Sunday, July 17, 2016

Disney Vacation Hot Wash

One of my favorite bosses directed us in an activity called a "hot wash" after each major project reached completion. This military term refers to cleaning a weapon and preparing it for the next mission. With the recent 100 plus heat index days, this is the perfect way to look back on our "Grancation" with our grandkids at Disney. Not a deep analysis, just a quick look at what worked well, and what could have been better. Hopefully, it will help someone who is thinking of doing something similar.

A bit of setup info: This trip involved five grandchildren from the age of 16 months to 14 years,who live in three different states,  a set of grandparents in their late fifties, and the parents of the youngest child. A huge advantage, those parents live in Orlando, and they are expert Disney guides. Your results may differ. @MomExploresORL

What worked:
  • Planning ahead, and using the My Disney Experience website and app.We used it before, during and after the trip to keep everything running smoothly. Also used their Customer Service help desk and had magical results every time.
  • Staying at a Disney resort, and using their transportation, instead of renting a car.
  • Magic Bands. Used as identification and access for transportation, fast passes on rides, etc. We really didn't want to take them off when the week was over.
  • Fast Passes. Studying up on these and becoming proficient at scheduling rides was an amazing way to enjoy rides, meet and greets and shows without the long waits. Also a great exercise in humility as we tried not to gloat while passing those other poor souls who were waiting in the queues.
  • The cabins at Fort Wilderness. Ours held two adults and four kids comfortably. The kids didn't have to be extra quiet, since we weren't sharing walls with neighbors, and we were able to cook in the handy little kitchen instead of buying every meal.
  • Photo pass and Memory Maker. The professionals handled the pictures so we could concentrate on enjoying the experience, and each other. 
  • Disney gift cards for each kid's souvenir money. We loaded them up with an equal amount of money, wrote their name on back, and used them at the shops when they found the perfect toy, hat or special treat. The clerk circled the remaining balance on the receipt so we knew how much remained. It all had to be spent at Disney, but that included the gift shop at the resort, Disney Springs, and the Disney shop at the airport. No problem zeroing out before we came home!
  • Wearing matching shirts at the parks. Sounds simple, but this was invaluable in keeping everyone within sight.
  • Managing the heat. We made sure to have a bottle of water to share, hats for everyone, and SPF 50 sunscreen. No sunburn or heat stress illness for this crew!
  • The ratio of adults to kids. Ours was 4 to 5. This allowed for separating for different activities, or staying behind when one of the kids (or adults) needed a rest. Super easy.
What could have been better: (These are by no means complaints. Just observations.)
  • Coordination between the Disney Magical Express and the resort staff. We discovered that the Magical Express folks are contractors, and they are independent of the resort. This almost caused an issue with our luggage when we were leaving. (Traveling mercies saved us). Trust the letter that comes from the Magical Express people for the information about the trip to and from the airport, instead of the front desk. 
  • Swimming. This was just a logistics problem. Since we were in cabins,instead of a hotel, getting to the pool involved a bus ride. When we came home for our mid-day nap, we actually turned off the TV,  closed the curtains and Slept! So, there was not enough time to change into suits. gather towels, etc. and still make it back to the park for the evening events.
  • Take heed of the warnings and cautions at the beginning of the ride. Day one, first park, first day. Youngest child, who has a history of motion sickness ate very little except a glass of milk before boarding the first ride. It had a height requirement that he barely met (first red flag.) It was a simulator type ride with lots of bumps, loud noises, etc. By the end of the ride, there was puke. Yep, not animated or simulated, but real puke. What a great way to start. Of course, we had convinced him that it would be fine."Come on, it will be fun." It wasn't. That created trust issues on other rides. Oh well, lesson learned. The rest of the day and the next two days were a whole lot better. 
Summary of the Hot Wash: The Carlisle Grancation 2016 will be the stuff of legends for years to come!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Summertime Storytime

          A hot day in Arkansas. What is our favorite activity? Finding shade. And something cool to drink. And what tops off a hot day better than a great story?
          Recently, I held seven or eight upturned faces in the palm of my hand as I stood in a shady spot and told stories. It was an awesome feeling of power. As their little bodies cooled off, and they eagerly listened, they were almost literally hanging on every word. I reviewed the stories I had planned to tell, and chose each word carefully. First goal, keep them listening. More than just talking, I needed to be animated, interesting, intriguing. Then, make sure that the thoughts they took away when they went back out in the heat were worthwhile. A weighty task for a fifteen minute job.
          After being serious for a little bit, and talking about the difference between truth and fiction, I related a funny story from my childhood and a completely outlandish tall tale. Then, I turned the tables, and asked them to come up with their own story. It was much too hot to write War and Peace on the courthouse lawn that day. What they came up with was a short story, with a great mix of popular culture and imagination. Here you go: the first creation by the Stories on the Square gang:
          “We were having lots of fun at Saturday on the Square, but no-one expected to see a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple eater. He ate ten people.”
          Nothing could have been more satisfying for this old story-teller.
          Of course, there are times when you don’t want to listen, you’d much rather hold your story in your hand and read it for yourself. This works under a shade tree, or a beach umbrella, or inside in your favorite lounge chair with the A/C blaring.
          Here are some ideas from my bookshelf to get you started:
          “As Waters Gone By” by Cynthia Ruchti. Set on the cooler Northeast coast, this one is a contemporary tale of a woman who is starting over. Her husband is paying for some mistakes he made by serving his court ordered sentence. Instead of enduring the constant questions and scrutiny of well- meaning friends and family, she gathers up her own emotional and financial mess and moves into the bare bones fishing cabin that he has used, but she has rarely visited. Her journey will have you laughing and crying, and relishing the characters she meets along the way, including her new mentor with the unlikely name of Boozie Unfortunate. No, Really.  Extremely unusual, nominated for awards, what could be better? Find it in your bookstore or on your electronic reading device.
          “Robin”, the first book in a historical series called Brides of a Feather, is the first published work of my new friend Julane Hiebert of Southwest Missouri. Set on the Kansas prairies in the latter nineteenth century, it introduces us to a young lady who is determined to make a contribution to her family and her community, despite her own physical difficulties. Her bachelor uncle is not quite sure how to react when she comes to help him on the ranch. And then, of course, like any good romance, there is a bachelor nearer to her age who is having trouble deciding exactly what he is looking for in a wife. Also, just for an element of surprise and lots of action, there is a charming orphan who has a way of saying exactly the right thing at the right time. Delightful.
          “Chapel Springs Survival” is the second in a contemporary series set in a southern tourist town. The lead characters are moms and grandmas who love to spend time together, and love to share their ideas for improving the lives of everyone around them. Think Lucy and Ethel in modern-day Georgia. Their adventures keep us laughing, and we identify with their efforts to keep everyone happy. Ane Mulligan may not be a household name yet, but that will soon change.
          “The Christmas Star” by Arkadelphia favorite son Ace Collins.  I love reading Christmas books in the hot summertime, and this one looks wonderful. It describes a family that is dealing with the legacy of a soldier who gave his life during World War II. This one will be moving to the top of my To Be Read pile.
          “Where There’s Smoke” by Susan May Warren introduces a new series by one of my favorite authors. Stories of firefighters are guaranteed to spark my interest (I have a million more of those references if you are interested.) Hot weather, smoldering romance, perfect in my book.

          Enjoy your summer. Anytime is a good time for a good story. Stay cool!