Our holiday season usually kicks off with our annual family photo shoot. Its always a fun time for us – and this year was pretty special. We rented a cabin at Oleta River Park for a change of scenery and pretended we were somewhere warm and cozy – although it was 80 degrees outside!

These sessions for us are a time to capture fun times with quality photos that will last a lifetime. As we gear up for our 2018 shoot – I’m looking back at some of my favorite shots taken by Erica Melissa.
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So AJ turned 4 in August…we were coming off of our family cruise and his birthday was right around the corner. In the past – I’ve partnered with my fave photographer who has shot AJ since birth...and we’ll come up with great ideas and places to shoot their annual photo shoot. But this time – I was tired and out of ideas…and tired. So I called Erica and decided we would shoot AJ in his element….at home…in his playroom…and with his toys. He had 7-day old pool hair, but I didn’t care…I had a tradition of capturing my kids turning a year older – and this was as real as it was going to get. And I loved everything about this session. We pulled out his favorite car, grabbed his Lightning McQueen jacket and he went to work.

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Of course Bobbi would want in – so she went and dressed herself to get photos with her little brother in their favorite part of the house – their playroom.

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I loved that we used our home setting…there will be some point where there is no playroom because they will be all grown up. So capturing what their environment looks like at this age is just as important as capturing them. We used our garage for the shots of him and his dinosaurs….and the front of our home for his race car scene.

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AJ at 4 is your typical active little boy. His growth from toddler boy to big boy is pretty awesome to see. He loves all things Paw Patrol, obsessed with Hot Wheels…and loves animals. As someone who is fearful of dogs – it makes me happy to see how comfortable he is with animals. I did not want him to take that part of me! He’s in his last year of pre-school and although he’s the youngest in the class – he is holding his own. I love that he still shows that he needs me and wants hugs – just not kisses. When I kiss him on the lips – he wipes it off…and gives his head – not even his cheek. Who wants to kiss hair??

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My baby boy is no longer a baby….so I am soaking in EVERY minute. I’m enjoying this stage of growing pains, occasional temper tantrums, picky eating, and innocent fun. This is Amarii Joseph Metelus…my son!

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Post-pre-school graduation.  I could not stop the tears from flowing that night….and I was confused by the overwhelming emotions that came over me.  I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.  I woke up the next morning – tears still streaming down my face.  At this point – I’m getting frustrated because I’m not sure why it won’t stop.  Reflecting on the conversation with my husband the night before – it hit me.  This is life…this is changeand in a way – I am mourning this stage that I am leaving behind.

“But it’s only pre-school” my husband nonchalantly said the night before.  That was his attempt at consoling me.  Well, that just set me off even more…more tears rushing…my throat feels swollen – I can barely muster words.  Because there’s no such thing as ONLY when it comes to my children.  Looking at myself in the mirror early the next morning, as I’m rushing to get on a flight – I realized then – that’s what was bothering me.  We, humans, tend to marginalize emotions or moments simply because we don’t think that THAT moment is big enough to warrant an emotional response.  And while I understood Bob’s failed attempt to make me realize that there would be “bigger” moments with our daughter to come…what he didn’t realize was –  this was a big enough moment for me.

It’s the loss of pre-school innocence and walking into a world of older kids, responsibilities, possible bullying and teasing and everything kids face nowadays in school.

It’s the loss of community that we experienced in her pre-school, where families actually like each other – group chats are constantly poppin’ and the sense of family, that often gets lost as your child travels from grade to grade.  The kids in her pre-school had mainly been together since she started the program at 16 months old.

Ahhhh….16 months old…that’s how she entered pre-school…already knowing her ABC’s but also still toting her pacifier and walking around with a diaper butt.  At five years old – she walked away even more confident and smarter than I could have ever hoped for.  I watched her develop strong relationships with other girls and hold her own with the boys.  I saw how her teachers all loved on her and shed tears knowing that she will be missed.  That was worth some of my own tears.

Her brother’s keeper.  It was her that he seeked out when he first started school at 18 months.  And it was her that he continued to look for throughout the day, even when he was acclimated with his own class and had his own friends.  She was his go-to.  She was the big sister.  His own day could not start unless he walked her to class.  They checked on each other on the playground.  Knowing that he would miss her at school, warranted my tears.

There’s something weird about watching your child grow…its bittersweet.  I will never have those toddler years with her again.  I will never not have to worry about all the things that come with putting her in a school with 1,700 other kids.  That is worth my tears.

