How To Prepare For A Magical Disney World Adventure

StillLivingTheDream MickeyMouse

I recently visited Disney World with my two kids and husband. As a Disney Social Media Moms Conference attendee, I was invited to some special event experiences during the official event but we extended our stay so we could experience Disney together as a family afterwards as well. Because I hadn’t been to Disney in 20 years and my 7 year-old daughter and 11 year-old son had never been, we had a lot of questions when packing for our trip. We wanted to get the most out of every magical second at the parks! I think we did a pretty good job but like any vacation…we learned a couple things along the way as well.

I plan to cover a lot of what I learned including some behind the scenes fun and giveaways in upcoming posts but I just received the following note from Still Living The Dream reader, Jennifer Evans. Jennifer saw my first follow-up post about my trip to Disney and since she is planning a trip with her husband, Mark, and 10-year-old son, Cole, soon (see their cute photo below), she had some questions. I thought it would be fun to answer them here so anyone else planning a trip and wondering about the same things could hear how I responded.

 StillLivingTheDream Evans family

Dear Still Living the Dream,

I’m headed to Disneyworld with my husband and our fearless, active 10 year old son. I haven’t been to Disney in 20 years, and our son has never been. So, consider us rookies. We’re staying in a condo 3 minutes away (so off site), and we’ve purchased Magic your Way Park Hopper + Water Park combo passes for 5 days. I’ve been reading the Unofficial Guide and taken notes from friends, checked out the Disney site for traffic info to try and select the best days for the various parks. I think we’re fairly prepared for that. But, I have some questions for you:

Question: What do you carry with you? I like to travel light. Do I bring a small wristlet? A backpack? Do we put everything in a locker every day and just cram wallet necessities in pockets? What about your phones?

Answer: I am the same way! I didn’t want to be slowed down with a lot of “stuff” while walking around in the parks BUT I also wanted to save money on things like bottled water. Since we don’t have stroller age children whatever we wanted to bring with us we needed to carry ourselves….all day. We ended up bringing a backpack which my husband usually carried and I had a small, cross-body purse. I just had my cell phone, lip gloss, cash/credit cards, park tickets and fast passes…very light. Ed carried our camera, water bottles, snacks, etc. We never got a locker. The park is very backpack friendly. I can’t think of a ride where we couldn’t bring it on with us. Some people like to put their cell phone in a plastic ziplock in case the bag gets wet like on Splash Mountain, but we didn’t and we were fine.

Question: Did you find it was helpful or annoying to bring your own snacks and waters with you? I’m a bit of a princess, so I don’t want to gauge myself on prices but I also don’t want me or my husband to feel like a packhorse. 

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Answer: The first thing you need to know is that EVERYONE is a princess at Disney World so get ready to be treated like one while you are there! Disney allows you to bring in water/food just know that whatever you bring, you have to keep up with. I have to admit, I was envious of some of the folks with strollers because they could cart around a little more. We packed pretty light, but since we didn’t want to pay for  bottled water (which left us more money to spend on Dole Whip and Mickey ice cream bars), we brought one or two water bottles with us and filled them up all day long for free! Many of the kiosk or quick dining restaurants were kind enough to fill them up for us but we also used drinking fountains as well. We also brought along snacks like goldfish, pretzels, granola bars, trail mix, fruit snacks, etc. We’d munch on those throughout the day in addition to getting a couple park snacks and/or meals from kiosks. (Hint: you have to try the fish and chips at the UK at Epcot!)

Question: We have our 3 credit card like passes – Do we get lanyards for them when we arrive? Should I buy some now?

Answer: I saw many people with lanyards and it’s not a bad idea; however, we kept our park passes in my small cross-body sling purse. If you think you might be into pin trading (and it’s SO fun you need to read about pin trading from my Disney Cruise post) then you can get an attachment for the bottom to hold your cards. I was just afraid of carrying them around and maybe losing them because once you are in the park, you don’t really need them again.

Question: We arrive in the middle of the day on day #1, so our plan is to head over to a park for the afternoon and evening. Do we just show up at the gate, or is there something I should do ahead of time?

