Social Side Hustle: 21 Days to Becoming a Social Media Manager

It’s finally time you guys! What I have been promising for months now is finally done, and the doors will soon open for my e-course which is all about making money from home in social media. This course is for you if you want to work form home part time OR full time, learn how to automate work so that you are working SMARTER and not HARDER, and want a better life for you and your family.

I grew up in a very hard working family. It was instilled in me as a small child that you have to work hard to get what you want in life. While I still believe this to an extent, a lot of us have a tendency to take this a step too far. It hit me one day when I was complaining to my husband. I vividly remember saying to him: “It’s just not fair. I work SO HARD but don’t seem to be getting anywhere. I work way harder than XYZ, and they are doing so much better than me.”

Wow.

So much to digest in that simple sentence.

First I want to point out this isn’t a jealously thing, I am truly happy for those who are happy and successful, this was about me being really hard on myself and trying to “earn” my way to success. I thought that the more hours I put in, the more I focused, and the more sacrifices I made, it would all add up to success on my part. I mean, that’s the “rule” right?

Wrong.

While this is true for some people, what if I told you that you could be successful WITHOUT working more hours, without killing yourself and wearing yourself down, and without stressing about what to do next?

Work smarter, not harder.

As a social media manager, I have figured out a lot of ways, mostly by experience, research, and the knowledge of others, that have allowed me to work this way. I now spend way less time working than I did when I had a 9-5, but I am making more money, AND I get to work from home. How?

A lot of reasons. Not something I can share in one single blog post. Sure there is front in work, but once your processes are all set up, you can use tools and systems to your advantage and work smarter, not harder.

That’s why I created Social Side Hustle. Sure, you could spend years (like I did) spinning your wheels trying to crack the code, and sure, you would eventually figure it out because you are a smart cookie, OR, you could take my course, and learn everything you need to know to work for yourself from home, all in 21 days or less.

I will be sending out emails next week announcing my pre-sale, free webinar, and my launch, so you won’t want to miss it! Make sure you are on the list by signing up here, and you will also get a free social media manager checklist.

Get ready to work smarter and not harder!

 

Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs

Disclosure: I was offered a free weekend stay at this property for a review. However, all opinions are my own.

Fall is one of my favorite times of year to visit Walt Disney World, and my husband and I were in need of a quick weekend getaway. So, when the opportunity came up to stay at the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs, which is an official hotel of Walt Disney World® on Walt Disney World Resort® property, I jumped at the chance!

I had read that this resort was very close to Disney Springs, and I LOVE Disney Springs so I was really excited about that…however what I was NOT expecting was for it to be literally across the street. I could see it from the parking lot of the hotel, it was that close. Now that Disney Springs has added on so many new shops and restaurants (more than 150 total!), it makes this hotel a prime location for people who love visiting there.

Before arrival, we had requested a king room, and our request was granted. We were on the third floor with a lovely view of the gardens/courtyard with the pool int he distance. The third floor was also the floor the lobby was on, so it was super convenient to go to the gym, grab a cup of coffee, or walk over to guest services with questions. Our room was spacious and I loved how homey it felt with the coffee table and sofa.

We had a flat screen television, and there was plenty of lighting but natural and with lamps.

There was a door you could slide shut to close off the sink area of the bathroom, and the the shower area had a door to close as well. This is great if you are an early riser and don’t want to wake up the rest of the family while getting ready in the morning. Speaking of not waking anyone up, the bed and pillows were super comfortable. I’m not sure if it was the bed or the fact I wasn’t listening for a baby monitor, but I slept SO WELL but nights we were there!

Our room was to the left of the below photo behind the tree, so we looked out over this beautiful garden, which had concrete flooring in the shape of a Mickey head!

After checking in we walked down to the huge pool area. They have a cute little restaurant called the Oasis Bar and Grill (left in the below photo) as well as a really cool looking kids play area, rock formation/waterfall and a hot tub. There was plenty of room for everyone and it looked so refreshing.

