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Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes Mommyology at Work

Frozen Fever Forever (and Ever)

It’s been over a year now since Frozen, and it does not seem like this trend will die down anytime soon.

Frozen is EVERYWHERE.  On our cups, our snacks, our closets, our Lego… everywhere.  And it seems like they can’t make enough of it too.

And this isn't even half of the Frozen stuff I found in our home...
And this isn’t even half of the Frozen stuff I found in our home…

Each time we go to the Disney store (in the mall, not in the theme parks!), there is one last piece of a “newly released item” that just went the day that it hit the shelf.  The Frozen Lego set, you need to pre-order a month in advance before you get it (I’ve already ordered four for my girls and for my friends’ princesses!).  The thing is, even if my girls’ interests have moved on (to Baymax – another Disney hit — and Chima and all of that), somehow they always still go back to Frozen.

Ah-mazing.  You’ve got to hand it to Disney.  The marketeer in me is totally impressed.  They really got this one right in all aspects.  The confident, independent princess, the hilarious sidekicks, the love angle… everything.    And they weren’t worried about over-extending the use of the characters and the endorsements and licenses across categories either!  “Over $1 Billion in revenue,” says the New York Times last November.  And it’s been four months since!

Of course, they also turned half of California Adventure into a Frozen wonderland.  Yes, despite the measles outbreak, we trekked on over to see what Frozen Fun was all about.  I hear that this attraction will run until May (Again how timely of them.  Another killer strategy to drive up sales for non-peak season right before peak season starts!), and it’s fun for all members of the family.
There’s the usual meet and greet of Anna and Elsa in the animation theatre.  Of course we had to line up for the fast pass for this one too, despite the girls seeing the Arendelle princess and queen ten thousand times before.

The girls get some time to play with Anna and Elsa before their pictorial.
The girls get some time to play with Anna and Elsa before their pictorial.

They transformed that part into the interiors of the castle, so you really feel like you’re walking through the girls’ rooms.  I have to say that it was smart of Disney to move Anna and Elsa’s meet and greet to California adventure.  The marketeer in me understands the revenue generation strategy behind it (when before people could just make do with one park, now somehow you “force” them to visit both!).

Next to it, which not many people announce, is the Animation Academy which teaches you how to draw Olaf.  Sam wanted to do it too, except we were out of time.  I assume we will come back.

Learn how to draw the world's most lovable snowman.
Learn how to draw the world’s most lovable snowman.

The bigger thrill for them was meeting Olaf, and getting those warm hugs.

He's pretty cute, I will admit.
He’s pretty cute, I will admit.

It’s a 90 minute wait I tell you.  At least they give you a buzzer so you don’t have to stand in line the whole time.
They have the section called “Olaf’s Snowfest”, where the kids can play in fake snow (read:  slippery crushed ice!), ride down a sled, and eat and buy Frozen things.

Remember when Elsa turned the fountain into ice?  Yup.  It's there.
Remember when Elsa turned the fountain into ice? Yup. It’s there.

That whole section is pretty chilly and branded really well, down to the last cookie.  It really looks like you’re in Arendelle when it’s frozen over.

Found inside Olaf's Snowfest.
Found inside Olaf’s Snowfest.

And speaking of selling, there is an actual Wandering Oaks Trading Post with all the Frozen merchandise.  Goodness me.  I almost bought from there, just because it was the Wandering Oaks Trading Post! (Yes, I am a sucker for these things).

Big Summer Blowout, anyone?
Big Summer Blowout, anyone?

For the older kids and family members, they have what they call the Freeze the Night Dance party.  We didn’t stay to do that though, but the merchandising of it all was of Marshmallow, the Frozen Monster.

