Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Slice of Life - My New and Improved Writing Life

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

It has only been two days, but I feel so much rejuvenated when it comes to writing! I am excited to write!

I vowed after the month-long Slice of Life Challenge to keep writing but to change my writing. Instead of spending my Slice of Life posts writing, I'm going to write for myself and work on my book but here write about how it's going in my life as a writer.

To be honest, I haven't written much in the last few days. Today what I did do was some planning. During my lunch, I grabbed my folder with all of my notes for my book. I have a lot of ideas but I haven't been able to figure out how to really plan things so it will come together right. I have a few different storylines going and I needed to get things straight in my head. Before I was just writing and writing and not worrying about things were going to come together eventually.

I already had a bunch of mini-sticky notes with little events written on them on a piece of paper. I decided I needed a bigger piece of paper. This is where it would be awesome to have an awesome or even a little space just for writing. A space where I could lay things out or slap things on the wall and not have to pack it up. I taped two pieces of paper together and then had more space to spread out my sticky notes. I noticed where I needed to add in a few events and some I decided not to include. I was able to see how things might go in order and actually move from beginning to end.

Seriously, I feel so much better about my writing. I am really excited now to write. Now I feel like I can  set little goals for myself and feel like I am moving towards something. I can tell myself to write one of the sticky notes by a certain day, and go on like that for a while and then worry about fitting them all together later. Even though I didn't write anything, I feel like I really accomplished something today.

When I opened my WIP, I saw that I have 55 pages...I have no idea what I was able to write 55 pages about since I don't really know what I'm writing. I'll have to worry about it being too much or not enough later. Right now, I'm just going to write! I'll check back in next week and let you know how I'm doing!

What does your writing life look like now that the March Slice of Life is over?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic For The Win!

There has been an insane amount of buzz this week about Hunger Games now that the movie is out. Can I please say that I read Hunger Games in November of 2009 so I read it a long time ago. Before talk of a movie, thank you very much. (I have seen the movie twice already and loved it both times, by the way!)
Kellee has been talking about the difference between the genres of dystopian and post-apocalyptic over at our teacher blog. There have been all sorts of guest posts about this genre and today bloggers can share their own views and link up. Since I haven't had a chance to share my own thoughts yet, I thought I would share it here and then link up myself! (Is it weird to link up to my own blog...oh well!)
The genre of dystopian seems to have taken over in books and in movies. I'm not sure it has truly taken over but it has become more and more prevalent in both formats. I love reading The Giver by Lois Lowry with students and talking to them about Jonah and the world he lives in. I love asking them about what they think about his world and sharing how horrible their world is. Most of the time, when students read that book, it is their first foray into the world of dystopian. The students I have read it with don't seem to be outraged at how Jonah is controlled and how people are controlled. I find myself having to be outraged and asking them if they would like that and coaxing them into realizing his world is not all it's cracked up to be.

I think these kind of worlds that authors create that have some semblance of the world we live in fall into the genre of dystopian. For kids it's sometimes tricky to see what differences there are from our world to the world in the book because so much overlaps. Once they do realize what is different though, I think this genre has the ability to let readers see how close we might be to changing laws and making decisions that could ultimately lead us to these dystopic worlds. They seem farfetched but at the same time plausible. It freaks me out sometimes when a dystopic book makes me look closely at the world we are currently living in and how things are far from perfect.
Before spring break I was talking about slang with a student of mine and told him about the book A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I haven't heard people talk about this book recently but it's a book I read in my British Literature class in high school and it has stuck with me since then. This book is a classic case of dystopia in my mind. It's such a perfect example of someone somewhere thinking an idea might actually work out great and then seeing the repercussions of this grand thought. I read it my senior year in high school and it is a super graphic book so I would recommend it to mature teens or adults. It is amazing what Anthony Burgess does with words and how he causes the reader to really assess the world we live in and the decisions we make.
I think I saw Oprah interview Cormac McCarthy and discuss The Road....but I don't remember them really talking about what the book was about. So, of course, the book lover that I am, who wants to read books others people are talking about, apparently, even Oprah, read the book. This book is so haunting and so incredibly sad and scary and spooky and gloomy. It's really depressing. It's definitely hardcore post-apocalyptic if you ask me. Something has happened to the world, we have no idea what. There's a guy and a boy walking. They just walk and walk and try to make it to where they are walking to even though we have no idea where they are going and they really have no idea where they are going. And they encounter lots of sad and scary things along the way. If it wasn't bad enough, the ending doesn't really redeem the whole book even. By the end, I felt like I read the whole book just to feel maybe a teeny tiny hint of hope but you really get no answers. This book is what I would consider textbook post-apocalyptic because it's after the almost-end of the world and there is really little hope of survival, but the human spirit will not give up! I'm glad it's not really a happy ending and I'm glad it is all gloom and doom because that's the essence of the genre after all. It kind of has to be that way. It's not the type of book I enjoy reading at all. McCarthy did an amazing job of writing this book. If I were him, I think I would need therapy after throwing myself into trying to write the world his character's live in. It really made me stop and think about what I can do to be more green in hopes of not seeing the world come to this in my lifetime...or any soon-to-be lifetimes even. You don't want our world to come to this, it sucks.

