Monthly Archives: March 2012

Words Taste Good. I Ate A Few.

Mickeyear

We’re back. Mouse ears in tow and meal card balanced at zero. I am also prepared to chow down on a few of my words from the pre-Disney blog (below). Particularly the part about Disney being just for the kids, an energy drain (your savings account may beg to differ) and a cuckoo farm in general. Don’t get me wrong, it is a little bit of all of those things with a whole lot of magic woven into the place. No, my drink did not get spiked with pixie dust (or maybe it did?). Bottom line. I am still tired from Disney World. I was bone tired after one day. We stayed for five such days and never stopped walking unless it was to sit on the toilet or sleep. I swear I may have done both of those at the same time on the next to last day. My feet still hurt like I would imagine a true athlete’s might after a training session with mean girl from Biggest Loser. My kids absolutely loved it aside from the debacle called Turner riding Space Mountain the very first night. That did not go very well. When Matt reached forward through the headrest to make sure that he was still in his capsule seat at the end, he had to dig arms deep to find him hunkered down near the floorboard. We are talking about prying fingernails from the foam shoulder harness afterward. Rookie mistake for sure. 

So after all of the misconceptions have been shaken out of the magic carpet and the genie bottle has been rubbed to sleep, here are a few hard but fun won truths on the Disney matter:

Some Tips From A Scared Novice:

