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My family is the biggest fans of all things Disney and Walt Disney World. My husband and I have been traveling to Disney since our honeymoon. We know all the best tips and tricks for navigating your family’s Walt Disney World Vacation on any budget.

We’ve watched all the movies and shows. We own all the costumes and we can throw a Disney party based on any movie. We can be your resource for all things Disney and how to Disney like an insider.

How Disney Pixar Coco got Mexican Culture Right, Coco, Disney Pixar, Mexico, Why Coco is culturally relevant, What Coco is really about, Dia de los Muertos, Day of the dead

Yesterday, we finally saw Disney Pixar’s Coco and, as a Mexican, it exceeded my expectations in every way. Disney got this movie 100% right from the culture, to the people even down to the small details in the geography. Being Mexican isn’t just where your people are descended from it is a way of life, a way of thinking and believing. It is all about our culture and our culture revolves around one primary belief…family is everything.

Without too many spoilers; Coco is the story of a little boy and aspiring musician, Miguel, who in pursuit of his own dream to be a musician goes against what his family wants for him. Through his disobedience on Dia de los Muertos, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead. In order to return, all he needs to the Land of the Living is a blessing from a family member, a magical marigold petal and a promise he’s not sure he can make.

Through an expected spiritual journey of his own, Miguel comes to realize that while pursuing your dreams and being passionate and unrelenting in that pursuit is something that our people believe very deeply in, family always comes first. Sometimes you have to lose that safety net, one most of us have never been without, to realize what is truly important in this life and beyond.

Director, Lee Unkrich, went above and beyond by sending members of the crew to Mexico for research in order to gain an authentic sense of the country’s music and culture and it shows. I also love that he used an all Latino voice cast including, to name a few, Renee Victor, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Edward James Olmos, Anthony Gonzalez and Ana Ofelia Murguía. It made it feel authentic and not contrived like so many other movies have done. The Spanish language is not merely adding an “o” to every English word and the culture is certainly more than adding heat to everything. I especially loved that in the Land of the Dead some of Mexico’s great icons were included like Frida Kahlo, Cantiflas, Pedro Infante, Jorge Nigrete and Pancho Villa to name just a few.

If you’ve ever wanted to get a real inside feel for what it’s like to be Mexican, to live the culture and to understand what propels us forward, what drives us to live our truth on every level, Coco will lay it all out for you.

I love that it also shows how important music is to our people. It is not just to dance to, though we love a good party, but to pass down the stories of our people, portray the love of our culture and share our deep feelings about life, love and death. The grito, that portrays pure happiness and excitement, was a big part of my childhood coming from a family of musicians and farmers. Farming was the family trade but playing music and singing was the family’s joy, something we’ve always done together.

When I was watching the movie, I was quite emotional because the landscape was the perfect portrayal of my Mexico. The cobblestone streets, the courtyard in the center of the family homes, the iron gate opening to the family’s courtyard, the graveyard, the “chancla”, the musicians in the plaza and the way the people all take care of one another; everyone is family, this is exactly what it was like for me as a child visiting my grandfather and grandmother in my dad’s small village of Etúcuaro, Mexico.

Coco, Disney Pixar, Mexico, Why Coco is culturally relevant, What Coco is really about, Dia de los Muertos, Day of the dead

I think there has always been a common misconception to the outside world that our Day of the Dead is an extension of modern-day Halloween, in which the main focus is dressing up but it is nothing like that. Our Day of the Dead is a beautiful day of reverence; a day to pay homage, honor and remember our loved ones who have passed on. For us, they may be gone but they will never be forgotten. It’s a day to feel close to them and share memories of their lives. It’s a day to celebrate not that they are gone but the lives they lived. I think Coco did an amazing job of portraying that.

The film, Coco, itself is a visually stunning Disney film with a beautiful message; the most important message. I think every child and parent of every culture, nationality and race should watch this movie because when you have nothing else, you always have your family because family is everything. They are who will always catch you when you fall, love you when you are unlovable, forgive you when you do the unforgivable, pick you up when you’ve fallen down and never forget you. We live on through their memories forever so be the best you while you’re here because that’s how you will be remembered for eternity.

Coco is a movie that I can and do plan on handing down to my children and my children’s children. My only regret is that I didn’t get to watch it with my dad and he will be returning to Mexico this week. As a Mexican and a musician himself, I know he will fall in love with Coco and its soundtrack as much as I have. The music is haunting and beautiful and pulls at your heartstrings while making your chest swell with emotion. I was transported back to my childhood and left blurry eyed remembering all those who have crossed over the Marigold bridge.

Coco, Disney Pixar, Mexico, Why Coco is culturally relevant, What Coco is really about, Dia de los Muertos, Day of the dead

I haven’t been to Mexico in years since my grandfather died. My dad has asked me repeatedly to bring my girls to visit him, to show them the land where he was born; the country that is drenched in passion, soul, and an unending belief that through hard work and big dreams anything is possible but the pain of the loss of those I remember so fondly, no longer being there to greet me with a smile and a hug has been too much to bear.

The thought of not greeting the day with the sight of my grandfather’s back as he quietly eats his breakfast of pan con leche or hearing my tio Narci’s Grito or “Orale” when he’s proud of something we did, even if it was just our first steps has been hard for me but now, I want to go to be among the place where they once lived, where their memories are soaked into the furniture and the walls. Where they are known and remembered.

Coco stirred up all the pride I feel for my culture, its people and brought it all to the top. I’m putting it out to the universe to take my daughters to see the land that made us who we are today and visit the graves of our loved ones who came before us and made those dreams possible.

Last night, Coco took home the Golden Globe for Best Animated Motion Picture. Unkrich thanked his cast and crew during his acceptance speech and made a point of highlighting the vital importance of the culture that inspired the film and it was beautiful.

Coco would not exist without the incredible people of Mexico and their tradition of Día de los Muertos.”

