{Mama Journal} Jingle Baby’s Birth Story

This is the story of how Jingle Baby, due Christmas Day, came into our lives 10 days early. :) 

On Friday, December 14, Eli, who is normally a solid 7 PM to 7 AM sleeper, woke up at 3:30 AM and never went back to sleep—which meant Andrew and I were awake most of the rest of the night as well. When I headed out at 8:00 AM for a prenatal massage, I was having sporadic crampy contractions that were distinctly different from Braxton Hicks. I told Andrew that I was pretty sure I was experiencing pre-labor (which I knew could potentially go on for days). The crampy contractions continued for the rest of the day, and although they were not consistent, some were quite painful. I took a one-hour nap in the afternoon and watched movies in bed with Caleb until Eli woke.

We went to bed around 9:45. Andrew fell asleep immediately, but my gut told me that real labor was beginning, and I started timing my contractions. By 10:45, they were coming every 3-5 minutes; many were painful, and all were impossible to sleep through.

I was suddenly filled with intense anxiety and fear as I remembered what true labor is like. I wanted the contractions to stop—I did not feel ready to tackle the real thing. I texted a few family members and mom friends requesting prayer for my mental and spiritual state. Psalm 121:1-2 started playing on repeat in my head and brought me much comfort. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”

Around 11:30, I woke Andrew and updated him before calling Alli, my midwife. She recommended a shower to make sure it was real labor. If anything, the contractions picked up under the warm water. We agreed to meet at the birth center at 2:00 AM, and Andrew got our bags and supplies loaded up as my contractions ramped up.

Alli checked me around 2:15 AM and I was at 5cm and 80% effaced. I was encouraged to have made this much progress via contractions that were bearable. I got in the corner tub as things quickly intensified and after a few more contractions, felt an enormous pop and gush when my water broke. Just like with my first babies, I had a ton of fluid and it kept coming and coming.

With each new wave of pain, I poured all my mental energy into deliberately relaxing my body, starting with loosening my jaw, and visualized making space for the baby to engage—but the pain was so heavy that truly relaxing was impossible. Recalling specific encouragement from my friend Rachael, I thanked God aloud many times that the contractions meant my body was working as He had designed it to. I groaned to Him for strength. I also muttered things like, “Next time I’m going straight to the hospital for an epidural” and “Baby, you better be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.” I could feel my baby’s body shifting down and engaging, and although it was a torturous sensation, I was encouraged to know that we were making progress.

As I hit transition, I began bawling and trying to make Andrew understand that I REALLY couldn’t do it this time while he and Alli continued to assure me that I REALLY could. Suddenly after one huge contraction, I conked out for a couple of minutes before the freight train of the last phase of labor overtook my body and I just tried to hang on for the excruciating ride.

Honestly, I can’t describe the intensity of the pain I was experiencing at this point. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. My body felt like it was splitting into little pieces. Everything hurt immensely even between the contractions, and no position or mental trick brought any alleviation. I yelled and groaned and cried out to God through every wave. Andrew and Alli did an incredible job supporting me through all this, verbally, and with ready sips of water and gentle touches. Andrew let me hang onto his hand with a death grip depending on the position I was laboring in and encouraged me through every second of pain. Although I did not feel like I coped well mentally, I did feel very aware of God’s presence and my utter dependence on Him and His design to bring my baby into the world. I knew He was right there with me the whole time, and His presence was a huge comfort.

The urge to push began coming on and I pushed through a contraction without telling anyone, then exclaimed, “I feel the ring of fire!” I asked Alli if she was going to check me. “I don’t think I need to,” she responded. “Your body knows what to do. Follow the cues it gives you.” This is one of the many things I love about midwives’ approach—they embrace that our bodies are doing what they were designed for, and they put a lot of stock in a mother’s intuition. It was a small thing, but Alli’s confidence in my body really filled me with hope, and gave me courage to finish strong.

