Ukraine part 1: Warsaw and Odessa

Chris and I just got back from a two week trip to Ukraine sans children! It was a fabulous trip, all things considered (missing babies, stomach flu, etc). We split the trip into three main cities, Odessa, Kiev and Lviv and worked really hard to see all the things. So to keep things organized you can expect a three part series on each city we went to. This is post number one, but before we get into the nitty gritty…

So but like…why Ukraine though?

Roughly 10 years ago Chris, my husband, served a mission for the LDS church to Ukraine. He lived there for two years and has wanted to go back ever since.

^^Isn’t he the cutest??

Shortly after Evelyn was born we started planning a trip to Ukraine, initially to get Chris a new suit because you can get things so inexpensively in Ukraine. But only a week or so after creating our Pinterest board this big revolution business happened and it became very unsafe for us to go to Ukraine so we didn’t.

Fast forward 3.5 years to November 2016, when we found out about these incredibly cheap tickets to Europe and we just couldn’t say no. We talked about going to the UK or Italy but we had already started planning that trip to Ukraine and we are the type to travel off the beaten path, so to speak, so Ukraine it was.

There weren’t any tickets right into Ukraine with this really good deal ($400 RT!!) so we booked tickets into Warsaw, Poland and the trip planning began.

The Flight

The first leg of our trip was 10 hrs! I was in a bit of a tizzy. Ideally I’d get a great 10 hour nap but in reality, how many people do you know who can get a full comfortable sleep while sitting at a 90* angle?!

I packed my carry-on with all the important items for a good night’s sleep as well as [Read more…]

Disneyland for two

IMG_9702 copyJPGI have been to Disneyland and Disney World my fair share of times. They are my second home. My mom grew up in California so we went there for a long time until we moved to Georgia and Disney World was a short 10 hour drive away. Then I got an internship at Disney World right after Chris and I got married. The Disney parks hold a special place in my heart and are full of fun memories.

However, this past trip was unlike any I’ve taken, in the very best way. My Aunt Darla and I have been close pretty much my whole life. She’s always treated me like a friend first and a niece never. I even lived with her for a year during my most very awkward of phases. Nonetheless, and despite our cross country distance, we’ve remained close friends. That made this trip to Disneyland incredible!

The occasion, of course, was the Tinkerbell half marathon. But we decided to take advantage of being there and spend a few days in the park. With her military discount we scored 3-day park hopper passes for $150!! At first we were just going to do one day, but a one day ticket is $105+tax. So for $45 extra dollars we could add two more days and a park hopper. It was a no brainer really.

It was about a 9 hour drive from Utah to Anaheim but the drive really wasn’t bad. We left at like 6am and took 2 hour turns so neither of us got too bored with driving.

IMG_9534 copyJPG

^^Lunch on the road at Wienerscnitzel

IMG_9543 copyJPG

IMG_9538 copyJPG

Darla was all too happy to point out that there had been shift in our relationship. Where I was once the cool, young, hip teenager, I was now the mother of toddlers and was not in-the-know on anything cool or hip. She, however, as the mother of 2 teenage girls was. As evidenced by the fact that she had to teach me how to use snapchat. #imsoold

We had a ridiculously fun time. We let ourselves enjoy sitting down for a nice meal (Scroll down for all my favorite places we ate!) instead of feeling stressed to rush and ride everything. We sat and chatted (and were interrupted by Oswald). We moseyed around and rode what we wanted, when we wanted, without having to make a whole gaggle of people happy. We even took a break for like an hour and bought some souvenirs from Sephora in Downtown Disney. That would have never happened if my husband was with us.

IMG_9546 copyJPG

IMG_9552 copyJPG

My favorite part of the trip was probably Sunday night. We were both so silly slap-happy after having been awake for so many hours. We were hobbling around with sore knees and giggling at everything. It was fun that Darla brought herself down to my immaturity level for a night.

IMG_9599 copyJPG

IMG_9600 copyJPG

IMG_9606 copyJPG

IMG_9674 copyJPG

On Monday, we had planned to go to Disneyland in the morning and leave by noon for the 10 hour drive back. Well, we were both so tired that we didn’t even end up getting to the park until noon. And we didn’t really care. There was no one to tell us one way or the other.

We started at Matterhorn which was an annoyingly long line but we both really wanted to ride it. We got up to the part of the queue where it was weaving back and forth. We were close to entrance of the ride but there were still probably 30 people ahead of us. But the guy running the ride saw us, pulled us out of line and let us walk right on. I guess were were looking pretty fly.

We got through most of the ride before it stopped. Shut down. We were sitting there for a while but it was actually really peaceful. We were in the sun, right next to a waterfall. Darla and I were just playing on our phones. By the time they got us off the ride, they gave us a fastpass for the ride of our choosing (except Hyperspace Mountain) for our trouble. #worthit.

IMG_9691 copyJPG

We headed over to Star Tours since we hadn’t been on that one yet. The fastpass line was stupid long which got us both annoyed because we had limited time in the park. But when it got to the point to give up our magical fastpass ticket the guy looked at us, and then gave it back. “I didn’t do that,” he said. We must have been lookin’ super fly!

IMG_9697 copyJPG

IMG_9703 copyJPG

So we walked right onto Indiana Jones. For the third time this trip. Then a quick corndog lunch (yum!) and we rushed right over to California Adventure since we still hadn’t ridden Tower of Terror. But I checked the wait time on my app as we walked in and noticed that California Screamin was a 10 minute wait. So instead, we rode that twice, wrapped it up with The Little Mermaid, grabbed some ice cream from Ghiradelli and headed home.

