Little of this, little of that

is what I’ve been up to lately.

Of course I’m preparing for Wine to Water. This year on top of local wine being offered as a tasting I have successfully convinced a local distillery to donate their goods to us and some people I love into purchasing a few kegs of local brew to sample as well. A popular local musician is back after a few years gone and having seen some of the local artists being featured I can tell you I want all of the things. We are T minus 2 weeks and I’m so. freaking. excited.

All 5 kiddos are playing basketball and Zach and I are the coaches for both teams. On top of my 5, my two nephews are also playing on the teams as well as my good friend’s 2 boys (aka my pseudo nephews). The bigs are at fun ages because they are coachable and eager to learn. Their team is made up of mostly 3rd and 4th graders who are playing on the 5-7th grade league because of Trysten’s age. Because I have spent the entirety of my life loving sports I find my main goal as a coach isn’t to win games but get the kids involved to learn to love the game. Even if they don’t love basketball, perhaps get them to see how much fun physical activity can be. Also I’ve been selfishly so excited to be spending so much time with these kids I love so much.

I’m looking for a part time job for the first time in 6 years. Yes, I still have my fitness instructing and am looking to keep those classes but I’m looking for something beyond that as well. Ideally it would be something else at our Y association (I really, really love the Y) but am basically looking everywhere. I have an entire blog being created (thus far just in my head) about the trials and tribulations of finding a job post stay-at-home-moming but I don’t have the heart to lay it out there yet. In short-it’s kind of depressing.

On top of that there have been things like:

-becoming a Godmother for the first time for my amazing nephew, Elihu. No words for how much it meant to see his little smirk at me while I promised to look out for him for the rest of my life. I often wonder how I got so lucky to be the auntie to so many amazing human beings.

-road tripping with my sister (scariest. driver. ever.) to celebrate a friend’s impending motherhood. One of the things about having 5 kids that becomes quite clear is the fact that we’re never raising our kids solely on our own. On any given day, at any given moment I’m counting on a few handfuls of people to help me raise my 5 babes. I wanted Wendy to know no matter how far away I live, Imma be part of her village that helps raise that beautiful baby of hers.

-Halloween parties. If you’re friends with me on the book you know Zach and I went as Siegfried and Roy this year. My sister-in-law, Emily, always throws a super party for her hubby’s birthday. For as long as I’ve known Frank he takes Halloween very seriously. Never before had I loved the holiday but I love Frank to the moon and back so, for me, it’s always important to try to show it in tangible ways. By dressing as a man the last 2 Halloweens I assume my brother-in-law knows that I love him more than I can possibly say.

-training in 2 new classes. Speaking of part time jobs, I’ve recently added 2 new formats to the classes I teach. On top of Bodystep, Bodypump and Bodyflow I now also teach Bodycombat and Cxworx. If you want to see what I’m talking about you can check them all out at www.lesmills.com. I love these classes because they are for the entire range of people. People walking in off the street never having worked out before can get something out of them as can the elite athlete-I think that’s pretty awesome. Truth be told I love working with the newbies most because typically they are there for long-term health not for the 6 pack. Though 6 packs are nice, for the overwhelming majority they just aren’t attainable without lots of dedication. I tell my kids all the time the reason I work out is so that I can give them piggy back rides until they are 40 and so that I can still get on the floor and play with my grandkids. Though I wouldn’t shirk at having a 6 pack it isn’t worth it to me to give up things like cheese, wine and Almond Joys-I’m in it for the long term goodness.

-enjoying life. It’s always entertaining with these kids of mine. Just today Dailah fell of a chair and yelled out, “I hurt my balls!” When I reminded her she did not, in fact, have balls she remarked, “Yeah but that’s just how I relate to the boys. If I yelled ‘I hurt my vagina!’ They wouldn’t even know what that’s like.” Touche. I say I’d like to freeze time but that isn’t necessarily accurate. I just am so thankful for this life, these people. I’m breathing it in and loving it out because, hell, life is really good.

