Thursday, September 30, 2010

Something Happened While On Vacation

My sweet baby boy grew up a bit.

He still needed his naps.

He still wanted to be carried, too.

He was very curious.

He was very anxious to go swimming.

He watched his very first movie and was hip with his 3D glasses.

He played with his brother but still made a big mess on his shirt.

But the biggest change of the whole week is that he kicked the bottle.  That's right, folks, this sweet red-headed doll no longer takes a bottle.  You might think that I would be really happy about that and the formula savings is a plus, but deep down, I'm really sad.

Lessons Learned from Disney World Trip 2010

  Last week we went on vacation to Disney World for a week (a different blog to follow about that).  This was our second trip to Disney in 3 years and things were definitely different this time than last time.  I am not a Disney expert and I'm not one of those Disney geeks, either, but I have helped a few people plan their trips or just offered advice that we learned from our first trip so I thought I would write down some new things that we learned this time around.
  It is definitely harder to take 3 kids to Disney than just 2.  I know that sounds like common sense but we really thought that since our first trip was so easy-going and relaxing that this trip would be, too.  Boy, were we wrong!
  The last time we went Kanin was 4 and Gracie was 15 months.  It was such a piece of cake.  We took things slowly, went back to the hotel in the middle of the day for naps and swimming and then leisurely went out at night.  We thought we had things down to a science so there was no reason for this trip to be any harder than the last time. 
  What we didn't take into account this time is that Kanin is 6 and he is over 48" which means that he is able to ride every ride in every park.  The last time he wasn't tall enough for the big rides so we would get to a big ride, Rock-N-Roller Coaster, for instance, and Scott and I would each do a single rider.  I would go straight to the front and ride it while Scott stayed with the kids and then we would switch places.  The whole thing would take maybe 15 minutes and then we were off to the next ride.  This time, though, Kanin could ride everything which meant that we did rider-switches at every ride.  I would go ride a ride with Kanin and ask for a rider-switch pass and then Scott would go and ride it with him.  The 2nd parent rider didn't have to wait in the huge lines but the first one did.  Each ride ended up taking at least 45 minutes for both parents to get to ride the ride.  Meanwhile, Gracie and Caleb were stuck hanging out in the stroller.  Caleb didn't really mind or even realize what was going on but Gracie definitely knew that we were riding rides and that she wasn't.  The parent staying with them tried to ride baby rides or find characters but it was still a lot of down time for the little ones.
  Lesson 1:  If you and the adults in your party really want to ride the rides, I would suggest to go to Disney World either when they are all too small to ride the big rides and just do the single rider lines like we did in 2008 or wait until they are all  at least 40" so that there are only a couple of rides that can't be ridden.  You could also split up for parts of the day but my thought on that is that it is a "family" vacation and I didn't want to spend half of a day off with Kanin while Scott was with Caleb and Gracie.  You could also bring along a babysitter to watch the younger ones in the afternoon while you take the taller ones out to ride the big rides but, once again, I'm not big on this idea just because I wanted to spend as much time with all of my family as possible.
  In 2008, we stayed at the Polynesian resort.  The Polynesian is considered one of the Deluxe hotels in the Disney resort family.  It is decorated with a Polynesian theme and you feel like you have walked straight on an island.  There is a volcano slide into the pool that Kanin loved and it is right on the lake, as well.  All of those things are great but what really made the Polynesian stand out is that the monorail stops there.  The monorail will take you straight to Magic Kingdom and it will take you to the Change Station which will allow you to switch to another monorail and head to Epcot.  From the Polynesian, as well as, the Contemporary and The Grand Floridian, you can be at either Magic Kingdom or Epcot within 10 minutes.
  For this trip I wanted to try something different.  I saw the animals at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and I thought it would be so neat to wake up and have animals right outside of our room.  The Animal Kingdom Lodge is decorated in African decor completely with African drum music played throughout the day and night.  Each room has a balcony that overlooks either the pool area or the savannah.  We had a savannah view so everyday we had giraffes and zebras just a few short yards away from us. It was really exciting to get up early and see the animals all out.
  The down side to the Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL), though, is the fact that to get to anywhere you have to take a bus.  In fairness, they do not share buses with any other resort, but I'd say that is about the only good thing about it.  The bus stop is down the hill from the front entrance and buses run about every 20 minutes.  Animal Kingdom is the closest park and once loaded on the bus it takes about 10 minutes to get there.  The other parks, though, are at least a 15 minute ride.  This doesn't sound too bad but when you take into account that when you arrive at the bus station that your park bus may have just left, you could wait up to 20 minutes for a bus.  Then, a 15 minute bus ride to the park.  Then, you have to go through security and get your bag checked and then get your card out and enter the park.  It easily took an hour to an hour and 15 minutes to get from Animal Kingdom Lodge and get inside a theme park.  That is a long time to wait and an especially long time to wait for small children.
