Peace Begins with a Smile

This morning I woke up seconds before the alarm because the smell of hot coffee was really-really close by. My youngest daughter stood there holding a cup and saucer towards me with a great big smile. We were leaving Disney today and that always makes me a bit sad, but smiling is such a great way to make other people feel happier.

••• Okay, this didn’t happen. I woke up feeling sad that it was our last day in my favorite place in earth. The kids were feeling bummed and scrounging leftover stuff to eat. I was packing last minute buttons, lost earrings and absolutely precious scraps of paper and discarded bottles of half used nail polish that must not be forgotten. But all the while, in the midst of travel chaos, I was desperate to bring home a bit of “disney magic” in my own heart. •••

So I made it my goal to remember the magic of Disney all day and find one thing to be grateful for each step of the way. Below you’ll see an itinerary of sorts with examples of where I deliberately chose the attitude I wanted to have instead of just waiting to see how I felt like feeling:

7:00 am 🧳 all six of us took our bags down to the lobby where a nice Disney worker checked them through to our destination. As each bag passed from my hand to his I felt their weight and the gratefulness in my spirit that I no longer had to carry or keep track of them. Did you know that putting these small pauses between actions can provide you with fresh energy for the new task ahead? It’s true! If you just completed a task and without pausing to realize it is done you might miss the sense of accomplishment you should be enjoying! So with a mental slam of the football into the end-zone I collected our boarding passes and lead our crew off to the hotel lobby to await the airport transfer.

7:30 am 🚃 the Magical Express arrived to whisk us from the Grand Floridian to Orlando International Airport. My mind so desperately wanted to cling to our vacation but I didn’t want my day to be filled with loss, I wanted to enjoy today just as much as I enjoyed yesterday. After all, this is another day of my precious life! I’ve found the best way to get out of my thoughts and into the present is to connect with my senses… you know: touch, smell, taste, sound and sight. So I forced myself to look out the window and do you know what I noticed? Palm trees. I remember looking at those same palm trees as we drove to and from the Orlando airport as a child. We when to Disney World 2-3 times a year when we lived in New York and I remember thinking how amazing palm trees were. There are no palm trees in New York. And when I saw them I knew Disney was close by. But guess what?! I live in Arizona. I have palm trees right beside my own pool. There are palm trees all around our town. And as each palm tree passed the window I no longer felt sad, because if you look hard enough you can find the magic of Disney everywhere. 🌴

8:30 am 🚫☕️ we arrived at the airport, got through security, took a tram to our terminal and got ZAZA coffee because there was no Starbucks in the terminal. Starbucks is easy because the kids know the menu and it’s simple to grab breakfast or snacks for the plane. But a Cuban coffee shop? Not as easy. As we waited in line I talked over the menu with the kids. Guava pastries? Quesitos? El Macho? But I can’t really describe what guava tastes like, or explain why they make pastries with cream cheese or figure what the difference between our bread and Cuban bread is. The kids had no idea if they would like anything here and had more than a million questions, but do you know what? I listened to the kids. Really listened to them and they weren’t complaining. They were confused. There was a Wendy’s right across from ZAZA and I suggested Brian take the kids there. Instead of getting flustered about how I was going to get my coffee if they couldn’t find anything to eat or judging them for not being adventurous with breakfast or being lost in my own pre-coffee cloud, I listened to them. So I got my coffee and they got their hash browns and we were all happy (well, as happy as you can be without Starbucks). 😉

10:00 am ✈️ to Denver International Airport and slept on Brian’s shoulder the whole way! Remember how I connected with my senses on the bus ride to the airport and turned a sad trip into gratitude? Well same thing here. I could just say whew, glad I caught up on my sleep but instead I saw the love and attention in this simple experience. I spent three hours on the shoulder of the man I care so much for. The person whose attention I crave the most in this world. And in that light, this flight brought such joy and peace to my heart. I wished the flight was longer!

