How to Get a Hawaii Quarantine Exemption

Hawaii’s fragile economy relies heavily on tourism but as a small group of islands with limited healthcare availability they have really struggled with choosing between health and sustainability and oftentimes those go hand in hand.

Hawaii reopened for tourism in late 2020 after being closed for over half the year, but not without limitations. At the time of this post, February 2021, the state of Hawaii currently requires all visitors to adhere to a strict 10 day quarantine OR apply for a quarantine exemption. I’m going to walk you through how to get the quarantine exemption. We just got back from a wonderful 7 days on the main island of Oahu with exemptions for our entire family of 7.

First things first, plan your trip! You will need to know your hotel/rental, dates, and flight info to apply for your exemption. Best to book things that are refundable or you can at least get a credit for if you need to cancel last minute. I don’t work for or even know anyone who works for Southwest Airlines but if you’ve read any of my travel posts before then you know we fly with Southwest a lot! Southwest has super cheap nonstop flights from California to Hawaii right now, I’m talking like $99 cheap! Or if you’re loaded up on points like us they may even be free! The best thing about Southwest is you can cancel or change your flights up to 5 minutes before departure with no penalties and they’ll either give you a full cash credit or a full point refund. Cant beat that!

You need to go to the Hawaii Safe Travels website and create an account. Each person in your party over the age of 18 will need their own account. For example Andrew and I had our own accounts and I put all of our kids on my account. Once you have created an account you need to fill in your trip information. The website is pretty straightforward on what you need to fill out. You will also need to upload a selfie of each person on the account, you’ll see where to put it!

TESTING! This is the most difficult part of getting an exemption. The state of Hawaii requires each visitor 5 years old and older to provide a negative COVID-19 test done within 72 of the departure time of your final flight to Hawaii. The catch is that Hawaii will only accept tests from certain approved testing facilities. You can find a complete list of Hawaii approved testing facilities HERE A lot of these locations require appointments and fill up quickly. You also need to keep in mind that results can take over 48 hours to come back so don’t wait until the last minute to take your test. I’ll provide a sample timeline below. Once you have received your negative test results you need to upload them in PDF format to your safe travels account. They must be uploaded before you board your flight to Hawaii! You should also have a paper copy or at least a copy on your phone, they actually looked at our paper copy too.

24 hours before departure to Hawaii you will need to log back in to your safe travels account and fill out the health questionnaire then you will get a QR code.

That’s it! Safe travels account with trip info, 72hr negative covid test from an approved facility, 24 hour health questionnaire, you’re off to Hawaii!

Upon landing in Hawaii you will have your temperature taken as soon as you deplane then you will be directed to the screening area. When you arrive at the screening area someone will scan your QR code to bring up your safe travels account. For us she also asked to see the paper copy of our covid tests even though we had uploaded all of them ahead of time. Then she approves our exemption and sent us on our way to baggage claim. Overall the entire process at the airport for our entire family took maybe 5 minutes.

After your exemption is approved it will show up in your safe travels account. You will need this to show your hotel when you check in. It looks like this and as you can see mine also lists all of our kids.

Below I’m going to show you the timeline we did everything in so hopefully it makes more sense!

January 20- Create safe travels account for myself & kids, create safe travels account for Andrew (everyone over 18 needs their own account). Make appointments for covid tests at approved testing facility.

January 27- Fly to San Francisco. 3:30pm take covid test at City Health Urgent care in downtown San Francisco. They are well versed in Hawaii travel so make sure you tell them you need the approved test for Hawaii travel. We had results back in about 36 hours but they estimate it taking 48 hours.

January 29- COVID results back & negative. Upload results for all travelers into the appropriate safe travels account. Andrew had his own account and then I uploaded my test and the kids tests to my account. Kids age 5 and older need tests so the twins needed tested but our younger 3 did not.

January 30 9:30am- fill out health questionnaire in safe travels account

January 31 9:30am- Depart San Francisco on nonstop flight to Honolulu.

As you can see we took our covid tests about 66 hours before our flights so that put us within the approved 72 hour window but still gave us enough time to ensure we had results back.

I know this is a lot of information and it’s complicated so feel free to ask me questions, I’m happy to help!

