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The first day of my husband’s bucket list trip to Walt Disney World with Stage IV Metastatic Uveal Melanoma didn’t start out quite so magical. We arrived at the gates of Magic Kingdom bright and early. I’d timed everything perfectly so we’d be there for the park’s 9 am opening. Everything was going great until we scanned our magic bands to get in and discovered that our 5-day park tickets had expired and we hadn’t even been to one park yet! “This should be easy,” they said. “No problem,” they said. “We’ll just take you over here to guest services and they’ll take care of this for you.” After waiting in a line and another 15 minutes at guest services with a cast member on the phone with our resort, our 5-day park tickets were finally valid and ready to go.

Did I mention that I grumbled a bit while we were waiting patiently (and not-so-patiently) at the guest services desk? “All they need to do is change ONE date for FIVE people and this will be solved. Walt would find this unacceptable,” I said. “The people in this line should be top priority of the whole park right now. These peoples’ days aren’t starting out magical at all. Walt would do everything he could to make this experience as quick, as easy, and as magical as possible.” Breathing slowly and looking away from the cast member whose extended phone call was causing me slight first-day-of-vacation agitation, I reminded myself that we weren’t entitled to magical beginnings just because my husband has Stage IV cancer.

After the ticket debacle was resolved, we made our way to another guest services building where we signed up for disability access service, then continued down Main Street. Who doesn’t love Main Street at Magic Kingdom? If anything will cheer you up and get you feeling good, it’s Main Street and that spectacular castle. We stopped for a photo with the Disney photographer. Then one teen wanted individual pictures by the castle and they didn’t quite turn out they way she wanted, so we had to take more and then a few more. Then one teen was getting grumpy from “too many pictures” and my husband said “yeah, maybe let’s get going and not take pictures for a while.” Phew. Breathe deeply. It’s okay, people. Maybe the morning didn’t start out perfectly magical, but it’s ALL good. Let’s regroup and make our way to Adventureland! It’s time for an adventure!

We regrouped successfully. As we made our way to the entrance of Adventureland, we approached two cast members wearing Disney pin trading satchels.

(Please note, had we NOT made ALL of those stops prior to this moment in time, we very well would have NOT had such an incredibly magical day. So if things aren’t going quite the way you hoped, keep moving. Life might not seem totally magical now, but it will in time. Just wait and see.)

So back to those cast members wearing Disney pin trading satchels who we approached so we could look at their pins and make our first trades of the trip…

It was an ordinary interaction for a while. My husband traded a pin with one of the cast members. Then our youngest made a trade. Normally, at that point, we’d say thanks and move right along with our adventure in Adventureland. But these cast members wanted to know more about us. Where were we from? We scored some bonus points when we said we were from Seattle because one of the cast members was from Seattle and she knew exactly where we live! Were we planning on going to the parade this afternoon? Do we want to know some inside secrets about where the BEST place is to view the parade? Brick, the other cast member, broke out a map, showed us the parade route, circled the best place for us to view and explained why.

At that point, I was moving into writer zone. Writers know what I’m talking about. The moment when you realize a bit of a story might be unfolding. To me, this was a story about a man named Brick who was deeply committed to his work at Magic Kingdom. This was a story about a man who LOVED his worked, loved this place, and wanted to invest every second he could into every family who approached him to give them the most magical day they could have. I wanted to know more about this Brick and what made him so passionate about his job. I LOVE people who LOVE what they do.

Brick was taking a LOT of time with us, an unusual amount of time, I have to say. In nearly 21 years of going to Disney as a married couple and as a family, we hadn’t had this much personal interaction with a cast member. Like I said, I thought it was a little odd, but let him keep chatting with us and engaging with us. This, after all, is the magic of Disney.

We admired Brick’s favorite pins on his hat, and he told us a little about his 29-year career at Disney. But then. BUT. THEN. Brick brought conversation back to the parade, asked us to show him how we’re going to wave at the parade as it comes down the street. Okay??? We all waved for him, some of us a little more excitedly than others. Again, it was a little odd, but we all complied and engaged Brick kindly and graciously as we would anyone else! I don’t recall exactly how or exactly what words he used, but it was at that point that Brick asked us the question of all questions. “Do you think you could wave like that in the parade? I want to invite you to be the Grand Marshals of our parade today!”

Oh my goodness. Tears streamed from my eyes instantly. “Oh my goodness. You have no idea,” I said to Brick as I looked at my husband and gently touched his arm. “That would be AMAZING because he has stage IV cancer.” Everyone beamed with excitement as Brick proceeded to give us instructions as to where to meet, at what time, and how this Grand Marshal thing was all going to happen.

As we left Brick that morning, we wondered, how in the world had this incredible, amazing, magical thing happened to us?! Only God. Yes, only God could make such a thing happen. Brick had NO idea about my husband’s Stage IV Metastatic Uveal Melanoma diagnosis, but God did. God ordained our every step. Had our timing been different that morning, Brick and his colleague would have picked a different family as Grand Marshals. But there we were at the perfect place at the perfect time picked perfectly for this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience as Grand Marshals of the Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom. Oh. My. Goodness. This was only God.

