Stay Little, Sweet Eli

My sweet baby Eli is turning one tomorrow and I’m just not quite ready for it. I’ve been enjoying his babyhood so much that I want to hit the “pause” button and cherish it a little longer.

IMG_7769Life as a family of four felt pretty natural as soon as Eli was born. My heart had never felt so full until the hazy postpartum days after Eli’s birth when I was so tired, my body so sore, yet feeling so fulfilled by holding both of my boys. Instead of experiencing the gloomy baby blues, my hormonal, postpartum tears were tears of joy, over the moon in love with our new addition and our new normal.

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Maybe it was because I was a second-time mom and I had adjusted my expectations of motherhood, or maybe Eli really was the calmest, happiest, easiest baby on the planet. Either way, I want to thank my sweet boy for so many things…

Eli, thank you for…

  • Breastfeeding like a champ! This was a HUGE stressor when I was a first-time mom and I didn’t even have to think twice about it this go-round.
  • Sticking to a schedule. You never asked to be fed. I just fed you on a routine and it became clockwork overnight. You were the epitome of a textbook newborn.
  • Enjoying sleep. You slept everywhere as a newborn and you never fussed when it was time to go down. Today as an older baby, you continue to rarely protest naps or going to bed at night.
  • Being comforted by my voice. You would calm down almost immediately upon hearing me talk to you. It made me feel so important and connected to you.
  • Smiling always and laughing hard. It doesn’t take much for you to crack a smile with your toothy grin and I’m able to get a good belly laugh from you simply from making a silly face.
  • Imitating sounds and gestures. This sounds like a basic thing that all babies just do, but I can tell  you from experience that some babies like to march to the beat of their own drum (one of whom’s name rhymes with Bluke). It is so rewarding to hear you say “a-nan-a” (banana) and “doo-doo” (cockadoodledoo) or watching you clap, wave and try to blow a kiss.
  • Never hesitating to make new friends. Anytime someone wants to give you a cuddle, you reciprocate and hug them right back.
  • Needing me. You’ll be happily playing and then suddenly crawl back to me as if to make sure I’m still there. Or, Cooper will startle you with a bark and you’ll put your hand on my leg for comfort.

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I also don’t want to forget about what’s going on in your life at this moment, so here’s a recap of what you’re up to at age 1:

  • You can say dada, mama, dah (dog), duh (deer), and hat. You’ll also try to imitate other words without really knowing what they mean.
  • You’re still a big guy, most likely in the upper 90s percentile-wise and wearing 18-month sized clothes.
  • You have 8 teeth and at least 6 coming in. This has been interfering with your sleep and general level of happiness lately.
  • Your favorite activity is playing with a ball. We roll it back and forth, you throw it, and you’ll even catch it sometimes.
  • You also love wrestling on the floor, bobbing your head to music, and taking baths.
  • You’re getting close to walking and have taken a few steps. You can navigate steps and rough surfaces pretty well and are even starting to climb.
  • You eat anything and everything!

We didn’t dote on each milestone the way we did with Luke, but we didn’t worry as much either. Gone were the days of asking Dr. Google hundreds of questions about obscure issues that really were not problems at all the way we did with Luke. We knew what we were doing, and we had faith that Eli would roll, sit, crawl, stand and meet every other milestone at his own pace. Since he’s probably our last baby, I held on to each stage and never wished for a certain phase to end.

However I have a little mommy guilt over not following all the new parent rules like we did with Luke. Eli watches TV, we don’t read to him as often as we should, I comfort nurse him back to sleep in the middle of the night (still!). But he gets a lot of love and so hopefully that balances everything out!

I know this next year has a lot of fun in store. Soon Eli will turn into a running, talking, wild toddler just like his brother. But for now I’m hoping my baby stays little just a little bit longer!

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Young, Wild & THREE!

Today Luke turns the big 3! It’s hard to believe he’s already been a part of our family for three years. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I saw those two pink lines and began to prepare for the arrival of our first baby.

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That first year was all about the milestones, and every time he hit one, Robert and I were so proud. His first smile, first attempts to roll over, sit up, crawl, pull up, walk and utter his first words were each such a big deal. We couldn’t wait for him to accomplish the next big thing, and before we knew it, he wasn’t a baby anymore!

