Birthdays Archive

Arielle Is One!

What the heck happened to the first year of my baby’s life? It went faster than my legs on their way to lunch at In N Out (that toasted bun, man). I legit could not keep up with all events and milestones and monthiversaries. And the minute I wanted to really slow down and soak it all in, my household was sick with a bug during the days leading up to Arielle’s birthday.

It didn’t help, too, that I was stressed out from planning a party while nursing Bryan back to health and crossing every bone in my body that I didn’t get sick, too. I am proud to say that I never did, but Madelyn did get fevers that were more fickle than ping pong balls at a tournament, and finally ended up with an ear infection. So, enjoying those final days with my baby as a baby was pretty difficult. I wallowed, yes, and even though I knew Arielle would never know that her actual first birthday on March 4th pretty much sucked, I was sad that memories of her first days with us were upstaged by thermometers and popsicles being juggled through the house.

We did enjoy a “happy birthday” song at preschool after I dropped off Madelyn. Arielle and I sat on the bimah and Madelyn was her spokesperson (business as usual), sharing her name and age with the crowd. Arielle didn’t have a total meltdown during her 15 seconds of fame, so I call that a win. That was the highlight of the day.

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Shortly after, Madelyn came home from school with a very sudden fever and I yelled a lot of swear words about that. There was no special outing or birthday dinner for Arielle. I don’t think I even had time to get emotional like I normally would because I was so busy Florence Nightingale-ing it up. Maybe that’s a good thing. Thanks, germs, for the distraction.

I will share that on her first birthday, Arielle woke up with 2.5 teeth and those teeth are really helping get that food to her belly, because the chunk was finally starting to roll out. Her weigh-in was 19.5 pounds and while she’d once been a petite lil thing, she jumped from 9-month clothes to 12-month clothes almost over night.

By 12 months, her crawling was non-stop with no desire to choose to walk instead. Shrug. Whatevs. When Arielle climbs up the stairs on all fours, she swears she’s reached the top of Mt. Everest.

Blowing kisses and clapping and waving and giving high-5s were all of her mastered party tricks. She also suddenly became aware of bows and headbands on her head (boooo) and started to show her dissatisfaction with these accessories (Madelyn went through the same thing at the same age and now look at her! Accessory whore! She doesn’t want to take off a tiara to wash her hair).

At 12 months, Arielle’s favorite foods are fruits, veggies, grains, dairy, and fats. Yes. The entire pyramid. The girl is a bottomless pit. She just does not stop eating. One day she may become a picky eater because I’ve seen this movie before, but right now, she just loves food. I do too. But the rolls on my thighs are not nearly as cute.

I managed to get a few snaps of Arielle on her first birthday.

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Two days after her birthday, it was party time. Bryan was finally recovered and Madelyn’s fever couldn’t make up its mind about staying or going. She had no other symptoms other than a fever that I would later find out was due to an ear infection. I quarantined her to her room for most of the party just to be on the safe side, and we were all so sad about it. I wanted to celebrate my littlest baby, while wanting to ditch the party to cuddle with my biggest baby who was devastated to be missing out. Thankfully Princeton was like, “I’m fine. You’re welcome.”

Arielle loves to jam to music. Since the beginning, her little body has always grooved to any beat she hears, so I thought it was fitting to have a music gal come and do a big toddler music session. Amy Tibert of Rise & Sing put on a great little show and had all the kiddos dancing and playing. And since Arielle is such a bright and cheery presence, I threw together a loose rainbow hearts theme with the decor. It was a fun and crafty party for me to design. Lots of paper decorations and lots of sprinkles!

Party recaps are best done through photos, but these parties are always a labor of love and I secretly love-hate these big ones. I love having our family and friends together to celebrate my kiddo, but the work that goes into it makes me a crazy lady. I so appreciate my mom swooping in to lend me a hand when my usual party-planning partner was down for the count the week of the bash.

Who needs sleep when you can be making this sign into the wee hours of the night three days before the party?

Who needs sleep when you can be making this sign into the wee hours of the night three days before the party?

So, I have this thing for banners.

So, I have this thing for banners.

