Disney World with a Three Year Old

I must admit that one of my biggest motivations in becoming a mum was to one day take my child to Disney. I know how lame that sounds, judge me if you want but it’s true and I still feel equally excited about it.

Now that I’ve just been there with my three year old, I can say that yes, becoming a mum for this reason was totally worth it and I’m already looking forward to our next Disney holiday!

The reason Disney so cool to me is that it is home to so many stories I grew up with. As an actor, I love immersing myself in different worlds, and that’s exactly what happens when you go to Disney whether you want to or not.

Toddlers are interesting however, and I do think age makes a difference. I was ready to take my boy when he was one year old but it was quite tricky putting him to sleep when he was younger (and even now a bit) so I personally think taking him to Disney at that time could have been nightmareous (teehee), though we’ll never know.

Kids (of all ages) (and adults) get exhausted at Disney World so be prepared, meltdowns are just part of the adventure. In my case, we went with my sister (and her family) and my mum and dad so we had some extra hands to help. On our last night there my husband and I were even able to go to Epcot on a date whilst my folks looked after my boy; that was so great as we hadn’t been on a date for months! So if you can travel in a group, I recommend it, although traveling with other relatives also has its challenges as you can imagine.

I predict that going with older children is easier (as they can queue for longer, need less sleep, and can go on more rides), but nothing can beat the face of a three year old meeting the ‘real’ Donald Duck or Pluto or whatever. True, I left feeling disappointed I only hopped onto three adult rides during our whole stay there, but it really doesn’t matter as one day when my kid is older we will be able to hopefully go back!

So below is a sort of list of the things we did prior to our trip, and then I proceed to talk about food at WDW, and things to do. Hope you find it useful!

HOMEWORK

For toddlers who are exposed to TV and films a lot this may be irrelevant but my kid doesn’t watch loads of TV, so I felt we needed to do a little homework for him to at least recognise some of the Disney characters. What we did:

⁃ His favourite Disney film is Cars, so we built up a lot of the excitement about going to Disney around this movie. We told him that Lighting McQueen would come home on the day we were leaving for Disney. So we got him a medium size Lighting McQueen car on Amazon, wrapped it up and gave it to him on departure day. Priceless. Why not start the magic at home methinks?

⁃ We didn’t really want to suddenly watch all the collection of Disney films so instead we bought story books: one about the classics, another one about princesses and we also got a Pixar book. The best book we bought though was Mickey and Minnie’s Storybook Collection (available on Amazon for £12). The stories in this book are just perfect for 3 years olds, fabulous pictures and interesting/good length stories. My boy would just not want to put it down and it was so great because it made meeting Mickey Mouse and his friends much more exciting.

My son meeting Daisy

One other thing we did prior to our visit was to download My Disney Experience app on our phones so we could plan our activities, book our fast passes and dinner experiences. I called Disney directly about 30 times with questions and I swear their customer service was always beyond excellent so never hesitate in doing that. You can also ask questions via the Disney Parks Moms Panel (Google it).

IN SUM, a) make sure your kiddos know some of the characters they’ll meet at Disney, it’ll make encountering the characters more memorable. That said, my boy didn’t really go for the princesses storybook that much, yet he enjoyed meeting them at Disney regardless, so you never know; b) download the My Disney Experience app and start planning and booking asap.

FOOD

We stayed at The Wilderness Lodge Resort and were on a dining plan that included a table service, a quick service and two snacks a day. A lot of food basically. A lot of it was not very healthy but to be fair, Disney also offers some healthy food, you just need to look out for it diligently (if you care). Don’t get me wrong, I think Disney isn’t Disney if there isn’t a heck of a lot of ice cream involved, but when there are little kids involved, balancing the sugar highs is kinda basic. It’s important to remember that you will most definitely fail at this task though. And it’s also definitely not the end of the world I think. That being said, if you’re like me and into healthy eating read on, if not, skip unto the next section.

What we did:

⁃ I went to Holland and Barret (in the UK) and stacked myself with some healthy snacks: banana crisps, date nibbles, oat crisps, rice cakes, and cashews. I bought things that are healthy and that I know my kid would love.