I don’t really have much else to say. I’ll let the slide show tell the rest of the story. But here’s what I want you to know. I cried 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through that parade. Why? Because the experience was completely overwhelming, “surreal” as my husband so accurately stated. As we made our way down the parade route, God revealed to me that he will provide for us, even in the midst of our darkest, deepest trials. Second, and even more important, He has a heavenly home prepared for us and it is going to be grand and wild and magical beyond our imagination. Us being Grand Marshals in a Disney parade was a once-in-a-lifetime God-ordained experience that 99.9% of people won’t ever have. BUT I promise you, God has extended you an even GRANDER invitation, an invitation to ride in His chariot, to enter His gates, to ride to the palace where  streets are gold, where everything is good, and tears are no more. Accept the invitation and He will give you the ride of your life. They’ll wave and He’ll smile. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.


Last summer, just 10 days from our 17th wedding anniversary, we had our biggest fight ever. It started at Dairy Queen of all places, and continued in our driveway. Yes, that epic confrontation ended with the words nobody dreams they’ll utter when they’re standing pure and perfect on their wedding day.

“After all this time, I don’t think you really know who I am.”

I uttered those words to my husband on June 17, 2015.

My spirit was crushed.

You see, after 20 years together and 17 years of marriage, I thought my husband knew me. I thought he knew ALL of me. But big conversation and big questions revealed that I was wrong.

The only person who knows ALL of me is God, my creator, my maker, the one who formed me in my mother’s womb.




The fact that my husband didn’t know a part of my heart that had been buried deep and wide since childhood was NOT his fault. I didn’t neglect to reveal every nook and cranny of my inner life before our wedding day. The truth is, I didn’t even begin to piece those parts of myself together until 13 years into marriage.

How can we be fully known when we don’t even fully know ourselves?

Sometimes we don’t know who we’re becoming until we’ve become.

We’re humans. Our deepest longing is to be known, loved, understood and accepted for who we are. But here’s the brutal truth. As much as we long, as much as we desire, as much as we try so hard to know, love, understand and accept others for who they are, it’s impossible to fully know any one person, even when they’re our spouse.

With all my heart, I wanted my husband to know that part of me.

With all my heart, I wanted my husband to understand that part of me.

I wanted him to embrace it as beautiful, lovely and blameless.

I was asking the world of him.

Can’t you just understand me?

Can’t you see what I see?

Can’t you feel what I’ve felt all these years?

Can’t you dig into my heart, live in my shoes, be me for a few moments so you see who I am, so you know every fabric of my human being?

What torture.

To ask ANY human being to know us FULLY is FOLLY, pure and utter foolishness.




“I don’t think you really know who I am.”

In that moment, life was simultaneously crystal clear and as clear as mud.

My husband didn’t know or understand a part of my heart, a part of who I am, a part of who I’ve been becoming these 40 years. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t his problem. It wasn’t his duty to bow down before me and say, “Yes, okay honey. Whatever you say, think, or do is a-okay, honey.” I didn’t want blind submission. I wasn’t looking for the world’s artificial answer to an always-happy marriage.

I was looking for a heart-to-heart connection. If my husband didn’t know or understand that part of me, I wanted him to talk it through with me anyway, trust me anyway, believe in me anyway, love me anyway, liberate me anyway, live it out with me anyway. Because that’s what marriage does.

Don’t worry. Don’t freak out. Don’t stay up all night wondering if our marriage is on the rocks. One year and 10 days have passed since that particular point of contention. We worked through it, and our marriage is still alive and kicking. Yesterday, we held hands for a few minutes at our son’s baseball tournament. Today, we’re celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary.


There was a bigger lesson to be learned from that epic confrontation on June 17, 2015. A lesson that has potential to transform marriages. A lesson that invites husbands and wives to to honor each other as individuals AND celebrates their partnership as a couple. A lesson I’m still learning and working hard to implement every day. A lesson that helps couples not only survive, but thrive through the adolescent years of marriage.

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

TRUE. It’s impossible to fully know any one person, even when they’re our spouse. TRUE. God is the only one who fully knows us. TRUE. As human beings, we’re changing and growing every day. TRUE. God doesn’t expect you to know everything about your spouse. TRUE. God invites you to “love your neighbor as yourself.” TRUE. Love is not self-seeking…the hardest of all.

I’m not an expert theologian. I’m not a marriage counselor. And I’m not a professional philosopher. But piecing together all of the above, I would like to propose that if our goal is to honor and keep our wedding vows, we must do our part to know and understand the ins and outs of our spouse to the best of our ability. It’s as simple and as hard as that.



So let’s take a look at how this plays out in real life. As you will see, I’m suggesting that these are not just daily disagreements, but opportunities to know and understand your spouse better, opportunities to fine-tune your response so it not only honors your marriage, but honors the individual perspectives of husband and wife.

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we let our 13-year-old who has braces get away with brushing his teeth once a day, or can we please force him to brush 2-3 times a day?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we eat lunch before we do errands or after we do errands?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should the bench go to the right of the door, or to the left of the door in our garage?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Does he know what I do during the day, how stressful it is to balance motherhood with my personal and professional aspirations?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Does she know what I do during the day, what my job entails, how stressful it really is at work?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we watch late-night fireworks at Magic Kingdom, or should we take advantage of fewer people in the park and go on rides instead?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we use scotch tape or masking tape to hang two posters inside our daughter’s closet doors?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should Angela Lansbury have sung “Tale as Old as Time” in that epic Beauty and the Beast scene, or should they have broken into a much grander, NON-Angela Lansbury version for added drama?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

How should we indicate budgeted vs. actuals spent on the paper and pencil budget we created for our 2015 tax return?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we lie down on the bed or sit up while we’re watching a movie in our bedroom?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Come over here so we can take a selfie quick!