Salty and sweet  (just like the birthday girl) pretzel treats left my house sprinkles-y for days, but we/Princeton handled it just fine.

Salty and sweet (just like the birthday girl) pretzel treats left my house sprinkles-y for days, but we/Princeton handled it just fine.

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And P.S. — note to ovaries: thanks for deciding to get us pregnant in June and giving us a March baby which makes party planning a total nightmare because the battle of Indoor vs. Outdoor is uglier than anything you’d see on Game of Thrones. I was a wreck watching the weather, which, by the way, was gorgeous and perfect and sunny and in the 80s for two weeks before the party and then did the whole “Oh! It’s March! I forgot it’s supposed to be El NiƱo! Here’s the rain I must deliver!” So, indoor party with children and sugar … I’m such a glutton for punishment. I will say, though, that everything was fabulous, and everyone had a great time especially the little birthday girl herself.

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The music was so fun for the kiddos as they played with different instruments and puppets and a parachute. Even the big kids were dancing and showing the little ones what to do.

Arielle got to sit in the middle of the parachute and she loved the breeze whooshing through her incoming wispy hair as we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

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Madelyn observed from the balcony seating aka the stairs outside her room while Poppa and Grandpa took turns keeping her company.

Madelyn observed from the balcony seating aka the stairs outside her room while Poppa and Grandpa took turns keeping her company.

Madelyn was fever-free and seemed to brighten up a bit, so she came down to check out the party just as Amy, the music leader gave all the kids a chance to sing “Happy Birthday” solos on the microphone. It was so sweet how a lot of Madelyn’s adorable preschool friends performed for the birthday girl who they all know and adore. I wasn’t sure if Madelyn was feeling the vibe, but she not only asked to sing, she did a rockstar job!

Hey, Seacrest. Get back on TV. We have a new American Idol!

Hey, Seacrest. Get back on TV. Dim the lights. We have a new American Idol!

Once the music portion of the party was over, it was chow time for most of the guests and I finally got a chance to schmooze with all of our fabulous friends. I love having all my favorite people in our home to celebrate good times. There’s really nothing that makes me happier than fluttering around and visiting with all the wonderful families we’ve met in recent years from preschool and baby groups, or people we’ve known for what seems like forever from college or theater or our expanded family. It was during this portion of the party that I realized all the hard work was worth it.

Cousins Arielle and Jordan enjoy lunch with the original Friedman ladies.

Cousins Arielle and Jordan enjoy lunch with the original Friedman ladies.

Meeting new moms with Arielle has been so enjoyable. We have a good little group with cute kids and fun mamas.

Meeting new moms with Arielle has been so enjoyable. We have a good little group with cute kids and fun mamas.

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And then it was cake time. Or, as Arielle might have described it: BORINGZZZZZZZZZ. She was quite underwhelmed.

That’s right. Who participated in the most disappointing cake smash ever? Arielle Jane Friedman. Yup. She looked at her cake like, “Oh how nice,” and then couldn’t be bothered to dig in. The girl who shoots up milk like she’s a Breaking Bad character and the girl who can’t. stop. eating. bagels was negative 72 enthused about eating sugary bread with sugar goo and colorful sugared crunchies. So for anyone who considers first birthday cake smashes a spectator sport, this was a disappointing display. Instead, my generous babe dipped her finger into the frosting and tried to feed it to ME. I mean, I didn’t mind, but I was fresh off a Whole30 and didn’t want to steal her spotlight with my own personal adult cake smash. So instead, we looked like a couple on their wedding day, delicately feeding each other cake. Oh and since she hardly touched it, I spent the next three days finishing it myself. (Whole30, what?)

She didn't understand why we light our food on fire.

She didn’t understand why we light our food on fire.

Perhaps it was because I was  emotionally unstable and losing my mind while singing my girl "Happy Birthday" with 70 of our closest friends and family that Arielle was silently judging me.

Perhaps it was because I was emotionally unstable and losing my mind while singing my girl “Happy Birthday” with 70 of our closest friends and family that Arielle was silently judging me.

Sentimental she was not. Arielle was all business.  Fun fact: this is the only photo of the 4 of us from the entire party.

