Sunday, October 24, 2021

Weekend Vibes: Outdoor Dining @ Down On Grayson 2019

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Scarlett, Maxwell & Vera Take 10

 Nov 2020

Monday, April 19, 2021

And just like that, Vera turned 1.

 Tonight, on the eve of Vera's birthday (when I wrote this),  I sat in Vera's rocker and fed her. I nursed her a little longer than I normally do. She looked up at me and just rubbed my face like she always does. Most nights, I lay her down and then she whimpers a bit as I close the door. A few cries and then she soothes herself to sleep.

Tonight, for the first time ever, she pushed away from me and reached for her crib. I laid her down gently and she closed her little eyes. A gesture that she indeed, is not a baby anymore. A notion that she is more independent than she was last month, or even just a few days ago. It was a hard moment for me. I didn't expect this as I had never felt this as strongly with either of my others. I suppose it is because I know deep down that she is my last. If I were someone who cried easily, I think it would have warranted tears. There were definitely tears falling inside. Pieces of my Mama heart that were aching. No one tells you that you will miss those late nights. No one tells you that the hardest parts of motherhood aren't the sleepless nights or the long, sometimes stressful days when they won't let you put them down or the teething...the toddler years where there into everything or the defiant years. They don't tell you that the hardest part of motherhood is watching them outgrow everything. That you never really know when it's the last time they will do something. The last time they breastfeed or drink a bottle. The last time that they need your guidance as they learn to walk. The last time they wear those tiny baby outfits that you picked out. The last time they want to hold you as they go to sleep...

My Vera...I didn't notice this as much with the other babies. I'm not sure why. But how I do notice it with you. You my dear, are now 1 years old. You are slowly outgrowing the baby stage and turning into a toddler. I say that I don't cry much but my sweet little one, I'd be lying if I said that doesn't make me teary-eyed. 

It is such a bittersweet thing. Because as I mourn the last stage, I get to watch her enter new territory and it's always as blissful as the last. Watching her run around and laugh and play. Watching her personality come out. She is as wild and fun as I could have ever dreamt! How on earth did these amazing kids come from me!? 

We didn't have a huge celebration. I've learned that sometimes simple can be more than special. I made a tiny organic, low sugar cake for her. We bought her a special dress and one special toy. That was it. 
Friends and family joined us on a fun little Zoom session to sing her Happy Birthday. Instead of spending too much money on a party, we went to Disney in February. It was her first trip ever and we brought her to Disney. I'm all about experiences these days. 

It feels like I just had this tiny 7 lb 13 oz baby girl...Just yesterday she was the tiniest baby that would never sleep and just wanted to be close to her Mama! Now, here she is reaching for her crib and ready to sleep alone. It wasn't too long ago that she was kicking inside my stomach, as I waited to meet you.  And just like that, she turned 1. It all goes so fast. I struggle try to hang on to every little moment. I battle with wanting to do everything and wallow in the slow moments. 

Happy Birthday my sweet Vera Solveig!!  It is the sweetest joy to watch you grow.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

New Years 2021: All the Shimmer & Sparkle at home in Slippers


I realize that a lot of my posts have been far behind this year...The fact that I am just posting my New Year's post justifies my busy life over 2020. So with that said...

One thing that I've learned this year is that sometimes you have to be open-minded to spontaneity.  Seeing beyond what might seem like nothing and allowing it to be something; what it is. There is opportunity all around if we fine tune our lenses.

I've always liked getting dressed up for an occasion. Since as long as I can remember, putting on fancy things and going someplace fun to socialize has always called to me. But as we all know, 2020 was not a year of entertaining. It wasn't even a year of getting out of sweatpants for that matter. After a full year of letdowns and struggle, hardships and stress, I felt more than ever that I could use some sparkle in my life. As I was online shopping one night, I came across this lovely, sparkly frock and it was as if it was calling my name. It was an automatic add-to-cart moment and 2 weeks later, it was at my door. I tried it on and instantaneously, smiled. Funny how a silly piece of material could do that. But where would I wear it? Surely there are no parties this holiday season. And we didn't really go anywhere too often back in those days. So was it a waste of money to buy such a silly dress that I had no place to wear to? 
I've always believed that things are what you make of them. I mean, the best moments are usually about how you feel rather than how you big of an event it is or how much planning went into something, right?

This is often why I love to have a clean house with some candles burning and a feel-good movie playing in the background. Something delicious cooking in the crockpot or stove as I sit watching the kids play and sip on a good wine. And why? Because it feels warm and comforting. It makes me smile. It's about how I feel. 

