Five Tips For Taking Babies And Toddlers To Disney

Suffice it to say, I’m a big fan of the Disney Parks. For me, it is always a good time to visit. Holidays, summer vacation, rain, sun, if I’m there, I’m happy. So I’ve never really understood when people talk about the “right time” to take their kids to the parks. It’s always the right time! Of course, I don’t go to Disneyland or Disney World for my kids, I go for myself. My kids are just lucky to have a Disney crazed mom, haha. But I understand that if you aren’t Disney crazy, the idea of bringing a baby or a toddler can seem pretty daunting. Which is why I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks for doing just that.

1. Expectations

I think this is my number one tip for any Disney trip, know what you’re getting into before you are in it, and you’ll enjoy your vacation more. For example, if you are traveling with a little one, but you are planning on being in the parks from open to close and riding Space Mountain five times in a row, well, your expectations might be very different from your reality and you might end up disappointed.

Taking a little one to Disney can be SO MUCH FUN! And you appreciate what the parks have to offer on a whole new level. Character experiences, shows, slower rides, are all things I didn’t fully appreciate until I was with my babies.

2. Rider Swap

But don’t think that you have to miss out on thrill rides just because you’re with your little one. As long as you have another adult with you, you guys have lots of ways to ride Splash Mountain or Tower of Terror (my two favorites). Sure, there are single rider lines and Fast Passes, but a lot of people don’t know about another option specifically for grown ups with little ones, Rider Swap.

The way it works, go up to your favorite big kid ride with your whole family and tell the attendant that you’d like to do Rider Swap. Follow their instructions (my husband didn’t once and he said he feared for his life due to the look I gave him, I do not doubt this) which will be some variant of one of you goes on the ride then, and the other one gets to skip the line when the first one is done riding. The best thing about Rider Swap, and what sets it apart from the single rider lines, is that it’s good for at least two people! So if you are a family of four, no one has to ride alone and one of you gets to ride twice! Use this in conjunction with Fast Passes and barely spend any time in line!

3. Down Time

Happy baby means happy parents right? And well rested baby equals happy baby? If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, I would definitely recommend building in some down time into your day. Babies and toddlers need rest and even if they aren’t sleeping, the stimuli of the Disney Parks can be a bit much if they don’t have a break from it.

What works best for me and mine, is going to the park early in the morning. If you have a little one chances are you aren’t sleeping in anyways, so why not enjoy the parks in the morning when the sun isn’t as hot and lots of other visitors are still sleeping in? We stay in the park until just around lunch time and then we go back to the hotel for a few hours of relaxation, napping for our youngest. Then, we head back to the parks for the evening. This works great for us because we avoid the parks in the middle of the day, when they are the busiest and the hottest, and it gives us time to recharge and regroup, so we aren’t dragging and miserable when it’s time for fireworks.

If you can’t get back to the hotel, try to find some calm things to do inside the parks. Maybe a nice sit down lunch reservation, or just find a quiet corner to people watch. When she was tiny, my daughter would fall asleep in her stroller, so my husband and I took it as an opportunity to get margaritas and people watch.

Or you could always try…..

4. Baby Centers

I’ve professed my love for the Baby Centers before, and I’m sure I will again. I love them so much. These could be a great place take a breather and stay inside the park.

Seriously, if you are traveling to Disneyland or Disney World with a baby or toddler, make note of where the Baby Center is in the park, it could just save your life. Alright, that’s a little dramatic, but I’m guessing you’ll be glad you did. They are a great place to feed your little one, rock your little one, or buy that tube of diaper rash cream you forgot to pack. Sometimes I go there just to have a quiet, air conditioned breather with my kiddo.

5. Strollers, Leashes and Carriers, Oh My!

Carriers – If your little one isn’t walking, pack a good baby carrier. One that is easy to put on and take off, easy to get your baby in and out of, and doesn’t take up to much space. You can’t take a stroller in lines, and holding a baby for forty five minutes while waiting to get on Pirates gets old really fast.

