What Disney’s Mickey Means To Me

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It is no surprise that we as a family are head over heels for Disney’s Mickey Mouse. Pretty much anything Disney related gets us excited. I frequented Disneyland Resort as a little girl and knew once I became a mom myself that we’d adventure through Disneyland together. It all started with Mickey Mouse, literally everything and we’re so happy to have partnered with Hanna Andersson to celebrate his 90th Anniversary!

My son and I used to go to Disneyland Resort once a week. Most days we’d drive over in the afternoon, ride our favorites, snack on a churro and head home. There were a few days during the month that we’d stay till the evening to watch the nighttime parade. Romping around the Disneyland theme parks soon became our thing. I knew Disneyland through out even before my son was born. BUT getting the chance to take him and re-see the parks through his eyes, was magical. There really is nothing more incredible than watching your children experience things, happy and exciting things. You know when their face lights up and they let our a deep giggle. Or when they stop in their tracks in complete aw. I also loved the feeling of his little hands wrapped around my leg when waiting in line for our favorite rides. Disneyland was our place. 

My son, his name was Ryan, on his last day here on Earth we went to Disneyland. We woke up early and entered Disney California Adventure park being the first to enter that day! We ran straight for his favorite ride in Cars Land and rode it with giant smiles on our faces. You know, I had no idea I’d be forced to say to good bye to my Ryan that night. Though I have to believe that us being able to enjoy Disneyland together just one more time was meant to be. If you are familiar with our story then you know, that night we lost Ryan quick and out of the blue. It tore my inside out and our whole world crashed down. I share it all on my blog, but I’ll be the first one to tell you that how we lost him doesn’t matter. What matters is that we continue to live in his honor. What matters is that we still do the things Ryan loved to do. What matters is that we share how we kept living despite the hurt and pain thrown our way. 

My first time back to Disneyland after my son passed was something I was dreading. I felt scared because I didn’t want a place that was so grand to suddenly became a dark place for me. I knew I had to go to just see, to just experience it now with Ryan up in Heaven. I had to go for him. So I went. That day was immensely sad with hints of happiness around every corner. Visiting Disneyland that day was when I really began to understand that I could feel sad and happy at the same time. Come to find out, I feel happy and sad nearly everyday now that is OK. It is OK to feel two feelings at the same time. I realized that Disneyland was still our place. It still held our memories and laughs. I decided to keep going just as we did before and even today it feels like Ryan meets us there. 

My daughter Mila was born after we lost our son Ryan. In our family we speak of him daily and remember him out loud. Mila knows who her big brother is and she tells me that he lives in the sky. There sibling bond is like no other and I am so honored to call Ryan and Mila my children. Soon after Mila came into our lives we took her Disneyland. Mila now is two and adores anything Disney just like her mom and big brother. We frequent Disneyland Resort once a week and work in a few nights a month where we stay late for the nighttime parade. Mila enjoys different things within the park than her brother did, which I love to see. I love to see how they differ. What I find the most magical is that I can now walk around a place with both my kids at the same time, and that really doesn’t happen for me anywhere else. Disneyland is still our place.

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You know, this motherhood of mine isn’t pretty and tied up with a bow. What happened to me is every parents nightmare. Though it happened to me and I am proud to think that God thought me strong enough to endure it. I believe in so many things but one thought I live by is, life isn’t about what happens to you, it is about how you react to what happens to you. Today my family of four visit Disneyland Resort any chance we get. For us it means we can all be together. When you see us together you will only see three, but our son beams from our smiles and the fun we have together as a family. 

Disney’s Mickey Mouse will forever mean the most to us. We are so grateful for what Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Disneyland in general. When Hanna Andersson asked us to share why Disney’s Mickey Mouse was important to us, I couldn’t pass. I know he means different things to different families across the world. I’m just honored I could share about ours. We love the new Disney’s Mickey Mouse pajamas in celebration of his 90th Anniversary! I love that they are red, which was Ryan’s favorite color. The gold shines bright along all the memories our family has within Disneyland. 

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Disneyland During Halloween Time FAQ Answered

Disneyland During Halloween Time FAQ Answered

Recently we visited Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort and opened up my social media for any questions you had. I received over 80 questions about visiting Disneyland during Halloween Time as well as visiting the parks in general. I’ve answered the your frequently asked questions here! Plus, I’m sharing my favorite moments from our visit!