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Answer: We arrived in the middle of the day, too and headed straight over to Epcot after checking into the hotel. We had 7-day park hopper tickets and we just went straight to the gate. If there’s any problem at any park entrance (Jackson had a problem with getting in one day – the ticket scanner wasn’t reading it right) then there’s a ton of people that will help you right then and there. Hint: Be ready to go through bag check prior to the ticket gate at each park. It goes by pretty quickly, but it’s an additional stop for those carrying in any kind of bag.

Question: Our daily plan based on our family’s style is to get there early and plow through until early afternoon, go home & chill, then hit another park that aft/eve. Does this sound good to you?

Answer: That is EXACTLY what we did. Here’s the beauty of park hopper tickets and why I highly recommend them. You can get up and go to one park in the morning (perhaps one that is open earlier or that has something you want to do in the AM like a breakfast character dining experience) then take a break around 1 or 2 ish (we’d go back to the hotel and rest and/or take a dip in the pool) and go to another park in the evening ( to see the fireworks, an evening show or to a park that has a later closing time). One day we actually did THREE parks in one day (because we are crazy like that).

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One of the best days was when we decided to go to Magic Kingdom in the evening. We were staying at the Contemporary during that part of our trip which is right by Magic Kingdom (we stayed at the Pop Century during the second half of our vacation). We decided spur of the moment because we weren’t tired to go to Magic Kingdom at 9:00 p.m. We hadn’t yet been to that park and we walked in right as the fireworks started. Standing on Main Street with the stores all lit up and the fireworks above the castle  - it was UNBELIEVABLE. We all just held hands and smiled and just took it all in. After that a lot of people, especially those with small children, were leaving the park….so we went to ride Space Mountain. No lines! We rode several other rides in Tomorrowland, all very quickly because the park had thinned out. At 10:00 we went back to Main Street in time to see the Electric Parade, then we hit a store or two and left. It was such an incredible couple of hours…we experienced so much in such a short period of time at Magic Kingdom at night and could not have done it if we didn’t have park hopper tickets.

Question: What is 1 useful thing you learned that you don’t find in the books?

Answer: How about three?!

1. If you are on a budget, one good idea is to buy Disney gift cards. They are accepted everywhere at Disney and we used ours like it was a debit card. We kept track of what was left on each and knew that when it was gone, it was gone! It helped us keep souvenir and snack purchases to a minimum.

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2. If you think you want to pin trade (and you have time before your trip) go to ebay to buy some trader pins in bulk. You can get them for about $1.00 or less a pin (they cost about $4.00-$5.00 each when bought at the park in sets and from $9.95 on up for single pins!) Bulk lots are random, you can’t choose what you get…but because you are trading them, it doesn’t matter if your 10-year old son starts off with a bunch of Princess pins! Just be sure to research the seller to make sure he/she has good feedback and is selling authentic pins.

3. I’m going to do a whole post on this but you have to try Dole Whip while you are there. If you are a beer drinker – try the grapefruit beer at Epcot. And the orange bird from when we were little? He’s back! You can score a Citrus Swirl (frozen orange juice and vanilla ice cream) treat and even buy an orange bird souvenir sipper cup to take back home. (We bought three!)

Question: Which Disney app do you like best?

Answer: We used the My Disney Experience App, a great way to Explore Walt Disney World Resort on an interactive, GPS-enabled map. Through this app you can:

  1. View FASTPASS return times for the park you’re in.
  2. Get wait times for attractions and showtimes for fireworks and parades.
  3. Know what’s close or starting soon with Here & Now.
  4. Find Character greeting locations and times.
  5. Add activities to your Wish List.
  6. Browse restaurant menus and make dining reservations.
  7. Share plans with others through Family & Friends.
  8. Keep reservations and activities organized in My Plans

But Disney JUST released their newest (and super cool) app called Story. We literally found out about it while at the conference. This free app isn’t about navigating the parks, it’s for anyone/anywhere. It allows you to pull images from your iPhone’s photo gallery and edit them within an album that you can make into a story with captions and different themes…one of which is Disney so you can totally share photos of your family at the park with friends back home on facebook or through email. I’m going to explain the app in full detail in a future post but you can read more about it and download the Story app here.

