Disney World’s Pandora in Animal Kingdom – Vacation Day 3

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
Through clever use of vines draping from the Pandora sky-islands, Disney World makes it look like the islands actually float.

At my old age, it’s hard to actually surprise me.

People doing stupid things? (I have a whole top 10 from Disney World coming up), but those things hardly raise an eyebrow. Something amazing invented? Well, of course, it’s the age we live in. A twist in a movie? Ack, I saw that coming in act 1.

But the Disney World’s Pandora area surprised me.

We arrived back at the Animal Kingdom Theme Park at about 4:30, rested, good mood restored and ready for some fun in the evening. Having a Fastpass for Avatar for 5pm, we raced to Pandora.

From the moment we stepped into Pandora, I felt like I’d gone to a different world.

It started with a great mountain surrounded by floating islands. Floating islands! So cool.

Then, as we marched to the ride, I saw they had a show with the Pandora Utility Suit (pic here.) The man inside the towering exoskeleton put on a decent show, though, weirdly, I was the only one who ran to see it. The rest of the family waited patiently with their magic bands for the 5pm Fastpass appointment while I got my nerd on.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
Ah, the details! Look at the plants on the walls, the cracks on the floor, the rust on the barrel, the dirt on the storage case.

Once inside the mountain, a ton of details, big and small, made it seem like were inside an underground complex from a different world.

From the scuffed paint on the floor to the doors that whooshed open to the posters on the walls, the attention to detail was epic.

Yes, I said it, epic.

And when we were led from the waiting area into the ride, we didn’t just jump on the scooter thingee, no, we found ourselves in a decontamination room. A person appeared on the screen and explained what would happen, and why we had to do this whole avatar thing.

They scanned us (but didn’t probe us, thankfully – that’s a whole different and somewhat uncomfortable experience), decontaminated us  (complete with 4D puffs of air), analyzed our DNA, and then we were assigned Avatars. Mine looked like he’d walked into a wall a whole bunch of times, but whatever, it was different from all the other avatars.

It was fantastic.

And it was genius.

See, the time we spent outside looking at the bulbous, alien plants, or me pointing out how even the guard rails were all Pandora-ish (which, spoiler alert, no one really cared about), to the organic-looking drums the boys drummed, to the decontamination room, it all built up the expectation.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
A spooky, hulking plant, but look at all the details around it. They really out-did themselves in the Avatar-themed part of Animal Kingdom

They created a world (and a ride) better than anything else in Disney World. Not entirely unique, as Star Tours still had that feeling, but it’s like they took all the best things they learned and applied it here, in Pandora.

I won’t lie, I became like The-Youngest, giddy and as excited as a boy on his first date.

Then the door leading out of the decontamination room whooshed open and, like good Canadians, we followed directions, put our packs away, sat on our bikes, and strapped in.

But ‘strapped in’ isn’t the right term. As we gripped the handlebars, braces were placed against our backs and sides. It was oddly snuggly.

Like good Canadians, we put on our magical glasses and waited.

Then the bikes began to vibrate. Right on our tummies and backs where the braces had been placed.

We waited for the doors in front of us to open. My heart drummed inside my chest.

What would the actual ride be like?

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom -Vacation Day 3 – Troubles

Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Early in the morning, the Boyz getting ready to ride the Expedition Everest Rollercoaster. Already The-Youngest is having a hard time keeping his eyes open

I had thought that our first day at the Magic Kingdom would be our toughest. We’d be jet-lagged, we hadn’t figured out how things worked, and we had no idea how the weather would affect us.

But I was wrong. It would be the day we spent at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

A day that almost became a disaster.

We actually managed to arrive at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in time for the ‘rope drop’ (opening time) and made our way to our first ride. We had 3 booked for today. Expedition Everest at 9:10. Kilimanjaro Safari at 10:20. Avatar: Flight of Passage at 5:00.

So, first up, the Expedition Everest rollercoaster which had terrified me when I’d gone on it in my Joe 1.0 life. Now, older, a lot wiser, a lot less comfortable with plummeting 10,000 feet, I had zero desire to risk a heart attack, complete paralyzation or listening to myself scream like a little girl. So, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I stayed behind.

The Boyz, however, were super keen to test it out.

They soon found out that this ride was not for the faint of heart. The-Oldest had to shut his eyes as it tore downwards like a rocket plunging to earth, and while The-Youngest said he had fun, he declined to go on it, again. Ever. Like never, again. That Yeti had really terrified him.

Still… First ride: A success, I say, a success!            

However, by 9:30, it was already getting hot and humid, and morale began to plunge like the stock market during a trade-war with China. Yesterday’s crazy day of theme-parking and a night of little sleep had left us all weary.

Hoping to shift the mood, I talked the boys into doing the Kali Rapids (since it would get them wet and cool), while we adults chose a nice, dry bench in the shade.

The rapids weren’t that great, according to The-Youngest, but they did get SOAKED with a capital WET.

But by the time we reached the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, grumpiness was settling in like a spaghetti stain on a good dress shirt.

There’ll be lions, I said. Giraffes. Elephants. Hippies. Unicorns.

But the best I got was a shrug and a look that said I’d rather be sleeping (The-Youngest) or playing the piano (The-Oldest).

The safari wasn’t quite like the San Diego Safari, this was a large zoo, somewhat like the Calgary Zoo, but with only the most popular animals on display, (yes, I’m sure there was a survey done and those poor, ugly warthogs were left out.)

Lots of pictures here!

No matter. I loved seeing the animals, I won’t lie. The giraffes were magnificently elegant. The lions were sleepy but cute. The rhinos were content that no one was trying to murder them for their horns.

Crocodiles lurked menacingly in the water. The boy elephants play-fought each other for fun. And the hippos submerged themselves waiting for a moment when you thought they looked cute and wanted to pet them, then they’d bite your freaking arm off. Those buggers kill more people in Africa than any other animal due to them being complete assholes.

Vids here.

As well, the tour guide was lovely, if very scripted, but the real bonus was that we could do this ride sitting down.

Disney World's Animal Kingdom
Tired and hot, by 11, the boys were done, so it was time to implement the NEW PLAN

Sadly, though, the animals didn’t raise the spirits of the Boyz so we went in search of food. Food usually perks them up. A bit.

