Archive | family

from our family to yours

christmas-cards

Our cards are sent (we chose this one from minted this year), the kids are done with school and the finishing touches are being put on our plans and menus and tables and (hopefully) hearts. How did this Christmas season fly by so quickly?!

A new favorite tradition is having our family photos taken – for our card, but also to document our family at this time in our lives. This year, we were photographed by the talented Stacy Jacobsen at a local christmas tree farm. It was super chilly out and the kids are at goofy ages where they have a hard time smiling for real, but she worked her magic and captured some beautiful images.

family-and-kids

family-truck

kids-photos

I’ll be enjoying lots of family time and a short break from blogging this week but will continue to post a glimpse into our holiday on instagram (jonesdesigncompany). Feel free to find us there!

Wishing you and your family a time of joyful celebration this Christmas.

merry-christmas-family

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what we’re wearing (family photos 2014)

photo-outfits-2014

Tis the season for family photos. If I could, I would have photos taken every couple of months. But, alas, I live in reality and not only could I not afford it, my kids would probably go crazy if I forced them into outfits and made them smile real smiles more than once per year. Just kidding. They love it. Sort of. For a few minutes.

This year, we’re doing a mini session with the super talented Stacy Jacobsen (if you live in the seattle-tacoma area, she’s your girl!) at a local christmas tree farm. These mini sessions are ideal for us because they are quick, affordable and we’ll definitely get at least one great shot for our christmas card. Part of the fun for me is pulling together coordinating, but not too matchy, outfits for the whole family using as much as I can from our closets, and filling in with a few pieces where needed. I want everyone to feel comfortable and like themselves (not an easy task for boys who prefer athletic shorts and WSU sweatshirts over jeans and collared shirt …) but it is also my one chance to dress the whole family. I kinda love it.

Here are some close-ups of our outfits with sources:

dad-outfit

shirt / sweater / jeans / shoes

mom-outfit

shirt / sweater / jeans / booties / scarf

no1-outfit

shirt / vest / jeans / shoes / gloves

no-2-outfit

shirt / sweatshirt / jeans / scarf / shoes no-3-outfit

sweatshirt / jacket / jeans / shoes

no-4-outfit

shirt / sweater / skirt / shoes / hat + gloves

Hopefully the photos will turn out cute!

(Last year we wore similar styles – jeans, navy, gray – with a few pops of orange. Paige flew in to seattle for the long weekend and gave us the most beautiful family photos – see a bunch here)

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speaking your child’s language

We just returned from a weekend away at our favorite beach house on Whidbey Island. I’ve written about this magical place several times before, and posted a million IG photos (#theboathouse). Our good friends are gracious hosts and their hospitality provides the most cherished and memorable adventures for our kids. It is for sure their most favorite place to be.

whidbey-morning

I love the boat house for many reasons, but lingering at the top is watching the boys be boys. They have complete freedom. They can roam the endless beach collecting shells and digging for sea creatures. They cut down branches and make paths through the woods and whittle sticks with their pocket knives. They shoot bb guns and practice with their bows & arrows. They kayak or paddle boat and swim in the freezing cold water.  They build forts and bon fires and swing on a hammock. Continue Reading →

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june insta wrap-up

The best thing about instagram is the way it helps me document our every days. Outings, around our house, pretty things that catch my eye, moments I want to remember. I love documenting for me, but I also find sharing and interacting to be so enjoyable. It is fun to see how other ladies live, their surroundings and what they find inspiring (here are a handful of my favorite IG feeds) and perhaps my photos are fun for you to see a bit more behind the scenes of our life.

