loving lemonade.

hey life, bring on the lemons!

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My Unsolicited Disney World Review- Part 1

Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney World Resort (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where have I been? Disney World! Remember that time I told you that Carlene convinced us to go? Well we did. We had a blast! We stayed in the new Art of Animation Resort, hopped around from park to park, shopped at Downtown Disney. And Carlene was tall enough to ride just about every ride!

So this was my 8th (I think!) trip to Disney. My 2nd as a mom. My 1st as a mom with a dreaded double stroller. I’m a planner by nature, so I planned the entire trip myself, had our dining reservations made 6 months ahead of time, made FastPass+ choices a month in advance. My husband swore I stayed up at night in the hotel and memorized the maps of the parks, but I promise, I sleep. Disney vacations require PLENTY of sleep. I just love the place so much that I remember exactly where I need to go! I really should be a Disney travel agent, or just work in Disney World. Hmmm…

Anyway, I want to share my pluses and minuses so that you can have the best Disney vacation ever too!  And once I started writing them, I realized I was writing a 10 page essay, so I’m going to break this up into multiple segments so I can really share everything I want to share.

Disney's Art of Animation ResortFirst up, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. This resort was FANTASTIC for families. Most of the resort is family suites (in themes of Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Lion King), but we stayed in a Standard Room with a Little Mermaid theme. Carlene couldn’t have been more excited about the room, or the resort. Statues of all your favorite characters from the themes decorate your walkways, with the main pool surrounded by Finding Nemo friends.

I checked in online while we drove down, so checking in once we got there was a breeze. We were greeted as soon as we walked in the door, and all set to go within 5 minutes, with no line to wait in. Definitely check in online! And since the check in process is so quick, you can take the time to check out the awesome sketches on the walls in the area. You have got to see how scary Ursula was originally drawn to be!

Our room had been meticulously prepared, even with a towel Mickey on the bed. To our surprise, there was also a mini-fridge, which was so great for us with having a 1 year old who drinks milk. The downside to the mini-fridge is that you are limited to just 3 drawers in the room, total. But there is ample space to hang clothes in the sink area. Or if you are lazy like me, you just throw random crap in the drawers that you gather as the week goes on, and you keep your clothes in the suitcases.  Hey, I’m on vacation here.

Our room continued to be meticulously cared for as the week went on, so thank you to the housekeeping staff for that! We did get to meet our housekeeper one morning as we were returning from the pool. I didn’t catch her name, but she was  very sweet, and I’m glad I could personally say thank you for helping to make our stay great.

Speaking of the pool, there are 3. Two smaller ones, and one Big Blue Pool. If you stay here, go to the Big Blue Pool, and make sure you duck your head under water and keep your ears open!  There’s also a cool sprinkler area that the kids were able to run around in. And there are a  few playground areas throughout the resort, perfect for letting them stretch their little legs.

There were some things you’d wish for better, of course. The food court is your standard Value Resort fare, and the food was just eh compared to some food you can get in Disney. We ate dinner there on our first night, and breakfast there one morning, and otherwise steered clear, besides hitting it up for our refillable mugs that came with our dining plan. And as a quick FYI- the resort refillable mugs now have a sensor  which activates the soda fountain for the length of your stay. So if you are used to bringing your mug from last time to use again, it’s not going to work.

The shower in the Little Mermaid room was made to look like Ariel’s treasure trove. Very very cool, until you attempt to shave your legs in a navy blue dimly lit shower, or if you are the kind of person who likes to wake up with a shower. It’s dark in there. But that’s minor in the big scheme of things. Also, the walk from the Little Mermaid area to the main building is a small hike, but this was no surprise to me, as we did opt for just a Standard Room.  Just be aware!

