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.

WP_20140123_020

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/

Bucket List #1 – Travel Adventures

It’s that time of year. Winter still covering most of the country in white, while here in the Pacific Northwest it’s just a tad too chilly to do yard work or enjoy the outdoors. So naturally, my thoughts turn to vacations. Preferably somewhere sunny and warm.  We’re heading to Hawaii next month, but until then…

MY BUCKET LIST – TRAVEL VERSION

1. Ireland – any place at all in Ireland. Seriously. Any.ireland

2. Santorini – Greece is overall awesome but if I had to choose a Greek island to visit, it would be the gorgeous island of Santorinisantorini

3. New Zealand – home of all things Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. If money were no object (which I suppose applies to EACH of these destinations) then I would take every movie location tour offered. Even the ones by helicopter (though I might need to be heavily medicated). And I want to stay in a hobbit hole. Well, I want to move in, but that’s beside the point.hobbit

4. Egypt – okay, so now is probably not the best time to be visiting the great pyramids, the Sphinx and so forth. But someday? When the political unrest dies down and tourists are free to explore an ancient civilization without fearing for their lives? Then I want to go.

5. Scotland – particularly Edinburgh. The castles. The ghosts. The history. The burr. Reow! Talk to me, locals. Read the back of the cereal box to me. Love that accent!edinburgh-scotland-travel-guide

6. Paris – technically, I could cross this off my bucket list, as hubby and I went, early on in our marriage. But I want to see Paris through my children’s eyes. And for that reason, it stays on the list.

Honorable mentions: I could go on and on about places I’d like to see (if money were no object). But here are just a few more. Victoria AND Vancour, BC, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Montana, Texas (just not in the summer), New Orleans (Cafe Du Monde!), Philadelphia, Salem, MA, Rio, Alaska. And I reserve the right to add more every day. 🙂

If money were no object, where would you go? What MUST you see before you leave this Earth?