09 December 2015

Cloth Diapering: Newborn Stash

Hi Friends~
Today I'm continuing a mini series all about how I cloth diaper! This post will be how I cloth diapered our 7 lb 3.5 oz newborn along with reviews of my choices and some tips and tricks! Again, this is just MY personal stash and opinions- some may work for you and some may not. So be flexible when you start to cloth diaper your newborn :)

Personally, I generally love snaps and natural fibers. You'll notice a lot of cotton, hemp, and a bit of bamboo in my stash. I lean towards snaps on my covers, but some hook & loop (aka. velcro) since it's so adjustable, especially at the super tiny NB phase!



Supplies: 
2 diaper pail liners
diaper pail
6 newborn covers
12+ fitted diapers
4+ doublers
2 dozen flat diapers
3 dozen cloth wipes
spray bottle (filled with water/witch hazel blend)
small container (filled with coconut oil)
EcoNuts Baby powdered detergent
Scentsy (warmer or room spray)

Reviews:
The top picture I've laid out kind of in order, my top choices down to my second-string newborn diapers & newborn covers. So here's what we've got, in order...
Imagine NB Diaper Cover (bright green): One of my favorite newborn covers. Three rise settings and four waist snap settings. This fit well past my other newborn diaper covers. No leakage issues, and the gathered elastic in the front mean no issues with the umbilical cord stump.
Thirsties XS Sized Cover (light blue): Thirsties is my go-to brand for covers, and their XS is perfect for the newborn phase. No leaks and good room for extra nighttime stuffing. The hook & loop closure, which includes a crossover tab, allows for a great custom fit.
Thirsties Size 1 Duo Wrap Cover (pictured below): my go-to for once they're a touch bigger - you can see it pictured below, it's just a bit bulky for my NB, and didn't leave ample room for the umbilical cord, but was in our regular lineup within the first month. I also only use the snap closure on this cover- their new version of hook & loop, while super sticky, is just really thick and I noticed it left angry red marks on my little ones (who have a tendency to have sensitive skin like their mama!) because it IS so sturdy and thick.
Imagine NB Bamboo Fitted Diaper (light yellow): This is my favorite favorite newborn diaper! I love fitteds in general, as they keep breastfed poop contained really well. Imagine's are super soft, wash well, fit great, and have an umbilical cord snap down too. This is one that I ordered extras of after our initial purchase!
Organic Caboose NB Snap Fitted Diaper (natural with black tag): This one fits great for the early weeks & months. It's the thinnest diaper in my line up, bamboo, and is nice and trim. I always add a doubler under it just to be safe though. A great fit and includes an umbilical cord snap down. I think it was the first to be outgrown of the fitteds, but I got a lot of use out of it.
Cloth-eez NB Organic Cotton Workhorse Fitted Diaper (orange trim): A great diaper! My first experience with Cloth-eez brand, but I can highly recommend them. A close second favorite, after my Imagine fitteds. They have a crossover snap, so they work well even for the tinniest of waisted newborns! They wash well, and are just as nice as when they came home. Made exclusively for Green Mountain Diapers, which is a Christian cloth diaper store!
Thirsties Size 1 Fitted Diaper (white): Again, I love Thirsties. Their fitteds hold a good amount, and I used them with a booster as my overnight diapers. They do great for a half night- I'm always paranoid about letting newborns go all night without a change, for fear of leaks or diaper rash or just generally being uncomfortable. Sadly these don't stay quite as soft as when I first bought them, but still plenty comfy. My husband's exact words when we first bought them, "I wish they made underware like that for ME!" lol. They have three snaps in the rise, and include a crossover snap at the waist, so the waist is super adjustable, but you can see in the picture below that there's a bit of a gap in the legs on my ~7 pounder!
Bummis Super Brite NB Diaper Cover (bright pink): The only reason this is part of my "second string" is because they were the first to be outgrown out of all my covers. They are perfect for the NB phase though! Since they really are so small, and have the adjustable hook & loop closure, they fit even tiny ones super well. I'd probably get a few more for our next go around honestly- they just worked THAT well for the earliest newborn days. They really are pretty trim, so a trim fitted diaper or flat diaper works best under them, in my experience. This was actually the first cover that my littlest ever wore! With crossover tabs too, this could probably fit even premies.
Little Bee Size 1 Hemp Fitted Diaper (natural with yellow/red tag): This brand went out of business a while back, and this fitted is leftover from my first babe. You can still find these kicking around on the secondhand market usually. Made well, but the hook & loop closer is so thick that I don't know how comfortable it is for little ones. It washes well though and stays pretty soft & smooth, so it's a solid second string fitted. It tended to be a nighttime back up diaper for me.
Kissaluvs Size 0 NB Cotton/Hemp Fitted Diaper (natural with tan trim): Another one that I really wanted to love. They're a great American brand, Christian too, and sadly just went out of business. , and I love the snap down umbilical cord closure, but it's so bulky and not that soft, so it is never the first one I reach for... though it IS my backup nighttime diaper for the NB stage. Very absorbent, especially with an added doubler. There's also a ton of snap options on the front of this diaper- I honestly don't even know how it's supposed to snap up, but it gives a lot of options of how it can fit! Hehe. It also lasted the longest of my NB fitteds.
Rumparooz Newborn Diaper Cover (dark teal): I really wanted to like these because they come in SO many cute colors & patterns. While they're almost the same as Imagine's NB diapers, these only have 3 snaps in the waist, and it seemed like my wee one was always just in-between snap sizes. So these were typically the last covers I reached for, sadly.

