KidsPark: Easy, Fun Childcare

When we moved to Tampa at the end of last year, I knew one of the things we were going to miss most was being close to family. Not only did we enjoy hanging out with them on a regular basis, but we really loved the option for babysitters, and never had to have a stranger watch our two year old!

Not only does Tampa offer a wide range of fun activities I wanted to attend, but as a blogger I get invited to special events and dinner etc., too. Not knowing anyone made it difficult to find a baby sitter, so when I saw an ad in a local paper for KidsPark, I knew I needed to investigate.

2017-05-27_20-16-52_939

The website is very informative, and I found out that KidsPark is actually a pay by the hour daycare franchise with many locations throughout the country. I was super excited as my babysitting problem was solved! Not only that, but Emma Kate would get to play in a new environment and have fun interacting with other kids all at a very low hourly rate, while mom and dad go to have fun of our own. Lucky for us, the nearest location is less than ten minutes from our house. The best part is there are NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED! You simply show up, check your child in, and leave. Some people drop their kids off for an hour or two so they can go get groceries or go to the doctor, and some leave them for a full day of fun. It’s up to you!

2017-05-27_16-20-33_930

When you arrive, you register and pay a small registration fee, and then are charged by the hour for your child’s time at KidsPark. At the end of the day the price per hour is WAY less than I would have to pay an in home sitter, plus my child is getting to be in a new fun place with new friends, which I prefer.

There are cubbies at the front for your child’s belongings and shoes. Children are required to take their shoes off, but must wear socks, so don’t forget them!

2017-05-27_16-21-31_063

Another thing that I love is there are meals and snacks at KidsPark. Meals at our location are $4.00, or you can bring your own meal from home (we have done both, it just depends on the menu and home much time I have as to what we do). Snacks are at no additional charge. Wondering about ages and activities? Kids can start going to KidsPark at age two through age eleven at our location. The “big kids” also have a special play area so they aren’t constantly on top of the little kids, so no worries there!

They even help assist with potty training. Emma Kate wears a special color sticker on her name tag so they know to remind her about the potty. Awesome! Sometimes Emma Kate comes home with a craft or picture that she drew, so it’s nice to know they are doing different activities with the kids. They also have different themed days and weeks depending on time of year, holidays, etc.

2017-05-27_16-21-48_868

As you can see from this happy face, Emma Kate has never been upset when we leave her! There is so much to do, and so many new friends to make! Another favorite thing about KidsPark is that it is open on a lot of holidays when regular schools are closed. There have been times when EK’s daycare was closed that we brought her to KidsPark because I needed to get work done. They are also open late into the night for those date nights for mom and dad (midnight on Friday and Saturday!)

2017-05-27_16-22-39_761

Another option we have not taken advantage of is that KidsPark operates as a preschool during the day. It’s a traditional preschool with a modern twist, so think music, drama, art, math and science for your little ones. You can even start a young child at one day a week and move up to five days.

2017-05-27_20-15-29_739

Emma Kate LOVES the little house and kitchen area!

KidsPark is even open for private parties on Sunday mornings and evenings when the center is closed to the public. You get a hostess to help with your party so you can enjoy instead of clean up, lead games, etc.

Don’t forget KidsPark is licensed and all the teachers have early childhood backgrounds and pass background checks. They are great at making your child feel comfortable and they always remember Emma Kate’s name, even after she had only attended a couple of times (they know her as the girl with the big bows, of course!) KidsPark’s mission is simple: Happy kids, happy parents, and in our family, they have succeeded!

Click here to see if there is a KidsPark location near you!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

5 Things Friday XXV

Hey guys! I haven’t done one of these in awhile so I thought it would be fun for this Memorial Day weekend Friday.

1.) Me, Bobby, and Emma Kate are headed to Orlando on Sunday and will be hitting the Disney Waterparks (her first time at a water park!) We will be going to Blizzard Beach because I hear that is the most kid friendly of the two. I can’t wait! I haven’t been to a Disney Waterpark in YEARS.

DSC_0824

2.) While we are in Orlando we will be staying at the Wyndham I-Drive, which is the official hotel for International drive. I will be posting pictures and Insta stories on Sunday and Monday, so stay tuned!

3.) I attended a Carnival Cruise Lines event yesterday at Port Canaveral, and will be posting a blog post about it soon. We were on the Carnival Liberty for a couple of hours, eating hamburgers!

4.) You may have noticed I am finally back to running! I haven’t done anything over three miles, but my leg is feeling better and better. I still have to foam roll and stretch really well, and don’t have 100% range of motion when I squat or lunge, but I have no knee pain!

wMRgbgQZpj_b2NnGuOO1JX5f_yTeujiIb-WfcC-0jlgpX92IB

5.) Recently we tried out FitLife foods, which has locations here in Tampa, and delivers meals right to your door. You get to pick what meals you want and when you want them delivered, and they just show up! Some of them tasted pretty good, and some were honestly pretty bland and needed some serious salt and pepper. I enjoyed not having to think/worry about what I was going to eat for dinner as a busy working mom, which was the main/huge draw for me. I just knew we had meals in the refrigerator, and so that stress hanging over my head was gone, plus I didn’t have to go to the store as much. But, the one downside for us/Bobby is that the portion sizes were too small for him. He eats a lot and works out a lot and would need 2-3 “meals” for one meal, and that gets expensive quickly.  I may give them another go the next time he is out of town and it’s just me and Emma Kate, because I truly enjoyed the convenience! If you haven’t tried it out I say give it a go one time!

fitlife

Pandora: World of Avatar Overview

Disclosure: I attend an all expenses paid media trip to Walt Disney World and part of that trip was a sneak peek tour of Pandora. All opinions are my own.

