Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Suburban

True Confession: I was a Disney virgin

writing90Growing up in the suburbs of New Brunswick in the late 70’s, it was pretty clear that only the rich families went to Florida on vacation.

Vacations with my family did not consist of getting on a plane and flying to…well, anywhere.

Instead, they involved an annual 14-hour drive (each way) to southern Ontario to visit the grandparents and assorted relatives.

My mother packed breakfast, lunch and supper and we drove straight through. My father white-knuckled it beside crazy-Quebec drivers, while my brother and I bounced around (sans seatbelts) in the back of the car. We would flip the seats down in the station wagon and lay out the sleeping bags, so we could read our comic books and punch each other until someone reached back and smacked at us from the front seat.

We never stopped at a hotel on the way for a night of fun and frivolity. Well, we might have once but I think it was because the car broke down and I don’t believe there was any frivolity.

Like I said, Disney was not part of my childhood. (Thanks a lot, Dad…you owe me for some serious therapy).

Fast-forward 20 years: my children are of that “Disney” age but still it’s not in the cards. For one thing, my boys were runners and climbers. Both had near-misses with cars around the age of 3 and I spent much of their early years just praying they wouldn’t die on my watch. Combine my fears of them running off into the Magic Kingdom and being kidnapped by Goofy with the fact that we had about 37 cents to rub together and once again, Disney was out of the picture.

It seemed as if I was destined to be a Disney virgin for life.

But then…all that changed.

writing93On a whim, my husband and I decided to take the plunge. We pulled the kids out of school and flew to the magical land of Mickey and Minnie. Granted, it wasn’t exactly the best time…my eldest graduates this year and 7 days out of school when you’re facing grade 12 exams probably wasn’t the smartest thing we could have done, but we were on a mission – we were Disney bound!

We left on a cool Canadian morning in May and arrived to steaming hot Orlando temperatures.

Our days were full.

I had bought tickets for 3 days in Disney, 2 days at Universal Studios, 1 day at SeaWorld, and 1 day at Wet and Wild. We left two days open for shopping and relaxing.

Let me tell you – those two days off?

Priceless.

My senses have never been so overloaded in my life.

Sights, sounds, smells – everything comes at you full speed at Disney (and by Disney, I mean all of the Orlando theme parks…they’re all Disney to me). You are on a thrill ride before you even set foot on a roller coaster.

I am grateful to have gone but I don’t know if I would go again. I think it’s something like childbirth. You would only do it again if you could forget what it was like the first time around.

All that said, since I am now an experienced veteran of all things Orlando, I will share my tips and observations with you. (You’re welcome.)

  1. All good things end in the gift shop…and all rides…and all shows. You literally walk through hundreds of gift shops during a week at Disney. Put on the blinders and march quickly through the gift shops. There are hundreds of discount stores mere miles from the amusement parks. You do not need a set of salt and pepper shakers shaped like Mickey and Minnie. And if you really, really do? Buy them for $9.99 at the outlet store, instead of $29.99 at the gift shop.
  2. As much as I enjoyed all of the ‘activities’, waiting for my boys to finish riding the crazy-ass roller coasters gave me the chance to people watch. There is nothing like people watching at Disney – you see all shapes, sizes, ethnic groups, ages and personalities and hear all types of accents. I saw people in clothing choices that made me wonder if they owned a mirror and I saw tatoos on everyone from grannies to pre-teens. It was like watching a movie.
  3. Babies at Disney…WTF?! I don’t get it. What benefit does a BABY get out of a day at an amusement park? Now, if you have other children and you’re just dragging the baby along for the ride, I kinda get it…I couldn’t do it, but I understand. But there were adults there with just a baby…trying to get the carnie-worker to let them take their BABY on the rollercoaster with them?!  Stop. Put.the.baby.down.  (One exception to the baby rule is my cousin Tracy, but that’s only because she is a superwoman and she does Disney with kids the way it should be done…with kid rides and kid activities.)
  4. Water rides will save your life. Don’t worry about getting soaking wet…you will get soaking wet but you won’t care because Orlando is stinking hot and you will dry quickly. The water rides will cool you off but even better than that, they will soothe any crankiness or nastiness that might be setting in after a day of sensory overload.
  5. Street food is everywhere. Word of advice? Walk away from the giant “turkey legs”. At $10 a piece, these things could feed an entire family. But should they? I have never seen a “turkey” with a leg that big. And the meat is pink, more like ham than turkey. I am pretty sure these things are made from some sort of weird hybrid. Turkey + pig = purkey.  I would not encourage the eating of purkey until more testing can be done.
  6. Carry your own bottled water. We bought a two-four of bottled water at a local convenience store for $2.99, which coincidentally is what you pay for ONE bottle of water at the parks. We hydrated ourselves like we were hiking through the Sahara desert.
  7. Carry some real food for lunches and snacks. Yeah, the street meat and deep fried foods are fun…for awhile. But there comes a time when you hit the wall and you can’t bring yourself to pay $7 for a hot dog that tastes like…well…a hot dog.
  8. Allow yourselves downtime. For us, it was sitting around in the evenings, watching TV or hanging out around the hotel pool. That’s when the kids would tell us what they liked, didn’t like, wanted to do, didn’t want to do.
  9. Enjoy it for what it is. Yes, it is a super-sized, commercialized, sensory experience but for me, it was a chance to spend time with my husband and our boys without any interruptions from real life. Just us and Mickey.
Turkey...really? Purkey is more like it.
Turkey…really? Purkey is more like it.
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Princess, Rants, Raves, Teacher