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How Running 13.1 Miles Truly Feels

Well, as I sit here trying to think of words to re-cap last weekend my brain gets a bit lost. Last weekend, if you missed my posts on Instagram, I ran a 1/2 marathon and I lived to tell the tale! To be transparent I’ve been training for this beast for just a few short months and I never really felt nervous about the run until I hit mile 7. I was in good spirits and felt positive. Plus, I ran the Run Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon! It was my first trip to Walt Disney World! I was just beside myself the entire time, crying at every turn when I saw something new. I could feel my body tense up with excitement walking down the Magic Kingdoms Main Street and seeing the Animal Kingdoms Tree of Life. It all was so overwhelmingly awesome. I’d have to say the only thing that was awful was not having my children with me to experience it. However, we are already planning a trip back with Mila in tow. I can not wait!!

Running never used to be my thing, as much as I wanted it to be. I had always tried to get to that point of “needing” to go for a run. I thrive more so on group exercise classes like spin or dance and I love weight training with my husband (who is a personal trainer). I’ve run 5k’s before but never any more miles than that. Though when the option of running a 1/2 marathon presented itself I jumped at the chance, mostly to see if I could really do it. Turns out I can, not to entirely well, but I finished the race! Ever since arriving back home I’ve been hell bent on running another and decreasing my race time. So, the addiction has started so to speak and though I can’t wrap my head around it much … I guess you could say I am a runner. But if you told that to me just even 6 months ago I would have laughed and said “No Way!”

The truth is running is mostly mental, as in all in your head. Yes conditioning, endurance etc. all matter. But it really comes down to how strong you are in your head. Those positive thoughts really do work. It is hard for me to think of anything more inspiring than my own children when I run. I like to think of them right beside me, I imagine the wind blowing through Ryan’s red curls and Mila’s crinkle nose smile. I know it might sound weird, but that is what does it for me. I know people must think of the most random of things while running. My friend Jenna told me during the race when I was starting to fade, “Dedicate each mile to someone or something.” That was especially inspiring because then I started to run for things like my marriage, my own personal motherhood, my family as a whole, those thoughts kept me moving forward. Running for things that mean the world to me and drawing strength from them helped immensely. It also made me cry through out the race. Which, I think I might have been the only one bawling during the race? Who knows.

The one thing that was the most difficult was trying hard to think/push past the pain. Come mile 7 (mile 7 was hell) my knees started to ache and the pain only got worse as the race went on. I had to stop and walk a few times which embarrassed me at first, but I came to piece with it. I think at some point you really have to listen to your body, though running is mental there is pain that can’t be ignored. My knees were pretty much shot after the race. I had to ice for three days after race day and they still feel a bit sore. I learned about IT Bands and how running too many miles can cause them pain haha! My husband says I need to do more squats and other exercises to strengthen my knees. So, I’ll be working on that and training more efficiently moving forward. I also know so many of you mentioned to get fitted for running shoes, which I’m kicking myself for never doing. You live and you learn. Or you run 13.1 miles and learn.

I will say the best part of the whole trip was crossing that finish line and holy crap did I cry! I wasn’t even looking at Dan, I had my eyes fixed on the lady who was putting the medals onto people. I immediately had a flood of emotions and the second she put that medal around my neck I gave her a giant hug and cried on her shoulder. Then I found Dan and kept crying. People were asking me if I needed water, a banana, Dan was trying to take my photo. I was a hot mess, numb with excitement and pride.

To recap - The weekend at Walt Disney World was insanely awesome. The 1/2 marathon was incredibly hard, but also the most rewarding thing. I’ll definitely be doing it again and I’m excited to continue to train for a better race time. I couldn’t have gotten through it with out my children and husband. For they are ones who have built me into the person I am and give me the strength daily to achieve my goals. Thank you SO much for following along on Instagram and for all your well wishes before and after the race! You guys are the best and I look forward to sharing with you my next race!

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Here I am crossing the finish line. I honestly can't tell you why I was so emotional. Maybe because I actually finished? Maybe because of how badly my knees hurt? Maybe it was the thought of my children and missing them so badly, wishing I could have seen them both there at the finish line? Maybe I'm just an emotional mess? ;)

Here I am crossing the finish line. I honestly can't tell you why I was so emotional. Maybe because I actually finished? Maybe because of how badly my knees hurt? Maybe it was the thought of my children and missing them so badly, wishing I could have seen them both there at the finish line? Maybe I'm just an emotional mess? ;)

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Dan posted this to his Instagram stories and I thought it was so funny! My eyes are so happy and SOOO tired. I'm in so much pain here, and yet so damn happy!

