January 27, 2013

When Words Are Gone

If you've read my blog for any amount of time or know me in real life, you know we've suffered multiple miscarriages. More than I care to think about much less discuss very often. But even with all my own experience, or maybe in part because of it, when someone I know goes through a miscarriage of their own, I'm often left speechless and numb.

This weekend, I found out that a childhood friend whom I respect and love lost her twin girls. At seven months. 

She lives too far away to comfort her in person and to be honest, I doubt she'd want me there. I wouldn't blame her. The emotions are so raw and so diverse. Anger. Indescribable heart-ache. Bitterness. Questioning. Numbness. Guilt. There's often no room left for anyone else. Most women don't want to deal with questions of how and why, other people's grief over her loss or platitudes about how it was "meant to be."

Granted, each woman grieves in her way and some may want solitude, some a grand gathering to distract her. Some want all traces of the child gone before she comes home from the hospital, some will cling to those reminders like a lifeline. All of that will sort itself out but only prayer and the Peace that surpasses all understanding can hold a woman together when her world has fallen apart. I've experienced it. I know what it's like to be totally destroyed and let the Lord put me back together. I've had friends and family hold me with their prayers and comfort me with their silence. I knew their hearts were with me when I couldn't be with them.

If you know someone going through a miscarriage  here's some tips (in my humble opinion) of what you can do to ease their pain...

*Remember the father. So many times people forget that he's grieving too. 

*If you're not in their inner-circle, leave them alone. Certainly pray for them and send a card or token if you'd like but now is not the time to flood a woman with acquaintances.

*If you are a part of their inner-circle, find out what they want. Talk to the father or mother of the mother. Do they want a group of people to be at their bedside, just a couple or even no one at all? Do they want to come home to the baby stuff or need it removed?

*Drop off food. It's so easy to forget to eat or not have the ability to cook when your grief doesn't allow you to think straight.

*Take your cues from the couple. Be there when they want you, go away when they want to be alone.

*Don't tell them that it's God's plan. Even if you believe it. Even if you know they believe it. Now is not the time.

*Just pray.

January 22, 2013

Quick Update

Things have been a bit crazy lately but I wanted to stop by and give you a quick update...

*went to the farm, took some family pics (which we hadn't done really since last March!)

*taught a couple good friends to shoot (always fun!)
*finally took the last of the holiday decorations down...yeah, we were sort of those people...the outside stuff was all down on New Year's but the inside stuff sort of just stayed

*has been pulled in 12 different directions all at once but seems to be handling it pretty well and will hopefully be home more after next week

*finally has a picture of JUST me that I like (no kids, no Joshua, JUST me...wow...it's been YEARS)

The boy...
*is on a photo boycott...he refuses to smile for real anymore
*loves his new bike but not as much as his sister does...(this is her pouting because she didn't get to ride it)

The girl...
*went in for her 18 month well baby check up and is up to the 12th percentile in both height and weight (woohoo she's proportional)...unfortunately she's still not yet 20lbs so we'll be rocking the rear-facing car seat for a while longer

Bubba and the foster puppy...
*Bubba has, for the most part, enjoyed having another dog to wrestle with but I think he's also looking forward to the puppy finding a forever home so he can just lay around

*we thought we had found the foster puppy a home but it fell through so the search continues...who wouldn't want this sweet girl?!

Oh my goodness, I just looked at the clock! I have to get ready, Joshua and I are going to the theater tonight (eeek!). We have tickets for Jekyll and Hyde and I've somehow convinced him to go big and where his dress blues. Meanwhile, I bought a pair of black 6" heel because I'm crazy awesome like that!-my husband is a foot taller than me, I have to do something!

January 17, 2013

Free Things to Do and Get at Disney World

Everyone loves free, right?! Disney World isn't always the most cost-effective vacation but if you know where to look, there are many tons of things to do, to experience and to take home for FREE!


