Sunday, 17 August 2014

Summer's end














What a summer it's been. One for the books! I know I say that every year, and while I'm still standing by the fact that 2014 hasn't looked too kindly upon Steve it's handed us a summer on a silver freaking spoon, most definitely to us Weibel girls anyway. Dani, Mila, and I spent a month in Italy, surrounded by family, soaking in love and attention and acceptance and that big-family wonderfulness that is hard to come by when everyone you hold dear lives on another continent. There was lots of seafood, some of my favorite beaches in the whole world, empty piazzas to run in, no air conditioning, plums coming out of our ears, and endless elevator rides. There was vomiting on curvy mountain roads, digging for clams at sunset, and bakeries that you smell before you see. The upside to having family far away means you appreciate them all the more when finally reunited, and the not-so-great moments slip away: the minutes before you've drank your coffee, the jet lag your kids don't seem to want to hurdle, the one-bathroom-six-people situation (clarification: my grandparents have no less than four bathrooms in their house. unfortunately everyone wants to use the one with instant HOT water! Oh, Italy.). It was paradise for all of us and even though we had countless, 'Papa would love this...' or 'if Papa were here then...' moments--in other words we missed him like crazy--the time went by much too fast. Before we knew it June was coming to a close, I somehow survived 24 hours of travel time with my dad (before I forget and in case I never post about this topic again, can I impart my most important piece of travel advice? only a slight exaggeration here. Crown rooms and toddlers DO NOT MIX. Moving sidewalks and escalators and toddlers DO MIX. There. Carry on.) Then, we were home for, oh, a day and...a half? Enough time for me to throw the contents of our suitcases into the wash, clean like a madwoman 'cause that's what I seem to do when leaving on a trip, and then repack for a nearly 2-week roadfest. Where my medal at? But this time it was with my husband in tow so in the spirit of togetherness! and family! and memories! we headed north. We spent time with dear friends who live too far away, people we want to surround the girls' childhoods with because they mean so much to us...and family too, when we got to New York. Yes, New York was our end destination (isn't it everyone's?! NYC I love you too much.) and there we got to show our girls what a great big world there is out there.

I'll leave it at that. 
For now. 

So summer 2014. Family. friends. Friends who are like family. Swimming in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, rivers, city fountains, and one wonderful lake that at one point held two middle-aged dudes swimming with noodles (the pool toy kind, get out of the gutter). Eating everything from octopus to one of the finest pizzas I've ever tasted, honey-drenched seadas in Sardinia to xiaolongbao in Chinatown, and something called a lizzmonade to nutella-filled croissants. Nutella filled everything. I had to be rolled home, clearly. And we managed to squeeze in some camping, too. I really, really loved this summer.

And now mid-August is upon us. And for the first time in over ten years, all of the hubbub surrounding back to school applies to me. Except this time it's not me going back to school, no, it's far more important. That girl that's gonna be four in just two short weeks and makes me laugh big belly-laughs every single day--she's starting her very first day of preschool tomorrow. TOMORROW. 

Last week her and I went on one of our Mila-Mama dates that I love so much, that I'm going to do with her (and soon, her sister. I can't wait for Dani-Mama dates!) for as long as she'll let me. It was a back to school date this time. First, uniform shopping. I know! Then, school supply shopping armed with a list. There were plans for ice cream too but Mila nixed them in favor of a nap....and that's when I knew she was getting sick. Ha! Thankfully we're all coming out of the woods from that round. Anyway, there in the fitting room of the uniform store, I helped her into what was going to be her new shirt and got a flash of this new person in front of me. This girl who was equal parts familiar baby Mila, toddler Mila, and equal parts older Mila, school Mila with school friends and school ideas and school opinions. It's a lot for any mama to handle, I think. For the past four years Mila's been home with us every day. Her point of reference, all of her experiences, have stemmed from us. Now that's about to change--slowly at first I know (I hope!) but before I know it there's going to be a shift. So there in that store, my eyes welled up with tears and I choked back a downpour of emotion as I gushed over her shirt, the colors, the school logo...trying to show my excitement...and I am, I truly am excited for her. Excited. Nervous. Scared. Sad. Knowing this is the beginning of letting her go. Knowing that it's going to be just as hard when I drive away from her dorm room at whatever college she decides on. Feeling that that moment is so far away yet knowing that when it gets here in fifteen years it will have been a blink.


So if you need me Monday, I'll be here, trying not to blink. That or in a preschool parking lot, sobbing.

p.s. these are iphone pictures--I left my USB cable (Steve says that's not what it's called?) in Italy! It's coming back with Marmousch in a few weeks. At this point I've forgotten what the heck is on that camera so I can't wait to find out and share...




