Moving Blogs!

I've moved my blog, slightly!

Here is the new page: http://thebillheimers.wordpress.com/

All the old posts are there, with some new stuff - and more new stuff to come! :)  Be sure to follow me over there!


About the Girlies

This morning, a mom I know asked a big group of other moms: "Tell me about your kids!" It's been so fun to read a mother's description of each of her children, and since I spent a little time on the exercise myself, I thought I'd share my answer here:

Natalie: Incredibly sharp and inquisitive - this kid misses NOTHING. She analyzes everything and oftentimes instead of the typical asking "Why?" she first tells US why she thinks something is, very matter-of-factly - and then follows it up with, "Is that right?" She's been entertaining us with her quirky sense of humor for as long as I can remember. Before she came along, I had no idea that such a young child could be so truly funny. She likes dancing and singing (although she really can't carry a tune at this point). She prides herself on being outgoing and brave, but she's actually a bit more timid than she'd like to admit. She's pretty good at following rules, and loves learning new things that make us proud. She's fairly oblivious to what others think of her, loves to pick out her own clothes, but has ZERO interest in those clothes matching in any way. She's a great big sister, she deeply loves her family and friends and Mollie is pretty much her best friend.

Mollie: The first thing that comes to mind about her is that she's probably the most stubborn little creature that I've ever encountered. Mollie has SUCH a sweet spirit, but she does NOT deal well with not getting her way. She is incredibly tender-hearted and very shy and is not a thrill-seeker in any way. She is absolutely obsessed with singing and dancing, and if it weren't for her extreme shyness, I'd be convinced that she was destined to be some kind of performer. She's incredibly sweet and so typically cute with her blonde curls and big puppy-dog eyes that she gets by with SO much with people other than me or Brad. It's not uncommon at all for someone to tell us something along the lines of, "She's so stinking cute I just couldn't bring myself to say no to her!" She adores playing with baby dolls (she's such a GREAT little mama) and playing "house" with Natalie. She fiercely loves her big sister and wants to be just like her. She also loves to pick out her clothes, and to my surprise after dealing with Natalie all this time, she likes for her clothes to match and is pretty good and picking out cute combinations all on her own.


Hall Bath Project

We've been in our current house for just a couple months short of a year, and we haven't made too many changes. The first thing that had to go was the awful drying blood-RED, badly-done faux finish on the walls in the kitchen, which we did almost immediately. Since then, we've painted and decorated both of the girls' bedrooms, and that's been about the extent of our decorating. We barely even have any photos up on the walls! All of a sudden, I started feeling the need to make something more like us! I mean, luckily, the house was a nice, blank slate so it's been more than liveable (aside from the crazy RED kitchen), but I was just ready to make an improvement somewhere! That "somewhere" turned out to be the hall bathroom. We don't have much (ok, anything) budgeted for re-doing rooms, so I knew I had to be frugal, and I knew I wanted to do something SOON, so I started somewhere that was small but noticeable. Since it's the only bathroom in the house other than the master bath, lots of people see it.

Here's a little reminder of what it looked like just one week ago.  I knew I had these pictures from one day when I tidied the house up really well and took pictures of everything to show friends & family who hadn't seen the new place, so I didn't bother with "Before" pictures.  Now I wish I had because this is just not detailed enough and there's been a lot more wear on the cabinets and trim since then!  I'm going to also use some similar photos from the master (which has all of the same paint, cabinets, hardware, lights, etc) for details below.


So, there you have it. A nice, boring, blank slate. We did buy a fun paisley shower curtain that I really like (and I have another plan for it!), but otherwise, this is what it used to look like.

I was pretty sure that I didn't want to do anything totally "kiddie" - I wanted something classic and mature, but also fun and something that the girls would like, since it's their bathroom as well as the bathroom that guests use. I asked some friends for ideas, and one of them suggested some mermaid prints on Etsy. I liked the mermaid idea, but the prints were a little too young for my vision. I started looking for more prints, but I ultimately just found ideas and ended up making some of my own, which was fun. I had seen a few ruffled shower curtains recently, and thought that would go pretty perfectly with what I had in mind. I knew I was going to re-paint the cabinets white. Yes, they were already white, but they aren't exactly quality cabinets, they weren't holding up well and the previous owners had touched them up here and there with a different white paint, so I kind of hated them. I just needed to decide on a wall color. I decided to go with a light-medium bright aqua. I definitely HATED all of the gold in the bathroom (in the whole house, but that's another story!), so I wanted to try spray painting the knobs and door handles Oil-Rubbed Bronze. Brad was skeptical, but I figure spray paint is pretty cheap, so it's worth a shot because all of that new hardware adds up to a lot of money! I followed this tutorial that I found on Pinterest for that.

