Concrete Poetry, Without the Concrete Part

To be honest, I really struggled with trying to come up with an idea for a poem that made sense to me also as an image. I came up with nothing. So, I decided to work just with the enjambment and animal prompt ideas. My little girls love unicorns. When they were really little “The Last Unicorn” was one of their favorite movies. We took them to see the tapestries at the Cloisters Museum that were the inspiration for the story. If you haven’t seen them, I highly recommend taking the time if you are in the NYC area. The Cloisters is a small branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art located up by Fort Tryon Park in Inwood. There is a bus that goes from the Met up to the Cloisters. Taxis sometimes have a difficult time finding it.

"The Unicorn in Captivity" courtesy of

“The Unicorn in Captivity” courtesy of

And here is my poem, inspired by my daughters and their love of the unicorns.
In ancient tales, men searched far and wide for the elusive
Tempted forth from family and home by the power
of her horn
Only virtuous maids, both noble and good, were sought out by this beast
Their sweet, pure souls would call them forth, as one starving to a feast
While in present day, the unicorn lives
only in stories and in myths
Seeking the virtues of the maid and beast are a noble, worthwhile
Once a search that throughout the world wandered far and wide
A different journey greets us now, one that dwells inside

Disneyworld: Fastpass Plus, Good or Bad?


Photo courtesy of

For this particular trip to Disneyworld, we stayed in one of the resorts. Everyone who visits Disneyworld has access to the new Fastpass Plus system. The advantage to staying in one of the resorts is up to three months prior to your trip, you can select your Fastpass choices through Fastpass had changed to this new system from the last time we were at Disneyworld, and we didn’t quite know the best way to use it. So, here are some things we learned, some things we liked, and some things we didn’t like about the new fast pass plus.

Under the new system, you can make up to three Fastpass selections for each day of your Disneyworld trip. You can either use kiosks at the parks, or use Your Fastpass selections must all be in the same park for that particular day. Our Fastpass selections were spaced fairly close together, so we still had the option of going to a different park for the rest of the day if we wanted. Fastpass gives approximately an hour window for you to use it, or you lose it. You activate your Fastpass entrance by using either a magic band or park ticket. There are always two places on each ride you must scan your Fastpass, at the entrance to the Fastpass line and just prior to joining the stand-by line.

For new and extremely popular attractions, such as the new Seven Dwarves Mine Train ride, you have to book your fast pass as soon as possible. We were not aware of the ability to select Fastpasses so far in advance, so the Seven Dwarves Mine Train ride and Meet Elsa and Anna were no longer available by the time we made our selections. Fastpass was still available for popular thrill rides such as Space Mountain and Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster.

What I did like about the Fastpass was the guarantee that there were at least three must-do attractions on our list everyday that we didn’t have to spend a long time in line for. In our case, this was especially helpful since part of our party (children too small to ride the faster thrill rides or grandparents with health issues that prevented them from riding) couldn’t go on some of our fast pass selections. We could get the children a snack, like Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, go ride the ride, and get back by the time they were finished with their snack. This prevented several meltdowns because they needed some down time, and allowed my husband and I to ride several rides together without children in tow. It was like a mini-date! For us, that was a win-win situation.

The Fastpass Plus system also insured that at least three of our favorite attractions were easily accessible without a long wait. The longest line I think we stood in for anything during our trip was 35 minutes for the Winnie the Pooh, which we did not have Fastpass for. We felt like we were able to see and do a lot during each day of our trip.

Perusing the Fastpass selection also prompted us to do some things we might not have otherwise thought of doing. We met Mickey Mouse at Town Hall. I never would have thought of seeking out that opportunity, but it was our youngest daughter’s favorite experience from the trip. She still walks around saying, “Mickey Mouse hugged Aeryn!” What a magical moment it was for her! Even the grandparents had a great time meeting Mickey Mouse. He even sounded like Mickey.

Mickey Mouse Hugging Aeryn!

Mickey Mouse Hugging Aeryn!

What I did not like about Fastpass was the spontaneity it removed from our trip. There always had to be some planning involved, especially with such a large group, but it seemed that our days were planned directly in response to our Fastpass selection. We also lost some of the flexibility often necessary with young children. When they need the bathroom, or food, or some time to sit and look at the flowers, they need it now. They really don’t care if you have a fast pass that expires in the next half an hour. We didn’t use several of our Fastpasses because of situations like this. We also lost using one or two because they were assigned early in the morning. My family does not do early in the morning. At least the majority doesn’t, and it is much harder to convince night owls to wake up early than it is to convince early risers to stay out a little later. That caused some frustration and bad feelings, and made it more difficult to spend time with one pair of grandparents who are more on the get up and go side of the scale.

