Disney in August

With M-ito 8 years old these are  some of the things we did right this time:

  • We went for 6-nights and 7 days which was just enough time, not too much and not too little (though we’d rather have stayed on vacation another week). We left on a Tuesday, early so we could go to a park in the afternoon and evening. We left in the evening on Labor Day so we had the whole day to play before we loaded up and got to the airport. Mom-ita planned everything out and it was just about perfect.
  • We slept in almost every day and didn’t get to the parks until 11 or 12 each day which was just fine with all of us. I got up and did my yoga practice as the sun rose, before Mom-ita and M-ito got up. We hit two parks almost every day but one in the afternoon and one in the evening. It didn’t feel rushed that way.
  • We spent a lot of time in EPCOT exploring the countries, the attractions, and the fireworks. There’s still plenty more to explore on future trips. I am amazed at how much there is to explore there.
  • We used fast passes only once but that was because it wasn’t too crowded and the most we waited for anything was maybe fifteen minutes. Mostly we walked on rides without a wait or a five-minute wait.
  • We came the last week of August when kids in Florida are back in school. The parks were pretty empty (as empty as I’ve ever seen them) which meant there were minimal lines.
  • We spent a lot of time at the hotel pool almost every day.
  • We went to Wilderness lodge – a good choice even if the food choices are not the greatest (Animal Kingdom lodge had the best food as far as we’re concerned). It’s beautiful and the rooms were good size – the staff very nice and helpful.
  • We found a ride we liked and went on it again and again. This trip it was Buzz Lightyear’s ride. M-ito loved it and going on the ride (with no line) meant we could actually get better and better at ray-gunning invading aliens so that by the time we finished with it all of us felt like we had some proficiency and M-ito’s confidence on rides in general was boosted.
  • Half of our trip was with a friend of M-ito’s and his mom. M-ito and K-ito played well together and were good company for each other. We all got along and had a good time together. The second half of the trip we were on our own and had some good alone family time. It was a nice balance.

Some things that didn’t work out:

  • As great as it was to have empty parks and few lines for most of the time we were there it is HOT HOT HOT in August. So we sweat alot and we found ourselves doing the it’s-ninety-plus-and-we’re-sweating-shuffle. It’s a slow walk from shade spot to shade spot, cooling station to cooling station. M-ito had a little trouble with the heat on our second to last day, needing to sit down, drink, and cool off. Mom-ita bought him a canvas hat. I soaked it in a vendors ice water and put it on his head. Then I had him put his hands up to his wrists into the water. Along with drinking lots of water these things brought him back to himself.
  • The middle restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge was okay but not something we looked forward to eating at so that left us with the fast food area (crowded and an okay selection but again not something I looked forward to every day). Note, we did find the expensive restaurant to be excellent and had our last evening meal there – well worth it but not feasible for every day because of the price.
  • Bus to Animal Kingdom took an hour each time – way too long.
  • We never made it to Disney Studios – M-ito just didn’t feel like it so we skipped it this time.
  • We never made it to Harry Potter at Universal – different park experience, and needs its own trip to do. Also we heard it was packed and the lines were too too long.

Some things we did that were either new or just fun:

  • We took small two person motor boats out onto the lake for an hour. Very cool.
  • We could take ferries to Magic Kingdom and back. Very cool.
  • Pin trading again was a blast.
  • We did two Kim Possibles (Japan and Mexico – both were excellent and lots of fun) at EPCOT.
  • M-ito went on his first official roller coaster – Goofy’s Barnstorming – which looked very slow but once you got on was really a good ride and a good one for him to go on first. We went on once and that was all but M-ito said he really liked it. This was the same roller coaster we tried to get on in April and left after one look at the coaster roaring by. Good confidence builder for M-ito. Plus I had fun.
  • We spent an hour in Dino Land at Animal Kingdom in the Boneyard playground playing hide and seek then digging for fossils. Some things never get old.
  • We went on the Animal Safari at Animal Kingdom 2x and it was just as good as all the other times we’ve been on it over the years even if the “poacher” chatter is getting a little old.
  • Pangani Jungle Walk was a great experience and the gorillas were awesome. This trip M-ito seemed to want to see all the animals in Animal Kingdom – which was great, if tiring for Mom-ita nd Dad-dito.
  • Buzz Light Year at Magic Kingdom was a great surprise. A large shooting video game with a real skill factor that we all enjoyed about eight times (I think).
  • We also went on Soaring at EPCOT which was great. M-ito loved it and it was also a great confidence builder as it dealt with heights (even if imaginary), movement, and the feeling of flying.
  • We went on an hour guided tour with a naturalist/botanist behind the scenes at The Land in EPCOT that was really great. They showed us their hydroponics gardens and fishery. Great for ideas about future science projects even if it was hot in the hot-house.

