Why Being Vulnerable Matters

It is through vulnerability that we find strength.  Great thoughts on why being vulnerable matters.

There is this topic that’s come up recently in conversations with family and friends.  It’s the topic of vulnerability.  A recurring thought that’s been shared between myself and those I’m talking to is the feeling that vulnerability is something to be feared.  That if you’re vulnerable, you’re weak.  And if you’re weak, you will be ridiculed, taken advantage of and the respect of others will be lost.

It is through vulnerability that we find strength.  Great thoughts on why being vulnerable matters.
At a college football game about 2 weeks after we started dating

This fear of being vulnerable extends into all areas of our lives.  It affects our relationships with loved ones, because if we do not open up and talk about our true feelings, we aren’t able to make a crucial connection with them.  And if you aren’t connecting on a personal level by talking about things that are hard and deep, then you aren’t establishing a strong foundation for a lasting relationship.

Shortly after my husband and I started dating, I went on a week long trip for a college class.  Our dating relationship was new and fragile.  But we were committed to keeping in touch during this trip, so we had 2 or 3 hour long conversations every night before we went to bed.  We discussed everything from our favorite movies to our least favorite foods (coleslaw and potato salad, in case you were wondering).  Sometimes we were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe.  And other times, we talked about things that were so personal that one or both of us didn’t say anything for a long time while we simply tried to process the words that had been spoken.  Those were the things that really started building our foundation.  Now that we are married, it’s still hard to talk about certain topics.  But the fact that we keep trying to be vulnerable with each other is something that keeps us together.

It is through vulnerability that we find strength.  Great thoughts on why being vulnerable matters.

It also affects our ability to make new and lasting friendships, because if we never get past the formalities of “where are you from” and “what do you like to do”, then you never talk about the deeper topics, such as current challenges and childhood struggles that are still affecting you today.  Again, that opportunity to really connect with another person is lost.  When I was in college, I met one of my best friends.  We immediately connected.  If you were to ask us when we became friends, neither of us could tell you because it’s as though we’ve always been friends.  Even so, it wasn’t until we helped each other through difficult breakups or challenging situations that we began to cement our relationship.  If one of us walked into the apartment and found the other one crying, there wasn’t a rush to hide it and pretend everything was ok.  We talked about it.  We cried together.  We were there for each other.  Today, we live in different states.  We don’t talk as much as we used to and our lives are busy.  But when we do talk, or we do see each other, it’s like we were never apart.  That is what being vulnerable does.

Fear of vulnerability affects our willingness to try new things and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations where there is a possibility, maybe even a probability, of failure.  When we are only living within our personal realm of comfort, never trying to develop a new skill or share an idea, we aren’t growing.  How can we, when our fear of what others will think or say or do paralyzes us?  I had a relationship professor in college (lots of college examples today!) who taught us that if what you are currently doing in a situation isn’t working, do something different.  And not just a little different.  A lot different.  Something that makes you feel a little uncomfortable.  Something that stretches you beyond your limits. Something that if you weren’t afraid of failing, you would try in a heartbeat.  I’ll bet that if you stop and think for a moment, you can think of something that you’ve always wanted to do or try, but haven’t, because of fear.  I’m not talking about skydiving when you are afraid of heights, or touching a snake when just the thought of them makes you shiver.  I’m talking about taking a cooking class when you don’t have a clue how to cook.  Going to a neighborhood playgroup when you don’t know if any of your friends will be there to talk to.  Signing up for piano lessons when you feel silly that you’d be playing songs that a 5 year old knows.

