Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


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Flashback Posting Part 3

A few days ago, I came to the conclusion that some people might not know the history behind my family.  I think history is important.– Especially once I start blogging about museums and education adventures…you guys are going to wonder why all of that is so important to my family.

And, I was struggling…feeling disconnected from my blog…

My husband suggested I write about it all.  So, I am.

I wrote 2 other flashback postings to get you all caught up.  You should read #1 here and #2 here.  It will help.

Then I realized…I should have started at the VERY beginning.

Because, naturally, the best place to start is the beginning.  The ordinary beginning.  (Wishing this part was a little more exciting…sorry!)

I hope all of this background info isn’t too snoozer.

Born and raised in Texas…I am the oldest of three girls, mom and dad are still married, and I will be 45 in April.  YIKES!  As a family, we traveled to Disneyland and Walt Disney World so many times that no one kept count!  (FUN!) 

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That’s me on the left, my sister on the right.  (The matching shirt obsession seed was planted WAY back then!)

Pretty Ordinary.

I enjoyed public school in a small suburb of Houston and graduated from  high school in 1991.  Academic successes certainly did NOT fill my college applications.  I possessed leadership qualities, won a few art contests, led the dance drill team as the top officer.  Pretty ordinary stuff.

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NEVER been a math person.  Never really enjoyed reading…embarrassing to admit…I always picked up the Cliff Notes right before the book test.  I am super ordinary.

Study skills were a foreign concept until my senior year, when I joined a supportive study group and actually LEARNED how to study for a government test.  I greatly enjoyed the social aspects of high school and pushed the academic focus to the back burner, obviously.

Ready to start a new life and identity, I chose my college based on how far it was from home–without a campus visit or researching the majors offered.  I didn’t even know people visited colleges or that different degrees were attainable at different universities.

The first time I saw my college was the day I moved into my dorm.  Six days later, I met a guy and we started dating.  ORDINARY!  Two years after that, I was blessed with a surprise pregnancy and my son changed everything.

But, don’t assume anything…this is where MY real journey begins.

Four years later, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, a focus in Studio Art and a K-12, all-level teaching certification and became an art teacher.

 

VERY short version of my ordinary life.  🙂

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WAS an ordinary, single mom with a son and a career as an art teacher.

My son???  Well… he lined up his Matchbox cars by color and body design and the collection would stretch from his room to my bedroom in our tiny apartment.  He taught himself to read at age 3 and could understand simple algebra in Kindergarten.  He carried spiral notebooks full of handwritten math problems and would spend hours solving equations.

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He knew the bones of the human body, loved space and science.  He loved, loved, loved animals.  He was sensitive, thoughtful and compassionate.  He cried EVERY TIME we drove by a dead animal on the side of the road and he cared deeply about people in distress.  He liked super soft things…shirts, socks, and his special pillow.  He wore his cowboy boots everywhere…even to the pool.  And he was very funny and very clever.  My son was not ordinary and I supported him.

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He was my only priority.

I supplemented higher level academics at home because he asked for it and met with teachers all through his school career because I was his mom.  That was MY job.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I certainly NEVER even considered grade acceleration or testing.  I didn’t know that existed.

I was young.  I never lost sleep.

I was never overwhelmed with worry about the public school not meeting his needs.  I never obsessed about bullies.  I didn’t stress about his future. I never researched or read a book or joined a support group–never considered it.  I was just HIS mom and he was my world.   I thought my son was interesting, smart and well-adjusted.  (And, he is!)

Looking back, I believe his social skills and physical looks made his journey drama-free and enjoyable.  His over excitabilities are mild.   He is the lucky one.  My daughters certainly struggle more.

The boy IS smart…but he is also handsome.  And he is VERY athletic…football and rugby and anything else he can try!  And handsome.  And very social.  And handsome.  (Did I mention handsome?)  🙂

If I told you that he started taking college courses at age 15 or that he scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT (without studying or any prep!) or that he collects vintage video gaming systems, would you picture this guy?

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Probably not!  LOL!

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My son will be 25 in April.  (WOW!)  He graduated from high school with 48 college credit hours and a TON of academic successes filled his college applications…as well as his work experience, sports history and volunteer hours.

Four years later, he graduated from one of the top colleges in the nation.

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Well-rounded, adjusted, happy AND very intelligent.  He makes my heart so very happy.  My son is an independent, forward-thinking, witty, sensitive and thoughtful man, an animal lover with a passion for good food, craft beer and board games.  I love him fiercely.

 

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And, that precious, little boy prepared me for the next challenge in my journey.

Like I mentioned in my flashback posts (read #1 here) and (read #2 here), my first daughter was born when my son was 11 and my second daughter came along 18 months later.

So, if you want me to do the math for you (which is funny because I can’t do math), my son left for college just a few days before my youngest daughter started Kindergarten!  LOL!

It was a little nutty back then.

But, by the end of that school year, we finally learned that both of my daughters were profoundly gifted.  The kind of “gifted” that usually isn’t successful in public school gifted programs.

Disclaimer part:  Since some of my readers do not know me personally, I will just let all of you know that we believe ALL children have gifts.  “Gifted” is just the term used to describe people with extraordinary abilities.  I do not believe my children were “gifted” something extra because they are more special than other children.  I didn’t come up with the term “gifted”, so don’t shoot the messenger.

And, incase some of you are wondering, my son chose not to be professionally tested.

Click here to read 5 BIG surprises about my life with profoundly gifted kids.