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on chores

I’ve always been a big proponent of “encouraging” our little cherubs to do their fair share of chores around the house. Since they were little they’ve been responsible for cleaning up after themselves and as they’ve gotten older their list of responsibilities grows as well.

Last week I decided the oldest 4 were old/responsible enough to really help me cook. For Trysten and Tariku that meant measuring out ingredients and doubling them, also chopping produce. They basically did the whole thing with me supervising.

For Tomas and Dailah that meant me helping them measure it out but them cutting produce and actually depositing ingredients/stirring them.

I never cook anything really fancy though I chose dinners that were a little more advanced than say-Tombstone pizzas (which the 4 of them have made on their own before).

I was shocked at how excited all of them were to cook with me. Though they’ve helped me in the kitchen before they’ve never been quite so responsible for dinner. Not only were they geeked up about cooking for the family, they were thrilled to get some one-on-one time with me.

Trysten and I covered the most, probably. He’s typically quiet around people but you get him one-on-one and he’s positively chatty. We covered topics ranging from boobs to drugs, minecraft and puberty. My relationship with Trysten is so awesome, I’m so thankful for where it’s at right now.

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Tomas typically just giggles incessantly when we have some alone time, he really is that precious. This time though I had ulterior motives-namely I had to get him to realize how vital choosing good friends is. Because this son of mine is so sweet, he tends to believe everyone is just as sweet as he is. As he’s gotten older the kids who love to manipulate have done so with my sweet Tomas. It scares the hell outta me. So I told him, “My friends from elementary school are still my friends. They have seen me at my best and my worst and they would still argue with anybody who tried to trash my name. If your friends wouldn’t stand up for you and if they try to talk you into trouble, they are not right for you-move on. Find friends who will put as much energy and love into you as you do into them.” Today I got a note in his planner that he’s much improved in school from last week. They are listening, mamas! Side note: Tomas was actually the most skilled chopper!

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Tariku is also one of those who isn’t necessarily an over sharer lest you get him on your own. During our kitchen time he told me about a kid in school who usually gets made fun of for being stupid and how he answered a question no one else knew during class. Then Tariku gave the kid a hug and almost cried for him. I’m not worried about Tariku’s ability to make friends, his ability to discern true motives is years ahead of where it should be at his age. No, for Tariku I only worry about my heart. Because one day he’s going to grow up and leave my house and I’m not sure how I’ll ever recover.

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Dailah is never one to shy away from conversation, no idea where she gets that. 😉 We just had a great time being together. I’m so aware of how I used to get so frustrated with math (and still do) and don’t want to put that whole, “Girls are bad at math” thing on her. I made her do math the whole time we were cooking. She definitely has a fixed mindset and gets easily frustrated when things don’t come naturally or quickly, I think cooking with her will be good for us both to push past our comfort levels and just enjoy it.

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Binyam isn’t quite ready to do full on cooking but on his days with me he’s responsible for setting the table, serving the food and clean up.

Zach and I believe very much that this big family of ours is a team. That’s how we’ve got the kids to buy into their chores as well and why they don’t ever complain. Also, they are old enough to get the correlation that if they want to do more fun things (stay up later, read more mature books, etc) then they have to prove they are responsible enough for it all. Only way to do that is by playing a bigger role in the family!

What about you guys? Do your kids do chores? Which ones do they love? Do they typically do them shirtless like mine? 🙂 

Tips on dominating Disney World

I’m sure you’ve picked up that we had the very best time possible our week in Disney World. There are a few factors you all wouldn’t necessarily be able to control:

-Age of my kids (7, 7, 8, 9, 10)

-Greatness of Zach. Zach was at his very best that week. For a man who loves leisure, Disney World is anything but and he didn’t complain once. Oh, and he had to keep track of the kids and me being that I was relegated to a motorized scooter.

