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We’ve been home from Walt Disney World for a little over 7 weeks now. Sigh. I think every one of us wishes we could go back right now, and have wished that multiple times in the last 7 weeks! For the first three weeks after our return, we’d daily hear “do you remember what we were doing this time ____ weeks ago?”, then we’d all reminisce about which park we had been at, and what ride or restaurant we had just left. Then we’d all feel depressed.

I’m calling this post “Our First Disney Vacation”, because I’m bound and determined to get us back there someday! It may take a while (after all, we talked about this one for years, and then finally did some serious saving for 16 months to make it happen), but we will go back.

Allow me to take you along on our very first trip! It was amazing, and memorable, and we can’t wait to do it all again!

A couple of notes: we utilized a Disney Vacation planner, and it was amazing! She did all of the hard work for us, and made our vacation totally stress free and awesome. Her info is shared at the end of the post. We also bought the Magic Moments photo pass, in order to allow me to get into the pictures too – so worth it! Below are a mix of cell phone, point and shoot, and Disney photographer pictures. I brought my DSLR, but it never once left my bag – such freedom!

For those that hadn’t heard/read the blog last month, this was a total surprise to our kids… here’s the video of us surprising them.

Driving There

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The kids did awesome with the drive from Kansas City to Orlando! We left KC at about 3:30am and didn’t arrive at our hotel south of Atlanta until about 7pm. The boys maybe got 20 minutes of sleep on the drive, and Lily slept for about an hour. Despite the long day with not a lot of sleep, they all had fantastic attitudes. The next morning we got up, had breakfast and headed out for the final 5.5 hours of the drive! And yes – #CreepyBabyMargaret was along for the trip!

We’re Here!

We arrived at Disney, and checked in at Fort Wilderness. We stayed in one of their cabins, and it was awesome! I grew up camping at Fort Wilderness, so it already held a special place in my heart, but Nick is anti-camping so we did the next best thing – CABIN! Immediately after getting into our cabin, we raced over to our reservation at Chef Mickey’s.

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Lily is officially Mickey Mouse obsessed, so she was most excited to meet Mickey Mouse! You have to see these 8 seconds of her meeting him for the first time – way too cute!

The boys started out a little “too cool” for characters (as evidenced by some of the very annoyed faces in these pictures), but by about halfway through dinner they had warmed up to it and decided it was pretty fun. Plus, they loved the food and the fact that it was a buffet! Fun fact – that night, the boys and I all tried sushi for the first time!

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Our dinner reservation had been pretty early, but our park tickets didn’t start until the next day. Considering we were already at a Monorail stop, we decided to hop on and ride the loop, and then transfer over to the one that runs to Epcot! I handed our point and shoot over to the boys and let them take pictures. Chase discovered the fun effect dragging the camera, while holding the shutter button down could have on street lights. Rounded out the whole thing by forcing the kids into bed at a reasonable hour, in preparation for day 1 at the parks!

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Park Day 1 – Animal Kingdom

Up and at ’em bright and early on October 26th! Despite our best efforts to get to the park when it opened, we managed to just miss the bus, and it put us behind by about 25 minutes. No biggie though – Nick and the boys were still able to race over to Expedition Everest, while Lily and I waited in the bag check line at the gate, and they did the ride 2 times in a row before we got over there!

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We did the safari ride, and I handed over the camera to the boys, so that they could take pictures of the  animals! At one point we were sitting in one spot (near the elephants) for about 20 minutes, all because some naughty ostriches were hanging out on the path further ahead. That bottom right picture up there? The ostriches after being bribed off the path by food! Cracked us up!

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We had to see Mickey again, of course! And this time Minnie Mouse was with him. Man – the joy on Lily’s face each time she saw him!

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A not so joyful moment for Lily was when we all went on the Dinosaur ride. Whoops – totally forgot how scary it was! Below that are images from Nick and the boys riding Expedition Everest – little thrill seekers!

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This was one of the only characters we waited in a line to see – Dug and Russell from the movie Up! These are all pictures the Disney photographer captured for us – priceless!

