90 minutes is really just too long.

okay. let's pretend we are now in the first week of march.

we are clinically insane people. here's why.

every year we drive to florida. we pack up pretty much everything we own (including our kids, ages 5, 3 1/2, and then 17 mos.) and venture out on the drive which is approx. 24 hours. there is actually a test to see if you are clinically insane. phase four of the test is this question: would you drive three small children to florida in one shot? if you answer yes, you are truly insane. phase five of this test is this question: when driving three small children to florida in one shot, would you, under any circumstances (including duress), take route 15? (now taking route 15 is the equivalent to taking a bike path. through a retirement community. in a snow storm.) if you answer yes to this question and anybody with authority finds out about it... i'm pretty sure they just put you in right in jail.

so far, my father-in-law is the only human to ever answer that phase five question with an enthusiastic yes. but, that is neither here nor there.

so. we're in florida, and we have two beautiful little girls who actually believe that you can grow up and be a princess for your profession. it's just what they do. they dress up, have royal balls and tea parties, talk in nearly perfect british accents, call each other "lady" (with a really sharp T sound, like "lay-Tee") and call their baby brother the grand duke. they wear hats, gloves, scarves, jewels, glass slippers, sunglasses, tiaras, and bunny ears... usually all at the same time. they are divine.

so, can you bring two of that species to florida and not take them to disney world? it would feel a little criminal not to. so, we saved up garage sale money and lemonade stand money to go to the magic kingdom for one day. it was like bringing them to their motherland.

they both carefully selected which ball gown they wanted to wear and i allowed one accessory. annalee settled on an ariel gown - post human transformation... so neither fin nor seashells were involved, trust me i would not have allowed it. marlie went as a blond snow white. they both decided on bunny ears with sequin detailing. very classy touch. the weather was beautiful, the tickets were overpriced and it was american capitalism at it's finest. a little disgusting, but for my girls... it was truly a dream come true.

now, when i went to disney world as a child, you could do disney in one day. at least we did. my mom would force us to sprint from attraction to attraction, mapping out show times and distances from one thing to the next. we would inevitably be the pale northerners running around frantically, wearing socks and tevas, and we looked like idiots (especially because i am pretty sure i also wore a fluorescent orange fanny pack, covered with a fine black mesh, set a little more toward one hip than the other. try not to covet.)

but, the point is we did it in a day. i can't imagine the disney world people are struggling financially... but i have a theory here. i am convinced that they have carefully and cruelly figured out how to make it almost impossible to do it in a single day. for example, when i went in the early 90's, you could be on your way to space mountain (which we peer pressured my mom into deviating from her map-plan and letting us go on several times in a row) and you would happen to run into your favorite character... mickey mouse, alladin, cinderella even. but, noooooooo... that's not how it works in the 0's. in 2009, they lock the characters up in some building and make you wait in line to see them. this, of course, takes anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes. even if you are sprinting as fast as your tevas will take you, you are NOT going to meet characters and hit pirates of the caribbean on the same day. it is impossible.

so, like good parents, we tried to convince the kids that they didn't really care about meeting the beautiful princesses in real life. then annalee, who is five years old, put on her lawyer face and made her case. in her mind, meeting the princesses in person was sort of like job-shadowing. she simply had to do it in order to become a real princess herself. could we deny them this right of passage? probably not, but we were gonna try. annalee leveled with us. she said "mommy, even if it takes all our hours, i really want to see ariel."

so, we caved. we went to ariel's grotto, which is a smart set-up. ariel herself is hidden back in a cave (so that the poor people who could barely afford this one day at disney, have to choose between seeing her, and doing anything else that day) and there is a long line of parents standing in a roped off area around the outside of a little sprinkler park. the kids can run around and play in the water - in their ballgowns - while the parents wait forever. i think this appeases the parents because we feel like "at least are kids are doing something while we wait."

