A New Name...

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Advice: Taking Grandchildren to Disney World


Dear Aunt Savvy,

We're taking our four-year-old granddaughter to Orlando, where we will be spending two weeks. We plan to spend a total of five non-consecutive days at Disney World and do other activities the rest of the time.

The child's parents will not be accompanying us, so my husband and I will be responsible for her care and safety.

I have to admit: I'm really nervous about this trip because we have never spent an extended amount of time with our granddaughter, who is a very active and high maintenance child.

What are some suggestions for helping to keep her happy and entertained?

--Nervous Nana
Dear Nervous Nana,

Funny you should ask.

Aunt Savvy recently returned from the House that the Mouse built, having been accompanied by her feisty grandchild.

It is quite understandable that you are nervous; young children, by their very nature, are high maintenance, so it will pay to prepare beforehand. And both you and child will need some time to adjust to each other, so Aunt Savvy's first piece of advice: plan to spend Day 1 of your trip chilling out, perhaps splashing around in the hotel swimming pool or engaging in another low-impact activity.

Aunt Savvy is relieved to know that your trip is stretched out over a two-week period; while Disney is a lot of fun, it is also a very intense visual and auditory experience. Families often do not realize this and try to cram in five consecutive Disney days, returning home needing a vacation from their vacations. Your idea of spending every other day at the park is a good one, and you are fortunate that you are able to do this.

Before departing from home, go to AAA for special deals on tickets and parking on the Disney lot; you will still have to pay to park, but you may get a deal that will get you close to the park entrance. While you are at AAA, pick up a guidebook to Florida (or California if you're going to Disneyland). They also sell, at a discount to members, good guides specific to Disney.

Children love Disney and the Disney characters and will squeal with glee at the prospect of meeting Goofy, Donald and Mickey; however, the reality is more complicated. First of all, children embrace the familiar, and being away from Mom and Dad for an extended period can be disorienting. So be sure to pack some favorite toys, portable DVD player, and DVDs. You may end up watching Peter Pan 95 times, but such is the price for traveling with a youngster.

If possible, plan your trip for the "off" season, avoiding, at all costs, the week between Christmas and New Year's.

No matter when you go, the park is often very crowded and wait times for attractions can be up to 90 minutes. In addition, the various parks are sprawled out, requiring much walking, all of it on concrete. Your job, then, is to lessen the impact of Disney's dark side, mostly having to do with tired, cranky, scared, bawling, and hungry children.

Oh. And bushed grandparents.

So here are some tips:
1. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. While it may be tempting to dress your little princess in a princess dress and princess shoes, don't do it. Trust Aunt Savvy on this one. If Princess must dress up, bring regular clothes for her. In the winter, bring light jackets; it can get cold at night, and buying jackets in the park can be expensive. Bring a favorite toy for your granddaughter and sunglasses for everyone.

2. Bring portable snacks, such as raisins, trail mix, cookies, and/or granola bars. Don't carry whole fruit; Disney offers fresh fruit, about $1.00 per piece. It is worth paying a little extra not having to lug around heavy, water-laden food. Plan to eat at least two meals in the park. Yes, it is expensive, but this a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so just pull out that credit card and close your eyes.

3. Bring or rent a stroller in park. Yes, she's a big girl now, but you will use it. A lot. If nothing else, you will have a place to put all your purchases, but Aunt Savvy would be willing to bet $50 that your little girl will take a nap some time during the day. Remember: your granddaughter has shorter legs than you, and as she tries to keep up with you, she will tire quickly.

4. In the summer and on warm days, bring a bottle of water, frozen if you have a freezer in your hotel room. The ice will melt fast, offering you at least a few hours of cold liquid. You can always refill the bottle at a water fountain, so drink up.

5. Bring a small camera or get a photo card from a Disney character. When your grandchild visits a character, a photographer snaps a picture and then scans your card. Later, you can access your character photos from the Disney website.

Aunt Savvy took a Flip camera and filmed the following scene:
Not bad for a video camera that fits in the palm of your hand.

6. At the park, get a FastPass for the most popular attraction; you will be assigned a time that will allow you to be admitted ahead of the folks not having FastPasses. If you arrive at the park early enough, you can often get another FastPass, but you have to wait about three hours before receiving another one.

7. Plan to eat during non-peak times; otherwise, you will encounter long food lines and harried food servers. Instead, spend traditional meal times hitting attractions, when the lines are smaller because everyone is eating or trying to eat.

