Posts Tagged ‘ Disney ’

My Disney Experience: Surviving the Magic

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

My five-year-old, Antonio as Jake of the Neverland Pirates. You’ll be seeing those eyebrows again later.

My Disney Experience.  That’s the name of the app which allows you to keep your plans organized for your eagerly anticipated (and pricey) trip to the magical Promised Land known as Disney World. Now, the word “experience” is thrown around in the digital space quite a bit. But aside from Jimi Hendrix, can any entity truly leverage the term accurately? Is it really an experience? Well, I’m here to tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, yes. But for more than simply sharing personal space with a fictional, jolly giant mouse.

For starters, Disney is the strongest brand on planet earth. At least for my money (and they certainly have a lot of it after my vacation last week). You simply can’t go to any other location on earth and see the type of brand loyalty shown by people who just spent upwards of $100 a pop just to walk through the door. Hats, t-shirts, socks, ponchos. If you can put it on your body, Disney has its name on it. I remain in awe of their marketing prowess.

But aside from the aforementioned genius of their branding strategy, Disney also provides something invaluably educational to those of us with children. Put simply, a Disney vacation is parent boot camp.

If you’re anything like me, you’re used to the utter chaos that your children unapologetically hurl at you on a daily basis. But at least for me, I’m not used to dealing with that chaos without some sort of break in the action, be it my job or letting them watch Frozen for the 176th time. While on vacation, it’s like you’re running a marathon. Or, if it’s a Disney vacation, it’s like running a marathon while wearing a Darth Vader helmet with Mickey ears and eating a Donald Duck ice pop. Quite literally, actually.

The good news is that, at Disney, there is an overall acceptance of any sized stroller and all possible erratic behavior your children might exhibit. We’re all in this together, it seems. And we’re just trying to survive. Both of my sons ran dead smack into a stranger’s legs at some point and I had plenty of kids run into mine. We all responded the same way to the apologetic parent of the running child. “It’s fine. I get it.”

My Disney Experience was as rewarding as it was draining. And I certainly learned a thing or two along the way. So, in case you’re thinking about taking the plunge and emptying your bank account into a Magic Kingdom cash register, here are some things to think about.

  • Have an agenda

I’m a “go with the flow” kind of guy when I go anywhere for leisure. But when bringing your kids to the Mecca of mirth, that mentality doesn’t jive. If you’re the spontaneous type, this will scorn your soul to hear, but making reservations at the restaurants you want to hit months in advance of your trip will save you headaches (and waiting time) later. My wife is terrific at keeping us in order with things like this. So, to summarize, bring my wife with you on your vacation. But I strictly forbid any sort of “magical time” happening if you do. Got me?

  • Use FastPass+

Waiting on a long, seemingly endless line is hard enough when you don’t have hungry, whiny children either asking you to hold them or refusing to, you know, stay in line. But either by using the My Disney Experience app or by accessing your account on the site, you should be able to select the date, time, and attraction you’re interested in and sign up for a FastPass+ (which is actually free!). FastPass+ is exactly what it sounds like. It allows you to pass, faster. It easily shaved 20 minutes off the wait times of at least five attractions, which ultimately allowed us to see more things. You simply show up to the ride at the time of your reservation (you’ll be given a block of time, if available), flash your Disney Magic Band (which they send you when you book the trip), and you’re directed to a much, much shorter line. While some of the passes were set up weeks in advance, we were able to secure a couple the night before our visit to that particular park. So, all you need to be is the tiniest bit proactive for this to be a viable option for you.

  • Bring a stroller

This might seem like a no-brainer if you have children under the age of four, but consider it even for five or six-year-olds. My older son is five and I don’t doubt that we were able to see as much as we did because of the breaks the stroller gave his legs. Surely, it can be a major pain to cart on and off a shuttle bus, but ultimately, it’s worth the struggle.

  • Keep track of your things…all of them

As if keeping a watchful eye on your children wasn’t challenging enough in a theme park, you’ll also likely have the aforementioned stroller, diaper bag, camera bag, and every imaginable souvenir that you’ve convinced yourself your child deserves. It’s very easy to shove an item into the nearest available compartment with a zipper, only to be searching for it frantically later. I’m certainly guilty of that. So, try to compartmentalize your items, and keep them together. And when you do board that bus to leave, for the love of God remember that you’ve stored things under your stroller BEFORE your collapse it. Learned that the hard way.

  • Be sneaky

We were in Magic Kingdom practically till its closing one night. The “Celebrate the Magic” projection show on the Disney castle (which I strongly recommend) had taken place, and the rest was simply fireworks. The vast majority of the people in the park had eyes focused on the lit sky. Us? We took that opportunity to meet Mickey himself. And we waited a grand total of three minutes.

  • Don’t over-spend

Sounds counter-intuitive since you pretty much did this when you bought a park ticket, but that doesn’t mean you have to crawl even deeper into a financial hole by purchasing anything and everything with a Disney character imprinted on it. While it won’t be easy to say “no” as often as you’ll have to, walking the Disney parks is good practice in doing exactly that. Once you’ve reached the point where you start to wonder if you’re spoiling your kids, that’s likely a good time to lock up your credit card and punch out.

