Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


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Disney After Hours–Experience Adventure 18 of 100

 

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Me and my “babies” at Magic Kingdom, After Hours, 2018

Everyone on this planet knows how much I love Walt Disney World.  While growing up, my parents instilled in me an unwavering commitment to all things Mickey Mouse and I joyfully pass the obsession down to my own three kids–like any good mom would do.  🙂

 

jenandjack

Me and my cute sister!  The tradition (ok, it’s a necessity) of matching T-shirts started a long, long time ago!

 

Honestly, I thought long and hard about this–Would it be CHEATING if I counted every experience we enjoyed during our most recent trip to Walt Disney World as part of our 100, especially since it was our 8th time to visit Disney!?!

Um…ethically…I think yes.

To be transparent and fair, I decided not to use the actual trip as an “official” experience adventure.

BUT, we DID enjoy something totally NEW and it was certainly an ADVENTURE!

And, I am totally counting this one!  🙂

So, for our 18th of 100 experience adventures, we super maxed out the Disney junkie-side of our family and we partied like it was 1999 at Disney After Hours!

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I could post 10,000 pictures, but I will resist the urge.  You are welcome.  🙂

 

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OMGGGGGGGGG!!!!  Friends and family, Disney After Hours is a GAME CHANGER!

So…what is this SUPER AWESOME Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom?

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Disney After Hours first appeared in the spring of 2016, at the Magic Kingdom park inside Walt Disney World in Florida.  As always, Disney constantly tweaks the original offering a little here and there, but the glorious premise remains the same:  It is an extraordinary “Disney After Hours” experience.

In other words, guests purchase a ticket to the After Hours event (separate from a theme park ticket), and the ticket grants the unbelievable freedom to enjoy Magic Kingdom after it technically closes to the public–with some super awesome perks!

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!  This event has our names written allllll over it!

 

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Disney After Hours is NOT offered every night.  In fact, the dates are VERY limited.  At the time of this blog entry, the posted dates for 2018 were only January 19, 26, and 30, February 8 and 15 and March 1 and 8.  Pretty rare.

No one knows the exact number (except the all-mighty Disney people), but Disney enthusiasts estimate somewhere around 1,000 tickets per date are sold.  Obviously, it sells out quickly.  Super exclusive.  We are fancy like that.  🙂

 

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More than 25 popular rides remain operational from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., with little to no wait.  (Times for this event can vary depending on seasonal park closing times.)

Once the park closed to the public at 8:00 pm., only lanyard sporting guests were allowed on rides.  **I did see other people walking around the park for a little while, but they were turned away at the entrances to the attractions and rides.

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I hope you are sitting down for this.

From 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., my kids and I rode the following rides:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad–3 times

Pirates of the Caribbean

Haunted Mansion

Under the Sea–Journey of the Little Mermaid

Peter Pan’s Flight

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Mad Tea Party

Tomorrowland Speedway

Space Mountain–3 times

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train–7 times

Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover

All in 3 hours!  Unbelievable!

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We focused on riding all of our personal favorites, but other rides were open, such as the Astro Orbiter, It’s A Small World, and Jungle Cruise.  I also noticed Mickey’s Philharmagic and the Princess Fairytale Hall were both accessible.

The event also gave guests an unlimited amount of frozen treats, popcorn and bottled beverages, sold from carts stationed around the park.  If you possess the elusive lanyard, you just walk up, flash your card and get ice cream!

HELLO!

For real.

Disney heaven on Earth!

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The event produced my own personal, magical Christmas morning–my kids and I were laughing and skipping like carefree, unattended children in a candy store–going merrily from ride to ride–without the stress of crowds, long lines and posted wait times–freely eating an obscene amount of Mickey bars and cookies-n-cream ice cream sandwiches.

We wanted to stay ALL.  NIGHT.  LONG.

OH!  And I noticed a SUPER cool phenomenon:  For those 3 short hours, all of the guests in the park were members of a special, exclusive club–everyone was OVERLY friendly to one another, all interacting like old college roommates that just won a shared lottery jackpot…a feeling of blissful celebration that I honestly find difficult to accurately describe.

The opportunity to truly act and feel like a kid again.

No stress.  No sadness.  Free from the weight of our crazy world.

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Pure joy.

With a little hint of elated disbelief.

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We found little to no wait and NEVER a line at every ride we approached.  In total, the kids and I rode 21 times (some repeats).

 

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My final thoughts:

I LOVED every single minute of this experience.  What else can I say?

