Honestly, The Happiest Place on Earth?

Preface #1: Let me start off by saying that every time I take a vacation, I feel like Ashton Kutcher’s going to jump out and tell me I’m being punkd. Because this happens every damn time.

Preface #2: I love Disney World. Always have. Spent my life watching The Little Mermaid over and over. Sing the song. Got engaged at Magic Kingdom. So I’m not a hater.

Preface #3: This post may be long and sarcastic.

And now, the story: For months, I’ve been planning our spring break vacation. My husband and I haven’t taken a real vacation since our honeymoon, we very rarely spend money on ourselves, and I wanted to go big. We decided—despite the possible lines, despite the fact that Disney blocks out the cheaper park-hopper passes on certain dates, despite the possible exhaustion, despite the unpredictable weather—to take our son to Disney.

I researched. I planned. I selected a hotel. I wrote an itinerary. I printed maps.

On social media, we see people post pictures and statuses about their lives. Many mommy bloggers in particular receive scrutiny because they try to portray lives full of rainbows and roses. They feign that they succeed creating masterpieces from steps they learned on pinterest, that their children never have tantrums and smiles abound.

I have a tattoo of an open book on my wrist, and although many people assume the ink relates to my love of literature, in actuality, I care deeply about honesty. I’m an open book. Always have been. I don’t hide who I am, even the parts about myself that I don’t like. And that’s just me.

So why hide anything about our trip?

As soon as we turned onto the exit on Saturday afternoon, I knew we were heading for the wrong hotel. Thanks a lot, Marriott! Although we spoke to a woman on the phone from a village of hotels with multiple pools and splash areas for children to choose from and booked with that woman, we ended up with a reservation confirmation for a smaller, lonely Marriott with a pool no bigger than the kidney-shaped pool in my parents’ screen room and without a hot tub or splash areas for children. My husband and I failed to check the reservation before we drove there (our fault) and the place we really wanted to be was sold out.

The plus side? We have a one-room suite, which means a LOT more room for the baby to run around, a lot more room for dining in (which we did after our long day at Magic Kingdom), and a lot more room for Walking Dead watching on Sunday night after the baby went to sleep in the OTHER room.  And, the weather wasn’t exactly pool weather anyway. So there’s that.

We decided to go out to Kobe Japanese Steakhouse after we checked into the hotel. Where my son threw his sippy cup in the fish pond, stood up in his highchair, yelled, and spit rice all over the table and floor.

And no one at the table was remotely sympathetic. Apparently they’ve never had kids. Or theirs are always gems in public. I call BS.

The baby slept great, thank goodness. He slept from about 8:30 p.m. until about 8:00, when I was already showered and dressed and ready to take him to Magic Kingdom! New day, new attitude, new smiles, ready to go.

We ate breakfast, left the hotel at 9:00, and at 9:30, boarded the monorail to the mother effing happiest place on earth.

We stopped to take the obligatory picture—you know, you offer to take one for a couple who speaks no English, and they take yours—in front of the “Let the Memories Begin” grass sign. Then we entered.

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And all was bliss. Cloudy day. A little breezy. Baby in a good mood. Mommy and Daddy skipping happily behind the stroller. Daddy carrying a backpack full of everything we could possibly need to have a successful day.

Street parade. The baby danced. Dumbo. New and improved! Ariel. Adorable. Winnie the Pooh. Sweet. It’s a Small World. Same as it was 50 years ago. Not one line was longer than 20 minutes. My dad drove over to surprise and meet us. My baby smiled. Lunch reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern. Delicious food, good service, baby sat in his high chair and ate all his food.

Could it be?

Oh, no. Ashton Kutcher was just getting started.

Now that we’ve finished day one here and our first trip to a Disney park with William, I am sitting here, dumbfounded and exhausted. But am I exhausted from a baby’s temper tantrums? Nope. Am I exhausted from all the walking of the streets of Magic Kingdom? Bring on the exercise.

I am exhausted from Florida. Freaking Florida weather. And shitty, inconsiderate service.

After our lunch, my dad, his girlfriend, my husband, my son and I walked to Peter Pan’s Flight to use our fast passes. The little man enjoyed looking over his little flying ship. When we exited that ride, I knew that I would eventually want to punch my husband for not buying the ponchos I asked for when planning the trip.

