Posts by christy:

Disney California Adventure Tips for Little Ones

Okay, mamas – get ready for my Disney-theme follow-up – this one is all about my tips for visiting Disney California Adventure, a fabulous park that has LOTS of toddler-friendly, fun rides and activities. In case you missed my last post, here are my top 10 tips for visiting Disneyland with toddlers.

Here they are in no particular order…I hope these tips and tricks for visiting Disney California Adventure (or DCA) in Disney lingo!

Don’t Miss These Rides!

1.  “A bug’s land” is a great area for toddlers.  The rides are similar to “Fantasyland” at Disneyland – the Francis’ Ladybug Boogie is like the teacups, the Flik’s Flyers are like Dumbo, and so forth.  My munchkins love this area, and can easily spend awhile here.

Bonus?  There is a small splash pad to let the kids cool off on hot days, so make sure to pack a swimsuit, towels, sunscreen, etc. if you plan on getting wet

Note to mamas – the bug’s It’s Tough to be a Bug “live show” can be scary for little ones – it’s a cute show, but is “underground” and the majority of it is in the dark with…well…bugs.

2.  Cars LandA super fun “land” that tends to be one of the busiest places in the park to visit since its grand opening.  A word of advice – if you know that the Cars “Radiator Springs Racers” ride is really important to you and your kids, go straight to the FastPass line, like first thing when you enter the park (walk straight in, pass the Carthay Circle Restaurant on your left, and it is tucked in on the left). The ride is pretty awesome, but is typically a 90-minute+ wait.  FastPass is the only way to go, but they run out quickly.

I also have to give a shout-out to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree.  Super cute ride, cute music and cute things to look at in line.

Note to mamas– most of the line is covered – important in warm weather!

If you can, try to be walking along the Cars Land “main drag” at dusk…they light up the streets and play music like they do in the movie (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen the movie 83 times, like I have).  Super cool and super cute.

3.  Take a ride with the Little MermaidI have never waited more than 10 minutes for this ride (usually five minutes!).  It is air conditioned, adorable, and my kiddos want to go on it multiple times.  Works for me!

Note to mamas – if your kids are uncomfortable in the dark, this ride is not for you.  I wouldn’t consider it scary at all, but you are “under the sea,” and there are pockets of darkness in between the singing and character displays.

4.  Love Toy Story?  My kids do.  The 4-D “Toy Story Mania!” is a must, but always has really long lines…with no FastPass option.  So if you know you want to do this, head over after you pick up your Cars Land “Radiator Springs Racers” FastPass and try to avoid the crowds.

Need a Break?

5.  Disney Junior – Live on Stage.  THE show to be at, according to my kids.  Yes, mamas.  There is an actual “live” show that  features Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First – interactive, air conditioned, and lots of room to squeeze in people (you sit on the floor…lots of room and I’ve never actually been turned away from a show…there always seems to be enough places to sit).  This show is so cute…and such a fun way to get off your feet, cool off, and enjoy seeing your kids go nuts over their favorite Disney Junior characters!

6.  The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.  This is a cute play area next to the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa and is a GREAT place to let your kids run around and burn off some excited energy.  There is an obstacle course for the kids, caves to walk through, slides for little ones, a “zip line” for older kiddos, and even a chance to earn a “Wilderness Explorer badge,” by searching for clues (on a guided map).

Note to mamas – no strollers allowed, they must be parked outside of this area.

7.  The Grand Californian Hotel and Spa has cute little rocking chairs with fun, black and white Disney cartoons on televisions in their lobby, if you and your kids need a break to cool off.  You can enter from the DCA park, but remember – make sure to get your hand stamped for re-entry!  Also, the entrance to DCA from the hotel is reserved for hotel guests, so beware that you may have to re-enter the park from the main entrance if you plan to return.

Rumbly in our Tumblies

8.  We took our daughter to Ariel’s Grotto for a “princess lunch” on her birthday (they also do breakfast).  This was SUCH a cool experience for both of my kids.  The food is fabulous (several courses from a fixed menu), the atmosphere is beautiful and Ariel and her princess friends are announced to the room, enter, and actually walk to each table to chat with you and take as many pictures as you want.

