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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday, ahoy!

Every year there is mounting contention about Black Friday and what it does to this country. Don't get me wrong - the stores that are opening earlier and earlier really need to take a chill pill and stick to the "Friday" part of Black Friday, but really - what's so wrong with boosting the economy a little and creating extra shifts for people to work? Most retail employees know its coming and, from those I've spoken with, enjoy the extra pay. While I obviously don't agree with the crazy, stampedes of Grandmas throwin' bows, I love myself a good sale and don't mind standing in line for an embarrassingly long time to get it.

That being said, my sister, Christina, and I killed it on Black Friday! I had been doing some sale shopping over the past few weeks, but at this point I think I'm pretty much done buying (and wrapping!) for everyone on my list. ::brushes shoulder off:: At first glance, it seems early to be done, but really there are only about 3 weeks until Christmas and two of them I'm going to be super busy at work. When else would I get it done?

Knowing Target would be absolutely insane for the first few hours, we started at Kohl's to take advantage of some of their lower key sales like bath towels, sheets, pillows, and kid clothes. We found some really great stuff! The store was surprisingly tame and people were very nice. We were in and out of there in an hour. Thanks to their online sales starting Tuesday, I already have my new Kitchenaid Stand Mixer on the way. I've wanted one of these bad boys for years and years - finally pulled the trigger and bought one. With $15/50 Kohl's Cash on top of rebates and additional coupons, it was a steal at about $200 (original $450).

And its hot pink, of course. Gonna be making LOTS of cookies this year with this new little friend.

Target's sales were kind of a let down, to be honest. If you weren't running full speed, knocking people over to get at a flat screen, you were left with sales on PJs and movies. That being said, we scored several awesome movies on Bluray that we've had our eye on. I was able to get the kids a few Disney movies for $6-$10 each (originally up to $25 each) as stocking stuffers.

WalMart had a few good sales, but we weren't going NEAR there until the insanity ended. Last year at midnight, that place was a shoulder to shoulder fire hazard. We ended up finding Matchbox cars for $.60 each and toddler underwear and pajamas for about 60% off. Wow, how Black Friday shopping changes when you're a Mom!

My favorite places to go on Black Friday are the craft stores. Awesomely lame and I love it. Michael's had some great sales on scrapbooking supplies, Christmas decorations, and frames and JoAnn's had their 70% off sales for flannel on Friday and fleece on Saturday. I scored almost 20 yards of various print fleece for about $40 (original over $200!!) I'll be making the kids car blankets and a new bed for the dog. I made Landon's Ninja Turtle blanket yesterday before they left and I'd say he's enjoying it already.

Now to finish wrapping and put up the Christmas decorations! It's my favorite time of year!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, I'm most certainly thankful for my beautiful family, amazing friends, my awesome job, and the wonderful community we live in. It has been a busy, busy year, but better to be busy than lonely and bored, I say.

Cousin love.
From our family to yours, we hope you have a family filled feast of food, fun, faith, and football. Wow, that's a lotta F's.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ginny: 7 and 8 Months

Holy crap, I suck at posting Ginny's month updates!! Sorry, second child.

Seven Months

October 27th, 2013

Stats: 14 lbs. 10 oz., 25" long

Favorite toys: Stacking cups, her new Rapunzel doll, and anything she can chew on.

Favorite activities: Now that she can sit up, she loves watching people and things. While we were at Disney, she refused to sit in the infant seat facing me - she wanted to sit in the front so she could people watch. She sat content for hours as we walked around the parks.

New foods this month: She's mastered picking up puffs, Cheerios, and just about anything else we put on her tray.

Clothing: 6-9 months

Teeth: Four on top, two on bottom

Sleep: One to two wakes up per night, but its not bad. She goes back down pretty well.

New Tricks: Belly scooting! She's starting to move a little bit more, but still struggling with direction. She's also saying Dada and Mama to us and trying to give us big sloppy, open mouth kisses.

Firsts This Month: First trip to Hershey Park, first time on swings, first flight, first trip to Disney World, first Halloween, first parade and fireworks. 

