Look, I Am Your Father…

Happy Father’s Day to me! I have awoken to some lovely presents and social media messages from Emily and Rebecca, along with my first card from Freddie. I would spend the day with my feet up, but the shopping arrives shortly, the dogs need walking and we have a new tumble dryer arriving later. If that isn’t a homage to Dads everywhere I don’t know what is.

It won’t surprise you to know that most of my cards and the photos posted online by the girls are WDW related. Our lives are catalogued by a series of photographs stood in front of a lot of the same stuff and I don’t see that in any way as any sort of a bad thing.

I would also like to wish my Dad a Happy Father’s Day, but I always feel a bit silly doing it online as he lives next door and it would just be rude not to pop in and say it in person, so I’ll do that. Thanks Dad for everything you do, have done and will do, as I need some DIY advice again but I’ll wait until you’ve opened your card and present.

Last week also saw a birthday in our household as Bean turned two.

It’s safe to say it wasn’t my idea to get another dog, and in some ways she makes my life harder work, but she’s a little love and we’re stuck with her now and she with us.

As the girls have had the nerve to grow up into adults I now find myself being Dad to Bean and Oli and I’m not sure if that is in any way easier than raising humans. I’m still clearing up poo, breaking up jealous squabbles and taking them to emo based gigs. Oli and Bean are all over Paramore and My Chemical Romance.

So to all Dad’s out there, well done. Keep up the good work, and produce the best little humans you can. In a world where people on Love Island become celebrities, making a sex tape is a route into a multi-billion dollar career and Coldplay sell millions of albums, it is up to you to show them the way.

In reality, like me, you will bumble and stumble your way through it, making loads of mistakes and wrong decisions as I continue to do and just hope that they pick out your best bits and ignore the rest. Oh and take them to Walt Disney World as often as is humanly possible. They’ll turn out all the better for it and so will you.

Here endeth the patronising Dad advice. Right I have too much to do to be rambling on here, that’ll have to do for this week.

Till the next time….

Toddler Transport Tackled

I don’t want to calculate how many blog posts I have written since this nonsense started in November 2009. It’s too early on a Sunday for that.  It’s a good number I imagine. In that time seldom have I had a reaction as I did to last week’s post! Forget writing novels, doing trip reports or any family event. Chat about transporting babies around and my comments blow up. I love it.

Thank you so much to everyone who responded to last week’s post. Not only was there a lot of it, but the quality was tremendous. You have sorted us right out, educated me on my woefully poor thinking on some points and I can now say we are well and truly sorted.

It became clear very quickly that the best way to go would be to take our own gear. Many folks suggested very good rental options for strollers, but the overwhelming theme was that having the stroller with you at the airport at both ends was the only way to go. Beyond that, I even got many suggestions for the stroller to go for. In the end, we went for this one which arrived this week….

Freddie popped round to test drive it and gave it his seal of approval. For anyone considering a similar purchase, it is an iSafe Visual 3 Apple Slice Three Wheeler Stroller. Not that it had any bearing on the buying decision, but it has a slot in the hood for an iPad so that when he is chilled out and lay back he could watch his favourite programmes. We added a rain cover to it as we’ll encounter some for sure and we can use it whilst the stroller is parked up to protect against any sudden down pour whilst we are off doing stuff.

We will also be taking Freddie’s car seat with us, and my  original plan of taking a bin bag to put it in was upgraded with this recommendation.

This is a Baby Caboodle Car Seat Travel Bag.

It is, as you can probably see just a huge rucksack. Whilst no competitor to Ryan, it is impressive in its size. Should you ever need to dispose of a dead body then this may be the buy for you.

Look at the size of it….

So Freddie’s transportation needs are taken care of, thank you dear reader. I can’t say I am really looking forward to collapsing that stroller and getting it onto the tram into the parks. That of course will be Tom’s job but I’ll be watching in a supportive manner. Freddie makes that small hardship worthwhile of course.  He’s a little ever smiling superstar and I can’t wait to show him our special place. He literally has no idea what is coming his way.

All of these planning details are being nicely ticked off as we edge ever closer to departure. Next of course will be our FastPass+ stuff, which, being inferior off-site folks this time, will only be done at 30 days out. I suspect some tough choices will need to be made and some rapid changes to the plan may be required to maximise our options, but I am ready for this challenge.

