The One Hundred-and-Nineteenth Chart

February 21, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these special Spurts from our trip to Disney last week, readers!

Aside from the abundance of pixie dust, our trip to Disney included several firsts.

In the fall after listening to the girls tell us for the thousandth time that they wanted to go back to Disney World, my husband jumped online and began looking for deals.  We found an awesome one on Costco’s travel website—airfare, hotel, park tickets for four days, and a rental car for a little more than $3000.  On the spur of the moment we decided to turn the trip into a surprise for the kids.

Despite how hard it was, we stayed mum from November until the day we left.  That morning we began throwing ideas out at the kids—what if we went someplace warm for vacation?  What if we just went to the airport to see if they had any tickets for warm locations?  What about luggage?

The girls eyed us curiously but played along.  I love that they’re at this age where they’re smart enough to figure some things out and are still young enough to believe in whimsy.  We managed to get them all the way to Orlando and sitting in a restaurant for dinner before we broke down and told them.  When Seven remembered that we’d visited that restaurant before (a favorite Chinese haunt in Orlando on International Drive) and Five remembered what table we sat at and the musicians who had performed on that previous occasion, we figured we’d strung them along long enough.

It had been hard but so much fun to surprise them with this trip, and I think we might do it again.  Of course, the next time they’ll probably guess a lot faster that we’re going on a trip and may even guess where we’re going before we get there.  That’s why I’m so excited that we got to watch them experience this first.

***

In preparation for the trip I collected a few things and bought others.  At some point I got the idea to buy each of the girls a few Disney-themed long-sleeved shirts for the trip.  I found Sophia the First, Minnie, a sparkly shirt with “Hakuna Matata” written across the front with Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa dancing in silhouette, and a pair of shirts with Sully and Mike Wazowski that say, “BMF—Best Monsters Forever.”

A year ago the girls’ aunt had sent them Disney watches that I’d put aside for them, so I packed those for the trip.  Due to their incredible excitement about the movie Frozen, in the post-Christmas sale I’d found a pair of necklaces with Elsa and Anna on the pendants (the sisters in the movie.)  The pendants formed a heart with one sister on each half.

We’d also decided, after much careful consideration and discussion, that we’d allow the girls to have $25 each to spend any way they’d like.  Given how expensive the parks and souvenirs can be, we figured the $25 to be fairly appropriate for the trip.  So I bought Disney gift cards for them, knowing they’d be thrilled to have their own “credit cards” to use.

I didn’t tell the kids about the jewelry and the clothes right away, though.  I saved the shirts, pulling them out one by one each morning so that by our third day there the kids began anticipating what they’d wear to the parks and enjoying their special outfits.  We saw many little girls dressed as princesses, but not once did Seven and Five ask why they couldn’t dress as princesses.  They felt comfortable in their outfits, which functional at the same time.  And they can continue to enjoy them here at home too.

On our first full morning in Orlando, when I presented Five with her watch, she said, “But I can’t tell time.”

“It’s okay,” I said.  “You can just enjoy wearing the watch.”

Her face lit up, and she participated with great interest in a discussion about whether to wear it on her left hand or right.  She and her sister quickly agreed that Five would ask Seven to declare the time, and Seven would read it out from her watch.  And the girls did just that, which was so much fun to see.

***

One advantage to being fans of Disney comes in the familiarity we have with many rides.  On our fourth day in Orlando we went to Epcot, visiting many new rides and going back to ones we’d gone on before.  One such ride was “The Seas with Nemo and Friends” in the area of Epcot known as “The Land.”  It’s a ride built around a major aquarium featuring sharks, manta rays, and hundreds of fish.

It’s also a fairly benign ride.  Two people share a clamshell on the slow-moving track.  We went on it during our last visit to Disney, and as we made it through the short line I suggested on a whim that the kids ride together and that their father and I follow in the next clamshell.

Seven and Five said, “Okay,” almost in unison when I asked if they wanted to ride together.  I held my breath a little as they trotted on the conveyor belt to hop into their clamshell, but I also felt relieved.  By showing them they could enjoy this safe moment together, I hope it encourages them to do more things together in the future.  They may not even remember going on this ride together as a first for them, but I hope to use more moments like this as building blocks for more moments together for them.

***

Undoubtedly the highlight of our trip was the kids’ first encounter with roller coasters.

It started with the Primeval Whirl in the Animal Kingdom, the first park we visited in this trip.  Five didn’t hit the height requirement for the ride, but Seven did so she and her dad took their Fast Passes and got into line.  I have to admit, I felt a little apprehensive about Seven going on the ride.  Of my two children I would say Five’s nature has more scope for adventure, so I found it ironic that the less adventurous child got to go on the ride.

When she and her dad got off, though, her face shone with excitement.  My husband later confided that she looked a shade past scared in the beginning, but after the first drop or two she completely got into the whole thing.  Five looked a little disappointed but handled her exclusion from the ride fairly gracefully.

The next day when we went to the Magic Kingdom, we got in line for Goofy’s Barnstormer.  I eyed the roller coaster as it traveled around the track and asked my husband quietly a few times if this was really a good idea.  He brushed off my concerns, reassuring me that the kids would love it.

I held my breath all the way through the ride, but I shouldn’t have bothered.  Before the roller coaster came to a full stop in the return area, Seven was saying, “That was short.”  Five’s eyes gleamed and she literally skipped off the ride.

Because they had enjoyed the Barnstormer so much, we set our sights on something a little more ambitious: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Once again I held my breath when we got on; once again the kids couldn’t get enough.  After the first time of riding it, the kids wanted to go on it again.  So we waited until the evening when people began gathering for the fireworks, we got in line for Big Thunder again.

That second run became special because the fireworks had begun, lighting up the sky and our last evening there in the Disney parks.  At the risk of sounding a little too poetic, I felt like the fireworks punctuated the wonderful trip we’d shared.  We had a wonderful family vacation, and the speed and thrills of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad combined with the sparkling night gave us a lifetime memory.

When Seven got off the ride, she said, “I’ve found my true love.  It’s roller coasters!”

Words like that make firsts like these even better.

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