Infant/Newborn Unbleached Prefolds (not pictured): These were a little too bulky really for the first few weeks, but around 10lbs or so I started using these, just trifolded in cover. I have both Bummis and OsoCozy unbleached ones- both great choices.
OsoCozy Unbleached Flat Diapers (pictured below): These were our travel diapers for our oldest, and washed & held up so well that we ordered a second stash for our youngest. As a NB, we used the origami fold to create "fitted" diapers with these when we ran out of regular fitted diapers. A solid second-string choice! Personally we skipped a fastener since NBs don't really move around a ton! We now use them as our primary diapers (just pad folded) since she has now outgrown the NB prefolds.
EcoNuts Baby Powdered Detergent (not pictured above): This is my go-to detergent. Most mainstream detergents are not cloth diaper safe- they wreak havoc on the elastic and PUL in the diapers. I've used this not just on my diapers but our regular laundry too! We have hard water AND highly chlorinated, and this takes care of all those issues when it comes to diaper laundry. We've used EcoNuts Soap Nuts as well, which worked great in normal water, before we moved. If you're interested, (shameless plug) Scentsy's Laundry Liquid is also cloth diaper safe!!
Rumparooz/Kanga Care Diaper Pail Liners (pictured in "Our Setup" below): Even though I wasn't a fan of their NB diapers, I love their pail liners! Built sturdier than other brands I've tried (Thirsties lasted about 3 years, and GroVia has lasted a year but starting to show wear) and they come in most of the super cute colors & patterns that their covers come in!!

All the above photos were taken within about a week of birth, right around 7 lbs
(Top-Bottom Left-Right)
Rumparooz cover, Imagine fitted, Thirsties fitted
Imagine cover, Organic Caboose fitted, Bummis cover (put on a bit too loose here)
Thirsties XS cover, Thirsties Size 1 cover, OsoCozy flat diaper (origami fold, no fastener)


Tips:
Do your research! There are so MANY options and brands, so read through Cloth Diaper 101 articles to see what you think may work best for you and your lifestyle!
- Order a few different styles in different brands- there are many places where you can sell your diapers second-hand if you find a particular brand or style doesn't suit you or your baby. You'll find that different brands fit different baby body types- from long and lean, to short and chubby, but there IS a brand & style for everyone!!
- Check out your local cloth diaper store or online store- many offer newborn packages where you can try different styles, often with great return policies once you decide what you do & don't like!
- Rent newborn diapers! Some stores offer newborn packages that you can rent for a few weeks so you don't have to spend as much for a full newborn diaper stash that you only use for 2-4 weeks. We plan to have future babies, Lord willing, so it made sense for us to invest in a full newborn stash! We also did not buy newborn diapers for our first baby as we didn't plan to start cloth diapering until a few weeks/months in (we started her at 2 months, our youngest we cloth diapered from birth at the hospital!).
- Nickis Diapers- my favorite online cloth retailer, check them out! Great selection, reasonable shipping costs, prompt shipping, and great rewards program! I truly can't say enough good things about them (and no, I'm not paid to say that, hehe), but we've been using them since the very beginning of our cloth diaper journey about 4 years ago and plan to continue using them for a long time to come!


Our Setup:

   

Here's just our personal set up. I find the regular size changing tables to be way too small, especially for cloth diapering. So we just used a regular size dresser, popped the changing pad on top along with some of our essential cloth diapering supplies in a small basket, and there ya go! We use a Simple Human tall trash can as our diaper pail. Regular pail liners fit perfectly. (You see two pails here because we had two girls in cloth diapers for about 8 months, and I separated their diapers.) Below is a close up of what I keep on top of our changing table. In each drawers, I have separated out cloth wipes, everyday diapers, overnight diapers, diaper covers, etc. This JUST fit our complete stash when we had two in cloth diapers- and in the bottom photo, you can see that I had little labels on all the drawers to remember which girl's stuff was in each drawer!!