I paid the villa balance last week. It is one of the few purchases of that magnitude that I pay for with glee (and money). I took the opportunity to revisit the villa online to get me through a turgid few days at work and if you wish to as well then fill your boots by clicking the image below.

Emerald Island Vacation Rental

Is it only me that does that looking at the villa thing in times of need?

We also sorted out the doggy day care for Oli and Bean last week. Our nephew Jack will be staying at our house with the demanding duo. Between now and departure I need to write down all of their quirks, habits, routines and foibles. If I start right now, I may be able to email it to him from the plane. They are a cosseted, spoiled and special couple of dogs and he will have his work cut out for sure.

Is it August yet?

Till the next time…..

Planes, Babies and Automobiles

I have a recurring dream, or more accurately, nightmare. It probably originates from the huge sense of responsibility I feel when planning a WDW trip for everyone I allow to join me.

It goes something like this.

It is the end of a Florida holiday and somehow, for reasons that never become clear, we’ve done nothing. None of my plans have come to fruition, and we are about to head for the airport to go home. The feeling of having had a holiday slip through my fingers turns my stomach and brings me out in cold sweats.

It is a subliminal reminder to make the most of every second of these holidays of course and is probably some important message about life in general that I am missing the point of. I only mention it as I had a week off last week and I sit here on the cusp of returning to work feeling exactly like that. It vanished in a puff of smoke before I knew it was happening. I didn’t have any plans for my week off and that was intentional. Well, my plans were to do as little as possible to be honest, and bearing that in mind it was a success and yet I still feel that I’m only now ready for the time off and I need another week to do it properly.

I did manage to finish the West Wing and felt actual grief that it was over. I think I was one of the last few people on the planet not to have watched it, so if you are one of the others then do give it a go.  If you don’t fall in love with Martin Sheen then you should see a doctor.

We’re in June now somehow and this holiday hurtles towards us at great speed. I took the opportunity last week to get one of the final pieces of the jigsaw sorted by booking the hire car. As ever, I used US Rent a Car, mainly as you can secure it with a small deposit and pay fully a few weeks before. With the size of our party I have of course booked a mini van thing. When we get sent to the row of cars to choose from we’ll be looking for the one with most room of course as we have six adults and a car seat to cram in plus all our luggage. Those journeys to the airport and back are always hot and sweaty fun with suitcases on knees.

I think the plan is to take a car seat with us rather than rent one from the car hire folks. I’d appreciate any advice from those having done it but this seems to make sense for a few reasons…

  1. We will need it in the taxi to the airport at this end and on the journey home
  2. It costs an arm and leg per day to hire one
  3. You can’t be sure of the quality of whatever you rent

My thinking is that we will have Freddie in his normal car seat in the taxi to Manchester airport and then once at the airport we will label it up and send it through with the luggage. Am I missing something here which makes that a bad plan?

Maybe this is the answer? 🙂

Stroller wise I think we’re still in two minds. One option is to not take one and at the airport poor Tom will transport Freddie around in a harness, risking permanent damage to his back as Freddie is going to be a bundle by that time. We would then either use the one provided in the villa or buy a suitable one from a supermarket for day-to-day use. The other option would be to take a lightweight one with us and keep it until we get to boarding at the gate. I can see the benefits of that as Freddie can have a kip before we get on the plane if he needs it and we’d have it from baggage reclaim at Orlando too.  Hmm, not sure on that one. What is your advice dear reader?

Steer us in the right direction please if you have handled these logistical challenges.

Having had two gigs this weekend, resulting in two very late nights I am going to sign off now and rest my weary bones. As I type this nonsense, I am enduring Love Island as Emily is catching up with the previous episodes in preparation for the new series tomorrow. It is probably best that I don’t start expressing my views on this programme as I have to go to work tomorrow and I’d end up being short of time. My blood pressure may also suffer.

Have a good week.

Till the next time…..

A Sentimental Journey

Thanks to everyone for your best wishes for my Dad. He came out of hospital on Monday, feeling a million times better than when he went in, with a new collection of pills to add to his daily intake.

An unexpected planning milestone happened last week. There I was minding my own business after work on Friday, contemplating how on earth I had made it through the endless week just gone, and looking forward to the week off I had booked for next week, browsing some social media. A post appeared about a Floridatix sale on theme park tickets, so I gave it a click, expecting to be baited and switched as is often the case with these promos.

