First Day of Kindergarten and All The Feelings I am Not Supposed To Feel

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Mason baby pic

2 weeks old

mason baby pic 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow, August 24th, marks the day my oldest child has his first day of Kindergarten and I am HAPPY. I had a mom look at me like I was nuts this weekend when I said I can’t wait! Apparently you are supposed to be tearful and sad that your little one is growing up and if you aren’t, just pretend. I think I might have different feelings if he was going into a traditional school. We have chosen Montessori for his preschool and early elementary years though so instead of being the youngest at his school, he’s one of the oldest kids. Instead of being the tiny little kid in a sea of big kids, he’s the big kid.

School Supplies

 

As we were school supply shopping he asked “Mommy, is Kindergarten a big deal?” I guess after multiple people stopped and asked him about his grade he got that it just might be something big. My response “Yes! You get to be one of the leaders in your class!” He was so proud of his pencil box filled with fun pencils, he carried it around the house for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

We spent a full year deciding where he would go to Kindergarten and early elementary school. Yes, I am especially Type A when it comes to education. I bet you’re not surprised! I know we made the best choice for him because tonight there isn’t anxiousness, there’s just peace and calmness. The supplies are labeled, clothes are set out, breakfast planned. Sorry teachers, but they are getting donuts because it’s also my birthday and birthday donuts are a must do! We will throw in a little fruit juice to balance it out a bit.

Very first day of school pic age 18 mos

First day of school at 18 months

2 years old school pics

First school picture at 2 years old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have nothing but excited feelings for him tomorrow. He has grown so much in his self confidence in his classroom and this year will be even more opportunity for that. He is starting his kindergarten year already reading, which is something he is so proud of and he can’t wait to get started on the second level. He has confidence in his abilities and is ready to be a big buddy to a new friend. He knows he can help other children with their lessons and is excited to do that. If there are any tears tomorrow, it won’t be sad tears or wishing he was home all day. They will be happy tears over the incredible little boy he has become. He has empathy, confidence, kindness, and creative problem solving skills. These are all qualities his amazing teachers have nurtured and I have complete faith they will continue to nurture his gifts during his kindergarten year.

 

PK4 First Day

PK4 First Day

PK3 First Day

PK3 First Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope all of you have the same happy feelings tomorrow as you send your kindergarteners off for their first day. Happy tears mamas and daddies, you’ve all done well!

Stay tuned for first day photos to be added to this post tomorrow.

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Entitlement : The Real Problem with Free Disney Dining

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I rarely get controversial on this blog. I want it to be a source of information and sharing in the love of Disney. I read post after post yesterday though about how Disney disappointed thousands of people with how the release of Free Disney Dining happened. I disagree that Disney was the overall problem yesterday. The problem is the culture of entitlement that has been exacerbated by bloggers not fully educating their readers on how a Disney discount works. I hope this post sheds some light on reality when it comes to promotions.

I am going to give you an example to help understand how a Disney discount works. I am going to use Nordstrom as an example because they are a retailer that is all about service and quality much like Disney. I go into Nordstrom and I see a cute red top on the sales rack. I like it and want other colors so I look around. Oh, look, there’s a pink one. But it’s not marked down? Why? The red one is but the pink one isn’t. I want the pink one for the sales price. It’s not going to happen. The pink one has a different demand, it’s spring time, pink is in season, red was their fall color, there’s too many red ones in inventory. That’s not Nordstrom’s fault the red one is on sale and the pink one isn’t. It’s purely supply and demand, simple economics. ALL Disney discounts work just like this. I would venture to say that most corporations’ discounts work in a way similar to this.

Disney got slammed over and over for inventory restrictions yesterday. A Disney discount has never meant to be an across the board price cut for all rooms. It has always been dictated by the inventory levels and by what demand looks like. This is why some popular bloggers say don’t book until a discount is released. I am of the belief that if you are only going to go if a discount is released, then hold off. Otherwise, book on your current budget. In a slower economic time you were more likely to find those standard view, moderate resorts. The reason we have seen a shift from finding moderates available is because now we have more moderates that can sleep families of five and those rooms are in demand for families. It is no surprise we couldn’t find resorts that slept five in that category. They don’t need any help selling those, they go fast at full price because even at full price they are cheaper than families having to do two rooms or a deluxe option.

Now let’s move on to the other claims made. My favorite was by a popular blogger that slammed Disney for their secrecy. Well clearly the promotion wasn’t that secret because this same blogger was shouting it from the roof tops all last week and into the weekend even leading into the late hours of Sunday night. I don’t understand how anyone who contributed to the Free Disney Dining frenzy can then slam Disney because it was so popular, sites crashed. Oh, and now would be a good time to mention that many parts of the “rumor” were wrong up until the last hour.

