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This Much I Know

This Much I Know: The Top Six Things I Learned From Traveling With Two Kids, One Husband, and My Parents on the Disney Dream Cruise and then to Disneyworld

1.”Whozits and whatzits galore.” Packing is a fucking nightmare, and there is no way around it. Our two duffels (yes, for FIVE DAYS) were truly bizarre. In one? Underwear. Formula. Diapers. Bottles. Teething toys. Clothes. Pacifiers. More clothes. Clothes for if it’s hot. Clothes for if it’s cold. A raincoat. A sun hat. Rubber spoons. One pirate hat for “Pirate Night” on the cruise. Two princess dresses for Lila to avoid paying “princess dress tax” of $65. Rubber pants to go over Swimmie diapers. Cereal bars. Mickey Mouse t-shirts. Because obviously, in Florida, they have NONE of these things.

That was the easy part. The mathematical equations required for this trip and for Eliana’s gear made me consider hiring a consulting firm. How many times would she poop in five days? Pee? How many diapers should I plan on? Let’s say eight a day. Okay, eight times five. Forty. But what if there’s an issue? Let’s make it fifty. How does the usage of Swimmie diapers impact the overall count? And how many ounces of formula would she drink? Maybe six in the morning, but only if she doesn’t nurse, and then six in the middle of the day, maybe 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and then nursing at night? But would she still be nursing? If yes, how does the nursing variable impact the amount of formula needed? If she eats cereal and mixed fruit twice a day, that means ten of those, but then what about lunch? One vegetable or two? What if the jars break?

By the time our bags were packed, we were prepared for Disneyworld. And I was prepared for a nuclear disaster with Iran that may or may not have required a sorcerer’s hat.

2. Do not be alarmed by “treasures untold” that can be found in a baby’s diaper. I know what you’re thinking: Ariel, poop is in a diaper. And pee. Really, there’s not much more to it, and frankly, any further discussion of this is both immature and repulsive. (To which I say…perhaps you have landed on the wrong blog? I could wax poetic for hours about poop consistency and color. There’s something about motherhood that makes normal women intrigued by their kids’ poops, boogers, and ear wax. Any woman who denies this is a charlatan and a fraud. And if that doesn’t sell motherhood, well, I don’t know what will.)

Well, dear friend, I was once like you, and I too thought diapers were for shit alone. That is, until the night we landed in Orlando. As I changed Eliana for bed, I opened her diaper to what appeared to be—wait for it– a human ear. My first instinct: Is Eliana okay? She seemed perfectly cheerful, particularly for someone who just shat out an ear. My second instinct: “Um, Husband? You’ve got to see what’s in Eliana’s diaper!”

Now, some people may hear that and come running, but honestly, given the frequency with which infant poop examinations occur in our home (yes, I once saved one of Eliana’s for Husband simply to get a second opinion on whether or not it was “normal”), it can sometimes be hard to muster up some gusto for a shit inspection, especially after a long flight.  When Husband didn’t come running, my next stop was the bathroom, where I examined the ear in a brighter light. It appeared to be somewhat speckled, and a light pinkish color. Ah! Wait! That’s not a human ear afflicted by Rosacea! That’s the remnant of a sad-looking tomato slice that came from my mozzarella-tomato-pesto panini that I ate on the plane as Eliana slept on my lap! How do you spell relief? T-O-M-A-T-O.

3. “A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you’re fast asleep.” But when you’re on vacation with your children, you are not going to sleep at all. So Cinderella? You and your little birds can suck it.  (And PS, you should have sued the prince for negligence when you fell down the palace steps in your glass slippers.)

Husband and I suffered, as do many parents, from Disneyfication. As in the Disney Dream cruise and Disneyworld were so unbelievably phenomenal that we were wiped each and every night. Inexplicably, Eliana was not. While Lila rested peacefully in my parents’ adjacent room, Eliana wah-wah-wahhed away, all the way into our bed. Night after night after night. Sleep training? YEAH RIGHT. Eliana slept comfortably (for her) between us for the five nights of vacation. And when we got home? That poor little creature didn’t have a prayer. Because sleeping in bed with Ellie hardened our hearts, and our dear little girl cried it out from our first night back until she turned back into her normal baby self. In a crib. Alone.

4. “A whole new world”…of horror is something you will experience. Yes, it is possible for your three-and-half-year-old to choke on a bread roll at the exact same moment your baby dumps a cup of ice water all over her lap. And once you’ve realized that the Heimlich is not necessary and that the baby thought it was funny, you too may permit yourself a folksy chuckle.

