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Our Advent Calendar

Just like last year, we’re keeping our trip to Walt Disney World a surprise until Yule.  This year though, we’re leading up to the reveal with her advent calendar.  We bought a whole bunch of Disney pins off eBay, and have put them inside dated Disney ornaments:

Disney ornaments from Target

Disney ornaments from Target

So every day the girl gets a new pin.  

She loved the first one:

Wearing her Mickey Mouse pin on December 1st.

Showing off her Mickey Mouse pin.

But by the third was catching onto the theme and finding it less than fun.  Last year her advent calendar included little baggies filled with little toys, MLP clothes, LPS accessories, and other odds and ends with a lot more playability.  Then, by about day five, she realized these are the same pins they use for pin trading at WDW…  and a world of possibilities came flooding in on her.  Now she’s excited to see which one is inside each ornament, and likes to think about which might be keepers and which might be good for trading.

Her first five pins.

Her first five pins.

I am so looking forward to the big reveal on the 21st.  I know she’s just going to be over the moon to learn our next trip is coming up so quickly.  It’s going to be amazing!

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My Daughter Didn’t Dance

Today, my daughter didn’t dance, and it broke my heart.

 

Lily-Ann celebrated her sixth birthday almost a week ago.  On July 20th we had friends and a few family members over to the house to help her celebrate.  She’d decided on a Goddess Girls theme this year.  We all dressed in chitons, played games I created based on the characters in the books, ate ambrosia cake and drank nectar punch, and everyone wore the winged sandals we made as our party favours.  After her party, she told me that all her birthday dreams and wishes had come true.  It was an awesome day.

Click the photo to see the rest of her party pictures.

Click the photo to see the rest of her party pictures.

 

The two weeks leading up to her sixth birthday, the girl had been going through some rather big developmental changes.  It was clear she was becoming a “big kid” and leaving the “baby” behind.  I was so excited for her.  She was growing in leaps and bounds right before my eyes.  I was proud of the conscious choices she was making, and happy for those things that were changing even without her awareness.  As much as I loved my baby, my toddler, and my little girl, I love the big kid she was becoming even more (if that’s possible).

My little girl loved going to the movies.  She loves the stories, the action, the music, the popcorn…  cuddling up in the dark theater.  More than any of that though, she loved to dance.  Ever since that first movie we went to, we’d let her run up to the front as soon as the credits started, and we’d watch her dance.

Those first few times, she’d wipe out…  a lot.  We’d hold back though, and just wait.  Then, with even more resolve, determination, and grit she would dust herself off and dance her heart out.  Sometimes spinning all the way from one side of the theater to the other, arms held wide, face to the sky, feeling the entire world whorl around her.  And she would take my heart along for the ride.

It was secretly my favourite part of the movie too.

There were times, when others would get caught up in her passion too.  When individuals, couples, and families would stay to watch her dance.  Some would clap for her.  Others would tell us how amazing they thought she was.  And there were those who would simply smile, their eyes full of gratitude.

I think her dancing reminded people of joy.  We so easily forget how much of it there is in this world.  We get so caught up in things that really don’t matter and we forget how to be swept up in it.  Joy can fill the heart with rapture and our lives with light.  Lily-Ann gave that back to people, even if it was just for a while.

Today, when the movie ended, and she got up to dance, my heart soared – like it always did.  She got up to the front, and she stood there.  I watched her posture change, and watched that joy melt away.  Then I watched her walk back to her seat.  She sat back down and said “I’m not going to dance today.  Maybe a different day, but not today.”  And I started to bawl.  I wasn’t loud, but I couldn’t stop the tears.  They poured down my face.

Lily wasn’t sad.  She was happy.  But that pure innocent joy, without a care about what anyone could think, was gone.  She really is a big kid, and with that comes both good and bad.  I look forward to what this next stage has in store for us, but I desperately mourn for my baby – who was here with me only weeks ago.

I am not ready to give her up!

It may be ridiculous, but all I can be right now is sad.

Summer hasn’t even started yet, and already it’s too short.  Two months?  That’s barely enough time to picnic, forget finishing our unpacking, fixing up the house, gardening, heading to the lake, and all the other things we want to do.  We’re going to blink and it will be time for school again.

Autumn used to be my favourite time of year.  I loved the weather, the leaves, the fact that most folk stopped coming to the lake – leaving it just for us…  I loved everything about it.  Now I’m dreading it.

Autumn this year means my baby is leaving me.  And the kicker?  I’m the one who convinced her to give grade one a try, she wanted to stay home and have me teach her.  But Ms. Jackson, the grade one teacher at Mayfair?  She’s fabulous.  Is so obviously passionate about her kids, and I just know Lily-Ann could learn so much from having her be a daily part of her life.  I’m just so not ready to give her up.  Not even close to ready.

