Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Posts at

Have you visited my new site?

Here are some recent posts about parenting, childbirth, breastfeeding, and cosleeping.

Focusing on children's needs instead of on their behavior;

Why birthing on our backs is not the ideal position;

The joys of breastfeeding a toddler #1; and

The cosleeping contest essay entries from my husband and from me that will be featured in a new book about cosleeping!

Please visit and say hello! 2010-03-13 07

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In case you haven't found my new blog, please join me at

I am blogging daily there on all kinds of stuff! My latest post is "What Breastmilk Tastes Like, Part 1" - the start of a series on the composition and taste of breastmilk.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New pregnancy and birth post (and more!)

There are many more posts at the new blog - do you have it bookmarked? Come hang out with me there!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Website!

I am packing up and blogging permanently at
Please come join me over there! It's not quite "finished" and pretty yet, but it's good enough.
Hope to see you there!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tips for Disneyworld and Orlando with a Toddler

Be sure to check out my new site:
This blog will be shut down as soon as we get the new one fully functional!

We recently took a wonderful vacation to Orlando with our 22 month old. We were fortunate enough to stay for 7 nights, so there was plenty of time to see a variety of the sites in the area. This was our first major vacation with our toddler, so we were a little apprehensive about how he would do on such a long trip away from home. (Be sure to read this post for tips on packing and this post for tips on doing Disney on a budget.)

Our worries were unfounded, he had a great time! If anything, we were surprised that Kieran slept more than we anticipated (cutting his canines and/or two year molars probably played a part in that). With our relative success, I thought I would share my tips for vacationing in Orlando with a toddler:

1) Don't overdo it: give your toddler as much, if not more, time for naps every day as you would at home. With the extra running around you are bound to do, she will tire out faster than she does at home.

Kieran fell asleep at Magic Kingdom during the Haunted Mansion ride, and at Animal Kingdom during the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Disney really wore him out!

2) Bring your carrier and full-sized stroller (the kind with the basket underneath): If your toddler is anything like mine, he'll be asking "up? up? up!" much more often than he wants to run off on his own. Busy theme parks and new places can be overwhelming for toddlers, they'll need to reconnect with you often. My Action Baby Carrier was a life saver (our Ergo would have worked just as well, but Tom prefers the ABC).
The stroller came in handy not for Kieran, but for our stuff. We brought a soft-sided cooler with us and carried it in the stroller at the parks (it stayed in the rental car at the beach, etc.). We also threw the backpack in the stroller instead of hefting it around. At Disney, there are places to leave your stroller at virtually every ride, and we never had a problem with theft. I guess since everyone is doing it, there is safety in numbers.

3) Don't restrict yourself to Disney: Orlando is within an hour of the East coast and Atlantic Ocean, and less than two hours from the West coast and the calmer Gulf waters. We visited both while we were there (Cocoa Beach twice and Clearwater Beach once), and I think Kieran's favorite days were at the beach. He loved splashing in the waves and jumping on our rented boogie board, and he spent hours building sandcastles and searching for seashells.
There are also dozens of state parks to visit in Florida, many within an easy drive from Orlando. We took a day trip to Blue Spring State Park, and Kieran loved taking a dip in the chilly spring water almost as much as he liked playing on the park playground after we ate lunch there.

On our last day (at Tom's insistence), we visited one of several fancy Orlando miniature golf courses. The boys had a good time hitting golf balls near a "volcano" and several water hazards.

And a few more Disney-specific tips:

4) Take advantage of the "Rider Switch Pass" and "Single Rider" lane options: We used Kieran's nap times to do roller coasters. Several of the big kid rides at Disney parks have "single rider" lanes that move at a much faster rate than the regular lines. At Animal Kingdom, Tom rode Mount Everest three times in a row in under 30 minutes. When he was done, I handed him the sleeping baby and took a turn on the roller coaster. Other rides have "rider switch passes." For these, the waiting adult gets a ticket and the riding adult gets in line, then you switch after the ride is over. The person who waited gets into the "Fast Pass" line with the switch pass and saves time in line.

5) Do the parades: Yes, Kieran enjoyed the Dumbo and It's a Small World rides, the Finding Nemo musical and the carousel. But his favorite part of the parks had to be the parades - we watched the entire Spectral Magic parade at Magic Kingdom (the night parade) and Mickey's Jammin' Jungle parade at Animal Kingdom, and we caught the last half of the 3:00 parade at Magic Kingdom. For all three Kieran stood at attention the entire time - waving, dancing, pointing, and interacting with the cast members and characters who came to give out high fives and comment on how cute he was (he wore a Superman t-shirt on Halloween and got several comments on it). The music is catchy and the cast/characters/floats are entertaining. We highly recommend the parades.

