What Makes Disney, Disney

For this post, I wanted to take some time and talk with you about all of the things that we have encountered on our trips to Walt Disney World that truly make it our vacation spot of choice.

We have had several trips, as you know if you are a regular reader; Sophie has been six times in her nine years for at least one day.  It is as easy a decision for me to book this trip as any that we make.

We have had so many times where the Disney Cast Members (Disney staff are not employees, they are Cast Members) have shared with us the Disney Magic that I am certain to forget some of those great times.  However, here is a rundown of the ones that I remember.

  • When we took our first trip to Coronado Springs resort, that was during Disney’s Year of a Million Dreams celebration.  You may have heard about it; they were giving away gifts to random Guests, they included everything from free Disney Pins to spending the night in Cinderella’s Castle.  Well, we had our own special Dream happen to us while we were visiting.  One morning, as we were in the Main Street Bakery eating our breakfast, one of the Cast Members came over to us to talk to us.  She asked Sophie about her trip, and who her favorite Princess was.  When Sophie said Cinderella, the Cast Member then presented Sophie with a huge chocolate chip cookie that was a gift from Cinderella herself!  Cinderella had seen the Cast Member and asked her if she could give that cookie to Sophie for her!  That made Sophie’s day, and that cookie lasted us all day!
  • Some of the best experiences we have had at Disney are related to our dining.  The character dining experiences we have had have been second to none — being able to enjoy a fabulous dinner while having the ability to get autographs and pictures with our favorite characters has been great!  We have had so many more photos and autographs with the characters than we could have ever hoped to have by standing in line.  Take a look at the joy in Sophie’s face at this picture with Eeyore:
  • One day as we were leaving our resort to go to the parks, we were greeted by a Cast Member who asked Sophie about the trip she was having.  After we talked with him for a while, he presented Sophie with a set of pins — one for Sophie to keep, and one to give to her BFF, Riley.
  • In 2009, during our first trip to Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter, nearly every day we were there we had the best pair of door openers you could ask for.  They were extremely friendly, really really knowledgeable, and every time that we would see them they would give Sophie Mardi Gras beads and coins for the wishing well.  Their outgoing personality truly fit the French Quarter lifestyle, and I was saddened when I didn’t see them during our second visit to POFQ.
  • As I have mentioned before, riding in the Monorail is one of the things that just keeps building the excitement of approaching the Magic Kingdom for a visit.  However, until just a couple of years ago, I had never ridden in the very front car of the Monorail.  Well, that all changed one year when we were able to ride in the front of the monorail twice!  It was a lot of fun, the pilot was really nice and answered questions we had.  Also, we got special souvenir cards documenting that we were official “Honorary” monorail pilots at Walt Disney World, and stickers with our “Monorail Wings”.  Sadly, with a monorail accident a couple of years ago, that practice is now discontinued, but I am glad that we were able to enjoy it.
  • In 2007, during our first Coronado Springs resort visit, I decided that my souvenir for the trip would be a pin trading kit so I could start trading pins.  In 2008, Sophie decided that she was ready to begin pin trading as well.  The excitement that child gets when she approaches a cast member to trade a pin is phenomenal.  Sophie will even make a bad trade for her, just for the experience of trading with a Cast Member!
  • Last year, when my niece Stephanie and I were waiting for our food at Cosmic Rays, we were greeted by a Cast Member who was extremely exuberant in his greeting.  He asked us if we were having a Magical Day, and when we asked him about his day, his answer was “A bad day at Disney is still a better day than anywhere else!”  He went on to ask, “Where else can you work where at the Happiest Place on Earth?!”  We were both extremely excited by his outlook, and that is just one of the things that separates Disney from everywhere else.
  • In 2009, while we were at the Mexico pavilion at Epcot, we were there during extra magic hours.  We went to ride the “Three Cabalero’s” ride, and walked right on, since that ride isn’t heavily trafficked, especially in extra magic hours.  Anyway, we enjoyed the ride, and as we proceeded up the ramp, we asked the attendant if we could ride again.  Since she didn’t have anyone in line, she just continued us on, with us serenading her with a chorus of “Gracias, Mucho Mucho Gracias!”.  She just laughed.
  • Yet another thing that makes Disney truly magical occurred the last time we were visiting.  That was this past June, and that was the trip my niece Stephanie accompanied us.  We were there over Sophie’s birthday, and on the morning of her birthday, I woke up to find the phone message light blinking.  When I checked the message, it was none other than the King and Queen of the Mice, Mickey and Minnie, calling to leave Sophie a message wishing her a truly wonderful birthday!
  • In 2008, when we stayed at Coronado Springs for the second straight year, we were there for Sophie’s birthday.  On the day of her birthday, after we had left to go to the park for the day, Minnie Mouse and her team came to our room and decorated Sophie’s bed with birthday balloons and a birthday card (which included a picture of Minnie Mouse for Sophie to keep).  Additionally, every time we have come for Sophie’s birthday (which was 2008 and 2010), Sophie has been given a special desert at each sit-down meal we have each day of our trip, and this year, she also received birthday cards signed by her character friends.
  • Another thing that makes Disney Disney is how excited Sophie gets when surprise her with a trip to Disney.  I remember in 2009 it didn’t look like we were going to be able to go to Walt Disney World.  We were worried about the affect that the economy would have on our jobs.  Well, as the summer progressed, we were able to determine that we would be able to afford the trip after all, so we made our plans.  However, we kept that little secret from Sophie until the day we left.  I’ll never forget it.  One of the playlists I have on my iPod is called “Mickey Mouse”, and it is a collection of songs by Mickey and the gang.  Sophie told me that she didn’t want to hear the playlist again until the day we were actually in the car heading to Disney, so I didn’t play it — until the day we left.  Here is her reaction to hearing that music in the car:


