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!

Bugaboo Donkey2 Stroller Review

It’s safe to say we’ve gone through a lot of strollers this year. With soon to be 5 kids under 5 we have been on the search for the best stroller so we’ve tried several!

It all started when we realized our original double stroller, a Graco, was actually a giant piece of junk. We moved on to a 2016 model Baby Jogger City Mini double that we actually LOVED. You can read about it HERE. We kept the city mini for a few years and they traveled many places with us. When Baby Jogger announced a new body style City Mini in late 2019 we decided this was the perfect opportunity to upgrade the strollers we loved. So we sold our old city minis and bought the brand new body style only to find out that all the new changes they made were horrible and we really regretted that purchase. You can read about that HERE. After that I was open to other strollers and did so much research trying to find the perfect one for our needs which is what this post is actually about!

After much research I decided to purchase two Bugaboo Donkey2 Duo strollers. These strollers are extremely pricey, but I hoped it would be our last stroller purchase ever. Unfortunately this stroller was a major flop also. I intended to do a video along with this post but I put them up for sale the second we got back from Disney and they immediately both sold before I could get to making a video. I’m just happy to be rid of them though!

PROS:

One of the main reasons I liked the Donkey and thought it would be our last stroller purchase was because it converts from a single stroller to a double stroller and also has an awesome glider board with a seat for a third kid.

The toddler seats hold up to 50lbs each and fully recline for sleeping littles

Comes with 1 bassinet attachment for newborns and tiny babies.

Huge multistage sun canopy for optimal sun coverage

Adjustable height handle bar comes up plenty tall enough for Andrew and I both to comfortably push.

Narrow! For a full size double stroller the frame is narrow and you will have no trouble fitting through single doorways.

5 point harness. I actually never buckle my kids in because that’s a waste of time they all know how to get out but I know this is an important feature to a lot of people and I would want the 5pt harness if I had a smaller baby.

CONS:

Huge and bulky! Since I couldn’t actually see this stroller in person before buying it I had to rely on dimensions posted online. I scoured the internet trying to find accurate dimensions of this stroller and even emailed customer service to get dimensions and weight with both seats attached, folded up, and all wheels attached. Ultimately the dimensions i was given from Bugaboo were not accurate. I was given dimensions of the stroller broken down so I was deceived into thinking it was smaller than it is. This stroller does not fold up well at all. Unless you remove both the seats, put it into single mode, and remove all the wheels, it is HUGE! It will not fit through the back half of the Disney buses. I’m SO GLAD we went to Disney during COVID-19 because the buses were empty and it wasn’t an issue for us to need to sit in the wheelchair spot for our strollers to even fit on the dang bus! It was such a nightmare having these strollers at Disney and having to fold them up. They also take up so much space in the back of my Yukon XL. I can’t fit them in my trunk unless they are completely broken down with all the seats removed

Hard to fold/unfold! Folding these beasts is work! You have to unlock the handle bar, fold the handle bar all the way in, push and pull a button and lever on both sides of the stroller at the same time and then push the entire stroller frame down and together while holding those levers and buttons down. Once folded down it’s still humongous. Unfolding is just as bad. You have to push the 2 buttons on both sides while pulling up on the 2 levers all at the same time while simultaneously pulling the stroller frame apart. If you don’t do this just right the wheels will lock up and not fold all the way out. Then you have to unlock both sides of the handle bar and pull it back out.

HEAVY! Same as the size dimensions, the weight I was given was also not accurate. I could tell when we got it that it felt a lot heavier than even our new City Mini so I weighed it at home and sure enough it’s the heaviest stroller we’ve ever had.

Hard to maneuver. It’s very easy to push and make wide turns with but the handle bar is flimsy and short turns or quick moves are lost on it.

Flimsy seat recline. The handle that reclines the seats feels like it might break every time you touch it.

Cheaply made. For a very expensive stroller, it’s pretty junky. The front wheel brake piece broke off randomly one day just by being touched. Apparently this is a common issue because you can buy that replacement piece. The seat recline handle felt the same and overall the frame felt weak and flimsy.