12:30 pm ☕️ arrived in Denver and started looking for lunch… but what I really wanted was Starbucks. Should I wish away lunch hoping for coffee? No. I shouldn’t pass over any moment I have been given, hoping for the next. So here’s the trick… I am not my thoughts. I may observe the fact that I want Starbucks, but I can listen to that thought. It is not me. I am separate, and by watching these thoughts come and go I am present. I am not stuck in those ideas or allowing them to drag me down a hole like Alice chasing that white rabbit. So I had a lovely taco salad and afterwards, we tracked down a Starbucks. And in reality… I think I enjoyed the taco salad more!

3:00 pm ✈️ to McCarran International Airport was spent creating this blog post. I love writing. No secret about that. I write stories from the dog’s perspective and read them to my kindergartner’s class. I write diaries and short stories and letters to friends. But today… I’m writing to you. After all, the activities we enjoy connect us with our inner purpose and bring us fully alive. I’m sure you know that feeling when you’re in the flow of an activity you excel at, that you love, that feeds your soul. People who run talk about this feeling all the time. How they forget the world as their feet pound the pavement and the miles slip away. You’ve probably heard a runner describe this. Personally I don’t believe them. Running is a horrid torture that couldn’t bring such lovely feelings. But writing can! Oh all right, it’s all different for everyone I know. But running..? Alright. It’s things like this that help us lose our smaller self. The part of us that overthinks e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and worries and can never decide. On the other hand, I find my happiness soars when I add activities into my week that expand my passions and shrink my neurotic tendencies.

5:00 pm 🎡 arrived in Las Vegas and as usual… this city is a spinning top waiting to be flicked off the table by a toddlers thumb. At least that’s how it feels to me. So as I stepped off the plane I ran over the words of Thich Nhat Hanh in my mind: walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet. I usually pound the earth trying to race my kids to the nearest restroom and then lumber heavy-footed to get my baggage and drag it to the car. But tonight I was trying something new. I want the lightness of Tinker Bell mixed with the lame man Peter healed at the Beautiful Gate.

6:00 pm 🚘 started the drive home after meeting Kayana’s mom and sister in the airport. Which was actually such a lifesaver since we never would have fit our luggage in the trunk. (Guess when you bring home two more suitcases than you left with there can be space concerns…) On the way home our youngest decided she never wanted to travel away from home again and vowed to kiss the floor when we got back. Poor thing. It’s hard being 7. Actually it’s hard being every age. We all have things that pop up in life that throw us more than we would want or expect. I always try to understand, validate, create safety and encourage growth. For example:

  • I can see how traveling so long can be exhausting.
  • Feeling the way you do is completely normal.
  • I promise to get you cozy and tucked in your own bed as soon as we get home.
  • And I want you to know how proud I am of you for all you did this summer. You are growing into such a wonderful young lady.

Oh course this technique needs to be done in my own life as well. Speaking into children’s lives is important as a mom but I need to do the same thing in my life and my husband’s. We are all pretty similar in our need for understanding and support as we grow and change all throughout life.

8:00 pm 🐯🐺 we got home and spent the next 13 years hugging the cats. Okay not really, but boy they sure missed us! As I got the kids ready for bed I tried to get them to focus on their own lives, right in that moment, just as I had been trying to do all day. Avoiding getting lost in memories of our summer travels. Avoiding becoming stuck in worries about the coming days or churning thoughts of the school year to come. Avoiding lashing out with judgements and reactions to perceived attacks from other tired siblings. For tonight let’s just rest our tired bodies and enjoy the feeling of our own beds. Tomorrow will be a whole new day. Claudia is sleeping in our room tonight because lots of change needs lots of cozy. Madeline is falling asleep. Beatrice is falling asleep. The house is quiet again.

So there you have it! We’re all finally home and going nowhere before school starts again. Thanks for sharing all my vacation posts over the past month. It’s been fun writing it all down and now I have a gift to myself that I can re-read whenever I need a mini trip. If you’re local I can’t wait to see you all again and to my friends far away we need to plan more trips in the future. But before I plan anything else I’m going to need a good nights sleep. Big hugs to all!

