Kate, Lexi, William

Covid-19 unfolds

Lexi, William and Kate,

I know you’re pretty young to remember some of this, but this is a moment that will be written into history books and talked about for many years to come. The only other moment in my life that is somewhat comparable to this is 9/11. That was sad and scary–but this one just feels surreal and crazy, at least at this moment (1 weeks in)

We’ll start with the basics of what the heck is going on and then get into how we survived week 1.

First, Covid-19 (also known as Coronavirus) is a virus similar to the flu, but is much more contagious and can have some respiratory challenges. It is most dangerous to the elderly 70+ population. It was first identified in China in January of 2020 and turned their world upside down. Then in late February, early March a few cases were identified in the US, but nobody thought too much of it–at least from my perspective. As the days rolled on, more and more cases were popping up–with the first one in Minnesota in early March. Queue some initial discussion and lots of warnings about washing your hands, not touching your face etc…which basically cleared out hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes from stores. Don’t travel if you don’t have to etc…But for the most part, business was as normal.

Then, on the day we flew home from Florida (March 11), things started to get crazy. This was identified as a pandemic–which is a world-wide crisis (verses just a regional one). The cases in Minnesota grew. Each day hour things got a little crazier. Universities started canceling in-person classes and going to virtual only. Major sporting events were canceled (NBA, NHL, MLB, March Madness) DisneyWorld closed (we barely squeaked that one in!) and concerts and conferences were canceled.

On Thursday, my work declared that Tuesday, the 17th, would be a mandatory work from home day to test things out, if we needed to go that direction.

On Friday, March 13th, Lexi came home with a folder of school work to do, in the event that schools close. On my way home from work, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things since our house was empty from vacation. There was very little pasta and pretty much no bread in the stores.

Things kept getting crazier and crazier. The phrase ‘social-distancing’ was introduced, which means they don’t want people within 6 feet of each other and shouldn’t be in groups larger than 25-50 people. With the West Coast schools closing, I had a gut feeling of where things were going, so I headed to Costco 45 min before it opened on Sunday, thinking it might open early and sure enough it did. Outside of chicken and organic ground beef, they had pretty much everything in stock. Toilet paper, paper towels, milk, bread etc…(these items had become scare over the last few days). While there, Auntie Shelia texted saying the Minnesota Governor closed public schools for two weeks, so I added a few more things to the over-flowing cart to make sure we were stocked up. Then, I headed over to Target. The medicine isle was completely empty, no bread, very little pasta and canned goods. I stocked up the best I could, even getting Easter treats in case the stores closed.

IMG_6271

 

IMG_6282

On Monday, I went into work for a video meeting, got my monitor, other supplies and then headed home. I stopped by school to pick up a packet of work for William and we began our time at home, together.

To further explain some of these drastic measures.

This virus is extremely contagious and has a 2% mortality rate, officials are worried terrified if we don’t take these measures and slow the rate down that people interact with one another and therefore, spread this virus, that too many people will get sick all at the same time and we won’t have enough medical staff, beds, or equipment to take care of people. This exact scenario is happening in Italy, Spain and other European countries. Medical officials are literally having to choose who lives and who dies. It is terrible. Medical and government officials are trying to prevent that from happening here. The challenge is, everyone has an opinion. Many of these people are credentialed or at least sound like it and it is really hard to decipher what is going on. You can find a credentialed person to support whatever you want, which makes it challenging to know what the right thing to do is.

Stay tuned for our weekly survival update.

Love,

Mama

 

family vacations, florida, Kate, Lexi, William

Panama City 2020

Lexi, Badger and Kate,

Following our whirlwind trip to DisneyWorld that you can read about here, here, here and here, we rented an car to begin phase 2 of our vacation: visiting Grammy and Papa in Panama City Beach.

Daddy took an Uber to the car rental location on Thursday morning and we got upgraded to a TaHoe (we had rented a mini van) and barely squeezed our 2 strollers and luggage in, even though we didn’t bring a lot of stuff.

The ride was about 5 – 6 hours from Orlando to PBC and I was thinking it was going to be pretty brutal. But you guys were awesome and needed very little screen time. You actually didn’t get out of the car for the entire trip. I can’t believe that nobody had to go to the bathroom.

Upon arrival, Papa was of course downstairs waving both arms high up in the air to welcome all of us. We headed up to their beautiful wrap condo and got settled in and shared all sorts of fun stories about Disney.

Overall, this part of the trip was just about relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, the beach, the pool and the golf course. Daddy golfed everyday, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Four rounds at Signal Hills and one round at Windswept dunes. I joined him for 2 1/2 rounds.

William came down with some kind of little bug that had him feeling a warm, pretty tired and just not himself. After about two days of being under the weather, he woke up and complained of not being able to walk, which went on for about 2-3 hours. We were about to head to the Emergency room and he started walking, but had a very funny wobble, almost as if we was trying to walk while sitting on a pole. Dr. Google didn’t have good things to suggest on what this could mean, so around 3:00 we headed to urgent care. The first one we went to wasn’t opened (it was a Sunday) and the second one sent us straight to the ER; which was not a good few hours for your worry-wart mama. After about 2-3 hours they, William started feeling better and even ran down the hallway–so we headed home, un-diagnosed and he has been fine ever since. Very great full it wasn’t something serious and now, looking back makes me wonder if it wasn’t related to corona virus.

Other highlights of the trip were lots of time playing with second cousins Ruby and Pearl, who were just down the hallway from us, Survivor-type challenges on the beach, jumping the waves, feeling the warm sunshine, playing cards, mini-golfing, swimming, sunsets and spending lots of good quality time with Grammy and Papa.

After 5 wonderful days, our week and a half vacation was coming to an end. We left Wednesday morning at 6:00 in the morning, headed to Atlanta and then back to MSP around 1:30 in the afternoon. By this time, things with Covid-19 were just starting to get interesting. My trip to CA had gotten canceled while and most business travel was canceled. The airports were busy, but we were much more cautious than normal about wiping things down, using hand sanitizer.

