Friday, October 29, 2010

Running Update - I'm officially a runner now!

With 71 days until the half marathon (!!!!), I finally consider myself a runner.

Two weeks ago, I saw a friend/coworker wearing an Army 10-miler shirt. I asked if he was planning to run, and he replied "I thought about it, but 10 miles is just too long."  Without even thinking, I asked if he wanted to sell me his slot!

My longest run had been my 7 mile run a few weeks ago.  7 miles felt incredible, but my following training schedule should have only been around 8.  But, I didn't care.  I made up my mind to run the Army 10-Miler.

I told everyone I knew that I was going to run the race.  I checked with all my "real runner" coworkers (crazy marathoners..) that I wouldn't be killing my training skipping from 7 to 10.  The answer was always "just don't push too hard, consider it training, and you'll be fine."  So, that's what I did.

I completed my APFT (Army physical fitness test) with a comfortable 2 mile run, did another run a few days after, and rested as much as possible while still entertaining a 10 month old the day before the race.
Before the race

Sunday, October 24th, I woke up around 5:45 and left Suburbia for a coworkers house at 6.  I luckily found a few other friends/coworkers (when you're in the Army, you know a lot of people that like to run for hours and hours.. it's weird, I know) to start the race with.  The gun sounded, and we headed off in the masses.

I can't say it felt great.  I can't say I felt so motivated that I ran faster than normal.  I can DEFINITELY not say that I felt so accomplished I want to sign up for a marathon.  But, I can say that I completed a 10 mile run in under 2 hours.  1:56:55 to be exact.  I walked 1 minute in between every mile and walked/stretched a little extra in mile 9 because - well, I was in a LOT of pain by then.  And with over 2 months to go, I know I will be ready for my first half marathon.

After the race
I'm still telling pretty much everyone about the race.  I'm damn proud of myself.  My body is still a little mad at me (where is that ice pack again?), but I'll get over that.

Not really sure when I decided that I'm not just trying to run.  Maybe it's all in my head.  But, I'm officially a runner.  I can run a 5k on a whim and go out for a nice "enjoyable" jog a few times a week.

Anyone interested in joining me for a Disney half marathon?

Thanks for stopping by!
~Jenn

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Day Tripper

My parents moved back to Florida in 2000 after being away for over 30 years.  We visited frequently, thanks to grandparents, aunts, and uncles, but aside from 2 years in middle school, I never fully lived in Florida.  By the time my parents found their way back home, I was 19, in college, and always too busy practicing clarinet (yes, I am a geek) or studying to ever think about the Disney Collegiate Program or any of the other fun jobs that so many of my friends have done.  But, I started frequenting Disney here and there, almost always for only 1 day.  


My college roommate, Ruth (hi Ruth!  See you in 70-some days), who lived only an hour or so north of my parents, we would drive to school and home together (anywhere from 11-14 hours depending on speed/traffic/stops) and so many times, listen to Disney music on our trips.  But, knowing that we were so close to each other (an hour) and so close to WDW (2 hours from her, 3 from my parents), we would head north on the turnpike every chance we got.  


Thanksgiving, in between semesters (aka winter break), spring break, summer - any chance we had, we made the trip.  I would leave my house the night before and crash on her couch, or leave at 6 am, drive to pick her up, then speed on the Turnpike until we found our favorite route: The Osceola Parkway.  We'd spend the entire day in the parks, then leave that night to drive back home.  


I can think of 2 trips in college - one spring break that we stayed at a HoJo on I-4 (hey, it was $50 and we were college kids) for a night and another night, where along with another Fellow Floridian, Shelly, we grabbed a last minute room at an All-Star Resort, and crashed.  


Over the past 10 years, I have spent a lot of time (in normal people standards) in the parks.  At least 20 days.  Actually, including this past trip, at least 24.  With one guaranteed trip already in 2011 and the possibility of a 2nd half marathon trip to either Disneyland (a 1st!) or the Food and Wine Festival, the number keeps going up.


But, thanks to the crazy world of social media, I'm realized I'm behind in many ways.  One of the most notable?  Food.  When you have 1 day in the parks, there is rarely time for fancy food stops.  The pretzel carts, Cosmic Rays, and another other quick service, I rarely sat down for a meal.  Heck, until our June trip, I never actually considered making an ADR.  I remember a trip in 2001 or 2002 (pre-dining plan) that we walked up to Cinderella Castle and made same day lunch reservations.  Another Thanksgiving trip a few years later, we walked up to the Italy Pavilion and made 7pm dinner reservations.  Obviously, times have changed with restaurants booking up 180 days in advance, but I've heard on good record, that with so many ADR's made, a good percentage is cancelled, so walking up can happen.  


