Month: October 2015

A Second Rate Mom’s Guide to Disney World


A little over a year ago Second Rate Dad and myself had the brilliant idea to book a week-long trip to Disney World. Our oldest daughter has been begging us to take her to Disney World ever since she was about 2-years-old and saw an advertisement for it on the Disney Junior channel. So we decided that 5 & 3 years old would be the ideal ages to take the girls to Disney.

In the year between booking the trip and then actually taking the trip I tried my best to get up to speed on everything I would need to know prior to going to Disney. Not having been to Disney World myself in about 20 years, I knew I had plenty to try to figure out. In my attempt to plan I spoke with people I knew were frequent Disney-goers and those that had recently visited. Mostly this just left me feeling overwhelmed and confused. I also turned to every second-rate mom’s faithful frenemy, Pinterest. Oh Pinterest, you evil bitch. You keep me coming back for more even though you often leave me feeling inadequate…

My quest for all things Disney World on Pinterest was no different. So. much. information. One article after another about what rides to ride on and when, how to get the most out of your Fast Passes, how to use your meal plans, the best places to go for quick-service and table-service meals, which character meals are the best, where to find the characters you want to meet, and on, and on, and on. And then there are the timelines to consider. You need to make your meal reservations about 6 months ahead of time to ensure you are able to snatch up the most coveted character meals. Then you get to choose your Fast-Passes for the rides you want 60 days prior to your visit while keeping in mind your already scheduled meal reservations. It started to feel like planning a trip to Disney required the completion of graduate level course work.

And don’t even get me started on all the Pinterest lists detailing what you need to bring with you to the parks. Oh Lawdy! I’m pretty sure that my packing list for a trip to the damn moon would not be as comprehensive as some of the lists I came across during my research! Some of these freaking lists sounded less like you’re taking a trip to the “happiest place on Earth” and more like the contents of MacGyver’s backpack during wilderness survival training!

I’ve learned a lot during my Disney planning journey, so I’ve decided to impart my new-found wisdom for all my fellow overwhelmed second-rate moms. Here are my top 6 recommendations for stressed out mamas planning a trip to Disney World.

  1. Use a Disney Travel Agent. This is an important one and there’s a reason I listed it as #1 on my guide. I am fortunate enough that I have an old friend from college who is a travel agent and one of her specialties is Disney travel. Her guidance was invaluable and without her direction and assistance I’m pretty sure I would have cried on numerous occasions during the planning process. These people know their Disney stuff, folks! She answered my questions, made suggestions, sent reminders, and even booked my dining reservations for me. The best part is that you don’t pay extra to use them! I used (and highly recommend) Jenn Whitney at Whitney World Travel. Here is her link if you are interested in getting more information for yourself:
  2. Bring a stroller to the parks. My kids are past the stroller days in our everyday lives. In fact, I sold our double stroller a while back. No fear; just rent one! You can rent the ones at the park, but I recommend renting a nicer one from Kingdom Strollers. Not only did this prevent me and the hubs from needing to carry the kids around when they got tired, but it also provided for a convenient place for them to catch a nap when they needed one. At Epcot my youngest took a 2+ hour nap while Second Rate Nana and myself strolled our way through the Epcot countries enjoying a glass of wine…or 3. Not to mention the added benefit of built-in cup holders and storage underneath. If you have kids age 5 and under, I think a stroller is a must!
  3. Go at your own pace. My first day at Magic Kingdom was super stressful! I felt like a slave to our Fast Pass and dining schedule. All the scheduling took a lot of the fun out of the day for me. Once I decided to not stress about the schedule, it go so much better. Change Fast Passes around if it turns out not to be convenient. If you have smaller children don’t expect to be able to get to every ride and attraction you want to do. You’ll need to prioritize. Take a break midday if you need one. You’ll also need to remember you’re traveling with little people who also have little bladders, so frequent bathroom breaks need to be considered along the way as well.
  4. You don’t need to bring everything plus the kitchen sink with you! Many of the advice articles I read ahead of time listed suggested items to bring with you to the parks. The lists appeared quite daunting and intimidating to me. My first day at Magic Kingdom I over-stuffed my backpack and I ended up regretting it. I felt like a freaking pack mule. The parks allow you to bring in your own food and drinks, so the first day I brought plenty of bottled water and snacks. The truth is that if you are utilizing the meal plan like we did then you really don’t need to bring in outside food and drinks. The meal plan provided us with more than enough for the day! And if we did need to purchase an additional drink or 2 it was worth it to me to just pay for it instead of having to schlep all that heavy stuff around. I perfected my backpack inventory by the last day carrying only the necessities plus some hand sanitizer, small pack of wipes, travel size sunscreen, cheap disposable ponchos, and something for the characters to autograph (if that’s your thing).
  5. Research the best times of year to visit. We visited in October, which is known to be a less busy time for Disney World. Truthfully, it was still pretty darn busy so I can’t imagine going during a very high-traffic time. Also, the weather in Orlando this time of year was ideal for our visit. It was mostly lower to mid 80’s and we only saw a couple of very brief rainfalls. Visiting Disney World during the summer months will bring with it a different dynamic of combating the heat that we were lucky enough to be able to avoid.
  6. Everyone brings their own “baggage” to Disney. If your kid gets whiny and bitchy when they are hungry and tired that won’t stop just because they’re at “the happiest place on Earth”! If your spouse gets irritable after spending an entire day with the little ones, being at the Magic Kingdom isn’t going to magically cure that. Everyone is still going to lose their patience at times. All the more reason for frequent food and rest breaks. Try to keep a “go with the flow” attitude and make the most of the magical moments when you can.

