Tag Archives: family

Magical fun showing our #DisneySide @Home Celebration

20140302-113553.jpgWe had such a blast showing our #DisneySide @Home Celebration.*  The kiddos made T-shirts, decorated Mickey cupcakes, and took home some neat little trinkets, like bracelets, Muppet calendars and Donald Duck tattoos and Mickey Mouse stickers.  To see all my #Disney posts, check out the category or tag “Disney.”

We asked everyone to dress-up in their favorite Disney character 20140302-113614.jpgcostume and show up for some fun.  We didn’t print photos on-site, but each mom who came went home with a HP Photo card pack to create their own photos from the event.  The photos can be customized at http://www.disneysidecelebrations.com.

Here are the some more pictures, and look at all the characters that showed up:  Sleeping Beauty, Anna from FROZEN, Snow White, Rapunzel, Mickey Mouse, and we even got to host Luke Skywalker!





20140302-113745.jpgWe had great timing this year because it is also Mardi Gras, and we were able to combine two parties in one- Mardi Gras King Cake, yummy Community coffee from New Orleans and assorted snacks.



*Disclaimer: I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  Also see Get Clued In’s general disclaimer.



Can’t believe it’s been almost a month since we returned from Florida, and this is the first I get a chance to post about it?  Yes, life is busy.  We had a blast in Florida, but the weather couldn’t have been more bipolar than it was this trip.  Tired of hearing and talking about the weather, eh?  I’ll try not to harp on it.  Did I mention how much I miss Hawaii?  Oh, but they had 55-65 F temps too this year.  Here are some highlights of our New Year’s trip.

IMG_4129Cocoa Beach & Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center

NASA was fun; expensive, but fun, and unlike the Disney parks, very focused on one theme- Space!  The best part of visiting the Kennedy Space Center was seeing the Atlantis exhibit, and the actual Atlantis shuttle.  What a great new center and so many hands-on activities and modules for the kids and the adult kids too!  The other great part of the Center is the IMAX IMG_89463-D movie.  The one that was playing when we were there was Hubble, and it was very well done, and engaging.  The stars and planets fly out at you, and it is a great experience for all.  You can meet astronauts, and characters, and just have a great time around the Center.  If the weather is nice, bonus!

Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach- Writing reads, “I miss Hawaii”




We had cold and windy weather for Cocoa Beach, and wish it were warmer, but it’s beach, so how can we complain at all?  I do believe Cocoa Beach would be a great place to stay overnight, and with better weather, it is a very nice beach with lots of great restaurants and things to do in the area.  I think Melbourne would be another fun place to visit if there is time.  We did a day trip, but if you get more time, I would definitely recommend this entire area, and if you take a cruise, Port Canaveral looked awesome!

IMG_8981“Orange” you glad you picked your own oranges?

If you love Florida oranges, or citrus in general, and are in the Orlando or any other Florida area, look up local commercial groves where you can pick your own fruit.  The one closest to where my folks live is my favorite, albeit the only one I am aware of.  If the giant confederate flag doesn’t turn you off, then give this place a try.  Otherwise, do a Google(c) search with zip code on commercial orange groves, and you may find the right one for you!  IMG_8984The one we go to is called “Showcase of Citrus” off of Highway 27, in Clermont, Florida.  It is a fun place for kids and adults alike.  Wear your walking shoes, and you can bring your own wagon because when this place gets busy, they may run out.  For $12, you can fill (to your heart’s content) a 5 lb. bag they supply.  You can fill a 10 lb. bag too for more.  There are coupons on-line for their famous slushy and swamp tours.  The swamp tour is about 60 minutes, and resembles the Kilimanjaro ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom without all the wildlife.  It is a great place to walk around the groves and pick various citrus; all types of oranges,grapefruit, and tangerine varieties.  Or, for $13, you can fill a bag inside the market area (they have picked the best ones for you), and you can be on your way!  The IMG_8989bag itself is a souvenir too!  The citrus here is so delicious, and we had fresh juice for a week, and citrus for breakfast.  Sickness, be damned!  Oh another place while in Clermont is a local donut shop called “Donut King.”   They serve all sorts of cajun food too, but my God, their donuts– amazingly delicious!  When in Clermont, definitely give Donut King a try.

The CSI ExperienceIMG_9028– we had an amazing date afternoon on International Drive.  It was a unique date.  My husband loves the show CSI.  The CSI Experience is a fun place to act out the forensics doctor or investigator in you without really getting too “dirty” or close to the real body.  There are three separate scenarios and “crimes,” and you go through several different rooms to narrow the suspect pool, and find the truth.  It’s fun, and each scene takes about 30-45 minutes.   If you are military, be sure to bring your IDs and you get a great discount.  There are coupons in all the local magazines and on-line for about $2.00 per person which is good too.  If you’re into solving crimes and the show, CSI, you will have a good time.