As a day tripper, I almost always skipped Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios.  In fact, I've only been to both of them 2 or 3 times in the past 10 years.  My husband and I checked out the Boardwalk for the first time on our trip in June of 2009 and I have yet to check out the Animal Kingdom Lodge, though we will hopefully check it out on our trip in January.  


Now living in the DC area, I'm too far to visit on a regular basis and with a baby, a day trip is no longer a good idea.  No more over-exhausting my husbands feet running the parks for 1-2 days.  Time to get to know the ins and outs, the restaurants, resorts, heck even Downtown Disney (first trip: June 2010).  I love that after all of the trips, the parks still have so much to offer.


Talk about magic!


Thanks for stopping by,
~Jenn

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Travel Tips Tuesday - To drive or not to drive

For many people headed to a Walt Disney World vacation, driving is not always an option.  Disney makes travelers not need their own cars with the Magical Express and transportation between all resorts and parks, but are there other reasons a family might want a car when visiting the parks?

Yes.  

I've always had a car when I've been to the parks.  For the past 6 years, trips have always been an extension of visiting my parents in South Florida and before that, they were mostly day trips on school breaks.  Our last trip (June 2010), we borrowed my mother's minivan and drove up for 5 days of Disney awesomeness.  We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort and took WDW transportation everywhere.  Most of the time, this worked well, but doing it over, I think I would have done things differently.

Staying at a resort like the CBR, you're often riding on HUGELY packed buses.  And, for some odd reason, it always seemed like every other resort bus showed up before ours did.  Not to mention that one night it took us nearly an hour to get back from the Magic Kingdom.  Made me very ready for an updated transportation system.  

In the past week, I learned something new: if you are staying on property - even at a resort like CBR that has free parking, you can park for FREE at the parks!  Talk about a huge time saver!  Worried about making a dinner reservation at a different resort or park?  You can drive yourself on your own time!  Need some groceries, baby food, diapers, or eats somewhere off property?  Or, curious about other Orlando attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (I know that's not just me!)?  Drive yourself!
Driving into WDW June '09!

If you're flying down and think bringing the car seats is a hassle, well, you're right.  From what I've seen, airlines don't charge for baby equipment (strollers/carseats), but you should definitely call your airline to double check.  
Even my hubby was excited to be driving in!

I've listed many of the pros, but there are some cons: price, extra luggage (car seats).  Plus, extra responsibility.  Part of the joy of vacation is going to get away from it all and driving can definitely be a hassle for some. 

Do you like to have a car when you go to the parks?  What are some other reasons to rent or not to rent?

Thanks for stopping by!
~Jenn

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's official!

My military companions and I have officially been given another amazing offer for both the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland.  The resorts had already been posted with a 40% discount at some resorts and finally a ticket discount has been announced!


The past few years, they have made separate tickets for park hopper/non-park hopper, but it appears as though that difference is gone.


For WDW, a 4 day Park Hopper OR Water Parks option is $138
OR to have both, it's $165


For the Disneyland Resort, a 3 day Park Hopper is offered at $99


There are some rules and blackout dates.  For full details, check out the Disney Parks blog.


Can't turn out a rate like that!


Thanks for stopping by,
~Jenn

Jenny's Family Vacation: Part 4 - time for the rides, EPCOT style

Unlike the Magic Kingdom, there are far fewer rides to think about at the other parks.  These two parks consist of many more "attractions" and while they don't necessarily have as many of the big pulls like Space Mountain, they both have plenty of entertainment for the whole family.  For me personally, DHS and AK are a half-day parks.  Without a park hopper, I usually skip them altogether (but, if I don't have a park-hopper, I'm usually only there for 1-2 days.  Magic Kindgom and EPCOT always win).  EPCOT has become much more of a must-see over the past few years, but I know many feel that it is not a full-day park.  But today, we'll continue with:

EPCOT.


Rope Drop!  Though, it's not as big of a show as at AK or MK, I recommend being there for the beginning for 1 easy reason: Soarin' Fast Pass.  Actually, on our last day of our trip in June (my 29th birthday!!), we started at EPCOT and ran to Soarin' where Adam and I were on the 2nd "flight" of the day.  No Fast Pass needed.  


Remember, there are several other rides around EPCOT that rarely have any line at all, so if you want the most efficient day in the park, start at the big pulls (Soarin', Test Track, Mission: Space).  Skip Spaceship Earth for later on in the day - getting away from the crowds, naptime, nursing, and head to the big money rides.


Test Track - Another 40" minimum.  Much less of a must-ride for me, personally, but some love it.