Sentimental she was not. Arielle was all business.
Fun fact: this is the only photo of the 4 of us from the entire party.

"VAT EES THEES DEES-GUSTING SHTUFF EEN MY FEENGERS? SAVAGES! GET ME A VIPE."

“VAT EES THEES DEES-GUSTING SHTUFF EEN MY FEENGERS? SAVAGES! GET ME A VIPE.”

After this, we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon.

After this, we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon.

Eventually she got a little more into it once she realized that cake is really delicious. Thank goodness. I was about to start doing DNA tests to make sure she was actually my daughter.

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Then the bride baby cheated on me and did romantic cake exchanges with Bryan.

Then the bride baby cheated on me and did romantic cake exchanges with Bryan.

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And that’s that. The infancy stage of motherhood is over. No more babies in this house. To say I was super emotional about that for weeks before her birthday is an understatement. But now that we’ve crossed the other side, it’s fine. She didn’t turn into a toddler overnight. In fact, Arielle is still very much a baby since she isn’t walking and doesn’t have any words for communication yet. She seems to be on her older sister’s heels of developmental milestones, and I’m OK with that. She’s on Arielle time, and for now, it’s still baby o’clock. And as long as she’ll let me, I’ll kiss her and nuzzle her and enjoy her soft skin and clean perfume.

A year with Arielle has been a delight and even though she keeps us on our toes with a feisty attitude and a decisive sense of determination, she’s still our silly little cuddle bug who’s brought so much joy to our completed family. Happy first birthday, Arielle. We are all crazy about you.

  1. Mimi
    4/12/2016 9:47 PM

    Happy 1st Birthday, adorable Arielle! Not only do I LOVE you, I’m crazy about you too! ? Keep dancing & singing like its 2016!

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?

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.


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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.


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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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Part of Her World

It’s no secret that Madelyn’s favorite Disney princess, movie, and ride at Disneyland is The Little Mermaid. She loves the music, the redhead, and the story. She lugs her Ariel doll everywhere, calls Bryan her Prince Eric, and sets the table with her dinglehopper. This kid is a no B.S. scholar of all things Mermaid.

So, no brainer. Her birthday party this year was decked out Under the Sea Chic — didn’t want too much commercial Disney decor, but wanted to set the mood using a sophisticated palette with lavenders and teals, lots of shells and sea glass, and netting with pearls.

Food was fun and easy and I’m kicking myself for not getting a lot of photos. The shell pasta salad was SO good and I will make it again and again. Here’s the recipe. You’re welcome. I made a crab out of a red bell pepper and stuck it in some hummus and used a dab to “glue” on his olive eyes. And then there were a few trays of Jersey Mike’s SANDwiches because, you know, THAT joke is a novel one. I set out a basket of individual bags of chips and Bryan asked me what I was going to name them. I was about to take a nanosecond to come up with something and then realized that not everything needs a name. CHIPS. They’re just CHIPS. However, I love food and I love puns. Kill me.

Ariel's Bikini Shells Pasta Salad -- Size C, for Carbs.

Ariel’s Bikini Shells Pasta Salad — Size C, for Carbs.

This party gave me crabs.

This party gave me crabs.

Sand dollar sugar cookies for the win!

Sand dollar sugar cookies for the win!

Little figurines of the beloved characters popped up here and there but I didn’t need to overdo it because we had THE REAL THING THERE!

Ariel, herself, swam up onto the land for the day to join us at the party and she was AMAZING. She came to us via Smile and a Song Princess Parties and people, I am telling you, the best best best character company I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy! If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you must call them for all your princess needs.

Ariel rang the doorbell and Madelyn answered. I think she was stunned, but quickly got on board with having a princess in her house.

A special guest is here? For moi?

A special guest is here? For moi?

What. The. What.

What. The. What.

