Tag Archives: gratitude

The Happiest Place on Earth Meets the Most Crowded Place on Earth

Our family in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Our family in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

In 2006 when my son Jake was born I invented a fantasy about Fantasyland. My dream was that in the year 2012 we would take the whole family to Disney World. By then, Jake would be 6, Mary aged 12 and Emily would be a ripe teenager of 16. It would be the perfect storm of kid’s ages to enjoy a week of amusement parks.

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The family posing in a Toon Town car

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. In my wildest dreams, short of winning lotto, there’s no way in hell that we could afford a flight to Orlando, a week-long stay at one of the Disney Resorts and 7 days at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Pleasure Island, Typhoon Lagoon, and of course my favorite – Epcot. The cost would total even more than the student loan I started repaying in 2010, and I have a hard time even paying that.

Instead, we decided that in lieu of Christmas presents, this year we would spend a day at Disneyland.

Our family posing in front of the Christmas tree at Main Street

Our family posing in front of the Christmas tree at Main Street

In high school and college I worked at Disneyland’s Hungry Bear Restaurant. Although the tasks and responsibilities were exactly the same as my previous job at Carl’s Jr. (take an order, upsell a dessert, take money, hand customer a burger and fries, move on to next customer), it was a really treat to work at the Happiest Place on Earth. I wore a costume, not a uniform, I was a cast member, not an employee, and the people paying for my slightly-above-minimum-wage salary were guests, not customers. This was before Tokyo Disneyland was built, so there were huge crowds of Japanese with cameras who loved having me pose with them in photos. I used to joke that I was mounted with a magnet on every refrigerator in Japan.

The famous shot of Walt Disney with a strategically-placed Mickey Mouse

The famous shot of Walt Disney with a strategically-placed Mickey Mouse

I still love Disneyland, which is exactly 41 miles southeast of our home. Tickets are now $87 for everyone 10 and over and $81 for ages 3-9. Parking is $15. So for my family, including my mother-in-law Lina (it’s our Christmas present to her), to just get into the park, we’d have to fork out $531. If you add gas at $3.69 a gallon and my minivan, which gets 14 miles to the gallon, you can tack on another $21.61. And if you really care about that, proceed to my previous blog post ($ ÷ Gallon) x (Miles ÷ Gallon) = LA Gasoline Anxiety.

I posted a request on Facebook asking if anyone knew of any good Disneyland deals. My friend Jeanne could get $6 off each ticket with her Disney Employee discount, but I would have to pay cash, and unfortunately we just don’t have it in the bank. I ended up getting about $3 off each ticket by being a member of the TV Academy, which would end up paying for the hot chocolate everyone enjoyed at around 10:00 pm on the day of our visit.

The crowd in New Orleans Square

The crowd in New Orleans Square

We decided to go to Disneyland on the Thursday between Christmas and New Year’s because the kids were off school and Tom and Lina were off work. I knew it would be busy, but I figured we’d stay until midnight when the park closed and it would just be a given that we would be spending a lot of time waiting.

We left at 8:15 am and arrived at the parking line at 9:30 am. One thing I love about Disneyland is its efficiency. There is an actual Disneyland exit from the 5 Freeway car pool lane that takes you directly to the parking garage. The line of cars was like a championship freeway series game between the Dodgers and the Angels – times about 10. I wish I had taken a photo for proof.

2 hour wait for Space Mountain

2 hour wait for Space Mountain

We entered the gates of Disneyland at about 10:45 am. All the medium and large lockers were taken, so we crammed all our jackets into two small lockers at $7 each. Jake’s now too big for the stroller, which used to serve as a large locker; mega-size if we stashed our loot in the seat of the stroller and made him walk.

I have never in my life seen Disneyland so crowded. Everywhere we went was like a wall of people. I felt sorry for anyone in a wheelchair or someone with a stroller – especially a double stroller. They were just stranded in place, as if they’d brought along Disney’s tar baby from The Song of the South.

