Monday, May 28, 2012

Disney World Recap

So here's the wrap up of our EPIC Disney trip! A good time was had by all. There's lots to share in one post, but it's a complete one! Bear with me!
(To read about our trip preparations go see my first post here)

We arrived 45 minutes before Magic Kingdom opened. A little eager. 

Mom and I
Bursting with excitement on the bus!

Watching Mickey and friends open the gate at Magic Kingdom

I've been trying to figure out how to best share our pics and moments from Disney with the blog. You see in our family, Mommy is in charge of the photos and Daddy is in charge of videos. This has worked out great for 'memory management'. Not too much for one person to handle. But this time my husband used a bunch of my photos in his video montage of our trip so I thought I would share his handiwork here. It's about 10 minutes so watch it if you have time or I've shared a few photos below as well. 

I have to say that Disney is probably not for everyone, but we are certainly a Disney family. We've been a bunch of times. Before we had kids went at least a half dozen times and enjoyed it, but going back with kids is a totally different experience. This is our second time. Our first time, my daughter was 3 and my son was 1. It wasn't ideal since one of us had to hang back with Davis for naps in the stroller and split up a lot. But this time was just right. Lily is 4 1/2 and still into the whole princess aspect and Davis is 2 1/2 and all about anything to do with Toy Story. He loves him some Buzz Lightyear. We invited my parents to go with us this time so we could show them all around 'The World' and it was fun to see them enjoy it all with me as the tour guide. 

My mom and I took Lily to the Bippity Boppity Boutique at Cinderella's castle (reserve this way early if you want to do it. We made an appointment months ahead and noon was the earliest appointment available) It was a fun surprise for Lily and it was a great way to hang out in some air conditioning right before lunch while we let the guys go on a few other rides. 
I bought this dress on sale months ahead and surprised Lily with it when we got to the Boutique.
Saved us $100.
Not kidding. 

All the Godmothers-in-training busy at work

My kids love having the hair cut/ done... by other people. 

What a pretty princess!

Lily was so excited to see her Prince
she ran up and gave him a kiss on the cheek. 

I truly enjoy the process of planning and scheduling our Disney trips as it feeds into my control-freak nature. And there is extensive planning that goes into it. Where to stay, which park to go to, what dining plan to get, what dining reservations to get. And did you know that you have to have dining reservations for every single sit down meal you plan to eat. And it's recommended to get these reservations 180 days in advance! 180 days! I have trouble deciding what we're having for dinner a few hours before said dinner. So to plan all of our meals that far out is no easy feat let me tell you. And I certainly over scheduled our meals this time. We ate like we were going to be led to slaughter after our trip was over. We were not hungry the entire trip and I wasn't hungry for days after we got home. But we got our money's worth out of that deluxe dining plan, that's for certain. 
There are healhier options, but you have to have willpower of NASA-grade steel.
Hmm. Green apples or jelly beans for dessert. Lemme think. 

I was excited to see an Odwalla smoothie on the menu. Unfortunately this was just my preamble to a symphony of banana bread french toast. Incredible!  And I'm not even a breakfast person!

Mickey shaped food to make us feel like home!
This was MY appetizer at T-Rex.
Yummy bruschetta. 

And dessert for all was the "Chocolate Extinction"
which included special effects!
Tony' s Town Square at Magic Kingdom. Delicious food!

The 50's Prime Time cafe at Hollywood Studios had the best decor of any restaurant in the parks! It was designed to look like 'Mom's Kitchen' from the 50's. The waiter even told me not to put my elbows on the table and he called my dad Skippy! And I had s'mores for dessert. Yum!

Our final dinner at The Hollywood Brown Derby. We let the kids get pixie dust glowing drinks. Best idea for sleep deprived kids at a fancy sit-down meal! The were highly entertained.  

