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What We Learned at Disney World (Part One)

We recently went to Disney World for 9 days.  9 blissful days where our hardest decisions were whether to wait in a 25 minute line for Pirates of the Caribbean or come back later, or how many times in a row to ride Kali River Rapids.  We barely slept, we ate like crap, and we didn’t do one equation from the math packets we brought along in their backpacks.

Josh was a little hesitant to go back to Disney so soon after the first trip, but I feel like we’re really rounding on the end of their suspension of disbelief.  I know I said that last post, but this time I really really mean it (if you say “really” twice, it means you’re super serious).

It is addictive to see someone fully engaged with their imagination — believing in all possibilities.  That is why we fork over thousands of dollars to Disney, isn’t it?  Because it becomes like a drug watching our children (and frankly, ourselves) believe in fairies and wishes coming true and the idea that we too will visit the moon one day.

I have been in a deep funk since returning.  Funk actually doesn’t really cover it.  I am down.  I feel like I’m going through withdrawal.  I don’t feel motivated to do anything.  I spend most of my time looking at our photos and watching the movies we made.  I am irritable.  I had infinite wells of patience while at the park, but I’m snapping at everyone at home.  I don’t want to talk to anyone.

It is entirely connected to that space because I don’t feel this way when I return from other trips.  I come home from other travels feeling happy that I went but also happy to be back.  And when I return from Disney, I go through many weeks of being down.  I imagine it is similar to how Harry Potter felt when he left Hogwarts for the summer and had to return to the Dursleys, where life was dull in comparison.  It is hard to know that a magical place exists and you’re no longer there.

Because yes, I have bought into Disney hook, line, and sinker.

If nothing else because it’s a place where people believe in things once again.  You can’t help but get caught up in the message that dreams come true; have it sink into your skin.  Every cynical cell in my body disappeared while we were there, and I was overcome with emotion staring at that big white castle and what it represents.  I hugged each character, burying my face in Mickey’s shoulder.  For 9 straight days, I really believed in magic.  And making wishes.  And drank in every last drop of hope.

So you can see why it’s hard to be home.


I collected a few stories from our trip in Aesop fable fashion, things we learned along the way.  Which seemed like a more palatable way to shove our family stories and pictures down your throat.  I completely understand if you need to stop reading now, but you will miss out on hearing the Wolvog mourn Steve Jobs through an animatronic Steve Jobs or the ChickieNob’s anxiety about the depth of Mickey’s love.  Just sayin’.


The Wolvog is not the most adventurous child.  We refer to ourselves as the Milds (whereas Josh and the ChickieNob are the Wilds, loving roller coasters, loud noises, and speed).  The last time we went to Disney World, there were more rides he wouldn’t go on than ones that he would.  We spent a lot of time on the People Mover in Tomorrowland while Josh took the ChickieNob on everything else.  On one hand, the boy likes the People Mover and I think he should follow his bliss (I’d also put the People Mover as one of my top ten rides).  On the other hand, it is very frustrating to see him limit himself as well as impede the family from doing things together.

This trip, our friend gave us the brilliant idea to get him sound-blocking headphones since 90% of his fears are tied to sound.  My parents found him a child-size headset, and he wore it around the park.  It gave him the courage to try rides that he had inexplicably bypassed two years earlier.  He ended up loving Snow White, Peter Pan, and the tea cups.  Soarin’ became his new favourite ride.  He got to enjoy the fireworks and even watched every 3-D movie, which are usually his worst fear.

Of course, it also got him noticed.  People stared when he slipped them on (it also didn’t help when he rode Kali River Rapids wearing goggles).  They commented on them, as if headphones were the equivalent of entwining snakes through your hair.  We told him to just ignore the stares; that they didn’t get it.  So he did just that, putting them on whenever he felt he needed them and leaving them in the bag whenever he could.

Sometimes all you need is a security headset to get you over your fears.


At the same time, I needed to practice what I preached.  I was so busy trying to convince the Wolvog to try things that I missed the fact that I was also limiting myself at the parks.  I knew I didn’t have it in me to try things such as Space Mountain or Expedition Everest.  But milder rides such as Mission Space and Soarin’ were probably totally do-able, though I was too scared to try them.

I told Josh that I needed to get over my fears.  I didn’t sleep the night before we went to Epcot for the first time.  I was literally physically ill as we went to the park, completely overwhelmed with the idea of getting on these rides and equally overwhelmed with how I’d feel about myself if I didn’t try them.

The first one we went on was Mission Space, and yes, I spoke to about twelve employees before we went on the ride (the green, milder version).  I was panicking each time they mentioned that we could still back out of the mission, though the ride operator promised me that it was referring to the orange, wilder version.  That the green version was completely tame and if I got scared, I could close my eyes and be essentially transported off the ride.