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

I hate selfies. They’re awkward and make me feel totally uncomfortable.

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we plant the new Ninebark shrub one foot this way or one foot that way? We always have these disagreements on where plants should be placed. It’s like a high school debate. Who’s going to win? Who’s going to lose? Who’s the judge anyway? Does this really matter anyway?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Do you see how this works? Do you see how this plays out? As any married couple knows, stupid, piddly, daily disagreements like this happen all the time. Whether our discussions are small or big, important or not important at all, it MATTERS HOW we work through life as a married couple, it MATTERS HOW we work through disagreements as a married couple. How well we work to know and understand each others’ perspectives is crucial.


For more than two years, I dreamed of going to Haiti with my husband for my 40th birthday. I wanted us to experience a mission trip together for the first time in our married life. I wanted him to see me in my happy place. I wanted him to KNOW that part of me. But truth is, as much as I desperately wanted that dream to come true, I finally realized I was forcing it. I KNEW my husband, and I KNEW he wasn’t really interested in going to Haiti. Yes, I really wanted him to SEE and KNOW that part of me, but ultimately, it wasn’t worth it.





Nearly three months ago, we found out that my dad had been approved for a lung transplant and were told he would soon be placed on the national lung transplant registry. My husband suggested we try to fit in a quick vacation before my dad went on the list and while the kids were still in school. I thought it was an improbable reality, but said yes anyway. We booked the vacation, arranged child care with my generous and thoughtful in-laws, and exactly THREE WEEKS LATER, we were on the plane headed for a 4-night Disney cruise to the Bahamas.

I’ll share more of the story in my 40th birthday post later this week, but in short, we tried and tried to find all kinds of last-minute vacations. After lots of looking and needing to make this decision fast and now, I finally decided that I wanted this vacation to be for my husband. HE was the one who suggested it. HE was the one who had the idea to fit something in before my dad went on the list. HE was the one who had specific destinations and vacations in mind. HE was the one who had been stressed at work and needed a simple, sunny, relaxing vacation. Why was I trying to force ANY of myself onto this vacation when I was NEVER planning it in the first place? Why not KNOW my husband and give him what I KNEW he’d choose if it was only up to him? So I suggested the Disney cruise we weren’t even considering until that day I had a change of heart. I knew it was a winner when I sent him the text. I knew he’d be all over it. And he was.

One afternoon at Magic Kingdom from 4 pm to midnight PLUS a 4-night Disney cruise. No kids. Plenty of sun and relaxation. And everything Disney. My husband’s perfect vacation.

I’m still having a hard time reconciling the fact that we went on a last-minute 4-night Disney cruise instead of my long-planned Haiti mission trip. A Disney cruise wasn’t what I envisioned AT. ALL. There will be NO Haiti trip for my 40th. But it’s okay. I KNEW my husband. I KNEW he’d LOVE a Disney cruise. I knew this would be a gift to him, and I KNEW I would enjoy myself as well.

Just as I suspected, we had a great time!

During our afternoon at Magic Kingdom, on the Disney cruise, and especially during a breathtakingly beautiful day at Blue Lagoon, we spent time alone again, we got to KNOW one another all over again, we understood each other better than we had in while.









I like to wander and experience God’s creation in my own sweet time. I like a little adventure, more than I ever knew we got married. I’m desperate to discover what’s beyond the roped-off boardwalk. I’ll easily spend an hour exploring the root-system of a knocked-down tree on the beach. 100 photos of tiny shoots sticking up from the sand? Sounds perfect to me.

He revels in God’s majesty through rest. In the water. On the beach. On a chair, knee deep, or belly flat down in the lagoon. He closes his eyes, spurts affirmations and praises of all good things. “This is amazing. I can’t believe how awesome this place is. This day is perfect.” A beer. Some food. Time with his wife. Nobody around except a single guy who’s exploring? Sounds perfect to him.

We’ve known each other. We won’t ever fully know each other. But we’re getting to know each other more and more every day.










Knowing your spouse does NOT mean bending over backwards to meet their every need. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean losing yourself so your spouse gets everything they want. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean you’re a doormat. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean you get less, and they get more. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean you lose and they win. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean that they have fun while you do all the hard work. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean they get to love life, while you hate life.

Knowing your spouse means you’re mutually understanding, accommodating, allowing and liberating your husband or wife to have a voice, to grow and develop, to be who they are within the context of marriage, within the context of parenting, within the context of family, within the context of work, within the context of pain and pleasure, within the context of life.

How to survive and thrive through the adolescent years of marriage?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.



Look at any photograph of our family from our past four Disney vacations, and you’ll notice some or all of us wearing lanyards of Disney Trading Pins around our necks. The proof’s in the picture. In the photograph above, three out of five of us are wearing lanyards!

At this point, you might be asking “Why should I care?” “What are those pins all about?” And “Why in the world are you so obsessed that you’d all wear lanyards of pins around your neck for an entire Disney vacation?”