  Lesson 2:  If it is possible and money allows, stay at the Polynesian, Contemporary or Grand Floridian--especially if you have stroller-aged children.  The access to the monorail and being able to be hotel room to park within 15 minutes will make up for the extra expense of these hotels.  This is especially true on those very, very hot days or when your little one is having a meltdown.  Just hop on the monorail and head back to the room to relax a bit.  By staying at these resorts, you only have to ride a bus to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and Downtown Disney (if you choose to visit this).
  We bought a new double stroller for our trip.  The new stroller allowed both Caleb and Gracie to lay down and take naps and each seat had ample overhead coverage.  In 2008, we bought a sit-n-stand stroller to take with us.  This stroller was great for allowing Kanin to jump on and off of the backseat and walk when he wanted to and ride when we wanted him to.  The problem with the sit-n-stand, though, is that the back "stand" part had no umbrella to shade Kanin from the sun.  The front umbrells barely covered Gracie so we were constantly lathering them up with sunscreen but they were so hot, even in September. 
  Disney does offer both single and double stroller rentals for anywhere between $15-45/day.  I wanted to take our own stroller, though, for a couple of reasons.  1. The cost.  I couldn't see adding an extra $45/day to our trip.  2. The bus stop at the AKL was quite a distance from our room.  This would mean having to carry Caleb (27.9lbs) and hold him for 20 minutes while waiting on the bus, carry him up to the security gate, through the entrance and to the stroller entrance.  This was just not feasible!  LOL 
  If you have older kids, though, that could walk to the bus stations but may still want to ride around or they may get tired by the end of the day, you might think about renting a Disney stroller.  The big benefit that I see to renting is that you don't have a stroller on the buses.  All strollers have to be broken down when you get on the bus which, as you can imagine, creates little room on the buses and extra stress for parents trying to keep track of kids, bag and a stroller.
  The stroller is another reason that I recommend staying at a monorail hotel.  You do not have to break the stroller down when you are on the monorail.  Kids can ride in the stroller and you just roll the stroller onto the monorail. 
  Lesson 3:  Once again, if possible, stay at a monorail hotel if only for the convenience of not having to break down a stroller each and every time you travel to/from your hotel.  Make sure that you have a stroller that will provide ample overhead coverage.  If you have older kids, think about renting a stroller from Disney and save yourself the hassle of dealing with a stroller while in transit to the parks.
  One of the best things about Disney is the variety of cuisines and restaurants offered.  At Epcot alone there are 11 countries that each have at least one Table Service restaurant that you can choose to eat.  I always check out the menus at home to make sure that everyone will like at least one thing on the menu and then I make my reservation.  Then, I try to plan it so that wherever our Table Service meal is for that day, we go visit the park closest to it.  Planning meals and the whole reservation thing is kind of a headache.  You really need to start making dining reservations about 3 months out.  Also, when planning your vacation, keep in mind that Free Dining is usually offered September-October.  This offer usually comes out in April or May so I always wait to plan the trip once I find out when the Free Dining is going to be offered.
  Just a personal note--I think EVERYONE should try to eat at Germany Biergartent at Epcot.  The food is fantastic and there is a polka band that gets all kids involved in dancing and singing.  We love it!
  Lesson 4:  To save money, wait until the Free Dining is announced and then plan your meal.  Once you have chosen your restaurants, then plan what parks are closest to those restaurants so that you aren't wasting extra time in transit and you are already right at that park.
  If you have a little girl who wants to be a princess, check out the Bippity Boppity Boutique at Downtown Disney.  There is also one at the Magic Kingdom in Cinderella's Castle but it is really, really hard to get into.  My friend, Julie, actually helped me with getting Gracie's makeover this last trip.  There are several packages that you can buy.  We chose the one that was $54+tax.  We bought our own Cinderella costume and took it down with us.  We went through the whole makeover and then went over to Epcot and had lunch with the princesses at Norway's Arrakesh.  It was truly magical!  Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine and Snow White were all there.
  Lesson 5:  Yes, it was a hassle.  Yes, it was expensive.  Yes, I would do it again just for the fact that Gracie truly believed that she became a princess.  It made her trip and gave her memory that she is still talking about.  I wouldn't trade it.  If you have a little girl, visit the Bippity Boppity Boutique!

