Posts Tagged ‘toddlers’

Our First Disney Trip: Planning

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Our First Disney Trip Planning

This is going to be an incredibly long and exhaustive¬†series that a ton of people are not going to be interested in AT ALL, but I have gotten so much joy out of reading blogs and doing research and anticipating our first Disney trip. E and I spend many, many evenings booking, canceling, rebooking and changing dining reservations, making notes of which rides we’re prioritizing, creating list of must-see and must-eat things. We haven’t actually told the kids we’re going yet because as much as I want to share my excitement with them I don’t want to be asked 20 times a day if it’s time to leave. The plan is to tell them on Sunday since we want time for them to get excited and they’ll be missing the last couple days of school. I want them to be able to day goodbye to their classes and teachers before summer break. So until then, all my excitement has been focused on the internet.

Let me start with a disclaimer: This isn’t a Disney on a Budget guide. This is not a cheap vacation. I didn’t coupon my way to Disney or pay for it entirely with rewards points. We can only afford to go because Disney offers pretty good military discounts on both hotels and park tickets, plus we’re driving. It’s probably a twice-in-a-lifetime experience (we’ll go again when Linc and Finn are old enough to remember it) so we are throwing all our discretionary funds at this trip.

If you haven’t been to Disney in the last decade, you might not realize that planning is a HUGE part of the trip. Last time I went (2002? 2003?) we stood in a lot of lines and got one or two paper Fastpasses, if we happened to remember. Now you not only need to plan your rides at least 60 days in advance, you need to plan meals and make dining reservations 180 days in advance. NOT planning might sound easier, but unless the only thing you care about is literally walking through the front gates and being inside the park, you will proabably miss a ton of stuff. As much as I realize that making a minute-by-minute schedule when there are 4 kids involved might be pointless, NOT having a schedule would be worse. I am fully prepared to be flexible, but I’m not prepared to come home with sad kids who just wanted to meet Baymax but I had no idea where to find him. Enter: THE INTERNET!

My Disney Pinterest Board is here. I pinned everything from lists to specific restaurant reviews to Etsy shops. There are a TON of pins that relate to Disney but there are surprisingly few really great ones – a lot of links lead to sites that are mostly ads or obvious click bait. I’ve taken to searching “Disney” on Pinterest every couple of days just to see if anything new comes up.

While I was looking for real world vacation recaps and advice, I found the Disney Tourist Blog. I was a little skeptical at first, because the guy who writes it doesn’t even have kids yet. I figured his experiences with the park are vastly different than what I would be interested in. But his photography sucked me in (and he shoots with the same equipment I do, which made it even more helpful) and his site is extensive, so when I’m looking for reviews or suggestions for something specific (is the menu at X restaurant better for breakfast or lunch? If I have to choose between these two rides for Fastpasses, which one should I pick?) he almost always has the answer. He updates very regularly and revises old posts when things change. At this point I’ve read so many posts featuring Tom and Sarah if I were to actually SEE them at Disney it would be as exciting for me as seeing Mickey Mouse. Not that I’m an internet stalker or anything. I’m just a normal fan. Super normal.

Another blog I really enjoyed reading was The Frugal South’s Disney World section. She also updates regularly, is easy to read, and has real-world tips for things like Magic Bands and making room requests. She does do a lot of budget-type advice, which is helpful even if you’re not specifically trying to plan a low-budget trip.

When it came time to make Fastpass reservations, the Touring Plans blog was incredibly helpful. They have the tiers listed for the parks that use tiers, suggestions for which passes to prioritize, even times suggested for each one. I thought having a list of what Fastpasses we wanted was enough, until I actually looked at our day and realized between dining reservation and parades we had very specific windows for rides. They even have current (as in, right now, at this moment) Fastpass times still available for all rides at each park. It was helpful to look at those over a few days and see which rides ran out of Fastpasses (the Mine Train passes were gone at 7 am) and which ones we would be safe trying to book after we use up our initial 3. The truth is even though for ME the Mountains (Splash, Space and Big Thunder) are the most important rides, I need to prioritize the kid-friendly rides more and aim for later Fastpasses for the roller coasters. I never would have even thought of doing that without the info on Touring Plans.

