Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Voice {Your Voice}

A while back I received this comment on one of my blog posts, "Do you ever wonder if people are sick of hearing about your adoption?" I deleted it because it was annoying more than anything else, but now, I wish I hadn't; negative comments are good.  They are refining.  And they mean your voice is having an impact.  

Here's my response.................

I never would have described myself as a confident person until I started teaching.  And even then, I was confident within the walls of my school; especially once I closed my classroom door and I led my students through simulations of the European Union, the Underground Railroad, the Electoral College (don't ask--I still don't really understand it--and I probably wouldn't trust anyone who says they do), Mt. Everest (oh...I loved my Mt. Everest simulation), WWII, and I could go on because I get all excited about history stuff, but I won't--because I realize not everyone does and maybe I've already lost some of you as it is.

And as confident as I was while I stood in front of my kids, and I talked at staff meetings, and I led professional developments, I still struggled/struggle with feeling confident, smart enough, decisive enough, in my every day life.  And, maybe if you know me that sounds crazy.  I'm sure we can all think of people we know that don't seem to be lacking confidence--but really.....they are.  I mean, aren't we all to a degree?  About something?

One of the on-going conversations my husband and I have is over me feeling "stupid." And it drives him crazy.  I let that lie trickle into so many every day moments and if I feel like if there is ever a tone to what Chris is saying to me, I immediately throw out the, "You know....I'm not stupid," card when there was no intent what-so-ever on his part.  It's me.  Believing this lie that strips away my confidence. A lie I've been letting control me since I was probably in 5th or 6th grade.

I was thrilled to uncover this confidence that had been lying dormant in me when I started teaching.  And for nine years I often wondered if I'd ever discover something else that I was truly, 100%, unabashedly confident about.

And then, we started the adoption process.
And believe me....while going through it I was not confident.  I thought I was making mistake after mistake.

Until......we met Georgia's birth parents. And then, this new confidence window opened up and I felt this rush of fresh, confident, air enter me and I had that same exhilarating feeling I always had when I was teaching. And as we traversed through the adoption waters and ended up with a fabulous open adoption my confidence in this area grew and grew until it became another area of my life that I could say I felt confident to the core in.

As I've written more and more about adoption I've met people....all over the country.....who are working their way through the adoption process, both adoptive parents and birth parents, or who are where I am now, and they're resting in an amazing relationship with their children's birth parents.  These people I've met are amazing, even though I haven't really met them face to face, heard their voices, given them a hug, held their babies, or sat on their couches.....they are amazing.

I've cried for them when they've told me that a birthparent match didn't work out, I've cried for them when they e-mailed me some of the first pictures of their new daughter--just hours old, I've been anxious for them when I've known they were meeting birth parents for the first time, I've smiled huge crazy smiles at my computer when they've told me they were ready to start the adoption process, and I've shared with them the parts about our adoption that are hard--that I don't really talk about with a lot of people.

But I have a connection with them.
A necessary connection.
And they've fueled the fire of my confidence when it comes to adoption, just like watching my eighth graders understand the Missouri Compromise fueled my teaching confidence fire.

They've made me realize that sharing my voice on this topic is important.  Because had I not, I never would have met them, I never would have realized that what I had to say or think might resonate with someone else.  I never would have gotten the support that I've needed at times from other other adoptive moms, and I never would have felt.........confident.........to keep sharing how important I think adoption is in our culture.

Here's what I've learned....our voices....and exercising them.....make us more confident. Exercising your voice is this crazy self fulfilling prophecy and ultimately so rewarding.

So my advice to you is this.....if you feel like you have a voice about something......share it, yell it, don't stifle it.  If it's something you wish you had known more about before having to confront it, something that you searched for advice on, something that you tried to find anyone to talk to about it....it deserves your voice.  Other people looking for guidance on the topic need your voice.  There are so many bad and ridiculous voices in our world--we need to out-talk them with good voices about noble things.  Things that elevate us as a society, things that are solid and edifying and healthy.

Our voices are important.  Even if you feel like you don't have perfect words to go with your voice, even if you walk away feeling like you could have said it better......it doesn't matter.  Your voice is important.  And I'll go on sharing mine for a good long time.

Because nothing......nothing.......has changed my life like adoption......even the really hard parts of it.  And in the years since our adoption, I'm so thankful for the other voices I've found that have helped me feel normal and.....sane.....as I learn more and more about it.

What's your voice about?
Share it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dress Up Stuff

Georgia spends the majority of her day in dress-up clothes.  Her Rapunzel dress, for example, is fraying, stained, ripped, and downright gross after almost 365 days of wear.  She received it this weekend last year as an early Christmas present and it's graced the grocery store, the library, the park, the children's museum, the pediatrician's office, the beach (yep--I tried to win that battle but lost), and just about anywhere else in between.  It's downright disgusting.  But it's not going anywhere.  Therefore, I'm always on the lookout for higher quality dress up clothes that I can distract her with, as they are a staple that isn't going away anytime soon in our house.  Etsy is perfect for this type of expedition.  And since gift-giving season is approaching full swing and I'm assuming some of you might have some little dressers up in your midst I thought I'd share some of my newest dress-up clothes finds with you!

1.  Big Birds Boutique on Etsy.  These little wings are a bit pricey, but so beautiful. And additionally--they won't get caught on anything, knock stuff over, or remind me of a bad Halloween costume.  They are just the most adorable!  2.  Owl mask by RockenTot on Etsy. This mask is made of soft felt--always a plus in my opinion when we're talking about dress up clothes.  I've had enough of crunchy, itchy, poorly made dress up stuff.  This Etsy store has some great crowns and coffee cup sleeves too. 3. I know some little boys who have a hankering for a T-Rex and these awesome little capes would hit the spot! Find them at MaukyJo on Etsy.  4. Oh my word.  These are just....totally amazing.  Georgia is currently obsessed with Tinkerbell.  And while you're visiting Ross and Rosie Designs over on Etsy make sure to check out their entire inventory.  For example, how great is this Doc McStuffins inspired dress up tote. 5. I was always a fan of Donatello myself, but any of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will do.  And I'm sure someone you know would be all over these........and for only $20!  6. These little masks would be a great stocking stuffer for a super-hero that you love! 7. I'm constantly being tapped with a wand.  I might not mind it so much if the wand was as cool as these big poufs from The Sugared  Ribbon on Etsy.  8. Another great stocking stuffer!  These super-hero cuffs are so cute and something little ones can put on by themselves....and probably with no fits about them not working. 9. If only I would have found these for Thanksgiving!  Georgia and I could have thrown our Minnetonka's on with this little head dress and had a great time.  I've always been a sucker for Pilgrim and Indian dress up clothes--probably the history teacher in me.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

National Adoption Day

Adoption makes me cry.  Always.  I was never really a cryer until adoption and I met face to face.  In fact, right now, while I write this, I've just been reading some blog posts from a girl I've never met in person, but we've gone back and forth on e-mail about her adoption journey--the good stuff and the really, really hard stuff-once she found my blog.  Her baby girl is due soon, she's actually over-due, and when I read what she writes about this journey and how it's been for her and her husband so far and where she is now and I see pictures of her baby things all packed and ready to go once she gets a call from the hospital, I can't stop crying......big huge happy tears for her.

And I cry for the birth parents and how amazing their decision is.  How selfless and unconditional and mature and loving--for their child--their decision is.  I cry because I will never forget every single detail of the day we took Georgia home from the hospital and how gut-wrenching that was.  Feeling so ecstatic about the fact that I finally had a child, but feeling like I was kidnapping someone's baby at the same time; even though they were hugging us and crying with us and telling us they'd be okay, "we'll see you later."

There are so many emotions woven together to make adoption--emotions that you don't always think coincide and can live in harmony--but they do......in this crazy beautiful way.  There has been no single event in my life that has changed me more, made me better, made my marriage stronger, made me love people more, made me realize how specifically God writes our stories before we even know there's a story, made me realize how wrong I can be sometimes, and made me more passionate than adoption and my daughter, and her birth families.  Not one.

