My Kids Were Here

How to survive Disneyland with toddlers

by Melody on December 13, 2013

How to survive Disneyland with toddlers

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Our family just recently got back from a trip to Disneyland and California Adventures in Anaheim and ever since, I’ve been deluged with questions and concerns and would-you-go-backs and tell-me-all-about-its.  The one question I’ve heard over and over is “How in the world did your kids do?”.

Our kids are 5 1/2 and 3 1/2 and to be perfectly honest, I was a little concerned about how they would do.  The youngest still takes epic naps and they get grumpy and irritable and stubborn when they are tired.  How would they possibly make it through a whole day?  I love Disney with all my might, but wasn’t sure if it would work its magic on my boys, at least enough to prevent a complete and utter meltdown in the middle of the park.

Now that we have done it and turned into old pros, I have been shouting from the rooftops that it was the trip of a lifetime.  I severely underestimated my kids and their potential for awesomeness.  They were champs.  They were amazing.  Even with the world’s longest layover on Day 1 and not getting into our hotel until 1:30 AM.  Three weeks later, they are still talking about it and fall out of their chairs if we even mention Mickey Mouse or one of his brethren.

For those who are thinking about a trip or are in mid-planning, I’ve compiled a list of my best tips for you to make this a trip you will never forget.  Traveling with toddlers.  Easy, right?

 

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Rent/Take/Buy a Stroller – Seriously, just do it.

Or say things like “I’m not sure if we are going to use a stroller, we’ll probably just play it by  ear”.  Five seconds into your trip, fork out the money to rent a double stroller.  Even if you only have one kid, you’ll use the second seat for purses, bags, toys you will inevitably buy and the 27 souvenir cups and buckets you will end up with.

The parks provide you with ample “parking space” for your stroller and the ones they provide are easy to fold and carry.  You may think your kids will be just fine walking around for 12 hours, but they won’t.  They will pass out in the stroller smack in the middle of conversation and there is the added bonus of actually being able to get where you’re going in a timely fashion.  Instead of stopping to check out every Disney-themed trash can and water fountain and bathroom and recycling bin.

 

Get in shape

There will be times when your children refuse to get in the stroller and refuse to walk in a straight line.  Cue the shoulder ride.  I’d say pass this off to Dad since he’s big and strong, but when you have two kids, someone else needs to step up.  You will carry your kids on your shoulders all the way back to the hotel or heave them up there so they can see the parade when the person in front of you decides to record the ENTIRE thing on her phone right in front of your kids face.  You will push heavy strollers and race to every bathroom in the park with a 45-pound toddler on your hip.

Start now.  Strengthen those muscles.  Work on your endurance.  Disneyland is a marathon.  Don’t break a hip.

 

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Do some food planning

Just about everything in Disneyland costs an exorbitant amount of money.  Find a hotel with a free continental breakfast so you can stuff yourself on bananas and hard boiled eggs for sustenance.  Jam every open space in the stroller with extra oranges and apples and cups of dry cereal for desperate moments in the park.

Pack snacks like almonds, dried fruit, anything that doesn’t have to be refrigerated.  People will get hungry.  Lines are long, food is expensive.  If you’re really ahead of the game, pack a lunch.  You can take just about anything into the park with you.

Bring empty water bottles for everyone in your family, there are water fountains all over the park.  Unless you really enjoy paying $6 for a bottle of “spring water”.

However, you will need to suck it up and pay $6 for a Mickey-shaped pretzel and a Grand Canyon-sized souvenir bucket of popcorn and a Mickey fudge pop and a $5 cup of coffee when you just can’t take one more step without caffeine and frozen margaritas to perk up the afternoon.  Have a love/hate relationship with the fact that every single kiosk and cart and booth and store will gladly accept your credit card.

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Buy yourself a Ghirardelli ice cream cone from Paradise Pier.  Shove it in your face.  Dive in and swim around a little.  Enjoy every blessed second.

 

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Bring back-up

Take a set of grandparents with you.  Or two.  Take aunts or uncles, take another family.  Find a lovely couple outside of the park and adopt them.  Disneyland is an entirely different trip with more than two adults.  They do a great job of making everything as accessible and efficient as possible, but if you want to do any sort of adult things (like going on rides without a cartoon character), you can’t beat having another set of adults.

The park is huge and busy and a bit overwhelming at times.  Having extra sets of eyes watching your kids will save your sanity.  When someone has to go to the bathroom every five seconds, you’ll have built-in help.  You can send one adult off to stand in a 2-hour line for a Fast Pass while the rest of your group actually gets to go on rides.  If your adults are extra awesome, they might take your kids back to the hotel to decompress for a few hours while you ride terrifying rides and drink beer.

