Disney Nannying: The Second Day

The second day was improved because everyone managed to sleep in until at least 5:30 AM, and because Mrs. Parent found a Starbucks sneakily hidden away behind an antique facade in the park.

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The view from my hotel room at 5:30 in the morning. I guess the lights never turn off.

Right out of the gate we had a Fast Pass for the Jungle Cruise, which the oldest boy swore he would hate and insisted on berating it and snipping at his brother for the majority of the small Fast Pass wait. A great deal of my job at Disney was merely standing between boys to prevent fighting and to try and avoid making everyone else in line as unhappy as we appear to be.

So we went on the Jungle Cruise, and absolutely none of my pictures turned out because my terribly expensive phone cannot take a good picture whilst moving five miles an hour down a river, but that’s all right. The eldest boy secretly enjoyed himself, despite vehemently and preemptively denying it the second his feet his solid ground again.

While we waited for our next Fast Pass time slot (which is, we were coming to realize, the only way you will ever see the inside of most rides during Jersey Week), we ran briefly through the Swiss Family Treehouse, which was very nice and which the boys were largely uninterested in because it was a book they had never heard of and there weren’t enough pirates or roller coasters involved.

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I thought it was neat. Look at this! This whole massive tree is completely fake! How cool is that?!

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Maybe Disney could hire me to live in this place full time and act the part. They wouldn’t have to pay me. Just pass some food through the door occasionally and I’ll play you some tidbits on the organ.

The Pirates of the Caribbean ride they did appreciate, but once again they failed to drag us on it fifteen times like I did my poor grandfather in 2007, so we got out of there pretty early too. As The Family started to amble away from Adventureland, Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial started up behind us, and I all but begged to stay and watch at least part of it.

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Because it’s Captain Jack Sparrow.

I did a lot of begging at Disney World, primarily because I was the only one really enthused to be there. I tried not to take up a lot of The Family’s time, but I couldn’t resist snapping distant pictures of princesses whenever we passed one.

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Look guys, it’s her! It’s Merida! It’s- guys?

Back in 2007, we went on nearly all of the major rides, but the one thing I was looking forward to the most was The Haunted Mansion. For years my darling mother had mentioned how spectacular it was, how enchanted the waltzing ghosts were, how fascinating all the illusions had been. I was a Halloweenie. I was so excited.

Naturally, The Haunted Mansion was closed until October when we arrived. Young Jean probably gave her grandparents a hard time about that. Sorry, Grandma and Grandpa.

So while we were here, I pulled a few of the older boys aside, got down on their level, and made them a deal. “I will stand in line with you for Space Mountain if you will go on The Haunted Mansion with me,” I whispered.

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I’m surprised this picture isn’t blurry because I was nearly vibrating with excitement.

They were thrilled at the prospect of Space Mountain again. I was thrilled to finally go on The Haunted Mansion. The parents were accepting. While Mr. and Mrs. Parent took the younger boys off to the Aladdin ride, I ran off with the older boys and bribed them with my phone games to stand in line for forty minutes.

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“Guys! Guys! Look at the hearse! Look at the spooky horse frame! Isn’t this cool?!” “Okay.”

I’m not going to describe in detail what happens in the ride (mostly because pictures are impossible to take in there), but it hit me about midway through the ride that this is what I always thought amusement parks should be. Every time I entered another unsatisfying “haunted house” ride or grimaced at the peeling paint on a scuffy spinning teacups attraction, I was picturing something more put together and impressive.

Turns out that’s Walt Disney World- who knew, right?

The Haunted Mansion was thoroughly satisfying. The boys decided it was their second favorite ride, because they enjoyed being able to loudly proclaim how unscary it was. Everyone was happy for a blessed twelve minutes before the vacation stress set in again.

As it grew dark, Mrs. Parent went off to do some shopping on Main Street and Mr. Parent and I waded through the crowds with the boys to find a place to sit.

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Good luck trying to get a better picture than this after the parade has just ended (which we missed anyway).

And as we sat outside a little hat shop and the boys had more fun with a provided checkers set than they had had in the rest of the day combined, I sat and watched the crowds grow thinner. The funny thing is, the later it gets in Disney World, the older things feel. After a while of foggy staring, it started to feel like I was watching the 1960s moving around me.

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And there was something very peaceful about that.

Disney magic really does exist, which is crazy. No one was joking or making it out to be more than it is. The more time I spent there, even working and surrounded by people who never fully relax, the more I started to sound like an advertisement for the place. I would call my parents up, rant about my day a little, and then finish with, “But Disney World really is enchanting.”

It really is.