January 2021 Wrap Up

If you had asked me back in the summer what January 2021 would look like I would have said that life would be back to normal, but here we are still living in this crazy COVID mess. I am thankful our run ins with COVID have been minimal and we have largely continued to live our lives as normal as possible. Not being able to travel outside the US has been a major bummer for us, but we have spent the last year going wherever we were allowed which has mainly consisted of Florida to the beach and Disney World a lot! We were also able to squeeze in an amazing trip to Northern California once they lifted their 10 month long lockdown and then a trip to Hawaii once they opened back up for tourists. I’ll make separate posts for both of those trips, they’ll be worth the read!

By far the biggest thing that happened in January 2021 is Andrew and I got baptized! Years ago after Andrew & I moved back to his hometown we searched for a church home for years but never found anywhere we really felt was right for us. Over 2 years ago we ended up deciding to go back to a church in our college town that we knew we loved even if it meant driving 45 minutes one way every week to get there. We haven’t looked back since. Andrew & I both grew up going to church and were baptized as children but really felt called to rededicate our lives to Jesus and be baptized again as adults. We are so thankful for our church family. The drive is so worth it with how much we are growing spiritually and our children are engrossed in learning the Gospel here.

We spent most of the month of January playing and learning. Our baby #5 is growing and changing so fast! He started really socially smiling and cooing at us this month. Everyone loves on him and caters to him so much! We are all soaking up his newborn days as they’re just about over.

We have a few more plans for next month before we have to really dive in to this year’s farming season so stay tuned!

Disney World Christmas 2020

Having a baby is hard work so we decided to take a load off by going to Disney World with 4 kids and a newborn! In all seriousness though adding a newborn to our trip didn’t change hardly anything except a few more stops at the baby care centers.

We opted to stay at our tried and true Contemporary resort so we could walk to Magic Kingdom and avoid the hassle that is Disney transportation most days.

If you’ve read any of my other blogs about WDW then you know that we LOVE the Contemporary. We are extremely partial to main tower theme park view rooms so we can see Cinderella’s castle. This trip was really fun for that because the castle was lit up for Christmas in fun colors. These rooms will sleep 5 adults so they’re more spacious than regular rooms. Below is a view from our beds.

Because we had a baby this trip we decided to spend several days at Magic Kingdom because it has the most rides with no height restrictions. This is also one of the reasons we stayed at the Contemporary again so we could just walk there. Magic Kingdom is always beautifully decorated for Christmas and we did spend Christmas Day there. It was really crowded and wait times were pretty long, but definitely way less crowded than a typical Christmas Day at Disney pre-covid! We had dinner one night at our favorite Be Our Guest and another night we were super excited that Cinderella’s Royal Table had opened back up! We always get the steak at CRT but this time Andrew and I both opted for the salmon and were so glad we did, it was wonderful!

Of course we had a day for Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. The twins were tall enough to ride Expedition Everest at AK for the first time and they loved it but Andrew rode with them and he was unrealistically terrified they were going to fall out haha!

Disney World is probably one of the easiest vacations to take an infant. Every park has a baby care center that offers private nursing/pumping rooms, private bathrooms, diaper changing tables, sinks, microwaves, high chairs, and sells diapers, wipes, bottles, snacks, anything you might have forgotten for your baby. The baby care centers are very nice and extremely clean. They’re also a great place to sneak away from the heat or cold depending on the weather that day. Infants as young as a newborn can go on any ride that does not have a height requirement which is most rides across all WDW theme parks. You can also baby wear your infant in a carrier on these rides which makes them super easy to get on and off with your infant in a carrier and a toddler or two in tow!

November 2020 Wrap Up

November started out pretty slow. We knew we had a little over 2 weeks before #5 arrived so we were just trying to get everything wrapped up for his arrival.

I had one final ultrasound to check on #5 at the beginning of the month and everything looked great

Andrew was able to get harvest all completed by November 10 which was impeccable timing because much to our surprise #5 made his unexpected arrival the very next day.

Briar Rush Rowlett (aka Baby #5) made his unexpected early arrival on November 11, 2020 at 11:17am. Due to COVID restrictions only Andrew & I were allowed at the hospital. I really didn’t like being away from the kids and that they couldn’t come see us so as soon as the baby’s mandatory 24hours were up we were out of the hospital and back home! The other 4 kids were so excited to see him they bombarded us in the driveway before we ever made it out of the car.

