Category Archives: Disney

Not Everyone Loves Disney…

Not everyone loves disney

Not everyone loves Disney.

And that’s ok!

Really.

Last night, while scrolling my Facebook feed, I came upon a post on a local moms blog. The title and image grabbed my attention, then I read the excerpt. It was clearly another anti-Disney post, like the dozens I’ve read (and hundreds I know are out there) but this one was more than just a post saying why the author doesn’t enjoy Disney, this post was far more vicious, calling out those who do love Disney as ignorant and “what is wrong with the world” As a Disney fan, it irked me. As a mother it made me shake.  The judgement in the post was STRONG, the tone harsh and mean spirited.

You all know how much our family, immediate and extended, love Disney. The movies, the books, the parks, the cruises, the adventures, the MEMORIES. It is a part of our life that brings us a lot of joy.

I also know that it is not for everyone.  

I have friends, and even family (you know who you are!) who openly dislike Disney. They have their reasons, some all of them valid. Some think it’s just too expensive. Some hate the crowds, and are only able to travel at peak times because of work or school. Some prefer to use their vacation funds to visit the beach, or road trip to National Parks, others take an annual trip to NYC to see a Broadway show, one visits family in Europe, and there are even a couple who have taken a stand against what they deem to be a problematic corporation. Some just hate magic and fun (again, you know who you are!!) And ya know what?  I am totally cool with that! Do I joke with them, and tell them they are missing out? You know it! Do they throw it back at me and tell me I’m crazy for loving it so much? They certainly do! But, none of us judge the others for their choice of vacation spot. Because it’s just that: THEIR CHOICE.156185_10151172267226452_1015708101_n

The post implied that those of us who go to Disney aren’t teaching our kids about REAL culture, we’re showing them the fake Paris in Epcot, when we should be taking them to the REAL Paris.  That is truly a privileged view. The fact is, not everyone has the opportunity to choose the real Paris over Epcot. There are many reasons, maybe they have young children who they don’t think are ready for a trip to Europe, maybe they have a fear of flying but can road trip to Florida, maybe they cannot afford it but Disney is something they are able to make happen. I have not taken my daughter to Paris. It’s not something we have a lot of interest in at this time. I’d love to take her to Europe when she’s older, though! However, just because she hasn’t traveled the world doesn’t mean she doesn’t know about other cultures.  Through our family, friends, and her school, we’ve made sure that she is exposed to other cultures. And *shockingly* Disney has been a part of that exposure. She’s learned traditional German dances, she’s sat with woodcarvers from Africa and listened as they shared how they learned the art form. She’s been taught Berber and Arabic words. She’s learned about Alebrijes and taught to play djembe. And she’s met, spoken to and befriended cast members (and other guests) from all over the globe. Disney has only increased her knowledge of world cultures.

The post also blamed Disney and princess culture for causing body image issues for women. While I don’t disagree that film and media often portray a very skewed ideal of beauty, I don’t think we can put the blame solely on Disney princesses. (Especially when you’re basing that assessment on films from the 1930s and 40s, which were based on fairytales from centuries ago. I think Merida, Mulan, and Moana have done a great job showing my girl that Disney princesses don’t need a prince to prove their worth.)  Certainly our girls (and boys) are influenced by what they see around them, but my daughter isn’t only surrounded by Cinderella and Tinkerbell. She has female doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, scientists, teachers, musicians, athletes, nurses, social workers, all shapes and sizes, all different religions and races and ethnicity, different sexual and gender identities, different levels of education and socioeconomic status, some with physical disabilities, some with cognitive disabilities and challenges. She is surrounded by all different women.  Strong women. Brave women. Amazing women. 

She has never told me that she wants to be a princess when she grows up. But, she knows that she can be ANYTHING she wants (except President. I don’t want my kid to be president, it’s a terribly stressful job) She can be a stay at home mom, or a high-powered corporate executive. She can be a doctor or a nurse or a dentist or a vet (but I’m trying to explain to her that unless Dr. Henry Wu finds some funding and a new lab space, “Dinosaur Vet” is not going to be a lucrative career path) She can join the military, she can be an actress, she can be the first female pro baseball player, she can be a painter, she can be an astrophysicist. She can be a Disney Princess and bring smiles to the faces of thousands of little girls in Disney World.  She can be anything. There is no asterisk. Anything means anything.14721643_10154048452956452_1970799903050460267_n

She also knows she doesn’t need a prince (though she has a few suitors already) She has told me “I am never getting married!” just as many times she’s said “Mommy, I’m going to marry ____.” She’s told me she is going to adopt  baby, because she doesn’t think she wants to have a baby in her belly, and she doesn’t want a husband but she wants to be a mommy. Snow White isn’t my daughter’s most important teacher, I AM. And I think I’m doing a pretty alright job.

Our family loves Disney. And it’s ok if you don’t. You have your reasons, but perhaps, before you judge, take a moment to understand why so many of us do love it.29579_10151172241651452_976562929_n 13138931_10153617629706452_540310698663810381_n

I’ve been visiting Disney World since I was 3. Vacations there, with my  grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are some of my fondest memories. My grandparents are no longer with us, and my daughter never got to meet them, but we can visit Biergarten in Germany and I can tell Avery stories about watching my nana and poppa dancing together to the German band. I can see Avery watching the parade from her daddy’s shoulders and have those butterfly feelings, reminding me of when I used to watch the parade from my daddy’s shoulders. I get to take her on her first roller coaster just like my dad took me back in 1985.

