Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Disney Hangover

I am feeling sentimental today so bare with me, folks!  At any moment I may begin to wax poetic.  How to describe our week long Disney extravaganza?  I think Dickens said it best when he said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times".  Try not to roll your eyes (rude!)

No, but seriously, it was mostly the best of times.  No one was ill, there was only one car related puking incident, the kids had a fabulous time, Mommy had only one Disney snap, and Hubby and I are still speaking.  For a week at Disney with four people sleeping in a tiny Princess Ariel room, I'd say that is pretty admirable!  Let me say that Disney World definitely delivered the magic that was promised.  From the dinner menus to the staff to the Art of Animation Resort, every detail was perfectly catered to little people #not the kind on TLC.  I sincerely believe that there is no place in the western world that makes children feel more pampered.  And the best part is that everyone there is treated like a pampered child! In the magical world of Disney, all normal rules of society go out the window and anything goes.  For instance:

1.) It is socially acceptable for a chubby, thirty-five year old woman (with no children) to roam the park ALONE during the Halloween season, dressed from head to toe as Cinderella. I mention that she was chubby only because there is NO WAY she was one of the professional princesses roaming the park.  Disney princesses are a size 6, generally.  I am like two Disney princesses stuck together.

2.)  Everyone is called "Prince" or "Princess" when spoken to by the Disney staff.  Pretty awesome.  This is how Hubby and I address each other at home now.

3.) It is not unusual to hear a conversation like this in one of the parks at 10pm.  
Father: Dude, did you see that? On Space Mountain my ass was a foot off the seat!  I thought I was going to fly out of there!
Small Child: Totally! I thought I wasn't going to make it back! It was crazy, Dude.

4.) It is expected that on the Disney dining plan you will be eating a large meal for lunch followed by a super sized cupcake that looks like Mickey Mouse.  Need I say anything?  Oh yeah, then you get to do it again for dinner.  If you try to check out without your dessert, you get in trouble.

5.) Hubby and I felt like losers for bringing our tired kids back from the park after 10pm each night only to discover a swimming pool still full of children upon our arrival.  We actually had nightly conversations with toddlers in the elevator at 11pm.  

6.) Cinderella and Prince Charming spend equal time visiting and posing with everyone at the Grand Floridian Resort's 1900 Park Fare restaurant.  I seriously thought I would have to wrestle Cindy away from the transsexual sitting by us...he/she did NOT want to share.  

I'm telling you, it's a whole other world out there.  Mostly wonderful.  But there are pitfalls.  For one, you gotta watch out for the Disney snap.  I don't care if you are Mother Theresa, traveling with a group of tiny orphans; it WILL happen to you.  And can I make a suggestion?  Disney World is like a pressure cooker for families.  If your marriage is on the rocks and you think Disney might bring some of the magic back, you might as well have a lawyer on speed dial.  Fortunately, Hubby and I are in a good marital place or we may not have survived.  It is not uncommon to hear a parent on the edge yell, "This is supposed to be the happiest damn place on earth!" at least once a day.  If you find yourself experiencing this very moment, just tell yourself, "I DON'T really hate my family.  It's just the magic getting to my head."  

As promised I will now share my Disney snap moment.  Do not judge me. Okay, so we're at Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom, and we are getting ready to meet ALL of the princesses and have our picture taken with each pretty lady.  We've had these reservations for almost a year, and are being served very expensive food by a snooty waiter.

Lilah: I hate this food.  It smells disgusting (tears).
Savannah: Yeah, why do we have to meet all the princesses?  Can't we just go?!
Me: No, we can't!  You are so ungrateful!  Do you know how long it took me to get this reservation?  You will have your picture taken with all of them or we will spend the whole day in the hotel room! You know what?  Just forget it!  I will have Daddy take my picture with the princesses.  How about that?

I know what you're thinking because I am in the future too.  

You know how they say all is well that ends well? Well it did, as you can see from the pictures.  We actually managed to have a lovely time and not hurt each other.  So there you have it.  I could write a whole other post on all of the useless Disney World Wisdom I now have rolling around in my brain.  Hell, people devote whole blogs to Disney World. I would not do that to you. But, if you find yourself planning a trip down south and you'd like some Disney survival tips, I'm your girl.  I will hook you up, homey.  Just say the word.  




Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Disney Snap

Have you done Disney in the last ten years? I ask this because whoa, mama, it is a whole new ballgame for this generation of kids than it was for us.  When I was a little tyke, here is how Disney would go.  You get in your car, drive across the country if necessary, stay with Uncle Raymond and Aunt Eloise, who live in a retirement community in Florida, and show up at the gates with hundreds of other people.  You buy your tickets at the gate (no Internet to speak of).  You then get yourself a map that you can not decipher and wonder aimlessly around the park, doing whatever looks good.  At the end of the day, you might stumble into Epcot and enjoy some sketchy Weinerschnitzel and Sauerbraten at the German Pavilion (if you are my Dad).  If you got a picture with Mickey or Minnie, you counted yourself extra lucky.  

Today?  Not so much.  I have scoured the Internet, pouring hours and hours of research into our upcoming Disney vacation.  Yesterday, I frantically made reservations for dinner at a few of the hundreds of amazing looking restaurants, most of which were already booked a month ago!   Apparently, you can't just eat anywhere.  If you are on top of your parenting game then you need to make sure that your children are eating at all the right spots.  For instance, eating breakfast at Cinderella's overpriced Royal table is a MUST.  Oh, and did I mention that you need to make those reservations six months in advance?  Fortunately, EVERYONE who has little girls and has been told me this. That Cinderella is pimping her princess friends out for a LOT of money, folks.  And there are any number of other character meals to be had.  One, the Fantasmic! Dining Experience, involves what looks like Mickey shooting fireworks out of his hands, feet, and ass.  Oh, sweet sorrow...if I had only called 6 mos. ago.

And the rides.  Oh, the rides!  No strolling around like a bumbling tourist, these days.  Our good friends allowed us to borrow the Disney Bible, The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World 2012. I casually flipped through this "book" #more like Iliad and Odyssey combined!  Warning: at first glance it may send you into a ADD induced panic attack, but it actually may be one of greatest books ever written.  It contains all of the secrets and helpful hints about Disney World that you never knew you needed to know.  It even contains various itineraries for your family to follow, depending on which park you are visiting and how long you want to spend there.  One plan, the Magic Kingdom Dumbo-Or-Die-In-A-Day Touring Plan, warns that you have to be "loving, guilty, masochistic, selfless, or insane" to attempt this plan. Needless to say, that is not our plan.  These plans map out every ride that a small child should visit, and even warns against those that are too scary for little people.  In my day, my Dad would just drag me whimpering through the line to Space Mountain and would chuckle as I was strapped in against my will.  Thanks to The Unofficial Guide, I learned about a secret term called the "Baby Swap," and which rides allow you to use this password.  Here's what you do. You wait in line as a family for something that the rug rats won't be riding.  When you get to the platform where the ride begins, you say, "We'd like to do the Baby Swap, please."  The attendant lets you and your little ones wait on the platform while Hubby rides. He stays on the ride until he is returned to the platform, at which point he takes the kids and you jump on.  Great time saver!  

When or if you are ever crazy enough to take a week long trip to Disney World#actually the most cost effective, this website is incredibly helpful, and it is actually endorsed by the authors of The Unofficial Guide, Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa.  It provides several free itineraries, including the 6 Night Autumn Itinerary that we are using and countless schedules for things like live entertainment, fireworks, and parades.  Basically, stuff I'd never know.  

There is even a special Halloween event called Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party that allows you to take your child trick or treating throughout the Magic Kingdom after hours, from 7-12a.m. for a mere $60 per person in your family.  My six year old and I looked at this together yesterday and she said, "Mama, that's a whole lot of money!"  I said, "Yeah, Baby."  "I can just go regular trick or treating at home with my cousins. That would be more fun, I think."  

Bless her sweet heart.  

As tempting as it was to just buy the $60 tickets with money that we don't have, I resisted for two reasons: one, my children will never last after hours at Disney...they tire out too quickly, and two, I want them to learn a lesson that took me a long time to get.  Spending money on extra entertainment is NOT what makes life enjoyable.  It's the time we spend with the people we love.  More is not always better.  

