Even though summer does not officially end for another month, the beginning of September always marks the end of summer in my mind. Children are going back to school, leaves are beginning to change, stores are putting up fall displays and that carefree spirit of summer sort of fades away.
I was going through pictures on my phone last night and simultaneously filling out next month’s calendar in my planner. Like I do at the end of each month, I took a little time to mentally take stock of what we had accomplished, experienced and learned in that time. For a second, I was a little sad that the entire summer went by with no “big” trips, parties, projects, etc. We had a new baby which is HUGE, of course, but doesn’t fall into the realm of “things we normally do in summer” that I felt we had somehow missed this year.
After flipping through a few more photos, I felt ashamed that I had even let those fleeting thoughts of “not good enough” enter my mind because this summer was actually perfect. It was made up of a million little moments. These little moments that I often dismiss too quickly as unimportant are what life is all about. These are the times that I will miss when my babies are no longer babies and we live in another house or a different city.
I have a bad habit of getting caught up in making lists of things to accomplish and plans for future travel, projects and goals. I sometimes waste the now in the distraction of planning the later. While there is nothing wrong with making plans and reaching for different experiences, I am realizing more and more how truly beautiful each and every day can be.
So I am making a different sort of list today. It won’t be my usual list of things to try, make, bake, discover, see and do. Instead I am listing the tiny, little, boring, everyday things that made my summer one of the best yet!
conversations with my two year old
fresh home cooked meals
ice cream, yogurt and popsicles
evening walks by the water
puzzles and pirate everything
brunch dates with new friends
lunch dates with old friends
dinner dates with my best friend
exploring local museums
mornings at the library
watching my little ones bond
lots and lots of baby snuggles
I am sharing this post at Jenna’s Coffee Date! Happy Friday!
When I started planning our most recent Disney trip, I knew I wanted to spend a day at Animal Kingdom. We skipped it last year because we were traveling with our one year old and did not think it was a great park for a baby. I had the same doubts about taking a two year old, but I had not been to that park since college and really wanted to experience it again.
I loved it in the past, but I remembered it being extremely hot with lots of walking and little shade. Also the most memorable ride was Expedition Everest which obviously was not suitable for a pregnant lady or a toddler. I began to research and found a few blog posts and touring plans that convinced me Animal Kingdom was completely doable with a little one. They were right! We all had a blast, but we did learn a thing or two that we will use to adjust our plan a bit on our next trip when we will have a toddler and a baby … yikes!
Tip #1 Beat the heat! This is true for all Disney parks, but I feel like Animal Kingdom is especially hot and sunny. Arriving early was a big help since the morning was cooler and less crowded than the afternoon. We used the same gear this year in April that we used last year in June to keep our little one cool and comfortable. We packed a soft cooler with iced water bottles and snacks. We popped into gift stores as often as possible to cool down for a second and reapply sunscreen in the air conditioning. Opting for a sit down lunch that day rather than a quick service or snack stand was also a nice way to spend an hour indoors in the middle of the day.
Tip #2 Make a Plan! A touring plan is always important at Disney. It is absolutely necessary during crowded times. (This trip in April was actually just as crowded as last year’s week in June.) You save so much time and frustration by planning out your day to avoid long lines, crazy heat and exhausted family members. We used this plan as a guide for our day but tweaked it a bit. There are so many great plans available on blogs and Pinterest. I suggest using one of those to start with even if you know a lot about Disney just to save time planning.
We headed straight to Kilamanjaro Safaris just like the list said. There was no line, and we didn’t have to waste a Fastpass. Plus it was cool and early, so lots of animals were on the move. We also followed her instructions for seeing the Lion King show which resulted in a short line and great seat! Our two year old loved the show, but he did get a little antsy toward the end. It is a while for them to sit still on a bleacher or in a parent’s lap. After that show, we decided to skip the Nemo show that was on our itinerary since we didn’t want to push it with him sitting still for that long again. Which leads me to the next tip …
Tip #3 Be flexible! I am a crazy planner and cannot vacation without a typed out itinerary of each day. That drives my husband up the wall, but it is just how I roll. With that being said, I have learned the hard way too many times now that with a little one sometimes you just have to let. it. go. Their moods change, they get tired of the stroller, they need to potty at the worst times and there are loads of unplanned snack breaks. You still need a plan, but you have to be willing to bend and break it without turning into a “stress ball” as my husband lovingly refers to me.