We spent the next few weeks adjusting to our new normal, getting into a routine, and CHICKEN POX.

Yep, you read that right, chicken pox. They actually started before the baby was born but I didn’t realize it. Just 2 days before Briar was born MM was outside and she told me that her bottom hurt. I checked it out and she had what looked like a mosquito bite on her butt cheek that she had clearly been scratching. I warned her to leave it alone and moved on. The one night I was at the hospital Andrew face timed me after the kids bath to show me MM’s back and bottom that now had several small spots over it. We were stumped and had no idea what these bug bites came from. We came home from the hospital and it continued to escalate until they finally looked like full blown chicken pox. She has been vaccinated so it never occurred to me that she would have chicken pox. She ended up with the full classic rash all over her body and it spread mildly through the other 3 big kids but not as bad. The other 2 girls ended up with a fever and a few spots here and there. Andrew & I both had chicken pox as kids so we were spared & Briar being breastfed thankfully had no issues.

Andrew, Rhett & Andrew’s uncle spent a few days of deer season working hard to get us some meat for the winter. This was Rhett’s first time to really deer hunt and he is now hooked! He really loves hunting with the guys and they were able to fill out freezer up.

Sara Long Photography took the most precious newborn pictures of Briar and she even managed to get all our kids and our entire family in some perfect pictures that we will cherish forever!

We wrapped up the month with Thanksgiving. The kids discovered their love of pecan pie this year and Andrew finally got me to like sweet potatoes, overall a win haha! We are excited for December and baby Briar’s first Christmas coming up!

October 2020 Wrap Up

October is one of my favorite months of the year! Quite possibly because it’s usually our busiest month of the year! We have so much stuff that goes on in October it always seems like it just flies by!

First I’ll start with all our usual suspects. We continue on with homeschooling preschool and Pre-K. The twins continue with reading, spelling and writing in cursive. I swear their handwriting is much better than most adults I know! At the end of the month we wrapped up the first level of Logic of English Foundations book A. I have ordered level B but we haven’t started on it yet.

Harvest is still underway but about finished! With all we have going on between music lessons, dance, doctors appointments, etc. Andrew has at least one of the kids or multiple or all of them with him every day. Sometimes for my doctors appointments he has to keep all of them which means splitting them up between combines and tractors with our employees. Thankfully the kids love the guys who work for us and maybe it provides them with some entertainment! Haha!

At the beginning of the month Rhett and Lorelei both learned to ride the bikes without training wheels! I had taken them off for them a few months ago but they weren’t really ready yet and we’re just frustrated when we tried. Uncle Kyle stopped by one day and asked when they were going to ride without them and the very next day Lorelei was training wheel free and Rhett was right behind her the next day! I guess all it took was a little motivation from someone other than their parents.

Typically all the kids sit in the main church service with us instead of going to the nursery or children’s church. I prefer they hear the sermon instead of being in the nursery but at Pre-K age they start the children’s church program which is different. The twins decided they were ready to venture out of their own and have loved it every Sunday since! They’re learning so much about Jesus and precious kid centered worship songs!

On October 12 Andrew and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. I can’t believe we’ve been together for 10 years and married for 7 now! Marriage is hard. We have been through the lows and the highs. It took us about 5 years in to realize that our marriage absolutely had to come second in our lives only behind God. Once we really got into the place where that was happening 100% of the time we have absolutely seen the benefits of it! It is so important to put your spouse above all others. One of my favorite quotes is “The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother” and while I love that so much and think it’s without a doubt true, I also believe that goes both ways for both parents. I pray for my kid’s future spouses every day. Whoever they may be, I pray they love them wholly and that my kids do the same. The best way for them to learn that is to grow up living with it.

Update on baby #5: He’s still cooking. For the 5th baby he is apparently holding out as long as possible. They’re supposed to arrive earlier and earlier with each pregnancy but mine have all gone backwards with the twins coming the earliest at 33wks and the 2 little girls at 39+4 and 39+5. With #5 so far we have had 2 different occasions where I thought I might be in labor but the contractions never got close enough together and then fizzled out. So here I am still pregnant and honestly over it at this point! Maybe me writing this out will make tonight the night!