In the moment, I was happy to transition out of the baby phase. I loved it, but the adventures of a one-year-old became so exciting! We replaced bottles with sippy cups, onesies with shorts and t-shirts, baby food with table scraps. We baby proofed everything, and then decided reorganizing our house would be easier than continuing to re-baby-proof everything that he outsmarted.

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He ran around without fear everywhere! Into everything. Climbing on everything. Drawing on everything. With that came lots of bumps and boo boos.

Toward his second birthday his love for golf and lawn tools really amped up. He would hit a golf ball and run to it just to hit it again. And he’d help Robert every Saturday with all the lawn work.

At age two his spirited nature really started to shine through as he grew even more passionate about the things he loved as well as the things he would rather not do. He became his own little person in the last year, full of his own opinions, likes and dislikes, and his own friends and experiences with other people.

View More: http://annabethkierspe.pass.us/the-pickett-family

 

To say “goodbye” to two, I’m capturing some of the things I don’t want to forget because I know that in a flash, he’s going to be four and I’ll forget this moment in time.

I don’t want to forget…

The way your eyes light up when daddy says he’s going to mow.

The way when I tell you to behave you say, “I’m ‘hayve'” while batting your eye lashes.

The way you never stop talking! You narrate life with such zest and charm. I think you’ll definitely be extroverted like your daddy!

The way you have taught me so much about lawn equipment, how to fix things, golf and Paw Patrol (a show on Nick Jr.).

The way your imagination has really taken off as you give your toys and tools a life of their own.

The way you line up your Paw Patrol pup figurines, kiss them goodnight and tell them you love them before going to sleep at night.

How you grab my neck and tell me you love me right when I feel like I want to strangle you.

How you come into my room early in the morning to report that it’s light outside and that I need to get out of bed.

The way we cannot walk out the front door without 1-2 tools in hand and we cannot walk around the neighborhood without doing work at every neighbor’s lawn we pass.

The way you line things up in a very particular order – first it was the golf clubs, then your tools, now your pups and their vehicles.

The way you always need to give me one more hug when I’m dropping you off at school.

The way you want to race and tickle around the house.

The way you needed the whole bag of gummy worms so you could share them with your pups (but you proceeded to admit you ate the whole bag yourself).

The way you say the wrong words like “hiccup truck,” (pick-up truck) “magic oranges” (mandarin oranges) and “soup-case” (suitcase) and how you think a hammock is a picnic and grass plugs are the equivalent of ear plugs for the grass.

The way you idolize your daddy and copy his every move.

The way you talk to your brother using the same words I use with him, like “no Eli that’s too small for you!” and when you tell me “Eli’s just a baby, mama.”

The way you call me “ma” and tell me to “come” or “come check this out with me.”

The way you correct someone when they misinterpret you by starting your sentence with “ackshee” (actually)

I’ll end my list there but there are many more adorable antics I’m sure I’m missing.

My hopes for age three are that our relationship can mature and grow stronger; that tantrums fizzle; that we go on new adventures and continue repeating the ones we love; that you keep helping daddy with the lawn and improve your golf swing; that you start playing team sports with success; and mostly, that you feel loved from me and the rest of our family and friends.

Happy third birthday silly Luke! Here’s to another wonderful year!

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Looking Back: A Rough Day in September 2016

I came across this draft, which I wrote about four months ago, or one month into being home full time. I was pretty stressed. Even though it’s a little dated, I wanted to share my story about our challenges in case there are any moms or dads out there currently in the same boat.

Here’s a look back at life in September 2016…

I recently opened up about how deciding to be a stay at home mom was a really tough decision. Now that I’m a month in to my new job at home, I’m able to report that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s probably been the most stressful month of my life. I knew it would be hard, but I wasn’t anticipating the type of frustrations I’ve been facing.

I feel a little bad as I type that my sweet 2.5-year-old Luke, who I love and adore with all my heart, is the source of my frustrations. I have thought twice about sharing this because of how he’d feel reading this, but this is life right now and it will be good for him to understand the type of shenanigans he was into as a tot.

Plus, we need to be honest about mom life! Everyone shares the good parts of life, leaving some of us feeling like we’re doing something wrong if we’re struggling.

To illustrate our daily conflicts, here’s a rundown of our current situation…

At 7:30 Luke wakes up, often in a disgruntled mood because he didn’t sleep well. He enters our room with a huff, slamming the door open and collapsing onto our floor. I go to him, ask if he’d like some breakfast, and I’m met with a groan. I let him be and get the coffee brewing.