Ariel is da hooooooouse

Ariel is da hooooooouse

Ariel’s voice was more pristine than the sea water — she was 100% Ariel from the start of the party until the end of the party. The girls adored her and even the little boys were into the whole 90-minute visit. The engagement she had with the kids was completely undivided and really, the whole experience was worth every penny (Ariel is not free, but her value is priceless). I swear, Madelyn believed that THE little mermaid dived out of the TV and into her backyard. She drank it right up and made this mama proud! And me? Well, I was like a kid in a candy store. I hardly socialized with our guests while Ariel was at the house because I didn’t want to miss one second of her interaction with the kids. It was so entertaining and while I could have left her to hold the kids’ attention while I participated in adult conversation, I chose to watch her show. She read The Little Mermaid book which is basically like hearing an autobiography from the author herself. And then she did songs with the kids. And she also did face and arm painting because in addition to singing, Ariel is also a talented artist.

Ariel fishes; the children bite.

Ariel fishes; the children bite.

Hans Christian Andersen would be so proud.

Hans Christian Andersen would be so proud.

Meanwhile, the grown-ups do adult things like finish sentences and eat a whole uninterrupted meal.

Meanwhile, the grown-ups do adult things like finish sentences and eat a whole uninterrupted meal.

... And I am emotionally moved by the "How to Dance Like a Princess" instruction.

… And I am emotionally moved by the “How to Dance Like a Princess” instruction.

Ariel puts Santa Claus to shame.

Ariel puts Santa Claus to shame.

Madelyn poses with Ariel, Prince Eric, and Ursula. Thanksalot.

Madelyn poses with Ariel, Prince Eric, and Ursula. Thanksalot.

Midway through the photos sesh, Madelyn got sassy and Ariel followed suit.

Midway through the photos sesh, Madelyn got sassy and Ariel followed suit.

And then all the kids got a turn to pose with the mermaid!

And then all the kids got a turn to pose with the mermaid!

Ariel is so hard core, she tatted up all the kids. Nose rings for Madelyn's 4th birthday party.

Ariel is so hard core, she tatted up all the kids. Nose rings for Madelyn’s 4th birthday party.

Ariel lead the birthday cake production and noted how the frosting resembled her home. I was so glad to pay homage to her roots.

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My girl loved everyone singing to her!

My girl loved everyone singing to her!

SO glad I didn't come to the party in my shell bikini top!  I mean, can you imagine?

SO glad I didn’t come to the party in my shell bikini top! I mean, can you imagine? I would totally lose in “Who Wore It Better”

After Ariel left, I was able to enjoy my other favorite aspect of Madelyn’s birthday party — mingling with friends and visiting with family members who’d traveled far and wide to celebrate with us. It was so nice having cousins together who don’t always get to hang out. And it’s always fun to have both of Madelyn’s great-grandmothers together because she’s so lucky to have two she can play with.

They're cousins! (un)identical cousins!

They’re cousins! (un)identical cousins!

I get by with a little help from my friends -- and sister mamas.

I get by with a little help from my friends — and sister mamas.

Together, this group photo is 184 years old.

Together, this group photo is 184 years old.

Group shot with representation from Mimi's family.

Group shot with representation from Mimi’s family.

Getting children to smile for the camera is like herding cats. While it’s extremely entertaining, what’s even more comical is the show going on behind the camera: eight adults squealing and jumping and shooting doting mother gang signs in order to get the munchkins to cooperate and look in the same general direction. With a smile. And still.

Madelyn enjoyed playing with her Siegel side — 2nd cousins — and the darling Epstein boys — 3rd cousins! — all together.

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Grown up cousins with their Granny and loving how their girls all play so nicely together!

Grown up cousins with their Granny and loving how their girls all play so nicely together!

It got dark, and we closed down the party. The afternoon in the shade (thank goodness, because it was a very hot day) turned out to be a successful birthday party for our little princess. Madelyn ended her night with cuddles from her grandparents and some expert gift unwrapping. She’s so lucky to have so many friends and family members who love her.

And we are so lucky to be part of her world.

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I don’t know how much longer I can produce these parties. I always say I’m going to just do something low key, but that’s a lie because I’m a glutton for punishment and actually enjoy the work that goes into a big birthday party. I keep thinking this will be the last of the big ones… but then I remember that in 2016, I’ll have another first birthday party to plan. Oh dear God, help me.