When I first saw the itinerary for the media event I was going to be attending with Walt Disney World, I may have squealed a little when I saw we were to be spending time in Pandora before it was open to the public. A new space? With hardly any people in it? Heck yes!

pandora

2017-05-08_09-41-37_688

2017-05-08_09-42-37_994

Something to keep in mind as your tour this area, is that it is supposed to take place many years after the movie, and now humans are allowed to come to Pandora. Look carefully for nods to the movie, it’s fun to pick things out!

Our tour was on a Monday morning, and we were running a little late so we were ushered straight to the Flights of Passage Ride.

2017-05-08_09-43-38_027

But not before getting a couple of quick photos as we crossed the bridge and went into the World of Pandora. This guy behind me was really fun. If you touched him in the spot right above my head, he started to steam and make noise. So interactive and fun!

2017-05-08_09-47-21_116

DSC_0102

I didn’t have a ton of time to stop and explore the que since the ride was only going to be available for a few more minutes, but all I can say is details, details, details! There is just SO much to see!

DSC_0103

DSC_0107

DSC_0110

DSC_0111

DSC_0113

DSC_0115

Flights of passage is awesome in a word. I was a little nervous not knowing what to expect, and it far exceeded my expectations. We went into a series of rooms where we were given instructions and backstory via cast members and video screen, and one part was interactive and fun!

2017-05-08_10-01-06_161

You are given a number to stand on, and it lines up with the banshee you will be riding in the last room. There is a space to store purses, backpacks, etc. and then you get on the ride. A back restraint and leg restraints come up, and then the four and a half minute journey begins. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is breathtaking, vivid, and intense all at the same time. Please note if you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to be careful with this one. I had to shut my eyes a couple of times for a brief moment as to not get sick, but then I was ok. Totally worth it by the way.

DSC_0125

DSC_0127

After Flights of Passage we rode the Na’vi River Journey, which is fun for the whole family. It’s a leisurely boat ride down the “river”, and there are beautiful things to look at on all sides. I will say after going right off of Flights of Passage this ride was way less thrilling, but I’m glad Disney decided to put in something mild that little kids and those that don’t like intense rides can enjoy.

IMG_7147

The Shaman at the end was very impressive, but the rest of the ride didn’t wow me.

IMG_7151

Before getting off the boat at the end of the River Journey.

IMG_7155

After you ride this ride, you are let out into the gift shop called Windtraders. Something I noticed right away was that there are no signs of Mickey Mouse anywhere. This shop is totally Pandora themed, with no sign of autograph books or Donald Duck hats anywhere, which I loved. You could bead a necklace, buy some Avatar ears, or even adopt a Banshee which is a super cute process you go through at the store.

DSC_0152

IMG_7179

I showed lots of restraint and didn’t buy anything at the store, but I loved this floating mountains mug. anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for Disney mugs.

2017-05-08_10-52-33_050

Outside of the store, I did more looking/staring in awe at the gorgeous landscaping and floating mountains. I just couldn’t get enough!

IMG_7140

IMG_7160

DSC_0129

DSC_0130

I wandered over to the counter service location which has a nice covered outdoor seating area. The menu looks really good and I’m dying to get back and try it.

IMG_7167

Right outside of the gift shop and next to the counter service location you will find a cute little stand called Pongu Pongu where you can order drinks or a snack. It was a little too early for alcohol, but the Night Blossom (non alcoholic) looked pretty and I just had to try it.

2017-05-08_10-54-42_651

2017-05-08_10-53-47_836

The drink comes with passion fruit bobas on top, but I asked for half and half with strawberry so I could try them out as well.

DSC_0160

Verdict on the drink: it was very refreshing, but also really sweet and tart. I couldn’t finish mine, but can definitely see the advantage of having one on a hot Florida day. Plus, who am I kidding, bobas are fun to eat.

DSC_0131

There is an overlook area that is higher than the rest of Pandora, and you can get some great panoramic shots. (Be sure to look for the photopass photographers in this area) Also, watch out for “things” that may spit water on you in this area!

DSC_0156

I did my best to just try and soak everything in, because I knew I would never see Pandora this empty again. I was there for over an hour and a half, and I know I still didn’t see everything there is to see!

DSC_0147

DSC_0148

Oh, another cool thing, be sure to talk with some cast members. They stay in character and will tell you about how they came to Pandora form earth. Be sure to check out their name tags, too. Seriously, Disney thought of everything.

2017-05-08_10-54-35_144

I really enjoyed my brief time in this new land, and can’t wait to go back with my family when it’s open to the public. Even if the movie wasn’t your thing and you don’t like rides, it’s totally worth it to take a walk through this area and see the amazing things Disney created for it’s guests. No detail was spared, and they really have upped their game as far as creating a truly immersive experience as a part of your vacation. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

QOTD: Thoughts on Pandora? Do you plan to visit?

runDisney Kids races: Star Wars

When I realized our family Disney World trip lined up with the runDisney Star Wars half marathon weekend, I couldn’t believe all the stars were aligning for not only Bobby and I to run the half marathon, but for Emma Kate (2 years old) to participate in her very first kids races. I was pleasantly surprised that the registration price was very reasonable ($20!) and that each child got a medal (rubber) and a t-shirt. As a lover of the “I Did it” shirts, I couldn’t wait for my little mini me to have her very own.