He’s calmed by watching an episode of Mickey and is ready for breakfast. He has a dirty diaper but refuses to let me change it. I ask him if he’d like cereal or eggs (taking advice from countless parenting books on “empowering your toddler by offering choices”). If it’s a really rough day his response will be “mower.” Yes, I typed that right. When he doesn’t want to answer, which is probably half the time I ask him something, he tells me “mower.”

We eventually change the diaper and he gets up in his chair and I put food in front of him. Fortunately he’s been pretty good lately about getting into his chair and eating. I’ll say “Luke, food’s ready, come get in your chair,” and he’ll come over and say “Luke is listening!” while climbing into his seat.

After breakfast I’ll suggest an activity, but usually Luke has his mind set on something and resists anything else. Lately it has been relocating dada’s old golf clubs from one room to another, lining them up on the ground, and asking me to hit a ball with each of them, one by one. I oblige.

After a snack, more putzing around the house, and lunch, the mood in the house shifts as if a dark cloud is approaching. It’s nap time. Half the time, no one ends up sleeping, and everyone sheds some tears.

On days when I know he’s tired, naps are non-negotiable. I lure him into his room with a toy and let him continue playing with it for a few minutes before it’s time to start our nap time routine (diaper, books, light off). When it’s time to put the toy away, we enter tantrum town. All out flailing, kicking, screaming ensues. I let him know after his nap we’ll keep playing with it. Eventually he simmers down.

Taking advice from “Raising Your Spirited Child,” I will lay down with Luke and offer to stay with him until he’s asleep. However many days I cannot even get him to lay down. Now we enter the phase of “lay down or mama’s leaving.” He typically doesn’t lay down, so I leave the room and lock the door (I know this sounds bad, but I know he is safe in there because I watch him on the monitor!). He kicks and screams. I go back a couple minutes later and ask if he’s ready to lay down. If so, I lay with him. If not, I leave again. We can go through several rounds of this.

Eventually he lays down. But he’s still not settled. He’ll lay one way, then get up and lay somewhere else. We have a crib with the side down, a mattress on the floor and a blanket on the floor. He rotates around each of them probably 15 times.

By this point, it’s been an hour since we started “nap time” and Eli is on the verge of waking up. Oh, did I forget to mention there’s another child I’m caring for during all this!? If he wakes up, Luke’s nap just won’t happen. Fortunately Eli is an amazing sleeper so I can often count on him to continue resting peacefully while I work with Luke.

Luke may fall asleep, he may not. I can’t make the kid sleep and I can’t spend my entire day coaxing him into laying down. When he doesn’t go to sleep, I get really frustrated. I know he needs the sleep and that the next 6 hours until bedtime are going to be difficult if he doesn’t rest.

After, or in place of, his nap I’ll turn on Mickey and try to get some things done around the house. He’ll usually sit quietly for a few minutes, fortunately. But then it’s back on the horse!

Again I’ll suggest some activities – swimming, going for a walk, playing basketball – but again, he’s on a mission. This time maybe it’s with his mower – running around the house, chasing our dog Cooper (who does not like to be chased), running into things. I’ll say “Luke Cooper does not like being chased, you’re scaring him,” and he’ll say “No! He likes it!”

Eventually it’s time for dinner and I have about 10 minutes to pull something together. If the food prep takes too long, Eli may end up getting bitten or all his toys may be stolen while my attention is diverted.

After dinner I bathe Eli in the sink while Luke plays an then it’s Luke’s turn. I ask if he wants to bathe in his bath or mama’s bath, and his response? You guessed it! “Mower!”

I say “OK let’s bring the mower into mama’s bathroom,” and we enter tantrum town once again. I carry him to the bathroom kicking and screaming, undress him, and before I know it he has run out of the bathroom like a wild banshee on the loose.

I grab ahold of him again, plunk him in the tub and he’s happy. I get him clean, tell him it’s time to dry off, and what do you think he says? “No!! No drying off!” He wants to stay in the tub. erggggg. Eventually he gets out and we enter bedtime territory.

Each aspect of our bedtime routine, which entails putting on a diaper and pajamas, and going to bed, is met with resistance. Eventually, we accomplish each step and I sit patiently with him and wait for him to drift off to a peaceful slumber. I can always tell it’s safe to leave his room when I hear a little moan and his feet start to twitch. I am so happy he’s asleep and take a moment to admire his sweet little face.

