Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A magical birthday!

Warning: very long post ahead with lots of pictures. Ok, now you've been warned! Wow, what a birthday! We had a great time surprising our little Emily and she had a very special birthday!

This whole idea started months ago when David was wanting to take our littles to Disney World. I kept coming back to how hard it would be to take all three of them and especially Samuel being so young. So, we came up with the idea that we would take each of them separately with us when they turn five!

All we told Emily was that we had something special planned for her birthday. She would not be having a party this year because of this special thing. She had NO idea! Prior to Monday, she had heard of Disney World from her friends, but she did not know what it was. But, oh how she knows now!

It was so fun to drive up and she started seeing all the signs with Mickey on them and seeing her get excited. At this point, she still didn't know why it was worth getting excited over!

Now, I know some of you are thinking - I thought she liked being thrifty? Yes, this was an extravagant gift and it gave me so much pleasure to be able to do this for our sweet Emily. I got teary multiple times during the day just seeing the joy and delight on her face and thanking God we could bless her this way.

But, we spent as little as possible - here's how:

* Birthday guests get in free to Disney World - at least for now! We took Emily's birth certificate and saved $68 right off the bat by going on her actual birthday. (take your photo id and birthday person's birth certificate!)

* Of course, David and I had to pay to get in! We had wanted to go to Disney World on our honeymoon but it rained every day. So, I had stashed the money aside and saved it for this trip. It was great to be able to pull it out now and just go! We also bought the most basic ticket you can get - one day, no extras.

* We stayed with family! A free place to stay always makes a more affordable trip.

* We did not spend a penny on food inside the park. We took all of our own food, drinks and snacks in an insulated freezer bag and rented a locker to put it in. The locker cost us $10 in the morning but when you bring your key back you get $5 back. So, $5 for the convenience of bringing in all our own food and drinks was very worth it.

* Parking: there is no way around this one that I know of. We had to pay the parking fee of $14!

* Souvenirs: Emily had some birthday money and we told her right up front that she could get ONE thing all day. We encouraged her to look around and think about it instead of just getting the first thing. She did great and picked out her gift in the evening just before we saw the parade - she chose this and has loved playing with it ever since! She named the horse Hosanna!

* We also allowed Emily to pick out one small thing to bring to Rachel since she did not go with us. Rachel and Samuel stayed with David's aunt and uncle who graciously offered to watch them for the day for us. They took them to the zoo, the park and out for lunch! So, they had a special and fun day too!

That's it - we kept it as basic as possible and enjoyed as much as we could what was included in our park admission. Rather than spending our time in a shop or restaurant, we were able to do more rides and meet more characters - we made memories rather than accumulating a big bill!

Carrie sent a cute Tinkerbell disposable camera (free rebate offer!) and we gave that to Emily on the ferry ride over to the Magic Kingdom for her to take pictures throughout the day. This was a big hit and Daddy helped her to space her pictures out through the day.

When we bought our tickets, they gave Emily a cute button that said Happy Birthday. They wrote her name on it and their employees were wishing Emily a Happy Birthday all day! It was really fun for her!

Look! Cinderella's Castle! This was the first stop she wanted to make!

Of course, we had to take a picture of this cute elephant, for Rachel!

Waiting to meet Tigger and Pooh! I love how her hand is resting on her Daddy's hand!
A huge thank you to Carrie's sister-in-law, Kristin, who told me before hand about having a little book for Emily to get the characters to sign their names in. I found a cute little notebook on clearance for 0.50 and brought that in my backpack so we didn't feel tempted to buy her one there! This worked great, but make sure to bring your own pen too! A gracious guest in front of us let her have a pen for the day which was so sweet.

A high-five for Tigger:
And, a hug - I missed the hug with Winnie the Pooh:
A happy Birthday Girl!
Can you guess which one in our family is like Tigger?

Oh, the princesses - this was a definite highlight of the day! You can just see from the way Emily is looking at Cinderella and glowing that she is just eating this up. I have to tell you how impressed I was with how gracious these ladies were. I appreciated how ladylike they were and how they modeled what a princess should truly be. They took their time with Emily and did not rush her through - I felt like they made her feel like she was the only little girl there while it was her turn.

Next up was a visit with Minnie and Mickey!

After a parade and a couple of other rides, Emily wanted to go and see the princesses again! We were very impressed that hours later, Cinderella remembered her!