DisneyWorld, Kate, Lexi, William

DisneyWorld—Epcot (Day 4)

Lexi, Badgie and Katie,

You went to 3 DisneyParks in 1 Day. Not to shabby for three kids under 7. We started our last Disney day at Epcot, spent an hour or so in Animal Kingdom before wrapping the night up at Magic Kingdom for extra magic hours.

One of the reasons we made the switch to the Wilderness Lodge hotel was of how convenient it was supposed to be with transportation. Well it didn’t work out so well for us.

Similar to the other days, the plan was to get up early and get to the park just as it was opening. Since Epcot has tiered FastPasses, I had a FastPass to Frozen, but not TestTrack, so I was planning to go straight to TestTrack and ride before the line got too long.

We left around 8:15, about 15 min later than I was hoping. First, we took a boat from the lodge to the Magic Kingdom area, where we then took a monarail to the transportation center, making a pit stop at the Contemporary as the express wasn’t running. Once we were at the Transportation center, our plan was to jump on another monarail to go to Epcot. Well that monarail wasn’t running either, so we had to get on a bus. All this took much longer than expected so instead of getting there at 9, when it opened, it was closer to 10, which meant the line for Test Track was much longer.

Additionally, when we arrived we discovered we had a broken stroller, Test Track, was down and Frozen was down so we went to stand in the hour line to meet Anna and Elsa. It was by far the longest time we waited for anything, close to an hour. But the girls were thrilled to meet the princesses. Daddy and Wiliam worked on fixing the stroller and William even scored some fast passes for being such a good helper to Daddy.

By the time we got through the line to meet Anna and Elsa, the Frozen ride was back up and running and we used our 11:00 FastPass to jump through the lines. This ride is super cute and low key and I loved that our whole family could sit in one row of the boat. When we were done with the frozen ride at about 11:30, and the world showcase was starting to open so we began our journey to very quickly skim the world. You kids did not have the patience for mom and dad to fully enjoy it. It also happened to be the first day of the Flower and Garden Festival so we spent time looking at all the amazing topiaries, which I adored. They smelled amazing and it was fascinating to see how they created characters from different kinds of flowers.

About half-way around, we stopped to meet Jasmine, which was a princess we hadn’t met before. Similar to meeting Daisy, these pictures are brought to you by a dum-dum sucker bribe for Kate.

By the time we were done seeing the showcase, the crowds were really starting to build and our fast pass for mission space was about to run out so Daddy took William and Lexi on that. You guys went on the Orange mission space ride, which Daddy said was pretty scary for both him and Lexi–but William seemed to think it was pretty cool. Go figure? In the meantime, I took Kate over to check out the aquarium and the Finding Nemo ride. Of course Kate feel asleep on the way over there so I explored the aquarium, the Journey to Imagination and ImageWorks by myself with a sleeping baby.

Test Track was back up and running by the time you were done with Mission Space, so Daddy, Lexi and William headed over to ride it. Unfortunately, the ride broke which extended the wait time, but they got it up and running again quickly. You guys went all the way through building your car and were about to test your car and it broke and they shut it down again for the 3rd time that day. We did get some extra fastpasses out of the deal to use at any park on any ride (with the exception of the big rides–Flight of passage, Slinky Dog, StarWars, Seven Dwarfs).

It was about 2:00 at this point, everyone was hungry and the heat was starting to take a toll. We decided to head back to the hotel for a swim instead of exploring any more of Epcot. We stopped at the gift shop on our way out and you each picked out your souvenir. Lexi and Kate picked out Anna and Elsa doll toys and William got a real Buz Lightyear. 

One the way back to the Wilderness, we debated our next steps and the roller coaster junkie was begging to ride Everest at Animal Kingdom. So we booked a FastPass for 7:00 and one for the Dinosaur ride at 6:10 and were going to use our bonus FastPass and the Navi’s River, which always has a long line and one we didn’t get to ride last year.

It was about 4:00 by the time we arrived back at Wilderness. We quickly ate some food and Mom and the kids went swimming while Daddy napped. They had a super cute mini waterpark for little kids with a few slides and then had a bigger waterslide in the big pool. Lexi and William loved the big-kid slide and just kept going down it over and over again while Kate enjoyed watching them and kicking and splashing in the pool with me. After a quick 45 minute swim, we headed back up to get changed and head over to Animal Kingdom,

We waited over 45 min for a bus so instead of getting to the park at 6:00 like we thought, we got there at 7:15, 45 min before it was supposed to close. We took a quick family pic in front of the tree of life, lite up at night and then high-tailed it to Everest.

We got to Everest just as River of Lights was ending. Daddy and Lexi used their FastPass and then Mommy and Lexi went. Lexi was just beaming and loves this ride so much. She was so proud to have ridden it at night in the dark.

We had to skip the dinosaur ride since it took so long to get there and Bill thought we should skip the Navai’i River as there was no way we could make it from Everest to Pandora in 9 minutes. Challenge accepted. I turned on my good old speed walking pace and we arrived there at 7:55. We were the second to last people they let on the ride. The Navi’s River is a super mellow ride through a little river–what makes it cools is the entire ride is dark but glows with black lights. The whole land of Pandora is just amazing. I wish we hadn’t been in such a rush and could have enjoyed it a bit more–especially at night. They have black lights everywhere and the sidewalks and trees are lite up to create this super cool environment.

By 8:30, we were on a bus to Magic Kingdom to soak up our last few hours with Extra Magic hours.You kids were starting to get tired, so I gave you a few suckers to give you a little sugar kick and keep you awake.

Daddy and Lexi headed over to Space Mountain while Mommy, Kate and William went on Winnie the Pooh–another favorite ride. After the ride was over, I knew we had pushed as far as we could with the two littles. They were tired and crabby. We grabbed some ice cream as we walked over to space mountain to wait for Daddy and Lexi. We did a quick rider switch and Lexi got to go on Space Mountain again with Mommy. Although the ride was pretty fun. I was fairly nervous for my Lexi. We were going pretty fast, couldn’t see anything and I was worried about her head bobbling around to much and getting some whip lash.

