Wednesday, September 30, 2009


"Hey Liam, it's picture day at school next week. Show me how you are going to smile for your picture!"

(It's a busy week this week (and next, too, for that matter)... trying to wrap up a big project at work. Hope to be back with more soon.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On bodily fluids. And solids.

Last night, Liam came home from Cindy’s and fell asleep on the couch. He slept for two hours – straight through dinner – until I finally woke him up and coaxed him to eat something. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have. It was less than an hour later that I was sprayed with the remains of that same food when he vomited all over his bed as I tucked him in.

Just when I think I am making headway in getting away from my kids’ bodily fluids, something like this happens to remind me that really… I’m not. I’m still needed, bucket and mop in hand, washing machine at the ready, to fix things.

(When we were at Thomas’ birthday party on Sunday, Chad escorted Mallory to the bathroom. She came flying back down the stairs, running her mouth before she had even picked me out of the crowd and ascertained her audience: “Hey guys! Guys! I did a poopie!” So long as these fluids… and solids… are of consequence to them, I guess they will still have to be of consequence to us!)

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm glad that we no longer have a stinky old diaper pail, but...

On Saturday night - or rather, around 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning - I was woken by Mallory calling for me. "Mommy! Moooooooooooommy!" When I finally dragged my bleary self to her bedside she said, "I need to do a pee." I considered this, and considered the hour, for a moment before asking, "Do you think you could just pee in your diaper, and I will change you in the morning?" She didn't miss a beat. "No, I don't think so."

Sigh... this toilet training thing has a downside, after all.(Photos from Thomas' 1st birthday party, yesterday. The rest are on my Flickr - link in the sidebar.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Disney Day 4: The Magic Kingdom

I was excited from Day 1 of our trip - excited just to get away. But what I was *really* looking forward to was the Magic Kingdom. I mean, really, that is the heart of Disney. That's where Cinderella's castle is, and the majority of the stuff that is really aimed toward very young children like ours. The other parks are all fine and well but this one is the centre of it all. I was really expecting this one to bowl the kids over.

So we got up bright and early on our first Magic Kingdom day and got to the park as early as possible. We had breakfast reservations at the Crystal Palace right when they opened, an hour before the park itself opened. We got through the gate on the basis of the breakfast reservation and Main Street was pretty empty as we headed for the restaurant. As I had hoped, there were ooohs and aaaahs over the view of Cinderella's castle at the end of Main Street. We were off to a good start.The breakfast was another good one. It took all the restraint I could muster not to clear the place out of their puffed french toast. The kids were so excited to meet the Pooh characters here. It seems like forever ago now, but Liam went through a long phase when he watched The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh over and over and over again. He did question why Tigger wasn't bouncing. (The poor cast member in the Tigger costume - I'll bet he gets that question a lot!)We wrapped up breakfast right as rope drop was happening. We had a plan of attack that we intended to follow, one that would get us through the attractions with the longest lines at optimal times. And we intended to spend most of our time in Fantasyland. (Little did I know that, by the time our trip ended, we would spend nearly all of our time in Fantasyland. We sped through Tomorrowland and Frontierland a couple of times on our way back and forth between Fantasyland and Adventureland. There is so much we never even got around to doing... I guess another trip will be in order someday. :) )

Believe it or not, one of the worst lines in all of Fantasyland is Dumbo. And Mallory loves Dumbo. So that was our first stop. The wait was not bad, maybe 10 minutes. At peak times, it's upward of an hour. All for the sake of spending two minutes spinning around in an elephant.Then we did the Pooh ride, which the kids quite liked, but I don't think Chad has ever really gotten over the fact that this used to be his childhood favourite, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, that was torn down and re-themed several years ago.By that time, we saw the line that had formed at Ariel's Grotto to meet the mermaid. This was the only place you could see her with her fins, and we thought Mallory would really enjoy it. So we got in line. This was the worst - it was a 20 minute wait, just to meet a character. That was when I really appreciated the fact that we were doing so many character meals, where they come around the tables to meet you, rather than you lining up to see them! There was a small splash pad the kids could play on while we waited, but for Chad and me, it was pretty mind-numbing. Oh well - a cute picture in the end made it all worthwhile. And Mallory still remembers that Ariel loved her red hair and told her that her ponytail tickled her.Unfortunately... this is when our trip fell apart. Remember that colouring book from the airplane? Well, by this time it was shortly after 10 a.m. We'd been in the park for an hour since rope drop. And Liam decided that he wanted to go back to the hotel - now - to colour. And when we said we were staying in the park, he threw a fit.