When Dave and I first met, he had never been to Disney World. It wasn’t something he ever really cared to do since he doesn’t like “theme parks” When he walked down Main Street and saw the castle for the first time, he immediately understood. It was magical. He was a kid again. And he told me, “I can’t wait to bring our kids here someday!”199503_10150110170521452_5418864_n

Now we get to experience the magic through the eyes of our child. And let me tell you, that is absolutely amazing. Because to her, it’s all real. And it is incredible and beautiful to witness the power of magic in that way.10622963_10152480098426452_702883171057106534_n

So why do we love it so much?  Why did I visit so often, even before I had a child? For me it is truly magical, it is a happy and safe place. A place where the stress and worries of things at home disappear and I can be a kid again. The turning point for me, was a trip when I was a teenager. It came at a time when my family was really struggling. We arrived at the Magic Kingdom, and it all melted away. There were no arguments, no stress, no fear. There was just love, and joy, and fun.

Sometimes, an escape from reality is what we all need. Friends have visited the parks after the sudden loss of a loved one–they said it helped them heal, and laugh again. Other friends have gone after a cancer diagnosis. Others after a major surgery. Others before a long and scary deployment.  Others as a final family trip after learning a family member didn’t have much time left. Disney gave them time to be together, having fun, laughing, finding joy when they needed it most.

When Avery was 8 months old, and I was DEEP in the grip of postpartum anxiety, ocd and ptsd, we went to Disney World. For the previous 8 months I was drowning. I didn’t think I’d ever come up for air. I was hopeless. Day after day I was hit with crippling anxiety and ocd that left me compulsively listening to police scanners and texting Dave, certain that he had died at work if he didn’t respond immediately.  When he’d get home, my rage would explode on him, blaming him for causing me so much stress. When we got to Disney World, I was ok. I felt safe. I felt joy that I hadn’t been able to feel for months. Disney saved me, Disney helped me to be the mom I was meant to be, Disney gave me a glimmer of hope that I was able to cling to like a life-raft, and I held on.

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These are just a couple stories…there are many more that I won’t share here because they are just for us. But, I could fill a book with the stories of magic we’ve experienced in Disney World, and on Disney Cruises. And there are millions of others who have stories like these.

For us Disney isn’t just about princesses and castles. It isn’t just rides and shows and food. It isn’t about money, or elitism. It’s about family, and joy, and love. It’s a place we can visit with our families, young and old, and feel happy and safe.

It’s about the amazing service. It’s about the incredible cast members who make you feel like the most important person in the world. The ones who appear, seemingly out of thin air, with another Mickey Bar after they saw you child drop theirs. Its the ones who will sit and talk about cheetahs until they lose their voice, because that 4 year old little girl has so much to say! The ones who call every gift shop on property to find that baby Pluto doll that your child can’t live without, and then it magically appears in her bed when you return to your room at the end of the day. It’s the Snow White who truly remembers your child year after year. It’s the photopass cm who sees you holding your daughter in front of the castle, and takes the pictures that make you cry tears of pure happiness when you discover them in your account. It the ones who put their arm around you, while you cry at the end of a tough day and tell you “You’re doing a great job, mom!” The cast members make it magical. 

Is it expensive? Yes, it is. But, for those of us who love it, our visits there are a priority. Some save for years, some are fortunate enough to be able to afford frequent visits. Some make cuts in other areas of their lives–maybe they don’t go out to eat, or the cut out cable, or they live in a smaller house with a smaller mortgage (ahem) I don’t judge anyone who chooses to go elsewhere for vacation.

We all make choices, and for many of us, Disney is that choice.

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Below are some quotes from friends sharing why they love Disney. Please take a moment to read, and understand why, while it may not be for you, it is for others. Have a magical day!  

“It’s a place where all members of the family can feel young at heart. In addition to this, my autistic child feels free to be who he is. Cast members don’t judge and help all in need.” B.L.

“Cause it’s always happy” C.H. -age 538159479_10217441129686800_7305640934140542976_n

“After a terrible and embarrassing meltdown from my preschooler which then caused a fight with my spouse, and left me standing there in tears, with a broken stroller. An older gentleman CM put his arm around me and let me know it was ok. He said “She’s tired, he’s tired, and you are tired. You’ll all be ok when you get some rest. I see this many times a day, all this magic can be overwhelming for everyone, but you’re doing a good job, mom, and you’ll all be fine.” S.L.11160_10151737091641452_1606745508_n

“I have no idea why, but whenever we arrive, we’re all just happy. We never argue when we’re there.” S.T.

“We went to Disney with “The Make A Wish” foundation! We could have gone literally anywhere in the world including Rome or Paris or wherever! My daughter, my beautiful, very sick (at the time), barely able to walk, bald daughter wanted Disney! I wanted to give her make believe and that is what Disney is. It’s a fantasy world filled with princesses and romance and cartoon characters with high pitched voices, bright colors and punchy music! It’s exactly what she needed!  It’s exactly what every kid needs! Because unless you live in a glass tower, this world can be terrifying and ugly and filled with hate. Disney is everything reality is not. It’s why people go there!” M.T-S.

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“Disney is a place where me and my family connect with one another. No video games, or TV .. no iPads or laptops .. just good old family time.” M.M.

“I had a tough upbringing, no money, dysfunctional home life. So a trip to Disney–or anywhere really!–wasn’t on my radar, not something I thought I’d ever get to do. When I got married and had my sons, this was something I really wanted to be able to do for them. We saved and planned and brought them on what we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip when they were 5 and 7. They’re 16 and 18 now and we’re going back next month for our ninth visit! And they’re still just as excited. There’s so much pressure on kids now–have to have perfect grades, extracurricular activities, testing, college applications, fitting in, etc., etc.,–this is one place they can “run away” to and just be a kid. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s commercialized. But it’s all about your family and what you bring to it. For us, it’s a place with lots of amazingly happy memories and a chance to forget all the everyday pressures and schedules and chores and responsibilities and…and…and… Mom can wear her Mickey ears. Dad can talk like a pirate. We can scream on a roller coaster. Give a big hug to a favorite character. We can just have fun as a family, something that’s all too often overlooked! “ C.M.

