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Review: Walt Disney World’s Beach Club Resort

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

My family went to Walt Disney World in December of 2014 and stayed at the Beach Club Resort. We booked through AAA which gave us an upgrade to a waterside view.

The absolute best part of The Beach Club was it’s close proximity to EPCOT. It was only a 5-10 minute walk away from The International Gateway entering the World Showcase between France and England.

The second best part of The Beach Club is the pool, Stormalong Bay. In addition to a lazy river, two water slides, multiple hot-tubs and a real sand beach, it also had lifeguards. The pool is designed in such a way that mom and dad can kick back and still watch their kids play at a variety of locations. It’s the only pool I’ve ever seen with a sand bottom, which was super cool.

Since we visited WDW in December, we got to see The Beach Club decorated for Christmas. The had some sort of scent piped in that made the whole lobby smell like gingerbread. There was also a huge gingerbread carousel that was motorized.

One amenity not pictured is The Sandcastle Club, which is the onsite childcare service. On the last night of our trip my husband and I dropped our kids off at the Sandcastle Club and walked over to Epcot for dinner. We used a AAA discount, and the total cost of almost 5 hours of childcare was $105. The kids had a blast, and my husband and I did the wine tasting walk through EPCOT.

The second closest park to The Beach Club is Hollywood Studios, which is about a one mile walk or a fifteen minute boat ride. The Magic Kingdom was about a twenty minute bus ride away, and the Animal Kingdom was slightly shorter.

This is the third Walt Disney World resort I’ve stayed in, and is by far my favorite. When I was a kid I stayed at The Polynesian and The Swan.

Drawbacks to The Beach Club are the price. Also, some of the interior decorating shows wear and tear. There was a small rip in our sofa. One of the beds had clearly been jumped on and the springs were shot.

But all in all, I would definitely stay at The Beach Club again, or perhaps its sister hotel, The Yacht Club.

Wine tasting without needing to drive home. Perfect!

Wine tasting without needing to drive home. Perfect!

The Beach Club lobby's most famous Christmas decoration.

The Beach Club lobby’s most famous Christmas decoration.

Our room

Our room

Our view

Our view

Fake Canada

Fake Canada in EPCOT

The ginormous pool with real sand

The ginormous pool with real sand

The Beach Club at night

The Beach Club at night

Is Walt Disney World worth the money?

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Hello friends! It’s been quiet here on Teaching My Baby to Read because my family took off for Walt Disney World the first week of December. I’m channeling all of my thoughts into a future “I Brake for Moms” column.

Was a trip to Walt Disney World worth the money? YES! Last week goes down in my top three vacations of all time.

Here are some pictures so you can arm-chair travel with us.

P.S. I owe a special thanks to Kristen from Teaching Stars because I texted her a bunch of pictures of Florida birds that she ID’d for us on the spot! Sweet!

 

The Jungle Boat

The Jungle Boat

Elsa freezes Cinderella's castle.

Elsa freezes Cinderella’s castle.

 

The Animal Kingdom

The Animal Kingdom

Expedition Everest--My five-year-old loved it.

Expedition Everest–My five-year-old loved it.

Behind the Seeds tour in the Land pavilion at Epcot.

Behind the Seeds tour in the Land pavilion at Epcot.

Dessert at Cinderella's Royal Table

Dessert at Cinderella’s Royal Table

 

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

Fantasmic

Fantasmic

Zumba Exhilarate vs. Zumba Incredible Results

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I wrote an I Brake for Moms column a while ago about my journey back from breaking my wrist and how Zumba had helped. (Please see: What burns more calories, Zumba or kids’ aerobics?)

This post is a specific review of the two versions of Zumba I own, Zumba Fitness Exhilarate and Zumba Fitness Incredible Results. Plus I’m offering a confession: Sometimes I let my kids watch TV downstairs while I’m doing Zumba upstairs. Otherwise, how would I find time to exercise during the summer when they aren’t in school? Yeah, it would be better if they were reading books or cleaning their rooms, but sometimes you have to make compromises. 😉

 

Why I like Zumba DVDs in general:

  • ALL of the instructors are really great. Nice, upbeat, encouraging, and they give clear directions.
  • Usually you have the option of turning the instructions off and just following the music.
  • The sets come with enough variety to keep things interesting.
  • The music is really awesome, even though I’ve never heard it before.
  • Zumba is FUN.