We had lunch at Yak and Yeti because we wanted to experience it after reading so many wonderful reviews and also because we knew we would need that break from the heat and sun. It turned out to be one of the highlights of our day. The atmosphere, food and service were all fantastic! Our little one cleaned his plate while we cooled off with a lovely second story view of the streets of Asia.
I walked in the sit down pizza place to use the restroom. From that experience, I recommend opting for one of the other sit down restaurants. It was loud, wild and spilling over with adrenaline pumped kiddos. Yak and Yeti is kid friendly for sure but geared more toward adults which is always our preference for a lunch that doubles as a restful break in the day.
The best rides and attractions for toddlers at Animal Kingdom:
Kilamanjaro Safaris – This was possibly the highlight of my son’s entire week! He loves animals, and he got to see so many up close and personal while riding in a really cool open air vehicle!
Festival of the Lion King – I can’t say enough about how fantastic this show is! Don’t miss it, but be aware that the seating is on bleachers, strollers are not allowed inside and the show is a little long for the attention span of some toddlers.
Finding Nemo – We missed this show this trip, but I have seen it before and think it would be great for most toddlers.
Triceratops Spin – This is A.K.’s version of the Dumbo and Aladdin rides in Magic Kingdom. It is dinosaur themed and located in the section of the park that is carnival themed which I thought was loud and a little tacky but my son loved!
Wildlife Express Train – The train ride to Rafiki’s Planet Watch was exciting for my son and a nice break for Mom and Dad. (You have to leave your stroller at the train station or fold it up for the ride. Our child was sleeping when we needed to board the train, so that was a bit of an inconvenience. Try to time this ride when your little one is awake.)
Rafiki’s Planet Watch – This is a beautiful area of the park. Even though some of the exhibits were over my two year old’s head, he loved running around and exploring and was able to meet Rafiki and Chip and Dale. There is a fantastic petting zoo too! Petting and brushing the goats was one of his favorite activities of the day.
Pangani Forest Exploration Walking Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek – Animal kingdom is Disney’s version of a zoo, which obviously translates to best zoo ever! The animals and habitats are top notch, and the walking trails are shaded and beautiful!
Everyone must get a photo in front of the iconic Tree of Life. It is truly magnificent, but I have to admit, our two year old did not appreciate it at all. There are several spaces throughout the park where adults should take the time to admire the landscaping and theming. The global flair and lush vegetation make this park one of my favorite spots to slow down and just soak up the atmosphere.
Have you been to Animal Kingdom with a tiny tot? What was your experience?
Creating : A DIY planner. I am addicted to a paper planner. I tried using my iphone for a while, and I just can’t do it. My paper one runs out in July every year and instead of ordering an Erin Condren this year, I am attempting to put together a DIY version from free printables. I have loved my EC ones in the past, but I find myself needing something even larger with different pages than they offer at this stage of life, so we will see how this goes!
Wishlisting : Fall clothes. I know it is early, especially since it is 100 degrees here, but I can’t control myself from at least looking at boots, bags and long cardigans. I am in the middle of a big closet overhaul and looking forward to building a non-maternity capsule collection for the upcoming season. These are three fall looks I am especially excited to try out!
Hoping : To get back to the pool soon. Since baby number two arrived, we have had to put our favorite summer activity on hold. Now that he is 8 weeks old and I am feeling back to normal, I may try to squeeze into a suit and hit the water in the early mornings before it gets too hot for him to nap in the shade.
Eating : Out. We have been out to dinner more than usual lately. This is mostly due to the truth of not being adjusted to life with two children. At 8:00 when dinner is not on the table, we have to eat something! We have also had lots of grandparents, aunts and uncles around lately who are more than willing to watch the littles while we get away for an hour or two. We are beyond grateful for those times! We finally got around to visiting Seafood Revolution last month. If you are local, it is a must try – gorgeous atmosphere and incredible menu!
Watching : Too much Netflix. Feeding, rocking and getting to know a new baby requires a lot of time indoors. It has been the perfect excuse to watch some new shows and catch up on old favorites. I have been especially enjoying these two British shows both set in department stores, Mr. Selfridge and The Paradise.
I am sharing this post at Anne and Jenna’s Currently linkup!