All Things Disney!

We recently returned from our first family trip to Disney and I wanted to share some tips!

Our best trip to Magic Kingdom was the first night we were there. I pre-purchased tickets for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party (right around $160 for two adults, our daughter was free since she’s under three). We got to the park just before 5 the first day and had to exchange our vouchers for the four-day hopper military ticket ($167 each, purchased at the Shades of Green Resort–so easy!). The helpful ticket mousketeer saw I was holding the Halloween party print out and explained to us that we could save our hopper pass for the next day and enter solely on our Halloween party pass. Awesome! An extra day at Disney. :)

We had dinner reservations at Cinderella’s Castle, so we went straight there. By the time we finished, the park emptied out, except for those there for the Halloween event. If there is anything like this when you’re visiting DO IT. There were no lines. We went on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups three times in a row, the Dumbo ride about twenty times, the new Ariel ride was empty, and everything in between. They advertise “trick or treating” which was pretty lame, so I’d skip that, and just do the rides. At the end of the evening, there was a parade. There were certain parts that may have been too scary for young children, but the music was fun and mostly upbeat, so our daughter danced around in joy, not noticing Maleficent casting her spells on the crowd. Cinderella’s castle was lit up green and the fireworks didn’t disappoint. Truly a great night.

I had done some research several months before our trip and discovered that it’s recommended you book your dinner reservations 180 days in advance for the more popular restaurants. I did and, even still, could not get in to Be Our Guest to save our lives. The next morning we tried to sneak in early for lunch there and were told that there were no openings, but they then issued us a card to come back an hour later and have lunch. I’ll be honest with you, as we walked up to Beast’s castle, I turned to my husband and said, “This is for me, okay?” and my inner ten-year-old self wanted to start singing “Little town, it’s a quiet village….every day like the one beeefore…” but I held it in. The environment there was amazing. The line moved quickly, then you order and choose where you want to eat: the great room (look outside the window when you’re there: it’s “snowing”) , the ball room, or the West Wing (complete with hologram rose losing its petals and a shredded portrait of the prince hung above a fire place). The food was fast and phenomenal, especially the cupcake with the “grey stuff.” I would have eaten every meal there if (1) there was an opening, and (2) we could afford it.

The other homerun restaurant choice I made was Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot. It was a b*tch to get to Epcot and took way longer than expected; we had to sprint to make it to our reservations (twenty minutes late), but it was totally worth it. Mommy and Daddy enjoyed some amazing Canadian beer over fantastic food, and our darling girl ate her weight in pretzel rolls. After dinner, Epcot was nearly deserted so Charlotte was able to run free–chasing ducks and exploring all of the countries.

We chose to arrive on Labor Day, as that’s supposed to be one of the least crowded weeks of the year to visit. It was still crowded, and SO hot, but absolutely less crowded than the other times I have been there.

With a toddler, we spent most of our time at Magic Kingdom and found a good schedule in heading to the park as early as possible, returning back to our hotel room for lunches and naps, then heading back to the park for an early dinner and more fun. I knew I wanted to be able to splurge on our dinners, so I made a bunch of muffins/granola/etc to eat for breakfast, and brought sandwich materials to make lunch every day. My husband made fun of me for this initially, but he appreciated it once we got there!

I was also pleasantly surprised that we were able to bring in food and drinks. At 90+ degrees every day, we were going through liters of water like it was cool (pun intended). Every morning we loaded the stroller up and no one ever said anything. Much appreciated.

Things we wished we knew ahead of time:
1. Bring twice as much water as you think you’ll need.
2. Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride is exactly the same as Dumbo, with a fraction of the line. 3. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is entirely too scary for anyone under….25. No
matter how funny it is to you, in your childhood memories.
4. It’s a Small World is actually pretty scary too, and was a little intense for our first
ride…especially when it stopped moving for 15 minutes and we were trapped in the
loudest country, seemingly. Charlotte started crying and pointing at the water, saying,
“All done boat!!!” I was ready to jump in too.
5. If you want to meet Elsa and Anna you better find someone to bribe, somehow. The
wait times at Magic Kingdom were astronomical. I’m talking 60+ minutes and no
FastPass option.
6. Speaking of FastPass, research it and use it. You have to choose three at a time, so
pick the best time for the most important activity and don’t worry about the other two.
7. Toddlers love the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. Any time our gal needed a
break from the constant stimulation, we would go there and she was happy as
could be.
8. Hollywood Studios is in need of a face-lift and they’re trying to use Frozen to do it.
The Frozen show that they put on is cute, but is essentially a group sing-a-long that
lasted thirty minutes. We used our FastPass for that and were able to get in early
and sit in the front row. *Spoiler alert, it snows!
9. The Wandering Oaken’s activity center is fun. They have a big ice-skating rink and
a big snow pit. A certain amount of families are allowed in, then you can build
snowmen and castles, etc (all building materials are provided).
10. Allow the kids to pick out one toy that they love from the park. Charlotte liked a thousand things that she saw. But she only loved one. So we bought her that one, and she didn’t ask for anything else. :)

