We had a very busy and exciting month! It was exhausting, but for all good reasons. I’ll just get right into it…
We got a new pup!! As you know, we lost our beloved Koda last September, and our home just hasn’t been the same since. Ryan and the kids would have gotten a new pup immediately, but with the chaos of life, and upcoming winter, and my wild toddler, I knew it was best to wait a little while. After about 6 months (the longest Ryan and I have ever been without a dog), we were ready. We had intense puppy fever, so we started the search of adopting a pup. After several weeks of watching on the Pet Finder website, we came across this precious little Shepard mix about an hour away. We planned to meet up with her foster, and we pretty much knew we’d be coming home with a puppy! We fell in love with her immediately and brought her home that day!
Love at first sight!
Evie has adjusted very well to our home. She is still getting the hang of potty training and learning what is or isn’t an appropriate thing to chew on or bite, but she’s definitely making progress. She is very smart, sweet, energetic, and mischievous. She knows the commands of sit, come, lay down, and with me (heal). Her favorite things to chew on are shoes, socks, and Brody (don’t worry…just his pants. She is a Shepard mix, so we think she is trying to “herd” him!) She loves being outside and finding anything in nature to eat…rocks, leaves, sticks, mulch, you name it. She is an exhausting little thing (especially combined with my already crazy toddler), but we absolutely adore her!
Take me out to the Ballgame!
Baseball and softball season are officially underway. Kinsie and Brax have both had their first games, and their season is off to a great start. Brax had a serious case of the jitters before his first game, but once he started playing, he loosened up and had a great time. Kinsie started out strong and received the game ball at her first game! She was so excited, and she had a whole fan club of family members there to see!
Brody tags along to each game happily…but he’s mainly in it for the snacks!
My parents love coming to the kids’ games, and they try to bring along their cousins whenever they can. The kids loved getting to play together on the playground after one of Brax’s games!
Easter snuck up on us quickly. Between having a new puppy to care for, and preparing for our upcoming vacation, we had to squeeze in all of our Easter festivities into one weekend.
We baked and decorated our Easter cookies…
and we dyed Easter eggs…
On Easter Sunday, we spent the entire day with both of our families. We watched church online in the morning with my parents, then we headed over to Ryan’s aunt’s house for Easter fun. They had an awesome Easter egg hunt, and lots of food and treats. The kids had SO much fun with ALL of their cousins!
Kinsie and her cousins Kerigan and Emery are all the same age. Their birthdays are in September, November and December of the same year, so they have always been very close. When they were only 3 years old, before we moved to Arkansas for residency, they were all on the same soccer team, and their dads were the coaches. This picture comes up on our Timehop every year, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to reenact it! We even all still had their jerseys! So the pictures below are 5 years apart!
The kids had so much fun riding on cars and ATVs and exploring the creek. It was a wonderful Easter!
The Great Outdoors
We are still going strong on our 1,000 Hours Outside goal. Now that it isn’t winter, we try to spend at least a little time outside every single day…and having Evie helps us with that. We have to take her out to go potty often, and she LOVES being outside so she motivates us to be outside more. We love taking her on walks, and the kids love running around with her in the yard.
And I love spending time with my sweet boys while their sis is at school!
We had a LOT of rain this month. It definitely made it tough to potty train a puppy. But whenever we couldn’t be outside, we tried to find things to keep us busy inside.
And drawing the family tree of the Madrigal family from Encanto…
And organizing craft time,
And even making nugget slides on the stairs!
There’s never a dull moment in our house!
We were so excited to get the opportunity to travel back to Disney World and Universal Studios! The last time we went on a week-long trip there was in 2019…pre-pandemic and pre-Brody. In fact, I was about 12 weeks pregnant with Brody, so I wasn’t able to ride a lot of the rides that I love. Now that Brody is old enough to really enjoy it, and the pandemic has improved significantly, we couldn’t wait to go back! When Ryan’s mom sent the whole family a text message asking if we would want to use their time share and make a trip in April, we were all in!
