Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ho Ho HOLY CRAP the Holidays are here?

I realize that I have not been a good blogger lately – let’s face it, I stink at it.  I committed myself to this project and I pretty much gave up for a month or two.  Since I’m a good Catholic girl I believe in confession and moving on. So, I confess to getting a life.  Yep, I got one! I no longer sit at home sipping my coffee and dreaming up something witty to post on my blog or as a facebook update. 

Now a days I’m working full time at a pretty great social service agency, waitressing on the weekends, being a full time single mom and trying to throw in a date now and again.  I’ve pretty much given up wine nights out with the girls, I have no resemblance of a tan, and my jeans are too tight because I haven’t run or seen the inside of a gym in weeks.

In the middle of me getting a life, getting a few jobs and trying to recreate a social life I missed the holiday cheer.  All of a sudden Christmas snuck up on me. Usually I’m the one decorating the office Christmas tree, planning the cookie baking parties and sending out holiday cards. Somewhere in the middle of working and my little man’s school and all of the other day to day stuff I forgot about the holiday.  Sure, I know it is coming, but let’s be honest, Costco and Wal-Mart have been telling me Christmas is coming since August – kind of like Peter and the Wolf if you ask me.  However this time the Wolf is here, knocking on my door and I just hope he is carrying the Heely’s I purchased last night on because those suckers better be under the tree this week!

Always being one to look at the bright side of things, I dedicated last weekend (my one free weekend with my little man) to ALL things Christmassy.  We ice skated, observed the 100 foot Christmas tree, watched a ton of holiday specials, visited Santa, baked cookies, shopped for presents, wrapped presents, drank hot cocoa, slept in our holiday pjs and helped the less fortunate. 

So, who says that you need a month, or a week to prepare for your Christmas cheer?   I say, let’s cram it all into one weekend and blow it out!  And my Christmas wish for 2012?  A personal assistant – I mean, someone needs to send out my holiday cards next year!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Where did all of the FUN go?

"Woo Hoo!"

I hear as my little man goes careening down the street as fast as his little legs can peddle with no hands on his handle bars.  My heart starts pounding as I watch what inevitably will become yet another trip to the emergency room.  I yell out to him “Stop!” “Slow down!” but today he chooses to ignore me and keeps on peddling.

Emergency averted, he is growing up and can handle himself this time.

A few minutes later as I catch up to him slowly peddling my beach cruiser he asks me “Mom, when did you become no fun?” 

Good question little man – I have been asking myself that a lot lately.

Recently, I’ve been back on the dating scene and a common question I get is “what do you do for fun?”  Why is this question so hard for me to answer? I mean I think I have fun? My friends and I laugh a lot and I have a good time doing whatever it is I’m doing, but what makes me ‘fun’?  I think I might have unknowingly crossed a certain threshold where “Fun” doesn’t exist and responsibility, practicality and parenthood took over.

Maybe I am now just valuing my responsibilities more in my 30’s than I did in my 20’s?  Gone are the nights of happy hours starting at 5 and ending at midnight three or four nights a week.  Now, happy hour is every other week, starting at 6:30 and home by 9:00.  Let’s face it, my friends and I now have jobs with responsibilities and can’t leave work at 5:00, nor can we leave our work at the ‘office’, we are now working before, during and after happy hour.

My friends and I still enjoy a good concert, sporting event and special event.  However, these days we drink 1 glass of beer with two waters and order fruit and pretzels at the concession stand.  We have personal trainers to meet in the morning and little men and women to get off to school before the sun comes up.

Our road trips are still very fun and full of laughter, but these days we plan months in advance, use our frequent flier miles to book our hotels and eat at sit down restaurants instead of at the fast food drive thru. So, maybe our “fun” met up with aging and maturity and became a bit more responsible? 

I think I need to invent my new definition of “Fun”.  Fun to me is seeing my little man experience new things, accomplish something he didn’t think he could and just being there for him.  Fun is laughing out loud with my girlfriends over a good bottle of wine and helping each other solve our dilemmas – whether they are marriage, dating, or work related.  Fun is a night at Bingo getting to know the local senior citizens and hearing their stories about their past winnings.  Fun is sealing a deal at work and accomplishing a goal.  There is no question that “Fun” for me involves memories, laughter and friends.  Too bad I’m not able to relay this to my little man with a quick answer on our bike ride.

I guess I’ll just have to show him that his mom is “Fun” by riding fast down the road without holding on to my handle bars!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where have all the good bloggity blogs gone?

