Friday, December 2, 2011

Disney Dreaming...

I know...I's been forever.  Go ahead yell at me...I deserve of that?  Ok.  I can take it...I know I have used the excuse before but we really have had lots going on here.

Lots of reading and research to do.  Kayla was diagnosed with celiac disease.  She had her biopsy just after Thanksgiving.  Scariest.  Day.  Ever.  Placing your child in the hands of doctors to put her under general anesthesia is the worst feeling I have ever experienced.  Ever.  More about this later...

Onto the best vacation of my life {honeymoon excluded because that's not a vacation that's more...well, you know...}...

Disney World.  It doesn't matter how many times you've been...that first walk down Main Street, USA is magical.  Each time it's more magical than the time before.  The beautiful castle waiting at the end of the street, calling all princesses by name.  Inviting each and every little girl from 1 to 101 to come, dream a little dream of being a princess.  This time I took it all in.  This time I soaked in the smell, the nostalgia, the memories of visits from the past and moments about to unfold.  This time I saw Disney through the eyes of a five-year-old and it was nothing short of incredible.  It was magical.

Our trip to Disney was a gift from Santa.  Yes, Santa.  He showed up at our house one afternoon in November.  It took hours...actually days for the shock to wear off.  Kayla sat just staring at Santa, completely stunned that he was here, in our family room.
First of all, Santa brought her a book and read a passage about a little mouse that cut her bangs.  As he looked at her and said "I know a little girl that cut her own hair this year...but she won't do that again, right?"...her eyes already stretched in shock seemed to fill her face as they opened wider than I have ever seen.  Her baby blues, staring straight at Santa...and I am certain her eyes were screaming holy shit, how did he know that?  Because I could hear it.  You know...kinda like those dog whistles that no one can hear...I could hear her eyes talk!  After he left she ran from window to door staring into the sky exclaiming "come back, Santa, come back" and "oooh...there he is, there's his sleigh".  And a "wait, Santa, I wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday".  Well, she got half of the holiday right.  At least she knew it was somebody's birthday {guess we need to spend more time in church}.  Anyway, if only I could have bottled that joy...that excitement.  It was contagious.  It was a moment in time I will never forget.  Thank you, Santa, for bringing the brightest smile and most incredible joy to my girl.  PS - I have been a good girl...and I totally believe!

Suitcases packed - check.  Camera batteries charged - check.  Tickets in hand - check.  Ears on head, minnie on back and minnie suitcase in tow - check, check and check.  My girl was ready.  There was nothing that was gonna come between her and the mouse....well except for a little bit of vomit.  Yup she threw up in the car on the way to the airport.  As I sat balancing between the front seat with my arm and paper towels catching the projectile all I could think was really...could this really be happening.  She quickly bounced back.  I think it was the excitement...she remembers her last visit...and was overwhelmed.
It is no surprise to my followers that Kayla is obsessed with Mary it would only be fitting that she was the very first character we saw this visit to Disney.  And second, third, seventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, twentieth, twenty-first, twenty-second....ok...I kid...sort of.  After seeing Mary Poppins, Kayla quickly realized she forgot to have her sign her autograph back in line we went.  That autograph book was her job and she took it serious.  As she walked up to each character, she was all business.  There was no time for "hi, hello, or how do you do"...arms extended she practically shoved the book at them.  Once it was signed she quickly got into enjoying the casual exchange of conversation with the if she knew all of them and they went way back...

Mary Poppins quickly realized Kayla just adored her...and she certainly reciprocated.

The love fest extended beyond the Magic Kingdom.  Our visit to Epcot brought much of the same...and so much more.
Kayla wanted to stay in England...Mary Poppins lives there.  She could care less about France or Japan...she loved England.  Each time Mary Poppins left for a small break, we would sit on the bench and wait for her.
Kayla would sit and talk about Mary Poppins and her dress and Polly.  She would sing a few verses of a few Mary Poppins song and before long she would a vision...Kayla's eyes would grow wide and her smile taking over her face...she would pop up from her bench and run to her...holding her hand, she would stroll with Mary Poppins to her spot.  They would have a little chat and a warm embrace.  Comparing dresses, hats, lipstick and even shoes.

The exchanges between the two were priceless.  My favorite moment was Mary Poppins telling Kayla she wasn't practically perfect...she was all the way practically about it.  I am so glad Kayla is able to show the world how perfect she truly is...she is perfect and I hope she knows that.

