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Meltdown – Number Four.

We followed the path from Doctor S Land into Jurassic Park. Max wasn’t tall enough for the rides in this area. However, there was a building that housed a display of [fake] life-sized dino-bones. Hal took Max to look at the fake fossils and I found a private place to nurse Bella. She wasn’t asking for food, but then again, unless she is starving she never does. It was mama-instinct that told me she needed to drink to keep hydrated and to prevent the soon to come hunger pangs.

As we were all leaving the area Max spotted a dinosaur themed toy store. Hal took Bella outside to wait while Max picked out some toys. He proceeded to grab every toy he could reach announcing, “I want this and this and this!

Knowing I couldn’t buy him the store and that he wouldn’t understand why not, I still attempted to explain to him, “mommy can’t buy you all of these toys… What??? These bones cost 100 bucks??? Mommy isn’t going to buy this for you. Max, we can pick out a few toys but I can’t buy all of these…”

NOOOOO! I want them ALL!!!!!”

“Um, well, we can sort out what I will buy after you’ve picked out what you want, but I can’t buy them all.”

I went to the cashier and apologized for what I was about to do. She seemed to understand and allowed me to pile toys on the counter, with a very small pile to the right – the toys we were actually going to purchase.

Max could have spent the entire day in this store and felt as if his vacation was complete. As I was paying for the three toys I felt we could afford, Max promptly noticed that ALL of the toys were not being placed into the bag. He started to yell at me that he wanted all of those toys, too (pointing at the $100 box of fake dino-fossils). I looked at the cashier and apologized for my son’s destruction of her displays and told Max, “come on, we are leaving. I have your toys in this bag.”

I started to walk out of the store to meet Hal who I could see playing with Bella. I could hear Bossman behind me demanding more items. As I turned around to witness him plopping onto the floor and bellowing hysterically, I knew it was necessary to bring in the big guns. Hal looked up and responded with a facial expression that let me know he could hear our son. I told him to go get Max. Hal is “the big guns.” I took Bella and Hal went in to retrieve the boy.

We walked far away from the store – Max kicking, punching papa in the face, and screaming, I kid you not… Lola would by EVERYTHING for me that I want!!!!!! She gets me everything!!!! I turned around and said to Max, “well, you are not with Lola. You are with mommy and daddy.” I know there is no reasoning with a pissed-off toddler so left my comment short and to the point.

We all needed to eat, especially Max. As I was paying for some food Hal stood off to the side doing his best to keep a grip on the flailing Bossman. I could see him mentally talking himself out of dumping the boy in a garbage can.

With Bella in the front part of the stroller, sitting up and looking around like a big girl, two small pizzas in the back seat and two waters in my hand, I pushed the stroller towards the picnic table area. There were about eight tables under the pavilion and maybe three of them in the front area were occupied by calmer more pleasant families. As I was walking towards the tables (Max screaming at THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS) I could see the looks on the people’s faces and they looked frightened, very concerned, that we were heading in their direction. I could read it on them, “oh, I hope that family isn’t coming over here.” Yes, we were That Family with the toddler having a melt down… the toddler that everyone but us knew how to handle.

But see… we were handling it. We were ignoring his behavior and allowing him space to express his total dissatisfaction with not being able to get what he wanted. Hal was holding him tightly and not allowing him to run off – which yes, pissed him off but kept him safe. Hal was also calmly talking to him between screams trying to sooth the side of Max’s brain that harbors intellect. Toddlers are still operating in between their front and back brains (reasoning and primitive) and Max’s expression of anger was straight out of the animal world. He was pissed and lashing out to express it. Had we punished him for expressing this very big emotion, and did that every time he had a meltdown, he would begin to suppress the expression of his bigger feelings (and the feeling itself) in order to fit the mold of “well behaved.” Hal and I don’t want that. So, we waited out his temper tantrum and gave him a soft place to land when it was over… half an hour after it started. It was the longest and most intense tantrum I have ever seen him throw. And only the second one in his life that has occurred in public.

