loquacious family

Monday, April 25, 2016

Plastics Purge

I'm not that hippy-dippy, but when my friend is telling me that her daughters have friends who are ovulating and menstruating at age 8, it gets me very worried.

Adding fuel to my fire are articles like this, this, this, and this one, which all point to studies showing that BPA-free plastics, which often use BPS, are also capable of causing hormone disruptions and early-onset puberty, among other side effects. That babies in utero and young children are particularly susceptible to such effects, when plastic containers are the norm for our youngest populations, is very alarming to me.

I can't change the world, but I can definitely make decisions that will help limit Little L's exposure to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals. By no means am I doing everything I can, but slowly and surely I am trying to make better choices that will hopefully help stave off early puberty and the risk of cancers later on in my little girl's life.

Here's what I'm doing now:

1. No more plastic drink bottles at home
I found some super-cute glass bottles at our Dollar store, with metal lids and plastic straws. I plan to sub out the straws with stainless steel ones or silicone ones just as soon as I can get a hold of some shorter stainless ones (the ones we have right now are crazy long). I also picked up some Silikids stretchy lids to go over top of regular drinking glasses, so that Little L can use our glasses as well. And as for why silicone? It's safe.

2. No more plastics in the dishwasher
This one is still in-process, because old habits die hard, but I'm trying to be more intentional about hand-washing the plastic serveware that we do have. I suspect that it is in the drying process that the chemicals get leached out and then consumed. Obviously, I have no science to back that up, but it's just my gut feel.

3. No plastics in the microwave
I thought this was a given, and we have not been putting anything plastic in the microwave for a long time, but it seems to me that many plastics manufacturers do deem their products "safe" for microwave use. Again, I am most concerned about chemical leaching out through high heat exposure, so I just don't want to chance it.

4. No more plastic water bottles at school
Another work in progress is eliminating Little L's plastic water bottles from her schoolbag. We have some stainless steel ones in our rotation already, and I try very hard to use those when possible. However, when they're all dirty, it is still far too easy for me to reach for a lightweight plastic one. I'm trying to build up more of the stainless ones so that I can phase out the plastic ones entirely, but again, this is going to take some time...and money!

5. No saran wrap on food
I still use the stuff to cover the top of bowls of leftovers, but I don't wrap food in saran wrap anymore, and most definitely don't put it in the microwave, ever!

6. Good-bye Yum Box :(
This one is painful, but I am in search of a stainless replacement for our beloved Yum Boxes. The boxes are, unfortunately, completely made out of plastic, and while we are handwashing them to minimize any potential chemical leaching, I'm fully aware that I still need to switch them out before too long or the plastic begins to degrade from wear.  I really really hate doing this, but I just know I would hate it more if I had to deal with a third-grader going through PMS :S  Hence the extreme precaution.

7. Food on regular plates
We had stockpiled a sh~tload of fancy plastic plates and bowls for Little L, including collector Peter Rabbit melamine ones and those fancy Toddler ones and everything in between. We dishwashed every last one of them, so now they're probably toxic. Despite my fears of breakage, I'm now trying to serve Little L's food in our grown-up china, rather than her plastic plates. And while I have yet to build up the heart to pitch her collection of dishes, I am slowly and surely retiring them. It's still a process, though, and I find myself often reaching for a plastic plate first. :(

While it is quite likely that most people don't expose themselves to enough BPS or BPA-free alternative plastics to cause the kinds of hormonal effects being observed in the mice studied, the scary thing is that we simply don't know what is causing early-onset puberty, and just how much of an effect early childhood (or in utero) exposure to these kinds of chemicals will have on children. I may be overreacting a little, but I'd rather that than under-react and find myself living with regret at the expense of my little girl's well-being. That's always the trump card; threaten the health of my kid, and I will end you, whatever the "you" might be.

