Thursday, December 31, 2009

Moms Panel Training Day 5: Farewell

Once it was time to say "goodbye", time flew by SO quickly and we were all scurrying around trying to be sure we gave everyone a hug. I had hoped to get a photo of myself with each of my fellow Panelists, but some of them scooted out before I got the chance. They had bags to pack and planes to catch.

Here's Maria and I. I will remember our time together at IllumiNations forever. In addition, I'll cherish the memories of Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Rollercoaster, Thunder and Space Mountains with her. The evening when we explored the gingerbread house was very special too.

Marc is such a wonderful guy. He was always ready with camera in hand, capturing countless memories of the trip for our group. Our Hollywood Studios time together was great, and I can think of so many times during the weekend that he made me smile. Like so many of us, Marc has a child-like love for Disney...the kind that is pure and real and... indescribable. It's one of the many things that makes him so lovable.

Chris, my fellow Patriots fan and Massachusetts Panelist is incredible as well. His calm demeanor, and genuine Disney passion were "wicked cool". For such a big guy, it was awesome how he let loose and became a kid again every time we entered the Magic Kingdom...not to mention how he willingly became Davey Crockett's Angel. His knowledge of Disney facts was impressive, and his toast at California Grill was heartfelt. I enjoyed learning the computer system together. Chris is one of those guys that you immediately feel like you've known your whole life...and I consider myself blessed to know him now.

Terry, yet another amazing Disney Dad. I'll cherish the memories of our trip to Downtown Disney, the way he got into playing the washboard at Hoop Dee Doo, and the many times his contagious smile lit up a room. Riding Big Thunder Mountain with him for his first time was awesome. He was always laughing and his ability to connect with people was wonderful. If I had to describe Terry in one word, it would be genuine.

Amanda A is a real sweetheart. She and I sat together on several of the bus rides, and we chatted about our families. Her kids are the same age as 2 of mine, and I'm looking forward to getting them together in the future. She is a gem.

Dannee, yet another wonderful person (the Panel is FILLED with them). She is SO fun, and full of energy and excitement. I'll never forget how giddy she got when Tiana walked in the room. Her smile sparkles and she is always positive.

Allison, my partner when we visited Santa and my friend through the Candlelight Processional. She and I shared some tears over the weekend, and I don't know that I've met many other people in life as true as Allison. She radiates with a genuine, heartfelt care and concern for others. Her Disney passion is immeasurable...

Ah, 3 of our Disney Dads. :) I've touched on Terry and Marc already. Jonas, is yet another one who holds a special place in my heart. I'll think of him every time I walk past Morocco from now on. He was SO much fun that night, so accepting and real. I enjoyed sharing stories with him as we talked about our families back home. He was a blast at Hoop Dee Doo, and riding Soarin' with him was a treat. I can still hear his laughter. Like so many on the Panel, Jonas is authentic, a true friend.

Beautiful Andi is a true Southern Belle. She's delightfully warm and inviting. She is a lot of fun and is down-to-earth. She made me smile countless times, and she is one of those people who you just want to be around. She possesses a magnetic personality.

Portia has a wonderful, out-going personality. She was adorable with Tiana...light-hearted and fun. I truly enjoyed dinner with her at the California Grill.

Joel is another Disney Dad who I am blessed to call my friend. His outfits were always festive. I will always remember our Hollywood Studios afternoon together--from Marc sleeping on the boat, to the Tower of the way Joel and I plastered grins on our faces on Rock 'n' Rollercoaster. He was always Tweeting and smiling. His Disney passion left him beaming, he was always a blast to be with.

Terry asked me to take his photo with Laura for him. What they didn't know was the Chris had mouthed, "photo op" to me. Right when they were posing for a picture, he snuck in and made this face...

How he was so stealth about it, I'll never know. They never were aware of it until I posted the pictures a week or so later. ;) It was hysterical.

Saying "goodbye for now" to the wonderful lady who helped make my dream come true. Laura is stunning and magnetic. A true Disney Princess, she sparkles with passion. It is so apparent that she is living her dream, and genuinely loves her job. I look forward with such anticipation to the year ahead...and the opportunity to share a part of it with her.

Suzannah is a gentle soul. I had "met" her on the DIS boards ahead of time, and couldn't wait to meet her in person. Her beautiful eyes sparkle and her love for Disney shines through them. I'll cherish the memories of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party when we rode Thunder and Space Mountains together.