Eight Months

November 27th, 2013

Stats: 15lbs. 4oz. and 25" long

Favorite toys: This month, I started putting away some of the baby toys and bringing out some of the bigger infant toys like the LeapFrog Cook and Play Potsy and Fisher Price Roll-a-Rounds Gumballs Machine. They were some of Charlie's favorite and it seems that Ginny is a big fan too. She loves the noises they make and, of course, eating the pieces.

Favorite activities: Destroying the living room! She loves to pull all of the toys out of bins, all the movies off the shelves, and wrestling with her dolls. She is a lunatic and cracks me up! She's started trying to take things from Charlie and he is NOT a fan.

New foods this month: Aside from peanut butter and honey, I think this girl has tried almost everything and she loves it. She has started taking bites of larger pieces of food and trying to use a spoon, so she's well on her way!

Clothing: 6-9 months

Teeth: Four on top, two on the bottom, and two more just coming in on the bottom.

Sleep: Still getting up at least once during the night. We're not sure if its from teething or out of habit, but either way, its not fun.

New Tricks: She's getting super fast at scooting across the living room and has started crawling on hands and knees. She figured out how to sit herself up and pull up to her knees (and sometimes to standing).

Firsts This Month: First Thanksgiving, first baby doll, splashing in the tub, pulling to stand

Monday, November 25, 2013

Christmas Craft Time

Now THIS is my favorite time of the year. The holidays are obviously fun, but the crafts associated with Christmas are awesome! Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know its not even Thanksgiving yet, but when it comes to projects, I need lots of time to get things done! I've got a long list this year, but it'll get done...I think.

Thanks to Pinterest, there is a constant flow of "I can make that!" to add to my already long to do list. There are a few gifts to be made and of course Ginny's stocking. I also have my eye on a few decorations that I'd love to make, including this adorable and simple snowman wreath. There's also this absolutely AMAZING ugly Christmas sweater, but it may be a next year project.

My Holiday and Toddler Pinterest boards overfloweth with fun ideas to keep us busy over the next few weeks - especially during the winter break. I'll be doing a DIY stocking tutorial next week and a few other smaller crafts to share.

If you want to follow the holiday pinning madness, follow me!

All Four Love

While you're at it, like us on Facebook!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

8 months down, 4 to go

When Charlie was a baby, breastfeeding was a tremendous struggle. Between his time in the NICU, slow weight gain, and me going back to work early, it made for a lot of crying (on both our parts), supplementing, and extra pumping sessions. All in all, he got breast milk for about 8 months. When Ginny was born, it was a very different experience. She latched right away, gained weight, I pumped and froze a ton of milk  - everything you could hope for.

Aaaaand this is why I feel so guilty...

Pumping has taken a serious dive and I'm done stressing myself over a few ounces. I'm going to nurse when we're together, pump when I can, and fill in the gaps with my freezer stash of milk and eventually formula.

Now, I know that logically there is nothing to be ashamed of, but motherhood as little to do with logic and everything to do with heart. There are number of things I could try to boost my supply and keep on truckin', but I just don't want to. I don't want to spend hours pumping instead of playing with my kids, I don't want to take supplements that will quite literally make me smell like maple syrup, and I don't want to stress about every ounce I'm falling short. I held the one year mark as a finish line and forgot about taking it day by day. Breastfeeding isn't all or nothing - there are many, many options and this is one of them. 

Will we still make it to a year? Who knows, but it's okay if we don't. Chances are, she'll still get breast milk daily for quite a while, even if its supplemented with formula and baby food. It's not the end of the world. The truth is, I do feel guilty and as if I'm sabotaging something that was technically working, but bigger than that, I feel relieved. I love breastfeeding and really hope we can continue as long as she'd like, but I'm really happy to finally be at peace with this decision.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Product Review: November Citrus Lane

November box is here!

Every month, Charlie gets a surprise in the mail - a box of toys and neat stuff picked out just for him! Citrus Lane hand picks fun, high quality products, most of which you've probably never heard of, and sends them to your door. Your box, which arrives with free shipping, is put together based on your child's age and the gender you choose when you subscribe (boy, girl, gender neutral).