Here’s what happened in June …

insta-june-1

girls weekend at the beach / teaching my baby the art of baking / mixing patterns

insta-june-2

dress rehearsal for baby ballerinas / summer house tour / going away invitations for my bestie’s family

insta-june-3

color + stripes in Audrey’s closet / graphic design class open / favorite summer salad

insta-june-4

hair cut day (not in love with the results) / napkin doodling / cotton candy + mariners baseball

insta-june-5

teacher thank you gifts / pretty cupcakes / beautiful hike with the kids

insta-june-6

moving in our friends / truth for the day / puppies are cute

insta-june-7

swim lessons / I want this house / watercoloring a new print for our Rwanda trip

It was a bittersweet month … the end of a great school year, best friend moving away, new friends moving in, start of summertime fun. This season of life is full and fun and we are excited for what’s to come this summer.

instagramsm

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It gets easier

There’s a super cute mom at preschool pickup who reminds me so much of me just a few years ago. She has an almost four-year old who holds her almost two-year old’s hand to cross the parking lot, while she awkwardly carries her newborn in a cumbersome baby carseat carrier to pick up her just turned five year old from pre-k. She is happy and generally put-together and sweet to her girls. Motherhood looks good on her.

While in line for lunch at our kids’ mothers day tea, we started chatting – about how many children we have and how far apart they are … you know, the things moms naturally talk about while standing in line with strangers – and discovered our families are very similar in age spread. Since I’m a few years ahead in the mothering-four-close-together-children-thing, she asked a question that I haven’t stopped thinking about:

At what point does it get easier?

It was so cute the way she asked it because it wasn’t at all in a complain-y voice like when with they stop needing me every second of the day? or even said out of desperation like when am I going to be able to breath again?! but really just a question of stages, a curiosity of what’s coming next. I loved it.

Mostly, I loved answering.

It gets easier. Soon, it will be so much easier.

They will be able to get dressed on their own and buckle their seatbelt. They can play quietly for longer periods of time and you won’t have to dread the silence (because we all know that a silent two year old is an up-to-no-good two year old). You can sit at the park and watch them climb without having to stand at their sides ready to catch them when they fall. You can even sleep in on saturday mornings and vaguely hear them pour themselves a bowl of cereal and not feel like you better hop out of bed and get them breakfast because they are now capable of doing this on their own.

That’s the stage we’re at with our kids. We’re at the point when it is easier. And it feels amazing.

It’s harder, too, don’t get me wrong, but in very different ways. You become less concerned with things like drawing on walls and fingers in electrical sockets and pay more attention to issues like character and relationships and tone of voice (ahem). It’s a whole new stage of parenting we’re entering with a 10, 8, 6, and 4 year old.  Less physically demanding and more in our minds and hearts. We’ve made it successfully past the precious but constant newborn stage, the darling but mischievous toddler era and now we’re guiding these little people to become kind and generous, responsible, enjoyable, gracious bigger people. What a beautiful, tiring, challenging, joy-filled, selfishness-exposing honor it is to raise kids.

There are times to come when I will look back on those early, early days and think that was easy. And I’ll probably look back on right now and find it difficult. I’m only 10 years in and surely there are the highest of highs and the lowest of lows to come. I still have so much to learn. But as my husband likes to say, perspective is everything.

Be encouraged, weary mom with nursing babe in one arm and pant-less toddler running wild. And keep on going, mama who hasn’t slept in three years and can’t remember the last time you washed your hair.

It gets easier.

You’re doing a great job.

. . . . . . . . .

Just for fun, here are a few oldie photos of life when my babies were babies:

emily and two little

  umbrella

boys at wedding

emily and no3

mom's wedding

audrey and mama.jpg

walking into school

It was tiring back then, but so, so sweet.

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tiny dancer photoshoot with my baby girl

When Paige was here this past fall, we set out one very chilly morning for a girly photoshoot at this gorgeously dilapidated old farmhouse nearby.

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Paige styled the whole thing – choosing our outfits and bossing us around with how to do our hair (kidding. She’s not bossy. But she did have a vision and I was just along for the ride). Being in front of the camera is not totally comfortable for me, but if I’ve learned anything about having your picture taken is that the more awkward you feel, the more awkward the photos turn out so you might as well just relax and smile and try to look cute so you’ll like the end product.

tiny-dance-mom-&-audrey

And, my goodness, I just adore the end product. Paige is such a talented photographer – knowing how to find the right light and make the experience fun and comfortable.