So there ya have it; instead of a plastic splurge, we are on a plastics purge. :)

What's your take on BPA-free plastics in your littles' lives?
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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Double Baskets This Easter

Since Nana and YeYe won't be here in person this early Easter, I've been tasked with helping fill their basket for Little L. We also have a basket for our girl, and let me just say that it is *NOT* easy to do up baskets with things that are not laden in sugar, and that are useful and not excessive. Like many, when we need something, we buy it. That usually doesn't leave many "needs" by the time Easter rolls around (Christmas in Dec., Little L's birthday in Feb...)

So here's what my basket is shaping up to be:

a Lalaloopsy Painting Book

a Hello Kitty toothbrush

a set of Sight Words flashcards

a set of Munchkin Foam Bath letters (I wish I found lowercase ones, but uppercase will do)

a Frozen-themed hair accessories set

a new set of Alex Toys bath crayons

Usborne Book of Fairy Tales

Usborne First Sticker Book: Nursery Rhymes

And a Huffy Cinderella bicycle (which we already assembled and gifted to her; the owl was her Valentine's Day gift)
Nana had already sent along an Easter sticker book and a Pete the Cat hardcover storybook, so to that we added a stuffed bunny, a stuffie lamb keychain, a Pez Easter package, a spring hat, and a Little People house toy (which, honestly, I think is a bit young for her, but she has apparently had her heart set on it for several weeks).

I have to say, while I never grew up with an Easter basket tradition, I am actually growing quite fond of shopping for small incidentals (and bigger-ticket purchases) to gift to my girl at Easter time. We don't usually focus on the basket or receiving chocolate or gifts for the occasion; we opt instead to emphasize the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We also don't talk about the Easter Bunny or any of the mythology surrounding that, but we still do an egg hunt and we surprise her with a basket on Easter Sunday before church. The best part is usually the element of surprise; she never expects either the egg hunt or the basket(s), so she is always surprised by both.

What is going into your Easter basket(s) this Easter? What limits do you set on the price of each basket?

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

And... We're Reading!

That's right, my kid is learning how to read. She has pretty much nailed the C-V-C three-letter words, plus a number of the high-frequency sight words that one might find in every piece of writing (e.g. the, you, and, day, etc.). She can sound most printed words out if they follow phonetic rules, and when they don't, she has been asking us about them. She can do a bit of spelling too (the CVC words for sure, but the other ones I'm not so certain), and if we spell words out in conversation these days, she can pretty much figure them out. S. H. !. T. LOL

Some might think I've totally been Tiger Mom'ing her, drilling her or sending her to Kumon or some kind of preschooler's tutoring service, but I assure you, I've kept my teacher tendencies in check and have not in any way influenced her reading interests beyond actually just reading with her. In fact, I've been quite content to follow her cues and let her show readiness in her own time. And she has; she will quite often point at words and attempt to "sound them out" even when we're not paying attention. She reads words on walls and words from the signs in the mall. She asks questions about what words and symbols (like the % sign) mean, and she has (as of the last two weeks) been insatiable in her desire to read with us.

Obviously, every kid develops at a different rate, and by the time she's in second grade, nobody will give a rip which kid started reading first. So, to put it in perspective, it's not a race and if your kid isn't reading yet, it's not an issue to start sweating about. My kid has yet to ride a bike or even pedal with any proficiency; everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so I'm not here to gloat.

I do, however, want to share with you a few of the things we've been doing to help cultivate her literacy, since for Little L it seems to be effective. Take it or leave it as you wish :)

1. Phonics Apps
Since age 2ish, Little L has been playing on her iPad. Some of the games we've loaded up for her are spelling games that help emphasize the sounds that correspond with each letter. The apps we've used have included:

Teach Your Monster to Read (Usborne app)

Words that Go (by Learning Touch)

Word World Interactive Episodes for iPad

Endless Alphabet / Reader / Wordplay (by Originator, Inc.)

She has played these for a long time, so I'm sure that half the words are memorized simply because she has been repeatedly exposed to them. The end goal for me, though, was that she correspond the various sounds with their symbolic representations (upper/lowercase letters).

2. Reading, Especially Rhyming Books
The single most important thing that we could do to help Little L become a good reader has been to read to her, and cultivate a love of books. The actual acts of sitting together and turning the pages of a book teach a ton about the direction of text, the structure of books (title pages, table of contents, page numbers), the format of sentences (how words strung together should sound), not to mention the emotional connections that are formed when a loved one sits with a little and invests time and attention into sharing a story together. Even at age 4, my kid loves to curl up on my lap when we read a book.