-Greatness of my parents. My parents are in really great shape, they managed to keep up with my motorized scooter and exciteable children, calm fearful Binyam kids and appoint themselves manager of the large task of not losing Binyam anyone. Not only did they pay our way there, but they bought each of my kids souviners. If there’s a way for you to get parents like them, I would highly recommend it.

-The weather was perfect. A bit warm, yes, but because we didn’t wait in lines it never felt insufferable.

-The time of year we went (September 7-12). Yes, we took the kids out of school for a week, yes that’s bad but it was worth it. I have little lovies with IEPs and some in TAG, some who didn’t blink being gone a week and some who are now working double time to catch up. The thing they all have is 2 parents who who are willing to work their asses off to make sure they are as successful as humanly possible. Clearly we knew all of this ahead of time but we also knew it was the beginning of the school year and that a) no one else would be at the parks and b) the kids would have the rest of the school year to catch up-worst case scenario.

-Having a motorized scooter. I’ll admit when I first broke my foot I was pretty devestated at the thought of exploring Disney sitting down. It ended up being quite the asset. Turns out when you’re on a scooter you can get a handicap pass that allows you (and up to 6 other people) to go to a different line. Though we didn’t have to use this every time (due to the already short lines) it still came in really handy.

The good news is, there are things you can control and really should!

-Once you have booked your trip, start looking at Undercover Tourist, particularly their crowd control tab. I used this to figure out which park to go to on which day. I happen to believe it played a roll in not waiting in line. I also bought a book about Disney and Universal that I did flip through but in the end probably could’ve found all the same information online.

-After you have loosely figured out which parks you’ll be on which days, check Disney World’s website for the restaurants that peak your interest at that park then book them. We tried a few days to walk in to restaurants without a reservation and it didn’t work. Granted we had 9 people, but the reality is it’s so much easier to have reservations. I ended up calling Disney and a helpful cast member booked them all for me right there-the process took 5 minutes (actually 10 minutes but we ended up bonding over children, generous grandparents and broken limbs). We all agreed it was the most relaxing part of our days. There was no guesswork, we just walked to the restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal.

-My parents bought the dining plan for our week there. I know there are mixed feelings about the dining plan but I can’t tell you how often we commented on how much easier it made our lives. They give you a really cool bracelet (see the cutting edge technological arrows I used below), you enter a password, scan the bracelet and voila! no money exchanged. Trysten was able to eat 2 prime rib dinners (each typically costing over $30) on this plan. Word of advice on the plan: eat a counter service breakfast, snacks for lunch and then a sit down dinner. All of this is included on the plan but we were a little confused the first few days what exactly was included. If you eat it that way- bigger breakfast, snack lunch and big dinner-you won’t be as miserably stuffed as we were the first few days.

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-Park hopper-get it. My understanding is this is an add on to a regular ticket. Park hopper refers to the ability to go to whatever park you want whenever you want. Normally you get to go to a specific park for a day and then a different park the next day, park hopper allows you to go wherever you feel like going. 🙂 As mentioned before, we ended up going to Hollywood Studios 3 times and Epcot twice. Had we not tried to go to water parks (again, not worth it in our opinion) or Universal Studios (totally worth it) we would’ve hopped even more. Can’t really picture our week without the park hopper.

-Fastpasses-genius. Download the Disney Experience app on your phone and you’ll be able to create 3 Fastpasses at a time. Disney created Fastpass for their biggest attractions to cut down on wait times for rides. You can get on the app, figure out your top 3 rides and assign times to come back to those rides at a specific time while visiting the lesser populated rides/attractions. When you come back at your allotted time you walk right on the ride, as opposed to waiting in the “standard” line that could range from 15 minutes to hours. Once you’ve used your first 3 Fastpasses you can create 3 more if the need arises. Take advantage of this, it might have you going across the park in seemingly random ways but we set up our Fastpasses and then decided where we were going the rest of the day. If our Fastpass was in Adventureland in the morning and Tomorrowland a few hours later, we would go on the ride in Adventureland then see the rest of Adventureland before heading to Tomorrowland to that ride, so on and so on. Genius.