Have you been to Disney recently? Post your comments below!

Deployment Angel Book Sponsorship

Daddy’s Deployed (Personalized Children’s Books) is teaming up with the amazing forces of Powerhouse Planning, LLC to spread holiday cheer to 150 deployed military families…(How awesome is it that we’ve already hit 51 families before I could even send this blast out!?)

From the president of Powerhouse:

So I’m super pumped to be teaming with Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed this holiday season to help brighten some military families’ holidays. (Learn more about Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed here: www.daddysdeployed.com) I’ve made it my personal goal to get 150 “Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed” books donated. Each book (with shipping cost) is around $40. The cost is a little higher than normal books because each book is customized for each family. The kiddos in the book have the same hair, eye color, etc. as in real life…it’s amazing! The mom/dad that is featured as “deployed” also has the physical characteristics of their parent (including military branch specific items).

All that being said…I’m reaching out to families, companies, etc. that are looking to sponsor book(s) to help brighten our military families this holiday season. If you’re interested I can get you the price breakdown on additional books too. For people/companies that order, Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed would also love to feature you as a “Deployment Angel” during December.

Please email Bridget (Bridget@daddysdeployed.com) with your level of interest and we can chat further! Thanks for reading and considering giving back to our troops in this meaningful way!

 

Shades of Green: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Shades of Green

Last week, Craig, Charlotte, and I spent five days at the Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World. This blog entry will highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly. :)

When I asked for feedback on the resort a few weeks before our vacation, I was surprised about the mixed responses I received. It seems people either loved or hated the resort. When we arrived, I realized, however, the staff take their military resort seriously. With a gated entrance, and identification check, we felt safe and secure for the duration of our time there. Check-in was quick, and our room was ready early. Surprisingly, we felt comfort in our Navy Lodge-esque surroundings.

THE GOOD

The Cost. We paid $133 nightly, for a pool-side “suite” with two double-beds, a large TV and dresser, pull-out couch, and small table and two chairs. There was also a large closet (with very few hangers) and a mini-fridge.

The Pool. They’re currently renovating one of the pools (turning it into a splash/pool area for small children), but the other pool is a great size, and has two points of shallow entry walk-in shallow. My favorite part, being the mother of a brave two-year-old, was the abundance of neoprene life-jackets at our disposal. We also had fun watching the ducks waddle around and come into the pool, not at all afraid of people.

The Play Area. We didn’t find this until our last night at the resort, but there’s a new and amazing jungle gym next to the pool currently under construction. We all had a blast playing on it. Word of warning though–stay off the big slide if it’s potentially wet! We dried off everything after a rain storm, but my 6’3,” 215 pound Marine still shot off the slide like a canon. It looked like so much fun that I decided to try it too and ended up with a massive welt (as well as a new fear of slides!).

The Exchange. There are tons of Disney treasure items in here (less expensive toys, dresses, etc.), but also the essentials you may have forgotten at home, at a reasonable price. Make sure to grab water here before hitting the parks! (Note: we picked up the bubble wand for $7.50 and it was mind-blowing. If you’re there, get one and try to stop yourself from running through the hundreds of bubbles created from one swipe of the wand.)

The Location. The resort is about a quarter mile away from the monorail at the Polynesian resort, and I highly recommend walking there to get around (more on that to come).

THE BAD

Charm. Several people said that there is very little “Disney charm” at the resort, and I’d have to agree. There’s a giant Mickey statue when you first enter, but very few other signs that you’re at the happiest place on earth.

