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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.