At some point in all this, our friend Carolyn arrived. She’s a very experienced doula who is training to be an assistant midwife, and we had arranged for her to come and learn from Alli’s assistant. Having another believer walk into the room brought me such comfort and I asked her to pray for me. Her prayer was so uplifting to my heart as I fought feelings of discouragement.

I pushed through parts of the next few contractions before Andrew convinced me to try the birthing stool. Climbing out of the tub was excruciating. Andrew held me up as I hung from his body and half-heartedly pushed for another horrible contraction before hobbling to the stool. He sat on the bed behind me and wrapped his arms around my torso to support me.

As the next contraction came on, I pushed with everything in me and suddenly gravity took over. Alli urged me to slow down and pant to give my body time to stretch, but although I did exactly that, the baby’s crowning head wouldn’t stop and I had to follow my instincts and push again, albeit with measured control this time.

If there is one experience in life that captures the full meaning of the word “relief”, it is the sensation of a baby’s head emerging from the birth canal. I distinctly knew what that feeling meant as I delivered my baby’s head, and eagerly gave another push as his shoulders and body slipped out. It was over, and he was hereI laughed and cried in utter relief and joy as I heard our baby’s first squawk. It was 3:27 AM on December 15.

The cord was wrapped twice around his neck, but we were not alarmed since he had cried out and was also a really healthy color. It took Alli and her assistant some finagling to free his neck before they could hand him into my arms. Clutching his little body against mine for the first time, I kept saying, “You’re here! You’re my baby and you’re here!”

We called my mom into the room and everyone buzzed around us, taking baby’s vitals and monitoring my bleeding while Andrew and I just treasured this moment with our little one.

Within a few minutes, I was lying in bed with our baby on my chest, listening to his little noises, admiring his dark hair, and relishing the feeling of his sticky skin against mine. I delivered my placenta with no trouble and Andrew cut his cord. I had only a small first degree tear that did not even require stitching! I had violent postpartum shakes and intense afterbirth contractions, but nothing compared with the level of joy I was experiencing with our child in my arms. He latched very easily and nursed to his little heart’s content before we took his measurements.

We all knew he was much smaller than Eli (9lb with a 15” head) but we were still surprised at the difference—this baby (unnamed at this point) weighed 7lb 3oz, measured 21 inches long, and had a 14.25” head circumference. No wonder he was much easier to push out! I was so thrilled to have a little peanut and had even specifically hoped he would have dark hair.

As we took some time to reflect on the labor, I was astonished to realize that I had gone from 5cm to holding my baby in about an hour and ten minutes. Knowing how fast I had progressed made me feel more validated with how much I struggled to cope. Andrew and Alli tried to convince me that I hadn’t actually been very loud, but my voice box hurt later in the day, so I am not sure I believe them. Either way, I’m thankful that at least I didn’t say anything nasty or mean that I had to apologize for later. ;)

I am so grateful for the people who were praying for me before and during labor.

I am grateful for the assurance that God was right there with us through the whole process. I praise Him for His truly miraculous design of childbirth and the strength He gives moms to do what He created their bodies for. I know that He was watching over our baby and keeping the cord from choking him. I credit Him 100% for giving us this safe and healthy delivery.

I am deeply thankful for Alli, whose competence, expertise, confidence, encouragement, and general demeanor and presence were exactly the right fit for both Andrew and me. If anything makes me want to have more babies, it’s the thought of having her for my midwife again. :)

And Andrew…I can’t adequately express the incredible support that he has been at each of our sons’ births. He is truly my rock, and all my labors would have been so different apart from his steady presence through every moment of each one.

Our sweet Silas Andrew, we will never forget the day God brought you into our lives. We praise God for the miracle that you are and look forward to watching you grow and loving you through each age and stage.

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{Mama Tips} Our Boys’ Christmas Wish List

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

It seems like whenever someone asks me for gift ideas for the boys, I can never remember what I’ve thought of in recent months. So… I’ve taken up adding items to their Amazon wish list right when they come to mind so I’m not under a time crunch trying to send inquiring relatives a list when the holidays hit. In the spirit of planning ahead and sharing tips, I thought I would post what’s on my boys’ wish lists this season. (Besides Christmas, they also have November and December birthdays!) Clearly they won’t receive all of these, but I like to include a good variety of options so that it’s still fun for those wanting to shop. :) My little guys are currently ages four and almost two.