My little girl was in heaven.  When we were there, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Cinderella, and Snow White were part of this experience (in addition to Ariel greeting each family as we walked down the staircase and into the dining room).  Make sure to call ahead for reservations (I would make them as far in advance as you can) – (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463.  It’s a little pricey, but it is WORTH it!

9.  Disney California Adventure has lots of yummy places to eat, so you really can’t go wrong.  My personal favorite is the Pacific Wharf Cafe on the “Wharf” – they have great salads, fresh bread bowl soups, fruit, nice, plump sandwiches…yum! (Note to mamas – seating is outside on the wharf).

Keep an Eye Out for Characters

10.   On “Hollywood Lane,” we typically find the Disney Junior characters right outside of the Disney Junior – Live on Stage area.  Toy Story characters are usually on the Paradise Pier in the little gazebo across from the carousel.  We’ve seen Buzz Lightyear, Jesse the Cowgirl and Woody – super cute and rarely long lines.

Who else loves Disney California Adventure as much as my family does?  What tips and tricks do you have?  Please comment below and share your ideas!


5 Simple Ways to Have a Better Week

Last night I was staring down my week and wondering how I was going to cram in everything that needed to get done.  I love being busy.  I love my kiddos being busy. But, lately I’ve felt my weeks getting away from me by the time Tuesday evening rolls around.  It’s TIRING being a mama, right?!

So, as I was trying to make sense of the 51 Post-it note reminders I had strewn on my desk (together with my “perky” phone “beep” reminders going off every couple of hours) I decided to take a moment.  And breathe.

Then I jotted down some ways I could help myself have a better, more productive, and less stressful week – a “Note to Self,” if you will, so I decided it might be helpful to share these tips in case they might be helpful to you, too!

1. I will plan for the next day the night before. 

I will take five to 10 minutes each night, look at my calendar for the next day and lay out anything special I may need, make any reminder notes and organize my thoughts so that when my munchkins wake me up and my day is going full speed ahead at dawn, I already feel on top of it.

2. I will plan my food menus for the week.

This will help tremendously and will help me with my shopping (staying on budget and on task), making healthy, nutritious choices, and not panicking when I am completely exhausted and have to come up with a family dinner.

3. I will schedule time for myself to work out. 

Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood with my kiddos, a jog, a favorite class at my gym, or even a workout DVD in my living room.  I will schedule my workouts like I would picking up my kids from school or being on time for a doctor’s appointment – otherwise a million and one things will come up and invade my time.

4. I will plan at least one fun thing I can do with my kids today. 

Sometimes the day can get away from me and I don’t want to forget to enjoy my children. It can be an outing, a play date, a simple game of Candyland, playing at the park, reading a book…whatever we feel like doing together.

5. I will go to sleep at a reasonable hour. 

Yes, it is sooooo tempting to use my evening and nighttime to catch up on…well, whatever I didn’t have time for during the day.  Or even veg in front of the TV with my favorite DVR’ed show.  But, what I’ve learned?  My kiddos are up at the same time, EVERY morning, no matter how late I stay up.  This is another way I need to take care of myself, so I can better take care of everyone else.

What tips do you have, mamas?  Any great advice or time-saving ideas?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Toddlers

Disneyland Tips for Toddlers

Disneyland.  A place that promises magical moments, special family photo ops, quality time with your children and FUN!  Absolutely true!  But, if you have little ones like I do, a trip to the most “magical place on earth” with toddlers can also mean over-stimulation, skipped naps, cranky mid-afternoon meltdowns, and overwhelmed munchkins. Here are my top 10 tips for visiting Disneyland with toddlers to maximize your fun and minimize the meltdowns!

My little family is incredibly lucky to live about 20 minutes from Disneyland – so we “vacation” in our own backyard and take advantage of Disneyland a couple of times a month. Whether it’s your first visit, or your 50th, I hope these little tips and tricks help you and yours have an extra fabulous time!

 Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Toddlers 

10.  Prepare, prepare, prepare!  We usually like to get there when it opens…which means an early morning.  I don’t know about you, but just getting myself ready and the kids ready is enough work, without adding in special packing.  So, I do this the night before. 

I pack the following…

~ A lunch tote filled with plenty of favorite snacks (pre-packaged munchies that are easy to grab and take with us in longer lines)
~ Water bottles for everyone (plus extra – they are expensive to buy in the park)
~ Sunscreen, hats and kid sunglasses
~ Autograph books/pens
~ Layers (Anaheim can be cool in the morning and warm up by lunch, so layers are key)
~ Any medicine (if needed), camera, an extra outfit per kid, diapers, wipes, binkies, sippy cups, etc. 
~ We find a backpack is easiest.

9.  Once inside the park, there is a fabulous Baby Care Center and childcare station at the end of Main Street (like you’re walking to the castle) on the right side – walk all the way down Main Street…it’s the very last part of the building on the right side, tucked back in by the adult bathrooms.

It has mini potties, a nursing station with rocking chairs, changing tables, AND you can buy any childcare supplies you may have forgotten (granted, expensive, but worth it if you need something in a pinch!).

8.  We have found that Mickey’s Toontown is the best place to take pictures with the “classic” Disney characters.  Pluto, Goofy and Donald typically take turns walking around and smiling for posed photos. Mickey and Minnie’s houses are usually a little bit longer wait for pictures, but the walk through their houses is pretty fun for the kiddos.  Plus, it’s Mickey and Minnie!  They are not always there, so just make sure to double check.

Disneyland Tips for Toddlers

The Skinny on Rides

7.  I’m sure most of you are familiar with FastPasses” – here’s how to work the system. You can only FastPass one ride at a time per Disneyland ticket (kiosks can be found by the ride, if it’s available), and they give you an hour timeframe to come back. You just go to the FastPass line, hand them your FastPass ticket, and usually only have to wait 5-10 minutes for the ride.

FastPass what you think is going to be the most popular ride first.Go to the next ride on your list and wait in line.
  Usually, by the time you’re done with that ride, your FastPass will be ready.
  Go to your FastPass ride and enjoy!  
Get your next FastPass immediately after, and then repeat the cycle.  That’s why we strategically decide which ride to head to first to get a FastPass.

You can also download a Disneyland app on your smartphone (i.e. Disney Parks Mobile Magic, MouseWait (for iPhone and Andorid phones), etc. to keep you up to the minute on ride wait times and let’s you find the nearest bathroom, restaurant, etc.

6.  We just found out about “Switch” passes (“Rider Switch Services“). Um, amazing!  Because my five-year-old is tall enough to clear the height requirements for rides my two-year-old does not.  When one parent stands in line with the older child, ask for a “switch” pass (they’ll hand you a ticket).

Once off the ride, hand the pass to your partner – then they get to take your kiddo back on the ride – without waiting in the full line!!  That way both parents get to enjoy the experience with their older child (your kiddo gets two rides!), and the little one(s) are taken care of.

Need a break?

5.  Need to cool off…or just need a break?  Visit the Tiki Room in Adventureland – your little ones will love the singing birds show, you get to sit down in air conditioning for 15 minutes AND you can order a pineapple whip before or after (at the stand right outside of the Tiki Room) – yum!

4.  Go on popular rides DURING the parade times – sometimes, there are fewer crowds.

3.   Want to go on a “big kid” ride without your little ones?  For most of the roller coasters, you can ask for the “single rider line” at the beginning of the ride line (where the Disney team member is standing) – this will cut your wait significantly.  So, leave your munchkins with your spouse (or whoever else is with you) and go enjoy a few minutes of “big kid” fun!

Your Exit Strategy

2.  Pack a pair of pajamas if you plan to stay until bedtime…my hubby and I change them in the car on our way out and just transfer them to their beds in their jammies when we get home.  Much simpler!

