Wednesday, January 30, 2013


 As usual it's been quite awhile since I blogged...or read anyone elses'.  It's business (or should I say busy-ness) as usual around here!  Snug lost his first tooth in early January.  He is P R O U D of it.  Daddy took it out, it makes mommy squeemish.  Know what else makes me cringe?  Rosebud losing her ENTIRE pinky fingernail.  She shut her hand in a door here at the house and after nearly a month it fell completely off in my hand.  Ugh.
 Basketball season is upon us.  Both boys are playing Upward Basketball this year.  LMM is on a team for 3-4 year olds.  His games are...interesting.  Funny.  Aggravating.  He has a WONDERFUL coach who literally leads him around at times when he needs extra supervision.  Each child wears a colored arm band so they know who from the other team to guard.
 LMM is our defensive player.  He is great at rebounding.  He's also not bad at dribbling and shooting.  He's very happy to be playing and not simply watching this season.
 One of the little girls on his team is the coach's daughter.  They forget they are on the same team most of the time and literally fight over the ball.  There's quite a bit of hip checking going on too.  The coach is very patient.  Along with basketball skills the kids are learning to share, be kind, and be cooperative.  I love that Upward has memory verses and devotions to go along with the practices/games.
 Snug is our offensive player.  He has had a complete turn around from last season.  Last year he was quite confused as to what was going on in the games, but this year he is paying attention and has a great shot.
 He also has a really great coach who patiently teaches the basics and is willing to give step by step directions over and over again from the sidelines.
 We ordered team pictures, but only got one for the boys.  I took my own to give away.

Basketball season is half over already, where does the time go?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Doing Disney Thrift & Tips

The best way to do Disney is to be related to my brother.  Without him so so much of our recent trip to Florida wouldn't have been possible.  Free park hopper tickets were a blessing I never ever ever saw coming.  However, there are MANY other things we did to save money that I'll share with you.  Your kids (probably) wouldn't know the difference and they can add some magic without making you broke.  I also added some general tips.

Thrift:  If you can, camp.  There is a campground that you can stay at and it is a fraction of the price of a hotel.  Especially if you own a RV/camper this is great.  You still get to use all of the amenities (nice pools, campfire with Chip n Dale) and Disney transportation.  
 We had hopper tickets that we were able to use at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.  Because Fantasy Land just re-opened the week before we were there, we couldn't use them for The Magic Kingdom.  First tip:  If you get to plan WHEN you go, go between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the middle of the week.  Our longest line was 15 minutes.
 Here's the Magic Man.  LMM thinks he has all the tickets to everything in the world.  He states that fact frequently.  We're at Animal Kingdom here where there is a great safari ride with real animals.
Tip:   save your child's photographic memories.  Don't take every family picture with one of them in a backpack.  You'll get the above results.  HOWEVER, taking a backpack for a young child as well as a stroller is GREAT.
 Animal Kingdom has a large "Boneyard" play area for kids.  While several of us rode Mt. Everest (we took turns going) the kids played in here.  It is all fenced in so they can't get out without you.

