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A little flashback

Rainy Sundays are good for cozy blankets, hot tea, and warm memories.

Here is a little flashback to my ME TRIP to see dear friends on the west coast. We’ve known each other long before our babies were born, and now we’re all up to two babies each! Side note: In these photos, Natasha was still baking her second one. :) When we lived in the same state, it wasn’t unusual to see one another almost every weekend. We were so in tune that we could orchestrate the most elaborate potluck dinner within minutes. I knew we had it good then, and now that we live coasts apart, I am even more grateful for what we had. Thank you both for showing me what a mutually giving and loving friendship looks like and for this amazing weekend. Cheers to many more just like it. xoxo

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One year ago pre-pandemic

Nearly one year ago, we spent our spring break in the City of Brotherly Love.

We did not know then the meaning of socially distancing or masking up. It is almost comical that we traveled to a largely populated city right before the world shuttered down. We even cut our trip short because news of our university telling students not to return from spring break was the first real hint that this global pandemic was to be taken seriously.

Looking back at these photos almost feels like studying a relic.

A year later, I am missing the old normal. And those soup dumplings from Dim Sum Garden. And the fresh peking duck from Reading Terminal Market.

Nature study

I read a wise book that said when you don’t have the answers, you can find them in nature.

By sheer irony did we recently (as in yesterday) find this beautiful trail a few steps from our home.

By following a handful of trails, we explored a pond and ended up at one of our favorite playgrounds. I went back again today with my macro lens and (literally) focused on the smaller details of life. I think it’s because the big details just feel a little too big right now.

Wishing you all well.

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Cape Charles: A summer bay vacay

Before we say farewell to summer, say hello to Cape Charles, Virginia.

This adorable town hosted us for one final getaway before our “big kid” started kindergarten. Despite a mid-week trip to urgent care (what are the odds of contracting a salivary gland infection during the week of vacation?!?), we had a great time.

And with that, I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. :)

Happy September to you all!

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The Neals take on the (Disney) world

We did it, you guys. We survived the planning. The buildup. The exhaustive research. We’re finally on the other end of our Disney trip, and because I lugged my DSLR all the way to Florida and carried it everywhere except for the pool, I thought this was worthy of the blog. :)

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Grateful for being able to keep bedtime routines while traveling. Also, we learned that Q is a huge fan of pull-out sofa beds. I’m pretty sure it’s the novelty, but hey, not questioning it.
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Pictured above is what you get with two first-time flyers. “Daddy, this is a huge TV!” 1903_DB_002
Happy to report that the kids did great on their first flight! Those headphones were a huge game changer – they even came with built-in audio splitters. (This will only make sense to those of you who only have one tablet and two kids whom you are desperately trying to quietly entertain for the duration of the flight). Another pro-tip that worked beautifully was giving the kids applesauce pouches at takeoff to help with ears popping.

We also packed snacks galore. I have to give the MVP award to dum-dum lollipops for creating a small, yet extremely effective tool. (Just assume that all of these tips came from someone smarter than me!)
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Touching down in Orlando also means immediately touching Mickey’s nose! Since we stayed at a Disney resort (Fort Wilderness Campgrounds), transportation to the resort was provided to us via the Disney Magical Express aka a charter bus. The kids were amazed that there were tvs inside the bus, which made the 30-minute ride VERY convenient.
IMG_3744Even though we arrived relatively early on our first day, we didn’t want to over schedule ourselves, so we took our time acquainting ourselves with our cabin and surroundings, and then ultimately decided to rent a golf cart (our first unplanned expense) and hit up the pool.

A couple of notes here if you’re interested! We loved staying in a cabin. We had our own kitchen, and the bedroom (incl. a queen and bunk bed) was separate from the living space, so we were able to put the kids down every night while we cleaned up dinner, made plans for the next day, etc.

We also ordered Amazon same-day groceries to the cabin as soon as we landed in Orlando. Jay and I made a general list before we left, so it was just a matter of processing the order. The only hiccup was that I had to call the front desk to confirm that they had our groceries, which they then delivered to our cabin and even placed the cold items in the fridge.
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After the pool, we hunted down some dinner and took advantage of the playground by the marina.
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1903_DB_005Overcast and rainy – not the forecast we were looking for, but we made it work! We caught one of the first ferries to the park. We waited 10 minutes for our ferry at the marina, and it was an ~8-minute ride.
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Can you tell it’s raining? The apparent upside to all of this? Little to no crowds!
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Ruby’s first glimpse of Cinderella’s castle…<3
DB4We tried to watch Disney movies before our trip so that our kiddos would know the characters. Even if your kiddo isn’t into characters, Magic Kingdom has so many themed areas (almost everything is themed!) that it makes it feel, well, magical. Ruby loved meeting these leading ladies. 1903_DB_008Spinning teacups! One of the things I loved most is there were many, many rides/shows/experiences that our family could enjoy together. 1903_DB_0071903_DB_009DB51903_DB_0101903_DB_011A photo of Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Minnie and Mickey singing together. Sadly enough, Ruby was napping in the stroller and missed the entire performance. :(

But not to worry – she woke up for the festival of fantasy parade, in where I took a bajillion photos because let’s face it, the magic catches up to you as an adult too! 1903_DB_0121903_DB_0131903_DB_0141903_DB_0151903_DB_016DB61903_DB_0171903_DB_018DB7DB8The above photo was taken in the 10-minute window of the entire day when the sun decided to make an appearance. Despite being unprepared for the weather, we loved Magic Kingdom and could’ve spent several more days here. DB91903_DB_0201903_DB_019Each kid received an “allowance” that they could put toward toys/trinkets. We helped them keep track, and they did pretty well with the concept. 1903_DB_021DB10Ruby and Tink = bffs. 1903_DB_0221903_DB_023On our next full day, we had a “non-park” day, and the only thing we scheduled was a character dining experience at the Polynesian Resort (Ohana). We caught a ride on the monorail and enjoyed peeking into other resort hotels. DB11Ruby surprised us all when she jumped in front of Mickey to close out the music parade. These are the memories we will never forget.DB12You might be wondering, “what is Ruby hiding in those cheeks?!” Jay and I honestly think she thought breakfast was going to be done when the characters came over, so she stuffed as much food as she could beforehand. 1903_untitled_001-4 copyDB131903_DB_0241903_DB_025A well-earned nap before an outing to Disney Springs. Transportation was conveniently provided as a continuous loop. 1903_DB_026Quentin discovered a love and talent for Legos during the trip! DB141903_DB_0271903_DB_0291903_DB_028We ventured to Hollywood Studios on Thursday for a Frozen sing-a-long show complete with SNOW. Ruby was entranced. Quentin wasn’t a fan of the special effects. After exploring Toy Story Land, we ended up going back to the cabin to enjoy the pool one last time.1903_DB_0301903_DB_031Phew – did you make it to the end?! This trip proved to us that we can do anything together. After a 2:30 a.m. start to our return trip, the longest airport security line you have ever seen, a 3-hour boarding delay with two gate changes, and a 3-hr drive waiting for us after touch down, you are probably sympathizing for us and the state of our kids. Thankfully and most surprisingly, our kids were champs through it all, and we would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Except we’d pack ponchos and more dum-dums. And book a later return flight. ;)

Thanks for following along!