The kids races were held on Friday and Saturday, but since Bobby wasn’t arriving until Friday night, we opted for the Saturday morning race. It actually all worked out nicely, as we were able to get to the expo right when it opened at 10:00, get all three of our bibs, and then walk over to the track at the Wide World of Sports and attend the kids races. Keep in mind strollers are NOT allowed in the expo, but are allowed on the grounds of WWOS, so we simply parked ours in a stroller parking area to get our bibs, then brought it down to the track with us for the races.

Of course Emma Kate had to get her picture with the kids race sign, and I wore her “future runDisney runner” shirt.

2017-04-22_09-50-01_577

After getting our bibs (you have to sign a race waiver for the kiddos, too) and getting our t-shirts, we headed out to the track around 10:45. I will be honest and say it seemed REALLY chaotic. Having never been to one before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured out that I was supposed to match the color of Emma Kate’s race bib with the flags at the starting line area, so we all walked over that way, to be told only one adult could actually “run” the race with the child. So Bobby and my parents headed to the side of the track behind a fence so they could see her run and hopefully squeeze in to the fence once it was time for her wave.

2017-04-22_11-01-59_490

It was hot outside and I wanted to get done quickly, but in hindsight I should have just chilled and waited for the last wave. We were basically put in a holding area all close together which made it even more hot. I can see how it could be overwhelming for some kids that don’t like a lot of people. There were plenty of volunteers and they all did a great job don’t get me wrong, but it was still chaotic, but I guess organized chaos would be a better word?

They would line up a handful of kids on the start line then put another group behind them, then after the first group went, the one behind would step forward, and the volunteers filled in the back with another line of kids. This part seemed very organized, but there wasn’t really a line so it was more of a free for all as to which parent pushed through the area first to get their kid to the start. We ended up somewhere towards the middle. Usually EK doesn’t let me hold her but I think all the people made her nervous so she was happy to be on my hip while we waited. She made some funny faces for me, and soon we were in the holding area for the next wave.

2017-04-22_11-07-44_287

I texted my family to let them know we were coming, and thankfully I was wearing pink and Emma Kate had on a huge pink bow so we were hard to miss. When we were standing behind the wave about to go, I told her to watch the boys and girls run and that was what we were going to do when the man said to go. She didn’t look too sure about it and I had NO idea how she would react.

2017-04-22_11-08-04_841

It was our turn, and our wave began. Emma Kate started running (sort of) and looking around all at the same time. 100 meters seems a long way when you are running with a two year old! Midway through we got a shout out from announcer Carisa who spotted EK’s big bow.

EK run 2

About 75 meters in, Emma Kate realized she was tired and wanted me to hold her. About that time I saw Mickey, so I grabbed her and went over to him for a quick hug. Then because I just can’t help it, I put her down and made her walk across the finish line herself. #RunnerMom.

EK run

We all cheered, and she got her medal, but was way more concerned about her banana oddly enough. We found my family and took some photos before grabbing the stroller and heading out. Did I mention it was really warm? (heh.)

2017-04-22_11-11-14_551

2017-04-22_11-12-49_297

I had a lot of fun and loved sharing something that I do with my little girl. I feel like now that I know what to expect, the next time will be way less overwhelming for all of us.

2017-04-22_11-14-42_5762017-04-22_11-15-04_1222017-04-22_11-15-32_804

I love how runDisney kept everyone moving and then moved on to the next race. We got some free gogo squeeze pouches too which was nice since EK loves those things (they are a sponsor). Emma Kate wore her medal to the park, and looked adorable in her I did it shirt.

g9YV3WC-t1cjj4756oVblfgXgsjulsCmCCl7zJ2je-ApX92IB

NzeVMb5Y5yebA_CCajVfUdgduQUDh3h-IgzUWvptt3UpX92IB

When do we sign up again?

kids race

Here are a couple of videos from the race:


Then of course the video I shot while she was running. Please excuse my shrieking voice in the background. I was a little excited.

 

QOTD: Has your child ever done a kids race?

Walt Disney World’s Bay Lake Tower 2 Bedroom Villa

My parents became DVC members last year via buying resale. Their home resort is Saratoga Springs, which is where we stayed in October of last year. They had some extra points on their contract due to some that were banked by the previous owner, so Me, Bobby, and Emma Kate were invited to stay with them in a two bedroom villa for five nights in April. We were blown away by this resort, and I wanted to share our two bedroom villa with you.

bay lake villa

Before I begin, I feel it’s important to note that the modern style is REALLY not my thing. I never had a desire to stay at the Contemporary, and the only time I have was for a conference a few years ago. Bay Lake wasn’t on my radar, until I realized how easy it would be with my two year old to be able to walk to and from the Magic Kingdom and be on the monorail. I was able to snag us a villa right as our date window opened, and while I was excited about our trip, I was just “eh” when it came to the thought of the resort portion. That is until we walked into the lobby, down the hall, and up to our two bedroom villa on the sixth floor facing the gorgeous Lake. WOW.

DSC_0753

I’m going to try to paint you a picture here of the layout, because there really is a ton of space here. When you walk in, to the right is the second bedroom, straight ahead is a closet and a wall, slightly left is the walkway into the other bedroom and living/kitchen area, and directly left was a 3rd FULL bathroom. Keep in mind this villa sleeps nine people, so it’s nice that your guests on the sofa sleeper and chair have access to a full bath as seen below.

2017-04-21_13-17-58_273 - Copy

Let’s start by going left and passing up the living room for a second to go into the Master. But first there is a door for the washer and dryer, and this room was WAY bigger than anticipated. We used it to store things and keep them out of the way like our coolers we had brought.

2017-04-21_13-15-54_755 - Copy

On into the master suite is a gorgeous bathroom with a huge tub and shower.