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in-chair

She perfectly captured our girly ballerina side, a tiny dancer photoshoot as Paige called it (she was headed to the elton john concert when she returned to atlanta so that probably has something to do with the cute name. PS. I love that song).

audrey-bw

audrey-and-doll

Outfit change!

black-dress

 I wore this dress for my little sister’s wedding when I was six months pregnant with No. 2. It was all pinned up around the back to keep it from falling off, but I just love the juxtaposition of the crumbling down house and unkempt grass with the fancy black dress.

dandilion

91-2

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Promptly after the photoshoot, we put on our warm coats and went to starbucks for an extra-hot latte. We were freezing!  What’s so great about these photos is that you would never guess that we were shivering. Paige did the most amazing job.

For christmas, I gave Audrey a little book with all of my favorite photos from our morning at the dilapidated farm house.

tiny-dancer-photo-book

It’s only a few inches wide and such a sweet memory for her to look through.

tiny-dancer-book-inside

 What a beautiful gift Paige gave the two of us to have this mommy-daughter moment documented for always. I sure love my little Audrey-girl and feel so grateful for a tiny dancer in my life.

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dear february

Dear February,

I wonder if you ever get tired of being called ‘the month of love’. Do you kinda want to be known for more than just chalky conversation hearts and a little man-baby called cupid? I mean, look at you. You’re the shortest month, but full of all kinds of goodness like superbowl sunday and half of our family’s birthdays and a gloriously long presidents day weekend. You produce crazy weather – obnoxious amounts of snow mixed in with beautifully clear and sunny days, which make our skiing adventures extra special.

You have your downsides, no doubt. You’re still winter and by now we’re all pretty ready for that to be over. Colds and flu bugs seem to hang around you and make their way into our homes.  The whole valentine’s day rose prices are a little out of control.

But still, you are good. Fun. Busy.

And we love you.

Until next year …

xo,

emily

february-instagram

our february in instagram snapshots.

Notable moments: seahawks superbowl win, No.1’s 10th birthday, Ryan’s birthday, sledding & skiing, our 15 year anniversary, Audrey’s birthday and lots of creating.

instagram

 

 

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today, we skied.

The older boys had the day off school. The little ones did not. What’s a mom to do with a 10 year old and an 8 year old on a random january monday? Hang out on the mountain and ski, that’s what.

skiday

We’ve been up skiing as a family a handful of times, but this was the first for just a mom + boys ski day.

SO MUCH FUN.

It’s strange and wonderful all at once to be in this new phase of parenting. I went skiing with my children. Not to library storytime or the bouncy house or the zoo, but skiing. On a mountain. In less-than-ideal-icy-snow conditions. And they did awesome (minus that one run-in with the tree as seen above). These boys are great. I’m happy to be their mom.

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getting personal

First of all,  G O   S E A H A W K S !

girls-seahawks

The excitement in this city, this household, this girl is out of control.  We love our Superbowl-bound football team!

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ryan added a new feature to the blog last week – a link to every post on one page in chronological order {you can access it over there to the right on the ‘all posts’ image}.

You know when you find an old box of notes and photos from high school and you don’t mean to but you end up sitting for hours reading through them all, reminiscing, smiling, maybe crying a little? That’s what happened when he showed me the new post archive page. I read those very first posts – back when my babies were babies, when I had no idea how blogging would impact my life – reminiscing, smiling, crying a little.

It sort of put me in a funk.

All last week, I was melancholy, contemplative, creatively dry. It may have been due to the weather because it was dreary, foggy, gray all week and any time you go days without seeing sunshine it makes you slightly crazy.

But I think I was also deeply impacted by those first posts; by how simple they were, how unprofessional and unpolished and pure they were. I blogged because it seemed fun, because I needed a creative outlet, because it was new.  Most of all, what I noticed from those early blog posts is that they felt personal.

I was really hard on myself all week. Have I lost that personal feeling here? Have I become too complicated, too professional, too polished? Because that’s not really who I am and I hate feeling like a fraud.

On Friday afternoon Ryan finally got to the bottom of my pity-party-issues.  We realized that this blog actually has become less personal.  I’ll always be honest about my deepest thoughts and share them freely, I love doing a good craft project and showing you how to do it as well, our house will continue to be a canvas for decorating and the blog will be full of these things.  But they miss about 80% of my regular life – our family, the kids, learning how to parent, what we do over our weekends, vacations, that space between dinner and bedtime. This is what makes up our regular life. And it doesn’t often make it on the blog.

