A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes…

From the magical mind of Real Disney Mom Janie GD…
Please be aware that you may find parts of this article uncomfortable to read, and maybe even harder to imagine.
As in any Disney tale, you will find heros, villains and triumph over adversity; and this true life account is no different.
In a land, not so very far away; there is a terrible place where the sun never shines, and found trapped in that dark place were six children named Cooper, Dustin, Matthew, William, Nathaniel & Zoe Renee until their little lives were flooded with light by their adoptive parents Eric & Stephanie McKinney.  These innocent babes did not have the loving and cozy beginning that is usually lavished upon all new borns. Their birth parents had issues of their own, full of drug and substance misuse which lead to the horrors of child abuse; both physical and sexual.  Tragically this has left scars both visible and invisible…
Using Stephanie’s own words to describe just how her children’s lives began –
Cooper  – “He was found when he was three, abandoned in a trailer open to the elements…he was covered in body fluids and left to die in the elements.  He had been physically abused, mentally/emotionally abused, and sexually abused in the most disgusting and heinous way.”
Dustin – “Dustin was three and in the hospital when we met him.  He had been starved and abused in his FOSTER home.”
Matthew – “We got Matt and William at the same time, and Matt was two.  They are biological brothers.  They had already had three foster homes, because no wanted Matthew. He was ‘weird’.  He has Autism.”
William –  “He had been beaten so severely when he was 4 months old, that both sides of his skull had been fractured.  His biological father had beaten him hard enough to crack his skull on both sides, with a plastic bottle.  Everyone wanted to adopt William but not Matt.  But William has since developed ADHD.”
Nathaniel – “He was 22 months when we got him, and he is currently 4.  He came into care because both he and his sister (Zoe Renee) were removed together.”
Zoe Renee –  “She was 5 months old when we got her, and is currently 3.  She was a mess when I got her.  She weighed only 6.5 lbs and had 12 fractures.  Both her arms, and legs had been twisted broken…along with 8 of her ribs.   Both biologicals deny any involvement.”
Tough reading I know; especially if your soul has been sheltered from the darker side of humanity.
The McKinney’s are honest to goodness working folk, wanting only to provide the best life and accommodation for their growing family’s disability needs.  This year the project has been a more accessible downstairs bedroom for Cerebral Palsy sufferer Zoe, thus giving her more independence as walking and climbing the stairs is quite challenging.  The expense of this build soon nibbled away at the savings carefully put aside for a Disney vacation.  However, neighbor and self titled ‘Disney Nut’, David Mullican swooped in with the splendid idea of Eric and Stephanie entering their local Tennessee TV station’s competition for a deserving family to win the ‘Trip of a lifetime to Walt Disney World’…unfortunately, even with the help of all David’s fellow Mickey Moms Club members voting online until their fingers were sore; the McKinney’s luck wasn’t quite yet Pixie Dusted!  But not winning wasn’t an option for former US Marine Mullican, he soon rallied the MMC troops into action once again…with the afore mentioned pixie dust arriving in the human form of Club member Heidi LaDuca!  With Heidi’s generous donation of the free use of her stunning vacation home in Orlando, and the growing involvement of the Mickey Moms Club; gradually the dreams and wishes in the hearts of the McKinney family were coming true.
Now can you imagine the joy that this trip to WDW will bring?  It will bond and reinforce the commitment and love that runs right through the very core of the McKinney family.  When Eric and Stephanie announced that they were going to Walt Disney World in May 2012 the children all produced smiles bigger than the Cheshire Cat, not to mention more noise and sheer exuberance than Illuminations; now wouldn’t you have loved to have witnessed that?!  Amongst other conditions both Cooper and William suffer with ADHD, Matthew is Autistic and Zoe has problems with mobility, so the the careful planning of each stage of this amazing trip will be paramount due to each individuals special needs.  Each child has their own personal Disney ‘to do’ list’ including visiting Epcot, watching fireworks, taking in some rides, checking out Star Tours and visiting with the Princesses, but topping the list is of course, a meeting with Mickey & Minnie Mouse!
This family are all heroes, the parents for their unconditional love, and the children for their ability to thrive against all the odds.  Maybe this is your chance to be a hero, whether it’s giving complete acceptance of disability, or to just offer your love and support to the Marvellous McKinneys.
You can follow Eric & Stephanie, Cooper, Dustin, Matthew, William, Nathaniel & Zoe Renee McKinney on a Facebook page dedicated to their Disney dream vacation here – The MicKinney’s Magical Trip to Walt Disney World
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Getting There; Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

From the practically perfect personality of Real Disney Mom Jewelz P!

Photo Credit: Joe Penniston

Well there are a few choices from California that we could have taken. Auto was out of the question due to having to stop very frequently for the baby and finding a hotel each night possibly, and too expensive; fuel was pushing over $4.00 a gallon…

We looked at trains but after Hurricane Katrina, there was too much damage to the train tracks after New Orleans towards Orlando. My parents did take the train to New Orleans then rented a car to drive on to Florida. They chose a cabin with its own bathroom which made it very convenient. But being on a train for two days just was not my style even with the amenities. When you are on your way to Walt Disney World time is of the essence!!

So plane here we come!! I had racked up enough frequent flier miles to get my ticket for free. (sales and marketing in a previous life) Alexis was only 8 or 9 months at the time so she was on our lap. The husband’s ticket came out of our pocket. We opted for non-stop due to baby on board and my husband’s inability to fly much. After searching everywhere; Orbitz, Expedia…we went with United. 

Now if you have never flown with a baby here is the scoop for flying out of LAX; due to the fact that we were staying 7 days, that’s a lot of supplies for an infant and even more for Mommy and Daddy trying to make the room comfortable enough to call home. I was going to avoid BAGGAGE FEES as much as possible.  One bag alone was to carry Alexis’ things, and chances are it was going to be empty on the way back. I decided to ship 5 days of diapers (65), a large can of formula, teething items, burp cloths, some infant clothes, shampoo and body wash, Dawn (to wash her bottles out in the sink), and laundry detergent from a local Laundromat (cheaper than on WDW properties). With a baby I knew that we were going to do laundry. You can ship up to 70Lbs through the USPS. Just under $27.00 for two boxes! I had sent it to the Caribbean Beach Resort with a delivery confirmation so I that I could track it. Once I knew that our package arrived then I knew what to actually pack. I mailed on Monday and it arrived that Friday and we were leaving on Sunday.  Heed of caution; one box was crushed but the contents were fine. I also decided to rent a rocking chair and a stroller in Orlando for Alexis.

Prior to all the packing research, I had to look into the TSA rules. I knew that my baby gear would be scanned. Now having to deal with a 9 month old and a husband who hated to fly, it was all on me to make the security check point as painless as possible. I had Chase hold Alexis and I took out all the identification necessary to pass through. I needed a copy of Alexis’ birth certificate and our driver’s licenses. Meanwhile I had a carry-on bag, diaper bag and a baby carrier. My diaper bag was considered a carry-on bag!  I almost rolled my eyes but then reconsidered;  could have been as bad as saying the “B” word on a plane.

Some tips:

 

  • Get there at LEAST 90 minutes before your plane departs
  • WEAR slip-on shoes or flip-flops. Do not put shoes on a baby they will ask you to remove them as well; just keep socks on them.
  • DO NOT prepare a bottle of formula before passing the X-Ray; they may test for explosive gases (found that out the hard way).
  • Try to keep baby happy…change the diaper 20 minutes before boarding.
  • When changing a diaper on the plane, keep a few gallon size Ziplocs to put the used diapers in; remember the diapers do not flush and you don’t want the diaper to smell up the cabin.
  • Have a bottle ready for baby during take off ; cabin pressure build up can be painful for the little one; suckling will help pop the ears.
  • For other Travel Smarts – Please check out my page  http:/​/​www.citystrollerrentals.com/​Travel-Smarts.html

We had chosen to take the Magical Express from the airport with our WDW reservation. Approximately 3 weeks prior to your departure you will receive the ME boarding passes to and from the airport. You will also be receiving a luggage strip tag per person for your checked bags. If you decide to use them your bags will avoid baggage claim completely and will arrive in your room about 2 to 3 hours after you land.

Very helpful when you land and are a little exhausted from a 5 hour flight not to mention travel time to the airport.  Next thing to do is follow the path to the Magical Express!

Disney Beginnings

From the magical mind of Real Disney Mom Janie GD!

Me on Main Street in 1979

“I’ll start at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start” This statement is very appropriate, as this is my very first adventure into the world of blogging!

My own love of Disney began in 1979 during a vacation with relatives in Wisconsin.  Our American family had been enjoying visits to Walt Disney World since it opened in October 1971, and thought that their Cornish cousins would like to meet Mickey Mouse too. So off we flew down to Orlando, not having ever heard of Mr. Disney or his mouse before!  Can you imagine that today?  You’d have to be living on the moon not to be acquainted with Disney in some small way!  At least I don’t believe that cable is available yet in other parts of the galaxy?!
We arrived in the beautiful Sunshine State, and lodged in a Vacation Villa on the shores of Lake Buena Vista.  At night time from our balcony we could see the charming “Empress Lily” (so named after Walt’s wife, Lillian) gleaming with twinkling fairy lights.  A few years later, I enjoyed my first character meal aboard her called “Breakfast a la Disney”.  This still impressive steamboat can now be found moored at Downtown Disney, with a restaurant afloat re-named “Fulton’s Crab House”.
For me, the memory of entering the Magic Kingdom for the first time , and walking up Main Street USA with the aroma of popcorn and cookies in my nose, the jolly park music, and the sight of Cinderella’s Castle towering high above, has remained as fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday.  It connected with my senses which was quite a powerful thing for a 10 year old country girl who had never tasted popcorn or ever seen a fairytale princess castle before!
The other memories that remain special to me from that first trip are a particularly hysterical and wild spin on the Mad Hatters Teacups where my aunt laughed so much she almost burst with glee!  Then there was the stomping evening entertainment at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness! Here, my Dad was chosen to be the fairy in the shows finale, which I’m sure to this day my aunt pre-arranged for our amusment!  (The Revue is the longest continually running musical stage show in the whole of the USA, a “Disney fact” that I love.) I now share all it’s rowdy silliness with my own children!
When I’m asked for some planning advice from a “newbie” Disney vacationer, I tell them to savour the first moments of stepping onto Main Street USA, “Let Disney enchant you and wipe your daily worries away”, I tell them.  Yes, I know, I hear you………that’s practically impossible when you’ve got your own little princes and princesses chomping at the bit, ready to race into Fantasyland and take their first flight on Dumbo!  So…… I advise, go buy them a tub of popcorn each (so they won’t have to share, and lead to yet more high drama) which then should buy you a few moments to make and memorise your own special Disney beginnings.
Remember it’s not always the “big” things that remain with you from childhood….so now that you’re the parent, don’t stress about making memories happen for your children, because at Disney, the magic is everywhere…even in a tub of popcorn!

Mickey, my mum, and me 1979