Madelyn and the King

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn, Mommy's Musings

Madelyn is halfway through her senior year of preschool and she’s loving it. We are also loving the experience and watching her grow and blossom is so cool. I have no doubt that she’ll be more than kindergarten-ready, and while I’m excited to see her world get bigger in kindergarten, I want to squish her and pin her down to her preschool cubby so that she’ll stay little forever. That perfect little preschool bubble is just as comfortable for parents!

First day of school with visions of owning the playground dancing in her head.

First day of school with visions of owning the playground dancing in her head.

She’s in a pretty large class with other 4-year-olds and has two phenomenal teachers. As far as I’m concerned, they should both win Nobel Peace Prizes for the amount of content they seem to flood into the kids’ heads, all with such patience, enthusiasm, and warmth.

Madelyn went into her class this year unable to write her name, and now she’s writing it — both ways: Maddie and Madelyn — all over the place like its the newest trend in graffiti art. She already knew her letters and sounds, but now she’s starting to blend them and doing some basic reading. Kah-psshhhhh. There goes my mind. It’s blown.

This might be worth something one day.

This might be worth something one day.

My favorite thing about Madelyn in school this year is that she comes home and gives us a full report of who ate with who, a list of the naughty kids, the flavors of sand cakes she made in the sandbox, and a dinnertime recital of the songs that she’s learning from her teachers.

Tonight at the dinner table, she randomly started telling us a story that she clearly learned at school. We were wrapping things up and about to start the dishes when she broke out into this tale.

“There was a king. An old, old king from a long time ago.”

I assumed right away that she was telling us a story about a Jewish holiday and I immediately went into my mental calendar to think about this time of year and which holiday involves a king from a long time ago. Clearly, I failed Sunday school because I could not come up with it. So I asked her to elaborate. What did this king do? I assumed he would either save the slaves or enslave them. That’s usually how the story of our people go. And then we eat a deli platter.

“The old king said people are different. And then he yelled at the people about what he believed.”

Bryan and I squinted at each other. I think we were about to go with Pharaoh from the Passover story… In January. Weird, but whatever.

Madelyn saw we weren’t really getting it. She sighed. Rolled her eyes. And tried again.

“The old king! He was old. From a long, long time ago. And he told everyone they should go to school. He yelled at everyone. With a microphone.”

King. School. Microphone. It’s January.

The lightbulb went off in my head, but Bryan still looked confused. I recapped her words and we both broke out into belly laughs.

I asked Madelyn, “Do you mean Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?” And she said “YESSSSSSSSS” a la “DUHHHHHH” and then, with relief, she further explained that “Donner Tooth King” who’s “you know, a king but not REALLY a king” said that some people have dark skin and “some people, like me — I have pink beige-ish white-ish skin” and that “all the skins — dark, light, whatever — should go to school together. Except not for Princeton because he has fur, not skin.”

She asked to see some photos of MLK and I showed her all the images that Google returned. She also had something to say as we scrolled through each photo.

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“This is the Donner Tooth King. He’s so cute and handsome. What a nice guy.”

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“This is when he was yelling at all the people because they weren’t listening to him. He was saying that everyone should go to school together. But it was loud because of the microphone.”

Her takeaway from what she learned at school is that everybody is the same — except for Princeton — and that it’s really silly that there were boys and girls who couldn’t go to school together. She pointed out that everyone in her own family has different color skin (“Daddy has darker skin than you.” — True) and that everyone should just listen to [mumble mumble] King. Though his title and two first names were a bit too much for her to say, his message was not lost on Madelyn, and I loved her retelling of the story and her innocence and simple understanding of a dream.

  1. Patty Valeo
    1/13/2016 11:41 AM

    Thank-you so much for sharing this! It really touched my heart and brightened my day!!

    Love and hugs to you all….even Princeton!!!!

So, About That Baby…

Remember that time I had a second baby and I blogged about her all the time? No? Me neither.

Madelyn's serenades make Arielle fall in love with her big sister every time.

Madelyn’s serenades make Arielle fall in love with her big sister every time.

Here’s the thing. Arielle was born in March. Then I was in my little new mama-again cocoon for about 6 weeks. Then, that 6 weeks turned into 12 weeks because the struggle was real. Then, I wanted to report back that everything was super easy breezy, but it wasn’t because breastfeeding. And then at around 6 months when things were in their groove, it felt too late to start recapping Arielle. It’s kind of like dieting in December: why start now? May as well just keep eating.

But the guilt. Ooohhhhh, the guilt. The thing is, Arielle is now almost 10 months and she’s such a little delight. She’s just so sweet and cuddly and fun, but it wasn’t always that way. Through no fault of her own, she was actually born a little cranky. Well, her tummy was. After I finally started to get over the hump of the difficulties of breastfeeding, I noticed that she never really settled and got content after eating. I mean, after I devour a chocolate cake with fudge filling, I am happier than an ant at a picnic, so I couldn’t figure out why she would scream and writhe and scrunch after eating.