Want to know why we chose to homeschool?  Click here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Flashback Posting Part 2

Hello there, my friends!  Happy Monday to all of you!

I am super sorry for leaving you hanging with my last blog entry.  If you didn’t read it, please go back and read it here first because this one probably won’t make sense if you start here.

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On to my story…

I will admit, I assumed my youngest would have a challenging year in kindergarten.  I worried about her outbursts and her overwhelming fears and her crippling frustrations.  People on the outside assumed these behaviors are coming from a place of disrespect, poor parenting, a refusal to complete a task and total disobedience.  Heck, even I thought that at first.  So, like I said in the last post, I wrote a two page letter to the school, hoping to explain my baby to the outside world.

Thank goodness they read it.

Kindergarten was delightful for my daughter.  She made a few, select friends.  She LOVED her teacher and she even earned Citizen of the Month!  But, when I visited the classroom, I started to notice a few things.  The students’ work displayed on the wall all looked the same…except for my daughter’s work.

Her drawings, handwriting, worksheets, etc. looked like it had been completed by a third grader.  It was oddly noticeable…when I stood in the hall, looking at a display…out popped her work…and not just to MY mommy eyes because I’m all biased and fixated on my kid.

Everyone noticed.

It almost made me uncomfortable.  I paid attention to how the other children spoke, how they interacted with one another and how they played during center time.  There was a VERY obvious difference between the other kindergarten children and my daughter.

Our psychologist refused to diagnose her with any label before the end of that school year.  What a smart and insightful doctor…I am so thankful for her hesitation…

Because…my daughter’s kindergarten teacher saw something that I was too close to see.  (And she recommended my daughter for GT testing.)

Bogged down with concerns and worries, sleep deprivation and life-controlling melt downs, I saw nothing but the challenges…I was DROWNING in the challenges.  I owned a binder FULL of notes, medical reports and evaluations that focused on what was “wrong” with my baby.  My entire goal at this point in the journey was to find out WHY she was acting like an out-of-control banshee.  I knew once I had an answer, I could find a solution…a way to help her function and deal and adjust and live a happy life.

A particular moment in time burned a permanent memory into my mommy brain:  After one of her more severe break downs, I was rocking her back and forth in her bedroom.  She leaned out of my arms, looked right at me, and through her tears, asked in the most serious voice, “What is wrong with me?”  I can barely relive the thought without crying myself.  It broke my heart.  I immediately told her, “I don’t know.  But I promise that we will find out and I will help you get better.”

I meant it.

In the spring of 2012, paperwork from the elementary school came home explaining that the kindergarten teacher recommended my daughter for testing and her scores qualified for the Gifted and Talented program.

Ok.

Honesty moment:

My husband and I didn’t think much about it.  My brilliant son didn’t “qualify” for the program until the end of 5th grade so the testing process never really impressed me.  I put my daughter’s “acceptance letter” on my nightstand and barely thought about it.  Truth.

A few days later, my husband called from work asking about the scores.  Particularly, he wanted to know WHAT tests were administered.

I am about to tell you how an ordinary mom’s life changed.

Right here.

Get ready.

The letter was SO important to me (those are super sarcastic words, my friends) that I had to dig the paperwork out of a stack of other non-sense.  (EMBARRASSING to admit that!)

My husband and I sat in bed that night and Googled the name of the first test.  It was an IQ test.  We didn’t even know that.  My daughter’s score was well above the school’s admitting score.  Ok.  We didn’t even think much of that…

Until we Googled HER score.

We both sat there in disbelief.

When I typed in her IQ score, thousands of sites came up…and almost all of the information described our daughter.  Could this REALLY be what was causing all of my daughter’s challenges?!?

What????

I was a teacher in my previous life and I NEVER heard of this before!  I didn’t believe anything.

I was in complete denial.

So, what did I do?

I called the school and made an appointment with the GT specialist.

I honestly thought she would tell me the version of the IQ test given by the school wasn’t the same one I found on Google.  I thought she would tell me it was a mistake, or that she got the numbers mixed up.  I thought she would tell me it was no big deal.

But, she didn’t.

She told me kids like my daughter usually do not stay in public school and she handed me the contact information for a support group for families with profoundly gifted children.  She also suggested I find a professional psychologist to administer a different, full-scale IQ test.

In a daze, I got in my car…wondering what the hell just happened?!?!

Within a few weeks, I found myself in a different psychologist’s office. (Not our regular one, but a doctor with experience testing gifted children)

I sat, waiting for my daughter to be given a full-blown IQ test with all subtests.  We scheduled two testing days and blocked off about three hours for each day.  6 hours of testing.  It cost a small fortune (About 1/2 of my Disney savings)

Just after two hours on day ONE of testing, the psychologist came to the waiting room and said she needed to talk to me in her office.

My daughter was done testing.

At first, I totally had the mom fears…assuming my daughter refused to go no further…maybe she was tired or stressed or overworked…was there a fly in the room?!?

As I followed the doctor down the hall, I felt the familiar “embarrassment-over-my daughter’s-behavior” red face, cold sweat response start to creep up and cover my body.  I sat in a large, over-sized, comfy chair and faced the doctor to hear about my daughter’s refusal to complete the test.

The doctor said, “Your daughter is a delightful little girl.”

And, I just sat there…terrified that the next sentence would start with the word “But…”.

