Monday, February 18, 2013

A Paid Trip To Orlando? I Think So!!!

17 hours of layover time, really, is that how anyone would want to spend his time?  Really, think about it.  If you lived in the middle of nowhere in Alaska and got to go to a teaching conference in Orlando, Florida, all expenses paid, wouldn’t you want to go?  Yes, I would too; however, spending the endless hours in the airport was not what I signed on for. 
After the many hours of waiting for several planes:  Shishmaref to Nome, Nome to Unalkleet, Unalkleet to Anchorage, Anchorage to Seattle, and Seattle to Orlando, I was certainly ready to be done traveling.  I arrived at the Orlando airport and was thrilled to be done with plane rides.  Even though I was done with air transportation, that doesn’t mean I had even begun the road transportation.  I had the pleasure of taking a Disney coach bus to the hotel I was staying at. When I saw the bus arrive, the excitement that came over me took away all the annoyances that had tucked themselves in the bags under my eyes, during the last hours of travel.  I got on the bus and to my surprise, as well as the rest of the AK crew, we were chilly!! We had all taken off our sweaters because it was so nice out but the AC (not the grocery store, haha) was more than our bodies could handle. 
I spent the next 45 minutes enjoying the view of Orlando and watching the infomercials about Disney World.  Once I got to the hotel, I dropped off my stuff in the room and went to dinner.  My room?  What was it like?  It was my own!  It had two huge beds, a bathroom (with a washcloth in the sink which was creepy) and a door that opened up to what should have been a patio, but was really a drop off.   Oh my gosh, and below the T.V. was this mosaic light that glowed, similarly someone would picture a sunrise after living in total darkness for far too long. Anyway, after admiring my room I went to dinner and was a little confused about the ordering process.  When you got to the restaurant you were to look at the menu on large screens then type in your own order in the computer system.  I felt like I was working at Applebee’s again.  Anyway, after placing my order I could choose from the a-la-carte items.   For those of you who know me, where did I head?  For those of you who don’t know me, I’ll give you a hint.  Where I live I don’t get my desired amount of fruits or vegetables.  Ready to guess?  Nope, you’re wrong.  I went straight for the desserts.  Maybe I should have mentioned I’m a fan of those too.  Oh well.  I found a chocolate cake with chocolate fondant within, with chocolate crumbles on top and gummy worms sticking out.  Yes, it was the perfect appetizer to start off my meal.  The burger I had was a burnt to a crisp (I think this vaguely resembles my first burger from the Snack Shack.)  Anyway, I was hungry enough to eat the charcoal burger, so I did.  When dinner was over, I went back to my room and got what ended up being the most amount of sleep in one night that I would get for the entire trip, a solid 6.5 hours. 
I don’t wake up easily.  On any given morning, one on which I have to be up by a certain time, I have at least six alarms set.  I followed this same routine in FL because I knew that a different place didn’t make for a different, non-existent, internal clock.  So, I slept through all of the alarms and managed to get up 15 minutes before I was supposed to be ready to head do the convention center.  I had planned on straightening my hair, but because of my extra long slumber, I didn’t have time.  I decided to do my hair in the cute curl pony.  For those of you not aware of my insane hair fashion sense, that’s where I straighten just the top layer of my hair so that it’s not ‘fuzzy’ and the part in the ponytail is curly.  Well, I had enough time for that but didn’t plan on having my straighter die.  Yes, my first day at the convention was going swimmingly.  I quickly got my hair wet and made it curly.  Once I was set to go, I joined the other three of my AK crew and we made our way to registration. 
What do you picture when you think of a teachers convention?  Well, forget whatever you’re thinking, unless of course you were picturing balloons!  There were balloons everywhere, it was a little strange, I didn’t think I was going to see decorations like I did at prom.  The ‘best teacher’ confetti was a little much.  The breakfast tables were not!  There were fruit, bagels, pastries, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and juices of all kinds.  You don’t think it still would have been a teacher’s convention without the balloons and confetti?  Okay, let’s take the décor out of the scenario.  We’re left with the tasty breakfast, a few folders, and other conference stands; does that sound more reasonable?  I agree, it does.  But really, the breakfast was amazing.  I had a bagel, some pineapple, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apple juice.
After inhaling my breakfast I sat through an amazing keynote speaker.  His name was Byron Pitts and he spoke of how he was illiterate until age 12, how he was once asked, where to go when the world hurts you, and how no matter what someone tells you, you can always prove them wrong with dedication.  His words were inspiring and made me think about what I have gone though in my lifetime as well as the situations some of my students will be dealing with.  I can only hope that I can be as good of a person as Byron. 
After the keynote, I had the unfortunate experience of eating Mexican food.  I don’t like spicy foods and I wasn’t a fan of it any more in FL.  I ate what my mouth could tolerate before the forest fire broke out.  During the time I was attempting to put out the fire, I was busy engaging in conversations about teaching in such a remote part of Alaska.  Many people wanted to hear what it was like, I seriously considered giving them the URL to this blog, only because I got kind of sick of telling the story so many times. Once time was getting close to the end of lunch, I headed to the room my first session was in.
