Our Disney Cruises

In 2013, Eric and I decided to plan a Disney Cruise for our 2014 yearly family vacation. Neither of us had ever been on a cruise, but we wanted something relaxing and fun that would be a good bet with an almost-two-year-old. I also happen to love all things Disney, so as soon as Eric mentioned it, I was sold. We immediately fell in love with cruising and the Disney Cruise Line in general, so much so that we eagerly went back in 2017, this time with a five-year-old and a three-year-old, and in 2018 when our girls were 6 and 4. It did not disappoint.

Having never cruised on another line, I can’t compare Disney to anything else, but I will say the level of service we experienced is unparalleled to another vacation we have taken. As the maitre d’ on our first cruise told us, “Disney knows that if we keep the kids happy, the parents are happy!” And keep everyone happy they do.

What I can compare it to is a Disney parks vacation. We did do a brief trip to the Disney parks in 2016, and while that had magical moments as well, what we love about cruising at this stage in our lives is

  1. For most of your trip, your room is never more than an elevator ride or brief walk away. You can pop back in to drop things off, have a nap, change or just take a few minutes to breathe. At the parks, your room is usually  a “walk through the park, wait for a bus, bus ride and more walking” away.
  2. Two words: kids clubs. Now, we go into each cruise understanding that this is a FAMILY vacation, and as such we will not get much adult time. But we do get some, and it’s priceless! The kids clubs kept our kids busy for an hour or two here and there so we could grab a drink, take a rest, dine in peace or get in a little pool time. As we don’t travel with parents or babysitters, that wouldn’t be possible at the parks.

A note on cost: As you might expect, Disney cruises are pricier than their counterparts, and we definitely splurged on activities as well. Personally, we feel the level of service and the Disney experience justifies the cost, but it’s a personal decision. I also saved money for quite awhile to be able to give us all some magical moments on the trip.

As several people over the years have asked for my opinion or advice on Disney cruising, I decided to put together this blog post with all of my words of wisdom and impressions. It is by NO means exhaustive – there are countless online resources with even more info. But it’s an overall picture of the things we have loved, disliked and found most fun and helpful.  For more specifics, I recommend:

Disney Cruise Line
The Disboards Disney Cruise Line Forum
any of the various Facebook groups on Disney Cruising

Those are great resources for learning about the different ships, what to book, when to go, and a million other things I don’t cover here. There’s still a lot in here though, so just skip to the parts you need.

Now, on to my comments. These are based on the three cruises we took which were:

A 2014 5-day Western Caribbean itinerary on the Disney Wonder out of Miami. We cruised in late February; weather was warm enough for swimming.
A 2017 7-Day Halloween on the High Seas Western Caribbean itinerary on the Disney Fantasy out of Port Canaveral (we originally booked an Eastern Caribbean itinerary but it was switched shortly before due to hurricanes). We cruised in early October; weather was warm to hot with a bit of rain but nothing that ruined anything.
A 2018 7-Day Western Caribbean itinerary on the Disney Fantasy out of Port Canaveral, which we took with Eric’s brother and his family. We cruised in August so it was pricier and we did run into one big storm, but nothing was majorly affected. The weather was hot but not unbearable.

Things to Book Ahead of Time

Use a Disney travel agent! A lot of people don’t realize that using a travel agent has no cost to you – they make their money through incentives from the companies they book with. Using a travel agent that specializes in Disney travel is a great idea because they know lots of tricks to getting the most bang for your buck – on our first trip, our agent was able to book us a balcony room that, because it had a slight overhang (and I mean slight), was priced at a lower rate. Disney agents also usually offer onboard credit for booking with them and can offer lots of advice on your trip as well. We used and highly recommend Monica Lahr with Mousekeplanner.

Flights and hotel: I don’t know about you, but I’d be a nervous wreck if I were flying in on the day of the cruise. We always fly in the night before and get a hotel.

Transfers: On Cruise 1, we used Disney transfers (Disney Magical Express) to and from the Orlando airport. On Cruises 2 and 3, we rented a car in Orlando and drove to Port Canaveral. We dropped it off and rented another car for the trip back. Both things worked out well, so it’s mostly personal preference.

Passports: Passports are strongly recommended; take care of this as soon as possible as it can sometimes take awhile.

