Sunday, October 8, 2017

Walt Disney World 2017

We just ended having one of the funnest weeks ever! When we knew Josh would be switching jobs, we made sure there was a week of transition so we could take a family trip. Of course our go to vacation idea is Walt Disney World. This week did not disappoint. The last time we came and only did WDW was almost three years ago. We came last year and did Universal Studios and the Mickey Halloween Party. Charlotte and I came earlier this summer and only did Animal Kingdom with my dad. 

Josh had to “work” a few hours on Monday and we picked him up around 11:00 and went straight to Orlando. We arrived at our hotel right at dinner time. We ended up staying at the All-Star Movies resort. I thought I had made reservations at Pop-Century but with all the playing around in my cart, I must have switched the hotels. Weird, I know. I honestly didn't even know until I received our vacation package in the mail. But oh well, it turned out great! I heard and read a lot of negative things about the All-Star resorts, but we had everything we needed.  Our room was in the perfect spot, right across from the pool and main building with the food court. Maybe we are easy to please, but I would recommend the economy hotels any day. 

After we had dinner, we went swimming and then got to bed early. 

Tuesday morning, we got up early to beat the rush to Animal Kingdom so Josh could ride Avatar Flight of Passage. The park opened at 9:00 am and we got there at 7:30. Yep, we are crazy, but it was well worth it. While we were waiting for the park to open, I was able to talk to Guest Relations and get the three of us a disability fast pass. This allowed us on everything without having to wait in line. The park opened much earlier than 9:00 and we all went to the Pandora world. Charlotte hated the ride when we went in the summer so I took her on the Na’vi river journey. We were on the first boat of the day!! Josh ended up being on one of he first flights of the day as well. We were done well before 9:00 and Josh was done around 9:10. Win, win!!

We found a great pastry place in Africa for breakfast. And were able to eat quickly and get back to our busy day. Charlotte received an autograph book for her birthday and was determined to fill it up. This was really the first time she was active in looking for characters to take photos with. I am glad we have had five years where we haven’t had to wait in character lines. But it was fun seeing her get so excited. We met a few characters at the Animal Kingdom. 

We hit all the rides and our favorite show, The Festival of the Lion King. We have seen this each visit to the park. Not only is it entertaining, but it’s nice to sit and take a little break. 

One thing I highly recommend doing if you have kids with you is the Wilderness Explorer booklet. There are stations around the park where you learn about animals and other subjects that have to do with the planet and you earn badges. Charlotte loved it! We had a great first day !!

Day two was spent at Epcot. The first time we went to Epcot we didn’t realize that the countries didn’t open until 11:00 am, and we spent a lot of time doing nothing. But I did more research and we did all of our fast passes and rides in the morning, since most of them are in the Future World, in the front of the park. The Food & Wine Festival was going on as well and we were able to go to the Festival
Center and have some samples. 

Once we were done with doing everything in the front, it was lunch time. We did have a Frozen fast pass in Norway, so we headed that way. I did stop and get some food from the F&W Festival (there were booths throughout the entire country showcase). It was cornbread, fried chicken and gravy. Wow! It was amazing!! All of the booths have snack size servings, so it wasn’t filling enough for a full meal, but it was worth the buying! The first country was Mexico. We stopped at the first restaurant and ate lunch. Amazing food! We wandered around Mexico, went into the market and rode the boat ride inside. 

Charlotte was able to meet Elsa and Anna, once we got to Norway. I have to say, Disney has really made the character lines so fun to wait in. It’s not just a boring line, but a scene out of the movie! We went on the ride afterward and it was so clever!! Not what I was expecting. I loved it. I mean, we all loved it!! Luckily we had a Fast Pass to that. The line was super long. 


The rest of the day we explored each country, ate more food, and took our time. The first time we went we rushed through everything. It was much more enjoyable this time around. We tried staying for the water/firework show, but about halfway through we left because we wanted to beat the crowds to the shuttle. One more thing I thought I should mention was at each country, they had a kids station to color Duffy the Bear and receive stamps from that country.  Charlotte filled hers out and stopped to color at EVERY station.  It was a nice break for all of us to sit and let her talk to other kids and color a bit.  They also have passports you can purchase to collect stamps from every country.  I am really glad we were able to give Epcot another try and it was another perfect day!

