Monday, February 25, 2013


I've been MIA lately.  Between planning our upcoming trip to Disney World, cursing at Turbo Tax, getting what we need for the contract on our new home, nursing barfing babies, barfing myself and keeping up with the day to day I haven't posted enough.

Obviously it's not because I'm short on material.
Photo: What we've been up to...
We leave for Disney this week, and thankfully the dreaded barfing disease struck this past weekend and not on the plane to Disney.  We started with Moopa Friday night, it hit Hubby and LLG Sunday afternoon, and by early Monday morning me and my Gymnastics Queen were sharing a bucket next to my bed. 

I must say it was neat to have a buddy to share in my misery.  We sat up all night, napping, puking and chatting away. 

We actually had an in-depth discussion about who was sturdy enough to walk to the fridge for Sprite.

After mumbling, give me a few minutes, for over an hour it was me.  A mother's love and all.

In other news, I'm super frustrated with Turbo Tax (I don't speak accountant), super excited for Disney and mentally preparing for our move in a few weeks to Pennsylvania. 

Let the chaos continue.

Friday, February 22, 2013

How to Rent a Disney Timeshare

For more advice on taking your family to Disney World order my ebook on amazon.  It's loaded with tips and tricks on packing, planning and more that could only come from a Mama of four who's been to Disney every year since she was a toddler.  

One of the many Disney tasks I've helped friends and family with is renting a Disney timeshare for their vacations.  Disney Vacation Club owners (DVC members) commonly rent out their points or confirmed reservations for much cheaper than what you can reserve through Disney.  This equals income for DVC owners with expiring points and a great savings on deluxe accommodations for the renter.

Before you decide to embark on a renting journey, remember these very important things:

1.  Renting from a DVC owner is NOT easy.  You need patience and you need to be willing to make and lose many offers before a deal is made.  Don't expect to read this and rent tomorrow.  Renting is however, a great way to stay in a top notch resort for a fraction of what Disney charges.

2.  You can NOT take advantage of offers such as free dining when renting from a DVC member.  You can do the dining plan, just don't expect to take advantage of any running offers from Disney.  Disney requires you to book a package through them for special offers and savings.

3.  Renting is not for everyone.  If you are looking for an "out and about, eat in the parks trip," you may prefer a standard resort stay.  Renting villas from DVC owners means a little more privacy (more space, no housekeeping knocks every day) and the opportunity to  cook and spend more time in your room.  For larger families looking to save by not dining in parks, or families who need more room, renting may be the right choice.

The tricky part about renting points from anyone is developing trust before making the transaction.  I've rented to the same people several times because the experience went well, and we developed trust in our "renting relationship."  Much of the pre-deal work is done via email, which makes solidifying a good deal the hardest part of the process.  If you are serious about renting, stay the course and you will find what you are looking for eventually.

Here are a few tips to get your started on a vacation in a deluxe resort for a fraction of what Disney charges:

1.  Where to Start

Before you begin looking to rent, explore Disney's Deluxe Villa Resorts and get a feel for what each resort offers and what you like best.  Some resorts may appeal to you more than others.  Write down your favorites and proceed with looking for a great deal on a rental.

Go to mouseowners. Set up a profile in order to participate in threads and posts.

Mouseowners is overloaded with DVC owners looking to rent their timeshares or people looking to rent from DVC owners.

There are many many postings.

It's confusing and annoying for anyone who doesn't not understand the "lingo."

Don't run.  A good deal can be found with much patience.

2.  Understand the "Lingo"

Before you go and try to rent anything, you'll need to have a basic understanding of DVC owner lingo.  It's easy once you get the hang of it.

A few examples:

MK - Magic Kingdom
HS - Hollywood Studios
AK - Animal Kingdom
AKL - Animal Kingdom Lodge
BCV - Beach Club Villas
SSR - Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

You will come across many posts that read something like this:  "Confirmed 2 Bdrm BCV 6/1-6/7"

This just translates to the owner has a confirmed reservation at the Beach Club Villas, in a 2 bedroom villa, from June 1 to June 7.

For renters renting points (points will be explained below) you will see: "75 SSR points $10/point"

This translates to:  "75 Saratoga Spring Resort points for rent, $10/point."

3.  Renting a Confirmed Reservation

First of all, it is much easier for anyone new to renting to rent a confirmed reservation.  While this cuts back on flexibility for the renter, if you don't have to worry about school or work issues this is usually the best (least confusing) route.  You can go onto Disney's site and price out what the villa would cost for the same time of year and length of stay.  You can easily compare apples to apples and see how good the deal is.