So today, my message is simple.  If you know someone who has been touched by adoption because they've been adopted, they're adoptive parents, adoptive grand-parents, they work in the adoption field, or they are everyday heroes--they're birth parents and birth grandparents, wish them a happy "National Adoption Day."

It's such an important day.  Such a good day.

Here's a few shots from our adoption finalization hearing back in December of 2009.  We're approaching the third anniversary of Georgia's adoption day and we can't wait to celebrate it!  Check out what we did last year if you'd like.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project

Today, I'm thrilled to be part of the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project.  I was paired up with Meg from God Will Fill This Nest about a month ago and I was amazed at some of the similarities in our adoption stories.  She shares such lovely, poignant, and sometimes painful thoughts about open adoption that any of us who've been involved in the process have felt.  

I think this project is so beneficial on many levels.  It's beneficial to me, as an adoptive mom, because hearing other people's stories helps me know that my feelings, my joy, my victories, my doubts, my misgivings, my crazy thoughts......aren't so isolated.  All of us in the 'adoption club' share them.  I also think it's beneficial to those who are thinking about adoption because it presents a wide variety of adoption experiences; none are the same and yet there is so much to learn from each of them.  And finally,  I think it's crucial that adoption plays more of a 'center stage' role in our culture.  It's creeping up there.....but it still lingers in the shadows much of the time; especially domestic adoption.  But the more voices, like those that are starting to crop up all over this space, there are telling the truth about adoption and what it can mean for all parties involved, the more that culture of adoption will grow.  

We exchanged a set of questions and answered them for each other.  Some are the same, some are different.  We were both curious about some different aspects of our adoption stories.  You can find my interview over at her site.  In the mean-time check out her answers to my questions below.  Her answer to number five is my personal favorite!  It's just so cool to see how God writes our stories before we're even born.  And that's true about our kids whether they're adopted or not.

1. I notice you refer to your sons birth mom with only an initial.  What do you think are the boundary lines in blogging about adoption?

I started referring to Eli’s birthmom as “H” during our match process and waiting for rights to be terminated. Our agency was very specific that anything identifying about the birth family needed to be kept off the internet. I also used “E” or Baby E” to refer to Eli. We were cautioned against posting pictures of him until after the TPR hearing as well. We chose to wait until finalization just to be well within the boundaries. 

At this point, I know I could use H’s name. I know she wouldn’t care, I know she has said she doesn’t care if we post pictures of her on Facebook or anywhere else. But we don’t usually. Its different for every family and every situation, but I am more concerned about protecting her privacy and maybe shielding her from some negativity is the small-ish community of Western Pennsylvania that we live in. I am not sure that everyone in her life is okay with the adoption, and I know very little about birthfather and his family. I would hate for someone to stumble across my blog and use any of the information to be hurtful towards her, because I care about her very much. So its really just a personal choice.

As for the overall boundary of blogging about adoption, I think on many things each family decides for themselves. We met one family who has decided that all details about birthmom- name, age, city, etc- are things that they don’t share with anyone. I often tell people that H was a senior in high school when Eli was conceived, I don’t think that is a fact that I personally need to keep confidential. At the same time, I respect that family for preserving their child’s adoption story in the way they see fitting. 

I also think that sharing the exact specifics of the most tender moments with the child can be damaging. For example, I have blogged in the past about certain days with H, or moments in the hospital, etc. For whatever reason, it does not sit right with me to quote her, to quote the special words she said to us or to Eli, or the raw emotions that were present. Those are things I want to share with Eli first, stories I want to tell him as he grows that I don’t want out on the web. I talk more in generalities about “She felt this, or she expressed....” which I think is appropriate.