Moving from Pre-k to Kindergarten was hard enough.  I still miss our Friday afternoons.  But the idea that come Fall I will only have my girl for a few hours every day???  It’s just too much.  I honestly cried myself to sleep last night.  It’s ridiculous, I know.  I can’t help it though.  I am not ready to give her up.

We haven’t even started Summer holidays and already I’m depressed and upset over Summer coming to an end.  How the heck am I going to make it through?  There isn’t enough time in the world to prepare me for giving up my daughter full time to the school system.  Can’t she go part time?  Honestly?  Truly?  Is that an option?  Because THAT would make it all better.

A Woman’s Razor, a Tool of Oppression?

When I was young, I shaved my legs every day; EVERY day.  Spring, Summer, Autumn, AND Winter; every day.  The media told me that having smooth, moisturized, soft legs was an important part of being pretty – and as a teenager and young person I bought into it.  I believed the myth of beauty society fed me.

As I came into adulthood, I still shaved – though not with the same frequency.  I spent a great deal of my time as a young adult sick and in pain… pretty just wasn’t as important when you hurt so bad that you can’t get up and down stairs without dissolving into tears.  But I still shaved and moisturized.  It was part of being a girl.  We couldn’t have people thinking I actually grew hair on my legs.

Then I became a Mom.  And yes, even then I shaved my legs.  By then it was just one of those chores you do.  Going swimming?  Better shave.  Wearing shorts or a skirt?  Better shave.  Just part of the self-grooming routine.  Something I didn’t think about.  Something I did in a rather robotic fashion, another member of the trained masses.

I want my daughter to grow up knowing these things are choices – even if we don’t always feel they are.  Not all Women shave.  In some parts of the world it would seem odd to do so.  My daughter believed this until she was three.  Then one day she laughed, astonished, at the ridiculous notion that a Woman could choose not to shave.  That was the day I stopped shaving my legs.

Lily-Ann has other Women in her life who are non-shavers, my sister for one.  But clearly this was something she needed to see with more frequency.  It may seem like a small thing, but I needed her to know that we have a choice.  We don’t have to shave.  We don’t have to buy into the view of beauty that the media is selling, we can choose something different.

I may be the odd Woman out here in North America, sporting hairy legs all year long – without shame and, quite frankly, with a little pride.  And yes, it may seem like a strange thing to take a stand on…  but I couldn’t let my daughter grow up thinking she has no choice, that she has to go along with whatever ideals society sets before her.

She has options and choices.  We all do.

Sure, I could have kept on shaving – but she shocked me out of it.  Sometimes, that’s what we need.  Something to shock us out of that robotic state we get lulled into.  Something to bring us back into personhood.  A sudden splash of cold water, a bucketfull dumped on us while we lay half asleep, lounging in the sun.  Something to remind us we’re alive, and we have the right to make these seemingly small, seemingly insignificant, choices for ourselves.  And sometimes, those small choices end up being some of the biggest.

my hairy leg out in the sun

Out working in the yard, clearing away the Winter ick. My hairy leg enjoying the Spring sunshine.

DIY – Word Blocks

A little while back I came across the idea of using megablocks to help with phonics skills and fluency.  I thought it was a great idea.  I’ll try to find the website where I first saw it, and will share it when I do.  For now though, here’s our take on it:

Seeing how the girl has outgrown her megablocks and generally is using lego for building, I loved the idea of repurposing her old blocks.  So today I pulled out my label maker and her box of blocks and set to work.  This should give new life to all her old sets, that haven’t seen the light in several months.

I decided to put both a capitalized and lowercase version of the same word on each block.  This way, when we start worrying more about proper capitalization her blocks will still be useful for her.  Eventually I’ll be adding a whole lot more words – including many she has requested herself – as well as doubling up some blocks with words like is, was, it, and…  as many of them can be used twice in the same super silly, extra long, sentence.

We also decided to use many of her blocks with stickers on them.  You know how some sets (like Kai Lan and Diego) have themed stickers that get applied to some blocks?  Well, we’ve labeled those too – with Kid kid’s choice of words.  It can be nice for early readers to have visual hints when still working towards reading fluency.

So, here are our blocks.  I ran out of tape in my label maker, so had to stop a little earlier than I’d have liked.  But we still had enough finished to have a bit of fun.  Lily-Ann loved my “Dad was stinky” sentence, and I loved that her very first one was “Lily-Ann is cute”.  😉

 

Downtown Disney

I have to admit… after listening to folk rave about Downtown Disney, I found the shopping district to be a HUGE letdown.  Most of what you find there are your typical stores that you can find at any mall in any city.  I’m shopping at Downtown Disney because I want to find DISNEY stuff.  So while yeah, you’ll find things at Downtown Disney that you won’t find at any of the Disney parks it’s because it’s not Disney related.