Overall, I appreciate the opportunity to have some short wait times during the day. I am glad that Fastpass is an option when visiting Disneyworld. I think you have to be okay with not always using your Fastpass if the children would rather do something else during that time, and I am curious how well the Fastpass system works when the parks are really crowded. We had moderate crowds during our time there.

What are your experiences with Fastpass?

My First Haiku

It has been years and years since I have written any kind of poetry at all. On a whim, I decided to try the Writing: 201 Poetry Course from Blogging University. I like challenges and I like trying new things. I always learn so much. This fits both those categories. So, here is my first poem, a haiku. It still needs a title.

Thundering droplets
Reflection of reasoning
Prismatic, then whole

When was the last time you were inspired to write poetry?

Disneyworld: Why Do We Love It So Much?

“Our Family Vacation”

Our family went to a magical place

With princesses, pirates, and journeys through space

We had fun galore

And left wanting more

We made memories we’ll always embrace

IMG_4042We love Disneyworld! We love the rides, the shows, the resorts, and the magical feeling that permeates our Disneyworld vacations. Our love of Disneyworld has always seemed contradictory to our regular travel style and preferences. When we travel we don’t like tours, unless it is specific to one thing we want to see that day. We shy away from “packaged getaways”. We always try to learn at least a few phrases of the language from our destination countries. We like to learn about the culture, to be immersed in the culture, to be a tourist without seeming too touristy. In fact, a lot of places we travel I get mistaken for a native and spoken to in their native tongue. Greek in Greece. Italian in Italy. Spanish in Peru and Mexico. Hong Kong was the exception, because I don’t look the least bit like a Chinese woman. I tease my husband that we need to travel to more of the Nordic countries, because there is no way I would be mistaken for a Swede or a Norwegian. Two of our daughters might, in part because I have developed a fondness for Scandinavian children’s clothing. But even if I were decked out head to toe in designer Swedish clothing, I would still be an average sized brunette with curly hair and slightly olive skin. But we would still try to absorb the culture and experience of the everyday Scandinavian, regardless of how much we did or did not resemble one. That is part of the joy of traveling to new places.


If we enjoy so much experiencing the cultures of the world, why we would love the fabricated world of Disney so much? And then, I suddenly understood. Disney has truly developed their own very specific culture, founded upon the wonder of childhood and magical stories that make people feel that childlike magic even as an adult. Disney attends to even the smallest details, so when you visit one of their parks, it is like walking into another country. It is a magical faraway land where wonder and mystery awaits, but that is simultaneously familiar and comfortable. The characters in the shows and parades are like old friends, familiar and dear to our hearts. Aeryn could not contain her excitement when we met Mickey Mouse. She still randomly tells me, “Mickey Mouse hugged Aeryn” as we go through out our days. Rapunzel told the older girls a secret when we met her. Abigial and Alyssa talk about the secret together, but not with me. You can tell they feel very important sharing a secret with Rapunzel.  When we travel to Disneyworld, we embrace the culture of Disney in the same way that we embrace the culture of any country that we visit.


This Disneyworld vacation was especially memorable because we were joined by both sets of grandparents. Watching children experience the magic of Disney makes the entire experience more fun and rewarding. When my husband and I were first married without children, we went to Disneyland. The rides were fun, but we didn’t feel the same sense of wonder and magic as we do now, watching our children seeing their favorite characters come to life. I am so glad that the grandparents were able to have this experience with their grandchildren!

Nostalgia in the Mundane

My children are all in bed, if not asleep, and the house for once is quiet. I was reading a story on the blog, Storyshucker, called “Birds of a Feather“. At one point, the author talks about how anything can make him feel sentimental, or nostalgic. Well, I was sitting on my bed reading, while nursing my little five month old son to sleep. I looked at him and thought about how tall he is getting, and how he still seems so little at the same time. When my babies were really little, I used a Boba Wrap to carry them while running errands, hiking, traveling……just about anytime I didn’t want to use a stroller because it was too bulky or unwieldy, or I just wanted to have my hands free while still experiencing the sweet sensation of snuggling such an amazing little person close to my body. Lately, my little boy has strained against the cocoon like sensation of being wrapped in the Boba.

So, this last trip we went on, I used an Ergo for my baby carrier. Now, the Ergo is great. It’s comfortable. It allows the baby to look around with a good field of view even in a front facing in position. My little boy was much more comfortable in the Ergo than he has been lately in the Boba Wrap. But it doesn’t have quite the same snuggly feeling. It highlights the fact that my baby is no longer a newborn, or even a very young baby. He is rolling over. He is eating baby food. It is one step forward in my child growing up.

