and there were princessess

I've been itchy to write this up, but distracted by a sweet free 8x8 photo book coupon from Shutterfly, which seriously could not have been timed better. My mission the last few nights has been to somehow manage to fit 200 photos on 20 pages of Shutterfly layouts. Mission accomplished. Free photo book awaiting review by my other half.

I'm sure the interwebs have been waiting with baited breath for my review of our trip to Disney. The details can be found among several dozen facebook and twitter updates. It can be summed up as follows, "We flew, we chewed, we rode, we met, we signed, we ate some more, we smiled, we napped, we swam, we can't wait to do it again."

Going to Walt Disney World with two children under the age of 5 might sound like a very special kind of torture to some people. I assure you, it was not. There was plenty of challenge, oodles of altering "the plan," a shake here and there of "this is so not how I thought this would be," and a smattering of the most absolutely amazing thing you can do for two kids that truly believe that the four foot tall person they are meeting is really honest to God Mickey Mouse.

I've breezed through most of the Flip videos and so many of them make me laugh or tear up because the magic is so alive in so much of that tape. My daughter could meet Ariel on day 1 and not realize that she didn't look exactly the same that afternoon in the parade or a few days later as she looked over a railing with her to see if Flounder was swimming in the Adventureland river. The same characters signed her book time and again and it did not matter one single bit to her. The highlight of her entire trip was day one at the Magic Kingdom where she met Cindy, Aurora, Ariel, Snow White and Belle at Cinderella's Royal Table.

This trip was clearly a "character seek and find." Things at WDW were ranked as follows:

2. Characters
3. Shows (Voyage of Little Mermaid, Monster Laugh Floor, Mickey's Philharmagic)
4. Parades
5. Fireworks
6. Ice Cream
7. Rides and Attractions

This totally blew my mind. Granted I am quite certain that a great deal of this had to do with our serious mistep on day one when Steve convinced me one ride in that Snow White was a good idea. Do not make this error in judgement. Dark rides for the rest of the day, even Winnie the Pooh with his cute butt stuck in a hole trying to get honey were tough thanks to that one short dark "dream sequence." I'm almost positive she thought that mean ol' queen was hiding behind every corner. Peter Pan, long a favorite of mine, was also too dark and yeah, to say I was upset about Snow White is the biggest understatement ever to be uttered. Moving on (but clearly not because a week later I am still upset about it).

Caroline rode Thunder Mountain twice, fearless. She shrugged her shoulders, no big deal, at Test Track. Girl could have tackled Space Mountain had it not been, you know, dark! Maybe in a couple years she will be more into the thrills? Maybe not.

For Caroline this visit was all about the characters. She wanted their name in her book as soon as she caught sight of them... until it was her turn and she would instantly hide behind her hands and need a parent to help her approach Donald or Chip or even her beloved Ariel.

I'll say this, for what really was our first official family vacation, this was a total and utterly amazing experience. Our kids spend so much time at their beloved beach, where everything they need in their everyday life is at their fingertips and they are surrounded by people they know and the rules still seem to apply to daily living. They did not know what to do with this Florida thing. For one to have never flown before and one to have no memory of her first flight, they did alarmingly well and as far as getting used to their surroundings, well, that left a bit to be desired. I have never been sassed more, pffftttth'd more, or as shocked at surprisingly 'not my kids" behavior. It was comforting to see that every other parent of young children was also dealing with sass and frass and some weren't coping as well as we were. I don't want to make it out that Caroline and Connor were terrors, because they were far from it, they just weren't themselves. They have no reference point for travel and vacation. What to do with!?!

I think Steve and I can agree that doing this, despite the kids being so young, was a great decision. Yes, these memories will be mostly ours to carry for Caro and Con, but I know that when I look back on our family life, maybe as we drop one of them off at college someday, I will forever picture us four on the teacups, spinning around together, smiling, laughing, being us. Us four. Our little team. I will never shake the image of my daughter's face, her hand waving, to the princesses during Fantasmic. or the way she looked when Ariel was announced into breakfast and she followed her with an adoring gaze across the room. (I have it on film, wait until you see THAT!) I can see her hands up on Dumbo, "I'm flying!" I still shake my head in disbelief that the boy who feared the Hoop de doo review with every fiber of his being, stood in absolute awe of the German Band the following night... dancing. With the help of two pretty awesome wonderful people in my cousin Vic and his spectacular lady Julie, this trip will be something our family will cherish forever. Nothing can replace it. There is no way to appropriately thank them for all that they did to make this trip so special. "Vic, Julie and our friend's Dad." I know to them this was no big deal, but it was. It really, really was.

It will never be as magical as it was this time. It will never be as challenging to recover from. We didn't ride everything. We didn't see everything. We did just enough, of exactly what the kids wanted to do, and if you have a boy or girl approaching 5, you better get there yourself. Remove all expectations. Let your kids lead you. Get a Dole Whip before the parade, eat a Mickey Bar for me, stand on the bridge while 2 people eat 4 popsicles watching the Splash Mountain cars go over the drop, stand in line for 40 minutes to meet Tinkerbell, GO TO PRINCESS BREAKFAST, and above all, hold your kids hand and watch it all through their eyes.


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