Home Away From Home

PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7655151673We’re a Disney family. Fanatics. Junkies. Addicts. Hubby and I honeymooned at Walt Disney World. In fact, we bought ourselves the most generous (and yet practical) wedding gift ever – we bought in to the Disney Vacation Club. We wanted to give our children the same love of the magic and wonder that we feel whenever we visit the parks.

welcomehomeNow here’s the thing. We get people who ask us all the time, “You’re going to Disney World… again? Didn’t you just go last year?” Yes and yes. Sure, we switch it up a little. One year we surprised the kids with a Valentine’s trip to Disneyland. Twice now, we’ve vacationed at Aulani in Hawaii. And pre-kids, hubby and I stayed at Disneyland Paris, taking the train into the city each day. Talk about amazing!

wdwJust because we visit Disney World over and over doesn’t mean it’s the same experience every time. We try out different times of the year. We never do the parks in the same order. We always try to do at least one thing we’ve never done before. And there are things we could never anticipate, that make it that much more special.

One memorable year hubby and I visited the ER in Celebration, FL, Disney’s own town (and nearest hospital) when stubborn baby #1 gave us a scare in utero. Turns out I was severely dehydrated. Fast forward 18 months and the same baby is now an entertaining toddler, drawing a crowd at a jumping fountain in Animal Kingdom. She’s since grown quite shy, and hates it when we point out her “spot”, though the dancers at Raglan Road did manage to get her up on stage for a quick lesson in Irish step dancing.

Down for the count.  He held out much longer than expected.

Down for the count. He held out much longer than expected.

I remember every bench, ride and occasional restaurant where I held a napping child. I remember the scraped knee in front of the Great Movie Ride. I remember the Mickey topiary at the Wilderness Lodge that our oldest had to say goodbye to before we could depart. I remember getting the flu and hubby running to the park entrance for a wheelchair for me to get me back to Boardwalk. (Yeah, I yakked somewhere along the way.) I remember my first visit back after weigh loss surgery made it possible to walk through the ride turnstiles without getting stuck.

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We were taking a sit break in the Italy pavilion when I checked my email and learned that my publisher wanted to buy Wynter’s Journey. One year we celebrated hubby’s birthday by doing the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. How blown away was I when they handed the adults trick or treat bags too? And they gave out the GOOD stuff! Reeses, Milky Ways, M&M’s. We saw our first (and probably only) armadillo at Wilderness Lodge one year. So freaking cool! Seriously, every year brings an entirely unique experience.

sundaeThis year was a milestone for our youngest. He was tall enough to go on ALL the rides. He was brave enough to try out Space Mountain (hated it), Rockin’ Rollercoaster (loved it) and Kali River Rapids (went on once w/o us). We spent a down day at Typhoon Lagoon, a first for us as a family. OMG, the sand pail sundae! It’s early spring, so we spotted dozens of baby ducks. Oh, the feels! Youngest tried so hard to catch one of the speedy lizards that are so plentiful. And I cannot say enough about the Flower and Garden Festival.rollercoaster

Will we go next year? Well that’s a big “duh”! Because guess what? RWA Nationals is being held at the Swan and Dolphin. Score! Way to mix business with pleasure. (Can you say tax write-off?)

Are you a huge Disney fan? Do you go year after year? What do you tell folks when they ask why? And last of all – do you have any favorite vacation photos that you’d like to share in the comments? I LOVE seeing families enjoying Disney World as much as my family does.

Unplugging & Reconnecting

WP_20150704_001Our 4th of July routine usually involves staking out a spot on the parade route a day or so early, then lighting off fireworks and sparklers once it gets dark. But this year people started putting their chairs out along the town’s main street on June 26th. Seriously. Am I the only one who finds that obnoxious? It used to be the night before. And then it was the entire day before. But now… Nope. I’ll pass, thanks.

WP_20150704_003This year we decided to do something different. We packed a backpack with water and snacks, headed out the door bright and early and spent the day exploring Mt. Rainier. You guys — THIS is how you spend the 4th. The views are phenomenal. The crowds were minimal (compared to what we would have encountered at the parade). The air was fresh and clean. And the temperature was blessedly cooler than the heat wave we were going through in Seattle.

WP_20150704_013I was so excited to take pictures and hopefully find a little inspiration for my next series, set in the Pacific Northwest. But the best photo ops happen when you are unprepared, as I discovered when a deer came out to stand in front of our car less than five minutes from the park entrance. It was like she was saying “Welcome to the mountain, DeCuir family. Enjoy your visit.” By the time I was through gawking, hubby had honked his horn to get her to move along and I couldn’t scramble to grab my phone to take a picture fast enough.

WP_20150704_064Oh yeah, did I mention that my phone became a camera only, that day? There was no cell service up there, no wifi to tap into. I thought I’d get the shakes. I was taking some fantastic pictures, but I couldn’t upload them to Facebook. I had no access to my email or texting. I had no choice but to live in the moment. And I’m so glad I did.

We took the easy trails. The kids ran on ahead, searching for cougars and black bears. Hubby used the gnarled walking stick he bought a couple of years ago for hikes that we’d promised we would take but never did. Everyone had a favorite wildflower out of the varieties that grew so prolifically. We realized that we could take the exact same route at different times of the year and have an entirely different experience, depending on the season.