We then headed over to the lobby to check it out, and we found this little marketplace and coffee shop. They had a lot of food food offerings, and my only qualm was the price. They had one of those larger bottles of water for $5.50 which I thought was pretty steep, and the sandwiches were pricey as well, but in a pinch, you have to do what you have to do! The Joffrey’s coffee did look delicious though.

The lobby was really big and welcoming, with tons of seating, and hallways leading to different meetings and conference rooms.

Of course, there was a Disney gift store to pick up those last minute gifts to bring back home.

One of my favorite features was this kids play area near guest check in. It had a TV as well as lots of books and pint-sized furniture to entertain the little ones while you check in or grab some coffee.

Bobby spotted the fitness center first, and we used our key card to get in. They had towels and water, as well as some machines, free weights, and cardio equipment.

I was very surprised to see that on certain days you can even attend a character breakfast at the hotel. Good to know in case you can’t get into any character meals in the Disney parks. Be sure to call for availability and pricing.

Wyndham Garden

Want more fun details about this property? They offer shuttle service to all four Walt Disney World theme parks. YES! Huge plus! They also have lighted tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, and a basketball court. They have self and valet parking, as well as a car rental desk on site, bellman services, and guest services.

They also over over 25,00 square feet of meeting spaces accommodating groups from 12 to 1,200. They do everything from weddings to family reunions to corporate conferences. How convenient to stay and play right in the middle of the action, so that you have easy access to the fun as soon as the conference is over. I would definitely attend a conference there.

My overall experience was very positive and I would stay at the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs again. The prices are great to be so close to Walt Disney World, and the amenities are worthwhile for you next family vacation.

Cabot Fit Team Weekend Part 2 + Giveaway

Disclosure: A couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to go to Narragansett, Rhode Island with Cabot Cheese and their fit team. We did a lot of fun fun like run a 10k, visit a farm, and have a cheese tasting. This trip was sponsored by Cabot, however all thoughts are my own. 

*If you missed part one, be sure to check it out here.

We left off in my last post with our tour of EMMA Acres farm. After the tour, we drove over to a historical site, the Towers, and had lunch during a super fun trolley tour of Narragansett. There is so much history in the town so it was fun to hear all about it.

How adorable is our trolley bus?

This is one of my favorite homes we passed along the ocean:

After the tour we walked around inside the Towers and saw them setting up for a gorgeous wedding!

We briefly walked out onto the balcony before the storm hit. See the beach in this picture? That’s where the 10k would end the next day.

back to the Inn as it started to rain. This was the perfect opportunity to dig into my bag of snacks from Cabot and take a nap. Rainy days are perfect for that!

Soon it was time to walk to dinner (Have I mentioned how much I LOVED being able to walk everywhere?!?) at Trio. It was delicious, and a great pre-race meal at that.

After dinner we called it an early night since we were running the Ocean Road 10k in the morning! (You can read that recap here.)

After the race, we walked back to the Inn, grabbed showers then walked down to this cute little outdoor restaurant. It happened to be it’s last day of operation until spring. It was so wild to me that so many places “close up” for the winter, when it’s currently still in the 90’s in Florida.

The weather was absolutely perfect and we all enjoyed a light lunch and some girl talk before walking out onto some rocks for an impromptu photo shoot.

Then you guessed it, time to WALK (I love it!) again to a bed and breakfast where Cabot was hosting a cheese tasting for us. Yall. This place was gorgeous, and also for sale!

It was the perfect day to enjoy the tasting in the beautifully manicured backyard.

Although I have to say my favorite part of the house was the screened in porch. I could sit out there for hours!

We learned a little about the different cheeses and the aging process before trying everything ourselves. I learned a lot, I had no idea some of the processes were so long, and also how many different varieties there were–not to mention all the different pairings!

That evening we walked to dinner at the Coast Guard House for our farewell meal. It was right on the water and had gorgeous views.

It was a great way to recap the weekend and enjoy each other’s company before we would say farewell the next day.

Clockwise from bottom left: Sara and Caisil from Cabot, Christy, Brittany and Diahnn, Nellie, Sandra, me, Aggie, and Amee.