So then came the elimination diet. Goodbye pizza. Goodbye ice cream. Goodbye buttery mashed potatoes. If an ingredient ever came from a mooing female mammal, it was out. If it had any kind of soy in it, it was also out. That didn’t leave a lot of options for this picky eater. And after two weeks, wow, what a difference! Baby Arielle was a whole new woman. The elimination of soy and dairy from my diet completely changed her, and it was clear her tummy was much happier. Feeding times became relaxing — for both of us — and she no longer twisted in pain. My taste buds, however, longingly flooded for all my favorite foods.

I continued this diet for approximately three months for Arielle’s comfort and happiness. And through it all, I didn’t lose an ounce. Everyone told me that the upside of my deprivation/Arielle’s relief was that I’d get super skinny. Maniacal laugh. It’s not easy to blog about your baby when you’re just dyin’ for a hot fudge sundae, but you look like you ate one anyway. I never knew I could crave a Caesar salad until I couldn’t have a Caesar salad. Oh, and sleep wasn’t happening. All these feeding issues, boob drama, and multiple wake ups can really take a toll on a woman’s desire to get all warm and fuzzy. In this part of Arielle’s babyhood, I was just coasting. Getting through to the next step.

Arielle saw the Dodgers play 3 times in her first 6 months of life. That's pretty impressive (thank you Auntie Pattie & Uncle Barry) and she became a fangirl just like her sis and parents and, maybe even most importantly, her Poppa!

Arielle saw the Dodgers play 3 times in her first 6 months of life. That’s pretty impressive (thank you Auntie Pattie & Uncle Barry) and she became a fangirl just like her sis and parents and, maybe even most importantly, her Poppa!

In all honesty, that’s how her first half of her year was: Let’s just get through to the next step. The problem with being a second time parent is that you know what comes next. Everything with Madelyn was fresh and new. Every poop she made was so exciting, the next one better than the last. It’s not to say that Arielle’s poops are unexciting (they are! Yay poop!), but I now have a gauge for good/better/best, and having been through four years with Madelyn, in hindsight, every year is even better! So Arielle sitting in her high chair for the first time? Yeah, totally cool. Go Arielle. But I KNOW how great it is when a baby turns into a totally composed toddler with fine motor skills and how cool it is when she can sit in a chair. By herself. And eat with a fork.

Between the rough start, frustrating middle, and knowledge of what’s to come, it’s been difficult to put into words my experience as a second timer in the mom department. And through it all, I love her more than I could have imagined. That is definitely my greatest a-ha! of the whole journey. Arielle completed our family and it went from warm and cozy to bursting at the seams with trust and love and laughter and teamwork. We thought we had it so great with Madelyn — and we did! — but Arielle took us from all A+ grades in AP classes with valedictorian status to free ride to Harvard. Bryan and I have learned way more about each other as parents and teammates because Arielle has also taught us to divide and conquer, and also to come together in a two-brains-are-better-than-one kind of way.

Arielle was such an excellent traveler during her first vacation. She was great on both plane rides, dealt with a crazy no-schedule sleep schedule, and got carted around to meals and attractions like it was no big whoop. We can't wait to show her more and more!

Arielle was such an excellent traveler during her first vacation. She was great on both plane rides, dealt with a crazy no-schedule sleep schedule, and got carted around to meals and attractions like it was no big whoop. We can’t wait to show her more and more!

So, Arielle hasn’t been all challenges and uphill battles; No, she’s been perfect all along, but her presence is allowing us to experience more and learn additional roles as parents. And that can be hard. We know all the greatness to come because her big sister has paved such a wonderful path, and I have a sneak peek into the joys of toddlerhood, and language acquisition, and physical achievements, and the end of teething, and Sesame Street marathons, and walking shoes, and imagination, and goodnight stories, and potty success, and the returned cuddles and “I love you”s.

***

But for the sake of “better late than never…” here’s Arielle by the month!

One Month: Arielle ate every 2 to 3 hours like clockwork… including during the middle of the night! She liked to cuddle and sleep. She also snoozed a lot. Did I mention she liked to sleep? She wore size newborn diapers for an entire month and wore a lot of her sister’s newborn outfits.

One Month: Arielle ate every 2 to 3 hours like clockwork… including during the middle of the night! She liked to cuddle and sleep. She also snoozed a lot. Did I mention she liked to sleep? She wore size newborn diapers for an entire month and wore a lot of her sister’s newborn outfits.

2 Months: Arielle started to do more tummy time and tolerated it ... in a mediocre way. She wore size 1 diapers and 0-3 month clothes. She loved to look around by tracking everything with her eyes and was very alert. She discovered her big sister, Madelyn, and began to realize that she would soon become her most favorite person in the world.

2 Months: Arielle started to do more tummy time and tolerated it … in a mediocre way. She wore size 1 diapers and 0-3 month clothes. She loved to look around by tracking everything with her eyes and was very alert. She discovered her big sister, Madelyn, and began to realize that she would soon become her most favorite person in the world.

3 Months: Snoozing happened swaddle-free and we also went cold turkey on the pacifier. Both things were keeping her from sleeping and that was unacceptable, obv. She started to flirt with the idea of rolling and the smiles, though not completely out to play in this photo, were becoming a regular on her little punim.

