The magic of Disney

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Growing up, my parents took us on a vacation to Florida along with my grandmother, aunt and uncle. It was a big trip and the whole family was excited. Florida was farthest that I had ever traveled away from home and the first time that I ever flew on a plane. I was in middle school but still excited about Florida, Disney, Sea World and everything in between.

It was school break in February and I couldn’t wait to escape the cold, wintery weather of upstate New York. Florida welcomed us with warm temperatures (most days), relaxation and theme parks.

Experiencing Disney for the first time was incredible. The sights, the sounds, the smells…Disney does an incredible job. The castmembers are always kind, always smiling; the parks are always clean and filled with tons of activities for all ages. I was at an age that was interesting to experience Disney for the first time, somewhere between embracing the magic & wonder and trying too hard to be the kid that was too old to be there. I remember struggling with this because it truly was such a fun, exciting time to experience it all.

From the moment that we arrived, my two little sisters fully embraced the magic that was Disney. They loved the characters, the kiddie rides and the photo opportunities. The first day we visited, I tried to resist the urge to enjoy Disney the way that they did – with eyes that filled with a sparkle and smiles as wide as could be. By day two, I decided that I wanted to be a kid like they were; I wanted to embrace Disney the way that they had.

To me, this meant buying a book, as my little sisters had, and having all of the characters sign it throughout our visit. This meant lots of lines, which my parents gladly waited in with us, and lots of photographs. We checked the schedules, hurried to the different characters and anxiously handed over our books and snapped pictures with our 35mm film camera (24 pictures at a time!). The trip was incredible and one that has so many memories that I hold dear to my heart.

Today, our family of three traveled to see Disney Live with family friends, including Jacob’s buddy since birth. These sweet boys sat in wonder at the magic of Disney on stage. The characters, the songs, the laughter, the lights – everything had the little men sitting in awe. They clapped along, danced to the music, wiggled about and just enjoyed everything that the show had to offer. It was amazing. Watching the genuine enjoyment that these boys had while watching these characters, which I grew up watching, was incredible. I couldn’t help but smile throughout the entire show, watching the faces the boys made. I quickly found myself dancing and singing right along with them as they enjoyed the show.

This is one of the reasons that I love Disney so much. The charm, the enchantment and the awe of it all…it makes me feel like a kid again.  That is the magic of Disney.

 

So. Much. Love.

When I was a little girl, I loved to write letters. In between visits, my cousins and I would write back and forth to each other. During summer breaks, my closest friends and I would write to each other every few days; often making our own envelopes out of another sheet of paper. Sometimes we would fill them with confetti, which would cause quite a mess when opened! We would even look up the address to hotels and send letters to each other during family vacations. I remember excitedly checking the mail each day in anticipation of the arrival of a new letter addressed to me. There is just something so wonderful about receiving mail.

Although Jacob doesn’t know it yet, I’ve started (try) to pass along this love of letter writing to him. Each holiday, and every vacation, we send him a letter or post card. The letters usually have $1 in it and we share with him a few thoughts, words of wisdom or an event that occurred. We address it to him and mail it out – many times from our own mailbox. They are sealed and stored in a memory box for him to open sometime. We even did this when I was pregnant – addressed to “Baby”.

Where we live now, there aren’t mailboxes (in the typical sense) at each house but instead a large, metal mail box at the end of each road for all of the houses on that street. Typically, it takes a few days for us to check it because it isn’t right in front of our house. Since beginning this journey though, it has become a nightly tradition for us – something that I look forward to doing together. Jacob is strapped into his Radio-Flyer tricycle and we take a family walk to the mailbox together. Most days, that metal box is filled with a letter or a card or a package. Someone reaching out to send their love, their thoughts, their prayers or a surprise gift to let us know that they are thinking of us and that we are not alone in this journey.

Twice this week my husband returned from picking up little man with a gift for me; the first a gift basket filled with goodies from coworkers to remind me how strong I am and today an embroidered tote from daycare filled with goodies to keep me comfortable during treatment. This week, which is the hardest one for us, we have also been given a meal each night so we don’t have to cook.

And the list doesn’t end there – the calls, the texts, the fundraiser, the visits to see us, the prayers. So. Much. Love.

Writing this out, I can’t help but cry. I like to think that words come easy for me when writing but I don’t think I can properly express how much all of your kindness means to us. This is, by far, the most challenging, life-altering journey that we have ever been on and you have all done so much to help us through this. Each and every one of you. We are so humbled and so incredibly blessed with all of your love. There are so many different ways that one can demonstrate kindness, love and support…and I feel like we have seen every single possible way.