Disney World. Period.

This is a public service announcement… If you get your period at Disney World you will find vending machines for feminine products in every bathroom, but:

  • they only take quarters
  • you need two quarters per item
  • the machine will probably be empty

Then you will hopefully run into a restroom attendant who can open up her secret supply closet and hand you one. Just keep in mind it will have a cardboard applicator. And you must retrieve BOTH halves. That’s pretty crucial for those used to a single smooth applicator. See, I’ve got your back here.

After you use that may I suggest you head to your nearest gift shop. There you can fix yourself up. Depending on how bad off you are you may need to buy new shorts, underwear and a box of real tampons. Hopefully you don’t need new shoes & socks but if you do you can get them. And Aleve. Get that too.

Now that you are properly cleaned up and put back together I recommend getting to the nearest Starbucks for a venti iced americano ASAP. This step is very important and can not be skipped. At this point you may carry on with your vacation.

If I could make a suggestion to Disney it would be this… offer a small kit to women on their period. Make it available at first aid. It should contain 2 tampons, 2 pads, new panties, chocolate, a gift card for a free Starbucks and an extra fast pass card. All this should be placed in a cute Disney ziplock bag (which you can use to hold your dirty clothes). Honestly. We’d be so thrilled to have someone looking out for us when we spend our lives looking out for other people.

And honestly I think this is such a good idea I may start making these kits. We all need someone looking out for us. Especially when we’re bleeding and in pain right?! It simple human kindness. At least in my version of the world.

Sparrows and Chickens and Tadpoles – “oh my”

Today was our day at the Animal Kingdom and quite honestly it has always been my FAVORITE park. It’s no secret that I love animals. I adopt, foster, rescue or buy everything my parents (and now my husband) let me.

As a child I found a bird on the side of the road with a broken wing. I knocked on doors until I found someone home who could give me a shoebox and some old cloth. Then I careful lifted the bird inside and took it home to my mom and pleaded with her to take me somewhere to save it. We found a wildlife sanctuary who would take it and drove there. They showed me how they would set the wing, and after a sizable donation from my parents they agreed to keep it.

Next I adopted a small baby chick. Our class hatched them for a lesson on … something … but mine hadn’t hatched on time. Everyone else had cute little fluffy yellow chicks popping about in their hands and my egg just laid in the incubator. The day we were sending everything back to the farmer mine hatched. But it wasn’t yellow, it was black. And it didn’t pop about, it was crippled. Both feet were clenched tightly closed and both legs were bent. When the farmer came to collect everything he made it clear that he wasn’t going to raise the black chicken and asked if I wanted it. Of course I did!!! So I came home from school with a very unhealthy small bird. We tried to feed it and tried to keep it warm. I even exercised its small legs. But it died in a few days. We had a whole funeral service and buried it in the back yard.

Then came the tadpoles. About 3,756,343 of them. One summer, when we lived in New York, it was time to open our pool. The day before the pool service was going to arrive we noticed tiny little critters swimming about in the water. And not just one! The pool cover was swimming with tadpoles. Oh no! What was going to become of them? My parents told me the pool service would just dump the water off the cover into the pool, add plenty of chemicals and the tadpoles would filter out. WHAT?!? They were going to kill them?!? Not on my watch. I recruited family and friends to skim them all off and filled plastic baby pools with them. They were saved!!! But then I had to raise them. I had to keep the water at the correct temperature by adding ice and cover them with cheese cloth to keep our predators. When they started growing large enough I decided we better release them into a local waterway. I convinced my family to help me do this after dinner one night. We filled buckets and buckets and buckets with tadpoles and water. Then we drove them over to a drainage pond nearby, and started dumping. Before we finished carrying ALL the buckets, the police showed up to see what in the world we were dumping in the water under the cover of dark. Oh yeah, that might have looked suspicious. We showed the officer the tadpoles and told him the story. He looked rather amused but told us not to make dumping buckets of things into water at night a habit. My mother assured him that this was not a regular thing with us.