I found the Dole Pineapple Whip counter which made my day since it was on my Disney Bucket List. I had mine without rum. Maybe a mistake. It was still very yummy, even if it melted all over my hands and I became that sticky, chubby kid everyone hates.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had a dole float, which was far less messy and (surprisingly) she also had hers without alcohol. The boys, being now thoroughly in a bad mood, refused any food. They grumped at each other, at the weather, and at the food. Everything became either boring or stupid.

Oh oh.

Time to put our brilliant new plan into effect. Time to head home. Time to rest in a nice AC room. Or float in a pool. Then head back to do Avatar, maybe get some food, or maybe even see the River of Light show.

But when we got back, we found something even more fun! The arcade was open and it was free!!! (we had no idea why but weren’t going to look a gift-arcade in the coin-slot), so the Boyz played Guitar Band, raced motorcycles and zapped aliens, forgetting how grumpy they’d been.

While the boyz played, I caught up on my writing at the Pop Century cafeteria, and the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World got to spend some boy-less time alone, meditating and thinking girl thoughts.

For the moment, everyone was happy.

But would it stay that way? Would the rest of our trip to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom be doomed?

Pop Century Resort Disney World Orlando Florida
The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World battle it out on an old-school game. Space Invaders. The day was saved. We were back at the resort, cool, and having goofy, good fun

As always, thanks for reading about our adventures! Please like or follow for updates.

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom – Vacation Day 3

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom
Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom
This is the early morning crowd, all rushing off to get in line for the most popular ride. Due to early entry, by the time this crowd arrived, the wait on Avatar: Flight of Passage was 2 hours! We went for Expedition Everest.

Forecast for Disney World’s Animal Kingdom? Lightning and Thunder possibilities around 2. Chance of sore feet? 100%. Chance of barely bearable humidity? 1000% Chance our new plan would work? I gave it 100%.

We hoped that the whole ‘chance of thunderstorms and lightning’ would not happen. Like yesterday. While that kind of storm was fun when we arrived, the thought of us standing in a line while a billion tons of water fell on us was about as appealing as taking a shower in our clothes. For 90 min. While other people watched.

None of us slept well, so getting up on time was a small, but delightful miracle. I went through my new morning routine of getting up: I banged my leg on the protruding sides of the bed about a hundred times as I gathered supplies for the day, dressed, shaved, gelled my hair so I’d look cool, packed extra waters, and stuffed our rainproof gear into our backpacks.

I had a feeling that if we carried around the rain gear, it wouldn’t rain, like primitives who crossed their fingers for good luck.

As I said in the last post, our plan for Disney World’s Animal Kingdom was a little different than yesterday’s plan for Magic Kingdom. We had Fastpasses for the Expedition Everest rollercoaster at 9:10, the Kilimanjaro Safari for 10:20, and finally the #1 ride in the park, Avatar’s Flight of Passage at 5:00.

Now, at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, there were also walks to go on, gorillas to see or other safari walks to take, but we’d learned from yesterday that by noon, the crowds were bad, and being in the sweltering heat for 90 min drained all the fun from us.

Plus, we knew from looking at the wait times, that the most popular rides like Avatar’s Flight of Passage, The Expedition Everest or The Kilimanjaro Safari could only be done on Fastpass.

So we came up with our new plan.

What if, I mean, seriously, what if we just went back to the hotel around 11, and rested up? The boys could be in the pool, I could catch up on writing or take a nap, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World could rest her feet, have a cleansing shower or maybe hop into the pool with the boys.

Then we could head back in the late afternoon. Yes.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom
The Tree of Life. Seeing it lit up at night was on my Disney Bucket list. This is the early morning crowd continuing to march toward their own goals.

On MY bucket list. 2 things. See the tree of life light up in the evening and taste a dole pineapple ice whip.

On The-Youngest’s? He HAD to ride the rollercoaster, Expedition Everest… And survive that Yeti. He wasn’t terrified of a roller coaster dropping 100’, like I was, no, he was worried the Yeti would give him nightmares.

The-Oldest? he wanted to ride the Expedition Everest without closing his eyes. I don’t know if that meant no closing them for the entire 8 min ride or not closing them when they plummeted downward at 1000 mph.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World just wanted to see the animals, eat some Yeti ribs, and have a more relaxing day. Oh, and not murder us.

So, fingers crossed, we slicked on sunscreen and boarded the bus. Outside, the weather was HOT, the skies blue, but inside, the bus was wonderfully air-conditioned.

We had hopes of another successful day, but fate had some twists for us.

Magic Kingdom – 10 Fails on the First day

Fastpass for disney world

In the Magic Kingdom, we made 10 mistakes. I hope you can learn from us.

orlando florida hot and humid sun at disney world's Magic Kingdom
Knowing it would be hot and humid is COMPLETELY different from experiencing hot and humid. We underestimated the effect
  1. We underestimated the effect heat AND humidity would have on us in the Magic Kingdom . After 8 hours, we were done. Like completely done.
  2. I didn’t get any writing done. I brought my laptop to the Magic Kingdom, but didn’t have any time to get any writing done. This stems from #10.
  3. I didn’t take enough pictures. I mean, I’ve come back from a week’s vacation with over a thousand pictures. And that’s just camping.
  4. The ‘early arrival’ thing didn’t work out as planned. I thought that being at a resort would allow us to be in the park an hour early, but it turns out, that only happens on certain days, like Magic Kingdom opening for Pop Century guests only on Fridays at 8am. Doh!
  5. I didn’t have a hat. What was I thinking? I had enough Kleenex to choke a horse, but no hat. I guess I could have made a hat out of Kleenex…
  6. We used our Fastpasses for early rides. There were no line-ups early in the morning. We’d have been better off using them for rides from 11am-5pm.
  7. We didn’t take advantage of reusing Fastpasses. See, when you’ve done all your Fastpasses for the day, you can rebook a Fastpass. Sure, the super popular rides will be booked, but the fun, goofy ones like the Mad Tea Party ride, CAN be booked, which will still save you an hour in line.
  8. Waiting in line for 2 hours, (sweating, hot, and grumpy), is NOT the way to do Disney World. They don’t have any A/C, fans or cast members waving big palm leaves to keep you cool. We thought they would understand they live in a tropical climate and take steps to ensure people remained cool, and I don’t mean, Hawaiian-shirt-cool, but cool-air cool. We were very wrong.
  9. We didn’t eat in the off times. Eating at 1, you’re eating with a billion other people in the park. Eating lunch at 10:30, you basically have the choice of seats and no one sitting beside you with a parent asking themselves, why did I do this, why did I do this?
  10. We rushed too much and didn’t stop to enjoy it all. We didn’t do badly, like when we took the Peoplemover, or stopped every so often to take a picture, but sore feet, heat exhaustion and jet lag and massive crowds made us want to leave earlier than we should have left.
Fastpass for disney world
Getting a Fastpass for the most popular rides is a MUST. Staying at a Disney Resort allows you to reserve rides 60 days in advance

Honestly, if I had to do it all over, again, I would say spend 2 days in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to do it justice. That way it’s not all one mad rush from one ride to another, fighting your way through massive crowds.

