Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tips,Tricks and a Laugh for taking a LARGE family to Disney

I understand with four Monkeys of our own, ages ranging from 0 to 10, can seem like a large family to some and to others...not even close. 
I get a larger family wanting to avoid Disney, especially when they have babies and/or toddlers. But you can do it!

I hope this gives you some tips and a laugh.

We really love Disney World and Disneyland. Our family has been more times than I'd like to admit.  But this trip we went with two babies and two big kids. Challenges almost too numerous to mention ensued. But good times were had by all.  

Let me take you there... 

The Queen of Random and her Sometimes-Merry Crew are on an air conditioned bus early on a Saturday morning. As we approach the park gate the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse march comes on over the speakers and a voice welcomes everyone to "The Happiest Place on Earth." You smile. This is going to be a GREAT day!

Fast forward several hours...
The make-up you applied in vain in the twilight hours of the morning mingles with sunscreen and salty sweat just before it hits your eyes. You have changed two poop diapers in front of Voyage of the Little Mermaid ride, exhausted your snacks, and walked what can only be ten miles.  

It's amazing what becomes acceptable behavior at a theme park. Even Disney. For example: Fashion. You may have looked cute in your Minnie Mouse ears and aviators, but when the noon sun hits, you just give up as the mascara melts off your face. 

Oh, and then there's this...
Public Sleeping
In the real world, public sleeping on benches, restaurants, etc generally is frowned upon. At's a given. Even if I see a Mom nodding off at the back of the bus to Epcot, I think..."you go on and get that nap, girl."  As far as kids's happening people. And it's downright adorable.

Public Crying
 Normally, if my child (or children) started having a tantrum, or just a rough moment...I would usher them out of the room. At Disney, there is no where to go. You do your best to comfort them, but for the most part you wait it out. Most people there look at you with pity, and say things like, "awwww."

Replace drugs of a street vagrant with apple juice and you have a toddler at Disney. The first time they lay on the ground while you're waiting to board Peter Pan's Flight you pick them up and gently say, "no."  Then after awhile you are like...well. Whatever.

One of the greatest things is that if you have a baby in your arms, NO ONE will let you stand on the bus. Everyone from musclebound New Yorkers, to tween girls will give up their seat so you can sit down with a baby. It just about melted my heart everytime.

Listen. You can do it. Yes, it is tiring. You will swear off all future family vacations at least once. But then you have that perfect moment. Ride that perfect ride. Hear your kids talking about how much fun they had. Catch The Professor's eye and smile at each other. It's worth it. It's fun. Dare I say.... magical?!

Quick and dirty tips on taking a Large family to Disney:

1) Stay at one of the Disney resorts.
 Unlimited transportation, amazing pools, on-site cafeteria open 6am-12am, the service is phenomenal, you get to experience extra park hours, and you get fun arm bands that electronically hold all of your information, including your credit card. You don't even need to bring your wallet!

2) Use the luggage service at the resort.
Let me say it again so you understand...
It will save your marriage. 
Going from your car to your room and back again. Its only a phone call away. Oh, and everytime you pick up the phone in your room, the person on the other end already knows your name. It's like Cheers.

3) Go when they offer free dining.
Several times each year, Disney offers free "Quick-Service" Dinning. Which means for every person that you purchase a park ticket for, they receive a snack and two meals per day(which include: entree, side, drink and dessert). It's almost too much food!  This won't include some of the nicer sit down restaurants, so you will have to pay out of pocket for those. But it is still completely worth it!! By the way, many times you can swap out your dessert for an extra side or drink. We figured this out on the last day~nice. If you aren't sure about a swap out, just ask!! The staff is always helpful!

4) Get fast passes.
 You can sign in online, in advance, with your hotel reservation number, and reserve up to three fast passes per day, per person. With a fastpass you can make sure to ride your three favorite rides.  It's completely worth it!

5) Get the My Disney Experience App
  Its amazing. It continuously updates to give you wait times for rides, reminds you of your fastpasses, and holds your reservations. It's like a daily itinerary. This is also an excellent way to find other information like park hours, show times, and it has a GPS to help you find your next destination.

6) Rent a stroller
 I am begging you. RENT A STROLLER! Don't bring one. People totally do. They lug them on and off buses, but renting is completely worth the $15/day. And once you pay for the day, you receive a voucher. So even if you switch parks, you rent another stroller with no additional charge.

7) Rent an Infant Stroller
  If you child is under 50 pounds, you can use an infant stroller. These are infinitely more outstanding then a regular stroller. They are softer,(covered in fabric) and they are slightly reclined. Which allows on-the-go naps to happen with much more ease.

8) Use the Baby Care Centers
Each park has an air conditioned space for you to make a bottle, nurse, change a diaper, all while your toddler is entertained by a movie. Animal Kingdom Park has the best one. Staff cleaning up behind you, a large area for the rest of your crew to wait, stocked supplies for purchase if needed. I wanted to live there.

9) Bring your own snacks and water
  If you are able, go to the store and get fun snacks. Donuts, popcorn, applesauce, water, etc and bring it with you to the park. Snacks are included in the dining plan, and are also fun to get at the park. But a large family eats a large amount of snacks. Can I get an, "Amen." It is a fun way to start or end your day, and it saves you time and money. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Making Baby Formula and other Crazy-Granola Mom Type Behavior

I know what you are thinking...I was thinking the EXACT same thing a few months ago.
She crazy.

Just so you know, you will find ZERO judgement here on how/what you decide to feed your baby...we will start with one of my favorite quotes on the subject.