Hollywood Studios

I’ve said it once, I have said it a few dozen times, Disney stresses me out.  Disneyworld stresses me out way more than LAND.  I found LAND laid back, and since it doesn’t attract a lot of foreign tourists, I found it less crowded and more manageable.  Of course, Disney is Disney- high prices, crazy lines for absolutely nothing all that exciting at the end, and a lot of walking.  Yes, parents can sit in strollers and it’s socially acceptable at Disney.  For a Type-A parent like myself, Disney is very stressful.  For me, Magic Kingdom is the most stressful.  If waiting in line to see Tinkerbell for an hour wasn’t bad enough, I can’t get a fast pass to the Enchanted Belle ride (new in Fantasyland) because I didn’t stay in a Disneyworld resort.  Really?  How has Disney ever survived an FTC investigation or an anti-trust/price-rigging suit? I do not get it all.  I have to stay at your bloody resort so I can save 120 minutes?  #Sigh Ah well, all that aside, this time we visited Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom-Asia; not sure why I look preggers in this one
Animal Kingdom-Asia; not sure why I look preggers in this one

The weather really did not cooperate at all with us this time in Florida, and it rained for most of our time at Animal Kingdom.  But, we enjoyed a few things at the Park.  Animal Kingdom is beta-testing the Fast Pass PLUS program for all people (not just those at Disney resorts) and we were able to get tickets for The Lion King and Finding Nemo and the kids enjoyed these shows.  Our favorite ride was Killamanjaro and the girls loved the animals.

Lion King Show
Lion King Show

They are all right there.  I had no idea how long this ride was, but it was very cool.  I felt transported to Africa.  I love the Asia area, and while we did not ride the fast-paced rides, the girls enjoyed getting their books stamped at each different region.  The rain dampened us physically, but not our spirits.

Nemo Show at Animal Kingdom
Honey I shrunk the Kids play area

Hollywood Studios was fun to visit, but it was a cool day.  We enjoyed our time watching the shows, Disney Junior, and the movies.  Hollywood Studios reminded me of California Adventure Park – same look and feel.  The Hollywood ride was a lot of fun, and walking aIMG_4203round the different sets was a good time as well.  The kids’ favorite part was hanging out in the play area of “Honey I shrunk the kids.”  They could have taken or left the rest of the day.  Fantasmic here is the same as the beautiful Fantasmic show at Disneyland.  So, feel free to skip it on a cold or rainy night, and catch it in a more relaxed setting at Disneyland.  The Beauty and the Beast show is nice, but in an outdoor theater.  I think The Lion King is the best we saw among both parks.  The rest is okay after that.  The show Bug’s Life in 3D is awesome but it is scary for kids under 8.  My girls were screaming and we had to run out at California Adventure Park, so we did not attempt it here, but I thought it was fun.  Character meetings are fun for the kids and make sure you get a photo pass too so you can see all your pics later.  Disney charges an arm and a leg to buy them later, but you can have the photo pass photographer take a picture of you and your family with your own camera too!  They take great photos by the way.

Magic Kingdom was our last stop to see the princesses.  As I said, this is the least favorite park for me – too big, and too much to do, and the one that won’t readily give you a fast pass plus unless you stay on site.  Might be worth getting a single room for one night at Cinderella2the cheapest resort you can find just for the speed, but totally your call.  If you get one night, remember, you can use that for 2 days at the parks.  We saw a lot of princesses at the Magic Kingdom, and the girls had a great time on their usual rides: Aladdin’s magic carpet, Little Mermaid (so not worth the line- this is the same ride that had a 2 min wait at California Adventure park).  I recommend getting there and standing in line for Belle’s Enchanted Ride, and leaving Fantasyland.  The kiddos loved the show in front of the Castle.  Best view in January was the 520pm show, when the castle IMG_9210literally went from daylight to night, with spectacular lighting and all.  The characters sing, dance, and my daughters loved seeing their favorites all in one place.  The parades are good for this too!

All in all, it was a good trip to Florida, but I think I definitely could have used more R&R time and if you want more R&R, skip Disney, and just do local fun things.

Holmes Beach- Bradenton

IMG_9151 IMG_9166


Beaches South of Tampa, on the Gulf Coast- We visited both coasts for beach, but the weather never seemed to cooperate with us.

