The Road Back to My Life


These are my thoughts on life, kids and Walt Disney World.

I realized I had lost me somewhere along the way the past several years. I have been the perfect Mommy, wife and volunteer anyone could ask for. What I was missing was being there for me. I am going to take this year to get back to the real me and these are my thoughts along the way.

So this is my story of life, kids and my quest to learn all I can about Walt Disney World (my laughing place!) and earn my Disney PhD!

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Life Isn’t Always Easy…

Grandmother Willow QuoteI feel like I am trying to climb mountains lately.   This quote came to mind yesterday and I had to put it with the picture of my favorite mountain.

I am strong.  I will conquer the mountain and I will rejoice when I look back at how far I have come.

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Wordless Wednesday – Disney Hollywood Studios

Muppet Vision 3-D

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What is There for the Youngest Visitors to do in Magic Kingdom?

Winnie the Pooh RideThis past weekend I was talking to someone about Walt Disney World and what is the “right” age to take children.  My kids both started going to Disney World when they were 18 months.  Do they remember those trips?  No.  But, we sure do.

They developed great memories for their aunts, uncles and grandparents who have gone with us on each one of the trips.  The kids have great memories of grandma riding It’s a Small World with them and having dinner with the Winnie the Pooh characters when they were about 8 years old.

So, they may not remember all of their trips but I would not give up a single one of those trips when they were little.  We still love to tell the story of how on my daughter’s first trip her favorite things to do were to get ice from the ice machine and standing in the spray at each one of the parks.  Or how my son was terrified of the giant hockey masks in All-Star Movies on his first trip and we had to walk around the back of the buildings to get to our rooms because he was scream and refuse to go anywhere he could see them.  We are all able to laugh at these stories and they add to the stories now about their favorite things they remember.

But, what is there to do for little ones under 5?  That depends on the temperament of your child and their size.  I have seen little ones tackle Big Thunder Mountain without fear but melt down in The Haunted Mansion.  Knowing your child’s tolerance for dark rides and characters can really make or break your trip.  Once a new ride scares them and you may have trouble getting them to try anything after that one ride.

Over the next few weeks I plan a series of blog posts on different things to do with littlest visitors in each park starting with Magic Kingdom.

Below are some movies or television shows to watch with your children prior to going to Magic Kingdom to help them understand the stories and characters they may see on the rides and shows and maybe even in person:

  • Winnie the Pooh’s Grand Adventure
  • Little Mermaid
  • Peter Pan
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Aladdin
  • Toy Story
  • The Lion King
  • Frozen
  • Dumbo
  • Cinderella
  • Tangled
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

Character InteractionsThis was my 2 year-old son and 5 year-old daughter with their grandparents meeting Baloo and King Louie.  My daughter was fine but my son was not too sure he wanted to have his back to these guys.

The more familiar they are with the stories and characters the less likely they will be afraid of certain story elements in the rides and shows.   Plus, you will know which rides to avoid if there are any definite fears.  My 14 year-old daughter still will not willingly go on the Haunted Mansion ride because it scared her so much when she was younger despite all our reassurances that it was Mickey magic.

Rides and Shows that are pretty good for little ones  of all types (little to no “scare” factor)

  • Walt Disney World Railroad
  • Swiss Family Treehouse
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • The Hall of Presidents – may not hold their interest but it is a great place to cool off and for little ones to nap
  • Liberty Square Riverboat
  • It’s a Small World
  • Mickey’s Philharmagic
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel
  • Mad Tea Party – you do not need to spin the cups if you don’t want to
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Astro Orbiter – currently under refurbishment
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress  – may not hold their interest but a great place to cool off and little ones to nap
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin – you are inside a brightly colored video game.  A few dark moments as you start and move between sections.
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Character Meet and Greets – Most children like the face characters but some are fearful of costumed characters.  Mickey, in Celebration Hall, is the only costumed character to talk so that may scare some children.
  • 3 pm parade/Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes – Wishes is a fireworks show and our autistic son could not handle it until he was older.