My first session was “On Track for Curiosity Corner.”  Curiosity Corner is the curriculum I use and I chose the session, as well as the rest of them, to make sure I was ‘on track’ and to get ideas for things to enhance what I was already doing.  Had I learned more than what I did, which was that I should have chosen a different session, perhaps I would have been able to enhance my classroom a bit.  I felt as though what I had just sat through would have been more beneficial had I heard it before I had to teach it.  By the end of the session, I was ready to get out of that room.  I headed to my next room to hear the styling of something else that had to do with my wonderful pre-schoolers. 
Over course of the next two days I had five more sessions filled with learning about things I felt as though I already knew.  Since I have heard stories about in-services I am aware of how boring they can be.  Did I have fun during ‘off hours?’ is probably what you’re thinking.  I’ll let you take a guess. 
Monday night, Amy, Sammy, Kurt and I headed to Downtown Disney.  I hadn’t been to Disney World in a long time and didn’t remember much of Downtown.  Although, I’m not sure if I had ever been there so that could have been why too.  Anyway, we walked around and saw the variety of street performers, restaurants and other entertainment.  We ended up eating dinner at Planet Hollywood.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I hadn’t, it’s like The Hard Rock Café.  I hope you’ve heard of that place.  Planet Hollywood however is based around movies, not music.  We really liked our server.  He made jokes and played off of what we said not just what he would have probably said on any given night.  After much of a debate with the menu I finally decided what to eat.  Now, before I tell you, please remember where I live, how much eating at the Snack Shack costs and that I was getting per-diem up to $45.  You got that in your head?  Good.  I got a cookies and cream shake to drink, zucchini chips for an appetizer and a bbq, bacon, cheeseburger for my entrée.  Yes, my stomach hurt, in fact, it hurt after my first bite of my burger.  As much as everyone was saying that the French fries were there favorite, I couldn’t eat them.  I felt like I was going to bust.  No, wait, I felt like Violet, the girl in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” you know, the one who chews gum and blows up like a blueberry.  Actually I don’t think it was a blueberry but that is beside the point.  By the time we were done eating, our server still hadn’t come to give us our checks. We had however heard him talking to a nearby table and he was using the same jokes he used at our table.  Really?  When I was a server one of the things that was drilled into my head was to have more than one opening line so your nearby tables don’t think you’re just giving them the same old line.  Maybe this guy deserved what he had coming for him the rest of the evening.  Eventually, we were able to ask for the check, it only took about five minutes to get it.  We all had our cards ready to give to him, of course.  He took our cards and had them for a good, ehhhh, ten minutes?  So, we signed the slips, left our tips (I kind of wish I had left a smarty pants ‘tip’ on the receipt) and went on our ways.
We knew we needed to walk off our dinner so we went in search of jeans.  I know what you’re thinking.  No, I really do!  Jeans, at Disney World?  Yes, I needed new jeans because mine had a hole in the most pleasant of places.  For a couple hours we walked around, took lots of tourist pictures, saw many pond side performances, and found the largest Disney Store in existence.  This store was incredible!  Had I been in as in love with Disney as I was when I was when I was in ‘that phase,’ which lasted far too long, I would have died standing in the doorway.  Although the store was too crowded and certainty didn’t smell of Tinkerbell dust, I roamed around and eventually found the perfect item.  I had been extremely cold on the plane rides so when I saw the Minnie Mouse Snuggie I decided it would be perfect for future plane rides.  So, yes, that’s what I ended up getting.  I officially own a Snuggie, well, Disney brand.
After our extravagant experience in the Disney store we continued to mosie around.  On the rapid adventure to find the nearest bathroom, we found the LEGO store!  It was filled with just about every LEGO, ever.  I had been looking for LEGO’s at garage sales so when I saw the wall that allowed me to choose whichever ones I wanted, I went for it.  Here’s what I was thinking.  I was thinking about my kids.  I got many LEGO’s in the square form.  I am going to write letters on them which will allow my students to work on letter identification, letter matching, upper and lower case connection, sounds, and much more, all while improving their fine motor skills.  I know, I am totally and completely in the right profession. 
When the night was winding down and my second wind was beginning to die off.  I walked into T-Rex, which was a restaurant, but found something unexpected.  You’ve heard of Build-A-Bear right?  How about, Build-A-Dino!?!?!  Have you gotten the idea that I’m a kid at heart still?  I hope so because not only was I excited about the store, I built a dinosaur.  I chose to make a green triceratops.  I rubbed her heart on my head so she would be smart, on my belly so she would never be hungry, and on my nose so she wouldn’t smell.  After multiple childish photos and actions, I had completed my dinosaur, Annabelle.  Not long after Annabelle had been born we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the following day.

