Disney With Kids

Florida, Part II.
I drove with my RV parents to The Magic Kingdom while Luke flew coast to coast to join us.
Betty loved having her car seat buckled to a couch as Lucy, our avid eater, was tickled by the idea of traveling within arms reach of a kitchen. Olive slept the entire way while I caught up on some celebrity trash magazines.
And if I wasn’t married to a lineman this image wouldn’t have caused boundless excitement to our power-line obsessed children:

We stayed at Walt Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. About as much wilderness as a zoo, with wild ducks scouting for chips. Although it certainly is nice to know Pacific Northwesterners can return to pitch a tent for a reasonable price. Well, reasonable is relative in the world of Disney. The Fort had an amazing water park, character campfire sing-a-longs, boat rentals, horses. But, the ferry ride to the gates of The Kingdom was, by far, it’s most convenient feature.

I would make a dermatologist proud. Two weeks in 90 degree blazing sun and my Icelandic-ly pale children didn’t get as much as a blush from the sun. At Fort Wilderness’ water park, Betty showed her skills of swimming without water wings. Such confidence, such joy.

First, she conquered the little tykes water slide, then the big one that made my heart race as I flew underwater at it’s end.

Reuniting with Luke after nearly two weeks was amazing. The sweaty, humid embrace was long overdue. I didn’t know if the girls would let him out of their sight. We were, finally, at Disney with our radiant, princess obsessed ladies.
Walt Disney World: merchandise on every corner, techno-pumping parades around the bend.
Lucy May couldn’t believe her eyes. Storybook and movie characters came to life. She took it all in from the seat of the extra stroller. Later, when we asked her the best parts of Disney World, she replied The Fort’s pool and riding in a stroller like a baby.
Sometimes, you’ve got to wonder why you go the lengths you do if the simple things are what’s best.
Cinderella’s castle was closed for renovations. Betty asked, “just like our old place in Coupeville?” No, not quite. They wanted to know how many kids she had, if they too, slept in bunk beds and what the kitchen looked like.

The lines were long while the shady and often air conditioned waiting areas were a welcome resting point. It’s a Small World was my favorite, mainly due to my love of vintage Christmas ornaments and Olive’s wide eyed and smiley acceptance of the whole affair.

We rode Mickey’s Express around and around The Kingdom. It felt good to sit. Plus, our folded stroller just slightly unfolded and lodged itself between the benches. We were too hot and sleepy to deal with it, so around we rode.

Inside Minnie’s house Betty was overwhelmed with the kitchen. She was bummed we’d already eaten our picnic lunch while she sat, excitedly empty-handed, at Minnie’s table. Lucy stood with fingers dangling from invisible belt loops and spoke in a false deep voice, “I’m Minnie’s Daddy.”Amazing with still so much humor at the end of a long, humidly long day.
The girls were in shock while we waited to meet the princesses. Normally, they resort to pinching one another when asked to remain still in line. They just might have eaten spiders if I’d told them it was required for admission. Still, deep in princess love they practiced their questions for each favorite.
I wish I could say I was listening to their practice questions, but I was busy eavesdropping. I often forget about the population of single mid-forties women who tattoo Tinkerbell and buy the latest in Disney Princess wearable sweatshirt fashion. Three of these women were before us and their wildest dreams were coming true.
Betty liked that Sleeping Beauty had given up her chances to have children and, instead, kept fairies. Lucy showed her how princesses sit, With hands on their knees, smiling.”

Lucy asked Cinderella where her mice were before she whispered, “You’re my favorite.”

Before the last meet and greet photo Lucy wondered if The Beast was coming. “Beast makes me nervous.”

Disney has merchandise dialed in. Each attraction empties into a store. Now, on our island we peruse enough shops for my ladies to know you don’t ask, again and again, for things. Seems they beg the most for a bank visit where lollipops and stickers are handed out.
Before we planted our flip flop feet in Florida, Luke and I told the girls about The Disney Fairies. Like Santa and The Easter Bunny, The Fairies bring a Disney treat to all good little boys and girls.
I think The Disney Fairies even shop at The Disney Outlet. They came to the RV and the girls were thrilled. Thrilled.
Luke had a childhood memory of his Mickey ears from Disney World that he wanted to extend to our ladies. They chose appropriately.

