This was the best surprise I’ve ever pulled off. We are not typically adept at keeping exciting news to ourselves. We are the kind of people who announced we were pregnant the second we found out.
But this time we played it cool. We DID tell the boys we were headed to Disney World. However, we did NOT tell them that I copied my friend Amy’s Disney itinerary as closely as I could, so our Disney vacation would be shared with Xavier and Zoe. (Don’t worry. Xavier and Zoe’s parents were in on it. I wasn’t completely stalking them.)
So Alan and I rode down to Florida, enjoying our secret.
Art of Animation Resort
Our resort was the bee’s knees, y’all. We stayed at the Art of Animation Resort at Disney World, which is actually a VALUE level resort. The family suites sleep 6 and have 2 full bathrooms. There is a cafeteria open until midnight, several swimming pools, and all the free drink refills you want, if you have the Disney Dining Plan.
Day 1 was off to a rocky start. First, we were later than we had hoped to be because….well because we are us and we have four children.
That’s 6 people to apply sunscreen to. Six people to feed. Six people to dress. Six people to brush teeth. 6 people to use the bathroom. Six people to get on each other’s nerves. 6 people to make jokes. 6 people to keep up with. 6 people to wake up. You get the idea.
So we finally made it to the pearly Magic Kingdom gates, through the bag check line, and to the bracelet scan ….and…..
whomp whomp whomp
“We need you to go to guest services.”
Denied entry. Now that is sad.
There was a line at guest services. I guess we weren’t the only ones. Turns out that we had to prove that we were military b/c we’d gotten a sweet military discount on those tickets. Now, if our resort peeps had known, they could have validated that for us, but we didn’t think to tell them, and they didn’t ask, so this had to be done at the gate. It was a good thing Alan had his ID with him.
Phew! Finally got through that. We made our way over to the train. Poor little John David tripped as he was climbing onto the train. He cried. It was loud. After a few minutes of that, a sweet lady from behind us passed him an entire package of Starbursts to cheer him up.
We needed that. I wish I knew her name. I’d shout it from the rooftops.
We are not familiar with the parks, and pretty much everything has changed since we went 8 years ago, so it took us a while to find It’s A Small World, where we were scheduled to meet our friends at 9:30.
Miraculously enough, we were only a couple minutes late when we spotted our friends! Xavier ran over to us, and Joshua…..looked confused. It was hilarious. Joshua was silent, but his face seemed to be saying, “Um, yes, hello, who are you?” to Xavier. Of course, after a few minutes, Joshua and Caleb figured out what was going on, and they were so happy. Joshua actually turned to Caleb and said, “Caleb, pinch me. I don’t think I’m awake. I must be dreaming.”
We all rode 2 rides together, and then split up for the 3rd because not all of our Fastpasses were together.
We were nervous about JD’s ability to keep his Magic Band on his arm. See, the Magic Band is of great value at Disney. All your reservations are programmed in there. It can also identify a lost child. And as an adult, you can wire your credit card info on there so you don’t even have to carry around money. Magic bands open your hotel room, know your fast pass times, and contain your park admission ticket. They are a big deal.
So you can imagine my dismay when after ride #2 of day #1, I look down and realize that I have lost MY Magic Band. Well, of course I did, really. I’ve always had trouble with bracelets. Grooooaaaaan.
The boys headed off to use their Fast Pass with Alan. I headed back to the Haunted Mansion. If a cast member (Disney employee) finds a Magic Band, it’s kept at that ride for an hour. So I figured I had one hour to get that band back. I had it when I got on the Haunted Mansion ride, and it was gone afterwards, so that had to be it.
ugh. We had walked a long way. It was sunny. I was sweating. I missed turns, I turned back, but I eventually found my way back to Haunted Mansion, using my handy-dandy Disney app.
I asked each cast member I passed, “Have you seen a pink Magic Band?”
I went all the way through the suddenly very long Haunted Mansion line. No band.