THE UGLY

The Buses. Here is the grumpy part of this blog entry. Again, we were warned that the bussing system is not ideal, but we decided to take our chances (bad idea). The bus schedule is pretty standard, but make sure you are waiting a few minutes early. We were headed to Epcot one afternoon and were disappointed to learn we needed to catch a bus to the Transportation Center, then jump on the monorail to Epcot (we could have taken the monorail to the TC and saved ourselves a lot of trouble). Our last day, we took the bus to Hollywood Studios and, were one minute late waiting for the elevator. Craig sprinted down the stairs to ask them to wait and the bus driver said curtly, “If I do not see them in one minute, I will leave.” Luckily we made it into his line of vision in time, but then Craig was yelled at for pulling the stroller onto the bus before it was collapsed. The bus drivers were not friendly, the buses were crowded and hot, and waiting for them to pick us up at the parks was the most painful part of the entire trip (including the ten hour drive to and from Florida). If we ever stayed there again, I would happily walk a mile out of my way to just jump on the Disney resort buses, or boats.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience. For the money you save in room charges (half the price of the Polynesian), it’s worth it, in my opinion. Have you stayed at the Shades of Green resort? Leave your thoughts below! Stay tuned for our next blog entry, where I will discuss all things Disney parks, including lunch at Be Our Guest (so amazing, and so hard to get in). Look for tips on how to get in!

Summer Travel Blog

Before every trip back to visit family, I always find myself saying the same things to my husband: “I can’t wait to get home and just relax.” “I’ll be able to get so much work done when I’m at home and have extra help with the baby!” “Honey, we’ll be able to go see a movie or go to dinner together.” He always smiles and nods in agreement, but he knows better. Being honest, none of those things ever actually happen, but I can’t be the only military spouse who has these lofty dreams, can I?

I should have recognized the foreshadowing in the most recent plane ride home to Illinois: my busy daughter turning into a raging…toddler, jumping up and down on her airplane seat, screaming along to “Let it Go,” and my husband looking up from his tablet long enough to ask, “Should we do something about that?” as I riffle through my bag, looking for something to bribe her down from the peaks of Arendale.

My parents are fantastic, and are always waiting just past security for us. My daughter squeals with glee and my husband and I no longer exist, as we struggle to drag all the necessary bags through the throngs of people: carry-on backpack stuffed with activity books, games, three different electronic sources of entertainment (kindle, ipad, and dvd player), and all the junk food she’s never allowed to eat except when on a plane and I need to keep her occupied; giant suitcases stuffed with everything we could ever possibly need, and rarely ever use; car seats and strollers: check, check, check.

My husband’s family lives just under an hour away, and we’re always working hard to ensure that both families get enough time while we’re in. This summer my better half, ever the Marine, put together a daily schedule (which I highly recommend to anyone in a similar situation) and we had the trip jam packed with excitement: trips to the zoo, aquarium, waterpark, and everything else we’re lacking in our sweet little Southern military town. The days are long and exhausting, there is never relaxation or rest, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

Of course there are horror stories of stolen suitcases (it even had white dog hair on it like ours! I can’t be held responsible for that!), car sick children, and Chicago traffic, and yet, I can never wait to do it all over again.

©Bridget Platt, 2014, Do not use without permission.

