Reflection

I've lived almost my entire life in Maryland, just 40 minutes or so from the city of Baltimore.  Baltimore has found itself in the headlines this week as peaceful protests were overshadowed by violent rioting on Monday night.  As I watched the news coverage on TV and followed along with social media posts of friends and family who live or work downtown, my heart broke for the city that has played such an important role in my life.  Like so many others, I found myself wanting to hold tighter to my family and protect my children from the violence and dangers of society that were occurring so close.

While keeping up-to-date on the latest happenings over Twitter and Facebook, I kept scrolling by Disney-related posts from many of my social media friends.  I thought to myself, "If only life could be more like a Disney movie." But then I realized, it already was.

Nothing is perfect in a Disney movie.  In fact, tragedy and hard times are often at the center of the story.  In The Lion King, Simba witnessed the death of his father and then was told it was his fault at a young age.  In Frozen, Elsa sees something that she is born with tearing about her relationship with her sister and ultimately endangering the kingdom she cares so much about.  In Aladdin, we see a boy living on the streets without enough money to buy food for himself or afford a place to live.  And the list goes on.  The true power of a Disney movie isn't that everything is perfect, but that despite the difficult times life throws at them, the characters find a way to overcome and move forward.

So we don't need to wish for life to be a Disney movie - it already is.  We just have to find our own soundtrack to sing to, the friends and family who will help us through the tough times, and the personal courage to never give up on ourselves and our dreams.  My children will never live in perfect world.  Challenges, struggles, and even danger are a part of what they will face.  But so is love, hope, and friendship.  The images of Baltimore burning on Monday night were followed by clergy, community leaders, and everyday citizens taking to the streets to clean up their home and take back their city.  We have a choice in life to give into the negativity that can sometimes surround us or, as Cinderella would say, we can "have courage and be kind" as we bravely face each day. #PrayersforBaltimore

Mom Fail #1 - Always Pack Extra Clothes

Too often, moms feel like they fall short.  In this world of social media sharing, we always see the Pinterest perfect birthday party decorations, perfect family pictures, and the excitement of everything going right.  Mother's Day is just around the corner and this mini-blog series will celebrate the reality of mommyhood - sometimes we mess up.  But we live, we learn, and we move on.  I'm sharing some of my Disney mom fails so that you can hopefully benefit from my experiences.  Sometimes there is nothing that would have prevented these mom fails, but hopefully we can share a sense of camaraderie that we are in this crazy thing called parenting together and nobody is always Pinterest perfect.

Mom Fail #1 - Always Pack Extra Clothes

Imagine the scene.  You've been on a Disney-rific vacation for 10 days including an amazing 7 days on a Disney Cruise followed by a few days at the Contemporary with your hubby and 17 month old.  It's the last day of vacation and you are (sadly) preparing to leave.  You're a Disney expert, so of course you're taking advantage of airline check-in at the resort leaving you with a small carry on at bell services and a stroller and diaper bag for your final few hours at Walt Disney World.  After a magical character breakfast at Chef Mickey's, you head to the bus stop to catch a ride to Hollywood Studios.

Not long after the bus pulls away from the Contemporary, with no warning at all, your 17 month old throws up. . .everywhere.  I mean everywhere - inside of the diaper bag, all over himself, all over you, and all over the bus.  This was my reality.  A flood of emotions rush over me.  I'm horrified and embarrassed that this is going on while we're on a bus with other families getting ready to start their day.  I'm concerned and saddened for my little guy who looks terrible and is crying because he got sick.  And I'm instantly stressed.  We've checked out of our hotel room, our flight isn't for another 8 hours or so, and all of our luggage except the diaper bag and a small carry on is already on it's way to MCO.

