Toddler Disney World tips what when and how

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Toddler Disney World Tips

Thinking of taking a baby or toddler to Walt Disney World?  Use these tips for taking a toddler to Walt Disney World to help turn your stress to the start of making the magic happen!

Toddler Disney World Tips #1 – What to Bring:

Your own stroller – If you are flying, gate check the stroller so you’ll have someplace safe to keep your little one comfortable while you wait.  The basket underneath will also allow you to store a carry on item or diaper bag so you’ll have your hands free at the airport.  Having your own stroller at Disney will give your tiny traveler a familiar surrounding, and possibly more comfort.

Carry-on:  Bring a bag with a supply of diapers/wipes; changes of clothes for an accident; bathing suit; sunscreen; hat; food items or medicines that might be needed until bags are delivered or in case they are lost.

ONE:  Favorite toy/stuffed animal

A Ziploc baggie with a few washing machine tablets/pods – just in case you need to do laundry.

Toddler Disney World Tips #2 – Ship Down or Deliver:

To save room in your luggage or in the car – ship a box to your resort ahead of time with diapers, wipes, powdered formula, extra supplies.

Toddler Disney World Tips








Address it to your resort, but include your name and “Arriving Guest” with the date of your arrival.  The resort will store it until you arrive, and you won’t have to worry about taking up precious luggage space with essentials.  You’ll use most of this stuff up before you go home, so you won’t have to save space – buy those souvenirs!

You could also use a service like Garden Grocer.  This grocery delivery service will shop for the supplies you need and drop them off right at your hotel.


Toddler Disney World Tips #3 – Baby Care Center:

Located in each park, these are air conditioned, comfortable areas where you can attend to all of your little one’s needs.  Changing tables, high chairs, and a room for nursing mothers can be found here, as well as a microwave for quick heat up for your toddler’s meal.  You can also buy forgotten items like diapers, formula, and baby foods.  Moms and Dads can use the centers, and there is a place for older kids to watch cartoons while you tend to your tot.

Toddler Disney World Tips #4 – What Not to Bring:

High chairs, pack and plays, bed rails – all are available upon request at no additional charge at your resort/restaurants

Every toy you own – you’ll be in the parks most of the time, and not likely to need many things to play with – but do bring a favorite sleeping buddy.

Other Suggestions:

Stick to a schedule – eat when you do at home; try to remember bedtime and nap time if your kids have one. When making your FastPass+ reservations, avoid times when your little one is likely to prefer napping or eating.

Don’t force them to go to the characters if you sense anxiety – you’ll end up paying for therapy in years to come!


Gleam by Melanie Mills Review

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Gleam by Melanie Mills logo


Testing out new makeup is always such a treat, but when you find one that you are thrilled to add to your makeup bag – well, that’s a winning day!

Gleam makeup

I was thrilled to test the Body Radiance, Body Dust, and Lip Radiance products.  The Lip Radiance, in Pop My Cork color, was a light pink, perfect for the light skin tones on the makeup wearers in our house.  It’s creamy and offers great lip coverage that was long lasting.  The color was subtle, great for any skin tone, and doesn’t bleed – I LOVE that!

Lip Radiance by Melanie Mills

Body Radiance, which I tested in light gold, added a beautiful glow – like you would see on your cheeks after a breezy day on the beach.  You can really use this on any part of your body, and the color it adds to your shoulders and chest with a tank top or sundress looks amazing.

Body Radiance by Melanie Mills

To cap off this beauty trio, I was also able to sample Radiant Dust.  This light gold loose powder added the perfect look to cheeks, nose and forehead – again, a sun kissed delicate glow.

Body Dust by Melanie Mills

The Body Radiance and Radiant Dust are so versatile!  You could easily replace your blush or use it to highlight your brows in place of eye shadow.  The Body Radiance would be perfect – even going into the warmer fall weather – in place of wearing panty hose.

After seeing it on me, my daughter immediately wanted to try the Gleam by Melanie Mills products.  She is an occasional makeup wearer, and the light feel really appealed to her.  We’ve decided this will be our go to line for her upcoming role as Alice in her school production of Alice in Wonderland.  It will be gorgeous under the lights!

Gleam makeup 5

Learn more about this great line – and possibly win some of your own!  Drop in on the upcoming Gleam by Melanie Mills Twitter Party – October 8th at 9 PM Eastern.  There will be prizes and gift cards!  #GleamGirl and #Gleamalicious  You can also visit

*Disclosure:  I received sample sizes of this product for free for the purposes of this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  

Monk Fruit In the Raw #InTheRawParty

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As a “recovering” diabetic, thanks to gastric bypass surgery, I am always looking for a sugar substitute that tastes good and isn’t loaded with bad for you chemicals.  I was so thrilled to be offered the opportunity to host a Monk Fruit in the Raw party!