It is through vulnerability that we find strength.  Great thoughts on why being vulnerable matters.
A picture from my senior year of high school

I recently started taking a dance technique class from a friend of mine with some other moms in the neighborhood.  I took dance lessons many years ago, but after graduating from high school, then college, then having kids, it was a passion of mine that got put on the back burner.  Since we got married, my husband, knowing that I danced before we met, has asked me again and again to dance for him.  And he’s not even talking something sexy.  He just wants to see me doing something that I’ve told him that I love.  But I’ve always come up with some excuse: “Well, I’m not very good anymore.”  “There isn’t enough room here.”  “I don’t have my dance shoes.”  The other day, a song that I had recently learned a short routine to came on the radio.  My daughter was the only one in the room and she was eating so I didn’t think she’d even notice when I started dancing.  By the time I finished, she was clapping and saying, “Good job, Mom!  You are a good dancer!”  Then she proceeded to tell my husband that I had just done a dance and he says to me, “Oh sure, you’ll dance in front of her, but not me. (he’s smiling)  I want to see it.”  Here is my sweet husband asking me, yet again, to be vulnerable.  To show him something that I love and I’m not as good at as I used to be.  After a weak, “There’s not enough room” excuse, I find the song and do the dance for him.  Then I did it again.  And you know what?  He didn’t care that it wasn’t perfect.  He only cared that I had shown him a little part of myself that I’d kept hidden because I was letting my fear of being vulnerable stop me.

Be strong.  Be vulnerable.  They aren’t conflicting qualities.  Yes.  Being vulnerable is scary.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s doesn’t come easy.  It’s something that I have to remind myself of daily, sometimes out loud.  Sometimes it comes from my husband or my kids.  Other times, it’s a friend who tells me that I can do it because they’ll do it with me.  It’s ok to try.  It’s ok to fail.  It’s how we grow and learn and live.

Carrot Cookies

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

As I started pulling the ingredients out to make these cookies, my daughter asked me what I was making.  I told her “carrot cookies” and she said, “Yum!  I love those!  I haven’t ever tried them, but I like cookies!”  I like her logic.  *wink*

I grew up eating carrot cookies.  My mom made them regularly and they would be gone within a few days.  There is something about these puffy, soft cookies that make you want to eat multiple in a single sitting.  Maybe it’s their subtle sweetness.  Maybe it’s the specks of bright orange carrot.  Or maybe it’s the simple thought that “they have carrot in them so they must be healthy”.

Whatever the reason, you will be glad you made them.  Give them to your kids for an afternoon snack.  They’ll be happy with the cookie and you’ll be happy they are eating some carrots.  Even if they don’t and they think that there’s no way a cookie with carrots in it would be good, that’s okay.  More for you.

Here’s what you’ll need to make them:

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

Start by putting your carrots in a pot and cover them with water.  I used baby carrots (about 40-45).  Bring the water to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes or until soft and cooked through.

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

Meanwhile, mix shortening and sugar in a bowl using a mixer or a spoon.  It will look coarse.

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

Add egg and beat until fluffy.  Then add vanilla and mix well.  Add flour, salt and baking soda.  Mix until well incorporated.  The dough will not be smooth.

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

When carrots are soft, drain the water and mash the carrots on a plate using a fork.  Place mashed carrots in a measuring cup and press down.  If you have a little more or less than 1 c. it will still be fine.  Add carrots and mix well using a spoon.  You’ll know it is mixed enough when the dough starts to come together.

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet or use a silpat (like this one).  Using a cookie scoop or a spoon place dough on the cookie sheet.

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until the cookies are a light brown.  If you press lightly on the top and they are firm, they are ready even if you can’t see them browning.  Do not overcook.  Cool for 2 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

Carrot Cookies
makes 3 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. shortening
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 c. cooked, mashed carrots (about 40-45 baby carrots)

Directions:

  1. Place your carrots into a pot and cover with water.  Boil for about 20 minutes or until soft and cooked through.
  2. While carrots are cooking, mix shortening and sugar together using a mixer or spoon.  It will look coarse.
  3. Add egg and beat until fluffy.
  4. Add vanilla and mix well.
  5. Add flour, salt and baking powder and mix until well incorporated.  It won’t be a smooth dough yet.
  6. When carrots are soft, drain the water and mash the carrots on a plate using a fork.  Place mashed carrots in a measuring cup and press down.  If you have a little more or less than 1 c. it will still be fine.
  7. Add carrots and mix well using a spoon.  You’ll know it is mixed enough when the dough starts to come together.  (see picture above)
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
  9. Spray a baking sheet or use a silpat (like this one).  Using cookie scoop or a spoon,  place dough on the cookie sheet (12 per pan).
  10. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until the cookies are a light brown.  If you press lightly on the top and they are firm, they are ready even if you can’t see them browning.  Do not overcook.
  11. Cool for 2 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.
  12. Store in a ziploc bag or air tight container up to a week.
Carrot Cookies--These cookies are soft, puffy and slightly sweet making them the perfect little treat.

