Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Garden Pests


The garden is growing really well. But about 1 in every 20 bean plants has been completely defoliated. And when I walk around the beds, many grasshoppers jump out in front of me. Grasshoppers love beans. They don't love peas or tomatoes, and my peas and tomatoes both look fine, so it appears I have a grasshopper problem.

I turned to my trusty friend google to find out how I could control grasshoppers. That led me to the Colorado Extension website, where I learned that I'm plain ol' S.O.L. Turns out you really can't do much about grasshoppers once they're adults besides give them something tasty to eat away from the garden. I'm just gonna put a few more beans in the ground every weekend and hope there are enough plants that they can't eat them all before they get a good start.

For future reference, I learned they like to lay their eggs in dry, untilled soil. So this was basically a fabulous year for them in my backyard. I have noticed they're all brown, not green. The science geek in me is wondering if they're brown because the grass is brown, or if it's just that mostly brown ones have survived because they were better camouflaged while green grasshoppers were eaten by birds.

Josh keeps telling me birds are the solution to grasshoppers. He's right, but the only birds we really have an abundance of right now are hummingbirds. He says that's perfect, just tie a hummingbird to a stick and use it as a spear to stab the grasshoppers. I suppose I should just be glad he doesn't want me to catch them out of midair with chopsticks.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Support Max and PPMD

Those of you who have been around a while have heard me talk about and seen pictures of our friend, Max.
Max is my dear friend Veronica's little boy and he has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. DMD affects 1 in every 3,500 live male births and results in progressive loss of muscle use. These boys typically lose the ability to walk between the ages of 10 and 14. By their late teens they will lose strength in their upper body and require help with breathing. Young men typically don't survive past their 20's or early 30's. But there is hope in the form of a fabulous organization called Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. This organization provides a source of information and support for parents, but mainly they raise money to fund Duchenne research. There is some really interesting progress with various therapies, including something called exon skipping, which may allow some boys with DMD to retain muscle function longer.
Each year, PPMD holds a "Coach to Cure MD" event to raise money and awareness by partnering with college football teams. My friend Veronica and her family participate by holding their own local event. That event is TONIGHT, September 26 from 6pm-8pm at Ben & Jerry's. There will be TAMU football players there as celebrity scoopers and a portion of all ice cream sales will go to PPMD. In addition, there will be raffle tickets for sale and a silent auction. Some really great prizes are up for grabs and 100% of proceeds from the raffle and auction will go to PPMD. Last year over $1400 was raised, and I know we can do better this year!! Hop over to the facebook page Veronica has set up and let us know you'll be there!

If you aren't local and still want to participate, text "CURE" to 90999 to donate $5 to PPMD *standard text messaging rates apply*

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Back in the Swing of Things

I knew we'd be back in time to work on the garden this year, but I honestly didn't expect to plant such a big garden right away. I think I got carried away at the local co-op when I was buying plants.

I ended up with one entire bed of broccoli. There are 18 plants here. I'll probably lose some, but they should produce quite a bit of broccoli.

Here are more broccoli plants (another 6, I think?), plus 12 brussels sprouts plants up there on the far end.

Now if you've been around here long, you've probably caught my rants about brussels sprouts. I grew beautiful brussles sprouts one year. Early spring of 2007, to be exact. I know that because I was pregnant with Sedona, which explains why I look so tired in this picture of me proudly displaying said brussels sprouts: Completely unrelated side note, this absolutely adorable picture of Sierra at 2 years old was in the same folder (she picked her own outfit, which I hope is obvious): But back to brussles sprouts. Every time I've tried to grow them since then, I haven't gotten a single thing. The sprouts form when it's cool out, then it warms up and the sprouts open. And for the last several years, we've regularly dealt with wild temperature swings. But this year I'm going to try to outsmart the weather. A friend of mine put milk jugs filled with water next to her tomato plants to act as a heat sink and keep them warm on chilly nights. I'm going to try the opposite by freezing filled jugs and setting them next to the brussels sprouts so their immediate environment stays a more constant, and more cool, temperature. No idea if it will work, but I have tons of freezer space, so why not try?