Thursday was Mickey’s Halloween Party. The party is at the Magic Kingdom and begins at 7:00 but you are able to enter the park at 4:00 pm. We decided to do a little hotel hopping before. We packed up everything we needed for that night, got on the monorail and went to each hotel on that route. The Contemporary resort felt like we were on an airport. I’ve heard they have a great pool, but with the rain that day, we didn’t make it over there. Josh really wanted to get to the Grand Floridian. That hotel is amazing!! Josh stayed there when he was much younger and told me everything he could remember. We walked around a lot of the hotel and ate lunch there. After lunch, we got back in the monorail and checked out the Polynesian Village resort. Of course Moana is all over the souvenir shops so we thought it would be an appropriate time to change into her costume. It was the perfect backdrop for several pictures! Once it was 3:30, we hopped on the monorail and headed over to the Magic Kingdom. 

We attended the Halloween party last year, a month earlier. There was like nobody there last year. This year was a little different. There were tons of people. We couldn’t believe the crowds at the entrance. They opened about ten minutes early, we got our wristbands and headed toward the CANDY!! Josh’s goal was to receive enough candy so we didn’t have to buy any for trick-or-treating. I’m serious. I know. Heaven help me. 

ANYWAY, it was so fun seeing all the costumes families would come up with. We went on several rides and ate dinner at “Be Our Guest.” This was probably the highlight of the trip for me. We ate here last time we came and I’ve been looking forward to coming back since. We ate in the ballroom and while we were there, the Beast was taking photos. It was pretty magical. Josh and I ordered the steak (since we always order the same thing), which I HIGHLY recommend and Charlotte got the Mac n cheese, like she did every night. Yes, she will be going on a Mac n cheese fast for a while. Haha. I am so surprised we even got in because you need a reservation, and Josh tried asking and they said no. But when I went up, they said there was an availability right then and there! We were seated almost immediately. Service and experience was fabulous. 

Another big event that happened was getting a picture with Moana. She is very popular and her line was long all night. We finally made our way over there and as we got in line, a cast member told us we most likely won’t be seeing her because she needed to check on Hay-Hay. Well Charlotte lost it. I was determined to get her a picture so her and Josh went on the Aladdin magic carpet ride and I stayed in line. Most people that were told Moana would be taking a break just left. One family, with three young girls came behind me and was just as determined as I was to get a picture. We were getting closer to the time where Moana was supposed to leave. I had been chatting with the Mom and three girls the whole time and told them that we will just all be in the same group. Josh and Charlotte got back right in the knick of time. When the cast member asked how many was in our group I said 7. We got our picture and Moana left right after. Phew!! That was a close one!! 

It was such a great night. Lots of fun music, lights and candy!! We keep talking about making it a tradition. Hopefully we can make it back next year!

Friday was our last day in the parks and it was very humid. Florida is just on their own level of heat and humidity. I appreciate living more North, in the South when I experience Florida’s weather. We slept in and took our time to get to the Magic Kingdom. It was nice that we missed the crowds and got there right before our first Fast Pass was about to end. Charlotte went on her first roller coaster (I think), the Barnstormer. She later told us this was her favorite part of the trip! 

We stayed in Fantasyland for a while, did everything there, including lunch at Pinocchio’s.

 We then ventured over to Tomorrowland, then over to Frontierland and Adventureland. It was so crowded. We were really surprised how many people were there. After we rode Pirates of The Caribbean, we got caught in a major rain storm. Like POURING rain! We waited for a while and then finally put our ponchos on and went toward Main Street for our ice cream! The rain was still coming down a little bit so we went in the Main Street train. We rode it round trip and when we arrived back at Main Street, we decided it was time to go. We walked slowly out of the gates, waving and not wanting our week to end. 