14 Meaningful Gifts for Mother’s Day

Let’s face it: Mother’s Day gifts can be so hard to come up with!  You want to give something meaningful.  You want to be thoughtful.  You want them to like it.  (And not just because it’s from you, but because you want them to really like what you give them.)  I feel like some years, the right gift is obvious.  You see it, or you think of it and it’s a no-brainer.  But most years, at least for me, it isn’t like that.  Heck, I can’t even tell my husband what I want for Christmas or my birthday most of the time!  So I’ve taken some time to think about some Mother’s Day gift ideas that your mom (or maybe you) would like to receive.  Or possibly one of the items you see will help you think of something else that she’d like.

Scrapbook (Traditional or Digital):  Making a scrapbook today is so much easier and faster than it used to be.  With websites and apps, like Chatbook or Shutterfly, all you really need to do is upload your photos, drop them into a template (or design it from scratch) and send it in to be published.  And if you decide to go the traditional route using printed pictures, there are pre-made scrapbooks that you can buy if making one from scratch seems daunting or too time consuming.  (I’ve seen them at JoAnn’s and Hobby Lobby.)

Personalized Mug/Clothing/Kitchen Towel:  Going along with the personalization theme, you can also purchase almost anything with kids and/or grandkids names or images on them.  I’ve seen mugs, shirts, kitchen towels, keychains and various other items.  If you have a certain item you want personalized, check out Etsy and see what is available.  I’d be surprised if you didn’t find something.

Gift Certificate for Massage or Mani/Pedi:  If your mom is the kind that likes massages, manicures and/or pedicures, why not look into purchasing a gift certificate for her at her favorite spa?  There are always good deals on Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local for any of these items.  The gift of a relaxing day (or at least a few hours) is something I think most women will appreciate.

Image from O Jolie Designs

Personalized/Custom Jewelry:  One year, my sister, step-sister and I pitched in and got my step-mom a necklace with all of the grandkids’ names and birthstone on it.  It was a personal gift and a beautiful way for her to keep her grandkids close.  Plus, we can always add to it as more kids come along.  We purchased ours from one of my favorite Etsy shops for hand stamped jewelry and keepsakes called O Jolie Designs.

Service: Perform an act of service, such as weeding the garden or cleaning out the garage.  You could do it as a surprise or together and use it as an opportunity to talk and bond.

Plan an Activity and Create a Memory:  Last year for Mother’s Day, we took my mom out to the aquarium and spent a few hours with her.  It was special because we were able to create a memory from it and take pictures to remember it.  Maybe your mom likes going on hikes or to the ballet.  Think of an activity you could do together, whether it’s just the two of you, all the siblings, just girls or extended family, and go make some memories.

Accessories for Hobby:  If your mom has a hobby, there is probably something you could buy to go along with it.  Golfing?  New gloves or clubs.  Biking?  A comfy seat or biking shoes.  Cooking?  That new pan or gadget she’s been looking at.  There are so many options that there’s no way I could even begin to list them all, but if your mom has a hobby, there’s probably something she could use to supplement it.

Flowers/Potted Plant:  I know many ladies who like to receive flowers or potted plants as gifts.  You could include a bouquet of her favorite flowers with another gift or have some flowers or a potted plant as the gift itself.

Chocolates or a Favorite Treat:  I know it’s cliche, but there’s a reason it is: lots of women like chocolate.  And I’m not talking a Hershey’s bar.  I’m talking about the really good stuff that you buy from a chocolate store that melts in your mouth.  If chocolates aren’t her thing, buy her favorite treat.  Maybe it’s something that’s hard to find or has special meaning.