All of this was bothering me until Ryan reminded me that that’s what instagram has become. I may not document our family’s daily comings and goings on the blog anymore, but I do snap photos and post to instagram throughout each day that act like mini blog posts in photo and caption form.

Things like finding Audrey in the refrigerator getting herself a snack:

audrey-in-the-fridge

Or this sweet moment between No.3 and his great-grandpa:

great-gpa

Or that time when I said “smile!” and this is what I got:

smile-in-the-car

Or any of this:

instagram-collage

Our life. Moments I look back on reminiscing, smiling and maybe even crying a little.

As it turns out, it’s still personal. It just looks different than it did in those early days. I’m thankful for tools that make capturing our everydays a little easier.

If you’re curious, you can always follow along on instagram {my name is jonesdesigncompany}.

Now if the sun could just show it’s bright and beautiful face …

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family photos 2014

Before I jump into sharing our family photos, just wanted to let you know that today is the last day to order from the shop to ensure christmas delivery.

last-day-to-order

Your support of my little company means so much!

double-line

And now for family photos …

A few weeks ago, the super talented, very wise, fashionable, kind and sweetly southern Paige came for a visit and photographed our family. I’ve long admired her talent and was so thankful to have her capture our family just being us {a coordinated-outfit version of us, at least}.

The photos – every single one – turned out beautifully. She was fun and made us feel comfortable, even though it was 30* out and we were freezing. The kids did well, Atlas made it into a few and we now have cherished images we can’t wait to hang on our walls and give to our family.

Want to see a few of my favorites?

family-on-grass

Sometimes I look at us and think, ‘wow, that’s a big family’. Okay, all the time I think that.

bw-laughing

This one is just too good for words. It totally captured the kids and their cuteness.

bw-singing

And this one. It was almost our christmas card {see below} but instead will be made into a gigantic canvas.

bw-family-bench

Another card contender.

bw-soccer

Even though we can’t see everyone’s face, I like that she had the kids play and captured this moment.

We picked up Atlas and took just a couple more photos, but by this time it was suuuuper cold and the kids were feeling done.

 

walking-atlas

Yet, Paige managed to snap a shot that is another favorite of ours. I especially love No. 3’s hat.

walking-with-atlas

We wanted to have great pictures to document our family at this stage, and also to use for christmas cards. Did you know that Jones Design Company was started as a custom stationery business about 11 years ago? I did wedding invitations and baby announcements and lots and lots of christmas cards. Half the time I made our cards and the other half was too burnt out to get our family cards put together in time.  A stationery designer not sending out holiday cards? I know.

christmas-card-2014

This is the first year that I have not done a single christmas card order. It’s a new stage of business for me and while I’m so very thankful for the past years of orders, I’m also thankful for a holiday season where I can focus on other projects and clear out more space for family time.  It’s also the first year I did not design or make our own cards. This year, we ordered from Minted.

There were so many great pictures to choose from, but we ended up doing a full family shot for the front

christmas-card-front

and this darling photo for the back

back-of-card

I could not be happier with the Minted experience. There are a million designs to choose from, you can customize fonts and colors, there are add-ons like extra thick paper, gold foil printing {yes!}, envelope liners {I choose gold glitter} and even free addressing. The order came quickly and the quality is excellent.

There is still time to order your cards! Use discount code HAPPY2014 to take 15% off your order at minted.com.

Thank you, dear Paige, for sharing your talent with us. These photos will be cherished.

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how we do christmas gifts in our family

Last year we tried something different with our gift-giving.

Usually, we call Christmas an excuse to buy our kids a whole load of things they want and things we want them to have. We don’t go completely overboard, but with four kids and a handful of gifts each, our tree is usually overflowing with festively-wrapped presents. Christmas morning is a whirl of torn paper and squeals of delight and new clothes tossed to the side – because, who am I kidding – no six year old boy cares about a new tshirt.

