Disney: What The Kids Will Remember

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I recently read an article outlining the difference between what kids remember about vacations and what parents remember. It made me laugh because as a parent I have such high expectations for trips and events with the kids, and they seldom are quite as picturesque as I imagine them to be.  My children either misbehave, are tired and whiny, or are more impressed with the ice cream cone they ate rather than the actual event itself.

This makes me stop and wonder what my own two children will remember about their recent trip to Disney World.

Of course, I will force them to relive the experience by repeatedly showing them the hundreds of pictures I took of Disney inspired happiness (the castle! another princess! Mickey Mouse!). But, I think it is the moments that were not in the photographs that will actually have more staying power.

Here is my proposed list of what they will remember about the most magical place on earth:

1. Being traumatized by the dark, scary rides their parents made them go on. My five-year-old son’s voice could be heard echoing in the halls after the Dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom, “I don’t want to do that a-gaaaaaain.”

2. The emotional distress of realizing that the face paint they were finally able to get would have to be washed off before they got into the pool. My son cried red, superhero tears all the way home from Hollywood Studios because of this realization.

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3. Jumping off the ledge into the hotel pool. Both kids found their confidence in the water this trip, and two tired parents were more than happy to simply sit on the pool steps and watch them jump over and over and over…

4. All of the stuffed animals we did NOT buy them at the Disney parks.

5. The sheer brilliance of something known as a sofa bed. The very thought of a sofa that turns into a bed is still boggling their minds.

6. My book bag of endless bribes/snacks. They are now going to think they get a treat for any line we stand in.

7. Seeing their grandparents out of context. “How are Grandpa and Grandma getting here?  Why aren’t they here now?  Are they staying here forever? How do you get to Florida in a car -does it take forever?”

8. Wearing a poncho for the first time. The very idea that their parents forced them outside to wait in long lines in the pouring rain when usually they are made to go inside caused such a stir of excitement that they did very little complaining about being soaked all day.

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9. The time I accidently pinched my son’s arm in the seatbelt and basically ruined the whole Dumbo ride for him.  Poor kid was showing off his scars in the airport.

10. A hotel playground that was literally surrounded by mud puddles. Seriously, why pay the admission price into the parks when you have that?

***

We just returned yesterday, so I haven’t really had time to sort through my experience yet.  But, for right now, my parent-view of the trip is centered on these five magical moments that I simply do not want to forget:

1. My son’s skinny arms wrapped around my neck as I carried him through the park. “My legs just don’t have energy!” he whined. I didn’t mind because I knew it would probably be one of the last times I walked around with his head on my shoulder. Each day he gets bigger and stronger and more independent.

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2. My four-year-old daughter’s squeals of amazement over just about everything we saw. In line to meet Rapunzel, she looked at me with such an expression of wonder, excitement, and uncontrollable happiness that I just don’t know if I will ever be able to recreate a situation in which that occurs again.

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3. Watching my two children cuddle together on the sofa bed after a long day at the park and falling asleep to their giggles and whispers. In the dark, I heard my son whisper to his sister, “I will always protect you. That’s my job.” She replied, “I know. It’s my job to protect you, too.”

4. My son turning to me on the safari ride at Animal Kingdom and demanding in frustration, “Take a picture of this!” when he saw I did not have my camera out.

5. Watching both of my kids’ expressions of awe and wonder as we sat through another show or ride. I often found more enjoyment in their reactions rather than the event itself.

***

My daughter cried on the car ride home after our last day at the parks. “I don’t want to leave Disney!” she kept sobbing.  “I don’t want this to be over.”  I don’t know if she will remember that part (Who am I kidding? Of course, she will.  We filmed it!), but I do know that was a little bit of what I felt, too.

 

 

 

How to Create an Easy Daily Calendar

 

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A short and sweet way to record daily events in your life.

About four years ago, I stumbled across a daily calendar idea on Pinterest, originally posted on Design Sponge.  I loved the idea of just writing down one thought each day. It didn’t even have to be a full sentence!