On to more pictures:
This is the other side of that same bed. It's got three different kinds of cabbage. I don't even know how many plants...20-ish if I remember right. I couldn't help it, I just got carried away. We made sauerkraut one year and not wanting to make it again, so I guess we'll have a lot of coleslaw and fried cabbage. There are also a few cauliflower plants down in the corner. This is the first time we've tried to grow it. There are more cauliflower plants in another bed (12 total, I think)

Out here there are 12 tomato plants. It's really too late to be putting in tomatoes around here, but it's been so warm, I figured I'd try anyway. I'm gonna use that milk jug trick to try to keep them warm so maybe they'll produce fruit before it freezes. I just haven't had a proper, homegrown tomato in over a year and had to give it a try.

The green peas and Blue Lake beans I planted last weekend have already sprouted and started unfurling their little leaves. I think my big task next weekend is going to have to be getting supports up for them to start climbing!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sierra's Story

The other day, Sierra asked for some paper to color on. Later on she brought me 3 pictures along with 3 parts of a story. I thought it was pretty cute, so I'm sharing it here
"It was a sunny morning in Texis. And ol the kids were plaing at school""But then it was raning at lunch time and then the kids culd not play. but inewa the kids had to eat"
"But then it was sunny! But then the kids culd play and play and play."


She wrote another, un-illustrated story later in the day too (she didn't watch her spelling so much on this one...lots of misspelling of "mouses" and "silly"):
"ounc ther livd two sile mowsis and they puted on a sile show abowt two sile girls thows girls were named Sierra and Sedona and ther litil sister was named Secora. Thows girls were sile as the mowsis and the mowsis and the girls were prite sile together infact thay made a sile show and a sile band and a sile cake and sile sile sile stuf but it ends at bed time becus kids have to go to bed. But in the morning you get to play mor and you kan play all day."

Obviously still a little kid, but it's amazing to me how far she's come in the last year!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yay!

We got our photopass CD in the mail today. These are the pictures the photopass people took for us at Disney World. Here are two of my favorites:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hugelkultur

The first time I heard the word "hugelkultur", my first thought was "gesundheit!"

Turns out it relates to a type of gardening. A type of gardening that may be very well suited to our area. My friend One Acre Homestead posted a link about hugelkultur on facebook one night and it caught my attention.

The basic idea is to pile up a lot of wood that is starting to rot, cover it with any sod you pulled up, grass clippings, compost and soil and let it continue to rot. It's a bit of a self composting system that actually retains water and can theoretically get you through a drought year with little, or (if you build high enough) even no watering.

Have you seen the latest drought map of Texas?
Oklahoma (where One Acre Homestead moved to when she abandoned us years ago...I'm still bitter) isn't faring any better While we plan to get more serious about rain water collection, a form of gardening that requires less water to begin with would also be very helpful. We gave that a try with our ollas a while back, but I'm liking this new idea too.

We happen to have two beds that are overgrown with pretty thick grass and I'm sure dead wood could be found since the area behind our house looks like this
I'm considering digging down in the overgrown beds, putting in the wood, and then piling the dirt/grass back on top. According to another source I found, it would be good to plant legumes in them at first to balance out any nitrogen loss, but over time it seems like it will be a good solution for good soil and water conservation. The only downside I've read that really concerns me is people saying fire ants take up residence in the beds. I definitely don't like that and am on the look out for a way to possibly prevent it.

In the meantime, I'm getting started on a fall garden in our regular beds. We laid out drip line about 2 years ago that needed some repair, so I got that fixed up. Then I planted 72 sq. ft. of green peas and 72 sq. ft. of green beans. I'm waiting for the local farmer's co-op to get in their fall plants so I can buy some broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage starts to plant and I'll also pick up some onion and carrot seed to get started. I was thinking about planting garlic too, but I'm re-thinking that because it doesn't grow very well if we have a warm spring, and I'm expecting a warm spring.

Gardening, gardening, gardening! I'm excited to be out working in the soil and producing some of our own food again!! Hopefully I have good things to report and posts about canning our own produce in the future!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vanquishing Vomity Demons


Yeah, you heard me. Vomity Demons.

For now (and hopefully not much longer...some progress was made on fixing previous job snafus earlier this week) I am single parenting these three little people most of the time. For the most part, this works out fine. We've got a lot to do and we all get on each other's nerves a whole lot less than we did when we were stuck in the house all day up north.

Where single parenting three children does not work so well is when vomity demons sneak up at 1am and throw a momma from her bed to puke in a bucket on the floor while keeping one hand on the baby to be sure she doesn't crawl off the bed.

