Why We Love Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows

Oh, Disney Vacation Club, how I love thee! When we began to look into joining the Disney Vacation Club, we actually toured at the Polynesian.  It was stuff of dreams for me. There’s no way that we could afford the room rates at the Polynesian.  I was pretty sure it was always going to be a pipe dream. A nice place to go visit during our trips, but I never thought we’d be staying there, annually! 

At the time that we purchased DVC, they were actively selling contracts for Polynesian Villas & Bungalows (PVB), but there were also contracts available at other resorts. However, after we toured the deluxe studio and looked out the window and could see Cinderella Castle, our minds were made up. 

So what do I think now that we have stayed there multiple times? I still love it! But, why? Let me explain. 

Location

We’ve stayed at all of the monorail resorts. Actually, we’ve stayed at all of the DVC resorts at this point (save Beach Club- but we have stayed at Yacht Club, so I consider this comparable). After staying in all of those locations, I think PVB has the best access when it comes to transportation. 

The Disney World bus system is notoriously slow. There are just so many people to move and oftentimes lights and traffic, it’s hard for it not to be slow. From PVB, you only need to take a bus to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Arguably, if you plan DHS later in the day, you could walk, take a Friendship Boat or now the Skyliner from Epcot. 

You are 1 stop monorail ride, resort boat ride or a Ticket and Transportation Center boat ride away from Magic Kingdom. In all of these circumstances,  you will have bag check completed before you get to MK, which makes getting into the park that much faster. 

You can also walk over to the Ticket and Transportation Center and hop ride on the direct line to EPCOT. To me, this is preferable compared to a multiple stop monorail ride from the other monorail resorts and then having to switch monorail lines. 

You can also walk directly over to the Grand Floridian and that in and of itself is a location perk. I absolutely adore the atmosphere at the Grand. They have great restaurants, music, Senses Spa, the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and they are currently building a walking path to Magic Kingdom. So in the future, you’ll be able to walk to MK from Poly! 

Food

‘Ohana, Kona Café, Capt. Cook’s- one of the best lineups top to bottom at a resort. 

‘Ohana is amazing. It’s one of my favorite dinners on all of Walt Disney World property. Family style, delicious, the bread pudding- you just have to try it at least once. My gripe is that it is a very expensive meal. Worth it for sure if you’re on the dining plan, but it’ll cost ya if you’re paying out of pocket. What I love is that when you are staying at the Polynesian you can order the meal as room service. It’s called the Twilight Feast. Last time we stayed, we ordered the Twilight Feast for 1 and it fed 3 of us comfortably. 

If you know me, you know I like a good deal- THAT was a good deal. And I was in my pajamas the whole time. 

Kona Cafe is also wonderful. It’s a sit-down, table service meal, but I’ve yet to have a bad experience here. The staff is wonderful, the atmosphere is great and the food is amazing. One of these days, we’ll eat here for breakfast and I’ll get the gourmet version of the Tonga Toast. 

What’s Tonga Toast you ask? 

Capt. Cook’s  is the amazing quick service at the Poly. I love that they are open super early for coffee. We are early risers and when you’re staying in a studio, sometimes you don’t want to wake up the kids by brewing a pot of coffee, so having a quick service that is open early is always a plus for us. We’ve stayed at some of the other resorts where the coffee isn’t out until 7 or some ungodly late time. But, Capt. Cook’s has an unreal breakfast spread. I’m talking breakfast burritos, Mickey waffles…and TONGA TOAST. Let me just insert Disney’s description here,  “Banana-stuffed Sourdough Bread, Battered, Deep-Fried, and Dusted with Cinnamon-Sugar served with Bacon or Sausage.” Um, excuse me, what? Seriously? Yes, Seriously. And it’s that amazing. We split 1 piece between two of us and it is PLENTY for breakfast.

Once you look at their lunch and dinner menu, you’ll see why we actively choose to make a trip over to Poly when we aren’t staying there, just for the food! 

*Bonus* Pineapple Lanai

The amazing home of the Dole Whip. Need I say more? 

 

Atmosphere

I know I said earlier how much I loved the Grand Floridian and it’s ambiance, but I did not choose it as my DVC home for a reason. It’s almost too stuffy for me. It’s ritzy. You feel like a baller staying there. But at the Polynesian, you walk over and here chaos coming from the pool, kids running around, music playing- it’s an atmosphere of family and fun. 

Where the Grand is great for your Sunday finest, the Poly is where you’re going after church, you know what I mean? 

Relaxed, family-friendly, upbeat and welcoming. We instantly feel like we’re home when we are there. Plus it smells amazing. Is that an odd thing to say? Probably. But I don’t even care because it totally does. 

Starting off your vacation by walking into the amazing lobby and getting lei’d, then going to grab a Dole Whip, while you look over Seven Seas Lagoon and see the castle? You can’t beat it! 

My Favorite Apps for Instagram

Let’s be honest, many of us have moved past the point of slapping on an imbedded filter from Instagram, editing with their tools, and hitting Done. I get questions every now and again on what apps I use so. I figured this would be a nice little way to round them up. 

Snapseed

This is a Google app and it has a ton of features to help you edit your pictures. You can adjust color, brightness, touch up imperfections, add filters. There is really so much functionality that I haven’t even tapped into. I also like that this gives you the option of saving a photo as a new copy or just editing over your original. I’m crazy and sometimes I like to edit two different ways and then compare so this helps!

Lightroom Mobile

Have you heard of presets? Do you have presets? If you do, you probably already have Lightroom installed. Lightroom in and of itself is a very powerful editor, but if you’ve been interested in purchasing presets on Etsy or wherever you’ve found them, you’re going to need to get familiar with this app. Once you get a handle on it, it’s super easy and intuitive, but it takes some playing around.

Canva

I fall more in love with Canva every day. Mostly for making Instastory posts, though they also have regular Instagram post formatting as well. Canva has a mobile and desktop version. Personally, I find the desktop version to be easier to manage, but for quick things, the mobile version does just fine. I love that there are so many free templates to play around with and you can change colors and fonts to your liking/branding. Instastories are the ticket to engagement these days, so if you’re looking to gain some traction or just a cohesiveness to your feed, download Canva.

Tons of story templates to choose from!

Unfold

This is an Instastories specific app. Unfold has clean, easy templates to use to make a story. They’ve made it really easy to download multiple slides at once or be able to save a .pdf so you can send them to someone or save them to use later. This really comes in handy if you’re batching content. Their premium option offers other story designs with additional stickers and fonts, but I think the free version works just fine for most things.

Planoly

This app is great for a couple reasons. It can post to Instagram for you (though I don’t use it for that) and it gives you some real-time insights on your profile in the free version which is nice if you don’t have a business or creator account. Planoly allows you to upload the photo you’re going to post and shows you what it will look like on your profile feed. For those of us that are looking for a cohesive look/color scheme, this really helps. For me, I usually like to look to make sure I’m not posting the same style of picture as previous posts. Worth noting, there are several other apps out there like this, but Planoly was the first one I stumbled upon!

I hope you found this list helpful and check some of these apps out. I’m always in the market for some new apps, so let me know what you’re using these days!

Character Dining at Disney World and Why I Recommend It!

Character dining is one of the more expensive ways to eat at Walt Disney World but I think it can be worthwhile, so hear me out as to why.

