Monday, November 30, 2009

the little project that could,

and turned into a monstrous whole house clean out. At the beginning of the break I set up some goals for the 5 days away from school: help Bill clean out and then tear out all carpet in our bonus room in prep for our new 2nd flood carpet, scrub down floorboards and repaint, finish raking all leaves, make 5 freeze ahead meals, shop for a sleep bra, start working on a countdown to Christmas calendar, and if possible make a gingerbread train (from a kit) with Ben.

Starting on Wednesday here's what got done with pictures to prove I need ANOTHER 5 days to re-cooperate.

Wed- Ben and I hit several stores to see if anything looked good for Black Friday, hit the grocery, picked up a trial membership to BJs for the month of Dec, raking, starting cleaning out my stuff from the bonus room. We met Bill for dinner at the mall and did Santa pics. LOVE them, posting one tomorrow!

- TDAY!!! We started early cleaning and by afternoon all the carpet was up and being taken out of the house. YAY!!! What started as a one room project quickly escalated to also cleaning out our attic storage so we had somewhere to move all the bonus room stuff. Our attic has been the repository of last resort. We took time off to hit Cracker Barrel for T day lunch and then hit it again until about 10 pm cleaning, moving, carting stuff to be donated into our garage.

Friday- Like a total fool I decided to brave the crowds and be in line at Kolhs at 3:30 am to get $200 off a Dyson Vacuum cleaner. I have never thought myself crazy enough to brave pre dawn morning for a sale, but who am I kidding I am coupon crazy. I used to WORK this shift at a local dept store gift wrap department in high school, so I knew to expect shoppers on a mission. Kinda telling that the last song I heard before getting in line was Prodigy "Smack My Bitch up." Just what I needed in case I had to fight someone for that vaccum. I wound up with 4 items total including a king down comforter for 20.00 dollars, vacuum, hand mixer, baby doll for Ben(which I kicked the length of the store in line to check out)

I then got in a line of over 1000 according to the news at Target in hopes of getting a duel DVD player for the car. I figured that it was a long shot but I was pumped from my Kolhs trip. Yep... got it too and yes had to push my way into a massive crowd for it. Not a finer momement and glad I hadn't brough Ben along to see what I did for peace and quiet on our next long trip.

From there I hit Lowes when they opened for storage containers, a fire safe to replace the lock box we had drilled, and Christmas tree Bag. ALL on massive sale. For a brief, brief moment I thought about getting an inflatable for the yard, but passed. By the time I finally made it home at 7 am I was totally buzzed from the one cup of real coffee that I let myself get. Crazy insane given I'm not had coffee since May. I literally never crashed until that night and it was BAD!

Sat- On to the great Bra Hunt of '09. Ben and I drove to Chapel Hill to the granola birth center lactation store. Can I just say the salesgirl was utterly amazed that I was getting close to the A-Z split and politely mentioned they had nothing that went to that letter of the bra alphabet after fitting me. She did give me another store to try and was nice enough to do a little research for me. Ben and I then hit Babies R Us to price a toy box, BJs again for a toaster oven on sale and then finally home where I raked more freakin' leaves and yes more cleaning until the wee hours.

Sunday- Last dedicated day to clean, haul the nasty carpet and bags of padding to the dump, and did I mention the leaves (this picture is the 2nd week I raked this much to the street and STILL have more.) Needless to say what didn't get done was the cooking or the gingerbread train assmbly but with rain this week, I have afternoon plans.

We decided that we are hiring a contractor to pull up the damaged floorboards and help repaint the bookshelves as our gift to each other for going beyond a room to cleaning out the entire house pre baby V 2.0. Add to it 6 load of laundry and general getting ready for the week and I am mad tired. I can't wait until next weekend to get up all the holiday decorations as the majority of shopping is DONE and just ready to be wrapped.

I sure hope I didn't toss my stash of paper with the gazillion of leaves and stuff we hauled out of the attic. I did also make a paper list of Christmas activities and plan to raid my school stash of construction paper to make a tear off calendar for Ben to help decorate. Bring it December and Holiday season, I am ready to meet you with plans-o-plenty that don't involve leaves or carpet removal.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

So Many Reasons...

As we round into the last month of 2009 the hope I had standing in the crowd at the Inauguration has returned. In January, it was both hope for a new beginning for the direction of our country's policy but also that by year end that we would have created new life in our own home. I'm glad at the time I didn't know that the next few months were going to be filled with tough decisions and many, many challenges.