Then it was Raptor, the biggest and meanest cat in the feral cat pen. My hubby said we should get an outdoor cat to chase off the pigeons who had taken over our pool. So I headed to the humane society and asked for their largest and worst cat. It took about 20 minutes for them to catch this “monster” using a snare pole and drop him into a crate. They had me sign a paper saying his name was “Davis” and told me not to touch him. I took him to my car and drove him home – putting him in the greenhouse with food, water and a litter box. I named him Raptor, because he was huge and mean. But then… over the next few days I began to notice that perhaps he wasn’t a monster. He let me pet him. He meowed loudly when I would leave. And soon he let me hold him. Then he met our girls. Soon I realized he was an extremely misunderstood cat, and I began to love him so much. Unfortunately he got very sick shortly after we brought him home. I took him to the vet and then we let him live inside our home. He was diagnosed with cancer and soon he died. But Raptor was finally loved, and he knew it.

So animals have ALWAYS been my calling. Genesis 1:28 says: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” When God created us we were supposed to watch out for the animals; protect them. We were representing God to them. Standing in the gap. And for this reason if an animal comes to me for help I don’t say no.

A few months ago a dog followed my middle daughter and our nanny home from the park. It was scared, hungry, emaciated and very smelly. But I could tell it needed help and had come to our home for a reason. So I took her inside and we named her Sweetie. She had been lost for ages. There was almost nothing to her. We took her to the vet and there was no micro chip. I wasn’t surprised. I asked them to keep her for me overnight and I would get her in the morning. The next day we picked up sweetie and got her groomed. Then I bought her a collar and leash. I spammed all my local friends to find her a home and by the end of the day she was a loved member of a new family.

Tonight I sat in the room pictured below. It’s the lobby of the animal kingdom lodge in Disney World. We ate dinner in their Afro-Indian restaurant called Sanaa, and watched beautiful savanna wildlife walk around outside the windows. And I felt so grateful that I am not the only one in the world who takes the time to help the animals.

We all have so many gifts and talents to share. You might not save the tadpoles. But you might give a compliment to a nervous person in a dressing room. Or maybe you can tell a joke to a sad friend. Maybe volunteer to read at a hospital or teach math to kindergartners. But whatever it is… find your thing. What you have a passion for. What you can’t help doing. And then seek out opportunities to get involved. The world is huge and time is limited. So if it sets your soul on fire don’t wait another day. Explore your passions and make this world a better place… because it had you in it.

Beauty Secrets are the Best Secrets

Darling. Your skin is fabulous but it’s completely neglected. Sit down.” These were the words I heard as I walked through the Guerlain shop in the French pavilion in Epcot. She motioned for me to take a chair, and I gladly did. Picture this. It was 3 in the afternoon. The humidity here in Florida is about 500% and the temperature is 100°. I had sweat dripping down my back and plinking off my butt. I have no idea what my face looked like but I would have to agree that my skin had been neglected big time since I swiped a clearasil pad across it this morning.

I couldn’t exactly follow the steps that came next but this magical woman rubbed cream, massaged, applied serums, held pressure points and moisturized my face. It was heavenly to be quite honest and I didn’t pay attention because it was so relaxing. Of course while I was being pampered my husband was working with a French gentleman to discover a perfume that would best suit me. They ended up spraying me with three on my right arm. Then two more on my neck. So as I was being beautified my husband kept taking my arm and sniffing it from wrist to shoulder and then nuzzling my neck.

Of course when the beautician showed my my face I was absolutely stunned that it was ME staring back. That woman looked refreshed!!! It must have been those amazing lotions and potions… or all that sniffing and cuddling.