School tomorrow. First day of Third Grade. So it goes. We’re all breathing big sighs and preparing ourselves for the fall. We’re going to pick up Spike today also! Dog in the house again!

Disney in the Rain

My favorite moment at Disney had nothing to do with the parks or the world of Disney. My favorite moment occurred the morning it rained and we couldn’t do anything but hang out in the room The day before the rain had started and driven us out of the Magic Kingdom and back to our room. It rained all night. It poured all morning. At ten o’clock the three of us were in one of the beds, Momita and M-ito reading their books and me drawing my pictures on a small sketch pad. Our legs were under the covers. We had nowhere to go and nothing to do but just hang out and read and just be with each other. That afternoon the rain finally stopped and we got dressed, travelled to the Animal Kingdom where we had a great time at the African Safari ride and playing hide and seek in Dinoland. But the three hours we had that morning eating breakfast and lying in bed together made it all come together for me. It just made things perfect.

Dumb and Stupid Redux

The holidays are still a fresh memory but all the decoration are down.

The DS is now an integral part of the household.

We were all working last night. Mom-ita preparing dinner, me preparing for my yoga class, and M-ito preparing to be a world class fossil hunter. It sounds exciting, I know it does. But here’s the thing. In order to be a world class fossil hunter my son has to do the following:

  1. Sit hunched over a tiny handheld portable electronic gaming device (a DS) for an hour, possibly more if we let him – and we try not to let him ever go that long;
  2. Intuit directions and rules as he goes along as to what is needed to be a world class fossil hunter (not easy because the rules are in small print and I can barely read ’em even with my reading glasses and, of course M-ito doesn’t like to read the rules, and double of course because you also have to understand gaming lingo) – also M-ito makes lots of mistakes along the way and it is frustrating going;
  3. Figure out how to pause the damned thing when either his mother or father wants him to stop to either, say… get the table set, or answer a question, or interact in any way with the world around him;
  4. Yell out successes and failures to me while I’m ten feet away typing wickedly at emails (of which I have no idea what he’s saying because I haven’t played the game and can only guess at what his statements mean – I usually simply answer, “that’s great,” or “keep trying, you’ll get it next time.”);
  5. Do lots of thumb exercises and obtain good hand-eye coordination (hey, I have to be honest – it does take some of these qualities to succeed in the game including make good use of your opposable thumbs)

So… after the fifth or sixth time we asked him to come in and set the table M-ito, still playing, nodded and mumbled something akin to, “Yes.”

I got up and said, in typical, I’m-not-proud of myself-mode, “If you don’t put that game down I’m going to take it away.”

At which point he said, with extreme frustration, “I can’t figure out how to pause the game without losing the game I’m playing.” He said this, uncannily, while still playing, barely missing a beat.

I reached over for the game and he leaned away from me, using his elbow to slightly block my angle on the DS. I said, in my most menacing voice – because I was getting pissed off now (though you should note that I also knew I was tired from my work and upset at myself for letting him play so long and so… attempting to take some responsibility for the confrontation occurring), “You’d better turn that thing off right now or I’m going to throw it out the window.” Ah, that was poetry.

That’s when the tears started and the crying – all while still playing, at least minimally so his game didn’t disappear and be reduced to oblivion. Sometimes the most difficult part of playing these games is figuring out how to save your game. The simple precaution in the future is to read how to do this first, before he starts to play. After you’ve plowed through an hour of hard work making mistakes and learning game-play I understand not wanting to lose what you’ve gained. I do. I really do.

I used some yogic breathing, calmed myself and said, “Let’s look at the instructions and see what they say.”

Twenty seconds, M-ito still playing, I took the DS from him. His eyes wide with terror he shouted, “No!” as I touched a button to find the right screen. A quick flash appeared with the dialog, “Do you want to save this game?” M-ito used his stylus, angling the two screens towards him so he could see and pressed the statement a few times.

“It’s not saving!” he shouted again.

I took his stylus and tapped the, “Yes.”

The screen disappeared and M-ito mouthed, “O.”

Then another screen came on asking, “Do you want to continue playing?” and I quickly tapped “No.”

M-ito only saw the no and broke down into tears again. These are the kind of tears that go right through you. The dad-ditto-you’ve-betrayed-me kind.

“You lost my game,” he said. “Now I have to go back and start all over!” Variations of this came and went between sobbing and weeping. I sat in the other room, looking at Mom-ita and looking back into the room. I might have said, “It’s only a game,” but I hope I didn’t. I tried to tell him it was okay – that I’d not erased anything. He swore it was all lost. The game didn’t mean a thing to me, but I tried to remember it meant a lot to this 7-year old boy. M-ito’s anger turned sullen. He wouldn’t come in and eat. He wouldn’t talk to us. He might even have said something in the nature of, “You don’t want me” or “love me” but I’m still to this moment not sure. Mom-ita as the neutral party, tried to get involved. She said, “We’ll take a look at it after we eat,” but he got angry at her too.