5. “The Lost Boys” from “Peter Pan” are everywhere. As in, many children will be lost over the course of your vacation. I would like to say that my children were not lost because I am a super-awesome parent and would NEVER let something like that happen to either of our amazing little girls. But that would be a lie. The first day of our vacation, Husband and I were enjoying the amazing Finding Nemo kids’ pool on the Disney Dream ship with Lila. She ran from one fountain to the next, positively beatific as she galloped from one fountain to the next. As I playfully pointed the fire-hose-like nozzle of Dori’s mouth at Husband, Husband laughed and then panicked, “WHERE’S LILA!?” My heart dropped to the floor as I started screaming, “LILA! LILA!” Fortunately, my father had been watching her the whole time…while Lila’s idiotic parents had been frolicking in the kiddie pool. New lows.

Now, judge me, sure, but certainly I get some credit for actually missing my child? I always sort of assumed that that was part of parenthood—that parents genuinely love their children and want to be with them. That “having a child is like wearing your heart on the outside of your body.” And yet.

At Disneyworld, all sorts of parents surface. As we waited for admission to the park, Husband and I watched a mother put labels on the back of her children’s shirts, “If lost, please call” with her cell phone number. Obviously, she was some kind of genius.

In contrast, we also found a child dressed as Tinkerbell sobbing in the Magic Kingdom. My parents, Husband and I jumped into panic mode. As Gram began grilling the little girl, Husband and I began shouting, “LOST CHILD! LOST CHILD!”, eager to reunite little Tinkerbell back with her mother, whom she clearly missed.

Out of the masses, a pissed-off mother pushing a double stroller emerged and shouted over the crowd, “Is it a boy?”

“No, it’s a girl.”

“Yup, she’s mine.”

As the child screamed, “Mommy!” through her sobs, the mother just rolled her eyes and said, “Get in the goddamn stroller.”

It was then that I realized that perhaps we had thwarted her plan. Perhaps she had WANTED to lose her child. She was channeling Peter’s words to Wendy, “Forget them all, Wendy. Come with me, where you’ll never have to worry about grown up things again.” Like, oh, I don’t know, FINDING YOUR CHILDREN.

6. Peter Pan starts, “All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.” The vacation’s over, but I’m already dying to go back. The only thing that makes the end of vacation bearable is the knowledge that all of it will happen again.

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Ta-Ta to the Ta-Tas

She’s just not that into me.

Or, more specifically, my boobs.

Within the past month, Eliana has started solids, grown a tooth, decided she’d like to stand holding onto something if that’s an option, selected a rubber spatula as her toy of choice, and chosen a catchphrase: “Hi, Da!” (Note: “Da” refers to food, parents, Lila, toys, a particularly offensive poop, and anything that provokes either delight or frustration; i.e.: poop.)

At six months, Eliana weighs 19.3 pounds, is 28.5 inches, and thinks it’s hilarious if you throw a (soft, fuzzy stuffed-animal-like) ball at her face. Hobbies include: rolling onto her stomach and then getting pissed because she can’t roll the opposite direction, using my face as a handlebar, speed-growing her fingernails, and watching Lila’s every move as if Lila is a god on Earth.

Things she is suddenly not so interested in anymore: my boobakas. In other words, she seems to be saying ta-ta to the ta-tas.

Once upon a time, Eliana and my breasts had been besties, meaning they had lunch together all the time and seldom talked shit about each other. Their easygoing friendship was made all the more delightful for me since, back in the days of Lila’s babyhood, Lila and my breasts had been frenemies: the jugs were a source of food, but latching was a nightmare for all parties involved, and I basically pumped and bottle-fed—an experience that lets you be righteous in that you’re giving your kid breast milk, but perpetually annoyed that you are basically tied to the Pump-in-Style, a milking-machine whose “style” is evocative of the torture devices of the Tower of London.

By comparison, Eliana’s experience has been positively blissful. As in, I finally get it: THIS is why people breastfeed babies—it’s so EASY! In fact, I rarely would say, “I’m breastfeeding,” which is clinical and sounds extremely biological. With Eliana, I’ve taken to saying, “I’m nursing,” which sounds loving and special, and like I’m either in a turn-of-the-century epoch piece or like I’m a wet-nurse in the sixteenth century. Because while I would never say I’ve enjoyed being a human vending-machine, Eliana’s made that experience about as enjoyable as it can be. She gets in there, and she gets the job done. Ten minutes flat, tops. When she’s done, she burps like a champ, and the show’s over. Nursing her is a surefire way to calm her down, get her to sleep, chill her out. In the Golden Age of my nursing Eliana, the experience was an efficient experience filled with nutrition, snuggles, and cuddles. When she would finish eating, she’d even look up at me, with—dare I say it?—reverence. Gratitude. Appreciation and love.

