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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!

2009 Moms Panel Training – The First Evening Events

I head back to my room to check it out and get ready for the evening.  I won’t lie to you – I am loving everyone I’ve met so far, but it takes a little while for me to come out of my shell.  I’m worried they won’t like me!

My room is lovely!  It has recently been renovated, and is so comfortable.  There are two large, comfy beds with lots of pillows, and without the girls here, I feel an obligation to take all of my clothes off, throw them in a heap on the floor, and bounce on at least one of the beds until the mattress is nearly on the floor.  But it’s too pretty and neat and clean, and the mom in me kicks back in, and the mattresses rest comfortably on their bed frames.

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort Bedroom
DisneyDesk at Coronado
I decide not to change for the evening.  We are meeting for a cocktail party at Rix lounge here at the Coronado, and I’m dressed okay for the event – not too dressed, but looking okay.
I have a few minutes, so after unpacking all of my stuff, I check out the itinerary and the stuff in my big envelope. 

Welcome Information
Welcome Information

I now see how exciting this weekend will be, with all of the activities they have planned!  And I have a name tag!!  How cool is that?

Before long, I am standing with my 15 new best friends at Rix.  Kay, who will become one of my most favorite people on the planet, arrives bearing gifts.  This is one sweetheart of a woman!  She presents us all with these adorable snowman Mouse ears, and they have Mom embroidered on the back!!
Kay's Gift

We spend some time chatting, drinking, eating and getting to know each other, and then a few of the girls decide to model their beautiful hat!  They look adorable, don’t you think??
Whitney, Kathy, Kay, Jodi, Diane, Joanne, and Jen
Whitney, Kathy, Kay, Jodi, Diane, Joanne, and Jen
So, did I mention that on this itinerary for the evening, it says that we are going to be visiting the suite at Cinderella Castle??  Holy cow, are you serious?  I have seen photos of the suite a few times – and believe me when I tell you that it is every Disney fanatics’ dream to see it up close and personal. 
They take us by private coach to the backstage area of the Magic Kingdom, and we are escorted over to the castle.  As you might expect, just like at Buckingham Palace, you can’t just walk right up to the front door, knock, and have someone yell, “Come on in, I’m in the bathroom!  I’ll be right out!”  Of course not, because Princesses don’t have to pee – especially at inopportune moments, like just as company is arriving.  That only happens to Me! 
Because we are such a large group, they are going to take us up half at a time.  The suite is not so enormous that it can accomodate more than 20 people comfortably, but when you factor in that you have to go up to the suite in an elevator, we just won’t all fit. 
The first thing we see in the foyer is the clock.  This clock is set so that it permanently indicates at time of 11:59.  It will never strike midnight, so we can rest assured that this beautiful dream will never come to an end, with life as we know it reverting back to how it was before the Fairy Godmothers, Laura and Leeanne called to invite us to the 2009 Moms Panel.  Oh, wait, this castle is Cinderella’s dream!!
Cinderella's Clock
The elevator that takes you up to the suite is designed inside to resemble the inside of the carriage that Cinderella might ride in.  When the door opens, you are at the entry way to the suite, and standing on a mosaic tile floor, staring at Cinderella’s glass slipper!  I am certain it is a perfect size 8, although our host does not offer to yank it out of the case and let me try it on.  Maybe if I had brought one of those Rix Royale cocktails…….
Cinderella's Glass slipper and crown
Mosaic Tile Floor
Mosaic Tile Floor
When the suite is opened, you can hear a collective gasp!  This is too good to be true – a group of moms, who just 24 hours ago were correcting homework, changing diapers, making dinner; and a dad who just 24 hours ago was sitting in a recliner watching TV while his wife corrected homework, changed diapers, and made dinner – we are all standing together in the Cinderella Suite! 
See for yourselves how incredibly attentive to detail the Disney Imagineers were in putting this beautifully appointed room together….
Wanting desperately for Cinderella to run off with the gardener so that maybe one of us can remain behind, consoling the poor broken hearted Prince Charming, we do our best to delay our departure by handing 8 or 9 cameras to our host and asking him to take our picture.  He graciously does so.

Kathy, Joanne, Anna, Diane, Karen, Tanya, Margaret, Fay, Amber, Jo
Kathy, Joanne, Anna, Diane, Karen, Tanya, Margaret, Fay, Amber, Jo

You can’t see me, but know that even the memory of seeing it for the first time gives me goose bumps.  I’m a little verklempt – talk amongst yourselves – go….

2009 Disney Moms Panel – Arriving in Orlando

After a short flight from oh so cold Philly to perfectly comfortable Orlando, I wait in my seat on the plane for all of the passengers traveling with children under 5, those needing special assistance, anyone who is related by blood or marriage to a US Airways flight attendant, people under 5’4, men named Xavier, and women who own or would like to own a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes to gather their carry on bags and get the heck off of the plane, and then it’s my turn!  I head off to the train that takes me to baggage claim, where I expect to meet someone who will drive me to the hotel.  I know there are a couple of other moms coming in at the same time, so I figure we’ll all be riding a short bus (no offense, ladies, I mean the short DVC type buses) to Coronado Springs Resort.  I head down the escalator and find Tom, the driver, holding my name in his hand.  I walk over and introduce myself, and he immediately congratulates me for making it on the panel, and he walks over to where my luggage will eventually come down.

He informs me that I was going to ride with Tanya and Joanne, but their flight is delayed, so I have the car to myself.  I feel like a rock star – only without the money, talent, groupies, and drug habit. 