4.  Renting DVC Points

If you can't rent a confirmed reservation, you'll need to work with an owner renting out their points.    Owners renting their points will make the reservation for you, and set up any dining plans or Magical Express (Disney transportation from airport).  As a renter this gives you complete flexibility over resort and size of villa.

When someone buys a Disney Vacation Club membership, they buy into a specific resort.  They decide how many points to buy depending on what they will need to vacation (a studio, 1 bedroom, etc). Obviously larger villas require more points, as well as vacations during peak periods.

The resort a family buys into (their "home resort") dictates where they will have the best chances of renting when booking a vacation.  Once someone owns a DVC, he/she can book a stay at any of the Disney resorts.  The difference with a home resort is being able to book farther in advance.

Basically, it doesn't matter where you own unless you plan very far in advance.  Don't be discouraged if a thread states they own at a certain resort, members can book anywhere in Disney.

(For DVC owners, you can rent points from another member via point transfers.) 

When renting points, you will need to understand how many points each resort is, as well as know Disney prices to know if the deal is good.  I attached a chart below to check how many points each resort is for each time of year.  Use the chart below to figure how many points your trip will require, and keep in mind this is an estimate since you may not get exactly what you want as far as resort or vacation dates.

I tell my friends to rent for $10/point or less.  $10/point is a good deal for both the owner and the renter.  Less than $10/point is a great deal, $8/point or less is a steal.

Remember that you will most likely answer many posts before you find the deal that is right for you and the DVC owner.  Stay the course.  

Here is the Disney Vacation Club point chart:  DVC Points 2013

5.  Still too confused?

If you can't deal with making offers on vacations for rent or points for rent, post your own thread in the "vacations wanted."

When you post a thread, owners looking to rent will respond to you.  You will need to sort through many responses and offers to book your vacation.  My advice is to go with your gut.  When people get back you in a timely manner, email politely and genuinely seem eager to make a deal, they are the better candidates. 

Post the resort you desire, with two 2nd choices (there are no availability guarantees), as well as size of accommodation (studio, 1bdrm, 2brm) and dates you need.  A few different dates will work best and give the owner a better chance of finding availability.

Remember there are no guarantees, and you may hear that the first three days are available but not the whole trip.  Keep adjusting your trip as needed, and you will secure a great vacation.

6.  Make the Deal

Once you've sorted through offers or you have a deal via email for a vacation, SPEAK ON THE PHONE.  You may want to speak to a few people before you make a deal.  Never give information over the phone without getting a feel for who the person is.  Do they have references?  Have they rented before?  You may want to ask for a number of a previous renter, or an email copy of a driver's license.  You will need to give the DVC owner your name and address, as well as the names and ages of everyone in your party.

When you decide to make the deal, ask for a three way call.  Another option is to make a small deposit, and then pay another portion after you receive a confirmed reservation number and email from Disney.  I usually take 50% down and 50% three to four weeks before trip.  A DVC owner can only cancel so far in advance before they limit the option to reuse their points.

I have found that most people are honest renters/owners who are looking to make a deal.  But as with anything, a few bad apples can ruin the bunch.  Be wary, and trust your gut.  I knew within minutes of speaking to people how comfortable I was making the deal, and every time I rented it was a wonderful experience.  Even better?  I have a few great renters anytime I am willing to rent out some points.

Remember that as great as it is to get a super deal on a rental, DVC owners pay a lot of money for their timeshares.  There are annual dues and the cost of the membership.  Look at renting as a win-win, not highway robbery.  You can secure very good deals from owners who have points expiring in a matter of weeks, but this is not to easy route.  You need to be able to travel last minute, and make a deal last minute with someone you don't know.  The best route is to find a reputable DVC owner, develop a solid renting relationship, and make the deal you both need.

A few more tips:

Points vary according to season, which resort and size of accommodations.  The most cost effective vacations will be a Sunday-Friday during an off season.  Try September, October, early November, or January into early February.  Avoid weekend stays if possible, as well as any vacations during school breaks.

Saratoga Springs, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Old Key West offer villas for less points than the other resorts.

There is housekeeping mid-stay, but not daily.  Expect fresh towels and tidying up but not a full room overhaul.

Good luck!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Bachelor

Last year, and every year before, I made awful fun of Hubby every time I caught him watching The Bachelor.  He claimed the beginning of the show was comical and entertaining, and loved watching all these gorgeous women fight over one guy.

I didn't get it.

Ever since moving in with my mom, I get it.  From the first night we were here, she has hooked myself and my middle school aged son on this show.  We watch the fights, the decisions and the drama together under blankets in the living room.