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Lunch at the Tusker House, which was another delicious buffet! The boys are pretty adventurous eaters (they’ll at least try things once), and they loved some of the options here.

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Ahhh, Disney Magic! Land where big brothers will hold hands with little sisters! Be still my heart! Maybe this is why I so badly want to go back… That and the warm sunshine. Oh, and I could totally go for a Mickey ice cream bar!

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That day was also our 13th wedding anniversary! The photographer made us do the cheesy “L-O-V-E” picture, which was highly amusing! Such a fun place to spend our anniversary though!

After our fun morning and early afternoon at Animal Kingdom, we headed back to Fort Wilderness to swim in the pool! By then it was overcast and felt quite chilly, so we didn’t last long.

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Headed back over to The Contemporary for dinner! Side note – we loved being on a Disney Dining plan! Granted, we had planned the trip to coincide with free dining, but have decided even if we went back at a time that didn’t have it, we’d totally pay for a dining plan. So much less stress to not worry about prices – just “here you go kids – these are your choices, have at it”!

Park Day 2 – Magic Kingdom

At the very wise prompting of our Disney Vacation Planner Tracy, we split Magic Kingdom into two days. Below we’re eating breakfast before hitting the park (we brought things like instant oatmeal, fruit and granola bars to eat in the cabin in the morning). When we arrived at MK, we split up – Nick and the boys headed to Space Mountain (which they did twice in a row and loved!) and Lily and I headed to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride, which she loved (and made her brothers do on our second day at MK).

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Then it was on to our reservation for lunch at The Crystal Palace. Of all of the sit down meals, this was probably our least favorite experience. Maybe it was just an “off” day, because friends rave about it usually! Tigger was taking far too long to get to us, and we could tell the server was impatient to flip our table, so we gave up on waiting for the bouncy guy and just headed out for some more rides.

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Tracy (our Disney Vacation Planner) had booked us Fast Passes to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – twice (once for each MK day)! She told me she just knew we would love it and want to do it twice, and she was right! Even Lily, who isn’t nearly as daring as her brothers (yet), loved the ride! And of course we had to drag the kids onto the It’s A Small World ride – it’s a must!

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The parade that afternoon was shortened due to the rain, but still worth it! There’s that Lily – beaming from seeing her friend Mickey! After the parade we split up again – this time I went with the boys to do Space Mountain (yes, they wanted to go a third time!) and Nick and Lily went to the Enchanted Tales With Belle, where Lily got to be part of the story! I’m so sad I missed that; Nick said it was adorable.

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More family pictures, because we could! I know I was getting on my family’s nerve with my constant requests to stop for these pictures, but I’m so rarely in them that I told them to just suck it up and smile. This photographer wanted us to all point at the three KU hats – clearly we were full of Kansas City area pride that day! Any time we’d see someone wearing Royals gear, we’d say “Let’s go Royals!”, and they’d usually return the phrase.

And finally – a super sweet story about Jackson there…. at dinner that night, Chase’s entire plate accidentally got bumped to the floor. There were lots of tears, especially when the burger Nick brought back was smaller and less awesome than the other two (we think they’d made an error the first time and given the boys the adult burgers, instead of kid sized ones). Totally unprompted, Jackson offered to switch plates with Chase! Chase declined at first (he was too grumpy to think clearly), but eventually he accepted. Nick and I were SO proud of Jackson for his very giving decision!

Park Day 3 – Hollywood Studios & Epcot

This first part of this day ended up being a bit of a bummer, and the rain had a lot to do with that. Once again we struggled to get to the park right when it opened, and instead arrived about 30 minutes after it opened. Those Disney busses are tricky to time! Our Fast Passes for that day were for Epcot, but we were heading to Hollywood Studios in the morning. Tracy had told us to bolt for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride as soon as we got there, so that’s what we did. 30 minutes after the park opened, the wait was already an hour. Yikes! The kids all voted to wait anyway, and our 60 minute wait ended up being more like 90. Ugh. They were troopers in the line though, and we all loved the ride!

