March 29, 2012

I'm still alive.

I promise I have not dropped off the face of the Earth. I've just been spending all my time with my favorite people. The first week Joshua was home didn't help with the whole staying connected online. Our house wifi crashed and Joshua's new smartphone wouldn't connect even though my (much less expensive, ahem) smartphone connected to the very same mobile network without a problem. So for several days we had two laptops and one cell phone down. Only being able to connect via my phone would have been a nightmare a month ago but thankfully, I'm free of my technological umbilical cord. I can sleep without holding my phone...I can turn off my computer. Seems like something so small but it's been the most freeing time. 

I would like to apologize because before my somewhat abrupt disappearance from the blogging world, I had promised to finish my series on Disney resorts. I'd love to say, it will be up tomorrow or next Monday as I usually post the Disney posts on Monday but I can't say that. Joshua will only be home for so much longer. He has to go back to work soon and I want to spend as much time as I can with him and the kids. Thankfully, I have some awesome Disney friends and I'll be posting some guest blog posts from them over the next couple of in particular that I'm looking forward to reading is from a good friend's husband...he is in their marriage what I am in ours when it comes to Disney planning so it should be fun to get a male/father's perspective.

Finally, just to catch everyone up to what we've been birthday was the 23rd (aka opening day for The Hunger Games) and my AWESOME husband managed to call my FAVORITE theater...the Moore Warren...from Afghanistan before the tickets went on sale in February and Pat (my new favorite movie theater manager) took down Joshua's credit card number over the phone and then when tickets went on sale, he bought us the best seats in the house for the matinee. They were in the Director's's a 21 and over theater with only about 40 seats...all of which are electronically reclining, heated, overstuffed beautiful seats. Plus there's a server for full restaurant and bar available with the push of a button. It's not gross, movie theater's restaurant quality yumminess. There is no better way to watch a movie...just so you know.

Other than going out to eat...and eating at home...actually, we're doing a lot of eating...visiting with friends, family time and a couple dates, I've managed to force my husband and children to smile and pose so I can take pics way more than I normally would. I know it's a honeymoon period and soon Joshua and/or the children will revolt so I'm getting all the pics in that I can. Here's a few of my favorites...

March 19, 2012

Joshua's Home.

We picked up Joshua on Saturday morning and have had a blast avoiding our phones, laptops and pretty much everything but our four and no more for the last couple days. I don't really have anything wise or introspective looking back at the last 13 months. This deployment was hard. It sucked. There were some good things that came from it too but mostly I'm just glad it's over. My husband is home and safe. There are 14 families that won't have the joy of homecoming that we were blessed to have. 

* Second Lt. Jered W. Ewy, 33, of Edmond, on June 29
* Spc. Augustus J. Vicari, 22, of Broken Arrow, on July 29
* Staff Sgt. Kirk Avery Owen, 37, of Sapulpa, on Aug. 2
* Sgt. Anthony Del Mar Peterson, 24, of Chelsea, on Aug. 4
* Second Lt. Joe L. Cunningham, 27, of Kingston, on Aug. 13
* Lt. Damon Leehan, 30, of Moore, on Aug. 14
* Spc. Joshua Michael Seals, 21, of Porter, on Aug. 16
* Pfc. Tony J. Potter Jr., 20, of Okmulgee, on Sept. 9
* Spc. Christopher D. Horton, 26, of Collinsville, on Sept. 9
* Sgt. Bret D. Isenhower, 26, of Lamar, on Sept. 9
* Sgt. Mycal L. Prince, 28, of Minco, on Sept. 15
* Spc. Francisco J. Briseno-Alvarez Jr., 27, of Oklahoma City, on Sept. 25
* Pfc. Sarina Butcher, 19, of Checotah, on Nov. 1
* Spc. Chris Gailey, 26, of Ochelata, on Nov. 1 

We will never forget their sacrifice.

Waiting for the buses...