At was just about 11:00 as we walked off the ride. Lexi climbed into the stroller and was sleeping in less than 5 minutes.

What a day! What a trip! What an experience. Daddy and I took our time walking down main street and just enjoying the beautiful way everything is lit up, listening to the chatter of people reminiscing their days and the smell of the home-made chocolate as we walked down Main Street.

Although we only had 3 days in the parks, we filled them to the brim. We are exhausted and looking forward to the second part of our trip, which should be much more relaxing. But our hearts and our memories are so full. It really was the experience of a lifetime. We have every intention of going back when Kate is older and can go on almost all of the rides and it will be magical then too. There is just this different level of magic, to watch your kids experience this for the first time, the awe from giving characters a hug or having them go on their first roller coaster. It is something I hope to never forget and am so grateful to be able to experience this.

Love,

Mama

DisneyWorld, family vacations, Kate, Lexi, William

DisneyWorld Magic Kingdom (Day 3)

Lexi, William & Kate,

Today was a dream. I LOVED seeing the sparkly twinkle in your eyes, hearing the awe in your voices as you met characters and feeling the adventure in your souls as your grabbed a hold of my hand during ride. True Joy.

Today started with us packing up all of our luggage and dropping them at coincerage as we were moving to stay at the Wilderness Lodge for the remaining two nights of our trip. If you do a split stay, Disney will transfer all of your items for you to another hotel free of charge–they even will refrigerate items for you!

Next we hopped on a bus to Magic Kingdom (around 8:00ish), matching shirts and all for our 8:30 breakfast reservations at Crystal Palace with Tigger, Pooh, Eyeore and Piglet. The park doesn’t technically open until 9:00 but they let people in around 8:00 to take pictures, shop around on Main Street etc.. We took advantage of the low crowds and got another family picture in front of the castle, with our family shirts on.

Breakfast was amazing! It was a buffet so I was a little hesitant on it, but it was so good. Bill had a Bloody Mary and I had a Mimosa and the kids each had chocolate milk. The kids had fruit and Mickey Waffles and sausage and donuts and bacon and bill had salmon and this amazing omelet. While we’re eating the characters came around for autographs and pictures and even did a little parade with all of the kids in the restaurant. Lexi and William LOVED seeing their beloved Tigger and Pooh pals, while Kate was slightly moody. However, when Piglet came by, she turned on the charm and gave a big hug and smiled great for a picture.

One thing I continued to be so surprised about is the uniforms that cast members wear, whether they are working the front desk or picking up trash or serving food. They look like they are the original uniforms from 50 years ago. The designs and patterns are pretty hideous and hot and are due for a little refresh.

With our bellies full and excitement to get the day started, we headed over the castle and went on the Little Mermaid Ride. Girls rode in one shell and boys rode in the other and we were brought through the story of the Little Mermaid with the songs, lots of black lights and an overall low-key easy ride, with a 5 min wait. Notice No-née (Kate’s Bunny makes frequent appearances in our pictures)

Next we headed over to ride the beloved Dumbo ride. Prior to coming, I heard that Dumbo was great because the kids can play in an indoor playground while you wait and then you get a buzzer when your near the front of the line. Unfortunately, it wasn’t busy enough for this to be open, so we waited the 20 minutes to ride. William loved controlling our Elephant and bringing us up and down. Kate, whined a bit that she didn’t like it and tried to climb into my lap, but didn’t have a complete melt down so we called it a win!

It was just after 10:00 at this point and Minnie, Daisy, Donald and Goofy had about a 20 minute wait for a meet and greet. The line was moving pretty slow, so Daddy and William went to meet Donald (Goofy was still sleeping) while Kate, Lexi and I waited to Meet Daisy and Minnie. Kate was starting to get tired so I bribed her with a sucker to meet Minnie and Daisy. Late loved Daisy and that she wears purple so she was pretty excited about that. Also, note that having DumDum suckers in the park bag is a total life saver. They are quick, easy, non-melting, non-messy snacks that can make waits a little more tolerable.

It was about 5 to 11:00 so we headed over to Peter Pan’s flight for the first past pass of the day. We made it there 3 minutes before it ‘expired’ even though they still would have let us on. We hopped aboard our ship and flew through London and Neverland to see the mermaid lagoon, Captain Hook, and the tick-rock croc. I’m not sure what it is about this ride, but it is one of my favorite more low-key rides.

Our next FastPass, an 11:00 ride on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was ready. Daddy and Lexi went first, Oats passed on riding as he thought it might be a little to scary for him, since he only just turned 5. We got our Rider Switch set up and William, Kate and I went to get a snack–a Peter Pan Float, which was Lime Dole Whip with Sprint and it was delicious!!

After Lexi and Daddy rode, Mommy and Lexi went and Daddy went to go get some Cotton Candy. This ride was pretty fun. It is the big hot roller coaster of Magic Kingdom at the moment and lines are easily over 2 hours for it. Our FastPass had us in and out in about 20 minutes. The coaster doesn’t have any kind of clicking sounds as it goes up hills and the cars will sway side to side in stead of front to back. Lexi loved it and got so excited to put her hands up. She kept saying, ‘Mom, you gotta put your hands up. Wait until this next part, it is so fun.’ We started to find out we have a little roller coaster junkie on our hands. Your Mom and Dad couldn’t be more excited about this as we both love a little adventure.

Enchanted Tales with Bell was across the walkway from Sever Dwarfs and the wait was about 20-30 minutes so we hopped in line as it was an experience the whole family could enjoy. It was pretty cute. They take you in through what looks like Belle’s home and then bring you to a room that has a huge magic mirror which comes alive and invites you to walk through, it to where the wall disappears. You are then brought into Belle’s room inside the castle where the dresser comes to live and gives out parts to the kids to participate in a mini play. We did a quick dress rehearsal before arriving in the Ball room, where we got to meet Belle take a picture with her and act out the story of Beauty and the Beast. This was a great low-key experience that was also air-conditioned, which was fantastic as it was sunny and starting to get really hot.

