5 Tips to Start Planning Your Disney Trip!

Hello!  We’re already planning our Disney trip for next year – because that’s how it works!  It’s never too early to plan!  Here are 5 helpful tips to plan your Disney trip!  Read to the end to see my gift card tips!

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#1 GET A DISNEY PLANNER – The first time we went to Disney World with children I thought I could handle it myself – I had booked a non-Disney resort and thought I got a good deal, but then my friend who works for Disney introduced me to a Disney planner who got me on Disney property with meals for about the same price!  I also got free monogrammed minnie mouse backpacks for the kids and autograph books as part of the package!  Here’s my Disney planner is you’re looking for one!: http://uponastartravel.com/, or ask around – there is no cost, Disney pays them directly for helping you!

#2 TIMING – Most people recommend that you book the resort one year before going, the character dining six months out, and the FastPass rides 60 days out.  Disney planners can do all of this for you which saves you staying up until midnight, etc.  Certain times a year like February, September and November are less crowded and cheaper.  In my opinion there’s something of value to going to Disney that makes it ok to take the kids out of school (especially since my school district is super supportive of it) and get a better experience with less crowds!

#3 DISNEY DINING – Part of the Disney experience is dining with Disney characters.  The Disney dining package makes it easy and more affordable to book places like Cinderella’s table, Be Our Guest and other dining experiences.  Certain times of the year Disney offers a discount and even free dining.  Our Disney planner takes care of the reservations, and one time when we had to wait longer than 30 minutes for our reservation, we got extra FastPasses to rides which was awesome!  Disney knows how to please customers.

#4 DISNEY CREDIT CARD – I highly recommend getting a Chase Disney credit card – there’s a no annual fee option, but the annual fee option gives you twice the points and there’s a statement credit that makes up for the annual fee.  I usually accumulate a couple hundred dollars a year in Disney bucks, which helps to pay for a vacation!  The Disney credit card also allows you to get special discounts on Disney travel packages, and a number of other perks.  The Disney credit card also offers 0% financing for promotional periods of time on Disney trips.  Although I don’t endorse credit card debt, this is an option to be aware of.

#5 GIFT CARDS – Sam’s Club and other wholesale clubs have discounts on Disney gift cards which you can use to pay for your vacation!  I save on average 7% by buying the gift cards from Sam’s Club.  In November/December look for Target’s gift card sale – you can get 20% off of Target gift cards.  I then turn around and use them to buy Disney gift cards.  In the end, between gift cards and Disney redemption bucks from my credit card, I save hundreds of (more like a thousand) dollars on the Disney trip!

Hope this helps!

– Kristen

Fearless 9-1-1

Hello!  Thankfully I’ve only called 9-1-1 a couple times related to emergencies with my kids – one time I had hardly any cell reception, so I wanted to help educate people on the texting 9-1-1 option and let you know I’ve gone through some scary situations with my kids and am striving to be fearless – hope to encourage you to do the same!  Finding joy through my faith in God and being thankful has helped me through so much, but to be honest I still struggle with anxiety related to my children.  I am thankful that my strength and peace continue to be renewed even despite certain situations.

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CALLING 9-1-1.  When my oldest daughter was four months old I was busy learning to be a mom, working part time, while at the same time trying to be a good wife too.  One day while nursing her, I was on the computer, not fulling focusing on the nursing, and she scratched her cornea.  She went limp.

I tried CPR repeatedly, with no response.  She wasn’t breathing.  It felt like forever before she took a breath again – in the meantime I called 9-1-1.  Thankfully we have police that patrol our town 24-7, as well as an ambulance service right in town, so they came very quickly.  By the time that they came, thankfully she had started breathing again.  The event lit up the neighborhood – one of my neighbors gently said to me aftewards ‘it looked like you had quite a scare’.  On the ambulance ride to the hospital, the situation happened again.  Thankfully the ambulance crew put an oxygen mask on my daughter right away but it was still scary!  There were other details to this experience but the bottom line – I had to keep praying and trusting God, relying on his good plans and love for me.  He gave me the faith to leave her in day care after this instance, have two more kids, etc.  Also a PSA: clip those young babies’ nails!  Also try to not multi-task while nursing!  Over the next weeks this situation repeated itself – one time at day care – I had to learn to not overreact.  I’m so thankful that she’s out of that phase!

TEXTING 9-1-1.  I wish I had known this a year ago when my three young girls and I got stuck in an elevator late one evening at church after an event.  Here they are in this professional picture taken shortly after the incident.