Spa: I’ve heard good things about the spa, Senses. I think you can buy a day pass or length of cruise pass and they have things like hot tubs and different shower experiences. On Cruise 1 I was pregnant so I couldn’t take advantage of any of it and on Cruises 2 and 3 we just didn’t have time! I got a facial on Cruise 1 and thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was quite overpriced.

Photos: On Cruises 2 and 3 we splurged on the Disney photo package you can purchase through My Cruise Photos. You get a discount by purchasing before you get onboard, which is what we did. Again, it’s pricey, but the picture quality is excellent and there are tons of photo opportunities. In addition to photographers at each character experience (with the exception of the Disney Jr. breakfast), they have photo opportunities at the cruise terminal and when boarding the ship, before dinner most nights, and in front of the ship at Castaway Cay. You present your room key to each photographer and all of your pictures magically show up on a flash drive you pick up at the end of the trip. You can also view these photos at Shutters throughout your cruise and order prints and photo books. I LOVED having this service and not having to worry about getting the best shot every time we met a character. However, a couple of notes: each of the pictures Disney takes comes with a decorative Disney border on it, and these borders are NOT removable. From an aesthetic viewpoint, they don’t bother me – however, they bother me because the images are NOT standard print sizes. If you try to print them on your own by ordering prints from a photo service in a size smaller than 8×10, the borders will be cut off. I believe there are online services that will do prints to the specific ratio, but I haven’t done this yet.

Youth Clubs: You can register your kids for the youth clubs when you complete your online check-in. More about the youth clubs below.

Dining: When you check in online, you have the option to choose early seating or late seating for dinner. If you don’t get your first choice, you still have the opportunity to ask to switch when you get on board. More on dining below.

Cruise Activities: Once you’ve booked your cruise you should find out when booking opens for all of the other fun things you’ll want to do on your vacation. For first time cruisers, this is currently 75 days before your trip, but if you’ve cruised with Disney before you can book further out. These include things like Port Adventures, specialty dining reservations and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (see below for more details about what we did). There are other specialty activities as well, such as the Royal Court Royal Tea we did on the second cruise (more below).

You can also snag tickets to  things that are included with your cruise but still need tickets. On our 7-night cruises this was a Disney Junior Breakfast, a Princess Gathering and a Frozen Meet and Greet. They do set aside tickets to these that you can get on the ship, but I’d advise getting them ahead of time if possible.

Here was my strategy when deciding when to book things on the second cruise, which was much busier than the first! (details about our activities will be below):

Day 1: Embark
Day 2: At sea. I booked the Disney Jr. breakfast for this morning as a fun kick-off to the cruise. I also booked the girls at the boutique for Under the Sea Makeovers. I figured it was a nice way to get in the cruising spirit, and it came with a bathing suit they could rewear. I booked this midmorning so they could enjoy their makeup all day.
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico. We did an excursion for most of the day. I booked a morning time to leave us time to get back to the ship early if we wished and in plenty of time for dinner.
Day 4: Grand Cayman; I booked an excursion for late morning.
Day 5: Falmouth, Jamaica, and Pirate Night!; I booked the girls and myself for Pirate League makeovers at the Boutique for late afternoon; this let them swim during the day if they wanted and gave us time to get to dinner, but still let them enjoy their pirate garb for awhile.
Day 6: At sea; we did the Princess Gathering in the morning and then Eric and I did brunch at Palo; that afternoon we had the Royal Court Royal Tea, so it was a day of princesses!
Day 7: Castaway Cay; we did the Frozen Meet and Greet first thing in the morning then headed off the ship. We also had a late morning excursion.

Fish Extenders: A strange name for a fun activity! Attached to the wall outside the door of your stateroom is a metal fish, which cast members use to leave you notes, your tickets to events, and things like that. A cult has grown up around these fish where people hang “extenders” off of these fish – usually a strip of fabric pockets with your family name or individual names on it. You can join “fish extender” groups where you will be paired with other families (usually around ten families total, although we have been in a larger group.) You and the other families can then leave little treats and surprises for each other throughout the length of the cruise! Usually, you fill out short form or spreadsheet about your family and their likes/dislikes, then plan what you’d like to give as gifts! We have never had a minimum or maximum spending amount and it’s truly a “give what you’d like” experience. We have gotten store-bought gifts, handmade gifts, candy, pirate accessories, glow sticks, beach toys and lots of little things local to each family. For Cruise 1, I handmade Disney “Mad Libs” which I put in sheet protectors and paired with dry erase markers. For Cruises 2 and 3, I bought Disney Mad Libs and added Play Packs for little ones, crayons, Disney pens and packets of Del’s Lemonade, a drink local to New England. It’s incredibly fun and exciting to open your door to see your Fish Extender stuffed with little treats, or come back from the pool to a fun surprise. I highly recommend the experience, but do be aware it adds cost and work to your trip planning. You also accumulate a lot of little trinkets. We joined our groups through DisBoards the first two times times (find your specific cruise group here), and Facebook the third. You can make your own Fish Extender or buy them on Etsy – ours are beautiful and are from Bullfrogs and Butterflies.

