More Than Magical

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride in a parade through the streets of Magic Kingdom with 100,000 people watching you and waving to you? Apparently this a thing that can actually happen to an average person.

My family had just walked into Magic Kingdom and of course had to do the stereotypical picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle. As we were trying to figure out how to get a picture with everyone in it, two Disney cast members approached us and offered to take the picture for us. Of course we accepted. Little did we know that those two people would totally change our day and our Disney experience forever. After lots of dialogue and questions back and forth with the two cast members, they proceeded to ask us if we would like to be the honorary Grand Marshals of the Festival of Fantasy parade. The first picture above shows our reaction when we were first asked. Unbeknownst to us, they had a photographer capturing the entire moment.

I’ll be honest, I really had no idea what being a grand Marshall of the Festival of Fantasy parade in Magic Kingdom truly meant. It was a much bigger deal than I had expected.

We all met back at the predetermined location later that afternoon. Those same two cast members were there ready and waiting for us. The first thing they did was gave Mickey ears with “Grand Marshals” embroidered on the back. The photographers were there as well. We were quickly told what would happen but I still had no idea what this was experience would be like for us . The entire moment was surreal. We were ushered back into a cast members only area. We loaded into this beautiful car and were told to smile and wave the entire time. As the main cast member instructed, if our mouths and arms don’t hurt by the end, then we didn’t do it right. The gates opened and we were on our way.

Next was the surreal part. The entire streets of Magic Kingdom were roped off. There were nearly 100,000 people lining the streets. We were well ahead of the parade and the only thing on the road. The entire crowd began waving and smiling at us. At this moment over the entire loudspeaker of the park, our family name was announced; “our honorary grand marshals of the Festival of Fantasy parade is the Handley family from South Florida”. They proceeded to make this announcement multiple times through the entire route. As I am smiling and waving to the crowd, I felt like I was in a dream. Everyone was looking at us.  Everyone was waving at us. It was probably one of, if not the coolest thing that has ever happened to me and my family. We ended the route but it was not over.

The cast members had roped off a special location for our family to watch the parade. They were literally kicking people out of our area as it was specially roped off just for us. The amazing and cool thing is that not only did we had a photographer shooting the entire moment, but everyone in the parade, all the characters; Belle, the Seven Dwarfs, Mickey, Minnie, etc. were all paying attention to us; waving to us and talking to us. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what it feels like to be a celebrity. The parade ended, but there was still one last thing.

Our paparazzi photographer (as they called it) took us to Main Street in front of Cinderella’s castle. From there she took a ton of awesome photos of our entire family. This moment was bigger and better than I had ever imagined or expected. This moment in our lives and our Disney experience, was more than magical.

Staycation (of sorts) – Part 1

Trey Splashing Trey Floating Sun Rays Steve Hammock Palm Treee - Copy Nell Tube on Head - Copy Nell Floating to Bridge Behind - Copy Nell and Dee Walking on Bridge with Tubes - Copy Dee Kelly Springs Sun RaysNell Jumping in Tube - Copy Nell Dee and Steve Tube Train - Copy Dee Stuck in TreesTrey Holding Onto rockSteve Under BridgeSprings Foot ViewNell Tubing - Copy

It’s summertime and that means it’s family vacation time.  We have lived in Florida for ten years now and have not been to any of the beautiful natural springs that our state has to offer.  For this reason and because we didn’t want to spend much money (one kid in private school and one in college), we decided to do a staycation of sorts.  While we didn’t exactly stay home, we only went three hours north to Orlando.  You see, if I don’t get the boys away from the house, then I’ve lost them to the world of video games.  Pulling everyone away from their day-to-day routine and environment makes all the difference.  We are able to hang out as a family and truly connect.

For the springs part of our adventure, we chose Kelly Springs which is a short 30 minute drive from Orlando.  Kelly Park is a free-flowing natural spring (68 degrees year round – yikes!) which makes is popular for tubing.  The upside to this little adventure is the beautifully clear water and views, the close proximity to Orlando, the tubing experience and the laid back and relaxing environment (including our hammock – good call).  The only downsides is the crowd (the park is closed by 10am due to max occupancy) and the temp of the water (almost painfully cold at first – see pic above).

Most memorable parts of the day:

  • Steve and Trey racing down the river to see who would win.  Trey won (in case you’re wondering).
  • Steve making a bed out of tubes and falling asleep.
  • Watching some kid curl himself up in a tube and roll down the hill being encouraged by his family the entire time.
  • Trey looking for Pokemon (he had just downloaded Pokemon Go).
  • Danica being a princess; not wanting to be outdoors or get in the cold water.
  • Danica doing a high kick and a dance in the middle of the park when we announced we would be going to Disney’s Magic Kingdom the next day.

