How We Did Disney World Better This Year

Here’s part 2 of our summer vacation! It’s the part we’ve researched the most and it’s the most chaotic part of our trip. But, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

For anyone who has been to Disney with young children, they understand how frustrations can be at a high level, especially when the parks are super busy, the lines are long and the heat index is over 100. Last year we went right after Spring Break shortly after Asher turned 2 and Madelyn was 5 1/2 years old. We thought we were prepared with a double stroller, plenty of water, a backpack full of snacks, a detailed plan that stated what to ride at each particular time, and we brought over a friend to help us if 1 kid needed to go back for a nap or a break from the chaos. Shockingly, things didn’t go as planned. We didn’t realize how impossible it is to stick to a detailed plan with young kids. Before we knew it, it was 2pm and we had crabby kids, crabby adults and no one ate lunch. The stroller was a life saver, but they were so excited to see everything, we’d have to bribe them with snacks to stay in it. The good thing about our friend, Lacee, coming with us, was that Dave and I got to have a night out at Epcot alone. But, she also got to see all of our meltdowns.

When we got home, I told Dave that I didn’t know when we’d come back to Disney.  So, when he told me that he wanted to go back this year, I’m pretty sure I gave him the “you have to be kidding me” look. He started planning nonetheless and eventually we began talking about when to go and how we will go about it this time around.

So what changed this year from last year?

We were flexible. There were no plans set in stone.  Sure, we had reservations to lunch or dinner a couple of times and we had to make some fast passes, but we made a point to have time in the middle of the day to go back to the hotel and unwind or swim in the pool. We couldn’t be go, go, go all day. It wasn’t going to work.

Our first day was at Hollywood studios, but since we had to drive from the Gulf coast and check into our room, we didn’t get there until lunch time so we planned on just staying into the evening, if the kids could handle it. Once we got there, I wished we would’ve stayed at the hotel and gone in the pool! I felt like I was showering in my own sweat!!! We just shoved water, slushes and ice cream at the kids to stay hydrated and cool, along with trying to get on rides often enough to get into some air conditioning or fans. Like I mentioned though, we had to stay flexible. For example, we ended up missing the Disney Jr show we had a fast pass for because we got there late and the later show we missed because we decided to eat dinner instead. Last year we would’ve run for the ride/show without realizing what time it was. Not even thinking about when the last time the kids ate.

Instead of running around like a bunch of crazed tourists, we worked around meal times and the kids behavior. We met characters that we didn’t last year and we had fun waiting in lines.

IMG_5001 IMG_5008 IMG_5015 IMG_5016 IMG_5033

 

IMG_0014

Day 2 and 3 we had set up for Epcot. Madelyn was really excited to try and eat different food at all of the countries {is this my child???} and Dave and I were exited to try and drink around the world:)

 

The kids had fun, tried new foods, played in the rain and helped out a mariachi band during their break. Madelyn had her first experience on Rockin Roller coaster and loved it! But she refused to go on Tower of Terror this year. She hated the dark part, so I ended up going alone. Maybe next time she’ll go.

IMG_0010 IMG_0011  IMG_5046 IMG_5050IMG_0012  

The kids were good until the 2nd day at Epcot; actually it was in the evening when Asher became unhinged. We realized that we didn’t throw in enough rides when we were walking around the countries. We needed to eat a little and walk to some rides, but instead we continued to walk around and go into stores. Oops!

We realized our mistake before we headed to Magic Kingdom the next day. Live and learn.

There was only 1 day that we had to be at the parks early- day 4. The rest of the days we were at Disney, we didn’t have to be at any of the parks until 10am at the earliest. This gave us wiggle room to get there early if the kids were up, but if they slept in, so be it.

Day 4 was for Magic Kingdom and we had to have Madelyn at the Bippity Boppity Boutique at 8:30am. Madelyn begged and begged to do there last year and I just couldn’t spend $100+ on a bun that gets put in her hair and a costume to wear. After Halloween last year, I made my annual trip to Target after my night shift and saw a nice, fluffy Cinderella and Snow White costume that I got for 70% off!!! I planned on giving it to Madelyn for Christmas, but by the time Christmas came around, we were already thinking about Disney, so we held off giving it to her. Instead, we brought it to Disney and gave her the dresses before we went to the parks. We ended up spending $65 on her hair which came with these really nice mickey bobby pins {they were far from flimsy}, 2 normal size bottles of nail polish, some makeup, a sash, and a small back pack to wear. Yeah, it’s still a lot of money, but it was worth every penny when we saw the Disney staff bow to her because they were in the presence of Cinderella. And I’m not talking about the boutique staff. I mean throughout the park. She was called “princess” and characters even yelled to her off of their parade float to say hi. It was amazing.

