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    5 Beach Must-Haves with a Toddler

    Okay. If you follow me on Instagram, or have seen any of my Instagram stories, you know that I live at either the beach or the splash pad. We are there at least a couple of times a week, and I’ve pretty much got the whole beach-with-toddlers-thing down to a science.

    The more we go, the more I perfect my packing list for the already heavy bag that I am going to have to carry along with my two girls. So, as we prepare for summer, and for two week-long beach vacations we have planned, I have picked up a few new favorite things to make those beach days a little easier.

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    Three Days Away

    If you read my post yesterday, I am sure you could sense how exhausting amazing our weekend in Disney World was with the girls. And, to top it off, my husband also left on a week-long work trip only 12 hours after we got back from Disney. So, by the following weekend, I was in desperate need of a break. The timing could not have been more perfect for our girls’ trip to California.

    The trip was planned because I won tickets to the Ellen show. Crazy. My mom and sisters are huge fans of the show, so we all decided to make a trip out of it. Because it is pretty much the farthest place in the U.S. from where we live, we don’t make it out there often, or ever, so we planned out almost every touristy thing you could think of for our mini vacay.

    We stayed at the Viceroy in Santa Monica, and it was beautiful. We had an ocean view room and were able to see the Santa Monica pier and watch the sunset from our balcony.

    We spent Sunday exploring Santa Monica. We walked down to the pier, rode the ferris wheel and shopped at the Third Street Promenade.

    For our first night, we had reservations at Sur Lounge. I don’t watch Vanderpump Rules, but I do watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, so I was pretty excited to check out Lisa’s restaurant. We did have a great time at dinner, but, if you had any plans of going, [I am sure you do not] don’t. Our appetizer came out and was still partially frozen, no one particularly liked their meal, and the service was almost too fast. The food was out in a matter of seconds and it felt like we left only minutes after we had gotten there.

    I did manage to get at least one touristy pic in front of the restaurant, so I’ll call it a win.

    We had the most amazing weather while we were there, so we spent the entire second day outside. We rode bikes from Santa Monica to Venice, then over the Venice Canals, shopped on Abbot Kinney, rode back to Santa Monica, then went back to the beach and rode to the Pacific Palisades and back to Santa Monica again. We spent over four hours on our bikes, but it was the absolute best part of the entire trip. And the people watching is… well, it’s something.

    The last day was Ellen, the whole reason for the trip. We had to check in for the show by 1:30pm, so we got up early that morning and did the Warner Brothers Lot tour first. It was over two hours of set tours, but the best, by far, was the set of Friends.

    We left the tour, walked over to the Ellen set and checked in for the show. The check-in process is interesting. I will leave it at that. My blog is too little, so I will not be spending any money on the lawyer I would probably need if I went into any further details. I will say that you pretty much know if you are going to get a good seat or not, and we got some pretty good seats. We were able to sit through two tapings, watch guests Wanda Sykes and Sofia Vergara, and dance a little next to Ellen and Twitch.

    In this photo released by Warner Bros., a taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is seen at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif. (Photo by Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.)

    We left the show, grabbed a quick dinner, and headed to the airport to catch the red-eye home.

    We crammed so much into those three days and had just the best time. I have only been away from my girls one other time since Anniston was born, so I knew it would be hard, but they were in great hands with JoJo (my mother-in-law). And you know everything went well when the first thing out of your two-year-old’s mouth when she sees you is, “Where’d JoJo go?”


    Disney World Recap

    I am still having trouble facing the fact that Juliet is now two years old, but she is, and we spent two weekends celebrating her big birthday.

    Even though we live just a short three hours away from Disney World, it had been years since either my husband or I had been, and we had never taken the girls. So, instead of a big party this year, we decided it was the perfect time for their first Disney trip.

    We had a small party for Juliet on her birthday weekend, with just family, and didn’t actually plan one thing. We ordered pizza, my husband picked up a generic cake the morning of the party, and there wasn’t a single decoration to be seen. And it was perfect.

    Juliet played with all of her cousins, opened way too many presents, and managed to sneak in two cupcakes and a piece of birthday cake.