Charlie wouldn't give up the Hamburger Stacker toy for my picture...

 In our box this month...

Doodle Pad & Bees Wax Crayons by Faber-Castell
Maker of serious art supplies, Faber-Castell's kid friendly supplies are just as high quality. Charlie loves any and all crayons, but these are some of the nicest I've ever seen - no lie. They are thick and high quality and truly seem Charlie proof. With angled sides, they don't roll off the table and get lost, which is another plus. My favorite part is how vibrant they are. They are bright as if they were pastels, but they draw like crayons. Very cool!

Insulated Lunch Bag by Bumkins
We love Bumkins bibs, so I was excited to try out one of their lunch bags. Its insulated and, more importantly, wipes clean. It is also lead, PVC, BPA, Phthalate, and vinyl free which is good for kids and the environment. Its a great size and fits all of Charlie's little bento boxes with room to spare.

Hamburger Stacker by Green Toys
Now, this toy is hilarious. It is a seven piece puzzle stacking toy shaped as a hamburger! How random is that? Charlie loves this thing - stacking and restacking it, offering us a bite of "burbur" in between. We already own the Green Toys dump truck, so we're familiar with the quality and sustainability of their toys. This company is fantastic - not only are all of their toys made in the USA, very affordable, and dishwasher safe, but they are all completely recyclable and made of #2 plastic.

Organicasaurus Snacks by Good Boy Organics
Crunchy cheese snacks shaped like dinosaurs? A little kid dream! Charlie really enjoyed this snack and it was nice knowing it healthier than some of the crap junk food out there. I love when healthy food is yummy!

Do you get Citrus Lane? What did you think of this month's box? If you want to try Citrus Lane for your little one, you can use my link for $10 off your first order!
HTML tutorial

Friday, November 22, 2013

I ran!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate running. I mean, I hate exercising in general, but I especially hate running. I've spent my fair share of time on the elliptical at the gym pretending to like it, but I never really did.

A few weeks ago, I learned that a coworker and fellow Disney-aholic had a running blog so I checked it out. I asked her if I could come running one day because, seriously, who wouldn't want to run with this woman? I mean it - click the link and check it out.

Isn't she adorable?! And so incredibly nice. On Tuesday, we went for a run and chatted about how she got started running and how she loves the running community. It was so inspiring. I always saw running as an all or nothing. You were either a marathon machine or a couch potato. I know there are 5Ks and what not out there, but it seemed like all of my runner friends were intimidatingly gung ho about it. Sarah is serious and dedicated, but about the fitness, experience, and community. Listening to her stories, our run flew by and I survived. I moved for 2 1/2 miles without stopping!!!

After thinking about it, there were a lot of misconceptions I had about running. Turns out, I'd made it into a tremendous mountain instead of the "hey, it's nice out and you've got legs - why not go for a run?" that it should be.

Five misconceptions I had about running...
1. I couldn't run.
I have horrible memories of being asked to run 2 miles the first day of field hockey practice in 9th grade. Let's just say that there was a lot of crying, yelling, and puking involved and I didn't finish the warm up. I was so embarrassed! I never really tried again. Doing color guard throughout high school and college, we were never asked to run and our warm ups were dance related. I was convinced I just couldn't run. Well, apparently I can because I did this week.

2. Running is boring.
I think it can be. My two runs with Sarah have been a lot of fun. Getting out of the house and chatting with an adult about stuff other than work? Sign me up! She made a good point that running can be social time or thinking time. Sometimes you need one and sometimes the other. Either way, its getting out of the house time and good for you whether you're running or walking.

3. To run, I need to run really fast.
When I would picture running and I would picture RUNNING. Like, fleeing from a wild animal type running. If I can't keep that pace for longer than 50 yards, well I'm obviously not a runner. Well, duh you can't keep up that pace. Will you eventually get faster? Sure, but there's nothing wrong with walking or jogging so I'll stick with walking and jogging.