So I’m standing chit chatting with Tom, and I find out that he has been in Orlando almost since he graduated high school, and he graduated just 3 years before I did.  He’s from Mt. Laurel, NJ – two towns over from where I went to high school.  Then I find out that he went to the “enemy” high school!  I went to Shawnee in Medford, NJ, and he went to Lenape!  We are nearly related! 

Tom is so friendly, and we have a great chat about Jersey, Orlando, Extreme Home Makeover, and how absolutely amazing all things Disney are.  He and I are soulmates, I can tell. 

I arrive at the Coronado Springs Resort.  Years ago, when they first opened this resort, I got to tour here.  I thought it was so nice, and always thought I’d stay some day.  Then we had kids, who want to stay at kid type place – All Stars; Pop Century; French Quarter; Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Coronado fell far on the list of places to stay when we bought DVC, and now that we are here, I’m sorry it did.  This has a very deluxe feel for a moderate resort, and I know immediately I am going to like it here.

Tom grabs my bag – he is such a nice guy – and we head in.  As I walk into the lobby, a throng of moms is standing there and before I know it, I am kissing off my lipstick, hugging everyone in sight, and squealing like I’ve just been invited to the prom by George Clooney! 

I head to the front desk to check in, followed by a group of the moms (some of them decided to run into the parks), find out that my room is not ready, and decide to head to Margaret’s room, which is ready, to store my bag.  The group of us that has stayed behind talked briefly about going to Downtown Disney, but end up opting to grab lunch here and get ready for our 4:30 cocktail party. 

Jackie, Diane, Margaret and I head to the Pepper Market.  If you’ve never eaten here, it’s a great experience!  You are seated and a drink order is taken, then you go to one of the stations, order your food, and get a card stamped.  You eat your lunch, then take your stamped card out to the cashier to pay.  Great for families that want something quicker than table service, but still want to satisfy the whole family.  As we were just settling into our meals, Tanya and Joanne came in, so we moved to a larger table.  It was so nice to have a little while to meet everyone face to face and hear about their journeys and share the excitement of the itinerary we are FINALLY getting to see!

Jackie, Diane, and Margaret at Pepper Market
Jackie, Diane, and Margaret at Pepper Market

After we pay for lunch, I head back to the front desk and find out my room is ready.  Room 9600, here I come!

2009 Walt Disney World Mom’s Training – Day One

I am on my way!  After a late night last night – a nice dinner with Jim on the way home from picking him up at the airport, I did my as usual incredibly diligent won’t forget a thing job of packing.  That means I waited until around 11:30, and threw whatever I could find in a bag.  This is the way to pack, people!  You are much less likely to over pack or spend too much time picking and choosing through outfits.  You’re so tired, you just want to get the job done, and frankly, you don’t care much if you end up wearing your red plaid pajama pants with your lime green silk blouse, one Homer J. Simpson bedroom slipper and the 4-inch pump with the heel that broke at your sister’s wedding 5 years ago. 

The alarm was set, and I wanted to be out the door about 7.  That would allow Jim to get me to the airport in plenty of time to get Eilis to school.  I jumped out of bed when the alarm went off – way too tired from all that late night packing – and proceeded to shower and get dressed.  My wonderful husband, who is going to look after our incredibly remarkable children (please note how they are being rewarded for allowing me to go on this trip without worry!!), stayed up all night gaming, came to bed at 5:45, and is still soundly sleeping when I get out of the shower at 6:30.  No lunches are packed and no breakfast is made, and I start to wonder if left over chili is good on toast, since I forgot to leave the butter out of the freezer, then I realize the chili is frozen, too.  Looks like granola for breakfast this morning!

So, in keeping with my plan to be out the door at 7, we are all finally in the car at 7:15.  I feel terrible now, because Eilis is going to be late for school.  I can go later to the airport, but we can’t drop her off at school until 7:50, which would make me late for the airport.  We are heading to Philly.

Check in is really easy.  We hand my bag over to the lady on the sidewalk, realize she does not work for the airline, retrieve my bags and hand them over to the US Airways bag attendant.  Just kidding – we got it right the first time 😉  After paying my $15 fee for the privilege of flying the friendly skies, I am kissing Jim and the girls goodbye and heading in to wait for my flight to take off.  There is no Starbucks here, but I grab a latte and a scone from the coffee shop here.  The scone is inedible, but the coffee is good, so I am 100 % satisfied with my breakfast (good coffee, and a reason not to fill my face with food I shouldn’t be eating is a good combination in my book!).  In what seems like the blink of an eye, we are boarding!  I am in Zone 5, and of course they board families with small children first.  Okay, not bitching here, but seriously – this is a flight to Orlando, Florida.  Home of all things small children love and dream about.  Kiddie capital of the world.  Mecca of the Munchkin set.  You get the picture.  Practically EVERYONE going to Orlando has a small child, so 92% of the plane lines up to pre-board.  They have already asked for volunteers to give up seats on this way too overbooked flight, and I am hoping by the time my zone is called, I don’t have to spend the flight sitting on the lap of the pilot.  After all the people with children board; and then all of the people needing special assistance board (okay, is a hang nail good enough reason to need special assistance?  I don’t think I’m getting on this plane….), and then when there is just me, an elderly man who fell asleep and probably missed his flight from 2 hours ago, and the maintenance guy emptying a trash can, they call Zone 5.  I race to the attendant as if she is the finish line at the Boston Marathon (like I would know what that even looks like), hand her my boarding pass, and head down to my seat.  Whew – thank goodness I underpacked!  There is no overhead storage, so I stow my canvas bag under my seat and settle in for the flight. 

Let the Adventure Begin!