By 3am, the baby was screaming in her crib wondering why she'd been abandoned while momma laid on the bathroom floor, heaved with any movement and pitifully called out, "I'm sorry Secora!". Knowing she was going to HAVE to be picked up eventually to be fed and changed and that the other kids would be up in about 3 hours had me crying for my own momma. And bless her heart, she got up and made the 2 hour drive in the middle of the night.

She took care of the baby so I could sleep when I stopped puking. She got the big girls breakfast when they woke up. While I laid in bed mostly in a daze all day, she took care of Sierra when the vomity demons attacked her too.

The next day I made it out of bed, Sierra was recovering well, Secora and Sedona continued to hold strong and it appeared we were on the upswing. I put Sedona in the bath that evening and let her play for a little bit. It wasn't long before I heard the very urgent, "Momma!! I need you!!" Yup, vomity demons again. And that child had eaten mac and cheese and mandarin oranges for dinner. I really need to teach her to chew her food better.

She got hit a bit worse than her sister, but she bounced back pretty good too.

I'm crossing my fingers that Secora will still escape it. This could be a benefit to her refusal to eat (random factoid...breastfed babies have a different gut flora than formula fed or solids eating babies, I'm hoping that's keeping the bug from taking hold).

In the meantime, I've got a date with some vomity demons that need to be vanquished. Bring on the bleach!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Active Reading

The second biggest worry I hear from families who are considering homeschooling or say they can't homeschool is that they can't teach higher level math and science.

aside: the first worry I hear is that their children would drive them crazy if they were home all day every day. I get that and I have no solutions, because there are days when my kids DO drive me crazy. We do have a different routine and family dynamic because we homeschool though and it would be the same if your kids were with you all day.

Teaching math and science never worried me though. I have a biology degree. I remember how to do calculus (and certainly algebra, geometry and statistics). If there's a gap in my knowledge, I'm very capable of catching up quickly from reading a book. I look forward to those things. What worries me, and always has, is teaching a child how to read.

I LOVE to read. I also believe learning to read, comprehending what you read, and critically analyzing what you read are the most important things you learn in school. Once you can read well, you can learn about anything you need/want to learn.

So I always worried I would completely screw up this part of early childhood education. I didn't teach Sierra how to read, she learned at her Montessori pre-school. Teaching Sedona was the first time I was really on my own. Thankfully, it wasn't as hard as I thought.

We started out learning letter sounds (utilizing lower case letters, because that's what they see the most if they're reading a book) just by practicing them over and over and watching leap frog videos in the car. Then we moved on to BOB books. I go through them with her the same way I remember Sierra's teacher starting out with her. We sound out each letter, then put the sounds together.

The problem has been that Sedona is not as interested in reading as Sierra was. Sedona gets through one or two sentences and she can't sit still anymore. She gets frustrated, I get frustrated, and no one's enjoying it anymore. I finally had a light bulb moment and realized I needed to use her fidgeting to my advantage.
We moved our reading out to the driveway. At first I would write words, but we've moved on to sentences with cvc (consonant vowel consonant) words and one or two sight words. She walks from letter to letter saying the sound as she steps on the letter. After going through slowly, she goes back to the beginning and walks faster to actually read the word.
Last week, I had another idea I decided to try. I drew a hopscotch grid and wrote a cvc word in each square I handed her a rock and had her toss it to a square She had to read the word (which she often did without sounding out the letters...I think she knows more than she's letting on) and then she could do the hopscotch At the end, she'd gleefully run back to toss the rock on a new square.

Just a few ideas to work on reading with a kid who wants to read, but can't sit still! Looks like she's gonna be my kinesthetic learner!

Monday, September 12, 2011

10 Months!


Another month has come and gone!

I have my scale back now and Secora's weighing in somewhere between 17#8oz and 17#13oz depending on the day. Either way, that's not really enough weight gain compared to her 8 month weight (the last one on my scale). It's enough of a gain to not be concerning if everything else was normal, but with not eating, it's worth keeping an eye on.

She has finally decided she's at least interested in eating. Maybe 2 or 3 times a week she will voluntarily open up for a taste of something. That's made it more clear that she has some trouble with having most foods in her mouth though. If she licks at something the texture of ice cream or pudding, she's pretty okay, but if any "chunk" of it gets in her mouth, she starts gagging. Bites of actual solids are completely out of the question. It's like she WANTS to eat and her body just won't cooperate. Because of the weight gain, I'm going to go ahead and take her back to the doctor today and see if we can go ahead and get the prescription for occupational therapy. I figure it will take a while to get in, so we might as well get started now because I'm pretty sure we're going to need it.

