I see some of you online with your back to school photos, shiny new kids’ backpacks and giant parental grins. I am watching from the sidelines, deliberately keeping my distance from the mentality of transitioning out of summer and back into productivity mode. And while of course my kids can easily fray my last nerve sometimes as the end of the season approaches, the truth is that I have never once wished to have school start earlier.

This last week of August to me is special, sad, and a little glorious all at once. I’ve been at the beach all week in a house where 13 members of my family are all staying together. There are a few decisions to make each day: Beach or pool? Hamburgers or chicken? Red or white? There is simultaneously a tremendous amount of activity and a gorgeous lull of laziness hanging in the thick humidity of the ocean air.

I know that, in a matter of days, my kids will go back to school. And the madness of schedules will return. Yes, we could use some structure and consistency for sure, but I’m not ready yet to give them back to alarm clocks and homework and the building crescendo of “Get in the car, get in the car, get in the car, WE ARE LATE GET IN THE CAR.”

It will be a big year of change for us. My kids will be in three different schools, and my oldest will be starting middle school, with its own set of distinct challenges. I recently went back to work after eight years (more on that another time), which has required all of us to adjust on several levels. And to boot, space and time refuse to slow down, despite my repeated requests. Processing change on any level is really not my strong suit, and this year feels like seismic shifts in a lot of ways. It’s hanging out there like a big leap I have to make, and soon.

And so this week, which has turned out to be steamy and even more late August-y than usual, has brought my extended family together in this house from three countries and three states. It’s rare that we are all together, and so to have this time to catch up and laugh without anyone having any kind of schedule is beyond special to me – even if a little bit like a reality show — and the perfect pinnacle to this summer.

It is my summer solstice.

I’m not good with science or being on time, and so yes, I know the solstice was really in June if you want to be technical. But, for me, in thinking about the longest days of summer, they are here with me now – without camp or work or laundry or a lot of rules. They are walks by the beach every morning before the sun gets too strong, with an iced coffee on the way back. They are a group mimosa most mornings, with some laughs about the night before, and maybe talk of a loose plan for the day. They are hours in the pool or the ocean while listening to Motown over cocktails and depleting the pallets of sunscreen. These are the days of ocean air, ice cream taste tests, and denial of what another looming school year will bring as my kids are somehow another year older.

These are the longest days not because the calendar says so, but because I have willed them to stretch beyond what is physically possible, capturing them in photos and in my memory. My solstice is borne of nostalgia and a lifelong habit of poorly transitioning between seasons, both of life and of the year. I know the days will shorten soon, and rapidly, once we pack up this beach house and all go our separate ways back to reality. And so, for now, it is peak summer, if only in my mind.




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The Year of Yes, We Loved You So

Let me just dust off the tumbleweeds here for a minute and prepare my monitor for the shock of some actual words being typed on my blog. It has been a while.

So, I’m up against my annual oh-hey-look-it’s-November-and-suddenly-I’m-way-behind-on-holiday-prep realization. My 412 mental browser windows opened simultaneously, like they can only for the person who is in charge of making all of the Christmas magic happen. And as I started thinking about the hell that is holiday cards, my photos reminded me that I never sat down here to write about and memorialize this past year.

Because, once in a blue moon, the universe throws you an unusual gift that deserves some attention.

My husband recently went back to work after being out for a full year. We ended up calling it The Year of Yes — not by design, but as a name that sort of evolved over the course of our time together.

I am married to one of the most low-key, even-keeled souls in the world. Which is good, because I am the opposite, and there can’t be two of me in a union without the inevitable occurrence of spontaneous mental combustion. We knew after he turned down a job transfer to Denver that he’d be laid off when the acquisition of his company was complete. This didn’t bother him. In his mind, he had been working for close to 30 years and the temporary time off was a welcome change.

He basically wanted three things out of this situation: family time, some travel and some golf.

I also wanted three things out of this situation: some long overdue home organization projects completed, an extra set of hands with the kids, and maybe a trip to remember.

So we had some basic overlap, which was a good starting point.

I’ve mentioned before that we are not really “must have things” people. Yeah, sure, I like new stuff sometimes but we would always choose travel and experiences first. This is why you should never ask me for style tips or what car to buy, other than a minivan that requires a FEMA-level cleaning. I can plan a vacation for you, but I have no clue what bag I should be carrying or what shoes to wear when I get there.

And so began the “hey, why not, let’s take a few trips” mentality. Because, as I reminded a 50 year-old man with three young kids, he’s never going to have this kind of time off again (#collegesavings #retirementmoney).

And so, there were lots of long weekend getaways. Local-ish ski trips. A visit to my dad in Arizona, where we brought the biggest drought relief to the desert in years. It wasn’t unusual to find me in the elementary school office on a Thursday around lunch time, with the administrative assistant addressing me by name and correctly assuming that I was there to sign my kids out yet again. Yep. Second and fourth grade is not going to send us off of a learning cliff. See you Monday, the car is packed.





When spring break planning came along, we wanted to do something different since we didn’t have to plan around any work schedules and, hey, what’s a few more missed days of elementary school at that point in the year? (Yes, they managed to stay within state laws and complete their grades.) We entrusted our kids’ new-ish traveling chops, packed an entire rollerboard full of gluten-fee food for the Celiac Crew, and put ourselves on an 11-hour flight.



They slept not one minute between the three of them, but we landed in Hawaii and all was forgiven — mainly because you can’t be annoyed about anything when you’re thousands of miles away from New Jersey, holding a giant coconut filled with booze while a board shorts-wearing Mickey Mouse walks by. To break up the sensation of being trapped forever in an airborne capsule with kids, we stopped in California on the way back for a few days, and finished up what was the trip of a lifetime.  We made this last point very clear, very frequently, as in: “Kids, there won’t be another trip like this. Enjoy it — hit the buffet hard and often, as well as every water slide in sight. Mom and Dad will leave no cocktail behind.”











When the school year was drawing to a close, so came the realization that the Year of Yes would end in a few short months. Without the constraints of educational requirements and common core math problems, summer beckoned and we put a few more road trips under our belts. And in a swan song move for which I take full responsibility, we even managed to ditch the kids for a week and fulfill one of my bucket list items of seeing my favorite four people (U2) in Dublin.**

**Please note that I am not a stalker by the standard legal definition. This trip probably warranted its own post but I’m not willing to show my crazy quite that much.



So, there was travel. Lots of travel. And would you believe me if I said that wasn’t even the thing I was most grateful for all year? It’s true. Because, more importantly, there was also a household where two parents were home at all times, and this was really the amazing part. Nobody had to be schlepped unwillingly to a sibling’s activity (I’m looking at you, child #3 — you of the spirited refusal in voice and body). I outsourced all math homework to my engineering-brained spouse. Dinner and laundry and cleaning were shared tasks. I was not driven to the point of insanity by 6pm every night. Divide and conquer — what a glorious way to live.