By this time it was about 5pm. I drove us out of the city and as we were reaching our 2 hour switch point we spotted an outlet mall. Something you should know…Darla and I are both avid shoppers. (I blame her for my addiction). So we spent like 30 min to an hour in Old Navy and then got back on the road.

Darla drove for almost two hours and I took us the rest of the way home so she could sleep. But the only way I could manage that was by chugging two Rockstar energy drinks back to back. By the time we did get home at 5am, I had a hard time falling asleep cause I was still a little buzzed on caffeine.

It was the most amazing weekend. Neither of us wanted to leave but were still excited to see our families. It was so wonderful, we plan to make a habit of this whole Disney running thing. So stay tuned for more Disney runs! I’m thinking the next one will be Feb 2017.

Favorite Places to Eat at Disneyland and California Adventure:

Jazz Kitchen

IMG_9565 copyJPG

Located in Downtown Disney, the Jazz kitchen offers cajun-creole food. It’s on the pricier side but if you have the money to spend, it’s well worth it. I just wish I had saved more room for dessert because we saw and smelled them making Bananas Foster at the table next to us and it looked mouth wateringly delicious.

Flo’s Cafe

IMG_9588 copyJPG

Flo’s is in the heart of Radiator Springs at California adventure and is the perfect stop for breakfast after getting your fast pass for Radiator Springs Racers (you have to do that first because they run out). The brioche french toast is incredible and it is a big piece. But if you’re anything like me, you might need something savory in addition to a sweet piece of french toast. If you are there with another person, one of you order the french toast, and the other person order the breakfast platter with eggs, hashbrowns, a biscuit and bacon and then split it! It’s more than enough food for two people.

Cozy Cone Motel

I wish I had been hungrier when we walked through the Cozy Cone Motel but I just wanted a a quick snack and popcorn hit the spot perfectly. I opted for regular butter, but the offer all kinds of flavored popcorn if you’re feeling adventurous. The other cones have sweet and savory snacks and some that could even serve as a meal. You can read more on this post (scroll about halfway down).

Little Red Wagon

When I did research for our last trip to Disneyland I read about these corndogs and wanted one SO BAD. But it just never happened. So for this trip I was determined to get one! This was my first meal after our half marathon and it hit the spot perfectly. These are unlike any corndogs you’ve had. They’re huge and hand dipped and delightful. They are located right at the end of Main Street and corndogs are the only thing they serve (with chips and a drink if you want). But everyone seems to know how amazing these corndogs are and the line is always crazy long. So if you’re looking to save some time and have a place to sit, head on over to the next restaurant, The Stage Door Cafe.

Stage Door Cafe

Located in Frontierland at Disneyland, this cafe serves the very same hand-dipped corndogs you can get at Little Red Wagon, without the long wait and with other food options if you’re dining with people who may not be in the mood for a corndog (is there such a person?!)

River Belle Terrace

3

Also located in Frontierland with a great view of the Mark Twain Riverboat, River Belle Terrace is a nice sit down restaurant to rest your tired feet for dinner after a long day at the park. Or if you ran a half marathon 20 hours prior. I had the ribs which were finger lickin’ good. The price is worth it for the food. We didn’t make a reservation but we didn’t have to wait long for a table.

Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill

IMG_9605 copyJPG

Located at the Pacific Wharf in California Adventure. Yummy yummy Mexican food and the price is right! My aunt and I both got a burrito plate that came with beans and rice and was plenty to fill our bellies. Plus the time of day we were there wasn’t too crowded so we could pleasantly chat under the shade without distraction.

Ghiradelli’s

And right down the way from the Mexican Grill is Ghiradelli’s! Head over for a delicious ice cream dessert. I’d highly recommend splitting it with a friend though. Neither of us could finish our Sundays. And every time you enter the store you get a free chocolate. We happened to go in three times and decided not to get ice cream until the 4th time. But we got three free chocolates (say that 10 times fast).

 

Running the Tinkerbell Half Marathon

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAFINISHLINE6_20160508_384135628216 copy

Running this half marathon was seriously one of the most empowering experiences of my entire life. In the days leading up to the race, I was on a roller coaster of emotions. I went from being crazy excited to crazy nervous and up and down and everywhere in between.

This post is one big ol’ photo dump of me running, which you obviously all need to see, so do yourself a favor and scroll on down. You will also be rewarded for your scrolling effort with all the deets of the race.

::

My aunt, Darla, flew into town on Thursday evening and we raced off to get airbrush tans because when you think half marathon, you obviously think amazing tan minus any risk of skin cancer. But the thing is, with a spray tan it has to process for like 10 hours before you can shower. In that 10 hours it like doubles in darkness and then once you rinse, it’s all gorgeous. But we wanted to leave so early on Friday morning that we wouldn’t have made it through those 10 hours yet so we were forced to head off on our expedition as we got continuously darker.

We got to California Friday evening and headed to Downtown Disney for dinner with my Uncle (who graciously let us stay with him during the duration of our trip). While my Uncle waited for our table reservation at The Jazz Kitchen, which was superb by the way, Darla and I headed off to get our packets and info for the race.

12

^^We naturally took an obscene number of selfies in the process.

13

^^Posing in front of a map of the race. Notice the dark tans. Don’t worry, they lighten up by race day.

IMG_9563 copy

^^Give me wings Tinkerbell!