Mission: Space - With a minimum of 44", Tiger will most definitely have to wait for his 2nd visit to WDW to ride to Mars.  But, as I see it, that's just fine.  I still feel sea-sick after that first ride.   


*Ellen's Energy Adventure- This ride is suitable for all ages, but incredibly long.  At just under 50 minutes from start of the video to the end of the ride, don't start this one with a hungry child.  For a tired child or one needing to nurse, though, this ride is perfect.  


The Land Pavilion - home to Soarin', a couple of restaurants, and a few rides, there is plenty to keep busy while 1 parent (and hopefully 1 stretching child) ride on Soarin'!
Soarin' - For Jenny and Aaron, unless Tiger has a big growth spurt, they will need to use the Rider Swap feature on this ride and ride alone.  With a minimum of 40", little Eli will have to sit this one out, but Tiger will be right on the fence.  Still - it's absolutely worth a flight, so hopefully they can make it worthwhile!
*Living with the Land - 14 minutes long and often empty, this peaceful boat ride floats through a working greenhouse and is both educational (a key feature of EPCOT) and interesting.
*Circle of Life - This 20 minute film is an educational film aiming to teach children about the environment and how to be environmentally friendly.  


Imagination Pavillion
*Captain EO- Starring Michael Jackson, this 20 minute 3D film from the 80's is now back.  If you like his music or just need a break, this would be a good stop.
Journey into Imagination with Figment- This ride is adorable for children of all ages!  Piper was frightened by a loud noise at 6 months, but Noah didn't even blink, so just know that they may jump!
** Located in the lobby after the ride is a musical learning section - conduct your own orchestra!  I love stopping by for a minute every time we're there!


Innoventions
Split into 2 buildings, Innoventions is filled with hands-on learning experiences and games for children and adults.  Check out more information about Innoventions at their new website!


The World Showcase
Consisting of 11 countries around a 1+ mile lagoon, there are shops, restaurants,and activities in each pavilion.  The only rides in the showcase are:
Maelstrom - located in the Norway Pavilion.  There is no height requirement, but there is 1 drop and I've definitely heard more than one child be scared..  and..
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros - inside the Mexican pyramid Pavilion, this ride is suitable for everyone.  It's a gentle boat ride and unless your child has a fear of Donald Duck singing, than you should be fine.


While Maelstrom occasionally has a wait time, it's very rare to see The Gran Fiesta Tour have any line at all.  


And, of course, there is a Baby Care Center in EPCOT (as there are in each park) located almost all the way towards the World Showcase.  If you're running into the park with a hungry baby, do what I did: get comfy on Spaceship Earth!


EPCOT definitely became more detailed than expected.  Up next: Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios, and any other questions that may need to be answered.


Thanks for stopping by,
~Jenn


*denotes rides recommended for nursing

Friday, October 22, 2010

Say my name!

Piper, now 16 months, can tell the difference between the major Disney characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald.  She's known Mickey and Minnie for a while, but the others have been a recent development.  She's so proud of herself, and it makes me happy, knowing she loves them as much as I do!  She also calls the princesses "Princess!" except for Belle, my favorite.  She can pick out Belle from all the rest.  Is it too soon to plan my next trip?!

Enjoy the video below of Piper saying their names.  Keep in mind that she also loves saying, "Thank you" ("Da Doo"!) when she gives us something. 


video

See ya real soon!
~Mellie

Another family vacation!

No, no, not mine.  


A coworker (okay, a "boss" of sorts)'s wife has asked me to help her plan her family's first big Disney vacation!  A mother of 3 tiny tots - 2 beautiful girls and an adorable newborn boy, she feels completely overwhelmed with all the possibilities of a week long stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (their 1st choice). Understandably- there are almost too many options these days!


Luckily, I think I'm up for the task ;-)  


Here is what I know so far:
She wants to let her 2 young daughters (both under 5?) have a fairytale makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and even wants a character meal.  


This will be fun, but first - to continue planning for Jenny's Family Vacation!  Next week I plan to have ride reports for both EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios and on a personal note, another running update!


Mickey found in DHS "One Man's Dream" Exhibition
Thanks for stopping by!  Have a magical weekend,
~Jenn

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My favorite..

My favorite Hidden Mickey:

Noticed this crossing a bridge in the Animal Kingdom.  I have a hard time believing that one in the top left is an accident!  

Thanks for stopping by,
~Jenn

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mickey Mom's Club

The wait is over and officially: I did not advance to the 2nd round for the WDW Mom's Panel.  I've accepted this and moved on.  The applications stop after 20,000, and the guess is that 20k is about how many apply.  So far, it seems like only about 40-60 in the Disney-verse have moved forward to the 2nd round.  And while I wasn't one of them this time (I'll get you next time, Gadget), I'm now officially a member of the "Mickey Mom's Club."