Question: Are there affordable taxis at the entrances, in case we don’t want to wait for our shuttle?

Answer: That is one thing I don’t know about because we stayed on Disney property. There are many benefits to staying at a Disney resort and the biggest one is transportation. We had so many options depending on where we were going. We loved the monorail when we stayed at the Contemporary Resort but found the buses to Pop Century and to other parks where so efficient. We never waited in line very long….it made getting around so easy.

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One last bit of advice:

Have fun and enjoy the time with your family…avoid trying to do and see everything! Have a plan but don’t be afraid to deviate from it when you are having fun and in the moment.  Some of the best moments were those we spent “off our itinerary”….watching the sunset on the lake at Epcot, running into Belle and having a quick impromptu visit, sharing a box of fish and chips at the UK sitting on the curb and people watching….

I’ll never forget my trip to Disney. I hope yours is just as magical!

Readers: Are you going to Disney this summer? What questions do you have? Have you been already? What is your biggest piece of advice for those who have never been?

I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. I paid a fee to attend which included the opportunity to participate in conference activities, stay at a hotel and experience Disney World. I was not asked nor expected to write a post about my experiences. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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How To Help Tornado Victims in Oklahoma

oklahoma relief graphic

My heart breaks for the victims of the recent tornado in Oklahoma. Like me, many people have been wondering how they can help those in need.

I’m so proud to be a part of the Texas Bloggers group. Immediately, members joined forces and are using their voices to get the word out about how you can help. You can visit The Texas Bloggers page to see a list of participating bloggers who have posted lists of shelters for victims, links to organizations that are helping and need donations, lists of supplies that relief workers need most…even one about how you can help if you live in Houston.

The United Way of Oklahoma, has opened up a disaster relief fund to serve those affected by this storm. The funds raised will be distributed between organizations that are helping directly with this tornado disaster.

My prayers and my support go out to Oklahoma today. Please help if you are able.

 

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We Are Doing The 2013 Summer Bucket List Challenge! (Happy Family Movement)

summer bucket list challenge main photo

Last year when I heard about the Summer Family Bucket List Challenge by The Happy Family Movement, I immediately signed up. We sat down together as a family and brainstormed things we wanted to do during summer vacation. (You can see my list here)

The challenge is back this summer and you can sign up here. We did! It officially begins on May 20, 2013 and you can enter to win prizes, get inspired by other family’s bucket lists, view adventure guides as well as have access to other travel resources. There’s even a facebook community you can join!

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Colorado Summer Road Trip

Last year I made a garland with each activity listed on a separate index card attached with a mini clothespin. After we did the activity, we’d put up something from the activity by the card (like a program, ticket stub, photo or brochure) and by the end of the summer we had a very fun, visual way to remember our summer vacation! I decided to do something similar this year as well.

The year before last, without a plan in place, the summer ended in a blink of an eye and all those things we had in our brains that we wanted to do, never got done. While we didn’t accomplish EVERYTHING on our bucket list last summer, we did most of them and I really have the Summer Bucket List Challenge to thank.

We are so excited about this year and my kids (my 7-year-old daughter, Annie, and 11-year-old son, Jackson), my husband and I are already thinking about fun things to do with the extra time off. We are crossing a BIG bucket list item off our list before summer even starts. We have a trip to DisneyWorld planned in May! We’ve never been and we are so excited! I also have a bucket list trip  to Paris in June planned with my mom and two sisters. It’s always been my mom’s dream to go. She is retiring this year and we are taking her abroad to celebrate the beginning of the new journey in her life!

But the bucket list challenge isn’t just about big vacations and high-dollar trips. In fact, it’s more about the little things that we feel we’ll always have time to do so we never really do them…like taking a picnic in the park, a bike ride on the beach… or a neighborhood walk to feed the ducks! You can in this post see we crossed this one off our list right as summer started (and you can get a glimpse of the my index card garland)!