1.  Think about your exit strategy. Have an idea when you may want to leave your Disney adventure…because sometimes it takes us a half hour to an hour to get back to our car and headed on our way from the time we decide we want to go.  That is a loooonnnngggg time to wrangle cranky, fussy or screaming children, if it can be helped (i.e. maybe you plan to leave before nap, after lunch, before bedtime, etc.).

Have any great tips or Disneyland advice that works for you and your kids?  We’d love to hear it!  Share the wealth of information, mamas!

Disneyland Tips for Toddlers

A Super Fun Stay-at-Home Activity for Your Kids

Fun at Home

I threw a birthday party for a lamb. Lamby-lamb to be exact, my five-year-old’s well-loved stuffed lamb given to her as a baby.  Take note mamas – this was a FUN three hour stay-at-home activity for both kiddos – and a great (sneaky!) way to get some educational lessons in.

Now, this wasn’t just any stuffed animal’s pretend birthday party.  The celebration included a real cake and candles, a wrapped present for Lamby-lamb (what’s a birthday without a present?) and decorations.

I am a mama on the go.  My babies and I are always out and about, doing something. But, sometimes rainy days, sick munchkins, or even just overtired kids (or mamas!) require a day at home.

I found myself staring down one of these days, wondering how to entertain my two very active little ones.

My little girl had mentioned that Lamby-lamb had recently turned four (she loves imaginative play and is always making up stories for her animals and dolls), so I suggested we throw a real party.  The kids were beyond thrilled (probably because I mentioned birthday cake).

Party Planning

This is what we did – you can vary to cater to whatever you need (or already have at home):

1. Make a small, one-stop outing for supplies

First we raided the kids’ piggy banks and they each clutched two dollars. Teaching moment: have them count out their money.

Then we went to the Dollar Tree, but you could find the same products at the Target dollar spot…or your local store of choice.

They each had two dollars…and they each got to choose one card and one present…not for themselves, but for their friend Lamby-lamb.

My oldest actually counted all of the money to the cashier.  They took this step very seriously.  (What would a lamb like, anyways?  They each had ideas.) Teaching moment: how to shop on a budget.

Mommy’s present to Lamby-lamb was cake mix and frosting – for the birthday cake, of course!

2. Make a birthday card

Next came coloring at home in their birthday cards – I asked my older one to practice writing her name and a personal message.

Crayons, stickers, and a good 20 minutes of fun. Teaching momentcoloring works on fine motor skills, plus letter recognition and practice.

3. Time to bake! 

Each put on an apron, got their little step stools and we started cooking together. Teaching moment: read the instructions together, have them measure, stir and talk about setting the timer for the correct amount of time.

4. Wrap your presents

While your treat is baking, wrap your presents! 

Teaching moment: practicing with safety scissors, working on fine motor skills and learning how much tape to use.

5. It’s time to decorate!

We have a birthday box in the garage with leftover or recyclable birthday decorations – get as crazy as you want!

We always include hats, plates, napkins and banners. Teaching moment: talk about the colors on the decorations, where to place them and count out the correct number of hats/plates/etc.

6. Get on your party clothes

I always frost the cake myself (it just gets so messy and crazy with two kids trying to do this with me) – so while I was frosting, they went to get dressed up for the party.

Teaching moment: pick their outfit and use their imagination! My little girl actually dressed up Lamby-lamb, too!

7. Celebrate

PARTY TIME!!!  Light candles, sing happy birthday, have a treat, let their friend “open” their presents, read them their cards…and take LOTS of pictures!

Happy party planning!


Potty Talk: Potty Training Tips from the Trenches

Potty Training

There are about a million and one things that I LOVE about being a mama. And then there are a select few things that I just dread. Potty training is one of them (“Pooh” on the potty anyone?  I know, I know…but it had to be said!)

So with my son’s third birthday approaching shortly, I knew it wouldn’t be long before potty training began with my little man.

So, after “watching for the signs” like so many books and blogs say to do to determine potty “readiness,” (and digging out the Elmo potty DVD from a storage box) my munchkin was (very sweetly) against it.