Then there’s a Frozen sing-a-long (which also requires the Fast Pass).  Basically, you sit in the theatre and watch parts of the movie where they sing along with some other fictional characters of Arendelle.  Anna, Elsa and Kristoff take the stage too at different times.  My husband and I weren’t too thrilled with this one, although every kid in the room loved it.  I think we expected more, quite honestly.  Actually I’d loved to meet and greet Grand Pabbie.  That’s another spin on something they could do, because who doesn’t love those trolls?

Back over at Disneyland, Anna and Elsa are still very much present in the parade.  The Royal Theatre which features various plays, now has the Frozen story playing.  It’s quite the fun set-up.  You don’t get to meet and greet the characters though (man, Disney is SMART!).

And just when you think they couldn’t stretch the Frozen brand any further for the summer, out they come with their first Frozen short, Frozen Fever.  It’s said to debut will be out at the same time the new Cinderella movie shows in March.  Of course, we already have cinema tickets to use for that date.

The more I live here, the more I become a Disney fan.  And because we’re always in the theme parks (you’d think the girls would be over and done with it by now?  Nope.), I’ve started to notice these small details that they put so much thought into.  Frozen is of course no exception.

The ceiling is the iconic magical snowflake from Elsa.
The ceiling is the iconic magical snowflake from Elsa.

It’s brands and sub-brands are a dream to have (as a consumer), but I can only imagine the nightmare behind the scenes, but, I assume, all worth it in the end.

So what’s next, Disney?  What’s next for Frozen?  Bring it on, we’re waiting.  Everyone is.

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Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Discoveries

My Mommyology Discovers: Bibbity Bobbity Boutique Princess Make-Over

Here’s a fun (and as my husband says – pricey!) discovery we made during one of our trips to Disneyland.

In Fantasyland, there’s a store called the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, which pretty much sells everything royal.  At the back of the boutique is a mini princess salon, where “fairy-godmothers-in-training” help transform little girls into the princess of their dreams (They do have a Knight’s package too, but I wonder just how many times that gets picked!).

There are at least 10 stations, always full each time we go!
There are at least 10 stations, always full each time we go!  Imagine the profits!

I remember Peggy Orenstein’s book, where she discovered that Disney made at least $4 billion dollars in 2009 on princess products alone.  Seeing this boutique in action makes me wonder how much they make now, six years later!

It’s a total hit among the girls.  And we parents are the fools that fall for it all.

For Sam’s 6th birthday she wanted a Bibbity Bobbidi transformation.  We agreed (My husband, quite blindly – later on to his chagrin), and I called to make a reservation beforehand.  It was a good thing too, because apparently they get fully booked pretty fast ALL the time.  That’s how many parents fall for this gimmick!

We enter and immediately Sam is called “princess” and we are the “king and queen”.  We’re all addressed as “Your Majesty”, and asked to help her pick her princess costume and hairstyle.  Because it was her birthday, I agreed for Sam to get the Castle package, which was essentially the whole shebang — costume, crown, wand, make-over and photo session.  At the end, there’s a personal escort to meet three of the princesses, skipping the long wait times at Fantasy Faire.

Jamie of course wanted to do it too, but because it wasn’t her birthday, I told her she could only get the Crown Package, which is the lowest tiered make-over of them all.  She came in costume but was happy to be a part of the whole experience nonetheless.

Sam chose Rapunzel as her princess, and without further ado, we were escorted to the back to change.  Because it was winter, chilly and rainy, we opted to put the gown over what she was wearing.  The fairy godmothers-in-training assess your size and will happily assist you if you need one bigger or smaller.  The girls were also asked to choose from four different hairstyles.

The choices they make.
The choices they make.

You could opt to get the wig of the princess too, but that’s not part of the package and will cost you extra.  There are also shoes, gloves, and bags, among other things, but again, that’s more money out.  Obviously, that was out of the question for Daddy dearest! 😉

I didn’t realize that for the 30 minutes of the make-over, the girls couldn’t seen themselves.  The mirrors were covered and they were turned towards the parents.