GUEST BLOG: ‘The Dust Always Settles in the End’ by Elizabeth

This last PCS for us was a rollercoaster from the very beginning.  We spent 7 months preparing for a move to Japan, and in November 2012, found out that wasn’t happening anymore.  We then scrambled to submit another preference list to the monitor, and by that point had decided we desperately wanted to stay in New Bern, while my husband did a FAC tour out of LeJeune.  It wasn’t ideal, but we liked the continuity and comfort for our little guy, who was not even 3 at the time.  I also had amazing friends and a fantastic support system, and we were within driving distance from home (KY).  From November until right after Christmas, we thought we were staying in New Bern.  We came home from a party celebrating Addison’s homecoming (he had been deployed through all of this), and received a text message informing us that we were instead moving to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, on Oahu.  Originally, they tried to move us in 3 weeks time.  CRAZY!  My husband was able to convince them to give us more than that, so we packed up and moved out on February 26th.  I guess it’s true what they say in the military– don’t believe anything you are told until it’s in writing…and even then, don’t believe it until you’re physically “on the move” and headed towards your destination.
Leaving New Bern was by far the hardest thing I’ve had to go through, even more so than the deployments.  It was our first home (we owned), where we started our little family, and where we truly embarked on the insane journey that is the military.  After experiencing two lengthy deployments and countless trainings/detachments there, I had made such an incredible network of close friends and neighbors.  They showed up with dinner at least once a week, brought wine over on lonely nights, babysat Owen, and kept me so busy with play dates and girls’ nights out.  The bonds I had (and still have) with those amazing people made New Bern the first place I’d felt at home since leaving the town in which I spent my childhood.  I knew that we would make friends in Hawaii, but I didn’t realize that even a year later, I’d still be mourning the loss of those day-to-day interactions with those amazing people.  I also was scared about how Owen would handle the transition, and whether or not he would be able to make friends.
We decided to make the move an adventure, and drive across the country, stopping along the way in various locations.  Owen has always loved road trips (weird for a toddler, I know), and he did great.  The best decision we made was to make sure that every hotel we stayed in had a pool, so that after a long day of driving, Owen could get out a lot of energy (we moved in February, so we needed INDOOR activities to wear him out).  At the end of the road trip, we stayed at the Navy Lodge on Coronado, and spent 3 days exploring San Diego.  The 12-day trip holds a lot of wonderful memories for us, and I’m so glad we did it that way.
Arriving in Hawaii was surreal, to say the least.  You feel like you’re supposed to be on vacation, but are immediately thrown into the process of trying to find a place to live, which is incredibly difficult here.  Good places are snapped up in a matter of minutes, literally.  We spent the first week in a hotel room, with our iPads and iPhones duct-taped to our heads, checking craigslist and all other rental websites every 10 minutes, dropping everything and rushing over to look at properties.  It was chaos, and emotionally we were drained.  After the first week, we still hadn’t found anything, so we moved into the villas on MCBH.  There we continued the process of searching, and after 2 weeks, still hadn’t found anything.  We then moved AGAIN, into a month-long vacation rental.  We only had our express shipment, which was a blessing because of all the moves, but a curse because I could tell my little guy was starting to struggle with the lack of routine and consistency.  He had been used to a 5-day preschool program from 9-12, and lots of time with his friends.  I decided that the only thing I could control for him, was preschool.  I quickly found an amazing Montessori school for him, and stuck my hand out to every single mom I saw there, hoping to make a connection.  I feel very strongly that the sooner you connect with your environment and plant some seeds, the sooner you will find peace and start to settle down internally.  I gave out my number and in no time, Owen and I were out with friends almost daily at playgrounds, signing up for soccer together, and immersing ourselves in socialization.  He cheered up immediately, and so did I.
We finally found a place to live for a year, and moved in about a week before I found out I was pregnant with our second child.  I felt so lucky to be settled for that, and to know we’d be in a home when the baby was due.  Soon after we got our stuff and unpacked, everything fell into place.  Although I am still not as connected to Kailua as I was to New Bern, I can definitely say that we have found our peace with it and are enjoying it as it is, while we are here.  Owen is happy, has made some amazing friends, and I have too.  That’s the beautiful thing about this lifestyle…the unknown is scary, but it forces us to step outside our comfort zone, be courageous, and often discover that every situation can be so much more than we originally anticipate.  It keeps me hopeful, optimistic, and feeling very lucky.  I wouldn’t trade the people on this journey for anything, and I feel very confident my now 4.5 year old would say the same thing (in his own little kid logic, of course).  I’ve also learned to focus on what I actually can control, and roll with the punches of what I can’t.  I know the dust always settles in the end.

Meet Elizabeth!

Hey DD/MD friends and family!

We’re so excited to introduce Elizabeth (Liz) as our newest team member. Heck, she’s so amazing, she wanted to introduce herself to y’all!

From Liz:

My family spent 4.5 years in North Carolina while my husband was a Harrier pilot with VMA-542, and now live in Hawaii, where he continues to fly C-20s for the USMC.  I am a counselor by training, but now enjoy staying home with my 4yr old (Owen) and my 4-month-old (James).  Having experienced 2 deployments, countless days with my husband away for training, and a toddler to care for at the time, I know all too well how these separations can affect a small child.  These books are an invaluable resource for any parent trying to start a dialogue with their kids, not only about the logistics of the deployment, but also about the emotional challenges they will all face together.  I am so excited to be a part of this incredible company, and I look forward to supporting other military families as they navigate what can be very difficult experiences and come out stronger on the other side…because in this crazy military lifestyle, no matter how hard it is to make it through sometimes, there’s nothing more joyful and amazing than a Homecoming.