Teachers: Love us or hate us, we’re still going to teach your kids.

A teacher for Prime Minister? What you talkin' about, Willis?
A teacher for Prime Minister? What you talkin’ about, Willis?!

If Liberal leader Justin Trudeau wins the next federal election in a few years, Canada will have a teacher for Prime Minister. Imagine! A teacher as the leader of our great country!

Although I think this would be fabulous, I can’t imagine it happening, seeing as many Canadians don’t even seem to want teachers to be teachers.

In last Saturday’s Globe and Mail, columnist Elizabeth Renzetti wrote an article titled, “Who You Callin’ A Teacher?” In it, she describes the twisted relationship the general public has with teachers.

“Is there another profession that’s so loved in theory and so loathed in practice?” she asked.

She continued by saying, “The love is everywhere to see, so long as it doesn’t cost us anything: Countless books, films and documentaries take a scrappy teacher as a hero…In real life, teachers get scant thanks from a public that expects them to perform ever greater miracles with ever fewer loaves and fishes.”

I love that biblical image: performing ever greater miracles with ever fewer loaves and fishes.

It’s what teachers do every day. Not only are we expected to cover the 3-R’s (and cover them well enough to beat out other countries on standardized tests) but we are also expected teach children things that their parents should, but often don’t, deal with at home (like, please don’t rape your classmate, put her picture on-line and then bully her into an early grave…but that’s a story for another time).  Add in the integration of special needs students who don’t get the support they need…oh, and do it with less money and little support.

What gives? Why the lack of respect for teachers? Renzetti explains it like this:

“There’s a particular store of resentment directed at teachers, perhaps because so much of their work is invisible to the outside world, but more likely out of numbing jealousy that they get summers off.”

I totally agree. In a past blog about snow days, I made the point that every job is different. Each has it’s own pros and cons and yet many people can’t get past the perks that teaching has to offer.

The green-eyed monster is a vicious, myopic creature. We often envy what we see on the surface.  Dig a little deeper and you’ll see all of the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears that go into a full school-year of teaching. There aren’t a lot of people who can do that well. And yes, I know there are bad teachers out there…just like there are bad nurses and bad toll booth operators and bad garbage men. But I think it’s fair to say that most teachers are well-trained professionals who have the best interests of their students in mind. It just wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t.

But let’s go back to Justin Trudeau for a minute.

In his recent blog post, Drama Teaching Experience, fellow teacher, Grant Frost noted (tongue in-cheek) that the Conservative attack ads on Trudeau had it right. What could a drama teacher possibly bring to the job of prime minister? How could a teacher possibly lead our country? His response?

“Drama teachers are a special breed of people who develop co-operation in their students, work tirelessly so that others can shine, and help all students reach their fullest potential…Canadians should dream of such a leader.”

In the end, Renzetti sums it up: “Those who can, teach; those who can’t, make fun of them.”

Excuse me, Mr. Harper, but who’s teaching your kids?

Love
Love
Hate
Hate
Memoir, Princess, Raves, Suburban

Bark, bark, barkin’ at heaven’s door: A tribute to the world’s best beagle

Rest in peace, sweet girlie. We love you.
Rest in peace, sweet girlie. We love you.

Our sweet old girlie enjoyed her last treat today. Four sausages, at last count. She died like she lived – well fed and well loved.