Water & Witch Hazel spray bottle = spraying our cloth wipes to wet them as we use them
Honest Co. Diaper Cream = our personal favorite cloth-diaper safe cream for really bad rashes
Olive Oil (or Coconut Oil) = our go-to for minor rashes & irritations
Face Wipes/Washcloths = for boogers, dirt, etc!
Scentsy Warmer = an essential, in my opinion! Because it warms at just above body temperature (unlike other wax warmers on the market), it's safe for kids & pets. Both my infant and preschooler have plopped their hands in the warmer with little more than a startled whine. My oldest even poured the hot wax down her bare chest, then proceeded to ask me straight faced "what happened, mama?" LOL. Anyhoo, I turn it on after changing a poop, or sometimes leave it on all day! A Scentsy room spray would work fantastically too- and the bottle lasts a really long time!! OK, yes, admittedly I'm a bit biased since I'm a Scentsy Independent Consultant, but seriously, I love these products in the nursery!

22 November 2015

Cloth Diapers: at the Hospital

Hi Friends~
Tonight I'm starting a mini series all about how I cloth diaper! The best thing I can tell you is to do your research! Cloth diapers have come a LONG way in the past few decades- they're no longer just pinned diapers with plastic pants! Hehe. There are MANY options- with my first little one, I ordered a few different styles in different brands. After she was born, I figured out which worked best for our lifestyle, and which brand fit her build best. Check out your local cloth diaper store or online store as some offer newborn packages where you can try different styles!

Anyhoo, so that's some starting advice! Today I'll focus on how I cloth diapered our little one, starting right from birth at the hospital! When you tour your personal hospital, ask how receptive they are to cloth diapering. Different places have different rules, so hopefully yours will be open to it!


Supplies: 
2 large hanging wetbags
small wetbag 
6 newborn covers
3 dozen flat diapers
3 dozen cloth wipes
travel-size spray bottle (filled with water/witch hazel blend)
travel-size container (filled with coconut oil)
Scentsy Scent Pak (in Winter Pine)

How to:
- I hung a sign (with washi tape, or masking tape) on our bassinet that stated "cloth diapers only: no disposables please!" so that the nurses were on board with our diapering choices. Since our wee one only left my sight once (for the discharge hearing test, blood test, etc), I didn't really have to worry about anyone else diapering her.
- I hung a wet bag inside the private bathroom that my hospital room had, which is also where I hung the Scentsy Scent Pak! They're great for covering up the "hospital" smell as well as any diaper smells and just the general funk from after giving birth! ;)
- I used the spray bottle to gently wet the cloth wipes. Another option I use when away from home sometimes is The Honest Company's wipes. When I first started cloth diapering, I just used Viva brand paper towels and a spray bottle of water & witch hazel. I then moved over to cloth wipes, which is really convenient when you're already cloth diapering!
- I used the "origami fold" for the flat diapers, which in effect created a faux "fitted" diaper! This fold fit well under my newborn covers. We didn't use any fasteners, but feel free to purchase some if you'd like! I didn't both since I knew we'd be switching to a "pad fold" or "trifold" as soon as the wee one got a little bigger.
- The little pot of coconut oil was for any diaper rash flare ups. It also helps in removing the sticky first meconium poops, and helps keep future sticky poops from sticking to the bum! I did not have any problems with meconium staining our diapers, by the way- nothing a little sunshine couldn't bleach out. If you're concerned though, you can purchase some fleece or disposable liners!
- Be flexible! Your birth may not go quite as planned, so even if all your cloth diapering dreams don't come true while you're in the hospital, don't fret. You can start up at home when you're ready! Our oldest didn't get any cloth diapers until she was 2 months old, when I felt ready to tackle it.

Next post, I'll show you our whole Newborn set up at home! Can't wait to share with ya'll :)

31 Days: To Nap or Not to Nap at Disney




Hey friends!
I'm back to continue and finish up our 31 Days of Disney World with kids! We just got back from a trip this past week, but of course the wee ones brought home some germs and have been sick, so I'll try and finish up this series as frequently as I can manage to get to the computer :)

So today I bring you a few tips with regard to the important topic of napping while at Disney World! 

(1) Strollers
Get them. Use them. Every child of course is different, but even those not generally inclined towards napping in the stroller may be so tuckered out from fun that they'll get in some naps while at the parks during the day. Our oldest, who doesn't always take a nap, often took two naps this past trip. I'll admit, there are some die hards that refuse to bring strollers, and I do get the hassle of schlepping it all over, but I definitely think it's worth it! You can bring your own, rent the standard hard plastic ones at the park, or rent from an outside stroller company (there's many good ones in Orlando).

(2) Carriers
The above picture is from our trip last week, and how my little one mostly napped throughout the week! If your wee one is used to a carrier, bring it along. Especially young ones may get over stimulated from all the excitement and just want a snuggle. Our youngest has napped in the carrier on me, dad, Grammy, and Grandpa! If your wee one has not tried a carrier before, try them out before the trip and not during the trip for the first time! Some kiddos just don't like them. I'm blessed that both of my little ones love them!

(3) Resort Room
Get a feel for how your little ones are doing over the first day or two. It might work best for you to head back to the resort early afternoon. Young kiddos can get a good nap in their beds. Older kids can hit up the pools. Everyone can grab lunch or a snack, and you'll skip the busiest hours at the parks, not to mention the hottest hours of the Florida sun!