We eat ice cream and discuss who will "get the rose" in detail.  I cover my son's eyes when the love scenes heat up and utilize the many teaching moments this show presents.  We've covered staying away from drama, dating girls who are fun, making sure families are nice and never ever kissing and telling.

This show is a gem.  It's a guilty pleasure I can't believe I've been missing out on.  From Tiara's "sparkle" the Desiree's macho wacko brother, I'm completely hooked on the Bachelor.

I'm also totally rooting for Ashlee.  

Tell me Bachelor fans, who is he going to pick???

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Feel the Burn

I decided to start working out again.  I'm about a month behind schedule.

Winter is my time to recharge.  To rest.  To wear jeans and sweaters and not give a hoot about my tummy or the state of my buns.  Trouble is, I'm going on vacation in a week and I'm thinking I might scare myself when I slide into a pair of shorts.

I need to clarify that working out for a week before vacation does not change your tummy, thighs or buns.  But it does make you feel good.  It makes you feel like they are changing, and that's enough to keep me going until I actually notice a change in my physique.

Yesterday I woke up and I could barely lift my legs.  It was a painful reminder that I'm in the gym again, and I am NOT in shape.

I only ran two miles and did ten minutes of weights and my whole body was screamin' all day.  I was continuously feelin' the burn.

Last night I was on that hamster wheel again, sweating in my sweatpants as my munchkins wrecked havoc all over the house.

Thank goodness no one broke anything.  Me included.

I'm thinking it will feel phenomenal to run outside on vacation, and even more phenomenal to be able to run three steps without gasping.

Dust off those sneakers with me and get moving...Spring is right around the corner.

(it is, right? I can't take much more winter.)

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Finding My Inner Pizazz

It's been awhile.  Hubby just peeked at my blog and commented I haven't posted since Valentine's Day.  It's nice to see him take notice.

Now he just needs to notice empty paper towel rolls and we'll be good.

Since my last blog, I've put in effort to become a more exciting parent.  It's easy to stick with the day to day routine.  I love routine.  I love bedtimes.  I love quiet.  I also love Starbucks, sunshine and soft pretzels.

Ice cream too.  With sprinkles.

But sometimes, after hearing three times in one week how "awesome" other homes are, it's better to shake things up a bit.  In a matter of days, I heard about smoke machines, karaoke, music playing past 10pm in a family room and one of my genuinely amazing mom friends called me a "dud."

She was teasing, but truthfully, I can be a dud.  Big time.  After some soul searching I knew I needed some pizazz.

Since my realization, we've taken our kids to the local zoo, played cards, hosted in house sleepovers and made kick arse Valentine's for my daughter's class.

I should add that the Valentine's were after my daughter asked me to return the $2.50 puppy dog tattoo ones I lovingly selected at Target.  I handed them to her and she made a face.

Really?  Not cool for 4th grade?

"Moooooom, I gave these out in 2nd grade...." (eye roll).

Yup, I'm a dud alright.

It was time to make the super cool baggies with candy bars and Spongebob Fun Dip.  The same baggies I made many, many years ago when I only had two kids and making baggies was still fun and exciting.

For the record, she was thrilled with the baggies.  I was thrilled with her smiles.  And it felt pretty cool to break free of my dud status for a few short moments.

Wishing everyone a fabulous, dud-free week.  Shake things up!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Love is....

My munchkins.  Hugs.  Goodnight kisses.  Quiet snuggles.  Date nights.  Chocolate.  The sun.  My heated blanket.  My mom's kitchen.  My mom.  My dad.  Christmas morning.  Easter egg hunts.  Summer evenings.  Pancake night.  Starbucks. Munchkin giggles.  Sleeping in.  Laughing til' my belly hurts.  Old friends.  New experiences.  Family.  Vacations.  The beach.  Disney World.  My dad's quirky phrases.  Ice cream.  Sprinkles.  Ice cream with sprinkles.  Movie nights.  Crackling fires.  Watching my babies learn.  Being kind.  Slowing down.  Being thankful.

Wishing you mucho amore this Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Schools, Houses and French Toast Sticks, Oh My!

I forgot the school lunch was french toast sticks yesterday.  This was a cause of much heartache and despair.  Nevermind the fact that I have reminded my munchkins several times they have a lunch account.  If they buy lunch I will have them eat their lunch when they get home from school.

They would rather torture me and complain I gave them a lunch and they thought they "HAD to eat it."

Guilt trippers.

