Tag Archives: Disney Social Media Moms

My Life Lessons, courtesy of @ReneSyler

My friend Rene Syler asked me to share my “Life Lessons,” a regular feature on her blog, Good Enough Mother.

I just adore Rene, I met her at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration last year.  She’s so inspiring and she has the drive and talent to change the world for good. I’m so honored to be featured on her site.  So here it is, my Life Lessons!


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Filed under About Us

Digital Moms Handbook

I met these gals at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World, and I was immediately drawn to them – they were stylish and fun and really seemed to have it together with their blogs. So I was delighted to see that they wrote a book, and I quickly pre-ordered it as soon as it was available.

I’m reading this right now, maybe you should to?

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Filed under Technology & media

Wild Africa Trek!

Do you like adventure, but not too much?

I vividly remember flying through the tree canopy in Costa Rica, the wind in my face as my body was suspended from a harness with carabiners attached to airline cable, careening 200′ to the next platform. As I neared the station, I noticed that the cable that was holding this whole operation together was secured with duct tape. I’m sure there was some other reinforcement as well, but seriously. Duct tape?

While we waited on the platform 100′ in the air for our turn on the next zip-line, Brian and I speculated about the safety standards of the Costa Rican adventure tourism industry. We leaned less on the railings, and stayed closer to the tree trunks from that point on. I guess a little real danger adds to the fun eh? That experience remains one of my all-time favorites of my life – danger and all.

Imagine my excitement when I was offered a chance to experience Wild Africa Trek while I was at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration! After zip-lining in the Monteverde cloud forest and rafting multiple class fives on the Pacaure in Costa Rica, I jumped up and down at the chance to have an adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Trust Disney to remove any chance of actual danger, but they did a great job of immersing us in the experience so it felt adventurous!

My excitement grew as I read the requirements:
We have to wear a harness? Awesome.

We can only carry things that are attached to us? It must be dangerous.

Sign a release of liability waiver? So cool, I’m there.

We set off early in the morning, and could barely contain our excitement as we walked through the temporarily deserted Harambe village in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. I’m so glad I had that chance to see the village before it was completely full of people later in the day! It really felt like we were in a different country.

Our Wild Africa Trek group, from the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration

We harnessed-up, went through several safety checks, one last bathroom run (no bathrooms would be available for the first 2/3 of the trek!), and we were off.

Leaving the trail... (Official expedition photo from the PhotoPass CD)

Our tour guides did a great job of getting us in the story of the trek. Building in back-story to the interpretive graphics throughout the public side of the exhibits, they explained that we were exploring a wildlife sanctuary attached to a conservation school. Coming from a zoo as I do, I asked if they had some specific African animals that I knew lived in that part of Africa. I wasn’t trying to get them to break character, I was genuinely curious. I said, “Do you have any African Painted Dogs?” and our guide answered, “I haven’t seen any of them at the sanctuary, although I’ve heard there are some near here.” Well played, madam. I changed the nature of my questions from that point on, because I of course like a good story! “How many elephants tend to be at the sanctuary at any given time?” instead of, “How many elephants do you have?” See, I can play along!

Want to know the really cool part about the Trek, and what makes it affordable? You get a PhotoPass CD! I’m not sure of the actual cost of the Trek, as I believe it’s dependent on the number of people in your party and what time of year you go. The website says to call for rates. At the time we went, it was about $200. But the PhotoPass CD is $150 ($100 if you buy it in advance), so really the cost of the Trek is $50-100. Totally worth it, in my opinion. I was skeptical about the need for a PhotoPass CD before we went, but after experiencing it, I’d never go without it!

Here’s some of the Wild Africa Trek adventure…

Stop for a photo opp!

I took the opportunity to grill interview as many of the moms as I could. In between harnessing up, wildlife viewing, and learning from the “Wardens,” I asked some of the most successful bloggers around how they got started, and what they love about this crazy social media world. Here are Molly @MyGOMOM, Valerie @ADisneyFamly & Amy @ResourcefulMommy, on the precipice overlooking the hippos.

The hippos... strangely, this is a father-son pair. Strange because males don't typically live together. Says the zoo geek.

The first 1/3 or so of the Trek was spent walking through the “wildlands” in between animal exhibits. Along the way, we encountered animal biofacts (skulls, traces of scratching on trees, scat, etc) in between seeing the animals.

Two big suspension rope bridges took us over a bog full of giant crocodiles.

The view was so beautiful, I wanted to stop and admire for longer, but didn't want to hold everyone up.

For the middle section of the Trek, we boarded a safari jeep-like-vehicle and toured the Savannah.

We were handed binoculars, and the vehicle stopped often so we could take in the wildlife and get some great photos.

Just like a real safari?

Disney has done a BRILLIANT job of obscuring any containment barriers or animal care facilities. It really appeared to be one large open space, with all the animals having ready access to each other. It was inspiring from an exhibit-design standpoint. Sorry, zoo geek keeps coming out.

At this point, we were on the same road as the regular visitors. Riding the Kilimanjaro Safari is available to anyone visiting Animal Kingdom – it just tends to fill up, so you need a FastPass if it’s a busy day.

Finally, we arrived at a beautiful pavilion where we were served an exquisitely crafted and exotic snack. Everything was delicious, and the presentation made it all the more special. The meal you are served depends on the time of your tour, it could be breakfast or lunch or a hearty snack.

