On Stomach Aches + Funnel Cakes (Disney 2019)

When we were dating, one million years ago, Ryan and I spent a year doing long-distance while he was at film school in Orlando and I was still at UGA. On one of my visits to see him, we decided to go to Universal Studios, just the two of us. We both remember that day vividly, although through very different lenses. We rode The Hulk first, then Back to the Future. I remember walking out of the simulation and Ryan pausing at the exit, leaning against the wall and saying he didn’t feel well after being jolted around. So we chose a low-key ride next to let his equilibrium settle back down — Jaws. After the easy boat tour, Ryan stumbled off the ride and plopped down in a seat inside the nearest park restaurant. He crossed his arms on the table and laid his head down, mumbling almost incoherently:

I just need a minute.

HOURS later, he finally woke up. I had been sitting there patiently (pre-smartphone, people, PRE-SMARTPHONE) listening to him snore (#truestory) and motioning to concerned people that he was fine (and not drunk). To his credit, after that not-so-quick nap, he rallied and was fine for the rest of the day — a day that will live in infamy, haha.

Fast forward a decade or so, and we haven’t really had any motion sickness incidents since — until this weekend. We surprised the girls with a quick trip to Disney because, well, it’s DISNEY! It’s so full of magic and imagination and sugar and…people. ;) The past three Octobers we’ve done a short two-day stay, and this year we were all particularly excited because we were going to Hollywood Studios for the first time — just in time to see the new Star Wars section!

(In fact, this year could have been remembered as the year the girls discovered + fell in love with Star Wars. That’s probably what we’d all prefer it to be remembered as, haha!)

However, that excitement faded early in our day since we unwittingly chose to do the Star Wars rides (Star Tours and Smuggler’s Run) first — both of which are simulations. Two rides in, and Ryan was D-O-N-E. He then had to spend a couple hours (and a couple ginger ales) recovering. And I spent a couple hours reliving our dating life.

Ah, memories.

While Ryan was recovering, I wanted to at least be doing something with the girls, so we decided to grab a treat. We found a little dessert stand, and E.V. ordered a plain vanilla ice cream cone (predictable). Cricket pointed to the biggest, most obnoxious thing on the menu — a  funnel cake topped with vanilla ice cream + Mickey “ear” oreos, sprinkled with powdered sugar + cookie dust then covered in chocolate sauce — and declared, “I want that!” (Also predictable.)

I was trying to be wise, knowing that there was no way that she would finish (and survive) the entire dessert, so I ordered the Mickey Funnel Cake with the ice cream on the side, no chocolate sauce, and cookie dust on only half the funnel cake. I figured it was a smart move because maybe she would be less tempted to stuff her face with everything all at once — and because I would be *willing* to share some of the individual elements (but not all together, barf). But when the dismembered, unimpressive components of the dessert came out, Cricket lost it.


In the middle of Disney.

Without shame and without reservation.

She broke down sobbing, laying against the stand, right under the pick-up window. And I let her. I ate a few bites of the funnel cake, gave apologetic grins to the people who had to awkwardly lean over my child to get their desserts, and let her have her moment.

Realizing that she wasn’t making any headway, Cricket moved her tantrum to the other side of the walkway, where I watched her until Ryan miraculously rallied + reappeared and took sweet E.V. to look at ducks. I sat down on the curb next to Cricket as close as she would let me, and I wiped her snot and tears as she continued to talk. And then I actually heard what she had been screaming and moaning at me this whole time:


It hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t the random, irrational whining of a kid who didn’t get their way — it was her true feelings about our relationship. And it hurt. I apologized and hugged her, and then I listened. And apparently there are a lot of times I don’t listen to her. She’s right.

It turns out that as I was ordering, she had been telling me that she wanted the dessert as pictured and that was important to her. I thought I knew what she “really” wanted — and I was wrong. So I sat and listened to her talk as long as she needed. No interrupting. No ignoring. No dismissing. It took a few minutes to calm + reconnect, but we made it through.

And then we marched back up to that stand and ordered again, the right way this time.

And you know what? I was wrong. Dead wrong. She ate a large portion of that disgusting, obnoxious Mickey Funnel Cake by herself and had no issues. (Once again, for emphasis, barf.)

Although I know that as a family we’ll all joke about our 2019 Disney trip as being “the one where Dad got sick + we fell in love with Star Wars,” but in my heart, I will always remember this year for being the one where I realized that listening to our kids is the key to connecting with them, as simple as it sounds. As a mom of littles, I’ve spent the last seven years thinking for, planning for, and deciding for my girls. Truly, I have learned to block them out — which we moms have to do with crying and whining and complaining, right? But the tides are changing. The girls are growing. And I need them to know that as we go from parenting to partnering over the next decades, I’m here and I’m listening.

(Okay, on to a few gazillion pics from our trip:)

I made the girls a “special” breakfast — which they thought was just frozen waffles served at the coffee table. But little did they know that “Mickey + spiderweb” was code, because underneath breakfast was a secret message…

We literally had the car packed before breakfast, so once the secret message had been discovered, everyone loaded up and immediately headed to Orlando. The first night we spent with Great Grandma Vance (who lives near the park), so we went to our favorite place  for ice cream + Italian ice as soon as we pulled into town.

Early the next morning, we dropped our bags off at our hotel and headed into the park for Extra Magic Hours.

This was our first time at Hollywood Studios. We were excited to check out all the hype around Star Wars…and it was worth it!

(Bat bows in honor of HALLOWEEN!)

STAR WARS! We weren’t “into” the franchise, but this world was so intriguing, the girls became immediately obsessed!

We all loved the rides! (Well, three out of the four of us did… Yikes.)

The infamous Mickey Cake…well, the SECOND Mickey Cake

(prepping the girls for the Tower of Terror, which Ryan opted out of — wisely)

Part of the reason we went to Hollywood Studios was for the girls to experience the Disney Junior characters, since they are quickly growing out of that stage.

Fancy Nancy Meet-n-Greet

Disney Junior Dance Party

Vampirina Meet-n-Greet

Jedi Training was everyone’s favorite event of the day! Well, Cricket *did* freak out a little bit and ask me from stage, “Mom, is this fake? I don’t want to do this!” but she powered through and enjoyed using the force to push “Dark Vader” (haha) away. Emma Vance, on the other hand, was the bravest little jedi ever and fought Kylo Ren with all her might.

(that moment of fear…)

On to Toy Story Land, which was so full of imagination!

(Once again, Ryan opted out of the spinning spaceships, haha!)

All in all, we were at Hollywood Studios for almost FOURTEEN HOURS. And it was worth it — although we passed out the minute we got to our hotel room, haha!

The next morning we slept in, had breakfast, and swam at the pool to rest + recover before the Magic Kingdom.

 This was out third time going to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Since this trip was a surprise for the girls, I just packed some cat rompers + ears to serve as their costumes. Easy-peasy (and COMFORTABLE)!

I didn’t bring my camera to the park this year as an experiment. So we don’t have a ton of pictures, but there are a few for the ol’ memory jogging…


And new raspberry dole whip…which was good but not as good as the original IMO.

(E.V. agrees.)


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