Disney World travel journal: The Mouse Diaries

IMG_0003So. Disney World. Where was I?

Panicking before we left, right?

Months ago, I’d decided to schedule our flight on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so we’d have Saturday to prepare. (As it happened, though, Lily’s all-day Lego Team tournament landed on that Saturday, as did my niece’s baby shower up near Alpena. Phew!) Fortunately, we were scheduled on a 12:30 p.m. flight, so we got up at our usual, leisurely Sunday morning pace, checked out the forecast for Orlando (70s, a mix of sunshine and rain for much of the week), finished packing up our bags, and drove through snow flurries to the airport.

(As a sidenote, I’d packed a plastic grocery bag with about a half dozen snacks for the girls. By trip’s end, I’ll have wished that I packed an entire suitcase of them. The “general store” and cafeteria at the resort had prices in alignment with those inside the parks – which is to say, HIGH – so we could have saved a bundle right there, had I known.)

The girls have been on a number of flights by now, but they’re usually smaller planes, with two seats (or two and one) on each side of the aisle. The flight to Orlando was on a huge plane, with individual video screens on the back of each seat, which allowed passengers to choose a movie for herself.

The girls were gobsmacked, and prepared, on pretty much this alone, to declare this the best vacation EVER.

So we all happily plugged in: Joe watched “The Hangover,” laughing loudly every few moments (which I was glad to hear – he’s often so stressed and overextended professionally that I don’t hear him expressing unfiltered joy like this much anymore); Neve and Lily watched “Despicable Me 3” (again); and I watched Salma Hayek and John Lithgow in “Beatriz at Dinner” – because nothing says vacation like a film that ends in what appears to be a Virginia Woolf-style suicide. Am I right?

Anyway, after a crazy-smooth (in all ways) flight, we land, and we follow our printed-out instructions to “The Magical Express.” I know that this fancifully titled transport is probably just a bus that takes us to our Disney resort, but as we show our wristbands to check in, and get silo-ed into a line for Port Orleans Riverside, I briefly enjoy imagining a Hogwarts Express-like train, black with red trim, spewing smoke, picking us up.

Nope. It’s just a bus. Ah, well.

We arrive at Port Orleans and wait in another line – in a fancy, chandeliered lobby, where the clerks are dressed like they’re just back from a shift either making cotton candy or dealing blackjack – to check-in; and even when we finally get to the front, the process seems to take forever. I’m anxious to get to our room and just relax for a few minutes. Get unpacked. Settle in.

The girls, meanwhile, are getting as squirrelly and fidgety as I’m feeling. We have a five-day park-hopper pass, but it won’t begin until the following day, so the girls are at this point wholly focused on finding the ridiculously enormous pool they saw photos of online.

We finally start making our way to the room, crossing a bridge, finding the right building, and rolling our bags up the stairs and through the labyrinth of its raised walkway (everything at Port Orleans is in the architectural style of the Big Easy, so the huge buildings are two stories tall, with walkways that weave in and out, in and out forever). At what is nearly the furthest point on the building’s other side (of course), we find our “royal” room, with a big picture of Tiana, and various other prince- and princess-y figures, all over the walls. The girls haven’t been interested in the princesses for a while now (huzzah!), so they rush to open their bags and find their swimsuits to change – with Neve stopping long enough to pick up the room’s phone and say, “Look, Lily! It’s like olden times!”


I can’t even.

We figure out how to get to the main pool (there are far less dramatic ones between each couple of buildings), and Joe takes them while I unpack us; and after I change into my suit and coverup, I make my way there, spotting a drink bar nearby. I get smoothies for the girls, and two frozen fruity alcoholic drinks for me and Joe, and I start to feel like we’re on vacation.

We later eat dinner at the resort’s pricey cafeteria (where Joe expresses his dissatisfaction with his choices), then we return to the pool AGAIN. Though the water slide is closed, the girls can’t get enough of it, and we have to cajole them with the next day’s trip to the Magic Kingdom to get them to leave for the night.