The kids loved having their father at home, having him drive carpools or take them to school. They weren’t waiting around every night to see if he’d make it home from work before they went to bed. It was wonderful for them.

And I had a daytime date. It turns out that, when it comes to everyday conversation, I really prefer my husband over almost anyone else in the world. That should probably go without saying, but a lot of people would roll their eyes at me and say, “I would lose it if my husband was home every day. Aren’t you dyyyying for him to just go back to work already?”

Honestly, I wasn’t.

I liked hanging out with him in intervals that weren’t driven by schedules or kids’ commitments. Full sentences, even paragraphs, were spoken on an uninterrupted basis. Yes, of course there were times I needed him to get out of my space or stop messing with the well-oiled domestic machine I’ve cultivated over the years, but that wasn’t very often. We’d go out for coffee or lunch sometimes, maybe run an errand, and spent a lot of time together following the insane political news coverage of the last year. I can’t remember if it was him or me who threw the first shoe at the TV during a Sean Spicer press briefing, but it was good to have someone here who shared my outrage. (Yeah, yeah, I’m trying not to be too political here — stay with me — I’m moving along.)

Were there downsides to this whole arrangement? Sure. My weekly grocery bill saw about a 30% increase by having the biggest food consumer home 24/7. And with that came a slow but steady uptick in junk food around my house. Did you know that my husband singlehandedly keeps Entenmann’s in business? It’s true. I have the pantry to prove it. And if you were wondering what post-college adult enjoys buying Ring Dings or Drake’s Cakes, he’s 5’10” and lives right here. Don’t get me started on the abject injustice of his caloric intake with zero weight gain consequences; it is a long-standing pain point for me. To have him here, flaunting his glazed donut for breakfast while I had my usual spartan meal on my way to Pure Barre, was really a drag.

Also, you know those to-do list items you’ve had for your house that neverrrr get done? The ones that have been written down for a decade of rainy days? Let me tell you something super-depressing: We have them on our list and, after a full year of my husband being home, they did not get done. Nope. So, I have basically made my peace with the fact that they must be deleted because there is simply no chance in hell they will ever happen now. Goodbye, visions of a cleaned out attic and purged basement. Apparently, it’s just not fucking feasible in this lifetime.

Now and then, I’d have mini panic attacks over the course of the year about not-so-minor things like income and employment. My husband was calm and cool, working on it, knowing he’d land something. He was giving himself a year and, true to form for the way he is lucky about everything in life (ahem), along came a job just as the year off was coming to an end. You can’t make this shit up.

(Also, I do not share the good luck unicorn thing he has going — so, yes, I’ll join you for a moment of vomiting in solidarity.)

And just like that, the Year of Yes was over.

And. It. Flew. By.

The week before he went back to work, I was having anxiety over the transition back to reality. Who was going to deal with all of these kids, all of the time? Was the math homework, now a year more advanced, just going to get itself done? It all had to revert to the old way. But, back to real life we went.

It was like ripping off a Band Aid. I looked around the first day he was gone and realized I’d have to launch my shoe at Sarah Sanders’ press briefing all by myself. I had a long chat with the now four year-old about not throwing down while attending ballet/Girl Scouts/gymnastics/fencing/football for his siblings. I watched my kids cry as their dad left early in the morning and said he’d be back in about 12 hours. I took myself out for coffee and made peace with the to-do items that will never, ever see the light of day.

And we all bounced back just fine. Because, why the hell not? We were lucky to have what we did, and it was amazing while it lasted. And, frankly, it was time for the Entenmann’s stash to go.

Maybe I’ll just tackle the basement and attic on my own this year.








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I’m 82 in Ski Years

Skiing is one of those sports that seems like a great idea as a family pursuit in the long run, but requires a good amount of gear, expense, organization and whining management skills upfront.

This past weekend, we packed up the kids, 5.6 million metric tons of stuff, and off we went. We had originally planned this trip for the long Presidents’ Day weekend but the temperatures in the Northeast at that time were in the I-don’t-fucking-think-so range (around -25, give or take a frostbitten, amputated extremity). So we held out for early March and hoped for more survivable conditions.

I had a plan for this trip. And, like most of the scant plans in my life, whether or not it was going to work or fail was an utter crapshoot.

The mission was two-fold:

1) Get my older two kids skiing. Legitimately skiing. They have taken periodic lessons here and there, but never with enough frequency or intensity to make any real progress past the magic carpet or carving out the largest pizza pie that their little legs could handle without snapping off. The mountain we were visiting this past weekend was billed as extremely family-friendly, with a big focus on the kids. And so, I signed them up for two straight days of ski school, at six hours per day. For those of you keeping track at home and using Common Core Math, that is the equivalent of 39.2447 daily complaints about boot discomfort, a layer of clothing being bothersome or general discontent. Per kid.

2) Get my ski legs back under me. I grew up skiing and continued into my mid-20s. I was never an expert but could hold my own on most trails. I stopped after a crazy mishap with a tight rental boot landed me a blood clot back in 2003, and then I eventually had kids and just never picked it back up. Thirteen years went by until January of this year, when I finally got back to it, with a clear goal: just survive (aiming high, as always). Now I wanted to see if I could actually get some decent form back. In addition to my body cooperating with this mission, it was also contingent on the two year-old agreeing to hang out in the mountain’s day care center for a few hours.

Let’s just say that the odds were stacked against me on both fronts.

Then, for reasons I can’t explain and that probably fall in the supernatural realm, the tide started to turn in my favor. The late winter weather was gorgeous – nobody was going to perish from exposure. We got the older two kids layered up and into their ski boots with minimal complaints. The toddler offered only a minor protest at the notion of the day care, easily solved by a “Paw Patrol” episode.

And so, it was 9:36am on Friday and we had managed to get all three kids settled into their respective settings that did not involve us supervising them in any capacity. We looked around as if incredulous or clearly the victims of a reality show prank, and then sealed the deal with a high five, as only the over-40 dork set does.

If I’m being honest, the first thing that crossed my mind after this miraculous drop-off trifecta was to just go back to the room and take a nap. Simply because I could. Quickly reminded by both my husband and my unflattering ski pants of the real reason we were there, I soldiered on and made my way over to the chair lift.

When we reached the top and approached the trail map, my eyes went directly to any and all green on the map. I wanted the easiest way down. In fact, I followed signage that actually said “Easiest way down the mountain.”

No matter, I thought. It was our first run.

But, no. The green trails and I were as thick as thieves. Could I do the blue ones? Yes. Did I? Some. But I quickly realized that I am now the spry old age of 82 in Ski Years. My style can best be described as tentative and generally paranoid. My mission? Do not get hurt, do not get hurt, do not get hurt, which I chanted in my head at regular intervals down the hill.

I wanted the least amount of ice, the gentlest slope and as few tween snowboarding daredevils as possible within a 12 mile radius. I had become the skiing equivalent of “Get off my lawn,” as I scowled at any whippersnappers under the age of 20 who flew by and put my life and limb in danger.