  • Beware thinking that you’re safe from getting drenched just because the weather report is crystal clear. You say you’re steering clear of Blizzard Beach? You are still not safe, unless you get kicks out of being showered with amoeba-soaked water. Bring one of those Dollar Store ponchos that can be wadded into a cinch bag afterward. You will want it for Kali Rapids at Animal Kingdom in particular. Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom can easily live up to its name if you are sitting in a lucky spot. Because let me tell you that traipsing around an amusemark in wet undergarments is for the birds and simply put not good for anyone’s health.
  • Get set for the mouse ear phenomena sink in. You will start to see mouse ears in the oddest of places. For example, one morning as I stared up at the shower head, I noted that its innards were literally patterned with them. You will see them in the clouds…. in the clump of toilet paper that your kid forgot to flush, and most certainly your pancakes will arrive on a plate with ears. The pancakes too- they will have ears.
  • I don’t smoke anymore which is a good thing on so many levels. For those who do or who are driven to do so by the mayhem and throngs of crowds, there are patches of concrete where you can puff away in each park. Be prepared for the stinkeye if you partake. You will get the same glare that you might if you exhaled an entire Camel into the face of an Olympian before a sprint trial. The reason that I bring up smoking is because many former smokers are now gum-chewers. Gum smacking warrants its own stinkeye at times BUT if you plan to have your Juicy Fruit, Hubba Bubba, or Double Bubble fix, you will need to bring your own. They DO NOT sell it anywhere in the park. Don’t even bother looking. And don’t think that you can bribe the last piece off of the easy looking target either because they don’t even sell it at the Orlando International Airport. For real. I checked on the way out because it helps my kids pressurize their ears on the plane. Walt and Co. must have called the airport and offered them a chunk of change for the embargo in order to keep their park sticky gum-free. It works. The parks are pristine. No sooner than your napkin floats off of our funnel cake and a smiling employee appears out of nowhere to practically fetch it in their teeth and alley-oop to the shiny trashcan…which may or may not be ear-shaped. 
  • Autograph Book. Do NOT leave home without it. If your kid gets caught in a a picture with Cinderella and you come up empty handed, you have failed. Have your child make or save for an autograph book before the trip. Watch what they pick for show and tell after the trip. Just trust me on this. It bears no more explaining that you would need if you were backstage with your own Höfner and Sir Paul McCartney asked you for a pen.
  • Don’t splurge on the hotel. Splurge on the meal plan. When I say you will only be at your hotel to sleep, I am being truthful. The meal plan was a lifesaver and the savings (after seeing the regular prices without the meal card) were borderline absurd. I cannot imagine how many $25 burgers we would’ve consumed before I lost my head and tried to make a duck burger of Donald. Probably two. 
  • If you feel like happy hour has become imperative and yet you don’t actually drink anymore (like me), then I kid you not- the Jungle Juice from Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom is almost worth the flight itself. Guava, Passion Fruit and Orange Juice. Safe to try at home. 
  • If you think that your kids are too old for strollers but too big to carry, bring a stroller anyway. Again, trust me here. Neither of my kids cared that they were among riding a double buggie the last day when we were trying to catch the last events. You know how the old saying goes. Choose your battle. Well, carrying a 6-year-old is not a mountain I’m willing to die on. Today, anyway.
  • The FAST PASS dealio. This is BIG. That is why it I am writing in ALL CAPS. That is why I am SCREAMING right now. These fast passes (unbeknownst to me) don’t cost a thing. Essentially, you are allowing a kiosk to spit out a ride ticket that tells you when to come back for the FAST PASS entry that will get you on a ride in just 8-10 minutes. As opposed to 70 minutes. I am not exaggerating. Business was slow while we were there according to many sources. The park was far from capacity despite the spring breakers. Still, the most popular rides such as Soarin’ (Epcot) and Rock n’ Roller Coaster (Hollywood Studios) will almost always have an hour long wait even on the sabbath at 10 pm. Fast passes are a gift. Use them. Know this though. You can only hold one Fast Pass at a time. Meaning, until you use your last Fast Pass, you are SOL on getting another. So don’t get your wet drawers in a wad trying to run from spot to spot stacking up your Fast Passes for the day. Apparently, it used to work that way. Times, they have a-changed. 
  • The Castle Fireworks: Tinkerbell rides the most badass zipline I have ever seen from the top of the castle over the Magic Kingdom at fireworks time. I actually envied her job for a full minute in time. Me, the cynic…wanted to BE Tinkerbell.If you want to watch her fly right above you, meander to the right side of the park and stand anywhere in the 4 o’clock line of vision in front of the castle. It was one of those accidental freebies that we scored. Those are a grand thing in and of themselves. 
  • Fish n’ Chips in Ireland and Epcot. Right after you stop into the pub in the UK. Your spouse will need and deserve that detour. The crepes in France were lame. The pretzels in Germany were not. The chocolate in the German gift shop passed the Matt Bevins test. That’s a little like a Rick Steve’s endorsement.
  • The Hall Of Presidents will not have a long line. Let this not deter you from darting inside. It is wonderful in a goosebumpy, patriotic way. Or maybe I just liked sitting still in the air-conditioned dark theatre for 15 minutes.
  • Do not plan to return the day before you report to work or the real world. I know that you are a big girl or big boy. I am sure that you think that you can handle it. You are certainly welcome to try it that way. Let me know how that goes.

Since too much advice can make a Disney goer spin, the crazy train will stop here. I understand a bit more about why this place is a rite of passage. I understand that I will never forget the look on my daughter’s face when she saw Cinderella’s castle for the first time. I understand that I will see Mouse Ears in clouds and gravy and burning fireplace logs for months to come. I am ok with that. I will even go back again one day…with my grandkids. 

Mickey_mouse_ears
Liv_tj_2012

* Breakfast with Mickey and Friends.

    Destination Dizzle

    Mickey

    Act I.

    There is a serious cultural phenomena around here (everywhere on US soil and perhaps beyond) that besets all new parents like being caught in a slow-motion funnel of 5 o’clock traffic over a very pricey toll bridge. A toll bridge that your Garmin failed to mention when you signed up for the adventure called parenthood. And yet there we ALL are…held gently but firmly in its viselike grip from the very moment that your ultrasound confirms impending parenthood. It is called Disney. As in Disney World.

    Latitude: 28.4186489° Longitude: -81.5813242° for novices such as myself.

