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Sunday, March 18, 2018

she works hard for the money: surviving the hard work days

Sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world to be a mother who works outside the home. In fact, it's always hard. There are no easy days when you are balancing a career and raising humans. It's a constant balancing act. It's like walking while holding a spoon with an egg on it, hoping you don't misstep and the egg doesn't come cracking to the floor. It's walking a tightrope, focusing so hard that you don't fall off the line, all the while people are screeching your name below you making it hard to concentrate. It's your heart being torn in two directions, both equally important but not on the same playing field it seems.

It's impossible some days. It's exhilarating other days, those days when you get it "right."

It's damn hard leaving your kids in the morning- and don't get me started on drop offs and leaving the house slightly on time. There's the guilt you feel of what you will miss from their days. Then there is guilt when you have a big project at work that you really need to attend to and you get mad at yourself for feeling annoyed that your child is sick yet again and you need to stay home from work.

It's a constant tug of war with your emotions and your heart, as well as your concentration and what's left of your Mom Brain. Everyone needs you, at the same time, it feels like. It's not easy to be in such high demand. 

Sometimes you just want a break. But breaks are not afforded to busy working out of the home moms. A break is when you get to pee by yourself at work, or when you shut the car off in the garage and just breathe for a second after working a very long day and then considering what on earth you will create for dinner tonight. A break for a working out of the house mom is going to Target Friday night after work to get diapers, nylons and vitamins, along with the birthday gift for tomorrow's party you forgot about until now. A break is falling into bed at night and drooling on your pillow, and then realizing it's like 7:30 p.m. and you had hoped you could at least start a movie with your husband.

There are many days where we get it right, where it works and things fall into place. It's never easy, but there are days where we smile and think, "Yes, I did that, I accomplished something today." On those days when we get to work only a minute or two late, there was minimal screaming or whining on the way out the door, your meetings went well, no daycare called to pick someone up sick or early, and then you got out the door on time, after making all the work calls, and your partner says not to worry he's picked up the kids and you can just meet them at soccer practice before you all can head out to eat for take out, aka no cooking fiasco. That's a great day. Those days do come. They happen often in fact, if you really stop to think of it. You've got this working mom thing, you really do.

But then there are days... or weeks... like I just had that make you want to cry, curl up for a sick day for yourself for once and just toss in the towel (that's probably dirty because you are always behind on laundry as a working out of the home mom).

Days where you completely forgot that it was pajama day at school for the big kids. Days where you forgot to do the book order or send in the permission slip because last night you were out late at some basketball game and it just slipped your mind. Days where you are half an hour late getting to that meeting at work, and when you do get there you realize you have a stain of some type of food on your shoulder from the baby hugging you this morning. Days where you yell too much and feel so bad as your kids glare at you in the back seat of the car, and you pray they won't hate you too long into their school day. Days where you buy takeout lunch instead of taking the salad you meant to make. Days where you misspeak at work and sound stupid in front of your boss because you didn't get enough sleep last night with that teething baby clinging to only you, not Dada.

There are these hard days, where you are late picking up your kid at soccer and she thinks you're the worst mom ever for not seeing ANY of her kicks toward the goal. Days where you FEEL like the worst mom ever for questioning if he is sick when he says his head hurts and you send him to school anyway because you have a big thing at work... only to get a call from the nurse an hour later. There are days you are up late at night responding to work emails to prep for tomorrow's big event, instead of hanging out with your husband or cleaning up the kitchen.

It's the hardest thing I've ever done, balancing work and family life. It's hard to remember everything. It's difficult to pay attention, stay awake and get enough rest to manage so many people's lives. It's difficult being responsible- for babies, for job requirements. It's hard to get dressed up every freaking day, when all you want is to stay in your yoga pants. It's demanding in so many ways. 

Last week I had to call in to stay with a sick baby. It was one of the biggest work days all year for me. I was responsible for training my entire staff for them to run testing for our students. I had four presentations planned. I also had 3 other sessions where I was supposed to assist some other staff from another school with helping our students sign up for courses. I had SO much going on during this day. Really big day. And yet the baby was sick and my husband had already stayed home earlier in the week with a sick child and he equally had a big day at work. So I stayed home. I cried, stormed around frustrated, cried more, and then spent my son's morning nap time rearranging my day, delegating to other people, asking for help, begging for forgiveness at work, and praying I wouldn't lose my job even though I knew that was ridiculous.

