March 20, 2014

Disney Vacation Planning.

So!  We're throwing all three kids in the minivan and taking them on a road trip to Disney!

You don't get more American than that, folks.

And alot of my friends have been asking about the how.  About the details.  About what the plan is.  Because when you're even considering a Disney trip you want to have a plan.  So I thought I'd write up some of our thoughts and decisions.
Look!  A pinnable image!
I have no idea if they are amazing or terrible or not as this is the the first time we're doing this.  But I have done ALOT of research.  Pintrest, ftw!

Also because I"m not capable of posting to this blog without way too many pictures I thought I'd throw in a little Throwback Thursday action.  Sprinkled throughout are photos from the last time we were at Disney.  In 2003.  For our class trip with the UC Masters of Architecture class of 2004.

Disney 2003
A picture that I will absolutely be retaking for comparison purposes.  Here we are 23 and engaged.  Now we are 33 and have more than doubled our little family.  Heh.

10 things about our Disney Plan.

1.) We are not rich.  We are also not doing the Disney the cheapest way possible thing.  It seems like every one of the tips I've read makes me think "Right.  I'd do that if I had ALL THE MONEY" or "Yeah I'm SO not dealing with that nonsense."  Bottom line we are a normal family who wants to take a normal vacation without either selling our soul to the mouse via $250 tea with a princess (an actual thing) or scrounging for meals comprised of rolls and stolen condiments (an actual frugal Disney tip I've read.)  NOOOPE.

disney 069
As long as we can go to the haunted manor I'm good.
2.)  Our kids are 5, almost 3, and 9 months.  It seemed like there was a perfect storm of reasons to go RIGHT NOW.  Not the least of which is the fact that kids under 3 are FREE.  Yes.  FREE.  So if we went literally a month later it would cost us A LOT more.  And the 9 month old is in the baby sweet spot between being a newborn and a toddler. Also our daughter is right at the point where she's starting to question all of it.  She asks me all the time "is this real?"  She wants to know why she can't have actual pixie dust but doesn't believe that the characters on Jake are people.  It's a delicate line.  One that she'll be across before we know it.  And once past the point of believing seeing the characters won't be nearly as thrilling.  So we wanted to do Disney once while all of our kids are still in the little kid who believes in magic category. 

disney 083
Honestly I'm a little disappointed he didn't mimic the lobster claw jazz hands.

3.)  We are driving.   Flying with a family of 5 would cost 1 BILLION DOLLARS.  So that's not happening.  The plan is to do as much of the driving as possible while the kids are asleep.  Nighttime driving is our friend.  Luckily our good friends live literally at the halfway point.  Like not even remotely out of our way and directly in the middle almost to the minute.  So we're going to break up the trip and spend a day with them in Charlotte.  Also YAY WE GET TO SEE OUR FRIENDS!!!!
Disney 2003
Some friends!
4.)  We are only going to the parks 2 days.   Ok with Disney there is ALOT to see.  So much to see.  SO MUCH to do.  And while I totally want to see ALL OF THE THINGS!  I know that little kids can only handle so much.  Hell parents who are hauling around little kids can only handle so much.  And 2 days out of the week we're traveling seems reasonable without being insane.

disney 070
Another picture I feel we should recreate.
 5.)  We are only going to Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.  This was an easy decision.  Magic Kingdom is clearly is a must.  And Hollywood is where the Disney Jr stuff and the Cars stuff is.  Obviously we need to see Jake and my 2yo boy is Cars obsessed.  So that was a must as well.  Epcot is worthless unless you are drinking (pro tip from my Florida friend).  Plus it's ALOT of walking.  So even though that's the only place the Frozen princesses are (BOO HISS) it was pretty easy to let it go.  Natch.