In his defense, I think he had grown bored while waiting for Ariel, and it was pretty stinking hot outside, and the lure of the pool at the hotel was great. Still, this was when I lost my cool with him, very much a la Chevy Chase at the end of Vacation when he takes the Wally World employee hostage at gunpoint. I looked him square in the eye and told him that he was in the happiest place on earth and that there were kids who would kill to be in his very position and that there was NO WAY I was leaving to go back to the hotel to do something he could do 365 days of the year at home.

Or... as Clark W. Griswold would say... "We're all gonna have so much f***ing fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles. You'll be whistling 'Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah' out of your assholes!"

It took a while to calm him down, but after promising him that we would go back to the hotel after lunch for a rest and some colouring time and a swim, he pulled it together. So we went on to ride Peter Pan and It's A Small World and the carousel. And the kids had a heap of fun running around the Winnie the Pooh playground. (Unfortunately, it's slated for demolition. More on that later.)After all that running in the heat, they both needed some kind of pick-me-up. This was when Mallory made a complete mess of herself and I was doing a Kate Gosselin impersonation, freaking out over every drip. Then I ran out of wipes, and I had to let the drips fall where they may. A few more rides, including the teacups!... love this one. We could all squish into a cup together. Zero line at this ride, which surprised me, since it's one of the classics...And eventually we made our way to The Plaza for lunch. Good sandwiches and Liam obviously really enjoyed his dessert... a "Mickeylodeon".By this time it was after lunch, the kids were tired, and we had to make good on the promise to let Liam go do some colouring before his head imploded. We stopped at The Chapeau on the way out of the park to check out the make-your-own mouse ears. I had visions of our kids wearing the classic black (for Liam) and pink (for Mal) caps with their names embroidered on the back in that cute script font. Unfortunately, they had other ideas. Liam wanted a gold lame cap with lime green, rhinestone-crusted ears. I kid you not. Thankfully we talked him out of that. Nobody was in a mood to actually get in line and have the ears made on this day, so we put off the ear purchase for another day. At that time both kids went for pre-made ears. Liam chose Lightning McQueen and Mallory wanted pink princess ears. Liam surprised me by wearing them for almost the entire remainder of the trip. Mallory was bribed with a Mickey-shaped ice cream bar to put them on once for some photos. I don't think she has touched them since.Looking up Main St as we exited the park. It was a beautiful day. I was sad to leave. The smell of waffle cones and fudge was wafting through the air, there was a barbershop quartet singing, and my morning in the Magic Kingdom had not played out exactly as I'd hoped. Luckily we had one more day in this park to make up for it. Could this vacation be saved???Both kids were zonked on the bus going back to the resort... no surprise there. (I enjoyed our resort and the buses were fine. But I would *love* to stay at a monorail resort one day!!)That afternoon, we swam and yes, Liam got his colouring fix. Then we came back to the Magic Kingdom that night. We headed into Adventureland for a bit and then went to 1900 Park Fare for the Cinderella character dinner. Cinderella and the prince were fine, but my favourites were the stepsisters. They were really hilarious. Note the change of clothes that Mallory required after her Itzakadoozie incident. (I have no idea what is going on with her shorts leg. She looks half naked here!)It was late by the time we got back to our hotel room but that didn't stop me from heading out to see the shuttle launch a couple of hours later. It turned out to be the last night launch of the shuttle program. I don't know why the end of the program makes me sad, but it does. I am very thankful that the stars aligned and that I got to see one go up before they are gone.

Next up: Day 5 - Epcot...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Switching gears

Lately, with school and the start up of swimming and skating lessons again, it seems like it's been all about Liam. It hasn't, of course. Mallory is still trucking along, doing her own thing, and (mostly) being a true joy. Last night, Chad took Liam to skating and I got to sit down alone with Mallory for an hour. I asked her what she wanted to do. Go outside? Go for a bike ride? She wanted to do her "most favourite thing", she said. She wanted to blow bubbles. So we went outside and did just that. I blew and she laughed like crazy and chased them all over the lawn. Sometimes I think we get caught up with what is going on with Liam, and she gets pulled along for the ride. It's nice sometimes to remember that she is only 2, and is still interested in simpler things.

