Sunday, September 6, 2015

First day of school

Kindergarten and Fourth grade! 2 Girl Scouts, 2 dance students. A fashionista and an artist. A future doctor and a future zoologist.
As I continuously pray for them to grow into beautiful women, I also pray God will show me how to be the mother they need. They are so alike and so different. I am also praying the Lord puts godly women into their lives. I miss the women we had in our life in Billings and look for women like that here.

I pray for their dad, to be the dad they need and the example of a man to look for when they grow up. That our marriage can be one they want for themselves.

Kindergarten according to Jessie: at free choice is when we play with the toys. And I like making Legos with my friend Dixon. He knows the Lego Movie. At school at my table we moved spots. Some of my friends go to a different color table. I stayed at the green table in a different spot. I don't know who's at my table. With the swing, people push you. Some kids call them baby swings. 

Both girls had a couple of great weeks to kick off the school year. I look forward to a blessed year with them!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Another Stitch Fix

I am LOVING Stitch Fix. No shopping. No deciding. Okay, well there is some deciding. But it's limited.

In my last box, I only kept one item due to the other selections not fitting (and in my awesome laundry skills, shrunk it after our Disney trip! Added more wash & wear items to my next request). This time I kept 3:

Madame Knit Tank (Papermoon). Very comfy, flowy. I can see myself wearing this top all year round as it looks great under a denim jacket. I've worn it a couple of times with a black maxi skirt, but it would also be great with jeans or black slacks. This top was $38.

Bernadette Lace Overlay Raglan Top (Market & Spruce). Soft jersey t-shirt, almost a baseball style. The lace makes it feminine without being too much. The sleeves are heather gray and the lace is off-white. This is another year-round top. I wore it to work with a pencil black skirt, but I think it would be great for a casual night out too. This top was $58, which is more than I usually spend on a single item, but I think I'll get my money's worth from it.

Garland Geo Print Maxi Skirt (Papermoon). Super soft fabric. My stylist recommended I wear it with the top I kept from my last box (which alas I shrunk), so I paired it with a simple black t. This is from their petite collection -- the one I got in my last box was WAY too big. This one fit great -- it works with my dressy sandals and my Tevas. The skirt was $58, which again is more than I usually spend, but let's face it, I WAS doing most of my clothing shopping at Wal-Mart & Target.

I also got some straight leg jeans and a small gold necklace. I liked the jeans, but they just didn't fit me right -- too loose in the waist and too tight in my legs. I am still hopeful they will be able to find jeans that will fit properly and as my next fix is scheduled for October, that's the perfect time to get a great pair of jeans. The necklace was okay. It didn't stand out as a *must have* so I sent it back.

As I stated before, this is a great service for me because I really don't like shopping. So when I go, I tend to go for the basics. This is helping find things I wouldn't normally select, or let's face it, FIND in small town SD.

This is not a sponsored post. I pay for all items on my own. However, this post does provide referral links for new sign ups which gives me a little credit to go towards my next box.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Disney Lessons #DaileyDisneyAdventure

We've been home for almost a month. Pictures are downloaded (working on what to print & a photo book). Starting to think about what vacation to take next, though it won't be even half as big as this one was. I learned a lot planning this trip, some lessons that are definitely transferable!

1. Plan, plan, plan. Then plan a little more. Disney World is HUGE. You cannot see it all so plan what you MUST see and/or do so you can be sure those get done. And plan those for times when everyone is fresh & fed & happy! Be sure to make those reservations as soon as possible. The week of our trip, Fast Passes for Dwarfs Mine Train, Toy Story Midway Mania and to meet Anna & Elsa were non-existent!

1.a. Use the MyDisneyExperience App. You can see & make/change/cancel reservations from this app. You can see & make/change your FastPasses. You can get directions to your next ride/event. You can find out how long the wait is at every attraction (and if no wait time is listed, the attraction is not running). You can see what or who (character meets!) is near by. I also had a print out of the Excel sheet schedule I had made, which was good for looking at the next day, but day off the MyDisneyExperince app was my bible -- especially by our last day when I really understood it. The map piece with GPS - I really wish I had understood this one long before the 2nd to last day. I also carried a paper map which was good for all of us to look at together to figure out our next stop.

2. Don't be afraid to veer from your schedule. Life happens, you get hungry at odd times or someone gets crabby & just needs out of the heat/sun. Will you miss something? Yes. But again, you can't do everything anyway. As long as it wasn't one of your MUST dos, be okay with it. We never did stay at any park for fireworks. We were all tired & done long before. (Of course we could see fireworks from our hotel so we didn't really miss them). Honestly, I wish we had taken more mid-day breaks, but at the time, it always felt like the hotel was just so far away and by the time we got back to the hotel, we were DONE and didn't want to leave.

