Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by NDM#1, Jan 7, 2009.
Guys, hang with me. This is a long report. I will add a little everyday.
The family of an obsessed Disney individual is always an interesting one. They have to be in order to love and embrace the idiosyncrasies that are becoming of this Disney-slanted personality. My family is no exception. Composed of a reluctant but tolerant husband and three capricious children, my family does its best to accommodate me.
I am the Neurotic Disney Mom (NDM). I wake up each morning with one purpose in life: to indoctrinate my family into Disney culture and nurture a compulsive fascination towards the Disney brand. My hope is that in time my efforts will produce a love for Disney in them that is independent of me, whichin turnwill help my loved ones achieve good mental health. To accomplish my goal, I institute various methods of brainwashing. I design elaborate Disney vacation plans and concoct rigid Disney lifestyle principles for my family to revere. I faithfully instruct my children so that their value system and academic understandings are firmly established with an explicit Disney sensibility. But most of all, I play the role of enthusiastic coach in the practical application of the disciplines for a Disney-driven life.
Sometimes my tactics are subtle such as playing Disney music, hanging pictures of Disney characters in our home and stocking our playroom with Disney toys. At other times I am more aggressive in my mission. I have been known to initiate analysis discussions about classic Disney films. I have also sprung Disney pop-quizzes on the family during dinner. And for our weekly Family Night, games such as Memory Game-The Disney Edition, Disney Pictionary DVD Game and Disney Monopoly are staples. As I create this instructional environment for my loved ones, I dream of passing on a heritage of Disney neuroticism that will serve as the framework for our familys identity throughout our years together, and I am very deliberate in my work towards achieving this goal.
The path I have chosen is not an easy one. I often face obstacles that perplex me such as a limited financial budget, my childrens short attention spans and a husband whose interest in Disney only exists to preserve our marriage. However, my insatiable preoccupation with Disney persists, and I intend to prevail in my chosen battle. For this reason, I continue to creatively navigate my way around these roadblocks in the hope that one day I will accomplish the mission for which I was born.
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THE DISNEY-DRIVEN LIFE :TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A NEUROTIC DISNEY MOM
THE COMPOSITION OF A NDM FAMILY
First in our family is Dear Husband (DH). DH was introduced to Disney when I took him to the Magic Kingdom® as a high school graduation present to myself. He got to experience all of Walt Disney World® in 97 when we honeymooned there. Ever since then, I have slowly but surely been transforming him into a Disney fan. However, this process has been very long, and he still has not yet fully arrived as a true-blue Disney freak.
Next in line is me. I am the neurotic Disney mom (NDM). Born and raised in FL, I was birthed in Disney culture. My best family memories always took place in Disney. Couple this along with exposure to The All New Mickey Mouse Club as an impressionable teen, and I was hooked for life.
Dear Daughter 8 years old (DD8) is a special person in our family. This chick is my mini-me. She is already an obsessive planner in the making, specializing in Disney vacations just like her NDM. Also, her Disney trivia is nearing perfection due to regular testing by her NDM. And this year she intends to be initiated by good ol Mom as a scrapbooker. The subject of her scrapbook? Our next Disney vacation, of course!
Then there is Dear Son 6 years old (DS6). This guy is like no other. While his interests in Buzz Lightyear and Pirates of the Caribbean are common enough, his support of his mommys love for Disney takes a unique spin. He regularly reduces me to a pile of warm fuzzies by presenting me with all the money he receives for gifts and chores to help pay for our Disney habits.
And, finally, there is Dear Daughter 3 years old (DD3). She cut her teeth on Disney due to the obsessive Disney nature of her siblings and mother. As a result, she puts almost all topics of conversation within the context of Disney. This occasionally makes for amusing misunderstandings such as referring to her immature breasts as "Minnies" rather than "ninnies", and these little blunders cause DH to shake his head and say, The brain washing is now complete. Such a reality is paired with the fact that she is the most dynamic personality of the group. The fresh discovery of all-things-Disney along with her expressive nature is a powerful combination, and we find that she has the ability to force all other family members to join her in uninhibited giddiness or despairing gloom as she learns the inner-workings of a NDM family.
A NDMS MISSION IN LIFE
As it is with all NDMs, I purpose each day to instill a passionate love for Disney in the hearts of my husband and children. I have a wide variety of "persuasion techniques" that I institute for this very purpose. However, in terms of developing pure devotion to Disney, nothing is more powerful than a vacation to Walt Disney World®. First, there is the entire process of planning the vacation. All the information that has to be sought out, decisions that have to be made and strategies that have to be designed during vacation planning provide excellent opportunities for building a firm foundation on which a Disney life can be built. But the second and most convincing aspect is the actual experience of Walt Disney World®, itself.
Now every NDM knows that there are seven basic tenets for conducting a perfect Disney trip, otherwise known as The Sacred Seven. These are laid out with the specific intention of designing the ideal vacation, which in turn creates the desired, addictive fascination with Disney. There is no better way to internalize these principles than by putting them into practice throughout the duration of a Walt Disney World® excursion, so vacationing in Walt Disney World® is an absolutely crucial element to the process of raising a NDM family. Without it failure is almost certain.
For this very reason, our family is planning a trip to Walt Disney World® this year. This is not our first time. We have been there before. But we joined the Disney Vacation Club recently, and this will be our first trip as members.
We are planning on going to the Magic Kingdom®, and this will be DD3s initial visit to this park. Naturally, this fact brings a certain element of excitement to the trip because it is always special to watch someone experience the Magic Kingdom® for the first time.
Also, I am particularly excited about our lodging this year. We have reservations at The Villas at Disneys Wilderness Lodge. I have wanted to stay in this resort since I was a teen, but never thought that I would ever get to do it. Now I finally will, and the thought is almost more than I can take.
I have noticed that throughout the planning stage of this trip, I get a little overwhelmed with anticipation of all these firsts. We will be hitting quite a few significant milestones this year. And it is difficult to take it in sometimes. Needless to say, this particular planned adventure has a very heightened sense of anticipation for all in our family as we look forward to adding it to our familys neurotic Disney history.
DAY 1ROAD TRIP
Two months ago, I scoured many Disney related websites in search of a list that would help me get ready for our trip. TheMouseForLess.com provided the most thorough guidance with its ULTIMATE DISNEY PACKING LIST. Since then I have acquired, organized and packed all the items that it said I must have.
The suitcases have been sitting in DS6s room for at least a month, waiting to be loaded into our minivan. I thought my diligent preparation would eliminate the frantic running-around that happens at the last minute. But here we are--the day we plan to leave--and there is still so much to be done!
My children have a medical condition that requires them to be on a restricted diet. This complicates our departure considerably. Since I cant risk getting to Orlando and not finding their approved foods, we have to gather our groceries prior to leaving. Unfortunately, almost everything my children eat is perishable, so virtually none of these food items can be purchased or packed ahead of time. This leaves much work for us to do on the last day.
My husband seems to be dragging his feet. I know that he is excited to take this trip, but his attitude can resemble Grumpys when it is time to load the vehicle. I understand that it is particularly laborious, but I am so anxious to get going that his difficult manner is irritating me beyond description. Doesnt he know that going to Disney invokes blissful joy that overcomes all other dislikes? His apparent lack of understanding this basic principle somehow renders me incapable of entering this gleeful state myself. His contagious cranky spirit is stealing my happiness, and this irritates me further as I acknowledge the hypocrisy of being irritated by someone elses inability to overcome irritation. I find myself in a vicious downward spiral at this point that drags me into the dark recesses that hide in every NDMs mind.
Once packed, we have to make a 13-hour trip in one big drive straight through the night to reach our destination. I am a little anxious about having to make this drive because I know that DH will not be much help when I am ready to occupy the passenger seat. He is incapable of driving for more than an hour or two at a time. He gets road hypnosis or something and goes right to sleep, and it scares the snot out of me since he could kill us all. This obviously means that the brunt of the journey falls to me, and I find myself getting more irritated as I think about my impending duty as primary driver.
