June 22, 2012

Friday Fun

This week has been crazy but it's been a good crazy (well, except for the emergency run to the doctor yesterday for the boy but that's another story for another day-he's good and today we're focusing on the fun ahead).

Tomorrow is the boy's 4th birthday! I can't believe how big he is already. It's gone too fast. This week he helped me make Reese's Peanut Butter Bars. It was a blast having him help me with the recipe I found on pinterest. Although Joshua and the boy LOVE them, I'm just "in like" with them. I think it needs some sort of chocolate graham cracker crust.

Tomorrow we'll have a family day...going to see Brave and do basically whatever the boy wants. We'll have his "friend" party with extended family on Sunday at a bowling alley...thus the new shirt I made for the boy...

After the party, the kids are going to my parents' and Joshua and I are going to visit our best friends in El Paso. To say I'm excited would be a massive understatement. Joshua hasn't seen them in over a year and a half and the four of us haven't all been together without children since we had a weekend away in Tulsa and were able to see the Broadway show Wicked (highly recommended btw).

Hope you all have a great week and I'll be back in the blogging world in about a week.

June 20, 2012

Disney Pin Trading

(photo credit: disney.wikia.com)

Disney Pin Trading is a great "extra" to add to your next Disney vacation. It's a fun option for younger children who aren't big enough or brave enough to ride the bigger attractions. It's also great for the older children who are too cool to get into all the characters. Pin Trading is done at Disneyland and at all four theme parks of Disney World but is most popular in Epcot...which is great especially when you need something to entertain the kids while Mom and Dad eat and drink their way around the world (one of our absolute favorite things to do at Disney!).

It's pretty simple. You buy a Disney pin. You see a cast member (or even another guest...it's a fun conversation starter in line) with a pin you want more and you ask to trade. Cast members CANNOT refuse you...unless their pins are on a green lanyard (teal at Disneyland and some lanyards are hip lanyards rather than the traditional neck lanyard one seen below). Those cast members will ONLY trade with children which for pin trading purposes means 3-12 years old...although if you have a two year old, they won't deny the child-so long as he or she is the one looking to trade and you're not just using the kid to get a pin you want.
(photo credit: themeparkinsider.com)

There are THOUSANDS of different pins with countless themes. My favorites are the Mickey head-shaped country flags and the pins for the attractions while Joshua's all about anything Donald Duck. Some are limited quantities...only 100 made. Some are limited release and were only sold on a certain day. There are hundreds of sets. Sets can be just three pins or much more like the alphabet set seen below.
(photo credit: yggmall.com)

The most popular pins to collect are probably the hidden Mickey pin sets which are pins not immediately available for sale in the parks but instead only offered via trade with cast members (or on ebay) and have, not surprisingly, a Hidden Mickey on them as seen here:
(photo credit: eventservices.disney.go.com)

As you can see, it has a not-so-hidden Hidden Mickey. This pin also happens to be one that my husband has and wears on the brim of his baseball hat while we're in the parks because pin trading isn't just for kids. There are lots of adults who enjoy it...some who are a little obsessed but it's another fun thing to do while you visit the mouse.

Now, for the important stuff...how to pin trade without spending insane amounts of money...

Most people who go to Disney for the first time don't know about pin trading until they're at their resort or even the parks and then you're options are limited. You can buy individual pins but even the cheapest of those will cost you at least $7 each with tax or you can buy a "starter kit" which can have themes like the four theme parks, the princesses or even Phineas and Ferb like this one:

(photo credit: adventuresatdisney.com)

Starter sets are a more economical option if you find yourself at Disney World wanting to pin trade but not wanting to buy individual pins. Each starter set comes with about 4-6 pins and a lanyard and will generally cost around $30-45.  Some sets also come with a card case which attaches at the bottom of the lanyard that can hold credit cards, park tickets or fast passes...or in the case of a child, you could make an "If I'm Lost Please Contact..." card.

The most frugal option is to plan ahead. Before you go to the parks, hop on ebay and order a "lot" of pins. They're sold in sets of 20 or more and can be purchased for as little as $1 per pin sometimes with free shipping. Be aware that there are "fake" pins. Pins generally made and sold from ebay sellers in China and if you should get one of these "fake" pins, you may not be able to trade it in the parks so be aware of who you're buying from.