 There are two can't miss shows at Animal Kingdom.  Finding Nemo was AWESOME.  The Lion King was Equally awesome and takes some crowd/child participation.
 I haven't mentioned it on here in a long time, but LMM still has some special reactions to certain situations.  His Sensory Processing Disorder is something he may have to live with for the rest of his life.  Being in long lines (we didn't know that there wouldn't be any) and being around lots of people can bring out a side of him that can be hard on him and others around him.  We got a pass the very first day at Guest Relations that acts as a fast pass for him. Tip:   If your child has special needs (Autism, SPD, Diabetes, etc.) and long lines are a problem, I suggest you go talk to guest relations.  We only used the pass one time, but it was there if he needed it.  We actually saw the stress of the trip with him after we left Disney and it is just settling down.
 Hollywood Studios has a large Pixar area.  One of my kids' favorite rides was one that you were in an arcade game with the characters from Toy Story.  Even babies could ride, which was the case several times. Thrift: kids two and under are free into the parks.
Tip: Take lots of pictures.  I am so glad I did.  Tip:  I took a small camera with me so that we didn't have to carry our large expensive camera.  I did take it to Animal Kingdom to get good safari pics, but I was glad not to have it all the time to worry about breaking/have to carry/get stolen.
 Tip: don't stop to take pictures with characters unless it is their very favorite/there isn't much/any line.  Because it was slow we were able to do a couple, but you can wait a very long time instead of doing other things.  You can take pics as you walk by, just cut off the kids who you don't know (If they are short) and have a picture of the character to keep :o)
 The Beauty and the Beast show at Hollywood Studios was one of Rosebud's favorite things.  She was very tired going in, but CAPTIVATED the entire show.  Weird story...when we left there I didn't have her and I saw a man walking away with her on his shoulders.  I ran up to him and stopped him.  Then I looked closer. It was a little girl the same size as Rosebud with the SAME shirt on, very similar shorts/shoes and the SAME hairdo.  Freaky.  He was amazed when he saw Rosebud at how eerily similar they were.
 At Christmastime in Hollywood Studios they have a huge light display.  It is set to music and a lot of fun to see.  
Tip:  Baby Backpack.  Did I already say that?  Ok- take it one step further.  Beg/borrow/buy an Ergo.  My SIL had one and it was great.  My niece was very happy.  We now have one too that I got cheaper than many used ones on an after Christmas sale.  Our baby backpack you'll see pictured ripped while on our trip and we use it daily.

 Thrift:  After Halloween sales are a great time to get a $2 princess dress.
 Tip:  If you want to see princesses (or Mickey) the building is on Main Street on the right as soon as you walk into Magic Kingdom.  Get a fastpass first thing in the morning with a time to return and not have to wait long.  When we were there three princesses were in a line and the girls met all three.  Cinderella is Rosebud's FAVORITE princess and the only one she really wanted to see but she was polite to the others.  You need a fastpass for EACH person going in to see the princesses.
 Thrift:  Take your own princess.  I was blessed to get Rosebud's dress FREE on a Facebook mommy group I belong to.  It was being given away because the little girl didn't use it anymore and it was stained.  I washed it on delicate with Oxiclean and it was like brand new.  It says don't machine wash, but it was fine.  You can spend $189 to get a similar look at the Bippity Boppity Botique.  You'll get dress, hair, crown, and makeup.  I put her hair in a bun, put a crown on (this one was also free from a mommy swap but you can find them at Claire's or a garage sale) alone with her free dress and WAH-LAH princess for a day.  About 50-60% of all 2-8 year olds are dressed this way at Magic Kingdom.  I'm glad I was told ahead of time.
 I don't know it it is always this way, but Mickey was VERY generous with his time.  He took time posing with the boys.  My brother had fastpasses for them to get in and I didn't have one for Rosebud, they let me through cause I had the camera...
 ...Mickey motioned her over anyway and they hugged.  And hugged.  And hugged.  I kept telling her she needed to leave and he shook his head "no" at me!
 Tip:  You can have the photographers who are taking the pictures you can buy from Disney use your personal camera (they give you a little plastic credit-card like thing to use during your whole trip that keeps all pictures you have taken on an account that you access online when you get home).  Just stand and let them take their "professional" picture too.  Then you get your whole group in a shot.
 Tip:  Have Mr. Magic be your uncle.
 Thrift:  Pack in your lunch/snacks.  Disney is very nice about letting you take in your own food and drink.  They do check all bags coming in to make sure that you're not bringing in anything you shouldn't, but food and drink are not prohibited.  This will save you a LOT of money.  Tip:  Don't forget a bib for little princesses!
 Another lunch photo.  She's just too cute not to include enjoying lunch!
 Fun Fact:  The Dumbo ride in the new Fantasy land is now a DOUBLE Dumbo ride.  They have 2!  And on  top of that...there's no waiting if you don't want to!  They have an INDOOR play area.  When you get there they give you a pager and when it is your turn, it goes off, you collect your kiddos, and you ride.  Brilliant!

 No tip.  No thrift.  Just cuteness.
 Thrift:  Buy ahead of time.  I bought the boys Disney shirts at Goodwill ahead of time.  No one ever knew.