3 Months: Snoozing happened swaddle-free and we also went cold turkey on the pacifier. Both things were keeping her from sleeping and that was unacceptable, obv. She started to flirt with the idea of rolling and the smiles, though not completely out to play in this photo, were becoming a regular on her little punim.

4 Months: Arielle celebrated America's Independence with all of her friends and a fireworks show on her 4th month with us. The smiles and rolling were in full force and she welcomed diaper changes (size 2) as opportunities to play and giggle with her mom and dad. She loved to explore textures and lights that she discovered in a baby class with baby pals.

4 Months: Arielle celebrated America’s Independence with all of her friends and a fireworks show on her 4th month with us. The smiles and rolling were in full force and she welcomed diaper changes (size 2) as opportunities to play and giggle with her mom and dad. She loved to explore textures and lights that she discovered in a baby class with baby pals.

5 Months: Frequent Flyer miles collection began -- Arielle took her first plane ride to Seattle and loved exploring the suburbs and the city. She also attended her first birthday party -- her sister's 4th! She fit into 3-6 month clothes and size 2 diapers, rolling all over and working on balanced sitting.

5 Months: Frequent Flyer miles collection began — Arielle took her first plane ride to Seattle and loved exploring the suburbs and the city. She also attended her first birthday party — her sister’s 4th! She fit into 3-6 month clothes and size 2 diapers, rolling all over and working on balanced sitting.

6 Months:  Half a year down, and Arielle mastered sitting up in September. Along with sitting up, her spitting up was becoming a little less regular, and she began to consume dairy again with no trouble. Hooray for pizza!  (for Mom). She also had her first non-milk foods like purees and cereal. Eating is a favorite pasttime, which explains her 6-9 month clothing size and size 3 diapers.

6 Months: Half a year down, and Arielle mastered sitting up in September. Along with sitting up, her spitting up was becoming a little less regular, and she began to consume dairy again with no trouble. Hooray for pizza! (for Mom). She also had her first non-milk foods like purees and cereal. Eating is a favorite pasttime, which explains her 6-9 month clothing size and size 3 diapers.

7 Months: No crawling yet, but Arielle loved to sprawl out on her tummy and flip her limbs around, perhaps thinking about the idea of maybe considering the possibility of one day potentially crawling... in the future. Oh, and no big deal, but sleep happened. Like, no more nighttime feedings (her idea) and 12 hours of solid sleep (also her idea). Mama was in heaven during month seven!

7 Months: No crawling yet, but Arielle loved to sprawl out on her tummy and flip her limbs around, perhaps thinking about the idea of maybe considering the possibility of one day potentially crawling… in the future. Oh, and no big deal, but sleep happened. Like, no more nighttime feedings (her idea) and 12 hours of solid sleep (also her idea). Mama was in heaven during month seven!

8 Months: One tooth in and another on the way changed this little girl's gummy smile and she suddenly looks older! She also got really vocal all of a sudden, babbling lots of stories and opinions that only she understands. Size 3 diapers and 6-12 month clothing keep her warm as we head into winter.

8 Months: One tooth in and another on the way changed this little girl’s gummy smile and she suddenly looks older! She also got really vocal all of a sudden, babbling lots of stories and opinions that only she understands. Size 3 diapers and 6-12 month clothing keep her warm as we head into winter.

9 Months: As evidenced by the photo, Arielle is not interested in laying down and staying still. At 9 months, toys and books are her favorite non-Madelyn objects and a special flavor of crawling is in progress: No tushie up in the air, but the girl gets around with her arms and push-offs from her feet. But really, she is perfectly content to sit like a lady and play quietly with her toys or munch on Puffs.

9 Months: As evidenced by the photo, Arielle is not interested in laying down and staying still. At 9 months, toys and books are her favorite non-Madelyn objects and a special flavor of crawling is in progress: No tushie up in the air, but the girl gets around with her arms and push-offs from her feet. But really, she is perfectly content to sit like a lady and play quietly with her toys or munch on Puffs.

Madelyn is Four

Yes, she turned 4 in August, but there have been negative 2847 minutes available to sit down and recap life. Babyland has kept us busy in addition to new schedules, less sleep, more activities. In other words, I have failed at blogging. If blogging was a major, I’d be kicked out of the university. If blogging was a marriage, I’d be divorced and getting zero alimony. If blogging was a pre-teen, I’d be getting so many eye rolls and guttural sighs that my laptop could slam doors from the living room couch where I typically blog. So yes, that’s me and blogging right now.

But I didn’t want to miss out entirely on recapping Madelyn’s birthday because it was a good one! Her first, second, and third birthdays were all labors of love, and her fourth was no different. This year, I wanted to incorporate something she loves while still providing entertainment for her friends. I thought about going to a play place because she loves those places or going to the farm because she adores the animals there, but with a five-month-old in tow, I really wanted to torture myself to the max and orchestrate an at-home party with all of her friends… and grown up friends… and family.

So we hired a bubblist. Because isn’t that what everyone does? We had a bubble party where a bubblist — the highly professional and scientific term for the person who demonstrates giant human-sized bubbles — came to do a whole show and facilitate play time in the backyard. But I couldn’t leave it alone at the bubble company. No. I insisted on torturing myself with bubbly decor, spherical food, and things that go pop… like bubbles.

