What to do when your home has become Fight Club

August 31st, 2006

Hi Chris,

With three boys, I pick my battles. One thing that
has been becoming more troublesome with me is their
arguing. Sometimes the arguing is accompanied with
wrestling and/or hitting on the floor. No matter what
I do, they seem not to stop.

I don’t expect us to be the Cleavers, but I have a
hard time with this sibling squabbles. My husband
said this is typical, especially with boys. I never
fought with my brother and sister, but they were 15
years older than me. I admit, they spoiled me.

So, how do you handle arguing or fighting in your
home? Is it a problem for you also?

Oh this is such a good question.

I am an only child and my visions of what siblings would be like is not grounded at all in reality. I honestly never thought people could fight so much over nothing.

And I will readily admit that it drives me CRAZY. The screaming, the yelling, the grabbing all make me want to tear my hair out, or theirs….either one.

Having said that, my husband assures me that their level of fighting is normal and that I am not raising sociopaths. I see it as an opportunity to help them learn how to use their negotiating skills. How to remain calm when you are angry. And how to seek alternative means of letting off steam other than pummeling your brother.

Because let’s be honest, there are times when we all wish we could just punch someone in face. But that little trigger inside of us that makes us pause and not do it… that is precisely what we need to teach our children to develop.

I have a zero tolerance policy for hitting. I don’t discuss it. I don’t want to hear what led up to it. I do not care. You are never ever to lay your hands on another person in this house, period. If you can not handle the situation with your words, come and get me to handle it. Are my children perfect? Do they always obey this rule? No, of course not. Do they ever always obey any other rule we have? No.

Certain children of mine seem to have a harder time with this lesson this others. I can not tell you how many times I have stood in front of a particular irate child screaming about why he was justified in hitting his brother while I calmly asked, “But did you lay your hands on him at all?” until finally the child says, “Yes I did” and says it without a “but” at the end.

And then it is off to a timeout, after which we will discuss whatever incident led up to hitting and I will deal with that if there is a need. I do not want the other children to think that you can get your way by provoking another person to lash out. If I find that someone was deliberatly provoking their sibling, they too will have a time out or consequence of some sort.

I find that the grey areas of roughhousing are more difficult to deal with. When they all start joking around and rolling on the floor. Generally I will let this go on for a couple of minutes while I supervise before I make them stop. Because even thought they really enjoy this type of playing it is inevitable that someone will get hurt.

The verbal arguing is worse, I think, in some ways than the physical arguing simply because it is more difficult to deal with. You can’t just say, “You are never permitted to talk to your sibling, ever.” Though there are days when this seems like it might be the best rule of all.

We have had to have discussion after discussion about speaking kindly.

1) The Golden Rule: Don’t say anything to anyone that you wouldn’t want them to say to you.
2) Not Funny: It isn’t a joke if the other person isn’t laughing or it hurts their feelings.
3) Say you are sorry: Apologize if someone tells you you hurt their feelings. Do not say no I didn’t. Just because you didn’t intend to hurt someone’s feelings doesn’t mean you didn’t.
4) Chose your words carefully: Do not say anything in anger that you really don’t mean. Words are powerful and you can’t take them back once they are out there.

Most of all, model appropriate behavior. Children are much better imitators than they are listeners.

stick ‘em up, or else I will calmly reason with you

August 30th, 2006

Hi Chris.

I’ve been a big fan of your blog for a while
now. It’s the one blog I read every day. My question
to you is about your sons and toy weapons.

My one son who is 10 is very much into pretend battle
of one sort or another; jedis, knights, combat, spy
missions. Even though I won’t buy him toy guns, he has
toy swords and lightsabers etc.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of any of your
kids with toy weapons. My question is… Are your sons
not interested in battle gear toys just by their own
nature or have you outlawed that kind of play or do
they in fact pretend to be all sorts of knights etc?


Oooooooohh! One of those devisive parenting questions. I love those.

Before I had children I thought that I was going to raise peaceful, loving, calm, kumbaya singing children. Children who would enjoy sitting in a circle and using their words and “putting love in their hands” (Which as an aside, just smack me now. I totally used to say that to my boys when they were little and would act like they were going to hit or throw something in anger. Gag.)

Then I had children, boy children to be exact. Swirling balls of testosterone with limbs. My list of absolute do’s and do not’s has become shorter. My child will never list has become almost non existant, and, at the very least, I have learned to keep it to myself. I have evolved as a parent.

A long winded way of getting to where I am now in my parenting.