Some of the items we didn’t get to like fishing and visiting the observatory have made it on this year’s list. Annie  has been bugging me since last summer to learn to sew and I keep telling her “when we have more time”. So, you guessed it, it’s on our  2013 summer bucket list and we plan to take a class together in July.

Since I work from home full-time and my husband works from home part-time, we have more flexibility to do things like take a family bike ride or a short swim at the neighborhood pool. Our lives have changed a bit since last summer, too. I lost 55 pounds and embarked on a healthier lifestyle which we have all embraced. We ran our first fun run together last weekend and we have many items on our list this year that are more physically challenging then ever before (like participating in a mud run, going water skiing and trying to parasail).

Really though, the items on the list aren’t the most important things about the summer bucket list. Whether or not we go fishing this year (although we hope to!) isn’t what it’s really about (at least to us). What it means to us is to make time to do things together as a family. So many times during the school year we get going in a million directions with homework and after-school activities like scouts and sports… we don’t have time to really visit. Carving out time to do things together during the summer months when time is more on our side is a great way to re-connect. Even planning the outing or trip together can be a fun time in itself!

(If a visit to Aquatica or SeaWorld is on your Summer Bucket List, visit about our trip last year here when we crossed it off our list. We included tips that might help you plan your visit!)

The Patrick Family’s 2013 Summer Bucket List

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Ice Cream Cone free printable tag artwork by Amy Moss
  1. Go to the beach
  2. Go fishing
  3. Visit the observatory to see the stars
  4. Go water skiing
  5. Go bird watching
  6. Do a mud run
  7. Go parasailing
  8. Participate in 2 family fun runs
  9. Learn to sew
  10. Sculpt with clay
  11. Keep a journal
  12. Have “date nights” both time for mom and dad to go out alone, plus time for each parent to spend time with each child doing something fun
  13. See a concert with lawn seats at The Woodlands Pavilion
  14. Invite a different family over for dinner every couple of weeks
  15. Have a talent show
  16. Pitch a tent in the backyard and “go camping” Make smores and tell ghost stories.
  17. Face our Fears – pick a thing we  each have always wanted to do but were afraid to … and try it
  18. Go snorkeling
  19. Go to Aquatica and try out some new adventures in San Antonio while we are in town
  20. Go to the Drive-In Movies
I was not compensated for this post. I’m just sharing  great summer resources available because I love the program and want you to have the best summer ever!
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Remembering The Magic – Top 10 Moments During Our Disney Cruise

 

I was completely unplugged for over a week while my family and I took a cruise on The Disney Magic last week. While I thought it would be tough to be “off the grid” (and I certainly did miss connecting with my Facebook, Twitter and Still Living The Dream friends), it turned out to be one of the most magical weeks I have ever spent with my husband and children on vacation.

This was our first time on a cruise ship and we had a lot of questions before we boarded like what to pack, what excursions to sign up for while in the Caribbean and what to expect regarding activities on the ship. (These will all be topics that I will cover in future posts about the Disney Magic, by the way!)

But as soon as we stepped on the ship and a crew member announced over the loudspeaker, “Please help me welcome aboard The Patrick family,” we knew we were going to be in for a wonderful ride no matter what ended up in our suitcases or whether we selected a snorkeling or beach tour excursion in Cozumel.

My Top 10 Magical Moments on The Disney Magic (in no particular order!):

Running on Deck 4 in the morning and watching the sunrise. Runners can choose between looking over the water while on a treadmill in the ship’s exercise facility (which I also took advantage of several times during our trip) or running the entire length of deck four…three times around equals a mile.

Watching Jackson become more independent. Disney knows that as much as parents love their kids (and kids love their parents) sometimes grown-ups and little ones want to do different things. So they offer a nursery for infants and three different kid’s activity rooms for older kids (Oceaneer’s Lab and Lounge for Annie’s age group, The Edge for pre-teens like Jackson and The Vibe for teenagers.) My kid’s loved going there to play sports, take cooking classes, do arts and crafts and enjoy special parties with kids their own age. Jackson was able to go with his new friends to play dodge ball or play in the arcade on the top deck. He even explored the ship a bit with permission from us and Wave phone in hand (each stateroom comes with 2 “wavephones” to use while on the ship so that you can get in touch with your family when going in different directions). His confidence and self-esteem grew…and with that – so did my heart!