Monk Fruit in the Raw

What is Monk Fruit?  Grown on a vine called luo han guo in China and Thailand, the fruit kind of looks like a melon, but the flavor is said to be 500 times sweeter than sugar.  It is used in Eastern cultures to boost immunity and stave off cravings for sugary snacks.  The fruit is the basis for Monk Fruit in the Raw, a new zero calorie sweetener.

Monk Fruit in the Raw gift package

I figured the best way to really test out the Monk Fruit in the Raw was to invite friends and family over for a cookie tasting event.  Desserts are a huge thing for me, and we try in our house to make our desserts healthier choices or options that have lower amounts of sugar.  The kids get a little frustrated with the frequent offer of a fresh fruit bowl or sugar free popsicle or pudding for dessert, but I’ve had hit or miss success with baked good and artificial sweeteners.

Baking using Monk Fruit in the Raw

Fear no more, my sugar deprived children!  My homemade with Monk Fruit in the Raw cookies were a HUGE hit!  I did three kinds of cookies – white chocolate macadamia nut, oatmeal raisin, and chocolate chip – and there wasn’t a cookie left in the house at the end of the party.
Cookies made with Monk Fruit in the RawThanks to a pre-party taste test, I had the courage to try the Monk Fruit in the Raw in a handed down family recipe for Irish soda bread.  Because the sweetener is much sweeter than sugar, I was worried about measuring the right amount for the bread, which is a barely sweet bread, but it turned out positively perfect!

Irish Soda Bread made with Monk Fruit in the Raw


Guests were delighted with all of the treats, and we then broke open a box of the sweetener packets to use i coffee and tea.  Reviews were somewhat mixed.  The “fruity” taste some people noticed in their drinks didn’t seem to be prevalent in the baked goods, but some guests conceded that the fruity taste might have been a result of a flavored coffee.

Guests with their Monk Fruit in the Raw tote bags

Overall, the sweetener was well received.  Not a crumb was left of any of the desserts, and no one complained of an aftertaste or chemical taste that they said they often find obvious with other artificial sweeteners.  Many have said this is now going to be their new on the table sweetener!

Monk Fruit in the Raw in coffee and tea

You can learn more about Monk Fruit in the Raw by visiting

*Disclosure – I was offered free samples of Monk Fruit in the Raw products for the purposes of hosting this party.  All opinions expressed here are my own.


Trendy New Place to Get Your Organics – Costco

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Recently, a brand new Whole Foods Market opened up near us.  We have one about 30 minutes away already, and we’ve never gone in.  Honestly, we can get most of our organic needs met at Wegman’s, where we do our regular shopping, but we thought we’d take a peek at the new Whole Foods, since we pass it so often.

Nearly $60 later, we emerged with that new store smell fresh in our noses, our eyes all a gleam from the new store shine, and items in our grocery bag (yes, $60 at Whole Foods gets you one bag of groceries) that I feel like we could have purchased elsewhere for cheaper.

You’ll never guess where that “elsewhere” was.


Costco 2

With a recent decision to try and eat more organically, either in our own garden or in our shopping, it never occurred to me that my frequent trips to Costco put so many organically produced items right at my fingertips.  You will pay a little bit more for the organics at Costco, but compared with the items I found in Whole Foods, Costco is still a better bet for my family.  A dozen cage free organic eggs at Whole Foods will set me back about $5.  For $7, I can get two dozen at Costco.


It doesn’t end with produce – of which there is plenty.  In addition to the bananas, the salad mix, even frozen fruits – I can find peanut butter, pasta, and ice cream bars.  And the prices for the items, while higher than buying Costco non-organic, are easily cheaper than the things I saw at Whole Foods.

Costco 3

Costco is really trying hard to make itself my one stop shopping locale.  I do love seeing so many organic options there.  But I’d miss Ralph, the butcher at Wegmans.

How Long Is a Moment? What Today’s Kids Think of 9/11

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Part of my job at the elementary school where I work is to go from classroom to classroom to teach writing workshop to the children.  Today, on September 11th, when our principal came over the PA system to ask for a moment of silence to commemorate the 9/11 tragedy, I happened to be in kindergarten.

“Why do we have to be silent?”


“How long is a moment?”


“Neveah isn’t wearing red, white, and blue.  Does she have to be silent?”


“I have to go to the bathroom!”

“I got a Slurpee once at 9/11.”


The children in the class are four and five years old, and when the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred in this country, many of their parents were still in high school.  Some were even in middle school.  These children were not even a glimmer in anyone’s eye when the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took place – the most heinous terrorist attack on American soil in the history of our country.

So what does it mean to these kids?

