Disneyland During Spring Break: I Went So You Don’t Have To

Posted on May 8, 2014 in My Kid Stole My Cool, Travel Traumas

Disneyland During Spring Break: I Went So You Don’t Have To 4

Spring break season is over.

As Elisabeth is not yet school-aged, I don’t think in terms of break schedules.  So when Damon visited last March and we decided to take Elisabeth to Disneyland, we didn’t consider that half the state of California (and the entire U.S.) would be on spring break and visiting Disneyland with us.

While we lived in Japan, Damon routinely brought up the idea of visiting Tokyo Disney.  I routinely shot down that idea.  It was too crowded, too expensive, and Elisabeth was too young to enjoy or remember it.  I am a cold, heartless woman, I know.

But things were different now.*  Despite my efforts at shielding Elisabeth from the more annoying of Disney characters, she is enamored of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  She’s old enough to have fun on rides.  Though she would not remember the trip, she’d enjoy it in the moment.  Plus, this was going to be our last time together as a family of three.  Why not do something special?  Disneyland is magical! It’s the Happiest Place on Earth! What could be more special than that?

Happiest Place on Earth?

Happiest Place on Earth?

Well, unless you think “special” entails pushing your way through hoards of tourists and waiting in endless lines while trying to keep your impatient child (or children) entertained, DON’T go to Disneyland during spring break.  Just don’t.

Because this is what your visit will be like:

-Take 30 minutes to find parking.

-Wait 20 minutes for a shuttle to the park, or walk the 20 minutes to the entrance.

-Wait another 30 minutes in line for exorbitantly priced tickets. (Note to military spouses – Disneyland does not offer military discounts for single day passes. You have to waste three days of your life there if you want a discount.)

-Decide to take your daughter out of line and let her run around the courtyard that separates Disneyland and California Adventure. Marvel at her excitement at recognizing the characters that decorate the flagpoles.  “Hot dog!” she will squeal with glee, because for some inexplicable reason she will think Goofy’s name is “Hot Dog.”  Wonder why you are paying almost $200 to go into the theme park, when your child is obviously very easily entertained for free.

-Finally procure tickets and wait another 10 minutes to get through the turnstile.

Take note.  You have now spent an hour and a half of your precious day waiting. Something you will only continue to do once you’re actually inside.  If you’re visiting with a toddler you probably were not able to leave the house before 10AM due to some toddler-crisis, so by this time it’s practically lunch.  You will wonder how feeding and nap schedules are going to play into your day, and contemplate your kid’s inevitable meltdown. You will also curse the inability of ANYTHING ever going according to your timeline.

“Um, why are we doing this on my vacation?” my dear husband asked while we were in line for tickets. It took great restraint not to strangle him on the spot,.  Remember how he was the one that repeatedly asked about taking to Elisabeth to Tokyo Disneyland?  Yeah.

“BECAUSE WE ARE HAVING A FUN FAMILY DAY, SO SUCK IT UP. THIS IS WHAT YOU DO AT DISNEYLAND. YOU WAIT!”

Do you get the point yet?  Let’s move on.

-Once you’re finally into the park, you’ll spot your first character on Main Street. Mickey! Then you’ll spot the line to meet  Mickey.  Forget about Mickey.

-Walk to the carousel and determine the line is not too long.  Because, really. Who rides a carousel at Disneyland except toddlers and their parents?

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-After the carousel, check out the closest toddler-friendly ride: Dumbo. Check out the line for Dumbo: Hell, no.

-Consider your other options.  Casey Jr. Circus Train.  Hey, that line doesn’t look ridiculously long! Go for it.

-Quickly discover you are wrong.  Casey Jr.’s line is moving like molasses because the ride is only operating ONE TRAIN. Seriously, Disneyland?

-While waiting and waiting, try to distract your child from the nearby Dumbo ride.  See Dumbo statue and sit her in that. You have successfully tricked your child into thinking she has ridden Dumbo without waiting in an hour + line! You win as a parent!

This totally counts as riding Dumbo

This totally counts as riding Dumbo

-Eventually get on the circus train.  Realize it is quite possibly the most boring ride in all of Disneyland.  Maybe in any theme park, ever.  Even your two-year-old is bored.  Lament the time you spent waiting for this joke of a ride. Start calculating price/ride in your head.   Cry a little bit on the inside.