So my husband bought all three perfumes that they sprayed on my arm, because he really liked the way they blended together. I added the skin care regime to the pile because I figured if it could fix me after a day at Disney in the blistering heart maybe I wouldn’t turn into a troll after all. So the receipt was signed and the bottles and jars were hand delivered to our suite. So if you will now excuse me I must go and follow all the instructions that have been written out (she knew I wasn’t paying attention). Oh and next time you see me the radiance if my complexion might be too much without sunglasses. 😉 #beautysecretsarethebestsecrets

Mouse Party

In February we were in Disney World, and my youngest found a key embossed with “mouse party”. She was SO SO excited to have found the key to the mouse party, but since we were leaving that day she gave it to her father to guard until next time. Ever since that day she has wondered what happens when you find the mouse party…

We have now returned to Disney and the key came with us. Today, Claudia handed me the key and said I HAD to find the mouse party. I told her I would try to find the right cast member to ask. It sounded like a big secret and you needed to ask just the right person in order to discover. And so she asked all morning, “can we trust him” and “does she look like she knows”. I always said no, we had to be careful who we asked… because some people are trying to stop the mouse party from happening and we don’t want to lose our key.

After lunch I had some time to myself and I set my brain on this mouse party “problem”. I grabbed the first cast member I say and asked… “what is this mouse party business”. I had found it also written on a pin so I showed it to them. “Is there really a mouse party or is being here in Disney the mouse party“. They told me it’s Mickey’s 90th birthday this year and so they have a mouse party theme going on. There is a Mickey & Minnie meet and greet (they wear party hats) as well as a mouse party parade where they characters ride floats decorated as presents. There is also a mouse party dance party.

I knew this was not the kind of secret mouse party my youngest was expecting. So I put on my thinking cap. I bought 3 of those mouse party pins I had spotted and looked for something amazing to put them on. I seriously looked and looked and… there!

I spotted white baby Pegasus stuffed toys wrapped in baby blankets. We had just been talking at lunch about the adorable new addition to Cinderella’s royal family – their newest “Cinderella Pony” named Lilly. I showed the girls the photo of the horse below and they had all thought it was the sweetest.

So. Here’s what I did. I bought the ponies and the pins and took them to a nearby bench in the shade. There I removed all tags and attached the mouse party pins. Then a story popped into my head that went something like this:

This afternoon while I was walking around the park I bumped into Mickey Mouse. He looked all dressed for a party in a full tuxedo and sparkling silver shoes. It flashed into my head instantly that he knew about the mouse party because he was clearly dressed for it. So I made my way over and whispered… my daughter has a key to the mouse party. Mickey looked both ways before asking, where is it? I looked down at my feet and told him that it was with her and she had gone back to the hotel to swim. He looked right into my eyes as if he could judge the truth of my tail. It seemed like 100 minutes passed before he said, you obviously have one because not many people even know they exist. And with that he took my hand and lead me over to a brick wall. Mickey touched them in a pattern so quick I could never replicate it, and a section popped open. He reached inside and pulled out a tiny replica of baby lily, with a mouse party pin featured prominently on her blanket. This is your daughter’s prize he said beaming. I took it knowing she was going to be beyond thrilled but then… I looked back up at him and said I have three daughters. They would be so sad to miss out. Mickey nodded and as I looked down I was no longer holding one pony, but three. I have no idea how Mickey did that but when I looked up to thank him he was gone too. I stood there in wonder and then skipped off to tell my daughters what had just happened. Disney World is truly a magical place.

Did this story really happen? Was there a mouse party for real? Did I meet Mickey Mouse? Were these gifts mouse party rewards? Well that friends, is the magic of stories and imagination. I’ll just leave it at that… 😉

Tofu, Villas & Hubby Returns

Did you know that I am a Disney Bride? Sure am! My husband and I were married right here fourteen and a half years ago. It was the happiest day of my life and I still feel so blessed to be married to this amazing man.

On this trip, we are staying at the Grand Floridian in a 3 bedroom villa, and we can see the Wedding Chapel from our balcony. The girls had never seen it and I loved showing them where we said “I do”. Seems like forever ago that we started life together.

But I would be doing you all a serious injustice NOT to show you our villa… because you defiantly want to stay here some day! It’s over 2,800 square feet which means that Brian and I are not sleeping in the same room as the kids! I found a video made by Disney to show you where we are. It’s… unforgettable.