Whilst the saving won’t be changing my retirement plans, the discount was worth an earlier than planned investment. Our 14 day ultimate was priced at £350 (until the end of Monday if that helps anyone) and after browsing some competitor sites and seeing them at anything from £390 to £365 I took the plunge. It was helpful that they could be reserved for a tenner each and so we’re done for tickets nice and early with the balance to pay in July. Lovely stuff.

Did I mention that it’s been another long, weary week? This business of not having holidayed for over 12 months now seems to be taking its toll. We should never do that again. It is a default position of course, but I am missing the comforting embrace of Florida. As the doctor recently confirmed, my body is yearning for its orange ball of Vitamin D to warm my bones and ease my cares. My cholesterol levels are in danger of dipping back into normal parameters, so I need at least two weeks of calorific carnage to avoid that at all costs.

At times, as I sit in another one of *those* meetings, attempting to convince everyone, but mostly myself, that I am interested and engaged, I can find myself drifting mentally to a certain scenario. It differs, I guess depending upon my mood or memory, but usually it is something like this.

It is just after dusk. I am on the monorail as it glides silently past the Grand Floridian stop, heading for the Magic Kingdom. The sky is still a little red, burned with the after glow of the sunset, and all around the Seven Seas Lagoon lights twinkle, giving the scene a magical glow.

Inside the monorail, the familiar bings and bongs sound and the chocolate voiced announcer wraps me up in the comfort his familiar words.

We all exchange a knowing glance to recognise the significance of that random phrase.

The early evening atmosphere of the just gone dark gives the place a whole new feel. The doors open now as we alight at the Magic Kingdom and more lights twinkle as we wander down the ramp towards the promise of a night of memories and mice. There’s a hint of as yet unrecognisable music drifting on the breeze towards us. The still warm temperatures relax my body as unusually it does not need to tense against a chill and the world feels full of wonder and possibilities.

The walk up Main Street is a familiar one and the castle draws us in like a tractor beam, changing colour behind the endless procession of folks taking those photos that will stand on mantelpieces and desks the world over. This visit is a relaxed one, it feels like it is later in the holiday, we’ve done the commando stuff earlier in the trip and the rides have been done. This is all about soaking in the place, absorbing it into our blood streams, saving it up for protection against the grey, cold winter months away from this place. We inevitably end up at the partners statue and take yet another photograph to add to all the others. All of this is familiar and unique in equal measure, and that may well be the ethos and appeal of WDW in one short phrase.

A moment is taken to just sit and watch. Every person passing has this going on. They may not know it yet, but all this will come back to them in a meeting, in a moment of grief or in a conversation with a friend. I’ll be part of it, a small cog in what made their trip what it was, and they part of mine. Families of all shapes, sizes and nationality experiencing the same thing in their own unique way.

Of course, most of them will be doing it wrong, but hey, what can you do? 🙂

All of this is a mashup made up of a hundred memories from different times. As Rebecca reminded me the other day, this trip will be her 18th. Even I hadn’t imagined the number to be that high, but I am more happy than ashamed of that! I can’t begin to compute my total, well I could, but it would take a while.

I told you I was missing it. You’d never know it though would you?

Till the next time….

The 100 Day Wait/Weight

As I come up with some guff each week to form one of these posts, I never know what the week ahead will bring. Usually I have a good idea that it will include lots of work related stuff I’d rather not be doing but other than that, it is a glorious meander through the maze of chance.

Last week work took me to Glasgow on Wednesday for a meeting. I don’t do very many of these things these days, so it was a nice change. Earlier in my “career” I used to be out and about a lot and what I remembered was how not being tied to my desk breaks up the week and makes it less of a slog.

The trip north is rarely a chore, as it can be when journeying south, as the M6 in that direction is a joy and is exactly how motorways should be. I travelled up most of the way with a colleague, one I have mentioned many times, who is a DVC owner and fellow Disney lover so the conversation usually drifts towards Florida and food making the journey even more enjoyable.

It was during one of those conversations that Steve asked me how my Dad was doing. He’s had a lot of health issues over recent years and has had a bit of a bobbins 2018 so far, to put it mildly. I was pleased to be telling Steve that did seem to be behind him, with some positive news recently from the docs and the resumption of his summer golfing routine.