While the bus is on it's way to Hollywood Studios, my husband and I clean as much of the bus and ourselves up with baby wipes as we can.  The bus driver is incredibly helpful, offering us a roll of paper towels when he stopped at a traffic light.  In fact, everyone on the bus couldn't have been nicer about the situation.  Many of the people on board looked at us like they completely understood and have been there before.  When we got off the bus at Hollywood Studios, we needed to make a game plan.  Since we were stranded until our Magical Express bus was due to pick us up in a few hours, we decided to head into Hollywood Studios and try to make the best of the day.

So the mom fail in this (besides the sick child), was not packing enough extra clothes.  We had one extra outfit for the little guy in the diaper bag which we quickly changed him into.  However we did not have extra socks or shoes - both of which were covered after the incident on the bus.  This meant that we had to find another extra outfit (we weren't sure if he was going to get sick again and wanted to be prepared) as well as socks from a park store - not a cheap endeavor.  In the future, I would always recommend packing at least 2 complete outfits, especially on travel home day when you don't have access to your luggage.  This taught me to always expect and prepare for the worst - then be grateful when things go according to plan.

You'll be happy to know that Brody made it through the rest of the day without getting sick again.  He slept most of the day at Hollywood Studios and looked like he wasn't feeling well.  It turned out that he had an ear infection which was diagnosed the next day by his doctor.  The ear infection had caused him to spike a fever which made him sick.  Lucky for us, the ear infection didn't strike earlier as an illness can ground even the most pixie dusted vacation plans.

How to Choose Between a DCL or WDW Vacation

A common question I get from friends and family is "Which is better?  Disney Cruise Line or Walt Disney World?" I think both are pretty amazing and, in my opinion, it just depends on what you are looking for out of your vacation.

If you're looking to relax. . .Disney Cruise Line - A family trip to Walt Disney World can be fun, but exhausting.  Often I get back from vacation needing a vacation to recover.  This is not the case on Disney Cruise Line.  DCL allows you to move at a much slower pace while still enjoying all the magic of Disney.  You get plenty of chances to put your feet up and be pampered - both on the cruise ship and in ports of call!

Is this your idea of paradise?

If you're looking for action and excitement. . .Walt Disney World - If your family is looking for the action and adventure that thrill rides have to offer, Walt Disney World won't disappoint.  While the cruise ships have their own brand of fun, they are certainly not a theme park.  Some people thrive on the hustle and bustle of a theme park and seek that out on vacation.  If that's you, then WDW is where to go! There's so much to see and do in the parks, you'll be on the go from start to finish! 

Or does this say "perfect vacation" for your family?
If you're looking for all the Disney magic. . .either one! - You can't go wrong on a DCL or WDW vacation to find all of the fantasy and wonder of Disney.  Great customer service, amazing entertainment, character meet and greets, fantastic food, and those little Disney touches are everywhere in both experiences.  

You can never go wrong with a DCL or WDW vacation!  And, if you can swing it, I highly recommend combing the two for a land and sea vacation that you won't soon forget.  It's like having your cake, and eating it too!

Why I Love My Disney Visa

Saving money and earning rewards is always a great deal - especially when those rewards can help feed my Disney habit.  A few years ago, I signed up for a Disney Rewards Visa credit card from Chase and have really enjoyed some of the perks.  There are two different kinds of cards - the standard card and the premier card.  I have the standard card so I can't speak to the added benefits that come with the premier card. If you've ever wondered if the Disney Visa is right for you, here are some reasons why I've loved my card!

1. Earn Disney Rewards Dollars - Every purchase on my credit card earns me 1% back in Disney Rewards.  These reward dollars can be spent on Disney vacations and in Disney stores.  So whether I'm planning my next cruise, dreaming of a dole whip, going after the latest Pandora charm, or saving up for a new Disney Dooney and Bourke, the rewards can add up to make a big difference.

2. Discounts - Who doesn't love a discount?  And Disney offers a few special ones to their credit card holders.  You can always get 10% off a $50 or more purchase at The Disney Store and at most retail locations on Disney property.  In addition, credit card members will occasionally get a headstart on sales from The Disney Store and a few days jump start on vacation package discounts over the general public.  When you pay for you Disney vacation with your Disney card, you can also access special financing perks to make your vacation even more affordable.  And don't forget to check for restaurant discounts on Disney properties as well!