Don’t get me wrong, the above explanation of our modus operandi wasn’t on our minds in that moment. Surviving was. Our response to Max was instinctual while simultaneously wishing we were anywhere but there and hating the very job of parenting. But I guess that is how parenting always is in difficult times… you respond to intense situations instinctually based on your intellect.

Anyhoo… I think it was me chowing down on pizza, drinking cold water, and asking if he wanted to eat coupled with Hal’s papa-hugs and calm voice that eventually snapped Max out of his monkey-brain. Oh, and of-course, the sheer grace of Time.

Max finally agreed to water and food. We all looked at the toys that I did buy and then… I did something I’ve never done before… I went back into the store and bought him a couple of the other toys he wanted. I reasoned that he will not get another opportunity to be in a store with that many dinosaur toys again for a long time, he loves all his dino-toys, he plays with all of them, he knows all of their scientific names, and he was done throwing his tantrum… I love this kid so much and wanted to get a couple more [of the cheaper] toys for him. He was pleased as pie.

When I got back from the second round at the store – not without receiving disapproving looks and a judgmental comment from the store employee…

… if I am judged as a parent by anyone, whether its to my husband’s or my own face, I instantly distrust and feel violated by that person. Not because I care about what they are saying [I have faith in my ability to raise my own kids], but it pisses me off that people have the audacity to conclude and rudely express that they know what is best for my children – regarding any issue – my children whom these judging assholes spend NO TIME AT ALL WITH. SO KEEP YOUR INTRUSIVE ROLLING FUCKING EYES TO YOURSELF…

ANYWAY… I know you mama’s know what I’m talking about…

*Breath* Okay, that was a vent.

When I got back from the second round at the store Hal noticed that my cell phone which was tucked away in the diaper bag, was ringing off the hook. He answered it to find a very pissed-off sister who had previously told him she was leaving her house in 20 minutes to meet us at the park, previously… about 2 hours ago. Oops. SIL and her boyfriend had been sitting at a bar drinking, trying to get a hold of us for the past 1 ½ hours.

See, when SIL told Hal that she was leaving in 20 minutes, Max was having Meltdowns Number 2 & 3, in the car, respectively. Upon hanging up the cell, Hal hardly remembered that he had spoken with her because of Max’s demands on our attention. Sheila, did not understand. She was pissed and let both of us know it.

After giving us some gruff over the phone, which we could care less about because we had just dealt with the King of Gruff at his worst, we agreed to meet her at the Spider Man ride. We apologized profusely, again, dumped the kids off with her and her boyfriend, and darted onto the Spider Man ride.

Here is the quick version of the rest of the trip:

It was around 3 pm when we got back to our room. I gave Max a bath and he fell asleep in the tub as I was rubbing him down with soap. Hal and I chilled with Bella as Max napped for the next couple of hours.

We previously made plans with SIL to have dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, around 6pm that night. She was really looking forward to it. We, on the other hand, wanted to stay in bed.

Everything in us wanted to cancel our dinner date but we felt Sheila wouldn’t understand (…besides, we also really wanted a good meal) so we packed up our sleeping children into the Caravan and went out to eat. Max slept until we sat down at the table and Bella slept through the meal.

We said our “see you next month’s,” to SIL and her boyfriend, went back to the hotel, and zonked-out. Thursday morning we left the city of Orlando by 9am – eating our breakfast on the road.

All of this in just three days and two nights.

You know, it was an experience. It wasn’t always easy but overall the trip was worth it. We’ll be better prepared next year and will probably do something different.

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Vacation Story – Part One

Morning Time – Getting Ready – Day One.

Our vacation was a mixture of bliss and hell.

We originally planned on dropping Max off at school Tuesday morning, 9 am sharp, then heading out to the airport to pick up our rental car. That didn’t happen as we all slept in until 8 am. No biggie, though, if there is one thing Hal and I have learned as parents, it is that we must remain flexible in our plans. When all was said and done for the trip, we left our town only two hours later than we originally planned – making it to Orlando at 4 pm instead of 2.

