January 30, 2012

Disney's Spirit of Aloha Luau

One of our favorite things to do when we're at Disney World is to catch at least one of Disney's three dinner shows: Spirit of Aloha Luau, Mickey's Backyard BBQ and Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue.

All three shows can be paid for with credits from the Disney Dining Plan. If you're not using the dining plan, payment is required at the time of booking (up to 180 days in advance...highly recommended as shows can sell out especially at busier times of the year). All three shows include entertainment, food and drinks...including some alcoholic beverages for the adults in your party. This week I'm going to cover The Spirit of Aloha Luau and the next couple weeks will cover the other two dinner shows.

If you're staying at a Disney Resort, pick up your tickets at the concierge desk before going to the show to save some time. Don't worry about arriving extra early to get a good seat-they're assigned before you arrive. When you check in at the Polynesian Resort's dinner show, you're greeted with a lei and a photopass cast member is on hand to take your picture.

(the boy was sleeping in his stroller so we got a shot of just the two of us)

The dinner starts with some yummy coconut pineapple bread which was really yummy. Drink orders are taken...specialty drinks are an extra fee but there's some fun ones like Pele's Fire Punch served in a coconut shaped like a monkey that you get to take home...

The food was served family style and included the yummy bread, mixed greens, pineapple, BBQ pork ribs, roasted chicken, fried rice, and veggies. Dessert was a big hit as the Kilauea Volcano Delight (kind of like a chocolate puddling) came out on trays with smoking volcanoes. 

(he ate an entire volcano himself...at 14 months)

The show tells the story of a couple in love and includes traditional dancers and a fire thrower. 

The cost of the show varies based on your seat and the time of year. For children (3-9 yrs old) the price ranges from $29.99-$36.99. For adults (10 yrs and up) the price ranges from $58.99-$71.99. The prices include tax and gratuity. Children under 3 are permitted to eat off their parent's plates.
There are three categories of seating. We were in the second category and had great seats. It seemed like there were some third category seats that I would've been disappointed if we had ended up with but since we didn't sit there, I can't really comment on how good the view was. Also, if you plan to use the dining plan, be aware that it will cost 2 (two) table service credits per person and will only allow you to have category two or three seating. If you want category one seating, you'll need to pay out of pocket. 

To be honest, we enjoyed the Spirit of Aloha Luau but it isn't our favorite dinner show. We much prefer the other two shows but if you have a school-aged child, they'll have a great time.

January 26, 2012


I'm staying VERY busy in anticipation of Joshua's return...it's still not so close I can feel it but I definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. We've talked about visiting friends in Nashville, Houston and El Paso. We've talked about a trip to Great Wolfe Lodge. We've talked about family bike rides and camping trips. We've mostly talked about just turning off the phones and computers and staying home. It's going to be great.

That said, I'm realizing more now what people mean when they talk about some of the difficulties of reintegration. I'm not worried at this point...just more aware. Today, the boy came to me and said that he was excited for Daddy to come home and sleep in the boy's room with him just like the girl sleeps with me now (I co-sleep with the baby because I'm nursing and it's just what works for us). He even pointed out the fact that he has a second bed just for Daddy (bunk beds that we separated). I was able to brush him off and say that's silly-baby girl sleeps with Mommy because she's a baby and he's a big boy. I tried to remind him about before Joshua left and how at R&R he had his own bed and we had our own bed. And then I told him about all the big boy things he and Daddy will do like fishing and buying a big boy bike but I worry that the sibling rivalry we've somehow miraculously avoided until now will make an appearance.

I'm a little anxious about what it will be like to actually be a family of four together. Other than R&R, we've never parented two children and since R&R was at Disney World, it wasn't exactly a real life experience (which is what we were going for at the time). I have zero doubts that Joshua will step up and be the amazing Dad to both kids that he's always been for the boy. Seriously, he's awesome and it's totally natural. Kind of annoying really. I majored in child development and was a nanny for years...to kids ranging from two weeks to twelve years and for families with one kid, triplets or in one case, ten kids (yeah, ten...T-E-N!) and yet, it's not uncommon for Joshua to teach me a thing or two about parenting. 

Like I said, I'm not really worried at this point, just more aware. I guess it's kind of like when you're pregnant and everyone decides that's the best time to start telling you all the pregnancy and birth horror stories they know. I've just been hearing some not so pleasant reintegration stories and I think I just need to treat them like I treated all the stories when I was pregnant. Ignore them. Prepare the best we can. Hope. Pray. And deal with whatever happens.