I’d personally love to stay at Port Orleans, or the Polynesian, or the Contemporary. But when we visited the Polynesian for breakfast one morning, Carlene said, “I’m glad we didn’t stay here, this place is boring.” And you know, she’s exactly right. As an adult, these resorts are so beautiful. But as a kid in Disney, of course you want to be surrounded by your animated friends! So yes, we’ll stay at these others someday, but I definitely foresee us back at Art of Animation for our next Disney vacation!

So what would you like to hear about next?? Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom? Or do you have any specific Disney questions?


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Lessons learned at the farm…

…none of which have anything to do with farming! This past weekend, we indulged ourselves in the October tradition of pumpkin picking at a local farm, complete with a hayride, animal farm, ice cream, even a bouncy house. We had a blast! It was a really great family day.

But no family trip goes without lessons learned. Here’s what our day at the farm taught me:

Lesson 1: Kids turn into line-cutters, because parents teach them how to be line-cutters.  It must be a vicious circle! Carlene was sweetly waiting in the bouncy house line when some lady comes up with her three kids, and tells them to get in front of Carlene. Don was standing over there with her, and said, excuse me but she is next. The lady asks, “Oh, are you sure?” At this point, it’s much better that he was over there instead of me, because there IS a such thing as a stupid question in my opinion, and this was one. So anyway, a parent standing nearby confirmed that YES, Carlene was standing there. To which this line-cutting mentor responds, she didn’t see her there. Whatever lady, better hope your pants don’t catch on fire later!

Lesson 2: When you can’t control your 2 year old, just hand them a can of Mountain Dew. Another fantastic example of prime parenting! This toddler was crying. Why, I don’t know. But I see the mother return with a can of Mountain Dew, pop it open, and hand it to the kid. WHAT?!?! Okay, I’m sure some of you give your kids soda. I’m sure I drank a ton of it myself as a kid (and I still drink too much now). But Mountain Dew?! That kid’s not going to sleep for 2 days! Which makes me say to myself… well, maybe the parents will rethink Mountain Dew as a drink of choice by midnight tonight.

Lesson 3: If there is anything you can think of that you would enjoy in pumpkin flavor, they probably make it. Case in point on this trip: Pumpkin Soft Serve Ice Cream. Now, I’m not big on pumpkin anything (no, not even Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Lattes!), but Don loves it, so he ordered one topped with chocolate sprinkles. He said it was delicious. I’ll take his word for it. What next, pumpkin filled M&Ms or pumpkin meat marinade? Or do they already make those things too? Don’t you people get tired of all this pumpkin stuff?!

Lesson 4: Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, beats a day out with my family. NOTHING! Okay, so maybe this isn’t a new lesson learned, but it sure was a nice reminder!

farm blog

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Getting Bratty over Bratz

The first time I heard of a Bratz doll, I was in college. I said I would never let my potential future daughter have any scantily clad doll wearing far too much makeup with a name that promotes bad behavior, and I still feel that way now. But I also figured that there was no way society would stand for such a product, and I was sure there would be no Bratz dolls for me to worry about with my future daughter.

Bratz dolls from 2010

Bratz dolls from 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast forward to now, and I’m the mother of a wonderful 5-year-old daughter. Somehow, society has not blacklisted Bratz dolls. In fact, now there are even Bratz movies, video games, a TV series. And yesterday, as Carlene and I were leaving the grocery store, what should she see at eye level but a Bratz movie in a Redbox. “Oh, Mommy, Mommy, can I get THAT movie?!” Upon seeing what she was requesting, I’m pretty sure my eyes actually did bug out of my head. I couldn’t say NO fast enough. Which then caused me to have a very upset daughter. Oh well. I still feel strongly that I will not let her have these toys in her life.

These dolls wear more makeup than I’ve ever owned. Their clothing definitely doesn’t meet usual dress code requirements.  I’m fairly certain that if a girl actually wore such an outfit in real life, she wouldn’t be able to successfully sit down and maintain any sort of modesty. The tag line with these dolls is fashion. This is NOT childhood fashion! I mean, maybe if you are 22 and heading to a club. Go for it. But I’m pretty sure 22 year olds aren’t looking to Bratz dolls for fashion advice.  In fact, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Age is 6 & up. I can’t help but wonder if those running this company (MGA Entertainment) have children, and if they let their children play with these dolls.