I fell in love with the story of Coco, maybe it was because I’m Mexican, maybe because my dad plays the guitar and has been singing songs to me since I was born, maybe because I saw myself and my family in every scene of this movie. All I know is that I love it.

If you’ve seen it, I would love to discuss the film and its themes with you. What did you like or not like about it? What moved you? What did you not understand? Do you have any questions about the cultural side of it that I can explain better?

What did Coco mean to you?

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family, disney vacation, walt disney world resort, epcot, frozen ever after

Last month, we took the girls to Walt Disney World in Orlando. We’ve been many times in the past 18 years but, apparently, never in the sweltering hot months. I am here to warn you, NEVER go to Orlando during the summer months. We were there at the end of June and the heat index was 108 degrees. I felt like God was holding a magnifying glass over Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom while trying to fry all of the park goers. I literally wanted to cry, as my face was melting off. Lesson learned. But still, happiest place on earth.

But thanks to that horrible, swampy heat we did get to discover some rides and shows that we would have otherwise never have tried because when you are that miserably hot, you get a whole new perspective and exerting the least amount of energy, going where there is air conditioning and staying cool becomes a game of survival. Heat stroke is no joke so I’m telling you all the cool things to do at Disney.

I’m glad we went in June so now I know to never do that again. I’m just too sensitive to the heat to enjoy that kind of warm weather. If it wasn’t sweltering heat, we were being caught in torrential downpours. I am not referring to the quaint mid- day showers that come through and cool Orlando down, these were unrelenting and turned all of Orlando into a soupy, sweat box. It was hard to stay focused on the fact that I was at my happy place. Heat makes people grumpy.

Aside from the heat, the trip was one of our most enjoyable to Walt Disney World because we’ve gone so many times, we were able to mosey and not rush and when we were tired we went back to the hotel and rested. I’ve told you the top 25 secrets to rocking your Walt Disney World vacation but this is the addendum for the summer. Also, remember, everything is cooler at night and Walt Disney World has you covered with extended hours if you are staying at a resort on grounds.

Here are a few of our best tips to beat the heat at Walt Disney World during summer

Walt Disney World, Disney, hollywood studios, Sci-Fi Theater drive-in, stay cool at walt disney world, magic kingdom, buzz lightyear, toy story

Magic Kingdom

The Liberty Tree Tavern

I know it was hot outside but this place serves comfort food to the extreme. Think Thanksgiving all year round. Yes, I know, in theory, it sounds like an unwise choice in the heat but with all that walking and burning of calories, it was the best thing ever. It was so good, in fact, that we are actually planning our next trip in the fall, just so we can fully appreciate all that comfort food.

Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies

Best.Sundeas.and.Smoothies.EVER. But if you want to be practical, get the smoothie, it cools you down longer.

Casey’s Corner

I have passed this hot dog, ball park themed restaurant a million times and never stopped. Enter, hungry Debi looking for an air-conditioned restaurant on a sweltering day. The food was simple but delicious and the air was divine.

Mickey’s Philharmagic

Had it not been for the heat, I would have bypassed this gem and made my way onto something outside but I am glad that I didn’t because it was adorable and cute. Perfect for the entire family.

Astro Orbiter

Coolest ride ever. Did I mention, all these years and I never knew it was an actual ride? Yep, I thought it was just really cool decoration. Look up, people!

Transit Authority People Mover

I’ve seen this but never rode it before. It was awesome. Yes, it moves slowly and totally reminds me of something out of Wall-E but when it’s 108-degree heat index, it is totally okay to just ride instead of walk.  Not only is it ok, it is encouraged by this Disney addict. Survival of the fittest, and sometimes “fittest” means the lady who was smart enough to stop exerting herself in the heat.

Haunted Mansion

Enchanted Tales with Belle

It’s a Small World

Pirates of the Caribbean

 

Walt Disney World, Disney, hollywood studios, Sci-Fi Theater drive-in, stay cool at walt disney world

Hollywood Studios

The Great Movie Ride

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along

Sci-Fi Dine IN Theater

One Man’s Dream

Pizze Rizzo

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Epcot

Coral Reefs: Disney Animals

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Frozen Ever After Ride

Soarin

Gran Fiesta Tour Featuring the Three Caballeros

L’Artisan des Glaces

All of these places mentioned at Walt Disney World are sure to keep you cool and indoors.

Not to say that there isn’t still plenty to do outside. I mean, come on, the place is a beautiful, waking fairy tale but when the heat is out of control, especially if you are from a climate that is not as hot, it’s good to have cool options to pop in and out of throughout your day at Disney World.

This trip also gave me the opportunity to explore lots more different restaurants (table service is your friend in sweltering heat) than normal because we usually stick with favorites. I will do a follow up to this post on all the great places to eat at Epcot and tell you all about Pandora, including lots of photos, insider tips, and video. You won’t want to miss it!

pandora, pandora at night, Walt Disney World, Disney, hollywood studios, Sci-Fi Theater drive-in, stay cool at walt disney world

What’s your favorite attraction, ride, restaurant or thing to do while visiting Walt Disney World?

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Disney World, Walt Disney, Disney Secrets, Disney with kids, Type-A WDW,

Last week was our spring break and we decided on a Disney World vacation with kids. I planned and researched for months. You knew it was coming. After the Frozen party and the making of the  Elsa dress ( because I assure you there are none available to buy anywhere, not even at Disney World), it was time to go all in ..Disney World style. We love all things Disney.

The Big Guy and I have been to Disney World many times but never with children for an entire week. In fact, my first trip to Disney World was 15 years ago on our honeymoon. Believe me when I tell you that Disney World is not just for children. It can be as romantic and magical as you want it to be. It’s all in the planning.  But this trip was all about our girls so I wanted to make it magical for them not like last time.

Here are 25 top secret tips that every parent should know to rock their Disney World vacation with kids.