January 23, 2012

Sometimes Violence Is the Answer

I've heard it said that there are no bad days...so long as you're alive and breathing under your own power, it's a good day. I disagree. There are days that just suck. Pain in the butt, Murphy's Law sort of days. Today tried to be one of those days.

I was prepared for today to be long. I had a ton of things to do and I knew I'd be out and about with the kids for at least 12 hours. Being out of the house in and of itself used to not be a big deal but alone with two small kids 12 hours can feel more like 12 days sometimes.

The first stop on our agenda was an eye appointment for me. It was desperately needed as the boy broke my only glasses and I'm down to just two sets of contacts left. Unfortunately the closest optometrist which will accept Tricare is 45 minutes away. So, I loaded the kids up and we were on our way...

Twenty minutes into our journey and we had an accident. Long story short...er...we were on a two lane, middle of nowhere highway/country road. The oncoming traffic (not very busy) had a shoulder but not much of one. On our side was a ditch from which Bambi jumped. 

Stupid Bambi. 

So in about .5 seconds I had to decide Bambi or on-coming traffic...which happened to be a GMC Sierra. Nine out of ten times Bambi would be dead right now and don't get me wrong, I didn't avoid Bambi because PETA wanted me to. I chose the on-coming traffic for three reasons...

1-about a year and a half ago my Aunt hit a deer and it was bad-really bad
2-the on-coming traffic wasn't right there...he had more space and time to react-not to mention a shoulder to go onto 
3-if I hit Bambi I was almost certain we'd end up in the ditch, possibly rolling the truck because Bambi was baby Bambi...Bambi was Big Daddy Bambi. 

Yeah, all that and a little prayer that the other guy was paying attention and could swerve in time went through my mind in about .5 seconds. Thankfully, he was paying attention and did swerve but he just couldn't get his truck over far enough and we side-swiped each other. Both our our driver-side mirrors are shot and the glass from his mirror shot back and embedded itself in the glass of his window. I'm pretty amazed my own window didn't shatter with how hard the mirror hit.

We exchanged insurance information but since I'm the one who crossed the center line, it's on me. It's the first time I've been in an accident that was my fault since I was a stupid teenager and the first time anything this scary has happened while I had kids with me. 

I called my insurance agent (great guy btw) and tried repeatedly to get a hold of my husband. I tried texting and calling his Afghanistan phone, I emailed him on gmail, facebook emailed, facebook posted. All of which trying not to be like "OMG call me NOW!" and freak him out but firm enough that if he got it he would know to call right away because I was freaked out and all I wanted was for my husband to call me back. Which he did, three hours later. Granted-three hours in deployment time is less than nothing but it still sucked.

The rest of the day for the most part was unproductive and frustrating. The one highlight was visiting the Science Museum with a fellow deployment wife (different branch and different deployment but same frustrations) and her kids.

The real saving grace for my day was my second ever Krav Maga class. If you've never heard of it, basically it's a self-defense technique (and now fitness class) originated by the Israeli Defense Forces. Basically they teach you to use whatever you can and to hit as hard as you can without stopping until there's no longer a threat. It's fun and tonight I needed it. I hit so hard half of my knuckles are slightly bruised even with using grappling gloves and I'm pretty sure picking up my daughter tomorrow will hurt a lot but it was just what I needed to release the stress from the day.

Disney World-Let's Have a Drink

Many of our friends are surprised by the fact that we go to Disney World as often as we go and usually it's because they're unaware of all the great adult options available. Granted, it's Disney World so yeah, there's a ton of kids and family friendly things to do but to be totally honest, we prefer to go without children. Yup. I'm nevergoing to be Mother-Of-The-Year so I don't mind confessing that I'd rather be at a children's paradise without my children.

One of our favorite things to do when child-free is drink. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a lush but I do enjoy a good cocktail. Good cocktails are much more easy to come by at Disney than you may think. Magic Kingdom is the only dry park (ironic considering they have the Pirates of the Caribbean). You can get a drink at both water parks(which seems a bit odd to me) and at just about any restaurant in Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Epcot really is the big one when it comes to drinking. One thing I look forward to every year (really, I swear I'm not a lush) is Disney's official Wine Walk. It's $20 for six 2oz tastings. The tastings are split evenly between three country pavilions-Germany, France and Italy and to be honest, in my experience Germany is the only pavilion that is a stickler on the 2oz amount...the other two countries are very generous. You can go to any one of the three countries and purchase the "passport" which is just a card that each country stamps when you've had their tastings. If you're a light weight like me, don't worry, you're not required to drink all six tastings in the same night. You can spread it out over the course of your trip-if you have park hopper tickets, it really works out great because you can spend the day doing whatever you like in any of the parks and then end it with a night cap in Epcot-just be sure to look into the park hours first. Whether or not you decide to buy the official wine walk, be sure to try the Rosa Regale in Italy (the official red wine for Italy on the Wine Walk). I'm not big into reds but it's a totally unique fizzy fun red that is superb. Of course the rest of the country pavilions have their own libations. If I was into beer, Germany would be the pavilion to go to. One of my annual must dos is to try a different sake each trip in the Japanese pavilion. The cast members (Disney's word for employee) there have taught me more about all the various versions of sake than I ever thought possible.