People stopped and the hundreds.

Gasping and sharing their "that's the cutest thing I've ever seen" comments.  I agreed.  By far one of the greatest moments of my life.  Nothing compares to seeing sheer delight on the face of your child.  Pure magic.  After seeing Mary Poppins at least 5 times that day, we were asked by her character attendant to stay around after her last "shift".    We weren't prepared for what was to come...

Walking toward the "characters only" area, Mary Poppins strolled hand in hand with Kayla.  She sat on a rock wall protected from others by trees and held her tight.  It was dark...thank God.  Tears were streaming down my face as I watched the interaction between them.  She took out a book...Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers and read the inside cover which she had inscribed:
My dearest Kayla,
I am so happy that I found my twin.  You truly are practically perfect!  You are a lucky little girl to have such wonderful parents.  I can tell that they love you very much.  I hope that when you read this, you think of our stroll through the park together.  I know that I will be thinking of you.  Now, make sure ya tidy up your nursery and take your medicine; all you need is a spoon full of sugar!
Supercalifragilisticexpialedociously Yours,
Mary Poppins my child impacts the world around us is simply amazing.  This Mary Poppins will surely remember Kayla for a long time...and we will remember her.  It is my hope that as she recalls her interaction with Kayla she will remember her as a beautiful, intelligent, kind and polite little girl.  And while I know it is impossible not to recognize the fact that she has Down syndrome, I hope sees that extra chromosome as just an added bonus...something that is just a part of who she is...

Onto it's a Small World.  Kayla's favorite ride...and mine.  It has music and it's air conditioned.  Enough said.

Oh...and let's talk about a small world...really.  We are from Delaware.  If you know anything about Delaware you know that it is small...the second smallest state, in fact.  It takes a half hour to cross from one side to the other and maybe an hour and a half to drive from the top to the is a small world when you see five people you know in Disney World...yes...five!  First, after we checked into our hotel, someone yelled "Kos" from across the lobby.  It was an old co-worker of Rick's.  Then walking out of the princesses room, I hear "Amy Baker".  A sorority sister, Kristin, was standing in a room with her daughter.  It was just a the middle of Disney hundreds of miles from where we live or met.  In addition, our old neighbors, Lisa and Pete, were in Disney.  Friends of mine from high school...Shawn and Ben {more on them in a minute}.  Last, I got a message on facebook from another friend from high school.  She asked if I was in Disney because she was certain she saw me walking up Main Street with Kayla!  I mean is a small world!

If Disney were nothing more than parades, shows, characters and character meals...ok...and maybe with a ride on It's a Small World here and there, Kayla would be content.  Not many rides are needed for her to take in the magic.  In fact, I reveled in her excitement for the small things.  The "characters" that most likely go unnoticed by the Mayor of Main Street did not go unnoticed by Kayla.

While some kids may just be taken by the mouse, Kayla was taken by the little things, the things that I have overlooked during each of my previous visits.  Seeing the magic...all of it...through her was spectacular.

This is what life is all about...

Family.  Love.  Memories.

I say it daily.  I experience it and live it and remain in awe of it daily...the love between this man and this little girl.  There is nothing like it in this world.  I am quite sure when I said "I do", I had no idea how completely he would love me and more importantly our baby girl.  And he loves her...a lot.

The way he hoists her in the air.  The pride on his face as he carries her around.  The love in his eyes when he looks at her.

My heart is full.

Walking around with Kayla I began to realize {ok...I've always known} how truly special she is.  She got extra smiles, hellos and attention than most kids.  But it didn't feel like it was because she was different or because she had Down syndrome.  It felt like it was because she was just herself...a beautiful, happy, magnetic little girl just glowing in the magic of it all.  She wasn't melting down or screaming to ride another ride or crying to buy a balloon {more on that later}...she was just happy to be.  She was content to take it all in...
She loved the parades and loved the attention...
and being covered in wishes by the Fairy Godmother...

As a Mommy, nothing makes me more happy than to see my child happy...seeing others love and admire and be in awe of my child, well...that's a bonus.  I have felt it more times in Disney than ever before.  People in awe of Kayla.  Strangers telling me how beautiful she is.  Characters and cast members telling me how beautiful, how smart, how polite and how truly amazing she is.  I know...I know...I don't need to hear it...but it's nice.  It reaffirms what I have always known...she is exactly who she was meant to be...a little girl that will change the world...or at least the perception of the person at a time.

She is my princess...and she loves to be amongst the princesses.