Leashes – Okay, I never, ever wanted to put a leash on my kid. The idea horrified me. But, then I was planning on taking my eighteen month old to Disneyland and I changed my mind. She didn’t like being in her stroller that much, she liked to run, and I didn’t want to lose her, so, baby leash.

Word of advice, don’t wait until you get to the Disney to introduce it. The first time I put one on my daughter was at a bookstore. She laid flat on her stomach and refused to move. It was a fun experience. We ended up introducing it to her like a new snuggly friend, she started wanting to wear it around the house, holding it’s tail. By the time we went to Disneyland, a month later, it was smooth sailing.

Strollers – Bring a stroller. Last year I ended up renting one of the hard plastic Disney strollers…. for my seven year old. It was late, she was tired, but we both wanted to see the new Pandora land at night. Animal Kingdom is a big park so, I got her a stroller and speed walked to Pandora. She loved it, I loved it, and Pandora is not to be missed, especially at night. My point is, you are going to want a stroller.

I like to pack a decent umbrella stroller that’s easy to operate. Especially at Disney World, you spend a lot of time taking transportation to and from the parks, and it’s a lot easier with a stroller that folds easy.

**HOT TIP** There are a bajillion strollers in the parks at any given time. They all look alike, and the cast members will move them to make room for more. Decorate your stroller to make it easier to find. We tie curling ribbon around the handles and wrap Mardi Gras beads. Festive and easy to find.

**BONUS TIP**

Lines are boring. Babies and toddlers will probably let you know exactly how boring they think they are. Pack (or buy) something that will distract them in line. For my daughter, it was one of those light up spinning toys that we bought in desperation after we spent a miserable thirty minutes trying to keep her entertained in line for the Jungle Cruise. For my son we came prepared with one of those misting fans.

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An Ode To Motherhood

AKA My Latest Trip To Costco

In honor of Mother’s Day coming up, I thought I’d share with you my latest adventure as a Hot Mess Mom.

Yesterday started out so well. I woke up in a great mood, ready to take on the world. I figured, since it was such a good day, I should go to Costco. It’s been on my list of things to do. So while everyone is eating breakfast, I text my mom and start planning my day. We decide to go to Costco together, because the more the merrier, and we decide on meeting there at 1pm, after my mom’s pilates lesson and after my son has had a nap and lunch.

I ask my son (who is one and a half) if that would be fun and he gets super excited. He went with me on my last Costco run and fell in love with the place. He loves to eat so he was all about the free samples. My daughter, who is in second grade, starts to pout. “I wish I was going to Costco”. No problem, I’m thinking, confident in my parenting and planning skills. So I text my mom, she’s ok with pushing it back until my daughter is out of school. My day is set, my kids are happy, go me.

The day continues to be smooth sailing. My husband and I both get some work done, and some cleaning. My son is his usual chipper self. I manage to stick to my new exercise routine which I’ve been doing now for a whopping three days straight! I’m feeling so good, I even decide to wear a dress just for the hell of it. No special occasion, just wearing a dress to take my kids shopping. Like one of those moms who is put together and stuff.

Three o clock rolls around. I get my son into the minivan and we go to pick up my daughter. We get there a little early, so I let my little guy roam around in the grass near where my daughter is let out. He’s having fun, dressed in the matching outfit my mom bought for him. He has fun, for a minute. But then the bell rings and he no longer wants to be in the grass. He wants to be climbing the stairs where a hundred kids are running past, eager to leave school for the day. I calmly tell him we can’t do that, it’s not safe, and I pick him up and sit on a bench to wait for my other kiddo.

He does not want to do this. He makes this known by not only screaming, blood curdling screams, but by arching his back as far as he can. I’m doing my best to hold him and calm him down, but the cute matching outfit my mom got him is made out of a slippery material and it is not easy. He’s flailing, kicking, screaming, and I am no longer feeling like a put together mom. People are looking, he’s still screaming, and my daughter is running late.

She saunters over after what felt like twenty minutes and the first thing she says; “I don’t wanna go to Costco anymore. I’m too tired.”

