Family

I feel like I have been blessed with the best family God had to offer. From my exceptional parents, to my 2 awesome older sisters, to my wonderful husband, 3 terrific kids, 2 beautiful granddaughters, and my grandson I long to meet in heaven, I could not ask for a more loving family. I was raised hearing that family is the most important thing on earth and, generally speaking, second only to our Creator. I believe this with my whole heart. I am so thankful to have the love and support of my family.In these pages, you will read about how we celebrate life together everyday. I am so thankful you have stopped by to visit.Hope to talk soon! 
The Family that Vacations Together…????????????????????????????????????

For nearly seventeen years, our family has been traveling to Walt Disney World for our family vacations. In the memories of those visits is where my greatest happiness can be found. In the early years when we could not afford to fly our family of 5 to Orlando, we hopped into our jam-packed minivan with a full Thule on top and headed out for our 16 hour drive from Texas.

We always loaded the van the night before, went to bed early, woke up at 2:00 a.m. and were out the door before 3:00 a.m. This allowed the kiddos to sleep for several more hours before we would stop at the same restaurant for breakfast every single trip. We played the ABC License Plate game, ABC billboard game, sang songs, stopped at every state’s welcome center, and grinned from ear to ear when we knew we were getting close to being at our happy place.

For the past few years, we have been flying which gets us there in only 2 hours and that is a blessing (although I miss the times when the kids were young and we drove). Still, I wouldn’t trade being in Texas for breakfast and in the park by lunchtime for anything.

For us, there are a million reasons why we love it there. We each have our favorite resorts, favorite rides, favorite dining locations, and even favorite family traditions we began years ago like our Monorail Mania Meal. Whether we are watching the Castle Dream Lights at Magic Kingdom, standing in the middle of the Streets of New York for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, screaming on Rock N Roller Coaster, or riding Expedition Everest in the pouring rain and laughing our heads off, there are priceless memories at every turn. We can even taste ‘Ohana’s Bread Pudding with Bananas Foster Sauce if we close our eyes tightly enough.

It is all those things, and something much more, the something our family becomes when we are there. The best version of our family “lives” there, relaxed and connected with each other, sharing our lives, our time, and making new memories. We don’t have to be anywhere at any time and we are happy to be able to just enjoy whatever comes next. We can stay up late, go to bed early, go swimming late at night, or just have a drink and sit up and talk – and, most importantly, we do. It is the very best time of my year. Sharing time with family is what my life is all about, and what a true blessing from God that we have these times together.

Family vacations have always been extremely important to me. When I was growing up, we took a family vacation every summer and those were some of the best times of my life. Taking my family to WDW year after year has meant the same. Families need to go on vacation together. To me, it is so very important. Even more importantly, I need to help families to have wonderful, magical, one-of-a-kind vacations together. I believe from the depths of my soul that it strengthens the family unit. It is what I feel I am called to do.

When someone asks my 4 year old granddaughter what Mimi does for her job she will quickly tell them, “Mimi helps families go to Disney!” Yes, precious girl, I do. It means the world to me. If it is all I can do to try to help families form unbreakable bonds by sharing memories and laughing and having fun together then that is a wonderful blessing for me. The family that vacations together may not always stay together, but I certainly believe they have a better shot than families who don’t take the time to build those bonds. Whether it is going to a Disney destination or going to a local beach for 5 days, just do it!

Here’s hoping your bonds are unbreakable and your joy is constant!

 

I Am Edna’s Daughter

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This Sunday, September 21, we will celebrate World Gratitude Day and, just like you, I have many things in my life for which I am grateful. At the top of my list, and therefore my logical topic for today, is my mom.

My mother is a wonderful woman. The eldest of ten children, her focus has always been on family — taking care of us all. She has nurtured us, taught us right from wrong, supported us throughout every step of our lives (good or bad), provided us with unconditional love, taught us how much God loves us, and shown us through a loving example how to take care of others in honor of all the gifts we’ve been given. For me, personally, she gave me one more very important gift — my mother is the person who introduced me to a great joy in my life, Walt Disney World.

My mom took me on my first two visits to this magical place when I was a teenager and they planted the seed of my lifelong love affair with Walt Disney World. My first visit was when I was 15. My mom and stepdad took my sister (18 at the time) and myself to this magical place. We stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and I remember the awe I felt staying at a beautiful resort that had a monorail running right through it. Mom made beautiful Hawaiian dresses for my sister and me, which we proudly wore to the Spirit of Aloha luau at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Being teenagers, my sister and I spent a lot of time at the pool but I also remember running to Space Mountain at rope drop (Magic Kingdom being the only park open at the time) and spending hours at River Country. My mom loved seeing us enjoy that magical place. Even when I cried because I missed my boyfriend (now my husband) she never criticized me for being too young for that kind of nonsense, she understood that my heart was aching and she hugged me and let me know she understood and that she loved me.