6) Take your own meals, snacks, and water into the parks: Like I wrote in my post on Disney on a Budget, you can save an enormous amount of money by bringing in your own meals to the parks. You can also save time - time spent waiting in line at food stands and waiting for tables at sit down restaurants. Afternoon showers are a perfect time to eat your own picnic lunch underneath one of the many shop awnings. Everyone else will be trying to get into the restaurants - you can eat quickly and queue up for the next ride.

Do you have any more tips for visiting Orlando and Disney with a toddler? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tips for Disneyworld on a Budget

I scoured the Internet when planning our Disney vacation for money-saving tips. A lot of sites had one or two helpful tips, but I never found a good comprehensive list. Here are several things we did to save money and have fun at Disneyworld.

Disney on a Budget

1) Travel during the off-season: Frommer's gives you an idea of when the best off-season times to travel to Orlando are. You will find much better rates on everything - from airfare to hotels - during off-season travel periods. For our late October/early November vacation, our hotel and airfare (booked together on totalled $640 after taxes - that included two adult round trip flights from Kansas City to Orlando and seven nights at our hotel.

2) Unless you plan on doing all Disney all the time, don't worry about booking a room in a Disney Resort property. We stayed at Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista. It was a 10-15 minute drive to the parks (by car or by the free shuttle the hotel offered) and had all of the amenities we wanted (pool, fridge, microwave, laundry). We simply aren't at any hotel enough to justify the exorbitant rates we would have paid at a Disney property.
Our rooms at the Comfort Inn were newly remodeled and in great shape. The electronic billboard outside of the hotel said all rooms were $60/night; you would be lucky to book a room on a Disney property for less than $100/night, even during "Value Season."

3) Tour a resort to get reduced prices on your tickets: Our hotel "concierge" offered us tickets at almost half price in return for spending 1.5 - 2 hours touring a resort property. You can read a little bit about our experience in this post. One day tickets for a Disney park at the gate will run you about $85-$90, we got our tickets for $49 each (including taxes).
I would not trust the discount ticket booths you see all over Orlando - their agents buy the unused days from tourists with multiple day tickets and then sell the tickets back to you. There is no way to verify how many days are left, and often the Disney employees will ask you for an ID at the gate. You are not assured of getting in to a park on a recycled ticket.

4) Bring a soft-sided cooler with you and pack your own meals/snacks: Meals in the parks can add up quickly. Depending on the number of people in your family, you can save a significant amount of money by bringing in quick and easy meals rather than buying the processed food available at Disney.
I booked a hotel with a refrigerator and microwave, and we stopped at the grocery store on the day we arrived. We bought cereal and fruit for breakfast, sandwich fixin's and veggies for lunch, a case of bottled water, and I had packed lots of granola bars and crackers for snacks. We also ate dinner a few times at the hotel: rotisserie chicken, veggies steamed in the bag, and a delicious pasta meal that we cooked in the bag.
I packed napkins, plastic silverware, and Ziploc bags in our checked suitcase, and we bought a package of disposable bowls for the hotel room. We packed our cooler every morning using ice from the hotel ice machines, and it was easy to transport around the parks in our stroller. We also took the cooler with us when we visited both coasts.

5) Don't pay parking fees: Stay in a hotel that offers free shuttles, or park at Downtown Disney for free and take a free Disney shuttle to the parks. Parking on a Disney park lot will run you $14/day. That can add up if you are spending more than one day at the parks.

6) Bring souvenirs with you: Bypass the expensive souvenirs sold in the parks and bring some with you instead. You can look for better deals on Ebay, craigslist, garage sales, and your local stores. Once in Orlando, skip the big "Florida/Disney Gift" cheapie stores (most are huge blue buildings); their merchandise is very poor quality (and a lot of it is in seriously bad taste). There are a few Disney outlets that sell old/discontinued Disney merchandise, but we didn't find any Earth-shattering deals at the character outlet we went to.
One other thing to buy before you go - anything glow in the dark if you plan on attending the night parade at Magic Kingdom. We bought glow in the dark bracelets at Target - 12 for $1; we ended up handing most of them out to kids around us at the parade (I love the generosity of toddlers!!). We also bought Disney stickers and tattoos at Walmart, Kieran enjoyed those on the plane and at the parks.

Disneyworld is a fantastic experience for all ages, and you do not have to be wealthy to go. Just be smart, plan ahead, and take advantage of the money saving ideas offered by the veterans.