While we were wandering through Main Street, there are a million gift shops.  Of course any kid would want stuff!  Charlotte did happen to squeeze a bracelet out of Josh.  But I had also brought "surprises" for her because I knew she would be asking.  I had remembered I bought some Cinderella jewelry the year before for her Halloween costume.  When it came time for Halloween, I couldn't find it.  In the move, I found it all and put it in our Disney pile.  The items ranged from $1-$3 and she was over the moon excited when I told her in the gift shops I had something waiting for her.  We ordered a pizza at or hotel food court and then went swimming to end our night! Charlotte wore all her jewelry to the pool and the whole car ride home (yes, even when we stopped for lunch).  

I can’t even tell you how amazing and perfect our trip went. It went just as well as I thought of it before we left. 

We took our time Saturday morning, packing up and left. Of course I wish we could stay longer and do more things but we needed to get back for Josh to start his first day of work tomorrow and finish unpacking and putting furniture together...and the list goes on!!! Back to reality, making lunches and dinners, cleaning and everything else that real life has in store. ;) 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Carolina In My Mind

Heads Carolina, tails California
Somewhere greener, somewhere warmer
Up in the mountains, down by the ocean
Where don't matter long as we're goin'
Somewhere together, I got a quarter
Heads Carolina, tails California

Josh started working with KPMG five years ago last month.  He began his career in Orange County, CA.  Charlotte was born a couple weeks after he started and we went on to having the best year of my life.  Yes, it truly was heaven.  When Charlotte was about 15/16 months old, we moved across the country to Charlotte, NC and Josh transferred to PwC.  We purchased our first home and life was taking some getting used to.  I made some great friends in Charlotte, but I just seemed to have a bad attitude and missed the west.  Around a year and a half later, Josh wanted to get out of Accounting and into a more finance role.  The Charlotte office did not have the department Josh wanted to work with, and that is when we made the move to Atlanta.  
We have really enjoyed living in Atlanta.  We live in a great area, super convenient to EVERYTHING, there is a lot to do, airline flights are really affordable, pro sports teams, five minutes from the Temple, great weather,  we really couldn't ask for more.  But we have never really felt that this would be our forever home.  
As Josh's career has hit five years, the plan was always to leave the Big 4 and work elsewhere.  The five-year-plan.  We thought about the Atlanta suburbs, but something kept pulling us back to Charlotte.  While we lived in NC, we really fell in love with the town across the state border.  Fort Mill, SC.  There is a financial services (name held for privacy) company that just opened a campus there and we had talked for months about how cool it would be to work and live in the same city.  Fort Mill has amazing schools, which was another big draw for us.  It's a small city and really family-friendly.  Josh applied, interviewed and accepted a job with the financial services company  all within a few weeks.  It was a whirlwind.  We had just sold our house in Charlotte (which we have been renting for the last two years) and were ready to purchase a new home.  Fortunately, when we were living in the area the first time, I became very familiar with the different neighborhoods.  We have been sneaking up to SC a lot (sometimes just me) house hunting, meeting with our amazing realtor, Alison, doing walk-throughs, etc.  Last week we were able to close on our house and we couldn't be more thrilled!!  Our new house is like 3.5 miles from Josh's office.  We will be living in Tega Cay, SC.  This is how close it is to our last home: I'll be using the same Walmart, Post Office, in the same church stake, we are only ten minutes from our last house, just in another state.  And we will have Carowinds again!!  Charlotte is more than excited to play at the amusement park!!  It will be great being right outside a big city, with all the perks that come from that, but in the suburbs.  We really will get the best of the Carolinas!
So we have made a big decision to settle down in the South.  If you would have told me this after my church mission to Tennessee, I would have laughed.  Even if you told me when I moved to Charlotte, the first time, that I'd live in the area forever, I'd roll my eyes.  But it just seems right.  I have really come to appreciate the south.  I take a lot of pride in me and Josh living in an unpredictable area.  I thought I would live in Orange County my entire life, and I will say I can still picture a life in the West ;) But living on our own has really strengthened our marriage, family and has really helped me become more independent.  I really am looking forward to setting down some roots, not moving (maybe ever again?), and starting this next stage of life.  And if you're ever passing through, please let me know!!
Here are some highlight photos of the house.  I am no professional photographer, so sorry for the horrible editing jobs.  