My good friend Jesi recently upgraded her "builder basic" home with lots of ideas that looked great on the cheap, so I went to her for advice about repainting cheap cabinets. She suggested deglosser and Valspar (Lowe's) Kitchen & Bath Paint + Primer, and I chose a white called Snow Capped in the type she suggested for the ceiling and cabinets. Armed with my advice from friends and from Pinterest, I made a shopping list and the girlies and I headed to Lowe's for paint and the other various supplies that were required.

Back at home, I started off painting the ceiling in the Snow Capped paint. It seemed to go on really well, but I don't think I've ever NOT had to do two coats of paint on a room, especially this flat, cheap, builder beige color, so I completely assumed I'd be painting two coats. To my shock and awe, it really appeared to be fine after just one coat. I then started in on the walls - I decided to do all the cutting in, corners, and places that couldn't be rolled first. Seriously, I spent HOURS on that. Even in a big bathroom, there is just not much wide open wall space that can be rolled, so I probably did at least 3/4 of the work with a brush. Once it was time to roll it, it took no time at all. All the while, I was giddy knowing that it was covering so well that I was NOT going to have to do two coats! Brad says it may have been overkill to use the Paint + Primer, but it was worth every penny ($28/gallon) if you ask me!! For the cabinets, I washed them, sanded the edges, wiped them clean, applied deglosser, caulked the edges and meeting points of the wood (which took no time and made a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE difference) and then used one coat of Valspar Snow Capped . The difference, even though the color is very similiar, is striking!

I could have spray painted the light fixture, but not only did I hate the gold, I hated the style. So I did my research and found a great deal on one through Amazon Warehouse - still pretty basic, but brand new Oil-Rubbed Bronze, just repackaged in a different box, and free 2-day shipping with Amazon prime! Woo hoo! There are lots of pricey versions of the shower curtain I had in mind, but I found one on Amazon for $17.64, again with free 2-day shipping! And the other "big" thing that I wanted to replace was the faucet. I just can't stand the cheap, cheap, cheap one that we currently have, plus a little piece of it is broken off. Again, Amazon didn't fail me! I saved $48 (more than 50% off) over Lowe's price with another Amazon Warehouse find and, yes, free 2-day shipping!

So here are the photos! :) I love how it turned out! Blog00





Mollie is THREE!

I'm so exhausted after getting everything ready for Mollie's party and working on the swingset/playhouse, that I only have the energy to post pictures for now, but Mollie's party was SO much fun, and everything turned out so cute!! I'll add more details later! Thanks so much to all the friends and family who came to help us celebrate!! Board01 Board02 Board03 Board04


Play Structure: Part 1

A few months ago, Brad decided that our swingset desperately needed an upgrade. It's just a simple, typical metal set with a couple swings (both baby swings, actually!), a see-saw swing, a hanging bar, and a slide. It's almost exactly like this one:
I also have a deep yearning for the girls to have a cute playhouse in the backyard. We did a ton of research and online window-shopping and decided that the best way to affordably get exactly what we wanted in a STURDY structure was to design and build it ourselves. I was super excited about the idea - I love building things! :) Brad found some free plans online, BUT they were from Australia, so he had to do a lot of translating - from metric to English, as well as from their type of wood to ours. He used Google Sketch Up to draw up our plans, making plenty of changes along the way, including a plan to enclose the bottom part and make it a playhouse! Here are the plans that he's drawn up - this doesn't show the bottom part being enclosed, but it's a rough idea. We'll have 2-3 swings on the inside of the A-frame and then one rope/disc swing on the outer part of the A-frame. There will also be another way to get up to the top - a more traditional ladder - on the back wall. The front is where you see "Susan" (as Google calls her) :) standing.
We have made sure to choose accessories that are all sturdy enough for adults to use too. Here's our actual slide:
And swings with heavy duty hangers:
The front of the house will have a doorway and a small window. The side with the slide will have a small centered window, the side with the swings will have two small windows, and the back will have a much larger opening with a wide ledge, sort of like a restaurant. The traditional ladder will come out on the back, to one side of that ledge. We decided to use wood siding for the walls - like this:
We haven't decided what color to paint it yet. I think we're going to stain the playset part, and we need to decide what colors of paint and stain we're going to use. We're mainly concerned with just getting it BUILT right now! :) As for the inside, I have some fun ideas - we're thinking of putting up some smooth particle board on one entire wall and painting it with a fun color of chalkboard paint. I'm thinking about using a shower curtain to make some cute waterproof curtains. :) Maybe something like one of these?
I'd love to make some little flowerboxes for the windows - at least the one window in the front - but we'll see. Between planning Mollie's Minnie Mouse birthday party and building, I haven't had as much time as I'd like to think about decorating! :) We are WAY farther in our progress than this picture - this is just one of the first pictures that Brad took to show me his progress when the girls and I were not home. I've taken lots more pictures, and I'll definitely be posting them, but for now, my spare time at home is spent helping Brad, and I'm really enjoying it (aside from the blisters)! I've been in charge of the screwdriver (electric, of course!) for the past few days, and I've actually been the one to attach the top and bottom decking while Brad does the planning, measuring, and cutting! Picture #1, Sunday afternoon (the diagonal pieces on the outsides are just for temporary support):