The buses were an hour was rough

Ok...he's more choking than hugging here

So excited!

He's back.

We were ready to get out of there!

March 12, 2012

Up and Down

Without going into details that may cross that ever important OPSEC line, the last few days have been an emotional roller coaster. We've been given dates and locations...had those dates and locations changed...and changed...and changed. STUPID BROKEN PLANES. Most of it was expected...but no less stressful. I finally gave up yesterday, went to the store and bought a 6-pack and cookie dough which I plan to eat in it's entirety without baking (no judgments please). Between that and the retail therapy...I had to buy some new unmentionables...I'm surviving the pre-homecoming jitters. Speaking of buying those fun little clothes, after I dropped off the boy for a playdate, I discovered I should have found someone to watch the girl also because every time I tried something on, she thought it was time to nurse which of course slowed the whole process down dramatically.

Anyway, I don't have this week's Disney post ready and I just don't have the time or mental clarity to work on it so I'm skipping this week. Sorry. I promise that I'll have the first half of the Disney Deluxe Resorts done and ready for you next week...we're going to cover the monorail resorts first because those are often the ones people think of when they think of Disney Resorts.

Here's hoping that I'll have pics to post soon of our family together again.

March 5, 2012

Disney World Free Dining 2012


***Update: The free dining offer has been extended to include later 2012 dates. It requires a 5 night stay and must be booked by Sept 29th (although I recommend booking much sooner as resorts are filling up fast). The dates are as follows...
September 30th-October 4th
October 19th-November 1st
November 9th-15th and 23rd-29th
December 10th-13th

A three night minimum stay is required. If you're dates are off, you can still get the free dining offer so long as you have at least one overlapping night within 3 days of the dining offer.
Also, the offer is currently (Monday, July 9th) offered only to guests with a Disney Visa Card, however, the offer is expected to be made open to the general public on Thursday July 12th.***

Ok. It's official. Today (March 5th, 2012) Disney opened up the free dining offer to the general public (American public only so guests have not yet been included) if you book by May 18th (although you will need to book much sooner than that because the rooms are going fast) for stays between August 25th and September 27th. Don't worry if you're entire stay is not within those dates...just one overlapping night within three days of the offer and you can get the offer for your entire stay. Also, keep in mind you can only have one discount at a time so you can't combine the current military discount and the free dining offer...just one is permitted and for the record, free dining will almost always save you more but do the numbers for your group and see for your self.

The way the free dining offer works is this...IT IS ONLY AVAILABLE TO GUESTS STAYING AT A DISNEY OWNED AND OPERATED RESORT. So, you are ineligible if you're someplace else like Shades of Green. It is a package inclusion...meaning you have to book a package...resort AND park tickets so if you're a season pass holder, you'll be required to buy TWO days worth of more, no less are required. 

If you stay at a Disney Value Resort you'll get the quick service plan (details on the exact differences on the plans can be found on my Disney Dining Plan page) for free.

If you stay at a Disney Moderate Resort EXCEPT FT WILDERNESS CAMPSITES or a Disney Deluxe Resort, you'll get the basic dining plan for free.

Either way, you can pay the difference to upgrade your dining plan...say from the quick to the basic if you're staying at a value resort or from the basic to the deluxe dining plan if you're staying at a moderate or deluxe resort.

A family of four staying at a moderate resort for 6 days, 5 nights could easily save over $600 with this great deal. Check it out and book today. In order to get the free offer YOU HAVE TO CALL IN. You can't book it online. The number is 407-939-7675. Expect the wait time to be significant. I called at 6am (my time...7am Orlando) to add this deal to our current package for a trip we had already reserved within the time frame and was on hold for 40 minutes before they got to me but within ten minutes I had the free dining and saved our family a significant amount of money. Disney phone lines are open every morning at 7am EST and stay open until 10pm EST.