I will leave you with a laugh.  Have you heard of a term called, "the Disney snap"?  This cracks me up.  It is the moment that thousands of families around the world have experienced on vacation.  You are at Disney World, the "happiest" place on earth, and your kids are completely melting down.  They are whining, crying, dragging their feet and thoroughly embarrassing their parents.  The "snap" occurs when Mommy suddenly goes postal, and starts ranting and raving, saying things like, "Damn it! You will have fun!! Do you know how much this cost us?!  You are so ungrateful!! You better get your act together right now!"  

I'll be sure to share my snap, whenever it happens.  Notice I didn't say "if".  Pray for me.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

When I'm feeling old, tired, and mean...

This morning I felt old, and tired, and mean.  Does that ever happen to you?  I feel like an alter ego has taken over.  Her name is Rhonda. She carries a pack of Virginia Slims in her purse, she has frosted hair, and she says things like, “Ya’ll get on up out of here!  Mama needs a drink.” 

Is it just me or does P.M.S. get progressively worse every year of your thirties?  That is not a rhetorical question.  Tell me I’m not alone! At this rate, I’ll be stocking up on fire arms by the time I’m forty.  What is a girl to do to cope short of eating the Racetrack gas station out of doughnuts and wearing pants with an elastic waist? 

For starters, I thought I’d jump head first into a post about stuff that’s completely, unabashedly shallow and fun. There’s nothing like good, old fashioned consumerism to bring a girl joy on a dreary, hormone charged day! So, humor me, if you will, while I share some of my favorite, material things.  
1.) What, I ask, could be more important than coffee #you are thinking chocolate?  It is widely known that I have an ongoing love affair with Racetrack coffee.  What’s not to love?  I just bought my cup this morning for 49 cents and it was delicious, thank you.  But I have to confess, I have been a coffee tramp.  On a whim, I drove through Starbucks (I actually had four dollars and change in my wallet) and I ordered something that is more dessert than coffee: the Salted Caramel Mocha.  Words cannot describe the deliciousness!  It is the perfect combination of sweet and salty.  It is frothy and cold, with just enough caramel mingling with tiny grains of sea salt.  Yum!  Next time you want to buy overpriced coffee, try this! 

2.) Let’s talk about your hair color.  It’s important to me.  As real women (those not featured on reality television), we often put ourselves last.  We say, “I don’t need new pants; I’ll just wear my husband’s until I lose five pounds!"(or maybe that was just me). If you are like me, you can count on one hand how often you buy clothing for yourself in a year.  Two thirds of my closet is made up of clothes that used to belong to somebody else. And you know what?  That’s okay with me.  But the one thing that can’t look second hand is my hair.  There is something about having a nice cut and bright, shimmery color that makes me feel all lit up inside.  I am not dissing the box.  God knows, the box color served me well at times in my life.  But, it is possible to find inexpensive service at a salon. 

Here are some tips:
  • Just ask somebody.  If you see someone who has a fabulous cut or color (particularly if they have hair similar to yours), find out who does their hair.  I have been known to accost perfect strangers on the street like a lunatic and it works!  That’s how I found the lady that cuts my curly hair today.
  • Shop around.  Ask friends what they pay for their hair services.  Pick up the phone and call your local salons. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I found my colorist by walking into a Famous Hair #similar to a Hair Cuttery, and asking which stylist was most experienced at highlighting dark hair.  They will often be honest with you and recommend someone if they know you are picky!  I pay $55 for highlights that would cost me $110 somewhere else. 
  • If you want to save money, pick a color or highlights that will naturally blend in with your own hair color or that will blend in with gray.  Staying within two shades of your natural hair color can save you a few trips to the salon. 
  • If you are thinking about entering into a personal relationship with a colorist, but are a bit gun-shy, here’s what ya do.  Take a deep breath and just say it with me… “I am better than the box…I am better than the box.” 
 3.) Friends, what did we ever do without consignment stores?  Specifically for kids! Here is a revelation: your kids do not know or care whether or not their clothes have been worn before!  They just love to have a new pair of sparkly shoes or a new dress.  Here in Mayberry, where I live, I have found a real gem, A Child’s Closet.  The trick is to find a consignment store that only accepts items that are in great shape #gently used.  It allows you to purchase boutique clothing for a fraction of the cost.  And best of all, I get to drop off all of the clothes that don’t fit my kids anymore and earn credit for them.  Who ever thought I’d be excited to see those baby clothes go?

