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Ummm, Hello October!

You guys, what HAPPENED, seriously?!? We are already into October and I am so behind in posting it’s ridiculous.

Since I will have some extra time on my hands over the next few months I plan on going back and writing more detailed entries about the last few months but in the meantime I wanted to share a quick snapshot. I know it seems silly at this point but over the last 6 years this blog has really become a journal for our family. I’d hate to have a missing 6 months, especially when it involved some BIG changes.

Once I am done with that I have quite a few reviews of local parks, museums, and hotels for ya’all.

In February we took another trip to Disney! This time we had a whole crew with us. My parents, sister, BIL, niece, and two of our good friends Tim and Tara. This year Tim, Tara and I did the 5k, 10k, and 1/2 marathon, it was crazy but so much fun. I have a whole post about our trip and staying at Shades of Green I will be publishing soon.

While we were there Tara, Tim, and I completed the 5k, 10k, and 1/2 Marathon during the Disney Princess race weekend.

March we found out our extension to stay in Canada for another year was denied. Since we were under the impression it was going to be approved we went into full panic mode. The first decision was where we would move. While I loved living in DC, it was the LAST place I wanted to go back to. Too expensive, congested, competitive, and well overall exhausting. After recommendations made by a few of Rob’s coworkers we decided to give the Mid West a try and now call Illinois home.

I also finally caved and purchased my first Rae Dunn mug. It’s been so much fun hunting for her pieces and building up my collection. I love they way her style fits right into my decor style. Not only that but I have made some amazing friends along the way.

In April Rob and I took a trip to St. Louis to check out the area we would be moving to. Although we had quite a few house visits set up the market was so crazy most were gone before we landed. We ended up taking a huge risk and go the new build route in an upcoming development. While we were there we got a chance to explore the area a bit and ended up at the Budweiser plant which was a lot of fun.

Then in May I took a solo trip back to St. Louis to pick out all of the fixings for the house. Rob and I did a lot of research a head of time so I walked in knowing exactly what I wanted. It was nice to get away from the kiddos for a bit and do something I really love. I will say by the second night I was ready to come back home though. I will be posting a lot more on this. As I am typing we have about 3 more months till closing which seems like a million years away.

In June Parker celebrated his 6th birthday with friends at a super hero themed birthday party. He had so much fun being the center of attention and the personalized capes I made with each friends favorite super hero was a huge hit!

The kiddos finished school for the year and Summer vacation routines commenced. We had a busy summer traveling to the States a few times to visit with family and friends before the big move.

Niagara Falls had been on our bucket list since we arrived in Canada so we celebrated Canada Day and 4th of July there. We had a blast and there is so much I want to tell you about where we stayed and a few tips we learned during the weekend.

Later that month we took a trip to see our Maryland family and friends. We got to spend a few nights out and got tickets last minute to a Better Than Ezra & Bare Naked Ladies concert. We felt so old but they are still amazing in concert.

In August my parents volunteered to watch the kids while Rob and I, along with our good friend Tim, went on a glorious 10 day cruise. It couldn’t have happened at a better and and was exactly what we needed to rejuvenate after a stressful and emotionally draining summer. The trip was amazing and I will be posting a lot more about Grandeur Of The Seas, our excursions, and all the fabulous drinks we tried.

The day after we returned to Canada the kids started school. They were both pretty excited for our schedule to calm down a little and Caity couldn’t wait to take the bus with her brother.

With all the hustle and bustle of packing out, living in a hotel, and getting ready to leave we decided to throw Caity’s birthday party at a local bowling alley. Everyone had a blast and I have to admit being able to show up, enjoy the party, and leave after was a welcomed change.

Now here I am, typing this up at a local coffee shop waiting for school dismissal. We are getting acquainted with our new town but are still living in a hotel about 30 minutes away. It isn’t the most convenient situation but we are making due and get to start seeing some real progress on the house in the next few days.

Caity’s 4th Birthday

This little girl just keeps growing right before our eyes. While there are moments I still see a little girl those are being out numbered by this sassy, bright, and perceptive kid. She is our youngest, and our last, so I am trying to hold onto each and every moment I can. Sometimes she makes it hard, as any 4 year old would, testing boundaries and challenging us. But as tough as the day can be when I watcher her drift off to sleep I am in total love with her.

She started Junior Kindergarten a few days ago and was so excited to board that big yellow bus with her brother on the first day. No sign of hesitation, no tears, just a huge smile and the determination to do it all. It’s bitter sweet when you have an independent child. I find she is so confident and comfortable with new environments and people so I cherish those rare moments when she “needs her mommy.”

Disney 2018

This years trip to Disney was quite an adventure with our largest group yet! Since it was 8 adults and 3 kiddos we decided to do a couple of things different which took a little more planning but Rob did a fantastic

Flying

Although we love taking the Auto Train since we didn’t have quite as much time off this year we decided to fly. It was the kiddos first time on an airplane and they thought it was the coolest thing ever. We drove to NJ to meet up with my parents and sisters family and all flew together on a nonstop out of Allentown. It’s a small airport which made things easy and really stress free.

 

Since we didn’t have a car Rob had to do some research to find the best way to get from the airport to Disney. We had a tall order because we needed it to fit 6 adults, 3 kiddos, and a lot of suitcases. It also had to have a car seat and booster for Parker and Caity. He ended up finding Sunstate Transport who were able to meet all of our needs at an extremely reasonable price.

During our stay we also used Uber a few times to visit the near by Walmart for supplies and cheaper Disney gear.

Shades of Green

We finally decided to give Shades of Green a try which I am kicking myself for not doing sooner. The price is comparable to moderate Disney hotels but in my opinion the amenities were nicer than Caribbean Beach and Animal Kingdom Lodge, which are previous places we have stayed.

