Friday, February 28, 2014


(You can see pictures and fun details of our trip at this post: Epcot and Hollywood Studios and this post: Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom!)

Here's the deal about Disney - you can certainly overthink it.  I would tend toward the overthinking direction, because I like to research and try to figure out the best plan for every situation and budget.  I remember realizing a couple of months ago that there are endless things and opinions to read about how to do Disney, and that I really just needed to pick what was best for us and own it.  I had to pull the research plug, because there is TOO MUCH INFORMATION AVAILABLE.  Yes, I needed to shout that at you, because it is true.  Fair warning.

So, I am going to try to keep this concise and try to answer a few questions I have already gotten in person or through the blog.

Question:  How did you feel about the ages of your kids for Disney?

Answer:  Lily and Bella are 5 and 3.  We left the twins at home with my wonderful in-laws, which was definitely the right call.  I sort of feel like when you take young kids anywhere that you have to take the bad with the good.  It was absolutely magical to see it through their eyes - truly it was.  And, because neither of them nap, even while at home, they were able to hang through the days with us.  That being said, we dealt with our fair share of whining and melting down over little things just because they are little and they were tired and overstimulated.  But, I would do it over again the way we did it, if I were given the chance.


Q:  Did you like where you stayed?

A:  We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside - a moderate Disney resort.  Since Disney has over 25 properties to choose from, there is certainly something for everyone.  I really love staying on property, because once you are there, you don't have to worry about a car or carseats or where to go.  Though it takes a while to get around, it is very easy, and there are a lot of different options - though it is mostly buses.  Most Disney rooms, in my experience, are a bit on the small side, but since you spend so little time in your room, this really doesn't matter to me.  Port Orleans Riverside is beautiful, has several pools and is on the River.


Q:  Did you get the meal plan?

A:  Yes.  We got the moderate meal plan which includes One Table Service Meal, One Quick Service Meal and One Snack per night of stay.  I like pre-paying for the meal plan and knowing what we will be spending.  It works well for us, because then we aren't worried about what we spend at each meal. There are SO MANY eating options, and much of the food is really good.

Q:  On the subject of food, did you like where you ate?

A.  Yes!  I did a lot of research on different meal experiences, and I made reservations for each of our Table Service meals to be at restaurants that had characters as part of the experience.  It was a great way to make sure we got to see certain characters, and they do a great job of all coming around to the table to see you and pose for pictures.  They also do a parade through the restaurant with all the kids, which the girls loved.  We did Akershus Royal Banquet Hall with the Princesses in Epcot, the Crystal Palace with the Winnie the Pooh Characters in the Magic Kingdom and the Tusker House with Safari Mickey and friends in the Animal Kingdom.  I highly recommend them all!  My favorite quick service meal of the trip was the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom - it counts as Quick Service at lunch!

Q:  What did you think about the new FastPass Plus system?

A:  We LOVED it!  We got our Magic Bands in the mail about a month before our trip, and I was really excited about the new system.  They served as our room key, our fast passes, our meal plan, and our photo pass.  The technology is pretty amazing.  I really liked being able to pick our FastPass experiences ahead of time online and then be able to change them on the go using the My Disney Experience App on my phone.  It was all really easy to figure out and use, and it made our trip that much more enjoyable.  The old Fast Pass machines are all covered up, and the whole system is going to booking them ahead of time or right when you reach the park, which makes it a lot easier than running to the ride.

Q:  If I wanted to do a lot of research, what do you recommend?

A:  The best website I found was recommended through a blogger I read (Jenna's Journey), who went to Disney a few months ago.  It's called the Walt Disney World Prep School.  It has way more information than you are probably looking for, but you can search through and learn about crowd calendars and discount schedules and anything else you can think of.  It's pretty amazing.

Q:  How did the girls do on the rides?

A:  The girls are both over 40 inches, which meant there were a lot of options of stuff for them to ride - basically just no big roller coasters.  We didn't do stuff that we knew would be super dark or extra scary, but we definitely pushed their limits.  To our great surprise, they loved Soarin' - a simulated fly through the air over landmarks and scenery.  It was fun to see what they enjoyed and to help them embrace some of the unknown.


I have realized that I could go on and on about Disney stuff.  I obviously have great love for the parks, and I am often sad when I think about the fact that all the fun stuff is always happening there without me.  I really do think about it sometimes.