Obviously if you’re not a person who’s amped to meet characters, then this post probably isn’t for you, but if you have small kids who like to meet characters, then I would highly recommend booking a character meal. There are so many Character Greeting locations in the parks, but unfortunately you either need to use a FastPass+ or wait in, a usually, long line. Here’s where character dining becomes key. It is one of the ways to experience quality character interactions without waiting in a line.

Anytime that we’ve done Character Dining, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much time the characters spend at the table.  It really adds a personal touch and makes for a lot of very cool memories. That being said, unless you’re gung ho about a specific menu for a particular meal, I think it’s more advantageous to book a breakfast reservation to get the best bang for your buck. Most of the Character Dining experiences for breakfast are buffets, so if you book a reservation later in the morning, you can choose from either breakfast foods or lunch, so you can really knock two meals out at once and make it a worthwhile experience. I also love that kids under 3 eat free, so you’re going to be able to grab them a plate too. Another option is to book a Character Breakfast in a park, before the park opens. You might be wondering why. Well, if you do this, you’ll be able to get into the park before it opens and I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing quite like walking through an empty park. If you time it correctly, you’ll be able to eat and then hit the rides before lines start to build up!

Now, I’m going to highlight some of my favorite Character Dining experiences!

In-Park Character Dining

The Crystal Palace- Magic Kingdom

We booked a breakfast at Magic Kingdom for the first time on our last trip at The Crystal Palace. I thought the girls would enjoy checking out the Hundred-Acre Wood, while I was excited to try the puffy french toast thing that I kept seeing pictures of. (It did not disappoint in that category.) Overall, the food here is standard. There’s nothing that wows you, but it gets the job done. The inside of The Crystal Palace is so gorgeous, bright and open, it’s really a beautiful place to eat. Characters that make the rounds here are Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger.

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Isn’t it just so cute!

What I was most impressed with was the character interactions. We actually had to leave before meeting Tigger and Piglet because 8 month-olds get fidgety and troublesome around nap time, but we did get to meet Pooh and Eeyore and they were amazing! They each took time with both kids individually and it just felt really special. Pooh spent so much time getting Margot to warm up to him, which I didn’t expect because she’s so little.

 

During most of the Character Meals we’ve been to, they have a parade every so often where all of the kids are invited to dance around and follow the characters. This is so much fun and the kids really get into it!

Overall, I think The Crystal Palace is a great place to start your day at Magic Kingdom.

Tusker House Restaurant- Animal Kingdom

Now this place- SO GOOD. The spread here is amazing. So much delicious food, definitely one of my favorite buffets. We were here for breakfast, but I’m willing to bet dinner isn’t bad either! Safari Mickey,  Daisy,

 

Donald and Goofy meet during this meal and their costumes are on point. Make sure you bring your autograph books because they are ready to sign!

 

Overall, I loved the vibe here and anywhere that serves me POG juice to start a meal. Do you know what POG juice is? Passionfruit, Orange and Guava juices all mixed together. I can’t even deal with how delicious it is. They serve it at most breakfast dining locations. We’ve had it at ‘Ohana and also at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Just try it. You won’t regret it.

The fact that I was here with a 12 week-old makes me want to get another reservation so that I can actually fully experience it again without the dense newborn fog.

Garden Grill Restaurant- EPCOT

Not going to lie, it’s been a hot minute since we ate at the Garden Grill. Located in The Land building, it’s a rotating restaurant, so you rotate around and see some of the scenes from Living with the Land which, is one of my favorite rides. Don’t hate.

 

You can meet Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale. I’d have to do some digging, but Chip and Dale aren’t your average Character Greeting, so this is a good one if you have Chip and Dale fans. The meal is served family style here for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so once you’re seated, you’re seated.

Honestly, this isn’t a high priority reservation for me. It was cool and I’d only go for breakfast, but it was just okay. The lunch and dinner menu is definitely something you want to take a peek at before you book. It’s not for everyone. I know I wouldn’t eat anywhere near the value of the meal.

Hollywood & Vine- Hollywood Studios

This is one location that I would pay to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner because they’re all great…and different!

Breakfast at Hollywood & Vine is generally the Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine and they’ve been switching up the characters that meet, but currently it’s Vampirina, Fancy Nancy, Doc McStuffins and Roadster Racer Goofy. That is a LINE-UP if I’ve ever seen one. Any other Disney Junior fans in the house? Just me? K cool bye.

But honestly, this is a great way for the little ones to meet some of their favorites and again, standard breakfast fare but totally worth it for the extended interactions. And also interactions in that beautiful air conditioning versus baking in the sun where they meet in Animation Courtyard.

The atmosphere changes over for lunch and dinner where it becomes Minnie’s Seasonal Dining. This varies by season and the character outfits change as well. You’ll meet some variation of Minnie Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Daisy depending on which season you’re dining. We’ve been for Minnie’s Holiday ‘n Dine and it’s amazing! We met Minnie, Mickey and Daisy in their holiday best and Santa Goofy!

 

I actually think the dinner spread is pretty good all things considered. I’ve always found plenty of interesting, tasty choices and they also have a kid’s buffet section with that delicious Disney World mac and cheese and chicken fingers. Come on- who doesn’t love that.

Just a little story of some Disney magic we encountered while we were dining here: Meryl had just turned 2 and she really enjoyed meeting the characters, but was getting a little fidgety. The waitress saw it happening and she brought over a paper wreath with a sheet of stickers to decorate it into a Christmas wreath. Normally they just give you one, well Meryl was LOVING it. What 2-year-old doesn’t love stickers? The waitress noticed this as well and as we were leaving, she brought me over a stack of wreaths and stickers for Meryl to take home! So sweet!!

Character Dining-Outside of the Park

Cape May Café- Beach Club

We haven’t eaten here in a few years, but I still remember this as one of our favorite breakfast buffets. Also, the characters are in their beach wear and that’s so fun. We actually have a reservation for this in February so I’m excited to see how it’s changed.

I love the vibe and atmosphere of the Beach Club. The smell when you walk into the lobby is SO GOOD. I mean it, just take a stroll through next time you’re in the area.

 

I like eating in this area because of it’s proximity to the parks. If you have an early reservation and aren’t staying at Yacht Club, Beach Club or Boardwalk then you may need to take an Uber/Lyft/Minnie Van over to your reservation. But if you have a later reservation then head to EPCOT and if you exit through the International Gateway, you’re right there. Pretty soon with the Skyliner opening, that’s going to open up a completely new way to get to the area as well, which will make it easier to plan!

I love that when you finish eating, you can either walk back over to EPCOT or you can hop on a Friendship Boat over to Hollywood Studios. So. Many. Options.

Trattoria al Forno Breakfast- Boardwalk

Staying in this area, I have to mention one other Character Dining experience. This one is a bit different though! Instead of meeting animated characters, you’re meeting some princesses and only for breakfast at the Bon Voyage Character Breakfast. The food here is really good with an Italian spin. You get to choose one of the entrees and then they bring over fresh fruit and a frying pan of pastries. A frying pan? Why?

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Frying Pan!

Because you’re going to meet Rapunzel! And Flynn Rider, Ariel and Prince Eric! If you ask me, I feel like this is a dream Character Greeting. You can’t meet princes anywhere, so this is really a treat.