I’d also advise going in the off-season, something we couldn’t do ourselves.

Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom Lessons

Magic Kindom's Cinderella Castle, up close and personal, disney world, orlando, florida
Magic Kindom's Cinderella Castle, up close and personal, disney world, orlando, florida
Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World.

I won’t lie. Despite all the planning and research, there are times when you’re going to do something you’re going to regret. In Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, at around 2:30, we made our worst decision.

Much to our surprise, the weather remained spectacularly nice, if hot and humid. The forecast for thundershowers and lightning had been wrong.

So, we decided to do the Big Thunder Mountain Railway.

Ok, it made sense on paper.

We had a Fastpass for Splash Mountain at 2:45, but we could arrive as late as 3:45 (or 4, since the app told us we could be 15 min late and STILL be fine), it looked like a lot of fun, and the line-up would be inside, out of the sun.

Sure, the wait time was 90 min, but that meant that we’d finish it about 3:30.

Plenty of time to walk 3 min to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, right? Plenty of time.

So we got into the line.

The reality was slightly different. Yes, the line-up was out of the sun, but not quite indoors as the heat filled the open-sided building, making it feel like I was having menopausal hot flashes for a full 90 min. No fans rattled inside. No A/C. It was hot. Humid. We went through all our water.

Like cattle, we shuffled along, and it didn’t matter that Disney World had a ton of neat things to look at in the line. It was hell. People smelled. Likely I smelled.  Very few people, including us, looked all happy and full of love for this experience.

Plus, it took more than 90 min, so as the time ticked past 3:30, and we still had a ways to go, I began to stress. We were in danger of missing Splash Mountain.

But what do we do now?

I mean, we’d waited and suffered 90 min in line, but do we leave to go to our Fastpass ride? Do we make our way back THROUGH the line (the wrong way) to leave?

Or do we hope the line moves fast enough for us to get through in time?

We chose the latter, and as the line slowly snaked forward, I really began to worry. 3:40. 3:45. 3:50! But then, we got on the ride.

It was fast, exciting and fun, but I actually willed it to be faster – We needed to get off and get to our next ride.

Luckily, we did. Despite sore feet and heat exhaustion, we made it to Splash Mountain. With our Fastpass, we raced past the sweaty, hot, angry people waiting 2 hours in line for this ride, and got on.

We’d done it!

Splash Mountain didn’t disappoint, (though The-Youngest didn’t get wet as much as he had wanted to).

But the Big Thunder Mountain Railway had cost us more than a ton of time, about 30lbs of sweat, and all our water – It had sapped our love for Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The magic was gone.

thunder mountain railroad in magic kingdom, disney world, florida
This is what menopause feels like? Hot, sweaty and angry? For 90 min? Fun times at the Thunder Mountain Railroad

As we made our way through the massive crowds back to our resort, we vowed that we’d do better.

Here’s what we learned.

  • Morning was good. Less crowds in the morning meant less time in line-ups.
  • Heat was bad. No, really bad. We’re from the West Coast of Canada so we’re not used to that heat and humidity. It saps your will to live. It saps the fun. We had to find a way to avoid that heat.
  • Going from 8am to about 6pm had totally exhausted us. Sure, the heat and crowds played their part, but even The-Youngest, our energizer bunny, chose to go back to the resort rather than go on other rides in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. That’s gotta tell you something.

So, after lying on our beds in an air-conditioned room, we came up with a new plan for day 3, The Animal Kingdom, a plan so cunning, it couldn’t possibly fail, right?

Right?

Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom Fun

Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Main street in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. We’re about to learn a valuable lesson of how NOT to do Disney

The first part of the day at Magic Kingdom had gone so well, but by 11am the crowds at Disney World had begun to grow.

In a big way.

Wait-times shown on our Disney World App went from 20 min to a minimum of 30min, and 2 hours for the super popular rides.

On the Tomorrowland’s Peoplemover, we had decided to try and do the park in a circle. Tomorrowland to Fantasyland to Adventureland (where we’d get lunch) to Frontierland, then home.

We had tons of rides we could do, but we wanted to avoid all the huge line-ups. Nothing could be worse than standing under the sun in 100% humidity for 2 hours for a ride.

Plus, it was 11am and the park closed at 9pm, so we had 10 hours. 1 each for lunch and supper, which left 8 hours. So 2 hours waiting for each ride meant we could only do 4 rides (which doesn’t include time for picture taking, walking and eating Mickey balls), and that would suck.

So we’d hit up the MUST-DO rides. At 11:30, we had a Fastpass to the famous Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train. At 2:45 we had another Fastpass for Splash Mountain. Fastpasses meant no lines. Plus, we’d learned that we had a window of 1 hour to use the Fastpass. So we didn’t have to rush, we could be there from 2:45 – 3:45.

Lots of breathing room.

Right?

First up, though, was the famous Mad Tea Cup Party, which had only a 20 min line, but after waiting for about 10, the darned thing broke down.

We didn’t wait for it to be fixed, we dodged through the crowds to the Enchanted Grotto (the Little Mermaid clamshell ride). The-Youngest, able to do the most terrifying rollercoasters, couldn’t face princess animatronics, so we waited for The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to do the ride.

The sun beat down on us, the sweaty crowds moving in front of us like human rivers, mostly in two directions, but every so often the river would dam up and slow everyone up. Kids shrieked with excitement or temper tantrums. Rides roared and beeped. The air smelled of suntan lotion and fast food. 

This, my friends, is the reality of Disney World in the summer.

Watching the crowds, baking in the sun with me, I realized two things. 1. Disney World in summer is hell. 2. I needed a hat. Badly! Or I risked sunstroke. Luckily, in Adventureland, while the family rode the Barnstormer, I found a good hat that was cool and not goofy at all, not goofy at all, I say.

The day was saved for me. We had super fun on the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, got lunch at the Boat House but I was so hot, so sweaty, my feet so sore, that I ate only a bowl of clam chowder. That was it. No epic princess cupcakes. No fruit-filled waffles. No cookies the size of my head. The chowder was all I could handle.

