Thursday, October 16, 2014

#cascadeshiningreviews Winner!

I finally got around to pulling the winner of the 2nd Cascade Shining Reviews giveaway – so sorry for the delay my friends!


Comment #8 is Jen! I want the butternut squash and bacon mac & cheese recipe too!

Thanks for playing along, friends!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Disney 2014–Hollywood Studios and Frozen Summer

As I talked about, we surprised the girls with this Disney trip which was so exciting. Disney surprised us with the opening of Frozen Summer at Hollywood Studios – it was a great surprise for Gianna (and Aleesia, of course!).

After we changed from spending our morning at the pool, we grabbed a snack and headed over to Hollywood Studios for the rest of our first day. It was a Tuesday, we had planned to be there between 12 and 1 and Mike had a fast pass scheduled for Star Tours.

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We are not so much Star anything people, but she and Mike both enjoyed the ride and Aleesia enjoyed an opportunity to nap for a bit.


We did a little exploring, which of course included visiting Oakin’s Trading Post (Gianna was so excited to get the Anna/Elsa flip doll!) and the Frozen Summer activities and reserving our spot for the Frozen Sing a Long. We got stuck in the rain, naturally, because we ALWAYS get stuck in the rain at Hollywood Studios!

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one of them was totally excited to build a snowman. one, was not!PhotoPass_Visiting_Studios_7058011935

We then headed to Toy Story Mania (love this ride!) and both girls enjoyed it.

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Our late lunch reservations were for Hollywood and Vine so we could dine with the Disney Jr. characters. We were the last lunch time available. The main benefit here: we got a lot of time with the characters. But honestly, the food was less than great. The lobster mac & cheese was good, the girls liked the tater tots, and the dessert station was (as always) a hit but overall the food was just blah. It honestly made me thankful we were using the dining plan and not paying out of pocket because I would have been quite disappointed. This was also the longest wait we had from reservation time to the time we sat down at the table. There was a big patio so the girls could run around and they had free ice water, which was nice as well.

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After we got our fill of Sophia and Doc we actually headed over to Disney Jr. Live – we were early, so we snuck in to see Wreck it Ralph and Vanillope Von Sweet first in the animation courtyard. We didn’t have a ton of time to spend here this time but it is a great place for kids to explore with lots of character meet & greets (Mickey, the Incredibles, Jake, Sofia) and different art stations to explore and play with.

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Aleesia LOVE LOVE LOVED Disney Jr. Live!! She and G danced and sang together and were just generally adorable! This is a big favorite of ours.

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And after that we went to a Frozen dance party which both girls LOVED.

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And finally, Frozen sing a long time – I was sure Gianna was going to jump out of her skin when it started, she participated fully in the songs and cracked me up the whole time. It was way too dark to get any pictures of her, but it was great. Funny, great songs, not too long, and a place to sit down for a  little while!

The girls were pretty much beat by that point, we walked around a bit more but ultimately headed back to our hotel early and skipped the fireworks and Fantasmic. (Gianna and Aleesia are both scared of fireworks, so this wasn’t a big deal to us) And as I mentioned previously, we actually were able to watch the Frozen fireworks from our resort as we walked to our room so we still got to see them without the loud booms.

Overall for a  5 and 1 year old, this was not an all day park for us this time. We would have liked to been able to also fit in Beauty and the Beast and the parade, but we just didn’t get there early enough nor did we have time with the way our fast pass and meal reservations were timed. For the parents, they serve beer and there are some roller coasters (Tower of Terror! Rockin’ roller coaster) that are great. It was a more laid back day for us, which worked well since we got there later. There are plenty of character greetings (we did not do them all, obviously) and both kids were equally entertained for the entire day. The Disney Jr. and Frozen attractions made this a can’t miss park for us!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A letter to my daughter {5 and a HALF!}

Oh Gianna!

When we woke up this morning it hit me that today you are 5 and a HALF. Which means you are closer to having to count your age on 2 hands than you were yesterday. And I almost want to refuse to believe it.

I want to pretend some days that you are still much younger.


(photo credit: Tamarie Photography/2010)

But most days, I fully embrace your big kid status.