Developmentally, she's doing great. She crawls everywhere now, nothing is safe! She gets herself into a sitting position with no trouble at all and pulls up on everything. She has made progress cruising once, but hasn't really tried it again. She figured out how to open both hands at once and really clap and does it at appropriate times.
She babbles lots of sounds, but still no actual words beyond mama and dada. She growls at people when she's mad, but then she's my daughter, so that's not really too surprising.

She wakes up several times a night (understandable with the eating situation), but goes back to sleep easily.

She's trying to join in on her sister's games now and dissolves into adorable giggle fits when they include her.

We still aren't sure what color her hair's going to end up being. There is definitely the red tinge to it still, but when the sun hits it, it looks blonde. Sedona's hair started out dark and grew in lighter (she had black tips with blonde roots for the longest time) and it almost looks like the same thing is happening. Her eyes are still looking like that newborn blue color, but I still think they'll change later on like Sierra's did.

She's my little snuggle bug. Most of the time when I hand her over to anyone else, she velcros herself on to me and has to be peeled off. She doesn't cry, it's just like she's thinking, "but why would momma EVER want to put me down??" At night, she often crawls up and lays her head on my shoulder when she first goes to sleep. This sweet season of my life is coming to an end, so I'll take all the baby snuggles I can get!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

That Day

We all know what today is. And what happened 10 years ago.

I don't really have coherent thoughts on it that I can wrap up into a pretty post with a bow on top.

Here's what I got: I was living on my own at college. I had an early biochem class to get to and I had an assignment due, so I was up getting breakfast and had the TV on. I walked by and saw one tower on fire. I heard something about an airplane, so I called my parents. My dad answered the phone and I asked what the hell was going on. Then the second plane hit. I was in shock. I didn't know if this was fairly isolated or if we would be seeing all out war on our soil. I was irate that the university (with a very strong military history) didn't cancel classes. I went to campus to turn in my assignment and walked straight out of the room again and back home. I felt it was disrespectful to carry on with normal daily activities and I was fearful of being at any public institution.

I've read a lot about what happened and what lead up to it. I strongly disagree with a lot of what has been done to supposedly protect us. In particular, I think the Patriot Act costs us a lot of rights and liberties for little to no gain in safety. It never should've been tolerated and shouldn't continue to exist today.

I wish there was more tolerance and less hate. I wish there was more thoughtful conversation and less 24 hour news. I wish there was more reading and less talk radio. I think of what has changed in the last 10 years and I'm saddened to see extremism and blind anger in many different forms all around me. Perhaps for this anniversary everyone can be a bit kinder to each other for at least one day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Disney Lessons Learned

As we've gone along, I have had some questions from friends about how we did this, or how we handled that on our trip. Rather than bury that information in the regular posts, I decided to do this final wrap post of things that went well and things we wish we'd done differently.

Transportation: We were staying at a Disney World resort, which means we had easy access to the Disney transportation system. There's no way I would drive around Disney World and pay for parking at the parks each day. It was much too easy to hit multiple parks in a day by hopping a bus. The biggest frustration was waiting for a bus at park closing time when crowds were the biggest, but we always made it on the first or second bus that came and depending on how busy it is, you'd often have to wait in line for a tram to the parking lot also, so driving wouldn't have saved us that hassle.

Carrying our Stuff: Disney with three small kids? Yeah, there was a lot of stuff. Especially with one kid being in diapers, we always needed to be carrying something. I intended to take a back pack and then forgot it. I blew it off and figured the diaper bag would do. That was a mistake. A back pack was a must have for us. So much of a must have that we bought one while we were there. Since we had the stroller, we could have just put stuff underneath it, but that wasn't feasible with the bus trips. Which brings us to