The boys from the beginning liked to make guns or swords out of sticks, toys, and even dolls that I had so thoughtfully bought to encourage their loving, nuturing pretend play.

I do allow guns, swords, light sabers… in theory. The reality is that they have very very few since I usually encourage them to purchase something else with whatever money they have. I will not buy them these things. There is something about that type of play that makes me uncomfortable and I have explained that to my children. And they have listen to me and told me why they think I am wrong.

The only guns that they have are the old style “pirate guns” that they all bought with their own money at Disney World. Would I have prefered that they buy something else? Yes, I will admit that.

My children have appealed to me, “But pirates need guns and swords.” or “Policemen need guns to catch bad guys.”

My children are weapon owners.

But I have my own weird rules about this ownership that are difficult to articulate. I don’t allow violent play. But what is violent play? The only way I know how to answer this is to say that I know it when I see it.

They are not allowed to pretend to hurt someone. This means that they can not point their gun at someone’s head. They can not say they are going to kill someone. They are not allowed to threaten each toehr. They are not allowed to make someone else unhappy in their game (this applies for all games).

Mostly there has to be a reason for them to be running around playing with weapons, not just randomly shooting at each other. The weapons have to be an accessory to the make believe game that they are playing. So they frequently will play pirates and set up “camps” on opposite sides of the yard and have an elaborate make believe game that involves trying to capture the other person’s camp. The guns become a minor player in the game, much like a princess needs a tiara I suppose.

I have a friend whose son has every weapon under the sun and no rules or instructions about how he is allowed to play with them. She is my role model of what not to do. I hate going over to their house for play dates because of this. It has gotten to the point that if we go over there, which is a big if these days, I tell my boys in advance that they are not allowed to play with the weapons at all and need to think of another type of game to play with their friend.

I have no problem stepping into the games that my boys are playing and encouraging the play to go in a different direction or stopping the game altogether if I do not like the direction that it is taking. Much like everything else in parenting, it is a give and take, a compromise that is constantly being negotiated bewteen us. One in which I am never entirely comfortable, but encouraged when I see my boys negotiating with their words and “putting love in their hands.”

you must have the patience of a saint

August 25th, 2006

People tell me this all of the time. Trust me I do not. Unless of course saints have none. If that is the case, then why yes! Yes, I do!

For a long time my perceived lack of patience has bothered me, but now I realize that it isn’t so much how I feel, but whether or not I act on those feelings.

That seems to be much of what motherhood is about, pushing your own desires down. It starts when you are up in the middle of the night holding your colicky baby who won’t stop screaming. You really really want to toss him out of the window so you can finally lay down and sleep. But instead you walk around gently bouncing the baby. And it evolves from there.

Patience takes practice. It is a skill that you do, not one you feel.

I will never be one of those warm, cuddly women who clutches her children to her large bosom and never raises her voice or utters a harsh word. My children will never look back on their childhood and place me up on a pedestal and praise me for being a completely selfless mother.

That just isn’t me. And not just because of the bosom. I huff and moan and pout. Sometimes I stamp my feet. And I am not sure that a day has passed that I have not raised my voice.

I’d like to think that my children will put me up on a (albeit short) pedestal because of all my flaws and imperfections. That they will be able to say she always tried her best to make time for us, she always apologized when she was wrong, and she treated us with the same respect she expected. And she always made us laugh.

So next time you see me, or some other mother, who appears to have it all together and have the patience of saint, just remember she is probably just faking it better than you.

Bite Sized Nuggets of Wisdom

August 23rd, 2006

I get emails frequently from people who are just beginning to homeschool and are looking for some advice, some nuggets of wisdom chrystalized for them that they can take away and apply to their own situations. These are some of the things that come up frequently.

1) Where do you put all those desks?

This is not a school and nor do we need to recreate a school like environment in our home. In my house we have no schooroom, no chalk board, no bells that ring to tell us we are done discussing a topic and must move on to the next thing.

2)Shun labels

People in the homeschool community like to label each other. Are you an unschooler? Use a box curriculum? Interest led-learning? Eclectic? Charlotte Mason approach? Trivium approach? Literature based? Classical?

Where do I fit in? That is a good question and it would depend on who you ask. And which of my children you are talking about.

3) Pick whatever curriculum you are going to use wisely and then follow through and use it.
Do NOT switch around because you have heard about the next best thing.

4) Know when to bail when something isn’t working for you.