Remember when you were in school, and they talked about Pearl Harbor?  The Kennedy Assassination?  Vietnam?  They were events in your history book, things your parents or grandparents talked about in terms of remembering where they were.  But to you, they were the things you learned to pass the Social Studies test.

My own nine year old asked me today what 9/11 was.  They didn’t discuss it in her school except on the morning announcements, where they told students if they were feeling sad or afraid, they could go to a teacher, a counselor, or a parent to discuss their feelings.  Granuaile didn’t know if there was something she should be sad or worried about.  It’s not that we have never discussed it with our kids, but we’ve never made it so that it seemed like an ongoing, fear inducing concern.  It happened, it was terrible and sad, but you’re safe.  I’m not even sure we gave it the name “9/11″.

Already, with the image of the first plane hitting the first tower still burning and painfully raw in our minds, these kids are too far removed to feel the pain we feel.  Many of us had brothers and sisters, friends and other family members, people we knew and loved lost on September 11th, but for a kid in elementary school today, the sadness they feel is equivalent to the sadness they’d feel over a great-great grandparent’s passing years before they were born.  Which is to say, none.

So what are we supposed to do?  How do we keep the memories honored and alive without imposing our sadness and concern?  We tell the story, we keep the photos and the memories we have of those we loved and lost ready to share, and we tell them they’re safe, whether we believe it or not.

And then we take them to 7-11.  For a Slurpee.



Happy Birthday Brighid

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It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. ~Joyce Maynard

My oldest child turns 23 in an hour and a half.


22 was a year of big things for Brighid – not always good things, but big things.  She spent most of the year living away from home, learning the good and the bad about running a home, paying bills, and struggling to balance everything.  She also moved back home, swallowing a bit of pride, learning how to share with sisters and do chores all over again – teetering between being a real grown up and a grown child.  She made changes in her career goals, altering her educational plans so that she ends up graduating a full semester sooner.  She lost – then found – love.  She made genuine re-connections with friends, and made genuine new friends that have become increasingly important in her life. She has gone from informed and interested voter to informed and invested candidate.  She may have even made one or two decisions on her own about what to wear when she’s going out.  That alone brings a tear to my eye.

Honor Cadet

As we begin her 23rd year together, I see things differently than I did a year ago.  I see a more determined, more sure person than I saw at age 22; one who seems to have found a path she’s comfortable on and convinced she can navigate.  She seems certain about the goals she’s set and her ability to achieve them.  She has fewer questions and more answers.  When she asks my advice, is not so she can go against it; it’s because she might actually benefit from it.


Then I finally realized what it was I was seeing.  As Brighid has grown, so have I.  I’ve evolved as a mother, and without babies in the house, I can see these kids as they truly are – their personalities, quirks, and their individual brilliance.  I recognize them equally as people and as my daughters.  I am at the same time both awed by them and impressed with them.  With each passing birthday, they grow; I grow; the vision we have of each other grows.

Each birthday is a milestone – bittersweet to be sure, but growth always is.  Gone are the beautiful babies I rocked to sleep, but they have been replaced with these amazing, incredible people I am so grateful to know – grateful to be a part of.

These are my daughters, I suppose.
But where in the world did the children vanish?
~Phyllis McGinley, “Ballad of Lost Objects,” 1954

Happy birthday, Brighid.  I am as excited for the accomplishments I know you will achieve as I am proud of the ones you’ve already earned.  Love you!

Paul Ryan


Appreciate What You’ve Got

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Jim and I were riding in the car listening to Comedy Central Radio, and comedian Katt Williams was talking about how important it is to appreciate what you’ve got in life.  It kind of hit home for me because I dropped the ball on two Facebook gratitude challenges – not because I don’t have things I’m grateful for, but in part because I almost feel guilty talking about the things I’m grateful for.



We’ve been so fortunate in our life together.  But we’ve faced challenges – for sure.  I remember when Brighid was just home from the hospital after a month in NICU, and Jim lost his job.  Then our insurance company decided that since our preemie was on room air after four days, they weren’t going to pay any medical bills beyond that point – despite the fact that at four days old, she weighed just barely over two pounds.  Gotta love an HMO.  We were literally down to our last cents when we were approved for a gas station credit card.  While certainly not the cheapest option, it allowed us to grab a few packages of diapers and wipes, a gallon of milk and some eggs, and it helped us let by until we got on our feet.

I’m so grateful for that time in our lives.  After freaking out over being new parents to a sick baby and worrying about where the paychecks would come from, we somehow managed to use creative thinking to get us through.  And oh my gosh, how I appreciated being able to go into Babies ‘R’ Us a few weeks later to buy a case of diapers!