I think when we return to Florida, we should try to get a beach house, and soak up sun, and play in the sand.  The beaches South of Tampa, near Bradenton, north of Sarasota look beautiful.  We were at Holmes Beach and these pictures were taken there.  The sand was whiter, and sea shells for all to find and adore.  I think I liked this beach even more than Cocoa Beach, but surprisingly the Gulf Water was not as warmer than the Atlantic on the Cocoa Beach side.

Ah, Floridahh, what a great family vacation – seeing family, doing fun things, and escaping the cold- well, a little.



Disneyland on a Dime?

With Minnie at the Plaza, Disneyland Character breakfast
With Minnie at the Plaza, Disneyland Character breakfast

You may remember my review last year titled, “DisneyWorld on a Dime? Ahhh, Forget about it!”   Well, this review is on Disneyland, in Anaheim, California.  This was our first time visiting land as opposed to world.  We had a blast, and I can honestly say it was more manageable and less stressful than Disneyworld.  Also, because we live in Colorado, it is a quicker flight as well.  Can it be done on a dime?  Well, no, but, there are some cost-saving tips included here, along with some tips on parking, and what to bring with you.  I hope this helps you, and your family as you venture to Disneyland and California Adventure Park.  Also, make sure you check out the beaches of Southern California and unwind a bit while visiting this area.

Cinderella at the Royal Hall
Cinderella at the Royal Hall – meet & greet

Disney is … Disney.  There is something magical about Disney Parks- you can feel it.  It’s not just how the cast and crew members treat you, it goes deeper.  I have to say, Disney events, food stands, dining options (including character dining), and activities are well thought-out, well-planned, and run like a well-oiled machine.  From the moment you enter the park to the time you exit the parking lot, there is someone to help you along the way, and guide you.  Disneyland was no exception.  I can say this because last Christmas we visited SeaWorld in Orlando, and there is a huge difference in how the parks operate.   I found California Adventure Park less organized, and less friendly than the traditional Disney parks, but still pleasant and part of the Disney experience.  It has a different look and feel to me, and I just didn’t feel that I was in a Disney park when we visited the Adventure Park side.  But, Adventure Park is very well done too- nice layout, and you are transported into the areas you enter- Pacific Rim, Cars Land, Bug’s Life, etc.

IMG_3742First, both parks are directly across from one another, and next to Downtown Disneyland (all walk-able), so, it does not matter where you park but take note to the Tips below.  Second, if you get hoppers here, it is easy to hop from Adventure Park to Disneyland and vice versa, so if you miss a firework show, or parade, or light show, it is really very easy to hop here as opposed to hopping at DisneyWorld which requires a long bus ride in most cases.

Parade at CA Adventure Park
Parade at CA Adventure Park

Tip #1 Park at the Toy story lot.  Everyone and their mom tells you to park at Mickey & Friends.  Every google search leads you to the Mickey & Friends lot.  This lot was a nightmare, especially for parents of young children, strollers, or car seats.  Garage or not, it sucks.  Park at Toy Story Lot and use the A/C buses to go to and fro.  Just trust me on this one.  The price is the same… it is $16, so park at the Toy Story lot especially if you have younger kids.  The buses are running constantly, fit way more people than the tram (it’s not a monorail people), and is better organized.  Employees count people and send you the right bus.  It is quick, easy, and with strollers, pain-free.  The drivers are helpful (unlike tram drivers), and there are at least 4-5 buses running at a time, so there is little to no wait time.  If you take the tram for the Mickey & Friends Lot and leave and enter at peak times, watch out!  At 11pm, it is hard to wait with cranky, sleepy toddlers and infants.


Tip #2- The nighttime show “Fantasmic” on Tom Sawyer’s Island (viewable along the banks of the Rivers of America) is amazing.  Do not miss it! Skip the fireworks if you need to but don’t miss this show!  Also, get your seats at least 1 hour prior to showtime.  You can get reserved seats (actual chairs) for the event but will cost approximately $40 per person for dessert and coffee/drinks, and

Conclusion of Fantasmic
Conclusion of Fantasmic

more importantly a chair with a beautiful view of the Island where the action takes place.  But, you can also get a seat anywhere along the river for free.  What we did was order dinner and took it with us, and sat right near the Cafe area outside of the New Orleans area, and faced the river.  We were by a lamp-post and tree, and with all the people sitting in reserved chairs in front of us, we had an excellent view of the entire show.  You can see some of the pics posted here.  This show is not to miss and a spectacular light and sound show for adults and kids.  It is the electric parade of Disneyworld, but on water.