Now, the problem with my newfound geriatric approach is that I had skied with my husband back when I was in my 20s and we were dating. At that time, I was probably trying to impress him, or just generally didn’t give a shit about my well being or how a body cast would impede me from driving a minivan. He remembers these days fondly and suggested a few “easy” black diamond trails that he felt I could still handle. It didn’t help that, in the ongoing and great injustice of being married to him, he is able to pick up any activity he hasn’t done in years and just excel at it. Sonofabitch. So he was all swish, swish, swish and I was talking to myself as I tried to maintain both general control and all of my limbs.

I did get my ski legs back over the course of the weekend and managed to do a pretty good job for a 40-something mom who was way out of practice. But my approach is just different now. I’m all senior citizen, all the time. If AARP is looking for a sponsorship opportunity on my helmet, they should totally call me. I don’t want the stress or the speed or the jumps. I want to cruise down the pretty little slopes and not worry about bodily harm. And I want a spot on the Olympic Apres Ski Team.

apres ski

Oh, and I want ski pants that make my ass look better. Even if I’m 82.

{And how has nobody improved the ski boot experience? We can put a man on the moon and cure horrible diseases, and yet we still require footwear for this sport that distinctly resembles a medieval torture device. Can someone get on this, please?}

Back at the day care, the toddler hung tight and probably binge-watched all three seasons of “Paw Patrol” in our absence. But that’s OK. His vision is slowly coming back into focus now that we’ve been home for a few days.

And finally, circling back to the first part of my mission, here’s how it went at the kids’ lessons while we seriously upped our apres ski game (because it’s important to condition and build endurance over time): They had graduated from the magic carpet to the chair lift, which seemed unfathomable to me. And the next day, from the novice lift to the big one that goes to the summit. Basically, by the end of the weekend, they were skiing the same runs as their 82 year-old mother.

ski kids

Now that I’m back home – operating the minivan without any detectable fractures and wearing sensible shoes that don’t make me want to cry – I’m glad we went. I’m excited that 4/5 of us can enjoy skiing together. And I’m 100% sure that I’ll be the slowest one in the group from now on.



Speaking of mountains and general outdoorsy-ness, just a quick footnote to follow up on my last post about the NJ vs Colorado Pressure Cooker Decision Weekend. Even though we loved Colorado and we live in a state that has birthed a million punch lines, we’re staying put. 




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To Leap or Not to Leap?

Today is Leap Day and so it’s fitting that I tell you about the events of the last five days.

Do you do well with making important decisions? I mean really big ones — beyond how many times to nuke that cup of coffee before giving up and realizing it’s a symbol for how your day will unfold.

Big, important decisions are hard. I am fortunate that I haven’t had to make too many of them in my life. You know who hates decision-making a lot? My husband. Not everyday decisions or business decisions – those are easy for him. But the ones with huge ranges of gray? Yes. He is a man of science who embraces the pragmatics of a solid pro/con list. When a decision transcends these logical parameters, he would really rather take the wait-it-out approach. I would offer you an example, but you probably don’t want to hear about the infamous dating-for-five-years-but-still-not-engaged period of our lives right now.

And so, when he was extended an offer for a new job this past Wednesday, our regular old week  got interesting very quickly. Wow, a new job for him. One that he would love. Wow, it’s all the way in Colorado. That’s sort of far. WOW, he was given five days to make a decision. Whaaaat?

Then he was asked if we wanted to get on a plane and check it out over the weekend.

Uh, yes.

I’ve been to Colorado before, but only for skiing and not in a very long time. If I was going to move my family, we needed to go and spend some time there to make an informed decision.

And so, I assembled a true patchwork of child care from various family members (all of whom are owed huge gestures of thanks spun in gold), rearranged all of our weekend commitments and got on a plane Friday afternoon. This happened to be our wedding anniversary, and so what appeared on Facebook to be a photo of a last-minute romantic getaway was actually us taxiing to a pressure cooker situation and whirlwind tour of our potential future home base.


All weekend long, I felt a lot like I was on a reality show but one where the cameras must have been hidden. The premise of the show was “Hey, spend a weekend only with your spouse, in a city you’ve never visited. Now, find your way around a new area, locate the housing and school possibilities and discuss the entire future of your family before coming home with a decision in 48 hours. Go!” It was somewhere between House Hunters and The Amazing Race. It needs a more concise title and I have a few draft ideas I’m working through before I pitch the whole concept to the cable networks.

And so, my husband and I drove around like it was our job. We met with realtors and with friends of friends who live in the area to give us some perspective and advice. We stared at stunning mountains and bike trails and soaked in 70 degree weather in February. We thought about what it would be like to move our family from its Northeast roots to an area where we have not a single family member.



And we wavered. We took turns saying whether the right thing was to stay or to go.

  • Do we want a new adventure?
  • Could we take the kids so far from their grandparents? 
  • How often would we be able to fly home to visit?
  • Are we happy where we live now?

{In short: yes, ouch, unclear and mostly but not entirely.}

I happen to love the Northeast but I’m also acutely aware of the fact that it’s the only part of the country I’ve ever lived in. I’ve traveled all over the world but my home base and center of gravity have always been in this area. The town where we live now is quaint and lovely and has so much of what I could ever ask for. Sure, I get fed up with some of the social dynamics and of course there are women in my mom orbit who make me crazy, but that would happen anywhere. But, sometimes, there is some appeal to just picking up and starting over somewhere else.

Plenty of people are lifelong movers, maybe for job purposes or perhaps just as wanderers of the world. Lots of folks live far from their extended families. And many stick close to their roots and to those in their tightest circle. Neither way is wrong – but what was right for us? It was truly the first time it had ever come up in a real-life, concrete scenario.

And that scenario drove the course of our weekend. In between getting lost and figuring out maps and school districts and counting how many Whole Foods one can actually put in a ten-mile radius, we sat down to great meals and cocktails and, funnily enough, had a fabulously unexpected getaway weekend. It wasn’t vacation by any stretch, but it was uninterrupted time on a mutual mission. And the question that loomed over us forced us to have some very real conversations about expectations and hopes and challenges for our family.

I was left wondering about leaps of faith and how they differ for people.

Many would go. The adventure, the newness, the sheer opportunity and of course the job.

Many would stay. The proximity to family, eliminating the uncertainty, the comfort what is already known.

Of course, there’s a lot more to all of this, and I won’t bore you with the 6.3 million dynamics and nuances at play. And my intention is not really to have the decision made by committee anyway, but more to bring my cortisol levels down to human levels by writing about it now that we’re back home.

After dissecting and re-dissecting all of the back-and-forth all weekend, I realized that the question was broader than I thought: Was the leap of faith to go or to stay? To face a new place or to pass it up and see what the future brings here at home?

Some people are excellent decision-makers under duress. And some feel like they just survived a reality show as they cross the finish line and hope they did everything they could to make the right choice.

Stay tuned for the outcome.



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Do You Have a Disney World Problem?