2017-04-21_13-15-13_352 - Copy

2017-04-21_13-15-03_998 - Copy

My only qualm with this bathroom is that it only had one vanity as opposed to the master at Saratoga which had two. The bathroom was really big so maybe space could have been found? Maybe just to add another sink?

2017-04-21_13-18-12_370 - Copy

The master boasts a king sized bed and it’s own balcony, which you can also access from the living room. Check out the cute painting above the bed.

2017-04-21_13-15-28_496 - Copy

There was also a desk and a flat screen TV as well as plenty of drawer space.

2017-04-21_13-15-36_866 - Copy

Back out into the hallway, you can see into the living room and kitchen. I loved how bright and open it was, and we never closed the curtains the whole trip.

2017-04-21_13-16-33_434 - Copy

From the wall of windows facing into the kitchen, you can also see the open door where the laundry room was. There was a stove, over, microwave, refrigerator/freezer combo and a cute table to the right. The TV was on the wall parallel to the table not shown in this picture.

2017-04-21_13-16-56_212 - Copy

The sofa was weird in that the cushions would NOT stay put. We must have had to push them back 100 times. I’m not sure if it’s because it is a sofa sleeper or just old, but it was odd. There were sheets and blankets in the ottoman.

2017-04-21_13-16-48_108 - Copy

Here you can see the huge TV as well as the door going to the same balcony that is attached to the master, and you also get a shot of the sleeper chair.

2017-04-21_13-17-35_167 - Copy

I thought this Space Mountain picture above the table was a nice touch.

2017-04-21_13-17-42_755 - Copy

As was this Bay lake/monorail/Contemporary photo above the sofa.

2017-04-21_14-57-37_806 - Copy

If you go back to the hallway and go straight, you reach the second bedroom which ahs two big closets and it’s own bathroom. We had two queen sized beds and our own balcony, too! In the below picture, to the left is one closet, the other is straight behind me, and to the right is the sink area and then the separate bathroom.

2017-04-21_13-18-05_704 - Copy

We used a bed rail so Emma Kate could have her own bed. Y’all, these beds were SO comfortable. Like a cloud I tell ya.

2017-04-21_13-18-14_821 - Copy

2017-04-21_13-18-26_434 - Copy

We also had a table and two chairs as well as a set of drawers and TV, which we never turned on one time.

2017-04-21_13-18-42_701 - Copy

The very best thing about the room was the view. It never got old. Sitting on the sofa, or the balcony, or just milling around the kitchen I loved the huge windows looking out over the pool and Bay lake.

2017-04-21_14-58-55_268 - Copy

Going to be honest here for a moment. You can pay extra/use more DVC points to have a theme park view…but in my personal opinion the lake view is better at this particular resort. I don’t like seeing all the cars and concrete out the theme park view here, and it’s I think 10 extra points PER NIGHT and that is a lot. Also, the afternoon sun beat right down on the theme park view side, and many people kept their curtains closed to avoid the heat and sun, so then they couldn’t even see their view!

When we walked out to the elevator, we had a view of the “theme park side” so I am posting a photo here for you to see what I mean. It just doesn’t wow me.

2017-04-21_15-23-09_265 - Copy

I watched the sunrise most mornings from our balcony and it was just spectacular. We also enjoyed seeing the boats all coming and going, and we watched the electrical water pageant most nights.

2017-04-22_06-37-30_408 - Copy

We were all surprised at how much we all loved this resort, and would stay there again in a heartbeat. We walked to Magic Kingdom several times, and used the monorail for EPCOT. Keep in mind if you aren’t using points and are just booking this resort outright, that it rarely if ever qualifies for discounts because it’s already so popular. I do however highly recommend staying here if you get the chance!

QOTD: What is your favorite Disney resort? Why?

My Disney Experience and Magic Bands FREE E-Course

In the past few years, Walt Disney World has grown leaps and bounds as far as technology goes. What once was a card used to swipe into your room, turned into what we now know as “Magic Bands.” Some called it big brother-ish, some called it amazing, but what we do know about these bands and it’s other component called My Disney Experience, is that they are here to stay.

 

As someone who dislikes change, I understand not wanting to try something different or take the time to learn the new technology, but trust me when I say it will be WORTH IT when it comes to time (and sanity) saved on your Disney vacation if you know how to efficiently use My Disney experience and understand how the Magic bands work!T1CjCNKhhvIS8VNw0MpiMB6ClWHNTiRO07xTUBRFIJYpX92IB

This is exactly why I created a FREE E-course for you. I want you to have a stress free vacation. There is no need to be overwhelmed by the technology and the process if you just have someone to explain it to you, piece by piece…and that is precisely what I do in my free course.

 

In this course, you will learn all about Magic Bands, making Fastpass+ reservations, dining reservations, and how to use Memory maker. I also show you how to set up an account, manage your family and friends list, and research different resort and dining options. This is in a video format, so you don’t have to sit and read for endless hours to get it done. The course is broken down into sections, so you can go through as much or as little as you want to at a time. All in all it should take you no more than two hours to get through this free course. I’m so excited for you to feel confident about your knowledge in this area, and have a great vacation because of it!

NIqRiAgNNwPYpZsBPeUN0KwOlSFM8-_FRmLOZtZfekkpX92IB

So what are you waiting for? Stop wondering what Magic Bands and My Disney Experience are all about, and get to dreaming up the perfect vacation for you and your family. (PS: When you click the link to go to the course page, it mentions a coming soon course not yet available, but if you click the button, you will be taken to sign up for my FREE e-course, so don’t let it confuse you!)

my disney experience

QOTD: Thoughts on Disney’s new technologies? Love it or loathe it?