Florida Vacation Day 10: Getting HOME

I think time helps us to more fondly remember the good things and to forget the not-as-good things. I'm going to say that after a month home, I can barely remember our trip home. A few things stand out: sunrise, the girls fighting in the morning, having to pull over to put a space between their car seats, broken bathrooms in Whataburger, lots of reading "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), deciding to stay on the road instead of stopping at a hotel, sunset, and remembering that we DO own DVD players so the girls could watch movies (how could I have forgotten about that very important tool during the first, oh, 8 hours?), and finally...HOME sweet HOME. It wasn't the best road trip, but it wasn't the worst, and we got home safely, so that's all that matters. :) RoadTrip8 As for Disney, we cannot WAIT to go back!!!!!

Florida Vacation Day 9: Animal Kingdom

I so enjoyed Epcot and the Magic Kingdom that the bar was set SUPER high for Animal Kingdom to have any chance at all of being a favorite park. Being the last day of vacation, the fourth Disney park experience, and THE most hot and humid days of our trip - well, we didn't enjoy it as much as we should have. I'm going to chalk this up as something else that we'll enjoy WAY more next time. It just wasn't in the stars for us, Animal Kingdom! The park is gorgeous and it's home to some pretty awesome stuff, though, beginning with the Tree of Life:Blog01 You really do feel like you've been transported to another country in Animal Kingdom. Unfortunately, it's so real that I'm seriously wondering whether Disney has humidity specially pumped into the place. ;) Blog02 The first thing we did was head straight to the back of the park to get Fast Passes for the Kilimanjaro Safari, which we knew would be awesome. Once we got there, the line didn't actually seem to be all that bad, so we decided to get in line. I'm not sure if that was a mistake or not, honestly. We were in line quite a while, and whereas I'd been pleasantly surprised at the other parks with how the lines were shaded and cooler (with fans or air conditioning), well this line was rarely shaded and NEVER cooled in any way, even when fans could have easily been put into place. It was early in the day, and by the time we made it to the ride, everyone already seemed pretty run down! The tour itself was really cool! It's pretty amazing to see all of these animals and plants and surrounds that are native to Africa, right there in Florida!Blog07Blog08 Our next stop was "It's Tough to be a Bug," a 4-D show inside the Tree of Life. It was pretty cute, but some of the kiddos in our party were a little scared by it. It was definitely a welcome break from the sun and heat and humidity though, and it had some very fun and interesting little surprises!

After the show, it was time for lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. Brad and I had been before, so we knew what to expect, but the kids didn't. Some of them seemed to really enjoy it. Mollie really liked the fish tanks, but that was about it. Natalie was so leery of the periodic rainstorms where the animals "come to life" that what she really wanted was for me to hold her while we looked - or not walk around at all. She's just too heavy for me to do that at this point, so we ended up just heading back to our table. The food was really good, and we decided to combat the $$ by sharing a burger and having the girls share a kid's meal. After we ate, we wandered around in the gift shop quite a bit and let the girls pick out a new stuffed monkey, so they were super excited about that. :)Blog03 We planned to watch The Festival of the Lion King show that started in about an hour, so we decided to take the opportunity to finally go meet Minnie! Her line didn't seem to be all that long, but it felt like we waited quite a while, and again, the weather was just...not enjoyable. I wished Minnie had been wearing her red polka dot dress, but her Jungle gear was pretty cute. Minnie was very expressive, and it was fun watching her interact with the kids. Mollie, true to fashion, gave us a chuckle because she got out of the stroller to give Minnie her autograph book, but she literally tried to hand it to her from about five feet away. :) Brad jumped in to help her out and hold her for a picture with Minnie. She's totally grinning in the picture, but the only way she would take it was being held by Daddy. :)Blog04Blog05 The girls wanted to try to see Goofy, but we really didn't have time. I didn't realize until we got home that Mollie is so into Goofy. I asked her why, and it's because of his ORANGE shirt! I should have known - that's her favorite color! :) So we headed over to the entrance of the show. Again, I was so disappointed - there was absolutely nowhere to sit, and no shade at all, just a big open area for people stand in the heat and sun. I kind of hate being so negative about this part of our experience, but it's true and it was really not fun. We were SO excited when they began letting us into the theater! It felt WONDERFUL to be in a dark air conditioned room! They had 4 people going around teaching the audience how to do the Hand Jive, starting with our section, and they asked for volunteers to go help teach the others. Aubrey jumped up, and to our surprise, Natalie went with her! Try as I might, I couldn't get good pictures, but it was fun watching them! The entire Lion King show was awesome - it did not disappoint in the least! The music was wonderful, the sets and the costumes were gorgeous, and everyone was incredibly entertaining! A definite must-see at Animal Kingdom!Blog06
Our girls actually started nodding off at the end of the show, so we decided to just head home. The next Nemo show wasn't for a while, we were so hot, and none of the other attractions really stuck out to us as must-see, especially not with how tired we all felt. Our family stopped in a gift shop and we let the girls each pick out a souvenir. Natalie chose a plush baby Ariel doll wrapped up in a blue blanket and Mollie chose a baby Minnie wrapped in a pink blanket. We spent quite a bit of time in the store waiting out some rain and picking out a couple thank-you gifts for some friends at home. Mollie found a tiny spray bottle-fan keychain and decided that she NEEEEEEDED to have it. Brad even gave her a choice of that $9 keychain or her Minnie doll and she chose the keychain! We decided to let her have both, but the keychain was for the girls to share. I was just exhausted and I figured she would be sorry that she didn't leave Disney with a REAL Disney souvenir!

