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The school my boys attend, and that Lily will attend beginning in August (what?!) needs some help with a project, so I’m turning to my blog here to keep people updated on their progress this week! Each evening I’ll update the totals below, so that you can watch the boys’ progress and chip in as needed! 

The Project

Playground Project

The playground the 2nd-5th graders use is in desperate need of replacement. Pieces are rusted, broken, and missing. Gravel needs to be re-dispursed for safety, and these kids need and deserve a fun place to run off energy during their 7 hour school day!


This video is one we made this fall, when we launched a GoFundMe page for the project, and since the making of that video, even more pieces have broken and been removed – there are zero tire swings left! Here’s where we stand today….

Playground Needs

Pretty sad, isn’t it? The school has been trying to raise funds for a few years now, and it’s been slow going. See, we’re a Title 1 school, with a high population of our population qualifying for the free or reduced lunch program. Where schools just 10 miles from us could raise the $40,000 needed in one big auction night, we’ve been chipping away at it, through walk-a-thons, grant applications, and restaurant nights.

At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year the PTA committed to all fundraisers going towards this project, because enough is enough and this playground needs to be fixed! The year started out with about $8,000 in the playground account and we’ve more than doubled that already this year, which is awesome!

The Fun Run

We’ve now come to our big, final push of the year though… a Fun Run! Our hope is to raise enough money this week to be able to break ground on the new playground this summer! The kids are excited and passionate, more and more parents are catching the vision, and the teachers are all in. Let’s do this!

Starting last week, the folks from Apex Fun Run started visiting the kids’ classrooms to teach them some outstanding leadership and character lessons, while simultaneously getting the students excited about the fun run. My boys have come home excited each day, and been able to tell me the leadership qualities they’ve learned (so far the lessons have been “Dive In”, “be Resourceful”, and “Elevate Others”).

The Goals

Jackson, Ty, and Chase decided to set a goal of raising $1,200 between the three of them! They have to raise funds on 3 separate web pages, so it’s a little different from last year’s walk-a-thon, where they could raise their money as a team.

The kids will run laps, with a minimum of 26 laps being done and a max of 36 laps. Of course my boys are aiming for the max, and they shouldn’t have a problem hitting that (it’ll add up to just over 2 miles)! People can pledge a per lap donation, or make a flat rate donation that then gets added into the lap average.

If you’d like to give, we would love to have your support! You may give to just one kid, or all three – either is amazing! If giving to all three, maybe click through and see which kid is lagging behind and pitch in on that one, just to help ease the angst here {wink}


Chase’s Current Total: $482 ($16.07 per lap)

You can see Chase’s 15 second pitch here on Instagram.

Donate to Chase by clicking here.








Jackson’s Current Total: $487 ($16.26 per lap)

You can see Jackson’s 15 second pitch here on Instagram.

Donate to Jackson by clicking here.







Ty’s Current Total: $504 ($16.82 per lap)

See Ty’s 15 second Instagram pitch here!

Donate to Ty by clicking here!







Plus another $450 so far on the GoFundMe page! WOW!

If you’d like to chip in on the GoFundMe page instead of the fun run pages listed above, you can do that here, and if you’re a member of the Kansas City media and would like to run the story, get in touch and I can get you connected! Let’s get this playground project finally funded!

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3.15.16 update! 

On January 4th I embarked on yet another effort to improve my health and fitness. I do this a lot, but I rarely stick with it for long. This time has been different though. This time I’ve stuck with it, thanks largely to some serious determination and a friend who is equally as determined. We’ve been holding each other accountable daily for the last 2+ months, and the accountability is paying off.

Rather than always, always, always putting my family first like I’ve done in the past (and sometimes I’d use that as an excuse for why I wasn’t caring for me, and that’s all it really was – an excuse), I have been carving out the time for me. My workouts are only 25-30 minutes long, and truly – my family can fend for themselves for those 25-30 minutes.

