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Why I Keep Going Back to Disney World

So often I’m asked why I go to Walt Disney World so often. Why I don’t travel somewhere else. Sometimes I offer simple reasons: It’s easy to eat gluten-free, it’s fun, it’s relaxing (Yes, I find Disney relaxing!). There are so many reasons. But my reasons go so much deeper than that.

Disney is a part of who I am.

I’m not sure how old I was the first time we went to Disney. I’m not sure if we went two or three times before we moved to Florida. What I do know is each year (for how many years?) our family piled into a van and drove to Florida, to Disney World. Don’t feel too bad for us, my parents had some pretty lush vans complete with TVs and Nintendo before those things were common. Over all, it was a pretty comfortable drive. I loved it!

We drove day and night while my dad wove stories about family and friends I’d never met, or that I’d long since forgotten. I listened to the hum of our wheels on pavement as the stars floated overhead. I daydreamed. I listened to songs about adventure, love, and family. I saw so much during those drives, our family loved so much.

During a time when life was busy and my mom was in school in a different city, my family made the time to drive to Florida. Many people might have flown, but those drives meant the world to me.

Many people don’t know the thrill, the feeling of elation, that happens when you drive under the Walt Disney World Sign. Imagine the feeling of a kid who’s been in a van for three days: Three days of talking about Disney. Three days of thinking about Disney. Three days of wondering what to expect. Three days of excitement as we dreamed about our favourite rides and shows. Three days, and we were almost there. Three days and we saw those words that welcomed us to The Most Magical Place on Earth. In a few more moments we’d be there. A few more moments and magic would happen. A few more moments and we’d hear the words all Disney World guests know and love, “Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas”.

When we drove under that sign, Magic happened.

My parents had a unique way of exploring Disney. I remember many times we all spent together as a family. But mostly I remember those times my older sister and I explored Disney on our own. My older sister was my favourite person in the world, so this was a huge deal! She was four years older, so at home our worlds were very different, but at Disney we were equal.

We used to try to scare people in the haunted mansion, waiting until just the right moment to scream. Now I think about how so many people must have hated us lol, but we had so much fun. We’d run through the caves on Tom Sawyer’s Island. We didn’t always go in the entrance, or out the exit the correct direction. We often waited, hidden around a bend, only to jump out and yell ‘Boo!’ at each other. Sometimes we accidentally scared the wrong person. Oops! We’d apologize, then come together giggling. Silly. Fun.

We’d wait in lines and laugh about so many things, tease each other, and have a great time. We had a routine. We’d grab an atomic fireball from the candy barrels outside Snow White’s Scary Adventure, then we’d head to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. While we waited  in line, we’d try to eat the fireballs without taking them out of our mouths. Of course we couldn’t!

I remember the first time I was able to keep my eyes open on Space Mountain. I remember the times my sister and I dashed through crowds to get to the next ride, and the times we slowed down to watch the parade.

Even as an adult, I remember those days at Disney as the most magical, most wonderful days. My older sister was so much fun, and she always looked out for me. We’d take turns choosing a ride. Oh the number of times one of us said, “I want to ride Space Mountain, (or some other ride) but it’s on the other side of the park. We’d better ride the Skyway to get there.” Followed by an hour long wait to get on the Skyway. Of course as soon as we got on the Skyway, the other person would point out that it was a ride, and now was their turn to choose. We both did it. We both laughed.

These are all small, silly memories. Memories that fade over time. But just as Grand Pappy said in Frozen, we can take the memories, but leave the fun. I don’t remember what rides we rode, or when. I don’t remember the lines or specific details. But I remember the fun, I remember the laughter, I remember the love.

I have few pictures of those times. We were children having fun. Who wanted to stop and take pictures when there was so much to do? Details fade, but the magic, laughter, and fun grow stronger each year.

Every time I take my children to Disney, I remember those times. The love my family had for each other was heightened at Disney. Every time I bring my children to Disney, it’s really me bringing them home. It’s really me telling my parents that I love them and letting my sister know she means the world to me.