-If at all possible-rent a car. Though we only used our (15 passenger!) van a few times, in hindsight we should’ve used it most days. If you rent a car, you can park free anywhere in Disney. A few hours of our time each day was spent waiting and riding Disney buses. Obviously there’s cost associated with renting a car but if you’re short on time (or even if you’re not) it would be worth it.

-What to wear. I am not ashamed to admit I googled “What to wear to Disney World” before I left. I didn’t know what backpack/purse to wear every day, what shoes, etc. Look back at my posts if you’re interested in what I wore, it mostly consisted of loose shorts and tank tops. I was fascinated to see the range of outfits consumers of Disney World were wearing all week. I went for outfits that were comfortable, would dry out quickly if we went on water rides and were (loosely based) fashionable. I wore these shoes, more accurately I wore this shoe and a boot:

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It was such a good idea. Love Clarks, they are so comfortable and incredibly cute. I also wore these Crocs (I know, I know, Crocs fashionable? Yes and comfortable) and didn’t regret it. My mom carried a smaller purse and I carried, not so much “carried” as “put in my scooter basket”, a small Nike backpack.

*If you have any questions about our time in Disney, ask in comments and I’ll do my best to answer!*

Day 6: Universal Studios/Harry Potter World/The day all my dreams came true

It has been common knowledge around here that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I don’t actually remember where I first heard about the books or what first got me started reading them, I only remember that I started becoming a fan when I was pregnant with Trysten. Zach and I used to sit out on our front porch together, he would read me Harry Potter drink wine and have a cigar while I rocked on our porch swing. We were only 20-years-old at the time so I remember feeling like I was straddling two completely different worlds: the young adult in me loved the books for myself-the sense of adventure, etc and the soon to be mom in me loved them for the child I was about to have.

Since then, the books and the movies have only meant more and more to me. Trysten started reading them in 1st grade and just yesterday completed his 4th time through the series. He and I bond over all things Potter. In him I see the reader I have always been, able to pick out every nuance and subtlety within the pages. I love that his favorite books also happen to be mine, but even more than that I love that he sees the themes of friendship, loyalty, bravery, sacrifice and love. He totally understands why I have “Expecto Patronum” tattooed on my arm, which is a pretty cool thing to share with my eldest.

Tariku is on the 5th book and has also started really loving it, though it’s hard to tell if he loves them for what they are or if he just loves staying up a little later watching the movie once he’s completed the book (that’s a household rule-have to read the book before watching any movie based off a book). 😉 He doesn’t pour as much into reading as Trysten and I do so often he’s a little lost with the movies as well or can’t predict what’s about to happen. Nevertheless, I perhaps see more of Harry’s characteristics in him more than anyone else in my family.

Dailah is also almost done with the first book and is really enjoying the whole thing. She, too, doesn’t have the memory of an elephant such as Trysten and myself but gets by with her avid imagination. I can see that above all else is what she loves about the series-it requires a stellar imagination.

Tomas and Binyam have yet to be interested in reading the series, but after visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that has changed!

All of this to say, I am obsessed with all things Potter. When my mom and I were talking about what we were going to see in Florida, I told her there was no way I could go to Florida and not have, at least, Trysten and me go to Potter World. After some discussion, Zach and I realized we would doubtfully ever get to go back so we might as well have everyone experience it whether or not they were crying with joy at the thought excited.