160 minute wait time for Indiana Jones

160 minute wait time for Indiana Jones

The must-see ride on our list was Indiana Jones, so we migrated there first. The wait time was a staggering 160 minutes, which is mind boggling since the actual Indiana Jones movies aren’t even that long. We grabbed a fast pass which would allow us a short line, but we had to use it after 5:45.

I’ve heard that the unofficial maximum capacity of this 60 acre park is 85,000, and I would swear that on Thursday that number was exceeded. The mob became so dense the Disneyland employees (I mean cast members) were recruited for crowd control. They roped off sections of New Orleans Square and directed pedestrian traffic to the right and left, with no left turns allowed. Frankly I was expecting the crowd to riot, but everyone was surprisingly well behaved.

The wait time for the Jungle Cruise has a hand-written 60 minutes. The available cards only went to 50 minutes

The wait time for the Jungle Cruise has a hand-written 60 minutes. The available cards only went to 50 minutes

The Alice in Wonderland ride had a posted wait time of 60 minutes. We had been waiting for about a half hour when the ride stopped. The loudspeaker announced that due to technical difficulties, the ride would be closed for about 20 minutes. I expected a mass exodus but no – everyone continued to wait patiently in line. I thought there would be crying babies, wining toddlers, and bitchy parents, but apparently I was the only one. The Happiest Place on Earth was magically breeding happy customers (I mean guests).

I thought the crowd would die down once the children under 10 became tired and cranky, but they ended up being replaced by teenagers who arrived in the early evening.  It didn’t start thinning out until after 10:30 at night, but even then the lines for the prime E ticket rides were over an hour.

The shortest wait time in the park - 40 minutes for the Gadget's Go Coaster in Toon Town

The shortest wait time in the park – 40 minutes for the Gadget’s Go Coaster in Toon Town

We got in line for our last ride, Star Tours, just before midnight. After getting bounced around along with C3PO and R2D2, we joined the enormous throng at 12:30 am walking down Main Street and exiting the gates of Disneyland. We waited for three trams before it was our turn to board.

We didn’t get home until a quarter of two in the morning. Tom drove, and I fell asleep the moment we got on the 5 Freeway and didn’t awaken until we got off the freeway. My husband is a prince (see proof of it in my earlier post My Husband Loves Me More Than Your Husband Loves You.”)

Lina, Jake & Mary in Toon Town

Lina, Jake & Mary in Toon Town

The entire trip including food and a souvenir for each of the kids (two caps and a mug) probably totaled about $800, a little more than we would have spent on Christmas gifts for everyone, but well worth the price of the memories.

Every one of my children stayed awake until the very end – even my 6-year old Jake who not once complained about being tired, bored, or hungry. Mary was a little annoyed that we didn’t get to ride Space Mountain which had a 50 minute wait time at 11:55 pm. No yelling. No tantrum. But she stopped holding my hand. That’s how I knew she was mad. Throughout the day, Emily kept thanking me for the wonderful Christmas present. And of all the possible souvenirs she was able to pick out, the only thing she wanted was a Pirates mug.

I love my kids. Wherever I am, if my children are with me, that’s the Happiest Place on Earth.

The unhappiest place at the Happiest Place on Earth - the smoking area

The unhappiest place at the Happiest Place on Earth – the smoking area

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Filed under Debt, Family, Holidays, Humor, Husband, Kids, Vacation

10 Reasons Why I Am Grateful This Thanksgiving

I live in the East Fernando Valley. The rest of my family resides in various pockets of the Inland Empire – an hour away without traffic, and a slow multi-hour freeway crawl on a holiday like Thanksgiving. As Spock would say, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” so most holidays I’m the one checking Sigalert and making a pit stop at the In-N-Out drive thru to tide myself over before the big meal.