At this point I am so far from a put together mom. I can feel my jaw clench and my ears get red. I stand up, carrying my son like an unruly sack of potatoes, and through gritted teeth tell my daughter to keep up with me. I stomp back to the van with my two bewildered children in tow.

My daughter asks why I took the van. I told her it was because we were going to Costco, but honestly, my voice was probably so shrill at this point that only dogs could hear it. I get everyone in the car and buckled, and drive, in silence, to Costco.

Once we got there everything was fine. The very first free sample was cake, so the kids were instantly appeased, and as soon as I entered the store I was greeted by a large display of already mixed margaritas on sale. It’s as if Costco knew.

Sopapilla Recipe

Fun story, when I was pregnant the first time I was nauseous for roughly the first five and a half months. It wasn’t fun. One day I woke up with an intense craving for sopapillas, so I went out for lunch with my mom and future mother in law. I asked the incredibly kind waitress for extra sopapillas and she delivered. I explained that it was the first time food tasted good in months, and she brought me more. When we paid the check, she brought me a to go box filled with even more sopapillas! I burst into tears, because I was so touched, and because pregnancy hormones are fun.

Unless you are from New Mexico, you might not know what a sopapilla is. My spell checker has apparently never heard of them either. Well guys, I’m about to blow your mind. This recipe is insanely easy to make, and sopapillas are so versatile you could eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. Sopapillas are puffy fried dough. Think funnel cake but not necessarily sweet and puffier. Or a Chalupa shell but again, puffier. The word, sopapilla, roughly translates to “little pillow”, so, puffy. 😉

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients.
  2. Add the oil and water.
  3. Mix with a fork or your hands until the dough is uniform. It should be wet enough to not flake apart, but dry enough to not stick to your hands. IMG_1846
  4. Cover the dough and leave it to set for at least one hour. *In my experience, the longer I leave my dough alone, the better it puffs up when frying. I tend to make my dough in the morning, put it in the fridge, and fry it up for dinner.*
  5. Heat up your oil for frying. The deeper the oil, the puffier the sopapilla, so use a deep fryer, or the deepest frying pan you have.
  6. While the oil is heating, it’s time to roll out your sopapillas. Flour your surface, and grab a small (like 1 inch in diameter) ball of the dough. Roll it in the flour a little bit to make it easier to roll out.
  7. Roll it out nice and thin, about 1/8 of an inch.
  8. When your oil is ready (375°F) fry those puppies up. I find it works best to fry one at a time. IMG_1853

Sopapillas are best eaten immediately, not that you’re going to want to wait. And they really are super versatile! Because they are essentially little pillows of fried dough, they are great for stuffing! So stuff them with eggs, hash browns and bacon for breakfast, or beans, rice and meat for lunch or dinner. Pair them with some vanilla ice cream and cinnamon sugar and you’ve got dessert. Or just drizzle some honey on them.

Enjoy! IMG_1859

Five Unusual Things To Pack To Disney World

Hi! Planning a trip to Disney World this summer? First of all, congratulations! You’re going to have a great time! Second of all, I’m totally jealous, but it’s okay, I’ll get over it. Third of all, you are probably wondering about what to pack to make your vacation smooth and relaxing. Let me help!

There are tons of lists out there about what to pack on a Disney World vacation, honestly it can be a little overwhelming, and if you packed everything mentioned on every list out there you wouldn’t have room left in your hotel room to turn around. This is a list of things you might be wondering, “hmm, should I pack that?” that I think you should. Everything on this list has saved me money and headaches.

1. Water Misters

These things are awesome because they serve multiple functions. True, they keep you cool, which is their main function, but they also keep the kids entertained. Buying one at the parks will cost you almost $20. I picked up several at Walgreen’s for about $5 a piece. They’re also compact and don’t take up a lot of suitcase space. You can get them from Amazon here.

