Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Part 7: Disney World! : Epcot here we come!

In the last post I mentioned that Cal got a fever at the end of our first day at Disney while we were eating at 1900 Park Fare.  In the morning after a good night's sleep he still had a fever of about 102.

Oh, beans.

We really had no idea what to do.  One of those situations where you and your husband just kind of stare at each other and feel like you should have some kind of answer but nothing forms.  I am not good with driving and navigating directions and the like and didn't feel comfortable just heading off with Emma and leaving Nick to watch Calvin.  I also didn't want to stay with Calvin because this was my first time to Disney and it was Emma's too...I didn't want to miss the joy Emma experienced.  But the biggest obstacle was that this little boy of ours had been so excited to go to Disney...we didn't want to make him sit in a hotel room all day while his sister got to have all of the fun.

So after talking it over and talking with Cal we decided to try to lower his fever with ibuprofen, throw him in the stroller, and just go.  Cal said he could do it, we felt confident and so that's what we did.  It really did work well for us.  Besides when you spend oodles on a vacation the last thing you want to do is not be able to enjoy it due to sickness.

Sidenote: I will say that I do try to be a good mother.  I was asking him all day if he felt okay and he assured me he did...I would not have dragged his body all over the known world had he been sick, sick.  But it seemed he just had a fever with no other symptoms.  We did lots of hydration, lots of rest, lots of shade.

We headed out for breakfast at 8:10 A.M. at Akerhaus.  We would have had to catch a shuttle to Epcot at about 7:30, so we opted to drive to Epcot.

* I really recommend driving.  I know lots of people swear by Disney transportation and it is so nice they have it.  But for us it really worked so we could leave later for things and we could leave when we needed to and go back to the hotel.  It's no fun waiting for a shuttle or monorail when your kids have lost it and just need to go to sleep.  Carrying sleeping children (and water bottles and strollers and bags...) is no fun either.  PLUS when you stay at a Disney Resort parking is FREE which is a definite plus in my book!

 Eating at a place in a resort before it opens is amazing as you get to go in before everyone else and the place is basically deserted!  It was amazing.  The picture above is our first glimpse of the ball.
Here we are!  Can you tell we're excited???  I will also say that as neat as Disney is, at Epcot I kept felt like saying "ugh, the 80's called and it wants it stuff back :)"  I felt like I could have enjoyed it more if I had aqua-netted the crap out of my bangs and pegged my jeans.  But I digress... :)
Here's where we were headed to...Akerhaus!  We were so excited.  It was in the Norway part of Epcot.  So cute and amazing!

*If you've never been to Epcot it's helpful to think of the place as two different lands...there's regular Epcot with rides and the ball and fountains.  Then there's the "Around the World " part with different countries represented and such.  Epcot is huge!!! and very spread out so wear good shoes! :)

Cal with the Viking Statue.  He was apparently acting like a Viking.  You see that right?  All Vikings are clean cut cute little boys standing calmly around :)
I must tell you, I took a ton of pictures of buildings.  I didn't want to miss details.  It really is amazing all of the intricacies of the place.  They really do make you feel like you are in another land.  Okay, maybe not another land, but they do a great job with the buildings and the atmosphere.
At the front of Akerhus right when you go in you can get your picture taken with Belle.  The kids loved that and our meal package included pictures of the kids with Belle that their photographer took.  My photographer (Nick of course, heehee) couldn't get a great photo around their photograher so I left that one out of here  :)

Once we went in there was a nice buffet...mainly of normal breakfast foods but there was also a lot of Norwegian foods...pastries, pickled fish and the like. We always make the kids try different foods and it was nice to at least try them although I didn't find anything that even I could stomach :)

The nice part of the buffets and meal plans is that drinks are included.
While you are eating the Princesses come around and meet you.
This is one of the only places you can meet Ariel which was the main reason we went with this character meal.  She was so nice and so funny when the kids were asking her questions.
After meeting Snow White she took the kiddos on a little parade around the restaurant with the other princesses..  The kiddos really had a great time.  On a side note I always feel bad for Emma that I passed on Island hair to her :/  But isn't she gorgeous???