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You are growing up and maturing so quickly, as I expected would happen once you started school. The things that you are learning are so amazing – writing, math, science, music, computer, art, gym (you still do not love gym class but you did tell me that Mr. N is a “big, funny guy”!), and most of all religion. You talk daily about ways to talk to God and I see you growing so much in your understanding of and love for Him – you pay attention during mass and we talk about it afterwards. There are some parts of school that don’t come as easy to you, but we are finally getting to a place of agreement where you will always try your best – because my little firecracker, that is all we will ever ask of you. Please try your best always and never fear that we will be disappointed or frustrated with you over something that doesn’t appear to be perfect. No one is perfect, and no one perfects any new skill without practicing and trying.

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You are such a goofball and your personality is really evolving into one just overflowing with imagination, surrounded by silliness and genuine love for the people in your life. You spend almost all of your free time at home coloring (or some other art related project) or playing with your dolls/barbies/etc. creating different stories and adventures for them. 7.20  (2)

Being a big sister is something that you truly excel in. You have been so patient with Aleesia (most days!) when she wants to play with your dollhouse or your princesses too. Now that you share a room, neither of you like to go to bed without the other and I can hear you telling her “time to go to sleep, Aleesia!” or when she wakes up in the morning or after her nap you are first to run to her. Sometimes you have tried to get Aleesia out of her crib but usually you either jump in there with her or just play entertain her until we can come in and help. You love to pick out her clothes and are always concerned about what she is doing. And that big sister love is already showing with the new baby even if she isn’t here yet. You talk to her in my belly and love to sit with your hand on my stomach to feel her move. Being a big sister is a lot of responsibility but you take it all in stride.9.13  (4)

Dance is still your favorite thing – you are in the big girl ballerina class and hip hop this year and you love it! You are doing a great job at swimming, too! You love to go on adventures, you still have quite the fashion opinion, and you always have a lot to say! We are still working through some attitude problems at times (but we are all allowed to be grumpy and have have a bad day sometimes!) but you have grown and matured so much, especially recently.

You are helpful - you do your chores and even a few extra things when we need your help; you are respectful – you use your manners and treat adults with respect even when we aren’t around; you are kind – you are often very concerned about how your actions will affect others.

Lately you have been wanting to snuggle up on the couch a lot when  you are tired and I certainly take advantage of that!  You continue to love princesses, you want to live at Disney World and you want to be a ballerina and a horse rider when you grow up (and maybe a singer!).PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_7058010777

So today, we celebrated your very merry unbirthday with pink cupcakes and a happy birthday song, complete with candles during an after dinner tea party. And you were so excited – you wear all of your emotions on your sleeve and there is nothing more I love than seeing the pure joy you express when you are happy!

My not-so-little girl, you just constantly amaze me. And that spark in those blue eyes remains shining bright. I love you so much it hurts some days and I am so proud of you just for being you!3.98.13  (114)



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Disney Recap Part 1– Surprise, Art of Animation & Magic Bands

So as I eluded to in my first vacation recap post, Gianna didn’t know where we were headed for the rest of our August vacation. We jumped in the car early in the morning, grabbed some donuts for the road and after just a little while heard from the back seat “where’s the beach? When will we be there?”

Mike and I hadn’t really thought through when we would tell her but it turns out, we didn’t have to worry about it – we passed under that awesome Welcome to Disney sign and she figured it out. My dang phone didn’t record the video right but it was a fairly epic parenting moment.

Gianna kept saying “wait, this isn’t the beach. Or is it a Disney Beach?” Once she realized that we were going to Disney World she told Aleesia “SISSY! YOU GET TO MEET MINNIE AND I GET TO MEET ELSA!” When we pulled into the resort parking lot she couldn’t stop smiling. It was priceless and something that I know we won’t forget.

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The Art of Animation is a really cool, really Disney resort. We did the online check-in and requested an early check-in (we were there before 10am). Our magic bands worked as soon as we got there, of course.

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Our room was ready before we even pulled our car up to unload the luggage. So we unloaded our stuff and while Mike returned the rental car we let the girls explore the splash pad (so fun!) before we needed to head out to the park.