I was hoping to feed the kids, clean up from dinner and get on the road by 7 pm so that I could get a good portion of the trip covered by the time sleepiness hits me. But DH's horrid attitude is prolonging the process to an extent that makes me want to pull my hair out.
We finally get in the car about 9:30 pm and pull out of the driveway. DH then tells me we have to stop at Walmart to get some more last minute things. I am not amused. After our stop at Walmart, we finally begin our trip at 10:30 pm . . . 3 1/2 hours behind schedule! This is not a good start, and I empathize with Rabbit who is constantly unnerved when the other characters in The Hundred Acre Wood foil his best laid plans.
DH offers to start the drive. I turn him down because I know that I will have to take over for him within the hour, and that would only further frustrate me. Also, I know that my current inner-turmoil will serve us well as I tend to drive a little faster when I am cranky.
So off we go. I am conquering the road at an exciting pace. DH promptly falls asleep. DD8, DS6, and DD3 are squished but quiet and content as they watch a movie together from the lone, bench seat of our van.
DD8 is crammed up against the side of the van because the two car seats of her siblings occupy the vast majority of the bench seat. At one point DD8 whines a little about being uncomfortable. Even though her frustration is valid, she is barked at by her lunatic mom, who has not yet relinquished grudges against the vacation-menacing dad. "I don't want to hear one syllable of complaint, I exclaim. I am working a job for the sole purpose of financing these wonderful Disney vacations, and being cramped in the car is the only way we can get there. If I hear even one whimper of complaining--so help me--the
complainer will not go on any Disney trips in future years. He or she will stay home with Grandma because only happy people are allowed in Disney World!" In my mind, I am fully aware that if this were entirely true, I would be the first one eliminated right now. But being the NDM that I am I tend to say these hypocritical and guilt-inducing things in times of high stress. My empty threat works, and there are no complaints henceforth.
Once the movie is over, it is time to turn off the TV and allow my sweet offspring to dream away the miles between our blissful Disney destination and us. Since the cars sound system is no longer occupied by the screen-play of Treasure Planet, I put on music and keep blazing a trail on the interstate.
As I immerse myself in the consuming world of radio, I begin to sing away my frustration over the challenging start to our trip. Slowly, all becomes right again. With each note I gradually evolve into the compassionate, loving, comforting, fun-filled, doting wife and mother that I usually am. So I continue to sing with a smile as I think about my now inevitable arrival in Florida . . . if I can just get through this drive.
Apparently, I hit some kind of groove and find myself driving without the faintest sign of impending exhaustion. The states go by, and I am still going strong. Around 6:30 am, I begin to feel a slight inkling of reduction in energy and my vocal chords are hoarse from the relentless abuse of an eight-hour singing marathon.
I am truly pleased as I acknowledge my Walt Disney World® driving record. I have taken us from central VA past the FL border and somehow shaved two hours off of our trip. With this badge of honor worn proudly on my sleeve, I relinquish the wheel to DH who awakes and is in awe of me. I smugly tell him that I can take the wheel back should he tire in an hour. He smirks at my snootiness and assures me that he is capable of handling the remainder of the drive.
As I snuggle into the passenger seat, my slight reduction of energy becomes complete exhaustion. I happily go comatose in an uncomfortable, upright position, knowing that in a few hours I will wake up at my friend's house in Kissimmee, and I will be only one day away from arriving at Walt Disney World®.
DAY 2THE POWER OF PIXIE DUST I wake up somewhere in Kissimmee. My DH has miraculously driven more than two hours, and I find myself totally refreshed. The sun is bright; the air is hot, and I am rejuvenated as I imagine my pasty, white VA skin transforming into a beautiful FL tan. Life is good, and it is about to get better because we are staying overnight at the home of a friend that I haven't seen since high school. Upon arrival, the plan is to feed the children, recover from the drive, catch up on 14 years in 24 hours and get "insider tips" from my friend and her husband who both work at Disney.
Finally, the house is found. Map Quest has successfully led us to the front steps of my long-lost pal. DH and I get out of the van, stretch our legs, lovingly smile at each other and stroke our egos as we comment on a drive well done. The three restless children, who haven't moved in 11 hours, are freed from their back seat bondage. We freshen them up as best we can, considering that the conditions for freshening are 95° temps and blinding sunshine. As the humidity assaults their unaccustomed compositions, I can see them bite their tongues in an attempt to hold back objections to the weather. "After all," I remind them, "Disney World is the 'happiest place on Earth'. If they allowed cranky people to come, it wouldn't be the 'happiest place' anymore. So we need to be worthy of entrance."
I ring the doorbell with great anticipation. This was one of my best friends in high school. We recently reunited through e-mail, and I am very excited about our families meeting. We have discussed how wonderful it will be for our husbands to pal around and our children to play together, and now the day has finally come.
The door opens. We are greeted by my dear friend and her husband, who look as if they were the ones who just made the 11-hour trip. They excuse their appearance and explain that their daughter of 2 years has a flu bug and has been vomiting continuously all night.
I immediately see visions of my three beauties spending our precious days at Disney on the tile floor of our villa bathroom, taking turns puking in the commode. Is it too late to run? Can I somehow pretend that I am not actually the long-lost high school buddy that is expected but a look-alike that has mistakenly ended up on my girlfriends front step and must be going now? Fourteen years of friendship does not compare in value to six blissful days of Disney, so I figure if she is really offended, the loss will be worth it.
But where will we go? Is it possible to get an instant 2nd mortgage on the house to buy more DVC points, giving us a chance to add todays occupancy of our villa to our reservation?
Quickly I realize that there is no backtracking. We must proceed into the germ-infested abode of my welcoming friend but not before I describe her daughter's condition to my little mouseketeers as something akin to the Bubonic Plague, and I warn them to stay on the opposite side of the house as the sweet, viral darling. I hold my breath, cross my fingers, heart, eyes, say seven Hail Marys, rub my lucky rabbit's foot, sprinkle pixie dust over each family member and humbly pray to God for protection from viral infestation as we take our first steps inside the lovely, Kissimmee dwelling. Any prior dreams of seeing my children play with my friend's children will be put on hold for another year. We will refrain from any direct contact with the child who currently poses a risk to our greater purpose for this FL visit.
WINDING DOWN AS WE GEAR UP
I am more at ease as we settle in for the day. The kids get fed, supplements are dispersed with an extra dosage of vitamin A and C, and the viral little girl does refrain from vomiting.
My friend and I laugh over old memories and relay things that have happened to us since we have grown up. She tells me all about working at Disney . . . the casting process, employee perks. And then she flatters me by affirming that I meet all the requirements for being hired as a Disney princess. "Aww shucks," I blush and encourage her to go on. I breathe in every word of Disney wisdom that she is willing to give me and look ahead--in my mind's eye--to the fun that awaits.
During this time, my kids quickly throw themselves into a tried and true Walt Disney World® trip tradition . . . consuming endless hours of Disney Channel viewing. DH goes in and out of consciousness as he nestles into the overstuffed sofa.
After awhile, the kids and I try out my friend's enormous trampoline. But when I discover that I no longer have the skill of jumping and holding my bladder simultaneously, I sheepishly excuse myself. I then suggest that we all retire for a couple hours to recuperate from our trek through the night.
We wake up in the late afternoon and wrap up the day with a relaxing walk through the neighborhood to a beautiful lake. DH and the kids enjoy a swing that someone has put up in a willowing, cypress tree, and I walk out to the end of a rickety pier on the lake. I sit down on the very tip and try to "be one" with the peaceful water, but this is a difficult thing to do for a NDM who is on the verge of entering the nirvana of Disney's holy ground. Nevertheless, I consider that there is a little merit to taking it easy while on vacation. And so even though The Sacred Seven dictate particular traditionssome that can be exhausting--it may be worthwhile to work relaxation around the mandatory vacationing principles.