disney 175
But the jumping fountain!  My kids won't get to play in the jumping fountain!  aaaaaand over it.
From what I remember Animal Kingdom is a glorified zoo that smells like... zoo.  To be fair I was SO SO SO hungover on the day we were there in 2003 thanks to spending the previous night at Downtown Disney.  But we have a great zoo here in Cleveland that doesn't cost Disney money.  Pass.
disney 171
This is the only picture I took at Animal Kingdom other than a really blurry one of an alligator?  Probably an alligator.  I don't know.  I spent the day wishing I could lie down someplace darker.
6.)  We are not staying onsite.  I know.  I KNOW.  Everyone who knows Disney is all STAY ON SITE YOU HAVE TO STAY ON SITE OMG WHY ARE YOU NOT STAYING ON SITE?!!!  Here's the thing though.  Their Value Resorts are just glorified motels.  And I do not understand how the logistics of that could work.  I mean do we just go to bed when the kids go to bed?  That's fun.  And what happens when the little guy gets up in the middle of the night?  We all get up, too?  That should make for some well rested and ready to go kids.  Bottom line:  Staying in a motel room with 3 little kids didn't sound like a vacation no matter how nice the theme.

Us with our pile of kids at the St Patrick's Day parade yesterday. #happyincle #thisisCLE #stevensonpartyof5 @verozarc
Too many people to put in a motel room.
You know what does sound like vacation?  A 3 bedroom condo with a private pool.  And access to the resort pool and splashpad.  And it's own washer and dryer.

A happy baby w spinach on his noes. OH THE CUTE. #baby #8months #stevensonpartyof5
What.  I would never create any laundry that needs to be done OMG NOW GROSS ICK ICK ICK.

7.)  We are doing some character dining but not breakfast.  From everything I've read the little kid version of Disney needs to include some character dining.  This is supposedly the best way to meet the characters and there's tons of options out there - you can even have dinner INSIDE the castle (see also:  ALL THE MONEY).  Most of the character dining events are breakfast but as my Disney expert friend warned us "You guys are going to be pist if you spend $100 on eggs"  TRUTH.  So we're doing the Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner.  I figure we're going to eat dinner out anyways.  And it's at one of the resorts so it's a way to get in an extra bonus Disney day without paying for another day of park admissions.  We gave this to my daughter for her birthday - along with a belle dress to wear to it - and she LOST HER MIND:

I'm really looking forward to it.

8.)  The plan for the Magic Kingdom is to leave at naptime.  Maybe. So rumor has it that the Magic Kingdom is not very magical around 3:00.  Instead it's filled with overtired, overstimulated melting-down kids at what should be naptime.  I have no desire to be the parent of three such horror shows.  So the plan is to leave after lunch, drive back to the condo (only a few miles away), and nap until dinner.  Then go back to the park for the nighttime stuff - the electric parade and the fireworks where Tinkerbell really flies!  Obviously this plan is subject to change and I understand the logistics of getting out and back into the park are daunting and involve the monorail.  We'll see how it goes.
disney 086
And look how pretty the castle is at night!

9.)  The plan for Hollywood Studios is to white knuckle it through a day of no naps:  So Hollywood is all about the shows.  There's a Muppet show!  And a Stunt racer show (McQueen makes a cameo and the Dude is going to FREAK and it's going to be so awesome)!  Our thought is that the kids will have enough downtime to make it through the day without napping.  HOWEVER.  We def. want to go to the Fantasmic show (MALIFICENT!)  that night.  So once again we'll see how it goes.

Disney 2003

10.)  We're going to get the kids "first time visitor" badges.  So yeah.  There's these badges you can get at Guest Services that say "First Time at Disney" and with them everyone gives you extra attention.  Goes the extra mile to make your day that much funner.  YES AND MORE YES.  We will be getting one for each of our kids.

disney 072

So yeah.  I think it's going to be a really great trip.  If anyone has any other tips that I'm missing please do tell.  Clearly I'm new to this game.


March 18, 2014

Introducing: Buckey!

So!  We finally bought a mini-van!  Yay!

New Car!!!
Some backstory:  Our commuter car finally died a spectacular death and as much as we love (still love) the Swiss army knife that is our 5 we've completely outgrown it.  With the addition of a 3rd kid (and carseat) all of a sudden there was no room for anything else.  And with a couple of big road trips coming up?


