Olympic Tear Jerkers - Can't Stop, Won't Stop

I'm not sure that anything could be timed more perfectly than the Olympics are right now.  Sure Brazil is the hot bed of all things Zika and has water with levels of E.Coli that would make any microbiologist cringe. And generally I'd prefer not to watch a stadium full of dancers with nary enough clothing during the opening ceremony.  But in the midst of the world going crazy, nightly name calling on the news, and a general lack of kindness across our country, I'm not sure anything has the potential to rally our country right now like the Olympics could.

Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I've been on the lookout for athletes & stories that I know will force me to shed emotional tears.  I look forward to the surprise wins and the heart breaking sad podium moments of dreams lost.  

Cue the Olympic music (come on...you know you love it as much as Bob Costas).....

There's the inevitable gymnastics team destined for a Wheaties box.  Please ladies - no broken bones AKA Kerri Strug, though you would surely guarantee a spot in my memory if you did.

And then there's any relay on land or water - oh the transfers! The stress! My poor fingernails are already dreading those events.

I'm really excited to watch Michelle Carter, better known as the ShotDiva.  I love that she's kept at training and excelling despite the fact that she's *gasp* thirty.  Don't get me wrong - I love watching the teenagers in gymnastics and the college age runners.  But give me someone who has entered legit adulthood and still works hard with enough consistency to compete with those guys on the worlds biggest stage?  You, my friend, have my utmost admiration.  Here's where the tears come - her Dad was a shot putter too.  And you know NBC will inevevitaly pan to him cheering her on.  And the faucet will flow.  Shot put doesn't get a lot of screen time, but I've got my fingers crossed that we get more than just a glimpse of Michelle.  (PS - she runs camps for girls to teach strength, confidence, &  that beauty is more than just on the exterior.  My heart just loves this!).

We can't forget Michael Phelps - after all he's carrying the flag during the ceremony after all.  Sure he has the most Olympic medals of any American.  Sure he should give someone else a chance to win.  But then there's the redemption story. *Cue the tears*.  I never thought he would make it to Rio.  The last I remembered hearing from him was of multiple DUI's that were part of a sad spiral where he said he became suicidal.  But he was given a copy of "The Purpose Driven Life" by an athlete friend and he has said that God helped pull him out.  He went to behavioral rehab.  He started training again.  He got married and had a baby (well, his wife. Clearly.) But more than that, he reconciled with his Dad. This will be the first Olympics we may see his Dad in the stands.  And I can't wait.  It's such a great reminder that no relationship is too far gone to recover and that we all have self doubts - even those we see as super successful may not see themselves that way.  Here's a link to his story.

And then there's an Olympic first.  There is a team of refugees who are competing under the Olympic flag.  They are "nationless" for all practical purposes.  But the world hasn't forgotten them & I can not wait to watch them chase after their dreams, just like they would have for their countries of origin had the world unrest not have come to head when it did.  They are walking just before Brazil in the Parade of Countries & they very well will receive a standing ovation in my living room.  

Who & what are you watching?  You can count on me for some synchronized swimming & rhythmic gymnastics for good measure.  Is there a tear-jerking story you know is coming?  Because to be sure I want to set my DVR.  

America, let's take this chance to cheer on and celebrate our fellow countrymen.  No matter their age.  Their religion.  Their skin tone.  Their state.  We're all Americans & I can't wait to watch us show the world who is boss!

At The Crossroads of Cellulite & Childhood Dreams

You know what I don't love? Summer.  With it comes sunburns, excessive sweating, & clothes that expose more cellulite than I want to expose.  I've been on the countdown to Fall since May just pretending I could wish away the sun. This last week of temperatures busting at 100 degrees isn't exactly helping matters.

And then.....it happened.

An email about a Sunday School gathering.  With friends.  At a pool.

Sigh.

My initial thought was that this was a great chance to get the little one in a pool - she's been talking about "swimming like Nemo" for weeks, and here was my chance to make all her dreams come true.  But you know what I couldn't avoid?  A bathing suit.  In front of friends and acquaintances.  I'm just saying that's a whole new level of openness I wasn't mentally prepared for....so I took a nap that afternoon & woke up just in time to toss on our suits and head out the door.  Of course, still in denial that the coverup would come off.