These two bits of advice might sound contradictory, but they are not.
Way back when we first started homeschooling I bought Saxon Math for my oldest son. We used it very successfully for a school year. But it was a bit dry and repetitive, which is always a criticism of the Saxon Math program. Rather than continuing woth something which was working and I could have tweaked for him (doing every other problem, or every other lesson). I decided to move on to a completely different program. I had heard people raving about Miquon. Oh, cuisenaire rods! How hands-on and fun! Making math come alive in your hands!

Miquon was a disaster for my oldest son. He is not a hands on type of learner. And while I thought the approach was fabulous and how I remember first learning math, and being quite successful at it, using it with him was like beating my head against a brick wall. I tried to get him to push through and love it as much as I do. He never did.

I could call it a wasted school year, math-wise, but really it was a learning experience. I learned that if something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it. And he learned that there are different approaches to the same problem. If one isn’t working, try another.

5) Is he/she reading yet?

I equate this question in the homeschooling world, with “Is he sleeping through the night?” in the parenting world. It is somehow a benchmark and parents everywhere are convinced that their method is the best one. The one you should try immediately. The one that helped their child learn to read novels at the age of four.

There is no prize for learning to read early. It is not an indication of future intelligence and giftedness. I had one child teach himself to read and consume novels at the age of five. I have another who did not arrive at that same place until 8 years old. And now years later, you could not tell who began reading first.

My own tried and true method, if you are twisting my arm, is the Explode the Code workbook series. I tried the 100 Easy lessons… I thought it was weird (uses the distar method) and it didn’t work for us. Sing, Spell, Read, Write… well, I have expressed my utter loathing at board games before. This method would make me want to gauge my eyeballs out.

The only teaching to read advice that I do give freely is teach phonics. Studies have shown that the whole word approach is the least effective way for children to learn to read. (I know your child is different and is a voracious reader and straight A college student having learned to read with the whole word method. But study after study has shown it to be less effective.)

6) What are you going to do when they are in high school?

When people ask me this I usually reply that I am taking it one year at a time. Which is mostly true.

If I don’t know more than my children do at the sixth grade level then I have bigger things to worry about than how I am going to teach them. But what about the higher grades? This question I have a tough time with. First of all, because I think it is my job as a home educator to give my children the tools that they need to be able to teach themselves things.

Secondly, because I can not imagine them wanting to learn something that I could not teach them, with the help of a text book, of course. I have taken Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, Latin, Logic etc But I hesitate to say that because I do not think those things are a prerequisite for teaching your children at home. Do all home educating parents need to have formal college education or have had a prestigious private school education? I don’t think so. I just happen to have those things.

7) What are your goals in educating your child?

I think it is important to examine this before you begin homeshooling and to revisit it periodically. And assess whether or not you are working toward those long term goals, or to see if your long term goals have changed.

I homeschool my children primarily because I think I can do a better, more well rounded job than our local public school. The school is perfectly adequate and is a safe environment. But I feel that eight hours of my child’s day can be put to better use and make them a better and happier person in the long run.

What are my long term goals, educationally speaking? I want to make sure that my children have the tools necessary to educated themselves in whatever they desire. To be well rounded and well spoken. To have a cultural literacy and a sense of history on a global scale. To be able to discuss the classics in literature, to understand basic scientific theories, to be able to do higher math. And above all else, to be able to take all their knowledge and be able to think for themselves.

Are you homeschooling with an eye on your child attending a private high school? Find out what the requirements are and work toward those goals. The same goes for college. You don’t want to arrive at that point and have your child be found lacking something fundamental.

I have mapped out a loose plan of what I think my children should accomplish.

8) How do you know what to teach?

This depends on the requirements in you state. Some states are highly restrictive, some are extremly lax.

This year my oldest son would be entering 6th grade were he in public school. That is the last year of elementary school here. For me it also marks a transition period in his education. A time when I think education should become more rigorous, and when there are things that he needs to learn that I might not be able to make fun. But I hope that I have instilled enough love of learning and respect for me that he will go along willingly realizing that there is a higher goal.

This year we will also be practicing critical thinking skills, formal logic, and beginning to study the Latin and greek word roots of English words, all of which help with tests like the SAT. And also are just good thing to have floating around in your head should you ever have the opportunity to go on Jeopardy.

I think tests and test taking is a complete waste of time and only tells you how well someone takes a test not how much knowledge they have gained on the topic at hand. Unfortunately, test taking is a way of life and a skill which must be taught and honed like all others.

9) People will take your decision to homeschool your own children personally..

Be prepared for this. Practice your nodding and smiling, while you bite your tongue.

They will tell you stories about how wonderful their school is, which it may very well be. To which I usually respond, “How nice for you!”