While rhyming books aren't always interesting to us grown-ups, they've been particularly useful for Little L because they provide her with a rhythmic pattern that makes nursery rhymes easier to memorize, and rhyming words easier to identify.

3. Fill In the Blank
As we have become more familiar with these rhyming books, I have begun to read the text and leave out the last rhyming words of the phrase/sentence. Usually, Little L will then pipe up and tell me what that excluded word was. This has helped her gain confidence in her "reading" skills as well as help her figure out rhyming words.

4. Magnetic letters
We picked up some foam upper/lowercase magnetic letters from Zulily and have had them on display on her easel for quite some time. As she has become more familiar with words, we sometimes will build a word on there (or even a small message) for her to read. She also plays with the letters and will put together random strings of consonants and vowels and ask me what they say. Great teaching moments, plus the letters we purchased were intentional about making all the vowels yellow and the consonants blue and red. Little L quickly learned which letters were vowels, and I quickly learned that she is not a fan of vowels :)

5. Word Family Activities
Most recently, as Little L has begun to show a greater interest and desire to read, I've been putting together little flip books and sliders to show all/most of the words that belong to a single "word family" ("Word families are groups of words that have a common feature or pattern - they have some of the same combinations of letters in them and a similar sound. For example, at, cat, hat, and fat are a family of words with the "at" sound and letter combination in common" - thanks, Google, for the concise explanation!). While we're sitting at the dinner table, sometimes I will do a couple of books with her. It gives her great joy to be nailing it when it comes to "reading" these words, which are made easier to read once she figures out the pattern (e.g. all '-in' words have the same ending sound, so you just have to add the first consonant sounds to decode all the words in that "in" family). 

6. Simple Word Magnetic Poetry
Only in the past couple of weeks have I dug out my kids' version magnetic poetry set. The words contained in those magnets are fairly high-frequency words (e.g. girl, boy, happy, monkey), so Little L is able to identify a good number of them. We have been playing with those words on a cookie sheet (since the easel is all filled up with letters), and she has really gotten a kick out of reading the little phrases I put together. 

7. Back to the Board Books
Rather than donate/sell all of Little L's board books or "easy books" from when she was little, we keep them in her library and still revisit them often. The great thing about this is that as she becomes more familiar with decoding simple words, the better able she is to read these books independently. It has been so neat to see her read (not just memorize/recite) books somewhat on her own. 

These are just some of the things we've been doing to cultivate our kid's growing interest in reading. It's by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it prescriptive so much as it is a little peek into what we've been doing. I'm already running out of ideas, since she still has another year of preschool before she even starts kindergarten, and if she's anything like Hubbs, she will be full-blown reading by the time she's five. Yikes. 

What have you been doing to help nurture your littles' reading (and writing) skills? Please share!!   

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Unexpected, or The Life of David

As it turns out, the word unexpected was a prophetic word for 2016. Only as I reflect back now do I realize that Hubbs is in fact living a life of David. The David of the Bible. Yes, that one.

You see, nearly a decade ago, Hubbs took on a Goliath of sorts in his professional career. It was a very large, very established project that had gone off the rails; Hubbs had joined the team as a senior developer who quickly saw how to defeat the monstrous issues that plagued his client and their software. With persistence and skill, Hubbs was able to gain the trust of his superiors and assemble a small "army" of developers and architects to help rebuild the system and deliver a successful version 2.0 ahead of schedule.

At the time, we didn't consider that project to be what would establish Hubbs' career path going forward, but it did.

