Be Brave, education, Humour, Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Teacher

Show Me How BIG Your Brave Is: Why Sara Barellis’ “Brave” should be our new national anthem

For a group of people who talk all day for a living, teachers are often a very silent bunch. We save our comments for the staff room and then grumble about how no one listens to our opinion.

Teachers across the United States are in crisis. Morale is at an all time low. Politicians are treating teachers like children who need to be monitored and disciplined with threats of job loss and salary reductions.

It’s disgraceful.

As a Canadian teacher, I know that we have it better than our friends to the south, but I can see us headed in that direction and it scares the hell out of me.

Business people with no links or background to education are being tapped by politicians to find ways to “fix” our education “crisis”.

Forgive me, but we are neither broken nor in a crisis. Yes, there are things we can improve upon. And guess what? Most of us know exactly what needs to be done. Most of us have multiple degrees in everything from child development to curriculum and evaluation. We do regular professional development on everything from reading and math to bullying and nutrition. We can help make things better. We need money and time to make positive changes, not outside “experts”.

But before we can help others, teachers need to find the courage to stop whispering and start speaking up. Our students want to look up to us. They want us to be role models. We need to model bravery so that they can grow up to be brave as well.

We live in a world where people overshare all the time. Videos and pictures that you might have once only shared with family and friends are now put on the internet for the world to comment on. But despite all of this new ‘openness‘,  I don’t think it’s made us any braver.

We still watch what we say and worry about what people will think, what they might say. What if someone doesn’t agree with me or doesn’t approve of what I say? What if they get mad at me? What IF not everyone likes me???

Guess what? The world will keep spinning. You will continue to breathe. Life will go on. And you will be better for having spoken your mind. The world will be better.

Being brave doesn’t mean you have to rescue a baby from a burning building. It could be as simple as standing up for a colleague when they are being harrassed or supporting a student when they need someone in their corner. Bravery often shows itself in simple acts of kindness.

I stopped watching music videos sometime after Michael Jackson’s Thriller because I have no interest in seeing women dance around half-dressed while men sing about degrading them. But this? Brave is the best video, the best song, the best…everything I have seen in a long time. 

It’s not deep or complicated or edgy. It’s just honest and true and fun.

If this song can’t be our new national anthem, let’s make it our new mantra.

Watch it, love it, live it.  I want to see you be brave.

“Brave”

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just want to see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
See you be brave

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education, Teacher

How to Solve our Country’s Math “Problem”

The Globe and Mail recently featured a top fold, bold-font headline that screamed: “THE FIGHT TO SOLVE OUR MATH PROBLEM”!

I was disappointed to see there was no picture attached to this headline. I was hoping for a shot of an army of stern-looking math teachers, holding pencils and books, brought in by the government to get our kids back to basicsChicken-Little_Sky-is-Falling

The PISA results were released on December 4 and the hand-wringing and head-shaking began almost immediately. In case you hadn’t heard the earth-shattering news, our Canadian students dropped from 10th place in 2003 to 15th spot in 2012. The PISA is a survey (standardized test) of more 510,000 15-year-olds from 65 participating economies that focuses on mathematics.

John Manley, President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, ominously declared, ““This is on the scale of a national emergency.”

OMG! Call in the Math Army! This is worse than the ice storm of 1998!

So scary...just like our math scores. Hold me, John Manley.
So scary…just like our math scores. Hold me, John Manley.

Now, Mr. Manley, sir, I realize you are trying to help parents who want nothing more than to ensure that little Billy won’t be living in their basement (probably playing Call of Duty 16) when he’s 35. BUT, jeez Louise! It’s ONE test! Of 15-year-olds!

Don’t get me wrong. I love and respect 15-year-olds. My youngest child is 15-years-old. My other son was just recently 15.

I, myself (believe it or not), was once 15.

Priority#3 when I was 15. Cannot include picture of French boyfriend, who was priority #1, due to silly privacy laws.
Priority#3 when I was 15 – making sure I never ran out of Silver City Pink lipstick. Cannot include picture of French boyfriend, who was priority #1, due to silly privacy laws.

I remember being 15. Acing my math test was important, but it wasn’t my top priority.

I’m not saying the PISA results mean nothing. They do. They are a great snapshot of how our 15-year-olds are able to demonstrate some of their math understanding compared to kids the same age around the world.

But we teach so much more than math in our schools these days. We actually teach more than just academics. And this is the problem. We have too many things on our plate.

Let’s start with math, seeing as it’s a national emergency and all.