Lily-Ann loved the princess store.  She bought herself a purse and gloves set (courtesy of Karla Amaya, our travel agent, who gave the girl some Disney Dollars to spend), and I bought her a tiara.  We also found a thank you gift for my sister and her girlfriend who watched over our furry and feathered family members while we were gone – a very cool mad hatter tea pot and tea set.  Seriously, if we could have afforded two of them, I’d have got one for myself.  LOL

The other cool shop was the Lego store.  It really was neat to see that many sets all in one place – and I loved the create your own figures center as well as the bulk lego pieces.  That was pretty awesome.  And I adored the amazing lego dragon they had built out front.  It was seriously incredible!

Other than that, there were little bits and pieces here and there…  but overall?  It was a pretty underwhelming experience.  We were glad when we decided to head back to our resort.  It was a MUCH cooler place to spend the remainder of our last day.  🙂

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The last of the four Walt Disney World parks is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and I realize it’s cliched to say it, but while it’s the last it’s not the least.  Hollywood Studios is AMAZING!  I’ve already shared the photos from the girl’s Jedi Training School experience, which was totally incredible and jealousy inducing, but that was just one small part of our day.

There are just a TON of character meets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the lines were minimal compared to many of the other parks.  There’s a bunch to do, yet this park doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as the others (of course, by this point we had our system pretty much perfected – which really helps).  And it’s not totally kid-centric either, which was great.  This park definitely had the broadest appeal, with everything from Star Wars to the Muppets to Phineas and Ferb to Pixar’s greatest hits to classic Disney as well.  We loved everything about this one.  It was fabulous!

Character Meets at Walt Disney World

You really do need at least five or six days to properly do all the parks (not including water parks) at Walt Disney World, and a big part of the reason why are all the character meets.  Because, lets face it, even an adult only vacation to WDW has to include character meet ‘n greets!

Most of the time, you just hop in line and wait it out.  And some of those lines can be LONG.  We were there during the off season and even then there were a couple of characters whom we waited for over an hour in line to see.  Now, if you were to skip all the character meets you could chop a couple of days off your trip, but why would you want to do that?  The characters are what makes Disney the fun that it is – otherwise it’s just a bunch of theme parks.  People love Disney World and Disneyland BECAUSE of the magic that is Disney, and that is ALL about the characters.

And let’s face it!  Most of the rides are no camera rides (though some people are asshats about it and snap pictures anyway – ruining the experience for those around them), so the character meets?  They’re your very best photo ops.  And some of the cast members really are fabulous and are SOOO worth seeing.  Peter Pan pops into mind.  Seriously, he spent about ten minutes with Lily-Ann…  who happened to be in her fairy costume.  He even tried shaking pixie dust out of her.  He really was fabulous and made the girl feel that way too.  😀

So, here are a whole whack of character meet-ups from our trip!  None of the photos have been edited or enhanced.  I am not even going to THINK about that yet.  It’s going to be a STUPID amount of work considering the two or three thousand images I have.  LOL  So it was just a RAW to JPG conversion.  LOL

SeaWorld – just skip it

If there is one thing we did, that I’d advise you to just avoid, it’s SeaWorld.  My husband had great memories of SeaWorld from his childhood, so he considered it a “must do”.  And from my visit to another SeaWorld park when I was nine, I agreed.  We loved all that we learned there as kids.  Education was a huge part of their mandate back then, unfortunately that’s no longer the case.

Very honestly?  Knowing what we know now?  We’d have just skipped it.  It’s not worth the time.

We all enjoyed the kid zone, with it’s mini-roller coaster and other amusement park rides, but that wasn’t worth the cost of admission.  So yeah!  Planning a trip to Orlando Florida?  Hit all of Disney, plan for at least five or six days in the parks…  but erase SeaWorld off your list.  It’s not worth the time or money.  I actually found the entire place to be very disheartening.  😦  That said, we put on happy faces and did our best to act like it was awesome.  After all, it wasn’t really about us.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort!

My next Disney World tip?  Can’t make this one any more clear or plain for you.  STAY AT DISNEY’S ART OF ANIMATION RESORT!!!  Unless it’s when we’re going back (because, yes, we need to get back) and then I don’t want it over crowded.  LMAO

Now, I could go into a really long explanation about why this is THE resort to stay at, but honestly?  This is one case where a picture really can tell a better story.  So, here’s a buttload of photographs from our time at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.  Right from that first night we arrived, until our last minutes on Disney property:

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