Madelyn Turns 3 and Visits the House of Mouse

Probably one of the greatest moments of parenting is when you wake your kid up super early in the morning, tell her you’re going in the car, explain that it’s for a long boring meeting, and that she has to be a good girl for the whole day. Then, 90 minutes later, when you all arrive at the destination, she says, “I see Donald on the wall,” and she asks you if you’re at Disneyland and then you answer, “What do you think?” and she squeals “yesssssssss!”

That’s probably one of the greatest moments in parenting.

We surprised Madelyn with a day at Disneyland the Tuesday after she turned three. We wanted to renew our annual passes and figured her birthday would be the best excuse to go. Not like you really need an excuse to go to Disneyland since “I like to have fun” is a reasonable excuse, but it made the dollars make sense.

The expectations for the day were low and that’s the beauty of having annual passes. You don’t feel like you have to squeeze every square inch into the eleven-hour day, and you know you’ll have more opportunities to try new things and revisit tried and true landmarks.

So the first thing we hit up was the Princess Fantasy Faire’s Royal Hall to meet the princesses. While Bryan held our spot in the 40-minute line, Madelyn and I spent some time in the Fantasyland shops where she became the owner of a new Elsa/Anna flip-flop doll. Long lines for the win!

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Once Bryan texted us that we were coming up soon, we hurried back to the line and got ready for our turn. Madelyn was wearing a birthday button which meant she was a magnet for birthday greetings from Disney cast members. The line greeter was so nice to Madelyn and gave her extra special birthday wishes. I think the line greeters are just as important as the princesses; they’re like the warm up act to get the kiddos ready and pumped to see the royal girls. Madelyn drank the warm up Kool-Aid and then as soon as we got in for our private one-on-one time with the first princess, she clammed!

The first princess encounter was with Ariel, Madelyn’s #1 all-time favorite princess. I think she was in such awe, that she got shy. She was able to get up the nerve to give hugs and curtsies to Ariel, but the fangirl reaction was muted a little more than usual.

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Next she met Cinderella who she’s interested in, but not in love with. However, the mermaid warmed her up a little bit, and Madelyn interacted a little more casually with Cindy.

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Finally, the last princess to receive her was Snow White and while Madelyn has not seen the most frightening movie of all time to feature its title princess, she was smitten like a doting dwarf. I think it’s because Snow White was reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaallllllly putting on the character voice. So much so, that I thought maybe one of her little woodland creatures was doing the talking for her — holy squeaks! — but it made her more character-y and less cute-actress-in-a-ball-gown-ish and, therefore, Madelyn totally bought it. She was cute and did little nose pokes and tickles with Madelyn. For the least known of the three princesses, I’d say Snow White was the biggest hit.

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After we left the Royal Hall, it was literally 742 degrees outside. I don’t do well in the heat, period. But I just really don’t do well in the heat at Disneyland where you sometimes stand in the sun, roasting, while waiting for rides and squashed up against equally hot people who emit sweat and other molecules I don’t wish to share. So we chose to eat. Because eating is less scorching than waiting in lines.

We went all the way to Critter Country for some predictable burgers and fries with lakeside seats that let us watch the Mark Twain Riverboat go by. Madelyn would wave and shout a friendly “hello!” to the passengers on board. When the Sailing Ship Columbia glided by, she sang “Yo ho!” to them and made a pirate face. She’s really gotten the hang of the Disneyland characters — furry, princessy, and even nautically.

After lunch, I took her to the bathroom just below the restaurant and on our way down, Tiana passed us by, looking a little less frog and more like a princess. She was entering the park from a Critter Country backstage area and waved a big, spirited hello to Madelyn. Her three-year-old fan gasped, looked at me with her mouth wide open, and broke out into the chorus of Tiana’s song and then finished with — and to herself — , “sing it giiiiiiirl!” I don’t know if Tiana heard, but nonetheless, I think she should be very concerned about her job security.