3. Epcot Character Spot - This exclusive character meet and greet is for Disney credit card holders only which means the lines are usually much shorter to meet some of the "Fab 5" as opposed to other park locations in Walt Disney World.  You can also get a free 5 x 7 picture of your family's visit!

4. Show Your Disney Side Everyday - While this is the only perk that doesn't have a financial side to it, I think this might be what I like best about my Disney credit card.  There are so many cute designs to choose from and I get comments almost every time I use my card on how adorable it is!  I'm always looking for ways to show my Disney Side and this is one small way I get to do that.

Image from www.disneyrewards.com
I love having a credit card that goes to work for me so I can have a little more Disney in my life!

My Resort Bucket List

I've done several posts reviewing restaurants and resorts at Walt Disney World.  Today, I decided to try something different.  Walt Disney World has so many resorts and I can't wait to try many of them!  Below are the ones that I would consider top of my bucket list for upcoming trips.

Value Resort Category - Art of Animation
As a mom of two little boys, I can't wait to visit this resort!  While the title may say "value" resort, the rooms are spacious, well decorated, and carry a bigger price tag then other resorts in this category.  Standard rooms in this resort are themed after The Little Mermaid while the family suites are themed after The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars.  I can only imagine the faces on my little guys as they enter a Cars suite that they get to live in while on vacation!  I may have a hard time getting them to leave and want to visit the parks!!

Moderate Resort Category - The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness
Those of you who know me well, may find this one surprising.  While I don't enjoy the idea of camping at all, I think of this as more of "glamping" and if anyone is going to get me to like it, it will be Disney.  The cabins feature both living space and a sleeping space with a bit more room then your average moderate resort room.  In addition, you have easy access to Mickey's Backyard BBQ, Hoop-Dee-Do Revue, and are just a quick boat launch away from Magic Kingdom.  Again, these rooms come with a steeper price tag then others in the moderate category (hmmm. . .I'm noticing a trend. . .), but the extra money seems to be well spent to have a truly unique Disney resort experience. 

Deluxe / Deluxe Villa Resort Category - Boardwalk Inn
Honestly, I think I could stay in any resort in this category and be over-the-moon happy.  But, when thinking about where I want to stay next, the Boardwalk Inn is a winner in my book.  What I like most about the Boardwalk Inn is the location.  As far as proximity to parks, you can walk to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios from here and take a bus to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.  And as the name suggests, the Boardwalk Inn is located on Walt Disney World's very own boardwalk.  The boardwalk features restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment that provide a multitude of activities when you need a break from the parks - all right in front of your hotel.  

Planning future Walt Disney World trips is my favorite hobby and I hope to have the chance to stay at some of these resorts soon.  I'd be interested in hearing feedback from any of you who have stayed at these resorts previously.  What was your experience?  

From C-Section to Half Marathon in 9 months

I'll be running my first runDisney races this year as part of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend in November.  Follow my journey from registration into training and onto the big day!

Training for a half marathon is serious business.  Going from my 2nd C-Section on 2/1/15 to running my first half-marathon on 11/7/15 may seem like a daunting proposition to some.  But, by setting the right goals for my race and a realistic training plan, I'm excited as I begin looking ahead and laying out a training plan that's right for me.

My runDisney Goals:
The Wine and Dine Half-Marathon and the Jingle Jungle 5K presents me with 16.2 miles to accomplish in less than 24 hours.  This will be the 1st half-marathon that I've ever run so I have 2 very ambitious goals for the day - finish both races without passing out and not to get swept off the course.  As you can see, my goals for postpartum training are realistic.  I'm not going out to set a new course record; just looking to have a good time and get back in shape.

This should be in my closet!