4.) Speaking of used items, I have developed a delightful habit.  Just thinking about it makes me giddy.  I am such a total nerd…prepare yourself.  My favorite thing in the WHOLE world to do is…shop used books.  Oh yeah! You’re probably thinking Amazon, but I have found something even better.  Even Mayberry has a used book store, Books Galore, and I bet you do too.  Here is how they generally work.  I bring a big shopping bag of all the books I’ve read and plop them on the counter.  While I shop, they decide what they can use and give me credit.  Then I get to shop for half price paperbacks guilt free.  When I’m done reading the new books, they go back to the store…like magic!  And yes, I have heard of the library, but typically in Mayberry, the selection of adult fiction is shall we say…less than exciting. 

5.) Some of us have a genetic predisposition to makeup.  Can I get a witness?  From one addict to another, let me pass on some sure fire tricks that will have people noticing your pretty face.  For this, I have enlisted the help of an expert, my cousin, Annie, otherwise known as PeachPrenni.  She is not just an expert because she shares my genetic predisposition; she is also a licensed esthetician. 
  • For shimmery, natural looking skin that people will notice try this: first apply Clear Radiance by Bare Escentuals all over your face with your makeup brush, preferably something that looks like a Kabuki brush.  You will look rather pink.  Next, apply your loose powder the same way.  The result will be porcelain-like skin.  Annie is a huge fan of Bare Escentuals’ mineral makeup and I am a Benefit girl, myself.  I achieved similarly fabulous results by using Dallas all over my face, followed up by Derma Blend, Cool Beige, setting powder.  If I want a more dramatic and tan look, I use Hoola, by Benefit.  I’ve also found that rubbing a bit of gold eye shadow into my cheek bones highlights them. 
  • Disclaimer: This next tip is not sanctioned by ANY esthetician!  It is a crazy Kate tip that works well for my skin.  I have particularly dry skin that used to flake like crazy in the Chicago climate.  This solution gets rid of any dry skin and brighten up my complexion.  Sally Hansen makes a fabulous cuticle cream, Sally Hansen Problem Cuticle Remover.  I use it like a mask (carefully avoiding eyes) and leave it on for no more than five minutes and wash it off with warm water and a wash cloth.  Then I rewash with my everyday face wash.  Follow up with a good moisturizer. 
  • My last favorite is for ladies like me who don’t get a pedicure more than three times a year.  Note to self:  when your heels start catching on the bed sheets, ya got a situation.  Never fear! After much research, I have found a product worth every penny of your $9.99.  It’s called Heel Tastic and it can be found in the “As seen on TV” aisle of Walgreens.  Short of taking a razor to those puppies, it is the greatest product you will find for your toesies.  Apply before bed and wear socks.              
Now, I know that you did not ask for my opinion on your next purchases...but you can just thank me later.  And if you have any favorites to add to the list, please share!!                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

20 Seconds of Beautiful Insanity

You know what the best part of life is?  To me, it's the crazy, beautiful things that happen when we finally let the walls of fear that we have carefully constructed for so long come crashing down around us.  So often the decisions we make are based on fear of the unknown.  What would happen if you just let go, took your hands off the steering wheel, and handed your life over to someone so much greater than you? Someone who knows the number of your days on this earth and how many hairs you have upon your head.  Someone whose love for you exceeds the love you bear for your own children.  Don't know about you, but that one just blows my mind.  Consider it blown.  How could He love me with my messed up junk THAT much?

But, He does.  You know how I know? Because the decisions that He has made for me...the path that he has set me upon, can be tough as hell, but is ALWAYS so much greater, more wonderful than anything I could ever have dreamed for myself.  Unfortunately, I usually have to be up *&^$ creek without a paddle before I throw my hands up and ask for help.  And still...He waits.  Patiently.  