(4) Rest Days
Sometimes all your little ones need is a break from the parks. We plan two days on and one day off (from the parks) on our trips. Whether it's a short week-long trip or longer 10-14 day trip, we always schedule "down days." These days mean heading to the pool, maybe letting off some steam at the miniature golf courses, just chilling in the room (getting schoolwork done, playing games, going on a tour of the resort, etc) or maybe going to Disney Springs for some shopping part of the day. A day with minimal car rides, and stroller time, and just generally being cooped up! Even with older kiddos, you may find this is just what is needed to help recharge the batteries after non-stop days at the park!

01 November 2015

31 Days: Tinkerbell Gifts at Disney


Hi friends!
Today I am excited to share with you the idea of "Tinkerbell Gifts" - festive gifts that "Tinkerbell" leaves your children before or during your trip! You can gift these at all different times... 
  • surprise them with the trip by giving them a gift saying "we're going to Disney World!" 
  • give them a gift when you leave for the airport (for use on the plane!) or leave for the car ride road trip down to Disney World
  • gift them each morning when the kiddos wake up (that's what my cousin and I are doing for our littles on our upcoming family reunion!). If you're *Disneybounding*, theme the gift to the character you're dressing like that day!
  • arrange with your hotel to have them waiting in the room when you arrive
  • have your spouse take the wee ones to the pool or walk around the resort while you zip into the room and set things up!


Disney Gift - packaging


Pick your packaging!
Start from the bottom up- figure out what you want to present your gift in! This can be anything from a bowl to a bag to even a lunchbox for the wee ones to use to bring snacks and lunches to the park during your trip! If it's a smaller gift, choose something like a small glass, sippy cup, or new water bottle! If think is gifting before the car/plane ride, maybe use a new (or even fill up a current bag!) backpack as your child's carryon or you bag for the road trip!





Disney lunch

Add some snacks!
Whether it's a whole lunchbox full of Disney-themed goodies, or just one tasty goodie, some princess or pirate goodies are sure to be a hit.




Disney clothes

Disney clothes by skstudios on Polyvore
Dress them in style!
Whether it's a new t-shirt, fuzzy comfy socks, bracelets, or new PJs, some new clothes or accessories are a great addition to Tink's gift!



Disney School

Disney School by skstudios on Polyvore
Make learning fun!
Whether you're a homeschooler like us, or pulling the kids out of regular school, you'll likely need to squeeze in some homework during the trip. Make it a bit more fun by Disneying their learning tools! Whether it's a new notebook and pen or flashcards, puzzles, and worksheets- make learning fun!


Disney bath products

Practical gifts can be fun too!
Your wee ones will still need to do mundane things, so make it fun! New Disney toothbrushes or potty training tools, wash cloths or hand soap  can bring a little extra magic to the trip!


Disney toys

Disney toys by skstudios on Polyvore
Just for fun!
Of course, we have to throw in some toys for fun! Something to keep the littles occupied on the plane, bus ride from the airport, or just during stroller rides around the park- the possibilities are endless here!


Here's a sneak peek at what our preschooler will be getting one morning during our trip...

Frozen gift set



30 October 2015

31 Days: Road Trip (Planning Edition)


Hi friends!
So! Tonight I'll share with you my best planning tips when it comes to road tripping, especially to Disney World! So let's just dive in... 


So, when I plan, I include as much info as I can in our itinerary- it just helps make me feel prepared. Below is a peek at our last trip's itinerary for our driving days- the rows are as follow....
day of the week
hotel for the evening
date
event for the day/final destination
breakfast (where & what we're eating)
morning plans
lunch
afternoon plans
dinner
evening plans (hotel reservation #s)


And we've already discussed a few topics earlier in the series, like- 
So here's a few other tips and tricks to consider when planning out how you'll be road tripping...

PLAN:
My first piece of advice? Make sure you do plan ahead of time! Road tripping with kids is a big undertaking, no matter the age, so make sure you set aside time to plan out the details!

Get an early or late start:
Some of the best times to travel with kids are early in the morning and late at night. In the morning, the kiddos will be fresh as daisies (hopefully!) and less irritable. Maybe they'll even go back to sleep for a while if you get out early enough! Bring a portable breakfast for the road, like dry cereal, granola bars, or drinkable yogurt. 
If you're night owls, drive at night when the kiddos will be sleeping mostly. This way, they'll have spent most of the morning/afternoon NOT being cooped up in the car, and thus hopefully again not irritable yet! Bring a portable dinner to eat on the road, or plan to stop for dinner 1-2 hours into the trip. Also bring night-friendly activities for any kiddos that'll stay up after the sun goes down- book lamp for reading, iPad games/movies, or glow sticks!