It’s amazing to me how quickly I got to know these sweet girls, and how hard it was to say goodbye after only knowing them for a couple of days. I hope to see them again soon. I learned a lot about Cabot, and have a new respect for the farmers, families, and workers that make my dairy eating experience so effortless and amazing! I also fell in love with Narragansett, although this southern girl wouldn’t want to be there in the winter!

A huge thanks to Cabot for their generosity, knowledge, and love. It won’t be forgotten. Now for the giveaway! One reader will win:

$25 Cabot Gift Box
1 Dopper Water Bottle
1 Guac-Lock
1 Cabot Beewax Wrap
Badger Products

$100 value give-a-way

Please follow the directions in the Rafflecoptor widget to enter. Winner will be announced next Friday. Giveaway open until Thursday night at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cabot Fit Team Weekend Part 1

Disclosure: A couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to go to Narragansett, Rhode Island with Cabot Cheese and their fit team. We did a lot of fun fun like run a 10k, visit a farm, and have a cheese tasting. This trip was sponsored by Cabot, however all thoughts are my own. 

I arrived in Rhode Island on Friday afternoon after a long morning of flying with a layover in D.C. I was so happy to finally be there! Another fit team member, Aggie, and I shared a cab to the Ocean Rose Inn where we were staying, and were pleasantly surprised to see it was right on the water!

We checked in, and got settled into our rooms. Mine was in the building behind the Inn and had been refurbished. I loved the simple clean vibe, and had a great view of the ocean.

Check out the retro refrigerator and phone!

The bathroom sink area was adorable as well.

I had a couple of hours until dinner….so I took a nap. It was glorious. Nowhere to be, perfect weather outside, the ocean, it was bliss for this tired mama. Soon enough we met up with everyone in the lobby and had drinks and dinner at Turtle soup, which is the restaurant at the inn. It. was. delicious.

We called it an early night because we had a big day on Saturday, we were going to visit EMMA Acres farm! Unfortunately we woke up to cold, wind and rain, but that didn’t stop us. We grabbed our rain jackets, and headed out.

So for those that don’t know, Cabot is a co-op owned by farm families in New York and New England (more on Co-ops here). I loved getting to talk with the family that owns EMMA Acres and learn the process of milking the cows and all that goes along with it. These people work SO HARD every day, rain or shine. We even learned about birthing cows and got to see some adorable babies!

We even got to see the milk tank and where they do the milking, which happens twice a day. Very early in the morning and at night. The cows know exactly where to go and are such creatures of habit!

Did you know a cow gets stressed in heat over 70 degrees? They had fans in the room where they are milked for the summertime! (I don’t think they would do well at my house in Tampa!)

This farm is a smaller farm, but equally important to Cabot (and as consumers, should be to us, too!) A huge thank you to them for spending part of their busy day educating us and letting us love on their cows!

 

 

 

Ocean Road 10K 2017 Race Recap

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to fly to Rhode Island and have a weekend of fun, fitness, and learning with Cabot and the Cabot Fit Team. We traveled to Narragansett (and it took me all weekend to remember how to pronounce it!) visited a local farm, ate tons of great food, stayed in an adorable inn, and ran a gorgeous 10k. It was action packed but still restful which I loved. I will be sharing more on the rest of the weekend in another post, but this one is strictly about the Ocean Road 10k race.

I haven’t raced since February due to a nagging quad injury, so I was really excited to have this opportunity. I really love the 10k distance and thought it would be a good chance to test out my leg while racing on a beautiful course. The race was held on Sunday morning, and it was so fun to be able to watch the sun rise over the ocean. The sun comes up way earlier in Rhode Island than it does in Florida, so when I woke up at 6:15 it was just about to peek over the horizon.

I got dressed, ate breakfast in my room, and headed to the lobby to meet my teammates. This is when I realized it was 43 degrees outside and was thankful I had packed accordingly. We all hurried into the team van and off we went to the starting line. We made it to the runner drop off area, which just so happened to be by the water, so of COURSE we had to take a group photo.

We were cutting it pretty close, the race started at 8:00 and it was nearing 7:45, but we were just having too much fun.