(my aunt and I enjoying the wine walk...we didn't get around to it until the last night of our vacation and ended up drinking all six tastings in about an hour and a half)

Also, if you do one of the three dinner shows-Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review, Spirit of Aloha Luau, or Mickey's Backyard BBQ, some alcohol (beer, sangria and sometimes wine) is included in the price of the meal and unlimited. If you're looking for high end wines, try one of the other signature restaurants such as Artist's Point in Wilderness Lodge or California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Resort (tip: book your dinner at California Grill for an hour before fireworks...usually 8pm...and you'll be able to watch the fireworks from the balcony of the restaurant while they broadcast the music and story just for you).

(my cousin and the drink he purchased at the Spirit of Aloha Luau...he got to keep the coconut monkey)

Last, if you're interested in drinking your way around the world, is the Food and Wine Festival scheduled this year from Sept 28th-Nov 11th. Disney brings in world renown chefs of all kinds and builds additional temporary pavilions which combine with their permanent countries to represent more than two dozen nationalities, cultures, cuisine, drinks and entertainment. There are mixology classes, cooking demonstrations from some of TV's most famous chefs, wine tastings and lots of live music. It's basically a 45 day party. Some of the classes, demonstrations and events will require a reservation and separate fee but we went for the first time this year and had a blast with just our regular park admission (best use of our dining plan snack credits ever-only on food, not permitted on alcohol but it's always good to have something more than just bubbly in the tummy). Stop at a DVC booth and pick up one of the free Food and Wine Festival Passports-they list all of the country pavilions and what food and beverages each station will have. We managed to try at least one thing from almost all of the countries represented. Be aware, however, that the food and wine festival does bring a ton of locals-especially on the weekends. It's a different atmosphere during those six weeks than we had ever experienced at Disney World...not better or worse, just different.

(our very first trip...before kids...the "glowtini" is a favorite-the plastic ice cube can be solid blue, flashing blue or flashing multi-color)

Most importantly, whether you have children with you or not, drink responsibly. Don't drink and drive, no matter how close your resort is and don't be obnoxious. It's the happiest place on earth-don't ruin it for someone else.

January 17, 2012

Mommy Dearest

The boy has reached a new stage. He's starting to call me "Mom" instead of "Mommy." It's really out of no where. I haven't encouraged it and no one's made fun of him for using "mommy," it's just natural and I don't like it. It's too much of a symbol of his growing up.
So, forgive me, I'm going to have an obnoxious Mommy-moment and post pictures of my kids because they're the best kids ever.

Our Boy...

Our Girl...

January 11, 2012


I've wanted to write a post about OPSEC for a little while now. For my civilian friends and family OPSEC is Operational Security. Basically, it's keeping vital information from getting into the wrong hands. Bits of information like troop size, training and movements...and more often for those of us left behind, it's information regarding when our loved ones are leaving or coming home (ie: "yay, my husband will be home in [insert any specific amount of time]!"). It may seem like everyday information worthy of a facebook update. In fact, it's common to see civilian friends posting about their upcoming family vacation or their husband's business trip but when it involves the military, when it's R&R, training or deployment, it's an OPSEC violation and it needs to stop.

The closer we get to homecoming the easier it would be to forget OPSEC in our eager anticipation. I said that I've wanted to write about this for a while and there were a couple specific OPSEC violations that were bugging me but to be honest, I didn't want to be "that" wife. The one who's getting onto everyone for breaking the rules...it kind of feels like the grown up equivalent of the kid in class who would remind the teacher that she forgot to assign homework. But the fact is OPSEC violations are deadly serious. You don't know who's listening or reading what you're saying. You don't know what their intentions are.

