Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Top 10 Tips For a Fantastic Disney World Vacation

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Disney World last week. I would’ve stayed another week if possible. Heck, I might have stayed for an entire month! The employees were all so wonderful, and the parks completely lived up to the hype. We visited Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot, and my daughter met upwards of 35 characters. 

I did a lot of research before our Disney vacation, much of it on Pinterest. I also bough the Unofficial Guide toDisney, which was SUPER helpful. So here are my top 10 Tips for making your Disney Vacation the Happiest Week of Your Life.

10. Arrive at the Magic Kingdom before the opening time. 

The Magic Kingdom may officially open at 9:00 am, which is when all the rides and lands open up, but the gates themselves open at least 45 minutes before that! Arriving at the park at 9:00 means you'll be wasting precious park time. You’ll have to walk from either the parking lot or the bus to the gates, then go through security. And once you’re inside, you’ll need to get maps, orient yourself, go to the bathroom, etc. Plus, Main Street and many of its shops and restaurants are open before the opening time, so it’s not like you’ll be bored!  


9. If you want to meet characters, book the character meals. 

On our arrival day, we met seven princesses, five of them during our dinner. What a great way to use our limited park time! Instead of standing in seven individual lines, we waited in 1 line (for Anna & Elsa), and sat comfortably at a table while the other 5 came to us. Some people find the character meals to be chaotic and rushed. It is definitely not a restful meal, as you do have several interruptions. On the other hand, at least you're sitting down. Also, the servers were all very helpful in telling us when characters would be coming by our table. And they never pushed us to finish up and leave in a hurry. 

8. Don’t buy an autograph book. 

I bought wire bound index cards (in pretty colors) and tore out the autographs every night in my hotel room. That way, if I had lost the book, I wouldn’t have lost the autographs we’d already gotten. What I did do was buy a Disney photo album, which I can put the cards and pictures in to create a keepsake for her.

7. Bring AT LEAST two pairs of walking shoes. 

On our second day, we were caught in a torrential downpour that thoroughly soaked us, even through our raincoats. Our shoes took 3 days to dry out. And this is Florida – it rains all the time. All of us were very grateful for those second pairs of shoes! In addition, if you blister (and I did, even though both my shoes were well broken in), switching shoes can relieve the pain. Final point: you may want to bring a pair of shoes to bum around the hotel room in, as you see with my flip flops above. In fact, my blisters were so bad that I bought special tabu socks (from Epcot Japan) and wore socks with flip flops the last two days. It was divinely comfortable.

6. Pay attention to your potty. 

I know it's gross, but especially with kids, you need to think about poop. Bring medication to speed up or slow down intestinal flow, and make sure you know what your kids are doing with the potty. Vacations are a common time to have issues, and that can ruin the whole trip! 

5. Bring extra battery power for your phone. 

I needed all my battery power because, like most people, I used my smart phone as my camera. In addition, I managed our plans with the free My Disney Experience app. That allowed me to make/adjust dinner reservations, Fastpass reservations, etc., all from my own phone. I invested in a case that had a built in battery, but you can also buy portable charges, or bring a charging cable to use at various plugs in the park.  

4. Know your "why."

We went to Disney World to give my 5 year old daughter an incredible vacation. Whenever I had to make a decision or a plan, I thought about my "why." So when my daughter turned down a fastpass to ride something else, I said yes. When she wanted to ride a certain ride over and over, I said yes. I also made her rest during our daily nap times (although by the second day, she fell asleep the minute her head hit the pillow). I skipped some events that I wanted to do, because this wasn’t about me or my goals. Besides, skipping one show to attend a different one gave me the gift of watching her face light up, or hearing her delightful giggles. At the end of the day, the trip we took was wonderful, although definitely different from the trip I would've taken if it had just been me and my husband going.   