I made her traditional birthday party wreath to welcome guests to the front door. And for some more sensory fun, I laid out bubble wrap on the pathway to the door a la the red carpet. The kids liked jumping all over that thing and to my next door neighbors, sorry for the noise; it was festive decor for a birthday party, not gunshots and gang activity. #oops

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Somehow, we managed to cram all of our party people into the open kitchen/family room for the bubble show. The bubblist demonstrated different kids of bubbles and talked about sciencey things. The kids were engaged and didn’t even realize they were learning. This teacher/party planner was pleased.

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Then it was time for the kids to go in a bubble. They took turns and one at at a time, the bubblist let the kids journey into a tunnel of bubble. It was pretty cool and I think they all enjoyed seeing the world from the inside of soapy water.

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Arielle was completely unfazed.

Arielle was completely unfazed.

Even some grown up kids got into the bubble action.

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After the indoor bubble show, everyone played with bubbles outside. The bubble fun continued with lots of plastic kiddie pools and various tools for making bubbles. It was a full out bubblepalooza and just what the kids needed after sitting for 30 minutes.

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And what’s bubbly fun without a plate of sugar? Cake time came, and Madelyn posed with her bubble cake as we all sang to her.

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All that was left for this busy birthday mom was to relax and actually socialize with our friends and family. I’ll admit I love throwing these big parties, but the downside is that it’s hard to actually visit with everyone. So while Madelyn and her friends ran around, I tried to soak up time with the people I love.

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The sun was going down and our friends trickled away. Madelyn saw her giant mound of presents and couldn’t wait any longer, so she tackled them with delight. She is quite the lucky girl! Her final hours of being 3 were spent playing with all of her new treasures, including her first American Girl doll from Mimi and Poppa. We brought my old Samantha down and we played with our dolls and I suddenly turned 7 all over again. Shameless.

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It was our first August 8th in 4 years that we didn’t visit Lazy Dog Cafe for dinner. It was where we had our final meal as a family with just Princeton the night before we were induced. Since then, we’ve brought Madelyn with us the night before her birthday and have made a little bit of a tradition out of it. But birthday party trumped Lazy Dog, so we broke this tradition and hopefully we’ll get back on next year for the night before her 5th birthday. (wait, what? 5 is next?!)

With lots of goodnight kisses, we put our almost four-year-old to bed, and Bryan and I blew up balloons to flood her room for when she woke up the next morning because that’s another tradition we are setting ourselves up to continue. It wasn’t until the last couple balloons that I remembered I wanted to get her birthday donuts to enjoy for breakfast, so at midnight, I found myself at a 24-hour donut shop. Hey, priorities. Also, I snuck some home for Bryan and me because we deserved them.

Devotion.

Devotion.

The birthday girl woke up and loved her balloons and donut breakfast. We were all in a chipper mood as we celebrated our August 9th baby and spent the morning relaxing and detoxing from the festivities from the day before.

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Even Arielle was ready for her sister's birthday!

Even Arielle was ready for her sister’s birthday!

Our friends had invited us to join them at The Getty for a free Lisa Loeb concert featuring tunes from her kids’ music. It was one of those perfect summer afternoons with the sun warming us up, but not too bright, and a friendly ambiance with a relaxing vibe.

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Madelyn spent some time down at the stage right under Lisa Loeb’s … earlobes. She was right at her feet when she played “Stay” and the crowd — mostly made up of parents who piqued in the 90s — went wild. Then, the kids became unruly, and Madelyn had enough of that preschooler mosh pit. Mob mentality is not Madelyn’s thing. Note to self: Do not take Madelyn to Coachella.

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We waited out the crowd when the concert was over and hung out with our friends, enjoying the emptying grassy hill. We took pictures and the kids ran around and I soaked in the day that made me a mom four years ago.

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All of my favorite people.

All of my favorite people.

Our sleepy kids passed out in the car as we made our trek back to the ‘burbs. And since I’m a sucker for birthday traditions, we met up with the grandparents at The Cheesecake Factory for our annual birthday dinner to celebrate Madelyn. She was so funny at dinner and I know she felt the love from all of us. Watching our big girl blow out her mini sundae candles got me all teary (was that a cherry on top or chopped onions?). I’m in awe of how she’s grown, exceeding all expectations of what it would like to be the mom of a 4-year-old who is so kindhearted, imaginative, witty, curious, and smart. She’s ahead of her time in so many ways, but whooooaaa, time. Could you please slow down a minute so that I’m not so torn between wanting my beautiful girl to stay little forever and so excited for all that she will be?

The Sweetest Good Ship Lollipop

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn, Mommy's Musings

Madelyn and I did a Mommy & Me Ballet through our local parks and rec program, and from day one, she loved it. So when my friend opened up her very own studio, it was a no brainer that we’d join and Madelyn absolutely adores going to class.

I started dance lessons when I was about the same age and performed in my first recital at around four years old. Most of my memories are built based on video and photos, but I do remember enjoying dance class and really loving my first teacher (who — yay Facebook! — connected with me in recent years!) So of course I’ve enjoyed every second of dance mom-hood, and couldn’t wait to see Madelyn in her first recital, since that’s what weekly classes build up to.

