mom who works

the joys and challenges of being a working mom trying to find "balance"

My date with the Mouse October 5, 2012

Filed under: family,travel — Deborah @ 2:25 pm
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Mickey Toys by Tim Wang

Photo by Tim Wang. Used under Creative Commons License.

We have recently returned from our first ever trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Yes, we actually survived Disney, and we were even surprised (hubby and I) with how much fun we had. Our 10-year-old daughter, suffice it to say, had an absolute blast.

A trip to WDW, as those in the “know” call it, is overwhelming on its best days. We made the decision to go somewhat at the last minute (with a mere 5 weeks to plan), so I of course immediately downloaded the 2012 version of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World to my Kindle and got to reading. We planned a 4-day trip – one day for each park – and we also went with hubby’s cousin and his family, as they live in Florida and are Disney veterans (plus their daughter, who is also 10, is my daughter’s best buddy).

We went in mid-September, which according to all accounts, is one of the least crowded times of year to go to WDW. What surprised me is how crowded it still was – I cannot even IMAGINE what it’s like over the summer, spring or winter/holiday breaks! The other big surprise was how blazing hot it still was, too. The temps hovered around the high-80s, low-90s, with what felt like 100% humidity. It’s a kind of heat that you cannot escape. At least here in the Midwest, when it’s hot out you can find shade, or even sometimes a cool breeze, and get relief from the heat. In Florida, it’s all hot, all the time. The final thing that surprised me, although I should have been thoroughly prepared for it, was just how skilled the Mouse and his friends are in separating you from your money. I have two words for you – pin trading.

By the end of the second day, we had stopped at the gift shop at the Grand Floridian Resort to pick up some gifts we wanted to bring home for friends and family. The very helpful cast member checking us out offered their special deal on one of their “starter pin” lanyards for $18.95 (with a $40 purchase that we were already making). These normally retail for about $40. We really didn’t know what the deal was with the pins, so she cheerfully explained the “rules” to us, how you can trade pins with cast members and other guests (with cast members no more than 2 pins per day per cast member). It was interesting, and a good deal, so we picked it up for our daughter. The cast member even gave her her first pin from her lanyard (said our daughter didn’t need to trade one). Our girl promptly (and proudly) put the lanyard on, and on the monorail leaving the Grand Floridian actually made her first, and very cool, trade with another guest. And so it began.

Several 100s of dollars later, our daughter had a second “trading” lanyard, and a separate lanyard for her special pins that she wants to keep. We ended up getting her a pin case (like a portfolio with pages you can “pin” the pins on to keep safe and secure), and a number of really cool pins that have meaning either because of rides we went on or experiences we had.  It’s been fun in the weeks since we’ve been back to look at her pins and reminisce about where she traded it, or the ride or park it signifies. Lots of money, sure, but lots of memories too. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


Organizing Checklists Everyone Should Have — 5 Best Lists June 23, 2011

The summer travel season is upon us, and I found this collection of checklists really helpful from Lorrie Marrero, guru of The Clutter Diet . I am always looking for ways to get more organized. Thanks Lorrie!


It’s like Vegas for kids September 4, 2010

Filed under: family,travel — Deborah @ 7:40 am
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We just got back from a (very) brief vacation up in the Wisconsin Dells.

Wisconsin Dells boat rideFor those of you not familiar with the upper midwest, the Wisconsin Dells is this area just north of Madison, WI, kind of in the middle of the state. It was formed by the glaciers during the last ice age, and there are beautiful lakes, limestone cliffs, woods, and … and… it has basically over the last 100 years been a huge summer tourist destination.

Picture Las Vegas, but with northwoods natural beauty, and instead of miles and miles of casinos you have miles and miles of waterparks. Yes, waterparks. In fact I think the Dells is the “waterpark capital of the world” or at least the tourism board thinks so. And in every kind of theme you can imagine – African theme (waterparks, in Africa?), ancient Roman themed, northwoods themed, and just plain “we are the biggest, hugest waterpark ever” themed. Cue cheesy “main” strip with all the old junk shops, neon and flashing lights, arcades, fudge/candy shops and junk food restaurants. Every kind of boat ride to suit your fancy – fast or slow, short or long, upper or lower Dells. There’s even a water ski show that I think has been performing on the lake for 50 years or more.

Suffice it to say the Dells is my 8-year-old’s most favorite vacation spot in the whole world. Except maybe for Italy. Or at least the places in Italy we stay that have a pool.

We always stay at the Kalahari Resort when we go there. It’s the African-themed park. We’ve never actually stayed Kalahari Dells outdoor waterparkanywhere else so I can’t say it’s the best waterpark in the Dells, but we sure like it.

