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First week

7 Nov

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It’s hard to believe that this time last week we were kicking our heels in our local playground on Clapham Common, hoping that one of the children wouldn’t fall off the play house and end up in casualty.  It seems like a very long time ago.

Since then we’ve survived our first long haul flight, battled jet lag and won, and spent five days in Disneyland.  It’s been a very, very good first week.  Exhausting but good.

Disneyland was a huge hit with the children, which isn’t a great surprise.  They’ve shown amazing levels of stamina and walked for miles with very little complaint.  As long as they’ve had regular applications of Mickey shaped food, they’ve done well.  We’ve been on countless rides, many of them twice, watched two parades and three shows, a highlight being the Playhouse Disney one, really, and travelled by steam train, monorail and horse drawn tram.

Away from Disneyland we’ve been swimming most days, eaten a huge variety of vibrantly coloured cereal, done three washes and a little bit of school work every day.   All staying in a single hotel room, isn’t ideal, especially when you’re up at 5am with jetlag, but hasn’t been as bad as I’d feared.  The adults have got loads of sleep, far more than normal and the children have been very good about going to bed.  Being utterly exhausted helps on that front. As does bribery in the form of endless Disney keyrings.

For the next few weeks we’ll have a kitchen and a car, as well as proper outside space, so life will get easier.  No more meals created only from what we can buy in the hotel shop.  I really miss vegetables.

A week in Disneyland has been a surreal way to start a nine month trip, but I guess the whole concept of a nine month trip is fairly odd.  Next week will be the start of our new normal.  I’m looking forward to it.


Jet lag sucks

5 Nov

So what do you do what you are all awake at 5am in a hotel room, because your bodies think it’s lunchtime?*

– lie quietly and say shush a lot

– plug into iPods to listen to the BFG, Famous Five and Thomas the Tank Engine (thank you Granny)

– put on shades and perform a made up rap in the dark

– get bored and start punching each other

– give in and put the TV on, the Disney channel is just as terrible in America

– wrestle on the floor

– play Ninjas, which involves leaping from bed to bed in a dangerous manner

– say calm down and play nicely a lot

– drink coffee

– eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

– play with plasticine and assorted small toys

– watch some more TV

– count down the minutes until the hotel shop opens at 7am

– race to shop to choose entirely additive free breakfast cereal *cough*

– eat said cereal

– resume Ninja game

– get dressed

– visit hotel laundry in basement to put a wash on.  A bargain at $1.25.

– roam around hotel grounds saying shush, people are still sleeping

– write postcards

– visit hotel reception to collect leaflets for places we’re not going to visit

– do a maths worksheet

– go swimming, you’ll get the pool all to yourselves

– get changed and ready for the day

– arrive at Disneyland before it opens.

*I should point out that not all of these activities are undertaken by all members of the family.

I heart Disneyland

4 Nov

I’m not a huge fan of theme parks.  I’m not really a fan of organised fun of any kind.  I don’t like the crowds, or the piped music, or the overpriced, dodgy food, or the merchandising opportunities round every corner.

But I make an exception for Disney.  Maybe it’s because I have very happy childhood memories of Disneyworld.  Maybe it’s because of the utterly surreal attractions like The Enchanted Tiki Room.  Or maybe it’s the astonishing attention to detail.

I’ve never been any where quite like a Disney theme park.  No detail is too small to be overlooked.  From the staff members’ multifarious appropriate uniforms, a particular favourite being the lederhosen worn by the attendants at the Matterhorn bobsleigh ride, to the complete absence of any rubbish, and the staff sign in the ‘It’s a bugs’ world’ area which says “worker bees only”.  Nothing whatsoever spoils Walt Disney’s perfection.  Even dull legal notices are themed.  As they’d say here, it’s awesome.  If the folks at Disney put their minds to it, they could rule the world.

The glamorous world of international travel

2 Nov

I’d forgotten how completely grim long haul travel is.  The endless queues for check in, passport control, x-rays, more passport control.  The miles and miles of windowless corridors to reach the plane.  The cramped seats that make sleeping all but impossible, even for small children, who flail and kick in an effort to get comfortable. The stale air that smells of overcooked food, the greasy hair of the man in the next seat and vomit.  The other passengers didn’t thank us for that last one.  Being woken at 1am with an announcement that we are landing in two hours, oh and would you like some quiche?  US immigration at 3am, when we avoided total meltdown with the judicious application of lollipops.  Not sure that’s what most parenting manuals would advise, but sometimes these things have to be done.  Finally, finally, finally persuading the children to sleep at 6am UK time, only for them to wake up about three hours later, because it’s way past breakfast time and they’re hungry.

