have a perfection-free magical Disney day!

In the past, I have said there’s no greener garden than motherhood in which perfectionism can grow like kudzu.

Disney 2006

Still true. But there may be a close secondary Paradise of Perfectionists: a trip to Disney World.

We are off to Orlando for three days tomorrow morning. The kids are excited but not vomiting-excited. We planned this trip at the last minute, mostly because we were already going to be in Florida for ten days, and by the next time we get here, Maggie may be too big for princesses once and for all. If she’s not too big already. As I tucked her in last night:

ME: Maggie, are you getting excited to see the princesses?

Maggie looks at me with pity. She gestures for me to bend so she can whisper in my ear.

MAGGIE: **They’re really just girls wearing costumes Mommy.**

Deny, deny, deny.

ME: What? No way! I mean sometimes princesses are just people in costumes. But Disney World is the place where they’re all actually real!

Maggie ponders this. Finally:

MAGGIE: Okay. There’s like a one percent chance they’ll be real.

This was a lesson for me in pre-setting expectations. If I stand in line with Maggie for ninety minutes so she can experience the wonders of Ariel’s Grotto Fantasy Meet & Greet in the New Fantasyland, and if, upon our exit, Maggie goes with the girl-in-costume verdict, I am hereby declaring that I will not die a little inside.

Nor will I snap at my eight-year-old when he says he’s hot.

Nor will I tell my ten-year-old we’re not riding Space Mountain AGAIN if 1) my other kids are fine with that and 2) it’s making him happy.

This will be hard for me, because I am a planner. I am a researcher. After I entered the Disney 1-800 customer service vortex and booked a hotel, I checked TripAdvisor, and thanks to Jesse D. of Rockport, ME, willingly re-entered said vortex to find a new hotel. The “main pool” at the first hotel I had chosen was under construction, and while I will probably be really pissed if we spend more than twenty minutes of our seventy-two Disney hours in a swimming pool, the idea of not having the OPTION to swim, at Disney prices, was not something I was about to tolerate. That would not be Disney magic. That would not be perfect.

See, that’s much more my style. I have downloaded not one but two iPhone apps that estimate wait times for rides, enabling one to plan a Magical Day with maximum efficiency. And I could have those apps open every minute we’re in those parks, planning the most important, crowd-zig-zagging thing we should be doing at that moment, rather than just be.

I am telling myself today that we’re better off going on four rides a day, waiting in lines that are for chumps, eating at our fifth choice restaurant and staying up way past our kids’ bedtimes, rather than have a “perfect” trip with me in drill sergeant mode. That’s what my kids want, and heaven knows that’s what my husband wants (although he will be asking me where’s the best place near the Haunted Mansion for some salmon and steamed vegetables, very little oil. He will have to manage his expectations as well.)

Most of all, it’s what I want.

I hereby declare I will have an hot, inefficient, imperfect trip to Disney World, and that I will enjoy it thoroughly.

That being said give me your tips below.

Or at least wish me luck.


do you worry about what your kids are doing on play dates?

One of my favorite bloggers recently asked a question on her Facebook page that was too hot for the blog. And I don’t mean Fifty Shades of Gray-hot. She’d “been made,” as she put it, by the other mothers at school, who– wonder of wonders– had discovered her blog and were actually reading it. And here was her too-hot-to-blog question:

I am struggling with how to respond to the increasing requests for our kids to go over to another child’s house after school. I don’t really feel like touring someone’s house or having a few conversations gives me the info I need to feel confident – if anything my job has taught me that there is no “profile” or outward marker for trustworthiness. But then I feel like a jerk when I keep saying no, and also feel bad because my kids feel left out. (But not bad enough to change my convictions). How do I say no gracefully?

Honestly, this about blew my mind. Wait: you say NO to play dates? You say no to free babysitting, a kid or two less until dinner time? Assuming they’re not convicted serial killers, why not go for it?

I mean, I wish play dates didn’t have to exist at all; I wish my kids could walk home from school, have a snack, cut across a few yards to Susie Krupski’s house, and then play Barbies until the church bells ring at 6:15 which means it’s time to get home for dinner. That’s how I did it, unless Susie had to go tot the dentist or something. Plan B: Megan Scanlon’s house.

