23 April 2010

Is that an Allen wrench in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

"I have two boxes of leftover tile."

I looked up from my laptop and peered over my glasses at my husband.

"Aaaand ... " I prompted.

"I was thinking I would just go ahead and tile the floor in the kids' bathroom."

I cocked my head to the side. "Hmmmm ... Okay, sure."

And so it began.

For much the same reason you should not give a Moose a Muffin, you should not give my husband a "little" DIY home improvement task.

Because, if you ask him to lay tile, he will need to tear out the old floor.
And if he tears out the old floor, he might as well remove the old sink and countertop.
And if he takes out the vanity, he really should replace that old shower.
And it the shower is going, well, we really should extend the tile from the floors to half-way up the wall.
And paint.
And get new curtains.
And buy all new fixtures and furniture and finials and ...

Four months, three home improvement stores, two visits to Ikea, and one special order later ...

We have a lovely new kids/guest bathroom.

For the record, *I* built most of the furniture. (I am the Ikea queen - have Allen Wrench, will travel. Or something like that.)

If anyone needs me, the Queen will be on her throne,

04 April 2010

Pop Culture Peeps

Happy Easter, Peeps!

We are busy biting the heads off of bunnies and chickies today over here at the House of Zen. But before the sugar crash hits, I thought I'd share some of my favorite pop-culture Peep art, borrowed from various and sundry places around the interwebs.

I admit my sense of peep-humor is just ever-so-slightly off-of-center. But if you want to see some more fun and interesting Peep art, check out the Washington Post's 2010 Peep Diorama Contest. There are a lot of people out there with a very weird talent and a lot of time on their hands.

Happy Hunting,

02 April 2010

You must be this tall to ride

I love Disneyland.

If it was at all feasible, I would visit there at least once a year. As it is, I usually get my fix, um, force my loved ones, er, treat the kids to a vacation there once every-other-year. I honestly couldn't tell you how many times I've been there, but I do know I'm well into double-digits by now.

Now, I know there are Season Passholders and other SoCal folks who go to Disneyland tons more than we do. But, for someone who lives more than a half-day's drive away, I'd say we're pretty frequent flyers.

But, we're also a family on a budget. We don't spend a week at the Parks every time we go. In fact, we rarely do visits of more than two days at a time (drive-time excluded). A one-day park visit is not unusual either.

So, we've kind of gotten it down to a science. In the off-season (which is the only time we will go anymore, to be honest), we can do everything we want to do in the Disneyland Park in one day.

Part of that is because we are so familiar with the Park: The attractions, the layout, the crowd trends, etc. And part of it is because we tailor our visit to our family. Our minions are 5 and 2. They are too small for Star Tours or Thunder Mountain Railroad, for example. So we skip those entirely. We also know where the good places are to eat, to rest, to change a diaper, to shop, to get a mocha, etc.

Every now and then, a friend will ask me for information or advice about planning a trip to Disneyland Resort. I always tell them that it's important to tailor their plan to their own family dynamic, taking into account their own and their kids' ages, interests, stamina, etc.

Of the two parks, I would pick Disneyland over California Adventure if I could only do a one-day visit. Though, if you've never been to California Adventure, you should plan to go there too, if you can. There are a lot of fun and interesting attractions there for all ages.

So, this is how WE do it:

ZenMom's Patented Disneyland-in-a-Day Whirlwind
(Preschooler version)

1) Fantasyland
Ironically, some of the rides here are too scary for little ones. We usually skip those. Our faves are (in suggested riding order):
  • Peter Pan's Flight
  • Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
  • King Arthur's Carousel
  • Casey Jr. Circus Train
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Storybook Canal
If you do go to Fantasyland, make it your first stop. It will be more crowded in the afternoon. (Except for Storybook Canal, the lines are hardly ever bad for that one.)

2) Tomorrowland*
From Fantasyland, it's a quick walk around the Matterhorn over to Tomorrowland. The big attractions here for young kids are:
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Ride
  • Buzz Lightyear's AstroBlasters
  • Autopia
Best bet: Get a FastPass for Buzz Lightyear and go ride the Submarines and Autopia. Then double-back to ride Buzz Lightyear on your way out of TomorrowLand.