I wasn’t the only one. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World needed a rest. That heat and humidity and constant walking took it out of everyone. So, while she and The-Youngest rested in the air-conditioned, but smelly restaurant, The-Oldest and I went off to see the Haunted House.

The Haunted Mansion line up in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World
There is always something to look at in the Disney World lines. In this case, the spooky family from the Haunted Mansion

I don’t often get a chance to have a real chat with the-Oldest, but for the hour we stood in line IN THE SUN, we had a great talk about life, about his desire to create something musical that would last, his desire to be on his own, his fear of never being good enough, and why he loved certain composers. Now, the latter is usually what he talks about, but I treasured the openness that he discussed his desires and fears.

I told him I worried he’d lose his love of music if he pursued success over creativity. Money was needed to live, of course, but what powered his soul was his love of music, of playing the piano, of composing. It would break my heart to see that love die. He had a gift, something he still denied, and I couldn’t wait to see what amazing things he’d do with that gift.

It was a great moment for me. The Haunted House? Meh. Amazing visuals, sure, but I get more scared watching an ‘It’ trailer.

The-Oldest and I returned to the restaurant where, as a family, we made our worst decision.

Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom Start

Joe and the boyz stand at the entrance to Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida
We had arrived at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom! I had to hold onto the backpack of The-Youngest to keep him from running off!

By the time we had arrived at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, everyone had forgotten that it was 6am our time and that we had slept maybe 8 hours in two days. We were here!

It took a bit of time to walk from the buses to the security check. It took a bit of time to line up, then have our bags checked and walk through a metal detector. It took a bit of time to line up, again, to get into the park.

But by 9:15, we were in!

But, as I looked over at The-Youngest, I realized we’d made a terrible error. No, not the sunscreen that made him look as shiny as an oily nickel… no… he didn’t have a hat or a siren or a sparkler on top of his head so we could find him in a crowd!

Good lord, he’d blend in with anything. Grass. Mike Wazowski . Thin air.

It would be hell keeping track of him. Like me, like Dug the Dog from Up, he tended to see something (“Squirrel!”) and runoff. I think between the The-Youngest and me, we’ve given The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World a permanent frown wrinkle on her forehead.

But standing inside the gates to the Magic Kingdom was, well, magical. In the distance, Cinderella’s castle, set against the bright sun and blue sky, looking like something out of faerie tale. (Wait, it IS out of a faerie tale!) Leading to the castle, Main Street, the buildings quaint with a New England theme. And in front of us, the entrance building, a garden full of flowers that make up a Mickey Mouse face, and, at our feet, ‘The Magic Kingdom’ in stones.

And, adding to the wonder, cast members wandering around in full costume or as Disney characters.

No question, Magic Kingdom was a sight, a proper introduction to Disney World.

We embraced the magic.

There were rides at Adventureland and Tomorrowland and Frontierland, and Fantasyland, there was Mainstreet and Liberty square to shop in, and there were donuts and Mickey cookies to eat and… and… and…. so much more!

Did we run off to see the sights? To ride the rides? To give Mickey a hug? No, we rushed to take a picture.

Now you can get a picture pass thingee, but at $250US, we decided to take our own pictures. But set up in all the BEST spots are the Disney photographers. Being Canadian, we didn’t jump into those spots, but shot as best we could, The-Youngest and I bouncing around like pinballs looking for neat shots.

The boys walking into a misting station at Magic Kingdom, Disney World, Orlando, FLorida
I love this picture of the boyz in the mist! Always keep cool in the summer at Disney World, let me tell you!

But we had a 9:15 Fastpass appointment to Space Mountain since I didn’t quite understand how they worked, we raced off to go on the ride, the boys slowing only to run through a water mister, again and again, and again. Space Mountain was the first part of our plan.

Now, being old, neither The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World or I needed to go on the ride, so the boys rode it together, but without us. They had a blast! That ride, in the dark, scary as hell, was the best way to start the adventure. While they rode, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World bought a purple Magic Band (we all had basic ones that allowed us to ride the rides, pay for stuff and look like we belonged.)

When the boyz got back, the line-ups were still light for nearly every ride! So, we raced off to the next ride, the MUST-DO ride, Buzz Lightyear’s Spin.

Now, this is pure, silly fun. While waiting in the line, we looked at all the Buzz paraphernalia. It’s something Disney does so well, making it interesting to be in a line! (though later there’s a blog on what they DON’T DO so well.) Then we boarded our ships and fought off evil aliens by blasting them with, you know, blasters.

The-Youngest, having watched every YouTube video ever made on Disney World, knew what to hit for the most points and he killed us all with 138,000 to the next best, mine, at 68,500. I think The-Oldest got a score of 1,500 due to the fact he spent most of his time shooting his brother. With a laser. In the face.

The only reason The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World didn’t get the high score (and these are her words) “Is because my partner kept hitting the spin button on the spinner just as I was about to shoot.” That partner was, The-Youngest and, yes, that was part of his strategy!

We all had awesome fun!

By the time we left, the lines had begun to form at the best rides. We chose the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. Not the most exciting ride, sure, but it took us through Tomorrowland and gave us time to discuss what to do next.

In hindsight, we could have done the whole ‘Fastpass thing’ better. (There’s a blog coming on that, too!) but there were still rides that had smaller lines, and it was only 10:30. Lots and lots and lots of time to do some amazing things.

But ‘wanting to do’ and ‘being able to do’ are two very different things.

The bad-asses with newly bought sunglasses at Future World in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World.

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Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom

eating mickey faced waffles in disney world, orlando, florida

No rain in the morning, but the forecast for Disney World was more thundershowers by 2. Would we be able to have a great day or would the bad weather kill our riding time???

And was the weather really the thing we should have worried about?

Our plan for the first day at Disney World, we’d decided upon the Magic Kingdom. We had booked Space Mountain for 9:05, Splash Mountain for 2:05 and the oddly, super busy Dwarf Mine for 3:45. We’d try to catch the parade at 2:45 and the fireworks at night. It would be touch and go for those last items. Thunder and Lightning could shut them down.

Dammit.

But we were all up at 7am, local time. That’s 4am our time. 4. AM!

That’s early!

The magical transport that I would call a bus would take 20-25 min to get us there, then maybe another 20 min in lineups so we needed to be on the bus by about 8. Or at least in the lineup.