Seeing Annie meet the Disney Princesses for the first time. We had many opportunities to meet Mickey and the entire Disney character crew while on board. Character meetings were offered often (both spur of the moment and scheduled) and because there are a limited amount of people on the ship – lines weren’t ever that long. Each meeting was special, but the morning we had the chance to meet six princesses in the ship’s lobby really stood out. Seeing Annie’s face light up as Belle gushed about how pretty she was, Aurora spun her around and Cinderella embraced her made ME tear up. It was a beautiful moment.

Relaxing by one of three pools on Deck 9. The Mickey pool with water slide  is a favorite with kids (complete with splash pad for even the youngest cruisers), Goofy’s pool is deeper and you can watch movies on a giant screen while you swim and the adult-only pool is a quiet sanctuary complete with the comfiest lounge chairs. Beware – you may fall asleep! I had the chance to enjoy all three pools at different times during our week away.

Getting to know our wait staff while enjoying out of this world cuisine each night. Weird, right? I mean, why would getting to know staff members be a vacation highlight? Because Disney offers unique, rotational dining which meant that we had a reserved seat at one of three restaurants (Animator’s Palate, Lumiere’s and Parrot Cay) every night with a different theme (Captain’s Gala, Prince and Princesses, Pirates in the Caribbean) and menu every night. (Hello lobster and chocolate souffle – I love you.) Our servers, Nathan from London and Andrae from Jamaica, served us every night no matter where we dined. By the second night they knew that Annie would probably want milk while Jackson preferred Sprite and would have their drinks waiting for them. We got to know them so well, it was a teary good-bye our last night together.

Enjoying Nightly, Broadway-Style Shows. This is a separate post in itself. But let me just say – the shows were outstanding complete with elaborate costumes and set-design, special effects (fireworks on stage!) and extremely talented actors/singers. Our favorite was the Dreams – An Enchanted Classic and Villains Tonight.

Swimming with the dolphins in Grand Cayman. A excursion worth the splurge. I will never forget Annie’s face when Luna the dolphin pushed Annie’s feet with her nose and sent Annie sailing through the waters.

Towel animal creations in our room every night. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference. Coming back to our stateroom every evening after the show, tired from a full day of activities, a towel monkey or swan would greet us on our freshly turned-down bed with chocolates and the itinerary for the next day.

Getting a massage in the Vista Spa. Disney cruises aren’t just for kids. They offer different activities for people of all different ages and interests. In fact, 20 percent of those on board our cruise didn’t even come with kids! Getting a 75-minute massage in the Vista Spa was so relaxing and the spa was so beautiful.

Seeing my family dressed up on formal night. The preparation ahead of time to find and pack dress up clothes for the four of us was so worth it. I mean, Ed and I work from home most days so it’s perpetiual casual day at our “office”! We never get gussied up anymore and seeing my family looking so beautiful made my heart happy.

**Gazing at the ocean water from our stateroom veranda. Here’s a bonus to my top ten….number 11! Breathing in the fresh air (no Houston seasonal allergies at sea!) and watching the ocean water as we glided gently through it from the privacy of my room’s balcony in my jammies was beyond relaxing. Ed enjoyed reading his book out there as well. Such a special way to start and end each day.

You can experience “The Magic”, too!

The Disney Magic will be sailing out of the Port of Galveston in Texas from now until May 2013 and they are offering a special where kids under 17 years old can sail FREE on most six and eight day cruises from January 4, 2013 until March 1, 2013!

Have you ever been on a Disney Cruise? What were your magical moments on board?

My family and I  were invited as guests of Disney on a 7-Day Caribbean Cruise aboard The Disney Magic. While most of our trip expenses were covered, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

 

 

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Baking It Forward – To My Mom in New York

Sometimes having a blog can be so rewarding…. an outlet that allows me to share with you so many things. Products, books, crafts and recipes I love. Funny stories about marriage, parenthood and life in general. Fun places to travel, both within and outside the city of Houston.