    The weekend after her birthday was our big Disney trip. This actually required a lot more planning. Fortunately, none of the planning was done by me. My sister is an annual pass holder and certified Disney expert, so we left all of the planning up to her. She booked our hotel, secured our fast passes, made meal reservations, and sent me a full itinerary of where I needed to be and what time I needed to be there. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    We knew that there was no way that both girls would be able to sleep in the same room with us, so we stayed at one of the few Disney Resorts that offer suites, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. It is not the most luxurious hotel, but we had a full kitchen, a living room, two full bathrooms, and a separate master suite. Plus, we stayed in the Finding Nemo suites, so I am pretty sure we could have stayed in our room the entire weekend and Juliet would have still thought that Disney World was the best place ever.

    We drove up Friday morning, checked into our hotel, then headed straight to Epcot. My top two toddler and baby approved recommendations at Epcot are the Frozen ride and the Finding Nemo ride. We also went on the Journey into Imagination ride, but it is a little scary for small children. Lucky for us, Juliet likes being scared, so she giggled through the whole thing.

    Saturday was our big day at Magic Kingdom. Juliet is in full-blown princess mode right now, so we had fast passes to see Cinderella, Rapunzel, Elena, and Tiana.

    She got a little shy each time she met a princess, so I’m glad we spent an equal amount of time on the rides. Juliet absolutely loved the Magic Carpet ride, and we actually got off and went straight back in line for that one because she kept asking to ride each different color carpet.

    The parade was a huge hit with the girls and Juliet also loved It’s a Small World, but who doesn’t love that ride?

    On Sunday we went to Hollywood Studios for a couple of hours, saw the Mickey’s Club House show, then hopped in our car at nap time to drive the three hours home.

    The weekend was a bit of a blur, I took almost no pictures, and it took my husband and I about a week to recover from the trip, but Juliet has been talking about it almost every day since, and that makes it completely worth it.

    Some tips for anyone else thinking of braving the most magical place on earth with a toddler and a baby:

    Stay at a Disney Resort. The buses to and from the parks are so much easier than packing up your car, parking in a lot, then taking a shuttle from your car to the park entrance.

    Don’t assume that your children will nap. I totally thought the girls would nap in their stroller, because, well, I wanted them to. They didn’t. They both only napped for about 45 minutes each day, but the magic of Disney will help you all power through it.

    Bring back-up. We went with my sister and her family, and my parents. So, it was six adults and three children. This is probably the only reason we survived the weekend. Every time someone was tired of carrying, wrangling, or dealing with a child, there was someone else to pass them off to.

    Fast passes. Fast passes. Fast passes. We only waited in lines for a combined total of about thirty minutes the entire weekend because we had fast passes booked for everything we had planned to do. Thanks again, sis!

    Bring snacks and drinks with you! The parks let you bring in all of the food and drinks that you want, so we had a backpack full of juice boxes, snacks, and squeezies for the girls.

    Have the time of your life! Because if your husband is anything like mine, it may be the only time in your life you go to Disney. Kidding, but he is threatening to make me wait at least four years before planning our next trip.

    So long for now, Mickey.

    Custom Disney shirts – LSBMonogramming

    Bloomers – Little English


    Islamorada Has My Heart

    My husband and I have made it a tradition to go back to the spot of our engagement each year on our anniversary. On our first anniversary I was pregnant with Juliet. Our second, we got to bring Juliet while I was pregnant with Anniston. And now, for our third, we got to bring both of our girls, and share one of our favorite places with them.

    Our week started a little rough. Every storm tracker you looked at had Hurricane Matthew headed our way. By Wednesday, we had our hurricane shutters on the house, and had our whole family worried about how our 1960’s home, a mile from the beach, would hold up in the storm.

    We were still planning on heading to the Keys on Friday morning, hoping to escape the storm and relax on a beach that was not standing in the way of the Category 4 hurricane. But, Thursday morning we received a call from The Moorings, our hotel in Islamorada, and they actually offered us an extra night, no charge, if we wanted to come early. I packed up myself and both girls in under an hour and by noon we were on the road.

    It started raining the minute we drove up to our cottage, but we barely noticed, because we knew it was still better than sitting in a house with two kids, and possibly no electricity.

    The best thing about staying at The Moorings is that it is a village of 18 cottages and homes directly on their own private beach. For us, this meant Juliet got her own bedroom, we had a full kitchen, two bathrooms, we didn’t have to deal with crowded beaches, and there is no one in a hotel room next to us to complain about a whiny toddler or crying baby. It is the perfect family vacation.


