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Disney World Moms Panel Reunion Day 2, ESPN Wide World of Sport

 So who knew?  I have been to Disney World like a bazillion times, and while I knew of the existence of Disney’s Wide World of Sports, I didn’t know what they did over there.  I mean, sure, I figured it had something to do with sports, and the, ummmm, wide world; but the only image that comes to mind for me when I hear Wide World of Sports is the show my dad used to watch on the weekends – you know the one with that poor ski jumper vividly portraying ‘the agony of defeat”?  There truly is a Wide World of Sports here at Disney, and it’s been right under my nose the whole time!

Admittedly, a visit to the Wide World of Sports did not make me a sports fan, but for those of you that are, there are things here not to be missed.  You can nearly always find a tournament of some sort going on here, including the World Series of Softball, which was taking place during our visit.

There is even an opportunity for you to enjoy Major League Baseball here, as the field is home to the Atlanta Braves during spring training.  What a great way to see my Division Champion Philadelphia Phillies without having to come up here to Philly!

You’ll find Pop Warner here, cheerleading competitions, and other athletic events.  They also have a nice cafeteria, concession stands, and Don, the tour guide who will remind you of your high school PE teacher.

Disney Moms Panel Reunion Expedition Everest 5K Part Two – Give Kids the World

A few months ago, the moms on the panel began talking about a way to give something back for the wonderful cosmic gift of the opportunity to be on the Moms Panel.  My friend Dolores had a granddaughter who nearly died from leukemia, but during her illness, her family was given the opportunity to stay at Give Kids the World in Kissimmee.
 The Village houses the families of seriously ill children who make a wish to visit the Orlando area and the attractions, such as Walt Disney World.  We decided we wanted to make GKTW our pet project, so we began raising money for the organization.

The money poured in from the moms all over the globe.  At first, I had hoped to raise maybe $500; but with the generosity of the Moms, $1000 became a realistic goal.  When it was said and done, we donated $1550 to the Village! 
We had the great fortune to meet Pam Landwirth, the president of the Village, who gave us some background and information on this absolutely remarkable place.  We could have listened to her talk for hours on the experiences of families here at Give Kids the World, and when she speaks, you hear in her voice not only her extensive Disney background, but her love for the Village and the families.  She seemed genuinely touched by the donation, and I hope we can do her proud by continuing to be ambassadors for the Village through our blogs, Twitter, and our every day lives.
The sites that you will see here will fill you with wonder and amazement.  While the potential for a visit to the Village to be filled with sadness and pity is great, you will find none of that, anywhere, no matter how hard you look.  Every i has been dotted and every t crossed in making sure the children and their families have an experience that Tinkerbell herself couldn’t have sprinkled more pixie dust over.  Ice cream for breakfast? No problem.  Horseback riding?  Whenever you’re ready.  Christmas every week?  Done.  It simply would not be possible for a family to leave here not feeling renewed, refreshed, and ready to resume the battle against devastating medical illnesses. 
I haven’t any room for sarcastic wit in this blog post.  Just know that each year, when you are figuring out your charity budget for the coming year, you must put Give Kids the World at the top of your list.  Here are just a few of the pictures from our visit.
So, while everything and everyone here is so upbeat and positive, I admit that the visit was not without it’s moments of sadness.  Aside from a few brief tears, I had managed to hold it together fairly well, until we got towards the second portion of our tour of the Village.
We went into one building, and everywhere you looked, there were stars in the sky.  Our tour guide talked to us about this fabulous thing, where each child that comes to the Village puts his or her name on a star, and in a process that could have easily been thought up by the Disney folks, a magical fairy comes and grabs the star, and plants it up in the sky for each child.  I was so impressed by the whole Star Fairy video, the shaking box, the whole photo thing, that I was taken completely off guard when I looked up at the stars surrounding me.
It’s not that I didn’t know they were there from the time I walked in, the reality of their existence finally hit me after watching the adorable Star Fairy ceremony.  I gazed up toward the stars, making out names like Matthew, Sarah, Justin, Max – there were 70,000 stars on the ceiling, and as I thought to myself that among the 70,000 children, many didn’t live to see another Christmas or birthday, the tears just began pouring down.  I nearly felt as though I might have to remove myself from the tour, as I was completely overcome by the devastation these families must have felt upon learning of their child’s life threatening illness. 
And in the moment that it seemed I might not be able to take another breath, standing their under the gleaming stars, we were introduced to a volunteer couple responsible not only for putting the stars in the sky, but for helping the children with the Build a Pillow machine.  The moment of overwhelming sadness is washed away by the bubbles pouring out of the machine.
In a matter of only a few seconds, this team of volunteers cleansed the room of the feelings of desperate sadness and replaced them with the lightness of bubbles.  I can’t adequately describe for you the happiness that happens here.
Another of the buildings we went into that touched me beyond words was the chapel.  The chapel was built by request of the many families who have visited the village, and the building is flooded with light, decorated with stained glass representations of the four seasons, and bursting with love and tranquil spirit.  There are journals here for families to log their feelings and emotions, or just to leave messages for those who may travel the same road behind them.  The chapel was a powerful place.