Packing

Here are a few things I recommend that you may not have thought of:

Checked Luggage
– Pirate gear –  On our cruises, one night was always themed as “Pirates IN the Caribbean” and many guests have on at least some form of pirate gear – and some people go all out! Bring as much or as little as you’d like. Disney usually provides pirate bandanas and sometimes eye patches.
-other costumes, such as princess dresses
-men need pants and shoes to dine at the adults-only restaurants onboard
-list of addresses for postcards
-any lists you need related to your Fish Extender group, if you’re participating, such as family names and stateroom numbers
-some people like baby powder and paint brushes for removing sand after the beach
-a stain stick, which I was really glad to have on several occasions. Handy for getting chocolate out of princess costumes.
-we packed puddle jumpers for our girls on Cruise 2, but they only used them a little at a pool on one of our port adventures. Disney provides floaties onboard.
-door magnets or decorations – Many people decorate their doors, but keep in mind you can’t use tape. The doors are magnetic.
– I like to pack a nightlight and a clip-on air freshener for the bathroom
– hair dryer – I have long, thick hair and just use the travel-sized dryer they provide, but if you’re particular you may want to bring your own
-Plastic bags in a few sizes to corral random stuff. I also bring a couple of trash bags, which are handy for packing wet things on the last day. I always throw in a handful of safety pins and some Band-Aids as well.
-gum, if you want it, as it’s not sold onboard
-beach toys – I bought a small set that was easy to pack
– glow sticks for nighttime deck parties
– a pop-up hamper – I never thought we’d use one, but someone in a Fish Extender group gave us one and it was really handy.
-light card – To turn the room lights on, you have to stick your room key card in a slot next to the door and leave it there. Lots of people bring extra cards just to put in there so they don’t stick their key in and forget it. Any credit-card sized card will work, but you can also buy special cards on Etsy, such as cards with important ship locations listed on them, etc. One of the Fish Extender gifts we received was a card with a magnet attached – so simple but GENIUS! When you pull it out you just stick it to the wall, which is magnetic, and it’s there for later.

Ship Carry-On

Your luggage won’t arrive at your stateroom for a few hours sometimes, so you’ll want to pack a carry-on bag with things you might need
-check in documents and passports
-alcohol, if you’re bringing your own – check Disney’s policy for how much you’re allowed
-things you’ll need before your bags arrive at your room – pool gear, phone chargers, , medication, etc.
– autograph books – We actually ran out of room in ours!
– water bottles – They do provide water on the pool deck, but the cups are small.
– purses – I like to pack a lightweight tote bag to carry around the ship with me. I put a folder in it along with pens, other things I need. Every night you will get a “Navigator”  for the next day with your turndown service. This has all the times and info you’ll need for that day (this is also on the Disney Cruise app but I am visual and like to see things all laid out). I put this in the folder and also use it for things we pick up along the way, such as art the girls make and other things I want to save. I also use pens and highlighters on it for things we don’t want to miss. I also pack a smaller crossbody purse that will still fit the stateroom’s Wave phone (it’s about the size of an old-school Nokia).

Embarkation

Port arrival: When you complete online check-in, you will get a Port Arrival time based on your flight times and things like that. Your arrival time is kind of a suggestion, kind of not. You can show up earlier, but you may end up having to wait around. We have always shown up around our PAT and haven’t had long waits. There are lines, but they move pretty quickly. Make sure you have all your documents and passports ready to go. Also they have characters coming through the terminal for pictures and to say hi. After checking in, you walk up the gangplank, stop for a few pictures, and walk onboard! They announce your family name and clap for you and you cry. Good times.