Rain cover only covers the actual child in the seat. This probably wouldn’t make a difference to most people if they didn’t know better but our other strollers had rain covers that covered the entire stroller including the handle bar organizer and under storage basket. The Donkey rain covers only cover the individual seats.

No parent consoles. Bugaboo does not make a good parent console or cup holders for this stroller. I returned the Bugaboo brand cup holder and organizer because they were useless. I ended up buying a different brand but it was still difficult to use.

Sun Canopies. The sun canopies only C-hook onto the frame so they fall off constantly. If you or a kid touches it, it falls off. If you need to fold the stroller, the canopies fall off. They also have no peakaboo window or ventilation.

Belly bars. This is a personal preference because I know some people like belly bars but these were such a pain for us! Our kids are capable of getting in and out by themselves but these belly bars are separated by seat so you have to pick the child up or take them off each time they need to get in or out because they’re small. I’d prefer not to have a belly bar at all.

Overall we felt like these strollers were a huge waste of money. 3 days in to an 8 day Disney World trip we hated them so much that we actually ordered new strollers! If these weren’t so expensive I probably would have left them at the dumpster at our hotel.

We decided to go back to the 2016 Baby Jogger City Mini! Since that model is actually discontinued I was able to find them really cheap on a random baby store’s website! We went back to Disney World 10 days later and were soooo thankful to have our City Minis back!

Disney World July 2020

We were actually supposed to have 2 Disney trips in July. The first week of July our trip was cancelled due to Disney still being closed. It was a major bummer because we really needed out of the house, but thankfully they reopened and we were able to make it there at the end of July to celebrate Belle’s 2nd birthday on August 1st!

This was overall quite an experience for us considering we all (minus the 1 year old) had to wear masks the entire time. The kids definitely did better with the masks than Andrew and I. They never complained about them. I found our masks comfortable and easy to breathe in, but obviously would have preferred not to wear them. Disney is strictly enforcing the mask rule. They are also checking temperatures before entering the parks. There are hand sanitizer stations set up literally everywhere in the parks and resorts. All the line queues are marked with 6ft markers for people to stand on. The buses are allowing limited people on board with plexiglass dividers between parties and same for the rides. We felt extremely safe and that Disney has actually gone overboard in precautions. We spent 9 days at Disney and have been home for over a week now and I’m happy to report none of us are sick.

For this trip we stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It is one of our absolute favorites and we stay there multiple times a year. We love the main tower theme park view rooms. The room has a perfect view of Magic Kingdom and Cinderella’s Castle. Due to COVID there are no fireworks at night right now but typically we enjoy watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the comfort of our room at night! One of the other major perks to staying at the Contemporary is that it’s literally right across the street from Magic Kingdom! This means that you don’t have to take any kind of transportation to get to Disney’s main park, you can just walk down the sidewalk from your room!

Due to COVID a ton of Disney restaurants are closed right now. We ended up eating breakfast at our resort every day of our trip. We alternated between Chef Mickey’s and The Wave. Chef Mickey is usually a buffet and a character meal but right now there are no characters and the food is brought to your table served family style. As many times as we have stayed at the Contemporary we have never eaten at The Wave but they have a wonderful breakfast! Andrew and I both really enjoyed the Floridian Eggs Benedict which is traditional eggs Benedict with crab cakes on top!

Usually when we do Disney we spend every day at the park but for this trip we took some time to hang out at the pool. The Contemporary’s main pool area has a small splash pad for the little kids and a water slide for the bigger kids. I say bigger kids, but there’s no height requirement for the water slide and it’s very very tame. My 3 & 4 year olds were able to go up and down it by themselves with no problem. We just waited at the bottom for them while the slid down it repeatedly for hours. One of the best things about staying on Disney property with littles is you don’t have to take up valuable luggage space with life jackets! Disney’s pool areas are equipped with life jackets for kids of all sizes all the way down to infants! You also don’t have to pack your towels! When you walk into the pool area there is a place to pick up towels, you don’t have to leave your room key, see an attendant or anything like that, just grab the number of towels you need and go. Exact same with the life jackets, they’re all hanging up in size order and you find the sizes you need and go. Just be sure to drop your life jackets and towels back off before you leave.