Disney isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling. When you’re in that magical world of make believe, those feelings take on a new meaning. Happy memories chase away the weight of the world and my children feel more love and magic, just as I did as a child.

When we’re not in Disney, we do the best we can to create the feelings of magic and love at home. We take inspiration from our favourite characters, “What would Tianna do?” We look at pictures and laugh about our adventures. When we’re not in Disney, we’re thinking about Disney. Disney is Home.

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Teaching Thankfulness and Gratitude

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference between a day and a whole life. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference between life and a moment. 

*The words in italics are about my spirituality. Feel free to skip that and just read about how we guide our children to being thankful and showing gratitude. *

Easter is such an important time for me. It has been a time of rebirth and new life in so many ways in my life. But over the past few years I’ve allowed myself  to drift away from the spirituality that brought huge blessings to my life. Not only did I drift aimlessly, truly without direction. I closed my eyes and refused to see where I was going or where I’d been.

Can you imagine a moment when  a great gift is given to you, only to realize you smashed it? 

I’m not sure when, but that moment hit me. Hard. I looked around and I saw my life in shambles. So many blessings that withered. Neglected. 

But the wonderful thing about God is that it doesn’t matter where we end up, He always welcomes us home. 

Easter is the perfect time to renew our faith and rejuvenate our spirituality. 

I want to invigorate my prayer life. And shift my perspective to see the glory of God.

I want to show my children the wonders of gratitude and thankfulness that I’ve known.

It’s taken me a lot of work and a lot of time to figure out how to see those moments as more than a blip on the radar of life. I want my children to grow up able to see the hardness of the world, the sharp points as mere moments, but the joy and wonder as  life. 

Until recently, I saw the hardness, the sharpness, the starkness and could barely see beyond it except in rare moments. But through a lot of meditation, mindfulness and guidance from others more experienced than I am, I was able to shift my perspective. 

In order to bring that fresh way of looking at things to my family, I placed a gratitude poster on the wall. 

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I didn’t say anything at first, but throughout the first couple days, I just wrote down things I was grateful for. I drew little pictures. And I moved on. They watched me, asked what I wrote, and listened with brilliant smiles as I read out words of love and gratitude for them. 

I invited them to write or draw on the poster as well. 

As our poster fills dup more and more each day, I let them know I had more posters and I’d just keep putting new ones on the wall as soon as we filled the old ones. 

It took  few days, but eventually one, then another added their own bits to the wall. It’s been so wonderful to see them noticing the moments more and more. But even more amazing, I’ve seen them looking to create moments to add to our wall!

So young and they already know more about life than I did as an adult. 

 

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The Danger of Positive Thinking

Some of you’ve heard me talk about Positive Thinking before and how important it is to me, specifically to my journey through chemo. So you may wonder why I’d suggest ‘positive thinking’ is dangerous. I’d like to explain why I believe it’s dangerous as well as why things like positive affirmations and ‘support’ from friends and family are also harmful.

Really what it comes down to is a base misunderstanding of what real positive thinking looks like as well as how our brain responds to it.

Many people believe positive thinking (as well as positive affirmation) is as simple as telling yourself what you want. When a person offers support to a friend it often looks the same, “You’re doing a great job! Keep it up!”, “You’re an awesome mommy”. The problem with that is our friend knows the truth – and our friend’s truth is that they aren’t doing a good job, or they wouldn’t feel horrible!

When I was going through chemo I used positive thinking every single day to get me through, but I used the truth to lift me up, vs holding me back.

Here’s two different ways a person may use positive thinking over the course of two days.

  1. “I’ve got this! I’m strong! I’m gonna beat cancer!”
  2. “Wow. This is tough, it’s really hard to sit up today. But I did it! I’m so strong. I sat up even though it was so hard!”

The first way are empty words, they’re sugar pills, placebo words that may or may not help depending on the day and the person. The second acknowledges the work, but also acknowledges the success.

