Tuesday, February 23, 2016

(Our) Best Magical Moments at Disneyland

So we just returned from Disneyland last week...

Our first two days were scorched in 90 degree heat and crowded (lots of folks from Seattle!) who had the same great vacation idea we had evidently. But Disneyland is a special place where magical stuff happens.

  • Day 1 in California Adventure Park, Meeting Anna & Elsa: I had heard this experience can get mobbed and it even used to have FastPasses associated with it due to popularity. We were following our touringplans.com itinerary and had some time to wait before we did Turtle Talk with Crush (innovative and delightful attraction, btw) and wandered right by the place where you meet Anna & Elsa. I asked the cast member (employee) how long the wait was. She said, “There is just one family ahead of you and this will be the shortest line you’ll see all day.”  I was all, “KEN, HURRY OVER HERE RIGHT NOW WITH THE KIDS!!!” As our first character/princess interaction, I got a little choked up. The kids loved it and this experience set a great tone for meeting all the other characters during the rest of our trip.

Another notable character meeting...

  • Day 1 in California Adventure Park, Pixar Parade: Disneyland parades are spectacles of sight, sound and substantial production value. There are even tall poles with stage lights that magically ‘grow’ out of the surrounding buildings along the parade route--no detail left to chance. Lightning McQueen & Mater were Cal’s favorites as well as Toy Story. Sid loved it all, she said.

  • Day 2 in Disneyland Park, Navigation under pressure: At one point in the morning, I ran to get FastPasses for Hyperspace Mountain while Ken took the kids to Pixie Hollow where they were going to meet Tinkerbell and friends. While we were separated, he texted me that he’d forgotten the kids’ autograph books for the characters to sign. (This became hugely important to Sid and Cal every time they encountered characters.) He said he was toward the front of the line and to bring the books in a hurry. Disneyland is larger and has more hidden alcoves than California Adventure. So I put my targeting computer away and hoped I could find the exhaust port like Luke did. I started running out of Tomorrowland with no map or any idea where Pixie Hollow was in hopes that if I just used the Force, maybe I’d *feel* where I was supposed to go. Sure enough, I rounded a corner in my addled haze and there it was: Pixie Hollow. I charged up through the line of parents and kids like a relay runner--the books in my extended hand just as Ken and the kids stepped up for their turn to meet Faun & Tinkerbell. Totally out of breath and sweating profusely, I quickly had to regain my composure to snap pictures. The things we do for our children.

  • Day 3 in Disneyland Park, Parade Miracle: After the Pixar parade, Sidney was smitten with parades and wanted more than anything to catch the other big daytime parade in Disneyland. In a tragic turn of events which I will explain further on, we missed it the previous day. So by hell or high water we were going to see it on our 3rd and final day at the parks. Sidney and I arrived a whole hour early and staked our spot on the curb on Main Street. But what started out as a beautiful, temperate 73 degree day, by 3:45pm was fully cloudy (still warm though) and sprinkling. (By the way, these intermittent, inconsequential sprinkles caused a steady stream of people to head for the exits. Being from the NW has one advantage of not being bothered by that level of precipitation.) Anyway, it would sprinkle then let up, sprinkle then let up. I nervously asked a cast member (employee) if they would cancel the parade with these conditions but she said at the very least they would put the parade characters in trams so they could go by and wave. Parade time approached with minor intervals of precipitation but at 4:15 when the first amazing float started up the street, the rain held off as if it too had pulled up a blanket on Main Street to watch all the glorious floats with dancing characters and princesses pass by. Not 15 minutes after the parade ended, the sky opened up and dumped serious PNW caliber rain down on Disneyland for the rest of the night. The magic is real, people.

  • Day 1 California Adventure Park & Day 4 Paradise Pier Hotel--Character Meals: You have to eat right? You might as well save yourself a whole lot of park time that you’d be waiting in a line to see characters and do a meal like this. Our first one was with princesses and the other was with traditional characters. It was ideal: low stress, great pictures and no unnecessary waiting.