 

Again- this is a really great location if you have an early reservation and then you can hit the parks for opening since you are so close to EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance and a short boat ride from Hollywood Studios.

Chef Mickey’s- Contemporary Resort

Another Character Dining spot, another breakfast review. I’ve heard mixed things about dinner, so in my mind, too expensive to chance it. But breakfast was great! I really enjoyed the spread here. The highlight for me was the make-your-own Mickey waffle station. Complete with a picture spot!

 

 

I love the atmosphere at the Contemporary and being able to walk over to Magic Kingdom or hop on a monorail to EPCOT after your reservation is key. What I’m saying here is try to plan a Magic Kingdom or EPCOT day if you’re planning on Chef Mickey’s.

I loved the character interactions here. We met Chef Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy. They all spent so much time making our visit special.

 

Overall, even though Character Dining is going to cost you more than a normal sit-down meal, I argue that the opportunity to meet Characters in this setting is what seals the deal. Sometimes after waiting in a long line in the parks to meet someone, your kid (read:my kid) gets shy, the interaction is minimal and ultimately, it wasn’t everything you hoped it would be.

In the dining setting, I have found that my daughters are less nervous and much more apt to feel comfortable and have fun interacting with their favorite pals. The other great thing is that depending on how busy it is, you may see a character twice so if your child is too nervous the first time around, maybe they’ll be warmed up to the idea after they’ve seen the process.

Ultimately, these meals are fun and just make your vacation more memorable. I hope you consider making a reservation and trying it out on your next trip!

I know I’ve only highlighted a few of the many Character Dining options available. So that lends me to ask the question…

What’s your favorite Character Dining experience at Walt Disney World? Where should we try next?

My Morning Routine (and why I need it!)

When my last baby turned one last month, I feel like a timer went off in my head. Time to get your sh*t together, Sarah.

Oh to be one again, right? So carefree

Arbitrarily, I gave myself a year after she was born to just make it through. Just keep two kids alive, keep myself alive, sleep when I could- just slog through.

And we made it. Hallelujah! I’m very thankful that we’re in a (short-lived, I’m sure) everyone is sleeping okay phase, so I figured now was as good of a time as any to get myself into a routine.

Are you a routine person? I’m a fan. I like having my plan and mentally checking off the boxes as the day progresses. I’ve completely dived into the world of personal development books and a few things I’ve found keep coming up.

First, gratitude. It seems like it’s a very buzzworthy topic- and for good reason. Having an attitude of gratitude can completely change your outlook. Life is so fast-paced these days, it’s easy to get caught up and feel overwhelmed. Making a point to find those small moments and things you are grateful for helps my mood exponentially. It definitely gives me some perspective, which I need.

Second, move your body. I’m a big Rachel Hollis fan. Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing hit home for me on many levels. I follow her on social media and one of her pillars is to move your body for 30 minutes a day. And she’s not the only one- I feel like many of the big motivators and influencers that I follow and look to for inspiration are saying you have got to get moving. Exercise cannot be overlooked. Well, I’ll tell ya- I’ve been overlooking it. I know I shouldn’t but pretty consistently, my Apple Watch is buzzing at 8:23pm saying I can hit my move goal with a brisk 27 minute walk. Anyone else knows this feeling?

Along the same line as gratitude, one other thing that has helped me immensely has been meditation. Besides coffee, it’s been something that clears that fog- particularly in the early months with a newborn. This time around, I found myself to be very quick to anger. Think ugly rage, snap in a second, no fuse, no warning type anger. Yeah, that was me. And meditation was the thing that grounded me and brought me back to, maybe not a totally peaceful place, but it tamed the flames. And for that, I think my whole family is grateful.

So what do my mornings look like these days? Now that my internal alarm said it’s time to get yourself together. Well it goes a little something like this.

0500- Wake up!

(I’ll never not be on nurse time. Military time for life.)

Meryl usually gets up around 0600. Ideally she would sleep until 0630, but it is what it is. I need that hour to myself. I need the quiet to set my mind and get ready mentally for the day ahead. (Except for today when she decided to get up at 5:15 can’t win them all!)

I used to just lay in bed. I’d probably be awake around 5 but I’d just lay there on my phone, lost in the instascroll. Some of you must know the feeling. So instead of that, I get my butt out of bed and start my day.

0510- Move My Body

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I set out clothes the night before and as soon as I up, I change into work out clothes. Despite my long history as an athlete, I had been so inconsistent with working out. It’s so easy to say you’re tired, the baby was up last night, you’re too busy- but some part of my brain said “that’s bullshit and you know it.” And my brain is correct.

So now, before my brain even has time to object, I’m lacing up my shoes and pressing play. That workout is over in no time and then the box is checked off for the day.

I’ve found a workout that’s keeping me going. Keeping me engaged and actually wanting to push myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve found something motivating me like this does!

0540- Journaling

I’ve been using the Start Today journal, from my girl, Rachel Hollis‘s company. It’s broken down into two parts, gratitude and then dreams. I love taking ten minutes and really focusing on what I was grateful for the day prior, what made me smile. And then focusing on what I want for my future.

Putting thoughts onto paper just feels more powerful than letting them run through my head chaotically. It feels more real writing them down.

0550- Water is boiling for the French Press at this point.

I have to drink my coffee.

0551- Open up the Calm app

I’ll usually pick a 10ish minute meditation. Meryl will be getting up soon so sometimes this gets interrupted, but we do our best right? I love their Daily Calm meditation, so oftentimes, I’ll just go with that.

0600- Little eyes are open

And the chaos begins.

I’ll tell you, since starting this practice and getting my routine in, I feel ready to attack the day. Ready to handle whatever the kids throw my way. It’s in the small details that I notice a difference. I may pause and think before yelling or not become instantly annoyed if a cup spills or PlayDoh specks are all over the floor. Believe me, its not like I’m sitting there overjoyed about the mess, but having that time to myself in the morning allows me to pour into me a little bit which translates into a happier, more patient mom for my girls.

Embrace the chaos

What do you do to start your day?

A Magical Unicorn Birthday Party

Does anyone else enjoy party planning? I mean the create a Pinterest board, dream big, no budget type planning. Yeah, that’s me. Extravagant, over the top boards that are just gorgeous. I did the same thing for my wedding. Ringing any bells? Mhmm. Thought so.

Well, back in the real world, there’s a thing called reality and she came a calling. I did find so many cool crafts and ideas for activities and snacks for the party, so I figured I would lay them out for you here because in all of my searching, I didn’t find any comprehensive “Unicorn Party” resources.

Let’s dive in.

First, it’s important to note that I basically planned the entire color scheme around my daughter, Margot’s birthday outfit. We got this GORGEOUS tutu dress from Little Mouse Couture and it was just amazing. I’m partial, but she looked so cute! Worth noting, if you’re interested in a tutu from Megan over at LMC, use code SARAH to save!

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My next best friend in this party planning journey was Amazon. Because Prime, obviously, but also because they have everything unicorn!

Let me give you a run down of what I ordered:

Amazon Finds:

Unicorn Party Set- Came with plates, napkins, paper straws, utensils, tablecloth, birthday banner and even a cute unicorn headband!

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Mylar O-N-E balloon– this we just blew up with the straw that came with it and hung it up on the siding!