BUT…that word never came.  My daughter completed the test.  In two hours.  There was no need for a second day of testing.  The doctor asked me to give her a few minutes so she could do some preliminary calculating.  I sat there, still in complete denial.

My baby MUST have rushed through that test.  She was 6.5 years old.

And then the psychologist looked up from her paperwork and said a number.  My daughter’s IQ number.  My face was frozen.  The doctor told me that the test ceiling was 150.  (That is GREATLY important, as different IQ tests have different test ceilings, but I didn’t know that at this point in my journey.)

I did NOT feel ready to hear what she was saying.  I didn’t even really KNOW what she was saying.  My head was spinning.  Was I about to throw up?!?

My first thought was, “CRAP!  My husband should be here to hear this!”

THE day I received a diagnosis for what was “wrong” with our daughter…my husband should have been there.  (But, it was just the first day of testing!  Who knew?!?  Ugh!)

The psychologist spoke for several minutes…I didn’t even take notes or ask questions.  I was in complete shock.

EVERY score on EVERY subtest fell between the 98th-99.9th percentiles.  That means your daughter’s cognitive functions are in the very superior domain.  Her full-scale IQ is in the 99.9th percentile.  Your daughter is profoundly gifted.  Do you have other children?  They should be tested, too.”

As I sunk into that comfy chair in the psychologist’s office, all of the information sounded like a college-level symposium.  The doctor told me about several schooling options, as well as a private school for the highly gifted in Houston, Texas.  I made an appointment to come back and hear the full report…and bring my husband.  The life-changing meeting would be on my 39th birthday.

When we left the office, my daughter appeared more relaxed than normal.  I called my husband before I even started the car.

He didn’t answer.  (Does that ALWAYS happen to you or is it just me??)

Then, I realized I didn’t even write down her IQ score…or the subtest scores…or the name of the school in Houston.  UGH!  My mind was swirling.  What was wrong with me?!?

By May of 2012, we spent another small fortune (the other 1/2 of our Disney savings) to have our older daughter tested as well.  Her scores and subtests fell between the 84th and >99.9th percentiles.  We found out that her full-scale IQ is also in the profoundly gifted range.

Our girls are only 4 points apart, but their subtest scores are quite telling about the way their minds work and how they are wired differently.  Our youngest daughter’s scores label her “globally gifted”.  Our other daughter has a slower processing speed but scored off the chart, surpassing the test ceiling, in perceptual reasoning.  It explains A LOT.

So…this is how my ordinary life turned upside down.

And, this is also how my family became us.

Disclaimer info:

Though we don’t put ANY emphasis on IQ scores today, these tests did provide us with information that ultimately lead us down the right path.  No other books, doctors, websites or parenting suggestions gave us the information we actually needed.

The IQ tests and scores told us that my daughters (specifically my youngest) NEEDED to learn.

Learn quickly.  Learn A LOT.  Learn NOW.

Most profoundly gifted people have challenges which are called over excitabilities.  Without boring you with details, it has been suggested that profoundly gifted people take in about 200% more stimuli than the average human–that means more noise, more lights, more scents, more details, etc…and boy, does that explain my children.

The way my children experience the world is completely different than my experience–and that will not change.

I got to work immediately…I was going to find a way to reach my daughter.

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To read the next part, click here.

To read the top 5 reasons we homeschool, click here.

Click here to read why Disney is so important to my family.

 

 


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Flashback Posting Part 1

 

Flashback posting…

How did I get to this place?

Though I met my husband in 2nd grade (SUPER cool, huh?!?), we didn’t get married until we were 30 years old.  We never really dated…and…I’ll save that super cool story for another post.

Our first daughter was born in 2004…5 days before my son turned 11.  Eighteen months later, our second daughter came along.

This is the story of my family and how we became us.

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Our wedding pic

So, between 2nd grade and 2003, when I married my husband, there was a lot of Jerry Springer stuff I plan to skip right over.  Maybe a juicy post to write in the future, but not today, friends.  What you need to know is that I was a public school art teacher and I was a single mom, happily raising my super awesome son all by myself.

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The first time I took my son to Disneyland, he was 5 years old.  It took me all 5 years to save enough money for the two of us to fly to California.  During my own childhood, my parents took me and my sisters countless times and I wanted to create similar memories with my child.  At this point in time, the Disney nostalgia was the only driving force.

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My son’s first trip to Disneyland.  1999.

In 2003, I “retired” from teaching right before my first daughter entered the world.  I never had the option to be a stay-at-home mom and I was excited about the new adventure.

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We took a huge, multi-generational family vacation to Walt Disney World and enjoyed the Disney cruise during Christmas of 2004–Our son was 11 and our first daughter was 8 months.  It was the very first time my children went to Disney World.

I had no idea if or when we would return.

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My first 2 babies on the Disney cruise.  2004.

Consumed with horrible ear infections, my first daughter was late to talk but she was unique and quirky from the beginning.  We read to her every day and every night.  She LOVED it.  She also loved puzzles, the alphabet and writing/drawing.  Tricky and smart, she figured out how to climb out of her crib WAY too early.  And, she is left-handed…like her momma!  (It’s not really important…I just like it.)  🙂

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Our next daughter came along a year-and-a-half later.  My first daughter was NOT thrilled.  Her limited vocabulary reverted (bad ear infections, remember?) back to screams and demands.  The baby also entered our lives as the poster child for clinical colic.  To say it was a “nightmare” makes it sound better than the reality.  For real.