MISC Free Stuff

Children - no, Disney is not giving away children but until they're three years old, Disney doesn't charge park tickets or dining fees at any of their many buffet style restaurants (if your child turns three during your vacation, he or she is still free)
Magical Express - Disney's name for the bus/shuttle service both to/from Orlando International Airport and any of the Disney owned/operated resorts 
Bus Service - Disney has perfected transportation between all their resort, Downtown Disney, Disney Water Parks and the Four Main Disney Theme Parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom)
Parking - If you opt to stay "on-property" at a Disney World Resort and you decide to drive to the parks, the daily $14 fee is waived
Wi-Fi - There is now complementary Wi-Fi at all Disney World Resorts as well as all four main Theme Parks and Downtown Disney (the network name is Disney - Guest)
Package Delivery - Another perk for Disney World Resort Guests is the ability to buy something in the parks and have it sent back to your resort gift shop for free...if you're not staying at a Disney World Resort, you can still buy a package early in the day and have it sent to the front of the park for pick up at Guest Services later
First Aid - Each of the theme parks has a first aid station which will be happy to help you with basic medication (children's tylenol, bandaids, etc) at no cost

Free Stuff To Do

Jedi Training Academy - One of the most popular extras for children 4-12 years old is to fight the Dark Side. Check out our Jedi Training Academy Post for more detailed information
Club Cool - An Epcot treasure, you can take a break from the heat (or cold depending on what time of year) by stopping in and tasting dixie cup size samples of Cola from around the world
Photos - PhotoPass pictures aren't free but the PhotoPass photographers are happy to take a picture using your camera any time
Agent P Adventure - Solve clues using a high-tech secret agent device (read: specially designed cell phone) to defeat Dr Doofenshmirtz while enjoying the sights (and tastes) of Epcot's World Showcase
Hidden Mickey Hunt - All over the parks and resorts you'll find "Hidden Mickey"s...there are clue books you can buy before you go to help you find them all or you can just make a game of it as a family and see who can find the most over the course of a day...or a trip
Downtown Disney Lego Imagination Store - Shopping isn't all you can do at the Lego Store in Downtown Disney. Complete with tubs of legos and a computer hub where kids can design Lego structures and play games
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom - An interactive role-playing trading card game that took Disney four years to create and starts at the Fire Station inside Magic Kingdom. You begin your quest with a map and five (of 70 total) Sorcerer cards which you use to battle villains throughout the land
Character Meet & Greet - For many families it's a main reason for going to Disney World...their little Johnny or Suzie wants to meet Mickey or Cinderella. It's a great experience and many children over the years look back on their autograph books with fond memories but consider doing something a little different...bring fabric swatches and a fabric pen (and a clip board) to make a character autograph quilt when you return home or bring your child's favorite sport's ball...the characters love it and your kids will have something totally unique (not to mention the memory of playing catch with Goofy)

Free Stuff to Experience

Camp Fire/Movie @ Ft Wilderness Campground - Held nightly at 7pm with the movie starting closer to 7:40pm in the middle of the Ft Wilderness Campground
Savannah Views - Can't get enough of Disney's Animal Kingdom? Pick up an animal viewing guide at the Animal Kingdom Lodge's front desk and check out the elevated viewing area (Arusha Rock)
 Piano Bob - For a family-friendly good time, head over to Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Weds-Sat nights. Piano Bob is a hilarious piano lounge entertainer at the River Roost Lounge
Boat Ride - Take a ferry boat from  Magic Kingdom to the Ticket and Transportation Center (where you must park for Magic Kingdom) or a Motor Launch between Magic Kingdom and one of several resorts
Talking Trash Can - Though he's sometimes difficult to find, Push the  (walking) Talking Trash Can wonders his way through Magic Kingdom...remote controlled, he delights children as they ask and he answers all sorts of questions
Water Painting - Not technically a scheduled event, if you see a cast member with a broom and bucket of water, stop for a moment and watch the temporary art dazzle
Mousekeeping Scenes - Another which cannot be guaranteed, if you bring stuffed animals from home (or buy them while you're in the parks) and leave them in your room, often times Disney housekeeping (called Mousekeeping) will set them up in cute "scene" or use a towel to make a character