Ok, I confess to being lazy about my blog.  I am honestly not lazy – I am far from it.  I’ve been busy working. I’m working on work projects, working on friend’s projects, working as a volunteer at my son’s school, working as a volunteer for other groups and even working on the weekends as a waitress.  (Christmas is around the corner folks- gotta save up!)
So my free time, or what is left of it, is pretty much eaten up with being a mom, trying to maintain some sort of a social life and my sanity.
Plus, I realized that putting everything out here on my blog is pretty much crazy.  I’ve had a few friends (ok, all of them male) ask why I would want to share my thoughts with the online world?  I answered; better out than in.  Of course I want to share, I’m a girl, and I share.  Sharing is caring folks. 

Recently I’ve entered back into the dating scene.  (No, I won’t discuss any current activities on here, too much pressure and too personal)  Anyway, I mentioned to not one, but two different guys that they should read my blog. I mean, come on, it is like a “How to Guide to Date Dana” on here, it’s their very own cheat sheet.  Their responses?  Both said that it would take all of the fun out of getting to know me.  They didn’t want a cheat sheet and were ready to tackle the dating game without any clues. 
Ok, gentlemen – game on!  I’ll put a hiatus to my blogging about myself and we will see what will happen. 
(and bloggity blog followers – I’ll keep you posted!)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ways to get (and keep) a Girl's Heart

I love this photo!  It is a LIST and it has some good advice.  I have a few more of my own  to add:
13. Kiss her forehead
14. Tell your friends about her and how much you like her (in her presence gets bonus points!)
15  Smile when she walks in the room
16.  Encourage her, become her biggest fan
17.  Cook for her
18.  Eat whatever she cooks and pretend you like it
19.  Tell her she is beautiful, especially on days when she's worked really hard and is really tired
20.  Tell her she is smart
21  Surprise her with little gifts and things she likes
22  Don't send flowers - get more creative and show her you went the extra step
23   Like her family and enjoy spending time with them
24.  Be yourself

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A little laundry on the table...

I remember the first few weeks of being home with my little man after he was born. To say I was tired was an understatement. I had a little man depending on me for everything and I was stressed. I also was a newly wed, new homeowner and new at being a stay at home mom.   My 'To Do" list was pretty big and I was getting overwhelmed.
During my pregnancy and 'nesting' phase I was a super woman. I baked, I swept our floors twice a day, I gardened, I cooked, I folded laundry, I was the perfect wife and housekeeper. Once my little man came into the picture I tried hard to maintain the standards I had set earlier. Except for one small problem - I couldn't do it.
My day revolved around feeding and nap times. Sure I could put a load of laundry in, but the chances of me remembering it was in there were pretty slim. I could probably whip up something for lunch, but the dishes? They would just have to wait a day or two (ok, maybe a week!) I was very lucky to have my mom stay with me for a few weeks and then my sister for some time after that. They were able to make sure the dog got walked and fed and that there was food in the house. They reminded me about apointments and helped me through crazy diaper changing moments.
Once they left I was alone and stunned. I remember talking to my grandmother and venting about the troubles of being a new mother. She pointed out to me that leaving a load of laundry unfolded or dishes in the sink were no big deal. (She has six kids so she knows what she is doing in the mother department!) She told me what really mattered was that my son was healthy and happy, that I was healthy and happy and that I should just order some take out and get sleep.
So, with that advice I did.  And I still follow that advice today. I will never be the perfect housekeeper. Maybe one day when I'm an empty nester I'll enjoy sweeping the floors and baking again, and my laundry will be ironed and folded. Until then, I have sticky floors, clothes piled in my room, a dog that needs a bath.
 But what else do I have? I have some awesome memories with my little man.  I still take naps with him and choose to curl up reading books on rainy days instead of cleaning. I might delay a project or two so I can get to the school party and cheer him on at little league.  No, I don't cook very often and yes we know all of the best kids' meals in town, we maintain our date night and our one on one time is our special time.

So cheers to sticky floors, unfolded laundry and dishes in the sink! I love my Grandmom for her advice and think of her when I see laundry on my dining room table.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thank the Lord I'm Single...

There is no denying it, being divorced or single sometimes really sucks.  It just does.  There are certain days of the year that are harder than others.  There are the obvious days likes Valentine’s, Christmas and the worry about the New Year’s Eve kiss.  Days that include reunions, couples’ nights out and weddings tend to be rather hard.  There are also less known days that tug at your heart strings like your child’s first day of school, first home run, first date, etc. that can really bug the single mom.  But with all of the “wish you were here” moments there are plenty more of “thank the LORD I’m single moments.”

A few of my favorite moments are below.  Please feel free to share and add your thoughts. I am sure this list can grow and grow.