“I love it for so many reasons and I’m not sure I’ll be able to articulate it in a way that captures why I enjoy it so much.

It might sound cliche, but I adore how magical it is. I can become a little girl again (even at my age) and absorb & experience the wonder of it all. I enjoy bringing my children, but I’d have just as much fun without them either by myself or just with other adults. Disney is truly a place for everyone no matter your age.” M.B.

“Disney is a magical place for the young and young at heart. It provides an escape from reality into a fantasy world in which Disney has mastered. Disney was meant for the young and old. It brings smiles and joy to anyone and everyone.” S.K.

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The BEST memories we have made as a family are at Walt Disney World. They are the best for me because when I was a little girl I dreamed of the day I would go to Walt Disney World with my own family.  I actually have a full wall in my house just full of pictures from our Disney vacations. It was Walt Disney himself that said, “A dream is a wish your heart makes.” When I am in Disney with my family I turn into the ultimate kid. What’s so great is that I get to experience the ultimate childhood only in my 30’s. Hey, it’s better late than never. I can not begin to describe the joy that I feel watching my kids at Disney.  I get to take those moments of their happiness with me. “ N.E.

“Our first trip as a family was when N was 5 and T was 2. One night after dinner, my husband took the little one back to the hotel and I surprised N and took him back to the Magic Kingdom at night. Watching the fireworks together that night was so amazing. I remembered watching them with my parents when I was a kid and doing that with my own son was surreal. Going to Disney as a kid is so fun and memorable. But being a parent and watching your kids experience it for the first time is truly magical!” J.D.

“It’s as if the whole (outside) world disappears as soon as you enter the gates.” J.B.Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing

“I love Disney because I have many happy memories there! While everyone else would ride Space Mountain, and I was too afraid to, Nana would take me on the People Mover. We’d ride it over and over again (there was never a line), and I loved every minute of that time spent. It’s not just a ride anymore. It’s a very happy memory.” A.R.

“My son has special needs making every day tasks most people take for granted very challenging. He can become frustrated and struggle with his self esteem. He has loved Disney World since he was 14 months old. It has been his happy place, his safe zone. He can be himself and truly feel accepted there. His smile is carefree and genuine; as a mother I’d do anything to give him these experiences as often as I can. Personally, I have worked as a manager in the foster care system for 12 years. My every day is filled with horrors most people dont want to know about. Most of the children I know have been abused or neglected, often severely. My emotional and physical health is significantly impacted from the stress of this. I need Disney. I need over the top, sparkly, happy, magic. I need to be consumed in a fantasy land where people spoil the shit out of their kids to make the world right again. I love it. I will always love it. I will sacrifice to be able to go. And no one can change my mind.” J.Y.38404947_10157766712158569_8759697671205158912_n

“ I’ve always said they just do things right.” C.D.

“MAGICAL! PERIOD.” M.M.38198958_10214872632403562_1934265571457630208_n

Disney is the ONLY vacation where I can truly relax. We have a whirlwind of things going with our family. Special needs kid who has sensory issues and me with food allergies, it’s usually a special brand of hell picking a destination. Disney provides a safe space where we can all have fun, have the quiet spots pointed out and be safe at every meal. My favorite story goes like this: I had a girls dinner with some friends at Sanaa. We alerted them to my nut allergy and at dessert, Chef Chris came out with a concerned look…the pudding we thought was safe, HAZELNUTS. And we had no idea. So, he whips me up this DREAM dessert which had the rest of the table jealous! So, in another place, I may have ended up in the hospital because of this. Disney, nope! They also accept my “flappy happy” kid and make him feel normal.” L.F.

As much as I adore my little family, I didn’t have the best anticipations about Disney. But I will say that it turned out really well.  And we DID have a lot of fun.  It was crazy busy, crazy hot and crazy tiring – and we were all cranky and complainy at certain points – but oddly enough, I kinda did feel the magic.  I drank the Disney Kool-Aid. There really is something for everyone. We’re not running back any time soon – but I will admit that I’m sold. It’s a right of passage for a family and I’m overjoyed that we did it.” M.J.

38264049_10215095180987440_8517711869354442752_nI grew up with a season pass to Disneyland, we went weekly, sometimes more. We went to Disney World at least every other year, if not more. i grew up on Disney movies, I love the princesses, as a kid I didn’t think about the adult concepts that we put on them. Now as an adult, I still love the original princess movies that depict stories much much older than Disney. They bring to life the fairy tales my parents read to me. They encourage imagination and hours of imaginary play. I am one of those adults that very much loves going to Disney as an adult and without kids because it lets me relive all those happy childhood memories. What I love about Disney as a parent is seeing the magic come alive in my children’s eyes. When they get to meet their favorite character, or go on a ride that brings their favorite story to life, it’s a feeling that I will never forget. Disney doesn’t force girls to be princesses, as evidenced by oldest wearing a prince costume. She can love to be daring like Mulan and explore the galaxy like Buzz or fight like a Jedi. My youngest loves fashion, it is in her bones and getting to wear amazing princess costumes is who she is, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be a police officer when she grows up. We need to stop putting our own expectations on it and realize that to a child it is only about the Magic. That is what Disney creates and I for one love watching that magic come alive, because childhood is only as long as they believe in that magic and ultimately, that time is so short. “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ― Albert Einstein” K.B.38136131_10215095175507303_973663176128200704_n