We finally got our act together and walked to the start line, only to discover there were VERY few port-o-potties and a line well over 100 people long. I decided I was just going to have to hold it, as they were lining people up and then singing the national anthem before I could really decide what I wanted to do. I hurried and turned on my Garmin and got Pandora working, and then we were racing! I was cold, but I have run enough races to know that I personally warm up very fast even when it’s cold outside and hate being miserably hot at a race because I overdressed, so I opted to wear a skirt, compression socks, and a throw away jacket over my team shirt, as well as something to keep my ears warm.

I started off too fast (shocker) and realized my thighs were completely numb. I just kept moving and was hitting them making sure my legs were still there, it was the oddest feeling. I got in the zone and just listened to my music and soaked in the gorgeous surroundings. They don’t call it the Ocean Road 10k for nothing. You literally run right along the ocean for much of the course. We passed gorgeous homes, beautiful tree lines streets, and rolling hills. I ended up throwing off my top layer at mile 2 and was so glad I didn’t overdress. My face was hot but my ears were cold, so I was again glad for the head wear.

I didn’t take many photos because I was just soaking it all in. I did take a few Instagram stories but didn’t save them to my phone. I kept a pretty good clip the first three miles considering I didn’t really train. I run 3 miles twice a week on the treadmill at Orange Theory, and I ran one four miler and one five miler prior to the race and called it a training cycle. (Hey, life is crazy right now ok?)

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting any kind of PR, I was just curious to see how my quad would do. Mile one was a sub 9:00 mile, and two and three were low nines. That’s where the wheels came off. At about mile 3.5ish, my leg started to get tight. I have not been training on up or downhills (I live in flat Florida!) and I foolishly thought it would still be OK. I had a goal to not walk, so I just kept on trucking even though my pace slowed down.

I made it to mile 5, and we were soon heading down a hill right out onto Ocean Road and past the inn where we were staying. This was my favorite part of the course.

I saw mile six, and knew I was close, but unfortunately didn’t really have any “kick” to give, so I just kept on at the same pace, taking in the beautiful sites. I finished it just over 59 minutes, not a PR, but I was super proud of my pace all things considered.

I found a couple of my teammates who had already finished, and we cheered on the rest of the girls as they came in, then we all walked down to the beach to take pictures of course.

ocean road

we took off our shoes, dipped our tired feet in the freezing water, then walked back to the inn. It was an amazing morning and I was so happy to have had the chance to run in such an amazing place. I quickly fell in love with Narragansett, and hope to return someday.

The race is in it’s fifth year, and if you live nearby (or not!) I highly recommend running it. We got lucky with perfect weather and it really was the cherry on top of a great race.

Disclosure: I attended this weekend free of charge thanks to Cabot, however all thoughts and opinions are my own and I was not asked to write this post. 

 

Weekend with Cabot

Hey guys! I can’t believe it snuck up on me so quickly, but I will be flying out to Rhode Island tomorrow morning to hang out with Cabot! I have a layover in D.C before heading to Providence, where I will meet up with the rest of the team at the Ocean Rose Inn, which is where we will be staying for the weekend. It looks like such a fun and interesting place, and apparently the town is pretty walkable. I can’t wait!

We have dinner at the Inn tomorrow night, then Saturday we are going to visit a farm and learn all about how Cabot works with the farmers. Don’t worry, I will be doing lots of Instagram stories.

Then we have an early dinner followed by an early bedtime, because Sunday morning we are running the Ocean Road 10k.

The fun doesn’t stop there, we have a cheese tasting (duh), and another fun dinner before departing on Monday morning. I hope you will follow along with the fun! I will be using #CabotFit on all my posts, so you can always find me that way. Have a great weekend everyone.

 

Emma Kate: Three Years Old

As I sat down to write this post, I just stared at the screen for a little while, because I honestly had no idea where to start. Trying to sum up six months into one post is difficult, especially since a lot has happened in those six months, but I will do my best.

(ppsssttt, you can find Emma Kate’s other recaps here.)