I was annoyed to have to ride the ride again, by myself, but I did it.
It wasn’t scary, but creepy skulls and ghosts aren’t my thing. “Why this ride, Lord?” I thought.
Call me crazy, but he answered me. I thought about my tendency to gloss over everything bad and pretend like the gross, evil, and unfortunate things in life don’t exist. That’s apathy, really. But these things do exist, and they must be faced.
I prayed for God to just please give me my band back and get me out of there.
At the very end of the ride, as I went through the exit corridor, I asked a young lady, and she said, “Hold on.”
Then she was gone all of two minutes and came back holding my magic band.
Thank you, Lord!
I’m happy to tell you that bad things come in threes, so that’s the last one. The rest of it went well:
Oh, the tea cups. What adult likes this ride? This was the only ride that made JD cry.
By lunch, JD reached full melt-down level. But Caleb and Dan were dying to ride these cars, so we split up here and met back at the restaurant. Lunch made all the difference too. When in doubt, feed the children!
One of the best things that happened: It rained almost every day, just enough to cool things off. The heat was not nearly as bad as I feared it would be.
Granted, we got off to a rough start, but by lunch I feel like we had things turned around in our favor.
It struck me during our vacation what a positive difference it made, sharing this trip with good friends. Our kids were braver about trying new things, and I think it helped Alan and me to be more relaxed and fun. People often say that Alan and I are laid back, which is a real head scratcher for me because the truth is we are tired, uptight people. We do like to have fun. It’s just that we’ve been so busy changing diapers, enforcing vegetable consumption, teaching reading skills, coaching memory work, cleaning up, and taming boys over the past 10 years that sometimes it feels like fun is a relative concept.
Our friends, Amy and Sean, are in the parenting trenches just as we are, so they’re understanding. Plus, we have shared history. They’ve already accepted us for who we are. I’d like to put my finger on what it is that makes me like these friends so much. Because I do. I love their whole family, and Amy is one of my few closest friends. They are upbeat, and they are real at the same time. Amy is the kind of friend I can be myself with, and they are good about keeping in touch.
There is a certain quality you find in just a few friends in life, a quality that cannot be aptly described with words. All I know is to call them “kindred spirits” as Anne of Green Gables did, but it’s more than that. There are some people who can’t help but be the main characters in your life. It is a matter of both mutual respect, shared interests, and plain old convenience and timing.
But I think God’s hand is in it too. Sometimes, once I realize a friend is definitely more than a passing acquaintance, I stop and wonder, “What is it, God? What should I learn from them? What do they need that I might offer?” It’s usually both. It’s that whole iron-sharpening iron thing.
It was a refreshing visit, especially as we enter another phase of meeting new people and being “the new kids” yet again. My heart starts to get tired of putting my best foot forward, and that is why I drag my family out on all these vacations. I have this need to remind myself where we’ve been, where we’re going, and who we are before we plunge in to building a new community for ourselves.
And I have to take a little time. I wish that it were everyday, but sometimes it isn’t. But never forget to take a little time to read God’s Word, the Holy Bible, and get down on your face, and pray for the courage and strength to tackle the next thing. It would be beautiful for life to be like the ENDINGS of your favorite movies, full of pot-luck dinners, and breezy sun-lit paths. But instead, it’s more like an obstacle course, where your relay team keeps changing. God is the only constant.
Today I found this verse:
In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Psalm 81:7
In your distress, you called and I rescued you.
Yes!! That was exactly it. This year and many times before!
It rang so strong and true with me that I wrote it down in 4 different places, one of which was where I copied the verse on my wrist in red ink pen. Alan said it looked disturbing. Sigh. I just wanted a place I could see it that wouldn’t wash off when I washed my hands. Being disturbing was not my intention.
But y’all!!! Sometimes life IS disturbing!!!
That is why we NEED friends! And vacations! And PRAYER!! And a little silence and rest. And upbeat people.