Friday, March 30, 2012

Stars Fell On Alabama

Today is my birthday so I am taking the day off.  The following article originally appeared on A Disney Mom's Thoughts on October 19, 2011 as a part of Beth's "Stars Fell on Disney Fans from Alabama" series.  I hope you enjoy this tribute to my two homes: Alabama and Walt Disney World.

"My home's in Alabama, no matter where I lay my head. My home's in Alabama; Southern-born and Southern-bred." --country music superband, Alabama

I'm proud to be an Alabama girl (War Eagle!) and thank Beth for including me in her series. Just like the song above says, no matter where I've lived, Alabama has always been home. Combine my wandering soul with my husband 's career and I've resided in 4 states and 2 countries beginning with a semester abroad in college. I've grown up with Disney, and while preparing for our most recent move, I realized just how much Walt Disney World, and specifically Old Key West, is also home for me.

Now I have two little girls of my own and they will be Disney kids too. My oldest daughter, nickname Tink, went to WDW for her first birthday and again at 18 months. My baby, nickname Minnie, isn't as fond of travel as her sister is so we are easing her into it with a trip to the Disney Vacation Club Resort at Hilton Head in January, which is much closer to our house.

The Growing Up Disney family minus our latest addition

As a Disney Vacation Club family since 1993, WDW vacations are always filled with friends and multiple generations of family and so is my blog, Growing Up Disney. The core team is comprised of myself, my brother, and our father.  I credit Dad with our Disney obsession.  He was a fan of Disney movies and television and then was able to visit the Preview Center when there was nothing around but orange trees.  He was back in December 1971, not too long after the grand opening and took his new bride to WDW for their honeymoon in 1973.  The rest is history and it's been like Mickey was a part of our family.  I had a park map on my wall as a very small child and you can see below who was on my second birthday cake.   When we couldn't get to the parks, my family were regulars at the local Disney Store.  I sent Michael Eisner one of my high school graduation announcements and got back a nice letter from Imagineering.  College Program beckoned in 1997.  I moved to Kissimmee for two years after college.  2005 saw my first marathon, earning a Mickey medal, of course, and our Disney Fairy Tale Wedding in April '05.  My parents learned that they were going to be grandparents in 2008 just before IllumiNations and in 2010 before dinner at Olivia's.

Alabama is where I learned to walk and 
Walt Disney World is where I spread my wings.

Now back to Chris.  He's also known on the blog by his nickname since high school, Ridge.  I think his Twitter profile summarizes him well:

single man about town, motorcycle rider,  pilot,  friend to WDW, blogger on and just all around great guy. DVC member, NDI #110, D23 Member.   

Of course, he's much more than this...great brother, wonderful friend and super uncle.   These days he's traveling to Walt Disney World quite frequently (since it's not a bad drive from his home in Birmingham) and hauling large amounts of camera gear with him.  Chris has picked up a photography hobby in the last couple of years and is getting quite good at it.  He's doing his own post for this series so I will allow him to tell his own story, but I am thrilled to blog with him.  It's fun sharing this project with my family.  Below are a few of my favorite pictures of Chris.

As I said earlier, friends are a part of our Walt Disney World vacations and I am honored that some of our friends lend their writing talents and Disney passion to Growing Up Disney.  Beth D., Beth G., Bruce, Chad, Corby, Diane, Heather, Janine, Kelly, and Natalie have all contributed to the fun.  Some have offered guest posts and others have agreed to participate in ongoing projects.  Nine is writing a series chronicling the planning of her first Disneyland Paris vacation.  Chad's series on Disneyland will make you want to run off to California.  Our Minnie Moms share tips and stories on a single theme each month and it's great to hear different points of view.

To modify a cheesy t-shirt saying, I guess I am Disney by birth and Southern by the grace of God.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Grand Villa at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort

DisneyDad and I took the free DVC Members only "Behind the Ears" tour during our stay at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort.  While it's not normally a part of the tour, our guide was able to take us in for a quick peek at a Grand Villa.  I had to take these shots in a hurry and they were still shooing me out.  Grand Villas are incredible accommodations but this one didn't have the wow factor of the GV at Old Key West.  But admittedly, I am biased toward OKW.

One thing that would be really great about the Grand Villa was the larger kitchen.  We ate in the villa far more often than we do at Walt Disney World.  Having a little more room to spread out and cook (or open take out BBQ) would have been nice.  
Master Bed from Bath 
Master Bath 
Stairs up to 2nd and 3rd Bedrooms 
Living Room with wood-burning fireplace 
Dining Area from Living Room 
2nd Bedroom 
At the top of the stairs 
Bedroom 3 
Top of the stairs again 
Living/Dining from above 
Firewood is stocked on the front porch 
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Friday, March 23, 2012

DVC: Here We Grow Again!