By the time we piled into the car at the end of the day, we were all covered head to toe in dust and dirt. We were exhausted and achy. But we were smiling and talking and, most importantly, happy. I thought the kids would grab their DS games and lose themselves in technology, once we got on the road. But they didn’t even touch them. We talked the whole ride home, about the day we’d had, the things we’d seen, the things we didn’t get to see but would like to go back for, the things we’d like to do over the rest of the summer…

It wasn’t the way we usually spend the 4th of July. It was better. We made memories that I hope the kids will be able to share with their own children some day.

What did you do for the 4th? Are you hardcore traditional, or do you like to mix it up? We need some ideas for next year. 😀

Blogger’s note: I uploaded a TON of pictures to wordpress. Either half of them came out sideways (and refused to let me turn them) or they were too big to insert in my post. Sigh. Apparently they are just not meant to be shared with the world. lol If you’d like to see more, I’ve added some to a Pinterest folder: https://www.pinterest.com/mzdecuir/research-photos/

Throwback Thursday – Big Sis Edition

I bought a journal a couple of weeks ago that you’re supposed to take turns filling out with your daughter. It’s an amazing way to open up, to share thoughts and feelings without any of the awkwardness. Yesterday I was filling out the page on “firsts”. So since today is already a dedicated theme day on most social media sites, I thought I’d use this blog post to reminisce about my baby girl.

I highly recommend this journal to mothers of daughters.

I highly recommend this journal to mothers of daughters.

So where to start down memory lane? Have I ever mentioned she was a preemie? Five weeks early, anxious to get a jump start on Christmas, was our only guess. And she was such a little scrapper that she only spent four hours in the NICU. I’m here. I’m ready. Now take me home.

She was so tiny I dressed her in a costume from Build-a-Bear Workshop.

She was so tiny I dressed her in a costume from Build-a-Bear Workshop.

In looking through photos, I realize I have a lot more memories I want to share than I really have room to blather on about. Not sure what blog layout protocol is, but I’m going to use the photo captions to tell the story. My blog – my style. ;P Here we go:

Ever the resourceful child, she turned the back of a chair into an art easel.

Ever the resourceful child, she turned the back of a chair into an art easel.

Last formal portrait before her brother was born? I was terrible at having those done.

Last formal portrait before her brother was born? I was terrible at having those done.

Dance class. One of many extracurriculars that didn't stick.

Dance class. One of many extracurriculars that didn’t stick.

This was Chimp. Her first best friend. Came with girl clothes that she quickly ditched because SHE was really a HE.

This was Chimp. Her first best friend. Came with girl clothes that she quickly ditched because SHE was really a HE.

One of the only girls in her pre-K class, she insisted on being a bride for Halloween. She had the boys fighting over her that year.

One of the only girls in her pre-K class, she insisted on being a bride for Halloween. She had the boys fighting over her that year.

Ah, the graffiti artist stage. Her furniture, her clothes... I do NOT miss this stage. ;)

Ah, the graffiti artist stage. Her furniture, her clothes… I do NOT miss this stage. 😉

1st day of kindergarten. My brave little baby was growing up.

1st day of kindergarten. My brave little baby was growing up.

One and only basketball season. Spent most of her time on the court hugging her teammates.

One and only basketball season. Spent most of her time on the court hugging her teammates.

Dressing up for the renaissance faire. One of the things I miss most about her growing up is no more dress up time.

Dressing up for the renaissance faire. One of the things I miss most about her growing up is no more dress up time.

Crazy cat ladies have to start somewhere, right? She loves ours and they love her right back.

Crazy cat ladies have to start somewhere, right? She loves ours and they love her right back.

 

A Bittersweet Day

She loved having her picture taken.

She loved having her picture taken.

Today is release day for my fourth Scallop Shores book, Trapped in Tourist Town. I should be excited. I should be plugging away, tweeting and updating statuses and flooding social media with buy links and covers.

Except that today is also the anniversary of my mother’s passing. Six years ago today we lost her to a very aggressive form of lung cancer. She was diagnosed in October and died in early January. I was eight months pregnant in October and could not fly out to the East Coast to say goodbye, something that still bothers me to this day.

People tell me she’d be so proud of me. And I get that. But a larger part of me feels that it’s too tacky and selfish to talk myself up on a day of remembrance. The funny part is, she’d probably be angry with me for that. She wouldn’t want my sisters and I to spend every January 5th mourning. She’d want us to laugh and live.

My mom LOVED attention. She could always be found in a crowd, telling jokes and talking to anyone and everyone. She was the type to walk up to a stranger in a grocery store and start a conversation, just because she thought they looked interesting. This writer introvert’s polar opposite. 😉

So I’ll think of this as “release week” instead of “release day”. I’ll use today for quiet reflection, a little bit of crying (sorry, Mom, just can’t help it) and smiles over happy memories. And tomorrow I’ll bug the crap out of everyone with my “buy my book” pleas. Sound good? K!

Love you, Mom! I miss you.