Amazingly, we were all up, though ‘awake’ didn’t really describe it. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World did heroic feats, getting everyone up, showering, making herself all pretty and stuff, and ready to go by 7:30. We packed raincoats, lots of sunscreen, lots of water. I took my laptop to do some writing on our downtimes (oh how foolish that was!) and phones to keep in touch or take pictures.

Then it was off to grab some food. We had the ‘quick service meal plan’ which allowed us 1 meal, 1 drink and sometimes, but not always, a snack, twice a day. (It was part of a great deal Alyssa helped us find.) Alyssa’s link is here, and meal plan link is here.

eating mickey faced waffles in disney world, orlando, florida
I don’t know why, but Mickey-faced waffles made my day. If anyone is thinking of what to buy me for Christmas, either another trip to Disney World or a Mickey-faced waffle machine.

I ate mickey faced waffles, which were so goooood, while The-Oldest ate about ½ a scrambled egg and had a few bites of bacon. That didn’t bode well. He needs his food or he gets a case of the grumpies as bad as an old man (like me) who just saw a neighbour’s dog poo in his yard.

Worse, The-Youngest complained his Mickey waffles were too doughy and he didn’t like the non-Canadian syrup.  So he didn’t eat them. Good lord. (Spoiler alert, I did!) However, both The-Prettiet-Girl-in-the-World and I had GIANT coffees so we’d be good to go.

No matter that the boys had a bout of picky, thought I, we’re going to the Magic Kingdom, a Disney World theme park where there was all kind of food. Right? We’d have plenty of time, right?

To our credit, we finished by 8 and made our way to the buses.

Sure enough, there was a massive lineup for the buses!

Seems everyone in the hotel, I mean ‘resort,’ had the same idea we had – Get to the parks by rope drop (which is Disneyese ‘for when the damn place opens’).  So, like all the others, we got in line. The sky was clear, the sun overhead as hot as if we were in an oven, and the humidity, being a tropical paradise and all, was about 4000%.

However, what could have been a true nightmare was not. This is Disney World after all. A ‘cast member’ came out and said more buses were coming right away. So we waited and applied sunscreen with the dexterity of Cirque du Soleil acrobats to avoid spraying the other people in line.

This is a vital step in any sunny vacation. Failure to properly apply sunscreen results in my head looking like a tomato and likely a case of heatstroke. Worse, if completely assed-up, we’d end up at the nearest clinic to be treated for third-degree stupid sunburn.

I speak from experience.

The shuttle that gets us to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World
The ride to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Oddly, everyone looks awake. It was 5am our time!

Just as we finished covering ourselves with sunscreen, the bus arrived and we were all packed-in like businessmen on the Tokyo subway.

20 min later, we had arrived at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!

Little did we know that the seeds for how the day would play out had already been planted.

For good and bad.

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Disney World Vacation Day 1 – Arrival

Magical Express bus at Orlando airport, Florida, heading to our resort, Pop century, Disney World
Magical Express bus at Orlando airport, Florida, heading to our resort, Pop century, Disney World
Not a bus! The Magical Express. It’ll take us to our resort, Pop Century, in Disney World, Florida

One of the best, and sometimes worst, part of traveling is that you never really know what’s going to happen.

It could be a car breaking down on a deserted Italian road, which would most definitely fall into the category of bad, or it could be a whole different type of show at Disney World.

The Air Canada flight had movies so we weren’t bored, but the transfer in Toronto took a very long time as we seemed to have to go through about 20 security checks for traveling to the USA. I guess a lot of terrorists think about blowing up Splash Mountain in Disney World.

Everything went smoothly as we arrived at Orlando airport, 6pm local time, at least until the conveyer belt broke down. However, this was not something completely ‘unexpected’ as these things happen. To me. A lot. Not something planned for, but not something terrible.

By now, we were all very excited to get to Disney World and see EVERYTHING and waiting while the belt was fixed was excruciating. But when it worked, we got our bags quickly and raced to the Disney Magical Express.

See, in Disney World, nothing is called anything mundane. A bus is not called a bus.  It is a Magical Express. They don’t hang up the phone with a cheery, good-bye, no, they say “have a magical day.” The hotel is not called a hotel, it’s a RESORT. The workers here aren’t called expendable cogs in a corporate machine, no, they’re called ‘cast members.’

Now, this may seem cheesy, but I have a different opinion. I think it’s ‘branding’ at the highest level. They want this to be a magical experience and have worked hard to make sure it is just that.

As we loaded onto the bus, we got a taste of Florida’s weather – clouds filled the sky, and the air felt oppressively hot and humid. The Magic Express, though, was air-conditioned – a vital thing in these parts of the world.

The bus ride took 40 min or so but even that was ok as they’d set up screens to tell us more about Disney World. For The-Youngest and I, there was nothing new, but for The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, there was a ton of stuff.

To quote The-Oldest, “Wait, they have a fast-pass?”

We arrived at Pop Century as the clouds overhead darkened like they weren’t glad to see us. By now, The-Youngest vibrated with excitement despite (or perhaps because of) the 10-hour flight. I was just glad to have so little go wrong and that a nice bed awaited me. I needed sleep.

Check-in itself was a total “Disney” experience. The staff from behind the counter CAME AND GOT YOU, introducing themselves, asking how they could help you, then TOOK you to the counter. All smiles. Behind them, behind us, dozens of pop culture pictures. Even some from my childhood.

I began to vibrate with excitement like The-Youngest. We were here! Really here.

We grabbed our bags and went outside.

In the distance, we heard thunder. A deep booooom. We knew where there was thunder, there’d be rain, so we raced towards our resort room, then as a few drops began to fall, we raced out of our room to get some food.

And the rains came!

Not Canadian rain, all cute and stuff. Movie-set rain, drops as big as beetles, a solid sound of water like a small waterfall. We stopped as thunder boomed so close it echoed in our chests. Lightning sheeted across the dark sky, again and again, flashes that lit up the entire resort.

We stood and watched in amazement. I’ve been in thunderstorms, sure, but this was so close, the lightning and thunder rolling over us so quickly that we barely had time to take a breath before another flash lit the sky.

Then, foolishly, we thought we could run from shelter to shelter and get to our food.

We got soaked. Not wet. SOAKED. Like we’d jumped in a pool.

We ran to the cafeteria, dripping on the floor, smelling like wet dogs. But The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, being all kinds of amazing, managed to find a Disney cast member who was handing out towels!