Rhett and Lorelei turned 5 at the end of the month! It was super cold that day so we had their party inside our shop and I’m so thankful our giant blow up slide fits in there! It was nice and cozy with the heater on and everyone had a blast!

Halloween was a little different this year but we made the best of it and decided to have a last minute Halloween party with all the guys that work for us and their families! Our family dressed up as Star Wars characters; Andrew was Han Solo, I was Princess Leia very pregnant with Kylo Ren, Rhett was Chewbacca, Lorelei was Rey, Maggie Mae was the most adorable little Ewok, Belle was baby Yoda, and our German Shepherd was Darth Vader.

Unfortunately Halloween night brought a huge disruption to our daily life and a lot of our farm equipment was vandalized. Our combine and header were driven into a field and wrecked into a center pivot and a tractor with a grain buggy attached were driven through the woods and down into the river bottoms. Every piece of equipment involved was totaled, this is several hundred thousand dollars in damages and stopped our harvest for a few days. We were not the only farmers affected either, about 5 other farmers in our town also had their equipment stolen and wrecked that night. I wish I could say this is rare but it’s not. We regularly have stuff stolen and/or destroyed. I would like to point out though that Andrew has all the radios in our tractors programmed to K-Love which is a Christian radio station and when they finally found the tractor it was completely destroyed but the radio was still on and playing K-Love so maybe whoever did this heard the message of Jesus.

We are so hopeful that November is going to be our best month yet! We will for sure have a new precious baby this month and we are all so excited for that!

Easy Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

Before we had kids Andrew and I were supposed to spend 2 weeks backpacking through India. I had done so much preparation for this trip including painstakingly filling out probably 100 pages worth of Visa applications for us. Andrew’s idea of preparation was taking me to our local Indian restaurant to get a taste of the cuisine.

Andrew’s introducing me to Indian food opened my palate to a world of food I would come to absolutely love!

Unfortunately our trip got cancelled last minute, something I have yet to let Andrew live down many years later. Although it was a blessing in disguise because we ended up finding out I was pregnant with the twins right before we would have set off on this trip and I was miserable sick at the beginning of that pregnancy so it would have been a horrible trip for me. God cancelled my dream India trip and instead ended our fertility struggles with twins! We plan, God laughs. His plan is always always better!

This recipe is a classic butter chicken full of spice and flavor. Your entire house will smell wonderful while it’s cooking. It’s also SO EASY! I have 4 kids 4yo and under and am 8 months pregnant with #5, I promise if I think the recipe is easy right now, anyone can handle it with little effort!

Ingredients:

-4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (I buy these frozen and usually put them straight into the slow cooker frozen, you just need to add about an hour extra to the cook time if you start with frozen chicken)

-1 small yellow onion

-1 Tablespoon coconut oil (If you don’t have coconut oil you can use Crisco shortening)

-4 cloves minced garlic

-1.5 Tablespoons curry powder

-1 Tablespoon garam masala

-1.5 teaspoons chili powder

-1 Tablespoon ginger

-3/4 teaspoon salt

-6oz tomato paste (this is about half of a small can, I just guess)

-4 cups raw cauliflower florets

-14oz (1 can) tomato sauce

-2 Tablespoons butter

-1/2 cup coconut milk (full fat)

-1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

-Dice the onion and mince the garlic then set aside.

-In a medium skillet heat the oil until hot then add the diced onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

-Add in the garlic, ginger, curry powder, garam masala, chili powder, salt and tomato paste. Mix together and cook for about a minute.

-Place the onion mixture in the bottom of your slow cooker. I like to spread it out over the entire bottom. Place your chicken breasts on top then the cauliflower florets, then cover with the tomato sauce.

-Cut the butter into small cubes and place them over the top.

-Cover and cook on HIGH for about 2 hours or LOW for 4.

-When the chicken is done take the chicken pieces out and move them to a cutting board. Mix the slow cooker contents, recover, and let the cauliflower continue cooking.

– Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Return the chicken pieces to the slow cooker and pour in the coconut milk.

-Turn the slow cooker off and give everything a good stir. Last stir in the Greek yogurt.