There have been times I’ve worked out at 8:30pm and the kids have claimed they could hear me and it was keeping them up. I call baloney on that – they just like to stall when it comes to going to bed. I kept pushing on, and finished that workout. I knew they wouldn’t remember me allegedly keeping them up, but I would remember that I did the workout and took care of me.

There have been times I’ve told Nick that dinner was in the oven, and then locked myself in our bedroom with my laptop and set of dumbbells, and knocked my workout out in a 4×8 foot space while absolute chaos reigned outside the door (picture lots of yelling, running around, and dog barking like crazy – I think they were inventing a new game). I was so proud of myself for pausing to take care of me.

I’ve worked out in front of the kids quite a lot over the last couple of months, and I had wondered when I was about a month in…

“Do they see me? Do they see the way I’m putting my health higher up on my priority list? Do they see the hard work that goes into this, and the determination I’m facing it with? Do they see me?”


Lily doing her workout one afternoon last week.

Lily doing her workout one afternoon last week.

They totally see me! Multiple times Lily has busted out the mat, her own set of weights (some two pounders that I have for some odd reason), a small laptop that doesn’t work anymore, and started her own workout. She sees me. She knows this is important!

This last weekend Chase and Jackson helped me with my workout. They counted reps, let me know when I had hit my “goal” number and excitedly continued counting to get me past my goal number. Those two and their enthusiasm totally are what spurred me on to my best workout to-date! I felt amazing at the end, and they were pumped at all of the personal records I had shattered!

Blurry post-workout selfie with my little trainers. My muscles were shaking so much I couldn

Blurry post-workout selfie with my little trainers. My muscles were shaking so much I couldn’t hold the phone still!


These kids see me.

They see me getting fast. More fit. Healthier. They see it, and the effort I’m putting into it.

Because they see me, and because I care about me, I will continue to press on! Only 25 days left in this 90 day challenge! Bring it on!

For those that are curious about what exactly I’m doing and what results I’m seeing, you can see this one photo I posted to Instagram when I was 45 days in! I’ll post a full update, complete with before and after pictures *gasp*, and things I’ve learned along the way, when the 90 day challenge is up.

  • March 8, 2016 - 9:02 pm

    Liz Wakeman - Great job Helen!!!ReplyCancel

  • March 8, 2016 - 10:46 pm

    Brenda Briseno - Keep the focus and determination!!! Help me help you:)

    I’m already considering the next series (thinking the 6 week one).ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2016 - 2:53 pm

    M - Good for you! This is inspiring. Keep it up.ReplyCancel

  • May 9, 2016 - 5:36 pm

    Finally, Real Progress » Three Times the Giggles - […] I mentioned several weeks ago that I was in the middle of a 90 Day Challenge, and that it was going well. I’m thrilled to say that I completed Day 90 yesterday! […]ReplyCancel

We’ve been home from Walt Disney World for a little over 7 weeks now. Sigh. I think every one of us wishes we could go back right now, and have wished that multiple times in the last 7 weeks! For the first three weeks after our return, we’d daily hear “do you remember what we were doing this time ____ weeks ago?”, then we’d all reminisce about which park we had been at, and what ride or restaurant we had just left. Then we’d all feel depressed.

I’m calling this post “Our First Disney Vacation”, because I’m bound and determined to get us back there someday! It may take a while (after all, we talked about this one for years, and then finally did some serious saving for 16 months to make it happen), but we will go back.

Allow me to take you along on our very first trip! It was amazing, and memorable, and we can’t wait to do it all again!

A couple of notes: we utilized a Disney Vacation planner, and it was amazing! She did all of the hard work for us, and made our vacation totally stress free and awesome. Her info is shared at the end of the post. We also bought the Magic Moments photo pass, in order to allow me to get into the pictures too – so worth it! Below are a mix of cell phone, point and shoot, and Disney photographer pictures. I brought my DSLR, but it never once left my bag – such freedom!

For those that hadn’t heard/read the blog last month, this was a total surprise to our kids… here’s the video of us surprising them.