Well, friends. Let me explain.

You see, this was another one of those things my husband made me do. Collecting Disney Trading Pins was HIS idea. I’m just following his lead, y’all.

But seriously. I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about Disney Pin Trading since we began collecting pins 5 1/2 years ago. Honestly? Because of my husband and children’s love for Disney Pin Trading, I have more knowledge than the average bear when it comes to this subject. So I might as well share the love, right? I might as well share all the tips I have for Disney Pin Trading, so if your family’s ever interested in starting a collection, you know where to begin.


(PLEASE NOTE: This post is NOT for Disney insiders. This post is NOT for the world’s most avid Disney pin collectors looking to up their game. This post is NOT for pin traders who have 100, 200, 300, 500 or 1,000 pins in their collections and want to fill in some gaps. This post IS for families who are interested in Disney Pin Trading. This post IS for families who perhaps have a very small collection started and want to keep it going. This post IS for families who have maybe even collected pins on a couple Disney vacations, but want to up their game and bring their Disney Pin Trading to the next level. This post IS for people who are simply curious about these Disney pins, people who have no clue what they’re all about and want to know more.)

So let’s get at this. Today, I’m sharing Disney Pin Trading Secrets for Families!


Secret #1: Know WHERE to buy Disney Trading Pins, HOW to display them, and HOW MUCH they cost.

WHERE? You can purchase Disney Trading Pins at ALL Disney Parks and Resorts. Typically, you’ll find them in gift stores in the Parks and Resorts, but you can also find them at special pin kiosks around the Parks. HOW? There are several ways to display Disney Trading Pins. You can wear them around your neck on lanyards you purchase at Disney Parks. (This is our family’s preferred method of display. Each one of us has a lanyard; some of us have more than one lanyard.) You can purchase Disney Pin binders, which are kind of like Trapper Keepers only made specially for pins. This method of display allows you to keep MORE pins in one place, but they’re not as readily accessible as they are on lanyards around your neck. People who are really into Disney Pin Trading come up with other clever ways of displaying pins. I’ll show you a couple examples later in the post. HOW MUCH? Pins are color coded for price, and run anywhere from $7.95 a pin all the way up to $15.95 a pin for limited edition. Simpler and smaller pins are cheaper. Elaborate pins with layers and special features are more expensive, which includes special edition and limited release pins.


SECRET #2: When you’re at Disney World, make sure to visit stores that specialize in Disney Pin Trading.

There are a few stores around Disney World that are excellent and prime destinations for true blue Disney Pin Traders. If you’re interested in or getting serious about pin trading and want to see the biggest variety of Disney Pins, you’ll definitely want to stop at these stores. Disney’s Pin Traders at Disney Springs (Downtown Disney). Frontier Trading Post in Frontierland at Magic Kingdom. Pin Station Epcot in Epcot. Sunset Ranch Pins and Souvenirs at Hollywood Studios. These four locations are hot spot destinations for pin traders. All four are worth the stop. Because all four of these locations are Disney pin-centric, they’re all a little “geeked out,” which is pretty cool if you’re into pins (see secret #10 below).

SECRET #3: Trade pins with Disney cast members.

As you walk around any Disney Park, you’ll notice that MANY Disney cast members wear lanyards, around-the-shoulder pin sashes, or have small boards of pins. This is a BIG and BASIC pin trading secret for families. If you’re getting into Disney pin trading, make sure to look at Disney cast member’s lanyards, sashes and boards. As a guest, you have permission to TRADE one of your Disney Pins for one of their Disney Pins. They can’t say no! They have to agree to the trade. So if you have a little pin you don’t love so much and a Disney cast member has an awesome big one you’ve been looking for for a long time, trade it! This makes pin trading a fun adventure while you’re walking around Disney Parks. Kids especially love the trading (so does my husband); it’s a treasure hunt that never ends!


SECRET #4: Look for large-scale pin boards around Disney Parks and Resorts. This is another opportunity to trade pins with cast members!

So I just told you about opportunities to trade pins with ANY Disney cast member, right? Well, there’s another similar opportunity for Disney Pin Traders, but on a much bigger scale! On our last Disney World vacation, we noticed that a few locations had LARGE quantities of trading pins supervised by Disney cast members. We found a large board of pins available for trading with Disney cast members at our resort, Disney’s The Art of Animation. We also found a LARGE garbage can FILLED with Disney Trading Pins at Animal Kingdom. (This one was monitored by 2-3 Disney cast members. They said the garbage can of pins rotates throughout the park every hour.) We also found a few LARGE boards of pins ready for trading in gift stores at Magic Kingdom. You have to be on the lookout for these large-scale pin trading opportunities, but when you find them, it’s pretty cool! You have an opportunity to scan a LOT of pins, and potentially trade several all at once. My husband and kids LOVED the large-scale pin trading locations. A reminder that these boards are set up by Disney, so cast members have to say yes to your trade offer as long as it’s reasonable…one pin for one pin! Occasionally, you’ll find a big or rare pin on these boards. On our recent trip, one of my kids found a limited edition submarine pin on the green garbage can in Animal Kingdom! They were, of course, incredibly excited!


SECRET #5: Look for Limited Edition and Limited Release Disney Trading Pins.