The family joins me on the pier, and we all snuggle and watch the sun setting over the water. Then we briefly do a little fishing--a first for all my kids--which ends with lots of squeals and giggles over the wiggling fish and the huge, white heron we feed them to.
We return to my friend's home, bathe, get in PJs and drift into Slumberland, knowing that tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for.
DAY 3THE SLIPPERY SLOPE
Somehow, the kids actually let us sleep in until 9:00am or so. That overnight drive must have really done a number on all of us. But it is finally here . . . the day we will arrive at Walt Disney World® for the first time as Disney Vacation Club members.
I have wanted to join the Disney Vacation Club for about 10 years, but only recently did it actually become an option-- and that is because of great sacrifice on my account. With the current pay-rate of my new job, taken for the sole purpose of paying for membership, I have approximately 2 1/2 years of indentured servanthood until my debt is paid. And yet, in a few short hours it will all be worth it as I walk in the doors of The Villas at Disneys Wilderness Lodge with my cherubic kiddos and dreamy husband. No more wishing upon a star for me. I will be living it, baby!
We all get dressed and eat. DH and I muddle over what time we should leave. Check-in time isn't actually until 4:30pm, so with our perishable groceries in mind, we debate the best time for arrival at the lodge.
My good friend's hubby reminds us that he works in concierge of the Pop Century resort and has "connections." Unfortunately, these connections can't get us an earlier check-in time, but they can help us figure out what to do with our immense amount of food while we are waiting for our room. A call or two is made, and we are assured that whenever we arrive, our groceries will be held in a refrigerated room until our villa becomes available.
All previous notions of taking it slow are quickly abandoned. I stress to DH that we should leave as soon as possible so that we have a better chance of getting our room request. We clean up from our meal and repack the car. Thankfully, DH is feeling more chipper today and is moving at a satisfactory pace.
While the children are slightly anxious about leaving, the mesmerizing graphics of the Disney Channel keep them from pestering us too much. Hannah Montana, Zach and Cody, and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse gang have already begun to partially transport them to the mecca of all Disney fans, and we are able to pack in peace.
Then with a couple group snapshots and affectionate gestures (excluding little viral girl), we pile up in the minivan for the last leg of our pilgrimage. I promptly pull out my favorite CD that plays many of the soundtracks for the various rides and lands in Walt Disney World®, The Official Album of Walt Disney World. This is in accordance with the first sacred tenent which proclaims: Thou shalt play only Disney music when en route to Walt Disney World®. It is a tradition that has been in place since my earliest memories. So as ritual dictates I play the music of my favorite location, but I am shockingly affronted by DD8. "Mom," she says, "I am not complaining or anything, but you have been playing Disney music all day long, every day for many months now. Could we please listen to something else?"
I consider this truth. Since I have discovered Mouseworld Radio, Dis Radio, Sorcerer Radio, The WDW Radio Show and Dis Unplugged, I truly have been streaming Disney soundtracks almost constantly in our home. I recognize that some might say when your children are able to differentiate between Disneys Old Key West Resort lobby music and the Adventureland® background music as mine can, it is time to broaden their horizons musically . . . but I am not that person.
"DD8," I calmly explain, "it is our tradition to play Disney music on our way to Disney World." "I know," she says in a tone that lovingly assures me that her loyalties still lie with the great mouse, "It's just that we have already listened to these songs so much that I am a little tired of them."
I take her concerns to heart, but then I recognize we are at the top of a slippery slope. If I allow non-Disney music to be played on our way to Walt Disney World® this time . . . OUR FIRST TIME AS DISNEY VACATION CLUB MEMBERS . . . this could set an ill-advised precedent. The family may want to play non-Disney music the next time and the next time and the next time until all future Disney trips are corrupted by music of the outsiders. Such blasphemous practices can't be tolerated. I have to nip this in the bud before we find ourselves in an apathetic state-of-mind.
"DD8," I say in a very loving but firm voice, "it is very important to play Disney music on our way to Disney World. It helps us get excited about arriving there. Think of how wrong it is to see the huge, welcoming, Disney World banner and pass under it while listening to something that is not Disney related. Now in past years, the tradition has been to play only Disney music for the entire time we are in FL. This year I have already broken that tradition. We have been in FL for a whole day, and I haven't played any Disney music. But now is the time. We are actually driving to Disney, and we must play Disney music." DD8 understands this logic and is pacified with a promise that after our vacation, I will not stream Disney radio at home for a full two weeks.
DISNEY PAST VS. DISNEY PRESENT
As we begin seeing road signs indicating that Walt Disney World® is not so far away, I flashback to past Disney trips when we have made the drive all night and arrived at the World fresh off the asphalt. Those trips involved me emerging from our minivan in sweatpants and heavy sweaters, the remnants of a colder climate. Hair would be in disarray and make-up would resemble Disney's scarier parade characters. If our room wasn't immediately available, I would have to stake out prime property in the resort lobby bathroom to change, freshen up, and (on occasion when shaving had been overlooked) take to the difficult task of removing excess hair in an awkward position near the bathroom sink. Those days of blushing and profusely apologizing to fellow guests seeking relief from overburdened bladders were gone. We had taken the higher road this year. I loved that I would now arrive stylishly, pre-shaven and immediately ready-to-roll.
And then we see it . . . the Walt Disney World® banner! Who would have thought that a concoction of paint and steel could arouse such ecstasy within a person? Immediately the volume of the minivan erupts into extreme decibels of high-pitched squeals.
At this point, my two literate children find it necessary to loudly exclaim the written directions on every road sign we pass while DD3 is content to echo everything they scream. DH finds that he can no longer remain indifferent as he laughs heartily at the grand commotion taking place in the back of our van. As I breathe in the neurotic atmosphere that is building in our vehicle, I concede that even SEVEN years of indentured servanthood would be worth this moment.
We pull into the parking lot of Disneys Wilderness Lodge. The huge presence of this vast structure is truly awe-inspiring. The kids leap from the van in an attempt to rush the building. But before they take even two steps toward it, they hear the booming voice of their NDM, WAIT!!! They take on the characteristics of human statues, frozen in time, for it is a dangerous thing to cross a NDM once she has fully consummated her Disaholic personality by passing through the Walt Disney World® banner. Then, in true NDM fashion, video and still cameras are whipped out before you can say "rawhide." Once the film is rolling and the bulbs are flashing, the family receives Mommy's blessing to approach the great timbers of the breath-taking mother-of-all-log-cabins.
When a NDM is finally granted a few precious days in her motherland, it is essential to maximize every Disney minute. Efficiency is paramount. The family of a NDM quickly learns this and adopts the practice of divide and conquer. So, as all competent partners of a NDM should do, DH dashes to the check-in line to secure a position while I lag behind with the three short-legged persons of our crew.
Ooohs and Aaaahs are whispered as we discover the imprints of wilderness creatures embedded in the sidewalk. Then we scope out our surroundings in hopes of spotting this wild game. Suddenly, DD3 screams wildly, Look, Mom! We all turn in the direction of her little finger and enthusiastically run to the source of her excitement. Good fortune has decided to shine upon us today, for right in front of our eyes stands a behemoth sized-buffalo bush and her baby. We recognize the rare occurrence of viewing such animals and commence with the inevitable mini photo-shoot. Once every angle of the chia-pets has been photographed, we proceed to the lodge entrance.
Exceptionally calm and happy park rangers, who extend a welcoming gesture towards the lobby doors, greet us. The large, glass doors magically slide open when we approach, and we all join hands and enter with great anticipation.
