In the interest of doing new and fun things that I’ve never done before I planned a paintball excursion for me and some of my friends. We went to SplatBall. They have an indoor court that allows for play during winter. It’s in the basement of an older building…and has a distressed look.
The night was a lot of fun…though I’m a bit sore today after being hit. I had no idea what to expect. Here are some observations and tips for those of you who might think about going:
Leave most of your valuables at home. There weren’t any lockers so I carried my phone and wallet on me.
Wear lots of layers or padding. (Guys…Protecting the groin area with a cup or something is a great idea.) Paintballs hurt when they hit…especially open skin patches like your neck or hands. I bought some cheap knit gloves and cut off the fingers. I also wore a hoodie sweatshirt so I could easily cover my neck…at least in back. If you wear canvas type material it will absorb the impact.
We bought 2000 paintballs for $75 and split them between three people and they lasted the evening for 3 hours.
The court we played on was split into two halves green and blue. Our games started with 2 teams against the back walls and we moved forward to try and take out the other team. It was intense.
Don’t worry too much about ruining the clothes you’re wearing completely. After the event, I washed my clothes separately and the yellow paint came out pretty easily.
They had some great safety rules that I really appreciated: (1) ALWAYS wear your goggles. Never take them off on the court. This protects your eyes and face. You are not ever supposed to aim for the face. (2) Use your BBD (Barrel Blocking Device) whenever your gun is not on the court. This prevents misfires when people are not protected with goggles or if the trigger lock wasn’t set. (3) If you’re within 20 feet of another player you’re both out. This prevents point-blank shooting.
We had a great time. It was new and different. I felt like I was in a movie. Our goggles looked like we were storm troopers. The experience made me have an appreciation for real combat challenges. Your heart really gets pumping when you’re in the middle of the action.
Conan O’Brien once told a joke about a 94-year-old great-great grandmother that had become the oldest person in the world to earn a Masters degree. He said “She plans to continue her education. Everyone is excited for the 94 year old, except her student loan officer.” Seriously, you are never too old to learn something new…even a new language.
Learning a foreign language will make you feel like a kid again. It’s something new that will expand your horizons. You’ll be able to communicate with people you never could before, understand things you couldn’t, keep your brain active, and you may have a desire to travel to new places to test out your abilities.
In Europe many people speak three languages. Here in the U.S (and Minnesota)…not so much. It’s a shame. Maybe us Minnesotans would speak more languages if, for example, they spoke a different language in Wisconsin. Possibly, we’d like to speak with those people that are so nearby…unless they support the wrong football team. What if they spoke another language in Iowa? Well, most Minnesotans try not to talk with them either. So I guess that’s not a reason to learn another language. Moving on…
An ad for the language learning system called Rosetta Stone starts like this “What’s the fastest way to learn a language? ACT LIKE A BABY.” They identify three characteristics that make language-learning a success for kids that we can emulate as adults. (1) Learning starts in a immersion environment free from translation and explanations of grammar. (2) Learning accelerates through constant feedback. (3) Learning happens through play. They conclude with “A slow smile sneaks across the learner’s face after just a few screens. It’s a smile of recognition, as though the brain suddenly recalls what is was like to learn language as a child, athough it realizes, ‘Aha! I’ve done this before.'”
TIPS FOR LEARNING
Here are a few tips for learning a foreign language.
Don’t be Afraid to Try
My young daughter Arianna told me “We have to crap for Brielle.” “What?” I asked. Again she said, “We have to crap for Brielle.” I tried for clarification “Honey, What word are you saying?” “Crap for Brielle!” Then she applauded!…and I understood. Sometimes we know the words but still don’t communicate clearly. Kids are not afraid to try.