She is also extremely cooperative when it comes to the camera. I asked if I could take a few pictures when we were done blowing bubbles, and she immediately said, "Yes. Cheeeese!" and started striking poses. With Liam, I am lucky to get him looking at the camera at all. With Mallory, I have to work on getting her to tone down the posing because it is so over the top! Thank goodness that I got myself a little model. It makes my greedy old photographer's heart happy.

I get comments all the time now saying how much she looks like me. I take those as a compliment. Who wouldn't, when being compared to an adorable face like this?I was on the phone with my mom last night, and Mallory started harassing me. "I want to talk! I want to say hi to grandma!" I passed the phone to her. My mom said, "What did you do today, Mallory?" and Mallory said, "I did a big poopie on the toilet!" I'm not sure that should have been shared as the highlight of her day, but I am still proud of her. She has been doing such a good job in her new princess panties. She always tells us when she has to go and a few times, she has even done the deed by herself and just calls me in afterwards to show me. She is almost always waking up with a dry diaper. Last night she actually woke up after she was in bed for the night, and told me she had to pee. I took off her diaper and sat her on the toilet. She peed and then went back to bed, and woke up dry again today. We put the stinky old diaper pail out at the curb this morning. Good riddance!!Sure, she can be aggravating at times. She is very slow to make a decision. She has five dolls that are her mainstays: her Best Baby (her favourite), her Love Baby (the dark skinned doll - no idea how she came up with this name!), her Pointy Baby (who wears a peaked hat), Addison (her Cabbage Patch doll) and the Laughing Baby. She likes to take these dolls everywhere with her and it takes her forever to decide who comes and who stays home when she is only allowed one at a time. She and Liam can fight a lot when left unsupervised, and while I know Liam sometimes provokes her, she also has a very fake cry she uses to try to get him into trouble. The newest form of her harassment is directed at me: she is a backseat driver now. Whenever I turn right on a red light, there she is, shrieking in the back seat. "Don't go mommy! The light is red!" It's actually pretty funny. She also has some of her nouns mixed up and she often tells me, "Mommy, you are my daughter." I say no, you are MY daughter, and she nods and says, "You are my daughter, too!"

All in all... she is pretty wonderful. And I am enjoying her so, so much.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Last night I went to pick Liam up from school, and when I got there I was delivered two swift kicks. Number one: Liam had lost his coat. It wasn't hanging on the rack at the After program and the supervisor swore she had never seen it. We went down to his classroom, got a janitor to unlock the door, checked there - nothing. Back to After - nothing. Finally we headed out of the school. As we did so we happened to pass the Lost and Found and bingo - there it was, sitting on top. Thank goodness!

Before his coat had been recovered though, I found a letter from the principal in his backpack while I was digging around looking for the coat. Apparently someone in Liam's class has lice, so this was a heads up to warn us to start checking Liam on a regular basis. I have friends whose kids have been in the school system for a while and there have been times I've been on the phone with them and they have nearly been in tears because someone has come home with lice, AGAIN, picking it up again from someone in class and it's so darn hard to get rid of. So I knew this kind of thing happened. And I expected that sooner or later, Liam would lose something. But, come on, it's ONLY the third week of school. Please, let's ease into this gently!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Feeling better

When all was said and done, we had a successful "Meet the Teacher" (Without Actually Meeting Her) night at school last week. We knew Liam's teacher would not be there, but the school sent home a nice letter encouraging us to come anyway. We talked it up to Liam and told him how excited we were for him to show us around his classroom. And after dinner, we walked over to the school as a family just as the doors opened.

The school was already packed inside, and even though we went in the big kids' door and down a hallway crowded with 6th-8th graders and their families, Liam was strutting ahead of us like he owned the place. He expertly navigated his way to the opposite end of the school, where his classroom is. And there we found... the door to his classroom locked, and the lights out.

I was hopping mad. I knew the teacher wasn't going to be there, but why on earth would the school send home a letter telling us to come anyway, if there wouldn't be anything for us to see? A few other families showed up and left again. We hung out for a bit, not quite sure what to make of it, and I spent some time kvetching with another parent who was equally upset about the lock-out. And it was lucky for us that we complained to each other for as long as we did, because eventually another teacher did come down and unlock the door to the classroom.

So we didn't get to chat with a teacher, but Liam gave us the grand classroom tour. He showed us his chair with his name on it. We found out that he sits between Maddux and Jessica. He showed us his cubby. We saw the teacher's desk with the bin of writing notebooks, and we saw the filing cabinet with the magnets that the kids move back and forth each school day to show their attendance. We saw some samples of Liam's work hanging on the wall, as well as photos of the entire class. We saw charts outlining their daily routines and the various play stations set up around the room. It was a really satisfying look at things.
And the fact that Liam was so happy to show us everything in his classroom, that he was so happy to be showing us around his entire school, made me feel so much better about the entire situation. I still don't have a complete handle on how things are going for him, but the evening left me feeling that things are probably OK.

On a related note, last night I joined the School Council and attended their first meeting. I wasn't entirely sure of what this committee did (since there is also a Home and School committee, and the line between the two was not clear), but I think the Council will provide some interesting insight to how the school is run and the policies they have in place. Last night's discussions centered around enrollment, the school year calendar, and neighbour complaints about the noise coming from the basketball courts. And it was a lot more interesting than it sounds.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Disney Day 3: Animal Kingdom

The first official 'park day' of our trip was spent at Animal Kingdom. I vaguely remembered it from our 2000 trip as being a relatively small park with relatively few attractions that interested me. There were some musical productions we skipped, a few rides we went on, and lots of walking around amidst the vivid Disney theming that I have now come to know and love.

When I was there last time, I didn't love it all that much. In fact, I kind of sneered at it. Animal Kingdom is split into two major areas, Africa and Asia (with a few other small areas dotted around them). The first time I was there, I thought the fact that those areas were re-created was kind of campy, and haughtily thought of the poor tourists who were lured to Disney to see these areas, mistakenly thinking they were seeing something authentic. People who would later pass on actual trips to Africa and Asia. "A free trip to Thailand? No thanks! No need - I've already seen it!"But this time around - I loved it. Loooooooved it. The very first thing we did was head to Tusker House restaurant to attend Donald's Safari Breakfast. And walking through Africa, seeing all the crumbling buildings and the details that the Disney people recreated from their research and artifact mining trips to Africa - it completely took me back to our trip to Tanzania back in 2003. I mean, they nailed it. Having now had the real thing to compare it to completely earned Disney my respect this time around. Again, not a substitute for the real thing - but what a great way to enjoy it with little kids, and to compensate for the fact that we have had very little opportunity to do anything adventurous for the past 4+ years.
The inside of Tusker House was such a dead ringer for the Impala Hotel we stayed in for our first couple of nights in Arusha, it was scary. Except that the Impala Hotel did not come complete with chocolate croissants and Mickey-shaped waffles. I did not expect much from our theme park dining adventures and especially not from the buffets - but my goodness, was the food ever good. More points to Disney for that. Breakfast was excellent. And to see Liam's mouth gape open when Goofy came over to us for the very first time - well, that was just priceless. The trip was instantly a roaring success in my books.

(We did pass on shelling out $30 for the 'official' portrait of us with Donald. These photos of us with the other characters will have to do. A few of the character breakfasts included the portraits with the price of admission - those were the only ones we brought home.)After breakfast we did the safari ride in Africa and the jungle trek in Asia, and otherwise whiled away our morning. I could have spent the entire day here without Chad or the kids, just me and my camera, taking photos of all the cool stuff. It was awesome. There is so much to see, we barely scratched the surface. We eventually left Africa and Asia behind and headed over to DinoLand USA, the dinosaur-themed area of the park. We spent a good hour running around in the Boneyard, where the kids could run and climb and burrow and dig up dinosaur bones while listening to Was (Not Was)'s rendition of "Walk the Dinosaur" blare over the stereo. Ah, good times. The only problem with this was that the Animal Kingdom is quite possibly the hottest place on Earth. And all that running left Mallory pretty overheated, despite frequent trips to the water fountain. So we decided to find something air-conditioned to do, and we ducked into the condensed, musical theatre version of "Finding Nemo". Luckily we timed our trip well - you would have to queue up 45 minutes in advance for this kind of thing to get a seat during peak times - but we walked in right before the doors closed, and still had a good spot to sit. The show itself was wonderful, too. The kids enjoyed it because they knew it. And I enjoyed it because the costumes and props and vocal talents of the performers were really top-notch.
After that, it was back to Asia for lunch at Yak and Yeti. Big rave reviews for this place. I don't think I have ever had better pot stickers than I did there, and Liam got a big kick out of one of the Buddha statues.