Some Disney Trading Pins are extra special. For one reason or another, Disney has decided to release a limited number of that particular pin. Those pins are labeled as “Limited Edition” and “Limited Release.” Pins come on tiny, rectangular pieces of glossy cardboard. When a pin is “Limited Edition” or “Limited Release,” that label will be printed on the bottom of the cardboard piece, so you know its categorization. Typically, “Limited Edition” and “Limited Release” pins are held behind the counter and cost more so you have to ask a Disney cast member for help. Sometimes, they’re mixed in with all the other pins. It just depends. Holiday pins are often Limited Edition or Limited Release, as are special event pins, such as those released for Epcot’s annual Food & Wine Festival or Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.


SECRET #6: Buy locks for heavy and expensive pins.

We learned the hard way our first year collecting Disney Trading Pins back in 2010. Buy locks for heavy and expensive pins. All Disney Trading Pins come with plastic, black, Mickey Ear backs. They work well in most cases. But if you have a large pin, a pin with several layers, an extra long pin, or heavy pin, you might want to seriously consider purchasing a pack of the gold locking backs so you don’t LOSE the pin! There’s absolutely NO need to LOCK every pin. It’s just the occasional ones, here and there, that are simply too heavy or too big, or the one that keeps falling off the lanyard for some reason. In those cases, definitely buy the locking back and get it secure. That way, you don’t have to worry about it falling off and losing it anymore!


SECRET #7: Before you go on a Disney vacation, purchase a bundle of Disney Trading Pins on eBay.

Here’s a little secret for families who have begun Disney Pin Trading, but want to take it to the next level. (Let me remind you once again, this is my husband’s discovery, not mine. He’s the big pin trading fan!) During an eBay search a few years back, he found lots of Disney Trading Pins for sale for a really GREAT price. So before we left on our Disney vacation, he bought one lot of 25-40 Disney Trading Pins off eBay, brought them with us on vacation, and used THOSE pins to trade with Disney cast members at the Parks. When you use this method, you MUST make sure you’re buying REAL, AUTHENTIC Disney Trading Pins off eBay. Take note when you make the eBay purchase. Know what you’re buying. Typically, when you purchase lots of Disney Trading Pins from someone on eBay, they’re selling SMALL pins that high-end traders might not care much about because of their size or style. But remember…these are the kind of pins that make pin trading super fun with little financial commitment! You can come to vacation with 25-40 pins you bought from eBay, and have a week’s worth of pins to trade with Disney cast members for a small total investment of $25-$40. Or you can do a mix, which is what we do. Buy a limited number of special Disney Trading Pins at the Parks, but ALSO buy some off eBay to trade while you’re on your Disney vacation.


SECRET #8: Collect sets.

Sometimes, Disney Trading Pins are created as collections. For example, there’s a collection of Disney Princess Babies. There’s a collection of bowling pins with characters on them. There’s a collection of flags. The collections of pins are endless. The more my husband and children get into Disney Pin Trading, the more I’m promoting collection of SETS. Collecting sets of pins requires a finer eye for pin trading. Collecting sets of pins makes it more of an adventure. Collecting sets of pins brings it to the next level as far as I’m concerned. Through an eBay purchase, my husband landed a few of these orange birds that were part of a collection. So he did a Google search to see HOW MANY birds were in the collection, and on our most recent vacation to Disney World, he spent good effort looking for the rest of those little orange birds on Disney cast members lanyards, sashes and boards! Guess what? He found them, traded for them, and was able to complete his collection of orange bird pins! Collect complete sets. Why not? It’s a fun adventure, especially for kids (and husbands).


SECRET #9: Mystery pin boxes are a good option for kids.

In the bigger Disney Pin Trading stores, you’ll see little boxes with “Mystery Pins.” Sometimes, there’s just one pin in the box. Sometimes, there’s more. The point of Mystery Boxes is that you DON’T know which pins are in the box. On the front of the box, you see the category of pins that are in the box. On the back of the box, you see tiny pictures of ALL of the pins that are in that collection and COULD BE in the box. You know that you’re buying 2015 pins. You know you’re buying Star Wars pins. You know you’re buying princess pins. But you don’t know WHICH ONES you’ll get until you buy the box and open the dark, sealed, plastic bag inside. You take a chance when you buy Mystery Pins. I’m not big into Mystery Pins myself, nor is my family, but I have purchased them very occasionally. Kids are intrigued by the mystery pins. They’d be good for starting a collection and great for beginning pin collectors!



SECRET #10: Get a little geeky about Disney Pin Trading.

If you’re going to collect Disney Trading Pins, you might as well get a little geeky. The best place to get geeky about Disney Trading Pins is Pin Station Epcot. At this location, they have a few shaded tables set up outside the pin store where avid Disney Trading Pin collectors hang out all day, show off their pins, talk about pins and trade pins. Oh yes. It gets a little geeky here. Pin traders sit and talk about pins all day long. They trade pins. They have people look through their huge boards of Disney pins, and their pages upon pages of Disney pins. They get strategic with serious collectors. On our most recent Disney World vacation, I had one collector offer to give me a WHOLE LANYARD of pins for my ONE Limited Edition Cinderella pin I bought several years ago. Sorry, sir! No trade, here! I love my Cinderella pin and don’t plan on ever trading it! But it was certainly eye opening and fun to hear that my one pin was worth a whole lanyard of pins! So why not? If you’re gonna collect Disney Trading Pins, get a little geeky about it.