Disney makes a living (and then some) with recreating places from around the world. While we didn’t go to Africa, we went to Animal Kingdom. Maybe it was 95 degrees, maybe there were over 95,000 people there but at the gates there was an espresso cart. Man, how I ran.
We went on a safari. Luke and my dad thought some of the zoo-placid animals were robots. I chose to believe they were tame and photogenic.

Alright, the rhinos didn’t move but maybe they were just super focused.
Olive wasn’t impressed with the ostritch. And, when the sirens rang and a (recorded) voice came over the radio saying there were poachers up ahead and we had to speed up to help a baby elephant, I thought Betty was going to cry. And when the (recorded) bullets were sounding and our tour guide said the poachers had gotten away, Betty said, “I can’t wait to tell my teachers at school I was shot at by poachers and I helped rescue a baby elephant. Good thing I wasn’t ein-jured, “ I knew I had to come clean.
Then, we drummed.
We went to the Bat House.
Amongst all those lovely Stellalunas one tiny dragonfly caught our eye. It reminded me of a story I heard in grad school about a Grand Canyon vacationing family. Their station wagon parked beside an average ant hill. As the parents tried to get their two children to take in the view, they only had eyes for the ants.
Leave it to children to remind us that lovely lays before us and we don’t necessarily need to travel far to see it.
And, so, high fives and parades.
Sing alongs.
And sweet, sweet cuddles.
Our trip was fantastic and so, so worth it. Every penny, every last drop of humid sweat. My parents were excited to watch the girls soak in Disney joy. As my folks said, there’s only one opportunity to witness a first glimpse of Cinderella’s castle. And that Joy was priceless. Oh, the girls’ joy was infectious.
After the birth of Lucy I learned how amidst my own joy someone else in the world is sharing exactly that feeling, too, just as one is feeling an earth shattering different feeling all together.
First, someone on joy’s opposite spectrum. Landing in Seattle, we were all happily ever after our trip. It was my 34th birthday, after all, and we welcoming fog and drizzle and, soon, sushi and a ferry ride. We were all “Dumbo” and “swimming was so, so fun – let’s do that again” and“sandcastles” and then… I stopped walking, dropped Lucy’s tiny hand as if, momentarily, pulled out of family-vacation-joy and into another’s, well, realm.
On the way to baggage claim a man stood at Gate 13B. The flight had long ago landed and he remained. I wanted to take out my camera but, I stopped. My mind took a picture. He stood motionless, eyes to baggage claim’s bright sign with feet planted in Seattle airport’s cold carpet. Clutched under one arm an American Flag in the all-telling triangular wooden frame. A father. Frozen, and now looking at Luke. I didn’t want to fast forward my mind to what might become and what not, while wondering what the future holds. I was returning from the vacation that dreams are made of and he, well, stood joyless. Joyless.
Quickly, a perspective gained.
Second, someone sharing our Disney joy: While we waited to board the quinnecential Disney ride I spied on a man in his late eighties, maybe early nineties get wheeled to the handicap entrance. I can only assume his granddaughter was behind the wheel chair. He was giddy like a child and I just felt like it was his first visit. Sure enough, I saw the “First Time” button on his fanny pack. Oh, how he loved Dumbo.


  • love it Jen – Luna kept saying “who ARE those guys?” the whole scroll through. We loved Disney too. Good to see you're doing well. You make three look fun! So inspiring to see you writing.

  • Awesome! We're making our first Disney trip this winter. I can't wait. The last time I went to Disney World….about 15 years ago, I said I would only return when I had kids of my own. 🙂 We should plan a Florida meeting. My parents spend the winter down there. I'm hoping to start taking the boys for a few weeks every winter.

  • Your girls do Disney so well. I am a bit Disney-phobic, concerned that my daughter will *take on* the princess mantra of “happily ever after, especially after the man arrives,” but it's true, children's joy is infectious. Good for you for seeing simply, the joy.

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