Have a magical day,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tips for Packing for a Family Vacation

We recently took an eight day/seven night vacation to Orlando, Florida. Packing was a bit of a challenge, so I wanted to share a few tips on packing for a vacation with a toddler.

Bringing a toddler on a trip sometimes requires you to haul around a couple of extra items. Since we rented a car in Florida, we brought our own car seat (I did not trust the rental company to provide us with a decent one). We also brought a full sized stroller (the kind with storage underneath), because we planned on doing a few parks and had brought a soft-sided cooler with us to pack our own lunches. A car seat and stroller are bulky and inconvenient, so I wanted to keep the rest of our luggage to a minimum. We ended up bringing one large suitcase to check, one small suitcase to carry on, and our backpack (which functions as our diaper bag). With this in mind, here are my tips to help you keep your luggage orderly and easy to pack and unpack.

1) Pack less and plan on doing a load of laundry: We were in Orlando for eight days, but I only packed for five. One of those outfits was a "nice" shirt for each of us in case we ate somewhere classier than Shoney's; I also kept an extra outfit for Kieran in our backpack. Halfway through the week we did a load of laundry at our hotel (I made sure to book a hotel that had laundry facilities). Most of what I packed for me and Tom were shirts - we have no problem re-wearing shorts or jeans several times between washings.

2) Pack outfits in bags by day: I packed our large suitcase with several bags. Some were marked with a date ("Wed. 1/28") - in each dated bag I packed one outfit for each of us (including socks, underwear, and extra diapers). I also had one bag marked "extra for Kieran" that had diapers, his Superman cape, his swim trunks, and his nice shirt, an "extra for Dionna," and one more for Tom (both with similar items). When I unpacked at the hotel, the outfits were hung in groups and there was never any scrounging around in the mornings for clothes to wear. After I did laundry, the clothes simply went back on the hangers in groups. Easy!
I reused the bags to pack the dirty clothes; any clean clothes I folded neatly. When we got home, I hung the clean clothes and took the bags downstairs to toss in the laundry. It made unpacking incredibly fast and painless.

3) Pack small toiletry items, especially liquids, in clear plastic Ziploc bags: If you really want to be fancy, pack them in logical groups. For example, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash together; contact case, saline solution, and glasses together; shampoo, conditioner, razor, and q-tips together; baby items together; etc. I put all of my toiletries in the inside zippered section of our checked suitcase. Packing toiletries in waterproof bags not only keeps your other belongings safe from spills, but it makes it easier to set everything up in the hotel and to put away later at home.

4) Pack all of your electronics in one location: We put all of our electronics (laptop, Garmin, camcorder) in our small carry-on suitcase and the cords for each in the carry-on's zippered section. Our camera and phones were in the backpack for easy access. We felt the electronics would be safer with us than they would being tossed around by airline personnel. After we'd been in Florida for a few days, it was nice to know exactly where to find all of the cords when it was time to recharge batteries.

We keep our camera handy for impromptu photo opportunities like this one: the Northwest Airlines pilots invited us to sit down in the cockpit after I told them how excited Kieran had been to fly and say hello to the "pi-pi."

5) Pack shoes and a couple of heavier items (like jeans) in the outside zippered compartment of your checked bag. When we weighed our checked bag at the airport, it was four pounds over the maximum allowed without an extra fee. We easily transferred our sandals and a pair of jeans from the outside of the large bag to the carry-on suitcase. We avoided a hefty overweight fee and the hassle of unzipping the main part of our suitcase and rummaging through it in the middle of the busy airport.

6) Pack anything you’ll need quickly in your backpack or diaper bag. In our backpack we kept: diapers, changing pad, and wipes; a change of clothes for Kieran; fun things for Kieran to do while traveling; our camera, phones, and wallets; a few “just in case” items for Kieran (Ibuprofen for teething pain, teething tablets, a burp cloth); snacks and a bottle of water.  (Even though TSA says formula or juice only, we were allowed to bring one bottle of water through security.)

7) Pack snacks and fun things for your toddler to do: We had a short layover and about three hours on the plane each way. Here is what we packed to keep Kieran occupied after the novelty of the plane wore off: stickers, construction paper, twistable crayons, a couple of new books, a stuffed animal, a Doodler Travel, and snacks (Annie's bunny crackers and some organic soft granola bars). The stickers were a hit - he enjoyed sharing them with a little girl across the aisle. The books were also a success, I got an "I Spy" book (to hold his attention) and a Dr. Seuss classic (long and engrossing). He never touched the Doodler or the crayons, but he has on other trips.

I hope these are helpful, feel free to share your packing tips and tricks in the comments!

Happy traveling,