In our world, I do seem to notice more and more that people take things for granted. Especially, people who have jobs and access to toys and gadgets. Have you noticed the #firstworldproblems hashtag on Twitter? It's a joke but it's also pretty depressing. People will complain about something - usually a problem with their technology not working - and then add the hashtag. At least they realize that the problem they are having is a luxury to some people around the world, but at the same time, it's sad that there is such discrepancy in the lives that people are living around the world.

I'm glad the genres of dystopian and post-apocalyptic books seem to be expanding. I hope it makes readers - especially young adult readers - stop and look at the world they live in and live more consciously. I hope they think about the actions they are taking: the things they buy, the places they go, the thing they eat, how they treat others. Maybe they'll start to realize they need to pay attention to voting and who is making decisions in government for them. If anything, these books show us that one person can make a difference. Lots of people supporting that one person hoping to make a difference can truly make a difference. Our world isn't perfect but there are some great things worth standing up for.

Slice of Life #31 - This Is it!!!!

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

Honestly, I love you Slice of Life Challenge, but I am also ready to move on with my writing. I have a book that I really really really want to work on but this challenge was different from my book writing. I love the Slice of Life Challenge for generating ideas. For realizing you have to find your writing territories and you have to write about something you really want to write about. That is an enormous lesson. I understand what it's like to get stuck and not know what to write. I understand what it's like to write and feel pressure to write something meaningful and coherent so that someone can read it everyday. But I am longing for the days of writing something just to write something. Just to get something down on paper or on my computer. To say I have moved forward in my book instead of having just written something just to write something about my life. Believe me, I have learned about myself as a writer and I don't mean to sound snarky towards Slice of Life, but I have recognized that writing is something different for me right now in my life. Writing just to write about my life every single day isn't the kind of writing I want to be doing right now.

As I think about what writing is going to be like in the future, I'm thinking about how I would want to define writing for myself, how it will look different from this challenge. (And this is possibly the biggest lesson I have learned from this challenge.) A challenge is a challenge. Someone else lays out the guidelines and you fit yourself into that mold. You do it to have said you have done it. Now I can write for myself. While it was hard for me to have to write everyday for the Slice challenge, I see myself wanting to desperately write everyday still...but on my own terms. I want to write part of my book in progress every day. I want to get more words down, see where the book will take me, flush out ideas and make things come together. I realize that it will only happen if I really work on it, if I really do add words and make changes everyday. But this writing has a different purpose and while I will be writing everyday, my purpose will be to make progress in my book, to work on little pieces towards a whole, to work on something knowing that it can totally suck because I'm the only one who's going to see it for now.

Thank you Slice of Life and all my friends who have stopped by to see what I was writing about. I love you and appreciate you for wanting to see what I have written and encouraging me through my mood swings as I have gone along. Thank you Slice of Life for pushing me to write and helping me come to a place of clarity about my own writing and what I want writing to be on my own terms. It truly has been a learning experience for me.

I'll be posting on Tuesday. I really will. My plan is actually to do my own writing and then chime in on Tuesdays to express my headway and to share how my writing life is progressing. The SOL won't be me writing just to write, it'll be me updating my progress on how my writing is going because writing is part of my life more now than ever before.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Slice of Life #30 - What Will It Feel Like NOT To Slice?

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

Spring break is finally winding down for me. It's time for the weekend and then back to school on Monday. We do have Friday off, so it'll be a short week...but we all know short weeks feel like the longest weeks most of the time. As much as I think I would like to go on staying home and relaxing, I know I'll also feel rejuvenated and ready to get back to my students and my routine. 

I'm curious how Monday will feel knowing that I don't have to write a Slice post at all all day. I can go to work and know that I don't have to stress about writing it ahead of time, before I leave for work, or when I come home. I'll have the freedom to not write. Somehow I never got the hang of finding a good time to sneak this writing piece into my life. I really do want to write everyday and I really do have a book that I want to work on but I haven't figured out how to fit it in in a really seamless way. There are so many things to juggle for me right now. 

Yesterday, when I talked about where I was two years ago, I really was amazed at how different my life is from what it was two years ago. Things are the same but things are entirely different at the same time. One of my lovely readers, I think Maria, commented that her life is pretty much the same except for her kids are older now. I am such a nonstop-what's-next kind of person that I don't even know how to life my life in the hopes of being in the same place in two years. 

