Good Life: Believe in Magic

These are the faces of two little girls who just learned they’re not going to Disney World. At least, not in a few weeks like we originally planned.

Not what one would expect, right?

But sometimes, just a little magic — and an amazing friend — is all that’s needed to make a disappointing situation into something a little fun.

Back in February, the day before their dad left for several months to attend military training, Martin and I presented the girls with Disney outfits and a book, and the news that we would all be traveling down to Disney World in August when their Dad got home.

Needless to say, they were delighted.

And Martin and I were excited, too. Tucked away in our savings account was enough money for a week-long trip to visit all the parks and character breakfasts and all that jazz, and I had put in the vacation request months in advance at work. We had all the dates worked out around Martin’s continuing training and Miss C’s school vacations.

Everything was all set to go.

And then?

In July, Amelia the Minivan had a meltdown during Martin’s return trip from Ohio with the kids.

A bad one.

She needed a new part, and the final tab on her meltdown actually cost THREE military-discounted trips to Disney World.

There was no question: we had to dip into the savings and postpone the trip to Disney World.

These things happen.

It’s life.

There’s a saying in the military about “embracing the suck.” It means you just have to accept that some things aren’t easy and they’re not fun, but you got to do it, and move on. There was no question what needed to happened, of course.

But still.

It sucked.

So, I canceled the hotel reservation, canceled my leave request at work and we got the van fixed and on the road again. It’s a blow because we don’t like disappointing our kids, but we’re very lucky to be in a position where my job is dependable and we can save the money up again in a few months.

As for breaking the news to the kids?

First, we pulled Miss C aside and talked with her since she’s old enough to understand things like money and priorities, and has a better grasp on the concept of time and all. While disappointed, she realized that a few months delay for a vacation like that isn’t really that bad.

But for Lola?

My Lola, who had her heart set on this trip, and who clung to the idea of Disney World most during those days when she was really missing her Dad when he was gone?

I admit, I balked at telling her the truth.

A four-year-old just isn’t going to get it.

So I broke the news that we heard that some of the Disney Princesses were actually going to be out of the country in August to attend a world peace summit, and that it would probably be better if we delayed our vacation until they returned.

She bought it.

Sort of.

However, my friend Jennie LOVED that version when I later retold her the story. She was one of my closest confidants while Martin was gone, and she of all people knew how much Lola went through during that time, and how much her heart was set on that trip.

Jennie thought there was definitely some opportunity for a little magic here.

“Julie, what if Lola received a card from the princesses themselves explaining the whole thing?” she asked.

As it turned out, Jennie has a friend (through the military, of course) who lives in Belgium, home of NATO and castles.

This friend surely had connections to princesses there, especially princesses in town for peacekeeping missions, Jennie explained.

And as it turned out, she did.

This morning, the girls received an actual letter and postcard from Belgium. It was beautifully stamped and written in gold ink.

And in beautiful cursive handwriting, the letter said:

Dear Miss C and Lola,

We are currently in Europe at a peace summit as special ambassadors on behalf of children. Please wait until we return to our American home before you come see us again! We wouldn’t want to miss you.


The Princesses

On my wall art, a recommendation for living the good life is to believe in magic.

In the dictionary, magic is partly defined as “the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, the art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural, a mysterious quality of enchantment.”

Admittedly, it’s hard to believe in magic when one is an adult. Maybe it begins even earlier, around the time we learn the truth about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, as Miss C did last December.

Maybe we figure out our own slight-of-hand tricks.

Or maybe things like trapdoors and secret drawers are explained to us.

We learn right away there’s no Fairy Godmother who appears to grant wishes, or a rich distant uncle who will come claim us and pay our debts and allow for us to live in luxury. (Although, I do get emails from him and his lawyers ALL THE TIME.)

We as adults accept that money doesn’t grow on trees, and adulthood and parenthood bring about some doses of reality all the time.

It can be easy to feel that magic just does. not. exist.

But it does.

And thanks to my quick-thinking friend Jennie,  and the creative handiwork of her friend in Belgium, my girls can still believe in magic.

And so do I.


Miss C just put on a pair of sweatpants today and announced, “Wow! I look like Mom!”


Years in military uniform followed by dressing nearly every day in work dresses and suits, and she associates me with sweatpants. #winning