They had this cool expo with a bunch of vendors selling awesome Disney workout type merch. Plus lots of people selling tutu’s and and bows and glitter and all that good stuff. I ended up with a cute “leg day” Ariel shirt and Darla got a glow in the dark Tinkerbell half shirt.

We spent Saturday at California Adventure and low and behold I started to get sick. Like so sick I couldn’t breath through my nose at all (Thanks children). I ended up running around the park in search of nasal decongestant. I started getting way worried about the race. How do you run 13.1 miles when you can’t breath through your nose? Like for real? Much to Darla’s dismay I convinced her to call it an early day, hit a few drugstores, go to bed early and set our alarms for 3:00 AM. Eeek!

Surprisingly on Sunday morning it wasn’t at all hard to wake up. I think we were both just so excited. The race officially started at 5:30 AM but everyone started in corrals based on their speed. We didn’t care to pretend that we were going to finish in any exciting amount of time so we ended up in corral E of A-F.

By the time we actually crossed the start line, we had already walked over a mile and it was 6:00 AM.

11

^^I made our tutus and Darla made our shirts

10

I tried to keep pace with Darla but it turns out I’m actually pretty competitive and really wasn’t a fan of people passing me, so I found myself weaving in and out of people and I lost her before we made it to the first mile marker.

We had these electronic things in our race bibs that corresponded with the mile markers and kept track of our pace. The coolest part is that we set it up to send texts to our families to update them where we were. That was especially nice for us because we didn’t have any family members on the sidelines cheering us on. In retrospect, I’d really like to have my family there for the next race (yes, I did say next race. How perceptive you are).

tink half collage

Additionally, I was taking selfies the whole time and sending them along to my mom and Chris. You’ll notice the time on the mile marker boards. However, it was based on the race starting at 5:30 and we didn’t actually start until 6:00 so you can factor that in with your mad math skills.

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION5_20160508_384135628206 copy

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION5_20160508_384135628207 copy

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION6_20160508_384135549234 copy

The race started in downtown Disney and we worked our way into Disneyland.

I got stupid weepy as I ran into the park. Like seriously, I started tearing up. There were these families on the sidelines holding up signs and little girls with their dads cheering on their moms in the race and I just couldn’t help but wish that my husband and kids were there.

I saw one guy like three times over the course of the race and he had a sign that said, “Go first timers, you got this!” And once again, I got all teary-eyed, every time I saw it.

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION7_20160508_384135404147 copy

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION3_20160508_384135549235 copy

The course took us behind the scenes of Disneyland and California Adventure. The park wasn’t open yet but all the cast members (Disney employees) were clapping and cheering and encouraging us. They even had some of the rides going, like Dumbo and the carousel. It helped that I had just been to Disneyland with my family so everywhere I looked I was struck with a sweet memory of my daughter seeing Disneyland for the first time.

 

8

^^in cars land, although it forreal looks like I’m in Moab, Utah. Disney is so cool.

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION20_20160508_384135628203 copy

^^The Photopass photographers caught my strong selfie game on camera. What do you call a photo of someone taking a selfie?

7

 

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION15_20160508_384135628231 copy

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION17_20160508_384135404145 copy

^^”Gang gang bang bang!” Or is it “Bang bang gang gang”? I’m so old.

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION13_20160508_384135404144 copy

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION23_20160508_384135628230 copy

By about mile 6 we were out of the parks and just on the streets of Anaheim. This was kind of a bummer because Anaheim is not the prettiest of cities and after about mile 6 you’re starting to get tired and run down and could really use the motivation of being in the parks.

I was able to run straight for about the first 6 miles, so by the time I did hit mile 6 I started taking a lot of walking breaks. Also, TMI here, but my shorts, which I borrowed from Darla, kept riding up and created a sort of chaffing situation making it so that every time I moved my legs in a walking or running motion it was like taking fine grit sandpaper and rubbing it on my inner thighs with full strength.

The good news is that it hurt whether I was walking or running, so it didn’t keep me from moving faster. I kept thinking that the more I ran, the faster I could finish and sit down.

I never really got too exhausted though. All along the streets of Anaheim people were sitting and cheering us on and holding up posters. There were high school marching bands playing and cheerleaders cheering and dance teams dancing.

Every so often there were tables set up with water and Gatorade and like a million volunteers handing them out to us as we ran by. I made myself stop and get a drink of water every time for an extra boost of energy. Although one time, I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot to stop running and ended up pouring water all over myself.

There were also people handing out snacks. I passed on the freaky energy gel, but accepted candy from strangers. They were holding up signs that said, “Take some candy from strangers!” “It’s legit, we’re wearing gloves.”

They were passing out licorice which sounded disgusting at first but then all of a sudden as I was passing them sounded really appealing.

My two favorite signs were,

“Go Random Stranger, Go!” and even better,

“Never trust a fart!” — So fitting for runners.

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAFINISHLINE6_20160508_384135628216 copy

^^Crossing the finish line like a boss!

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAFINISHLINE4_20160508_384135549237 copy

^^Go ahead and just hum the Rocky song here for full effect.

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAFINISHLINE4_20160508_384135628202 copy

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAFINISHLINE5_20160508_384135628205 copy

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAFINISHLINE2_20160508_384135737803 copy

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAFINISHLINE1_20160508_384135404149 copy

^^Darla got some amazing burst of energy and actually sprinted over the finish line.

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAHALFMBD16_20160508_384135628223 copy

5

After crossing the finish line, everyone was handed their medal, a bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, and led towards the refreshments. On the way was the first aid tent where I waddled like a cowboy and got some vaseline to soothe my wounds.