How to Halloween with a Large Number of Boys

It was exactly one year ago that I flew over to interview for this family, and then, as now, I had the opportunity to accompany Mrs. Parent and her three to six boys on their trick-or-treating rounds.

I cannot recall much of it, other than that the eldest boy was thoroughly, completely convinced it was not Halloween, that it was a day early or a day late, and that if we walked outside in our costumes we would be the most embarrassing family to ever embarrass a boy ever.

Pointing out the days on the calendar didn’t help, nor did showing him the date on a phone, because this was all an elaborate trick to parade him uselessly in front of the neighbors(?). It wasn’t until we had bodily dragged him out of the house and passed another set of trick-or-treaters that he accepted to truth, though it didn’t make him any less prone to distrust.

This year, things were different, but much the same.

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A slightly blurred-out picture of my employers’ children in their Halloween costumes.

For a start, we were joined this year by a neighbor boy who is typically very mild and well-mannered, until he is released to our boys, whereupon he is absorbed into the collective and they are all equally wild and unlikely to listen to you, each other, or themselves. The result is the loudest group of four to seven boys you will ever have the misfortune to hear from up to a half mile away.

We quickly fell into an inefficient trick-or-treating routine. Once we were within, say, 900 feet of a house, the oldest and fastest boys would break from the group and sprint up to the doorstep to fight over who got to ring the doorbell. This was usually the oldest, who would get there first. Meanwhile, back with myself and Mrs. Parent, the youngest children would immediately throw themselves on the ground and sob that they never got to ring the doorbell.

While one of us dealt with this problem, the other would hustle to catch up with the children on the doorstep, just in time for the owner to open the door and be greeted with absolute dead silence. No “Trick-or-treat!”, no “Happy Halloween!” regardless of how many times you prompted them to say something.

The words would come out after the nice elderly person on the doorstep (because it was invariably a nice elderly person unused to the disrespect of the modern youth) brought forth the candy bowl, upon which point there would be a chorus of “How much?”, as in “How many pieces of candy are we allowed to take, because one isn’t enough and we won’t be satisfied with anything we get until we dig to the bottom of the bowl to take the only remaining KitKat and leave our brothers unhappy with their equally good but still inadequate candy piece.”

By the time the youngest have caught up the oldest boys are already cutting across the nicely manicured lawns to the next house, despite our prompts to say “thank you.”

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This sure is a nice display. It’s a pity I have only .5 seconds to enjoy it before I must break up a doorbell fight.

This happened for about six houses before I put my foot down.

“Oldest children, if you run too far ahead I will carry you like a princess from house to house!” I announced, because there’s nothing more shameful for a boy than to be carried like a princess in front of his cool friend.

And then I brought out an app called Chwazi, which is the most useful app I have on my phone. Used both for deciding who goes first on a board game and which child goes first at any given moment, each participant places a finger on the phone and the app selects just one winner, like flipping a coin only for as many people as can place a finger on a phone surface.

Chwazi is law in a household with three to six boys. It is Law. I don’t care how many times it selects one boy in a row, Chwazi will be obeyed. Chwazi may one day turn me into its own personal thrall and I won’t even mind because it will have thwarted so many potential arguments between boys before then.

Now every time we approached a house, the boys were forced to congregate their driveway instead of tromping across the grass. The boy who won Chwazi got to go first, and any boy who disrespected Chwazi was forced to sit out of the next Chwazi, a punishment rival to an hour in the stocks.

At one point, midway through the neighborhood, Mrs. Parent remarked how much slower this was, as though dealing with a meltdown before each and every house wasn’t a problem. I’m not bitter.

Underneath the stress of being damage control, however, there was something nice about being out on the streets on Halloween evening again. The kids wore out fast as night approached, and I ended up carrying several children on rotation on the way back. It was peaceful when everyone was too tired to run anymore, and too tired to yell, and all there was was the pleasant hum of candy-fueled excitement.

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Another picture of the children. I think that’s a UFO in the background.

 

The Last of the Renaissance Faires

On Saturday I packed myself into the car with one (1) man with better hair than mine, eight (8) bags of miscellaneous costuming garb, accessories, and weapons, and a great deal () of Middle Ages-themed excitement.

We were going to another Renaissance Faire. How many Renaissance Faires I’ve been to this season is not important. It’s a normal number. I’m a normal person.

This was the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire again, because it was the only Renaissance Faire still running this late in the year (near me, anyway). It was, effectively, The Last Renaissance Faire.

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This time with Halloween!