THE CUTEST UNICORN SHOES- I just couldn’t say no. They were I dunno, super cheap and came with a unicorn headband that had the stretchy band on it. If there’s anything I know, my child is way more apt to keep on a headband with a band than a normal behind the ears job.

PW%d+0qIQIOmok2L3mhGlw_thumb_cb88 COME ON! Can you even??

Pin the Horn on the Unicorn– Who even knew? I definitely thought I was going to have to try to make this myself, but no- because Amazon is awesome. Saving uncrafty moms one birthday party at a time.

We also did a fun rainbow scavenger hunt that I found with printables that you can check out here.

And when the kids arrived, I had a table set up with some Magic Painting pages, bowls with water, and some paint brushes so they could make a fun painting to take home!

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My sweet niece with her SWEET unicorn horn finding skills!

Balloon Arch Kit– I ended up buying a hand balloon pump which I thought was going to make this a breeze to assemble. Ehhhh nope. So we blew up all 100 balloons, my lungs got the best workout ever and I think it looked pretty cute.

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I got a bunch of stuff from Target too, mostly from their unicorn birthday selection, like this You Are Magical banner and the tassels that I put around the high chair.

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Magical Snacks

I’ve got to thank Pinterest for all of these amazing ideas and also the market/Target for having so much on-brand unicorn themed food to begin with!

Unicorn Popcorn:

You need:

  • Colored Chocolate Melts- whatever colors you want to do (we used pink, teal, and purple)
  • Popcorn (we used PopSecret Homestyle)

I’m one of those wing-it types in the kitchen so I melted a few bowls of melting chocolate and coated the popcorn until I was satisfied. Then I spread each of the colored popcorn on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Once it was set and dried, I broke up the big chunks and stored in separate containers until party day! This stayed fresh for several days, so don’t be afraid to prep ahead of time.

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So easy and the colors of melts are endless!

Unicorn Trail Mix:

You need:

  • Chocolate Melts (several colors and then a bag of white as well)
  • Bugles
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Vanilla Chex
  • Marshmallows (I found unicorn ones at Target)
  • Rainbow sprinkles

First up, unicorn horns.

Melt some white chocolate and coat Bugles with it. As they’re drying, sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles and set aside.

Next, take a baking sheet and line it with wax paper. Spread out pretzel sticks on half of the sheet and vanilla Chex on the other half. Drizzle with colored chocolate melts and let dry. Then break apart.

Mix together your unicorn horns, pretzels, Chex and add in some fun marshmallows to complete the trail mix! So easy and let me warn you, if you’re a Bugles fan- DANGEROUS. They’re so, so tasty. Loved by kids and adults alike!

Again, prep ahead of time because this will keep.

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Unicorn Trail Mix!

Fruit Rainbow:

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to prep this morning of the party. Unless you have a magic way to keep fruit looking super fresh, then by all means.

I used:

  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Mango
  • Banana
  • Green Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Purple Grapes

Feel free to add in whatever you’d like, obviously. I would have preferred some pineapple and kiwi in there too, maybe next time.

I ordered one of these OXO Tot Grape Cutters last minute and it totally saved me. 100% recommend.

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If i had more room, I would have added marshmallows as the clouds at the ends!

To round out the snacks, I found unicorn Snack Pack pudding, pink Princess Goldfish, Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish and of course I had to have Unicorn Kisses Polar Seltzer. If you don’t know Polar, you will now!

My amazing MIL & SIL also made rainbow pretzel sticks and I have ZERO pictures of them. But they were delicious! Pretzel rods dipped in melting chocolate rolled in colored sugar. Amazing.

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There were juice boxes and water for the kids. Chill, I know kids generally don’t like seltzer. But Mama does!

Party Favors:

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get sick of the same ol’ party favor routine. So many little trinkets that they play with for 2 seconds, everything is a choking hazard anyway, so I tried to think of something a little different.

My oldest daughter recently started playing with Water Beads, so of course, the baby was interested and honestly, with supervision, they both have a ton of fun if I put them in the water table. I wanted to incorporate them in the favor so I ordered some little bags and scooped out a tablespoon of dry water beads, made a little tag that said “Rainbow Seeds” and there ya go. Add water and watch ’em grow.

I attached the bag of beads to a bubble wand with some tulle, added a tattoo and lollipop and there ya have it. Cost efficient, unique and super easy.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_cb17.jpg Water Beads- the gift that keeps on growing! HA!

The Cake:

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cake and cupcakes we had made for Margot’s birthday extravaganza. Our dear friends from The Queen’s Cups in Worcester, MA made this amazing smash cake and cupcakes. They were so easy to work with and brought to life everything I asked for. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you stop by and pay them a visit!!

We had such a fun day and I’m sure this little cherub will remember every moment and look back on it fondly. Right?? Right?? At least there are pictures she can use in a future TBT post- if those are even a thing by that point.

I hope you enjoyed the Magical Unicorn Party rundown and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

*Amazon links above are affiliate links. Thank you so much!

 

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Magic Kingdom- The Crown Package

Full Disclosure: I totally thought this experience wasn’t going to happen. When I finally pulled the trigger mentally and decided we were going to book an appointment, they had none! This is one of those things, like certain WDW dining locations, I would encourage you to book 180 days in advance. Even if you’re on the fence! You can always cancel it prior to your trip, but it’s worth it to have it booked so you don’t end up doing what I was doing. Which was calling, on the TELEPHONE, every day to see if there was a cancellation.

Mhmm. Is this 1995? Is this the dentist? Am I seriously calling to book an appointment? It felt like pulling teeth being on hold, believe me. However, and this is MAJOR- shortly before our trip, Disney World switched over to an online booking system for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Hallelujah!

And it just so happens that when it opened up, I managed to snag an early morning appointment (I’m talking 8am, before the park opened) which is what I was hoping for, on the exact day I wanted to scheduled it. Thank you, sweet baby Mickey.

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Crazy mane brushed and ready for her princess transformation!

 

Now, to set the scene.

There are currently 3 Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique locations open.

  • Magic Kingdom, inside the castle.
  • Disney Springs
  • *new* Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

At the time that we went, the location at the Grand hadn’t yet opened. We were staying at Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary, so the short walk over to Magic Kingdom was the ideal spot for us. Plus, I knew Meryl would love the magic of walking into Cinderella Castle to be transformed into a princess. That’s the epitome of Disney magic, right?

Having said that, I think next time (if that happens), I’d want to check out the other locations. Disney Springs is much bigger and the newly opened location at the Grand Floridian has some slightly different package options to choose from and I just love the ambiance at the Grand.

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The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa- doesn’t it just look so fancy?

Anyways, like I said, we had an appointment before the park opened. Magic Kingdom was opening at 9 that morning and they do open up Main Street early so that you can shop and grab Starbucks and then find a good spot to either 1) watch the opening show or 2) post up at the hub exit closest to the ride you want to jet to when the park opens. Needless to say, there was a fairly large crowd amassed when we got there at 7:30am. A good portion of them had paid for the Early Morning Magic at Magic Kingdom, (a paid ticketed event) which gives you early park access where you can ride lines with little to no wait and it includes breakfast as well.

As we approached the castle, we were ushered through a roped off area as they checked for our reservation and then we were directed to the pathway to the right of Cinderella Castle. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel special. Every Cast Member greeted Princess Meryl along the way and she was all smiles as we entered the castle!