*I brought the underwater camera along and was able to capture some good pics.  I will go on record that my 16 year old son decided that he wanted to be the photographer for most of the day so some of these pics are attributed to him.  Great job, Trey!

Road Trip :: Mississippi

Nell on a Tree Stump Steve on the Back Step at Grannys Driveway to Grannys Feet in the Sidewalk at Grannys 800 Flowers at Grannys Gramps Shed House I Grew Up in Kids at Grannys Outside Nell and GrannySteve Running in Circles Danica on a Tree Stump Laughing Goodbyes are hard
Traveling to Mississippi is truly going home for me. We live in such a transient world today so not many people get the privilege of going back “home” to the house they grew up in.

I was blessed enough to live in the same place for the first 18 years of my life surrounded by tons of family. My grandparents bought a bunch of land shortly after I was born and distributed it amongst their kids. When they poured the foundation of their house, they stamped my tiny one and a half year old footprints in it.

Even though things are different now (especially after Katrina), when I close my eyes, I can envision the year 1984 when my grandfather was alive and working in his shed making crab traps. I can see myself running to my grandparents house to get candy and eat my granny’s good Cajun cooking. All of my childhood memories are wrapped up in this one place.

My grandfather has long passed, my parents, brother and I have moved away, my uncle sold his house, but my grandmother remains. She’s still spunky in spirit but not in body. She’s 80 now and her body is failing her more and more everyday. She misses us terribly and we miss her too. The family compound will never be active like it once was and she is the last piece holding it together.

I’m so glad I chose to spend part of our family vacation with her. I just don’t know how many more visits we’ll get to have. Family is precious and time waits for no one. Enjoy the family you have around you now because before you know it, time will have slipped right by and you’ll be walking around an empty family compound. The one life lesson I remember my grandmother teaching me as a child was that time flies by and the older you get, the faster it goes. I didn’t understand it at the time but it stuck with me. Now I truly get it. I’m trying my best to hang on every moment, enjoy everyday to the fullest and love those around me like crazy.

Road Trip :: New Orleans

Bourbon Street Boys in Bath Robs Central Grocery Muffalata Central Grocery Sign French Market Kids at St. Louis Cathedral Nell in NO St. Louis Cathedral Swamp Bridge Swamp House Swamp PiIMG_7002
New Orleans is truly a city like no other. The culture and heritage runs deep as does the alcohol. Much of my family is from an area just south of New Orleans so this city is near and dear to my heart. I grew up an hour from New Orleans and for me being in the city is just second nature. My kids had never really spent any time there so our goal was to show them what New Orleans was like and, of course, to eat a ton of amazing food. We did just that. We toured the city, ate at all our favorite hot spots (and a few new ones), did a ghost tour and a swamp tour. The French style hotel (as most are) was beautiful and unique with a rooftop pool overlooking the city and a late night PB&J snack hour.

The kids had a blast and so did we even though my husband fractured his knee attempting to be 14 instead of 40.

Vacation :: Pic of the Day 6

cooking with granny

Learned to cook gumbo and beans and rice with my Cajun grandmother. No other food compares. Just in case you’re interested, I’ve gained at least five pounds this week and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!

Vacation :: Pic of the Day 5

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We took a boat tour through the Louisiana swamp. Needless to say, this south Florida family was quite chilly.

Vacation :: Pic of the Day 4

Back of St. Louis Cathedral 800

We ended the day in New Orleans with a historical haunted tour which proved to be super fun and interesting. The tour started behind the St. Louis Cathedral where there is a statue of Jesus in St. Anthony’s garden. The massive shadow of Jesus cast on the back of the cathedral was breathtaking.

Vacation :: Pic of the Day 3

St Louis Cathedral 800
We got to New Orleans a bit later than expected but we were able to walk through the city, see sights and eat some amazing food. This is a pic of the fam in front of the St. Louis Cathedral in the center of the New Orleans French Quarter.

More New Orleans adventures to come.

Vacation :: Pic of the Day 2

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I was blessed enough to live in the same place for the first 18 years of my life surrounded by tons of family. My grandparents bought a bunch of land shortly after I was born and distributed it amongst their kids. When they poured the foundation of their house, they stamped my tiny one and a half year old footprints in it.

Even though things are different now, when I close my eyes, I can envision the year 1984 when my grandfather was alive and working in his shed making crab traps.

The memories are just so vivid. I enjoy coming back home and getting the chance to relive my childhood.

Vacation :: Pic of the Day 1

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Stayed the first night in Destin, FL and woke up to a very foggy but beautiful morning. Destin brings back hundreds of memories for me as it was my childhood family vacation spot.