1.        Being able find your stuff because you put it somewhere and no one else is there to move it.  You can always find your keys, favorite sweatshirt and the paperwork you need.

2.       Being able to eat your favorite Halloween candy from the kid’s bags and not having to share with anyone else.

3.       Being able to use ALL of the closets in your house for your stuff.  You don’t need to share the space and your clothing doesn’t need to get wrinkled because it is cramped in between suits and baseball equipment.

4.       Finding the toilet seat down.

5.       Knowing when it is the last of the toilet paper, toothpaste, bath soap and so one because you were the only one to use it.

6.       Putting leftovers in the refrigerator and knowing they will be there in the a.m.

7.       Being able to dedicate the extra closet in the guest room to your shoe collection (or whatever collection you may have)

8.       Any day you don’t have to deal with In Laws, and if they call, you DON’T have to answer the phone, cause hey! their child isn’t there anymore

9.       Seeing your ex dressed in any kind of strange, mismatched outfit and knowing you don’t have to sit next to him, or even pretend that you know him.

10.   When your child does something bad at school, having the ability to say he learned it at “The Other House”

11.   When your child wakes up in the morning and you are the first person they run to with a big hug and kiss.

12.   Being able to make a decision because it is was YOU want and not what someone else wants.

13.   Buying whatever you want when you want and knowing you don’t need to tell anyone about the cost of it.

14.   Being able to stock your house with your food and drink of choice, no compromising necessary.

15.   Knowing you only have to go to one family’s festivities for any given holiday.

16.   Being the one your child turns to when they fall down, feel sad or just need a hug.

17.   Being able to do whatever you want when you want with whomever you want.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Little Spooning?

It was the middle of the night and I heard a familiar sound – that of a low, slow snore.  I felt a long lean body next to me and was happily smiling in my sleep. 
Then it hit me…what!?  Who the he!!!  Is in my bed?  I went from drowsily happy to full on panic in point 2 seconds.  I rolled over and saw this guy - 

Cliffy celebrating Christmas with the family.
Yep, that’s Clifford my 8 year old St. Bernard/Mastiff. 

Somehow Cliffy has managed to sneak into my bed yet again. I give the big guy credit, he’s a clever one.  He must sit patiently waiting, until just the right moment when I’m deep into dream land.  He gets his 130 pound body up onto my bed stealthily.  He has perfected the move and doesn’t wake me.  He truly is a man on a mission – that of getting into my bed.

Tonight he has really chosen well.  Some nights he chooses to curl up by my feat, but inevitably I get frustrated being so cramped he gets a swift kick and bounces off the bed.  This night he puts his head on the pillow next to mine and lays out long and lean next to me.  If it weren’t for his nasty snoring habit he would have made it through the night unnoticed.

Actually, who am I kidding?  I lazily roll over, give my man dog a big hug and let him spend the night.   Hey, snuggling with a big dog is better than sleeping alone…

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How I learned to ride a bike....