There are two kinds of people out there: those who have a Disney World problem and those who do not.*

(*and, technically, there is a third kind: those who don’t yet know they have a Disney World problem)

My name is Kim and I have a Disney World problem.

You might know people like me and roll your eyes. You might swear this will never be you (and maybe it won’t — but I’ve won bets with far worse odds before).

Or, you might email me and ask for my help in planning your trip, which I’m happy to do (as long as you aren’t rolling your eyes at me).

How do you know if you have a Disney World problem? It’s a little different for everyone, but for me, it sort of looks like this:

  • It means that I’m booking a hotel about seven to eight months in advance.
  • It means that I’m at my computer at precisely 6am exactly 180 days before arrival to secure dining reservations.
  • It means that, last night, at the stroke of midnight, I was back on the computer to secure my FastPass reservations at my earliest opportunity for rides and attractions, with a priority list and Plan B in hand.
  • And it probably means that I will be thinking about how to plan my next trip there before I leave the WDW property on this year’s trip.

Other tell-tale signs include seeking out and commiserating with other like-minded Disneyphiles — perhaps comparing notes on FastPass selections and meal reservation strategies. I know who my people are. And there is always someone who knows more — like a Yoda of Disney planning.

But let’s just address the real question here: What the hellllllll?

Let me be clear, friends. I do not know what I’m packing in my kids’ lunch bags tomorrow. I have no idea what they will be handing out for Valentine’s Day later this week. And I certainly have not started to think about any of our plans for March.

But, damn it, I’ve known since October where we’re eating one meal a day for an entire week this April.

I know. I knowwwww. It seems insane.

Most people who know me don’t take me for a Disney World person. I can see that. For starters, I don’t sing aloud or dress with animated characters on my shirts. Also, I hate crowds, I have very little patience, require SPF 6 million, and am known to be more than a touch cynical.

At first blush, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

So, how did this happen?

And, (I can hear the fear in your voices) — can it happen to you? *GASP*

Yes. Yes, it can.



The truth is that I wasn’t born this way, and the road to having a legit WDW problem was gradual and almost imperceptible. I’ve been conditioned over time by two things that have gone hand in hand at WDW: experience and failure.

I started off all breezy with my first trip to WDW, when my kids were just three and one (and a non-existent third). It was a little side trip from my mom’s place in Florida while we were visiting her. We had a hotel for two nights and a couple of loose dining ideas. We figured we’d just play it by ear. We’d just see how it goes. We’re not Those Crazy Disney People.

I never say this, but: LOLOLOLOLOL.

The ultimate WDW rookie mistake.

Because you know what doesn’t work? Winging anything at all with young kids in a theme park among tens of thousands of other people.

Here, let me explain.

Raise your hand if your kids are exactly zero of these things in a theme park environment:

  • Breezy
  • Patient
  • Reasonable
  • Well-rested

Raise your hand again if your kids are likely to exhibit most/all of these traits in a theme park environment:

  • Sensory overload
  • Hot
  • Hungry
  • Exhausted

See?! We’re more alike than you thought!

And so, what I quickly figured out was this: The only way to turn a WDW trip from a series of kids’ meltdowns to an actual fun family vacation that’s worth the expense is to plan the absolute shit out of it.

As a result, I have a few guidelines that I live by when planning our trip:

  • I want to stay as close to the Magic Kingdom as possible with minimal bus rides to the parks. Because Disney Magic does not include making your kids behave on public transportation.
  • I want to be able to sit down for dinner. Inside. I don’t need a steak by any means, but please do not make me spend 52 minutes standing in a buffet line with my kids, while balancing 16 trays and knowing that I’m paying $25/kid for them to eat a few grapes and possibly some Mickey-shaped pasta.
  • In the camp of Well, That’s Fucking Obvious: I want to not stand in a 240-minute line for the best rides. It’s such a joy to navigate kids through the zig-zag ropes in the blazing Florida sun. Please don’t climb on that. Please don’t remove the rope from the chain. Please don’t step on that person. Please don’t.step.on.that.person. Yes, just another 127 minutes. Please don’t climb on that. Translation: I can stay at home for free if I want to see my kids totally lose their damn minds.

So, guess how many of those things you can do by winging it? You get the idea.

Wait, let’s address the naysaying for a sec.

Oh, but that’s no fun to have everything planned. It’s sooooo stressfullllll.

That doesn’t sound like a vacation at allllll.

How can anyone even enjoy that?

I’ve heard it all. Haters gonna hate. That’s because they’re on the 45-minute line for the buffet while I’m sitting down with kids’ menus in one hand and a glass of cold white wine in the other.

If you think this sounds miserable and distinctly un-vacation-y, let me reassure you that flexibility has not gone off to die while we’re on this trip. Nobody is running a stopwatch or issuing a fun quota — I promise. In fact, apart from some of the must-do items, we invariably move a bunch of plans around once we’re there to accommodate whichever unexpected and inevitable situation arises with kids.

The plan is actually just a framework of which parks we’ll visit on which days, with our top choices for rides FastPassed and a place to have dinner. You can only get three FastPasses upfront per day, so we’re not talking about a regimented minute-by-minute walking path for the day here. Yes, we make unexpected stops and unscheduled decisions. Yes, there’s room for ice cream. Yes, there are many hours spent just swimming in the hotel pool, which means many pretty cocktails with little umbrellas for me.

But I’m not giving up my dining reservations unless some serious shit has gone down or I’ve made some unforeseen scheduling error.

Do I love sit-down meals with three kids under nine? Not especially. Some days, there’s a clear element of OMG-we-should-not-eat-in-public. And it’s not about wanting to eat anything particularly fancy. It’s more about needing the oasis of a reserved table in the air conditioning once a day to break from the crowds and madness. It’s a great re-charge.

Also, there’s an odd environmental phenomenon that occurs within WDW. The whole of Central Florida experiences a synchronized ravenous hunger spell at about 4:45 every day. All of the people on WDW property. Everyone around you. So, in that moment, go ahead and have a look at the spontaneous dining options and then at the hordes of the famished — and then do the math (fun fact: the average number of people in the Magic Kingdom on a single day is 53,000). If you decided, in the name of being breezy, to just wing it, I applaud you and sincerely hope your number of buffet line minutes is less than your age times 12, or that maybe the street-side turkey leg the size of your skull has enough sauce on it. Hopefully, as our kids get older, we’ll have more flexibility with this and less “we will die if we don’t eat within everyone’s picky specifications right this second.”

Outside of where we want to eat, there are considerations to make about which parks to hit on which days. Average crowd levels, Extra Magic Hours (when the park opens early/closes late for those staying on WDW property — translation: way more crowded) and can we make it in time for Rope Drop?

(Rope Drop: The moment the park opens its gates first thing in the morning. Also known as the only thing my family is ever early for in the history of everything. The later you are after Rope Drop, the bigger the lines.)