There's daddy, counting the cents draining from his wallet with each passing minute. ;)
There’s daddy, counting the cents draining from his wallet with each passing minute. 😉

That’s another genius detail (You gotta love Disney.  They think of everything I tell ya), because when the make-over is done, the girls are presented to their parents as a princess “for the first time”.  And then there’s a big reveal by the fairy godmother-in-training when they have the girls wave open their very own mirror.  You should see their faces when they see themselves.  It’s — magical!

Can you feel Jamie's smile?!
Can you feel Jamie’s smile?!

We were then led to the backroom for the photos, where a carriage set-up awaited.  Knowing that we only had one princess package, they asked me if we wanted Jamie to be in the photos and of course I said yes (more bang for the buck as my husband would call it.  Two for the price of one).  They had the girls in different poses, and after about 10 minutes, handed us a large print out of their best picture, and a few smaller ones.  It was pretty cute.

BTS of the photoshoot
BTS of the photoshoot

Then the girls were personally escorted to meet the Princesses present in the royal hall.  On that day for Sam and Jamie, they were Ariel, Snow White and Cinderella.  Somehow the princesses know they need to take a few seconds longer with those escorted to them too.

Here they are having a conversation with Ariel.
Here they are having a conversation with Ariel.

When my niece did it over the holidays, she was able to meet the elusive Princess Aurora (who we’re told isn’t there very often).

And everywhere they went from that time on Sam and Jamie walked around like princesses (and smelled like hairspray, I tell you!).

To this day, my husband is still reeling from the expense.  He says no matter how I justify it, I will never be able to account for each and every penny.

I will admit it’s quite expensive.  An authentic Disney princess gown alone is already $70; then there’s still the wand and a crown.  The photo package option (which is a non-negotiable for the highest tiered package) is priced at $32.  Add everything else in and you really will sweat like a pig!  The girls get to to take home everything that was used on them — from the glittery pins, the sparkly stickers, both sets of nail polish, a make-up kit and everything else in between.

The contents of Jamie's bag.  Suddenly we had so many combs!
The contents of Jamie’s bag. Suddenly we had so many combs!

The girls open their bags every so often and relive the experience.  I think they’ve even used the nail polish and make-up over again.  Still it was inevitable:  we gave my poor husband a few more white hairs on his head.  He actually said to me, “never again”, but then Jamie replied, “But what about for MY birthday dad?”  Uh-oh.

On the bright side, our Annual Pass got us a 20% discount.  So if you plan on going and getting this done, make sure you have an annual pass holder with you!

In an effort to comfort my husband, I ask him to think about how happy he made his two little princess.  Now isn’t THAT priceless? 😉

Dad and his happy princesses.
Dad and his happy princesses.

***

The Anna and Elsa Boutique in Downtown Disney also has a Frozen make-over salon.  It’s also best to call and reserve ahead of time!

The Frozen Make-over packages.
The Frozen Make-over packages.


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Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Discoveries My Mommyology Recommends

My Disneyland Workout

As a gift to our family, my parents-in-law gave us Annual Passes to Disneyland (and by default to California Adventure as well).  Who wouldn’t love such a generous gift?  The girls went bonkers at the thought of going to The Happiest Place on Earth “anytime” they wanted.

So that’s been my life for the last 9 weeks.  I have literally been to Disneyland and California Adventure nine (maybe 10) times.  My Instagram and Facebook friends have noticed it too.  They all ask the exact same question:  “Do you go every week?!”  Well, to be fair, it’s not every week.  Sometimes we go twice (yeeesh!).

How can we not get excited about Disneyland?  Who doesn’t grow up on Disney characters?  Sam and Jamie know them all, as I did growing up.  The tried and tested Disney Princesses, and the newer ones like Merida, Elsa and Anna.  Even the Disney Junior Characters like Sofia the First permeate our everyday lives.  The girls’ costumes and birthdays are often Disney-inspired.  And this was further reinforced with the family’s Disney Cruise  earlier this year.  Disney is really fun for people of all ages.

