Sunday, November 19, 2017

Disney Night 1: Magical Magicness

I started this post way back on Monday, after our first full day at Disney (Hollywood Studios!) when I still optimistically hoped to blog along the way of our trip. That proved impossible when we ended up going to each park at open and staying until nearly close and then often going BACK out to Magic Kingdom for more and I resorted to once-daily midnight facebook updates for friends and family who were interested (because I *love* other people’s vacation photos; I keep a special note on my phone with future vacay ideas culled purely from friends’ posts) and to preserve my own highlights whenever I got back to it. Now it’s Saturday night and I’m sitting on the plane ride “home to our old house” as Cora calls it. I’m hoping to at least knock out night 1 because it was magical and amazing and unique to all our others (and the only one I didn’t otherwise facebook post about). Then I’ll probably recap everything else in bullets later. Long story short- the whole trip was absolutely wonderful and everyone should go to Disney with a 4-year-old. Long story long (like super long) – here’s the first 18 or so hours:

[So I did type this on the plane, but I still had to add pictures and downloading our 1,000 photos from Disney's memory maker and merging them with the ones on James and my phones took forever; luckily Disney has trained my body to fall asleep at midnight and wake up before 6, so at 5:25 a.m. this morning I was lying wide awake in bed and finally just got up and got to it. Disney boot camp is a tough boot camp.]

~ ~ ~ ~

We're here! I'm sitting poolside at Bay Lake Tower while the girls go down the water slide over and over and I drink a medicinal margarita and wear a jacket and long leggings. Landon is in our room decompressing with a giant book until his emotions level out and he can act like a 10-year-old human who generally likes the world and James is laying down because it turns out his pretty extreme car sickness has now translated to roller coasters and he kept going on them anyway because he couldn't believe it was true until he spent our last 2 hours at Hollywood Studios sitting in various shady spots looking green with his head in his hands. Growing up is hard. For both of them.

But to be clear, Disney is fucking magic y'all. Magic. I'm going to blog it one day at a time [Editor’s Note: lolz no you’re not] so we're starting with yesterday (Cora’s real birthday!) and I'm probably going to cry 5 times while writing this post.

4 years old

But first, the travel. It was eh. Our flight left Dallas at 8:20, so we left the house at 6:05. I fell asleep about 3ish and woke up at 5ish and that was not ideal. The security line was longer than anticipated and I forgot that Southwest family boarding going to Orlando would of course be crazy so getting to the gate was stressful and then we were all split up over the plane. Landon and Claire sat together and by the word of their random flight companion behaved perfectly. I never saw or heard from them the entire flight, so I assume it’s true. James sat alone, which is probably good because he turns white during takeoff and then involuntarily sleeps the whole way. Cora and I sat together. She watched The Princess and the Frog and I watched old Office episodes. All was well.

We landed at 11:40 and had a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointment at 1:40 p.m. in Disney Springs for Cora's birthday. Unfortunately Disney's Magic Express transfer to the resort took FOREVERRRRR. We were sitting on a non-moving bus until it was nearly time for our appointment. I had that anxious feeling of running late that I hate but can't stop even when I know there’s nothing I can do about it. We finally got to the hotel, left our bags with the bellhop and took a Lyft straight to Disney Springs. It had started to rain and our Lyft driver was confused and we were dropped off as far away from the Boutique as possible. We ran, flat out, in rain for 10 minutes to get to the Boutique 25 minutes late for our appointment. It was stressful and humid and crappy. I deeply regretted making the appointment. It was now 2:05, no one had eaten, and upon our flushed and sweaty arrival, Cora had no interest in her princess makeover. She refused to engage with the person helping pick hair styles, would not wear a crown, and insisted on the hair style with faux colored hair that gets woven into your own which means you NEED your own hair to make it possible. Basically, she was a tired and hungry new-4-year-old. Landon only wanted to go to the Lego store we’d just run past and Claire got all weird about making any decisions and said she maybe didn’t want to do her appointment. So obviously I was super excited to see the prices next to our selected options and shove the kids through the door to the salon.

But. We got back in our little dressing room with the magical talking mirror and I surprised Cora with a new Aurora dress and she was sort of back on board. Then it was time to meet their Fairy Godmothers and sit in their salon chairs and those women are magical. They got Cora to laugh. She got into it. Claire was into it. Landon humored it all. I finally stopped sweating from the running and humidity. I still wasn't sure it was worth it for us, but I did mostly stop regretting it. The girls loved their “makeup” and face jewels and getting their nails painted. And they really loved their hair style results which they slept in and wore all day on Monday. Cora’s Fairy Godmother worked magic and got those faux braids (pink and blue, at the birthday girl's absolute insistence) into Cora's short curls and honestly, the way she petted those long faux locks all night made them worth every penny. That poor girl constantly talks about how “someday my hair will be bigger” (read: longer) and a temporary braid she could never have on her own was probably a pretty great birthday present.