It is now wayyyy past your kid’s lunchtime. And even though the churros smell heavenly, as a semi-decent parent you will know that you can’t feed your 2-year old a churro for lunch.  Or you can, but you’ll pay for that later.  Can you say “sugar crash?”  Break for lunch at one of the many mediocre eateries nearby and realize that sheesh – it’s already mid-afternoon.  Where did the day go? And why are there so many damn people!?

-After lunch, head to Toontown.  Let your child run loose and try not to lose him or her in the crowds.

-See that you can meet Mickey in Mickey’s House! Your kid loves Mickey! Enter Mickey’s House and realize that this is also going to be another crazy long wait, but at least there are things for your kid to play with/on while you make your way through the house.

-As you get close to Mickey, your cynical self will melt a little as you witness your child’s enthusiasm. “Mickey around the corner!” she’ll exclaim.

-Finally reach Mickey. Watch your child dissolve into tears at the sight of a terrifyingly large mouse trying to pry her from her father’s arms. Curse all that is Disney.

That face is pure fear.

The face of fear.

"Daddy save me!"

“Daddy save me!”

-Calm your child and leave Toontown.  Buy him/her a souvenir in hopes of reversing some of the Mickey trauma.

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It’s now almost 4:00.  When did that happen? What have you to show for the last four hours? An overtired child and a pair of overpriced mouse ears? It’s obviously time to move onto another part of the park.  As you’re walking, you’ll realize that Disneyland has expanded in the last 10 years: there is now a petting zoo in Frontierland.  Why, why, WHY?**  You will quickly change course but soon realize that it doesn’t matter because your toddler is passed out in the stroller.  Now what?

-With your child asleep, walk around aimlessly and gape at the ever-increasing crowds.  Don’t these people know they are ruining your SPECIAL FAMILY TIME?

– Decide it is time to sit down and indulge in the fattiest, sugariest thing you can find.  And that’s only because alcohol isn’t available anywhere.  (Even if it was, you’re pregnant and you don’t need people judging you right now.)

Sorry, kid. This is what you miss out on when you sleep at Disneyland.

Sorry, kid. This is what you miss out on when you sleep at Disneyland.

-Look wearily at your husband and decide to throw in the towel and go home.

-Realize you spent well over $200 to let your child run around a glorified playground.

-Vow never to go to Disneyland again, ever. (Unless your kid is on a year-round schedule and you can go when everyone else is in school.  I grew up doing this, and I highly recommend year-round school for this reason.)

There you have it.  This will be your Disneyland experience for roughly the entirety of March and April.  And probably June-August, too.  Stay home.  Save your time, your money, your sanity.  There is no magic here.

 

*Full disclosure: I did take Elisabeth to Disneyland last summer. But we had free tickets, and I believe in bringing babies to Disneyland only if it’s free.

**I hate petting zoos.  So gross.

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Frozen is Crushing My Soul

Posted on Apr 23, 2014 in My Kid Stole My Cool

Confession: I don’t get the hype around Frozen. *Winces at instant backlash from Frozenphiles everywhere* I’ve only seen the movie once.  I don’t own the DVD, I have not bought Elisabeth an Elsa costume (not that I could find one if I wanted to), and I have not made a cutesy YouTube video of me lip-synching to the soundtrack.  I am clearly a failure as a parent. But don’t hate me just yet.  Hear me out: Damon visited a few weeks ago.  We decided to take Elisabeth to her first movie.  (Frozen, in case that wasn’t obvious.)  I was hesitant at first – she seemed a little young to sit through a full-length movie.  Plus any Disney animated film would surely feature some traumatic incident LIKE PARENTS DYING or something.* But since the whole world was in love with this movie, and I knew plenty of parents who had taken their toddlers to see it without incident, I decided to go for it.  Also, I had seen some Adele Dazeem perform a song from the film at the Oscars, and the music seemed pretty good.  That was enough for me. Now, I hadn’t seen a Disney animated movie since maybe… The Lion King?  Which came out in 1994, by the way.  (I Googled it, I know.)  So yeah, that’s 20 years without Disney in my life.  I didn’t know what to expect.  (Except catchy songs and traumatic deaths, obvi.) The movie started and Elisabeth was immediately enthralled.  But also kind of terrified, I think.  It was insanely loud.  Why are the theaters trying to deafen our children?  Elisabeth sat on my lap, clutching my shirt, the entire movie.  At one point she had tears streaming down her face.  I was shocked at the emotional maturity of my daughter! Who knew a two-year could connect so intensely with an on-screen character? Could feel such empathy and emotion? Or maybe she just hadn’t blinked for an hour.  I can’t be sure. I whisked her out of the theater.  “Are you okay? What’s wrong?” I inquired.  She seemed eager to get back...