The ride was awful.  The twins and I screamed through the whole thing; and we all had our eyes closed through the majority of it.  I hated the sensation of being tilted back and forth inside the simulator.  When I got off, I felt ill from being so tense for four minutes.  And now I really didn’t want to try Soarin’ because it also was a movement simulator.  But the rest of the family kept trying to convince me to stick to the plan and try it.

And, oh my G-d, it was the most amazing experience.

I’ll admit that I squinted my eyes a lot that first time riding it, but we ended up going on it four more times.  It turned into our favourite ride, and I cried the last time we went on knowing it would be years before I got to ride it again.  I can’t believe I almost missed out on it.

Don’t let your fears limit you or you could miss out on an amazing experience.


On our last night, nearing on 11 pm, the ChickieNob realized that she hadn’t met Tinkerbell yet.  We were about to get on our final ride; we were exhausted, going on our 14th hour in the park (on our 7th day there!) but we asked the ride operator if she thought Tinkerbell might still be hanging out in Adventureland.  She was doubtful, but we grabbed the twins’ hands and ran from “It’s a Small World” all the way to Adventureland in the dark.  When we got there, the pale blue doors to Pixie Hollow were locked.

The ChickieNob, of course, cried.  We stood there for a bit, trying to gather up the energy for the return trip to our final ride.  Behind us, an employee was using the tip of his mop and a bucket of cleaning solution to draw the most amazing free-hand Mickey and Donald on the pavement.  It wasn’t a planned event; just a man paused from his cleaning duties, entertaining us with his talent.  We watched him step around the concrete, his broom a paint brush, bringing Mickey to life until the water evaporated.

Sometimes if you’re only focused on the magic you’re seeking, you miss all the other magic happening around you.


Okay, this is getting awfully long, so more Aesop-like fables from Disney World coming in a second post.  Please indulge me.  I took 400 photographs, and I have to put these pictures and stories somewhere.


1 Katie R { 10.25.11 at 9:25 am }

I am with you 100%. Disney World is our happy place too. I took my husband for our honeymoon 3 years ago and we have returned twice since. There is something about the combination of unbelievable sighs, sounds and smells that is like no other place on earth. If this whole baby-making thing doesn’t pan out, we’ll be planning a trip right away.

2 Carla { 10.25.11 at 9:43 am }

I am so glad you didn’t skip Soarin! It is my absolute favorite ride. I am a Disney freak who could happily spend every vacation in those parks (unfortunately, my non-Disney freak husband does not feel the same way). There is so much to do outside of the parks that I can usually convince him to go. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

3 Carla { 10.25.11 at 9:47 am }

And I completely agree with you about Mission Space–there was no “green” side the one and only time I rode it, and it was awful. Even my husband, who never gets any form of motion sickness, felt dizzy and sick. It took about 40 minutes of sitting very still and slowly sipping water and gatorade before we could keep going!

4 manymanymoons3433 { 10.25.11 at 10:09 am }

I honestly feel like you’re kids are going to grow up with the best memories and stories to share! You know how in every marriage there is one extended family that is clearly the “better” of the two (more fun, more energetic, just all around more entertaining to hang out with). Yeah, I think the family of each of your children’s spouse is going to have a hard time competing. 🙂

5 LJ { 10.25.11 at 10:33 am }

So glad you had a wonderful time. Let me know if you want me to come by at all…or if that’d just make it worse.

6 a { 10.25.11 at 11:13 am }

But think of how unmagical Disney would become if you never left!

Glad you found a solution for easing the Wolvog’s anxiety and getting him to branch out. Sorry to hear that the Chickienob missed out on Tinkerbell – but the mop art sounds very cool.

7 Bea { 10.25.11 at 11:31 am }

I can take more. (I am actually having a hard time keeping up with any blogging at all, but, what the heck, I love travel stories, also fables.)


8 Willow { 10.25.11 at 12:06 pm }

I agree that Mission Space is just awful. It wasn’t scary to me; it just made me sick. And Soarin’ (which is really Soarin’ Over California, to us Disneylanders) is truly amazing. Glad you got to enjoy it, and yay for magical family memories!

9 Erica { 10.25.11 at 1:00 pm }

I remember going on Space Mountain and just not finding it very fun, which turned out to be okay because it also had the biggest line in the park and we didn’t want to go back. I also remember absolutely loving Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.

I’m so glad the headset was helpful and also that the Wolvog was so good at ignoring people who should be ignored.

10 Eggs In A Row { 10.25.11 at 2:18 pm }

I think that the headset is genius. With the HUGE amount of children with sensory issues, I’m shocked that there aren’t more kids with them!

There is something magical about Disney. If it is your birthday and you go to Main Street and get a special Birthday Pin, EVERY SINGLE person who works there has to say “Happy Birthday, Name” when they see you. That is amazing in itself. But really, it is just a special place. A special, expensive place. 🙂

11 HereWeGoAJen { 10.25.11 at 2:19 pm }

Mission Space is one of the roughest rides I’ve ever been on. I haven’t tried the green side yet, but that is because we just don’t go over there anymore. It makes Matt and I sick and we can both ride just about anything without any ill effects.