I read claims that travel agents are just rebooking their clients at Universal. I am a travel agent, you can read that on my bio. I am going to tell you that any travel agent that is pushing their own booking agenda and not what is best for your family is not working in your best interest. It is infuriating for those of us that are true travel professionals to have someone who is connected with a travel agent to  suggest our industry is so fickle that we would change brand loyalties because of EXPECTED limited inventory. There were definitely some Minion memes floating around because they were funny, not because they were true. When a travel agent recommends a destination it is because that is what is best for the client, to suggest anything less is a slam to our profession.

The only claim that had any merit yesterday was the fact that there were technological difficulties on Disney’s end. One was to be expected with the websites and the other with the phone lines was not expected. The websites on both the travel agent side and the consumer side had a huge improvement made in recent weeks and with all improvements to the coding, high traffic is going to reveal any vulnerabilities. This was expected. Frankly, the websites held up a lot longer than I could have hoped for and I was pleased with how well it worked, until it didn’t. The phone lines were a total mess and whomever is in charge of those probably had a very difficult day yesterday. The phone agents didn’t deserve the situation they were put in. As a travel agent these were frustrating no doubt. And as a travel agent, I have plenty of channels in which to communicate those frustrations constructively to the people who can improve the systems. To imply Disney wasn’t listening to the travel agents shows how out of touch people are. The reality is if the consumer side had not been affected, there would have been little reported outside of the travel agency world on this matter. On the plus side, A LOT of consumers now know how hard travel agents work on Disney discount release days.

So let’s tally this up:

Limited inventory for less expensive room categories- expected

Free Disney Dining frenzy generated by bloggers- expected

Website technological issues- expected

Phone Issues-Most TAs expect long wait times but overall these issues were NOT expected and totally much worse than normal

Switching people to Universal-Ridiculous claim that is degrading to travel professionals.

Consumers understand how hard Travel Agents work- BONUS

Overall, my agency’s clients weren’t disappointed. The people disappointed were the people who don’t understand how the discounts work and who book based on the guarantee of a discount. I always tell clients I will rebook them if a discount becomes available but I do not promise a discount. It is so important to book based on your CURRENT budget, not a what if budget. Then *IF* a discount is released and it is a room category you want, you can always upgrade. It is a much better approach overall in my opinion and the bloggers who recommend this should be commended. The ones who added to the disappointed masses yesterday should share some of the responsibility of that disappointment.

Overall Disney is still where my family prefers to vacation and some technological frustrations don’t negate the magicalness that is Disney. Disney has some work to do on the technological front, but the brunt of the sad Mickeys floating around the web goes to bloggers who have failed to properly report how discounts work and have created a culture of entitlement in the process. Disney is by far the best bang for your buck when it comes to family entertainment and overall experience. A discount is a perk, a nice add on, but even without one, Disney offers so much to families.

These smiles right here are why we will go over and over again.

calendar collage-imp

 

 

*These opinions are my own. They do not represent Disney, Trips To The Mouse, or any other entity.

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It’s Back- Disney Free Dining 2015 is here!

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free-dining

While other blogs are anxious to report rumors, we hold off until Disney announces an offer. There’s no reason to get all excited over what may come to be. BUT NOW DISNEY FREE DINING 2015 IS HERE!!!  We are as excited as you are! When you use Trips To The Mouse as your travel agent, they have you covered on all offers so you don’t have to worry about the rumors. You sleep in and know they are hard at work for you!

The Disney free dining offer has a few twists this year. The first is the requirement you must have a park hopper or a water park & more park ticket for your stay. Excluded hotels are: Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort(only the Little Mermaid rooms), campsites, and all 3-bedroom villas. There appears to be limited availability and possibly exclusions for Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside as well as Disney’s All Star Movies as well. For value resorts you will receive the quick service dining plan and for moderates and deluxes you will receive the plus dining plan. You can upgrade as well if you want to go from the quick service to the plus or from the plus to the deluxe. It is reported you must have a six night stay but that has yet to be confirmed if it is being enforced. Honestly, we can’t imagine staying less than six nights anyhow so of course that’s a non-issue.