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Anyway, here’s the story…the power went out in the church – it was about 8:30pm, so no staff was around, and the elevator got stuck underground in such a way that I had intermittent cell reception.  Thankfully a text to my husband went through after about 10 minutes of waiting.  The call to 9-1-1 didn’t go so well, as they couldn’t hear me, but the call eventually got pinged so the police came.  But, if I had know about texting 9-1-1, I would have done that first thing!  My daughters and I prayed – it had been about 15 minutes, and it was getting very hot in the elevator.  My middle daughter (then 3) said that she saw an angel in the elevator, and shortly there after, a woman who had been cleaning up after the event called through the walls “is anyone in there?”  She said that she had heard a voice.  She was the ONLY person in the building and she happened to walk by!  Total God thing, but also a PSA: text 911 in the “To” field for text messaging.  Send a short message with no photos.  Include the location of the emergency, municipality and type of help needed before sending.  This is especially good when cell reception is bad, or you’re in a situation where you cannot easily talk (i.e. intruder).

These are things that aren’t fun to talk about, but I hope this info helps someone out there!

– Kristen

Pray. Love. Repeat.

It’s hard to write a blog post on decluttering and other 1st world problems when you hear on the news about the border crisis, hungry children around the world, and other bigger problems.  Our pastor at church on Sunday reminded us to pray – especially when the right solution isn’t clear.  Specifically he said to pray for our leaders.

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In my opinion, it’s important to look at the law involved in a governmental situation, rather than just at the leader.  The law has been around longer than the ruler, and obviously laws can be interpreted, but there’s a reason why a law was established and needs to be upheld.

Still, with the goal of keeping the law, needs to be grace.  When a leader has an obligation to follow the law, in this sinful world there will be casualties in the wake.  We know what God desires of us – to love Him and to love others.  Whatever your stance is on the border crisis, I hope that we all can agree on the fact that we need to help the immigrant children.  Here’s one of many groups helping them: Holy Family Institute.

I don’t believe that praying is a cop-out.  I believe that it’s a true solution to a problem.  God asks that we come before Him to pray.  (1 Peter 2) We are to entrust ourselves to God, as He is one who judges justly.  If we are involved in government, we have the responsibility to do things God’s way – to punish those who do wrong and reward those who do right.  We have a responsibility to love others, even when it might mean tough love for a time.

There are many reasons why our borders must be secure.  One reason is the problem of human trafficking; without secure borders this has become an increasing problem in the United States.  I’m not going to dive into this complex issue in this blog, but if you’re interested here’s info on an organization helping: Asservo Project.

Pray.  Love.  Repeat.

Chronic (Back) Pain – 5 Steps for Relief

A month ago I threw out my back and then proceeded to pull my piriformis muscle.  I was pretty out of commission for at least a week.  I thought about blogging about this a couple weeks ago, but didn’t want to have a blog downer, and also didn’t want to focus too much on it.  I’m a month out from the incident that caused this pain, and I’m still struggling with pain and stiffness, especially in the morning.  If anyone reads this who struggles with chronic pain, I definitely can sympathize.  Please feel free to message me or put something in the comments and I will pray for you!

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A couple things have helped me, which aren’t rocket science, but in case they help someone out there – especially those who have thrown out their back:

1). RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) – it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel at the beginning of an injury, but following this acronym definitely helps!  It may take a couple weeks with some injuries, but be patient – the back is pretty sensitive, as are the core muscles, if they are injured.

2). Stretches – every morning now I do core exercises and stretches – both out of necessity and discipline.  I do six stretches every morning – they help with general stiffness in my legs as well as managing my sciatica by stretching the piriformis muscle.

3). Core exercises (i.e. Yoga) – I wish someone had told me during each of my three pregnancies how important core exercises are (i.e. planks).  The Cobra Yoga pose has been my friend with lower back pain, and also has been recommended by my chiropractor.  The core affects SO MUCH in our bodies, and each pregnancy it can easily become weaker.

4). Regular chiropractic visits.  I should have started going while pregnant (prevention is important!) but now am finding so much relief, learning so much about my body holistically and my kids love going too!

5). Avoid heavy lifting if at all possible!

Hope this helps someone!  I think prevention is the way to go, but if you ever get into a chronic pain rut, I hope that you find relief!  It takes effort sometimes but it many times relief is possible with patience and discipline.

My scoop on carbs + insight into cauliflower

Hello!  Do you need to watch your carbs, or are curious about the magic of cauliflower?  Read further!  I had to watch my carbs when I had gestational diabetes with two out of my three pregnancies.  I was so confused when they told me to eat 30 g or less of carbs at each meal – I always thought it was the sugar count that mattered.  Sugars matter, especially refined sugars, but I was surprised to see how my blood sugar levels were affected by carbohydrates, even when the sugar count was low.

Nowadays, my blood sugar levels are pretty good, but my PCP still says it’s good to keep the carbs low, especially those derived from refined sugars.  Rice is such a staple, and that’s one area that I’ve targeted.  Have you tried cauliflower rice?  It’s been fabulous!  Check it out – here below is an option that our family (including our three daughters) has loved!

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The nutritional content is great…  DVs: 25% Vitamin A, 60% Vitamin C, 20% Vitamin K, 10% Folic Acid.

I also substitute cauliflower pizza dough crust when able.  A lot of pizza places have that option now – amazing!!