Driving There

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The kids did awesome with the drive from Kansas City to Orlando! We left KC at about 3:30am and didn’t arrive at our hotel south of Atlanta until about 7pm. The boys maybe got 20 minutes of sleep on the drive, and Lily slept for about an hour. Despite the long day with not a lot of sleep, they all had fantastic attitudes. The next morning we got up, had breakfast and headed out for the final 5.5 hours of the drive! And yes – #CreepyBabyMargaret was along for the trip!

We’re Here!

We arrived at Disney, and checked in at Fort Wilderness. We stayed in one of their cabins, and it was awesome! I grew up camping at Fort Wilderness, so it already held a special place in my heart, but Nick is anti-camping so we did the next best thing – CABIN! Immediately after getting into our cabin, we raced over to our reservation at Chef Mickey’s.

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Lily is officially Mickey Mouse obsessed, so she was most excited to meet Mickey Mouse! You have to see these 8 seconds of her meeting him for the first time – way too cute!

The boys started out a little “too cool” for characters (as evidenced by some of the very annoyed faces in these pictures), but by about halfway through dinner they had warmed up to it and decided it was pretty fun. Plus, they loved the food and the fact that it was a buffet! Fun fact – that night, the boys and I all tried sushi for the first time!

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Our dinner reservation had been pretty early, but our park tickets didn’t start until the next day. Considering we were already at a Monorail stop, we decided to hop on and ride the loop, and then transfer over to the one that runs to Epcot! I handed our point and shoot over to the boys and let them take pictures. Chase discovered the fun effect dragging the camera, while holding the shutter button down could have on street lights. Rounded out the whole thing by forcing the kids into bed at a reasonable hour, in preparation for day 1 at the parks!

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Park Day 1 – Animal Kingdom

Up and at ’em bright and early on October 26th! Despite our best efforts to get to the park when it opened, we managed to just miss the bus, and it put us behind by about 25 minutes. No biggie though – Nick and the boys were still able to race over to Expedition Everest, while Lily and I waited in the bag check line at the gate, and they did the ride 2 times in a row before we got over there!

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We did the safari ride, and I handed over the camera to the boys, so that they could take pictures of the  animals! At one point we were sitting in one spot (near the elephants) for about 20 minutes, all because some naughty ostriches were hanging out on the path further ahead. That bottom right picture up there? The ostriches after being bribed off the path by food! Cracked us up!

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We had to see Mickey again, of course! And this time Minnie Mouse was with him. Man – the joy on Lily’s face each time she saw him!

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A not so joyful moment for Lily was when we all went on the Dinosaur ride. Whoops – totally forgot how scary it was! Below that are images from Nick and the boys riding Expedition Everest – little thrill seekers!

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This was one of the only characters we waited in a line to see – Dug and Russell from the movie Up! These are all pictures the Disney photographer captured for us – priceless!

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Lunch at the Tusker House, which was another delicious buffet! The boys are pretty adventurous eaters (they’ll at least try things once), and they loved some of the options here.

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Ahhh, Disney Magic! Land where big brothers will hold hands with little sisters! Be still my heart! Maybe this is why I so badly want to go back… That and the warm sunshine. Oh, and I could totally go for a Mickey ice cream bar!

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That day was also our 13th wedding anniversary! The photographer made us do the cheesy “L-O-V-E” picture, which was highly amusing! Such a fun place to spend our anniversary though!

After our fun morning and early afternoon at Animal Kingdom, we headed back to Fort Wilderness to swim in the pool! By then it was overcast and felt quite chilly, so we didn’t last long.

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Headed back over to The Contemporary for dinner! Side note – we loved being on a Disney Dining plan! Granted, we had planned the trip to coincide with free dining, but have decided even if we went back at a time that didn’t have it, we’d totally pay for a dining plan. So much less stress to not worry about prices – just “here you go kids – these are your choices, have at it”!