Most of the Renaissance Faires I’ve attended this season I’ve attended alone, because I find that few of my friends share my single-minded determination to experience everything the faire has to offer many times over while dressed appropriately for the occasion. We don’t have time to dither around by the food court, guys! We have three shows to see and we have only five minutes in every booth, and we can’t miss our hour of relaxing people-watching. The hour of relaxing people-watching is very important, guys.

Fortunately, I found a miracle in a friend of a friend named Paul, who has even more costumes than I do and also has long, silken black hair that he can stand around looking medieval with. I’m not jealous.

Paul has done Ren Faires. Paul has done, probably, dozens more Ren Faires than I have. Paul knows how to do Renaissance Faires with me. It was a great relief.

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Paul is also frequently a pirate, and when I stopped to laugh at one of the flags at the faire he informed me he used to have that flag hanging above his computer. Because of course he had.

But today we were in less of a hurry to get things done, because we had each had our fill of Ren Faires for the season (including this one). We wandered around, catching some of the acts, brandishing glorious hair (Paul), trying not to grin like an idiot because Renaissance Faires are still the coolest thing ever (me).

Twice we stopped by the archery booth. The first time, Paul picked up his bow, hit the bullseye something like ten out of eighteen times, and complained that he was “out of practice.” He congratulated me on my three bullseyes.

The second time we stopped by, a few hours later, he hit the bullseye a mere fifteen times, and seemed genuinely thrilled that I had managed five. Curse those talented but kind individuals that you want to dislike but can’t because they’re so nice.

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Archery: Where you go if you want to see me spectacularly fail to hit the center of the target many times in a row!

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We swung by the joust, presided over by King Henry XIII (in his early days, when he hadn’t yet executed a lot of wives or grown old and fat). The area you sit in in the audience determines which knights you’re rooting for, and we ended up supporting the less than honorable ones. The slightly despicable ones. The ones that, when given the option to kick a puppy for 10 gold, would go “Welllll…”

They’re the most fun to root for. Who really need chivalry anyway. They probably lost, but we didn’t stick around for the after-joust duels to find out.

As we wound down for the day, Paul recommended we see a music group call Tartanic, who were as impressive as they were ear-shatteringly loud (very). When your music can be hear all over the Faire, you’re doing something right.

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Tartanic invited anybody who wished to come up and dance on stage if the music moved them.

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The results were approximately eighty-three very enthusiastic children who just wanted to sit on the thrones before an audience.

And then, just like that, we were done. We bought some kettle corn for the road and spent fifteen minutes removing our costumes so that we could stop at a gas station without looking like we were bringing the New Crusades. We shoved our new merchandise on top of our old merchandise, and we headed out.

Sure, the both of us will probably be very medieval for the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s not terribly sad to end the season. Renaissance Faires are packed with some of the most interesting individuals you will ever meet, and it’s always a pity to leave that behind.

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Well, except this guy. You’ll see him again in a few months.

The Weekly Report

Though I had the weekend off, Mr. Doctor is away and Mrs. Doctor has just called me from a boy scout meeting to tell me that she needs to take one of the younger boys to the emergency room to have his foot looked at, and could I please put the rest of the boys to bed when she gets back?

This isn’t really a problem. The boys are easy to put to bed; this is probably because I’m on the more terrifying side of the nanny spectrum, and no I won’t sit in your room with you for forty minutes after I read you a book. Your parents do that because they enjoy having no time to themselves. Go to sleep.

(They always go to sleep. They know who they can play and who they can’t.)

Anyway, I’ve already failed miserably at reading a book a week, because The Doomsday Book is surprisingly slow to read. The general premise is that time travel is available for historical scholars, and one such scholar is sent back to the incredibly dangerous Middle Ages to, you know, see what it’s like. Was everyone covered in mud and dying of the plague all the time? Let’s find out!

It’s been an interesting book, except it’s split evenly between her interesting experiences in the Middle Ages and the significantly less interesting bits where the rest of the scholars try to sort out a lot of problems in the modern day. The modern day is right outside my door, let me hear about the Black Death!

This week has been one for disguises. I did another “look like someone else” on Wednesday, but didn’t post about it because it was slightly underwhelming. My eyes are blue, and this Wednesday was going to be brown hair and brown eyes, but sadly the Japanese contacts I purchased are- surprise- made to turn already brown eyes a different shade of brown, not to completely darken lighter eyes.

So instead of rich brown eyes I had watery dull eyes that looked as though I was going blind, which might have been the case if I had left the contacts in.

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I very much liked this wig. It was a cross between “futuristic female from dystopian society” and “toddler funfun music band mascot”.

I also spent an hour before the Halloween party on Friday running some errands in my Ms. Frizzle costume, just to see if anybody recognized me. No one recognized me.