On another note, I think we found a house yesterday.  There are still many steps and I can't get excited because of all those steps, but it's a small relief.

I may also mention that I can't get too excited because I've never seen it.  With Hubby working three hours away, and me mommy-ing full time here, finding a weekend to house hunt is tough.  We found one weekend in December, and we were not successful. 

Ever since Hubby has had the job of seeing houses that I see online.  I also send one of my best girlfriends (who happens to live where we are moving) for a woman's opinion. 

And yesterday, we offered on a house I've never seen.  Crazy, but true.

We are running out of time, with the elementary school being a tad rude about my kids finishing the year since we live in a different elementary school zone.  Same district, different elementary.  Seriously?  You can't leave us alone?  They are settled in with desks, have attended that school since kindergarten, and the school wants my babies to switch to a different school and then move out of state and go to another new school.

I can't even fathom the emotional turmoil.  Dad away, moving out of old house, moving in with grandma, moving to new school, moving to another new school...years of therapy...

As a result, we're hurrying to move this relocation along.  I have a heavy heart because I know the transition we're about go through.  I saw the tears in my eleven year old's eyes yesterday as I told him we may have found a house.

It's heartbreaking.

And so with a house I've never seen and guilt about forgotten french toast sticks, I embark on my Wednesday.

Never a dull moment.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Valentine Mailbox

*A reminder from the archives*

Like all other holidays, we celebrate Valentine's Day BIG.  

Growing up, my mother had a huge, waist expanding Valentine Brunch.  

Along with the surplus of trans fats and sugars, there was a homemade Valentine Mailbox overstuffed with Valentine's for everyone in the family.

As kids, we looked forward to constructing and decorating the Valentine Mailbox.  My mother made this an event.  The event was always announced at least one day in advance. 

"Tomorrow night we are decorating the Valentine Mailbox!"  

Que squeals of delight.

Once decorated, the mailbox was placed out in the open for all to see and admire.  As we made Valentine's we stuffed them inside.

Having a mailbox staring us in the face everyday motivated us to make many Valentine's. 

At our Valentine Brunch, the mailbox was opened and hundreds of Valentine's were delivered.  

The messages, pictures and goodies were always good for a laugh.  

Ever since my munchkins could hold a crayon I helped them make our Valentine Mailbox.  Like my mother, we make it an event and we set our mailbox out in the open.

My munchkins then spend their days crafting, writing and drawing pictures.  They write names on candies and fruit snacks and have even stuffed small toys in the box.

And when my parents are over, they always add a little note for each munchkin.  Or a dollar.

When we open our mailbox at our Valentine Dinner, you never what surprises await.

My trick with any craft or activity we do annually is to keep it simple.  I make it more about the together time and the experience.  We tape any ole' thing we can find onto our mailbox.  Anything pink, purple or red is game.  

We've painted, taped, glued and stapled.  There is no method to our madness. 

Let me walk you through typical mailbox construction:

The blank canvas.  Box, your life will never be the same.  I apologize in advance.
Jackpot!  Valentine craft paper in the basement! 
Hmmm....doesn't quite fit...we'll have to use the patch method....
The Gymnastics Queen is a phenomenal mailbox decorator.  She assumed the title of "2nd in Command".
Right about now is when one of these rascals cracked an inappropriate joke.  Giggles ensued.  No craft time is complete without a joke about butts.
To finish the masterpiece I slice the "mail drop opening" with a knife or scissors. 
Year after year, regardless of how the mailbox comes together, it's always perfection.  And I have some wonderful Valentine Mail saved from over the years.  My munchkins never seize to amaze me when they pour their tiny hearts out on homemade Valentines.

Being serious for a hot second (it's about all I can stand), this tradition is wonderful to practice letter writing and composition, etiquette, compassion and design.  

Whew, I think I may have just hurt myself.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, February 11, 2013


We've been going through a lot lately.  Life is running us through the mill.  Hubby back and forth to Pennsylvania, shingles, moving, bidding on and losing houses, not being able to afford to bid on houses we like, school issues because of our new address and adjusting to living with my parents has been a wild ride.

For the record, adjusting to living with my parents has been the easiest.  I am so eternally grateful for my mom and how she helps us through these transitions. 

I am also eternally grateful for my babies.  If it weren't for gems around our new "apartment" such as homemade books about a hamster's Valentine's Day and paper Jet Blue airplanes I might lose my marbles.

Well, the rest of my marbles.  There aren't many left.
My kids make just about any madness tolerable, constantly reminding me what is important and that I need to SLOW DOWN.