I hope this has been a helpful guide for those of you contemplating a trip to Disney World in the future.  Are there any suggestions you would add?


3-Year-Olds Are Pure Evil

Ok. So maybe this title is a little bit overstated, but not by much. They are evil dipped in adorable, topped with sweetly mispronounced words, and sprinkled with a dash of bat-shit crazy. “Mommy, I want more ‘camel-lope’ please.” (That’s cantaloupe to you & me.) Immediately followed up with a psychotic tirade of frantic warfare when said ‘camel-lope’ is all gone. Whoever coined the phrase ‘terrible twos’ apparently never met a 3-year-old. That, or they decided that ‘terrible’ was simply just not a strong enough word to describe the rage-inducing, tiny vein in forehead bursting task that is raising a 3-year-old.

Maybe I’m just too fresh from the drama to be objective about this age group. Perhaps if you ask me tomorrow I’ll proclaim that it’s one of my favorite ages because they really start to communicate with you and their personalities really emerge and some other b.s. that I really mean at the time. But not today.

Today began with the 3-year-old climbing into our bed at about 2:30 in the morning and kicking me in the face. Did I mention she was wearing shoes? Why, you ask? Because apparently footwear is very important to her (even when she’s sleeping) and I have lost the ability to argue with tiny humans about why wearing shoes to bed is a bad idea. But I digress. Needless to say it was not a restful night of sleep.

The morning brought with it whining. OMG, the whining! Just sitting here thinking about the “whiny voice” is raising my blood pressure. You see, dear reader, whining is the primary form of 3-year-old communication. I feel fairly certain that the devil himself employs a whiny 3-year-old to be Hell’s receptionist.

All of this whiny fun was then followed up with a trip to the dentist where lovely threenager refused to allow the hygienist or dentist to clean her teeth. The dentist was able to get as far as being able to count her teeth before making the very wise decision to try again in 6 months.

Lunch was equally as enjoyable. I had the nerve to serve her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She used to love peanut butter and jelly. Not today. Today I may just as well have served her dog poop on pasta. Pretty sure it would have gotten the same reaction. I made the poor dear take a bite of her sandwich. She refused to swallow the bite and as we were loading into the minivan for big sister’s dance class she must have accidentally choked on the sandwich a bit. Next thing I know she vomited all over the back of the van, on her sister, and on herself. We were a tad late to dance class today and my minivan now has a faint barf smell to it.