IMG_5084 IMG_5094 IMG_5097 IMG_5103 IMG_5106 IMG_5108

 I should mention how nice it was having an early appointment at Magic Kingdom. The park normally opened at 9am that day but we were able to get into the park at 8am and take some really nice pictures in front of the castle without the masses of people that are normally walking around during the open hours. Next time we go to Disney, we plan on having at least 1 day with breakfast reservations in the park so that we can get in early again.

IMG_5079

IMG_0015 IMG_0016

 

We ate lunch and dinner on two separate days at the Be Our Guest restaurant. We originally had a reservation for dinner but ended up getting an email allowing some people to make a fast pass for lunch {something new they were trying this year, I guess}. Both experiences had their values, but the dinner was my favorite. Mostly because I was able to have a glass of wine, or two, with dinner {it was the only place that you can drink alcohol at Magic Kingdom} but also, because we got to meet the Beast! 

 

IMG_0034 IMG_0036 IMG_5209

I just have to add here that as much as we bring our own food to Disney to save money, it’s so nice that we don’t have to bring food in for fear of Madelyn having an allergic reaction while eating the park food. Every place we would go, the staff would show us the ingredient list and/or the chef would come out and explain what is and isn’t safe for Madelyn to eat. It’s such a huge relief that even though we carried her EpiPen with us everywhere, it’s nice to know that the chance is slim that we would have to use it. 

 

The kids loved meeting all of their favorite characters while we were at Magic Kingdom. Although, Asher was still a bit hesitant at times. 

 

IMG_0033 IMG_0032 IMG_5121 IMG_5125

 

 IMG_5214 IMG_5223

On our last day at magic Kingdom, Madelyn and I ran across a dance party by the castle on our way over to Space Mountain. It was wonderful. I quickly washed the chocolate ice cream off of Madelyn’s face and she hopped out of the stroller to be a part of this. 

IMG_0017

IMG_0018 

IMG_0020 IMG_0019

 Even Mr. Incredible wanted a dance with Snow White.

 

We had such a wonderful time this year. 

IMG_0021 

Our last moments at Magic Kingdom were spent taking a ride on the carousel.  

IMG_0022 IMG_0023

Before this princess fell asleep on our last night a Disney World, she watched the amazing fireworks from our balcony. Mesmerized. 

IMG_0024  IMG_0037

Our Summer Vacation {part 1}

We’ve needed this trip. We’ve earned it, actually. I planned on having a relaxing summer, which would start out with a coffee and waking the kids so that we could spend the whole day outside. We’d go to the park, the city pool, or just hang outside in our little pool or sprinkler. But, our summer was far from it. Instead, we spent the majority of the summer working on that awesome looking kitchen from my last post. Not that it wasn’t worth it or anything, but since it took up a lot of our time, I wasn’t able to have the relaxing summer that I had longed for after the long winter we had.

We did do a few things, like go to the zoo, and we filled up the pool a few times and threw out the slip and slide. But, during those times we (Dave and I) didn’t relax. It was mainly to distract the kids so that we could paint trim, pull weeds, or do the hundred other things that were on our list to do. I think I managed to put on my bathing suit once or twice this summer. There just wasn’t enough hours in the day.

At first, I wasn’t really looking forward to this trip. First off, we were going to Florida in summer. This trip didn’t make much sense from the start. But, our summer in Wisconsin wasn’t as hot as it normally was so this ended up being not a bad idea. It will be nice to not turn the heat on in the car during the morning hours. Secondly, 22 hours worth of driving with two kids is never my idea of a good time. Last year we made the drive in two days and they were two very long days. You can see my hesitance. But after all the work this summer, I knew we needed it. We decided to make the drive in three days and to stop to do some hiking at a Civil War battlefield and explore a little bit of TN.

IMG_0001  IMG_0002   IMG_0003

Here, we made a stop in Nashville after a long day of driving to Third Man Records where Madelyn and Asher made a record in the Voice-O-Graph. They were really excited about it. But, now we need to by a record player so that we can hear their beautiful singing. Thankfully, we arrived before it was dark since this place isn’t exactly in the good part of downtown Nashville. Or at least it didn’t seem like it with the bottles of Colt 44 scattered on the street, the shards of glass on the sidewalk, the 50 gallon drum in the middle of an unused lot, and the bars on the windows of the buildings we passed by. But, maybe I was over reacting….