This was a long trip and the parks were operating on limited hours so we spent multiple days at each park really taking our time and heading back to the hotel early in the evenings. Usually our Disney trips are nonstop and action packed but this was a pretty relaxing trip. We came home not feeling like we needed a vacation from our vacation.

A lot of our favorite restaurants were closed and that was definitely the biggest bummer of our trip. We did try out a few new places though that will most likely become new staples for us!

I’m going to split the rest of this post up into parks instead of days like I normally do so it’s easier to follow since we had a lot of days

Hollywood Studios:

Disney’s newest ride, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened right after we got back from our February trip earlier this year just before the parks shut down. We were really eager to ride this ride because it has no height requirements so it’s good for our entire family. Even with the limited capacity crowds at the parks this is one you HAVE to rope drop! The first day we went to HS we didn’t realize how crazy the lines would be without fastpasses but immediately after opening and all day long the wait times were over an hour long. We just can’t wait that long with 4 babies so we skipped it the first day but our next HS day we made sure to head straight there as soon as the park opened and we were able to walk right on to it with no wait. It’s a trackless ride very similar to Ratatouille at Disneyland Paris. It was so loud though you couldn’t hear Mickey & Minnie talking street all so we couldn’t follow the storyline for it, it just seemed chaotic.

Our main focus for HS was Toy Story land. MM absolutely loves Goofy’s Barnstormer roller coaster in MK and she is finally tall enough to upgrade to Slinky Dog. We knew this would be a big hit for her so we made sure to rope drop Slinky Dog every day so we could all ride it. Toy Story land was completely empty every morning because most people head straight for Star Wars or MMRR. We were able to walk on to Slinky Dog 3 times in a row before there was ever a line. Just as we expected, MM LOVED Slinky Dog and we rode it multiple times on this trip for her.

The newest ride in Star Wars land, Rise of the Resistance has a 40″ height requirement so only the twins would be tall enough. For ROTR Disney is using a virtual queue system that opens up slots at 10am and 2pm. They were doing this back in February and we were unable to get a spot in the virtual queue even right at opening. Just like February the first day trying we couldn’t get a spot at all. Our next HS I managed to get a spot right at 10am but it was for so late in the evening we were already at dinner by the time our group was called! Definitely a bummer, but we aren’t huge Star Wars fans anyway so we will just wait until everyone is taller or we can get fastpasses for it.

All the shows at HS are closed right now because the actors union can’t reach an agreement with Disney. Because of this there are very few things to do at HS and we only spent half a day there both days we went. It definitely felt like the most crowded park too, by lunch time all the rides had very long wait times. We definitely did it right for us by hitting the rides we wanted as soon as the park opened and then leaving for the afternoon.

Animal Kingdom:

Our favorite thing at AK, the Festival of the Lion King show, was not open. The Finding Nemo show was also closed, both due to the actors union disagreement. Our favorite Disney character meal, Tusker House, was also closed and we were so sad about not getting our curry chicken and rice for breakfast. Nothing at AK required rope dropping, the lines across the entire park for the entire day were consistently under 15 minutes for everything including Flight of Passage. We were able to have dinner at our favorite AK dinner spot, Yak & Yeti, and it was just as good as always! The kids all had Teriyaki chicken with mango salsa & rice and Andrew and I both had Chicken Tikka Masala which is my favorite dish ever. They also have the best fried wontons for dessert!

Epcot:

Epcot is borderline sad. About half the restaurants are closed and none of the country pavilions in the world showcase are staffed by natives of those countries right now. Walking around Epcot was like walking through a ghost town. On the positive side, there were zero lines for any of the rides. They even offered to let us ride Frozen multiple times because nobody else was in line. Epcot also has one of the few character meals right now, Garden Grill, so we did take advantage of that for lunch one day to see Mickey, Pluto, Chip & Dale. The characters aren’t coming directly to your table but they will walk by frequently. We definitely had a dinner at Via Napoli, our favorite Disney property restaurant of all, and it was wonderful as usual. We also decided to give Coral Reef another try one night, but it was mediocre at best. We have eaten at Coral Reef before and although it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good either. With limited options this time we decided to give it another try and we had the same experience as last time. Nothing major to complain about, but we won’t be back again as there are a lot of better restaurants in Epcot.

