Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

April 12, 2012

Disneyland | The Surprise

Months ago Jessica (my sister) emailed me and told me that her partner Jeffrey had a speaking event in Anaheim in late March and did we want to meet them at Disneyland? I checked the calendar and the dates matched perfectly with our Spring Break. The opportunity to go and be with Jessica and her family and take the kids to Disneyland was way too much to pass up.

I decided I wanted it to be a surprise (hard not to get a little choked up when watching those commercials where the parents surprise their kids with a trip to Disney) – it just seemed all the more magical that way.

In the weeks leading up to Spring Break the kids and I talked a bit about maybe going somewhere, but also the possibility of just staying home and what we would do if we did stay home. Hang out, go to the park, watch movies – all good stuff and all stuff they would have been perfectly happy with. But I knew something they didn’t know…

On Monday, March 29th I woke up at 4am and took a shower & dried my hair. For the last ten months I haven’t slept good at all. The night before we left I didn’t sleep well either but it was the first time in months & months that I didn’t sleep for a fun & exciting reason.

At 4:30 I woke up the kids who were both sleeping in my bed. They were hard to wake up at first.

I said, “Wake up. I have a surprise for you. We are going on an airplane.”

I think it was Anna who rolled over first and asked, “Where are we going?”

“First we are going to Seattle.”

“And then where?” asked Simon in that super-sleepy voice of someone who is really not awake yet.

“It’s a surprise.” They both looked at me and smiled and decided they were okay with that. There wasn’t any “tell me now” or “where, where, where are we going?”

Anna got up as soon as I said we were going on an airplane. She was ready to get dressed immediately.

Simon was a little more sleepy and a little more skeptical.

“I don’t want to go. I want to stay home. I want to get a hook.” He’d been talking for weeks about getting a pirate hook. I’d been telling him that we could get one during spring break (knowing we were going somewhere he could get one).

“We can get a hook where we are going.” I told him.

At that he jumped up and said “Okay” with a big smile on his face.

And then he asked if we were going to Hawaii or Disneyland. I told him it was a surprise and he would find out later.

I finished my hair, grabbed my make up bag and corralled them downstairs. The night before I’d already packed everything in the car, including their backpacks so all I had to do in the morning was get them dressed and in the car.

They are both really good travelers. Excited, happy, ready to go – even at 4:50am. I was also ready with movies (Tinkerbell was especially popular) & games on the ipad (More Breakfast is a new favorite) and a new DS game for Simon (Star Wars: The Complete Saga).

We flew to Seattle (yep, sometimes you have to go north to get south) and then proceeded to wait a couple of hours until Jessica, Jeffrey and Gabrielle arrived at the airport. We planned that Gabrielle or Jessica would tell Simon and Anna. Simon and Anna didn’t know we were meeting them either. By the time they arrived Simon was about at the end of all this surprise business. I told him that we were going to be meeting someone very soon who would tell us about the next phase of our surprise (very thankful at this point for the ability to text with my sister and get the exact details on when they would show up).

Here’s a video of what happened next:

We Are Going To Disneyland from Ali Edwards on Vimeo.

Such a fun moment.

I love the pointing back & forth – the you & me?

I love that Anna really didn’t care and was more excited to get to play with Gabrielle.

I love that this was something I got to share with my sister and Jeffrey.

I love that Simon is all about the magic. So much sparkle in that boy.

I’ll share more in an upcoming post about some of the details and general thoughts on our actual time at Disneyland.


  • 1.
    dawn said…

    How wonderful this was for all of you!! I love surprising my kids with anything big or small, just those faces and smiles makes it all worth it.

    I can’t believe how good they were for you this early in the morning and the driving so early, way to go on being awesome travelers!!

    Ali, so sorry you don’t sleep well anymore, hope one day soon you will. Have you tried yoga before bed maybe it would help?

  • 2.
    Amanda Susan said…

    I’ve got a big smile on my face for you. I’m still jumping up and down that you got to experience one of my favorite places.

  • 3.
    Laura said…

    great job planning the surprise vacation! thanks for sharing the video with us. I can’t wait to hear more about the trip.

  • 4.
    Jenni Hufford said…

    oh ali that is such a fun moment. simons is so sweet- i am so glad you has such a great time and what a wonderful surprise!!!

  • 5.
    Michelle B said…

    That was GREAT! Thank you so much for sharing! I have the biggest smile on my face right now! So happy to see all of you happy! Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

  • 6.
    Susan said…

    i loved the play by play leading up to the video. i’m sure that is going in the memory book. what a delightful surprise.