All in all, a great start to our adventure. That lightning and thunder show was simply spectacular and something none of us had expected.

See below for the videos.

When a storm comes, it really comes. Who knew Disney World had such shows?

The Great Sacrifice

The Death of Peace and Quiet

Parents will do anything for their children: Lift a car off their child. Fight off a bear. Run into a burning building to save their little ones. But the greatest sacrifice by far, I would argue, is letting one of them have a drum set.

The-Youngest, (perhaps inspired by his musically talented brother or some drum-solo music video), decided that the instrument that spoke to him the most was the drums. The boom of the base drum, the rat-tat-tat of the snare drum, the clang and clash of the cymbals.

When he came to us with his little face set in excited determination, the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I looked at each other like mice about to be fed to a large snake.

We knew what a drum kit would entail. We didn’t have a wood shack out back where he could play. We didn’t have a sound-proof room somewhere in the lower levels of our basement that was once used by a serial killer. We would have to set up in our rec room and that was only one uninsulated floor away from where we lived most of our lives – the kitchen, living room and family room.

Now, we could have said, no. We could have argued that the beautiful sound The-Oldest makes on his piano does not compare to the chaotic cacophony of someone learning to play the drums. We could have told him that drumming makes my eye twitch and will likely cause me to have epileptic fits.

Instead, we said, sure.

Cuz we’d do anything for our kids.

So, we rented a drum kit from Long & McQuade. The-Youngest set it up and began banging away immediately. The whole house shook with the noise. The dog tried to hide upstairs. All the neighbours around us immediately put up for-sale signs.

Had we made a terrible mistake?

Well, that remains to be seen, but we immediately put 3 rules into place. First, no drums before 9am and after 8pm. Second, if he’s to have drums, he’s to learn how to play them, not just bang away like a chimpanzee on heroin and coffee. Lastly, if asked to stop, for any reason at all (headaches, dog throwing up, trying to watch a movie, whatever), he would do it. Immediately and without complaint.

He agreed.

To his credit, he took the second part very seriously, solving the problem of learning by doing what all people do in 2019 – he looked up YouTube videos on how to play.

Now, after a month, I have to say, he’s not that bad. In fact, he’s kinda good. He started out with simple beats or rhythms or whatever you do on drums and practiced his coordination with his feet and hands.  Oh sure, the house still shakes, the dog still hides and most of the houses next to use are empty and noise bylaw officers lurk outside the house 24/7, but it’s not as bad as I feared.

We survived.

With our hearing and sanity intact.

I think our next great challenge will come when he wants to get a car.

Or a girlfriend.

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Tips For a Better Vacation

Mayne Island photograph, BC, 2018

Mayne Island photograph, BC, 2018
Mayne Island Japanese Memorial Garden

Or Photography for Fun

I have a theory. Taking pictures makes vacationing more fun.

Ok, stay with me here for a moment. I’m not saying ‘live behind a camera’ and go around filming every little event (errr, wait, urm, I do that, but that’s not what I’m saying.)

What I am saying is that by taking a camera (in this modern age, most likely your cell phone camera), and walking around with the idea that you’re going to take some amazing pictures, that camera takes you MORE into the moment and forces you to look, (I mean, really LOOK) at the world around you.

Now, I’ve got a few friends who are incredible photographers and if you ever get a chance, check them out (I have links at the bottom of the blog) but I know from talking to them that part of any great trip is keeping an eye open for a great picture.

Lemme give you an example. When The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I were taking a walk on Mayne Island, we decided to do this. The walk could have been done in ½ an hour, but we took a full hour, maybe more, as we took the time to look at an old stone hut, at the way the light speared through the trees, at the way the sun sparkled off the ocean or the kingfishers took flight.

And take a picture.

Mayne Island tree. BC. Photography.
The lumpiest tree I’ve seen in a long while. Mayne Island.

We found a tree that looked like it was giving birth to other trees. We found a spooky-ass spider hiding in his web (that I almost walked into because I was looking at that stone hut.) We found incredible rock formations sculpted by water. We found picturesque driftwood and spent a while punning it (The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World won with her, “Trying to think of a good driftwood pun but I’m stumped,” comment.)

Taking photos slows down time for you. In our rush-rush world, it’s so easy to miss what’s all around us. But by taking the time to look for cool pictures, every little trail you walk on becomes a chance to see something new, or odd or beautiful or terrifying.

So, this is one of the things we’re doing on our relaxing vacation – Taking time to visually smell the roses.

Check out what we’re seeing on Instagram.

Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World (https://www.instagram.com/mecorinne/?hl=en)

Me: https://www.instagram.com/justjoebc/?hl=en

Darren Lee https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=dc%20lee%20photos

Vespa (https://www.facebook.com/thefactionhouse/?eid=ARBVmP7dec7wZ__iqPzmX2rylc7jPiWIt1r8PmWqV6dYsMhiqc-AFeZsLUEBNmq3ZU_HNbtALitdXynO&timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&timeline_context_item_source=1375481955&fref=tag

Allison (and check out her absolutely incredible blog) https://www.instagram.com/alisonarmstrong6558/?hl=en

Wendy https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155670171170777&set=t.629780776&type=3&theater

 

 

 

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Mayne Island Getaway

parenting meme

parenting meme
Ah, parenting, the greatest thing we’ll do in our lives. Yes?

I think one of the things guys/boyfriends/husbands/stepdads/gigolos don’t realize is how much work and stress goes into being a mom.

Now that’s not to say that we don’t have our own challenges, stresses or times when we need a break, but moms take on a lot more than they let on.

So, every so often, it’s good to get away from the kids, the dog, the house. Good to get away from all those things that stack up in a mom’s mind and weigh her down.

But going away together also gives us a chance to reconnect as a couple. You might think, well, couldn’t we do that at home? And the simple answer is, not always. In fact, not often.

See, as amazing an experience as being a parent can be, kids can also become the focus of your lives. You worry about them, you nag them, advise them, encourage them, praise them, tease them, make them eat their vegetables, make them take their vitamins and do their homework, make them go to bed on time, take them to hockey games, classical music concerts, out to mountain bike courses, watch Rick and Morty with them, read to them, laugh with them, try to raise them right, and after they’ve gone to bed, you talk about them.

It’s what parents do.

So this year, time and money being tight, we chose to go to Mayne Island for our anniversary. Our 2nd.