*An asterisk indicates an item that is $20 or less on Amazon at the time of posting.

Toys

  • Magformers Basic Set (30 Pieces) – The guest home we stayed in from January through June had these, and both boys loved them. They’ve also played with them at friends’ houses since then. You can build your own creation or follow step-by-step guides, and the magnetic aspect is really intriguing even for very young children.
  • Magnetic drawing boards* – I thought these looked like fun for road trips.
  • Kinetic Sand* and Kinetic Sand Beach Toys* – I’ve seen this in Instagram feeds and I am hoping it might be a fun rainy day activity.
  • Brio Expansion Pack – The boys got their first Brio train tracks for Christmas last year and they both LOVE building tracks! I have other Brio accessories on their wish list as well.

Puzzles / Games

Stocking Stuffers ($10 and under)

Books (these are all favorites that we keep checking out from the library):

That’s it for now…Merry Christmas! :) 

{Mama Reviews} Our Favorite Children’s Christmas Books + A New Tradition

THIS POST CONTAINS AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKS. :) 

Many of my fondest memories from the holidays are those of my mom and dad reading Christmas stories aloud to me and my brothers, and now it is one of my favorite things about having children at Christmastime! This is the first year that I’ll have two children who are excited to dive into pages that have become some of my dearest friends.

This year, I’m doing two different things with Christmas books: keeping out all our very favorites from now (Nov. 10) through Christmas (which I’ll share below), and working on a list of 25 Christmas books that I will individually wrap so that we can open and read one daily during the month of December (thanks, Pinterest).

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For the latter list, I’ve been placing holds this month on miscellaneous Christmas stories at the library to “preview” them so I know if they’re worth checking out in December. I’m hoping the timing works out with the holds and such. I figure I can wrap them as they come in from the library throughout the month. :) I’ve also got a small stack of holiday books that we own, but that aren’t on our must-read-almost-every-day list, to contribute to the wrapped books. :) I plan to share my list of 25 later this month!

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Below are the books we really love, and I would say I couldn’t imagine December without the first four, in particular. :) Some of these stories are centered around Jesus’ birth and the gospel, while others are simply heart-warming tales involving snow and twinkling lights. I’m listing them in roughly my favorite order.

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The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – a beautifully written, tear-jerking, and happy tale with stunning paintings
Christmas at Rumpole Mansion – a well-written book that I grew up on with captivating pictures for little imaginations, and a sweet message about unselfishness
The Legend of the Candy Cane – the gospel, clearly told using the classic candy cane (and the original edition has gorgeous pictures)
Room for a Little One – magical, twinkly pictures that share about Jesus’s humble birth
Song of the Stars – unique and poetic
When I Celebrate His Birthday – a classic board book from my childhood
Christmas in the Manger a simple board book poem with childish illustrations
Happy Birthday, Jesus – a catchy board book poem about celebrating Jesus’ birthday
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – you know this classic :)
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger – a quirky and fun tale about a mouse who takes up residence in a nativity scene
Christmas Farm a cozy and old-fashioned holiday story
The Crippled Lamb – the story of a crippled lamb who is among the first to meet Jesus
Christmas in the Big Woods – a summary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Christmas account in her first book, with pictures reminiscent of Garth Williams’ original work
Snowmen at Christmas – a creative poem about snowmen enjoying holiday festivities

Now I want to know–what Christmas books just have to be on your shelf in December?

{Mama Tips} Grocery Shopping With Little Ones

Grocery shopping with little ones. It used to be something I dreaded, but I’ve come to actually enjoy this time–having my children close to me (and each other) in the shopping cart, experiencing a big piece of everyday life as a team, and answering a million questions about what they spot on the shelves. I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned that serve to make our grocery trips together more pleasant.

