Vacation Preparation Tips

Did you know that using hand sanitizer does NOT remove allergens from your hands or any other surface? It basically moves the allergen around. The only way to remove an allergen is by washing it away with soap and water or by using a sanitizing wipe.

I’ve started to think about what we’re going to be doing on our vacation and the types of bags I’ll be carrying around with my kids. For day-time I’m going to be doing a lot of walking with them, so I usually pick a light-weight cross body bag so that my hands are free to hold theirs (awwwwwwwe).

If we’re going to be out all day without any stops, I may use a backpack or light weight tote/catch-all to carry some emergency snacks, books, and a change of clothes for them.

Today, we stocked up on safe snacks that are purse friendly. Here’s a classic stand-by for us that I’ll be using on vacation.

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  1. Epi-Pen twin pack
  2. Chewable Benadryl
  3. Individually wrapped anti-bac hand WIPES (I carry a lot of these)
  4. Luna Bar LemonZest flavor is made on a dedicated nut-free line. It also has a lot of good vitamins in it, so I don’d mind if we sub this for a meal/snack.
  5. Mom essentials, lip gloss, cards, keys + phone. This purse has a separate built-in space for credit cards, etc. It’s one of the reasons I chose this bag, it fits all of my Mom Essentials + Allergy Meds and a snack.

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Our trip starts off with a short car ride, no snacks needed. Then we take a train, which will be super fun for my little guy. For the train, we’ll eat some pre-packed snacks before checking into our hotel. Our hotel is aware of our allergies and is quite accommodating. Since we’ll be in a bigger city, our food options should be OK with allergies, although I never take any chances, and will have a full array of stand-by snacks and alternate restaurants to choose from.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something!

Disney Reflection

It’s easy to just assume this was the worst vacation ever and that we will never spend this much money at Disney again. Yes, the latter is true. But, there were some huge moments during this vacation that I will never forget.

  1. We were all a team and never wavered, never fought, never cried. We were adults about every shitty situation that came our way and we dealt with it. How you deal with things sets the standard for children and how they will someday deal with life events on their own. It’s life. Stuff happens.
  2. My kids showed exceptional kindness and caring toward each other while they were BOTH sick.
  3. Magic Kingdom day was AMAZING, and worth every penny.
  4. I will not take my kids back to Epcot or Hollywood Studios until they are teenagers. It’s just not worth it. They enjoy MK so much more.
  5. Everything can be better with coffee or Kim Crawford (white wine).
  6. When in doubt, Kim.
  7. Disney food is pretty darn good and the magic band makes life so stinking easy while on vacation.
  8. “Mom, you hold my hair, I’ll hold yours.” Chloe and I with upset stomachs.
  9. Date night at Epcot was extremely romantical and worth the price of admission.
  10. Girls brunch at Cape May Cafe was wonderful, especially meeting ALL the favorite characters while eating Mickey Mouse waffles!!!!

I’ve eaten so much food this trip that I look like I’m 4 months pregnant. I’m not. Don’t worry. But how can you NOT eat Mickey Waffles and fresh Sushi everyday?! There is something special about them. When in Rome. Back to healthy eating when we get home!

This trip would have been a LOT different if the kids would have been healthy. And for the record, the kids usually do not get THIS sick. We’re talking fevers and lots of vomiting, followed by upper respiratory symptoms. It was the whole ball of wax, totally unexpected. They usually get colds, that at most last a few days, then they are totally fine again, sometimes even the next day. This virus knocked them down. They didn’t leave their beds for days.

We ended up cramming in our Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom days into 3 days in a row, which pooped all of us out, it was too much. Ideally, the way we planned it anyway, was one park every other day, with relaxation on the other days.

There is so much more to see and do than Disney. I think we’re done with Disney for quite a while. If I add up all that we have spent at Disney and the resorts over the past 6 years, we definitely qualify for Disney vacation Club Platinum status. Which makes me sick. Flying to Orlando is easy, and there is a lot to do. Lego Land, Crayola World, Sea Aquariums, Fan Boat Rides through the everglades, the beach. And I wont stay on-site at Disney again. For the price, it’s just too much. We’re staying at Homewood Suites, very close to Disney, for a fraction of the price of a villa at WDW. It was fun, but there are lots of places to have fun at. It’s the people that we’re with that make the trip fun and worth it, not a fancy hotel.

