Oh yes, yes, yes, we love to travel. Every trip – whether a quick day trip or an international trip-of-a-lifetime – is a love story for us. There is, for each strong family, some glue that holds that family together. We J-Ms have a few kinds of glue— trips and travels being one of the strongest. We have yet to not come home from a trip re-bonded. This latest one is no different. It is a story that begins long before the car engine starts or the flight takes off. It is an on-going story, playing out daily, before-during-and-long-after. It is the telling and re-telling of stories from trips past. It is the memories of sweet adventures and the imagining of adventures to come. It is the remembrances cemented in our minds and hearts. It is the potential for all that future trips might hold.
The bambinos, like most privileged American children, have many toys at home. But the one thing that is played with day after day and year after year (loyal blog readers know this), is the airplanes. We have quite a collection. And the airplanes are more active than ever in the days leading up to a trip. While the J-M children knew we were going to “Walt Disney World,” they had no real idea of what that place actually was. But nonetheless, the excitement was building, and the planes were lining up on the runway far in advance of our actual departure.
Anyone who has ever traveled at all knows that there is a lot of planning and prepping and packing to do for a family of five going anywhere. We use the same basic strategy trip upon trip. We’ve mastered it, and it works for us. But it is still a lot. And we (mainly, me) always wonder – in the 11th hour – if it is all worth it. But it always is.
Every bit is an adventure beloved. The early morning wake-ups in the pitch dark, to catch our flight on time; the airport routine and all that it entails (think: airport security, with three young children); every moment of time spent in a plane… it is savored and adored. Especially by Kyle and Owen. This one, by the way, was their 20th trip-involving-air-travel. They are expert travelers. And yet we are asked multiple times, every time: “Ah! They’re sooo excited! This must be their first flight?!” Nope, not at all. But you’d never know it by the looks on their faces, their delight in meeting the pilots in the cockpit, their narration of the take-off and the “roaring down the runway!” and the “we’re up in the air!!!” Our rambunctious, spirited, bouncing-off-the-walls boys are downright delightful on a flight. Sitting nicely in their seats, doing their traveling thing. Everyone around us is always amazed (they tell us so). And Little Miss Meera is following right along in her brothers’ footsteps— with the same sense of travel style that her big bro’s embody so well.
And then… we’re there! And it is always even better than we imagined it would be. (I’m not lying.) And that is saying a lot, especially for this particular trip—Walt Disney World for the first time with your own kids. It is a dream trip. It is a once-in-a-lifetime. It is something that, I for one, believe is as magical as the Disney people claim it to be. It really is, truly, something special. And so it was that we arrived in Florida, and – icing on the sweetest cake!!! – met up with MorMor and MorFar in the Orlando airport!!! Surely there were not three kids in Orlando more excited than the J-M kids were that day. (And again, that is saying a whole heck of a lot, since on any given day you can find a lot of very excited kids in Orlando!) We found our rental car, stopped on the road for lunch, and then high-tailed it to our resort. This is not a paid (or even unpaid) advertisement in any way (believe me!), but I gotta tell you, the Hilton Parc Soleil was nice. Really nice! And in no time we were settled right in by the pool drinking coffee (adults) and eating ice cream sandwiches (kids) and pretty much loving life. And then, without further ado, came the first morning… bright and early and ready for whatever the day was going to hold (and oh! did it ever hold some good!)… with tickets in hand… it was time to head to The Magic Kingdom.
Every minute is amazing. And we weren’t inside the gate even five minutes when I snapped this picture (below). Three classic mouse ear hats were bought within the first three minutes (one of the only things they knew about Disney was “kids wear Mickey and Minnie ears there!”) Look at their faces, looking around, in total wonder and amazement. And now imagine that wonder and amazement for the entire next twelve hours of the day. It was a marathon of fun. With splendor at every turn.
It was a lot to take in, but take it in we did. We knew the boys would love it, but we had worried about our baby girl. We had thought that we were mainly going for the six-year-olds, and we wondered how we’d manage the two-year-old in tow. But the biggest surprise of the trip was just how much Meera loved it too. She couldn’t ride all the big rides with her brothers (who, by the way, rode every single one… as did their grandparents!!!), but there was so much she could do. And do it she did. She was not “in tow,” she was right there in the center of the pack. She loved it just as much as her brothers. Just in different ways. And, she just required a bit more of her comfort zone (bottles of milk, being held by mama) to be in place from time to time. Here’s Meera while we waited for the rest of our gang to get off of Big Thunder Mountain!