I spent $7 of my actual real-life money for access to all the member info on Character Locator. The website looks like it was built in 2001 and there isn’t an app version so I just pinned the forums to my homescreen, but I really wanted to be able to quickly find out where we can meet characters. There’s also a thing called Characterpalooza that’s super secret and you’re not supposed to talk about (like Fight Club, except instead of punching people you get a picture with Robin Hood) but you can find out when it is if you subscribe. There are a lot of short character meets that aren’t the kind in a building with a FastPass – Belle in France, Peter Pan in Fantasyland – which means they’re easy to miss. I figured on a scale of how much money I’m spending on other things, a few dollars to make sure the kids get to meet their very favorite Disney people is nothing. It also has all the info on parade times, menus and ride info like height requirements and FastPass/Rider Swap. The super-basic layout means that stuff is going to be easy to find quickly while we’re walking around the parks.

As the trip has gotten closer, I’ve been working on adding detailed info to my daily plans. I sorted out our list of must-do rides and attractions by park, then by area, so hopefully we won’t be wasting a lot of time crisscrossing the parks. The maps on WDWInfo we very helpful, although good old Wikipedia also had lists of rides divided up by Fantasyland/Tomorrowland/etc. I’ve also made notes next to rides with height requirements since being prepared to rider swap/handle Caroline’s disappointment is important. It’s also nice to look at how many rides DON’T have any height requirements, which means I can wear or bring Finnegan with me and we can do them as a whole family.

Another thing that has made planning easier and more fun is having a Disney vacation friend to talk to. My friend Alena was planning a trip less than a month before mine AND had been to Disney World with her kids last year, so she was always ready to make suggestions and give me real life updates on what time they got to the park for castle photos and which character interactions should definitely be on my list. I had another real life friend forward me a bunch of email advice she got from a Disney Vacation Club member and I chatting with yet another real life friend about Disney Springs meal options. People who love Disney World LOVE DISNEY WORLD and are happy to talk about their past/future vacations. If you need a Disney friend, I am MORE than happy to be that person!

Next up on Disney planning: What we wore! I’ll include tons of links now and then update with actual in-park photos when we get back. I put almost as much effort into our outfits as I did into where and when to eat.

 

 

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My Week(318) in iPhone Photos

Monday, December 12th, 2016

I’m a week late, but in my defense I have four kids. That’s basically the reason for everything these days. Why does your hair look like that? Why is there a hole in your pants? Why are you eating corn chips for breakfast? Why can’t you remember to mail Christmas gifts? How come your Christmas tree looks like it’s losing a fight?

Four. Kids.

Sunday:

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Christmas!!

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I did not do this OR take this picture

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Brothers

Monday:

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Linc is obsessed with Octonauts

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He also really likes my nativity

Tuesday:

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Watching Octonauts

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TBH we BOTH fell asleep face down on the couch

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Gross weather

Wednesday:

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Sleep smirking

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We brush their hair and it STILL looks like that

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Raise your hand if you are 3 months old

Thursday:

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Pre-coffee tantrums are intolerable

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Linc says these are Peso pajamas

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I don’t even love them but this is REALLY good

Friday:

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Skeptical of his hedgehog shirt

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Perhaps rightly so

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Piano lesson car selfie (why is it SO DARK at 5 pm??)

Saturday:

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Horse drawn carriage ride in Mystic

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Prettiest advent calendar I’ve ever had

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Demanding more Octonauts

It feels like we – especially Linc – watch a lot of TV these days. But that’s because four kids. If there’s a chance Finn will sleep for an hour or two we are definitely staying home and I need them to not act like wild animals. TV is really the only way that happens. 6 months from now we’ll be at the lake every day again and they’ll forget what TV even looks like.

