I had only been to Disney World 3 times before this recent rash of WDW trips. My first time I was about 4, my second was as a tag-along with my brother's Beta Club trip (the joy of having a mom who chaperoned!), and then the summer after 8th grade when my mom, brother and I went. (Which, btw, I totally had a random flashback to that trip on this one. While standing in a gift shop I spotted the exact souvenir I bought for someone that I hadn't thought about in YEARS! Good to know that 21 years (gasp) later, if you need a replacement keychain, Eric, they are still there.) Disney is definitely part of my heritage, but I don't eat, breathe, and live The Mouse.
And then, I married Dan.
Funny enough, one of my first memories of Dan was when Bryan Broodno (our mutual friend) said to me, "Have you been to that guy Dan's apartment? He has one whole wall that is nothing but Sleeping Beauty." What he meant was that Dan collected original Disney animation art and had a wall that had lots of the pictures beautifully displayed. But what I heard was that Dan was some weird med student with an obsession of all things princess and had painted a mural along his wall... creeper. Good to know I was wrong.
So, in 2009 when we loaded Miss Elizabeth up and headed south, I was excited... but not over the top. I was excited because it was vacation... it was a break... it was time with my family... and, it was Disney World. Who doesn't love that, right?
Here we are... our first day with the Mice!
Even better... our BFFs were at WDW the same time, and we overlapped with them a couple days. So it was a super trip AND we got to hang out with them some, too.
E riding with the big girls just before leaving
The minute we got back on Highway 4, Dan started planning our next trip. He had already gone to the Vacation Club schpeal and decided that it wasn't right for us, but he wasn't going to rule it out yet. And so, in just a matter of months, he was busy at work planning our next trip.
Year two was great, too... although it was a wee bit too long. My only problem with the second year (besides the length) was I spent a lot of time unintentionally comparing it to the year before. So either I wanted to redo something we'd done before, or I compared results (ie: that pizza wasn't as good, last year the lines weren't as bad, this walk is much shorter from our hotel, blah blah blah). It did have it's own set of memories, though, including meeting some Disney VIPs who I hung out with in one night... and this time overlapping with a different set of friends.
Chef Mickey's with Jack!
One of my favorite parts of that trip, though, was on our last full day. Aunt Allison came to spend the day with us... and if that wasn't magical enough, we were the first guests to arrive at Mickey's House and he gave us a personal tour.
Mickey showing E around his place...
Our little family- plus Aunt Allison- with Mickey and Minnie
So this year, I was pumped and ready to go... mainly because I was ready for some time away. All in all, this last year was a tough one, and I was ready for a break in a land of warmer temperatures. Not only did I get that, but I got so much more...
we're no strangers to Snow White. But I'll tell ya... each one of them kept the dream alive for Elizabeth. When we first saw her, I quickly "helped" her by saying "Snow White! We haven't seen you since Elizabeth's birthday party!" and she didn't skip a beat by answering "Oh you're right!! And how has your... life... been since then?" When we saw her later in Germany (above), she played with E's hands the whole time (E kept talking with her hands, so Snow played along) and talked to her about being the Princess of the Kingdom of Lewisville. Well played, Snow.
These kind of moments are what made this trip perfect for me. I'm fully aware that my sweet girl is just moments away from not "buying" what the princesses are trying to sell her. In fact, while we were at WDW, she'd already started putting pieces together. She would point out for us that the bears at Country Bear Jamboree weren't real, they were just "machines". Same for Ben Franklin and Mark Twain in the "America" show at Epcot. But for now, the characters were the REAL DEAL for her... and for that I couldn't be more thankful. What I learned on my Disney Vacation was that there really is magic for those who believe.
Yep. The Johnston family was a wreck.
Easily, Mary Poppins could have stayed in character and said "Oh, I'm sorry." But she didn't... she was Mary Poppins as she spoke to my child... as she spoke to us... as she became part of our Disney Story.
It really is magic when you choose to believe.