Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Year of Me

       I wrote a blog post on November 30, called Parents, Let's Be Kind to Ourselves. Being a good parent is hard work and as much as we love it, it can be draining to us in many ways--physically, emotionally, and mentally. If we're always giving of ourselves and never letting ourselves be filled back up, we become burnt out. That goes for anything in life that requires our time and effort.

      As parents, we sometimes feel like we're being selfish if we do anything at all for ourselves. I've been there and I'm still in that place sometimes. However, I decided at the beginning of this year that I'm going to take care of me---and my family. I don't have to neglect them to take care of me. They're not missing out on anything. I'm just adding myself to my schedule.

      On January 1, I started exercising every day. I have to live in this body while I'm on this earth and I'm going to make it a healthy one. I'm going to chase my kids all over creation while they're growing up. I'm going to pick them up and swing them around, play tag with them, go swimming, ride bikes, and just be present. Then, I'm going to chase my grandkids all over the place and do the same things. That's my goal. Not to get a six pack (though I'll take one if it pops up) or look good in a bikini, but to be here with my family. I'm taking care of me and taking care of them at the same time.

       Last fall, I decided I was going to cover up my grays. I hadn't ever had my hair colored because I didn't want to spend the money to do it and it's hard to find time away from the kiddos for hair appointments. I went for it, though! I feel a lot better about myself and my hair and hey--I also never have any trouble finding someone to stay with my babies. I also spent a little more money on some nicer makeup and products to take care of my skin. There's no need for me to neglect myself on the altar of "My Children Come First". I don't go into debt to do these things; I've just purchased them when I can. And I'm going to keep doing it!

      I'm trying to make time for things that keep me healthy mentally and emotionally--journaling, blogging, playing the piano and guitar, having conversations with friends. All of these things keep my brain working and make my heart full.

       I'm pursuing my dreams. Last year, I published my first book. Everyone who knows me knows my love for all things Disney. I've considered being a Disney travel planner before, but have always backed out of filling out applications. I would say, "Oh, I don't really have time to do that! I just need to take care of the kids and the house." In reality, I need something for me. I need something besides housework and homeschooling that makes me tick. Disney is my thing! When my best friend sent me the application to apply with Kingdom Concierge, I decided to go for it. I received an email the next morning requesting a phone interview and all of the pieces just fell into place. Kingdom Concierge is an amazing agency and I am so honored to be talking Disney with clients and planning magical trips they'll remember forever! I was working this morning and Kade put his arm around my waist and said, "You really like your new job, don't you, mom?" I felt guilty for a split second, as if I should only like being a mom. You know what, though? I can enjoy many, many other things and still be there for my family. Yes, I do like my new job! (And if you'd like me to help plan your Disney vacation, please contact me at; I'd love to plan your vacation for free!)

           It's the year of ME--and my husband and children. When I feel fulfilled, I can pour myself and my energy back out into the people most important to me. And what could be better than that?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Disney Trip Report: Day 3 (Part 2)

It's a perfect day here to finish a Disney trip report--cold and gray. If I can't be in the warm, Florida sunshine, at least I can relive it!

When we left off last, Michael and I had just eaten lunch at the Lotus Blossom Cafe in China at Epcot. We also got to see and talk to our babies. Full and happy, we walked outside to explore some more. Michael found some Chinese puppets.

We browsed through a shop with all kinds of Chinese clogs, chopsticks, kimonos, snacks, and more. Heading out of China, we walked past Japan and apparently (according to my pictures) 

A Norwegian troll.

Traditional Norwegian clothing, similar to the time period and style of Frozen.

We must have walked past Germany, but at some point in the day I ended up going back and getting a delicious caramel apple oatmeal cookie at Karamel Kuche in Germany. They have chocolate covered caramel squares, chocolate caramel cupcakes, chocolate covered pineapple and strawnerries, as well as fresh caramel corn you can watch them make and it's all Werther's caramel. So yummy!

Our next stop was Mexico where a mariachi (I think) band was playing and talking about Mexican Christmas traditions. They played lots of Christmas songs and got the children in the crowd involved. We watched that for quite awhile! I should mention that each country was doing something to showcase Christmas in their culture and this was the point in the afternoon when it started. Each country also had a food stand that served traditional Christmas foods from that country. Most of it sounded really good!

Afterwards, we walked into the building across the pathway, which looks like a ziggurat. I'm not sure if that's what it's supposed to be or not. Here's a picture from Google.

Inside is a restaurant called San Angel Inn, some shops, and a boat ride called The Gran Fiesta Tour, which stars Donald Duck and the Three Caballeros. We call the Gran Fiesta Tour, "Mexican Small World", because it's very similar to It's a Small World, but with a Mexican theme. The boys love it!

Looking into the shops and San Angel Inn. This is indoors, but it looks like you're eating in twilight. Very pretty!