I realize that we’re all in different situations. At the time of writing this, I have just two littles who have recently turned three and one. I am also blessed to now be living in a home where I can pull the car right up to the front door. Take these tips for whatever they’re worth in your current season. :)

Limit the Number of Stores per Trip

I used to think it was best to just knock out all the shopping in one big trip, but I’ve since changed my mind. I try to buy my groceries at a maximum of two stores per week, and I usually split those into two trips. It may not technically be as efficient to go shopping twice in one week, but I find that we are all generally in better spirits if we put our combined energy into one store at a time. I’d rather have more hassle and less grumpiness. :)

Park Near the Cart Return

Parking as close to a cart return as possible means I can take my kiddos straight out of their seats and into the cart, and it makes returning the cart after unloading much easier.

Shop on Full Tummies

It is never a good idea to take hungry little ones into a grocery store. It seems obvious, but sometimes we moms need things like this pointed out to us, and I’ve made this grave mistake too many times (and ended up with Lara bars that weren’t on my list). And while you’re at it, make sure you’re not “hangry” yourself. ;)

Give Your Little Ones “Jobs”

Enlisting children’s help with holding groceries, setting produce on the scale, or unloading groceries onto the conveyer belt makes this outing a team effort and keeps little hands busy and little minds feeling important.

See Shopping as a Teaching Opportunity  

Is it fun to take little ones down a dozen grocery aisles full of appealing boxes and cans that are all within arm’s reach? No, it’s not. But it is an excellent opportunity to teach them about stewardship, work, wisdom, frugality, generosity, healthy eating, serving, self control, discipline, planning, efficiency, and many other important character qualities and life skills. Seize the moment!

These simple tips don’t make shopping with little ones a breeze, but they do generally help our trips go a bit smoother. I wish you many sweet shopping memories with your kiddos! Thanks for stopping by and be sure to let me know if there’s anything you’d add to this list! :)

Celebrating God’s Love with a Valentine Tree

In mid-January, I began casually thinking about Valentine’s Day. Holidays and events tend to sneak up on me and then I wish I’d given them a little forethought so I could do something special. Even simple things–like an easy craft–often take planning to have the needed supplies on hand, etc.

As I was considering options, I remembered how my mom made Valentine’s Day a memorable time for my brothers and me, and I knew I wanted to do the same with my boys this year. I recalled a little white tree she pulled out various years during my childhood. On its branches, we used yarn to hang construction paper hearts that had Scripture references written on them. At meal times, we would take turns getting to choose a heart from off the tree, and my parents would read the verse or passage.

So this year, I am planning to do something similar. I will begin with a bare tree and a box of hearts. Each day in February leading up to the 14th, Caleb will choose a heart from the box and add it to a branch, and we will read the love-themed Scripture passage written on it. On Valentine’s Day, our tree will be complete and we will end by reading “the love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13.

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Caleb and I found a tree on my parents’ property this week, and I used twine and pink and red yardstick for the hearts.

I thumbed through my Bible and chose references I had highlighted in it for the passages we will read. The references are listed below. I am so excited about this simple activity, which will hopefully spark some sweet discussions about our Savior’s love, and how we are to show that love to those around us.

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What have you done or are you planning to do to make Valentine’s Day special for the whole family? I would love to hear your ideas!

Romans 12:9
Psalm 13:5-6
Psalm 37:28
Ephesians 2:12-13
1 Peter 1:8-9
Titus 3:5-7
Romans 8:35-39
Psalm 40:10-11
Philippians 1:9-11
Colossians 3:12-14
Ephesians 4:32
Psalm 36:7
1 Peter 3:18
1 John 4:10-11

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{Mama Tips} My 2018 Reading Goal & Book List

Four years ago, I set a goal of reading for at least 10 minutes every day. Less than two months into the year, I had already finished ten books. Why? Because for me, the hard part about reading is actually setting aside the time to do it. I never feel like I have time to read. There are always clothes to be folded, dishes to be washed, emails to be responded to, sleep to be had…but in 2014 when I set the extremely manageable goal of 10 minutes, it made stopping to pick up a book feel so reasonable. And guess what–I didn’t usually close the book at the ten minute mark. Once I was reading, I often kept reading! (By the way, I found out I was pregnant a few months into that year, and morning sickness tanked my reading goals. Caleb was worth it.) :)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find that playing tricks on my brain can lead to better productivity, and this is a great example of that.

