What Being “Pro-Woman” Means to Me

[Confession: I posted this last night and then got cold feet. So I took it down. I found myself worrying about what people might say, what people might think. I forgot that some of you would still read it in your Google Reader or on Feedly. A few of you asked me why I took it down. The bottom line? Fear. But sometimes the things we are the most afraid to say are the things we most need to say. So it's back. Here goes nothing...]

Disclaimer: I know I’m wading into pretty murky waters here by bringing up a very sensitive topic. My intent is not to shame, judge or offend ANYONE. At all. No matter what views you might hold. I respect opinions that differ from my own – I would ask for the same respect in return. My goal is simply to encourage all of us to think about a divisive topic a little…differently. 

I’ve always considered myself to be pro-woman. Maybe it was because I grew up in a family of four girls, or maybe it was because I always believed women could do anything they wanted to do. Typical gender stereotypes? No thank you. It never occurred to me that there was something I couldn’t do just because I was a woman. And I still feel that way.

As a college student at the University of North Carolina, this deeply held belief began to manifest itself in my course selections. I loved taking Women’s Studies courses. I loved empowering other women to achieve their dreams – and learning about those strong women who had led the way.

One of the classes I took was called, “Women in Latin America”. In that class, I wrote a research paper and my thesis came down to this – women in Latin America needed increased access to abortion services as a means to overcome their circumstances and achieve “reproductive freedom.” What could be more empowering than that?

My professor wrote a comment at the end of my paper that said, “I wish you would have talked about the reasons WHY women have abortions.”

I didn’t know it then, but that comment would prove to be prophetic in my life.

When I wrote that paper, I never considered why a woman might find herself feeling like abortion is her best or only option. Quite frankly, I had never talked to anyone who had had an abortion. But being a strong woman who wanted to empower women meant supporting whatever they decided to do with a pregnancy…right?

As I look back at that paper now, I realize that not only did I leave out any of the reasons why a woman might have an abortion, I also gave absolutely no mention of the life (or what we all must agree is at the very least a “potential life”) that would be lost. It’s much easier to think about these things in terms of “freedom” and “empowerment” – or at least it was for me.

But then I talked to a close friend who revealed she had an abortion while in college. Through her tears, she said, “I just wish I had had someone to talk to…but at the time, it felt like life was in fast forward. I didn’t know what else to do. I just had to make it go away.” But for her, the memory never went away. It still hasn’t. Every time she looks at her three children, she thinks about the other one that could have been. That should have been.

Then I began to learn of stories of other women who had abortions – not because of an empowering “choice”, but because people in their lives made them feel like they had no other option. Boyfriends pressuring them to abort. Husbands driving them to the abortion clinic. Parents telling them they were ruining their lives. Far from being a liberating ideal, it was a victimization of sorts. A power play used against them.

I began to talk to women who deeply regret their abortions. I spoke to women who were never able to bear children once they were “ready” because their uterus was too scarred by the abortion doctor’s knife. I spoke to other women who recalled their abortion and told me, “I always wonder who it might have been.”

I spoke to my OB/GYN who told me how many women break down in her office and cry when they see an ultrasound of their “wanted baby” and realize exactly what they had decided to “terminate” in a previous pregnancy. “I’m talking about smart, educated women,” she told me. Women who were probably made to feel that they had to choose between their education and their career – or their child.

I talked to a psychologist who said to me, “I’ve never counseled a woman who decided against having an abortion – but I’ve counseled women for decades because they regret their abortion.”

And I began to wonder…is abortion the best we can do for women?

Statistics say that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time she is 45. Maybe it’s time to start asking the question – why? Why are so many women finding themselves in a place where they feel like abortion is their best or only option?

Why is there so little support for pregnant students on college campuses? Why should women have to choose between their education and their baby?

Why aren’t we spending our time and energies on better options and choices for mothers – better maternity leave, better childcare options, better access to maternal and prenatal health services?

Why do so many women later say that the reason they had an abortion was a “lack of resources and support”? Why isn’t providing them with those resources and support the rallying cry of women?

I now work for an organization whose vision is “to end the demand for abortion in our community by meeting the needs of those we serve.” Every woman’s story is different. Every woman considering having an abortion has her own unique set of reasons. But there are many common threads – and they usually come down to fear, feeling alone, or feeling like they are without options. Some of those fears are internal – but some are the result of very real external pressures.

A friend of mine from law school told me that she was on partner track at her law firm. She and her husband were married, and happy to find out they were pregnant. A partner at her law firm told her she should have an abortion because it was too early in her career for her to have a baby. In my opinion, there is nothing, absolutely nothing pro-woman about that.

I firmly believe that no woman should ever feel so alone or so without options that she feels like abortion is her only choice. Maybe it’s time for us as women to come alongside other women and love them, support them, and empower them – not to end the life within them, but to create a world that has room for them both.

Maybe it’s time to re-define what it means to be “pro-woman”.

(It’s important for you to know that if you have had an abortion, I recognize that I don’t know or understand the particular circumstances you were facing at that time. But I’m willing to listen and I would love to hear your story. There is no judgment here. Please feel free to email me – I’d love to learn more about you.)

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Family Beach Day!

Our lives seem to be exceptionally busy…and weekends are usually no reprieve. There is always somewhere to go, something to do. But this morning? We had nothing on the agenda. We live 2.6 miles from the beach – why not have a spontaneous family day with our toes in the sand?

Well…all except Little Miss who wanted her feet nowhere close to the sand, no matter how much effort it took.

(She literally hung out in this position for several minutes, with her feet suspended in the air, until my husband laid out the towel for us to sit on. Hilarious.)

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These photos (from a friend who happened to be at the same beach at the same time – don’t you love a small town?) make me realize that I need to spend a lot more time with my “real camera” instead of relying on the convenience of my cell phone camera. Anyone else in that boat?

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My guys had a great time digging tunnels in the sand…   beachday6

 

They tried to get Little Miss to join them…

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But she was far more interested in just laying back and relaxing in the sun. beachday7

Could there be a better view for naptime?

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What an awesome morning. It’s such a reminder to take advantage of the beautiful things around us that we often take for granted.

What is something near you that you have been meaning to do, but never seem to find the time?

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Social Media: A Prideful Existence?

Confession: I’m addicted to social media.

It’s the first thing I check when I wake up. It’s the last thing I look at before I go to bed. If a notification goes off on my phone, I have a near-Pavlovian response about checking it.

Earlier this week, I started to think about why.

I’ve heard of “FOMO” – “Fear Of Missing Out” – that is often attached to social media addiction. It’s the idea that we are afraid if we aren’t always engaged on social media, we will miss something. The truth is, I’ve had FOMO since I was a teenager. Maybe earlier. I didn’t want to miss an event because I thought if I did, everyone would forget about me. Everyone would experience something I didn’t. I hated the idea of missing out.

I still do.

I challenged myself the other day to not check my Facebook newsfeed, my Twitter feed, or Instagram all day. I made it to 8pm – and I was pretty excited about that. (Please note, I have been known to check my Facebook updates at stop lights. Yikes.)

Did I feel like I had missed out on anything? Not at all.

Did I feel less stressed, less anxious and more engaged with those around me? Absolutely.

I realized that I often stress about things people post about or link to that would never cross my radar if I weren’t on social media. Terrible news stories about tragedies. Drama people wouldn’t reveal in person – but tend to online. Political or religious ranting that ruffles my feathers or gives me heartburn. Those things were absent from my day. And it was awesome.

It definitely revealed to me the importance of moderation – and the importance of stepping away.

But it also got me thinking about my motives. As a Christian, my primary goal in life is to know Jesus Christ and make Him known. Everything in my life should point back to that “mission statement”, if you were. And this is the question that hit me…

Is my greatest desire to be known…or to make Him known? Is it to make much of me..or make much of Him? 

And I realized that so much of my motivation for social media is prideful. That’s not to say social media is a bad thing – it can be used in very strong, noble and powerful ways. But if my main intention is to make much of ME, then I have missed an enormous opportunity to make much of HIM.

That doesn’t mean every post needs to be a Bible verse. Not at all. It has less to do with the content, honestly, than the motivation. My goal should always be to point people to Jesus…not to point them to my blog, my Twitter handle, or my Instagram account.

If that is not my motivation, it’s time to step back. To take a deep breath. To remember who I am, and Whose I am. To check my pride at the door. To realize that I won’t miss out. To realize it’s not all about me.

Do you struggle with social media addiction? How have you learned to balance it in your life? 

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My New Workout Routine: Jamie Eason’s LiveFit 12-Week Trainer

Two weeks have passed since I joined the gym. You might remember that my husband predicted I would quit going after two weeks. I’m still going strong, but a busy life hasn’t let me get there quite as often as I’d like. The biggest thing for me is making it a priority – and making sure I go when I get those rare moments available!

When I joined, I really thought I would be taking advantage of the group fitness classes. But here’s what I’ve found: 1) I can get my workout done a lot faster on my own (important when time is at a premium), and 2) It’s nice being able to whenever I can steal away – which doesn’t always coincide with a class. I did try the “Hip Hop Hustle” class…and confirmed that I still lack rhythm and coordination. It was fun, but probably not really my thing. I’m curious to try one of the kickboxing classes, but I figure I’ll save that for when I need some motivation or a swift kick in the rear.

I did some hunting around for a fitness routine when I first joined the gym. Several people (including Rachel) recommended Jamie Eason’s LiveFit 12-Week Trainer. I took a look at it and it appealed to me for several reasons:

1) It focused on strength training which is something I’ve wanted to work on since having my babies (and losing all core strength.)

2) The workouts were things I recognized – bicep curls, squats, leg extensions, etc. If I didn’t recognize the name of a particular move, they had a link to a little video to explain it.I hate when I find workout routines and they’re difficult, complicated moves that I have no idea what to do. These workouts took me back to my high school volleyball days in the weightroom. But as you can see, narrow pushups aren’t happening…yet.

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3) It was 4 days a week. Honestly that was a big one for me. As I’m trying to get back into the routine of working out, having a program that was only 4 days felt very doable. It’s not realistic that I can go every day. It’s just not. But 4 days? I can make that work.

4) IT IS FREE. Yessssss….

So here I am two weeks later and I’m still loving the program.

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It’s simple, straightforward and totally doable. Yes, there are days some of the grunting men in the free weights section annoy me. But that’s okay – that area belongs to me just as much as it belongs to them. And I can already feel the changes in my body. Oh and I’m teaching my kiddos how to be strong too. “Look! It’s like you do, Mommy!”

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If you’re looking for a new routine, I definitely recommend checking this one out. (No, I’m not getting paid or perked to write about this – I’m just really enjoying it and thought you might too!) And keep me posted on your progress – it’s always better when you’re not doing it alone! :)

Have you ever tried weight training? If not, why not?

 

 

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Disney With Toddlers: Exploring Animal Kingdom (Part 2)

My family visited Walt Disney Wold in April 2014. When we visited Disney, our daughter was 17 months old, and our son was one month shy of his 3rd birthday. We hope this blog series will help other families with toddlers have a great experience at Disney!

In case you missed it, read Part One first! After we left the Nemo Musical, we decided to do a little exploring.

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Little Miss was sound asleep in the stroller, but the Mini Athlete loved seeing all the animals. And Amma loved holding hands with her little exploring buddy.

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About this time, we realized there would be a parade soon. Animal Kingdom does their parade around 3:30pm and it’s great to claim your real estate along the parade route early – especially if you want shade and a front row seat! (Note: The parade route at Animal Kingdom was not NEARLY as crowded as it was at Magic Kingdom the next day, but it’s still nice to have a great spot!)

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We did a little more wandering around and absolutely loved the park. One of the best things The Baby Care Center!

This is SERIOUSLY the best kept secret at Disney. Each park has a Baby Care Center where park guests can take care of their little ones. Need to change a diaper? Need to heat up a bottle? Need to nurse? Need to just cool down? Find the Baby Care Center!

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Forget something? No worries! You can find it in the Baby Care Center (for a Disney price, I’m sure). But it’s nice to know it’s there!

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Just want to cool off for a while? Want to eat a snack? This room was awesome! There was always a movie playing – Disney of course.

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And just look at the awesome changing tables! So much better than using one of the regular restrooms.

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A few other random suggestions:

1) Pack a change of clothes for each child – in a Ziploc Bag. If your child has an accident and you need to change their clothes, you’ll be really happy you have a place to put the dirty clothes.

2) Bring your own water bottles. You can fill them up for free at the water fountains instead of paying for each bottle.

3) Don’t overstay your visit. When your kids are done – leave. It’s not worth it to fight for another hour or two. Keep the magical memory a happy one.

4) Pack snacks. Trust me. You’ll want them and so will your kids. We brought a backpack that had several compartments – perfect for a lunch box, diaper bag and suitcase all in one. :)

5) Go at your kids’ pace. Take it easy, enjoy the day. Celebrate the little things.

6) Get a “First Visit” celebration button – they’re free! We had thought about picking up the button at Guest Relations at the park when we arrived but the line was SOOO long. We were leaving the park and – guess what? No line! We stopped in to get the button and got an even better surprise. Meghan, who was working behind the counter, saw my husband pick up one of our kids and she said, “Are those the little athletes??” I love meeting blog readers in random places! Hi Meghan! :)

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7) Bring your own souvenirs. There are SOOO many fun things to buy at Disney, but it quickly adds up. If your child gets the “gimme’s”, it can make for a really long day. I rounded up all the Disney-themed items we owned and brought them with us – and picked up a few new ones on clearance at Target and other places to surprise the kids with at the parks. Trust me – you can find the same things MUCH cheaper outside the parks!

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What are your best tips for visiting Disney with little ones? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On My 31st Birthday

I turned 31 today.

How did I get that old? Someone recently brought up the fact that I graduated from college 10 years ago. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

Life is flying by.

I don’t know where I thought I’d be by age 31, but this probably isn’t it.

This is so much better.

I spent a lot of years trying to be what I thought everyone else wanted me to be. I spent many years striving, struggling, failing – at least in my own eyes.

With each passing year, I’m finding myself more comfortable being who I am. Being who God created me to be.

Is my life perfect? By no means. But do I feel perfectly content with who I am, where I am, and who I am becoming?

Absolutely.

I’m looking forward to seeing what my 31st year will hold! Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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Disney with Toddlers: Exploring Animal Kingdom (Part One)

My family visited Walt Disney Wold in April 2014. When we visited Disney, our daughter was 17 months old, and our son was one month shy of his 3rd birthday. We hope this blog series will help other families with toddlers have a great experience at Disney!

I posted before about the reasons why we chose to do Animal Kingdom before Magic Kingdom – and I’m so glad we did. For my kids, it was a great introduction to the chaos of the parks and the size of the characters. Animal Kingdom is much less overwhelming and we had an AWESOME day there.

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My first piece of advice? Get there when the park opens and go straight to KilimanjaroSafari. Get a FastPass ahead of time if you can. The animals are the most animated in the morning – and so are your toddlers. My 17 month old may not know who Pocahontas is, but she went crazy when she saw a giraffe. And it was awesome.

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Disney really did this ride right. You drive right through the areas where the animals roam (strategically hiding moats and other barriers that will protect you from the more aggressive ones),   so it is easy to get an up-close look at your toddler’s favorite animals. The ride is just over 20 minutes long, giving them lots of time to gaze at some African animals. Seriously, so cool.

When we left the Safari, we headed over to our next Fast Pass selection – the Outpost where we met Mickey and Minnie Mouse! The Mini Athlete can be a little timid, so my mom suggested buying him an autograph book for them to sign. This would give him a purpose to walk up to the giant characters, since we didn’t think he would be comfortable just going in for a hug. As usual, Amma knew best.

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He was just in awe of Mickey and Minnie. A little hesitant, but totally in awe.

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By that point, it was just past 11am and everyone was getting a little hungry for lunch.  We ate at the Flame Tree BBQ (the salad was delicious!), but we had packed lunches for the little ones. Why not? They were just as happy with their PB&J as they would have been with a $9 kids meal.

We then headed over toward DinoLand USA. When we were watching some YouTube videos in anticipation of our trip, the Mini Athlete had seen the “flying dinosaurs!” and insisted he wanted to ride them. On our way there, we found these two:

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The Mini Athlete was a little more timid around Goofy, but he was so excited to meet him and Pluto. And yes, they signed his book too. Oh and even Daddy had to get his photo with these characters.