I’d never been to Mayne Island before, despite it being part of the Gulf Islands which are not that far away. We chose Mayne over the other islands because it seemed calmer, like a place a stoned sloth would go to relax. Because relaxing was what this mini-trip would be about.

As anyone who’s read my blog knows, I love to plan things out. You know, see all that there is to see, do all that there is to do. But on a relaxing vacation, I must put this aside and simply book the hotel and ferries, then sit back and see what happens. Play it by ear. Wing it.

mayne island resort view, gulf islands 2018
Mayne Island Resort 2018

So here was my plan. Get off the ferry. Drive to hotel. Return to ferry in 2 days.

Sad, right, but also relaxing. No stress of having to be up at 8 to get a kayak. No tour bus to board at 10. No movie at 7.  We could eat when we wanted, watch the ocean do oceanie things, maybe go for a walk, read, write, hold hands, breathe in the fresh, salt air, talk, listen to the silence and take pictures of natural things like huge, frightening spiders.

In other words, reconnect and give mom a chance to recharge a bit.

Our hotel, the Mayne Island Resort. Quiet. Quaint.

Mayne Island Resort would be the perfect place for this.

 

 

 

And hey, thanks for reading this!  

If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends, your baker, your accountant and your barista. 

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What To Do In Alberta – Summary of the West Ed Mall

West Edmonton Mall 2018 wave pool

West Edmonton Mall 2018 wave pool
West Edmonton Mall. At 3pm, the wave pool was fixed and there was much happiness.

Because school has started and I really need to finish off this trip from July, let me be brief, (which, if you know me, is like asking the Pope to be Muslim for a bit.)

So here it goes. West Edmonton Waterpark – Both boys had fun, and because pretty much everyone in Edmonton had decided not to go to a waterpark that had only 20% of the rides working, there were no lineups. None.

zipline at west edmonton mall, 2018
West Edmonton Mall – the boys gear up for the zipline.

Even better, about ½ of the rides they went on were the ones The-Youngest had tagged as MUST-DOs. As well, they both got to do the zipline with their Edmontonian buddies after The-Youngest reminded me that it would make a good blog.

Then, at 3pm, the wave pool was fixed and they had a blast rolling with the waves and smashing into other kids.

west edmonton mall flowrider 2018
The-Youngest showing off his skills. He was amazingly good at this.

The highlight, though, was not free pop, was not the slides, nor was it even the wave pool. It was the Flowrider. See, you sit on a wave board while water is jetted underneath the board. Looks tricky and both boys took some spectacular falls. I would have broken a hip. And an arm And, likely, my back.

flowrider west edmonton mall, 2018
The Flowrider and The-Oldest. Man, was he good on this ride. Like pro-level good.

On the Flowrider, though, The-Oldest ran into a small challenge that his swim trunks kept falling down. Being me, and sadly flawed, I laughed. A lot. However, it made the attendants very uncomfortable. He was asked to leave or find a way to keep his trunks up.

But despite that, even he said, “Yeah, ok, it didn’t completely suck.”

As well, The-Oldest even got along well with the other kids. Like really well. He and the other oldest boy kinda bonded. Kinda talked. Kinda shared.

The only bad thing, at least for him, was that he was forced to eat. This is something I don’t understand at all. Never has anyone ever had to force me to eat, but then that’s why I’m 600lbs and he looks like he lives in Somalia.

The-Youngest’s only complaint was that they weren’t staying open to midnight. Or later.

Me: I wandered around the mall while the other dad, a superdad by any standards, watched the boys for a bit. Lots of shops. Bought nothing. 

Also got to watch a Timbits hockey game. Didn’t know there was a rink there. The-Youngest shook his head. “Didn’t you do your research, Joe?”

But my best time was watching the boys be goofy, fun-loving goobers.

West Ed Mall has a ship. And shops.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World? Well, she got to spend a whole day with her friend, shopping, talking about pillow fights, and drinking various coffees. Honestly, I have no idea what they talked about, I would find 8 hours of conversation utterly exhausting, but they hadn’t spent time together for a long time so I guess they had catching-up to do.

All-in-all, a great day by any standards, even though it started out looking like a disaster.

We made it home the next day after a very long drive and I would have to say, if you don’t have the time or money to go to Paris, Mexico, or Mars, maybe give a BC-Alberta trip a shot. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

And for a bit of video fun, check out the flowrider.

**********

And hey, thanks for reading this!  

If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends, your baker, your accountant and your barista. 

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What To Do In Alberta – West Edmonton Mall

West Edmonton Mall, Alberta, 2018, joe cummings

west edmonton mall
EDMONTON, CANADA – JULY 7, 2018 : Ice hockey arena in the West Edmonton Mall. It’s the largest shopping mall in North America and the tenth largest in the world.

There was only one thing to do back in July – Visit the West Edmonton Mall.

The-Youngest had planned for it, dreamed about it, and now the day had finally come. He had one goal. Have fun!  Maybe do a few rides. But most likely he’d spend hours and hours in the waterpark doing waterparkie things.

What could go wrong?

We knew where we had to go (West Edmonton Mall wasn’t far from our hotel), we had guides (The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s best friend’s family) and The-Youngest was out of bed at 7am to make sure we arrived on time (and there is no better alarm clock than an over-excited 11 year-old wanting to get going.)

He knew which waterslide he was going on first. He knew which one he was scared to go on, but would go on if we went with him. He knew where the free pop was located. He knew how high the wave pool would go. He knew what to focus on if it was super busy, but he wasn’t too concerned.  “Joe, did you know it’s a holiday in the US, like our Canada day, and that means there won’t be any Americans there so it won’t be busy.”

In short, he had it all worked out.

So you just kinda know it would go to hell.

The previous night, we’d decided to go in two wagon trains. 1st one with all the younger boys (4, aged from 9-13 plus the 2 dads) would arrive at opening. 10am.

The next wagon train, with The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, her friend, and The-Oldest, would arrive later, at an unspecified time. That way all the kids going bat-shit crazy about the rides would be in one car destroying the soul of only two parents.

Man, forget wind energy! If you could harness that boy energy as they sat vibrating with excitement and goofiness, you could power the world.

To quote Joe Pechi, they f*** you at the drive-thru!

Since some of the boys hadn’t eaten yet, the other dad stopped at the drive-thru first.

“I’ll have two pancake breakfasts, one with sausage, please,” he began.

“That’s two sausage McMuffins?” And this is where we should have known the gods of travel had it in for us.