Shocking…we were early because we’re just always early and Meryl was the FIRST princess inside for the day. Not 1, but 2 Fairy Godmothers-in training came over and whisked Meryl off to the dressing room so she could put on her Tiana dress that we brought with us. Dresses are also available for purchase inside BBB and the higher tier packages include your choice of one of these dresses, and they are different designs than what’s available in the general merchandise around the park. To be honest, there’s very little difference and my kid doesn’t really care as long as she’s wearing a dress so that part wasn’t a big deal to us.

To note: there are no discounts taken at BBB, so you’re in for the full price ticket. Whereas, we were able to get her Tiana dress at a regular gift shop for 20% off because of our Annual Passholder discount. You can also bring a dress from home or no dress at all! Totally up to you!

 

 

 

So you’re probably wondering…why 2 Fairy Godmothers-in-training? Besides the fact that my kids a handful? Kidding- kinda. One of them was actually a new Fairy Godmother-in-Training. This actually was great because Meryl was kind of nervous being the first one in and it being a new experience, so having extra doting from the ladies really helped.

We chose the Crown Package, which is the cheapest package offered.  The price is $74.95 plus tax (price increase- we paid $64.95) and includes:

  • Hairstyling
  • Shimmering makeup and face gem
  • Princess sash and cinch sack
  • Nail polish

More than enough, if I’m being honest. The other packages are more money, obviously and the difference is a t-shirt, tutu, and the biggest package includes a dress. To me and my budget, I think the money is better spent elsewhere during your trip. Your princess – or prince! will be plenty satisfied with the Crown Package.

As much as I can be a controlling mother (we’ll say guiding force), I swallowed my pride and let Meryl run the show without me saying a word. Even when she picked the pink hair piece as part of her hairstyle instead of the classic princess bun I thought she was going with. Hot pink hair. You better believe it. And she couldn’t have been happier.

All I know is I wish I had a Fairy Godmother who came to my house every morning and brushed Meryl’s hair because when we’re home, it’s a screaming match, tears are shed more often than not, but there? All smiles. Perfect angel. *Insert eye roll*

 

The transformation was fantastic, but what was even better (in the eyes of my 3-year-old), was the bag of tricks she got to take home! Each guest gets a BBB branded cinch sack backpack and it’s filled with shampoo, the nail polish they used, face jewels, the makeup palette, a comb, and lots of stickers. Meryl also had a tiara wrapped up in her bag because she chose to wear the tiara that we had brought with us instead of the one that comes with the package.

 

 

 

Sprinkled with pixie dust and a BBB sash in place, we were ready to go take some pictures. An added plus, which I wasn’t aware of, is that a PhotoPass photographer is circling the salon and taking pictures of the whole process. At the end of your appointment, they give you a card so that you can link it to your My Disney Experience account and download the pictures. I didn’t have a great angle from where I was sitting in the salon, so these pictures were a really nice bonus!

After we snapped a few pictures outside of the castle, we headed into the PhotoPass studio they have set up for the princes and princesses!

There was no line- the park hadn’t even opened yet and the photographer was wonderful. He took so many pictures and really took his time, which I appreciated.

After pictures were done, we wandered around an empty Fantasyland. None of the rides were open to us yet, but I always think it’s awesome to be able to walk around an empty Magic Kingdom. It just never happens!

 

 

 

I’m so glad we were able to get an early appointment because Meryl enjoyed being all dolled up for the whole day. Everywhere we went, Cast Members went over and above to tell her how beautiful she looked and she was smiling ear to ear the entire time. She’s also a crazy sleeper so I’m glad we got a full day out of the hairstyle before the rat’s nest that we woke up to the next day.  Because OF COURSE she HAD to sleep in her pink hair extensions and bun. (There are some fights that just aren’t worth it)

 

 

 

Would I do it again?

Definitely. Honestly, it’s an experience she talks about all the time. She still carries that BBB bag around and it makes her so happy. I would much rather spend the money on an experience versus a toy that ends up being the flavor of the week. And she’s beginning to understand that now. She knows that toys are something that still exist when we are home, but being able to go into the castle and see a Fairy Godmother-in-training aren’t. This will be one of my favorite Disney memories ever!

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Pure unadulterated joy! That’s Disney magic!

 

Nest Diapers- A Plant-Based Eco-Friendly Option

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found throughout my four year stint in motherhood that we are constantly bombarded with options. Options on EVERYTHING. Diapers, food, clothes, creams, you name it- there’s at least a handful of options. I’ve solidified my role in the world as a crazy researcher. I am that person who is scouring the internet for reviews and opinions and information. Something that I’ve become more aware of is the types of products I bring into my home, particularly for my children. About a year and a half ago, I switched the soaps, laundry and cleaning supplies we were using to the Thieves line from Young Living and I haven’t looked back! Switching to chemical-free, eco-friendly options are just going to become the norm across many of these industries. Enter stage right- Nest Diapers.

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When it comes to diapers, luckily, we’re back to just one little bum in diapers, but I’ve had some issues. We’re talking prone to diaper rash, and I mean BAD diaper rash, need that 40% zinc oxide type rash. What I found was, I needed diapers made for sensitive skin. I cycled through most of them. Shockingly, I thought Honest Company would be the ticket (and they’re so cute!) but they actually made her diaper rash worse.

When I came across Nest Diapers, I was instantly intrigued. Plant-based diapers? Compostable? No chemicals? Hypoallergenic? Sign. Me. Up.

Things you should know:

What makes these diapers different than the rest?

-They’re designed to degrade and they are made from 80% plant-based materials. Check out this list. It makes me feel so much better to know what I’m putting directly on my daughter’s skin.Nest_Ingredients_Chart.jpg

What do you mean compostable?

-Well you can’t put them in your compost pile. It is human waste in there, after all. But Nest Diapers has partnered with a bunch of providers. Many of which will pick them up from you!

Where do I get them?

Check out the link here! And get ready for this…Free Shipping- ALWAYS! I swear, as a mom, free shipping is life! You can order a bag or a case and a subscription service is going to be rolling out soon. Half of my life is on subscriptions so YES, PLEASE.

I’m so excited to partner with Nest Diapers and be able to provide Margot with these awesome diapers. I’ll be honest, I was so surprised at how soft and absorbent they are. Some of the other ecofriendly brands I’ve tried have seemed stiff and bulky and with Margot’s thunder thighs, we really don’t need to add any more bulk. Pants are a struggle as is! These are soft and seem very comfortable. They withstood the overnight test and they keep her skin dry. I’ve found with other diapers that even though they’re absorbent, there is some residual moisture on the skin and with her sensitive skin, that’s a no-go. For us, Nest Diapers have proven to fit the bill!

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See what I mean about thunder thighs?

Make sure you check them out on their website and follow them on Instagram @nestdiapers!

 And if you made it this far- as a thank you, use code MM20 to save 20% off your first order!

 

Once a Nurse…

I’ve thought about writing this post probably once a day for the past six months. But, I haven’t been able to bring myself to put pen to paper, in a manner of speaking.

8 years. I’ve been a registered nurse for 8 years. Taking care of some of the sickest, most critical patients in the hospital for the majority of my career. Rewarding? Yes. Exhausting? Totally. It takes a certain, dare I even say special kind of person to be a nurse. If you or someone close to you has ever been a patient in the hospital, you might have picked up on this. Nurses are the lifeblood that keep the system running smoothly.

