Travel

Our Disneyland Surprise Vacation

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We pulled off our surprise Disneyland trip and couldn’t have done it without all of the help we received from Get Away Today. And it only seemed fitting that I finally blog our Disneyland trip from the spring on the return of our summer visit! Will and I decided to make our little ones first visit to the most magical place on earth a complete surprise. We had told them that Dad had a very, very long business trip (hence him taking 3 suitcases for himself) and since he was going to be gone for so long we were going to have grandma take him to the airport so we could all see him off and then hang out in SLC for a fun play day. Well..our big fib was well played and they never second guessed us. Just watch this video capturing it all.

See! They truly couldn’t believe it or us! Liliana kept thinking her dad was still going on that business trip all the way until she boarded the plane. And Liam just kept saying over and over “Wait. Are we really going to Disneyland? Like right now?” Once we landed though and quickly checked in to our hotel it all became very real for the both of them! And we hit the ground running immediately and headed straight into the park.

We were all so excited on our first day that I hardly grabbed any photos! But thankfully Will captured this photo of Liliana on the very first ride we took, Dumbo!

Our first day at Disneyland park was well spent. We stayed until just about close and hit all the rides that we could. Tip – stay late if possible. All of the lines ie: Splash Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had no waits whatsoever! I think we rode Splash Mountain 3 time in a row back to back! It was so much fun!

For dinner on our first night at the park we ate at the Carnation Cafe. Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect as we were sat outside and dined at the perfect time to get front row views for the electric light parade. We ordered all of their known faves – the fried pickles with dipping sauce, the baked potato soup and the homemade meatloaf. Not a single one disappointed. I still dream about those fried pickles if I’m being completely honest 😉

We woke up on day 2 and were completely exhausted, but so excited to head back for more. But first breakfast. We headed to our full complimentary breakfast buffet that the Residence Inn Anaheim Convention Resort offers all of it’s guests. Serious perks and something we always look for when traveling as a family. And then a quick peek at the rooftop pool area and splash pad before we headed off for our day.

We decided we’d spend the first half of our day at California Adventure and the second half back at Disneyland Park since Liliana had a full on princess makeover scheduled at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique later in the day.



After a fun morning at California Adventure we stopped in for lunch at the Storyteller’s Cafe. It was fun to see it hadn’t changed too much since we brought our 4 big kids there over 12 years ago. Will and I spent so much time reminiscing about that trip and talking with our two youngest all about it. Oh! Another quick tip! We feel like to get the best out of your trip you absolutely must download the official Disneyland App. It is so helpful when trying to navigate the park, check line wait times, as well as reserving dining at all of the Disneyland restaurants. Truthfully I don’t know how anyone does Disney without it!

Soon it was time to head to Cinderella’s Castle for Liliana’s appt at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. When we were planning this surprise trip in one of my Disneyland searches I found that your little girl could be turned into a real live princess. I had no idea that Disneyland offered anything like it! After chatting with Will we decided that we would surprise Liliana with an appt. We chose the Castle Package because after having so many children and watching how fast they grow up we know one thing for sure. And that is, that they’re only little once… and for such short time. So if you think you’ll do it later, chances are you won’t. Or maybe you will, but the time where it was pure magic may already be lost. So when we realized that this may be our only chance for Liliana to really enjoy the magic of all of this we jumped! Are we were so glad we did. She more than loved it.

Since our hotel was so conveniently located within walking distance to Disneyland it allowed for us to head back for an afternoon break. Liam + Liliana couldn’t get the visions of the pool from the morning out of their heads and both Will and I felt like a dip in the pool (and possibly a nap) sounded great since it was so hot!

After a good few hours we headed back to Disneyland for dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen. Which we all loved! It was super fun and interactive with songs and dance all while you are dining. Also, if you’ve never experienced Goofy’s macaroni and cheese pizza you haven’t fully experienced life! We all seriously couldn’t get enough of it!