We got lucky as I was charming enough to get the rental car guy to upgrade our rental to a minivan without extra charge. When I say “charming enough” you have to mix those words with a little bit of “pathetic enough,” because I did give a little sob story about how we drive a Hyundai Accent, have two kids and would love to just experience the roominess of a larger car because, you know, we are a family of big people. A little charm and kindness on my part – oh yeah, a Dodge Caravan would be wonderful, thank you! He was a kind person and I was actually very truthful and sincere in my quest for a bigger car.

On Our Way There.

The drive to Orlando was so nice. Hal and I talked the whole way as the kids slept comfortably [and far away from us] in the back seat. We were able to load everything we needed into the very back area because the seats folded down. The stereo was on low, the cruise control was on, and the conversation flowed. We are now convinced that we must buy a mini van instead of a small SUV. I have always hated the idea of driving a mini van because, oh my gawd, people will be able to tell that I’m a mom even when I don’t have my kids with me! Now, I feel like… screw that ridiculous insecurity/superficial idea of autonomy. Give me the mini van! I could travel all over the states in one of these.

In Orlando!

When we arrived in Orlando we went straight to my SIL’s house. She lives smack dab in the middle of the downtown area in a condo high rise. It’s a great location but the parking sucks. It also freaked Hal and I out when Max opened her front door looking like he was about to dart into the downtown traffic. Note to self: lock all doors in homes we visit, especially when said homes are in high traffic areas. We hung out at Aunt She-She’s place for a while – long enough for my librarian hubby to walk down to the central library to size it up. When Hal returned, impressed by the library, we headed out to a burrito joint and decided to take our food to the hotel. We were all exhausted. Why is driving so tuckering?

At The Hotel.

I am so sad to say, I did not bring my camera with me on this trip. Of-course, as we were leaving our town I got that feeling: I know I’m forgetting something. It wasn’t until I saw the amazing, we’d-never-stay-here-if-SIL-didn’t-pay-for-it hotel, that I realized that I left my camera at home. The hotel was beautiful, a five minute walking distance from Island of Adventure, and way upper class. Yeah, we felt totally out of place. Though, I ain’t gonna lie, I still loved it.

Hal opened the curtains in our 7th floor room to find a larger than life window giving a perfect view of the Incredible Hulk roller coaster and the two Dr. Doom Towers. We felt like royalty. Well, I did. Hal tends to get his Class Warrior Hat on in situations and around people that are too fancy. I love that about him. He did, however, find the scenery and convenience of being right at the park very nice.

Pool Time!

After eating our soggy Mexican fair we hung out in the room for the appropriate 45 mins to allow our food to digest. Bossman didn’t touch the food because as he exclaimed, he wasn’t hungry. I knew this stubbornness could reek havoc on him [and us] later but decided to just plow forward with the night and hope for the best. Sheila, Max, and I suited up and went down to the mile long pool with a very large kiddy water-play area. Hal and Bella tagged along suit free – because of Bella’s skin I don’t want her in chlorine water. By the way, Bella is a very chill, go with the flow, kind of baby and was content as can be the whole time.

I have read about other moms with kids in tow experiencing the stink eye from strangers in public spaces but it wasn’t until we went into the hot tub that I felt those eyes laid upon me. Naturally, I ignored the two – totally put out because my son was wrapped around me – adults, and slid right into the hot tub with Sheila. Max is not typically an obnoxious, hyper, or talkative kid in public so I am very comfortable with him in pretty much every situation [that I’m willing to take him into]. After pointing at Max and murmuring something in their homeland language, the Stink Eye Throwers left and we had the large enough for 10 people hot tub all to ourselves. Go Max, you rule.

We were in the pool, kids area, and hot tub for about an hour before deciding it was time to retire for the night. As we were leaving the pool area Max needed to pee so started pulling down his britches while he was still standing at the edge of the pool. It was hard to convince him that he needed to wait until we got into the room, but somehow I did it through my [hidden from his line-of-sight] laughter. I reminded him of the time he did the same thing at Iris’s house (though he was standing out of the pool aiming for it) and Heidi asked him to pee in the bushes. He said, “Oh,” and that seemed to be enough.