We had dinner at Narcoossee’s (at our resort) because the kids were tired from traveling and we all were hungry. I decided to try a vegetarian tofu masalaa and I was so so good. Brian wasn’t here from dinner because he had to fly in from Arizona today. He should be here in an hour or so and we’ll have to go find food for him. Can’t wait to see my hubby as it’s been two weeks since we parted ways at Space Camp.

••• and this is where the post abruptly ended because Brian arrived and we lived happily ever after 😉

Goodbye Chicago

Yesterday we picked up Kayana from O’Hare and today we are all flying out together. But I wanted to write one more post before we move along to Florida …

I always feel like our trips disappear into memory so fast. What is it about life that passes? How does anticipation become history with hardly a moment given to now? I don’t know if it’s my age or if time really is passing by faster these days, but it reminds me to be purposeful and grateful. Along that theme I want to list 20 things about our time in Chicago that made my life more blessed:

  • good health – All stayed fairly healthy! We have been gone over 2 weeks and are still traveling. Yes we’ve had a few tummy aches and need an antibiotic but nothing major.
  • good friends – Seeing the Carey family during our annual summers in Chicago is such a treat! So glad we can stay close (and our kiddos too).
  • my parents – They always generously put us us at their house while we’re in town. This allows us to spend so much more time together with family.
  • pets – Okay. My parents have stinkin’ cute pets! I love watching them grow and giving them all the hugs while we’re in town.
  • the color green – Everything here is SO green!!! I love living in Arizona but the color shift is really quite awesome.
  • time – The fact that I have time to travel with the kids over the summer is such a blessing and I don’t take it for granted.
  • cell phones – Staying in touch with Daddy (he couldn’t come to the Chicago portion of our trip) was wonderful and keeping up with AZ friends made my heart happy too.
  • feeling loved – There is something about going “home” that makes you feel loved, and appreciated. At least I feel that way and I enjoy it so much.
  • grocery stores – Can we talk about all the grocery stores in Chicago? The options are endless. Since I love to cook I really enjoy poking around and discovering new things.
  • internet connection – I know some people like to disappear on a desert island when they go away, but I love my internet access and the ability to watch my favorite shows, map out new places to go and put the kids to be with headspace.
  • coffee – Do I even need to explain this? I mean, I love coffee all the time but I don’t always get a full 8 hours when we travel. So coffee tastes even better.
  • memories – Being with family is so much about reliving memories with other people who were there. You feel understood, validated and sometimes learn about things you never knew happened… to add to your memories.
  • blogging – I have love love loved blogging this vacation. It’s actually amazing to look back so far and see all the things I’ve forgotten. Not amazing in a good way… but mom brain is not always a reliable working brain. So I’m super grateful for this blog.
  • super comfy bed – The bed in the room I stay in at my parents is like a cloud. I always look forward to sleeping there, and cuddling with all the kitty’s who visit me on the bed.
  • access to a car – my parents always let me use one of their cars when we visit. It is so gracious of them and I admit to loving to pop out once in a while.
  • cozymels restaurant – when we lived here Cozymels was my favorite Mexican restaurants. It hold so many happy memories of dinners with friends & family, important conversations and banana pudding.
  • family recipes – one of my very favorite things about going to my parents’ house is raising my mom’s cookbook stash to copy out some childhood favorites. I’ll post some for you soon.
  • our three girls – so grateful for our three girls who are the best little travelers. I honestly could not travel nearly as much if they didn’t obey and make good choices.
  • travel – It is such a blessing to travel. To be able to visit family. To visit friends. Space Camp. Now Disney. I have so much gratitude for that.
  • personal freedom – Last but not least I do not take for granted my personal freedom. I can go where I want. But what I want. Return when I please. Life was not always like this while we were in school for the first 15 years of our marriage, and I don’t take this blessing for granted.

So thanks Chicago, until next time! We have enjoyed our stay and look forward to returning (probably in the winter).