We have really great kids who are {mostly} kind and thoughtful.

But they are not always grateful.

I don’t blame them; it’s hard to be grateful when you have no idea what it means to do without.

Jami wrote about it so beautifully and convicting-ly a few years ago after Christmas. I remember laying in bed reading her post and just crying because even though she was writing about her family, she was writing about mine, too.

We are spoiled beyond measure and yet we still want more.

So, last year, we gave something new a try with the hope that by reducing the number of presents, we would be more grateful for ones we received.

Here’s what we did: each of the kids woke on Christmas morning to four gifts under the tree.

We prepped the kids ahead of time, created wish lists and they seemed surprisingly excited about the idea.

The most difficult part, I will readily admit, was the restraint it took me in my gift-purchasing. I love buying things for my kids. There are a million fun gifts they would be happy to open but this system forced us to be intentional – only buying four things for each child.

Last Christmas morning was the best we’ve ever had. Without fail, every single present was opened with wide smiles and excited oohs and ahhs. Each of the kids received four gifts that were thought-out and purposeful and they were grateful.

We’re doing the four gifts again this year. No modifications. The kids just wrote out their wish lists with multiple items for each category. Ryan and I will choose from the list or come up with a special gift on our own. We don’t really pay close attention to spending equally on each child, but we do try to give items that will make them equally excited.

To be fair, I must admit that our kids receive more than four gifts for christmas. Between grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts & uncles and cousins, they open plenty of gifts. I’m sure you could ask your family members to refrain from gift-giving to keep the gifts at four total, but some people {like my mom} find such joy in giving gifts that we didn’t want to take that away.

If you’re wanting to try something new, simplify and be intentional about your gift-giving this year, this system might be great for you.

 To get you started, print out this fun printable for your little ones to jot down their wish lists.

wish-list

And then if you want to label your gifts, feel free to use these tags.

four-gifts-tags

To download the files, I invite you to join our library of freebies, templates and digital files. archive-free-access

It’s our best way to organize all of the favorite downloads and make it easier for you to find and access them. Simply click on the image above to join.

Enjoy!

Any other questions about how we do gifts? Let’s chat …

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what we’ll wear for family photos

We’re having family photos taken this week for the first time in way too long. We’ll use one for our Christmas card, but we also just hope to capture us being us during this slightly chaotic, but also really fun time in our family’s life.

What it means for me is that I get to choose coordinating {but not too matchy} outfits for our whole crew and they’ll actually wear them. Love this.

So here’s what I’m thinking:

family-photo-outfits

With three boys {plus dad}, navy is a pretty obvious choice, but it also works well because of its timelessness and the fact that it is sort of season-neutral. Plus, everyone in my family except for me have really striking blue eyes and they look good in blue. We’ll add in a few hints of orange just for fun.

Most of these items are the actual clothes the kids will wear. Some we already had, some were purchased especially for photos.

Here’s a close-up of each outfit:

no-1-outfit

Our oldest is almost 10, not a fan of anything but athletic shorts and hooded sweatshirts, so he’ll probably not love me for making him wear a button-up or jeans, but he’ll look cute and preppy like his mama likes. {sources: jcrew factory, abercrombie, gap, crocs shoes}.

no-2-outfit

No. 2 is eight and has a thing for dressing up. He doesn’t do it often, but he likes to look nice and so I thought a tie would be fun to show a little bit of his personality. Still sporty, but a little bit fancier. {sources: jcrew factory, gap, old navy}

no-3-outfit

No. 3 is six and would wear shorts, no shirt and flip flops every day of his life if he could {and if it was not 40 outside}. I would have loved to put him in a cute chunky knit fisherman sweater, but my baby would have been terribly uncomfortable and I think we would miss his super sweet/spunky personality in the photos if he was pulling at his sweater the whole time. {sources: gap, old navy, target}

no-4-outfit

Audrey is happy in anything that spins or is sparkly. It may be too cold outside to go without tights, so her outfit may change a little – maybe her navy rain boots instead of the sweet striped shoes. {sources: joyfolie, target, old navy, jcrew}

So, obviously, I’m a little crazy to create a design board for what my kids will wear for photos. But I was sick in bed and it was fun. And now I don’t have to think about it on the day of photos.