Today was one of those unexpected beautiful moments that I might have missed out on if I hadn't shown up to see what He would do.  My desire this morning was to curl up in bed with a good book or spend some quality couch time with my Mom, Dad, and brother, who were in town this weekend.   My oldest girl had a fever, which would have been the perfect excuse for Mama to skip church, but I had this nagging feeling that I would regret it if I sat this one out.  

As the service started, it just felt special...charged with electricity.  By the second song, I was "raising the roof," as my cousin likes to call it.  You know, the ridiculous hand waving thing that we Jesus freaks like to do when moved by the spirit?  I'll own it, that's me.  Don't laugh; yours may just creep up on ya one day and before you know it you'll be doing the wind shield wipers.  As the third song played, we watched videos of people from our congregation, men and women from all walks of life, sharing their life changing stories of faith in Jesus Christ.  With a full heart, I remembered the moment when I gave my broken self to Jesus, and I cried just a little.

I never could have guessed what came next.  

Our pastor talked about the choice we make daily between fear and faith.  We watched this video clip from "We Bought a Zoo," about 20 seconds of insane courage leading to absolute greatness; in other words, a leap of faith.  And then he asked those of us who had made a decision for Christ, or who were ready to do so, to step forward and be baptized, as a public profession of our faith in Jesus. 

Wow. Um...if you haven't done this as an adolescent or adult.  Lemme just say.  This ain't no joke.  Not to mention that our church holds about 1,000 people during any given service.  Just imagine stepping out of fear, shoving down the gut wrenching social anxiety, and stepping into faith in front of hundreds of people.  That, is what I call insane courage.  I watched as ten, then twenty, then thirty, then forty, then over fifty people tearfully stepped forward.  

My cousin and her husband were among them.  She is my best friend, my sister, and I have never been so proud.  I stood watching as one person after another joyfully proclaimed their faith and stepped into a waiting pool.  I snapped away on the camera in disbelief as first she, then her very private husband, were submerged into the water and raised up smiling.  Their boys stood smiling shyly by my side; uncertain, but proud of Mom and Dad.  The crowd cheered and I'm certain, we were all equally awestruck by this sudden public display of faith by more than fifty people. 

I learned later that out of three services, there were 278 people baptized on Sunday.

You may be thinking this is all a little "woo-woo".  Am I right?  What are those crazy people going to do next?  Snake handling?  Dancing in the aisles with tambourines?  Start visiting a polygamist hairdresser?  I know, I know.  I get it.  Maybe you are wondering what was wrong with the first baptism many of these people had as infants?  

I can only offer you my point of view, simple as it may be.  Hubby and I christened both of our daughters as babies in the Macedonian Orthodox church.  This was a decision we made out of respect for our family's traditions and beliefs.  But more than that, we had a desire to make a statement to God and the community, that we would do everything in our power to raise our children to love Christ.  Nothing could ever take away from that experience or lessen it's importance.  

Choosing to be baptized as a young person or an adult is an entirely different event.  There is no magic in the water.  There are no rules about who gets to do it.  Jesus himself was baptized as an adult, in a lake, by his cousin, John.  It can be done in a pool, in a tub, or heck, even in a trough.  Got a plastic baby pool?  That works too!  

The magic lies in the fact that someone is brave enough to step forward on trembling legs and publicly display the change that has already taken place internally.  The magic happens when someone chooses to tell the world that they believe that Jesus is the son of God, and by placing their faith in Him, they are a new creation, forgiven and free.

This is what I believe.  

But, I also believe that God loves each hair on our heads, each freckle, and each wart, regardless of whether or not we get dunked.  Hubby has not done this yet, and trust me, he is a far better believer than I am on most days of the week.  He inspires me in my faith daily.  Who am I to tell him to volunteer for a one man water show (he can't swim!) for a few hundred people?  That is between him and God, and they seem to be doing just fine without my help.  

I will leave you with the video of the Athens Church baptism extravaganza because a picture is worth a thousand words!  

Acts 22:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name."