One day, two days, three days, more:
We've done our 12 hour trek to Disney in one day and two days. When we knew we wouldn't be guaranteed an early start, we decided to break up the drive into two days. On the way home, when we hoped that the little one would be tuckered out from a whirlwind vacation, we did the whole thing in one day. Ironically, the straight shot drive was better than the two-days (due to a variety of unavoidable factors)! So just don't be too daunted to try and do it all in one day- it CAN work, if it's your only/best option! Just know that it'll be a long day, there will be delays, so just be prepared to go with the flow :)

Rest stops:
You'll be making them, so try and plan some fun ones! We planned stops at battlefields along the way (we're history buffs!), zoos, and "Diner, Drive-ins, and Dives" restaurants! Does your family have a hobby- baseball, hiking, etc? See if there's any stadiums along your trip, or awesome state parks! Parks & battlefields are also great places to have picnic lunches and let the kids run off some steam, kick a ball around, or just stretch out on a blanket and nap or read. 

Hotels:
There's kind of two schools of thoughts here- (1) make reservations in advance or (2) when you've decided you're done for the day, find a place with vacancies in the nearest town. The OCD planner in me always goes with option #1! While it's often not necessary, I always like to call the hotel and let them know if we'll be rolling in late at night- it's not unheard of for reservations to be given away. If option #2 is more your thing, just be prepared to drive around a bit. You never know if there's a big local event going on and thus no vacancies in town, so you'd have to keep driving. So just be flexible!

29 October 2015

31 Days: Holidays at Disney


Hi friends!
Today I wanted to share with you some fun stuff that happens around the holidays at Disney World! Aside from decorating the parks beautifully and festive cupcake goodies available everywhere, Disney has special events that really enhance the magic of your visit! I'll talk about some of the big events here- lots of extra fun for the littles :)



New Years Eve
If your wee ones are night owls, Disney of course puts on a spectacular fireworks display. The crowds at the parks (particularly Magic Kingdom) are a bit insane, but certainly an event to remember! Select restaurants also offer NYE reservations. I'd highly recommend California Grill- you can view the fireworks show from the top of The Contemporary Resort- a view that can't be beat!

Valentine's Day
Special dinner reservations are available to share an intimate meal with your spouse, or make it a special event for the whole family and share the love! Be sure to keep an eye out on Disney's website for when these reservations are made available- not all restaurants participate. 

Saint Patrick's Day
Be sure to head to Disney Spring's Raglan Road for a true taste of Ireland and some incredible Irish Step Dancing performances and other traditional Irish bands. One of our family's favorite eateries year-round! They even bring some little ones on stage to learn a few dance steps- too cute!

Spring
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival- Epcot is transformed with topiaries and gardening delights all over the place! See your child's favorite character created entirely of plants and flowers! Also, like the fall event at Epcot, you'll find food booths set up around the park to indulge in many unique eats! Also enjoy interactive play areas for kids, tips for gardening at home, and concerts!
Atlanta Braves Spring Training- Is your family a baseball fan? Call the ATL your home? Is your little one a sports nut? Be sure to check out ESPN's Wide World of Sports and catch a game!
Star Wars Weekends- Throughout the month of May, be sure to check this out! Featuring everything Star Wars. From celebrity guest appearances to special dining experiences, Jedi Training Academy to a special parade- Hollywood Studios is all things out of this world!

Easter
Check out Epcot for an Easter Egg Hunt around the World Showcase.
There are 2 Catholic Masses & 1 Protestant service at The Contemporary Resort on Easter Sunday.
Easter brunch reservations are available at select restaurants.

Fourth of July
Of course Disney puts on a huge fireworks display- not to be missed!!

Night of Joy concert in front of the castle!
Fall
Night of Joy- A truly blessed experience! A two-day Christian concert featuring the most popular Christian artists in the business! A separate ticketed event at Magic Kingdom, which means you can enter the park as early as 4pm and regular guests are required to leave by 7pm. Most of the major rides are open with relatively LOW wait times! There are three stages located throughout the park featuring different groups throughout the evening- each band plays roughly a half hour set. If your favorite band isn't playing, be sure to check at Universal Studios, as they host a Christian festival that same weekend, so your favorite may be playing over there instead!
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival- Ok, so this isn't so much for the kids, but it's a huge perk for the adults!! Set up all around Epcot's World Showcase are food booths where you can get appetizer portions of foods and drinks from all around the world. It could actually be a great way to stretch your meal budget, as the portions are kid-friendly (so you only spend a few bucks on your child's meal instead of buy a whole meal!). Definitely a must-do if you're visiting during this time! Throw in some extra learning and take the chance to learn more about the different cultures represented from around the world! Don't forget to catch the concerts featuring well-known bands!

Wine & Food Festival portions from the Ireland booth


Halloween
Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party! This is a separate ticketed event at Magic Kingdom. That means that the park closes to regular guests at 7pm, and if you don't have a party wrist band, you'll be directed to leave the park. If you have a party ticket, you can enter the park as early at 4pm that day- so just relax that morning at the resort or Disney Springs and then head to Magic at 4pm and save your regular park ticket for use on another day- it's a great way to stretch your tickets and practically get a whole extra day at the park! There's dance parties, trick or treating trails, special event-only merchandise, the major rides are open with relatively LOW wait times, and it's your only chance to see the spectacular Halloween parade- arguably Disney's best parade!