I’m ready for the judgment.  “But I bet your daughter has Barbies.” Yes, she does. Quite a few. I too owned Barbies. She dresses with more class, and she wears proper shades of lipstick. And at least Barbie has some life aspirations. She wants to be a veterinarian, an astronaut, a teacher.  What sort of aspirations do these Bratz dolls reflect?

I’m no radical who thinks the world will ruin my children. They watch their fair share of cartoons, I don’t always adhere to age suggestions on toys. But WHY would we want our kids to have anything that contains the word “Brat?”  And to top it off, MGA Entertainment didn’t even spell the word “Brats” right! Yes, let’s spell it with a Z so we’re also teaching our children bad grammar!

Let it be known that I’m not judging any parent who has let their child have these dolls or movies. We’re all just trying to do our best here. But I’m all about open discussion, and I’d really love to hear what sparked it. Was it a gift? Did you find it harmless? Do you think I’m overreacting? Trust me, you won’t offend me, and I have no intention of offending you.

I know I’ve got at least 3 more years of Bratz doll avoidance ahead of me. Wish me luck.

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Change. I’ve always feared that word. I usually like things as they are, no interruptions to my routines, same old thing over and over. I won’t even try new things at restaurants; depending on where we go, I have the one specific menu item that I’m always going to choose. Then something happened. I don’t know if it’s because I turned 30 last year, or if it’s adding a 2nd kid to the mix, or what. But I needed a change in my life big time.

So, I quit my job my full time job. Or as Don prefers I say (because apparently it sounds more positive), I resigned. I was fortunate enough to receive an offer to work part time from home for a small business. Though for some odd reason I stewed for a couple weeks over whether or not this was the best decision for our family, at the end of the day it was a no-brainer. There were finances and benefits to worry about. There’s the thought that this would mean Blake wouldn’t have the same young age schooling opportunities as Carlene had, since he will be home with me now. And then there was the crazy idea of change. But half days from home meant more time being a Mom. So like I said, it ended up being a no-brainer.

This was the very first time in my life I quit a job. I had been with my employer for 7 years. I have been at my bartending job for 12 years (nope, not quitting that one!). Yes, I did have other employment before these things, but they all ended for other reasons. My high school waitressing job ended because the restaurant closed down, and I had just left for college anyway. I was going to work there on my college breaks, so I never officially quit. I taught tennis at a summer camp over the summers throughout high school and college, but I never really quit, I just told them I wasn’t returning the summer after I graduated from college. I was at my college internship for 2 semesters, but once the internship was over, that was the end of that.

So this all went down last month. I’m a few weeks into the new life, and it’s going pretty well. Sometimes it can be a juggling act, trying to give Blake the attention he’s requesting while trying to get my daily work tasks done right (Carlene is in Pre-K, so her life has mostly remained the same, except that now she gets to sleep a little later each day). And I don’t have as much time to do things around the house or try new ventures as I thought I would. But it’s a juggling act I wouldn’t trade for the world. Watching my son grow and learn each and every day is just amazing, and it’s an opportunity I never thought I’d have. I’m feeling so blesssed!

Am I a big fan of change now? Not really, I’m still on the fence. But this change, this was a good one. And who knows, maybe the next time we go out to eat, I’ll be all crazy and order something different off the menu.


My minivan is sexy and she knows it.

Hi, I’m Lanie, and I drive a minivan. Those are words I never thought I would say.

A little more than 2 years ago, my most favorite vehicle ever, a black Ford Escape affectionately named Nick Carter, was on its way out. After an unfixable oil leak, Don told me it was time to break up with Nick Carter. My heart was broken, but I was strong. And on a snowy day in December, after nearly 8 years, we parted ways.

So, this must be when I met my minivan. Nope. I knew I only wanted 2 kids (and only had 1 at the time), and I knew how much I loved my Escape, so another small SUV it was! A pretty silver Mercury Mariner came into my life, complete with heated seats, a sunroof, and color changing interior LEDs. I named her Dorothy, and I loved her.

Fast forward to September and the birth of Baby Blake. With 2 car seats in the backseat and a double stroller in the cargo area, we were out of space. How could this be? These cars were made for 5! I had no room for my groceries, no room for additional passengers. And then Don made the suggestion: a minivan.

I said no way. I was flat out way too cool to drive a minivan. He started looking around online at them, and one day even stopped in a dealership to check some out. He told me about this awesome one with tons of storage space, and features Dorothy didn’t have: remote start, navigation, a DVD player. Okay, okay, I’ll look at it. But I really didn’t want it.

So we get there, and Don tells them what minivan he wants us to see. They pull around this big shiny black minivan, with all the bells and whistles a minivan could possibly have. Don says we should take it for a test drive. I tell him he can drive it, I really want nothing to do with it. Halfway through the test drive, he makes me give it a whirl. This is kind of big, I think, but man does it ride nice… dammit!

So we go back to the dealership and next thing you know, the deal is done and we’re driving away in our new 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T. I was kind of sad. I still didn’t want it, but I understood the practicality of it. But wouldn’t you know that 2 days later, my sister’s schedule was double booked and we needed to bring our niece out with us. If it wasn’t for the minivan, we would have ridiculously been taking 2 cars. It was all starting to make sense. Sigh.

And now, here I am, a minivan mom. A minivan mom proudly singing “I’m Sexy and I Know It” at the top of my lungs while commuting to work on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, feeling like my vehicle and I are finally getting that connection. It turns out I can still feel a little cool while driving around in this thing. And I kind of like passing little sports cars in my minivan, glancing over with the, “that’s right, you just got passed by a minivan” look in my eyes. I’ve learned enough about the minivan now to know it’s a girl, and to know she, like the previous motorized loves of my life, deserves a name. In our travels, I’m sure we’ll come across just the right one.


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They say elephants never forget…

Well neither do little kids! Princess Carlene is currently 4 years old (going on 14, or so she seems to think, but those are stories for another day). When she was 2 1/2, we took her to Walt Disney World for the first time. Booking the vacation was a little spontaneous, at least for me who usually books everything way too far in advance. She had just received The Princess and the Frog on DVD, and at that time was watching it daily. One night while I was at work, she told my husband she thought that princess castle (Cinderella’s) in the beginning was so pretty. So Don told her it was in this awesome place called Disney World. She was sold.

By the age of 2, she had already figured out I was a sucker. So the very next day, when I sat down with her to watch The Princess and the Frog yet again, she said some magical words. “Mommy, can we go to Disney World?” Don hadn’t even told me at this point that he mentioned it to her, so here I thought Disney was sending my child subliminal messages through their movies. But it didn’t matter to me how she learned, because a few hours later, the trip was booked!

Then I excitedly told some family and friends about our upcoming vacation. I remember being told by just about everyone I mentioned it to that she was too young and wouldn’t appreciate it. I was asked, why take her if she’s not even going to remember it? My answer was simple; she may not remember, but WE will. It turns out my answer wasn’t entirely correct, but neither was the peanut gallery’s assumption. We’re approaching 2 years since our trip, and she still asks to go back to Disney World every day. Every. Single. Day.

So, is there some sort of moral to this story of mine? Not really. Just don’t ever think your child won’t remember something. Your child might just surprise everyone and wind up costing you a Disney vacation more frequently than you had planned. I mean, Carlene will only think those beautiful young ladies are REAL princesses for so long. And if that means that I’m pinching pennies this year to make it happen, I’ll pinch until my fingers blister just so that I can see that look of amazement on her little face once again.