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The Dunkin’ Donuts people wouldn’t stop giving me Looks, though, so at least I managed that “crazy cat lady” look if nothing else.

My friends on The Facebook are getting more and more desperately political as the election time draws near, and this is interesting because my friends from Idaho are largely Conservative and my friends from the east coast are largely Liberal, and everyone’s equally frenzied, but fortunately none of them can see each other’s posts because I never like or comment on any of them.

This is the first presidential election I can vote in, having been sixteen the last time it came around, and I’m wondering if political fervor comes with age. Like a second puberty: One day I’ll wake up and have all these strange urges to debate the merits of various candidates and to slander the opposing party on the World Wide Web.

I’m a late bloomer.

Brunches and Bashes

As the leaves change colors and the cold seeps in, my friends rustle their wings and drive south to eat brunch on the regular.

I was very excited at the idea of brunch, because I had never seriously eaten brunch before. “Gosh,” I was thinking, “what an amazing concept! Instead of eating breakfast or lunch you can eat one big combination in the middle! How revolutionary!”

So myself and seven of my friends planned on going out to eat brunch this morning. 11:00 sharp, they said. I could hardly wait.

As 11:00 neared, a group text was sent out, explaining that even though we had a reservation, a reservation of 20 people had pushed our eating date back to 11:30 to 11:45. All right, that’s fine. We can wait that long, what’s the rush?

So at 11:30, we showed up at the restaurant and were told they could not seat us until all of our party was there. This seemed fair. We were only missing one person, and the restaurant was so crowded that there was a line out the door. While we waited for the last arrival, we wondered why this restaurant in particular, a rather generic looking place, happened to be so woefully crowded. No conclusions were drawn.

At 11:45, our last member collected, we approached the podium again, only to be told that our table wasn’t ready because the previous group of people were still eating. Well, this wasn’t the restaurant’s fault. Some prodding on the part of our ringleader made the hostess reluctantly say that it would be another twenty or thirty minutes.

Well, 12:10 wasn’t so bad. We dispersed, walked around the pet store, poked through the sewing shop, chatted a little. When 12:10 came by, we headed back to be seated.

“We’re sorry, but the previous table is still there,” the frazzled hostess announced, pointing at the monitor, which displayed a blurry group of individuals who were apparently part sloth. “It will just be a little while longer.”

The sloths were in an intense “who can eat the slowest” competition, and showed no desire to leave. Because the restaurant was so crowded, my friends and I shivered outside and stared in through the windows at the sloth party, pretending to be starving British paupers dying of Poor Disease.

At 12:45 the sloths decided it was probably time to leave, and only stayed another ten or so minutes. At 12:55, the waiters cleared the table and set it. At 1:05, we were finally called in to be seated, and drink orders were taken. I ordered a tea.

At this point I was seriously considering whether brunch was worthwhile. “This doesn’t seem all that great,” I mused silently. “Brunch time is too crowded to be-”

And then I was presented with a masterpiece.

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Instead of sugar, they gave you a rock candy stick to stir your tea with.

This was the most amazing thing I had seen in my life. I brandished the rock candy stick in everyone’s faces. “Look, guys!” I exclaimed, in pure rapture. “I can stir my tea with a rock candy stick! My tea! Rock candy stick!”

My friends were less than impressed.

All in all, I think the wait was worth it simply for the joy of being able to stir with a rock candy stick. Imagine that, like it was a spoon and everything. Amazing.

This is also the time of year when my friends throw Halloween parties, and despite the cold and the wind and the rain and the mud and the threat of all of this worsening, there’s an outdoor party being held tonight. I tend to put off my costumes until the last minute, but fortunately I had a cosplay costume my sister had made for me leftover in my closet.

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I enjoy being Ms. Frizzle because it’s the only time having frizzy red hair and a large nose really come in handy.

Arachnophobia 101

The problem with growing up- and worse, with taking care of children- is that you are no longer allowed to be afraid of spiders.

When you’re on your own, you’re well within your rights to scream, flail, run away, smite the spider with a crowbar, or gently set your house on fire and leave. When children come into the picture, however, that’s no longer okay. You must be calm and collected. “Spiders aren’t that big a deal, and I don’t know why you’re getting so worked up about it,” is what you must convey.

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Now I can’t tell if there’s an actual spiderweb in my bookcase.

Worse still, I’ve never been able to stomach killing spiders. Wasps? Certainly. Flies? All the time. Mosquitoes? I kill them slowly out of spite. But spiders, for a start, like to eat mosquitoes, and that makes me feel like we should be more on the same team than not.