The old saying "loose lips sink ships" is the heart of OPSEC. I can't tell you that every facebook or blog post with an OPSEC violation will get someone hurt or ruin a mission but the fact is, every one of them has the potential to get someone hurt or ruin a mission. Also, I can tell you that when OPSEC violations occur, deployments can change...as in they leave home early or stay away longer. 

If keeping the troops safe, missions secure and deployments from being extended aren't enough reasons, OPSEC is there to protect those of us at home too. Last fall, a couple men in the Oklahoma City area dressed in ACUs and tried to con the family of a Navy service member who was away on deployment. These men claimed to be Army Casualty Notification Officers and told the Navy Wife that her husband had been killed. They then tried to get her to sign some papers. She refused and called the base her husband was stationed out of to learn he was alive and well. To my knowledge, the men were never arrested. The cruel hoax was a gut check for all of us who were in the midst of deployment when it happened. It's another reason for us to be vigilant when we're posting online or in the check out line and someone asks just one too many questions. It's why OPSEC matters at home too.

January 10, 2012

Feelin' Crafty

The longer this deployment lasts (or maybe it's just the older I get) the more I'm into all things crafty. There's so many different things you can create with a sewing machine, hot glue gun and a little bit of time...so many, in fact, I'm avoiding Pinterest because it would become a total time suck. Anyway, my most recent crafty adventures are all about homemade sew-on appliques. I started with a shirt for the boy...
(sorry about the pic quality...it's from my phone)

After the boy's shirt I moved onto something for me...an "Army Wife" hat...

And because I like to wear hats all the time (read:I don't like and am terrible at doing my hair) I made a second hat that I think I like even more than the first...


January 9, 2012

Disney World In The Rain

(as long as there's no lightening, the water parks are a great place to go on a rainy day...you're getting wet anyway)

Anyone who's been to Florida for any length of time will tell you, it rains. Often it's just a 30 minute shower in the afternoon but there are times when the rain just doesn't seem to end.

Some of the more common questions I get when people are planning their first trip to Disney World revolve around hurricanes and the question of when is hurricane season. It officially runs from June 1st through November 30th but the "peak season" is from August to October with 96% of the major hurricane days. And the pinnacle of that season is early to mid-September...but don't let that stop you from planning a trip during those dates. In fact, we prefer to go mid-September because the crowd levels are lowest and outside a bit of rain here and there the weather is great.

Keep in mind that Disney World has only shut down completely due to hurricane weather twice. Ever. Once in 2004 and once in 2005. If you plan to go during the hurricane season, there's a couple things you can do to ensure you have the best possible vacation. First, and probably most importantly, look into travel insurance. If you book your trip through Disney-either online or via phone, they will gladly add travel insurance to your package. Secondly, plan. Be aware of the attractions and activities you can do if you're caught in an unending rain. 

Something you may want to do even before it rains is try to do all the "must-dos" for your group that are outdoor and will naturally shut down (ie Big Thunder Railroad...Expedition Everest...etc) during a storm so that if, like on our most recent trip, your last day is a monster storm, you won't have missed anything. For the record, this most recent trip of ours is the ONLY one we've ever had where the rain didn't let up after a little bit of time...it just rained and rained and rained...it was kind of metaphoric since it was also the last day of Joshua's R&R and we had to go back to deployment life.

If it's just another 30 minute Florida afternoon storm, consider doing something like the Hall of Presidents in Magic Kingdom or Finding Nemo Musical in Animal Kingdom to pass the time. Just remember to cover your stroller before you leave it so the kiddos won't have to come out to a wet stroller.

One of our favorite rainy day activities is the Character Meet and Greet inside Epcot. If it looks like a storm won't let up, Disney will bring in extra characters and put them in the hallway. Generally, the fab five...Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald are there but Disney will add Chip and Dale, Daisy and even some of the Princesses to help give the guests something to do. We had a great time playing with the characters on our last day when everything else was either a 60 minute wait or shut down due to the rain. We bought a cheap football from Walmart, threw it in an "ice bag" from the resort room and had all the characters sign it. The "ice bag" kept the signatures from smudging in the rain and gave the characters something to do with the kids...Goofy even spent about 5 minutes playing catch with the boy and another kiddo who was in line behind us.