4. Running wouldn't do anything for me.
I'm not part of a gym, so what could running alone really do for me. Might as well not even try. Yeah...admittedly it's flawed logic, but an excuse is an excuse. Right now, I'm just focused on getting my pants to button so ANYTHING is going to help more than my current plan of, "nothing."

5. I would have to run everyday.
I can run whenever I darn well want! How often will that be? I don't know, but I'm not going to stress about it. 

This week alone I've run more than I've run in the past 15 years. I'm not even exaggerating.So what's next? I'm not sure. Like I said, I'm not going to worry about it. If I worry about it, I won't want to do it. Maybe we'll go for a walk as a family this weekend. Maybe I'll go for a run. Who knows.

I do need a goal, I feel like. Ya know, after the one about buttoning my pants. Keep an eye on my new ticker (to the right) for all the fun.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Double Check Ups

The last week has been a big one for check ups. Charlie had a check up with his pediatric GI specialist and his 3 year well child visit and Ginny had a follow up with her endocrinologist. Both kids got flu shots and we're officially ready for flu season!

Charlie's well child check went fine. The pediatrician was impressed with his grasp on letter, shapes, and numbers and he was able to do an eye exam with the regular letter chart. Now that he's jumping, skipping, and talking in full sentences, any and all concerns we had about his development being delayed are put to rest.

Unfortunately, his GI check up didn't go as well. We're still trying to figure out what is going on and as it turns out, he's lost a pound in the past month. It could be a result of the stomach flu he got on our way back from Florida (complete with puking on the plane), but it still worries me. We're trying two new things - a new dosing schedule for his medication and a new probiotic. As it turns out, a bacteria based probiotic isn't effective if you're also taking antibiotics because its destroyed. Well, gee - that makes sense and I feel like an idiot for not realizing it earlier. We're switching him to a yeast based probiotic that is known to help with this type of issue. Thankfully, there is a lab brand of the stuff because Florastor is expensive (about $2-3 a day). Here's to a better month.

Ginny's follow up went alright. She hasn't grown an ounce or an inch since her 6 month appointment about 6 weeks ago. This means she's fallen down to the 5% percentile for height and weight. She started in the 60-70% range. I didn't think it was possible, but she's actually smaller than Charlie was at this age - and I thought HE was a peanut. It could be a fluke or it could be her medication. Her doctor scaled back her meds from three times a day to twice a day and ran some blood work to see what was up. We'll hear more next week about the results.

So, they're healthy - just not exactly growing. Their next check ups are at the end of December/beginning of January. In the meantime, Charlie's getting probiotics and PediaSure and Ginny is eating everything put in front of her.

Chunky kid vibes appreciated.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Disney Pictures

We finally got our PhotoPass+ DVD in the mail!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Disney 2013 - Part II

Part I was a general overview of our vacation, how we planned, and what traveling with two kids taught us. Spoiler alert - we learned a LOT. This part is about our favorite things Disney offers families to make their experience easier and more fun. I like easy and fun.

The number one thing I love about Disney is that it is truly flexible and family friendly. Everything about the experience can accommodate a honeymooning couple, a group of friends, or a huge family reunion all the same. The rides, shows, FastPasses, transportation, dining - everything. Here are our favorite Disney things and park tips.

Rides, Shows, and Experiences

Disney never has just a ride and you never just stand in line. You play games, watch videos, and if you're waiting for Dumbo, you get an entire play place to wait in. They sure do know their target audience - sugared up, overtired kids (and adults) who can't stand in line for very long!

Another thing that stands Disney apart is how many rides small children, even Ginny's age/size, can go on. These were our favorite family rides...
  • Dumbo (MK)
  • Mad Tea Party (MK)
  • It's A Small World (MK)
  • Jungle Cruise (MK)
  • Toy Story Midway Mania (HS)

Can't forget about shows...
  • Disney Jr. Live on Stage (HS)
  • Flights of Wonder (AK)
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic (MK)
  • Muppet*Vision 3D (HS)
  • Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor (MK)
 Disney Jr. Live on Stage was a must for us - Charlie is obsessed! The show was wonderful, but make sure you get a seat in the middle - too close to the stage and you can't see anything. Mickey's PhilharMagic and Muppet Vision 3D both required glasses, which Charlie refused to wear, but he still enjoyed the show. We went to Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor on a whim and it was great! At first, I thought it was a canned show that you just watch, but its a live, interactive show with some pretty hilarious family friendly jokes.

