Long Live the Doman Sun!

I always find it amazing how family jokes and memories grow until they sometimes have their own identity. A catchword or catchphrase will be created and become a key to unlock a treasure chest full of memories and experiences that each member of the family cherishes.

The first time our family went to Disneyworld our oldest daughter was two, and her younger sister was only six weeks old. My husband had a job interview in Orlando, so we decided to go to Disneyworld for just one day. It was a very cold, blustery January day, and the park was very empty. It’s a Small World never had a long line. We could almost just walk onto the ride. Because our two year old loved it, and because it was much warmer inside riding the ride, we rode it something like eight times that day.

Our two year old was a very advanced speaker for her age. After our trip to Disneyworld, we would hear her singing “It’s a Small World” to herself. We noticed something a little peculiar. Every time she got to the part about the golden sun, she would sing doman (sounds like doe-man, with a stress on the first syllable). She was very consistent.

The Golden Sun from It's a Small World Ride, Disneyworld, courtesy of themeparks.about.com

The Golden Sun from It’s a Small World Ride, Disneyworld, courtesy of
themeparks.about.com

After a while, we asked her why she was singing doman, instead of golden. She very seriously informed us that the sun was “doman colored”, not golden. We told her we had never heard of doman colored. What does it look like? She said it has a little bit of golden in it. It took us months to convince her that the song actually said golden sun. It was a little sad to see her finally accept that the line is “golden sun”.

Fast forward about five years, and our family recently returned to Disneyworld. Our children love to hear stories about themselves, and we love to tell them. So, while we were at Disneyworld we told the story of the doman colored sun. Now seven years old, she thought it was hilarious. And her five year old sister was tickled by the whole thing.

We returned home from Disneyworld, and one day I found our five-year old looking at the book “The Day the Crayons Quit”. In the book, yellow crayon and orange crayon are mad and not speaking to each other. They each think they are the color of the sun, and cite evidence of when they were used to color the sun as rational for their behavior. I came into the room, and she turned and looked at me. Then she said, “Mom, the yellow crayon and orange crayon are so silly.” At this point, I was expecting her to say something about how their fighting was silly, since we had been talking a lot lately about how people fight about lots of silly things. But no, she continues on very seriously with an exasperated air, “Don’t they know the sun is doman colored?”

And the doman sun lives on.

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 www.metmuseum.org

“The Unicorn in Captivity” courtesy of http://www.metmuseum.org

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
UNICORN
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
quest
Once a search that throughout the world wandered far and wide
A different journey greets us now, one that dwells inside

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.

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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.

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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!

Travel theme: Freedom

What is freedom? That is a very simple question with a very complex answer. One of the things I love about travel is the freedom I feel from every day life. Especially with four children at home, the daily grind sometimes seems a never-ending cycle of preparing food, cleaning up, changing diapers, etc…What’s interesting is those tasks are still somewhat present even while traveling with kids, but the new experiences, vistas and cultural experiences make these sometimes mundane tasks seem less all encompassing.

But even before we had children, traveling and the adventure of it always provided a sense of freedom. So, here are some photographs that illustrate what makes me feel free.
HPIM0387There is something about being in absolutely the middle of nowhere, completely cut off from the modern world, that evokes a sense of freedom. Out there, one has the time to ponder, to enjoy the moment. A conversation with your inner self about your dreams and desires is much more achievable when there are less distractions. Solitude can mean freedom.

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Viewing great achievements in stone and architecture by man gives me a sense of freedom. What great things we are capable of if we dare to dream, to plan, to achieve! From ancient times to modern, mankind has created amazing buildings, bridges, tunnels, works of art. Seeing these amazing things gives me a sense of freedom to embrace my own creativity, to dare to make something extraordinary out of my life.

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I feel gratitude that we have some measure of economic freedom, meaning we don’t struggle to provide food for our family. There are people who are born, grow up, and die living the same kind of life that their families have lived for generations. I feel freedom in having chosen my own kind of life, and that I have the economic freedom to travel and see many different places and cultures. Not everyone is that lucky.

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Education gives me a sense of freedom. I don’t mean only a formal education, but continuing to expand my knowledge and experience gives me the freedom to see the world through many different lenses. I hope that it builds my understanding and compassion of others. These two qualities allow people from different backgrounds to connect and build friendships. That is also freedom.

Thanks to “Where’s my backpack?” for providing this the Travel theme: Freedom. You can follow this link to the original blog post regarding Travel theme: Freedom.

http://wheresmybackpack.com/2014/12/12/travel-theme-freedom/

Happy travels everyone!