Having that revelation,  I stopped getting frustrated with my overflow of emotions.  Yes…maybe it was a bit much, even for me – but THAT’S OK.  I realized then that I wanted to wallow in my feelings – if but for a moment.  Because I don’t want to look up and say…where did the time go??  I want to be in that moment of time acknowledging that we are entering a whole new world *in my Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle voice.”  Moments are not “just moments”.  Its life happening. It’s shedding the old and entering new.  And that can be emotional.

Now here I am…on the eve before the first day of kindergarten – I’m calm.  Her book bag is packed – I’ve checked her school list over and over.  I am giddy as if I am the one starting my first day.  I prayed with her tonight and rubbed her head as she fell asleep.  I took time out to note that this was the night before another major milestone – and life will not be the same.  There is a transition taking place whether I’m ready for it or not.  That was important for me to do.  To be in that moment.  And now I feel ready for tomorrow.

I’m excited about her future.  I can’t wait to hear every day about what’s happening in her class.  I plan on cherishing every moment as it zips on by. I even took a moment to recognize that tomorrow is AJ’s last first day of pre-school.  I’m grateful to be part of these moment with them.  And even in my moments of excitement and gratitude – that doesn’t mean a few tears won’t roll down my face in the process.

So, no Bob and world…it’s not “just pre-school” ….and no…. I won’t wait until high school to give myself permission to cry about my children growing up.  I am giving myself permission to do it now.  And to cry all over again….when it’s AJ’s turn.

(My husband begrudgingly approves this message 🙂

Sharing a snapshot thru the years…

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Bobbi Elle’s 1st day of pre-school
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I was that peering stalker mom, watching to see how she was going to be while I was gone. I did that up until the last day.
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From snotty-nose baby with paci to a confident beautiful girl. I’ve watched her flourish and grow during these years…a beautiful transition.
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One of my favorite things was watching her develop so many amazing relationships over the years…and while I know she will make many new friends – my hope is that she will still connect with her day ones for years to come. Her and her bestie – Serena.
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They’ve been rolling thru school together for 2.5 years strong. Another reason for the tears. AJ is going to miss his big sister – they are inseparable. Plus now I have two different school pick up times, activities, schedules, uggghhh…selfish tears warranted!
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We celebrated many milestones with the same crew; including her 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th birthdays. Those were always fun parties that she shared with her school friends.
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The teachers!!! Some of her favorites….after graduation – she cried for a long time because she was already missing her teachers.
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Post-Graduation festivities at home.
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The Proud Parents
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Class of 2018 at KLA Aventura!!
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Bobbi’s Village showed up and showed out at her graduation.
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The graduate!
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Me…looking forward to doing it all over again with my favorite guy!


Finally!  Tips for visiting Disney World!!  Been wanting to do this post for some time and I finally pulled it together.  Here’s the thing about Disney and me…Disney World was a thing for me growing up.  Living in Miami and being 3 hours away – it was one of my most favorite memories with my family.

I’ll never forget the first time riding “It’s A Small World” with Bobbi and AJ. I shed a few tears thinking back about moments with my mom on the ride and how that was a full circle moment for me and my own little family. Disney World is a magical place and I love to relive these moments with my children while we create our own special memories!

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Carousel rides with my Mom….I look scared.

Our first trip with our kids was in July 2016.  Since then, we’ve gone to the parks over 10 times!! We’re annual pass holders (just myself and Bob) and we are a good 2 hours and 45 minutes away from the parks.  Being Florida residents, we take advantage of the discounted ticket options that Disney offers for the kids.  They don’t need all the perks that come with the annual passes so we tend to save money doing it that way.
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Having done this a few times – I often get asked about “how to do Disney.”  So here are my top tips for a successful trip!

1. Sign up for a Disney account:  When I first logged on to the Disney website – I immediately had anxiety. It was overwhelming…so many options…and even for someone as savvy as I considered myself to be, I needed someone to walk me thru what all of my options were and how this whole Disney thing works!  So take some time to learn your way around the website…its a breeze once you figure it out!

2. Secure the pass: Once you’ve signed up for an account and made your purchases…sign up for your fast passes! If you are staying at a Disney resort, you’re allowed to lock in your fast pass 60 days before your day at the park. If you are staying elsewhere, you can secure your pass 30 days prior to your visit. Getting your fast pass early will ensure you get the rides you want with a very short wait time. Fast Passes also gives you an hour access during your time slot, to get into the ride.