Darla met me right outside the refreshment line. While she went to the bathroom, I collapsed onto a weird spacey trash bag blanket thing (you know what I’m talking about?) and immediately took of my shoes. And then I couldn’t really find the energy to put them back on.

4

medals

0

Our little refreshment boxes had chips and nacho cheese and Oreos which sounded super unappealing. But they also came with bananas and apple sauce which also sounded terribly unappealing but Darla made me eat them anyways.

When we finally managed to get up and go back to the car, we decided that if we went back to my Uncle’s apartment we’d lay down and never make it back to Disneyland. Which would be awful since we did buy 3-day park hopper tickets. So we took a little break sitting in the car for a while and then went to Downtown Disney where we bought overpriced yoga pants (since we were basically naked) and flip flops and made our way to Disneyland.

1

^^Chillin’ in the car.

We stayed in Disneyland ALL. DAY. LONG. By that evening we were ridiculously slap happy. Like laughing at everything. And I mean everything. In line for Pirates of the Caribbean at the end of the day, we realized we had been awake for 20 hours. 20!

We had a super yummy dinner but ended up sitting on the porch of the restaurant because we didn’t want to wait forever for a table inside. And unfortunately it was super cold and we were still basically naked in our running gear.

3

^^Just so tired. So much sleepiness. Also, the server gave us warm towelettes and we promptly put them in our shirts. Because brr.

At the end of the trip we decided to keep doing Disney races together and involve our families. But only sometimes. Because sometimes it’s just nice to have a weekend at Disneyland with your bestie and without your kids.

Stay tuned for all the exciting adventures of our Disney trip aside from the race itself!

 

 

 

 

Disneyland with a Toddler

Remember back when I went to Disney World when Evelyn was a baby and I said, “Taking babies to Disney World sucks, don’t do it”? Well…Oops, I did it again. And boy did I learn a lot.

This time we went to Disneyland instead of Disney World, so smaller area to cover, less overwhelming right? Wrong. The toddler was a lot more work than the baby on this vacation.

Evelyn is almost 3 and Remington is 9 months. Why was she harder? She doesn’t take naps in the stroller. She wants to run around. She can voice her opinions. Rem will just sleep. Which is awesome.

We bought a three day ticket, non park hopper. My plan of attack was to get to Disneyland when it opens to beat the bulk of the crowd and it worked really well. The first day we were there from about 8:30am to 8pm. Both kids were SO ready for bed by the time we made it back to our hotel. However, in trying to replicate the “get there early” plan for day 2, there was a lot of crying and whining and general tantrums. We had to actually wake Evelyn up to go to the park and she was really enjoying her sleep. We left the park early on day 2, around 4 pm and figured day 3 would be even shorter and more low key. I think we spent a grand total of 3 hours in the park on day 3. Totally worth the hundreds of dollars we spent on the tickets. And I didn’t even get a corn dog. But I digress.

In retrospect, these are my tips for planning a Disney trip with a toddler:

disneyland with toddler

Plan Ahead!

I genuinely enjoy planning Disney trips. I like to pick out the restaurants I want to go to and figure out where we’ll need fastpasses and decide what part of the park we’ll start at and where we’ll end up. This is really helpful to make the most of your time there. It will keep you from going back and forth all over the park all day. A little research on the best restaurants in each area of the park will help you decide where to eat whenever hunger hits you.

If there are characters your kids want to meet, it’s definitely easiest when you are one of the first in line and you don’t have to wait forever. Look up the schedules online and plan around that.

Buy Souvenirs Beforehand

A couple of weeks before our trip, I hit up Target, Walmart and even Dollar Tree, to stock up on souvenirs for the trip. It worked out so perfectly! They were great bribery (Don’t cry, have a toy) I wasn’t sad when they got lost (That Elsa keychain only cost a dollar, so no big deal that you dropped it within seconds of me handing it to you.) And when she did decide to wander through one of the shops and found a stuffed Elsa she just had to have, I coerced her back to the stroller and handed her one from the backpack that I picked up at the Disney Store on sale before the trip.

souveniers

We also brought her princess dresses along with us and she had the option of changing outfits whenever she wanted throughout the day. Especially since we could put everything in the stroller and didn’t actually have to carry anything.

Get there Early/Leave Early

One of the best things we did was get to the park around opening. Most people on vacation want to sleep in (believe me, we did too) but by getting there early, we got to grab fast passes for the faster roller coasters for later in the day and hit a bunch of the little kid rides while they still had short lines.

IMG_0680 copy

We were like 5th in line to see Elsa, 2nd in line to meet Aurora, and 2nd in line to meet Minnie Those line went much more smoothly than the 45 minutes we waited to see Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel, or even Mickey (even though the Mickey line is pretty fun).

The only thing we should have done differently is not stayed so late. If we had shorter days, I’m sure the subsequent days wouldn’t have been so bad.

Use Rider Swap

IMG_8891

Oh my goodness, rider swap. Such a magical way to work the system without actually working the system. The idea of rider swap is that for any ride with a height requirement, one parent can wait in line, get a rider swap pass which they can give to the other parent which allows them (and up to 2 guests) to go to the fast pass line.

Now for the best way to use it to your advantage: It’s really best if you have a third adult with you who can help watch the kids, and therefore 3 tickets to use to get fast passes. You really only need one fast pass for each ride since your rider swap pass can get three people into the fast pass line. SO get one fast pass ticket and that person rides alone and gets a rider swap pass. Then, they give the pass to the other two people who head straight through the fast pass line. You can have three fast passes  for three different rides at the same time. Get it? It’s so great! We hardly had to wait it any lines.