If you have ridden around the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom recently at Walt Disney World you have noticed the construction between Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  Near the Wedding Pavilion Disney is building the newest addition to the Disney Vacation Club. 
There will be 147 2-bedroom equivalent DVC villas at the Grand Floridian.  Estimated to open in late 2013, this new resort experience is slated to be the 12th Disney Vacation Club property and will be located near the spa and wedding pavilion at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort.  In addition to villa accomodations, plans for the expansion include a children's water-play area and other amenities.
Artist concept  - Disney

“We continually look for ways to expand Disney Vacation Club by creating resort experiences that our members will love,” said Claire Bilby, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Vacation Club. “With the continued popularity of Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, we are thrilled to offer our members and guests a new resort option along the monorail system with easy access to the Magic Kingdom Park, as well as a variety of shopping, dining and recreation experiences.” (From DVC news release)
It always amazes me the amount of points sold every month with the Disney Vacation Club.  (See for the sales numbers.)  Saratoga Springs has been the best selling DVC property for some time.  With February’s sales numbers Saratoga is “officially” sold out.  That leaves Bay Lake Tower and Animal Kingdom as the only DVC sales at WDW.  The new Villas at the Grand Floridian will be available just in time to continue bringing in new DVC members.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Minnie Moms: I Love this Photo Because... Part 2

It's time for more photo fun with our Minnie Moms.

Beth: This photo is one of my favorite of all our Disney vacations. Joey was just 14 months at the time, and it was his very first trip to Walt Disney World. To celebrate his first trip, our family experienced our very first character meal at Cape May Cafe in Disney's Beach Club. The characters spent so much time playing with Joey, who laughed, slapped them five, pinched their noses and gave them kisses. He even enjoyed a few rounds of peek a boo with Chip and Dale. This photo shows how much he just loved the characters, and it was also the moment that I knew I made the right decision taking him at such a young age. He may not remember that exact moment, but I do! It was truly a special Disney moment for all of us!

Amy:  I ran across this one and to me, it was a really fun moment.  We had just finished lunch at Olivia's. They gave us coloring sheets.  Now mind you, the group was just me and my parents.  I was crashing their trip and had just arrived at Old Key West on Magical Express.  It was lunchtime and we had a leisurely lunch and colored while we waited for our food.  You can see Mom's Ariel masterpiece right above DisneyDad's Mickey.  I was about to bust to tell them I was expecting Tink, but couldn't find the right moment until IllumiNations that night.  But back to the picture, I love that my parents are big kids and will color.  And I love that Disney displayed their art alongside the other children (at heart.)

Thanks to Beth for joining me today.  Please visit the Minnie Moms page for past articles and more information about these fabulous ladies. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Photo Flashback! Disney's Hollywood Studios from ToT

When I read Deb's post about this week's theme, I really wanted to find a shot of the Earful Tower from the early 90's.  Well, those are still MIA since our move, but I like this one quite a lot.  This was a lucky shot from the top of Tower of Terror in 2007.  

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Focused on the Magic

Monday, March 19, 2012

Minnie Moms: I Love This Photo Because...

This month I asked the Minnie Moms to share a Disney-related snapshot and tell us why it's so special.

Kelly: I love love love this picture of my husband and sons taken at the California Grill. We had just finished dinner and then went out to the roof to look at the Magic Kingdom and I wanted to take a picture of them together. They, of course, love having their pictures taken (insert sarcasm) and this was the shot I got. I don't know why but I love the looks on my kids faces. It is one of my favorite family pictures to this day.

Corby: The reason I picked this picture as one of my favorites is because it's from our very first Disney trip as a family which will always be the one I treasure most. Banks was barely 3 years old when we stood in line to meet Tigger and Pooh. He was holding his blankie when Tigger took it, put it over his eyes and walked around pretending he couldn't see. My son thought it was the most hilarious thing he'd ever seen. He still talks about it to this day and he's almost 8. It's little moments like these that make Disney so special. He took his blankie to every character meet and greet that trip, and even the following year! If "Tigger" only knew how much joy he gave my son that day, I bet he'd be pretty proud.

Natalie: Last year, my family hopped aboard the Disney Dream for an unforgettable family vacation. The cruise ship was brand new, offering elegance and fantasy for everyone.