All About the Prep

My husband likes to say that I am too much of a planner sometimes--and that planning takes away potential spontaneity, fun and/or magic. However, Disneyland is not one of those places you want to enter unprepared. And the magic WILL find you even if you’ve made plans.

Since last August, I solicited advice and studied up on resources that would help make our trip as fun, memorable and smooth as possible. I am so thankful for all the advice from families who recently visited, especially Christina S., Kristina B., Shannon T. and Megan T. Their insights proved golden, especially gems like: “rent a stroller,” “don’t try to push a double stroller around the crowded narrow walkways, get two single ones,” “use touringplans.com,” “get a room with a park side view to see the night shows,” and “don’t miss Hyperspace Mountain”---well that last one maybe I could have done without. :) Additionally one of the best detailed blogs for smart Disneyland time-management and preparation is dlrprepschool.com and one of the best tools for in-park attraction & event scheduling based on a database and algorithms is touringplans.com.

I really enjoyed some of the legacy Disney rides for the nostalgia and novelty--Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Dumbo, Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean. [OMG, Enchanted Tiki Room--what a weird, cool concept.] There were a number of rides that were closed for refurb and dismantling in preparation for the new Star Wars Land. We are already planning to return in 4-5 years when the kids are eligible for all the rides and there is a whole new area to explore. I am quite happy with the trip as a whole, especially our accommodations, character meals, early mornings and time split among the parks. Obviously I would have loved the weather to be a tad cooler and the crowds to be less but I think a mid-week, non-school break time frame is the only way to ensure that. Now I get why people go on a more regular basis. Well, back to real life and normal responsibilities.

(Our) Questionable Parenting Choices at Disneyland

So we just returned from Disneyland last week...

Questionable parenting choices are unavoidable in Disneyland. Despite being the “Happiest Place on Earth,™” it is also overstimulating, crowded and expensive. It’s also usually hot. That can lead to, among other things, tantrums, bad judgement calls and impulse buying. But here is our short list, anchored by the most spectacularly worst moment of our entire trip.

  • We took the kids on scary rides. Haunted Mansion & Pirates of the Caribbean specifically. Ghosts, skeletons, dead people and creepy animatronics shouldn’t give a 3-year-old nightmares right? Wrong.

  • We took Sidney on aggressively dynamic rides. She’s 46” tall so she can go on most of the stuff. Ken, daredevil ever, thought Tower of Terror was pretty exciting and couldn’t stop talking about it so naturally Sid wanted in on that too. So he took her after dinner the first night. All she talked about after that was the scary video about the dead family and how she hated that ride so much. The next day, I wasn’t about to go on (Hyper)Space Mountain alone since it was my first (and last) time ever riding that thing. So naturally I persuaded her to go with me on the ‘space roller coaster.’ She kept her eyes closed for the duration of the ride and probably saw as much as I did with my eyes open.
  • I misjudged how long it would take to get through ‘it’s a small world,’ so we missed the Soundsational Parade and the universe imploded on itself. We set up to watch Soundsational by Small World, I figured I had plenty of time to take the kids on the ride (it was about 3:45pm) then sit down and wait for the parade to make its way all the way from the Town Square to us which provides a good 20-minute delay from start time. Ken set out a blanket and camped out on the curb. But when the kids and I finally emerged from Small World at 4:15pm, the parade had started but was heading south from Small World to Town Square which was the opposite of what I had been told. With it underway and us in a mob of people, we couldn’t possibly get to Ken on the blanket and Sidney proceeded to have an epic Disneyland meltdown, scream-crying, “You ruined everything!!” (Seriously, I ruined everything?) In trying to pick her up to see better and jostling among the crowd, I also lost my new FitBit and then Sidney’s nose started bleeding--all while I tried to keep track of Calvin in a parade crowd. It was the craziest moment we I had on our whole vacation. Luckily a restroom was nearby but we totally missed the parade that day and Ken seemed perturbed that he got to sit on a blanket by himself for 30 minutes, take a break and look at his phone. (...) I also think 90 degrees, no nap and huge crowds contributed to the huge upset too.