When dinner was over we strolled through downtown Disney where we stopped into a store where Liam constructed and built his very own remote control car! It was such a fun experience for him. We always try to do something special for each of our kids that they will remember. And since Liliana was able to enjoy being made into a princess it seemed that Liam making his own car was a perfect fit for him. We headed back to our room fairly early to get a good nights rest as we knew that the next morning was our early entry day and we were all going to need some serious sleep.

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Our third and final day at Disneyland was our early entry day! We got up at what seemed like the butt crack of dawn and rushed to the park to try to get in all the fun rides we could and that usually have the longest wait times. It was so fun to be in the park when there are hardly any others in there. It was kind of like we had the place to ourselves. While Will ran and took the kids on Hyper Space Mountain, I ran to Indiana Jones and staked our place in the front of the line. It worked out perfectly so they were able to ride both rides within the first half hour of us entering the park. If you have the chance to add early-entry to your park tickets for one of your days we highly suggest it!

We bounced back and forth between both California Adventure and Disneyland for the rest of the day. Enjoyed lunch at Ariels Grotto where we got to dine and meet four of the Disney Princesses. Snacked on some cotton candy and had the best corn dog of our lives from the Corn Dog Castle located on Paradise Pier in California Adventure. I truly haven’t had a corndog in probably over 20 years….but you bet your bottom I ate one and it was incredible! And of course we can’t forget the delectable and famous Dole Whip. Perfect for any hot day at Disneyland!

After a full 3 days, we said goodbye to Disneyland and hello to the beach (blog post coming up). We truly loved every bit of our experience at the most magical place on earth and can’t wait to head back again soon! I never thought I’d, or we would be any sort of crazy Disneyland loving family…but never say never. The magic is real and we all felt it and love it so much that I’m seriously considering season passes! We are only a short 10 hour drive 😉 and again, maybe I’m crazy, but I want to soak up all of the fun magic moments with our little ones before they get too big and it’s lost.

Thanks again to GetAway Today and Disneyland for making our trip the most magical and memorable ever. We can not recommend them enough for help with planning your vacation!

 

Also, thanks to Yanira Calise Photography for coming to Disneyland and capturing some fun photos for us.

 

This post is in partnership with Get Away Today and Disneyland. 

a blur

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Heres the thing. Life has been a bit crazy around here since my last post. Like for realz CRAY CRAY. These past few months are such a blur. I had a few separate posts started so I figured I would just mold them into one giant one..so, we’ll start here back on April 9th..

This one time…like nearly 3 months ago, I joined my Man on a little business trip that he had scheduled to San Francisco. It also happened to be our anniversary, so it worked out well for us. Most of the days I had to myself to explore the city, and at nights I was able to tag along with Will to his dinners and events. We stayed here, and it was just pure perfection. Stunning lobby, amazing rooms and marble galore. I absolutely, completely fell in love with the city (like big time) and can not wait to take our family back soon.

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Next up we celebrated this handsome son of mine (right up there on the left) “16th” birthday on the 16th of April. I took him to In-n-out for lunch and then we headed to a local family Italian joint with the whole crew for dinner. We missed out on singing to him on his actual birthday so when he returned from a tennis tournament late one evening we surprised him with a little family party.

Up next was Easter. I already overgrammed that so no need to blog it too. Then we headed in to May and things really got crazy around here. Most of my days were spent helping my two oldest girls prepare for their move to Seattle. We celebrated my cute boy Aden’s 14th birthday on the 9th. We went to dinner and I made him a Berry Chantilly cake. It was my first attempt and it turned out pretty divine. We then celebrated Mother’s day a few days later and the month rounded up with my daughter’s graduation and a celebration party for them after at our home (where I made my chantilly cake for the second time) that will be blogged about soon. But, the Chantilly recipe is coming up on the very next blog post!

