Friday, January 21, 2011
Right before Christmas, she had her first snow day of the year. That incident was a fairly paltry snowfall and the roads were clear by 10am, so the two of us spent the afternoon Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, it was also the scheduled day for her class Christmas party. The next day was only a half day and most of it was taken by one of their feast day Masses and was the last day before break, so the Christmas parties were just plain cancelled. Charlotte was so upset about that Christmas party.
We had another snow day last week, which was no big deal. It was a lot of snow, and there was a sledding play date and hot cocoa and all was well.
Yesterday's snowfall was a doozy. We had right about a foot of snow on our driveway. Possibly the most I've seen since moving to St. Louis 17 years ago. Clearly, there was no school. And once again, Jack Frost decided to pick on my daughter. Yesterday her class was scheduled to take a field trip to see a play of Junie B Jones. With school buses and everything. (Hey, for a private school kid who drives in a car every day, school buses are a big deal). Guess what? The field trip is cancelled. The play is only running through this weekend, and the mid-day showing was a special arrangement just for schools.
I did go ahead and buy a pair of tickets for tonight's showing (it's a small civic center theater, the prices are less than the movie theater, and Junie B Jones is one of her favorite series of books right now). Plus she got to play in the snow, watch movies, play on the Wii, and sleep in yesterday. So it's not all bad. But really, can we quit with the whole "snow day = missing out" thing already? Because some of us really look forward to an unexpected break from the regular routine, and having to deal with a pouty kid is no fun at all.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I'm not entirely sure I've done this right, or that I've improved matters (or that they needed improving).
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Monday, January 2nd was a school day for Charlotte. We made good time on the way home, but still only had about an hour to unload suitcases before the kids headed to bed.
All in all, it was a crazy exhausting vacation. It was long. It was expensive. And our travel dates were beyond awkward for us. I don't think we'll be doing that again for a good long time.
But, if or when we do go back that way (and likely, we will), we will have learned a few lessons:
1) Do not travel during times prone to ice and snow storms. Years ago I had vowed that we would never again vacation around Christmas unless we were specifically visiting family. I think this year's ditch experience has reinforced that point.
2) Attempt to choose hotel/motels with indoor pools. There is nothing like a swim to work the wiggles out of kids who have been forced to be sedentary all day. At least, I think that might have been the case, had we stayed in such a place :)
3) Deliberately plan for downtime during the trip. We had none. Our day-to-day lives are rush-rush-rush, and this vacation was more of the same. When arriving at work feels like a respite, that probably means the vacation was too busy. It was a fun busy. But it was busy.
4) Having a washer and dryer in the hotel/timeshare room was a godsend. We kept up on the laundry and only had a small pile of dirty clothes to handle once we got home. Which was great because we had no time to do laundry once we got home.
5) Do ask the kids for their opinions on activities. Some of the best family times and biggest smiles came from the rides and shows that the kids chose.
6) Thinking about a fitness bootcamp? Need to jumpstart your New Year's exercise goals? I highly suggest taking two small kids to Disney for 6 days. After all that walking and lifting, it was bye-bye to the Christmas fudge and hello super-buff biceps.
7) Provide for a recovery day before starting school. The past week has been murder on both kids' attitudes. On the bright side, their bedtime routines have been great. They've both been sacked out by 8:30 every night since we've been home.
8) The four of us have worked out a good car routine. I'm sure things will change again by the next big roadtrip, but this time we did seem to have a good mix of games, movies, coloring books, and snacks, and the kids were not terribly whiny during the drives.
9) Gretchen the Google Navigation GPS Goddess is awesome. She never led us wrong, had great updates on traffic, made it super easy to find upcoming restaurants and pitstop locations..wait, she almost never led us wrong. She was terribly upset with us leaving one of the parks one night and kept insisting that we take streets that had been closed down. But once we found a mutually agreeable street, she led us right back to the hotel.
10) Schedule an entire post-vacation day for sorting photos. Between my camera, my husband's camera, each child's camera, and a pair of camera phones, we took nearly 1300 photos. One thousand three hundred.
Lucky me I have a coupon code for a Shutterfly photo album.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, we returned to the Magic Kingdom to visit more of the areas that we'd skipped before. We checked out Tom Sawyer's island, and Charlotte and I nearly rode another roller coaster (except it had technical difficulties and was shut down shortly before our turn to ride).
Friday was New Years Eve, and the entire state of Florida, including us, went to Epcot. The temperature had finally warmed into the 70s and the sun was out and we were able to leave coats and heavy sweaters in the hotel. It was literally shoulder-to-shoulder people in the park.