Tampa Tuesdays: Busch Gardens Tampa

On Saturday, Bobby and I took Emma Kate to Busch Gardens Tampa. It was our first experience in the park aside from seeing a small portion when we went for a media event a few weeks ago. I did a little bit of research to at least know what we did and didn’t want to do, and we arrived at the park when it opened at 10:00 (which I thought was late!)

2017-04-01_12-53-37_941

Getting on the tram at the parking lot was a little hectic as there was no one there to keep people in order, and there were no true “lines”. We had a family try and push us out of the way to get on the tram (I was holding EK in my arms!) and I had to yell at a guy to let Bobby get on the tram with us b/c he had the stroller and people were pushing in front of him. However, I tried to shake it off and not let it ruin the day. The park can’t control what other people do, and it wasn’t their fault. We made it to the front, and bag check was smooth and quick.

I wanted Bobby to get to ride at least one roller coaster, so he jumped in line for Cheetah Hunt because it said there was only a ten minute wait. I took Emma Kate to go visit some animals while we waited.

2017-04-01_10-36-24_102

2017-04-01_10-46-25_582

2017-04-01_10-53-00_638

After about 30 minutes I texted Bobby and he was still in line. I was not thrilled because Emma Kate was getting bored and wanted to go ride the train. We visited the giraffes which there was SO many of, very cool, and then waited some more.

2017-04-01_11-07-27_234

All in all he was gone a total of 45 minutes for a ten minute wait, so I’m not sure what happened there. Maybe it temporarily broke down and we didn’t realize. Either way, nothing we could do to change it so we moved along and got in line for the train.

2017-04-01_11-21-39_728

It was fun seeing the animals along the route. A very nice touch. We decided to get off at the next stop and go see the monkeys and the tigers. This guy was just sitting up at the glass staring at all the kids. Emma Kate kept saying she wanted to hold him, of course.

2017-04-01_11-54-54_787

We also saw a couple of sleepy tigers. I loved all the lush landscaping in their habitats with multiple vantage points to view them from.

By this time it was after noon, and we were getting  hungry. We tried to get Emma Kate to nap in her stroller as we walked down towards the Food and Wine festival area.

2017-04-01_12-10-31_710

I love how the booths are mainly contained to two areas so you don’t have to walk all that far to get from one to another. Also, there were no long lines to wait in which was a plus.

2017-04-01_12-12-38_114

We each had an 8 pack sampler card courtesy of Busch Gardens, and were ready to enjoy the festival. (These can be purchased at the booths, and also you can find festival guides at each booth with a map and list of all the food and drink offerings.)

2017-04-01_12-15-33_808

First up, Bobby got the lamb chops and a mango margarita, which got two thumbs up.

2017-04-01_12-14-36_989

We then headed over towards the two Coke booths, which are next door to an inside air conditioned area with tables. We were happy to find this spot, as it was getting HOT outside. Bobby got a couple more things to eat and I got a pulled pork slider. After a brief rest, we headed over towards the concert area where there were a lot of other booths.

Bobby tried some ribs, and I got my favorite: the bacon mac and cheese, which was just as delicious as I remembered it. Emma Kate loved it, too and kept stealing my bacon.

2017-04-01_12-57-33_491

We both also had watermelon margaritas, which would become our favorite drink of the festival. (I may have had three.) I may have also had a regular margarita on the rocks at the margarita bar while we were in this area.

Emma Kate had been dying to “see Elmo” in the kids area, so we went there next. This area was great. TONS to do for kids all confined to one very large space. She was so overwhelmed we weren’t sure what to do first. She rode several rides, and even did a small “water ride” by herself!

2017-04-01_13-58-27_824

2017-04-01_14-02-07_309

We put her in the bounce house because she LOVES those things, but there were a lot of big kids in there and she got upset and wanted to get out. We also did the carousel, and she climbed up in a large tree house area with Bobby.

Seriously we could have stayed in this area all day and Emma Kate would have been jjuussttt fine. There was also a huge really cool looking splash pad area, but we decided to skip that one for the day because it was already getting late in the day and we were all tired. We did however have one more stop to make, the show with Elmo and the gang! EK clapped and waved, and even got to touch Grover which I think made her whole day. This area was covered and had fans which was a very nice touch on such a sunny afternoon. There were also plenty of benches and other seating around the whole kids area for moms and dads to take a rest as the kids played.

2017-04-01_14-31-39_445

We still had a couple of punches left on our food and wine cards, so Bobby got some steak and said it was his favorite dish of the day.

2017-04-01_14-52-07_203

We met up with Megan and Gabe for a few minutes and chatted at a table and people watched before calling it a day. Check out the cool topiary in the background!

2017-04-01_15-23-28_801

2017-04-01_15-31-56_845

The park is really big, and there was no way we could have done everything in a day, which just means we will have to go back!

2017-04-01_15-33-10_111

Not five minutes after leaving the park, this one fell asleep in the car. I think that’s a sign of a good day!

2017-04-01_16-32-03_605

A huge thanks to Busch Gardens for inviting us back to experience the park and the food and wine festival. Don’t forget, you can experience it for yourself every weekend through the end of this month, and there is a free concert every night of the festival with your park admission! Check out BuschGardens.com for the lineup and information.

Disclosure: I was provided free park admission for two as well as lanyards to try out the food at the festival. However, I was not asked to write a blog post about it, but we had a great time and I wanted too! Also, all opinions are my own.

