The Best Way to Celebrate 51 years

The Best Way to Celebrate 51 years

Do you have a secret dream of the best birthday ever? Maybe going to Fiji or Paris? Maybe a cruise around the Mediterranean? Those will have to go on my future list, because I finally checked off my dream birthday this year, just a year late.

My dream was to spend my 50th birthday at Disney World. I know, some of you might roll your eyes at that, but to each their own. Some of my fondest memories are ones spent with family there, and I wanted to add to my memory collection, and my daughter’s. I wasn’t able to get there on my 50th, and that gave me a few moments of the “poor me’s”, but I decided to make the trip happen as soon as I could.

See, two years ago I got a call from one of my brothers that our mom’s cancer was spreading rapidly and that I needed to move back in with her to help her and care for her in whatever time we had left with her. That call came on my 49th birthday. The next day I packed and drove to my mother’s house, 150 miles away, leaving my daughter with my husband – who, by the way, had just suffered a mild stroke about 6 weeks earlier. I’ll save the rest for later. Yes, the rest.

The ensuing months involved lots of trips to doctors, weekend trips home to check on my family, an eventual decision to take my daughter to stay with me and my mother and to home school her because it was just too much for my husband to handle. The stroke left him more easily flustered than we’re used to.

Back to my dream birthday celebration. I wasn’t able to get there on my 50th, and that gave me a few moments of the “poor me’s”, but I decided to make the trip happen as soon as I could.

I hope you’re not looking for tips on saving money on vacation at Disney, because I don’t have them. After the last few years I’ve lived, I earned every penny and every minute I spent on this vacation. I am not interested in carrying water bottles all day and cooking breakfast and supper. I can do that at home.

I got in touch with a travel agent in March of 2017 to start planning the trip, and she is fabulous! Ask her anything and if she doesn’t know the answer right then, she will find it out ASAP. Honestly, it would have been a much different vacation if I had not had her help. Now I count her as a friend of mine. Her name is Stephanie Walsh and here’s a link to her Facebook page.

I had booked a cabin at Fort Wilderness because it’s so nice and spacious compared to a value resort, and I love the whole calm, friendly, spacious atmosphere there. I admit, I’m not very adventurous when it comes to resorts at Disney World. We had tried a value resort on Charlotte’s first trip and I was not a fan. One thing when you’re older and have a chronic condition that causes pain – you don’t want to skimp on comfort where you’ll be sleeping. I’ve stayed in a cabin at Fort Wilderness before and I appreciate that I’m not having to learn a whole new environment on top of all of the other things to focus on.

A few pics of the cabin. There’s also a full kitchen, and a queen and bunk beds in the bedroom.

I purchased that middle-ground Disney Dining Plan with great glee knowing that our meals were paid for in advance. I am only going to have one 51st birthday in my life, and I learned from watching my very strong, very independent mother wither away that happy memories are going to be my daughter’s best friend (and my grandson’s too) some day, not the memory of hauling water and sandwiches and trips to the grocery store to stock up on bread and peanut butter and jelly when we could be eating with Mickey and Minnie and the gang. Instead, we had planned supper at Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom, ate lunch at Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood Studios with Mickey, Minnie & Donald, ate lunch with Mickey, Chip and Dale at Garden Grill in Epcot, and had supper at the Hoop de Doo Review at Fort Wilderness. And we had tickets to La Nouba at Disney Springs which I had always wanted to do but it was always dark the other times I had been.


I was so excited! And I kept it all a secret until around August, when I realized I needed to clue in my husband so he could take the time off of work. It was all going to be so perfect! Finally, I broke down and told our daughter in October because I was getting so excited and couldn’t hold it in any longer.

BUT, it wouldn’t be life without a plot twist, right? Sooo, a week before ‘blast off’, my husband decided he wasn’t up to going on this trip. I had been planning this trip for months! So, my mind started racing as I fumed, and I decided to ask our 11 year old grandson to go, since he had never been to Disney World.

On Friday afternoon before my birthday, we took off for Florida. We stopped in Jacksonville to spend the night, then drove on to our home-away-from-home-for-a-week at the Happiest Place on Earth!

The highlights of our trip were plentiful and it’s so difficult to pick just a few pictures to showcase our trip, but I’m going to make a good go at it. While looking back at our pictures it looks like we were never there during daylight, but we were busy getting autographs and riding rides. Most of the “best” pictures of scenery were at night. Who can resist the castle all lit up and fireworks in the sky?

Fireworks over Dumbo’s entrance. Believe & Soar is going to be my mantra for the year.

Another thing I am not going to do on vacation is get up before the birds in the morning. So, we closed the parks most every night and we were able to see the castle without a sea of people waiting on a parade, or show, or photographer. We were able to get close to the packages under the gigantic Christmas tree and see exactly how large they were.  We were actually able to look at all of the store windows on Main Street in Magic Kingdom, and to look at the hand-prints in front of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood Studios. We saw the fireworks from the back of the castle in Magic Kingdom over the entrance of Dumbo with the sign that reads “Believe and Soar”. We even caught some Christmas elves in the middle of doing some magical decorating! The transportation runs for 2 hours after the park closes. There’s absolutely no excuse to be trampled in that craziness. I hope I taught the kids that it’s ok to not be in the crowd and not to be afraid of trying some new things (within reason).

Cinderella’s castle at night
Christmas, Disney, Hollywood Studios, Christmas tree, Echo Lake,
Christmas tree at Echo Lake in Hollywood Studios at night
Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom

And if you’re wondering if it’s worth taking your child or grandchild to Disney World or anywhere else because of their age and they won’t remember it when they’re grown, shame on you. Your memories, and the pictures you take of that child when they see the first (fill in the blank here) in their life are pure gold! That won’t  be the same when the child is 8 or 10 or 15. I cannot say enough times – you NEVER know what tomorrow is going to bring to you. Please don’t waste those chances on what-if and we’ll-go-next-year, if you can swing it financially this year.

#amenopausemommy #menopausebirthday #51stbirthday #happiestplaceonearth #happiestbirthdayonearth #hollywoodstudios #woodyandbuzz #pixar #toystory #yayasbirthday
P & Bunny meeting Woody & Buzz

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