Here is just a few things that stood out to me and why I would recommend Shades of Green to anyone who is eligible to stay there.

  • The rooms are extremely spacious and while they may not be Disney themed some window clings changed that pretty easily.
  • We ate breakfast and dinner at The Garden Gallery a few times which was a great way to step away from the repetitive Disney food. Their dinners are themed so the food was always changing.
  • They have an AAFES Exchange which was the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs, snacks, and adult beverages.
  • After our half marathon Time, Tara, and I visited The Magnolia Spa for massages. It’s a really nice retreat away from the typical Disney hustle and bustle. What’s even nicer is you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy the spa, as long as you are eligible.

Since Shades of Green isn’t a recognized Disney resort there are a few things we weren’t entitled to that I wanted to note.

  • They don’t have the Magic Band technology yet so you use traditional room keys. You can still purchase your own Magic Band before you arrive or in most of Disney’s souvenir shops for fast passes and Disney Memory Maker.
  • SOG guests are not eligible for the meal plan, I talk more about this below.
  • Fast Pass reservations can only be made 60 days prior to arrival.
  • While there is bus transportation to the parks they are less frequent so it does take a little more planning if you are trying to get to the parks by a certain time.

No Disney Dinning Plan

In the past we have always gotten the meal plan because of it’s convenience, especially when the kids were free. Last time though we found it was just too much. We were always full before dessert and at the end of our trip we had tons of snack credits to use. In the early stages of this trip planning we decided to try a trip without the meal plan which worked out well since it isn’t available if you stay at SOG.

I have to say this worked out perfectly. We still got to eat at some of our favorite places like Boma and tried a few new ones; The Beer Garden, Spice Table, and Kona Cafe. We never felt pressured to eat and didn’t have to use up remaining snack credits on prepackaged food. I didn’t crunch any numbers but quick glance we spent the same or less than we would have with the Disney Dinning Plan.

Adulting

I’ve talked about Kid’s Night Out before but I think it is absolutely worth another mention since we have used it during our last 4 trips to Disney. It’s the perfect way for the adults to have a nice meal and experience the parks kid free. Their website has all the information you need but make sure to make your reservation early, they do tend to fill up during peek days.

This year we also found out about Lilo’s Playhouse at the Poly. It’s basically a play center filled with activities, toys, and even some character special appearances for kids ages 3-12. For a flat fee of $55 you can drop them off anytime between 4:30 and 11:59. They even provide dinner! Lindsay over at Redhead Baby Mama wrote up an amazing review of Lilo’s Playhouse if you are looking for more information.

September 2018 Update: Apparently they closed all Disney Care Centers this past July which is a huge bummer.

Princess Race Weekend

Tara, Tim, and I participated in the Princess Race Weekend and completed the 5k, 10k, and 1/2 marathon. It was so much different this year having gone into it prepared. We took it slow for the 5k and 10k, stopping at almost every photo opportunity. The 1/2 was still a challenge for me but I increased my interval to 1:00 walk 1:00 run which was perfect. I remember getting to mile 3 and thinking wow, this is nice.  By mile 6 I was at the castle and still feeling pretty good. Mile 7-9 was rough but Tara and I met up at that point and she walked it with me. Mile 10 was a big deal, that was the mile marker the balloon ladies has passed me last year. That was the last sweep and I was the last person to make it through. This year as I rounded the bridge I saw hundreds of people behind me. It was a feeling I will never forget. I finished strong with my intervals until the end.

 

2017 Review

I always enjoy putting these together when I wrap up one year to begin a new one. It’s actually been somewhat of a boring year for us since we have stayed in the same place, the longest to date as a family. It’s amazing how much time you have on your hands when you are not packing and unpacking. At the same time, I am starting to get an itch that can only be scratched with some rearranging so we will see that the new year brings! Hope everyone was able to ring in the new year and is enjoying the first day of 2018.

Celebrating the 4th On LBI

June was pretty hectic around here. Parker finished school, Rob’s parents came for a visit, I flew home for my sister’s shower, and then a good friend came to help celebrate Canada Day. Needless to say come July 3rd I was so ready to head to the beach for some family time.

These kiddos are pretty much rock stars when it comes to road trips. For us an 8ish hour drive is now no big deal which makes travel so much easier. I have learned through the years what works for us and what doesn’t. They are happy with movies and lots of snacks to eat.

We spent the 4th with family at my Aunt & Uncles beach house. It was nice to see everyone, relax, and I even got to hold a squishy baby, eekkkkk. One day we decided to hit up the bay side which was perfect. There was a playground, organized events, food trucks, and calm knee deep water fenced in for the kids to explore.

Nope, there is no coffee inside that cup. I played a little guessing game on FB and it took forever for someone to guess it. A beer mimosa which was delicious, and I don’t even like beer!

We got to finally use these cups holders I made months ago to keep our drinks out of the sand. Although it doesn’t work well when certain kids grab them up and use them for sand castles…

I managed to get out 3 times for runs and completed the Pledge the Pink Virtual 1/2 Marathon.
July 4th – 6 miles at a 16’14” pace
July 6th – 3 mile walk with my mom
July 7th – 4.1 miles at 16’51” pace

Spending some quite time with my Mom was nice, we don’t get to do that much. So we spent most of the time catching up. Since we were just walking I took that opportunity to snap a few photos of some of the houses I had fallen in love with a few days before.

Every time we come to the beach we also try and take some family photos. The kids don’t make it easy but we try our best. My sister asked if I could snap some maternity photos at the same time.

Another tradition of ours is to take a walk on the beach at night decked out in glow sticks!

It’s always hard to leave a vacation but I think leaving the beach is the hardest. But I can’t say I am bummed about being home and able to finally take the week easy.