We ate a quiet and unhappy meal. I got angry again after a while too and called him on his attitude (how did he get that look in his eyes and the nasty set of his jaw?) and the way he spoke to his mother. Otherwise I was silent the rest of the meal too. It was a big unhappy party and I didn’t think I could be brought lower until I started wondering if I had indeed lost his game. What if I did?

Finally, dinner over and the game back in hand, Mom-ita playing mediator. We looked at it together and lo and behold. The game was right where it was supposed to be – saved and in one piece.

M-ito looked up at me and smiled, gave me a big hug – night and day.

“Next time have a little faith in your father,” I said. Exactly what my own father had said to me many a time when I was a kid. Oh how these things come back and haunt you.

First Day of School

Who’s more scared? Parents or kids? At a new school for the third time in my child’s life I think it might be a tie. Mom-ita and I drove M-ito to his first day of school last week and I took two days off to be there for the whole first day and for the one hour intro to school the day before. The commute was fine, not to much traffic, but lots of nervousness in the back seat and the front.

Mom-ita cried and I found tears coming to my eyes also as we gave him a hug before he was lead off to his classroom. M-ito’s first day was well planned out by the school he’s going to. They welcomed new students by name, with a handshake and gift from an upper classperson, in a morning assembly that all parents were invited to. We ate lunch with our kids then took off and did some food shopping while we waited. It was something to do. It was a day of waiting and of reflecting and shopping was a nice concrete something to do. We had about four hours to wait – on and off during – that first day in between meeting his teacher, seeing his classroom, being told by school administrative staff and the headmaster that “everything will be okay,” over and over again. Sure – easy for them to say.

I was surprised at how strongly I felt about sending him to school. This was truly the summer of transition from one school to another, from one set of friends to another, and for us as parents from one set of parents whose kids M-ito knows, to another. We are in the midst of meeting all these new parents, just as M-ito is in the midst of meeting all these new kids. Each of us is having to manage new relationships like crazy. I have to put my hand and my “self” out a lot. I have to say hello and introduce myself, try to remember which kids are which and which go with which parents. Mom-ita has been doing it all summer and I’m still catching up. Now I’m putting faces to names I’ve heard and trying assign kids to them.

What has caught me a little more by surprise than these difficulties is how watching my son go to school has reminded me of my own going to school when I was his age. It has brought up deep feelings of loss and sadness for what was. I changed schools and homes when I was going into fourth grade, M-ito is changing schools in 2nd. I remember leaving people behind and meeting new kids, best friends-to-be, none of which I’m still in touch with or becuase they have died long ago. I remember getting a new father and house to live in. I can feel this viscerally, in the tingling in my fingers as I type away. What a mix. Seeing this kind of history spread out in front of my son overwhelms me. But it’s my past not his.

At lunch after the assembly my son came over to me, so that Mom-ita wouldn’t be able to hear, and said, “I want to go home.”

I looked at him with my heart breaking. “Can you last for a few more hours?” I asked him, looking deeply into those brown eyes of his.

“How many hours is that?” he asked.

“Two.”

Then he nodded and hugged me. I didn’t tell Mom-ita about this until later.

When we came back to pick him up at three o’clock he was happy and seemed fine. He’d had science last period and he loves science and so his whole experience was framed by what he did there. His teacher had told them to pick a kind of scientist they would like to be – M-ito said paleontologist, of course – and to draw a picture of one on the front cover of their science notebook.

From the back seat of the car M-ito said, “I tried to be small in the class, but they wouldn’t let me be.” Mom-ita smiled while I drove. In his last school M-ito could “be small” and not noticed – not get attention – if he was quiet and followed the rules. He could “dissapear” if he wanted to – which I think he did a lot. In this school they introduced the kids to each other, asked them to play games with each other in recess (stopping cliques from arising – or at least attempting to) and seemed to try and notice what kids were doing and not doing. Small classes, good teachers. So far so good. But it meant that M-ito had to be more social than he was used to being. He is a shy kid who takes time to warm up. He must have been exhausted from all that kind of work. I know I was. I said hello and shook many hands in the parent meetings, at the coffee shop where I saw more of the same parents hanging out – just like us – and when we picked M-ito up. I had to force myself. I learned new names and forget them all within a matter of moments. Still, it’s part of the job of a parent. At 47 I have to tell you it’s not easy to go out and make new friends. I don’t necessarily want to put in that kind of effort but it comes with the territory. I guess I like to “be small” too.

After not talking about school for a few hours – even though we pestered M-ito left and right about what he did, at dinner time he finally gave us the whole run-down.

His second day I went to work with a knot in my stomach.