Day two:

  1. “I’ve got this! I’m strong! I’m gonna beat cancer!”
  2. “This is easier than yesterday. It’s still tough, but I actually climbed out of bed today! I’m getting stronger each day!”

The first one doesn’t acknowledge the work done or how the person is feeling. If the person has a bad day or a bad moment, it will quickly negate any positive thinking because confirmed truth is stronger than empty words every time. But the second example has confirmed truth built in, so even if a bad moment happens, it’s easy to see it for a moment and nothing more and continue to believe the positive thoughts.

When talking to our friends, the same holds true. For instance a friend is struggling with a situation, lets say a parenting situation. A friend complains about their child’s behaviour, or even just curses while talking about their child, or admits they’ve yelled or hit their child. I often see and hear others say something along the lines of, “We all make mistakes, don’t worry, they’ll survive. You’re the best mommy for you child.”AdobeStock_80739055.jpeg

On the surface these sound great, but they don’t acknowledge the truth of the situation, the feelings our friend is experiencing, nor does it acknowledge the subtle (or severe) damage caused to the child. They pretend the problem doesn’t exist. It hides from the complex emotions and buries them under ‘positive’ emotions. Of course we see they aren’t really positive, they’re just pretend!

Instead saying something like, “It sounds like you’re really struggling right now. You sound so upset about the situation/how you acted.”

Open a dialogue with your friend, allow the truth and emotion to pour out. As that happens, you can support your friend while she processes the situation. If your friend needs help, you can offer it, or you can offer to help her find help.

It doesn’t matter if the situation is about parenting, a job, losing weight, or any other aspect of life. The first step in offering support, is to listen. The second step is to acknowledge what your friend has said, and understand what that means. Ask questions if needed. Once you understand, then you can let your friend know you’re there. You don’t need to solve the problem.

When positive thinking is used as a bandaid to cover reality, it doesn’t help us move forward. What happens when we use positive thinking incorrectly is we leave ourselves feeling like we aren’t good enough. We may feel anxiety or anger surrounding the situation, or we may feel hopeless. Positive thinking is not a blind cheering section, but when we use it as such, we hurt ourselves.  Instead positive thinking is supposed to be used as a means of seeing the positive parts of reality as more important than the parts that leave us uncomfortable.

If I were to catch myself yelling at my children, I might say to myself, “Wow. I feel horrible right now, I bet they do to. Yelling isn’t a good parenting strategy. I can be more respectful. I’m going to apologize to them as soon as I have a solution to prevent yelling next time.” Then I’d think up a solution, a plan for the future, apologize, ask forgiveness, and then I’d use positive thinking like this, “I yelled, but I managed to stop myself from yelling longer. I walked away, and I apologized. It wasn’t a great moment, but it was better than yesterday. I’m becoming a more respectful parent each day. I can continue to improve, even when I make mistakes.”

It can be difficult to admit our mistakes, but when we do, we can focus on learning from them and growing. That growth is positive thinking. When we grow, we focus on the positive and learn from everything else.

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Big Hero 6 Activities

Big Hero 6 is a huge favourite in our house! Not only is it a great movie, but it also holds special meaning to our family. When I went into the hospital to have my surgery, and stayed overnight, the first time I was away from my babies overnight since they’d been born, we watched this movie ‘together’. I watched it on my iPad in the hospital, they watched it at home. We cried together while we watched. We loved it!

Even without the unique significance for our family, it’s a great movie! It’s one of the only movies our children have actually watched over, and over, and over again!

This time we made donuts to eat while we watched – and for the next three days every time the kiddos went to eat anything they’d loudly proclaim, “I’m stress eating! These are so good!” (Aunt Cass in the movie).

