Monday, July 29, 2013

Maybe a Little Introduction is in Order?

I realized this evening, that I threw myself into this blog with our vacation - not exactly the almost hippie-ness that the title suggests.  So, I figured that I'd backtrack a bit tonight - after all, this blog is about more than our weeklong vacation, right?

Hello there!  Welcome to my blog, The Almost Hippie Mama!

This is me - with a 3 year old growing off my shoulder
Why almost?  To be fair, I never heard of people referred to as crunchy, or chewy, or creamy -- until I reentered the online parenting community in 2009.  Yes, reentered.  I did the mommy groups and got my weekly emails years before, when I was pregnant with my first child.  However, there's a nine year gap between my children - and that gap meant that I'd moved on to PTAs and Girl Scout meetings when I found myself revisiting those mommy-to-be sites.  
And this time around saw me a bit more open-minded in my parenting approach.  With my first, I wrinkled my nose at anything not mainstream*.  She wore Pampers almost exclusively (I was never able to get a good fit with other brands - or they'd fall apart on her bottom, which was nasty.), and cruised around in her travel system.  I did try a sling with her as a newborn, but had no idea what I was doing - by the time she was 10lbs, I thought she was too big/heavy.  She was a Gerber baby, going from cereal, to purees, to those microwaveable toddler finger food meals.  Cow's milk at 12 months, carseat turned forward at 20lbs. Yep, I was mainstream mommy.  She went to bed in her crib every night.  
* I did breastfeed exclusively for six months, and let her lead the weaning process at 22 months. But that doesn't seem crunchy to me, even now.  Especially now?

Then, just after that first year, I was a single mom.  And, while a lot of those things continued, I found myself letting her take the lead - it was up to her if she wanted to nurse.  She wanted to sleep in mommy's bed and that worked for us.  As I became more comfortable with the whole parenting alone thing, I slipped away from those many mommy sites, and the judgements that they contained.

Mamahood pt. 2 was not expected - but I entered those baby sites with some anticipation.  What did I find? A lot of the same, with a lot of drama.  But I also found this subset of mamas within the communities who really spoke to me.  In the nine years between children, I'd gone back to school, completed my BA, been accepted into grad school, completed one MA, and was at the tail end of a second MA.  I was all about the research.  And these mamas - sanctimommies, their detractors labeled them - spoke to me. 
These mamas opened up all new ways of looking at parenting to me - babywearing, cloth diapering... and in immersing myself in these groups, I learned enough to make the decision to try them.  Thus the Almost Hippie Mama was born. 

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of mainstream things that I do.  I'm addicted to my Diet Coke and can do hefty damage with my Target Redcard.  I love taking my kids to Disney World.  But I do try to balance my materialism with as much natural (for lack of a better term?) living as we can manage.

The result?  I'm a still single mama to a now 12 year old daughter, the muffin, and a three year old son, the cookie.  I like baked goods - the chewy/crunchier, the better.  I also teach composition at local institutions of higher learning.  The kiddos and I live with Violet Whey, our VW beagle, and Grandpa (my dad).  Our summers usually focus on our home garden and playing at the local amusement/water park.  The rest of the year tends to focus on school (my teaching, the muffin's attending).  
Throughout it all, though, we are determined to enjoy as many adventures as we can!
Muffin & Cookie looking out over the Chesapeake Bay, July 2013.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dining Done Disney

Our one Disney tradition is to eat at Chef Mickey's on our first night. 

It has always been such a fun way to kick off our vacation - yummy food, classic Disney characters.  Before we even hit the parks, we've been personally greeted by The Mouse, himself.  So, of course, this year's trip also started with a dinner at Chef Mickey's.

M, N, and H at Chef Mickey's.

EJ, A, and I celebrating the start of our vacation

The food was, as always, yummy. 
The company was terrific
(we are all extremely hysterical people).
And there were characters (other than just us)!

The weather raged outside during our meal, but we enjoyed the atmosphere inside and discussed what attractions we were going to visit that evening in the Magic Kingdom.  We missed the storm and looked forward to playing in the park until 3am (thank you, extra magic hours!).

My biggest thrill, though, was watching this:
EJ met his hero, in person/mouse.

One of the great things about staying on property at Disney World is the opportunity to utilize the Disney Dining Plan.  Budgeting has never been my forte - so, budgeting food costs for a vacation to Disney World is just begging for something to go awry.  I also know a lot of people who stay places that give them the opportunity to cook their own meals and save some money.  While, yes, that would cost less monetarily, it would also mean that it wasn't so much of a vacation for me. 
And the Disney Dining Plan means that Chef Mickey's was just the first of some wonderful dining experiences:
Hollywood Studios

Lunch at the Sci-Fi Dine In Cafe was lots of fun. 
S'mores milkshakes, vegetarian shepherd's pie, ribs, fried pickles, great desserts - all while sitting in our snazzy "car" and watching film clips on an indoor drive-in movie screen. 