Fast forward to the recent past. Forgive the analogy-heavy, vague descriptions and liberal use of metaphor, which I am intentionally referencing to avoid litigation. Let's just say that, like the account of Saul and David, Hubbs' story also involves gaining and losing the favour of a King Saul-type who displays erratic behaviour and has some sort of emotional problem. Both stories are based on a Saul's desire to destroy the life of one who is innocent and whose intentions are nothing but pure. Both tales involve deception on Saul's part, and a desire to maintain integrity on the part of the other. And while the biblical tale eventually ends with Saul falling on his sword, we are not yet sure how Hubbs' story will end, although I'd say that the Biblical story gives us great hope! For now, we only know, based on the promises of Scripture, that:
[The Lord] holds success in store for the upright,
    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
    and protects the way of his faithful ones.  - Prov. 2:7-8
As we journey down a potentially dangerous path, we rest in the assurance that Hubbs has acted faithfully and rests in God's favour. We trust that the truth will indeed provide us freedom, and that God Himself will be our protector and our Defender.

However, if you feel so compelled, please pray for us in this unexpected, unwelcome season of our lives. Hubbs strives to be a man after God's own heart, but the life of David isn't the one he wanted to live (I think he'd much prefer Solomon's). ;)

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Public Solicitation, or The Story Behind The Story

My mom is a semifinalist in the EIA Great Jetaway contest! Here is my shameless request for all of your votes (daily, per device. Please vote often!).

The thing about vignettes and video clips is that brevity is key, so my mom's story got heavily edited, despite the amazing work of the EIA media team. I just wanted to backfill the details a little bit more.
Mom was born and raised in China/Hong Kong. When she was in her early twenties, she agreed to an arranged marriage with my Dad to obtain her citizenship status, so that she could eventually sponsor her entire family to come to Canada. As the eldest daughter, this was one of the things her family had expected her to do, even though it meant uprooting her entire life and relocating across the world when she was just 23. She had only known my dad for about 2 months when they exchanged vows, and three months after their first meeting, she left behind all of her friends and her family, and essentially moved from her father's house to her husband's, and relocated to Canada. Her English was poor, she knew virtually nobody, and the people she was closest to were thousands of kilometres away on a different continent.

While my mom did fall in love with my Dad over their 40-year marriage, their lives in Canada weren't easy. With 4 children to support and raise, they both worked 2-3 jobs to try to make ends meet during the lean years; at one point, both my parents worked full-time during the day (Mom as a bookkeeper and Dad as a chef) and then they cleaned movie theatres from 11:00 pm until 3:00 in the morning. They still managed to find time to attend all of their kids' recitals and create a meaningful childhood for all of us. When my Dad finally retired, my parents sold their home and moved into a condo in the city to be closer to their children and grandkids. My mom still continued to work at Wal-mart to try to save up for their golden years. They dreamed about taking a Caribbean cruise together, and about taking my Mom to Australia to visit her best friend, whom she hasn't seen in over 40 years.

However, just a brief couple of years after their move, my Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. He fought the disease as long as he could, but succumbed to it two years after the initial diagnosis.
Now widowed, my Mom is navigating her way in the world as a single person living alone for the first time in over 60 years. She is trying to carry out the plans that she and my Dad had dreamed of, and was recently able to go on a Caribbean cruise with the money her part-time job provided her. Her 65th birthday comes at the end of this month, and she is finally set to retire. Her greatest wish is to reunite with her best friend, who she hasn't seen in over 40 years and who now resides in Australia. This friend, who is also widowed, has been a constant in my Mom's life, and a tremendous support not only throughout her last several decades as a wife and a mother, but also during my Dad's battle with cancer. They have kept in touch via handwritten letters, emails, phone calls and FaceTime over 4 decades, but they haven't been in the same room or even the same continent since my parents got married in 1974.

This contest gives Mom an opportunity to finally see her best friend again, and to give her a long-deserved hug for being there for my Mom during the hardest, saddest and most joyful periods of her life.

Please vote for Katie. I can't imagine a person more deserving of this, after a life of selfless devotion to her family. Voting is allowed daily and from every device. Thank you for hearing more of her story, and for voting.

Here is the link:

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Two Years

The room was filled with nervous energy and hushed tones. On occasion, a laugh or a wail interrupted the quietude, the product of babies and toddlers growing restless from the wait. Snacks were offered, as were iPads, to appease the impatient. My entire family was gathered together in one space, all dressed in our finest attire; had the location been any different, one might have thought we were preparing for a wedding. It was, however, the day when we would be laying my father to rest.