That’s it, friends. That’s a wrap. This post marks the end of my 31 Days of Disney series! Thanks for reading, and I’m signing off until our next Disney vacation.





31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days. I’d LOVE to connect on Facebook at and on Instagram at

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.


It all started with my husband. It was his idea, okay?

19 months ago when we made reservations for our October 2015 family vacation to Disney World, my husband told me about Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. I’d never, ever heard about it before. A Halloween party at Disney World? Okay! He told me that the event is ticketed, that you pay a per-person fee to attend. That all of the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party events are at Magic Kingdom. That there are cool Halloween parades and special shows at the castle, and that everybody dresses up in costumes!


I wasn’t 100% sure about this Halloween party and dressing up at Disney World business, but my husband was super excited, so why not?! I was working part-time when we booked our Disney World vacation and we had the funds to cover the extra cost, so we went ahead and set the money aside for tickets.



The time came. We bought our tickets to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Then came the real debate. What kind of costumes were we going to wear?

Our first thought was to dress up as the Sofia the First family. After all, we’re a family of five, just like Sofia’s. We’re huge Sofia the First fans, and our youngest already had a beautiful Sofia the First costume from last year’s Halloween. But when the rubber hit the road, we realized it was going to be challenging to find full ballgowns for me and my oldest daughter. And proper coats for the boys were going to be near impossible to replicate. So we ditched that idea.

We had other ideas, too.

My absolute favorite idea was for us to be the old versions of Carl & Ellie from the movie “Up.” I thought it would be quaint, sweet and easy to replicate. Our two oldest kids could be the kid versions of Carl & Ellie, then our daughter would be the Doug the Dog or Russell, the little boy scout who joined Carl on his adventures.

But my husband won the costume idea contest. Or should I say, I LET him win?! He wanted me to be Mary Poppins. He’d be Bert. Our two oldest children would be Michael & Jane Banks. And our littlest would be a penguin. Okay, alright! He won. Agreeing to this particular idea meant that I was agreeing to wear the most outrageous and attention-getting costume of our whole family. Basically, I was going to have to wear a wedding dress around Disney World. And…ummm…in case you don’t know me, it’s not typically in my nature to want to be so attention grabbing. Why such drama?! Anyway…I decided we’d go for it! After all, who doesn’t love Mary Poppins? And if I was going to have to dress up and be all dramatic, I might as well be Mary.


We started looking for costume pieces at thrift stores. I found a $19.99 wedding dress at Goodwill that just needed a little altering, and a $3.00 red belt at Clothes Mentor that was perfect for Mary’s red-cinched waistline. We found a really old-fashioned white dress at Goodwill for my daughter to be Jane, some Once Upon a Child shorts for my son to be Michael, and the tiniest red and white candy striped dress at Once Upon a Child for my daughter to be Mini Mary. White super-clearance shorts and shirt for my husband, and a great deal vest off eBay, and we were set to go! Oh yeah…it took us forever to find, but I finally found a hat at a local antique store for $8 and ripped it apart to make it into a proper Mary hat. The whole thing came together VERY smoothly.


The big day came! We spent all day at Magic Kingdom on rides and attractions. We enjoyed an early dinner at Crystal Palace, then made our way back to our Disney Resort to change into costumes for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! It took 45 minutes for five of us to get ready. Again, it was pretty slick. We made our way back fast, as the event had an official start time. We were going to be a bit late, and we didn’t want to miss the night’s opening event, a Halloween parade down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street!


So…I have to admit. The night was pretty cool. It wasn’t perfect. We had a few tiffs. But all in all, I have great memories of our evening at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!

First of all, I knew we were going to create a scene leaving the Disney Resort in our Mary Poppins costumes (much more of a scene than I ever like to make). Thankfully, we were at a DISNEY Resort, which helped everyone understand WHERE we were going and WHY we were dressed up so crazy! Everyone knew it’s the month of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Yes, that’s where we were headed. Thank goodness they all understood! We got a bunch of looks, smiles and sincere compliments on our costumes as we made our way out of the Disney Resort and towards the shuttles to Magic Kingdom.

I made a quick FaceTime call to my dad on our way to the shuttle. It was his birthday and I was bound and determined to wish him Happy Birthday before any more time passed! My parents thoroughly enjoyed seeing us in full costume before we boarded the shuttle for Magic Kingdom. My dad said that being able to see us in costume was the only birthday gift he needed. Before we knew it, the shuttle was rounding the corner, so I shut down FaceTime so we could load and make our way to the Halloween Party!

We were one of only three families on the shuttle. They complimented us on our costumes and we chatted a bit before the shuttle turned pitch black! I sat in the way back and center of the shuttle (where there was space for my big Mary Poppins wedding dress), with our two oldest next to me, and my husband and youngest to the side. I felt a little silly wearing a gown and big hat on the shuttle, but if there’s one place to wear that kind of get up, it’s Disney World on Halloween. Luckily, I was up for it and had been preparing for months, so it was easy to get in the mood and in character with the family.