Taylor and Addie + SBP // Senior Photos

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Have you ever dreamed or envisioned something and then it came true? Actually not just true, but better than true? That’s what happened right here with these incredible senior photos of my daughters. Last week Sam stopped by with positively the most enchanting package I have ever laid eyes on! Seriously the cutest branding and packaging I’ve ever seen, plus the most sincere and genuine hand written notes to boot! I literally haven’t been able to stop looking at everything, the photos, sweet surprises and even the packaging since we received it all and I don’t see that changing any time soon either. Everything was personalized for us straight from the shoot. Talk about making your clients feel special and truly loved. I was swooning! To take a peek at what we received from Sam (trust me you definitely want to) when she so sweetly hand delivered our surprise package to our home head to her blog post here.

With my two oldest daughters graduation looming near (like just over a month away, insert crying face here) plus their impending big move out of state all on their own…I’m like a complete roller coaster of emotions. And looking at all of these amazing captures just brings it all out and right to the surface, basically I’m a bit of an emotional disaster right now. Every single one of these photos gives me a lump in my throat (not the scary kind of lump) the I’m so amazingly proud and am choking back tears lump.

Sam captured the essence of both my girls so well and literally every single photo turned out better than we could have ever imagined. I really (like reaaaallly) wanted to share all of them with you (and it may look like I did, but I promise, I didn’t) because they are all A-Mazing. I mean, I know I’m their Mom…but for realz…every single capture is just jaw-dropping. Well, just see for yourselves…

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It was so fun hearing, watching and helping my girls prep for this photo session. I was excited right along with them and happy to help them bring their visions of these photos to life. We hit thrift stores, Target and a few others shops in search of just the right outfits. And when they said they wanted floral crowns and asked me if I’d make them some I was more than pleased to. Listening to them chat and talk and share pins with each other of what they wanted from this shoot was so good for my heart. Bohemian, natural, free-people, urban outfitters inspired…but the biggest thing I grabbed from all of their chatters was how they wanted to share and show their upcoming life changes. It’s big! Right?! I mean, they’re graduating, moving out and on with their OWN lives. A huge step, and one I’m sure most of us remember as a pretty poignant time in our lives as well. They wanted these photos to be different, not the typical “senior photos” and to show all of that. But most of all they really wanted to just simply have fun with it and Sam completely nailed it.

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For 10 years now these two girls, sisters, have had a friend in each other. They were only 8 (Tay) and 7 (Addie) when Will and I started dating and new we’d soon be married. I’ve watched their relationship ride it’s own wave and settle into a perfect calm. I do not know what its like to have a sister, so I don’t have much to compare their relationship to, but I do know they are so good for each other and in my eyes have a beautiful relationship. Of course they bicker and get frustrated with each other like any normal sibling relationship, but from where I sit I would feel lucky if I were in either one of their shoes. To have someone you love to adventure your first part of living your own life with who knows you, trusts you and now matter what will always have your back…what a wonderful feeling that must be. I’m just so beyond grateful they have one another and always will.

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As you can see, Sam is beyond talented and seriously is the sweetest soul you’ll ever meet. She made the girls feel so at ease with everything and was so fun to be around and work with and not to mention completely funny….always cracking silly jokes and making the girls laugh. Her and her cute helpers (her darling husbands) attention to detail and ability to take my girls visions and bring them to life was more than we could have asked for. I’m so glad our paths crossed and know it was not by chance. Sam is a true gem and I’m so grateful to call her a friend. Oh, and if you want to peek in to Sam’s personal life you should follow her on Instagram here. She’s adorable and has the best style in the world! Also, check out her latest blog post here where she shares more amazing photos from the girls senior session. She’s amazing. Seriously, I’m telling you, if you’re in the market for some photography work, she’s without a doubt the gal you want.

Aaaaand….Guess what!! We have a fun little treat for you! If you book an event or session with Samantha Broderick Photography you can get 20% off by mentioning code: “MIKO+SBP” (*code must be mentioned with initial contact to be valid). But hurry discount is only good through May 11th which also happens to be Mothers Day..hint hint (tell your families you want some amazing new photos for your Mother’s Day gift this year, yeah) So, now head on over to SBP and get on it! I promise you will get the photos you’ve always dreamed of plus have the best time while you’re at it.