I have both bottle and breastfed. Through both experiences, I have felt guilty, elated, shamed, inconvenienced and frustrated.  I have been glared at for nursing in public or looked down upon by other moms for formula feeding.
When are we going to let families make their own decisions?  Yes, if the health of the mother and/or child is at hand, there needs to be careful input. But come on!!

I hearby declare this a ZERO judgement zone.

Whew. Glad that is out of the way...
Now, if you decide to try to make your own formula there are several ways of going about it. Soy, coconut milk, the list goes on and on. Depending on your family budget, your child's dietary needs and allergies, you can find what you are looking for. 

We chose raw milk infant formula.
Did I lose you?
Remember. I know what you're thinking. I was thinking THE SAME THING two years ago. 
Raw milk?!?!  Like... straight from a cow?!?!  

I still recall, with great detail, the moment I took my first bite of cereal with our newly purchased raw milk. And I was like... Oh. This tastes like....milk.

But better.
It's delicious.  

It is important to know your state's laws on raw milk, and always purchase with a reputable farmer.  Cows should be grass-fed and kept in pastures. Our farmer was highly recommended by several of our friends, that had been purchasing from him for awhile.  We were also able to go and visit "Farmer Jimmy" and our cows. It was amazing! 
I call her Betty.

Fast forward over two years. Weight issues with Monkey #4, and I start thinking about making my own formula.  Cause I have all kinda extra time, {Rolls eyes at self}.  

An excellent resource for raw milk's many uses and benefits is: The Westin A. Price Foundation.  
I understand there are many "scary" things written on raw milk, and just as many Crazy-Granola Moms meandering around cyberspace. But this website is awesome.

Okay. First thing. Take a deep breath. The list of ingredients can seem overwhelming, but most of it is straight forward. I'm not even going to post the whole list here, because I want you to still like me. 

So,here is a link to the ingredients/directions.

I know. I know. 
Half way through the list I shut off my phone, trying to hold back tears and the urge to punch something. 
Then I got to the part about making your own whey
I have to MAKE my own effing ingredients to MAKE the formula?!?!  
Yea. BUT. Its really not as bad as you think. 
You really are participating with nature, and the raw milk just does its thing. It's kinda cool.

Here is an EXCELLENT step-by-step video from Westin A. Price Foundation:
Just to warn you...She maybe Queen of the Granola-Moms. I bow to her.

Also, I highly recommend buying the "kit" of all ingredients from Westin A. Price Foundation. The Professor and I did MUCH research to find low prices and they are the best when starting out!!

Okay, proof is in the pudding. My Monkey #4 was at 11% in weight at his almost 5 month check up. And now...
Up to 26% in a little over a month!

Now that I think about it...maybe proof is in the thighs...
I just want to chew on these

Along the whey (pun very much intended) we had to make some modifications. Like dropping the Nutritional Flakes due to excess spitting up. Which we carefully researched and experimented with. Some of the ingredients are non-essential and the Westin A. Price website is perfect for troubleshooting any issues you may face. 

Good luck. Don't get overwhelmed....and matter how this all starts, it ends with your Monkeys eating french fries off the floor.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Trash Chicken and The Benefit of the Doubt: PART TWO

I understand that my life, and scenarios, are a bit "conventional." My husband works full time to support our family and I stay home with our monkeys (ahem. children). Your family or situation may look similar, or completely different. But the point is the same. 

The Benefit of the Doubt.  
No. Not this random Tom Selleck movie I've never watched.

The concept. This little gem of a concept works in all relationships. Friendship, siblings, parents and children. It is a universally positive state-of-mind.

In the past, I have worked full-time, part-time, been the main bread winner while The Professor was in school, and now...I stay home. I am a stay at home mom. Sorry. Sometimes I have to say it to myself to counter my disbelief. I never thought in a million years I would be a stay at home, homeschool mom. Seriously. Never.

I know staying home is what I'm supposed to do with my life in this season. It comes with a series of challenges and joys. Sometimes when I am wrapped up with my own issues like the 15th tantrum of the day from Monkey #3, helping with a project for Monkey #1, and dealing with a deep, emotional need from Monkey #2, I forget what it's like for The Professor.

I have to remind myself of the stress, pressure and strain it can put on a person to have a job and do it with integrity and excellence. I remember the deadlines, frustration on projects, dealing with work relationships and performance anxieties. But more often, I forget.  You know what I remember easily? The Professor going out to lunch for a business meeting to my favorite restaurant...and leftovers brought home. Or that he gets to drive places. Alone. In quiet. I remember the "perks" with no problem.

Being home does come with quite a few challenges, but it also comes with wonderful moments I wouldn't trade for anything! Like playing pattycake with Monkey #4. Or having lunch with a chatty and adorable Monkey #3. Or that sweet conversation when Monkey #1 asked me a life-changing question. Me staying home is just as much about these things, than it is folding laundry. Even more so! They're my "perks."

There have been studies, too numerous to list, on the human bend toward focusing on the negative instead of the positive. Don't believe me? Just google "people focus on the negative instead of positive" and see the HUGE amount of hits. We are just wired this way. But we can steer our wiring where we want it to go.

Dude. When the kitchen counter isn't wiped down, AGAIN?! Instead of getting upset...think about maybe the tea party she was attending with the finest plastic dishes.

Woman. When all you can think about is the dinner meeting he's at, and that he will be home late, AGAIN?! Instead of getting upset..... think about all the long, stressful hours he was already at the office.

Let's give each other a high five for the 'perks.'  And the negative, frustrating things....well, make the best of them. Anyone for a game of Trash Chicken?