    We spent the first day indoors, only leaving our house to grab pizza from our favorite little pizza place down the road. But, the entire rest of the weekend was spent either at the beach or the pool. Juliet had the time of her life chasing the birds on the beach, shoveling sand onto anything and everything, “swimmin” in the pool with her “ducky”, and lounging in the many hammocks, which she swore were swings, along the beach. It was the first time Juliet really enjoyed playing in the sand, and it was hands-down because of her crocs. She has always hated the sand and refused to walk in it, but this time I left her shoes on and she ran laps around the beach. I’ve heard from so many moms that their children won’t play on the beach or walk in the sand, so if you haven’t tried this yet, do it.


    I’m not sure if a little bit of sibling jealousy has kicked in recently, or if Juliet is just a true mama’s girls right now, but she basically will not let me put her down. That meant that my husband got in a lot of quality time with Anniston throughout the weekend.

    This was probably the biggest factor in making our vacation with two kids, under two, stress-free. I was in charge of Juliet and my husband was in charge of Anniston, for the most part. Kevin hung out on the lounge chairs with our sleepy baby while Juliet and I played, swam, and basically did whatever she wanted to do.  We did manage to squeeze in some pool time with baby A between her naps, and she seemed to love the water as much as her big sister.


    We also make it a point, every year, to go to Morada Bay for dinner at least one night while we are staying at The Moorings. It is the restaurant where our parents were waiting to surprise me, after Kevin and I got engaged. The restaurant is on the bay side of the Key, directly on the beach, so it has the most amazing sunsets. Although dinners are a little earlier for us these days, and we knew we wouldn’t actually catch the sunset this time, we still wanted to take the girls to one of favorite spots.


    The weekend flew by, and before I knew it I was dropping Kevin off at the airport for another week away for work. But this weekend was our first vacation as just us, a family four. It was relaxing for us while being almost magical for Juliet. Watching her eyes light up when she saw birds that she could chase, listening to her say “bye boat, bye swimmin” each night as we went for our walks on the beach, and just taking in every ounce of a 20-month-old’s excitement to be in a new place, made this a weekend I will remember forever. Plus, with a backdrop like this, I couldn’t help but take a million pictures of my little beach bum. I could not have asked for a better vacation, and I am already looking forward to next year.



    Colorado and the new normal

    So I may have lied in my last post. I said that we were back, and we were not back. But this time, I swear, we’re back, we’re home, (well at least until our trip to Mexico), and I am going to do my best to get back into this blog.

    You see, not only have we been traveling a lot this summer, but there have been a few changes around here that have also made me want to sleep any chance I can kept me busier that usual.

    While we were in North Carolina, two things happened. My husband took on additional responsibilities with his company, and Anniston became one of the most difficult babies ever. This combination gets worse because the additional responsibilities my husband has taken on require him to travel at least one week out of every month. So, we basically spend a week at home trying to figure out how to get Anniston to sleep or finish a bottle, then we either travel or my husband goes away for a week, and we start back at square one.

    But, we only have one trip left and I am determined to figure all of this out. I have so much to talk about, from the miracle fat suit that has Anniston sleeping through the night, to the insanely easy cure for cradle cap… there are many posts in the works, promise!

    But now, to the Colorado part…

    We spent all of last week in Vail with my husband’s family, and it was everything I thought Vail would be. The mountains, the flowers, the expensive fur coats, it was perfect, and we had the best time.

    We survived the four hour plane ride by giving Juliet just a little bit of Benadryl. We had to, we got her up at 5am for the flight and she has actually never napped anywhere but her crib or carseat, so it was our only option. And it worked.IMG_8320

    Then we spent the rest of the week enjoying everything Colorado. We hiked in Beaver Creek, spent hours in Vail, shopped in Breckenridge, and made sure to hit up every playground we saw for Juliet. It was a great week with family and the perfect break from the Florida heat.

    Vail_Family_Photographer0015IMG_8402FullSizeRender copyIMG_8708IMG_8600IMG_8774IMG_8571IMG_8417Vail_Family_Photographer0094Vail_Family_Photographer0045IMG_8438Vail_Family_Photographer0086Vail_Family_Photographer0099