Things to take care of: Once you’re on board, now’s the time to take care of anything you weren’t able to take care of during online check-in. They will have a designated time and area to go to if you want to ask about changing your dining time or rotation. You can also check with the main desk to ask about any excursions, dining or activities you weren’t able to book online. You may also want to visit the Youth Clubs to get your kids checked in and get their bracelets. Pro tip: ask them to make sure notifications are going through to both your Wave phone and the app on your phone while you’re standing there – this is how they will notify you if a child wants to be picked up from the club.
After we’ve taken care of those things, we like to go grab something to eat at the buffet (note: on the Fantasy, there’s a sweet shop just outside the buffet, and the desserts there are NOT included in your cruise price).

Right as the ship embarks, there’s a “Sail Away Party” that’s really fun – there’s dancing and splashing in the pool and the horn toots “When You Wish Upon a Star” and you cry.
Cell Phone Data: Make sure you turn off data your cell phone once your’e out of port. Eric purchased extra data but was burning through it really fast and couldn’t figure out why. They have someone onboard just to help you figure this out – check your ship map or ask someone to find the desk. The Disney Cruise app works while your’e onboard without using your data.

Onboard Activities

Now, the fun stuff. Here’s more information about all the goings on while your’e on the ship!

At noon every day the ship horn plays a bunch of Disney melodies.

Scene From That Night I Went Upstairs with a Young Chris McDaniel During A Frat Party

For reference: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/senator-chirs-mcdaniel-mississippi-birth-control-abortion-liberal-women-marches-washington-dc-a7542636.html

So this is your room, huh? Nice. I like it. Very neat. I could probably bounce a quarter off those sheets, ha ha. No, no just a joke. I like your flag. Very Sam Eagle, all of it. Cool Scarface poster. Oh, you want to sit down? That’s cool. I’ll just sit right here on the bed. Should I use a coaster under this or–thanks. Can I flip through your CDs? Oh – you want to make out for awhile? Sure, sure. You’re right it is hot in here. I am better without my top on, thanks! Oh – one thing before we get started – I’m not on birth control. Yeah, well, it’s like $50 a month out of pocket and I am on a student budget…I guess maybe when I get married I can split it with my husband, but for now, it’s just me! I typically ask the guys I sleep with to contribute, if I’m in a relationship I just send a Venmo request once a month. I call it Pay to Play, ha ha. But sometimes they argue they shouldn’t have to pay if they didn’t get enough sex that month, so it gets tricky. Then I started figuring out, like, the “cost-per-bone” in advance, kind of like a vagina admission fee, before I just quit altogether. So condoms it is! You don’t mind, right? I’m sure that’s what kids these days are switching to now anyway. All condoms, all the time. That’s what you guys wanted, right? You must be super pumped! I mean, I brought some, but do you have some too? Whose should we use? We could switch off, I guess. Do you want me to start a spreadsheet so we can keep track? Oh you know what – mine is expired. I got it from Planned Parenthood so I guess that tells you how old it is! Do you think it still works?

I mean, I guess if you wanted we could try the “Rhythm Method.” I’ve done some reading, I think I could figure it out. Question though: if I make a mistake and end up pregnant, is it totally my fault or just half my fault? Do you still have to pay child support? Maybe you should just come check my cervical mucus with me and tell me if you think it looks like egg white or not. Or would that totally kill the mood? No, no I get it. You could feel my cervix instead if you – no? Oh ok. It’s no big deal, right? We’ll just take our chances. You look smart, you could probably support a kid or two right now! Ooh, hey, can I borrow this Nickelback CD?

Look, I know what you’re probably thinking now, and you’re right. We definitely shouldn’t be having premarital sex anyway. I really admire your principals. I totally agree – I’ll get dressed now. Thanks for helping me through that weak moment. We should totally go remind everyone else downstairs too. Maybe even go to a few more parties, hit the streets when the clubs get out at 2:00. No sex for anyone, ha ha! I’m sure they’ll agree. Can you hand me my underwear? Thanks!