Butler's Pantry

Master Bathroom

Thursday, September 7, 2017

5 Years Ago...

...I was relaxing in Orange County with an epidural and waiting for Charlotte to enter the world.  After a stressful few weeks looking for a doctor (yes, we moved from Provo, UT to CA at about 7 1/2 months pregnant), I found one I loved!  I remember never feeling one contraction (please don't hate me) and thinking this whole labor thing was a piece of cake.  I finally felt the need to push, right after I dilated to a 9.  They said, "we just checked you.  You have some time."  Umm...I HAVE TO PUSH!!  So they checked me again and sure enough, I was at a 10, pushed three times and out popped Charlotte.  I was a little overwhelmed and did not do skin-on-skin with her, but Josh did.  It was so amazing to look over at their first bonding moment.  We didn't name her for a couple hours and decided on Charlotte Lyn as her name.  Her middle name comes from both of her grandma's name: Evelyn and Tylyn.  That worked out quiet nicely.  
I instantly fell in love with my little bundle of joy.  She was perfect to Josh and I in every way.  We never let her leave our side.  Any test at the hospital, Josh went with her.  We never sent her to the nursery either.  The day after her birth, Josh had to go move us into our apartment (yep, great timing).  It was horrible.  But I had the whole day with Charlotte.  I remember just looking at her in her little bed and crying, thinking that she was a part of me.  Heavenly Father has trusted me with her.  I couldn't believe I was a mom.  The entire situation was so surreal.  
When we arrived home, Charlotte slept with us until after Christmas.  We just loved having her in bed with us.  Her and I did everything together, especially all of our Disneyland trips.  She went there 98 times in her first little year.  We would visit Josh at work, go on our daily walks and so much more.  
Over the next four years, not much has changed.  She and I still do everything together.  She still sneaks into our room occasionally.  She has major FOMO.  It must be an only child thing.  This last year has been, by far, the hardest.  She is extremely emotional (Josh always says, "I wonder where she got it from."), she is a super picky eater, and there are just a couple other things that have made this year a bit difficult.  BUT on the other hand, she loves her parents, is an excellent student, loves all things Disney, wants to be Moana when she grows up, and is my little side-kick.  She loves to "cut" (with scissors), color, play with all of her toys, swim, go to school, shop with me, and go out to eat (apple doesn't fall far from the tree)! We do everything together.  Watching her go to full-time Pre-K was really tough.  It has become better, but that first week, let's be real, I cried multiple times.  Mostly because I was nervous for her to be away from me and with other adults that don't know her the way I do.  I miss her a ton too.  Sometimes I don't even know what to do with my time (but I'm surviving ;))  

I cannot wait for this day she has been waiting for.  She has been talking about her birthday since Christmas!!  I will be updating another blog post with all her birthday surprises and what we do throughout the day!!

Off to school with her goodie bags!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Rise Up!

Last night, Tahnee, Josh and I went to check out the new Atlanta Falcons Mercedes-Benz stadium.  It has been a big topic here in Atlanta lately.  I actually really love that I live in a city where we have major league sports.  It's a lot of fun, even if I do not know that much about the actual sport!  
We took the MARTA to the game.  It allowed us to avoid traffic and, win!  When we walked up to the street, everyone just stopped to take a picture.  It was "quite a site" as many people were saying.  

We purchased pre-season tickets due to keeping the costs lower than regular season.  I have never been to a NFL game or pro-football stadium, so that was cool.  This new stadium has the cheapest food (our hot dogs were $2!), unlimited Diet Coke ($2!!), an amazing "halo" screen, and a retractable roof.  

With Tahnee living with us for a few weeks, we are trying to get in as many Georgia sites in as possible.  It was a great night to get out in the city and explore something new.  A huge thank you to my friend, Teresa, for holding down the fort with all three kids!!