Home/Office Decor:  There have been years here and there that I’ve bought or made decor for my mom or step-mom to display.  I know their styles so it hasn’t been difficult to find something I think they’d like.

Book, Journal or Notebook:  For as long as I can remember, my mom has always had a stack of books next to her bed.  She loves reading and has some favorite authors and genres, so finding a book she would like is generally not too difficult.  Along those lines, you could also purchase a journal or notebook for her to keep handy and write her thoughts down.

Poem or Letter:  You could find a poem that describes your mom or how you feel about her, or you could write one yourself.  I’ve done both and each have been received with tears and hugs.  I’ve also written a thank you letter expressing my love and gratitude for them.  If you’re looking for a way to get your mom crying, or at the least a little misty-eyed, go for this option. *wink*

Something made by the Grandkids:  I’ve seen some cute ideas on Pinterest where you have your child draw or paint a picture and you take a picture of them making it.  Then you include both the picture they made and the picture of them in a frame (check out this one).  There are also lots of other ideas involving hand prints/foot prints of each grandchild (like this one here).

Printable Fill-in-the-Blank about Mom/Grandma:  Another fun Pinterest find and so easy and cute.  Grab one of the many free fill-in-the-blank printables for moms/grandmas (like this one) and have your kids finish the sentence.  Then you could put them together in a notebook or with the gift that you give to her.  I love these kind of gifts because there are always a few tears and some laughter involved as they are read.

I hope this list gave you an idea or two or at least got your wheels turning!

What are some of your favorite items to give or receive?

Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

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Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

Hello!  Welcome to Friday!  I’m excited to introduce a new series to my blog which will highlight my favorite fonts.  I won’t be posting every Friday, however, when I post new fonts, it will be on a Friday.  *wink*

Let me just start out by saying that I am a total font collecting nerd.  I. Love. Fonts.  I have a whole Pinterest board on my personal account that is chalk full of fonts.  And my favorite kind to collect are the FREE ones.  So unless otherwise noted, all the fonts that I share will be free to download.

Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

To download a font, follow these steps: Click on the link below the photo and it will take you to the website you can download it from.

Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

Look for the ‘Download’ button on the page (sometimes it’s near the top and other times you have to scroll down a little) and click it.

Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

 You will then have a new window pop up with the option to ‘Open with…’ or ‘Save File’.  I click on ‘Save File’ and it then automatically starts downloading a zip file.

Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

You can then go to the folder by finding your download folder.  I use Firefox so mine is an arrow in the upper right hand corner.  It opens the most recent downloads with a folder next to the file.  If you mouse over it, it says ‘Open containing folder’.

Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

Click on it once and it will take you to your downloads folder with the new file highlighted.  Double click on it to open the folder.

Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

You will see a few different files.  The file type you want is ‘OpenType Font File’.  Double click on it and it will open the font so you can see all the letters, number or other characters included with the font.

Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

In the upper left hand corner of the screen, select the ‘Install’ button.  The font should download automatically.  Mine usually downloads in 5-10 seconds but if may differ depending on the size of the file and your own computer’s speed and storage space.

Font Friday: My 10 Favorite {Free} Script Fonts {and How to Download Them}

Open your word program and you will see the new font listed.

I hope you love these script fonts as much as I do!

9 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

In a previous post, I talked about what I learned as I planned our family’s first vacation to Disneyland.  We went and had so much fun and now that we are back, I have more tips to share that will make your experience at the park even more magical and stress-free.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

Prepare Snacks/Packs the Night Before  Going in, we knew we could take outside food into the park so we brought a ton of snacks with us from home.  This worked out great for us and we didn’t buy any snacks in the park besides a Dole Whip (yum!).  That being said, I wish we’d done a better job of prepping our snacks the night before or possibly even at home.  The next time we go, I’m going to bring a box of sandwich bags with us and portion out the snacks beforehand and put them in the bags we are taking to the park.  I feel like half of our morning was spent getting ourselves ready and the other half was spent getting snacks into bags and sandwiches made and into coolers before we walked out the door.  It would have made our mornings run so much more smoothly if we’d done just a little more prep.