With my teacher, Traci. I remember copying her and playing "dance teacher" with my dolls in my room. #onlychildproblems

With my teacher, Traci. I remember copying her and playing “dance teacher” with my dolls in my room. #onlychildproblems

My shuffle steps were huge and my shoe laces untied, but gosh darn it, it was 1987 and times were good.

My shuffle steps were huge and my shoe laces untied, but gosh darn it, it was 1987 and times were good.

Post-recital flowers and photos after a job well -- or, probably mediocre --done.

Post-recital flowers and photos after a job well — or, probably mediocre –done.

This past year was a ballet/tumbling class and Madelyn’s first time without me doing dance with her. I loved watching her through the windows and there was a nice group of girls with her. I’m glad we did that Mommy & Me ballet class because it really did give her a foundation for basic ballet steps. With a few hiccups in teacher changes at her studio, she maybe didn’t do as much footwork in class, but she still grew other necessary skills for following directions and working with other classmates.

Back in September, Madelyn began ballet with Miss Kelly, the studio owner. They have a sweet and special bond.

Back in September, Madelyn began ballet with Miss Kelly, the studio owner. They have a sweet and special bond.

The second half of the year, Madelyn's teacher was Miss Sara and she was so much fun!

The second half of the year, Madelyn’s teacher was Miss Sara and she was so much fun!

I was so excited to find out that her class would be dancing to Shirley Temple’s “Good Ship Lollipop.” We are big Shirley fans around here, so she loved learning the dance and singing the song, making little improvements each week.

A few weeks before the recital, Madelyn and her recital-mate took professional photos at the studio. I don’t ever remember doing this as a kid, but apparently I did because … this.

"Mommy, why are you standing on yourself?" Um, because... 1987.

“Mommy, why are you standing on yourself?” Um, because… 1987.

Madelyn’s dance photo shoot was especially great because it gave her a chance to get comfortable in her costume and become smitten with herself. Oy, the eye rolling I did every time I saw her staring at herself in the mirror and putting on poses.

The highlight of the day was lipstick.

The highlight of the day was lipstick.

Madelyn loved practicing steps for the camera.

Madelyn loved practicing steps for the camera.

As it got close to recital time, Madelyn really relied on her teacher to get the hand motions and order of the steps, watching her every move and rarely looking away, and while the kid is a total ham, she tends to freeze up when put on the spot, so I really wasn’t sure how the actual recital would go, despite the fact that she was doing well in class.

Only one other girl was actually about to do the recital, so it was just the two of them up there on the big stage on the day of the show. I was a nervous wreck. How would she do backstage without me? Would she manage her costume and prop ok? Would she obey directions to get on stage or be scared and refuse to go on? It was literally a gamble, and I was betting she’d be a deer in the headlights and told our family who came to see her to brace themselves for maybe just seeing Madelyn stare out into the audience in a panic.

Well, what do you know? Maybe I should never go to Vegas. My bet was way off.

I could not stop smiling watching our girl up on that stage. I had a flashback to my first recital, and I can remember being confused and excited all at once, but Madelyn seemed so at ease up on stage and appeared to really have a good time. All I want for her is to have fun and enjoy dancing and performing.

She danced even better than she ever rehearsed in class, singing the lyrics of the song and executing the timing and rhythm of the steps. I’m just so glad my proud mom squeals didn’t distract her on stage. I totally lost my mind. Smile ear-to-ear, eyes piercing on her every move, and oh the water that sprang forth from my eyes; it was like a tropical storm of happiness.

Her number was pretty much in the middle of the whole show, but we loved watching all the dancers. They were all so great! But I think a crowd favorite is always the littlest class because they can really do no wrong. As much as the Lollipop girls messed up (hey, I never said my kid was perfect), the audience is always so forgiving because there is really nothing more darling in the world than little girls in sailor costumes, singing and dancing.

The whole school gathered for a company bow, and she looked so proud and took the whole thing very seriously. That's how you become a Rockette, people.

The whole school gathered for a company bow, and she looked so proud and took the whole thing very seriously. That’s how you become a Rockette, people.

After the show, I met her backstage and could not stop squeezing her! Madelyn was beaming and was overcome with a burst of pride and excitement that I think she didn’t even realize until she saw me. I guided her back into the house of the theater to see her adoring fans who came to watch her perform. Grandma and Grandpa, Mimi and Poppa, Auntie Alison, Uncle Michael and Cousin Jordan, and Judy and Joa joined Bryan and me in congratulating our star. Arielle even perked up for the occasion after relaxing in my arms throughout the whole show, already a perfect audience member.

Madelyn loved getting flowers. She handled them like a true star. Soon we'll all be having to speak to her through her bodyguard and manager.

Madelyn loved getting flowers. She handled them like a true star. Soon we’ll all be having to speak to her through her bodyguard and manager.

There was almost Cleanup in Aisle 5 because I was going to burst with pride.  The mama emotions were real.

There was almost Cleanup in Aisle 5 because I was going to burst with pride. The mama emotions were real.

Arielle was overrun with excitement over her sister's performance.

Arielle was overrun with excitement over her sister’s performance.