⁃ My son tried pretty much every yummy snack Disney offers: popcorn, ice-lollies, Mickey ice-cream sandwiches, etc. It was a joy watching him eat all that (he couldn’t believe his luck!), but we tried to limit these snacks to only one per day. Normally, whenever he’d say ‘snack’ (6 am), out came my healthy selection. And water!

Disney Snack

⁃ As I said though, you can also find healthy snacks in Disney. At our resort, they sold bags of nuts and seeds (with the odd cheeky M&M in there,hmm), mandarines, apples, bananas, and carrot sticks. Not a massive selection but enough which worked pretty well with us to balance the other less healthy food.

⁃ A lot of the meals in Disney consist of fries, burgers, pancakes, bacon, sausages, Mac & Cheese and hotdogs. In some of the dining reservations we had they served massive portions of not very healthy stuff but we also went to some awesome buffet type restaurants where you could pick and choose whatever you wanted and you could most certainly find something healthy to eat. In terms of reservations, I highly recommend booking at least one meal with the characters; it’s so much fun!

Brunch at Chef Mickey’s

⁃ I have to say that we mainly ate at Magic Kingdom though (as this was the one with most suitable rides for for a 3 year old), but I imagine Epcot for example would have more varied meals with so many different countries on display.

IN SUM, if you care about healthy eating: a) just chill and accept your kid’s diet will be all over the place, b) pack some healthy snacks and water (we brought out own recyclable bottles) to give you peace of mind, and c) search and you will find the healthy stuff.

THINGS TO DO

The obvious answer is go to the parks. There are plenty of people who have blogged about this already so I won’t go into much detail here as you can find lots of info out there on what’s best to do/see at Disney World with a 3 year old. This is what we did:

⁃ Magic Kingdom: if I hear those two words one more time, I might shoot myself. That aside, this place is THE one for little ones, as it is indeed magical. Fantasyland has some pretty great rides for little people: my boy’s favourites were Dumbo, It’s a Small World and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

Riding Dumbo

⁃ In terms of the other parks, they all have a few things to offer for little people (although not nearly as much as Magic Kingdom), and in my view, they’re are all more pleasant to walk around in. Magic Kingdom had great rides for young kids but it is overwhelming and can get really crowded. You know your kids of course; mine hates loud sounds for example, so while some kids were loving the fireworks, mine hated them no matter how impressive.

⁃ I have to say that some of the best memories I have of this holiday with my 3 year old boy are watching him run around at random points and in all directions (due to overstimulation and exhaustion), dance to music, chase bubbles like a mad person and meet the Disney characters. Some rides were a hit but it’s true that kids this age in my view, don’t need much to have fun.

Cousins having bubble fun

⁃ When it comes to specific rides, I think you just have to play it by ear. I was sure my boy would love Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid and rides like that but he didn’t really like them. To be fair, I think that’s got more to do with his dad and I making the fatal mistake of getting him into the Dinasour ride at Animal Kingdom which is loud, dark, shaky and scary. He asked whether there’d be dinosaurs at every single ride we went to afterwards (eeek!) Why did we get him into that ride? Because it was about dinosaurs which he likes and he had the right height so why not. Anyway, you live you learn.

Parenting Fail – Dinasour Ride, Animal Kingdom

⁃ Something I will say about the rides though is that booking Fast Passes is beyond essential when visiting Disney World with little people. Sure thing, it’s convenient for an adult too but if one thing is certain is that 3 year olds cannot wait in a queue for long periods of time.

⁃ Although going to the parks is the main attraction at Disney World, we definitely needed to slow down some days, avoid Magic Kingdom and just stay at the hotel playing in the pool OR go to one of the water parks if your kids are into it. We went to Blizzard Beach one day and it was definitely worth it. It was super safe and really good fun.

Blizzard Beach

⁃ Other things to do on slow days:

a) Visit other resorts: I appreciate this may sound like a waste of time but it really isn’t. On our first day (feeling pretty jet-lagged) we went to The Art of Animation Resort because as I said my boy loves Cars and they had all the Cars on display there as part of the resort’s decoration. You can’t climb on them but that didn’t matter at all. We were there for at least an hour.