I don’t have Emma Kate’s official “stats” yet but will update here when I do. I can tell you she’s really tall and really heavy (either that or I am getting weaker by the day!) I will say that she is in size 4T and 5T clothes, but can still wear 3T in some dresses and some shorts. She is in between an 8 and a 9 shoe.

First haircut April 2017

The biggest news I would say in the past few months is that Emma Kate is officially potty trained! *Insert spastic happy dance here.* I was so dreading this part, but once she got it, it happened fast. Where we stalled was with the pull ups. We started using them and she would tell me *after* she pottied that she had just gone. This led to LOTS of frustration. Finally one day after the prompting of a friend, we just sent her to school in big girl underwear (with lots of changes of clothes). She had 3 accidents, but we kept at it, and by the end of the week she was only needing a diaper for nap and only had an occasional accident (maybe once or twice a week after that first week). I was pumped! She still refused to poop on the potty so we bribed her with cookies, and that did the trick! She hasn’t had an accident since the very beginning of July, and doesn’t even wear diapers for nap anymore, just bedtime (and 3-4 times a week those are dry, too!) As a parent this was a huge hurdle and sigh of relief. For awhile there I was convinced she was going to go to Kindergarten in diapers.

First kids race WDW April 2017

Emma Kate talks non stop, and she mispronounces several words, but I would never correct her because it’s so adorable. A few of my favorites:

White = “wipe”

Panties = “candies”

Backpack = “pack pack”

Cheers = “deers”

She cracks me up especially when she repeats phrases that I say all the time, it makes you realize how often you say certain things! If I say “stupid” she tells me that’s bad and I need to go to time out. Quite the tattle tail.

She is super independent and wants to do everything herself. She can put on her socks and shoes by herself, get in her car seat, open the door and garage door, walk the dog, feed the dog, and the list goes on. It’s great, but sometimes annoying because let’s say I turn the light on and SHE wanted to do it, she will turn it off then back on again. The only time I can get her to hold my hand is to cross the street, and she likes her bows to match her clothes (I wonder where she gets that from? haha).

Emma Kate moved up to the 3 year old room a couple months ago because she was getting bored in the 2 year old room. She had a little bit of an issue transitioning (not wanting to nap, not listening) but is doing much better. Speaking of nap, she is still not great at them, and only naps for an hour, and some days not at all. We have to REALLY wear her out on the weekend to get her to nap so we go to the pool or playground in the mornings. We still put her to bed at 7:45 at night, but she usually doesn’t fall asleep until 8 or 8:15, and wakes up anywhere from 6:15-7:00, depending. She still tells us “I took a good nap/I had good dreams!” when she wakes up in the morning.

She is still obsessed with the iPad and YouTube kids, but has recently taken a real liking to drawing/coloring so we have been doing a lot of that lately. We still watch a lot of movies (current favorites are Moana, Monsters Inc., and the Toy Story movies.

One of my least favorite words is now “snack”. She will eat only a few bites of dinner then immediately ask for a snack. We have started making her eat more before she gets them, but it amazes me how much she can eat! She is pretty picky and likes the standard chicken nuggets, turkey, mac and cheese, etc. But also really loves fruit like grapes, blueberries, strawberries, apples, and peaches. Lately she has also been all about popsicles and since we went to Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party, she now always wants candy (which we rarely give her). She still drinks a ton of water, but we have started limiting it in the evenings and at night due to potty training and not wanting her to wake up a ton at night needing to go to the bathroom.

She still loves Disney World and going to “the castle” and meeting characters. she isn’t shy around them at all which I love. She is really into Paw Patrol and Moana toys as well. She likes to ride her tricycle in the evenings when we go on walks, and we got her a scooter for her birthday so we will see how that goes.

Emma Kate is very strong willed and can throw a tantrum with the best of them. She easily gets frustrated when she can’t do something or we tell her no, and obviously doesn’t like time out (who does?) She is sassy which I think will serve her well later in life but it is currently taking years off my life. She says “I do it” to everything, and tries to tell me no and tells me not to talk, etc. which I’m of course not a fan of. Bobby handles her fits better than I do if I’m being honest, as he has much more patience than me.