Fire-breathing dragon
Fire-breathing dragon

There are some scary portions with the evil witches and fire-breathing dragons (you can feel the heat in the water), so stay close to your young children!  We got there one hour early, sat down in our spots and had our dinner.  Towards when the show began, we let little ones behind us move up in front and stand on the rails.  I would highly recommend snagging a good seat early for this show.


Tip #3 – Parades, more parades, and fireworks at Disneyland and where to go observe them If you want to see the fireworks, you can stay put right after the Fantasmic show, and you can see them great from the banks of the Rivers of America, or you can go near the Castle.  The July 4th fireworks were spectacular, and longer.  There was a special tribute to our men and women in uniform- brought a tear to my eye.  IMG_3662But the regular fireworks are nice too.  For a less crowded view, and one close to the exit, head down Main street towards the entrance, and watch them from the square – near where Mickey hangs out.  That center circle area with benches was far away enough to not scare the kids, but had a fabulous center-stage view.  Parades are best from this location as well, and remember adults, Disney IMG_3609is for kids, so why not let them sit in the front, and you sit or stand behind them?  I never get why adults want to stand or sit in front of small children and block their view to a parade.  It’s Disney for God’s sake and it is for children.  Be kind. We watched the parade from Main Street near the castle, and it worked out fine.  All the characters come to life in this parade, and it is definitely worth a watch and a wave.

IMG_3701Parade at Adventure Park – the Parade at Adventure Park is actually very cute and interactive.  The characters spray water at you, throw things, and there is tons of dancing.  We enjoyed both parades – my kids love parades!



Tip #4- Do a character dining experience if you can swing it financially.  Younger kids love it, and it takes care of all the character visits with a meal.  It really is multi-tasking the fun way at Disneyland or world.  If you look at my review on Disneyworld, though, the character dining was a much better experience.  That one was at Park Fare (at an off-site hotel we took the monorail to) and it was a Cinderella lunch. IMG_7311 The character dining event we did this time was right on Main Street, at the Plaza.  Try to make reservations ahead of time.  We did the cheapest meal which was a breakfast buffet with Minnie and her friends.  It’s still not cheap, but it is very cute, and if you time it right, it doubles as brunch, and keep the kids sated until dinner time.  That was our goal, and it worked.  Other than snacks we had packed for sustenance, we did not have to eat again until 6-7pm!  The waffles are very cute and shaped like mickey mouse.  IMG_3545There is a made to order omelet station, tons of pastries, yogurt, juices, biscuits and gravy, eggs, oatmeal, and cereal.  It is an endless buffet.  Coffee, tea, and other beverages are included, and it is very fun for the kids to have fruit and waffles.  Again, time your reservation for 1030am if you can, and you can stay until at least 1130am when they wrap it up.  Then, you can head over and see the Royal Theater where the princesses hang.

Meeting Rapunzel in Fantasyland
Meeting Rapunzel in Fantasyland

Tip #5- Get there early!  Not sure why but at Disneyland and Adventure Park crowds pick up after 11am.  So, if you can get there when it opens at 8am (park by 730am), then you can really get in a lot of rides, character meetings (like Princesses at 10am), and get them done before doing a character brunch or something at 1040am.  Then, after that, you have the rest of the day to see and do other fun things.  I was not sure what it was about Disneyland versus Disneyworld but things just got going later.  It seemed people arrived later at Disneyland.  When we were at Disneyworld, the mornings were already packed.  Important Note re: CARS ride at California Adventure Park:  IMG_3517

My sister-in-law’s boys really wanted to ride this ride but if you do not get there by 930am, all the FAST Passes for the day will be gone, and the line will be 120 minutes+  keep this in mind so despite coming early, you can wait up to 2 hours.  It is worth the wait I hear but 2 hours is tough on children.  We noticed the lines going to 50-70 minutes later in the afternoon when lunch time hit.



Tip #6- Character meetings – I never did figure out the character meeting for Merida from Brave (near It’s a Small World).  It seemed like she was never there but if you can get there early as noted above and head to the Royal Hall and meet the princesses (you get 2-3 princesses in one fail swoop), and then quickly head towards the Toy Story ride to Pixie Hollow, the lines for the pixies will be shorter in the morning too.  Merida (Brave) does not start until 10am near It’s a Small World.  After that time, all bets are off on wait times.  You can also ask any of the cast members re: character meetings, IMG_3669and they will tell you where to go.  While waiting for the fireworks towards the exit one night, Mickey was hanging out near the theater on Main Street, and the girls got to see him while awaiting the fireworks for the 4th.  Character meetings are the highlight for my kids so we tried to keep an eye out every chance we got, and we were lucky because in Fantasyland, right near the carousel, my sister-in-law spotted Rapunzel’s village.  She stood in line for us, and we were 5th in line to meet Rapunzel!  It was magical for the girls.