For another thing, spiders never really bother me, as such. I’ve been bitten by them once or twice over my life, usually on my feet when they get trapped under the blankets with me and gracefully freak out, but that’s so rare an occurrence that I feel as though I have no real right to revenge against the whole species.

So when I actually come across a spider, I usually race to find a cup and a piece of paper to put it outside. There are two problems with this: The first is that in doing so you must put your hands dreadfully close to the spider in question. The second is that in the seven seconds it took you to find a cup and a paper, the spider has completely vanished.

(One benefit to children is that they will watch it like a hawk for you while you locate the removal tools. “I never let it out of my sight, Miss Jean,” they will say proudly. “It crawled right up the wall and is now on the highest point of the ceiling, see it?”)

But I was starting to get the hang of it all. Being a nanny had reduced my arachnophobia out of necessity. I would hardly think twice before scooping up the nearest spider and depositing it into the wild.

Until the other day when I found a small spider in the bathroom. Easy enough. I located a cup and paper, confidently moved to catch it, and itjumpedohmygoditjumpedit’sajumpingspideritjumped

Jumping spiders are, apparently, a thing on the east coast. Up until now I had only read about them in books. Far be it from me to question the wise workings of God, but I can’t imagine thinking, “Well, these eight-legged many-eyed hairy twitchy fast moving monstrosities are just about done. I wonder what would make them better? Oh, I know, the ability to spontaneously fly at your face.

I had to kill that one; it was moving too quickly for the cup. I felt bad about that one. I lit a candle.

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But not before pressing the shoe down firmly to make sure it was really dead.

And then, just today, I had cleaned my bathroom. Remarkable, I know. But, you see, when I went to open the window to filter out the chemical smell, therewasanotherjumpingspiderohmygodwhy

It lives between the screen and the window. I can never open my bathroom window again.

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This will be shut forever now.

The Trouble with Tea

I love tea.

I love tea so much that the very first item I purchased when I moved to the east coast, before I had even received my first paycheck, was an electric kettle. With my meager possessions I built around this kettle a grand altar. A tea shrine, if you will, from which all tea flows.

img_20161013_142742605Don’t mind the dead cat, the tea shrine is a little bit Halloween today.

Since then, almost a year ago, I estimate that the kettle has made approximately 1000 cups of tea. Because, and here I must admit to something, I have a little bit of a tea problem.

Oh, I try to justify it. “A cup of tea is just a third of the caffeine in a cup of coffee!” I say. “Having three or four cups of tea a day is around one cup of coffee, which many Americans easily surpass before lunch!”

This is technically true. This is also no excuse.

img_20161013_143028091The words on the wall read “bonus satis,” which is the Ludvig family motto. In Latin, it means “good enough.” At least, it probably does. Good enough.

What’s worse is how I’m trying to push my addiction on the impressionable small children under my care. Though the oldest of the boys is too cool and too much of a man to partake in such feminine activities, the younger boys adore my tea parties.

I find these tea parties to be crucial to my sanity, for though I love little boys, I sometimes find them to be, surprisingly, not girls. And there are between three and six of these not girls running around this house! Please, for the love of all that is holy, could we watch some Shimmer and Shine instead of more Blaze and the Monster Machines?!

My point, and I do have one, is that I recently came to the realization that tea has become far too prominent in my life. I reached this conclusion when I visited the dentist for the first time this year and was told that I have five cavities.

Why, I was offended. Absolutely appalled. How dare this dentist declare that my heretofore perfect if slightly yellow teeth had fallen from their glory? Just what was he suggesting?

(He was suggesting that I needed to get the cavities filled.)

When the dentist asked if I ate a lot of sugary foods, I vehemently denied it. I hate sugary things. Cake gives me a headache. Candy gives me a headache. Sappy dramas give me a headache. Sugar, why, I won’t touch the stuff!

And then it occurred to me that I was having two teaspoons of sugar and two teaspoons of cream at least three times a day in my Yorkshire Gold.

This was a couple months ago. Today I had a few of the cavities filled, and my gums still feel as though they’ve stopped existing and won’t return for many moons.

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For those interested, a replica of the ceiling I stared at for two hours while the dentists above me filled my mouth with a lot of buzzing power tools.

My dentist is a very nice fellow. Everything went smoothly. I only lied about how often I floss a little bit. But I now have to face the fact that I should cut back on my tea consumption even further. Only two out of five cavities were filled today, and I don’t want an extra couple making an appearance before my next appointment.

But self-control is a ridiculous notion and I don’t see why I ought to change for any reason, ever.