“I don’t know!”, Juni replied.
Maybe it was the shock. Maybe it was there being no castle in view. Maybe it was her mom acting like a giddy 5-year old.
We had finally made it to Disneyland. I could recall the day I announced we were only 101 days out from our trip. I could recall the day we got the call she would qualify for a wish through Make a Wish. Worst of all, I could recall the day she was diagnosed with cancer that led us here. And now here we were. Here she was. One eye short, hair growing in a different shade & a different texture, but she was here. We were here, watching World of Color from our room with the soundtrack playing on the TV & eating our complimentary Mickey rice krispie treats.
The next day, Juniper was up with the sun. Literally. I couldn’t bring myself to close the curtain on that beautiful view of California Adventure but with that meant there was nothing to block the intense California sun from blinding us all into waking up. We were very fortunate to run into a gal on her way to the parks. She was definitely a veteran. She told us all about the Disney Vacation Club, how many times she had been to the parks, her plans for the Hawaiian Aulani resort & best of all, she guided us to the gates because despite seeing them on a map a million times, when you’re actually there, IT’S EASY TO GET LOST!! (& we did… multiple times.)
The very first thing we did? We stopped at the letter boxes just inside the gate to make sure our post cards to our friends made it in a timely fashion. But after that… the very first thing we did was stroll down Main Street, straight for that iconic castle. I think that’s about the point it really hit home for the kids. Juni was pointing & squirming & yelling “THE CASTLE!! I SEE THE CASTLE!! SEE THE CASTLE?? I SEE THE CASTLE!” Three year olds are redundant like that. 😉
Knowing the line would be busy, even during Magic Morning hour, we stopped at the Frozen Meet & Greet. I was right. The line was already down & around by Village Haus. This is where being a Wish Family has its largest perk. We showed the cast member our “Genie Pass,” think of it like a Fast Pass without the return times & with no limits. We were directed to the exit where we ran into another wish family waiting to meet the Queen & Princess of Arendelle. Juniper was definitely a little overzealous & ran right past the first family to hug Anna. Whoops. What else can we expect? This was literally her first time meeting a character. This was her first time seeing Disneyland. This was ALL of our first time experiencing the magic this place just resonates in. It’s understandable she didn’t quite get the whole waiting in line thing…
After our first meet & greet, we decided to take in a ride. The only ride we ended up waiting in the cue for: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It’s a classic. It’s a familiar tale for the kids (as it’s one of mommy’s favorites). The line wasn’t long at all. And it’s something all the Disney World fans don’t get to experience. ;D The girls were in love automatically. They are definitely ride fiends.
It was Tuesday. We rode Dumbo. Small World was down when we went to check it out per Juni’s request. Splash Mountain broke while Big Sister Ember & Daddy were on the ride (sending Mommy into a panic). But best of all… Tuesday was the day of her Make a Wish meet up with Mickey & Minnie. If you didn’t know, there’s a private room called the Wish Lounge that is exclusively for these meet & greets. Wish families are welcome to come hang out in the air conditioning, watch a movie & have a snack. My favorite part of the Wish Lounge though was talking to the cast members. They were just treasure troves of information, experience & assistance. Our wish coordinators had accidentally double booked our World of Color VIP viewing at the same time as the Mickey’s Halloween Party events. But the guest service cast members rearranged it. We’d be seeing World of Color from the VIP section Tuesday evening leaving us free to enjoy the Halloween parade & fireworks (also from the VIP viewing section) Wednesday evening.
Juniper’s private meet was about 45 minutes long. How lucky can a kid get for full attention from Mickey & Minnie for a solid 45 minutes? They colored. They watched Monsters University. There was a lot of impromptu dance partying going on. Juni & Minnie read a book & cuddled on the sofa. It was magical. You couldn’t take the smile off her face. I will admit it – I cried pretty hard after they left. I hadn’t seen Juniper that happy since she started treatment. We’ve had some wonderful experiences over the last year; we went to a special family camp for kids dealing with cancer, we had an amazing Disneyland-themed birthday party to celebrate our upcoming trip, we had a wonderful send off party thrown by our favorite local donut shop & our Make a Wish volunteers. But nothing compared to that smile on her face when Minnie took her hands & they danced & twirled their dresses & hugged so many times I lost count.
The rest of the trip was fantastic. We met so many wonderful cast members who pulled out all the stops to make our trip as magical as possible. From free dole whip to VIP viewings to extra time with characters… I hope each & everyone of them know that they touched our family beyond words. Saying thank-you doesn’t even begin to cover it. I sent a letter to Disney, name dropping all the wonderful folks who really stood out. But even that, I don’t feel, was enough to show our immense gratitude to remind them that their job is important, even the street sweeper who stopped to chat with us while we were duck watching as the kids napped in their strollers. Even some guests were eager to hear Juniper’s story, offer their support & hugs or let us use our Genie Pass without putting up a fuss. It really is the Happiest Place on Earth & I can see why.
I hadn’t seen our family so carefree since Juni’s diagnosis. Even as we return to normal post-Disney life, when I feel like we are all slipping back into a sad state; the kids are fighting or we are generally grumpy – I pull out our Disney photos. We watched the short snippets of video I took. We relish in the memories & more than anything, enjoy discussing the things we missed out on & what we are most excited to experience when we go BACK!
Other Stats from Juni’s Make A Wish Vacation:
- Ride ridden the most: Haunted Mansion Holiday (3x)
- Biggest Surprise Ride: Peter Pan’s Flight. We didn’t know what to expect but we were SO glad we took the recommendations.
- Favorite Rides: Radiator Springs Racers (Mommy), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Big Sister), Small World (Juni),
- Character we met the most: Minnie Mouse (4), Pluto (3)
- Ride We’re Saddest We Missed: Jungle Cruise & the Paradise Pier water slide were closed.
- Ride We Won’t EVER Do Again: Finding Nemo Submarines (Mom had a panic attack afterwards :'( )
- Number of Parades Seen: 3 (Pixar Play, Mickey’s Costume Party, Soundsational)
- Number of Times Watching World of Color: 1 at ground level, 2 times in hotel room
- Favorite Food: Vegetarian Gumbo, Beignets & Mint Julep
- Least Favorite Food: Flo’s V8 Café
- Most expensive meal: $67 on room service
- Number of Times in the First Aid Building: 2
- Number of Starbucks trips: 4 (Hey. We’re from Seattle, remember? ;))
- Room Number: 1318
- Number of Shirts Ruined by Chocolate Stains: 2.
- Number of Times We Watched Princess BedTime Stories on Closed Circuit Resort TV: about a million
- Number of Bottles of H2O We Used: 3 shampoos, 2 conditioners, 4 body washes (& smuggled 2 of each in the suit case for really bad Disney deprived days)
- Goals for next trip: Stay in the parks later (Mommy), Meet Rapunzel (Big Sister), Be Tall Enough to Ride the 40 inch+ rides (Juni), Eat more food (Dad).
- Daddy was the Rebel Spy on Star Tours.
- Juni slept through the Pixar Play Parade until the very last two characters, McQueen & Mater.
- The only ride Big Sister was genuinely scared on was Tower of Terror.
- Mommy was so happy she splurged on the PhotoPass+ service.