Mimi and Poppa couldn't stop squishing this lollipop girl.

Mimi and Poppa couldn’t stop squishing this lollipop girl.

Grandma and Grandpa cheered loud and clear!

Grandma and Grandpa cheered loud and clear!

Madeyln adores Kelly and we love dancing with her at her school!

Madeyln adores Kelly and we love dancing with her at her school!

Madelyn was thrilled to receive flowers from all of us and the bouquets were even bigger than her. She posed for pictures and told us all about her experience. I think we all had such a fun time and can’t wait for more dance recitals in the future.

After she changed out of her adorable costume, we gathered for some pizza and celebrated our girl one more time. It was such a special day, and I think it’s safe to say that Madelyn has been bit by the performing bug and the only cure is more dance classes and shows!

Madelyn greeted her public one more time outside the theater before heading to her pizza party with the family.

Madelyn greeted her public one more time outside the theater before heading to her pizza party with the family.

Local kiddos — come dance at Protege Performing Arts! We love the studio and can’t wait to see how it grows.

Disneyland Party of 4: New & Improved and Now With Pro Tips!

I never thought we’d be those crazy people to bring a new baby to Disneyland, but we joined that club. It was a perfect storm that made it almost impossible not to. It was my birthday. We hadn’t been in months due to that whole pregnancy thing. And our annual passes are set to expire in August and it’s unknown if/when we will renew (the answer, I’m sure, is yes). So we just kinda … had to go.

Disneyland with Madelyn was a routine that we finessed in the past two years. I’d even done a few trips with Madelyn just by myself with no help. So when it comes to taking a toddler to see The Mouse, it’s a no brainer. But with an almost three-month-old in the mix? We were nervous. We had considered leaving Arielle at home, but with the boob thing and imposing on others to watch her, that was almost impossible. So, we went into it with low to no expectations and figured it would just be a difficult day.

Well. I’m glad to say we were wrong! The beautiful thing about taking a new baby to Disneyland is that the baby just sleeps the day away. She had no idea — nor any care! — about where she was, and frankly, that was OK with us. Madelyn still got to enjoy all her usual favorites and we had the bonus of extra storage in the double stroller! Score! (I will mourn the day my kids are out of strollers and we will have to utilize Disney lockers again!)

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Having Arielle with us just meant that if she was sleeping or couldn’t go on a ride due to size requirements, Bryan and I would split up and one would stay with the baby and one would go with the big kid. We took turns doing just that, and I didn’t even mind the breaks with the baby because sitting and people-watching at Disneyland is almost as fun and entertaining as the attractions.

Our favorite ride is Soarin’ Over California at Disney California Adventure and we were so excited that Madelyn was finally tall enough to go! Thank goodness for a couple wisps of hair because she just baaaaaarely made the 40-inch minimum. She went on with Bryan first while I waited with a snoozing Arielle and all I could think about was that Madelyn would lose her mind over going up in the glider — and not in a good way. She doesn’t even love the swings at the park, so motion and a big movie with a total sensory experience seemed like a bad idea, but hey, I was outside relaxing with a baby while watching a family in all matching t-shirts figure out how a Fast Pass works. A Madelyn Meltdown was Bryan’s problem. So, color me wrong when 20 minutes later, a proud Bryan walked behind a galloping Madelyn with the greatest smile on her face. “MOMMY!! WE WENT OVER THE OCEAN AND I SMELLED TREES AND IT WAS LIKE A PLANE WITH NO WINDOWS!!!!!!!!” She loved it.

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So then I got to take a turn with my girl! It was so much fun to see her reaction a second time around. And I loved it more than I ever had before.

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #1:
Rider switch is so great!! When you get to the cast member at the front, tell him or her that you have a baby that is staying with one parent. That way, when the other parent wants a turn to go on the ride, the other parent doesn’t have to re-wait in line again and they move on to the “on deck” portion of the line (basically, the second parent avoids the zig-zags). This is called Rider Switch or Child Switch — they’ll know what you mean. Since we had Fast Passes for Soarin’ Over California, we really waited no time at all, maybe ten minutes each time.

We decided to take advantage of a baby who continued to sleep and eat lunch. As all parents know, the moment you get hot food in front of you, that’s when babies decide to wake up and be needy. Thankfully, Arielle cooperated while we enjoyed lunch right next door to Soarin’. Having an extra adult IS helpful since while Bryan ordered for us, Madelyn and I snagged a table that also accommodated the bus. I mean, double stroller. While we waited, Maddie and I talked about all the things we wanted to do the rest of the day. She’s such a little Disney expert. ‘

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Our first ride that included Arielle was The Little Mermaid ride, Madelyn’s all-time favorite. While Arielle stared out into the acid trip that is music, colors, and movement by cartoony mannequins, Madelyn danced and sang along with each part of the ride, narrating to her rookie little sister what was happening. Arielle could not care less. Another day in babyland.

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #2:

When it comes to rides that babies can go on, have one parent handle the big kid and the diaper bag and another parent handle just the baby. On some rides, babies can be worn in a carrier, but I didn’t even whip out my carrier because it was just too hot to wear the baby and she was totally fine laying down in the stroller. It was less stressful to assign this combination between us parents because getting on and off rides can sometimes resemble a gymnastics event, and only having to think about the baby (instead of the baby and the bag and the big kid) was less stressful.