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The whole resort is themed, we stayed in the Little Mermaid rooms. These are the furthest from the main pool, food, resort area but the walk wasn’t as bad as I originally thought it might be. You go through the Lion King area and Aleesia loved to roar at the lions! We had a parking lot view and our room was really quiet. I would imagine if you had a pool view room it may be a bit louder. We were also able to see the Hollywood Studios Frozen Summer fireworks from the resort, so that was a fun feature! The Little Mermaid area has it’s own pool (we never got a chance to use it, though) which is great. The girls LOVED the themed room – I mean, LOVED!

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(The girls got prizes again this time (their Minnie night gowns were from the night before) to help combat the “I wants” – Gianna remembered this from last time and was so happy to have discovered the princess dresses that Elsa left for her and Ariel left for Aleesia. She was so excited!)

The splash pad and main pool are wonderful. There is a jogging path available as well, which I thought was nice. The food at the resort was really good and there was a wide variety of snack and meal options that we all enjoyed.

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We did not have any issues with transportation (we never have, though) and again, our room was great. If you stay in the Little Mermaid area just be prepared to walk for an extra 10 minutes when you get back from the parks. The other resort areas are much closer.

Now for a little MagicBand recap:

  • The girls did not mind wearing them at all. Mine fell off from time-to-time for some reason, though. Aleesia’s did not do anything except unlock our resort door – but she enjoyed wearing her “pretty”!

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  • I wish we had known (or remembered) as soon as we checked in that you need to establish (and know!) a pin number to purchase anything using your band. This goes for using the dining plan or purchasing something from a gift shop. So I am reminding you, ask about your pin number when you check in!
  • I found the entry into the park a bit more time consuming over using the key cards, but honestly it wasn’t a huge deal or delay. Unless your fingerprint doesn’t capture in the system and you have to have a Cast Member assist you almost every time like I did!
  • All of our fast passes worked perfectly and I was SO THANKFUL for this feature. More on this later related to each park.
  • All of your photopass pictures are also loaded using your band. The one-stop-shopping feature is great.
  • It’s fun to get the Mickey to light up!

Next up are park and dining reviews and all about our experience with a 5 and 1 year old!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The third

I can’t believe how quickly time is flying by while we await the third little lady to grace us with her presence on the outside. Third trimester already – my mind is officially blown!

I feel bad that I haven’t written to her yet (sorry, punkin!) but we talk a lot. And I sit a lot and just enjoy her movements – she does the same things her sisters did on the inside. Her movements are really strong – they will wake me up from a deep sleep!

I had to stop running around 16/17 weeks which bummed me out, but I really thought my pelvic bones were going to split in half when I was finished a 4 mile run so I decided to press the pause button. I’m looking forward to getting back out there once she is here though! I haven’t done much purposeful exercise, but I am busy all the time with the girls and really only want to eat ice chips and apples lately!

Heartburn still stinks but Tums Smoothies are working their magic for now. I’ve been VERY lucky in the migraine department this time which is fabulous as well. The list of things that we need to do is officially growing, not shrinking. But hopefully by November everything will be almost ready to go – I’m excited to get her nursery going (but first we are painting and getting new carpet next week)! These prints are my inspiration and I am on the hunt for the perfect curtains right now!


But besides the growing list of things that need to get done/bought and trying to determine what her name will be, things are good. Mike keeps reminding me that I need to get in the right mental space to prepare for labor and he is SO right, so that is a priority over the next 12 weeks. I am SURE I will start to panic about her arrival and making sure the big sisters are taken care of and I need to get all the things together before she comes which I expect to happen in about 8 weeks but for now, I am feeling calm cool and collected.

All in all, I can’t believe we are here already, final countdown time! The thought of meeting this girl brings the biggest smile to my face. Especially when Gianna talks to her and tells me how excited she is for “new baby sister” to come so she can “hold her and stuff” (I’m skeptical on the stuff part…!) or when Aleesia feels her kick and says “baby?”  Sometimes we all snuggle up on the couch and I just soak up all the seconds because this life, some moments are hard, but it’s SO GREAT.

In other news, we’ve hit the “wow, you’re huge” belly comment stage, but it doesn’t really bother me anymore. Generally speaking, I don’t FEEL as big as I (apparently) look so that’s good news. How about a little comparison around 27/28 weeks with all 3 girls:



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Baby girl #3: