Smoke & Mirrors

I am part of the problem.

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Motherhood is messy. It is messy, and hard and not for the faint of heart. Yet, this isn’t a side that we usually see.

Behind all the pristine photos of sunny Saturday breakfasts, art projects and crafts gone right is, most likely, a fight about how you have to eat something other than just the chocolate chips on your pancakes, or no you can’t put glue directly on the table.

But, we never see this.

We are made to believe that all children are perfect, all houses are spotless and every party and gift giving occasion is Pinterest worthy.

Well, the jig is up.

I am here to tell you that it is hard and that we need to start cutting ourselves so slack when it comes to parenting.

For example, in the photo above, we were having a melt down because we wanted to drive a blue Corvette because we felt it was our size.

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This photo, we didn’t want to take at all. We were tired and just didn’t want to have our picture taken.

Did I post these photos on the corresponding blog posts? No. Just like everyone else, I choose to forget the bad and remember the good.

And you know what? It’s OK to show the difficult side of family life.

It’s OK to have a cranky kid sometimes. It’s OK if they end up coated in chocolate. It’s OK if a craft doesn’t turn out the way you hoped it would.

The only thing that isn’t OK is if you feel like you never measure up to other parents.

Everyone’s parenting journey is different. Some have more bumps in the road than others, but everyone has their fair share of struggles.

So you never have to feel like everyone else has it together while you are worn down negotiating with your toddler about bedtimes and wishing you could just lock yourself in the closet with a bag of Doritos just to have five minutes of peace.

Because behind every sunshine smile of a little one is a nervous Mom or Dad just praying that they could get just one photo to capture this beautiful memory to hold on to when the days are long and the houses are messy.


Kennywood’s Open

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Growing up as a kid in the Pittsburgh region, it wasn’t summer until you made the annual pilgrimage to the holy land of childhood fun and memories: Kennywood Park.

Since my dad worked there for many years when he was younger, I grew up going to the park ever since I could remember.

When I was younger I remember riding The Turnpike with my Dad in the passenger seat thinking I was a big deal because now he was the one in the the back seat.

When I got older, high school age, I couldn’t wait to go to Kennywood with my friends as part of our school picnic. We would ride from morning to dark when the lights would come alive and transform the park to a magical, neon fed world that made it seem like summer would never end.

Then for awhile it seems like life gets too busy and you are between college classes, work and starting out on married life and you just don’t think about going back for awhile.

But everything changes when you have a child of your own and you want to take them to give them the same kind of experience that you had when you were growing up.

Luckily for us Kev’s work hosts an annual company picnic at Kennywood and we take advantage of the offer and spend the day in the park where I grew up.

I remember the first time we went to Kennywood with Lily it was a different experience then the one I just had this past week which was three years later.

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Kennywood 2016

This year we were able to try Lily on a couple of different rides that she was unable to ride last year, like the Kangaroo. She really enjoyed this ride, but at first she was afraid that it was too fast, but she ended up really liking it.

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We did spend a lot of time in Kiddieland riding the numerous rides that she enjoyed a couple of times. I felt bad for the poor ride operator that had to basically pull her out of the helicopter ride while she was a sobbing mess.

The carousel was my favorite attraction to enjoy with Lily. We rode it twice and the first time Lily didn’t like it because she said her horse went up too high. But the second time we opted for one that didn’t move. She liked it a lot better.

But, her favorite ride was Garfield’s Nightmare. This 3-D boat ride through different scenes depicting a nightmare for the orange fuzzy cat (ie attacking ice cream cones, a menacing vet getting ready to give a shot, and more).

The ride is more funny than it is scary and is brightly painted and highlighted by a black light.

Speaking of things that are funny, Lily has the best of luck when it comes to playing games at amusement parks.

She loves the fishing game or duck game where you pick three of the animals to see what you win. Lily picked three ducks at Kennywood and she walked away with a large prize, which was a big frog that she named Ribbit.

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We had a wonderful day and were so thankful to Kev’s company for having the picnic and giving us many more memories that we will cherish for years to come.

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Meeska-Mooska-Get Early Reservations-ska

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

There are a few restaurants in Walt Disney World that are very difficult to get “advanced dining reservations” (ADRs) for because they are a very coveted dining experience.

One such place is Chef Mickey’s located in the heart of the bustling Comtemporary Resort situated on the monorail line.

There are a couple of factors that contribute to making this dining location so popular including the fact is it is on the monorail line, is a buffet and features a character meal with some of the most popular characters on property.

Menu

Chef Mickey’s is open for all three meals and features a buffet that is sure to please all sorts of pallets.

Breakfast

Seasonal melons and fruit, smoked salmon, quinoa salad, hard boiled eggs, ham and cheese scramble, carved ham, tofu scramble with spinach, chef’s specialty pancake of the day, Mickey waffles, Minnie muffins and more.