Our second visit my sister could not go, so I was able to take a friend. It was 1982 but still several months before the grand opening of EPCOT, so we spent every waking moment at Magic Kingdom and at River Country. I remember the freedom of being able to go freely from the park to the resort and how much fun it was. We stayed at Shades of Green, back before it was a resort for military families.

Those first visits were undoubtedly the catalyst for what would become a very important facet of my life. They likely lead to my studies of, and fascination with, Walt Disney; to my numerous family trips with my children and now with my grandchildren; and finally to the best job in the world of being able to help others find that same joy during visits with their own families. Walt may have said “It all started with a mouse” but in my life it all started with my mom. I am so grateful for that.

It is only fitting, then, that in recognition of World Gratitude Day, I honor this special lady for whom I am so thankful. She is the best mom in the world. I couldn’t be more proud or more grateful to the person who has brought SO much joy into my life in SO many ways. My mom is beautiful, inside and out. She will turn 79 next week and I thank God for every day that I get the pleasure of seeing her smiling face.

I love you, Momma — always have, always will!

Our Favorite Disney Family Tradition: The Monorail Mania Meal

One of my family’s favorite activities is something we began doing when my kids became teenagers. Our favorite family tradition at Walt Disney World is our “Monorail Mania Meal.” Being from an Italian family, most of our best visiting has often ensued in the kitchen around a meal, so I guess it is no stretch of the imagination that I began this tradition in the same way.

When I developed our Monorail Mania Meal, I decided to start with drinks at the Grand Floridian then monorail over to the Polynesian Resort for dinner and then to the Contemporary Resort for dessert. We liked it just that way the first time, so we continued it that way for future trips. We do this during the evening and into late night, but a family with young children could easily do it at any time of the day. This is also a great rainy day activity.

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Here is the way we do it:

We take the Disney transportation from whichever park we are enjoying to the Grand Floridian. If you are coming from the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, you may take the monorail. If you are coming from Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom park, a bus will get you there. Once at the GF, we head to the Beach Pool Bar. My husband and I usually get the Orange Creamsicle blended drink and the kids usually have either the Sour Apple Freeze or the Lava Smoothie (non-alcoholic specialties). They also have sodas, beer, wine and bottled water. Then we head over to the lounge chairs on the beach, veg out and enjoy the view. We talk about what has been best about the trip so far and what we are most looking forward to during the rest of the trip. When our drinks are gone, we head back to the monorail to go to the Polynesian Resort. You can also walk along the beach to the Polynesian. We like riding the monorail because it has to travel all the way around to get back to the Poly so we enjoy the ride and the view.

Once we arrive at the Polynesian, we proceed to Captain Cook’s. We usually order a combination of Caesar Salads, pizzas and burgers. We get our food and drinks and then head outside to sit at a table overlooking the lagoon and pool area. If you can’t tell yet, we love being outside and since we visit in the Fall it is usually comfortable outside. We enjoy our dinner and then take a stroll around the grounds, as they are so beautiful, before heading back to the monorail station on our way to the Contemporary Resort.

Once we arrive at the Contemporary Resort, we usually have about 45 minutes to spare before the Electrical Water Pageant (EWP) begins. We head to the Contempo Café and order our choice of dessert, and there are many choices whether you are a chocoholic like me or not; then we grab a coffee, milk, juice, etc. and either eat there before the EWP begins or head on out to the marina to enjoy our dessert outdoors and await the pageantry. The EWP doesn’t usually begin at the Contemporary until around 10:10 pm so this has been a great thing to do with older kids, especially on nights that the parks don’t have extra magic hours. If you have young children and prefer trying this idea earlier in the day, you might do this for lunchtime in the early afternoon and then go back to Magic Kingdom for the 3:00 parade.

There are so many fun activities you can tailor around your family; this is just one idea. We utilize quick-service locations because it saves both time and money, but it could easily be done around a table-service reservation as well. There are even numerous versions of what we call our Monorail Mania Meal. There is even something now called a Monorail Crawl, I have heard, where you hop on and drink around the monorail.  You can certainly tailor it to fit your needs. Practically any idea can be personalized for your family – it just takes a little planning. Have fun with it!

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