In my province, there are 7 strands of math that have to be covered over the course of the grade 4 year. These include everything from number sense to graphing to probability. Within each of these strands are a variety of specific outcomes. Each carries the same amount of weight on a report card. At last count there were 65 specific outcomes. If you are in grade 4, learning your multiplication facts up to 9 is 1 of those.

It’s not that teachers don’t know how to teach basic mathematical operations and number sense. (Trust me. We do. If I have to do one more in-service on how to teach multiplication, I will poke my eyes out with hot sticks.)

The problem is that there are sooooo many other things to teach that eventually you have to move on. If the kids don’t know their math facts, oh well, because now it’s time to teach them how to read a circle graph. With 65 outcomes to get through, there isn’t a lot of time for dilly-dallying.

And this overcrowded curriculum doesn’t apply just to math.

Schools today are expected to do the work that homes, churches and community groups did years ago.

SnapchatWe are now expected to teach children basic morality, like: thou shalt not post naked pictures of your classmate on the internet.

We are expected to feed kids who don’t get a proper breakfast at home.

We are somehow responsible for solving the childhood obesity problem, despite the fact that the government keeps cutting our phys.ed. programs.

There are even calls for schools to offer nature and gardening workshops (during school time) because children are not getting outdoor time when they get home. It appears their parents are incapable of prying their offspring’s little eyes of the screens and chubby fingers off the controllers and keyboards long enough for them to get outside and blow the stink off.

The tipping point for me occurred the other day when I heard a mother being interviewed on the radio. She was upset because her teenage daughter had gotten involved in prostitution. I was feeling sympathetic to her plight until she said, “The schools really need to be doing more to prevent this from happening.”

Seriously?!

SERIOUSLY?!!!

Let me see if I understand correctly…not only am I expected to teach reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, feed the hungry, and instil basic morality, but now you want me to put a stop to the world’s oldest profession?!

UNCLE!302_businessman_teacher_or_officeworker_surrendering_and_waving_the_white_flag

I’m waving the white flag.

#Just.can’t.do.it.all.anymore.

If the general public wants improved math scores, then we need to prioritize and delegate.

Families, community groups, and government organizations need to pick up the slack that our schools have slowly absorbed over the years.

The minute you start watering down a curriculum by adding in everything but the kitchen sink, you end up with a system that is mediocre at best.

The Asian schools that beat the pants off our kids in the PISA?

I guarantee you this: they are not spending their days talking about the dangers of SnapChat, while they pass out juice boxes and granola bars. They are doing kill and drill, all day long and then far into the night with tutors and special math schools.

Do I want their education system in my country? No. But don’t compare their math scores to mine, saying it’s apples to apples. If you want me to focus more on apples, just say the word. But you’ll need to get some of the other fruit out of my basket first.

are-you-smarter-300x225

education, Rants, Teacher

“Gimme a Y! Gimme an O!” Seriously…Gimme some common sense.

writing131Have you ever found yourself singing along to the lyrics of a song and suddenly going, “Holy crap! Did he really say that?!”

Google the lyrics of some of your favorite songs and be prepared. My favorite song of the summer, Blurred Lines? I really wish I could unlearn those lyrics.

There’s something about chanting or singing that makes us lose sight of the meaning of the words we are saying.

The Orientation Committee at St. Mary’s University learned this the hard way last week.

Committee members were caught on camera leading hundreds frosh in a chant that was…how shall I put it nicely…just plain wrong.

“Y is for your sister. O is for oh-so-tight. U is for underage. N is for no consent. G is for grab that ass. SMU boys we like them young!”

Ummm…seriously?

Did anyone actually think about what they were saying? It seems like the siren of the song lulled the organizers into thinking that their words didn’t matter.

Now, imagine for a moment that the rhythm of the chant and energy of the crowd were removed. Only the words remained.

Here’s what a simple conversation between a new freshman and his orientation leader might sound like:

Male Orientation Leader: Hey man. Welcome to SMU!

New Frosh: Yeah, thanks!

MOL: So, listen. Uh, I don’t suppose you have a sister, do you?

NF: Yeah, I actually I do. She’s in Grade 10.

MOL: Cool! You know, us SMU guys, we like them young.

NF: What are you talking about, man? Are you saying something about my sister?

MOL: Chill out, man. It’s OK. Us SMU guys, we just ike ‘em young, like your sister. Cuz she’s so tight, you know?

NF: Are you kidding me right now? Shut the hell up, man! Why are you talking about my sister like that?!

 MOL: Don’t freak out, man. I just really like the fact that she’s underage, you know? I don’t even need to get her consent. I’m just going to grab her ass.”