We got off the shuttle and made our way to the gates to pick up our Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party wristbands! Most people were in costumes and the place had turned into full-on Halloween since we’d left the Park a couple hours prior. I have to admit, it was pretty cool. I’ll always remember a Disney cast member telling us “You’re in for a real treat,” right before we went through the gates to Magic Kingdom. A treat, for sure!


We stood in a long line for photographs in front of the castle. After all, I wasn’t getting five people dressed up in all this gear for nothing! We needed to capture this moment and this memory properly! A superhero family was rocking it in line behind us. Most everyone was dressed up in some sort of gig. No need to feel out of place here!

After photos, we made our way further down Main Street, but not too far! We wanted to get awesome seats for the parade that was about to start. I plopped down on the Main Street curb with my big ‘ol Mary Poppins Dress. Mini Mary and Michael sat down next to me, and Bert went to grab some snacks with Jane. While they were gone, I chatted with the over-the-top Star Wars family seated next to us, watched people get photographed in their costumes, and took a photograph with a couple little girls who loved Mary Poppins.

Mickey’s Boo To You Halloween Parade was awesome. My favorites were the headless horseman, the villains and the dancing princess zombies. Super cool and unique Disney World experience.




After the parade, we went trick-or-treating around the park in our costumes. They gave each child a bag and had stations set up around Magic Kingdom where you could get candy. Yes, it was great fun for the kids and extra fun to walk around the Park in full costume! As you can imagine, we got plenty of looks and compliments. Most people were dressed up, yes. But we didn’t see any other Mary Poppins get-ups the whole night, so our costume was unique and probably eye catching for that reason!

After trick-or-treating, we had a bit of an argument as to whether we should catch the Halloween stage and light show at the castle followed by fireworks, or go on as many rides as we could while crowds were lighter. I really wanted to see the castle show and fireworks since they were both Halloween-themed, so we found a grassy spot to rest and watch as a family.

I definitely had a moment there – on the grassy greens of Magic Kingdom’s castle – in my Mary Poppins costume. The castle light show and fireworks were beautiful. There was our little family…dressed up in our Mary Poppins get-ups. It was a cheesy, sweet, wholesome kind of Halloween magic.

After fireworks, a mom approached and said her daughter was a HUGE fan of Mary Poppins. She wondered if her daughters could greet me and get some photos. I said YES. Why not? This was a sweet mama and her girls. As I was getting photographed with those girls, a small lined formed with another family waiting for photographs with Mary (me). It was sweet. Super sweet. After all, these little girls thought I was the real Mary Poppins, the real Disney World version of Mary Poppins. I wasn’t some mom dressed up. To them, I was Mary Poppins! That made it all the sweeter, and me all the more comfortable with what was happening. So I took the photos and got in character as much as I could muster. This was a once-in-a lifetime thing. Nobody’s forming a line to see me as Mary Poppins again!


Surprising enough, it was already getting quite late. We were having a great time, but it was 10:30 p.m. Our Mini Mary had a LONG first day of travel the day before, and a VERY LONG day at Magic Kingdom. She needed to go to bed. So Bert stayed to go on another hour and a half of rides with Michael, and I made my way back to our Disney Resort with Jane and Mini Mary.

My husband was feeling incredibly bad that I had to leave early from Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party after all the work and preparation we’d done with the costumes. I didn’t feel bad. I’d had a great time. It was worth the extra effort, even if Jane, Mini Mary and I had to leave a little early. Bert and Michael had an amazing time going on as many rides as they wanted before Magic Kingdom closed. I’m pretty sure they even watched the second run of the Halloween Parade later that night. Jane, Mini Mary and I went back to the hotel, greeted and got photographs with an elderly Mary Poppins fan in the Resort’s dining room, and plopped in bed for a good night’s sleep.

Totally worth it. Fun. Unique. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Yes, we highly recommend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. And yes, I even recommend dressing up in your costumes of choice.

It was totally my husband’s idea. And a good idea at that.





31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days. I’d LOVE to connect on Facebook at and on Instagram at

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.


In 17 1/2 years of marriage, we’ve taken six family vacations to Disney World and one family vacation to Disneyland! In all my writing about Disney this month, I’ve neglected to mention that we also made an additional one-night stop at Disney World in 2012 before we headed out on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Five of those eight visits to Disney Parks, we stayed on Disney property.


We’ve stayed at the following Disney properties:

Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Disney’s Pop Century Resort (a second time)

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort

Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Having experienced Disney’s excellent customer service and stellar resorts, one thing is for sure. Staying on property – at Disney’s Resorts and Hotels – is the best way to go. We won’t do Disney any other way. We’ll never again question where to stay when we go on a Disney vacation. The best answer is to always stay on Disney property.


Today, I’d like to do a brief review of reasons to stay on Disney property! This post is intended for the family who’s decided to go on a Disney vacation, but isn’t sure WHERE they’ll be staying yet. They’re waffling between staying OFF Disney property at a regular resort or hotel, or ON Disney property at a Disney resort or hotel.

Here goes, friends! Here are the reasons WHY I love staying on Disney property, and think it would be a great choice for your family, too.



Staying at a Disney Resort or Hotel is incredibly convenient. That’s all there is to it. You can book the whole package at once. It’s a one-stop gig. This makes vacation planning A LOT easier. When you book a Disney vacation package, everything’s taken care of in one swoop – tickets to Disney Parks and Waterparks, Park Hopper passes, Disney dining plan, transportation, and your reservation at the Disney Resort or Hotel of your choice. It’s easy. It’s convenient. It makes vacation planning a lot more enjoyable and streamlined. For convenience alone, staying on Disney property is totally worth it.