This Thanksgiving I am most thankful for

this healthy pregnancy and looking forward to holding this beautiful child at Easter, the season of new life. I think we may go all the way not knowing the gender and given the trials to simply have this child, the gift of bringing new life into the world trumps all.

My beautiful and sweet son that reminds me daily that with parenting comes more sweet than bitter. I am so glad that by next Thanksgiving I will watch you become the big brother I know you were meant to be.

My inspiring husband who had made more physical and emotional changes this year ever never thought possible. I hope you do go for running a race at the end of this 5 K challenge. I will be your biggest (and most obnoxious fan) on the sidelines. For all the other ways you have made changes I also thank you for believing that there is a greater quality of life not maintaining the status quo.

An opportunity for work for which we are thankful for a network of friends/colleagues who have come to our aid this past year with leads and recommendations

Adult and childhood friends who have shown us support and love all year. May you all be repaid ten-fold for your kindness

The luxury of insurance and access to medical care. Over the past year our family has seen double digit doctors and specialists. None would have been possible without coverage. I wish the same for all families.

Our Small Extended Family for whom we wish health and happiness in the coming year. I think my Thanksgiving post last year echos how I feel regardless if we are together or not.

Blessings on all of our friends and family as we pass into the coming year and enter into the last month of 2009. I am hopeful for so many more good things to come.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Doing Disney.... The Logistics

If you are at all considering selling out to consumerism then keep reading if you want our account of Disney trip planning. I personally want that the trip I want my children to remember when they are adults more than anything is tour of the major National Parks, camping and paddling our way though some of the most beautiful places in the country. Or, maybe when the kids are teenagers, a trip overseas for a month long trip country hopping taking in culture. I am on the other hand, married to a total child at heart that balances out my cynical side. Bill has seen/owns every Disney movie, I on the other had didn't even know some of the characters. I would much rather hang out with Tyler Durden not Dumbo.

This trip starting coming together as we made the long 14 hour drive back from Florida in August. Bill had downloaded several podcasts detailing planning a Disney trip. The more we listened to them, the more we talked about how we wanted to do a big family trip one last time as a family of 3.

We decided to go ahead and plan the trip in hopes that by the time we went I would be carrying a healthy pregnancy and Bill would have a new job, and would be physically recovered from his surgery. We also decided on a general budget knowing that the markup for this trip is ridiculous. Knowing friends that have been before and heard details of 100.00 hairdos for your child to be princess, we knew without willpower, you can drop serious cash.

Ok... the logistics by topic. I linked places that were helpful in trip planning.

Time to Go- Between the two of us we have been in March, April, July, and Christmas. We decided to try for Fall given that it is Value season and hotels rate are at the lowest rate of the year. Weather is 70/80s so we could still enjoy the pool, maybe. We had great weather the entire time, only raining once at night. To do again I would have gone before daylight savings time had ended as I think once it got dark, it was hard to be motivated to get out again. The only day the parks were even remotely crowded was Veterans Day. We typically had a 15 min or less ride wait at every park per ride. Using the FastPass system (more later) was a lifesaver to not spend oodles of time in line. I did bring line-waiting supplies like bubbles in case we had a wait.

Travel- We opted to take the overnight Amtrak Silver Star Line train from Raleigh to Kississmee for around 200.00 round trip for all 3 of us. Flying was going to be triple this at least. Had we flown we could have used free transportation to/from the airport since we were staying on property, called the Disney Magical Express. We met Bill's mom at the train station, as it was in the same place as the bus depot and then hired a Town car with a booster seat for around 70.00 round trip. Once on property we took the shuttle buses to every park. The buses were often not packed and we didn't wait more than 10 mins (until the last day) to board and then ride 15 mins. Our hotel had 4 shuttle stops and we always were the first to pick up and last to get off.

Lodging- We wanted to stay on property for 2 main reasons: We wanted to be able to able to go back for daily naps/rest and we didn't want to have to rent a car. We started by looking at the general categories of resorts and narrowed it down to the Swan and Dolphin near Epcot that offered a 25% Teacher discount off the room but didn't quality for Disney Dining as it is owned by Marriott.