Is it any surprise that I just had to take her to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique?  I mean seriously...I wanted to take her when she was just a year old.  I held back last time and this was the time.  This was it.  She was going to be transformed into an official Disney princess!
 If you just look at the prices you think...are you serious?  $50 for some dollar store makeup, a bun, crown and some pixie dust?  But it was so much more than that.

This experience for her was just the ultimate.  I couldn't possibly explain how she walked into the boutique Kayla and walked out a princess.  She held her head higher, stood with her arms perched like a princess and looked at everyone she passed as if she were saying "hello, yes, I am Cinderella and I am beautiful".
One of her favorite sights?  The castle.
One of my favorite sights?  My two loves together...and the wonder in her eyes {with a little glimmer and the reflection of the castle}...

Oh...and I just loved watching her make a purchase with her Disney dollars.  First up...lollipops.   She was a big kid...excited to make her big purchase.  The excitement over the little things is what makes life so incredible.  A lesson to never take the little things for granted...

While Kayla got oodles of attention dressed as Cinderella, Disney is flooded with 3 foot tall Cinderella's, Belle's and even Sleeping Beauty's...but Mary Poppins...not so much.  So it was no surprise that Kayla got even more attention dressed as Mary Poppins.  Perhaps that is why she wanted to wear her Mary Poppins costume every day.  I did manage to talk her out of it a few days.

But this day...she wanted to wear it.  We had breakfast with Mary Poppins {for a second time}.  The breakfast is at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian.  The decorations there for Christmas were breath taking...and our breakfast was nothing short of amazing.  We were escorted to the Mary Poppins garden for a photo op {again for the second time}.
Just priceless.  I guess this is what happens when you dress as Mary Poppins.

As we left breakfast and were standing in the Grand Floridian, Mickey and Minnie walked past us dressed ready for a wedding.  We, of course, followed.  Kayla stood in awe of them dressed up.  In just one of the many amazing moments of our vacation, a woman exited the wedding, grabbed Kayla by the hand and took her out to see them.  The kindness of strangers just amazes me.  To that woman, thank you for making Kayla's day...and creating another amazing memory for us...
After our adventures at the Grand Floridian, we boarded the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.  As the Dapper Dan's were performing on Main Street, Kayla wanted to stop and dance.  She took a liking to the Dapper Dan's and vice versa.  And so this moment that unfolded was incredible...

Just had to sneak in another picture of these
There isn't much about this vacation that she didn't like...but she loved Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party so much that we went twice.  That's right...twice.  The parades, the shows, the dance parties.  And...each princess was paired with their prince.  Kayla kinda really loves the boys...I think I am in trouble!
She just couldn't get enough...and truth be told, neither could we!

Oh Disney at night...Have I mentioned yet how much I love Disney at night?  Especially decorated for Christmas.
I mean...really...the lights on the castle are just the icing on the cake.  To me, the greens and lights on Main Street are just beyond.  I know...I am cheesy...but if I could live in one of those buildings, I think I would.

I have to say being from the northeast, I take snow for granted.  In fact after the second or third snow fall of the season I am usually over it.  But snow in Disney?  Oh, it is magnificent.  As "flakes" fell from the sky, I watched as Kayla twirled and squealed.  That delight, that joy, that moment...I tucked it away in my memory file of special moments.  That moment is one that I will surely play over and over again in my mind.

Add in a few balloons and I just start to twitch with excitement.  It doesn't take much to make me happy...just the little things.  Kayla on the other hand?  She hates balloons.  HATES them.  I found this out the hard way.  We purchased her this $15 light up Tinkerbell balloon.
Hey...don't's's all about the magic.  Anywho...within 10 minutes {okay, maybe 15}, we were giving her balloon away.  I guess that's what I get for buying her something I wanted.  Lesson learned.

Nothing a visit with Santa couldn't cure...
As the parade began, Kayla sat in awe.

She took it all in...the sights, the smells, the snow and the attention.  Of course as the only Mary Poppins in Disney, besides of course, the real thing...she got ALL of the attention.  Just about every character on the parade route waived, stopped, blew kisses, shouted "Mary Poppins".  Even on the night that she was just dressed as Kayla she got tons of attention...
But nothing was more exciting to Kayla than Santa looking over the side of his sparkling red sleigh and exclaiming "well, hello there Mary Poppins".