Free Stuff to Have

Maps - Not only will they get you to all your favorite attractions, if you grab a couple extra and hop on pinterest, you can create a wonderful, free souvenir
Water - Probably not the flashiest of free things but after a long, hot day, getting a cup of ice water from a cast member can be really refreshing (warning: most, if not all, people who have had Disney's tap water agree it tastes terrible so you may want to bring flavored powder packets)
Stickers - If you have a small child with you, expect to come home from Disney with buckets of Mickey Mouse stickers. Nearly all the cast members have them and hand them out like candy on Halloween...which comes in handy during a baby's first hair cut at the Harmony Barber Shop
Ghirardelli Samples - Downtown Disney's delicious ice cream and chocolate lover's paradise offers free samples daily
(photo credit: onlywdworld.com)
FastPasses - Disney is in the process of changing their fastpass system but as it stands now, you go to the attraction of your choice, discover the stand by wait time to be too long and walk up to the fastpass distribution box. Next, you insert your "key to the world" (resort room key/park ticket) and out comes both your key and a fastpass ticket with a one-hour return window later in the day. (Example: You get to Space Mtn at 11am to discover a wait time of 90 minutes (groan) so you walk over to the Space Mtn fastpass distribution box and see that the current return window is 1:15-2:15) so rather than wait in line for an hour and a half, you get a fastpass for each member of your party and go grab lunch. Your fastpass window opens and instead of a 90 minute wait, you walk through the fastpass line in less than 15 (fastpass wait times vary but are always significantly shorter than the stand by line). 
KidCot Crafts - Epcot's World Showcase isn't always thought of as small-child friendly as it caters most often to adults who wish to eat and drink their way around the world but with the addition of the KidCot Craft stations at each of the World Showcase Country Pavilions, children can create a personalized souvenir at each stop.
Celebration Buttons - If your staying at a Disney resort be sure to mention any special events that you're celebrating when you check in. If not, swing by any one of the park guest relations offices (all located near the entrance and request a "celebration button." Not only is the button free, but throughout the day (or trip) you'll have cast members and fellow guests alike commenting on your birthday, anniversary, family reunion, 1st visit or whatever the event may be.
Email Postcards - There are few places in Epcot from which you can send yourself or loved ones special email postcards...inside Innoventions and at the Mission Space gift shop area are particularly popular (Mission Space may be too much for you or your little one but you can still enjoy the games and fun just ask a cast member how to get into the gift shop area and be sure to double check ride height requirements before you go)

In the end, the best thing you'll get free at Disney World are the things you can't plan for-magical experiences that surprise and amaze you.

January 14, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up

This weekend was a little bitter-sweet. Saturday was awesome for my mom, my aunt and my cousin. They all finished the half marathon at Disney World. 
It was an adventure and I couldn't be more proud of them. The thing is, I was supposed to be there too but because of several reasons...the Army and Joshua's civi job being the main culprits...I couldn't go. I was angry. I walked around pouting like a child. It was supposed to finally be my escape and it didn't happen. Once again, I was stuck at home alone with the kids and the dogs. Yes, dogs. Our Bubba and our newest foster. 
The foster puppy is a sweet one...full of love and joy but she's still very much in that puppy stage so she's a little all over the place. She's a big girl which makes the "all over the place" a little more problematic. Mostly because we have a small house and small children-both of whom were sick this weekend-you know, because Murphy's Law dictates that if you're going to be down, you might as well be kicked.

Thankfully, the kids have recovered, Joshua came home last night and I'm fully confident we will find a forever home for our active little guest.

January 9, 2013

Disney World's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney's MGM Studios) is the third of Disney World's four main theme parks (there's also two spectacular water parks). For more information on Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and more, click through the links on the left of this page!

Hollywood Studios manages to entertain both young and old and is a drama-lovers paradise. There are wild rides, meet and greets with some of Disney's most popular characters and spectacular shows all around!