I just happened to see a commercial pitching "free Disney Dining" if you stayed at qualified properties. I researched the lodging on line at which has extensive review and lots of Disney advice. I also read the Unofficial Guide to Disney which was HUGE help and resource. We settled on Port Orleans- Riverside which is classified as a Moderate property. Our room had 2 double beds with an additional trundle bed in a super close building to the main building, shuttle stop, and pool. We stayed in building 14 in the Alligator Bayou side (not the Maison side which caters to honeymooners.)Outstanding staff throughout including our daily towel creations that Ben loved until he destroyed on the last day.

Food- We qualified for Disney Dining pass for every member of the party, including Ben. We estimated this saved us around 500-$700. I printed off the listing of restaurants, character meals, and options and then researched each restaurant we were considering. Bill made reservations which was a major help. We had two character meals which normally would have cost us $20-40 per person if we had not had the plan. I also researched where we could get the most "bang for our buck" and quickly realized that a $4.00 milkshake and a .99 apple counted the same in the credits.

I even marked on our map where preferred eating locations were and then tried to plan where we would be in the park when time to eat. If we hadn't had this meal plan I am sure Bill and I would have split alot of food as the portions were huge. We also would have only done one character meal. If you are thinking character meal, the holy grail of the Disney Expericne according to some, RESEARCH! Each has different characters, food, locations, and some you can book 180 days in advance.

The plan gave us drink, meal, and dessert twice a day once at a sit down restaurant and one at a counter service/quick service place, plus an snack option for each member of the party once a day. Needless to say having a fridge in the room was a huge help. We barely touched the snacks I brought with me except for juice boxes.

We ate at the following restaurants by location: I don't think we had a bad meal anywhere, but to do it again I would have gotten a Character Meal at Chef Mickey at the Contempoty Hotel instead of the Pooh Extravaganza/endurance test at Crystal Palace.

Hotel- Great food court that served 6am-11 pm with really good pizza delivery plus full breakfast everyday. Thy also had a onsite bakery with custom made desserts. We ate at least 3 meals there and never ate that same thing twice.

Magic Kingdom- Lunch at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, Character Meal-Lunch at Crystal Palace

Epcot- Biergarten in World Showcase for Dinner
Character Meal-Dinner at Garden Grill- OUTSTANDING FOOD much of locally grown

Animal Kingdom- Lunch at Yak and Yeti- good, quick Asian with lots of outdoor seating

Disney Hollywood Studios- Lunch at Sci Fi dine In theater. Food ok, but sitting and eating in a car was appealing to Ben.

Tickets- Pay the extra and get "park hopper" passes. We got them with our package with the hotel and dining. We planned a daily schedule of one park when they opened and then another after naps. We never got out of the hotel for the extra hour that each opens early on given days, if it had been peak season we might have reconsidered.

Wingin' It
- The night before we planned the next day. I had printed out and Bill had researched ahead of time what rides were most appropriate for Ben's age and the scare factor (great table in the book I mentioned before). I was the map queen and planned how to see the most with the least amount of walking. We made a list of most important to ride to ok to skip it for each park, by area with an estimate of when we wanted to be back for naps in time to make dinner reservations.

We took with us a cheap umbrella stroller that I clearly marked as ours. You can rent them for 15.00/single per day at Disney too, but I hated the design of them. You can't take them on Disney transportation (even the train that encircles the park.) We also carried a well organized backpack that Bill and I traded carrying.

We took advantage of the Disney Photo pass system that allows Disney photographers to take group pictures at famous landmarks. They scan your card and then you view online up to 30 days after you return home. If you buy a pic package it's worth it, or you want to create an online book to capture your trip. We got a few great shots that we might order but only if we didn't also get a good picture on our own.

Using your cell/texting
. Many times Pam took Ben and Bill and I split up to go get Fastpass tickets for a ride we expected to have an line. We researched ahead of time which rides had Fastpass and tried using the system at the smallest park (Animal Kingdom) on our first full day there. I highly recommend learning this system and making it work to see the most and wait the least amount of time.

Many times Bill and I took a pic of a line, emailed it, and made a judgement call about getting in line. We also often saved a place in line while someone hit the bathrooms with Ben and then texted where we were to catch up. While we didn't use the pre-set touring plans in the book, I did look at them and if it was peak season I would have definately used them.

Souvenirs- I refused to spend a ridiculous amount on crap that once home was just going to take up space. Bill took Ben to the Disney store home at and let him pick our a plush Mickey to take with him on the train and sleep with at night. I went to Target the week before to get blister treatments and other first aid stuff, a glow stick/flashlight necklace for Ben to keep him occupied while waiting at night, and then the hit dollar bin where they had tons of Mickey themed things.