I love Disney. That is partially because I still believe in magic.

12 Cheney { 10.25.11 at 4:23 pm }

I will totally indulge you and revel in your Disney stories – I took my daughter to Disney last year and didn’t blog about it, and now reading this makes me want to dig up all the photos and write about our trip. One of these days… Glad you had fun at the happiest place on earth!

13 Angie { 10.25.11 at 6:23 pm }

Sounds awesome! I love Disney. It’s been a few years since I was there, but I share your distaste for Mission: Space and your love for Soarin’! So glad your kids have those memories, too.

14 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.25.11 at 6:34 pm }

You make me want to go. But I, too, might need a set of headphones. I think all that overstimulation is one reason (the thousands of $$$ being the other reasons) why I haven’t pushed to make Disney happen.

Love the pix of your kids. Sigh.

15 Lisa { 10.25.11 at 10:55 pm }

Love that you didn’t miss out on Soarin’! It’s spectacular!

If the headphones were helpful for Wolvog, wanted to be sure you knew that you could get custom made earplugs for him. They’re really comfortable and can be made in lots of colors. They make them with filters so he could still hear voices and filter out loud noises. Visit a pediatric audiologist to have them made. They’ll know what to get for him.

16 Barb { 10.25.11 at 10:56 pm }

We love soarin too. His headsets look a lot like the language translation ones so I’m surprised he got so much notice.

Adorable photos. And if you’re going that often, you may want to consider learning about vacation club.

17 Emily { 10.26.11 at 12:38 am }

I’m so glad you had such a wonderful time! Those headphones were a great idea. Disney is such an amazing place. Letting your inner child just run loose is the best. We only have 24 more days and we will be there! I can’t wait!

18 Chickenpig { 10.26.11 at 6:38 am }

I love, love the headphone idea. I really want to go to Disney w the kids someday, but the thought of having one of my kids turning into a blubbery mess because of loud noises gives me the willies. The headphones seem like a great solution.

Maybe you should try watching some of the Disney movies when you’re home to ease the withdrawal? My mom used to sing songs from the movies around the house when I was a kid, and just the words from some of the tunes can lift me up. There is magic in those movies, I tell you!

“No matter how you’re heart is grieving, if you just keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true” . 🙂

19 nh { 10.26.11 at 8:53 am }

I want to take boy-o to Disney… and not EuroDisney – I want to the whole real thing. I only hope that we can manage it before the magic has vanished for him. I love your pictures and want to see more!

20 jodifur { 10.26.11 at 10:41 am }

Disney is pure unadulterated magic. There is nothing like it.

21 battynurse { 10.26.11 at 9:55 pm }

So I’ve never been to Disney World but I feel very similarly to Disneyland. I LOVE it there. Two years ago when I had to cancel the donor FET cycle that I had requested time off from work to do, I ended up going to Disneyland instead. I’ve also been known to wander the park throwing pennies and quarters into every single wishing well, pond, fountain that I could find.

22 Vee { 10.27.11 at 7:17 am }

Oh you just make me want to go !

23 Heather { 10.27.11 at 11:47 am }

I loved Disneyland too. I only spent one day but totally worth it (back in travelling days in 1998). Sigh.
Dreams do come true you know. I got pregnant! 🙂

24 Kathy { 10.28.11 at 4:13 pm }

What an awesome and magical post! I love what you shared about what you learned through your experiences at Disney this year and look forward to reading your next post about it.

I have only been there once, when I was in 5th grade and don’t recall that much about it, but do remember having a lot of fun. Back then there was only the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, as least that we went to.

My in-laws have wanted their children and grandchildren to all go there together for years, my husband and his siblings have never been. So next month we are going! I am excited, but trying not to have many (if any) expectations for our experience, as I know it won’t be the same as if we were just going the four of us and planning the trip ourselves. We wouldn’t have chosen to take our youngest there now, at age two. But we know our son, at age eight, will have a blast and we do think we will all have a good time.

It will be good practice for me to literally go along for the ride, as for various reasons I have researched very little about what there is do there and where we might go, etc. So our “plan” is roll with it and I imagine with those intentions, how can we not have a wonderful time, right?!

We will also only be there for four days, because we refused to take our son out of school for the trip, unlike other family members who are doing so and staying for a week. So I am looking forward to it and hoping it will be worth the trouble it seems to get there and make it happen (which from everyone I talk with who has been there with kids, or without, it will be).

Then someday we hope to be able to return when our children are both old enough to appreciate and remember the trip, just the four of us and do it “our way.”

I do still believe in magic and that places like Disney do an incredible job harnessing it for others to lose themselves in during their visits there. I can appreciate being in a funk after leaving and I hope that you feel like yourself again soon and are able to rekindle some of that magic at home too.

Thanks for sharing! Now I know one ride that I want to steer clear of and one that I want to seek out and make sure we try! 🙂

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