I know this has droned on for a while but here are just a few more little tips:

1. Bring ponchos for all adults and kids.  If kids are in a stroller, make sure  you have a poncho or rain shield to throw over the stroller.  It will rain.
2. Take some small snacks packed in your bag.
3. Buy the resort refillable cup.  It is $10 and you can fill it with soda, coffee or tea all week long for free.  Plus, I use mine all of the time back here.
4. Ride Tower of Terror.  It is fun. 
5. Try to break up the big rides with some smaller family rides that you can all ride together.
6. Don't skip the shows.  They are good.  It's a Bug's Life at Animal Kingdom, The Muppets at Hollywood Studios and The Laugh Factory at Magic Kingdom are some of our favorites.
7. Go back to the hotel and take naps and swim in the hottest part of the day.
8. Check out and look at the Forums.  There is a lot of good info there.

Guess that is it for now.  Hope this helps!!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dave Matthews at Wrigley

Back in the summer I was at a Cardinals game with Janice and Scott texted me saying that Dave Matthews was going to finish off his summer tour at Wrigley Field.  My obvious reply was, "Why are you telling me this unless you are taking me to this?"  and, of course, he did.  We were able to get 4 total tickets so we asked  our friends, Janice and Tony, to go, too.

The day of the concert was very hectic.  We all took a 7:45am flight out to Chicago and wouldn't you know it, it was pouring down rain.  All day long.  We resigned ourselves to sitting out in the elements and even all stopped to buy umbrellas but at about 3:00 the skies lightened up and we had a fantastic night for an outdoor concert.

While walking the wet streets of Chicago, we were looking for a place to watch some football games and grab a bite to eat.  A Chicago police officer referred us to Pippens Tavern.  Turns out, Dave Matthews and band hang out there when they are in Chicago.  While we didn't have a Dave sighting, I sure was watching that door closely.  LOL  Apparently, they were all in Pippins on both Thursday and Friday nights.

The bartender at Pippins referred us to Timothy O'Toole's where we could eat lunch and, once again, have access to a lot of TVs for sports.  We ended up going back on Sunday before flying back to St. Louis and watching some of the NFL games, too.

While in Chicago, Janice has a friend that lives there that she wanted to meet up with.  Mandy took us to her apartment and it was incredible!  It is right across the street from Soldier Field and the lake and she has the most incredible view of the Chicago skyline.

We left Mandy's house and headed for Wrigley.  Once inside, we were happy to find out that our seats were actually under the awning, in case it rained again.  Since Scott has been a DMB Fan Club member for about 12 years, we normally end up on anywhere between the 7-12 rows of the concerts but this time the close seats were actually Standing Room Only General Admission seats.  There was no way that all of us wanted to stand up for that long and deal with so many people so we opted for seats instead.  Turns out, that was a good call as there were close to 13,000 people on the field!

Jason Mraz opened the show and he was awesome!  We saw him last year at Farm Aid so I already knew that he would be good.

Finally, Dave came out and played for 3 hours!  It was, by far, the best Dave concert that I have ever seen.  Here is the play list:


Dave Matthews Band
Wrigley Field
Chicago, IL

You Might Die Trying *
Stay Or Leave *
Seven *
Crash Into Me *
(Good Good Time)
#41 *
Tripping Billies *
Digging a Ditch *
Squirm *
Gravedigger *
Spaceman *
Stay (Wasting Time) *
Cant Stop *
Grey Street *
Jimi Thing *
Time Bomb *
Two Step *

Christmas Song +
Corn Bread *
Last Stop *

Special Guests:
* Jeff Coffin
* Dave, Carter and Tim

(song name) indicates a partial song

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Gracie is at that wonderful age where she is trying to discover things.  There are thousands of learning opportunities each day and she has been trying to take advantage of every single one:

Why do people have legs?
Why do cars need gas?
Why is it called a car?
How come people have to eat?
How come it is called food?
Are ghosts real?
How come ghosts aren't real?
How come Jesus isn't upstairs?

Why do I like to do this . . . bababababa?  Can you do this . . . bababababab?
How come we have Mommies?
Why are you called Mommy?
What is that girl's name?  Why is her name that?
Do you like pumas?
Can you say "Yo Gabba Gabba"?  No, say it like this "YO GABBA GABBA!"
Why are school buses yellow?
Why are kids on the school bus?
Do we need a lumbrella?
Why does it rain?
How did Aug make the flowers?
Why is Caleb crying?
Watch me jump like this . . . can you jump like this?
Do you like Dora?  Do you like Boots?  Do you like Diego?  Do you like Dora's Mommy? 
What is Dora's Mommy's name?
Why is Mama your Mommy?
Can you carry me up the stairs? 
Why do we walk?
Do you like to sleep?
Do you like binkies?
Kanin, why are you going to school?
Why do we wear panties?  Why are they called panties?

Feel free to jump in anytime and answer any of these questions!

The World's Greatest Fish Story

There is this church by my house, Grace Community Church, that has a sand sculpture display each year.  This year it is The World's Greatest Fish Story.

Here is the excerpt that was placed out in front of the display:
We've all heard stories of fisherman telling about the big one that got away.  But if fish could talk, can you imagine the story the fish would tell about the man who got away?  The Bible tells the story of a man named Jonah, who was swallowed by a huge fish.  After three days and nights, the fish spit Jonah up onto dry land.  It was sort of a biological submarine ride!

Centuries later, some people asked Jesus to give them a sign to prove Himself.  He told them that they would be given the sign of Jonah the prophet (Matthew 12:28-41).  He explained that as Jonas was in the belly of the fish for three days and then brought back, so He would be in the grave for three days and then rise from the dead.  His resurrection was the ultimate sign that He is the Son of God come to save the world!

Jonah went to the city of Nineveh and told the people to confess their sin and turn to God for mercy.  Some people say that one reason the people believed him was that his skin and hair was bleached white from the stomach acid of the fish!  In any case, when the people believed, they were spared judgement.

The sculptor, Dan Belcher, lives in St. Louis, Missouri.  He has won numerous world champion sand sculpting awards.  To check out his work, go to:

Last year, 2009, he built and incredible lion with a sheep laying beside it.  It was phenomenal.