Needless to say, it was quite a surprise for Sophie!

I know that I have left out a great many of the special times that have made up our trips to Disney, but all in all, I think you get the picture of why we love going to Walt Disney World.  There are so many other stories to tell, I can’t wait to relive those moments with you in the upcoming days.  Have a magical day, and may the sun never set on your Disney (or other) Dreams!  Thanks for reading!

45 Years

Disney Magic — It’s Why We Go to Disney!

Disney Magic

Walt Disney World features thrills, rides, shows, and something known as Disney Magic!

You know, every so often I get asked, “Why do you always go to Walt Disney World?  Why don’t you go to other places on vacation?”

Well, as you can see in the title, there’s one simple answer — Disney Magic.  While those two words don’t necessarily mean anything to anyone who hasn’t been, or who didn’t get it, some of the stories that I’m sharing with you will hopefully give you an insight into what Disney Magic is all about.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Merida

Disney Magic

Image ©Jennifer

My friend Jennifer shared a story about her daughter and Merida, and how they interacted, and how Merida turned a tearful little girl into her normally bubbly self, and in doing so, showed what the famed Disney Magic is all about:

Let me tell you about my friend Merida. You know my daughter (name omitted by editor)…sometimes you cannot even tell she has aspergers, and then sometimes, like today, things get tricky. She gets something set in her mind and it must happen. Today, she wanted to finish coloring her picture for Merida because she LOVES her. Her turn came to meet her so soon, though, and she couldn’t finish the picture. Tears. Meltdown. And usually that means the end of the day for us. But Merida saw this and took my daughter to the side so they could finish the picture together, like friends. And she wiped her tears and pushed her wild hair off her face (Merida knows about wild hair) and listened to her. That Merida. She’s so beautiful, inside and out.

What Merida did for her little daughter, in my opinion, is truly what Walt had in mind for Guests of his parks.  He wanted anyone — and I mean anyone — to be able to come to Disneyland (or, in our case, Walt Disney World) and to be able to put aside, to forget, if you will, what their problems are, what their aches and pains and maladies might be, and in doing so, to remember what it is like to be a kid.  Jennifer’s story touched my heart because my daughter suffers similarly to her daughter, and there are times when she has trouble like Jennifer’s daughter does.  So when I read a story like her story, I shed a tear, and I give God thanks for people like Walt Disney, who opened his heart and shared his imagination, his skill, his creative genius, and his heart with all of us.

Donald Duck

Disney Magic

2007: Sophie (age 6) and Donald Duck dancing with excitement!

The year was 2007 — it was the first trip we took where we stayed on property.  Sophie was 6 years old, and was absolutely in love with Donald Duck.  We must have a 100 pictures of Sophie and Donald Duck in various outfits from that trip.  This particular picture was taken in Mickey’s Toontown Fair, and Sophie was so excited to see Donald Duck that she literally started bouncing with anticipation!  That started Donald Duck bouncing, and the end result is a whole set of dance moves that they did together!  I wish I was better at joining them all together, I’d post it for you.

Princess Jasmine

Disney Magic

Sophie was sharing secrets with Princess Jasmine in 2008!