“We love Disney and have had many magical moments but the one that sticks out the most to me is when we went for a weekend but on Friday night we drove to Tampa to go to our daughters Architecture Open House. We were staying at Fort Wilderness in our RV while my Mom was staying at All Star Movies. When we got back late Friday night I drove my Mom over to her hotel as her night vision isn’t the best. I was then going to take a bus to MK and catch the ferry back to FW as our campsite was just outside the settlement (200 loop). The MK bus was at ASM when I was walking up so I said I quick goodnight to my Mom as to not miss the bus. The bus driver saw us both and asked if my Mom was coming too and I explained what we were doing. Well I ended up being the only passenger on the bus so he radioed in and got permission to drive me straight to FW and drop me off at the settlement so I didn’t need to get any other bus or transportation. I don’t remember the gentleman’s name any more but I did write a nice letter thanking him for that little bit of magic as my Mom was worried about me getting back safely.” L.H.

“When we were there M  who is on the spectrum, has an anxiety disorder and speech disorder was completely comfortable and spoke to cast members and characters without prompting and without speech difficulties. And S decided then that she not only wanted to be an engineer, but an Imagineer so she could build Disney. And S’s all time favorite character is Figment (next to Daisy Duck) because she feels your imagination is the most important thing to have.” H.K. “

“A CM working the trashcans saw we were hot and gave us a wet washcloth so we could cool down.” K.B

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“One year we went to Disney and stayed in a few different hotel rooms. My oldest son, who has autism, had brought his “travel buddy” a stuffed animal that he brings on every trip. As we’re packing to go to the airport, my son realizes he can’t find it. At that point, we’re afraid that the trip will be ruined and he’ll forever think of Disney World as “that place I lost my travel buddy.” We went to the hotel desk and spoke with them. They told us that they NEVER throw away stuffed animals that are left behind and they’ll not only look for it, but will mail it to us free of charge. By the time we were waiting for airport security, Disney called us to let us know they found his buddy. A week or so later, a small box arrived that held the lost buddy. This might seem like a little thing, but it kept the trip from being ruined for my son.

Second story: One year we were at Disney World so my wife could attend a conference. While she was there, the boys and I went to Epcot to meet characters. My oldest son REALLY wanted to meet Beast, but when we got to France, only Belle was there. The boys meet Belle and my oldest mentioned that he wanted to meet Beast. They got a photo with Belle and got her autograph and we left. An hour later, we saw a line for Belle and noticed Belle AND Beast coming out. We waited on line and, when it was our turn, Belle introduced my boys to Beast BY NAME and told Beast that my oldest really wanted to meet him. How many kids does Belle meet in an hour’s time? The fact that she remembered my sons’ names and my oldest’s desire to meet Beast made them feel like the most important kids in the park.” J.L.

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Thank you so much to all my friends and family who shared their thoughts, stories, and beautiful photos! Love you all and hope to see you in the parks! <3

 

And if you do decide to go to Disney World, you’ll definitely want to check out

Toy Story Land  (Awesome review and photos from Our Potluck Family)

Cozumel Highlights, Ruins & Discover Mexico Cultural Park

On our Disney Cruise through the Western Caribbean, one of our ports of call was Cozumel. Our family chose to do the Cozumel Highlights, Ruins, and Discover Mexico Cultural Park excursion. Every member of our family enjoyed this educational experience! Cozumel Highlights

Mexico had never been on my bucket list. I’m not sure why, but it just wasn’t a place I had ever put priority on visiting. Probably because I’m not a beach person, and I always thought of the beach resorts my friend’s had visited.  And, let’s be honest, I spend all my vacation time in Disney World so going somewhere else was never really an option.  That all changed when we stopped in Cozumel on our Western Caribbean Disney Cruise last year! We got to experience the history, culture and FOOD and now I can’t wait to go back!  Our day in Cozumel on the Cozumel Highlights, Ruins, and Discover Mexico Cultural Park excursion was a highlight of our entire cruise.

When choosing our excursions, there were two things that were important to me. The first, of course, was that they’d allow 4 year olds, and the second was that I wanted to LEARN something. I wanted to learn and experience more than just the beach.

The Cozumel Highlights, Ruins, and Discover Mexico Cultural Park had everything we wanted! So I booked it for our whole family and I am so glad I did!

The morning of our excursion, we met in the Walt Disney Theater. From there we went as a group, off the ship, and over to the port where we met our guide, David and boarded our motorcoach.

David gave us some very interesting information about the Island of Cozumel and the city of San Miguel. We learned about the history and culture of the city! Learning about their government and social services was really interesting.  David made sure to remind us not to drink the water from the tap. While we knew to only drink bottled beverages, I was surprised to learn that it is because the water pipes are old and actually lined with asbestos!

Our first stop was the San Gervasio Mayan Archaeological Site.  San Gervasio is not home to any massive temples or monuments like Chichen Itza, but what it lacks in monument size, it more than makes up for in lush beauty and interesting history!

San Gervasio Archeological site

Our guide took us into the site and gave us the fascinating history of the area and the people who called it home. We learned that San Gervasio is sanctuary to the Goddess of fertility and love, Ixchel.  Maya women would make a pilgrimage, at least once in their life, to San Gervasio to worship Ixchel.  (You can see a depiction of Ixchel in the photo of Avery above. )

David took us around to a few of the ruins and explained what they were and why they were important.  One such building was Las Manitas (Little Hands) which was the home of the Mayan Ruler.  It is named Las Manitas because of the small, red hand prints you can see on the walls.