This is best served with Naan bread (also super easy to make) and rice. You can use any kind of rice, but I would recommend an aromatic like Jasmine or Basmati.

September 2020 Wrap Up

September was over before we even knew it began. Coming into the end of this pregnancy with baby #5 I’m certainly glad for that! My belly was measuring a little on the small size at my routine September 1 appointment so we’ve been seeing #5 a lot lately via ultrasound to check his growth. Thankfully he has been right on track with his measurements and I still have plenty of fluid for him, he’s just head down and low so he doesn’t make my belly stick out much. One positive of the last couple ultrasounds we’ve had is getting to see what his little face looks like. He has the same nose as all our other kids and he is the spitting image of our #4, Belle. This has been a completely uneventful pregnancy, as mine usually are, and we are so thankful for that.

We got 5’s room painted and crib set up. The big kids were of course extremely helpful during that process. Just this morning Lorelei was praying and asked for him to come ASAP because she’s so excited. Same girl, same! He needs to cook just a smidge longer but we are all so ready!

Harvest is well underway now. Andrew and the guys have been working extra hard to get all these crops out ASAP so Andrew will be free when #5 does finally arrive. We have corn, rice, black eyed peas, purple hull peas, soybeans, and milo (grain sorghum) to harvest this fall. The rain was quite a struggle at the beginning of the month but it finally dried up towards the end of September and they are really making progress now into October.

Now that harvest is going that means Andrew spends most of his days in a combine and it’s not so crazy hot so Rhett has been going to work with him every day. In the past he has enjoyed going to work for an hour or two at a time, but he’s really grown up this year and wants to stay gone until Andrew is done. He’s been leaving at sun up and coming home after sun down staying with Andrew all day. A little bittersweet because my mama’s boy is leaving the nest! Part of his obsession could be because all the guys on the farm have been running lines on the creek so they’re actually spending the mornings and evenings fishing and I believe there was a morning or two of dove hunting in there! No wonder I was so easily replaced!

Lorelei and Maggie Mae started this years dance classes this month. MM was able to do summer tumbling for the first time and she was in the same class as Lorelei but this is her first time in tap and ballet and she’s in a class all by herself. I was a little worried about her because she’s extremely shy around strangers but she was so excited to be old enough to start dance it didn’t phase her one bit! She’s really loving her dance class every week and I’m so proud of her for being so big!

The twins finished up their entire Kindergarten Primer curriculum from The Good & The Beautiful at lightening speed. It was really too easy for them and they blew through it so fast. I don’t want to rush them into a full Kindergarten program a year early so we’ve just been focusing on continuing to learn to read and write in cursive. We are using Logic of English for this and it’s really such a good thorough approach to building foundations of reading, writing, and spelling. They are 4 years old and really flourishing with it. All 4 kids are involved in our school routine, it’s the easiest way to accomplish the most without someone being needy or destroying the house while the others are working. We start every day with a Bible lesson and memory verse every week that all 4 kids take part in. After that MM does her little worksheets and then her and Belle color while the twins do their lesson. We don’t spend more than 30 minutes a day total on school work for the twins so it’s very easy for MM and Belle to occupy themselves coloring in that short time frame. Typically we fit in our school stuff whenever we have time depending on what plans we have for the day. Sometimes that’s first thing in the morning and sometimes that’s right before bed. They never let me forget that we haven’t done our lessons for the day, even on Sundays I have to remind them we don’t work on Sundays.

We are also all learning Latin through the song school Latin dvd course and I can only say I wish I had learned Latin at their age! It would have been so beneficial to Andrew and I both in college while we were getting our Biology degrees! It’s really easy for us as adults to pick up on because we can connect all the English words we already know to their Latin derivatives. The kids of course are little sponges that are soaking it up like it’s nothing! We are hopefully that it will make learning more languages easier for us!

Disney World Late August 2020

Hurricane Laura made her grand appearance in our area one afternoon in late August. Our electricity is quite finicky at our house, it goes out every time it even thinks about bad weather. As usual, our electricity went out with the first gust of wind amid clear blue skies and not a drop of rain yet. Unfortunately Laura really showed out later that evening and it looked like we could be without power for days. After 26 hours of melting in the August heat and mosquito infested rice fields where we live and no light at the end of the tunnel we decided to get out of town!