Our visit to the Village was just about over, but the memories of the tour will remain with me forever.  I am hoping to go back in the spring for a weekend to work some volunteer shifts, and I plan to do what I can to continue to raise funds for and awareness of this amazing place.  It seems that every smile a child shares during his or her time there lingers to create an umbrella of warmth and happiness for the families that come after.  As much as I love Disney World, I think Give Kids the World might truly be the happiest place on earth.

Please visit their website at www.gktw.org to see how you can help support the continuing efforts of this incredible place.

Disney World Moms Panel Expedition Everest 5K Reunion

Let me start by saying I agreed to attend the 5K only for the opportunity to see my Disney Moms Panel BFFs.  The whole race thing was just a side note to what I had hoped would be a weekend as magical as our training weekend last December!  But, moving on…

I got up at just before 5 AM, unable to sleep, and still having to finish a few things I had not finished by bedtime just a few short hours ago.  I took a leisurely 7 minute shower, during which I nearly blinded myself with shampoo in my eyes, then had the brilliant idea to shave my legs.  This, my dear friends, is not the best plan I have ever devised.  After the Red Cross Volunteers gave me my juice, cookies, and “Thank You For Donating Today” sticker, I set out about choosing an outfit to wear.  I had multiple options at the ready, and I opted for a black broomstick skirt with a floral print, and a blue sweater that matched the colors in the skirt.

Eilis, my budding fashionista, pointed out immediately that my skirt was barf ugly and my sweater didn’t match.  When I told her I purchased the items directly from the store display, where the elegant looking mannequin was WEARING this outfit, she offered to have them either tested for color blindness or executed by the last three designers to win Project Runway.  I switched the blue sweater for a black, sleeveless sweater.

My ride to the airport was traffic free, and I actually made it from my house to the airport during the local radio station’s commercial break (apparently that 40 minutes of commercial free music is followed by 40 minutes of commercials).  I parked at the airport economy lot, and within minutes, I was on the shuttle on my way to Terminal C.

At check-in, the lady said I had the most beautiful name she had ever seen, and I graciously thanked her.  Then she asked me how to pronounce it.  Ummmm, A-Nuh.  No, the other one.  Seriously?  Who tells you your last name – especially one like mine – is the most beautiful name they’ve ever heard?

Security was only a five minute ordeal, until they pulled me out of line and placed me in a little glass booth for additional security screening.  Note to self, when trying to look extra cute for your husband, do it in jeans.  A long, flowy skirt will get you a pat down from a large, burly, female TSA agent with a 5 o’clock shadow at 8 AM.  The good thing is after that pat down, I think we are now considered engaged by 32 of the 50 states.  I’m going to register at Williams Sonoma.

After that violation of my personal space, I was entiteld to a latte.  I made my way over to the Not Starbucks airport coffe kiosk only to find I might need to book a later flight if I am going to wait in line for the coffee.  I decided to risk it. 

Finally, feeling like I am now eligible to apply for social security and AARP after the long coffee shop line, I find a seat at my gate.  The good thing about a flight to Orlando is seeing all the happy, excited children waiting to go to Disney World.  The worst part is when the happy, excited children realize they’ve been up since before dawn to get on this stupid early flight, and they become cranky and tired.  Oh, and of course they all board first.  I love it when they say, “If you are flying with children under the age of 5, you may board…” and families with children who are obviously in their 8th or 9th year of being under the age of 5 line up ahead of you 🙁

My one excitement in the airport terminal was watching a woman who had about 40 pounds on me, and much of that was in the area above her waistline.  She was wearing an extremely low cut V neck t-shirt, and she repeatedly dozed off, falling over forward each time, coming within a fraction of fabric from a wardrobe malfunction that would have easily rivaled the one pulled off by Janet Jackson.  Oh the humanity!