“No. Two pancake breakfasts. One. With. Sausage.”

“Ok, anything else?”

“Two medium cokes.”

“What do you want in your coffees?”

“No, two cokes, medium.”

“Ok, two medium coffees, two medium cokes.”

“No, no coffees, none, just cokes.”

“Ok, that’s four medium cokes.”

“No. Only two cokes. Two.”

“Anything else.” (I wanted to stop him here, but he powered on.)

“One orange juice, two hashbrowns, and one side of sausage.”

“That’s two orange juices, two hashbrowns?”

“Sure, whatever, and one side of sausage.”

(Me: ”Can you order one coffee for me, now? One cream, one sugar? This should be hilarious.”)

“And one coffee,” he added. “One cream, one sugar.”

“Ok.”

We got almost nothing we ordered, and at least one of the children in the car ended up staring at an Egg McMuffin like a dog looks at a bowl of celery.

But that was just the beginning because when we arrived, we were met by staff just outside the pool entrance.

That’s super friendly of them, I thought. How very Albertan. How very nice.

But no, they were there to apologize – the storms had knocked out the filtration system and 80% of the waterslides were unavailable.

Have you ever seen a face drop?

An 11 year-old face?

It’s a horrible thing to see. First, shock freezes the face, then like it’s melting, the smile dies, the lower lip extends, the face slackens in sadness and there’s a big swallow, like he’s swallowing his dreams.

To his credit, he didn’t shed any tears.

Instead, he studied the waterpark map like Caesar surrounded by Gauls.

He took a deep breath, trying to steady himself.

He knew each slide which would be open. He knew which he’d planned to see. He knew the expected wait times at 10am, the average size of the child on the ride and where they came from.

West Edmonton Mall, Alberta, 2018, joe cummings
Waterslides at the West Edmonton Mall. Only 20% were working. Gah!

The staff told us it would only cost $20 today and they were working hard on getting everything up and running. Maybe by 3, they said, but maybe not, cuz they’d been working on it for a whole day now.

We could go and have fun elsewhere or we could stay and have a chance at a good time at 3, or maybe not.

I looked at the-Youngest.

He said. “Hmmmm.” Then made his decision.

**********

And hey, thanks for reading this!  

If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends, your baker, your accountant and your barista. 

If you want to support a starving writer, check out the coffee link at the top right-hand corner of the website.

 

 

What To Do In Alberta – If You’re From There

my dad

calgary alberta 2nd birthday
I should remember the birthday cake, cuz, it’s cake, but I don’t. Me, age 2

Despite our best-laid plans,  we ran out of time to see the places in Calgary where I grew up, or as the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World said, “the places that made Joe, Joe.”

It’s too bad.

Much of my early, happy life was here.

Here I had two parents. Here I had a neighbourhood full of friends. Here I played ice hockey on the icy streets, played soccer in snowy fields, and made snow tunnels so immense that the Vietcong sent me a note saying, damn, boi, that’s some tunneling. (Looking back, maybe we never had summer in Calgary for some reason).

calgary, alberta, home
My first home. I remember the sunporch and the garden.

Of my life in our first house, when I was a small child, I remember sitting in the sun on the porch with our dog, a lab named Bobby. I remember not getting supper one time because I refused to stop watching Lost in Space. I remember digging in the backyard, which I defined as gardening and not, you know, digging up the flowers.

But I recall so little of when I was that young. Most of my other ‘memories’ are no more than extensions of photos taken at that time. Funny how that is.

Of my life in our second house, I have many, many more memories. We lived on a cul-du-sac in LeDuc, and if not every house, then every other house had kids around our age. We built snow forts in the winter, and cardboard forts in the summer. We built used hot wheel car lots and stocked them with our best cars (then forced our parents to pick which one was best and even though I always made the best one, I didn’t always win.)

During those times, we ran wild and had fun, being kids in a time before iphones, youtube and stupid morons like Logan Paul. We had a street full of parents who made sure we never got into any real trouble and sent us home if we got out of hand (and God help us if that happened because, by the time we got home, mom had received a phone call detailing what we’d done!)

Calgary alberta 2018
Everyone getting ready for school. Well, not ‘everyone’ by a long shot, and yes, I played with girls.

I traded and collected hockey stamps in that neighbourhood. I threw stones at the bigger kids in that neighborhood, then spent a year hiding behind telephone poles avoiding getting beaten up by them (strangely, a lot of my childhood stories involve throwing stones at people for some reason I still can’t explain). I watched my first football game in colour at a friend’s house, played tag around the cars, and found the best places to hide for hide-and-seek in that neighbourhood.

We had street BBQs, no crime (at least anything serious), and so many kids to play with, we were never short of company.

Or at least that’s how I remember it.

I remember my dad made a skating rink in the backyard that took too long to freeze and rolled downhill, ultimately creating a very deep, but very narrow skating rink.  I remember walking the dog with my dad beside the yellow grass-way next to the highway. I remember making a lemonade stand with my mom in the summer. I don’t remember selling any, though… odds are, I drank it all myself.

I remember playing with my brother when he was my best friend in the world. I remember watching Bugs Bunny and eating hamburgers and ripple fries while my dad rolled cigarettes. I  remember being woken up one night when one of dad’s friends arrived at our house drunk and playing the bagpipes. I remember the wolf that used to hide in my closet and scare me. I remember my mom coming in and chasing it away with a broom. A whole lot of times.

So for the years that I lived there, did that place help define me?

Without question. I felt loved. I had a street full of friends. I had a small world to play in.

Only much later in life did I realize the magic of that time, of the wonder years of skinned knees and sleepovers, of living in a community, not just a house on a street.

Work dad
Work dad. Suit. Tie. Good accounting glasses.

I understand why we had to move, why my dad made the choice to move.

He hated the long hours at work, hated not being with his wife and sons, and hated that he had not found the balance between money and a quality life.

He made the choice to move so he could read to his sons, throw the ball around with them, or take them to the library. He made the choice to listen to his boys in those terrible school concerts, to coach my soccer team (being English, this was more of a deal than I ever knew), and to be there to cheer us on, wipe away tears or teach us how to be men.

my dad
My dad and me on the first day of baseball.

Did he know he had only a few years to live?

I don’t think so, but I do think he knew that being a good dad, a good husband, a good man was more important than a big paycheck.

And I get that.

He made the best move possible, but I look back on those Calgary years as some of the best in my life.

Who could not? I had nearly everything a kid could want.

 

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