I felt like a CRA-Z, CRA-Z, CRA-Z person back then.

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Christmas. 2005.

I planned/dreamed of getting in my car and driving away…like towards a different state…maybe towards Disney???

Have I mention my husband traveled for work?  Or that my father-in-law moved in with us while he searched for a job?  My son was sleeping on a beanbag couch in our living room, my 18 month old was screaming at me and the baby NEVER.  STOPPED.  CRYING.

Like I said…get in my car…drive away…be gone…FOREVER. 

It was not an easy season.

My doctor prescribed antidepressants and I needed them.

So…colic is fun…

Our baby cried non-stop for more than three months.  When I say “cried”…I’m talking about a red face that’s soooo red, it is almost purple.  Mouth wide open.  Hair so sweaty it drips.  For hours and hours and hours.  My husband had a vasectomy when she was 2 months old.  When I signed the consent form, I drew a happy face next to my name.  🙂  Not kidding.

I’m not going to lie…I had a VERY difficult time transitioning from single, working mom to married, stay-at-home mom with three kids.  It took some time for me to evolve.

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Our first daughter was ready and super easy to potty train at 27 months.  Our baby potty trained herself at 22 months.  The girls learned to swim without floats on the same day.   They learned to ride their bikes without training wheels in the same afternoon.  Our youngest learned her letters, numbers, how to write, count, etc. before she turned one.  I chalked it up to her soaking in everything her older sister attempted.

In 2006, we took a second multi-generational Disney World vacation.  This time, we had all three of our kids.

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Animal Kingdom. Christmas.  2006.

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Back home, when I signed the girls up for preschool, our baby was the only one in her class that was potty trained and no longer used a sippy cup.  She held a pencil correctly and wrote her name.  She cried every day and didn’t like to go to school.

Our other daughter thrived in the environment.  Though she knew her letters and a few site words, she didn’t mind the academic repetition and she enjoyed the social interactions.

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Our youngest was rough.  She was draining.  And demanding.  And intense.  The parenting tools that worked for my other two children did NOT work for this one.  I attempted every avenue, read about different approaches, tried it all…I was exhausted–physically, mentally and emotionally.

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Oddly enough, when we traveled to Walt Disney World in 2009, we had very few issues.  In fact, it seemed like our daughter was at peace and her anxiety levels decreased while we vacationed in Florida.  (Was it Disney magic???)

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Disney World.  January.  2009.

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Our youngest daughter, watching a Disney show on the castle stage.

In January of 2010, when the kids were 16, 5, and 4, my husband deployed to Iraq.

That puts a kink in things.

My emotionally intense middle one was so overcome with sadness that she almost threw up in the parking lot at the airport.  To say she was inconsolable, is putting it lightly.  The girls both cried for days.  And days.

Though we all eventually adjusted, my youngest daughter’s intensity, anger and frustrations grew.  She hated play groups and would retreat to the bedroom in search of silence.  Walmart overwhelmed her and I once sat on the filthy, concrete floor of the beverage isle rocking her in hopes of calming her down.  She was terrified of strangers, bugs (specifically flies), rain, loud sounds and changes in routine.

At this point in time, all of the books on my nightstand focused on military families, deployments and ways to help kids cope with an absent parent.  I assumed the challenges with the girls (mostly our youngest) would subside once my husband came home.

I learned from the books that an adjustment period should be expected.  So…I expected things to eventually get better.

 

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The day my husband returned from Iraq

 

We celebrated my husband’s return with another wonderful, joy-filled trip to Walt Disney World in January of 2011.

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The Polynesian Village Resort. 2011.

After our Disney vacation and about six months after my husband returned home, things were not better.  Though the emotional intensity in our oldest daughter was easier to deal with, no one could effectively reach our youngest.  Her outbursts, fears and all-consuming freak-out sessions were controlling our family.  We begged and punished and ignored and yelled and cried and made behavior charts and Googled and I finally made an appointment with the pediatrician.

A chemical imbalance?  Hormones out-of-whack?  A rare disease?  Of course, I didn’t WANT her to have something but I wanted an answer…a reason…a way to help her…SOMETHING!  Armed with a notebook full of concerns, it took 4 adults to hold her down as they drew blood.  Everything was negative.

The doctor suggested we call a psychologist.

It took 5 meetings before my daughter would speak to the psychologist without me in the room.  She eventually looked forward to her weekly sessions and the “tools” sort of helped…breathing techniques, squeezing a pillow, a handmade “stomping” mat for anger outbursts.

In the summer of 2011, the psychologists said my daughter was bright and suggested I research Asperger’s Syndrome.

Books about the autistic spectrum replaced my military family collection and though my daughter’s “symptoms” were similar, she didn’t fit all of the characteristics.  Kids on the spectrum ARE different…so…I was even more confused.  Very confused.

My daughter needed to be assessed AFTER being in a social and academic environment that did not include her older sister.

The psychologist decided to get input from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. I agreed.

Two weeks later, my youngest daughter entered kindergarten at age five…the ordinary time for a child to enter public school.  My other daughter started 2nd grade and my son left  for college. journey26

 

I wrote a two page letter to the school–explaining everything about my youngest daughter–and we were blessed with an understanding and accepting kindergarten teacher.

EVERY ounce of credit goes to that amazing teacher for changing the course of our lives and I have thanked her many times for seeing something in my daughter that I was too close to see.

I was drowning and she saved my youngest daughter and our entire family with one, seemingly simple decision.