3. Eat breakfast every day. Even if you don't normally. I can pin point 2 days that would have gone much smoother if we had gotten up 30 minutes earlier and eaten a hot breakfast. The protein bars just weren't enough.

3.a. Plan all your meals in advance. The days I thought it would be okay to "play it by ear" ended up being our most challenging days. Make reservations at any sit down restaurant you think you might want to try. If you need to make changes, you can always cancel the reservation on your app [just be aware that some restaurants require some advance notice, but you can check that on the app as well].

4. Bring water & snacks in with you. I carried in 4 bottles of water & granola bars & fruit snacks. We still got in park snacks but it was nice to not spend $3 for water or have something to hold us over until we found a place to grab a snack. Maggie & I loved the Mickey ice cream bars & Jessie loved the strawberry bars. And any quick service restaurant or vendor with ice will give you a cup of ice or ice water for free.

4.a. I should have had Rocky or Maggie carry a small bag. I used a small messenger bag I got at the SHRM conference last year and I wouldn't carry anything bigger (it got quite heavy). If one of them had a small string backpack to carry the water it would have made my bag much lighter and would have been nice for all when we split up.

4.b. What else did I carry? Park map, lip balm, first aid stuff (band aids, ibuprofen, Tums, anti-nausea meds), autograph stuff, small bottle of sun block, ponchos (the $0.96 from Walmart kind), a print out of our schedule, park maps, external phone charger. And anything else the girls didn't want to carry. Though we did insist they carry any souvenir they wanted to purchase before the end of the day.

5. It is HOT. Unfortunately I didn't know how much the heat bothered Jessie. We brought some spray bottles but ended up also buying a mister there (the strap does make carrying it easier). Jessie had insisted on packing her umbrella and we should have taken that as a sign & let her take it to the parks. We took a lot of breaks. [Jessie recently said "Disney World is the funnest place in the world. And it is hot. It is the funnest place in the world and the hottest place in the world."]

6. Character autographs. Everything I read said the park autograph books weren't worth the price so I made some for the girls using plastic photo books, scrapbook paper and mini- clipboards. The girls used stickers to decorate the clipboards. I bought a variety pack of Sharpies. We would have been fine with black. These weren't a lot of work and the girls were/are happy with them, but after looking at the books in the park, I didn't really save that much money doing it myself. The photo/autograph books in the park came with pens and were really nice.

7. Money. Disney is expensive. I didn't think the souvenirs were overpriced, but the food, definitely. We decided ahead of time to not worry about money and we had saved and planned accordingly. The girls also had their own spending money (not that we didn't help them out from time to time). We rarely said no [though I did refuse to purchase the $30 "princess hat" and talked Jessie into some different princess accessories]. You could easily drive yourself crazy worrying about how much money you are spending while you are there. Disney makes it easy to purchase whatever you want by putting the ability to charge to your room on your MagicBand. I'm sure you could do Disney on a tight budget -- you are allowed to bring food and small coolers into the park or if you rented a car, you could go off site to eat. Though, taking the expense of parking and car rental into consideration, paying a little extra for food on site was a small price to pay for us.

8. PhotoPass. This is a free service offered by Disney. They have photographers EVERY WHERE. They will snap a couple of pictures and then scan your magic band and within a couple of hours, you can see your photos through the Disney website. You can also give them your camera/phone and they will snap a couple of pictures with your camera or step out of the way for you to take the same shot. If you pay in advance, you can get the MemoryMaker (you can also purchase while you are there, but pay a little more). We did not purchase the MemoryMaker, but you still get to see everything as they upload it all. Rocky was able to add the ride photos from Splash Mountain and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with his magic band. There was also a short video of the mine train ride with video from their ride. The only photo that didn't show up was the one from Maggie's pirate makeover. I'm glad I had thought to have her recreate it while we were in line for the Little Mermaid. You have 30 days to make any purchases from the PhotoPass -- including downloads or actual prints. I downloaded my favorites and will upload to Shutterfly to make photo books and calendars later.

9. Disney's Magical Express. One benefit to staying at a Disney resort was the free transportation, especially to and from the airport! We booked our tickets about 6 weeks out and sent that information to our travel agent who got us all set up. About a week later, we received our confirmation for the Magical Express, which included luggage tags so we could check luggage without having to pick it up at the airport [we still had to pay the airline baggage fee]. When we arrived in Orlando, we followed the signs to Ground Transportation and were able to get right on the bus. Our bus made 2 stops ahead of us, but we were to our hotel about an hour after we landed. A Disney Cast Member came out to greet us and get us checked in so we didn't need to go to the front desk. Our return was just as easy. We were automatically checked in for our flights & the boarding passes were hanging on our door on check out day. We were able to check our luggage and we're done with it until Sioux Falls. We were also able to go through the TSA pre-check line which meant we didn't have to remove our shoes, take anything out of our carry-one or go through the full-body scan machines.