Contraband coffee at the desk! Don’t tell!

So why am I writing about this? Well, you see, I haven’t donned a pair of scrubs since August of last year. My second maternity leave started August 23rd and at that point, I had every intention of going back. Or at least I thought I did. But I haven’t.

Caring for people has always come second nature to me. I was always the person people would ask random medical questions to…long before nursing was my chosen path. Back in the day, I thought I was going to be a doctor. We’ll just say that going into nursing was a blessing in that regard (after seeing how a hospital really functions and what a doctor’s residency really looks like). So naturally, motherhood and caring for a child would be a piece of cake, right?

Right?

Ummm…

No. Not for me, anyways. Becoming a mom was the single hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Nothing prepared me for it. Nothing could have prepared me for it. Colic. Screaming. Incessant screaming. More emotions than I’d ever experienced in my 28 years before it. No sleep. And I mean none. I mean being so tired that there were times I was afraid I’d fall asleep holding the baby. My husband and I felt like we had been bashed in the face repeatedly with a baseball bat. How did anyone enjoy this? How could something we created, this genetic jumble of the two of us, be so completely difficult and foreign in every sense of the word?

Ugh. So tired. Still screaming. If there weren’t pictures, I would have blacked out the first 5 months.

It got better. Eventually. But not before I went back to work. No. It was still really hard at that point and looking back I have no idea how I was doing 12 hour shifts back to back and basically being awake for the 10ish hours I was home in between. No freaking clue. Ah nursing, so flexible…you can make it work for you. It’s true. So I dropped my hours. And for the next 2 years, it was good. It worked for us.

Then, we tempted fate again and miraculously (and that’s a different story) but miraculously, I was pregnant again. Another girl. Lord help us all.

And I changed my hours again…per diem. Even more flexibility. So now you’re all going, but you were per diem. You could work when you wanted to, as much or as little as you wanted to- why give that up?

I’ve had some time to think about it. The baby, my last baby, will turn one in a couple of weeks, so I’ve had about a year to think about it. And I think I have some answers.

A different kind of chaos

Let me preface this by saying that I am so completely grateful and lucky that I have the choice in this matter. That I can choose to be home. That isn’t something that’s financially possible for many people.

First, logistically/financially, if I was working, most/all of that money would be paying someone else to take care of my children. Some moms need that. Need their career. Need that time to be their own separate entity outside of being a mom. And I respect that totally and are there days I also want that? Yeah. Mhmm. That sounds heavenly sometimes.

For me, the days are, at best, totally chaotic and at worse, a complete disaster, but there’s always a part of me that wants to be the one dealing with it, the one in the thick of it with them. I sometimes wonder if my career was outside of nursing, if I would feel differently. No matter whether I’m at work or at home, I’m always taking care of someone. It’s different in some ways obviously. Hopefully there’s no cdiff or gowning up to enter a precaution room and far less medicating, blood draws and documentation. But, there’s drama and tears and poop and vomit and someone on their call light for snacks and drinks. The similarities are uncanny.

People say, don’t you miss it? And I know it’s rude to say no. Are there aspects of it that I miss? Yes. Of course. The critical thinking, the catching a problem before it becomes a bigger problem. The camaraderie- the friends I’ve made through work are lifelong true friends. The relationships you develop with families and patients. Being the light in the darkness, helping them navigate the murky waters of the hospital.

But, do I miss pouring my heart and soul into 12 hours with a patient and family and coming home totally depleted and then scraping the bottom of the barrel to try to be the mom my kids deserve the next day? No. I don’t miss that. I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel some days even without being there! Nursing is HARD. Critical Care is HARD. End of life…is HARD. Having daily discussions with people about dying and death and then mourning alongside family member takes its toll.

I’ll always be thankful of the time Meryl had with her great grandparents. They were really the best.

I’ve had time to ruminate on things and I’ve come to a couple conclusions. Looking back, especially thinking about this time last year, is really eye opening to me. For about 4 or 5 years, I’d taken a more hands-on approach in helping my mom take care of my grandparents. They were in assisted-living and at first, doing quite well. But, then things began to change, as it typically does when you reach your late 80s- if you’re lucky enough to make it to that point.

Hospitalizations became more frequent for my grandmother and eventually end of life discussions started coming up. As a nurse, you start to develop some extrasensory perception when it comes to death and dying. You can see what’s coming down the plate before anyone else. And, as difficult as it is to have these discussions with your patients and their families, it’s even harder to look into your mother and grandmother’s eyes and tell them what’s happening.

But, that’s what I signed up for when I became a nurse, right? And I’d never take it back. Being able to be the translator between the doctors and my family is something I would do and will continue to do. Years of these discussions has taught me not to sugar coat things. Sometimes, as painful as it is, it’s so much better to be a straight shooter and tell it like it is. At least I can say I’d prefer it that way.

After my Babci passed, that left a hole. A hole that I filled with taking care of my grandfather. I approached it as if I was at work, this was my assignment. There are times when you lose a patient. That doesn’t mean that your other patients don’t still need you. You have to keep going. Despite the emotional pull and need to process things, you often don’t have the time, so you compartmentalize and move on, quickly.

 

For me, I didn’t want to process it. I just saw my next task and that was making sure he was okay. Which, for the most part, he was for a good while. But, as I’m sure you can see the writing on the wall here, that changed. And what I will say is that I will always carry guilt for how the end went down with my Gramp.

As a nurse, one of the core principles driven home is that we are patient advocates. We are the voice for those who cannot speak. We keep their needs in the forefront of the conversation. And that’s what I tried my best to do for my grandfather, but the healthcare system let me down. Man…insurance? What a joke. I’m horrified that semantics and a lack of common sense and caring, frankly by numerous healthcare providers, made what should have been a peaceful ending a complete shitshow. Excuse my French, but there are no other words. That’s what it was.

I find peace in knowing he finally did pass on his own terms, but the entire experience soured me. Big time. What good is it if I can’t even take care of the ones I love and be their advocate, be their voice when they need to be heard? What a horrible feeling to be helpless when this is supposed to be my turf, my expertise.

I think closing the chapter last summer with his death and then having a baby the next month flipped a switch in my brain. It made me realize that this is such a unique time in my life. Never again will the girls be little. Never again will they need me, physically, as much as they do now.

And as hard and long as the days can be, and many of them are- this time in my life is transient. It is a season and like seasons do, they pass and change. And there will come a point where I will reassess the situation.

For now, I’m here with them. On the good days and the bad days. I’m answering their call lights for crackers and juice. I’m changing soiled diapers. I’m tending to rashes and bumps and bruises. I’m monitoring vital signs, treating fevers. I’m staying cool, calm and mostly collected when someone falls or gets slammed in the face with a swing, constantly assessing the situation. If it’s not gushing blood and I can’t see bone, we’re usually okay. As they say, once a nurse, always a nurse.

Portrait of a Stay at Home Nurse Mom

In this season, I’m trying on the title Stay at Home Nurse Mom. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Best Fast Passes to Make at Magic Kingdom

You have your reservation, you have your park tickets and you’ve hit that 60 day mark until your trip, which means you’re ready to make Fast Passes! Stressful, right? It doesn’t have to be!

Before you do anything, make sure you have My Disney Experience downloaded to your phone and have your reservation and tickets linked. This will all be very difficult- read, impossible- if you’re trying to do it without linking tickets first. You can also make fast passes on the My Disney Experience website.