She tells us to come “sit by me!” on the couch and still likes to be held. She gives good hugs and kisses, and loves to read in the rocking chair and say prayers before bed. Her favorite songs to sing are Let it Go, Jesus Loves me, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Wheels on the Bus. She loves all things pink, and has to have a bow before we leave the house. She has the BEST memory, which is a blessing and a curse. She loves her mommy and daddy and “her dog” Bella.

There is so much more I could say, but I will stop there for your benefit. We love our sweet Emma Kate, and can’t wait to see how her spunky personality develops more into a little girl.

 

My Best Social Media Tips for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter

Hey guys! I have had some people ask me if I would compile all of my links to my most recent social media tip posts into one post so that you don’t have to click all over the place to find them, so here you go. A condensed post with links to all four of the social media tip posts which cover each platform I will be spending time on in my e-course that will be launching soon.

My top Facebook tips for bloggers and businesses

My top Twitter tips

Growing your Pinterest: tips for bloggers and social media managers

Grow your Instagram following

I also have done Facebook videos on these topics, so be sure to check out the video section on my Facebook page for even more information.

Don’t forget, if you want to be on the list to be the first to know when my course is launching, sign up for my email list!

I know it has taken me a little bit longer than anticipated, and I will be able to share one of the reasons WHY very soon. But a hurricane, cancelled trip, and sick kid also have thrown me for a loop, but trust me when I say I am working on it daily! I want it to be valuable to you so you can start making money ASAP!

My Hurricane Irma Story

A lot of people have been asking me questions regarding the hurricane, our last minute decision to evacuate, and our travel there and back, so I decided to do a blog post recapping the whole ordeal, here we go!

Some of you may remember that Bobby and I were supposed to go on a Carnival cruise leaving out of Miami on Saturday, September 9th. Because of this, I had been watching the tropics extra close, and Irma was making me nervous the closer she got. At first we thought she would turn north and be long gone before our cruise, but then she started going more and more west, and I started getting bummed thinking about our cruise being cancelled.

Soon enough, my sadness turned to fear as I realized the storm was coming even MORE west, right to the east coast of Florida. We had come to terms with the fact that our vacation wasn’t going to happen, and switched gears to “OK so what the heck do we do here at the house?”

Keep in mind I grew up in a suburb of New Orleans and lived in Biloxi as an adult, so I have been through many hurricanes, sometimes we evacuated, sometimes we didn’t. At this point, we had planned to stay. They were saying at worst Irma was going to be a cat 3, and at that point she was still going to the eastern side of Florida. The storm was huge, so we knew we would still get bad wind and rain, but it would be manageable.

All day Friday I watched each new update like a crazy person. I had four newscasters I was following along with via Facebook live, and I was soaking up every bit of information I could. At this point, Bobby’s work had been cancelled as well as Emma Kate’s school, and my parents had evacuated up to our house. We were all set to stay. We had food, water, candles, and flashlights. But yet, with each new update, the storm was moving slightly further west. I could barely eat all day, I just didn’t know what we should do. We had no hurricane shutters or boards for our windows. Stay or go, stay or go….the traffic…ug. Ok we are staying.

That is until the 11:00 update on Friday night. My parents and Emma Kate were asleep, and I was in bed watching the newest model runs. They had moved the eye directly over my house, and said it would be a category four once it hit Tampa. My stomach did a back flip. Katrina was a 3 and that was awful for my hometown. I don’t know if I can do a four, especially with my two year old. At that point, my mama instincts kicked in. I went into the bonus room and told Bobby “I think we need to leave.”

We discussed the logistics for a few minutes, and then he agreed with me. If we lost power it would be miserably hot in the house, and EK would never sleep. Also, we only have one interior hallway downstairs and one bedroom downstairs and the storm was hitting us at night. Trying to explain to Emma Kate why we had to be still in a hall for several hours would be difficult and she would be terrified. We had lived in Atlanta for a few years when I was a child so we had plenty of friends to stay with that had already invited us into their home so that wasn’t a problem. Now it came down to getting all our patio furniture inside, securing the house, and loading up two cars, five people, and a dog as quickly as possible. We thought about leaving the next day but figured traffic would be slowest in the middle of the night.