They will tell you stories of how their firend knows someone who knows someone who homeschooled their child and the child was a social misfit, never mind that the fact the parents may have chosen to homeschool their child because they have a “hidden” disability which makes it appear as though the child is socially maladjusted.

They will quiz your children and even worse try to stump them with trick questions.

They will point out the latest child thast was found abused or murdered who was supposedly being homeschooled as a way of validating their argument that there should be restrictions placed on homeschooling. To which I point out the exponentially higher number of children who are abused and murdered, while attending public schools.

They will say that your children should be tested every year and if they do not keep up they should be forced to attend school. To which I point out that we do these tests in public schools and yet when half the kids fail them we don’t make them go home. No, in fact yet again we blame the parents and throw more of our tax dollars to a system that isn’t working for many children.

Did I just go off on a rant there?

10) You know your children best

This applies to all advice in life, doesn’t it?

in keeping with the potty theme

August 21st, 2006

If you see your one year old and 3 year old sitting, playing with their tiny tea set, complete with water for tea you have two choices:

1) say “Oh, how cute”

And then go on with your day in blissful ignorance while they happily play and entertain themselves, or

2) say, “Where did you get that water?”

And then freak out when you realize they are drinking water from the toilet. Spoil the fun by taking away the entire tea set and sterilizing it in the sink in hot bleachy water. Strip their toilet watery clothing off. Consider washing out their mouths with soapy rags, but then decide against it and so vow not to kiss them on their mouths for the entire day. Wash the floor where they were sitting as well as the trail of water that leads right back to the bathroom where you spy the toilet brush in the toilet bowl like a huge stirrer, because the toilet did not have enough germs on it’s own. Dry heave a few times. All while the children cry and carry on because the water was “a-whish-ious”

If you are faced with this same scenario, chose option 1. That is my advice for today.

So, you want to potty train your toddler

August 17th, 2006

Are you imagining how blissful it would be not to have to drag that diaper bag around with you everywhere you go?

Do you imagine that you will once again be able to carry a tiny little pocketbook that is barley big enough for your driver’s license, credit card and a single tampon? (Which I hate to tell you once you have children you will always need more than one tampon and if a sippy cup and a few snacks can’t fit into it as well, forget about it)

Do you have fantasies of only having to wipe your own butt from now on?

Go read this which I wrote late last winter right after my daughter potty trained. Go on… I’ll wait.

OKay you read it? Are you still wanting to potty train your child?

Before we begin, buy a new toothbrush for your child. This is an important potty training accessory. The battery operated ones are a huge hit here.

Well, then let’s get started.

Step One: You will know when the time is right.

Don’t you hate when people say that? I know I always did. But how will I know, I would ask.
I learned that my children were ready when they, a) would stay dry in their diapers for a long period of time every day, b)they would express a desire to get out of a poppy diaper either through words or actions, like bringing me a clean diaper, c) could pull down their underwear themselves, because frankly what is the point if you have to do all the work, and, most importantly d) understood the system of rewards.

Most of the time when I hear of people having trouble with their children and potty training it is because their child is too young. All of mine, save one, potty trained between 2 years 9 months and 3 years old. Most of the people that I know who have trained their children at 18 months or so, really trained themselves, not the child. ( I know, the exception is you over there in the back. No need to email me and tell me I am wrong.)

And maybe I am lazy, but I just don’t want to commit that sort of time to something like that. I have enough trouble remembering that I need to go to the bathroom some days.

Which brings me to
Step Two: It’s not about you

No, really. It isn’t. Shocking isn’t it?

Neither is it a competeition. There is no place on the Harvard application for age at potty training. And do you know why? Because it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

If your child is the last one in the playgroup to potty train, who cares. Just sit back and laugh while the other mothers scramble to find restrooms everywhere five minutes. But don’t laugh too much, because your time will come to memorize the location of every restroom within a twenty mile radius of your house.

Step Three
: It’s postive reinforcement, not bribery

Children love candy. They also love to have their own way. My job as a parent is to give them the illusion that are having their own way and give them some candy to distract them before they figure it out.

When it comes time for potty training I buy a huge bag of Skittles and pour them all into a big glass jar. So their sugary goodness is there for all to see. I tell the child everytime they go and sit on the potty and try to go, they will get some Skittles (some meaning three, though you may have to enter into your own negotiations for this).

And so for the first day we sit on the potty a LOT. We talk about the Skittles a LOT. And we admire them sitting in their jar high up on the shelf. I also push fluids to wash the skittles down and give the child, well, a LOT of chances to succeed.