For those of you who have been to Disney lately, you know that you can’t just show up and start riding rides anymore. It takes months of planning…like trying to snag popular dining reservations, syncing up your entire party together on the My Disney Experience app, learning how Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes work, mapping out your general strategy for park days, and making shirts for each park day…ok that last part isn’t 100% necessary, but I’m obsessed with making shirts with my Cricut, so it was necessary for me! But it’s a LOT of work, but definitely worth it! Ryan’s sister Megan and I tag-teamed to prepare for the best trip possible!
Day 1- Traveling and Disney Springs
Our flight was in the morning and was a direct flight, which was really nice not to have to switch planes with 3 kids. We were on the same flight as Ryan’s parents and his brother Nate and his fiance, Kendyl, so it was nice having lots of help with carrying luggage and keeping track of kids! The kids were great on the plane, and we overall had a very smooth traveling experience.
We headed straight to Disney Springs, where we met up with Ryan’s sister Megan, and her husband Tim and son Griffin. I had been trying to get a reservation at the T-Rex Cafe for months, but none became available. After learning some tips and tricks from friends and Facebook groups, I was able to snag 2 tables for all of us on the spot! We loved the experience! It was such a fun environment, and the kids loved watching the dinosaurs come to life and watch the meteor showers on the ceiling.
After eating, we walked around Disney Springs, shopped at the stores, and ate ice cream. Then we went to our condo, unpacked and prepared for our first park day.
Day 2- Disney’s Animal Kingdom
To be honest, I’ve never been THAT crazy about Animal Kingdom…it seemed like a glorified zoo to me. But Ryan and the kids love it so I always went for them. HOWEVER…my opinion on it has changed over the last few visits, and now I absolutely love it! This was our first experience using Genie+ and it worked SO well. We rode all of the main rides we wanted to ride early on, and then got to just relax and explore and try fun foods and drinks, and even ride a few rides for the second time in the afternoon
We loved all of the animals!
Avatar’s Pandora is our FAVORITE area of Animal Kingdom!
We loved the Night Blossom drink in Pandora.
One dining reservation we were able to get early on was lunch at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, which is a character meal. Disney just changed their policy within the last few weeks so that guests can now get close to and hug the characters again! Brody was in a weird mood after his stroller nap, and didn’t love the idea of getting super close to the characters, but he liked watching them and waving to them. The food was wonderful and we had a great meal!
We even got to do a few rides more than once. The kids loved the Triceratops Spin! Kinsie and Brax were both big enough to ride Avatar’s Flight of Passage, which is my favorite! They loved it just as much as I do.This ride is the most popular ride at this park, so we had to buy an Individual Lightning Lane pass for it, but it was worth it! And right before park close, we decided to run back over to Pandora to get in line to ride it again! It was a great way to end the day!
Day 3- Universal Studios Islands of Adventure
Whenever we do an Orlando trip, we always make time for Universal Studios as well. For me, it is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that always brings me back!
Kinsie and Brax are both more into Harry Potter now than they were a few years ago, and have even read the first few books with us, so I loved getting to share these experiences with them. They loved drinking butter beer and getting candy at Honeydukes. Kinsie was tall enough to ride Forbidden Journey, which she loved, and we rode it 3 times! Brax got to ride Flight of the Hippogriff and he was obsessed! Brody wasn’t quite big enough to ride those rides yet, but he was happy as can be with a “chocolate frog” lollipop that Grandma bought him from Honeydukes!
Universal Studios was crowded, and does not have a system like Disney for avoiding lines (unless you get an Express pass which costs an arm and a leg), so we just had to kick it the old fashioned way and wait to ride the rides with lower wait times. We were very efficient with our time, and were able to ride everything we wanted to, and never had to wait more than 30-40 minutes. We even got to ride Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, which usually has a wait time of well over an hour. Ryan got to go on this ride in 2019, but I didn’t because I was pregnant. This time, Kinsie and I both got to ride on it together and we loved it!!
The kids enjoyed seeing characters, and Brax loved the Jurassic Park area! And I am so thankful for Ryan’s parents for hanging out with Brody while Ryan and I went on bigger rides with the big kids!