I did realize when they put the drape over her to do her hair and she looked a little freaked out, that she's still never had a haircut so she'd never experienced the chair + apron + hair products combination before. She was a little tense, but handled herself, and then enjoyed the nail polish and makeup (lip gloss) very much.

Landon was adorable and chatted with his Godmother and was knighted and took it all in good humor and a bit of genuine enjoyment.

Claire loved it- the whole thing, once it got going, and probably surprised her-non-princessy-self with how much she enjoyed wearing a crown for the rest of the night.

But. It was now 3:15 p.m. and we still hadn't eaten except for granola bars on the plane. We ran around Disney Springs a bit looking for food but everything had long lines and we had (expensive!) tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that night that could get us in to Magic Kingdom at 4:00 and we wanted to take advantage of that. We had a FastPass for a ride at 4:10. We got another Lyft back to the hotel, finally connecting with the driver in the maze of Disney Springs, and got to the hotel at 4 to find the wrong bags had been delivered to our room. We had to change (I'd brought our Christmas party stuff in a carry-on thank god) and we absolutely HAD to eat. We spent too many Quick Service meal credits on a mediocre super late lunch at Contempo Cafe while watching our ride FastPass expire and our Princess FastPass, the one I was so excited about because it was Cora's birthday and she adores Rapunzel and Tiana, tick down. We power walked over to Magic Kingdom, got lost (going to a park for the first time in your whole life at dark is not the least stressful thing), and then found the princesses. Our FP expired, but they let us through. And I took a deep breath.

I need you to understand that until this year I did not have any interest in going to Disney. I wasn't mad at it, I just couldn't imagine voluntarily spending thousands of dollars to be surrounded by people and lines. I was never particularly into princesses and assumed this was a childhood experience we could skip in lieu of going somewhere else awesome like Europe or South America. SO it was a *big* surprise to me when we entered princess hall and turned the corner and saw Rapunzel and Tiana for the first time that I got choked up.

And when Cora's face lit up in awe and she believed she was meeting the REAL princesses, and she told Tiana "I love your dress" and asked to see her shoes and then showed her hers, I was really shocked to find that I was crying.

James gave me a weird look and I was like "I DON'T EVEN KNOW. Something is happening to me."


It was ridiculous. Cora was in heaven. She chatted away with each of them, telling Tiana “I love your dress” and asking to see her shoes and telling Rapunzel she was "so beautiful" and asking where was Flynn and did you know purple is my favorite color.

The big kids got a kick out of it too, but Cora was living her best life, one princess interaction at a time.

We walked over to the castle to see the Frozen Holiday Show where Elsa lights the Christmas castle. Once it was clear every adult in front of us was going to stand up and the kids couldn't see, we abandoned James to the stroller and weaved our way to the very front where Claire and Cora got a front row view. Cora's face was again just magic. I'm going to use that word a lot.

"It's ELSA!" she yell-whispered in my ear. The REAL Elsa! And Kristoff! And Anna! And Olaf! Her face glowed and she hung on every word. Magic you guys. Watching her face was magic. I probably cried again.

Then, as we found our way back to James and were holding maps on our phones and just totally disoriented by the pitch black and million people and unsure of what to do next, a Disney employee found us. "Hi there, I'm Brandon, and I was wondering if you could help me with a very special job."

He chatted with the kids, and just as I was getting anxious because it's the PARTY and our FIRST night and I've NEVER been here and we got here LATE and aren't we supposed to be DOING STUFF? Brandon asked if the kids wanted him to help make it snow on Main Street. (They did.) As we walked over, he told me, "on some party nights I get to pick a family to make the whole night a magical moment. I saw the festive shirts and necklaces and then saw the 1st Visit and Birthday buttons and thought you guys would be perfect."

Oh my god you guys. I had no idea how awesome this was going to be.

We went to Main Street and the kids got to chat away with their new best friend Brandon, a fireworks technician, while he snagged our new personal photographer Greg. The kids practiced making snow and then when they did it juuuuuuust right, snow starting falling on Main Street!

And we got pictures from our new best friend Greg!

The kids were gifted with a special commemorative Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Ornament with a box signed by Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf.

And then the magic really began. Brandon led us all around the park - backstage, short cuts, jump-all-the-lines. We went up on top of the closed train stations and got a great view and pictures I will love forever.

That’s Cora’s 4-year portrait right there.

We got to avoid the mile-long picture-in-front-of-the-castle line because of our new friend Greg.

Coming to a LagLiv family Christmas card near you

Brandon told us we should really spend our time seeing characters tonight because there were some really special ones including Moana who doesn't even stay out at Disney World anymore! She had a 2-hour line, but Brandon walked us right up to the front.