Oh Amy...she has one of those smiles that are contagious. She lights up a room and is as sweet as sugar. From the moment I met her in the airport, I knew I loved her. I can still see her smiling at me from across the table at Kouzzina. Her personality bubbles over with Southern Hospitality and she is a treasure.

Amanda W is ton of fun. She cracked me up at Hoop Dee Doo..."pork and beans". Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend a lot of time with her until on the Magical Express on the way back to the airport. It was there that I discovered that we shared our Faith in common. She is a doll, full of energy and passion.

Where do I begin, when I want to describe "my buddy" Kathie? Genuine, pure, funny, passionate, supportive, loyal, fellow-Disney-fanatic, compassionate, thoughtful, positive, companion, classic, trustworthy and friend...those words come to mind. From the congratulatory phone call way back when we first made the Panel (I think we told each other even before we told our husbands) the countless instant message conversations we've already had...I feel like we've been friends forever.

I'm bummed that I didn't get a photo of myself with Bernie. He is SO cool. Who would have ever thought that a brilliant NASA Rocket Scientist could be so down to earth and fun? Bernie's one of those guys that surprises wonderful ways. He's very passionate about Disney and his family. He lights up like a little kid when he talks about Disney, and yet knowing he's literally a Rocket Scientist...well that makes it all the better. I had an awesome time sitting with him at the California Grill. It was my first real chance to get to know him, and it was instantly clear to me why he was chosen for the panel. Dedicated, passionate, real...these word define Bernie to me.

Dorothy, Amanda P, Diane G and Maribel also left before I could get a photo with them. I was able to enjoy breakfast with those ladies that last morning and I look forward to getting to know all 4 of them much more over the upcoming year.

After breakfast I had less than an hour to finish packing my things before the Magical Express was coming. So, I got everything out of my room, then headed down to the Gift Shops for a while. I took a photo of the amazing gingerbread tree to show my kids, and bought them some treats too. Isn't this cool?

I went outside to wait for the Magical Express and discovered that Bernie, Marc, Amanda W, Maribel (and her family) were going to be on it with me. While waiting, I took the chance to snap a few photos of the Contemporary's Porte Cochere. We had met-up at there many times throughout the weekend while boarding the transportation for our group.

There, coming into the photo, is the bus that would take me away from my Magical weekend and my special Moms Panel family...and bring me a few steps closer to home where I'd see my wonderful husband and precious children. Bittersweet...there was no other word to describe it.

I sat with Amanda and Marc and Bernie sat right behind us. We shared stories of past trips, and chatted about how excited we were to get started on this journey of answering Guests questions. Marc and I were flying the same Airline, so we got off at the same stop. On our way to security, we stopped in front of the EarPort for a quick photo with Goofy. We were both looking pretty exhausted in the picture, but I like it because it's the very last one that I took on the trip.

After we got through security, we gave each other a hug and went our separate ways. The plane flight home was quick and almost uneventful. If it wasn't for the gentleman who decided he wanted to exit the plane would have been perfect (really, he tried to...)

I arrived early into Boston and found my bag before I found my family. Steve called me to tell me he was at one end of baggage claim, while I was at the other. We started walking towards the middle, and that is where I saw a beautiful sight: my children RUNNING towards me. :) Shawn saw me first and he bolted into my was incredible. I was teary as Malia and Kasi were hot on his heels and they dove into my arms too. It made me feel very loved and missed. Jared was too cool to run towards Mom, but thankfully he'll never be too cool to give me a hug (I won't allow that to happen ;) ). Steve gave me a "Welcome Home" hug, and he told me that Sierra wasn't able to come with them and that I'd see her at home. We stopped at Chili's for dinner, which was great because I hadn't eaten since breakfast and I was starving.

I had gotten each of the kids a little treasure on the trip. It wasn't much, just something so they knew I had been thinking of them. I gave Kasi a necklace with a Minnie Mouse locket (Mickey was inside), Malia a necklace that said, "Gymnast"with a Mickey head on there, Shawn and Jared each a pin for their collection and Sierra a box of Mickey chocolates. They were all so excited to hear about my trip, and I was a bundle of emotions. I was happy to be home with my precious family, yet already was missing my amazing new friends.

This journey was just beginning. In less than a month, we would be going "Live" online. We'd be pouring our hearts into answers in hopes of helping to make trips a little bit more magical for Disney's Guests.