It’s his third day today, this beautiful Monday morning, and his first whole week of school. I’m doing my deep breathing exercises, trying to stay present, and not slip into the past. Mom-ita and M-ito left 45 minutes ago. I’m heading out too. I find I have to remind myself, this is his school experience, not mine. And this is my parenting experience, not his. The idea, I think, is to try to keep things that way. The challenge is in making it so.

Dinos in a Galaxy Far Far Away

“Dadidito, I don’t like dinosaurs so much anymore.” It was an innocent comment made while we were walking to school one morning in the freezing cold. “I like Star Wars more.” We’d been going through three months plus of Star Wars movies and Legos models and books and questions like, “Is Star Wars real? Are Jedi’s real? Is there such a thing as the force?”

My answers, in order, “Could be. Could be. And I like to think so.” All followed up with, “Remember. It’s in a galaxy far, far away.” 

M-ito usually nods at that as if it explained everything. For once I don’t elaborate. Mom-ita watches me sometimes when M-ito asks me questions like this and just laughs when I go into a big big explanation when all M-ito wants is a simple answer. It reminds me of an old joke. A young boy goes up to his father and asks, “Where did I come from?” And the father sighs and says to himself, “I knew this was coming.” So he gets out a thick health text book with and flip charts of the human body with anatomically correct parts and starts to describe the whole process of reproduction. Half an hour later, when he’s finished, he looks at his son and asks, “Did I answer your question?” And his son says, “I thought I was born in Brooklyn.”

So hearing my son say he didn’t like dinosaurs (getting back to the dinos) my heart sank into the floor. I had seen this coming since the summer and fall as he’d switched gears from claw and tooth to light saber  and the the force – my son was moving on. I nodded while we walked in the cold, our cheeks red and our noses frozen. And so the dinosaurs became extinct. Or so I thought. 

Two weeks later we’re at the doctors – M-to’s, not ours – for his annual check-up. The doctor asks him, “Do you still like dinosaurs?” And he tells her without hesitation, “I still want to be a paleontologist.” 

She smiles at him and says, “Oh, good. I’m glad you still like them.”

M-ito looks at me and Mom-ita, both of us slightly surprised, a little confused, and quite possible a little relieved.

Who knows. There are probably dinosaurs in a galaxy far far away.

Dino-opoly

When did it happen?

Three months ago Dino-opoly was boring. It was too difficult to count all the dollars, keep track of the properties, count the numbers on the dice and the spaces to move forward. The games biggest attraction has always been the images of dinosaurs that cover the board, the bones that are used for houses, and the chance cards that ask questions about dinosaurs – which M-ito can answer.

“What period did Tyranosourus live?” I ask.

“Creteceous,” he replies.

Basically the half a dozen times we’ve played the game (he’s had it since he was four) I did all the banking, paid all the bills, moved the counters, made the decisions, and … counted the numbers on the dice. Okay, I know that’s a bit much and I should be patient and wait for him to do these things for himself – how else is he going to learn? But after the first half hour of the slowest game in world history inching forward from space to space – getting distracted by other toys near and far to say nothing of mild air currents, a booger in his nose, and the smell of an old sock – even the most patient man (which I’m not) would have started doing for rather than watching do.

Now, my son is almost 6 – almost. He can count to one hundred, by ones, fives, and tens.  We played today. He counted the dots on the dice quick enough – though still one at a time – made all his own decisions about the game when I laid them out for him, and when I told him what to pay he counted out his own money.

He bankrupted me in an hour and a half.

Liopleurodon on the Loose

M-ito’s friends Noito and Celito’s grandmother has died. It’s just past one year since M-ito’s Gran has died and we can all feel the echo.

M-ito asks me, “Dad-dito, do you believe you were an animal when you were alive before?”

“What do you mean?” I ask. We’re sitting at M and V’s eating egg sandwiches.

“Well… do you believe we were alive as other animals and creatures before we were humans?”

“A lot of people believe that,” I say.

“But do you believe it?”

“Yes, I do,” I say. “You’ll have to ask Mom-ita to see if she does – but I don’t think she does. Me, I believe that, when we die, our soul or spirit is reborn sas another person or creature depending on what kind of life we lived. If we live a good life, are kind to others, treat people well, we come back as better people. If we don’t we come back as not-so-nice people or unpleasant creatures. That’s called karma.”

“I don’t really want to know about karma.”

“Okay.” We eat for a while and stare out the big window looking out over 37th Avenue. It’s cold out and a few snow flakes drift by. 

“I think,” M-ito says, “that I was a liopleurodon during the dinosaur times and that’s why I’m so good at swimming now.”

I nod, realization dawning on me. “I bet you were.”

M-ito smiles and takes a bite of his sandwich, a modern day liopleurodon snacking on eggs, cheese, bacon, and sesame bagel with a side of orange juice.