But here’s one thing we need to decide: since this is the first year we’ve had a dog … are we a family that includes Atlas in our photos? {we’re thinking probably yes – at least for some}. And then, when we send our christmas cards, do we include our pup’s name on it? Is that what you do? Or is that super dorky? Advice, please …

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what we’ve been up to

I needed a break. I needed to let my mind rest. I needed to be present with my kids and turn off creativity for a bit {and stay out of my office}.

And so we did the 20 days of giveaways. I wasn’t sure how it would be received … is it annoying to just read about a different blog-friend each day? Would you still stick around even though I wasn’t creating and sharing and truly blogging? Thankfully, it worked out all the way around. We got to know some of our favorite bloggers even better; I was able to take a much needed break from work.

While I was away from the computer, we’ve been soaking up this gorgeous Pacific Northwest summer as much as possible. The sun is fleeting up here, but when it’s around you can’t find a more picturesque place. Most of these are instagram photos {emilyjdc} with the hashtag #pacificnwatitsfinest. It’s so true.

july-instagrams

We swam in lakes, in pools, in the Puget Sound. We ate freshly caught crab and fro-yo and donuts. We played with friends and explored out-of-doors.

I needed this break, for sure. But I think my kids needed their mom to take a break even more.

We still have one full month of summer adventures left to enjoy, but I’m feeling the urge to create start to creep up on me. I’m excited to be back and have a million and a half projects to talk about with you.

Thanks for hanging out with me!

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our best tips and tricks for staying, navigating, saving and enjoying disneyland

We’ve only taken our family to disneyland once, so we are by no means experts, but I thought I’d share a few of our best tips mostly because it was really helpful for me to read tips from other blogosphere families while planning our trip.

First things first, a disneyland vacation is, by nature, expensive.

You can certainly do things to cut costs, but I’ll just be up front and honest and say that we spent a pretty penny on this trip. I mean, the price of park admission tickets alone cost more than our grocery bill for an entire month! But we planned our trip with the opinion that we wanted to go and experience it all and not be overly concerned with how much everything cost.

We did what we could to not spend more than necessary, but if you’re looking for tips on going to disneyland on a tight budget, I may not be your girl.

Yikes. I hope that doesn’t make me sound incredibly snobby. Hopefully you get what I’m saying.

I’ll break up this post into a few sections: stay & play and probably throw in a few random thoughts at the end.

// STAY //

All my life I wanted to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. So did my mom. We decided to just go for it.

IMG_0023

Staying at the hotel was magical. You feel like you walk into a disney bubble and remain there for your entire trip. Each day we woke up early, walked from our hotel through downtown disney and entered the park an hour before the general population {that’s one of the best perks of staying at a disney resort: magic mornings where you get in 1 hour early}. At the end of the day, we just walked a few minutes back to our hotel. No hassle of shuttles or parking or realizing there is a real world outside the walls of disneyland.

We had two rooms with two queen size beds each and a door that joined the two rooms. It was fun to notice all of the disney details {mouse ears in the carpet design, mickey’s gloved hand holding the bathroom sconce, the disney font on the hot and cold bath knobs}. All of it was just magical.

IMG_0001

The rooms and public areas were super nice, the pool has water slides and complimentary life jackets and life guards {oh, and poolside drinks and comfy lounge chairs}.

We found our best deal through Costco travel which included our hotel room, park admission, character dining meal, magic mornings, lanyards and a disney gift card for about the same price as booking just the room and admission through the disney website.

I have been asked a few times since our trip if staying at the Disneyland Hotel {or the Disney Grand} is worth it and while I say wholeheartedly yes, it really depends on what you want from your trip. This was a splurge, for sure, but also a dream fulfilled and it made our stay even more enjoyable. And, honestly, the early admission makes it worth it.

// PLAY //

You can purchase park-hopper tickets {where you get to go from disneyland to california adventure and then back again} but we bought one-park-per-day passes. I didn’t think we would need to go from place to place. This was a good decision for our family as it saved on the cost and we were very happy in one park per day.