Park Day 2 – Magic Kingdom

At the very wise prompting of our Disney Vacation Planner Tracy, we split Magic Kingdom into two days. Below we’re eating breakfast before hitting the park (we brought things like instant oatmeal, fruit and granola bars to eat in the cabin in the morning). When we arrived at MK, we split up – Nick and the boys headed to Space Mountain (which they did twice in a row and loved!) and Lily and I headed to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride, which she loved (and made her brothers do on our second day at MK).

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Then it was on to our reservation for lunch at The Crystal Palace. Of all of the sit down meals, this was probably our least favorite experience. Maybe it was just an “off” day, because friends rave about it usually! Tigger was taking far too long to get to us, and we could tell the server was impatient to flip our table, so we gave up on waiting for the bouncy guy and just headed out for some more rides.

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Tracy (our Disney Vacation Planner) had booked us Fast Passes to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – twice (once for each MK day)! She told me she just knew we would love it and want to do it twice, and she was right! Even Lily, who isn’t nearly as daring as her brothers (yet), loved the ride! And of course we had to drag the kids onto the It’s A Small World ride – it’s a must!

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The parade that afternoon was shortened due to the rain, but still worth it! There’s that Lily – beaming from seeing her friend Mickey! After the parade we split up again – this time I went with the boys to do Space Mountain (yes, they wanted to go a third time!) and Nick and Lily went to the Enchanted Tales With Belle, where Lily got to be part of the story! I’m so sad I missed that; Nick said it was adorable.

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More family pictures, because we could! I know I was getting on my family’s nerve with my constant requests to stop for these pictures, but I’m so rarely in them that I told them to just suck it up and smile. This photographer wanted us to all point at the three KU hats – clearly we were full of Kansas City area pride that day! Any time we’d see someone wearing Royals gear, we’d say “Let’s go Royals!”, and they’d usually return the phrase.

And finally – a super sweet story about Jackson there…. at dinner that night, Chase’s entire plate accidentally got bumped to the floor. There were lots of tears, especially when the burger Nick brought back was smaller and less awesome than the other two (we think they’d made an error the first time and given the boys the adult burgers, instead of kid sized ones). Totally unprompted, Jackson offered to switch plates with Chase! Chase declined at first (he was too grumpy to think clearly), but eventually he accepted. Nick and I were SO proud of Jackson for his very giving decision!

Park Day 3 – Hollywood Studios & Epcot

This first part of this day ended up being a bit of a bummer, and the rain had a lot to do with that. Once again we struggled to get to the park right when it opened, and instead arrived about 30 minutes after it opened. Those Disney busses are tricky to time! Our Fast Passes for that day were for Epcot, but we were heading to Hollywood Studios in the morning. Tracy had told us to bolt for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride as soon as we got there, so that’s what we did. 30 minutes after the park opened, the wait was already an hour. Yikes! The kids all voted to wait anyway, and our 60 minute wait ended up being more like 90. Ugh. They were troopers in the line though, and we all loved the ride!

By the time we got out, it was pouring, so we grabbed lunch in hopes the rain would subside while we ate. No luck, so we made a dash over to the Muppet’s 3D experience, which was a huge hit with the kids! Still raining though when we came out – boo! Nick and the boys decided to head over to Rockin’ Rollercoaster and get in line (it was only a 30 minute wait then). They decided that was a most excellent decision, because they loved that ride! Rollercoaster that goes upside down? Check! (They’re braver than me (and the lady behind Jackson – ha) – I won’t do those!)

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After they finished that ride, we boarded the boat and headed over to Epcot to do rides like Soarin’, the Seas with Nemo, Spaceship Earth, and more! By then the sun had come out – whew! There was a bit of disappointment when we got to Epcot and realized Mary Poppins is only in England for autographs once a day, and we had just missed her. Darn!

We had an amazing dinner at Epcot that night, at Teppan Edo! The boys all declared it to be their very favorite meal of the trip!

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We all (even Lily!) attempted using chopsticks, and the food was delicious! After dinner, we wandered Epcot and killed time until the Illuminations show. While killing time, Nick and the boys did Mission Space, and I watched Lily play in a little space-themed play area.