Sure I can just toss my kid in with a floaty and she'll stay right next to me as I dangle my feet in the pool right? Or not.

Well here's how this went down.  We walked in. She was beyond excited to get in "the big bathtub" and we could barely get her floaty on before she jumped in.  No fear I tell you.  So I lean over the pool as she starts flipping forward grabbing mouths full of chlorine water (yum right?), and I know I've got to get in to get her started & upright.  So off went the coverup and in I went. 

The minor detail I left out was that there were probably 10 kids in that pool and ZERO adults.  Oh there were plenty around, but I was the only one in the pool.  Granted my daughter was the youngest by far and was clearly not yet in "supervised swim" mode.  Want to know what will send me into a super self-conscious internal meltdown?  Yeah this.   To the point where when getting out of the pool for dinner, I literally stood there for a few minutes deciding the exit that provided the most immediate cellulite covering.  Either set of steps forced me to walk past more people than I would have liked.  

Strangers on a beach is one thing.  Family is another.  This group of ten or so families was a whole other ballgame for me.    

But you know what made it worth it?  The belly-laugh two-year-old giggles as she jumped off the side of the pool into my arms.  How she begged for "more, more" as I pushed her around the pool.  The sweet thank-you's she offered unprompted.  

She just wanted me.  To make memories with me. 

And I just wanted to stress over cellulite. 

I'm so thankful that I was semi-forced into jumping right in, because we had an amazing time despite my body-image issues.  That moment reinforced to me what I don't want to pass on to my sweet girl.  I don't want her to think people are constantly talking about her because she needs to loose a few pounds.  Or that she's not lovable because she's not a certain size.  Or that she shouldn't take part in certain activities because of how she feels about herself in a bathing suit.  

My issues don't have to be hers - and I am choosing not to teach them by example.

The kicker for me in this whole thing was a comment from a fellow mom friend.  I made an off hand comment about not expecting to be the only one in the pool, and she said she wished she was as free as me to just "get in".  I felt like the odd-man out, but maybe I was sparking something in others.  Maybe just in her.  But one thing I know is I want to remember this moment.  Those smiles and splashes covered a lot of self-doubt.....and I don't want to let the cellulite win in those moments.

I choose not to have my little ones childhood memories & dreams be squashed by my own insecurities.  

So put on those bathings suits, shut down those internal voices & make moments with your family.  And if people are talking about you or me then they've got bigger issues to deal with than either of us!

LAST MINUTE PLANNING TIPS FOR WDW

As all good things must come to an end, today I'm wrapping up this little mini-series on Disney.  There is SO.MUCH.MORE I could write about, but then I'd be bordering on becoming a Disney blog, and well - no thank you. My crafty/DIY soul is already itching to share some projects I've finished this month.  I have no doubt though that there will be more posts where these have come from as time goes on since I've confessed to the internet world my love of all things Disney.

What better way to end the series than to give you a checklist of final details to help for your families vacation?  

To Memory Maker or not Memory Maker.  I'm not going to lie.  This is expensive, especially when I can easily take my own pictures.  But like many of you, I'm not usually in them.  Occasionally I'll trust a stranger long enough to snap a family picture and pray everyone has their eyes open & looking at the camera.  This is certainly a perk to using Disney's photo service.  There are photographers set up in all the "perfect picture" spots.  They will take pictures with characters both in autograph sessions & at character meals. Plus rides with photos are included.  Just scan your Magic Band (or ticket) at the end of the photo session to link them to your account.

One of many Memory Maker/PhotoPass pictures from our last trip - and I'm in a family photo! Praise the good Lord!

One of many Memory Maker/PhotoPass pictures from our last trip - and I'm in a family photo! Praise the good Lord!