That of course meant that I was to be proved wrong, and I was surprised and concerned to see an ambulance pull up next door on Friday evening. To cut the story short, he has a severe infection and is currently hooked up to antibiotics so strong that in future whenever he gets angry he will turn green and rip his shirt.

There was a concern it may be something more sinister, so thankfully, although he has felt rubbish, it should be sorted once the drugs work and hopefully he’ll be home before long. Serves me right for opening my big mouth I suppose.

In more trivial news, tomorrow sees us dancing. We move into double digits and the pace of this countdown seems somehow to be picking up. I know it isn’t but the nice summer weather, the end of the football season and a realisation that we only have three pay days until we go all add up to fooling me into thinking we’re nearly there.

That should serve as some sort of kick up the arse for me to shed a stone or three of my winter weight. By that I mean the last few decades of winters. I think I will try on all the T-shirts that I know are snug and rely on my inner scrooge to motivate me. I do not want to have to buy a whole new range of T-shirts that fit, so let me attempt to force myself into a healthier regime by writing it down here.

LOSE WEIGHT YOU FAT KNACKER

There we go, how could that possibly fail? It is essential my waistline reduces so that my fanny pack will fit around it.

Every time we go there is a pre-holiday diet to endure. The trick, as if I am any sort of expert on weight loss, is not to go too early. This is what I have been telling myself anyway. If I get down to a more acceptable weight too soon there’s always the risk that my lack of will power will see me drifting back towards my current Jabba like state. It’s like a long distance runner timing his kick for home. Go too soon as he will be picked off on the home straight, leave it too late and he will never catch the leaders.

Right now, I am doing some stretches and lunges at the start line and wondering how on earth I am going to make it past the first mile, never mind what position I may finish in. The race itself may be less tortuous than all these running allegories.

Enough, I have a load of stuff to do including a hospital visit.

Till the next time…..

 

 

 

Endless ESTAs

It’s been a tough old week. Sure it was only four days long, but having had a busy weekend, I started it running at around 3% of my battery, with no hope of recharging until Saturday.

We’ve been eating buffet food for most of the week, so it’s not been all bad. I think I will have to admit defeat now and throw away what’s left before it becomes a health hazard.

I took advantage of the bank holiday Monday by applying for all of our ESTAs. I was convinced that most of them were still valid, but I was wrong. Only Emily has one that will cover our next trip so I completed six applications in one sitting and I was done by sometime on Wednesday. Is it me or have those forms got a whole lot more complex in recent years? I think I gave fewer personal details on my last mortgage application. I’m old enough to remember trying to fill in green forms on the tray table on the plane whilst Colin from Barnsley in front of you reclined his seat half way through.

As expected, we initially got the pending message for all of them but when I checked the next day we had all been approved for travel. That’s a good thing as I would hate to have to leave anyone behind.

I had no need to apply for ESTAs yet of course. Someone more sensible than I may have waited until a few weeks before we travel to have the two-year period cover as many trips as possible. Call me stupid, but doing ESTAs feels like a bank holiday task and completing the forms just made the trip feel a little closer. Sometimes, you just need that, right? Plus, should Freddie’s criminal record be a problem and he be denied entry we wouldn’t have much time to do anything about it.

At a tenner each, I am happy to sacrifice the few months we may lose for that peace of mind, and who is to say we will always go at the same time of year over the next two years. We are no longer shackled by the cruel mistress of the school term. The peninsula of Florida is our oyster whenever our hearts desire…and we can afford it….and can get time of work….and find someone to mind the dogs…but other than that…whenever we like.

I also had my first look at theme park tickets last week. It is nice and simple this time as we are only doing the Disney thing, so the 14 day ultimate is all we need. It seems they are around £360 each at the moment. As we will be on Disney property pretty much every day of the trip that’s about £30 a day. That’s less than the Alton Towers daily rate, so I feel comfy with that price. Offer me a ticket for Reflections Of Earth for £30 and I’d be likely to throw my money at you before you increased the price, so getting everything else thrown in as well seems decent. It appears that this price also includes the Memory Maker. We had that on the last trip and failed to use it at all. I don’t know why that was, but my guess is that I felt it would delay our movements by a vital few seconds having to wait for the official photographer to snap  and scan us and I preferred to do my usual snap and move technique.