Random Thoughts and Unanswered Questions about Zumba:

  • Is Beto really as nice as he seems? Because he seems really nice.
  • Do you think Beto and Tony Horton from P90x know each other? Because Tony seems really nice too.
  • How does Kass Martin look so different with and without bangs? I think she looks pretty either way.
  • The lighting on Loretta Bates in the Zumba Step video is really pale. At first I didn’t realize she was the same person who was in Rush. Also, how did she get so good a belly dancing?
  • What’s with the wrist bands? Do people really wear random wrist bands when they exercise? What’s the point?
  • Doesn’t it hurt to exercise with big earrings. Wouldn’t they bang around and hurt your earlobes?
  • Was Marcie Gill a former cheerleader? She seems to have a cheerleader’s spirit.
  • Am I the only person who thinks Jessica Mellet looks a little bit like Heidi Klum? Especially in Zumba Step.

But I digress… Now for the reviews.

 

Zumba Fitness Exhilarate Body Shaping System DVD (Multi, Small)
What you get:

  • Step by Step (an introduction to the steps)
  • Activate (40 minute easy routine)
  • Exhilarate (60 minutes difficult routine both in terms of dance steps and intensity)
  • Rush (22 minute routine that is intense but short)
  • Ripped and Mix (30 minutes of cardio toning with the sticks, plus a 60 minute cardio routine)
  • two, one pound rhythm sticks

Thoughts about Exhilarate:

  • Rush and Ripped are my favorite. Usually I do them together.
  • The sticks are too easy for me now, but were really helpful when I was rehabbing my broken wrist.
  • Exhilarate is really hard for me to do on the carpet. I think it would be easier on wood floors.
  • The costumes are wild. I could imagine conservative people having a hard time with so much skin.

Zumba Fitness Incredible Results DVD with Zumba Max DVD

 

What you get:

  • Quick Start (an introduction to the steps)
  • Step (40 minute step routine)
  • Zumba riser (step)
  • Super Cardio Dance Party (60 minutes difficult routine in terms of intensity but with easy to follow steps)
  • 20 Minute Express (short and fairly easy)
  • 30 Minute Burn (easy to follow steps but no directions)
  • Amazing Abs (17 minute chair workout that is really hard

Thoughts about Incredible Results:

  • I love pretty much all of it, except I rarely do the 20 Minute Express and have never done the Quick Start
  • Steve Boedt in the Super Cardio Dance Party is really funny.
  • The Step workout is my FAVORITE!
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.

 

Final thoughts about Zumba?

Zumba is super fun. Exhilarate is slightly easier I think, but beginners would like Incredible Results too. If you’re going to go for it, I would suggest getting the shoes as well. Otherwise you can’t slide properly on the carpet. The first few times I did Zumba I had my ordinary gym shoes on and I kept tripping. Zumba shoes have a smooth sole and that really helps.

Party on!

Visiting the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

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I still feel a bit guilty. Last weekend my family went to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Oregon and we didn’t eat any beef jerky. Or smoked salmon. Or dog. Yuck! Okay, dog and horsemeat were never on the table but I did have some teriyaki jerky in the cooler. If we were truly going to immerse ourselves in the Corps of Discovery experience we should have been eating preserved meat.

At least we geeked out in the car. On our way down to Oregon we listened to chapter 32 of Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times. Narrator Jim Weiss gave a delightful introduction to what we would find at Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark’s winter camp has been faithfully reconstructed.

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The actual fort was a lot smaller than I had imagined–and darker. My five-year-old daughter objected to its “earthy” smell. I have a cute picture of her holding her nose, but I don’t share my children’s photos online. So take a look at the mens’ quarters and imagine the aroma of animal hide.

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A cool part of the park is that they have rangers dressed up in period costumes giving demonstrations, like this one, where they actually fired a rifle.

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As you might expect, Sacajawea has a major presence at the camp. I don’t know if the scale is accurate, but this statue of her and her baby “Pompey” is about 5 feet, 5 inches.

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In the fort itself, Sacajawea’s family had their own room.

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The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park is a fun place to spend between 2-4 hours with kids, but it’s not on the same scale as Plimoth Plantation. I’m glad we went, but I don’t think we would visit again unless we were camping at Cape Disappointment.