My MIL bought all the kids red Disney shirts that they wore the first day and they were nice because they were all easy to spot. I also used them on the plane on the way home for airport ease. Tip:  Dress your kids in the same color!
 Thrift.  Get great goodies at home and take them. I bought the kids these giant lollipops (they thought I had gone insane, we are very stingy about sweets) for $1 each at Kroger.  I slapped on Disney Character stickers that came in the mail (one of those DVD clubs).  I saved over $10 for three compared to what I would have spent in the park.    Guess what?  The wrappers on the suckers at the park had the EXACT same stickers on them.

 Tip:  At the Magic Kingdom do not miss the Laugh Floor from Monsters Inc.  It is hilarious.
 Thrift:  Take your own glow.  I got swords for the boys (above) and a wand for Rosebud (below) for $1 at the dollar store.  I also had glow bracelets from Michael's Craft store 15 for $1.  I didn't take them in our carry on luggage as I don't know if they are ok, so call your airline or put them in your checked baggage.  TIP:  Put them in cardboard to make sure they don't break on the trip.
"My mommy lost her mind and I LOVE IT!"  Ok, really this was a once-in-a-childhood trip to a magical place.  I let go a little and let them have fun.  
 Tip:  Don't buy souvenirs in the parks.  Pretty much everything they sell in the park they sell at Downtown Disney in the Disney Store.  You don't have to waste time in the parks shopping, don't have buyers regret when they see something they like better AND you don't have to carry it all day!  Thrifty Tip:  Spend 1/2-1 day at Downtown Disney.  Its free and so much to do.  Thrift:  Get free glitter at the Bippity Boppity Botique in Downtown Disney.  Tip:  It won't wash out for DAYS.
Thrifty Tip:  Don't buy the ears.  There really is NOTHING to do with them when you get home.  They won't wear them.  Put them on, take a picture, put them back :o)
 The Lego Store at Downtown Disney is awesome.  There are tons of things made out of Legos.

 We literally spent an hour in this store.  You can build, watch videos, and of course, shop.  I got the boys a Christmas present here.  It is a tub that you fill with whatever you want from this one wall for $7.99.  I got wheels and windshields and flowers and all kinds of special pieces.  I made sure to get an even number of everything and split them between the boys.  My SIL was VERY good at getting them all to fit in the tub :o)
LMMs favorite thing at the Lego store was where you build a race car and race.  An employee oversees it and calls the winner.  There are also Duplo tables for the younger crowd.  
I hope this helps someone.  I've had lots of questions, and I've tried to put all my tips and thrifts into one post.  I'm sure I forgot a few things.  I want to say thanks to everyone who made this trip possible-from matching t-shirts, to plane/park tickets, to a van to use, housing, and help with the kids.  We appreciate it so much and the kids still talk about the trip daily.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Airport Travel

So it was requested (by several) that I blog about taking four children 6 and under through two airports two times.  It really wasn't that bad, I assure you.  But here's some things you have to know about me.
1)  I start packing for most family trips at least two weeks in advance, including detailed lists
2)  I plan.  And we practice.  
3)  I'm not perfect and no matter how carefully I pack, plan, and practice, things go wrong.  

Our good friend Kristin dropped us off at the airport on Dec. 6.  Here we are with all our luggage.  Not how I had planned it.  I had each of us taking a personal item and a carry-on.  When we did a practice we realized we couldn't carry that much plus carry kids.  So we ended up checking a bag.  BUT we did not have to check it on the way home as my mom gets a free checked bag when she comes to see us at the end of the month and all she'll need is a carry-on!  Another thing you should know about me...I'm cheap.  I HATE paying for checked baggage.  
I put the kids in long sleeved t-shirts and a fleece to keep them warm, but able to take off some clothes if they got too warm.  They also had to wear as much as possible so that we could take more stuff :o)
 This picture is really hard to see but it is a Delta agent talking to the kids.  She was really nice to them as I checked us all in.
 I didn't take a picture of TSA. TSA my friends was planned BIG time.  They opened a separate line for our family which I wasn't surprised about.  I have flown with everyone but LMM as babies and so I wasn't too worried about TSA.  #1...was worried.  Flying in general is not his forte.