Next trip will be to Mexico. A beach. Dranks. More beach. Sleep. And  kids club. Oh, and health! If you don’t have your health, you have nothing.

Disney Vacation Day 5

When your day starts off with a pina colada, it’s going to be good. It’s has to be. We decided to cancel our reservation today at 1900 Fair at the Grand Floridian due to little man’s virus. He’s improving, but still up a lot at night complaining of “runny nose mamma, runny nose” so he’s not getting the best sleep – and neither are we.

Since Carter looked OK this morning, we went for a walk down the New Balance Running trails over to the sandy (but very fenced in) beach area. The kids took their shoes off and played around in the soft white sand, which was warm.

We then hung out by the pool and had drinks (with coats and scarves on) – the entire place was a ghost town and the bar tender asked us how come we were outside. When I tell them we’re from Wisconsin, there are usually no more questions.

Lunch today was from Wave, a restaurant on the first floor. Seafood is their specialty, although they have a good kids menu as well. The Chef came to our table, she was amazing and talked to Chloe like an adult. Once she settled on her items, we ordered and ate. Which was mildly challenging considering the alcoholic beverage I just gulped.

We decided to give little man some rest, then go to Hollywood Studios.

We took a bus and got there around 3:00pm. Carter was very crabby, cried a lot, and gave me plenty of new gray hairs. After about an hour, I was ready to go home. My patience and disappointment on this trip are mounting. We have spent so much time planning this trip, gearing up for it, making exciting dining reservations, fast pass+ selections, etc., only to have ALL of it cancelled at the last minute. I know he’s sick – there’s nothing we can do about it, but he has NEVER ever been this sick before. The timing is just glorious. Frustrating. I really felt like crying today. Here I thought my biggest struggle and stressor was going to be food and allergy questions, and it’s keeping my other kids fever down instead, an issue I never even considered.

Vacationing as a family is always a gamble. There will always be something – keeping your cool is easier said than done. Although we have all maintained our cool this time . Today I spent a little extra time downstairs alone because of my mood. I have just felt bummed out for Carter especially. We don’t plan on coming to Disney again for a while. It’s really expensive and there is so much of the world we want to show the kids. I’m sad that he wont experience all the things we planned and hoped he would this time. I’m also bummed for Chloe since she was looking forward to doing more than what we have.

Then my Mom comes along, takes carter for ice cream and a walk while we are watching Disney Junior live , and all is good again. We did so much stuff tonight at Hollywood Studios, it was a ball. Kids really enjoyed themselves, and we did too. Wish we could have stayed longer, but 6 hours at the park was long enough for all of us, especially Carter who is still recovering.

Well, the nightly light parade is going on and I’m going to watch from our balcony. Tomorrow is going to be 71 and sunny. Fingers crossed that I can extend our vacation out by a day. I dont want to go home yet. I dont feel like we’ve actually had a chance to “chill” as a family since little man has been so, so, so sick.

Possibly a playground day tomorrow if the kids are tired from today.

Disney Vacation Day 1

No vacation is complete unless someone is either puking, screaming or crapping their pants. This time, puke was how we started our day. We woke up at 5:30 with my little man saying his tummy hurt. We thought he was just hungry. A box of travel cereal later, he seemed fine. Pack up the condo and out the door – our Uber was right on time and drove us to the airport. That’s when up-chuck number 1 happened. In the car. Lovely. Change the wardrobe and bag up the stink. Then we checked into the flight and number 2 occurs. At this point, we decided to delay our flight by 5 hours to see what exactly was going on….
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES WAS AMAZING! TOOT TOOT!

They let us reschedule our flight as many times as needed at NO ADDITIONAL COST and they kept tabs of my daughters nut allergies, too. We thought car sickness might just be the issue, so we had lunch, and seemed OK, back to the airport we go to try again. Everything seemed fine. About 1 hour into our flight, sick again. He handled it like a rockstar, and so did the flight attendants. Over the top thankful for SOUTHWEST airlines and their superior customer service. IT MADE OUR DAY! Plus, since we pre-board due to allergies and wipe downs before others board the plane, they let grandma pre-board too, to keep the family together. Lucky they did, we needed the extra hands today!