 

Put Outlaw Words in their place

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Lovely and Unique Journals for Children

Cherish the moments and record the memories with two special journals for kids.

Cherish the moments and record the memories with two special journals for kids.

What a happy delight! Seattle based Sasquatch Books sent me two beautiful journals for children: The Next 1000 Days: A Journal of Ages Two to Six by Nikki McClure and This Is Me: A Girl’s Journal by Julie Metzger. I was really impressed by each book, both as a parent and a former teacher.

The Next 1000 Days is full of pictures, captions and blank space. There are about 23 pages for each age. When children are younger, parents can document favorite foods, books read and new words and capabilities. Once kids get older, they can use newfound literacy skills to take ownership of the remaining pages and to read what Mom or Dad has already written.

My own self-portrait from 1982.

My own self-portrait from 1982.

Capturing a child’s emerging handwriting is so much fun and The Next 1000 Days is a great way to do it. There are also special places for self portraits.

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This Is Me: A Girl’s Journal is for preteens and up. It has a wide variety of prompts too. This is excellent because blank pages can be really intimidating, especially to emergent writers. Some kids do fine with traditional diaries, but often times a question, checklist, or space to draw a picture can really garner a better response. This journal has the perfect balance between open-ended and closed-ended responses. It is also colorful and pretty; important attributes for a girl audience.

Unlike a lot of diaries you see for kids these days–diaries based on popular characters– there’s nothing gimmicky about This Is Me: A Girl’s Journal and it won’t turn your children into products of advertising. I definitely appreciate that.

My niece is heading off to Girl Scout Camp next week and I’m going to mail This Is Me off to her just in time. This is a journal begging for a young girl’s heart!

Happy Father’s Day!

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Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Daily Herald:  On Father’s Day ask dads and grandpas for their boyhood stories.

P.S. The picture is from Watson Lakes.

Helping Kids Calm Down

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Kids are under a lot of stress these days, especially at the end of the school year. Between homework assignments, late-night sports games and the ordinary trials and tribulations of riding home on the school bus, our kids are under pressure. Perform,  behave, be quiet; it can be very difficult to be a child.

A panacea to all of this stress is a good night’s sleep. But that’s easier said than done.

Can't fall asleep? Let's turn on your CD.

Can’t fall asleep? Let’s turn on your CD.

A while back I wrote a post called Bedtime CDs can lull your kids to sleep where I shared my family’s success using sleep CDs we had purchased for bedtime. One of the CDs featured was Sleep Solutions by Roberta Shaprio. She later emailed me and offered to send me another one of her CDs for free, in exchange for my honest opinions and review.


The CD I chose was Goodbye Worries, Guided meditation to train your mind to quiet your thoughts. It is excellent!

Unlike Sleep Solutions, Goodbye Worries is not a sleep CD per se. But it is extremely useful for winding minds down. It includes five tracks, an introduction plus four guided meditation activities.

I especially like how the CD focuses on sending bothersome thoughts away from your mind. Track #3 helps you imagine a barrier to protect yourself from worries.

Sometimes when you son or daughter is upset or stressed it can be difficult to know how to help. Snuggling up on the couch and listening to a CD like this is a great option.

Helping Boys Thrive Summit, Review

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I went to the Helping Boys Thrive Summit with Michael Gurian and Dr. Gregory Jantz yesterday and it was AMAZING! I’m so glad I went!

But I left feeling disturbed. One dad shared with the Q&A panel that he disciplines his tween boy by spanking him with a foot-long paddle and even punching him in the chest. Then he laughed about it and implied that he wishes he could discipline his son’s friends too. The whole audience laughed with him, like it was a big joke.

In my mind, this isn’t funny at all. Washington’s own Hanna Williams died the victim of “corporal chastisement”.

Michael Gurian addressed the issue by clearly saying that spanking to cause pain, spanking on the skin, and spanking with an object is child abuse. But he didn’t come out definitively against spanking, even though research shows that spanking is ineffective compared to better discipline methods. (See Stop Spanking.org for more details.)

Dr. Jantz answered by saying that in his house they use natural consequences. I’m assuming that’s code for Love and Logic methods. Love and Logic is absolutely opposed to corporal punishment as well.

