Doing Disney

Our kids are five and seven years old. They think Disney World is The Best! My husband is 46 years old and he also thinks Disney is The Best. Not to be a party pooper, but Disney is both awesome and infuriating. How do more people not lose their shit there?!

We are a bit Griswold-ish when doing Disney. This is not new to me. I remember doing Disney as a kid with my family and we Jacksons were also very Griswoldish or else my dad was just very Clark-ish. I remember laying down in bed one night thinking, “whoa! We woke up at 6:00am and I’m going to bed at midnight. That is an eighteen hour day!” I was probably about ten years old at the time and was totally stoked to get up at six to get the Disney day started. I’m sure I jumped for joy as we approached each ride. I’m sure I whined when my feet were tired from walking and I ached to rest my legs during the China or O-Canada film where sitting is forbidden and we kids were too small to rest on the “lean rails.”

Since our kids are still little enough to fit in strollers, we stroll them at a very brisk, but not quite running pace to the first ride of the day. (You know, after waiting for an hour at the rope for the gates to open. Does anyone remember that Upton’s commercial where the mob of people smooshed their faces against the glass doors and waved their hands while chanting, “Open! Open! Open!” Same concept at Disney except you either chit chat merrily with the group next to you about where they are from, how many days in the park, favorite Disney strategies or else you are standing stock still and quiet much like at a concert ready to shove your elbow in someone’s ribs if they infringe on your personal line-holding territory.

Being four (consectutive)-year veterans of Disney with kids, we’ve learned a little each time. This year we stayed at a Disney property called Beach Club which is in walking distance to Epcot. How cool was it to stand waiting for the ropes to drop in a line a fraction of the size of the main entrance? Then we came in from the World Showcase and headed to Norway for the Frozen ride. We were the first ones there and even had two seconds to snap a photo in front of the ride before the mob came gaining on us seconds later. Of course we only learned this from my friend, Amy, but we were glad we went with her suggestion!

Of our last four trips, three were in December and one was in October. My husband said October was too hot and he’d “never do that again.” Meanwhile, I maintain that December is super busy with fun festivities every single weekend and I hate to be out of town when all of that is going on. But I guess I gave in. However, one caveat to my refusal was met, which was that we had our Christmas tree up before we left town so that upon return we could immediately enjoy our tree without having to dread putting it up and decorating it. Is it any wonder my mom bought me the Grumpy Dwarf shirt that says, “Is this jolly enough?!”

I proudly wore that Grumpy shirt at Disney because there is plenty to be jolly about at Disney. I may not jump up and down in excitement for the ride I’m about to go on, but while I dread the group of a dozen ten year old boys making chaos behind me in line, I can appreciate their excitement of anticipation for the next ride – even the Little Mermaid. I also love seeing how my girls’ bravery changes each year. Last year they held hands and walked up to the Animal Kingdom Safari ride talking to each other about being brave. OMG Disney is SO REAL to them! Did they think we really beamed ourselves to Africa? Last year at ages four and six, they also both went on the Dwarf Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coasters. They were pretty scared. But dang, were they proud of themselves after they did it! So this year, one year older, we tackled those coasters again. The funny part was that after doing Mine Train we headed to the kiddy coaster, Goofy Barnstormer where my seven year old started crying in line. I can so slightly remember being a kid or a teenager and having that creeping feeling of fear and anticipation before hopping on a roller coaster. I told Sammy, “This part is the hardest. You hear the clanking of the track and wonder how fast the ride will be. But once you get on, it’s just fun!”

But back to Grumpy Dwarf, I have to admit that standing in line to see princesses is not my cup of tea. I was not a girly girl, nor a princess loving kid. So I’m kinda shocked how “into” princesses my girls are. I will say though, that princesses are pretty damn cool in this 21st century! I got choked up the first seven times I heard Elsa sing “Let it Go.” She was totally finding herself! How empowering! But we sucked it up and let them meet some princesses and they loved it. Oh, and they had to have the autograph books to get all the autographs. Yay, one more thing to lug around and keep track of. But since I’m trying not to be a total buzzkill, let me tell you one of my favorite parts: meeting Joy and Sadness from Inside Out. We met them at Epcot and I swear, I felt like I was in the movie. The characters are so completely in character they truly bring all the movies and all the pretend to life. Sadness was killing me. My girls gave excited hugs to Joy which made Sadness mope and hang her head. Joy was a hoot too; she couldn’t stand still and acted so excited to see herself on Sammy’s T-shirt. Loved, loved, loved watching those two characters ham it up. It was worth the thirty-five minute wait.