Jimmy wanted to go get fast passes for another ride, and since we weren’t alone anymore, he suggested I film my son on the carousel with his grandpa while he went to run to Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrow Land. Sure, I said.

What a bad decision.

The sky went from cloudy to torrential in about 4 seconds. We stood in line for the carousel, the workers running frantically and shouting, “We’re closing the ride!” They didn’t help anyone get off the ride or get out of the way or get somewhere dry. Children screamed. Thunder clapped. Rain shot from EVERY direction, hard. I stood shielding my son with a sweatshirt while my dad tried to shield me. He was soaked. I was cold. The baby was totally upset and confused.

We ended up standing in a princess store—A PRINCESS STORE which had neither toys for my son nor a dry t-shirt for my dad—for an hour. Or maybe a little less. But it seemed like an hour. Since my husband took our stroller and bag, I had no money, no clean clothes, no diapers, and a wet baby.

Fun times.

Eventually, my dad dropped money on ponchos so we could leave. Thank God he was there. We made our way to find my husband. Somehow, in the midst of this, my son fell asleep on my shoulder. I’m so thankful he did.

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We ended up in a café which was packed with people. Approximately 30 women stood lined up waiting for the restroom, about 8 people stood waiting with children for the family restroom, and—SHOCKER—no one stood in front of the men’s room. I had to pee, and I had a baby to change. And guess what? A janitor—a janitor who takes his job way too seriously, I might add—blocked the door. Told me even if no one was in there, I couldn’t use the men’s room to go to the bathroom or change the baby.

And that’s when I wanted to cry. I was too tired to be my bitchy self and push passed him. I bit my lip and waited in line. For the bathroom. Longer than I had for every ride. Watching no one go in or out of the men’s room.

We sat in the café for another hour, pacing, but thankful that the baby slept through it.

When he woke up, the rain was light enough that we decided to make our way to another ride. We made our way to Buzz Lightyear to use our fast passes, parked our wet stroller, left our beloved ponchos in the basket, and went on the ride.

There was no wait for the ride, the clouds were parting—or so it seemed—so, maybe we were on the up and up.

After we got off the ride, we couldn’t find the stroller. Evidently, despite the fact that 12 other people parked their strollers where we did, they were not in “designated” stroller parking areas. To which I say, WHO GIVES A SHIT?

A “cast member”—which, sorry, but no—told me that they have a right to move my property—MY PERSONAL PROPERTY—if it’s in the wrong place. We spent a decent amount of time looking for the stroller without the help of any of the careless “cast members” and finally found it across Tomorrow Land in front of a completely different attraction.

And I wanted to cry. Again. So this time, I did.

I am so glad my son did not notice my quiet tears as he sat on my dad’s shoulders, laughing and banging on his head.

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We went ahead and enjoyed the Swiss Family Treehouse—baby loved climbing the steps—Aladdin’s Magic Carpet, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

And then the clouds came back. I was too afraid to stay later.

So I did what I always do. As we left the park, I stopped in guest relations and I complained. I decided that I hadn’t experienced pleasantness from any of the staff members at Magic Kingdom, and someone needed to know about it.

I’m always the one to complain. When we go to restaurants, if something isn’t cooked properly, I say something. When our phones get poor service or shut off or our laptops need work, I argue with customer service. Sometimes, complaining gets you somewhere. Sometimes, you just have to hope that you tell the right person and maybe the wrong that was done to you isn’t done in the future to anyone else.

Today, I spoke to a delightful man named Austin about my experience with the café janitor and with the cast members in Tomorrow Land who moved my stroller and scared the bejesus out of me and wouldn’t help me find it. He listened. He took notes. He expressed his regrets that we hadn’t had the best experience and that he wanted to help us.

And my son got a huge stuffed Mickey Mouse toy for free, and we got passes to come to Disney another day.

So, I left there smiling. We experienced many of the rides we wanted to. My dad’s shirt dried. My son was still laughing and smiling. And we could come again if we wanted to test the unpredictable Florida skies another day. More positives than negatives, right?

We ordered take out, brought it back to the room, sat on the couch and relaxed.

And just before bath time, as we cleaned up our food and water ran in the tub, the baby pooped on the floor of the hotel room. Just because.