After a couple overnight wake-ups from Eli, and possibly even a bedside encounter with Luke, it’s time to do it all again. No breaks. No paid time off.

Do I regret my decision to stay home? Not one bit. I know that even though these days are hard, I am making unforgettable memories and helping shape my boys to be the best they can be. We have a lot of fun together and I’m still ever so grateful for the chance to be home with them. I’m just being real here!

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So back to today, as I read through what we were going through four months ago I chuckle to myself as I’m reminded of fleeting moments in time that I’ve already forgotten about. We’re undoubtedly in a better place today, yet full of new tussles.

Today’s struggle will give you tomorrow’s laugh. Sometimes these phases go by too fast, and sometimes they don’t go by fast enough. But they will end and our babies will grow. That’s why I think capturing the “bad” maybe isn’t so bad after all!

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Our Thanksgiving in a Nutshell

This year we hosted Thanksgiving at our house for 12 adults, 2 little ones and 3 dogs. This is the fourth time we’ve hosted and this time I think we finally got the menu down pat. So much so that we opted against a competitive food ranking that Robert created (complete with a spreadsheet and voting system), and agreed that every item had its place at the table.

With two small children, I need all the help I can get with hosting the big meal at my house. Here’s how we were able to pull it off without a hitch:

The Table: Each year I try to add to my dining collection. I have neutral set of place mats, table cloths, cloth napkins, and a table runner made from burlap that I got from Joanne’s. We use my grandma’s old China and Silver and I typically throw some gourds and candles in the center for a centerpiece. This year I added gold chargers to my collection. Next year I’m thinking napkin rings or cute little place cards need to be added!

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The Menu: I definitely don’t try to do all this myself. My gracious family consists of great cooks who pitch in to help. Here’s the menu we used, which I think covers all the bases:

Turkey
Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes
Gravy
Sweet Potatoes WITH Marshmallows
Cornbread Casserole
Green Bean Casserole
Cranberry Sauce
Jell-O Fruit Mix
Rolls
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie

Our vegan family members created a stuffed butternut squash dish and pumpkin pudding, which were both unexpected but greatly appreciated additions!

The cooking was extremely stress-free, mainly because there were only a few items being cooked in my kitchen. We would definitely need a double oven to pull all this off in a single kitchen.

The Turkey: We have made our turkey several different ways, including deep frying it, but no one has ever been very impressed with it. This year I didn’t want to put a whole lot of effort into the turkey since no matter what I do, it’s never that great, but to my surprise, it was actually really good this year! Part of the reason I wanted to make a Thanksgiving post was to write down what I did so I’d remember it for next year! Here’s what we did:

I bought a roasting pan with a wire rack at Bed Bath and Beyond a week before the big day. I saw they had them for only $14.99 and we’ve previously used foil ones so I bought it on a whim. They had brine mixes and brining bags displayed right next to them and I figured I’d give that a shot. In the past, we brined a turkey but it was such a mess! We were lugging the turkey in and out of a cooler because there was no room in the fridge. Raw turkey juice was dripping everywhere. And then it didn’t even seem to make the turkey taste any better.

The brining mix I purchased consisted of salt and herbs. You boil it, let it cool and then put it on the turkey in the brining bag, along with additional water. If you go this route, boil the brine mix and let it cool a day before you want to use it because it really takes a while to fully cool. It’s recommended to have the turkey in the brine for 12-24 hours, so preparing the brine needs to be done the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

The brining bag was a lifesaver. Without it, we’d be cleaning out an entire cooler, filling the cooler with water and putting the bird in it, only to clean it out again when we were finished. With the bag, we filled it up, put it in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, and tossed it when we were done.

Once it was time to put the turkey in the oven, we rinsed the brine off, patted it dry with paper towels and let it sit out for 30 minutes. While it was sitting out I prepared a rub for it. Here’s my recipe, which I adapted from Neighborfood.