Rides with dark sections or some scary Characters that may scare some children:

  • Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid- Ursula makes an appearance during the beginning and your car rotates backwards and gently lays back as you go “under the sea.”
  • Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – the Goddess with the red glowing eyes can scare some small children
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – starts entirely in the dark with a short drop down a small water flume in darkness
  • Splash Mountain – stand outside the ride and look at the drop.  There are also smaller drops prior to the big drop in darkness.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – not overly scary as far as characters or darkness but moves FAST and tends to be a bit jerky in its movement.
  • Haunted Mansion – Dark ride with lots of spooky noises and voices
  • Peter Pan – The only reason I place this ride here is that the car is suspended from the ceiling and if you have a small squirmy child this ride can be scary for you for fear of having them fall out.  This ride does have the pirates and crocodile make an appearance.
  • Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – the darker section of the rainstorm and floating feeling of the ride may scare some young children.
  • The Barnstormer – a short first rollercoaster for many children.   A few dips and turns but mostly gentle.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – a fast-moving and rocking side-to-side roller coaster.  Brief sections in the dark.
  • Tomorrowland Speedway – this one is here because it is personal to me.  I HATED this ride when I had to drive the car.  I kept bumping into the rail and people were yelling at me.  If your child is not tall enough to ride alone help them steer.
  • Stitch’s Great Escape – show mostly in darkness
  • Space Mountain – roller coaster in darkness

So, this is a fairly comprehensive list as of today of the different rides and attractions for the littlest guests at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom.  The biggest piece of advice is know your child’s tolerance for dark or scary things and you will have a great trip by not pushing them into places they are fearful and having them resist any rides or shows for the rest of your vacation.


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The Return of Wordless Wednesday

Snow White's Not So Scary Adventure

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You are Going to Disney World Again? My Response

Castle from Right sideAs I am getting ready to book our next trip to Disney World in February already I can hear in my head all the people who ask where we are going on vacation this year say, “Didn’t you just go there?”  or my favorite, “You know there are other places to visit other than Disney World, right?”

Every time.

My response has become pretty automatic.

My family loves Disney World.  It is a place that we feel comfortable and can just play together.  One of the best things about Disney World is that it is ever-changing and it grows with my family but it stays just enough the same that it feels like home each time we visit.  Even thought my 14 year-old has been 14 times there are still things that she has not experienced yet and we can’t wait to share them with her and her brother.

Christmas CastleWe have seen Cinderella’s Castle dressed as a pink birthday cake, for the 50th anniversary and for holidays.  Or Spaceship Earth with the giant Mickey Hand and Wand.  Now with rumors of the possible removal of Sorcerer’s Mickey Hat from Walt Disney Studios we want to be able to see it for possibly the last time.

Epcot 2005The lands have changed.  Such as they added ToonTown and then made it into New Fantasyland.  New rides have been made and some old rides have been refurbished or closed to make way for new technologically advanced rides.  We have been able to ride The Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid but can’t wait to try the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

When we first started going to Walt Disney World we saw the model for Animal Kingdom in Celebration Hall and loved imagining what it would be like.  Now, we are looking at plans for the Avatar Land in Animal Kingdom that will be completed in the next few years.  We are imagining this with the kids and wonder what the next “big” thing will be.   We are only limited by our imagination.

Restaurants have been created or refurbished since our last trip.  We can’t wait to try California Grill or return to The Biergarten for a trip down memory lane.  We are foodies at heart and my kids love trying all the different restaurants around the world and in the resorts.  We always try one or two new restaurants each trip but there are a few that will continually be our favorites such as Crystal Palace.  A hug from Pooh Bear can make everything better.

Same kids 10 years laterMy children 10 years later at Crystal Palace.

We are not the same each time we go.  Both children started their trips when they were 18 months old and barely able to toddle down Main Street.  Some years we have been able to go twice in one year but even then they were not at the same point developmentally.  Starting out in strollers and then moving to a special needs stroller for our autistic son and now a scooter for Mommy we have moved through many stages of life with Disney.  We have learned what works for my son and he LOVES Disney.  He can talk endlessly about the movies, Walt Disney trivia and his future vision for the parks.

Family CollageTraveling with my parents in 2005 and with my Mother-in-Law 2011.

And our family make-up is not the same each time we go.  Sometimes it is just the four of us but over the years we have taken my brother and sister-in-law with us.   My parents have gone with us, including my Dad who used a scooter for the first time and realized how much easier it made his traveling.  My 93-year-old mother-in-law went with us for her first trip.  It was an amazing opportunity that my family will cherish forever.  When she died this past March we were able to share many of the picturse we have of her with the Disney characters and our family.  We even got my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to go with us.  Though I really think he went to humor his wife in the end they have been back 4 more times!