I’ve had my issues with learning French. One time I was the only American at the dinner table with a French family. At the time I knew enough French to get myself in trouble. I had my own rules for French. For example, I found that long English words are often the same in French but thay are pronounced differently. For example, “helicopter” is pronounced “hel-A-kop-tare” in French. Also, words that end in “ive” in English often end in “if” in French. For example, “massive” is “massif” in French. One older gentleman at the table was a baker and he was trying to explain something to me about the bread…that it was natural or something. So I said to him “C’est du pain, sans preservatif.”…thinking I was saying “It’s bread without any preservatives”. The entire table broke into laughter. What I really said in French was “It’s bread without condoms.” True, but not exactly what I had in mind.
Another time I had learned the words “par se que” (because) and “mai” (but) in the same day. After eating a huge dinner, I was offered more food. I thought that if I ate another bite I would explode like the man in Monty Python, so I said “C’est tres bon parse que c’est trop.” or “It’s very good BECAUSE it is too much.” I got them mixed up. Oops.
I could have let these incidents stop me from trying. Kids are much more patient in this regard because they make mistakes all the time. Learning is often a process of making mistakes and then changing what we know. In fact, making the mistake helps you remember to not make it again…or so we hope.
Talk With Kids
Not only is it easier to learn a foreign language like a child learns, but learning a foreign language is easier if you talk WITH children that speak that language natively. So you can put yourself in a situation where kids speak another language and might with you. For most Americans this might occur on a mission trip, or while volunteering in an immersion school. Here’s why it could help:
1. Kids speak slower and with simpler words and phrases.
2. It is not as intimidating to try speaking to kids as it is adults.
3. Kids are not afraid to continue speaking to you even when you don’t have a clue what they are saying.
4. Kids may not understand English and therefore you are forced to speak it for any understanding.
I remember one time I was talking to a kid in French to see how he would respond. He didn’t have a clue what I was saying. After listening and nodding in agreement for a few minutes, he said he needed to go… “I’ll talk to you later!”
Get Some Rest
Learning another language can be tiring. In fact, researchers have found that sleep boosts your ability to learn language. So…if someone ever catches you taking a nap just say “I’m trying to learn a foreign language!” Personally, I’d say adequate sleep boosts your ability to do anything well. You when you need a rest and get frustrated, take one…and pick up where you left off later. Repetition and trying lots of different ways to achieve the end is key.
While traveling alone in the Czech Republic, I had a strong desire to be understood. I would ask in Czech “Mluvíte anglicky?” (“Do you speak English?”) The common answer was “no”. The other person would ask in German (their second language) “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” I’d reply “No” and then ask “Parlez vous Francais?” (as French is my second language). They would laugh at me as if to say “Yeah right, I’m going to speak French.” When I got tired of trying to understand Czech or German menus and saying “Nerozumím” (“I don’t understand”), I’d hit an Italian restaurant. Spaghetti and pizza are recognizable in any language…and it provided me a well deserved rest.
LANGUAGE LEARNING RESOURCES
There are many resources available for learning a language. Try any and all of them for greater success.
Lots of language resources come from England…and so learning from them can be complex. Once I was trying to learn Czech from a CD. The English made no sense. It went like this: “And now for some general queries. You’re in a large hypermarket and you want to know where the trolleys are.” What? I needed to translate the British English into English. “And now for some general questions. You’re in a large grocery store and want to know where the carts are.”
Listen to internet radio in your foreign language on Pandora.
Phrase books can be helpful but I’ve found phrase books sometimes send you in the wrong direction. For example, one French phrase book must have been designed for wealthy travelers. It teaches you things like “Can you have my shirts cleaned and pressed?” I need phrases like “Could you remove the rat from the bathroom?” In another case, the book said I should call the waiter “Garçon!”. That didn’t work for me when I called over the distinguished waiter who was 30 years my elder by calling him literally “Boy!”.
French in Action – The “French in Action” series is one of the best ways I’ve found to learn French language and culture. The characters in this series are very true to French life. It is an immersion course…so all you hear is French (no English) just like if you were in France. By associating movies clips, a story, and pictures to the words you see and hear, it helps you to learn visually so that you are more likely to remember the words and phrases.