After this, Lexi and I had a FastPass to ride Splash mountain at 1:25, we made our way to the other side of the park. William opted out of riding so Lexi and I made our way through the line and rode the iconic splash mountain. The ride itself is pretty long and a little odd, but sitting next to Lexi and feeling her adrenaline rush as her body tensed up as we went down the big drop was exhilarating. She was smiling so big and was so proud of herself for doing it. Such a fun moment.

When we got off, we tried to find our photos, but couldn’t and then discovered that Lexi’s magic band had fallen off. We approached a cast member in the store and they back-tracked through all of the cars until they found our picture. Sure enough, she was wearing her band in the picture, so we new if feel off somewhere between the drop and the photo board. In the picture, they identified the log we were riding and and when it came back around for new guests to ride, they found her sweet pink Lexi band sitting in it.

While Lexi and I rode, William and Kate both feel asleep in the stroller for a little nap. Bill and William had our last scheduled FastPass for the day on Big Thunder Railroad so Lexi took his spot and was giddy with excitement to go on another big coaster.

While they were doing that, I headed over to the Be Our Guest restaurant for our 2:15 reservation. I checked in, but ended up leaving as it was going to be just too much to try and squeeze that in with two sleeping kids.

Instead we went to get a spot to watch the parade. We got a great spot, right on an isle and front row. Holy smokes was it hot though. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was 85 degrees. Don’t get me wrong, it felt amazing, but I was so sweaty and a little crazy with the sunscreen to make sure the sleeping kiddos weren’t getting burnt in the strollers. We waited about 30 min and I even snagged another Peter Pan Float to enjoy since it was so good. The parade was amazing. The floats, the costumes the dancing, the music, everything was just executed perfectly and it was so entertaining to watch. Of course, Daddy was more intrigued with the engineering elements of the floats and how they were doing different maneuvers.

Once the parade was over in our area, we tried to high-tail it to the front of the park and head back to the Wilderness lodge to check it out and get a quick break before Lexi and I had to be back for her Bippity Boppity Botique appointment at 5:15.

One of the nice things about the Wilderness Lodge is it is a 10 min boat ride away from Magic Kingdom. This hotel was beautiful. The detail is remarkable. The lobby is all open with billowing logs that take you from floor to ceiling and a massive two-sided fireplace. The furniture fits in with the aesthetic of huge wingback chairs, fabric that mimics Native American culture. There is also a little creek that begins in the middle of the lobby and the trickling sound and vastness of the space create a very calm and relaxing vibe, it feels very zen.

When we arrived at our room, we discovered our bags hadn’t arrived yet. I headed down to concierge to get two bags. I took a lightning-speed shower to cool down and change into a clean shirt and then Lexi and I headed back to Magic Kingdom for her appointment. When we got down to the boat–one was just pulling away and I thought we were going to be super late to her appointment, but we ended up only being 5 minutes late.

The Bippity Boppity Botique is quite the experience. They doll the girls up like a true princess, have a little photo session and let the girls feel like a true princess in the most magical place on earth.

The first part of the process was meeting with her first Fairy Godmother in a dressing room and picking out a hair style. Lexi really wanted this pink and blue hair (like the descendants) but the hairstyle wasn’t very princess-y, so she picked out another one and then we purchased the pink and blue hair piece separate.

After picking out a hairstyle, you can opt to pick out a princess dress. I had gotten the tip that these dresses were marked up and you should bring your own. Lexi had danced to ‘When you wish upon a star’ the previous year and her dance costume looked just like a Cinderella dress so we used that instead. Throughout the entire experience, everyone was referring to you as ‘Princess Lexi’ and is this your mother the Queen? Can you ask the Queen for this, or Princess, would you like some water. It is these small details that just add to make everything magical.

After selecting the hairstyle and getting dressed into the princess gown, she was whisked away to the salon to get her hair done, nails painted and a little bit of makeup put on. There are photopass photographers there capturing every moment of the transformation. When they are finally complete, they do a big reveal with the photographer where the spin the princess around to see her final look. Lexi, you were shy and conservative during this moment, but as soon as we stepped out of the salon, you couldn’t stop beeming. You loved the whole experience of being done up

The final step was having a mini photo shoot done. I swear my innocent 7-year-old suddenly looked 14. They had a glass slipper and few other props to make the experience complete. On the way out of the store, you discovered this light up bow that you needed to have. You were so excited about to show Mrs. Schwartz and your friends, I just couldn’t say no.

Our final planned event for the day was to enjoy a princess dinner all dolled up. However, the dinner was at Akershus in Epcot at 6:40 and we were probably done around 6:10 or so. You hoped in the stroller and we ran through the park and to the monorail to get over to Epcot where Daddy, Kate and William were waiting for us. This took SOOOO much longer than I anticipated. We got on a the monorail, which brought us to the transportation center. We then needed to get off that monorail, go down the ramps to that and then up another set of ramps to get to the monorail that would take us to Epcot. We ended up being about 30 minute late to our reservation. Again, thanks to the wonderful-ness that Disney is, they quickly moved things around and made it seem like no big deal.

We had another amazing meal. Bill ordered the meatballs and a Norwegian beer and I had the steak and a glass of wine. We were joined by Snow White, Ariel, Cinderella, Belle and Aurora. We hadn’t met many of these princesses yet so it was fun to get their autographs and a picture with them and being dressed up as a princess yourself. You received SO many compliments on how beautiful you looked and how much people loved your dress.

The night was concluded with the Epcot fireworks display. These were different but still amazing as they were done over the world showcase lake. Part of the show was having jet skis that had really tall kites on them with fireworks on the end. So impressive.