You think this blog entry is getting too long?  Yeah, me too.  If you want to know what happened next, you’ll have to wait for the next post.  🙂

To read the next post, click here.

For part 3, click here.

 


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My Thoughts

 

Four years ago, on February 13, 2013, I started my first blog called Our Extraordinary Journey.  It took me 2 years to post 11 entries–not because I had nothing to write about–but because I had TOO much to write about and my life was total chaos.  Writing was the last thing on my mind.

Fast forward to 2017, and I have finally accepted our extraordinary journey.  (Because I just typed that sentence, it will probably drastically veer off course and I will have to readjust again!)  Silly irony.

 

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The K Squad.  My people.

 

I started this blog– Craving Dole Whip–to obviously share my love of vacationing at Walt Disney World. I love other things, too, and I plan to write about museums and educational experiences in the very near future.

But, I am not going to lie–I have felt unsettled about my little Craving Dole Whip blog–stressed, disconnected, stressed, unsure, and stressed (oh, did I say that already??)  And…I could not put my finger on why until this morning.

My super awesome husband (Hey, did you know we met in 2nd grade?!?) and I were on a walk, enjoying a morning bursting with AMAZING spring changes–blooming jasmine, tiny buds, bright green leaves, a gentle fresh breeze and the clearest blue sky…and I was talking about my weird feelings about Craving Dole Whip for the 107th time this month.

We are a good match.  He is super smart.  I am super organized.  There is a lot of respect between us–and a lot of support.  His strengths are certainly my weaknesses and vice versa.  The universe knew what it was doing when we both ended up in Mrs. Engleking’s 2nd grade class.

So, as I am lamenting about my disconnectedness, my husband totally talked me down off the ledge and suggested I write about our life experiences and journeys, which obviously, Disney is a HUGE segment.

I can totally write reviews and make packing lists all day, but if my readers (YOU!) don’t know WHY my family does certain things, or WHY we visit so many museums or WHY we homeschool or HOW my family is evolving or WHERE all of this is coming from, there is no chance of me EVER feeling connected to my Craving Dole Whip blog or my followers.

So far, I am just giving you directions.  Is that why I started blogging??  To just give directions???

My solution:  Reengineering backwards.  You all (my awesome followers) have a pretty good basis for planning a Disney trip.  I wrote about planning here and dissected the dining plan here.  There is a list of all character meals here.  And a not-so-obvious packing list here.  But, anyone can write those things. And, if you Google those topics, you will find about 3 million other moms that are just as Disney smart and just as obsessed.

What makes me different and why should anyone read my blog?  Well, that’s a great question.  The thing is, Disney isn’t the only thing we have going on in our lives.  It is just ONE of the things.  I have a lot of branches and a lot of thoughts and if you want to follow, I would love for you to stick around.  My family is pretty unique and you might be pleasantly surprised, fingers crossed.

Over the next few days, I plan to revive some of the posts from my previous blog and incorporate a little bit more of WHY Disney is so important to my family and how it fits into the way we live with a focus on experiences, events and personal growth.

Don’t freak out on me…I am not abandoning my Disney posts–I am just expanding to include a little bit more of what makes my extraordinary family tick…my experiences…our life events…our extraordinary journey, which of course, is multi-faceted and always includes a constant craving of Dole Whip.

It is probably where I should have started all along.

Happy Saturday, friends.

 

 


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What’s Coming Next?

Hello my little Dole Whip Craving Friends!  Happy Thursday to all of you!

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As my tagline states, I planned this blog to include not only awesome Disney tips, but also education adventures and museum reviews.

But, I have only written a ton about Disney!  Oops!  I get excited and a little carried away when it comes to Disney World.

Well…I plan to deliver on my full promise over the next few days, so be on the look out for some cool museum reviews.

I obviously do other things besides vacation at Walt Disney World.  (I am not allowed to live in the castle.)  Gotta fill that time with something equally awesome!

No worries, I still have plenty to say about Disney, too!

I’ll let you all know when the first museum post is complete.

Meanwhile, read these cool Disney posts:

Love exotic food?  Click here.

Free things to do at Disney?  Yes, please!  Click here.

Why are garbage bags on my Disney packing list?  Click here.

My favorite Disney resort?  Click here.


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2017 Disney Dining Plan–Everything You Need To Know

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To Dining Plan Or Not To Dining Plan…that is the question.

It is the most common inquiry I receive and honestly, one of the more challenging to answer.

Whether the dining plan will save you money completely depends on your family, the ages of your children, where you plan to eat and what you eat. Everyone eats differently, especially on vacation and every family is different.

So many factors.  So many options.  So many questions.  So many different answers.

I will try to simplify. (Ha!  That rhymes!)

If you are just beginning the planning process, click here to see a list of questions to answer BEFORE you plan a Walt Disney World vacation.

Click here to learn how to plan a Disney vacation like a pro.