Quick question though – I mean, I’m sure all 107 million-plus unmarried adults in America won’t have a problem being celibate – I mean, look at you and your friends! You’re all doing awesome! I’m sure you’ll TOTALLY all stay celibate until marriage, just like me and all my friends! But when we DO get married, can we use birth control then? Married guys like condoms right? Unless you’re super fancy and can afford birth control out of pocket…oh excuse me while I take my diamond pillbox out of my gold purse, lol. They probably just take their chances with NFP though; married people can have all the kids they want and no one cares! I’m sure my body can handle a ton of pregnancies, I’m pretty strong. As long as I don’t need back to back c-sections. I mean there’s only so many times they can saw through your abdominal wall, amirite? It’s cool though, I know back in the day lots of couples just went cold turkey after the first couple kids – I mean, it was like a whole subplot in Gone With the Wind and everything. If Ashley can do it, anyone can do it! He’s such a guy’s guy. Oh it’s just this movie that – actually, you probably shouldn’t see it, things don’t go so well for Mississippi.

Anyway, I don’t mean to scare you off with all this marriage talk, I’m totally not one of those girls. Unless you…no? Ok. So anyway, yeah. Thanks for the pep talk – I am officially “Closed for Business.” I’ll spread the word back at the sorority house too. With any luck, soon it will be lights out for pretty much everyone! Wow…I’m almost jealous. You’re going to be super popular for kicking this off. Good times ahead for sure. I’m so glad you and your friends were around to talk some sense into everyone. We’ll probably get a lot more done with sex just totally off the table. Maybe we’ll finally figure out this whole “Israel” thing, or come up with a viable replacement for the Affordable Care Act! That’s what you want, right? Well, if you change your mind, let us know. Just send maybe like, I don’t know, 4.6 million guys should do it. Send them over – they can walk, it’s not that far. Ok then! So like, should I put my number in your phone, or do you want – oh yeah, that’s right Jeff is dating Macie’s roommate, and she and I have a class together, so…yeah, you know where to find me!

Is this just fantasy?

About a week ago, Eric’s Biological Gadget Receptor¹, or possibly his New Project Induction Enzyme² alerted him to the fact that he hadn’t bought anything that requires electricity in several weeks and he decided that, after six years of Keurig ownership, we needed to stop cramming landfills with K-cups and go back to a good, old-fashioned coffee pot. I was promptly emailed a link to a good, old-fashioned coffee pot³ to purchase, and, through the magic of Amazon Prime, it arrived on our doorstep two days later. Continue reading “Is this just fantasy?”

2 beds, 2 baths, 2 kids

So after months and months of planning and talking and wishing, we finally bit the bullet and put our townhouse on the market. Which is really exciting and frustrating and nerve-wracking and exhausting all at the same time. And even though we do have the option of moving in with Eric’s parents temporarily, we decided it would be preferable if we could show our home while still living here.

Pros: We won’t have to pack up and move twice, we won’t be intruding on his parents, they won’t slowly start to resent us, question our parenting, question their parenting, question our marriage or question America’s future after seeing the state of kids television programming these days.

Cons: Trying to sell a house while living in it with an 8-month-old and a 3-year-old is like trying to sell a house while living in it with an 8-month-old and a 3-year-old. That’s it. That’s the analogy, because that’s the benchmark for craziness.

The only reason right now we are able to have our house an hour or two away from showing-worthy readiness is because about 80% of our worldly possessions are currently in boxes in our basement.  I deal with at least six tantrums a day because Klara asked for something I can’t produce because Daddy shoved it in one of 67 boxes in the basement. This morning he whispered to me, “Do you think she’s even noticed her table and chairs are gone?” Yeah, you were at work for that tantrum. I think she noticed. She’s also been forbidden from going in the basement because 1. she likes to feed the cats five times a day and 2. she keeps “finding” things down there and bringing them up so I have to round them all back up at the end of the day and bring them back down like some kind of house-keeping Sisyphus.

Then there’s this: before our open house last weekend, Eric vacuumed every room in the house and ran the carpet shampooer carefully over the family room rug before forbidding any of us to eat, drink, play or breathe on it. Within 48 hours that rug had gotten the following things on it:

spit-up (Joey)
tomato soup (me)
poop (NOT me)
chocolate chips (Klara. Ok fine, me.)

I’m starting to think living with my in-laws sounds kind of nice. I wouldn’t have to leave the kids strapped in their carseats where they can’t touch anything while I do a final sweep of the house before a showing. Klara would stop asking me, “Is Daddy going to be so mad?” every time she spills something, like he’s Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, ready to erupt at the slightest provocation – a question that’s more indicative of my reaction to spills than his. I wouldn’t have to pretend I live a simple, minimalistic life with a reasonable amount of stuff and the real extent of my dysfunction isn’t crammed into old diaper boxes and stacked up to the basement ceiling.