1. There is a fastpass+ in Beta for the “you can’t get a reservation for the next 8 months” Be Our Guest restaurant. Yep. That is right. It’s not advertised and you are welcome to wait in line on Stand by for a couple of hours if you prefer but if you don’t….check out this secret squirrel beta testing link to fastpass+ for Be Our Guest Reservations. The food is great and reasonably priced and the décor is gorgeous.

Disney World, Walt Disney, Disney Secrets, Disney with kids, Type-A WDW,Magic Kingdom, Flying Dumbo, FantasyLand, Anna, Elsa, Frozen, Epcot, Norway, Disney World Vacation with Kids

This is what heat stroke looks like. You have been warned. Sun hats & sunscreen are a must in a four hour wait line.

 

2. If you are planning to see Anna and Elsa, they are in Norway at Epcot until the end of April 2014 and then they will move to the Magic Kingdom. If you want to see them at Epcot, plan on arriving when the park opens and plan on standing in line for a minimum of 3.5 to 4 hours. My husband ran to Epcot when the park opened and we still had to wait for 4 hours. Even if you do the princess breakfast at Askershus Royal Banquet Hall 1) Anna and Elsa are not included only princesses before 1993 and 2) you get no line privileges other than starting out in closer proximity. Also, wear lots of sunscreen and bring water. You will thank me when your child doesn’t have a heat stroke.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Disney World, Walt Disney, Disney Secrets, Disney with kids, Type-A WDW,Magic Kingdom, Flying Dumbo, FantasyLand, Anna, Elsa, Frozen, Epcot, Norway

 

3. Wait for Anna and Elsa to go to the Magic Kingdom and fastpass them. Fastpass is your friend. Here are more tips for having the best day at Magic Kingdom.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids,Disney World, Walt Disney, Disney Secrets, Disney with kids, Type-A WDW,Magic Kingdom, Flying Dumbo, FantasyLand, FAStpass

 

4. Speaking of fastpass, with the magic bands you are able to select 3 fastpasses per day. Take advantage of that feature. I suggest using them wisely on character meets and roller coasters. The  new Enchanted Tales with Belle is a must do for any Beauty and the Beast fan. The animatronic Lumiere was awesome.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Royal Table, Belle's Enchanted Tales, Walt Disney World, Beauty and the Beast

 

5. If not using the fastpass feature, hit the princesses and popular attractions first thing in the morning. It can mean the difference between a 15-minute wait and an hour and a half wait.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids,Disney World, Walt Disney, Disney Secrets, Disney with kids, Type-A WDW,Magic Kingdom, Flying Dumbo, FantasyLand, Cinderella's ROyal Table, Merry Go Round

 

6. Take advantage of “Magic hours”. If you are staying on Disney World grounds, you can qualify for extra magic hours which means the park is open an hour earlier or a couple hours later depending on the day and the park. I suggest using this tool when planning your stay. If you think it’s not worth it, look at the photo below with maybe 100 people in the park, at 9 am that would quickly become 85,000 people in the park that day.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Royal Table, Merry Go Round, Magic Kingdom, Magic Hours, Walt Disney World

 

7. Schedule your trip ahead of time using your MyDisneyExperience.com. Honestly, you will be able to make sure that you don’t miss a thing and if you are a Type-A mom like myself, you’ll be thrilled at how much easier your days go knowing when things start and where to go.

 

8. Download the Walt Disney World app. With this app, you will be able to make reservations and check availability. You will be able change fast passes. Several times we got to an attraction before our scheduled time and rode the ride and either saved our fastpass to go again or changed the fastpass for a different attraction.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Royal Table, Merry Go Round, Cinderella's castle, Walt Disney World, Happiest Place on Earth, Magic Kingdom

 

9. Schedule down time! I am so serious. Between the heat and all the walking, little ones ( and big ones too) will need naps or pool time. I took no less than 3 naps during our spring break.

 

10. Make sure to see the new for 2014 3 pm Disney Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom. It has all the princesses and princes and is sure to delight children of all ages.

 

11. Hit the Kilamanjaro Safari at the Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning. The animals will not be as active later in the day when the sun is high in the sky and beating down on them. They will be resting and hiding in the shade.

 

12. Make sure to see the Wishes nighttime spectacular. It truly is a magical experience and you will all get swept away in the moment.

 

13. Soarin is awesome! I love to fly and this felt like I was flying free as a bird. My girls loved it too but be sure to fastpass it because the stand by line was never under 180 minutes the whole time we were there.

 

14. Get the Memory Maker. You know all those photographers that are standing around asking to take your photos? Well, just spend $150 for the Memory Maker and you get to digitally download all of those photos and bonus, YOU Get to be in the photos!! No more being the photographer. Your kids will look back and know that mama was actually on vacation with them.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Royal Table, Merry Go Round, cinderella, my princesses, Walt Disney World

 

15. Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Rockin Roller Coaster and Splash Mountain are all must rides for us. The kids will love it and you will LOVE the photos, especially if this is their first experience on the rides. The faces are priceless.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Magic Kingdom,Memory Maker, Space Mountain

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Walt Disney World, Merry Go Round, tower of terror, MGM

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16. Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table is a once in a lifetime must for every little girl. Be warned it is pretty pricey for breakfast just under $200 for a family of four BUT to see my girls’ faces when the princesses came to our table was something totally worth the price. That magic and belief is a fleeting part of childhood so savor it and indulge while you can.

 

yal Table, Merry Go Round, Jasmine

 

17. Meet Mickey and have your photo taken with him. Firstly, Mickey’s mouth actually moves know. Holy high-tech animatronic head and it’s actually a tradition we’ve been doing since our honeymoon trip and it’s kind of cool to see how we’ve changed and the girls grow over the years.

 

18. Be sure to enjoy a Pineapple Dole Whip (sold at the Dole stand at the Magic Kingdom), a turkey leg or a funnel cake from the funnel cake cart at the Boardwalk. I also highly recommend taking your family to Restaurant Marrakesh in Morrocco at Epcot. The food is fantastic. My kids loved it because who doesn’t love sweet and savory together. There is a live belly dancing show every hour on the hour and it is amazing to watch and there is huge chance that your child will get pulled onto the dance floor. Have your cameras ready!