Walking into the great expanse of the lodge lobby proves to be more difficult than we had considered. We are unable to take more than five steps in because the upward movement of our eyes along with the drop of our jaws somehow halts the forward motion of our feet. Fellow guests, hoping to enter the lodge as well, find our stricken family to be a significant obstacle in their path. But little can be done for the moment because the immense and wondrous atmosphere of the lobby has removed all consciousness of the existence of others.
A gentle, park ranger encourages us to take a few more steps so that the entrance can be free-flowing once again. This breaks the spell of the lobby, and I remember that DH is about to check-in. I quickly hurry the children to the designated cartoon-viewing area for all the lodge occupants. Then, with stunning grace, I pass all the people who are waiting in the check-in line and join DH at the counter.
I arrive just in time as the check-in lady gives us the option of taking a room that is immediately available or waiting for the room category she sees as requested. DH looks as if he is tempted to relinquish the coveted pool view, so I quickly take charge of the situation. DH doesnt know of the many hours I invested in reading detailed reports on room categories. He hasnt pleaded with fellow listmates on various Disney internet boards to share their experiences of The Villas at Disneys Wilderness Lodge. All this has been done so that a wise decision could be reached on this delicate matter, and I am not about to let my hard work be wasted.
I motion to DH that I will handle this detail and explain to the patient check-in maid that we will wait for the pool view on the 3rd floor to become available. She confirms that I have chosen the better option since all other views consist of inert trees. Inert trees do not allow for observing others in Disney action during the rare moments that oneself is not engaged in it, so such a view is unacceptable to a true NDM. I breathe a sigh of relief that disaster has been avoided by my timely arrival at DHs side.
We are handed a folder containing all pertinent information for villa residents, a phone number to call periodically for the updated status of our villa, and gift bags for our angelic offspring. And then it happens. The words that I have so longed to hear are spoken. Welcome home, the hospitable clerk chirps. My heart soars, for hearing the official Disney Vacation Club greeting marks the realization of a long-awaited dream. I am home. I have arrived. This is real.
Armed with our newly acquired check-in tools, we are prepared to begin our wilderness adventure. Once again, divide and conquer is the tactic we utilize. DH treks back out into the parking lot to find capable park rangers who will help him transfer our groceries from the warm minivan to the safety of refrigeration. I gather my little ones, and we embark on an exploration of our temporary settlement.
GETTING ACCLIMATED TO OUR SURROUNDINGS
I recall from my hours of internet research that there is a tradition among the lodge residents. It involves a bear, Humphrey, who is located at the bottom of the totem pole in front of the mercantile. To make your trip a magical one, family members are supposed to rub his nose when they arrive. This, somehow, blesses your vacation and all may proceed with confidence that your Disney dreams will come true.
I pass this lore on to my children who concede that before anything else is done, we must rub Humphreys nose. So we stomp over to Humphreys location and see thatindeed--many people must have participated in this tradition, because Humphrey has very little paint left on his breathing apparatus. We all place our hands on the magical spot. In our souls, we sense the presence of all those lodge occupants who have gone before us. We close our eyes and make a wish for our Disney vacation. It is a truly spiritual experience.
The thrill of being here is palpable, and we scurry from place to place.
DD3 declares that a bridge in the lobby, spanning the width of a creek and a bubbling hotspring, is her favorite. She requests a photo of herself on it so that the memorable location will be secured in a family scrapbook. DD8 is impressed by the etchings on the gold elevator doors. And DS6 seems ready to set up camp near the lanyard and pin kiosk since the shiny ornaments call to his collecting instincts.
I am unable to select a feature that appeals to me above the others. There is a great, stone fireplace whose presence compliments the gargantuan rocking chairs that face it. The mercantile off to the side serves as a perfect place to beckon passers-by to purchase a caricature drawing. And not to be overlooked, carefully placed Mickey Mouse heads remind one that even in the wilderness, our great hero is not forgotten. I cant help but love everything I see from the towering, totem poles to the boisterous noise exuding from the Whispering Canyon Café, for it all comes together in a beautiful arrangement.
The kids and I tramp through each floor. We want to see this great room from every angle. We are rewarded as each level provides new views that would otherwise have been missed. Overlooking the railings, we find animal carvings in the large, supporting framework. The carpet and wallpaper reveal small Mickey figures upon closer observation. There are cozy retreats sporadically hidden for occupants who want to read a book or take in spectacular views of Bay Lake.
We move on to discover the extending areas of the lobby. In an annex, off of the lobby, there is a table-- strategically located--which advertises the virtues of being a Disney Vacation Club Member. I conceitedly walk by since I no longer am in need of such information. I relish the fact that I already am a member. The lyrics of the club song have proven to be true. I did believe in magic, as the melody suggests one should, and now I belong. It is a feeling of great achievement, and I am grateful to no longer be on the outside looking in.
A few more steps bring us to an upward, sloping ramp to the Territory Lounge and Artists Point (an upscale restaurant). Since neither of those places is of immediate interest we take a downward, sloping ramp to the Roaring Forks (a quick-service eatery). DH rejoins us since the helpful park rangers have now assumed responsibility of our edible possessions, and we entertain the idea of having a snack.
The Roaring Forks isnt exceptionally busy, so I check out the food options in this rustic café. To my surprise, they have a couple types of fresh produce available for consumption. Finding a fruit that is acceptable for my children, we inform the kids that they will be able to satisfy their animalistic appetites and participate in the business of an actual Walt Disney World® eating facility! This is a rare treat since approved foods are not regularly provided outside of our kitchen and prevent our family from dining out. I say a quick prayer of thanks to the Disney-powers-that-be for carrying a few healthier food choices than the routine burger, fries and soda. And the children ingest their fruit as quickly as their mouths allow. We dispose of our trash and decide to see what the pool has to offer.
We walk outside into the courtyard. The pool is close by, and its surrounding scenery is lovely. Huge stone formations emerge from healthy bushes and flowers. Shade trees hang over a shimmering creek that begins in the lodge but empties into a large free-form pool. Real bunnies play hide-and-seek with willing guests, and live ducks swimming in the pool enjoy their company too. Laughter is heard in the air as an endless line of adults and children take turns sliding down a slippery rock. But the suffocating heat and humidity eventually force us to recede back into the comfort of the air-conditioned lobby.
It is time to make a phone call. My little angels are quickly devolving into miserable creatures due to missing their scheduled nap. It becomes obvious that our initial exploration of the lodge facilities has ended, and we find ourselves longing for the comfort of personal space.
The entire family huddles around DH in the lobby phone booth as he converses with those whom hold our fate in their hands. Much information is exchanged, and DH hangs up the phone. He announces that we have finally been granted permission to take up residence in room #3517. Magically, my irritable munchkins become happy campers and jump up and down in celebration.
We march out of the lobby and down the path toward the area of the villas. The building we come upon is very welcoming with a beautiful, open room housing a large birdcage and some stuffed, leather rocking chairs. I note that entry to the fitness center, Sturdy Branches, is located here but it is doubtful that I will have time to experience this amenity. I will be too busy burning calories with my constant need to explore.
Off to the side of the atrium is a room with tables set up for checkers and chess. Train models, replicating those of Walt Disneys personal collection, compliment the décor of the room too. It looks so inviting, but right now the call of our villa is stronger.
When we find the location of our room, I cant believe how perfect it is. The kiddos are delighted that the view outside our front door overlooks the atrium, and I soon discover another unexpected perk. The view off our balcony not only provides sights of the pool but also a small walkway. This should provide plenty of opportunities for people watching, and I am so pleased with what we have been given. Of all villa rooms, we are the closest to the bus stop, the main lobby and the elevators, and yet the feeling of being tucked away is still preserved. I doubt that our placement could have been more enchanted.