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Night Stalker Loses the Pacifier

Posted on Apr 17, 2014 in My Kid Stole My Cool, Pregnancy Stole My Cool

Night Stalker Loses the Pacifier 5

I had a list of things I was going to accomplish with Elisabeth once we moved back to California and before the baby came: 1)   Potty Train 2)   Transition to Toddler Bed 3)   Wean from Pacifier Then we actually got to California and I realized I was too pregnant and tired to deal with any of those things.  Sure, we put Elisabeth in the Big Girl Bed, but it has been two months and she still gets out of it unattended, and I still occasionally put her back in the crib on nights she is particularly uncooperative, or nights I am particularly exhausted and can’t handle lying with her for an hour.  I know.  My inconsistency if probably not helping the situation. And sure, Elisabeth uses the potty sometimes.  We were on a roll when I introduced itty-bitty cookies as an incentive, but then Elisabeth got over the “potty cookies” and opted to go back to the diaper.  The girl is smart – I upped my game and started using M&Ms. The “emma-emmas” were a big hit at first.  She was back on the potty.  But then one M&M per pee wasn’t enough.  “Two emma-emmas?” she would try to negotiate.  That’s when I threw in the towel.  Stay in diapers till you’re 12, for all I care!* As for getting rid of the pacifier – yeah, right.  My half-assed attempts at potty training and establishing a bedtime routine were far too draining to even think about pacifier weaning. Then I hit 34 weeks.  And I panicked.  Six weeks!  Only six weeks till baby arrived and I had accomplished nothing with Elisabeth! I had squandered a precious seven weeks and the time to buckle down was NOW. I made a plan of attack: Get rid of the pacifier first.  I was already staying with Elisabeth until she fell asleep every night, so I could provide her with whatever comfort she needed in the wake of her loss.  And it would be a great, great loss.  Once she had adjusted to sleeping without her pacifier, I would work on getting her...

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Can’t Hack It

Posted on Apr 12, 2014 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, My Kid Stole My Cool, Pregnancy Stole My Cool

Can’t Hack It 1

I spent last weekend in San Francisco visiting friends.  Non-mom friends.  For the first time, the distinction between “mom” friends and “non-mom” friends became important; for the first time, I realized that though I like to think I can hang out with my non-mom friends just like I used to, I’m severely disillusioned.  Nope.  As a 33 weeks pregnant mom of a two-year-old, I just can’t hack it anymore. *** The week after moving back to southern California, a few non-mom friends happened to be in town.  After exchanging emails to make dinner plans, one friend suggested a place and time. 8:30. I balked. 8:30!? As in, PM!?  But that’s jammy time!  I hastily wrote my friends back, and after claiming jet-lag, asked if we could push dinner up to 8:00.  I really meant 5:30, but figured that might be pushing it for my friends whose lives don’t currently revolve around potty-training and early morning prenatal yoga.  So 8:00 it was.  The evening of our dinner arrived, and after chugging boatloads of coffee I made my way to the restaurant, praying I wouldn’t fall asleep face-first into my mocktail.* I managed to rally, but I got lucky that time.  So let’s examine last weekend, when a silly pregnant woman attempted to recapture her pre-children days. Friday night my girlfriends and I got together at a charming little Italian restaurant.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner and then lingered over wine.  (Well, everyone else lingered over wine.  I lingered over water.)  I love these girls.  I love catching up with them.  I love lingering over wine when I am actually allowed to drink wine.  But how does a sleep-deprived, third-trimester pregnant woman stay awake past 9:00 in a dim restaurant after eating copious amounts of carbs and cured meat?  It’s damn near impossible, I tell you. Everyone seemed a little spent after a long week, and decided to disperse after dinner rather than heading out somewhere else.  Thank the good Lord – I could go to bed!  Except I couldn’t.  My friend’s neighbor fell asleep with her television blasting.  My über-sensitivity...