 

Disney World, The boardwalk, Seashore sweets, surrey bikes, The Boardwalk bakery

 

19. Spend an evening at the Boardwalk. Get a pepperoni pizza from the Boardwalk Pizza Window and grab a seat on the Boardwalk at sunset. Take a surrey bike ride, get a family caricature portrait sketched and watch the street performers. It’s lots of good clean fun and my kids always seem to get pulled into the shows, so have your camera ready.  When the Boardwalk is all lit up at night, it is absolutely magical. End the night with dessert from the Boardwalk bakery ( my favorite is the Tiramisu) or if ice cream is your preference, check out Seashore Sweets. Try saying that 3 times real fast.

 

20. Late night, Sushi at Kimonos in the Swan is fun for the entire family. First, enjoy some amazing sushi and follow that with some karaoke on the Kimono stage. But be warned, if there is a large convention in-house, you may have to wait awhile to get your food.

 

Disney World, Walt Disney, Disney Secrets, Disney with kids, Type-A WDW,Magic Kingdom, Flying Dumbo, FantasyLand,

 

21. The Flying Dumbo ride now has a gigantic indoor play area built into the line wait. It is amazing because kids are notorious for getting squeamish and whiney when in line for too long so how awesome that you get to the middle of the line and enter the play area. The hostess hands you a pager and you can play until it’s your turn to ride. Genius. Bravo Disney.

 

yal Table, Merry Go Round, Epcot, Festival of flowers

 

22. Plan your visit during the International Flower festival and it will make your walk around the countries while you snack and sip even more breathtaking and the kids will love the topiaries of the Disney characters.

 

23. Cool off at the new Casey Jr. splash pad in Fantasyland. It’s cute, it’s convenient and a welcome reprieve from the blistering Florida heat. Make sure the kids have swimsuits or a change of clothes on the day you visit the Magic Kingdom because they won’t want to miss the fun. If it rains and you take a day off of the parks, might I recommend bowling and pizza at Splitsville in Downtown Disney. It’s fun, indoors and very reasonably priced and the food is YUM!

 

24. Bonfire and s’ mores on the Boardwalk followed by a free outdoor movie by the pool under the stars.

 

DIsney World, La Nouba, Cirque du soleil

 

25. La Nouba is 110% worth the cost. My girls are 6 and 9 and they were enthralled with the entire experience. The trampolines and the diabolos were their favorite parts. Myself, the silk scarves and ariel ballet blow me away every single time.

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These are all things that I’ve learned over the years of visiting Disney World. The most important thing you can do at Disney World ( or anywhere for that matter) with your kids is just enjoy the moments, being there and remember not to sweat the small stuff because in the grand scheme of things…none of it matters. Make a plan but be flexible.

What is your best tip for having the best Walt Disney World Vacation with kids?

482014

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Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Last night the Big Guy surprised the girls with tickets to see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, now playing in theaters. This should be no surprise to anybody who knows us because everyone knows that we are huge Disney fans but more importantly, this is one of our favorite Disney films.

I went to see Beauty and the Beast with big expectations.

I wasn’t sure that the movie could live up to the way I felt about the animated movie. I mean, I’ve loved that movie for 26 years. I won’t lie, Beauty and the Beast has a very special place in my heart. In a lot of ways, the Big Guy and I are very different but when we met, we both agreed that we loved Beauty and the Beast. It was one of the first things we had in common.

The Big Guy is an artist and he loved the original Beauty and Beast because it was animation at its finest. It was traditional Disney. He’s old school like that. I loved the original movie because it was an epic love story between a bookish, headstrong brunette with a wanderlust in her heart ( ahem) and a Beast who became beautiful on the inside as his true nature was revealed. I loved the story and the characters. I couldn’t wait to see how that parlayed into live action.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

I knew the cast was stellar and so was the directing. Bill Condon outdid anything I could have expected. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts. With this cast, how could you go wrong?

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told.

“Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within.

My family loves musicals and Beauty and the Beast did not let us down.

I’m listening to the soundtrack as I type this post. In fact, we’ve been listening to it since watching the movie last night. The original score by Alan Menken was stunning and new songs added a level of depth to the live-action movie that wasn’t there in the original. My favorite songs are Days in the Sun, Gaston, Be Our Guest, Something There and Evermore. If you weren’t in love with the Beast by this point in the movie, his very Les Miserable like solo Evermore would make you fall head over heels with this character.

 I absolutely loved the live-action Beauty and the Beast. Dare I say, even more so than the original. The story was just as beautiful but the cinematography was out of this world and there was something about the film that not only told you what was happening but was so masterfully written, acted and directed that it immersed you in the film. I felt the film.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Scene by scene, you fall in love with the Beast along with Belle.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

We get to know his soul and it is beautiful. Near the end, when the enchanted household items begin to turn into just household items, I felt the souls leave the pieces. I know it sounds crazy but it was that good. You felt it, you didn’t need to be led by the nose to the outcome.

 

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Emma Watson was the perfect Belle, for me. She is girl-next-door, smart and strong and she plays the part without being ostentatious. I feel like Watson’s Belle was right on the mark. Her understated reaction to everything balanced out Dan Stevens powerful presence as the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan as Lumiere and Cogsworth were marvelous. The Be Our Guest performance was nothing short of magical. I would have to say that it was so spectacular that it outdid the original in the wow department. I really didn’t think that was possible. Ewan McGregor’s delivery of Be Our Guest was reminiscent of Cabaret’s Vilkommen. Also, Disney fan alert, be on the lookout for the easter egg during the song.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Emma Thompson’s Mrs. Potts was spot on. She was just as wonderful as Angela Landsbury in the original but softer around the edges.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Luke Evans was the perfect Gaston. He was definitely more despicable than I remember. I guess there must be more redemption for animated characters because in that version I found his bumbling endearing. In the live-action film, I hated the character. Luke Evans played the part perfectly.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Josh Gad as LeFou was one of the highlights of the movie. I’ve loved Josh Gad since Book of Mormon (I told you we love our musicals) but Gad made LeFou endearing. In the animated movie, LeFou was annoying and a pest. In the live-action version, he was the voice of reason. He served as Gaston’s ignored moral compass. In the end, he did the right thing. His rendition of Gaston was one of the highlights of the film. Gad played LeFou with flawless delivery.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Here are our reviews of Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast.