Thanksgiving
There are special dinner reservations available at various restaurants. So if the only time you can visit Disney is over the holidays, you can still get your fill of turkey and stuffing! Check the Disney site frequently for when the reservations open up- holiday meals are only available at select restaurants. 


Christmas
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party! This is another separate ticketed event at Magic Kingdom. That means that the park closes to regular guests at 7pm, and if you don't have a party wrist band, you'll be directed to leave the park. If you have a party ticket, you can enter the park as early at 4pm that day- so just relax that morning at the resort or Disney Springs and then head to Magic at 4pm and save your regular park ticket for use on another day- it's a great way to stretch your tickets and practically get a whole extra day at the park! There's dance parties, free cookies & hot cocoa, special event-only merchandise, the major rides are open with relatively LOW wait times, and it's your first chance to see Disney's Christmas parade before it debuts at the park during normal hours!
Holidays Around the World- Epcot's World Showcase includes special performers and storytellers at each country to share their country's holiday traditions! Really neat if your kids are old enough to sit through the stories (or they're napping in the stroller, you can sit and listen hehe). Might be fun to purchase ornaments from each country to commemorate your trip!
Candlelight Processional- This one holds a special place in my heart as it truly conveys the reason for CHRISTmas to me. This is an event at Epcot that takes place a few times each evening throughout December. A celebrity narrator reads through the Scriptures highlighting the life of Christ, accompanied by a full orchestra and choir performing some of the most well-known holiday hymns and songs. If you can, grab a "Candlelight Processional Dinner Package" reservation available on the Disney website- this gets you a ticket to the show so that you don't have to wait in line for hours to try and get into a performance! Yes, it's really that sought after. So if you get the dinner package, you only have to line up about a half hour early in order to secure your seat. 
Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights- No, we're not talking about Ozzy here. This is an entire street in Hollywood Studios lined from top to bottom with Christmas lights that "dance" in sync to the music! So grab some hot cocoa and spiced nuts, enjoy the light show, and be sure to stay for the snowfall! Not to be missed! SO festive! This is the last year that they're having it, unfortunately, but there's rumor it may appear somewhere else in Disney in years to come, so fingers crossed!
Gingerbread Houses- If you have some down time (maybe a stray afternoon thunderstorm, or a day off from the parks), be sure to pop on the monorail and over to Disney's Boardwalk! The resorts on those two lines feature some incredible gingerbread displays, and you can purchase your own gingerbread there too! Really incredible displays from a moving carousel to a 10 foot tall house! This is an underrated Christmas experience, but we really love it!

Gingerbread Carousel at Beach & Yacht Club Resort

Christmas Tree at POP Century Resort

28 October 2015

31 Days: Packing for Disney


Hey friends!
Today's is a quick post! I wanted to share the packing list that I use when traveling to Disney. It's fairly tailored- cloth diaper packing list, staying at a Disney Vacation Club timeshare so we have a washer/dryer and full kitchen, "mousekeeping" (aka. Disney's housekeeping) envelopes for tips, etc.- but I wanted to share in case I've thought of something that might be useful for you to add to your own packing list!! If you want to print out your own packing list, check out my last Disney 31 Days series- check it out * HERE * free printable packing list!

Note: you'll see my organized listing tendencies emerged here on the packing list... I have "packed" and "unpacked" so I can check off when everything is put in the suitcase and once everything has returned home! And "place" is to keep track what's in my purse vs. carry on vs. checked bags.




27 October 2015

31 Days: Capturing the Disney Memories



Whether this is your first trip or your fortieth trip, especially when your kiddos are involved, make sure you capture those memories to remember for a good long while to come! I look forward to one day showing our future grandkids photos of the first time we took their parents to Disney World!! Here just a few ideas of how to capture the memories...

Autograph Book
This might be the quickest way to organize your photographs. Buy a traditional 4"x6" photo album, one that has only 1-2 photos per page. Then make a DIY "autograph book" for when your kiddos meet the characters, and make sure the pages are also 4"x6"- just put one or two rings through the corners to bind the book together. Then when you get home, take the rings out and pop the autographed pages into the photo album. Slip in a photo of your child(ren) with each character on the same or opposing page (depending if it's 2 or 1 photos per page)- instant memory album of your trip!

Photo Book
There are tons of online sites available to upload your photos to and create a printed photo book. My favorite is Shutterfly, and they always have some sort of promotion/coupon available. This is probably one of the easiest ways to create a whole memory album of your photos!