Totally, completely insane. We ate one of our more expensive meals there at the restaurant in the Mexico area and rode the Three Amigos boat ride. Charlotte spent much of the day in search of the perfect souvenir, finally settling on a Chinese umbrella and a beaded bracelet. Trystan had chosen a huge sucker and some scented pens with fluffy koosh balls on the ends.
We wandered through various "countries" enjoying their displays and mini-movies. Towards the end of the evening, we met up with my husband's family and watched the fireworks show. Trystan, by the way, hates fireworks.And pyrotechnics in stage shows. That made for a lovely week. He actually slept through the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. He hid through most of Fantasmic. And he buried his head on my shoulder during Friday night's show at Epcot.
The Disney staff had been hard at work passing out hats and noisemakers and opening extra exit paths to handle the crowds. They handle crowds with an efficiency that could probably teach the armed forces a thing or two. But not only are crowds calmly and politely managed, but they decorate the temporary passageways with bushes and trees to make them pleasing to the eye. You can't help but feel handled by the time you have experienced Disney in all its Magic.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Tuesday was another early morning for us, for good reason. We had breakfast at the castle with Cinderella and the other princesses. Technically, we had breakfast with each other (our family of four, plus my husband's parents and his sister, brother-in-law, and their two children). The princesses do not eat. They flit from table to table for photo ops. And no I don't have copies of any of those photo ops yet. I think my sister in law had her camera at the ready because mine was buried under a pile of coats during the meal.
At Disney, neither a broken leaf nor a wilted flower nor a discarded scrap of paper goes unnoticed. There is an army of workers at the ready to clean up your trash almost before you are finished with it. Its scary, really.
Something that surprised me during our visit was the cost of food. I was (sort of) mentally prepared for the trapped-in-the-park shakedown on meal prices. But really, everything was very reasonable. The princess breakfast was not exactly Denny's, and we did tend to avoid sit-down dining (as much for our own sanity as for our checkbook--our kids do not handle sit-down dining with easily).
You are allowed to bring snacks and drinks into the parks, so every day we packed water bottles and an assortment of munchies (crackers, fruit, granola bars, etc). And we spend as much if not more money at Subway than we did for some of the meals we purchased. Kids meals usually ran around $5 and included veggie sticks and/or fruit and the adult meals around $7-12. Thank you Disney.
Tuesday marked Charlotte's first time on a roller coaster (sorry, no photos). She and I rode the Barnstormer, a short kid-friendly one in the smaller-kid section of town. Trystan would have been tall enough also, but he chickened out at the last minute and waited with my husband at the end of the line. Charlotte loved it so much that she burst into tears when it was done. She wanted to ride a second time, and I had to explain that she had to wait in the hour-long line a second time if she wanted to ride again. That's my girl.
Tuesday was a very long day for us. We arrived early and stayed until after the light parade and fireworks at 9:30 or so. By then we were all exhausted and frozen. And we still had three days of Disney left to go.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Monday was also cold, though not nearly as bad as Sunday had been. With the afternoon sunshine, we were even able to take off our coats briefly. We got a slightly later start than we had the day before. The four of us were exhausted from having a couple of late nights and early mornings in a row. It was nice to let the kids sleep until they were ready to stir rather than throw clothes on their snoring bodies. And we knew that we could come back to Epcot for a second day if we wanted to.
One of our big concerns with the trip had been Trystan and potty training. Through some combination of physical issues and stubborn-three-year-old issues, he is about 80-98% potty trained. 98% when he is eating well and sticking to a schedule and not sick and not testing every boundary. 80% the rest of the time. We knew from our other family trip that travel is especially hard on the kid with so much time spent sitting still in the car, and eating restaurant food, and not being near to a restroom at exactly the right time every day. (If this is too much information, feel free to skim down past the poop paragraphs). My husband reports that most of the men's rooms in Disney had child-sized urinals, so Trystan enjoyed the opportunity to practice his standing techniques. Of course, standing is not sitting, and it's the sitting activities that trip Trystan up.
I can probably sum the week's potty experience up as not great. We have dealt with worse, but his system got all out of whack and by the end of the week he was almost exclusively back in pull-ups because there are just so many changes of clothes we can carry around in a given day (and even if you double-bag it, poopy underwear smells really bad). Did I mention that our room had a washer/dryer? We used it. Nightly.