While the days leading up to his passing were a blur, as were the ones that preceded his funeral, a few moments play in my mind very clearly. One would be the hour he entered into eternity, which happened to be an hour before our boarding time to fly back. In the early morning chaos of getting the last of our bags packed and moved to the door, Hubbs and I had been fumbling our way through the living room in near darkness. We were just about to rouse our sleepy toddler and call the cab company when my phone began to ring. Despite knowing that my father was dying, I somehow failed to consider the possibility that he might actually do so before I could say a final, "I love you Daddy." And yet, the breaking voice on the other end of the line confirmed my very worst possible scenario: we would not make it back in time to say a final farewell. In fact, by the time our plane touched down, his body would already be gone from the hospital room. Our good-byes would have to wait until the viewing.

The other moment etched in stone in my memory is the hour prior to the memorial, when we as a family gathered together one last time with my dad's body. While others fought back tears or wept openly, I couldn't even muster one single tear as I stared into the open casket. He would have loved to be here with all of us and all of his friends, I thought to myself, but he isn't.

There lay the skin and bones of the man who gave me life, and pee-my-pants tickles and cooking lessons and unsolicited advice and mah-jong winnings and dozens of pounds of char siu, but my father? He wasn't there.

Dressed in the cranberry Chinese suit I got him from Hong Kong during my inaugural teaching year, and wearing his wedding ring and the ruby one that the four of us had conspired to surprise him with several years earlier, his remains rested inside the silky cream-coloured upholstering, clutching his Bible. But my daddy? This wasn't him.

This was just his packaging, a cocoon that housed the caterpillar who now flew freely as a fully-realized butterfly in the Creator's presence. In that moment, I felt so robbed, and so regretful and sad to not have had the opportunity to convey my heart to him once more before he left this world. Selfish though it was, I couldn't say good-bye, and I grieved that loss almost as much as I grieved the actual loss of my dad. Any promise of closure that a viewing, or a funeral, might have offered was a complete lie. There would be no final good-bye.

Even now, two years later, sometimes the bitter tears fall. The grief is accompanied by second-guesses, and what-if's, and if only's. My only consolations are the promise of seeing him again one day, and the assurance that the message I texted my mom to relay to him six hours prior to his passing had been delivered, and I'm fairly certain from the timeline of my father's last hours that it was upon receipt of this message that he felt the peace to be able to let go of his earthly commitments and embrace the invitation of eternity.

And so, on a day when we typically celebrate love, might we all feel challenged to make the most of every opportunity to let the ones we love know just how much they mean to us? I don't even remember the last words I uttered to my dad, or the last ones he actually heard, since his hearing had begun to fade as the cancer metastasized. I just hope that the ones he carried into heaven from me were, "I love you, Daddy. Thanks for being the best dad I could have had."

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Disneyland - How We Roll

Rather than give you a boring-a$$ play-by-play of our 4-day detour to the Happiest Place on Earth, I thought I'd write instead on how we traveled while we were there. Maybe there's a pro-tip in there somewhere for you. Maybe. Mind you, every Mouseketeer website I google'd prior to our trip had a zillion tips on how to save money while visiting the Magic Kingdom. This is not one of those posts, and our tips don't save you any $, so I guess in some ways that's refreshing to read?

*Stay on the Property
Proximity - Everyone claims that it's just as easy to stay at a hotel that is across the street from Disney, but I call BS. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel, and because we ended up (by fluke) in the Fantasy Tower, we were literally 50 preschooler-steps away from the entrance to Downtown Disney. The monorail was only another 3 minute walk away, so you can hop on the ride and head straight to Tomorrowland if you wanted. We totally took advantage of this when we returned to the park one night after dark; it was awesome to be able to beeline straight into Disneyland without having to go through the gates again, and walk down Main St. for the umpteenth time. Our proximity to Downtown Disney also meant that we were super close to the shops, and when it was 10:00 pm and we wanted a Starbucks? Easy peasy, thanks to being RIGHT THERE.