I have a secret that only a very few select friends have known about me over the years…. I can’t ride a bike. 
Apparently my Mom had some traumatic events with bicycles growing up, so when my sister and I were young we weren’t allowed to ride bikes on our street.  Not to let us feel deprived, my mom did purchase us brand new bikes when I turned 7.  Mine was pink with a flower basket and my sister’s was yellow with a bell.  We were really excited about our bikes, until we heard we could only ride them in the grass in our backyard…. the bikes soon took up their spot in our shed and were donated by age 12 or so.
For most of my life I have successfully avoided getting on two wheels and being forced to peddle.  I grew up on a country road with no sidewalks and our friends lived kind of far away.  Avoid bike riding to friend’s house – check!
I guess I could have hopped on a bike in college and gotten around campus a bit faster.  Instead I strategically signed up for classes near each other and near a good parking spot.  Avoid bike riding in college – check!
I got a bit braver once I was in the “real world” and my boss was selling her bike.  I was happy to purchase a pink bike for $100 in Washington D.C.  My boyfriend at the time rode his bike everywhere and I had visions of us biking the mall, touring the cherry blossoms and hitting the trails in Virginia.    I hopped on my new bike and started to peddle.  The streets of Capitol Hill are brick and full of tree roots.  I shook, I cried, I wobbled, it was really terrifying.  My boyfriend suggested I bike in the street – I walked my bike into the street and started my way down the road between parked cars and moving cars.  I was a wobbly wreck.  I don’t think I even made it to the next stop sign. I hopped off my bike, put it in storage and donated it three years later.  Avoid bike riding in a major city – check!
For the next ten years or so I was happy to avoid all things related to bike riding.  I’ve been invited on bike rides with friends – no thanks, busy that day.  Asked out on a date to go bike riding – sorry, can’t make that one.  Participate in a mini triathlon – nope, busy.  Take a bike ride tour while visiting a new city – I’ll take the trolley tour instead. 
I had answers and ways of avoiding any and all kinds of scenarios regarding bike riding.  I was planning on living happily ever after without getting on two wheels. 
….until my son turned 6.
I forgot that when you are a 6 year old little boy your most favorite activity is riding bikes.  I also forgot that once the training wheels come off, little boys can peddle really, really fast.   Up until age 6 I was able to walk/run along with my little man while we rode his bike.  Apparently overnight the little man figured out how much fun bikes were, graduated to removing training wheels and turned into Lance Armstrong.
I had a heart to heart with my little man.  I told him that Mommy doesn’t know how to ride a bike and therefore his bike riding would be limited to Daddy’s house from now on.   Not to be discouraged he replied, “I’ll teach you mommy!”  He then proceeded to outline his plans to get me to ride a bike.  It included training wheels, going slow and practicing in a parking lot.
I put on my brave face and we went out to buy bikes.  Three bikes later (my mom got in on the bike riding lesson too) three helmets, one bell, one basket and big dose of crazy later, I was having my first bike riding lesson. 
It turned out that bike riding is actually really fun!  Sure I’m still really shaky and I tend to crash into a few bushes now and then, but my little man and I are having a great time.  We pack our snacks and head out for new adventures.  The best part of the ride is when we take a break, watch the sunset at the beach and I see the wonder in his eyes. 
My little man’s goal is to ride his bike to school.  To get there we have to go over a HUGE bridge.  I am completely terrified of the bridge – the down is just a tad bit too steep for me.  But according to my little man I can do it, and with his help I think I can!
Little Man and I on our snack break during an afternoon bike ride

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You had me at Khaki….

Let’s be honest – a good man is hard to find.  Or maybe it’s more like “a good man who has a job, has a house, owns a car, likes kids, has goals, like his parents and isn’t a convict is hard to find?”

There is no way around it, dating is a pain in the butt.  However, what might be worse than dating is finding the right guy to go on a date with?  My girlfriends and I consistently debate this issue, and recently this article Have The Good Men Gone?”  in the Wall Street Journal hit upon some of our points.  In the article Kay S. Hymowitz argues that too many men in their 20s are living in a new kind of extended adolescence.  I recommend you check it out.  May I also suggest that the author should have extended the age to men living in their 30’s?

Living in South Florida creates a challenge that we don’t seem to have in other parts of the Country.  Let me explain, when I lived and worked in Washington D.C. all of the single men were driven and goal oriented.  Sure, they may have had menial jobs in their 20’s but they had goals, most were attending law or graduate school or working their way up the ladder of success.  A lot were eager to change the world and had jobs that affected public policy and social change.  Everywhere you turned you could find a date that had a job and a goal.  I know friends who have experienced the same thing in Philly, New York, Boston and so on.

For some reason in South Florida men with goals are a bit harder to find.  For the past five years I’ve run into all sorts of men, professionals, unemployed, lawyers, computer nerds and so on.  I have to tell you that goal oriented, driven men are few and far between. Maybe it is the sunshine, or the thrill of the beach and the water so nearby that causes men here to relax and just be happy with the status quo?  The other problem I’ve found in South Florida is that many people are transplants or just biding their time at the beach until it is time for them to grow up and move back home, up north, out west and so on.  While these guys are fun to date the knowledge that they are not staying tends to dampen the relationship and leads it to fizzle out. 

Not to put all of the blame on the guys in South Florida, I will admit that I may be a bit unusual J  I have a sort of strange job - I raise money for Political Candidates and Non profits including Professional Athletes.  I have to attend a lot of events and often converse with millionaires, social activists and famous people.  I am smart and like to talk about subjects that make a difference in the world.  Sure, I’ll talk about Football and drink a beer with you but I also need a bit more mental stimulation. 

A while back I was out with some girls and was introduced to a guy.  We had similar backgrounds, a few work friends in common and hit it off.  We decided to go on a date.  Turns out I had a work event to go to.  The last few guys I’d dated would have said no way to attending, or put up a giant fight if they had to mix and mingle.  When I approached the subject with this guy his response? “Do I wear a suit or khakis?”  I think my heart skipped a beat!  We were on to something.   He had me at Khaki…

Author’s note: Let me be clear, I have a TON of friends who are the perfect guy and they live in South Florida, they just aren’t the perfect guy for me.  I am not man bashing just telling it like it is for me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The one way text message.