 Maybe there wouldn't be parties or anywhere to go this year. But that didn't mean that I couldn't make a moment feel good. It didn't mean that I couldn't make it worth remembering. Sometimes it just takes a little thinking outside the box. I decided, we would get dressed up at home and have our own little party. Of course we'd go take some cute outdoor photos as well. So that is just what we did. The outdoor photos didn't go as planned. Our tripod for my phone broke and the new one was delayed in the mail. Then, we couldn't find the right spot outdoors. Once we did, Vera was beyond cranky and we ended up going home with not a single photo. After Vera napped and we had some snacks, I poured a glass of wine and found myself watching the kids dance around in the living room to some oldies. Scarlett in her sparkly dress and bare feet. Her curls just as wild as her spirit....Maxwell had taken off his dapper sweater and just his suspenders and tee were left. His facial expressions are more than entertaining these days. Vera in all her curiosity could barely walk in her layered dress. The kids laughed as she tried so hard not to step on her long layered dress. She couldn't quite figure out why her feet kept getting stuck. But this didn't deter her from trying. 

And it hit me. This is it! This is what I was looking for. Not a perfect holiday photo or a party to go to. I needed a good feeling...a memory worth holding onto. I looked down at my fuzzy faux fur slippers and decided I wouldn't put back on my heels. Suddenly, I loved the idea of a sparkly dress and slippers. At that moment, Amazon alerted me that a package was at my front door. My new tripod in perfect timing. I took some fun photos of the kids playing. I gave my phone to Scarlett and she began taking photos as well, with zero guidance. She's a natural, that girl. 

After, I set up the tripod and we took a few photos on the sofa of all of us. My favorites were the ones where the kids were just doing their thing and not smiling as I usually direct them to do. 
These photos were not really planned in this way. They were not professional and they they certainly aren't what first comes to mind for Christmas cards. They were better. They were a good feeling. One that I think back to this day and reminisce on such warm thoughts. I believe I have to do the same for 2020. Nothing about last year was planned or went according to how I anticipated. But there were so many memories that I think back on in fondness. Even some of the hard days. If you are able to take moments for what they are instead of what you have learned to believe will make you happy, you might just see that there is extraordinary in the mundane. There is fun in the dull. I know I'm going to get in a rut again at some point. I'll complain about a messy house or be frustrated that the kids aren't listening. I'll be overloaded with work or need a vacation. But after this past year, I'm sure as hell gonna try to let life come as it does. I will extract every drop of goodness from these blessed moments called life. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Disney Trip 2021: How Things Have Changed There this Year

Our trip to Disney this year was a last minute decision. 
We are part of the Disney Vacation Club, which for those of you who don't know, is a point system Time-Share through Disney that you can use not just in Disney, but with places all over the world that partner with them. You are allotted X amount of points a year depending on what you purchase. We had a trip planned for 2020 to Hawaii....but when COVID happened, that was put on hold. We accidently forgot to bank our points and we ended up losing a lot of them! We begged Disney to give them back to us and after quite a few phone calls and waiting on hold a bunch of times through the unknown Corona days, they finally allowed us to use them before March 2021. So we picked Feb and decided, we're doing it!! With not knowing what states would be open, Disney World in Florida seemed like the best bet.

Yes, we were still unsure what it would be like, how safe we would feel or how things have changed. It was the first vacation we have had in a long time so we were happy to just go someplace together outside of the house and hope for the best. 

This time we stayed at the Beach Club Resort for the 2nd time in our Disney trip history. We love this location because of the beautiful sand bottom pools, waterslides, lazy river and it's walking distance to Epcot. It is also just a boat ride to Hollywood Studios. 
Currently, the water parks are closed. But all the rest of the parks are open. 
We went to Epcot on Monday since it was the last day of the Arts Festival and I did not want to miss all of the tasty food and drinks. Epcot has some construction going on but we were pleasantly surprised that the lines weren't long and the park was pretty empty! I myself, enjoyed this park the most. We walked around the world and ate and drank using our "food passport" to check off things we had tried. We rode Frozen (Which was a mistake to bring Maxwell on first because after that, he was scared of every single ride, including the bus lol). We also did my favorite ride, Soarin! Because we stayed at the Beach Club Resort, we could walk over to Epcot at night and sneak in some rides. Scarlett and I did this one night and had a fun little girls evening, grabbing crepes in France and then running to Soarin' to ride a couple times. 

Tuesday we did Magic Kingdom which surprisingly, the kids were not about this year. It was definitely busier and the wait times got pretty long.  I guess this is because we are used to Fast Passes which they currently are not doing. This is when I started to miss the Fast Passes. We did a few things there, Dumbo, It's a Small World, which Vera LOVED,  and a few other rides. The Mine Train was just too long of a wait. We ate at Be Our Guest (Beast's Castle)  again for the 2nd time as well. I will say this experience is very cool! Last time we got to meet Beast in person in the Library. This time, we did not. Apparently he had to social distance. But he did make an appearance very 15-20 minutes walking across the dining room.  Make note that I think this restaurant is very overpriced for what it is. Yes, they do some cool paint your own desserts, have the "Grey stuff" (it's delicious!) and it's all about the experience, but I would say one experience here is enough. Expect to shell out some moula if you eat here. I didn't think the food was super impressive this time around. Either way, the kids loved it. We ended up leaving the park around 3pm because the kids wanted to go back and swim! Ha! 

