Reading Disney Rainbows this Summer

One of the many wonderful things about the Disney Social Moms Media Celebration—and there are many—is the amazing speaker lineup. The awesomeness of these impressive people from all different fields, specialities and successes are extraordinary in their own right, but then when one of them speaks directly to something near and dear to your personal heart, well, you start to believe that universe may be sending you messages.

This serendipitous situation occurred for me this last April when I was sitting at breakfast listening to LeVar Burton speak to us about reading—specifically the importance of reading to and with our young children.

LeVar Burton.
LeVar Burton.

I don’t think that was news to the parents in the room—it’s not exactly a secret—but a renewed enthusiasm cannot help but be contagious when such a passionate and dynamic expert in the field is sharing his zeal on the subject so eloquently.

My secret Mom mission this summer (and please, don’t act like you don’t have one, too) is to read more, both with and to my kids as well as my own personal reading list. I realized sadly that as life gets lived, the ebb and flow of once-favorite activities get on the ebb side too often, and summer is the perfect time to get back into the reading flow.

To assist me on this agenda, there are a few opportunities I learned about that I’m utilizing and would like to share with you.

~The first is from LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow itself, and features a downloadable app that gives you and your children access to thousands of titles at a click’s command. There’s a free trial that you can learn more about and download on Readingrainbow.com. Please check it out—I can tell you with complete sincerity that you cannot find a better advocate for children, literacy, and humankind in general than LeVar Burton.

~Also on that website there’s an opportunity to join a Kickstarter campaign to help bring Reading Rainbow into more classrooms. Any denomination by July 2, 2014 can make a huge difference. I just proudly donated to this beloved campaign.

Levar Burton reading  aloud--a beautiful thing.
Levar Burton reading aloud–a beautiful thing.

~Disney Jr. has teamed up with First Book to donate up to a million books to children who may not get that opportunity we take for granted at home. GiveaBookGetaBook.com is a special website where you can enter in a redemption code to download a free digital book for your family to read, and that same book in physical form to be donated to a region of the country you designate. It’s a wonderful program that will run 4/1/14-9/30/15, and those redemption codes can be found in specially marked merchandise at Disney stores, Radio Disney promotions and other retail locations and products all summer long. You can read more about the initiative on the Disney Parks blog, or just seek out one of those codes and get started sharing the gift of reading with your children and total strangers. I can’t think of anything more meaningful for a summer treat.

That time when Tim Gunn, Ariel Winter and David Arquette read books to my kids.
That time when Tim Gunn, Ariel Winter and David Arquette read books to my kids.

I hope these are a few resources that will help your Mom missions this summer and beyond.

Happy reading.

©2014 Tracey Henry

The 9 nonsensical lessons I learned at DisneySMMoms and 1 important one

Last week I was lucky enough to have been invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. I attended with a friend and my two daughters, and it is truly an experience I will never forget.

I had a wonderful time, met amazing people and learned a lot. To summarize a trip of this size and scope is almost a disservice, so I have attempted to compile the top 10 lessons I learned.

1.) Remember to bring the Fit Bit next trip. The massive step count will justify another Dole Whip.

2.) Never trash-talk a 7 year-old about who is going to puke first on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. There are no winners in that game.

3.) Buzzfeed needs to issue a quiz on “What kind of Ride Line Person are you?” Answers will range from Personal-Space-Ignorer to Huge-Gap-Leaver. I will probably score, Why Yes, I am the Line Police, since both of the previous profiles seem to haunt me at every attraction.

4.) Finding Hidden Mickeys does not constitute make-up homework in Geometry. (But it should.)

5.) Those huge mylar balloons that they sell on Main Street will out-last the stand-by line at Peter Pan, a week’s hotel stay, hundreds of miles stuffed in a trunk, several seasons of “Good Luck, Charlie,” a forwarded power-point slideshow entitled, “FW: FWD: RE: FWD: YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS KID!” from your grandmother and an Oscar acceptance speech.

6.) No one who hasn’t had their face on a jar of Smucker’s with Willard Scott on the Today Show knows who Mr. Toad is but everyone agrees his ride is little more disturbing than wild.

7.) Even though you may feel the same effects the next morning, “park-hopping” and “bar-hopping” are not interchangeable activities.

8.) Restraining orders signed with big overstuffed costume gloves are still legally valid. (Sorry again, Hercules.)

9.) Turn on the flash for selfies on Space Mountain.

10.) Just because parenthood can be serious business, childhood isn’t. There is this modern tendency for us to be so wrapped up in the responsibilities, expectations and journey of motherhood, that we can easily overlook the happy fact that a childhood is occurring in tandem.

Don’t miss it.

We can’t go to Disneyland everyday, but magic can be a daily event. Find it. Point it out. Laugh with it. Create, make, build, feed, read, appreciate, praise, worship, sing, breathe, adore, photograph, grow, enjoy, write, cry, memorize and wonder at it.

Share it.

The memories will last even longer than that mylar balloon.

The best hosts ever.
The best hosts ever.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Your Conference Packing List

I’m about to embark upon a really wonderful trip. Disney has once again pulled their magic strings and I find myself invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. This year, it is in Anaheim at Disneyland, so I am completely out of my element.

Pair this with the fact that the other women coming are all very organized, helpful, professional bloggers who have made businesses giving lifestyle tips. My contribution to the blogosphere is passive aggressive cookie selling and the worst cost-analysis ever of Thanksgiving Dinner. I provide the before content to their after.