There were also higher thrill rides to keep the adults happy. Thanks to the Rider Switch program, we were all able to take turns riding while one of us stayed with the kids. To use the parent swap program, ask the cast member at the FastPass lane for a swap pass. The pass goes to the adult waiting with the kids. When the other adults come off the ride, the adult who waited (and up to 2 other adults) can use that pass to enter through the FastPass lane. Our favorite big kid rides were...
  • Rockin' Roller Coaster (HS)
  • Tower of Terror (HS)
  • Expedition Everest (AK)
  • Test Track (Epcot)
  • Splash Mountain (MK)
  • Space Mountain (MK)
As you can see, most of the family rides are in the Magic Kingdom, while most of the thrill rides are in other parks. Keeping everyone happy makes for some park hopping, but that's why the park hopper passes are so important!

Our resort was part of a test group for the new MagicBand system. It will be rolling out to everyone sometime in the next few months, but until then it was kind of neat to be part of the testing! The MagicBands were AWESOME! We customized ours before we arrived. We were able to choose from seven colors and have our name put on the inside. They were comfortable, cute, and ridiculously convenient.

Equipped with a short range RF reader, your band is loaded with your park tickets, resort information, room key, dining plan, PhotoPass+, FastPass+, and after hours party tickets. It is linked to your credit card allowing you to make purchases around the park with a PIN instead of carrying your wallet. They are also waterproof, so bringing them to the water park isn't a problem. Though they cause a bit of a tan line, the MagicBands were a huge hit with the whole family. Even Charlie wore his!

Disney Dining Plan

We got the dining plan when we went for our honeymoon a few years ago and loved it, so it only made sense to get it again this time around. With it being free, it was even more of a no brainer! Here are some dining plan tips and things we learned...
  • You get a resort mug when you check in at your resort, but you need to ask for it. We didn't realize this and got it on our second day. Its good for unlimited refills of coffee, tea, hot cocoa, water, and soda at your resort only. It was really nice to be able to get some coffee on our way to the bus in the morning. ::yawn::
  • You can get a bottle of water as your drink using quick service meals. Much easier to tote around the park.
  • Kids under 2 eat free at buffets and are allowed to eat off your plate at all other restaurants. If you want to order a kid meal, however, you can. They're very well priced considering its a theme park. A main dish, two sides, a drink, and a dessert cost us about $6 quick service and $8-10 sit down. 
  • You can make reservations for your sit down meals up to 180 days in advance and do not need a vacation booked to do it! So once you know your vacation dates, reserve your meals!
  • When booking reservations, consider restaurants at other resorts. They're open for all Disney guests and widen the variety of places you can eat. 
  • Our favorite restaurants were: The Tusker House (AK), Teppan Edo (Epcot), The Biergarten (Epcot), and Hollywood and Vine (HS).
  • Here is a site that can help you maximize your dining plan snack credit!


You know those photographers that stand on Main Street and a bunch of other spots around the park? Buying those pictures after you get home can be very expensive ($15 a download!), but with the PhotoPass+, you can get unlimited park pictures, magic shots, ride photos, and character dining pictures. A bonus - if you buy the pass before you leave, you save $50! For $150, I didn't need to worry about handing my camera to a stranger, missing shots, or not being in any pictures. We have a DVD of 140 pictures coming to us in the mail. I can't wait to share them!