The promotion is for most nights arriving:

August 28-October 2, 2015

October 25-31, 2015

November 8-November 19, 2015

December 15-December 21, 2015

The availability for this promotion is extremely limited. We encourage you to complete a quote request form Trips To The Mouse  and include as much information as you can so they can secure a courtesy hold on your booking. Please include all names of the travelers as well as the children’s ages and your preferred resort and dates. Remember when you book with Trips To The Mouse  you get so much more service. They handle your dining reservations, your fast passes, and provide you with a custom itinerary.

Happy Monday everyone! Where will you be staying for Disney Free Dining 2015?

 

Free Dining

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Annie at Bass Concert Hall

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Annie openingOnce again, Broadway Across America brings an incredible performance to Austin with Annie at Bass Concert Hall. If you haven’t purchased your tickets to see Annie this week, stop reading and go buy them now. The show runs April 21-26th, 2015. I would definitely say it is appropriate for all ages but the evening performances are a bit late for the under 7 crowd. I had the pleasure of going with a friend on opening night last night. Obviously any little girl in the 80s knows the songs and the story line. And likely any little girl in present day does as well thanks to the remakes of the movies.

orphans

A few things really stood out to me. All of the child actresses were unbelievably talented. When you think about how young they really are, it blows your mind. They attend class, rehearse, and perform almost every night of the week. These kids are on the road traveling for weeks at a time. They all brought a level of energy and talent to the performance that really made the performance.

Lilly Mae

 

I know I am supposed to say my favorite was Issie Swickle who played Annie. Don’t   get me wrong she did a fabulous job at her role. But she was upstaged a bit by the adorableness of Lilly Mae Stewart who played Molly. Molly was the cute little curly haired girl in the performance.  She was so charismatic and every time she was on stage the audience was in love with her. If you are curious to read more about her, here  is a great article. Annie was her national debut. I have no doubt that she is going to do  incredible things in her career.

 

I don’t want to diminish Issie Swickle’s performance by any means. I do think her acting was far superior to her singing abilities but I am not an expert when it comes to music. Here is a clip for you to hear yourself that was shared by Bass today.

Issie Swickle as Annie in the #BroadwayinAustin production of Annie Bass Concert Hall through Sunday. http://austin.broadway.com/buzz/180481/a-new-deal-for-austin-national-tour-of-annie-begins-performances/

Posted by Mix 94.7 on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

 

Annie the Musical

 

 

I didn’t realize Sandy would actually be a key role as well. There were two dogs that played Sandy and I am not quite sure which one we saw or if both were on stage. It is official though, our Daisy Belle dog doesn’t have what it takes to be a doggie star. If awards are given, these dogs deserve all the doggie treats!

Miss. Hannigan was played by Lynn Andrews. She was made for that part. I wanted to keep picturing Carol Burnett but couldn’t because Lynn was so convincing!

 

The last part of the production that I feel was one of the best of the season was the set production. Not a single detail was spared. There were a lot of set changes and they were completely seamless. The New York City backdrops were actually flat but you would have never known because they created the illusion of dimension. As you all know by now I compare a lot of things to Disney and the set design was one that I thought was on par with the imagination you would find at a Disney performance.

Any little girl, grown or just one at heart,  would love this performance. I think it would make a great mother/daughter outing and of course a girl’s night out! Go see for yourself. You will leave smiling and quite possibly singing!

Annie the Musical

*This review was of my own opinion. I did receive complimentary tickets to provide an honest review for the show.

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#DisneySide @Home Celebration Recap

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Balloonsimgres

I was honored when our family was selected to host another #DisneySide @Home Celebration this year! I think all of our friends were as excited as we were! At first, I considered keeping it small but as you guys know I am incapable of a small gathering. It is just too hard to limit our guest list. So we went all in and threw the best party we could! We had over 120 people who all had a blast. We had a lot of help from some incredible businesses and of course the party would have not been possible without Disney! All of the photos you see below are courtesy of Emily Cannata Photography. She is truly gifted with children and adults. She captures the moment in such a real way that I love. She has done photos for us with our kids as Jedis and it remains to be some of my all time favorite photos ever of our children. We also added a twist this year and decided to help Austin Diaper Bank with a diaper drive. Every pack of diapers gave people another chance to enter the raffle drawings. It was a win win for all! The Raffle Table was full of prizes once again. Most of these were courtesy of our hostess kit. Wonderful companies like All, HP, Duff, and Twinings to name a few. I supplemented with a few items from the Disney Store Online also.