I don’t think we need to stretch our imaginations to figure out how this scenario would end. The Orientation Guy would most likely be on the ground trying to find his teeth, while the frosh rushed home to get his sister into a nunnery.

Of course, a conversation with dialogue like this sounds ridiculous.

And yet, when it was sung in the middle of a football field, by hundreds of young people, it somehow seemed completely normal. Young men and women smiled and sang along.

The release of the video has caused an outpouring of outrage across North America.

Once again, adults are shocked and appalled by the behaviour of “young people today”!

On local radio call-in shows, outraged old men were calling for the end of orientation events altogether.

“Kids today! They have no respect! It’s just Party! Party! Party! Orientation is just partying and should be cancelled. University should be learning and nothing else!”

OK. Thanks for that, Gramps.

But in the real world where I live, orientation committees play a valuable role in helping young people make that transition from home to independent living.

Orientation used to be about hazing and heavy drinking.  Enormous progress has been made in getting these things out of official orientation events. And I have faith that progress on eradicating this bizarre “rape culture” will be made as well.

All we can do is keep calling foul when we hear these things and help kids to understand why it’s wrong.

Some folks are saying that it’s unfair that SMU Student Association President, Jared Perry, was pressured to resign. He made a mistake. That’s all. And he apologized, so…

I disagree.

Seriously people. We are the town of Rehtaeh Parsons. For the past few months, our airwaves have been full of discussions about the importance of consent and the dangers of a so-called “rape culture”. How could anyone not know that this chant  was wrong?

I’m sure Mr. Perry did plenty of wonderful things during his term and I suspect he has a bright future ahead of him. No one is saying he’s the devil incarnate.

BUT, when you make a mistake, you have to own it. And owning it means accepting the consequences.

SMU needs to regains its reputation and rebuild the trust of its students, alumni and community. And they will.

This “scandal” will blow over and a new one will take its place.

But let’s hope the lesson sticks. Think first..then think again.

writing132

education, Memoir, Parenting, Suburban

It’s a magical world out there, my son. Time to go exploring.

writing121

To my little boy, who is suddenly, miraculously, all-grown-up,

Tomorrow we leave with a truck filled to the brim with your sheets and pillows and computer and clothes and start the five-hour drive to your new home. A dormitory filled with boys and (heaven help me) girls just like you who are starting a new chapter in their lives.

It seems like we’ve been preparing for this move all summer. The list of things to get, to buy, to wash, to sign and to organize seemed like it would never end.

Until it did.

And now there isn’t anything left for me to do or buy or wash or pack.

I thought that during your last night at home, I would give you lots of deep, sage, soul-searching advice that would carry you through the good times and the bad while you are away at university but…

I got nothin’.

And you know what? I think that’s good.

I think it means we already did that.  Over the past 18 years, anything that needed to be said has already been said many times over.

Don’t worry about us. Your dad is ready. I’m ready. (And you know your brother was ready last month when he started measuring your room to see where he would put his furniture!)

You’re ready and I am so excited for you.

There’s a whole new world waiting out there for you.

Time to go exploring.

 writing124

education, Memoir, Princess, Rants, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

Homework vs. Laundry: One of these things will teach your child self-discipline, responsibility and time-management. The other involves worksheets.

writing114As an elementary school teacher, I rarely assign homework.

Of course I encourage my students to read. I also encourage them to follow the news, eat right, and be kind to their friends and family.

But nightly math sheets and fill-in-the-blank grammar exercises?

Nope.

I’ve studied the research, read the books, watched the kids, and talked to the parents. I’ve raised two boys to teenagehood and I was in school for almost half my life. And I know, in my gut and in my brain, that regular, daily homework for homework’s sake is at best, unnecessary, and at worst, detrimental to children’s learning.

Go ahead.

You can start the shrieking and the hand-wringing now. I’ll wait. I’ve taken more flak for my decision to not (regularly) assign homework than I have for just about anything else in my career (except my smart mouth, but that gets me in trouble everywhere I go).

The myths that surround the benefits of homework have been around for so long, most of us just assume it’s a necessary evil.

But it’s not.

Now, I know what you’re saying.

Reader: OK, Heather, let’s say that I believe you (which I don’t) when you say the research shows that homework makes little or no difference in terms of academic success, especially at the elementary school level, but what about the non-academic benefits?

Me: Like what?

Reader: Well, you know, homework teaches kids responsibility and time management and self-discipline. That stuff is important!

