Before the memories of our last Disneyland trip get too far behind us, perhaps I ought to take a few moments to reflect on one of the biggest reasons for our love of Disneyland.
But first, let me give you a little bit of background. My first trip to Disneyland was a few days after I graduated high school. I went with 3 girlfriends and we had a blast. You're never too old to experience Disneyland for the first time!
My second trip was just after I graduated college. Rob and I were going to be headed down to a conference for the church in Southern California and decided that we should save for a mini-trip to Disneyland and leave a few days before the rest of the group. So, we took our first long road trip and first 'real' vacation since our honeymoon and headed down the Magic Kingdom. We had hoped that we would soon be starting a family and wanted to have one last adventure before we 'settled' down. So, we spent 3 amazing days in Disneyland, and thanks to the generosity and gracious hosting of some family and friends (and two days worth of free park tickets!) I believe we did that whole trip in less than $600!
My third trip was a one day surprise trip as part of a small children's ministry conference in February of 2007. Rob drove down with me (and brave Suzy kept our 1 and 3 year-old kids for almost a whole week!), and we enjoyed a date night at Midieval times together. Though when I signed up for the conference I had NO idea how I would pay for it, we stepped out in faith and because of some further generosity and hosting from family and friends I think we did that whole trip with just a couple hundered dollars. (That is, if you don't count the speeding ticket we incurred just a few hours from home. If you count that, the trip was... um, more than that!)
Our fourth trip was the one that solidified Disneyland as an incredibly special place for our family. Early in the year Rob was asked to be a part of the wedding of a really good friend from his younger days. The wedding was going to be in Southern California in August. We didn't have much in the way of money, but knew it was important enough that we'd be able to scrape up a few hundered dollars to get him a plane ticket down there.
At some point we started wondering if we could drive and get our whole family down there within the same price as a one plane ticket. Then, the details are a little fuzzy but before too long, we had also decided to see if we could swing a day at Disneyland and if Rob's mom, Janice could come with us. When we invited her, she was quite excited and said we could drive her car and she would pay for gas and split the hotel costs if that would help. Of course, it helped a ton and we were able to squeeze in two days at the park (especially because we scored a couple more free tickets!). Before long we were making plans together and counting down the days until Disneyland!
Janice was, to say the least, extremely excited! She was thrilled beyond measure to get to experience Disneyland with some of her grandkids. She was especially excited to be a part of watching Leeann meet her favorite person in the whole world--Cinderella! I'm really not sure who was more excited to experience that moment, Leeann or Janice! Throughout the trip Janice never had an opinion about what we should do, she just wanted to watch her grandkids experience Disneyland. Watching her watch them was priceless!
She and I got to go to Downtown Disney together the night before our first day in the park. That was a precious time for me to get to spend with her. We had fun shopping away!
The next day we headed to the park and made a bee-line for Princess Fantasy Faire so Leeann could meet Cinderella. No sooner did we get in the park however, than Janice stopped at the first kiosk to get her a princess autograph book and princess pen. We were on a super-tight budget and when she inquired the day before about whether or not we were going to get Leeann an autograph book, I told her we weren't going to. I think she tried really hard not to step in and get one since we decided she didn't need one. But, ultimately her grandmotherly desire (and wisdom) won out and she quickly snagged a book for her before she went to meet the princesses. Everything else she bought for our kids she asked before hand, but there going to be no stopping her from buying that book! It turned out to be the greatest keep-sake ever, I'm so glad she did!
She later bought Titus a Mickey hat and Leeann some princess Minnie ears. She also purchased matching bracelets for herself, Leeann and me with our names inscribed in them. Leeann bought another one in a different color on our recent trip.
As I try to recount that trip in words there really is no way to describe how magical and wonderful it was. We not only got to experience Disneyland with young kids, but also with their Mee Maw. That trip was priceless, absolutely priceless! Every penny spent and every moment together was worth more than any of us ever could have imaged at the time. None of us would have ever thought that we would have been at her funeral 18 months later.
Whenever I think of her I think about how grateful I am that we got to experience that time with her, and that she got to experience it with our kids. We spent (I think) 10 days together. Since she lived 4 hours away, the kids and I got to know her better during that time then we ever had before. We made amazing memories that will last a lifetime. That trip was undoubtedly blessed by God and a blessing from God! Oh, how we miss her!
On our way home from that trip we already started planning our next trip. That was August of 2007. We decided that being in Disneyland with kids for 2 days simply wasn't anywhere near long enough! So we started planning and saving and dreaming. We originally set out to do 5 days in the park (we ended up getting 7... more free tickets!) We also decided that it was so much fun with Janice that we wanted to experience it with other friends and family members too. We probably invited close to 100 different people, many who initially planned to come, but then the economy tanked and most people bailed.
Still, though, we did get to experience Disneyland with family. It was so great to get to experience the magic with Rob's sister and our nephew's! I'm telling you, it's magical for kids of all ages. Whether you are a kid, acting like a kid, or watching kids experience it, it's priceless! I love making memories and I can't think of a better place to make them :0)