Everything has to be folded and put up on the belt.  Including the kids jackets.  But not their shoes thankfully.  #1 would go through first after we had loaded everything on the belt.  I had made mental note of exactly where our liquids or other "questionable" items were so I could whip them out and have them back in without holding up the line.  If you are taking a baby you are allowed as much milk or baby food as is reasonable.  Define reasonable.  They didn't give me any trouble.  Her cup of milk was tested with a little strip of paper waved above it.  I froze all the breastmilk I took as it doesn't count as a liquid or have to be tested.  Nice, huh?  It also stays cold the entier flight.  Although she was still nursing (still is) I was planning on putting wheat back in my diet so she was just about weaned by the time we left.  (What little bit she's getting doesn't seem to be bothering her)

The kids would follow after #1 with me holding Sweet Pea in the very back.  As soon as they got through the boys had to sit on their booster seats (these went under the plane with the baby backpack and stroller at the gate-all are free).  Rosebud had to sit on her Trunki.  This kept everyone contained while #1 and I reorganized and re-packed everything that had gone through the scanner.  When we got done a TSA agent said "Wow.  You guys are like a military operation!"  I take that as a high compliment.
 Since this was his first flight LMM got his picture taken with the pilot.  I didn't get a great one, but even with pre-boarding we had a line of people behind us and a herd to get seated.  I took it quick.
 The big kids all flew really really well.  They were well behaved and enjoyed it immensely.
 Daddy doesn't fly well.  He did good too though I thought!
 I brought plenty of snacks and things to do.  Sweet Pea wasn't as wild as this picture would lead you to believe!
 We made it to Atlanta in one piece.  Sweet Pea cried a little during the first flight, but nothing terrible.  Our gate in Atlanta was DIRECTLY across from the one we got out of the plane on.  That's a blessing!  If you've ever maneuvered the Atlanta airport you can only imagine the six of us plus luggage/stroller/carseats getting across there/on the tram with merely an hour layover.
 So this is the true face of Sweet Pea on the plane.  She cried the ENTIRE second flight.  Nothing could make her happy except if #1 could stand in the aisle and jiggle her.  Then her screams would turn to wimpers.  At once point he had her quieted down and almost asleep.  This was about 10:30pm.  The guy in the seat next to him, a grown man for heavens sake, decided he needed to use the restroom.  As soon as #1 moved she was up and screaming again.  Lucky everyone on our plane.
 We made it to Ft. Myers where my brother picked us up.  If you could see Sweet Pea's eyes better in this picture they are red and swollen from her crying jag.  We got to his condo about midnight where we spent a sleepless night trying to calm down overstimulated kids.  Thankfully the next day was a very relaxed one-my brother had great foresight to not have plans beyond getting us settled into our house and lunch OUT with free food coupons.
 These pictures are from the flights home.  The second TSA inspection went as well as the first.  I dressed the kids in lighter clothing as it was 80 when we left Florida and supposed to be in the 60s at home.  We also were able to leave quite a bit of stuff with my parents that they'll either send with mom at the end of the month or bring to us in April.  LMM liked the emergency instructions and studied them for quite awhile.  That flight had #1 nervous as we had a ton of turbulence 
 This is approximately 15 minutes before we landed in Atlanta.  Both she and LMM fell asleep just before we landed.
 I don't know about your kids, but mine don't wake up happy when they've only gotten a short nap.  So we dragged she and LMM through the Atlanta airport in great moods.  Oh, and we were as OPPOSITE as we could get in that airport this time around.  Thankfully we had an hour and 10 minute layover and arrived at the gate a couple of minutes before boarding.

 Snug kept a journal of our trip as a homework assignment.  We had a couple of days to finish up on the plane.
 Sweet Pea did MUCH MUCH better on her last two flights.  I'm guessing because it wasn't the middle of the night.
 Everyone excited to be going home.

This was as we landed at home.  These are TIRED boys!  It was a great trip, even with airline travel.  I'll post actual Florida pictures someday.  But taking kids on a plane is do-able.  

A thank you to friends who dropped us off/picked us up at the airport.  It saved us over $100 in parking.  Thanks also to my parents who helped us quite a bit with airline tickets.  This wouldn't have been possible without so much help from so many people.