Kate fell asleep prior to the Fireworks and Lexi and William zonked as we made our way back to the monorail. We then took our first monorail, transferred to the second and then got on a boat to head back to the Wilderness. Definitely not as convenient as I had imagined

When we finally got back to the hotel, our luggage still hadn’t arrived so Bill went up to wait for that while I went to order some food. Although we still had one more day, our dinning plan would expire tonight as our it was linked to our reservation at Pop Century and we couldn’t extend it with our stay at Wilderness. We had 1 unused kids quick service meal and 2 adult quick service meals and a whopping 18 snack credits. I purchased a bunch of candy to save for later and got some donuts, chocolate milk, a pizza and a few other items that we could put in the fridge and eat the following day. As part of our quick service meals, I was also able to get a beer for Bill and I. We enjoyed it out on our balcony and watched some late night Magic Kingdom fireworks. It was the perfect way to conclude our fun-filled day.

Love,

Mama

DisneyWorld, family vacations, Kate, Lexi, William

DisneyWorld HollyWood Studios (Day 2)

There is a reason they say this place is magic. Day 1 in the parks was nothing short of magic! We started the day off really early at HollyWood studios and ended it with an amazing firework and laser show at Magic Kingdom. Exhausted but WOW!

The day began around 6am (5:45 for me) with the goal of getting into a Minnie Van (Lyft branded as Minnie Vans as they have car seats) at 6:30 to arrive at the park by 7:00, about an hour before it opened. Busses don’t start running until 7:00 am. StarWars land had just opened in September, and a hot new ride, Rise of Resistance opened in December. If you wanted to ride it, you needed to be in the park before it opened. Additionally, I was hoping to also arrive before others so we could be near the front of the line to ride Slinky Dog as our FastPasses were late in the evening and all at different times.

Disney is leveraging a new system called boarding groups to get on the ride. In order to get into a boarding group, you need to be in the park before it opens, with ALL people that would like to ride, and then use the My Disney Experience App to try and get placed into a group. It really is the luck of the draw on if you get into a group and what group you get into. They only guarantee so many groups will get to ride, but have back-up groups if they get through everyone. Most days, the guaranteed and back-up boarding groups were gone in 90 seconds–so it really it a hot commodity.

Back do the day, my plan didn’t go very well. We were running late and there weren’t any Minnie Van’s available. By the time I found one, it was 7:00 and busses were starting to run, so we opted for the bus. We arrived and were in the park by 7:45, 45 min behind schedule and quickly figured out Slinky dog was not very likely–insane crowd line-ups. The line of people went all the way around the big tall building on the right and then down another street that was about as long as seen below–and this was to entry into Toy Story land–there was an equal wall of people on the other side of the park attempting to ride Smuggler’s Run, the other new Star Wars ride.

When the clock struck 8, we along with 10,000 other people scrambled to get in the app and secure a boarding group. We got group 89, which meant we may get called, we may not. (the ride breaks down a lot, so even through you may get a boarding group, it doesn’t mean you’ll get called). Then slowly, the hoards of people started making their way into ToyStory land. The line to ride Slinky Dog was well over 2 hours so we walked right past it to see the rest of the land and eventually popped into Alien Swirling Saucers, which had a 15 min wait. All 5 of us rode, 6 if you include Nonee, Kate’s bunny. Kate didn’t like when we spun out and clung really close to me, but also didn’t screen, so I called it a win. You couldn’t wipe the grins off of Lexi and William.

The crowds in ToyStory land were a bit much, so we headed out, but not before taking a quick family pick, sans Kate because she wanted to stay in the stroller and was crabby. As much as my OCD-self wanted all of these perfect family photos, I also knew Kate wasn’t feeling good and I shouldn’t push it and force her. As Elsa says… I needed to Let it Go.

We stopped quickly at guest services to see if we could move the random Slinky Dog Fastpasses together and also be at 11:25, when one of them was booked. And sure enough they worked some pixie dust for us and moved all of them together and at a earlier time.

After that, we headed over to Meet Olaf. The wait for Olaf was about 30 minutes and was one of the longest waits we had the entire trip. But the kids hadn’t met Olaf yet so they were pretty excited to add his signature to their book.

After that, our first FastPass of the day was available, Toy Story Mania–one of my favorite rides. You ride in your little cart wearing your 3D glasses and play a series of video games, of course trying to get a high score. We rode this in DisneyLand and Daddy went on it 3+ times (several of them by himself) trying to beat his high score.

After that, we headed over to watch the Lightning McQueen show. Daddy also had a FastPass for Rock’n Roller Coaster. Technically, Lexi didn’t have one, but Daddy was able to sneak her by. While waiting in line, Lexi as Bill–Does this go upside down? Does this go in the dark? Bill had never rode so he didn’t know, but sure enough–it did both and went over 60mph. Lexi was pretty scared, but also loved it and got her super excited for more roller coasters. While they were riding, Kate quickly feel asleep in the stroller while William and I grabbed some Lunch.

We then headed back to ToyStory land for our 3rd time of the morning to use our next FastPass for the much anticipated Slinky Dog Dash. This is what William and Lexi were most excited for about Disney. You couldn’t wait to go on this roller coaster. This was also William’s first big roller coaster. We got our rider switch set up (this allowed you guys to ride twice, once with me since Daddy had to stay with Kate, and then again with Daddy while I stayed with Kate). The two of you were bouncing around like a bunch of rabbits while we scooted through the FastPass line. William and I sat in front and Lexi sat behind us and away we went. The ride is over 2+ min long. It started off pretty good, but the moment we went down our first drop, William started panicking and screaming in terror. Then we got to a quick resting point and the moment we started to move again, the fear kicked in and was yelling, Mommy, mommy, I don’t like this, I don’t like this. I even tried to cover your eyes to make it less scary. When we got off to meet daddy, I for sure thought William wouldn’t want to go again, but Daddy convinced him and sure enough again, he was terrified the entire ride. Lexi on the other hand loved it and kept her hands up almost the entire ride.

After that, we used our last pre-booked fastpass of the day and Lexi, William and Daddy rode Alien Swirling Saucers again.