We were then free to explore a bit on our own. We saw a few of the other building-ruins, and ventured into the jungle a bit (in search of Iguanas – we saw 1- and Coatis – we saw 0) Unfortunately we didn’t have much time, and had to head back to the bus.  We would have liked a bit more time to explore, as it was such a beautiful and interesting spot!

This excursion was great for our whole family, from age 4 to 67. However it is a lot of walking on some uneven terrain so make sure to wear sneakers or other sturdy walking shoes.  We were there in January but the sun was pretty intense, so sunscreen is a must, as is bug repellent!

After browsing the shops outside the site, and a few photo opps, we got back on the bus to head to our next stop.

The Discover Mexico Cultural Park.

Discover Mexico Park CozumelWhen we arrived at the Discover Mexico Cultural Park we had a few minutes to walk through the museum/gallery where we saw beautiful works or art. Paintings, tapestries, masks, and Alebrijes; brightly colored wooden or paper mache animals.  Then it was time for a delicious lunch. We were served traditional pork and beef tacos, with different styles of mole and  pico de gallo, as well as cheese quesadillas. These tacos were the most amazing tacos I have ever tasted. My entire family was shocked since I’ve never really liked Mexican food. Apparently, I like Mexican food, just not American Mexican food! I would go back to Cozumel just for thee tacos!!  To drink, we had horchata, aguas frescas, and hibiscus tea.  All were delicious!

We finished out lunch, then walked around the grounds where we saw the miniature replicas of many important buildings and locations in Mexico.  Then it was pinata time! Avery and the other kids in our group took turns hitting the pinata and collecting the glorious candy!! (I think filling a bag with candy was the highlight of the entire cruise for Avery!)

We were disappointed that we did not get to see the Papantla Flyers, as mentioned in the excursion description. I don’t know if they were not performing that day, or it was a timing issue or something else, but we were sad as we’d been looking forward to that performance, but we didn’t let it ruin our great day.

We got back on the bus to head to our final stop, The Mayan Cacao Company!

Mayan Cacao Company

This was the part of our excursion than many in our group were looking forward to the most. If you know my family, you know they LOVE chocolate. We arrived, and David told us about the origins of cacao and it’s cultural importance, as well as stories about Ixcacao, the Mayan Goddess of Chocolate.

We were then treated to freshly made tortillas topped with mole cacao. It was so different, and so delicious!

Next we headed into the theater, where we were treated to a fun “cooking” show. We learned how the Mayans made chocolate using traditional tools. On the way out we were each handed a small cup of the cacoa beverage, and were told to experiment by adding additional ingredients like honey.  It was not the chocolate that we’re used to. It was much more bitter, but we still enjoyed it.

We had a few minutes to check out the store before boarding the bus back to the ship. We were able to sample all the different flavors of chocolate bar they sell, and we enjoyed a delicious frozen cacoa drink!
Macaw Cozumel

When we arrived back at the port, we said out goodbyes to David and our driver, and headed back to the ship. We all agreed that this excursion was worth every penny as we learned so much and had such a great time! Avery was a bit young to really understand the history, and at times she was bored while standing and listening to our guides, but she still enjoyed each of the attractions we visited. It was the best excursion of our cruise!

Please enjoy this video for a view of our day in Cozumel on the Cozumel Highlights, Ruins & Discover Mexico Cultural Park excursion!

The Cozumel Highlights, Ruins, and Discover Mexico Cultural Park excursion is a 4.5 to 5 hour excursion. It is open to all ages. Participants must be able to walk unassisted, as it is not wheelchair accessible. Locations and activities are subject to change. Please refer to Disney Cruise Lines for full and current excursion information. 

Disney•Pixar Cars 3 Crazy 8 Crashers Smash & Crash Derby Playset!

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Disney Pixar Cars 3 Crazy 8 Crashers Smash & Crash Derby PlaysetYou know what HUGE Disney•Pixar’s Cars fans we are in this house (Remember our Planes Christmas Tree??) So it should come as no surprise that our whole family had been anxiously awaiting the release of Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3!! With a racing crazed husband, and a kid who shares my love of all things Disney, this movie was at the top of our summer bucket list.  I won’t share any spoilers, but let me tell you, this movie did not disappoint! We all LOVED it!

To get us through the days leading up to the premier, we read books, watched the other movies, googled all the new characters, and of course, played with new Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 toys! Our favorite is the Disney•Pixar Cars 3 Crazy 8 Crashers Smash & Crash Derby Playset! Avery loves the Crazy 8 Crashers Smash & Crash DerbyThis playset is tons of fun, and you can find it on Amazon, along with tons of other fun merchandise like the LEGO Juniors Thunder Hollow Crazy 8 Race Building Kit, Just Play Cars 3 Mack Mobile Tool, Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 Apparel, and Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 Bedding! Amazon is your Ultimate Pit Stop for Cars 3 merchandise!!

Interested in finding new Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 merchandise? Hover over the photo above and click through to Amazon.com to buy!

Details of the Cars 3 Crazy 8 Crashers Smash & Crash Derby Playset

The set is intended for indoor use, but on the days when it has been nice out, we’ve brought it out to Avery’s playspace. I grabbed a piece of wood, and set it up on that. You want a nice smooth surface for the cars to slide around on.Miss Fritter This toy is simple to set up! The fencing just snaps together, and you’re ready to go! Rev up your racers and watch them speed and bash around. The Crazy 8 cars rev up in any direction, and spin and slide around the space! You never know where they’ll go! 