Though I will not be answering questions for the Disney website, I now have access to news, maps, recipes, activities, and hopefully much more for the next year or so!  We'll have newsletters and in the past there has even been a meetup!  Though, at this stage in my life, I can't justify a family-free weekend at Disney (nor can I justify that many trips in one year).

However, my original plan is still here.  I am here to help plan, give advice, tips, and other suggestions for you in upcoming trips!  Or, to convince you that visiting WDW is always a great idea.

Have a magical day!
~Jenn

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Travel Tips Tuesday - Lodging Options

This post was originally written for and published for Babes in Disneyland.  Feel free to read the original post here and check out Lisa's fantastic Disneyland blog!




The Walt Disney World Resort has many hotel options for nearly all budgets.  The highest and most luxurious are the Deluxe resorts, such as the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa or the Animal Kingdom Lodge to the most basic or Value rooms at the All-Star Resorts.
When treating ourselves during my pregnancy, my husband and I splurged for the Contemporary Resort in a room facing the Magic Kingdom and Cinderella Castle.  What a way to wake up!  The resort itself was fantastic – beautiful rooms with a very modern feel (not just 70’s modern like the building itself).  The room was large and comfortable, though I didn't realize at the time to specify a king bed versus two queens, so we each had our own beds, which worked out perfectly being pregnant and using a ton of pillows. The bathroom was beautiful and luxurious.  It was wonderful to have the monorail in the resort for convenience, but it was loud, and though it didn't really bother us, I would say this is probably one of the more kid-friendly Deluxe resorts, especially with Chef Mickey's Character Breakfast on the main dining floor.

My only experience with a Value resort was a quick overnight stay at the All Star Music Resort in college.  Though nothing special, it's definitely a nice resort with easy access to the parks.

One important difference between staying on property and off - the Extra Magic Hours (EMH).  Each day, the parks are open 1 hour prior - and often stay open several hours later - for Resort guests only.  Every day, a different park opens early, and if you plan correctly, these can make or break a vacation.  Our baby is most definitely a morning person, so we used this to our advantage and left our resort every morning on the first bus (the first bus goes to which ever park has the EMH for the day and leaves 1 hour prior to park opening).  Being in the parks for that early hour with so few people really did make dreams come true (awwww).  If you're not morning or late night people and don't plan to wake up early on vacation to hit the parks, then this huge plus may not be a pro for your traveling party. 

Another perk of staying on property - transportation.  I'm not a huge fan of the bus system, but it saves paying $14 a day for parking.  The buses go from resort to a single park and back, plus there are buses from park to park (or monorail if you're going from Epcot to Magic Kingdom).  


There are 3 resorts on the Monorail - a direct connection to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot:
• Disney's Contemporary Resort
• Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
• Disney's Polynesian Resort

There are several resorts that access either 1 or 2 parks or Downtown Disney via ferry or boat.  To Magic Kingdom:
• Disney's Contemporary Resort
• Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
• Disney's Polynesian Resort
• Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
• Disney's Wilderness Lodge

To Epcot and Hollywood Studios:
• Disney's Boardwalk Inn and Villas Resort
• Disney's Beach Club Resort
• Disney's Yacht Club Resort
• Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
• Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

To Downtown Disney:
• Disney's Port Orleans Resort & French Quarter
• Disney's Port Orleans Resort & Riverside
• Disney's Old Key West Resort
• Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort

If we're talking all about money and ignoring convenience and everything I've mentioned above, for just a little more than the value resorts (currently listed at $82 per night), you can stay off property on nearby Irlo Bronson Hwy or other areas in a 3 or 4 star hotel for $100 and up.  These hotels often have transportation to the WDW Ticket and Transportation Center via shuttle, just running hourly instead of every 10-20 minutes.  Also, many include higher quality beds, toiletries, etc... and continental breakfast for less than you would pay at a Moderate resort with lower quality. Much of the cost is convenience and "experience."

After I originally started this post, I started researching yet another option – renting local villas/vacation homes.  Our next vacation to WDW will be for the Half Marathon in January.  Our plan is to arrive a few days before and simply relax, then after the race stay for a few days and check out other local areas.  Since we only plan to actually visit the Disney parks for 1 day but plan to be in the area for up to a week, we don’t need to take advantage of those Resort perks.  As far as I can tell, this option has many benefits for our plans... but those will come on another day.

And for now with all that said, I still prefer to stay on property :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jenny's Family Vacation: Part 3 - time for the rides, Magic Kingdom-style!