 

Daughters // grow and change

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I adore this blurry shot of my two oldest daughters for a number of reasons. One, is that it really is so hard to get a normal picture of them together. Seriously, they are always pulling faces, or being silly in some way..but this capture is what I see everyday they are together. Smiling, laughing, glowing girls all in a blur. Blur, because lately I’ve been reflecting a lot about my part in raising these girls and its really just gone by so fast…just like a blur. Time is closing in on us. Soon they will be moving on with their own lives, away from home and on their own.

The Haiti mission trip that these two recently returned from was beyond wonderful in a number of ways for them. I knew and hoped they would grow and change from it. And boy did they. More than I ever expected. They seriously left one way and came home with a whole new perspective on life with new doors open to them that they didn’t think possible before. You see, when they left they both had their lives for the next four years planned out (or so I had thought). They were both working on achieving their MA (Medical Assisting) certificates while finishing up their senior year of high school. Upon graduation they were both going to head to college at the UofU, living on campus in the dorms and working towards getting their degrees in their prospective fields. Addie Pre-Med and Tay was still undecided but leaning towards something in the Humanities and Communication fields.

But all of that changed. Within a week of returning home they started plotting out big changes for their futures. And before I knew it I was being told to clear my schedule for Saturday night to make time for a major meeting with all parents so they could discuss a “plan” with us. A “plan”…what kind of a plan? My immediate thoughts “holy shit…their pregnant..or wait their doing drugs…or wait..none of that makes sense”. Because why would we all need to be at this meeting? 6 parents in all? (Yes, 6…if you’re confused…read the FAQs or ask me) If just one was pregnant, or doing drugs why would we all need to be there? For moral support? All I know, is man, your mind does some crazy ass things when you’re scared and stuff is unknown. Especially when it comes to your kids!

Being the impatient Mom that I am…I managed to get the idea of what the meeting was to be about out of them before the big meeting this past Saturday. The “plan”. They are moving at the end of the summer. “Moving? Yes, I know you are” is my response. “No, I don’t think you understand” said my daughter Taylor. “We are moving out of state.” Wait, whaaaat? So…long story short, not only are they moving, but they are bypassing their acceptance to the U, giving up their scholarships and closing that door for good.

To be honest I wasn’t really too surprised with their desires to leave Utah. They have both always shared a love for New York and had always dreamed of heading there after high school for college. We had always encouraged their dreams and kind of secretly hoped that they really would come true even though we knew the likely-hood of it happening was pretty slim. But Haiti opened new doors for them. New ideas. Ideas of adventures and risks. Ideas that flat out scare the shit out of me.

Watching your children grow up and make choices of their own can be oh so hard. Especially when its not exactly as you thought it was going to go or as you had planned. Sometimes as parents its hard to remember that its not about you. Not about what you want or how you want it to go. Especially with raising teenagers. All you can do is hope that you have instilled a good solid foundation and pray (like hell) that they make wise decisions…but even if they don’t it’s okay. They can fail. We all have. And its what makes us who we are, each of us. We wouldn’t be where we are had we not had multiple failures and successes. So with that…my heart and head feel good. I have faith that it will all work out as it should. It always does. And with the biggest part of their beings these girls know that. And they will be just fine.

So watch out Washington…my girls are coming for you and are ready to see and take in all you have to offer. And last night they purchased their first piece of furniture…a vintage couch for 35 bucks. So, they’re set.

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Haiti // a mission trip

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A few weeks ago my two oldest daughters, Taylor and Addie, had the opportunity to travel with a local relief group to Haiti for 10 days. Known as the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, Haitians deal with issues of poverty and desperation for something as simple as clean water daily. It has long been a dream of my girls to serve those less fortunate and this trip was exactly what they had been looking for.

While in Haiti they spent the majority of their time serving in a remote village in the mountains. They would travel by a “tap-tap” everyday for three hours each way to reach the village. Most of the children living in the village had never seen light skinned people before, so when their relief group arrived on the first day the children ran in fear thinking they were there to eat them. One of the translators quickly let them know that they were there to help and would definitely not be eating them. My daughters shared that even though you could tell that the villagers (especially the children) were fearful and nervous it wasn’t too long before they warmed up and became friends.