Me: I agree. Those things are important. But does homework really teach those things? Can you show me a study that proves that to be true? How many 7-year-olds do you know who come home from school and pull out their homework and say, “Gee Mommy. I have to finish this math worksheet and colour in this photocopied picture of an apple without going outside the lines before school starts again tomorrow. Let me see, how much time will I need? I guess I’ll have my snack now and then I’ll go outside and play for 30 minutes. That will leave me with enough time to colour in the apple while you’re making dinner. Then I might watch a little TV for no more than 45 minutes because I need to leave myself lots of time to work on this math because I really don’t understand it.”

Washing the car - maybe the funnest chore, ever!
Washing the car – maybe the funnest chore, ever!

Let’s be honest here.

When homework comes home, the only person who has to cram more responsibility, time-management and self-discipline into their already crazy day is the parent or guardian of the youngster with the homework.

So, how DO we teach important things like those noted above?

One word: laundry.

Yup. Laundry.

Now, this means that the job of teaching responsibility, time-management, and self-discipline outside of school hours has to be taken out of the hands of teachers and placed into the hands of parents and guardians.

I know. Now I’m talking crazy talk.

“But you’re the teacher! It’s your job!” I can hear you screaming.

Yes, I’m the teacher. And when your child is in school, I will do everything I can to teach them all sorts of things, both academic and non. But, I can’t follow my students home.

And home is where these incredibly important lessons need to be taught.

Household chores (unlike homework) have been proven to instill in children all of those great non-academic life lessons that help nurture and grow our children into responsible adults.

“Using measures of an individual’s success such as completion of education, getting started on a career path, IQ, relationships with family and friends, and not using drugs, and examining a child’s involvement in household tasks at all three earlier time, Rossmann determined that the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four. However, if they did not begin participating until they were 15 or 16, the participation backfired and those subjects were less “successful.” The assumption is that responsibility learned via household tasks is best when learned young.” http://www.cehd.umn.edu/research/highlights/Rossmann/

Children who feel like they are contributing members of their community are more likely to feel like they belong.

I am not suggesting we send our children back down into the mines on the backs of old ponies to dig for coal. I am suggesting that they do age-appropriate tasks that allow them to feel like they are contributing to making life better.

Children are not pets or pieces of furniture or even guests. They are a valuable part of the family unit. They BELONG.

 I chose laundry as an example but any chore will do. (Don’t panic. You can ease into it. I’m not expecting your child to be running a laundromat out of your home at age 11.)

Children as young as 3 can be taught how to put their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper instead of throwing them on their floor.

By the time that child reaches elementary school, he or she can sort the laundry into whites and colours and help mom or dad carry it to the washing machine. They can also put their clean clothes away in the drawers.

Then you can add folding or hanging up their own clothes. (This one is scary because children rarely fold their clothes in a way grown-ups consider acceptable. That’s OK. If they don’t like wearing wrinkle clothes, they will do it differently next time.)

You want to teach a teenager about time-management? Let them do their own laundry. They will soon discover that if they want to wear that dirty shirt and those jeans to the dance, they need to do their laundry at least the night before so everything will have a chance to dry.

You want to teach a child about self-discipline? Let them do their own laundry. They will learn that instead of playing video games non-stop for 3 hours, they need to keep an eye on the washer, so they can move one load to the dryer and get another one in.

You want to teach a pre-teen about responsibility? Let them do their own laundry. They will learn that no one else is going to pick their dirty clothes up off the floor and wash them, so they better do it or else they’ll be wearing dirty clothes to school.

(Note to the OCD Moms out there. Back away from the mess. Seriously. Close your eyes, put your hands in your pockets, breathe into a paper bag. Better yet, shut the door, walk away, pour yourself a glass of wine and sit. Do whatever you have to do but do NOT go in there and ‘rescue’ your child. Think of it as short-term pain for long-term gain.)

Abolish homework. Mandate laundry.

He practically begged to vaccum when he was 3. He doesn't beg anymore but he still does it.
He practically begged to vacuum when he was 3. He doesn’t beg anymore but he still does it.

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

Disclosure: I have two teenage sons. Both have been doing their own laundry, along with numerous other chores, for years. One took to it like a duck to water, while the other kept forgetting to add the laundry soap.

The first time he realized what he had done, he called me into the laundry room in a panic, “Omygawd! Does this mean I have to do it all over again?!” (Like he had just scrubbed each item of clothing by hand on a rock in the middle of a river.)

“Well,” I said. “Smell your clothes. Do they smell clean?”

We both smelled a piece of wet clothing. Mine smelled like wet stinky teenage boy.

“Fine,” he said.

He added the soap and hit Start again.