I think part of the reason Jim and I work after more than 25 years together is because we do appreciate what we have.  We’ve lost so many people that were close to us – both of our dads, my sister, close friends – it gives us an appreciative perspective on the time we have with the people we love.  We’ve been a step ahead of dirt poor, and learned to appreciate the luxury of a $5 pizza and a free movie rental.  And when life has been good and we’ve been able to do things like cruises, trips to Europe, and cross country vacations, not only are we grateful for those opportunities, but there is an appreciation for the ability to provide those opportunities to our girls.

So this is my apology to those of you who challenged me to find three things I was grateful for three days in a row.  I cannot think of one thing in my life for which I am not grateful – the good, the bad, the God awful.  I’d need more than three days and three things – and I’m grateful to you for understanding how tough a challenge it was for me!


Ferguson – What Can Be Done?

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You have undoubtedly heard of the chaos going on right now in Ferguson, Missouri.  An unarmed 18 year old man – Michael Brown – was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson.  Due mostly to the opaque manner in which the investigation has been handled, the atmosphere has continued to deteriorate into what can best be described as civil unrest.

Michael Brown

Why?  What happened in Ferguson that hasn’t happened in other places throughout our country where similar incidents have occurred?  There were no riots over the Trayvon Martin decision in Florida.  So far, no riots have broken out in New York City, where Eric Garner was recently killed by a police officer who used a prohibited choke hold to subdue Mr. Garner.

What has happened is people are tired.  They are tired of African American boys being victimized by police departments all over this country.  I know, I know – Michael Brown wasn’t an innocent in this.  Trayvon’s own mother has said he wasn’t an angel.  Eric Garner was known for selling illegal cigarettes.  But honestly – what is the crime that warrants the penalty of an execution?  Is it stealing $48 worth of cigars?  Is it selling loose cigarettes for a few extra bucks to feed your family?  Are those acts that should be punished?  Sure.  With death?  No.  But that’s what these people got – death.

And it’s not just these incidents.  As I type, they are reporting another black man near Ferguson has been shot by police for allegedly brandishing a knife.  On scene reports are mixed – some eyewitnesses claim he was behaving erratically, but had no weapon; police claim he was armed and attacking.  We don’t get an answer in a lot of these cases as to which side of the story is true, but it should be obvious to anyone with eyes capable of reading the news that African American men and boys have way bigger targets on their backs than anyone else in our population.

Michael Brown 2

So how do we fix things in Ferguson?  I’ll tell you what I think.

1 – Those kids need to get back to school.  Schools there are cancelled at least until next Monday.  These are inner city kids who are more likely to get involved in the nightly fracas because they DON’T have school than they would be to get harmed if they did have school.  Put some sense of normalcy and a schedule back in place.

2 – Release the results of the initial autopsy and any tests done on the service weapon used to kill Michael Brown.  There are stories that claim Michael attempted to relieve the officer of his weapon in a vicious struggle that left the officer injured.  Others are claiming the officer shot at Michael for no reason.  Somewhere in between lies the truth.  No one will know what that truth is because the Ferguson police haven’t released any information.  It’s almost like they know they have something to hide.

3 – Immediately remove all law enforcement responsibilities from the Ferguson police department.  Put every member of the department on paid leave until an investigation of this entire incident has been completed.  And then, determine which members of the force deserve to have their jobs back.  This is not the first incident in Ferguson.  Five years ago, a DUI suspect was beaten by police officers while in custody, then charged with criminal counts of destruction of property for bleeding on the officers’ uniforms.  Do I know if his injuries were sustained due to an altercation between the suspect and the officers?  I do not know those circumstances.  But really?  Charging the man with bleeding on you?  Ummmm, no.

4 – Appoint community liaisons.  When I lived in Philly, we had “block captains”.  There should be someone in the community who has the ability to attend meetings, receive information, and has the ability to reach out to some member of law enforcement with concerns and questions.  There has to be a positive flow of communication, trustworthy law enforcement officials, and the encouragement of participation in the community by all members of the city of Ferguson.

Michael Brown 3

5 – Cultural competence training for all city officials and law enforcement officers.  In an African American community, you should have a department that has some sort of training for officers who are NOT members of the African American community.  In the words of my middle schooler, “You don’t know their life; you don’t pour their cereal.”  How can you expect to be successful communicating with someone whose language you don’t understand?  You can’t.  If I dump you in the middle of Afghanistan and tell you to make friends and get along, you’re going to struggle.  If I dump someone from South Florida in Alaska in the middle of winter and tell them be a successful member of the community, they won’t know how.  There has to be some sort of training.

I hope the end is near for the violence in Ferguson.  I pray the family of Michael Brown gets justice and answers in his death.  I hope the mother of Michael Brown knows how much my heart breaks for her, and I hope she knows that his death was not in vain.  Things will change because of what has happened to Michael Brown.  They have to.