When we came out, we decided to leave World Showcase for a bit and walk back over to Future World. We took some pictures in front of a huge Christmas tree.


We always have to take a picture of the monorail when it goes by!

With our Disney Visa card, we're entitled to a meet and greet at a select location with one or more of the Fab Five--Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald. The nice thing about this is the line is really minimal and you get a free digital download of your pictures.

Can I make a confession? I forgot to download them, so all I have is this screenshot. Whoops!

Mickey and Goofy were meeting together on that day and we had fun "talking" to them for a minute before we posed for pictures.

We watched a gospel group do a Christmas show right in front of the Fountain of Nations for a few minutes. They were incredible and had everybody in the crowd dancing and clapping. I thought a few people were going to shout!

One thing we hadn't ridden yet was Spaceship Earth, the ride inside the Epcot ball.

Michael always likes to lead the way.

It's far too dark inside of Spaceship Earth for my camera phone to take pictures (and there's no flash allowed), but it takes you on a journey of communication, from the beginning of time until, well.....recently. It kind of needs some updating at the end to bring it up to the current time. It's really neat and educational, though. Another cool feature is that there is a screen in front of you that has you pick some options at the beginning of the ride, including your language and where you're from. As the ride begins, a camera on the right takes your picture. Then, near the end of the ride, you are presented with questions like, "In the future, would you rather live in the city, country, or beach?"; "Is leisure, home, or health more important to you?" Then, it makes a video that shows "your life" in the future and your picture from the beginning of the ride is the head on the cartoon version of you. We always laugh at the way we end up looking.

In France, we saw Pere Noel telling a Christmas story! 

We always love to stop and look at this miniature Bavarian train village in the Germany pavilion. It's so cute! It was decorated for Christmas, too!

In the American pavilion, we stopped and looked at this stand full of Disney Precious Moments dolls! Recognize any characters you know? I loved these!

We were both hungry for dinner and decided to check out the Holidays Around the World stand at the American pavilion. 

I chose a turkey dinner, that had a large piece of dressing, mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. It was huge--and delicious!

In comparison, Michael chose the pork tenderloin meal that included some sweet potato wedges, some small pieces of pork tenderloin, and green bean casserole. It was much smaller, obviously, and more expensive than mine! It was still yummy, though.

Unfortunately, my phone went dead during dinner and I didn't get to capture the best part of the evening--Epcot's Candlelight Processional!

picture from Google

          Choirs from all over the country are invited to sing at the Candlelight Processional during the Christmas season. Michael and I were fortunate enough to go with our high school choir in 2000. The music is incredible and includes sacred Christmas selections and narration of the Christmas story from the book of Luke by a celebrity narrator. On this particular night, Steven Curtis Chapman was the celebrity narrator, which made things even more special, because we knew he believed every word he was speaking. Confession--there were tears in my eyes almost the whole processional. It's just beautiful! The last song is the Hallelujah Chorus and--wow!--everyone was on their feet halfway through! It was a wonderful, marvelous, magical end to the night!

        Hearts full, we headed out of Epcot and stopped by Ample Hills to grab one more ice cream. Then, we drove back to our resort, got most of our things packed up, and headed to bed. Our anniversary trip had come to an end and it was time to get back to real life--and most important, our babies!

But not before a 12 hour trip home, filled with good, uninterrupted conversation, loud music, and some Starbucks.

          We were so excited to love on our kiddos and glad to be back home. We missed them, but it was nice to just be us for a couple of days. Every couple needs that now and then! We'll treasure the memories of this trip forever.

Monday, January 16, 2017

100 Days!

I'm still working on the second part of our day at Epcot, but I wanted to pop in and celebrate today for a moment--our 100th day of school!

I would love to say that homeschooling is effortless and easy and always peaceful and serene, but that would be a lie. Ha! There are days that I look around the table and get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Then, there are days when chaos seems to reign--no one is listening, Grace pooped in the tub (hey, just being real!), Luke spilled his milk all over the table and floor, and I wonder why in the world I would want to teach 3 children to read, write, and do 'rithmetic. Luckily, the warm and fuzzy feeling days win out and I grit my teeth and persevere through the not so good days. As a reward, I get to hear them read their first words in a book, see their eyes light up as they realize they've finally done it, talk them through their frustration because they just can't write that letter correctly, and watch their brains working as they try to add and subtract. Well, that, and a host of other things.

Anyway, 100 days of school is something to celebrate! We did a few cute activities I found on Pinterest after we finished our morning notebooks and Bible time.

The first thing we did was 100 exercises. The boys' eyes got big when I told them we were going to do 100 exercises, but I told them we were going to do 10 different exercises and do each one 10 times. Then, we counted by 10s to make sure that 10 x 10 was 100.

