Category Archives: Family

A Dad’s Guide to Disney

 

We’re back, flights to and from Florida completed without incident. The 2017 family vacation to The Happiest Place on Earth now nothing more than memories.

Upon returning home we found that our time away had been approved, a letter from the kindergarten’s school administrator informing us that because of her previous attendance history a few days missed would’t adversely affect her learning progression. This was a great relief as we had neither asked permission nor intended to alter our plans in any way had we been denied.

This is in no way meant to imply any lack of respect for scholastics or educators and in that spirit I have decided to pass along some of my own knowledge, a dad’s moderately constructive guide to surviving Disney, minimizing stress and helping you have at least as good a time as I always have.

 

1.    Regardless of whether or not this trip is a surprise and when the big reveal comes, that initial excitement wears off quickly and the plane ride becomes a torturously long and tedious exercise in patience. Alaina spent both rides contentedly watching movies and munching chips while all around us families bickered about who’s responsibility is was to make sure that kid’s electronics were charged. Pack snacks and remember that if you guess wrong about your child being responsible enough to charge their own device, you will now be responsible for their on-board entertainment.

The youngest was so content and excited about her first plane ride that after landing in Orlando she thanked us for her surprise and asked if we could stop at a restaurant for dinner on the ride home. It wasn’t until we pulled into the hotel that she started believing that we hadn’t just flown in a big circle and landed at the same airport.

 

A Dads Guide to Disney
Ready for “blast off”

 

2.  Spend some time researching and thinking about what you are looking for regarding accommodations. One of the recommendations that most Disney bloggers make is that by staying on-site, you remove the need for a rental car, are able to enter the parks earlier than the general public, and have a place to take an afternoon break before returning in the evening. These are all very valid points, but they are also staying for free in exchange for these “tips.”

For roughly the same amount of money as a moderately priced room for four at a Disney Hotel, we stayed in a three bedroom, two bathroom suite about twenty minutes away. The car was an added expense and we definitely would have gotten more of our dollar’s worth out of the park tickets, but we did have a pool with a kick ass pirate ship water slide. Also, did I mention that it had two bathrooms? Decide on what to prioritize in order to keep your family happy.

 

A Dads Guide to Disney
Now that’s a water slide

 

3.  If you have a family member or members that take an excruciating amount of time to get themselves ready at home, don’t think that it will be any different on vacation.  A lesson that I learned a long time ago that I will reiterate here is that the fastest way to start your day off wrongly is by appearing anxious to get going or trying to rush somebody out the door. Get ready, get out of the way, and tell them how beautiful they look. This tip is transferable to any time or any place you are ever going for the rest of your life.

 

A Dads Guide to Disney
My lovely ladies

 

4.  Have a plan.  Don’t make it a supremely detailed, step by step plan for what you want to do every minute of the day, I’ve done that before and was surprised to find that it wasn’t as appreciated as I thought it would be.  Have a plan for the rides and attractions that are your “must do’s” and make an effort to do those things first. There may be backtracking and added distance walked later as you go back and hit your secondary targets but this will ensure that nobody leaves disappointed if you leave sooner than you had expected or if longer lines and time constraints leave you unable to do everything, an impossible task to begin with. Little feet get tired, flip flops break, hunger and heat lead to crankiness.  A full day at a Disney park is a grueling test of endurance that can break even the strongest of wills.

 

Dads Guide to Disney
Space Mountain, our first stop of the day

 

5.  Know the height limits of the various thrill rides and decide on their appropriateness.  Disney roller coasters have a shorter minimum than most other amusement parks but some of these rides might be too scary for children able to reach the mark.

The highest threshold and the only one that my five year old couldn’t meet is 48″ at Hollywood Studios Rock N’ Roller Coaster, a ride that starts off by launching you from 0-57 mph in 2.8 seconds. The minimum for Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror is only 40″ but features a 130 foot free fall at 39 mph.  Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom has a minimum of 44″ and moves at a relatively slow 28 mph, but is very dark with flashing strobe light effects.  Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom is also 44″ and features a main drop of 80 feet and reaches speeds of 50 mph. There is also a Yeti chasing you.  It was my daughter’s favorite ride of the weekend, but she is a complete lunatic and probably a bad example.

 

A Dads Guide to Disney
This is a “big girl” roller coaster

 

6.  This will probably be less of an issue after Pandora – The World of Avatar opens in a few weeks, but for now I continue to hear people describe Disney’s Animal Kingdom as being nothing more than an expensive zoo and the park to skip if that decision needs to be made. I strongly disagree. Besides being home to the previously mentioned Expedition Everest coaster, the best in all the Orlando Disney parks, the Kilimanjaro Safaris offer a guided, motorized animal watching experience I have yet to find anywhere else.  Along with The Magic Kingdom I think these are the two “must hit” parks for those burdened with small children.

 

A dads guide to Disney
I just need five more minutes

 

7.  If you are staying off site and have access to a rental car, take a quick ride into Kissimmee for a dinner show. There is an Al Capone themed one, another based around the story of the Titanic, magical comedy, several mystery dinners, and three different pirate shows, one of which is adults only and on the list for the next time we are down there without kids.