BLUFULLIMG_1936w

 

Party Favor BagsOur theme was Cars this year. We tried to recreate Radiator Springs from Disneyland for our guests to experience! As you entered, there was a welcome race track leading the way. Then in the entry room there was all kinds of information dedicated to the Disney Destinations: Disneyland, Walt Disney World, The Disney Cruise Line, Aulani, and Adventures by Disney. It seems a lot of people were interested in the Disneyland 60th Celebration this year and Aulani! Then the guests saw the make your own party favor bag. The table was filled with stickers, Disney Play Packs, Star Wars goodies, bags, and of course the most adorable Cars inspired hair clips from OMG Adorable!

 

Freestyle Baking Cars treatsOne of the biggest hits of the party were the sweet treats provided for by Freestyle Baking Company! Jenny is creative beyond belief. She came up with three desserts. I think we can all agree, the donut cakes that looked like tires was the overall “winner” of the sweet treats! They were like taking a little bite of heaven and really did look like Luigi’s tires! She also created a cake inspired by Carsland. We all know how much kids love their decorate your own cookie and these did not disappoint. And yes, I did save the leftover frosting and might have had a few spoonfuls following the party. Jenny’s cakes taste as good as they look. Buttercream is always used which is my favorite. And one of the best parts about using Jenny is that she delivers and does the set up for you! Talk about making the party day easy. She joined us for the event as well but generally she sets up and heads out. I also learned how to cut the tiered cakes properly. I have been doing it wrong for years. You don’t remove the top layer first. You make small slices around the outside bottom layer first. This was genius!

Popcorn

 

I tried desperately to find a way to serve food in cones just like the Cozy Cones at Carsland. I could not find a cost effective way to do this so I opted for just serving the popcorn in cones instead. It wasn’t quite what I wanted but the kids loved it and the cones were still fun.

 

 

HEB Tray WrapsThis year instead of doing all the food ourselves, we decided to enlist the help of HEB Catering. Guess what Austinites, they deliver now too! They arrived right on time with the best looking party trays I have seen. I have ordered trays before from HEB and the food is always amazing. I had no idea they would add decorations to your trays if you ask. These came Cars inspired! We had veggies, fruits, a cheese tray, and a wraps tray. More than enough food for all of our guests. The only recommendations I would make when ordering the cheese tray for a kid inspired party is to sub out the speciality cheeses for the colby jack cheese and cheddar cheese.

 

 

 

Carsland Table

And now for the entertainment we offered. The weather cooperated. We were so worried about rain this day and weren’t quite sure what we would do if it did rain but it held off. We cleared out our playroom and only left the Carsland Cars Table. Yes, it is like a train table but with Radiator Springs set up. Snapology of Austin came and entertained the kids, and parents, as well. We intentionally had them come just a little bit after the party. I kid you not, every single child that walked into our house before they were set up started to head directly upstairs first to find the LEGOS. If you haven’t had a party with them yet, book it now. They also offer camps and after school workshops. Legos

 

 

Coloring table

 

Entertainment for Anything

The coloring table was set up inside the kitchen and tattoos were outside. Then came the other big entertainer, the balloon guy! Adam with Entertainment for Everything had even the adults talking! He was recommended by several neighbors and he really blew away my expectations. Let’s be real-a lot of balloon and clown type entertainers are a little wacky. Adam was just entertaining! He had the adults laughing and the kids lined up constantly. Weeks later, we still have a balloon octopus he made floating around. He throws in a little magic while kids are waiting and is funny. The kids also played outside on the playscape and ran around.

 

It wouldn’t be a #DisneySide party without the photobooth from Say Cheese. We did move this to the garage in anticipation of rain. I was worried about the location but Jenny helped by sending people out that way. Kids and adults love the Say Cheese Photobooth. They come and do the set up for you and they provide the fun props! They also let you adjust the size of prints and everything. Super fun! Their team is so professional and their quality of photos that their photobooth generates is the best I have seen.

Adults Disney Side Princesses

 

 

 

Our guests all showed their #DisneySide too!

 

 

 

 

While we did have a lot of similar things as our last year’s party, the theme of Cars was new and really cool to get to explore and go with! Now, if the powers that be are reading, the kids have asked if there could be a Star Wars themed #DisneySide Party next year! I have a feeling they are already planning such an event in their heads. I also may be creating little party planning monsters by going all out for our #DisneySide party but these smiles are totally worth it! This was certainly the party of the year for us. Check out the #DisneySide, #MainStreetTales, and #TripsToTheMouse for more pictures and fun on any social media site.

Family Disney Side

 

*As a #DisneySide @Home Celebration Hostess, I did receive a party hostess kit. I opted to share almost everything in the kit with our party attendees. The reviews and opinions in this post are my own.

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