It’s Vacation — What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

We’re pretty excited about going to Disney World in a few days.

And while I have been using the word vacation, I think it’s widely understood that the presence of children — even in the world’s happiest fucking place — still does not a vacation make.  Let’s call a spade a spade, because you know and I know that this whole trip is more accurately called An Overpriced Change of Scenery.

But still, it will be a world away from laundry, dishes, homework and the like.  So I am totally looking forward to it.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, if I’m being honest, I do have a few possibilities on my mind.

1) We could be detained by the Department of Homeland Security. My son has announced his intentions to bring his pirate sword onto the plane. When a simple explanation of “no weapons allowed on commercial aircraft” didn’t suffice, he considered the various ways to smuggle it on board, undetected — ninja-style. I really didn’t feel like getting into a discussion of anti-terrorism and The Patriot Act with him, so if you guys see my picture on the news with a headline like “Family of Four Placed on No-Fly List For Sword Possession,” you’ll know what happened.

2) We could end our non-vomiting streak.  This is always a concern of mine, given that my kids have puked in every state down the Eastern Seaboard in the past two years. After a brief and miraculous respite from the Vacation Travel Gods last year at Disney, I fear we are overdue for some Fordeville public vomiting. After all, it’s what we do best.  The real question is where.  I’m thinking either on the plane, in the buffet line or in a full hotel elevator.  Or maybe on Cinderella.  Because we don’t mess around.

3) We could waste a shit-ton of money.  If the past two years prove to be any indicator, my son will be obsessed with the only thing at Disney that is free — the monorail. This would be great news if we hadn’t already purchased all of our park passes at the cost of a home mortgage.  Now, endless monorail loops will fall under the Setting Money on Fire category.  I keep telling myself he’ll be over it this year.  But, the reality is that he may want to spend several consecutive days — again — just circling the perimeter of the actual money-sucking attractions. Damn it, kid, you will enjoy the rides that cost me some money. Now go check out the New Fantasyland before I ground you.

4) We could set a world record.  Not a good one.  Yeah, Orlando is going to be — in official meteorology terms — unseasonably cool.  As in, 30s and 40s overnight. My unofficial terminology for this temperature range is Fuuuccck, That’s Too Cold For Our Winter Vacation. Damn you, central Florida in March. So fickle, so unpredictable.  You think that gets us off the hook for sunscreen, don’t you?  Bwahahaha. You poor, naive souls. My husband will fall into the same trap, lulled into the comfort of frosty mornings and laughing at me for breaking out the SPF 5 million.  He will forget that we are freaks of nature and apparently lacking any and all melanin cells. And then, at least one of my kids, and probably me, will somehow become the first person on record to sustain an ER-level sunburn in 55-degree weather. While wearing long pants and a fleece.

5)  We could be mistaken for swingers.  At the end of the Disney stint, we’re heading over to visit my aunt and uncle in The Villages.  If you’re not familiar with this place, it’s basically a micro-city for the active 55+ population.  And I do mean active.  Not only do they have music piped into the streets and have a bar on every corner, but they also have the prestigious distinction of having one of the country’s highest STD rates.  And if I wear the wrong shoes on the wrong day, I may inadvertently send a signal to someone cruising in a golf cart that my husband and I are, uh, looking around.  This will be my first trip to The Villages, but something tells me it is begging for a future blog entry. Or a documentary.


So, as I pack our shorts and sandals jackets, sneakers and family pack of Dramamine, I’m hoping for the best. I probably won’t blog while I’m away, but you can find out if we’ve been incarcerated or picked up by swingers by following the fun on Facebook and Instagram.

Or, worst case scenario, look for us on CNN.


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A Vomit-Free Vacation

We are back from our family vacation to Florida.  I have much to report, but let me cut right to the headline:

Nobody threw up.

It’s true!  This is epic for the residents of Fordeville.  I mean, there was a very close call during the endless descent of our return flight.  As I sat between my two green children and played Vomit Roulette with the one puke bag I could access at that moment, I may have shouted “Come on, man!  For the love of God, how long does it take to land a damn plane?  Wheels down, dammit, wheels down!”

