wouldn’t be disappointed, but I still am a little bit. I do have a ton of cell phone photos and video, plus the PhotoPass pictures the Disney photogs took, so it’s not like I’m actually missing much. My recaps just won’t have as many *good* photos as I wanted.

The first day and a half we were at Disney World we weren’t actually in any of the parks. This was a good choice. We went to Disney Springs the night we checked into the hotel, did some shopping to get our ears and see the Lego store and ride the boat shuttles around, then had dinner. If it hadn’t been raining we would have spent a lot more time wandering around and checking out the stores – we never made it to the pin store or the Christmas store – but it was fun even in the rain.

I had made dinner reservations at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe based on good internet reviews and a lot of interesting menu choices. I almost canceled them the day before, because I wasn’t sure the kids would be able to handle 7:30 dinner at a “grown up” restaurant. I am so glad I didn’t! When we checked in the hostess warned us our seats were on the dance floor and there was a show tonight; would we like different seats? No way! It worked out perfectly. The music was loud (in a good way) and we loved watching the salsa dancers who were right next to our table. The show was interactive so several times Caroline was up on stage with the dancers or doing a congo line around the restaurant. The food was also delicious. I had a giant plate of seafood, E had some sort of meat and even though the kid’s menu offered interesting choices they also had nice safe mac & cheese for Evan. I recommend the kid’s ham croquette appetizer – I would have eaten a dozen of those.

Caroline declared this dinner the “best night of her life”, so I think she would also recommend Bongo’s.

Dessert was this key lime mouse thing. Desserts were included on the dining plan (I’ll write a lot more about the dining plan later) so we ate a LOT of dessert.

After dinner we caught the bus back to our hotel to get some sleep, since we were exhausted from two days of driving.

Note on Transportation: We didn’t drive at all while we were at Disney. We took buses from our hotel, then boats or the Monorail between parks. The buses suck. I mean, they’re better than driving and parking and they’re free and they were consistent. But they still suck. If (when) we go back, we will spend more money to stay at a hotel that offers options besides the buses because folding up the stroller and jamming onto a crowded standing-room only bus at 11 pm is no fun.

On our first full day Florida, we slept in, hung out at the pool, and then did a little resort hopping before our princess dinner.

Finding Nemo pajamas for our Finding Nemo hotel room, obviously. We stayed at Art of Animation, which is a very fun hotel that is very far away from most things. We were lucky and got a room that wasn’t super far from the main building, but if you were in a different section you could be doing a LOT of walking. If (when) we go again we won’t stay here.

A lot of my morning pictures are unusable because my camera/lenses always fogged up. The temperature difference between the inside a/c and the outside humidty was unhelpful. In the future I’ll remember to take my stuff outside 20 minutes before I want to use it.

We did enjoy a fairly peaceful pool that morning though. We were practically the only people there until after 10 am.

We spent the whole morning at the pool, then came inside for clothes and lunch. The food court at the hotel is called Landscape of Flavors and was really good. Those refillable mugs came with our meal plan. I had the combo platter – quesadillas and tacos – and a Mickey cupcake for dessert. A+ would recommend.

art of animation landscape of flavors

After lunch, we packed up and headed out to take care of some errands (trading in our MWR vouchers for actual park tickets, buying the PhotoPass) and resort hopping.

The Monorail was a) not crowded and b) air conditioned, so we rode it a lot.

Resort hopping on the Monorail was fun but tiring. You’re not allowed to use the pools at other hotels, so we mostly explored the stores and lobbies, checked out the food and let the kids trade pins while the grown-ups sat down and enjoyed not walking. It would have been a good use of 2 hours – any longer and you’ll just get super jealous of how nice the deluxe hotels are.

But because Disney is full of magic, being early to our dinner reservation led to being at the Grand Floridian during Cinderella’s Princess Promenade. Cinderella and Prince Charming showed up to greet the kids, take them on a parade through the hotel and participate in a waltz in the lobby. Caroline and Lincoln looooved it, even though we were already going to see those same characters for dinner.

Speaking of dinner, I would HIGHLY recommend the Cinderella Happily Ever After dinner at 1900 Park Fare. Actually, all our character meals were great, but if you’re thinking that this one might be hard to get to because it’s outside Magic Kingdom I promise it’s worth the effort. The buffet was delicious, the strawberry soup was as good as everyone said, and Lady Tremaine and the step-sisters were a hoot.

The only problem with character meals vs meeting the characters in their designated spots is you have to take your own photos. That’s not too bad for me, but almost none of my cell phone shots turned out, so I was glad to have my real camera ready.

Our dinner reservations were for 4:30 so afterward we had time to get back to the hotel and jump in the pool again to cool off and relax. I would suggest jumping in the pool as much as possible during your Disney trip, because being weightless and off your feet feels so good. Then we threw the kids in bed so we would be ready for our first park day in the morning: Magic Kingdom!

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We Went To The Ocean

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Ocean Beach is “New England’s finest sugar sand beach”, according to the radio commercials they play all the time. Really, it’s the only beach nearby that has STUFF as opposed to just being a state park. It means it costs more to park (and more to ride the rides and more to use the pool and more for the water slide…) but it’s also easier to spend a whole day there because you aren’t just sitting. E HATES sitting on the beach. He does not know how to relax. And when you’re watching 4 children near the ocean, no one gets to relax. But we still had a good time with our out-of-state relatives last weekend, even if the water was freezing. The children did not care.

The above photo is a very accurate representation of what it’s like to take 6 kids to the beach.

My boys don’t have swim shirts because I wasn’t expecting anyone to actually go in the water. IT WAS NOT WARM. So I totally covered them in sunscreen instead, which makes them look even paler than they already are. It’s sort of ridiculous.