Ok, and if I’m being honest, there is some sick satisfaction that people like me get from knowing the system, getting the reservations we want and working every possible cog in the WDW machine (What? The Child Ride Swap? This is legit? Yes, it is.) Every year, there’s something I didn’t know before and I add it to my grand planning insanity. I’ve come too far now to go back to winging it. And it’s silly not to pay this information forward. As I type, I’m helping two friends plan their inaugural WDW trips and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have their initial itineraries mentally planned out for later this year.

I wouldn’t even call my Disney Problem that severe. I’m more in the moderate-to-intense camp. There are many true WDW ninjas who vacation among us, and you probably wouldn’t know just by looking at them. In everyday life, they might be doctors, yoga instructors, stay-at-home parents  or waitresses. But once they start planning that trip, it’s a whole other gig. Plenty of folks have a walking plan optimized for the day and know the exact order of the rides they’ll pursue. They stuff enough snacks and well-packed coolers under their strollers to be able to avoid the sit-down meal. They have children who pass out in said strollers (mine never have). They know where to stand for the parades and which side of Main Street, USA to walk along to get to Cinderella’s Castle more quickly.

And others wing it, either knowing or not knowing the consequences. It’s true that once your kids get older, there’s a lot more give in the plan. I’m not there yet. But even when that day comes, I think old habits will die hard. You’ll still find me on my laptop 180 days beforehand at 6am.

OK, maybe 6:15.

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Past Lives

Although you’d never know it by looking at me in my minivan, the soul of a city girl lurks beneath my suburban life.

Over the course of 16 years in my 20s and 30s, I lived in four of the five boroughs of New York City (sorry, Queens). In seven different apartments. I got my first real job there. I lived my dating life as a single girl there (though Carrie Bradshaw, I was not). I witnessed 9/11 there. I was engaged there. Got married there. Had two children there.

I loved New York. Really, truly loved it. But the time came, after two kids and very limited space, to leave it behind. For the suburbs. My husband swears you can still see claw marks at the entrance to the Jersey-bound Lincoln Tunnel from the day we moved.

It has been four and a half years since the moving van was unloaded at our house. Many days, it’s like we never had that other life of subways and taxis and bodegas and laundromats. I can barely remember it. Until I go back, like I did last Sunday.

We went to visit my sister and her boyfriend in Brooklyn, and our older two kids had a fabulous aunt & uncle date with them at the museum. It was about 60 degrees outside, the sun was shining and the foliage was gorgeous. My husband and I had the baby in the stroller with about 90 free minutes until we had to meet up with everyone for brunch. We walked and walked, stealing glimpses of our former life there. The one that seemed both like a million years ago and like yesterday.


I lived in Brooklyn just as it was about to be cool to do so. But back then, we all wanted to live in Manhattan, and Brooklyn was more of an obligatory step on the budget ladder to get there (I had already done my time in Staten Island and a brief stint in the Bronx). The first place I shared in Brooklyn was on an amazing, tree-lined street near Grand Army Plaza, which was beautiful and majestic and almost European. Even on our tiny budget, we had a real two-bedroom, a modest kitchen, living space and a roof deck with a neck-craning-small-slice-view of Manhattan. When the owners told my roommate and me that they were selling the place and we’d have to move, we were heartbroken. They suggested, that as two (very) young professionals, we try to buy it as an investment.


Yeah, perspective and time change things, don’t they? Had I known anything at all about anything at all back then, I would have found a way to borrow the down payment. Because I’m pretty sure that apartment is worth well north of a million dollars now. Where the hell was HGTV in 1998?

There were other apartments, too.

The one on the Upper East Side with the person-I-never-met-before-turned-roommate, where we found strange, fly-by-night companies whose sole purpose was to build temporary walls so that you could divide already-small bedrooms into two or three more. Like highly overpriced residential cubicles.

The one in Murray Hill where I lived alone for the first time, up until a certain pug moved in. Where I learned that anything labeled “rent-stabilized” has that designation for a reason. The kitchen window facing a wall in an alley comes to mind, as does the need to use my oven as makeshift clothing storage.

The one on the Upper West Side where my husband and I lived just after we got engaged. It had a tiny kitchen that allowed you to be simultaneously touching all of the appliances at once and a spiral staircase that, two years later, I could no longer navigate at eight months pregnant.

And yet, I miss all of it. Less so now, but intensely for a while after we left. Mostly, I missed this:

  • Walking. More specifically, not needing a car. Of course, I can walk in the suburbs — it’s permitted — but the car is usually the more realistic option. And along with that comes the endless in-and-out-of-the-car seats nonsense that makes me just a little more insane every day. (“Are you buckled in yet? Are you!!??”)
  • Anonymity. In the city, there wasn’t any small talk or chit-chat with strangers. And that was fine by me. I’m not anti-social, but I’m terrible with small talk. It was perfectly acceptable to stand in your building’s lobby and stare straight ahead while waiting for the elevator. I did have some very sweet, older widows who lived on my floor, and it was nice that they stopped to check in on me when I was very pregnant (though there was a certain “Rosemary’s Baby” vibe that I tried not to overblow) — but they stayed largely out of my business. I’ve since had to re-learn social graces like inviting someone in when they knock on my door. The week we moved into our house, several families stopped by with trays of cookies and cakes to welcome us. It was so, so nice, but if I’m being honest, it freaked me out a bit. I just wasn’t used to it. And, in full disclosure, I remember wondering if I’d have to bake every time someone moved into the neighborhood. (Turns out that a bottle of wine says “welcome” just as well.)
  • Quick errands. At times, I miss the corner bodega more than I can express. Like when I just need one easy ingredient to finish a recipe. No problem — I’ll just walk to the corner and…nevermind. Now it’s back in the car, finding parking, going through the whole big grocery store as my children take down most of the inventory and wear me down until I purchase at least 28 additional items — usually in full view of a local teacher or school administrator. Small talk follows. Nothing is quick here.
  • Restaurants with liquor licenses. Now we’re really getting into it: The culture shock of the whole BYOB phenomenon. I know that, in many respects, it’s better that you have to bring your own booze to restaurants. It’s cheaper. You get what you want. There are many upsides. Except when you live in my marriage, where neither of us ever remembers that this is part of going out to dinner in our town. And then what — a dry meal? Let’s not be ridiculous. It’s instead this: “You run, as fast as you fucking can, to that wine store around the corner, before they close — quick!! — and I’ll find an appetizer on the menu* to order for you. Go! Now! Run!” (*Translation: an appetizer of my choosing so that I can enjoy half of it).


Perhaps I’m romanticizing my city days. Maybe it wasn’t all so wonderful. And maybe there were some big reasons for our move, after all.