The bottled water in the room cost $7 and the food in the “mini-bar” was way over priced (I’m talking 3 bucks for a Snickers). We were thirsty and needed food to snack on. Hal and Sheila decided to run up to the store for some room food-fair as I agreed to hang back with the kids. And now is when my personal hell began.

Melt Down – Number One.

Max, sharp as a whip boy that he is, doesn’t miss anything within his line of sight. During our earlier exploration of the room he saw that the mini-bar was stocked full of goodies. Stocked AND easy to open. When I said, “No,” to his request of free-range to the fridge all hell broke loose. He cried, screamed, kicked, punched, and angrily attempted to move me from blocking the box that held the sacred [better be golden for that price] bars of chocolate.

As he was exploding I was on the phone calmly expressing to the front desk person the immediate urgency of my situation. She didn’t make one note of indication that she understood so I assumed she didn’t have children and explained further. I know she could hear my son, EVERYONE in the hotel could hear him. She was confused because normally, the mini-bar is locked and we were in a newly renovated room so she thought I already had a key because why else would it be open? Two phone calls, one visit from a staff member who also seemed confused that the bar was opened – and why don’t you just lock it? Oh its broken – let me get another department up here to help you – and 20 minutes later (Max still fitting over getting in that damn bar) a maintenance man finally comes to fix the f’ing lock. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I had to set BossLady down a couple times to harness my boy’s lunges at the million dollar candy bar and she promptly started up her pterodactyl death scream (not cry) demanding to be held. We must have been a popular family on the sixth and seventh floors.

I will say this about Max… as soon as another person, a stranger, walked into the room he stopped his shenanigans. He is very private about his feelings which means [lucky for mom and pop] he normally doesn’t throw public temper tantrums. Normally.

So the very nice maintenance dude fixed the lock with a little twist of the wrist and Max forgot all about that bar. Me and my two children snuggled up in bed to watch some lame inappropriate [but I was too tired to care] Comedy Central cartoon. When Hal opened the door with food in hand he couldn’t even tell that an emotional storm just passed through the room. I immediately handed off the kids and took a long hot shower.

Park Day! Breakfast Time.

We all woke up at 8am excited to go to Islands of Adventure – our park of choice because there are more rides geared towards Max’s age and of-course, Hal’s and my favorite ride, Spider Man, is there.

Our first mission: breakfast. Despite the Fancy Pants that the hotel we were staying in claimed to don, we were not offered a free continental breakfast. For they offered room service. I guess rich assholes deserve to pay too much for everything. For us, the IHOP would have to do.

Going out to eat is NOT one of those places that I’m usually willing to take Max. He has no older kids around to help teach him table manners and of-course mom and dad have no idea what we are talking about. It is not reasonable to ask Max to wipe his face on the napkin and not the wall. Or, to put the syrup on the pancake, not the table. Or to talk softly and not scream. No, parents asking this of their 2 ½ year old is not right. And Max makes certain that we know just how outlandish our requests for social etiquette are.

He – for some ungodly reason – does not like syrup on his pancakes. He doesn’t like the pancakes too much either. He wouldn’t eat any eggs, toast, or hash browns. He drank a little bit of his OJ and overall, reeked havoc on our attempts at a peaceful breakfast. Hal and I just looked at each other and said, “we are NOT leaving the house with our kids again until they are 7 and 9 years old. No, we are not.” Agreed.

The waitress was very cool and encouraging as I spoke with her about my current stress level. She was a grandma and offered some words of wisdom and support.

Whew, we made it through breakfast – spirits still intact.

This trip was a lesson in “How To Be Even More Prepared When Vacationing With Kids.” We totally should have had breakfast – bought from a grocery store – at our hotel. This added car drive/trip was not worth the full tummy. Especially since Max hardly touched any of the food and Hal and I ate so quickly we hardly chewed.