I already have a vision of how my life might be different in two years. Of course, I will be older and my kids will be older, but I have a feeling there are some other things that will be different, too. In a way, I wish I could slow down and be happy with my life and just go on living how I have been living and doing the same thing...but at the same time, I love that I am willing to take risks and see myself expanding my life. 

No one can really truly know where life takes us. One of my favorite quotes is the only thing that never changes in life is that life is that life will always change. Nothing can ever really be the same. It reminds me of the Robert Frost poem "Nothing gold can stay." As much as we can try to hold onto a moment, nothing can last forever. Whether I am able to slow down and change less or whether I keep up my pace and turn things on their heads, I'm happy to embrace change. Honestly, the idea of change meaning I don't have to Slice everyday I am super happy to embrace. (I mean that with love Slice of Life.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Slice of Life #29 - Two Years Ago...

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

It's late again and I'm trying to think of something to write. I guess I'm supposed to be able to come up with something worth reading by this time in the challenge. 

Hmmm...I've been thinking a lot lately about where I was two years ago at this time. I've seen lots of people on Twitter talk about sending in their National Board boxes. That was me two years ago. 

It's hard to believe it has already been two years and at the same time that it has only been two years. It seems so distant now and at the same time so vivid. When I think back to that year, I have no idea how I did it. I guess I just took it one step at a time, but it sounds overwhelming to think of it now.

I did my National Board work in early/middle childhood literacy. That year I took a break from hosting practicum students for the first time in 3 years and that was nice in a way to be focused only on myself and my teaching for the year. I had done a lot of reading over the summer and then got right to work when we started school. I was lucky enough to be part of an amazing cohort. The two leaders for my cohort are amazing teachers and, as a bonus, I also had my co-worker going through the experience with me. Chad shook his head at me but supported me at the same time and my parents were always there for me, too. 

Here's the best part - I was also pregnant! This time two years ago I was super pregnant, had sent in my NBPTS box and was getting ready to take my assessment center tests.  

It's crazy how things have changed in two years. My sweet, little, energetic Danny wasn't even here yet! I would sneak out of the house on Saturday mornings super early to go and sit at Starbucks and work, work, work. I hadn't started my teacher book blog yet and I was on Twitter but wasn't as involved as I am now. It's amazing how much things can change in two years. 
Look how big he is! He's almost 21 months old.
Like I said, it feels like a long time ago and at the same time it feels like I blinked and here I am. Where were you two years ago? Have things changed in your life? I hope no matter where you find yourself, that you are happy and looking forward to where the next two years might take you. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Slice of Life #28 - Hi! My Name Is Cranky

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

I am so cranky tonight. I had a really long day, it was a nice day, but it was a long day. We got up super early, took showers, and go the kids to daycare and preschool by 6:45 so we could go downtown. We wandered around the city, had a nice lunch, grabbed some cupcakes (vegan for me!) and then headed back home. I picked up the kids, we played outside, we had dinner, played inside, read books, brushed teeth, and put the kids to bed. I know I'm on spring break but I'm still exhausted. 

I am also totally caught up in reading Shine by Lauren Myracle. I adore Lauren Myracle. I love her books but Shine is in a completely different league. It's so good. It's like a mystery that doesn't seem like a mystery. I have been thinking about it all day and I'm right at the end where everything is starting to click into place and things have been semi-figured out. I can't wait to finish it. 

BUT I have to write this cranky post. I tired and just want to crawl into bed and read my book but here I am writing this post - because I have made it 27 days and I'm not giving up on day 28 when 31 is so stinkin' close. 

I've had a journal for a really long time - probably since I was in elementary school when it was a diary - and then all throughout junior high, high school, college, and since we've been married. I had a journal just for when we were engaged and a journal just for when I was pregnant. I love to journal. More recently, I haven't used a journal like I have in the past. I use my blog for getting my thoughts out but I don't usually rant and rave on my blog.

Have you ever written a letter just to write it? Just to say how you are feeling and get out what you need to get out...but then never actually send the letter? I'm not an angry person in general but sometimes things make me mad and writing is a huge pressure release for me. I already feel better just pounding away at my keyboard to say that I'm tired and cranky because I have to write this post. I just want to read my book! 

Deep breath.

I feel much better. Sorry for this ranty, ravy post, but it's a good thing to let things out sometimes, don't you think? If you've never done it I suggest you try it. Your keyboard can take it. I'm off to read my book!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Slice of Life #27 - In Which I Do a Horrible Job of Playing Guitar

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

Guess what!? This time the video I have to share is my own video! At the beginning of the year, I made out an Un-Boring List for 2012. I have no idea how I forgot to put my desire to learn how to play the guitar on the list. It should totally be on the list. It can be my backup in case I don't accomplish something on the list for some reason. 

