The Happiest Place on Earth

***Disclaimer: This post contains an obsessive amount of photos, provides more information than you probably care to hear, and is dripping with ooey-gooey sappiness. 

This past week, my husband and I were blessed with the opportunity to take our little ‘Princess” to The Happiest Place on Earth, Disney World. Although I typically steer clear from referring to my girls as Princess'(my husband calls then that daily), I adored the fact that everywhere we went in Orlando they called our girls ‘Princess.’

This vacation was a dream come true for me. It was my first trip to Disney as well. To be able to provide that to my babies’ is something that I honestly never thought a possibility.

This past week just re-confirmed my reasoning for hauling our 14month old, Aniston, across the country, knowing quite well that she would have no recollection of meeting Mickey and Minnie, that she would miss some attractions due to her intermittent stroller napping, and that having her there would require a little more planning and coordinating and a lot more patience on my part. Circumstances change. We could lose our jobs, or worse, our health. This past week, while my family was dining with Snow White and Cinderella, floating down the lazy river, and watching Tinker Bell fly high above, there were many others suffering real tragedy. There were undoubtedly moments over the past week where I felt guilty. Guilty for laughing with my babies while a family in Boston mourned the loss of theirs. And guilty for getting all fancied up for a dinner with my husband while many wives in West, Texas were planning memorial services for theirs. Then I reminded myself, that is exactly why I am here, soaking up every glorious second with my family. Because me and my family are not invincible. This may be our last vacation as a family of four, God forbid. But you never know. So I prayed for patience, and I planned a little more, and I coordinated a little more, and I packed up my entire family, and we experienced Disney World…together!

My Plan of Attack…

The moment I was brought to tears by the news that we would soon be visiting Disney World, my wheels were turning. When I learned of the magnitude of the place I became a little overwhelmed. Advice started flying at me from every direction, there were itineraries mapping out every second of every day, websites galore dedicated to the who/what/when/where of Disney. Ahhhh!

I decided pretty early on in the process that my goal was to make this vacation just that, a vacation. Sure I wanted to experience all that we could, but I wanted the experience to be enjoyable. My approach was based loosely on my philosophy of kids and cokes, “If they never taste it, then they never know what they are missing.” So I did some research and made an itinerary highlighting our ‘Must Do’s’ (even those weren’t really must do’s). We would leisurely enjoy the most popular attractions, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, Nemo, The Little Mermaid, the parades and the fireworks. We would get autographs only from those that the girls’ were interested in. We would make time for naps and take our cues from the babies. When they got tired, we were done. The entire purpose was to create beautiful family memories, not nervous breakdowns.

And guess what. We did it! We rode every ride on our list and then some. We saw two parades. We made it through the fireworks. We met Mickey, and Minnie, and Donald, and Rafiki, and Pluto (minus Harper, she said, “Pluto’s isn’t nice.” Ha!), and Cinderella, and Aurora, and Belle, and Snow White, and Ariel, and Crush. We saw two shows. We went on a safari through ‘Africa’. And we did it all with absolutely zero tantrums or meltdowns.

**If this blog had sound effects, this is where you would hear the angels singing!**

The Timeline…

4/17/13

We arrived at our resort, the amazing Hilton Bonnet Creek, close to lunch time on Wednesday. We took advantage of the grande swimming pool, ordering lunch at the cabana. Harper and I swam while Daddy took Aniston up to catch some zzzz’s while he got a little work in.

I immediately started questioning where my shy, hesitant child had gone, and who this fearless, social butterfly was that she had been replaced with. I have honestly never seen this side of Harper. Aaron and I many times throughout the trip asked each other, “Who is this person?!” She jumped in to the water, head under, and came up wearing what was the beginning of a five day long perma-smile. My little girl was in Heaven. And nothing in this great big world could have made this Momma any happier.

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4/18/13

Me and the girls woke early (not my choice) and enjoyed a nice breakfast while Daddy was in his meeting. At 11am we all headed over to Epcot. I was told that Epcot’s target audience wasn’t necessarily toddlers, but it was the only park that we could get in to have lunch with the princesses. This was  the most priceless moment of the entire trip. Harper was literally squeeealing with excitement, practically climbing on the table top at the mere site of a princess. And it’s a good thing my shy, hesitant child had been replaced by this fearless, social butterfly. Because my Harper would have never left our sight to participate in her very own Princess Processional, parading through the restaurant waving at all of the patrons, one of the many times I fought back tears.

One. Proud. Momma.

We spent about five hours at Epcot, including lunch, which left us enough time to ride Nemo, have ‘Turtle Talk’ with Crush (parents will enjoy this one as well-Aaron and I were rolling), meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Pluto, and play on the playground before heading back for a ‘fancy’ dinner.

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dinner

4/19/13

Again, we woke early and feasted on a breakfast buffet. Me and the girls ventured out by ourselves to get a head start on what was to be our busiest day, at Magic Kingdom. We took a shuttle, and then a ferry before we found ourselves standing directly in front of Cinderella’s Castle, in awe. We rode a few rides, saw a show, and then headed back to meet up with Dad. We swam, ate, napped, and around 5pm we headed back. We rode more rides, played in the water feature at Fantasy Land, had dinner, and found the perfect seats for the Nighttime Electric Parade and the Nighttime Spectacular Fireworks Show, which was indeed spectacular. The girls were troopers, falling just short of the finish line. Both fell asleep with about two minutes remaining in the show.

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fireworks

4/20/13

Woke early. Ate breakfast. Waited on Dad. And around noon, together, we rode our shuttle over the Animal Kingdom. There we went on an African Safari (highly recommended), watched the Lion King musical (think Cirque de Soliel),  saw Mickey in a Jungle Parade, and met Rafiki (Well, Harper waved from afar). We spent about five hours at Animal Kingdom. Not nearly enough time to experience all that the park has to offer. Still,  in my opinion, if we had to eliminate one of the parks from our itinerary, this would be the one.

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4/21/13

We spent our last day in Orlando gnawing on crab legs (Aniston’s new fave) while overlooking the water, waving at boats passing by, and shopping for our littlest friends back home.

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Disney was amazing. Disney was magical. Disney was everything I had imagined it to be and so much more. I am beyond thankful. Beyond grateful for this unforgettable time with my family.

My itty-bitty deserves a special ‘Thank You‘. Some probably thought I was ‘asking for it’ taking my 14month old on a trip like this. But I know my girl. And I knew without a doubt that she would make the best of the situation. She spent the majority of this trip strapped in to a stroller, patiently waiting, watching, while Big Sister had the time of her life. Smiling. Eating. Laughing. Sleeping. And occasionally, when she met the height requirements, riding a ride of her own.

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Aniston, you are my Rock Star!

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