We’re up early to grab a quick breakfast the next day – the sunniest and warmest of the week – and catch the Magic Kingdom shuttle by a little after 8 a.m. We get stuck in some slow traffic on the way, but a half hour later, we’re flashing our cool wristbands, taking our first steps on Main Street USA, and hatching our game plan.

Lily and Joe head to Space Mountain, while Neve, who’s decided she’s not ready for that, goes with me to Tomorrowland, where she spots the Speedway cars and wants to get in line. It’s at this point – shortly after I remind her how important it is that her wristband is securely fastened – that we realize that her arm is bare. She’s lost the bracelet already.

Wow. That’s got to be some kind of record. First day, right after getting into the park, BOOM. Gone.

I instantly become angry and worried and stressed – but as Neve’s face crumples with grief, I realize I have to dial it all back. Somehow. Using every ounce of effort available to me.

And remember, I hadn’t been to Disney World since “Cheers” was the biggest thing on TV, so I had no idea how much of a nightmare I was in for. We had a FastPass for Pirates of the Carribean at 11 a.m. Would Neve not be able to go with us (which of course would mean me or Joe couldn’t go, either)? Could I get the wristband replaced? Where and how might that happen? Would all our FastPasses be messed up, with Neve forced to grieve this accident with me or Joe while repeatedly waiting for her sister to return?

All this raised my blood pressure, but I emailed our travel agent, and through gritted teeth, I said, to myself as much as to Neve, “Sweetie, it was an accident. We all lose things sometimes. I’ll see what I can do to get you a new one.”

Thank GOD we’d opted to not put purchasing power on the kids’ wristbands. The situation was stressful enough without worrying that someone might go on a spree with the purple bracelet they found on Main Street USA.

After a while in line, Neve drove me in one of the Speedway cars, cracking up as she knocked up against the tracks, and I led her next to the People Mover (no relation to Detroit’s, but just as pointless), where she popped around between seats like an excited pup.

She was over it. I was not.

Joe texted me to meet up at the Haunted Mansion. I led Neve through Frontierland and Adventureland, thinking I was getting closer, only to find I had no f-ing clue where the Haunted Mansion was. (Yes, the app has a map, and I’d spotted it on there, but it wasn’t translating well to my feet.) Neve was getting tired (already?), so I told Joe we were at the Thunder Mountain Railroad entrance, and he should find us. That didn’t work out, either, so we agreed to meet in front of the castle.

Success. And on the way, I’d asked an employee where I should go to resolve the wristband issue, and they’d told me “guest services.” So while Joe took off with the girls to get a few things to eat, I went back toward the park entrance.

What I found was a line longer than any I’d seen for rides thus far. Holy crap. I stood in it for about two minutes before thinking, “This could be an hour or two, and no way am I spending our day in the Magic Kingdom this way.” Our lovely travel agent, meanwhile, had responded, telling me that we could get the wristband replaced at our hotel’s lobby.

This didn’t solve the day’s potential FastPass issues, but at least I knew the rest of the week wouldn’t be ruined.

So I went back to find Joe and the girls – easier said than done, since the park was packed with a million family reunions, and people with strollers who will TAKE YOU OUT if you’re in their way – we ate, and we made our way to Pirates, with me stressing about what would happen.

“This must happen all the time, right?” I said to Joe, again talking to myself as well, trying to rationally work through our circumstances. “She can’t be the first kid to lose a wristband.”

And indeed, when we got to the FastPass entrance, I nervously approached and said, “She lost her wristband … “

The “cast member” didn’t even blink, waving us through and saying, “That’s fine.”

Oh. OK. Lots of anxiety and tension about something that’s actually no big deal. Good. BREATHE.

Neve was freaked out by Pirates – have I mentioned she’s overly sensitive and prone to fear? – but enjoyed looking through items in the mandatory gift store exit, but we eventually left.