Strollers: We had to have a stroller because we had Secora. We didn't really think much beyond that about the stroller situation. Turns out it was completely unreasonable to expect Sedona to do all the walking by herself. More often than not, she rode in the stroller and we carried Secora. If I had it to do over again, I would try to borrow a double stroller from a friend or look for one of the add-on boards that attach to the back for an older child to stand on. When Secora WAS in the stroller, it was usually because she needed a nap, but that didn't work out so well either. As necessary as a stroller is, they aren't allowed inside any rides, restaurants or shows. There is designated "stroller parking" in most areas and you have to take the baby out and leave the stroller behind. At times, one of us just sat outside so she could still sleep, but when we had dining reservations, we had to wake her up (which made her oh so willing to sit through a meal without fussing!). You also have to fold the stroller up when you take it on a bus. On our stroller, that meant we had to put anything we'd shoved in the basket back in our bag so it wouldn't fall out in addition to waking up the sleeping baby. We would've woken her up to put her in a carseat if we were driving instead of riding the bus, but it was just something we didn't really clue in on ahead of time. I probably would've been a bit more selective in dining reservation times if I'd realized no strollers could be taken in. Transportation-wise, you do not have to fold strollers to take them on the monorail, so I would really consider a monorail resort (the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian and the Contemporary) if I had the money for them in the future and was traveling with a stroller again.

Baby Care Stations: So in case it wasn't clear, this trip was really kind of tough on a 9 month old. She wasn't getting naps as often or as long as usual, which makes for a fussy baby. She's also still not eating, so we had to work in time to sit down and nurse. Now, I'd heard there were baby care stations in each of the parks. At home, I made some snide comment about Disney trying to make nursing mothers hide away. I'm about as modest as you can possibly get with nursing a baby, but (being a lactation consultant and all) I see breastfeeding as the natural act it is and most especially with young babies, something that can be done anywhere (legally and morally). No one was going to make me hike all the way to the front of a park every time the baby needed a drink on a hot day. And I did nurse all over Disney World. I tried to find somewhat secluded corners and while it was too hot to put a blanket over her head, I did make sure to position myself and/or a blanket so that we were pretty much hidden from view (side note: the Finding Nemo ride was great to nurse on...it was dark and the clamobiles were positioned in a way where other people couldn't see us). No Disney cast members ever made a comment about me nursing. But I was always a bit on edge and stressed (9 months olds can get rather squirmy and don't understand why society would be hung up on how they eat or why we insist on hiding away their food source) and before long, I found myself looking for that baby care station. There is one station in each park, usually near the front. The only one I didn't visit was Epcot. They all have nursing rooms which are either individual rooms or a group room that only mothers and babies are allowed in. The rooms are cool (so nice on a hot day), dimly lit, and stocked with rocking chairs. While I still wouldn't hike to the front of the park for every nursing, it really was nice to go once or twice a day and rock her while she took as much time as she wanted and I wasn't worrying about what comment I might get from someone. While I was nursing, there was another room stocked with a TV (playing Disney movies) and kid sized tables and chairs and high chairs, so the big girls could take a break from the heat while waiting on me. The baby care stations also have full sized, padded changing tables (they provide disposable liners to put on them)
And a microwave and bottle warmers for preparing baby food and formula
They also have a kid-size potty (usually with manual flush...all the other toilets in the parks are automatic flush). They sell baby supplies in case you found you've forgotten something. Diapers, infant medicines, onsies, baby food, formula, pacifiers. The prices are fairly reasonable too, in line with what you'd pay at a drug store. These stations are definitely helpful if you're traveling with a baby or toddler.

Food from home: We always travel with food from home. On the road, we sometimes ate out and sometimes made our own meal. All our snacks are always packed with us. Typically, we pack a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and jelly packets we've accumulated from eating out. Bagels hold up better than bread if you're worried about squishing things. For that same reason, we love pringles on the road. We've purchased one of the coolers that plugs into your cigarette lighter and that works really well to keep cokes, water and juice boxes cold (it doesn't cool them well if they start out hot, but if you take them out of the fridge in the morning, they'll stay just as cold in the cooler all day while you drive). Just before this last trip, I found some of the pouches of applesauce on sale (I think I paid $1.25 for a 4 pack) and those were MUCH more helpful than I expected. They were great to have in the car, or to take into the park with us. The girls could eat them with no mess at all and no spoons. I always pack a roll of paper towels and wet wipes for cleaning up on the road.