Lots of Snacks
As a kid vacationing with my parents, I remember them telling us to eat a big breakfast before we left for whatever it was we were doing that day so that we’d be full.  I was a growing girl and I liked food, so eating a lot wasn’t a problem for me, but my metabolism was.  About two hours after my huge breakfast, I would be hungry and asking for something else to eat.  When we were looking for a hotel this time around, we wanted to stay somewhere that had a continental breakfast so we could try and fill up before heading into the park.  My kids are pretty good eaters, but even so, they didn’t eat a ton at breakfast and I knew they’d be hungry sooner than later.  We literally lived off of snacks during our time at the park.  (You can find a huge list of snack ideas in this post!)  We didn’t want to spend $5 on a small bag of popcorn or $2 on a banana.  So we packed up our little cooler with sliced apples, sandwiches, granola bars, peanuts, fruit snacks, raisins, applesauce, goldfish…and it would be gone by the time we went back to the hotel for a rest and nap time.  Then we’d load it all up again for when we went back later that day.  With the exception of a few things, all the snacks we had were brought from home, which saved us a lot of money.  This is a benefit of driving versus flying (which I discussed in my planning for Disneyland post).

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

Bring A Variety of Flavored Water
A great tip I learned while planning our trip is that you can ask any restaurant or drinking station with fountain drinks for a cup of ice water or to fill up your bottle.  We went into the park with full water bottles/sippy cups and we filled them up throughout the day.  But here’s the thing: I got kind of tired of drinking just water.  Not all the water we got was cold (like from drinking fountains) and after sitting in our bags in the hot sun, it got pretty warm and not very refreshing.  My husband ended up going to a local Walmart and picking up some Vitamin Waters for us to drink and let me tell you: it was a lot easier to down an entire bottle of that than it was a bottle of lukewarm water.  The next time we go to Disneyland, or any other theme park, I’m going to bring some of the individual packets of flavor crystals, like Crystal Light, or the liquid flavors, like Mio, to put in our waters.  I know my kids will drink an entire juice box in a matter of minutes, but getting them to drink that much water in the same amount of time can be hard.  We went during the second week of October and with humidity it was at least 90 degrees.  Staying hydrated is essential.

Getting to the Park
Parking at Disneyland is expensive.  It costs $17 per day!  So when we were planning our trip, we chose a hotel that was close enough to the park that we had the option to walk or take the shuttle.  We tried out both options to see which we liked better.  On our first day, we hopped on the shuttle in the morning and it took us 7-10 minutes to get to the park.  However, it took us 20 minutes to get back to our hotel in the afternoon because we found out that it was one of the last stops on its route.  After the kids had rested up, we decided to walk to the park and see if we preferred that over the shuttle.  It was later in the day and cooler and we made it to the gates in 12-15 minutes.  The second day, we walked each time and didn’t ride the shuttle at all.  My recommendation would be to find out what your options are for any of the hotels you are interested in staying at.  I simply called the hotel’s front desk and asked them.  Some hotels offer complimentary shuttles, while others don’t.  For us, the fee to ride the shuttle one-way was $3 for adults and $1 for kids while a day pass was $5 for adults and $2 for kids, with multi-day discounts.

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

Strollers and Stroller Parking
Bringing our double-stroller with us was one of the best decisions we could have made.  We have a Sit n’ Stand by Baby Trend and love it.  It held both kids, our cooler, my diaper bag, drinks, sweatshirts and anything else we needed to throw in.  The kids were in and out of it throughout the day, eating snacks or resting or riding as we moved between rides/parks.  At night, they both fell asleep in it as we walked back to the hotel.  If you’re debating about bringing a stroller, just do it.  You will be glad you did.  (If bringing your own stroller isn’t an option, you can also rent strollers at the park.)  You can also check out this link for some other great car seat and stroller combos.