With Lighting McQueen at the Art of Animation Resort

b) Disney transport: I guess this depends on each child but my son couldn’t get enough of all the boats, trains (monorail), and buses one could ride to go to different places. And there’s nothing more pleasant for the parents to just be able to chill whilst the toddler rejoices riding a train. This reminds me of a ride in Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom called Peoplemover (aka. the most boring ride on Earth I’m afraid) which works a treat to wind toddlers down.

c) Mini golf: I think there are two mini golf courses in WDW, we went to the Fantasia mini golf and it was so much fun, so chilled and with not too many people.

Fantasia Mini Golf

d) Get lost: We didn’t plan to get lost but I highly recommend it. We ended up at the Swan Hotel on our way to the mini golf and found an amazing playground where my boy spent a long time playing and exploring, so you never know what you’re going to get when you turn your GPS off.

Playground by Swan Hotel

e) Disney Springs: I didn’t go to Disney to do shopping, but if I had, this place would be IT. Also, it has a wonderful variety of restaurants.

IN SUM, there’s much more to Disney than just the parks, and when you’re traveling with little ones, it’s kinda pointless ticking boxes, three year olds have fun wherever they are with whatever they’ve got.

Toddler waiting for the bus

– – –

The last thing I’ll say is that if you go to WDW with a toddler, be prepared to either not have many plans on or be uber flexible with them. On the day we went to Hollywood Studios, my whole family witnessed a horrible accident in front of our eyes when a 10-12 year old boy cracked his head open whilst swinging on a pole at a queue (I became paranoid about my son doing what he’s doing on the pic above afterwards!). This happened whilst we were all annoyed that we had booked our dinner reservation way too late, we were tired and moaning. But when we saw how this family’s magical holiday turned into everything but, we were hit and reminded of what truly matters. We can all survive meltdowns and arguments (only just!)but accidents only if we’re lucky. So relax, let things flow and experience the magic!

Family Cuddle at Hollywood Studios

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On Small Roles

How to play a small role? I’ve no idea. 

How to get into one? Read along…

It is generally acknowledged – in the world of acting – that there is no such thing as a small role. 

A role is what you make of it. I firmly believe that, and that’s why I was actually pretty excited about this new role I’m playing (the maid) in The House of Bernarda Alba. I’ve always loved watching plays where the small roles (characters with less lines basically) blow my mind. I’m not playing this character with that intention but I’m loving the challenge of finding out who she is when there isn’t that much information about her on the text. 

Some of my character’s lines are announcements for example, and I’m finding it challenging to play those lines intentionally but without pulling the focus too much. In some cases I’m not on stage for a long time and then I suddenly appear to deliver one line without interacting with anyone so I‘ve had to find a way of keeping things both simple but meaningful. 

So how have I done this?

1. Going old school. Not only have I written a whole bio but I’ve gone detective mode and created a story board with objectives, obstacles, props to play with, timelines, etc. This has been crucial for me to know where my character is coming from, where is she going an why. I know a lot of actors do this with their characters but there’s a lot I’ve had to imagine/invent myself to fill in the gaps for all those scenes my character is not on stage.

2. Channeling my character’s inner animal. In this case, I’m a chameleon. Keeping that in mind has helped me to find my character’s physicality and even play intentions accordingly. I chose a chameleon based on the information I had of my character on the script. I then researched more about chameleons and with that I’ve been able to bring more playfulness to my actions.

3. Thinking about what my relationship is with each character. I stole this one from an actress I’m currently working with. I thought it was brilliant especially when you don’t have many lines. Sometimes a look can say much more than any word so thinking about how I relate to each character in the play has definitely given me something to play with.

4. Finally, squeezing the juice out of each word. Good writers are clever with their words even when they might not have written many for a certain character. Although I’ve intellectualised my character’s intentions, I’ve been warming up my voice by saying my lines and sensing how they sit in my gut. This exercise has made me fully understand my intentions, action them in a certain way or change them altogether. 

Now I think you should come see the show to witness if this malarkey has actually been a sensible use of my time…thanks!
http://www.cervantestheatre.com/home/?page_id=836

Detective Style Character Story Board

Channeling chameleon 

Break or Research

I have been getting a lot of motivational videos on the world and journey of acting on my social media recently. Thank God! 