There are many different packages including workbooks, textbooks, DVDs (52 episodes), etc. available from Annenberg Media that funded production of the series.
The complete French in Action DVD set is $450 through the Annenberg site, but you may be able to get it used on eBay for cheaper. You can also access the videos via the Annenberg website for free. Warning: You may find complete DVD sets available at highly reduced prices through http://completeseries.tv/french.htm or http://www.dvdhunters.com. DO NOT order from these companies! They are illegal bootleg copies of poor quality and it is impossible to reach their customer service via e-mail, chat, or phone so you are not even guaranteed the product will arrive.
Take a beginning class at a local community/cultural center or college. For example, our local Alliance Française offers classes in French.
I love music. My grandmother was a piano teacher and so I began playing piano when I was 5 years old. Then I played trumpet and along the way picked up drums. My primary instrument is the trumpet and I played for many years with our church. My primary styles I enjoy playing are jazz, dixieland, big band, and funk.
Last week our girls attended vacation Bible school. For five days they had a blast making new friends and learning. I was amazed at how much they learned and so quickly. They performed some of their songs for us and knew almost all the words and the actions that went with each one.
The biggest thing I noticed was their enthusiasm. It’s beyond cute. It moved me so much to see it because they don’t fully know the meaning behind the words they’re singing, but they sing it with all their hearts.
“To laugh much; to win respect of intelligent persons and the affections of children; … to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a little better, ….; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation; … –this is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.” – Vince Lombardi
Visiting DisneyWorld in Florida can be an ultimate Child at Heart experience for anyone. Around every corner is something new and fun that you’ve never done before. It’s a world that was created to appeal to kids but also to the child at heart. If you can’t enjoy something about Disney, then you may have a condition that requires medical attention. (Kim & Jason call this “adultitis”.)
On the other hand, I’ll admit that it is easy to fall out of your great Disney experience and into a meltdown if you’re not careful. Crying and tired kids, long lines, bad weather, and other factors can make Disney a difficult place to be in spite of being the most magical place on earth. Here I’ll share some tips to ensure that will NOT happen to you. If you’re going to Disney, it can be the most wonderful trip ever.
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
When you’re spending a lot of money to make your Disney trip happen, you want to make sure you’re getting your value out of your investment. Spending time to plan your vacation time before you actually get to Disney will help make it will go well. It will also help you to build excitement and anticipation for what is to come. It’s part of the full experience.
We began telling our girls about seeing Cinderella’s castle and meeting all the characters nearly one year in advance. We watched movies so they’d know the characters. In fact, we used the trip as motivation for our youngest to get toilet trained. She had it down “Daddy, When I go potty in the toilet every time I get to go to DisneyWorld!”. I can see a new commercial for Disney.
Here are some steps in planning your Disney vacation:
1. Choose which of the four parks you want to see: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. For each park you choose, plan at least one day to see some of the major attractions. (They’re all great…so you can’t lose.)
2. Choose how many days you’ll be there and the time of year. If you can, choose to go in the off season when you’ll have fewer lines and lower costs.
6. Choose your dining options. If you want Disney dining to be a part of your experience (and it can be very fun), make your ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) for character meals and special meals at specific restaurants you want to eat at for each day. That reservation will be an anchor spot for the day determining which park you’ll need to be at for a specific time. Arrive for your reservation 15-30 minutes early, and you may be able to get in earlier or on time. Arrive late and you may have a more difficult time getting in. We did the Disney Dining plan and it saved us a lot of money and made things easy once we got to understand the system.
7. Buy your tickets and reservations online through The Magic for Less Travel or Disney’s web site. Having a travel agent (no cost) to help and answer questions is invaluable. Depending on your budget, you can choose from value, moderate, or deluxe accommodations.
Tip: When purchasing your Disney tickets, add the water parks as an option after you arrive IF the weather is nice. We ended up spending $200 extra for the water park option that we didn’t get to use because the weather was too cool for swimming.