My oldest child also picked out new rolling luggage for this trip, an R2D2 shaped roller that beeps just like the robot. She gave up her Trunki, a suitcase she can pull and ride at the same time, because she is too big for it. The Trunki she gave to her two year old sister, who is now old enough  and coordinated enough to ride on it. Our little boy is our last baby. The Boba wrap I gave away this week to someone else who could use it. It felt like a bandaid being ripped off. Except, the sentimental pain has not really faded over the course of the week.

I keep remembering moments with one or another baby snuggled close to me in the Boba. I remember how excited Alyssa was when she first used her Trunki. Children grow up and leave these things behind. But even hints of these memories can send me into bittersweet nostalgia. I am both proud of how my children are learning and growing into wonderful people and want to simultaneously freeze each moment to be relived over and over.

Even though my children were in bed, my sentimentality urged me to go and say good night to them one more time. My two oldest were in bed talking about how they were going to sail that night to Neverland, to play with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. They are growing up, but at least tonight they don’t seem to be in a hurry to do it. And that is just fine with me.

Liebster Award: A Journey Through a Land of New Blogs

I am having a great time becoming a part of a larger blogging community. I would like to thank all of you who read my blog. A very special thank you to secretsofatrailingspouse for following me, and for nominating me for the Liebster Award. She is an expat wife and mother who is having some wonderful adventures in Brunei. You can find a link to her blog here.


The rules of Liebster Award are:

Acknowledge and link back to the person who nominated you.
Answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers.
Give your nominees 11 questions to answer on their blog when they post about the Liebster Award

Here are the answers to the 11 questions asked me by secretsofatrailingspouse.

1. Why did you start blogging?

After the birth of my 4th child, having had a c-section, I was feeling somewhat depressed and cut-off from the rest of the world. I knew it would be a while before I could travel again, and I spent some of my recovery time watching shows about travel. Two of my favorites were “Travel with Kids” and “Word Travels”. I started thinking about writing about travel. I thought it would be great to build an online community with fellow travelers. They really are the best resources for places to go, stay, eat and experiences that are a little off the beaten path.

2. Where in the world would you most like to live?

This is a really tough question. I think the best answer for me is to have several properties throughout the world. We could spend a part of the year at each of them. Some of our ideal locations would be New York City, Hong Kong, Venice, Costa Rica, and maybe Malta.

3. What is the best travel advice anyone has ever given you? Or, what piece of travel advice would you like to share?

When we started having children, we decided to keep traveling, and to stay as close to a backpacking travel style as possible with young children in tow. Children learn from their parents’ examples. Our children are becoming amazing travelers because we spend time preparing for our travels, both in setting expectations and teaching them something about the country we are going to visit. I think this makes all the difference in their excitement level, and good behavior on the trip. Cherish the time you travel together as a family.

4. If you were stranded in an airport for a day, what book would you most like to have with you?

If I was by myself, it would probably be the “Lord of the Rings”. What can I say. I’m a little bit of a fantasy/scifi nerd. If my children were with me, I would probably have some collection of books by Julia Donaldson and maybe some of the “Chronicles of Narnia”.

5. What is your worst holiday experience?

Shortly after we were married my husband and I took a trip to Trinidad and Tobago. We were married during a very brief break in his schooling, and didn’t have time for a honeymoon right after our wedding. This trip was supposed to be sort of a delayed honeymoon. Our second night in Tobago we both got horrible food poisoning. We spent three days in a beautiful hotel room right by the beach throwing up. We were so weak at the end of our trip that we could barely hobble a mile to see Argyle Falls. Older British couples in their fifties kept passing us. We were happy to be home from that trip.

6. Can you speak a second language?

Not really. I know a few phrases in French, and a few in Spanish, but I can’t really say I speak a second language.

7. What is the best thing about the place where you currently live?

The weather. It is comfortable to eat outside for most of the year. There are a few cold weeks in January (meaning it gets down into the 40’s F during the day). The summer is hot, but a glorious time for swimming.

8. Describe your ideal day in no more than ten words.

Solitude. Exploration. Shared experiences. Dance. Beach time. Family bonding togetherness.

9. What inspires you?

My children. My husband. Artists and dancers. Those who don’t hold themselves back, but bravely reach for their dreams and live their lives the way they want.

10. Do you have a pet hate? (I.e. something which really annoys you, not a pet you hate!)

I really dislike when people overuse catchphrases in their communication, instead of taking the time and effort to find their own words.