Please leave some love for Liz below, or shoot her an email and introduce yourself: support@daddysdeployed.com

50% off in April!

I want to start this post off by saying that ONE MAN is covering the promotion this month. Pretty awesome right?

One of my friends from high school, who is also responsible for Craig and me meeting, is a Partner at Thrivent Financial (https://www.thrivent.com/). He handles all of our mutual funds and life insurance, but has also provided me with great advice and support since starting DD/MD. Last month we started our big push to partner up with more awesome corporations so that we can provide personalized books at cheaper costs for our military families. I decided to send him a package because (1) they look awesome and (2) I was hoping he’d know someone that would want to help milfams.

The day he received the package he called from Illinois. This is how our conversation went:

Dan: “Hey, I got your package today. It looks great. What do I need to do? Send a check to you?”

Me: “Well, wait, that’s not really how this works.”

Dan: “Okay, if I give (x) amount of money, how many families could we provide books for?”

Since April is the Month of the Military Child we decided it would be great to do a huge promotion. Dan brought up the idea of covering 50% of the costs of 50 books. Really generous right? Within a week contracts had been signed and checks were in the mail.

Here’s the best thing about Dan: besides distant family members, and Craig, he has no direct ties to the military. He’s just someone that realizes what we all go through and wants to help.

He also realizes that veterans make amazing employees and has asked that if anyone knows a great vet looking for a job in the Bloomington/Peoria, Illinois area to email me: Bridget(at)daddysdeployed(dot)com and we will pass along his contact information. I’m (not so secretly) hoping that Craig goes to work for him after his time in the military is up. ;)

So here’s how it works:

Go to www.daddysdeployed.com
Click: “order book”
Enter in all your information
Add the promo code: Thrivent4
(directly underneath the code box you will see a breakdown of your costs/savings in blue text…it’s small, but it’s there!)
Check out
We’ll handle the rest. :)

Once you’ve received your book, email us a picture of your kiddos with their books for our Facebook page and a chance to win one of our new t-shirts!

Winner Winner! (Your Yeoman and the T-shirt Contest)

As our Lucky Month comes to a close, we are thrilled to announce our final contest winners!


Hey Heather Neal Pantley, you’ve won your husband a Your Yeoman package! Please email daddysdeployed@gmail.com with your location, email, and best phone number to be reached at. We’ll handle the rest.

We are so proud of the voter turnout for our t-shirt contest! Though there were several quotes loved by many, the most voted for was #6 (Together forever, never apart, maybe in distance, but never in heart.) Congratulations to Alejandra Lizarraga for submitting that one and winning t-shirts for herself and her family. Alejandra, please email daddysdeployed@gmail.com with your family’s t-shirt sizes (youth and adult) as well as the address you’d like them sent to.

We also want to give away shirts to one of our voters. So Lori Elfers  please email us at daddysdeployed@gmail.com with your family’s t-shirt sizes (youth and adult) as well as the address you’d like them sent to.

Thank you for all the support and entries for our Lucky Month giveaways! Stay tuned: we’re going to be posting something really awesome here on April 1st.

We hope you’ve all had a great weekend!

The DD/MD Team

Lucky Day Giveaway!

Happy St. Patty’s Day! We feel so lucky to have you follow us and we want to share the love! Share and enter this contest to win your very own Snort from Toymail. We posted about these amazing toys a few weeks ago on our Facebook page: they send and receive mail via WiFi. Perfect for family who lives far away and deployed parents with WiFi! Our CEO has one and Grandma and Grandpa just sent over a message singing the ABC’s for her daughter to sing along with. To win: comment below that you’d like to be entered. (Worth over $60!) We’re closing this one at midnight at Wednesday.

T-Shirt Time!

We are getting ready to create some t-shirts and we need YOUR help. Do you have a funny or memorable quote/hashtag about deployments that would look great on a shirt? Comment below! If we use yours we will send free t-shirts for you and your kiddos!

 
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