At home, we got some naps in and then just hung out around the house, starting to gather our things and pack. Sheila & Matt's family had decided to stay at the park for the Nemo show and they all ran in later in various states of soaking wet and undress - apparently they got caught in a downpour on the way out to their car! Luckily we weren't staying too far from the park, and their family didn't seem to be too bothered. Al, Deb, Lisa, & Caleb were flying home, so Eric took them to the airport and when he got back, our dwindling group set off in search of a cheap dinner. We used another one of our Restaurant.com gift certificates to eat at the Tiki Bar & Grill, which was inside another resort in Kissimmee. It was a poolside grill and everyone else had been completely scared off by the rain that continued to drizzle off and on. There was one guy working and he enthusiastically took all of our orders and single-handedly prepared dinner for all 11 of us! The food was good, and it was nice to let the girls run around a bit before our big drive in the morning. Once home, we got the girls to bed and finished packing up for the big DRIVE!

Animal Kingdom Instagram Wrap-Up: RoadTrip7

Next up: The long road home!


Florida Vacation Day 8: REST!

And on the eighth day, we rested. Sort of. :) Our plan was to go to Animal Kingdom on Friday and have a day to just hang out without the potential stress of parks on Thursday. We researched Hollywood Studios and decided that it didn't really seem to have enough for the kids (although it does have "Beauty & the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid" shows, but we could potentially go to shows like that at home), but our family and Al & Deb did have 5-day passes, so I suggested to Brad that he go with them for the morning and hang out at Hollywood Studios since I knew that Brad & his dad would have a blast there. The rest of us took our time getting ready for the day and headed to the community pool. The kids had so much fun playing in the water! It was a beautiful day and the pool was beautiful and really great for kids! There was a large zero-entry area, and none of the main part of the pool was more than 3 feet deep. It was really nice to somewhat relax outside, but of course having kiddos in water, my mommy brain can never 100% relax. :) I was again really pleased that Mollie seemed to feel so comfortable in the water. It's a big change from last year!Blog02 Kara, Mollie, and Caleb had a lot of fun playing in splash pad area where water would shoot up intermittently here and there. They made a big game out of seeing who could race to catch it first. :)Blog01 Brad, Al, & Deb ended up staying at Hollywood into the afternoon, and it seemed like they really enjoyed themselves. I know they went on the Tower of Terror (which sounded AWFUL to me! haha) and the Aersosmith Rock'n'Rollercoaster. Back home, though, we had leftover yummy pizza for lunch and then Mollie and I took a nice nap! That evening, we got Chinese food for dinner, and other than a slight miscommunication with where everyone placed their orders ;) we had a nice relaxing evening, making preparations for Animal Kingdom the next day. I kept thinking we should take our kiddos back to Hollywood that night to see their light show, but it just sounded like it was going to be too scary for little ones, so we decided to pass. That's something else to look forward to when the girls are older on our NEXT trip! :)

Daily Instagram Pics: RoadTrip6 Tomorrow: Animal Kingdom!