After lunch, Chad took a spin on Expedition Everest, which wasn't there on our last visit. Then we headed back to our hotel for a nap and a swim, as would become our customary routine. For dinner that night we went to Boma, a restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It's also a buffet, and the food there was excellent. The Couscous Marrakesh alone was worth the trip. (Mallory deigned the macaroni and cheese on the buffet to be 'nummy'. And while she is not the world's most discerning eater, she would go on that week to turn up her nose at different restaurants' versions of the same dish.) For dessert, we sampled several different bite-sized items. Ironically, Boma's iconic Zebra Domes (pictured here) were probably my least favourite.

Next up: Day 4 - our first day at the Magic Kingdom. The pinnacle of our trip, or so I thought...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The morning after the night before not fun. I am too old for hangovers...

Last night we went to HallowBash 2009: Get Your Freak On. Yes, it's still a full seven weeks until Halloween, but it will be too frickin cold for a party in a stable by then. It was cold enough as it was last night.

I finished sewing my costume at 12:30 a.m. the night before - the wig was a rental - though I plan to buy my own wig, now that I have the costume. I am glad that I made it rather than renting something. It was pretty easy to do, even without a pattern, thanks to a plethora of Star Wars fan sites on the internet where crazy people discuss how to authentically recreate the costumes from the movie so they can dress up to go to conventions. I think this costume has longevity, and I will be wearing it to take my kids trick-or-treating for years to come. I could even mix it up and go as a member of the KKK or an angel or a ghoul - the possibilities are nearly endless....I think Cory and Megan's costumes were *way* more original and funny. I still think they were robbed when some dude dressed as Gene Simmons won the prize for "Most Famous" and they didn't. I mean, there has been a Gene Simmons at every costume party I have ever attended - it is SO not original... and come on, how many times has Gene Simmons been in the headlines this year? Jon and Kate are making fools of themselves on a weekly basis these days.This is Megan's picture - here we are getting a pick-me-up at the oxygen bar. Much needed in between all the Sideshow Slammers I was drinking. :) Special thanks to Megan for going through the haunted maze entrance ahead of me. She was the one who had the crap scared out of her with monsters jumping out of the walls at her and other such nonsense. I'm a chicken when it comes to stuff like that.

Another one of Megan's photos (I left my camera at home), this time late at night during one of the live band's sets. Yes, the lead singer is dressed as Michael Jackson, complete with angel wings. It was a way late night... I don't think I have been up at that hour since I was nursing a baby around the clock.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An update on him. And her.

We're finishing up Liam's second full week of school today, and I don't know what to think. He claims to like it. He claims to like it more than he likes Cindy's, which he likes. And yet, there are little signs that make me worry.

Until this week, he came home with almost his entire lunch uneaten each day, and told us he didn't have enough time to eat it. (Thankfully, he almost cleared his lunch bag out on Tuesday, so I'm hoping things are settling down for him.) He tells us that he doesn't know the names of any of the kids in his class. He tells us that he doesn't talk to them. (He doesn't tell us these things outright, of course; we have to coax them out of him.) I don't think he is using the bathroom at school and I even wonder if he is purposely not drinking so he won't have to use it. The Before and After program also has me a little underwhelmed right now. It's in a large vesitbule area of the school, and they always have different activities/toys/craft centers out for the kids to play with, but there is one supervisor there for the kids (always less than 10, that I have seen) and she is not interacting with them all that much. Which is fine and well for the older kids, but a pretty major change for Liam.

To compound things, Liam's teacher has been on a leave of absence since his first day of school. She will be back next week. In the meantime, he tells us he doesn't know the name of the teacher he has had. And I'm a bit surprised that there's been no contact from the school to keep us posted on the situation.

On Friday night Liam came home and threw the biggest fit of his entire life. Kicking, screaming, bawling, and outright defying me. My first thought was that something bad had happened at school, and that he was taking it out on me. In hindsight, I don't think that was the case; I think he was just utterly exhausted and stressed, and I got the short end of the stick. He has been a bit grumpier than usual every day for these past few weeks. Even if things are going swimmingly at school, there is still some adjustment to be expected, and I am OK with that. I just wish that I knew more.

Tonight there is a 'Meet the Staff' night but, since Liam's teacher is on leave, I am not sure how much we will get out of it. I don't know if his substitute teacher will be there. I don't even know if he's had the same sub every day. Even if there has been one consistent sub, the event is 45 minutes long and there are two kindergarten classes sharing a common teacher... so it's not like we will have a ton of face time with her. If Liam had had his intended teacher since the start of the year, I would feel OK calling to set up a time to talk to her. But since he hasn't, I feel like I have to let a few more weeks go by before I start investigating.

I just wish someone could tell me how he is doing, assure me that he is not standing alone in a corner on the playground, confirm that he is not afraid to use the bathroom, and otherwise set my mind at ease. I didn't expect starting school to be this hard. And I don't even know if anything is wrong yet.

(Nix the update on her. I will save it for another day.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Disney Day 2 - the rest of it.

We were up before the sun on Wednesday to make it to the airport and through security. We were out the door at the hotel sometime between 6 and 6:30 a.m. The kids were great on the flight - well behaved and no complaints. We had brought them some Disney-themed colouring books to keep them occupied. (Remember that - I'll be coming back to it.) I even managed to follow the in-flight movie... mostly... Once we landed there was no need to wait for our bags - we headed straight for the resort shuttle and were on our way. By the time we got to the hotel and checked in it was early afternoon. We stayed at the All Star Movies (ASMo) resort, which is a Value resort. (The rack rate is $82/night.) *Usually* I am the kind of person who doesn't care where I stay so long as it is clean and quiet. However... later in the week we toured some of the deluxe hotels and it definitely got me thinking, because the properties were gorgeous. But by comparison - rack rate at the Grand Floridian is $399/night and Polynesian is $355/night. Quite an upgrade!We chose the ASMo out of the dozens of properties because we thought the kids would enjoy the familiar theming, and we were right. We requested a room in the Dalmations building, which they loved. 35 ft tall Dalmations outside, 101 Dalmations art on the wall, even themed bedspreads. The main pool was Fantasia themed and the secondary pool was Mighty Ducks themed. All in all - very much worth the $82/night. We didn't have park tickets on our first day since more than half of it had been spent travelling. We grabbed a quick lunch at the food court at our hotel. This is one of my very favourite pictures from the trip: Mallory and I shared a Mickey-shaped rice crispie treat for our dessert. After that we spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the grounds and more importantly - using the pool! We swam every single day we were there. I half think we could have skipped the parks completely.

We had dinner reservations that night at the Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge. We caught a bus to the Magic Kingdom (my favourite quote of the day was Mallory getting on the bus and saying, "It's Dalmations music!" It took me a second to clue in, but the bus was indeed piping in the score from 101 Dalmations) and then took a boat across the lagoon to the Lodge.We booked this trip during August to coincide with the Free Dining promotion Disney has run for the past few years. The basic dining plan was free; we upgraded to the deluxe plan. This gave us more food than we actually needed, but because it gave us table service meals instead of counter service meals, it made sense for us. That allowed us to do a lot of the character meals and skip waiting in lines at the parks to meet the characters. It also gave us the opportunity to get out of the heat and into the restaurants for a break. And, there are some great restaurants at Disney. I didn't expect much from the food on our trip since (a) it's theme park food and (b) I expected it to be even further dumbed down during Free Dining. But it was fabulous. We had one mediocre meal, and the rest were excellent - even the buffets. Some of them, I am still raving about.We put an end to Day 2 pretty early because we were all beat after the early morning dash to the airport. Next up: Day 3: Animal Kingdom.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Disney recap: Day 2 (the beginnings of it, anyway)

I have spent the past week feeling totally overwhelmed. Work has been nuts, we haven't yet figured out a dropoff/pickup routine that works when the kids are in different locations, my meal planning has been shot, the house is a mess, and Liam's activities haven't even started yet. Tonight he brings home his first homework assignment. Don't even ask what we are going to do once Mallory is old enough for activities, too. (On a related note, today marks one week accident-free for Mallory, who must sense how close to the edge I feel and is doing her best to assuage me. Can I get a woot-woot!!)

And in the midst of all the madness, I am trying to sew myself a Halloween costume for a party this weekend. (Chad asked what the point was in going to the effort. I think it's a costume with longevity, and I am determined to see it through.) And all I really want to do with my spare time right now is get my Disney album put together. (Or, better yet: go back to Disney for another lovely week. But I don't think that will be happening anytime soon!) I have it all in my head; it's just getting it into Photoshop that is holding me up. There are only so many hours in the day.

I did whittle the 1300+ photos I took down to a more manageable 243, which are edited, and I hope to get them onto Flickr soon. I will also return at some point with a full report on Day 2. To tide you over: a page I have finished. (I am doing a trip album that will combine scrapbook pages with memorabilia pockets and photo sleeves, to keep it more manageable.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Disney recap: pre-trip and Day 1

I went to Disney for the first time twelve years ago, with Chad. Chad had gone numerous times throughout his childhood; the trip was my first. I went, I had a good time, but I was not exactly bowled over by the place. I remember thinking I was glad that I had seen and done Disney - kind of with a 'scratch it off the bucket list' mentality - and figured that if I was ever back, it would be at some distant future date. No need to hurry back.