3. Let people take care of themselves. 

I had planned to go back to the hotel daily to rest, and we did exactly that. One of my party members didn’t join us in the daily nap – instead she chose to stay in the parks and just sit or ride gentle rides while we were gone. At first I was worried about her. Could she really get the rest she needed without going to the hotel? But she is an adult, and so I let her do what she knew was best for her. When my husband overslept on the morning of one of our breakfast reservations, I let him sleep and left without him, because I knew that was what he needed. He thanked me for it! If, like me, your group includes more adults than children, then don't try to control the vacation for all of them! Let people pass on rides, or choose other rides, etc.

2. Leave one day unplanned. 

I left Wednesday completely open: no fastpasses, no dinner reservations, nothing. When we talked about it on Tuesday, our group was in agreement about which park to visit, but even if we hadn’t been, that would’ve been the perfect day to split up so people could do their own thing. Once we picked a park, I was able to book fastpasses for the best rides by using the Disney Experience app. I also kept our plans minimal for Thursday and Friday, in order to give us time to ride some rides a second or third (or fourth) time. What with Fastpasses and dinner reservations and parades and shows, you could easily schedule a 12 hour day every day. And you'll be absolutely miserable!

1. Take a nap EVERY day! 

Yes, it can take up to an hour to travel from a park to your hotel room. Yes, it can then take up to another hour to get back. Yes, that means you are sacrificing at least 3 hours of park time just to rest. It is worth it. The only day we didn’t take a nap, two adults in my party literally were falling asleep at the dinner table, and my daughter was a total mess. On the days we took naps we were able to go back and have a nice dinner with no meltdowns, watch the sunset, and on some nights, watch the closing ceremonies. I can't stress this enough: TAKE A DAILY NAP! Because even if you invest 4 hours in the nap and your kid only sleeps for 30 minutes, that's still 4 hours of downtime for you and the kids. Four hours without stimulation, four hours to process and consider and rest. I didn't even sleep during our nap time, but everyone else did!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What is Your Name?

Cain’s wife is the first unnamed female in the Bible, but certainly not the last. She serves as the mother and wife, not a person so much as a role. She is grudgingly given credit for existing, because Cain could not procreate alone. Even in myths, women are often nameless.

Eve is the first named woman in the Bible. Adah and Zillah, the wives of Cain’s great-great-great grandson Methushael, are the very next named women. Adah mothered the nomadic cattle herders and the musicians. Zillah mothered the toolmakers. These women are named. They must have been important.

What does it take to get a name in the Bible, as a woman? Eve was the mother of everyone. Adah was the mother of music and livestock management. Zillah was the mother of toolmaking. These seminal women were essential.

How often we women are defined by our offspring. When my daughter was born, a friend of mine told me I would quickly become “Torismom.” I laughed at the time, but it is very true. The children at my daughter’s preschool see me and call out, “It’s Torismom!” I am a role – I am a mother, an Eve. I do not exist for these gorgeous young creatures as a human with independent thoughts or motivations. I am Mom. As they grow older and more mature, as they talk to me more, they will learn that I am a person. But in an essential way, I will always be a mom to them all, including my own daughter. At school functions and parties, I introduce myself as “Tori’s mom.” And other moms and dads join in: “Naveen’s dad,” “Penny’s mom,” “Emmaline’s mom,” “Jeddy’s dad.”

Part of me realizes that Tori is my greatest achievement. Or at least one of my greatest achievements. By cultural standards, she is my greatest achievement – because she will extend my influence in the world by (hopefully) outliving me. By my own personal standards, she is one of my greatest. Whenever I love another person, whenever I encourage anyone, whenever I pray for anyone, I create a great achievement. And Tori is one of those.

I used to dream of greatness. I used to dream about the books I would write, or the seminars I would fill, or the fame I would achieve. I used to think of the great and amazing things I could do: end world hunger, bring clean drinking water everywhere, end rape. I’m 41 years old now, and my dreams are greater and yet smaller. I dream of loving everyone perfectly. I dream of praying constantly. I dream of bringing light into the life of everyone I touch. Motherhood is a natural extension of that.