The video basically explains how I happen to now have a guitar in my possession (for now) and I even show off some of my non-skills. I apologize for how horrible it sounds...I really do think it might be something with how my computer records...but it could also be my stinky guitar playing. Hopefully it'll get better!

P.S. I haven't started any lessons yet. I'm just trying it out since I have some time off. I'm hoping to start my lessons once summer rolls around!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Slice of Life #26 - In A Rut Again

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

I thought days 11-17 of this challenge were the hardest days...but I'm really struggling right now. I think there are a few things going on here. First of all, I'm on spring break and doing lots of fun things with my family and around the house. Writing is fun and blogging is fun, but it's nice to have a semi-break from all the computer-ness and deadlines...and yet, this challenge to write every day and share a slice of my life every day goes on. Beyond that, I think that forcing myself to write every single day is taking it's toll. It's not fun every time. I'm tired of writing, tired of finding something to write about, tired of writing something just to write something The combination of not wanting to write but having to write and not having time to write is not cool right now.

I find myself counting down how many more days of this I have to do. I'm a generally positive person but this is making me cranky and now I'm writing a whiny blog. This is not who I am.

Who I am is usually a person who looks at things and thinks about what's not working and how do we make it better. I really do have a novel that I'm working on and that I would like to write someday. I do love to write and I enjoy sharing my writing with others. But if I'm ever going to write a real book and maybe even get to share it with others, how am I going to be able to write everyday without pulling my hair out?

What I Have Learned From the Slice of Life Challenge:
1. Writing Should Be Fun! To make it fun, it's important to find something I want to or can write about. Write within my writing territories. Write what I am passionate about. If I'm not having fun, is it worth writing about?

2. Develop a Writing Routine. After making this commitment to write every day, the last thing I wanted to do at night was to open my laptop and force myself to write because I had committed to writing. Finding a way to work writing into my schedule - a chunk of time when everything gets put to the side and it's about writing - but preferably not last thing before bed, is imperative.

3. Be Sincere. Writing is such a personal experience. By blogging about my life, I have realized I can't be embarrassed about what's going on in my life. Instead, I can celebrate the wild and crazy things that are thrown my way. It's obvious from comments from others that being sincere in writing and putting my true feelings into my writing really is the best writing there is.

4. There's a Writing Process for a Reason. I'm not sure writing every day has helped me improve as a writer, but I sure do have a lot of ideas that I have written about. I think that might have been the hardest part about this challenge, the idea that I was supposed to just be writing everyday but when it came down to posting, I had to revise and edit a bit to make sure what I had really was something I thought was worthy of others reading. When I think about being a writer and continuing after this challenge, I can see how if I wasn't posting my work, then it might be easier because I wouldn't be worried so much about making sure what I had written was great. I might be able just to write without revising or editing and that might be easier in a way. Also, that there is a time and a place for revising and for editing. I need to set little mini-goals for myself as I write: am I in sloppy-copy mode or fix-it-up mode and then judge my progress based on those goals within the writing process, not as a whole. It seems much more difficult to take a piece through a writing process every single day. It's tiring!

Now I don't feel as whiny as when I started this post. I feel much better having looked closely at what I have realized from all of this writing. Five more days after this! I can do it. I'm going to get back to Disney and recap our most recent list...because I want to! And writing tomorrow's post semi-early in the day sounds like a good plan! What have you learned about yourself and your writing through this challenge? Please share!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Slice of Life #25 - You Don't Have To Let Go

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

This is totally random but last night we somehow got onto the topic of Jessica Simpson and her music. I loved her songs when she was actually singing songs (now I don't even know what she does...). I ended up listening to her In This Skin album and remembered this song:

She sings this song to her dad and it's beautiful. When I got married, I danced to this song with my dad for our dance together. I'm such a daddy's girl. He helped me to become the strong person that I am and to be able to deal with anything difficult that comes my way. I doubt that many people are familiar with this song but I love it so I wanted to share it.

It's so interesting how we move through stages in our lives. I'm so lucky that in everything I have been through, I have always had my parents to support me. I can't imagine going through some experiences without them.

When I first read the short story "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros, it really made me think about how we carry around our experiences with us. I love how she explains that even though the main character is five, she still carries around the 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1-year-old versions of herself. I love the notion that even though I am 32, there are times when I might feel like a younger version of me. A younger version who gets emotional about things or needs a hug sometimes. This song reminds me of that story. It's about being the adult that I am but at the same time being my parents' daughter no matter what. I love you mom and dad!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Slice of Life #24 - Happiness Is...