2. Rain Ponchos

It rains in Florida. A lot. And I’m not talking a gentle afternoon shower. When it rains, it pours. I have been caught in a fair share of downpours. When I didn’t pack ponchos it resulted in shivering kids, shelling out $15 for a single poncho and a grumpy me. Last time I packed a ten pack of ponchos and was so happy I did. The ponchos were super compact so I could keep several in my backpack at any given time. And if it started to rain, I wasn’t frantically having to find a vendor that was selling them. *Bonus item; water shoes are also VERY nice to have.

3. Groceries

Did you know you can have groceries delivered to your hotel? You can order them months in advance and have them waiting for you! If you are staying at a Disney hotel, there is a small service fee, but I still saved a lot of money going this route. I would suggest not going overboard, but getting some things that are quick and easy for breakfasts and lunches can be very convenient.

Things I order; cereal, granola bars, and bagels for breakfast, lunch meat (if your hotel room has a small fridge), peanut butter and jelly for lunches, fresh fruit, snacks and water. There are several different services you can use, I used Garden Grocer and was surprised at how easy it was. They even have an app so I could do the entire thing from my phone.

4. A Good Water Bottle

Look, you don’t want to get dehydrated on vacation, Disney doesn’t want you to get dehydrated on vacation. There are lots of options in the parks to keep you hydrated. Water fountains, bottled water, courtesy cups of water and even water stations during the busiest and hottest times. I like having a good, insulated water bottle with me at all times.

5. Ziploc Bags

Here are some things I used Ziploc bags for on my last Disney trip; snacks, coins for the pressed penny machines, wet ponchos, phones and wallets during water rides, park maps, things I didn’t want to leak like sunscreen and diaper cream. Seriously, so helpful.

So those are five things I always pack to Disney World. What are your must have items?

A Love Letter To New Mexico Part Two

Carlsbad Caverns

Tired but excited, we got to Carlsbad Caverns early to avoid the crowds. It was quiet as we descended, the few people who were there whispered. It was as, if not more so, otherworldly as White Sands, but in a completely different way. Cave swallows flew and dove in circles as we weaved our way down. As we looked up, the light from the outside grew smaller and smaller until it disappeared entirely.

I felt good. I had my son on my back in his carrier, my husband, daughter and I all had our cameras ready. With a whopping three hours of sleep, I was ready to go. My daughter is fascinated with rocks recently, so we stopped at every formation, reading the little signs posted at each one. My son oohed and ahed in his carrier, and occasionally stopped to give me a hug. We were at the top of our game. And then we hit bottom.

“Rock Bottom”

We finished the descent and got to “The Big Room”, a level cavern with different formations that is about a mile long walk. We let my son out of his carrier, thinking it would be nice to let him stretch his legs. This was a mistake. After not sleeping well the night before, and it being close to his nap time, he was happy to be out of the carrier, but not happy to go where we wanted to go, at the pace we wanted to go, or to stay on the path. My daughter also had hit a wall. Never the less, we didn’t hike all the way down not to look around once we got there. Besides, after we took a look in the Big Room, we could sit and eat the snacks we had packed and take a rest before trekking back out.

Sometimes when you’re a parent you forget things. Like, you forget to pack snacks before taking a strenuous four hour hike with two small children. Luckily, hundreds of feet underground, there are restrooms, tables, a small snack shop, and even a small gift shop. We got a roast beef sandwich and a yogurt parfait to split between the four of us. And we were ready to return to the surface.

Return To The Surface

Now, there are elevators at the caverns. So, if after you’ve hiked down, you don’t want to hike back up you can take the elevator. I remember going to the caverns with my family when I was young and taking the elevators, much to my dismay. I always felt like I was missing out on the whole experience. I was young and naive. I was stupid.

The elevators were out of order when we were there. Finally, I was going to get the chance to hike out. With two small children, my son now on my husband’s back, I was ready. By now it was almost noon. Those crowds we had avoided on the way in, were now coming in in droves.

Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the lack of food, but I seriously thought I was going to die on the hike out. Surrounded by tourists, hundreds of feet underground, I just wanted to lie down and call it quits. And we weren’t even half the way back up. Thank goodness the path has benches all the way up, and thank goodness I have very patient family members. I think I stopped to catch my breath at every single bench. IMG_1254

Cow Puns and Home

On the drive home there was a herd of cows. They were all standing in a line, facing the freeway.