And lastly, I think we need to be cautious with blogging about some of the really tough and personal facts that our kids don’t know yet. There are parts of Eli’s story, as with any adoption story, that I think will be hard for him to hear and process. Those facts are for him first, and not the blogging community. We have shared them with CLOSE family, and with a few couples in a local adoption group as we get feedback on how to raise Eli with his story. The general categories that I think need to be handled carefully (I am not saying all or even any of these apply to Eli’s story this just applies to adoption in general)- substance use, rape, incest, incarceration, abuse. I think blogging should be transparent but not wide open. Think of how your kid will feel reading your blog when he/she is an adult. That’s my guideline. 

2. You write a lot about the unexpected grief you felt for your sons birth mom; a common feeling that I believe exists in many domestic adoptions.  How has this very real emotion changed the way you view your adoption and adoption in general?

That grief hit me line an unexpected wall of bricks. I was NOT prepared. The number one thing I say to waiting adoptive mom is to prepare themselves for that. That emotion, I think, has formed the basis for my relationship with H. I believe that without it, without allowing myself to process and deal with HER emotions, I would be very detached from her. I would see her as a means to an end, a path to a baby, rather than a living breathing HURTING human being. The day I got the call that both biological parents’ rights had been terminated, I bawled like a baby. Yes, a sense of relief for me that things were moving forward, but also such grief and loss as I pictured H being served with those court papers. 

I recently had lunch with an adoption professional that shared that she has also cried when she heard of a parent’s rights being terminated, even if it is for the best of the child. I wish there were more adoption professionals like that- that see the full circle of grief and joy, loss and gain. Even though Eli is the light of my life, and I can’t imagine a single day without him, adoption starts as a loss, and starts with grief. Our greatest blessing was another family’s greatest heartache. I think sometimes some adoptive parents try to sweep that under the rug, and not deal with it. It might work for a while, but grieving and caring for the woman who gave your child life is healthy and normal. In a culture where there is 1 adoption for every 300ish abortions, and where the majority of children are not raised in a two-parent household, H made a TOUGH decision based on her love for Eli. How could I ignore that?

3.  Open adoptions are amazing, period.  But if you were to be 150% honest, what, if anything, still scares you a little bit about having an open adoption?

I guess that I will find out one day that H totally 100% regrets her decision to place. She is very vocal that she thinks she made the right decision and continues to tell us that she thinks it was “meant to be” that we all found each other...however, I know that’s not always the case.  

One day I stumbled across what I would call some “angry birthmother blogs.” Its totally fine and acceptable that people blog about whatever they feel like; that’s freedom of speech. When some of those bloggers attack my blog in the comments, I don’t think that is necessarily very mature. But whatever, I guess if I am putting my thoughts out there they are open to criticism. However, I do have a fear one day that I will stumble across a “angry” blog written by H, or find out that her decision to place Eli wrecked her life. 

I know there are women out there who feel like that, and they are entitled to it. I just think that Eli will have enough grief and loss to deal with about his adoption. To find out that H placed him so that BOTH of them could have a better life- a noble and selfless action-  then to find out it ruined her forever and she resented us would add heartache. 

I see some birth parent sites that call adoptive parents coercive, liars, baby snatchers, “desperate for a womb wet baby” is one particular one that stuck with me.  How does that affect the children they placed to find out that their biological moms spent the next twenty years spewing hate on the Internet about their parents? That’s insult to injury. Maybe, I guess, if you feel that way, talk to a therapist but protect your biological child by keeping it out of their realm until they are old enough to handle it. 

I know that in times past, many moms did not have a choice about adoption. And I know today that circumstances and hardships can also eliminate the feeling of having a “choice” to parent. But in our state, H had 30 days to revoke her consent to the adoption, and 60 days to petition a judge if we had coerced her. There were options for public housing, WIC, food stamps, ministries. There were options to parent. We were not allowed to even give her flowers at the hospital or pay for lunch the first time we met. No coercion there. So while she has never voiced that the adoption wrecked her life or that she completely regrets it, it's a fear of mine. 

I worry someday that Eli will feel that first his conception was a tragedy, then her placing him with us was a tragedy. Like his whole existence ruined her chance of happiness, whether he stayed or went. She has goals of college and career and family. I hope one day he can talk with her and she can affirm that she did what she felt was best, and while extremely hard, she doesn’t regret it. 