When you stay at a Disney Resort or Hotel, you’re staying ON Disney property. That means you’re incredibly CLOSE to the Disney Parks. Sure, you’ll still have to travel some distance to get to the Park of your choice on any given day, but it’s a LOT closer than it would be if you stayed off property. Proximity is a big deal. It shaves off a lot of travel time in and out of the Parks each day, which means you have a lot more time to enjoy your stay instead of driving all the time. For proximity alone, staying on Disney property is totally worth it.


Disney’s Magical Express

When you stay on Disney property at Disney World, you can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express, which is Disney’s complimentary bus service to and from Orlando International Airport. Disney’s Magical Express is a GREAT way to start your Disney vacation. They pick up your luggage from baggage claim for you and deliver it straight to your room. So all you have to do is make your way to the Magical Express check-in desk, check in, activate your Magic Bands and off you go! You’re directed to the line that’ll bring you to your Disney Resort or Hotel, hop on your Disney Magic Express bus, and voila! Before you know it, you arrive at your Disney Resort! This is so easy, so slick! Disney’s Magical Express is complimentary both ways – FROM the airport TO your Disney Resort at the beginning of your vacation, and FROM your Disney Resort TO the airport at the end of your vacation. It’s a great way to begin and end your Disney vacation, and a big perk of staying on property.


Shuttle Service

Once you arrive at your Disney Resort or Hotel, you’ll need transportation to and from the Disney Parks, right?! No surprise, Disney has that taken care of for you. No need to rent a car. No need to worry. Every day, all day long, they have shuttles that run non-stop from Disney Resorts to all the Disney World Parks. Travel time to the Parks can be as short as 5-10 minutes, or as long as 25 minutes, depending on what Resort you’re staying at and where it is compared to the Disney Park you’re visiting that day. At any rate, all you have to do is wait in line a bit, get on the shuttle, and off it takes you to the Park. When you’re done at the end of the day, stand in line again, hop on the bus, and they’ll bring you back to your Resort. It’s incredibly convenient and so easy. We’ve never once rented a car when we’ve stayed on Disney property, and this is why. Because Disney’s all-inclusive transportation system is seamless.


Disney-Themed Rooms, Gift Shops, Food & Extra Perks

When you stay on Disney property, your whole experience is Disney themed. To some people, that might sound annoying or simply TOO MUCH. But our family loves it. We want our experience to be 100% Disney, all the way around. When you stay at a Disney Resort or Hotel, be ready for Disney-themed rooms, gift stores, shampoo bottles, decor, landscapes, and extra Disney perks such as pin trading in the gift store, character drawing in the lobby, and late-night Disney movies on the lawn. That doesn’t even begin to cover the food. Among the many lovely dining options in Disney Resorts & Hotels are Disney-themed foods, snacks and desserts, such as character waffles, Mickey cupcakes, Goofy trail mix, and refillable Disney mugs for your entire family. Whether you’re staying at the Grand Floridian, one of Disney’s Value Resorts, or anything in-between, rest assured your experience will be fully Disney!


Beautiful, Well-Kept Landscapes and Properties

Disney has the magic when it comes to creating and keeping beautiful properties. Every Disney Resort and Hotel I’ve been to is immaculately kept. Outdoor landscapes are beautifully manicured. The properties are well designed to keep guests flowing through efficiently, while simultaneously helping them feel comfortable, cozy and right at home. Pools, beaches, gazebos, and outdoor sitting and waiting areas are meticulously planned and well kept. Nothing’s lost on Disney. They make sure every nook and cranny – inside and out – is top notch.


Extra Magic Hours

When you stay at Disney’s Resorts and Hotels, you have automatic access to “Extra Magic Hours.” Extra Magic Hours are extended Disney Park hours. On certain days, they open select Parks extra early and keep them open extra late for guests staying on Disney properties. For example, one night on our most recent Disney World vacation, Magic Kingdom was officially closing at midnight. That was a late night the way it was! But Extra Magic Hours for that particular day ran all the way through 2:00 a.m., so my husband and son took advantage of the opportunity and stayed all the way until 2:00 a.m. closing! Typically, during Extra Magic Hours, you have FABULOUS access to rides, attractions and landmark locations you wouldn’t have otherwise. Want GREAT photos in front of the castle? Extra Magic Hours are the way to go. Want to get on a bunch of rides before the park opens or after the park closes? Extra Magic Hours are the way to go. Want to catch the ride that had a crazy long line all day long? Extra Magic Hours are the way to go. Want a quieter start to your day? Extra Magic Hours are the way to go. We nearly always take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours one way or another. They’re a HUGE hidden perk of staying on Disney property!

So that’s about it, ya’ll! Those are the best reasons to stay on Disney Property. If you’re trying to make a decision one way or another, and want more input from somebody who’s been there done that, please let me know! I’m happy to answer questions about our experiences staying at various Disney properties. Obviously, Disney Resorts & Hotels have worked incredibly well for our family. I hope they’re a great fit for your family as well!





31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days. I’d also LOVE to connect on Facebook at and on Instagram at

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.

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