I’m all for modern technology, I try to embrace it.  I may not be as geeked out as some of my friends with their 5 home computers, I Pads, Apple TV and so on.  But, I do use my I phone and know how to text and take pictures with it.  Baby steps people, baby steps.
Lately I have realized that people have different standards for their manners with their use of text messages.  Let me explain.  I view text messaging sort of as a walkie-talkie like system.  You can send short bits of information, confirm that your intended recipient received it and move on.  It is kind of a genius way to avoid a long email or god-forbid a phone call!  It is quick, it is easy, it is efficient.   Where I get frustrated in the walkie- talkie system is the reply.
First of all, it has taken my parents a lot longer to embrace their technology.  Dad was an early convert to the smart phone and uses his I Pad, email and apps.   Mom has a blackberry that she doesn’t do anything with but talk on the phone.  One of my ever so patient friends spent some time with my mom and got her up and running with her camera and texting.  Only problem – she didn’t teach her how to reply.  So whenever you want to get a message to my parents, go ahead and text them.  Just don’t expect a reply back – they are One Way Texters.
With the exception of my parents, the one way text really bothers me.  (My parents get a pass because, hey, they are my parents and let’s face it you can’t expect a lot of changes at once.)
I understand that not everyone prefers the text message as their main means of communication, and I am completely happy to adjust to others’ needs.  But here is where I don’t get it - If someone sends you a text message stating a fact or asking a question, why not respond?  Yes, most of us are busy and don’t have access to our phones every moment of the day. But, eventually the little light flashes or the text box pops up on your screen.  How can you hit “hide” instead of “view”?    The text message is the quickest and easiest way to get in touch or avoid a serious conversation.  You can type “K” and that covers a lot of ground, or “thx”, “LOL”, “Cute”, “whtvr” and so on…  The unanswered text message just hanging out there all alone is like an SOS signal that receives no response, waiting for someone to hit reply and “LOL” right back at it.
The other one way texts I don’t quite get are the kind that is unanswerable.  My girlfriend got one at 5:00 a.m. the other day “Hey, can’t sleep and was thinking about you.”  Really dude?  5:00 a.m. is NOT an appropriate time to text.  For one, if my friend was sleeping you just woke her up.   If it is 5 a.m. and she is not sleeping, then she is too busy to reply anyway.  Please stay away from the early morning texting.
Dating in an age of text messaging leaves a lot of openings for a One Way Text.   (True Confession:  I really miss the days of no cell phones and no text messages!)   Those days were a lot easier, you didn’t have to worry about misinterpreting a text, autocorrect and all the other crud that goes along with conversing via text messaging.  If a guy was going to pick you up, he’d park the car and ring your doorbell.  These days you get a text that your date is in the drive way.    Instead of a call the day after a date, you may get a text message ‘thinking of you’ or ‘I had fun’.   For all of the good technology has done it has also limited the amount of quality communication between two people. 
I’m not going to lie – it’s my blog and I try to be as honest as possible.  I’ve had my share of bad dates that didn’t get the hint and sent texts after.  I didn’t reply.  I know I’m a chicken and avoided being honest with the person sending the text, but really, I’m embracing modern technology here and joining the bandwagon of One Way Texters.
As I said in the beginning, I am all for new technology.  However, I would like to instill some manners on my fellow texters.  Please hit reply, you can simply say 10/4 Over and Out.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A day off at Legoland Florida

Today's Blog co-written with Adriana Mederos - a super fun friend who is always up for an advernture!

