I am SO excited to bring you this weeks edition of Disney Fan Friday! This week's fan is someone extremely dear to my heart. About 8 years ago (to the date actually) my family living in Mobile, AL and was in a very tough spot, and the Doucet family opened up their homes and allowed us to stay with them for a few months! I will never be able to express what that meant to me and my children or how grateful we are! My daughter still remembers living with "the boys" as she refers to her sons (who are now so grown up it kills me!) That is the kind of people this family is. My friendship blossomed with Jen during that period and we bonded over several things, one of course that we both REALLY, REALLY loved Disney!
Now, they are foster parents to amazing children! I have got to watch their family go on an amazing journey that has had me giggle in delight and tear up for them at the same time.
Recently the Doucets took a trip to Disney with the foster children they had and gave them a WONDERFUL experience full of memories those children will have forever! After that trip, they got some new fosters and all the kids talked about Disney quite often. Jen realized that she may not have one of them much longer and that sweet girl had some big wishes of seeing "The Castle" and Jen knew once she returned the precious girl, she may never get that opportunity so she acted fast and made those wishes come true! In a quick whirlwind she pulled off a wonderful magical trip and made just as wonderful memories for that girl too! Does that not pull on your heartstrings as much as it does mine???
Grab the Kleenex as you read more about this amazing family, because if you are like me, this interview will make you laugh and cry!
**For legal reason, because they are foster children, we can not show their faces. But that does not in any way take away from the absolute adorableness of these pictures!!!!
HOW OFTEN DO YOU GO TO DISNEY?
It just depends on the season of our life. When my children and nephews were younger, we managed to gather with different combinations of family members just about every year. Sometimes twice a year. When we moved across country, we rented a house for the week and vacationed with some of our best friends and their families from back home. Since then, we've also planned trips at the mere suggestion of those same friends asking "Any chance you want to Disney with us this fall?" My answer is always "Of course!! Let's see what we can do!" We've also planned some of our Disney World trips at the suggestion of grandparents who wanted to gather children and grandchildren from all different areas of the country. We've arrived at various times throughout the week, whatever happened to work for each of our schedules, and managed to create a unique, family vacation experience for all. And now that we have younger children in our home again because of our experience with foster care, we've returned to the just about "once a year" schedule that I love.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DISNEY MEMORY OF ALL TIME?
I don't think I can give one memory the title of all time favorite. I believe that a Disney World vacation is about the culmination of a million different things, It's the feeling that you have from the moment that you see the first Disney World billboard on the side of the freeway, that grows when you arrive on property and cross the gate welcoming you into the park and just continues to expand until you are home again and dreaming of your next trip. It's every wide eyed smile you see on your child's face, it's the remembrance of Mickey waving to you when you were a child revisted in your nephews excitement, it's the taste of the mainstreet cotton candy, it's the warm fuzzies you get from the Festival of the Lion King and the way you settle into the It's a Small World Ride while you're amazed at the amount of glitter behind all those adorable little people.
I have loved sharing that with all of my siblings and their spouses, with my nieces and nephews as well as my own children, and then again with the four foster children we've had the privilege of taking to the castle. I've often said everyone should take their children at least once to experience the magic of Disney, but I'll raise that. I now believe that everyone should have the opportunity to watch a child who has come from a place that may not have allowed them to be a child (in the true sense...due to circumstances beyond their control and sometimes beyond their parent's control), experience Disney World. It is joy in the purest of pure forms. It will bring you to your knees (literally) on Main Street when you watch their face stretch in a smile as they jump up and down when they see THE Castle for the first time. It's like they can dare to believe that their dreams can come true. Just like the rest of the kids that you've shared your home with.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR FOSTER PARENTING EXPERIENCE AND TAKING THE CHILDREN TO DISNEY WITH YOU.
We have been fostering children in our home for just over four years. Several of our placements have been longterm and are now expected to end in adoption. However, from the beginning, just because of the nature of foster care, it's not known how long you will have a child.
The children that we share our home with, see pictures of our vacations all over our home. They hear stories that we share or find a stuffed Mickey or Duffy from a previous trip and want to know more about it. They have an amazing collection of Princess and Pirate outfits waiting for them to play dress up wih. They also, just like my biological children, will have an access to my complete collection of Disney classic movies and dvds. Without fail, they always ask about The Castle that opens each movie. And they start to dream about seeing it one day.
