An eco-conscious, lifestyle blog by Tampa, FL mom Jenny Hodges,who lost 212lbs and is keeping it off thru healthy family living, creative cooking, and CrossFit

21. July 2014 19:11
by jennifer

Top 5 reasons why LEGOLAND FLORIDA is Autism Friendly

21. July 2014 19:11 by jennifer | 1 Comments

Disclosure: The #TampaTrio and I received admission to LEGOLAND Florida and LEGOLAND Florida Water Park for our honest review.

LEGOLAND Florida opened in late 2011. I honestly can't believe that it's taken us nearly 3 years to get up to the park for our first visit. I had heard from friends that it was very babyish and since my kids were used to Busch Gardens that they weren't likely to enjoy LEGOLAND. Well, at 8, 9, and 10 years old, I can tell you without a doubt that they LOVED LEGOLAND!!

Busch Gardens is an autism friendly park. We are provided with a special pass which allows us to either bypass the lines, or we are given a time to return later in the day. Those of you with special needs kids know how challenging navigating a theme park can be.

I wasn't sure if LegoLand Florida offered a special needs pass, but when we arrived I went to guest services and asked, and I'm happy to say that YES they do offer a special needs pass. The pass worked identical to what we're used to experiencing at Busch Gardens, so there were no hidden surprises for us. Whew.

Here are my top five reasons why LegoLand Florida is an Autism friendly theme park.

1. Special Needs Pass. This pass is reserved for individuals with disabilities and allows visitors to obtain a “return time” for rides with long waits. While I always bring a note from Ronin's doctor describing how living with ASD and SPD  makes it hard for him to wait in crowded lines for extended periods of time, the note was not needed. This pass/card is a real “plus” for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Waiting in line with lots of crowds is downright impossible some days. During our day at LEGOLAND, we simply went through the exit gate for rides with our card, received our return time from the ride attendant, and were able to explore around the park until our assigned time. ALL of the  LEGOLAND ride attendants were super accommodating and very nice.

2. Dietary Needs. Unlike Lowry Park Zoo (which we love, so don't get me wrong, but eating there is a challenge) LegoLand allows you to bring in your own food. They also had several gluten free options scattered throughout the park.

3. LEGOS. This one pretty much doesn't need to be stated, but I will. If you have a child that enjoys Legos, then they will enjoy LEGOLAND, autistic or not.

While Ronin enjoys the idea of Lego's, he doesn't have the attention span to put together more than just a few pieces. But he enjoys the final product when his sister's or I do it. So he LOVED seeing all the displays of Lego's. From Chima to Einstein, Ronin was in awe of the marvelous Lego structures.

4. PLAYGROUND. My guy gets easily overwhelmed, so its nice to have a shady spot where he can just play and chill. LEGOLAND had a nice playground area, that was not busy at all, where he could do just that. And he really liked that it said "Wolves Rule" since he just completed his Cub Scout year as a Wolf.

5. WATERPARK. The waterpark admission is NOT included with your regular daily ticket, but I highly recommend it. It gave our family the perfect opportunity to cool down and decompress. The special needs pass is not available in the waterpark, but we didn't need it. Ronin and the girls preferred to lounge about in the lazy river: Build A Raft, and it was nice for me to be able to float along with them. I liked that it was MANDATORY for the kids (well, actually mandatory for everyone!!) to remain in the inner tubes at all times. No running through the lazy river here!!

We spent a full day at LEGOLAND Florida, having been one of the first families through the turnstiles at 10am, and we were one of the last to leave when the park closed at 7pm. There was A LOT that we didn't get to see and do, but we were all so very happy with what we did get to experience.

The kids got to go on every roller coaster, we saw the mini Lego village, Duplo Land (I know I am hacking these names up, but this is what they kids called them, so they are sticking with me!) I wish we had been able to go through the older Cypress Gardens area, but we just didn't have time. I guess we'll have to make a return trip!

Have you been to LEGOLAND Florida?? What did you think??