As a parent of 2 little ones, Jenny and her hubby, Aaron, are going to have their hands cut out for them.  Eli will be almost 9 months and Tiger is 2 (36"), so the coasters are out, but there is still so much to see and do.  Hopefully, I can help to make their planning a little easier!


It would be very easy to think about Disney World and only picture Space Mountain, but there so many rides that the children can ride, in all of the parks.  For the next series of posts, I'm going to highlight the rides per park and also include which I personally think are best for nursing - without losing any park time!


We'll start with Magic Kingdom.  For obvious reasons :)




If you're not a Disney-phile like I am, maybe it's not as obvious.  Magic Kingdom was the first park at WDW, and at 39 years old is the staple of the parks.  A trip without Animal Kingdom is absolutely doable, but a trip without Magic Kingdom is impossible.  At least to me.


From Right to Left past the castle:


Tomorrowland:

  • Astro Orbiter
  • * Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Movers
  • * The Carousel of Progress
  • Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
  • Stitch's Great Escape (ride-able, but not recommended for little ones.. could be scary!)
  • Tomorrowland Speedway - 32" minimum (perfect for Tiger and Daddy while Mommy and Eli are relaxing.. but expect a very long line!)



Next we're on to...


Mickey's Toontown Fair:
Unfortunately, the land of Mickey and Minnie's neighboring homes, of Goofy's barnstormer ride, and of Pete's service station will be closing in the fall (if not already closed) to continue with the Fantasyland Expansion.  In the case that it still happens to be open, there is the 1 roller coaster that a little guy can ride on.  With a minimum of 35", The Barnstormer is the perfect roller coaster for the little ones!  I hope that keep it after the expansion!


Now one of my favorites:


Fantasyland:
With rides like Peter Pan, Small World, and Mickey's Philharmagic, there is nothing that the little ones can't ride and enjoy in Fantasyland.  Philharmagic is a 3D show and is one of my personal favorites.  I wouldn't recommend nursing in Fantasyland rides because they are all fairly short, but, after you head out of Fantasyland, you'll come quickly to more shows and attractions that are slow, dark, and perfect for nursing!


Liberty Square:

  • * The Hall of Presidents - a very long animatronic show perfect for getting away from it all and nursing!
  • The Haunted Mansion - no height requirements - 5 year olds have been known to get scared, but often the younger ones don't think it's scary.. depends on your kids!



Frontierland:
Tom Sawyer Island is the only baby/toddler friendly ride.  Ride at your own risk - the one time I went to TSI, the rafts stopped working and we were stuck for 30 minutes!


Adventureland:

  • * The Enchanted Tiki Room
  • Swiss Family Tree house - a walk through house that would be great for a kid with a lot of energy and a baby in a comfy carrier!
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Pirates of the Caribbean



Also, the Walt Disney World Railroad can take you all over the parks, for a nice and peaceful ride.


*denotes perfect for nursing!


There are several more attractions I left out, but these are some of my personal favorites (and a few extras).  I don't skip out on Main Street, U.S.A.  It's a clever and magical street filled with shops, bakeries, and other hidden treasures!


Did I leave any child-friendly rides off of the list?  Which are your favorites?


Thanks for stopping by,
~Jenn

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hidden Mickey fun!

Something that we have done in our family for years is find Hidden Mickeys all over the Disney property.  The Imagineers were so clever; when the parks, hotels, and shops were designed they added Hidden Mickeys and other hidden characters all over.  It's lots of fun to play with your kids, especially when you are waiting in line.  My awesome friend, Jenn, gave me the Hidden Mickey book for my birthday this year, but I forgot it at home on our trip! :(  But, I spent many a night before our trip brushing up on my hidden characters. 

There are some "hidden" Mickeys that are plainly obvious, but others are cleverly hidden, and finding those makes you feel a sense of accomplishment!!!  You've probably seen one of the ones in the Haunted Mansion.   In dining room scene with all the dancing ghosts, there are 3 plates on the table arranged in a classic Mickey shape.  But have you ever seen this one?  As you float under a bridge in Pirates of the Caribbean, there is a pirate with his leg hanging down.  Have you ever noticed that he has a Mickey on his hat (the skull's left eye is a classic Mickey)?!  If you are like me, you're just looking at his dirty feet!

It's really a fun thing to do as a family, and the book even gives you points for spotting hidden characters!  I know when we return to the parks with Piper she will love spotting Mickey!  Anytime she sees that shape, she calls out, "Mickey"!
Have fun!

See ya real soon!
~Mellie

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jenny's Family Vacation: Part 2

Planning for her vacation, Jenny came up with some very standard questions - questions that every family traveling to Disney asks, but the answers can't be told enough.  


Traveling with 2 little babies, Jenny asked about strollers.