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The 2017 Disney Meal Plan

The Basics:

  • Guests must purchase a Magic Your Way Package through Disney in order to be eligible to purchase any meal plan.
  • Guests must stay at a Walt Disney Resort.  The dining plan is not available for the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, Shades of Green and the hotels of the Disney Springs Resort area.
  • Typically, a minimum 3 night resort stay is required.
  • Annual pass holders and DVC members can purchase the Disney dining plan.
  • Each person on your resort reservation must be on the dining plan.
  • Each person on your resort reservation must be on the same level of dining plan, too.
  • Plans are set based on the number of nights on your resort reservation.  i.e. If you book 5 nights, you get 5 days worth of the dining plan.  You can not get less days and you can not pay for more.  I will explain in greater detail below.
  • The dining plan expires at midnight on the check out day.
  • Disney defines children as ages 3-9.
  • Children ages 3-9 on the Disney dining plan are expected to order from the children’s menu when one is available.
  • The dining plan is not available for children under the age of 3.  Children under 3 can eat off of an adult’s plate or a meal can be purchased separately.
  • Any guest age 10 or older is a Disney adult.  (I don’t make the rules.)
  • Tax is included.
  • Tips and gratuities are NOT included.
  • 18% gratuity is automatically added to parties of 6 or more guests.
  • The refillable mugs can be filled an unlimited amount of times (during your stay) at Disney resort quick service restaurants only.  Not the theme parks.  Drinks include sodas, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc.
  • If you order something that the dining plan does not cover, you will be charged separately for that item.
  • Desserts and appetizers at breakfast are not included.
  • Alcohol is not included.
  • Meals are considered quick service (QS) or table service (TS) or signature dining (SD).
  • Pricing for the dining plan can increase at anytime.
  • The dining plan is always changing.

Have you read my post about changes at Disney?  Click here my friend.

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Restaurant Credit Descriptions:

Snacks are a plethora of all kinds of things and are marked with a purple and white 4 point segmented square on all Disney menus offering snacks.  If you don’t see the symbol, there are no snacks on that menu.  1 snack credit can be used for a frozen ice cream novelty, 1 scoop of popcorn, 1 piece of whole fruit, 20 oz. soda or water, Dole Whip!, soups, chips, puffed rice treats and so much more.

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This is the snack credit symbol

Quick service restaurants are just like they sound, quick.  Ordering is made at a counter or register and the food is casual, quick and easy.  Guests choose their own tables.

 

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Quick service breakfast

 

Table service restaurants are more formal than quick service.  Guests are escorted to their tables and menus are provided for ordering (if not a buffet).  A server will wait on the table.  Most buffets and most character meals are considered table service.

For a list of every character meal at Walt Disney World, click here!

 

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Chef Mickey’s buffet is 1 table service credit.

 

Signature dining restaurants are more formal and elegant than table service restaurants.  There is a “resort casual” dress code for signature dining.  Signature dining uses 2 table service dining credits.  Cinderella’s Royal Table is considered signature dining and uses 2 table service credits.

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Cinderella’s Royal Table is considered signature dining and uses 2 table service credits.

Dinner shows are just like they sound, dinner and a show.  Think Disney’s Spirit of Aloha or Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.  Dinner shows require 2 table service dining credits.

 

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The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort requires 2 table service credits from the dining plans.

 

The Three Options:

Disney offers 3 different dining plans:  Quick service, Dining, and Deluxe Dining.

Quick Service:

  • $48.19 per night per adult (ages 10+)
  • $20.88 per night per child (ages 3-9)
  • Includes 2 quick service credits per night per person (1 quick service meal is considered 1 entrée and 1 drink)
  • Includes 2 snack credits per night per person
  • Includes 1 refillable mug per person

The Dining Plan:

  • $69.35 per night per adult
  • $24.95 per night per child
  • Includes 1 quick service credit per night per person (1 quick service meal is considered 1 entrée and 1 drink)
  • Includes 1 table service credit per night per person (1 table service meal is considered 1 entrée, 1 dessert (lunch and dinner) and 1 drink or 1 buffet and 1 drink.)
  • Includes 2 snack credits per night per person
  • Includes 1 refillable mug per person
  • 1 table service credit can be used for most character meals. (Cinderella’s Royal Table is considered Signature Dining and is 2 table service credits.)
  • 2 table service credits can be used to dine at Signature Dining Restaurants (meal includes 1 entrée, 1 dessert and 1 drink)
  • 2 table service credits can be used for dinner shows (category 2 or 3 seating)
  • 2 table service credits can be used for private in-room dining (meal includes 1 entrée, 1 dessert and 1 drink)
  • 2 table service credits can be used for pizza delivery (meal includes 1 pizza entrée, 2 desserts and 2 drinks)

Deluxe Dining:

  • $106.68 per night per adult
  • $38.75 per night per adult
  • Includes 3 meals (QS or TS) per night–3 quick service or 3 table service credits per night per person used in any combination. (1 quick service meal is considered 1 entrée and 1 drink).  (1 deluxe dining table service meal is considered 1 appetizer (lunch and dinner), 1 entrée, 1 dessert (lunch and dinner), and 1 drink or a 1 buffet and 1 drink.)
  • Includes 2 snack credits per night per person
  • Includes 1 refillable mug per person
  • 1 table service credit can be used for most character meals. (Cinderella’s Royal Table is considered Signature Dining and is 2 table service credits.)
  • 2 table service credits can be used to dine at Signature Dining Restaurants (meal includes 1 appetizer, 1 entrée, 1 dessert and 1 drink)
  • 2 table service credits can be used for dinner shows (category 2 or 3 seating)
  • 2 table service credits can be used for private in-room dining (meal includes 1 appetizer, 1 entrée, 1 dessert and 1 drink)
  • 2 table service credits can be used for pizza delivery (meal includes 1 pizza entrée, 2 desserts and 2 drinks)

 

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1900 Park Fare breakfast buffet is 1 table service credit.

 

Confused yet?

I am going to create several scenarios to help clarify.