Food at Disney: We went to Disney during their free dining plan promotion. From what I've read, they do this deal every year around the first of September. I guess they are trying to get people in during a non-peak time when the kids go back to school (yay for homeschooling!). Being there with a free dining plan was a HUGE plus. We were on the regular plan, which gave us each a table service meal, a quick service meal and a snack each day. The table service meals cover all the character dining options if you're interested in that. The quick service meals are cafeteria style. Both of them offer A LOT of food. There were times we just shared one adult quick service meal and one kid's quick service meal and it fed everyone just fine. Most of our table service meals were all you can eat buffets. A typical adult quick service meal would be a grilled chicken sandwich, pasta salad, 20oz coke and cheesecake, all with good sized portions. A typical kid's quick service meal was grilled cheese, applesauce, grapes, and a juice box. On average, our table service meals ran about $100 and our quick service meals ran about $40-$50, so having those covered saved us a lot of money. The snacks can be used on just about anything. We used them to buy beignets at our hotel, frozen lemonade in the park, and those big swirly lollypops. We bought one souvenir mug at our hotel for $13 that allowed for unlimited refills. It could be used for coke or coffee and I feel like I definitely got my money's worth out of it. I would use that when I was eating a quick service meal and get a bottle of coke instead of a fountain drink for my drink so that I could save it for the drive home. When making dining reservations, I would advise NOT taking the first seating for any meal if the restaurant is buffet. When we went to Crystal Palace, we were scheduled for the first lunch seating and the line at the buffet was unreal because everyone got there at the same time. There were other times we had the very last seating and that didn't seem to be a problem. The staff kept the buffet stocked at all times. If you have food allergies, let them know. A chef will walk the buffet line with you and let you know which dishes contain the ingredient you need to avoid.

Staying Cool: We brought two spritzer bottle fans with us. We only carried one around the whole time and just shared it. I'm sure glad we brought it because they sell them at Disney, but if I overhead correctly, they cost $17. Especially with the newer rides, the line you stand in is usually indoors and well air conditioned, plus the gift shops are all very air conditioned, so you can get in out of the heat when you need to. We used our little fan a lot and we're well acclimated to hot weather, but I didn't feel like we had too much trouble staying cool. I think it would've been nice to have a fan that clipped onto the stroller so there was always something on Secora while she was napping. We often used our snack allowances for cold drinks or frozen lemonade when we needed something to help us cool down, but we also carried our own water bottle. A friend had mentioned taking one of the Brita water bottles with a built in filter, so we took 2 with us. The first night, we didn't have them with us and we stopped by the water fountain for a drink (in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom) the water was disgusting. So much so that we went to a gift shop and bought a liter of water instead. With the Brita water bottle though, we could fill up at the water fountains and the water tasted just fine.

Taking Pictures: Of course you want to take your own camera. That's the only way to catch all of those candid shots of your kids lighting up when they see their favorite character, or enjoying their first ride on the teacups. But after spending all this money, you probably want pictures of the whole family too. And that's where Photopass comes in. Throughout all the parks, there are photographers with Photopass vests on. They don't really talk to you if you're just walking by, but if you go up to them, they are happy to take a picture of your entire family. They're good about framing the shot with Disney icons in the background and helping to get small kids to smile. After they take your picture, they will pull out a card and scan it, then give you the card. For the rest of your trip, find all the photopass photographers you can and have them take your picture, then scan your card. At the end of the trip, you can log on to the photopass website, put in your card number and pull up all of your pictures. There, you can add special Disney borders and things like that. If you want to buy a CD with all the pictures on it, it's $150. If you search around a little bit, you can find a code to purchase the CD for $100 if you do it BEFORE you ever go take any pictures. The trick to photopass is that it's YOUR job to walk up to the photographer and ask for the pictures. We ended up with over 200 pictures on our account, so it was well worth it. If you have ideas about a certain picture you want, be sure to tell them. I wanted a picture of all three girls with their mouse ears on looking at the castle and the photographer was happy to do that for me.

What did it really cost? I know in some circles it's rude to talk money, but people really want to know what did it all cost at the end of the day. So here you go, we paid about $4000 for the whole trip. That includes our travel (by car) from Texas and back home, 6 day/5 night stay at a moderate level Disney resort, park tickets with the park hopper option added on (that lets you visit multiple parks in one day--we utilized that a lot), Disney dining plan (included with our package), souvenirs, photopass CD, everything.