We stuck with the classic Medieval Times and it was as fantastic as I remembered. With all the knights, princesses,  falconry, jousting and sword fighting I was surprised that my daughter actually ate her meal. She loved cheering on the Red Knight, the hero who’s section we were seated in, and booing the others.  The first time in her life that I’ve seen her speechless was after catching a rose thrown her way by that dashing fellow and I’m fairly certain she may have developed her first crush. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

 

A Dads Guide to Disney
won the tourney, defeated the bad guy, stole my daughters heart

 

8.  Pick accommodations that have a pub within walking distance.  If you can manage to have children twelve years apart, start working on that now in order to have your own babysitter for after the youngest crashes for the night. If this is unrealistic, consider bringing somebody else along for that purpose. It may greatly increase the overall cost of your trip, but can you really put a price on a nice, cold pint and watching the game in peace after a long, hot day surrounded by thousands of children?

 

a dads guide to Disney
last stop of the day

 

9.  Prepare yourself the night before for the inevitability of check out.  It’s OK to feel melancholy but a full tantrum and locking yourself in the bathroom because you don’t want to go home is a horrible example to set for your children. Pull yourself together, gather your belongings and don’t look back. Spend the entire plane ride home daydreaming about your next visit.

 

A Dads Guide to Disney
The Mouse Himself

 

10.  Know ahead of time that this isn’t a cheap, relaxing vacation, and be OK with it.  Take lots of pictures, cherish every smile and make lots of memories.  Expect to come home broke, a few pounds heavier, and even more tired than when you left. If you aren’t than you’re doing Disney wrong. Try harder next time and re read this before you go. Tell anybody you know that is planning a trip to Disney World that they should probably read this too.

 

 

 

Two Tiny Hands
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Hopes for a Happy Valentine’s Day

 

I had a weird moment at the store today.  As I was paying for the cards and flowers I had belatedly picked up for the girls, ( I didn’t forget, they were just all with me this weekend ) the young man behind the counter gave me a wink and a nod, smiling as if we shared some private joke.  It wasn’t until I was halfway home that I realized that everything I had purchased was in quantities of three.  I’m fairly certain the young cad had misidentified me as a fellow player, multiple women in my life expecting attention on this day devoted to love.

There was a time when things may have been closer to his presumed interpretation.  Days when Valentine’s was among the holidays I made sure to work, not wanting to have to decide who I was spending it with.  A time when I was more concerned with staying friends with someone after my “three month rule” had been reached than with actually treating them overly well during that allotted three months. I wrote recently about not being very popular for a stretch of years. The next chapter in that story is a decade of overcompensation for that. Years when I was kind of a dick, to be honest.

 

 

Those days are far behind me now.  As flattering as it may have been for this kid to think that I could still pull off these types of maneuvers, I have no interest in proving him right. I’m still juggling multiple women and trying to keep too many at a time happy, but I’m related to them all now.

My concerns these days are different, no longer concerned with who I am buying for, but how much.  Last year Baby Cupid brought baskets of presents, but I’m willing to concede that may have been a little ridiculous. I settled on absurdly priced cards and flowers, an older movie for each of the kids, and a New England Patriots Super Bowl Championship T-shirt for my wife, leaving them strategically placed as I headed off to work.

 

 

Was that enough?  Of course not.  This is why I struggle with this “holiday” every year.  Twelve years ago my wife inadvertently started changing me into a different person.  A better man.  All three of them continue to push me down that road daily. How many chocolates is that worth?

Hopefully the girls are happy and know that I love them.  Even more importantly, I hope this is true the other 364 days of the year as well. I hope that young stud at the supermarket gets as lucky as this one did and that one day he’s buying multiple Valentines for a more respectable reason.  I hope when I get home from work tonight my wife is feeling frisky and most importantly, I hope that the shirt fit.

 

 

 

Laughs of Christmas Past

 

Like most parents in America,  ( I’m pretty sure )  Christmas Eve was spent watching football, wrapping presents, and drinking bourbon.  We also spent a lot of time reflecting, talking about how much better this year was than last, how much faster each year seems to go by, and how we probably should have picked up more bourbon.

 

Ten years of holidays together lead to a lot of stories.  My wife’s first time drinking red wine coincided with the first time that we hosted both families at our new house together.  It also may have been the last time that she ever drank red wine but everybody keeps coming back every year, so we’re able to laugh about it now.

 

I do not look amused

 

One of my favorite Christmas stories is an inadvertent prank that we ( I ) played on Kayla one year.  Something that my family always did was to disguise presents in different boxes so that smart ass kids couldn’t shake them or otherwise identify the contents ahead of time.  Every child knows what a box of clothes looks like or a packet of socks.  These are always the last things opened.  I was determined that she would not have that option.

What I did on this particular Christmas, in my infinite cleverness, was to convince my wife to join me in wrapping all of her gifts in  food boxes.  CDs and DVDs hidden in empty boxes of crackers and instant rice.  Books in cereal boxes.  A necklace in the discarded macaroni and cheese box from earlier in the week.

