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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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 walking..plus 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


Ahhhh….the excitement of turning 2!!!  August 6th. Part of me was a little sad knowing that I no longer have a baby anymore – I have a full blown little boy…and he plays the role to the tee!  “AJ” (Amarii Joseph) was such a calm and low key baby.  I thought…“this is good..I have balance between him and Miss Bobbi.”  But not so fast!  In the last few months – its like he turned on the switch and is now operating on ALL cylinders.  He has such a bright personality to match his big and bright smile.  He’s super affectionate, very independent, makes his voice heard – and is willing to battle for some shine when he is around his big sister.  He started pre-school in May, and that has really helped to accelerate his communication skills…he can now speak in full sentences, knows how to count from 1 – 13 (he’s stuck…he thinks every number after 13 is…13)..he knows his ABC’s, loves books, and loves identifying animals and their sounds.  We’re still working on his colors 🙂

As has been my tradition – I once again partnered with Erica Melissa to shoot AJ in all of his glory.  She has captured every key moment including our birth journey and his first year photo shoot.  For this shoot, we went back to the location of Miss Bobbi’s two-year old shoot in Miami Lakes. FL, a shopping area that has become our little photo shoot playground…we just used different backdrops.  I also (smartly) enlisted the help of my friend/stylist, Toni Lowes to help create the looks, and we bought along his favorite bike, his favorite toy – a football…balloons…and his favorite bear…I’m in love with it all!

Amarii Joseph; Two-year old photo shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog post
Amarii Joseph; Two-year old photo shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog post
Amarii Joseph; Two-year old photo shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog post
Amarii Joseph Metelus; Two-year old photo shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog post
Amarii Joseph Metelus; Two-year old photo shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog post



What’s every two-year old’s favorite cartoon??? BUBBLE GUPPIES!!!!  Well, its one of many…but since AJ’s birthday falls in the summer – I love having his parties outside.  (Besides, who doesn’t love being out in all of the heat and humidity that Miami has to offer??)  In fairness to all attendees – I do plan it around some type of water activity – and this year’s venue had plenty of that.  We celebrated at TY Park’s Castaway Island where they offered something for everyone!  I rented out two funbrella’s – which perfectly shaded all of our guests (about 60 people).  Kids were able to spend time in the splash pad zone or join in the fun at the swim lagoon.  There’s even a slides area for the older kids.  There was limited décor since the pools and slides were enough to keep the kids entertained.  But I still managed to find ways to incorporate the Bubble Guppies theme.

It was a perfect summer day to gather friends and family to celebrate AJ turning two. Sharing some of the fun!

Amarii Turns Two! Bubble Guppies Party; One Balanced Mama Blog Post
What’s a party without the perfect invite!
Amarii Turns Two! Bubble Guppies Party; One Balanced Mama Blog Post
Cake designed by Divine Delicacies…they nailed the Bubble Guppies theme
Amarii Turns Two! Bubble Guppies Party; One Balanced Mama Blog Post
Even though I had cupcakes…and cake…I still got the custom cake pops – kids love these!
Amarii Turns Two! Bubble Guppies Party; One Balanced Mama Blog Post
I know Finding Dory isn’t the theme, but its all ocean based stories – so we rolled with it!
Amarii Turns Two! Bubble Guppies Party; One Balanced Mama Blog Post
I always find custom labels on Etsy to tie it all together…and the beach pails from Party City was a perfect touch to the décor.

Amarii Turns Two! Birthday shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog Post;

Amarii Turns Two! Birthday shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog Post;

Amarii Turns Two! Bubble Guppies Party; One Balanced Mama Blog Post
Fun shots of AJ enjoying his birthday party with friends and family…he had a blast!