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Laundry Is My New Hobby

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Every year that I’m an adult, I do a couple more adulty type things that make me feel like an actual grown up instead of someone just pretending to be a grown-up. Any time I have to call the insurance company is a big one. Having a hairdresser (as opposed to just going to Super Cuts) is another. I suppose giving birth to children should be on that list, but mostly I still can’t believe I’ve been allowed to create and become responsible for so many humans.

This year’s big accomplishment is finally become proficient in laundry. I’m not sure if I’m just suffering from an abundance of second-trimester energy or what, but our laundry baskets are empty a significantly greater amount of time than they’re full. Let’s just not talk about actually putting AWAY the laundry. That part is still a big nope. But washing? I love washing.

I can tell you what the turning point was. I have a friend who told me she doesn’t dry her kids’ clothes in the dryer. She might as well have told me she sleeps hanging upsidedown like a bat. I thought she was a CRAZY PERSON. Do you know just how many clothes my kids wear? MILLIONS. A million different articles of clothing a day. Where do you put them to dry? What’s so bad about the dryer?

THEN I discovered the world of children’s clothing resale pages on Facebook. If the idea of buying and selling stuff on Facebook is weird to you, you’re the last person in America who has never been invited to a LulaRoe sale. But beyond regular FB parties is the resale world – cloth diapers, leggings, baby carriers, fabric, purses, neighborhood yard sale sites where you can buy everything from a canoe to a car. I’ve taken part in a lot of this sort of thing but it never occurred to me there was a market for kids’ clothes. Since I’m a huge fan of “nice” brands, like Mini Boden and Hanna Andersson, those groups totally got me. I’m now fully immersed in the second-hand world, where a pair of kids shorts in good used condition still resells for $25 and I saw a hard to find toddler t-shirt listed at $100. On these pages, “we don’t use the dryer on our boden/hanna” is a standard listing claim and “wash wear” can cut your value in half. So after I had ordered a few things, I popped over to Amazon and ordered a drying rack. It fits nicely in our bathtub to keep it out of the way and can be moved to the guest room if the kids HAVE to have a bath. It’s also come in handy for my new cloth diapers as part of the Make Cloth Mainstream Challenge, especially for sunny days where I can dry them outside. It’s not actually that hard to just grab my no-dryer stuff as I put the rest in the dryer (I still dry probably 80% of our laundry) and everything gets dry in 24 hours. I don’t actually plan to resell most of my Mini Boden/Hanna, because selling is a pain and my children RUIN clothing, but keeping them as nice as possible for as long as possible is a good goal.

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Linc’s new shirt after he had worn it for 1 hour.

Another thing I got with the diapers is wool dryer balls. DO YOU KNOW ABOUT WOOL DRYER BALLS? They’re supposed to help your laundry dry faster and they TOTALLY DO. They’re supposed to make your laundry softer and they TOTALLY DO. And they’re supposed to reduce static and you know what? THEY TOTALY DO. I have three and that seems to be a good amount for my small-ish dryer, but I know nothing about them except that they’re magic. Allen’s Naturally also sent me a bottle of Stink Out, which is also magic. Takes the boat smell right out of E’s clothes and everything they touch.

My last new favorite laundry discovery is BunchaFarmers stain sticks. I have two, and I keep one in the couch storage compartment and one next to the washer. That way when Linc pours juice all over his shirt I can strip it off him and rub some Buncha on it immediately. Or I can use it on the throw blanket I keep over the ottoman to keep it from getting destroyed by dirty feet, dirty children, spilled cups and markers. I have no idea why it works way better than most of the less-crunchy stain removers, but it does. It’s probably because of coconut oil. Coconut oil is some sort of voodoo that makes everything better.

I realize this might be the most boring thing to be excited about ever, but it’s what’s making me happy right now while my toddler flings himself against his bedroom door refusing to stay in his crib and nap for the second time this week. I feel like at least ONE thing is going well around here. Also, Linc is wearing a VERY cute Mini Boden shirt while he tantrums, so there’s that.