I saw the Tiki Room animatronic birds’ show (something I enjoyed as a kid) with Lily, and our next FastPass was Enchanted Tales with Belle, which ended up being a multi-room attraction that is not only geared for younger kids, but is ultimately a dressed-up character meet-and-greet – which neither Neve or Lily were into. But live and learn. I hadn’t known what to expect, and our travel agent had used her best judgment when scheduling the passes for us. There had been a long “regular” wait, and many around us were swooning over the whole set-up, so while the attraction earned a shrug from us, it’s not like we’d lost a lot of time.

And that’s the odd thing I figured out on this day. All together, we saw and rode just a handful of attractions. The FastPasses provided a general structure for our day, and the rest mainly consisted of floating to random things here and there. (We went through the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse after Belle, and both Lily and Neve thought that way cooler; and we happened upon the end of a parade, which featured an enormous, fire-breathing metallic dragon, which the girls also loved, and we followed the parade’s tail with the girls on our shoulders back toward the entrance.) The refreshing thing about establishing that kind of mood around the whole thing is that the kids mostly just enjoyed what they were taking in, and no one was disappointed or driving hard to get to certain things. We just kind of rolled with it. And while a day spent in the Magic Kingdom isn’t cheap, obviously, I’d rather have it be slow-paced and enjoyable instead of efficient and full – something I kept in mind throughout the week.

Our last FastPass was for Peter Pan, another of my favorite rides from childhood, so we went, and the girls LOVED it – one of their favorites of the day.

But then I remembered one of the many pieces of advice I’d gathered from friends via social media before our trip. One person said that going back to the hotel for a while and later coming back in the evening was a good option, so when I voiced this, everyone jumped on immediately. We bussed back; I got Neve’s wristband replaced in the lobby; Joe grabbed a reservation at the resort’s sit-down restaurant, only to find the girls wanted to go to the pool instead (cue the conflict, with Joe ultimately compromising while extracting a promise from the girls to go to a real restaurant a couple of times in the week ahead); and after more swimming and a dinner grabbed at the cafeteria, we headed back to the Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks.

And while I’m usually “If you’ve seen one fireworks show, you’ve seen them all,” Disney’s show was truly spectacular. While projections played out from various films on the castle, and a medley of Disney songs played, the fireworks lit up the sky, and near the end, Tinker Bell – with lights illuminating her blond bun-doo and trademark green mini-dress – zip-lined from a castle spire to Space Mountain.

I mean, DAMN. Even the most jaded visitor has to tip her hat to THAT.

Post-fireworks, the girls decided they wanted to do the Speedway, so we waited in a line a bit for that, then I took Neve to It’s a Small World, and Lily and Joe – after finding someone had puked on the Peter Pan ride, thus temporarily shutting it down – followed after us. The girls were also interested in the Haunted Mansion, but the wait was more than an hour, so after a few minutes in line, we bailed to catch the bus back to the hotel, promising to try to get to the Mansion when we returned later in the week.

Then we sleeped the sleep of the Disney-ed.


We’re a little late getting up and out, not surprisingly, but because we have a 10 a.m. FastPass (good for an hour beyond your time) for a Star Wars ride at Hollywood Studios, we catch the bus and roll in a little after 10:30 a.m.

As we find the ride and approach the entrance, Neve decides she doesn’t want to go on it. “Are you SURE?!” I ask, stridently. She nods, looking apprehensive. Lily tries to tell her that it’s like the SpongeBob Squarepants simulator ride at the Detroit Zoo that she really likes, but Neve digs her heels in. Again, I’m struggling to keep from getting angry, but I tell Joe to take Lily on the ride while they can still go, and I stay with Neve. It’s gray and drizzling and crummy, much like my mood.

I tell Neve there’s a Muppet attraction I spotted nearby, but that other than that, I don’t know what’s available, because I’ve never been to this park before. She’s not interested in the Muppets (serioulsy?!), but instead asks to go to Tomorrowland, to the Speedway or People Mover.