Dancing with Phineas and Ferb at Adventure Park

Tip #7- Pack snacks, water bottles, and a cooler; and bring souvenirs from home.  The website says you cannot bring food but we did it both days.  One of my sisters-in-law snagged the cooler my mother in law had and brought in an entire meal for her family- sandwiches!  She was able to get them through both days.  It saves a lot of money to do this, but coolers only last so long in 88 degree weather, so if you plan a 12-hour day at Disney, plan on eating at least one big meal which can cost an average of $12 per person in the park. IMG_3678 I generally ate snacks we brought along, granola, etc., and always filled up my water bottle.  You can ask most places for ice, and they will give it to you for the water bottles.  Do this for all the kids.  Bring pepsi cans in and you can ask for a cup of ice.  Kids meals are cheaper so I always got 2 kids meal and then I would eat what the kids did not.  But, I went ahead and splurged on one day when I was craving Asian food.  California Adventure Park has a Pacific Rim area, and they have yummy Boudin’s sourdough bread bowls and soup (very reasonable) IMG_3520and they have asian food too.  I splurged that day and ate my meal along the river, awaiting Fantasmic.  It was OKAY Thai curry but it hit the spot.  Another place to take a snack break is the New Orleans cafe area in Disneyland.  They have very good food, and the mickey mouse beignets are not as good as the real thing, but very good.  Avoid the mint juleps… yuck!  And remember, no alcohol anywhere in Disneyland, but Adventure Park has a winery, and alcohol everywhere!  Also, avoid the cars souvenir happy meal toy box.  It is a waste of money.  Rather, go for the cone of soda (in Cars Land).  Wonderful and so cute!


souvenirs AIMG_3615s far as expensive souvenirs in the park, re-read my review at my DisneyWorld post too, but this time, I bought loot bags for the girls (Princess and Minnie bags) from a local store before we left.  I took along their hats, and other small souvenirs from Disneyworld or local stores, and stuffed their bags the night before our Disney day.  The girls loved it, and carried them into the park with their water bottles, Minnie hats and souvenirs.  This way, we only spent money on one $5 each souvenir at the end of day #1- we bought them glo-bands for the fireworks show.  We only spent $10 on souvenirs, and saved the rest for food.


Tip #8- Is this ride for kids? Be careful!  We thought the 3D Bugs Life movie for kids at Adventure Park would be okay but our kids were freaked out and everything comes to life in 3D- bug spray, the seats, etc., so be careful with kids under the age of 7 – especially girls.  Indiana Jones is not a ride for kids under 50 inches of height.  It is quite toss and turn and steep drops.  It really is not meant for kids that are young.  We did not take them on this but almost RocketShiptook our 6 year-old.  I went alone, and I was glad because she would not have made it.  Also, if you go on rides, leave your wallet, medicine, keys, etc., behind.  Not kidding.  Oh, and do not – I repeat, do not wait for the stupid ferris wheel ride at California Adventure Park.  You can spend an hour of your life another way.  Check out the little mermaid ride there – it is cute for young girls.  Very cute.  I would say when you are in Disneyland, stick to the Fantasyland rides.  They are safe.  Oh, a word of caution in Disneyland, Tomorrowland re: the Space Orbiters ride (Toy Story) in front of Star Wars- PYUKE!  That is the only word I Can use to describe this little rocket ride.  It is not fun or cute, nor is it like Dumbo.  Go get on Dumbo, but avoid this one.  It is also cramped.  Do not let looks fool you- two people cannot fit in these seemingly “spacious” rockets (I put a picture here so you can see how cramped it was).

The Royal Theater- Tangled
The Royal Theater- Tangled

A really perfect ride for little ones with a very short wait each time is the Buzz Light Year ride across from Star Wars.  It is a little game shooting targets with a laser gun, and at the end you get a cute little picture of you fighting Zurg.  Lots of fun!

Fast Pass? Try to get Fast Pass for the rides you want to go on but have the longest wait but remember, you can only get one Fast Pass at a time and need them for all in your party so plan accordingly.  Also, remember that once you get it, if you miss your time, the cast is pretty nice about letting you know outside your window of time.  They are super about it.  Indiana Jones is worth it.  Roller coasters are just not to me, but that’s me.  I hear the Cars ride is worth it at Adventure Park and Toy Story (no fast pass available).