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We then headed over to the TriceraTop Spin – basically Dumbo disguised as a dinosaur (and with two rows). There was only a 5 minute wait and the Mini Athlete jumped right in. He loved it!

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(Daddy clearly missed the memo about the selfie.)

There are a few other things to do in DinoLand but it was HOT. And our next FastPass experience was about to start – Finding Nemo: The Musical!

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We LOVED this show. Not only was it nice and cool in the theatre, the music and set/costumes were AWESOME. Seriously. Go see it.

It also put Little Miss in a great napping mood and she fell asleep shortly after getting back in the stroller. The Mini Athlete spotted a few more animals on some of the walking trails, and then we found…the Baby Care Center.

If you have little tiny ones, you are going to LOVE the Baby Care Center. Trust me on this one…or just check out my next post for Part 2 of our Animal Kingdom adventure. :)

Which park is your favorite at Walt Disney World? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First Day Back at the Gym

Well…I did it. I survived my first day back at the gym.

After not belonging to one for about 5 years, it felt a little foreign to walk back in.

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Every gym has its own culture, it’s own way of doing things. And when you’re new, it always feels a little bit like the first day of school. Where is the locker room? Do people change out in the open or in changing rooms? HOW IN THE WORLD DO I GET MY LOCKER OPEN? (Struggled like the new kid for about 10 minutes on that one).

I went today for my “Orientation” – which, to be honest, was pretty much a waste of time for the most part. The sweet trainer showed me how to work the elliptical machines, the treadmills, etc. Got it.

But the one part that did prove useful was the TANITA Body Composition Analyzer. I have no idea how accurate this method is, but at least it provides a starting point. According to their analysis, this is where I am today:

Age: 30 (will be 31 on Monday…eek)

Height: 5’6″

Weight: 146.2 lbs

BMI: 23.6

Fat%: 29.2% (Desirable range is 21-33%)

Fat Mass: 42.81 lbs (Desirable range 27-51 lbs)
Fat Free Mass: 103.41 lbs
Total Water: 75.8 lbs

All of that is to say that I currently fall within what is “healthy”, but I’m on the high end of those ranges when it comes to fat % and fat mass. No surprise there. Like I said…I’m squishy.

The encouraging part? I pulled out some TANITA scores I have from December 2009 (four months before I started this blog), and my starting weight is 10 pounds less than it was then. Not to mention the fact that I’ve had two babies since then.

I feel like I’m a good starting point and my biggest goal is to firm up and get stronger. I didn’t hit the weights at all today – just did about 10 minutes on the Arc trainer after my orientation. Not exactly a quality workout, but it is a start and I enjoyed getting a little sweaty glow.

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I’m planning to go back tomorrow morning with a workout plan in my hands. Now I just have to figure out what that plan will be. I’ve heard good things about Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer so I’m thinking about starting there. It’s a 12 week program, and looks tough, but it just might be doable. But I’m open to other ideas if you have any!

What are you using as your current workout plan (inside or outside a gym)?

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So…I Joined A Gym

Ever since Little Miss was born, I’ve struggled with finding time to work out. It’s not just a lack of time – it’s honestly a lack of effort. I have lost the “wannabe” part of me when it comes to being an athlete.

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The ironic part is that I actually weigh less now than I did before I had kids. But that just goes to show that the scale doesn’t always reflect health. I might weight less, but I also have way less strength, way less endurance and overall, way less fitness.

I keep thinking I need to start working out…but it never really materializes. Or it does for a day or two and then…I’m over it.

But a few weeks ago, a lady I know came up to me at a networking dinner and patted my stomach because SHE THOUGHT I WAS PREGNANT.

I’m not.

Talk about a wake up call. Before having kids, I had a pretty strong core. No more. It’s just a bunch of squish now.

So what did I do? After texting my best friends about my recent mortifying experience, I looked up the summer membership at my YMCA. And I signed up.

My membership starts tomorrow and runs through the end of August. I scheduled a gym orientation for tomorrow – I’ll let you know how it goes.

Other than that, I have no idea what I’m going to do. There are some group classes I want to check out, but I really want to do some strength training.

My husband thinks I’ll go for two weeks and then give up. I’m determined to prove him wrong, but I need your help!

Have you followed a strength training plan? Links and suggestions are greatly appreciated! 