I had not been to disneyland since the invention of Fast Passes and I was a little unsure of how the whole thing worked. But it actually makes a lot of sense and saved us a ton of waiting in long lines for the most popular rides. Just google ‘disneyland fastpass’ if you want more in-depth info and fancy tricks for getting maximum use. Or just figure it out when you get there {that was our route}.

The park was crowded while we were there, but we planned our trip for after spring break and before summer break to try to avoid the busiest times. For most rides, we waited no longer than 30 minutes and the time really goes by quickly as there is so much to see. I was worried my kids would be so bored in line, but that was not the case at all. I decided {with prompting from my dear husband} to stay off instagram during our trip and I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet moments we had as a family while waiting in line. I am so glad I ignored my phone and just enjoyed the moment.

I expected that we would split up a lot – two adults with the older boys, two with the little ones, but we mostly stayed together all three days. The three boys could go on most everything and Audrey was so happy to either go on a smaller nearby ride with one adult or we would wait and watch for her brothers to crash down splash mountain or do the loop-de-loop on California Screamin’.

Another concern I had was that the age difference would be hard – how do you keep a 9 year old boy and 3 year old girl happy at the same time? Um, I was so wrong to worry. That is part of the magic of disney … everything is enjoyable to everyone {okay, maybe not it’s a small world}.

WATCH THE PARADES! My favorite, by far, of all things disney. The boys were resistant at first {a parade instead of rides?!}, but they ended up being mesmerized. You can’t help but dance and clap and smile through the whole thing.

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We spent two days in disneyland and one in California Adventure. Three days was perfect for our young family, but I maybe would have done California Adventure twice and disneyland once. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe not.

This was my first time at C.A. and it was just as amazing as I remember my first trip to disneyland. I was thinking it would not be anything as wonderful as the original disneyland, but it is! The rides are great, the lands are just as imaginative {Bug’s land is adorable, Car’s land feels like you walked into the movie}. It is definitely worth the trip.

The most popular ride at C.A. is Radiator Springs Racers – which is darling and all, but the wait was ridiculous. People wait in line for two hours just to get a fastpass where they then have to come back later and wait again to get on the ride! We decided to just wait in the regular standby line despite the fact that it was posted as a 75 minute wait. It was actually about 90 minutes. Shockingly, that 90 minutes went pretty quick – there is much to see and pleasant music and vendors walking through the lines with popcorn or water or soda. The ride was fun, I’m glad we did it, but was not worth the wait.

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One of the great things about everyone clamoring to get on the racers ride was that other rides had very, very short wait times. We walked on the big roller coaster 3 times in a row. We did the river rafting ride twice in a row {it was so much fun} and while we were waiting for the cars ride, my mom took Audrey all through A Bug’s Land and did all of the cute little kid rides.

You can view height restrictions online ahead of time and I was pleasantly surprised by how many rides the kids could go on. I think the older boys could do everything {they are 9 and 7}, our five year old only missed a few and Audrey {3} wasn’t too thrilled with crazy rides anyway, so she was happy to stick with the sweet things like the teacups and minnie’s house in Toon Town.

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You can download the disney parks app {called Mobile Magic} and get all sorts of good navigating info. It gives you maps, wait times, restaurants – totally worth downloading {plus, it’s free}.

Kids love all of the trinkets and stuffed animals and hats and balloons disneyland has to offer. Each of our kids got to choose a couple of little souvenirs and most of those were purchased at the World of Disney store in downtown disney {maybe it saved a few dollars? not sure. But that store is enormous and has a great selection}.  Our oldest two went back to the park one night after dinner with Ryan and they got to build their own light sabers at the Star Wars store in Tomorrowland. For two boys who love all things jedi, this was a dream come true. Surprisingly, the light sabers were only a few more dollars than the ones they have from Target.

We ate our meals and treats at the park {see this post}, but we also packed a bunch of healthy snacks with us. It was nice to have individual packs of nuts, trailmix, goldfish crackers, granola bars to sustain the snack munchies and also avoid spending a million dollars on food that doesn’t fill you up.