There will be a few accidents, but the switch to underwear means that they really can feel when they have peed. Usually half way through the day they have made it to the potty in time once. Do not use pull-ups. They are just more expensive, more inconvenient diapers. Make it a clean break.

Step Four
: Did you hear that tinkling?

They have finally made it to the potty in time. Oh happy day!

Here is the important part. Lavish praise. Clap, cheer, jump up and down. And give them a handful of candy. But keep in mind that it is their success, not yours. These little children can sense your desperation and will behave accordingly, meaning do the opposite of what you want them to do.

Do you understand now why a brand new toothbrush is an important potty training accessory?

After the child has made it to the potty successfully a few times, it is time for:

Step Five
: Pulling out the big guns

Our children want to please us, but they want to please themselves more. And like most of us, they are lazy. Why get up from watching Elmo when you can just pee on the couch. What is the incentive, for them?

After the first couple of days we begin weaning off the candy. It is reserved for only when you actually do something on the potty. And I start to talk about a bigger reward… maybe those princess underwear or Star Wars underwear that are so cool. The cool factor really must be played up. Make them think they really have wanted those all their life and can not possibly go on another day without them.

I usually try to somehow tie the reward to using the potty so it seems somewhat logical, like cool underwear, new jeans with NO snaps in the crotch. But if it is a toy they really want, then I am forced to say something like, “Once you can stay dry all day for 3 days then we can go IN YOUR UNDERWEAR and pick out that toy that is reserved for people who don’t wear diapers.”

Did you know that it is rule that you can not own a Barbie doll of your very own if you wear diapers? Something about Barbie’s delicate olifactory system. Likewise Thomas the Tank Engine’s coaches Annie and Clarabelle once felt the same way.

Step Six
: Long term goals

Some kids are smarter than others, or more greedy, I don’t quite know which it is. Most recently it was my daughter who was afflicted with the what-are-you-going-to-give-me-now-itis. Everyday she wanted to know what her prize was going to be that day if she used the toliet, but she wasn’t yet ready for my tough love.

I solved this by buying some poster board and packs of stickers. I cut the stickers up so that they were individual stickers that she would get to chose from every time she went potty. Then the stickers were stuck on the poster (theoretically), or on herself, or the walls, where ever. Once all the stickers in the envelope were gone we bought the previously decided upon reward. I made sure that there were enough stickers in the envelope to last for increasing periods of time. After awhile their interest will begin to wan.

Once this is going well, it is time for:

Step Seven: Tough love.

Also known as: No one buys Mommy things when she uses the potty.

And thus concludes my potty training novella. Good luck and remember it will only be a few more years before they will wipe themselves.

Disney World: wrapping it up

August 16th, 2006

Make a list, check it twice:

The biggest piece of advice I have is to research everything and plan ahead. Know what days you plan on going to which parks and write it down, because even though when you are sitting there in your house at your computer you think you will never forget, you will.

I love lists. I love research. I love researching things and making color coded charts and lists.

So, I wrote out all the rides we wanted to go on in the order of popularity so we could tackle them first thing in the morning before any potential lines would form. It turned out not to be neccessary, but I felt prepared in a way that I would not have if I just showed up at the park with zero knowledge.

Be aware that you may need to reassess and alter your game plan due to the weather, your children, or just plain changing your mind.

Having a game plan=good
Having an itinerary carved in stone=not good.

On our third day we went to Animal Kingdom. We had planned to leave the park at 5:00pm when it closed and go to another park. But a meltdown by one of the children ::cough 3.5 yr old cough:: convinced us that going back to our condo for dinner and a swim would be much more enjoyable. I certainly don’t want my children to reminisce abut their trip to Disney World and say, “Hey remember when Mom got so mad that her eyeballs popped out of her head rolled away and then Dad clutched his chest and fell to the ground?”

Some of the things that turned out to be the most fun were the unexpected things along the way that we hadn’t planned. Like the day my daughter played in a fountain for hours at the Animal Kingdom and several other mother’s with toddlers let their kids join in. There was something about all those naked little toddler butts running around and having fun with water amid the extreme commercialism that is Disney, that warmed my heart.

Matching clothes, yes I am guilty I figured if one of them got lost I would be able to remember what the lost child was wearing. I didn’t sew them myself so we didn’t look like the Duggars going out en masse. The clothing wasn’t identical, just matching.

What if I Lose them, and want them back:

BRING YOUR CELL PHONES. Yes, I am shouting. Put cards in their fanny packs with your names and cell phone numbers. It’s a big place. This will help not drag out the trauma any longer.

I read about people who made phone number necklaces for their children to wear who were not old enough to memorize their phone numbers or pull out a card. I thought it was a great idea for the 3-5 year old set, and if they helped make the necklaces perhaps they would also have the phone number memorized.

Also, make sure to point out to your children what the Disney employees look like. If they get lost they should immediately go to one of them. They are easy to spot. If they can not spot a Disney employee the next best thing is a Mommy with little kids. I had a child come up to me while were there and tell me she couldn’t find her mom and dad. I brought her over to a Disney employee.

Height restrictions:

Keep these in mind when planning your trip. There are many rides which require a 40″ minimum height and the attendents are strict about it, as they should be. But if your child is 39.75″ tall you might want to make sure they are wearing sneakers which will elevate their height over the 40″ mark.

Also, practice with them how they should stand when being measured. Feet together, head straight, etc. My son was exactly 40″ and was denied entry to quite a few rides because he wouldn’t stand up straight to get measured. The one ride he did stand up tall to be measured and insisted he was going on… Tower of Terror. He is still talking about that.

But my 12 year old doesn’t want to go to Storytime with Belle:

Depending on the number of children you are travelling with and their heights, you might want to split up for the afternoon. We did this at the Magic Kingdom.with me taking the smaller children on rides like DUmbo, Peter Pan, etc that the older children wre not interested in. And Rob taking the bigger kids on rides that had height restrictions like Spcae Mountain and Alien Encounter.

Ziploc bags
you can never have enough of them. They are useful in so many situations. Especially to keep things dry in the rain or on the water rides, like your wallet.

Put them on a necklace, yes like old people use, so you won’t lose them on rides or break them in your bag if you take them off. This goes double for your children.

Small children hate standing or walking, unless they are trying to get away from you:

Bring your sling. You will not be able to bring the stroller in lines with you. If you are taking advantage of the Baby swap you will be holding your child for a long period of time. Your arms will get tired and your neck cramp up if you try to hold them in your arms the entire time. I held my daughter in the sling while waiting in line for the Dumbo ride, for example. If I were going now with an almost two year old i would still bring it to contain him and prevent him from running away.

Want to make sure that you go when there is the most amount of people because you love being pressed up against the unwashed masses?

Check this website for the historical attendence records. Meed my advice and go when the park will have the least amount of people.

Fantasmic Dinner Package:

Fantasmic is the popular water fireworks show that happens nightly at MGM studios. By purchasing a dinner package you by pass the long wait time, which is upwards of an hour during peak season. You will get a special pass to go in the “secret” entrance. Even though the meal was a bit pricey for budget minded people, we thought it was worth not having to stand in line and also ensured the children were well fed and not cranky before the showtime.

You will still have to parent

As much as it stinks your children will not be perfect little angels. We had to get out of one line when my children began having a fist fighting meltdown. Other people in line thought I was horrible and had no problem commenting out loud about my horribleness. And I modelled excellent self restraint by not punching them, the line standers not my children. We all calmed down, had an ice cream, discussed appropriate behavior, and tried again. This time successfully.

Purchasing tickets:

This is the website from which I purchsed our tickets. By buying them from a recognized legitimate broker you will typically save about 5% over buying them from Disney directly.

It is important to notice that the price per day drops significantly the more days you buy. Can’t decide if you want to go 4, 5 or 6 days? Well a 4 day Adult Base ticket (anyone age 10 and over) is $210, a 5 day is $212, and a 6 day is $214. As you can see the price difference is negligible. If you think you might want to spend an extra few days, buy them in advance.

If you end up after 5 days thinking you are spent and don’t want to go to Disney for a 6th day you are out only $2, or if you decide to only spend a half day there one day, you won’t feel the pull to keep on treking in spite of small people unhappiness if you think in terms of the 5th and 6th day only costing you $2 a day.

Decide if the Park Hopper pass is right for you. The Park Hopper Pass is just what the name suggests. You can hop from one park to another in any given day. It costs a significant amount of money more to do this. We bought this option when we went and never used it. I would not do it again. But for your family and the needs of your family it might be worth it. Think about your game plan before you purchse.

Don’t leave home without them:

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World
: by far the best guide I have seen.

Walt Disney World Trivia Book
: this one is excellent for kids who can read. My children loved knowing all sorts of fun facts about Disney World.

The Official Disney Guide: lots of pictures and descriptions which was great for the chidlren to browse through and get a feel for what the rides were going to be like

Websites of interest:

All Ears
:an unoffical guide to Disney World that covers every topic you could possibly imagine

message board: where you will find the answer to any question you could possibly have. And if you can’t ask it yourself.