Perks - If you stay at a Disney hotel, you get to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours every morning. This means that, prior to official opening hours at 9:00 am, you can head to the park at 7:00 am and wait a glorious 0 minutes to ride the rides that would normally have 2-hour wait times. We didn't take advantage of this, since we are late late risers, but when Little L is older, I fully anticipate we will make full use of Extra Magic Hours. Another perk is that you get discounts and swag; we scored some nice lanyards and pins (there is a whole other Disney world of pin traders, but I'm not familiar with it), plus coupons to discounts on dining and certain shops. When eating at a Disney restaurant is so dang pricey, 10% off is a wonderful thing. A third perk is that if you buy a big bag of stuff at a shop inside the park, you can get it delivered to your room (for free!!). No lugging giant plastic bags back, which is a very excellent benefit for shoppers like moi.

Parking - Specifically, valet parking. I highly recommend this, and while it costs an extra $12 on the day (vs. self-parking, which is nearly $20), it means that you're not wasting precious time trying to find a spot a million miles away from the hotel entrance. It also gives you access to bell services, who (for a tip) will haul your many bags to and from your room. Also included are extra parking hours; on our last day, we had to check out at 11:00 am but bell services held our bags and valet kept our vehicle parked until we finished riding the last of our rides.

Guest Services - So, we originally bought a 3-day park-hopper. Then, after having used up all 3 days, we decided we needed one more day to do Disneyland. Enter the lovely folks at guest services, who happened to be in the lobby of the hotel. We only had to present our tickets to them for them to help us upgrade our park passes. Again, easy (which, when you have a kid, is a huge bonus).

*Make meal reservations 60 days ahead...online.
You're only allowed to make reso's at certain Disney restaurants (both in the park and in downtown Disney) 60 days in advance of your visit. I had it marked on my calendar and set with multiple alerts so that, exactly 60 days before we were set to visit, I could book us some tables at my favourite restaurants (Naples, Tortilla Jo's, Cafe Orleans, La Brea Bakery, Goofy's Kitchen). Even with reso's, there was a bit of a wait time, but for those poor folks who tried to walk in, sometimes the wait was like an hour or more. When you want to maximize your Disney time, and you know you're already going to spend half the day waiting in line for rides, the last thing you want is to also spend another hour or two waiting to eat at a restaurant.

*Bring clothing for every possible weather condition.
This was a big lesson for us, because we mostly packed fall clothing, assuming that Anaheim doesn't get winter-cold. Well, it does get near winter-cold after the sun goes down, especially in December. Hubbs ended up having to buy a Quiksilver lined jacket for the cool evenings, and we had to buy Little L some more sweat pants since we only packed her capri's.

And then it rained. Like, all day rained. :( While we own like a dozen umbrellas and a ton of rain gear because we live in the Lower Mainland, we never thought to pack any of this stuff when we headed down to "sunny California." The end result of this is that we are a little more broke, because we had to drop some serious $ at the store buying low-quality plastic ponchos (that off-gas so badly that you will end up smelling like you were made in a factory in China, too) and umbrellas. Take a page from us; be boy-scout prepared for every possible weather condition if you do Disney anytime other than mid-summer.

*Bring a stroller (or rent one if you dare).
We didn't dare rent a stroller (hello, lice and germs and potential pee accidents!), but we did see that Disney has a lot of them for rent; theirs are even embroidered with Disneyland logos! Anyway, we brought our own Baby Jogger City Mini Zip, which folds up very compact and looked way more comfy to ride in than the rental buggies. The Disney parks are fairly huge, and for a little person, I'm sure the parks would feel absolutely immense. There's no way that even the most energetic kid would want to walk it all day long, so a stroller gives them a reprieve and a rest and an opportunity to save their energy for the rides and the line-ups. A bonus feature of strollers is that they're also great additional storage devices for stuff like your winter jacket, which you won't need during the day but will want to have once the sun goes down!

