Friday, January 4, 2019

Disney on Ice - Fifth Time as Fun as the First

As we headed out to the Webster Bank arena in Bridgeport last night for Disney on Ice, we did our normal recap of previous shows. The very first year when we got a meet and greet with Mickey and Minnie. The year when everything was "Dream Big" princesses (and a huge hit), but we were able to see eight skaters forming a dragon that breathed fire. The year that we thought wouldn't happen due to an issue with the ice, but which ended up being one of our favorites. Last year, when Frozen dominated the show and we realized how perfectly Frozen fits in with an ice performance. And then I realized, this is the fifth show we've gotten to see.

I was provided with a four pack of tickets in exchange for this review, but all opinions are my own.

Five years, five different shows, five different experiences. From a not-quite two year old on wiggling on my lap to an almost seven year old dancing in the aisles. From a three year old who considered herself a princess expert, to an eight year old who is still entranced by the spectacle. It's been five years, and the show works just as well for toddlers as it does for big kids. That's Disney Magic right there.

Each Disney on Ice show has its own theme, and this year, the show we saw was "Worlds of Enchantment". Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy introduce us to four different mini-shows: Toy Story 3, The Little Mermaid, Cars, and Frozen. Four very different shows, some of which I wondered how they effectively would translate to ice (Cars? How would that work? And how would the size of the people and toys translate in Toy Story?).

The show was great, as we've come to expect. Each mini-show was about twenty-five minutes and managed to get both the gist of the story and the crucial musical numbers. The girls LOVED watching the Barbie and Ken interactions at Sunnyside Daycare, and I really enjoyed all the green toy army men skating in their formations and parachuting in. Under the Sea, with the colorful costumes and props is an amazing spectacle, and, like I've said before, Frozen was just MADE to be performed on ice.






As for the cost, tickets are definitely affordable. I always think the best views are from above when you're looking at this grand a production. Yes, there's something to be said from being close to the ice (we've done that too), but you can get seats with a great view for as low as $15.

Bridgeport is a GREAT arena to see a show, because it's right off two major highways, and there's plenty of parking. Very easy in and out. We've parked in the garage, but the past two years we've opted for the big outdoor lot. Both are $10, which is about what I've come to expect for any show parking. We arrived at 6:15 for a 7:00 show and there was plenty of parking. Leaving is always a bit of a mess of cars, but we were out of the lot and on the highway within 10 minutes.


The add ons are what can get you every time. Last year I told the girls they could each get a light up souvenir, which are expensive - averaging about $30. This year I told them - in advance - that we weren't doing it. They're fun at the show, they're fun for a short time after, but now that my girls are older, they're forgotten (or dying) within a few weeks. In fact, during our last toy clean out, we purged a few of those types of toys. But the great part about Disney on Ice is that the concessions come with souvenirs too, and I'm much more likely to ok those. I got each girl a cotton candy ($15) that came with a crown with Mickey ears, and four of us split a $12 popcorn in a Mickey tote bag. Lemonade and sno cones are comparably priced (average of $15) and come with take home cups.


NOTE: It is COLD in the arena. I mean, duh, it's ice. But we've noticed that the past two years have been exceptionally chilly. I wonder if some of that is due to the snow that falls during Frozen. Still, be prepared. We wore our winter coats the whole time and were kind of wishing we'd brought a blanket.


Reagan loved it, but was a bit disappointed at the serious lack of princesses (she's not into princesses like she was a few years ago, but she was definitely anticipating them and figured they'd be out for the finale as always. If you have a princess lover, be prepared for that with this particular show. The Toy Story and Cars segments were great and Reagan definitely enjoyed them, but I think she had a picture in her mind and it didn't quite line up.

With Madison, I'm starting to wonder if she's getting too old for certain things. Although she was by no means the oldest kid there, she did notice how many toddlers and preschoolers there were, and she wasn't jumping up and down in her seat like she was four years ago. Although she always loves the opportunities, I'm wondering if she's starting to wish I got tickets to Kidz Bop or JoJo Siwa (and let's face it, she is definitely wishing that). But once the show starts, she's finding new things to be excited about. She GETS what a big production should look like, and she's impressed with all the talent. It isn't "babyish", it's a show, and the production value of anything Disney is spectacular.