Park Tips and Tricks
  • Wear sneakers! You'd think this was a given, but its not. You'd be shocked at how many people were wearing flip flops or worse - sandals with heels. 
  • The first aid station is wonderful. It is staffed by RNs and they stock medication and supplies. We forgot a syringe for Charlie's meds and they had one for us! Now that's customer service.
  • Quick Service food stands will give you big cups of ice water for free. 
  • If you use the MagicBand FastPass+, still bring your Key to the World cards with you to the park. You can still use them to get FastPasses at the machines. 
  • If you buy something at a gift shop (especially something breakable), they can send it to your resort free of charge. 
  • There are mailboxes all over the parks and at your resort so you can send post cards home. 
  • Ask photographers if they do magic shots. If they do, they'll take one for you, but they won't offer it up front. 
  • You can bring food and drinks into the park, with the exception of glass and alcohol. We brought water bottles, baby food, and snacks to tide us over between meals, but you could easily do packed lunches if you're on a budget.
  • If you have little ones, you can get a pack and play or a toddler bed rail for your resort room. 

Guest Etiquette

I wasn't sure where to put this section, so its going here! I was actually pretty surprised at how rude guests were at Disney. Not everyone; far from it, but there was a noticeable amount of stupidity and rudeness walking around while we were there. As a general "how to not be an asshole at Disney" I give you some (common sense) etiquette guidelines...
  • Please don't suddenly stop in the middle of a busy walk way. You're gonna get run over.
  • Don't let kids operate your motor scooter - they will run into other guests.
  • At parades, fireworks, and shows, please look behind you to make sure you're not blocking a child's view. 
  • Don't get upset if a child is crying on the bus, in a restaurant, or while waiting for a ride. You are at Disney World. If the presence of children surprises or upsets you, go somewhere else! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Disney 2013 - Part I

I blame it on my job. After I do something, I write down a lot of notes on what went well, what I learned, and what to do differently next time. A final report, if you will. With the amount of research and planning that went into this vacation, it is definitely getting a "final report."

This first part will be an overview of how we planned, what we did, and what we'd change for next time. The second part will be our favorite rides, shows, and restaurants as well as some general park tips. The third part will most likely be a whole load of pictures! :-D

Part I

How We Saved
It's no secret - Disney is expensive. It is, however, completely worth the money. Disney isn't just about a theme park. Its an experience! From the second you book your vacation until you arrive home, it is a magical experience like none other. That being said, money doesn't grow on trees and we saved up for about 18 months for our trip. We set aside money each month and it added up fast. Instead of booking the vacation and paying it off, we saved money in a vacation account (a sub account added to our banking). We weren't going to book if the money wasn't there. 

Booking Our Vacation
I intentionally waited until August to book our trip, hoping to snag the free meal plan offer that pops up for the fall almost every year. Thankfully, it was offered again this year! We were able to book 8 days, 7 nights at All Star Music with the Disney Dining Plan (1 snack, 1 quick meal, 1 sit down meal per day) along with 6 day park hopper tickets for a great price. With Charlie and Ginny being free, it was very affordable and perfect for our family.

I booked directly through Disney's site and it was quick and easy. After making an account with My Disney Experience, I was able to link together our resort reservation, park tickets, and dining while also adding FastPass+ experiences and planning an itinerary for our trip. The site liked up with an app that made planning on the go after we arrived much easier!

Our Resort
We stayed at All Star Music, one of the Disney value resorts. We had a standard room and were placed in the "Jazz Inn" section on the first floor. We were able to make 2 accommodation requests when we checked in online and I chose "close to transportation" and "1st floor." Some other possible requests were adjoining rooms, close to the pool, and picking a certain themed building. Jazz Inn was the second set of buildings from the main "Melody Hall," which wasn't too far. Being on the 1st floor was wonderful - especially with the double stroller. I would have walked farther back into the resort if it meant staying in a 1st floor room.

Overall, ASM was nice, but next time we go we may look at the next step up in accommodations. While it was clean and served its purpose, the room was small, the beds were pretty awful, and the dining options weren't very good - save for the Mickey Mouse waffles, of course.

When We Went
I love this time of year. For our honeymoon, we went during Christmas and this time we experienced the Halloween treatment. While we think Christmas was a bit better, I'm so happy to have experienced both. Halloween at Disney is awesome! All the villains are out, the decorations and parades are amazing, and seeing other people in costume was so much fun. There were a lot of pirates, princesses, minions, and family themed costumes. We really need to step it up if we go back for Halloween!