As we familiarize ourselves with the layout of our 1 bedroom villa, our luggage and groceries are delivered. I glance at the clock and realize that there is no time to lose. We have plans to attend Chip and Dales Campfire Sing-A-Long and Movie at Disneys Fort Wilderness Resort, and it begins in a few hours. DH takes his position in the kitchen, unpacking the groceries and starting the preparation of our dinner. Like a headless chicken on steroids-- the most familiar speed of a NDM--I run between the bathroom, bedroom, living room and closet, placing all items in their designated positions for the week.
The meal is served, but the pace is rushed because the clock is ticking. We are not going to make it! Hurry! Hurry, I coax the family, We still have to change. The campfire begins at 8:00pm, so I cleverly deduce that we should put on warmer attire and bring jackets so that as the sun goes down, we wont be troubled by the dropping temperatures. DH, DD8 and DS6 declare that they dont want to bother with changing outfits. I try to influence them to choose wisely and not make a decision they will regret, but they hold firm to their way of thinking. OK, I surrender, but dont blame me when you find your clothes are inadequate. I concede that some people have to learn their lessons the hard way, and I change DD3 (who is not old enough to refute my wisdom) into jeans and long sleeves.
We run out of our room, past an hourly erupting geyser and down to the marina. I am thoroughly prepared as I recall the information I have gathered from countless hours of online investigation. I know that we are seeking boats that fly the flag of blue, for these are the boats that travel between Disneys Wilderness Lodge, Disneys Contemporary Resort and Disneys Fort Wilderness Resort. Making the mistake of boarding a red flag-flying sea vessel, the boats bound for the Magic Kingdom®, would be fatal to our evening schedule. So we are careful to veer to the right side of the marina, and we search anxiously for any incoming ships.
It is not long before we hear the pleasant horn of our designated boat. With excitement, we greet our skipper and pick a seat. Once the boat leaves port and we are clipping along the water, I quickly recognize that these boats will become one of the highlights of my vacation. There is something very calming about sliding across the waves with the wind blowing through your hair, as the evening sky grows dim. I know that I must return to this activity on another evening.
We reach the port of Disneys Fort Wilderness Resort, exit the boat and begin our search for the location of the campfire. I briefly notice that the air is not as cool as I had anticipated for late May, but I brush the observation aside since it will certainly grow colder as the sun sets. The greater task of finding the campfire is rather pressing at this point, and climate conditions are secondary.
The family flits from place to place. No great campfire is within sight. The quick pace of our endeavor is elevating my body temperature, and I feel slightly uncomfortable. We seek guidance from a local country store and are informed that we must navigate a difficult bus system to arrive at the campfire . . . not only that but the spot for boarding the desired bus is still a slight distance away. What?! How can this be? There is no time for such inefficiency!
We leave the store with much haste. At this point, all facades of proper decorum are dropped. We break out into a run that any cross-country athlete would envy, dodging horses, carriages and unfortunately-placed pioneers. I look down at DD3, who is holding my hand. Little beads of sweat are forming on her hairline because every step that I take means she takes two or three, but I rationalize this will be justified once she is in the presence of Chip and Dale.
Somehow, we locate and board the desired bus. The tension builds, though, as our ride is halted many times en route to the campfire. Finally, we reach our destination and disembark. A quick look around shows us that our journey is still not complete, for there is no sign of a campfire. We apparently must trek further into the wilderness if we hope to enjoy the companionship of our beloved furry friends.
Again we resume our accelerated pace. I see that DD3 is now sweating profusely, looking as if someone has poured water on top of her head, and she is turning the color of a kickball. Why are the temperatures not dropping? How can I expect this child to sit near a campfire under such conditions? This is all going wrong . . . terribly, terribly wrong!
As we pass by smarter campers, dressed in as little clothing as possible, I become acutely aware of their troubled glares. DD3s appearance gives cause for concern, and I realize that--as embarrassing as it may be--the only humane course of action is to strip her down. As DD3 goes topless, many families look at us disapprovingly. I feel backed into a corner at this point. The humidity is overbearing, and there is not even a wisp of wind. These judgmental people should be thankful that I have shown enough restraint to keep myself clothed.
The campfire area is now within sight. Amazingly, we arrive before the show has started. There is still an empty bench awaiting the weight of our backsides, so we oblige it by sitting down--half-naked child and all. In an attempt to regain some composure, I hang DD3s shirt across her chest and tie the long sleeves around her back. She makes it known that this is not her preferred style, but I suggest
that maybe she will start a new fashion. Although DD3 continues to object, she is distracted by the song leader now on the platform.
In no time, Chip and Dale make their appearance to the delight of everyone. And after a few rounds of Its A Small World and The Hokey Pokey, we are a little more relaxed albeit hot. We are then informed that the movie of the night is Homeward Bound. DH and I glance at each other and telepathically communicate thatas cute as it may bethis film is not worth enduring the breezeless atmosphere of the campground any longer. The children agree, so we make our exit.
SECRET SPECIAL MOMENTS
Once back on the boat, the wind is more available. We start to cool now that the sun has disappeared. I curse the day that long sleeves were invented, but at least the weather conditions finally allow DD3 to resume the social practice of wearing clothes.
The vessel is more full than usual, so we take our places up near the skipper. The skipper taps DS6, who is seated right next to him, on the knee and quietly asks him if he would like to drive the boat. DS6 looks around to see if anyone has overheard this invitation. No one has, and DS6 feels safe to respond. He does not speak but only nods in agreement so as not to betray the secrecy of their plan. So when the boat is launched and on its way, the skipper discretely explains the operation of his ship behind the view-impeding engine. Under the cloak of darkness, my little captain takes the wheel and ably takes us to the next port.
DS6 wears a smile that beams even in the night. It becomes clear that he has found his calling in life. Any previous thoughts of growing up to be a paleontologist, firefighter or Olympian gymnast seem empty. He was born to be a skipper, navigating the waters of Bay Lake.
Our boat makes a stop at Disneys Contemporary Resort first, so we disembark once again to look around a bit. To our delight, High School Musical is being shown on the beach. This more mature film is appropriate fare for our DD8, who believes she is already a teen, and DS6 along with DD3 like the idea of being near the sand.
We are lucky enough to find lounge chairs right in front of the screen, so we make ourselves comfortable under the twilight. DD8 and I become totally immersed in the drama unfolding before our eyes, but the other family members quickly grow restless. It is time to fall back on the unfailing practice of divide and conquer.
DH gathers DS6 and DD3 and heads for the marina. DD8 and I make the most of our unexpected mother-and-daughter moment, snuggling together in a shared lounge chair while we watch on to learn the fate of Troy and Gabriella. In the distance, I see the Electrical Water Pageant on the lake. It seems certain that DH and the younger critters are enjoying that spectacle from the marina.
Gratefulness wells up inside my heart as I hug DD8 a little more tightly. These are some of the memories I had hoped we would make. As our day draws to a close, I acknowledge that it has been busy, but it was every bit satisfying. In just one day we have already had many wonderful Disney moments, and my NDM heart soars with expectation for what is still to come.
DAY 4COUNTRY FOLK IN A CONTEMPORARY PLACE
Growing up in FL, I was raised to experience Walt Disney World® one way. This way resembled the German war tactic called blitzkrieg. Living only a few hours away and having limited finances made staying overnight in Orlando an illogical choice, so my mom formulated plans to attack Walt Disney World® faster than the likes of Dash the Incredible .
We would rise at an ungodly hour, cruise I-95 at an unethical speed, arrive before rope drop and then cram Disney activity into our day in a manner comparable to the way Heimlich crams food in A Bugs Life. After the park closed, we would then retreat victoriously to our hometown.
In the mind of my mom, there was no other way to experience Walt Disney World®. For one, this method enabled a family to get the most value out of the money spent . . . a principle which reigned supreme in our home. But also, we never knew when we might return. This meant we had to take it in as if it were the last feast we would eat before entering into a period of famine.