Thanks to our over abundance of airline miles, already paid for Disney World Annual Passes, and 40% off hotel room discounts it was a no brainer to head back to Disney World! With 4 little kids Disney is by far the easiest vacation for us!

This trip started off a little rocky though. Our 5am flight ended up being delayed by 2 hours which caused us to miss our connecting flight and then also miss the connecting flight they rebooked us on. Thankfully it wasn’t too big of a deal, we eventually made it to our connecting airport and then on to Orlando still before noon so plenty of time to enjoy a half day at Epcot.

Side note: We almost exclusively fly Southwest nonstop to Orlando, but I didn’t have enough Southwest miles to cover all 6 of our tickets for this trip. I did however have enough American Airlines miles to cover us and we have an AA companion pass. So I ended up choosing an AA flight that had a short layover but was free. We actually ended up in Orlando earlier even with the delay than we would have if we had taken the nonstop Southwest flight. Thankfully our kids are extremely used to airports, layovers, and delays so it wasn’t an issue for them either. We ended up sitting on our first plane at the gate right after boarding for 2 hours and they took that opportunity to nap.

We usually stay in a theme park view room at the Contemporary but I was trying to keep this trip extra low cost so I opted for a Garden Wing room at the Contemporary instead and ended up paying less than $200/night for it which is awesome for a Disney Resort, let alone one across the parking lot from Magic Kingdom! The garden wing rooms are just like the main tower rooms except they’re on the other side of the pool instead of in the main tower of the resort. Not an issue at all and the walkway is completely covered so no walking outside in the rain. My only complaint with the garden wing is that we were on the second floor and the elevator is only big enough for one stroller to fit. All the other elevators on Disney property will easily accommodate both our double strollers at the same time so it was a little bit of a pain to have to wait and take the elevator separate. Andrew’s main complaint with the garden wing room is that he couldn’t see Magic Kingdom from our balcony. We do enjoy the theme park room views, but like I said, this was a short inexpensive trip so I wasn’t willing to pay double for him to see Cinderella’s castle for 3 days especially with no nighttime fireworks to watch! I’m a mean wife y’all.

We spent our first half day at Epcot and decided to have dinner at Tutto Italia. It always gets rave reviews but we’ve never eaten there because we are creatures of habit and love Via Napoli. Both restaurants are owned by the same company and right next to each other in the Italy pavilion. The kids all had spaghetti. I ordered ravioli in a cream sauce and Andrew ordered penne pasta in red sauce but we ended up trading each other. Our waiter was a sweet older gentleman from Italy and he was great. Our food was definitely good, but probably won’t be somewhere we eat regularly like Via Napoli.

Our one and only full day we of course spent at Magic Kingdom. First we had breakfast at The Wave inside the Contemporary before walking over to Magic Kingdom. The Wave is a table service restaurant inside the Contemporary Resort. They have wonderful food! We never ate there before COVID because we preferred the character experience at Chef Mickey’s but since CM no longer has characters and the food is pretty lacking we have been skipping it and opting for breakfast at the Wave every morning instead. Of course the quick service Contempo Cafe is also open, but we are much better at being seated and waited on by a server so that’s what we prefer. It’s just easier for us with a bunch of little kids if someone else can bring us our food and drinks while we have a designated table instead of fighting the crowds looking for a table and carrying food around with a bunch of babies in tow.

With crowds and wait times still being pretty low we are able to knock out everything at Magic Kingdom by pretty early in the afternoon. Our kids aren’t big enough to ride Space Mountain so that’s a ride and longer line we do skip, but considering we have a newly potty trained 2 year old our hourly trips to the bathroom with 4 kids probably more than compensate for the time we would spend waiting for Splash Mountain! My roundabout point is that you still need a full day for Magic Kingdom but I used to recommend 2 days or at least 2.5 but I don’t think that’s necessary right now.

I managed to get us last minute dinner reservations to Be Our Guest. I had been searching for a couple days and they were booked but one popped up the day of. Dining options are really limited at Magic Kingdom right now and Be Our Guest is one of our favorites anyway. Thankfully Disney just announced that Cinderella’s Royal Table will be reopening September 24 and we are so excited about that! The Princesses will not be there, but the food is usually very good and eating inside Cinderella’s Castle is an experience in itself. Gaston’s Tavern, a very popular quick service dining location at Magic Kingdom will also be reopening September 24! I’m hopefully these additions mean the return of more things to come!