Official Disney website what else could you want to know?

Disney World: eleven random hints and tips

August 14th, 2006

Before I begin I feel compelled to mention that you go to Disney World to have fun. Do not let yourself turn into one of those yelling stressed out parents that you see there. Just don’t do it. You don’t want to be the mother that other park attendees remember when they go home as the quintessential stressed out parent.

These are in no particular order other than how I thought them up:

I. Press pennies:

This is a cheap and fun souviener. Look on the park maps to find the penny press machines. My kids enjoyed hunting for these, like treasure hunters! Disney also sells little penny press booklets to keep your pennies in. While I personally didn’t buy these on our trip, I think it would have been a good idea as I still find these press pennies laying aroung the children’s roms. A booklet for them would have kept them all together better and would have been easier to store neatly once we got home.

II. Passports at Epcot:

Epcot prides itself on being educational, though I would call it edutainment. We really enjoyed Epcot, but we are a family of nerds. The passports were a great way for the children to have something to do after we visited the 11 different countries. They also have people in each of the pavillions who will stamp your child’s passport.

III. It will rain:

Yes it will. It will rain at least once while you are there. Suddenly the sky will open up and people everywhere will go scrambling for shelter. And you will pay for the overpriced hefty bags, yes, you will.

Go to wal-mart and spend $2.00 for cheapy rain ponchos for you and your children. Also bring a few large hefty lawn and leaf bags. Keep them folded and in your diaper bag. You will want these to cover your stroller, diaper bag, and any other personal items. Wear sandals, like tevas, that can get wet. If you decide to wear sneakers, like I did because I was pregnant and needed good support shoes, bring extra socks or you too will be forced to buy a $10 pair of socks with mickey mouse embroidered on them. Because NOTHING in Disney world is character free or inexpensive.

If being wet will bother your young children, bring a spare set of clothes. There are numerous opportunities to play in fountains. Even just a onesie or sundress which don’t take up alot of room. My children who older, say age 5 and up, just have to suck it up and deal with being a little wet. I know. I am mean.

IV. Character meals:

Kids love these and you may find yourself balancing between thriftiness and making memories. Breakfast is the least expensive and the one that children in general are most likely to actually eat. By dinner time the crankiness has set in and they may not be as enthusiastic about meeting the characters.

Do your kids care what characters they see at the meal? Mine didn’t really care. We ate at the Cape May Cafe, which has a fabulous breakfast buffet and the characters are dressed in 1920 style beach attire. It was not packed with people, the food was great, the character to guest ratio was high, and all the characters came over to our table.

The added benefit was that we were able to park our car at the resort for the day and walk in from there instead of going to the main parking lot. If you are goint to go to a character breakfast make sure it is located near the park you are going to be attending that day. Make your breakfast reservation for before the park opens for the day. The you will be finishing up your breakfast as the park opens and be ready to start your day.

V. Seeing your favorite characters:

One of the things that surprised me was how few characters are actually just wandering around the park. If you want to make sure to see a particular character check the parks daily entertainment schedule, which you will grab on your way into the park. There will be character showtimes listed and character wranglers who will make you form a line.

Be prepared for obnoxious parents of other children who will push, shove, and think their child is entitled to spend a half hour with the character, while your child stands there. But that is what the wrangler is for and most of the time the issues I saw were resolved quickly and peacefully.

VI. People, they suck:

I know this really isn’t a tip per se, but there is a HUGE segment of the population who does not think twice about doing things like standing in front of your child at a parade, being rude to your child and you, or just being loud and obnoxious. There is nothing that annoys me more than people who complain constantly. What did you think, people, that Mickey Mouse himself was going to hold your hand and escort you through the park?

I can think of so many examples of adults who were poorly behaved and how shocked I was at their behavior, and then in turn shocked that I was shocked. But one in particular stands out.

We were waiting in line for ice cream cones and there was a group of 4 adults with no children in front of us. The girl at the counter was having trouble with the ice cream machine and the icecream was too soft and drippy. She handed one of the men his ice cream cone and the icecream began sliding sideways. He went nuts. Threw the ice cream and cone down on the ground while shouting, “Didn’t you go to school to learn how to do this?” as well as several other expletive laden things.

Ice cream cone serving school? Seriously? Get a grip. Also, keep your crazy self away from me.