Yes, I married a Clark, but all in all, we had a fun vacation, or, “family retreat” as Elena of Avalor says. We will probably go back next year, but I’m telling Clark that I’m not stepping foot in pretend Germany unless I’ve had a return trip to real Germany first.

Behind the Scenes Mommy Maintenance

Today I cleaned the playroom. Actually I started at 9:15 last night. It was an utter disaster. I am perfectly aware that my children should clean their playroom but I was tired of the existing mess. And I realized that I’m the mom of this household and there really needs to be some kind of organization in there. I’m not talking labels, but I have a habit of rearranging furniture and never figuring it out completely and leaving the room a bit disheveled. In my husband’s words, I “never complete a project.” And that is what happened in there many moons ago.

For some reason after I watched an episode of Love Boat on the DVR with a cup of hot coffee and a cookie, I went upstairs for something or other and eventually found myself in the playroom. Since the kids were in bed, I realized this was the ideal time to grab some crap off the floor that had been needing to be headed for the garbage can for more than half a year. The thought crossed my mind, “is this what my mom used to do when I was a kid? This sneaky behind the scenes stuff?” To borrow Shel Silverstein’s words, I am Hector the Collector. I’m not a hoarder but I have a hard time letting go. Everything means something. So half the time I run through one of my kids’ rooms and something catches my eye, like a paper hat, statue of liberty style, (or detective style, or 100 Days of school style) that was dang cute on their head coming home from school, but is just screaming “recycle me!” And I’ll pick it up, look at it, remembering how cute they look in this thing, presume they’ll wear it while playing pretend, and set it back down. Needless to say, the playroom has been deprived of “maintenance” for many months.

I remember when I was little I asked my mom if she had seen “Patches,” one of my stuffed animals. And she told me she got rid of it because I never played with it. “You got rid of it?!” I couldn’t believe it! I was so mad. Why was I not consulted on this?! But now as a thirty-nine year old mom, I see the need for this behind the scenes Mommy Maintenance. My two daughters have enough stuffed animals to fill a king-sized bed, so many books they start to fall off the shelves, and plenty of dress-up clothes. Not to mention that my seven year old is just like me and keeps every single scrap of artwork she has ever made. And pamphlet, wristband, movie ticket, bookmark, Chuck E Cheese prize, and any other doo-dad that has ever come into her possession. And every surface in her room “displays” her prized possessions. Regular people call this “clutter.” So I decided to take it upon myself to rearrange her clutter so that I don’t feel like I will have an anxiety attack when I walk in her room. (If you saw my bedroom, you’d say I was a hypocrite, but to my defense, my room is where all the “stuff” gets transferred to when we clean up for company!)

Another part of the Behind the Scenes Mommy Maintenance is making the executive decisions for the family when we are not in agreement with the Mr. I tend to have difficulty with this because I consider myself a nice person who does not like to lie or cheat and it feels sneaky to go behind my husband’s back and do something we are not in agreement on (like changing the breakfast nook window treatments. Oh wait, there are none because he had a cow that I bought some curtains. That should be my next 1:00am project. I’m sure he’ll like them after he sees them. Or at least get used to them.) Our kids finally saw Santa Claus and asked for a robot dog and a car that Ellie can drive. I wasn’t super excited about those Power Wheels kid vehicles when the girls were little, but after watching them drive their friends’ little kid cars, the cuteness factor helps me see how much fun they are. So when I saw that Wal-Mart carries a VW Beetle kid car – OMG! I am a huge VW fan, so really it would be like getting a present for myself! So I stopped by Wal-Mart before lunch and got the cute dang car and hid it in the basement. (I mean Santa did all this!) And the hubs still doesn’t know, but in four days or so (like around December 19th ) when he asks me what we should get Ellie and doesn’t find anything interesting while shopping, Imma gonna let him know that is already done!