Lately it feels like I’m on a career break although I haven’t consciously taken one, lol. I did, unfortunately, have to leave my agent earlier this year as I couldn’t commit to the office hours at this point in my life. I’m sad as I truly loved my agency. They’re up to great things if you are curious to know: https://www.iml.org.uk

Anyway, it’s not like I had millions of auditions before but I definitely had more than now that I’m self-represented. I’ve been super busy being a mum though. That has sometimes helped me move on but occasionally it’s paralysed me a little: Is that it? Was that it? Is this the end of my career? What career? I feel like I had barely got started! 

I wanted to wait a little longer to get pregnant – because there were a million jobs I wanted to do first – but I was already pregnant when I thought that, oops. I’m fine with it now. I love being a mum even though I feel out of my depth constantly. Motherhood has triggered lots of thoughts, some happy, a few quite dark, and I’m learning how to let them flow, let them go and carry on. I’m changed. For sure. And I actually think having an involuntary break may be a blessing in disguise. I’m gonna rock at all the mum roles when they start coming along, because if I’m certain about one thing is this: I’m not giving up. And in the meantime, I’ll keep on going having a life. It’s called character research I believe.

http://theactorspad.com/you-will-be-out-of-work-that-is-a-guarantee-you-have-to-keep-the-faith-mark-bonnar/

‘I thought I nailed it’ VS ‘I’m so awesome’


It is indeed awesome when you book a job after having given up on it ages ago. Sometimes you hear about a job rather quickly, but sometimes it takes a while. In those times, the wait is hard, especially when you felt like you nailed the audition – you mastered the script, took direction confidently, left everyone in the room smiling AND the casting director congratulated you for your amazing performance: ‘This job is so mine!’ Ah, but then you don’t hear back, you give it two days and then either you a) give it more thought (and get so low you consider giving up your acting career…because on top of it all it was for an educational video, not Stranger Things) or you let it go and move on to what’s next (let it be another audition or a heated battle with your strong-willed toddler to change his nappy 🙋🏻). You most certainly have a better time if you choose option b (believe it or not…), AND more importantly when they actually DO ring you to offer you the job it comes as such a surprise that you humbly realize you had indeed been awesome at the audition! There’s no room for cockiness in the audition room I think; with time I’ve learned that letting go is the best way to stay both humble and confident when the offer does come your way.

Chilling

Hey! Been ages. Lots since I was last here. Been busy acting, been busy wife-ing, been busy mummying. I’m on my way to casting right now. This pic is of me today having breakfast at home with my little one before heading off.


My attitude towards my acting life has become much more chilled since becoming a mum. I have less time to worry or get nervous…or even prepare for auditions/jobs which I admit makes me a little anxious. However, the more experience I have in this business, the more I realize it’s important not to over-think or over-prepare. I didn’t think I did this but now I realize I did. I still learn my lines and do my research of course but I don’t have much time to prepare my delivery as I used to so I trust that my instinct will guide me…and it does! Sometimes I get the job and many times I don’t, but I’ve been absolutely loving being surprised by what I may bring to the table.

This change has been so crucial that I no longer fear auditioning. I actually look forward to the unexpected. I think that that makes me much more present and hopefully much more interesting to look at. It doesn’t always work of course; being a mum has also meant I’m sleep deprived and sleep deprivation severely messes up with your head so I struggle with being in the moment when all I can think of is sleep! However, all in all, the spontaneity that I see in my child everyday I’ve been applying at work and it feels, oh so very good.

In terms of bits of work I’ve done recently, I’ve been doing quite a bit of acting corporate jobs which are always cash-nice and I recently was in a short film called Conscript directed by Oliver Brown which is being selected for different film festivals (fun), and another short film called Babies by my mate and awesome director Martin O’Brien. 

Have been auditioning, have been being rejected, have been working, have been having lots of fun. So grateful I love my job.

‘Where did you go?’ ‘Oh, I went to mum school’.

Right, so although I did train to become an actor I’ve always felt like my training hasn’t been enough. I think most actors I know are in England and most – unlike me – have gone to ‘proper’ drama school and for some reason I feel that because I didn’t train at any of these prestigious schools I am at a bit of a loss when it comes to getting work. I know this thought (or lie, depending on how I feel; therefore, depending on how I see it) has been messing up with my head for a while now and although I’ve taken short courses at some of these “amazing” drama schools, it feels like it’s not as good as having done a proper degree at them. I do also keep looking into doing new acting courses because I don’t think acting is something you can actually fully cover/comprehend, but also because deep down I feel like I haven’t quite nailed it yet. 