  • Lack of living space. Do me a favor. Take your hand and open it up as far as you can. Look at it closely. That was about the size of my bathroom in my last apartment. For a family of four.
  • The Sunday night parking dance. You could pretty much bet large sums of cash that, after returning from any weekend trip with the kids, the dog and all of our stuff, it would be raining, sleeting or snowing. And so ensued the divide-and-conquer approach to unloading a family from the car into a 13th-floor apartment in 56 easy steps. After circling for parking for approximately 45 minutes to no avail, we gave in an double-parked, where a game of Beat the Parking Ticket began. One of us would stay with the car to ensure we weren’t ticketed, while the other would unload everything/everyone in about nine trips. This, incidentally, was a great substitute for traditional cardio.
  • Being accosted by crazies. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of nutters in suburbia — but they are often disguised in yoga pants. The New York crazies really put it all out there and get up in your face. It’s been awhile since an amateur preacher screamed in my face about the end of days or my sinning ways. Or a one-armed ukulele player spit at my feet for not giving him my half-eaten soup. I don’t miss that so much. If I want crazy, I know plenty of people I can call.
  • Planning for the higher education of a child in utero. Pre-school lotteries and interviews — with college-sized tuition bills to match. No thanks. If I told you what I paid in day care costs for two small children in the city…I can’t even think about it. In fact, I had to tell the day care place that I was pregnant with my second child before most of my relatives knew — so that she could have a spot the next year. For day care. Not Harvard. Not even private kindergarten. Day care. Anyway, I felt like I won the lottery when I was reminded that my property taxes in the suburbs cover the cost of a very good public school system. Now I can keep up my Starbucks habit.

But, still. New York will always be my first geographic love. And it’s true that I like my life in the suburbs for many reasons, but on days like that spectacularly sunny Sunday in Brooklyn, I do mourn the death of my city life. Central Park. The West Village. Delicious food at all hours. The energy and the diversity.

It was my other life, before the one I have now with a minivan and a snow blower and a distinct lack of brunch options. When I knew, without hesitation, which restaurant to recommend in which neighborhood and my innate urban compass could point me to the right subway station exit without thinking twice. And I was wistful as hell about it during that Sunday visit. What had we left behind? Would we ever be able to move back, or was it forever in our past? Would our kids ever know the city the way that we once had?

And then we saw it. A family pulling up to the curb, double parked and exasperated, unloading their three kids, their dog and their piles of bags and belongings from a weekend away — a good 19 minutes away from getting everything into their apartment.

And then I thought about that tiny, tiny bathroom we had. The windows that didn’t really close all the way. That not-so-occasional rat running out in front of you on the street. The navigation of the double stroller through the endless winter. The day care tuition bill.

And I knew that my heart would always belong to both the city and to suburbia. Because a girl can have more than one great love, right?

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So, You’re Considering the Corn Maze

You love fall, right? The crisp air. The produce. Boots. Jeans. All of it.

I do too.

And that’s precisely how people like us end up in corn mazes.

It starts with the innocent trip to the apple orchard or pumpkin patch. Because parental amnesia is a real thing and you fail to remember every year how annoying those outings are in actuality.

Anyway, there you are with baskets of more gourds or apples than you can possibly Pinterest into edible items in four lifetimes. You are thinking about the $100 you will have to pay upon check out and you are cursing about the fact that this place does not have an on-site winery. It is then that your children remind you, just as you think you’re about to pluck the last piece of hay from your sweater, that we haven’t done the corn maze yet.

Oh. Riiiiight. The corn maze.

How bad could it be? After all, I was trapped in one with my in-laws three years ago and lived to tell. So hey, why not? Let’s take a few minutes to go in.

Although, as we approached, this one seemed a little more legit than our previous corn mazes. Super tall stalks of corn. No obvious exit. And a 14 year-old employee working the entrance who snorted, “Good luck” to us.

Well, no matter. I immediately thought of how fortunate we are that my husband has a great sense of direction. This, unfortunately, was immediately followed by my deep regret of leaving him home with the baby on this particular day. He was tasked with painting the baby’s room. Not that the kid, at 15 months old, would get an identity crisis from the purple walls, floral decals and frilly chandelier. But sleeping under his sister’s initials was potentially going to send him into therapy in 20ish years. The room overhaul was a tad overdue.

So, as my husband either painted or ate all of the Entenmann’s in the house while watching football, it was my mom, my two older kids and me to fend for ourselves at the corn maze. Basically, three generations of the directionally challenged. The snarky 14 year-old employee handed us what was probably meant to be a map but looked more like a Spirograph on steroids.


I’m pretty sure that entire crops matured and seasons changed during our time in this corn maze. Let me just end the suspense for you and disclose that it took 26 minutes on the clock, but a lifetime in my head. Here are some highlights of our journey.

Minute 1: I love a good fall photo opp. Which filter should I use on Instagram?

Life was simpler then.

Minute 3: Oh, maybe that map thing was for real and served some functionality. Because, holy shit, this is no joke. I hope nobody has to pee.

Minute 6: Isn’t this supposed to be a family-friendly farm experience? Or are we earning a scouting badge of some kind? Is this the farming equivalent of “Get off my lawn,” or perhaps a secret “Survivor” audition?

Minute 10: Time and space seem to be playing tricks with my mind. I feel like we’ve been in here for dayyyyys. I’m questioning my ability to guide everyone through this, in the event we have to spend the night in the corn. I mean, clearly, food won’t be a problem but what about the horror movie factor? Because I don’t think I need to name a certain obvious movie that comes to mind and the fact that I’m waiting to see Malachai at every corner of this maze.

Minute 12: Why do I never wear sensible shoes? Why? And where is everyone else?

Minute 13: Wait! This is why God invented the iPhone! All hail technology!

It appears I should have purchased the iPhone 6 for this outing because my 5 won’t display the layout of a fucking corn maze on Google Maps. At this point, my mother suggests the use of the compass. This helps establish when we are heading west, which is the direction from which we are guessing the music and other sounds of post-corn maze life are emanating. I’m no math genius, but I think there is a 25% chance we are right.

Minute 14: Omg, is that Malachai? Damn you, Stephen King.

Minute 17: Why didn’t I purchase the apple donuts before entering the corn maze? Speaking of donut consumption, I wonder if my husband has started painting yet. I think we all know the answer.

Minute 18: Like any family in crisis, we all begin to turn on each other. First, the sibling bickering escalates (“No, you made the last wrong turn. No, YOU did”). I threaten to withhold all apple donuts, foreverrrrrr, if they don’t stop. Then, I decide to blame my mother for passing on the lack of direction gene. Not in a broader life’s meaning sense, just with maps and such.

Minute 21: An integral turning point. A lovely young couple with a sleeping baby happens upon us. They inform us that, despite our best Apple-led efforts to head west, that’s not going to work. They are holding the Spirograph on steroids map and, more importantly, they seem to be deriving information from it. Bonus. We swallow all remaining pride (aka none) and shamelessly follow them. Until I realize that they could be serial killers and we’ve totally walked right into their evil trap. It’s possible that I’ve been watching too much late-night TV.

Minute 21:30: I follow them anyway, because: desperation.

Minute 23: The maybe-serial-killers with a baby have not revealed their evil plot. Yet. I distract myself from this possibility by imagining, if I survive, all of the Pinterest recipes I will comb through with my plentiful new apple bounty. I decide that I’ll bring a delicious apple crisp to this couple if they spare our lives and get us out of the maze before sunset.

