Monday, March 30, 2015

In Like A Lion

I have many, many back posts either half or three-quarters drafted, or spooling around in my head, and yet, only 5 posts in 2015 to speak of.  Time is a bit precious around here, as you can imagine, and March has been a bit of a doozy.

I started a new job.  The process of getting this job was a bit fraught (I'll explain later).  I'm on loan from my regular job for a 9 month secondment with the Ministry of Magic, doing policy work, for which I had to take a pay cut (which smarts).  On the plus side, I've already stretched myself and learned how to do new things (hello, finessing a cost-sharing model in Excel, when you don't have access to Youtube tutorials or the data sets on which the model was based? All the fun!).  I've also felt stupid almost every day that I've been there and there has been more than one occasion where I've been left squirming under the steely gaze of my director, giving me feedback on a briefing note I produced that's been marked up beyond all recognition, as she waits for me to explain why something is "germane" to the paper.  All the fun!  Starting a new job, it's not nothing.  New work environment, new colleagues, new administrative and operational processes (where's the lunch room?  What time do people eat?  Is it okay to leave at 5 when I got there at 8:30?) ALL THE FUN!

It's probably a contributing factor to the eczema flare ups on my face?  Just guessing?  After 8 years at one job, it was easy to be a rock star.  My days were predictable, as were expectations, and I was in a comfortable position.  Having to "fight" (in a sense) again - to figure out my position and how to be good at something requiring a whole new skill set is good for me in the long run, which is why I took this job, even with an inopportunely timed pay cut (did I mention that 3 months into 2015, we are on track to spend FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS on childcare? All the fun!)

So there's that.  Then, Captain Save-A-Ho finally kicked the bucket.  After saving many hoes, true, but also AFTER we spent $500 putting a new muffler on him.  So now we have to buy a new (used) car.  On the same day we made that fateful decision, I was replacing the windshield wipers on Eddie Van Halen, and cracked the windshield and we had to replace that (did I mention I took a pay cut?  And FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS on childcare?)

On that same day (yes, this series of unfortunate events is still going), I took Boddington into the veterinarian because he had been looking unwell, and it turns out we had to put him down. He had lost 7 lbs since his last visit (almost 2 years ago), and the doctor said she would run up a quote for diagnostics (almost $2000), but that there was a likelihood that what she found wasn't going to be treatable.

Imagine how I felt.  Imagine what it feels like that this member of your family (for 12 years!) had gotten so sick and you didn't notice until it was too late.  The vet did her best to make me feel better (cats try to hide illness, it's common for the pet owner not to notice gradual weight loss, etc), but when you're holding that little furry body and they're listless and you're trying to comfort this creature in its last moments, you feel like total hell.





RIP, Boddington.  You were the cat that the Dotytron and I got when we first moved in together.  We called you "Big Nose."  You had already been adopted out and then someone brought you back and for some reason, we decided to take you even knowing that.  You were super affectionate and had a poor sense of boundaries (the Roomie called your signature move "face rape").  You were possibly on the spectrum and you did gross things like obsessively like the back of the toilet, lick the tub scum after a shower, and lick the corner of a window repeatedly until we could hear the squeak of your dry tongue on the dry glass.  You were also endlessly forgiving of the torment of three children over the last years of your life, and you gave Smudge (who loves being a father figure) something to dote over.  You were a greedy goomba who was very particular about how full your food bowl was, and you were riddled with anxiety.  You are missed.

After my second week on the job, we went to Disney World.  With two toddlers.  And a four year old (that's three under 4, if you're keeping track).  Our flight over was direct (from Buffalo).  What I didn't know about flying Southwest is that it's "open seating."  You can't reserve seats and you pay an extra $20/ticket/direction in order to get on in the first grouping to get the best pick of seats.  Families and people who require special assistance are seated between the A group and the B group.  We managed to get all five of us in a 3-seat row (babies were going to be on our laps), but then we found out that we're not allowed to have 5 in a 3 seat row as there's only 4 masks.  Gah!  Our flight attendant was kind enough to occupy the extra seat in the 3 seat row while the Dotytron moved across the aisle with the Quincess.  We ended up having that seat extra so the flight there was pretty smooth, all things considered:


We arrived in the afternoon.  We stayed on-resort (the only way to do it, IMO), and got picked up by the Disney shuttle.  We rented a stroller and picked it up at our hotel and then headed off to our first park, the Animal Kingdom, where we had planned a 1/2 day.  The good thing about staying on-resort is that Disney has special buses to transport you from the hotel, and they'll drop off your luggage at your hotel for you.  All we had to do was pick up our "magic bands" (which is linked to my credit card and has all our itinerary/dining information linked to it) and head off.



The Animal Kingdom is one of the weaker of the various parks within Disney World.  It's pretty much a big zoo.  There's some thrill rides (a roller coaster, a Jurassic-park-type dinosaur experience) that were too intense for our crew, so we went on their wilderness safari, had a Dole whip, and called it a day.  The safari was super fun - The animals are pretty much free to wander around (the docile ones at any point) and we saw cheetahs, wildebeast, giant bull type things (which had Lindsey shouting "PIIIIIIIIIG!" in ecstasy) and lions, zebras, etc.  It's pretty cool and was a nice way to ease into the experience.  