VII.Take a break in the afternoon:

I heard this one so many times, but we never really did. We would find a quiet place in the park to sit. Maybe watch a show in the street or listen to some music and enjoy a Mickey Mouse icecream cone. If you are feeling like you want to sit and rest, check your entertainment schedule and see what is going on that might be relaxing and enjoyable. But we never left the park and came back later. It seemed like a big waste of time.

VIII. Use the Fastpass Wisely:

(Not to be confused with the Photopass)

Here’s how it works. You insert your Park entrance ticket into a Fastpass machine at the attraction that has a line. You then receive a designated ride time window to return to the ride., When your time rolls around, come back to the Fastpass entrance and bypass the line completely.

A word of caution about the fastpass. You can only have one on your ticket at a time. Be sure to check the return time on the machine before you put your card in. Otherwise you may end up with a return time 6 hours later in the day and not be able to use the Fastpass option for other attractions for the entire day. There is no way to undo your Fastpass.

Because we travelled off season we only used them once, to go on the Peter Pan ride in the Magic Kingdom. It was well worth it.

IX. Baby swap:

Probably the best thing EVER for families travelling with with a mixed age group where some of the children are too young for a given ride. Really this should be named parent swap. In a nutshell what happens is that you wait on line all together. When you get to the front of the line one parent goes on the ride with children who are big enough while the other parents stands off to the side with the too small children. Once the first parent child team is done on the ride, the parent gets off and the other parent gets on. The children get to ride it twice.

X. Use Priority Seating for restaurant meals.

It is not a reservation There is no commitment on your part. What it means is that when you arrive at the restaurant you will get to jump the line and be seated next. So call ahead and do this if you think there is even a remote possibility that you want to eat somewhere at a given time. If it works out, great. if it doesn’t, well that is fine too.

XI. Photo Pass:

How does the Photo Pass work?

There are official Disney photogfraphers all over the park. For every opportunity that there is a photographer take advantage of his/her services. The first time you have a photograph taken you will recieve a card from the photographer. From that point on you will hand over your card to every photographer who will scan it. At the end of your trip you go to the desiganted photo pick up locations where you can view your photographs.

This can be a good deal for some people.

The photos are expensive (VERY expensive) when purchased individually, but there is also a Photo Pass CD option, an unlimited amount of photographs on the CD for $99. And while that does sound like a lot of money, you should keep in mind that you can accumulate 100 photos in a weeks time. And if you are travelling with other relatives or grandparents you can split the price between all of you and have all of you in the photogrpahs if that is what you desire. The you can go home and print them out in the thousands for all your friends and relatives to admire. Or toss the CD in your drawer to collect dust.

Tomorrow I will be concluding the series with some final helpful links, tips, and small ideas to make sure the trip is fun and memorable (in a good way) for all of you.

Disney World: Stopping the Gimmees

August 8th, 2006

About 6 weeks before our trip to Disney World I presented each of my children with a checkbook register. They had $40 deposited in their “account” as spending money for the trip. It was theirs to spend as they wished, on whatever their little heart desired, no strings attached, other than once it was gone… it was gone. They had 6 weeks to earn extra money doing various chores around the house. Some of them chose to do this more than others.

I was hoping that giving them control over the money would also teach them some accountability and sharpen their math skills.

Everytime they would buy something they would need to do math to figure out how much money they had spent and how much they had left to spend.

It is important to note, that at Disney World some things are only available in certain locations. So you can not buy the safari hat anywhere but Animal kingdom. And the ship in the bottle anywhere but at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. So if the kids have their heart set on something, they should buy it when they see it. Unless you feel like spending a day going back to all the places where they saw something they now cannot live without, and in which case you are a way better mother than I am.

Before we left for the trip I bought my children Disney “gifts” which I saved them until we were at Disney World. Then every morning when they woke up there was a present waiting for them next to their breakfast plates. Like a Disney Hannukah. Sing along: Disney Disney Disney…I got it on ebay.

The Disney store is a good place to buy some presents if you can get the sales or clearanced items. I got my children t-shirts, Mickey Mouse beanie babies, and something else that was obviously such a big hit it has completely slipped my mind.

Children are much less likely to beg for the mickey mouse beanie baby if they already have one. And I was able to buy them for much less money than I would have spent if I waited to buy them things at Disney World. They don’t care if it cost $5 and not $25.

All my kids had fanny packs that they wore. In them they carried some snacks, their money for the penny press machines, their checkbook registers, a business card with their name and our cell phone numbers (just in case someone took them, realized how annoying they were, and decided to give them back), and their mini fans. Never have children had more fun with mini fans. I bought them so the kids couold keep cool waiting in line, but they found many more uses for them. Such as lawn maintenance:

lawn maintenance