The kids in a Lego Space ship with Lego Robot
I received an email a few weeks back from AAA offering a preview day for the new Legoland Florida.  My girls aren’t into Lego and I had no clue what a Legoland was, but I sure wanted to be part of an exclusive.  The days offered were Friday Oct 7 and Saturday Oct 8 so my next decision would be if the girls were going to miss dance and soccer Saturday or miss school on Friday and take a vacation day from work…I chose the latter…and invited fun friends Dana and her son Samuel to join us as well.  Our traveling party consisted of 2 moms a boy (6), and 2 girls (4 & 6).  The 4 year old is just over 36 inches so there was nothing she wasn’t able to ride…with an adult.
The drive there was pretty uneventful with just one potty stop for all.  We took a mental note of the local eating establishments and gas stations as we knew we would be using both after a long day at the park.  We found gas for 3.21 outside the closest Walmart…and if you had some kind of member card it was only 3.16.  There were several restaurants within 10 miles – Pizza Hut, Chili’s, Bob Evans, McDonalds, Wendy’s Burger King, and Hurricane’s.  We decided Ruby Tuesday would be our post park stop since it was in the same plaza as LegoLand.  OK, I decided that in the am and Dana confirmed it by the afternoon when she was craving vegetables.
We arrived at the parking lot of Legoland around 9:30 (it opened at 9).  The line was long, but moved at a decent pace.  Parking was $12 – let the spending begin!  The staff at Legoland was very happy and the parking was easy.  But there are no trams or trolleys and no characters on flags or on the pavement marking where you parked.  PAY ATTENTION TO WHERE YOU PARKED – it helps finding the car after a long day at the park. 
We had our home printed tickets in hand so we went on our first line into the park.  Adriania started taking pictures right away.  So many bright colors.  The Lego throughout the park was fantastic.  There were a few exhibits/rides that weren’t open, this was after all just a preview…and I’m sure would get less repeat customers if there’s wasn’t something new to see next time.
The first ride we stood in line for was the double decker carousel…yes, a carousel that had nothing to do with Legos, but it was neat that it had two levels…we got horses on the first level – but kids were just as happy.  Not sure if the music wasn’t working because it was a preview day, but to make up for the lack of sound, the ride operators cheered on the riders and the crowd. 
The barn was closed and so was Playtoon, but the kids were able to take pictures inside the lion’s mouth.  The kids rode some antique cars that didn’t go very fast and then we moved on to the castle and rode a ride that went a little faster, but was still great for the kids.   The ride operators really pay attention to the ride rules.  All of the rides are 2 people and you cannot smush three small kids into a seat.  Also, they double and triple check seatbelts on all of the rides. Yes, even for the adults with our long legs jammed into the extra small compartment.  
Parent note:  when planning your trip be sure to go in even numbers, or be prepared to have someone ride alone.  All of the rides we encountered were for 2 people or 4 – no exceptions to their capacity rules.
After our first three rides, the kids wanted to run around and play in the cargo net/slide are.  It was perfect timing because the mommies were able to chill in the breezy shade.
Apparently girls will fall for any princes!  The princess outside the Castle area was nothing like a Disney Princess but our girls did not care, we took pictures with them anyway!   Sam was happy with a sword and shield fight with the Lego staff members.  Again, the staff couldn’t be nicer or more accommodating.  Katie really wanted to go to the Royal Joust…so we did.  The wait was at least 30 minutes.  3 layers deep of lines there was a technical difficulty and half of the people bailed from the line…but not us.  Kids were on their horses within 10 minutes (ok, way less than 30). 
Miniland was AWESOME. The level of detail in each of the displays is AMAZING – NASA, South Beach, Keys, Vegas hotel strip, the white house, statue of liberty, San Francisco streets – the works! 

We took a break and had lunch at the Market Restaurant since the Pasta and Pizza line was WAY too long.  The one downfall of the setup here is that if you want to purchase adult meals, desserts and kids meals you have to stand in THREE different lines – NOT cool.  Needless to say this feedback was left with staff (with smiles on our faces) as we were leaving and they were asking for honest feedback from guests.
The food was good and we loved the healthy options for kids – an item, a fruit and milk/water.  I’m SURE guests can substitute for fries, chips and soda, but parents WHY WOULD YOU?  I didn’t want to stand in 2 different lines, so Dana and I ate from the kids menu – and we were fine with that, and so were our wallets (under $30) –  2 chicken tenders with grapes/banana, grilled chicken sandwich on wheat with celery/carrots, mac n cheese and celery/carrots, grilled cheese with celery/carrots and 5 bottled waters.  They also offered whole wheat pasta marinara and cheese pizza – but they were out of those.  Adult menu…didn’t look, but spoke with a dad about it and he said his adult burger was the exact thing his daughter had; only difference was the sauce and about $5.  Stick to the kid’s menu and you will have cash left over for ice cream.
We went on the Island in the sky ride…lucked out and didn’t wait one second.  It gave a nice aerial view of the park and surrounding area.  The 4D movie was pretty fun…they offer 3 different ones at different times.   We went back to Miniland for more fun.  It really is amazing how much work must have gone into building those scenes.  We never made it to the Pirate show – but we did catch the last 5 minutes of’s mostly on the water with wave runners and boats and a HUGE pirate ship in the water.
The Rescue Academy attraction was fun.  Only 4 participants per car – NO negotiating.  The goal is to pump levers to move the cars/trucks to the buildings and then pump some more to put the fire out with water from the hose and get back in the cars/trucks and pump your way back.  Let’s just say Dana and I were too busy laughing that we both needed the firefighter to rescue us and get us back to the starting point. They really need to put a warning on this ride for parents.  Not a “safety warning” but more like “please be sure you are in shape and can do strenuous activity”.  We saw one muscle clad Dad who was huffing and puffing after his ride and a few grandparents who might have needed CPR.  The ride was worth the time and energy because of all of the laughter and shenanigans of being rescued by a Legoland Fireman.
We took a little break and sat to watch the show at Lego City.  It was a cute and cheesy script with some good gymnasts and jokes keeping the kids entertained.  The first two rows are almost guaranteed to get wet.  The seats/bleachers are concrete and have no back support.
We visited almost every restroom in the park and were pleased with the features provided.  There were changing tables and sinks in the same area making clean up convenient…but we never used them since our babies are WAY beyond diapers and pull ups!
We drove white and black jeeps through a safari of Lego animals.  Again, pretty impressive work.  Long legged people beware; you will be smushed again into a small car with a safety bar.  I have no idea how larger sized people would fit in those cars?  I have long legs and was very happy that the ride was short! 