I used to write, and write, and write.  In diaries, journals, scraps of paper … basically, whatever I could get my hands on.  But, like many things, children seemed to change that. Since having them, it was always, “I don’t have the time!” running through my head. This was a perfect solution.

I also loved that you could quickly look at what happened on the same day each year. After almost four years of doing this, it is interesting to note the coincidences or trends I see.  For instance, I pretty much do the same thing for my birthday each  year!

It took me a while to get motivated to put it together, but it was super simple and didn’t take much time at all.

How I put it together

I visited the dollar store and spent a total of five dollars. I bought a small plastic bin and four packs of lined index cards.

I loved the idea of stamping the date on each, but I didn’t have a date stamp at the time. Instead, I simply wrote the dates by hand. I probably did about half the dates in one sitting while I mindlessly watched TV, and then ended up just filling out the rest as the dates approached. In retrospect, I wish I would have been a little bit neater or more creative with the dates. But, at the time I had two kids under three – who has time for neat and creative!?

For the month dividers, I used paper scraps I had around the house. I loved the postcard idea in the original post I found, but I didn’t have any handy.

I then searched for some inspirational quotes online. I printed them out and pasted them to the cards.

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Remembering to write something each day

This is more challenging than I thought. I found that I really need to put the calendar somewhere obvious, or I will forget all about it.  I placed it on my kitchen counter for some time. This is an ideal location for me to keep it since I feel as though I am ALWAYS cooking or cleaning something in the kitchen, but I didn’t necessarily like one more thing cluttering my counter.

I discovered that placing it on my nightstand works the best. I am likely to see and notice it before going to bed each night. This, of course, did not work when the kids were into pulling everything off of my nightstand.

I don’t remember to write an entry all of the time. Sometimes there are blanks. One time I even wrote: Too exhausted to think of anything.  Occasionally, when I can’t remember something we did, I write down something about my kids that I might not remember years from now: Sawyer loves Power Rangers, Lydia hates car rides, Sawyer always sleeps with his stuffed seal, and Lydia’s favorite song is “Jingle Bells.”

What I have learned keeping a daily calendar

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 1. I really do forget a lot.

When I go to write my daily thought, I am amazed when I look back on previous years. I often have forgotten about certain things. For instance, without the daily calendar, I would have never remembered that on April 8, 2013 Sawyer flushed four washcloths down the toilet and clogged it. Or, that on January 2, 2013 Lydia cried the entire time in the childcare room at the gym while I completed my workout.  I could hear her over the whirl of treadmill; I didn’t take her back.

 

2. Sometimes life is boring.

That is okay. There are days that I just wrote: Went to the gym, Played outside with the kids, Trip to Home Depot with kids = nightmare, Went to Target to buy diapers,  or Watched a new episode of Blacklist.  My life isn’t always exciting.

But once in a while I read one of these “boring” moments, and I realize its value.  For instance on January 1, 2014 I wrote: Watched Cars.  Not the most exciting New Year’s Day activity, but at the time it was my son’s favorite movie. At three-years-old, he would never sit still long enough to watch a movie. Cars was the only movie that he was remotely interested in. It was the only time my always-on-the-go boy would let me cuddle him.  He has since moved on to other movies, and I now have to limit screen time instead of encouraging it.  So, reading this on New Year’s Day made me realize how much he has changed in two years, and how grateful I am for all of those snuggles I received while watching Cars.

3. I do more than I think.

P1040912Although there are many boring moments, and sometimes (especially as a stay-at-home mom) I feel like grumbling, “I never do anything!” I have proof of visits to pools and playgrounds, trips to zoos and bounce houses, and excursions to lakes and hiking trails. I do fill up our calendar. It is not always a Facebook post worthy adventure, but all of these little adventures are what have made my children who they are.