21. July 2014 14:19
by jennifer

Weekly Workouts July 13-19 #MomsWhoSwing

21. July 2014 14:19 by jennifer | 0 Comments

Weekly Workouts have not been varying too much recently because I've been sticking with my kettlebell challenge. We were on vacation to Jekyll Island so I missed a few days, but resumed on Wednesday July 16th, and did 500 swings every day for the rest of the week.   On day 13 I increased my KB to 40 pounds for the last set of 100, and I had a friend join me in the swinging fun! It's always more fun to swing with a friend!! I also picked up a copy of The Swing, and I've finished reading it. I even did the first OTM Workout #1 this morning, but I'll get more into that next week. I'm still really loving the kettlebells and plan to pick myself up a set for my upcoming 43rd birthday...which is only 18 days away!!! I'm loving this set from the Kettlebell Kings. And if you like what you see on their site, you can use the code metamorfit to save 5% on your order and FREE shipping, too!!! I love the colors, and the weight scheme. As I get stronger in my two handed swing, I'm getting more confident to try a one armed swing (which I did today) and would like to incorporate other KB moves as well. And my coach recommended that I go for a competition set because one just never knows..... Anything new in your fitness world that you are loving??  

19. July 2014 20:18
by jennifer

Happy 8th Birthday, Ronin

19. July 2014 20:18 by jennifer | 0 Comments

Dear Ronin, When you wake up tomorrow morning you will be 8 years old. Wow. 8. As Ella says, "you are taking my 8, just as I took Haley's 9." 8 is a big deal. You'll be entering 3rd grade in less than a month. You're going to start getting "real grades" in school. Probably lots of homework, too. This past year we watched as you flourished in Cub Scouts. You are now officially a BEAR!!And this year in scouting you will learn all sorts of important skills that will enable you to be able to graduate to Webelos which means you can go CAMPING without mama or daddy. I know how excited you are to be able to do that!! My biggest piece of advice for you, my sweet son, is to be patient. Patient with yourself, patient with your daddy, patient with your sisters, your dog, and me, your mama. You are a good boy, a kind boy, and you hold a very special place in my heart. I can't wait to see how you are going to grow, mature, and flourish in your 8th year. I love you, Mama XOXO

17. July 2014 13:29
by jennifer

Kettlebell Love #MomsWhoSwing

17. July 2014 13:29 by jennifer | 0 Comments

I've been doing kettlebells exclusively since June 29th. I always enjoyed them when they were programmed into our daily WOD's but was unsure how I'd like to do them as my only form of exercise. The verdict is in. I LOVE TO SWING!! Kettlebells people. I'm talking about kettlebells here. Jeez. In 19 days I have lost 6 pounds. Since June 1st, I have lost 11 pounds. I decided to swing as my only form of exercise (besides walking) because I'm injured on my right heel (Plantar Fasciitis) and on my left knee (I'm guessing over compensation from wearing a boot on my right foot at night.) I've done 5,500 swings since June 29th, and today a friend gave me a nice compliment. She mentioned how lean I was looking through my shoulders and chest. Lean=muscular. Muscular=fit. And that's all good. I'm currently doing Russian Kettlebell Swings. And I'm following a particular program designed by one of my CEF coaches. It's 10,000 swings in 30 days. Today I just finished day 11. My injuries are not healing as quickly as I thought they would have, so I'm likely going to continue on with strictly kettlebells for the near future. I've picked up a book: The Swing by Tracy Reifkind and one of my CrossFit En Fuego coaches is getting certified in some sort of official Kettlebell program, and once he has that certificate in hand he's planning on a bootcamp class Kettlebell style. YIPPIE!! In addition to the 11 pound weight loss I've noticed that my shoulders, back have become more defined. And as I swing the bell I can feel my butt, core and arms all being actively engaged. It truly is a total body high intensity workout without any jumping, or running. Right now I'm swinging a 35 pound bell for the first 50 swings, then a 30 pound bell for the last 50 swings. But it's 5 rounds, so that means 250 swings at 35 pounds, and 250 swings at 30 pounds. Bam. Like a Boss. Have you ever swung kettlebells? If you swing kb's, or are interested in swinging, you can follow along on Twitter and Instagram with my hashtag #momswhoswing

16. July 2014 19:30
by jennifer


16. July 2014 19:30 by jennifer | 0 Comments

I'm glad you are home in Tampa, safe, and sound.   I know that what you have gone through has been life changing. It has to be. Don't let what happened to you be forgotten. Keep telling your story. Keep being authentic.  Keep standing up for what you believe in. Ideas+Action=Change. Be the change you wish to see in the world, Tariq. I'm proud to know you. Proud of the man you are becoming.