Cinderella Castle
Such a beautiful view

We like to map out our park days based off of 1) if we have any dining reservations and 2) looking at a crowd calendar. Now, to be honest, in recent trips, I’ve found that it’s pretty much just always busy. We generally try to avoid Magic Kingdom on Mondays, but other than that, everything is fair game.

Making Fast Passes (FP+) at Magic Kingdom should be easier than the other parks because there aren’t any tiers to choose different attractions from…yet. I’m sure that will change when new rides open- I’m looking at you, Tron.

So, pick 3 and you’re good to go! But what should you pick?

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I can almost smell Pumpkin Spice…can you?

Most Difficult Attractions To Book

  • Seven Dwarves Mine Train– If you have kids 38″ tall or your party has people who are roller coaster lovers, make this your priority. Yes, you can always plan to be at the park for rope drop and get in line early, but if you want to maximize the amount of things you’re going to ride and minimize your line time, try to grab this FP+ first and then plan the rest of your day around the time slot that’s available.
If you’re too short to ride, they’ll give you this pass to come back and hop in the FP+ line when you’re tall enough. They even sign it for you, which makes a nice souvenir!
  • Peter Pan’s Flight- I’m in the minority here, I just, well, I’ll say it’s not my favorite ride and I don’t quite see why I would waste a precious FP+ here, but here we are. This ride is notorious for having a very long wait, so if you want to ride it, book it. Maybe you aren’t underwhelmed like me and you love the history and magic of the ancient animatronics as you fly over Neverland.
  • Splash/Big Thunder/Space Mountain-If you have older, taller kids, or people who want to ride these in your party, use a FP+ for the mountains. Space Mountain is probably the first choice here, tends to have longer lines. Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain you can head to first thing in the day and you’ll ride with a minimal wait. However, if you want to beat the heat and get that refreshing soaking from an afternoon ride on Splash Mountain- make a FP+.
One of them zip a dee do dah days

Best FP+ When Traveling with Little Ones

  • Character Meet & Greets- Disclaimer: This advice can also be taken if you’re an adult and want to meet a character. No judgment here! Generally, the character FP+ fill up quick, so if you have an avid Ariel/Tiana/Cinderella/Rapunzel/Minnie/Mickey/Tinker Bell fan, then use a FP+ here.
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle- If you’re at all interested in this attraction, make a FP+. We’ve only done it once in all of our trips because, there seems to always be a significant wait time and there’s never an available FP+. At least we never get lucky enough to find one. Honestly, it was a very cool attraction/show from start to finish and the kids get to be involved and get individual pictures with Belle, so if you’re a Beauty and the Beast fan, this one is for you.
FP+ photographer in the attraction to catch those special moments during Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin- Even if the technology is slightly dated, this is still a very, very cool ride and one that tends to always have a significant wait time. I’d say don’t bother if your kids are 2.5 or younger. It would be difficult for them to actually use the laser cannons. However, if they are older than that or Toy Story fans and content with just sitting and watching then they’re going to think this ride is awesome and you don’t want to be waiting in line out in the heat!

Rides We Always End Up Finding a FP+ For

If your kids are anything like mine, which I’m willing to bet they are, they are little dictators. So even if I think I’m doing a nice thing by making a FP+ to meet Ariel for the 10th time, she all of a sudden wants to ride Journey of the Little Mermaid not meet the Little Mermaid. Thank goodness, this is usually an easy switch.

I can’t wait until both of them have opinions! Heaven, help us!

Generally, these are attractions that we will make FP+ for after we have already used our 3 for the day. If you didn’t know, in the My Disney Experience app, or at the FP+ kiosks around the park, once you scan into your 3rd FP+ for the day, you can then make another FP+ from what’s available. Usually, we can find at least one of the attractions below available, which is why we don’t usually make them our initial 3 fast passes.

My girls are 3.5 and almost 1, so our MUST RIDE attractions are as follows:

  • Dumbo The Flying Elephant– Always a good time, and there’s even a little play area while you wait, it’s not a trip to the Magic Kingdom without visiting Dumbo.
  • Journey of the Little Mermaid- I mean, this is actually one that I always want to ride too. Nothing like getting in the AC while waiting in line for your clamshell, and also, Little Mermaid is my JAM. What’s up, 1989?
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin- As short as Dumbo, but can you beat any ride that’s going to give you an aerial view of the castle and the chance to get spit on by a camel?
Riding the magic carpets always makes me want a Dole Whip!
  • Pirates of the Caribbean- Now, we’re at a tricky point where depending on the day, Meryl is either all in on Pirates, or she’s terrified and the tears aren’t even worth it. But, this is one of my favorites, so I always enjoy the ride when we can get it.
  • Haunted Mansion- UGH. SO GOOD. Again, this is a Pirates situation for us. SO if we find ourselves with babysitters or find an agreeable toddler dictator, this is a must-ride.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh- Heffalumps and Woozles? Sign. Me. Up. The stuff of childhood nightmares, right? But it’s such a cute ride!! And the classic music? You can’t beat it. Babies love this ride, that’s for sure.
  • “it’s a small world”-  UNPOPULAR OPINION I’m sure, but I actually like Small World. You’re laughing, right? You hate Peter Pan, but like Small World? Are you nuts? Yeah, maybe, but there’s just something about it!

And that’s my take on fast passes at the Magic Kingdom. Now there are so many other things to do that don’t involve FP+ where you just have to plan your day a little like meet and greets, parades, fireworks, and shows. Magic Kingdom is definitely my top pick park when you have small kids. They are going to love everything. And MK has some of my absolute favorite snacks and shopping too. Does anything really beat walking down Main Street, U.S.A., listening to Married Life, Starbucks in hand, with a view of Cinderella Castle? No. Nothing can beat that.

Nothing beats Main Street, U.S.A.

 

Closing the Book on Exclusively Pumping

22 months cumulatively between the two of them.

Almost 2 years of my life.

Hooked up to that infernal machine 3 or 4 times a day. Listening to that incessant sound that has become so deeply ingrained in my brain, I think I will know it intimately for the rest of my life. Constantly needing to make sure I pack everything I need. Keep another device charged. Planning my days around it.

Pumping. Exclusively. Feeding my girls through that awful, wonderful invention. The breast pump.

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Freemie? Should be Frenemy 👿

I’m weaning off pumping for my second baby as we approach the 11 month mark. Saying goodbye to pumping forever as our family is now complete. I think knowing that this was the last time is what kept me going to just finish it out, just get to the whole milk switch and say goodbye to it all.

I tried breastfeeding. With both. The first time around, Meryl just wouldn’t latch, I mean- she would, but I’d be in near tears and she would be wailing because 1.) that’s all she ever did and 2.) she was starving at that point. Her colic and my complete ineptitude as a first-time mother didn’t help. We could never get into a rhythm. I think back about being nearly naked, sitting in the glider in her room, in the middle of the night, Jon by my side trying to help, but feeling utterly useless while we tried to feed this alien that had invaded our home. This alien that we hoped and prayed for, that we went through infertility treatment to conceive. We should be thankful, we should be loving these moments with her, right? Breastfeeding should bond us and I should spend that time loving that newborn smell and those quiet moments between the two of us should make me love being a mother, right?