After breakfast when we left the restaurant the park was already opened which was super nice!  The one thing Nick had said he wanted to do was to ride "Soarin' " so that's where we headed to.  I don't know if it was the lights, the sounds, the enclosed space, a mixture, or what but Cal freaked out waiting.  This was the first time we asked about using our pass for his Autism and it really saved us.  Cal stims when he gets mad in that he acts like the hulk (he does Hulk arms) and screams...lovely, right?  Imagine that for a 45 minute wait and you've got us in line.  
So our "flight attendant" got us in to the ride.  Thanks Dude!  It was such a fun ride.  The children have no recollection of going on this ride.  Maybe they had their eyes closed the whole time.  I can't really explain it to you but I'll try.  The ride picks you up and kind of moves you into a round movie screen area.  You then watch scenes and it feels as if you're "soarin"  ha!   When you're at the beach it smells like beach and a mist hits your face...its pretty unreal.  No, scratch that, it was very real!  And so much fun! :)  Highly recommended.  And even though the kids don't remember it they didn't scream or anything through it so that's nice.

Had to include this photo..our Emma just being goofy.  Trying to pass the time with Cal in line.  
After Soarin' we checked out the other things in the front half of Epcot.  Basically everything except the countries.  I have to be honest, in writing this a few weeks (uh-hem, throat clearing) later it is hard to remember what all they liked at Epcot.  But I do know they loved the Finding Nemo area called "The Seas with Nemo and Friends". These birds were outside.  Saying "mine, mine, mine, mine..."  The kids LOVED it!  I think they looked at them a total of 5 different times.  They were so silly!
 These kids are in heaven being at Disney!  And aren't they just the cutest?  They loved seeing all of their fishy friends and I adored seeing their smiling faces enjoying every minute of it.
 One of the things to do at the Seas is Turtle Time with Crush. It's an interactive event where the kids sit and talk to Crush and he'll answer questions.  It was the cutest little thing I've ever seen!  One of the kids kept asking him if he toots or things like that and the turtle kept acting like he couldn't hear him.  It was so funny how he averted from questions he wasn't going to answer.

*A tip is inside the Seas there is a HUGE aquarium and a play area...this would be a PERFECT place to find refuge if it starts raining while you're at Epcot.  Also, the water is very peaceful and there are some darker rooms with fish...this might be just the place if you have a fussy one in a stroller you're trying to lull to sleep.
Here's the sign of the Nemo area.  We ate lunch at The Coral Reef in this building as well.  It is a restaurant with kind of like stadium seating and the front wall is a window into the huge aquarium I mentioned above.  We requested a table in front of the aquarium and we got a perfect one!  There are tables right at the glass but people kept coming up and taking pictures over the people sitting there.

We got a table right at the same level as those tables but across the aisle.  We were in a large c-shaped booth, all P-Diddy style.  And my tip about aquariums getting kids to nap rings true in that this knocked Cal out.  Out, out.  Stretched out snoring, missed everything out.

But the meal was phenomenal.  And they give you a fish list and then you can look for those fish to swim by. It was a lot of fun and kept Emma entertained throughout the entire meal.  A huge thanks to our cousin Lisa for recommending this place!  You can view the Coral Reef's Menu here.  I recommend the creamy lobster soup...very yummy with large chunks of lobster!
 I have tons more to write about Epcot so stay tuned for more!  I'll leave you with this picture of our sweet boy clobbering an ice cream sandwich!  Little boy's get hungry!  A lot!  So glad he got his belly filled with ice cream on vacation :)

And as always if you have any questions or something you want my opinion on, don't hesitate to ask :)

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Ag Days

With us living in the Midwest you'd think that I would be able to tell you all about my vast amounts of knowledge concerning farming and Agriculture.  

But...nothing could be farther from the truth.  Truth is I grew up  in what could probably be considered suburbia.  And while Nick grew up in a small town and did things like bale hay in high school, he doesn't know much more than I do.  

Thank goodness for Ag Days!  An event that our county's 4-H Organization puts on, it has a cute little hunt where you learn how to harvest foods, then you put a sample of them in your basket as you go along.  At the end if you have everything they treat you to milk and cookies.  I mean seriously, how cute is that?  

This year Daddy had to work while we went but we still had so much fun.  

 Here was an apple Cal picked from a tree for his basket...they had so much fun!
 There were a lot of vendor booths...Cal loved the fountain behind him.  I love that he's getting to the age where he will go and check things out.  He doesn't touch or mess with things, just quietly observes.  He is so amazing :)
 Here's our annual shot we take at Ag Days...say cheese!
 An extra special treat was running into Cal's very best friend in the world!  How cute are these boys together?  Watch out ladies :)
 They sheared a sheep while we were there...the kids were not impressed.  Neither was the sheep.
 We planted tomato plants.