That said, if you have any questions, shoot me an email.  I am by no means an expert, but I almost always love to give an opinion.  At the end of the day, I reminded myself that this trip was not the be all and end all of our life.  That helped me to take it a little less seriously.  We had a great time, and I am hopeful that we will return again when the twins are older.  But not too soon - it certainly takes a lot of time and energy, not to mention cash.  I'm so thankful we had this chance this year.


Our trip continued on to the day I was most excited for: our long day at the Magic Kingdom.  We also did part of a day at Animal Kingdom - here are the highs and lows.

(for our first two days, check out this post!)

High:  Because of all the gel and hair spray, the girls' hair lasted for another day.  They were delighted to keep wearing their tiaras.  Also, since they were dressed as princesses, most Disney Cast Members referred to them as Princesses, often bowing or addressing them as "Your Majesty."  It certainly made them feel special.

High:  I made a breakfast reservation in the park, which allowed us the opportunity to go in before it opened.  It was so nice to walk down a quiet Main Street and take a picture in front of the castle without the masses.


High:  Breakfast at the Crystal Palace with the Winnie the Pooh characters was such fun!


High:  We loved the new Fantasyland!  We did almost every single thing that the girls could want to do there, and we rarely waited longer than 20 minutes for anything.


High:  We had lunch at the new Be Our Guest restaurant.  We waited about an hour for it, but it was worth the wait, since we hadn't really waited for anything else.  It's a fun look inside the Beast's castle, and the food was delicious.


(Lily acting as our tour guide into lunch.)


High:  Meeting the princesses was really so much fun.  When we went to meet Rapunzel and Snow White, they were truly amazing.  Rapunzel ended up running around in circles with the girls and telling them how she used to do that in her tower, and Snow White hid behind the curtain with them.  The girls were having the absolute best time.


High:  Everyone lasted through the day, and we ended the night with the parade and fireworks above the castle.  Always a perfect ending to a Magic Kingdom day.


Low:  We were dragging a bit as we headed to Animal Kingdom for our fourth and final Disney day.  We decided that after three days in the parks, we were ready for a break - but we already had the tickets, and this was the only day we had to go, so in we went.  And, we said goodbye to my mom as she headed back to Kansas.


High:  John and Becci hit up Expedition Everest while the girls and I took selfies near the bottom.


High:  Lunch at the Tusker House with Safari Mickey and friends was delicious and fun.


Low:  Lily perfected her fake smile on this trip.  To be fair, I think her fake smile is better than the whining fit about pictures that she sometimes throws - see every picture we took in front of a park icon for examples.  And Bella just either smiles or scowls or covers her face.  Kids this age are really funny.


High:  We really enjoyed our Safari ride.  Lily and Bella exclaimed over all the animals.


On the whole, our Disney trip was really magical, wonderful, memorable, tiring and fun.  Everything we imagined it would be.  I'll be writing one more wrap up post with thoughts about where we stayed, what we planned and what I would or wouldn't do again, if you are interested.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


I am interrupting what will turn out to be a couple more Disney blog posts to say Happy 10 Months to William and Violet.  This momentous occasion actually happened while we were away from them at Disney.  I had these great intentions of taking pictures of them the day before we left so that I could still post on the actual day (the 22nd), but then William was getting a fever, and - who am I kidding - I had about a million other things that actually had to be done that day before we left town.

So, though it is five day delayed, better late than never.  I can't believe we are nearing a year with these precious ones!


These days William is into smiling, babbling/yelling, laughing, bouncing, being fed baby sized pieces of adult food and playing with toys.  Before we left for our trip, he was sleeping through most nights. I think we have a little work to do to get him back there, because he was sick, but last night went okay, all things considered.  William is a charmer and manages to win hearts at every turn.


Violet is into smiling so big that it crinkles her whole face, stealing William's paci, self-feeding bite sized foods, twisting and turning all over the place, bouncing and playing peek-a-boo.  She has become the better sleeper and consistently sleeps through the night.  Her whole being lights up when someone talks to her, and she is a true joy.


Both babies, like most people, have good days and bad days.  Still no teeth have appeared, so we regularly blame any and all fussiness on the great scapegoat of "teething."  Since they have been spilling drool everywhere for months, it seems like teeth must be imminent.  But, I have obviously felt that way for months.

Another thing they have in common is that they both sound quite congested all of the time.  I don't even hear it anymore, but anytime we meet someone new, they usually comment.  We are working with the doctor to figure out whether it is reflux or a swallowing issue, and we have a swallow study scheduled in March.  Tagging their formula with something radioactive and then watching where it goes sounds like a really fun time for all involved.