Florida Vacation Day 7: Magic Kingdom, Part 2

I think the only day of our vacation that was more highly anticipated than our first day at Magic Kingdom was our second day at Magic Kingdom because the second day was the day that we got to have breakfast with the princesses at Cinderella's Castle! We chose breakfast because a) it's cheaper than lunch or dinner and b) you can get into the park early and take pictures in front of the castle without forty million other people there with you. :) It worked just as we had hoped! It was a totally different feeling walking into the park with a much smaller amount of people. We could really get a better feel for Main Street and got a better look at all of the shops. We definitely had the castle as our main goal though. :) Blog10
When we arrived at the castle, we took lots and lots of photos. There was a group of businessmen there on some kind of tour, but other than that, we had almost no competition for photos right in front of the castle! Blog11 One of the Cast Members who was there kept giving us inside information on the best times to do things and things like that. We asked her where we could meet Minnie, and she told us that Minnie's at the front of the park with Mickey. We told her that she wasn't there yesterday when we went, and with all seriousness, she said, "Oh, she must have been shopping with Daisy. They love to shop!" It is truly impressive that the Cast Members can say things like that with a straight face! :) It's really cute. Blog12 After our big photo op, we headed into the castle to check in for our reservations. We were pretty early, so we ended up hanging out behind the castle for a bit in Fantasyland. The girls had fun running around and posing for more pictures. Blog13 We were all very excited when they called our name to head into the castle. As we entered, we were in line for formal photos with Cinderella herself. We didn't realize that we were going to get formal pictures with her as part of our breakfast package, so that was really cool. Since we had 15 people, we were able to get 4 different photos, so we decided to do one with the girls from each family and then the 4th one with all of the girls together. It worked out so perfectly! Natalie was, for some reason, all of a sudden incredibly shy about the pictures, so her expression in them is a little off. Mollie, however, was eating it up! She jumped right in and even held out her dress like a little princess!Blog14 After photos with Cinderella, we headed upstairs for our meal. The dining room really looked just like you'd expect it to in a castle! We were able to all sit at three tables in a row and we shared a waitress. I'd heard that the food wasn't so great, but we really thought it was wonderful. There were lots of choices, and it was almost impossible to decide what to get. Our service was amazing - Mollie and Caleb were young enough that we didn't have to pay for a meal for them, but this is one of the few places where they still bring out a plate for those little ones. They didn't get a choice of food, it was french toast sticks only, but our waitress brought out extra bacon and sausage just for them, plus apple juice (on top of OJ) and then later she brought all of the kids chocolate milk! They were in heaven! :) We really could not have asked for a better experience, and that's before we met the princesses! The table where we were sitting was across from the doorway where each princess entered the room after a quick introduction. Mollie was sitting directly across from the entrance, so she was one of the first to be able to see each princess. She had so much fun watching them come out! She was just sure that we were going to see Cinderella again, and she kept telling us it was going to be Cinderella next, but apparently Cinderella stays downstairs for photos.

The first princess to come out was Jasmine. When she made it over to our table, she chatted with the girls a bit and Mollie just sort of stared at her. Finally, Jasmine said, "Well, you're just as quiet as the Magic Carpet, aren't you?" Too cute! We next met Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora. She was a bit of a disappointment. She didn't say much and had a really regal air, which didn't seem to really fit in with her character, I didn't think. It's too bad, since Sleeping Beauty was Natalie's first favorite Disney movie! Next up was our favorite - Ariel! She was absolutely adorable! She came up to our table and said, "Oh, I see you have Rapunzel on your dresses! She is my VERY dear friend. I so wanted her to come to breakfast today, but she said she didn't have time because she was brushing her hair. I told HER that I think she should use a dinglehopper to comb her hair, but she said that it would take too many of them, so I have a question for you: HOW MANY dinglehoppers do YOU think it would take Rapunzel to comb her hair?" The girls just sat there with their jaws dropped, and finally Ariel said, "You think about a hundred?" They nodded, and she said, "OK! Let's take a picture!" Too cute! After Ariel, we met Belle, who was pleasant, but not especially memorable. I wish the girls were old enough or comfortable enough to think of things to talk to the princesses about because I'm sure they are willing to chat a bit more, but maybe someday! It was still lots of fun!Blog15 After our big breakfast, we headed over to Adventureland, where we toured the Swiss Family Treehouse. It was really interesting - you really felt like you were walking through and exhibit where people used to live! :)Blog16 After that was the Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride, which is basically just like the Dumbo ride, so it was definitely another one that everyone enjoyed. :) Blog17 We decided to get Fast Passes for the Jungle Cruise, and while we waited for the guys to do that, all of a sudden, I was aware of Aladdin right in the stroller parking area with us. Caleb was wearing a monkey backpack, and Aladdin came right up to him, pulling Jasmine by the hand! Aladdin turned Caleb's monkey around, and said, "Abu?! Oh, that's not Abu! Where IS that monkey? We've got to find him!" and then quick as a wink, they were off again! It was so cool! It's really rare to see characters just walking around in the park, so it was really neat! I so wish I'd had my camera out quickly enough to capture it!

From there, we decided to take a break and head to the Enchanted Tiki Room for some time indoors. The show was really cute, and the main song that they sing about the "Tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-TIKI-room" is still stuck in my head sometimes. Natalie loves to sing it to this day, and we all giggle about it. Some of the animatronics scared the girls a little and the rainstorm was a bit unsettling for them, but all in all, it was a fun little experience. After that, we got to do the Jungle Cruise. That was another nice relaxing attraction. Our captain was full of corny jokes, but it was cute, and we enjoyed the tour.