One other tip about strollers:  There are various places around the park for you to park your stroller, generally around the fences by the rides.  I was a little worried about leaving my bag and other items but I didn’t have any problems with my stuff being taken.  We did have a couple of times where we couldn’t find our stroller but it was because it had been moved by a cast member.  If you come up to a place where you see cast members moving strollers around, you can ask them if there is a spot they’d prefer you put your stroller so it doesn’t get moved around and it’s easier for you to find when you come back to get it.

Download the Official Disneyland App
A friend of mine who has annual passes for her family highly suggested downloading the official Disneyland app on our phones.  This app gives information on wait times for rides, the location of characters and restrooms, dining locations and menus, parade and event information and photo passes.  My husband and I both downloaded it on our phones before we went into the park and referred to it multiple times throughout the day.  It was especially helpful when my daughter all of a sudden said she needed to use the bathroom and we needed to find one quickly.  It was a lot faster than trying to look information up on our phones and much more efficient.  (If you want to keep it on your phone after you leave Disneyland, it’s a fun way to show your kids where Mickey Mouse or their favorite princess is.)

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

Special Visit Buttons
I read about special visit buttons you can get for free at Disneyland when I was planning our trip.  They have First Visit, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary and others.  According to what I read, you could pick them up at the Guest Services building.  When I went to go pick some up, there was a 10 minute wait at Guest Services, but the cast member told me that I could go to any store and ask for one.  I’m sure I read this somewhere, but I didn’t remember.  I had to stop by a couple of stores because they had already run out and it was only 9am.  So if you want one, try and get it first thing when you get to the park.

Also, if you’re child is wearing their button in the park, the cast members and characters generally try to make a point of saying something about it which makes it even more special for them.

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

Visiting with Characters
Princesses: My daughter specifically wanted to see as many princesses as possible on our trip so I tried to find out as much as I could about seeing them before we got there.  There are two places where you will be most likely to find princesses: at the Royal Hall (to the left of the castle) and by the Snow White fountain (to the right of the castle).  If your child wants to see Anna or Elsa, you will only be able to visit them at California Adventure, but there are a couple of shows you can watch them in within the Disneyland side of the park.

Other Characters: By using the Disneyland app, we were able to find different characters whereabouts in each park.  There is always a cast member close by the line if you have any questions about the character you are going to see.  For example, a couple of times we got in line to see the character that was there, but the cast member told us that if we got in line that we’d be seeing a different character, or if we wanted to see that same character they told us when they would be back at that location.  Another time we got in line to see a character and the cast member told us that that particular character would be leaving but that another character would be coming at a different location so we could get in line there.  It was so nice to know ahead of time if we’d actually be seeing the characters we were getting in line for because then we could choose if it was someone we wanted to see.

*Note: If a character is out in one park, he won’t be out in another park.  For example, we saw Goofy in Disneyland so we knew that he wouldn’t be out in California Adventure.  Disney is very good about being consistent this way and not having the same character out in more than one park or at more than one location of the same park.

Take Time to Rest
Since we have small children (ages 3.5 and 18 months at the time of our trip), we planned out a portion of each day as a time to rest/take a nap at our hotel.  I know some kids who can sleep anywhere and others who need to have a quiet room.  My kids fall into the latter group.  So around 1pm we went back to the hotel.  Even though we missed out on about 3 hours of time at the park each day, by allowing our kids (and ourselves) time to rest, we were able to stay a little later at the park and our kids were much happier.  Plus, it was pretty hot during the day so we avoided some heat exhaustion by staying cool during those times.

*Note: We had a two day pass which we used consecutively, but you don’t have to do it that way.  Disney allows you to use your tickets for 13 days after the first visit.  This means we could have visited two times within a two week period since we had a two day pass.  Same thing goes for a 3, 4 or 5 day pass–you can use up your days any time within 13 days of the first use.  So if you have the time, you can definitely break it up a little so you don’t get burnt out.

What advice would you give to someone going to Disneyland for the first time that you wish you’d known beforehand?