I am soon arriving at the airport, after a comfortable first class ride (thank you James).  Brighid is there waiting for me, and we hang out just a short while, grabbing my luggage, until Disney Mom Kim arrives.  We head over to drop Kim off at her hotel before we take ourselves over to the Earl of Sandwich for some lunch.  I love this place.

We browse the shops after lunch, chatting and enjoying each other’s company, and then it’s time to head to Sanaa, where we are meeting Disney Moms Kay, Joanne, Cathy, and Cathy’s incredibly nice husband, Mark.  It is amazing to me how after only meeting in December, and getting together one other time in Chicago, we can sit here and talk like old friends.  I loved it when the Moms jumped in and offered opinions to my daughter Brighid on her current relationship.  It captures the whole feeling of it takes a village to raise a child.  I love these women.

When dinner was over, the moms were heading to Jellyrolls, but despite Kay’s best efforts at corruption, Brighid does not own a fake ID and can’t get into the club.  She and I decide to head to the airport, where she will drop me off, I’ll wait for Jim, then he and I will head to Poinciana for the night.  As it turns out, I called Jim and he was already on his way to Downtown Disney to meet me.  Brighid left to go home, and when Jim arrived, he and I headed over to Jellyrolls for a couple of drinks and a song or two before making the long drive to Poinciana. 

It was so nice to see all of the Moms, and our Moms Panel Mascot Gary!  Hugs all around is a great way to start the weekend off right!

It’s Time For You to Apply For the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel!

In only 13 hours, the search will begin for the next panelists to serve the Walt Disney World loving community as members of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel.  For your chance to win this once in a lifetime opportunity, you must submit your application beginning at 9 AM tomorrow, September 10th


I’ve been asked a few times in the past few weeks – well, okay, a few hundred times – how someone can become a member of this incredible panel of knowledgeable Disney fans, so I thought I throw a little something together for those of you seeking your shot at what I can’t help but call the happiest gig on earth.

First, be yourself – the one you want people to see.  When I applied the first time for the inaugural 2008 Moms Panel, I wrote my essay answers the way I usually write.  I was a smart ass.  Yep – sarcastic, but witty; clever, but maybe a bit crass.  I don’t usually act like that live and in person – I’m much more refined and dignified (I only fart on paper, not in real life).  So when the time came to apply for 2009, I opted to answer my essays with the answers that came from the heart.  I can’t say if it helped, but I’m sure reminiscing about family vacations helped my essays come through with a smile as opposed to a sneer.

Second, ummm, proof read.  Yeah, really.  I know you have Spell Check – now’s the time to use it.  But guess what?  You might spell a word completely correctly, but it’s the wrong word anyway.  Go over your essays.  I know you’ll feel pressure to hurry up and submit to be one of the thousands of people who get their foot in the door for the first round of consideration, but check your work, dammit!  Don’t send in something that makes you look like you didn’t really care.

Third, pull from your best memories.  You can’t fake the emotions you feel when you recall the first time your family stepped through the gates at the Magic Kingdom, and the smile that will come across your face when you think of the first time your baby hugged Mickey Mouse will come across in your writing.  Let the magical memories be your guide. 

Lastly – don’t give up.  I am hoping that the Walt Disney World Moms Panel is something that will be around for a long, long time.  If you didn’t get on the panel last year, and you don’t get on the panel this year, try again next year.  You never know when the right person will catch the vibe you have put in your answer and just feel that special connection. 

Oh – and one more thing – I don’t think I have any special talents or any remarkable ability that helped me become a member of the moms panel.  I’ve gone over in my head a million times why we were chosen.  I can’t tell you if it was a memory I recalled; a suggestion I made; or the fact that someone liked the names of my children that got me a spot on the panel.  Remember this above all things – faith, trust, and pixie dust.  Have faith that you’ve done an excellent job.  Trust that whatever the outcome, you’ve done your best and you are probably just as worth as a spot on this panel as the rest of us.  And know that to all of you applying tomorrow morning, I am sending you a big sprinkling of pixie dust to wish you luck and keep you happy, no matter what.  So smile, damn it, that stuff’s expensive!

Tinker Bell's Shadow