Was it worth $119 a person for only 4 hours?  Absolutely!

Would I do it again?  Yes, in a heartbeat.

Do I think this ticketed event could replace an entire day at Magic Kingdom?  Maybe.  It depends on your personal ride preferences and priorities.  We rode everything we loved and felt fulfilled when we returned back to our resort.

 

***The only thing that could make this event better is if Mickey Mouse and Walt himself stood on Main Street U.S.A. handing out Dole Whips.

I will say, this event is best suited for kids and adults that can easily and effortlessly stay up late without a break.  Time flies when you are having fun! 🙂  It was the shortest 3 hours of my life!  Go!  Go!  Go!

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Once we enjoyed this amazing experience, the rush and urgency to ride the most popular rides on our next day at Magic Kingdom completely disappeared.  No more pressure!  It opened up our schedule to focus on other attractions and relax longer at our table service dinner at Be Our Guest.  For a full restaurant review, read this.

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Side note:

I booked our 2018 vacation 8 months in advance, long before special event options are posted, so the dates of our trip were already in stone.  About 2 months before check-in, I noticed a list of dates for Disney After Hours on the Disney website–and one of those dates–January 30th–fell right in the middle of our stay.

Luck or pixie dust?!?  You decide.  🙂

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Why are we attempting 100 adventures in 6 months?  Read this!

How do I plan our Walt Disney World vacations?  Click here.

Everything you need to know about the 2018 Disney Dining Plan–Read this.

A list of all of the Disney character meals?  Yep.  Right here.

Free things to do at Disney?  Yes, please!  Click here!

 

 

 


2 Comments

Disney After Hours at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

 

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Me and my “babies” at Magic Kingdom, After Hours, 2018

Everyone on this planet knows how much I love Walt Disney World.  While growing up, my parents instilled in me an unwavering commitment to all things Mickey Mouse and I joyfully pass the obsession down to my own three kids–like any good mom would do.  🙂

 

jenandjack

Me and my cute sister!  The tradition (ok, it’s a necessity) of matching T-shirts started a long, long time ago!

No one in my family can remember how many times we visited Walt Disney World or Disneyland when we were little.  We even did a Disney family cruise when I was in high school, but there is an ongoing debate about which year…

As a mom, I totally keep count:  Walt Disney World 8 times–2004, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  Disneyland 2 times–1999 and 2011 and one Disney cruise in 2004.

I could post 10,000 pictures, but I will resist the urge.  You are welcome.  🙂

ONE **amazing** Disney experience trumps every other experience from all of those other trips, hands down–and it happened during our most recent vacation.

Yep.

DISNEY AFTER HOURS

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And, OMGGGGGGGGG!!!!  Friends and family, Disney After Hours is a GAME CHANGER!

So…what is this SUPER AWESOME Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom?

IMG_20180130_185640.jpg

Disney After Hours first appeared in the spring of 2016, at the Magic Kingdom park inside Walt Disney World in Florida.  As always, Disney constantly tweaks the original offering a little here and there, but the glorious premise remains the same:  It is an extraordinary “Disney After Hours” experience.

In other words, guests purchase a ticket to the After Hours event (separate from a theme park ticket), and the ticket grants the unbelievable freedom to enjoy Magic Kingdom after it technically closes to the public–with some super awesome perks!

Below is everything you need to know about this AMAZING event, directly experienced by me and my 3 children (ages 24, 13 and 12) on January 30, 2018.

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Disney After Hours is NOT offered every night.  In fact, the dates are VERY limited.  At the time of this blog entry, the posted dates for 2018 were only January 19, 26, and 30, February 8 and 15 and March 1 and 8.  Pretty rare.

From the Disney website, I purchased 4 tickets for $119 EACH.  No one knows the exact number (except the all-mighty Disney people), but Disney enthusiasts estimate somewhere around 1,000 tickets per date are sold.  Obviously, it sells out quickly.  Super exclusive.

I printed 4 paper copies of the tickets and carried those with me to the park on our designated night.  The printed tickets allowed me and my children to enter Magic Kingdom at 7:00 p.m.

 

 

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Under “Event Check-In”, it states that official check-in begins at 7:00 p.m.

We arrived at the front gate and saw a cast member holding an “After Hours” sign.

We checked in with her and took this cute pic.  🙂

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She handed us each a lanyard with a hard plastic information card–our passes for the night–and we walked into Magic Kingdom!

