Monday, March 14

New Sounds

As we sat in a restaurant on Sunday afternoon, eating our lunch, Drew leaned over to his Daddy and said, "What's that sound?" After pausing for a moment, we realized that Drew was hearing the sound coming from the hand-held soda machine a bartender was using.

We weren't really shocked that Drew heard the sound, as we were sitting fairly close to the bar. But we were surprised that he isolated the sound in a crowded restaurant, and recognized that he didn't know the sound, and was so intrigued by it that he just had to learn what the sound was.

Nearly four years later, and I'm still seeing my little guy hear new sounds for the first time. Pretty cool.

Friday, March 11

Green Beer Day for Me! St. Patty's Day for Toddlers!

In what seems to be my distant past, St. Patty's Day meant one thing - Green Beer! Nowadays, it is a day to play silly leprechaun tricks on my kids and make crazy Irish inspired crafts. Coming up with craft and food ideas can be difficult - there are just so many holidays, and they are all back-to-back, so it seems like I'm just cleaning up glitter and glue from Valentine's Day when St. Patty's Day is here!

Crafts are so important in the lives of children. They can explore different textures and materials, and they can really use their little imaginations. It also helps that crafts offer a huge language opportunity for our children - hearing or not.

I'm not a very crafty person by nature, nor do I have a ton of extra time on my hands to try to be crafty! So, where do I go to find some of my most favorite craft ideas? Family Fun is my go-to resource. I always look for ideas on this site before googling or anything. Sometimes I find that their crafts are a little too old for my toddlers, but with some pre-work on my part or tweaking of the craft, I can make most work.

This weekend, we're going to make shamrocks and leprechaun mirrors. And, for our St. Patty's dessert, we're going to whip up these Rainbow Cupcakes. I like things that are simple and easy and fun for all!

What are some of your favorite craft sites for toddlers?

Erin Go Braugh!

Monday, March 7

Dinsey World with Toddlers

Wow! It's hard to believe that our first trip to Disney World was nearly one year ago! We had such a wonderful time at the most magical place on Earth. Since our return I have helped many of our friends plan and organize their trip to Disney World, so I thought I would share our experience here.

We stayed on Disney property, and I would highly recommend spending a little extra money to stay on property when traveling with toddlers. The Magical Express service from the airport was very convenient, especially since we did not have to claim our own luggage upon arrival. Disney claims your luggage and delivers it to your hotel for you, which with toddlers is a necessity. In addition, we found it quite convenient to either take the monorail or the bus service to and from the parks. We never waited more than a few minutes for transportation, and it was quite nice to come back to the hotel for a quick afternoon nap or swim in the pool after a long morning in the parks.

We also purchased the Park Hopper ticket. We really enjoyed going to one park in the morning, going back to the hotel for a "rest period" and then going to a different park in the evening. This way, we were able to hit some of the most popular rides in the morning, before those rides were super busy, and then in the evening we were able to simply walk the world at Epcot, or enjoy an evening at Downtown Disney.

Even if your plans for a Disney World vacation are a year or so away, now is a great time to get started! Reservations at Disney's most popular restaurants, including the character dining experiences, book up fast. Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance, or nearly six months from the time you plan to arrive at Disney World. So, plan early and book your reservations well in advance. Some of our most favorite dining experiences were The Royal Table, Safari Breakfast at The Tusker House and Chef Mickey's. If your trip to Disney happens to fall during a special birthday or anniversary, be sure to mention that when you book your reservations. My daughter received birthday cards signed by all of the characters at nearly every restaurant, and a birthday cupcake with candle at each meal. She really enjoyed that!

When booking your dining reservations, be sure to take note of where the restaurant is located. Many dining experiences are within a park. Each park updates its operating hours on the Disney website seven months in advance. This will allow you to line up your dining reservations with the day you plan to be at a particular park. While this might seem like a little too much planning, there are certain shows (like Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios, or the Spectromagic Parade at Magic Kingdom) that only run on certain nights. By knowing what night that show is running, you can book your dining reservation for those parks on the days you know you'll want to be at those parks for the shows.

With toddlers, you are definitely going to need a stroller! Even if you have five and six-year-olds that refuse a stroller at home, they will be begging to ride in the stroller at Disney World. It is a lot of walking. A lot. Bringing a stroller from home can be cumbersome, especially if you're flying. And park rentals, in my opinion, are not nice. They are bulky, plastic and look like the strollers everyone else has, so they are often hard to find in the "Stroller Parking" areas. We found a great service: Orlando Stroller Rentals. This company delivers a stroller (single or double) to your Disney resort, and then picks it up after your departure. It is the best service ever! The stroller was in great condition and was very clean. This stroller rental was less than what you would pay inside the parks, and the great thing is that it is with you 24/7! The park rentals must be returned each night, which means you have to carry your heavy children to the bus or the monorail. And believe me, at the end of a long day at the Magic Kingdom you can hardly carry yourself, let alone the weight of your child! We were really impressed with this service (and I'm not being paid to say that!).

Overall, the key to a wonderful Disney experience is preparation. I hope these tips help you plan the vacation of a lifetime for your family! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, March 4

Drew Update

There are so many times throughout my day where I stop and think, hey, that would make a great blog post! Then, when I actually have a spare moment at the end of my day to actually sit and write, I can't remember a single thing that happened throughout the day. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm losing my mind and should seek help from a therapist immediately.

Drew is nearly four and a half years old. Where is the time going? His most favorite things right now are sports (especially basketball and boxing, for which we can thank the Wii) and dress up. He loves his alter-egos, either Batman or Woody from Toy Story. Depending on the day he is a crime fighting super hero or your best friend.

Drew's vocabulary continues to expand. Some of the sentences he comes up with now are quite amazing. (Insert that bad Mommy brain - I can not remember half of them!) The other day he told me, "I like Robin more than Batman because Robin can fly and Batman can not. Actually, Batman could fly if you strapped a jet pack to him and blasted him off into the air. But I think I like Robin more because he can just fly on his own, without all that work." His imagination is really starting to take off. The other day I found him in his room quietly playing with his "road rug" and he had airplanes landing at the airport and cars parked at the zoo. He knew what each one was doing, an had a story to go along with each vehicle with which he was playing. It's really amazing to see him growing and developing each day.

We had our parent/teacher conference at the end of February, and learned that Drew is doing quite well in school. He knows all of his letters, both upper and lower case, knows the sounds associated with the letters and can even spell and write some of his site words! We are so proud of him. At the beginning of this year he couldn't write his name. Now look at him!

This spring Drew will be playing tee-ball. He is so excited! He loves sports, and is finally old enough to partake in an area baseball league. We're headed to the sporting goods store this weekend to purchase him a glove, bat and batting helmet! Drew's Dad can hardly contain his excitement!