She has gone to join all of the other beagles in heaven, where the mountains of meat loom large and the bunnies and deer are free for the chasin’.

Maxie was the best dog a family could ask for. We adopted her just over 9 years ago. The ladies who gave her to us were only fostering her and they didn’t know exactly how old she was. They said they were told she was around 6 or 7; however, they also warned us against getting ‘two dogs and a goat’, so I don’t know how much faith I put in what they had to say. 😉

Maxie gave us many, many good years and despite ailing health over the past few, she managed to secure herself a place in our hearts and minds forever.

She will be dearly missed.

***********************************************************************************************************************

Despite rumours to the contrary, I do not have a direct line to the big guy. But, if I did, I would be placing a call today and it  would go something like this.

Operator: Heaven’s Gate. How may I direct your call?

Me: Hi, may I speak to St. Francis of Assisi, please? You know, the Patron Saint of Animals guy?

Operator: Uhh…yes, I know who you mean. One moment, please. (pause) I believe he’s in the field throwing sticks, but I’ll find him for you.

(Sound of the phone being muffled: “Frank! Frank! Phone’s for you!”)

St. F: Hello? (sounding slightly out of breath)

Me: Hello, Saint, sir. Sorry to bother you. But my dog Maxie is on her way to your place and I just wanted to tell you a few things about her before she arrives.

St. F: Certainly, but…

Me: I’ve made a list of reasons why you should let her in. Can I read it to you?

St. F: Of course, but…

Me: OK. Here you go.

Top Ten Reasons Why Maxie Should be Admitted to the Land of Bacon and Free Range Bunnies

  1. Seriously…look at that face. Have you ever seen a cuter face in your whole life?
  2. Maxie could put a smile on our faces when nothing else could. My kids have come home from school angry, frustrated and in tears and immediately gone to the dog for a hug. She always responded by licking away their tears and reminding them that there was something else they could be doing, ie. getting her a treat.
  3. Maxie smelled like an angel…of course, that was only just after a bath. But even her stinkiness was part of her charm.
  4. She was the least fussy eater I have ever known. She ate everything from fresh baked donuts to dirty old lobster shells. Eating was both her job and her hobby.
  5. Maxie was also the most gentle dog…unless you were trying to take her food away. Rocky, the beagle up the street, learned that the hard way. (I know it was your food dish, Rocky, but you should have known better.)
  6. She taught my children how to love unconditionally. Even when she peed on their beds, ripped open their garbage, and ate their birthday cakes, they always forgave her.
  7. She taught us that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and colours…and species…and breeds.
  8. Maxie helped the local wildlife stay fit and healthy. The deer and the rabbits in the woods around our house got a regular workout when she was still able to run. One sniff and the howling would begin. If we opened the door (or she managed to push it open by throwing her substantial girth into it) she’d be off like a shot.
  9. In the end, she taught us, To everything there is a season. Translation? Eventually, we all have to say goodbye.
  10. Finally, not to appear biased or anything, but I’m pretty sure she was the best dog in the whole wide world.

(pause)

Me: So, what do you think St. Francis? Is that enough? Can you open the pearly gates and let my sweet girl into the land of unlimited bacon?

St. F: (chuckling) I’ve been trying to tell you that she’s already here. Who do you think I was throwing sticks for? Seriously…was there ever any doubt?

*************************************************************************************************************************writing79

“Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it.” St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Animals

Memoir, Princess, Suburban, Teacher, Uncategorized

Roots and Wings – Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

writing66Yesterday, I put my 14-year-old son on a plane and sent him 1,400 km across the country.

No, I haven’t completely lost my marbles. (If that were the case, I would have put his brother and his father and his senile old dog on the plane with him.)

He’s actually taking part in a week-long national program for youth called, Encounters with Canada. I already miss him like crazy, but I’m not worried. I’m confident that he is going to have an incredible experience. And it’s not just because he’s 14 going on 40 or because the program has been running for 31 years or even because his cousin just got back and said it was, like, totally awesome.

It’s because I know he’s resilient. He’s got the roots;  it was time for him to stretch his wings.

In his new book, Building Resilience in Children and Teens, Kenneth R. Ginsburg, says adults need to help children develop the seven crucial ‘C’s:

  1. competence
  2. confidence
  3. connection
  4. character
  5. contribution
  6. coping
  7. control

Ginsburg, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, says helping children develop these seven character traits will not only help them succeed in life, but it will also allow them to bounce back from whatever challenges life might throw at them. It makes them resilient and gives them roots.