Wishing you a week full of what's important, and giving you a reminder to slow down and be thankful for what keeps you sane.

Happy Trails, time to toast some Eggo's over here and get this party started.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snow, Snow and more Snow

It's snowing.  Just when I'm about ready to call it quits with winter mother nature always delivers another storm.  Always.  I'm ready for mild temperatures and sun on my face.  I'm ready for the kids to play outside and watch flag football.  I'm ready for Spring.

Looks like I'll have to wait a little longer.  We're expecting 18" of snow, and of course we have a gymnastics meet tomorrow.  They never cancel them, and we're usually crazy enough to travel to them along with every other gymnastics mom.  I'm fairly certain with this forecast the meet will be delayed, and hopefully we'll have clear roads to travel.

If not, we will not be traveling.

Wishing everyone in the path of this storm a safe few days.  Stay warm, stay inside and enjoy your families!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Something happened as a result of all the moving stress.  Something odd, and painful.  It's ugly, annoying and it shocked me to the core.

I have bad hair.

Oh, and shingles.

We moved in with my parents over the weekend, and made several (hundred) trips back and forth to our old house for stuff we left behind.  The kids had to adjust.  I had to adjust.  Hubby had to leave Monday morning for a business trip to Arizona.

All was well and good while we were watching the Superbowl.  We were eating and drinking and being merry.  I was happy to be mostly out of our old house, but still a little stressed about finishing up the next day with cleaning and more trips of stuff.

That evening, in between bites of Subway, I asked my mom to look at my stomach.  I thought I was getting hives from being allergic to her dog.

I'm allergic to many animals, but usually not dogs.  They might make my eyes itch but hives are for cats and rabbits and other dander animals.  Still, I took a swig of children's allergy medicine and hit the sack.

After cleaning up Monday morning at the old house, I ran to Target to calm the nerves.  I had strange pains and I was feeling itchy.  I peeked under my sweater and noticed my "hive" was now swollen and red and looked like poison ivy.

What on Earth?

That night I asked my mom to look at my stomach, and now the side of my back.  She gasped.  She told me I have shingles.

Shingles?  Isn't that for old people?

Apparantly, it's not just for "old people."  Yesterday morning, I saw a doctor who confirmed the shingles and told me several times I will be in "a lot of pain."

He looked at me like I didn't understand.  I must have been smiling too much because he told me again about the pain.  I nodded and told him I understood.  He told me to rest, to take my medicine and to see him in three days.  He prescribed awful giant antiviral pills I have to take five times a day.

Yes, five times.  I also have pain medicine and topical cream for these gorgeous rash patches.

This morning, I am understanding more about the pain.  I am taking my medicine, and resting as best I can.

Oh, and my Hubby flew in from Arizona.

What a doll.

I am now off to bed, after taking my medicine of course.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Tale of Stuff

Dear Readers,

Holy Hannah.

What a weekend. 

These past four days have been a moving whirlwind, and I've realized that no matter how much you pack, donate and throw away, there is always stuff left.


And that stuff that is left is the most annoying.  I have made several trips back and forth to my old house to my parents' house (our temperary home) with a trunk full of stuff.  My mother and Hubby have also made these trips.

Shovels, rakes, laundry, toys, luggage, folding balance beams and footballs have all been loaded and unloaded in frigid temperatures.  Our hands have cracked from cleaning chemicals and I haven't dried my hair since sometime last week.

While I'm in the homestretch, I'm going back again this afternoon for a few more items I set aside outside the garage.  

It's the never-ending tale of stuff.

I hate stuff.

Sleeping like a baby,

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Lifestore

This is it.  The mixers are in the box.  We are officially closing up shop.

At breakfast, my oldest was enjoying his frozen waffles when he asked if tonight would be his last sleep in this house.  I told him yes. 

He proceeded to sing "It's the Final Bus ride...." (Final Countdown anyone?)  I didn't even know he knew that rad song from the 80's.

My kids are always amazing me.

As we continued to talk, and I sensed his emotions creeping in again, I told him we already gave ourselves time to cry.  We have to stay positive, think positive and act positive. 

I told him in six years you might be some great quarterback of your high school football team, with college offers from everywhere.  You'll have friends and memories and we'll look back and be grateful.  We never know what life has in store for us, and we have to seek out good things.

After a few moments, in between waffle bites, my baby looked up and said,

"You have to go to the Lifestore, the Lifestore isn't going to come to you."

Genius.  True understanding in a child's words. 

It's time to go to that Lifestore and order up the good stuff, because life truly is what you make it.

Happy Friday all.  Changes are underway in our house.