The last time I hosted Thanksgiving dinner at my home was in 1993. This was pre-kids, and my ex-husband and I prepared a turkey dinner for my mom, siblings, nieces and nephews at the home we rented in Toluca Lake.

Notice that I say: “prepared.”

Sometime mid-morning our oven broke and we finished cooking the turkey in the microwave. The ceremonial slicing of the bird occurred around noon so we could divide it into pieces small enough to fit into the microwave. You didn’t have the option of white meat or dark meat. Instead, it was your choice of “dry as a bone” or “pink enough to cause e coli.”

Besides the long drive and the rising price of gas, the microwaved turkey dinner was probably a good reason for my family to take nearly two decades before allowing me to host another Thanksgiving dinner.

As I write this post, my family will be arriving here in just under an hour to give me another shot. And since my current husband will be doing all the cooking this year (another reason why I think this one’s a keeper), I’m taking a moment to reflect upon the 10 Reasons Why I Am Grateful This Thanksgiving:

1. I am grateful that I get to enjoy a long visit with my Family of Origin, but that they’ll all leave before I remember why I couldn’t wait to move out the second I turned 18.

2. I am grateful that I didn’t have to kill my own turkey.

3. I am grateful that I decided against being cheap enough to make a pumpkin pie out of our leftover Halloween jack-o-lanterns.

4. I am grateful that my family will be so hungry that they won’t notice that we do not own a dining table.

5. I am grateful that that most Americans and I share the belief that Thanksgiving calories don’t count.

6. I am grateful that I am not invited to any social engagements this coming weekend where I would need to try and hide the 5 lbs. I gained on this single day.

7. I am grateful that the turkey’s tryptophane will keep me from waking up early enough to partake in the Black Friday Sales that I can’t afford.

8. I am grateful that there will be a variety of vegetables, but I don’t have to eat any of them.

9. I am grateful that since I am destined to become a football widow today, I’ll have two dozen family members here to entertain me.

10. I am grateful that we had new sewage pipes installed this year, just in case any of my family members have become closet bulimics.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and I hope that your hearts are overflowing with gratitude instead of bad cholesterol.

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Filed under Family, Holidays, Humor, Husband, Kids, Top 10 List

Cathy, the Red Head Mommy

Grey roots

I am an inherently grateful person. Every day I recognize that I’m thankful for my health, my family, my job, the roof over my head – which I know sounds like some syrupy religious freak, but it’s true.

So it surprises me that I am well enough to celebrate Christmas with my husband’s and my family, and yet I’m a little pissed off. The onset of shingles occurred over six weeks ago, and I still have low-grade constant pain and raw, sensitive skin. But I’m no longer bed-ridden, and lucky to be able to enjoy the holiday. However there’s one teensy concern – my vanity.

I apply a shiny layer of Aquaphor to my nose and forehead, which means it’s impossible to wear makeup. I tweezed my eyebrows too much in high school, so now I only have scraggly hairs attempting to cover my brow like a bald man with a bad comb-over. Eyebrow pencil won’t stick to the greasy skin. My left eye is still puffy and red and I’m afraid to put on mascara and eye shadow for fear it will hurt to take it off.

The worst part is my roots. I’ve dyed my hair red for over 20 years, so almost no one knows me as the blonde I grew up as. I started turning grey in my 30’s, and now my natural hair is almost completely grey and white. The left side of my scalp is still burning, so I can’t dye my hair and my roots are now over an inch long.

When did I get to be so vain? I’m excited to spend the holiday with my family, but I’m dreading the photos. This is the time I take photos that will be blown up into 8x10s with a frame that says “Family” on it. I’m afraid I’ll look like Lily, the mom from “The Musters.”

My plan is to wear a big Santa hat that will cover my roots and forehead and avoid cameras as much as possible.