 

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Front

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Back

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After we entered the park, we took several fun Photopass pics (The tangled lanterns!) and rode a few exciting rides before the park closed to the other guests at 8:00 p.m

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For the After Hours event, these marvelous lanyards grant visitors the ability to stay in the park AFTER CLOSING TIME!  More than 25 popular rides remain operational from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., with little to no wait.  (Times for this event can vary.)

Once the park closed to the public at 8:00 pm., only lanyard sporting guests were allowed on rides.  **I did see other people walking around the park for a little while, but they were turned away at the entrances to the attractions and rides.

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I hope you are sitting down for this.

From 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., my kids and I rode the following rides:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad–3 times

Pirates of the Caribbean

Haunted Mansion

Under the Sea–Journey of the Little Mermaid

Peter Pan’s Flight

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Mad Tea Party

Tomorrowland Speedway

Space Mountain–3 times

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train–7 times

Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover

All in 3 hours!  Unbelievable!

00100sPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20180130210405738_COVER.jpg

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IMG_20180130_225548.jpg

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We focused on riding all of our personal favorites, but other rides were open, such as the Astro Orbiter, It’s A Small World, and Jungle Cruise.  I also noticed Mickey’s Philharmagic and the Princess Fairytale Hall were both accessible.

The event also gave guests an unlimited amount of frozen treats, popcorn and bottled beverages, sold from carts stationed around the park.  If you possess the elusive lanyard, you just walk up, flash your card and get ice cream!

For real.

Disney heaven on Earth!

IMG_20180130_220352.jpg

 

IMG_20180130_220335.jpg

The event produced my own personal Christmas morning–my kids and I were laughing and skipping like carefree, unattended children in a candy store–going merrily from ride to ride–without the stress of crowds, long lines and posted wait times–freely eating an obscene amount of Mickey bars and cookies-n-cream ice cream sandwiches.

We wanted to stay ALL.  NIGHT.  LONG.

OH!  And I noticed a SUPER cool phenomenon:  For those 3 short hours, all of the guests in the park were members of a special, exclusive club–everyone was OVERLY friendly to one another, all interacting like old college roommates that just won a shared lottery jackpot…a feeling of blissful celebration that I honestly find difficult to accurately describe.

The opportunity to truly act and feel like a kid again.

No stress.  No sadness.  Free from the weight of our crazy world.

IMG_20180130_214851.jpg

Pure joy.

With a little hint of elated disbelief.

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A brief breakdown:

For January of 2018, tickets for this event cost $119 each.  Prices can vary.

Disney After Hours is a special, ticketed event–it is separate from a theme park ticket and must be purchased separately.  **$119 PER PERSON for 4 hours in Magic Kingdom, 3 of those hours represent the event after closing to the public.  

The price of the ticket allows guests to enjoy 25+ rides and includes frozen treats, popcorn and bottled beverages, like water and sodas.

Our event was from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Magic Kingdom park closing time on January 30, 2018 was 8:00 p.m.)  We were allowed to enter the park at 7:00 p.m., one hour before closing time, which gave us 4 hours in the park.

We found little to no wait and NEVER a line at every ride we approached.  In total, my children and I rode 21 times (some repeats).

Future After Hours events *might* offer different time windows, different rides or different treats, depending on scheduled park closures and ride refurbishments.  Additional food options were available for purchase at restaurants on Main Street.

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My final review:

I LOVED every single minute of this experience.  What else can I say?

Was it worth $119 a person for only 4 hours?  Absolutely!

Would I do it again?  Yes, in a heartbeat.

Do I think this ticketed event could replace an entire day at Magic Kingdom?  Maybe.  It depends on your personal ride preferences and priorities.  We rode everything we loved and felt fulfilled when we returned back to our resort.

The most popular question:

If you have a theme park ticket and spend the day at Magic Kingdom, do you still need to spend an additional $119 for this event?  Yes, IF you want to stay after closing AND you want to ride the attractions, you MUST purchase the After Hours ticket (in addition to the theme park ticket).  However, you DO NOT need a theme park ticket to attend this event.  You can just purchase the After Hours ticket and enjoy the park after closing.

Consider this event for a check-in day or a rest day. ** We spent the day at Animal Kingdom and then enjoyed the After Hours event at Magic Kingdom that evening.

***The only thing that could make this event better is if Mickey Mouse and Walt himself were standing on Main Street U.S.A. to say goodnight as guests left the park.  🙂

I will say, this event is best suited for kids and adults that can easily and effortlessly stay up late without a break.  Time flies when you are having fun! 🙂  It was the shortest 3 hours of my life!  Go!  Go!  Go!