*Bring noise-cancelling headphones for the noise-sensitive
Little L had no issue with the noise of the people, but she found the rides themselves (and the announcers and music) to be very loud. Understandable, because how else would you hear the instructions above the other competing sounds? For a preschooler with sensitive hearing, however, this proved to be a bit overwhelming. We didn't have any headphones with us, so we would cover her ears for her during some of the rides. I think that before we return to Disney, we will definitely be investing in a pair for her to use while she enjoys the rides.

*Buy Disney "stuff" ahead of time
Okay, this one is a cost-saver. If you buy your kids some Disney clothes from Old Navy online during a summer or fall sale, then you'll have stuff for them to wear when they go to Disney, and you won't be paying $25USD for a t-shirt! The same applies to toys and other Disney items; their merchandise seems to be prolific in non-Disney stores anyway, so it might be worth your while to stock up on a few of these and save them for your trip! We pre-bought Little L a t-shirt, but in her case, she didn't really care about the Disney merchandise anyway, so we weren't in danger of overspending while we were in the gift stores.

*Park Hopper passess are for bigger kids
This was another lesson learned for us. We bought park-hoppers, thinking we might hit up both parks each day of our visit. WRONG. We did California Adventure on the first day, and again on the third (briefly, mostly to use the potty and buy some snacks), but the bulk of our time was spent inside the Magic Kingdom. In hindsight, it would have been better to buy single-park passes, and then we would have felt more committed to riding and exploring California Adventure on the day that we visited it. To clarify, with older kids I would say that a park-hopper is probably a good thing, especially since it seemed that during the "peak hours" at Disneyland, the rides on the California Adventure side weren't nearly as long. For littles, however, save your money and get single-park passes instead.

*Buy souvenirs last
If you're really wanting to stock up on Disney merchandise (I like their tea towels and kitchen/bathroom stuff), or you have souvenirs to buy people in your life, I would recommend waiting until the last or second-last day of your visit. This way, you will have had a chance to see all of the stuff that's available for purchase (and selection does in fact differ slightly from store to store, and park to park). You can then make an informed choice about what you really want to buy, and it will give you time to reconsider dropping $40USD on sequinned Mickey ears that you will likely never wear again.

*Have an excellent data plan in place.
The Wifi at Disneyland (and the hotels) sucks. While reception is pretty good, their Wifi lacks the bandwidth (or whatever you call it) to be able to support all the visitors that are trying to get online for free. In the end, I used my data plan while I was at Disney. It was way quicker, and saved my sanity.

*Use the Disneyland app!
Hence the need for Wifi (or data)! There's a Disneyland app that you can download for free that will provide a map of the parks as well as give you wait times on the rides you're jonesing to go on. We used the app a countless number of times to make sure that we could wait the shortest possible amount of time to enjoy the attractions. In fact, it was because of the rain and the app that we had a 2 minute wait time to ride It's a Small World. The GPS part of the app also helps with navigation around the park, which was a huge help for newbies like us! 

*BYO Starbucks (Via)
While there is in fact a Sbux in Downtown Disney, that place is perpetually busy and I don't like waiting a long time for my coffee. Several other shops do also serve Sbux coffee, but they're few and far between. The room coffee is most definitely not Sbux, either. It's not bad, mind you, but for a Sbux addict like myself, it would have been helpful to have had some of those Via packs on hand so that I could get my fix without having to drop a bunch of $ and keep my family waiting.

And finally, the rides that we enjoyed and are definitely anxious preschooler-friendly:

The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh - (15x)
King Arthur's Carousel - (4x)  
Casey Jr. Circus Train - (2x)
It's a Small World - (1x)
Alice in Wonderland - (1x)
Chip n' Dale Treehouse
Disneyland Monorail
Donald's Boat
Tuck n' Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies - (1x)
Goofy's Playhouse
Heimlich's Chew-Chew Train - (1x)
King Triton's Carousel - (2x)
The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Adventure - (1x)
Mickey's House
Minnie's House

I would have gladly enjoyed more rides, but the line-ups before Christmas were fairly long, and Little L is really not into loud rides, so we did Disney at her pace and within her comfort zones. She is already talking about returning to Disneyland, so I am guessing we will be back in the next couple of years! :)


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