4. How do you work through that fear?  At the end of the day, what tells you, "It's really going to be okay."

I trust in a sovereign God who has His hand on everything. I do not believe that God make H pregnant for our purposes. I believe in free will, and her choice of adoption. I do believe though that when we were praying to partner with a birth family, and step in and help them in the midst of their need (while also obviously meeting our desire to have children), I believe God honored that. 

I think that while being as open and honest with H as I can, and asking her how she is doing, she won’t ever feel like she has been abandoned by us after we “got what we wanted.”  I believe that God saw each page in Eli’s life book when he knit him together in her womb. I believe that we are all children of God and He loves us all infinitely. I think that the openness is a salve on the wound felt by both Eli and H. 

There does seem to be a common theme on the anti-adoption sites...promises of open adoption that were broken once the baby came home. Not that there are not ever legitimate reasons to end openness, but sometimes it seems that adoptive parents close the adoption just because they don’t want to be bothered. Those seem to be the most hurt and angry birth parents, with good cause. Aside from our legally binding Post Adoption Contact Agreements in Pennsylvania, we would never just walk away. Even if choices were being made that we felt were harmful to Eli, that doesn’t mean WE need to completely cut off contact, ourselves, or that we should ever quit praying. 

5. What are the God moments you can specifically put your finger on in your adoption?  Those little things that you can say, "A ha--that little thing right there?  That was totally God?"

Eli’s adoption story contains the single most amazing “Aha!” God moment of my life...So right around December 2010/January 2011 we were deciding if we were going to adopt or continue on with trying to get pregnant. We had already been to a meeting at Bethany Christian Services in October, and had been working on filling out the application, but I felt split. 

I had wanted to adopt, always, but everyone was saying we should give IVF a chance, don’t “give up” etc. So some girls in my women’s Bible Study decided they were going to do a fast from the book of Daniel the first 3 weeks of January to try to get some clarity on some issues in their life. The fast eliminated many things, the main ones being yeast, sugar, and meat. Google “Daniel Fast” and there are a million sites. 

Anyways, I had never done anything like that and wasn’t sure if it would make me feel close to God or just annoyed. But I decided to try it, and to focus on our decision of how to move forward with our family. My husband agreed to do it with me.  I prayed a lot during that time, every time I felt a hunger pang or a craving I tried to focus on God and His love of me and desire to fulfill the desires of my heart. 

During those 3 weeks I received a referral from my doctor to a new infertility specialist at Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. I took no action at that point, and waited for the fast to be up. At the end of those 3 weeks I felt so strongly and so clearly that we should adopt. We moved forward and never looked back.  I never called Magee. We began to plow through the paperwork of our home study and had no sense of “giving up” as people implied- this was an exciting journey! 

Here is the Crazy Aha! God moment though---later, talking with Eli’s birthmom, he was conceived the last day of our fast. During the hours that God turned my heart fully towards adoption and took away any desire for a family by birth. He was knitting together Eli’s sweet soul. That gives me goosebumps just to type that. There were other moments in the journey that I felt God’s hand move, of course, but that was the most poignant. Eli was the first baby we heard about in our adoption process, and H was the only expectant mom to look at our profile. I feel like God ushered us into the adoption process quicker than most people expected because He had a specific plan in pairing up our two families to raise and love Eli together. 

6. You live in a state with legally enforceable open adoptions.  What are the pros and cons to that?

Overall, for Pennsylvania’s PACA’s (Post Adoption Contact Agreements) I see pro’s. I am a supporter of legally enforceable open adoptions in all states, despite some controversy over them. And here is my reasoning: they do more good than harm. The way that Pennsylvania has it set up, I don’t see a lot of merit to some of the concerns that are raised. When we started the adoption process, PA had covenant agreements only- nothing enforceable. The PACA’s came into effect in the middle of our home study. For us, it changed nothing. If we were signing a Christian covenant with our agency and a birth family, that carried MORE weight for us than a legal document, in our hearts. I am glad though that the PACA existed for Eli’s birthparents. It  gave them peace and security in their decision to place; yes, they needed to trust us, but they had an added safety net that they could always find out how Eli was doing.