But then, this little moment happened right after and everything was okay in the world again.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Writing about Race and Racism, ParentMap Feature Story

At the beginning of 2015, I wanted to write an impactful story about race/racism and how it affects kids. But I was a little naive as I started down the path. People spend their entire careers--and lives--trying to chip away at the behemoth scourge of racism--an institutionalized, internalized, pervasive and destructive force. But the questions I asked the subject-matter experts betrayed my weak understanding of how big the problem really was or how deeply it affected people. So it's no wonder that a representative of a well-known anti-racist education program told me to go do more research before they'd take my questions.  I'll admit, that rebuff shook my confidence. Being multiracial and having experienced a little bit of "othering" didn't evidently count for much. But the stinging point the representative made was that if I was serious, dabbling in the topic wasn't okay. It required some time investment and some personal introspection to do it justice.

By the end of 2015, what started as a profile of the plucky non-profit Families of Color Seattle (FOCS) turned into a broader, more personal piece (thanks to my editor's guidance) with anecdotes, national context and a message about how racism isn't just a person of color's problem. Also FOCS's successful community dialogue series reinforced how people, especially parents, are eager to talk about this complex problem. And all of this couldn't come at a better time with so many racially explosive events dominating the news of late. Therefore I'm proud to present my feature story in this month's ParentMap Magazine.

A huge revelation I had when putting this story together was reading Bonnie Tsui's fabulous New York Times Magazine essay about choosing one's identity which made so much sense to me in a world where we also understand gender isn't a concrete assignment either. I especially love her realization that identity is "intensely individual" and as parents, we have no business telling our kids what their racial identities are. But it comes from our own experiences that we fear they will miss if they don't see themselves as the same racial makeup as us.
"As a young adult, I learned how I stood apart and to have pride in it. In the experience of being an “other,” there’s a valuable lesson in consciousness: You learn to listen harder, because you’ve heard what others have to say about you before you even have a chance to speak." --Bonnie Tsui
To not have this contemplation is to spare my children the agony of feeling like an outsider yet it likewise denies them confidence of knowing who they truly are after they've tested their mettle and stood up to hard questions. We shall see where the road takes them but most likely I will have to be a bit more proactive about presenting what I think it means to be multiracial and then stepping back and seeing if they embrace that too.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Not pregnant, it's Resting Belly Paunch #rbp

Is 'resting belly paunch' a thing yet? It should be. You know that condition where you're standing and your back gets tired so you stick your tummy out? It's a tenant of bad posture but like 'resting bitch face' sometimes you just can't help it. Unfortunately, when I do it, I inevitably get asked if I'm pregnant.

Now, haven't we established that you never <ever> ask a woman if she's pregnant unless you are so sure that it's undeniable and even then, you check yourself before you wreck yourself? In the past, I've heard enough horror stories to the point that even if I'm reasonably sure (yet insatiably curious), I will say to the possibly pregnant woman, "How are you feeling?" For a pregnant woman, she will pick up on this and give you a status report. For a non-pregnant woman, this will be a thoughtful question of concern about her health or sleep patterns or thoughts on the state of the world. You get a little air cover just in-case you've made a bad judgement call.

But despite the potential mine field of guessing wrong, I have been asked if I am expecting with no hedging whatsoever, twice in the last 12 months and it shocks me. First because it's such a bold commitment on the asker's part but second, and more important, because I'm clearly doing something to invite this sort of questioning because the answer is unequivocally, no--just no. That's where the 'resting belly paunch' or #rbp comes in. Maybe my choice of wardrobe (less tailored clothes and more loose fitting sweaters) is adding to the confusion too--but it's winter and it's cold.

Honestly though, I'm proud of my #rbp. I have recently been going through archived photos for my mom's wedding slideshow and come across pictures from both my pregnancies where I was so obviously pregnant and huge. It's amazing that my frame even looks reasonably normal after all that now. The human body is amazing that way. I actually thought I was trimming up too with the Zumba, Barre, Yoga and stuff I do. Perplexing. But still, let this be yet another cautionary tale, the #rbp is real. Be warned, curious cats, and think a minute before you ask your questions.