8. Listen to Disney planning podcasts. This builds excitement, anticipation, and your knowledge about the parks. Here are a couple I found useful and fun:
Check your ADRs, flights, hotels, and car rental at least 1 month before the trip.
Clean your house before you leave. It’s really nice to come home to a clean place.
Set Some Ground Rules:
While you’re at Disney, don’t do anything or eat anything that you could do or eat easily when you’re at home. Make your trip full of new and full experiences.
Even though planning is important, don’t plan it all. Live in the moment. Take time to smell the roses.
Rent a Stroller
If you have any kids under 50 pounds…rent a stroller. We thought our 3 and 5 year olds were pretty active and wouldn’t need them. We were so wrong. Disney is a lot of walking. We rented one from Magic Stroller and it was a great investment of $125 for 1 week. The stroller was delivered to our hotel when we arrived and we just left it there for pickup the day we left. The Disney strollers are expensive and quite utilitarian (not so comfortable for the kids). I also suggest paying $25 more for insurance and piece of mind that if it is stolen, it’s covered. Amazingly, we had no problems leaving our strollers in various places in the parks. Disney has people there to keep them in neat rows and assist you. We just never left anything valuable in them when they were by themselves.
The stroller worked great for reserving a place for us to watch a parade or fireworks, carrying kids and other essentials around, and giving the kids a warm, dry, out of the sun or rain place to rest their feet. The stroller also allowed our youngest to sleep through portions of the trip while we continued enjoying ourselves late into the night.
We rented a van from National Car Rental. It was convenient to drive to the Publix grocery store, the Animal Kingdom, and some dinner events at other resorts. We took Disney transportation (busses or boat) to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. We stayed at the Beach Club resort so we walked to Epcot since it was so close.
If you’re using all Disney transportation you can supplement with Uber or Lyft rides occasionally between resorts or parks for convenience.
Here’s a big tip: You CAN’T see all of Disney in one trip. Admit it. We were there for 7 very full days and we saw a lot…but we could have seen more parades, characters, fireworks, rides, restaurants, etc. We didn’t even get to go to one of the water parks due to weather. The important thing was that we had a ball. Everything we did was fun and we were enjoying the moments together as a family. At minimum I’d suggest spending 1 day in each major park: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.
So promise yourself that your will come back to Disney in the future. It will help you avoid killing yourself from exhaustion when you realize and become so frustrated that you can’t do everything in one trip.
We were surprised at how important meeting the Disney characters was to our trip experience. Watching our children look up with wide eyes upon meeting Minnie and Mickey was incredible. Several times it even became so emotional that little tears of joy appeared. Arianna loves to dance. One evening at Hollywood Studios she had the opportunity to dance with Minnie at the Clubhouse Mickey. She was so star struck holding Minnie’s hand that she forgot to dance just reveling in the moment. Disney has made it much easier to see characters, get great photos, and autographs than when I was a kid.
We took care of a light breakfast each day with some bars or muffins that we got at the grocery store. That allowed us to get going earlier and take advantage of the parks when they were least busy. The Disney Dining plan offered plenty of lunch and dinner food and snacks.
Use Amazon Prime Now to deliver some essential groceries like water, snacks, etc. directly to your resort within 2 hours at a reasonable cost. This can save you some money and is very convenient.
The Disney Dining classifies food as (1) Quick Service – A place where you stand in line and get your food. (2) Table Service – A sit down restaurant (get reservations or ADRs for these). and (3) Snacks – Fruit, popcorn, drink, etc. Nearly anything under $6 at participating restaurants, gift shops, or food stands is considered a snack.
In fact, we ended up having extra snacks on our plan at the end. We stocked up on Minnie’s Cookies which we found in the gift shops. They’re individually wrapped so you can even bring them home. My favorite was chocolate chunk peanut butter. Yum!