By the time we got out, it was pouring, so we grabbed lunch in hopes the rain would subside while we ate. No luck, so we made a dash over to the Muppet’s 3D experience, which was a huge hit with the kids! Still raining though when we came out – boo! Nick and the boys decided to head over to Rockin’ Rollercoaster and get in line (it was only a 30 minute wait then). They decided that was a most excellent decision, because they loved that ride! Rollercoaster that goes upside down? Check! (They’re braver than me (and the lady behind Jackson – ha) – I won’t do those!)

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After they finished that ride, we boarded the boat and headed over to Epcot to do rides like Soarin’, the Seas with Nemo, Spaceship Earth, and more! By then the sun had come out – whew! There was a bit of disappointment when we got to Epcot and realized Mary Poppins is only in England for autographs once a day, and we had just missed her. Darn!

We had an amazing dinner at Epcot that night, at Teppan Edo! The boys all declared it to be their very favorite meal of the trip!

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We all (even Lily!) attempted using chopsticks, and the food was delicious! After dinner, we wandered Epcot and killed time until the Illuminations show. While killing time, Nick and the boys did Mission Space, and I watched Lily play in a little space-themed play area.

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Park Day 4 – Magic Kingdom

Final park day – boo hoo!! We made a valiant effort to get to MK in time for the rope drop at the entrance, but were thwarted by fog. When staying at Fort Wilderness, you can just hop on a boat to get to MK, but apparently when it’s foggy those boats don’t run! Then, while waiting for the special bus that was supposed to pick us all up and take us directly to MK, the fog lifted and we were all told to head to the boats after all. Park opening missed again (this time only by about 10 minutes)!

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We did the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train again, and this time Lily instructed Nick not to put his arm around her! She was feeling brave! Later that day we went down Splash Mountain (picture furthest to the right), and while she did want Nick to hold onto her, she loved Splash Mountain! Note to save face: I was not putting my arms up out of respect for whomever was behind me, not because I was scared. I noticed on Day 1 that sometimes arms blocked my own kids’ faces in the pictures, and didn’t want to be the one blocking! 

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We also took on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad! I remembered this ride from when I was a kid, and vividly remember the time my dad was video taping the ride (with one of those giant, on the shoulder camcorders), and the whole time my little brother was freaking out. Ahhhh, the memories (and now video proof) of my mom telling my dad to put the camera down and comfort their son! haha!

This MK day was also sunny, which meant we got to see the big parade!

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One last look at MK, before heading out. Clearly my kids (especially the littlest) were beat! It was a LOT of walking for them, but they all hung in there.

We then hopped on the monorail and headed to Epcot for dinner and more souvenir shopping!

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Dinner was at The Land, in Epcot, and was a last minute dinner reservation swap. The kids really wanted one more character meal (those are the best way to see characters without waiting in enormous lines), and this one had a last minute opening. It was a family style meal and the food was great! The restaurant also slowly rotated and I think we saw all of the characters at least twice (and some three times) while we ate.

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Our evening ended with getting out of Epcot before Illuminations and the huge crowds, and racing back to Fort Wilderness in time for the water electric parade! As we were walking out of Epcot that I night, we hear “Hi, Mr. Nick!”! Of course he’d run into someone that he knows…. that man is known and loved by so many kids!

As for the water electric parade, my husband and children were relatively unimpressed. Bunch of stick in the muds (sand?)! I remember how cool I thought it was when I was a child, and thought surely they’d find it unique too.

We’re Leaving {sad face}

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The part of the trip nobody likes…. leaving the most magical place on earth. Ugh. While I cleaned and packed the van, Nick took the kids for one final swim at the resort pool. We then headed into the camp store and stocked up on delicious Disney treats (using up remaining meal credits and snack credits!) before hitting the road. Destination #1 was Nashville, TN. We rolled in there at about 9:30pm, tired and significantly colder than we had been just 11 hours earlier.

The next morning (Halloween day) we rolled out of bed, ate some breakfast, and hit the road. #CreepyBabyMargaret kept tabs on things and freaked out a few drivers (it was Halloween after all), and we made it home just in time for Jackson to put on his giant Mickey Mouse hands and a mask Lily already had, and greet the trick-or-treaters coming to the door.