Simple Garlic and Herb Roasted Turkey

Ingredients

  • 16 lb. turkey (we used Butterball)
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons assorted herbs (I used thyme, rosemary and sage)
  • 2 yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped in long strips
  • One head of garlic, peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, stir together softened butter, olive oil and herbs.
  3. Rub butter mixture all over the turkey, including over the wings and breast, underneath, in the cavity, and under the skin.
  4. Sprinkle the salt and pepper evenly all over the bird and inside the cavity.
  5. Stuff the onions, celery and garlic, then place the bird in the oven.
  6. Bake the turkey at 450 for 30 minutes then turn the heat down to 350, tent with foil, and continue to cook for 1½-2 hours. Take the bird out after 1½ hours and insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. (It’s easiest to place your thermometer straight down right where the thigh and breast connect). You want the thigh to register 165 degrees before removing it. If it’s at 150, you know you’re getting close–check every 10-15 minutes from there. Remove the foil for the last 30 minutes of baking, unless it’s getting too browned. (Thanks again Neighborfood for these great tips!)
  7. Once the thigh registers 165 degrees, remove the turkey from the oven, and allow to stand for 30 minutes before carving.

We checked the turkey an hour and a half after tenting it and it was done! We let it rest for a while because it was done much sooner than I expected. This turkey was so juicy, the people who don’t even like turkey liked it! I think our success was a combination of the turkey itself (Butterball), the brining, the oily rub and the fact that we didn’t overcook it.

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The Stuffing: Stuffing is my favorite side dish on Thanksgiving, so I tried something new this year. It turned out well so I wanted to share this recipe as well, which I adapted from Wicked Good Kitchen.

Crock Pot Five-Star Apple Sausage and Cranberry Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 2.5 boxes Stove Top Herb Stuffing
  • 1 Tube Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage
  • 1½ cups chopped yellow onion
  • 1½ cups grated carrot (2 to 3 large carrots)
  • 1¼ cups chopped celery
  • 1 large Golden Delicious apple, cored & coarsely chopped
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, cored & coarsely chopped
  • 1¼ cups dried cranberries
  • Half Carton Chicken broth
  • Half stick unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium-high heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the carrots and celery; cook for 2 minutes while stirring.
  2. Pour sausage mixture, apples and cranberries into crock pot. Mix well and then mix in chicken broth. (I don’t know exactly how much chicken broth I actually used, but I kept pouring until the bread was saturated. I think it was about half a carton). Cook on high for 30 minutes*
  3. Drizzle butter over top and turn crock pot to low for another 3o minutes*

*Cook times are all approximates! I kind of winged it and don’t really know how long this cooked.

And most importantly, The Family:

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8 Tips for Visiting Magic Kingdom With Little Ones

We recently took our first trip to Magic Kingdom as a family of four. Although we live only about an hour from Disney, we are far from being theme park aficionados. I did a bit of prep work for the big day, but there were still a few things that can only be learned through experience. Here are my 8 tips for making your day at Disney as much fun as possible, especially if you have little ones in tow!

  1. Get there early – Allow more time for parking and entering the park than you think. I would say it took almost an hour from when we parked to when we got into the park.
  2. Do your research – Disney does an awesome job outlining what attractions are suited for little ones. I spent a lot of time on their website looking at the map and figuring out which rides I thought we’d enjoy most. I also found the site Guide2WDW, which gives more detail on what to expect from each ride and advises on how best to use your allotted three Fast Passes.
  3. Come up with a plan – I listed out a rough order of all the attractions we could possibly do as well as dining options, but I knew there would be no way we could get to everything. Just know that you’ll have to be flexible based on the crowds and wait times.
  4. Download the My Disney Experience app – Disney really nailed it with their app. I bet I opened it 20 times throughout the day. One of the most helpful parts was the wait times. You could see how long the lines were to determine whether or not it would be worth riding a ride. The other helpful part was the walking directions. It would even tell you how long it would take to walk to a different area of the park.
  5. Bring healthy snacks and water – Chances are you’re going to be indulging in unhealthy foods while at the park (i.e., Mickey-shaped ice cream and hot dogs!), so to keep things balanced, have some healthy snacks on hand.
  6. Allow more time than you think you’ll need – Getting from point A to point B can take what feels like an eternity with the slow-moving crowds. There’s a good chance you won’t get to do everything that you want because there is just SO MUCH TO DO! Complete your “must do’s” as soon as you arrive in the park.
  7. Get a grip on the stroller situation – You can’t get in any line with your stroller. Therefore you need to park it in the designated stroller parking areas. At one point, we parked ours only to come out of a show to find it was not where we left it. After a short panic, we realized there are employees whose sole role seems to be relocating strollers if they are not in the exact stroller area (we were guilty of putting it near the area, but it was too crowded for us to find an actual stroller parking spot.)
  8. Be patient, show grace – People at Disney are crazy. Everyone is in a hurry to get where they’re going and see it all. I am guilty of being impatient and told Robert he needed to get more aggressive pushing the stroller. It’s hard to show grace when it’s not shown to you, but it’s something we can all work toward!