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

When I was in fourth grade, we performed You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown for our drama class.
 Acting and having to remember lines and everything makes me nervous, but I love music and I loved the songs. There have been a few times when I find myself in Hallmark looking at their Peanuts line and remembering those songs. The Happiness Is... song is one of my favorites. Tonight, I was getting milk and water for Danny and Jordan and I opened the fridge to grab the milk. Immediately, I gasped and thought, "Oh, no...I hope the milk is still good..." And then I looked and realized we have until the 27th to finish the gallon. It was a relief. Fridays are always hard days at our house. We are so tired from the week and then we just want to come home and decompress. The last thing I needed was to not have fresh milk to give Danny. That relief flooded over me and I thought to myself, "Happiness is...when the milk isn't expired yet!" It's nice when little things seem to go in your favor.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Slice of Life #23 - Hunger Games at Midnight!

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

Another Disney break! Look at me go! It's 10:35 p.m. on Thursday night as I start to write this post. I am leave in about half an hour to go pick up my sister so we can go see Hunger Games! I am so excited! I totally did not plan to see it at midnight. Instead, I was going to see it during a regular showtime with Chad. He actually listened to the book!!!! It's amazing, right? I love it. I love that he knows what Hunger Games is all about. 

So we were planning to see it some time this weekend until I was on Twitter tonight and saw everyone talking about going to see it at midnight and I realized I was going to be really sad if I wasn't one of those people. Now that I think back on it, I have been to lots of midnight shows...at least what I deem the important ones. I have seen the new Star Wars movies at midnight, Harry Potters (especially the first and last one...I can't remember how many of the others), Lord of the Rings, *cough* Twilight, and now Hunger Games. I totally get that it's crazy but I am at least going when my family is all sleeping so I don't feel so bad. And then I don't have to wait and hear what everyone else has to while I wait to see it. 

For a lot of my midnight shows/book releases, I have dragged my sister along. She isn't always excited to go, but she usually comes with me and (I think) has fun. Sometimes I can convince a friend to go with me but it doesn't always work out. Tonight when I called Jacquie and asked her to go, she said she was wondering why I hadn't called her all week. I really was planning to go with Chad until I started to get a feeling that I really really wanted to go. Luckily, I suggested she read Hunger Games when she got her Nook so I had that on my side. If she hadn't read it already, I don't think she would have come. 

I feel super lucky tonight that I get to go and I have someone to go with. I also finished reading See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles which is a completely heart-wrenching book. I am super thankful for my family's health and safety and happiness after that book. It was really well written but super sad. Hug your loved ones. Be glad they aren't being chosen and dragged away to the Hunger Games!

What's really cool is that by the time this post goes live, I'll be sitting in the theater watching the movie!!! Craziness.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Slice of Life #22 - Disney Envy

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

I don't get envious or let myself get envious of much in life because I am super grateful for everything in my life...I just get a teensy bit jealous when I hear about people who are going to Disney though.

It's not even that I get jealous, I just start thinking of how much I love Disney (obviously a lot) and then I start dreaming of going myself and then I really want to go. I love when people go because usually I get to talk to them about it. Usually, I'm more of the fanatic than they are, but that's okay. 

I have a colleague who is going to Disney over spring break and then just found out another is going over the summer. I can feel this as the true beginning of a mega-itch to go to Disney. This is kind of how it goes. We go to Disney, I love it, we leave, I'm sad, and then we kind of decide on when we want to go back and I tell myself I can make it until then. And then little by little, I hear about people who are going and I get all excited for them but eventually I start really wanting to go. And then I tell Chad who I know that is going and how much I love Disney. Even Jordan will talk about Disney now so it's really not only me. And we'll keep talking about it until finally we decide we're going to go officially and then I go into crazy planning mode.  

My family may not love me in crazy planning mode but it's fun for me. I love looking at the hotels, calling to make reservations, deciding which parks we'll go to which days, planning dining reservations. I just love it. 

Anyone else planning a Disney trip soon? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Slice of Life #21 - Disney with a 1-Year-Old

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

The next time we visited Disney was when Jordan was 14-months-old. We were going to Florida to visit Chad’s family and celebrate his grandmother’s birthday. It was a big celebration. I convinced Chad that since we would be flying all the way to Florida, we might as well also go to Disney while we were down there.

This time we flew into a small Orlando airport, rented a car and drove all the way to Tampa. After a few wonderful days with his family, we dropped my in-laws off at the small Orlando airport and made our way to Disney World! This time we stayed at Pop Century. It has a sort of retro feel to it. There was one night we took Jordan and did the Hustle in the lobby. Every night the workers stop what they are doing and do the hustle. It’s so silly but fun.

Jordan has always been a kiddo who gets up early so we would get up, get ready, eat downstairs in the hotel food court and then be one of the first people on the bus. This was the first (and only time so far) that we did the dining plan. I’m not sure it will ever make sense for us to do it again, but it did on this trip. You can see my post at all the fun places we have eaten at Disney. I loved having the food plan.