They really notice one another now, and seeing their relationship develop is intriguing and fun.


Today they started physical therapy, and it was fascinating to watch.  Both William and Violet did really well, and I am so looking forward to seeing them make progress!


Lily wanted to get in on this pre-dinner photo shoot where I was trying to squeeze the very last daylight out of the day.  She actually helped the twins look at the camera by talking and waving a doll around by my head.  Amazing.


Bella, on the other hand, was completely disinterested.  She will take any spare moment allowed on an electronic device.


Happy 10 Months, William and Violet!  We are forever and always grateful that the Lord put us together!  We love you more each day and often like you even more by the hour.  What a privilege it is to see you grow!

Here are the other months -


So I took a little blog hiatus, largely brought about by the great amount of action in my life.  You can only do so many things, and blogging fell by the wayside.  As a result, there are about a million things that I want to write about and not enough time in the days to write about them.  So, if you see more posts than normal in the next week, that will be why - there is a backlog in my head.  I do so enjoy writing about experiences, and it really helps me to process things.

I'm going to start with Disney World, because it was super fun, and I love looking through the pictures remembering all the fun we had.  It's hard to believe that there were any lows at the Happiest Place on Earth, but real life follows you everywhere, even at Disney.  Here's a rundown.

High:  John and the girls and I had really smooth travel getting down to Orlando.  The girls did great on both flights, and everyone was in good spirits when we arrived.


Low:  As per our usual, we packed in a lot - in some ways too much.  Our flight left at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, and once we got to Orlando and got checked into our hotel on property (Disney's Port Orleans Riverside), we headed straight to Hollywood Studios.  All of us were pretty tired.  There was a bit of whining, though the girls were able to enjoy a lot of the park still.  I mean - it's Disney World, after all.


High:  Hollywood Studios had a lot to offer for the girls.  They especially enjoyed Toy Story Mania, the Disney Junior Stage Show and seeing the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.


Low:  My mom, who was supposed to arrive early Thursday evening, had her flight canceled.  She pushed through and ended up driving 2.5 hours to another city to catch a different flight and made it late Thursday night.

High:  Friday morning, we headed to DownTown Disney to go to the Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique.  (There is one in the castle at Magic Kingdom, but it was all booked.)  DownTown Disney is it's own brand of fun, and we especially enjoyed the Lego Store with giant Disney Lego structures all around it.


Low:  While we were at the BBBoutique, I was on the phone scheduling a doctor's appointment for William whose fever was continuing to spike and who was developing other symptoms.  While I was on the phone, Lily picked the "Pop Princess" hair package, which would have given her a mass of feathers and pink hair extensions.  I did end up intervening, because I knew she really didn't understand, and we did end up with the "Fairy Tale Princess" look instead.  Because that feels much more appropriate for a five year old.

High:  The Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique was so fun!  After Bella's initial reluctance to get in the chair, she hopped in and started getting gelled up.  The "Fairy Godmothers in Training" use SO much gel and SO much hair spray to get girls' hair into the cute little buns.  They also did nails and a little makeup and ended the process by sprinkling pixie dust sparkles into their hair.  I noticed today that though Lily has bathed twice since then, some sparkles are still clinging to her scalp.


High:  We headed to Epcot and went straight to our Princess Lunch in Norway.  We got to meet Belle, Aurora, Ariel and Cinderella, and they were all so nice and so in character.  I was way impressed with every character we met and their ability to interact with the girls.  Plus, our lunch was delicious.


High:  I love Epcot - I always wish it was that easy to travel around the world, and I appreciate all the details that Disney adds to make the countries feel authentic.  I also could do an entire post on Disney topiaries.  They are adorable.


Low:  Bella was a bit hit or miss with the characters for the whole trip.  So many of them she loved, but then at other moments, for reasons only known to Bella, she would flip out.  She missed getting to see Mickey and friends at Epcot.


Low:  While we were at Epcot, we got the news that William had needed a chest x-ray and had a touch of pneumonia.  Then, we heard that our friend Becci who was heading to meet up with us that night had all of her flights delayed and may not make it.  Mom and I stopped and prayed for everyone, because none of that is fun news to receive.  Thankfully, Becci made it, though incredibly late at night.  William was put on antibiotics and started on the upswing, and Violet only ever had a fever.  Things turned out all right, but there were some stressful moments.


It was a great couple of days!