**I would love it if you would take a quick second to fill out a 6 question survey about how you plan Disney vacations. Thanks in advance!**

Emma Kate: 2.5 Years Old

Has it already been six months since I have written one of these? Since Emma Kate’s Frozen themed birthday party? So much has happened since then, like moving to Florida, taking on new and different work, and of course, so many changes in our now two and a half year old girl.

ssAAe8v3FZQczOysb-L5PXW2IthMV8d8Jabns-pJFVApX92IB

Before we get into personality and that type of milestone, let’s go over her stats. Emma Kate weighs just shy of 33 pounds, and is in the 83% for weight. She is 38 inches tall, which is 95%. She basically hasn’t gained much weight but has thinned out and is growing upwards, which is good!

She is in size 5 diapers in the daytime and 6 for nighttime ones. We just moved her into a size 8 sneaker, but she can still wear a 7 in some sandals. She is in 4T footie PJ’s, and in 3T-4T clothing except for dresses where she can still fit into some 2T.

MSgQ2r7sF0k-HalMA0_nAb0s1b4bMZR5aD3pRpRfazIpX92IB

As far as speech goes…girlfriend talks non stop. She says the funniest things and we are constantly laughing at what comes out of her mouth. I love how she mispronounces words, too. Our dog, Bella, she calls “Bell-do”. It’s adorable, and I will be so upset when she starts saying her name the right way! She also says “hold you!” instead of hold me. The other day she said it correctly, and it made me so sad! She hasn’t gotten into asking “why” yet, but a phrase I hear at least 1000000 times a day is “what happened?”

DSC_0018

She is super independent and says “I do it myself” to almost everything. She wants to walk everywhere, and I rarely carry her. She is NOT into hand holding, so that has been a challenge, but she will at least hold our hand to cross the street. She can put her sneakers on herself, and tries to put on socks and sandals. Some days she wants to pick out her clothes, and some days I pick for her and she doesn’t fuss (relief!) She wants to get in the car seat by herself, walk the dog herself, and the list goes on and on.

eJWW8mHCa9k_YqJDKuktD6xBMypbzgGZvZMsjDuEhuIpX92IB

We are smack dab in the middle of potty training, and I think it’s going really well for the minimal effort I have put into it so far (not wanting to push her or stress about it). About half the time she tells us she needs to go, but the other half we have to remind/ask her. From the get go she wanted to go on the big potty as opposed to the training potty. We are about to move her into pull-ups for school because she is doing so well there. We make a HUGE deal when she goes, jumping up and down and screaming, and she loves it and cheers along with us.

DSC_0082

She is a tricky little thing, and now will say things like “I need candy to make my tummy feel better” good try, kid. She also is all about stalling bedtime now, saying things like “’nother kiss!” or “I so cold!”

Speaking of sleep, she has been doing really well and survived the recent time change relatively unscathed. We put her to bed at 7:45, and she sleeps until about 6:30. The only time she wakes up at night is if she wants more water, and the other night was our first experience with her waking up due to a bad dream. As far as naps go, she still doesn’t nap long, right around an hour to an hour and ten minutes usually, and about once a week at school she doesn’t nap at all. She is still in her crib, I am hanging on to that one as long as I can! She can climb out of it, but hasn’t attempted to during nap or at night yet so we are thankful for that. I always tell her “have good/sweet dreams” at night before bed, and in the morning when I go get her, the first thing she says is “I had good dreams!”

0TAgvKtgNj3ZM5pzsTyeK7PNeFgvZ4COz3-SufthIr8pX92IB

Emma Kate has gotten really cuddly as of late, which is interesting because she never was a cuddly baby. She wants to sit in my lap, hug and hold Bella (who by the way has gotten better with her, too), and gives hugs and kisses to everyone (zero stranger danger!) When we watch movies she wants me to sit down next to her on the sofa, and she covers us up with blankets.

5SX0rN-wbwvLF0VTGeiMEHhiCAJQQU0_dl8qZxwkP70pX92IB

As far as playtime goes, she is in to lots of different things. She likes to cook in her kitchen, and play mama to her babies. She will feed them, rock them in her rocking chair, and put them to bed. She likes loading up her shopping cart full of figurines and things and brings it into the living room, dumps it out and then lines up everything on the coffee table. She loves to be outside, so we have been going on family walks, going to the playground, and going to the pool (which she loves!)

DSC_0160

She is still very much into YouTube kids on the iPad, and her newest thing is watching movies. Thankfully it’s not the same one over and over, well…maybe for a a week then she moves on. The most popular ones lately have been Frozen, Tangled, the 3 Toy Story movies, Monsters Inc., and Beauty and the Beast. I never thought we would get to the point where she would sit for a solid hour and watch a movie but she does and it’s fun to experience my favorite Disney classics with her.

G8t60c9CRrMrbTcL9hicMcTpYAitn-S3O-44m4iAiocpX92IB

Emma Kate still loves to eat, and now is always asking for a snack. For breakfast she eats anything from eggs to waffles to cereal to yogurt. For snacks she likes pouches, fruit snacks, goldfish crackers, apples, strawberries, and popcorn. She is her mothers child and loves cheese and candy, but we definitely limit both. She still drinks SO much water, which I guess is a good thing except at night when you are trying to potty train!

aSVDyJvFR-wDCZUKAPRF8XLKZVpCUF933gvDEY3VxUMpX92IB

We have taken her on a few day trips to Disney World and she loves the “big castle” as well as the parade. She really has warmed up to the characters, and gives them big hugs and kisses. She now asks us when she is going back to Disney World, and that she wants to go see her friends like Ana and Elsa and Olaf.