I love it! I would see it 100 more times and I just might because it was that magical to me and who can’t use a little more Disney magic in their life? The story was even more endearing to me than I remembered it being ( and I just watched the original over the past weekend to prep for the movie.)

The Big Guy, who I told you is an artist, an animation traditionalist and this is his favorite Disney animated film, said that he loved the live-action film but still prefers the animated one. He said he didn’t like some of the creative license that, he felt, deviated from the original. I thought it filled in the gaps nicely. Then again, I am all about the story because I am a writer and he is more about the animation.

Bella, my just turned 12-year-old, is with me. She said she LOVED the movie and she can’t wait to see it again. Her favorite part was the Be Our Guest sequence and she loves Emma Watson as Belle. She loves the pageantry of Beauty and the Beast and she said that she loved absolutely everything about it.

Gabs, my sweet 9-year-old, said she loved the movie but she isn’t ready to say whether or not she loves it more than the original. She’s my analyzer, she likes to weigh her options. However, she’s promised me a video interview that I will add later today.

Overall, our family emphatically agrees that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast live-action film is a must see.

It’s the perfect movie for all ages. The only warning I have is if you are taking really small children, there are a couple times that the Beast roars really loudly and it may startle toddlers/preschoolers but other than that, be prepared to be wowed by the magic. And you might as well get the soundtrack now because you will be wanting to play it non-stop afterward.

If you’ve seen both Beauty and the Beast versions which is your favorite and why?

 

 

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dream big princess, dream, how to succeed, Disney, princess

This post is sponsored by Disney but all opinions to dream bigger are my own.

My big dream for the upcoming months is to dream bigger; to embrace change, to give myself permission to go for my dreams with everything I’ve got.

I’ve always been someone who firmly believes that “where there is a will there is always a way” (with a lot of hard work and dedication) but I hold back. Even though the possibilities are endless, something stops me. There’s always this little voice inside me, quietly whispering, “but what if you fail?”

I go after things with my everything (especially if it involves protecting or standing up for others. I’m a mom, it’s what we do) but when it’s just about me, I don’t always go all in because the possibility of failure terrifies me. Finally, I’ve realized that there is something so much worse than failing and that is not trying at all.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

When I was a little girl, watching the Disney Princess movies, I loved the vivid colors and happy endings. Princesses were flawed like the rest of us and yet they somehow figured it all out in the end. I think that’s what made me want to be a princess the most.

I learned early on that I was the only one who could make my dreams come true but it wasn’t going to be easy. You have to be willing to put everything on the line to make dreams come true and that’s part of what makes them so special. I like to believe that will is a wish with a lot of work behind it.

A dream is not something that happens to you, a dream coming true is something that you have to be willing to work hard and sacrifice for.

dream, how to succeed, Disney, princess

“I have been up AGAINST TOUGH COMPETITION ALL MY LIFE. I WOULDN’T KNOW HOW TO GET ALONG WITHOUT IT.” – WALT DISNEY

As I embraced the belief that I could make my dreams come true it changed my way of thinking. The dreams got bigger the moment I realized that the only one who could stop me was me.

Take Cinderella, for instance, she was abandoned to a life of servitude after her father’s death but she didn’t give up on her dreams. She kept going after her dreams and never let anyone make her believe that she was less than. The possibilities were literally endless and I decided that no one was going to get in my way, including myself.

I felt a closeness to the story of Cinderella because, like me, she was a poor little girl with no prospects and no one to pave her way but herself. Her “never give up” attitude, her self-confidence, and her quiet determination is what got her through the hard times. She made her dream a reality by never giving up.

Actually, the older I’ve gotten and after having daughters of my own, I relate to so many of the princesses because I see the moral of the stories. I love the story of Tiana because she made her own dreams come through by working hard and never giving up. I find that admirable on every level. Merida is a hero of mine because of her bravery and willingness to forge her own way but I also loved the mother/daughter storyline. I watched it with my own daughters and it inspired me.

Mulan inspires little girls everywhere to be anything they want to be because our femininity is not a limitation. Then there is Elena who is the first Latina princess and I love her because she is someone my daughters can relate to culturally. The sisterly love story behind Elsa and Anna also made them a favorite of ours because, in our family, the family is everything.

dream, how to succeed, Disney, princess, dream big princess

“When you believe in a thing, believe it all over, implicitly and unquestioningly.” – Walt Disney

Some dreams are worth never giving up on. I married my “prince,” my best friend and partner in life. He encourages me to pursue my dreams. My girls look to me to set the tone. I want my children and my children’s children to know that any dream they have is a possibility.

The thing about dreams is you have to be willing to put your everything into it, be willing to work until you pass out from exhaustion, and more importantly you can’t be afraid of failure because the only thing worse than failure is not trying. There is no shame in trying and failing.

Not giving up on your dreams is what I’m teaching my little princesses by being the example that never giving up and working hard for your dreams pays off in the end, even if it is just being profoundly happy trying. It’s better than being miserable not.

My big dream is to fight as hard for myself as I have always fought for everyone and everything else I love in this world. I want to be more present as a mother (not just involved or physically there but I want to listen and hear my children), I want to make more “us” time for my husband, I want to travel everywhere and show my children the world and I want to take my success in my career to the next level by going after everything I want, even if it terrifies me. I want my daughters to know those wonderful things can happen if you just dare to dream hard enough.

dream big princess, dream, how to succeed, Disney, princess

What would you dare to dream if you weren’t afraid?