See I love me a minivan.  I seriously do not get all of the backlash against them.  It's a tool to do a job.  Saying that you hate minivans is the same as saying that you hate a Phillips head screwdriver.  I mean sure you can use a flat head to get the job done.  And you can certainly haul kids in a mega-suv.  But it's not nearly as easy as using the tool specifically - and stylishly- designed for the task at hand.  And the tool designed for transporting a family of 5?  Obviously a minivan.

But!  I do understand the whole not wanting to be the same as everyone else thing.  Everywhere I go there are minivans and mega-suv's.

Little boxes on the highway
Little boxes made of ticky tacky 
Little boxes in the pick-up line
Little boxes all the same

So you know how you stand out in the sea of boxes?  You buy a bright red one:

Our new car!
Hello, gorgeous.
I love this car.

Our new car!
The kids love it as well.  My daughter immediately named it "Buckey" after the Buccaneer - the pirate ship in Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  Because it's as big as a ship and holds all of our Mateys.  And we can take it on many adventures. YES.

New Car!!!

We have literally test driven every minivan on the market in the last 2 years.  All of them. And this is the best one:

Our new car!
Chrysler Town and Country.
Because the Town and Country (and also the Dodge Grand Caravan - they are built on the same platform) has something that blows all of the competition away:

Our new car!
Stow and go seats.  The middle captains chairs literally fold completely into the floor.  Which means that when they are in use there is cavernous storage space hidden underneath the floor of the van.  I can keep extra diapers! and coats! and changes of clothes for the kids just in case!  Without junking up my entire car!  It's phenomenal.  I am literally planning on putting the kids suitcases down there when we travel.  AMAZING!

I love the styling as well:

Our new car!
Super sleek.

And I'm not going to lie - the automatic sliding doors have changed my life.  Combine that with remote start and I can, while getting the baby dressed, warm up the car and then tell the big kids to go get in.  Without leaving my house.  Without doing the MANY trips out to the car to get the car warm and everyone in thing that I had been doing.  LIFE. CHANGING.

Our new car!
The other feature that makes my heart sing is the automatic pedals.  As a short person I'm faced with the problem of having to sit on top of the steering wheel to be able to reach everything.  Not with the automatic pedals!  They adjust so that I can sit where a normal person sits.  I had them in the Maxx car and let me tell you it's a feature I never want to go without ever again.  SO AMAZING.

Our new car!
My other must have for a minivan was the rear backup camera.  We have a very tight driveway.  Like 2 inches of clearance on either side when pulling out of the gate tight.  And we live on a main road.  The rear camera?  Makes all of that no problem at all.  Also I'm happy about the added safety with 3 small kids running around.  YAY!

Our new car!
And finally - this was the feature that Matt really wanted - the van has leather seats.  I didn't get why it was worth it at first.  Seemed like an unnecessary expense.   Yeah a couple of weeks later and I am SOLD.  You know what happens when the kids get mud on the leather when climbing into their carseats?  I wipe it off.  Simple as that.  It doesn't get crusted into the fabric, it doesn't stain, it's not a big deal anymore at all.  I keep a towel in the car for just this purpose.  Easy!

New Car!!!

Overall I am SO happy with this car.  Of course the big test will be on our upcoming Epic Road Trip.  But I think Buckey is up to the task.  Yo Ho Mateys Away!

New Car!!!

All we need now is a pirate flag!

March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So!  You guys!  It's my daughter's 5th birthday today!

And tomorrow she will be FIVE!  Don't blink. It goes REALLY fast. #stevensonpartyof5
And since she wants to hang out and watch a movie this morning before we head to the parade this afternoon - and it's her bday so she gets to decide that - how about some pictures of my kids in the same handknit sweater?

The Girl:  March 17, 2010:

Outdoor birthday photoshoot
Look how little she was! Look how short her hair is!!! It goes so fast! 