Disney on Ice is at the Webster Bank arena for the rest of the weekend (today, tomorrow, and Sunday) with tickets still available from ticketmaster.com or the box office at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. Next weekend the production moves to Hartford, so there are plenty of chances to catch this fun show in CT!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Keeping it Fun

As we're getting into these short, dark days, it's hard to keep spirits running high. The holidays are over. There are no more advent calendars to open, no more free for all on Christmas movies and sweets, and as much fun as it is to play with new toys and wear new clothes and shop with gift cards, the anticipation is down. Driving TO a Christmas party at Grandma's is exciting. Driving home, less so.

In fact, January is probably one of my least favorite months. It's cold. It's dark. There will probably be ice or snow that wrecks plans. You're in the doldrums of school. The girls are in the "cleaning" portion of dance - the dances are learned, but competition is still a little ways off, and cleaning rehearsals are frustrating and not exciting. Yes, playing in the snow is fun, but playing in the ice is less fun. Not to mention that adults everywhere are making those efforts to improve themselves, which may mean extra cleaning and decluttering and purging the unhealthy December treats. Which can make people cranky.

So how do we keep it fun?

GAME NIGHTS: 
Somtimes it's board games (we have a few family favorites right now - like Boggle, Yahtzee, Sorry), or card games (we recently discovered Anomia, and it's AMAZINGLY fun), but honestly what's kept our winter evenings fun is this (probably destructive) ongoing, cutthroat game of Monkey in the Middle. It started because Adam got one of the giant inflatable exercise balls, and now it's become this MASSIVE game ball that is someday going to break the picture frames on the piano. Once spring hits, we'll take it outside, but in January? I'll allow it. The giggles and squeals are totally worth it. We also have some epic games of hide and seek that have everyone scurrying around, trying to be as quiet as possible. Love it. Game nights are fun, but out of the box, silly family game nights are even better.

BINGING:
Adam and I are both CHAMPION show bingers, but what's been fun is using Amazon Prime or Hulu or Netflix to binge stuff that all four of us like. That may be old but that the girls haven't seen. American Ninja Warrior, Masterchef Jr., World of Dance. Actually the four of us love watching Love it or List it and trying to figure out how it'll end. Reagan in particular is always so MAD when she thinks it should have gone the other way. And both girls were actively rooting for their favorites in World of Dance and Masterchef Jr, and devastated when their favorites were eliminated.

TRIPS:
Now is the time to dive into the indoor stuff. We drove an hour to a mall that has a carousel and an indoor play place and spent a day there. The goal wasn't to shop, it was to get out of the house and have fun. We went to a Harry Potter day at the science museum. We used our reciprocal membership and went to an aquarium. We've been to an indoor ropes course. This is the time to get out and do all those fun indoor things!

And yeah, we keep doing school. After a two week break, I'm sure we'll come back with fresh eyes. We'll do some science projects we put off in December. We have a few books to read together. The girls will keep practicing dance. And we'll do those cleaning and organizing and purging jobs, fitting in the new Christmas things.

So although January isn't my favorite month, we've got the plans to make it fun.



Friday, December 21, 2018

Where Am I GOING?

 So it's December, and it feels like I'm always in the car, going somewhere. And because I'm always in the car, going somewhere, it feels like I'm always getting gas. And since I'm always getting gas, I'm trying to stay very aware of the money I'm spending, because it's December and my card is getting WORN OUT.

And then Adam is annoyed because he's looking at this brand new car I got in December and wondering how a stay at home mom can possibly log so many miles when she doesn't leave the surrounding towns.

So where am I going?

Well, I invested in a simple mileage tracker. Intended for business expenses, but it works for a stay at home mom with a nosy husband too.

To dance, between four and five times a week, sometimes six. Yes, we have a carpool, but it only saves me a few of those trips, especially because there are times when both girls are involved, but at different times. Dance is about 12 miles from our house on the other side of town. So, at minimum, I'm driving about 25 miles every day we go to dance. And that's MINIMUM. One trip there and back. If I come home during a two plus hour class and go back, it's a total of 50 miles (two round trips). If I decide not to come home, but to run errands during that time, it's about the same. So if I do that five times a week, I'm at 250 miles a week, 1000 miles a month, without leaving the town we live in or going ANYWHERE ELSE.