Magic Kingdom:

MK is probably the park with the most normalcy to it right now. With the exception of several dining locations being closed (Crystal Palace and Cinderella’s Royal Table, 2 of our faves! Waahhh!) basically all the rides are up and running so we spent several days at MK. Wait times for all the rides never exceeded 30-40 minutes at the longest with most being straight walk ons so we were able to easily ride everything we wanted multiple times.

MM got to ride 7 Dwarf’s Mine Train for the first time and just like Slinky dog she really loved it!

We spent Belle’s 2nd birthday at MK complete with dinner at Be Our Guest. We actually ate BOG for dinner on all of our MK days because it was basically the only thing open for dinner there and we love their filet Mignon. Belle loves Olaf and wanted an Olaf cake for her birthday. For a 1 year old she’s been talking about this Olaf cake for months now! Originally the Contemporary bakery was supposed to make her an actual Olaf cake, but they ended up not reopening so we were forced to improvise. We ended up buying a large Olaf ornament and sticking it on top of the traditional Mickey birthday cakes. Belle didn’t know any different and she really loved her thrown together Olaf birthday cake!

In case you missed it, Cinderella’s castle just got a new paint job! I was skeptical at first but it’s really pretty in person and I love it now!

We had a lot of fun on this trip with the ride pictures if you can’t tell!

While none of the parks have their usual designated parade each day, all the parks had characters riding around all day long at random times! I actually prefer the way they’re doing it now as opposed to the mass crowds for the one 3pm parade!

We love Disney so much we may just decide to go back next week 😉

July 2020 Wrap Up

I try very hard to only post about positive things going on with us. The internet is full of major negatives everywhere you look! It’s one of the main reasons we do not have any form of social media besides our blog. It can just really get you down in the dumps. But I do like to be real, and July was a HARD month for us. Nothing major happened. We are so blessed to have a stable lifestyle and healthy family, but parts of July were definitely a struggle.

The main trouble we had this month was on the farm. Until the very last couple days of July it had not rained on the farm since the middle of May. We spent the majority of the summer in a drought and it was hard on our crops and very hard on Andrew. No rain means dying crops with no irrigation and increased input costs on fields that can be irrigated. With over 4,000 acres that means around the clock work for Andrew. The farm is our livelihood and when it suffers we all suffer. Thankfully, the last few days of July and into the beginning of August we got the rain that we so desperately needed to lighten the load and lift spirits!

The first week of July also brought my anatomy scan ultrasound for baby #5. This is the big mid pregnancy ultrasound that checks all major organs and developmental progress. Thankfully everything was perfect! On the downside, Andrew was still not allowed to go with me. This is our 5th baby and the first time he has not been able to go to my ultrasounds and doctors appointments. He never misses them. It’s been very hard for him to be excluded and very hard for me to be alone. Every milestone I wonder if something will be wrong and I’ll have to deal with it by myself while he waits in the car.

We also missed out on several vacations this month. The first of July we were supposed to be at Disney World, but they stayed closed until July 10 so our trip was cancelled. Two weeks later we were supposed to head to Panama City Beach, Florida for a week at the beach, but the major drought on the farm caused us to need to cancel that trip. As strange as it sounds our kids are so used to traveling, airports, and living out of suitcases that staying home was hard on them too. They kept getting our suitcases out of the closet and asking when we were going to the airport next.

We are definitely aware that these are major first world problems and we are so thankful for everything we have, but that doesn’t negate the affects it had on us personally. We had a lot of great things happen in July too so I’ll finish this post with all the positives!

We were able to sneak away to Gaston’s White River Resort over the 4th of July weekend. We had a great time at the river and then headed over to Mtn View to Gunner Pool on Sylamore Creek in the National Forest.