And as I read their posts and see their pictures as they prepare for this trip, I realize how grossly unprepared I am for this, and really, most things. Most of the women have really lofty goals that I should probably emulate, but mine is simply to avoid public humiliation and arrest.

So in the spirit of earning my place, I present my—totally inadequate but realistic for me— packing list. I hope it helps. Someone.

1.) Clothes. In some form and combination. I have no idea what’s in your closet, and you have no idea what’s balled up in the corner of mine, so there you go.

2.) Camera. But I’ll forget to charge the battery and the SD card will be full, so I’ll pack an extra $80 to buy new ones at the airport gift shop.

3.) Some stock catch tech phrases. So when people start talking about things that I don’t understand, I can just drop some random sentence about who’s behind Bitcoin in a fake accent and then we’ll laugh and laugh.

4.) Corkscrew. Because when the Bitcoin bit fails miserably, I’ll have something to cuddle up to back in the room.

5.) Eyeliner. First see #4, then I can write notes with it because I will have lost all pens to character autograph sessions and restraining orders.

6.) Chargers. I will actually remember to take these, but because there’s no repacking list, I will leave them all plugged into desk outlets at the hotel as I leave.

7.) Scissors. Because let’s face it, I’ll forget the rain ponchos and even the large trash bags people use in a pinch, so I’ll end up cutting holes the small draw string laundry bags in the hotel closet. You’ll know it’s me because I’ll be wearing the plastic vest with the upside “Marriott” across the front and the shower cap from the bathroom.

8.) Photoshopped images on my phone of really awesome and clever things I didn’t make but pretend to blog about.

9.) Phone number for a really good copyright infringement attorney when one of the other attendees recognizes that I’m taking credit for her hand-forged Mickey pickle fork set as my own.

10.) My children’s Birth Certificates. Documented proof they’re mine since no one ever believes I’m legally allowed to care for other human beings let alone cross state lines unsupervised.

Now after I Instagram my shampoo and file off my fingerprints, I’m ready to go.

See ya real soon!

©2014 Tracey Henry

If you want to celebrate with me with a chance to win a $50 gift card from Kohl’s, see this post.

A Magical Giveaway from Kohl’s–UPDATED WITH WINNER!

In celebration of this fabulous upcoming trip, Disney and Kohl’s would like share with us some proper party attire for the kids—the new “Magic at Play” collection by Jumping Beans.

Magic at Play Collection by Jumping Beans at Kohl's
Magic at Play Collection by Jumping Beans at Kohl’s

Cute, fun and definitely Disney festive—these outfits are perfect for inside the park or out. But it wouldn’t be a party without YOU, so Disney and Kohl’s are giving one of you a $50 gift card to pick out your own fun.

My giveaway is simple and will one week run until midnight CDT 4/16/14. Just leave a comment below if you’re interested in being entered into a random drawing. That’s it.

Here’s a few of the things we purchased for inspiration…

Jumping for Jumping Beans
Jumping for Jumping Beans

Now get commenting.

©2014 Tracey Henry

****UPDATE****Thank you for all of the interest into the Disney Magic at Play Collection by Jumping Beans Kohl’s gift card! My kids certainly enjoyed their new outfits last weekend at Disneyland, and one lucky reader can sport some new duds soon as well.

As promised, from the 48 commenters, I randomly assigned each a number, and then had another person (my daughter) choose a random number. That happened to be Amanda S. as the winner of this $50 gift card.

Thanks to all who entered, and keep checking back for more winning opportunities.

A few words on #DisneySMMoms

I’ve been to Disney so many times, I park in SubDiva 53.

I’ve been to Disney so many times, A Small World is sick of my theme song.

I’ve been to Disney so many times, my Fast Passes used to read, “You again?”

I’ve been to Disney so many times NASA has mistaken me for a moon orbiting the Epcot ball.

And in two weeks, I’m going again.

For 11 years we lived an hour’s drive from the park in Florida. Our kids were little, then big, but it was a place that grew with our family. Anyone who came to visit us wanted to go there. If a friend or relative went to Disney World on vacation, we’d meet them there for the day.

And then there were the media visits. I was so very fortunate to be able to write for the Tampa Times and attend many events and blog about them. I was so lucky to be a part of the very first Social Media Moms Conference in which there were just 16 of us who represented a small slice of the blogosphere—both Mommy and non-mommy—I still watch those women in awe at where their careers and lives have gone from there.

And the extremely complex, deep psychological reason why we keep going back? Because it’s fun.

This year I was just as thrilled to get an invitation the Disney SM Moms Conference next month. It will be held in at DisneyLand in California—a place I once visited over 30 years ago on a family vacation. I can provide no frame of reference, no helpful tips, no sarcastic lead-ins because it will be completely new to me.

And that’s okay.

In fact, it’s pretty awesome.

As parents, we are natural planners. Particularly when it comes to travel, we need things mapped out exactly so that we can pack and make appropriate arrangements for all the little and big people we are responsible for. We want to know what to bring, when we eat, what to wear, what we’re doing and who is going to be there. There are reservations to make, suitcases to be filled, magic to create. I get it.

But if anyone is searching for counsel on how to approach this trip, my advice is simple: with utter abandon. Suspend your natural tendencies to plan every aspect, and allow the many talented people who put this entire amazing, one-of-a-kind experience to handle the details. They are gifted in the art of surprises, and it’s a time like no other. If you’re bringing your kids, show them the beauty of spontaneity. Be bewildered together. I guarantee you will learn more, laugh more, and engage more with amazing women doing amazing things.

No matter if it’s your first time or your address is on the parade route, engage in the joy. The only thing you really need to bring is an open mind.

©2014 Tracey Henry