It was just about 1:00 at this point and The Beauty and the Beast Show was about to begin, so we high-tailed it back over the Tower of Terror/Rock’n Roller Coaster area to watch the Beauty and the Beast show. Lots of criss-crossing paths. Daddy stayed with Kate since she was still napping and William, Lexi and I sat down and watched a condensed play of Beauty and the Beast. As all Disney things, it was done extremely well with great costumes, props, singing etc. During the show, I was also able to book another round of FastPasses at Magic Kingdom, the Buzz LightYear ride.

After the show, we headed over to the Little Mermaid show. On the way, we stopped to get a family photo in front of the iconic HollyWood Tower of Terror. Throughout all of the parks, Disney has professional photographers available to take your picture in front of great backdrops or with characters. They take your photo for free, and will also use your own camera/cell phone to take pictures too. They’ll also scan your magic band and all of those photos will be linked to your account. For a fee, you can purchase all of the photos from your trip–which also includes all of the photos from rides. This is one of those things that makes Disney magical. They just make it so easy for you.

After a few pics, we headed over to the Little Mermaid show. I wasn’t too sure what this was, but it was very similar to ‘A Bugs Life’ at Animal Kingdom. We went into a dark theater, sat down like a Movie theater and they re-told the story of The Little Mermaid. Really impressive puppiteering and fun extras like water falling on you to make it feel like you were under the sea, bubbles everywhere. Overall, it was pretty cute.

Lexi and William were begging for a snack, so they each picked out Mickey IceCream on a stick and Mom and dad got frozen Lemonades. It was so nice to have our dinning plan as we just scanned our badges and each got a snack without having to worry about money or how over-price an ice cream bar shaped as Mickey Mouse was. We found a quiet bench in the shade to just relax a bit. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible were walking around and were super fun. The walked around and really interacted with guests verses just standing in a spot and signing autographs and taking pictures.

Kate also woke up around this time after an epic 3 hour nap!

Then around 3:30, we our boarding group for Rise of the Resistance was called!!! We headed over to StarWars land and for someone who has never seen one Star Wars movie, I was just blown away at the detail of this experience. They nailed it. From the fossad and color of the rocks, to the details in the cement, to the way they merchandised food and products, it was really amazing. The girls and I walked around the land while Daddy and Oats rode Rise of the Resistance. Even with the boarding groups, you do still have to wait in a bit of a line and then the ride itself is 20 minutes long, so it was a good hour before they were through.

While waiting in line, William asks, “Dad, where are all the other kids? I don’t think this is a ride for a little kid like me.” Overall, I think he was pretty scared and didn’t enjoy it too much, but still cool that he was able to ride it. After the boys came off, Lexi and I took our turn. Again, the level of detail of everything was remarkable. And the technology that went into building this ride is just crazy. I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as the Star Wars fans did, but was still very impressed with the detail and complexity of the ride. While Lexi and I were on the ride, Daddy and Kate went to the Muppets 3D show and had a few laughs.

By this time it was nearing 5:00. We asked the kids if they wanted a break and to head back to the hotel, but choose to go straight to Magic Kingdom. We got there a little after 5, took a family photo in front of the castle and then went to pick up our mobile order from Peco Bill’s. Another great thing about Disney and the app, is your ability to pre-order food. On the bus ride over, I ordered food for everyone and selected a time I wanted to pick it up. When I arrived, it was there waiting for us so we just had to find a table and dig in.

Eventually, we made our way back over to the opposite side of the park to ride Buzz Lightyear. It was starting to get dark, so we made our way to the front of the castle and found a spot to watch the fireworks.

While waiting, Lexi had been asking for some Minnie Ears for the past two day, so we went on a mission to find her beloved pair with the pink, purple and teal fabric that flowed between them.

The fireworks were great, but the laser show with coordinating music was amazing. They just nailed how the fireworks compliment the music and the laser show in the most remarkable way. So inspiring.

About 20 minutes after the fireworks show, they do a follow up show, Once Upon A Time. I didn’t know what this was, but I loved it. There were way fewer people, most of whom sat down. There was still a laser show and fireworks that accompanied it, but the show was in the form of a bedtime story and it just felt so much more intimate and was a pleasant surprise.

At this point, we were pushing on 13 straight hours of magic and you three kids were exhausted, but remarkably well behaved with very little whining and complaining considering. You all climbed into the strollers and passed out as we made our way back to the bus. With all three of you sleeping, it made it pretty challenging to actually get you into the bus. We had to fold up the strollers,  and carry a sleeping kiddo in, which also meant we had to wake Lexi up to walk on her own. Your legs were like limp french fries as we tried to get you out of the stroller and wake up enough to walk. We transferred all three of you right into the bed and crashed ourselves.

Despite Kate not feeling well and refusing to participate in most things, the day was filled with so much magic. I can’t wait for the next few.

Love,

Mama

DisneyWorld, family vacations, Kate, Lexi, William

Disney World Resort Day (Day 1)

We are here! It was VERY touch-and-go leading up to this moment. All 5 of us had influenza within the last 7 days and I wasn’t sure we were going to make it and were very close to canceling but we are here in the warm sunshine and it is divine!

Our flight took off around 6:30 pm and landed around 10:30. Flight was smooth and so nice to have a direct flight. Fun fact, we flew on leap day, so Sun Country was selling beer for $2.29, which is a steal anywhere but even more so on a flight. So Daddy and I each enjoyed a Fulton.

By the time we got to the our bags, rode the Magical Express and arrived at Pop Century (our hotel for the next 3 day), it was past midnight (Magical Express is the bus that takes you from the airport to your hotel). Badgie and Kate both feel asleep on the Magical Express and Lexi was pretty tired, so getting off the bus and then getting all of our things to get to our room was a little challenging, but we made it, got the three of you into a bed and then I unpacked and got us situated a bit.

Kate was the final one to get sick and although she was fever free, she still didn’t feel good. She had a rough night of sleeping and was up whining for mama several times, but thankfully didn’t wake Lexi and William up.