Tuesday, 13 May 2014

DISNEY






parade watching
I'm finally FINALLY getting around to posting pictures from Disney. Yes Disney World, the Weibels got up the nerve to take on the Walt. I had always said I wouldn't go 'till my oldest was 5 since he or she wouldn't appreciate it before. I had also always said we would not NOT turn into one of those families who were constantly going to Disney as if no other place on Earth existed to take a vacation. Well, Wugs is 3 1/2 so I fell flat on my face with that point. As for the latter, we're not becoming yearly passholders (yet) or anything but man, those people are onto something. There's just something about Disney World. Magic. Warning, I'm about to write the word magic an obnoxious amount of times.

 









I'll start from the beginning.  I'll keep it to Magic Kingdom only for this post as we also went to Hollywood Studios; I wrote down some things and tips that worked for us so will regurg that here more for my reference than anything else. 

Every year Disney does a deal for Florida residents, a 2- or 4-day pass. We had talked about going, it just felt like a good time. Last year on New Year's Eve day we had ended up in downtown Disney in search of a photobooth (we're so nutskis). We walked around a little bit and from just that little taste we could tell Mila was smitten. She was ready. Then for Valentine's Day Marmousch surprised us with tickets...and upgraded to the 4 day pass! We were so grateful and excited. Thank you again Marmousch for such incredible memories. 

Baby Mine on the carousel
We broke up our 4 day pass into two separate 2-day trips. Orlando is 1 1/2 hours away, so it's a nice perk. We thought it would be nice to get away for a couple days, experience WDW, come back home, process it (I'm talking about Mila here), get a gauge for what works, what we'd like to change, and then do it all over again before the June 6th deadline.  And actually as I write this we're headed on part 2! Seeing these pictures is getting me excited all over again. 


We stayed at the Coronado Springs Resort, which was great. Most likely when we go to WDW in the years to come we'll go for the day (Florida perks!); that's what we always did growing up. For the girls' first time though AND since they're still so young and it's tough for us to mobilize quickly--we figured being on-site would set us up for success. Also, then we could take advantage of magic hours, when parks stay open an hour earlier or later just for Disney hotel guests (it varies from day to day). Oh I'd certainly recommend this. There were a few hotel advantages, namely free parking, shuttle pickup and drop-off allowing you to bypass the monorail, three fast passes/day (this is HUGE), and that magic hour was a big perk. Yes, we took full advantage and were there when the cannon went off and the park opened. Magical! We had also wanted a hotel room thinking it would be a 'day base' where we could come back to if the girls were tired so they could nap. That didn't end up being the case and I'm so glad it wasn't because let's face it, that would have been a huge chunk of the day. I'm sure it has nothing to do with our parenting but for whatever reason our girls are troopers. Dani napped on the go, Mila held her own and Steve and I just went with it. We ended up staying until 10:00; as the bus was pulling away from the entrance we could see fireworks beginning (another magical moment!). That's 14 hours at Magic Kingdom! Like I said, troopers to the max.


 
 


Also! Mila had no idea we were going. It was a big ole surprise. She thought we were going to Orlando for IKEA (which for us is a totally normal, nearly-monthly thing). Then as we got closer Steve, ever the actor, started playing up this headache, and he got "lost," and wanted to stop for directions at the hotel. Very much not rehearsed between us and it was damn comical to watch it unfold. When we pulled up to the hotel guardbooth, Steve was jerking his head in the direction of the backseat and whispering. The look on the guard's face: priceless. 

When we got to the room (which we told Wugs we were just going to stay for the afternoon until Papa's headache got better, a by-the-hour place! Haha) there were mickey-shaped balloons, Mickey ear hats with the girls' names on them, a card...all orchestrated by Steve. Apparently he was smitten too. And we slowly revealed our plans to Mila. She was all hands-jammed-in-mouth giddy, which is the Wugs way. She was excited. Don't let some of those non-smiling pictures fool you, she had the time of her life. I know because she HAS NOT STOPPED talking about it ever since. Mila's play at home now either revolves around her going to Disney or going to a Disney hotel. 

It's funny, having grown up in Florida we went to Disney quite a bit. Not like crazy Disney people but I'd say at least once a year we went to one park or another, more if we had houseguests from Italy visiting. I knew what to expect. But seeing Disney through the eyes of your children? Incredible. Even without the more thrilling rides, which I didn't partake in for the first time in decades...no, it was all teacups and Small World and dumbo sort of hokey parental fun. We'd come full circle! I wasn't prepared to fall head over heels in love with the Disney experience the way I did, and I credit Mila and Dani with that. And Walt. Thanks Walt. See you very soon!





