Summer Vacation 2015…more pictures than words

Wow! I had no idea it’s been 4 months since I have written. It’s been so crazy around here getting the house ready to sell, that I just haven’t found the energy for anything else. From building and decorating to organizing and hiding away toys, our time has been completely consumed. Finally, it’s on the market and waiting for the right buyer to see it.

After all that work we needed a vacation. Here’s a glimpse:

We only planned on visiting Tennessee since we were going to attend Dave’s cousin’s wedding. However, after unsuccessfully trying to find stuff in TN that would excite the kids, we decided to head to Disney World following the wedding. We figured that we were already half way there.

First, Tennessee and this beautiful wedding:

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Madelyn is a HUGE fan of American Pickers and one of their stores happens to be in Nashville. A stop there was at the top of her list of things to do.

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We also decided to take a quick hike before the evening wedding. Sadly, I don’t even know if we walked a mile.

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Isn’t this venue beautiful???

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Can you see how sweaty we all are? Asher’s hair was sopping wet! It was a bit hot in TN.

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I danced just about every song with Madelyn. She was out there even when I took a break. On the other hand, Asher didn’t like dancing nearly as much as he didn’t appreciate being photographed.

The next day we were off to Florida with an extra passenger, my mother-in-law. I’m surprised after the trip down with my children who professed about every 30min that they needed to stretch their legs, go potty, or they’d ask “How many more minutes until we get there”, that she didn’t take the first plane back home. Thankfully, she persevered through our kids breakdowns and hopefully, she had a good time.

We played games and posed for pictures in-between rides. We took frequent trips back to the hotel room to unwind and swim.

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We ate with princesses and met as many characters that the kids were willing to wait in line for. We even had a night to ourselves park hopping, thanks to my wonderful mother-in-law who watched the kids for an evening.

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We rode some great rides. We didn’t ride as many as we had in previous years, but it was so hot that we weren’t willing to wait an hour for a ride. Madelyn was always my roller coaster partner and I’m not sure what happened when we stepped onto Disney property this year, but she was terrified of any roller coaster ride. I figured that she would remember how much fun these rides were if she would just ride them. So, I did what any good parent would do, I forced strongly encouraged her to ride. Sure, there was some begging midst ride to let her get off. There may have been some screams and a tear or two. But, as you can see from some of these pictures, she is terrified having the time of her life! Asher had fun on the coasters this year, though. Maybe he’ll have to be my partner next time.

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All in all, we had a great time and we can’t wait to go back.

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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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! 

 

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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. 

 

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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. 

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 Even Mr. Incredible wanted a dance with Snow White.

 

We had such a wonderful time this year. 

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

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

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Disney

I finally made it to Disney World.

I say finally because I have never been to Disney World. Dave went when he was a little guy and our kids right now are a good age to go, so we thought.

Although it was a great trip, it was frustrating and exhausting as well. Granted anyone who’s vacationed with children, especially young children would understand what I mean. A “family vacation” is quite different than a regular vacation. The countless tantrums that were thrown and scolding’s that were handed out made the trip more difficult. But, at the end of the day when you see the look of amazement in each of their faces, it makes you realize how magical this place really is.

To be honest, we had no idea what to expect when we took this trip. We’ve driven with the kids to Colorado numerous times. But each of those times, we drove at night and arrived in the morning. We planned on a 2 day drive with the first one being the longest. It was 2 of the longest days of my life! Frequent bathroom breaks and long meal times with some rest area stops to allow time for running made our 10 hour 1st day drive into 15 hours. We dreaded the 2nd day, but it turned out better. We made sure that there were scheduled stops more frequently. For example, we’d fill up the car with gas while the kids stretched their legs and went potty. This way, there wasn’t a “my legs hurt” or “I have to go potty” within 30 minutes of stopping. But traveling with kids is anything but predictable! We had to be more go with the flow in order for everyone to be happier.

After visiting family in Riverview (it was so great seeing you all and we miss you all terribly!!), we headed to Orlando on Monday. We read a lot of blogs about Disney (there are a million at least!) and I came across this one which gave us some great packing tips for the parks. We also rented a stroller from Kingdom Strollers (they were great! Our stroller was delivered to our hotel before we got there and for $75 for a double stroller for 6 days- that’s a steal!!) and I was amazed at the amount of strollers in and around the parks. Stroller parking everywhere! But we realized that you can’t leave your stroller just anywhere, the workers in Disney will move it to a designated area so after a little freak-out about “where is my stroller?”, we found ours where it belonged. So, for the packing, we had 2 bags for our stroller. One had snacks, diapers, wipes, sun block, etc. These were our replaceable items. The second bag had out park cards, cell phones, money, camera, autograph books, etc- our difficult to replace bag. This bag went everywhere with us. So, if we parked the stroller, someone put this back pack on so that it never left our sight.

We stayed at the Art of Animation Resort in a Lion King Suite.

and visited the other sections

This was a great place! We had plenty of room and it allowed us to put the kids to bed and relax with an adult beverage before we clonked out by 10pm. Oh yes, 10pm. We were exhausted every night. Chasing these kids around and trying to get to every ride all in the mid 80 degree heat and crowds (albeit moderate crowds) was tiring. Even though we had our friend, Lacee come along to help with the kids and also given Dave and I some alone time at Disney, it was a lot of work.

I do wish we had more time to explore all the parks. But, with 2 children who are running the opposite way make that difficult. I would have loved to look in some gift shops but the couple that we went to with the kids made us not want to go in another one with them. Also, Madelyn made the height cut-off on most of the rides and, of course, Asher isn’t quite there yet so it was impossible for us to not split up sometimes to keep them both happy.

Madelyn must have my genes, so she was eager to try every ride that she could. Her first ride? Tower of Terror. Yup, the one where the “elevator” drops and rises and drops and raises until it drops from the very top. I wasn’t sure if she should go but after the wonderful Disney cast member who saw our discussion came over and talked with Madelyn, she was a definite yes and I figured why not. She was screaming “get me out of here” after the 2nd drop but now she proclaims it’s the best ride she went on. And speaking of Disney cast members- they truly are wonderful! A fabulous lady came up to Madelyn and I as I was trying to get her to calm down from a tantrum that she was throwing after we realized that it was 3pm and we haven’t eaten. This cast member came up to Madelyn and was able to get her to stop crying by giving her a sticker and asking her if she would like a drink of water. If I did that, I’m guessing the reaction would be different. But her coming in and giving Madelyn some pause, helped change her attitude. I was so grateful to get a face of understanding what I was going through instead of looks of inadequate parenting. I wish I would have remembered her name, along with the girl at the Tower of Terror.

We tried to do it all: Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, time at the pool, and a visit to the beach.

We saw Mickey,

Goofy, Donald, Daisy,

and many more.

Madelyn and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch with 5 different princesses.

We saw wonderful fireworks along the Castle at Magic Kingdom.

The looks on the kid’s tired faces were priceless.

We rode many rides and I saw a side of Madelyn that I knew was there. I saw a girl who was scared to try new things, but she tried them anyway. I heard Asher try to name everything he was seeing and I realized that even though he loves Buzz and Mickey, seeing them in person was a completely different story! Dave and I enjoyed a day at Epcot (thanks Lacee!) where we tried different foods and drinks. Most importantly, we had a chance to be husband and wife in a magical place. One that made us forget the frustrations of parenting and allowed us to remember the triumphs.

It was a wonderful trip. One that seems surreal now. I can’t wait to do it again though