But if you plan to go, go, go, & not frequently stop for pictures, then it may not be a smart money move.  As much as I love the idea of this, my wallet usually revolts (as of this writing, advance purchase is $149, on arrival is $169).  Only once has my crowd paid for the PhotoPass service, when my whole extended family traveled together (10 folks, 4 families).  We linked our MyDisneyExperience accounts, and then all the pictures any of us had taken were available to the one person who had paid for MemoryMaker.  Only that person has the ability to download the pictures, but then they can share them with the whole group (FYI you have access for 45 days).  If you are considering it, decide before you go & you'll save $20 - it's the cost of 5 Dole Whips saved!  

Bounty with Dawn Paper Towels. The last three trips to WDW I've been toting around formula bottle & sippy cups.  You want to know what's not fun to clean at the end of a hot day?  Milk cups.  Gah.  Before our last cruise I discovered these Dawn-infused paper towels & I will never travel without them to WDW again.  Even if you are sans kids, the refillable mugs that come with the dining plan (or that you can buy on their own) can get a little nasty with only water rinses, so this is the perfect way to do a quick and easy clean up.  I fold a few up and toss them in a ziploc in my bag each day so I'm ready for a clean up at any minute!

Extra Magic Hours.  I have a love/hate relationship with these guys.  If you stay on property, there is the option to enter certain parks early (or stay late) on certain days.  If you are not staying at WDW, I'd generally recommend avoiding a park that has morning EMH (especially if you are going on a non-park hopper ticket).  They get really crowded early and you can start your day with even longer lines.  Though I now have a tot who requires bedtime before midnight, I doubt I'll be taking advantage of evening EMH any time soon, but thats the way to go.  The park clears out a ton the later it gets & the lines for some of the best rides become tiny!  Plan to sleep in the next day & shut the park down if you can - you can even get the chance to see "The Kiss Goodnight" (the castle twinkles while 'When You Wish Upon A Star' plays...amazing picture opportunity).

Parent Switch.  I'll be honest - Disney does a terrible job of advertising this service.  There aren't many rides that smaller kids can't ride at the parks, but they do exist.  If the parents both want to ride, for example, Space Mountain, ask the attendant at the entrance for a Rider Switch Pass, then the other parent waits with the kid(s) thats too short (or afraid) to ride.  When they return, the first parent to ride hands off the pass to parent two who can then ride.  If you've got grandparents in tow, then the second parent can take a second person with them to ride.  Click over the Disney's site here for super specific details.  

Fort Wilderness Campfire.  If a character meal isn't in the budget, there's a super easy way to plan to get a similar experience for FREE!  Chip & Dale host a campfire sing-a-long, followed by a movie under the stars.  They sell little smokes kits, or you can easily pack your own from home, then you get a cozy character experience.  It starts at 8pm most nights, but you can check the schedule using the link above.

Fold Up Laundry Bag from the Dollar Store.  Cynthia referred to this as well, helping to keep the hotel room tidy a few posts back.  I started bringing one for the same reason, but it's actually been a life saver for me as far as packing goes.  I toss everyones dirty stuff together, and then when it's the last night & time to start packing for home, I check pockets/zip pants/etc and pack all the dirty stuff in one suitcase.  Then when I get home it is SO EASY to begin the dreaded job of post-vacation laundry.  

Autograph Books.  Sure the ones Disney sells are cute and small and easy to tote.  But I can honestly say as a kid I never pulled mine out to look at it between trips.  Earlier this year I made a larger version using the Disney Character Encyclopedia (affiliate link) I found on Amazon and my little lady reads it EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  I should probably be ashamed by the fact that my not yet 2 year old can name all the mice in Cinderella, and yet can't master using the big girl potty.  It has been a hit in our house & we take it back each trip to get new signatures added.  Click over here to see the full DIY post - it cost me less than $15 for the book & binding to make a lifelong souvenir!  Ours has held up great - 2 trips to WDW & 2 Disney cruises under it's belt & still going strong!

Guys, I hope you've learned something along the way in these last 15 posts.  If you think you missed one or two along the way, the links to each topic in the series can be found here on the Disney Vacation Planning main page.  I'm always happy to answer questions, and who knows - maybe you'll inspire a new Disney post!  

Here's to you having a magical vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth!