The Most Magical Place

We have been saving, planning, preparing, and dreaming about this last week for a long time – and it finally happened!  We took the kids to Disney! We are so grateful to so many people who made it happen – Ed’s parents for donating time at their timeshare to give us a place to stay, Shane and Ann for donating 2 airline flights to make our trip down more affordable, my parents for meeting us and dealing with the crazy and letting us pile into their car for the week so we could avoid a rental car…it wouldn’t have happened without all these pieces coming together. We wanted to go when our kids could remember it, and while Brynn is still a little young and most likely won’t, we didn’t want to want a year or two because then Kinsley would be too old to really enjoy the princesses and magic of it all. But, overall, our kids were at a great age and we are so glad we did it now.

I was a little anxious about flying with Brynn, especially since our last flight was marked by her screaming for the last 15 minutes uncontrollably. But, overall, she did great and what a difference 6 months makes when flying with toddlers/babies. We went to Magic Kingdom one day, Animal Kingdom one day, and Hollywood Studios one day. While we enjoyed all the parks, Hollywood Studios was probably our first favorite, followed closely by the Magic Kingdom. We went to Magic Kingdom on one of the busiest days of the year (we didn’t know this when we booked it!) and I think had it not been as busy, it may have been our favorite.

Before I share an overload of pictures, let me give you some of the lessons/tips I learned from our trip.

1 – If you need a double stroller and don’t want to fly with yours, I would highly recommend renting one. We used Kingdom Strollers and their price was pretty comparable to the price of renting strollers in the park, but you got a nicer stroller with storage underneath, they deliver to your resort and pick it up when you are done, and you can use the stroller when you are commuting from your cars to the park (versus the park strollers which you can only get once you get into the park). It was worth paying not to have to lug our huge double through the airport.

2 – You can’t do it all. Seriously. There were things at almost all the parks that we wish we had time to do, or things that the adults would have liked to do but waiting in line for an hour to an hour and a half didn’t jive with their schedules or what the kids needed. Unless you go when the park is just dead (is that ever??!??), you will not be able to do it all and will need to prioritize what you what to do. Especially if you aren’t spending multiple days at the park.

3 – Were I to go back again, I would consider staying at a property on the resort. I know, I know…it is so much more expensive than staying off property. But, when you have small kids, staying really close by and being able to get back for naps or get to the park quickly is a huge plus. And, if you stay at a resort property, you get to reserve fast passes 60 days in advance vs. those who stay off property can only do them 30 days in advance. When I could book 30 days in advance, fast passes for the really popular rides were all gone and when we got to the park, if we had fast passes for some of those things, it would have meant getting to ride them versus not getting to ride them at all. Plus, some of the parks have early hours for resort guests and this would have been a huge perk. I think I would consider this option more if we ever went back.

4 – If you are staying more than 3 days, especially with littles, I would recommend having a rest day in between park days. By the end of day 3, we were whipped and it has taken us multiple days since getting back to feel back to normal. It would have been nice to have 2-3 days at parks, then a rest day, and then another day at a park.

5 – If the park is busy, take advantage of all the ways you can ride rides. Fast pass, single rider line, parent swap so after one parent waits in line, the other parent can go straight to the front of the line (made for those with little kids that can’t ride the rides).We didn’t realize or think about a lot of these things until the very last day and had we thought or taken advantage of them more, I think we would have gotten to ride more, even with little kids.

6 – Disney is SO expensive but there are so many resources out there that share how to save money. Bringing in your own lunch and drinks, staying off site and not at the resorts, online sites to buy discounted entrance tickets, so on and so forth. It is worth it to do your research as every little bit counts.

So, now for the abundance of Disney pictures (sorry it will make this post really long!)

Emerson loved Space Mountain with Ed, even after waiting over 2 hours to ride.

Can you tell the grumpy ones in this pic? At this moment, Disney was not the most magical place for them.

What to do when waiting in line? Selfies, of course.

Brynn LOVED meeting Mickey and Minnie – she jumped up and down and grinned from ear to ear. The day before, she ran from all the princesses, but when she meet Mickey and Minnie, she ran straight into their arms.

This picture just shows how you have to learn to love each of your children where they are at – Emerson wanted to ride ALL the rides, Blake wanted to meet Kylo Ren and the Star Wars characters, and Kinsley was so excited about collecting all these badges for doing different things at Animal Kingdom and learning about different things. None of the other kids wanted anything to do with these badges, but it was a highlight for Kinsley.

She just HAD to get this Mickey that was just as big as her. We all enjoyed going on an African safari.

Emerson didn’t so much love Tower of Terror – and lets be honest, a ride I used to love I now hate. Funny how things change over time.

Dancing with the Incredibles. Our kids are obsessed with the Incredibles right now. And Star Wars. Hence the reason that Hollywood Studios was their favorite.

We were first in line to see Sofia the First so the girls got to walk her in – it was a highlight for them.

I love how he signed his autograph so he could see. So many of the characters struggled to sign and a few didn’t sign – for instance, Olaf couldn’t read of write and Kylo Ren and Chewie didn’t sign so the other couldn’t “see” their enemy was next door. When the characters didn’t sign, their reasons were creative, to say the least.

Toy Story Land was one of our favorite areas because it is so fun and bright. This ride, Toy Story Mania, was probably one of my favorites out of all the parks – its a shooting game that is fun for everyone in the family.

Because my birthday was the day we headed home, we went to eat Japanese our last night to celebrate. It was good but not as good as our local place in Myrtle Beach that we love so much. It was still fun to celebrate with my family and to feel loved and celebrated. Notice the Mickey ears made of rice?

The kids loved swimming in the pool any free time we got. Which wasn’t a lot, but they fit it in somehow.

For our trip home, we were supposed to fly out about midday on my birthday, but we started getting travel alerts that winter weather was going to hit in NYC, so we got moved to an earlier flight. Blake watched Star Wars while playing with his Star Wars characters on the way home. About an hour after getting back in NYC, it started snowing. It was so weird that the kids went from 80 degree short sleeve, short pant weather to THIS. Ahhh, welcome back, NYC.



Getting a medical degree

I heard a quote from someone yesterday, “My mom jokes about having a medical degree just from being a mom.” I am beginning to feel exactly the same way. Besides all the medical mess and drama that has happened before now, just since January we have been to the Urgent Care or doctor’s office 7 times (just the kids!).

First, there was this:

Emerson hit it on the TV stand when she was climbing to sit into our reclining chair. It required 3 stitches and two of those doctor appointments. Emerson has been having jaw pain that we weren’t sure was an ear infection or jaw issues but turned out to be her 6-year-old wisdom teeth coming down that haven’t even broken through yet. That was 2 visits.

Blake had a well appointment, which was drama free. And then this week, all 4 of our kids have come down with the flu. It has spread like wildfire through our house even with Lysol and washing hands and keeping kids away from each other. The doctors thought it may be a stomach bug because they were vomiting, but because I knew we have had flu with vomiting before, and I knew that how lethargic they were pointed to the flu, I insisted they do a flu test. It was positive for Type A. I also insisted against their advice that they give Tamiflu, even thought they say it doesn’t really help. It has ALWAYS helped my kids get over it quicker in the past, so I made a point to insist that we wanted it. Now Ed and I are also on Tamiflu as a preventive measure. Ugh. We have Disney in 4 days so we HAVE to get better.

It is interesting, when the kids start with some kind of something, I am becoming pretty good at diagnosing them. Or I ask another mom or my mom and then we can diagnose. Here is to hoping we all recover quickly and no more doctor visits are required!!

To counteract the bad, we had something very fun happen in our house this past week – Brynn turned 2!!  Our little true New Yorker who is sassy, full of fun, independent but still loves to snuggle, smart, adventure-loving girl turned the big 2!

We let her pick out her cupcake flavor and icing, and because she LOVES Jack-Jack from the Incredibles, we watched the Incredibles as a family to celebrate. She had a blast opening her presents and even today, she got another one (thanks Aunt Barbara and Uncle Larry) – one of the best things about her turning 2 is she has no idea that presents are late, early, or any of that! Here is her blowing out her candles, opening her presents (including a pretty soft unicorn from our good friends here), and just being cute. In some ways, it is so hard to believe our youngest is now 2, but in other ways, it is hard to remember what life was like without her.