I laugh thinking about it now. I was so tapped. The hormones were just raging and I just had no idea what I was doing or where to turn. My mother bottle fed us all. The push to breastfeed back in the 80s just wasn’t what it is today. So it wasn’t like I could go to her and ask questions, she just didn’t have that experience to look back on to give me advice. Though Lord knows she listened to every single complaint and wiped every tear and hugged me through every meltdown, so I’d say she more than made up for her lack of knowledge about breastfeeding. And throughout my entire experience with all of it, I never once came in contact with a lactation consultant that I meshed with. Nope. Not even a little bit.

Just a little story so you understand where I’m coming from here:

After Meryl, I went back to work at the hospital, as a nurse. I was working 12 hour shifts so I kind of trained my body for pumping. I’d pump right before I left the house, once at work (because heaven forbid you find time to pump more than once in a 12 hour shift, or not feel completely guilty for being off the floor for an extended period of time and having other people watch your patients) and then I’d pump as soon as I got home before bed.

Some nurses I worked with would pump on the floor, in a conference room. If that were me, 9 times out of 10 someone would have knocked on the door or just busted in and got themselves an eyeful so I went a different route. I used my pump time to have my lunch, so I would go down to Maternity and pump in the room they have for employees to use. It had a computer so I could get some documentation done, lock the door behind me and not worry about someone interrupting to tell me that a family member needed to talk to me or I had a phone call. It was good to just get away.

Well- you know who else has offices right by the pumping room? The lactation consultants. Are you sensing the dead in the eyes smile permeating my words? Yeah. Awesome. Let’s just say, I had one of them insert themselves into my pumping session (she caught me as I was going in the room) because she was going to “make sure I was pumping effectively” and “wanted to help me maximize my session” and she proceeded to basically milk me like a cow while she told me I really should try to get back into breastfeeding because it’s better for the baby. I CANNOT EVEN. I’m at work, exhausted because, it’s work and I’m on my second of back to back 12s, my 4 month old is still screaming ALL NIGHT LONG, I’m on the brink of tears constantly anyways, wracked with guilt because I couldn’t breastfeed in the first place and this awkward AF woman is milking me when I just want to eat my half cold leftovers and listen to the terrible pumping sound in silence while I check Instagram on the shoddy WiFi. OKAY?

So yeah, Sarah and the lactation ladies? We don’t mesh. Can’t do it.

Now that you understand my plight with LCs, while I was on the hard-core struggle bus with breastfeeding at the beginning, I started pumping and giving Meryl a bottle. I was producing more than enough thankfully, so why not? And thus, the exclusive pumper was born.

Exclusive pumping is a weird thing. I’m not really sure how popular it is because there’s really not a ton of information out there. I’ve gotta think it’s becoming more prevalent because we, as a country, do such an abysmal job of supporting the new mother that how in the world could breastfeeding continue with the lack of a sufficient, if any maternity leave policy that’s in place. I digress. That’s a completely different post for another day.

The second time around, I really gave a better effort at breastfeeding before calling it. I was determined this time around being a seasoned vet. Despite the professionals best efforts at telling me she had a tongue tie and I’d have to get it lasered etc, etc- she was latching. She was gaining weight- and as anyone who has seen her knows…gaining weight has never been an issue for her. However, I just couldn’t get comfortable with it. I wasn’t going to be the person that can just breastfeed anywhere, whip it out and get it done…not me. I wish. Power to those ladies. You are rockstars.

I think the tipping point for me was a cold, rainy October day last fall. We were at Gillette Stadium to visit the Patriots Hall of Fame. (#LFG) Margot needed to eat and they had NO WHERE for me to feed her. A kind man told me I could go feed her in the bathroom. Isn’t that lovely? Feed my child with toilet water swishing around for white noise. Fecal coliform on every surface. Just picturesque. Zoom in on me squeezed in the backseat of my car between 2 car seats feeding a screaming child as more and more people are walking by the car, staring through the windshield. I was done after that, back to good ol’ reliable, my pump.

Anyways, back to the exclusive pumping information dearth. It’s just not something that has garnered much research. You see articles left and right about the benefits of breastfeeding and you click on it and feel good because your baby is getting breast milk so you’re doing the dang thing, but then they specifically say “though little research has been done as to whether this also applies to babies who have received pumped milk.” REALLY? Really. I’m over here attaching a vacuum to my boobs- yeah, it’s that comfortable, and you’re going to tell me you don’t even know if it’s beneficial? Talk about hitting a girl when she’s down.

You go to your pediatrician appointments and the visit always begins with “Is she breast or bottle-fed?”

“Well, she’s bottle-fed, with breastmilk.”

You just don’t fit into a category. I mean, my pedi basically just wants to make sure you’re not filling bottles with soda, but it still irks me.

I’m sure some of you are reading this and saying, “If you hate it so much, why didn’t you just switch to formula? No one is making you pump.” And you’re absolutely right and have a valid point. I think the first time around, I was just stubborn. I wanted to do this for my child, I wanted to provide for her.  I felt guilty that I couldn’t figure out breastfeeding. And also, I’m cheap. Breastmilk is free, formula is not…so I sucked it up. This time around? God, I’ve thought about quitting so many times. It’s just not a convenient thing to do with two of them pulling for my attention constantly. However, my pump this time makes it easier since it’s portable. The Freemie Independence (insurance version of the Liberty) has been, for all intents and purposes, great for what it is. I still hate it. Just the way I freaking hated that Medela the first time around, but it has been more effective and allowed me to travel and pump in the car, airport, airplane, Disney World and in public, which I never could the first time around. Do I look a little Dolly Parton-ish while I’m doing it? Sure do. But, as my Babci used to always say, “A dumb person won’t know and a smart person won’t say anything.” And for the most part, that’s true. The only people who have ever said anything about it when I’m out in public are other moms who want to know what kind of pump it is! Solidarity, man. Only another mom would notice and know what was actually going on under my shirt!

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What I look like when I remember I have to pump…again.

But, as I sit back and think about the fact that we’re fast approaching another first birthday party, I’m in awe. Excuse my french, but eff yeah! I did it. I freaking made it. Will it mean that my kids will be much better humans in the long run? No. Will they have a higher GPA than the formula-fed kid next to them? Definitely no. (Um, hello. I’m a formula fed kid so what leg do I have to stand on here? Haaaa!) Did I save money that I likely just reinvested into Target anyways? Muahaha, yes.  Did I continue to sacrifice my body for another 11 months after slogging through each of their pregnancies? Mhmm. Ugh. Will I hold that over their head for eternity? You bet I’ll keep it in my back pocket for a rainy day.

Now (and when I say now, I mean in several weeks, when I’m finally dried up and deflated), I can go get a sledgehammer and take care of my pump, burn every milk-stained bra and item of clothing I can find and maybe feel like my body belongs to me again for the first time in a long time. For any men (not my husband, who I expect to read this and praise me) who have actually read up to this point, good for you. You’re certainly not my target audience, but I have to guess you probably share a house with someone who might be feeling or has gone through some of the same things. All of my other moms out there, especially that special subset who has lived in the exclusive pumping hell, this is just a reminder that you are amazing and one day, we will all find ourselves again and thank you for reading my crazy thoughts! In the meantime, we can continue to try to ride the waves that life and our kids throw at us!

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The things we do for these faces, right?