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Once we enjoyed this amazing experience, the rush and urgency to ride the most popular rides on our next day at Magic Kingdom completely disappeared.  No more pressure!  It opened up our schedule to focus on other attractions and relax longer at our table service dinner at Be Our Guest.  For a full restaurant review, read this.

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Side note:

I booked our 2018 vacation 8 months in advance, long before special event options are posted, so the dates of our trip were already in stone.  About 2 months before check-in, I noticed a list of dates for Disney After Hours on the Disney website–and one of those dates–January 30th–fell right in the middle of our stay.

Luck or pixie dust?!?  You decide.  🙂

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Still have questions about Disney’s After Hours event?  Email me anytime!

How do I plan our Walt Disney World vacations?  Click here.

Everything you need to know about the 2018 Disney Dining Plan–Read this.

A list of all of the Disney character meals?  Yep.  Right here.

A review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge–read it here!

Free things to do at Disney?  Yes, please!  Click here!

 

 

 


11 Comments

Flashback Posting Part 1

 

Flashback posting…

How did I get to this place?

Though I met my husband in 2nd grade (SUPER cool, huh?!?), we didn’t get married until we were 30 years old.  We never really dated…and…I’ll save that super cool story for another post.

Our first daughter was born in 2004…5 days before my son turned 11.  Eighteen months later, our second daughter came along.

This is the story of my family and how we became us.

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Our wedding pic

So, between 2nd grade and 2003, when I married my husband, there was a lot of Jerry Springer stuff I plan to skip right over.  Maybe a juicy post to write in the future, but not today, friends.  What you need to know is that I was a public school art teacher and I was a single mom, happily raising my super awesome son all by myself.

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The first time I took my son to Disneyland, he was 5 years old.  It took me all 5 years to save enough money for the two of us to fly to California.  During my own childhood, my parents took me and my sisters countless times and I wanted to create similar memories with my child.  At this point in time, the Disney nostalgia was the only driving force.

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My son’s first trip to Disneyland.  1999.

In 2003, I “retired” from teaching right before my first daughter entered the world.  I never had the option to be a stay-at-home mom and I was excited about the new adventure.

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We took a huge, multi-generational family vacation to Walt Disney World and enjoyed the Disney cruise during Christmas of 2004–Our son was 11 and our first daughter was 8 months.  It was the very first time my children went to Disney World.

I had no idea if or when we would return.

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My first 2 babies on the Disney cruise.  2004.

Consumed with horrible ear infections, my first daughter was late to talk but she was unique and quirky from the beginning.  We read to her every day and every night.  She LOVED it.  She also loved puzzles, the alphabet and writing/drawing.  Tricky and smart, she figured out how to climb out of her crib WAY too early.  And, she is left-handed…like her momma!  (It’s not really important…I just like it.)  🙂

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Our next daughter came along a year-and-a-half later.  My first daughter was NOT thrilled.  Her limited vocabulary reverted (bad ear infections, remember?) back to screams and demands.  The baby also entered our lives as the poster child for clinical colic.  To say it was a “nightmare” makes it sound better than the reality.  For real.

I felt like a CRA-Z, CRA-Z, CRA-Z person back then.

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Christmas. 2005.

I planned/dreamed of getting in my car and driving away…like towards a different state…maybe towards Disney???

Have I mention my husband traveled for work?  Or that my father-in-law moved in with us while he searched for a job?  My son was sleeping on a beanbag couch in our living room, my 18 month old was screaming at me and the baby NEVER.  STOPPED.  CRYING.

Like I said…get in my car…drive away…be gone…FOREVER. 

It was not an easy season.

My doctor prescribed antidepressants and I needed them.

So…colic is fun…

Our baby cried non-stop for more than three months.  When I say “cried”…I’m talking about a red face that’s soooo red, it is almost purple.  Mouth wide open.  Hair so sweaty it drips.  For hours and hours and hours.  My husband had a vasectomy when she was 2 months old.  When I signed the consent form, I drew a happy face next to my name.  🙂  Not kidding.

I’m not going to lie…I had a VERY difficult time transitioning from single, working mom to married, stay-at-home mom with three kids.  It took some time for me to evolve.