Outdoor birthday photoshoot
I started this sweater on our trip to Maine when I was pregnant for the very first time.  Before we knew she was a girl.  Before we knew we'd have 2 boys after that.  All I knew was that my kid was going to be born around St. Patrick Day and therefore needed a green, cable knit sweater.
Outdoor birthday photoshoot

I finished it just in time for her 1st birthday.

Outdoor birthday photoshoot
Notice there's no buttons?  Yeah I didn't get around to sewing those on until 2012.  Seriously.

The Dude:  March 13, 2012:

Des in the sweater
OH THAT SMILE!  And notice how OUTSIDE we are?  Seriously outside.  In shorts.  I can't even fathom that right now.
Des in the sweater

So outside!!!
Des in the sweater

They both look so young!!!!  Even the dog looks like a baby:

Des in the sweater

The Little Guy:  March 17, 2014:

Vic in the St Pat's sweater My littlest one.  The only one without the benefit of natural light since it's 20 DEGREES OUT OMG WHEN WILL THIS WINTER END.

Vic in the St Pat's sweater
and yet for some reason you didn't put shoes on me.
He's such a happy little one:

Vic in the St Pat's sweater

Although he did keep trying to crawl away during this little photoshoot. 
Vic in the St Pat's sweater
I don't know what you're talking about, mommy.
Heh.  Have a wonderful St. Patrick's day!!!!

March 14, 2014

Spring Shaving.

So!  This winter Matt grew out a beard:

It was glorious.  As all beards should be.  But in a few days we're piling all of the kids in the van and driving south until we are out of this godforsaken winterscape.  So last night?  It was time for a shave.
So. Many. Options!  (image from here)

He started with the classic goatee:


Then started to get crazy:

I... what is the goal here?
And dissolved into a debate between the Fu and the Mushroom:
Or both?  Is both a thing?  The pic is blurry because we were both laughing too hard.

Finally ending up with... well...


We are calling it the "Bizarro Matt"
Yes.  He went to work today that way.  And will be rocking it at tonight's fishfry.  After that I'm guessing he'll go back to plain old springtime Matt but what a fun journey it has been:
I... yeah.  The baby hasn't been sleeping again - every night sometime around 2AM he does his I HATE THE WORLD thing for an hour or so.  I'm deep enough into this parenting thing not to freak out about it - I know that this current nonsense is normal (teeth! not being on enough of a routine since he's dragged after his siblings everywhere! growth spurt! voodoo! just being a baby!).  But that doesn't make it any easier.  Or me any less of a zombie.

And when I don't sleep (EVER OMG) everything else kindof falls to shit. We're in survival mode, bitches.

It's a good thing I'm this cute.
Clearly I am not currently capable of being witty or coherent.   So instead of finishing one of the many coherent blog posts I have started (our new car! our upcoming vacation! birthday parties! knitting successes!) I posted that.  Happy Weekend!

March 4, 2014

Cleveland Kurentovnaje.

So on Saturday we took the kids down to the Slovenian National Home for the Kurentovanje Festival:


 Where these guys:

the Kurent, are believed to chase away winter and usher in spring.  Unfortunately Winter seems to have missed that memo (seriously starting to believe that spring is a myth and that winter is going to last decades GoT style).  But the parade was fun!

kurentovanje festival
And seriously how much fun are these dudes having?


And I love a polka band on a truck.

Funtimes, indeed.

After the parade we headed inside.  The Slovenian dancers put on a great show but our kids were only interested in one thing at that point:

Kielbasi.  YES.

They did get to dance to a polka band, though.

There were supposedly some great crafts and kid activities going on in the basement but we didn't stay for that since the kids were getting a little crazy:

everyone in this photo needs a nap STAT.
On the way home the dude was all "The Lake is all Frozen Up." and the girl responded with "Yeah I thought those scary monster things were supposed to get rid of winter?  How come it's still frozen?"


Anyways we'll be rocking out at the Slovenian National Home for their Lenten Fish Fry starting this Friday.  It's our favorite one in Cleveland.  Polka Band!  Dancing! Bar!  The kids love it.

Happy Mardi Gras Everyone!  

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