Running from indoor attraction to indoor attraction and waiting in longer-than-usual lines is not as easy when totting small kids. Instead, you may want to head over to Downtown Disney. You can let the kids go crazy inside Disney Quest-an indoor, interactive Theme Park with five floors of virtual reality, state-of-the-art 3D games divided into four zones: explore, create, score and replay. It would be easy to classify Disney Quest as an arcade but there's so much more to it than that and unlike an arcade, almost all the games and attractions are free (with paid admission...which btw, comes included in a water parks and more option on your Disney ticket package). If you are traveling with little ones, the 4th floor is particularly geared toward them and also has a dining area with booths which I can attest are great for nursing. One caveat, Disney Quest, by it's nature is loud and full of bright flashing lights. It is not something I would recommend for children with autism or a seizure disorder. The other big draw for Downtown Disney is the AMC Downtown Disney Theatres. If you've never tried a "dine-in" theater before, this is a great one...of course, they also have showings without the "dine-in" option.

One of the biggest disappointments that a rainy day will bring is if the nightly fireworks and light shows, Wishes in Magic Kingdom, IllumiNations in Epcot and Fantasmic in Hollywood Studios are canceled. But fear not, there are other fun things to do. One of our favorites (Weds-Sat nights) is at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort. Inside the lounge is a family-friendly piano entertainer/comedian Bob Jackson...better known to us as Piano Bob. The show starts at 8:30pm and features great sing-alongs for the entire family. Bob manages to get everyone from 6 to 86 involved. It's a great place to sit, have a drink and laugh with friends and family...or at friends and family as is often the case. Please note that I do have photos of our great times at various Piano Bob shows over the years but I'm holding onto those for future blackmail purposes.

All in all, it's disappointing when rain invades your Disney World vacation but it doesn't have to ruin the fun. Have a great time and as always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

January 8, 2012

Sunday Morning

I miss our Sunday mornings. This morning I woke up to realize that there's a limited number of Sunday mornings left until Joshua gets home. Holding onto that fact...he's going to be home soon...is like holding onto a life preserver. We've made it over ten months now but it's been just "making it." It hasn't been the life we had before he left or the life we'll have when he returns. It's been an interim of survival. There have been happy moments and good memories but nothing compared to what a simple Sunday morning will be when he's home...

As the official night owl of the family, I'll sleep in and wake up to the sounds and smells of Joshua cooking the only meal which has always been his...homemade waffles, scrambled eggs and turkey bacon. The boy will no doubt be on a chair "helping" while our little princess will be in her high chair watching everything. I'll take two waffles but struggle to finish just one because as yummy as they are, I can never eat very much that early in the day. Joshua will laugh at me but then finish my plate without complaint. Then, he and I will snuggle on the couch and watch the CBS Sunday Morning News with Charles Osgood while the kids play (hopefully in another room...or quietly...both would be awesome but I'm trying to be realistic). We'll stay on the couch up until the last possible moment and then the madness will set in as we try to get dressed, get the kids dressed and make it on time to the late service at church.

It probably sounds boring to most people but it's one of the things I miss and look forward to most. In the meantime, the boy and I are having toaster strudels and pre-cut grapefruit for breakfast, I'm DVR-ing the Sunday Morning News and yet we're still going to have madness as I try to get dressed, get the kids dressed and make it on time to the late service at church.

January 4, 2012

New Design! - Check It Out!!!

While the kids and I were down for the count with the flu, my little blog was getting redesigned. I ordered a simple package from Dirt and Lace Designs and I love it. I love it so much that I suspect I'm going to upgrade to a deluxe package sooner rather than later...well, as soon as I can convince Joshua that it's a good idea.

I heard about Dirt and Lace Designs from my very good (real life and blogging) friend JG at Me and My SoldierMan who has used the designer in the past and plans to do so again.

To be honest, I hated all the previous freebie templates and the one attempt I made at design was a total fail. I'm digitally challenged but I wanted a cute blog...not because I'm trying to generate more traffic, or get more followers...that's not my goal with blogging. I'll admit, it is an ego boost when someone out of the blue tells me they read my blog but blogging for me is an outlet-a way to keep my sanity while dealing with the insanity that military life and kids bring.

Speaking of insanity...I'm pretty sure my son just rode the dog down the stairs. Fabulous.  

January 2, 2012

Blog Interrupted

I planned on resuming my weekly Disney blog post today but alas, the flu has invaded our home and I didn't write this week's post ahead of time as I had intended so if anyone out there was looking forward to today's post, I apologize. I'll be back with the weekly Disney post next week...Disney World In The Rain-what you can do at Disney World when fun in the sun isn't an option. 

Here's hoping the kids and I will be able to return to the land of the living again soon. 

PS>sorry Joshua for the phone call last night. I didn't mean to be a total grinch...actually I was something else but it ends in "ch" too. We miss and love you to the moon and back.