Other times it’s a burden.

Like recently. When I’ve wanted to share with you something significant that’s been going on in my life but instead I’ve chosen to gloss over it. Filling recent posts with giveaways and back-to-school stories. And sometimes, not posting at all.Because writing something down makes it real. And I haven’t been ready for real.

Until today.

This morning I found two cookie recipes online and then went grocery shopping and filled my cart with items like sugar, flour and butter. I pre-heated my oven to 350 and dusted off the Kitchen Aid mixer. And as I put together the ingredients to form a perfect treat…I slowly came apart.

My mom making a teddy bear to send to my aunt when we first heard she was sick.

The cookies are for my mom.

She had just barely recovered from her own heart attack last April when her sister, my aunt, called with news that she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. After a month of chemo, the doctors delivered the worst news possible. There wasn’t anything that could help. My aunt was given just three months to live.

My mom took a leave of absence from her own job to fly across the country to help her. (My aunt never married and doesn’t have any children.) Over the last couple of months her health has deteriorated and my mom has been there by her side to help her go to the rest room, feed her through her IV, rub her back and hold her hand while she cries.

This week marks that three month mark her doctors predicted would be the end. And we know in our hearts that they were right. She doesn’t have much time left.

Me and my aunt during our visit this summer.

I visited to help for a bit during the summer but I don’t know how much help I really was. I struggled with my own emotions and while I kept them in check while I was there; hugging my aunt goodbye for the last time was almost too much to bear. I cried the entire trip back home. My sister has been able to travel up to help several times and my aunt and uncle have been there to help, too.

But it’s mom who has been my aunt’s main caregiver. She’s so strong and calm and ever present.

But I know she’s tired. And she’s sad.

I have developed such a deep respect for what those who take care of ill and aging family members go through. The sacrifice they make to take care of someone else.

I hope the cookies I baked and the care package I send will bring her comfort. That she will feel loved and cared for while she is loving and caring for her sister, my aunt.

I got the idea from Imperial Sugar’s Bake It Forward Program. I’ve been lucky enough to do some work for them this summer and through my affiliation with the company I heard about tins you can get from them and then fill with goodies and send to someone who needs a smile. The hope is that person will then be inspired to fill the tin with goodies to send to someone else and that the tin slowly travels from person to person.

I registered my tin and then after my mom gets her cookies, she can send it to someone else and track it. I know that she has many people that she can give it to like nurses and aides that visit the house to check on my aunt and my other aunt in Massachusetts who recently lost her mom and is caring for her sick father. But because I don’t want my mom to worry about baking more cookies, I sent her a second batch to fill the tin and pass it on!

You can check out more about the Bake It Forward movement on their website. I think it’s a great idea. It motivated me to send my mom a care package and also, to finally share what’s been going on with me…with you.

Do you have someone who could use a smile?

Disclaimer: While I have done some other work for Imperial Sugar, the idea to post about my experience with The Bake It Forward movement and all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own. I’m thankful that their idea inspired me to bake for my mom and hope that my story inspires others to do the same. 

 

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Boot Camp Day Five – A Bump in the Road

For those of you just joining in on my boot camp experience, I signed up for a one month boot camp class with a groupon deal I bought. I’m really, quite seriously, out of shape. I’m heavier then I’ve ever been and haven’t been doing much of anything vis a vis “exercise” lately.

With my friend, Patti, by my side and the promise of a scooter from my husband (you can read more about that here) I’m determined to finish out the month. By then I’m hoping I will have lighted a fire that will spark me to continue down the road to good health.

photo courtesy of flickr: veggiefrog

So this is week 3 and I usually go twice a week; on Tuesday and Thursday.

My partner-in-crime called Tuesday morning (which would have been day 5) at 4:30 a.m. to tell me she had a headache and wasn’t going. Dressed and ready to roll, it only took me 3 1/2 seconds to decide to go back to bed and skip it too.

The power of a work-out partner is strong, ya’ll!

Determined to get in 2 classes this week, I woke up early Wednesday and waited for Patti to pick me up. When she didn’t text me to say that she was on her way, I got worried. When she didn’t respond to my texts, I remembered that she had been to a concert the night before. Patti was sleeping soundly.