My husband and I don’t want Tori to be a famous prodigy. We don’t want her to be President. We want her to be a good citizen: a net gain for society. We want her to be happy. We want her to spread God’s kingdom.

In the patriarchal world, being a mother left little time for anything else. Is this why women are only known by their offspring?

But in today’s world, women can achieve AND mother. We can all be Deborahs, known for our motherhood and our personal accomplishments. I didn't trade one name for another: I gained a name. I am Elaine Bayless and I am Torismom.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

10 Ways Beauty and the Beast is NOT About Domestic Violence!

I’ve heard the criticism of the Disney 1991 Beauty and the Beast countless times – that it teaches girls to stay in abusive relationships, that it’s an example of Stockholm Syndrome, etc. So I was a little surprised when I sat down and actually watched it recently.
When the movie first came out, I enjoyed it moderately. As a fairy tale aficionado, I was disappointed in the needless subplot Disney added in the form of Gaston, as well as the ways in which Disney deviated from the traditional tale. Still, overall, I found it to be an acceptable cartoon adaptation of one of my favorite tales. I never thought it encouraged women to stay in abusive relationships, and I’m happy to say that I was right back then. Beauty and the Beast, the Disney version, is NOT a defense of an abusive relationship, and here are 10 reasons why.
10. Belle volunteers to stay with the Beast, knowing he is a Beast. In Stockholm Syndrome, the victim is held against her will. As far as abusive relationships, people don’t start them with abusive jerks – they start them with people who pretend to be kind.
9. The Beast never restrains Belle. At one point she runs away, and the Beast shows up to rescue her. When Belle asks to go see her father, the Beast lets her go. Again, this is the opposite of the situation with Stockholm Syndrome. And most abusers won’t let their targets maintain family relationships.
8. The Beast never uses abusive language towards Belle. He never calls her names. He never criticizes her personal opinions or choices.
7. The Beast never gaslights Belle. He doesn’t deny her situation, or tell her she’s imagining things. He never deliberately leads her to believe one story, only to tell another totally different story.
6. The Beast allows Belle to make her own choices. When she says “No” to his dinner invitation he is furious, yes. He rages and throws a tantrum about it. But ultimately, he accepts her answer. He doesn’t force her to leave her room, even though he easily could.
5. The Beast gives Belle a gift with no strings attached. He gives her the entire library to read, and expects nothing in return.
4. The Beast accepts responsibility for his own actions. After he is injured rescuing Belle, he initially blames her for his injuries. But when she points out the truth of the matter, he sees that she is right and acknowledges it. When the servants coach Beast in modifying his behavior in order to be more polite, he makes an effort rather than expecting everyone to just accept him.
3. The Beast changes his behavior. This is probably the biggest way in which people THINK that the movie shows an abusive relationship. In domestic abuse, the target (and bystanders) often believe that the target is capable of motivating the abuser to change his behavior. This is why is can take 7 or more attempts to leave an abusive situation – because an abuser CAN control the abuse when s/he chooses too. The misunderstanding is that the target is the one in control. The abuser is in control. Always. In Beauty and the Beast, we see that Belle truly does influence Beast’s behavior. He allows her to influence him.
2. The Beast sacrifices his own desires on Belle’s behalf. He doesn’t want Belle to leave him, especially since he’s so close to the moment when his transformation into a Beast will become permanent. But he doesn’t tell Belle what is happening, or guilt trip her. He simply puts her desires ahead of his own.
1. At the end, Belle comes to see the good character within the gruff shell of the Beast, and she is correct. We like to blame targets for believing the best about their abusers, so when a woman defends a man who seems unattractive or unkind, we assume she is delusional and the man is abusive. But in this case, Belle is completely correct. The Beast truly is a good man. Not a perfect man. But a good one.
A final thought. I recently found a retelling of this lovely story in my Blue Fairy Book, and read it to my 5 year old. I found this retelling to be even more fascinating and enjoyable than the Disney version. When it come to fairy tales, the book is always better than the movie!