If you are like me, a Hector the Collector, and find it hard to throw away your child’s precious belongings (especially with traumatic “Patches” memories,) just remember that this is all part of the Behind the Scenes Mommy Maintenance. We weren’t aware of all the behind the scenes our moms did while we were little but this is the stuff that keeps our ships sailing! Next time I stop myself mid-maintenance-ing, I’ll try to remember my friend Lindsey who hides her son’s daily “treasured stick and leaf” collections two feet deep in the trash can in order to prevent any “Patches” type grief; maybe that will give me the drive to finally let go of the paper pirate headband hat that was made at school two years ago!


Last night, after a really spectacular Christmas, I reflected on why I felt so good and so warm as I lay there in my bed thinking about my day. I enjoyed watching the excitement of my five- and seven- year old girls opening and giving presents. We ate brunch at my parents’ house where my girls enjoyed the company of their cousin, aunt, uncles, and Nana and Poppy. We feasted on casseroles and enjoyed seeing our present-hunting pay off as smiles emerged as paper was peeled away. Dinner was at my Father-in-law’s where the girls delighted in stealing attention from all of their grown up and college-aged cousins (which trips them up and occasionally makes them use the misnomer “Uncle Kirk” instead of cousin Kirk.) We ate again till we were full, traded gifts in various rooms of the house, following one individual while trying to hunt down the spouse or sibling to give a gift to a pair of people at one time, much like playing a live game of Ms. Pac Man. In between all of that was plenty of coffee, cookies, dips, and crackers.

So while I lay there swearing off food till the New Year (yeah, right,) the thought of how full and fulfilling my day was from visiting all of our loved ones swam through my mind. Then suddenly I thought about a couple friends who may be experiencing the holidays much differently—one a single friend with children, one a single friend without children and the second Christmas without her mom. Then I thought about one or two more girlfriends who are navigating the dating field and wondered what it felt like as they laid in their beds – did they have fulfilling days, too?

I’ve loved the Golden Girls ever since it was first run on TV. And in college, it was a favorite time of day, because often all four roommates would stop what they were doing and sit and spend a half hour laughing together. So each of us, of course, had a character. I was a combination of Sophia (for my feistiness) and Blanche (for my love of dating.) Now hold up. Just because you love to date does not mean that the bedroom is open for business, ok? But I’ll be honest. Dating in college was one of the best times of my life. Kissing boys in bars was one of the funnest things on Earth. I have no urge to do that now, although if I could grab my husband by the hand and be transported back into my young twenties I could spend a whole night standing in a dark corner of a bar drinking a few beers with him and smooching him when I wanted to, not worrying about anyone or anything around us.

Which brings me back to my college days. Being twenty-one and having a first kiss with a date (or an acquaintance) under the dim lights of a bar, bright enough to see where you are going, but dim enough to not see the layers of dried up sticky beer and dust in every nook and cranny was one of my highlights of college. In fact, if you think about it, kissing a boy in a crowded bar is a very smart and safe idea – your other Golden Girls are just on the other side of that thicket of 15 frat boys, keeping their eye on you, and when they are ready to go, it’s see you later, cute boy, time to hang with the girls! I did have one long-term relationship in college which perhaps enhanced the glory of dating after the twenty-seventh breakup finally took. But I can vividly remember lying in bed one morning in my apartment feeling so happy to be alone. There were no phone calls I had to make to tell anyone “hello” or arrange a time or place to meet up. There were no phone calls to expect or wait on (pre-iphones!) to slow me down in formulating my day. I was independent and free and I loved it!!

I know my friends who are dating are not experiencing the glory of Kissing in the Bar Dating, and I would not trade places with them for anything. But, oh my God. The courage, the bravery of my girlfriends! Leaving an unhealthy marriage. Having your husband swept away from you in your thirties with toddlers to raise. I can’t even fathom the guts these girls have that has gotten them to where they are today – brave enough to navigate the waters of being single (again.) And brave enough to navigate dating in 2016. I didn’t even have a texting plan last time I dated. But my only wish for these amazing women is that they lie in their beds and have that feeling that I did once—the feeling of independence and freedom to create any type of day they want (taking into account all of the mandatory adult chores first, of course.) And hopefully a good-night kiss from a date is just the cherry on top of an awesome Single but Strong day.