Joining the Disney Vacation Club affords me the luxury of approaching Walt Disney World® differently, but is hard for an old dog to learn new tricks. I find that waking on day 4 without a rigid, packed-to-the-max plan of action is a bit uncomfortable. Yet I know this is a necessary step if relaxation and Disney are ever to come together for me. With this in mind I take my official first step towards vacationing like a Disney Vacation Club Member and begin my day without a specific plan.
After some discussion over breakfast, our team decides to take a boat back over to Disneys Contemporary Resort for some exploring. There are some new developments taking place over there, and the ever-seeking-Disney-information part in DD8 and me is able to persuade the more flexible family members that this activity will be fun and educational.
We catch a boat and repeat the pleasurable sailing excursion that we took the previous night. The sky is clear and beautiful, but the sun is frightfully powerful today. Even with a significant breeze on the water, the heat is rather torturous. It is a good thing that all family members are minimally clothed. Any attire other than loose shorts and tank tops would be the death of us.
Upon reaching the modern-themed dormitory, we head towards the main building. But the punishing sun combined with its glare off the water makes this stroll from the pier to the actual hotel reminiscent of Simbas walk through the scorched dessert after he flees the Pridelands. It is certain that if we do not find shelter soon, we will find our swooning bodies collapse much as his did. Therefore, anything we are educated about today will pertain to the interior of the resort because the exterior cannot be endured at this hour.
Once inside, the air conditioning is a welcome reprieve. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and we move forward. As we turn the corner, we find a curiosity rarely seen by little, country bumpkins from an antiquated city in rural VA . . . stairs that move!! DD8 and DS6 have seen these new-fangled contraptions a time or two before and giggle with anticipation. But DD3s eyes grow wide with bewilderment, and she looks at me with great uncertainty. I assure her that riding an escalator is fun and completely safe. She inches towards it in an effort to trust me but, ultimately, coils back in fear. She watches DH, DD8 and DS6 boldly step onto the perilous invention and be whisked away to higher levels. Then she decides that it would be acceptable for me to pick her up and take her on the escalator while she clings tightly to my neck with her eyes closed.
Each level of the resort reveals new places and a greater understanding of the things that define Disneys Contemporary Resort. We find the California Grills hostess counter, some conference rooms, a designated pirate area for guests who take The Magical Fireworks Voyage and many odd-looking sitting areas that are reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But, certainly, the floor with the most appeal is the one that has numerous colorful shops and restaurants.
By this time, DD3 is feeling braver and permits me to merely hold her hand while she stands on the moving stairs. She cant help but flash a proud smile over her sense of accomplishment, and she seems ready to go all the way to the top where the monorail makes its stop.
Riding the monorail is a rite of passage for all family members of a NDM since the second tenet of The Sacred Seven states: Thou shalt ride the monorail when in Walt Disney World®. You cannot say that you have done Disney if you have not been on the monorail. Any trip that excludes transportation by this iconic emblem is considered invalid in the eyes of a NDM and is not tolerated under any circumstance. So in order to validate our first trip as Disney Vacation Club Members, this event is a mandatory one.
We all pick a vehicle to occupy and take our places for this momentous occasion. DS6 insists that there is no need for him to sit. He is big now, and he declares that he is completely capable of standing while the monorail is in motion. DD3, who feels ready to take on anything due her escalator success, follows suit.
Our rotation along the monorail track ends up taking a little longer than usual. Apparently, the middle of the afternoon is the dedicated time for testing the monorails safety system. But my happy travelers are only more pleased with the frequent jostling that occurs as we stop and go at this elevation.
DARING MOVES THAT DISTRESS
Finally, we arrive at our original place of boarding and make our way back home. This time, DD3 will not allow me to assist her on the moving stairs at all. She has become a professional in escalatory travel at this point. So, entirely on her own, she steps confidently on the descending staircase. There is a little confusion as to her hand placement since the wall next to her does not move along with her tiny platform. But she eventually finds the progressing handrail above her head, and she does her best to reach it, resting her fingertips on it for more stability.
The bottom of the staircase quickly approaches. I, nervously, rattle off instructions to DD3 for a safe exit. She gives me an annoyed glance and tries to appear as if we are not associated. Then, with all the fortitude of an Olympian, she crouches down on her small platform and prepares for the jump of a lifetime.
I become more jittery. What if she doesnt make it? What if this ends as a fatal escalator encounter? I decide that I must intervene. But before I am able to grab my child and save her from certain death, the nearing level arrives and DD3 leaps with both feet and sticks a victorious landing on the motionless ground. The euphoric feeling that always accompanies such great feats washes over all who witness this precious moment in time. But the euphoria is short lived as I hand DD3 over to DH so that he can prohibit future risky behaviors.
I take on the responsibility of DD8 now. DD8 never attempts any action that may pose a threat to her, so I figure my NDM nerves will bide in a more relaxed state with this child. As we walk hand-in-hand, she dreamily says, Disneys Contemporary Resort is my favorite resort. I hope that one day we will stay here. I find I am impressed with her mature tastes that favor sophistication over the alarmingly huge, child-friendly monuments of the Disney Value Resorts.
We both longingly look towards the construction project that is being erected next to the hotels main building that we just exited. It is rumored that this tower is destined to be an addition to Disneys Contemporary Resort; however, it is supposed that it will emerge as condos for Disney Vacation Club Members. Should it prove to be true, some time in the future I will fulfill this dream of my elegant vacationer. DD8 and I utter our shared hope for such an outcome as we venture out towards the edge of the marina.
The blue-flagged ship, once again carries us over the calm, murky waters. DD8 expresses a desire to have more girl time this evening. She states that she really enjoyed our exclusive moment while watching High School Musical and is a bit regretful that we dont have exclusive moments more frequently. I agree that those occasions are lovely and need to be scheduled more often. So I whisper that I will discuss the possibility of girl time with DH, and we both cross our fingers for a positive outcome.
THE IRONY OF A WATERSLIDE
Approaching the Wilderness Lodge brings a sense of closure to our afternoon excursion, but DH, DD8 and DS6 are not ready to resign for the day. They determine that a swim in the pool is an ideal mid-day activity. But this doesnt seem to be a wise choice for DD3. She exerted an immense amount of energy with her gold-winning leap off of the escalator, and I can see that a nap is needed to restore her resources. So after some lunch in our villa, DH, DD8 and DS6 tramp off to the water hole while DD3 and I ready ourselves for a siesta.
I confess that a part of me is nervous about sending my older kiddos off to the pool with just DH. They are not strong swimmers, and DH is not always attentive like NDMs tend to be. I imagine that Marlin must have felt much like this when he let Nemo and his lucky fin go to the Drop Off with his well-meaning but distracted teacher, Mr. Ray. However, this is a good opportunity for me to practice taking it slow, so I push my concerns aside and hope for a better outcome than the disaster that befell Marlin. I put DD3 in her resting place, and I snuggle up in mine. As my breathing slows and I recede into slumber, I note that relaxing while on vacation does have benefits.
When DD3 and I awake, we find that there is still time for us to join the others at the pool. We put on our bathing best and scurry out into the sunshine. DH, DD8 and DS6 are delighted we came, and DH tells me of my elder youngins reaction to the slide. DS6 is enthralled by the rush of accelerating down the slope and into the pool. But DD8 is slightly mortified by the inevitable thrust of her head under the water when she reaches the slides end.
DD3 looks at the playful waterfall in question and decides that it is not beyond her capabilities. If one can manage the perils of moving stairs, surely one can handle the docile pushing of a water current. So DH and DD3 accompany one another to the water slide line.
DH comes down first and waits at the bottom of the slide, ready to catch our little fish that is to follow. DD3 does, indeed, descend with the current. But the current is not gently coaxing her along. It is vehemently shoving her down its tract. I watch in horror as my baby spins recklessly, bumping her head and bottom as she bounces between the sides of the slide. DH grabs her as she is dumped into the water. This has not gone well. My little trooper will need to be comforted by the safety of her mommys embrace as soon as she regains her bearings. Butto my surprise--a smiling and laughing child emerges from the scene. She cant wait to do this again.