Among all our amazing dining experiences, a few stood out…
Cinderella’s Happily Ever After character meal at 1900 Park Fare (Grand Floridian resort, Magic Kingdom) – Here there was an great buffet meal that almost got lost because the entertainment was so fun. There was a processional of Cinderella, Prince Charming, and her evil step sisters. The step sisters were a hoot. They were bossing everyone around and making funny faces when they posed for photos.
Princess Storybook Dining at Akerhus Hall (Norway Pavilion at Epcot) – Here the girls had the chance to meet almost every Disney princess at one meal.
Les Chef de France – We felt like we were really in France. Everyone spoke French, the food was amazing, and the surroundings replicated Paris. It was incroyable.
Ohana at the Polynesian Resort – Great bar-b-que food served family style with entertainment and joy.
Boma at the Animal Kingdom – An amazing buffet with unique foods.
Everyone at Disney addressed our girls as “princess” (especially when their hair was styled and they were wearing costumes). Some people even called them “your highness”. One time we were having lunch at Epcot and Arianna spilled chocolate milk on her shirt. Being tired, she began to melt down. A new friend from a nearby table chimed in…”I saw Sleeping Beauty do the same thing the other day. When a princess spills something, it’s OK. It won’t matter in the long run. You can just wash it later and everything will be OK. In fact, it looks kind of nice.” It saved the day.
It turns out she was a Disney employee in training. We had a great conversation. It was meeting people like that that made our trip so special. We also met a new friend from Africa at the Animal Kingdom lodge. We learned a lot from him about the country he’s from and had fun interacting with someone from the other side of the world. Disney employs people from all over the world. At the France restaurant at Epcot, I had the chance to speak French with several of the wait staff. It made the experience authentic…just as if I was in Paris.
Use the “extra magic hours” if you’re staying on site. This is when you can go into the park early or late if you’re staying on Disney property. It’s a great way to enjoy the rides with less people.
Use Genie+ (formerly FastPass)
Disney has special ways to get through lines faster with Genie+ that allow you to skip the wait on select rides throughout the day. It’s worth it to experience more during your day.
If you can’t get a FastPass for a favorite ride, be at the park gates at least 30 minutes before opening to do “rope drop”. See the opening ceremony and head directly for the most interesting attraction in the farthest reaches of the park.
I used technology effectively to help make the trip better. Since I was on vacation and I work with computers every day, I purposely did not use my laptop. My iPhone provided all the essentials to make the trip work. The best resource I found was “The Unofficial Guide to Disney World” and their mobile Lines web site that tells how long the wait is for each ride as well as park hours, etc. http://m.touringplans.com. It cost $8.95 for a year membership. Sign up at http://www.touringplans.com
Fall back is Disney’s paper maps. They don’t need batteries and are easy to read in the bright sunshine. All my dining plans were made well in advance to get ADRs…and I thought the wait times were not as accurate or easy to read as the Lines mobile site listed above.
I checked the Weather and the time of the Sunrise Sunset using free applications on the iPhone.
Ordering all your meals and looking at your phone all day will take a toll on the battery. Put your battery into low power mode. Order a back up battery and take it with you to carry in a fanny pack or purse.
I also used the iPhone keep up with Mail so I wasn’t overwhelmed when I returned. I had two specific rules for minimizing technology interrupting the fun: (1) If it was an important e-mail, I would file it in a folder for “Action When I Return”. (2) Anything else I would simply delete it. This really helped. I made the decision that I could do without most e-mail for 2 weeks without anything coming crashing down. It’s a good idea to keep backup copies of your travel documents in your e-mail InBox if you need to reference them or if you have a Mobile Me account, you can store copies of your travel documents on your iDisk.
Another technology bonus came via Facebook on the iPhone. I happened to see a friend I hadn’t seen for years post a photo with his kids in front of a ride I had just been to the day before. I didn’t have his contact information with me, but Facebook had his mobile number and so I was able to contact him. Turns out he was staying at the same resort and we were able to meet up and talk for a while.