Next, we headed back to Fantasyland to ride It's a Small World. I was so excited about this iconic ride! The line was pretty long, but it moved quickly, and it was mostly inside in air conditioning, so that was nice! The ride is pretty amazing - it's so simple in it's theme, but there's SO much to look at and take in!Blog18 After a ride on Prince Charming's Regal Carousel, we headed home for lunch and naps, knowing that we'd be coming back to the park later on. To our dismay, the girls actually didn't nap at all, but it turned out all right. We decided to use one of our super cheap restaurant.com gift certificates and go out for pizza that night before heading back to the park for the Main Street Electrical Parade. Our pizza was really awesome, and they had a girl there who did balloon animals, so while we waited for our food, she provided much-needed entertainment for the kiddos! Each of the girls got the princess of her choice and the boys each got a fun creation too.Blog19 After dinner, we headed back to the park. Our goal was to meet Rapunzel (whose line is consistently an hour long if not more) and get good seats for the parade. We had a plan for the guys and the babies to reserve us a spot for the parade right along the sidewalk at the beginning so that we could easily leave as soon as the last float went by us. While they did that, Sheila, Lisa, the girls, and I waited in line for Rapunzel. We ended up not having to wait quite as long as they promised, but it was definitely between 30 & 45 minutes. We almost got out of line because Rapunzel's handler told us that Rapunzel was about to go take a break to "brush her hair and bake some cupcakes" haha but thankfully, it ended up working out in our favor! Rapunzel was definitely another of our favorite characters from the trip. She really took time to chat with each of the girls. When Natalie and Mollie walked up to her, she said, "Oh! Look at your shirts! On yours (Mollie's), I'm painting! And on yours (Natalie's), I'm...well, I'm not sure WHAT I'm doing there! I don't remember anyone taking THAT picture of me!" Blog20 Our plan worked out perfectly and we ended up with awesome seats for the parade. The girls all sat on the curb, but after Natalie's experience with Stitch at the parade the day before, she refused to sit there unless I'd sit with her, so I lucked out and got to have a front-row seat with the kids for the parade.Blog21 Seeing all of the girls' faces was absolutely priceless. It was one of the most fun things on our whole trip! I'm SO glad that we decided to keep them out late to experience it! Sorry for the terrible quality of pictures! Blog22 We snuck out right at the end of the parade, made it right onto a monorail and we were home in no time! The perfect end to a perfect Disney day!

Our day via Instagram:
RoadTrip5 Tomorrow: A Little R&R


Florida Vacation Day 6: Magic Kingdom, Part 1

Well, as it often does, life got in the way of me finishing the entire week of my Disney memories posts quickly. But I'm back! So here we go again down (not-so-distant) Memory Lane!

 I think it’s safe to say that everyone was really excited about our first day at the Magic Kingdom. We were up and out the door early again, everyone in Mickey Mouse apparel. We parked right around the time it opened, but we didn’t realize or remember that we’d have to take either a Monorail or Ferry over to the actual park. We had no idea which would be faster, but it looked like the Ferry was loading and we didn’t know if the Monorail would be as easy with all of our strollers, so off to the Ferry we went. It was a nice quick trip, and we were able to start the sunscreen process there, so that was a little timesaver. Blog01 Blog02 Once we were in the park, we headed down Main Street toward Fantasyland. It was so cool to see Cinderella’s Castle right up close as we walked by! As we rounded the corner to the back of the castle, WHO did we see but Cinderella's Fairy Godmother herself, with basically no line at all! Mollie was not too sure about her, but Natalie went right up when it was her turn. Mollie will still tell you that she DID see the Fairy Godmother, that she waved to her from the stroller - all true, just funny! Blog03 Once we were in Fantasyland, we tried to come up with a better game plan than we had at Epcot. The guys headed over to get Fast Passes for Peter Pan’s Flight, and ended up with bonus FPs for Mickey’s PhilharMagic. At that point, we didn’t realize that you could only have one FP out at a time (although the PhilharMagic was a legit bonus FP), so the guys went to get Fast Passes for the Winnie the Pooh Ride too. They asked a technician who was there about why they couldn’t get another FP, and he explained it, but then printed FPs for them anyway! Score! Blog04 So with three FPs waiting to be used, we got in line for the Teacups! That kind of tilt-a-whirl type ride has always been my favorite, plus, it’s such an iconic Disney ride, so it was a perfect place to begin! Blog05 Next up was another iconic ride – Dumbo! I was not at all sure if Mollie would be ok with it since it’s basically the same ride as the Dr. Seuss One Fish Two Fish ride, but she said she wanted to ride it and Brad went with her this time, so I think she felt more secure with Daddy. Natalie had more fun on each ride that we went on, although she’s not quite as adventurous as she would like you to think! It’s very cute though.Blog06 After that, we were off to use our Fast Passes. First up was the Peter Pan ride. I loved it so much! I am really leery of most rides – I hated rides when I was younger and I certainly hated people trying to force or trick me onto going on them, thinking they knew better than I did (which happened PLENTY). Now I still don’t like them much, but I was so pleasantly surprised at Disney because they were all about a FUN experience instead of a thrilling or scary one! Anyway, I think that’s why I have a special place in my heart for Mollie’s unease with rides. I skipped as many Six Flags & Frontier City rides as I could, and I think I turned out JUST FINE. ;) So, I have vowed since I was little that I’d never even slightly attempt to make my kids ride a single ride in their lives if they didn’t want to! But – back to Disney! Hahah I loved the feeling of floating around in a sailboat over the Peter Pan story, and the girls loved it too! After Peter Pan, we headed over to wait in line for Winnie the Pooh. Even the Fast Pass line was rather long, and everyone was so drained. It was nice to get into the main part of the wait where it was dark and cool. The ride was cute – we rode through as families in cars that looked like pots of honey. However, it had to do with the “Blustery Day” story, and it was actually a little unnerving for our girls at a few points. They did totally fine with it, and definitely had fun when it was over. The ride let out into a gift shop, and they wanted to get Pooh stuff, but we (quite easily) convinced them that they might want to wait until later in the week and maybe get something somewhere that they had more selection. Our next attraction was Mickey’s PhilharMagic. We didn’t expect much, or at least I didn’t, but we were looking forward to getting to sit down in a comfy seat indoors with air conditioning. The 3D show was a lot cuter than any of us expected, I think! There were also a few (not scary) surprises that made it even more fun.