Dinner at Disney's Polynesian was spectacular.  There was nothing that wasn't scrumptious - salad, noodles, wings, dumplings, veggies, 4-5 different kinds of meat (that's Gary, offering up another kabob of chicken to our table, and A and I being goofy).  The coconut pineapple sweetbread at the beginning of the meal was only topped by the bread pudding, made with that same bread, served for dessert.
H is a vegetarian, so Gary spoke to a chef and presented her with a really yummy looking dish of veggies and tofu, to make sure she wasn't left out of the feast.

Beach Club

We also enjoyed the seafood buffet at Cape May Cafe.  We had some transportation issues that resulted in us being almost an hour late - but they held our reservation and we were able to enjoy a wonderful and relaxing dinner.  I learned that while refined butter is lovely on crab, it's also amazing on freshly baked cornbread. 
Oh. My. Yum.

1900 Park Fair

Our second character meal was breakfast at the Grand Floridian.  Cheese blintzes, Mickey shaped waffles, eggs made to order, eggs Benedict in a lobster sauce, bananas foster - basically, all kinds of yumminess - combined with meeting Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, and the Mad Hatter.  A fabulous meal!
The meal that I was most looking forward to was our dinner at Boma, in the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  It absolutely lived up to its hype, but because I was clucking so much over EJ (it was the day that he was overcome by the heat), I got no photos.  Obviously, we'll have to revisit Boma, not only for the bobotie and the mushroom soup, but to get some photos.

Our last night at Disney World included a fabulous dining experience at Germany's Biergarten in EPCOT's World Showcase.  You can see my last post for video from that night

These were just our table service meals at Disney World.  Our dining plan also included snacks (a toasted croissant with ham and swiss inside from the boulangerie in France counted as just a snack!) and a counter service meal for each night of our stay.  In all, a LOT of food.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Making Everyone Happy in the Happiest Place on Earth

Yeah - long story short, it's a myth.  Combining two families, with children ranging in ages from 13 to 3 pretty much guarantees one big fat thing - there's no way to make everyone happy. 

I've heard and read all the stories and studies:  vacations = stress.  But, in my humble defense, this was our first family vacation since EJ joined the party.  All of our earlier family vacations (also known as just A and myself indulging in Disney for a week) have been pretty stress free. 

The first time I took A, when she was 3 years old, I made the statement (and adhered to it) that I'd done Disney for myself already.  Heck, I lived and worked there for a semester in college.  Our vacations would revolve around what SHE wanted to do.  Seeing her face light up was enough for me.  And that plan worked - each time we went to Disney World.  Vacation revolved around making magic for my daughter.

This strategy works well in an only child environment.  It does not work as well for a single mama with a twelve year old daughter and a three year old son.  Disparate interests is an understatement.  Combine this challenge with those of bringing together the varying expectations of two different families and - honestly, I'm impressed our vacation wasn't a huge disaster. 

There were challenges - lots of challenges.  A twisted ankle, blisters, heat exhaustion, a spider bite, deflated air mattress (remember, we were camping), dehydration, oppressive heat, sunburn, lost bags, lost tickets, and a lost phone were just some of the plot twists that occurred on our vacation.  Yet our last night still involved this kind of frivolity:


It all came together.  The older ones enjoyed a certain amount of freedom - and, I think most importantly, we went into the vacation agreeing to talk, to not take anything personally, and to split up and meet for meals and fastpasses when interests didn't all mesh.

This year's trip to Disney World was a learning experience for me.  Family vacations are getting a facelift, now that our family has a new face - but they can still be absolutely magical!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Taking on Disney World!

I have to hand it to Disney, they offer a variety of options to families looking to vacation with them.

When I was a kid, Disney World wasn't nearly as big.  When my parents brought us down in the mid eighties, we stayed at a Days Inn for a week and spent time at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Sea World.

The next time I went to Disney World was in 1999 - by then the fact that was given often was that there were so many options, just on Disney property, for eating, staying, and entertainment, that it would take more than six weeks of never doing the same thing twice to get around to experiencing everything that Walt Disney World had to offer.

Since becoming a mama, I've made sure that we have, for all our Disney vacations, stayed on property.  Miss A and I have enjoyed the hospitality of Disney's Boardwalk, the AllStar Movies Resort, the Pop Century Resort, and Disney's Fort Wilderness.  When I decided to bring both A and EJ to Disney World this year, I chose to book with Ft. Wilderness again. 

We chose to share this Disney adventure with friends, another single mama (N) and her two children, H (her 13 year old daughter) and M (her 9 year old son).  The six of us drove down to Florida and camped in the tenting section of Ft. Wilderness.  Going into it, we knew that it was going to be an adventure.  Tent camping in Florida in July? How could it possibly not be an adventure?

Don't get me wrong, the camping at Disney World is possibly the nicest camping I've ever experienced.  Every site is flat, level, clear, close to the comfort stations, equipped with water and electricity.  And it's Disney World - all the people who work there are so pleasant; but it's camping, too, so there's more a sense of community and camaraderie that one would find in a regular hotel-resort.  In short, there's a lot of friendliness going on there!

And so, on July 3rd, N and I found ourselves putting up tents and beginning our Disney adventure with four wild and crazy kiddos...

For eight days and seven nights, this was the home base of our adventures - and goodness gracious, there were a lot of adventures to be had at Disney World!