This morning, Kate, William and I explored the hotel grounds a bit. We checked out the SkyLiner, the cafeteria and got our drinking mugs. Around 9:15 or so,  we all walked over to the SkyLiner to head over to the Boardwalk for the Bon Voyage Breakfast with Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Ariel and Prince Eric. The SkyLiner is a gondola type system that connects a few hotels to Epcot and HollyWood Studios. It just opened in September and it is awesome and they need it at every hotel and park. It is so fast, comfortable and easy to ride. No waiting in lines, it was just slick! We took it right to Epcot, and walked over to the Boardwalk for our reservation at 10:15.

We had to wait a bit at the restaurant, but had a wonderful breakfast and met several characters we hadn’t seen before. This is one of the few character dining options that isn’t a buffet. The characters walk around one-by-one to each of the tables and really play the characters. Ariel even commented that Kate must have done her hair with a dingle-hopper that morning as it was a bit all over the place. They even have a little parade for the kids to dance around the restaurant. Kate was a total grouch the whole time because she still wasn’t feeling well, but Lexi and William loved it.

After that, we walked around the lake to check out the Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts before heading back on the SkyLiner. We checked out the Art of Animation hotel before heading back to Pop. The Art of Animation and Pop Century are right across the pond from each other. The theming at Art of Animations is fantastic and is really geared towards young families with decor from The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and Cars. The kids loved looking at the scotches from the Movies and the detail the use to make it feel like you are in the movie.

Kate and Daddy stayed back in the room and napped (or at least attempted to) while Lexi, William and I went swimming in the bowling pool. The weather was a little cooler (70 degrees), but the kids had lots of fun diving for rings and just playing around in the water.

Around 4:00 we hopped on a bus to Disney Springs for our dinner reservation at 5:15. Disney Springs is a big shopping and restaurant area. The whole restaurant was themed in different kinds of dinosaurs figures and environments. We ate in the cave and you guys thought it was pretty cool. This was Lexi’s favorite food Lexi ate while in Disney as she loved the spaghetti. Of course, we had to stop in the Lego store and what I imagine is the worlds largest Disney store. It was so big I just couldn’t get over it.

We hit the sack around 8:00 knowing we had an early and big day following.

Love,

Mama

Chirstmas, Kate, Lexi, William

Christmas 2019

Lexi, William & Kate,

I love to lure you out of bed on the morning of Christmas Eve with scents and sounds of bacon sizzling and warm fluffy pancakes sitting on your plate adorned with some kind of silly dollop of whole-made whip cream. Christmas music plays in the background as we excitedly start Christmas celebrations.

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days of the whole year. I love the tradition, the beauty, excitement and joy that surrounds the day. I have such fond memories of it growing up and hope that you will too.

After breakfast and finding the elves, the rest of the morning is a lazy day cleaning up and then starting to get ready for Church. This year, we were hosting an open-house for anyone to come and gather, so we were busy getting food ready and putting some extra attention on the house and making sure it was presentable for people to come over. Around 1:00, Kate was laying in a ball on a pillow and I knew it wasn’t a good sign… she had a small fever, took a nap and then eventually threw up. Poor kiddo.

I was pretty devastated. We had all of this food ready to serve people and I knew I wasn’t going to make it to church, which is my favorite thing about Christmas Eve. I love the carols, the soft glow of the candles, the dimmed lights and everyone squeezed together in a pew. And of course the message–a new baby, a celebration, a symbol of growth and new beginnings. There is a sense of serenity and hope for the world that is filled with so much anger, deceit and struggles.

So the party was off, church was off, until Daddy decided at the very last moment to take William & Lexi and meet Great Grandma, Grandpa & Grandma. Then, headed over to Great Grandmas for a visit and spaghetti.

Kate and I snuggled at home and watched a movie together. By the time bedtime rolled around and everyone was snuggling up in their Christmas jammies, making sure we had cookies and milk for Santa–Kate was starting to feel a little better.

Once everyone was all snug in their beds, mom (and supposed to be dad, but her fell asleep) began setting up the Christmas maze. You each had a reel on plastic string (Lexi–Pink, Badger–Green, Kate–Purple) and we wrapped the string all over the main level of the house. It went under chairs, through spindles around walls–all over the place making it nearly impossible to walk anywhere on the main level. All the strings led back to one shared present. It took a lot of time to set this all up, but I could not wait to see your faces the next morning.

When you all three of you finally woke up Christmas morning, we headed downstairs and you had no idea what the heck happened. You quickly discovered Santa had arrived and brought just what you had asked for: Lexi–Rainbowcorn, William–Transformer, Kate–an Elsa dress. But then needed to figure out your maze so we could actually walk around and open the rest of the gifts. You each had your reels and started to roll up your string as you navigated around the obstinate course.

Eventually, all strings led all three of you back to the same gift–which had our DISNEY shirts in because we were going to DisneyWorld in March!!!! There were some jumps and cheers, but your excitement quickly shifted to the rest of the gifts that needed to be opened. I love that you each play a role in picking out gifts for your siblings, because you are so excited for them to open that gift–it is one of the first gifts you reach for to pass out.

Kate was still under the weather a little bit, but was still enjoying in the festivities and excitement–was just pretty clingy to mom.

After all the gift giving was complete, we had some Carmel rolls before each of you kids dug into your lego builds. Lexi had received the resort and Badger the fire station. Slowly, we started to pick up the house a bit as the Sampson’s were coming over to celebrate. Kate took a nice nap and woke up feeling like happy Kate.

A few days later we went to Grammy and Papa’s for Bothwell Christmas

Once again, we are so blessed to have wonderful families to gather with and celebrate this joyous season.

Merry Christmas my sweet babes!

Love,

Mama

Chirstmas, Kate, Lexi, William

Christmas Activities 2019

Lexi, Badgie and Katie,

When your Daddy and I walked into our house for the first time 10 years ago and I saw 25 foot ceilings in our living room, I immediately visioned our house decorated for Christmas anchored around a huge beautifully decorated tree that lit up that room from floor to ceiling.