Here's the thing with people who don't stay on resort to save a few bucks - you're honestly better off saving money for a longer period of time, until you can afford to stay on resort.  And get the meal plan!  Paying for food on the park is so expensive!  $12 for a tuna sandwich?!  There are many, many ways to maximize your meal plan credits (and so many blogs from Disney psychos to guide you through the process), that it's well worth it in the end.  Travel from the resorts to the parks, on the Disney buses, can often take 30-45 minutes.  If you had to park your car?!?  And walk to it?  And then had to stay at the park ALL DAY (without a hotel break) to maximize your dollars?!?  Why would you do that to yourself?  YOLO.  


Day 2 was a day at the Magic Kingdom.  Going into this trip, the Dotytron and I made a solemn pact that we WEREN'T GOING TO BE CRAZY.  That meant that we would be chill - whatever happened, happened.  The money was spent - there was no going back, so there was no point stressing about the trip.  Knowing the Big Yam and knowing that he's a bit of a scaredy cat, and also is not into meeting characters, allowed us to book our "fast passes" (which allow you to jump the queue at particular attractions during hour-long blocks of time) in advance, knowing what would give us the best ROI.  We would eat a snack at our hotel, go to the parks as close to opening time as possible, then either go on rides we already had later fast passes for (but that we knew would have a big pay-off for the Big Yam, so he would want to ride it twice, and would be able to with the fast pass) or would have epic line-ups later.  Then we would do our fast pass schedule and hit some things that were more low key, then eat lunch at the park.  We would return back to the hotel for a mid-day swim (when Orlando is at it's most blistering), a nap, and then back out for dinner and a walk before a late bedtime.  It was the best possible way we could have managed things.

We discovered a place that had LOBSTER ROLLS as a counter service meal on our meal plan, and we hit that up (twice).  Other people were using their meal credits for the aforementioned tuna sandwich (why?!).  We obviously had Dole pineapple whips (twice!)


Despite making the best of the trip, it was challenging travelling with this many kids and in this age range.  It is an incredibly overstimulating environment - for them and us.  Then you add the heat, and the disruption of the routine, and the fact that the Dotytron and I hadn't been full-time parents to all three for this duration in months, and it was exhausting.  You don't go to Disney for a break, that's for sure.  I saw parents who seemed to be having a wonderful time and I'd ask how old their kids were and they'd say "12 and 9" - which makes sense.  Two toddlers and a 4 year old?  It's insanity.  We were getting side-eye from like, Mormon families with 12 kids, because all their kids were older.  

Orlando department of transportation says you have to fold up strollers on the buses, which meant every time we went to a park, we would stroll over to the bus stop, then I'd wear a baby, hold another baby while the Dotytron folded up the stroller and grabbed all the crap we had stowed underneath, and I would hustle the Big Yam onto the bus while the Dotytron tried to find a place to put the stroller.  I'd say that 60% of the time, people were kind enough to give up a seat for us or the Big Yam.  The overwhelming obesity problem in the US means that very often, people weren't giving up their seats because they actually needed it more than us (sorta).  I met another woman who was saying that they'd been to Disney about 5 or 6 times and they loved it.  It had apparently gotten to the point where her kids were old enough so that she and her husband went out and had a "nice dinner and a glass of wine" and she was saying how wonderful it was.  I just thought to myself, if you're idea of living it up is a nice dinner and glass of wine at Disney, then lady, you need to expand your definition of travel.

The food is good, FOR DISNEY.  As far as theme parks go, I can say unequivocally that it's the best.  It's so family friendly, and they set up all these smart things to make your trip as nice as possible.  The people they hire are very nice and have the patience of saints, even when they're treated abysmally by the guests.  But would I go there if I didn't have kids?  Hells, no.  We've been there, done that.  It is ONLY worth it for the kids.  Even at that, when the Dotytron and I were tallying things up at the end of the trip, it was only reasonably affordable because we didn't have to pay for the babies' flights/park tickets/most meals.  If we factored that in, we would have spend almost 10K, at which point, I would rather go someplace that's more stimulating for ME.  Picturing Disney as an adult escape is very, very odd to me, even if I did get to eat a cronut!  






Big Yam had no interest in meeting characters, but for some reason, the Dotytron was so enthralled at the fact that we were positioned so close to Belle from Beauty and the Beast that I came back to a camera with more than a few Belle back-side shots.

Look at how haggard having kids has made the Dotytron! 

Sunglasses hide everything!





Quincess turning it on at 10pm for the money shot.





 


Our flight home was a nightmare.  We flew out of Orlando at 6pm to Baltimore.  We'd already had a full day of the Magic Kingdom and the flight straddled baby bed time.  The Quincess dropped a deuce around 7pm and then we hit turbulence so the fasten seatbelt light was on and I couldn't go anywhere and he wailed for a solid hour.  I got some nasty looks from this lady in front of us.  Listen - if you're on a flight with someone with a crying baby, THEY ALREADY FEEL BAD ENOUGH.  Glaring doesn't help!  Also, WE PAID THE EXACT SAME FOR OUR SEATS, YOUR HIGHNESS, so can it.  Then, our connecting flight from Baltimore to Buffalo was delayed by 2+ hours.  We didn't end up arriving in Buffalo until close to 2 in the morning, and we didn't get home to Toronto until around 4am.  It was brutal and made the Dotytron swear off flying anywhere for the next 10 years.

That was my March in a nutshell.  I'm waiting for some out like a lamb action any time soon.

Fin.

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