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This young boy (shown above and below) was one who particularly struck my daughter Taylor. She said “I still think about this trip everyday. Especially this little boy. He was in the village the first day we went to visit. He couldn’t have been more than three years old and he was sitting by himself and cooking over an open fire. I watched as he tried to pick up the pot from the hot fire and quickly dropped it. He then went and found some leaves, crinkled them up in his hands and used them as a barrier to get the hot pot of food off of the fire. It broke my heart to see him and so many other kids taking on these types of responsibilities and losing a significant part of being a child, having fun and playing most of the day.”

Each day in the village the relief group would eat one meal while there. They were not allowed to eat in front of the villagers so all 23 of them would pack into an old church house that wasn’t any bigger than a small bedroom. My daughters said that the first day they learned that whatever they didn’t eat off of their own plates would be given to the children and villagers. Knowing that they said they would just pick at the food (so as to not offend the cooks) only taking a few bites and would then leave the rest for the villagers to eat.

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One of the children’s most favorite things was getting their picture taken. My girls said they could spend hours upon hours just simply taking pictures of the them and then showing them the photos of themselves on either their cameras or phones. Most of the children had not ever seen what they looked like because they do not have mirrors in the village. Sometimes there would be a group of children gathered around together and they would each take turns raising their hands while getting a picture taken so they would be able to identify themselves in the photo.

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These two adorable brothers never left each others side. Where ever they went they were hand in hand and always clinging to each other. When Taylor was going through her photos with me I was confused when she said “brothers” in reference to this capture. As I noticed the clothing on the younger boy. She said “yes, he had a Hannah Montana shirt on with flowered denim capris and that was his “best dress” clothing”. Both of the girls then proceeded to share with me that the villagers wore their best clothing for them. Some had nicely pressed white shirts and dress slacks but most were not so fortunate. Tattered shirts and if they were lucky a pair of shoes was what was more common. Little boys wore girls clothes, and little girls wore boys clothes because in this Haitian village where clothing runs short there is nothing that is only worn by specific genders.

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Addison adores children and spent a lot of her time playing with the little ones in the village. The little girl shown above in the yellow dress was one she wanted to bring home. They had an immediate bond and spent everyday together. On the last day she never showed up to meet with them and it broke Addie’s heart to not be able to say goodbye to her. She shared this about her experience in Haiti “This trip was one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences of my life. Playing with these children broke my heart daily as well as humbled me and opened up my world. I am forever grateful for this experience and to have been touched by the Haitian people. I went to Haiti to serve the people, and the people ended up serving me. I fell in love with their beautiful land and culture.”

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After the devastating 2010 earthquake hit over 1 million Haitians were displaced and many set up tent cities as they no longer had anywhere to live. Since my girls spent 6 hours each day riding in the “tap-tap” (as seen below) to and from the village they had a lot of time to really observe the towns they would pass through. The devastation is still enormously present from the earthquake and most Haitians live off of less than $2 a day. Markets are set up everywhere with people trying to sell anything and everything just to get their next meal or maybe some clean water. There is no sewage system and trash litters every bit of the countryside. When I was going through all of the photos that Taylor captured (which are pretty amazing..she definitely has talent in that area) the one above on the left kept standing out. The destruction of the city, the lady carrying a jug of water (which chances are isn’t clean) and walking in the street laden with trash in her bare feet.. the desperation held in this photo just kept getting me.

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These two girls right here…amaze me. They left on this mission trip with suitcases jam packed full of all of their “necessities” but returned home with nearly empty suitcases but overflowing hearts full of compassion and gratitude. They left behind all of their clothing and shoes for the villagers and wished they could have left more. The both of them vowed to be returning to Haiti again and making mission trips a regular part of their futures. They really just make me proud.

Photos by Taylor

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