To me, teaching is much like parenting. We need to trust that by the end of the school year, we have provided our students with the solid foundation they need to move confidently to the next grade or stage of their life. We also need to have faith that someone else will pick up the line once we let go.

As the end of June looms near, teachers often begin to panic. We worry that we haven’t given our students everything they need to be successful once they leave our classroom. We fret and wring our hands and say, “I don’t know what will happen to little Teddy in September when he goes into grade 1 (or 3, or 6 or 12 or university). He won’t get this kind of support next year.”

And yet he will.

One of the joys (?) of never having a permanent contract is that I have had the opportunity to work with students and teachers at almost every grade level, including a stint teaching ESL at a university. And I know that while elementary school teachers work their butts off to help their students, so do middle-school teachers and high school teachers. Even university and college professors will spend one-on-one time with struggling students. It’s something all good teachers have in common.

Letting a student or a child move on without us doesn’t mean we are throwing them to the wolves. It means that once we’ve done our job, we have to step back and trust. We have to trust that we have planted deep, strong roots that will help our children feel solid and secure and grounded. Then we have to trust that our children will remember these lessons and use them to guide their decisions.

Dr. Ginsburg says our goal should be to “think in the present and prepare for the future”.

He says that as teachers and parents we should aspire to help children become successful 35-year-olds. We shouldn’t always be thinking about the next grade or the next stage, but instead about how all of these experiences will come together to create an independent, self-sufficient happy adult. It’s about raising our children to be emotionally and socially intelligent.

Loving parents and strong teachers naturally give their children roots. That’s the easy part. Giving our children wings is a little harder. It means you have to let go. We spend so much time holding our children tight and keeping them safe, that letting them go seems to go against the very laws of nature.

It’s not easy, but when you let go and you see them soar?

It’s worth it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have to go see if my son texted me. (He can fly free all he wants but he still has to touch base with mom every night.)

writing68

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

The Sunshine Award – Yes, it’s all about me.

Sunshine Award

You like me! You really like me!

It appears I am a Sunshine Girl! A lovely lady over at http://1tric.wordpress.com/
nominated me for this blogging award. She follows me, I follow her – everyone wins by getting to read interesting posts on a regular basis.

I’m not really sure what a Sunshine Award means, but it’s a very pretty icon and I guess it’s better than a kick in the pants, so I’ll take it. Hooray for me!

The award comes with some rules that I must follow. They are:

* Make sure to post this award on your blog site. – Done
* Nominate ten fellow bloggers. – Done (see bottom of page and everyone over on the side, as well.)
* Please answer the ten questions. – and…Done-er-i-no.

1. What inspired you to start blogging?

I was tired of stifling my voice. As public servants and members of a union, teachers are expected (and actually required, in most cases) to keep their opinions to themselves. As someone who is, how shall I say it nicely, not exactly quiet about her opinions, I needed a place to vent, share and express myself.

2. How did you come up with a name for your blog?

I have always wanted to write a book called, Confessions of a Suburban Princess. I figured this blog would put me on the road to that goal. But the name, Suburban Princess, was already taken, so I tagged ‘Teacher’ on to the end and decided I actually prefered it.

3. What is your favorite blog to read?

http://thebloggess.com/ She makes me laugh with every post. She also inspired me to write this blog. After I read her best-selling book,  I thought, “Damn! That girl is crazier than a cat in a paper bag and she wrote a blog and a book. Maybe I could, too!”  Check her out…you won’t be sorry.

4. Tell me about your dream job.

I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up but my dream job should include beagles, George Clooney, wine and chocolate.

5. Is your glass half-full or half-empty?

It’s usually completely empty…I’m a chugger.

6. If you could go anywhere for a week’s vacation, where would you go?

Barcelona, Spain.

7. What food can you absolutely not eat?

Liver. It’s disgusting. I had to eat it once a month when I was a teenager because my mother was convinced it would raise my iron levels when I was men-stru-ate-ing. Helllooo? Had we not heard of iron supplements in the 80’s?? There’s really no need to eat an animals’ internal organs.

8. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

I’d like to say dark because it’s politically correct and all, but no…I could eat milk chocolate until it flowed from my orifices like lava. Pour it overtop of a soft gummy bear and you have my heart forever.

