Tonawanda News — Looking back at the 2013 Keppeler family trip to Walt Disney World, I have a handful of images, smells, sounds, tastes that I will never, ever forget.
My boys staring raptly at Cinderella’s Castle. Jim’s complete and utter (and unexpected) glee at meeting Goofy. Sam’s uncontrollable giggle as we hurtled down Splash Mountain. The spicy smell of the the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we took the boys for a visit. The taste of a fresh Mickey ice cream bar.
And the sensation of being completely and utterly exhausted like pretty much no other time in my life.
Let me start at the beginning.
As a family of four, we had never taken a vacation. Oh, there were day trips, even overnight stays, but no vacations. We’d taken Jim to Walt Disney World when he was 15 months old and that went well, but we were about to discover that traveling with one extremely easygoing toddler (who didn’t walk at the time) and two rambunctious older children are two completely different things.
For one thing, they had opinions. Strong ones. Kid One wanted to live at the hotel pool and spend an extended period of time dancing every single time he heard music. (This was ... frequently.) Kid Two wanted to go on the same ride as many times as humanly possible. (Star Tours, if you’re wondering. I think our final tally was eight.) He wanted to meet a diverse list of characters (strewn throughout the parks and almost never meeting at the times we happened to stop by).
It wasn’t relaxation. It was negotiation ... constant negotiation. It was reworking our plans to try to hit everything everyone wanted to do the most, even when they didn’t realize they wanted to do it until right then. It was accommodating an 8-year-old who adored It’s a Small World and a 4-year-old who wanted to stretch the extra three inches for the biggest thrill rides. (We didn’t let him.) It was trying, just a little, to do the things my husband and I also liked the most.
I learned a lot about my family on this trip. I learned that my kids are troopers who can walk a lot longer than I thought they could (especially with the promise of ice cream at the end of it). I learned that my older son, who I thought was profoundly uninterested in things like Disney characters, is instead completely charmed by them.
I learned that my 4-year-old, given a few more inches in height, will be the roller-coaster buddy I’ve always hoped for. (I love them; my husband and older son won’t go near them.)
I learned that now matter how tired they are and how far they’ve walked, a swim will revitalize my family like nothing else.
I’ve learned my husband and I can roll with the punches even better than I thought we could — which is saying something. I’ve learned that I can give up the attraction I wanted to ride most (Expedition Everest) to get my kids to a show I know they’ll just love — and not even regret it.
It was the most exhausting, most complicated, most physically demanding experience of my life to date.
And I wouldn’t change a second of it.
Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at email@example.com.