Thank God for The Walking Dead, or I would have had to call the whole day a draw 😉

And on to Day 2…

1 Husband, 1 Child, 2 Jobs

Today, I’m over on Liberating Working Moms discussing my decision to take on a second job despite already having a very full plate.

Last week, I did something I thought I would never do: I accepted an offer for a part-time job.

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Currently, I teach English to approximately 120 high school freshmen each day. I constantly take home grading, so I’m accustomed to working after hours. However, my days end around 2:30-3 and my evenings are spent how I choose. If I want to go out to eat, I go out to eat. If I want to attend a class at the gym (and I do exercise 6 days a week) and my husband is available to watch my son, I attend that class. If I want to spend time playing trains with my son or taking a walk, I play trains and take walks. If I feel like I need to chip away at my pile of grading, I spend some time doing that after my son falls asleep.

Now? Now my evenings are decided for me. Now my evenings are scheduled. Now my evenings are interrupted. Now my evenings are even fuller than they used to be—if that’s possible…

Continue reading about my 1 Husband, 1 Child, 2 Jobs…

The New Me

I work two jobs, raise my son, attempt to spend time with my husband, dog, and other family members, and exercise 6-7 days a week. Since I chronicle so much of my journey as a working mom over at Liberating Working Moms, my own blog tends to go by the wayside and this year, I want to change that.

I’ve had some serious successes of late, including reaching my New Year’s resolution of reading at least one book each month in 2012, and set the same goal for 2013. I’ve also lost 21 lbs since July 19, 2012. That’s 8 months. 8 months of changing my lifestyle. 8 months of tracking my caloric intake and exercise regime on myfitnesspal. 8 months of watching my body transform. 8 months of growing stronger each day.

I think why I am able to better balance my life, why I am able to attack this new part-time job in the midst of a demanding full-time one, is because I have taken my health into my own hands and improved it.

I admitted that working out makes me a better working mom even though I often feel guilty about the time it takes away from other aspects of my life. But it’s true. Exercise boosts my energy level and helps me finish out my days strong. Exercise actually lifts my spirits if I’m having a rough day, tapers my hunger if I’m wanting to fall off the wagon of nutrition and dig into a box of Swedish Fish—which, by the way, I still do from time to time. All in moderation.

So, I stick to a pretty heavy workout routine each week even though it changes dependent on work and family schedules. And I follow my own advice when it comes to health and fitness.

And that’s how I’ve gotten where I am today.

Here’s my story:

In high school, I wasn’t very active. Don’t get me wrong—I was involved in things. I sang in my church choir, edited the school newspaper, and served as President of National Honor Society. You know, the dorky things. I did NOT—and still don’t—do organized sports. I’m clumsy. A better spectator than participator. And it never really hurt me. I worked out at the YMCA from time to time, but nothing routine. When I graduated high school, my weight fluctuated between 115-118, and at 5’2, that fit. Perfectly normal. Healthy BMI.

In my first year of college, I worked out at the gym on campus, but the food on campus hurt me a little bit. I don’t remember exactly how much, but I gained a couple of pounds. Let’s say I was 120.

By the time college ended—I switched schools and commuted, so longer commute meant less time to make food meant eating out more—I was 125. I told myself I was getting older. My metabolism slowed a bit. Nothing to worry about. 125 was far from obese.

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USF graduation–2008

I got married. Who knew being happily married meant you would gain weight? Before I knew it, the chips and salsa at Chili’s led to 5 more lbs, and I was 130 lbs at 24 years old.

Then I got pregnant.

Ironically enough, my darling son didn’t think I deserved to eat while he occupied my womb, so 9 months of consistent nausea and vomiting stopped me from gaining weight. On the day of my son’s birth, April 23, 2011, I weighed in at 144 lbs—only 14 lbs gained in over 38 weeks of pregnancy.

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38 weeks pregnant/144 lbs/2011

I felt good about that. Less that I gained meant less I had to lose. The day after he was born, I weighed 136. By the time he was a week old, I was 127—3 lbs less than pre-pregnancy and the weight just melted off.

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5 days post partum/127 lbs/April 28, 2011

However. I resented that I hadn’t been able to binge and crave during pregnancy. So once I had my son, I went into full-on I CAN EAT AGAIN mode.

By the end of 2011, I weighed 140 lbs—a number I swore I would never let cross my scale.