I was angry I had to stay home. I was frustrated that it seems like I cannot balance both worlds effectively on some days. I was mad at the universe that there is so much sickness. I was upset my husband left for work, even though I knew it was all he could do. I was angry with myself for feeling upset about staying with a baby who needed me. I felt guilty that I could not do what was expected of me at work, and then guilty that I felt like I should be there and not at home. I was so sad that we women have to feel this type of split down the middle divide of our attention, hearts and energy.

My baby did something to snap me out of my guilt about not being at work that day. He literally said Mama Mama over and over, no joke, every 30 seconds, I swear. ALL DAY. He needed me. And I was there, despite my confusing and frustrating feelings, I was there. I stayed. And you know what happened at work? Life went on. Nothing fell apart. It was not horrible. They did not need me. I put a bit more on my co-workers, and for that I felt bad, but they understood. My boss did not care. It was OK. My worst day to miss, my biggest event of the year... and I missed it and life was all good. My baby snuggled on me and played ball with me, laughing despite how sick he was. I keep track of the Tylenol dose and how high his fever was. I fed him his favorite foods and rocked him to sleep. Instead of training the staff, I helped my baby take a bath in the middle of the morning because I knew it would help him feel better. All ended up just fine.

The very next day I was at work about to present at a conference, something I'd prepped for over a month before. I got a phone call from the school nurse that my oldest was sick and needed to be picked up immediately. I couldn't get ahold of my husband. I was about to get in the car to pick him up when my husband called and said he'd take care of it. I felt guilty, again, that I couldn't be the one there, I had to work. Sometimes these are the choices we have to make. Sometimes they don't feel like choices at all in those moments.

But I stayed at the conference. I rocked the presentation, despite feeling unfocused and thinking of my son. I had people thank me, appreciate the work I had done. I helped kids in that presentation. I moved my career forward, stepped up that proverbial ladder. I furthered my passions, my work energies and made a difference. I felt filled up professionally. I felt like this job I so very much am in love with was worth it that day. I felt proud of myself career wise. And yet it came at the cost of not being there for my son exactly when he needed me. It's not that work was more important or ever is more important, it's just that moment to moment we have to choose where we need to be. And sometimes we need to be at work. And that's OK! It's good that it's not always on the Mom's shoulders.

I left the conference as soon as I could and got home in the afternoon to see my big kid, who had enjoyed the day with Dad.

That's the thing about being a working out of the home mom, we have to balance everything, including our guilt about where we are and where we are not, what we are and are not doing in each day or moment. When we are at work, we have to be at work. When we are at home, we have to be at home. And when our worlds collide- such as when you're working and get a call for a sick kid - it's OK to choose work sometimes as long as it's not always and as long as it's made up later on the family side. 

Working out of the home is the hardest thing some parents do. It's harder sometimes when you really love your job, because you feel guilty about that. But I still encourage women to follow their passions and strive to do whatever it is that is in the career side of your heart. You CAN work and be a great mother. It may not always line up exactly at the same moment, but I swear you CAN work on it. Your work will be fine when you're at home. Your home will be fine when you're at work.

Just remember when you're in the midst of one of those really terrible, horrible, no good, very very bad days of working and parenting... that you are human. You will make mistakes. You won't get it all right in one day or one moment. You can't always be a great mom and a great worker at the same time. Remind yourself this is normal, and that it will ALWAYS get better.

Just breathe, moms.
Remember what your priorities are, at work and at home.
Somehow find a way to create balance, and on the days when the scale tips a bit farther to the work side, accept that you are doing the best you can with what you have. Your children will learn that you are a kickass mother who works hard and is determined to be a great mom, too. You are teaching them incredible lessons for their own futures, showing them anything is possible.
Breathe again...
And then take yourself to Target solo or to Starbucks. You deserve it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Disney magic : Photo Pass

The Disney Photo Pass is an awesome option for your trip to the parks.

You buy it ahead of time (otherwise it's a bit more expensive when you arrive). It's about $160. It's a large chunk of change up front, but you get all the pictures sent to you. We got about 500 pictures sent to us from 5 park days we visited. You have 30 days to download all pictures to save yourself.