Seems obvious enough, right?  Traveling to the parks before having a baby, I saw the strollers everywhere and thought they sounded like a good idea...  BUT then it's down to the facts.


The stroller rentals are not cheap.  A single stroller is $15 a day/$13 for multiple days and a double stroller is $31/$27.  There are Orlando area stroller rental companies as well.  I've seen some good reviews, but have no personal experience, so I can't personally recommend any.  Plus, it's best to have your children comfortable and in familiar strollers.  We borrowed an umbrella stroller from my sister-in-law for our trip a few months before we traveled to Florida and tried our best to acclimate Noah to that stroller.  While he prefers his big running stroller, there was no chance we were going to travel with that beast of a stroller!


And of course, I recommended that she get a comfortable carrier (wrap!) for her little Eli.  He'll be 9 months at the time, but if she continues to wear him from time to time, he'll most likely have no problem being worn from time to time in the parks.  Plus, they'll all be happier when their arms aren't about to fall off from standing in lines!  Both Noah and Piper spent much time in their wraps at the parks - it allowed for easy naps whenever and wherever.  


Part 3 will include the rides that both Eli and Tiger (awesome!) can ride on...  and probably some other tips and tricks for the amazing trip they have planned!


Thanks for stopping by,
~Jenn

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Baby Wearing Wednesday - Daddy carries!

Several times a week, Adam, Noah, and I take walks around our neighborhood (think: Stars Hollow/Celebration in serious need of a Luke's diner!).  We switch between Noah in the stroller, her car buggy, and being worn.  If we decide to bring our two big mutts (60/80 pounders), then Noah has to be carried - both of those dogs are too much for one person successfully.  

Many of the pictures I've posted in the past have been from our neighborhood walks.  I usually throw on my wrap and carry him.  Most recently, I've tried to adjust both of us to our new carrier.  We tried a walk with him in a back carry, but he wasn't loving it.. forward is a little better.

And then, the other day, Adam decided it was his turn.  I took the more difficult dog, and he (well, I helped him) hooked on the carrier and we popped Noah inside.  He made me adjust the carrier for him, so it most likely wasn't as comfortable as could be, but it's the best we could do.  

Noah seemed to really enjoy being carried by his daddy for a change, but sadly, Adam didn't love it.  I wish I had ordered multiple carriers to test out the different styles and brands.  Maybe we could have found one that both Adam and I would have loved, but for now, we're adjusting to the one we have.  Please use this as a lesson for yourself!  

But, Adam does know - if he needs to be carried around the Marathon Expo in January, I will not be doing it by myself the whole time!

What are your favorite structured carriers?
~Jenn

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Travel Tips Tuesday-Kids Meals

While visiting WDW in June, we had the opportunity to try some of the kids meals offered around the Parks.  As a parent of a 1 year old, the first thing I looked for was whole milk, our doctor recommendation and personal preference for Piper.  Some places offer whole milk, but others only have 2% milk.  It struck me as strange that it wasn't consistent at the parks; one restaurant would serve whole milk while the one next door would only have 2%.  We did our best to give Piper her whole milk, but every now and then I had to give in and give her the other.  It wasn't a huge problem, but it's nice to be aware of the possibilities.

Also, all of the kids meals comes with 2 sides.  Usually there is a fruit or veggie choice (carrot sticks, apples, grapes) and a dessert (cookie, brownie, applesauce).  You could also pick fries, though for a 1 year old, we never did.  Most times, I would feed her the entree (usually chicken nuggets or a  hamburger, but we found a turkey and cheese sandwich at the Starlight Cafe) and the fruit, but save the veggie or applesauce for a snack later.  The kids meals have a lot of food for a reasonable price.  At the San Angel Inn in Mexico, we ordered her a cheese quesadilla that came with veggies and rice.  It was WAY more food than a 1 year old could eat, which meant my husband and I ate off her plate, too!  Of course, we ordered from the menu as well, and 3 entrees between 2 adults and 1 little one is a lot of food!
Piper at Portobello our first night

One of the perks about traveling with infants and toddlers is that there is NO charge for sharing your food with your child under 3.  Even the buffets don't charge for children under 3 (1 of Jenn's 5 reasons)!  Piper ate off my plate at the 50's Prime Time Cafe (as well as several other places) and she loved it!  Most of the time we didn't need to order her a separate meal because so many restaurants have huge portions.  But, when she had her own meal, she had plenty to eat and usually leftovers for later snacking.  Doesn't that make you want to take your little ones to Disney?  It sure did for me!

See ya real soon!
~Mellie

Monday, October 11, 2010

Free movie?!

I just received an email from an old college friend and fellow Buffalonian about a freebie.  Hopefully this information can help some of you out!