 
 


 


 
 

 






tips! 
when I think of Disney I think of rides. But for kids, the parade is right up there! We hadn't scoped out parade information because up until that point Mila hadn't watched a huge amount of Disney movies and really had only gotten into Frozen (along with every other little girl in North America, nay, the world). We got in line at a cafe for lunch and saw that the sidewalk was already being cordoned off for the parade. Then I heard that Elsa and Anna were going to be in the parade. And....duh. Steve and I didn't even have to communicate on this one. I grabbed the girls and our stroller to stake out a front-row spot, Steve waited out the line for the food, and the rest was h-i-s-t-o-r-y. Definitely one of Mila's highlights and Dani was mesmerized as well. So, a very very happy accident by way of the parade.

We took our BOB stroller (it's a single but Mila will hop on the front from time to time if she's tired of walking) and the ergo. Dani slept in the ergo throughout the day. Amazingly, she slept through the entire spinning teacups which Steve was turning with all of his might (pre-shingles, ha!), the Little Mermaid ride, and the very jerky/jostling Toy Story Mania ride at Hollywood Studios the next day. Ergo's still got it fo sho.

We also had a two backpack system that worked well. One was lighter and smaller that just had a few diapers and small wipes container. This way if I had to change Dani there was no fumbling around for anything, just grab and go. The other backpack, the beast--had snacks, our camera, sunscreen, a couple bandaids, water bottles...this is what we'd take while waiting in ride lines. In our stroller, the workhorse, were more diapers, changes of clothes, the beast if one of us weren't wearing it...you get the picture.

Of course, when Disney-ing with littles, it's helpful to slow down your pace a bit. Sometimes more than a bit. In past times Steve and I had raced through parks trying to strategize and avoid lines. This time, we walked like normal people. Took breaks (diaper changes). Spent 30 minutes hanging around a fountain eating a le feu brew (more on that below). There were more snacks. Lots of grazing.

Dani's sleeping, we're snackin'
Characters. This is a big thing with kids but ours aren't quite there yet. Certainly a lot would depend on their personalities and how familiar they are with the movies. Dani outright screamed when poor Tigger startled her and Mila, while interested, wasn't exactly sidling up to them. It was more like character-mama as barrier-Mila in all our character photos. Maybe in a few years.

speaking of snacks! In order to make it on time for our 'magic hour' that first day in the Magic Kingdom, we ate breakfast on the go while waiting for the bus. Our favorite things that we'll be taking this time around were cereal bars, fruit and veggie squeeze pouches, applesauce squeeze bottles, and juice boxes. Those snacks also carried us through the day, when we weren't stuffing our faces with park goodies. Snacks and my favorite vitamin C lollipops got us through a few long lines.

park goodies! pineapple dole whip, mmmmkay? and nutella waffles at the Spooky Hollow Inn--this is also where we stumbled upon the parade. but my favorite park snack, a le feu brew at Gaston's Tavern. It's like this passionfruit smoothie drink thing, soooo delicious. We did a character dinner at Crystal Palace (I think that's the name?) with Pooh and Co. I wasn't expecting anything special at the buffet but it wasn't bad. A step in between cafeteria and wedding food, if you will.

and random: that footpath that goes around the outside of (not through) Cinderella's castle should really be appropriately labeled as Tobacco Lane on the WDW map. I don't think that would take away the magic or anything. Okay maybe it would. But it would save your lungs so I think that's a legit tradeoff. Be weary of Tobacco Lane folks.

And, just a few of the happy little moments that I loved and want to remember. You know, because this whole childhood thing is flying by much too fast. 
* at the souvenir stores we'd go into Steve would bypass all the stuff he usually would make a beeline for (like t-shirts) and go straight for the Frozen merchandise. For his girls. I thought that was so sweet. 

 


 

 












*we got caught up in parade route detour after detour in the evening ("we just want to ride the carousel for crying out loud!") that first night. And suddenly we found ourselves once again in the path of the nighttime light parade. Steve threw Mila up on his shoulders (Dani was in the ergo, relaxed and heading to sleep) and once again we marveled at how special it was that the parade had seemingly found us.
*the carousel ended up being our last ride of the night, Mila's choice. I nearly started crying when it started turning and Baby Mine from Dumbo began playing. I used to sing that song to Dani when she was an infant. Bittersweet. It always comes back to bittersweet, doesn't it?
*Mila has stood by her statement since we went that her favorite ride was It's a Small World. Dani loved that one too, bopping along to the music. Now that's a memory (and iphone video) I want forever.