And a word about character dining. It's a great way to see all the characters without having to stand in line and waste your time in the parks. It's also great for antsy kids who really don't want to sit down and wait for their food, because they are mostly buffet style and characters come to your table throughout the meal.
At Chef Mickey's the first night. 
He snuck up on us when we least expected him. Davis called him a goofball. 

I wish I had gotten a pic of Minnie's shoes. They are giant yellow pumps. Adorable. 

By far the hardest reservation to get is at Cinderella's Royal Table inside the castle at Magic Kingdom.
 It's a once-in-lifetime thing.
However... it was the only meal in which we recieved bad service and the food had no taste.
We can check that one off the list now!

This was breakfast at Hollywood Studios. We cancelled Disney channel last year so we really didn't know many of the charachters, but it was a good way to get in the park before it opened!

This was breakfast at 1900 Park Fare at the Floridian the day we left. It's a random assortment of charchters. This is the Madhatter playing with Davis' Rex figurine. Davis was amazed by his prosthetic nose! 

If you're planning a trip and you are a control freak like me there are a few sites you should check out. For some really detailed advice about trip planning you should go to They have some great advice on when to go, down to the exact day you should arrive and they have intinieraries you can follow exactly or alter to your needs. I've also used a lot of the info from That site helps to keep you posted on the lasted news and promotions. 

If you aren't a control freak there are some travel agencies that specialize only in Disney trip planning and they don't charge you any extra to take all the stress out of planning (yes, I enjoy stressful trip planning. I'm weird like that.) An agency I've had reccommended to me over and over again is Ears of Experience. They are a family of Disney experts and they enjoy planning so much, they decided to do it for other people as well! If I ever give up control I will certainly be calling them!

A few of my favorite random photos:

At Cinderella's wishing fountain behind the castle.

Making wishes with Pops
Refreshed from naptime and headed back to the Kingdom

Watching the parade

Fireworks with Tinkerbell

Our kids are finally not scared to watch the fireworks! Worth staying up late!

Buzz and Buzz at the Lego store- Downtown Disney
Just a few words about how impressed I continue to be with Disney. Yes, it is an expensive vacation. No doubt about that one. But they make it worth every penny. The whole resort is so tailored to kids that any inconvenience of waiting in line becomes part of the attraction. 
The line for Winnie-the-Pooh at MK looks like a playground at some points. 

Waiting in line to meet Buzz and Woody at Hollywood Studios
 was filled with other fun photo ops to distract you. 
And as a mom I so appreciate the kid-level sinks everywhere! The last thing I want to do is have to lift them up after I've been walking all day.

And we had a kind of scary experience while we were eating at Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. My 2 year old was being a 2 year old and horsing around at the table and smacked his head. Hard. and screamed like I have never heard him scream. I had to run him outside to calm him down. When I returned to the table there was a pack of ice waiting for us to put on his swollen lump and the manager came over and offered to call EMS. He was acting pretty strange- he wouldn't lift his head up from my shoulder and wasn't talking. EMS was at the table within 10 minutes. They checked him over and offered to take him to the hospital, but he had perked up and we weren't so scared anymore so we declined. We enjoyed the rest of our meal including the dessert bar (the buffet was incredible too- food from all over Africa- highly recommend it). When we went to pay the bill the waiter told us our meal had been 'taken care of'. In the middle of all of this my son also lost a Disney trading pin under the cushion of the chair and we asked if we could pick the cushion up and look under it before we left. But they said to go to the gift shop and they would replace the pin at no cost. My friends, we were so shocked by the level of customer service that night. I think my mouth might have fallen open in awe. In this day of companies scaling back and cutting corners, it is such a rarity to experience this level of customer service. So a huge THANK YOU to all those kind souls who helped up that night. You not only helped soothed a scared family during a tough time, but you won our hearts over to Disney vacations for life!
EMS at the table. That's service, friends!

In the week that has followed our trip we have enjoyed catching up on sleep, detoxing our diets (seriously!), remembering the fun memories and looking forward to making future Disney memories. The last part has been mostly the kids as they wake up everyday asking me when we are going back to Disney World! Someday, kids, someday!