I will note, because this is my journal, that I felt a lot of guilt for cutting the lines, but I talked myself out of it (mostly)- it was a surprise bit of luck for us, we were very thankful, we were quick, and we've had our share of bad luck too. Also, it’s really Brandon’s fault anyway.

It was a magical night.

We got to jump to the front of Jasmine and the Genie.

Then Snow White and The Prince!

The princes apparently only come out a few times a year for special events, so this was a big deal. One we barely properly appreciated since we're such newbies. Cora immediately asked The Prince what his name was but apparently he doesn't have one! He said that's okay "because he's the only prince in the kingdom so no one would get confused." The princes were as in character as their princesses and Cora was just in thrall.

Princess Aurora was next with Prince Philipp. Another very special duo! Cora exclaimed, "I'm Rora too!" and compared shoes immediately. "Mine are sparkly, but yours are very beautiful too." "How old are you?" was next and "When is your birthday?"

Brandon heard Cora's favorite princess was Belle and she normally doesn't sign autographs at Magic Kingdom, so we headed over there where Cora was DELIGHTED to meet her bestie.

"Are you still friends with Gaston?" she asked. There were hugs and shoe showings and omg you guys, it was the best.

Cora hugged Belle until I called her name. I probably cried again.

From there, we headed back to Main Street where Brandon bought the kids snacks and set us in a VIP spot for the Mickey Christmas Parade! It was so great- more snow and such great decorations and music. So many fabulous character floats- the Beast, all the royal couples, Olaf, Toy Story, all the classic Disney characters, and so much more, with a Santa Claus finale float who called out all three of the kids names as he went by!

We said goodbye to Brandon (I got his address for a thank you note; which Claire had already told me she was going to write #ThankYouNotesForever) as he pointed the way to a good spot to watch the Mickey Christmas Show and then the Holiday Wishes Fireworks. We were started to flag a bit, having been up since 5 a.m. and running (literally at times) all over Disney, so I wished very much that the Fireworks were a sitting-down-kind-of-thing, but it was beautiful and special and the kids loved it.

Landon had been SO patient during all the princess meet and greets that we'd promised him at least one ride after the fireworks. Cora was exhausted, so I was going to take her back, and then Claire admitted defeat as well. James definitely wanted to, but he'd promised and we really did want to do something for Landon, so they headed to Space Mountain while I walked home with the girls, including this very tired princess who had the best, longest, most magical birthday ever.

I had the room set up and the girls in bed when the boys arrived- Landon flush with the joy of space flight and James saying "I'm not sure I can handle rides anymore" (oh SO true as we found out today), but everyone happy and in bed about 11.

It was so much. It was SO special. It was a perfect first night.


  1. Yeah!!!!! Awesome! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Love! Happy birthday Cora!

  3. As a huge Disney fan your experience was INCREDIBLE and I am so jealous. I'm so happy you guys had such an amazing first night there! Also you might have already heard about this but there is a thing called "cast compliments" where you can submit a thank you note for a cast member through Disney itself. They not only appreciate it but it helps them when it comes time for raises/promotions :) you should be able to do it by calling guest services or if you're on twitter you can do it though that too! Can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

  4. Thank you Laura! I will definitely do that. I have a couple cast members to call out as you'll see from my next post.

    And it was such an amazing night- I still can't believe it happened to us!

  5. What a fantastic first night! And you shouldn't feel guilty AT ALL for the VIP treatment - cast members constantly work to make guests feel uniquely special, and a first time family with young children was the perfect candidate for such a large extra helping of pixie dust. I'm so glad you got to experience that!

  6. You post made me cry! What a magical first Disney experience to have. I’ve been to Disney almost every year as a child, many times as an adult and have taken my kids to wdw once and Disneyland once. Seeing their faces experience it is nothing short of magic. I’m so happy that your family got to experience that magic on such a grand scale. Amazing!!!

  7. That was an AWESOME first day! I’ve been eagerly awaiting your trip updates!

  8. Me too! I'm so thrilled for you -- how perfect! I cried reading this and remembered when we took my 4-yr-old princess. It is THE BEST. Can't wait to read the rest as I pack up for our trip!

  9. I totally cried reading this too (darn you pregnant-with-second-girl-human-hormones). I have never hoped *my* Cora (and/or second daughter) actually liked Disney or princesses but... you may have changed my mind.

  10. LOVE THIS:)))) isn't it magical?? I hadn't been in years, but my hubs and I went last Thanksgiving and we don't even have kids. We had a blast, rode everything and even took all the character pics. We can drive there in 7 hours so I've been hounding him about our next trip. I'm so glad you all had a good time.

  11. My 4 yo received this for her birthday. Christmas idea for Cora...

    Anon - JLV