PhotoPass & MemoryMaker
This is Disney's version of Shutterfly. In the parks, you'll find Disney's PhotoPass photographers stationed throughout, ready to capture great photos for you. They'll also use your camera, if you'd like. At the end of your trip, you'll log onto your My Disney Experience account and view all of your photos. You can also then create photo books, calendars, photo mugs, etc. You can also choose to just download a photo or two and then print them out yourself. If you plan to get a bunch of photos, purchasing MemoryMaker is your best bet- get all of your photos and then some on one CD. Make sure to purchase your MemoryMaker package more than 3 days before your trip, otherwise you may miss out on some of your photos!

Scrapbooking
This is my personal favorite! If you're crafty, make sure you journal throughout your trip so that you don't forget any of your magical experiences. Get your kids involved- have them journal or draw out what they did that day! I tend to keep a lot of memorabilia from my trips- everything from luggage tags to receipts, wristbands to colored-on-placemats! You can do the easy and popular pocket scrapbooking method or do traditional full-page layouts!


25 October 2015

31 Days: Celebrations at Disney




Hey friends!
So, did ya'll know there are some super special ways you can celebrate at Disney World? Here are just a few celebrations you can, well, celebrate with your wee ones...

first visit
birthday
pregnancy
graduations
family reunion
medical milestones 
(cancer free, new glasses, etc.)

It doesn't need to be the exact day either- even if your little's birthday is in July, and your trip isn't until September, you can still celebrate their birthday on the trip! There's no "verification process" or anything- so feel free to celebrate anything you want anytime!
Of course there are plenty of other celebrations too...

holidays
wedding
honeymoon
engagement
anniversary
military accomplishments
deployments/redeployments

There's a few special ways that Disney can make your celebration even more magical. 

Buttons
Get a special button at Guest Relations at any of the parks or check at the front desk of your Disney resort. They have a few pre-made buttons or you can customize one for your celebration! Make sure you wear your buttons around the parks- cast members will shout out salutations!

In-Room Gift Baskets
If you're staying at a Disney resort, you can choose from a variety of pre-made gift & floral baskets or customize your own! You can purchase or create baskets to fit most any budget. Just check out Disney Floral & Gifts to find out more and set up your in-room delivery!

Dining Reservations
When you set up your dining reservations, make sure to mention that you're celebrating something! Sometimes you'll get an extra special surprise (not guaranteed though). You can see the complementary cake that we received during our honeymoon above!


23 October 2015

31 Days: Road Trip (Eating Edition)


Hi friends!
Today I'll be sharing some of our favorite snacks for the road! Along with a few tips to help snack time go a little smoother. Please feel free to learn from our family's mistakes on past trips! hehe



First up, our set up...
I keep a small cooler filled with any refrigerator-loving snacks in the backseat. I'll use this same cooler to bring snacks/meals into the parks during the trip, so it serves double duty!  

I have a caddy or basket that I place all of our snacks in for easy reaching. I'll put this on top of the small cooler, so our oldest can easily pick out a snack, and I leave a space here for her water bottle to fit!

I also bring an empty cup, to pour larger containers of snacks into- cereal, trail mix, etc. I got the Frozen cup from the Dollar Spot at Target! Other snacks I'll pre-portion into small tupperware before we leave- veggies, fruit, etc. I got the Mickey tupperware at the Dollar Tree- they're cheap quality but fun! They'll either get added to the kids' play kitchen or tossed after the trip. You could also use 

I also keep a baggie of small paper towels moistened with vinegar in the front seat with me. That's what I use instead of wet wipes (cheaper and no chemicals!). I also keep some dry paper towels and small bath/pool towels on the floor in the backseat for larger messes that may need to be cleaned up. Somewhere either with me or in the backseat (where I can reach from the front) I keep a small bag or garbage bin to collect, well, garbage! 

TIP: Empty that garbage bin every time you stop! Funky smells from foods build up quickly on a long trip, not to mention it'll just get full quickly! 


Now, on to some of our favorite snacks that are car-friendly!! (aff. links)

22 October 2015

31 Days: Disney Park Friendly Snacks & Meals


Hi friends!
So! Today I'll give you just a few ideas for what you can do to help keep that food budget in check- namely, bring your meals and/or snacks to the parks! You're allowed to bring a small personal-sized cooler into the parks, just be sure to leave any glass bottles (aside from baby food jars) at home!



Where you'll be staying and what type of kitchen facilities (or lack thereof) that you'll have access to, that will mostly determine what foods you might bring with you to the parks. Below are some ideas to get you started... and be sure to check out my "Bringing Your Meals" post from my previous 31 Days series for a FREE shopping list printable. If you're a planner like me, also check out my "Meal Planning Trackers" post for FREE meal planning printables for your trip!