To homeschool co-op (20 miles away, 40 mile round trip) once a week.


To other classes (cooking, acro). Both are about 15 miles away, so a 30 mile round trip.

To field trips. Our field trips with our homeschool group are AMAZING, but we're responsible for all the transportation (obviously). We drove forty miles to do an amazing beach trip. Fifty miles to see a free performance of the Nutcracker by an amazing ballet company.

Visits to my family. Visits to friends.

Then, LIFE. Regular, daily, life. Grocery store and Target and church and the library and BJs. And yes, I combine those trips, try to consolidate and group errands, but honestly?

I was driving much less when all I was doing was commuting to work.

Yet, I have a good life now. I have two kids who have found activities they love and care about. I have family and friends to visit. My homeschooled kids have amazing opportunities, so many that we have to turn many of them down.

Where am I going? I don't know, but I know that I don't mind the journey, no matter how many miles it takes.

Monday, December 17, 2018

You Have Good Manners, Right?

So the other day I dealt with a rude kid. That's mean. This kid wasn't a hardcore bully or even a "mean kid" exactly. They (and I'm being quite careful not to indicate gender, because I don't dislike this kid, really) were just...rude. Nothing so heinous that I could call them out on it to their parents. Just...rude. A little entitled. A little demanding. A touch defiant. And a total lack of basic manners. I don't think the words "please" or "thank you" ever came out during our time together, and certainly no "excuse me" or "sorry for interrupting". In fact, they did one of my HUGE pet peeves, which is asking ME questions about my kid, IN FRONT of my kid.

Like, "wait, so Madison doesn't have to X?" or "has Reagan even ever been to Y?". Um, Madison and Reagan are literally sitting next to you. They are both capable of holding their own in a conversation. And if they aren't, THEY can ask me to weigh in.

Like I said, not bullying, but certainly not polite. And the lack of manners really gets to me sometimes.

On the other hand, I love when kids show great manners when they're around me (or other adults). They thank me for driving them, inviting them somewhere, bringing a snack. They initiate conversations with me that aren't "fact checking" style conversations about the girls, but the "did you have a good weekend? Are you ready for Christmas? Oh my mom likes this radio station too!" conversation starters that show, I don't know, good human interaction.

And then I realized that I'm not 100% sure which category my kids fall into when they're away from me.

I mean, I've taught them to be respectful of adults, to follow the rules in other people's homes or cars (shoes off or on in the house, if it's ok to have a snack in the car, is it ok to have my "phone" with me) even if they differ from ours with NO judgment. I've tried to instill the habit of thanking people for everything - your teachers at the end of a lesson, another parent for driving you or having you in their house. I've taught them to be careful with their words - to speak with kindness, and when you can't, to hold your tongue.

But are they doing it?

As we were heading out to carpool last week, I was dropping off a group and Madison was being picked up by another dad. Just before Madison got out I stopped her and said,

You always say "thank you for the ride" when you get out of the car, right?

She gave me that tween "look" and said "isn't that part of it?"

Do I have proof? Nope. Occasionally I'll get the "your girls are so wonderful" compliment, which is nice, but you never know if it's JUST being nice. But I'm hoping that my kids aren't those that are the subject of dinner table conversations in any other houses - at least not for their manners!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Staying Healthy Through the Winter

I've started laughing every time the words "you know, now isn't a great time to be sick," come out of my mouth.

I usually say it because I'm thinking that we have a party this weekend and a show this weekend and I don't want to be sick for this field trip and I definitely don't want anyone to be sick for the holidays. I mean, I don't even want Madison to be carsick right now, because of everything we're trying to do.

But...do I want us to be sick in January? Cooped up in a house thick with germs, so we can pass illness around from person to person? Do I want the girls sick when competition dance season starts heating up and they have to be healthy? IS there a GOOD time to be sick?