The next time I was at Disney was 2.5 years later, in 2000. Also with Chad. But we were going to Disney not for the sake of going to Disney; it was so Chad could run the Disney marathon. With a few vacation days tacked on for good measure. It was a good trip (and it was lovely to be poolside in January!) but again - no thought given to a possible return date. We went on to do some serious international travelling with our vacation time, and spent some of the best moments of our lives in far-flung places. Which made a theme park-based vacation seem trite by comparison.

Still, since some of Chad's strongest childhood memories are tied to Disney, I knew we would be back at some point when we had kids. Originally the plan was to go when they were 5 and 3, and then that somehow got pushed back to 4.5 and 2.5. Maybe because late August, after the American schools are back in session, is a great, uncrowded time to visit. Maybe because Mallory's park entry and food are free until she turns 3. Maybe because the Free Dining promotion has historically been offered in late August through September, and we were counting on it being offered again (it was). Whatever the case, we booked this trip a year ago. Or, rather, Chad booked it. He was the family Disneyphile who knew the best places to stay and eat and how to tackle the parks. He set the whole thing up, choosing our accommodations last year and then booking our dining reservations (a total necessity when Free Dining is on) when the window opened at 90 days out from our trip.

And then something happened, and I got interested, too. I started trolling just as much as Chad did. I became well versed in the use of Fastpasses, and came to understand Extra Magic Hours, and learned the difference between Philharmagic and Spectromagic. I could soon understand acronyms like ToT, TSMM, and EE (Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, Expedition Everest). I was dying to try a Dole Whip.

By the time our trip actually rolled around, I think I was more excited than the kids. I was so, so excited. And the trip met my expectations in every way. It was fun. Just pure, simple fun. Yes, the kids had a few meltdowns along the way, but some of them were quite hysterical. And you have to expect that, with a 4 year old and a 2 year old in tow. I was able to take the trip at face value for what it was: a chance to get away from it all, relax, and spend time with the kids doing things we all enjoyed. It was no Macchu Picchu or Mt. Kilimanjaro, but I made no pretenses that it was. And unlike those trips - which had us slogging up mountainsides, eating unappetizing food simply for the sake of sustenance, and using some of the worst bathroom facilities imaginable - all of which was fascinating, but a pretty harsh dose of reality - this one was all about suspending the real world for a bit and having a good time. Totally hedonistic. The polar opposite of some of our earlier excursions.

In that vein, I totally recommend staying on-site when taking a trip to Disney. It keeps you immersed in your vacation rather than resurfacing in reality at stops along the way. We checked our bags in Detroit and they magically showed up in our hotel room. No waiting by the baggage carousel. We caught a shuttle at the airport that took us to the hotel, and resort transport took us everywhere we needed to be throughout the week: mostly buses, but boats and monorails, too. Hopping a bus from the hotel to a park, we were still on resort grounds. We weren't passing Target and Exxon and giant billboards along the way, there was destination-appropriate music piped in, and the scenery out the window was impeccably manicured... it all made the trip completely seamless.

Anyway... onto the Day 1 summary, which is brief. We left on Tuesday night after dinner. Got the kids into their PJs, loaded up the car, and headed to a park-n-fly hotel by the airport. The construction around the Ambassador bridge was mercifully complete enough that the detour through Mexican Town is no more. Made it to the hotel and checked in in record time.

Of course, this now presented the problem of how to get Mallory to bed in a hotel room that all 4 of us were sharing. The original idea was that she would share a bed with Chad and I would share one with Liam. Liam rolled over and went to sleep, no problem. Mallory, of course, was up for another hour and a half, talking, singing, poking her fingers in Chad's ears, etc. We had a 5:30 a.m. wake up call the next day so this was not boding well for our trip. What finally worked? We threatened to make her sleep in the bathtub, and made good on that threat for a few minutes when she didn't pipe down to let her know we were serious. After that, all it took all week to get her to settle down at night was a threatening "Do you want to sleep in the bathtub again?" I'm glad we figured that out at the start of our trip rather than the end of it.

Next up: Day 2 - Arrival in Orlando...