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This post is sponsored by Disney’s Pinocchio. All opinions and the wish for my child are my own.

Ever think about what your greatest wish for your child might be? Do you want them to be smart? Successful? Healthy? Happy? Good human beings? Maybe all of thee above. When I was a child, I thought the tale of Pinocchio was just about a boy who lied and when he did, his nose grew. The moral of the story for me, as a child, was to not lie because it’s bad and liars get caught. So not worth it, plus, I didn’t want my nose to grow. I was vain so that lesson quickly stuck with me. Years later, that’s how I became “Truthful mommy.” I simply can’t lie because my face shows every thought that comes into my head. I think it’s a pretty awesome thing and it’s something I’ve taught my girls, the no lying part, the face betrayal is pure genetics (fortunately for me they’ve inherited that too).

As an adult, I’ve read the story of Pinocchio with my children and I see it with a fresh perspective. I see an even deeper aspect to the timeless story. I see a man desperate for a child; someone to love unconditionally. Geppetto wants what all parents want, his own little miracle.

From the moment I knew that I was pregnant and felt those first flutters and kicks, I’ve known that being a mother was a privilege. Sure sometimes I’m exhausted and the minutia of motherhood makes me feel like I’m a little bit brain dead. But, then out of nowhere I’m inspired or flabbergasted and other times I’m just outright amazed by the way they move through the world. They truly are miracles to me. Don’t get me wrong, they can also be a handful. It’s certainly not always sunshine and rainbows but I totally see why Geppetto wished on a star to make his puppet son a real boy. Nothing can substitute the love shared between a parent and a child.

wish for your child, wish upon a star, pinocchio, parenting, motherhood

 

When I was younger, I always knew that when I grew up, I wanted to be a mom. I come from a big family; 6 children. I like to call us the Mexibilly Brady Bunch, only we all came from the same set of Catholic parents. I’m the Marsha of the family. Children have always been a part of my life. I was always the girl who went to family/friend gatherings and spent a bulk of my time entertaining the children. It was all I had ever known and I knew one day, I wanted my own children to love.

I grew up, got married and eventually had a couple little girls of my own. There is nothing quite like motherhood. You can babysit a million children, read every book and watch every movie and it still never prepares you for being a mother to actual children. First, you are overwhelmed with all the heart-exploding love that you never even knew existed in the world that you feel for said ooey, gooey baby from the instant you see them. And forget about it once they put that baby in your arms, you are done for. There is no recovery from that kind of love. Instant and eternal addiction.

Then complete and overwhelming, all-encompassing fear because holy moly you realize this baby is perfection and you have absolutely no idea what you are doing and the last thing you want to do is mess up the most perfect thing you will ever do in your life. When the doctor said I could go home from the hospital with my first baby, I was overcome with sheer panic because what were they thinking? I felt like the world’s biggest imposter. I was terrified. None of my experiences up to that point had prepared me for what I was feeling in that moment.

wish for your child, wish upon a star, pinocchio, parenting, motherhood

Then more fear because, oh my goodness, I love this little person more than anything I’ve ever loved in my entire life and now they are out in the world, exposed to the elements; the crazy (all the crazy), global warming, sharp edges and mean people (people who could hurt their feelings or worse). And what if I messed it up and she stopped breathing or I couldn’t feed her or I dropped her (all of which happened by the way) or the list was endless of ways that I could damage her? That’s when it hit me like a train, loving someone has no guarantees. Being able to love someone so precious so much comes with a price and that price is the uncertainty that it will all be alright. The price for great love is great pain if it’s ever lost but it’s totally worth the risk. Once you’ve seen your child look at you like you are the best thing in the world, you will die, kill and risk it all just to see them smile; everything else becomes meaningless when you have that kind of clarity. When you give love to a tiny human, you accept the responsibility and you never look back, only forward.

Geppetto’s wish for Pinocchio was that he became a real boy. How could he not? I have two wishes for my daughters and they are these: health and happiness. Sounds simple, right? Not so much because one day I may find myself confronted with the choice of watching my child choose a path that might not be what I would have chosen for their happiness, but it’s not my life to live. I am only the giver of their lives but it is their lives to live.

wish for your child, wish upon a star, pinocchio, parenting, motherhood

Sometimes we have to watch our kids struggle before they reach their goals. That’s how they learn to work for their dreams. That’s how they learn to become who they are meant to be. That letting go to let them grow up is almost impossible but it’s part of the unwritten parent/child agreement.

I can keep my daughters healthy and happy in my house because I control the climate but once they get out in the world, I can only be there to catch them when they stumble. I will always do all that I can to help them make their dreams come true but I can’t do it for them because then the happiness will lose its effect.

wish for your child, wish upon a star, pinocchio, parenting, motherhood

So my wish for my girls is all the happiness that the world has to offer them. I teach them to go for their dreams. I teach them to pursue their joys and to never be afraid to change their expectations because sometimes life and happiness don’t fit neatly into a box. Life is messy and beautiful and I just want my girls to be open to enjoying every single moment of it.

disney, wish for your child, wish upon a star, pinocchio, parenting, motherhood

New to The Walt Disney Signature Collection, the movie that inspired the world to wish upon a star, Pinocchio is a timeless tale for the whole family. Bring home this magical story of friendship and epic adventure now on Digital HD & Disney Movies Anywhere, on Blu-ray Jan 31. Pick up your copy here. It includes hours of new and classic bonus content.

This is the wish for my child, what do you wish for yours?

 

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Holidays, Disney, family traditions, Pete's Dragon

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Disney. All opinions are my own.

Can you believe the holidays are right around the corner? My family is super busy and it seems like the older they get, the busier we get and the faster it all goes by. I remember that first year of motherhood and it felt like we were living in molasses. Everything took forever. I never thought my daughter would roll over and when she did, it felt like years before she crawled and jeez, it was only 10 months, but it felt like ions before she walked. Don’t even get me started on potty training. But now, I just want all the moments and milestones to slow down.