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

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We’ve all read it.  Get your kids in the kitchen!  Let them help you!  Let them make messes, embrace the glorious mess!  They’re only young once!  Share your enthusiasm about cooking!

Lordy, this is so much easier said than done.  My kids love to help me in the kitchen and I do enjoy letting them be part of the process. As I’m repeating “Enjoy the journey, they won’t be young forever” over and over in my head, I’m lamenting the fact that there is shredded coconut all over the floor, something that looks like butter smeared in my hair and on my new shirt and half the chocolate chips have been inhaled by two little sneaky chefs.  I keep sneaking glances at the clock, knowing I could have folded 13 loads of laundry and scrubbed the bathroom floor in the amount of time it has taken us to successfully crack three eggs.

What I remind myself AFTER the floor has been mopped and I have showered the unknown substance out of my hair is that I do love the fact that they are learning what a cookie looks like from start to finish, that the enjoyment is in the journey.  What I can only hope is that they are learning that nothing coming out of a box can ever compare to a dish or treat baked with our two hands, a little patience and a lot of dishes and floury hands.

Cooking and baking is like therapy for me, taking humble ingredients and turning them into something delicious.  It’s also incredibly satisfying to serve my family something filling, hearty and delicious.  Some of my fondest memories of my childhood (okay, my whole life) are based around food.  What we ate, where we ate it, what we talked about when we ate, who made it and how.  Amid the frosting smeared on the ceiling (HOW?) and the broken eggshells we step on four days later, I remind myself that we are creating and maintaining relationships, with each other and our glorious food.

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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The Story of the Green Crocs: A Melodrama

by Melody on October 24, 2013

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Sometimes a pair of green Crocs are just a pair of shoes.

And sometimes they are so full of emotions and stuffed with feelings and hopes and dreams and fears and insecurities, they just burst at the seams.  Or blow out a hole in the toe.

Both of our crazy boys wore these shoes.  They lasted four summers on stinky little boy feet.  They ran through mud, pushed bicycles, played chase, tromped through the river.  They ran uninhibited through the splash park, they traveled to Grandma and Grandpa’s, helped Dad mow the lawn, walked over to the neighbor’s house all by themselves for the first time.  They were washed and washed and washed again.

I didn’t want to give them up. I didn’t want to throw them away.  I wanted to memorialize all their stinkiness for the rest of my life.  Truly, I’m not an overly sentimental person, but I do become oddly attached to small pieces of my kids’ lives.  Sometimes our things just have a bigger meaning and purpose than they first would appear.

Almost to the day my husband convinced me to let these go (He might lose a toe on his bike, hon), I started to notice things.

My pudgy and soft and rowdy baby put on his own pants. HIS OWN PANTS!  He went to the bathroom at the grocery store and figured out the weird flushy thing ALL BY HIMSELF.  There is only 10 months before he is off to preschool.  There will be these glorious hours all to myself in the morning, but what will I do without my little cart pusher/bag holder/constant companion?  Who will ask me for snacks and point out every truck on the planet that moves and insist that I turn up his favorite songs (Roar by Katy Perry and Holy Grail at the moment)?  Who is going to pretend to be the baby kitty to my Mama Kitty?

10 months sounds so short.  Ever since my second little man was born, I have dreamed of a morning to myself to get ALL THE LAUNDRY DONE or plan dinner without any interruptions or just sit on the couch and stare at the wall.  But does this mean that he will stop sucking his thumb and taking pass-out naps with his arms sprawled across the bed or want me to read the same Curious George book over and over and over and over again?  Does this mean that he won’t ask to help me mix any sort of food ingredient that I put in a bowl or recite all the names of the characters in Cars like they are best friends?  Does this mean that he will lose his baby pudge and stop being so soft and squishy?  Does this mean that he will tell me to stop when I try to kiss his oddly-giant little boy head?

When those green Crocs finally went in the trash, I felt like I threw away a little of their childhood.  While everything in the newborn/toddler years feels like it is racing at the speed of light and moving at a snail’s pace all at the same time, there is part of me that wishes I could bottle up just a little bit.  Bring it out at parties for a laugh or in quiet moments in the middle of the storm of their teenage years.  My children are amazing and obnoxious and boisterous and rowdy and kind and maddening.  The youngest still talks with a hilarious little lisp and there isn’t a second he is awake that he is quiet.  My oldest asks more questions than should be possible in a 24 hour period, questions that I don’t always have the answer to.

How do you say cup in Spanish, Mom?  Ummm.