My Training Plan:
April and May - These two months are all about getting moving again.  I'm using a combination of walking, yoga, and workout videos to build muscle and cardio strength.  I think it's important to get my body moving again without immediately putting the stress from running on it.  These lower impact and short workouts also fit nicely into my life as I try to figure out balancing work, home, and 2 little boys.  

June and July - Couch to 10K - I've done the Couch to 5K plan in the past and enjoy the way the program combines running and walking to ease you into training for your running goals.  I'm planning on running a 10K in July so that I can submit a proof of time for my half-marathon.  I really hope that I don't end up in the last corral to give myself a buffer from the course sweepers!

August through November - Jeff Galloway's Half-Marathon Training Guide - runDisney has paired up with Jeff Galloway to create a training plan for each of their races.  His training plans have workouts for beginners through veteran endurance runners.  I've read through his training plans on the runDisney website and have found them really easy to use and they seem to be manageable with my busy work schdedule.  

Sounds easy, right?  Well, maybe easy isn't the best word, but definitely manageable.  I'm  excited to see where the journey takes me and I hope you'll stick around for the ride!

What to pack on your DCL carry-on bag

You've made your reservations, booked your excursions, planned your flights, and now the big day is closing in!  It's time for your Disney Cruise Line vacation.  As your packing your bags, don't forget to pack a carry-on that you can use for the first few hours that you are onboard the ship.  Your checked luggage may not arrive in your stateroom until around 5 and you could be on the ship around lunchtime depending on your designated port arrival time.  You want to make sure that you are prepared to enjoy the ship and the first few hours of your vacation with everything you need.  Here are a few suggestions of items to pack as you begin your cruise!

The cruise terminal in Port Canaveral.  Let your Disney Cruise Line Vacation begin! 
1.  Bathing Suit - Whether you are traveling with little ones, teens, or on an adult only getaway, one of the first places to head on vacation is to the pool!  And if the pool isn't quite your thing, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy feature a water ride called AquaDuck which sends you traveling out over the ocean.  If you happen to be cursing on the Disney Magic, you'll find AquaDunk - a waterside that sends you screaming down multiple stories before curving you out over the edge of the ship.  Both the water attractions and the pools are a perfect way to begin your trip.  Don't forget flip flops or water shoes to wear around the pool deck!

2.  Travel Documents - Very important!  Don't pack that passport or any of your cruise documents in a bag you check at the airport.  You'll need this important information for embarkation so make sure all of the documents you need are available for you and all members of your traveling party.

3.  Snacks - Once you board the ship, finding food won't be a problem - trust me!  However, you may find yourself with some downtime in the cruise terminal before boarding.  Especially if you're traveling with little ones, having a few snacks on hand can make the wait more manageable.

4.  Autograph Book - I always like ordering an autograph book online before my Disney vacation so that it's ready to go when we arrive.  This is true for Disney Cruise Line vacations too.  Mickey and Minnie are often in the cruise terminal posing for pictures during embarkation.  Having an autograph book available can help you start capturing those character signatures right away.

5.  Dinner Clothing - If you're like me, you dress pretty comfy casual on a travel day.  Coupled with relaxing by the pool when I arrive, I certainly would not feel ready for dinner in the clothes on my back.  Again, with DCL not guaranteeing your bags to arrive prior to dinner, you will want to have any change of clothing for dinner ready in your carry on.  Don't forget shoes too!  This is especially true if you happen to have a reservation at Palo or Remy on night one of your cruise as they do have a strict dress code.

Bon voyage and happy cruising on the most magical cruise line at sea!

Show your #DisneySide for FREE!

If you love Disney as much as my family, check out this freebie currently being offered from Disney Parks!  Visit www.buildyourdisneyside.com to create your own stick figure family.  The image is available for instant download!  Also, for a limited time, Disney is sending a free decal of your family's Disney Side decal!  I ordered ours tonight and can't wait for it to come in the mail!  Visit to show your family's Disney Side today!


Dear Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios is in the process of undergoing a facelift and, what has the potential to be, some pretty big renovations.  Here's what I would like to see at an updated Hollywood Studios.