Was it worth it? You betcha. I went once when I was 18 and this was my second trip. Disney is totally geared to the kids. The girls were addressed as "princess" all day every day by every cast member we came across. Little things like walking through the gates...it was always, "right this way princess" or "hello princess!" Whenever we were in a store checking out, they would offer the girls Mickey Mouse stickers. Often, they would ask the girls how many stickers they wanted. If they said 4, they got 4. Sedona was crying one morning (I can't remember why, it was a typical 4 year old fit, nothing major) and a cast member stopped her and said, "hey! There's no crying in Disney World!!" and got her cheered up for us. At the end of a long day, we were walking along (probably looking rather ragged...I was leaning on the handle of the stroller) and a cast member jumped out at us with a big Mickey Mouse hand on and said, "no one may pass by until you give me a high four!" (did you know Mickey only has 4 fingers?) He really did make us all do it...including Secora...and we were all giggling and happy again. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME we saw the castle, the kids lit up and said, "LOOK! The Castle!!!!" At our hotel, they were given mardi gras beads (because it was the french quarter) and "gold" coins to throw in the fountain whenever we went to the bus stop in the morning. In the evening, Disney movies were shown in the courtyard of the hotel. I definitely want to go back. I'm hoping for a trip in another 4 or 5 years so Secora gets a chance at doing the little kid version and then another 4 or 5 years after that when they want to ride all the bigger rides.

I think that's everything I wanted to mention that didn't get mentioned in other posts. If I forgot anything, feel free to leave questions in the comments section!

Disney World Day 6

It was time for our last day at Disney World. No one was ready to give it up, but the girls handled it surprisingly well. They were happy they got to go rather than sad they were leaving.

Because their favorite things were at the Magic Kingdom, we decided to spend the day there. We packed up our things and loaded them into the car. We had to be out of the hotel room by 11, but we could keep our car in the parking lot and stay in the parks until closing time. Whatever allowances we had left on our dining plan would remain until midnight.

Before we left the room, I did a quick check to see if any seats had opened up at the Crystal Palace. I had tried to get breakfast or lunch reservations there before we left with no luck at all. Surprisingly, there was a space for the very first lunch seating of the day! I snagged it and we headed off to the park.

We spent this day re-riding our favorite rides and also trying out Astro Orbiter. Astro Orbiter is basically the dumbo ride, only you take an elevator to the roof (basically, 3rd floor) of a building to get on the ride and it goes faster. Sierra didn't like it at all. Sedona loved it. She made the car go as high as it would go and then put her hands up in the air and gleefully shouted, "yay!!!" I don't have many pictures from this day, because we were mostly redoing things we had already done.

I did take pictures at lunch though. The reason I wanted to go to Crystal Palace is because it's the Winnie the Pooh and friends meal
This would have been one table service meal on our dining plan, except that we had already used all of our meals, so we paid out of pocket. It was a buffet in line with the other buffets we had gone to: kid friendly options, and grown-up things as well.

In the lobby area right when you walk in the door they have these great flower sculptures of the characters




We got a visit from Winnie the Pooh right off the bat

Later, Eeyore came by

(Sedona didn't want to see Eeyore. We have some pictures of her with Eeyore, but she's just focusing on eating her pizza and completely ignoring him).

Piglet came by too
Tigger was the most popular character and it was beginning to look like we would have to sit around for quite a while before we could see him, so we decided not to wait.

After lunch, Secora got to take her first spin on the carousel
It's hard to tell in the picture, but she was giggling like crazy, she loved it.

It was getting near parade time and the girls wanted to see that again, so we sat down in Frontierland where we could have front row seats. While we were waiting, Josh checked his email and saw a message from my mom that Tropical Storm Lee was going to interfere with our drive home. We checked the weather and sure enough, things were looking dicey in the gulf. We had planned to spend the night in Lake City and then take I-10 back to Texas, but it looked like that plan was a really bad idea. We decided it was going to work best to leave as soon as possible and drive all the way up to Tifton, GA for the night, then work our way over to I-20. We thought that would probably keep us out of the worst of the storm if we didn't waste time. It would've been nice to have more time at the park (and I was secretly hoping to jump on the monorail and go over to Epcot for one more turn at Turtle Talk with Crush), but I'm sure glad we left when we did because even with taking the more northern route, we stayed just ahead of the tornado warnings for much of the drive.