10. Use a Disney Travel Agent. There are a lot of them out there and I know a few [after we booked, discovered a Facebook friend is one!] Our agent did almost everything for us. We talked about our MUST DOs and she got our dinner reservations and Jessie's Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique scheduled once the window opened (180 days in advance). I made the reservation for Maggie's Pirates League makeover and I was left with a great appreciation for what the travel agent does, especially as the Disney Cast Member was trying to get Maggie scheduled for the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique! The Disney travel agents are free for the travelers and are paid by Disney. Really the only thing she couldn't do was set our FastPasses for us.

11. Remember, it is just a vacation and you are there to have fun! When you are crabby, or the kids are crabby, just take a break. Getting a family photo isn't as important as getting your overheated daughter out of the sun [and I am speaking to myself here and am thankful my husband reminded me that I really didn't want a family photo with Jessie screaming "I'm hot."] Don't sacrifice your sanity in an effort to do "everything."

While this isn't a trip you take every year, we are starting to talk about when to go back, which tells me we all had a great time.

Magic Kingdom #DaileyDisneyAdventure

The Magic Kingdom. The park most people think about when they think about Disney World. Cinderella's Castle, Main Street, Mickey Mouse.we had a day and a half here, our last day and a half. And I'm really happy this was the last; like a big finale, the build up, the big pay off. There's something for everyone here.

We began our 2nd to last day with some relaxation. We slept in, had a good breakfast at the hotel, played in the pool. We were the first ones at the pool and had it to ourselves for a while. It was nice to not have any place to be for a while and not be surrounded by a lot of people. We headed to the park for lunch. The girls loved taking the boat to the park [though I don't think we were took it back to the hotel].

We checked out Monster's Laugh Floor, which used the same technology as Turtle Talk with Crush. As we waited in line, we could text jokes in to be used in the show. They picked on people in the audience and each show is different, even different topics. We went twice.

We caught parts of a coupe of parades, but the girls just weren't interested in standing, in the sun. We rode the tea cups, It's a Small World, the Carousel and Stitch's Great Escape -- I'm pretty sure this was the Alien ride when I was last there. There was a short wait, so we decided to try it. I had read some bad reviews, but none mentioned that it was boring. I knew it would get dark and thought that might be enough to scare the girls. But even Jessie thought it was boring. As Maggie put it, nothing happened.

We met Merida, Tinker Bell and Ariel as a mermaid. We kept trying to talk Jessie into Splash Mountain, but she kept saying she didn't want to be splashed. I was able to use the app to get a Fast Pass for Rocky & Maggie after dinner. We ate at Be Our Guest. This was definitely for me! I really really wanted to try the "grey stuff" and it was delicious! We got to meet Beast after the meal. We also discovered that the thunder we assumed was part of the restaurant was actually part of a rain storm. And of course, for some reason I only brought 2 ponchos. So Maggie got one and Jessie & I shared one. We rode Its a Small World hoping the rain would let up before the fast pass time for Splash Mountain. The rain did not so we decided to head back to the hotel and try the ride the next day.

We got an early start on our last day as we had a 9 am appointment for Jessie at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. It was nice to be able to walk down Main Street without all the crowds. We were able to get family pictures with the Castle in the background. Then we split up and Jessie & I headed to the salon while Rocky & Maggie headed to Splash Mountain [and got on the very first car].

Jessie's time at the salon didn't take long and we met up with Rocky & Maggie at the Carousel where we saw the Evil Step Mother & Step Sisters. After, Maggie got her first real roller coaster ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (which she said was awesome) and Jessie wanted to see Its A Small World again. Then it was time for Maggie's pirate make over. We tried to do Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, but ran out of time. Jessie got Rocky to do the Teacups again.

Lunch was at Cinderella's Castle and then we split up again! Maggie decided she didn't want to meet Anna & Elsa so I suggested the Haunted Mansion for them [she wasn't a fan]. They then headed back to the hotel for a break. Jessie & I checked out Mickey's PhilharMagic 3-D show while we waited for our Anna & Elsa FastPass time. Then we headed back to the hotel for a break.