Dear Walt Disney World,

It's me again. . .one of your biggest fans.  I love all that you have to offer and can't wait to see what creative ideas you have in store for updates and improvements to Hollywood Studios.  With that said, here are a few ideas from this mom of two young boys as to what I'd like to see take place in the park.

1.  More Pixar Please! - Toy Story is one of my 3 year olds favorites and Buzz Lightyear is certainly more than a toy around here. . .he's like a part of the family.  However, I feel that Pixar Place can and should be expanded to highlight some other great movies.  The Incredibles, Cars, Planes, etc. are all fantastic movies with a large following.  Adding more attractions themed around these movies will certainly appeal to a lot of people and make my little ones smile a little bit more as they explore Pixar Place.

My little Cars fan would love to see more of Radiator Springs!
2.  Disney Junior Expansion - In general, I feel that Walt Disney World can do a better job capitalizing on the popularity of Disney Junior.  Living with a preschooler, I watch more than my fair share of Disney Junior and have grown just as fond of the characters as my son.  We love Disney Junior - Live on Stage! and the Disney Junior Play 'n' Dine breakfast at Hollywood and Vine.  It's also great to hear that Doc will be getting her own permanent meet and greet area like Jake and Sofia.  But can we squeeze in a little more fun?  Maybe a ride themed around one of the shows?  Or how about a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that kids can visit and explore?  And don't forget new favorites like Miles from Tomorrowland!  

What preschooler doesn't love Disney Junior?
3.  A Marvel Superhero Area - I know the Marvel / Disney relationship is relatively new, but what better way to continue the popularity of these comic book favorites and give young boys a way to meet an interact with their heroes.  I'm thinking something along the lines of the Jedi Training Academy, but for kids that want to be Superheroes.  Maybe a character breakfast to get to meet Captain America and the Incredible Hulk?  

As a mom of two boys, you can see where my interests lie.  Hollywood Studios has done an amazing job of capturing "old" Hollywood over the years - how about celebrating some new classics while continuing to celebrate the magic of Disney in the movies?  

Sincerely,

A Disney Loving Mom

No Fooling - Disney Magic for Boys

When I was a little girl, Disney meant princesses.  As I grew older, I one day hoped to share all of those princess memories with my own little girl.  And then I was blessed with two little boys.  But that doesn't mean that Disney doesn't have just as much for the young princes and pirates in your life - and that's no April Fool's joke!  Here are some "don't miss" attractions for boys in Walt Disney World.

Young pirate fans will find plenty to smile about in Walt Disney World!
The Pirates League - Think of this as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for boys.  Instead of being transformed into a pretty princess, young boys (and girls too) have the chance to become fearsome pirates.  Like the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, reservations are recommended for The Pirates League and there is an extra charge.  Your young buccaneer will have a magical experience with this in the Magic Kingdom.

Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage - Sticking with the pirate theme, this journey out on the Seven Seas Lagoon departs from the Contemporary Resort.  The experience features some familiar pirate friends and some new ones along the way!  The boat takes you out to watch the Wishes Fireworks show from the lagoon while enjoying some buccaneer fun.  After the fireworks, you'll return back to the Contemporary where one final surprise is waiting!  Again, reservations are needed and you can make them by calling Disney prior to your arrival.

Star Wars Jedi Training Academy - Do you have a little Star Wars rebel on your hands?  Check out the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios.  Young Star Wars fans will be trained by some of their favorite characters in the ways of the Jedi.  This is a 20 minute experience and reservations are not accepted in the weeks and months leading up to your trip.  However, you do need to sign up once you arrive at Hollywood Studios for a time that day.  There are multiple opportunities each day to participate but sign up when you arrive to the park as space does fill up!

And of course there are plenty of other opportunities for young princesses and pirates alike to enjoy the parks.  Favorite rides, shows, and attractions will appeal to everyone.  So when traveling to Disney with boys, remember that there's much more then just princesses to enjoy!


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