A dear friend said to me, “Our prayer is that this helps you and your family, even if it’s just a little.” Oh, but a little it is not. It is so much bigger than that.

Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

You deserve it

When Joe & I were planning our wedding, we couldn’t decide on where we wanted to travel for our honeymoon. We tossed around ideas about traveling to California and staying at a cabin near the vineyards, heading over to the Bahamas and seeing Atlantis, flying across the world to Fiji and even the possibility of exploring Europe. Indecision had a hold on us and we struggled with deciding.

One idea that came up periodically was a cruise. It was not something that we had done before and seemed rather pricey so we went back and forth on the idea a few times. After chatting with a few friends and doing some research, we decided a cruise best suited our taste and decided to book it. We booked the cruise on a Thursday morning, just 3 days before our wedding day. We left the following week on a seven day vacation to the Western Caribbean. We had no previous cruising experience, no cell phone access, and way too many things packed.

Booking so close to our wedding day and having the excitement of the wedding to focus on didn’t allow for a lot of time to look forward to the cruise. The excitement built over a few days but the weeks, or months, of anticipation that typically comes from a vacation wasn’t there. We spent the few days prior to cruising researching what we needed to bring, the best excursions to take and shopping for last minute necessities. The vacation itself was amazing. The week flew by – each day seemed to move faster than the one prior and before we knew it, we were pulling back into port. Memories had been made and we still talk about that cruise as one of our favorite vacations ever, five years later.

We booked this weeks’ vacation in the beginning of January, allowing the opportunity for lots of anticipation and excitement to build. We call it our staycation, where we stay at a timeshare locally. Our first stay at this particular timeshare was in 2013, when we were a family of two. Joe & I have been anxiously awaiting this vacation, knowing the fun that little man would have here.

After I was diagnosed, we debated on whether or not to cancel or reschedule our staycation. The trip fell on a treatment week and we weren’t sure what that meant. We didn’t want to risk a change in my prognosis or issues with scheduling if we made any changes to the treatment plan. After speaking with my oncologist and better understanding the timing, we decided to push back my treatment by a week and keep our staycation. This change wouldn’t impact my prognosis and would allow us to have some much needed family time together.

The last week has been filled with silly laughter from little man, lots of snuggles, time outside together as the weather cools, hearing new babbles that little man has suddenly developed, pool fun, relaxation and even a date night with my dear husband. We have created priceless memories and we had the opportunity to forget about our fight for a brief moment in time.

Knowing the battle that looms ahead made this trip much more needed, much sweeter and even more valuable. It was a chance for us to regroup as a family, rebuilt our strength and enjoy time together to focus on us. It was perfect.

Whether a vacation that you take spontaneously, a staycation that you plan ahead or even a weekend getaway down the road…enjoy the time away. Take the time that you need to center yourself, regain perspective and enjoy your family. You deserve it.

A little food and a little wine…

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I love food. I love wine. I love food and wine at the same time. During the time following treatment, there isn’t much food that I find appealing and wine isn’t an option. I take a lot of medicine to try and curb the nausea but the food aversions are quite strong. I still have an appetite, which makes eating especially challenging because of how unappealing everything is. I have consistently been able to eat cheese, eggs, crackers and popsicles. Lots and lots of popsicles. Water is a challenge too but I work past it because I know how important water intake is to flush my system.

Today, we spent a few hours at Epcot with Grandma and Grandpa exploring the Food & Wine Festival. Despite the heat, which has been getting cooler and cooler each day, it was such a wonderful day. We visited many countries around the world and shared different appetizer sized plates and small beverages. Since it has been a few weeks since my last treatment, I am able to eat pretty regularly. And I did just that today. I savored many delicious treats.

I’ve been to the Food & Wine Festival before but this visit was a little more precious. Every moment with my family is precious. Seeing Grandma & Grandpa smile while little man dances to the music in Morocco makes my heart smile. Enjoying the fabulous food around the world, knowing there will be a time again in the next week where the thought of food is completely unappealing, makes me grateful for each and every bite while I am able to enjoy it.

While I sip a glass of red tonight, I am savoring the moments of today. The carefree joy of time with family, the ability to relax and the spirit of innocence while my little man met Mickey and Goofy…makes for a memorable and amazing day. Happy Friday, my friends.