11. Post a link to your favourite blog.

Picking one favorite is really difficult, but I love the quote from C.S. Lewis on the About page of this blog:

Rooted Wanderings

It describes how I feel about a lot of the art and choreography that is produced, which seems to be for shock value and without any intrinsic worth.

11 Random Facts About Myself:

  • I have lived in 7 different states, and never in the same place for more than 4 years.
  • My husband and I originally met in a Latin Ballroom Dance Class.
  • In high school I played the flute for marching band, and the bassoon for wind ensemble.
  • I was an extra in a movie once while in college.
  • I am the only one of five siblings who lives in a different state than my parents.
  • I used to teach at a liberal arts college.
  • I like to play volleyball.
  • I dragged my husband on stage to dance during a Pink Martini concert.
  • I am a CMA, a certified movement analyst.
  • I’ve been to more rock concerts as an adult than I did as a teenager.
  • I want to take my family to all the Disney Parks in the world.

Here are 11 questions for my nominees.

  1. What song would be your theme song?
  2. What is your worst food related travel experience?
  3. What is your most recent nightmare?
  4. Would you prefer a trip to the mountains or the beach, and why?
  5. If there were no monetary constraints, what would you spend your life doing?
  6. What was your favorite cartoon as a child?
  7. Describe a disappointing experience.
  8. Describe an exhilarating experience.
  9. What is your favorite holiday and why?
  10. What is your favorite form of exercise? Yoga, running, weight lifting, etc…
  11. What do you find most rewarding about writing your blog?

And now, the nominees:

Rooted Wanderings

My House Talks

Book Urchin

Truly, Madly, Italy

Neroli Speaks

Culinary Creations by Katie

Katie is Running

Sunshine and Showers

I Never Want to Fly U.S. Airways Again

There are times when flying with my family that I end up feeling that airlines intentionally make it more difficult for families to travel in order to discourage them from doing so. Our family’s trip last week to Florida and home was definitely one of those times.

We made it to the airport two hours before our scheduled flight. We were flying on a domestic flight, so this early arrival should have provided plenty of time to check in, make it through security, and have time to at least buy food to take on the plane with us. Neither my husband or I had the opportunity to eat breakfast before we left. We were counting on being able to eat at the airport. Does that seem like un unrealistic expectation? I didn’t think so.

For this particular trip we were planning on using public transportation that did not require car seats. We were ecstatic! For anyone who has gone through the process of lugging car seats and/or booster seats (especially 4 of them) through the airport and then gone through the lengthy process of checking them in, covering them plastic, and getting them on their way to baggage knows the joy of being able to skip this ordeal. We were able to get all of our children, luggage and ourselves from the parking lot to the ticketing area in record time. We thought again, that we would have plenty of time to take care of everything and make it to our plane. We did not anticipate the rather lengthy and slow moving line at ticketing. It was a Sunday morning, so we expected a little bit of a line, but nothing like what awaited us.

Upon approaching the line, trying to figure out exactly where we needed to go next, we were pointed to the self automated kiosks to check in for our flight. This filled us with a little bit of trepidation. The line was long and there are two scenarios where checking in at a kiosk has never, never, did I say never?!? worked. The first is when checking in car seats, which thankfully we did not have to do this time. The second is when flying with an infant in lap, which we were doing. Despite our protests that it would not work, the airline workers shunted us into the very long, seemingly never-ending line. Why did we not insist on speaking with an agent? I’m not sure, but we should have. Sometimes trying to be polite, accommodating travelers works against us.

As we neared the end of the long check-in line, almost an hour and one bathroom emergency later, the agent informed us that they wanted to check our stroller with our luggage. Apparently, even though for years strollers have been gate checked with no problems, now carrying strollers up and down the stairs is resulting in injuries to the workers, and so they are changing their policy for any stroller weighing over 20 pounds. Our double stroller is one of the lighter ones out there, and I think it is  under 20 pounds, but since I had a baby carrier with me, and I wanted to hurry along the process as much as possible, I agreed to check our stroller with our luggage. I also want to be a good and helpful traveler. I think this might be the wrong track to take when dealing with airline check-in, as it only seems to backfire. I don’t like to be impolite, even in stressful situations. It might work better to be politely assertive. I am going to have to work on this balance.