Pin trading is like any other hobby. It can become a crazy obsession or it can be a passing fad all dependent on the individual. Personally, we all pin trade. My aunt is a little insane with it-she's determined to get as many as humanly possible. My husband has crazy sharp eyes and can spot the pin he wants from great distances away-it's a hunt for him. Our son likes a specific (very ordinary looking, not at all limited or special edition) turtle and in his short almost 4 years of life, he has managed to find and trade for at least two dozen of the same exact pin. Whatever kid. Me? I like pin trading because at the end of the day when we're sitting in the resort and everyone's come back to their rooms we can all share what we found. It's just another thing to share with my family and I'm all for that.

Happy trading and as always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me. I'm happy to help.

June 19, 2012

Deployment...the not-so-friendly ghost

Father's Day was officially three months since Joshua returned and although I'm thrilled/relieved/humbled to say that we've managed the reintegration better than I expected, there are moments when the deployment seems like a ghost in the corner invisible to all but us. Like last month when we went to the local arts festival and a balloon popped. Joshua jumped. Not a huge jump. Not really even out of fear. I was probably the only person who noticed but it threw me back to the nights when I didn't sleep and jumped when someone knocked at the door. Our little ghost is coming around less and less often and although I don't think we'll ever really be free of him, he has less of an impact. 

The thing that does still carry a punch is when I hear someone belittle my husband's service (or any other service member's sacrifice). Being a Guard family, we live in two worlds. It's sometimes a blessing and sometimes a burden. The benefits are obvious...we don't have to move, Joshua will (theoretically) deploy less often and we're not always inside the "Army bubble." Unfortunately, the biggest downside is that many people we live and work with don't understand our life. It's arguable whether that's because the can't understand it or they just won't but either way, it can hurt.

Yesterday, Joshua went to his civilian job with his multi-cam back pack (it's how he prefers to carry his laptop) and a woman he works with (whom I will refer to as L and who knows he's still in the Guard and scheduled to go active duty again soon) stopped him and asked "What's up with the camo bag?"

I don't think Joshua totally understood the question or the reason for it and replied "It's what was issued and I like it." 

L: "But it's not like you're really in the military now."

The room got silent (which at his job is hard to do) and I'm thankful that someone else stepped up and corrected L so that Joshua didn't have to. I understand what she meant by it but it's the attitude behind it that stings. Sometimes, I wish people with that attitude could see our little ghost. Maybe then they'd understand.

June 15, 2012

Friday Fun

Well, today's fun isn't quite what I had in mind...I have a plan to get some really cute pics of the boy in town but unfortunately the weather just won't cooperate. So, instead, I thought I'd post some fun pics from yesterday's big adventure. The boy had his very first T-ball practice. He's one of the youngest but he hits really well (woohoo, proud Mommy). Unfortunately, he seems to have some trouble after hitting. Instead of running to 1st base, he wanted to run after the ball. It's something we're going to work on.

June 14, 2012

Crazy Cat Lady Strikes Again


That is what time our neighbor...the one RIGHT next to us decided to start mowing her lawn. 

I know we're kind of the odd balls out and I accept that most people go to bed and wake up earlier than us but still 0630...who mows the lawn at 0630?! If the weather was like last summer and it was hitting 110 or even 120 I could understand but yesterday didn't even get to 90. 

I'll tell you who mows at 0630...Crazy Cat Lady. I don't remember what her real name is and although she only has two or three cats (along with three or four soccer balls small dogs) Joshua dubbed her the Crazy Cat Lady when we moved in three years ago (holy buckets, it's been three years, woohoo, only two to go to have the equity we want...sorry, bunny trail). 

We had a husky/lab mix...Murray...

 Murray, like most huskies had amazing skills and a high prey instinct. We quickly learned that Murray could jump a six foot fence without a running start and desperately wanted to "chase" one of the neighbor's cats. He did. He didn't catch her. He didn't eat her. He didn't even bite her. He chased her under the neighbor's house. That's it.

She called the cops. The cop laughed. We put Murray on a running line in the back yard.

That was our introduction to Crazy Cat Lady.

Back to this morning. Anyone who really knows Joshua and I knows that he has a reputation for being an ass someone who speaks his mind. He's a me-and-my-four-and-no-more kind of guy and outside our immediate family, some close friends and select extended family members, he tolerates has to work harder to be loving and kind. What some people don't know is that he appears to be the mean one while I smile and hold him back but in reality I'm way more mean. In fact, this morning I released the beast encouraged Joshua to go and speak to the Crazy Cat Lady because if I had gone outside, there are people (the police) who might have considered my thoughts and actions to be unhelpful (premeditation).