It works really well in California adventure where some of the adult rides and kid rides are intertwined. So whoever is watching kids can take them on some rides or to see a character while the other people are on an adult ride. And the best part of rider swap, no expiration time.

Have a Rest Day

IMG_0670

^^ So done right now

Evelyn was so tired on day two, I really wish we had just spent that day hanging around the hotel, watching TV and playing in the pool and then gone back to the park on the third day. It would have given us all time to rest and recoup from walking around the park all day and Evelyn would have gotten some much needed sleep.

Keep the trip short

For a toddler, something like Disneyland is SO overwhelming! It’s like too much to handle all at once. Three days was just too many in the park. Two days would have given us plenty of time to do everything. And a rest day in between would have insured minimal tantrums from sleep deprivation.

Take advantage of Play Grounds

IMG_0665

When you have a toddler stuck in a stroller most of the day, the second you let them out, they are ready to RUN. I think Evelyn’s favorite part of the trip was the adventure trail in California Adventure. It was just a big playground with slides and tunnels and she didn’t have to wait in line for anything. Plus we could let Remi crawl around and get some energy out too.

 

Sidenote: It would also help if you go during a non-peak time. We didn’t really have a choice in our instance, but if you can manage it, it would make for much less lining waiting and much happier kids.

 

Going to Disney any time soon?? What are you doing to plan? What are you excited for?

Been with toddlers? What’s your advice??

elsa on the ground

Vacation part 2: Disneyland

IMG_0532 copy

I can’t even tell you how I giddy I was about going to Disneyland. Like seriously giddy. Disneyland and Disney World even more so, are like a second home to me and I love the magic atmosphere of it all. I couldn’t wait to share it with Evelyn. She was only 10 months old on our first trip so all the magic kind of went over her head. But this time at 2 and a half she would be the perfect age to experience the magic in full effect.

As it turns out, Disneyland can still be quite overwhelming for a two and a half year old. If you ask her she’ll tell you all about the scary pirate ride (Pirates of the Caribbean), the scary house ride (the haunted mansion), the scary car ride (Mr Toad’s Wild Ride), if you ask how she liked the Winnie the Pooh or Ariel rides she’ll tell you, “Yeah, but they were a little bit scary.”

But her favorite ride by far was “the horses” AKA The carousel. Yes that’s right, a ride that you can find in most malls, was my daughter’s favorite at Disneyland.

Anywho, these pictures will tell the story of our trip much better than I ever could, Enjoy!

IMG_0316 copy

IMG_0320 copy

^^Kisses for Minnie

IMG_0323 copy

^^Showin’ off her shoes

IMG_0324 copy

IMG_0346 copy

IMG_0357 copy

^^Hanging out in Mickey’s house

IMG_0427 copy

IMG_0438 copy

IMG_0457 copy

^^Costume change number 1

IMG_0384 copy

IMG_0389 copy

IMG_0396 copy

^^All the Pooh characters were just enamored by Evelyn. They each walked her from one character to the next and Rabbit just refused to let her go.

IMG_0406 copy

^^She sang Pooh ‘Little Black Raincloud, and he even shared some honey with her.

IMG_0508 copy

^^Costume change #3

IMG_0518 copy

IMG_0529 copy

IMG_0534 copy

^^So excited to ride the horsies!!

IMG_0537 copy

IMG_0560 copy

IMG_0562 copy

^^Homemade t shirts

Day 2:

IMG_0582 copy

IMG_0594 copy

[Read more…]

Vacation Part 1: Arizona

AZ_0028 copy

^^New hair, fresh spray tan, ready for vacay

Mmm Vacation. I was looking forward to this for like a month. So ready for the warmth of Arizona, so ready to just chill and relax and let family play with my babies.

IMG_0149 (1) copy

^^What a good husband!

Our flight left in the afternoon and it was only like an hour so there was really no chance of either kid sleeping. But Chris was an angel and let me sit all by myself in the back of the plane while he took care of BOTH kids. I think it was the most relaxing flight I’ve ever had in my whole life. Seriously magical.

AZ_0003 copy

^^Look how relaxed I am on the flight all by myself!

AZ_0003a copy

^^Babies require a lot of crap

We flew in with Chris’ little sister Caitlin who Evelyn is seriously in love with so that was nice too. The whole reason for the trip was for Chris’ brother’s wedding. So once in town, Caitlin and I headed out to get a gift for the bridal shower that night. We picked something super boring off the registry: sheets, and then something that we thought would make a nice companion gift, lingerie. Obvs.

The funny thing is that since their registry was at Target, everyone who decided to also get the bride lingerie ended up getting her the exact same thing. Dumb Target, only having one bridal worthy type of lingerie. At least that way she can make returns and pick out exactly what she wants.

AZ_0004 copy

The next day I went for a brisk 5 mile run (half marathon here I come) and in return got a massive blister just in time for the wedding on Saturday. So..that was great.

IMG_0193 copy

^^Hugest blister EVER!

I set up a party with all the bridesmaids to do matching Jamberry nails for the wedding so we did that on Friday afternoon. Then Friday evening, the boys went out for a “bachelor party” (dinner and laser tag) and I went out with the bride and a couple of Chris’ sisters  for dinner. It was a lot of fun. We spent the whole time making the bride feel super awkward by talking about sex. But I mean really…what else were we gonna talk about the night before the wedding??