                                              …
The other day I rocked my one year old to sleep and after seeing him completely at peace in my arms I felt so much joy I cried. I immediately turned to God to thank him. I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world but there where I was holding my boy. However, as that beautiful moment started to evaporate, the ‘drama school’ thought started to peep in. I then heard God say: ‘I know what you want, and what you want I want to give you. I know you think you need more confidence in what you do. The best drama school is in front of you. Be present, play with your boy, observe him and take note. Be a mum. Motherhood is not a job, it’s a school; you’re not in it to teach your boy but to learn from him. So do that. Trust me, you will never look back’.

So there, that’s where I’m at. I’ve been kindly reminded by Dude that the best way to learn how to act is to quite simply, live.
  

My encounter with broccoli and a note on Acting 101.


So as some of you may know, I got cast in a BBCOne show called Apple Tree Yard, starring Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin. This is my first proper TV job and I am THRILLED. I’ve got two scenes and literally two lines in total so please let’s not start talking about winning a BAFTA.

One of those scenes was shot last week and I’m here to tell you about how it went. Actually, that’s not true, it went well so there you go. I’m here to share with you about the two most momentous moments (alliteration!) of the day.

Firstly, I was happily hanging out with myself in my trailer when someone knocked on my door to tell me that lunch was ready…As I sat down and started munching the yummy food away, I suddenly realized I was frantically cutting the broccoli on my plate. I then saw that the rest of the food  had nearly disappeared. I was hungry but there was no need to devour the food like that. Or was there? I was so anxious about the whole experience I was frantic, rushed, spinning. I held the last piece of broccoli on my plate with my fingers, looked and it and took the decision of eating it as slowly as I possibly could. I tasted every single bit of that broccoli, my chin muscles relaxed and consequently everything in my body too. What I learnt? Quite literally, be delicate and careful in your moves, as it translates into delicacy and carefulness in your soul.

Secondly, I was on set, we were nearly at the end of the shoot, my scene being the last one. I had said my line quite a few times already, it felt like at that point I knew what I was doing. Then the director said: ‘Jimena, can you hear the audience giggling?’ (My character is sort of talking to an audience in the scene). I said: ‘Yes, I can’. She said: ‘Could you react to them?’ I mean, hello?! 🙈 That’s embarrassing. To be honest, I think the director genuinely wanted to know if I could hear them so she could ask them whether or not they needed to be louder. I internally excused myself by saying: ‘Oh, I don’t think my character would mind them so I chose not to react to them’. Except that, that internal thought was a lie. I did hear them but I was so selfishly focused on my ONE line delivery, I just didn’t care about anything else. What did this remind me of? Real acting is not about ME but about the people I’m playing with. The real magic comes from my character reacting to what the other actors are generously (or not,whatever ) giving me. I learned this on my first acting class ever, so going back to basics is always a good move I guess.

More soon! X

Mum is Back

Hello there,

It’s been a while since I last wrote something here. My life is SO different now I sometimes don’t know who I am. HA! That’s sort of funny and slightly worrying. It’s like I’m living in a blur. A lovely blur. A tiring blur. A challenging blur. Definitely the best blur of all. It’s been tricky but I wouldn’t change being a mother for the world. I feel complete. Completely messed up. Lol. That was a joke. Although there’s truth in jest. I’ve been so busy with mum duties that I haven’t put much thought into my career. But life is funny isn’t it? And Murphy’s Law seems to be the bread and butter of every actor’s life I know; when you want work there’s nothing for ages, and when you’re not looking everything comes up at once!

Well, the latter is what’s happened to me. I wasn’t even close to thinking about acting when all these auditions/jobs started to come up within a space of 2 weeks. I had mixed emotions when it happened; I was mainly excited and also anxious which led to me having a bit of a manic reaction. In a way I couldn’t wait to do something other than mummying, but in another way I wondered if it would be actually possible. 