While that may be true, this is too:  It is EXHAUSTING for parents. Exhausting.

Can you see how thrilled I am?
Can you see how thrilled I am?

We live so close to the parks, the girls jump at every opportunity to go.  I figure that while the kids’ school schedule is still manageable, we’d go when possible.  And while sometimes I do get excited and I feel so lucky, I also feel the lasting effects the fatigue brings each and every time.

It’s a production number and a feat.  From the time you get to the parking structure, to the time you’re able to set foot inside the actual park, you’ve already lost 30-45 minutes.  Even the nearest lots require some effort getting children, bags and strollers up and down the escalators and buses.  And Disney is never without people (even their non-peak days, the parks still have a crowd!).

Then there’s the ordeal of getting on sunblock — repeatedly.  It’s that or the burning heat.  I’ve gotten quite the tan standing in line for the girls.  Of course once all is said and done, there’s the ordeal of washing it off hours later when the kids are cranky and tired.

There’s the walking, the carrying, the pushing of the stroller and the lining up everywhere.

Disney's newest product should be a parent's back massage.
Disney’s newest service should be a parents’ back massage.

Let’s not forget the multiple visits to the public bathrooms.  Ay!  I feel like I’ve stuck my hand in every single public toilet bowl there is.  Thank goodness each stall now has potty seat liners and somehow the maintenance of it all has been quite good (so far!).  Watch out though, the automatic flush is pretty strong… and it sprays.  Eww!

At the end of each visit  no matter how long or short, my body is aching in so many different parts.  I don’t want to move the next day.  I seriously hope I’m losing weight from all of these Disney trips.  I don’t think the visits will end anytime soon as the girls haven’t tired of it.  In fact… they may never tire of it.

The nice thing about the annual pass though, is that there’s no rush to see everything all at once.  We get to explore each land in detail, and ride the rides we want to when we want to.  (Quick update:  Now Elsa and Anna’s Frozen Meet and Greet is only a fast-pass.  You need to get to the park early enough to grab a ticket, which will tell you what time to come back.  These tickets?  They usually run out at 10AM every morning and that’s all they have for the ENTIRE day!).  We’ve discovered some nice thing we’d never have gone on if we were pressed for time.

Do you know where this is? ;)
My first time to find lost pirate treasure!  Do you know where this is? 😉

There have been days when we didn’t do any rides at all, and we just trekked to meet one character after another.

Some of the usual, and some of the not-so-usual characters!
Some of the usual, and some of the not-so-usual characters!

There’s always something new to be learned in Disney.  On this last trip, the girls have recently added the Marvel Avengers to their repertoire.

I must admit, he's quite hot for a God of Thunder! ;)
I must admit, he’s quite hot for a God of Thunder! 😉

It’s made Daddy ecstatic.  I can imagine, he’s been playing with dolls all this time, FINALLY he can share his own favorites with his kids! 😉

This Halloween has been quite interesting too with its Villains theme.

Love them.  Love them.
Love them. Love them.

They are AWESOME.  And so in character!  We once witnessed an impromptu “agrument” between the Evil Queen of Snow White and Merida.

There’s a specific area in the Halloween Carnival where you can “conjour a villain”.  It’s cool.  I think we’ve been in line thrice in the last two weeks.  In all of my memory of Disneyland, I’ve never seen a villain walk the streets.  It’s always been the chipper protagonists and perfect princesses so it’s quite refreshing.  I can’t wait to see what they do for Christmas!

Sam has also recently discovered Tim’ Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.

Jack Skeleton and Sally
Jack Skeleton and Sally

These are things I’d never have thought to introduce to her.

As we go, I learn some new things too.  I’ve found this app called MouseWait, which gives you the wait times in each ride and restaurant.  I also found a Crowd Tracker Site which predicts the crowd levels on that specific date.  I’ve learned how to work through some of the long lines especially when there’s more than one adult present.  And when we ride “favorite rides”, I always try to find something new I never spotted before.