4. How will I ever stop this?

After four years, this is quite a collection of memories. I can’t imagine stopping this now. I don’t want to risk losing memories like:

March 11, 2013: Lydia took first steps with walker

June 7, 2013: Lydia has perfected the art of giving kisses

March 3, 2014: Lydia needs four songs and her “Ma-maaa” to fall asleep

April 3, 2014:  Sawyer wakes up most nights and crawls in our bed

November 4, 2014:  Sawyer insists (adamantly!) that his name is spelled with an “i”

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I want to keep recording these memories, so they do not get shuffled to the back of my mind and overlooked in years to come.  More often than not, the moments I record are the small moments that go unnoticed and aren’t always captured by camera.  Keeping this calendar is a perfect way to make sure they are not forgotten.

***

I would love to hear how you record your memories. Anyone do something like this, or do you keep a journal or diary?

Unexpected Beauty

DSCN0099I love when my daughter notices something that is beautiful. She admires the falling snow, princess dresses, a sunset, nail polish color, or her collection of dolls with an equal amount of unguarded enthusiasm. She squeals, “It’s soooo beautiful!” and then demands that everyone within hearing distance appreciate that beauty. Immediately.

Besides the obvious, she often notices things that most would not stop to admire or appreciate. She does this often, but it still catches me off guard.

 ***

In early winter, we had series of rainy, chilly days that coincided with my husband traveling for work. After the second day, I had reached my limit of the messy commotion of kids trapped in a house all day and had no desire to make a bigger mess in my kitchen, so I decided to venture out for some takeout food.  It was definitely not the ideal conditions to tackle an outing with two young kids on my own. Finding the shoes, zipping the coats, yelling at them to stop jumping in puddles, and then waiting for them to climb into the car left me dripping with rain and annoyance.

Needless to say, by the time they were safely buckled in their car seats, I was regretting my Chinese takeout decision and wishing I had just poured bowls of cereal instead.

The wipers furiously swiped the rain from my windshield as I attempted to tune out the backseat clamor and concentrate on the road. My son was still adamantly insisting that we should have brought an umbrella with us (yeah, that probably would have been a good idea, buddy!), and my daughter kept saying over and over, “This is not such a great day out,” as she looked at the rain pour down on the car.

Now, my daughter has never been much for car rides. She often fills them with complaints and comments such as, “This is taking forever.” My husband and I once counted the numbers of times she said that on a trip home from Ocean City; we stopped after fifty!

As an infant, she would cry when we put the car in reverse. She would cry when we braked at a stop light. She would cry when we turned left.  And, of course, she NEVER napped in cars.  In general, she has always been somewhat grumpy about being in the car, so I have become rather adept at tuning her out.

As we exited our wooded development and then drove through town, we stopped at a red light in front of the local shopping center. The car was silent for one brief, rare moment.  As I tried to strategize the easiest way to get both of them out of their car seats without me getting drenched, my daughter suddenly broke the silence with a small, delighted gasp, “It’s soooooo beautiful.”

I turned around and saw her small hand pressed to the window. “Mom, look at all of the sparkling lights,” she said in awe as she gestured to the drops of rain on the window. Each drop reflected a colored light from the cars and shopping center signs surrounding us.

It was something beautiful. Purple, yellow, green, and pink gems of water shimmering in a gloomy, cold night.

In amazement, she looked from side to side at all of the windows in the car. “It’s ALL so beautiful!” she exclaimed.  She opened her arms wide as if she could take those sparkly drops of water, pull the evanescent colors close, and embrace them forever.

 ***

I hope she holds on to this … this ability to see magic in the mundane. I know she will continue to see beauty in the “cotton-candy” clouds at sunset and the reflection of sun on water, but for how long will she notice the quiet beauty of the everyday “inconveniences” of life?  She recently saw me spill a bag of flour all over the kitchen floor. As I sighed and reached for the broom, she turned to me and smiled, “Look, Mama!  It looks like snow!”

So often I am too busy or too annoyed or too tired to notice the beauty in the day-to-day scenery, mishaps, or encounters of life. Where I saw a cold, rainy night, she saw sparkling gemstones. Where I saw a mess to be cleaned, she saw snow.

As her fourth birthday approaches, this is my wish for her:

My dearest daughter, I wish you a million drops of rain to sparkle and shine around you. I wish for you a lifetime of seeing beauty in the small moments. I hope, no matter how busy, annoyed, or tired you are, you always remain open to the wonder of the world and still declare in your loud, clear voice, “It’s soooo beautiful!” 