Notice my LONG legs in a mini jeep

We thought the park closed at 5pm so we figured we would do one or two more rides before heading out.  We rode a buzz lightning like ride called Lost Kingdom Adventure and shot at mummies from a car while keeping score.  The shooting game was so much fun; we forgot to look at the decorations and characters. Katie got a little scared at some points, so maybe not appropriate for little ones? However, the ride operator did tell me to "watch out for Katie on here" so I guess I was warned and didn't catch on?  

 We then decided to go on the beetle bounce since that was still open even though it was just minutes to 5.   The ride operators were extremely accommodating and let the kids ride over and over again.  Dana somehow got out of the ride so it was just me and the kids…for round 1, got off before round 2 started!

Adriana and kids

We decided to head out, but first HAD to get Katie’s unicorn…the one she asked for at the beginning of the day and didn’t forget about.  We found it at the Castle and also found out that we still had another 45 minutes to play since the park didn’t close until 6pm!  So off we went to do all the things we hadn’t done before (except the 4 roller coasters we didn’t have the stomach to do!).
Katie was the only one at the Ford Junior Driving School for kids ages 3-5 (again, ride operators really followed the rules.  We tried to get our 6 year olds on the ride with Katie so she would be by herself, but that was a no go).   We felt bad for her as she had no one to ride with and didn’t want to go again, but she did get a driver’s license for her efforts and then got to see the big kids at their Driving school for ages 6+.  The big kids got to watch a short movie on driving safety, and sure enough my girl takes off running and falls on the sidewalk while walking to her Lego car…but she recovered without the need for kisses or medical attention.  Kids did great and actually stopped at the stop signs, just took a long time to start back up again to keep going – guess they didn’t go over how long they were supposed to stay stopped!  This ride was a big hit with Samuel too.  The track can accommodate 25 kids in Lego cars.  We lucked out and had 5 kids and a lot of attention from the staff.
We had to check out the Racers build and test area and were almost the last ones out of there.  The staff helped each of the kids build something with wheels (even though they had already removed the wheels from the exhibit).  Thanks again to the awesome staff that let us experience all of the test area with their “professional” Lego cars.
The MOST FUN part of the day came when we walked by the Wave Racers and they were still accepting guests even though I’m pretty sure it was 6pm or REALLY close!  None of the kids were tall enough to ride alone so the plan was to sit one of them out while the mommies went with the other two.  As we were figuring out how to proceed, one of the ride gals volunteered to take one of the kids – HOW NICE WAS THAT?  It was such a fun and wet ride.  Dana and I left with bruises on our legs as it jerked around a bit but the kids enjoyed getting splashed on while going fast…and we didn’t do it once, they let us go TWICE.  We took a picture with the best ride attendant ever!  We are refraining to disclose her name JUST IN CASE she wasn’t supposed to help us like that J
On the way out we stopped at the shops, ‘cause THOSE of course are still open.  There was a lilac house near the face painting that had girly legos, but it wasn’t marked and by the time we found it they were closed L  Studio Store has boy Legos – Star Wars, Cars, etc and of course the BIG shop towards the entrance which has a little bit of EVERYTHING…and where we spent some $ and stuff we had to have.  BTW – credit card processing is done under MERLIN GROUP CORP UK…and if your creditor doesn’t like that they MAY just think it’s a fraudulent purchase and disable your card until you call them…My AMEX was declined at the store to my surprise and again at the gas station on the way home.  I found a message from AMEX about the concern and called them back to have it cleared.
It poured down rain on and off on our ride back.  Tired kids + full bellies + no movie in DVD = they slept the entire way home = mom’s chatted the entire time.  At one point the rain was really coming down, the winds were strong and the lightning was bright…a VERY familiar experience to what happened to me on 9/11/11 coming back from Naples…but I’m happy to report that lightning did not strike on the same person twice…yet.