So, yes we are going to Disney World again.  Would you like to come with us sometime?   It is just great family fun and I would love to share it with you.



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Disney Social Media Moms Chicago – Part II

DSMMPart I of this series can be found here.

The Huggies Mom Inspired Program sounds amazing!  They are looking to support moms who have big ideas.   Submit your ideas for your product to the Huggies Mom Inspired Program and you could win a grant for $15,000.   You get to keep your idea and develop it using the $15,000 if you win.  The 2014 program is now open at

Alicia from Baby Elephant Ears, Lily from Padalily answered questions from the audience and moderator Maria Bailey about how they developed their products and what they would say to anyone looking to develop a product.

  1. Get over your fears
  2. Surround yourself with support
  3. Grow slowly
  4. Stay healthy, exercise and put family first
  5. There is always time to be found – after bedtime or early morning hours are great quiet times

The conference ended with Ramon DeLeon, motivational speaker. He offered wonderful advice in a dynamic and energetic way.  Some of my favorite ideas from him were:

  • Care more about your customers (family and friends) than your competitors.
  • Would you follow you?
  • Don’t think in terms of friends, followers, posts or likes.  Think you are building relationships.
  • Choose your words carefully because you may have to eat them.

But, the real end of the conference was the reason we were all there – Mickey Mouse.

Rock Your Disney Side

Yes, I teared up a bit as the “Mickey Mouse Club” Theme Song began to play and in walked Mickey Mouse.

Me with Mickey

During breaks we could socialize and grab a snack.  I met so many wonderful new friends and learned so much in just a few short hours.  I left walking on clouds of pixie dust.  Thank you to all who helped in any manner to put on this wonderful conference.

*I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road Conference.  I was not asked to blog about the conference or any of the products I heard about nor was I paid to write about any of the speakers or products.  All opinions are my own.

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Disney Social Media Moms – On the Road Chicago!


I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference – Disney On the Road Chicago 2014 on Tuesday, June 17th.  I was beyond excited to attend.  I LOVE Disney.

Registration was to open at 7:45 am at the Hyatt Lodge in Oak Tree Terrace.  I arrived ready to go at 7:25.  Already there were about 40 people who had registered ahead of me and were waiting for the doors to open.  Wow!  This really was like Disney World.  Everyone just waiting to get it.

We received our name badges, tote bags and began to network.   It was great talking with all the other conference attendees and hearing about their blogs and lives.  I was able to meet many writers for Disney Blogs I follow.  It was so exciting.

About 8:15 the doors to the conference opened and the Disney music began to play.  Yes, I was tearing up.  The #RockYourDisneySide banner hung over the podium.  It truly felt magical.

Gary Buchanan was the first speaker.  He updated us all on the new happenings at the Disney Parks.  There are new rides – the Seven Dwarfs Mining Train, Ariel Under the Sea;  new lands – New Fantasyland and Cars Land; and new reimagined restaurants – California Grill.   Also, the Rock Your Disney Side and the #DisneyKids Promotions for this year.  This year it is all about those magical moments, memories of your Disney firsts and how Disney makes you feel.   Just being at this conference I had to say was pretty magical.   I laughed my way through his videos and was later able to have my picture taken with him.  How awesome!

Me and Gary Buchanan2

Jen Fickley-Baker, PhD the Social Media Manager gave an overview of how the Disney Blog plans their stories.  She told the story of how they promoted the New Fantasyland over 5 years.  They could have just announced the building of the new land and left the story until it was closer to launch time.  But instead they built excitement over 45 blog posts and 100 images to update fans.  They gave milestones as they were reached, delivery dates and videos of the progress.  Their best series though were the live chats with the Imagineers.  All of these things gave fans an investment in the new area and created heightened excitement as the new land came closer to opening.

Lois Lorenz, HP Direct Print Services, presented on their newest campaign “If you can dream it we can print it.” #HPSmartMoms and their new connected printers opened my eyes.  I did not know I could print from my phone and now need to go and investigate a new printer.  The and HP Photo Creations look like two great items to help busy families create great gifts when you need them.

This was the first half of the conference.  It was amazing and exciting.  I can’t wait to share with you about the rest along with lots of pictures!

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