Animal Kingdom was on Wednesday and the kids LOVED this park the most this year. I would say it was my other favorite as well. Lots of things to do including the kids collecting badges in all of the areas of the park. Shows and rides were still going on and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Also, drinks are served here and if you want some good ones, go to the Nomad's Lounge near Tiffins Restaurant. They have the BEST to-go drinks that not many people knew about so while everyone was getting overpriced beers and watered down drinks at the other stops, Ty and I got some really well-made cocktails from here. He was excited about their delicious whiskey cocktail. Also, eat at Yak & Yetti! It's inexpensive and very good. Get the fried won-tons for dessert!! 

The wait times in Animal Kingdom were not bad at all and we actually ended up going here a second day because the kids enjoyed it so much. My kids love animals so if your kids do as well, this is the place to be! 

Thursday we met my mother at Hollywood Studios. We rode the boat over from our resort. One thing I regret....we didn't get up early enough to get there before opening. If you do, you can get in 30 min early and get on most of the rides with no wait. It's a little secret that they do open the park a bit early. We hadn't been here since they did renovations. Star Wars and the new Toy Story Land are now there. Although there were some fun things, I am not a huge Star Wars fan so it wasn't super enthralling to me. Ty and I did experience the blue and green milk from the Milk Stand and we went on a few rides. However, the wait times were REALLY long and the park was packed by 12. I'd say this one is more suited for adults and teens. Most of the kid shows were not happening. The Sci-Fi Drive-in Diner is always one of our favorite experiences there for dining. We headed back early this day as well to do the pool again. If you want to do the new Star Wars ride here, it is the only ride that you need to do a digital queue for, day of.  

On Friday we did a pool/relax day and did Epcot again in the evening. Saturday we finished up our trip with Animal Kingdom again. We didn't even go to Disney Springs this year. There are some good shops and restaurants there. 

So my thoughts on this trip and for those planning soon....

Overall, I felt very safe at the parks. They were strict with the mask policies for anyone 2 or older and they did a good job of keeping people spaced apart when standing in lines. I probably wouldn't bring my 2 year old as I feel like that might be challenging to keep them masked up. The lines always looked super long but it is because they had everyone in line all spaced 6 feet apart. The lines went really fast. Lots of new barriers were put up. Plastic dividers between all seats in multiple party rides that had lots of people in them- like boats, safari trucks etc. They also put plastic barriers up on inside waiting lines. 
I was impressed by what measures had been put in place. 
The changes were: no Fast Passes, no character meet and greets (instead they did these little convoy parades periodically with characters driving around) and quite a few restaurants were closed. I will say that I do miss all of those things. But we still had plenty of fun and many eating options. There are also currently no dining plans. Which after going this time, we realized that dining plans are really not worth it anyway. For the restaurants, all of the quick services are now order on the app and then pick up. Which I liked better because then you could pick up your food and not have a wait in line at all. Then grab a table and eat outside wherever you wanted. I love this new feature. Make sure to download the "My Disney Experience" app. It's such a huge help when at the parks and I also use the desktop website when planning my trip. 

The biggest thing that I was bummed about was the missing "magic".  What do I mean by that? In Epcot, they used to have people from all over the World working there. Norway, France, Mexico, Germany, UK etc....when Covid happened, they were all sent home. So going around the world in Epcot was different. Also, the staff didn't seem as friendly. In past times, everyone would call Scarlett "Princess" or if they saw you were celebrating an occasion, they would give you pins to be aware of this and to not one opportunity was missed to say "Happy Birthday" or "Happy Anniversary" as you passed. This "magic" was gone. No one was as friendly as past trips. I imagine Disney, just like the rest of us, went through some very stressful times during this past year. I cannot imagine how much it took to make some of the quick changes they had to make. Not to mention, all the layoffs and then rehiring. Despite that, we really did have a good time. 

If you are going to Disney soon, I would say to be prepared. Disney is one of those places that you are on the go nonstop. It's better enjoyed when you are prepared and have a plan for the week. Meaning, pick the days you will go to each park, how you will get there and what rides and restaurants you want to eat at. Currently, you need to reserve what park you will go to on which day. They do offer Hopper Passes but they are currently not worth it in my opinion. You can only swap parks after 12 and only if there is available capacity in the park. That is a big chance during busy times. 
Make reservations for restaurants ahead of time. No need to for Quick Services. Just use the app to order for those. Get to the parks early to ride on the rides with less wait time. Go during a time that isn't "Spring Break" or a "busy time. Google can help you with that.  Get food/snacks and waters delivered to the hotel/resort so that you don't have to buy the $5 bottle of waters and can do quick breakfasts in the room before you head out. Research what transportation you will take to get to what parks from your resort. Bring strollers for the little ones of course (gate check on the plane) and make sure to have a "relax day". You need one with all of the busy that Disney is. You certainly don't have to take a whole week like we do. You could do a couple parks over a long weekend. Again, just be prepared for them. You can also stay off of Disney property but then remember you do have to plan your transportation to the parks and to and from airport. We like the free Disney transportation. We really did have a good time despite the few things we missed.

If you want more tips, just search "Disney" in the search bar over on the left of my blog. I've done a few and had my sister who is a prior Disney Planner, do a post. overload coming up!!! But I don't want to forget these memories.