IMG_3650Tip #9 – On a hot day cool off at Adventure Park at Bug’s Life Section (BRING YOUR SUITS and SANDALS)  – Disney is rather strict about wearing shoes at all times, and suits.  You can’t get your kids naked and let them run through the fountains, so bring suits along.  There are water fountains the kids can run through at this park, and a sprinkler area to cool off.  They have misting fountains, and water fountains.  Disney will not let you take off your young child’s clothes (that is a no-no) but you can get drunk a few meters away at a winery.  Anyway, just bring the proper gear so your kids can get wet.  Another thing we saw people walking around with was fans with water bottles that spray water and then fan you down.  Take your own ones along.  They are $8.00 at Target or $17 at the Park.  Your choice.

IMG_7289Tip #10– Bring a stroller for kids 7 and under.  It’s okay! Who cares who judges you?  I really do not give a rat’s ass about what people think but for me the stroller helps carry our stuff, and is a resting place for the kids or me.  It is a great thing because my kids touch or hold the stroller or rest in it and I keep them with me at all times too!  At night, when we exit the park at 11pm and have to wait in the stinking tram line, they can pass out in the stroller.  It is the best thing ever.  Do not let people judging you prevent you from bringing what you need.  The equipment, the food, the supplies you need to get through Disney are critical to having a good time, and an easier time.  So, do yourself a favor, bring it.  Or, you can rent them for $23 a day I believe.  Totally worth it!

Aladdin at the Theater
Aladdin at the Theater

Tip #11 – Theater anyone?  I highly recommend the shows at Adventure Park, and the Royal Theater at Disneyland for prince and princesses. This was one thing different from Disneyworld, the shows were fun, the lines were not long, and it was manageable.  Aside from the random dancing and dance crews that showed up all the time at California Adventure Park including Phineas and Ferb (fun for kids), the shows are fabulous.  We loved the Aladdin musical. IMG_7361 It was long but it was so well done.  It is truly worth getting a good seat, and watching the characters come to life. We saw Royal Theater twice at Disneyland- Tangled, and Beauty and the Beast, and it was fun for the kids.  They theater is very interactive, and creative.  It is just different but funny and fun for the kids too.  The shows are not super crowded and they are manageable.  For the Royal theater, the kids get to sit on the floor before the stage, and really interact with the characters, and add to the antics.  There is also a Disney Junior show in

Beauty & The Beast at the Royal Theater
Beauty & The Beast at the Royal Theater

Adventure Park which features Doc McStuffins, Princess Sophia, and other characters.  We missed it due to time.  I would recommend these for young kids.

Tip #12- Where to get your discounted tickets.  Someone suggested I add in the tip of discounted tickets.  If you are military, check with your MWR office at your base.  The best deals out there are military hopper passes for $125 (3-day) to Disneyland.  I am not talking about WORLD here.  But, you there is a limit of six, and they scan at them the entrance, and take photos of the people who enter with them.  DisneyWorld is different because of the fingerprint thing but at DisneyLand there is no finger print but paper tickets.  Do not lose them!  In any case they photograph you on re-entry.  Not sure what purpose it serves other than if someone reports their tickets lost or stolen.  The best website to get discounted hotels, and tickets in my humble opinion (if you can’t do the military tickets) is mousesavers.com.   I was able to find a cheaper deal for my friends and family on this site than even the 1 and 2 day military discounts to the parks.  Sign-up for the Mousesavers newsletter ASAP!

IMG_7173Tip #13- Check out the beaches of Newport Beach, Laguna, and the Pacific Coast and Unwind after Disneyland  We were lucky because we stayed right on the Corona del Mar beach but try to go check out the coast, because that is truly the most relaxing part of the trip after visiting theme parks.  I think set one day set aside for the beach, and driving along the coast.  Newport beach has an amazing coast, not to miss and it’s only 25 minutes from Anaheim (50 in traffic- ha).

IMG_7169All in all, we had a fabulous trip to DisneyLand, California Adventure Park, and California beaches.  Our favorite times were on the beach, meeting princesses, and for mom- acting like a princess, but hey, who’s judging?  It was a great summer family trip, and one we will not forget for a lifetime.


Whale Done!*

*Disclaimer: the tile of this post is copyrighted by the author Ken Blanchard. This post is a book review and the author of this post does not claim copyright or creative rights in the phrase “Whale Done!” 

copyright Ken Blanchard
copyright Ken Blanchard

My husband checked out a book at the library and I did not think much about it until he told me some of the concepts in it.  So, as an example, I would say “ugh, what are we going to do, our daughter is being very difficult.”  His reply, “well, we need accentuate the positive and redirect her energy. That is what I read in this book….”  Needless to say, after several more conversations about different scenarios like this, I felt I needed to read Whale Done!  This book is not just about positive relationships at work and home but daily life.  It can help improve just about all relationships.