 Alien Coffee Mug

Today I woke up a little extra tired and a little extra grumpy after an interrupted night’s sleep with a 3:00am wake up call from the seven-year-old having growing pains. So a little joy during that early morning grump-fog was reaching for my coffee cup in the cupboard. My mom thinks she is so clever. Years ago she gave me an alien coffee mug because she knows how fearful I am of aliens. To her surprise (and my own,) it has become my favorite coffee mug! I cracked a smile as I grabbed my mug, knowing that soon it would be full of hot, black, liquid adulting “supplements.”

If you knew me in college, then you probably know of my fear of aliens. It’s only natural to be afraid of aliens after you’ve been abducted! Twice! When I tell people about my encounter with the aliens, I now chuckle a little as I say it, because it is pretty unbelievable. And in fact, 20 years later, I’m not completely sure if I believe it myself. But. I shit you not, back in the summer of ’97 I slept with my light on for a solid two months.

My first encounter with my “friends” was the summer after my freshman year of college. I lived at home that summer at my parent’s house and often hung out with my friends from my senior year of high school. My friend and I killed time at the bookstore and at Waffle House drinking coffee-hot chocolate or cherry seven up. And a lot of the time in the bookstore was spent gazing at books about alien encounters. I can’t remember now which came first – the chicken or the egg? Was I magnetized to those books because I was trying to make sense of my experience or did all of those pages merge with my dreams?

So what the heck actually happened? Here’s how I remember it: That summer my sister was living at college, but my brother happened to be home during this time. I’m pretty sure my parents were at the beach. I was taking Calculus at DeKalb College and waitressing at Mozzarella’s Café and babysitting some, too. I went to bed “studying” or at least looking over notes many nights. And one particular night I switched off my light and fell asleep soundly. Then in the middle of the night I felt slightly awakened by a chattering noise, like squirrels, or if robot squirrels could speak digitally that is what the sound was like. My body was paralyzed and I couldn’t move at all. I wanted to talk and say something but I couldn’t. Somehow my voice was also paralyzed. There was a blueish glow outside my windows. And here’s the detailed part: They didn’t actually transport my body onto their ship. They just switched my brain with the brain of the alien that they had strapped onto a table- See, that’s why I was paralyzed. Because he was strapped down and my brain was inside his brain. And that’s why I could hear the aliens talking their squirrell-scratchy language because they were talking over my counterpart while he lay there and soaked up all of my thoughts. When they were finally done and released us – the strapped down alien and me, I was finally able to move again. I flipped on my light, flew out of bed and raced downstairs where my brother was playing guitar and watching T.V. I told him, “I think I was just abducted by aliens!” He looked at me funny and I told him I had been paralyzed in my bed, saw a blue light, and heard alien noises. He said, “You’re freaking me the fuck out!” And then I slept with my light on for the next two months. See-  it doesn’t matter if there are other people in the house. They can still come to get you. Freaky huh?

I’d like to have a better memory of the chronology of the events back then. I know that the movie Contact with Jodie Foster came out my freshman year and that I was not afraid when I saw it. But after my summer encounter, I avoided all things alien, especially that show with David Duchovny if I’m getting the name and show right. Don’t know. Don’t care. Didn’t watch it and when I walked into the room while my mom had it on, I flew out of there like a kid about to get a spanking. But of course my family and friends thought it was hilarious that I thought I had been abducted. They started giving me alien toys, birthday cards, and yup, one really awesome alien mug.

Now I naturally have a lot of empathy when my kids want to sleep with their lights on. Duh! No Brainer! I don’t think it keeps the aliens away, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. That second abduction? I’m totally fuzzy on that now. I think it may have happened my sophomore year at the apartment complex me and my three friends lived in. But if it happened, it was much quicker than the first encounter. And it all feels rather dream-like. Of course, that’s probably exactly how the aliens want it to feel! Since it’s been twenty years now, I can sleep alone (which luckily doesn’t happen often!) with a mere nightlight instead of the glaring overhead light. I can even sip liquid happiness out of my alien coffee mug while wondering if it was all real, but with enough fear to never want to re-live it. I’d be good going another twenty years alien-free.