"Small World" has updated to include some favorite characters too.
“Small World” has updated to include some favorite characters too.

I’ve also found some hidden character spots!  Jasmine and Aladdin’s oasis for instance, isn’t even on the map that they give out at the entrance.  It took a little scouting around but eventually we found them.  And Jamie is a happy camper for it.

Jasmine, the Genie and a very happy Jamie.
Jasmine, the Genie and a very happy Jamie.

An Annual Pass for those that live near Disneyland is definitely worth it.  There are discounts too on food and merchandise (and we do save a lot when we flash the annual pass for food!)

It's where Jamie got her favorite bow and arrow.
It’s where Jamie got her favorite bow and arrow.

The more we go, the more I appreciate the brand that is Disney.  It’s amazing how everything just runs almost to perfection.  Every single person you talk to, from the street cleaners to the parking attendants, to the ride attendants, it’s clear everyone knows their role and their place.  And the customer service is excellent.

There’s always a new discovery to be made at Disney.  I’m floored with how they’re able to keep it relevant and fresh each time… I cannot begin to imagine the planning that goes into each part of the park all year round.  And it’s amazing how each experience (no matter how crowded) stays with you for life.

Disneyland really is a magical place.

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Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Discoveries

Our Disney Dream Favorites (Part 2)

And so goes the continuation of the Disney Dream favoritesYou may like these ones because they are highlights from our ports of call in the Bahamas.

The Dolphin Encounter at Atlantis, Bahamas.  When my husband and my brother-in-law were planning the trip, they asked the kids if they’d like to have a dolphin encounter.  Who wouldn’t want to meet a dolphin up close?  Even Jamie was excited and she talked about it for weeks on end.  And so for our first port of call at Nassau Bahamas, we visited the lost city of Atlantis.

The entire Dolphin encounter took most of the day.  We got our tags at 1030AM; disembarked and got to Atlantis at 1130AM, and made our way on foot to Dolphin Cay.  We got briefed close to 1215pm and finally had the 90-minute encounter.  By the time we washed, dressed and finished it was 2pm and the kids were cranky for their lunch.  In any case, I digress.

The wonderful thing about the Dolphin encounter is that the keepers there truly love and care for all the dolphins.  You can see and feel it in the way they handle the groups and the dolphins themselves.  They all say they love their job (and it doesn’t sound like they’re just saying it too, you know what I mean?)  The briefing is important so you know what parts of the Dolphin NOT to touch, and what you can do with them.  Here we also understood that they had to adjust the water temperature and make it cooler so that it is more comfortable for the Dolphins to live in.

At the beginning of the encounter, they encourage everyone to stay in the shallows and stay still if possible.  I think the kids were just too excited that they kept moving about, and so it took a while for a dolphin to want to come to us and be comfortable with us.

See the guide up front?  He's telling everyone to hush.
See the guide up front? He’s telling everyone to hush.

Finally the baby of the bunch, 2-yr old Sans, decided to stick around.

The keepers then showed us how to hug and kiss them and one by one everyone was given a turn to be near baby Sans.  At first the adults accompanied the kids to pet and hug and kissOnce everyone was done, Sam asked them if she could do it herself.  They said yes of course and with my heart in my throat, I watched her approach and do the whole thing all by herself.

She's really an adventure-seeker, I must say.
She’s really an adventure-seeker, I must say.

I was worried not-so-light Sans would snap the nose off my little girl, but the guides said dolphins are gentle.  And they like to be kissed!  She even got to feed him this time around.

Catch!
Catch!

Jamie was excited too and she did kiss the baby dolphin smack on the lips.

Kissy kissy!
Kissy kissy!

But then when it was time to “hug” him and I bent down into the water the cold sensation and his gurgling noises frightened her.  She wouldn’t even let me go near him on my own. The funny part about it was that when she started to cry, he started to cry with her as well.

You can't hear him, but he's crying too!
You can’t hear him, but he’s crying too!

Strangely enough, he didn’t seem scared of her.  They say that if the child is scared, you shouldn’t force them to approach because the dolphins can sense the fear and they too will shy away.  I suppose because Jamie got a kiss in Sans decided she was okay.

It was an incredible and unforgettable experience.  I’d never gotten that close to a dolphin before.  They feel very soft and squishy.  And they’re surprisingly heavy too!  You feel the weight when you “hug” them as you wrap one arm gently around their bottom and slightly press against them as if you wanted to carry them.

Of course, these dolphins are trained to pose for the pictures (and smile even!) but you can still feel the weight of them on you.  Even little baby Sans was quite heavy – we never expected it!

At the end of it all the dolphins come together and perform several tricks for everyone.  The keepers encourage you to clap and cheer for them because dolphins are like kids they say, they love positive reinforcement.

Everything is provided for, before and after the encounter:  water (with fresh pineapple bits!), towels and wetsuits.  Basically you just have to worry about food and a change of clothes for after.  (Incidentally, you can also swim through some slide tunnel surrounded by sharks, but our kids were all too young for it — something to consider for families with older kids!).

We killed some time walking around Atlantis and looking at the sunken parts as well as the sharks and other sea life that were there, but the kids were tired and it was soon time to head back to the boat anyway.

Castaway Cay.  Quite honestly, I had no idea that Castaway Cay was a privately owned Disney island until I got there.  What gorgeous sand (it feels like our very own Boracay!).  The island is partitioned in such a way that there’s (again) something for everyone.

The map around the island.
The map around the island.

And there are areas designated for you to eat, with buffet set-ups in two areas.  It’s like a replica of the ship’s buffet set-up… but on the island!

The kids were supposed to do a stingray encounter (Jamie wasn’t allowed as she was under 5-yrs old), but in the end the crew decided to cancel it due to the weather.  Instead the kids chose to play on the beach, but Jamie and I hung around the cabana with the dance party, and so she got to dance with two of the Disney characters — Minnie and Goofy (I’m told that the characters change every time, but you always get two to dance with the kids).

Jamie (and Sam) totally rocked this dance party too!
Jamie (and Sam) totally rocked this dance party too!

Afterwards we moved to the family area of the island where the kids found a giant slide that leads into the ocean.

The giant slide in the middle of the sea.
The giant slide in the middle of the sea.

All the kids need life vests to cross and go on it (because the water is more than 6-feet deep), but they loved it.  Sam went back on it at least 6 times.  Jamie on the other hand, discovered a little sprinklers park and had her fun there.

There are other parts of the island where you can bike, play beach volleyball, shop or simply just lazy around.

And of course, there was also free ice cream!

nom-nom-nom
nom-nom-nom

It is definitely worth disembarking and spending the day out on Castaway Cay.  In fact the cruise moves a majority of its activities on the island (also because the crew on the boat are the crew that run the island as well), to encourage you to get off and pay it a visit.  It makes you want to buy an island too actually! 😉

So there we have it!  The last items on our Disney Dream favorites list.  If I said anymore then the rest of the cruise wouldn’t be a surprise (should you choose to go on one in the near future!).

Essentially like every cruise, it’s what you make of it.  Everything is set up for you to enjoy, you just need to pick and choose and go.  And really when it’s a Disney Cruise, I doubt very much that you wouldn’t enjoy it!

 

 

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A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Lessons (on Parenting) My Mommyology's Manila Chapter On Becoming a Better Mom

Five Years of Motherhood

Last night we took the girls to watch Disney’s new animation release, Frozen.  It was Sam’s request — as part of her “I just turned 5” endless celebration.  So even if it was a school night, we decided we’d go ahead with it.  Anyway, we were all pretty excited to see it too.  The girls have been watching the trailer on TV, and I remember watching a version of the story of the Snow Queen growing up.  There’s a clear imprint in my memory of a girl having to go to the snow queen to save her friend and melt the cold with her tears or something like that.  But knowing Disney, they always do wonderful surprising things and twists with old  tales and I was very curious to see what they did with this one.