 The kids learned how to milk a cow.
 Emma petting a cow.  How adorable is she?  She gets cuter by the day!
 Baby cow!  I believe the proper word is Calf but I like to just call them baby cows.
 Giddy up
 He liked lassoing.  Is lassoing the right word?  But seriously he almost took out my eye with this activity.  He was flailing the thing all over the place.  I guess that is how they do it on tv, right?
 Going for a ride :)
And their treat of milk and cookies at the end.  It was such a nice event.  Afterwards it was about lunch time and they had homemade chicken and noodles for $2 a bowl!  So we bought a couple of bowls and it was so, so yummy!  And we had so much leftover we had a huge heaping bowl amount that we took home for Nick to enjoy.  I'd consider lunch for 4 for $4.00 a pretty good deal, wouldn't you?   

Not to mention that the entire activity was free.  It was a lot of fun and very educational.  It was a lot of information all together that saved me the hassle of having to wrangle (ha!) together.  Plus what could be better than hands on learning?  
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Friday, April 26, 2013

And When That Doesn't Work...Bribe Them :)

Last year we started in a horrible pattern.  Every day Emma would wake up and in this whiny voice would say "but I don't want to do school today!" 

Ugh.  It was kind of horrid.  Not even kind of horrid.  It was REALLY horrid.  

It made me loathe school and sad to say, kind of loathe having to wake Emma up every day. 

So this year when we started school I figured there just had to be a better way.  There's just gotta be.  

So I went with the method of bribery.  Yep...good ol' bribery.  

Bribery in the form of incentive charts.  Incentivizing, bribing...whatever you called it, it worked for us.  

I used these charts because they matched the rest of the owl stuff I bought for our classroom.  You put a sticker on each dot and when the owl gets to the moon (or what I think is the moon) you get an incentive.    

We have used these primarily for attitudes before and during school.  If Emma (and Cal has one too) has a good day with her attitude towards school...does everything without complaining or whining, then she gets a sticker.  

She's filled two sheets so far.  Her first one got her a jibbitz for her Crocs.  

This one she chose to go to Sweet Frog's Frozen Yogurt Shop.  
 I'm sorry, I know I'm biased here, but isn't she just the cutest little girl ever?  Like ever, ever?
 Here they are, so excited!!!!
 Emma went with watermelon fro yo with all kinds of skittles and candy.  Cal went with a couple different flavors with all kinds of candy!
So yummy!

This year the incentive charts have really worked out for us.  The kids love having something to work towards. Most days her change of heart and the habit part of being good has been what has worked but when we are having a bad day, having a reminder of why we have a good attitude and working towards something has been a really good thing for us to have.

What are some of your tactics to get your kiddos to behave?  Have you ever used bribery??  Do you now think I am a horrid mother?  :)

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Puddle Jumpers

By nature I am a clean person.  I don't like mud, being wet, or standing out in the cold.

But my children are different than me.

They enjoy mud and puddles and exploring.

Sometimes I need to let go of my inhibitions and just embrace the children's desire to explore and test the waters.

Ha!  Get it?  Waters?  Oh dear, I kill myself with this stuff.


So last week it poured...POURED!  But there was no lightening.  So we headed on out for a walk in the rain  with the dog.

So two excited kids, a jumping black lab, and lots of mud and puddles...yeah! What could be more fun?

 Emma is a puddle jumper!  Can you tell?
 Here's Emma falling in the mud.  I love her sense of adventure and willingness to get dirty.  Really, really dirty.
 Calvin in the same mud puddle is a little more demure.  This is about the extent of his jumping.  He likes to do what Emma does but isn't quite sure sometimes just quite how messy he wants to get.
 Thankfully when Emma joins him he becomes a little more adventurous.  We finally got a jump out off cute mister frog boots.
I love these two.  I love their hearts and their relationship with one another.  I love this stage of their little lives; they find so much joy in the simple things like jumping in mud puddles and taking your dog for a walk in the rain.

They challenge me as a mother and a person every day.  I always hope that they can change me with their joy rather than my personality ever turning them away from that joy.

Now to find some more puddles to jump through...