We meandered through California Adventure for a few more hours with no agenda whatsoever. It was easy to avoid the area that caters toward older kids and instead, we just found ourself moseying around and enjoying whatever we stumbled upon.

Like Vintage Minnie! Madelyn is still a big time Minnie fan, so she was super excited to meet her in this great outfit. Minnie signed Madelyn’s autograph book and then spent some time with Arielle. She played with her toes and gave her lots of kisses. Arielle stared blankly at her, not even fazed by this gigantic mouse with eyelashes in her face. Oh, babies.

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Then Minnie used her amazing Mouse Sign Language to ask what her name was and when Maddie told her “Arielle,” Minnie, ever so original, proceeded to hold her nose and dive down, as if she were a mermaid swimming in the water. “Oh Minnie,” I told her. “It’s Arielle, not Ariel!” and then she silently giggled and wrote in the air with her gloved hands “R,” “E,” “L” and then I high fived her. Madelyn loved all the attention both she and her sister received from Mrs. Mouse.

Maybe it was having her little sis with her for the first time, or maybe she is just growing up, but Madelyn was suddenly eager to go on rides that she used to be afraid of. The sounds and darkness of the Monsters, Inc. ride always frightened Madelyn so I’ve been conditioned to walking right by it. But this time, she saw the big pink door that belongs to Boo and asked to go on. I was shocked. But happy! I love that little ride and it’s one that we can all go on together, so that was a nice bonus.

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Instead of being scared, Madelyn protected her sister with, “Don’t worry, Arielle! They’re monsters, but they’re not really mean!” Arielle breathed a deep sigh of relief. Or passed gas. Who knows.

Around the corner from Monsters, Inc. was the new-ish “Frozen” pavilion that we hadn’t seen. It opened up just around the time I stopped going to Disneyland a few months before Arielle’s arrival. We walked over to see a super short line to meet Olaf. Madelyn is not a typical Frozen Fanatic like a lot of other girls her age. She likes it and all, but doesn’t aspire to be Elsa or Anna, so I even though she didn’t go totally gaga over the friendly snowman, we all figured we would enjoy some warm hugs on a hot day because it was new.

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And conveniently, the “Frozen” sing along show was next door so we decided to give that a whirl in the name of trying new things. It replaced the Muppet 3D show which I adored because Muppets. I was looking forward to seeing this new “Frozen” show because I assumed it would be stellar and entertaining. Oh, and there was air conditioning. As we waited to go in the actual theater, Arielle fell asleep but then as soon as it was time to go in and get seats, she got hungry.

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DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #3:

Shows make great places to feed babies since you can multitask; family fun isn’t interrupted and the baby gets to eat. Everyone wins. Bonus points for breastfeeders: dark theaters give you a little privacy and everyone is so focused on the entertainment that nobody is looking at your boobs. Usually, shows are dark and there’s lots of ambient noise, so the baby can go to town without too many distractions and you can also look at something while you’re feeding.

The “Frozen” show started and I was quickly underwhelmed. Five minutes in and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. It was a really super loose script that narrated the chunks of the movie during which the screen played the song parts of the film with words to sing along with. The live narrators were fine even though their material was horrible, but the live “Frozen” characters that sporadically came out totally phoned it in. I expected a lot more from Disney on this attraction. It was tossed together and quality was sacrificed, but oh well because “Frozen” lovers will love it anyway. Even Madelyn seemed bored and I thought the best part of the whole show was the indoor air conditioning and the rest that my feet got.

We crossed over to Disneyland for some old fashioned Disney fun, and went straight to It’s A Small World. I was curious to see if Arielle would react because the famous Sherman Brothers song is one that always works to get her calm when she’s crying, but as usual, she just looked around and had no idea what all the fuss was about.

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Our only “Oops” of the day happened as we were exiting the boat. Bryan’s long, lean legs got a little excited and too close to Madelyn’s face, so as he stepped out, his foot made contact with her cheekbone. I saw a bruise already forming so through her screams — oy! the guilt! — we rushed over to the first aid center to get some ice. The deed was done, though, and she endured some swelling and black-and-blue there. The nurses could clearly see the anguish in the poor dad’s face, so they wrote up a coupon for a free ice cream to redeem anywhere in the park by the end of the day. Madelyn cheered up — which was a relief to Bryan — and we were on our way, beat up but not beat down.

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You know what makes little girls feel better after getting kicked in the head? Princesses. We caught up with the girls at Madelyn’s favorite stop in all of Disneyland. As usual, the line was about 45 minutes, so Bryan stood in line while Madelyn and I walked around with Arielle in the stroller.

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #4:

Want your baby to sleep in the stroller? Both my kids have successfully napped at Disneyland without having to go back to a hotel all thanks to the magical Disney cobblestone. There’s sleep dust in that groundwork. As long as the stroller is moving and going over cobblestone or wooden paths or anything with a bumpety-bump, my kids sleep. I imagine kids who cry in the car won’t have success with this, but kids who go to sleep with motion (mine! yay!) will also conk out in the stroller as long as they’re moving over ground with texture. This is how we got Arielle to sleep the day away and make things easy for us!