Tuesday was the day I was anxious to go to Magic Kingdom, all throughout the sessions.  I’m going to bypass the session information because honestly, I think you’re more interested in hearing about what happened afterwards.  Here we go.  We had just finished our last session and I went upstairs to get ready to head to Magic Kingdom!  When I got up there, I checked on Sammy because she had gotten sick during the last session.  We were worried she wouldn’t be well enough to go to the park but she was.  When all four of us were ready to go, we found the monorail on the 4th floor and went on our way. 
When we got to Magic Kingdom we made our way through the security entrance which was much easier to do than going through security at the airport. I was a complete tourist; I took pictures of the Cinderella castle and the Walt Disney statue.  Once we got through the ‘kids in a candy store’ idea we started off toward the rides.  The first one we went on was the Stitch ride.  For those of you who don’t know, Stitch is the alien life form from “Lilo and Stitch.”  There should have been a warning at the entrance of the ride that said:  if you have any kind of gag reflex, do not go on this ride.  Why should the ride have this sign?  It’s because the ride does not involve loops and twists like a roller coaster.  It’s because the ride involved the smell of Italian food being burped.  Does that image create for an interesting ride?  I don’t think so.  As soon as we could get out of there, we did!
We headed for Space Mountain!  This is the ride that I was waiting to go on from the moment I found out that I would be receiving a free ticket to Disney! It’s a roller coaster that does not involve going upside down but it does involve riding through the dark, seeing stars, and going around turns that you can’t see coming.  It was well worth the anxiousness.  

Eventually we ended up getting hungry and had funnel cakes with strawberries, powdered sugar and whipped cream.  The bottle of water I got was gone shortly after my funnel cake.