And so I do think my ten-year-old should have more control over his own social calendar than he does. But that’s not life in New York City- or from what my friends tell me, many other places- these days. If my kids don’t have pre-scheduled plans after school, the chances of them happening upon a friend to play with is close to nil. If my kids didn’t go on play dates (or host them) they wouldn’t have developed the relationships with their friends that they have.

But this blogger had 107 responses to her question, most saying I know, me too, it’s so hard. And once I stopped and thought about it? Some great points being made. To wit:

It’s hard to casually interview a classmate’s parents on the things that matter to me: 1) Do you keep porn in the home and are you 100% sure your kids don’t have access to the stash. 2) Do you have guns and are they locked away. 3) Will my kids actually be playing or just watching tv at your house. 4) Will they be playing in the main area of your home or in a room behind a closed door. 5) Are their older brothers at home. 6) What internet filtering software do you use on your computers. 7) Does your child have an unsecured ipad or iphone. . Are there other adults living in your home. 9) Do you let the kids roam the neighborhood. 10) Does your child play violent video games. Etc etc etc. Not exactly the questions you get answered in a drop-off situation.

If this mom asked me those questions? No porn, no guns, no violent video games. That’s easy. But:

3) Will your children actually be playing or just watching TV? I would have absolutely told you “no TV during play dates at our house,” but that would be a lie, since Maggie told me just last week she and her friend “mostly just watched TV” during their play date at our house. (Note to self: have even those conversations with the babysitter that seem completely obvious.)

4) Will they be playing behind a closed door? Maggie and her friend usually put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign as soon as they get home, so they can get all American Girl without interruption from

5) the two older brothers who are at home. 8 and 10. Utterly innocent. But yes, there.

6) Our internet filtering software? “Ask Mom before using the computer.”

7) access to an unsecured iPhone? Well, mine, if it’s not in my pocket. I don’t let them use it during play dates but I don’t “secure” it.

In other words, although I think myself an attentive and upstanding parent, I would fail this person’s Play Date Pre-Screening. And even though I can swear her children would be safe in my home, I can’t say she doesn’t have a right to disagree.

I trust my kids’ school, I trust the parent body, I like their friends and feel comfortable with them having play dates with families we’re acquainted with, even if I haven’t visited the home. If I ever worried about anything, it would be that they were playing video games or watching TV the whole time. Or at least, that’s all I worried about until today.

How about you? Do you forbid play dates, pre-screen where they occur? Do you have rules for play dates in your own home? Would your home pass the Play Date Test?


What Was? books: for children of moms who were just so-so in history


Sometimes the universe knows what you need before you do.

Just as I was becoming completely exasperated at the endless series of “Farty McPoopy and the Burpy Butt”- type books that my 8- and 10-year-old boys were reading…

Just when, after watching Lincoln only confused them, my boys stumped me by asking me for serious details on the Civil War…

a present from heaven arrived on our doorstep: a selection of the brand-spanking-new What Was? series of books from Grosset & Dunlap.

Seriously, the boys were pretty psyched about this. They’ve already read most of the Who Was? series at school, and can wax eloquently about everyone from Rosa Parks to Steve Jobs as a result. In the great Kenneth C. Davis tradition, these books really do make history fun. Here’s 10-year-old Connor’s review:

 This is a great series from what I’ve read so far. These books tell you a lot about interesting historic events! What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? tells you every detail of this bloody battle. It gives you the whole backstory of preparing for the battle, how the Civil War began, and ended. It explains each general of both sides, Abe Lincoln’s election, and tells the story of life as a soldier. This awesome series relates to the WHO WAS? books, so if you like the WHO WAS? books I would recommend this series.

If that sounds too good-for-you for your own Farty McPoopy readers, try this edited version:

“…Bloody! …Awesome!”

That’s right: the What Was? books are engaging, intelligent, bloody, and awesome. And now my kids know way more about the Boston Tea Party than I do.


Financial compensation was not received for this post. Penguin Young Readers provided sample books for review. Opinions expressed here are my own.