So if you know anyone looking for a townhouse in South Carver, send them our way. Just maybe don’t mention the rug.

 

 

 

 

I Need a Big Drink

So if you’re on Facebook and you’re friends with any parents, you might be familiar with this article: You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations. (TL;DR: Man in Costco sees father yelling at his innocent little boy.) I strongly dislike this article for any numbers of reasons, such as the author being a smug dillhole (“People see my relationship with Noah, and quite often put me up on a pedestal or sing my praises for loving him more than most dads love their own kids.” OMG so this is who really owns all those World’s Greatest Dad mugs?), but primarily because the article is so one sided. As a parent myself, I happen to know just how likely it is that what Dan “I’m a damn good dad” Pearce actually saw was carefully orchestrated by a devious mastermind, i.e. a toddler, to coerce/embarrass his dad until he bends to his will.

I’m not saying, ever, that parents should go around jamming their fingers into their children’s collarbones, but as the parent of a 2 1/2 year old, I know how easy it is for a child’s words and a parent’s reaction to be wildly misinterpreted by outsiders. I submit for you Exhibit A, an Oscar-worthy routine Klara has perfected which I like to call “I Need A Big Hug.”

“I Need A Big Hug” was born about a year ago, when Klara was still an only child, on a nighttime car trip home from somewhere, probably my parents’ house as I was alone with her in the car. She was crying about something – leaving her grandparents? wanting a snack? dropping a mitten? – and through her sobs she choked out, “I need a big hug.”

Well I’m not made of stone. How can I hear that from my baby and not want to encase her in my warm, loving mother’s embrace? You better believe I pulled off the road. I got off an exit and pulled into a gas station. I crawled into the back seat, unbuckled her, and cradled her in my arms.

I’m pretty sure it didn’t help, and then I had to fight with her to get her back in her car seat, and she probably cried the rest of the way home anyway. But the damage was done – she had found a powerful tool at her disposal, one that would make Mommy stop whatever she was doing and pay attention.

As a parent, we are often told to pick our battles, or save our most powerful tools (time outs? balloons? new episodes of Doc McStuffins?) for when they’re desperately needed. Toddlers never got that memo. If something works once, they’re going to play that ace every chance they get. Mommy won’t let you use her iPhone? “I need a big hug!!!” Mommy gets mad at you for not following directions? “Give me a big hug!!” Mommy tries to put you in time out? “I NEED A BIG HUG!!!” At first, I tried to comply when I could, if I wasn’t driving, or holding Joey, or peeing. But pretty soon it just became a standard part of each tantrum. Mommy won’t do what you want immediately? Play the hug card. It’s no longer a plea, it’s a shrieking demand. It doesn’t even mean “give me a hug” anymore, it means “DO WHAT I WANT AND DO IT NOW!!!” I’m about as likely to pull over when she says she needs a big hug as I am to pull over for a hitchhiker.

Of course, your average innocent bystander has no way of knowing the storied history of “I Need A Big Hug.” All they see is the tiny blonde person, tears running down her face, imploring her mother, in the middle of Shaw’s, to please give her a big hug. Who wouldn’t be appalled when said mother snaps back, “I am not giving you a hug!” or “No more hugs!!” or even, “Naughty girls don’t get hugs!!” I can see their blog posts now. “What kind of mother refuses her child’s impassioned plea for a bit of tenderness!?!” Tenderness my ass. She just wants me to buy her a box of Dora Fruit Snacks. She doesn’t want a hug any more than I want a romantic evening with Dan “Do you not realize the incredible and powerful bond that skin on skin contact with your daughter will give you?” Pearce.

I can’t possibly interpret every public interaction for you, so you’re going to have to check your scathing judgement and realize that what comes out of a two-year-old’s mouth is so often light years from what they really mean. Their parents know this; they are skilled interpreters of toddler bullshit. In case you happen to come across me out and about with Klara, here’s a cheat sheet:

“I eat a healthy lunch?”  – Awww, she’s asking for some sustaining nourishment. Nope, not even close. She wants a treat. She knows if she asks for a treat, I’ll tell her she needs to eat something healthy first. She’s asking me if she ate a healthy lunch, i.e., “Can I have a treat?” Sometimes asked sweetly, sometimes screeched with an exclamation point instead of a question mark:

“I eat a healthy lunch?”
“No, you didn’t eat a healthy lunch. It’s 9 A.M. You had half a muffin and some cheddar bunnies for breakfast. You’re not having a treat.”
“I EAT A HEALTHY LUNCH!!!!”
“I’m going to take that ugly orange pumpkin-shaped bucket of treats and dump the whole thing in the trash if you keep screaming like that.”