We chose to get the 1 day pass just for Islands of Adventure so we didn’t see anything in the regular Universal Studios park. Right when we got there I put the petal to the metal on my motorized scooter towards The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. *goosebumps, shudder, tears*

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Hogsmeade

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Now would be a great time to tell you that if you’re a fan of the series, you will not be disappointed in the Wizarding World. I read that JK Rowling was very specific about the World looking exactly as it does in the movies and perfectly described in her books and I believe it! Moaning Myrtle was in the bathrooms, there were newspapers with moving characters and of course these: butterbeer and pumpkin juice (both REALLY delicious!)

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We went to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride first. “Ride” is not even what it should be called, “experience” is more accurate. We didn’t wait on any lines here either but if we had, the stuff shown while waiting for this experience was amazing. This experience actually takes place in Hogwarts, truth be told I got a little teary eyed walking into the castle.

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Right away you walk through Professor Sprout’s greenhouse before entering the castle. Look for many of the plants mentioned in the series including the mandrakes! After that, into Hogwarts you go! You’ll recognize much of the little things within the castle, including the Mirror of Erised, Potions classroom, Sorting Hat, Triwizard cup and the house points.

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After walking through some of the castle, you find Dumbledore’s office with a projection of Dumbledore just above his desk. Make sure you point out the pensieve to your kids, only thing missing was Fawkes the Phoenix.

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Then you move on the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione greet you. They let you know you’ll be able to fly through the castle undetected, etc because Hermione (of course) has figured out a way.

As far as the actual ride goes, it was amazing. I have pretty terrible motion sickness so for the parts that were simulating riding on a broom I had to close my eyes (I was legit getting “the puke sweats” as I call them). The ride goes from broom simulation to real life action (in the castle) at one point bringing you face to face with dementors where I enjoyed hearing many a Klipsch kid yelling, “Expecto Patronum” and saving us all! 🙂

We did ride this twice and simply cannot be missed if you’re able to go to Universal Studios.

Next we were off to the Flight of the Hippogriff which is really mild and fun for all ages, keep your eyes peeled for Hagrid’s Hut and Buckbeak himself!

Myself and the kiddos ended up checking out the rest of Potter World while Zach, my mom and dad tried the Dragon Challenge. They really loved it but did mention it’s pretty intense.

We decided to tour the rest of Islands of Adventure while we let my stomach settle to see what was about. First going to Seuss Landing.

Suess Landing was really great, most of my babes were a bit old for the rides and attractions but Dailah, Bean and Tomas actually got excited to see the characters.

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We ended up riding The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, One Fish Two Fish and The Cat in the Hat. All of them were just fine, a bit boring but if you have kids any younger than ours make sure you check them out.

Trysten is also a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series (I read them and enjoyed them as well but, let’s just say, Rick Riordan is no JK Rowling) so we went by Poseidon’s Fury but didn’t take any of the rest of the tours of The Lost Continent.

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Next on to Toon lagoon where we rode Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. Super fun! We got drenched, so mind your Ps and Qs before going on this one!

Marvel Super Hero Island is THE place for the thrill seeker! And by “thrill seeker” I mean “Zach, mom and dad”. 🙂 Everyone but the littles and myself (they were too small, I just didn’t feel like throwing up that day) rode Doctor Doom’s Fearfall and loved it enough to ride it right after. The thrill seekers rode The Incredible Hulk Coaster, managed to live through it and tell great tales about its awesomeness afterwards so if that’s your thing-by all means!

Everyone rode The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and even though I got the puke sweats on that one too, I have to say it’s incredible. The technology is just out of this world! Everything is so well done that it feels like a complete 4-D experience. Even our littles loved how real it felt!

Even if you don’t like rides, the atmosphere on Marvel Island is really cool. There are characters everywhere! If I were a comic book fan at all I would’ve been completely jonesing when 8 of the characters came from their various stations to hop on their motorcycles and zoom out of the park-super cool!

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After eating a picnic lunch back in the car we returned once more for Harry Potter world. First making a pit stop at Jurassic Park.