Keeping Toddlers Busy While Waiting In Line at Disneyland {and other theme parks}

Keeping Kids Busy While Waiting in Line at Disneyland {and other theme parks}

When I was planning our family vacation to Disneyland, I knew I was going to have to come up with some ideas for keeping my kids (ages 3.5 and 18 months at the time) busy while standing in line for the rides.  Knowing how hard it can be to keep them out of trouble while standing in line at the grocery store, I knew I’d have to have a few tricks up my sleeve so we didn’t all go crazy. *wink*
Below is a list of items that I had with me while we were at the park.  Many of them I picked up at my local dollar store before leaving on our trip because if they got lost or damaged, I didn’t want to feel frustrated at having to replace it.  Also, I didn’t bring all of them with me each time we went to the park.  I brought a few items to the park in the morning and then packed a few different ones when we came back in the afternoon.  That way, the kids weren’t bored with everything I had brought within a short time of being there.

  • Bubbles: I bought a small 3 pack and just took one with me each day we were at the park.  I haven’t met a kid who doesn’t love bubbles and it definitely kept my kids entertained, as well as a few others who were in line.
  • Cars/Trucks: There were four small trucks that came in a pack.  I brought one for each of my kids and kept the others at the hotel in case the kids lost or ruined them.  They loved to drive the cars on the ground, the fences and themselves.
  • Small Notebooks and Crayons/Colored Pencils: I found some little notebooks at the dollar store and a couple packs of crayons so the kids could each have their own.  This came in handy especially when one parent had to wait with one child while the other parent went on a ride with the other child.  You could also ask them to draw the things around them or their favorite Disney character.  Some other options would be to play hangman, tic-tac-toe, practice spelling words, writing their name, etc.
  • Glow Sticks: We used these when we were at the parks later at night in the dark.  The kids loved swinging them around and wearing them.
  • Small Books: I found a couple of Disney board books at the dollar store and brought them with me to the park in the evening when we went to watch one of the shows.
Keeping Kids Busy While Waiting in Line at Disneyland {and other theme parks}

Keeping Kids Busy While Waiting in Line at Disneyland {and other theme parks}

I also tried to keep them engaged by playing games, including the ones listed below:

  • I Spy: There is so much to see at Disneyland and other theme parks with all of the colors and characters and carts full of food and toys.  Playing I Spy is a fun way to help kids pay attention to their surroundings and be observant to details.
  • Counting Items: If your child knows how to count, or is learning to count, then having them count any given item you see around you might be a good way to keep them busy.  My daughter loves counting things and it also gives her good practice with her numbers.
  • Play with Other Kids: If there were other kids in line by us (which was most of the time), we’d let our kids play with them in line.  It kept them all busy without us having to do much besides keep an eye on them.  I guarantee other parents will be glad their kids are being entertained too.
Keeping Kids Busy While Waiting in Line at Disneyland {and other theme parks}

Lastly, we kept them busy by giving them small snacks or pieces of candy.  When we’d park our stroller, we just grabbed a couple bags of snacks to keep handy while waiting in line (since they would inevitably get hungry the moment we were away from the bulk of our snacks).  We also had a bag of individually wrapped Lifesavers Mints that they liked to suck on and would curb their hunger a little bit if we didn’t have access to more snacks.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you and your family on your next trip to a theme park!

What are some ways you keep your toddlers busy while standing in line?  Please share!

5 Quick Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

My family and I recently got back from our first family vacation to Disneyland and California Adventure.  We had two day park hopper tickets so we jumped around a little bit between parks.  This worked well for my family because it allowed the kids to experience both parks.  I also found that most rides at California Adventure had shorter lines and rides that allowed more riders so even if the line was a little long, it moved fairly quickly.  We didn’t spend as much time at California Adventure as we did at Disneyland, but there were a few tips I wanted to pass along for first timers.

5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

World of Color Fast Passes
You may have heard about the World of Color performance at California Adventure.  It is full of lights, color, fun special effects and is perfect for all ages.  When my friends heard I was going to Disneyland and California Adventure, they all told me to go to the World of Color because it was just that good.  They also told me to be sure and get a fast pass first thing in the morning because they go, well, fast.  I did as they said and picked up our family’s fast passes first thing on our first day to the parks.  The passes assign you a viewing location and a time to return–up to an hour before the show starts.  We had gone over to California Adventure around 6:30pm after leaving Disneyland since the park closed early for a special event.  I wasn’t too worried about finding a spot since we had our fast pass and we ended up going into the viewing area a little before 8pm and found a decent spot on the right side.  Basically the way they have the fast passes set up is that if you have one, you are assigned a viewing location and are able to get closer to the performance.  If you don’t have one, you have to find somewhere else to view the show that isn’t as good.