But we’ve survived.  I’m sure tonight will be an improvement.  And we’ve been to Disneyland.  So it’s not all bad.  It’s pretty good actually.

This time in six months

1 May

As I write, it’s just before 6pm on 1st May.  If all goes to plan, this time in six months, we’ll be in the air.  We’ll have stowed the things we don’t need for the flight in the overhead lockers.  Shared out the toys between the children’s seat pockets.  Had a good play on the inflight entertainment system.  Been served a drink and maybe a meal.

All the jobs that I’ve been doing to get ready for the trip will have been done.  We’ll have visas and passports.  Our house will be sorted.  Our five backpacks will be packed with everything we need for nine months.  If anything on my to do list hasn’t been done, it’ll be too late now.  I will finally be able to breathe out and relax.  I know I’ll be a little scared, but mostly I’ll be excited.  Excited at the prospect of a week in Disneyland.  Excited at the thought of a month in Hawaii.  Excited that it’s all finally happening, that we’re making it happen.

Six months will go by very fast.  I can’t wait.

Entering the Magic Kingdom

13 Apr

I found this weeks Gallery prompt surprisingly hard.  Last week’s, Ugly, was really easy in comparison.  I wonder what that makes me?  I grumpy, cynical old git probably.  I moaned to Gallery owner, Tara, on Twitter that people’s pictures would be all happy kids and fluffy kittens.  She said I wasn’t allowed to enter a picture of a happy kid.  Whatever.

I struggled because I don’t really know what joy is supposed to mean.  How does it differ from happiness?  Does it have religious connotations?  Is is closer to ecstasy?  In which case, perhaps it should be on another kind of website altogether.

So I did what we used to do in the olden days and looked in a dictionary and realised that I was tying myself up in knots for no reason.  It can be used as a verb as in ‘to enjoy’ or ‘to rejoice’ or as a noun meaning ‘something that causes pleasure or happiness’.  So there you have it, and there you have my picture.  Eve entering the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland Paris, for the very first time.  She’d just turned five and we went for two days as a sort of birthday surprise.  Her face looked pretty much like that the entire time.  When we go to Los Angeles, it will be the second time that we have been to Disneyland as a family.

We’re all anticipating much joy.

The Magic Kingdom – Young at Heart Photo Album

10 Feb

This photo represents the beginning of my love affair with Disneyland, Disneyworld and Euro Disney (remember that?).  I think I am ten, and unlike too cool for school Laura, who tagged me, I am dressed entirely in yellow, including my shoe laces, but not including my rather fetching Mickey Mouse sun visor.  I have no idea why, no doubt I thought it was a good look in 1982 or thereabouts.  I am standing with my little brother, also fetchingly visored, and Janet, our New Zealand nanny, who we will be spending this Christmas with in Auckland.  It’s been almost ten years since I’ve seen her and I can’t wait.

I had never been anywhere as magical as the Magic Kingdom before and it’s a place I still have very fond memories of.  We’ve taken Eve to Disneyland Paris for the weekend, which she was enchanted by, but I can’t wait to take all the children to the real deal in LA.  Before you say anything, Disneyland Paris will never be the real deal.  Most of the staff are French for a start.

Now, on to my tagee, who has sent me this beautiful, sparkly Christmas picture that must have been taken with the aid of a starburst filter.  This tag has an air of mystery about it. You have to guess who she is…

She will be posting her Young at Heart photo and story tomorrow, and revealing another youthful blogger for the photo album, so keep them peeled. And you never know, you could be tagged  next. . .

NOTE: Make sure you include the name ‘Young at Heart Photo Album’ in your title and post so your entry is easy to find in Google. The originator of the meme, Tara, will be looking out for you…

There are no rules as such, just keep paying it forward.

I’ve already done it behind the scenes and she’s all ready to go. And she’s primed her tagee etc. See if you can guess who it is before you click through to find out who our sparkly blogger is . . .