Hi Jenn,
I thought maybe you'd want to post this on your blog to share with fellow Disney fanatics. I am getting Beauty and the beast for free because of this post on Couponing to Disney (minus the cost of food). And the Western Bagel Alternative Bagels are 1 WW point per bagel. I am really happy about those! Mine will be free because my walmart was selling it for 19.98. (So no price match needed). Here's the link.http://www.couponingtodisney.com/2010/10/05/beauty-and-the-beast-it-looks-like-walmart-has-the-best-deal/ 
Toys R Us also has a great deal on it :http://www.couponingtodisney.com/category/toysrus/
Love and Roses,
Katie




It's a shame I'd already purchased the movie in advance!!
Thanks for stopping by,
~Jenn

Time for a Test Track Update

Test Track at EPCOT is, to me, one of those rides that you do once and that's enough.  Not for the same reason as Mission: Space (motion sickness - pre-easy setting. now no desire), but for sheer boredom.  I'm sure everyone feels this way about one ride or another.  I've actually heard people say they weren't huge fans of Soarin', and while I'll say it's not worth a 90 minute wait (nothing in my opinion is worth that), I think Soarin' is fantastic and an absolute must-ride.  

But Test Track?  Eh.  We rode it in June because Melissa and her husband wanted to and we had the child swap option.  We quickly figured out that even with the fast pass/child swap, if we had done the single rider line, we would have probably would have been on the ride even sooner.  That's not the problem, though.  

The story - you're a test track dummy and they're doing different tests and checks on your car: extreme hot and cold, break tests, speed, etc...  It's clever that first time, but the ride itself never impressed me much.  And now, nearly 12 years after it opening in December of 1998, we're calling for an update.  Don't worry, Imagineers, we've got you covered:

CARS!  Talk about an easy switch.  I don't know if Lightening McQueen is technically a GM car, but I'm sure he could be.  I've heard people say they should switch the Tomorrowland Speedway to a Cars Theme, but seeing that the TS is one of the original rides dating back 39 years now (10/1/71), I say leave that alone and update/upgrade Test Track.  

Maybe this goes against Walt's desire to not have the "regulars" all around EPCOT, but they're all there wandering around anyways, so I think we could have a good change on our hands.

All we need is a story - maybe Lightening and Sally going for a nice drive around Radiator Springs.  We could even tie in some of the testing stuff with Casa Della Tires and Luigi, fixing the tires and testing the breaks.  After they test the breaks and start on their way, they drive through the city and then go for a breakaway race.  Okay, so I'm no Imagineer, but you get the idea, right?

Have any better ideas?  Would you prefer to leave Test Track as is and update another ride?  Leave your comments on here or on our facebook page!

Thanks for stopping by,
~Jenn


Friday, October 8, 2010

Jenny's Family Vacation: Part 1

A few weeks ago, my college friend (and little sis) Jenny asked me my opinion about visiting Disney World with her husband and 2 young sons at Christmas.  I referred her to Melissa on that one, knowing that Melissa spent last Christmas at the parks and I had only been the the weeks prior and weeks following.  I said that I knew the parks would be crowded as anything - I believe they reached max capacity last year on Christmas - but would be absolutely beautiful.


Then, a week ago, Jenny asked me about Thanksgiving.  This answer I knew.  I've spent many a day-after-Thanksgiving at the world.  The parks are beautiful decorated, not quite as crowded as the end of December, and as always, a fun and exciting place to be.  


The decision has been made: Jenny and her family will be spending Thanksgiving week as residents of the Animal Kingdom Lodge (amazing choice) using the Deluxe Dining Plan!  Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be using her questions as a series on the blog.  Feel free to add questions to our list of questions, answers, and suggestions.


I hope this series can help even more families with their little ones.  And makes you as excited to vacation as it makes me!
Thanks for stopping by!
~Jenn

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Running Update!

When I re-started running post-pregnancy, I started with the Couch to 5k program - going from nothing to a 5k in a few short weeks (okay, 8 or 9 long weeks).  That program worked like a charm, and since then I did run my first 5k (31:53).  

Since then, training for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon is my ultimate goal.  I can't imagine ever wanting to do a full marathon, but I like the idea of running other halfs - especially through Disney.  Disney has recently upped their game in the running world.  Just this past weekend, runners ran in the Inaugural Food and Wine Festival Half-Marathon (and 5k) replacing I think a 10k.  Plus, there are the Princess weekend races in February.  And, if you run both a WDW and Disneyland race in the same calender year, you earn a pretty cool medal!  Does that make me materialistic?  