“Those cows look like they’re up to something.” I told my husband.

“Hmm? Oh. Yeah they do.” He said, his eyes on the road.

“I think it’s a moo-tiny.” I said, and proceeded to laugh at my own joke for the next five minutes.

In forty-eight hours my family and I saw so much of what New Mexico has to offer and I thought about how much the state has given me. It has given me my family. My husband who I met in high school, our two kids. It has given me people to share my life with. And a captive audience for my cow puns.IMG_1181

 

 

 

 

A Love Letter To New Mexico Part One

In forty-eight hours we hiked the pure dunes of White Sands. We trekked seventy-nine stories underground at Carlsbad Caverns. We ate street tacos and saw the World’s Largest Pistachio in Alamagordo. We drove through the mountains that were once home the Smokey the Bear, saw dirt devils off in the distance and the alien crash site in Roswell. There were wild deer and antelope, cows, horses, and a camel at Tim and Pam’s Roadside Petting Zoo, and miles of perfectly straight rows of pecan trees, just beginning to bud. Some of it was downright otherworldly, at yet, we never left the state.

Mini Vacation

We wanted to do something fun for Spring Break this year, but we also wanted to do some spring cleaning and not be so exhausted after our vacation that we would need a second vacation. So we looked for something we could easily do in a day or two.

We decided to leave early in the morning on Thursday, drive down to White Sands National Monument, spend some time there, then spend the night in Artesia. On Friday, we would wake up early and drive to Carlsbad Caverns, getting there early enough to avoid the Spring Break crowds, and when we were done, we would drive home. IMG_1140

White Sands

We got to White Sands National Monument around one in the afternoon, after grabbing lunch nearby in Alamagordo. This was not an ideal time to visit. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, which sounds really nice, but White Sands is literally just that. White sand, for several miles. The afternoon sun reflecting off the sand was BRIGHT!!! I slathered everyone in sunscreen, put on hats and sunglasses and prayed that my eighteen month old son would keep his on. He did alright.

Despite living in New Mexico since I was ten, I had never been to White Sands. It really was breathtaking. It felt like being on an alien planet. We brought our sled with us, in hopes we’d be able to sled down the dunes, but we didn’t have much luck. My daughter soon gave up and, after seeing a woman do it, decided to just roll down the dunes.

When we were leaving, she found a lizard, darting in between the small bits of vegetation. It was pure white, blending in perfectly with the sand. It was crazy to think of the different types of wildlife that have adapted to live among the dunes. IMG_1154

The Hotel and a Sleepless Night

Two reasons we stayed in Artesia; 1. it was in between our two destinations and would mean a shorter drive to Carlsbad and 2. it saved us a nice chunk of change not staying right next to White Sands or Carlsbad. I’m really glad we stayed there. We stayed at The Budget Inn, a few blocks from the small and charming Main Street. It wasn’t glamorous, especially on the outside, but it was clean, the beds were comfortable and it had complimentary muffins and coffee in the morning.

Sometimes, when you’re a parent, you forget things. Like, how old you are, or, where you left your oldest child. Your brain just kind of stops working. On this trip, both my husband and I forgot how terrible our children are to sleep with. While we were packing, I asked my husband if we should bring the Pack and Play for our son to sleep in. My husband said no, he was planning on one of us sharing a bed with our son, and the other one of us would share the other bed with our daughter. I nodded, yes, that would work just fine. It did not work just fine.

I woke up around two in the morning because my daughter had wacked me in the face with her arm. I woke up to find her face down, on top of the covers, her arms and legs spread out, smack dab in the middle of the small double bed we were sharing. I hear my husband whispering, “Go to sleep. It’s time to go to sleep!” I whispered back, “Are you ok?”

My husband was not ok. Our son had woken up around one in the morning, in a new place, sharing a bed with his dad, and decided that what he really wanted to do was poke his dad continuously in the face. No one got much sleep that night. Despite the comfy beds. Moral of the story; always bring the Pack and Play.