The morning of the wedding, Chris’ stepmom set up a little easter egg hunt for the kids. Evelyn LOVED getting two Easters.

IMG_0053 copy

The wedding was just beautiful. Evelyn loved running around outside the temple while everyone was waiting for the bride and groom to emerge. But she was not about to let the bride steal the show.

IMG_0083 copy

IMG_0086 copy

IMG_0100 copy

 

IMG_0115 copy

^^Waiting for the bride and groom is hard.

IMG_0138 copy

^^”Why is everyone looking at the bride…Can’t they see I’m right here?”

At one point I lost track of her and saw her little shoes peeking out from behind a pillar. She was playing doctor with Chris’ sister and having surgery done on her knee. Naturally.

IMG_0170 copy

I even managed to hobble around in my heels with my blister becoming more and more painful. Pain is beauty my friend.

IMG_0175 copy

IMG_0169 copy

^^

I take too many selfies, true or false? Trick Question! There’s no such thing.

IMG_0183 copy

^^I seriously love this picture. Chris with his baby brother, newly married and ready to take on life.

Evelyn spent the reception shoving cupcakes into her face and dancing like a maniac. She is seriously so hilarious.

IMG_0200 copy

Sunday, we skipped church and went to visit my Grandma and Aunt where Evelyn got yet another Easter surprise. I guess it’s understandable that people want to spoil such a cute little girl. By now she’s a pro at opening gifts.

IMG_0222 copy

^^Great Grammy’s house is the best!

IMG_0249 copy

^^Everyone loves goldfish right

On Monday we grabbed a rental car and made the trek to California for our Disneyland Adventure….

 

To be continued.

A little bit of fear and adrenaline

It’s important to do things in life that scare you. I don’t like to get too comfortable in the day to day. I want to mix it up and feel challenged. When you get scared, you get adrenaline and that’s something that makes life more exciting to live.

As summer came to a close I went on two little mini vacays which was nice since I didn’t get to much else this summer, what with having a newborn and all. Both of these trips allowed me the opportunity to push out of my comfort zone and get my heart racing. I’ll present them to you in two separate stories below:

**Note: I most likely did not probably make up or exaggerate most and or all of the following details in the two stories below. More or less…ya feel me?**

Story Number 1:

That one time I nearly got eaten and mauled to death by a carnivorous mountain bear of doom

 

 

For Labor Day weekend we decided to pack up and head into the mountains with some friends for a few fun days of cabin camping. Our group consisted of two burly mountain-ish men, two girly toddling toddlers, two mamas-one of whom was great with child, and a babbling, bubbling 2 month old tot. Hence the plan to camp in a cabin with actual beds and not in a tent with non actual bed-like aparatusi.

The night grew pitch black as we drove a ten passenger van up the windy mountain roads. At times it was hard to navigate and without cell reception, we were only guessing that we were going in the right direction.

My heart was beating fast as we took one hairpin turn after another in a vehicle that did not seem conducive to the road conditions. The road took a steep incline and we went up, up, up past a teeny outhouse looking building right off the side of the road.

“What is that,” I pondered.

“That’s where Jason Voorhees keeps the bodies.”

Just then a tree branch grabbed hold of the van’s windows with a loud screech. The loud gasp that escaped my mouth was apparently hilarious to my companions.

We unloaded the van using only the light of the full moon. On one of my trips back to the van I found myself outside alone. I grabbed a big bag of food and struggled to carry it toward the cabin when a rustling in the bushes not five feet away got my attention. I whipped my head to the right but nothing was there. When I brought up the strange sound, the rest of my friends agreed that they had heard it too. With that realization we locked the cabin doors and each hunkered down in one of the four side by side beds in the loft.

That night, our friend’s cute toddling tot woke up shrieking in what appeared to be a night terror. No amount of hugging, comforting, or assuring would calm her down. Magically she didn’t wake up the other kids. Not long after she finally relaxed back to sleep, us four adults were awakened by the the abrupt sound of hail pounding on the tin roof. The noise was so loud that Chris and I had to yell at the top of our voices to be heard and we were only a few inches apart. Once again, by some magical force, none of the kids woke up. Little did I know that this restless night of commotion was only a small foreshadowing to the terror that awaited me early the next morning.

On Saturday, being the fitness goddess that I am, I set my alarm early and woke up to workout. After a 30 minute Jillian Michaels workout DVD I was feeling pumped and energized and ready to start my day. I sat out on a wooden swing on the large wraparound porch, breathed in the cool mountain air and enjoyed the quiet stillness of the morning. As a mama of two littles it was a feeling I didn’t get to experience often.

I was feeling so jazzed about life that I decided to go for a quick little jog before everyone else woke up. The morning was so breezy and quiet and the view so pretty I figured it was the perfect atmosphere. I started my descent down the steep gravel driveway at a quick walk. The road was so steep that I was afraid I would slip if I sped up my pace at all. I went past the ‘Jason Voorhees’ shack, which didn’t look nearly as frightening in the light of day, and down the rest of the driveway where I found myself in a cul de sac. I stopped for a minute to look up at the beautiful trees that framed a gorgeous morning sky.

