I went to a baby show this weekend

I feel like I have a good handle on what things I still need for the baby but I also feel like I’m not qualified to feel like I have a handle on things yet. Because of that, I thought it would be worthwhile to go to a baby show in Atlanta over the weekend.

I had some trouble finding the location. It was in a ballroom on the sixth floor of a building, but the building with the address had legal offices on the bottom floor and they wouldn’t let you go through them (also they probably didn’t have access). Instead you were supposed to go down around the corner and take the elevator inside a separate parking garage to the sky bridge to the ballroom. I did two laps around the block before I asked for more specific directions.

Once inside the parking garage’s elevator, there was a sign unhelpfully telling you to 1) navigate to that location and then 2) take it to the sixth floor. Well, yeah, but some signage outside would have been more helpful than watching men and women in various stages of pregnancy wander around looking lost and confused. I like to think I look more pregnant than fat at this point but I had a couple of other women blatantly staring at my stomach area so possibly not.

Once inside, I checked in and got two big reusable shopping bags full of different samples. Also, because I show up to things early, I got a third big bag full of MeadJohnson samples. If you’re not familiar with MeadJohnson, welcome to the club I vacated just a day ago – they’re the folks who manufacture Enfamil, a well-known infant formula. I also stopped by the La Croix booth to try a new flavor. I really want to like La Croix and I just really don’t. I’ve tried pamplemousse and lime so far and yesterday I tried cranberry-apple (can we just call it cranapple already?) and had a similar reaction. I just don’t like La Croix…but I do like free drinks and it was hot and humid so I wanted to drink something.

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They had different levels of admission with different add-ons for each. Silver and Gold got baby carriers, and mine (Bronze) I got to enter 30 minutes early and an extra gift bag.

The expo part wasn’t bad as far as quality of the vendors, it was just disappointing how few there were. I was also disappointed in the lack of informational sessions they offered, there were only a couple, one on cloth diapering and one on baby wearing. I would have liked to have seen more sessions, even just on the products themselves or on other topics.

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They raffled off one of these babies. It was pretty sweet, but I can’t justify $250 for a temporary bed, even if it does play music and vibrate.

I was done looking at all the vendors in about 45 minutes and they didn’t do the raffle for prizes until 3:30 pm so I had a ton of time to kill. I took my gift bags back to my car and went to a Microsoft store in a mall nearby to ask some questions about discounts on their OS (spoiler: they didn’t know and it’s cheaper elsewhere). I had some lunch and then took the Atlanta MARTA back to the convention.

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The crowd wasn’t big so I thought my odds were pretty good

I was pretty impressed with the prizes they raffled off. It was everything from pacifier sets to bottle sample packs to a Stokke high chair and even a Halo bassinet. Sadly, I was not a winner of any raffle prizes, though I did get an entire case of Enfagrow from the MeadJohnson rep as he was packing to leave. I don’t have any plans on keeping a toddler milk drink in my pantry for 18ish months so I’m going to take it over to the local food bank later this week.

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Not shown: case of Enfagrow

In summary, was it worth it? Maybe. I *did* like the free samples I got, but I thought overall the show could have been a lot better. There is a bigger show that happens every year in April, which I didn’t go to (obviously) because I wasn’t pregnant then and I’m unsure whether I’ll go to it next year since Mini-K will be 2 months old and I’m not sure I want to try to do that with an infant. I think I’d be willing to go to another baby show, but I would likely do some more research to see the number and quality of vendors and classes they’re offering before I committed.

 

Camping at Disney World

My original plan was two short Disney trips in September and November, but then I got pregnant, P signed a hunting lease, and looking at the crowd calendar I realized those two trips were going to be SUPER crowded at the parks. I canceled the other trips and made a plan for a slightly longer trip at the end of August when the parks were a lot less crowded.

I also managed to swing a discounted rate at Disney’s Fort Wilderness campsites. I think most people don’t know that Disney has a campsite; I didn’t until we went to the Hoop-de-due Revue last trip there. They have everything from tent sites to RV sites and even cabins you can rent. It has water transportation to the Magic Kingdom and bus transportation everywhere else. They also have free wifi throughout the campground, which I didn’t expect at all.

We did a tent site and it was really nice. The site was really big and even had a dedicated parking space in it for our car, though another site fit two cars in there pretty easily. There’s also electricity and water at the site, and a shared restroom/shower facility, called “comfort stations” dotted around so they’re never far away. It was a little like a gym facility, except the cleanest, nicest gym showers you’ve ever had with constant water pressure and hot water. I had read that they tended to be crowded in the mornings from 7 – 9 am, but never really found that to be the case. I never had to wait for a shower, sink, or toilet but that also may have been because we were in the off-season.