9. How much time do you spend blogging?

Not a lot. I don’t like it to get in the way of my “Vampire Diaries” watching.

10. Do you watch TV? If so, what are your favorite shows?

Of course I watch TV…what do you think I am? Amish? I LOVE TV and now that I have Netflix, I may never go back to work. I’ll just sit at home, eating my milk chocolate, watching series after series…ahhhh, bliss. Favorite shows? Vampire Diaries, Days of our Lives, The Good Wife, The Mentalist, What not to Wear…yes, I am an intelligent girl.

That’s it for the questions about ME. (Sadly.) And now, for the final part of this assignment: ten of my favorite bloggers. Check them out, if you have time on your hands that you don’t know what to do with. Also: I love the people down the side of my blog. They are cool, too. Enjoy.

OTHER AWESOME BLOGGERS

1. http://carrieblueberry.wordpress.com/

2. http://illbeoutinaminute.com/

3. http://siobhancurious.com/

4. http://5kidswdisabilities.com/

5. http://anotherthousandwords.wordpress.com/

6. http://ineedanewman.wordpress.com/

7.  http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/

8.  http://pamela984.wordpress.com/

9. http://yacantgohome.wordpress.com/

10. http://thefoodgirlintown.wordpress.com/

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Suburban

How to keep your teen from building a pornography bomb in your basement

writing47

If your teens are like my teens, chances are they are cave dwellers. And by caves, I mean bedroom or basement inhabitants.

Despite their cocooning tendencies, I know (because the experts have told me) that I must keep the lines of communication open. I need to protect them from all of the evils that lurk on the internet and beyond.

So, when my children shut themselves off in their bedrooms, I like to make numerous visits in order to ensure all is well and everyone is safe.

If you would like to follow my shining example, since I am a self-proclaimed teen-raising expert, here is an example of the conversations I repeatedly have with my spawn. (You’re welcome.)

In order to protect their fragile identities, the Heir (age 17) shall hereby be known as William, while the Spare (age 14) shall be called Harry.

Me: (knocking quietly, then barging into Young Harry’s room) Hey! What are you doing?

Harry: (switching the screen to black) Nothing.

Me: (smiling) You can’t be doing nothing. What were you looking at?

Harry: (not smiling): Just stuff.

Me: You know, honey. There are lots of…bad things on the internet. And sometimes we don’t mean to open them, but we do and then you might see something you don’t want to see…

Harry: (sighing loudly and rolling his eyes): You caught me. I was looking at pornography. Lots and lots of pornography. It’s just a big old porn fest in here, Mom.

Me: Very funny. Can I see what you’re doing? I read that parents are supposed to be aware of what their children are doing. It makes kids feel safer.

Harry: Wow, yeah. I feel really safe right now with you stalking me and barging into my room.

(He turns his screen back on and I see what looks like a regular word document.)

Harry: I’m doing my homework. Are you happy now?

Me: (sheepish now): Yes, actually, I am. Thank you for sharing with me.

(I start to leave.)

Harry: I’ll make sure to add lots of pornography to it before I’m done!

(I race from the room.)

Harry: SHUT MY DOOR!

I head down the stairs to check on the Heir, who has been locked in his teen-man cave for hours now. I can hear new age music blasting through the door. I knock and then barge in…it’s my thing.

Me: Hey! What’cha doin’?

William: (Not taking his eyes off the screen) What do you want?

(I look around his messy, smelly dark room and move to open the curtains.)

William: (without breaking eye contact with the screen): Don’t open those. The glare makes it impossible to see the screen.

Me: Your room is like a dungeon. You could be hiding a body in here.

William: You caught me, Mom. It’s under the bed. Don’t look. It’s pretty gross.

Me: Ha ha. It certainly smells like you could have a body under your bed.

William: Why are you here? (Still staring the screen, while simultaneously working a Rubics cube into perfection.)

Me: Did you hear the story in the news about the kids who built a bomb and took it to school? Their parents said later they hadn’t been in their sons’ bedrooms in months. They had no idea what their kids were doing in their own house.

(I start sifting through some of the dirty (?) clean (?) clothes on the floor.)

William: So, you’re in here looking for a bomb? Oh my God! I better hide the pieces. (He shoves the Rubics cube down the front of his shirt.)

Me: You and your brother are horrible children, you know that? I am just trying to be a good mother.

William: You’re a great mom.

Me: (heart lifting) Really?

William: Yeah. (turns back to the screen) Can you shut the door on your way out?