I battle the urge to freeze time between loving their new-found independence and wanting to drop down to the floor and crawl into the fetal position and tantrum until they just stop growing up. I know, when I say it out loud, I sounds quite crazy but I assure you, this is motherhood.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I can’t stop time. Try as I may and, believe me, I do. I’ve realized that I just have to make the most of every single moment we have together. I have to suck the marrow out of motherhood, not unlike the soul sucking task of potty training, I will not go quietly into that good night of parenting. This is why I make a point of finding the special moments in the everyday and I try, though often forget, to remember to breathe in and inhale all of these tiny amazing and devastating moments that make up a life.

One of our favorite holiday traditions is spending time together watching family movies, usually something Disney because we’re all hopeless Disney fanatics. Honestly, it’s something we enjoy all year round but at the holidays it’s just a little more special because there are days off school, snow, hot cider, long days in matching pajamas (yep, we’re that family) and blanket forts involved. It’s magical.

One thing we really love to do together is putting on those crazy matching onesie pajamas (oh yes, did I forget to mention that they are onesies?) and decorate the house for the holidays. The fireplace is usually going, snack mix is in the oven and we are generally behaving goofy but then, we put a movie on and we’re transported, as a family, someplace else. It really is the cheapest vacation ever.

The matching holiday pajamas have been ordered and are on the way (I’ll share those later) so now the only thing left to do is count down the days and settle on a movie that we’ll all love. And just like that, one of my childhood favorites, Pete’s Dragon, got a reboot this year and is available to buy now! Just in time for our holiday break, family fun time.

Nothing like a family friendly adventure story about a boy and his pet dragon to not only ignite the imagination but warm the heart. But it’s more than that. It’s about finding your family, the people who love you, and about friendship, in all of its forms. It’s a beautiful story and I can’t wait to watch it this holiday season as we celebrate our family and make more memories together.

Actually, it’s the best feeling in the world because we are always on the move. These little quiet moments, with just the four of us, are far and few between but mostly they are priceless because we know it won’t be like this for long. One day, our little girls, the two tiny creatures who took forever to grow in that first year, will be living someplace else with their very own families and we will miss them desperately. That’s what I remind myself of every time I want to hurry their childhood up.

Every time I forget to move the elves or put a coin under their pillow from the tooth fairy, every time I grow weary from, what seems like endless ballet classes, violin and choir concerts, Nutcracker performances, junior high football games to support my cheerleaders, or kissing boo-boos and blisters from gymnastics I tell myself that these are the moments; the best moments of life.

Pete's Dragon, family traditions, holiday, Disney

Planning to watch Pete’s Dragon with your family this year? Disney Movie Rewards has a special promotion – when you purchase the film through DMR you can also purchase the ‘Elliot Gets Lost’ children’s book from the film at an exclusive price of $9.99 when you buy Pete’s Dragon on Blu-ray, Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere on Disney Movie Rewards!

You can find out more information about Pete’s Dragon on the following social media channels.

Facebook Pete’s Dragon: https://www.facebook.com/DisneyPetesDragon

Twitter @DisneyPetes: https://twitter.com/disneypetes

Instagram @DisneyPetes: https://instagram.com/disneypetes

What’s your favorite family tradition that you look forward to this holiday season?

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Disney, Elena of Avalor, Latina, Princess

Elena of Avalor is a princess for my little girls. Latinas, how long have we been waiting for a Latina princess to share with our daughters? Seems like a lifetime, right? The closest we’ve had has been Dora and she’s not even a princess. She was a little explorer with a blue monkey in wellies but we loved her because she was all we had at the time, when my girls were babies.

Then a few years back, we were super excited about Sophia the First but that kind of fizzled and, while she is adorable and my niece’s favorite princess, she is not really Latina in any discernable way, unless you count her brown hair.

Well, no more. She is here. Disney’s new Elena of Avalor is an animated series that follows the story of Elena, a brave and adventurous teenager who saves her kingdom from an evil sorceress and must now learn to rule as crown princess until she is old enough to be queen. Set in Avalor, an enchanted fairytale kingdom inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore, Elena’s journey will lead her to understand that her new role requires thoughtfulness, resilience and compassion, the traits of all truly great leaders.

Disney, Elena of Avalor, Latina, Princess

Elena of Avalor is a princess for every little Latina girl.

I am excited for Elena and so are my girls but, honestly, I am reserving judgement for after I see a few episodes and see just what Disney did with their first ever Latina princess. I want to see if she is really a true representation of a Latina girl. Is she someone my daughters can look to and recognize themselves? Or is she simply like every other princess but with a slightly tanner complexion? These things are important to me and my daughters and they matter.

I’ve watched two episodes and I love the focus of the importance of family. I love the fact that her grandparents call her mija and they play guitars like my father, my daughters and I. I also loved that they made it all begin when she was 15, which is a very important year for a Latina girl because it is the year of our Quincinera. This is especially exciting for my girls because they are already planning their quincineras that are 4 and 6 years away.

One of my most favorite things is that the people of Avalor, though Latino, are all different shades of skin tone, hair and eyes and that is more realistic than most portrayals on television. I also really appreciate the references to Latino culture and language. In fact, my daughters said, “They only got one thing wrong…our Grandpa Manny doesn’t have grey hair.”

Disney, Elena of Avalor, Latina, Princess

Meanwhile, I know all the little Latina girls are going to want to get their hands on Elena of Avalor merchandise because, you know how we Latinas are, we support one another and we really want to love Elena. I just hope she can live up to our expectations. I had the opportunity to get my hands on a few pieces and my daughters really loved them. They really love the “Sister Time” song and love both Elena and Isabel.

Hasbro provided me with three dolls from the Elena of Avalor collection for review purposes.

My girls are loving them and I have partnered with Hasbro to giveaway a gift pack of Elena of Avalor prize pack for that special little girl in your life.