We were 6 hours late getting to Disney today, and Magical Express handled it like a boss. Our room was ready and everyone here has been over the top helpful, handing stickers to the kids and buttons to wish Happy Birthday to my little lady. Our safe-snack box arrived a few days ago, and kept us fueled while we unpacked. Our booze box on the other hand broke open and we lost a few bottles of survival.

Tonight we had ladies night since Carter still had a fever and was not looking good at dinner. We checked out 3 shops and a restaurant and topped out night off with NUT-FREE desserts, a RARE FIND. HOMEMADE chocolate chip cookies and ice cream! WOAH! The fireworks from our hotel were amaze! Our view is Magic Kingdom and are within arms reach of Space Mountain. It’s incredible.

Lastly, my daughter has been amazing with all the changes on this trip. From almost cancelling the entire thing, to delaying flights, to not eating at her character dining tonight among a slu of other things. She received a gift card from her Great Uncle David for her birthday. Since little man isn’t feeling well, big sister stepped up big time. She used her birthday gift card to buy him a get well present. Then she bought herself a multi-color pen and made him the most sincere card. This whole trip is for them, and she’s showing so much maturity and selflessness. What an incredible gesture of love for her sibling. I love it.
Tomorrow is another day. We have a fully stocked kitchen and are ready for a delish home-made breakfast. If my sick buddy is better, we will all walk over to the Magic Kingdom. Our fast passes are ready, I pray this is just a 24 hour bug!

Good night!

Nut-free Vacation Planning

Pre-kids, my husband and I had grand expectations of worldly travels with kids in tow eating baby crêpes in Paris and schnitzel in Stuttgart, and Bangers and Mash with a few pints in the UK. Then, reality set in.

Colicy baby, an entire vacation cancelled last minute due to whooping cough. Eventually a nut allergy diagnosis. Bad colds, never ending sick kids. Ear infections on top of ear infections and exhausted parents. We quickly learned that our dreams of extravagant travel were pretty far off in the distance. If we wanted to actually enjoy it, anyway.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, or something.

We have adapted over the past 6 years and have found things that work for us that we consider”fun” travel.

  1. Low key trips “up north” Wisconsin
  2. Visit family 
  3. Kid friendly states; Tennessee + Colorado
  4. Museums and aquariums
  5. State parks
  6. And Disney, for when you’re missing the world and want to feel “fancy”

So that brings me to #6. This year marks our third time to Disney in 6 years. Partly, we love Disney. Mostly, we have severe food allergies, and Disney has it handled, like a boss. 

Today, we logged on to My Disney Experience and selected a few activities, and meal reservations. After choosing the time, restaurant and guests, we were prompted to add food allergy information. We can also view all food menus and allergy information way before we get into the park. Disney also has first aide stations clearly marked incase we come in contact with our allergy. Not to worry, we generally pack 3 twin packs and loads of benadryl.

Today’s post is me tooting Disney’s horn for being over the top excellent about handling our precious children and their various dietary needs. Thank you, Disney, for making this trip the most stress free trip we will take all year. From the Magical Express airport pick up, luggage handling, kid camps, spas and delicious dining, it’s all covered so we can enjoy 100% family time. 

Nut-free at Kalahari

This week, my husband had some work stuff going on at the Kalahari Convention Center and Waterpark and we decided to tag along. As with any over-night stay, my main priority is keeping the kids safe when it comes to food and snacks. The day before we left, I packed a small cooler bag with:

  • mini-bags of Boom Chicka Pop
  • snack size bags of grapes
  • smart water
  • graham crackers
  • honest juice boxes
  • beef jerkey

We arrived at night and immediately took advantage of the arcade and had a delicious meal at Wisconsin Brew Pub.  The staff at the Wisconsin Brew Pub was very attentive to our food allergies. We had:

  • fish + chips
  • macaroni and cheese with fruit
  • the pork pull
  • baked cavatappi

The arcade was amazing – games for all of us. I was a little blown away with how much there was to do, inside as well!  The weather was cold, so having everything indoors was great. Some fun things to enjoy:

  • giant ferris wheel
  • climbing wall
  • ropes course
  • bowling alley (with couches at every lane, YAAAS!)
  • mini-golf
  • big kid arcade games
  • little kid arcade games
  • Carousel
  • bumper boats
  • Race track / go carts
  • WATERPARK!

