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!

And the Winners are….

Thank you all for entering our contest to win one of FIVE free versions of DD/MD. If you see your name below please email us (daddysdeployed@gmail.com) and tell us how many children the book is for (up to three!). We will send you a gift certificate to use on our website. :)

And the winners are:
Jerrica Zidlicky
Sean Abby Hacker
Beckie Goodman
Megan Honeycutt Berg
Courtney Blair

Don’t see your name? Don’t worry! March is our Lucky Month and we’re giving away more awesomeness next week! Make sure you to follow us on Facebook.

Sittercity Sponsored Giveaway!

It seems like more and more families are gearing up for deployments every day and we want to make sure each of those families has a shot of winning one of five copies of DD/MD, sponsored by Sittercity. Sittercity is an amazing resource and the best part is: it’s free! They have an exclusive contract with the DoD, one that ensures your registration fee is completely covered (a $140 fee!) for all active duty military families. The thing I love most about Sittercity is that it’s not solely a babysitting service; there’s pet care, pcs help, and so much more! If you haven’t registered yet, take the 2 minutes to do it and rest easy knowing your children are in good hands. http://tinyurl.com/lbu3ulo

Ready to enter for your chance to win one of our five books? All you have to do is comment below and tell us how you would benefit from one of our fully personalized stories. We will announce the winners this Sunday!

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