You sign up for this in your My Disney Experience login account. We did this a few weeks before we left for our trip.

Basically you get in line (very short, less than 5 minutes wait time) to have a photographer cast member take your pictures. You can do as many in a spot as you want - different people like my mother with the kids, then me with the kids, etc. - throughout the parks. It's a cool option. They scan your Magic Bands and you get the photos sent to your Disney World app instantly so you can see them throughout your trip. It's really neat!

Tip: The cast member photographers do not come up to you, you have to go up to them to seek them out to take your pictures. I didn't expect this, but it wasn't a problem. You just have to remind yourself to stop and get the pictures taken to make this option worth it.

What I loved about this was that I got in photos with my family and we actually had pictures of all five of us for once! It made me relax a bit, not needing to take as many pics as I normally would, being more present with watching things unfold instead. It also meant since they were taking pictures, we could take more videos. It was a win-win!

Some pictures didn't come out perfectly, but honestly 95% were amazing, so we were pleased!

I definitely recommend getting the Photo Pass for your first trip, for sure. But we've already decided when we go again we'd get the pass again, since it's just some great opportunities to keep track of some amazing memories with your kids. It's also so convenient- you would get pictures you might never get, like the nighttime one of us outside the ball at Epcot, one of our favorites!

Say cheese! :)

Disney magic : Disney Springs

Disney Springs is the meca of shopping and eating at Disney World. It's an extra large super sized version of a mall, but lots of outdoor things and cute Disney things to look at. There is some outdoor entertainment, lots of different stores including Lego and Disney, Ghiradelli, etc. There are lots of restaurants that are different, too like Rainforest Cafe and a TRex Dino type restaurant that looked super fun.

We went one afternoon for a couple of hours to see what it was all about.
There are free parking garages. You want the LIME garage where the Lego and Disney stores are.

Here are some activities there for kids:

The Lego store was pretty neat. Lots of cute stands like this where kids could build and play, create and take a break to have fun being a kid without rushing somewhere else.

These were definitely a sight to see- Disney characters like the Dwarves made of LEGOS, amazing.

So for me, it wasn't worth visiting. I don't go to Disney for shopping, honestly. I respect that so many people do, and that's totally fine. The restaurants for dinner seemed cool, but long lines again. The crowds were nuts here too just like being in a park. I wanted out! Again, if you have a specific spot you want to eat here and get a reservation ahead of time or a certain store you want to stop in, great! If you have kids and don't want to wait around in more lines and don't care where you eat, I'd skip this spot. It's not a must-do when visiting Disney.

I've heard of people wondering where in the trip you should go here. Some suggested going the first travel day, getting unpacked and then heading here for food, relaxing walking around. Others suggested mid-week as a low-key pool day and then head here in the afternoon or evening to top off the day. I suggested end of the week, we went our last day when we had nothing else to do. It's up to your family and what works for you and the purpose of going for you- eating, shopping?

I'd suggest shopping elsewhere before coming here, as things were pricey.

Hope these tips help you decide if this location is for you! It certainly is a beautiful spot to see.

Disney magic : don't wait in line for food: MOBILE ordering

Mobile Food Ordering is the BEST thing in the world at Disney- well next to seeing Mickey Mouse of course! You use your Disney World app to order food from restaurants in the park that you are visiting that day. It takes minutes to place your order, and then about 5-15 minutes to pick up your food, MUCH faster than waiting in line. I thought this was genius! We used this a few times, including to order an ice cream in Magic Kingdom.

Here is a how-to quick video on YouTube to explain to you how to do mobile food ordering.

So you go into the app, search for restaurants in the area, look at menus, choose what you want including drinks, and submit. Within a few minutes you are going to have your food - there is even a special mobile order line to pick up your food! We did this about four times on our trip, and could not believe how many people were standing in line for food... I was SO lucky I had found out about mobile food ordering on YouTube before my trip.

Below is the note you get from the app when your order is ready. It's awesome! What an easy process that makes your day even better so you aren't wasting time in another line.

Below is some food we ordered at Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom. It's so simple, no waiting in the quick service lines. You are waiting in so many lines all day to meet characters, to get on rides, bathrooms even... don't make food one of those lines. When you are hungry - especially with kids- you need your food ASAP! Mobile Food Ordering is the best.