we walked up to ariel's grotto and their was a sign there letting us know how long the wait would be until our little girls would fulfill their destiny. 90 MINUTES. we had an hour and a half to wait in line. if you break down the cost of disney world minute by minute... i think we spend about 40 bucks just in that line. but, this was why we were there, so we got in line and the kids ran wild in the water. harper, 17 months at the time, was very intent on fleeing the grotto and returning to the carousel ride - and he spent the entire time trying to escape. so, naturally... my attention was mostly focused on him. plus, i know the girls knew better and would never DREAM of leaving that area without an adult. they simply know better. or so i thought.

i look up. marlie, 3, is missing. i am completely frantic - only a parent who has temporarily misplaced one of their humans knows what i mean. i am terrified, angry, nervous (with a dash of embarrassed)... and running around like a crazy person looking for her. then i see her. she is holding the hand of a disney world employee and she looks busted, she has her head (which looks a little like a small bowling ball, covered in wild tumbleweed-like hair) hanging down very low, but her eyes are looking up. right on me. i run up to them and apologize to the lady. as i am walking marlie firmly back to the bench to get the whole story, i see another disney world employee going down the line of parents waiting to meet ariel, shouting "is anyone missing a snow white?" i was mortified. i went and told the lady that i had found her, and all the parents give me that look of "you negligent parent... losing your child like that. you should be ashamed of yourself." which i was. so i hope they're happy.

marlie and i are sitting on the bench. i explain to her how relieved i am that she is safe, and how disappointed i am that she disobeyed. then the story came spilling out. what happened was this... marlie (who is my strong-willed, free-spirited second-born... who pretty much has my personality and lack of delayed gratification. oh, and my attention span.) she is innocently playing in the play area... running around the large rocks in the middle, and weaving in and out of the water, when she discovers that from the very end of the play area, you can see the back of ariel's cave. this is where those lucky girls and boys who have waited 90 minutes to meet ariel, have their photograph taken by a disney picture man and of course their parents or other supervising adult, and then they joyfully exit the cave through a turn style. this is what all the good american boys and girls are doing. not my marlie. she sees that turn style. and more importantly she sees just past that turn style. into the cave, just far enough to see ariel herself. sitting on a rock, calling children up, one by one, talking to them in a perfect ariel voice, and posing for a picture with an exact ariel smile.

this was simply too much for marlie. she apparently could NOT contain herself. she would later report this to me. she crawled under the gate (aka the turn style) and walked up to the front of the line. ariel said "come sit next to me." so marlie did. marlie, i'm sure, showed ariel her shoes and her dress, and quietly whispered her name when ariel asked. at this point i don't think anybody realized that she shouldn't have been there. but, when marlie asked for her photograph to be taken, they realized there weren't any adults involved here.

first of all, i am completely shocked that she would do this. i can't believe that she would leave our supervision (which clearly wasn't adequate), cut off all those people, then have the audacity to get up there and demand that the photograph be taken! so, as she was telling me this (i am in complete disbelief) i asked her "did they actually take your picture!?" she said on the verge of tears "no, because they said i didn't have the right lady with me!" i then explained to her furiously, that i was the right lady, her mother... that she needed to stay with ME!

after many lectures and some time of sitting alone to think about what she had done while tom and i discussed whether or not we would allow her to meet ariel and get a legit picture taken with her... she knew she had one chance to redeem herself. here is what she said in her needlessly loud three-year-old voice, "mommy, i know that i disobeyed and it was dangerous. it was disrespectful to all the other customers. but mommy..." (insert long pause, as if this was the crowning moment of her argument. this was her chance to explain why she did it. knowing it was wrong, why she had no choice but to take that chance...) "...but mommy... ariel is not a statue... and her tail was real."

that is a three-year-old way of saying, "i'm sorry, but what were my options!? i had to see that tail."

in a blend of anger, and trying not to laugh out loud... i left her there alone to stew in fear that she would never have that photo to relive this adventure, while tom and i stepped aside to discuss her fate. tom's parents, who came with us to disney, gently reminded me that this was, for her, a once in a lifetime opportunity and maybe today wasn't the day to drive home that lesson. they pleaded her case, and tom and i did end up letting her have a legitimate meeting with ariel and many pictures were taken - both by the disney picture-taker, and by me... the right lady.