After a quick ride in a Winnie the Pooh beehive, we got in line to meet the characters from the movie. Madelyn has met Tigger, Eeyore, and Pooh before, but she loves to cuddle up with the larger-than-life stuffed animals. I definitely noticed that Madelyn cozied up more to mascot characters than face characters. Perhaps it’s because the face characters are more life-like. You know, because she regularly interacts with pretty girls in poofy dresses and tiaras who constantly go to balls.

Madelyn performed a little signature “hoo hoo hoo hoo!” to Tigger and he seemed impressed with her interpretation.

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She also met up with Eeyore whose tail was extremely fascinating to her. She kept pointing out the pink bow at the end of it and comparing it to the one in her hair. She and Eeyore are basically identical twins.

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Finally, she met the man, the myth, the Pooh himself. She sang his theme song to him which must be like when people go up to Ted Danson and sing him “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your naaaaame” or the four-clap to a “Friends” cast member. But, no matter, Pooh thoroughly enjoyed Madelyn’s staccato version of the song that calls him a silly willy nilly ol’ bear. She also continued to run into him to give him the biggest, well, bear hugs. And if Pooh is a boy, sorry.

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Because we’re geniuses, we chose the hottest part of the day to enjoy a straight 15-minute cluster of air conditioning on It’s A Small World. There are people who are lovers of this attraction and people who are haters of this attraction. I happen to be an extreme lover: catchy song, no drops, adorable international dolls living in peace and not bombing the shit out of each other, and air conditioning. On this Disney day, it was the air conditioning that really did it for me.

The happy birthday button came through and Madelyn’s VIP status got us front row on the cruise. This meant that we got air conditioning a whole 12 inches sooner than our shipmates behind us. That’s a score if you ask me. While I chose to stay very still and allow my nooks and crannies to cool off, the birthday girl danced up a storm in the front row. She really loves this ride. And apparently a rising body temperature.

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We decided to make our way out of Disneyland to head over to California Adventure, but just as we were reaching the town square at the base of Main Street, we saw Mickey Mouse coming out from backstage and heading over toward his meet and greet spot. I had my eye on the prize and sprinted over to him while Bryan jogged with the stroller to meet me. Like moths to the flame, or Real Housewives to a plastic surgeon, dozens of other Disneyland guests had the same idea. Fortunately we secured 4th-in-line status and in no time, Madelyn was meeting Mickey. In all of her visits to The Land, this was her first time meeting Tuxedo Mickey. She’s met regular Mickey at his house in Toon Town and she’s met Hollywood Mickey at California Adventure, but this get-up was new for her and she was loving it. I think Mickey really liked her too, because he gave her lots of extra special attention. They even danced together. With dips and everything. This was one of those “I love being a mom” moments that got me all teary and emotional. The joy in her eyes was exactly the reason why we got up early, dealt with traffic, and sweated our skin off to be there.

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Mickey’s handler asked me for my phone when Madelyn and Mickey started to dance. He took the video — vertically — (I’d kill him if he wasn’t so darn chipper) but it’s super cute and it was really nice of him to see the magical moment and offer to capture it for us.

Once we were in California Adventure, our first order of business was to go back into the “water,” this time via clam shell and under the sea. Madelyn’s all-time favorite ride is The Little Mermaid ride and this doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s actually super adorable and she loves how lifelike and musical it is. She sang all the songs and warned us when Ursula was coming because “she’s baaaaaaad.”

After The Little Mermaid ride, we treated ourselves to an afternoon snack. This delicious snack also served as a cooling-off mechanism. And it just so happened to be a very meta choice based on Madelyn’s T-shirt!

You are what you eat.

You are what you eat.

Once we were properly re-calories-ified, we thought we’d venture to some other parts of California Adventure but just a few minutes in the stroller, we noticed she was totally conked out. So, what are two hot and tired parents to do when their child snoozes at a theme park? They go into the lobby of the fancy hotel and enjoy more air conditioning. For just over an hour, Madelyn napped, we charged our phones, we caught up on social media, and, most importantly, we savored the best AC that’s available in the parks. It was actually a wonderful hour. Madelyn woke up cheery and we continued with our afternoon!

Madelyn snoozes as I try not to die of heat stroke.

Madelyn snoozes as I try not to die of heat stroke.