We were at Epcot in the World Showcase.  For some reason we decided to explore the Morocco Pavilion even though we almost never stop to look.  We were at the back of the pavilion, and came around a corner, and there she was — Princess Jasmine and the Genie — with no one in line to see them!  It was pure Disney Magic.  Sophie was able to spend probably 5 or 10 minutes (it felt like an eternity to me) visiting with Princess Jasmine, and the Genie — he was doing everything in his power to get Sophie to acknowledge him, but she would have none of it.  Out of that time, this picture emerged, still a favorite after all of these years.

Goofy being Goofy

Disney Magic

Sophie and Goofy checking out pigtails and ears!

This picture, which takes us back again to 2007, was taken at Restaurantasaurus.  At that time, the restaurant was a character dining restaurant, not a counter service location like it is now.  We had a reservation for breakfast, and during that time, when Goofy came to visit us, Sophie took Goofy’s cue of pulling his ears out and did the same thing with her pigtails!

Stephanie and Shane

Disney Magic

Shane proposes to Stephanie in front of “her” Castle.

Of course, no exploration of Disney Magic would be complete without sharing once again the story of Shane and his bride Stephanie.  As Shane wrote in his own words, his dreams came true in 2012 in front of Cinderella Castle when he proposed to his wife Stephanie.  We all were in tears, and the Disney Magic was so thick you could slice it with a knife.

Walt’s dream when he created Disneyland was to be able to create a space where parents and children could go together, where they could ride the rides together, where they could be a family together, and where they could let their imaginations take them back to their childhood.  The stories I’ve shared today are proof to me that his vision has been achieved, and that Disney Magic, even today, is alive and well.  What stories do you have to share that prove that Disney Magic exists?  Please share in the comments, and thanks!

Happy Birthday Mom

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday Mom

Today is my Mom’s Birthday! Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom’s Birthday!  Happy Birthday Mom!  This is a big day for you, and I hope that you have a wonderful day and weekend!

The pictures that I’m including in this post were taken when we took Mom to the Magic Kingdom for a day back on August 2nd, 2006.  This was Sophie’s second trip to Disney, and as you can see, my daughter already knew that she was a Princess!

Happy Birthday Mom

My Mom enjoying herself on the Carousel!

My Mom is not one for thrill rides, so riding something like the Carousel, and it’s a small world, and seeing the Country Bear Jamoree — those are right up her alley!  To her credit, she did try the Barnstormer kiddie roller coaster with Sophie (although she didn’t enjoy it at all).

Over the years, my Mom has been through a lot, and it is a testimony to her soul, and her kind spirit, and her upbringing that she is the person she is.

All of you that are regular readers know that I am a man of Faith.  My Mom is living proof of the evidence of God’s existence.

My Mom was bitten by a mosquito when she was about 1 year old, and contracted a very serious illness.  My Grandpa had to teach her how to talk and how to walk again, and she came very close to not being here.

My Grandpa was assigned to the Washington, DC area in the early 60s to manager the United Airlines hangar setup at what was to become Dulles International Airport, so of course my Grandma and their children moved to the area also.  It was while they lived in the area that my Mom and Dad met — on a blind date — were married on May 1, 1964 — over 50 years ago.

Sometimes I think it is easy for us to think that God has nothing special in plan for our lives.  I wonder if my Mom ever wondered that about her life?  What I know is that the events of her life, from early on until this very day, are proof of the special role that God has for her, and for all of us.

Mom, I love you with all of my heart, and I am proud to be your son.

Love,

Mickey

September 11

A Day I’ll Never Forget – September 11

September 11

Image ©FreeGreatImages.com

It was a wonderful fall day in Raleigh.  I was staying home while Cindy was working.  Sophie was days shy of being three months old, and was still an itty-bitty little baby.  I was sitting in Cindy’s rocking chair, feeding Sophie, when Cindy called and told me about the crash and had me turn on the TV.

I’ll never forget that for as long as I live.  I remember watching, mesmerized, as I saw the planes crash into the Towers.  I remember hearing of other hijackings of other planes.  I remember hearing of the heroic efforts by the passengers of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania — they knew they were going to die, but they also knew that this was an attack, and they weren’t going to sit by and wait for it to happen again.

I remember hearing how the airlines were all grounded — every single plane — and jumping ahead a bit, I remember being at Lowes several days later when I first saw a plane in the sky again.  It was so odd to see after so long of not seeing any aircraft.

Back to September 11.  I remember that Sophie and I were supposed to have lunch with our friend Lisa, and when I called Lisa, we both wondered if it was safe to go and still have lunch.  In the end, we decided that yes, we would have lunch, that there were far more important places than Raleigh to attack, and that we shouldn’t let this stop us from doing what we would normally do.  We shouldn’t let the Terrorists win like that.