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We Do Not Negotiate with Toddlers

Posted on Mar 16, 2014 in My Kid Stole My Cool

We Do Not Negotiate with Toddlers 1

We do not negotiate with toddlers. I wish this were true.  But we do negotiate with toddlers.  At least I do.  All day…  Every day…  Go ahead and file this under, “Things I thought I’d never do as a parent.” -Sigh- Wouldn’t it be great to take a hard-line with these obstinate little ones? “Eat your vegetables because I said so.” “Put on your pants because it’s cold outside.” “Go to sleep because you need sleep to live.” Done and done.  If only it were that easy.  If only the toddlers would respond to logic and reason. But no.  Toddlers don’t respond to logic and reason because they’re not logical or reasonable.  They’re two; they respond to cookies and toys.  Either that or they’re manipulative little geniuses who know how to get exactly what they want  Maybe it’s both.  So instead we parents (or just me?) endlessly cajole, bargain, and outright bribe.  I didn’t notice my shameful behavior at first.  Then one day I realized almost every conversation with my 2-year-old involved some sort of “If…Then” statement. “Eat your vegetables,” became, “If you eat your vegetables, you can have more pasta.” “Put on your pants,” became, “If you don’t put on your pants, then we can’t go outside,” which became, “If you put on your pants, we can watch Elmo when we come back inside.”  When even Elmo didn’t work, it became, “Here’s my iPhone.  Look at pictures while I put on your pants.”  (For some reason, Elisabeth was vehemently anti-pants for a while.) When did every interaction with my child become a negotiation?  When will it stop!? I thought I’d be tougher.  I thought I would weather any tantrum and firmly hold my ground.  Eventually my toddler would listen to me and respect me, simply because I know what’s best. But holy cow – have you ever spent 30 FREAKING MINUTES trying to clothe a screaming, flailing child?  Or 30 minutes doing ANYTHING that should take 2 minutes, but for the innate need of these little people to assert total domination over you?  (I suppose it’s more PC...

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New Zealand, Part 1: Bananagate.

Posted on Mar 11, 2014 in Pregnancy Stole My Cool, Travel Traumas

New Zealand, Part 1: Bananagate. 4

New Zealand.  I have to blog about my trip to New Zealand, even though it was two months ago.  My memory seems to be diminishing with each passing day of this pregnancy, so it’s imperative I document this trip now.  You know, so when I make our travel scrapbook 10 years from now I’ll actually have a record of where we went and what we did. You guys, New Zealand is stunning.  Gorgeous beyond belief.  I knew NZ was one of those places Damon and I had to visit while we were living in Japan, but I wasn’t all that sure why.  Because it’s pretty?  Because Lord of the Rings was filmed there?  I mean, a lot of places are pretty, and I don’t really care about Lord of the Rings.  But still, for no particular reason other than vague praise from fellow travelers, NZ was on our travel bucket-list.  And thank goodness it was. Perhaps we didn’t really know what to expect from our trip because it’s probably hard for most people – including myself – to articulate how incredible this place is.  Damon, Elisabeth, and I flew into Christchurch and spent 11 days traveling the South Island by car, spending one or two nights in a town before moving on to our next destination.  Even with 11 days, we only traversed the southern half of the South Island, but every day brought a different experience.  By no means am I a nature girl, yet I was rendered speechless by each beach, lake, mountain, glacier, waterfall, what-have-you we saw.  It was all magnificent. We’d be driving along, admiring one landscape – say,  rolling green hills dotted with sheep – turn a corner and be struck by a completely different, but equally stunning view, perhaps a glassy lake in the most brilliant turquoise color you’ve ever seen, or snow-capped mountains against a perfectly blue sky.  Even when it rained (which it did, a lot) it was still crazy beautiful.     We took our trip in early January, summer in NZ and therefore the tourism high season, yet there...

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