Not once did it ever occur to me that she wouldn’t open these boxes and discover the contents inside.  As a child I always knew that my prize would lay at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box.  So surprised were we that to our shame ( and amusement ) we didn’t tell her.  To her credit she opened every last gift before heading upstairs to cry and wonder why Santa hated her.  Any trust issues she may have developed in the interim are strictly incidental and again, we all laugh about it now.

 

did not have oatmeal on her list

 

There are fewer years to look back on, but plenty of stories already that we were telling about Alaina.  The two year old who’s parents were tired of going out into the cold  to allow her to enjoy her slide, so bought her an inside one instead.

 

Not spoiled at all

 

The odd little three year old with the symmetrical piles and need to organize her gifts as she was opening them. Her reluctance to move on to the next present until satisfied that the previous one was where it was supposed to be.

 

two for the “big” action figure pile

 

No matter where you were or what you were celebrating, I hope this weekend was a good one, new memories made.   I hope you were surrounded by friends, family, and most importantly, laughter.

Cheers.

 

 

A Visit From The Christmas Spirit

 

We’re now a few days into December, and the spirit of Christmas has officially invaded our household. To be more precise, it has completely taken over the five year old, but the riptide in this river of jolliness is hard to resist.

It started with the radio. My deft avoidance of Christmas music stymied the same way it seems to be every year, by AC/DC’s Mistress for Christmas. Too late I realized that holiday music was playing and from that point on, nothing else would do. When I was scolded for changing the channel on a lottery commercial set to the music of The Twelve Days of Christmas, it was clear that resistance was futile.

With a full day already planned for Sunday, ( drink beer, watch football ) I gave in to familial pressure and spent all day Saturday spreading cheer. We sharpened our axes, bundled up into warm clothes, and headed off into the wilderness to find our perfect Christmas tree.

 

20161203_121318

 

We checked our fuses, played a game of extension cord scavenger hunt, and doubled my electric bill for the next month.

 

christmas-spirit

 

We cleaned mouse turds from boxes of old decorations, drank hot chocolate, and gave the dog something new to try and destroy.

 

chritsmas-tree

 

Watching my family laugh and decorate the tree, smile and admire the lights, and generally just appreciate each other’s company, this grinch found his heart temporarily growing a few sizes. Next year Kayla will be eighteen, her future uncertain. Alaina is already starting to have some questions about Santa that are getting harder to answer and this level of enthusiasm from her will be hard to sustain.

All thoughts for another day. Right now it’s time to go watch Elf before the moment passes.

 

 

Ballers Are Parents Too

 

I don’t do this very often, but every few years or so a day comes along when for one reason or another, I’m just not in the mood to go to work. No matter what I’m actually doing, I’ve found that “belly issues” always makes the best excuse for not coming in. It evokes instant sympathy, nobody wants to be anywhere near you, and there usually are no further questions.

It’s probably the excuse new Boston Celtic Al Horford should have used when missing Monday night’s game against the Miami Heat for “personal reasons.” This is Horford’s first year as a Celtic, signing a four year, $113 million deal this off season and greatly raising expectations for the team. Having already missed nine of the first sixteen games with a concussion, many in town felt that with a contract like that he needed to be out on the court, even after hearing what his “personal reasons” were.

 

horford-2

 

His reason turned out to be the birth of his second child, a daughter named Alia. The main source of contention being that since she had been born Sunday night in Atlanta, he really had no excuse to not be on the court Monday in Miami, a short flight away.

Personally, I think he should have skipped Wednesday night’s game against the Pistons as well. Under the collective bargaining agreement of the WNBA, the women’s professional basketball league, players who become pregnant have no time limit set for when they are expected to return and are paid 50% of their salary for as long as they are absent. Most resume practice after eight weeks and return to playing a month after that. Some of this discrepancy in expectation can be attributed to the physical demands and recovery from childbirth, but how much is also the notion that it is more important for a newborn to have this early bonding time with its mother than with its father? Sheryl Swoopes, the very first player signed to the league in 1997, missed the first six weeks of the inaugural season after giving birth to her son and was lauded for how well she played upon return. Al Horford was criticized for taking off a single game out of 82.

 

swoopes

 

According to a 2012 report by the Department of Labor, nine out of ten US fathers take time off from work after the birth of their child or in order to adopt a child.  Only 13% of these were paid paternal leave and 70% were forced to take ten days or less off. Right now California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that provide paid family leave to both fathers and mothers equally and only 14% of US employers provide it voluntarily, almost all in white collar, high income professions.

Becoming a parent is never more real than in the first days and weeks after the baby arrives. Having both parents home during this time provides so many obvious benefits for the entire family, both short and long term, that it’s nonsensical to demand fathers immediately return to the workforce. This is no longer our only role and it’s time for that to be recognized. 79 of the 167 countries in the world provide paid paternity leave. We need to start appreciating the new realities of fatherhood here as well.