There is no one monitoring our PACA- it's between our two families. The court doesn’t check in every year and make sure we met our quota. Only if one side contacted the courts would they get involved again. This is why I think they will work in PA. We have a minimum of three visits a year and twelve updates with H. This is the “ground floor” as they put it; we have seen her and updated her much more. If she decides she needs some space or a break for awhile, I am not going to take her to court over the PACA. I will give her that space, no pressure and no judgement. Likewise, if Eli gets to an age where visits are hard for him, because we have taken time to build a trusting relationship with her, I believe that we could ask for a break for him and she would not take us to court. She loves him and wants what’s best for him. 

Some people have asked about dangerous birthparent situations, or situations where visitation becomes extremely hard and detrimental. A PACA can be changed.  We could petition to stop visitation if we had grounds to. Eli himself can petition to change it once he is 14. I don’t believe a birthparent can petition for MORE visits, is how our lawyer explained it. The three is the maximum that can be enforced with H. We are welcome to see her weekly if we want, but the legal number won’t go above three.  We could argue for less if it was detrimental to the child. 

Again, though, I see bringing the court back in as a last-ditch desperate effort if things got really bad between a birth family and adoptive family. In most cases I don’t think families will need to bring a judge back in. We also have a PACA with Eli’s birthfather, whom we have never met. That is an example right there- he hasn’t acted on the details outlined in the PACA, and no one will force him to if he chooses not to. But it is there for him at some point in the future if he would like. 

Birth parents also have the right to waive a PACA if they don’t want one. Adoptive parents cannot waive the option if the birthparents want one, however. We had some legality issues with getting all of our PACA documents notarized and filed. I am glad that H trusted us and maybe didn’t see the PACA as so important, but I wanted it in there to protect her, especially if something happens to us at some point.

The main benefit I see to the PACA is that it gives birth parents a sense of security in placement. I think there will be more successful placements if the potential birth parents feel their rights are protected. There are a few blogs I stopped reading because I felt like the adoptive parents were using visits as “bait” for the birth parents, or some blogs that stopped contact altogether over reasons like “travel was too much.” There are times when there are legitimate reasons to close an adoption, but that's not a decision to be made lightly. 

I like that in our state, a judge would be involved in that decision. I also see a lot of birth moms on the Facebook adoption pages who have not received promised pictures and letters in the mail for YEARS. That’s just not right, in 99.9 percent of cases. Even if a birth parent is incarcerated, using drugs, doing really harmful things, that was still their child. I don’t think taking time out to send a few pictures will cause harm. It might be the thing that motivates them to try again. Obviously I can’t speak for every situation, but I just think often adoptions are closed without much thought given by the adoptive parents. 

Some who argue against PACA’s believe that they will put too much pressure on all parties involved, and can take away the natural trust-building and forming of a familial relationship with the birth family. I think how this plays out relies on the adoptive family. Yes, we have a piece of paper in our safe stating the basic grounds for our relationship with H. But I rarely think about it and never look at it. It’s a safety net that is there for her, and for Eli. It doesn’t change our day-to-day interactions with our son, or with his birth family. So while I believe that for the majority of open adoptions it's not necessary, I think it's great that the PACA exists for the situations that it needs to. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

9 Gifts Under $30!

Yep.  I'm addicted to making these little collages.  So.....they're probably not going away anytime soon.  Tonight's, "while I was 'watching' Monday night football with Chris" past-time is a collection of great gift ideas for under $30.  And as an added bonus--you can buy them all on-line.  I think this Christmas might actually mark the year that I was able to purchase 100% of my gifts on line....and that's a good thing....the best thing.