On the super humid and/or rainy days, this set has still been the toy of choice!Crazy 8 Derby Indoor play

The set comes with Lightning McQueen (covered in mud, disguised as Chester Whipplefilter) and Derby Champion Miss Fritter. You can purchase additional Crazy 8 Crashers separately.cars 3 crazy 8

 One of the major themes in Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 is mentorship and how helping others makes you feel good. We’ve been talking about this a lot as Avery has a younger friend on her t-ball team and attends camp with younger kids. I’ve been trying to model that behavior with her. One of Avery’s biggest passions is art, and as an artist myself, I love being able to help her develop her skills.  While playing, she decided that she wanted to draw some of the film’s characters.

I suggested that she draw the scene she had set up with her playset, and helped her to draw what she saw. Avery drawing Cars 3 charactersShe enjoyed spending that time learning from me, and I enjoyed watching her draw and the excitement in her face when she “got it” It was such a wonderful way to mentor, learn, AND play!

Avery drew the Cars 3 demolition derby

Has your family seen Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 yet?  Are you looking for awesome Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 toys, games, and more?  Head to Amazon.com, your  Ultimate Pit Stop for Cars 3 merchandise!

Easy DIY Backyard Racetrack

Backyard racetrackEasy DIY Backyard Racetrack - A fun way for kids to get outside, use their imaginations, and have fun! With the nice weather, we’ve being playing catch-up on the yard work! We’re working on our shed, trying to cure our poison ivy problem,  doing general spring clean-up, and of course, planting flowers!  There are many times where we can show Avery the ropes, and have her help us, but sometimes, the work that needs to be done is just not in her wheelhouse. She has a nice play space, but sometimes she gets bored (because she’s 5, and apparently needs something to entertain her 24/7) We’d thought about getting her a swing set, but we don’t really have the space. We needed something small, that would fit the space, but still be entertaining and let her use her imagination.

Since Avery has been so into her race cars lately, we decided it would be fun to create a little backyard racetrack for them! So, we built this backyard racetrack garden for her! Well, WITH her, as she was very helpful from start to finish–choosing the flowers, mulch and stone, helping come up with layout ideas, and putting it all together! It was nice that our family could work together on this project, while teaching Avery some new skills. Lay out stone borderFirst we had to decide on a space. There were a few spots in our yard that we thought would work well, but one was too shady, one was too buggy, one was too close to the fence covered in poison ivy. We finally decided to put the garden track in a corner of Avery’s play space. It actually ended up being perfect! We had some old curved blocks hanging around, so we used those for the border. (We may paint them in the near future) And then filled the space with topsoil (The turf on Avery’s play space is very thin, and drains well, so we put the soil right on top of it)  Fill the space with top soil

Once the soil was set, we got to work on the track pieces. We’d planned to use bricks, but when we saw the rubber tiles, we thought they’d work better because they are so thin. We cut the tiles apart (along the lines) and pressed them into the soil, creating a track.Cut rubber patio tiles to create the roadAvery wanted a tunnel, so we also picked up a piece of pvc pipe.  I pressed that into the soil, and the covered it with more soil, and some cool moss we found at the garden center!  Use a pvc pipe to create a tunnel for your cars to drive throughWe then planted our flowers in the middle, covered the center with mulch, and the outer areas in stone.  We added blue glass stones and a little boat to create a pond along the trackWe added in a little “pond” using crushed sea glass and a fence along the inside of the track. Fun Cars 3 themed garden race track DIY Race Car Garden Outdoor car trackWe all love the backyard racetrack! The tunnel is our favorite part!  Fun outdoor car trackIt was so much fun spending a few days working on this project as a family! Avery learned some new gardening skills while Dave and I learned ALL about every  car (She has a story made up about all of them…obviously) This Backyard racetrack is definitely going to be THE place to be this summer!

On their way to radiator springs

Avery driving her cars around her backyard racetrack

Easy DIY Backyard Racetrack

Easy DIY Backyard Racetrack - Easy way to keep kids entertained all summer long

10 Ways to Save Money on a Disney Cruise

10 Ways to Save Money on a Disney CruiseWhen we started planning our Disney Cruise, the number 1 comment I heard from friends and family was “I wish we could afford to do that. It is SO expensive!” The follow up question is “How can I save money on a Disney Cruise?”

I am not going to lie. Disney cruises are not cheap.  Especially when you look at other, less magical, lines. Which is why it’s always best to have someone else pay for it.

KIDDING (sort of!)

While it would be nice to have a wealthy family member, friend, benefactor or fairy godmother, that’s just not the case for most of  us.

A Disney Cruise is not something our family could do every year, or even every other year. But, it was something we really wanted to do with our family, and so we found ways to make it work and it was worth every penny!

Since so many of my friend have asked how we saved for our trip, I thought I’d write a post sharing what we’ve learned. In the planning stages, we heard so much great advice from experienced cruisers that really helped us.

Here are our Top 10 Ways to Save Money on a Disney Cruise

#1 Book Early (Or Late)
If you know you want to book a cruise, it’s best to book as early as possible. As soon as the dates are released. A year (or more) out.  Prices go up and up and up as the months go by and the ship fills up, so for your best rate, book as soon as you can.  There are times when it may pay to wait, however. SOMETIMES Disney Cruise Line will release special discounts closer to the time of sailing. Also, you can often find last minute deals on Guaranteed category rooms (These rates guarantee you a stateroom in a certain category–Inside, Outside, Verandah– but you cannot select your room or specific category.

#2 Use a Travel Agent
A travel agent save you time, stress, and MONEY. (Some even offer on-board credits!) Even though we are Disney pros, we use a TA because of the convenience, and the fact that our agent is always on the lookout for the best rates, and knows what to do to ensure we get every deal or discount we’re entitled to! A good agent will also help with all your planning needs and questions.