  • For God’s sake, don’t put a child on your shoulders during a live show

This bullet pretty much speaks for itself, but all it takes is one person who thinks they’re being a helpful parent to ruin it for everyone else behind them. If you’re 5’9” and put a child on your shoulders, you’re effectively 6’6” now. If you’re 6’6” already without the child, then duck. It’s only fair.

Antonio out of his Jake costume, but not out of his new eyebrows.

To Disney’s credit, they pack a serious punch of entertainment and convenience for the money. We checked our suitcases at the airport on the way there and didn’t see them again until they were in our hotel room, and it was similar on the way back. Also, at every single restaurant we ate at on Disney property, the chef personally came out to speak with us about our son’s food allergy. Between that, the live shows, the fireworks, the character breakfasts, etc, it makes the pain of depleting your bank account hurt a bit less. Although, I must say, the fact that all employees are referred to as “cast members” and the bell hop at the Animal Kingdom villas kept saying “welcome home” when I walked past him was a bit unsettling and Twilight Zone-like.

Despite the inherit madness involved with a theme park excursion, if you do it right, there are moments when your children are beaming with joy, their fists clenched tight with euphoria, where you know you’ve just created a memory that will last a lifetime. For your children and for you.

Not even the eyebrows could ruin this one.

Thanks for reading, and tell me all about your Disney experience in the comment section below, or by tweeting me with the hashtag #mydisneyexperience. And of course, have a magical day.

 

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Five Life Lessons We Can Learn from Shrek

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

It’s easy enough to take a kid’s movie at face value. Typically, “does this safely entertain my child and keep him out of trouble for a while?” is the vital question we need to answer before dropping the DVD into the player.  But it doesn’t hurt to think a little deeper about what our children are actually learning from these movies that they watch, then watch again, then again until you can quote the movie yourself (whether you like it or not). So, with that in mind, I recently did this with my sons’ perennial favorite, the Shrek series. And I say the series because literally anything that includes the green ogre somewhere keeps them enthralled. Shrek 1-4, Shrek the Halls Christmas special, a cameo on Game of Thrones, you name it. They love it. So anyway, here are the lessons it reinforces for me.

  • Your best friend doesn’t mirror you, they balance you

As evidenced by the seemingly off-kilter friendship between the hot-tempered Shrek and the gleeful Donkey, most of us will come to realize that our best friend is someone who not only accepts us for our faults, but brings something to the table that we need. Donkey reminds Shrek to look on the bright side of life, while Shrek provides Donkey the sense of family and companionship he’d always craved. Win-win.

  • You and your spouse must accept each other at your “ugliest”

Potentially my favorite lesson from the Shrek movies. I grew up used to “fairytale” endings like in “The Little Mermaid” or “Beauty and the Beast” where the beautiful girl ends up with the beautiful, perfect man. In “Shrek,” it’s the exact opposite. And it’s far more realistic. Shrek and Fiona ultimately find beauty in each other’s physical imperfections, so much so that Fiona ends Shrek 2 with the line, “I want the ogre I fell in love with,” opting to keep Shrek as he is, while being given the option of keeping him “handsome.” It sends a message to children that, when choosing a partner, it’s never, ever all about looks. And if you have to change who are you completely, you’re with the wrong person.

  • If you want the prize, do the work

The extremely unlikeable Lord Farquaad tries getting others to do his work for him by holding a tournament to determine who will save Fiona from the castle, naturally so he can marry the princess and become king. When Shrek steps in, does the dirty work and falls in love with that princess, we are reminded once again that there are no shortcuts (pardon the pun) to success (or love).

  • You will sacrifice some of yourself when you have a family (but it’s worth it)

The Shrek series, while giving parents plenty of reasons to chuckle with mature jokes or references that sail over our kids’ heads, has a way of entertaining children while also reminding adults of what’s important in life. In “Shrek Forever After,” the final installment of the series, Shrek is bitter about not being the intimidating monster he used to be before he’d fallen in love and started a family. But after striking a deal with Rumpelstiltskin, he learns the hard way that what’s in front of you is more important than what’s behind.

  • Sometimes, we don’t even know what’s best for our own kids

In Shrek 2, The King and Queen of Far, Far Away  (aka Fiona’s parents) meet Shrek for the first time, and it’s the typical “in-laws aren’t thrilled with the dud their daughter has brought home” type of comedy. The Queen is much more tolerant of her daughter’s unexpected ogre husband, but the King is disgusted by him, insulting him at every turn. And it’s all based on the fact that his daughter didn’t follow the path that he had laid out for her. To be fair, he truly did think that locking her in a dragon-guarded castle until Prince Charming rescued her was for her own good. And that should serve as a really extreme euphemism for how we treat our own kids. While we will always want to protect them, sooner or later we need to accept that they’re old enough to make their own decisions. And ultimately, they know what will make them happy better than we do. I don’t expect this to be easy.