All Aboard for Christmas Fun

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I love trains. There is something so freeing about leaving behind a car and allowing a train to transport you from one location to another. When traveling internationally, we depend on trains and buses for transportation almost exclusively. I think the one time we rented a car in another country was when we traveled to Trinidad and Tobago. On Tobago, a car is a necessity if you want to leave the resort areas by the airport and explore the rest of the island.

But, I digress. The movie “The Polar Express” was very popular a few years ago. My mother-in-law sent the movie to my girls as a present. Now, while it is not my favorite movie, my daughters became entranced with the idea of riding a train to the North Pole to see Santa Claus. Sometimes, what seems kind of cheesy and unbelievable to adults, is pure magic to our children.

My husband and I decided to take our girls on the North Pole Express, an event train experience provided by the Essex Steam Train in Essex, CT. We dressed our girls in their pajamas and headed up to the train. The train is pulled by a steam powered engine. How is that for drawing your mind to a different era?

An elf greeted the travelers in each car. While en route to the North Pole, passengers were treated to a musical rendition of “The Night Before Christmas”. Sleepy elves traveled through the train cars providing hot chocolate and cookies made by Mrs. Claus herself. The magic and excitement grew as the train travels closer and closer to the North Pole. Lighted Christmas figures are placed outside the train car en route to the North Pole. Once at the North Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus climbed aboard the train for the return journey.

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They greeted each child, and gave a special gift, a bell from Santa’s sleigh. Our children’s excitement was so endearing as we made this magical excursion together! On the way home to the train depot the passengers sang Christmas carols together.

Riding the Essex Steam Train North Pole Express has been one of my favorite Christmas experiences with my children. Short of going to the North Pole itself to meet Santa Claus, this is much preferable to seeing Santa at the Mall or other more commercial settings. I love how the gift itself is so simple, and a symbol of the power of a child’s belief. The bells our girls received on this magical Christmas ride have outlasted many of the more expensive Christmas gifts that they have received. Experiences are far more enduring than things. That is one of the reasons our family loves to travel together. We build amazing memories together. Memories last a lifetime.

http://essexsteamtrain.com

Local Adventures and Family Fun

The kinds of activities you participate in as a family in your local area are also the kinds of activities you’ll likely participate in while you are traveling. Aside from just having a lot of fun and bonding together as a family, local adventures are a great way to prep your children for travel. The children learn appropriate behaviors for hiking, museums, tours, or whatever your family likes to do. Parents learn valuable skills like knowing when the children are close to a melt down so they can preemptively strike and diffuse what could be a very stressful situation.

Really, we just like to explore and have fun as a family. Last weekend our local garden was hosting a family photography class. I like photography. My husband likes photography. Our children, even our 2 year old, are always taking whatever camera they see and taking photos with it. I thought this would be a great opportunity for us to expand our skills, so I signed us all up.

A professional photographer gave a brief lecture about the five elements of composition. We then had some time to head out into the garden and practice with our newly acquired information. Each person had some time to sit with the photographer and discuss a few of their favorite pictures. Then, as a class, we each shared one or two pictures and again talked about the elements of composition.

This is how each member of our family reacted to our experience.

My husband, being the very busy man that he is, relished the chance to work on his photography skills, even if he was sharing our DSLR camera with me.

I would have liked to take a few more pictures than I had the opportunity to, but really enjoyed watching my husband and children have a good time. The fact that it was a beautiful, sunny day surrounded by beautiful plants and my beautiful family, I probably would have had a good time even if I hadn’t taken any pictures.

Our six year old relished holding her own point and shoot camera and taking as many pictures as she wanted. She was thoughtful about her compositions, remembering the lecture we had regarding what makes a good photograph.

Our four year old loved taking pictures of her baby brother. She could have cared less about taking pictures of the landscape. At least we will know who to go to for good portrait photography some day.

Our two year old had my old iPod to take pictures with. She felt like such a big girl running around the gardens with her big sisters.

Our little baby just enjoyed being pushed in his stroller in the beautiful weather.

The class was a little long for the four and two year old, but we managed to hold off any meltdowns by discussing our next move of getting lunch, and asking for their input. The class was the perfect length for our six year old. She ended up with some really beautiful photographs. Let me share a few with you.

DSCN1986 DSCN1993 DSCN1924 DSCN1941 DSCN1972Our next big trip, we will provide a point and shoot camera for our children to share. Maybe they can make their own photo book with the pictures they take. Who knows? We’ll see where they want to take this new skill. The most important thing is we had a mini family adventure close to home, and had a really great time.