    Let it be known that I do love travel. I do love kids. I do like to have good time. I do enjoy my crazy family. Yet, gradually but not so subtly after I turned 30 (that would be eight years ago), I became besieged by a loathing of crowded places and long lines. I know what you’re thinking. You can buy a FAST PASS! Well, the only way to even know that a FAST PASS exists is to do your homework- not a prerequisite that I usually associate with vacation…aka relaxation. Vacation is synonymous with relaxation still, right? I can usually kick the crowd paranoia for the purposes of a good concert because great music makes us forget our troubles and shelve our quirks (well, some of us). But I am a little concerned that I am going to wreck my children’s ONE and ONLY Disney experience with my own neuroses next week. 

    My own parents succumbed to the Disney thing twice actually. Once for each kid. I loved Disney as a child. Still have my autograph book in safe, attic keeping. Upon finding it each time, I always wonder the same thing: Is the Mickey who signed mine still alive and kicking after living in that suit for several years?

    Never, ever has another childhood rite of passage played such guilt into the hearts and souls of American parents. Princesses-in-training feel downright deprived and tiara-less without a trip to Disney. The massive, ongoing marketing campaign penetrates even the TV-less homes. You cannot and will not escape it. Eventually, you may even come to suspect that you are somehow depriving your child, too, by not taking them. Suddenly, you will wake up and wonder have I forgotten to dish out a multi-vitamin to counterbalance the McNuggets for this many years? Have I almost let my kids get too old to feel the magic? Other children will aid Disney’s cause in droves as well. Armies of them. Friends of my own kids have actually gasped with their hands over their mouths. You mean you’ve never been to Disney World? It plays out in the same manner and tone as Your parents sent you to your room without dinner for a week? Wow. Talk about turning up the heat.

    Basically, I cowered when confronted with the dozens of books published on how to most efficiently navigate the place where uttering the very word magical ignites a stardust extravaganza drizzle in the sky. The travel books and websites really overwhelmed me. Particularly, the websites made my knees knock. Things like Note the shortcut through the Magic Kingdom gift shop when the doors open. I had to slam the book, exhale and grab my US Weekly immediately. Stopped just short of a smoking relapse. What if I don’t WANT to be at the park when it opens because I am still enjoying my eggs benedict room-service?

    Here we go, folks. We are doing it. Courtesy of a brave set of grandparents, we leave on Sunday. In order to debunk or confirm the basic and outlandish Disney myths, I am doing a before and after guesstimation on how to successfully navigate the terrain right here on my little blog. I have done zero preparation compared to my other comrades heading over this toll bridge for spring break. Based on what I know so far, this is what I believe I will need:

    • Ways to curse in other languages. 
    • A spray bottle with a pressure-wash setting. I must preserve my personal space in these lines at all costs.
    • Some Pavlovian way to mini-shock my kids when they wander towards the gift shops bursting at the seams with $80 stuffed animals. 
    • The newly minted silencing gun: It’s real. Check out the story on Yahoo this week. The gun operates based on the concept of delayed auditory feedback. An attached microphone picks up the sound being made by the target and plays it back 0.2. seconds later. The effect is incredibly confusing to the human brain, making it all but impossible to talk or hold a conversation. The device doesn’t cause the person it’s being used on any physical harm- it only messes with their head. 
      Thesilencegun
    • Enough cash to bribe one of the characters (Pluto, Daisy Duck, etc.) to be just creepy enough that one of my kid’s want to go back to the hotel for a swimming respite.
    • Energy Drinks

    Baby

    Crewbears

    Above: Kids from our hood (left to right): Kendall, Sydney, Ellie, and Olivia

    If there is anything that I am leaving out, feel free to tell me…..AFTER next week. Be back soon with Act II: The Truth Of The Matter. Off to enjoy the journey and maybe, just maybe, the destination too.

    P.S. Olivia would like to know if any places offer pedicures in the park? Her mom’s bathroom breaks have been been known to end in places such as this for some reason? 

    Forizzle, SB

    Autographs

    Note: At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I would like to thank all of my sweet parents (all of them) for offering us the chance to travel with them on such adventures as these. They all count in the memory-making department.

    Bookapalooza

    It’s no secret by now that I like books. Sometimes holding them just as much as reading them. There are always one or two untouched ones in my bag. Right now, there is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (yeah, I whip that one out in line at Baskin-Robbins) and 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny by Phillip Done (ok, this one is touched and very well-loved with coffee and laughing tear stains) … in case you were wondering.