Disclaimer: I don’t have an Amazon affiliate account, so those links (and everything else) are just regular links. I got the stuff from Allen’s Naturally for free because of the #mcmschallenge but I love them enough to pay real monies when I run out.¬†

 

 

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My Week(275) in iPhone Photos

Monday, February 8th, 2016

We had our first snow day on Friday! And we’re having our second snow day today, Monday. I’m not exactly tired of the snow but I am a liiiiiittle tired of seeing my family quite so much. I’m pretty sure they feel exactly the same way.

Sunday:

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Lazy level 100

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Baby brothers are helpful

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MY KITCHEN SINK IS EMPTY I DID NOT DO THIS IS IT MAGIC???

Monday:

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That seems normal for Feburary.

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Important groceries

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Family Insanity Time

Tuesday:

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Sleeping with his eyes open

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Where did I get a teenager?

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Plz feed these to me immediately

Wednesday:

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She thought her doctor’s gown was very fashionable

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Toddler wearing

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Hairdresser in training

Thursday:

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Sharing

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Really please with his lollipop

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Me: LINC IT IS FREEZING OUTSIDE GET BACK IN THE HOUSE. OK MISTER, I’M JUST GOING TO LEAVE YOU OUT THERE! I AM! FOR REAL! I’M SHUTTING THE DOOR! Linc: Whatevs.

Friday:

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Snow day

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Destroying stuff, because snow day

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Exhausted from destroynig stuff

Saturday:

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Horsey time

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She wants to know why we don’t have a trampoline in OUR house

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Parenting level up: getting a beer out of a cooler on the floor with a baby on your head

We wasted today’s snow day doing literally nothing. Which is fine, I like doing nothing. But I really hope we have normal school tomorrow so Linc and I can go do nothing at Target with a latte instead of on the couch while three children scream at each other. Plus we’re out of essentials like potato chips and bacon, so I’m going to HAVE to leave the house.

February already feels like the longest month ever and it’s only the 8th.

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Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Having Wednesday off for Veterans Day really confused me all week. I do not like random mid-week holidays.

Sunday:

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The turtle’s name is Stretch, which Caroline forgets every time

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Anyone need a really poorly made tutu?

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Toddler nursing is a little like being mauled by an animal

Monday:

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Everyone needed some love on Monday

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And then he got stuck. Poor choices.

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Probably the largest collection of Wendy’s kid’s meal toys in the world

Tuesday:

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Shopping buddy

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He is SO convinced he’s helping

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Ballet has replaced swim as my least favorite activity (because I have to bring all the kids)

Wednesday:

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My children asked to be locked in a closet

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A friend asked me to take a picture of her bow

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Evan asked me not to talk to him anymore because he was too busy

Thursday:

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Bus stop weirdos

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Partners in crime

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The queen of snack-stealing

(FYI: That popcorn came from a free PINCHme box, which you can sign up for here. It’s free and they send you samples. I got some good stuff.)

(Also FYI: That’s not an affiliate link, they just sent me one so I would share, so I’m sharing.)

Friday:

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Toddler Party

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This appears to be a very low budget horror movie, filming in my neighborhood

(I think it is this movie, but there’s no real info on IMDB yet. There was a sign on the door that said Dark Pledge.)

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Sleepy baby

Saturday:

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Babies are not super helpful on photoshoots

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I’m going to make-over that Cozy Coupe, but Linc already loves it

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Caroline wants a pet “just for her”. I said no to rodents.

We had some amazing weather this week, especially for November. With the sun going down so early it is really important to my mental health that I get outside for some vitamin D at least a few times a week, or I start to go crazy. So it would be great if we could keep at least a couple warmish, sunny, non-snowing days a week for the whole winter. Then I could keep doing photo sessions too, which also make me super happy.

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