Brunch

Peel-and-eat shrimp, assorted salads, yogurts and toppings, barbecue pork ribs, baked salmon with seasonal garnish, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and more.

Dinner

Fresh mixed fruit salad, baked chicken, carving station selections, chef’s selection of pasta, seasonal bread pudding, create-your-own sundae bar and lots more.

Dinner and a Show 

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World 

In addition to being visited by the characters table side, there is also some music, dancing and even napkin twirling that takes place that makes the experience so much fun.

Cost

The cost of Chef Mickey’s is pretty much on par with other character buffets within the resort.

For breakfast and brunch for an adult it is $41 and for a child it’s $25. Dinner is $50 for adults and $30 for children.

If you have the dining plan you can use it at Chef Mickey’s.

When to make reservations

You will want to make reservations right when you reach 180 days out. Like I said earlier, it is a hard ADR to secure, but it can be done.

Breakfast is the most coveted and dinner is a close second, so you might want to try for brunch during an off eating time. Another benefit of brunch is you get to taste both breakfast and dinner foods.

Does Chef Mickey’s seem like a restaurant you would like to try out? Leave your comments below.

For more tips about where to grab something to eat at Walt Disney World, pick up your copy of Mousekatots.

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June Book Bag

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Even though it might be time for kiddeos to be putting away their school books and learning might be far from one’s mind, it still doesn’t mean that you remove reading from your routine.

Here are a few of our selections for the first month of summer reading.

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This really funny book is about two chopsticks who are inserparable until one day the one has a break. This results in the one needing to rest so it can get better and be useable again.

While the one chopstick is resting the other one goes on adventures and learns that sometimes it is OK to be on your own.

Full of wonderful puns and kitchen humor, this book is a fun read for both kids and adults.

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Because our little Mousekatot is going to be taking some dance classes this summer, I wanted to introduce her to the art of dance through a fun book.

The Angelina series has been around for awhile, and has even spawned a series that is currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant video.

The series involves a sweet little mouse named Angelina that takes ballet lessons and the different mice that dance with her and the various life lessons they learn.

I high recommend this book as well as any others in the series.

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This is our second round for “Oh No, Little Dragon.” Lily absolutely loves the story about this little dragon whose spark goes out when he swallows water during a bath. While he tries everything to get it back it comes from a very sweet source.

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Mo Willems is one of our favorite authors. (We are obsessed with the “Elephant and Piggie” series.) When I saw this at the library I had to pick it up.

This rhyming tale is about little Nanette who gets a very important job of bringing home a baguette for her mom. When the temptation of the tasty baguette gets to be too much what will Nanette do?

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Peppa Pig and her family go camping in this book.

Not only do they have the most magical camper that also turns into a boat, but they also spend time sleeping under the stars and doing all sorts of other fun camping activates.

Since we just went camping a few weeks ago, Lily has been very interested in the subject.

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I am all about books that help little girls learn about their full potential.

This is one of those books. It talks about a young Ada that is different because she wants to learn more about why things are the way they are, which can sometimes be a challenge to her parents.

In the end everyone figures out how to embrace their own true self.

Recently, we had checked out “Carnival of the Animals” from our local library.

It came with a CD that Lily loved to listen to while figuring out which animals were represented by which instrument.

Because she liked it we bought her a copy of that book as well as two other ones that have CDs with them.

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I like to pretend that I am going to read a book. So this time I really wanted to read “And Then There Were None.” So far, so good.

Do you have any books that you like to read during the summer months. Leave a comment below.


Pandora’s Box

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Photo courtesy of thedisneyblog.com

If you haven’t heard yet, Pandora, the world of the Avatar films, has been having a soft beta opening this past week.

A group of lucky guests have had the opportunity to explore this incredible, new world situated in Disney’s Animal Kingdom before it opens to the public on May 27.

Here is a round up of some of the early reviews on what people are saying.

To Eat

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When it comes to food, Pandora has two options that have items for both the timid and adventerous palate.

The first is the Satu’li Canteen, a quick service restaurant.

The food looks amazing, and what I have heard it tastes just as good, too.

Being a vegetarian, I am happy that they have plenty of options available that would qualify as a full meal.

One of the best deals here are the different bowls (slow roasted sliced beef, chopped woodfire chicken, sustainable fish bowl, or the chili-spiced crispy tofu bowl). Chalk full of vegetables and Boba balls, you get a pretty good bang for your around $12 buck.

Another option, if you are looking for a quick beverage (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) can be found at Pongu Pongu.

There are a ton of exotic looking drinks here to wet your whistle including the Mo’ara Margarita in a Souviner Mug with a Glowing Unadelta Seed for $18.25.

To Buy

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Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com

Inside of Pandora there is one store that sells souviners called Windtraders.

Here you will find cultural artifacts of the Na’vi, science kits, specialized apparel and even some of the region’s more colorful creatures.

To Do

Let’s face it, the main reason why people are in the area is to experience the attractions that this area has to offer.

The first is the Na’vi River Journey.

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Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com

Think of this attraction as a sort of high tech Small World. You go on a boat where you look at the amazing flora and fauna and the super sophisitcated animatronics.

People have been saying this has been blowing guests away. It is beautiful and you swear that the animatroics are real people.

The other attraction in Pandora, Flight of Passage, has been blowing people away for a wide variety of reasons, not all of them good.

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Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com

On this ride you board your very own banshee and take to the skies of Pandora.

While on the ride vehicle you wear special glasses and view a large screen that is similar to Soarin’.

People who have been on the attraction have been raving about how amazing the experience is and that is like none other in the entire resort.

However, the Disney community has also been up in arms over the attraction as well.

When the rider steps onto the vehicle they have to sit on it like a motorcycle. Then a support comes up and pushes against the back while two braces come behind the calves and they also push forward.

The problem is that many people who are either tall or of the “Winnie the Pooh” shaped variety are having a difficult time fitting onto the ride and are subsequently being asked leave the ride.

One early previewer said that she had estimated 22% of the people that were slated to ride were asked to leave.

Another person said that in one group four out of 12 and seven out of 12 were asked to leave.

Some people are saying that because of the calf area being tight, people with either larger calves or taller people couldn’t fit properly into the restraints.

Supposdly, cast members are taking note of how many people are asked to leave the vehicle and the reason, so there is hope that this issues will be fixed in the future.

Are you looking forward to visiting Pandora? What are you most looking forward to?


Happy Camper

This past weekend we decided to plan a small weekend getaway.

We were looking for something close to home, but still something that made us feel like we had escaped reality for a little while.

Luckily the Uniontown KOA is pretty close and was the perfect fit for us.

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We rented a a cabin for the weekend that had a large bed in the main room and a bunk house off to the side with a sliding door that could be closed or kept open.

On Friday it unfortunately rained all night and we weren’t able to cook out. So we went out to eat and then stopped at a restaurant and then went to get groceries for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday morning it started of a little cloudy but turned into a beautiful day.

We started off the morning making pancakes on the fire pit, However, we just couldn’t get the logs to catch fire so we decided to move the griddle to to the grill to finish everything.

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They actually turned out really well after we got the hang of how long we had to cook them. Even Lily enjoyed her plain pancakes that were made before I added the blueberries.

One of Lily’s favorite things was the playground that was in the campground. She made several trips throughout our trip to the playground where she would spend so much time exploring everything and just enjoying the finally beautiful weather.

After paying a visit to the camp’s gift shop and purchasing a little disk of wax with wood shavings, the fire started right up.

Luckily we were able to make our dinner of veggie dogs with crescent rolls, foil pack veggies and grilled cheese for Lily right over the campfire. It was delicious and I am so happy we were able to do that.

Afterwards we made s’mores which Lily just enjoyed eating the graham crackers with chocolate.

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It was the end of a perfect day.

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The next day we woke up to a beautiful morning and ate breakfast before we left to join our mothers for a great Mother’s Day meal later in the day. 

Breakfast was made on the grill again that included oatmeal and cinnamon rolls.

We had a wonderful weekend and we can’t wait to do it again sometime soon.

How did you spend your Mother’s Day weekend? Leave your comments below.


“Daddy, Can I Stand Near the Crocodile?”

This past Saturday the weather was so depressing. It was raining, cold for May and just a horrible day.

Luckily, we had some fun activities planned for the day.

The first stop we made was to the huge Cabella’s store in Wheeling, W.V.

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When we walked in I didn’t realize that there would be a bunch of animal dioramas and an aquarium.

Lily loved looking at the aquarium the best. She thought that the fish were swimming over to say hi to her. She loved them so much she just had to have a stuffed rainbow trout.

We were also really into all the different animal displays and wanted our picture taken near the crocodile. She was really upset that she couldn’t get closer the crocodile.

Our main goal was to get some stuff for our upcoming camping trip. We grabbed a wire cook top and a griddle we could put over the fire and a few other odds and ends.

Lily also got a Mickey Mouse fishing pole that came with some foam fish and a foam fish hook that she has been using in the house, but can also use it to fish in her Nana and Papa’s pool this summer.

We are not hunters or fishers, in fact as I have mentioned before, we are both vegetarians. But, I can still appreciate all of the great camping options that Cabella’s has to offer and the fact that they are very serious about conservation.

After a long day I think we were rather tuckered out.

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Where is some place that you have never gone before but were happy that you tried it out? Leave your comments below.