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Our longest wait for a ride anywhere the whole week was in Jurassic Park for the Pterandon Flyers. We waited 45 minutes for this 80 second ride. The ride is actually specifically for children so if you don’t have a child with you they will not let you go at all. It was fun but please, please skip it if there’s anything resembling a line. Definitely not worth it. Though I must say for me, I enjoyed a little break in the action and also watching these two who behave so similarly it’s creepy.

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Jurassic Park River Adventure was enjoyed by all, particularly because you don’t get nearly as wet as you think you’ll get! Even if this one says there’s a line I’d wait it out-over 20 people can fit on a boat and there are lots of boats going at any given time.

Finally, we returned home back to Potter.

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If you’re going to do family pictures and all of that, take them on the backside of Hogsmeade (coming from Jurassic Park) there were a lot fewer people and better views of Hogwarts!

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My parents promised the kiddos a wand so we waited in line at Olivander’s. Let me break for a moment and tell you that you really have to do this, even if you don’t plan on getting a wand. They escorted about 20 of us into the shop…

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Tariku was chosen to come forward (squeal!). I have video of what happened next but it’s not wanting to upload. Regardless, if you’ve seen the first movie when Harry’s wand is chosen the same thing happens in the shop. Tariku’s wand chose him “for protection, creativity and self-discipline.” Olivander went on to say, “Clearly, your loyalty is much admired among your friends.” I. was. crying. Tariku was beaming, it was such a cool moment!!! Seriously, whether you’re fans or not check out Olivander’s! After that we were all shuffled in to the next part of the shop that houses all of the wands both character wands and wands that might pick you for other reasons.

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All of our kids (and my dad!) chose wands that were perfectly matched for them.

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As hard as it was to leave The Wizarding World, we had to do so as the park closed at 7pm. I ended up purchasing a few things in the gift shop, because, of course.

I must say this: Universal was so cool! If there’s any way for you to make it there please do yourself a favor and go! It was really interesting to me how different a feel Universal was from Disney. Say what you want about Disney, but they sure know how to have their brand permeate throughout their parks. Every “cast member” is happy, loving and patient everywhere you go which was not really the case with Universal. Universal felt grittier and a bit darker but it is also marketed towards a slightly different audience (20-40 years).

I must also say there is a very good chance upon retirement I force Zach and myself to move to Florida so I can work at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-I think I would make a most excellent Professor McGonagall don’t you?

Day 5: Magic Kingdom

I was so excited to show the kids Magic Kingdom because we all know it to be the quintessential Disney experience and it did not disappoint! Even though it was the 5th day straight of balls to the wall activity (is that an ok phrase to use on a blog? Whatever, it’s my blog I can do what I want I want.)-the adults kids did great!

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First stop was Fantasyland because we found starting with easier rides made the kids more aggreeable to go on the rest of the rides. 🙂

Rides we liked in Fantasyland:

Mickey’s PhilarMagic, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Barnstormer

Ones to avoid, particularly if there are long lines:

Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, Peter Pan’s Flight

Next, to Liberty Square. The only thing we did there was the Haunted Mansion, which we enjoyed! I remember doing The Hall of Presidents when I was younger and liking that as well but we didn’t end up having time. If you or your kids are history geeks, I’d check it out!

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Tomorrowland was one of our favorite stops! We loved the Tomorrowland Speedway (particularly the 3 bigs as they all got to drive their own cars) and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Perhaps our favorite, though, was Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor!

The laugh floor ended up being the Monsters, Inc characters on screen with actual improv actors behind the screen, so they played and interacted with the audience. At one point they asked which kids knew who they wanted to be when they grew up. Our most excited child got chosen.

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When Tomas told the character he wanted to be the po-lice (he says it like they do on the Wire, even though he’s never seen the show it’s incredibly endearing) the character told 2 jokes about police:

Why did the police officer carry a blanket with him all the time? In case he had to go undercover.

What did the squirrel say to the 9-1-1 operator? *In a song, matching rhythm of “This girl is on fire” * This squirrel is on fire! 