The private pretty pavilion where we dined

During the last leg of the trip, our guides told us about critical conservation issues facing some of the endangered animals at the Sanctuary. We were all given mancala stones, and asked to vote with our stones on which animal would get a portion of the proceeds from our tour. I chose white rhinos because I know how critically endangered they are. I really appreciate that Disney included the conservation messages in the tour, and the moms were all talking about it long after the tour.

I loved spending time at Animal Kingdom, and I highly recommend the Wild Africa Trek. It’s a fun and inspirational adventure that I won’t forget. I look forward to going back when the kids are older (you have to be at least 8 years old). It’s certainly more affordable than an actual trip to Africa… which I’d also like to do, by the way!

Yours in adventure,



PS: all of the photos in this post are from the PhotoPass CD that I received as part of the Wild Africa Trek package, except the first group shot, which was sent to me by my now-friend Cathi from Planes, Trains & Taxicabs.

Disclosure: I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and this Wild Africa Trek. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.


Filed under Nature, Travel

Cooking with Kids vs. Cooking in a Rush

I love cooking, and am so pleased when my kids want to help me in the kitchen. But every mama knows that kids aren’t always truly helpful, and it takes a real commitment to patience to involve them with meal preparation.  As they get older, they surprise me with what they’re capable of handling in general, but in the kitchen, their role is typically limited to measuring, pouring and stirring ingredients and washing veggies. Anna is also reasonably skilled at cutting soft things (like mushrooms and cucumbers) with a butter knife.

When I was at Disney World for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, we had the opportunity to interview Disney chefs and stars about their new Magic of Healthy Living initiative. I’m really impressed with the commitment Disney has made to helping kids and families lead healthier lives. My question for the panel?

“We all know that kids are more likely to eat healthy foods if they are involved in the preparation of the meal. But we also all know that kids in the kitchen aren’t as “helpful” as they think they are. What advice can you share for busy parents who want to involve their kids, but also just need to get dinner on the table?”

I was hoping to hear new ideas of tasks the kids could do that I hadn’t thought of yet. The best piece of advice, however, was a time-saving tip as opposed to a kid-involvement tip. Basically, “Give yourself permission to buy pre-cut, washed veggies.”

What? A shortcut? But that’s cheating! I was raised to not spend money on something that I could do myself. Like chop veggies. Or clean my house. But I’m finding that my time is more valuable to me than the money these days. {Which is why we pay some lovely folks to come clean our house once a week, but that’s another subject.}

Even though I’ve been telling myself it’s acceptable to buy pre-cut veggies, I just haven’t talked myself into it until yesterday. I was having too much fun playing outside with the kids and visiting with my lovely neighbor, and didn’t want to go inside to make dinner until the last minute. A quick trip to Trader Joe’s, and I had all these veggies for our tofu curry creation. In fact, I even bought pre-cooked rice!

With the veggies and rice ready in an instant, it gave the kids and I time to invent a new curry.  It was delicious and fast and best of all, we did it together.

Now that Farmer’s Market season is upon us, most of the veggies I buy will be not only whole, but dirty as well. I’ll need to spend the time each weekend to wash and prep them so we’re ready to go all week. And I’m fully giving myself permission to make other shortcuts, like using the pre-cooked rice.

How about you? Any advice for involving kids in the kitchen? Talking mine into it isn’t my problem, it’s keeping my patience when they do silly things like pour soy sauce all over the freshly heated rice. Yes, that really happened. No, it wasn’t the end of the world.

In good health,

I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and some pretty incredible swag items to take home. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.

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Filed under Family, Food

Travel with my Family

Wow, I have so much to process and write about from the fantastic trip we took to Disney World. I was fortunate enough to be included in Disney’s Social Media Moms Celebration March 17-20, and I’m still pinching myself. It was overwhelming and unreal, to be honest. I learned so much, experienced so much, and met some pretty incredible people ~ all of which I’ll be writing about soon!

But the biggest headline from the trip is that my family travels well together.

On the river boat from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney

Fairly early into my relationship with Brian, we realized that we could travel well together, and we were so relieved! It’s not that it would have been a deal breaker – or maybe it would have – but since we both love travel, it’s nice that we are such a good team.
As we were tucking the kids into bed upon returning from this big trip, Brian told the kids how proud we are of them for also being such good travel team members. I got all mushy when he said that. I’m sure it’s just because I was so tired…  But how sweet, right?

And really, the kids were awesome. We’ve been on many trips together, but nothing this complex or scheduled. We were trying to squeeze as much as possible into this trip! They were such troopers, and I just couldn’t be prouder of my little team.

At the airport for our red eye flight, way past their bedtime in jammies & backpacks

I saw so many families at the parks sniping and yelling at each other, and just generally being unkind. It was so sad, and made me that much more grateful that we all discussed it and agreed to be nice to each other. It made the whole trip better. Don’t get me wrong, there was tension at times. But we were committed to not taking any frustrations out on each other.

I actually came back from this trip more in love with my husband, and more in love with my kids. That’s pretty good for a 10-day extravaganza.

I’m so grateful. And so proud. And already planning our next trip!



I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and some pretty incredible swag items to take home. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.

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Filed under Family, Travel