I went downstairs and woke up my parents telling them the latest news. They jumped out of bed and we all sprang into action. Throwing things into suitcases, dragging in furniture from outside, loading up food, water, and dog food, trying to remember all the things we needed to do and bring. At the end of it all my kitchen table was against the front door and our grill was in my dining room.

We waited to wake up Emma Kate until right before we left, then I had to

pack up all the stuff in her room. It is really a very surreal feeling looking around your house, trying to figure out what to take with you that will fit in your car, knowing this may be the last time you step foot in your house. It really truly put things into perspective in terms of what we “need” in our house. Most of it is just stuff, and I didn’t feel compelled to try and pack it. My brain was going a mile a minute and I didn’t even think to bring photo albums or baby books or things of that nature.

By 12:30, the house was secure and we were rolling out o

 

f the neighborhood loaded down in two cars. I took the lead, and it was smooth sailing…until we got to the interstate. It was pretty bumper to bumper which was crazy to be because it was almost 1:00! We had downloaded the gas buddy app and it was such a life saver. We stopped in Gainesville for gas, and thankfully they had a good operation going where they were directing traffic and putting you in lines depending on what side of your car your gas tank was on. We only had to wait about 10 minutes, and Emma Kate and I went next door to Walgreens to use the bathroom. Bobby sent me over with a night stick of course. It was a bit of a sketchy area but he had to stay in line with the car so off we went.

By 5:00, we were getting pretty hungry, so we stopped at

a McDonalds (the only thing open) somewhere in Georgia…along with all the other evacuees. I grabbed a coffee since I was doing most of the driving (Bobby’s driving terrifies me) and we were on the road again. The last 3 hours felt like FOREVER getting up to Atlanta. We got stuck in several dead stand still traffic areas due to wrecks and slowdowns.

Emma Kate was watching YouTube Kids on my phone, and said her belly hurt. I didn’t think much of it because she says that sometimes and it’s usually nothing, but then it happened….she threw up all over herself and her car seat. In the middle of a traffic jam. She got super upset and wanted to change but there was nowhere for us to go, we were gridlocked. I tried to clean her up and calm her down the best I could until we could get off the interstate at this little country gas station that actually had super clean bathrooms! We changed her clothes, all took a little breather, and got back on the road.

We were actually staying north east of Atlanta, so it took us awhile to get around to where we needed to go. We arrived around 11:00 after 10.5 hours of driving, and were all exhausted. One thing we had not thought about was the weather, IT WAS COLD! We were all in shorts and t-shirts. We unloaded the cars, and at that point I have no idea how I was still standing. I had been awake for 29 hours and drove most of the way. Since my parents had slept about two hours before I woke them up to leave the night before, they graciously agreed to watch EK so we could nap. I was only weirdly able to sleep about 50 minutes, but Bobby got in a solid 3-4 hours which was good.

Our friends were amazing hosts, and fed us so well. We hung out in the backyard, took Emma Kate on the gator over to the playground at the preschool I attended as a child (the people we were staying with own it) ate dinner outside and just enjoyed being safe, and also enjoyed the wonderful weather. (We cannot sit outside and eat in Tampa, we would melt!) Emma Kate slept on the floor of my parents room on a cot and Bobby and I had the sofas in the living room. I think at that point I could have slept on a rock and not moved all night.

Of course the next day (Sunday) we closely watched the weather, but also knew we had to get out of the house. After an amazing breakfast, we took her to a local park, and it was so cold! Bobby and I walked around a beautiful trail and Emma Kate and my parents played on the playground.

When we got back to the house, my mom and I went to Kohl’s and got Emma Kate some pants, a long sleeved shirt, and a jacket. We also learned Sunday afternoon that they were not expecting the hurricane to be a 4 when it reached Tampa, thank the Lord!

Our next door neighbor staying behind and gave us updates Sunday night and we were happy to hear Monday morning that the house was fine, and also that we still had power! There had been a small issue with some looters in the area which was my next concern but thankfully all was OK. It rained all day Monday and the wind got pretty bad. We were staying in a more county town with lots of pine trees, so believe it or not, we lost power Monday afternoon!