I'd like to Thank You for reading this Trip Report. Words really can't describe what it's like to have a dream come true. However, I hope that in some small way this has captured a little bit of it for you. :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Moms Panel Training Day 5: Farewell Breakfast at The Wave

Recapping: Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I could hardly believe that the day had come to go home. :( It had been such an incredibly magical few days...and I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet. :( It was bittersweet because this was the first time that I had ever been away from Steve and the kids for so long, and I was ready for some hugs from my family.

After finishing up most of my packing, I checked my suitcase with Magical Express before heading downstairs to our "Farewell Breakfast". We were meeting inside "The Wave" in the Contemporary.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast filled with laughter as we recapped the weekend together.

Diane L and Kay said "goodbye" to us and headed out the door. We had such a wonderful weekend with them and we really benefited from their experience and advice. I can't wait to get to know them more as the year progresses.

At one point, Leanne got our attention and she told us that she had a special surprise for us!!!! What an incredible, special surprise it was...

We were blessed with a special visit from Meg Crofton, the President of Walt Disney World Resort!!

We all felt honored that she took time out of her very busy day to come and see us! She stopped by to say "Thank You" to the Moms Panel for helping to bring Disney magic to Guests by answering their vacation planning questions. She was so personable and sweet.

Here she is chatting with Dorothy and Joanne from Canada.

When it was my turn to say, "Hello", she asked me how I liked the Candlelight Processional and told me how it was one of Walt Disney's favorite events. I told her how very moved I was by it, and that I can't wait to share it with my family sometime.

Meg Crofton is absolutely the sweetest, most down-to-earth lady and I can't describe how honored I was to meet her.
Kathie and Meg Crofton.

Karen and Meg.
Dannee, Leanne and I

Portia meets Meg Crofton.

We spent a little more time enjoying our breakfast together.

Then, unfortunately, we had to start saying our goodbyes. Several people had flights that would be leaving very soon.

Two sweethearts, Allison and Maria :)

...more to come...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Moms Panel Training Day 4: IllumiNations Dessert Reception

Recapping: Monday, December 7, 2009

At 9:00pm, after the incredible Candlelight Processional, we were off to the United Kingdom's Terrace. There we were being treated to a "Dessert Reception with Viewing of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth". It was a bit crowded leaving the American Adventure, but fortunately we all stayed together. We just had to follow the Cast Member with the blinking "lightsaber" (see him in the center of the photo?) :)

We arrived to find a variety of delicious dessert options.

Jonas, with champagne in hand, pauses with Maria for a photo :)

IllumiNations is one of my very favorite shows: "The sky erupts with light and fire as this nighttime spectacular celebrates our world, with dazzling special effects, colorful lasers, brilliant fireworks, and fiery torches all choreographed to an incredible musical score."

As it started, I headed over to the edge of the Terrace area and leaned against the railing, gazing out towards the World Showcase Lagoon. As always, it was breathtaking from the moment it began...

I began thinking about how it was the last night of our Training Trip, and how we were going to have to say goodbye in the morning...
I knew that while we'd definitely see each other at different times in the future, the likelihood of us ALL being together again was very slim. :(
It's a big world, and we all come from different backgrounds and families. Yet our deep love for Disney World and the fact that we all love to share it with our own families, and have strong desires to help other families experience the same Magic brought us together. In 4 short days, we had bonded, shared memories and developed friendships that will last a lifetime. I looked around at my new family and felt incredibly blessed. Then, I started thinking about my own family back home, and how they too, love IllumiNations. While listening to the beautiful music and watching the stunning show, I was overcome with emotion. It was almost indescribable, a very powerful moment.

I leaned against the railing, and tears were streaming down my cheeks. Suddenly, I felt an arm wrap around my shoulder and envelope me in a hug.
It was sweet Maria. She and I stood there in silence, with tears streaming down our cheeks, our arms wrapped around each other, completely lost in the moment...

After the show, we talked about how much we were going to miss each other, and ALL of our friends. This was twice during the trip that the fireworks had moved me to tears. Once was during Wishes when I equated each one with a Wish-Upon-a-Star about making it to the Moms Panel. This time was different. I explained to Maria how instead, each firework reminded me of a magical memory from our weekend. There were SO many...each one special, each one priceless. Those memories will truly last a lifetime.

After IllumiNations, we went back to the Contemporary. The Magic Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours, but I was drained. I decided to spend some time packing my suitcase. I knew I wouldn't have the time in the morning to do it, as those last few hours promised to fly by.