Each day I whipped out Mickey socks to wear, a pen necklace, notepad, stickers. Undoubtedly every ride spits you out into a gift shop so we let Ben often carry something around that he "wanted" and then made a big deal about putting it down so we could do something fun. Seriously bribed him at times with gummy bears to get him out of a store. We waited until the last night and hit the motherload of Disney Stores at Downtown Disney via a riverboat from our hotel and bought Ben a custom made ears hat that he picked out the patches and let him pick a t-shirt. I bought an tree ornament and Bill bought something Star Wars themed. Seriously, that was IT in the spending dept.

Overall I am really proud of the way we handled ourselves on the trip. We recognized that when Ben was starting to melt down that we didn't push it. No additonal ride was worth having to carry him kicking and screaming out of the park. While he did act like a typical 3 year old, having Pam along was often times the incentive that we needed. She was a major help and I highly recommend having not a whole family reunion at Camp Mickey, unless you are insane, but someone else along. It was amazing given this age what she could get him to do when Bill or I couldn't.

It was totally worth the money, time planning (esp on Bill's part). I typically over plan and I didn't this time which tells me that given next trip I need to trust Bill that he will do a fabulous job again.

As much as I joke that I hate all things kids related and Bill tells me I could be a Disney villain stand-in, I totally loved seeing the sheer joy and excitement on Ben's face. I totally get why parents want to do this trip for their kids. I hope that once the baby is about the same age and Ben is around 7 that we can do it again. Then I am planning that trip out West with the ground rules being you have to be able to carry your own pack and not poop on yourself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fun Quota '09-The Disney Trip

I have been writing this post in my head for the last week but mounds to do at school + insane crazy tiredness = just now getting written. For those interested I plan to write a 2nd post tomorrow about the logistics of our trip if you are considering going to the dark side and doing Disney. I personally think we hit a balance of going with reasonable expectations of a often tired, whiny, pooping on himself 3 year old. We didn't expect that every moment was going to be rainbows and unicorns. Bill's planning was key to this trip along with my knack for winging it, got us through the non-Disney filled moments.

First off if you know me in real life either now or ever you might ask, YOU of all people drank the Kool-aid and actually enjoyed the trip. YES, I admit it I did. For for the most selfish reason of all, watching the shear joy and excitement on Ben's face was worth every minute suffering through yet another musical performance or another employee of Disney wishing me a "Disney Day" about 900 times. These employees must have a Valium lick at the time clock as no promise of health care equals this devotion to your job.

ok... the trip in my fav pictures with commentary

Friday night into Sat Am
we took an overnight Amtrak train from Raleigh to Kissimmee where we met Bill's mom, Pam. When Ben woke up around 6:30am his first words were, "mommy we are still on the train." Yes... and we will be for another FOUR hours!!! Note mommy sarcasm.

Once there we, checked into our hotel, the Port Orleans-Riverside and literally got not only the building we wanted, but a perfect room within an easy walk to the food court, pool, and shuttle stop. I loved this hotel and highly recommend for families trying not to spend your child's education at Camp Micky while wanting to be on Disney property.We requested a trundle bed for more room and Ben loved sleeping on a special bed giving Daddy a bed to himself.

Sat night after long naps we ventured out to the Magic Kingdom to watch the first of many parades and our only attempt at fireworks. As expected from the 4th of July, Ben was scared of the boom-booms so we bolted for Tomorrowland to ride race cars with no line.

Sunday we spent a half day at Animal Kingdom, new to all of us. We took advantage of the FastPass system to ride an African Safari as well as suffer through Finding Nemo-The Musical. Seriously, these people are not only smokin' crack but need to realize that there is a time and place for musical theater, high school.
That night we went to Epcot where it was the last day of the International Food and Wine Festival. I totally enjoyed my Irish cheese plate while Bill's mom, Pam enjoyed the largest glass of Guinness I have ever seen. Bill and I tried to ride the it ride of Epcot, Sorin' which simulates hang gliding, but with an hour wait we bailed. We had our first of two character meals. \This one served family style featured Chip, Dale, Pluto and Mickey. I have to admit I totally bought it and loved the experience. The food was great and each the characters hammed it up for the kids.