If you have little ones, strollers are a must. We brought two and we’re so glad we had them. Not only do they give tired legs a rest, but it’s nice to have a place to store extra bottles of water or sweatshirts for later. You can park your stroller and leave all your stuff in it while you wait for a ride. Just bring a small bag or backpack to keep your wallet/phone/camera in while you go on the rides. I brought a small messenger bag {see it hanging on the back of the stroller?} that worked great.

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This last tip is totally up to your personal preference, but as much as I read about the benefits of having a mapped-out plan for what rides to go on first and where to stop to use the bathroom and when the optimal time is to visit certain attractions, we are just not that type of family. We went with only the itinerary to do as many rides as the kids wanted and stay as long as they were having a good time and linger in the lands they found most imaginative.  We walked aimlessly at times and with purpose at others.  Our main goal was to have fun and I think it’s safe to say, we all had the most amazing trip.

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what we ate in disneyland

Since we generally care about what we eat and what we feed our children, I was a little concerned with what our food options would be in Disneyland.

I mean, we all know they sell delicious treats {frozen lemonade! dole whips! macaroons!} and don’t get me wrong, I could live off of such goodness. But a few real, sustaining meals every now and again are kinda necessary when you’re walking miles in the warm sun pushing overflowing strollers and carrying five year olds on your back.

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We actually ate pretty well at Disneyland. Lots of junk, for sure, but we had a few great meals as well.

Let’s start with that corn dog up there on the left. It. Was. Amazing. Not good for you, but totally worth it.

Each morning we walked through Downtown Disney to get to the parks and so we stopped at jamba juice or la brea bakery for quick, healthy-ish breakfasts. We did the same one evening for dinner – taking a break from Disneyland and grabbing a grilled panini from a sandwich shop in Downtown Disney.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for {and want to save a little bit on the cost of your meal}, walking the few minutes to Downtown Disney is a great way to go.

Ryan had heard that the Monte Cristo sandwich at Cafe Orleans in Disneyland was a must-have. So on our second day, we stopped for a nice sit-down lunch. It actually became one of our favorite memories of the trip. Sitting in the shade, letting the kids rest and color and chill for an hour – it was perfect. Ryan ordered the most decadent sandwich ever {that’s it on the bottom left} and I had the chunky salad {middle right} which was so good. The kid meal options were things like grilled chicken with spaghetti and broccoli or homemade mac & cheese {so good!} with fruit and veggies on the side. It was nice to feed our kids more than chicken nuggets or corn dogs.

I thought I would stick to a one-treat-per-day rule for the kids to save their teeth, our money and to avoid the inevitable can I have that! each time we passed a street vendor. However, I learned two things: 1. only one treat is impossible when grandma and grandpa are with you and 2. treats are fun. So we bought two bags of cotton candy and split it between all of us rather than one for each of us, or we split a frozen lemonade, or broke the pretzel into sharable pieces. By having only a little of each treat, it meant we could try more throughout the day.

Part of our disneyland package included a character dining experience at Goofy’s Kitchen at Disneyland Hotel. We ate their buffet dinner which was really not that great and neither were the desserts, but the kids though it was so much fun to help themselves to whatever they wanted {see No.2’s dessert plate on the middle left}. The draw of Goofy’s Kitchen is that favorite characters {Minnie Mouse, Chip, Pluto} and some more obscure ones {the Fairy Godmother, the Mad Hatter} visit each table and pose for photos. It would have cost our family of 8 about $250 for the meal, which was totally not worth it, but because it was free, it was a really fun thing to do.

California Adventure boasts Disney’s only Starbucks and I’m not sure why, but a tall, decaf, extra hot, one pump mocha just tastes better while sipping it from a disney parks cup.

The yummiest of all the treats we ate was ice cream from Ghiradelli in California Adventure. Ryan went all out and brought us back waffle cones dipped in chocolate filled with the creamiest ice cream ever. We sat on the sidewalk watching the Pixar parade making total drippy messes of ourselves and relished every second of it.

So did we eat well? Maybe not. But we made fun memories with the food and treats we did have.

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