*Note: The World of Color fast passes do not count against your other park fast passes.  The fast pass distribution for World of Color is next to the Grizzly Peak fast pass machines.

**For more information on how fast passes work, visit DLR Prep School’s post here.

5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

Radiator Springs Fast Passes
Another attraction you want to get a fast pass for is Radiator Springs in Cars Land.  We got ours right after getting the World of Color fast passes (around 9am).  When we left the park around 12:30p, the fast passes were gone for the day and if you wanted to ride the ride, you’d have to wait an hour or more.  I was definitely glad we got fast passes!

*Note: The fast pass distribution for Radiator Springs is not next to the ride like many of the other fast pass machines throughout the park.  It is next to the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” ride in Bug’s Land.

**Be sure to check where the fast pass distribution is for any given ride before going there, otherwise you could miss out.  The information is in the park pamphlet, which you can pick up at the entrance to the park or at other information booths throughout the park.

Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome Fast Passes
Yet another attraction you will want to get fast passes for is to meet Anna and Elsa.  This is the only way you can meet them.  They are not at Disneyland–only California Adventure and only with a fast pass.  They are located in Hollywood Land in the Disney Animation building.  The fast pass distribution machines are just outside the entrance and to the left (if you’re facing the entrance).  We had a 30 minute window in which to show up and once we did, we only had to wait 10 minutes.  That was shorter than our wait for any of the princesses in Disneyland!

*Note: This fast pass does not count against your other fast passes within the park.  You can hold fast passes for other attractions at the same time.

5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

Rider Swap
Disneyland has this great process in place for families who have some children who are big enough to ride a ride and others who are not.  We fell into this category.  My daughter is currently 42″ tall which is tall enough for most of the rides.  My son is only 33″ tall.  We wanted to go on a couple of rides he wasn’t tall enough to go on–Soarin’ Over California and Radiator Springs.  Obviously, either my husband or I was going to have to stay with our son while the other one rode with our daughter.

How to Use a Rider Swap: Let the cast member at the entrance to the line know that you’d like to do a “rider swap”.  They will give you a card on a lanyard that you will need to give to the person going on the ride.  They will then give the card to the cast member at the entrance to the ride itself in exchange for a little card.  Essentially, this card acts as a fast pass that allows the other person who was not able to go on the ride to get in without having to wait in the regular line.  In addition, they can take up to three people with them.  For example, if you have two children who are tall enough for the ride and one that is not, and those children go on the ride the first time around, they can go again when you redeem your rider swap card.  It’s almost like a super fast pass because it gets more people in to go on the same ride with only one pass.

*Note: While you do have to use the rider swap pass on the same day, you can use it at any time during the day.  You don’t have to go right after the other adult gets back with the kids.  You can go hours later, as long as it’s on the same day.  Pretty awesome, right?  (They also have rider swap at Disneyland.)

5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta–Best Bang for Your Buck
Let’s face it: food at Disneyland and California Adventure (or any theme park for that matter) is expensive.  While you might choose to bring your own snacks in, snacks only go so far to curb your appetite.  If you are looking for good food and the best bang for your buck, go to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta on Paradise Pier.  They offer a large plate of pasta for $10!  My husband and I each got a plate and shared it with our kids, who got their fill and we ate the rest.  We ordered the Spaghetti and Meatballs and the Chicken Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.  Sooo good!  (And while you’re there, fill up your water bottles with ice water for free!)  The pizza isn’t as good of a deal at $7-$8 for one slice, but it is fresh and it’s a decent sized piece.

What are your favorite tips to share with people visiting California Adventure?  I’d love to hear them!