We just spent 5 magical days in the most magical place on earth. I had last visited Disney in high school with my band. When I was there, Animal Kingdom was a brand new park, and my girlfriends and I got in massive trouble for taking 2 extra rides on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (the newest ride at Magic Kingdom at the time) instead of heading to the bus after the fireworks. (Whoops! Was it worth it to have made 60 kids wait on a bus and several chaperones worry sick wondering where we were? We zapped a lot of aliens on those two wait-free rides—you tell me. To be fair, who leaves the park the last 30 minutes it’s open?) On that trip, I got caught up in the magic of Disney. So caught up that when, a few days into the trip, we did a back stage visit and saw the beast costume laying on the ground of a room, and Cinderella smoking with Chip who was holding his cute fuzzy head in his fuzzy arms, I was horrified.

Even so, that magic left me wanting more and trailed after me til now, nearly 20 years later (HOLY HIGH HEAVENS, HOW IS THAT NUMBER SO HIGH??), I was ready to revisit it and be swept up again—this time, with an 8- and 5-year-old in tow. Although I started making plans over the summer, we announced the trip to the kids on Christmas Day. When they were done opening Santa gifts, we sent them on a cute scavenger hunt with Mickey-related clues and prizes. They reached the end and we had Vivvi read the last clue. After lots of sounding out and stuttering, Wally looked over her shoulder and blurted it out, “We’re going to Disney. That’s what it says.” Although he was the one to say it, she was the first to comprehend.

“Really?” she squealed. My months of planning were about to pay off, I thought. Here comes the joy. “Right now?”

“No,” we said. “In 65 days!”

They looked at us. “Can we go play with our toys?”

So the sharing of my magic-sprinkled joy would have to wait until closer to the trip. But I didn’t let that hold me back. One of the best parts of a trip to me is the anticipation, and the intense planning and my post-firework Space Ranger Spin galavanting memories had fueled me with plenty of it. All of my winter’s happiness relied on the fact that We. Were. Going. To. Disney. (A week of the flu for each kid? It’s okay, we’re going to Disney! Below 20 wind chills? Disney! $400 Hair Clog that caused the plumber to ask if we have a dog, and my husband to respond, “No, I have a wife!” DISNEY!)

Disney has an app that shows ride wait times. I checked that app so often leading up to the trip that not only did I know every ride and its location, but I could predict what a wait time would be on a given day at a given time. Some might call it obsession. I called it my heart’s delight.

A week before the trip, I fretted over germs. I cancelled everything, and we hunkered down inside. Our hands were bleeding from washing them so much, but they were germ free. My children are now so afraid to touch their faces that they cry when their noses itch. (To be fair, we were fully taken down by high fevers for 10 days one month before the trip. Twenty percent of their class was out on any given day from illness. This town was gross and did not want us to be healthy enough to go to Disney.)

Finally, finally, finally, the day of our trip arrived. If I wanted companions in excitement, I got them the few days before we left. When I said goodnight to Wally Ben the night before we left, he could not stop letting out wild yawps and saying, “I just wish it was tomorrow already!”

The first “ride” for Vivvi was the plane—she had never been on one before.


And finally, the trip I had taken a million times in my mind the months leading up to it commenced. A lot of it played out exactly as I had hoped—we went hard like we do morning til night, a sleep-when-we’re-dead hard that left us closing all of our fitness circles by noon and sleeping-like-we-were-dead at night. We ate the best barbecue and seafood and the treats, treats, treats treats! We did all the rides and saw all the shows and the wait times were just what I predicted.

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But the best and most memorable bits were the deviances.

We arrived for rope drop one morning and the ride we went to was closed. We headed to the nearest big attraction, Everest (which the kids affectionately call Yeti), and rode it so many times in a row without waiting that by the end, the workers loading the ride knew us by name.


We unexpectedly got on the biggest, newest ride—a James Cameron creation that makes you feel like you are flying on a dragon-like creature. It left Wally Ben speechless in amazement and Vivvi in tears because it was too real for her. She was lucky she was by her dad, who took off his 3D glasses and comforted her for the last few minutes of the ride. I would have just let her cry and taken care of the tears after. (What? We waited 40 minutes, and she was strapped in nice and tight!)

We happened upon a lot of parades or characters or shows or 5-inch-tall cupcakes and stopped to enjoy.

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We had bathroom emergencies we shall not discuss, and found the perfectly stocked stall in which to recover some dignity. This was truly magical. Here are a few cute pictures instead of an illustration of that magic. (Including a shot of Wally with a princess that he just HAD to take.)

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 3.02.29 PMWe started to refer to things as Disney Real, and we realized that Walt Disney understood the pleasure of frightening children just the right amount. The Twilight Zone disappearances described in the Tower of Terror were Disney Real (Wally Ben’s favorite ride!). The Darth Vader we fought was Disney Real. The Beast, who made me rather giddy, actually, was Disney Real. (Those cupcakes might even have been Disney real—the line really started to blur for me.)


We met princesses, who were all far too vacant and stepford-y for my taste and may fit into the above frightening category for it. (Come on, Disney, do better!) Flynn Rider, on the other hand, was full of personality. As were the step sisters, who introduced themselves saying, “Nice to meet me, the pleasure is all yours.” Vivvi (the proclaimed lover of death and darkness) delighted us all in her choice of a favorite character to have met.

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We got this reel of Vivvi’s faces on one of the stupidest Disney-ist rides on the trip—representative of how fun it was to do any and all of it with her at this age. The below is a compilation I like to call, The Many Faces of Jungle Cruise.

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And I got my favorite gift after the trip, which is Wally’s constant chatter about which rides were the best in order and why, and Vivvi’s 6-page journal, including this page about her favorites. I am going to lock these memories up for forever safe-keeping.


I’m not really sure how it happened, but after all of that anticipation, the trip turned out even better than expected. What is it that gives Disney its magic? Maybe in 20 more years—when, if that James Cameron ride is any prediction of where we’re going, I visit Disney virtually and ride everything with my grandchildren—I’ll figure it out. For now, I’ll chalk it up to all that fairy dust.