We stood in front of the castle and I snapped pics of Madelyn with the diamond anniversary decor. We also killed time by walking over to Snow White’s wishing well and we listened to her sing. Finally, we browsed some shops and Madelyn made friends with mannequins as she does when we shop anywhere. Time passed quickly, and then we were ready to see the princesses.

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When we went in, we knew we’d see Snow White and Cinderella, but there was also a surprise princess. For the first time, Madelyn met Jasmine and she was a little timid as she took her in. By the end of their meet up, though, they were good friends. That must’ve been some magic carpet they were standing on. Ba-dum ch!

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As dinner time drew close, we were getting hungry. We were unsuccessful landing reservations at our favorite restaurants the day before when I looked online for slots, but we tried to get in on standby at the Thunder Ranch BBQ and we were seated shortly after. This is the best meal and deal at Disneyland! The food is delicious and plentiful! It’s all-you-can-eat BBQ and it’s REALLY yummy! The service is great and there’s usually a little show that the kids enjoy during dinner.

For what you get and the quality of food, it’s reasonably priced too (for Disneyland at least) so I highly recommend it, especially to big groups. They also accommodate diet limitations, and since I’m ditching dairy and soy in exchange for a happy breastfed baby (OMG Arielle was a nightmare until I did this), the chef came out to talk to me and shared how I would be accommodated and still enjoy my meal. I was and I did!

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #5:
Since the restaurant is right next door to the Big Thunder Ranch petting farm, while we waited for our table, I took Madelyn to see her goat friends. They’re so cute and well behaved. So many people don’t know about this little petting area. Sometimes Clarabelle the cow and a horse are there, but the goats are almost always out. It’s a great way to let little ones run around in a contained area, especially if another parent and the baby are waiting in line somewhere else and the older kid doesn’t have patience to wait. Keep in touch with the cell phones and voila! Happy children and happy parents! Also, hand washing stations there for the win! Sometimes I go there just to wash hands when I want to avoid crowded, stuffy bathrooms, assuming I don’t have to actually use the potty.

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It was almost parade time and I heard that the new parade was not to be missed; that it was like the Electrical Parade on crack. So while Bryan and Madelyn set up camp and got a spot on Main Street to wait for the parade, I fed Arielle in the Baby Care Center just off of Main Street.

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I’d always heard what a haven this place was, and it really was. While I am OK with nursing in public, it was kind of nice to also have a mostly private area and legit chair to sit in and feed the baby.


DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #6:

There are outlets in the Baby Care Center. That may mean pumping area to some, or phone charging stations to others. So yes, I fed my baby and fed my phone. It was truly a win-win. Also, a serving of air conditioning.

I met some nice moms in there and it became a breastfeeding support group. Disneyland is magical that way. It was kind of funny that we all agreed we were comfortable nursing our babies throughout Disneyland, but that we came solely for the cooling off. Really, though, this place is great and I recommend it since they also have a large baby changing area, tiny potties for older tots, and a kitchenette with a microwave and high chairs.

The new parade was awesome, despite being very loud. I would recommend bringing ear plugs or covering a baby’s ears. You can’t really avoid the speakers — they’re everywhere! It’s a super cool parade to watch, but I have major concerns about the damage that the sound is doing to kids’ ears. Other Disney pros told us to stay on Main Street for the new fireworks show that would happen shortly after the parade. But, it was not to be. About 3.75 raindrops fell from the sky and a leaf fluttered once or twice on a nearby tree and it was Storm Watch 2015. The fireworks show was canceled and we were so sad! Madelyn cried. Actually, lots of kids cried. And then we were stuck in a waterfall of angry people who wanted to get out of the park.

Once we got out of the crowd, we continued walking around the different lands. Bryan and Madelyn went on Pirates of the Caribbean while a sleeping Arielle and I watched nighttime happen around the park — romantic couples, kids with light up toys, teenagers on the prowl.

We explored a few more areas and then at 11 p.m., we redeemed that ice cream voucher at Gibson Girl that we received from the nurses at first aid.


DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #7:

If you want a treat before you leave the park — we always do! Holding onto Disney magic in our hearts… and on our thighs — go to the Gibson Girl for fancy ice cream desserts DURING “Fantasmic!” because once it’s over, the rest of the park makes a mad dash to leave and they have the same idea about one last taste of Disney deliciousness. This is good when you have sleepy kids and you just want to get home after your final treat.

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Madelyn was so, so tired, but she soldiered on to enjoy her strawberry sundae with her Daddy. I scowled at them in my no-dairy bubble and Arielle slept through the whole thing.

So, the outcome of taking an almost four-year-old and a three-month-old to Disneyland? Piece of cake. Really. It might be harder later on when Arielle wants to move around more or has opinions to express, but as a blob of a baby — let’s face it, that’s what they are for the first few months — it ended up being a very successful and rewarding day.

And yet, I’m excited for this sleepy little baby to wake up a little bit, too, because she will absolutely love Disneyland once she’s old enough to truly enjoy it. Some of Madelyn’s happiest memories in her short little life have been made there. Mine too.

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