Minute 25: I don’t want to appear melodramatic but we are losing steam. Our morale is down and our can-do attitude is gone. We just want to go back to life as we knew it, BCM (Before Corn Maze).

Minute 26: What is that sound? A bell? Ringing? Why, yes, it is. But what does it mean? The serial killers with the baby lead us to it. Oh, shit, shit, shit. It’s Malachai, isn’t it? This is it. Is he ringing it to signal the end is nigh? No. It’s not him! It’s the We-Found-The-Exit Bell! We are free! I am tempted to kiss the ground but decide to beeline for the homemade donut stand instead. I resist the urge to kick dirt up at the 14 year-old employee as we pass him.

The day is done. We have prevailed. While I hold my debit card with two apple donuts in my mouth and wait quietly to pay my $100 charge for six freshly-picked apples, I look around. I notice how beautiful the farm is. I do love the fall, after all.

I gaze over in the direction of the maze and notice the sun is beginning to set over the land. It is idyllic.

I just hope nobody is still in there.




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August, Can We Still Be Friends?

Welcome, August. I want so much to tell you how good it is to see you, old friend. Because so much magic happens on your watch every year, even though you signal to my brain that we only have this one final month of summer left before school starts in early September.

But, August, each year you seem to get more aggressive in barreling toward fall, toward school, toward tasks and the routine of getting us back to business. And the truth is that I want my old Augusts back, the ones from my childhood where a full month was still a pure 31 days and nights of all that summer vacation brings.

August, I could learn to love you again. If you could just let me finish up what summer means to me.

Because I haven’t yet caught a firefly in a jar for my kids.

I haven’t marveled nearly enough at how late the sun stays out.

I haven’t even bought that pair of flip-flops I wanted.

No, August, I’m not ready for the retail displays of fleece and Uggs and leather boots and jackets.

Not ready for the fall PTO sign ups, the scheduling of which day we’ll do soccer or swimming or ballet.

Certainly not ready to give up ice cream and popsicles and the smell of my grill and the sight of that rainbow of fresh fruit.

Not mentally prepared to abandon sleeveless sundresses for my daughter and me, and easy onesies for the baby. And bare feet for us all. The very thought of socks and closed-toed shoes makes me shudder. Say it isn’t near. Say that I have time to try that other bright pink nail  color on my toes and not the deep dark hues of grays and purples and browns.

You see, August, I still have two (yes, two!) legitimate family summer vacations I haven’t even taken yet. I have packing to do. Twice. I have more sunscreen to buy. I am not thinking about unpacking or vacation ending or looking back on it. Not even a little. The snapshots that I will etch into my memory and put into photo books haven’t even been made yet. This house is still ripe with the anticipation of new destinations and shorelines with friends and family.

August, I don’t want to spend your days filling in my calendar with the school closings for the year. I want to hang damp beach towels and bathing suits on my deck rail and smell the faint chlorine and sunscreen and perhaps the rain left on them.

Surely you understand that there are meats I haven’t yet grilled, sangria recipes I haven’t tested and frozen yogurt combos I’ve been meaning to try. I still feel like putting my coffee over ice is a seasonal novelty. I haven’t had a single lobster roll yet. And we haven’t begun to grow remotely tired of the new deck lights strung overhead as we eat and drink. Our new fire pit barely shows the wear of the s’mores it has created and the late night cocktails it has beckoned with friends and neighbors.

The camp backpacks we were issued have hardly been broken in. And my older two kids have plenty of places on their summer wish lists left to visit. The zoo awaits us, August. So does our annual trip to Daddy’s office, not to mention more mini golf and the boardwalk rides of our beloved Jersey Shore. There are many more waves to jump over and outdoor showers to take after the sand stays between our toes and the taste of salt water sticks to our lips.

August, I’m just getting used to the down time that allows me to give the baby the two naps a day he deserves. This sweet boy has enjoyed a summer not dictated by his next schlep in a car seat to pick up or drop off a sibling somewhere. I imagine that his tiny head can barely even fathom how much time he has to explore his newfound mobility and just play. If you rush us, August, he’s right back in that car seat and we’re just not ready yet. There are blocks to stack and steps to take and mashed fruits to wear.

Yes, I know you have certain obligations to prepare us for school and I have made a few related purchases here and there. You would be remiss if you didn’t present any of this to me. But I feel like you take it just a little further every year. I’m not sure you need to associate yourself with corduroy or Halloween. Don’t you want to be all about shorts and sundresses and deck chairs?

I’m here to tell you, August — as your old friend — that it’s not too late to reclaim all of this as yours. Don’t let April or May take it from you.

I know it’s possible for us to remain good friends and rediscover how things used to be between us. So, come find me while I get ready for two beach vacations. Visit me as I grill at home and listen for the ice cream truck on my street.

And, by all means, join me over the next 31 days on the deck, barefoot and sipping summery evening drinks under the long-lasting sunlight.




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The Five Stages of Escaping Your Kids for the Weekend

I rarely have plans on the weekends anymore. Unless you count kids’ sports and birthday parties and laundry. Then, yes, my weekends are packed.

And yet, as social karma would have it, I had two exciting places to be this past weekend, without kids, at the same time.

I was so excited to be attending the inaugural BlogU conference as a faculty member and meeting all of my blogging friends who live inside my computer. I had known for months that the weekend of June 6-8 was all about getting myself and my laptop to Baltimore. Nothing was getting in my way.

Except my college reunion, apparently. Same weekend. Four states away.

Oh, and my daughter’s dance recital.

Suddenly, the girl who never has fun plans had signed up for more simultaneous fun than she could handle.

No matter, I decided. Yes, the logistics were daunting, but I could make this happen. Even if it meant that I would be attending more on-campus events in a weekend than I did in my entire college career.

And so began the five stages of planning to leave without my kids for the weekend.



1) Unbridled Enthusiasm: I have real-life adult plans! I’m going away! I’m not packing Goldfish or doing laundry. I am showering two days in a row. My husband will feel the intense, serial pain of the Minivan Frozen Singalong Marathon while I forget that Elsa and Anna ever existed. I will not gaze at my yoga pants for 48 consecutive hours. Oh, it’s on.


2) Complications: Hmmm, these logistics are a little tricky with the three kids. Yes, my husband is highly competent and honestly did not flinch when I mentioned something about smoke coming off my heels and getting the fuck out of here for a weekend. Of course he can handle everything. Oh wait, the recital has a dress rehearsal too? And my daughter needs a bun in her hair? And maybe it would be fun if he came with me to the reunion. And there’s gymnastics and that birthday party too. Wait, am I driving from New Jersey to Baltimore to Connecticut to New Jersey? That’s, like, 773 traffic hours.


3) Empowerment: I called in my resources. Not just friends to assist, but also my ace in the hole.

“Hi, Mom? Can you help us please?”