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Picture from Disney’s website. That little brown stump on the right has multiple electrical outlets as well as a water spigot.

We didn’t have any issues with mosquitos, either which was my other main concern. We went cat fishing the weekend before and I got bit severely and it was awful afterwards. I brought my diffuser and diffused citronella all night and the resort also gave us free DEET wipes. I think I saw maybe one mosquito around our tent area. P got some bites on his feet but those were more likely from walking through the tall grass.

We are used to Army “camping” so our standards for comfort are significantly lower than the average person and we had the most bare bones campsite out of everyone else. I’d be willing to bet most of those folks out there have never slept on the ground in just a sleeping bag while it rained on them. Others had mosquito-netting popups over their picnic tables and a couple even had AC units that attached to their tents. The hardest thing was just how hot it was at night. P opted to sleep outside while I just took the rain fly off the tent at night to allow for more air flow. We had our sleeping mats so it wasn’t uncomfortable, just uncomfortably warm.

The resort itself is huge and has an internal bus system available, or you can rent a golf cart or bikes. We brought our own bikes but didn’t use them except for the first morning when we rode them down to the commissary for breakfast. Since we got free parking at the parks, it was easier and quicker to just drive ourselves rather than waiting for a bus. Since I’m not drinking, we also knew we’d have a designated driver each night when we drove back.

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We stayed in the 2000 loop which was about 2/3 mile from the boat transportation area.

Overall, I liked it and I would stay there again but I’d do it differently. We’ve already discussed how we’re going to need a bigger tent once our baby comes and since we already have two smaller tents that are good for solo or joint hunting trips, we’d like to get something fairly large and roomy that P can stand up in and can adapt to our growing family. I would also like to look at renting either a pop-up camper or even an actual RV in the future.

I loved how affordable the campsites were. Normal pricing for the off-season started at $53/night and then we also got a reduced rate making it even lower. You also get all the perks of staying at a Disney resort, like Magic Bands and Extra Magic Hours, and can add on the Disney Dining Plan if you want. There were a ton of activities at the resort all day and into the evening and a lot of families seemed to be enjoying themselves. You could honestly just spend all your time there and never even go to the parks.

We did our last two nights of our trip at Shades of Green, a military property on Disney. I have a deep, abiding love for SOG that will never go away. They remodeled recently and now have a big, covered parking garage and remodeled rooms. They’re also right across the street from the Polynesian so we just walk over and take the monorail to wherever we’d like to go, but also have bus transportation to the parks. They have Extra Magic Hours, but don’t do Disney Dining or Magic Bands, and no free parking at the parks. I also like that the pricing is tiered depending on the rank structure and the average room can easily sleep five or more so it’s a great value for military families. SOG has been my default place to stay for years now, but I may be switching my affinity to the campsites now that I’ve got some experience under my belt there.

 

 

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Try Something New- Photography Workshop

As long as I’ve lived in Alaska I have tried and struggled to take a decent picture of the aurora. Part of my struggle, well, most of it, is my equipment. I have a Canon EOS Rebel that’s several years old and no good night lens for it. Camera bodies are expensive and lenses even more so. I read tutorials and tried and tried and nothing I captured was near as beautiful as what I could see.

One of my favorite sites has been the Alaska Aurora Cam– which showed in perfect deal what I could see but not capture myself. This past week they announced their very last photography workshop and aurora chasing trip and so I put my nerves aside and signed up knowing this might be my last chance to get a good picture of the aurora.

I opted to rent a full kit from them to give myself a better chance and as we drove up north from Fairbanks we had a photography class on the best settings to get a good picture of the northern lights. I definitely learned a lot and Ronn and Marketa were great at showing us and answering all our questions. I can’t believe I didn’t think to put a two-second timer on my own camera to eliminate the shutter flutter that I always get.

Finally, the aurora shyly made an appearance behind some light clouds and we were all quiet except for the sound of the shutters clicking and a few oohs and ahhs as we watched it dance across the sky. One of the couples in the tour group surprised us all by proposing to his girlfriend under the green-lit sky – seriously, how romantic and beautiful is that?

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I had a wonderful time and best of all, now I have some pictures that I took myself, to always remember the nights I lived under the northern lights.

If you want to go, the recommendation is usually fall or spring. Fall tends to be cloudier but can be nice because the lakes and rivers aren’t frozen over yet, while the spring tends to be colder but clearer.