Here are the attractions that we felt (as a family of two young girls, mom and dad, and sometimes grandma and grandpa) were the must sees for each park. (Updated rides 2/5/22)
Avatar Flight of Passage
Festival of the Lion King
Finding Nemo The Musical
Tree of Life – It’s Tough to Be a Bug
Tower of Terror
Rise of the Resistance
Mickey’s Runaway Railway
Slinky Dog Dash
Beauty and the Beast
Rockn’ roller Coaster
Big Thunder Mountain
Pirates of the Caribbean
It’s a Small World
Living with The Land
Frozen Ever After ride – Norway
Ratatouille – France
The American Adventure – Voices of Liberty, Fife and Drum
Grand Fiesta Tour – Mexico boat ride
O Canada – 360 degree movie
FREE THINGS (no tickets required)
Check out Disney resorts – Try the hammocks at the Polynesian Resort
Shop in Disney Springs
Visit the city of Celebration
And now for some photos and videos to give you a flavor of the fun…
Here it is January 24th. It’s a cold, cold, cold day in Minnesota. Outside it’s around 11 degrees and it’s been cold for a few weeks. In fact, many people have colds. We’re pretty much stuck inside. It’s the time of year when most people in the northern states get the blues and lust for a warmer environment.
With the economy the way it is, many people have chosen to forego the family vacation to a sunny beach paradise. If you’re one of these people and you’ve cut the travel budget temporarily here’s exactly what you need: A complete “staycation kit” for under $100. If you are not aware, a “staycation” is a vacation that is spent at or nearby your home enjoying all that your present environs have to offer.
The point of all this is to get the feeling of being in a tropical paradise without actually going. It can be done. One key is to hit all the senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. When you do, you’ll feel more alive immediately.
The best time to do this is during the afternoon. Put on your swimming suit, flip flops, and sunglasses. You’re going on an adventure right at home. Find the sunniest spot in your house…a window with the sun pouring in. Turn the thermostat up to 75 degrees and it’l be warmer than it is in Florida right now! Place the palm tree next to the TV and insert the Waves DVD. Grab your beach towel and lay it out on the carpet. Now spray the glade in the air for a tropical smell, slather on some sunscreen, and lay out for a while. Let the sound of the ocean and warmth of the sun soothe you. Read a book if you like on your beach.
After a good relaxation, get out the ingredients to make some refreshing tropical drinks.
Pina Colada (virgin, non-alcoholic) 7 oz Pineapple Juice 2 oz Coconut Cream 1 cup crushed ice Add the pineapple juice, coconut cream and crushed ice to a blender; blend at high speed. Pour into glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry, a pineapple wedge, and serve.
Blue Hawaiian (virgin, non-alcoholic) 4 oz. Pineapple Juice 3 oz. Coconut Cream 1 oz. Orange juice concentrate 1 cup crushed ice 6 drops Rum Flavor Concentrate Blue food coloring Blend with crushed ice to desired consistency. Garnish with a pineapple slice and serve. Another option is to make your own Hawaiian Shave Ice. You could even make a picnic lunch to eat on your private island or call “room service” and get a pizza delivered (Domino’s nearby?).
Our kids took this to the next level. They easily went along with the charade without even thinking. It was just another fun game for them…”the Hawaiian beach game”. They even used their imaginations to blow up a inner tube and jump into the water. (The shower is really near by.)
As you stimulate your senses, you’ll feel what it’s like to be in a tropical paradise without all the expense and hassle of traveling…at least for an afternoon. I highly promote travel to a warm destination. It’s definitely the best experience overall but sometimes it isn’t practical financially or in your schedule and the right thing is to stay home. These staycation ideas give you some of the fun. This may not help the economy but it will surely help your spirits.
Take lots of photos and don’t forget the Sunless Tanner when you go back to work to make everyone jealous of your time in the sun.
P.S. My wife and I also used the Waves DVD on a staycation anniversary celebration at a hotel nearby the Mall of America. It was dark outside and the sound of the waves really made us feel like the ocean was right outside our window even though it was in the middle of winter. The whirlpool hot tub helped, too.