Despite the natural chaos a baby brings, I have a very chilled life at home. I never thought I would say this but I felt out of my comfort zone when thinking about working in London. This wasn’t because I wouldn’t be able to cope with the city or anything like that but mainly because it meant I’d be miles away from my baby. He has been breastfed all his life you see, and he’s not too keen on taking the bottle. That combined with the very little notice you get for these jobs, meant that taking these opportunities on board would be a bit of a stretch.

Thank God for that though. Stepping out into the unknown is never as hard as one originally envisions. For the first job where I played a Bulgarian maid, the director was so ultra cool and understanding that he welcomed me, my baby and nanny (aka husband) to the set for a whole day of filming!

  
Scene with Trinity filming Pinklehurst Road.

The second job was doing ADR work for a feature film to be released this autumn ( I can’t say which…). This was my first experience doing ADR. I loved it. On the first day I traveled into London with my baby and we hung out at The National Theatre for a while. I thought I was being naive when I put him in the sling for a nap; with lots of things going on around I thought sleep wouldn’t happen…but it did! I found hiding under the stairs particularly dark and useful. In the afternoon, I went to my job and my husband took over. On the second day, my husband helped out as well and off I went to work. Yes, I’m lucky my husband has a flexible job and yes, he’s pretty darn cool too. 

  

Baby sleeping at The National Theatre.

The biggest ‘mummy’ challenge I faced doing this job was plainly said, managing my boobs. I brought my pump to work thinking it’d be easy to pump during breaks. HA! We did have breaks but they were way too short for me to glamorously relax on the toilet seat… luckily I was wearing a blazer thick enough to cover the huge circles of milk leakage on my shirt.Oh, and the pain! I won’t go into that but it was bad. Lol. Professionally speaking, the challenge of this job was saving my voice. I was asked to literally scream and at one point it dawned on me that I had to sing a song for an audition a couple of days later!

So yes, that crazy week ended with me going for a theatre audition at the New Diorama Studios. My husband couldn’t take any more time off to help out so my mother in law came to the rescue travelling all the way down from Nottingham to be with my son for about an hour. A star! 

  
The Ace Team before audition.

Preparing for this audition was uber fun mainly because I kept getting distracted by my little one crawling towards my props and chewing them away. Thankfully and surprisingly I found this hilarious rather than stressful. I incorporated an element of clown into my devised piece which my son loved so I kept doing it over and over again; I learnt it and he giggled so that worked pretty well. I also had to prepare a song. Easy peasy, I mean what baby doesn’t like a bit of singing no matter how lame it may sound? I confess I would have liked to have more time to prepare but I also realised that preparing just enough is good enough. Over preparation can kill creativity and with a baby you have to make the most of the little time you have.

On the day of the audition, travelling to London wasn’t as smooth as I hoped. My hair was a total mess, my trousers were covered in carrot purée and I was debating whether or not to nurse five minutes before auditioning. I did have about 3 minutes to breathe and focus before going in and as soon as I entered I was in a different place, a place that felt like home. 

…..ahhhh….bliss all day afterwards….what a gift it is to love what you do…

So….I got the job (yay!) which goes to show that sometimes things work out better when you try less. This goes against the philosophy I grew up with (work work work work); and I mean, there’s nothing wrong with working hard but I know it wasn’t hard work that got me the job. It was enjoying each and every moment of the process: the limited preparation I had and being in the moment at the audition without giving a damn about carrot purée type accidentals.

I could tell you all about this job coming up, but I rather you have a look at this video and if you can/fancy even help us a bit. I’m uber excited about this being my first theatre project since becoming mum. Woohoo! More soon…je suis back!

Advent Experiment: Finding ‘Patience’ (Day 4 – three months later)

We actually completed the puzzle 2 days before I went into labour! I was constantly nesting  before our son arrived and I wanted the puzzle out of the way but I also wanted to finish with the task in hand. We did it! And this is the result. 

 

As for the readings for this 4th Sunday of advent, this is the one from Luke’s gospel (Luke 2:1-21) that struck me: “As for Mary, she treasured these messages and continually pondered over them”. After 36 hrs labour (of course I needed that patience!), our little baby boy was born, I treasured every second of it and three months later I still ponder over its overwhelming meaning. 

This puzzle will always remind me of the special arrival of our wonderful bundle.