Meltdown – Numbers Two and Three, Back to Back.

Oops, mommy and daddy forgot to pack the sunblock so had to stop at a Walgreen’s after breakfast and before returning to the hotel. Max, on the other hand, didn’t want to stop. When Hal got out of the car, Max imploded into a million little pieces demanding that I drive away RIGHT NOW!!!!!!! WHAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!

I was thankful he was strapped down in the car seat and I out of his reach. However, I wasn’t far enough away. He was still able to reach me with his shoes and toys – both of which clocked me in the head. He’s got a good arm.

When he has these kinds of emotional outbursts I tend to do one of two things, when I’m in my “Zen Zone,” I stay calm and tell him what is going on, when we will be leaving, that I know how he is feeling, so-on-and-so-forth. I ignore his physical expression of his anger or respectfully ask him to not hit/throw/kick me or the house. That is the Calm Mommy in me. The other way I deal, which is when I’m eh, how you say… not so calm, is by yelling at him, threatening to take his toys away, or putting him in time-out.

I’m proud to say, despite the challenges Max presented on this trip, I stayed in the Zen Zone of parenting the entire time.

By the time Hal got back and sat in his Seat of Pain, I was ready to leave Orlando – scrap the damn park. Being in my Zen Zone doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything. And at this point, I was feeling pretty f’ing pissed. As we drove out of the Walgreen’s parking lot and I contemplated hightailing it home, we passed Wet N’ Wild. Max got VERY MAD that we were not driving closer to those big water slides that he just decided he needed to go on. Oh boy. And the tantrum continued but for a different reason.

Hal and I just looked at one another in solidarity and understanding. We even had a chuckle at the absurdity of it all.

Going To The Park, Finally.

Max’s temper tantrums tend to stop as quickly as they start and he becomes a different kid in the blink of an eye. He just wanted to be somewhere he wasn’t and I certainly understand that feeling. Getting out of the car and into the double stroller morphed him into his happy side and Hal and I couldn’t have been more relieved.

Hal pushed the kids and we all walked a lovely, foliage rich, sidewalk path straight to the park. Max awed over the leaves and questioned what the reflections of light on the bridge were. Bella chilled in her part of the stroller taking everything in with her silent eyes of wonderment. Hal talked to Max and I walked closely behind them feeling deeply in love with this beautiful family. Who needs a theme park when family life is a much higher roller coaster?

At The Park.

We went straight to Dr. Seuss Land. Max and I have been talking about riding these rides together for the past month and now it was really happening! I don’t know who was more excited, him, me.. or Hal? September, during the week, is the best time to hit the theme parks because there is absolutely NO waiting time to get on each ride. Max and I rode every ride in Dr. Seuss Land, and some of them twice. It was so nice to be able to turn around and get back on the ride without even leaving the riding area – especially since Max doesn’t really understand that when the ride is over, its really over. There was a couple times that had we needed to leave the ride, he would have fallen apart. The staff was pretty chill about us just hopping on another turn without walking through the exit and entrance again.

Hal looked like a blissed-out papa as he watched us ride or fly by waving and grinning a smile ear to ear. Bella was sleeping during most of this time but when she woke up, Hal held her so we could wave at her, too.

It started to rain pretty hard as we were taking our bathroom break but fortunately, it was a typical Florida shower. It only lasted about 20 minutes.

The Cat in the Hat and The Grinch characters (aka: underpaid people in hot-as-hell costumes) came out and Max couldn’t give them enough hugs. There was a line of tourist waiting to take their kid’s picture with the characters and Max kept skipping everyone and taking over the show. There were a few folks who thought Max was so cute that they wanted him in their picture, too! No one was getting upset because they could see that mama was trying to persuade the boy out of their camera shots.  There was a lot of, “oh my gawd he is so cute!” comments.  It was endearing and I’m sure everyone who was privy to my son’s love of the Dr. Seuss characters will never forget the curly-haired little boy who stole the show.

To be continued…

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