For our other themed activities we talked about the kind of super hero we’d be if we used science. Turns out our children’s idea of Science more closely resembles Fred’s idea of science in the movie. hahahah but they still had some pretty fun ideas. 🙂

Brom’s is the blue squiggly design. He refused to share his superhero’s secrets. He didn’t want me to know too much! lol Cordelia’s picture focused more on the outfit vs what the super hero actually did. But she did share with me that her super hero had a supercharged marshmallow shooter, that shot hot marshmallows at the bad guys, and then the marshmallow froze as soon as it hit the bad guy so they couldn’t eat their way out hahaha (I love it!)

Ella’s creation is pretty epic. There’s a button in the centre of the hero’s chest that allows the hero to open a dimension that allows ghosts to fly freely into our world. There’s mind control, electricity, and a dead head. Watch out for the dead head, it’s still bleeding. 😮

Agatha decided her cat would be super rather than her. By the end her cat could counter every single attack anyone else could think of. We tried tot ell her we were on the same team, but she was having none of it. She won. 😉

Of course, who can watch Big Hero 6 without having bot fights? We had fun building and designing bots with our MOSS robotics set, Then we put it against Sphero and BB-8. Really we knew who’d be the only one to come out in one piece; the robot that only has one piece.  😉 But it was still lots of fun. Check it out:

 

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Time and Attention

Right now our family is so busy with classes, crafting, and renos, I have few moments left over for anything extra. But my children often find themselves with nothing to do except notice all the moments I don’t spend with them. Agatha’s really felt forgotten a lot lately. Eight going on nine is such a difficult age at the best of times, but it’s particularly difficult for her because her older sister has grown and matured out of the things Agatha’s interested in, but her younger sister hasn’t quite matured into them yet. For a child who loves people so much and wants to be with someone all the time, this is so difficult for her!  She wants so much time and attention, but with so many people in the family with such widely different wants and needs, sometimes that attention has to be given while cooking, cleaning, or helping someone else. Often it means she’s left on her own.

It can be so difficult to meet the needs of everyone in the family, especially when life shifts as children get older. All she wants is me to spend time with her helping her with her projects, but the most I can give is 15 minutes at a time before Brom needs me. I feel so badly for her. All I want to do is say ‘yes’ to her requests, but reality has me saying, ‘I can’t’ way more often.

But, I’ve cleared the next two days, and Ryan’s home, so I can spend extra time and attention helping her with her latest clay project. Helping her with a sewing project, helping her play WOW, and generally just spending extra time with her.

I know two days doesn’t make up for the months of run, run, run we’ve had lately, but I know it’ll go a long way to filling her love cup because we have a pretty solid foundation to begin with.

I’ll post pictures of our activities on instagram, and post back here and let you know how it goes. 🙂

And keep your eyes open for our next movie theme post – Brom chose Big Hero 6 and Ella chose Peter Pan – activities for both of those will be coming soon!

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Toy Story Trouble

Over the past few months we’ve been getting rid of stuff and really looking at what we use and don’t use, so we can make our home more joyful. We want to be able to use the space (and the stuff) we have without needing to put a ton of effort into cleaning in order to do so.

While Ryan and I’ve been going through our stuff and the general household stuff, w e’ve also been encouraging the kiddos to also get rid of their old toys they don’t use anymore, or the ones they forgot they even had.

Things were going pretty well, until we watched Toy Story 3.

Brom was so taken with the idea of toys being sad that their children didn’t want them anymore that he cried for hours anytime he thought about his toys being given away. It was heartbreaking to watch. We spent so much time this week cuddling and talking about how hard it is to say goodbye. We talked about the movie and how the toys felt, and also how the children felt. We talked about the actions the parents in the movie took and how that impacted the children and toys. It took time. A lot of time. He was heart broken.

We took all of his toys he’d decided to donate out of the box and sent them back to the playroom. He cried some more. We talked some more. We cuddled some more.

Then just as suddenly he brought all the toys back, put them int he box, and said he was ready to give them to someone else who’d continue to love his toys as much as he does. He knows his toys will be happy because someone loves them.