RXHkao8LPJJr_LILDIdYKvOdpPG-JeQCYT-UcSaVU7MpX92IB

She is generally a super happy very funny girl (aside from a few two year old/strong willed tantrums), and listens for the most part with just a few times here and there of having to go to time out. We are in a good groove with her right now, and I hope it continues! Either way, we can’t believe we are on the down side to having a three year old! I will update again in 6 months when I’m sure she will have changed even more. We love our bug and can’t wait to see what’s next!

dK5Bg3S2reoJVbjxnzk_kig9NxgQ4lOwGy3PHL5wsi4pX92IB

Emma Kate Does Disney: Part 5

Today is my last installment of our trip, check it out:

This was our last full day at Walt Disney World (see what we did in part 4 here), and we were headed to EPCOT. Emma Kate had been saying she wanted to meet Ana and Elsa for WEEKS, so our plan was to arrive early, do the standby line for the meet and greet, and then do our fastpass for the Frozen Ever After ride later that afternoon.

KohFzs_II7O2Z-Z1sIJ7ICBxjCc7wTTnt9b5-YtGTOspX92IB

Emma Kate just so happened to wake up REALLY early, so we played on the playground at Saratoga Springs for a bit and then just decided to go ahead and drive over to EPCOT. We had NO idea they were letting people in early, so we got lucky with a short standby line for Ana and Elsa.

VX_cqTXVCV6bAouOjZlwU5z3eJyAqP7fwLdeA-kf6i4pX92IB

We got closer and closer in line, and I started to hype Emma Kate up and get her ready to meet her favorite princesses. She said she was going to give them big hugs and smile pretty. Aaaannnddd this is what we got:

a63W_vZ9qXr7JJ8x4zf6tB-oo9X-Og8235hmOtBpUNUpX92IB

vF3igLipXkfUcbYgy327hm-t6A_3xhyaaRTnTHGev08pX92IB

She was TERRIFIED of Elsa and would not hug her. EK’s face just cracks me up! We moved on to Ana, and she warmed up enough to hug her, but she made it clear she was NOT happy about it.

sK_pDlcHBXLptbv2OyQOZ9QHifQfll1LMrwa42CNPDIpX92IB

US85swQWFctlabdsyKuWpyiHWNzdkcSQ7p8pNLTIVx8pX92IB

Bless it. Look at the side eye poor Ana is getting.

OBLK0vuySpAE1d6o1niwDwqKGRGHkorhaVDTm3Ulqj0pX92IB

kpahlftcTKLHVt2WAkP8xEpx6axHC3WtdI7My-NZjAQpX92IB

I die. Of course when we left she said she wanted to go hug Elsa…too late kid. We will try again when we go back in April and see if it’s any different. I think Emma Kate was just a bit overwhelmed.

After the princess photos, we headed over to ride the Nemo ride, and then check out the aquarium.

BMNyVRyFAa6cnHS6cfVrmwOwbVxu30f4Loe06km2ocEpX92IB

EK was going through a hardcore Nemo phase so she loved this ride.

tKn2Lw0Equ8UPoG2iEHazM9HySsQfXhHr6wNY5VRzRIpX92IB

After this, we rode Living with the Land. This is always a favorite of mine. I’m a total nerd and love seeing how they grow their fruit and veggies.

We walked around the world showcase and got some food and wine offerings. My dad tried sushi in Japan, and we all got food in Italy, and I had a glass of alcohol. Emma Kate was starting to get tired from her early wakeup, but it was time for our Frozen Ever After fastpasses. Our plan was to ride the ride, then let her nap in the stroller while we ate some more food and walked around.

We got in the fastpass line, and right as we got up to the front to get on a boat (we were literally the next ones to get on)…the ride broke down. I kid you not. We were in the loading area, so we just stood there for awhile, me holding Emma Kate. They turned all the lights on, evacuated people off the ride, and people began leaving. About this time, poor EK started to fall asleep in my arms. I decided to sit down against the wall with my dad and just let her sleep. We had nothing else to do, so may as well hold our front of the line spot and wait.

rvQasJVbzcpQbJTauBt5vupnIchBfOyN0o9Q_LL7pLspX92IB

Because we were right where you board and no longer in the actual que, we had plenty of space and started talking to a cast member from Norway who had been here for a few months. He was a super nice guy with zero accent, and he said he had worked very hard on his English. We talked about the differences in our countries, etc. all while waiting for the ride to come back up. Finally, about 45 minutes later, they started letting people board. Emma Kate woke up and was very confused, but she got to see the ride.

We were all pretty tired by this point, but we had to make one more stop for my favorite drink.

cUjB4kwiMs1Ia5P4S2YJ5LruTsFfiba13FizTix0BYQpX92IB

I couldn’t hold my huge toddler and drink my drink, so I put her in the stroller and she was NOT happy about it. She cried the whole way to the parking lot, which was super fun for everyone. Poor thing needed a longer nap.

We watched some football, took Emma Kate to the playground, and got ready to have friends over. A few years ago when we were staying club level at the Grand Floridian, my parents struck up a conversation with a nice couple and they have kept in touch. When we stayed at Saratoga four years ago, they come over one night and we BBQ’ed out by the playground and had a great time, so we did it again this trip!

Saratoga has a really nice covered pavilion with fans and picnic tables right next to the playground, we we all hung out while my dad cooked and Emma Kate could play. After dinner, they went home and Emma Kate went to bed. my mom watched her while my dad and I walked to Disney Springs (have I mentioned I LOVE the proximity of this resort to Disney Springs?)

lc7u6BjfmmIS2H9cwum77Lj10-YQSDG-OOuZkMgHpTwpX92IB

We walked through some of the shops and watched a show up on the stage. Then we decided to get ice cream from Ghirardelli and not tell my mom. However, my dad made a huge mistake and paid with his credit card, and my mom saw the bill when it came in so we were busted! Anyway, it was delicious, and a nice relaxing way to end out trip.