I know there are lots of you who frequent the parks much more often than I do, so feel free to help me add to my list of tips!

Our Day at Magic Kingdom

Yesterday we took our first family trip to Magic Kingdom. I’ve been excited and nervous for this day for quite a while. Excited for obvious reasons, and nervous because Luke can have a meltdown like no other, and Eli relies on his quiet crib to nap quite a bit during the day.

We were as prepared as we could be – I researched all the rides and shows in advance, including how you should use your allotted three Fast Passes. We had a flexible itinerary, changes of clothes, an extra pair of hands (my mom!) and lots of snacks, yet we still faced a few surprises.

We planned to leave around 7:30 a.m., arrive by 9 and get to Peter Pan’s flight (one of the busier rides) before making our way to Small World for our Fast Pass at 10. That didn’t happen. First of all, the crowds were crazy. We thought that going on a Wednesday before the holidays would be a slow time to visit, but we were wrong! Second of all, I didn’t realize  how difficult it was just to get into the park. First you take the tram to the ticket counter, which fortunately we were able to bypass because we already had tickets. Then you take the monorail or ferry to the entrance. Then you get your bags checked. And then, I was randomly selected to go through a metal detector (which, side note, I am ALWAYS randomly selected for extra security measures! It doesn’t bother me a bit, but I think it’s kind of funny.)

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On the tram

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Waiting for the ferry

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Nursing on the ferry – so ready to be done nursing!

We finally made it in and had to RUSH to make it to Small World before our Fast Passes expired. Luke absolutely LOVED this ride. He was staring in awe at everything, and pointing to the dancing figures and laughing. I’m really glad we went on this ride. I think Eli liked it too, and it will be on my list to ride again on our next visit.

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It’s A Small World

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It’s A Small World

After Small World we went to Pete’s Silly Sideshow to meet Goofy and Donald. The characters don’t seem to walk around the park like they did when I was younger. Instead you wait in line to have one-on-one time with them. With Luke’s current obsession with all Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters, this was a priority for us this trip to Disney. He did pretty well in line and was really happy while meeting the characters. You could wait in another line to meet Minnie and Daisy, but we were able to see them while we exited and I realized Luke has a little crush on Minnie Mouse. He stared at her for a while!

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Waiting to meet Donald and Goofy

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Me and my mom

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Dada and Eli

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Meeting Goofy

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Goofy!

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Meeting Donald

Next we went to Winnie The Pooh to use our second Fast Pass. I didn’t know anything about this ride, but it was recommended for a Fast Pass on a site I used for research. The ride consists of little honey pot cars that follow a track, similar to many of the other rides at Disney. It wasn’t all that exciting and I think we’ll skip it on our next visit.

From there we had hot dogs for lunch. Luke was filled up on goldfish and cereal bars so he modeled my sunglasses instead of eating. Eli took a nap.

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From here Robert, Luke and I got in line for the spinning teacups. It turned out to be ideal timing since this wasn’t a ride my mom would enjoy, so she could stay back with our snoozing Eli. While in line, it was evident from Luke’s attitude that it was nap time, yet this energetic boy was running full throttle. I saw so many kids sleeping in their parents’ arms and was a bit envious. This child has so much energy he could never sleep somewhere like Disney. He didn’t even sleep on the car ride home!!

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In line for the teacups

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This photo will no doubt be a family classic, especially with Robert’s clever caption “The happiest place on earth”

As soon as the ride started going and Robert started spinning us, Luke got the most enormous grin on his face. Moments like this are perfect. However shortly after I snapped this picture, Luke got a terrified expression on his face. I think he realized how dizzy he was. Overall, he absolutely loved the ride and we’ll definitely ride it again on our next trip!

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This face!

From here we saw the 3D Mickey’s Philharmagic show. This was Luke’s first 3D experience and he was reaching out to grab the cartoons as they came flying toward us. All the songs were from my favorite Disney movies like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King. This was a perfect little escape from the crowds and I’d definitely see it again.