    My oversized purse loaded down with books has been a superb, safe way to wean myself off of the diaper bag once I discovered that it’s existence was no longer warranted. Something to weight down the non-negotiable accessory of a designer bag with ripped yoga pants. Something to trick my easily swayed mind into believing those snot-sucking nasal aspirators, wet wipes and adult meds were still in there. Something to be-still-the-baby-itch. 

    Suffice it to say that when I worked at my children’s Scholastic Book Fair for a few mornings last week, my husband made me leave the wallet at home. Fortunately, the media specialist was kind enough to let me start a wish pile on the foldout table with the teacher’s own picks. So for two days, when I wasn’t ringing up kid purchases and fetching Justin Bieber posters with the leftover change, I was loitering. Wandering aimlessly through rows of children’s books- touching nearly every single one and judging plenty by their cover. I know- practice what you preach but let’s face it….Monster High? I would like to have a word with the publising house that signed them and their whole line of absurd merchandise.

    I have decided that today, I will bail on the more emotional blog that I have saved as a draft for next week in order to share with you parents a few of the glorious Book Fair finds – some new, some old. It may somehow make my own bill from the end of the week more legit? There are just four picks here. Quality over quantity. Amen to that.

    Note: I am a full-blown sucker for good lit for boys because, frankly, there is a shortage of high quality books in the world for some of our rambunctious little gents. So, if my picks seem XY heavy, then steal the ideas for your tomboy’s Easter basket or good report card reward. They will dig them too. Bet you a muddy footprint on your newly shampooed carpet.

    Batsattheballgame

    Bats At The Ballgame somehow managed to make me more excited about spring training than I already am. My grandpa would have LOVED this one. He used to teach me how to make the bobwhite calls when he wasn’t beating me in a game of Horse and teaching me the rules of hoops and making sure that I didn’t miss one Ozzie Smith standing backflip at shortstop as a Cardinals fan. This one gives the aviary world credit where credit is due. The fact that these bats rule the field when the last fan has left the building is too much fun to disbelieve. The noctural dudes are really living it up on their field of dreams. Big thumbs up for the story and illustrations. Baseball + bats. What more could you ask for?

    Outsideyourwindow

    Outside Your Window: A First Book Of Nature

     Believe me. It’s worth the hardback price on this one. This may very well solve a case of couch potatodom. The illustrations are out of this world and if this doesn’t make you want to get outside and explore, then see your doctor.

     

    Outofmymind

    Out Of My Mind

    I am halfway through this book right now. I feel completely confident about recommending it despite the fact that I haven’t even finished it myself. I will have my nose in it as soon as I plop myself and my faux diaper bag down at the next playground chaperoning endeavor. Yes, I can do both effectively at the same time. It now comes as no surprise to me that Sharon Draper is a multiple Coretta Scott King Award- winner.

    Description: Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory. She can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom- the very classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged since she cannot tell them otherwise. Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it- somehow. (Source: Amazon)

    Truckeryrhymes

    Truckery Rhymes

    It’s the Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales guy at it again! I never (ever, sorry husband) walk by a Jon Scieszka (pronounced SHEH-SKAH) book without picking it up. He consistently cranks out Caldecott worthy books and he is also really darn funny. And funny is good when you are teaching a kid to love reading. Not to mention he teams with David Shannon on this one. That’s right, David Shannon of the No, David! series. Now if that isn’t a duet between the book covers. Pop goes the Diesel, alright.

    While we are on the topic of Mr. Scieszka, I have found his web-based literacy program for boys to be a fun place to hang out when you are stumped on getting your little guys (your own or in the classroom) to ditch the Wii, tree climbing or Legos for an occasional book in the shade of climbing tree. Check it out below. 

    http://www.guysread.com/

    There are three kinds of people. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

    -Will Rogers-

    P.S. Gotta run to work. Will edit the typos later. Going public, not perfect.

    xo, SB