We just got home from the most expensive -- I mean magical -- place on earth: DISNEY WORLD.
C'mon, you know it's true.
It's wonderful. It's beautiful. It's exciting, and, yes, it's MAGICAL. But the magic? Well, it comes at a hefty premium, and I'm not just talking dollars and cents here, peeps.
As a Florida native, I've spent some serious hours at Disney World. Visiting the Mickster's home as an adult, though, is quite a different experience than it was as a 10-year-old wide-eyed kid.
Yes, there's joy in seeing it through my children's eyes. Of course every girl, no matter how old, fancies herself a princess somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind. Absolutely, it's refreshing to live in fantasyland for a while, a place where all is right with the world and things are happy and at peace.
There's also the heat, the weird people, the long lines, the miles of walking, and the exhorbitant prices (to name a few).
Here are a few things I learned while visiting Disney World:
1. LONG LINES SUCK
I know this should go without saying, because Americans are generally an impatient and needy bunch of humans, but let me reiterate it just to be on the safe side. Lines. Suck. Lines with three impatient kids? Well, they suck even more.
Lines are special places, and I feel that there will be a section of hell reserved just for long lines. People will have to stand in them for eternity, and they'll never make it to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Side note: shouldn't it be called the Seven DWARVES' Mine Train? Or, better yet, the Seven LITTLE PEOPLE'S Mine Train? Disney forgot their grammar/PC police for that ride-naming session.
The strangers in front of our party stared back in disdain as my youngest stepped for the twentieth time on the grandpa's heel, and the lady behind us in the full on Minnie Mouse attire apparently had no concept of personal space as she stood breathing on my neck for a solid hour.
Breathing. On. My. Neck.
Yes, I know there are Fast Passes. We had some of those. But for the rest of the attractions, well, it was wait in the cattle-herding lines with the rest of the weirdos. My family, of course, is perfectly normal...ish?
2. THE ECONOMY IS JUST FINE
Either that, or people are in debt up to their eyeballs for a chance to visit the mouse, the myth, the legend, MICKEY.
I've never seen more people in my life. I've never seen more people SHOPPING in my life. For real, Disney makes Black Friday look like a slow day.
The cost of a ticket into a Disney Park? Approximately one limb per person. The cost of a park-hopper option? Well, I'd say just be prepared to give 'em your firstborn.
The number of grown women who spent their hard-earned money on mouse ears (sorry for the friends I'm SURELY offending right now) is mind blowing. Ears with a veil (for the bride). Ears with a tiara (for the overgrown princess). Ears, ears, ears. Ears EVERYWHERE. On grown ups. Oy vey.
3. THE DIET'S OUT THE WINDOW
Not that I'm on a diet (let's get real, people). But, if I were, it would've been out the window this week. The relative healthiness of the food at Disney is just that -- RELATIVE. For instance, on the first day in the parks, I thought the burger was an awful dietary choice. By the last day, I added extra tomato and lettuce and legitimately felt like I was eating health food. This is probably because the day before I'd eaten chili-cheese fries, a Coke, a frozen lemonade, and a churro.
Even the healthy food is awful. The salads are loaded up with ranch dressing. A single banana costs $3, which I obviously will not pay sheerly out of principle. The pre-made cheese/cracker boxes aren't...churros...which means...NO.
Their tagline should be, "Come visit Disney World, the only place on earth where you can walk countless miles each day and STILL gain weight!"
In summary, I need a detox.
4. "DISNEY PEOPLE" WEIRD ME OUT
I have plenty of friends that love Disney, ok? We love Disney. It's a great family vacation...errr...trip. That said, if you're a grown adult with a Mickey tramp stamp, there's a problem. Mmmmk?
If you have Tinkerbell tattooed on your breast, I think we can agree that it's a little much.
If you are over the age of 12, are wearing Disney paraphernalia from head to toe (and proudly), and you have your face fully painted like a monarch butterfly by a Disney face-painting expert, chances are that you're a few fries short.
Bottom line? I never knew so much Disney attire existed. Truly, I didn't know.