Day 4- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This is where we went in February, and where Brody had his first Disney experience, so we were excited to go back! Since February, the kids have gotten more into Star Wars, so Ryan was especially excited to explore more of Galaxy’s Edge with them. Right away, when we got to the gate, we could tell it was going to be a crowded day. Somehow, after lots of persistence and constant refreshing of my app, I still managed to snag some Individual Lightning Lane passes for Rise of the Resistance, which is the hardest ride to get into in all of Disney right now! Because the park was so crowded, and everyone was booking their Genie+ passes, ALL of our Genie+ windows weren’t until the afternoon. And all of the rides had way too long of waits to stand in with little kids. So we wandered around a lot and saw some characters and shows.
Brody was hit or miss with characters this trip. He LOVED seeing Olaf, and continuously hugged him and even tried to take him with us as we left the room. He also loved watching Chip and Dale in the courtyard. But he didn’t want to hug Pluto, he was more comfortable keeping his distance!
The first half of the day was tough. It was unbelievably hot and crowded, and it was hard to get anywhere or do anything with the crowds and the long lines. I still am thankful for Genie+ though, because even though our passes weren’t until the afternoon, we were able to ride all the rides we wanted to because of it…just later in the day. Slinky Dog Dash was still a favorite, along with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Toy Story Mania. We enjoyed spending more time exploring Galaxy’s Edge, and got to ride all of the Star Wars rides.
One dining reservation I worked really hard to get was at Oga’s Cantina. It’s a bar-type hangout in Galaxy’s Edge with really fun drinks. We always like to try something different every time we go, and we’re never disappointed! Brody fell asleep right before our reservation, so we carried him in and he napped in the booth while we enjoyed our drinks. We also loved the famous blue milk at Galaxy’s Edge!
One of the highlights of the day for the big kids was building their own droids. Kinsie learned about this during our February trip, and it was all she talked about since! So I made sure to make reservations as soon as I could so she could experience it. And Brax loves all the droids on Star Wars, so I knew he would love it too. It was such a neat experience!
We love Toy Story Land. It is one of our favorite parts of Hollywood Studios. However, it was unbearably crowded during the day. We didn’t get to enjoy it at all…until evening! After droid building and a quick dinner, we had a Genie+ pass for Alien Swirling Saucers, and then we were able to jump in line for Slinky Dog Dash five minutes before park close. It was AWESOME at night! By the time we were off the ride, the park was closed, so we got to walk through Toy Story Land and finally admire it with the beautiful lights and empty walkways. It was glorious!
Day 5- Break Day
After 3 park days in a row, we were ready for our “rest” day. We slept in (as much as my kids do), relaxed in the condo for a while, then went out for a small adventure. I really wanted to see some of the other Disney resorts, and the kids wanted to ride the skyliner. We went to the bus station at Disney Springs, where Brody was in heaven!! He LOVES any and all buses…but Disney buses are his favorite! He was awestruck when he actually got to ride on a Disney bus to the resort!
We went to the Art of Animation resort because I’d seen pictures of it and I knew my kids would love it. Brody LOVED all the Cars statues!
After exploring the resort for a while, the kids were getting hungry and wanting to swim at the resort, so we hopped on the skyliner and took a quick ride to another resort. From there, we took a bus back to Disney Springs, ate lunch, then headed back to our resort.
We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming, playing in the splash pad and floating down the lazy river. It was exactly what we needed! We ate dinner at a restaurant at the resort, then walked around watching ducks, fish, and the sunset. It was a relaxing evening, and gave us the rest we needed before another park day!
Day 6- Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom has always been my favorite. It doesn’t necessarily have my favorite rides, and it is always super crowded and overwhelming, but it is the most magical. I love all the parades, random shows, and the fireworks. I especially love when I get to bring one of my kids for their first trip and seeing the magic through their eyes!