And that’s when her reality hits me. Even though we’ve explained to her that we’re going to a different park each day, she still thinks we’re back at the Magic Kingdom. She’s six, I remind myself. She hasn’t gotten her head around all this.

It’s hard for adults, let alone kids.

So I gently explain that, no, sweetie, those rides aren’t here, they’re in another park.

And she changes her mind about “Star Wars.” Because of course.

So we rush to the FastPass line, and even though we’re a little late, they let us through. I text Joe that we’re on our way, and we end up all together somehow. And Neve LOVES the ride, which ends up spitting us out into a “Star Wars” gift shop, where people are having their photographed faces superimposed onto classic “Star Wars” shots. Joe and I try out being Han and Leia replacements – to rather disappointing effect – but one of Neve’s Rey photos turn out well, and Lily looks great as an X-Wing Rebel pilot. So we purchase packages of their photos, which will be delivered to our hotel, and we head back outdoors.

Soon we must dodge the morning’s rain, which grows more urgent, by poking around a nearby store (where Neve picked out a pair of mouse ears with a blue bow, and Lily picked out a blanket with Jack from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which she’d just watched on Netflix and adored); getting something to eat; and nudging the girls to the Muppets attraction, which was a 3D movie with additional sensory elements in the theater.

Our next FastPass was for a Toy Story ride, which was like a shooting gallery video game, but we ended up waiting quite a while because the ride had broken down.

Little did I know that this was the first of MANY ride breakdowns we’d deal with, but more on that later.

Lily and I stumbled upon a building where you wait in line to take photos with various Star Wars characters – “Star Wars” is clearly the hardcore anchor of Disney’s Hollywood Studios – and Lily waited with me to take one with her fave character, Chewbacca (her occasional nickname at school is Lilybacca), and she got lectured by Kylo Ren. Who then weirdly stood next to her. (I was wondering how they played that. “I’m EVIL. Join the DARK SIDE.” Aaaaaaaand pose.)

Thanks to our lovely travel agent, we’d gotten, at the last minute, a 3:45 reservation at a restaurant called 50’s Prime Time Cafe. After checking in, we were asked to wait in the bar (um, OK!!), where the girls got Shirley Temples with a glowing ice cube (a few bucks extra, of course), Joe ordered a beer, and I ordered a Cosmopolitan.

YAY FOR ALCOHOL AT DISNEY!! I felt like kissing our bartender – not that I was his type, if you know what I mean, but I was grateful to feel some parenting-at-Disney-World tension rolling off me. The girls were happy, we were happy, we were about to have a hot meal. Win, win!

We soon got seated at our table, while black and white comedy bits played on loop on a nearby TV, and our no-nonsense waiter, in character, told us to call him Uncle Bob, and he acted like he wasn’t there to hold our hand and baby us, he just needed us to figure out what we wanted and he’d be on his way. He teased the girls about their orders, and they giggled, and it was a lovely thing all around.

Our last FastPass of the day – which I’d switched around, after figuring out how to do that on the app – was for the Indiana Jones stunt show, which was a fun, live action show to wrap up our day in Hollywood Studios.


One of Disney’s water parks was on Wednesday’s schedule, so we slept in; learned that we had to catch a bus to Disney Springs (a large mall, from what I can tell), and then another to Typhoon Lagoon (Blizzard Beach was closed for renovations); and moseyed to the water park, which had all kinds of water slides, raft rides, a wave pool, and sand to play in.

We changed into our suits, put our belongings in a locker, got some towels, and spent hours exploring all the place had to offer.

This may sound weird, but this ended up being our hands-down our favorite day. Perhaps because the forecast sounded bleaker than it ended up being, there weren’t many people, so we could go on whatever we wanted with no waiting. Joe and I played daughter-tag, so that sometimes, I went around trying every slide in the park with Lily, while at other times, I repeatedly rode the raft ride Neve deemed her immediate favorite (no joke, she probably rode it 30 times throughout the day) or held her above me in the wave pool as a tall wave crashed over us.