Or something like that.  Anyway, we emerged vomit-free.  Barely.

While little else can compare to that sparkling family achievement, there were other great elements of our trip.

We stayed with my mom and stepfather for a few days, which was great.  There was a lot of swimming and hanging out.


And then we drove up to Disney World for a few nights with my in-laws.  I really do love that place.  As you can see, this is a Fordeville genetic trait.

Here’s the thing about Disney World:  My son’s favorite attraction was the monorail — which is the only item in a 50-mile radius that costs absolutely nothing.  I may have to consider a Disney edition of my Money In Flames series, wherein we could have just purchased the kid a map of the park and a pirate outfit, then put him on the monorail for three days to save large sums of cash.

But then I could not have had access to the ice cream shaped like Mickey’s head, which is a must-have.  For me, anyway.

Also, the souls of my children have been replaced by those of pirates.  Arrrrgh.  Ahoy.  Me hearties.  They are obsessed, particularly since we bought them the Disney pirate gear.

My son, 16 seconds after waking up each morning:  “Where’s me pirate hat?  Me treasure chest?  Oh, and me spy glass?”

Aaaargh, matey.

My daughter, thankfully, held off on the Disney princess mania for what is probably the last possible year — mainly because she has declared herself a Pirate Princess in a show of solidarity with her brother’s obsession.  Naturally, there is an appropriately overpriced and ill-fitting Disney Pirate Princess hat available for purchase. {Hook and spy glass sold separately.  Of course.}

People have asked me if the park was crowded and if we waited on a lot of long lines.  Here’s the thing:  My kids are young enough that they don’t know yet what they are missing.  So if a particular ride had a really long line, I just steered them in the other direction, yelling something about another ice cream shaped like Mickey’s head.  Or I busted out another pirate prop.  Selfish parenting?  Maybe.  Totally effective?  You fucking bet. There will be plenty of years when we wait on long lines because they’ll have their heart set on something.


Other highlights of Disney World:

FastPass Insanity, one of my favorite spectator sports.  This is when you see two seemingly educated adults who, in front of their children and the general Disney public, will scream at each other — even stoop to name-calling — over the family’s FastPass strategy, in an effort to avoid waiting on any lines.  Like this:

“What do you mean, you didn’t get the FastPass for Winnie the Pooh?  The wait is over an hour!  What have you been doing?  I sent you to get the FastPasses!”

“I decided we should FastPass Pirates of the Caribbean instead.”

“What?! That’s all the way over in Adventureland!  What kind of jackass are you?  We are not hitting Adventureland until tomorrow!  Today is Fantasyland!  Fantasyland, god dammit!  I told you this over breakfast.  I can’t believe you.”

“I just thought…”

“You thought what?  You thought we’d just skip Fantasyland?  And ruin the whole trip for the kids? Nice job.”


The Stroller Olympics.  For many attractions, you are required to park your stroller in a designated area, which happens to be the size of China.  Then, in an effort to streamline the parking or to just screw with the minds of parents, the Disney employees tend to relocate the strollers while you’re inside the attraction.  You think you can spot your stroller in a crowd, don’t you?  I mean, you use it every day.  You may even have a colorful toy or something attached to it for easy identification.  But let me tell you something.  Unless you have installed a time-release-activated flare gun from the base of your stroller, you will be reduced to a dizzy and disoriented parent who walks around for 20 minutes mumbling, “I thought I left it right here.”  Because “right here” looks like this.


–And let’s not forget Disney Magic.  This year, Disney Magic emerged in two distinct forms.  First, the night when our kids, in a completely unprecedented move, fell asleep at a restaurant — one in the stroller, the other laying down in the booth.  This never happens with our kids.  Ever. Less selfish parents might have called it a night.  But where those parents see defeat, we saw opportunity.  Why, yes, we will have another round of cocktails please.