It takes a village, they say. Bullshit. It takes NASA-level mission execution. If I could get these logistics to run smoothly, I would immediately be qualified to run a medium-sized nation.

Or, I could be paid to write SAT questions:

You have two cars in your possession, one of which is your mother’s and has no car seats. Your husband and your mother need to be in two separate pick up points, 12 miles apart, within 6 minutes of each other. All three children require legally secure seating. There is a booster, a front-facing convertible seat and a rear-facing infant seat. Two of the three can be installed via seat belts if necessary. 

How would you configure the seating? 

Who drives which car?

**Extra credit: Can your mother find the dress rehearsal location without cursing in front of your daughter?**


4) It’s Nottttt Worrrrrrth It: This stage of planning lasted for about six consecutive hours the night before departure. Right about when I realized that my kids were all well accounted for, the groceries were purchased and I even had contingency-super-secret-plan-B-double-backup-plans to get everyone to their respective activities — but I somehow didn’t have clean clothes to wear, gas in my car or a working phone charger. It would just be easier to stay home. Maybe I’ll just skip it all. It’s just a conference and a college reunion. I can go to those things anytime/in 20 years. Plus the couch is so comfortable and who else will polish off this kettle corn if I leave for the weekend?


5) Fuck It, I’m Outta Here: Goodbye, yoga pants and van and birthday party and gymnastics and dress rehearsal and laundry and Elsa and Anna. I hope whatever I packed at 1:00am sort of matches in the light of day.


And so I did. I did some speed-socializing during the one night I had at BlogU and slept in a dorm without getting written up for any infraction by an RA. I took long car rides and had a glorious solo train stint in there as well. I saw great old friends from college on the second night (again, did not get written up — this is now a personal best for me). I overdosed on nostalgia, realized that Spanx should really be the official sponsor of all reunions, ever, and made it home to grab a few hours of sleep before Sunday morning’s dance recital.


Now to unpack and get the house back in order. Give me another week or two.


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Magical, Mostly

If the measure of one’s vacation is how many metric tons of French fries and ice cream one consumed, then I pretty much just took the trip of a lifetime.

We spent eight nights at Walt Disney World and, I have to say, I am having serious withdrawal. When I came home and was faced with the pesky reality that my kids still required three meals a day and the inside of my fridge looked like a barren prairie, it was sad to face the music. As for the unpacking, I’m conducting an unofficial scientific experiment on how long one can live out of a suitcase and early indicators show that I can totally go the distance.

While vacation is definitely over, we have the photos and the memories to keep our trip alive.

And the credit card bill.

Just a few recap points:

  • In past trips, we have been known to be climate-challenged. As in, we visited Florida and the high temps were about 54 degrees. This year, we earned our weather. High 80s and sunny. Hot, actually. Nobody in the family was allowed to complain about the heat or I would scream “DO YOU REMEMBER THE POLAR VORTEX?! DO YOU?!”  There was that one Tornado Watch in the middle of the Magic Kingdom. I was less upset about the actual sideways ark-like rainfall than I was about the $872 we shelled out on five Disney rain ponchos.

  • Disney has upped their technology game. Between their newly updated app, the FastPass+ system and the Magic Bands, shit got real. No more messing around with flimsy paper FastPass tickets or room key cards. Or silly American cash. Oh, no. With the mere wave of your wrist near a Mickey-shaped RFID reader, you can easily charge any and all WDW purchases equal to your monthly mortgage payment. I was disappointed that the reach of the technology did not extend to my home arrival experience. Because when I tried to use my Magic Band to buy groceries in New Jersey and open the front door of my house, no dice. I guess that will be in the next upgrade.
  • To counter the fries & ice cream bender I went on, I also took it upon myself to implement my own version of T25 while at WDW. Basically it entailed renting a double stroller, having your baby refuse to sit in it, placing said baby instead in a carrier against your sweaty body and watching your 6 and 4 year-old kids assume the vacation recline position in the stroller. For those keeping track at home, that’s about 90 lbs of kid in the stroller and 20 in the carrier. Extra chocolate syrup on my ice cream? Yes, please. I am a big fan of baby wearing, although it is slightly less appealing in the 4,000% humidity. On the upside, it did afford me the opportunity to take advantage of the 2-for-1 happy hour special at our hotel pool bar without skipping a beat.


  • This is a good segue to the presentation of the Lowest Maintenance Traveling Child Award. OMG, I could not have asked for a more cooperative baby on this trip. Although he consistently waived his right to nap and we pushed his bedtime beyond imaginable limits, he was all smiles.


  • My mom, stepfather and sister joined us for a few nights, which was great. If you weren’t counting, that’s six extra hands to manage the kids. Score. Plus, I got to torture my sister with my neurotic approach to roller coasters. It’s basically “Yes, let’s go!” until I’m in the seat. And then my unbridled fear of death kicks in and I tell everyone I dragged onto the ride what a bad idea this was. Repeatedly.

My sister (front left) is hating me (front right) at this moment. My husband (back left) has learned from years of experience not to sit with me.


  • Can we just address the Frozen insanity for a minute? Thanks to the marketing genius of Disney, families with young kids are now paying for entry to EPCOT (not typically a draw for the younger set) and then hauling ass over to THE NORWAY PAVILION — also known as the place nobody ever used to visit. Now home to Elsa and Anna, the lines to see the newest Disney royalty range from two (on a very lucky day) to seven hours. SEVEN HOURS. Luckily, we caught a glimpse of them exiting Norway to take their union-mandated break, and that was good enough for this family. But you want a Frozen dress for your daughter? Sorry. Not one available at the entire Disney mother ship. But please know that any Let it Go ear worm you may have while at home is kicked into high gear and borders on clinical insanity while at WDW. I was begging my kids to go on It’s a Small World just so I could have a different, awful song on repeat loop in my head.

Is it all Disney Magic? It’s not. Young kids invariably don’t do well on long lines or out in a public restaurant more than once in the span of a week. But I tried — really tried — to refrain from slipping into “WE TOOK YOU TO DISNEY WORLD, ENJOY IT, DAMN IT!! HAVE FUN, NOW! FUN!” mode.

In this spirit, I went into the trip trying to veer toward yes. Instead of defaulting to “no” or “later” or “we can’t,” I made a real effort — within reason — to try to say yes to as much as possible during the trip. I wasn’t always successful but it was a good change for me. In fact, on the last day of vacation, I introduced the concept of Kids’ Choice to my children. As in, let them pick what we do, what to eat, when to (not) go to bed, etc.

Their minds? Blown.

I’m just grateful they didn’t choose the nasty giant Disney World turkey leg as a meal.

In the end, the sunshine and change of scenery were fabulous. I was happy that my biggest decision all week was which ride to FastPass or where to eat lunch. Or which drink to order at happy hour.

Now, once we stop wishing for the minivan to be a monorail and I get the FastPass+ system to work on the school car line, I’ll be OK with my transition back to reality.

Baby steps.



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