Dan posted this to his Instagram stories and I thought it was so funny! My eyes are so happy and SOOO tired. I'm in so much pain here, and yet so damn happy!

Ryan's 7th Bday And The Fight For Happiness

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You know, these last few weeks I have been seemingly happy. Trucking along through out the days and not really noticing how extremely anxious I've felt deep inside about September approaching. I have this really awful habit of forcing feelings down, down, down until they get masked thick with other things. Before I know it I am drowning, my mind goes to mush and instead of happiness coming easy I feel like I have to walk through quick sand to find it. It happens fast and I honestly don’t know until I know. I look back and I’m like “oh! this is why I’ve felt so damn numb and now I feel awful!” Then I tell myself, remind myself that I must feel the things I need to when I need to … or else this incredible fight to feel happiness will rear up again.

My issue is, my son would have been seven years old this September and he isn't physically here to celebrate. Which quite frankly has been the case for his sixth birthday, fifth birthday and fourth. Every year I go through this crashing wave of anger over the fact that my son isn’t growing before my eyes. I now have to imagine what he would be like, the things he’d be into at this age and what exactly life would be like with him by my side. I typically feel more anger around his birthday than when I miss him during the holidays because birthdays in our family are a big deal! We have small traditions that have huge impact and most of the time our celebrations last a few days. So, I feel angry Ryan isn’t here. Though, I hate feeling angry for two reasons 1. because he wouldn’t want me to feel angry and 2. I can’t do anything about it so feeling angry sometimes just is a waste. Also, I feel guilty about feeling angry when I look at Mila and then look at my son’s face in photos … my kids are great I can’t feel angry right?!

Anger is the feeling I mask the most and you’d think that after nearly three and half years with out Ryan this whole grief monster would get easier to slay. It doesn’t. In fact, the monster stays the same I just learn knew things about it, develop strength against it and so on. I mask my anger and I’m like “oh! this is why I’ve felt so damn numb and now I feel awful!” Then I tell myself, remind myself that I must feel the things I need to when I need to … or else this incredible fight to feel happiness will rear up again.

This past week I licked my wounds so to speak, let myself feel what I needed to and teetered on the decision to celebrate big (like we always do) or take it easy this year, do something small and let the day pass. See! This is why I want to mask anger and sometimes sadness because when I let those emotions in and rule the roost negative thoughts take over. We nearly didn't do anything for his birthday. But I soon realized that that wouldn’t be fair to Ryan. I pushed negativity aside and decided to go big because turning seven is fun and this family deserves to have fun even if it hurts a little.

I never really know how to explain what goes on in my head. I try to. I believe my husband can read it on my face sometimes. I am sorry if this sounds like a jumbled up mess. Though if you’ve lost someone you love, I think you know that life with out them is a jumbled mess. A mess that you strive forever to make sense of.

“Ok! Enough already!” says my kids (and probably my husband too) get to the fun stuff! My family and I ventured to - surprise surprise - Disneyland for two days and stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. We’ve been staying there and celebrating Ryan’s birthday since the beginning and it just wouldn’t seem right to not. We spend one full day playing in the pool and drinking fun drinks poolside and the next playing in the parks. This trip we did a little bit of adventuring and found a fun fireworks viewing area on the top of the Paradise Pier hotel. That night will forever be burned in my memory. The three of us huddled together high atop the hotel watching the fireworks was just the best. What is it about fireworks?! On Ryan’s actual birthday we made it to the park before open and the cast members let us open the park for everyone! (I posted the video on my Instagram) The rest of the day went by so fast, but in a really good way. We celebrated Ryan the way we knew he would have loved. Truth is, even as his age grows with out him, we’ll continue to celebrate our three and half year old the way we remember him. Which again, stinks because I look at my friends boys growing older and get jealous. But I have to let those feelings go I guess. Well, I need to feel them and then let them go.

And with that Ryan’s birthday has slipped by and I feel proud looking back at it. I tell myself, remind myself that I must feel the things I need to when I need to … this incredible fight to feel happiness will never cease. I learn that and re-learn it often. Though it is a struggle to feel happiness, once I feel it, I understand the worth of the fight.