The other objective that this small goal accomplishes is wiser use of my time. I find myself bringing a book into a waiting room instead of scrolling my phone, or tacking a few pages on to the end of my quiet time if the boys are still occupied. Seizing a little time here and there leads to pages, chapters, and books finished.

This year, I’m setting out to read 10 minutes a day, five days a week, and hoping to complete 12 books. As we anticipate growing ministry opportunities, another move (within the same county), and unforeseen events, I am willing to let these goals go if needed, but as things stand now, I think they are very realistic.

Below is my 2018 book list (Amazon affiliate links) in approximate planned reading order. Have you read any of these titles? What is on your list this year? I’d love to hear from you! :)

Warmly,
Abigail

P.s. I’m about halfway through #2 in the list below from last year, and a chapter into #10…I always count books in the year that I actually finish them. :) 

  1. Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick
  2. Letters to Pastors’ Wives: When Seminary Ends and Ministry Begins edited by Catherine J. Stewart
  3. Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahoney (re-reading this with a group of ladies)
  4. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
  5. Peace Child: An Unforgettable Story of Primitive Jungle Treachery in the 20th Century by Don Richardson
  6. For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
  7. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
  8. Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung
  9. Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport by Saul David
  10. Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman
  11. Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow
  12. Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis by Tim Townsend

{Mama Reviews} Last-Minute Christmas Gifts

Christmas is less than a week away, but thanks to Amazon prime, there is still time for last-minute shopping without the crowds! Here are a few suggestions of items I personally use and love that would be perfect for one of the moms, babies, or preschoolers in your life. You can also check out my favorite meal time recommendations here.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I am always very intentional about the products I recommend and would never try to push something I do not fully stand behind. 

Nose Frida

This is a must-have for cold season. Say goodbye to the blue bulb from the hospital and don’t be grossed out by the odd concept of using your mouth to suction baby’s nose. It’s perfectly sanitary and so much faster and more effective! They sent this to me for free when I offered a review; I lost my first one and was desperate to keep one on hand.

360* Nursing Cover

I can’t imagine the last year without my 360* nursing covers. SO helpful for sporting events, library time, play dates, you name it. There are a lot of companies making this practical style now, but here’s an affordable one with good reviews that arrives in time for Christmas.

KMASHI Car Mirror

We have two of these and they are lifesavers for our rear-facing little ones. Well-worth the $12.99 splurge.

Inglesina Table Chair

Read my review on this here. A few weeks later, I’m still loving it!

 

Sticker Book

We haven’t actually used this yet but Caleb is getting it for Christmas and I know he’ll love it!

Picture Books

My favorite gift is always books, and you can check out my lists of favorite Christmas books and library finds for recommendations.

Lego Duplo

I can’t even tell you how many hours upon hours both my little ones (3 and 1) have spent playing with their Duplo blocks. They are such a worthwhile purchase at this age! It’s fun because you can keep adding on, with big sets or with really simple ones like this First Plane for $5.80. It looks like many of their bigger sets are restocking December 22.

Franklin Baseball Bat & Ball Set

This is another gift from over a year ago that we have spent countless hours with. Caleb LOVES playing living room baseball and this set has served us well.

Pixar Cars Mac Truck & Lightening McQueen

My husband came home with this gift from work, and my three-year-old cannot stop playing with it. He hasn’t even used the color change feature yet, he just LOVES putting Lightening McQueen inside Mac and the detachable containers, driving them around, and finding many ways to use his imagination.

{Mama Journal} 2017 Advent/Countdown

DSC_6630I tend to be all-or-nothing. I’m also a procrastinator and a dreamer. So every year when December rolls around, I think something along the lines of, Oh no! I wanted to do something special for Advent and now it’s too late! I’ll try again next year. 