Our night was full of laughs, games lots of tokens and some really fun prizes at the end of the night.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about being a parent is that “it gets easier” and it doesn’t. Every age, every stage will come with its own set of challenges. Granted, a 5 year old is pretty self sufficient and needs a lot less care than a 3 year old. Our kiddos thought it would be fun to snuggle Mom and Dad, meaning we each shared a bed with one of our kids. This was a horrible idea and the reason why I ALWAYS book a suite, or two rooms so that we all have our own beds. The kids were windmills and my hubs and I got kicked all night long!!!  Needless to say, it was a LOOOONG night of barely any sleep.  The kids were up at the crack of dawn, yes, of course! There was a waterpark that needed us! I wasn’t ready to get up, but sharing one hotel room, I don’t have many options. We loaded up the car and got a swim bag ready.
We decided to have breakfast in the room, I had brought some travel size safe cereal boxes.

The waterpark rocked and the kids were eager to dry up and go check out another arcade, playhouse and Kalahari Kids Craft area.

It was lunch time when we decided to attempt a meal at another resort restaurant. We visited Ingraffia’s Pizza Kitchen. We learned that the pizza is made 100% in-house and nut-free. In fact, there are no nuts in this restaurant. They also had Enjoy Life brand (top 8 allergy free) cookies, chocolate bars, chips, and trail mixes available for purchase. The beverage option was impressive, and the kids enjoyed their very first ICEE smoothies.

We had a great time and we can’t wait to go back!

I thought this was interesting:

Believe it or not, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions all started with pizza.

In 1983, Owners Todd and Shari Nelson opened what would soon become an icon within their hometown of Wisconsin Dells, WI:Pizza Pub. With a work ethic second to none, they quickly became the largest producer of quality pizza as well as the number one pizza delivery service in the community. Hard work, determination, high-quality ingredients, and an impeccable attention to detail became the foundation for the family’s success. From Pizza Pub, to the first Indoor Waterpark Resort in the Country, The RainTree Resort, and ultimately Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – It truly all started with pizza! We invite you to try this delicious pizza here that feature patented sauce and cooking process only available on the award-winning Pizza Pub Pizza. Enjoy a slice of history.

First Independent Play Date

When you have a child with life-threatening food allergies, leaving your child alone, for any amount of time, is anxiety provoking. Luckily for us, Chloe’s friends and their families have all been amazing and over the top careful about her food allergies. Here’s what we did to prepare for this HUGE step of independence for her:

  1.  We decided to invite her new friend over to our home first. This allowed us to talk as a family with her friend and her family about our serious food allergies. This conversation was a great ice breaker and allowed us to talk openly about many things parents have concerns about.
  2. After the first play date at our home, Chloe had her first play date at her friends house.

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. Chloe was over the moon excited. I was trying to stay optimistic the entire time – she was so happy to see her friend. Suddenly, I remembered the conversation that I had wanted to have with her before we left regarding nuts. She had NO IDEA what nuts actually looked like – she definitely knew the names of the nuts that she’s allergic to, but she’d never actually seen a walnut, pistachio, shelled peanut, cashew. We jumped online and saw a few pictures together before packing her purse with a safe snack, EpiPen and Benadryl.

Once I dropped her off, I didn’t go home. I couldn’t. It felt to far. Instead, I opted to do some grocery shopping nearby and check my phone every 5 minutes. It’s hard. It’s hard knowing your child has this life-threatening allergy and leave them in the care of someone else, even though I trust them immensely. I have seen my daughter have two episodes of anaphylaxis. We know for a fact that her allergies are serious. Life-threatening. She swells up and is unable to breathe if she comes in contact with these foods.

Cross-contamination happens so easily and if you’re not “in it” — in the allergy world, reading all the labels, communicating with the manufacturers, realizing that not all labels are created equal and peanut free does not mean nut free, just knowing all these silly allergy rules! I’d much rather spend my time reading ANYTHING other than damn food labels and websites! But for now, my daughter depends on me to know these things in order to keep her safe. And I will. Forever, even when she’s grown, help her understand her allergy and manage it as safely and effectively as possible.

She rocked her first independent play date, like I knew she would. She had fun with her friend, and that’s what mattered.