I remember holding Cindy when she got home from work that day.  I remember the three of us hugging it out, locking our doors, we were afraid.  I’ll never forget Cindy telling me that she wanted Sophie to sleep between us that night.  She wanted to make absolutely certain that her baby was safe from the world.

Cindy’s cousin Jeannie lives in New York.  She worked at the World Trade Center.  She was supposed to be there that morning — but something went “wrong” at home, so she decided to work from home that day.  Never has something so “wrong” been so right.

My prayers are still with all of those that lost loved ones.  My prayers are still with all of the countries affected.  There were so many innocent lives lost that day because of a bunch of crazy people that are burning in Hell right now.  My prayers are still with our leaders, our country, all of us.

September 11, 2001 is a day when the world became a much more dangerous place.  Gone were the days of playing outside during the summer vacation.  Gone were the days when you could not lock your door.  Gone was the innocence of our children.

Where were you on September 11, 2001?  What do you remember about that day?

May God have Mercy on all of us, and on all of those that lost their lives that day.

Magical Blogorail – Ways Disney helps deal with Grief

MB-Green-Logo

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Green. Enjoy our therapeutic ride as we share ways that Disney has helped us through times of grief and sorrow.

Over the past year, a lot of my friends have had loved ones pass away — and in way too many cases, it was young children that were called home.  In this week’s Magical Blogorail post, we are talking about ways that Walt Disney World (or the other Disney parks) have played a role in helping us deal with our grief and sorrow.

My Grandpa died just over three years ago at the young age of 98.  While my Grandpa wasn’t as big a Disney fanatic as I am, my Grandma and Grandpa were the ones that first took me (and my sister and Mom) to the Magic Kingdom, way back in 1979.  When I was in my pre-teen and teenage years, my summers were spent visiting Grandma and Grandpa (primarily Grandpa) during the summer vacation, and he and I spent many a day having fun and doing cool things together.  It may be hard to imagine, but as you can see by this picture, my Grandpa was cool.

My Grandpa sporting my Safari Mickey hat!

My Grandpa sporting my Safari Mickey hat!

Now that I am a dad and husband, I have played a similar role to the role that my Grandpa played — I introduced Walt Disney World to my wife Cindy in 2000, and together we introduced our daughter Sophie to Walt Disney World in 2005.  One day in the future, I can’t wait until the day when Cindy and I introduce our grandchild to Walt Disney World.  Only God knows when that will be, but if He is willing, it will happen.

In some ways, I always thought that my Grandpa and Walt Disney had a lot in common, and now in my family, I am doing some of the same things that those two great men have done.  My daughter Sophie and I are training for our first 5K together — the Princess 5K to be held February 19-22 of next year.  While we aren’t running for any specific person or for any cause or in honor of a loved one that passed away, we are forming a stronger bond because this is something that only we are doing.  My wife Cindy is involved, but she’s choosing to cheer us on at the finish.  She knows that the days are coming when Sophie will not want to spend much time with us, and she is giving Sophie and I this event, the 5K, as a way for us to continue our Daddy/Daughter relationship for a bit longer.  In my minds eye, I picture it as similar to what Walt did by taking his girls to Griffith Park to ride the carousel.

Of course, there are other 5K events — you don’t need to travel to Walt Disney World just to run in a 5K.  In fact, we are going to be doing the Walk for Hope in Raleigh on October 12th — and that’s a 10K walk (we’ll run some too).  That event benefits mental illness research and treatment, so if you would like to donate to it, you can do so by clicking on this donate link.  But the point I’m making is that we’re continuing our bonding by participating in an event at Walt Disney World — and in my opinion, Disney is the mechanism for us to keep our relationship close, even though she is a teenager.  While I haven’t relied on Disney as a truly therapeutic way to deal with the loss of a loved one in a physical sense, like my friend Beth did when she lost her nephew, or my dear friend Dawn did when she lost her father, or my friend Kuleen did when her friends lost their child, I have used my connection and love for Walt Disney World — and my daughter’s love for Disney, too — as a way to keep us close when so many families see their daughter or son drift apart from them.  Regardless of the setting, whether it is Disney or the beach or the mountains or whatever, use those memories and experiences as the means to keep your loved ones close, or to remember their memory if they have passed on.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is In the Mouse House.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney – How Disney Helped My Grief
2nd Stop ~ In the Mouse House – Running in Honor of My Brother
3rd Stop ~ Heidi’s Head – How Disney helped with my illness
4th Stop ~ Saving Up for Disney – How Disney Helped after I lost my Father
Final Stop ~ Journeys from a Follower – How Disney Helped me through my own life challenge