BONUS TIP: You should also plan your fast passes back to back, that way you’re able to add more passes once your main three are complete.  For example:  If you’re at Hollywood Studios – and you book your fast pass for Frozen Sing-Along at 2 PM; Toy Story Mania at 3:30 PM and Slinky Dog RollerCoaster at 4:30 PM – once you complete the last fast pass, you will able to add more fast passes for the rest of your time there. Which leads to…

3. Download the app: My Disney Experience! The app is my go-to for everything! Making dining reservations, purchasing tickets, view my photos from the parks and updating my fast pass schedule. I also use the app to check on wait times for rides or to guide me around the park.  It comes in handy to check fast pass availability throughout the day. Earlier this month we scored fast passes for the new Toy Story Land rides that were technically sold out – just by constantly checking the system.
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4. Plan accordingly/Make reservations: When I plan out my day, I usually include a stop for lunch. There are times we don’t do dining reservations and just eat in the casual dining areas.  There are a few good ones sprinkled around. But if you want a good meal at any of the parks, there are great options for fine dining.  But they also get packed, so make your reservations early and plan it out according to which rides you will be on at a particular time.  Disney allows you to make reservations up to 6 months in advance. You will need that if you’re looking to get reservations at Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest Restaurant or Cinderella’s Royal Table. Example: We booked reservations at Jungle Navigation at the Magic Kingdom to time up around our Jungle Cruise fast pass.

BONUS TIP:  A lot of the restaurants also have mobile dining. Go to your app, order your food, skip the lines and your food will be ready by the time you get there.

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Schedule in break times for the kiddos…they’ll need it and so will you!

5. Scout the park! When planning your rides and dining, make sure you look at the map to plan accordingly. The last thing you want to do is zig-zag thru the park from one end to another. Check out the map to see what rides are close to each other, which restaurants are nearby…where you want to start and end.

BONUS TIP: Take full advantage of the indoor shows! Plan them when you know you’ll need some cool air and to sit down for a break (or nap in Bob’s case) Animal Kingdom’s Finding Nemo or Hollywood Studios Voyage of the Little Mermaid or the Frozen Sing-Along are all pieces of heaven when you want a quick time out from the sun and they are really good shows!

6. Pack accordingly!  In the heat of the summer – you want to bring cooling towels and ponchos. It will rain – its Florida.  No need to buy expensive Disney ponchos when you buy them on Amazon or at a local store and pack them with you. In the winter months – it definitely gets chilly at night so pack a coat or dress in layers! You’ll also want to bring an extended charger or two.
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7. Stay near the park: We have never stayed at a Disney hotel during our trips with the kids. Its still something I want them to experience but sometimes it doesn’t make sense for us. Because I usually travel with a squad, I normally rent a house in the Encore/Reunion development, which is less than 10 minutes from the park. I love the options of Disney hotels where you can arrive at some of the parks on water taxis and trains – but wherever you choose to stay…stay close! You will be exhausted and the last thing you want to do after a day in the park is drive 20-30 minutes to get home.

8. AM or PM?  A lot of families like to hit the park first thing in the morning. I’ve never tried that. I prefer to hit the parks late afternoon in order for us to get in some of the evening shows. We tend to go around 3 PM – beating some of the foot traffic and still having 6-7 hours to get thru some of our favorite attractions. We also go often so starting early in the morning will work best for those who have limited time in the parks.

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The new River of Lights show at Epcot is one to see!

9. Park Hopper versus One-day tickets: Park Hoppers are useless for us…at least for now.  My kids wouldn’t stand a chance of doing more than one park in a day…it’s not that easy to get from one park to the next. Park Hoppers works best for older teens and adults that have the energy and can get around without worrying about strollers, diaper changes, etc. Plus, each park really takes a full day to explore.
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10. Travel with other families: I like to travel with a squad. So when I go on a trip, I am recruiting friends and family members who have kids the same age as mine. While Disney is guaranteed fun for all…there are some miserable moments (kid meltdowns, untimely bathroom breaks, parents need a drink, etc..) and there’s nothing better than having other people to pass your kid off to or child swap when yours is acting up!
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11. Take the photo:  You know those awesome photographers who are strategically placed throughout the park to capture your family moment? Take advantage!!! Sometimes there may be a wait – but the photos always come out awesome and even though you may be tired and just want to go home – take the photo. You also want to jump in the character photos with your kids as well. Those memories will last a lifetime!
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Mainly – enjoy the moment. It will be tiring but the experience and memories makes it all worth it. The good, the bad, and all the moments in between. If you have any additional tips that would be helpful – please share.  Have a Magical Trip!!

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Taking time for kisses at Animal Kingdom

While you’re reading up on Disney – check out all the fun from our other Disney Ventures:

Disney Pre-School Playdate

Bobbi Elle’s Disney Royal Birthday Celebration

Bobbi Elle’s Disney Princess Photo Shoot