I suppose that halfway into 2022 seems like an odd time to relaunch a blog. It probably is. It’s not 2004 where blogs are new and hip and maybe in 2022 it seems like a step back in time. But it’s 2022 and a lot has changed. Since I’ve last written, we’ve had 2 more kids – something that seemed like an impossibility when I started Mouse Ears in Paradise. It is 2022 and I should probably come up with a shorter name because that’s what you do in the blog world. But 2022 has been my year of embracing imperfection so for now the long name for the blog-o-sphere stays. We’ve also in the last year stopped all our podcasting about Disney. I miss the creative outlet but with a full time job (another change), a part time job, and 3 kids – there just isn’t enough quiet in the house to podcast when I still have full capacity of my brain. So, we’re revisiting the blog, something that can be done in the imperfection of crazy, loud kids, maybe on the computer at swim practice, maybe after school while the kids play on the playground. Maybe it will fit, maybe it won’t.
The other main reason for restarting the blog: we took our very first Disney Cruise as a family. This really was a milestone for us and I have a lot to say about it. We’ve been trying to make this work as a family for at least 11 years but between trying to have babies, having babies, and then trying to save enough money to pay for the cruise, it just hasn’t happened. I’m here to tell you that this vacation was the ultimate cure to the post-covid blues.
MOM ISN’T THE CRUISE DIRECTOR
When March of 2020 hit, I was happily going about my life teaching group exercise and working as a travel agent. I really thought that I had found what I would be doing for the rest of my life.
Enter the great shutdown
Now I will be the first to admit, we are the luckiest of the lucky. We have had enough money, have stayed healthy (although Drew did eventually get covid), and have traveled throughout the pandemic. But being in charge of 3 kids through covid and trying to help them maintain their sense of wonder and imagination is no small task. We did a lot of things during covid – including buying the above zipline swing set, to keep kids moving, happy and playing instead of fighting or being afraid. Essentially I went back to teaching full time elementary school because it was EASIER than being home with my 3 children.
The cruise staff on the Disney Magic took over for me. They kept my kids entertained, happy and helped us to build family memories AND wonder and imagination are key ingredients to a Disney vacation so these fit right in. There were a few things that were particularly poignant to me regarding this.
First regarding eating: I did not have to stand in any lines or make any plans for food. We literally showed up and they fed us. This has been my job as long as I can remember and I reveled in not having to make any food decisions. At one dinner, our youngest was quite sleepy and so I was holding him in my lap. Our server came over and cut my steak so I could still enjoy it while it was hot. This simple act of service was such a big deal to me as it allowed me to enjoy one of life’s finest luxuries: hot food.
Drew, our youngest, is not quite 3 and unable to enjoy kids club in the post-covid era as of yet. However, during open house we were allowed to take him into the Oceaneers club to play and explore. This was a great experience and the staff did a great job. I was also surprised to find few other people in the clubs at this time. My kids got to have a private playdate with Jessie in Andy’s room. It was darling.
Having someone else plan the day’s activities was a luxury and a joy. I was very concerned that our kids would miss their access to the internet, but it turned out they did just fine because there was enough to keep them busy and out of trouble.
HAVING KIDS SPREAD OUT IN AGE ISN’T A PROBLEM
The span of our kids ages is 9 years. This has been great because we’ve gotten to know each of them as individuals because the others have been old enough to do things like get dressed on their own. However, it can make everything else a challenge. The oldest is bored when the younger ones are happy and the youngest screams when the oldest is happy. Being on the Disney Magic, our oldest could check herself in and out of kids club and was also able to visit the middle school club, The Edge. This was a great service to her. We could relax with a drink on the verandah while the 2 year old napped, the 6 year old was in kids club, and the 11 year old went to the edge. Everyone was happy.
Even on Castaway Cay, an island we were fortunate to visit twice on the same cruise, I found this to be true. Dave and Annika could snorkel while Emma and Drew played on the splash pad. Oh you’re hungry? There’s the ice cream machine – go over and ask for a cone. I didn’t have to pack a bag of snacks, 6 water bottles, bandaids, 4 floats, and snorkel equipment. It was all provided and I showed up to my lawn chair with umbrella
TRAVEL IS WHERE MEMORIES ARE MADE
We have a lot of memories that we’ve made in the space of the last 2 years. We have 3 kids – there’s going to be adventure regardless of where we go. But traveling is different and I think it mostly has to do with me, the mom. Anytime we are at home it’s hard to get away from the work that needs to be done there. There’s always another meal to cook, something needs to be cleaned. As I write this I have my computer next to a pile of laundry that really should be put away instead of me just writing something for fun. When on the cruise, someone else cleans the stateroom, does the cooking and it frees me up to be fun.
Now this makes it sound like it was all rainbows and sunshine and there was no parenting involved. I’m sorry to tell you that even when you travel, you still have to parent. That part follows you. However the daily tasks disappear for a week and I feel like I can put down the email (thanks to no internet), and go on the water slides, play in the water and have sand dumped on my head. We can get pizza at 10pm because it’s available and watch a movie by the pool. The kids understand that it’s different when we are on vacation and don’t have expectations of it being an every night activity when we get home. We can dress like pirates and bang on the tables – something unfun mom would not allow. Travel reminds us that people and cultures are different and that maybe our way isn’t always the right way.