The afternoon has brought with it more whining, some crying, fighting with big sister, and (just when I’m about to completely lose it) some sweet little gesture to remind me there really is a good little person in there hiding under all those very big 3-year-old emotions. Not all days are this bad. Some days she’s a perfectly sweet little girl. But today? Today she is a threenager, and so mommy drinks a glass of wine.

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Do you have a threenager living in your house? What is the most psychotic thing your threenager has ever done?

5 Things That Will Make You A Happier Mom

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It dawned on me the other day that I’ve been in the “mom business” for nearly 5 years now. (Seriously?? I swear she was JUST born!) Since joining “team mom” I’ve had my share of ups and downs. There have been times when I wasn’t enjoying my role as a mother as much as I knew I wanted to and the way my children (and myself!) deserved. Life is far too short to be unhappy (especially when you have so many things to be happy about!). 

So I thought about some of the little things that have helped me to become a happier mom. After some thought, a few scribbles in my notebook, and now the clicking of my keyboard; here is a list of the top 5 things that have contributed to my being a happier mom!

  1. Buy good bras! Ok, so maybe that’s not exactly the secret to happiness, but it’s more of a metaphor about how you take care of yourself. Two pregnancies and nursing two kids for nearly a year each can take a toll on the ta-tas. Bras were an afterthought for a few years. When I was finally ready to hang up the nursing bras I realized that I had absolutely no idea what my new bra size should actually be. My advise; get yourself measured, buy the correct size, and spend a bit extra to get the good bras! It’s a small thing, but as moms we tend to put our own needs on the back-burner in order to put our kid’s needs ahead of our own. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, don’t forget to treat yourself sometimes too. Buy some of that make-up you want, put on that cute outfit sometimes “just because”, and BUY THE GOOD BRAS!
  2. Get out of the house WITHOUT KIDS! Go out with girlfriends. Leave the kids with your husband, meet friends for dinner, have drinks, talk, reminisce, bitch, gossip. Never underestimate the power of a girl’s night out! It really is good for the soul. Also, make dates with your husband. I know not everyone has a ton of extra money for sitters. Get a neighbor to watch your kid for a few hours or find a Parent’s Night Out in your area. Many churches offer them and it’s a great (inexpensive!) way to carve out some one-on-one time.
  3. Take time for your hobbies. Whatever it is you enjoy doing and rejuvenates your wary soul; do it! Reading, blogging, refinishing furniture, scrap-booking, running, yoga. Find what you enjoy and leaves you feeling refreshed and do it. Being a mom doesn’t mean you can’t have interests of your own outside of your kids. I’ve seen this too much and I’ve DONE this before too. Nothing will make you more miserable than not allowing yourself a personal outlet.
  4. Music! I recommend that occasionally you should listen to the music of your youth at ignorant levels. Extra points for singing along at the top of your lungs and dancing. Even more bonus points if the song is explicative laden. Usually I have little ears around me and it tends to affect what and how I listen to music in the car & at home. That’s why sometimes you might pull up next to my minivan at a red light after I’ve dropped my kids off at preschool and hear Beastie Boys or Rage Against the Machine blasting at irresponsible decibel levels. Deal with it.
  5. Be grateful for the blessings in your life. It’s hard to be unhappy when you choose to focus on all of the good things in your life, both big and small. One of my favorite people, Dennis Prager, says, “Yes, there is a ‘secret to happiness’ and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy.” There have been days where nothing seemed to go right and it was a struggle to find a happy place. But then I would notice that I was outside and it was a gorgeous day with white puffy clouds in the sky. Or that I had a coffee and it was exactly what I I needed in that moment. Look for all things, big and small, to be grateful for.

What are some of your secrets for being a happier mom?