Looking back on our experience, our favorite part of the cruise was our time spent on Castaway Cay, the Disney owned island. The day we arrived at Castaway, my family headed on land soon after finishing breakfast. We walked along the shore and my son decided he wanted to head to the Kids Club there on the Island. My husband and I were happy to find that while the kids would be playing games with water toys, etc., there would be no visits to the pool or ocean. With my son happily hanging out with his friends from the Dream in the Kids Club, my husband and I decided we would head out in the ocean for a bit to see if we could spot Minnie and Mickey Mouse in the Snorkeling Lagoon. While we are not avid snorkelers, we did have a great time floating and identifying the various objects hidden along the ocean floor.

Once we finished swimming, we were excited to find that right along shore was Cookie's BBQ. Here we were able to fill our plates with food prepared by Disney for their guests. The barbeque and chips really hit the spot for the two of us famished from all of the swimming! Wanting to spend some time with our son, we headed over to the Kids Club to find that our son had also just finished eating his lunch. We checked him out from the Kids Club and headed over to the Castaway Family Beach. We spent time flying a kite (and getting in trouble because that is apparently a no-no), building a sandcastle or two and laughing at one another as we slid down the water slides.

We really felt that our time at Castaway Cay was worth the cost of the entire cruise! The island is free from hagglers found at other islands, offers free food, drinks, and entertainment. Towels and lawn chairs are provided all along the Island and the Kids Club is available for use. I hope to return on a Disney Cruise again soon, perhaps just for Castaway:)

Janine: This photo is from 2001which was my inaugural trip to WDW, Florida and the United States!  This was the very first morning of our holiday and it had to be the Magic Kingdom.

It was a good job I was wearing sun glasses as I had been crying like a baby.  The sights and smells of Main Street still get me every time, but seeing it all for that initial time with that amazing Castle at the end was truly breathtaking.

This was also a very special trip for us as we had a secret to share with then DBFs parents - he had asked me to marry him!  We shared the news with them on his birthday when we were down in St Petes Beach a few days. Thankfully they were over the moon :-)

So all in all a wonderful first visit to a magical place, that we just can't wait to share with our darling DD in 2014.

Thanks to KellyNatalieJanine, and Corby for joining me today.  Please visit the Minnie Moms page for past articles and more information about these fabulous ladies. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Magical Blogorail: Celebrating Disney at Home

Welcome to those of you joining me from A World View and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the final stop on our Magical Blogorail.

This month the blogorail is discussing "Celebrating Disney at Home."  We love to talk about celebrations here at Growing Up Disney and I decided to share a new one.  Potty training.  If you've progressed beyond diapers, you know it is cause for celebration.  And around here, even this includes our favorite Disney characters.

I wasn't planning on potty training until Tink's spring break in April.  However one morning in February, I mentioned it, she went, and the ball was rolling on training.  I had ordered the book Toilet Training in Less than a Day at the recommendation of another mom blogger.  Well I didn't get through much of it so if you need it, I have one in great condition.  I've seen moms on other blogs create elaborate charts and have cute parties to kick off the training.  Since it just sort of happened, I had to improvise.  One night while Tink was asleep, I raided the art supplies and made my own chart.  You know all those stickers the Disney Movie Club sends out?  I never can throw those away and I was so glad I had them handy.  Ok, motivational chart.  Check.  Flushable wet wipes with princesses on package. Check.  Minnie soap dispenser.  Check.  Disney Junior shows on the i-devices to keep her sitting. Check.

potty training, Disney movie club stickers

potty training chart

Disney shows on iPhone

I know some people have parties to kick off the training process but I used that as an incentive for her to keep going (pun only slightly intended.)  When she realized this was a permanent change and we weren't going back to diapers, it helped to remind her that she was working toward a "potty party."  It sounds silly but it absolutely worked.  A few M&Ms along the way and the promise of cupcakes and balloons kept Tink working for the stickers on her chart.  We also made a few funny phone calls to Daddy and Grandaddy to brag on success but I will spare you the details there.  

Tink did great and it didn't take long before she had earned her party.  We went to the store and she picked out some mini-cupcakes.  I had been to Target the day before while she was at preschool and picked up some other surprises: tiara, wipes, princess stickers to decorate the box, and princess panties.  After dinner, Tink got her surprises and we all ate mini-cupcakes and played with stickers.  We bragged on her for doing so well.  

potty training chart


pink cupcake

potty training party
Excuse her crazy hair.  It got messed up by the tiara and
I didn't stop to fix it.
girl dancing with Dady
Dancing with Daddy
It's a long process to get to 100% diaper free but we are one giant step closer. And Disney was a fun part of our celebration.


Thank you for joining Magical Blogorail Red this month. We will be back April 20th with an all new theme. Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date with our Disney info, photos and stories. If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
2nd Stop ~ The CanaDisney Blog
4th Stop ~ A World View
Final Stop ~ Growing Up Disney