Disney, Elena of Avalor, Latina, Princess

*Disney Elena of Avalor and Skyler 2-Pack; ages 3 years & up; $34.99

*Disney My Time Singing Elena of Avalor Doll; ages 3 years & up; $29.99

*Disney Elena of Avalor Doll; ages 3 years & up; $14.99

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To enter to win all you have to do is subscribe to my newsletter and leave a comment below telling me what you love the most about Disney’s newest princess Elena of Avalor.

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Disney, Walt Disney World, disabled, tips for getting around Disney when you're disbaled

Last week, my family went to the happiest place on earth, Disney World, and I was disabled. We were all very excited. We’d been planning this trip since last year; everything got postponed when my life came to a screeching halt thanks to my slip and fall in my sister’s wedding last fall. Come hell or high water, we were going to Disney World. There was just a couple issues 1) my broken leg is still recovering (it’s an 18-month process y’all.) 2) the week before we left, I was in the ER with a severe gallbladder attack. I was far from 100% but I was going to Disney World.

Here is how I navigated the happiest place on earth with a messed up leg. I can tell you that it was no fun but I figured out a way to get around all of those parks and not end up back in the hospital. This post is just about getting around if you are physically disabled, I will write a separate post about eating at Disney World when you are on a restricted diet because, you know, I couldn’t just be hobbled I had to do it starving.

My advice for anyone who has a broken leg, is recovering from a broken leg, a sprained ankle, a bum knee or broken hip or just doesn’t do well with walking in high heat because they are sickly, especially the elderly…rent a wheelchair! I believe it’s $12/$13 a day or you can get 3 days for $30, which is what my husband did for me. But get to the parks early, especially the Magic Kingdom. Also, the wheelchairs are located to the right after you scan in but before you enter the park (the same place as where you rent the strollers).

Disney, travel, Walt Disney World, disabled, tips for getting around Disney when you're disbaled

I thought I could do it on my own. After all, I am 7 months out from the original break but I was wrong. I tried everything, ankle brace, ankle wrap, Kinesio Tape for the tendonitis, crutches and even took my walking boot. Nothing can make a recovering broken leg walk around the Magic Kingdom for 15 hours pain free, not even a strong will and multiple vicodin. Believe me I tried.

The first night we arrived, we went to Hollywood studios. We arrived around 4:30 p.m. we returned to our room around 10 pm, in those 5.5 hours, my ankle (that was firmly in a brace) had swollen up to the size of my calf and the pain was excruciating. I knew then and there that there was no way that I was going to survive the Magic Kingdom on foot.

A few things you should know about being physically disabled in a wheelchair at Walt Disney World:

Firstly, it’s not as embarrassing as you might think and don’t worry about your spouse or children pushing you around, they’d prefer that to hearing you complain and be in misery any day.

Secondly, if you do find yourself in a wheelchair, check with the cast members at each ride because some have steps and they will need to reroute you. Sometimes they just give you a fast pass and have you come back so you don’t have to wait in the long lines in your chair.

Thirdly, check when you go to the restaurants, some have special seating for people in wheelchairs and some you need to leave the chair outside but for the most part all the parks were very wheelchair friendly.

Fourth, check with cast members at each park about seating for fireworks and such. They are very accommodating and there are special seating locations for those in wheelchairs. It was very nice that they provide these spaces because it’s hard to see when you are at wheelchair level.

Fifth, and this is the important one, if you are not disabled do not rent the wheelchairs. Leave those for those people who actually need them. Laziness is not a disability. Also, don’t use the handicapped bathrooms; those of us who are actually handicapped need those larger bathrooms for a reason. A wheelchair does not fit in a standard restroom stall.

Disney, Walt Disney World, disabled, tips for getting around Disney when you're disbaled, travel

I won’t lie, being at Walt Disney World in a wheelchair was a humbling experience for me but, like most of these past 7 months, it’s given me a new respect for the disabled and respect for their situations. Disney did a great job of making the parks easily enjoyed by the disabled as well as the able bodied.

If it hadn’t been for the wheelchair rental service, the entire trip would have been ruined. If you find yourself, physically unable to walk Disney World, don’t be too proud to use the wheelchairs. They are there for those of us who are disabled in some way and need them.

Have you ever been to Disney World when you weren’t 100% physically?

 

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Inside Out, Halloween, trick-or-treating

Our entire lives have been upside down and inside out since I broke my leg but we are learning to deal with it. Honestly, this broken leg has not just changed my life it’s upset the entire ecosystem of my family. It’s been a crazy couple of months so this Halloween, we fittingly went as characters from Inside Out.

joy

I haven’t been out a lot lately so I was really excited to take the girls Trick or Treating. The Big Guy was Anger, which made us all laugh since Anger is small and my husband is 6’5”. My oldest was Joy and my youngest was Disgust. The obvious choice for me was Sadness, to round out the crew, but I figured there’s been enough sadness so I chose to go another route. I decided to be Bing Bong.

Inside Out, Halloween, trick-or-treating

Why Bing Bong from Inside Out, you ask?

Well, I felt like I needed a little whimsy in my life. Though I must say, it’s a challenge trying to bring a child’s imaginary friend to life on Halloween or any other day of the week. I spent the night being confused for Katy Perry and Niki Minaj as the Big Guy wheeled me around the neighborhood.

Inside Out, Halloween, trick-or-treating

It was exhausting to be out and around in the chilly, autumn night air but at the same time it was invigorating. I felt like a human again. Hearing my girls giggle as they ran door-to-door trick or treating made my heart happy.

It’s funny how sometimes the simple things like being outside of your own four walls, participating in life can make all the difference. For one night, I felt like I got to escape my injury and do the things I’ve always done with my family. I felt normal and it was amazing, even if it was while I was dressed as an imaginary friend.

Inside Out, Halloween, trick-or-treating

In the end, maybe I looked like Katy Perry in a wheelchair with a broken leg and a crazy pair of Olivia Newton John sparkly hot pants and not Bing Bong. Maybe no one quite got what I was supposed to be but I needed it.

 

We all needed a little Inside Out to get right side up.

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