Will I remember these things a few years from now?  There is part of me that doesn’t even remember having newborns.  Didn’t they come out this size?

Farewell, dear Crocs.  There may never be another pair of shoes more well-loved or well-worn.  You helped grow the hearts and minds and bodies of two little men and you broke the heart of one Mama.  Just a little.

Have you held on to any of your children’s favorite toys or special mementos?

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

A few weeks ago, members of our gym were asked to test out a workout for the local SWAT team and we were going to be doing it at a local high school track.  My husband had just had his wisdom teeth out and didn’t feel like working out, but he wanted to watch and see what it was all about.  He loaded up the boys to come down and watch Mom work out.

This is a track.  You know, grass in the middle, running lanes around the outside.  Not much else.  Our boys got out of the truck and were all “I smell dirt.  The sprinklers are on.  I just know I SMELL a hole that will make me muddy and I will never get out until you drag me by the feet and I have dirt in my hair and in my shoes and in my ears”.

They played in that hole the entire time we were there.  They were diggers and fire fighters and animals and anything else they could think of that would require them to play in a hole.  While it’s not always fun to load up the truck with boys covered in mud, I just love how they can find fun anywhere and are just so very boy-like.

DIIIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT! Mom, it’s dirt.  Dirt is awesome.  If you don’t let me play in the dirt, I will DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Question: Do your boys do this?  Heck, do your girls do this?  Why is dirt so amazing?

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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My Kids Were Here: Shaping their childhood

by Melody on July 18, 2013

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

Do you ever feel like you are just playing at being a parent?  Or a grown-up?  When I think about all my childhood memories and experiences, I can’t begin to imagine that I am responsible for shaping those memories for my kids.  How is it possible that I’m in charge?  I swear my parents must have felt more grown up than I feel right now.

The weekend of the 4th of July, I was going through all of our pictures we had taken over the last few days.  Our kids picked blueberries, rode tire swings, ate donuts fresh from the fryer, pet alpacas, lit sparklers while the sun set, made homemade ice cream, had water balloon fights, stayed up too late and went to bed smelling like sunscreen.  Like a storybook childhood.

I didn’t force these memories, they weren’t manufactured.  These were just little moments that will hopefully turn into big moments when they think back on their childhood.  Maybe we’re doing okay at this parenting thing.

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

I swear, this kid.  Our neighbor is really into anything with wheels.  He restores cars and competes in demolition derbys and is now an official hero to my 3-year old.  One morning, we walked outside to find this parked outside his house.  Before I could blink, little man had hustled his Cozy Coupe across the street and was attempting to hook the trailer to his car.  I’m not sure where he planned to take it, maybe he just really likes a pretty Mustang.  Maybe he was going to pick up his best girl.  Whatever his motives, he was on a mission to get this done.  Don’t leave your keys in the ignition, friends.

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create. Something that reminds me. My kids were here.

This week’s entry is from my friend and reader Kim:

My son and I ran to Target last night to get a few things and I told him he could bring home the four different dinosaurs that we found in the dollar section as an early birthday present since he is turning four.  Today, I was working in the kitchen and my son told me Mr. T-Rex wanted to “hang out” with me.  Luckily, I have another light switch that I can use so I can leave him hanging, as he makes me smile every time I see him (and therefore think of my sweet, funny boy).

Question of the Day: What is the strangest thing you have found that has been left by your kids?

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”. Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

Do you ever look around your house and just wonder if there will possibly be a time when there aren’t action figures wedged under the coach and miscellaneous goop smeared on the dining room chairs and foot prints on the windows?  Yes, foot prints.  I’m fairly certain that I don’t ever sit down during the day as I’m on a one-woman mission to keep the house standing.  Or at least keep it from burning down.  It never seems like enough.  The faster I clean, the faster my kids tear it apart.

There was this one time.  We had a St. Patrick’s Day/housewarming party at our house and for once (once!) since we moved in back in September, the house was spotless.  The whole place was vacuumed, dusted, swept, mopped, organized, decluttered.  Beds were made, clothes were put away, there were actually pictures in the picture frames.  The garage was spotless, for heaven’s sake.  Toilets were scrubbed, flowers were watered, I actually had make up on and some clothes that didn’t resemble work-out gear.

How did I do it and why can’t it look that way every day?

We dropped the kids off with my husband’s Mom at about 9 in the morning.  I literally cleaned from the moment I woke up until the minute people walked in the door.  I had approximately 17 lists that were being cross-referenced based on rooms of the house and priority and my husband may or may not have told me to slow down a few times.  While the end result was spectacular and photo-worthy, it lasted until about 15 minutes into the party when someone spilled their beer on the floor and someone else broke a wine glass.