Another reason to go in the fall are the crowds. We didn't wait longer than 20 minutes for any ride or attraction. The buses were never overloaded and the restaurants always seemed to have space to sit. It was especially nice at the parks - the lack of congestion meant Charlie could walk beside the stroller without fear of getting sucked into a crowd.

I'm Glad That We...

Borrowed a CARES harness for Charlie. It was easy to use and not only kept him safer as we traveled, but made him feel more comfortable. He's used to a rear facing car seat, so moving to just a lap belt would have been very different for him.

Didn't rent a car. We really wouldn't have used it anyway. We never waited more than 5 minutes for a Disney bus to come pick us up! Funny enough, the bus was actually Charlie's favorite thing to do!

Packed a hamper. It definitely helped keep the mess organized in our tiny room. 

Purchased the PhotoPass+. Our DVD is on the way with 120 pictures taken by Disney cast members around the 4 parks including character meet and greets, dining locations, and ride photos. I can't wait to see it! It was linked right on our MagicBand, so the pictures were on our account with a single *boop!*

Used the baby care centers. There is one in each park and it was seriously an oasis of quiet, comfortable, air conditioned bliss. With changing tables, high chairs, small kitchenette, and rocking chairs, its the perfect spot to nurse, freshen up, or hide from the over stimulation outside.

Brought the Ergo carrier. That thing was a life saver when Ginny was tired, cranky, or didn't want to sit in the stroller. We wore her A LOT, probably more than was healthy for our poor backs, but it meant she could rest or hide from the over stimulation around her. The only down side is that most of the pictures are just of the top of her head!

Got the meal plan. There are so many amazing places to eat at Disney and while you can bring your own food and drinks into the park, its also nice to not worry about it. We ate to our heart's content at a dozen different restaurants and since our dining plan was free, it was especially awesome.

Brought lots of zip top bags. I used several baggies to pack Ginny's clothes into outfits, but they came in handy the entire week to store dirty/wet clothes on the go, carry snacks, and store trash.

Brought a nightlight and sound machine. Unlucky for us, Ginny slept horribly most of the week we were away. Having a small nightlight (we brought Charlie's Cloud B octopus light) allowed us to navigate the small, unfamiliar room without bothering those sleeping.

Had a first aid kit. I'll chalk it up to excitement, but Charlie fell about a hundred times, scraping the crap out of both of his knees. Some Jake and the Neverland Pirates bandaids did the trick.

Remembered sunscreen and hats. Despite being the end of October, Florida was unseasonably hot while we were there. I'm talkin' mid 80's to low 90's all week long without a single drop of rain.

Went to the Halloween Party. It was late, but the decorations, parade, and fireworks were amazing!

Took advantage of the parent swap program. When you arrive at a ride, ask for a parent swap ticket and give it to the parent waiting. After you get off the ride, the waiting parent can use the ticket to go through the FastPass line with up to two other people.

Next Time We Will...

Pack a few outfits in carry on. We arrived at our resort at 6pm, but our luggage didn't arrive until 9pm and the kid's bag, after it was finally located, didn't arrive until 10:30pm! It was a struggle getting them settled in bed without PJs, loveys, blankets, etc. Definitely going to be more careful next time. 

Bring an umbrella. We had rain coats in anticipation of the infamous Florida rain, but we didn't get a drop. We did, however, get a crap load of sun and an umbrella would have been used quite a bit. 

Used dining reservations for more lunches and breakfast. More often than not, we used our sit down meal passes for dinner meals. This lead to us being hungry earlier in the day and over stuffed at night. We did have one sit down lunch and one sit down breakfast and not only was the food amazing, but it was a nice change of pace.

Booked reservations earlier to get more character dining events. We had two character dining meals and they were so much fun! You can reserve meals up to 180 days in advance and without booking a vacation. Character meals do need to be backed by a credit card, but just remember to cancel plans if things change. 

Bring something for characters to sign. Halfway through the week we realized that we could have had characters sign our Disney canvas tote bag, but didn't have markers. Next time!

Part II - Our Favorites and Park Tips!