Monday we hit the Magic Kingdom again and took the train to the far side and worked our way specifically to Fantasyland where the most old school kids rides are still delighting the masses. Ben wasn't scared on any of the rides and thankfully, we had done our research and skipped the fear inducing ones. Later that night we returned to Epcot where we had reservations at the Biergarden in World Showcase. We got a table right next to the stage. The food was great and watching Bill minus over 100 lbs. living it up dancing with Ben still makes me smile.

We finished off Epcot and Bill and I got into Sorin' at one minute until closing. Yes I ran, and yes I felt like I was going to die after a heavy German meal. Pam took Ben back early to avoid the fireworks so we leisurely walked around Epcot together and enjoyed the only couple time we had on the trip.

Tuesday we spent the morning at Hollywood Studios where I kid you not we did the best thing on this trip: a stunt show involving car chases, people catching on fire, and in general a really bad parenting choice at it's best. Ben needless to say loved it and I think with our explanation that all was pretend we didn't set him back too much to want to go to a monster truck rally for his birthday. We also suffered through Playhouse Disney Live Action show. Did I mention how much I hate anything that resembles a musical?

Tuesday night called for rain, but fortunately we were all tired and needed a night off to pack and plan our last day. We did take the riverboat from our hotel all the way into Downtown Disney to get souvenirs and dinner. It finally started raining while there. Given the three straight days of cold, rainy weather at home we dodged a serious bullet in Florida.

Wednesday we slept in, checked out and hit the Magic Kingdom once more for our 2nd character meal.This was an endurance test for any reasonable person over the age of 10 to suffer through the adventures of Pooh and friends. While the food was good the loud, chaotic atmosphere was for die hard fans only. I would have been happier eating a corn dog and sitting on a curb than watching children and adults alike following the Pooh parade all over the restaurant to the mind-numbing music.

Of all the days of flawless transportation, little time waiting, of course us trying to get out of Disney Wed afternoon turned into something from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. At my worst I was running, yes running, through the food court getting food to take on the train to to use up our remaining food credits only to get to the train station for a 2 hour delay.

Once on the train we settled in and actually slept for a majority of the night, despite the man within ear shot talking loudly on a cell phone about the "price of rock vs power" on his cell phone as well as using profanity on a whole new level. NICE! Especially since he rode all the way to Raleigh with us.

At our post trip wrap up- aka we are waiting on our bags and need time to kill I polled everyone for their favorite part of the trip:

Ben- Riding on a train. We could have forgone the Disney part of the trip and just booked a 5 day train ticket.

Bill- Test Track and Sorin' at Epcot, eating/keeping down a plate of fav food Sauerbraten at Biergarden

Heather- It's a Small World, the hotel, having Bill's mom along to help, watching Bill interact with Ben.

Pam- Definately not the ride home via bus where someone had had a heart attack around Tifton, GA at 2 am. She hands down get's worst travel experience. I didn't poll her but my guess would be watching her son relieve childhood through her grandchild.

Our Vinson Family fun quota was totally exceeded for 2009 and I think we built up a reserve for 2010.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Phone Friday-A Trunk Full of Toys (and Underwear)

I have been swamped at work after being out a solid week from two back to back trips and I am behind on life! Needless to say at least 2 nights I have woken up still fully dressed at 3 am dead tired with all the lights on. Add to it a 6:55 am meeting this morning and the blog has been relegated to the end of the to do list. I DO have a super pic post about our Disney trip as well as the latest baby news, all coming next week.

Today my National Honor Society Students brought in their Operation Christmas child boxes to be shipped to one of 100 countries for children 2-10. The North Carolina based charity works to ensure that children worldwide receive a gift during the many cultural celebrations.

Last year my very ambitious NHS students raised over $5,000 for the International Charity Free the Children to build a school in Sierra Leone. Since I lost my inspiring President who is now a college Freshman as well as continuing solo as advisor to 61 students, we opted to let the officers choose the holiday project. I personally was pushing for a fundraiser to benefit the Harlem Children's Project after reading Whatever it Takes this summer.

As the boxes came in all week I added a little something to each box packed with toys, school supplies, toothbrushes and soap.... new underwear, socks, hats, and gloves. One thing I know well from teaching and working with teenagers is practicality is non-existent, so in came the first of our 2 family charity projects this holiday season. Ben and I went to Target earlier in the week and loaded my cart down with Princess themed training bras, Cars undies, socks in every style Target offers, and then I bought them out of dollar zone gloves and hats.