Every time we end up at Ocean Beach I wonder why we don’t go more often*. During the summer they have special kids nights on Mondays (I think) where the rides are cheap. As soon as our summer weather gets here (any day now would be fine, Mother Nature) we’ll try to make it a habit. I love the ocean, even if it’s not super relaxing, and these are exactly the kinds of summer memories I want the kids to have of Connecticut.

*The real answer is I think of New London as being really far away even though it’s only like 20 minutes from the house. It’s also the opposite direction from the lake, so we’re usually headed that way instead.

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Lake Compounce 2017

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Lake Compounce provided us with free tickets to visit this month, but all opinions, statements, and photos are my own.

Here is the Top 10 List of reasons we had a great time at Lake Compounce:

  1. Right in the middle of Connecticut, so it’s close to us and lots of other places.
  2. Tons of rides in the kid section that everyone over age 2 could ride without grown-ups.
  3. Super fun scary roller coasters for the grown-ups.
  4. Wicked friendly employees.
  5. Lots of shade and places to sit down when you’re tired.
  6. Free fountain drinks all over the park so no one ever complained they were thirsty.
  7. Stroller-friendly.
  8. Nursing-friendly.
  9. Parent-friendly (My husband changed all the diapers all day, because the men’s room had changing tables.)
  10. Just the right size to spend the whole day.

E and I took Evan to Lake Compounce several years ago, back when he was Baby Evan, and had a great time then too. But I had a very tiny Baby Caroline and didn’t get to ride very many things myself, so I mostly remember just the toddler area. Since then, they’ve done a bunch of renovations, added new coasters and spruced things up so even though it’s the oldest amusement park in the country it’s beautiful and clean. Don’t worry, about the nostalgia though, because it’s still got plenty of that.

We got there at 11 am on a Sunday and the kids walked on to every ride until at least 1 pm. They’re the only ones on those drums!

The only photo of me from the day: Caroline LOVED this thing and was super mad she couldn’t go on the grown-up version.

We got free soda while we waited for E to ride Phobia. It took me several more hours to decide if I was also going to ride Phobia. I did. It was fun.

Praise hands for this Joovy stroller we still love. Finn was happy riding/sleeping/chilling in it all day, between rides in the Tula so I could nurse.

After Evan suddenly, drastically changed his mind about roller coasters (Saturday: “I WANT TO RIDE THEM ALL!” Sunday: Won’t even get on the kid-sized coaster Linc rode with his arms up) I wasn’t sure he would try any of the rides. But he loved the log flume.

Evan also loved the Ghost Hunt ride, probably because he likes shooting games. I did not partake, because haunted houses are not my thing. Caroline and Linc both rode, because they take after their father.

That is possibly the best picture I’ve ever taken.

I don’t remember the dinosaurs from the last time we visited, but the kids loved it.

Caroline clearly didn’t enjoy herself at all.

Despite Evan’s skeptical face, we rode Thunder Rapids twice in a row and got SOAKED. It was great.

The lake/waterpark opens this weekend. I promised the kids we could come back for it later this summer.

I bought extra clothes JUST IN CASE they got wet, which is why they’re in different clothes than the beginning of the day.

Goodbye Lake Compounce! See you again soon!

If you’re in the New England area, I would definitely recommend making the trip to Bristol to have your own super fun day. You can use this link/code to get a discount on your internet tickets:

Link: https://www.lakecompounce.com/blogreader?promocode=BeBehSBlog17

Promocode: BeBehSBlog17

Thank you again to Lake Compounce for providing us with the tickets (p.s. kids under 3 are free)!

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Summer is Almost Here

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Huge thanks to Gymboree for once again sponsoring this post and outfitting my constantly-growing children.

We are T-minus 4 days away from the unofficial start of summer around here because this weekend our lake opens! I’m not actually sure how we survived summer before we had a lake membership, but for the past few years it has been a lifesaver for hot summer days, the cure for too much screen time, a meeting place where we almost always find friends to play with and a much-needed break for me from cleaning up the same mess day after day.

But it’s not just the lake I look forward to in the summer. I’m an ocean devotee – the sand, the salt, the smell, all of it is necessary to my happiness. Just knowing I can be at the ocean in a few minutes makes me feel better. It’s why I don’t know if I could ever live in a non-coastal state. How do you handle so much dry land?

Thanks to a few true summer weather days last week we’ve already been to the beach once this May and are going back during Memorial Day weekend to share it with some flyover state relatives coming to visit. They specifically requested the ocean be on the itinerary, so we’ll probably take them to Ocean Beach where they can get the full Atlantic experience: cold water, hot sand, the boardwalk, the rickety rides, the overpriced ice cream. It’s all important. And thanks to my friends at Gymboree the kids are going to look stylish and patriotic for all our weekend plans. Their new Star Spangled Days collection is perfect for Memorial Day, 4th of July, or any summer day where you’re feelin’ the red, white and blue vibes.

Caroline’s favorites from here look are the sunglasses and her “high heel” wedges.

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You can find the shoes here, which you should definitely do because they’re so adorable. They also come in big kid sizes.

One of my favorite things about Gymboree is that they still make clothes for ALL my kids so it’s easy to match even when my cool-guy 8-year-old maybe doesn’t want to wear exactly the same shirt as the 2-year-old. Although who doesn’t want super sweet glasses like those?

My very attractive and well-behaved children are the perfect fashion models. In opposite world.

Evan has worn that hoodie every day since we got it, which is about as strong of a recommendation as anyone can give.

Four more days before Memorial Day, 18 more days before we ditch school to start our summer vacation, 43 days until the 4th of July, and my fingers are crossed every single one of those days is perfect New England summer weather. What are your plans for the holiday weekend? Is it summer yet where you are?

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