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Mila's Magical First Steps

For as much time as we spend at Disneyland, Mila’s first steps on Main Street should not have come as quite a shock. Though when your child has been practicing and practicing the whole standing/balancing act for a few weeks now, then finally something clicks and her tiny foot moves forward and the other follows … you freak out! I teared up, but mostly cheered like I was front row at an Ed Sheeran concert. (I adore Ed Sheeran) Of course now, Mila is accustomed to only walking with a wildly cheering audience. Can you blame her, I feel like I would walk with much more intent if I had my own cheer squad.

One, two, step! We’ve got a walker and Mama just can’t believe it!

As I mentioned, our entire family has been hard at work trying to get Mila comfortable standing upright. To my frustration really. I always advocated for her saying “She’ll walk when she is ready!” But the truth is, she won’t learn unless you practice. My friend Sarah even told me, “If you carry her everywhere, she won’t walk!” This being a hard pill to swallow because I selfishly want to hold onto and soak in every ounce of Mila’s babyhood. As we all know, once they start to walk there is no stopping them. So begrudgingly, I joined in and began helping Mila learn how to balance on her feet with out holding on to anything. We tried for weeks getting her to take an actual step to no avail. She came close and soon started to pick up her foot and start in on a step, only to fall and speed crawl to her destination. Almost as if she were telling us “Stop bothering me, I’m not ready!” I started hold her hand and help her walk more and more. We did this everyday to and from the car, room to room within our house. Mostly because I agreed, at this point I shouldn’t carry her everywhere. There is a fine line of wanting to hold desperately onto your baby as a baby and then having them learn, grow and understand how to move their bodies on their own. Bittersweet!

On the last day of being sixteen months old, Mila decided she could actually walk. She took a few steps towards Minnie and my heart nearly exploded. Honest, I felt blood pumping in my ears and it took every fiber in my body to not scream “She did it! She walked!” like a maniac. Instead of moving on from the characters, I decided to see if she would walk again towards Mickey. We waited in line and I asked a sweet mom who was in front of me to take video. (Hi Michelle, thank you to infinity and beyond!) I told the Disney photographer “My daughter just walked like for the first time! I’m going to see if she’ll do it again, can you snap a million photos of it?” I really did say that and she replied in her Disney voice "Of course!" In her head I'm sure thinking I was nuts. People started to cheer, I stood Mila across from Mickey (I’m literally crying while I type this, what is it with milestones being so damn emotional?!) and she walked toward him with wide open arms. Mila took a long series of steps and I cheered and held my breath at the same time it felt like. They hugged and had a major moment. When I went to get Mila Mickey waved my hand away so he could get one more hug. It was all really cute and my whole body was writhing with excitement.

I also think it is a pretty rad coincidence that Mila started to walk during such a depressing month. I say depressing for lack of a better word, though no matter how you slice it May is the month we lost Ryan, we were forced to learn life with out our son, we were forced to plan his funeral and then had to attend that damn funeral. For the past three years now May has brought with it anger and sadness. I believe my children work in mysterious and beautiful ways. I believe they know each other more than I can even attest to. I believe Ryan helped his little sister take her joyous first steps at our favorite place. Just so we can start to turn the anger and sadness in May away. Slowly and surly we'll get there. May will forever hold those tragic days, but now it also holds the day Mila took her first steps. What could be better than that? I love my children and what they do for each other. I love how they take care of Dan and I. I couldn't be more grateful.

Update - Mila still crawls. She only walks if we stand her up and cheer. She gets so excited and laughs really loud while walking though, even when she falls down hard. Its all fun right now. Then we'll both cry when she falls and gets hurt. That mama heart is so tender. At least mine is. Once she figures out how to go from sitting to standing I think she will then walk for good. So I still have a few good weeks of my baby baby. I do have to say, I think the reason why I was so emotional and excited when seeing her walk was simply because I was so proud of her. That unconditional, nearly primal love runs deep with pride when I look at my children. Seeing them accomplish milestones is nothing short of epic and causes feelings I never want to forget. Which is why I am sharing them here. Thank you for listening by the way. I hope it stirs up memories of your own children’s first steps. What an exciting time it is for us mothers.

Below are the photos from that amazing day when Mila decided to walk towards Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland! On to the next milestone …

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