They do “family friendly” well, in that they have a ton of things going on to keep the kids entertained, but it’s not so saccharine that the parents just want to hurl (they make really good fruity cocktails poolside). And it’s huge. Really, really huge. Outdoor waterpark, indoor waterpark, I don’t even know how many restaurants, pottery-making place, candy/ice cream shop and this massively huge indoor theme park, which has tons of arcade games, go-karts, mini-golf, a rock climbing wall, ropes course, merry-go-round and an actual, huge, full-size ferris wheel INDOORS. This is Wisconsin after all. Let’s just say that in my daughter’s perfect world, we go to the Kalahari, check in, and we never leave. Why would we? “Welcome to the Hotel Kalahari … such a lovely place …”

You know how when you go to Las Vegas, and time has no meaning, and you spend hours and hours and hours in carefully crafted environments that have everything you could want or need right at your fingertips? You lose all track of day or night, indoors or outdoors, or that a world outside even exists? Well these Dells waterparks do the same thing but for kids. It’s like Vegas on training wheels. Although the closest you come to gambling is spending hundreds on arcade games trying to get enough tickets to “buy” that cheap toy that probably cost $4. Wait, that is gambling. Hmm…


The perfect men’s scarf January 6, 2010

Filed under: family,general — Deborah @ 12:16 pm
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So hubby had a very specific wish for Christmas, which was a nice cashmere scarf with lots of colors. Now, he’s quite the stylish guy, and I knew EXACTLY the scarf he was hoping for, which was something European and I think not unlike the colorful striped scarf he saw chef Jacques Pepin wearing in one of his holiday DVDs.Moreschi Wool and Silk Scarf

My life was a complete disaster leading up to the holidays (new job, houseguests coming at the last minute, two HUGE parties to shop and plan for, house to clean and decorate, oh yeah, and gifts to purchase), so let’s just say I didn’t start the whole searching-for-the-scarf until the week before Christmas. I’m thinking, “how hard can this be?” Hmmm.

I started by calling some of the local men’s boutiques and department stores. Like 12 of them. Since it was so late and I didn’t want to pay a million dollars for shipping. And NOT A SINGLE ONE had what I was looking for. Oh, plenty had brightly colored striped scarves, but in acrylic, or polyester, or some other inferior fabric. And plenty had nice cashmere scarves, but in solid colors, or dark neutral patterns, or, egads, plaid (hubby is decidedly NOT a plaid guy). So then I think, well, dear girl, you must pay the million dollars shipping and hit that old standby, the internet. No problem, right? WRONG!

After a panicked FULL DAY of searching every nook and cranny of Google (and even Bing), I finally discovered this AMAZING web site chock full of Italian products. And there it was – the most beautiful, most perfect scarf – and it cost, well, just short of a million dollars. It was WAY, WAY more than I wanted to spend on a scarf. I tried not to look at it. I tried not to pay attention to the fact it was made in Italy (ITALY!). I tried not to notice the beautiful colors and lovely fabric (wool/silk blend – not cashmere, but actually, IMHO, better). I actually tried to find a less expensive substitute. No problem, right? WRONG!

So at the very last minute, actually, at 15 minutes past the last minute I could order and still make a December 24th delivery date (this is coming from Italy, mind you), I gave in and ordered the very expensive, very beautiful scarf. And I begged and pleaded with the nice Italian lady on the phone to do whatever, WHATEVER, they could to get it here by December 24th. And they did. And it was beautiful, more beautiful even than the picture. And SOFT! And hubby absolutely LOVED it.  And it was worth it.


Holiday madness January 5, 2010

Filed under: family,general — Deborah @ 11:42 am
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So I have now completed month 1 of my new job, and have (barely) survived the holidays. Here it is, January 5th, and I actually took down all the Christmas decorations and the ornaments from the tree – all I have left is the lights and the old girl can make her way down to the curb to become mulch. I’m quite proud of this actually, as my usual modus operandi is mid-January at its best.

German Shorthaired NutOf course, I can’t really take the credit for the speedy takedown. No siree, that credit goes to Clifford, our German Shorthaired Nut, er, I mean, Pointer. Within 1 day of the tree being up he ate 2 ornaments. Two of my favorite ornaments actually. One that my daughter made in kindergarten, and one beautiful molded beeswax ornament we’ve had for, oh, 10 years or so. As a result, he celebrated Christmas either tied up or crated, because he has figured out how to open up the doorway between the kitchen and dining/living room, where the tree is.

Why, oh why, couldn’t we have ended up with a stupid dog? Most dogs are dumb, but no, we end up with little Mr. Einstein, who figures out all kinds of devious ways to get in trouble.

Hubby’s cousin Joel and his family stayed with us through the holidays, and kind of gave us a hard time about Clifford’s confinement. So Joel, who fancies himself another Dog Whisperer, takes it upon himself to “manage” Clifford. Let’s just say after about 10 minutes he gave up and said, “that dog’s nuts” and put him back in the crate.

His only saving grace is he’s so cute, with beautiful soft brown eyes. I swear that dog was a human once, who didn’t grasp humility in a past life so was forced to come back as a dog. Unfortunately, he STILL doesn’t grasp humility part.