Aunt Savvy adores 2:00 p.m for lunch and 7:30 - 8:00 p.m. for dinner. Hence, the snacks you have packed to tide you over--but do allow for some ice cream, which can be purchased from carts.

The secret to having a positive Disney experience: don't follow the crowd; go to the attractions that have the shortest waiting times, posted at each attraction.

8. Don't buy souvenirs in the park; you can often find the same stuff much cheaper at Wal-Mart and the various souvenir shops all along U.S. Highway 192. Best of all, you won't have to lug "stuff" all over.

9. As the day wears on, the crowds tend to thin out; this is when to hit the popular attractions you have missed.

10. Leave the park about 30 minutes before closing--you'll avoid much of the rush to catch the monorail or ferry back to the parking lot.
On a side note:

If possible, check out Old Town, a kind of outdoor mall that offers something for everyone; this funky and cool place even offers a small amusement park--with little or no waiting times. For grandpa, there are car shows and Friday and Saturday nights. (NOTE: Aunt Savvy is not affiliated with Old Town, nor is she paid to advertise or plug it. She just loves hanging out there when she is on vacation.)

Collage of Old Town

For your off days, there is plenty to do in the Orlando/Kissimme areas: shopping, miniature golf, water sports, antique hunting. Your AAA Guide can offer you more specific ideas for activities.

Have fun, and take some time to relax.


Note: This is not a real question, but a what-if scenario based on a possible family problem. Aunt Savvy will always disclose when a question is based on a scenario.

Aunt Savvy would be pleased to consider answering your real questions for this site.

If you you would like to add anything or don't like Aunt Savvy's advice, comment to this post.

(Comments are moderated, so please don't double post.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Advice to U.S. Citizens Regarding President Obama


Now almost a week after the Presidential Inauguration, U.S. citizens need to consider how they will navigate an Obama presidency.

A week ago, Aunt Savvy offered advice to President Obama; now, U.S. citizens, it's your turn. She offers three categories of advice: To (1) "The One" Advocates; (2) "The Middletons," those who may have offered lukewarm support to either Obama or McCain during the election, but who have decided to stand behind our president, albeit with open eyes; and (3) "Not the One" Detractors who plan to crawl into a big hole until 2012 or 2016.

Aunt Savvy Disclaimer: she is an avid Barack Obama supporter, so this advice pertains to her as well, mostly under the first category as she tries to dip into category two.

"The One" Advocates
With all due respect to Oprah (who seems to be the one who coined "The One" as it pertains to President Obama), those who fall into this category need to take off their blinders.

Aunt Savvy is convinced that while this intelligent and thoughtful president has the best of intentions, he will make mistakes. BIG ones. It comes with the job. He will also make GREAT decisions, but know the difference, and be prepared to take the President to task for his fumbles.

Contrary to popular belief, President Obama does not walk on water. He is not God, but a human being subject to human frailty. Also, he is likely to enact legislation you might not like; you're not going to agree with every decision he makes, nor should you. In fact, it would be dangerous if a majority turned a blind eye if a charismatic leader turned bad.

As citizens, we should retain and even embrace our watchdog privilege.

Although it might be tempting to refer to President Obama as our African-American president, keep in mind that he represents ALL Americans. Thus, if he makes a decision that seems to "go against" African-American issues, please remember that he is trying to make the best decisions for the country as a whole.

If "The One" disappoints you (and he will), don't blindly turn against him; allow him to make his mistakes, and, most important, learn to forgive. Remember: we are often most hurt by the people we adore the most.

Don't automatically dismiss all conservatives; they are not wrong all of the time or even most of the time. Listen to some of the more moderate conservatives--they offer some good talking points.

Avoid Bloviators from either the far left or the far right. Talk radio and newspapers are full of "haters," those who hate just for the sake of demonizing "the other side."

If you slip into The Middletons category, that is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you're Michelle Obama or other Obama family member. That simply means that you have become more realistic in your expectations.
The Middletons
You are already doing the right things because you have decided to give our new president a chance to prove himself and support him, at least for now.

If you voted for President Obama, you did so with some reluctance. In the end, you may have felt that of two choices, he offered the best possibility for success. Or maybe your vote was more "against" the Republicans than "for" Obama. In any case, your support was waffly.

If you voted for Senator John McCain, it wasn't because you disliked Obama; maybe you just felt Obama was too inexperienced or that the Republicans (without George Bush) offered the best hope for this country. Now, however, you are willing to make the best of the situation by giving the President a chance to prove himself.