I pulled out my phone and began to take pictures of the mountains and trees and that’s when I heard it. A sound I can only describe as a loud exhaling of breath from the nostrils of a large beast. I gave myself whip lash as I turned to see where the sound came from. Just up from where I was standing, a few feet over from the subject of my photos, was a mass of black fur. I stood frozen in fear for what seemed like minutes. Then it’s head shot up and we locked eyes. It had seen me, the largest most ferocious looking bear I had ever seen outside of a natural history museum. It took me seconds to realize what I needed to do and I took off running back up the steep incline of the gravel driveway.

hike

^^The bear was just out of the right side of the frame of this photo

It seemed like the bear was quite a ways away from me but I had no idea how fast they could run or if my sudden movement would catch his attention. My thighs burned from my workout as I ran faster than I thought possible up the steepest incline. I had barely gotten halfway up the driveway when I heard the gravel crunch behind me. His steps were quick, something I’d compare to a gallop, and I knew he wasn’t far behind. I pushed on harder and faster, the cool air that I was just enjoying had begun to burn my lungs as I heaved in breath after breath.

I started to fear that my legs might give out at any moment but I knew that I couldn’t slow my pace let alone stop. I neared the top of the driveway and turned the corner to see the cabin in view. I was so close. As I turned I caught a glimpse of black fur in my peripheral vision. I tried to speed up but it was no use, my legs were weakening and I was losing momentum. I couldn’t help but slow down the tiniest bit and it was just enough to give him the advantage. He got close enough to me that I could hear his breath and nearly feel it on my back.

That gave me a shot of adrenaline that propelled me up the front porch and into the front door. I slammed it hard just in time to hear his massive body crash into it. My fingers fumbled in an attempt to lock the door as if that could somehow keep him. It was still for a moment and I thought he left but my peace was fleeting as only seconds later his body once again smashed into the door, harder this time.

The door came crashing into me and knocked me to the floor into the kitchen. I briefly used the door as a shield until his claws managed to pierce the wood and come within inches of my face. I managed to roll out from underneath it and grab the only weapon I could find: a broom.

The beast came charging at me, jaw wide, saliva spewing as he roared. I used the broom to brace open his gaping mouth and keep it from closing on me. We struggled for some time around the kitchen, him attempting to claw and bite at any part of me he could reach and me using every bit of strength I had left to push him back with that surprisingly useful broom. At last I was knocked against the fridge where a thought popped into my head.

Holding the bear off with the broom in one hand, I yanked the door open and ripped open a package of raw beef meant for our dinner that night. The bear took one whiff of the dripping package and tried to leap for it. I managed to throw the thing with some force out the front door and deep into the forest.

My hungry foe had lost all interest in me and ran straight for the meat, forgetting his original target. I stood there in the suddenly still kitchen panting, staring at the destruction and wondering what we were going to eat for dinner that night.

 

Cabin

Story #2

That one time I almost fell to my death from the top of a steep, slippery desert mountain side

 

Chris and I spent a lovely weekend in Colorado visiting his family and getting to see his brother who had just returned from a two year LDS mission in Virginia. We decided to take our time on the 6 hour drive back home and take in some sights to make the drive more enjoyable. Plus it would give the kids more time out of the car.

[Read more…]

{That one time} I was ‘friends with’ Winnie the Pooh

pooh 0

 

 

The sun glared in through the mesh of my ‘mask’ making it impossible to see who I was interacting with let alone whether I was holding their autograph book upside down. I could feel single beads of sweat dripping down my spine one at a time. I was at the tail end of my 20 minute set but it didn’t stop me from making sure every guest got a great memory from their visit with Winnie the Pooh.

I waved with my whole arm starting at the shoulder. I jumped up and down holding hands with a little girl. I blew kisses and gave hugs and, even though no one could see it, I smiled until my cheeks hurt. It was a long day and I left every evening a little sore and sweaty and smelly but nothing could ever replace the experience I had being ‘friends with’ Winnie the Pooh.

We are told to say that we are ‘friends with’ the characters we portray. I suppose the company understands that we’re going to tell our friends and family about our work, they just prefer that we do it with a semblance of mystery for what goes on ‘backstage.’

Thats another fun vocab word that we use. Employees are ‘cast members’, where the guests don’t go is ‘backstage’ and the place where I picked up my costume everyday was the ‘wardrobe.’ (Ok..I guess that last one isn’t super original.)

One of the fun things about being ‘friends with’ the characters at Disney World is that everyday is a little bit different. Yes, the basic schedule is the same, but there are always different interactions with different guests at different locations. In my time there I was ‘friends with’ a lot of different characters, all determined by height. My favorites were probably Winnie the Pooh and Chip and Dale.

I got to work in all four parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Sometimes I even worked in restaurants, visiting guests as they enjoyed a break from the heat and got to sit down and enjoy a meal. If you ask me, that’s a significantly more comfortable way to visit with characters than waiting in line out in the hot sun.

*If you want Winnie the Pooh and his friends to visit you while you eat, head to the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom for breakfast, lunch or dinner.*

I even got to work in an evening parade! But that’s a different story for a different time.

The absolute best part of being ‘friends with’ Disney characters is stepping into their shoes (literally and figuratively) and becoming someone that a guest has waited so long to meet. The feeling of making someone’s day is indescribable. The look in a child’s eye when they recognize you and run up to hug you is like nothing else. The 2 minute interaction you have with them could make their whole vacation.

When even an adult jumps up and down and gives you a tight hug, even though they know you’re not really that silly old bear, it just bares witness to the fact that people decided on a trip to Disney World to be a part of something magical and by stepping into the role as their favorite character, you help provide the magic.

I couldn’t help but smile and mouth words while I met with guests. It gave me an excuse to be as happy as Pooh would be, even if I was having a rough day.