As the night went on, we made our way to the Haunted Mansion ride, the Jungle ride, and then saw the fireworks over the castle.  After Magic Kingdom we went back to Downtown Disney and had dinner at the same place I made Annabelle.  I had a chicken salad with vinaigrette dressing.  I didn’t know what to have for a drink so I asked to try a particular kind of wine.  I didn’t like it so I ended up getting strawberry lemonade with sprite mixed in.  I was asked if I wanted alcohol in it and said no.  However, when the drink came I didn’t drink it.  I asked if there was alcohol in it and was reassured that there wasn’t.  As soon as I was told that there wasn’t, the server winked at Amy, Sammy and Kurt because there really was.  No, I didn’t get charged for my drink I was fairly upset for the rest of the evening.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the drink or because it was ‘upset’ kind of day. 
Anyway, Wednesday was the last day of the in-service.  I had my last sessions and then spent the rest of the day relaxing, literally.  I got a massage, which wasn’t worth $150, but I did fall asleep, which I had never done during a massage before.  After my massage I went back to the funky menu restaurant on the 4th floor.  I had cheese flatbread (pizza) and some of the most delicious green beans I’ve ever had. They were chilled and had a dressing and poppy seeds over the top.  I think I need to find a way to make the green beans in that fashion.  I’m going to have to make sure I do it with crisp green beans, not the canned ones.  I ate my lunch down by the pool and relaxed under the sun until it got too cold for only a swimsuit. 
For dinner we ended up taking a boat to another hotel and ate dinner there.  I had a delectable steak, mac-n-cheese, broccoli, and mussels.  What did I have to drink?  I ordered water but ended up stealing Amy’s sangria.  At first she asked me if I wanted to it.  I said yes and then she turned away, turned back and looked at me funky because I was drinking her drink.  By the time it was only half way gone I was ultra giggly, yes, gigglier than my normal self.  I had so much fun!  I was messing with Kurt.  To make this an appropriate blog post I’m going to shorten the details to the fact that apparently I’m a ‘flirty drunk.’  It was a night well worth remembering.  Amy says that she has an amazing story to tell because of me and I’m okay with that.  Don’t worry, none of the details are more than your typical elementary boyfriend and girlfriend scenario but it was still ‘magical.’
Although I had just gone to sleep, it was time to wake up. We had to be downstairs to check out of our rooms at 2:30am.  The Disney shuttle came to take us to the airport.  I was nowhere near as cold this ride; I had my Minnie Mouse snuggie to keep we warm.  Once we got to the airport we had to deal with the dreaded…security.  Would you like to take a guess as to how long it took to get through?  I’ll give you a hint.  First we were told to go from the security entrance to the other entrance.  That’s where they told us that that one was closed too.  Eventually we got to go through the security for employees.  That’s right, it took us longer to get to the security point than it did to get through security itself.  We were the first ones in line and made our way through there at a speedy rate.  Once we were in the free zone, we ate.  I had a turkey sandwich, chips, and chocolate milk!!!! Yes, chocolate milk, not powdered chocolate milk, real chocolate milk.  You know, the milk that comes from a brown cow?  Well, that’s the kind it was.
Once I was on the plane, I slept.  I fell asleep as we were taking off and woke up when we were able to de-board the plane.  We went to the next plane and I slept that entire ride too.  When we finally made it to Seattle we had to run the next plane because our plane to Nome was already boarding when we landed.  Where were we sitting in the plane?  We were in the back, the last rows of the plane.  Yes, we made it to the plane but it was too much of a rush to deal with after so much traveling.  But guess what?  I stayed awake the entire next plane ride!!!! Everyone in the group was so proud. 
We stayed in Nome for the night.  Where is there to eat in Nome?  There are actually a few places but my favorite is Milano’s.  I had a Hawaiian cheeseburger and got a pineapple pizza to go.  I figured, as long as I’m there, I might as well enjoy it.  The next morning, I went to the airport and slept for the plane ride back to Shishmaref.  When I got back, I went back to my place, showered, and headed off to school.  I got to school during lunchtime. 
My kids were so excited to see me.  One of them said “Lauren, I missed you before.”  And other kept telling me about a project that she was working on at home for me.  She repeated several times that it was a heart and had stickers.  It’s true!  I got it and it was indeed a heart and had stickers.  Although I only had the afternoon with my kiddos, I needed the weekend to relax. 
For those of you who were awaiting a blog post, I hope that this tides you over for a while.  I think I might be “worded out” for a bit.  


  1. I'm so glad you posted! It has been a while! I'm also glad you got back to Disney! Is this three times, now? I think so! Guess there's something new each time! We LOVE reading about your adventures! You've got a writer's voice. Keep nurturing it, Darling! If you end up in San Francisco next week, we will certainly look forward to posts and pictures from there, too! Love you, tons, ma petit chou!

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