As a parent it was an amazing thing to watch. To hold space for him while he was sad, to walk this journey with him. Not trying to change his mind or make him feel better, but just being with him while he was sad.

It can be so difficult when our children do something different than what we want. It’s absolutely painful to see our children sad. But those are both experiences that are so powerful and important not only to our children, but to us and our relationship with them as well.

My heart swelled with so much love and pride when Brom gently placed his toys in a box, told them he loved them, and wished them well in their next home.

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Snow-free Snowman Activities

The weather around here’s all over the place. One day it’s -30C, the next it’s melting. But melting didn’t improve the quality of our snow, the wind hardened crust got thicker and stronger as it melted, then refroze. There’s till plenty to do outside in our snow, but building snow people isn’t one of those things right now.

Instead we made snow creatures from marshmallows and chocolate chips. This activity was a huge hit! By the end there were plenty of sticky children and huge smiles!

 

But all good things come to an end. The marshmallows and chocolate were eaten, it was time to craft! I whipped up some puff paint. Sounds harder than it is – all you need is 1 part white glue and 1 part shaving foam. I also added some sparkles to help our ‘snow’ look more realistic.

If you’ve never painted with puff paint before, you really should try it!! Our kiddos always love to experiment with it and create texture to their paintings. Though be sure to wash brushes immediately after use lol we forgot one time and all our brushes were stuck together in one big clump that evening when I went to clean up. 😮

 

When Ryan came home we did another snowman activity. This time I made rice crispy treats and each person got to create their own snowperson. The silliness level was unusually high for this activity, which made picture taking difficult – well, that and my hands were covered in sticky marshmallow lol.

The kiddos all had snow much fun! 😀

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Fostering Connection

It’s not always easy to foster connection with the people we love. Sometimes we’re tired, hungry, stressed, or just worn out. Connection isn’t always easy, but it’s always important.

This week I’ve found myself connecting more by stepping back than by stepping toward my children.

We went swimming this week. Brom wanted to learn to dive. He’s 3 and he wants to dive. I wanted to tell him no. Instead I told him not in the kiddie pool.  In deeper water, he climbed up on the edge, sat on the side of the pool, put his little hands over his head, then rolled, hands and head first, into the water. I stood by, telling him I was there if he needed me. I encouraged him, I cheered with each dive and was suitably impressed when he swam the 3 meters back to the edge each time. Over and over again. After about an hour and a half he began to tire, he couldn’t quite swim all the way back to the edge on his own. He floundered. I did not rush to grab him. I did not save him (though my hands were under the water to catch him if he needed me), I simply told him I was there.

I waited to see what he’d do.

He rolled onto his back, into his safety float. He relaxed, caught his breath, then rolled over and swam the rest of the way to the edge.

I cheered and congratulated him for his quick thinking and staying calm! I was so proud of him, and so was he!

Connection. It’s such a weird and interesting concept. By stepping back, being close, but not interfering I strengthened the connection I have with Brom more than if I stepped in, took charge, or directed his actions.

The same holds true for the older kiddos too.

Ella received a Kano kit for Christmas. It’s a build your own computer kit that uses raspberry pi as the base. (It looks awesome and she’s had so much fun using it!) She built the computer and was playing a game, but couldn’t figure out what the command prompt meant, she asked me for help. With some trial and error I helped her figure out what she needed to do. She deleted what I’d typed and re-typed it herself. It didn’t matter whether she needed help or not, she wanted to do it on her own.

 

Had I typed and hit enter, had I been the one to actually complete that step, I’d have taken away her sense of accomplishment. By answering her questions, showing her how, but not actually doing it myself I gave her the information she needed to move forward. When she ran into a similar problem later, she completed the steps on her own. I received the biggest smile ever for giving her that moment. I know Ella, if I’d stepped in and completed that step for her, she’d have been hurt and upset.

 

 

 

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New Year Themes

Writing here’s been difficult for me lately. I’ve floundered within myself and within our family. I haven’t followed our goals and plans that we laid out for our family or this blog. Looking back, I can see I didn’t really think about where we really were, nor what we were likely to be able to accomplish. I also wasn’t very clear in my goals.  