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140 lbs/January 2012

I joined a gym.

I went 2-3 days a week, tried the elliptical for about 30 minutes each time I went, and saw no changes. Because I really had no desire for it. I wasn’t making a lifestyle shift. I made excuses. I’m older now. I’ve had a baby. My metabolism is slower. I’m not eating that much. Maybe there’s a pill I can take.

By summer of 2012, I refused to get in a bathing suit. In July, I attended a work conference, and none of my work pants—all size 6—would button. I was devastated.

I weighed 142 lbs. 2 lbs shy of what I weighed when I gave birth to my son.

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142 lbs/July 2012

And that’s when shit got real.

July 19, 2012 was the first day I began logging food and exercise into myfitnesspal, and I haven’t stopped since. I weighed in at 140.6 the day I began logging online. That website has been a godsend, as it opened my eyes to the amount of carbs, sodium, CALORIES in some of the things I was consuming on a daily basis. It showed me how to be more balanced and accountable.

My only goals were to get healthier and fit in my clothes. I find that it is IMPERATIVE to make small goals, meet them, and celebrate success by creating the next attainable goal. Once I reached 5 pounds lost, I told myself I could achieve 5 more.

I began going to classes at the gym, and slowly saw weight come off. By the first day of the 2012 school year, I had dropped 5 lbs and could squeeze into my work pants. I refused to buy a new wardrobe for my unhealthy body.

By October, I could see the change in the mirror. My face? No longer full, round, fat. My body? Slimming, shaping. I even went to the sprayground with my son IN a bathing suit and felt completely comfortable. I was “me” again.

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First “after” photo/128 lbs/October 2012

A few more months of hard work went by, the scale moved a bit, and my clothes were falling off. Which called for some jeans shopping 🙂

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January 2013: 122 lbs, wearing size 4 skinny jeans, bitches!

As of today, I have lost 21 lbs. I fluctuate between 119-121 on any given day, and am determined to see the 118 that I saw on the scale when I was in college. I’m also determined to tone my body like I never have before. I want to see some biceps and abs!

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119.6 lbs/Feb 2013/The start of some ABS!

This post is not to brag. This post is to remind myself that I can do this. That I will keep doing this. That I will not return to an unhealthy lifestyle. And maybe, to inspire others to take control of their lives, their energy levels, their bodies, as well.

To Preschool or Not to Preschool

Most of the readers who faithfully follow Liberating Working Moms know that my son spends his day in the care of my beautiful, patient mother-in-law, his Abuela. During the day, my son receives priceless one-on-one attention, home-cooked meals, bilingual communication, and all kinds of love only a grandma can give.

But.

Every day when I pick him up, I wonder if he should be getting more. If he should be interacting with other children. If he should experience centers and arts and crafts and structured instruction.

The other day, my friend’s daughter played with my son. They pushed a stroller together, each alternating telling the other, “Puuush.” When my friend and I put a bottle of bubbles away, her daughter said, “Where da bubbas go?” My son? Yeah, no sentences yet.

“What a smart little girl!” I said. And she smiled. And then I frowned.

Most days, I remind myself that my brother was practically mute until he was 3 and that each child is different. I listen to my son’s minimal “sentences” like “I go walk” and realize he is learning and he is communicating, and for that, I am grateful. I mean, he is only 22 months old. But still, in that moment, I wondered to myself if my son would have a stronger vocabulary if he were spoken to in a preschool setting each day.

I have spoken to friends, I have made phone calls, I have emailed centers, and I have thought and thought and thought about sending my son to preschool. My husband and I even scheduled a tour of a preschool for one of our teacher planning days and had fully intended on placing my son in a local center starting in August 2013.

But this week, after spending time at my in laws’ house where my son spends every morning and afternoon, I had a revelation: what we’re doing right now works for us.

Our situation is cheaper. I trust my family. My son hasn’t been sick. He is comfortable. He is learning.

What’s the problem?

So for now, we’re foregoing preschool. My husband and I agreed that we will revisit the idea on my son’s 3rd birthday, as I actually have vivid memories of attending half day nursery school at three years old in New York and believe that it was good for me at that age. But even if we get to that point, and I still don’t think it’s the right fit for my son, I’ll be okay with that.

To each his own, right?