Good for you; you, as a Middleton, have an opportunity to make a difference and keep an eye on this administration with an open mind. You're the ones your legislators will take seriously because YOU are likely to decide the presidency in 2012.

Important: keep in touch with your legislators and your local press about the issues closest to you, but do so in a respectful and intelligent manner. SIGN your letters; your words will have more clout if you stand behind them.

Avoid Bloviators from either the far left or the far right. Talk radio and newspapers are full of "haters," those who hate just for the sake of demonizing "the other side."
"Not the One" Detractors
Okay, you didn't vote for President Obama, and you will never like Democrats, especially liberals. What is more, you dislike President Obama, and the idea of supporting him makes you sick on your stomach. (Aunt Savvy understands that feeling; 2001-2008 were difficult years for her.)

However, the next four years are likely to be better for you if decide to give our president a fighting chance to prove himself. He WILL do some things right; just keep your ears open, and don't assume that every utterance is against conservatives.

Don't assume that every piece of legislation is going to hurt conservatives; do your research.

Although it might be tempting to refer to President Obama as an African-American president, keep in mind that he represents ALL Americans. Thus, if he makes a decision that seems to "go against" your ethnic group, please remember that he is trying to make the best decisions for the country as a whole.

Choose your battles; write your legislators and your local press about the issues closest to you, but do so in a respectful and intelligent manner. SIGN your letters; your words will have more clout if you stand behind them. If you feel uncomfortable signing your letters, rewrite until you do. Otherwise, you're just blowing hot air, and no one will take you seriously.

Don't automatically dismiss all liberals; they are not wrong all of the time or even most of the time. Listen to some of the more moderate liberals--they can offer some good talking points.

Avoid Bloviators from either the far left or the far right. Talk radio and newspapers are full of "haters," those who hate just for the sake of demonizing "the other side."
In summary, be prepared to support the presidency as much as you can; however, do pay attention to President Barack Obama's policies and how he enacts them.

Most important, stay informed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

1960's Advice From "Miss Coldfax"


Caption: "Dear Miss Coldfax, my boyfriend was told he needs eyeglasses, I HATE eyeglasses, but I love him--should I leave him if he gets them?"

Aunt Savvy found this cartoon, "This Funny World," by Tom de Angelo (published circa 1966-1967), amongst her childhood memorabilia.

This cartoon is less humorous now than it might have been back then. In fact, in these sensitive times, this bit of biting humor is downright offensive.

Obviously, the implication is that a beauty-challenged woman could snag only a blind boyfriend.

Of course, the mythical "Miss Coldfax" could not actually see the young woman asking for advice about the boyfriend who needs glasses, but she would probably arrive at some accurate conclusions.

First off, Miss C. would wonder why the letter writer would want her lover to go through life practically blind; at the very least, she would think her young correspondent was a few bricks short of a building.

Sooner or later, Miss C. would figure out what was bugging the woman and would probably start her answer with some questions:
Why would you want to deprive someone you love the opportunity to see the world? Are you hiding something? Are you unattractive? Are you fat?
After posing those questions, Miss C. would offer this "helpful" advice:
Of course your boyfriend should get eyeglasses. If you are hiding a physical deficiency from your boyfriend, then you need to admit it; you wouldn't want to wait until he can see you with absolute clarity, now would you?

In any case, expect him to be shocked and angry. If you have prepared him properly, he may agree to remain with you, but on the condition that you work diligently on improving your looks and (if necessary) losing weight.

Then stick to your beauty regimen.

However, don't be surprised if he leaves you outright, and who could blame him?
Fast forward to Aunt Savvy's advice:
While Aunt Savvy cannot condone your hiding some important facts from your boyfriend, she understands why you did it. But now you're going to have to reveal the truth.

In your heart, you understand that your boyfriend needs glasses and that he will get them, no matter how you feel about it. In fact, you should be excited and supportive!

Aunt Savvy suspects that you may view yourself as unattractive and/or overweight, which may or may not be the case. However, even if it's true, your boyfriend has a good idea of how you look and feel to him. After all, he is not totally blind. It appears he loves you and your personality and accepts you as is.

Aunt Savvy is not going to offer you beauty or diet tips; if your boyfriend truly loves you, he will accept you the way you are, even if you have a prominent overbite and are slightly on the portly side. If he doesn't, you will at least find out now (instead of later) that he's shallow and a cad--in that case, you would be better off without him.

But Aunt Savvy does not believe this for one minute.