DD8 is slightly shamed by the courageous acts of her younger sister, but she will not be bullied into such dangerous endeavors. I offer the plausible option of wearing a life jacket, and she agrees that this would resolve her slide-phobic mentality.
Since Disney Vacation Club Members can avail themselves of life jacket privileges at no extra cost, we take advantage of this perk. DD8 is fitted for her new attire, and I sign off on its use. We then return to the pool with a new sense of bravado.
DH greets me at the pool steps with hearty laughter as he relays DD3s insatiable desire to go down the slide. DD3 proudly holds her head high, and she and DS6 play near us while we talk. I show DH the new solution that DD8 and I found for her dilemma. He admires her sporting fashion and encourages her to try the slippery slope once again. We look to DD3 for confirmation that the slide is nothing to fear, but she has disappeared. My heart is seized with immediate terror as my eyes dart to different locations in hopes of seeing her. I chance to spot her little bottom running toward the water slide. Her sense of invincibility has overcome her sense of reality. She is going to throw herself upon the avalanche of H2O without parental supervision. There is no time to stop her, so I command DH to go back to the bottom of the slide and catch every being that descends until we have recovered our ego-inflated baby. After a full minute of agony, DD3 comes sliding down into the eager arms of DH. She is safely delivered to her NDM who looks around for a paper bag to breathe in.
Witnessing the panicked reaction of her parents in reference to the water slide, DD8 reconsiders the wisdom of coming down its slippery tract. We try to reassure her that she will fare well and has no reason to fear. She finally relents and goes with DH who promises to catch her just as he caught DD3. Meanwhile, DD3 receives an animated lecture about the fatal dangers of wandering off without a parent, especially when it is towards a continuous flow of aggressive fluid.
DD8 makes a successful journey down the wilderness slide and receives many rounds of applause from her adoring family. DD3 and DS6 are once again granted permission to accompany DH in the water slide line, but this is the final round of sliding for all.
FASHION IS A BEAR NECESSITY
We head back to our villa to clean up and change. The Cubs Den, a kids care center, is open from 2 4 pm today for free arts and crafts. My little cubs can hardly wait to see this den and delve into the planned activities, so we ready ourselves and head in the direction of the fanciful playroom.
We enter a pleasant room. Wooded murals are painted on the walls. The creative artwork of various cubs is proudly displayed. There is a significant inventory of Disney books, Disney movies, Disney games, Disney action figures and toys. We see on a miniature table, surrounded by miniature chairs, the supplies for todays craft. The supervising Mama Bear of the kid-friendly den explains to us that we can design our own sunglasses today. All my critters get a twinkle in their eye at the suggestion. They have never designed their own sunglasses before.
DD8, who has a natural artistic inclination, immediately gets down to business. She seems to have already decided on her personal plan. So without hesitation, she avails herself of the various colors in the middle of the table and begins detailing the rims of her given glasses.
DD3 sweetly says, Mommy, you do it. She hands me her sunglasses so that I can concoct some flamboyant frames for her. I ask her if she wants anything in particular on her glasses. She shrugs and says, No. Just put whatever you want. Easy to please, I write her name in a clever font and accessorize it with stars.
DS6 stares at his blank sunglasses for a time, deep in thought. He seems to have a direction that he wants to take with this craft, but he hesitates in starting the process. This is not unusual for DS6. He is a perfectionist at heart, and his fear of not reaching his own standard often stops him in his tracks. Finally he hands me his glasses and says, Mommy, I want a dog on my glasses. Will you please make one? But DS6, I implore, dont you want to make the dog? No, he resolves, I do not know how to draw a dog very well. You need to do it. I inform him that I dont think I can draw a dog very well either . . . at least not in such a small area. But he insists that I have this ability and should apply myself.
I get to work on the dog, butas suspectedit does not meet with DS6s expectations. He suggests that maybe DH can do a better job and fix the disastrous design I have created. I warn that DHs artistic abilities are inferior to mine, so I doubt that he can improve on my humble beginning. But DS6 decides that DH should be given a chance. DH does, indeed, manage to disturb the dog image even further.
Seeing that he is now doomed to don the deformed dog shades, DS6 bursts into tears. He cannot bear the thought of such humiliation. I agree that this appalling accessory will not do, so I offer to repair the situation if DS6 is agreeable to a more simplistic design. He tearfully surrenders his dog-fashion dream to my less enticing idea of a masculine color scheme that features his name.
Once the new creation is complete, DS6 does find his shades to be acceptable. No more tears are shed, and he even tries them on to see how the man-empowering design makes him feel.
We play with the toys in the den for a while, but time soon runs out. The den is closing so that it can prepare for the arrival of the privileged children with pending babysitting reservations. We clean up our mess, make way for these important visitors and leave the great fun of the den behind.
THE GRAND AMENITIES OF THE GRAND FLORIDIAN
Our growling, bear bellies persuade us to go home. It is time to think about our next meal. While preparing dinner, I broach the subject of girl time with DH. DH is agreeable to this idea since it means that he will be able to remain in the villa and watch ESPN without the naggings of a NDM who has no appreciation for sports. He adds that he will borrow a DVD from the mercantile, a delightful perk for Disney Vacation Club Members, and we can have a family movie night upon my return with DD8. This sounds perfect, and I turn to wink at DD8 so that she knows our request has been approved.
DD8 and I make our plans and relish the idea of getting away. We decide that a tour of the monorail resorts is the best option for the evening. She and I, both, thoroughly enjoy inspirational atmospheres, but such surroundings are sometimes lost on the remainder of the family. So we agree that this is our chance to indulge in the dreamy environments of Disneys Contemporary Resort, Disneys Polynesian Resort and Disneys Grand Floridian Resort & Spa without the bothersome presence of less-romantic relatives.
After a healthy dinner, DD8 and I trek back to the marina to catch another ride to Disneys Contemporary Resort. DD8 meekly petitions the driver about the possibility of driving the boat. This rigid skipper expounds on Disney regulations that prohibit non-licensed persons from sailing his fine ship. Drats! DD8 was hoping to commandeer this vessel so that her brother would no longer have bragging rights concerning this privilege. But she is rejected and given the consolation gift of a Mickey Mouse sticker.
We take our places in the boat, arrive at the desired location and board the monorail with smug familiarity. Our first stop is Disneys Polynesian Resort. It is exquisite with its water gardens and exotic flowers. We wander outside and discover erupting volcanoes and a placid pool. The views of Seven Seas Lagoon are particularly calming, and DD8 and I revel in the aura of this place. We lament that we dont have more time but know that we should move on.
Next, we journey to Disneys Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. There is so much to see, and yet the pace of this elegant place is one of leisure. So we stroll side by side as we window-shop and pretend to be of higher breeding. Riding in the glass elevator gives us some amusement as does watching the toddlers in princess attire, spinning in the lobby. A formally dressed pianist provides concertos and minuets for the princess dancing pleasure, and we cant help but smile while taking in the whole ensemble.
The sight of twinkling lights outside catches our eyes. Darkness has now fallen over the grandeur of this picturesque habitat, and white lights accent the structures and flora beyond the lobbys enclosure. We venture outside so that we can take part in the delicate atmosphere of the Victorian walkways.
Upon finding a romantic water fountain, DD8 confesses that she has an urgent need to use the restroom. We quickly change our focus from the fantastic views to the hunt for a toilet.