We brought sandwiches into the park for lunch that day – we got really great premade subs at the SuperTarget the night before and had those – MUCH cheaper than the park and still really good! After lunch, we headed over to Tomorrowland. We intended to go to the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, but decided to give the Stitch's Great Escape ride a try first since the boys were sleeping. Matt and I waited with the sleeping boys and Mollie since she wasn't tall enough to go. Mollie was in a bad mood and wasn't minding very well. I was really hoping that the ride would be done soon (they'd been gone a while and it was supposed to only have a 5 minute wait). All of a sudden, Brad and Natalie were back. He said that Natalie was just getting too anxious and upset by the videos that they play while you wait in line for the ride. Well, not too much longer, and here comes Sheila with Kara and Elizabeth. Sheila said that Kara was screaming like she had never heard her scream before, and Elizabeth was bawling. She had to ask someone who worked there to let them out of the ride. We expected to see Lisa, Eric, & Aubrey come out any second, but they actually stayed for the whole ride. Aubrey didn't like it at all, but Lisa was able to keep her calm. I can't believe that a ride for kids would be so scary! Definitely the worst part of our trip!

After that crazy experience, we decided to leave Tomorrowland and try to find Rapunzel to get her autograph. We went to the location the app on my phone listed, and found nothing. One of the Disney Cast Members told us that as of that week, Rapunzel was only doing her Meet & Greet at the front of the park and that she would actually be in the parade now, starting in a little less than an hour. We were heading toward the front, when we ran right into a show going on at the Castle! We were off to the side of the show, not directly in front, but the kids still had so much fun watching Minnie, Mickey, their friends and some of the princes and princesses dancing!Blog07
When the show was getting close to being over, we decided to go a little further toward the front and get a good seat for the parade. We were so hot, and Brad suggested getting ice cream, so the guys walked down to the ice cream shop and brought back cool treats. The girls and I got cups of ice cream, but theirs had a small waffle cone and two chocolate cookies that made it look like Mickey. So cute! I wasn’t sure what to expect from the parade, but it was GREAT! The girls got to sit on the curb, and so many characters came right up to them for high fives or hugs or shaking hands! Unfortunately, after Natalie’s experience at the Stitch ride, she was scared by Stitch coming up and wouldn’t agree to sit at the curb any more. :-/Blog08 After the Parade, it was time for the BIG kids to ride Space Mountain. We went back and forth about whether Natalie & Kara would be ok on it and eventually decided not to chance it. That proved to be a good decision! Lisa and I waited with all of the kids while Brad, Eric, Matt, & Sheila rode the ride. They enjoyed it, but definitely thought it would have been too much for any of the girls. During the wait, Mollie told me she had to go potty, so I took her into the restroom that was really close by. She had the third of her insane meltdowns in there. She was the one who told me that she had to go, but then she didn’t want to and then she wouldn’t say she was done (or not done, she was just ignoring me). Then she started screaming and crying and it was like I couldn’t get her to snap out of it. It had happened to me a couple times before over the week, and that’s one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever dealt with (second ONLY to Natalie’s one horrible, terrible, awful, no-good, very bad fit in Target last summer). I finally had to carry Mollie out screaming. Good times. Anyway, when I got back to the bench where Lisa and the kids were waiting, I saw my sweet Natalie, cowering behind our stroller, hunched down as much as she could. I looked at Lisa, then followed her eyes to see what Natalie was hiding from. Who else but Stitch?! I have to say, again, I’m so frustrated with Disney for attempting to kid-ify a scary ride!!