  • 7.
    Caroline said…

    GREAT storytelling, Ali… and I love the video! Looking forward to hearing more about the trip!

  • 8.
    Kimberly said…

    :) – I just shared your Disneyland commercial and have those tears in my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

  • 9.
    adrienne said…

    What a great surprise! We’re hoping to take our three to Disneyworld for the first time in a few months, but I think the cat is already out of the bag ;) Thanks for sharing!

  • 10.
    Ellie A. said…

    OHHHHH Ali you have me crying over here!!! :) OH I LOVE,LOVE,LOOOOOOOOOOOVE this.. I dream of one day doing this for my kids especially my little girl who is princess crazed & would pass out if we would be able to go to Disneyland.OH I so LOVE THIS :)

  • 11.
    Melanie K said…

    LOL, I got a chuckly out of that … Simon is just like my middle one., Liam. Totally see him doing the same thing “Are WE going?” lol! Wonderful surprise!

  • 12.
    yolanda S said…

    What a sweet memory! I surprised my girls with a DisneyWorld trip back in ’07 – they thought we were just going to the beach – and it was indeed magical. So glad you were able to give this blessing to them – and yourself! So happy for you all!

  • 13.
    Susan said…

    Great video Ali! Such a sweet memory. We are going to Disneyworld in 4 weeks. We are beyond excited.

  • 14.
    Terri said…

    Not sure how to say this, Ali, but we are ALL rooting for you. This blog post says it all: You are such a great mom, your kids are blessed to have you, and life does go on. Each day you progress forward or go back a little and share it with us gives us all hope for you, OUR virtual sister. Life is, indeed, a journey, whether to Disneyland or to a new future. Thank you, every single day, for your inspiration and grace. Love you.

    • ….
      Mary in IL said…

      Um, yeah…what Terri said…ditto! :-)

    • ….
      Tina said…

      Beautifully written Terri! Expresses my sentiments perfectly too!

    • ….
      Gypsy Chaos said…

      Another ditto! May the sandman find you more easily in the coming weeks.

      The video was wonderful to watch – the expressions and gestures conveyed the whole story.

      {I just got my computer back from the doctor. I suspect he forgot to reconnect the speakers. sigh. Not interested in crawling in the dark spaces right now.}

  • 15.
    Nicky from Canada said…

    a smile and a tear from me. how wonderful

  • 16.
    Karen said…

    Such a great family moment–thanks for sharing. How magical to do that for your kids!! THe trip could only get better from that moment!!! So happy for you.

  • 17.
    Emma Tandy said…

    I love it, It’s made me cry what a lovely surprise, Simon and my son Alex are so smiler they are also about the same age as are anna and my Daughter we love disney, It makes me cry when I see my kids faces when we go. I love the way that you have made the changes to to life, I know it can’t always be easy but your doing great and I love how you share it with us we are very lucky !

    • ….
      Gypsy Chaos said…

      I ADORE LOVE LIKE your inadvertent misspelling – “my son and Simon are SMILER” instead of ‘similar’. Made me smile.

  • 18.
    Glenna said…

    What a great surprise for the kiddos. Glad you all had so much fun!

  • 19.
    Jocelyn said…

    Such a sweet, sweet moment!! Thanks for sharing this with us, Ali!

  • 20.
    Christine said…

    So awesome! Love the fingers back and forth and the look of surprise. Sound like you pulled this off perfectly. Its great that you and the kids had some family time with your sister and her family. Thanks for sharing.

  • 21.
    Beth said…

    What a great moment…i just wish I watched the video BEFORE I put make up on. What a great surprise!!!

  • 22.
    Jan C. said…

    So, do you suppose Simon thought maybe you adults were going and he and Anna weren’t? That, “are we going too?” was so cute!

  • 23.
    Selma said…

    I love the way you do simple moments magical. Thank´s Ali for share!

  • 24.
    Janette said…

    What a magical moment to remember for ever!! Thank you so much for sharing your beuatiful family and yourself with us! Hoping your sleepless nights will soon be a thing of the past. Hugs!

  • 25.
    Laura Moegenburg said…

    Ali – when I was at the CHA show last summer there was a vendor that sold a product called (, it is a flat sticker that you can record digital media on including movies and then use as an embellishment on your scrapbook page. Then when looking at your scrapbook you can scan that sticker with iphone, ipad and watch the video.

    • ….

      You can also post it (in a private account) on YouTube and make a QR code to put in your scrapbook/Project Life — I’ve done that and it’s really cool. I saw a great link from mercytiare on YouTube about it.