Well, thanks to Jeff Galloway's running programs (now through Disney!), I decided to try his run-walk idea.  He suggests walking way more than I wanted to (2 min run/1 min walk), or other suggestions you can find thru Run Disney, but I decided to edit it to my preference.  And it worked!  I ran 5 miles today - the longest I think I've ever run.  Slow and steady with 1 minute of walking between each mile of jogging.  After today's run, I finally believe that I can run 13.1 miles.  I have until January to complete it, and I will do it!

Plus, if you check that top link to WDW Marathon Weekend and watch the video, you'll see the motivation I have to run.  That video looks incredible!!!  How cool -  character photo ops on the way, running through the castle with Herald Trumpets playing for you, and entertainment for the entire run!  

Now, I'm thinking either California next fall for that Coast to Coast challenge or back to WDW in October for the Food and Wine Half.  Who's with me?
Magic Kingdom, Here we come!!


Happy running!~Jenn

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Baby Wearing Wednesday - A Call to Action

In my search for other baby-wearing bloggers, I landed at Adventures in Babywearing - a mother of 4 who still, with her youngest now 2 years old, still wears her children regularly.  Impressive, right?  It seems that most stories are of women who carry their children for a few months and then move on. 
I don't wear Noah nearly as much as I used to, but he likes being independent - at least for short bursts of time.   


Just the other day, we went grocery shopping (Hooray for Wegmans!) and he thoroughly enjoyed being in the front of the cart... for a few rows.  Of course, I had to give him a snack (baby mum mum!) to keep him from screaming when he saw all the food, but it did work.  Near the end of the trip, I decided enough was enough.  I strapped on my new carrier and popped him in. I stood their and bounced him up and down, getting him giggly, while we were checking out - the cashier even assumed my back must hurt me every night.  She was shocked when I simply said "nope, not at all."


Anyways, to my original point.  Thanks to a couple of bad products, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is coming down hard on baby slings.  The purse slings were bad - they weren't NATURAL.  A regular sling carriers should hold the baby in the same position as your arms.  How is that bad?!  It's so natural.  It keeps a baby where it wants to be - in the parents arms - while still letting the mom move around, have a cup of coffee (or water!), and relax for a few minutes. 


Slings and other carriers have been used worldwide for pretty much ever, and it's unfortunate they're getting a bad wrap (bad pun?).


So now, in hopes to stop all the anti-baby wearing madness, Baby Wearing International has created International Babywearing Week!  From October 6th (today and Noah's 10 month date) through the 12th, we should all enjoy the benefits of wearing our kin.  In honor of this, I'll make Adam finally try on the carrier and walk around with the baby - front, back, and maybe even hip.  He'll LOVE it.  And so will you!


Wear your baby!  Prove to the CPSC that it's safe AND functional. 
Have a great baby wearing week.


Thanks for stopping by!
~Jenn

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Travel Tips Tuesday - Extra Magic Hours!



One of the perks of staying on property, if you so choose, is taking advantage of the Extra Magic Hours.  Available only to resort guests, the parks open up early and remain open later, on a rotating schedule, allowing smaller crowds for short periods of times.  



Going with a small child, you're more likely to take advantage of the morning EMH (8 am) instead of the evening ones, unless you're thinking of Animal Kingdoms, whose "late" hours are often 5pm - 8pm.  Due to the nature of the animals and trying not to disturb their natural environment, AK regularly closes for the evening at 5pm.  Unless you have extreme night owls, you'll most likely not take advantage of Magic Kingdom staying open until 12-1 am, depending on the time of year of you visit.  


If you decide to take advantage of the morning EMH, make sure to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early to watch the Rope Drop, the morning ceremony that each park performs daily.  Our day at the MK, we arrived by 7:30, found a great waiting area, enjoyed the show, then booked it towards Fantasyland, where we managed to ride almost every ride in under an hour.  Peter Pan (my favorite), Small World, Peter Pan, and Snow White, all before the park opened to the masses.  Read more about our rope drop experience at the Magic Kingdom.  


Even if you're not staying at a WDW resort, you can take advantage of the EMH.  Sounds crazy, right?  Nope.  You just have to think strategically.  For starters, if a park has evening EMH, the odds are against that park being over crowded the next morning.  So, if there is a Friday night EMH at the MK, that would be a great place to start your Saturday morning!  Another hint - instead of heading to the park that has the morning EMH, choose a different park.  The crowds usually build as the day goes, so arrive 15-20 minutes earlier than opening to watch the Rope Drop, then make your way to the E-ticket (most popular) rides - the ones that usually have the longest waits.  Or in our case, Peter Pan.  


Planning your trip?  Here's the schedule when we'll be at WDW - you can change the dates and see what the EMH will be for your trip!


Do you have any strategic plans we're missing?  Leave your comments on here or over on our facebook page!