Worth the effort for a picture and about 20 minutes of happiness?  False.  I’ll take my stinky boy shoes at the door and piles of laundry and mysterious moldy vegetables in the pantry and crusty spots on the carpet.  While I may not love it, I’ve learned to embrace it.  The alternative is becoming a vampire so I don’t have to sleep and cleaning in the middle of the night.  And I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon.

Question: What is the one thing in your house that drives you nuts and that you just can’t seem to keep on top of?  For me, it’s the dirty dishes.  They never seem to end!  Why does everybody have to eat all the time?

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

If you don’t know, I have two boys ages 2 and 4.  Their favorite activities are wrestling, fighting, wrestling and fighting, yelling, screaming, spitting, playing “bad guys”, hunting for bears (yes, you read that right) and chasing dinosaurs.  Everything at our house is loud and busy and smelly and sometimes a little rambunctious.

They created a game called “Underwear”, where the only rules are that they have to punch each other and yell Underwear! as loud as possible.  They also created a game called “Snatcher and Catcher”, but I have yet to figure out the rules to that one.  There is a lot of pushing.

However, even outlaws and “bad guys” have to take potty breaks.  It only makes sense to take the gun with you, just in case things get a little out of control.

Question of the Day: Is this just a boy thing?  Are they born with the need to get all sweaty and crazy and violent?  What are your kids favorite games to play together?

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

This week’s picture was sent in by my friend and almost-neighbor Kim.  She says:

I finally organized and lined up the books on my 20-month-old’s bookshelf.  A couple of hours later, I find this.

Isn’t this the story of our daily lives with kids?  I swear, every time I turn around, my kids are pulling shoelaces out of their shoes, unrolling toilet paper, pulling clothes out of their drawers.  I used to wonder what stay-at-home parents could possibly DO all day before I had kids.  Now I know.  It’s all about the mundane daily tasks repeated over and over and over, interspersed with occasional moments of brilliance from the little ones.

Question of the Day: What is the one thing that your kids just can’t seem to leave well enough alone?  My kids used to pull all the measuring cups out of the kitchen drawers, creating a skating rink while I was cooking.

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are supporting this blog. Thanks!

My Kids Were Here: Inside the vacuum

by Melody on April 24, 2013

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

This week’s entry is from reader Deanna:

The strangest place I have found a toy was one of my son’s toy cars in the hand attachment to the vacuum cleaner.  I was vacuuming and the suction wasn’t all that great.  I took it apart to see why it wasn’t working well and I found his car.

I swear, kids are the smartest creatures on the planet.  I couldn’t come up with these hiding places no matter how hard I tried.  I’m assuming he was just curious as to what would happen.  Love it, thanks Deanna!

Question of the Day: What is the strangest place you have found one of your kids toys?

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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My Kids Were Here.

by Melody on January 30, 2013

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

We moved into our house about four months ago and I have been trying for just about that long to decorate the bookshelf in our living room.  You see all these tutorials and images on Pinterest on “The Perfect Bookshelf” or “How to Organize Your Adorable Things on a Bookshelf to Make it Look Effortless”.  Not effortless for me.

This involved putting things on and taking things off more times than I can count.  I took everything off at one point and replaced it with all different stuff.  I was so annoyed with the whole thing I was on the verge of throwing it all away.  (I know, first world problems)

One day, my four year old was racing his Finn McMissile through the house and one of my zillion “decorative items” was in his way on the floor.  He threw it up on the bookshelf so he could continue racing.  It quite literally completed the bookshelf.  I could have never made it look better.  Effortless.

Amazing how kids can take all the drama and frustration out and boil things down to what is simple and easy.  All because Finn needed to chase down some bad guys.

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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My Kids Were Here.

by Melody on January 9, 2013

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Each week I will be sharing a different photo, something that throws me right back into the little moments of joy that my kids create.  Something that reminds me.  My kids were here.

I was cooking dinner the other night and opened up the drawer with all my measuring cups and spoons.  Look what I found.  It was like a shiny little blue gift.  Our two-year old is obsessed with cars.  They are constantly lined up on the couch, racing each other on the rug, found in little jeans pockets, found in my purse.  There will come a day when I will never find a blue truck in my kitchen drawers, but I’m not sure I’m ready to see that day yet.

If you have a photo you would like to share, go ahead and send the photo to me at beautifulfrugallife {at} gmail {dot} com with the subject title “My Kids Were Here”.  Please include a paragraph or two letting us know what the photo means to you or what moment it represents.

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