We find a bathroom of elaborate propriety back in the lobby and are not above marveling over the refined faucets and commodes. But apparently, these are not the only amenities that capture DD8s attention. For as we leave the facility and rejoin the aristocratic population of Disneys Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, my daughter brashly inquires, Mommy, what are tampons for? Why do you ask, I respond in a hushed tone, noting the raised eyebrows of others who pass us in this awkward moment. DD8 does not follow my subdued example. She responds at an uninhibited volume, Well, I saw a box hanging on the bathroom wall. It looked like a machine that you get candy from if you put a quarter in it, but it said Tampons. What are they? And why do we need them in the bathroom?
I ponder how I should direct this conversation. I am a little unprepared for this topic since I hadnt suspected its relevance for another four years. But, nevertheless, I am now confronted with this delicate matter. What should I do?
On the one hand, in the family of a NDM all momentous occasions should take place in Walt Disney World®. Certainly the explanation of puberty and its purposes qualifies as a momentous occasion. What could be more memorable than enjoying the homestead of Mickey Mouse and having an enlightened discussion about the process a girl goes through to become a woman?
On the other hand, the uptight, Victorian décor of this particular resort along with the many potential eavesdroppers doesnt lend itself to such dialog. Maybe this topic should be reserved for a less frigid hotel. I quickly search the Disney files in my memory for a more appropriate setting . . . perhaps a Winnie the Pooh area with a birds-bees-and-honey-trees theme. But, alas, I cannot immediately recall such a place.
In the confines of my head, I concede that this conversation begs for better preparation as well as more time than we have been allotted for the evening. So I tell DD8 that her questions have complicated answers and that I find myself unable to satisfy them at this time. But I placate her with a promise to take her on a retreat to Walt Disney World® when she is 10 years old. It will be a whole trip that she and I enjoy alone. On this trip, we will have girl time all the time, andafter I look into the matter a little moreI will be fully prepared to answer her questions. This is acceptable to DD8, and we move out of the abrupt situation and back into the suave practice of resort hopping.
The monorail returns us to Disneys Contemporary Resort where we board another blue-flagged vessel. We have a different skipper than the one who navigated our last trip, so DD8 tries again for the coveted, boat-driving experience. Perhaps, now that the night could hide her illegal activities, she will find a skipper that is more apt to bend the rules. But, once again, she is met with a gentle but unyielding captain who explains the fun-inhibiting restriction of the Disney seas. She is smiled at, patted on the head and given another sticker. Doh!
When we arrive back at our villa, we are welcomed with hugs and kisses. The movie is about to begin, and our entrance is timely. Meet the Robinsons is the pick of the evening. So the sleeper sofa is unfolded, and we all gather upon its comforting mattress to celebrate the beauty of family by watching the touching story.
As the film comes to an end, DH and I tuck our little ones into their soothing blankets and place the billowing pillows under their heads. We pray that they will get a good nights sleep because tomorrow we take on the demanding mission of mastering the Magic Kingdom®.
DAY 5MATTERS THAT COULD END A MARRIAGE
The alarm goes off at 6:00 am. The first thing on my mind is the third tenet of The Sacred Seven: Thou shalt arrive at the theme park before the gate opens.
Getting a family of five ready for a full day at the Magic Kingdom® takes a lot of time, so an early start is completely necessary. I find that I am a little groggy. The movie last night kept us up past our bedtime, so I am already starting the day off with a less than ideal amount of sleep. But as I pull out my ULTIMATE DISNEY PACKING LIST and stuff my backpack with all the necessities for our big day, my adrenaline starts to kick in.
I try to wake DH so that he can help me get through the morning routine with the kids, but he is unwilling to get up. He mumbles that he doesnt have anything he needs to do before we leave. I suppose I can let him sleep another 15 minutes before the NDM in me turns ugly.
I get myself dressed and primped for the day and then return to the bed where DH continues to snore. DH, you need to get up now, I declare in no uncertain terms. Extra Magic Hour begins in under two hours. No one is dressed. We still have to prepare and eat breakfast. And only Heaven knows how long it will take for us to catch a bus. DH grunts at me and begrudgingly gets out of bed. He seems unable to move faster than a sloth submerged in a tank of peanut butter, but I figure that in a few minutes his adrenaline will kick in just as mine did.
I wake the children gently. They seem a little cranky too, but their dispositions improve with every minute as the realization of going to the Magic Kingdom® sinks in. I get them dressed and tie up DD8 and DD3s hair so that they wont have rats nests for heads at the end of the day. Soon I have three kingdomlings, eager for the magic that awaits them.
DH continues to proceed with all the haste of an elderly couple taking a Sunday stroll. As we go through the motions of our breakfast and supplement routine, he seems more deliberate in his sluggish mode.
It is known that DH carries his familys passive-aggressive trait, which means that his behavior pattern is to aggressively frustrate plans that he doesnt like by passively resisting them. In this instance I conclude that he is resentful about being awakened so early. So as everyone else becomes more anxious to leave, he seems to become more purposeful about resisting our exit.
In spite of the fact that during his morning gruntings he communicated there wasnt anything that warranted his attention and early rising, he now finds various tasks that need to be managed. His pace is maddeningly apathetic.
It is a rare occurrence for me to have the children completely ready for departure before DH is ready. DH is always the one standing around, waiting for the rest of us to get our acts together. So I am a little baffled that this morning the tables have been turned.
The children and I stand at the door of our villa, dressed, groomed, fed, packed and ready-to-go. We watch DH slowly walk to and fro throughout the rooms as if the Magic Kingdom opening werent for another 6 hours, and we grow more frustrated with every passing second. What is he doing? Does he not realize that when married to a NDM this is grounds for divorce?
DH finally gets his act together and is ready to leave. Sheesh! The children and I bolt out the door, leaving DH in the dust. When we are half way to the bus stop, I hear DH call out to us, Oh! I forgot that I have to return the movie to the mercantile. What?! He told me that he didnt have anything that he needed to do this morning! This is the last straw! I am calling my lawyer when we return home. Actually, I dont have a lawyer, but you can bet your sweet, mouse ears that I will find one.
Apparently DH sees the darts flying out of my eyes and towards his head. He quickly turns back towards the villa and sprints to retrieve the movie. The kids and I continue towards the bus stop. Little, dark rain clouds, much like the ones that follow Eeyore, form above our heads and hover as a warning to any other obstacles in our path to the Magic Kingdom®.
Within two minutes of arriving at the bus stop, the bus for the Magic Kingdom® pulls up. DH is nowhere to be found. So as all the other happy guests excitedly board, DD8, DS6, DD3 and I remain seated on the bus stop bench. The bus leaves, and we are left behind to contemplate our irritation with DH.
We see DH running feverishly past the bus stop and toward the mercantile with DVD in hand. Lightening bolts now shoot out of our rain cloud head-coverings, aimed at the moving target. He is worthy of a good filleting, but he narrowly escapes electrocution with his frantic speed.
After a few minutes, DH arrives at the bus stop. He sheepishly approaches the rest of the family, knowing that he has crossed an unspoken line with his behavior. DS6 and DD3 find it easy to forgive DH and are happy that we will now be able to proceed. But, in hopes that he will feel some remorse, DD8 and I inform him that he caused us to miss our first bus. Then we stand at a satisfactory distance so that he will understand he is momentarily banished from our good graces.
Multiple buses arrive at our stop, but none of them are for the Magic Kingdom®. With each one that comes and goes, the anxiety builds into a disabling tension. DD8 and I despair. Hopefully this is not a foreshadowing of our day-to-come.
Six buses later, another Magic Kingdom® charter pulls up to the stop. We frantically gather and hop on board. We take our seats, and I look at my little ones. They are antsy with expectation, trying to suppress nervous giggles. I acknowledge that it is time to release DH from his prison of ostracism. To express his repentance, DH adjusts his attitude to conform to the appropriate, excited and motivated mentality of all Disney park guests. I mull over the fact that this change is happening a little late, but for the sake of our Disney day, I spend the five-minute bus ride letting go of my pent-up irritation.
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