At one point in the wave pool, when Neve looked blissed out, I said, “So you’re liking this vacation?”


She also determined that “Disney’s wave pool” is her new favorite place in the world.

At some point in the afternoon, we all realized we were hungry, so we found a snack bar and munched on chicken tenders and fries and grapes. But it was getting close to the park’s closing time, 5 p.m., so we decided we’d get changed and find our way to the Magic Kingdom, where we had three FastPasses arranged for that evening.

Well, that’s when we discovered that we couldn’t get a bus from the water park to the Magic Kingdom. Instead, a couple of people pointed us to a bus that went to a series of different hotels, telling us to get off at one of the last stops, then cross the street.

That’s where the trail went cold.

So … what would we do after crossing the street?

As the bus ride seemed to go on and on forever, Joe got more and more anxious and irritated about the situation, but then a passenger spoke up to say that when we got off and crossed the street, we’d be able to walk to the Magic Kingdom’s entrance.

Oh. OK.

So we did that, making our way to our first FastPass, the old-school Jungle Cruise (this has NOT aged well), which got backlogged behind a bunch of other boats near the end of the ride; our second, a Little Mermaid ride, was crazy because after we got in line, scores of people turned to walk out of the lines, saying the ride had broken down and would be out of commission for over an hour.

Talk about confusion. We kept standing in line, not knowing what information to trust, as more and more people streamed past us, and new “regular” line people breezed past the other way, not having heard the rumor. We decided to wait a few minutes, which turned out to be a good thing, because relatively soon, things started moving again.

But perhaps not surprisingly, during the course of the ride, it stopped twice, for a few minutes each time. A recording comes on and tells you it will start again shortly, but I had my doubts.

As I told Joe later, “You know, I’d expect this from the really old rides. But this one can’t be that old.” And sure enough, when I looked it up later, the ride had been added to the park in 2012. WTH?

Our last FastPass – another I’d switcherooed – was for the Haunted Mansion. Though Neve was nervous, and continued to be so throughout the ride, she went, and yet again, the ride got stuck once or twice while we were fastened in cars.

I think I actually started laughing at how every single ride we’d gone on that evening had, in some way, broken down. For me, this was a new part of the Disney experience.

But we eventually finished, got Neve a light-up bubble wand she’d been obsessing about for days, and made our way to the bus. Goodbye, Magic Kingdom!


We’re in a bit of a rush this morning, since we all slept in a bit, but we’ve got a FastPass for something called DINOSAUR, so we try our best to get ourselves dressed and ready to go.

We make it – shortly after spotting leafy, camoflauged DiVine, whom I’d never known of or heard about – but as we’re waiting in line for the ride, I start getting worried about whether the ride is going to freak Neve the F out. She’s already a fearful, sensitive soul, and though she loves “Dinosaur Train” – which, like this ride, has a make-believe pathway that allows for time travel – it’s bumpy, it’s dark (which she does NOT like), and when the lights do come up briefly, it’s often so we can see a terrifying dinosaur head looming over us. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is narrating a story about how we might not be able to get back to our own time.

Well done, Disney. Neve was a weeping, shaking wreck after this, to the point that I worried about her not being able to calm down. Yes, I probably should have done a bit of research on this, but seriously? Lily, our daredevil, enjoyed it at least, and asked for her second souvenir for the week to be a big, red plastic dinosaur. But yikes.

So not the best start. But our next FastPass turned out to be one of everyone’s favorite experiences of the whole week: the Kilimanjaro Safaris, which, unlike the dated, fakey Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom, turns out to be a ride where you actually see live animals walking around the grounds. The giraffes were magnificent, as were the elephants, flamingos, monkeys, and other animals we saw. We took a million pictures and were awed by their proximity to us; plus, the driver offered up interesting information, instead of the usual awful jokes, which was refreshing.