This year, part of that dream came true. We were gifted a new 12 foot Christmas tree with more than 1000 twinkling lights built into it. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, many of those lights started to burn out, which caused the entire string to burn out and Daddy and I had to manually replace them–which was kind of a nightmare. Eventually, we just gave up and decided we’re going to have to get new lights next year. BUT it was beautiful and has really become a statement in that space. Once it was all set up, you kids loved to help decorate. In true kiddo fashion, every ornament you put on ended up in a 1″ radius of each other so once you were in bed, I had to re-disburse the ornaments around to make it a little more balanced.

You love to help decorate the rest of the house as well. The three of you especially love the little snowman collection we’ve started. Grammy gave us a lot of her snowmen and we’ve added to it and you guys LOVE to play with the snowman and pretend they are little character people.

This year, we splurged a bit on our Santa visit and did the Santa Experience at Mall of America. There are no lines, or a rush to get in and out and you get to have a much more relaxed and personal visit with Santa as he gets down on the floor and plays with the kids or talks to them before taking pictures. Kate was a little hesitant on the big guy in red, but the our appointment happened to be on Lexi’s birthday so she was extra excited to see Santa on her birthday.

Another thing that was a lot of fun that I want to continue for future years is special shopping trips with you kids to pick out gifts for your siblings. Lexi and William had a special trip to Target to pick out a gift for Kate, Lexi and Kate for William and William and Kate to pick out a gift for Lexi. Together you had to decide on a gift you thought the receiver would like. I love observing activities like this and watching each of your personalities at work. Lexi, you love to look at every toy aisle while making mental notes of things you think they might like, but will not decide until you have seen everything and then hem-and-haw over your decision. William, you like to look but when you find the gift, you know, and your mind is made up. You don’t need to look at another thing.

Other highlights of the Christmas season included: Cookie baking, gingerbread house decorating, listening to Christmas music, Christmas movies X10, looking at toy catalogs, advantage program at school, Lexi’s dance recital, Lego advent calendar and our daily elf visits.

Love,

Mama

Kate, Lexi, William

Halloween 2019

Lexi, William & Kate,

I lobbied incredibly hard (really hard) to have coordinating costumes for you three, and there was zero interest. I threw out three little pigs, grinch, disney characters and idea after idea was rejected. Sigh. I don’t think I will ever win this battle again.

Costumes this year:

Lexi: Hatchimal unicorn–because now we are at the stage where you combine two different things into one costume.

William: Dinosaur (same costume as last year, which barely fit–but was perfect as he loves green and dinosaurs)

Kate: Was supposed to be Minnie Mouse–but refused to even try on any part of any kind of Minnie Mouse costume, so we resorted to being a duck because her rain jacket–which I know she loves to wear has a duck on the hood and it was the only thing I was confident she would wear.

Halloween activities:

Per the use’ we had a slew of activities to help us celebrate.

Lexi had her Halloween celebration at Dance where they do a few different Halloween themed dances and then share some snacks.

William & Lexi both had Halloween party’s at school (sorry no pictures to share)

Then, Lexi also had a spooky lunch where the school decorates the cafeteria in spooky decor and has a spooky themed food. All the lights are turned off, black lights are on and Halloween decor is hanging. The meal had things like grapes in whip cream as googlly eyeballs and chicken fingers as grave stones. Parents are invited to join their kids for lunch and everyone gets a good kick out of it.

Following lunch is a parade for the kindergarten- through second graders in their costumes. It is short and sweet around the little loop in the school–but all the kids and teachers are dressed up and is a fun little way to celebrate. I am so grateful for the extra steps St. Vincent takes to celebrate Holidays like this and really make memories for the kids, and something they look forward to each year.

Then that evening, it was fairly chilly for trick or treating so the kids piled their layers of clothes on and headed out to get some candy. Kenzie joined us as a little strawberry and although she was only 1, she totally got the idea of trick or treating and had a death grip on her candy bin.

We made it around the block and halfway around the new neighborhood before Kate started to get tired. We headed back home and Lexi and William wanted to keep going so we went up and down Hampshire, the other side of the Georgia cauld-e-sac and then into the townhome neighborhood. It was starting to get late and William was getting tired so we headed home to do the annual candy count. Lexi and William each had about 100 pieces of candy and were pretty proud of their haul.

Pumpkins this year were

William: top left Transformer logo

Lexi: top right Unicorn that she drew

Kate: bottom: Kitty

Love,

Mama

William

William’s First Day of Pre-K Preschool

Dear Oats,

As we were getting ready to drop you off this morning, I expected tears, nervous and you to be very clingy to my legs. You shocked us and were confident, at ease and seemed like you had done this many times. You found your locker, put your backpack in and had to remind you to give us a hug goodbye–you just went straight in and started to find some toys to play with.

IMG_4957

You switched schools this year from Bright Beginnings to St. Vincent’s. You are there all day–so from 7:30 – 1:30, the same time that Lexi is there, which makes it one less drop off and pick up for Daddy. Originally, we had signed you up to just go Tuesday and Thursday but felt that you could really benefit from another day of exposure to really help you learn your letters, numbers and exposure to more social elements with kids. Since you are there all day, you eat breakfast, lunch and take a little nap too.

Prior to your first day, we did have a little orientation day where Mom and Dad had a little meeting with Mrs. Winn, your teacher and you got to learn about the classroom and all the fun toys and activities for you.

The 6:30 am wake up call was a bit of a shock for you. You groaned and pulled your blankets over your head.

William 1st day of pre-k 1

After reminding you of your breakfast of choice, pigs in a blanket–you hopped down the stairs cheerfully. Like most mornings, it was chaos, getting out the door. Similar to Lexi, Daddy made you this awesome sign about all things William. We snapped a bunch of pictures and headed to drop off.

William first day of pre-k 2IMG_4968

After you got home, you were so excited about your day. You proudly told us you had lots of fun and were excited to go back.

I am excited to see how much you have grown and how much more confident you’ve become and all that you are going to learn this year. Have a great last year of preschool buddy cause next year, its Kindergarten!

Love,

Mama