One of the funnier parts of the day had to do with Trystan and pottying but not with poopy underwear. After one of the rides, we asked the kids if they needed to take a potty break. I guess Trystan thought we meant *right here, right now*, because he pulled down his pants and peed on a bush. Bad parent that I am, instead of reprimanding the kid I laughed. And posted it to Facebook.
That night, we had an extremely cold dinner at one of the Japanese restaurants where Charlotte eagerly tried her first sushi. We actually ate on the patio because there was no room inside. It was a little surreal eating in 30 degree cold with our gloves on, surrounded by paper lanterns and Japanese style gardens, with Christmas choral music playing in the background. It turned out we were really close to the big Candelight Dinner Show.
After dinner, we wandered through some of the shops and then stopped at the big silver ball for one last ride. On the way out, you pass through an arcade-like area with video driving games. The game is pretty fixed, you pretty much win every time you play as there is almost no driver input. And yet, Trystan and my husband managed to break their game. Trystan found the one spot in the game where he could flip his car over, which left the game completely confused about what to do next.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Apparently Orlandons and other assorted visitors decided that Boxing Day would be better celebrated indoors. Where the temperature was above freezing the entire day and not just for a few hours in the afternoon.
It was cold. Very cold. And windy. And a little rainy.
On the bright side, there were no crowds. All day we were able to walk right up to rides and attractions. And walk, we did. We haven't used a stroller for Trystan in well over a year and didn't even pack our one remaining (mostly broken and probably covered in cobwebs) umbrella stroller. My husband and I are evil, evil parents who made our children walk. Helped them stay warm :)
We had fun, despite the cold. We all got to try out our cameras on the safari ride, and caught the Finding Nemo and Lion King shows. Trystan went to town taking photos in both shows though his little camera doesn't handle low-light situations that well. We had playtime in the Dinosaur area where there was a huge (and relatively well-contained) play area with slides and stairs and rope ladders and a giant sandbox. After a long (and warm) lunch in the Rainforest Café, we rode the train.
In the conservation area, our kids got their first close-up view of some of the Disney characters. Pocahontas, Jiminy Cricket, and Rafiki were all there. Charlotte and I nearly ran over Pocahontas in fact. But the kids were too scared to meet any of them in person. I'm not sure I blame them--Pocahontas is one of the few Disney movies we don't own, and man-sized crickets and monkeys are kind of freaky.
Towards the end of the day, Charlotte and I rode Dinosaur the Ride. In retrospect, that was not a good idea. But, though I think I have ridden it before (on my one trip to Disney nearly 20 years ago), I didn't remember it at all until we were actually on the ride. The motion wasn't a problem so much as the emotion. There were too many scary dinosaurs and an asteroid and she may not forgive me for that for a few years. And it freaked her out for half the week--she kept her face hidden on a little mermaid ride in Epcot the next day, even though cartoon fish are very far from scary.
By the time we left, Trystan did not even make it out of the parking lot before falling sound asleep. I call that a successful day.
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Everyone arrived safely and I was thrilled to find that our timeshare rental had a washer/dryer in the unit. Trystan had one potty accident on the way as he was walking into a gas station bathroom and keeping messy underwear in plastic bags is yucky, to say the least. I, the over-packer, had packed laundry detergent (a nifty All-in-one product that is detergent+ fabric softener + dryersheet all in one thick fuzzy sheet that would not spill in the car). And with our fridge stocked with the milk and food we'd brought from home, we were set for breakfast the next morning.
By 11PM on Christmas night, we were snug in our beds.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
We were completely unharmed. People, vehicle, not a scratch on anything. But despite 4 wheel drive and several attempts at pushing the car (which freaked me out btw, I was terrified of running over my husband on the side of the road), we gave up. The rear passenger side tire was firmly entrenched in the mud beneath the snow. We were stuck.
My husband called a tow truck. I practiced deep breathing techniques that I'd thought I'd forgotten after my last attempt at childbirth 3.5 years ago. We had plenty of gas, snacks, and a variety of electronic devices to keep us occupied. The kids watched a movie. I mitigated my minor panic attack by posting photos of the ditch to Facebook. I love my smartphone.
The last photo was taken from inside the car as the tow truck arrived. Note the angle of the dashboard versus the angle of the horizon. Charlotte had a few complaints about being squished to one side of her seat for all that time.
We were theoretically traveling with my husband's parents and his sister's family. The six of them (four adults and two children) were driving together in my father-in-law's van, and had started the morning drive around the same time but 45 minutes farther east of us. They saw only a fraction of the snow and almost none of the freezing rain that followed us all morning, and arrived at our Atlanta-area hotel 3 hours or more before we did. They knew about our ditch adventure and had offered to turn around and help us, but that might well have ended with two vehicles stuck in the mud. We envied their phone reports of clear roads ahead that never cleared for us.