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That map in the bottom right hand corner was from our license plate game! We kept track the entire trip down and back, and managed to see plates from 44 states and some bonus plates from Canada! The only plates we missed: New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, Nevada, and Hawaii. Not bad! When we left KC all of us guessed how many different states we would see, and Ty won with his guess of 43. Such a fun way to pass the time in the car!

So there it is. Our first family trip to Walt Disney World. We really cannot wait until the day comes that we can go back! Jackson summed it up best, when he said on our final night…. “Mums, I think my opinion of Mickey Mouse has changed. He’s pretty cool!” That’s right, kid, and that’s Disney Magic for you!

The Disney Vacation Planner we used was Tracy Garvais, and she can be found at Magic Mouse Travel. Her services don’t cost you anything extra, and she was the one up at midnight booking Fast Passes for us. If you’re planning a trip, definitely get in touch with her! 

And no, I have not been paid/compensated for any of this post. These are all my own opinions and Disney and Magic Mouse Travel didn’t even know I’d be blogging them. 

Last night my family attended our usual church service, and considering it was our weekend to usher as a family, we all (well, most of us) had taken a few minutes to look extra nice. Ty and Chase were decked out in sport coats, ties, and slicked over hair, and I was in something presentable, as was Nick. Jackson was the lone wolf in his athletic pants and fleece. Ha! Some battles just aren’t worth fighting though, am I right? {Lily was in the nursery, for those wondering where she was in this picture of put-togetherness.}

As I stood there, watching my oh-so-well-behaved boys smiling and greeting people coming into the sanctuary, something struck me….

We’re really good at pulling off the So Well Behaved, Put Together Family look. I mean, really good at it. Can I tell you what happened before church?

Before church the behavior of my children made me cry.

Twice.

It’s been approximately 10 days straight of battles. While the stubborn streak in Lily is strong (holy cow, 4 year old girls!), the temperament on the boys right now is insane. They melt down at the drop of a hat (and over the most ridiculous things!), they argue like arguing is going out of style, they fight with us, they’re disrespectful (and honestly, I think sometimes they don’t realize they are – we’re having a big discussion on that today), and they’re just not pleasant to be around.

Crazy In My HouseI’ve been ready to run away multiple times this last week.

What’s interesting is virtually all of that crazy is reserved for the walls of our house. Teachers would never believe my sweet boys could behave like that. Adults at church would never believe it. People at Target wouldn’t believe it either (unless they somehow remember my boys as 3 year olds, but that’s really not fair).

In public, we’re a model family. In private, we’re a hot mess.

Last night I told Nick I’m experiencing the same level of “tired” as I did when the boys were 3 years old. It’s pure exhaustion from being emotionally played all day long, every stinking day. I feel like I ran a half marathon, yet all I’ve done is deal with cranky 8 year olds and an ornery 4 year old occasionally (oh yes – Lily has had some moments too, as seen on my Instagram feed last week). I’m completely worn out and just DONE.

The first time I cried yesterday was when I was on the phone with my sister. I burst into tears as I told her how terrible things had been, and that I didn’t know what else to do, and how Nick and I must have royally messed up somewhere along the way. “Don’t have kids!”, I said jokingly, but probably didn’t sound like a joke because I was crying.

I didn’t mean it, Laura. I need more babies in my life! {wink}

As the movie Inside Out teaches us, sadness is a necessity in our life. It teaches us to appreciate those joyful moments even more! The challenge of outsmarting and parenting a bunch of children is filled with so many peaks and valleys that I can’t keep track.

I love these little people fiercely, even when I feel like a failure of a mama and therefore want to quit. Thankfully, they love me fiercely too, even when I mess up and yell so much that my throat hurts.

Last night, during the sermon, our pastor told us to ask ourselves the question “Is the world a more loving place because I am here?”. Yes. Yes it is. Even though there’s a heck of a lot of crazy happening in my house lately, I am doing my best to teach my children love, and I know they’re learning it based on how they act in public. “Loving” is definitely a word many use to describe my children, and for that I am so proud and grateful. The world is more loving because I am here, and it will continue to be more loving because my children are here.