We booked Genie+ passes for the rides we knew would have long waits, but we still had plenty of rides that we were able to just walk right on, or have very short waits. We started our morning riding Small World, Dumbo, The Little Mermaid, and eventually made our way over to watch the Country Bear Jamboree and the Enchanted Tiki Room, which Brody was obsessed with! Magic Kingdom definitely has the most rides that Brody could actually ride, so he loved every minute! We got an Individual Lightning Lane for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and I’m so glad we did because it was really cute! (It’s usually over an hour wait) We fit in SO many rides in one day…and we were able to ride on rides that we haven’t done in years because they usually have too long of a wait. Thank you Genie+!
We were so excited that the Festival of Fantasy parade was back! Watching it with Kinsie and Brax when they were little are some of my favorite memories, and I couldn’t wait to watch it with Brody too. He absolutely loved it…especially Chip and Dale!
We didn’t see a ton of characters outside of the parade and calvacades…mainly because we were so busy hopping on and off rides. We did run into Stitch though and snapped a quick pic!
We ended up using a Genie+ pass on meeting Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater because there was a long line for it all day, and we never got to see him at Hollywood Studios for that same reason. Brody was being really shy again and didn’t want me to put him down, but he enjoyed saying hi to him while in my arms.
Another priority for me this trip was trying more of the unique snacks that Disney has to offer. That was part of all the prep work I did…finding the best snacks! The dole whip was a classic that turned out to still be our favorite!
We watched the fireworks show, and it was absolutely amazing. There are no fireworks like Disney fireworks! This is always the most crowded part of the day, and can often get frustrating…but I tried to stay in the moment and not let rude people get to me and ruin the magic. I will admit, I shed a few tears as I watched the fireworks over Cinderella castle for the first time with my little Brody while he rested his head on my shoulder!
After the fireworks, we still had around 2 hours before the park closed. We had a Lightning Lane pass to use for Splash Mountain since the ride closed down earlier in the day while we were in line. Kinsie opted out of that one, but Brax loved it. Kinsie and Brax also both rode Space Mountain. Brody soon fell asleep so Grandma Bev stayed with him while we did a few more rides with the big kids. We finished the night with Mickey’s PhilarMagic, a 3D show that we all love. When the show was over, the park was closed and everyone was heading out of the park. So I had to snap one more pic in front of the castle since it wasn’t crowded anymore!
14 hours and 30,000 steps later, Braxton was out! Brody and Griffin were already asleep for a little while, so Kinsie was the last kid standing as we left the park around midnight! It was SUCH a busy, exhausting day, but it was absolutely amazing!
Day 7- Universal Studios
Last park day. We were up really late the night before from Magic Kingdom, and Universal Studios was our last stop…and it opened at 8am. So we started our day tired already, but we powered through since it was our last day!
On our first Universal day, the Hogwarts Express broke down right before we were about to ride it to the other park. So we made sure we started our morning at Diagon Alley…my absolute favorite!
The kids also enjoyed seeing the Knight Bus, and seeing Creacher the house elf peek out of the curtains of Number 12 Grimwald Place.
Since the kids are really into Harry Potter, we decided to do the Wand Experience at Olivander’s Wand Shop. Kinsie was chosen to do some spells to find the perfect wand match! A special wand chose her, and she was over the moon! It was such a special experience that she’ll never forget!
We also ate lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, drank more butter beer, and had ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour.
Afterwards, we finally got to ride the Hogwarts Express. Brody is obsessed with cars, trucks, buses and trains right now so he was SO excited to ride the choo-choo! He seriously could not contain his excitement, and he danced and squealed around happily as he waited to ride, and during the entire ride!
We spent the rest of the day riding all of the rides that we hadn’t done yet, and we were completely exhausted by around 4pm. The park closed at 6pm that evening anyway, so we called it an early evening and went back to the condo to relax and get ready to head home the next day.
Disney vacations are always so busy and tiring, but so amazing. We always make so many wonderful memories, and I love experiencing it with my kids at their different ages.
And that was our April! It is hard to believe that it is already May and the kids will be done with another school year soon. Life has seemed a lot more normal for us lately since Covid numbers have been so low, and I’m not going to lie…it feels so nice. Praying that things continue to move in the right direction!
Enjoy our April 1 Second Everyday!