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Disney with Toddlers: Before You Go

My family visited Walt Disney Wold in April 2014. When we visited Disney, our daughter was 17 months old, and our son was one month shy of his 3rd birthday. We hope this blog series will help other families with toddlers have a great experience at Disney!

Growing up in Florida, going to Disney World was probably a bit more common for us than people in the rest of the world. It takes just over two hours to drive there making it an exciting adventure, but very doable. When I learned that children’s tickets at Disney are free until they turn 3, I began dreaming about taking my kids there shortly before the Mini Athlete had his third birthday. I figured he would be old enough to enjoy most of the park, and Little Miss wouldn’t be far behind. And enjoy it we did!

If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Disney with toddlers, here are some things to think about before you go:

1) Which park(s)? 

When people think of “going to Disney”, they typically think about seeing Cinderella’s castle at Magic Kingdom. My little boy definitely did.

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But actually there are several theme parks that comprise “Walt Disney World”. Because we are Florida residents, we were able to take advantage of the 3-day passes for $129 (one day park tickets are usually $99/each for adults). If I could only do one day, I would definitely do Magic Kingdom. But since we had more than one day, we did Animal Kingdom on Saturday and Magic Kingdom on Sunday. I am so glad we did it that way.

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Going into any Disney park can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you’re less than 3 feet tall. Animal Kingdom is much less crowded and less intense than Magic Kingdom and was a great introduction to Disney for our kids. I’ll be writing an entire blog post about doing Animal Kingdom with toddlers (and one about Magic Kingdom too), but doing it in that order really worked for us. I’ve heard others recommend doing Hollywood Studios with toddlers because they have a Disney Jr show and have more of those characters. I haven’t been to that park in a LONG time (long before having children) so I’m not the best to speak about it, but I have heard that there isn’t much more than that show for toddlers at the park. If anyone has experience doing Hollywood Studios with toddlers, please leave your advice in the comments!

2) Where will you stay? 

We stayed with my parents and my sister at one of the cabins at Ft. Wilderness. I HIGHLY recommend staying there with toddlers. It has a full kitchen so you can save some money by cooking your own food, it has a separate bedroom and living area so you can put the kids to bed and still have some time to yourselves, and there is plenty of room for kiddos to run around without bothering anyone else.

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Another great “on property” place to stay with kids is the All-Star Movies Resort . Some of the great things about staying on property? Free parking and free transportation to the parks!

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Parking a car at any of the parks will cost you $17/day, not to mention the long line you wait in to even get into the parking lot. There is an awesome boat that goes from Ft. Wilderness straight to Magic Kingdom, and there are buses you can take to the other parks. And remember, when you’re a toddler, riding a boat TO the park is just as exciting as riding something IN the park!

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3) What is your “one thing”? 

This is probably my BIGGEST piece of advice for this whole series. Realize there is NO way you can do it all. You will die trying and make yourself miserable in the process. Make your priority list and start with the thing most important to you. Is it riding Dumbo? Start there.

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Meeting Mickey? Do that first. Toddlers are predictably unpredictable. If you prioritize your trip, you are far more likely to leave satisfied and not disappointed. You won’t get to do it “all”, but you will be able to experience those things you wanted to experience most. Figure out your priority list before you go.

4) Starting the Countdown…

About a week before we left, I told the Mini Athlete we were going to Disney. I knew better than to start any earlier – every day we had to have a conversation about WHEN we were going to Disney. At the beginning of the week, I created this “Disney Countdown” and put it on the fridge.

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The Mini Athlete loved putting a Mickey sticker on the chart every morning when he woke up. It definitely helped build the anticipation! We also watched several YouTube videos of the parks we were going to visit. I was afraid he wouldn’t understand why we weren’t going to see the castle on the first day we were “at Disney” so we spent a lot of time talking about the two parks individually. We also watched videos of some of the rides, and I think that made them a lot less intimidating when we got there. He can be pretty timid, so I was really excited to see how adventurous he was at the parks!

Counting down to Disney was just as fun as counting down to Christmas Day – and as a mom, it’s just about as much work! But it is all totally worth it. There really is something magical about that place!

Do you have any questions about preparing to go to Disney with toddlers? What is your favorite place to stay at Disney?

 

 

 

 

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