The last FastPass was Na’Vi River Journey – which was gorgeously outfitted and made me want to rewatch “Avatar” – but the kids had no context for it, and because the sky was looking grey when we got out of the ride, AND we were on our fourth day, we all decided to bag it for the afternoon, go back to the hotel, and watch “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” (Recently, we’ve developed a ritual wherein we read each Harry Potter book together, or listen to Jim Dale’s audio recording of it, then watch the movie as a family.)

So that’s what we did. Joe and the girls went to the room while I spent a small fortune – I wish I were kidding – at the resort “general store” on snacks like cheese popcorn, trail mix, hummus with pretzels and more. We rented the movie on my laptop, piled onto one of the beds together, and it was a low-key and lovely afternoon, especially after days of fighting crowds and stressing about losing the kids.

Yet it was Thanksgiving Day, remember, so once again with the help of lovely Allison, we’d gotten a recently-opened-up dinner reservation at the Animal Kingdom called Yak & Yeti. Joe and I had drinks and Indian food – not a turkey in sight! – while the girls got their usual kid-fare, and I was indeed grateful for this family I’d made.

Plus, the cocktails and chicken tikka masala were to die for – so good! Never before have I gotten to eat this dish on Thanksgiving, needless to say; and never before has it been just my family celebrating on our own. So huzzah for ethnic food diversity and the gift of a less-hectic holiday.

After dinner, I took Lily to It’s Tough to be a Bug, another 3D movie experience, based on “A Bug’s Life,” while Joe and Neve watched some dancers and musicians out in the park. Though there weren’t fireworks, we watched a bit of the show projected onto the park’s Tree of Life, which was pretty cool, but we soon decided to call it a night.


Though our first FastPass at Epcot was late morning, for a “Finding Nemo”-themed ride, we still barely make it, because WE’VE BEEN AT DISNEY ALL WEEK AND WE’RE LOSING STEAM. But we make it, ride the ride, and enter into Epcot’s aquarium – where the girls pretty much pop and squat and watch the dolphins swimming in a huge tank.

For a loooooooong time.

Which is fine, because we don’t have to be anywhere for a while yet, and the aquarium’s pretty sweet generally. So they ask to take photos of the dolphins, as well as sharks and stingrays, with our (already dying) iPhones, and we watch a demonstration of the dolphins playing a recognition game with a trainer. And even when it seems the girls have finally had their fill, we stumble across a play area where they can climb inside a sculpture of the shark from “Nemo,” so we take lots of photos. And the girls play and make friends. And Joe answers email.

As you can see, none of us are particularly driven to maximize our days here, but you know what? We also had no bickering and no serious meltdowns. I’m serious. The whole week, the girls were pretty good. Yes, they pushed for things at times, but that was about it. And I really do think it was because we were all fairly laid back about stuff.

So maybe being lazy and doing no research has its up-side? Or maybe I’m reaching. Hard to say.

But after grabbing a modest-but-still-pricey snack/lunch our girls barely touched – oy, the constant waste of money and food that is part of parenting – we made our way to the Norway section of EPCOT, where the “Frozen” ride, our next FastPass, was coming up. (The girls weren’t all that into this, because while it was cool for about a year to scream-sing “Let It Go” at the top of their lungs, and watch the movie several times, and beg for Elsa and Anna dolls for Christmas, and dress up like Elsa for Halloween, over-saturation backlash is a bitch, y’all. “Frozen” isn’t considered cool anymore among kids, and my girls both received that memo. So after some slow-burn griping, I simply announced, “This is something Mommy wants to do. We’ve done stuff you guys have wanted to do for days. Suck it up and deal with it.”)

As we approached, though, I saw a couple of young women holding up poles with signs saying that the ride had broken down, and that our passes would be honored much later that afternoon, when the ride re-opened. (With the broken-down “Mermaid” ride confusion fresh in-mind, I spoke with one of the women for further confirmation.)