This book by Ken Blanchard is a quick read and explores “the power of positive relationships.”  What does this mean?  What exactly is a positive relationship and how do you go about implementing it?  The key concepts of this book are to focus on the positive in all you do and in everyone you encounter.  This really struck a chord with me because that is my resolution for this year- being more positive, and trying to stay on a more positive track- at home, in my career (all the jobs I have), and with life in general.  This book is written based on the concept of management in line with the style of training the whales at Sea World.  It addresses the basic concepts those trainers employ, and applying them to human interaction. The biggest difference between whales and people: We have the advantage because we can talk to one another.  The basic concepts are the same: “Build trust, accentuate the positive, and when mistakes occur, redirect the energy.”  (Blanchard, p.19)

One of the concepts in the book is accentuating the positive and redirecting when someone is on the wrong track.  For example, every day at home if I yelled at my husband about the dishes, or making the kids’ lunches, or dinner, or picking up his clothes off his home, will he want to be home with me?  There is a good chance that he will want to come home late, stay at work late longer, or just not want to be at home at all.  Who could blame him?  I would not want constantly want to be berated after a long day at work either.  Anyway, it is about expressing positive things about each other, in front of the kids, and to one another.  Instead of saying “this is the wrong bread- you always buy the wrong bread,”  you might try, “wow, hon, thanks for getting the groceries again- you are so kind to do so but remember, this bread is too thick for me so I generally buy X brand.  I am not clear on which brand it is and I know I never told you so I will get it tomorrow and show you the labeling for next time.”  There are essentially four kinds of responses to almost all actions:  “No response, negative response, redirection, and positive response.” (Blanchard, p.30).  Sometimes, sharing in the responsibility on why someone did something “wrong” or incorrectly helps the situation.  Also, don’t accuse, put down, or blame the person.  This would also not be a good time to bring up past issues.  Focus on the thing that was done incorrectly and move on.  The no response one is interesting- it is just ignoring the action you wish to not be repeated and a response is not really warranted.  So, when the 6 year-old throws a fit, promptly moving her to her room without a word and ignoring her whining would be one example.

Some of the examples in the book are with teenage kids, but you can apply almost all the lessons to any age.  For younger kids, you want to catch them doing something right and recognize right away.  So, when they are being quiet and reading, doing puzzles, join in and hug them and say “wow, you guys are really doing great… can mommy play too?” My 4 year-old for example does not need much to know I am accentuating the positive.  When she puts her toys away, I give her a huge hug, high five and say “OH MY look at this great job – you put your toys away!  Wow!  High five and good job!” This and a hug will make them realize that they get attention for doing the right thing.  Now, conversely when she does not put her toys away, then what?  Well, perhaps the approach would be to redirect her to the time when she did it right, instead of yelling at her which is negative.  Constantly picking on the negative and only criticizing her when she is doing something wrong accentuates that behavior and after awhile, you are just a mouth piece and no one listens anymore.  Trust is lost and the relationship suffers.

Obviously with my daughter, I do need to talk with her and address the behaviors that I want corrected, so the better approach may be to say, “hey, let’s put these toys away together so we can find them when we want them again… yeah I will help you and show you where they go, so next time, you can do it all by yourself and earn a high five and a hug.”   This response also takes responsibility for showing her in case she did not know where to put the toys back.  All of these same principles apply at work too.

Here is an example.  My boss in one of my jobs this past weekend gave me my mid-term feedback, and it was super positive, and uplifting.  He followed the book without even knowing it by providing words of encouragement, words accentuating specific examples of all the things I am doing right in the job.  With that, he also gave me some things I needed to improve on but did it in a manner to say, “maybe we can both learn together because this is a new system.”  I got it.  The next day at the job, I learned that new system inside and out.   He had motivated me and energized me so much this past weekend, it spilled over into my life, and other job too.  And, he does it every weekend I work with him- he accentuates and points out positives right when he sees them instead of waiting for a feedback.  Until I read this book I did not even realize it.  I just know that despite it being work, and being away from family, this job energizes me.  As a result, I feel needed, and indispensable to the organization.  And it’s not just me, he does it for every person in our organization.  I am not even sure he has read this book but, wow!  What an attentive boss who catches his people doing things right and saying something about it.  Now, keep in mind that one method to accentuate the positive will not always work with everyone.  Each person speaks a different language, so Whale Done! talks about finding out what motivates each individual.  What motivates employee X to do better will not be the same factor that motivates employee Y.  One employee will react better to words of affirmation, while another may need monetary recognition, while another may need you to “show them” through your actions.  Also, remember to give people specific examples of what they are doing right so it does not appear you are just being manipulative.  So, say to your teenage daughter, “when you cleaned up your room and the loft without being asked to the other day… wow, thanks so much – you saved me time and really helped me out a lot- I REALLY appreciate that – why don’t I go ahead and take your chores for Friday so you can go out with your friends that evening.”