I was on my own. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it took a lot to get in my car and go there alone.

And I was proud.

For about two minutes. And then the hardest work out of my life started and I ceased to think straight anymore. We ran around the park track in formation and then did “slingshots” where the back person sprinted to the front. I had a hard time keeping up and at one point dropped out of formation. I felt like a failure but my trainer kept by my side and pushed me.

Then we did pull-ups and I discovered I have absolutely no upper body strength. Good to know. Tears trickled down my cheeks as I struggled to complete just two. My trainer pushed me to do four.

Then we did inverted push-ups and lunges and more running and bench kicks and more running. And at the end…we pushed monster truck tires across the pavement. I’ve never been so happy to see 6:00 a.m. in my life … time to go  home.

But I was proud.

Until I woke up this morning and my arms and calves hurt so much that all excuses aside, I just couldn’t go to boot camp today. I felt bad about skipping BUT then I remembered that they hurt because I was out there working and I should feel good about that. And I should listen to my body.

I’m going to take a walk today. And then I’m going to boot camp three times next week to make up for only going once this week.

I’m learning that road blocks aren’t always bad. As long as I make a new plan and keep moving forward.

 

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Boot Camp Day Four. Stairs.

Today we took it up a notch.

I didn’t realize it when I signed up for this gig, but every other week boot camp changes location to the outside of a building with stairs.

35 of them.

That we climbed. Many times.

Frontwards, backwards,  on all fours, running, jumping, hopping….

It was crazy and by the time we got to the backwards crab I thought I was going to have a breakdown.

After all the climbing plus the jumping jacks, basketball jumps, chair sits, etc. … I know I’m going to be sore tomorrow. And even though I told Patti repeatedly, “this sucks” and I called the trainer a bad name under my breath (which I now regret, he’s really a very nice fellow), I’m glad I went.

Because I’m moving upwards.

Literally and figuratively.

And someday I’ll be able to climb up up all 35 stairs backwards on all fours. (Hey you have your goals, I have mine, don’t judge!)

And that makes me feel good.

Have you done something good for yourself today? 

 

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Boot Camp Day Three – A Step In The Dark

I’m on my second week of boot camp, day three.

It’s kind of been a surreal experience because it’s so early. This is what I walk up to at 5:00 a.m.

That big ball of yellow in the upper left hand corner is a big street light….casting a weird haze over the darkness of the side street by the park where we work out.

I like it because I can barely make out the faces of those working out by me, which means they can’t really see me. And that gives me a lot of comfort. Because I’m fairly certain the sight of me working out isn’t that pretty!

Going from lunges into jumping jacks then to push-ups and crunches, basketball jumps, high knees and running sprints….I’m definitely pushing myself in ways that I haven’t in years. And except for the occasional glance up to my friend, Patti, for support or to the trainer for explanation (“you want me to do WHAT?!!)  - I don’t chit chat. It’s not a social thing for me (which is weird because I make everything social).

From 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday I concentrate fully on getting myself back to where I know I can be.

But it’s hard. Being there means and going through the motions is making me face the fact that I have let myself get so out of shape. When we have to run laps, I have to stop and walk to catch my breath. When we do push-ups I can’t finish them all. Even when we do jumping jacks (albeit a lot of them!) I can feel the pain in the arches of my feet.

It’s going to be a long road. I have a journey to take that I know will eventually need to include more than boot camp twice a week.

But this step in the dark is a start.

The beginning of good things to come.

Have you taken a step out of your comfort zone lately? Has it been scary? How do you feel after taking the leap? 

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Living The Dream on Your Summer Vacation

My kids get out of school for summer vacation in exactly one week.

That’s seven days.

168 hours.

I always have mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I’m so ready to get a break from homework, school projects and extracurricular activities. With the break from early morning routines, carpool duty and PTO meetings comes much needed free-time.

But for a family that’s used to hitting it pretty hard…we don’t always do well with “time-off”. And I’m a work-at-home mom with a job that doesn’t stop when the school year does. So “juggling” activities for the kids with my own schedule can be challenging.