1.  These little owls are under $20 and $5 of every sale goes to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Plus....they're awesome. 2. Add these maasai bracelets to your arm candy collection--I mean somebody else's....these are gifts....I forgot for a minute. 3. I seriously love this.  Who wants to gift it to me?  I think this would be awesome with.....almost everything.  4. I'm a brave admitter of the fact that I'm not a pet person (I know....that makes me intrinsically flawed), but I was an owner of a cute little cat for a while (see how that ended here and here) and he would have loved this. 5. So, it's pretty much a given that a Peter Pan collar is a must this year. I love the vintage look of this one.....and the price. 6. Gorgeous.  Wear them with a white t-shirt and you're good to go.  Someone you know will love these--at least they should. And the rest of this gem of a web-site?  Perfection. 7. These little embroidered hoops are so cute.  A perfect little stocking stuffer for someone you love, a gift for a nursery, or to add to someone's collage.  I have the "cat's pajamas" one for Georgia's new room! 8. The things you can do with these trays is endless.  Bring someone cookies on it as their gift, a vase of flowers, breakfast in bed, dinner, and on and on....and then they'll have this great tray to use as a decorative item on their coffee table with cool accessories on it, on their dresser filled with perfume, or on a kitchen counter full of go-to kitchen essentials.  9.  Know someone who loves to take pictures?  Get them this little pillow to add some interest to their couch!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Last week at this time......

We were watching these fire-works in front of Cinderella's castle.  Tinker-Bell had just flown down from the top, all lit up like a Christmas tree, and there were little kids singing "When you wish upon a star" over the loudspeakers.  And I was getting teary.  Because, truly, I don't think there's anything like watching fireworks at Disney World.  And it's watching Disney fireworks that makes you think, "I get why people are obsessed with this place."

We booked our trip to Disney back at the beginning of the summer.  Before we'd decided to build a house and move.  All of which is coming to a culmination in about two weeks.......so of course......what better time to head to the Magic Kingdom than this?  Yeow.  Sometimes we're crazy.

My parents and sister joined us and even though this was an insane time to take this trip, it was amazing.  I have some advice for you--even though I've only been once with a child--take it or leave it.

First.  I'd read online in numerous places that early November was the best time to go to Disney as far as crowds and weather were concerned.  I followed that advice.  It couldn't have been more true.  I present evidence A.

This was taken about 9:30, the first day we arrived.  We never waited more than 15 minutes for anything.

We also didn't stay at a Disney resort, which is against all advice I've ever been given.  However, if you're heading down in early November as I mentioned above, I don't think it matters.  We stayed in Kissimmee and drove about ten minutes each morning to the Disney World parking lot.  Since it was an ideal time of the year to go, we were able to get right on the trams that take you to the mono-rails and pretty much walked right into the park.

I'm a sucker for these high school drama sets of "It's a Small World" and Georgia loved this ride.  It's perfect for a little kid--so much to see.

We actually found something green to eat at Disney.  You can only eat so many chicken tenders and waffle fries.  Again, if you go in early November don't feel the pressure to make reservations at restaurants in the park.  You'll be able to get into the walk-in restaurants no problem.  They're way cheaper than the ones you have to make reservations at and the frankly, the food at the reservation ones is not good.......really at all.  This heated up broccoli was way better and way cheaper than the $90 lunch we had at Tony's, where we had to have a reservation.....it wasn't worth it.

However, what is worth it.......eating at Cinderella's castle.  Oh my word.  This was worth it.  Even Chris couldn't say enough good about it.

All the princesses come to your table to meet you, Georgia was in awe, and they are just so nice.  And I know......it's their job......but they almost leave you feeling like you wish they were real because the world could use some people that nice.  If you're going--do it.

And make sure you scout out Cinderella's step-family.  They were perfectly sarcastic and pretty much exist for the adults I'm sure.  They're tricky to find, as are all the 'face' characters, so you have to keep your eye out for them hidden away in little corners and behind rides.

I'd also heard that you need to camp out before the fireworks a good two hours before hand to claim your spot in front of the castle.  And it's true, you do....even in early November.....so I can't imagine how crowded it'd be at their peak season like Thanksgiving and Christmas and spring break! But seriously, do it.....you'll regret it if you don't.  It's amazing.  And there's plenty to do in the meantime.....get some funnel cakes, people watch, watch the Electrical Parade, and just love being there.