Later, back at Disneyland, we got spots for Mickey’s Soundsational Parade which we’ve seen a few times, but we all love it. We always get fantastic seats in the first row on the parade route right in front of a popcorn stand next to Le Petit Chalet by It’s A Small World and the back entrance to Tomorrowland. People line up for good chunks of time to get seats, but we always show up five minutes before and get prime viewing spots because people think it’s an off limits area. Nope. Once people see us sitting there, then the line up next to us or behind us. This is your insider tip. You’re welcome.

During the parade, the characters perform on floats and on the ground next to the crowds. Both Peter Pan and Pluto stopped their parade route choreography to come to Madelyn and dance with her. Madelyn wasn’t so sure about Peter Pan who wished her a happy birthday and told her to stay young, but she was all up in Pluto’s business. She was totally enchanted with the attention he gave her and it was so cute. He spent quite a lot of time kneeling down next to her and then had to trot a long way to catch up with his float staging.

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With the passing of Robin Williams just days before, I got a little emotional during this part of the parade. His memory lives on for sure.

With the passing of Robin Williams just days before, I got a little emotional during this part of the parade. His memory lives on for sure.

The Dumbo ride was right next to the parade, so when it ended, we flapped our ears and got in line to ride the elephant. I love this ride at twilight because you have a great overhead view of the park as it becomes magical with twinkling lights and the nighttime excitement at Disneyland revs up. Madelyn likes this ride because she can be in control. This girl is a lot like me.

She chose — big shocker — the pink Dumbo and we made sure to snap some silly photos before we went around and around and up and down.

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We had worked an up appetite so we decided on a dinner spot that would also coincide with fireworks viewing because killing two birds with one stone is the name of my game. But of course while Madelyn and I were stalking tables and Bryan was inside ordering, one of us decided that it was time to go potty. RIGHT. NOW. I’ll let you decide who that person was.

So we zoomed over to the baby changing area that has little toilets perfect for the one of us that had to go potty. RIGHT. NOW.

Seriously, Disney thinks of everything. Except for air conditioning. It was not cool in there and one of us was sweating up a storm while the other one sang songs on the pot.

The most magical pee of her life.

The most magical pee of her life.

We finally met up with Bryan who was SuperDaddy — as usual — and was able to not only order and bring out our food but secure a table for us. We chowed down and joined the crowd a few feet away just in time for fireworks. I have to admit — and yes I know how cheesy this is — but I got really choked up during the fireworks. I don’t know if it’s the music or the fact that TINKERBELL and DUMBO literally FLY through the freakin’ sky, but it’s quite a spectacle and Madelyn was fixated and the whole moment was very magical.

We pressed our luck for more magical moments when we took Madelyn to see “Fantasmic!” which she’s only seen snippets of as we’ve rushed through the park to take advantage of low wait times for rides. But we got great spots and didn’t have to wait too long for “Fantasmic!” to start. Madelyn loved seeing Mickey lead the show and was definitely in awe of the light show on the panel of water that projected some great scenes from classic movies.

And then it all went to shit when the villains came out. Madelyn has never really had any fears and would barely flinch when the villains came on during the movies, but this was big, and loud, and right in front of her, and she was not having it. She buried her head in Bryan’s shoulder and shrieked while I calmed her down to tell her that it would all be fixed and it would all be OK. Soon enough — SPOILER ALERT — the villains lost and Mickey won. Then all the princesses and other enchanting characters danced on the friendlier looking boat and she squealed with glee. At the end, she turned to Bryan and me and declared: MICKEY FIXED EVERYTHING! MICKEY MOUSE MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER!

So wise, my child.

So even though there was a moment where she might have been scarred and incurred some future therapy bills, I think it all turned out fine and she was able to overcome. She may even be able to make another visit to Disneyland in the future.

And just like that, the park was closing and we made that sad walk through the tunnel and out the gates and back to our car. We put a sleeping Madelyn into her car seat and drove home where a stuffed Mickey and Minnie were waiting in her crib, welcoming her back to reality.

We had a really wonderful day together, celebrating our girl and making it all about her. It’s truly no secret who our favorite princess is!