Hollywood Studio SHOWS

Beauty and the Beast
This 25-minute Broadway-style show captures all the fun and highlights from the popular movie and is usually preformed five times a day. Be sure to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early for seating.

American Idol Experience
For the past five years, guests (ages 14 and up) have registered to audition for a producer, hoping to selected for the daily theme park version of American Idol. If they pass the selection process, their put into hair and makeup, given a vocal coaching session and are given a chance to sing before a live studio audience and a panel of judges. Those with the most votes per show (usually there are a handful of preliminary shows a day) will go on to preform in the daily grand finale. The winner of which (if they are 16yrs or older) will be given a guaranteed audition at a future American Idol regional stadium audition.

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
The Indiana Jones show is unique in that several audience members are selected to be "extras" in the show. In order to be one of these extras, be sure to arrive early and when they ask for volunteers be as boisterous and eye-catching as possible. It's something we've done and LOVED! 
The show, usually preformed five times a day, lasts about 35 minutes and recreates several scenes from the much beloved series. It takes the audience behind the scenes and the director explains how some of the most exciting acrobatic and pyrotechnic aspects of the movie were made. Be sure to arrive at least 20 minutes early for seats-there's often a fun pre-show entertainer to help pass the time.

Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show
Specially designed cars, motorcycles and jet skis are used with pyrotechnics and stuntmen to take you behind the scenes of a spy-thriller movie in the making. The director narrates the hugely popular 35 minute show. This is one you NEED to arrive well in advance for the best seats as the open theater holds 5,000 people and will fill up every time. The show is generally preformed twice daily so be sure to check the times and plan accordingly.

Disney Junior Live on Stage
This is a MUST do for preschool and toddler families...even some older kids will get a kick out of it. Disney has combined four of their most popular television series (Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Handy Manny, Little Einsteins and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters) to create a show which lasts just over 20 minutes and is preformed nearly a dozen times a day. Bubbles, confetti and even pirate gold doubloons (tissue paper variety so as not to injure anyone) rain down while children and adults alike join in on the fun. 

Voyage of the Little Mermaid
This 15 minute musical combines live action, film clips, special effects and even puppets (Ursala is 12 ft tall!) to bring you Ariel's story. Disney does some amazing things with this show but you should know that the theater can get quite dark at times and it may be frightening for some small children. Also, the audience gets a slight misting at the start of the show so if that's something that might upset you or your child, be sure to sit in the back where it's less noticeable. 

Hollywood Studios does more than just the nightly fireworks or laser show you'll find in Epcot or Magic Kingdom. Fantasmic is truly a 25 minute extravaganza inside a huge amphitheater. Although the theater can hold 6,500 sitting guests and another 2,500 standing guests, you MUST arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the show...45 minutes to an hour would be better because it does fill up. There are some nights that the show is preformed twice and the second show generally fills up slower. To say the show is amazing would be an understatement. The use of giant water spouts as projection screens, Maleficent transforming into a 40 foot tall fire breathing dragon and literally boatloads of Disney characters from all across time combine with so much more to bring you an experience like nothing else. Click HERE for more information both about Fantasmic and the other nightly shows held at Disney World.

Hollywood Studios ATTRACTIONS

The Great Movie Ride
A 22 minute ride through cinema history complete with animatronics housed inside a full-size replica of Hollywood's famed Chinese Theater.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
Disney World's only roller coaster to go upside down, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster takes guests in a stretch limo from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds. If you get off the ride desperate for more, be sure to use the single rider line option and make your wait time.

Tower of Terror
The Twilight Tower of Terror is a unique ride that keeps guests guessing what will happen next. Guests buckle their seat belts and ride an old, rickety elevator up 13 floors and then drop...and rise...and drop. The number of drops and the length of each drop varies every time. We've been told there are four different sequences for daytime guests and four different sequences for nighttime guests.

Star Tours
Star Tours take you to a galaxy far, far away. You board your very own spaceship/flight simulator in this exciting 3D attraction. You quickly learn there is a "Rebel Spy" aboard your ship (someone chosen and displayed on your screen...our son LOVED when he was selected to be the Rebel Spy) and your mission becomes keeping him/her out of Vader's hands. The attraction is essentially a three act play with more than 50 different scenarios depending on which acts/characters are loaded for each particular experience so have fun riding over and over again.