No, of course there isn't. Being sick is no fun, having sick kids is no fun, and having a sick husband is definitely no fun.

Now, I'm not what anyone would consider crunchy. Compared to my homeschooling friends I'm downright...what's the polar opposite of crunchy...soggy? Silky? I mean, in the homeschool world, having chickens and baking bread seem like base requirements. Every mom with an infant seems to babywear and cloth diaper, most adhere to some level of plant based/whole food diet, and it's not out of the ordinary to find someone who doesn't vaccinate or even participate in "western medicine".

However, I've started incorporating a few "crunchy" ideals to keep us healthy over the winter.

  • Natural Immunity Boosts: We use elderberry gummies and I sprinkle apple cider vinegar capsules into smoothies or on applesauce daily. I make a cinnamon and honey spread that tastes delicious and, supposedly, boosts immunity. When we start to feel those first signs of feeling sick, we amp it up with B6
  • Oils: I'm not a crazy oil person. I don't sell them or buy them in bulk or pretend that they're just as good as medicine when you're actually sick. But we do diffuse a few oils in the humidifiers - tea tree and eucalyptus and an immunity blend, especially when it seems like we've been exposed to something.
  • Water: I'm probably the worst in the family, but we've been trying to stay ultra hydrated and "peeing clear". I'm more of a seltzer or tea person, but the rest of them have daily water bottles that get refilled constantly. These water bottles are my favorite because they are so easy to clean and nowhere for mold to get trapped.
  • Stop and Rest: This is where homeschooling helps, because we can rest. I can give the girls the morning off if they wake up feeling crummy. They have a warm drink, a lazy start, and by mid morning they're usually ok to do a bit of work. We can get all our school done, knock off by early afternoon, and rest again before the evening activities. When we're not pushing, pushing, rushing to school, going hard, powering through, we seem to stay pretty healthy.
Do I expect us to have super human resistance? No, of course not. There's certainly no guarantee it'll continue to work ALL winter, especially when it seems like viruses are being passed around easily. But when we started these things a few years ago, we started our healthiest streak in a long time, so fluke or not, I'm willing to keep it going!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Winter Messes

Oh, I'm in my annoyed stage of December. I am trying SO HARD to be cleaned and ready for Christmas, and everything is fighting against me.

First of all, I'm bringing up about 900 new pieces of clutter (ok, fine, decorations). The girls are adding in all of these amazing projects and crafts that they are excitedly making and so proud of. Glittery snowmen! Button trees! Wax ornaments! Puffy paint kitchen towels! They have advent calendars that need to stay out so they can open them daily.

Then the cardboard. The sheer amount of cardboard, which feels completely disproportionate to amount of gifts we've purchased, but which is piling up ALL over the house, waiting to be cut down so we can recycle it. And since downstairs is what HAS to look nice, all the cardboard is ending up upstairs, cluttering up the hallway and our bedroom.

Then the projects. Projects came home from both co-ops. Projects came home from church. Big, elaborate, semester long projects that instill feelings of pride and desire for display by my kids. You know what goes beautifully with a cluttered table of snowmen? A giant diorama about animal classifications.

PLUS, I am 900 times busier with shopping and wrapping and Elf-ing and mailing and decorating, but we're also still homeschooling. And we have FOUR field trips (all to beautifully festive places and shows). So I have books and worksheets piled up as usual, and I am falling behind on my every day upkeep. And I have learned that if I fall behind, it is VERY hard to catch up. And I'm falling behind on the daily stuff every day.

By the way, when I brought this up, I learned that many homeschoolers take December off, for this very reason. I've always been more of a "follow a traditional calendar because we have so many non homeschooling friends and activities" person, but I am now REALLY feeling the logic.

Then there's the winter mess. Even on dry days, we have gloves and boots and hats and scarves and coats. After the first snowfall we ended up with the bath towel in the mudroom as a spot for slushy salty boots. And I'm still determined to keep my new car spic and span on the inside and NOT let winter salt and sand beat me.

But for all these messes I complain about, I love this season and I'm actually not outwardly grinchy at all. Don't tell me to cut back or not decorate.

After all, it's the best time of the year!
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