Our very first day at Disney, we took Jordan to the Magic Kingdom. We got there, went through the gates, and then waited with the crowd as the train came in and Mickey and his friends did their little song and dance show. After that we strapped Jordan back into the stroller and made our way into the park and down Main Street. When we got to the castle, we looked in at Jordan and he was asleep! That kind of threw our plans for a loop because we couldn’t take him on anything. Instead, we headed towards Pirates of the Carribbean because it was closed for repair the last time we had been there. I sent Chad on the ride with no lines while I waited with our sleeping prince.

On that trip, since we had Jordan and wanted him to be able to get out and play instead of being in the stroller or being held all day, we looked for lots of places where we could let him run around. There was a great Winnie the Pooh park at Magic Kingdom where they could play and a splash park in Fantasy Land by Mickey and Minnie’s house. There was also a splash pad near Ariel’s Grotto. Chad kept Jordan entertained in the heat while I waited to meet Ariel. We did a few shows and took turns on some rides. The highlight really was going to our fun meals. Jordan was a great kiddo…except for the bus rides. He would get a little antsy and crazy on the bus rides. It was nice that he didn’t have to be bukled in, but he really wanted to get down and walk around on the rides and that was hard to deal with.

When Jordan met Mickey for the first time, it was priceless. He was barely talking so he would call Mickey Mo Mo. When it was our turn to go up to meet Mickey, Jordan leaned in and gave him a kiss on the nose. He was calling out Mo Mo! It was extremely cute. I know he won’t remember that moment but it was so precious for me.

It was a little bit tricky that it was just the two of us with Jordan because he couldn’t go on all the rides. We would end up taking turns or looking for things that Jordan could do. It wasn’t bad but it was a very different kind of trip because of that.

Friday was our last day at Disney. We had an amazing breakfast at the Polynesian with Lilo and Stitch. Stitch was so funny. Their pineapple bread was so good. With our leis on, we rode the monorail to Magic Kingdom. We were there for an early entry day so there weren’t very many people at the park. We made our way back to Fantasyland and rode the Dumbo ride, Snow White, Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan without any wait. Jordan was having a blast. That little part of the Magic Kingdom is my favorite part because it’s perfect for the teeny tiny kids. The rides are great. It was a gorgeous morning that day and full of memories I will never forget.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Slice of Life #20 - Newlywed Disney

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

My fourth visit to Disney was super fun for a few reasons. It was my first trip going with Chad. It was Chad's first time going ever. It was our last non-kiddo-toting Disney trip.

Chad and I went together to Disney for spring break in 2006. We had gotten married in June of 2005. We were a bit worried about going during spring break because we knew it would be a busy time, but at the same time we were excited to take a spring break trip. I really think this is where we figured out how to best manage crowds at Disney. If you are smart, it's not all that tricky to maneuver the crowds and ride the rides with minimum waiting. Since then, we have really gotten the hang of this!

We flew into Tampa to stay with some of Chad's family for a few days. After our visit, we were able to borrow one of Chad's cousin's cars so we could drive to Disney. At first, we were going to commute back and forth from Tampa to Orlando every day but then we realized that was pretty crazy. Instead, we went onto Priceline and typed in some super cheap price...and we got it. We ended up at some really weird motel that was pretty creepy...and I'm happy to say we survived. It was that bad. (The coolest thing I learned from that motel room stay is that those teeny Florida lizards have a defense mechanism: their tails fall off if you try to grab them from their tails to toss them out of your room.)

Since we didn't stay on property, we had to drive to the parks and pay for parking. We got their early every day though and never had a problem. We usually got great spots and didn't have to walk far from the parking lot to the front gates. We usually got to the park for rope drop so we were part of the crowd going in right away. We knew exactly what rides we wanted to ride and would grab our Fast Passes and then go and try to beat the crowds to ride the ride before our Fast Pass. Did you know it's really likely that there will not be a problem if you go back later than the time window for your Fast Pass as long as it's after the Fast Pass time? Most of the time, we go during our window, but there were times when we would get a Fast Pass and then continue into the park and come back way later.

This was the first trip that we ate the character breakfast at Animal Kingdom. The day we went to Animal Kingdom was not an early opening day. We made super early reservations, about an hour before the park actually opened. It was like we were sneaking in! It was so cool! I love the parks when they are just waking up. We ate a great breakfast and left just as it was time for the park to open. Instead of having to go back to the front gates, we followed a Cast Member who led us right to Everest. We were ushered through the Fast Past line and beat the regular crowd coming from the other direction. How cool is that? It was an unexpected surprise that totally made our day.