Here is another quick video with lots of tips in addition to mobile ordering for food. Great tips! The mobile ordering is right at the start of the video.


Disney magic : Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios (HS) is really fun and low-key. It's much less crazy and busy, less fast paced as the other parks. I enjoyed myself more at this park since it was just a lot smaller, less walking and more shows to sit and relax. It was a GREAT choice to go to the day after Magic Kingdom for sure. It's not a large park, definitely something you could go to and park hop to somewhere else that same day if you wanted to.

We arrived right at 9 when they opened, as we had a breakfast beforehand so were a bit later getting to this park. We got into the park 20 minutes later, no issues. This is not like Magic Kingdom, were you need to get there so much earlier than it opens to beat the crowds.

If you are a Star Wars fan, this is the park for you. TONS of cool shows, rides, and characters galore from Star Wars. We aren't totally into the movies, but the kids loved seeing all the Star Wars gear.

I recommend when you arrive at the park, you go to the right over to the character spots in Animation Courtyard in the morning before it gets crowded. The lines right at the start of the day were 10-30 minutes, so I'm sure once it gets going in the day they get even longer.

They are opening Toy Story Land this summer 2018, so I can't wait to hear what's that all about when people go next year. I am sure it's going to be amazing.

Chewbaca is incredible! I don't even really get the Star Wars stuff, but seeing him was incredible! The kids thought so, too.

Very cool Star Wars gear in the stores, too, in case you are into that kinda thing.

This is what the character spots looked like. They are in the shade, small lines (we waited about 7 minutes). There is Doc McStuffins, Sophia the First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and I think Pluto in these spots. My daughter was in heaven!

Throughout the day the Star Wars characters walk through the streets. The kids thought this was super cool.

I loved all the shows and activities here. So much to take in, but many things in the shade and with shorter wait lines.

This is another park where they have tiered rides, where you can only choose a certain ride from a certain tier. Look into this before making your choices or thoughts on what you want to get a FastPass for.

A few rides we got FastPasses for ahead of time:
  • Star Tours- My kids LOVED this ride, it was their favorite by far they said. I didn't go on it, but my husband said it was pretty cool. With a FP this ride had a 30 minute wait time, my husband said, and without it was up to 180 minutes. Definitely FP this one. 
  • Toy Story Midway Mania- This was an awesome ride. I laughed the entire time. The kids had a blast. It's a MUST if you go to HS. Note: I've heard it's very similar to the Toy Story ride at Magic Kingdom... so we skipped the MK one, since there are other rides there we wanted a FP for instead of the Toy Story one. The one at HS is awesome. 
  • Disney Jr. Live- We got FP for this but I wouldn't recommend it. It's not needed, the lines weren't long and they fit tons of people in the auditorium. But moreover, there are no seats, you're sitting on the floor... it's meant for littler kids, preschoolers really. My 5 and 8 year old liked it OK, but not their favorite. It's a bunch of the Disney Jr characters. Cute, but not top of my list and not a FP ride. 
  • There are other bigger rides here like Tower of Terror for adults, but as far as kid rides there wasn't a ton that we needed a FP for. 
Other activities we loved:
  • Meeting Olaf- He's right outside the Star Tours and Jedi Training area. He's AWESOME, so cute, so fun, so huggable. Go do this!
  • Jedi Training- I don't know much about this except that you have to sign up early in the day. It looked amazing for the kids- using real swords and things, dressed up like Jedi, it was awesome. I watched it while waiting for my family to get out of the Star Tours ride. I highly recommend looking into this if your child likes Star Wars.
  • Beauty and the Beast show- I would get a FP for this if you want. You don't need one, but getting one would have given us much better seats. It's a beautiful show. 
  • Indiana Jones- This is the best show, just like how I remembered as a kid. My son looooved this! It's a nice cool space, too, with fans overhead. 
  • Chip n' Dale- We didn't get to meet them, the line was long, but if you're into them they are here too. 
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid- we skipped this one since we'd just gone to Magic Kingdom and done two Ariel rides there, but I hear it's cute and worth doing if you're interested.
  • Frozen Sing Along- I've heard this is cute, but when I looked at it on YouTube it seemed very simple so we chose not to do this one. We were doing the Frozen ride at Epcot and meeting Ana and Elsa there, so we thought skipping was OK. But you should check it out if you aren't doing any other Frozen things or aren't into Star Wars at this park.