My vanity inspired me to write a little Christmas song to the tune of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” If you can carry a tune, you’re welcome to sing it out loud:

Cathy, the red head mommy

Had a very harsh disease

And if you ever saw her

You would want to laugh and tease

Shingles – they covered her face

Set her head and scalp aflame

She couldn’t put on makeup

Like all them other classy dames

She was groggy from the meds

Her roots had turned to grey

Cathy with her hair so white

Got AARP’s invite

Now with the family photos

Taken throughout Christmas eve

Cathy, the red head mommy:

I’m burning every shot of me!!!

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Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Recuperating

My husband asks: “Where’s MY birthday blog?”

There are three things I love about my husband. One: he is very VERY funny. Two: he is not a butt-kisser. Three: he is very low maintenance.

This last feature really came in handy last Wednesday on the day of his 44th birthday. The poor guy had to go into work at 5:00 in the morning and he had a pretty stressful day. He should have come home to a clean house, his favorite home-cooked meal, a terrific gift of the “Thanks… it’s just what I wanted” category, and his adoring children singing a round of “Happy Birthday to You” in front of a delicious birthday cake.

Instead, he walked in the door, and I gave him the following greeting: “Happy birthday, Honey! I have a meeting at the middle school, then a Neighborhood Council meeting. Can we have your birthday dinner on Sunday instead? I know you said you didn’t want a present, so I didn’t get you anything. Can you fix the toilet? It’s backed up again. Here’s your card.”

I handed him a funny birthday card of barnyard animals farting. The kids and I signed it. Our 5-year old drew a picture of SpongeBob next to his name. Then I deserted my husband with three kids, no dinner and a filthy toilet that was a millimeter away from overflowing.

On his birthday.

Did I tell you he was low maintenance? Another husband would already be filing the divorce papers. Actually most husbands.

That night I came home at 9:30 – a half hour after his bedtime (he had to be at work again at 5:00 am) and my husband asked, “Did you write a blog about me?”

“Huh?”

“You wrote a blog about everyone else’s birthday. Did you write one for me?”

I’ve been blogging for four months now, and it never occurred to me that I have a standard birthday blog. I’d be blogging about birthdays every post if that was the case.

Looking back, I did blog about my daughter Emily last July when she turned 15, talking about how I felt like such a clueless mom. In August I wrote a sentimental story on my sister’s birthday called “Life with my Irish Twin.” And last week for my birthday I ranted about how I hate it when people buy me a birthday gift. But my son turned 5 on September 14, and I didn’t blog about him. I informed my husband of this piece of evidence.

“But you wrote about being the oldest kindergarten mom at the school,” he said.

Apparently in my husband’s mind, this was in the realm of the birthday blog tradition.

My husband, who endured a crappy birthday by picking up the pieces of my overcrowded time management, wanted an actual present other than the farting barnyard animals: his own birthday blog.

So here goes…

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to my funny, low-maintenance, non-butt-kissing husband, Tom, who always replies to my Patch blogs with something even funnier than I wrote. Thank you for being a great stepdad to my girls by teaching Emily heavy metal guitar and playing endless rounds of pool volleyball with Mary Belle. Thank you for giving me a fart/burp/coconut-loving son who never stops talking. Thank you for helping Emily make a harp in 3rd grade even though we had just started dating and it would confirm early on that I don’t have a crafty bone in my body. Thank you for not leaving me when I volunteered you for grill duty at our block party on the hottest day of the year. Thank you for practicing calligraphy for months to create a beautiful fairy tale book to propose to me. Thank you for smelling like barbeque in the evening because it means I didn’t have to cook dinner. Thank you for making me laugh, fixing door knobs, killing household bugs, washing our dogs, mowing / edging / pool care, cooking way better than I do, being PACE treasurer, dumping the trash (even when it’s raining), watching CSI with me even though it clearly jumped the shark a year ago, plunging toilets and always saving the day when I overcommit… which is often. You are a prince, and I’m so lucky to have you as my husband.

(Big exhale)

Do I still have to cook you dinner on Sunday?

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Filed under Humor, Husband, Multitasking, Parenting