We had opened presents at home the day before we left, but our kids were still expecting a visit from Santa Claus. Their grandmother took them outside to sprinkle Reindeer Feed around in the grass, and we set the kids stockings out next to their (by then sound-asleep) cousins' stockings in Grandma and Grandpa's room, and we all hit the sack, completely exhausted and with numb rear ends.
P.S. In case you're wondering whether this saga gets better, it does. We did not spend the entire week in ditches, I swear :)
Monday, January 03, 2011
Spending the Christmas/New Year's week in Disney World was...nuts. Generally good, but nuts all the same.
Today, Charlotte has school but my husband and I are still off work, so today is aftermath day. Unpacking. Doing laundry. Sorting the mess left behind in the house from Christmas. Grocery shopping. Taking the first stab at managing the hundreds (if not thousands) of photos taken on a total of 4 cameras plus 2 smartphones over the trip.
Yes, 6 picture-taking devices for 4 people. (Did I say nuts?) Santa brought each of our kids an age-appropriate camera. Trystan's is a Crayola one with kid-sized handles and big, easy buttons. Charlotte's is a low-end Vivitar 5mp camera. My husband and I already owned two--my fairly simple Olympic one and his fancy-but-older Canon with the extra lenses and too many settings (too many in my opinion...which is why I have a simple one).
This morning, we also took the first peek at the credit card bill. Yowza. It wasn't unexpected, but the number is still cringe-worthy to me. I suppose it could have been worse. We drove to Orlando (and our Hybrid Highlander gets darned good gas mileage for a heavily loaded SUV driving through mountains), so that shaved some off the potential bottom line. And we used a timeshare instead of staying at Disney. In theory that is cheaper (that's a whole 'nother discussion, though). We tried to buy groceries and packed snacks so we didn't have to buy everything in the parks, which also helped a lot. And the food in the parks was surprisingly reasonably priced (we spent more at some fast-food joints on the road).
Pictures will likely follow, assuming I can boil the mess of digital files down to a few favorites. And I am going to attempt to journal the trip here for our family's future reference. So if you start seeing posts dated last year, don't worry. The blog's not broken. :)
For now, back to the laundry.
Saturday, January 01, 2011
I don't need to lose weight. Man is it nice to be able to say that for once in my life. But I do need a goal. Minimum 2x a week of good exercise. Gym-worthy, hour-long exercise. Not just my 10-minute stroll around the parking lot at work. I've done step classes for years, but recently become rather infatuated with Zumba. And our Y just switched Yoga and Tai Chi to be free for members, so I might try one or both of those. Or try running a little, like I did last summer. A very little. (very, very little).
I have many financial goals, the vast majority of which do not bear posting to the web :)
So, I will focus on one resolution I am comfortable mentioning in front of the eWorld. Book-buying. I own way too many books. And an ereader. I'm thinking I should reconcile these two data points. Maybe next year I will try to buy 75% of all reading material in electronic format.
I can't make it 100% because I'm sure there are exceptions that must be in hardcopy, like software books for the day job where my ereader is not welcome (ironic, I know). And though I'm tempted to buy mostly e-books for Charlotte to read, I would have to buy her an ereader to go with them...maybe when the prices drop again :)
So many options, so few days off work (well, days off work without busy children underfoot to prevent us from actually accomplishing anything). I shall concentrate on one single problem area of our house: The basement needs gutting.
Not the walls, the junk. Baby toys, a mish-mash of (working but unconnected) a/v equipment, enough Christmas doodads to stock my own boutique. And no shelving.
We must buy shelves, and then put the junk on them in some systematic fasion. Ideally, throwing away large quantities of the junk in the process (my husband is probably giving me the evil eye on this one, sure that I'm thinking of the boxes of...stuff...that he hasn't touched in 11 years....)
Ah, the writing goals. I have a separate blog where I jabber about my writing so that this blog stays more family related. I will probably have a goal post up there at some point soon.
One idea I'm kicking around is to combine that blog and this one. Or to take that blog down altogether and move its contents to the WordPress site on the domain where I get my writing-related email. (y
Yes, I have a website. And its really really boring and exceedingly sparse since, you know, I haven't published anything therefore have no real reason to advertise my as-yet-non-existent writing business).
I will state one goal for the year. To publish something :) Of course, unless I self-publish that goal is like some of my day-job ones: it is 98% out of my control but it makes the managers happy to have it written down.