This park is so much less chaotic and crowded. We went on a Friday just before vacation week started and it was busy but not overwhelming. There are so many large scale shows that I think people really can spread out here and enjoy some more relaxing events than rushing to rides.

You can meet Buzz and Woody together

We did not do this fireworks show, but again I've heard it's great.

A fun day at Hollywood Studios, hope you enjoy!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Disney magic : Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom (AK) is a MUST in my opinion if visiting Florida! It was the most fun place, so cultural and relaxing (despite the crowds!). So many things to see, smell, and do here. It's much more than just a zoo that you may be used to. In fact, I wouldn't even consider this like a zoo, it's a real animal refuge here. I loved it! My husband didn't find it as exciting, but I thought it was an awesome place.

We went to AK on a Saturday, just because that's when I could get a dining reservation there so that dictated when we went. I'd usually avoid a Saturday, but it ended up working out OK. It was very busy, yes, but manageable. We had been to Magic Kingdom Thursday, Hollywood Studios Friday, so going to AK on Saturday was perfect, more low-key and less crazy rushing to rides.

Africa is incredible. It's so beautiful, the food is amazing, the people here are from these countries and they are just so authentic and talented. Their dancing and drumming were so neat to watch. Our kids were mesmerized by these shows in the streets as we walked toward the rides.

If you are park hopping, you could definitely do this park and another park in a day. We stretched things out and ate dinner at AK in order to stay for the light show at the end of the day, but if we had not done that we could have left by 3 or 4 in the afternoon, when we arrived at 8 or so in the morning.

This was my FAVORITE ride- the Kilimanjaro Safari. It is a MUST do. We went in the morning right when the park opened and it was the best thing, as the animals were feeding and it wasn't too hot for them to be out. It's about a 20 minute or so ride and it's so neat to see what's out there. The animals have a huge space to move about, so every time you go on this ride you'd see something a little different. All day I kept saying I wish we could have done another safari ride- but the wait times without FP were 60+ minutes all day.

The Tree of Life is spectacular to see. No pictures do it justice. It's definitely a gorgeous place to stand to get pictures. This photo below is NOT edited- that is the true color of the sky in Florida, just gorgeous.

AK has an awesome Explorers Trail activity for kids. They give you free booklets with activities, animal statistics and facts, and they teach you a 1-2 minute fact asking kids questions along the way throughout the park near the animal exhibits. If kids answer right they get stamps. The kids LOVED this. We didn't stop at each one, only a handful since we wanted to move on, but it was a really cute idea.

Some rides you will want to FastPass+ at AK:
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris - Pictures and description above. Amazing! I'd ride this several times if we could.
  • Kali River Rapids- this is a slower ride, you do get wet (some people told us you get soaked so I packed flip flops and Crocs for everyone, but my family didn't get soaked. I did see others coming off the ride pretty wet, but nobody's shoes seemed wet). My husband said it's about a 2 minute ride, not worth the wait at all without a FP. Even with FP they waited about 40 minutes. He said they probably won't do it again because it's not a huge ride. BUT I know so many people want to do this ride, so I'm adding it here to the list of rides you'll want to try your first time.
  • Pandora has Avatar's Flight of Passage, which apparently is the # ride in the world right now, and everyone tells me it's incredible. We thought it was too much for our littler kids, so we chose to do Pandora's Navi River Journey instead. It's an easy boat ride that even the baby could go on, incredible graphics and scenes. Flight of Passage you MUST have a FP for. People literally wait no less than 2 hours in this ride, my friends waited 4 hours. It's crazy! With our FP for Navi River Journey, we waited about 7 minutes to get on the ride, while the standby time at that point was 120 minutes! It pays to have a FP! 
Other activities we loved at AK:
  • Gorilla Falls Walk- it's an easy 15 minute walk through exhibits including gorillas and more. Really nice, near the safari.
  • Trek Walk in Asia is cool too, with bats, tigers and dragons. 
  • In Africa you can meet Balloo and Louis, very fun! 
  • Near the entrance of Dinoland you can meet Pocahontas, VERY hidden, but literally on the right as you are heading into Dinoland. 
  • Rafiki's Planet Watch & Train ride- wasn't something we planned to do, but ended up heading to. There is a short train ride that takes you to the Planet Watch station, where you can see fish, animals being treated by the veterinarians, see lizards and other creatures. We got pictures with Rafiki here also. There is a small petting zoo with goats and small ponies outside too that our kids LOVED. It was a nice break in the middle of a hot, long day. I recommend going up there, really cute. Bring a baby carrier though, it's a bit of walking, not terrible, but you can't bring strollers there.
  • In Dinoland there are some fair type activities and games where you can pay for tickets to play carnival games and earn prizes. It was a good break in our day- but bring cash! (3 tickets = $10, 1 ticket = $5) There are a few rides in Dinoland for younger kids, one that goes in the air similar to Dumbo and another smaller roller coaster. We didn't get to these, but they looked cool. 
  • The Lion King Show- This is INCREDIBLE. I'd watch this several times over. My kids were mesmerized. It was so beautiful. Our son even got to participate in the show- a highlight for sure.
  • A Bug's Life - We didn't end up doing this, but you do walk inside the Tree of Life so that would be neat. I heard it was a low-key thing and the wait was long so we decided to avoid it.