Then the character asked what Tomas was for Halloween last year. When Tomas responded “football player” the character told a joke about football players.

I’m not just saying this-it was hysterical! The adults did not have high expectations but it surprised us all and I got many belly laughs from it, not to be missed for kid and adult alike!

We would avoid: Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and Stitch’s Great Escape.

*Sadly, Space Mountain was not working while we were there but I remember loving that, so make sure you get there.

*There is a really cool garbage can with a person in it that moves around Tomorrowland messing with people. It’s hilarious, try to find it!

We ate at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for lunch and it wasn’t good. The veggie burger was gross and it was the one time Tomas didn’t finish his (and 3 of his siblings’ meal). Try something else instead.

We went to Frontierland after that and really loved Splash Mountain! We didn’t get super wet which was just fine by most of us. Also loved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, even Dailah and Bean which is a pretty high endorsement.

In Adventureland the kids loved checking out Swiss Family Treehouse even though they’d never actually seen the movie. The littles, who were joined at the hip most of the week, also liked rides like The Magic Carpets of Aladdin because they aren’t scary enough to require an adult to sit next to them. They felt like big kids going on these no problemo.

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The only ride we didn’t like was the Pirates of the Caribbean. Nothing baffled me more than what Disney did with the Pirates franchise (more accurately: nothing. They did nothing-complete lost opportunity). In both Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, the Pirates rides were super disappointing. I have so many ideas on different ways they could take it so if you work for Disney, hit me up- I’m cheap. 😉

And now for my favorite part of the whole day! CINDERELLA’S ROUNDTABLE! We had booked the reservations for Cinderella’s as soon as we knew the dates in which we were going to be at Disney. If you learn nothing from me, learn this: if you have a girl, call Disney right now and get a reservation. Even though Dailah is 7 and was one of the oldest girls at dinner, she really really loved it. Truth be told, my mom and I did as well.

Also of note, every other girl in the room had what we dubbed “the princess treatment”. This included full make up, hair and costuming done to princess standards. Because I am a shit show firm believer that Disney Princesses are ruining girls’ self esteems everywhere just for fun and not something to model oneself after,  we did not have Dailah partake. Also because it cost $200. Mostly the last one.

Besides, I think she’s the most beautiful person I know just as she is.

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When you enter the castle you are greeted by none other than Cinderella herself.

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One of the things I loved about Disney World is the professional photographers throughout the park will take pictures with your camera. They are everywhere and take pictures with their expensive equipment then give you a card that stores all your professional photos during your entire stay. They are sweet enough to ask if you want to get in the picture every time too.

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I gotta say, the food was amazing. It’s pretty embarrassing how many pictures I have of the food I ate throughout the week but I love looking through them and remembering. Anyway, I started with an appetizer of cheese! Cheese! And the good kinds too! Then I ate some veggie gnocchi and a dessert that changed my life.

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Anywho, during the dinner 4 of the princesses move throughout the castle. Right when Dailah saw them she said, “I wish I still had my long hair.” Oy vey. Much to my delight, 2 of the princesses commented on how much they loved Dailah’s hair and wished they could go for that cut. Redemption!

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Dailah also ended up getting their autographs too, which was precious.

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Being the only girl in a crew of boys, Dailah has no problem thinking of herself as a princess on the daily but it was really cute how much she enjoyed everyone calling her princess and of course we loved our girl time. My mom and I even commented that Zach and my dad probably would’ve loved being there too and I saw that they were giving little boys swords upon their arrival. It has the potential to be fun for the whole family.

Our men ended up eating at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. Zach was disappointed as there wasn’t anything good to eat as a vegetarian but everyone else seemed pleased with the options.

Magic Kingdom is definitely one of the parks at which you could spend multiple days but there was simply no time for that. Figure out what stuff at parks are must sees for your aged children and then see all the other stuff if you have time.