I didn't take any pictures because I was exercising with them, but they had to do 10 jumping jacks, 10 sit ups, 10 push ups, balance on their left leg for 10 seconds, balance on their right leg for 10 seconds, jump with their left leg for 10 seconds and then the right leg, do 10 ski sliders, do 10 kick boxing kicks with each leg, and touch their knee to their chest 10 times. They loved this and it got the wiggles out. Score!

Next, we did a 100 drops of water experiment. They had to predict how full a jar would be if we put 100 drops of water in it. Kade thought it would fill almost all of the jar and Luke thought it would be completely full.

Even I was surprised at the amount of water in the jar once we had squeezed in 100 drops. In fact, I couldn't even get it to show up in a picture, so you'll have to look at the boys' "Actual" picture to see how off target we were.

See how surprised Kade was?!

Next, we colored a 100 chart to make a picture. Actually, I printed a blank one off for Kade, so he had to fill in the squares with every number from 1-120. If you've never done one of these before, they're pretty neat! They come with a key so that you can tell your student (or give it to your student to use) which numbered square to fill in with which color. I knew what picture Kade and Luke's chart was going to turn out to be, but I didn't tell them. This activity was especially good for Luke, since we're working on number recognition with him.

It was a rainbow! I'm going to have to find some more of these for them to do.

After lunch, we celebrated some more by going outside to play in this unseasonably warm, over 60 degree weather! It was glorious!

Happy 100 days to us--and here's to the rest of our school year!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Disney trip report: Day 3

Epcot is my second favorite park over Magic Kingdom. I've heard plenty of people say that Epcot isn't a good park for kids, but we always spend a day or two there! There are so many things to see and do and learn about.

We got to Epcot, went through the bag check, and headed straight back to Test Track. If we had really thought, we would have headed even farther back to the new Frozen Ever After ride, since all the Fastpass + were gone by the time we booked our trip. Next time!

We really like the interactive features they added to Test Track a couple of years ago. While, you're waiting, you get to design your own car--every feature of it, from the shape, color, engine, and all that kind of car stuff.

The only disappointing part of this feature (especially for kids) is that when you get to the loading dock, everyone rides in the same car that looks nothing like the car you just designed. On the upside, as your car goes through the various tests, the ride rates the cars people designed based on how well they perform and shows it on screens along the track.  The boys always get excited to see if our car will get 1st place. And of course, the most fun part is at the end, where your car bursts through the doors onto the outside track and goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds. Hold on to your sunglasses!

We hadn't had breakfast yet at this point, so I grabbed a latte at Starbucks and then we walked towards The Land building to grab a bite to eat and see what the wait time for Soarin' was. I had a chocolate croissant and Michael had some kind of breakfast platter, with eggs, potatoes, sausage, and french toast. 

After I finished my coffee, we decided to ride Livin' With the Land. It always has a relatively short line, if at all (though I just saw a picture from Christmas week where the whole thing was completely filled with people waiting). Livin' with the Land is a boat ride that takes you on an educational journey, learning about innovative ways of growing crops and controlling pests in various climates and other situations. It might sound kind of boring, but we think it's extremely interesting and always get lots of ideas for our home garden (that we never actually get around to trying).

We still had a little time before our Fastpass+ for Soarin', so we exited The Land building and walked over to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. We rodethe Nemo ride, which is basically a ride in a clamshell through the Finding Nemo story.

There are quite a few aquarium tanks in this building, but we thoroughly explored them in February with the kids, so we decided to do Turtle Talk with Crush, which is an interactive experience with Crush the Turtle from Finding Nemo. The kids ask cartoon Crush questions and he talks to them. Very neat!

Next, it was time for our Soarin' Fastpass, which was back over in The Land building. On the way there, we stopped to take a couple of pictures of each other.

It was a beautiful day! We got onto Soarin' pretty quickly with our Fastpasses and got ready for a ride around the world--over the Hawaiian Islands, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Wall of China, the Sahara Desert, Sydney Harbor, and a couple of other places, ending at Epcot. I will always love the original Soarin' that only flew over California, but I daresay I like this version even more.

Having done almost everything we wanted to do in Future World, we decided to head over to World Showcase, which is the part of Epcot with all of the countries. 

First, we hit up Canada, where I stepped into a phone booth and we took a picture in front of Disney's version of Niagra Falls. Not quite as magestic, eh? 

The United Kingdom is next. We popped into a few shops to look around.

We even spotted the practically perfect Mary Poppins!

Continuing on and over the bridge, we came to France, but I don't think we even stopped. We were getting hungry for lunch and decided to eat in China at the Lotus Blossom Cafe.

I think we both got orange chicken and rice, with a side order of egg rolls. 

The kids video called us while we were eating, so we chatted and made kissy faces with them for awhile. They had gotten Happy Meals for lunch, so they weren't jealous of our orange chicken at all.

What will do next? Come back and see!