Thankfully they had a generator so we were able to have light, watch TV, and keep the food cold. We grilled hot dogs in the storm, and since it was so cool outside, it wasn’t miserable at all to sleep in.

We decided to leave Tuesday, and looking back that was a BAD idea. I really had no idea just how bad traffic would be. I relied on Google Maps, and it had us taking back roads for the first couple hours before putting us back on the interstate. It was pure misery–bumper to bumper stop and go literally the the whole drive home. My biggest fear was finding gas. Thankfully my dad has bought two 5 gallon containers and filled them up the day before, but even still that wouldn’t be enough to get us home.

We were able to wait in line in Tifton and find gas, but it was a pretty stressful situation. We were all tired, Emma Kate was bored, tempers were flaring, and we were all ready to get out of the car. At one point we stopped at a rest stop and all they had available were port-o-potties and there were people everywhere. The whole thing was just a huge mess. It ended up taking us 14.5 hours to get home. We left Atlanta around 9:00 AM and got home at almost midnight. The drive would normally take about 6.5 hours I think.

We were SO blessed and thankful to have no damage, water, etc. I know some were not that lucky. But I will say, it’s going to take a LOT to make me evacuate again after the mess we had to go through to get there and back. Please continue to pray as some still don’t have power, and have lost everything. Thank you all for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers as we were going through all of this. It means a lot!

 

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party With a Toddler or Preschooler

Emma Kate is just now at the age where she “gets” Halloween. She knows all about trick-or-treating, candy, and costumes. So as you can imagine, this kid was PUMPED when she heard we were going to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party to go trick-or-treating at her favorite place–“the castle”, as she calls Magic Kingdom.

Being not quite 3 and with a bedtime of 7:45 that we stick to religiously, I was hesitant to keep her out for a party that didn’t start until 7:00, but I’m SO glad I did! We had a blast, and I wanted to share some of my best tips for bringing little ones (like toddlers or preschoolers) to Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party.

1.) Make sure they take a good nap that day, maybe even a late nap: Emma Kate has been on a nap strike at school, so when I picked her up the day of the party I was bummed when I heard she hadn’t napped, and knew it would make her cranky later. However, she thankfully took a late nap in the car on the way to Orlando, which I think helped her to stay up later!

2.) Bring distractions for the kids while waiting for the parade, shows and fireworks: The Boo to You parade, Sanderson Sisters stage show and Hallowishes fireworks are not to be missed, and are my favorite things about the party. But, they involve a little bit of waiting around if you want a good spot. Be sure to bring toys or distractions for the little ones. We were sure my phone was powered up so Emma Kate could play games on it before the fun started, and we had plenty of snacks for distractions as well.

3.) Arrive early: The party technically starts at 7:00, but you can usually get in as early as 4:00 and begin enjoying the park. We arrived early so that we could do a couple of “normal” things like rides before the party started. I didn’t want to waste party time doing things we could do on any visit to Magic Kingdom.

4.) Have a plan: When you get to the park, be sure to grab a special party brochure which will have a map of the park as well as where the treat stations are located, and times and locations for the shows, parade, and dance party. In order to fit it all in we had to make a plan of what time we were going to be where. I feel like if we hadn’t done that, we would have run around in circles and ended up missing things, like getting to dance with Boo, Mike, and Sulley!

5.) Remember, kids are more resilient than you think. We had a plan in place that when Emma Kate started to melt down, my mom was going to take her back to the resort. However, much to our amazement, she was a rock star and ended up staying out with us until after 11:30! She wasn’t fussy at all, and we even had a hard time getting her to fall asleep. Ok, so maybe that was the sugar talking, but she did so much better than I anticipated and it made me realize I just wasn’t giving her enough credit. I can’t believe I ever considered not taking her, she held up just fine, and now we have memories that will last forever.

Halloween Party

Be sure to purchase your tickets to the party here. Some dates sell out, so don’t wait!

Disclosure: I was provided tickets to the party at no cost, however all opinions are my own, and I was not required to write this post.