One of my favorite things about this trip was that we caught the beginning of fall and Halloween decor and merchandise being released! Usually Disney starts the fall/Halloween season in mid August but they pushed it back this year due to the cancellation of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party. All fall decor, merchandise, and treats will be out by September 15 so we did miss most of them but I was still happy to grab a pumpkin spice latte and browse the Halloween stuff on Main Street USA.

Since there are 4 Disney parks and no park hopping right now we had to skip one park because we only had 3 days. This was a no brainer for us because Hollywood Studios is really lacking for our family right now. The last several times we’ve been to HS we have been out of there by 11 and that’s even with a 10am park opening! The only 2 rides there that our kids are all tall enough for us Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Toy Story Mania. Both of those are great rides but with no other shows for us to see or do there’s just not enough to fill a day there and it’s really not fair to our two littlest girls to have to sit and wait all day long while the twins ride all the other rides they are tall enough for like Millennium Falcon, Tower of Terror, etc.

Also swaying our third park decision was that we only had a half day because we needed to be back at our resort by 1pm for Magical Express to pick us up. We chose Animal Kingdom because it opens at 8am and that gave us plenty of time to hit all the main attractions there and have lunch at Yak & Yeti before heading to the airport.

Our return trip home was much less eventful than our trip down. Going home we had a short nonstop flight on Southwest that was peacefully uneventful. I really do think this is our last trip until after #5 is born. Since we’ve been home Andrew has already started rice harvest and I’m getting pretty close to the 36 week pregnancy no flying cut off, but I never say never!

August 2020 Wrap Up

August came and went like a flash! We were gone to Disney World for 14 days this month and it finally felt like normal! We started out the first of the month at Disney to celebrate baby Belle’s 2nd birthday! It was a lot different than last year for her birthday but she still had the best time! You can read about that trip HERE.

When we got back from Belle’s birthday trip we had the usual slew of OB appointments for me and music lessons for the twins. I rolled into the third trimester of this pregnancy and so far everything is going perfect. Baby #5 is growing like a weed. He’s a super active baby. I swear he never sleeps. Maggie Mae was also a really active baby while I was pregnant with her and she’s one of our best sleepers so I’m hopeful for that same outcome, but really we have 3 out of 4 that sleep great so we are probably due for another bad sleeper!

I’m still completely amazed at how quickly the twins have picked up reading music and playing it too! It’s completely foreign to me and they learned so fast!

Speaking of reading, they are pretty solid at reading short words now and understand the concept of sounding out all words to read them. They write proficiently in print and have most of the lower case cursive alphabet down. We still have some lowercase cursive letters to complete before we move on to capital cursive letters. I don’t want to slow them down because they enjoy learning new things, but we definitely take the school work slow and skip a lot of days. I try to remind myself that if they were in public schools they wouldn’t even go to kindergarten until next year fall 2021.

The farm got a much needed rain during Belle’s birthday trip which really put us on cruise control until everything was ready for harvest. We thought about taking a trip down to the gulf for some beach and pool time but the long drive was an unwelcome aspect of that trip so we ended up going back to Disney instead. We spent a lot of time at the awesome pool and splash pad at our Disney Resort this time and had a blast! You can read about that trip HERE

Shortly after returning home Hurricane Laura came barreling towards to Louisiana coast. We also expect rain and storms from hurricanes to our South, but Laura was determined to keep her path of destruction going as far as she could. Laura hit our area on a Thursday afternoon and the first gust of wind among clear blue skies knocked out our electricity. Thankfully she didn’t do much damage to our crops in the grand scheme of things, but we definitely had losses. Major flooding was the main problem and some crops blown down but overall better than we expected. The worst part was our electricity being out for days! No electricity in the middle of August in the Delta is not a good combination! It was only a few minutes before our house became a mosquito infested sauna! We were so miserable the first night but also hopeful our power would come back on soon. We were wrong. After 26 hours of no electricity and the electric company unstable to guess when it might be back we decided to get out of town! So we went back to Disney for a few days to finish out the month!