The Dreaded Perky Potty Talk

So I went into the perky potty talk mode, but no amount of positive potty talk and introducing him to the potty seemed to change his mind.

“Honey, let’s go pee pee in the potty!  You are such a big boy!  Let’s go check out the potty! Let’s go see what big boy under pants look like!  Let’s pick out a little potty together at Target! Look – little (insert his buddy’s name) can go pee pee on the potty!  (and on and on and on with whatever other perky potty talk I could muster).”

His response?  “No thank you mama.  I like my diapers. No potty please.”

Well, I’ll give him this.  At least he was polite about it.

Seeing that my potty enthusiasm wasn’t convincing him, my hubby and I had several “discussions” about this subject.  My feeling? Let’s keep waiting until he tells me he is ready.

Because guess what? I potty trained my first on MY timetable, not hers. And guess how successful we both were with THAT strategy? I’ll give you a hint…it took a long time for it to click.

My hubby’s take?

“He doesn’t like broccoli.  But, it is our job to keep introducing it to him and making him eat it…or other vegetables…to be a healthy, happy kid.  Just because he doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be encouraged to eat it.”  And he related this to potty training.

Well, humph. So we eyed each other down. And then decided to compromise as best as possible.

Operation Potty Time: Choosing Our Strategy

We came to the decision we would pick a potty training method together (not the easiest decision since everyone seems to have the answer…or an opinion on why a method does not work) and agreed on the following:

1. He would be an active participant (we picked a long weekend so work wasn’t much of an issue).
2. We would deal with the messes together (i.e. he had to clean up just as many stinkers as I did).
3. We would stop and take a break from training if our little man was terrified/traumatized/etc.

I was convinced that my little guy wasn’t ready.  I was convinced that this was going to be a disaster.  And, you know what?

He was ready.

To my delighted surprise (and to his daddy’s triumphant, but very sweet, “I told you so”), he actually was ready and responded to the training method we chose.

We also went through about four packages of M&Ms in the process (but hey, I didn’t say I was above positive praise…and flat out bribes.)

Potty Training

Four days – completely housebound.  Four packages of M&Ms (so much for broccoli!). Twenty-one new pairs of Cars and Thomas the Train underpants.  About 1,651 times of saying, ‘Tell mama when you need to go potty!”  Eight loads of laundry.  One special Thomas the Train toy set for the first time he was completely dry and clean for one full day (no accidents).

THEN NO MORE DIAPERS – well worth every second!  Not to mention a confident, happy, proud little boy who now loved the potty – again, well worth every second!

I would love to take credit for my fabulous potty training skills. Boast about how I developed this insanely wonderful, fabulous way to convince your child that pee pee in the potty is the best.thing.ever.

Nope, it wasn’t me.  I have to give major props to the woman, Lora Jensen, who wrote “Three Day Potty Training.” (for us, it took a solid four days).  Note:  we followed most of the method…but we still tailored it to my son’s specific needs.

Bottom (no pun intended) line: every kid is different. And every kid is motivated by different things. And every parent has to do what works for them.  When I mention this method, some people love it…others, not so much.  But for us, this method worked.  And, I am completely grateful.  Four days…and it’s DONE.  And, we have only had one daytime accident in three weeks!

My Potty Training Advice

So, my advice for deciding when to potty train your little one?  Do your research. Pick your method in advance. Prepare everything you will need in advance (undies, sheet savers, bribes, laundry detergent, snacks, sticker charts, DVDs, books – whatever you decide you want to use). Talk to your partner and make sure both of you are on the same page. Then, pick a time block that you can devote to your munchkin.

And remember – breathe!  Do your best to stay positive and encouraging and patient (and excited to your child!).  Your little one will mirror your behaviors.

That’s all for now on this stinky subject.  Next, I’m going to have to write a blog on taking your newly potty trained kiddo a to public restroom (because I am now remembering how difficult this actually is…my little guy accidentally peed on my shoes…while sitting on the potty in a Target bathroom yesterday…but that story is for another time).

What potty training secrets do you have?  Any “potty whisperers” out there?  Please share – we want to hear what worked for you and your kids!

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