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Park Day 4 – Magic Kingdom

Final park day – boo hoo!! We made a valiant effort to get to MK in time for the rope drop at the entrance, but were thwarted by fog. When staying at Fort Wilderness, you can just hop on a boat to get to MK, but apparently when it’s foggy those boats don’t run! Then, while waiting for the special bus that was supposed to pick us all up and take us directly to MK, the fog lifted and we were all told to head to the boats after all. Park opening missed again (this time only by about 10 minutes)!

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We did the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train again, and this time Lily instructed Nick not to put his arm around her! She was feeling brave! Later that day we went down Splash Mountain (picture furthest to the right), and while she did want Nick to hold onto her, she loved Splash Mountain! Note to save face: I was not putting my arms up out of respect for whomever was behind me, not because I was scared. I noticed on Day 1 that sometimes arms blocked my own kids’ faces in the pictures, and didn’t want to be the one blocking! 

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We also took on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad! I remembered this ride from when I was a kid, and vividly remember the time my dad was video taping the ride (with one of those giant, on the shoulder camcorders), and the whole time my little brother was freaking out. Ahhhh, the memories (and now video proof) of my mom telling my dad to put the camera down and comfort their son! haha!

This MK day was also sunny, which meant we got to see the big parade!

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One last look at MK, before heading out. Clearly my kids (especially the littlest) were beat! It was a LOT of walking for them, but they all hung in there.

We then hopped on the monorail and headed to Epcot for dinner and more souvenir shopping!

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Dinner was at The Land, in Epcot, and was a last minute dinner reservation swap. The kids really wanted one more character meal (those are the best way to see characters without waiting in enormous lines), and this one had a last minute opening. It was a family style meal and the food was great! The restaurant also slowly rotated and I think we saw all of the characters at least twice (and some three times) while we ate.

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Our evening ended with getting out of Epcot before Illuminations and the huge crowds, and racing back to Fort Wilderness in time for the water electric parade! As we were walking out of Epcot that I night, we hear “Hi, Mr. Nick!”! Of course he’d run into someone that he knows…. that man is known and loved by so many kids!

As for the water electric parade, my husband and children were relatively unimpressed. Bunch of stick in the muds (sand?)! I remember how cool I thought it was when I was a child, and thought surely they’d find it unique too.

We’re Leaving {sad face}

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The part of the trip nobody likes…. leaving the most magical place on earth. Ugh. While I cleaned and packed the van, Nick took the kids for one final swim at the resort pool. We then headed into the camp store and stocked up on delicious Disney treats (using up remaining meal credits and snack credits!) before hitting the road. Destination #1 was Nashville, TN. We rolled in there at about 9:30pm, tired and significantly colder than we had been just 11 hours earlier.

The next morning (Halloween day) we rolled out of bed, ate some breakfast, and hit the road. #CreepyBabyMargaret kept tabs on things and freaked out a few drivers (it was Halloween after all), and we made it home just in time for Jackson to put on his giant Mickey Mouse hands and a mask Lily already had, and greet the trick-or-treaters coming to the door.

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That map in the bottom right hand corner was from our license plate game! We kept track the entire trip down and back, and managed to see plates from 44 states and some bonus plates from Canada! The only plates we missed: New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, Nevada, and Hawaii. Not bad! When we left KC all of us guessed how many different states we would see, and Ty won with his guess of 43. Such a fun way to pass the time in the car!

So there it is. Our first family trip to Walt Disney World. We really cannot wait until the day comes that we can go back! Jackson summed it up best, when he said on our final night…. “Mums, I think my opinion of Mickey Mouse has changed. He’s pretty cool!” That’s right, kid, and that’s Disney Magic for you!

The Disney Vacation Planner we used was Tracy Garvais, and she can be found at Magic Mouse Travel. Her services don’t cost you anything extra, and she was the one up at midnight booking Fast Passes for us. If you’re planning a trip, definitely get in touch with her! 

And no, I have not been paid/compensated for any of this post. These are all my own opinions and Disney and Magic Mouse Travel didn’t even know I’d be blogging them.