“I’m ‘TARVIN'” – “I am trying to delay going to bed/delay putting my shoes on/keep you from accomplishing anything meaningful today.”

“It’s ok Mommy! It’s ok!” – “I have done something naughty; please don’t investigate further.”

“Who do you need to feed?” – “Are you going to nurse Joey now? Because I really want you to give me some food and turn the TV on and stand next to me while I use the potty even though I’m fully capable of doing it myself.”

“You need to tell me” – Said in response to a question. No, she’s not looking to me for parental guidance. She wants me to list every option available to her, as in:

“I’m ‘TARVIN’. I need some food.”
“OK, what do you want?”
“You need to tell me.”
“OK, how about an apple?’
“No.”
“Grapes?”
“No.”
“Cheese?”
“What kind?”
“Mommy cheese?*”
“No.”
“Oma cheese?**”
“No.”
“The kind you bite?***”
“No.
“Raisins?”
“No.”
“Klara, that’s all we have. You need to pick something.”
“I eat a healthy lunch?”
“NO! NO HEALTHY LUNCH!”
“I NEED A BIG HUG!!!!”

 

*shredded cheese
**string cheese
***Baby Bels

 

 

 

 

 

Assertivepants

So according to Sheryl Sandberg or someone we’re no longer supposed to refer to our daughters as “bossy;” we’re supposed to use more positive, self-esteem-building words like, I don’t know, “assertive.” Well, let me tell you, I am raising one “assertive” little lady. (Wait, that sounds sexist too. “Assertive young American”?) No one who knows me is surprised – I have a reputation for being “assertive” myself. It’s part of what makes me a good teacher.

Today I made the rookie parent mistake (is it still a rookie mistake if you make it over and over?) of telling Klara company was coming in the form of her friend Madeleine. Her face lit up with unbridled joy. “Mademine is coming?!?! To my house?!?” Just as quickly, it darkened into a glare, the full force of which was directed squarely at me. “You need to clean up.”

Yes, thank you, I do. I would love to clean up. If you could please let me know how to get your sister to stop screaming bloody murder every time I put her down I’d be happy to clean up. It would also help if you didn’t fling every clean pair of undies in the basket all over the family room every time you get a new pair, which is every time you go to the bathroom. Or if you didn’t leave half-eaten granola bars on every flat surface. Or if you didn’t interrupt me every 30 seconds asking me to do things like put a bib on Minnie Mouse, or hold your booger, or answers questions like “Where do bumps live?” She didn’t let up either. She continued to nag – excuse me, “remind” – me to clean up because Mademine was coming for the next two hours, until Mademine actually arrived.

Madeleine is probably the most agreeable, well-behaved little girl I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Seriously, this is a picture of Madeleine:

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(Her mom told me today that when she wakes up in the morning she just rolls over and starts quietly playing with her stuffed animals and “would probably stay in there for two hours if we let her!” At that point I started seriously rethinking our friendship.)

This is Klara:

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(Klara does not “wake up in the morning.” Klara wakes up at 2 a.m. screaming “I WANT MOMMY!!!”)

Klara and Madeleine get along famously; the dynamic of their relationship is best summed up by the late, great Shel Silverstein in his poem “Friendship”:

I’ve discovered a way to stay friends forever–
There’s really nothing to it.
I simply tell you what to do
And you do it!

Klara had decided long before Madeleine arrived that they were going to paint. When presented with this “option” Madeleine, characteristically, agreed. Klara is nothing if not a good hostess. She ordered up bowls of grapes for each of them – “We’re ‘TARVIN’. You like grapes, Mademine? Mademine needs a bowl of grapes.”