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Part 6: Disney World! : Inexpensive Ideas for Souvenirs and Memory Makers

When we were planning our vacation I wanted to find something really cheap that the kids could do and/or collect that they could keep to remember our trip.  I decided for their age and participation level that collecting Autographs would be fun.  Each character has their own special (and very neat!) way of signing their name.  Some drew different little pictures for each child.  I purchased an autograph book for the kids before hand from the Disney store.  They sell the EXACT same ones there but this way I didn't have to think "oh wait, I have to go buy the books before we see Merida" because I already had them ready to go!  I love to kind of prank my kids so a lot of what I do is make them think we aren't prepared and then spring them on them.

"So how are you going to get Merida's autograph?  You didn't bring paper?  What are we going to do?  Oh, the humanity of it all!"  Sike!  And then I pull out the autograph books and they were super excited. 

*Going back to the Disney Store, I think it is well worth mentioning.  We went at the end of September and before we went all of the summer merchandise was going on clearance.  I managed to find a time at the Disney Store online where they had an additional 20% off clearance and free shipping on $75.00 or more.  With that sale I purchased their personalized mouse ears, Autograph books, two tervis type cups for the kiddos AND most of my souveniers!  Say what?  That's right folks, a lot of the souveniers I gave to people had actually been purchased online.  (If you are family avert your eyes and forget you ever saw this!) But it saved us soooo much money and time and energy.  I didn't have to scour every store looking for things to buy because most of them I already had.  (I did buy some souveniers there though). 
These cups were waiting in the car when we loaded up to go to Disney.  They were $3 each, I could keep them filled with drinks from a cooler (money saver) but the best thing was that the kids were so excited about them!  And now we still have them and the kids love using their cups from Disney!

Anyway, another cheap thing I did was that I decorated our car.  Yep, I was the crazy lady.  I bought some of those wall decal sticker letters from the Dollar Tree and souped up the back of our ride.  I didn't even tell Nick I was doing it because I knew he would completely object...and the look he gave me when he saw them for the first time told me I was right.  But the fact is that the kids LOVED it and whether he will admit it or not, it made it a lot easier to find our car in the sea of them.  Win, win! 

Another cheap thing I did to make our trip special was to print off invitations to our Character meals. 

I tried to find the link to the awesome Mom who posted all of these invitations but I couldn't find it.  If you're that mom please link up and thank you so much! Anyway, to give you an idea of what I used is the invitation I used for our Crystal Palace meal.  Crystal Palace is in Magic Kingdom and at breakfast they have a buffet and Winnie the Pooh and friends come around to meet  you.  It was so fun!  Mind you, we went to 6 Character meals.  While that may have been overkill, it was a great way to get the Character's autographs without standing in line and meeting the characters broke up the meal so that the kids weren't bored.  For our family it worked really, really well.

Anyway, I printed off my stack of invitations (I think I made them for four of our meals).  I stuck them in our travel folder.  I would put it by the door to look like it had been slid under and then would pound on the door when the kiddos weren't looking, to seem as though a character were dropping it off.

The kids LOVED it!  This is still the one thing they talk about is how Winnie the Pooh brought them an invitation.  Wow, it is amazing what they love; so, so cute!  And just a tip, in the morning, this was definitely the ticket to getting the little ones out of bed!  After the first invitation, when each one came they would throw open the door to our hotel room and try to see Pooh or Cinderella's footman scampering away.  Can you believe they never saw them in the hall? 

If you want some invitations of your own try googling "Printable invitation to ... ".  That seemed to work best for me.

 Another cheap option to do is to press pennies as you go through the parks.  Disney has oodles of pressed penny machines.  Here we are pressing a penny in Frontierland by the Country Bear Jamboree.
 You'll see in my hand a yellow container.  That is a mini M&M container.  I got it from the candy by the register at Target.
I then emptied it out (a good car snack was these little guys mixed in with some Almonds) and stacked a pattern of 2 quarters and 1 penny.  Shiny pennies work best, folks :).  Anywho, by stacking them this way when we were at a penny machine I could just open it up and take out one set of coins and be ready to go.  Huge time saver and sanity saver.  Since we had everything charged to our rooms with key to the world cards we didn't have change that we would have been able to use for the machines.  

So there ya have it...these are just some of the things that we did inexpensively to make our trip a little more special for the kiddos.  There are oodles of things to do with your kiddos at Disney.  Pinning is very popular but you have to buy a lanyard and pins.  There are hidden mickeys and other things you can look for.  There are so many blogs and websites of amazing parents that have put together things to do.  For more ideas be sure to check out my Pinterest Page which has the pins I used when planning our Disney Vacation.  

And as always, please let me know if you have any questions or have anything I can help with...I'd love to help you with your vacation :)  

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