We headed over to Islands of Adventure on our last day in Florida to see Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss Land.

Georgia was able to ride a little roller-coaster inside Harry Potter and loved it so much she begged to go again.  She really has no clue about Harry Potter but the whole set-up is just so cute that it's hard not to love it whether you've read the books or not.  I'm pretty sure she'll love them when she's old enough to read them.

She picked out an owl at the 'owlry' store and I did have to exert my mom force and insist that if any owl was going to be purchased it'd be Hedwig.

She's thrilled with him and seems happy about the idea that Hedwig delivers the mail and is the cuddliest snow owl you ever did meet.

We watched some Disney on the way home to round out the trip.

And decided that this trip was a success all around.  Have so much fun if you ever go yourselves!  It really is crazy magical.

A few other things to know:

1.  You can bring all of your own food into Magic Kingdom. This is great when it comes to snacking.
2.  Bring a stroller.  You can leave them everywhere and there is always a Disney staff member to watch them.
3.  At the end of the night when you're heading back to the parking lot trams, take the ferry, not the mono-rail.  It's way faster.
4.  Make sure to watch the parades....all of them. They get you in the Disney mood.
5.  Tomorrowland and Adventureland have the most to do. Plan to spend a lot of time there.
6.  There is a new Fantasyland opening soon.  I'm bummed we missed it.
7.  There are two great stores to buy souvenirs at right behind the castle that I liked the most.  Hit those up!
8.  Dress up costumes are $59 at a minimum.  Buy them at your grocery store instead.
9.  Make sure to grab the photo pass cards all the Disney photographers will hand you and get on line at night to see if they captured any good shots of you during the day that you missed.
10.  Seriously.  Go at the beginning of November.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A little Halloween....a little Disney.......

I'm back in Michigan from a family vacation---an exhausting one--but an incredible one.  More on that later.  

Last Wednesday, Halloween.  One of my least favorite holidays. Yep, I said it. I think costumes are cute, I love candy, I love trick or treating, and I love getting Georgia dressed up.  Once. But the month of October is getting ridiculous.  Starting October 1st it's like, "Today is wear your costume to the gas station day." October 7th, "It's wear your costume to the fire station day." October 14th it's time to........"wear your costume to aisle seven of the grocery store day." Then on the 20th it's, "wear your costume to ballet and bring candy to pass out." And by the time the 31st rolls around the costumes are fraying, your kid doesn't want to get wrangled into it one more time, and one top of that, it's raining in awesome Michigan and you get to tramp through puddles and wear gloves because it's so ridiculously cold.  

But Georgia, ever the happy Little Mermaid had a great time eating with friends before hand and getting all dressed up.  

My mom did a truly amazing job making her costume.  I'm sure this mermaid tail will be falling apart long before Georgia is done playing with it.  

And then...........the best thing.........
We headed down to Disney for four days with my family.  It was so fantastic.  I was waiting for meltdowns, fights with Chris, family tension, and "I've had it up to here's," like you hear people lament about their trips to Disney.  It was absolutely the furthest from that........pretty much a flawless trip.  I'll be back later this week to share my thoughts and opinions on Disney trips and what makes them good.  You know......since I've been once with a kid and I'm an expert now.  

In general, I've spent my whole life pretty unaware of Disney and why people are obsessed with it.  And while I'm not about to run out and get a Minnie Mouse tattoo.......meeting the princesses was so much fun with Georgia.  And the best.....if you go......find Cinderella's step family.  They are hilarious. I mean just look at the facial expression of the one below in lime green.  

There's my first tip.  More to come. 

And........don't forget to vote tomorrow!  It's important.  And if you can---take your kiddo's.  I think it's crucial for them to see it in action and to hear you talk about it.....in a respectful way......no matter who is elected.  I'm an election geek and I put tomorrow night's television viewing right up there with some of the best nights of TV out there.   

Don't waste your right.  Vote. 

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