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Our first daughter was ready and super easy to potty train at 27 months.  Our baby potty trained herself at 22 months.  The girls learned to swim without floats on the same day.   They learned to ride their bikes without training wheels in the same afternoon.  Our youngest learned her letters, numbers, how to write, count, etc. before she turned one.  I chalked it up to her soaking in everything her older sister attempted.

In 2006, we took a second multi-generational Disney World vacation.  This time, we had all three of our kids.

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Animal Kingdom. Christmas.  2006.

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Back home, when I signed the girls up for preschool, our baby was the only one in her class that was potty trained and no longer used a sippy cup.  She held a pencil correctly and wrote her name.  She cried every day and didn’t like to go to school.

Our other daughter thrived in the environment.  Though she knew her letters and a few site words, she didn’t mind the academic repetition and she enjoyed the social interactions.

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Our youngest was rough.  She was draining.  And demanding.  And intense.  The parenting tools that worked for my other two children did NOT work for this one.  I attempted every avenue, read about different approaches, tried it all…I was exhausted–physically, mentally and emotionally.

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Oddly enough, when we traveled to Walt Disney World in 2009, we had very few issues.  In fact, it seemed like our daughter was at peace and her anxiety levels decreased while we vacationed in Florida.  (Was it Disney magic???)

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Disney World.  January.  2009.

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Our youngest daughter, watching a Disney show on the castle stage.

In January of 2010, when the kids were 16, 5, and 4, my husband deployed to Iraq.

That puts a kink in things.

My emotionally intense middle one was so overcome with sadness that she almost threw up in the parking lot at the airport.  To say she was inconsolable, is putting it lightly.  The girls both cried for days.  And days.

Though we all eventually adjusted, my youngest daughter’s intensity, anger and frustrations grew.  She hated play groups and would retreat to the bedroom in search of silence.  Walmart overwhelmed her and I once sat on the filthy, concrete floor of the beverage isle rocking her in hopes of calming her down.  She was terrified of strangers, bugs (specifically flies), rain, loud sounds and changes in routine.

At this point in time, all of the books on my nightstand focused on military families, deployments and ways to help kids cope with an absent parent.  I assumed the challenges with the girls (mostly our youngest) would subside once my husband came home.

I learned from the books that an adjustment period should be expected.  So…I expected things to eventually get better.

 

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The day my husband returned from Iraq

 

We celebrated my husband’s return with another wonderful, joy-filled trip to Walt Disney World in January of 2011.

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The Polynesian Village Resort. 2011.

After our Disney vacation and about six months after my husband returned home, things were not better.  Though the emotional intensity in our oldest daughter was easier to deal with, no one could effectively reach our youngest.  Her outbursts, fears and all-consuming freak-out sessions were controlling our family.  We begged and punished and ignored and yelled and cried and made behavior charts and Googled and I finally made an appointment with the pediatrician.

A chemical imbalance?  Hormones out-of-whack?  A rare disease?  Of course, I didn’t WANT her to have something but I wanted an answer…a reason…a way to help her…SOMETHING!  Armed with a notebook full of concerns, it took 4 adults to hold her down as they drew blood.  Everything was negative.

The doctor suggested we call a psychologist.

It took 5 meetings before my daughter would speak to the psychologist without me in the room.  She eventually looked forward to her weekly sessions and the “tools” sort of helped…breathing techniques, squeezing a pillow, a handmade “stomping” mat for anger outbursts.

In the summer of 2011, the psychologists said my daughter was bright and suggested I research Asperger’s Syndrome.

Books about the autistic spectrum replaced my military family collection and though my daughter’s “symptoms” were similar, she didn’t fit all of the characteristics.  Kids on the spectrum ARE different…so…I was even more confused.  Very confused.

My daughter needed to be assessed AFTER being in a social and academic environment that did not include her older sister.

The psychologist decided to get input from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. I agreed.

Two weeks later, my youngest daughter entered kindergarten at age five…the ordinary time for a child to enter public school.  My other daughter started 2nd grade and my son left  for college. journey26

 

I wrote a two page letter to the school–explaining everything about my youngest daughter–and we were blessed with an understanding and accepting kindergarten teacher.

EVERY ounce of credit goes to that amazing teacher for changing the course of our lives and I have thanked her many times for seeing something in my daughter that I was too close to see.

I was drowning and she saved my youngest daughter and our entire family with one, seemingly simple decision.

You think this blog entry is getting too long?  Yeah, me too.  If you want to know what happened next, you’ll have to wait for the next post.  🙂

To read the next post, click here.

For part 3, click here.