It was a great trip and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. Sierra would like us to stop eating out so we can save all of our extra money and take another trip out there. Sedona would like them to replace all the automatic flush toilets to "potties with handles", but otherwise she had a great time. Josh and I were utterly exhausted, especially since the kids all got rested up on the drive home, but it was well worth it to see their faces light up the first time they saw the castle....and the second time...and the third time....and the fifteenth time. They had that awed expression on their face for most of the week and more than once, Sierra proclaimed, "this really IS a magical place!"

I will be making one more post about the logistics of the trip and things we wish we'd done differently, look for that later today (children, naps and fussy babies permitting)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Disney World Day 5

Whew! Are you tired yet? We sure were!

Day 5, we planned to spend the day at the Animal Kingdom. I really enjoyed the Animal Kingdom when I went to Disney World pre-kids, but that's because I really liked looking at all the different animals. I knew it'd be different with little ones and I had a feeling this park was not going to be their favorite.

We started out the morning by visiting Camp Minnie Mickey, where you could take pictures will all sorts of different characters, including some that are only available here, like Pocahontas and Brer Rabbit. The girls made the rounds, including visiting Goofy, which surprised me. Back on day 2, they refused to see Goofy, but Goofy in hiking gear is apparently okay? They even played with his ears. They thought Chip and Dale were hilarious (they stole the girls' hats for the picture). I only have a few pictures because the others are on the photopass account and I haven't ordered those yet.


We walked over to the Safari ride, but Secora was asleep, so I sat with her while Josh took the big girls on the ride. We have lots of pictures of the animals (especially in the morning, you get to be very close to things like giraffes and rhinos), but it's really nothing too terribly Disney specific. Sometime in the future, I'd really like to do their Wild Africa Trek, but our girls aren't old enough for that yet.

After the safari ride, we tried to ride the Kali River Rapids ride, but Secora couldn't go on it, there was a 45 minute wait, and they were not handing out Fast Pass tickets, so we passed it up. Next, we passed the Finding Nemo musical, which was just about to start, but we decided not to see it. So we headed to Dinoland, which was more disappointment. We wanted to ride Primeval Whirl, but it was shut down for renovations, we got in line for triceratop spin, but it wasn't working right and they shut it down right before we got on.

We headed over to the boneyard, which was another playground, and the kids LOVED that
I know, she doesn't look real happy, but that's just the sun in her eyes
We considered seeing It's Tough to be a Bug, which is a 3D show that also includes things like puffs of air and drops of water to make it feel like you're in the show, but honestly, even at 18, parts of it kinda scared me, so we decided it wasn't going to be fun for the girls.

After all that walking and not much doing, it was time for our lunch reservations at Tusker House. This was one of my favorite meals food-wise. The kid's buffet had typical kid fare, but the adult buffet was mostly Mediterranean foods. Curry and couscous and samosas are right up our alley. Plus, I was trying to eat low fat so I didn't have any post-gallbladder surgery regrets, and most of the things on this buffet were safe for me. I was able to eat until I was really full without worrying and it was really good food.

On our way out of the restaurant, we passed a drum circle, so Sedona immediately joined in with the dancing

We were hot, and exhausted, and had plans to get out again that night, so after lunch, we decided to just head back to the hotel. One more quick visit with Timon at the gates, and we headed for the bus
We had grand plans of swimming at the hotel pool, but there was a thunderstorm that lasted for hours. So we just lounged around the hotel and let Secora have a really good nap before grabbing dinner at the hotel food court.

That evening we went to Downtown Disney to do the majority of our souvenir shopping (Sedona had great fun at the Mr. Potato head station, where you can pick your our Mr. Potato head pieces and pay $20 for whatever fits in the box...she created a Tinkerbell Potato Head). Another bus ride to the Contemporary Resort, and we walked over to the Magic Kingdom for the Electric Light Parade. This one wasn't running Wednesday night when we were there, so I wanted to go back over on Thursday to catch it. We barely made it in time, Sedona actually fell down on the way because we were walking too fast for her. We got to see it though and I think the girls were impressed. I'm not a good enough photographer to get good shots of it, but basically the floats and the people are completely covered in small lights. It's pretty cool to see.

We asked the girls what their most favorite thing was that we had done and they both answered with the magic carpet ride, the carousel and the dumbo ride. We had one day left and we had already visited all of the main parks once, so that made the decision of which one to return to easy...they're all at the Magic Kingdom, so that's where we were headed for day 6!!

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