September will bring the start of harvest for us and throw us into a busy fall! We’re ready!

Disney World August 2020

Shortly after returning from Disney the first week of August we were really missing it! You can read about that trip HERE. While we were on that trip the farm got a much needed rain. A really good rain. The crops were looking good and we started gearing up for harvest, but everything was a few weeks shy of being completely done. So 10 days after being home we decided to go somewhere else!

With travel being super limited right now our options were obviously limited. We considered driving down to the beach, but a 9+ hour drive is never appealing to me so I wanted to check other options too. Since we are frequent fliers with Southwest our flights are free so my continental US options are limitless but a lot of states are requiring quarantines and then there’s the whole car rental 4 kids in car seat situation that’s a huge hassle. Disney is currently offering 40% off hotel rooms for Annual Passholders so with that huge hotel discount, free flights, Annual Passes we already have and free transportation to and from the airport going back to Disney was not only our easiest option but also our cheapest! So back to Disney we went for another week!

This trip we stayed at Disney’s Riviera Resort. We have stayed there before last winter when it first opened and we swore we would never do it again, but I should know by now to never say never. I chose this resort mainly for the pool and splash pad area and because it has one of the only character meals still operating on Disney property, Topolino’s Terrace.

I don’t exactly regret staying at the Riviera this time because it suited our needs with such little else available at Disney, but all the original complaints I had with it are still there and even exacerbated at this time so we for sure won’t be back! You can read about that trip HERE.

I knew for this trip we would be spending a lot of time at the pool and splash pad and the Riviera didn’t disappoint in that area. They have 2 large pools, one is quieter that we didn’t actually go to and the other is the larger family pool. This pool has a zero entry area that’s great for little toddlers. There’s also a large water slide that the kids loved! Even baby Belle went down the big slide by herself multiple times and LOVED it. Don’t worry, I was there to get her at the bottom and she was wearing a life jacket 😉 Like all Disney hotels there are plenty of life jackets available for kids of all sizes even down to small infant life jackets. The splash pad area is really the winner here though and we thoroughly enjoyed it! The large splash pad area is completely enclosed by a fence that kids can’t get in or out of with plenty of seating for adults whether you want to lounge in the sun or have lunch at a shaded table. There is one large tunnel slide for older toddlers, a small slide for babies, and lots of water spouts to play with. Theres a bar and a full quick service restaurant right next to the pool and both will bring your drinks or food out to the splash pad to you!

The only other reason we chose the Riviera again was for their signature restaurant Topolino’s Terrace. We had dinner here twice and breakfast 3 times. Their menu is pretty lacking and we were disappointed with the food. They no longer have the amazing sausage hash for breakfast so that leaves you the option of sour cream waffles with orange maple syrup which is an interesting combination or a quiche that is good but not an everyday breakfast item. The kids breakfast options are basic Mickey waffles with bacon and sausage which is always welcomed and it comes on a cute painted pallet plate. The best part about breakfast is the characters are still there! Every morning for breakfast you will dine with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy. You can’t touch the characters but they dance around the dining room and stop for pictures and wave at each table. Dinner was by far the biggest disappointment. The first night for dinner Andrew and I both ordered the lamb which tasted just like slow cooker pot roast. Neither one of us at more than a couple bites. The next dinner we decided to try the filet Mignon because it’s hard to really mess up a filet but it was just alright. Definitely not bad but nothing to write home about. We ended up ditching all other dining reservations we had at Topolino’s and caught another dinner at Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom and that was way better!

The parks were significantly more crowded on this trip than they were the 2 weeks prior. It was still “low crowds” by pre-COVID standards, but it was definitely a lot busier. With Florida’s COVID numbers dropping and the parks having been open a month now I think more people are getting more comfortable with getting out. I did notice that the Saturday and Sunday we were there were downright crowded. The weekend was much like a typical November crowd day.

Because Belle was 2 on this trip she had to wear a mask for the first time. I was I totally concerned because she’s never worn one before but she had no problems with it! She never messed with it and had no complaints about wearing it.

With harvest right around the corner and Baby #5 due soon this is probably our last trip until December so until then we’ll be missing Disney!

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