My 4-year-old, Antonio, with his buddy on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

 

Do any of you notice lessons in movies your kids watch that you hope stick with them? Tell me about them in the comments section below! And while you’re at it, check out my appearance on last week’s HuffPost Live, discussing parenting mistakes and my article on Disney’s first same-sex couple!

As always, thanks for reading.

Check out the 50 Best Movies for Kids!

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

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Disney’s Same-Sex Coup: Too Much for Kids?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

It’s become a hot-button issue in America. But Disney has introduced its very first same-sex couple on their program “Good Luck Charlie.” My initial reaction was that they likely did it as a publicity stunt, as a means to attract attention and a slew of new viewers whose interest would be piqued by such a daring move. But now I think it’s something much more than that (or at least will ultimately be). I think it’s the beginning of a gradual paradigm shift in our culture, where gays and lesbians will not only be accepted in the workplace and in the public eye, but in the innocent, naïve eyes of children.

Now, I know at least some of you are gasping at such a thought. Especially if you grew up in a staunchly religious household, you might perceive homosexuality as “wrong” or “sinful” and you defiantly wouldn’t want your child to be exposed to it. And if that’s the case, I have some unfortunate news for you: Your children are going to be aware of homosexuality whether you like it or not.

The sad fact is that there will be parents who discourage or even forbid their children from watching “Good Luck Charlie,” hoping that by shielding their kids’ eyes from a gay couple that they’ll grow up to be “normal” and “straight.” Well, I have another piece of news for them. Seeing gay couples is normal in our society (unlike Sochi, which apparently has no gay couples at all). Whether you “agree” with the lifestyle or not, it is happening and your child is going to see it sooner or later. So, the better solution, from my perspective, would be to prepare yourself for that inevitable question. In fact, here’s something you can tell them…

“Honey, not all families are the same. Some have only one parent, some have two daddies, some have two mommies. You’re lucky you have two parents who love and take care of you. And SO ARE THEY.”

Leaving aside the point that being gay is a victimless lifestyle, children who have intolerant, close-minded parents will grow to be intolerant, close-minded people themselves. And the greatest disservice we can do to our kids is by instilling in them the very same blind hatred that we harbor.

Put another way, averting our child’s eyes from something we perceive as “offensive” or “inappropriate” only serves to intensify their curiosity about it. When I was 10, I was caught red-handed paging through my father’s Playboy magazine (Vanna White edition). I’d been curious about naked women for some time and was thrilled to have evidence of it right there in my very home! Unfortunately, once I got caught, those magazines were moved high up on a shelf where I couldn’t reach them. And the only thing my father told me afterwards was, “I don’t want to see you doing that again.” Surely, he was trying to do the right thing. But without so much as an explanation of why seeing a woman without clothes was “bad,” all I wanted to do was seek out more of the same. Which I did. I had a friend with a much older brother who was able to supply me with as many Playboys as I wanted. It was absolutely no big deal to him, since he was constantly surrounded by it. Eventually, it became no big deal to me, too. I still enjoyed it, mind you, but once exposed to that, nothing was unusual about it. The ironic thing about this is that same friend of mine ended up being gay. I’m sure someone will find a way to blame this on the Playboys.

Unfortunately, our country treats sexuality as obscene but violence is sensationalized on the news every night. Happy gay couples are seen as offensive yet miserable straight couples are not. It’s a sad fact we all have to navigate as parents. But if you’re asking me how I feel about my sons seeing same-sex couples on television? As long as that couple doesn’t teach my sons that hitting their father in the groin is funny, I’m completely and wholly fine with it. Besides, I’m much more offended by terrible script-writing.

Please join the conversation by adding a comment below, or by tweeting me @JoeDeProspero. If you disagree with my stance, at least have the courtesy to think before posting. Thanks for reading!

 

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Hubby’s Movie Nominated for Oscar!

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Just a quick post to share the exciting news. Wreck-It Ralph is nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. However, we probably won’t be going, as Phil wrote the screenplay. Most likely it will just be the director (good friend Rich Moore) and producer Clark Spencer.

Nevertheless, it was an exciting piece of news to wake up to.

Golden Globes are Sunday. And, similar to the Oscars situation, Phil won’t be going.  However, we are going to one of the official post-award parties. Which doesn’t start until 9 pm–which is right around my bedtime. But it’s great, really. I mean, who wants to sit in an uncomfortable theatre when you could watch the awards from your couch, all dressed up, with babies and a cat drooling on you?

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Fia Friday: Halloween and more…

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Just a fun, light post of our Halloween here in LA.

We had friends who came in from Brooklyn for the Wreck-It Ralph premiere and got stuck because of Hurricane Sandy. More kids=more pumpkins to carve!

Yup. That’s Fia’s Dad (below). My husband. Looking, well, very Jack White.

Our friends who actually loaned us our costumes! John, Henrik and Jenny Strauss.

Fia at her preschool Halloween party with friend Cece…and her little brother Emmett the cutest pumpkin of all!

She was a butterfly….

 

 

With best friend Teddy comparing candy bags…

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