I drop off all the boxes tomorrow and along with a donation to cover the shipping I could not be more proud of my kids and smiled at my secret donation that went into each box.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Girly-Girl Award

Ever since I can remember I hate to carry a purse, bag, anything that simply by end of day feels like a giant shopping cart being lugged, collecting all the remnants of the day. I was that mother who hated cutesy things including most things baby. That is not to say that Ben channeled Mike Myers circa 1990 Sprockets at 6 months, but I didn't typically dress him in baby-baby outfits. If you look in my closet everything is neutral colors with the central theme being black. After all, being the fat girl doesn't give you liberty to look like a circus tent in brightly colored, garish clothes not then, not ever.

I digress as I often do, but it became abundantly clear over the weekend with my girlfriends that I needed a purse. I actually have a really nice Coach bag I got for high school graduation that I have carried very, very little. It has seen more closet space over 3 states that actual fresh air. One of my friends had a super functional Haiku bag that I decided to look into once home. I decided to pony up and get one as well as a matching wallet. Tomorrow I join the ranks of the other girly-girls with a purse to be carried when out.

This bag screams, "I am functional and can carry all the days necessities:" money/credit card, water bottle, keys, phone, pen/paper for to my ever present to-do lists, pull ups, and wipes. Throw in a Balance bar and a book and I am set to take on the world. That is or at least appear I am little more put together than shoving money in my pockets and depending on my "janitor-esque" key fob attached to 10 million rewards cards for local businesses, or best yet, creative use of ziplock bags to contain receipts.

What's next, matching shoes and a belt? Maybe a monogrammed beer koozie in my old sorority colors of kid you not, 80's kelly green and pink, I surely hope it doesn't come to that!

Monday, November 16, 2009

At Least No One Froze My Bra!

Since my boobs these days look more and more like a Vegas hooker I am SUPER happy the our girls weekend didn't involve any pranks, just lots of great times over a beautiful weekend in Blowing Rock. Check out Laura's fabulous post with pictures to boot of Moms Gone Wild. That is if you consider wild: sleeping in, eating way too much yummy food, hot tubbing for those who could, and lots and lots of endearing conversations. I think we ran the gamut from discussions of the importance of beer koozies to the many struggles to balance mommyhood with some semblance of a normal life.

Adult friendships are so much more different than any other I've had in my life. It becomes all to easy to find yourself too busy to keep up beyond elecronic means as you balance juggling your duties and responsibilities. I do believe that maintaining an ongoing friendship requires a different commitment. You are now making the choice to be with these friends often in place of time with additional time with your spouse and children.

I could not agree more that I love the picture of us laughing best of all. How appropriate to recall that of our time spent together it is endearing to know that you are loved for all your faults as much as what you bring to the group.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Phone Photo Friday- We Drank the Kool-Aid

I am planning to break our Disney trip into a couple of posts next week for those interested once we go through all the pictures. One with pics and the other with logistics.

We had a WONDERFUL time, seriously even with a tropical storm in the Gulf. We only had rain on one night on the way back to the hotel. This was the trip we wanted and Bill had planned. As always we went in with expectations of a cranky, over-stimulated, tired child at times and decided that resting each day, seeing the most important items of merit to a 3 year old should trump Mom's desire to see the Hall of Presidents and Bill's desire to ride more roller coasters. Having Bill's mom along also was a major help.

On our last night we let Ben make his own Mickey ears and pick out a t-shirt. I am happy to say that had contained fewer than the original 9 patches he wanted and my boy went old school with a retro Mickey shirt that features Mickey running no less. How appropriate for my beautiful boy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Eating Chicken Out of a Bucket with Sneezy

I thought of calling this post, "Commercial Kiddie Sell Out" but since Bill already is convinced I was born without the child-friendly entertainment gene, I'll play along. We leave in less than 48 hours for a 5 day Disney trip. By the end I am sure I will meet my happiness quota for all of '09 and likely 2010.

Honestly I am super excited about this trip, and especially in that we met all conditions to take it: healthy singleton pregnancy, Bill back at work, Ben doing well at school, mother in law coming to help, not having to take alot of time off, all be vaccinated for H1N1, and most of all AFFORDABLE!

We started talking about making the voyage to the inevitable land of kiddie paradise on our marathon 14 hour drive home from Florida this summer as we listened tp hours of a Disney planning podcast. The reality is I have done little real planning for this trip outside of read a guidebook from the library. A total FIRST for type A killjoy I can be pre-trip. I am totally ok that Bill booked the reservations, planned a tentative guide for what to see on each day and in general took care of all the details.