But this year, I realized if I continued in that pattern, I may never do anything special for Advent! So today, on December 3, I made a paper chain with 19 links. We are moving to Washington on December 21, so the paper chain will serve as an Advent celebration and a moving countdown all at the same time. It is imperfect and unconventional and I am really excited about it. :)

This was the easiest thing ever, from a crafting perspective, which is certainly a must for me. I took three festive scrapbooking paper patterns and cut them into 1-inch wide rectangular links using a paper cutter. On the back (blank white side) of each one, I wrote the date, a simple activity, and the reference to a passage of Scripture.

Andrew kindly came up with the 19 passages for me. I am planning to read them to Caleb and discuss them together when we cut the link each morning.

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For the activities, I kept it incredibly simple. I actually got out my calendar and for many of the links, I just wrote down the plans we already had scheduled for those days. Other activities included reading Christmas books (something we do nearly every day anyway), drinking hot cocoa, and watching a Christmas movie. I am going to be really relaxed about following the activities, too. No need to add stress or pressure to this season!

I am excited about this “Advent celebration” because the Scripture will direct our hearts to why and Who we are celebrating, and the activities will give us a fun way to incorporate the festiveness we love about Christmastime.

We’ll see how this goes, but I hope it helps us create some special memories together and quiets my heart to meditate on Jesus and His coming in the midst of a busy month.

Merry Christmas!

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{Mama Journal} Our Day at Disneyland

In October, my grandma sent me $100 for my birthday and I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it: take Caleb to Disneyland! Kiddos are free up until age three, so I had about a month to squeeze in the visit! I originally arranged for someone to watch Eli, but in the end, both Caleb and I decided we would rather take him with us, and I am SO glad we did! I LOVVVE Disneyland (who doesn’t? Oh yeah…Andrew haha) so it was just SO sweet to get to enjoy it with my little ones.

We parked in the Toy Story lot because I didn’t want to wait in the elevator line in the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure. We arrived in the park around 9:30 AM. Here’s what I took with us:

  • Double stroller
  • Diaper bag
    • Plenty of diapers & wipes
    • A change of clothes for both boys
    • Their sweatshirts
    • Wallet, keys, & phone
  • Lunch and snacks
  • Water

We visited on a Thursday in November, and although the park was decorated for Christmas, it turned out to be the day before their holiday parade started. I think this made the crowds a little smaller, which was fine by me. We rode:

  • Story Book Canal Boats
  • Circus Train
  • Disneyland Railroad
  • Astro Blasters
  • Monorail
  • Dumbo
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Adventure (too scary!)
  • Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

There are a good number of others we could have done as well, but lines were long or they didn’t appeal to us. (I’m looking at you, Mad Tea Party.) It’s a Small World was closed! :(

Online, everything I read said that you couldn’t do three people in one Astro Blaster, but they allowed us to since Caleb and Eli are both small! We rode twice on that and Dumbo, as they were Caleb’s favorites. :)

We also met Mickey, Tigger, Eoyore, and Winnie the Pooh, saw the bird show in the Enchanted Tiki Room, and played in Goofy’s Playhouse twice. I felt like we hit a great number of attractions considering we had to work around Eli’s naps and feedings, and maneuver a double stroller.

Make sure your baby, no matter how young, is wearing either socks or shoes for ALL the outdoor rides! I was relieved I had packed socks for Eli, not having known about this rule.

I would highly recommend using the Disneyland Railroad for transportation around the park! It’s a fun, efficient way to get around, and doubles as a ride. I was personally comfortable leaving our stroller at the station while we traveled around the park, but you can also fold it up and take it on the train with you. (I’ve also seen some moms suggest a stroller wheel lock [affiliate link].)

Take advantage of the Baby Center on Main Street! They have a low toilet for small kiddos, changing area, and places to nurse or warm up bottles.

All-in-all, it was one of my favorite days to-date with my boys. Based on our magical time, I would definitely recommend taking your kiddos while they’re still free–it’s worth the price of the adult ticket! We made the best memories, ones that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.