Lorelei and Maggie Mae started summer tumbling camp in July. This is the first time MM was old enough for anything and she was soooo excited. She’s by far our shyest child so I was a little concerned she wouldn’t do well in her class. Parents weren’t allowed inside due to COVID so I just had to drop her off at the door and couldn’t stay to watch. Curiosity got the best of me though and after about 20 minutes I came back and peeked in the outside window to see how she was doing and I was so happy to see her bouncing around inside playing with the other girls and doing the tumbling stuff her teachers told her to! It was like watching a completely different child! She absolutely loved it! She gets to start ballet and tap this fall and she’s just as excited!

For my Grandmothers birthday we met my family in Mtn View for lunch and ice cream on the square and enjoyed the afternoon.

We were home so much this month we got a lot of school work in! The twins are learning to read and doing so well with that! They can easily read short word sentences. They love Bob books and they really boost their reading confidence. Belle doesn’t do any school work but she’s always in the room with us playing while the other kids are doing their stuff and it amazes me what she has picked up on. For a 1 year old she knows all her colors, shapes, the ABC song and can even count to 20. I find it absolutely hilarious to hear her counting because it just seems so grown up for a baby but she’s so proud of herself.

On another Belle note, we started potty training this month and she’s basically potty trained. I have to admit I stopped her because at the end of the month we went to Disney and she wasn’t ready for that yet so we used diapers there but she does great using the potty all day while we are at home!

The last few days of July we headed off to Disney World to celebrate Belle’s 2nd birthday on August 1. I’ll post about that in a separate post! It was an experience!

Can You Backpack Through Europe With Small Kids?

The short answer is yes, absolutely!!

When we told people we were planning on spending 3 weeks in Europe as a family of 6 with 4 kids under 5 and nothing but 2 backpacks we got a lot of *unsolicited & mostly unhelpful* advice!

Everyone was quick to tell us that we were crazy, but we’re a pretty adaptable bunch so thankfully we didn’t listen!

Bags:

For me, Kayla, I have a 48L REI Crestrail. This pack has a huge main compartment, top compartment, and lots of side zippers and pouches. The back has a metal frame for support and structure and lots of padding. Plus it buckles around the hips and waist for weight distribution. I had no problems carrying this bag stuffed full while also baby wearing a 1 year old. For reference I’m 5’8 and 120lbs.

Andrew’s bag is a 75L Deuter. Obviously, it’s significantly larger than mine and he also baby wore our 2yo so he was pretty maxed out with his full bag and child attached to his body. His bag also has a steel frame for structure, 2 split large main compartments, large top compartment, lots of side pouches, padded straps and back, and buckles around the hips/waist for weight distribution. For reference Andrew is 6’3 220lbs.

We stayed in each city for 1-3 nights so during the day we left our big bags in our AirBNBs and took out with us a 30L Eddie Bauer Adventurer. This is our go to travel backpack for all our short term trips. It’s been on many flights with us to many destinations and is a true work horse. It’s very comfortable, lots of pockets, and can hold an incredible amount of stuff!

How & What To Pack:

Packing cubes are always your friend! I packed all 6 of us a weeks worth of outfits (shirts, pants, underwear, socks) and then we washed and rewore throughout our trip.

Because we were in Europe for winter which is very cold and wet, we all had 1 pair of waterproof insulated boots that we wore every day. Andrew and the kids all had leather Keens and I had Sperry duck boots.

We carried with us just our toothbrushes, hair brush, a day or two worth of diapers and wipes and small travel size of toiletries. When we ran out of something we simply found a store to buy more. That is probably not the most cost effective way, but we were really trying to limit the amount of weight we were carrying around from place to place so that was best for us. There are drugstores on pretty much every corner in every country so it’s not hard to find whatever you need! Including a pharmacy for adult and kid medicines. Belle ran a fever for about 24 hours in France and it was no problem finding a pharmacy to get her some children’s Advil and the pharmacist explain the dosage for her weight.

How To Get Around:

Trains! Trains! Trains! Europe is so well connected with a fast and efficient rail network. Large cities have incredible public transportation options like buses, street cars, and metros. Europe is so much more easily accessible and family friendly to travel through than the US it’s crazy! Long haul trains will have luggage storage areas, overhead bins, and clean bathrooms. While metros, street cars and buses don’t have bathrooms or designated space for luggage you can still bring them aboard. I was thankful to have backpacks that didn’t take up space but we saw tons of people on the buses and metro with large rolling suitcases.

Let’s talk strollers for a minute. We did not bring our strollers because it just would have been too much for us but lots of families in Europe rely on strollers for everyday use. We found Germany and Portugal to be extremely stroller friendly. Germany in particular has lots of elevators in their train and metro stations for strollers to get to their platforms easily. Germany is extremely handicap accessible and their infrastructure as a whole is great. Paris was horrible for strollers and wheelchairs. Almost every elevator we saw was out of order. We witnessed so many people carrying strollers ups and down the stairs at the metro stations. I don’t know what someone in a wheelchair was supposed to do! It was horrible.

FAQ:

**What about all the souvenirs we want to buy? -Buy all the things! Seriously! We would stuff our backpack full of everything our little hearts desired then every day or two we would find a post office and ship it all back home! European countries have FedEx, UPS, DHL, and regular national postal services. We used FedEx in France and found Deutsch Post to be the most useful and easily accessible in Germany.

**I’ve heard Europe, specifically Paris, isn’t very kid friendly –We did not find this to be true at all. We are quite the spectacle everywhere we go. Large families, especially with a lot of really little kids, are not the norm anywhere so we get a lot of attention and the vast majority of it is good attention. We even found most restaurants had high chairs which was something I read was hard to come by but we never had a problem. Another issue with a stroller though is I’m not sure what you would do with a stroller while you went in places. Restaurants and shops are tiny so you would not be able to bring one inside which would mean you would need to leave it on on the street? Another very kid friendly thing we experienced in airports (Lisbon, Paris, and Berlin) the airports are sooooo kid friendly! They have special security areas for families only and families are given priority boarding. I actually thing Europe is a lot more family friendly than the US. One of the pictures below is a restaurant owner hugging my 2yo because he was just smitten with them.

If you have specific questions about something I left off, just ask me!

June 2020 Wrap Up

I’m a week late, but we were finally busy again in July! Crazy busy actually. Everything seemed to start back up all at once!

The twins are still taking music lessons weekly. During their lessons the little girls either stay and wait with me or they go to work with Andrew depending on what he’s doing. The twins are doing so well. I’ve really been impressed how quickly they have picked up reading music, especially being only 4!

We still have weekly swim lessons. The twins are really swimming now with proper arm strokes and everything. MM has come around and actually enjoys the water now.

Lorelei has been in ballet and rap since last fall. She was supposed to have a recital in May but since classes were halted in March that was postponed. I assumed she wouldn’t get to have her recital, but she got to go back to dance in June! She was really excited to go back to dance and they even had an in studio recital for the girls that they filmed for the parents. Lorelei was just happy to get to wear her costumes!

T-ball was another spring activity that was postponed. Much like dance I didn’t think it would ever actually resume but we got the call they were going to move forward with a short season through the month of June. They ended up having a game twice a week for the month of June. The twins played and really loved it this year compared to last!

In farm news we started and finished wheat harvest which was a relief. Our wheat did exceptionally well this year. Our new farm shop is almost complete now. I don’t think I kept everyone updated on all the craziness but our shop has been built 3 times now due to a tornado and then a very high wind storm! We also got 2 new grain bins that are just about complete

We homeschool through the summer because we are gone most of the winter and the twins have been working hard. They are both reading short words now. Reading has been our main focus this summer and we will continue on with that until this fall. We used Logic of English Foundations for phonics and reading and it has been very beneficial. It’s a very straight forward program with very little glitz and glamor but I will definitely say it works! MM has really been wanting to do school so when she turned 3 I got her the same The Good & The Beautiful Preschool workbook that the twins used last year but she’s just not ready for it. She was really excited to have her own workbook and we trudged through about a week of it but it’s designed for 3-4 year olds and was just over her head. I didn’t want to discourage her so I found Horizons Preschool for 3s that is much more level appropriate for her. We’ve been using it for about a month now and she loves it!

July will bring a lot more adventures for us and we can’t wait!

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