It's been a positive thing for him to focus on these past months of unemployment to have a goal besides weight loss to work towards. I did help decide a hotel and dining as we got AWESOME discount (like FREE Disney Dining plans for all) for all our major components at a deep discount off the trip due to going in off season. We even have TWO character meals planned, what is suppose to be the holy grail of a Disney trip. Granted one is with Chip and Dale dressed as farmers, likely having a 3 way with a cow. I am thinking we are only one step above eating chicken out of a bucket with Sneezy in the ranking of character meals.

So the blog will be on vacation too for the next week. We leave on a overnight Amtrak train Friday night and will be at Camp Mickey from Sat morning until boarding another all night train on Wednesday. Ben is so excited he gets to wear pjs(and better sleep)on a real train. We are staying on Disney Property at Port Orleans Riverside and plan to visit Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. With weather forested sunny in the low 80s, we hope to spend alot of time in the heated pool with giant waterside in addition to finding time to rest/nap each day. I dream that on this trip I can somehow befriend a giant Mickey to whisper the joys of pooping on potty to Ben.

Recounting the times I have been to Disney before- Family trip in 1984 I had to go to the hospital with a concussion, Church trip in 1986- severe sunburn on Day 1, Honeymoon in 1996- Food Poisoning. I hope that my past weeks of trying to stay well, limit exposure to sickness, and in general pray, pray, pray for nothing to happen before we left. I look like a remote medical clinic I am taking so much in the medical bag just in case.

I am so glad that after a long 6 months we are leaving for a last family vacation as a family of 3. Should you catch me in a photo wearing Mickey ears and wearing an embarrassing embroidered jean jacket with Pooh and the gang then you know I crossed to the dark side.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Good (and Bad) First Parent/Teacher Conference

Last Friday Bill and I sat in the little chairs with both Ben's lead teacher as well as the Director of the School for our 1st ever parent conference. The school asked all new families to give each child at least 2 months to learn the routines of the school as well as learn how the Montessori method works before a face to face meeting. Needless to say the helicopter parent side of me has been dying to know more than what I gleen from Ben, but being in education myself, I respected time to settle in.

Here is our first report (of many more to come in tiny chairs):

Good: Ben loves the school and his teachers. We hear daily about being a "workerman" as a major component of the class involves completing a self-directed works. Ben loves the practical life (home living) area and any work that involves matching. He has increased interest in counting and letters not seen before. He lives for outside time which is indicative of 2 lbs of sand in his shoes each day at pickup. He has especially enjoyed units about nature (i.e working in the school garden and the growth and release of butterflies.)

All said, this was a greatto hear he is learning, retaining, and seems excited about doing more difficult work when given the opportunity with a teacher or older child.

Needs to Work on: Following Directions!!! Being a typical 3 year old of stubborn mind and boundless energy, Ben often has to be redirected to positive behavior. He has spent many days during nap time removed from the other children because he won't stop talking/singing or simply won't settle down. This does seem to help to remove him from the situation which is a strategy at home frequently.

Continued issues pooping on himself.
Following their advice we went back to pull ups over underwear with no marked success about a month ago. He is sitting longer stretches as well as talking about pooping frequently and is well aware of rewards for making poop on a potty.

Once we are back from our trip he will be shadowed by a local intervention component of the public school system with a follow up meeting with the school administer. While I don't think there are developmental issues, rather a major control one to conquer, we are working as the school is to praise him on the good days and remind him of all the fun things he is missing by making the choice to poop on himself. The upcoming trip has been a major selling point about how much fun it will be to poop at Mickey's house on a mickey shaped potty. Why do I see myself dragging mouse ears into every bathroom?

Following the Lead/Language of Older Boys- We totally expected that given 4 and 5 year old boys were going to be in his class that he was going to be exposed to talk about guns, shooting, hurting others. Since we are often we together with friends with a 6 and 4 year old boys we have already been talking to Ben about nice vs mean words and actions as well as how to treat friends. Bill and I are working on a united front to try and minimize the appeal of the new and fascinating world of the older boy as best we can.

Overall I really appreciate the time of the school and the feedback on how we can be supportive at home of what is being emphasized at school. It has been a major change for both Ben and our family. Gone are my couple of hours everyday to get something done before pick up, but Ben is the happiest I have ever seen him in a school setting.