IMG_1157
Outside Carlsbad Caverns

 

Easy Pork Egg Rolls Recipe

Mmmmm. I’m still full from dinner last night. We made a quick stir fry and homemade egg rolls to go with it. The stir fry was fine, but those egg rolls! I always eat more of them than I mean to, faster than I mean to. The recipe makes about 16 egg rolls, so for a family of four, that equals a lot of egg rolls.

I adapted this recipe from several other ones that I’ve seen and tried, and that’s the nice thing about egg rolls, they are very adaptable. The following recipe is more of a guideline to get a beginning cook comfortable making them, so feel free to change it up as much as you want to! And let me know in the comments what changes you made so I can try them too!

Ingredients

  • About 2 1/2 cups of crisp veggies. I use a prepackaged slaw that’s got broccoli, cabbage and carrots in it
  • One package of egg roll wrappers
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • White pepper
  • Powdered ginger
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Season your pork with the white pepper, ginger, garlic and salt. I usually start with about a 1/2 teaspoon of each, and then add more while cooking. It is all to taste though, so if you aren’t big on ginger, go easy on it or leave it out altogether. If you like spice, add extra white pepper. You do you.
  2. Cook your pork completely through in a skillet. I cook it at a medium high heat for about 8 minutes. It should smell pretty delicious while cooking, if it doesn’t, maybe add some more seasoning. I usually add a splash of soy sauce towards the end. IMG_1447
  3. When it’s done cooking, let the pork cool while you get your veggies ready.
  4. I take about 2 1/2 cups of my slaw and put it in a big bowl. I season mine lightly with ginger, white pepper and salt. I also add a splash (about a tablespoon) of sesame oil, but sesame oil isn’t for everyone, so feel free to skip it.
  5. Add your pork to your veggies and mix. There is probably going to be a lot of fat from the pork in your pan, don’t add that to your veggie mixture or it’s going to be too wet. I use a slatted spoon to scoop my pork into my veggies. That way I leave most of the fat in the pan. IMG_1463
  6. Crack your egg into a bowl and stir. You’re going to use this to seal your egg rolls.
  7. Take an egg roll wrapper and lay it out like a diamond.
  8. Put a small handful of your mixture in the center of your wrapper. Make sure not to  add too much or too little.IMG_1485
  9. Take the side corners of the wrapper and fold them in. Then take the bottom corner and fold it up. It should look like an open envelope.
  10. Spread a little egg on the top corner.
  11. Roll your roll from the bottom up. You want to roll it pretty tight so that it doesn’t fall apart while frying.
  12. You’re going to want to get your oil pretty hot, about 375°. If you don’t have a thermometer, do what I do. I fry mine in a medium frying pan with enough oil to cover half of the egg roll. I heat it at a medium high heat and let it warm for about five minutes. To see if my oil is ready, I take a small strip of egg roll wrapper (I usually have a few left over) and put it in the oil. You want it to get golden brown relatively quickly, like 15 seconds quickly. When your wrapper strips get golden brown right away, you are ready to fry your egg rolls.
  13. I fry mine for about 2-3 minutes. I leave a few in a little longer because my husband likes them more brown than I do. IMG_1533
  14. When you take them out of the oil you are going to want drain them. The first time I made egg rolls I didn’t do this correctly and ended up with little pockets of piping hot oil. Ouch and yuck. Now I do two things; when I take the roll out of the oil, I take it out by the end so that the oil drips out the other end. And I put it on a cookie sheet covered with paper towels, that I prop up on one end. That way the rolls cool at an angle and drain any excess oil.
    IMG_1564
    The sheet is propped up on a box of pepper.

I love making these with my daughter. Since it’s such a flexible recipe, she can have a little more fun with it and get creative. She helps me with every step except the actual frying.

IMG_1442
The dinosaurs helped too. 😉

I hope this recipe works for you as well, let me know in the comments! Now, I think I’ll go have a salad for lunch. I’m still kind of full. 😉