So, he went outside and thankfully the opening line of expletives communication was drowned out by the insanely loud mower. She was shocked that he asked her to stop and replied with "Is it really that early?" To which he snapped, "well, you woke the whole house up so let's ask the baby...or maybe the three year old..." and walked away. She stopped mowing got in her car and drove away but the damage was done. We have a long day already planned and now I suspect extra doses of sugar and a little more grace will be needed with the children.

Vent over. Thank you. And if you are the sort of person who mows at 0630, I hope I didn't offend you but seriously 0630 is too early. Be nice to those of us who are not morning people.

June 13, 2012

Sleeping Princess, Pictures and Poison Ivy

Today started off later than expected because the girl decided to sleep for FOURTEEN hours. Yup. Fourteen. It was awesome. And, if I do say so myself, I earned it. This is the same child who up until about a month ago was still waking up at least once (usually twice) at night to nurse which meant for about 10 months straight I woke up every 3-4 hours. 

Anyway, thankfully the late start didn't affect our plans for the day-pictures of the girl...a couple of the boy too but today's outing was mostly for the girl. If the weather continues to cooperate, I have grand picture plans for the boy on Friday but we'll see. 

I think they turned out great! I'm slightly biased as I believe the subjects are perfect but here's some of the highlights...

Unfortunately, when we got home, I realized quickly that the boy and I had stumbled across some poison ivy. Thankfully, the girl seems to have avoided it but we're well stocked on anti-itch, anti-poison ivy creams for all of us.

June 8, 2012

Friday Fun

Last Sunday morning when we woke up HOURS before I would have preferred thanks to the yellow ribbon event, this is what we woke up to...

Yup. A good chunk of the tree in our back yard collapsed. The amazing thing is that earlier in the day, Joshua had been talking about camping in the backyard with the boy and where the limb landed is exactly where they would have set up their tent. But since we had to get up super early for the yellow ribbon, they slept inside so in a way, the Army saved my boys from being hurt. 

Not only were my boys kept safe, you might notice our baby swing is still good. The limb it's hung from is home to a nest of baby birds and their mommy. All (to our knowledge-we didn't want to get too close) seem to have survived.

(The Boy triumphant in his sawing abilities)
Joshua and the boy have begun chopping up the fallen portion of the tree and trimmed much of the rest of it back so it can't fall on anything or anyone else (like our dog when he's doing his thing). We're hoping that what's left of the sad tree with hold strong long enough for the baby birds to leave the nest later this summer.

(this is what we did while the boys worked)

June 6, 2012

Disney World Military Discount Explained

(photo credit: dcaligari.blogspot.com)

The 2012 Military Room and Ticket Discounts which end at the end of September (explained below) has been extended from October 2012 to September 28th, 2013 with the tickets at a slightly higher price. The four day park hopper tickets will be $156 per person
Block out dates are as follows...
• Nov. 22 – Nov. 24, 2012
• Dec. 23 – Dec. 31, 2012
• Mar. 25 – Apr. 4, 2013

Over the last couple of years, there's been some great discounts at Disney World for military families but with all things Disney, it can appear complicated so I thought I'd break it down in the most simplistic way I can...

There are two separate discounts...one on tickets and one on resort stays. You can have both of those discounts BUT you cannot add another discount like free dining. In fact, with packages (where the tickets, resorts and sometimes a dining plan are bundled) you may only have ONE discount which is why you need to do the numbers to see what discount gives you more for your money. 

The current offer (which is basically the same offer just renewed for the last couple of years) ENDS September 30th, 2012. There is no word yet on whether or not the offer will be extended another year but I'll update this page as soon I know more.

Who is eligible?
Active or retired members of the U.S. Military INCLUDING National Guard, Reservists and U.S. Coast Guard and their spouses may purchase the tickets for themselves, friends and family (more details in the fine print section...)

You must PURCHASE tickets on or before September 27th, 2012.
Also, you must USE all the tickets on or before September 30th, 2012.
The cost is $138 and gives you 4 days of park hopper tickets. The cost is per person 3 years and up regardless of age. To give you an example of the savings...rack rate for an adult 4 day park hopper is normally $313, for a child (3-9 yrs) it's $296 so it can absolutely save you a ton of money.
If you wish to spend some time at one of the two Disney water parks (in addition to the four theme parks), you can upgrade your tickets for $27 each and have up to four days in the water parks in addition to four days worth of park hopper theme park tickets.
You buy your tickets at the ITT...MWR...whatever the morale center is called at your base...post...port...fort...camp...wherever you are at and whatever they call it...that's where you buy them (I know that didn't make sense but really military life doesn't require learning another language, it requires learning five new languages). Because you buy them "on base" it's tax free.
EITHER the service member OR his/her spouse may purchase the tickets (which is great if your service member is otherwise occupied...like deployed and coming home for R&R). 