We also got to participate in “Orange Sunday” at our church – a whole Sunday dedicated to sharing about why our church invests so much into our next generation. Blake and the girls go to sing on stage and they loved getting to dress up for the photo booth afterwards. And who am I kidding? The doughnut wall and snack stations were probably their all-time favorites. We are so thankful for our church, our kids’ small group leaders, and how our kids are being raised to love church and learning about Jesus. So thankful for how they partner with us as parents and pour into the next generation!

Blown away by the facts

This week, I heard a bunch of facts about NYC that absolutely blew me away. I have heard some of them before, but some of them were brand new. We we first moved to NYC, our transition was hard. It wasn’t just going from two cars to no cars, or going from suburban/rural living to city life, or adjusting to public transportation, or transitioning from polite in your face but talk behind your back Southern culture to I-say-it-all-to-your-face NYC culture, but mostly I think it was we felt like we had literally moved overseas to a different world where it felt like hardly anyone was like us. Granted, not all parts of NYC feel like this, but Queens for sure does.

Part of this was exciting. We knew that God was calling us to move here to impact this city that we felt impacted our country and the world, and even realizing that the world is literally here in Queens was exciting. But learning about so many different cultures and languages and people groups was (and still can be) absolutely exhausting. So before I continue, let me share the facts I learned via this website:

  • With a July 2015 population of 8,550,405, New York is the most populous city in the United States, more than twice the size of the second largest city, Los Angeles.
  • About 1 in every 38 people living in the United States resides in New York City.
  • New York has the highest population density of any major city in the United States, with over 27,000 people per square mile.
  • Over 3 million of New York City’s residents are foreign-born; over one-quarter arrived in 2000 or later.
  • Nearly 2 million New Yorkers are under the age of 18.
  • New York City has more people than 40 of the 50 U.S. states.
  • New York City comprises over two-fifths of New York State’s entire population.
  • New York City has grown by over 1 million people since 1990.
  • There are nearly 400,000 more women than men in New York.
  • There is a birth in New York City every 4.4 minutes.
  • There is a death in New York City every 9.1 minutes.
  • The borough of Brooklyn on its own would be the 4th largest city in the United States; Queens would also rank 4th nationally.
  • Approximately two-thirds of dwelling units in New York are renter-occupied, over twice the national average.
  • New York City has the largest Chinese population of any city outside of Asia.
  • More persons of West Indian ancestry live in New York City than any city outside of the West Indies.
  • New York has the largest Puerto Rican population of any city in the world.
  • More Dominicans live in New York than any other city in the world, barring Santo Domingo.
  • Over 2.4 million Hispanics reside in New York City, more than any other city in the United States.
  • The Black nonhispanic population of New York City numbered 1.89 million in 2014, more than double the count in any other U.S. city.
  • Half of all New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home.
  • Over 200 languages are spoken in New York City.
  • Queens has over 2.3 million residents and more than one million of them are immigrants.

Were you shocked by any of these? When we say that the world literally lives here, we aren’t kidding. Two nights ago, we had dinner with a couple who are Puerto Rican but they are actually part of a group called Nuyorican, which are people of Puerto Rican descent who are born in NYC. Even when they go back to Puerto Rico, their dialect sets them apart and Puerto Ricans automatically know they are Nuyoricans. Tonight, we have friends coming over for the Super Bowl from China and Korea.

With all these great things, there are other hard things. Becoming aware of just how much we have white privilege. Empathizing with those who are very much being affected by our country’s immigration policies. Hearing the stories of how Christians have treated people in the past (and sometimes the present) and have even ignored their plights. Waking up to facts that weren’t taught in history classes in school, like American banned Chinese immigration for 80 years with the Chinese Exclusion Act and horrific acts occurred during this time. Learning what it means to use your privilege for others. There is so, so much more.

Despite the hard learning we are doing, I absolutely love the diversity in NYC and learning about so many different cultures and languages. Kinsley just shared this morning that she knows how to say hello in 3 other languages besides English because of learning from people in those ethnic groups. I think it is a blessing that my children will grow up beside and learn from people who look so different from them and have so many different cultural traditions. I think its so inspiring to think that if so many of these people come to know Jesus, they can go back to their country (which most usually travel back to once or twice a year) and spread the name of Jesus all over the world. While it can be so exhausting to continually cross cultures, it is such a God-given blessing to be able to see the beauty He has created in all people groups.