We went to all the other parks (not the water parks) and really took our time and did what we really wanted to do. It was fun knowing I had experienced the parks before and could take Chad to do whatever he wanted to do. We stayed as late as we could at the parks and then went home and crashed in our wonderful hotel room before getting up early to do it all over again. We were exhausted by the end but had so much fun being on our first vacation together since our Honeymoon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Slice of Life #19 - Disney Break

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

I'm taking a short break from my Disney banter today! I stopped at the library today. I had three books to return and a few on hold...a few was more like 8 actually. When I went in, I took one tote bag with me. I wandered a bit and grabbed books from my TBR. My library website actually has an option to put books on a "For Later" shelf. It's very similar to GoodReads except hosted by my library. It's awesome because I can put them on my "For Later" shelf and then when I'm at the library I can pull up the list on my iPad and wander around grabbing the books I need. I used to make lists from GoodReads but now I don't have to do that any more!

I grabbed my books and went to check out. The girl at the counter grabbed my holds. There must have been some holds that just came in because I wasn't expecting that many. I started filling up my tote bag...and realized there was no way my books were all going to fit. I managed to fit the books and my wallet/purse/mini-bag into the tote bag and then I carried the stack of audiobooks out on my own.

Here's my question: Why do I inevitably choose the exactly wrong kind of bag or only one bag to bring in with me to the library? I need to start taking in multiple bags or a super mega giant bag for my library haul. Maybe I'll get smart and actually remember this one day!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slice of Life # 18 - Carousel of Progress

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

After going to Disney for the second time (and really the first time that I remember), I went for the third time with two friends from college after our freshman year. Now that I think about it, I have no idea how I even convinced my parents to let me go or how they helped pay for it...but I did. It was actually a good idea to split the hotel room three ways so maybe it was somehow more affordable because of that. 

This was the first trip that I stayed actually on the Disney resort property. We stayed at All-Star Music. I remember loving all of the colors around the hotel. It was an extension of the parks themselves. We got to take the busses to anywhere we wanted to go. Sometimes the bus rides were long but they were relaxing at the same time. 

I just remembered that this was the trip when I first ate a character breakfast! I totally forgot. I honestly don't remember where we went for breakfast but we ate with Alice, the Mad Hatter, and Mary Poppins for sure. After breakfast, we went out into a courtyard and were given little matchbox-size boxes with ladybugs inside. We opened the boxes and ladybugs flew all over. It was very cool. They release the ladybugs to help the plants. It sounds like we ate at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian but I really don't remember going to the Grand Floridian for breakfast so it might have been somewhere else.

This was the first time I ever experienced the water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. They are awesome. We chilled on the lazy river and the wave pool. I went down Humunga Kowabunga and snorkeled with sharks and fish. Blizzard Beach is fun because it did kind of feel like there was snow all around even though it was hot and I was in a bathing suit. Such a fun idea.

We actually went to Pleasure Island when it was still just a strip of fun night clubs. We checked out the country line-dancing place and then danced forever to music from the 80's. 

By the end of our trip we were so exhausted! It seemed like we had walked everywhere. We loved sitting in the air conditioning of The Carousel of Progress in the Magic Kingdom but then we had the song stuck in our head and kept singing it to annoy each other. You can search for the song if you want to hear it or remind yourself of how catchy it is!

My friend, Tony, kept asking my mom if she could send us some new feet. That's kind of an inevitable when it comes to Disney - you are going to walk and you are going to be tired and you are going to need great shoes. But I think it's totally worth it. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Slice of Life #17 - Tusker House at Animal Kingdom

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

It was fun to list all the awesome places we have eaten at in Disney World. I'm trying to think of which one of those experiences would be my favorite...and I think I would choose Tusker House at Animal Kingdom. I love Animal Kingdom. The plants and look of the park is just absolutely beautiful. There is vegetation everywhere. We have eaten the breakfast buffet three times at Animal Kingdom. The first time we went, Chad and I were on our first trip and we got into the park early because we had 8:05 reservations. We ate and then followed a cast member with a rope right to Everest, the roller coaster in Animal Kingdom. We were given access to the Fast Pass line right away and were the first people on the ride. It was awesome. I love little doing little sneaky things like that and beating the crowd at Disney.

Since then, they have moved where the breakfast is held so the last two times we have gone, we have eaten at Tusker House. This is another bonus! Tusker House is right next to the safari ride. We eat and then go over when the park opens and get on the safari when it's still cool or get FastPasses for later.

Tusker House has a great breakfast. It includes really unique (to me) dishes that I would never eat. We were barely sitting down when the chef came up to me and asked about the vegan option I mentioned when I made the reservation. He walked me around the buffet and explained what foods I could eat and then said he would make me something special with veggies and tofu. I was excited that there were lots of dishes for me.

While we ate, the characters all came around and talked to the kids, took pictures with them, and signed their autograph books. They do a parade and the kids dance with instruments. It's so much fun. The kids are entertained so it makes sitting and eating and enjoying the meal so much easier. All of a sudden there was a huge plate of veggies and tofu set before me. It was so good. I loved it. Sometimes I go out to eat and can get a nice meal, other times, I just eat a salad or a side of veggies or something else we hodge podge together. My meal at Tusker House was awesome though. The chef even brought out a few packs of vegan chocolate chip cookies for me to take on the road. It was great.