_XaMoNa7mx0z9O72s5__tTn1c71EXCYj1guNo6GuvogpX92IB

The next morning, I got up early and went for a quick run before we left.  I had not had the chance to run the whole trip since I was with Emma Kate 95% of the time, but I didn’t want to pass up a chance to run somewhere different. I went out while it was still dark, and it was so nice and peaceful.

bNrQ-k8f0QdP9mBfv3mCVaRhoo1Gyf5PknPjaZeuKwspX92IB

After I got back and showered, we loaded up the car and started our long (long long) drive home. With it being my first time to take a toddler to Disney, I learned a lot.

It was Halloween, and we decided to stop and spend the night in Destin to break up the trip. We went to the beach that afternoon and Emma Kate was not a fan of the sand.

GIF6ZFlpN2Y6QyhtRnKIUgEleNNEMyxrP5xnVDqvNwwpX92IB

jUadoCDbhauPDEh0igta2MspsSe2nV__Zw5eeo2kU40pX92IB

I found out that there was trick or treating at the outlet mall, so that’s exactly what we did!

j6Tl6Svmqu1N8DRgICmz7Toqrot1XOzGiS7CtFaY2gopX92IB

Fc0cU8RX6xwheYJ0doqQwqn3gDGPefH-yEq-cYgLzUspX92IB

The next morning we went back to the beach and Emma Kate hated it even more than the day before and wouldn’t step foot on it and wanted to go “bye bye”.

Lz3WiklmwlMkqj2W2wJfN5k1RWCQTrAbrGbfh9veUgEpX92IB

l3fRWDhHubm0dLsrJkegIMo34BduZwW8ymCsc1UwVI8pX92IB

We stayed out all of 15 minutes and then I took her to the pool while my mom and dad stayed at the beach. Confession: I will admit I was a little frustrated. I had so been looking forward to spending the morning on the beautiful Destin beach, and here I was, finally there, and I got to see it for ten minutes. Then I was stuck at the freezing pool (the hotel building cast a shadow on the pool) by myself just me and Emma Kate, cold and pretty miserable for over an hour, just being frustrated I wasn’t in the sun on the sand and had no idea when I would be back. I had my little pity party then got over it and we played until my parents came. We stayed for a bit longer, then headed up to the room to pack up and drive home.

We made a bunch of mistakes, and will know better for next time. While Bobby and I have only taken her on day trips to Disney since we’ve moved to Tampa, we have made adjustments and Emma Kate has done a lot better overall than she did in October. We will be taking her back in April for a few nights and I know we will have a great time!

QOTD: Have you been to Destin? Have you ever trick or treated at a mall?

Emma Kate Does Disney: Part 4

We left off part 3 with the family heading to the Contemporary to eat brunch at Chef Mickeys. Since we had a little bit of a typical two year old behavioral issue at Crystal Palace, I was really hoping Chef Mickeys would be better, and not as new or overwhelming as her first character meal.

oKVvKpl01WlzU2BjSl5TtIGXjmodKHAXvjk2BRD-g3MpX92IB

Donald was the first to come around and she was pretty shy. She didn’t want to sit in a high chair or regular chair, so she was in our laps for most of the meal. She let Donald take a picture with her, but she wouldn’t hug him or stand by him.

x-xXZLY7tEZKqORw-107ZXTfCLyKQkKdWwEocbl4DgcpX92IB

She did however get to watch the characters get closer and closer so I think that helped her to “warm up” a little bit. She LOVED Minnie mouse and got down on the floor to hug her. Minnie did a great job getting down to Emma Kate’s level which was appreciated.

kktNjyJ2sFQohDYspIWhD_NAgnrd-pWkS3mCeRt0ICkpX92IB

NIqRiAgNNwPYpZsBPeUN0KwOlSFM8-_FRmLOZtZfekkpX92IB

f0HYp28YFeXKp14PJfcn-1xj6WXy8-o5X4lHctlhJJQpX92IB

She really loved Pluto and his nose and “big tongue” the best though. She got antsy towards the end of the meal and wanted to run around, but overall she did way better than the Crystal Palace meal.

uCsr4lT2Uf_rYMSBmEpQ5HR3mirLm6yVjAZv2xr07f0pX92IB

After the meal, we walked around the back of the Contemporary out by the pool. I love that there is a little selfie station so everyone could get in the picture.

yMXSkwz4DG1gXMN_skT88T0bt9_0B0AF1pms6451YSgpX92IB

When we got back to the resort, Emma Kate wanted to go to the pool (shocker), so my dad and I took her while my mom went shopping, since my mom had her the whole day before while I was house hunting with my dad. We may or may not have brought wine to the pool in Styrofoam cups. Hey, it’s 5:00 somewhere, right?

jKSZ6gFd38QIvYq8fPr2hlUPuAsHKY8kFkBiwGlp3bwpX92IB

I couldn’t believe the amazing weather we were having. It wasn’t hot at all for October in central Florida.

nZVf4ddQRUCy4CzKyFp3jLRvnA7lhKWeHeYlkWU5Xv4pX92IB

We eventually moved over to the big pool.

2wXHh730IHYoXM9SSR-ajFMBPYzrBE3I0kvf59jVgFspX92IB

I honestly can’t remember what we did for dinner that night it’s been so long now, but I know we didn’t go anywhere. Brunch was so late we were probably too full! It was early to bed again, because we were going to Epcot the next day to finally meet Ana and Elsa, the one thing Emma Kate had been talking about for weeks. Stay tuned to see how that went!

QOTD: Have you ever been to Chef Mickey’s? Do you usually do character meals in Disney?