Cauliflower is also high in WATER content!  It’s so important to have water rich foods, especially in the summer months.

I can’t believe that cauliflower has only recently become a staple food for me – and I hope you consider it if you’re looking to reduce your carbs in popular dishes, or just looking for a change!  Vegetables are always a good thing in my opinion!

 

The BEST water bottle and other summertime picks

Hello there!  This blog is longer than my other ones – bare with me though, I think it’s worth the read!

Are you stumped about how to plan your summer, with kids home from school?  Even if you don’t have kids, have you been looking for new summertime ideas?  I’ve compiled just a couple items that have been so helpful to make my summer more enjoyable, and I hope that they help you too.

Water

Water is essential to (LIFE and) battle the summer heat!!  I finally found water bottles for the kids and for me that I LOVE.

For Adults: it took me years to find a super well-insulated, dishwasher safe bottle – this is a winner!!  (It’s too heavy for kids FYI):Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 4.51.41 PM.png

For babies/young kids: it took me so long to figure out the right bottle for this age group – the one I’m sharing here is great for them developmentally/orthodontically as well as easy to clean in the dishwasher.  There is a handle and no handle option, and two different sizes – a couple colors, and virtually spill-proof:Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 4.41.06 PM.png

For toddlers: this is completely dishwasher safe!, and super cute and easy for them to carry:Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 4.43.12 PM.png

For elementary school kids: my daughter loves this water bottle – she likes the size and it stays well insulated:

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Snacks

Fruit: fresh fruit from the farmer’s market, or what’s in season, is so delicious!  Kids love it too!  I’m always surprised at how much kids (and I) love fruit!  It’s good to take advantage of it during the spring/summertime.  I try to overload on the fruit and less on the other stuff.  The water in fruit is good to stay hydrated too.

Energy bites: my kids are hooked on these, and so am I – five simple ingredients, mixed together plus either a dash of vanilla or my favorite almond extract.  The five ingredients: oats (1 cup), peanut butter (1/2 cup), flaxseed (1/2 cup), honey (1/3 cup) and semi sweet chocolate chips (1/2 cup).  Roll them into small balls and freeze for one hour before eating.

Activities

Summer Camps: There are so many great summer activities!  The YMCA has some good camps with themed weeks.  In our area of Pennsylvania there are a lot of Vacation Bible School/Summer Day Camps – our kids could go almost all June and July to them!  A lot of them go from 9am-3pm – works great for working parents, and some have after hours care too.

Summer binder: A friend of mine from my MOPS group told me about this one – it’s for school age kids for the summer.  Pinterest has a lot of options but my basic one consists of a cover page with activities planned for the summer, and boxes to check off.  My daughter journaled in hers about every week of her summer.  Then I scanned it all in at the end of the summer to keep the memories, and tossed the pages – will reuse the binder next year.

 

Pool: A pool membership, or in our case, belonging to the Y has been so essential to keep cool during the summer, teach the kids how to swim and get energy out!  A lot of friends from church and school show up there, so it’s good for socializing too!

Play dates: Impromptu play dates are always fun, and this summer I’m scheduling a couple play dates out in advance.  A bunch of friends and I are doing the Jesus Storybook Bible curriculum, complete with crafts for the kids.  My 7 year-old always tells me that church (and life in general) is boring without crafts – something about the age group – I’ve finally gotten the message!

Vacations: We don’t always do big vacations in the summertime – most trips are to spend time with family.  I say if vacations, especially to warmer climates, can be done during the school year, go for it, as the tourists are usually fewer.  This coming summer though we’re visiting family and going on vacation with family.  Don’t know that it will work out every year but we’re looking forward to it!

I wish that I had read this blog post years ago – I wouldn’t have wasted time and money with alternatives!  “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31, right? 🙂 Enjoy your summer!

Be Still

With the warm weather arriving there’s more to enjoy outside!  We are often on-the-go to our newest favorite park.  Our kids are learning to ride bikes and my oldest daughter and I are getting ready for the kids marathon, so we keep busy at the park.  Pool season will soon be upon us soon, so the focus will then shift to swim lessons and such – looking forward to it!

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With the beautiful weather it’s easy to get busy outdoors – which can be a good thing.  At Bible Study today I was reminded of the need to be still.  Be still in the midst of the draw of the outdoors.  Sometimes all of this activity is taking the place of something deeper, and although it’s wonderful, it won’t satisfy.  Activity, pride, etc. can cheat us of God’s best.  As Beth Moore puts it:

It can cheat us of contentment..because you “deserve better than this.”

…cheat you of knowledge…because you already know it all.

…cheat you of healing…because you’re too full of pride to forgive.

…cheat you of genuine friendship…because nobody’s going to know the real you.

…cheat you of love…because real romance demands sacrifice.

…cheat you of God’s glory…because pride convinces you to seek your own.

Hope you have warm weather where you live, and a great Spring.  I hope you find time to be still.  Let me know in the comments what time of day/week works best for you to find quiet.