Easy To Prepare In A Standard Hotel Room
-- MAIN MEALS --
  • granola 
  • trail mix or GORP
  • oatmeal
  • grits
  • dry cereals
  • sandwiches
  • soups (in the individual serving size containers)
  • garden salad
  • pasta salad
  • yogurt
  • pop tarts
  • refrigerator/overnight oatmeal
-- SNACKS & SIDE DISHES --
  • fruits- apples, oranges, bananas, pears, grapes, berries, etc.
  • veggies- cucumbers, bell peppers, carrot sticks, etc.
  • pickles, olives, sliced salami, etc.
  • dinner rolls
  • crackers & cheese
  • string or sliced cheese
  • nuts
  • pretzels & chips
  • trail mix, GORP, granola bars, etc.
  • fruit leather or gummies
  • applesauce/food packets


Supermarket Shopping Upon Arrival
I'd definitely recommend menu planning ahead of time! Again, above you can find a link to my free meal planning printables. If you're planning on bringing food with you to the park, you have two options- (1) opt to have a food-delivery service, such as Garden Grocer, deliver to your room (2) take your rental car to the grocery store! Also, some items you could pre-package and bring with you from home to avoid buying a large container at the supermarket and throw away much of it at the end of your trip (learn from our family's mistakes, hehe)! Here are some ideas...
  • spice packets- put together all of the spices you'll need for each meal in a baggie, this way you're not buying a bunch of spice containers there just to use for a week, and you also don't have to skip adding spices to your meals and have bland meals all week!
  • bring half, buy half- for example, if you're making rice & beans, bring the pre-measured rice in a baggie with you (since you most likely won't use an entire bag of rice on your trip), but save space/weight in your suitcase by buying the canned beans at the supermarket
  • condiments- sugar, salt, and any other items that you use in smaller quantities
  • water bottle- if you don't like tap water, bring a reusable water bottle and buy jugs of water at the supermarket to refill your bottle, cheaper than buying a flat of disposable water bottles
  • extra water bottles- leave the ice packs at home, instead fill up a spare freezer-safe water bottle or two and pop it in the freezer overnight. When you head to the parks the following day, use the frozen water bottle for an ice pack- it will keep your meal cold but be melted enough to provide a nice cold beverage for you later in the day!
  • tea & coffee- bring a few tea bags, pre-measure loose leaf tea into a baggie and toss in a measuring spoon along with some loose leaf tea bags, pre-grind your coffee and toss in a baggie with a measuring spoon, and bring your own coffee filters! 

Need some more lunchbox inspiration, check out my Pinterest board!

21 October 2015

31 Days: Road Trip (Playing Edition)




Hi friends!
So tonight I wanted to share how we do toys while we're road tripping long distances! Below is our small haul that we did for our last Disney trip. It's 12 hours, one way, and our wee one was 2.5 yrs old at the time of the trip. I had no idea how she would fare, as our longest time in the car was the year prior when we PCSed (Army move), but we kept driving days to 6 hrs or so. Anyhoo, I wanted to make sure she had MORE than ample things to entertain her!


First up, we have our book baskets (aka. magazine files)! One was for the trip down to Disney and one for the trip back home. They each had numbers taped to them so I knew which ones to give her at which point in the trip. I wrapped them up like a gift- it was like Christmas in September for her!


For the toys, I put them each in a baggie and again attached numbered tags to them, so that I knew which ones to distribute at which point in the trip. I tried to choose toys that could be somewhat easily contained (or at least with pieces large enough that they wouldn't get lost in the car seats!)
Some of the toys that we brought were old favorites, toys that I knew the wee one would enjoy. I snuck these away so that she hadn't played with them in about 2 weeks or so- that way they had a "new" factor to them again! The others were new toys- some store-bought or handmade

The toys I bring generally fall into three categories- 
(1) disposable 
Toys that will be tossed in the garbage during or after the trip, think coloring books that get used up, stickers, glow sticks, etc.
(2) educational
Toys that teach letters, numbers, shapes, colors- these will be used again during/after the trip for homeschool purposes! Also items that work on motor skills.
(3) fun
Toys that are just fun! Some are things she's wanted for a while, some again are old favorites, and some are just, well, toys! Disney princess people, mini horses, fun stuff!


Here's how I organized everything- piled in a huge Ikea bag! You'll see the two magazine files with the wrapped books towards the top of the picture. In the bottom of the picture are two smaller bags with the toys in them. One bag is for the trip down to Disney, and one for the trip home. The toy bag & book file for the trip home stayed in the trunk, while the rest lived on the floor below our daughter's car seat for the trip there! I also brought a 9x13 small baking dish (the metal pan on the top of the one bag)- it fit perfectly in her lap in the car seat to help contain the toys with multiple pieces and give a sturdy surface to color on!


Below you'll see my uber-planner side coming out again... Yes, I actually planned out which toys and books to distribute each hour of our trip! Crazy, right?! Well, it made me feel more organized about the trip, and thus less stressed. So it worked for me :) 

See where it says "Rest." over one column? That stands for "restaurant." I noted those so that I could grab them out of the car and bring them with us to the parks to entertain the little one during meals at the sit-down restaurants. Most restaurants give out crayons and paper, but I wanted to be prepared just in case! I also noted here what toys to grab to bring into the hotel for the night.



Want to know some of my favorite car trip toys? The ones that worked best? Here ya go...
(affiliate links)