I just happened to ask about their Toddler House program at pick up yesterday. Glad I did as they only take 12 children min 18 months-36 months and most spots go existing families. Keeping it on the table as an option. For all the times I laugh at the crunchy, granola aspect of the school, I am very, very happy that we invested the time to make the change.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Max and Ellie

For the last few months we have been lamenting what we would going to do with our geriatric cats, ages 13 and 15. They have been with us our entire lives together so this was an emotional decision. I had called multiple shelters in the triangle area only to be told that given their age and the medical condition of the older cat that they simply were not adoptable. So after a very long discussion with Bill we opted to put them both down.

This is not a situation where we didn't try to find them a new home with friends, believe me that others are tired of me asking if they want our cats. If one hadn't been declawed we could have considered turning them into outside kitties.

We had planned to be out of this house by the time of expanding our family, but due to the layoff, upfront expense of IVF, and the crappy economy we are still here. The only room to move Ben to and keep a separate nursery has been inhabited by the cats for the last 7 years. We have to pull up all the carpet as well as scrub down all the baseboards before we even think of moving him to a new room.

I told Bill that since these were his cats from his days living off campus prior marriage that I would respect if he wanted me to take them and stay with them until the very end. He did, so last cold rainy Saturday morning we moved Ben into our bedroom watching Mighty Machines and collected up Max and Ellie for a final trip. They were peaceful, not scared, and frankly given my only other option would have been to take them to the local animal shelter for them to spend what was left of their lives scared and likely separated, it was the most humane decision.

Ben has not asked about them and I made a extra effort on Saturday to spend time outside washing and then playing with our dog, Vegas. We intentionally choose a day when he would be excited about Halloween. When he does ask we are going to tell him that Max and Ellie went to live in Heaven and were very happy. We don't want to use the words "sick or went to sleep" in hopes of not making him scared or fearful.

At our church there is a stature of St Francis, the patron saint on the animals. If Ben seems excessively sad when he realizes they are gone, I plan to take him to the garden and encourage him to talk to Max and Ellie and tell him Mr. Francis will pet them and make sure they have big bowls of food.

I hope that Ben's daily chores of feeding and watering our dog as well as learning compassion towards animals in general will help him should he ever have to put down a pet.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Vinson Style

This will go down as the year of THE Halloween. Ben has referred to anything related to and about the holiday for the last month with emphasis on "THE." We started our holiday weekend with the school parade through the streets near the school with parents and people crazy enough to come out to wave and cheer the kids on. A large truck passed and honked it's horn. Ben's teacher (who was holding his hand) said later he was more excited about that then the entire parade. Go figure.

All the parents, which looked more like a G8 Summit Protest Rally than the typical suburban folk lined the playground and welcomed them back for a school wide breakfast. The best (and most appropriate)teacher costume was someone dressed with a black cape and white sign reading, "in memory of the extinct south African rhino." I was standing next a child's two fathers, one with a shirt reading Got Pot and the other lamenting that their son didn't like his PBK costume.

Afterwards in Ben's class parents were invited to costume show and tell. I am amazed at the level of attention Ben and the 24 other kids had with only 2 teachers. I would have been banging my head against a wall if I had to corral them with all the excitement and food.

Saturday was cold, gloomy, and rainy. So we held off on heading over to our town's annual fall festival until the rain passed and enjoyed a helicopter landing, racing pigs, tons of inflatables, and rides. It was in the park near our house so we enjoyed a leisurely walk over.

We got our bags of candy ready for the neighborhood folk and Bill took to hit the major loop trick o treating with Ben. As he was walking he ran into some of my friends from our neighborhood book club who were walking with their kids. Bill joined them and reported that Ben by the end of the night was running from house to house with the big kids en masse.

I joined them for the last few houses and by 8:30 we were all worn out. I will say that along the route I saw two things worth reporting. One family was giving out iced juice boxes in place of candy and beer to the parents. NICE, given it was humid and muggy. Also our neighbors whose home burned in January set up a festive tent on their now vacant lot and were giving out Cider with a big sign thanking everyone who had helped.

Ben immediately told me when he got back he was eating all his candy on The Halloween. A fun night that was totally a highlight of a very long week. I can't wait until next year. According to Ben he is going to be a truck driver. Bill's comment to this was, "think we will have a hard time dressing him like Sylvester Stallone from Over the Top and encouraging Ben to challenge all the neighborhood kids to arm wrestle for candy?