End of a long fun day
 You know I'll always post a list:
·         Two thumbs up on the new Legoland FLORIDA
·         LegoLand is NOT in Orlando where there are tons of other attractions.  It’s located in Winter Haven, FL on the property of the former Cypress Gardens
·         When renting a car for any trip or event, be sure to check ALL the clubs and organizations you below to for discounts.  AAA, Costco, BJs, Sam’s, AARP, Universities, Employer discount programs, coupon books, etc.  I saved an extra $130 over all other coupons I had with Costco on an SUV rental
·         Pay attention to where you park your car in the morning.  Take a picture of the closest landmark
·         You can save a little $ and bring snacks and drinks in a backpack, just leave the alcohol and coolers at home
·         Ordering kids meals for adults will save you some $ and the sandwiches are the same price
·         Don’t wear red shirts – unless you want to blend in with Legoland staff and provide park guidance to parks
·         Don’t plan on winning that big stuffed animal too early in the day or you WILL be carrying it around with you
·         If you plan to stay the weekend, there’s  a Best Western overlooking the park as well as a Hampton in and a Holiday Inn Express within 5 miles or so
·         Pack your patience.  This is not Disney World, it’s a theme park and there are lines.  Get over it and have a good time, no matter what your age!
·         Invite us to join you, we are always up for another adventure if our schedule permits…or there’s enough sick/vacation days left

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gratitude as an Attitude

I was extremely fortunate to grow up without needing or wanting anything.  Sure, I really wanted to vacation in Europe and never got there, but besides that one thing, I pretty much had it all.  My parents had money and happily shared it with us.  We were taught to work young (See previous blog posts) but were also taught that as long as we were good kids, had good grades and worked hard we could pretty much have the lifestyle we wanted.  At the same time we were aware that others might not have as much as we did so we volunteered, donated to charity and helped others as much as possible.  All in all we grew up pretty well rounded and no very much in need or want of anything.
I was successful in college and started making a good salary pretty quickly.  I married a guy who also made enough money.  We had a house, two cars, a boat and took nice vacations.  I had nice jewelry shopped at Nordstrom’s and my son had more shoes at age 2 than I had at 16.  Again, not wanting or needing anything.  As a family we decided how important giving back to others was.  We donated to all sorts of charities, volunteered our time and were happy to be able to help others. 
Raising a child started to put a whole new perspective on wants and needs.  As soon as my son could talk he learned to ask for things.  “Ball” was his favorite word and he happily pointed out every ball he could find, and we parents happily put them into our shopping carts.  (Hey! They are only $2.99 each!)  He then improved his vocabulary and started asking for more and more; a Lego here, a superman doll there, his toy collection was beginning to overtake our home. 
As soon as we entered the years of “being a divorced family” his collection of stuff started growing.  Partly out of guilt, partly out of not wanting to fight, and partly because – let’s face it, I had the cash, his demands and my shopping got worse and worse. 
During this time I knew something was up. I don’t remember growing up and having EVERYTHING I wanted. I remember searching the Sears Toy Catalog and making lists, sending those lists to grandparents and waiting for Christmas for my toys.  Now, all my little man has to do is call his PopPop, spend a few hours with him and he comes home with a new collection of toys.  A trip to the Publix with GoGo even gets him a few toys.  I called my sister and phoned my friends and it turned out most of us were having the same problems.  Here we are, successful and happily trying to raise grateful children.  But had our success and concept of disposable income ruined our children?  When did we miss the message of waiting for what we wanted?  Gratitude and thankfulness, where did they go?
I am slowly chipping away at the monster that I created.  He now has allowance and it starting to understand the value of money (Heck! I’m still trying to grasp the fact that I can’t afford everything I want and I’m 33).  When we go shopping I still allow him a toy for good behavior, but the price is set low and he has to justify the need for it. 
This past week my sister read a survey somewhere on gratitude and test scores.  Apparently the more gratitude a child has and can express the better their test scores are in school.  Now the pressure is on to really get back to being grateful, heck his future education depends on it!
 We started a gratitude journal.  Each night we write five things we are grateful for.  I was kind of worried that this project was going to be hard, that I would have to sit and explain that no, you can’t be grateful everyday for your walky-talkies and new sneakers.  However, my little man surprised me.  First thing he was thankful for --- Plants.
When I asked him why plants?  He replied “they give us oxygen so we can live. I’m thankful for plants.”
Turns out I am the one who needs the lessons…