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3D glasses at Mickey’s Philharmagic

After the show, we got the iconic Mickey-shaped ice cream! This is a “must do” during a day at Magic Kingdom!

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We weren’t quite sure what to do next. I checked the ride wait times from the Disney app and we decided to check out Pirates of the Caribbean since it had a 45-minute wait time as opposed to the other 2-hour waits! This line was tough for Luke. He was being a little out of control – but honestly, what can you expect from a 2.5 year old? Eli took a nap. As for the ride itself, I wasn’t impressed, and we’ll skip it next time. There was quite a drop – I’m glad I had a good hold on Eli and that Robert didn’t let Luke fly out!

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The capstone to our day was meeting Mickey. I got a Fast Pass for 3:30 p.m. to make sure we could get in and out and hit the road. This encounter was really neat. It is set up so that you’re going back stage to meet Micky in a theater. It’s very private with only 2 families in the room at a time. Mickey is different from all the other characters because he talks in the classic Mickey voice. We couldn’t quite figure out how it worked. The family in front of us was from Argentina and Mickey started speaking to them in Spanish!

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All in all we had a great day, even though Luke had an accident while riding on Robert’s shoulders! I’m really glad we took Luke at an age of such pure, innocent joy! Seeing happiness radiate from him filled my love tank up to the brim (sorry for the sap!)

I think our next trip will be in a couple years when Eli is at an age to really enjoy it. Until then we’ll be reliving the memories!

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Fall 2016 Bucket List

Fall is my favorite time of year, and October is my favorite month! Not only is it my birth month, but it’s the month of pumpkins, football and cooler weather. It’s finally bearable to be outside in more clothing than a swim suit, and so it’s the perfect time to get out and explore!

Using my summer bucket list as inspiration, I’m going to start to-do lists for each season with the hope of making lots of memories.

Here’s where we’re at with our fall list:

  1. Take a Road Trip – DONE – I blogged about Part 1 of our trip to Savannah and Charlotte, as well as Part 2 to Columbia and Charleston.
  2. Check Out New Tampa Nature Park – TBD – I’m not sure what this park has to offer, but I’d like to check it out since it’s right down the road from us. It looks like there’s a playground and hiking path.
  3. Visit a Pumpkin Patch – PARTLY DONE – We visited the small patch at our church and plan to visit Sweetfields Farms in a couple weeks to get our fill of cute pumpkin pictures of the boys.
  4. Go to Disney – SCHEDULED – This is a doozy! We are going to spend the day at Magic Kingdom in a couple weeks. I have mixed emotions about this. On one hand I’m super excited, but on the other, I’m a little terrified of how the boys will handle such a big, overly stimulating day.
  5. Visit Florida Aquarium – DONE – Last month was “swaptember,” so those with zoo memberships could go to the aquarium or MOSI for free. I’ve been to the aquarium but it was the boys’ first trip. We enjoyed it, although I must admit I’m partial to the zoo. A lot of the aquarium’s exhibits seemed to have extras for older kids, and waiting in line and paying to park makes the trip a little more of a production than I’d like. We’ll check it out again when the little ones are a bit older.
  6. Hike at Hillsborough River State Park – TBD – There’s a fun hike along the Hillsborough River that Robert and I have done a couple times, and I think Luke is at an age where he can handle it and enjoy it.
  7. Visit Weeki Wachee Springs – TBD – Home of the world-famous mermaids, this quaint little park also has animals and a boat ride on the crystal clear Weekie Wachee River.
  8. Visit Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park – TBD – Back in my old stompin’ grounds, Homosassa Springs was a go-to field trip when I was growing up. Hopefully the boys will enjoy the animal encounters.
  9. Go to a Football Game – DONE – We had some adult time and went to a Bucs game with friends and then visited our alma mater with the boys for some tailgating before a Gator game. I can’t wait for the day we can bring the boys into the Swamp for their very first Gator game. I want them to be excited for it, and be able to sit still. Until then, we’ll take them to Gainesville and show them around campus. Being there to be a part of the energy surrounding a game is almost as fun as the game itself!
  10. Decorate Pumpkins – SCHEDULED – We’ll be carving pumpkins with friends this weekend. I have some new ideas for my pumpkins that I want to try out.

Fall is a fun, busy season! What are some things you do with your families this time of year?