And by “juggling”, I mean:

1. holding the phone up to ear with my shoulder as I purse my lips, grit my teeth and mouth the words “Be quiet NOW!” as I try to conduct a conference call while my kids are watching Sponge Bob at level 10, fighting (because someone looked at someone else “funny”) and letting the dog loose to roam the neighborhood.

2. taking interview notes on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt with my kids running wildly with pizza in one hand and ticket and tokens flying out of the other because a source called me back while I was at Chuck E Cheese.

Plus, I always have the best intentions of doing fun things with the kids like taking them on a leisurely nature hike or a picnic…but I often forget about them or put them off for “tomorrow”.

Then before we know it we’re shopping for school supplies already.

But I’m more optimistic this year because I heard about the The Happy Family Movement and their Summer Bucket List Challenge, a “free , fun for all ages challenge based on a simple premise: time spent together as a family is time well spent.”

Hello?!

It’s like my life list only condensed into a three-month period of time and geared specifically towards spending time together as a family during the summer.

I’m super excited and signed up today. I heard that when you sign up, they’ll give you some resources to help you have fun together as a family including a guide with sample activities.

I can’t wait to get mine! In the mean-time, I’m going to plan a family meeting so we can brainstorm some ideas of our own and put them up in a visible place in the house so we can check them off as we go! (And I’ll be sure to share some of them here with you!)

How are you going to “live the dream” this summer with your kids?

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Some Things ARE Shocking – Jane’s Addiction

Jane’s Addiction played at the Bayou Music Center in Houston Wednesday night and the show was incredible.

I’m 41 and a lot in attendance were from the same generation…fans of the band when they were in high school/college in the 80′s and 90′s. Personally, I started following them in college when I was a DJ for my campus radio station. I had an alternative rock show and played lots of Jane’s Addiction from their Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual albums.

Love them back then.

Love them now.

Yup. I’m a wife, mother of two young kids, PTO Board member, girl scout leader, God loving grown-up. And I think Jane’s Addiction is still pretty awesome.

I haven’t been to a lot of concerts lately…too “busy”. But I heard about the show on do713.com so even though it was a Wednesday night, my friend Tanya and I escaped swim team practice, dinner and bed-time routine duties and headed to the show.

Bayou Music Center was the perfect venue to see this band. Small and intimate. We scored floor tickets on Groupon! (Coupons for a concert? Times have changed, right?!) I’m pretty sure most of the people who purchased seats came down to the floor anyway. It’s how this band is meant to be enjoyed.

The Duke Spirits, a London Band, opened for them at 8:30 p.m. and Dave Navarro and Perry Ferrell hit the stage (decorated with a naked women statue – ish backdrop) at about 9:45 p.m. While they played a few songs from their new album, they stuck mostly to music from the early days which made the crowd very happy.

Stop. Classic Girl. Mountain Song. Been Caught Stealing.

But we lost our collective minds when they started playing Jane Says. Since the audience pretty much sang this one and gave front man Perry a break, acoustically it wasn’t the best song of the night. But nobody cared.

It was old school Jane’s Addiction and most of us felt like we were back in the early 90′s as we danced literally hip to hip on the beer sloshed floor. One guy next to me screamed out, “I’m 17 again!” as he banged his head and more than one brave sole attempted a stage dive.

Good times and overall a pretty tame crowd that seemed to play nice and enjoy the show together.

Shirtless Dave and Perry (who hung on to and drank from a bottle of red vino for awhile on stage) were completely engaged with concert goers, accepting cigerettes, etc. from the audience. Racy stage adornments including two very pretty scantly clad female dancers (was one of the dancers Perry’s wife?), two screens with videos playing and other stage side-show acts left little to the imagination.

These songs aren’t about popsicles and puppies, ya’ll.

And then mid-show Tanya yelled, “where the hell did that bear come from?!” Maybe he was up there the entire time, but a life-sized stuffed bear seemed to appear from no where and just sat there the rest of the show.

Ok, then.

Only one encore – but great show.  Good job, Juanes Addicion!

 

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