Madeleine also agreed when Klara decided it was time to move on to playing with the Little People princess castle and Klip Klop stable. True, she balked a bit when Klara decided that that was quite enough of that and it was time to clean up every last princess, whether Madeleine was playing with them or not, and sit on the couch and watch T.V. I pleaded with her that Madeleine was using the toys, but to no avail. “No. Mademine wants to watch somepin’. She wants to sit on the couch.” She determinedly shoveled the princesses into the box, slammed the cover on and jammed the box onto the shelf. (Why in the name of all that is holy can she not be that “assertive” about picking things up when I want her to pick up???) I patiently explained that Madeleine was our guest and she was still playing. But it was too late. Madeleine had agreeably decided that she really DID want to sit on the couch and watch somepin’. “You like Mickey, Mademine?” Of course she did.

In good time, snacks were ordered. “We’re ‘TARVIN’.”

“You’re not starving. You just had a snack and it’s almost dinner time.”

“Yes we are. Mademine is ‘TARVIN’. You ‘tarvin’ Mademine?”

“Yeah!” Madeline agreed.

“She doesn’t even know what ‘starving’ means,” her mother whispered. “Madeleine, what does starving mean?”

“I don’t know!” she chirped.

Anyway, it was time to go. Madeleine immediately threw herself to the ground and began hitting and kicking and screaming “I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME!!!!” Ha ha no just kidding. She cheerfully thanked both me and Klara for having her over to play, dutifully put on her coat and left with a wave. I seriously rethought my philosophy of life, the universe and everything.

“That was so fun!!!” Klara bounced around the room, flinging undies. “I like Mademine.” She turned to me with a glare. “You need to cook me some dinner. I’m ‘TARVIN.'”

Assertive bitch.

 

 

Dear Parents Who Travel For Work

On behalf of Spouses Who Stay Home With the Kids, I ask you to please refrain from doing the following:

Acting tired from staying out late drinking
Posting pictures of yourself with celebrities on social media
Calling us from water taxis
Calling us from harbor cruises
Calling us from lazy rivers
Calling us from dim, quiet hotel rooms
Calling us from expensive dinners
Calling us drunk
Mentioning golf, receptions, cocktail hours, weather warmer or nicer than it is back home, or long airplane rides that require you to turn off your phone and read something
Acting like any of the above is a chore
Arriving home with presents for the person who just spit on someone in a fit of rage rather than the person that just got spit on
Sleeping in the day after you get home because YOU’RE tired

In return, we will not taunt you with mentions of Caillou, poop explosions, grocery shopping, laundry, chicken nuggets or Barefoot Moscato. We will not serenade you with the theme song from Paw Patrol in an attempt to get it out of our head. We will not post pictures of ourselves posing with Miss Sarah from story time or Miss Samantha from gymnastics. We will not call you at 2 am and 4 am so the whole family can be awake together. We will make sure you get to keep the 6 identical brown leaves we found on our walk today and had to bring in the house. We will insist you sleep in the day after you get home because you work hard to provide for our family.

Deal?

August 5, 2013

Marge: Am I cool, kids?
Bart and Lisa: No.
Marge: Good. I’m glad. And that’s what makes me cool—not caring, right?
Bart and Lisa: No.
Marge: Well, how the hell do you be cool? I feel like we’ve tried everything here.
Homer: Wait, Marge. Maybe if you’re truly cool, you don’t need to be told you’re cool.
Bart: Well, sure you do.
Lisa: How else would you know?

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This weekend, my brother got married. A lot, lot, lot of things happened that were so heartwarming and wonderful and full of love they would make you want to throw up a little bit. I’ll spare you most of the details.

One thing happened that has really kept me thinking and was so unexpected and awesome at the same time. I’ve really been in a funk lately, for a lot of reasons, and my self-esteem is in a really crappy place like it hasn’t been since high school/college (my first couple years of college were kind of a dark time). I had an amazing but extremely challenging first year as a mom and am finally getting back on my feet, but my new-mom lifestyle has left me careerless, frazzled, and with a completely changed body and a few extra pounds. In May, we were overjoyed to discover that my daughter was going to be a big sister, until our first ultrasound showed radio silence where we should have seen the frantic pattering of a 7-week old heart. I was realistic about the miscarriage, and rather than throwing me into a dark spiral, I simply felt rather deflated and worn out. To add insult to injury, my weight, which had already started plumping with happy baby bloat, kept right on climbing – apparently often your body takes awhile to get the memo that it doesn’t have an extra mouth to feed anymore, because hormones are awesome and why wouldn’t a sad, tired woman want to get fatter? Plus, finding a dress for your brother’s wedding that doesn’t make you look like a blimp in pictures is so boring when you’re thin. Continue reading “August 5, 2013”