Disney World Moderate Resorts

This week we are covering the moderate resorts. We've already covered the pros and cons of staying on Disney property and a couple of your options for off property stays. We've also covered Disney's Value Resorts and soon we'll cover the deluxe resorts, starting with Monorail Resorts

The moderates are just what they sound...slightly larger and with more amenities than the values but not as large or as luxurious as the deluxe resorts. As for price, they too fall in between and vary based on the time of year and which moderate you stay visit.
(photo credit:

The first moderate is coincidentally the first moderate built (although at the time there were no value resorts so it wasn't called a moderate back then). It's the Caribbean Beach Resort. I don't have any personal experience with this resort yet but we are excited to stay there this fall and I'll be sure to update any tips I find while there. One of the biggest reasons we're excited to check it out is that we will be staying in one of their Pirate Rooms.

(photo credit:

The CBR is a large resort with over 2,000 guest rooms divided into 6 villages. The big thing you should know when booking this resort is that there are no elevators here so unless you enjoy walking up stairs with small, sleeping children, request a ground floor room. The room prices vary on which type of room you get...standard, water view, standard pirate or water view pirate and range from $159-314 per night.

(photo credit: main pool at CBR)

The next moderate is one many "non-Disney" type people often stay at. It's the Coronado Springs Resort. Because the Coronado has a 95,000 square foot convention center, it often hosts large groups and organizations. The resort is huge and has it's very own internal shuttle system.

(photo credit: Springs Resort)

Because Coronado plays host to so many conventions, it has some amenities other moderate and value resorts don't such as the La Vida Health Club and Rix Lounge-a 300 seat upscale lounge/bar that has a full bar and a dress code (no sneakers).

Room prices at the Coronado vary, like at all the resorts on what time of year you visit but also because it's a convention hotel, the Coronado has some suite options available as well. For a standard room with an occupancy of between 2 and 4 (2 for the rooms with a king sized bed) the rates range from $169-284 per night. For the suites where the max occupancy can be up to 6 in a room (all rooms also allow for ONE child under three in addition to the max occupancy) the prices range from $365-1330 per night...again based on what sort of suite you select and the time of year you visit.

(us. complete with anniversary buttons and Joshua's 1st time button...this was just after check-in at Port Orleans Riverside back in the day when all we had was a crappy camera)

The next resort is a personal favorite for my hubby and I...the Port Orleans Riverside resort is our home away from home. We've stayed in both the Alligator Bayou (southern bayou lodge style buildings) and Magnolia Bend (southern plantation mansion style buildings). We prefer the Magnolia Bend but that's just thematic differences and preferences. The biggest benefit to the Alligator Bayou is that instead of the standard room holding 4 people (and a single child under the age of 3), it hold 5 people (and a single child under the age of 3-although that would be quite a tight fit). They used to so this by using a trundle bed but POR is just finishing up a large remodeling project which has transformed many of the rooms from standard rooms to "Royal Guest" rooms themed after the movie the Princess and the Frog. Since the renovations to the Magnolia Bend are set to be complete on the new rooms in four days...March 9th, I don't have any pics to post except that which Disney has released. I'll update with some non-official pics as soon as I can get my hands on them. I did, however, find some non-Disney pics of the Alligator Bayou specialty rooms.

(photo credit: pic) 

(photo credit:

(photo credit: fold down bed inside the top of the bench has replaced the former trundle beds in the alligator bayou section of POR)

(photo credit: it looks like with the bed up)

The specialty rooms range in price from $189-314 per night based (again) on the time of year you visit. Standard rooms vary also based on the time of year and on whether you select a water or standard view from $159-279 per night. But before I finally move on from Port Orleans Riverside, I must mention Piano Bob. He's one of our favorite Disney stops. He's a family-friendly piano lounge entertainer inside the lounge at Port Orleans Riverside. He's hilarious. It's a great place to have a drink and sit and laugh with or without the kids. He usually preforms every Weds-Sat nights starting at 8pm. Check him out!