#3 Buy Gift Cards at Target
Since you’re  already at Target 6 days a week,  this should be easy.   Oh. Just me?  Well. It’s worth stopping in!  Did you know that you save 5% on Gift Card purchases when you use your RedCard?  It’s true. So basically you’re getting free money. 5% may not seem like much, but every little bit helps! If you buy $1000 in Disney gift cards, you’re only paying $950.  The “downside” is that Target typically only carries the $25 or $50 cards, so for a cruise, you’d need to buy a LOT (And Target often limits the number you can purchase in one transaction. This is due to fraud, and will vary from store to store)  and then you have a whole bunch of cards when you pay (online, by phone, or on the ship) So what I do, is enter the cards on the Disney Gift Cards site. There you can manage and transfer balances, adding all your $25 cards onto one (up to $1,000) So you don’t have a massive stack of cards. (Sam’s Club and BJ’s also offer gift cards at a similar discount)

#4 Use the Disney Visa
The Disney Visa is great because not only do you earn Reward Dollars on eligible purchases, but you also get a promotional APR of 0% for 6 months on select Disney vacation packages and Disney cruises!! This gives you a little extra time, if needed, to pay off your trip without accruing dreaded interest!! There are also some great Disney Cruise Line perks that you can enjoy when you use your Disney Visa onboard. You can find more info on that HERE

#5 Cruise in the Off Season
I know this can be difficult when you have children in school, but if you can make it work, you’ll often find much cheaper rates during the off-peak times, like Fall.

#6 Go Inside
Inside staterooms are the lowest priced staterooms. So, if you’re ok to book one, you can save a good bit of money. I know many people don’t like the idea of an inside cabin, do to the fact that it,s well…inside. But, Disney has made inside cabins a bit more desirable on their Disney Dream and Fantasy ships by featuring a virtual porthole! The porthole is basically a TV screen, but it has a real-time view of the outside, making it feel like you have a real porthole. And you can see some of your favorite Disney Characters as they make fun appearances on the screen!

#7 BYOBeer or Wine
Alcohol is not included in your cruise package, so if you plan to have a drink or two, or more it may be a good idea to bring your own! Disney Cruise Line policy states: Guests 21 years and older may bring two bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750ml) or six beers (no larger than 12oz) on-board in carry-on luggage at the beginning of the voyage and at each port-of-call. Please note, there is a $25 corkage fee for guests who bring their own wine to dinner in the restaurants. All liquors and spirits (including powdered alcohol) are prohibited and will be stored until the completion of the cruise.

#8 Book Two Rooms
If you are a family of 5 or more, it may be cheaper to book two adjoining rooms than to book a larger stateroom or suite. Definitely take the time to price it out, to see what your savings might be.

#9 Book Excursions on Your Own
Shore excursions can be pricey when booked through the cruise line. With a little research, you can often find the same excursions on your own, for much less. You can also find different excursions that may suit your family’s need better (For example, in Grand Cayman, our family wanted to visit Stingray City. The Disney excursion required children to be at least 5 years of age. Avery is 4, so we looked on our own. We found GREAT reviews for one company, and their price was half what the Disney excursion cost.)  I was a bit hesitant about this at first, and we did book two of our three planned excursions directly through Disney (it was our first big family cruise, and I liked the convenience of having someone else handle the details, especially since we were going to countries we’d never visited before) The benefit of booking through Disney is that they have already done the work of vetting the tour operators, and should any issues arise, Disney is there to step in and resolve it. But, if it is cost prohibitive to book through DCL, then definitely check to see what other options are available for your family!

#10 Open a Disney Vacation Account
The Disney Vacation Account is a great way to budget and save for your trip! You decide how much you want to put aside, and when.  Maybe it’s $25 a week, or $200 a month, it’s all at your own pace, and you can set up the account up to 5 years in advance of your trip! Contributions are automatically deducted from your debit or credit card, and you can book your trip directly through Disney with the funds in your account! Another benefit of the Disney Vacation Account is that for every $1000 you spend on qualified vacation purchases, you’re eligible for a $20 Disney Gift Card!  You can learn more HERE

Bonus Tip! Book Your Next Cruise While On-board!! If you LOVE your Disney cruise, ad know that you’ll ant to cruise with DCL again, you can book your next trip while on-board! You will save money (Typically a discount of 10% off), receive and on-board credit ($200 for sailings of 7 or more nights. $100 for sailings less than 7 nights) a discounted deposit (10% as opposed to the standard 20%) And, if you want to use a travel agent, you can still rebook on-board and then transfer the booking to the agent (they can help you with that!)

A Disney Cruise IS expensive, but with a bit of planning, and by following these money saving tips, you can bring your family on this most magical adventure!!

Have you been on a Disney Cruise?  Please share you best money saving tips in the comments!

Zootopia Apparel at Target

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of the links below, it helps me to keep this blog running! zootopia kids apparel at target

Have you seen Disney’s Zootopia yet?!  Avery and I went to see it on my birthday and I was blown away. I mean, I knew it would be good, it IS a Disney movie, but it was more than good. It was INCREDIBLE.  I don’t want to give anything away, but it really is a movie that makes you think about the world around you, your relationships, and how you treat others.

Avery and I both loved it, and  my girl has been quoting the movie ever since. Her favorite line being, “It’s called a hustle, sweetheart!”

We stopped in Target after the movie (because it’s right across the parking lot and, well, you know we love Target) and I let Avery choose a Zootopia outfit! I had seen the dresses, shirts and leggings the week before and fell in love. Here is what she picked out:

Avery zootopia dress bunny shoes TargetHow stinking cute are those shoes?!  I couldn’t say no when she asked if she could get those too.

