Friday, April 29, 2016

What's New in Disney World 2016

Walt Disney World is constantly evolving.  I feel like I just finish a post and a new Disney renovation is underway.  I’ve been to Disney World over 40 times and even I can’t keep up.  As my teenage son would say #thestruggleisreal.

With more and more to experience on an annual basis, this post is my attempt to “catchup” on all things new and exciting in Disney World for 2016.

Animal Kingdom

The safari is now going to offer rides after sunset.  The Animal Kingdom has long been considered a “half day park” and this is one of Disney’s attempts to keep visitors exploring past 5pm.

A new eatery, Tiffins, is opening this spring. Open for lunch and dinner, this restaurant will offer indoor and outdoor seating with waterfront views.  The menu is inspired by places Disney Imagineers visited while creating and developing the Animal Kingdom.


My heart broke a little when Disney decided to close the Maelstrom ride in Norway and renovate it to create a Frozen themed experience instead.  This year we get to see what that new ride is all about when Frozen Ever After opens in the World Showcase.  While I’m sure I won’t be disappointed I’ll always have a place in my heart for the original. 

Soarin’ is another ride I was hesitant about Disney renovating.  I’m realizing with this post I am not a fan of change.  However, I am thrilled to announce that Soarin’ Around the World opens this summer.  I couldn’t imagine a trip to Disney without a turn on one of my favorites, even if they did change the experience to include new landmarks.

Hollywood Studios

I’m not a Star Wars girl.  I admit it.  However I know there are many Star Wars fans out there, and Hollywood Studios is opening a new experience that will thrill tiny (and adult) clone troopers.  The fireworks and laser show Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is slated to begin this summer.

I can’t even believe anyone had to suffer through a trip to Hollywood Studios and not be able to ride on Toy Story Mania. However, the third track should be finished sometime in 2016 and the ride’s debut is sure to be hit with all ages.

Magic Kingdom

The long running stage show Dream Along with Mickey is being replaced with Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire, which debuts in June.  The new show will feature characters from "Princess and the Frog," "Tangled," and "Frozen" along with classic characters Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy.

Now if I can only get that bakery in Hollywood Studios, The Starring Rolls CafĂ©, to start making my favorite cupcake again all will be right with the world. 

A girl can dream right? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

LifebankUSA: Giving Families Hope Every Day

With my third and fourth children, I seriously considered using a cord blood bank in case we ever needed cord blood in the future. With a large family, I always wanted to do everything I could to ensure we would have what we needed in case of (heaven forbid) a medical emergency.

What I never even considered (or knew about) was placenta banking. Placenta blood is blood from the placenta, and saving it can potentially double the number of stem cells that are preserved. Similar to the stem cells found in cord blood, stem cells found in the placenta blood can be used to treat diseases such as leukemia, certain metabolic abnormalities and inherited diseases of the immune system or red blood cells.

A few more facts about placenta blood:
  • Studies have indicated that transplanting more stem cells can improve transplant success rates. 
  • Preserving more stem cells gives you more options as far as treating more than one disease or family member. 
  • Placenta blood increases other types of stem cells that have shown promise in replacing or repairing damaged tissues and organs. This emerging medical field is called regenerative medicine, and it can involve cases of trauma, disease, congenital defects and more. 
I’ve worked with LifebankUSA before on my blog because I believe so strongly in the work they do every day. They are not just a cord blood bank, they offer placenta banking as well. Since 2006, LifebankUSA has been the only private cord blood bank to offer this service to new parents. As of July 2015, LifebankUSA has utilized 19 placenta blood units for transplant in patients ranging from 3 months old to 45 years of age.

LifebankUSA is saving lives and giving families hope every day. I just read about a little boy named Quentin, who was saved by his newborn sister’s cord blood shortly after her birth. Diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer at four years old, doctors suggested Quentin’s pregnant mother bank the cord and placenta blood of her newborn baby. Quentin was the first ever case of a transplant involving not only cord blood, but placenta blood as well.

More than two years later Quentin is in a continuous state of remission. You can read more about Quentin HERE.

I can’t even imagine being faced with the news my child is sick and would need any kind of transplant. LifebankUSA gives families the opportunity to be prepared if heaven forbid they ever face these kinds of circumstances.

For more information, visit LifeBankUSA's webpage.

Monday, April 18, 2016

No "I" in Team

Lately I feel that the concept of being on, and working as a team, gets lost.  There is so much competition among athletes, students and families that the focus becomes who is the best.  The strongest.  The fastest.  The smartest.

It’s exhausting.

I see with my kids how easy it is to comment about other players on the team.  How all too often parents get consumed with playing time, who is playing well, who isn’t playing enough in every game.  I’m guilty too.  It’s a slippery slope.  We want so much for our kids that we lose what it means to be a TEAM.  To play as a team.  To behave as a team.

There is a kid at school who approached my son to tell him how his dad said my son isn’t a good fielder.  There was more said (unfortunately), but you get the idea.  There is so much about this that bothered me, but what bothered me most is that off the field the concept of team was being ripped apart.  The idea we should all cheer for eachother and encourage eachother was null and void.  It became “let’s sit in the kitchen and talk down about the players” instead of “let’s sit in the kitchen and talk about what’s working.”