When we first talked about taking our foster children to Disney World, it was just another experience that we wanted to be sure that they had before they returned home. We wanted to know that they learned from us that anything they dared to dream could come true. And we hoped that when they were gone from us, if they ever found themselves again in a dark situation (the statistics are heartbreaking regarding the very real possibility of reoccurring abuse and neglect for foster children) that they could cling to that.
All throughout our trips with our family and our fosters (we've taken two now), there have been glimpses of that hope growing. And you'd usually find me tucking that memory in my heart and holding back tears. And while our trips have been amazing, they have not been without work. Our foster children are very close in age. We now have four all within three years of each other all under the age of six. They are very active and sometimes they don't know how to behave in a setting that would seem so ordinary. And often they are overwhelmed. Disney is a highly stimulating place...noises, smells, crowds, motions. That doesn't always ask for a pleasant experience with a young child that you've had from the moment they were born. Imagine a child that you are not 100% certain of, who may have an ADHD diagnoses and no time for a nap. It's a recipe for disaster.
Disaster #1...when you're reaching to hold the three year old's hand as you're getting off of Buzz Lightyear's Spin and you turn to grab the four year old's hand only to see that he's not behind you. Instead, he's between the cars, the ride has stopped and the lights are coming up and the cast member throws you a concerned, but polite look. I may have smiled in embarassment, grabbed my mischievous boy's hand and said "well, you didn't stop him either" as we ran out. Sigh...
Disaster #2...when that same boy tries to pull his hand from yours (I learned from the Buzz ride) on the Aladdin Carpet Ride...while it's moving and says "Hey! I'm trying to get in the water!"
Disaster #3...when you're having lunch with just the girls at Cinderella's Royal Table and you receive a text from hubby indicating that someone (see boy from Disasters 1 and 2) has messed himself and smeared it all over the bathroom tile. "What now?" My response "Call MouseKeeping. Tip well."
Disaster #4...when you're riding the Haunted Mansion with our latest temporary placement and all she can say is "I don't like this ride. It's scary. Just like (fill in the blank)." And you realize that you've taken a traumatized kid, strapped her in a ride, in the dark, that is not at all fun. It's way tooo close to realities she's lived but not yet told you about and you just want off. We spent the rest of our ride hugging with our eyes closed, laughing and praying. She ended the ride by saying "You and Jesus got me through that. Let's not do that one again." ---Major Disaster averted!! Yay for grace!!
There are countless more that I could share but they all culminate with, we say that for us, and our circumstances, we'll be holding off on our next Disney World trip until everyone is well established in our home and old enough to be on medication for ADHD so that it's a somewhat stable week. However, with the call that one is expected to leave soon came the urgency to go again if only for a day to "take our guest to The Castle". What a gift that day was. One that she and I will forever cherish. And next come adoptions. We've been telling our three long term placements since our first trip that we wouldn't go again until we were celebrating everyone's adoptions. We'll have two complete before the end of the year and one ready to go soon after. Good thing I have a great vacation planner on speed dial!
This is the girls Princess Wardrobe that is ever growing.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SOUVENIR YOU HAVE EVER GOTTEN FROM DISNEY?
I've gotta go with lanyards and pins that we've collected from each trip. We've introduced all of the children we've traveled with to our fun hobby as well as many of our aunts and uncles and friends who follow us in social media. We love looking back and remembering some of our trades and purchases and often our time shared with cast members during the process is the greatest gift of all.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DO EVERY TIME YOU GO TO DISNEY?
This one is simple...It's a Small World. I think, because it's connected truly to Walt, this one is a must do. It's as if you are experiencing a part of the parks the way he wanted you to.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE DISNEY CHARACTER AND WHY?I think as a kid I would've answered Goofy. I loved him because he was tall and awkward and that kind of describes my teenage years. And when my boys and nephew were younger it was Mickey because I loved the way they looked at him. And now that I have girls who are about to be adopted, It's Sophia. There's just something about a girl who gets a new family, moves to a castle and gets to be a princess. Rapunzel runs a close second just because she has great hair and can hold her own with a frying pan.
HOW CAN OTHERS HELP?
There is a wonderful non-profit group called TOGETHER WE RISE! They are a non-profit helping to improve the lives of foster children! You can visit their main page at http://www.togetherwerise.org/ . But here is something pretty cool! One of the many amazing things they do, they help foster children have that Disney Experience!!! Visit here to learn more about that!
WHAT MAKES YOUR PASSION AS A DISNEY FAN STAND OUT ABOVE THE OTHERS?
That's the cool thing about being a Disney Fan...there's enough there for us all to do our thing, to find our passion and to have fun while chasing the Magic.
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