The fine print...
No more than SIX (6) four day tickets can be purchased, activated and/or used per service member/spouse TOTAL. If you're family is larger than six people 3 years and up, you'll have to buy separate tickets for the additional people. Either the service member or his/her spouse must be present and use one of the 4 day tickets.
As always, with the fine print, feel free to email me for more information, call Disney at 407-WDW-7675 or call your local ITT, MWR office.

Resort Stays
Unless you have a time share, if you're going to use the Disney military discount for tickets, you're going to need a place to stay. Where you should stay is always a big question when planning a trip to Disney and although normally I understand the dilemma, with the military discount, you really can't go wrong staying on property especially combined with the discounted tickets. You'll have access to the dining plans (at full price but still very convenient) as well as all the other great benefits to staying on property...you can go HERE for a breakdown of the on-property/off-property options including the military resort Shades of Green.

There are 3 levels of resorts at Disney...value, moderate and deluxe and offer a wide array of amenities, themes and decor. The military discount on resorts varies also by the level of resort that you choose. 
Value resorts will give you a 30% discount.
Moderate resorts will give you a 35% discount.
Deluxe resorts will give you a 40% discount.

The fine print...
Valid military ID is required at check in. If you arrive on either a Friday or Saturday there may be a minimum length of stay required based on the time of year you are visiting. There is a limited number of rooms set aside for this discount so be sure to book as soon as possible. Each service member/spouse may book up to three rooms per service member at the discounted rate.

Bottom Line
The discounts are great! Especially if it's your first time, you only plan to visit the mouse for a few days and you aren't as interested in the higher priced restaurants. If you're like my husband and I and you prefer a longer trip with several sit down meals, other discounts like the free dining offer that is available from time to time can be a greater discount. It depends first on your length of stay, second on how many people you have with you and lastly on what you want to do for meals. For example, we're going for eight days in September and have a free dining discount because it's the most economical thing for us but I'm hoping that Disney renews the military discount for my marathon weekend in January when I'm only going to be in Orlando for four or five days. 

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a great trip!-be sure to check out all my other Disney links on the left to help you plan out your adventure.

June 4, 2012

Infant Heimlich Saved Our Daughter

We had another terrifying moment with our daughter last night. I've said it before and I'll say it again...she's going make me go gray way too young.

We had a pretty busy day...a 30 day post-deployment yellow ribbon event (scheduled two and a half months after they returned because that's just how the Army works) aka death by power point, which meant that the girl was up for almost 13 hours straight because she refused to nap while in her class all day. She also didn't nurse much (she's been on a bit of a nursing strike) and barely ate while there so by the time we got home we had a very sleepy, very hungry little girl. Thankfully, much like her brother, she handles frustrating situations fairly well so we made a quick dinner and sat down. We gave her small pieces of bread (something she's had several times before) and she started out just fine but then about ten minutes into dinner she began choking.

It wasn't the gagging, coughing, gasping kind of choking babies and kids do from time to time when they eat too fast or don't chew enough. It was a heart-stopping silent choking. She just sat there with her mouth open, her arms out-stretched and her lips quickly turning dark purple. I yelled for Joshua, ripped her out of her high chair, flipped her over and started using the heel of my hand to hit between her shoulder blades. It didn't do anything. After three or four good hits, Joshua was there and grabbed her from me. He also tried hitting her back to dislodge the food but it didn't work. So he turned her over and squeezed her between her rib cage and bellybutton and the bread came flying out. She screamed from fear and probably pain but overall she was fine. We opted to end dinner since it was clear she was too tired to even chew.

Years ago, when I took an infant CPR class, I never thought I'd have to do the heimlich maneuver on our nearly 11 month old daughter but I'm glad that both Joshua and I knew the steps. If you don't know how to do the heimlich on an infant, take a couple minutes and go HERE to read how to do it properly-it's a simple step by step guide. Also, for all my fur-mommies out there, I found a site that details the steps to doing the heimlich on your dog.

We joke about how our daughter's first birthday party will have a Survivor theme because she's a bit of a daredevil and her brother loves her a bit too strongly sometimes but last night made that joke a little too real for me.