It’s poison.  And I know we are all guilty to some degree of the exact same thing that I described above.  I had to remind my son that just because someone said something doesn’t make it true, and his abilities are being attacked to make someone else feel better.

That’s a hard lesson to teach, and now my son looks at this boy’s family like they are out to get him.  Which is pretty distracting when you’re trying to play a game.  All of it is unnecessary, and it reminded me to not to behave in a manner that causes the cycle to continue.

I realized a few years ago that when I just enjoyed the game, and cheered for everyone on it, the experience was more fulfilling.  My kids were happier too.  The focus was on growing as individuals and as a team.  Which is exactly what team sports is all about.

Every player makes mistakes, and every player needs to grow in a different area.  This holds true in school and other activities as well.  We all have our areas of strength and our moments of weakness.  And it isn’t right, especially when dealing with children, to set an example that brings down other children.

We need to build eachother up.  And we need to teach our kids to do the same.  At the end of the day, this isn’t a race.  We can all be winners and support eachother along the way.

This world needs much more “you got this.” Let’s start the trend now.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Chicken and Rice

There are a handful of meals that bring me straight back to my mother's kitchen.

Let me rephrase.

There are a handful of meals that bring me straight back to my mother's kitchen in our old house.  I am in my mother's current kitchen several times a week.

I am one of six kids.  My mother prepared simple, easy, delicious meals and we enjoyed them all-you-can-eat family style.  She had to prepare enough food to feed a small army and it was set out in the kitchen for all to enjoy whenever they cruised through.

My stomach ate itself every time I caught the aroma of this dish cookin'.  I lingered in the kitchen, probably driving her crazy, while I waited for dinner to be ready.

And now, I'm sharing it with you.


This fed our family of 6 and we have leftovers in the fridge.  Makes 4 adult sized servings.

2 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice (NOT Boil in Bag.  I used Minute Whole Grain Brown Rice)
1 lb thin sliced chicken breasts
1 can Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Packet Lipton Onion Soup
Chopped Carrots (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease bottom and sides of 9x13 baking dish.

Spread uncooked rice evenly on bottom of dish.  Top with chicken breasts.
Spread soup over top of chicken.  Fill empty soup can with water and add to dish, using fork to slightly mix in.  Repeat with another 1/2 to 3/4 can water.
Sprinkle soup mix on top.  Add carrots for color if desired.  Cover dish with foil.
Bake at 350 for 60 minutes.  

Savor the meal and enjoy the leftovers!  Happy Friday!

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Empty Egg

Easter was fabulous.  I had time off of work and for some of that time my kids were in school.  It was just what I needed to get my life a little more in order. I stress the words a little.

Every year we try for big holidays.  I love the excitement of egg hunts and baskets, gifts and meals.  We keep the real reason for the season in place, and we add tons of fluff.  We have discussions and the kids know the meaning behind each holiday.

We don’t do much spoiling on a regular basis, which makes holidays and birthdays even more anticipated.  For much of the year if you need it, you get it.  Anything not needed waits until the next birthday or a holiday such as Christmas or Easter.  Gift giving is so much fun when my kids have been waiting for new clothes, shoes and electronics.  For about two months before a holiday even items that may be needed have to wait. 

I love to build anticipation.

For Easter we do big baskets and we have an egg hunt.  The eggs have candies, lotto scratchies, bible verses, jokes, small stamps and toys and of course the almighty dollars.  Even my teenager hunts because everyone hunts when there is money involved. Sugar too. If he gets a stamp or a toy he quickly trades it for money or candy. 

I didn’t raise any fools.

This year, as the kids were popping open their eggs, they were piling their goodies and announcing their treasures.  There is always much discussion about who made out the best, and my older kids try to finagle my younger kids into unfair trades.  

I act as the trade police...

Think that over.  

Is that the best deal he's got?

Wait! You should take all his stamps for that dollar!

When my oldest went to pop open his last egg, it was empty.  He looked confused. We've never had an empty egg in our hunt.  He started with a “Hey! This egg is empty…”

I quickly announced “The tomb is empty! He is risen!”

The kids were quiet.  My oldest thought for a second.  And then I started clapping and cheering the tomb was empty.  The kids joined and my oldest asked if there was a certificate that came with the special, empty egg. 

I'm pretty sure he was kidding, but it made the moment so much more memorable.

We turned a disappointment into a lesson about Easter.  We made nothing into everything in just a few seconds. We turned something that kind of stinks into the greatest moment of our egg hunt.

It was moment that made me realize life is truly what you make it.  Lemons can turn into lemonade with the right attitude. 

An empty egg can turn into the grand prize. 

You just need to look at everything from more than one angle. We get caught in thinking about how much more we need, how things could be different.  We worry about weight we need to lose, floors that need to be cleaned.

Dirty floors are a sign of a lived in house.  Weight may be the sign of many laughs with family and friends around the table. We think we need more money, a bigger house or better clothes.

But more often than not, we have what we need.  What we need the most is a new perspective.  And just when things seem to be NOT going your way, look again.  Maybe they are going the exact way they should be.  

Happy Trails. Make this weekend wonderful!