It probably increased the number of rides we managed to get on by around zero. Having said that we only did four days in WDW on the last trip so I’ll blame that instead.

That recharging I suggested I was in need of at the start of this post still hasn’t happened. Louise has been working all weekend so all the lovely household tasks have fallen to me, whilst she selfishly has fun tending to Bolton’s sick, including a long overdue tip run. Then, last night, young Freddie stayed with us. That’s always lovely but there’s a reason most people have babies in their younger years. I’m shattered.

He’s been a little star though. He slept from 10.30 until after 9am and he’s since had some breakfast, a bath and is now flat out again. Life at six months old is something we all aspire to.

We treated Freddie to a bit of Eurovision last night. It was the usual mix of insanity, mediocrity and dross, but I don’t know if you spotted Tim Tracker representing Albania?

A strange career development but fair play to him! Maybe that’s what he means by paying the price?

Till the next time…..

Happy Birthday Rebecca!

My work here is done. Rebecca turns 21 tomorrow and so all parental responsibility ends at midnight. It’s been a wild ride and now I can put my feet up, relax and never worry about either of my daughters ever again now that they are both over the age of majority.

yeah right laughable animated GIF

If my parental journey has taught me anything it is this. Those younger years of a birthday party every weekend, reading bedtime stories and hosting sleepovers for 35 kids were the easy bit. Once they started growing up, having minds of their own and bloody boyfriends the fun really started. Still, with them both now officially grown up, life will be a breeze I’m sure.

We celebrated the event will a full-blown 21st party last night at my Dad’s golf club. It had a Disney/Pixar theme and it was fantastic that so many of those attending got into the spirit of things and dressed up accordingly.

Louise was dressed as Ursula. She doesn’t have a severe blood pressure problem.

It was a traditional family do, with guests of all ages and the obligatory buffet with enough pastry based goods to keep Gaviscon in business for the next few years. Tragically, we seemed to have over-catered by some distance and I had to bring home several “platters” worth of party food that will need eating before it goes off. I accept the challenge.

There was  dancing and some Mustard action too, and Rebecca had a great night which was the whole point after all. She loved the venue so much that towards the end of the evening she even gave the toilet bowl a cuddle for a few minutes. These moments of parental pride have to be savoured before they flash by in the blink of an eye.

So for those of you who have “known” Rebecca virtually, that little girl you saw in those trip reports on the Dibb is now 21 and a Mum. Yep, I feel old too. I mentioned those sleepovers earlier. Here are some of the girls who used to take over our house on a regular basis.

So there we are. Parenting “done” in what feels like five minutes. I know that’s a cliché, but most clichés exist for a reason. Would I do it all again? Sure, it’s been the best job I’ve ever had and the only one that I’ve enjoyed. Would I do things differently? Christ yes, I might have enjoyed the job but I couldn’t even begin to count the number of mistakes and things I wish I could re-do. Such is life.

Neither of my offspring have been to prison, drug rehab or a Coldplay gig so I guess you have to count that as some sort of success. One thing I got absolutely right were the holidays. There were many years when a sensible man wouldn’t have blown a small fortune on getting us across the Atlantic and the penny-pinching before and after was a strain and a struggle, but as I have said a million times, but it’s still true, your kids are only the age they are once, that day, that minute and you have to make the most of it.

Every time I see someone say they are going to wait to go to Disney (or anywhere for that matter) until their kids are older and can appreciate it I want to cause them harm. You will never get that chance again. That moment, that year vanishes in a puff of smoke whilst you do the commute and make their tea. If you can afford it, go, always, there is nothing to debate. It’s no good, in my view, looking back when they turn 21 thinking, coulda woulda shoulda. Some of our most fantastic experiences and memories are from our WDW trips and we are just getting started (sorry Louise).

Enough preaching and sepia tinged schmaltz. I have things to do, buffet to eat and another gig this afternoon. Happy birthday Rebecca, you’ve been a constant (well, almost) source of joy, fun and laughter and it’s a privilege to be your parents. Never doubt what a fantastic job you and Tom are doing with Freddie. Your Mum and me are astounded every day at how two people of your tender years are taking everything in your stride. Soak it all in because in about five minutes you’ll be posting photos from Freddie’s 21st and God knows what shape I’ll be in then!

Love you pud.

Till the next time…..