After all this we were ready for a birthday treat! I had brought cupcakes and kept them in our locker. It was fun to be able to pull them out and sing Happy Birthday to Emily!

Our last ride of the night - Cinderella's Carousel!

Enjoying the beautiful castle all lit up at night - and our birthday girl! What a special day together!

Our day ended with the ferry ride back to the parking lot and watching the fireworks from there! We had a great day!


Leanne said...

That brought tears to my eyes! My parents surprised me with a trip to WDW when I was 11! That was quite a feat, considering we had to fly out of Chicago!
For Christopher's 5th birthday, we are surprising him with a trip to the Indianapolis Children's Museum...We are finding that building memories with them, is so much more valuable than any gift you can give them!
Thanks for sharing all the great money saving ideas! She is just precious!

Ginger said...

So special---she will remember this her entire life. Matthew's 4th grade class went and I went with them; that was our only trip, but it was really fun. I think I enjoyed it more than he did.

Bevy @ Treasured Up and Pondered said...

Wow!! What fun and great memories...

Anonymous said...

I love that you did this - what a special day for all of you. And good tip on the lockers. I like how you made the day special in your own way and avoided some of the commericialism and buying craze sometimes associated with Disney.

Wendi said...

What a fun day! I am sure she will never forget this.

Katy said...

WOW! What a fantastic birthday trip with wonderful memories!!! I am so glad that you all were able to enjoy that truly special time together!!! :) I have never been to Disney World...but it looks like a magical place!! :)

Anonymous said...

Kimba - I have tears in my eyes. Such a sweet, special day for such a sweet, special family!
Amy in Texas

Mom said...

Even though I've seen these pictures already, it brought tears to my eyes to see them again and read your account along with them. What a special day for Emily (and you!) -- and I love it that you did it as economically as possible! I loved what you said about accumulating memories -- it looks like that was definitely accomplished! Thanks for sharing this magical day -- love, Mom

A JoyFilled Life said...


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

This brought tears to my eyes, too. My five year old would LOVE this, as would my 4 year old. This is beautiful!!!

Elise said...

Oh, that is wonderful!! I love the idea of doing that!!

Chrissy said...

I'm so glad you had fun. We love Disney!

Anonymous said...

What a precious time together!! Praise God for your wonderful gift, family!! Happy belated Birthday Emily!!!!tammyp

Nancy at said...

We used to live in Florida and I miss Disney World. Glad you had a wonderful day.

*carrie* said...

Yay, so glad you all had a wonderful time! Much love!

Anonymous said...

This is easier for you to do since you already live in Sourth Carolina. We live in N.Y. so it would take a lot longer to get there! How long was the drive for you?
Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Monica, this brought tears to my eyes, as well. What a special, sweet, fun day for a special little girl!

I'm impressed that you were able to keep that money set aside for Disney World ever since your honeymoon! Good planning!

Thank you for shaing your trip with us!

Anonymous said...

A special day you will never ever forget! Great money saving tips too! Thank you :)

Cheryl said...

What a special day for your sweet Emily. I can see in her face in all the pictures that she was just the happiest birthday girl ALL day! You and your hubby made the day so special for her.
You should be a travel agent. You did an awesome job by doing it all frugally. I am so impressed.

Linda said...

Whoa, that looks like SO much fun!! :D I'd love to go to Disneyland once, but for us the nearest one is in France, about 6 hours away from us. (I know these distances mean nothing to you Americans, *lol*)

As for the first part of your post.. I think you would all qualify for 'Dutchman' now. Wherever we go ('we' meaning Dutch people), people can spot us because we bring our own food.... We have a reputation of being cheap, hehe.

but really, you save sooooo much money just bringing your own food.. Which is mostly healthier and better anyway ;)

Greetings from the netherlands!

Debra said...

She looks so happy! What a special day for her. I love that they let you bring food in and don't force you to buy their food. Makes such a difference in so many ways.
Thanks for sharing - looks like everyone had fun!

Carrie said...

That is SO awesome! I love the idea of taking the children individually at age 5. That's a really great idea!

We just went to Disneyland in September for MY birthday and I, too, loved the button and the special treatment. It's fun for a
3- year old, I can only imagine the sheer joy of a 5 year old.

And I totally get having tears come to your eyes, grateful to God that you were able to bless your beautiful daughter in this way.

What a fabulous memory you have given her.