The New Disney release.  A must-see! :)
The New Disney release. A must-see! 🙂

When the critics say it’s “loosely adapted” from Hans Christian Andersen, I’d have to agree.  Apart from the use of a “snow queen”, everything else is pretty different.  And as it has been in the past with other Disney adaptations, I actually do like this one better. 🙂

Frozen is a tale of the love between two sisters.  And maybe it’s because of everything that’s been going lately, or maybe it’s because I’m a mother with two girls close together in age… or maybe it’s because Sam is 5 (I always always cry around her birthday!  No fail so far!) —  I got all emotional about the movie and it struck several chords.  I teared up more than a few times.

Some of the scenes and parts of the story aren’t really for younger kids (Jamie freaked out a couple of times), but as a parent (of two girls) watching it, I found it to be very modern and relevant.  And it helped that there were a lot of original songs and scores, all very well done.  In fact Jamie left the theatre singing parts of Queen Elsa’s song, Let it GoIt’s a beautiful song, and very well sung too. 🙂

But more than that were some of the insights I took away from the movie.  From parents’ choices and motives, to allowing the child to find and develop their own talents and skills, all the way down to the bond that sisters share, a lot of it hit home for me.  Especially now that Sam is five.

They say that at 5, the child begins to want more independence from the parents and starts to form their own individuality.  Even before last week, I’ve begun to feel this already with Sam.  Hopefully in the last four years, I’ve helped her develop her own voice and her own opinion over things.  Sometimes I think I allowed it too much because I feel she contradicts me and opposes me at every turn.  I know this is normal and it’s to be encouraged but it is also a challenge.  Nonetheless I (we) constantly strive to give Sam the stimulants she needs for her body and mind to develop at a pace comfortable for her (and us).

Half the time, I still don’t know what I’m doing.  I’m guessing this is the correct thing to say and do, or I’m hoping that isn’t too much to expect.  After five years, I’m still navigating my way through it all.  And now I understand why the eldest children are the way we are:  we’re often our own parenting experiments.  It’s just the way it is.  So the bond and the explanations are important.

I’ve noticed Sam likes to conform.  I don’t know if it’s her personality or a lack of confidence because she hangs out with kids that are often older than her, but she will adapt and follow their lead, good or bad.  Maybe she’s also experimenting to see and test her footing, but I often encourage her to be and do what she thinks is best for her, even if it’s different from everyone else.  I just want her to be her own person.  And I can only hope that she understands I’m with her all the way through it.

But more than all of that, for me what’s most important is Sam’s relationship with Jamie.  And I can see, despite the daily bickering and whining or fighting over toys, the girls do love each other.  Sam is a great big sister.  She sets a wonderful example to Jamie and takes care of her and thinks of her often.  When we’re out and getting treats, she always asks for an extra one to give to her sister.  It’s very endearing; and you can tell Sam genuinely does it because she thinks of Jamie.  I always tell Sam to take care of Jamie, as much as Jamie should take care of her.  I believe that above all else, that should prevail.

I think:  if anything happened to me and to my husband (knock on wood!), or when we’re gone, the girls will really only have each other.  The bond that they share now will be the glue to hold them together in the years to come, throughout everything that they go through.  Sam seems to understand that too and keeps a watchful eye out for her sister.  She makes Jamie comfortable like no other person can.  It gives me a fuzzy warm feeling inside.  They bring tears to my eyes, watching them together.  If there’s anything that these last five years have taught me, it’s that children need their siblings just as much (or even more) than they do their parents.  And I’m lucky I have two girls who (I hope and pray!) will always be the best of friends forever. 🙂

My girls going off together.
My girls going off together.