We decided to head back home since we located Deb (who had taken Al to dialysis and her cell phone was not working). On the way out, we saw that Mickey was there at the front signing autographs in his Dressing Room, and the wait was estimated to be only 10 minutes. The wait was indoors and the cool felt wonderful! The Cast Member in charge of the line was entertaining and loved our big family of girls with our two little guys added in. They definitely make you feel like you’re backstage waiting to see a BIG STAR for this experience. We got into Mickey’s Dressing Room which the kids thought was SO cool – Natalie and Mollie still talk about it and describe it. Mickey started signing autographs and we gathered in and out of groups for lots of photos with the Mouse himself. We so hoped that Minnie would be with Mickey, but we weren’t sure what to expect. To our disappointment, she wasn’t. At one point, Mollie somberly said something that sounded very much like, “We LOVE Mickey,” to which Brad replied, “Yes, we love Mickey, don’t we?” Then she repeated what she said, as if she were gently correcting him and I realized what she really said was, “Only ONE Mickey.” I almost laughed out loud. When she sees Mickey & Minnie together, she always gets excited and says, “TWO Mickeys!!” So she was disappointed that she wasn’t meeting Minnie. I just let Mickey think Mollie loved him though. No use in disappointing the guy, right?Blog09 After one of our longest park days, we headed back to the vacation house. We thought surely the girls would nap, but they didn’t. They all wanted to play and swim, so we obliged them. After having so much fun at the afternoon parade, we started thinking about the night parade and the fireworks and how awesome it must be. Since the kiddos didn’t nap, we asked Al & Deb if it would be ok if we put them all to bed and then left them with the sleeping grandkids while we all went back to the park for the nighttime festivities. They were quick to agree and said we didn’t even need to put them to bed, but we knew that would be easiest, so we got them cleaned up, pajama-ed, and in bed and raced to the park.

It was a pretty weird feeling being just the six of us with no kids. None of us could remember the last time that happened! Actually, I’m wondering if that has ever happened before since Kara was born before Lisa & Eric’s wedding! We decided to give the monorail a try, and were glad to learn for the future that we could push strollers on. So the six of us were off for a kid-free adventure! We go places without the girls from time to time, but it was an incredibly strange feeling for me, anyway, being there with no stroller, no bag, no cooler, no kids to keep an eye on, and heck, I didn't even bring my purse! Crazy! We raced into the park and managed to find a spot right close to the entrance where we had an almost completely unobstructed view of the parade - which hadn't even started yet! It was so much fun! Disney just seriously knows how to do everything perfectly! We'd been there a couple minutes when one of us mentioned that the girls would probably enjoy it. After about 10 minutes, Sheila and I looked at each other with the same thought: We HAD to bring the girls back the next night!

Once we decided to bring the girls back the following night, the decision was made to take advantage of the lack of lines in the rest of the park and ride some rides that the kids wouldn't like. We had fun almost running through the park to try to get to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. So, full disclosure here: I am not big on thrill rides. Like, not.at.all. But I tried to just not think about it and know that this is not real, it's just a ride, etc. Except the problem isn't really that I'm easily scared. It's that I'm easily startled...and I'm always afraid that I'm going to scream out and embarrass myself. So I was pretty sure that there was going to be a high chance of that happening on this ride. So I snuggled up close to Brad in our boat, grabbed his hand (probably cut off his circulation, too, sorry about that, hubby!) and we set off. Brad kept saying that he didn't think I had to worry until the end, but I was ON GUARD for the entire ride. It was so incredibly well-done and interesting, but in the back of my mind, I totally expected something to startle me. We loved how Capt. Jack Sparrow was part of the scenery - they did an amazing job of making him look completely lifelike as well as exactly like Johnny Depp! It was fun trying to see where he'd pop up next. And before you knew it, the ride was over - and there wasn't anything to scare or startle us! The part that Brad remembered had apparently been changed at some point along the way, even! I still don't think that the girls would have enjoyed it - it's so creepy and ominous and there are some things being shot at your boat in some parts. But I'm so glad that I rode it! Wish I could do it again and relax!

The next stop on our adults-only Disney night was The Haunted Mansion. Now here, I thought - Disney is not going to fool me! This place MUST have scary things that jump out at you! So again, I was ON GUARD, cutting off Brad's circulation again. The ride was cute and interesting, but mainly silly and definitely not scary at all for adults. Again, I wished I could have ridden it another time so that I could relax and enjoy it more.

When we exited the Haunted Mansion, the fireworks were just beginning, so we stood there in Liberty Square, watching them. Again, I'm sure the girls would not have enjoyed it, but we sure did! I love fireworks, and as usual, Disney does not disappoint! When the fireworks were over, we made our biggest mistake. We didn't weave back through the "lands" to get back to the front, we followed like sheep along Main Street. DOH! It took us forever and ever and ever and everandeverandEVER to get out of the park. Totally ridiculous! We kept weaving in and out of people, and I feel certain that helped, but still: FOREVER. THAT was definitely not something we could risk doing with the girls, but thankfully, we were FREE of kids, strollers, bags, and all of the usual trappings of parenthood, so we made it out as quickly as we could while forming the perfect plan for the next night. We were in line for another eternity waiting on a monorail, and then had to crowd on like sardines - but at least it was cool, and even though the end was sort of miserable, it was all worth it! :)

Instagram Wrap-Up: RoadTrip4 Next On Deck: Another Day at Magic Kingdom & breakfast with the princesses!