Disney Magic II was seeing one of my closest friends while there — in an unplanned capacity. A friend I’ve had for 20 years.  The friend who is the godmother to my daughter.  Someone whose travel plans don’t usually fall off my radar.  About a week before we left, I was on the phone with her, making plans for a different trip later this year (more on that another time).  She made a passing reference about getting ready for Disney, which led to the quick realization that we were booked on the same days.  At the same hotel. I swear, if we tried to coordinate this, in a hundred years we would not be able to do it.  But there we were.

So it was thumbs up all around at Disney World.

But look.  A Disney vacation is tiring.  So imagine how grateful I was to my mom when she agreed to watch the kids at her Florida place so P and I could go spend a child-free night by the ocean. Not a chicken nugget nor a pirate sword in sight.


A very nice 24-hour getaway that had me ready to face the trip  home.  Plus, we had to leave the humidity of Florida before my daughter was mistaken for Nick Nolte’s mug shot.



It’s always hard to come back.  But I’m pretty excited that we seem to have brought the warm weather home with us.  Along with the swashbuckling, sword fights and treasure hunts.


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Money in Flames: Power Outage Edition

Up until Hurricane Irene, I never had a discussion with anyone in my life about the importance of the following:

–Sump pumps with battery back ups

–Sump pumps, in any capacity

–French drains


I guess I was living the Polyanna life all these years.  But there I was this morning, at my two year-old’s play group, talking with four other moms about all of this.  And let me tell you, we were all terribly well-versed on these topics.  More so than any of us wanted to be.

Not just because of Irene and the related problems she caused in August — but also because of last weekend’s insane October snow storm.

It all sounded so quaint and fun at first.  A little snow before Halloween — how sweet.  I passed around the projected accumulation chart at happy hour on Friday night — because nothing screams “let’s party” like a weather graphic.  And we all had a good laugh, in a mocking sort of way.

But when it arrived, this little storm was distinctly not sweet.  Or  little.  Or fun.  At all.

The trees, still heavy with leaves at this time of year, snapped everywhere from the weight of the snow and ice.  Roads were blocked.  Lines down.  And yes, power out.

For the second time in 60 days, we faced a multi-day power outage.  This was also known as my Amish Training.  Or my Laura Ingalls Wilder reenactment.  Either way, not areas of strength for me.  Because I am not a fan of weaving at the loom by candlelight.  Or, more desperately, having to read Us Weekly a riveting book with a flashlight.  How am I supposed to hold my wine if I have to also hang onto my trashy tabloid magazine book and a lighting source?  How did the Ingalls family do it?

I guess they had those giant lanterns.  But since I didn’t, you can see the dilemma I faced.  Without enough hands, obviously the reading went by the wayside so I could safely hold my wine in the dark.  In the name of survival.

And, if you were ever wondering which is worse — a power outage in the heat of the summer or in the cold of fake-winter-in-October — guess what?  It’s your lucky day, because I am now qualified to tell you.

In the cold is way worse, especially if your heat is in any way reliant on electricity.  Oh, and super especially if you have a little something like a gaping hole in the side of your house  from an endless basement renovation, which allows all of the freezing air right in.  {Have I mentioned the basement renovation before?  I have, haven’t I?}

Good times, my friends, good times.

What’s that?  Why didn’t we get a generator after Irene?

Well, we were simply waiting for the electrical upgrade in the basement to be finished.  We didn’t realize that 1) this work might not happen until 2017 and 2) it would snow like crazy in October.

So there was only one thing on fire in the cold dark night:  Our money.  As in, the $200 of groceries I had just purchased that were spoiling in the refrigerator.  Because, surely I didn’t think our cute October snowstorm would mean ultimately sacrificing fresh meat and dairy products.  Trust me, I would never knowingly endanger cheese.  Or chilled white wine.  Or — for the love of all that is holy — an unopened pint of Edy’s Slow Churned Mint Chip.

But, there I was — just about 60 days after the last time I did this — emptying out the refrigerator into my trash can after the power was restored.

Money.  On fire.

And snow in October.  I think it’s going to be a long winter, folks.

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Money in Flames: Parking Edition


I’m thinking of starting a series here called How to Set Money On Fire.  Maybe I will. Because, sometimes — regrettably — my husband and I are better at this than we should be.