Friday, September 11, 2009

My big girl

This morning marks one week since we started potty training Mallory.

By potty training, I mean going cold turkey on the diapers, with the exception of naptime and night.

Doing this was sparked less by any signs from her that she was ready - there have been a few times she has requested to sit on the toilet, though nothing has come of them - and more by the fact that we had a relatively long stretch of time at home and it seemed like if we didn't get her started then, it might be Christmas by the time we got around to it. And who wants to potty train anyone on Christmas? Not me.

Of course, we didn't count on Bruce getting sick on Friday night when we started her on Friday morning. And by Saturday morning, when we hadn't slept all night because Bruce was in surgery, and Mallory was peeing all over the floor, and then Liam woke up, came into our room and proceeded to vomit all over my bed - well, right about then I thought I was going to lose my mind.

For the first couple of days - no, make that several days, it was enough that I was going crazy over her lack of catching on - Mallory just let loose whenever and wherever she felt like it. I hovered over her and made sure she didn't sit on the good sofa or play on the carpet. I cleaned up more messes than I cared to count. We had to make an emergency run to the store for more paper towels, and I washed several consecutive loads that consisted only of towels and underpants. We had bought her a 7-pack of Disney princess underpants and to be honest - I think she quite enjoyed making her way through all the princesses. "I'm wearing Cinderella now! Now I have on Snow White!" Not really understanding that the gratification was supposed to be deferred and played out over the course of a whole week.

I delivered her back to Cindy on Tuesday morning with a notebook full of anecdotes about our potty training woes and four clean pairs of underpants and four clean changes of clothes. Never has the diaper bag been so full, even though there wasn't a diaper in it.

And you know what? She had one accident at Cindy's on Tuesday morning, and since then she has been accident-free, both at Cindy's and at home. It's amazing. It's like a switch just flipped. She will now come around the corner bellowing, "I have to go peeeeeeeeeee!" She is not shy about it. Liam never gave us notice like that!

I need to temper my glee with the fact that she has not pooped on the toilet for us yet. She did it once at Cindy's house, to my surprise, and she did it once at home while wearing a diaper at bedtime. Was she intentionally waiting for the diaper to do it? I don't know.

We're giving her a couple of M&Ms each time she uses the toilet, and let me tell you - we hit the nail on the head. M&Ms are totally her currency. It's a very neat trick. Just don't ask me how we are ever going to wean her off of them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

School: Day 2 for us, Day 3 for everybody else

No, I will not still be writing "Day 193 for us/Day 194 for everybody else" in June. :)

When I went to pick Liam up from school (or more appropriately, from the After Care program) on Tuesday, he was busy playing with one of those towers where you build your own track and roll the marbles down. He seemed relatively happy to see me, but not in a "Get me out of here!" kind of way. We put the tower pieces back in the bin and put it away, and left the school. I asked him all kinds of questions. What did he do that day? What did his teacher say or do? How had things gone? And, being Liam, he refused to answer any of my questions. This led to me giving him a stern talk about how, unlike his visits to Cindy's house, which she details in a notebook that we pass back and forth, I have no way of knowing anything about his day unless he himself tells me; so he'd better get talking. When I asked him about lunchtime I guess I struck a nerve, because that's when he did open up. He didn't have time to eat all of his lunch, he said. I told him that was OK, as long as he didn't go hungry, and he assured me that he hadn't. Then he told me that he didn't have time to eat the cheese from his first lunch or the turkey from his second lunch. But when I got home and opened his lunch bag, the cheese and turkey were gone - he hadn't eaten the celery from first lunch or the cantaloupe from second. And I know him well enough to know that he didn't just forget or get mixed up about what he had eaten; he was just messing with me.


By the time he went to bed I had managed to get a few more pieces of information out of him. The teacher had read them a story. They all had name tags on the back of their chairs. They had coloured a picture of a bicycle, and his was coloured orange, but the pictures are all hanging on a wall in the classroom which is why he didn't bring his home. Also, they each have a notebook, which the teacher keeps on her desk, and every day they will practise writing their name in their notebook one time. He told me he used the bathroom in his classroom (though this morning he told Chad he didn't). And he marvelled that they also have their very own drinking fountain.

I was reasonably satisfied this this accounting of his day.

The next day I went out and bought him one of the larger balanced day lunchbags with two sides, and a milk bottle and some cold packs to go with it. I packed him almost the same exact lunch today as I did on Tuesday. We'll see how far he gets.