Lesson learned.

Pop Culture, Princess, Rants, Suburban, Teacher

Take that phone and chuck it.

writing96National Review theatre critic, Kevin Williamson, got himself in a kettle of controversy last week when he lost his mind and grabbed a fellow theatre-goers cell phone and chucked it across the room.

Theatre Nights: Vigilantes 1, Vulagarians 0

This action earned him a slap across the face and a uniformed escort from the theatre.

Turns out he was trying to watch the play he was hired to review and despite numerous requests from both management and himself, the woman next him would not stop talking loudly and using her cell phone throughout the performance.

His actions have spawned a range of reactions but to Kevin I say:

There but for the grace of God go I…

I was at the movies a few months back and the woman next me was on her cell phone throughout the entire movie. The light from her phone was in my eyes and she kept chuckling when she texted back whoever was texting her. I wanted to grab her phone and type: “Just paid $20 to miss the whole movie by texting. lol.” Unless she was saving lives through her job at the UN or finding a cure for cancer on her phone, there was no excuse. I almost pulled a “kevin williamson” that night.

I’m not a Neanderthal – I like technology. I like having a cell phone in case of emergencies and I enjoy blogging and updating my Facebook status, which my children say makes me slightly more evolved than a T-Rex.

writing97Sometimes I feel like a throwback to another era. Not as far back as the pioneers or anything gross like that (nooo…I like running water…and antibiotics) but at least to an age where people ignored the world around them politely by daydreaming or impatiently waiting for their turn to talk.

Don’t get me wrong. I can be just as rude as the next person when I’m having a conversation. I am particularly known for desperately wanting to tell my related story before you’ve finished your story, which means I’m not really paying attention to your story. My mind wanders and I don’t have a full handle on how to rein it in just yet.

But I don’t get being tethered to your cell phone. Just because it “dings’ doesn’t mean you have to immediately check it. You’re not Pavlov’s dog. You won’t get a treat if you check it within 5 seconds.

I sort of get teenagers being obsessesd with their phones. They’re social creatures and their brains aren’t fully developed yet.

But adults? Seriously folks.

Live in the moment.

If you are at a concert, watch the concert. Don’t watch it through the 3-inch square screen you hold in front of your face (disrupting the view of the rest for us, I may add). You’re paying a lot of money to watch a teeny-tiny concert.

If you’re at work, do your work (this does not apply if your job involves using a cell phone – please don’t send me a message blathering on about how you need your phone for work – that’s not what this is about.)

If you’re having a conversation with someone, focus on that person.

Turn off the sound on your phone. Check it when you’re free from other distractions.

For that matter, you could…dare I say it? Turn it off.

I know, 21st century blasphemy. I can just hear the shrieking now: But I can’t turn it OFF! What if? What if?

What if #1: “But what if my kids need me???”

Not to sound like I just rode in on the buggy with Laura Ingalls, but we all survived a childhood where we couldn’t contact our parents every second of the day and we LIVED.

As a matter of fact, the very, very rare times I called my father at work, it often went like this:

Me: “Dad, it’s me, Heather.” (I thought it was very important to identify myself, even though I was (and still am) his only daughter and the use of the term “dad” should have sufficed.)

Dad: “Why are you calling me at work?”

Me: “I cut myself and there’s blood everywhere!”

Dad: “Well, what can I do about it? I’m at work! Put a band-aid on it and wait until your mother gets home. And get your homework done.”

My children never call me at work. They enjoy the time we spend apart too much. They have texted me, though. I check these when school is over. These texts are usually earth-shattering notes that involve asking if we can have pizza for supper, instead of something ‘gross and healthy’ or to tell me that they forgot to get their science test signed and now they’re in trouble. In the words of my father: what do you expect me to do about that now?

What if #2: “But what if my spouse needs me???”

To do what? Tell you that they’re having a sucky day?  Hello…we call that dinner conversation in my house.

What if #3: But what if someone funnier and more interesting than you is trying to get in touch with me?

Ahhh, now that’s the honest answer. Or at least it’s the one I think of when you constantly focus on your phone when I’m with you.

Put down the phones, people, and live the life that is going on around you (ie. Focus on Me!)

p.s. To my friends who are wondering, “OMG, is she talking about me?!” The answer is, of course not! I’m talking about that other person…you know, the one we talk about..behind her back? Duh, what kind of person do you I think I am? I love YOU.

Me and my sister Mary. We didn't have cell phones then and we still survived.
Hand me the phone, Laura. I want to text Pa to pick up a pizza on the way home. I’m so sick of boiled turnip.
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.