 I hope others listen.

 

 

I’d Rather Be Eating Candy Hearts

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Making Valentine’s Day Cards with My Son

My son sits down at the dining room table and dumps out his supplies. He grabs a pencil, sorts through papers, and arranges his stickers into a messy pile. Sitting on the edge of his seat, lips pursed in concentration, he begins to slowly print his name.

I have been looking forward to this since we picked up the Avengers and Paw Patrol Valentine’s Day cards at Walmart this afternoon. I am all about anything involving stickers, markers, and stationary, and I have always enjoyed giving and making cards. I am trying to keep this tradition alive with my children, so we often send cards to friends and family. My kids are usually equally excited to make a card as they are to receive one.

In the card aisle, my son stared frozen with excited indecision at the choice he had to make, Star Wars? Jake and the Neverland Pirates? SpongeBob SquarePants?  So many of his favorites to choose from.  My daughter immediately grabbed the first box she saw with Elsa on it, but he made his decision deliberately and with care … and a great deal of time!

Now, only hours later, we carefully rip apart the cards and place them in piles. I love these quiet moments with my son, who is usually wielding a light saber or throwing a ball. Typically, he would rather be outside getting muddy, but if I can entice him with the right art supplies he becomes my little apprentice.

But my joy quickly turns to annoyance during his attempt at the first card. “You need to write smaller,” I instruct as I watch the slopes of his ‘W’ take up half of the card. Why in the world are these cards so tiny, anyway? I quickly follow up my comment by instructing, “Lowercase a” and “that’s not how you make a Y.” I soon realize this task is going to be much more challenging than I thought.

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When the teacher handed the class list to the parents and explained that each child was expected to write his own name on each card along with the recipient’s name, I had inwardly cringed. My son, at age five and a half, still struggles to write his name most of the time. He has no concept of size and usually only three of his letters fit on the line provided. Not only would he have to write his own name 26 times, but he would also have to write 26 other names.  This was going to take some time!

***

I get frustrated quickly when we work on the cards each day, but I try not to let it show. The whole process annoys my efficient nature as we usually end up spending more time getting organized than actually creating cards.  As I hover over him correcting his mistakes, he gets distracted easily, which is not a surprise. We usually only complete two cards at a time.  When he finishes the last letter, he and I are both ready to be finished.

However, I slowly start to see improvement. The lowercase ‘a’ that was usually a capital letter gets smaller and more oval. The ‘W’ starts to look pointed at the bottom and the ‘r’ starts to have a “candy cane hook” instead of a straight line for the top. This is slow, tedious work with a headstrong boy.  But as he continues to work on his form, I work on not being so critical. I begin to sit back and give him some space to make mistakes.

Then one day, he comes into my bedroom and hands me a completed card. “Look. All by myself,” he states proudly. I start to scold him; he was only supposed to work on the cards when I was there to supervise.  Although I am usually lax with creative endeavors, I considered this homework and wanted him to complete the assignment correctly.  (I was also rather concerned that if I left him to his own devices, the small candy that was supposed to go into the envelope might mysteriously disappear and be replaced by a somewhat less desirable Valentine food, like a raisin or baby carrot).

But, as I look closely at the card, I stop myself from saying anything.  I can actually decipher each letter of the name on the outside, Lillian. I look at the back of the card and see his own, slightly slanted, but completely legible, name in the correct spot.

All by himself.

Sometimes it is when I step back (or am hiding in my room reading a book) that he is able to grow in a way in which I couldn’t possibly teach him.  It’s knowing when to back off that is the tricky part.

We continued with the cards together and now have finished our task – with six days to spare until his Valentine’s Day party!  He enjoyed the process, and I enjoyed the results.  Of course, there isn’t too much time to bask in the glory of the completed cards because I need to get to work on sixteen Frozen cards with my three-year-old daughter!

What do you do for Valentine’s Day cards with your kids?  Homemade or store bought?  Love or hate it?