We’d actually been nervous about making our next FastPass, Spaceship Earth (which Lily really wanted to check out), in time anyway, so this turned out to be a good thing. We made our way to that ride, then wandered around the circle of different countries. We stopped to watch a French street performer stack chairs high in the air, climbing and balancing various items while doing so; the girls ran around Britain’s garden maze with some other kiddos; and we settled in to listen to a fun, charming klezmer band play for quite a while. (Yes, I jumped up to take part in the hora when they played it, and the lead singer said, “Ah, someone’s done this before!” Honorary Jew level achieved. 🙂 )

Lovely Allison, our travel agent, had procured a dinner reservation in a Japanese restaurant, so we hightailed it there and were asked to wait to be seated. Joe and I weren’t so sure how this would go, since they didn’t have the usual corndogs-and-grilled-cheese kids’ menu, but we also knew we’d be charged a fee for not showing up, too, so we just showed up and hoped for the best.

After ten minutes or so, we were seated at a hibachi table with another family, and Joe and I quickly scoured the menu again, looking for absolutely ANYTHING our kids would eat.

“Well, Lily will eat rice,” I said. “Maybe chicken. But I don’t see anything on here Neve would eat.”

“Me, neither.”

And this, people, is where marrying a lawyer comes in handy. Joe stood up, disappeared for several minutes, and returned, motioning for us to leave.

“I got us out of it, and we won’t be charged,” he said.

“Excellent,” I said, breathing freely for the first time in about an hour.

So we headed back to Norway to do the “Frozen” ride before heading back to the resort for maybe one last swim and a packing session. We got in line, boarded the cars, and … the ride broke down.


I’m so not kidding. It was like Disney was giving us one more ride breakdown for the road.

Eventually, the cars got back in motion, both times, so we made it out (finally), walked to the park exit, caught our bus back to Port Orleans, grabbed some food, and I packed suitcases while the girls took the opportunity for one last swim in the fancy shmancy resort pool. At one point that evening, Joe went to the concierge to ask about our Magic Express ride to the airport, because though our flight was at 8:30 a.m. – to get back in time for the Michigan/Ohio State game’s noon kickoff (we’re not animals) – our printout instructed us to catch the bus at 4:20 a.m.

What’s that, now?

Turns out that because the federal government was recommending that passengers arrive at the airport three hours ahead of the flight time, and because our bus had other stops on its 45 minute ride, we were supposed to wake our kids in the middle of the night and drag them and all our stuff around our huge building, across a bridge, and all the way down a long sidewalk to catch the bus in the dark.

Yep. They call it the Magic Express, but I was calling it something else entirely under my breath.


So we did the whole miserable mess (and the miserable mess in Michigan Stadium was yet-to-come!). The only up-side was that I’d read the part about being able to check our bags for the plane right outside the resort lobby, and indeed, there were a few bleary-eyed people there, ready to relieve us of our biggest bags.

Because as Maria Von Trapp famously said, when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he offers roadside check-in.


Like, the running time of “Dances With Wolves” kind of time.

Yawn. We bought and ate breakfast. We read aloud from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” The girls played on the iPad. Joe and I read our own books and girded ourselves for one last push to get home.

On the plane, the girls watched “Despicable Me 3” or “Boss Baby” (maybe both?) for the zillionth time, and I officially became the last person in America to watch “Hidden Figures” – which I adored, of course.

And that was it. Joe took Lily to Ann Arbor for the game, while a dear, wonderful friend of ours – THANK YOU AGAIN, KIM, YOU BEAUTIFUL QUEEN – picked up me and Neve and delivered us home. I made her a peanut butter and honey sandwich and turned on the game, and within minutes, Neve slipped into an exhaustion coma.

Because there’s tired, and there’s DISNEY TIRED. IMG_2631

Yes, Michigan totally blew the game at home, but we were unpacked; we were all back safely in our own beds; we had the next day to recover and take it easy before returning to work/school; and the girls seemed to have the time of their young lives.

In my book, that’s a win. #DisneyAccomplished

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