  • 26.
    sUSAN Z said…

    Gosh, I so feel like a part of your family. You don’t know me but I know so much about you. I’ve followed you forever, love to hear your voice when you guest on PRT, !! When I watched the video with Simon I got such a warm feeling inside!! I know the past several months have not been the best for you but take it from someone who knows, there is life after this and it can be WONDERFUL as I wish for you. Sleep may be eluding you now, but it will return again. You will adjust to the new normal!! Until then, know you have cheerleaders all over the place….this one is in New Jersey!

  • 27.
    Janet K said…

    Thanks so much for sharing , Ali! That was awesome! Huge smile and a tear from me…that was the best! I do love how you tell a story, too!

  • 28.
    jaimee h. said…

    love this!!!! I get choked up at those commercials too. and I get to do this next year as my father is sending me, my sister and our two kids to disneyworld next summer. so fun!!!

  • 29.
    Dori said…

    Good heavens! I just wiped my eyes and blew my nose, lol! What a precious post! So glad you had this experience. Thanks so much for putting a little magic in MY day, Ali. :-)

  • 30.
    Eniko said…

    Ali, how wonderful that you surprised the kids! I did the same for my son as a graduation present from college! It was a life-long dream come true. I hope you have a blast! (Your sleeplessness and some of the blahs you’ve been feeling sound like symptoms of peri-menopause to me. It hits some folks at a pretty early age. Try Melatonin…it’s helped me alot). So glad you’re taking some time for fun! xo

  • 31.
    Patti L said…

    What an awesome surprise! I wish someone would surprise me with going to Disney! That was such a cool idea & nice way to document it too. Can’t wait to see more about the trip. (and from experience, the sleeplessness goes away, you will be fine)

  • 32.
    Alida said…

    So wonderful to see Simon on video for the first time! So sweet. And what a great idea to surprise them. A gift to you as much as it was for them, I’m sure.

  • 33.
    Cathy L. said…

    Very cool! I love that Simon had to ask “Are WE going to Disneyland?”.

  • 34.
    Helen said…

    this is so fantastic – thanks so much for sharing. its put a smile on my face!

  • 35.
    Lisa A. A. said…

    SO sweet! I’m so happy you took that trip & really hope you enjoyed many magical moments!

  • 36.
    Sarah Hofseth said…

    Ali, my eyes totally welled up with tears watching that! What a great surprise! My son is 9 and would have a similar reaction, wanting to verify the whole thing before getting excited about it. But you could tell by the look on Simon’s face just how excited he was…truly heartwarming. I’m happy for your family that you had that time together and that Simon could enjoy that moment. I guarantee that he will never ever forget it.

  • 37.
    Dara Cohen said…

    That was great! Thank-you for sharing your life with us.

  • 38.
    Brene said…

    I found myself shouting at the computer screen, “Yes, Simon! YOU are going! Total magic.

  • 39.
    Stacy said…

    That was great!

  • 40.
    Suz said…

    Simply. Magical. In true Disney form. Precious, priceless video Ali! So happy y’all got to share in the Magic together.
    Looking forward to more posts on Disney. :)
    Take care you.

  • 41.
    Emilie said…

    TEARS!!!!! so BEAUTIFUL!!!! someday i hope to surprise my boys too.. they are both too young to understand the MAGIC of disney… loved it!

  • 42.
    Debbie P said…

    Thanks for sharing Ali! Love his precious smile! I love surprises like that. What an absolute happy memory!

  • 43.
    liz kartchner said…

    sitting here with tears in my eyes. he’s the sweetest boy.



  • 44.
    Jason Thompson said…


  • 45.
    Deborah said…

    Having annual passes, my kids have been going to Disneyland all their lives, but they STILL get so WooHoo! excited whenever we go–whether it’s for two days or two hours. I love that, too. I stopped sleeping well as soon as my first child was born. Just could not turn my brain off at night, no matter how tired my body was. Have tried for years to find a natural, healthy way to reclaim the sleep of my youth and the only things that work for me are 60 minutes on the treadmill or a half-mg of Lorazepam at bedtime (just enough to take the edge off during an especially difficult night). So, run Ali, run!

  • 46.
    Leanne said…

    You should make that a QR code and put it in project life that’s great!

  • 47.
    Karen Foreman said…

    Thank you for sharing this Ali. It truly warmed my heart. Have an amazing trip. Love surprises :)

  • 48.
    Karen Foreman said…

    Thank you for sharing this Ali. It truly warmed my heart. Have an amazing trip. Love surprises :)

  • 49.
    Jamie said…

    I love to surprise my kids like that!! Thanks for sharing and bringing a tear to my eye :) … and glad you had a great time!

  • 50.
    Linda said…

    This is so so cool!!

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