Outside Star Tours, you'll find a stage for the Jedi Training Academy. Kids 4-12 learn the ways of the force daily. Check out our Jedi Training Academy post for more information!

Backlot Tour
A two-part attraction, the Backlot Tour starts with an outdoor viewing area where you get to see how a movie scene is put together (complete with a little audience participation...selected before the show-we've done it and it's a blast!). The second half is a tram ride through the Backlot of Hollywood Studios. You'll see real props that were used in some of your favorite Disney movie and television shows...and you'll have an exciting moment in Catastrophe Canyon. 

Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground
Need to give your kiddo a break from running one attraction to the next? Stop at this 11,000 square foot playground and let them run till their heart's content.

Muppet Vision 3D
After a 12 minute pre-show video...aimed mostly at getting as many guests into the waiting room as possible, the theater doors will open to an exciting show with some classic favorites. It's fun for all ages and although some of the technology is getting a little old, it still entertains.

Toy Story Midway Mania
One of Hollywood Studios' most recent attractions, Toy Story Mania is popular...like get-there-first-thing-in-the-morning-and-you-might-only-wait-30-minutes/fastpasses-are-gone-by-lunch-at-the-latest popular. And there's good reason for it. The queue alone is full of giant board games and children's playthings and even a fully animatronic Mr Potato Head who has a habit of telling corny jokes and picking people out of the crowd to interact with. The ride itself is a 3D ride through several arcade scenes...each guest has a "cannon" from which they can fire pies, rings, balls, darts, and even eggs depending on which scene you are at. It's a lot of fun and the lengthy wait/necessity to get there early are worth the extra effort.

Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow
A new attraction we have yet to experience, it's said that "guests will journey deepin into an eerie lost grotto, where a mysterious pirate skull puts them to the test to see if they have what it takes to set sail with the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow. Along the way, they must face all teh perils of a pirate's life as their favorite moments from the films come to life before their eyes."

One Man's Dream
A walk-through experience which plays more like a museum to Walt Disney than an attraction, this is a must do if you are fascinated by the man who created it all.

The Magic of Disney Animation
Opening with a brief explanation of animation...including an appearance by Mushu from Mulan, young animators can experiment with a drawing of their own-guided by an artist as well as explore the use of various sound and paint effects in animation.

Parades and "Extra" Entertainment
Be sure to check the times guide for parade information as well as the times and locations of the "Citizens of Hollywood"...greatly entertaining street actors who often pull in the crowd to their "scene." 

Hollywood Studios CHARACTERS

Monster's Inc Meet & Greet
The only spot at Disney World to meet Sully and Mike Wazowski is at Hollywood Studios.

Disney Junior 
Several of the popular Characters from the Disney Junior Playhouse Live show are available for pictures and autographs just outside the theater. Handy Manny, the Little Einsteins and Jake are all frequently available.

Phineas and Ferb 
Near the Muppets Vision 3D attraction, you'll find these two crazy brothers.

Buzz and Woody
A super popular meet and greet across from the even more popular Toy Story Mania attraction, Buzz and Woody have a fun queue full of photo ops that lead up the the big event (aka the moment you, or rather, we decided to traumatize our 1 yr old)

Hollywood Studios TIPS
- Because shows can be canceled and characters rescheduled, check out Steve Soare's website WDW Entertainment for showtimes as early as a week before you leave and then be sure to grab a "Times Guide" either at your Disney World Resort Hotel or at each park as soon as you arrive. The times guide will show exact times for shows, character appearances and parades.

- Outside the Indiana Jones Stunt Show Theater, you'll find the often overlooked "Do Not Pull Rope" sign and rope near what appears to be an abandoned mine shaft...on first glance it just seems like decor but look again...and ignore the sign. Pull the rope for a little extra entertainment.