This is the mass exodus after fireworks are over.
 Get your game face on. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mickey Wacky Wednesday Recap

So I've been more than a little quiet on the blog the past two weeks because I have had zero time on my hands. We finished up preschool for Lily(*tear*), had my Grandmother's 88th Birthday, Mother's Day, and then went to Disney World. Woosh. I'm exhausted even typing about it. I'm going to break up my Disney breakdown into 2 posts. So if you care nothing of hearing about it, check back in with me in 2 posts!

First, I'll share with you how I hyped it up to be bigger than birthdays, Christmas and Easter combined to my kids. May have been a mistake, but we'll have to wait and see how it all turns out. I'm sharing this because I searched Pinterest high and low for fun ideas and came up with very little. I envy moms who can pull off a 'surprise-trip' to Disney. Just pick the kids up from school and drive to Florida. I can't keep a surprise to myself for anything. With both of my pregnancies everyone in my address book knew I was pregnant before the pregnancy test was even dry. That's just how I am. It's all out there. No onion layers to peel, folks.

About a month ago we had my parents over for a Wacky Wednesday dinner which was Mickey Mouse themed. In a normal family this would have tipped the kids off to a Disney trip surprise, but we regularly have Mickey shaped things in our meals. I guess that puts our family straight into the weird category. Oh well.

Mickey-shaped chicken patties

Really the only Mickey food we had was these chicken patties. I took some nice, delicious free-range chicken breasts and destroyed them in the food processor and mixed them with bread crumbs, egg whites and diced leeks (won't add the leeks next time- too strong a flavor). Then I mashed them into shape with this great Mickey Mouse pancake mold I've had since our first Disney trip. Thus the reason behind our regularity of MM-shaped food. I panfried them until golden brown and served them with a variety of dips. It was fun! Before naptime that day I had the kids make an old-fashioned paper chain out of red, yellow and black construction paper with fun Disney stickers (most of them were the free ones from those Disney Movie Club junk mailers). So I strung them up as a decoration, but they had 26 links- one for each day until our trip. 
See the paper chain in the back? Added some of the leftovers from Davis' birthday banner.
I wrapped a present for each of the kids. A monogrammed T-shirt that my talented friend Hilary made. If you need anything cute you should check out her shop.
I also made a 'ticket' out of the free baggage tags that came with our reservation. 
After dinner I gave the kids the presents and they still needed a little bit of a clue as to what was going on...

So then we had to wait a very long 3 weeks until the trip and it was full of excitement! We watched the free Disney planning DVD multiple times. We measured them to see what rides they could go on. Daddy found out Lily was tall enough for the Tower of Terror and the excitement built about that (my stomach sank just thinking about it). And I got to spend a zillion hours on family tie dyed T-shirts for our Magic Kingdom day. They were VERY labor intensive. I'm not even gonna play it off like "Oh, these? I just whipped these up last night." It was more like 3-4 nights of prep work, 1 meltdown in the middle of WalMart (that place induces tears just thinking about pushing around their massive carts- who needs that much stuff? Really?!), and 3 layers of skin later (ALWAYS wear gloves when handling the dye, people. No joke.) But the shirts turned out pretty good. Mickey was mistaken for a heart once, but I'll tie the rubber bands tighter next time.
Oh, this? It was nothing!
For some completely detailed instructions on how to do this shirt go visit Melissa at her blog Disney Dreamer Designs. That lady knows how to do some tie dye. This was my first ever tie dye experience so I wasn't sure what to expect. But they didn't turn out terrible! Also, we all stood out as a group in the park so it was much easier to find each other. And other people in the park who also did different Disney tie dyes would come up and give you a high five. Like we were in some secret club. It was funny. But I foresee tie dyes in our future Disney trips for sure!
And thanks to my family for being sports and wearing the shirts!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A decade under construction.