I’ve put together a little showcase featuring just a few of the adorable Zootopia items available at Target! Check ’em out!zootopia dress and bunny shoes

Toddler Girls’ Disney Zootopia Ballet Flat $20.00

Zootopia Hopps & Friends Toddler Girls’ Short Sleeve Dress $19.99

zootopia leggins ad shirt and Judy Hopps hat

Zootopia Girls’ Baseball Hat $9.99

Zootopia Hopps Toddler Girls’ Top and Legging Set $19.99

 Judy Hopps Pajamas and slippers

Zootopia Girls’ 2-Piece Pajama Set $12.99

Zootopia Kids Slippers $12.99

Super cute, right?  Do your kids have a favorite character? Which look is your favorite?

For more even more Zootopia including clothing, toys and bedding click HERE

Dream Big, Princess – Water Color Silhouette Tutorial

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #InspireBigDreams #DreamBigPrincess #CollectiveBias

Dream Big, Princess!

little girl big dreams Dream Big, PrincessAvery may be little, but she has some BIG dreams!

If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she’ll tell you two things.  A Superhero and a Sea Lion Trainer. I have no doubt that she will become both.avery on the dock

Even at such a young age, I see such passion in Avery.Everything she does, she does to the best of her ability.  Irish Step, skiing, skating, tap & ballet, swim, soccer, art…She loves all of her activities, but there is nothing she loves more than being with and learning about animals.

She really loves animals, especially marine mammals, and loves learning everything she can about them. And while I don’t see her suddenly developing superpowers in the comic book sense (though, she she has been trying to fly since before she could even walk, hence us removing our coffee table) I can see her becoming a Superhero for Animals. Working to educate the community, and protect the animals she loves.  avery in the water

I love that Avery has such big dreams, and will do everything I can to help her reach her goals! This includes making trips to aquariums and marine centers, collecting as may books on marine animals as I can find, learning about other women working as marine animal trainers and sending her to preschool at an aquarium, where she gets so many hands on opportunities like feeding stingrays, helping trainers provide enrichment to Belugas and Sea Lions, taking and testing water samples and learning the parts of a squid through dissection. (She’s 3 you guys. THREE!)Avery with binoculars

While she does get to meet and interact, in real life, with many women who are following and living their dreams, so much of what she learns about dreams comes from books and movies. Especially Disney Princess movies! Disney Princesses like Merida, Tiana, and Mulan have shown her that she can accomplish her dreams with hard work, and that she can be whatever she wants to be!superhero avery

We’ve talked about the ways that Avery can be a Superhero for Animals NOW, as a 3 year old.  One way that we came up with was to use one of her other passions, art, and create watercolor paintings that she can sell to family and friends to raise money for an animal charity!

Water Color Silhouettes Wax ResistWe created sea creature silhouettes, using a wax resist technique. This is a fun project that is easy to do. Preschoolers may need a little help with the stencil, but older kids can definitely do this on their own!

watercolor resist supplies

You will need:

-Watercolor paints
-Watercolor Paper
-White crayons
-Stencils

steps by stepStep 1: Trace your stencil, and color in the image thoroughly
Step 2: Paint around the crayon image. The wax will resist the paint and you’ll be left with the silhouette!

That’s it! Easy right?

Avery spent the day painting like Rapunzel…with Rapunzel. Her Sing & Shimmer with Princess Rapunzel doll sang “I See the Light” giving us lovely background music!
avery paintingI think our sea creature silhouettes look great! What do you think? watercolor resist

This project was so much fun to work on with Avery, and I loved that she was able to combine a few of her passions, and help animals in need.

The Disney Princesses’ “Dream Big, Princess” campaign is providing a positive message to all girls that they can be anything they want to be and to never stop dreaming big.  I love that through their stories, the princesses encourage young girls to be kind, unique, caring, strong, brave and to follow their big dreams!avery on the ledge

Through the Princess films, books and toys, Avery can see that she can be whatever she wants to be! An entrepreneur and chef like Tiana, or a soldier like Mulan. An artist like Rapunzel, or an accomplished archer like Merida. Girls can do ANYTHING!

princess faces

Disney Princess Royal Shimmer Dolls have become a big part of Avery’s daily play! She takes the princesses everywhere, and she loves their beautiful ombre and glitter gowns!

ariel playset

Dream Big Princess in Toys R Us

Photo Credit: Laura Funk – http://www.wegotthefunk1.com/ Thank you, Laura!

Little Kingdom Ariel’s Sea Castle let’s Avery’s imagination go wild! It is compatible with all the other Little Kingdom dolls and play sets and includes 5 Snap-ins to mix and match and customize! avery with disney princess toys These dolls and more are all available at Toys “R” Us where you’ll find an immersive in-store shopping experience with a whole aisle dedicated to Disney Princesses! They even have items exclusive to Toy “R” Us!I love Disney’s “Dream Big, Princess” campaign, and I love the Disney Princess dolls and toys! Seeing Avery play and dream is one of the highlights of motherhood.

I’ve always had great love for Disney Princesses, but as a mom, that love has grown! I think of Merida, Mulan, Tiana, and Rapunzel and how they didn’t let fear, or the opinions of others stand in their way. They knew what they wanted, and did whatever it took to reach their goals.

I know she’s young, but I have no doubt that Avery will follow her dreams and accomplish great things. Whether she continues to be passionate about working with marine mammals, or she discovers a new passion, I’ll always stand by her and cheer her on! avery playing plaing with dolls

For more about the Dream Big, Princess campaign, follow @TheDisneyPrincesses and #DreamBigPrincess on Instagram

BONUS!! Avery helped me create a fun Ocean Memory game, to help teach our young friends about some of the animals that live in the sea.  You can print it, cut out the cards, and play at home!

OceanMemoryGame Print your own Ocean Memory Game by clicking here!