Before leading him off to the optician, tell him (jokingly, of course), "I might not look like the girl you fell in love with."

He will probably laugh and let you know how beautiful he thinks you are.

Now go with him and help him pick out those eyeglass frames!
Hmmmmmm! Now why did Aunt Savvy save that clipping all these years?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Advice to Our New President


Dear Mr. Barack Obama,

As your last week as an ordinary citizen comes to a close, Aunt Savvy would like to offer you some general advice for the next four to eight years.

Throughout the media, you have solicited advice from the populace, so Aunt Savvy is confident that you will read this or other advice columns like this.

Aunt Savvy voted for you, but even if she hadn't, she would still offer advice to you. Also, just because she voted for you in 2008 does not mean she will necessarily vote for you in 2012. She admires and respects you, but she will always give her precious vote to the candidate best suited to the presidency. She is not alone in this opinion.

She offers you 10 pieces of political advice:
1. Keep in touch with the American people; unlike during the campaign, you will find yourself becoming increasingly isolated from the electorate. Part of this will be unavoidable, given security concerns. But you can still take the pulse of the American people by keeping up with their issues and concerns. For example, never forget the cost of a gallon of milk or gas, even though you, as President, will purchase neither for yourself and your family.

2. Never forget your "team of rivals" platform. Sometimes rivals and enemies can offer you better insights than your friends, who often won't tell you what they really think. Even when you don't agree, listen carefully to well-respected independents and Republicans, for example, former rival John McCain and other moderates, no matter what party. Aunt Savvy reluctantly suggests that you also keep one ear open to radicals from both the right and left, although they tend to shriek, rather than discuss. But they, too, are citizens worthy of your presidential consideration.

Related to this: don't retain team members (even if they are your friends) who become "toxic," either through political scandal or illegal activities.

Before making important and history-changing decisions, bring together your team of rivals along with rivals not on your team, and before making important and controversial decisions, listen to their arguments. Weigh all aspects carefully. In the end, it will be your decision, but if you follow your good instincts, this country be okay, even when you make mistakes.

3. Once you make a decision, implement it with confidence (not arrogance). Don't waffle. Never base important decisions on popularity polls; you have access to top secret information the average citizen does not. Just make the best possible decision, and it will work out okay.

4. However, if you make a decision that later turns out to be wrong, admit it; we are a very forgiving nation that realizes you are human and subject to human frailties.

5. Listen to the Secret Service; they know best how to protect you and your family. If only JFK had listened to the Secret Service on that fateful day in 1963 and agreed to having that bubble placed on his limousine, history might have turned out very differently.

While having Secret Service around 24/7 may be an annoyance, they are there to protect you from those who would harm or kill you and your family. Your life is too important to the country, its national security, and its morale.

6. Develop a stellar but arm's-length relationship with the press, and don't favor certain reporters over others. While it is tempting to befriend friendly reporters who think like you, always keep in mind that they are paid to write about your presidency and your actions: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Make sure that you and your people do not dole out "scoops" to select journalists. Also, manipulate the press at your own peril; don't float "trial balloons" to the press because they and their readers will know it.

7. Spend your political capital wisely; as your presidency progresses, you will slowly bleed political capital. As party ranks begin closing once again, this will be inevitable.

8. Cherish and follow our constitution; use presidential powers carefully and never with bitterness and revenge or in anger.

9. Remain confident, but humble; you earned this office through hard campaigning, but your campaign workers, donors, and the American voters have made it so. Continue addressing the American people in a respectful manner.

Your transition period has been nearly flawless, so Aunt Savvy has no reason to believe your demeanor will change--this is just a reminder.

10. Pay attention to international issues, and PLEASE do not start wars for specious reasons. While we are the United States of America, a country that holds great sway in the world arena, keep in mind that there are other nations with differing viewpoints. And at the moment, we are not very popular with other countries.
One piece of personal advice:
Keep your family close, and do not allow the headiness of your high office to go to your head.

No doubt: pretty and smart women, young and even older, will throw themselves at you, and it might be tempting. However, your job is to shoo them away politely and firmly.

Spend quality time with Michelle and your girls Sasha and Malia--and that future puppy.

Aunt Savvy knows that family is everything, and that is what you will have left once the power of the presidency passes on to the 45th president.

Aunt Savvy will watch your inauguration festivities with great interest and excitement, but on January 21, 2009, she expects you to report for work by 9:00 a.m.

Let's get this country back on the right track.


Aunt Savvy

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