Scenario #1

2 adults and 2 children (ages 4 and 7) book 5 nights at a Disney resort and choose the quick service plan.  Total cost:  $690.70.

The cost for each adult on the quick service plan for 5 nights is $240.95.

For 2 adults, the total is $481.90.

The cost for each child on the quick service plan for 5 nights is $104.40.

For 2 children, the total is $208.80.

Total cost for the quick service meal plan for this family of 4 is $690.70.

Each person is given 2 quick service credits and 2 snack credits for each night of the reservation.  That is 10 quick service credits and 10 snack credits per person for the entire vacation.

There are 2 adults.  So, they have a total of 20 adult quick service credits and 20 snack credits.  There are 2 children.  So, they have a total of 20 quick service (kids meals if offered) credits and 20 snack credits.

In total, this family has 40 quick service meal credits and 40 snack credits.  The math is getting ridiculous, right?  Are you following me?

Adult #1–10 QS credits, 10 snacks

Adult #2–10 QS credits, 10 snacks

Child #1–10 QS credits, 10 snacks

Child #2–10 QS credits, 10 snacks

These credits all expire on midnight of the check-out day.

Between the check-in day and midnight of the check-out day, this family can use these 40 quick service credits and 40 snack credits any way they please and in any combination.  The credits are all lumped into one total.

These credits are not linked to a certain person, either.  If adult #1 only wants to eat snacks the entire vacation, then he/she can eat all 40 snacks and all of those snacks can be Dole Whips…hypothetically, of course.

If this family wants to eat 20 quick service meals in one day, they can.  All of these 40 QS credits and 40 snack credits can be used in any combination on any day of their vacation.

Guest can use these quick service credits for quick service breakfast, lunch or dinner.  When all 40 quick service meals and all 40 snacks run out, any food purchases must be paid out of pocket.  If this family decides to eat at any table service restaurant, the bill would not be covered by their meal plan.

 

Scenario #2

Same family, 2 adults and 2 children (ages 4 and 7) book 5 nights at a Disney resort and choose the Dining Plan.  Total cost: $943.00

The cost for each adult on the dining plan for 5 nights is $346.75.

For 2 adults, the total is $693.50.

The cost for each child on the dining plan for 5 nights is $124.75.

For 2 children, the total is $249.50.

Total cost for the dining plan for this family of 4 is $943.00.

Each person is given 1 quick service credit, 1 table service credit and 2 snack credits for each night of the vacation.  That is 5 quick service credits, 5 table service credits and 10 snacks per person for the entire vacation.

Adult #1–5 QS credits, 5 TS credits, 10 snacks

Adult #2–5 QS credits, 5 TS credits, 10 snacks

Child #1–5 QS credits, 5 TS credit, 10 snacks

Child #2–5 QS credits, 5 TS credits, 10 snacks

The family in total has 20 quick service credits, 20 table service credits and 40 snacks to use in any combination over the duration of their resort stay.  This family could eat at 3 different table service restaurants in one day, if they choose.  Or, they could use 2 table service credits each to eat at a signature dining restaurant, like Cinderella’s Royal Table.  If the family of 4 all dined at Cinderella’s Royal Table, 8 of their 20 table service credits would be used.

If this family of 4 all ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at 3 table service restaurants in one day and then had breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, their 20 table service credits would be gone.

To get the most benefit, this family should use their snack credits for breakfast items, quick service for lunch and each table service credit for a character meal or buffet.

 

Scenario #3

Same family, 2 adults and 2 children (ages 4 and 7) book 5 nights at a Disney resort and choose Deluxe Dining.  Total cost: $1,454.30.

The cost for each adult on the deluxe dining plan for 5 nights is $533.40.

For 2 adults, the total is $1,066.80.

The cost for each child on the deluxe dining plan for 5 nights is $193.75.

For 2 children, the total is $387.50.

Total cost for the deluxe dining plan for this family of 4 is $1,454.30.

Each person is given 3 meal credits (can be quick service or table service, in any combination) each night of the vacation.  That is 15 meal credits and 10 snacks per person for the entire vacation.

Adult #1–15 meals, 10 snacks

Adult #2–15 meals, 10 snacks

Child #1–15 meals, 10 snacks

Child #2–15 meals, 10 snacks

This family has a total of 60 meals that can be either quick service or table service, plus 40 snacks.  The 60 meals belong to the family as a whole.  Anyone can use the credits in any combination.

If this family of 4 all ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at 3 table service restaurants in one day and then had breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, they would still have 40 meal credits left to use.  To get the most benefit, this family should eat all meals at table service restaurants and avoid quick service all together.

That’s a lot of math.  Yes, I used a calculator.

The Benefits:

All 3 meal plans are essentially pre-paid dining and are accepted at over 100 locations on Disney property.

It is a nice feeling to have dining costs already covered.

Guests using meal plans can save money if they choose wisely.

The Struggles:

The dining plans require pre-paying and must be paid in full when the final resort reservation payment is due.

Guests must actively keep track of how many dining credits have been used and how many are left. (Credits are printed on each dining receipt).

Children ages 10 and up are considered adults and are charged the adult dining plan fees.

At the time of this post, if you want the dining plan, Disney requires you to pay for the plan for every night of your resort stay.  There is no option for anything less and your entire traveling party (in your resort room) must be on the dining plan.

The dining plan is only available for Disney resort guests.