I love the food and how nice and accommodating Tusker House is. I wish everywhere was as wonderful as they are. I can't wait to go back!!!! I recommend it to anyone. (And make that earl reservation so you can get into the park before it opens to everyone else (even though nothing is open, it's cool!).)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Slice of Life #16 - Disney Envy

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

Sorry, still writing about Disney...but I can't help it. I just found out yesterday that one of my co-workers is going to Disney World over spring break. I get excited that a friend gets to experience Disney but at the same time I get a bit jealous. I start thinking of all my most favorite things about Disney that I want to tell her about and while I'm drumming up all my tricks to tell her, I'm visualizing being back at Disney and then I start to pine for it.

It doesn't help that Jordan has been talking about Disney lately. He'll randomly say, "The next time we go to Disney World..." and then he finishes with something he wants to do or something he wants to buy. He's got the bug as much as I have. It's pretty awesome actually. I love that he remembers it and that he wants to go back as much as I do.

The first time we took Jordan was in 2008. He had turned 1 in May and we went in July. We first went to Tampa to visit Chad's family and celebrate his grandma's birthday and then we went to Disney. We decided that since Jordan was still little enough that he would eat off of our plates wherever we went that we would get the dining plan. We chose quite a few character meals that were buffets and then some sit down meals. It was definitely enough food wherever we ate.

The dining plan we chose gave us a fast food/food court meal, a snack, and a sit-down restaurant meal. The snack is actually a nice deal, it was a drink and two small snacks - like a yogurt and a fruit cup or something like that. We did great. We also had lots of snacks packed, like raisins and granola bars and such.

Here are some of the restaurants we have eaten at at Disney World:

Crystal Palace Character Lunch at Magic Kingdom- with Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and Piglet
Tusker House at Animal Kingdom - with Donald, Mickey, Goofy, and Daisy or Minnie
Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studio - with Oso, Leo, June, and Handy Manny
O'Hana at Disney's Polynesian Resort - with Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto
Teppan Edo in Japan at Epcot - where they cook in front of you!
50's Prime Time Cafe at Hollywood Studios - old-fashioned American food

They were all great! Last year when we went they even had lots of vegan options for me which made it even more amazing. Tusker House had some awesome vegan dishes that were different. I love the atmosphere of a character meal. You just hang out and the characters come to you! Much better than waiting and waiting in line - especially when it's hot and kids are cranky. The meals were definitely highlights of our trip.

I linked up to my posts from 2008 after that trip...I realized that I NEVER BLOGGED ABOUT OUR TRIP FROM LAST SUMMER! Sheesh, I feel like a crap mom. I may have to do a recap because it was a fun trip. We had a blast and we have baby-Danny-at-Disney pictures. Love.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Slice of Life #15 - My First Disney Memory

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

Yesterday I declared my undying love for Disney World. I may lose readers or followers because of my continuous Disney love but that’s okay. If I need to write everyday to complete this Slice of Life challenge, I’m going to have to write about what I know and love and if that's not my kids or my family - it's Disney World.

I don’t remember the first time I ever went to Disney World because I was really young. My mom took me and we met up with cousins and relatives in Florida. That’s really all I know.

The second time I went to Disney World, I was in 6th grade in 1991. I was much older but I was still so excited. When I was little I remember getting cable for the first time. It was so much fun to have so many channels but the best was that we subscribed to the Disney channel. Back then, it was a specialty channel like HBO. We watched shows like the Mickey Mouse Club and Kids Incorporated. I was definitely a Disney kid. I had seen so much of Disney World on TV that I was thrilled to be able to go myself.

We had passes to go to all the parks and to hop between parks during the day. At that time, Disney World had Magic Kingdom, Epcot and MGM Studios. My parents bought us autograph books so we asked everyone we met for their autograph. I picked out a Goofy hat that had his long floppy ears hanging down the sides. And my sister had to have the exact same hat. There are so many other memories that are so clear in my mind. It was all just so much fun.

It was fun to ride Space Mountain and Spaceship Earth. We played on the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground and it was huge (now it doesn’t seem so big…). We met the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and watched the Indiana Jones Stunt Show. Going on the Backstage Tour at the then MGM Studios was awesome. There were explosions and water crashing over us and then we got to see old props from our favorite movies and shows. We ate at the 50’s CafĂ© and had just dessert.

I love that I was able to experience Disney as a kiddo. Everything seemed big and exciting. It’s still big and exciting now but I look at it with such a different lens as a parent. Have you been to Disney World? Did you go for the first time when you were young or when you were an adult? Did it let you down or was it more than you could have imagined?