This book goes on to to state that the traditional work environment is one in which a boss generally says nothing when things are going right [ignores you] and only talks with you when something is wrong- i.e. criticizing you, or stating the negative.  How nice would it be to get feedback early and often – at the moment you are doing something RIGHT.   How nice would it be to hear from your boss on more than the occasions in which you are doing something he or she perceives to be “wrong.”  Anyway, this book calls that system the “GOTcha” system.  In this system, all people want to do is do their jobs and not be bothered because they are afraid every time their boss speaks to them they are doing something wrong.  Wow!  Tragic.  I am so lucky to not work (in any of my jobs) in an environment like that.  That would not be fun at all.

Is all this a bit touchy feely for you?  Well, yeah, this book was a bit of that too.  But, great especially as far as my personal life is concerned because it is so important to build a healthy relationship with your spouse, a partnership rooted in love and respect, rather than one rooted in fear, anger, and discord.  The chain reaction is that when kids see a healthy, positive relationship between the parents, they themselves feel more loved, respected, and model the same respect for others and each other.  Whether you want to apply this all aspects of your life or not, I think there is a lot of value in recognizing the positives all around you and in the people in your life.  Simple concepts of accentuating the positives, recognizing that progress is a moving target, and just recalling the principles from this book when you are about to fly off the deep end with your kids and spouse can really help your relationships.  That is what the power of positive relationships is all about.

Whale Done! is a quick, good read.  Along with The Fred Factor, Lincoln on Leadership, and other self-improvement motivational books, I definitely recommend this one for all facets of your life to create positive relationships.


Fabulous 40 – here I come!

Fabulous 40This is my final post at Get Clued In before I hit the big 4-0 this weekend.  Wow, what a decade it’s been!  As I write this, I realize it has been almost 9 years since I began blogging and it has been quite the journey.  When I think about where I was in the year 2003 and what I was doing, I am amazed at how much has changed and yet, how much stayed the same.

My first post, when I began to blog says it all!  The post was written in October 2004, and called “Clueless? Why?”  I was literally known as “Clueless in Colorado,” and that was my identity until 2010.  I blogged anonymously back then and treated my writing as a journal- an outlet for me.  Inspired by the character of Carrie on “Sex & The City”, I wrote about my life as a single woman in her 30s living in Colorado, dating, building friendships, working and all the trials and tribulations of that, and just trying to have it all!  Back then, I had just hit the milestone age of 30, and embraced a new decade, a new journey in my life.  I had come to Colorado bright-eyed and determined to do well with my career and hoping to find love.  Mission Accomplished, with a few bumps along the way.  Check out my archives on the right side, from 2004 and 2005- what a fun ride and along the way, so much growing up.

I am now approaching 11 years living in Colorado and so much has changed in my life:  My career took a different direction and I am now working two jobs- both equally satisfying, both jobs that I like with bosses that are truly amazing.  My personal life though is where all my real rewarding changes have been.  After leaving my active duty career, I realized that the work I do does not define who I am.  A job is a job – it’s what I do, not who I am nor does it define me.  Each day, I still turn a new leaf and write this journey as I go – it has its ups and downs but I would not change it for the world!

Since starting to blog, I have met the love of my life here in Colorado -a decade ago this April.  We got married two years later, and we now have two beautiful daughters.  They are all the center of my universe and so daily, I strive to achieve balance in all I do- activities, jobs, and the most important job of being a mom of two and wife of one.

This Saturday, I reach a milestone, turn a new leaf:  Fabulous 40 awaits me and a new decade full of change, full of love, full of tears and laughter, full of amazement, and full of hope.  It is time to leave the 30s behind and embrace a new decade of many more firsts and milestones; a decade which will bring new and even more gratifying adventures.  But, for me, it’s not the destination, it’s not even the journey, but the people that I have met and will continue to meet along the way.  It’s about the people who accompany me in this journey, and those who influence me to be better – a better mother, a better wife, a better person.   I can’t wait …  see you on the other side!