The next day, we headed out for a Civil War battlefield hike and a trip to Lynchburg for some Jack Daniels souvenirs. We planned on doing a 5 mile hike in the northern part of Georgia, but there was some bad weather on the way, so we choose to do a 3 mi hike in TN. Thank heavens we did a 3 mi hike, because one we passed about 100ft, the kids were whining about how l o n g this hike was and how h o t it is outside. Lets just say that Dave and I tried to sprint through this hike just to be done. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any ghost encounters and no orbs were noticed on our pictures. Darn. But, Madelyn did become a junior ranger, so I guess that makes it all worth it. :)

IMG_4294 IMG_4281 IMG_4271

IMG_4308 IMG_0005 IMG_0004

Lynchburg was pretty neat and we had the BEST, and I mean the absolute best barbecue sandwich on the face of this planet. This place looks like a dive, but Dave insisted that we go. I’m so glad that we did. If you ever head over to Lynchburg, you must stop at Barrel House BBQ, you won’t be disappointed. They will even invite the kids to some free “putt-putt”. I had to explain to Madelyn that “putt-putt” was miniature golf. She was so confused.

IMG_0007 IMG_0006

On to Florida! After a long drive, we stopped at my aunt and uncles’ house in around Tampa for a couple of days. We had so much fun swimming in the pool and just hanging out with family that we don’t get to see often. {thanks Wally for letting Asher borrow Kyle’s floaties:)}

IMG_0028 IMG_0027 IMG_0026 IMG_0025 IMG_0009 IMG_0008

After our family visit, we headed to Redington Beach for a few days in the waves.

IMG_4374 IMG_4375 IMG_4480 IMG_4544 IMG_4597 IMG_4609 IMG_4710

We jumped waves. We ran away from waves. We accidentally drank the ocean water. We got said salt water in our eyes. We swam. We built sand castles. We collected seashells. We drank wonderful mojitos on the beach. We chased lizards in hopes of catching them. We relaxed. We got burned even with our reapplication of our SPF 50 sunscreen, which I learned was not a high enough SPF (so we got new sunscreen and wore shirts the next day).

IMG_4792 IMG_4813 IMG_4843 IMG_4896   IMG_4854  IMG_4923 IMG_4949 IMG_4984

We loved every minute of each other’s company. It was the perfect beginning to the vacation.

Since this post is getting a bit long, I’ll write a part 2, which is all about the Disney part of the trip. Hopefully, you guys aren’t sick of reading all of this and looking at all these picture because I have more to share!!!

Kitchen Remodel

The kitchen is pretty close to being done (like 99%) and we don’t have any plans on finishing it for at least another month. So, this post is a tiny bit premature, but I just couldn’t wait any longer to show you what we have been working on all summer long.  Although, if you follow me on Instagram, then you have seen some of the progress along the way, so I apologize for the repetitive pictures.

Just to give you some perspective, this was our kitchen the night before the demolition. Next to the oven (on the picture on the right), was a dishwasher that had to get pulled up to the sink in order for it to work. Did you know one of those existed? I didn’t until the day we moved in and I couldn’t get the dishwasher to work….

IMG_0804     IMG_0805

It was pretty obvious that we needed an upgrade and we’ve upgraded every other room in the house except for this one. We knew  a kitchen upgrade was going to be pricey, which is why we avoided it. But, then some used cabinets became available to us and with the help of Dave’s aunt, uncle and grandpa, we were able to change those cabinets into something great. Here’s a link to my post about how we transformed our “new” used cabinets.

After all of the work that we’ve done in the house, I still thought that any project that we start would be finished in no time flat. This project wasn’t any different. Shockingly, I was wrong.. The plan was that after 3 days of work, our kitchen would be functional. Functional, to me, meant that it would be practically done. I was in for quite a surprise! Let me start from the beginning…

IMG_0809  IMG_0893

First, we needed to demolish our old kitchen. We had the old cabinets and plumbing  ripped out along with the old floor before lunch time on Day 1. After such a productive morning, I was sure we’d have this up and running in no time. But, what I didn’t know was that the demolition is the easy part because then the hard part started. Do you like the salmon colored walls? That was actually the back wall of our cabinets. I had no idea that when I saw the salmon color in the back of cabinet, I was looking at the wall. Interesting construction technique.