5. NEVER VISIT DISNEY AT PEAK SEASON
I thought we were in the clear, crowd-wise. Apparently, no. Here's a tip: if you hate crowds, long lines, smelly people, or people in general, avoid Disney except in the dead of winter.
6. BODY ODOR IS A REAL THING
We've all smelled our own pits before, amiright? Maybe after a workout or an evening at the local Mexican joint. We've smelled ourselves, and it's not attractive, so we go bathe or douse ourselves in perfume and deodorant, in order to smell better.
Disney World attracts tens of thousands of UNself-aware people who don't own deodorant (at least functional deodorant) who then congregate in close proximity to one another, resulting in smells that are out of this world.
The heat only adds to the raw aromas, and the lines offer ample opportunities to stand near the guy with the pit-stained tee shirt who keeps raising his arms up high in the air to snap *another* selfie, fumigating everyone in the vicinity.
Gag. My. Dog.
7. I DON'T LIKE TO HEAR MY NAME CALLED MORE THAN 9764 TIMES IN A SINGLE DAY
My kids were troopers, man. Let me tell you, they hustled. They were hungry? We fed them and they rallied. They were tired, so we fed them and they rallied. They were hangry? We fed them and they *sort of* rallied.
No matter how much they rallied, though, there was a threshold that, once crossed, resulted in the most epic of all meltdowns.
You know what I mean.
It became painfully apparent to me the first night we were visiting the parks. We were trying to leave Epcot after the fireworks extravaganza, and the stroller only had room for two. I asked my middle kid, the six-year-old, to walk.
You'd have thought I amputated his leg.
He limped. He screamed. He fell on the ground. He wept. He was sure he couldn't make it back to the van, that his legs were *too* tired. People stared at me like I was a reckless mother.
I just giggled.
Needless to say, we left the parks earlier the next few nights.
9. JOHNNY DEPP IS HOT, EVEN AS A ROBOT
The best part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is the many statues of Captain Jack Sparrow (i.e., Johnny Depp). He almost looks real.
If you've been there, you know what I mean. My husband says Captain Jack is the only reason I want to ride repeatedly.
Maybe I just happen to like boats.
10. I LOVE MY KIDS
All joking aside, I love my kiddos, and I'd do Disney a million times over so they could experience a bit of childhood magic in the midst of an often magicless and hurtful world. We can't escape reality, nor should we want to indefinitely, but the occasional magical reprieve is always a blessing.
We ENJOYED each other. What a novel idea!
Our family had FUN. We laughed. We argued. We held hands and stared in wonder at the parades and fireworks. We encouraged one another to try new and sometimes scary things, and we cheered one another on for the bravery.
I saw my kids' eyes light up brighter than the spectacular fireworks, not because of Mickey or Minnie, but because of the undivided attention and affection they received from their often busy and distracted parents.
My daughter is fearless. At eight, she'll try anything, and if it scares her, she'll make herself do it again. She inspires me.
My six-year-old tender-hearted son is cautious and sometimes timid, and he's hilarious. I need to take the time to experience him more, because he makes me laugh. Hard.
My four-year-old son is fierce and opinionated and determined. He never lacks for his own thoughts, and he voices them. I pray I listen and hear his heart.
You see, to some a trip to Disney World seems extravagant, even over the top. A waste of money and of time.
To me, Disney is a vehicle that takes me directly to my kids' hearts.
The mouse house offers us a connection that's worth more than gold, one that continues long after we've come back home and rejoined the routine.
It allows me to see my kids in a new light, and reminds me to enjoy them, because the old saying becomes more true to me every single day: THE DAYS ARE LONG, BUT THE YEARS ARE OH SO SHORT!
So yes, I'll sacrifice the time and money and sanity and rest for a trip to Disney World.
My kids are worth it, even if I have to smell other people's BO and wait in ridiculously long lines.
Also, in case you're wondering, you can now buy adult beverages at Gaston's tavern in the Magic Kingdom (I checked...for a friend).