Kudos to Michale Gurian and Dr. Jantz for sharing, but I wish you had gone further. I am worried about those tween boys in question.

95% of the Helping Boys Thrive Summit was outstanding. I would highly recommend going. But next time, maybe they should invite L.R. Knost or Robbyn Peters Bennett to take a seat on their panel too.

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 4.24.02 PMClick here to join the No Spank Challenge

 

Merlin’s Nightmare, by Robert Treskillard


Merlin’s Nightmare by Robert Treskillard is the third book in his Merlin Spiral series. (For my review of book #2, Merlin’s shadow, click here. )

The premise of Merlin’s Nightmare is that Arthur is now 18 and just discovering that he is the rightful heir to Britain. Merlin struggles to let his adopted son grow up and make decisions on his own–which might lead everyone to their doom.

Anyone familiar with Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory is going to be in for a shock!

Treskillard has taken the original cast of the Arturian legend and reshuffled it.  Morgana for example, is now Merlin’s sister.

For my part, I read this latest Treskillard installment and thought “Werewolves? He added werewolves?” But I’m not such a traditionalist that it bothered me. In fact, I really think the author has freshened the legends up. Arthur is ready for new YA fans.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

Boys & Girls Learn Differently, Online Book Club

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Ready for some Mommy-Ed?

Right now I’m reading Boys and Girls Learn Differently! A Guide for Teachers and Parents by Michael Gurian and it is so fabulous that I want to tell everyone I know about it.

Here’s a one-sentence synopsis:

Once parents and teachers understand how male and female brains develop differently, they are better able to educate children.

I’m so impressed by Boys and Girls Learn Differently that I’m starting an online book club. If you’re interested in reading along with me, check out the book from your local library and stay tuned for future blog posts where you can add your own comments.

I’ve ordered my own personal copy from Amazon, but it won’t be here for two days. In the meantime I need to hide my highlighter. The copy I’m reading is from the library and I cannot contain myself from marking up important passages with a golf pencil.

Happily, on May 24, 2014 I’m attending the Helping Boys Thrive Summit in Edmonds, WA where I’ll get to hear Michael Gurian speak. I’ll be sure to blog about that as well.

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

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A very special “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140511/BLOG5205/140519986/On-Mothers-Day-heres-to-you-Mrs.-Bardsley

This is big for me, because normally I don’t share pictures of my children online.  But now you can see my daughter’s sweet face. Photographer Sofia Jaramillo did a beautiful job!

Tantrum help for everyone

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More ideas for tantrum prevention here, here, and here. Good luck!

Taking a break from blogging

my wrist

my wrist

sometimes the universe tells you

that you are too busy

or else that ice skating

is perhaps not worth the risk.

either way I’ve decided

to take a short break from blogging

and focus on more important things

like learning to put on socks.

I brake for moms”

now has new meaning.

I’ve got a stockpile of columns

to get me through Easter,

after that I’ll be pecking

things out quite slowly.

I’m done with capital letters

unless autocorrect helps me out.

Facebook is easier

you can follow me there

and share all your ideas

for afterschooling.

I am waiting

to be healed and inspired.

goodbye for now…

 

Wonderbag Chicken with a Coconut Kick

I LOVE my Wonderbag Portable Slow Cooker! Here’s something yummy I threw together tonight and cooked while we were at a Little League game.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken filets
  • 2 eggs +  bread crumbs, salt and herbs to bread the chicken
  • coconut oil
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

(Don’t know how to “bread” something? Click here.)

Fry breaded chicken in coconut oil for about 10 minutes while you chop veggies. Don't know how to

Fry breaded chicken in coconut oil for about 10 minutes, five minutes on each side.

Chop 5 carrots, 1 onion, 1/2 bunch celery, and 1 bell pepper

Roughly chop veggies.

Dump veggies on top of chicken. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Test with thermometer to make sure the dial is way past 190 degrees.

Dump veggies on top of chicken. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Then, test with thermometer to make sure the dial is way past 190 degrees.

Add two cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Cover and bag up for 1-3 hours.

Add two cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Cover.

Wonderbag for 2-3 hours.

Wonderbag for 2-3 hours.

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

This meal is sweet and spicy. You could take out the sweetness by using olive oil instead of coconut oil. Or, you could amp up the spiciness by adding chilies.

For more information about the Wonderbag, check out their website.