Don’t get me wrong.  We don’t look to waste money.  Nor are we sitting on a gold mine where these things go unnoticed.  It’s just that, at times, it would probably be faster to light money on fire than to go through the headache of how it was put to waste.  Like taking a three year-old to Disney World who only wants to ride the {free} monorail around the perimeter of the property — after we’ve already paid in limbs for park admission.

That kind of stuff.

And we have today’s example:  Commuter Parking.

You may remember past references I’ve made to the absurd wait lists here in my town.  Namely, for the town pool and for commuter parking at the train station.

We’ve conquered the pool wait list, thanks to my craftiness.  Now, the parking.

This issue directly impacts my husband, not me.  And I would be more passionate about it if I still commuted.  But, six months out, that morning routine is still fresh enough in my memory that I can offer full empathetic rage to P about where he can park his car for the privilege of boarding NJ Transit.

Here are the facts:

1)  We have been on the wait list for 18 months to get a permit for the commuter lot.  A resident permit.  In the town where we live and pay taxes.

2)  Without said permit, there are several equally unattractive options:

–Walk the mile each way from our home to the station.  Which sounds all noble/peaceful/eco-friendly/pick your adjective here.  But the truth is that we are not people who allow enough time for this in the morning.  We know our limits.  It would be a disaster.

–Arrive at the station early enough to purchase a $5 non-permit spot from a police officer who sits there every morning for this purpose.  Sounds easy enough, right?

No. Here’s why.

It’s a secret as to exactly how many spots the officer will sell each day — depending, he says, on factors like snow or construction.  Or, it seems, the mood of his sergeant — based on whether or not he had chicken pot pie the night before.  It’s that random.  One morning, 50 spots for sale.  The next, 15.  You have to factor in other variables like rain (fewer people walk, spots go quickly), day of the week (easier on Fridays, crazy on Mondays) and time of year (winter is harder than summer).  And the only way to know if the officer has anything left is if his lights are flashing (that means sold out).  Of course, you can’t see this until you’ve already sped at an illegally fast pace pulled into the lot and passed up your next option, which is the following.

–Pay $5 to park at the gas station up the street.  The one that’s between home and the train station — and to which P must backtrack after seeing the unfortunate Sold Out lights on the officer’s car.  Then you basically leave your keys with a random gas attendant, throw him $5 and sprint for the train, while waving nicely at the officer with the Sold Out lights so that he might cut you a break someday when you forget to feed the meter at Starbucks.  Hypothetically, of course.

It’s an awesome way to start the day.  Totally not stressful.

So you can imagine my husband’s joy when he received a call last week that the town had a spot available for him.

At the secondary lot.

The secondary lot?


You have to go through Parking Purgatory to get to Parking Heaven in our town.  And we’re told we should expect to spend another four to five years waiting in purgatory.

Here’s the best part:  The secondary lot is way further away than the gas station option.  And obviously further away than paying the parking cop at the train station.

There is absolutely nothing beneficial about this.  So we’ll just pass on this lot and wait for our name to come up for the main lot.  OK?

NO.  Not OK.  Presumably, the same municipal maniacs who preside over the town pool nonsense have also stated that we must take the purgatory spot to stay on the list for the main lot.

And herein lies the setting of the money on fire.

Because, again — knowing how we are and how close we cut things — the likelihood is pretty slim that my husband is going to get to the purgatory lot in time to walk over and make his train.  Especially once winter comes.  He will very likely just pull into the train station, pray that the Sold Out lights aren’t flashing on the cop car and make it easy on himself.  And I can’t blame him.  Even with that shiny new purgatory lot permit sticker in the window.

So.  We’ll be paying for the purgatory lot, which we now view as a Waiting Fee, while P also spends $5/day either with the cop or the random gas station dude.

Money.  On fire.

We’re not proud of it, but it’s the ugly truth.

Maybe he should reconsider walking.

And if you guys have any tales of Money in Flames, now would be a good time to throw them out there — just so I feel a little better.

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