We finally reached the kiosks! The moment of truth had arrived. Would we be successful in checking in? Would we finally receive our boarding passes? (FYI – if you thinking checking in online works with an infant in lap ticket, it doesn’t. We’ve tried that, too). After trying to check in using our name, flight number, frequent flier number and credit card, we still had no boarding passes. After some valiant effort on our part trying to get the attention of one of the airline workers, we were finally escorted to a new line with an actual ticket agent at the end of it. When our turn came, we tried to politely explain the situation. Now, I understand that it would probably be emotionally tiring to be empathic with all of the passengers you check in during the course of a work day. However, you could at least be efficient at your job! Even though all members of our family were standing right in front of her (minus our baby who was in his baby carrier, but still visible to the ticket agent), and despite the fact that she had all of our i.d.’s in front of her, it took her something like six tries to even count the number of boarding passes we required to get on the airplane. Then it took several more tries to make sure she had all of them printed out. This would have just been a minor convenience, except for the fact that we had maybe half an hour by this time to get through security and make our plane. Remember how we were at the airport two hours early?

Well, she finally printed our boarding passes. It took her a few more minutes to check our bag, which thankfully went smoothly. Then, it came time to check our stroller. Having just checked our bag, you would think this would go smoothly. No, not really. As we were walking away, having been assured everything was ready to go, we hear our check-in woman saying, “Did I check that stroller, through to Seattle?” Seattle is the opposite direction of our actual destination. The other gate agent said something like, “I don’t know. Where is it supposed to go?” You would think at this point that one of them would go to actually check where the stroller was tagged to. But they just stood there, looking at each other with a blank look on their faces, as the stroller moved farther and farther down the conveyor belt into the black hole from which we hoped it would eventually emerge unscathed at our destination. They kept asking each other about the stroller, but neither could be bothered to make sure it was going to the correct place. It was like a bad skit on Saturday Night Live. The kind where you know that the outcome is not going to be a good one for the owner of said stroller. My husband and I looked at each other horrified, as we literally ran to security. If there had been time, we would have stopped and sorted out the destiny of our red double stroller before heading to the gate. But alas, there was no time. We commented to each other that it did not look good for our stroller. But having to choose between making our flight and addressing the stroller issue, we chose making our flight.

Our family raced to security, which thankfully was efficient, pleasant, and not crowded at all. If it had been otherwise, we would have missed our flight. As we passed a restaurant I looked longingly at the food that we did not have time to buy. As a nursing mom, I am more hungry than I was when I was pregnant. Missing breakfast was not a good idea. Plus, not eating makes me less patient and more grumpy. This is not a good combination for traveling, especially when trying to help my hungry children be more patient and less grumpy. Our flight had almost finished boarding when we reached the gate. We hurried to our seats and got settled just minutes before the door was closed. Thankfully, we made the flight.

For over four hours, as we soared above the land to our destination, we pondered the fate of our stroller. Was it on the plane, deep in the belly where all checked luggage journeys with us? Was it on a different plane to a different destination? Would we ever see our stroller again?

At our destination, we hurried to baggage claim. Our checked luggage came through the ordeal without any difficulty. Our stroller…..we waited and waited. We checked the oversize luggage area. We checked a different oversize luggage area. Finally we realized that our stroller was gone, never to be found again.

We spoke with the baggage claims department. They at least were polite and tried to be helpful while we were at the airport. They submitted a claim for us, but since we were never given a luggage tag at our departure point, they had nothing to go on but the description of our stroller. We never heard from them again. And we never saw our stroller again.

At this point, we did not put our blind faith in the efficiency of U.S. Airways to find our stroller and get it to us. made it possible to order a new stroller, which arrived at our hotel in less than 48 hours. We were able to use my baby carrier and the generosity of grandparents willing to carry small children from place to place to transport all our children during our site seeing until the new stroller arrived. Thank goodness for helpful grandparents! We don’t always have them with us in our travels.

Upon check in on our return journey, the ticket agent asked us to check our stroller with our luggage. I just said, “No, we’re not doing that” in a very firm tone. They didn’t argue with me. My husband says I can be scary sometimes. I think this is rather funny since I am 5’4″ and not a very large person. Apparently it was helpful in this situation. Thank goodness we did gate check our stroller this time. When we got off the plane, our 5 year old was fast asleep. Our baby had to go in the stroller because our baby carrier was covered in apple juice. Riding in a wet carrier would surely have elicited screaming from our very tired, but not yet sleeping baby. Our 2 year old was too tired to walk and insisted on being carried. I am grateful on trips like these that our 7 year old is a night owl, and can generally be counted on to move under her own power through the airport even late at night. But even with our stroller, it was not comfortable to transport all our children and belongings back to the car. Without our stroller? It would have been a scene of screaming, crying, cacophonous sounds that would have made everyone’s travels terrible, including our own.

U.S. Airways is the least family friendly airline we have experienced. Their policies and corporate culture penalize families for traveling, and do nothing to make it a pleasant experience. We will go out of our way to avoid them in the future. Thank goodness we are flying British Airways when we travel to Spain.