IMG_3467      IMG_0810

There’s some proof that Dave was hard at work:)

We had to cut out some insulation board for the electrical to be done and since we planned on using drywall, we ended up putting some insulation up the wall first.

IMG_0811

After the new dry wall was measured, cut, nailed in place, and mudded, the new floorboard was nailed in place.

IMG_3468

Looking better already, right?

By the end of day 3, we were able to get the bottom cabinets in place and after realizing that there was no way we could get in the new countertops, sink, and plumbing because it was too late, this happened:

IMG_0820

Yes, we had to dumpster dive for our old sink and the plumbing. There was no way around it, so we went in after it. By this point, I thought I was going to cry (it really is stressful remodeling), but then Dave’s aunt Debbie started to laugh and truly, what else could we do but laugh?  We got the sink and plumbing out of the dumpster and put it on the plywood counter that we would temporarily have.

Here’s how functional we were able to get after Day 3.

IMG_0821

We all continued to work into the next weekend, usually with intentions to be done early. However, they almost always ended up being late nights. But, so much got done: An above the range microwave got hung up, along with all of our upper cabinets, the sink and plumbing got put in, a garbage disposal, and a new dishwasher. A real dishwasher. One that I don’t have to slide over to the sink and hook up to the faucet. I feel like I’m living in the lap of luxury now! I can wash my hands at the same time as the dishes are being washed!!!

IMG_3824   IMG_3828   IMG_3829

IMG_0919 IMG_0845

{countertops from Menards: Carrara Pearl laminate}

Things were finally moving along in this kitchen and since Dave’s mom and brother’s were coming into town, I wanted to paint the walls and work on the backsplash. I ended up not having time to do the backsplash before they arrived, so, I had them help me.

IMG_0954 IMG_0958 IMG_0989 IMG_0996 IMG_0908  IMG_4246

{backsplash from Menards: Mohawk Coastal Keystones}

We had two big projects left in this kitchen: put in the floor and move the kitchen doorway. Yes, I said move the doorway. Our new countertop was sticking out into the doorway, so unless I wanted to shred my hip on the corner every time I walked into the kitchen, it needed to be moved. One whole weekend later, the floor was laid and grouted, and the doorway was moved (but the trim needed to be done).

IMG_1142   IMG_0934   IMG_4245

{Flooring from Meanrds: Snapstone Porcelain floating tile in Beige}

We also wanted to make a smaller floor register, since the older one was hideous and replacement registers would cost us over $200. This new one from Menards cost about $60 since we had to change some of the ducting.

Old Register New Register

I know this is such a long post, but I swear I’m almost done. I’m getting to the tail end, I promise.

We had a vacation coming up so, I told Dave that we had to finish this kitchen, or we weren’t going to Florida. I just couldn’t bear to come home to an unfinished kitchen. We worked from morning until night for 6 out of 7 days. It was a grueling week. We had to re-texturize the wall in the dining room and after some research, I discovered that the texture was made with mudding. I couldn’t figure out exactly which type of texture, but I knew it was close to the “knockdown texture”. I figured I’d give it a go and after it was all done, it looked alright. Not quite what I was hoping it would look like, but I accidentally let the mud dry on too long.

IMG_1144 IMG_1146 IMG_1147 IMG_1148

In order to texturize with mudding, I had to thin it out with water. Then, I slapped it on the wall and let it sit for about 45 min, before I “knocked it down” by leveling it out. But, since I let it sit for too long, it was hard to level it out, so I still have some peaks on the wall. After it was painted though, it doesn’t look too bad.

The trim in the doorway was a little bit more difficult with all the measuring and precise cutting. It ended up taking us 3 days to finish it, especially when there are little people running around vying for our attention or running into freshly painted walls. But, it got done eventually, which is all that matters.

IMG_1151 IMG_1170

We did some stuff on our own, but for the most part we had the help of Dave’s aunt Debbie and uncle Larry along with Dave’s grandpa. We felt bad keeping Dave’s aunt and uncle away from their family for so many days, but we really had no idea how we could have finished without their help. We appreciate it more than words can say. A HUGE thank you to them.

This was a big undertaking, but I’m so happy that it is done.

I said that we are 99% done because we still need to build a small cabinet by the dining room doorway to put cookie sheets and cutting boards in. Once that is built in, I have some rubber kick plates that I will adhere, and then we will be FINALLY done!

Here’s some before/after pics of the kitchen to really put things into perspective:

Kitchen B      Mazia