The break was perfect. Time to cool off & sit for awhile. We started with riding the train to tomorrowland. The girls decided they didn't want to meet any more characters, though a glimpse of Woody & Jessie from the train almost changed their minds. We headed to find something to eat and by the time we had eaten, it was raining again. This time I had brought ponchos for everyone! Maggie wanted to try Splash Mountain again, but it wasn't running. Monsters Laugh Floor was having technical difficulties, so we headed for Mickey's PhilharMagic and started looking for other inside attractions. After the 3D show ended, the Laugh Floor was back up so we decided to go there one last time and then do a little shopping on Main Street. Because of the rain, the shops were crazy crowded, but Maggie was able to spend a little more of her money. And Jessie finally got some cotton candy.

They were getting Main Street set up for a parade, but again, the girls weren't interested so we headed back to the hotel. A short bus ride back and we enjoyed hanging around the hotel the rest of the evening. We checked out the gift shop and arcade. Did some packing. Jessie was completely fast asleep by 9. It was a good day.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Character Meetings #DaileyDisneyAdventure

Jessie says this was the best part: getting everyone's autograph. 

Both girls were a little bit shy, but warmed up quickly to the idea of meeting characters.

My absolute favorite character meeting was the one that was completely unexpected: the wicked step sisters. We saw them as we were headed to the Carousel after Jessie's makeover. They were headed to get in line at the same time. Drucilla spotted Jessie and started talking to her. Jessie was shy, but in a very silly mood after the princess photographer so she got on board quickly. Drucilla even got her to agree to be their new maid since Cinderella left! I LOVED that Drucilla got down on Jessie's level, as did Anastasia and the Step Mother, and were completely in character. Even getting onto the carousel -- They were clumsy, loud, annoying, just like you would expect.

And the best part, to Jessie, meeting Elsa & Anna. Still in a very very silly mood. She played a little hide & seek with both and then started "melting" with Elsa. Anna was more playful, but it was exactly as you would expect!

I think the autograph books turned out pretty good (though I'm not sure how much I saved by not just buying them at Disney, especially as we're going to have to get photo albums for the girls as well).

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hollywood Studios #DaileyDisneyAdventure

The only day we really set an alarm. I had set up a Fast Pass for 8 - 9 am at Toy Story Mania so we wanted to be sure to be at the park when it opened. This is one of THE most popular rides at Walt Disney World so I assumed there might be a wait even with the Fast Pass. We got to the bus stop at our hotel around 7 and waited. And waited. And waited. The bus finally showed up at 7:40 [as we had watched 3 busses for Animal Kingdom come & go]. There were a lot of others waiting with us AND a full bus showed up. We were the first on and still stood for the ride. So our day at Hollywood Studios was off to a rough start. And I was once again wishing we had started with a hearty breakfast.

We got to the park a little after opening and headed straight to Toy Story Mania. A short wait & we were in. This ride really lived up to the hype. Playing 3D arcade games hosted by different Toy Story characters while riding around to each different game was a blast. Even Jessie loved it.

We then went in search of breakfast and a place to sit and decide what to do next. We had quite a few options of what we wanted to do. We saw the MuppetVision 3D and Star Tours [ended up doing both of those twice]. The Muppets' show was the same show I saw back in the 90s (hello, Disney, definitely time for an update!), but the theater was cool and dark and never had more than a 10 minute wait to get in.
Star Tours was cool. And honestly the best part about the Star Wars Weekend. The girls weren't interested in watching any of the parades [sitting in the hot sun watching stuff go by? Not for them!] we did see a lot of characters walking around, but Darth Vader was the only one I recognized. Rocky wasn't interested in any of the character meets or special events. It might have been better to do this park a different day with less crowds as we probably would have gotten the Star Wars effect: the gift shop with the Star Wars toys wasn't going anywhere!! The girls both enjoyed Star Tours, which I was surprised Jessie liked it as I thought the motion ride would have really bugged her. And in our 2nd go around, she was the rebel spy [to Maggie's delight]. Maggie & Jessie each designed their own droid (like R2D2) and Maggie made her own light saber. Jessie picked out one and Rocky got a blaster (which he plans to paint to look like a "real" one).
And by going on a Star Wars weekend, we ended up missing the Beauty & the Beast show as I didn't realize it was only in the morning.

We had lunch at Pizza Planet & the girls enjoyed the arcade. Next stop was the Frozen Sing Along. Jessie sang along to every song and was grinning ear to ear through the entire show.  Some ice cream and then we split up so Jessie could see the Disney Junior show and Rocky & Maggie went to the Animation Station to see how movies are drawn and how they change -- Mushu was the host. I thought it was a drawing lesson, but I think Maggie enjoyed it. We ended the day with the Little Mermaid puppet show and then back to the hotel. Overall I think the day was a success. We missed the Indiana Jones show and The Great Movie Ride, which probably disappointed me than the others -- both were more for Rocky and me than the girls, so perhaps on the next trip.
That night Rocky & I went out and the girls enjoyed the evening at the Cub's Den, a kid watch spot and had a blast!