Barbie @ Mamaology said...

What a wonderful tradition to start! I think 5 is a perfect age to bring you kids and what a neat thing for them to experience with just their parents. So much one on one time!:)

Blissful & Domestic said...

what a wonderful surprise for her that your family will always remember.

fixedonHIM said...

Wow~ I have tears welling up in my eyes. This is so precious!! What an incredible day & memory for all of you. We live 30 minutes from Disney World and it is so awesome to see the difference this place can make for the good. Disney can get a pretty bad rap around here. I went so many times as a kid growing up in a town only 1.5 hrs. away. I love it and still feel like a kid when I go.

Thanks for sharing all the pics from your special day. :)

Anonymous said...

Dearest Monica:

Like your mom, even though I had seen the pictures before, this brought tears to my eyes. What a WONDERFUL day of memory-making you had. I am anxious to talk to Emily to hear her account of the day.
You did a great job of doing it econmically, too. Congratulations!

Love you, Grandma

Paige said...

I want a girl, sniff sniff...
Looks like a LOT of fun.

davonne said...

You know, we're really frugal too and it makes the few times we do spend extra money so much more special, and really appreciated by our daughter because she understands that it's a sacrifice. My daughter will be five in June, and I've already been trying to think of something really special to do with her - it'll probably be the first birthday she'll actually remember as an adult! (At least, it's the first one I remember.) Thanks so much for sharing this.

Davonne said...

Oh, I forgot to mention:

I really appreciate the comments you made about the Princesses being ladies. My daughter loves princesses, and I've always wanted to go to Disney World but have been concerned about how her favorite characters would be in real life. Now I want to go even more!

Rebecca said...

That is so fun! Thank you for sharing! :) I hope to call you soon friend!

La Familia Garcia said...

That is sooo neat!! I got teary-eyed as well! I just love that you guys took her to celebrate HER! I think it made it more special knowing that you are "thrifty." But this was worth it all! How close do you live? how far was the drive? I love that even when she wanted to go back to the princesses, that was ok, because it was her day. You probably wouldn't have been able to do that with the others with you.

jenn said...

That made me cry. What a special trip. Thanks for sharing.

Molly said...

What a super special day! I loved your comment about how it brought you so much pleasure to be able to do something so special for little one. Some treasured memories for all of you!

Simple Home said...

What a wonderful memory for you and your little girl. We live on the other side of the country and are only a little over an hour's drive from Disneyland. We had passes for two years, and would go there often for just a few hours at a time. We'd eat before we'd go, and then take something with us too, so we just paid for gas. It's such a wonderful place. We may get passes again next year, before our kids get too old. The photos were great.

Ellie said...

What a wonderful day!! The photos are just amazing!

Natural Mama said...

I loved the recap of your trip. What special parents you guys are. Emily is so blessed to have wonderful parents as you two--and not just because you took her to WDW on her b-day..But because she is so special to you and you wanted to make her day special!
Thanks so much for sharing!

Pamela said...

This was a great post, I don't even know you and I got all teary for you. What a wonderful gift for both of you! I can't wait to take our little one now!

Julie said...

Because of free birthdays and living 3 hours from Disney we were able to treat each of our five children to a day at Disney this year. It was so much fun spending the day one on one with the birthday kid and letting them point the way.
I love your pictures.

Paula said...

FINALLY got some time to catch up on your blog!! :D :D :D Next time you do Disney World/Land be SURE to check out RIDE MAX. This is TOTALLY worth the money (we did the three month subscription). We were able to ride EVERY RIDE in ONE DAY. It really was amazing how LITTLE we had to wait in line. Brian was really smart and printed out THREE different schedules, putting in different break times for us. That was if we got off schedule on one, we had the other two to keep us going. It was SO relaxed and we took breaks when the kids needed them. It really is the best!!

Also, making your own soap - I noticed you posted the cost. Do you think it was worth it? Would you be making your own soap again? And I cannot remember if you shared or not if you were going to sell any of the soaps, or if they were all just gifts. :D

Laura said...

What a special day for such a sweet girl! I love the pic of her hand on her dads. I'm sure this will be a memory that she cherishes for years to come! Thank you for sharing it with us!!

Momof3 said...

I LOVE these pictures and your recap of the day. My husband is due back from a deployment to the Middle East early next fall and a trip to Walt Disney World is in the plans as our family reconnects.