3) Adventureland/New Orleans Square/Critter Corner
The priorities for us here are:
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Safari Cruise
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Splash Mountain**
  • Winnie the Pooh and Friends
We always check the lines to be sure, but usually the best bet is to get a FastPass for Pirates of the Caribbean and then go on the Safari Cruise and Tarzan's Treehouse. (Note: Pirates can be a little scary for some kids. Mine are both cool with it, but you know your kid best.)

Depending on how long those rides take, you might still have time before your Pirates FastPass time. In which case, it might be a good time to the hit the Enchanted Tiki Room, eat lunch (all the best dining options are in this general area) or even go on the Haunted Mansion, if the line is short. If not, you can do one or all of those after Pirates. (Same "scary" warning for the Haunted Mansion: It's not for all little kids.)

Heading around to Critter Corner, if the lines are long, get a Splash Mountain FastPass and go on Winnie the Pooh and Friends while you wait. If you haven't done Haunted Mansion yet, this is another good time to double back and hit it while you wait for your Splash Mountain FastPass time. (Side note: The little store in Critter Corner is one of my favorite places in the park to shop. Second favorite is the Bazaar in Adventureland.)

Optional: If you've never been, or if you have extra time in your schedule (say, because you decided to skip the Haunted Mansion or Pirates for example), go to Tom Sawyer's Island or the Mark Twain River Boat.

5) ToonTown*
When you're done in that area, hop on the Disneyland Railroad at the New Orleans Station and ride over to the ToonTown Station. The to-dos here for us are:
  • Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
  • It's a Small World 
  • Mickey's House
  • Goofy's Garden / Donald's Boat/ Minnie's House
If your kidlets aren't too small for the Roger Rabbit ride, grab a FastPass for it and then head over to It's a Small World during the wait. After Roger Rabbit (or before, if there's still time after Small World), do Goofy's Garden, Donald's Boat, Chip & Dale's Tree, Minnie's House, Mickey's House, etc.

Note: The line to take a picture with Mickey at the end of his house tour can be pretty long. It's up to you whether or not it's worth it. (Personally, my kids have been known to be antsy during the whole wait and then fall asleep 2 minutes before it's our turn. Seriously, I have the photos to prove it.)

Speaking of Character Photos, there are scheduled and spontaneous times/locations to get photos with your favorite characters every day in both parks. If you, or your kid, want one, by all means, plan that into your day. It's a not a big priority for us, so we don't plan for it. Though we've taken advantage of it several times when the timing was just right.

7) Main Street
When the kids are all worn out, jump back on the train in ToonTown and take it around to Main Street. Or, you can just walk back, maybe hitting another ride or two on the way, if you're not too tired out. We usually do a little shopping along Main Street on the way out of the park or hoof it over to the big World of Disney Store in Downtown Disney outside of the park. There's also other cool shops and dining there, including an awesome LEGO store.

Note: Some merchandise is ONLY available in certain areas of the park and nowhere else. So, if you see something you want in a specific land that is themed to that land, you should buy it there. It might not be available elsewhere.

*Sometimes we switch Tomorrowland and ToonTown. Works either way.

**Bonus: One last thing every parent of little kids should know about when planning a Disneyland trip: Rider Swap. From the Disney website: "Rider Swap is when Guests take turns waiting with youngsters too small to ride a certain attraction, then "swap" with another adult Guest from their party to experience the ride without standing in line twice." Just ask a Cast Member when you get to the front of the line and they will set you up. Best. Invention. Ever.

So, there it is. That's basically how we attack Disneyland in a Day. We can hit the highlights (for us) of California Adventure in one day, too.


The caveat to all of this is, surprisingly enough, flexibility.

We have a plan, but we also know when to deviate from it. Not just when a ride is closed or when a line is extra-long, but also when a kid (or parent) is over-tired or hungry or just needs a break or doesn't feel like doing a particular attraction or wants to do a different attraction twice. The nice thing about going to the Parks so often is that if we "miss" something, we know we can always catch it the next time. So we don't stress about it. We've also been known to just throw the plan out the window and just do what feels good. ;)

Again, this is NOT how to do everything at Disneyland in one day. It's just an example of how a family can prioritize and personalize to do everything they really want to do in a day. Like I said, it's all about planning the best trip for YOU. For us, right now, this is a pretty good description of our general M.O. But it will definitely change when the Minions get older!

In fact, if you have tips on doing Disneyland with older kids, I'd love to hear them. Actually, if you have any tips or tricks for doing Disney - or any other theme park destinations, for that matter - I'd love to hear them! Please share! :)