(Port Orleans French Quarter)

The biggest reasons we love Port Orleans Riverside are because it's small, quiet and a very peaceful resort. All these can also be said for Riverside's sister property Port Orleans French Quarter. When originally built, the two resorts were one property name Dixie Landings. Now each has it's own management, check-in, restaurants and pools. French Quarter has what probably seems like a logical theming motif given the feel like you're in the middle of New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside share a bus line (although usually when the parks close and all day during busier times of year, Disney will split them and send more buses out so you won't have to wait too long). Because they're so close, one of our favorite things to do when staying Riverside is just walk over to French Quarter and enjoy some of their yummy beignets. I've had beignets in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and the ones at Disney's French Quarter are easily as good.

(yes, I'm fully aware that I'm a giant dork)

Although we haven't stayed at French Quarter, from our visits in the past and especially since Riverside will no doubt become very popular with their new specialty rooms, staying at French Quarter could be wonderful. Pricing for French Quarter varies (broken record much?) by the time of year and what sort of view you have...standard, water or river from $164-254.

There is one more resort which Disney considers as a moderate resort. That is the Ft Wilderness Campground and Cabins. The name pretty much sums it up. You can either bring a tent or an RV and pay for a lot (there are showers and such if you go the tent route) or you can rent a cabin which holds up to 6 people (and one infant/child under the age of 3). Ft Wilderness is VERY large and you cannot get around on your own by just walking. You will either have to use the internal bus system that Disney provides (free of charge of course) or as many people do, bring a golf cart of your own.

(photo credit: Disney. It's the official promo pic for the Ft Wilderness Cabins)

Campsites range from $48-126 per night based on the time of year AND what sort of amenities come with the campsite. It's anything from just a place to pop up your tent to a full hook up premium campsite. Meanwhile, the cabins can be booked for anywhere from $285-455 per night and all include a FULL kitchen...

"Kitchen includes:
full-size refrigerator with icemaker
electric stove
1 4-cup coffee maker (with 1 filter-pack of coffee)
1 10 cup coffee maker (stored in cupboard)
tea kettle
flatware for 6: forks, salad forks, teaspoons, soups spoons, knives and steak knives
dinnerware for 6: mugs, cereal bowls, dinner plates, dessert plates
6 handled mason jar glasses
1 serving spoon
1 glass measuring cup
1 2 qt. pitcher
1 2 qt. casserole with lid
1 glass baking dish
1 oval platter
manual can opener
bottle opener
cutting board
bread knife
1 12" skillet
1 1 qt. saucepan with lid
1 2 qt. saucepan with lid
Dutch oven with lid
metal colander
spoon rest
2 potholders
2 sponges
4 cloth dish towels
fire extinguisher (under sink)
packets of dishwasher soap
liquid dish soap
paper towels (under sink)
trash bags (under sink)"

....list found on

Ft Wilderness offers everything you would hope for in a camping experience from laid back employees (cast members in Disney language) to campfires complete with your favorite Disney movie under the stars. Another big reason so many people love Ft Wilderness is because it is the only Disney resort that is pet friendly. For an additional $5/day your own Pluto can go to Disney World. Speaking of which, if you decide to stay at any other Disney or non-Disney resort in the area, keep the Best Friends Pet Care facilities in mind. Although not owned and operated by Disney, it is essentially the Disney pet resort. They'll take great care of your little fur babies and they don't discriminate based on breed.

I know this week was a long one but the moderates are all just that much more themed and have that much more to offer than the values. Of course, next week we'll take a look at the deluxe resorts (although I'm thinking we may need to split that into a couple weeks given the sheer amount of amenities and unique thematic elements each resort has). 

In the end, where you stay comes down to your family. Your budget. Your preferences. And your style. We have never stayed in the deluxe resorts because we can't justify the cost for our family when we're very rarely in the room. We spend at least 10-12 hours a day in the parks and our kids have never had a hard time sleeping in their strollers so moderate and value is the way we go.