The scenes and real-ness of being in Africa were my favorite parts. I love seeing things that are different than where we come from, teaching our kids. It was a beautiful bonus to being in a theme park.


  • Flame Tree Barbecue- This was a great spot to sit for dinner. There were plenty of tables in the shade, and good food. I got a chicken salad with apples. My husband got some pulled chicken and macaroni and cheese. Yum! It's a quick service spot. Use your Mobile Ordering on your Disney World app to avoid the lines. We did this and had our food in 10 minutes! (see below)
  • Yak & Yeti is another one I have heard is amazing, but you'll need a reservation. 
  • Harambe Market looked amazing. We didn't go in there, as we'd already eaten lunch that we packed ourselves but it looked so cool to try different types of cultural foods. 
  • Tusker House was a place we had originally planned to go for a character breakfast with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and another I believe, but we ended up canceling before our trip since we were already seeing those characters at another location. I would like to try it in the future, I've heard it's fun. 
Pics of food from Flame Tree Barbecue:

Another amazing treat I had- the best I'd eaten all week not even kidding- was outside Dinoland, at a food stand. Nothing fancy about this place - it had milkshakes and a few other snack items. My FAVORITE THING all week were the buffalo chicken bleu cheese chips! So yummy, real bleu cheese, crunchy homemade chips it tasted like. Just a nice and different snack you can't get anywhere else. (pics below)

Another yummy place in Africa in AK was a cute little store on the corner outside the Gorilla Falls walk exit area, where the kids got amazing treats. I got chocolate covered strawberries that were delicious, too. This is at Zuri Sweets Shops (below). YUM!

Whether you go for the Lion King Show, just to ride Pandora rides, or to eat the amazing food - GO to AK. It's so beautiful and relaxing there, as far as busy crowded parks go. I had a great time, and the kids loved it!

I found these awesome Lion King shirts at Kohl's and from! My older son's shirt was brand new from Thred Up and he got the most compliments!

Below: at Rafki's Planet Watch petting zoo.

Below: Pandora- such a cool experience seeing this.

We LOVED staying for the Rivers of Light Show. It's spectacular. The show runs at 7:15 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. It's nice to get in there early and get to bed earlier than other nights staying out to see fireworks. It's absolutely gorgeous, one of my favorite shows. It's a nice tribute to the animals.

This is not a fireworks show, but equally beautiful, just in case you are wondering about noises for younger kids.

At the end of our day after we'd done our rides and we were eating dinner, around 5:30 p.m. I tried to get FP for the fireworks viewing area. I ended up getting them for all of us after a few tries, and that meant we could show up about 20 minutes before the show and have PERFECT viewing seats right in the center of the arena. It was amazing. I HIGLHY recommend trying for FP at the end of your day to get these seats if you can, otherwise get there at least 45 minutes before the show I'd suggest.

ENJOY the scenery, animals, food and culture of AK. It's a great day!