The town we live in is named Mount Pleasant. I mean, that's about as close to the 50s parody movie Pleasantville as you can get without being downright obnoxious. When I hear "Mount Pleasant" I can hear the first few whistling notes of the Andy Griffith Show theme song and I envision bake sales and sock hops and church bazaars. And while Mount Pleasant certainly is a wonderful to live and raise a family, it may not always appear to be that way as you roll into a totally, chaotic construction zone as soon you as you enter the town limits from any direction. I've lived here the better part of 10 years and as soon as one project is completed another ones seems to begin. A road is made wider, but then that road needs a new shoulder, or a bike lane, or a whole new lane. We are constantly pushing and stretching our limits to make room for new people, new families. The price of progress. But totally worth it. So we show the construction workers grace and smile and wave as they demolish yet another intersection so it can turn into a flower-edged traffic circle or put up yet ANOTHER stop light. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we show grace. Hopefully. 

This town has really been a mirror for my own life in many ways. 10 years ago to this very day I was a total mess of emotion, a broken-down pile of rubble and felt like something inside me had been demolished. 

It was during a night of worship on a Tuesday geared towards the youth of our church- called The Annex. I had been struggling with a host of inner conflicts in the days, weeks, months and even years leading up to this night. But that night God brought out the wrecking ball of Hope and destroyed the hurts and fears in my life. He gave me a glimpse into what life could look like for me. 

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:24-25

I had been trying for so long to 'take control' and 'do it my way', but that night I surrendered and gave up, and gave my life to Him. Did I wake up the next morning a restored woman ready to take on the world's sorrow? Um, no. In fact I didn't sleep at all that night. Looking back I can say that God was probably using those restless nights to hear Him through the stillness. But there were a lot of restless nights! Nights spent reading and writing and digging into who God wanted me to be and see where my place was in this world. And for the first time in my life I knew there was a plan. A purpose meant just for me. And that all the things leading up to this change was part of that plan. 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

And so the last ten years my life has resembled a pretty chaotic construction site. I have slowly repaved some of the larger potholes of my life only to then get to a spot where I realize I need to construct a bridge to avoid shark infested waters. Some days I look in the mirror and I see caution tape wrapped around my mouth warning me to shut up if I know what's good for me. Other seasons I feel like I need to walk around with those big orange barrels surrounding my very existence so people know what a mess is abut to invade their space. But the whole time has been a season of learning about God's amazing grace. Knowing that God doesn't love me any more than He did on that dark day 10 years ago when I handed Him the big pile of rubble that my life had become. To Him it was better than a field of the sweetest smelling wildflowers because it was His creation. And any amount of effort I put in after that was just a beautification project in reality. 

 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10

Don't get me wrong, the past 10 years have been filled with A LOT of glory-filled moments. I got a job working with people I truly enjoyed being with and sharing life with. I married a man who shows me love and strength even on the days when I should have "Yield" or "Proceed with Extreme Caution" tattooed on my forehead. I gave birth to 2 of the cutest, smartest, and sweetest kids EVER. (I'm not even exaggerating here, ok?) And I have enjoyed strengthening bonds with my parents who prayed me through the darkest of days. The agony and pain I must have put them through I pray I never fully know. And I have founded deeper relationships with other people who also accept me as the crumbled, broken mess I am. People who I am privileged to call friends. People who I get the honor to 'do life' alongside. 

And now what are you waiting for?
Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
Acts 22:16
My faithful, prayer-warrior parents
June, 2002
I share these things with you not to say "Hey y'all look at me! I'm not as much of a mess as I used to be!" Because some days I truly am a hot mess. But I share these things with you to show you that life has infinite possibilities. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be driving a minivan blaring kids movies and happily deciding to be a stay-at-home mom, I would have hopped in my Jeep with the top down and doors off and looked for the nearest detour as I blasted Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive". But there is only One who knows what your roapmap looks like a decade from now. So why not let Him take over and enjoy the view from the passenger seat? And buckle up. It can get bumpy. But this is just the ride. The destination is yet to come.