Day 4: Epcot/Blizzard Beach

My parents had bought the Disney package that included the water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Hard to believe in the 7 days we were there we had a hard time figuring out when to fit in the water parks, but we really did. We ended up only going to Blizzard Beach for a few hours on this day. In hindsight, we all agreed there wasn’t any need to get the water park add on. Blizzard Beach was cool, and the kids enjoyed it, but it wasn’t worth only getting half day at Epcot. Plus, we took the Disney buses which was 2 hours just for transportation alone. Made the day super long and rushed, unfortunately. If you rent a car, it might be more doable otherwise skip it.

Started out well, though. Love our family pictures from Epcot!

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We decided to tackle Future World East and West in the morning because we had reservations at the Biergarten Restaurant for dinner so we knew we’d tackle the World Showcase then.

We started at Test Track which we all LOVED! Loved creating our own car and then testing it out. Hilarious seeing the children of hippies choosing a gargantuan truck that got about 1mpg and would’ve surely put a gigantic hole in the ozone every time it started out. That’s neither here nor there.

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We went through the Innoventions East and West but it didn’t thrill anyone, though I did enjoy that the boys chose this area:

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and Dailah chose this, because, of course:

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Rides/Attractions we loved in Future World East/West:

Mission: Space (Zach, my dad and Tariku chose the Orange team-super intense journey, the rest of us went on the Green team which was completely doable), Advanced Training Lab, Soarin, Captain EO, IllumiNations (must see!)

Ones we didn’t: 

The Seas with Nemo & Friends (seriously lame even for little ones), The Circle of Life (kind of boring, old stats but the moral of the story is good-humans can affect change in our environment either for good or bad)

After Blizzard Beach we came back to Epcot for dinner and the fireworks show IllumiNations. Biergarten Restaurant was really good as well! We thought we’d expose the kids to all of their heritages (African/German, you get the idea) while we were there. Kids loved the food and we adults loved watching our Ethiopian children dancing to the German music.

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After dinner we walked around the World Showcase a bit but didn’t get a chance to go into most countries. I remember loving it as a kid though, so if you have time check all of those out! Definitely get yourself some beer in German country though, not to be missed!

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Again, IllumiNations was really, really good but it’s just 10 minutes long. I recommend getting a spot about an hour early near the exit so you can be some of the first on the Disney buses. We did that and left about 2 minutes before it was all over so we could get the first bus back to the resort (you can see the fireworks decently as you leave). By the time the bus came there was a huge line for the buses so I would highly recommend doing that as well or you can count on not arriving back to your hotel until after 11pm.

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All that said, I love Epcot, it’s one of my favorites but I have a thing with being obsessed with other cultures and inventions and the like. If you do too, plan on a full day at Epcot!

Day 2: Cocoa Beach!

We rented a van for the week for loads of reasons but one of them was so that we could see Cocoa Beach on Saturday which is typically one of the busiest days at Disney World parks. Trysten and Dailah have both seen the ocean but they were 3 years and 3 months respectively so don’t remember any of it, the other 3 never got to experience an ocean at all.

Let me just say, I am so happy we did this! It was a great way to recoup from a late night’s traveling and at Hollywood Studios, plus it was so much fun teaching the kids to boogey board and body surf.

Because of ole’ bootfoot, Zach did a lot of the parenting the whole week. Him combined with my parents made the week super easy for me. Not quite sure there’s a way to fully explain how great of a dad Zach is, but I feel like this picture is pretty close.

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This one is pretty good too.

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Kids also have a way of getting Mimi Connie’s attention as well.

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Zach even carried me out to the ocean a few times so I could enjoy the sand and surf as well, and watch Dailah dance like nobody’s watchin’.

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Whether you go to the beach or not on your Disney vacation, make sure you take time off to recoup as a family. We also called an early night a few times to let the kids swim at the hotel and relax a bit. I think that’s one of the many reasons the week went so well!