But ever since she’s started solids, the show’s been over. The sad fact is, I just can’t compete with real food. I am a has-been and a wash-up. My breasts have become Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” which is a hard blow, particularly when the ladies used to be Gypsy Rose Lee.

Realistically speaking, I am proud of myself for making it this far nursing Eliana. I sort of feel like I’m at mile twelve in a marathon, which is nothing to sneeze at. I had set a goal for myself of six months, and holy cow (which I’ve been), I’ve made it! While the American Pediatric Blah Blah “recommends” (translation: guilts you into feeling terrible if you don’t give your child) a year of nursing, I figure that any child of mine “gets what you get and you don’t get upset,” because that’s how shit shakes down in nursery school, and it’s never too early to learn the cruel hard lessons of the street. Whether that means my kid gets an hour, a day, a month, six months, or a year of breast milk, it’s good enough. I know, I know, “breast is best,” (lactivist propaganda) but I also know that most of the people I know in my life (including myself) were fed formula as babies, and, as far as I can tell, they’re all pretty awesome in spite of being deprived of the “liquid gold” that would have obviously propelled them into lives rich with intellectual fulfillment, artistic ingenuity, and instant fluency in six languages.

Honestly, having nursed Eliana for six months and two weeks, I feel like I deserve an award, and with the Oscars right around the corner, these honkers at the very least deserve a nod for Best Actress(es) in a Supporting Role.

And yet.

Even if I won the award, it wouldn’t change the fact that it’s hard not to take Eliana’s sudden disinterest personally. It’s like she’s breaking up with me, but I’m the hanger-on, unwilling to let go.

This morning, I tried to feed Eliana before heading to work. It went a little something like this:

Me (gently mushing boob into Eliana’s face): “Come on. Hey. Let’s go.” (I fill with shame as I realize that these are the exact lines that Sonny the hooker in The Catcher in the Rye says as she tries to convince Holden to get busy.)

Eliana (looking up, contemplating a particularly intriguing light fixture): “Hi, Da.”

Me: (getting annoyed, shoving boob more aggressively into Eliana’s face): “This is no time for hi-Da. Let’s do this.”

Eliana (smiling/humoring me…begins to eat; pulls off abruptly and suddenly with a panicked look on her face that says, “WAIT! Did I forget to take out the garbage?”)

Me: (looking at watch and sounding more like an irritated prostitute): “Seriously, Eliana, I don’t have all day.”

(Enter Lila stage left, assessing the situation)

Lila: “What’s she doing?”

Me: “Not eating. She keeps getting distracted.”

Lila: (walking over to Eliana on my lap; looks Eliana in the eye, puts her hands on Eliana’s cheeks) “Eliana! FOCUS!”

Eliana: (smiling innocently) “Hi, Da!”

This much is clear: Eliana is breaking up with my boobs, and she’s not looking back. I’m not weaning her, but she’s weaning herself. I had wanted to continue nursing through our trip to Disney World in two weeks, both for convenience’s sake and because I’m pretty sure it’s illegal under any other circumstances to watch the Electrical Parade in the Magic Kingdom topless. But alas, my dream may not pan out, because Eliana is over it. Will she last two more weeks? Doubtful, but both the guy dressing up as Aladdin in the Magic Kingdom and I both remain hopeful.

The sad fact is that Eliana has breezily broken up with me, but I’m clinging to what we once had together. I am the sad, desperate ex-girlfriend who wants to get back together…but why do I want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me anymore? Sometimes, at four AM, when my boobs are swollen into full-blown milk-inflated howitzers, I think of Eliana and miss her, if only for her ability to unload the boobs and make me feel human again by making me feel like a cow. I wish for the way it used to be between us, with the whole gang together, our blissful and loving moments of reverie. When Eliana and the breasts first became an item, we were with each other all the time—in fact, it seemed like we couldn’t get enough of each other. In the early days of our relationship, we even dreamt of the future hopefully, and what it would be like when she didn’t want to nurse all the time. These days, there’s no talk of the future. No finishing each other’s sentences/wiping up spit-up. Those days are long gone, and now, I’m just left with my blissful memories of what our relationship used to be.

For these next two weeks until our trip to Disney, I will cling to our nursing relationship and try to make it work like a sad loser who just doesn’t get the message. Because as Cinderella might say, “A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you’re fast asleep [and your boobs are ready to explode]”. But if that fails? Well, then I’m looking forward to kicking back some sangria with Cinderella, Belle, and Jasmine at Disney World, and who knows? Maybe my dream of being topless at the electrical parade could still come true.