A highlight: Meeting Princess Tiana. Otherwise known as, “The Real Princess and the Frog,” by Meera Grace. It was, undoubtedly, the high of the trip for me— and that came as completely unexpected (because I am not, at all, nor have I ever been, a princess person). But there was something incredibly cliché-cute and overwhelmingly endearing about seeing my girl and her brothers meet that princess. She’s the only princess they knew about (the only Disney princess movie they’ve seen or book they’ve read), and it was magical for them. I could write a whole blog post about this (the whiteness of Disney; the first black princess, how all three of my kids respond to her, etc., etc., etc.), but I won’t. Suffice it to say: it was great. Like, really, really, really great.
Especially when we asked her to sign Meera’s Minnie-ears. And she, the princess, got tears in her eyes and told us that it was the first time she’d ever been asked to sign one (and –for a bunch of reasons—I believe her). So, with a big black Sharpie, sign it she did.
And she told me to “hold on to it” because it was “a first” and “surely now a collector’s item.” And then she and Prince Naveen chatted it up with my three bambinos for a good long while (by the magic of all magic we somehow ended up being her last visit of the morning, so she hung out with us for a big chunk of time, making us all feel like a million bucks). “What’s your favorite food?” she asked Owen. “Tortellini,” he said. “What’s your favorite food?” she then asked Kyle. “Ravioli,” he said. “What’s your favorite food?” she then asked Meera. And with dreamy eyes, looking up at ‘The Real Princess and the Frog, “PINK!” she said. And we all laughed. And then Princess Tiana picked up Meera and held her on her hip and snuggled her up. Oh, and then, there was the precious Disney moment for this mommy… I don’t want to brag or anything… and I’m aware of how ridiculous this whole thing sounds… but for this scrapbook’s sake I need to document this… Then Princess Tiana asked if she could hug me. I found this request odd, and quite awkward, but not knowing what else to do, I reached out to her and we hugged. And then, she whispered in my ear, “You have the sweetest children! I see so many! But yours are my favorite ever! Really! They are the sweetest children!!!” Maybe she has been trained to say that to every mother? But, throwing all skepticism aside, for that one split second, I really did feel like the Best Mom Ever. It was very short-lived, of course, but the trip was worth it just for that moment. I could have gone home then, and been happy.
But we did not go home then. Instead, there was lunch! In Frontierland! There was Splash Mountain and Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean. There was Minnie’s House and Mickey’s House. And there was everything else around every corner in between. And then there was the afternoon parade!!!!!! The best parade on earth, I swear!
There was a purple Mickey balloon for Owen, a Minnie Mouse balloon for Meera, and a Princesses balloon for Kyle (who, on this trip, took on an intense interest in the Disney princesses… those super-white goddesses of which we had shielded and protected him for the past six years of his life… but the dam was broken wide open and he quickly became fully enthralled with the princesses, which seem to have flooded his whole intellect and imagination).
And finally the littlest one of us fell asleep. Who was more relieved for her to finally get a bit of rest? Meera or her mother? She, who never falls asleep outside her bed, slept hard for over an hour, late in that afternoon, including through the entire Jungle Cruise ride.
And there was lots of hand holding and memory making and multi-generational family bonding. You can say whatever you want to say about Disney (the marketing, the commercialism, the materialism, and on and on), but you cannot knock it for that. For that you can only look at Disney in awe. I love this picture (below) because if you look closely you can see Owen studying MorFar’s walk, and mimicking it as best he can. He is still walking just like his MorFar, and we’ve been home now for a few days.
The day turned to night and there was The Electrical Parade. The second-best parade on earth, I swear!
And then the lit-up castle, and Tinkerbell flying through the air, and the famous fireworks. I’m glad we have the pictures, because it is almost too much to believe, even though I know we were there.
And finally, then, there was this:
And that was our day at The Magic Kingdom.