I’ve been disappointed in myself and with each day of disappointment, I try less and less to succeed. My goals became even less clear. 

It’s time to change that!

At the start of this new year I want to look back on what we did do that I’m happy with.

First, our family is stronger and more connected now than when we started! This is exactly what we wanted. Though I wasn’t able to write about much of that because it wasn’t only my story to share. When relationships need work, it isn’t pretty. 

Second, we brought more experiences to our children than we normally do, and we brought ourselves to experiences that we’d normally say no to. I’ve made it out the door for outings I’d normally say no to. This is huge! 

Third, when faced with difficulties, we’ve channeled our inner Disney hero/heroine more often than before. It’s really made a difference when we haven’t been sure how to proceed. We worked toward what we wanted, but we weren’t clear on what we really wanted or how it’d look. 

For 2017 we want more. We want so much more than what we’ve been settling for!

Resolutions have never been my style, but as a family we’ve came up with goals for the year that we want to work toward. Each week we want to do something that brings us toward our goals. I’m so excited!!Adventure and travel nautical theme. Diary with map and compass

If any word could describe what our children want, it’s Adventure!

As a family, we want more new experiences. We want to try new things. We want to find where X marks the spot and discover if there’s a magic world hidden in our woods. This means leaving the house even when it’s cold. 

Our second big theme for the year is Kindness.

kindnessThere’s so much more than being kind to ourselves and our family. We want to go out of our way to be kind to others. Friends or people we meet on the street, maybe someone online. There’re so many ways to spread kindness, I’m looking forward to hearing the ideas our kiddos come up with. 🙂 

Creativity is our next theme and also our easiest for us to accomplish. The members of our family are almost always creating something, but theres more to creativity than just making something. There’s freedom and fear. There’s questions about worth and there’s pride. We want to take our previous creativity and up the ante.

Finally we have Connection. Our family needs connection. We need connection amongst ourselves. When I need to make dinner, but Brom wants to play. I can choose connection, or I can choose disconnection. As we strengthen our family, our ability to form strong connections with our community will also strengthen. 

Did you make a new years resolution or do something else to mark a new year and a new you? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

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Is Santa Real?

Do you believe in Santa? Does Santa visit your home?

I know many people who don’t wish to lie to their children, so either don’t have Santa visit, or are very sure to express that it’s only a story or a game people play.

I believe in Santa. I believe in many things. But mostly I believe in Magic. A very special kind of magic, the kind that allows my children to believe in Santa, even though they know how Santa’s magic works.

We’ve talked of magic before.

Knowing how magic works, doesn’t stop it from being magic. Instead we talk about how knowing how the magic works gives us a greater responsibility toward others. Knowing how the magic works makes us a part of the magic.

That idea is integral to our Santa conversation.

Ella and Agatha both told us their friends had told them Santa was just their parents, both girls looked at us in a questioning way when they said there had to be more to Santa than just parents.

We talked about NORAD, Google, the malls, movies, and random people on the street. We talked about how all of these people and organizations fully participated in the Magic of Santa. We then asked, even if your parents are the ones leaving presents under the tree, is it ‘just’ your parents who’re the magic of Santa?

Their response was very firm: “NO!”

 

It was neat to listen to them as they worked through their questions. They told us what their friends said. They never once asked us whether we were Santa. They never asked us to explain the magic. Instead we explored the idea of Santa, and we talked about how some people believe that understanding the magic means it’s no longer magic.

As we sat around our table, with our two advent candles lit, our conversation went deeper. Creating this magic for people brings magic, kindness, love, and especially, hope  into the lives and homes of people who might not have it otherwise. In sharing this tradition with others, we help ourselves feel more full and fulfilled.

Does Santa come into your home? Have you talked to your children about Santa? What did you say, what did they say? I’d love to hear how others navigate the season!