Her adorable little face lit up like a christmas tree.
You would think by 10:00 in the evening...after a full day of excitement, parades, shows, and rides that Kayla would be passed out...not a chance...she was close to passing out...until we passed by a dance party.  Game on.
Did I mention that we were one of the first on Main Street several days in a row...even after late nights right in this same location.  It's all about the photo op, baby!

We stopped for very few breaks from the parks.  This was one of them...Beaches & Cream.

If you've never's a must.  It is at the Beach Club and has become a tradition.  Each trip to Disney we have to go.  Order the No Way Jose for you...a Mickey Mouse sundae for the kids.  I promise you won't be disappointed.

We even got to spend a few days with our friends, Shawn, Ben, Hannah and Kelly.

I have known Ben since kindergarten and Shawn since fourth grade.  We all went to school together.  They dated in high school.  Were our prom king and queen.  Went on to get married and now have two beautiful girls.  We reunited after I had Kayla.  She is an OT and they came to support us for the Buddy Walk during the spring of 2010.  Little did they know she was just weeks along with her second child, Natalie.  Just as people have told greater family could have been selected to have a child with Down syndrome.  I just think the world of them.  And while I know this road is bumpy, we will have each other to talk about life and the adventures of that magical extra chromosome.  I am lucky life brought us back together.  They are great people.  Oh...and Kayla just loves Shawn's sister, Kelly.  They are now BFFs.  I know we will all be friends for life...

Besides...who can you hang out with for three days in a row...non-stop and not be totally sick of each other?  Hopefully they feel the same way...but seriously...we just had a great time together.  We were just letting our kids dictate where the days took us.  I still wish they had brought baby Natalie with them...I would have sucked her cute little cheeks off...

Taking in our final day of Disney we soaked it all in...

And of course, had to visit Mary Poppins several times.
Some have asked me "how could you stand in line to see the same character so many times?" those I answer this...Disney, this vacation and this experience was all about my child.  It was all about creating memories and magic.
We also took in more of the Dapper Dan's, the Mayor and the Women of Main Street.  And so...she danced...
They remembered Kayla by name...and even danced with her.

These are all memories that I hope she will love to look back to as an adult, just as I do of my times in Disney as a child.  We created memories together...memories I hope she will will cherish forever...I know I will.

And so...I hope I live to be 102...because if I do, I can picture myself at 90 rocking in a big clunky white wooden rocker on the front porch of our home, holding Rick's hand.  As we rock back and forth I can hear our conversation...reliving the joy of this vacation.  I am sure that some moments will fade or become foggy with age but I hope some replay like scenes from our favorite movies.  Together, reliving the magic.  Reliving these days of life and love and laughter.

Magic doesn't just happen.  Most of the time it doesn't just come to have to create it.  Hope you are creating some magic this holiday season!  Merry Christmas to all...

and to all a good night...


  1. An amazing vacation with priceless memories. Definitely one of the best Christmas presents ever!

  2. Wow, I don't know where to start. First, you are an amazing family. The love in all of your eyes shines brighter than any others I have seen. Second, she is the most precious gift from god, you can see it in the smile on her face and the twinkle in her eyes. Third, your ability to capture the true magic of your family love is truly brillant. Thanks for sharing a glimpse of the family bond that you all share. Merry Christmas! Love, Health and continued happiness in 2012. Dawn Weaver

  3. What an amazing vacation! Looks like you guys had a great time. We are going in August, and all your beautiful pics make me so excited. Merry Christmas!!!

  4. This post was absolutely magical! Seriously, I cried (happy tears) from beginning to end. And Kayla is absolutely P-E-R-F-E-C-T!

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. i was crying (very happy tears) through most of this. this is so so beautiful, and looks like a wonderful and magical time :)

  6. As an ex-castmember, I cried just about all the way through this. Thank you for keeping the magic alive in your child and for opening yourself up to experience the magic through her. You are truly remarkable parents. And as a big sister to a celiac teenager, I wish you the best in your research and would love to put you in contact with my mother if she can help you! It's a difficult disease, but not impossible to live with. Again, thank you for sharing your story :)

  7. The whole blog would be more interesting if "Down Syndrome" and "extra chromosome" and "perfect" were censored. The excessive use of those words drags it down.

  8. WOW. What a beautifully written blog! I'm extremely happy to have stumbled upon it, and to have found such a wealth of great messages of love, appreciation, and self-worth. You're such a sweet woman, and you've (by way of this gorgeous entry) made my day a little more sweet, too. Thank you for that.