Nobody said parenting would be easy, but they definitely never tell you just how hard it is. We’re grateful our kids know how to behave for other people, and are glad they reserve the worst of the worst behavior for us. They know they can be real and let their guard down at home, now the trick is teaching them appropriate ways to deal with that frustration.

Ahh, parenting. For now we’ll continue to try to minimize the crazy in our house, and just teach our children how to love, because love is something that will always be needed in the world.

  • December 6, 2015 - 7:28 pm

    Emily Dahlke - My 8 year old boy cries over EVERYTHING. His 6 year old brother has just started the crying too. Add in their 4 year old sister and you would think we spend our days planning ways to ruin their lives. At least my youngest two still love me.ReplyCancel

  • December 6, 2015 - 8:12 pm

    Gina Taldo - My thoughts exactly. I’ve totally felt like running away lately. We are in the process of moving to Olathe. We’ve never moved the kids before. It is not pretty right now between all the extra holiday stuff, packing, & buying/selling a home. The ugly behaviors are showing up a lot!!ReplyCancel

  • December 6, 2015 - 8:57 pm

    Jennifer Miller Johnson - I hear you, I’ve been exhausted lately – the constant bickering has me about ready to go over the edge. And I only have 2 so I can’t imagine having to deal with that x 2. But last night as we were sitting in church, I saw your boys ushering & it made me think of Family Advent Night when one of them walked up to us at the cookie station. They said, I have a couple questions for you, “Which do you like better – giving or getting?” And as I watched them ushering, I thought to myself “these boys are going to do big things in their life.” I marvel at your parenting & how you are teaching them to love & serve others so well. And when Pastor Adam asked that question, I immediately thought of you. You amaze me, friend – thanks for being a great example to us all. And thanks for keeping it real! And hooray for Monday tomorrow! 😉ReplyCancel

  • December 7, 2015 - 10:34 am

    Susan - I haven’t posted here in along time…honestly I haven’t kept up with your blog. I’ll be going back to read and see how big the kids have gotten!
    My boys are 13 and 11 and I just said the other day how I feel as if they are 5 and 3. Somehow they have regressed! The fighting is non-stop, they are not kind to each other and not always to us. I’m hoping it’s just a season; a teen/tween thing. There are times, albeit few and far between, where they get along. Just wishing for more!
    You have to deal with 3 at the exact same age! Wishing I had some wisdom or advice. But, if I did I’d likely be worth a fortune!ReplyCancel

    • December 7, 2015 - 2:12 pm

      Helen - Yes, if you had wisdom and advice on this, you’d clearly be rich! Hang in there, Susan! Hopefully your boys come out of this phase soon.ReplyCancel

Almost a year and a half ago, Nick and I both had a “man, our kids (especially the boys) are growing up so fast all of a sudden!” thoughts. People warned us. When they get into school – watch out! Time will really fly then!

People weren’t kidding!

When we realized we’d had virtually the same thoughts at the same time, we brought up the dream vacation to Disney World in Florida. We’d only been talking about it for over 4 years. Every time we’d brought it up in the past, we would half-heartedly deposit some money into a savings account, and that would be it. We had saved a whopping $500 so far. Hmmm…. that doesn’t buy a family of 6 much fun at Disney!

We knew we needed to get serious, and we needed to do it now. So we set up a plan, and saved, and scrimped. 15 months after starting our plan, we woke the kids up and whisked them off!

I’m so glad we kept this a secret the entire time! It involved not telling many people at all about our trip (we were too afraid the cover would be accidentally blown), and our four kids didn’t even know we were traveling anywhere, let alone Disney World. The looks on their faces made it all worth it though!

 

The trip was amazing, and we’re all wishing we could have stayed longer and/or go back again soon. We were asked this morning to please start saving for another trip today, so that we can go back again in 18 months.

Fun pictures will be blogged very soon, but for now, watch this video of us surprising the kids with their first visit to Walt Disney World!