I was larger than life with every movement that I made. You kind of have to be when there’s a full suit of fluff between you and the guests.

I allowed myself to dance and jump and spin and play and be absolutely silly and in doing so gave everyone who came to see me, young or old, permission to do the same.

I loved to think about how many vacation photos I was in, without anyone ever knowing. I had my poses down for each shot. I hardly had to think of what to do before they snapped the picture. Usually it was a popped foot with arm extended. Or hands on hips. Sometimes I’d cross my arms over my chest and go back to back with a guest. Sometimes it was just a big hug for a little kid. And every single time, I would smile.

pooh 1

^^That’s me with the Minnie ears. Even when I wasn’t in costume,

I couldn’t help but don my classic pose of hand on hip with big cheesy grin. It was just a habit.

On the rare occasions that I didn’t smile, just to try it out, it felt wrong. It felt like the energy I had, that Pooh would have, was gone and he had turned into a limp noodle. Even if I did the same motions and no one could see that I wasn’t smiling, I was certain they’d be able to tell.

Don’t get me wrong though. It was a tough job. Yes, I did get paid 40 minute breaks every 20 minutes but if I didn’t, I probably would have been cooked alive. Sometimes those 40 minutes got pretty boring back in the break room. And it was hard for me to make friends when I was at a different location being ‘friends with’ a different character nearly everyday. Sometimes the costumes were uncomfortable and I’d have a misplaced screw poking me in the head. And you better believe those things were heavy and led to many a back ache.

But if I had to go back in time and decide whether to work at Disney all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

There is nothing quite like wielding the power of Disney magic.

::

Originally this post was going to be a day in the life of a Disney World character performer in which I divulged all kinds of secrets and tid bits about what things are like under the costume and behind the scenes. But after some re-reading and editing, I decided that I wanted to preserve the Disney magic, just a little bit.

I’m sure you could find out about that stuff if you looked hard enough…this is the internet after all. But I believe in all the happy feels that come from the magic of Disney and if I tell you all that I know, it might not be as magical anymore. And that’s just unacceptable.

 

Keep an eye out for more posts about my time at Disney World. And if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them as best I can. Leave me some comment love!

 

 

 

Exploring Philadelphia

This is the third in a series of posts about our 5th anniversary vacation. View the first post on Maryland here, and the second post on Washington DC here.

000 header

Our day trip to Philadelphia was honestly the highlight of my trip. The original plan was to go to New York City for the day but after our exhausting afternoon in DC and the prospect of 6 hours of travel time round trip, Chris wasn’t too crazy on the idea. I was super disappointed at first, but looking back on how great our day was I don’t even mind that it was spent in Philadelphia instead of NYC.

001 bridge

I did a little research the night before and had a long list of places I wanted to try and see while we were in town. Philadelphia is obviously a really historic city but not being a big history buff myself, I really wanted to do some other ‘fun’ things besides just taking a history class. But Chris took a look at my list with a loud groan. He is the history buff kind of guy and wanted to take advantage of being in such a historic city.

Free Activities

002 liberty bell

Much like DC, there was a lot of free stuff to do. We took a quick walk through the Liberty Bell museum, got a pic of the bell and moved along to Independence Hall. I still don’t really get the big significance of the Liberty Bell.

004 independence hall

You have to get tickets for the tour at Independence Hall but they’re free. You just pick them up at the information center across from the Liberty Bell. The tour was actually pretty cool. I liked our tour guide and surprisingly I wasn’t bored even though my attention span and interest level is similar to that of a 15 year old girl.

003 philly

^^This is where the magic happened. Washington sat in that chair at the front

The US Mint (where they make money) is right across the street and also free, but we decided to skip out on that one.

005 philly

 

[Read more…]

Washington, DC

This is the second post in a series of three on our 5th anniversary trip. You can read the first one here.

dc 011

Washington DC is such a fun city and I love how much there is to do there for free.

It was one of the selling points to my husband. We could go on a trip and do cool stuff without having to pay a fortune.

Our original plan was to spend a whole day in DC with my aunt and cousins while they were still on spring break. But due to unfortunate weather conditions that didn’t work out. Instead it was just the three of us for a quick afternoon jaunt.

Taking the Metro

dc 001

To avoid terrible parking situations due to the Cherry Blossom Festival, we decided to drive to a metro station and take that the rest of the way in. In theory this was a great idea, but as it turns out there were no super descriptive instructions on how to purchase our metro passes.

Basically you buy a metro card and put money on it. Each stop costs a certain amount of money. So you have to figure out which stops you’re going to go to, see how much each is, figure in the round trip and then apparently add an extra dollar which is the fee for not having a permanent metro pass (My SIL gave me a head’s up on that one).

Thankfully there was a big sign that said to avoid Cherry Blossom traffic, we should use the Archives stop to get to the National Mall. We just bought a pass that would get us to that stop and back. There might have been a cheaper way to do it if we were going to multiple stops but at that point we were just so ready to get on the metro and get into the city.

The Smithsonian

dc 012

^^Smithsonian Castle (Just a walk by)

dc 002

^^We attempted a baby harness to keep Evelyn from running away. It didn’t work quite as planned. Turns out babies are a little different from dogs. Who knew?

Once off the metro, the baby was sitting right on my bladder and I needed to find a bathroom IMMEDIATELY! There was no bathroom that I could see at either metro station (Keep that in mind if traveling with kids who may need a bathroom), the closest place we could find was the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. Thankfully all of the Smithsonian museums are free admission, so I was able to run inside and relieve myself.

[Read more…]