- Be sure to double check the height requirement page before your trip so you'll know for sure if your little one is big enough for Star Tours, Tower of Terror or Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

- Need to eat and let your kiddos have a little fun? Check out the Pizza Planet Arcade but be sure to have a pocket full of quarters!

- The Starring Roles Cafe in Hollywood Studios is a great place to start your own Cupcake Crawl with a four inch butterfinger cupcake...so good! (but be warned, Starring Roles often closes early)

January 4, 2013

5 (Post) New Year's Wishes

I've been tagged. 

But it's actually pretty cool...JG from Me and My SoldierMan was tagged by Mrs Banana Pants to post 5 Christmas Wishes...that deadline passed and JG posted 5 great New Year's Wishes so now I'm posting my own (Post) New Year's Wishes. It was pretty tough for me to come up with them because I hadn't really given much (read: none, zero, zilch, nada) thought into a resolution. I'm not against resolutions in general, I'm just cynical about my own abilities to follow through and I can't stand saying I'll do something and then not doing it...sorry, therapy tangent. Anyway, here they are...

5. Be Nice. I should mention that I think I'm a pretty nice person by nature but there's a very cynical, sarcastic, sometimes hurtful side that bubbles over. It's not good. If I was totally honest, it's arrogance and it's rude. So, this is me pledging to be nice...even if you're the idiot hippie type of individual who feels it necessary to openly hate everything I love. 

This one's going to be tough to keep on Twitter.

4. Be Generous. With my time and resources. Specifically, I want to keep fostering puppy dogs one at a time...eventually (read: bigger house) we'd like to become Puppy Raisers who help raise and train assistance dogs. It's so easy to say this week isn't good for us or someone else can do it but if everyone says that, the problem of dogs being put down would only get worse. We lost our precious Murray a couple years ago and now with just our Bubba, we have the space and I can't begin to count the ways it has helped our children grow in empathy and understanding.

This one makes me glad we got rid of all the carpet in the house.

3. Be Together...as in with Joshua, just Joshua. He's home. We've given it time and the kids have adjusted really well. No one's nursing or pregnant (woohoo-my body is my own again!). Now is the time to embrace "us" time. Joshua and I haven't taken a vacation just the two of us (well, apart from a really great road trip to and from El Paso) since before our 4 1/2 year old son was born. This will be the year we escape. I'm not sure where we'll go or what we'll do but I do know we'll have a great time.

Thanks to my parents, we've already got three awesome date nights planned between now and May...for Christmas they bought Joshua and I theater tickets for three different shows...Jekyll and Hyde, Cathy Rigby's Peter Pan and Westside Story. SUPER EXCITED!

2. Be At Peace. I'm not very good with change...particularly change I have NO control over but we already know there will be a ton of changes in the year to come...like huge changes...changes that will effect our family forever. Intimidating changes. There's still a dozen things that need to happen before I feel comfortable posting any real details but I can tell you that I'm proud of my husband and I trust that God will open the doors that need to open and close the doors that need to close. In the meantime, I (gulp) choose peace. 

Ok. I'm a total control freak. This one's hard.

1. Be Aware. I'm blessed. I stay home with our children and we've chosen to home-school so I get the pleasure of spending a lot of time with my children but I've noticed it's easy to go through the steps of life while letting it pass me by. My son will be FIVE in June. My daughter will be TWO in July...it's surreal. I want to really see what they become next. If my son will continue to be overprotective of his sister. How he'll assert his individualism. It goes beyond if Batman and Capt America will still be his favorite super heroes or if he'll still insist on wearing a bow tie as often as possible. It goes to his core...the kind of man he will grow into. I see glimpses of it every day. These years are so precious. And our daughter...wow. She's just at that stage where her personality in all it's glory is really starting to show through and I can't wait to see what aspects are solidified and what traits fade to the background. We call her our little daredevil but she's deathly afraid of water. She's pensive and observant before she declares her opinion...but when she's made up her mind, watch out, there's no stopping that child.

These are the days I wish I could freeze time altogether. It goes too fast.