Thoughts And Things To Consider:

The quick service plan is pretty straight forward.  To avoid running out of credits, guests can use 2 snack credits to cover breakfast by getting a muffin for 1 credit and a piece of fruit for 1 credit and filling the refillable mug with coffee.  Or guests can use the 2 daily snacks to cover a light lunch by using the credits for a cup of soup and chips.  Quick service meals should be used for the largest meals of the day to get the most bang for your buck.

Table service, character meals and buffets can cost anywhere from $35 to $59.99 per adult.  The dining plan is $69.35 per day per adult and covers 1 quick service, 1 table service and 2 snacks.

**An adult not on the dining plan eats 1 character meal that costs $59.99, a quick service meal for $17.99 and gets 2 snacks for $12 for a total cost of $89.98

**An adult on the dining plan would pre-pay only $69.35 for the exact same meals and snacks.

We used the dining plan and saved a ton of money when my kids were younger than 10.  We used every table service credit to eat at buffets and character meals and we saved quite a bit of money.  Plus, knowing that our meals were essentially pre-paid helped quite a bit with “sticker shock”.

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Honestly, whether the dining plans will save you money completely depends on your family and your eating habits.

If you answer “yes” to these questions, chances are very high that the dining plan will save you money.

  • Do you plan to eat at only table service, buffets and character meals?
  • Do you eat a dessert at every lunch and dinner?
  • Does your entire family drink sodas or tea?
  • Do you want to dine at signature dining restaurants or dinner shows?
  • Do you have children under the age of 10?

How About My Family?

Like I said before, we were dining plan worshippers for many of our Walt Disney World vacations.  But for the last two trips, we chose not to use the dining plan.

Here are my reasons:

Now that my daughters are 11 and 12, all 5 of my family members are considered adults in Disney’s eyes and adults cost more $$$.

I drink tea, but the rest of my family only drinks water.  (Well, my husband and son drink beer, but the dining plans don’t cover alcohol.)

We usually split 1 or 2 desserts at dinner time only and prefer to eat a very light breakfast and lunch.

My daughters have outgrown most character meals.

 

 

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1 quick service credit breakfast at Be Our Guest

 

If you are still uncertain, there are many Disney dining plan calculators available online to help determine if the dining plan will save you money.

Message me if you still have questions!

Happy eating, my friends!

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1 table service credit

 

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1 snack credit

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1 table service credit

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1 snack credit

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Be Our Guest is quick service for breakfast and lunch, but uses 1 table service credit for dinner.

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Akershus restaurant is 1 table service credit.

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Boma–Flavors of Africa breakfast buffet is 1 table service credit.

Click here to read about our favorite buffet at Disney!

Click here to read about our favorite character meal at Disney!

Click here if you love animals!

 


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How To Plan A Disney Vacation Like A Pro–Super Short Summary

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Hello Disney-curious friends!

Yesterday, I posted an enormous page (almost 5,000 words!) detailing how I plan my Walt Disney World vacations.

If you have the time, read it by clicking here.   It will change your life.

Ok, maybe not really CHANGE your life, but I do hope it helps you plan your next Disney vacation and maybe change the way you think of the planning process.

Today, I decided to write a quick summary reference page for my awesome blog friends (you!).

More details and explanations can be found in the full version here.   If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask!  I am happy to help.

Quick and simple, this is how I plan my Walt Disney World vacations:

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  • Start a Disney savings account
  • Answer these important questions (Click here)
  • Remember the most important thing about Disney (Click here)
  • Buy a spiral notebook
  • Purchase the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World for the year of travel (Purchase the 2017 edition here and purchase the 2018 edition here)
  • Create an account on the Touring Plans website and use the discount offer from the purchase of the Unofficial Guide.
  • Add the Touring Plans App to my phone
  • Create a free My Disney Experience account on the Disney website.
  • Add the My Disney Experience App to my phone.
  • Become familiar with the Touring Plans and My Disney Experience websites and apps.
  • Decide on a budget
  • Read the Unofficial Guide
  • Decide on travelers, mode of travel
  • Use Touring Plan’s crowd calendar to choose travel dates
  • Use Unofficial Guide and Disney website to research resorts
  • Decide on number of days for theme park tickets
  • Book vacation on the Disney website: add travelers, choose resort, number of days for tickets, choose waterpark, park hopper, memory maker, extra experiences and dining plan as needed  Click here to find out if the dining plan is right for you!
  • Pay $200 deposit
  • Research dining options and character meals, if desired.  Click here for a list of all character meals at Walt Disney World.
  • 180 days before check-in, book dining reservations.  Click here for the best dining options inside Magic Kingdom!
  • Start training and conditioning
  • Order custom t-shirts  Click here for the BEST places to get Disney t-shirts!
  • Continue to make payments on the Disney website
  • Research theme parks and rides in the Unofficial Guide, Disney website and YouTube
  • Decide on desired character interactions
  • 60 days before check-in, book Fast Passes (if staying at Disney resort)
  • 30 days before check-in, book Fast Passes (if staying off Disney property)
  • Complete online check-in through My Disney Experience account
  • Start planning and packing  (Don’t forget rain ponchos and garbage bags!)
  • Keep an eye out for the arrival of Magic Bands
  • Finalize budget for extras
  • Go on the most awesome vacation!

To read the full version of how to plan a Disney vacation like a pro, click here!

To read a review of my favorite Disney resort, click here!

Love Disney princesses?  Click here for a list of every princess dining option at Disney!