Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

February 3, 2014

The 12th Birthday Surprise


On January 21st we celebrated Simon’s 12th birthday with a small family gathering and the next morning I woke him up at 3:30am and told him we were heading to Disneyland.

Obviously we don’t go this big every year for birthdays.

It was a last minute decision (well, a least a week before decision). A decision to do something silly and fun and spontaneous and special. Making it happen. While in Southern California the week before for the PLAY event and spending the day at Disneyland there seemed like nothing better than to organize a surprise one-on-one trip with Simon to head back down again.

He thought it was a pretty good idea too.


I’m a big believer in one-on-one time. Obviously a trip is one thing, but even just an ice-cream date or a bookstore or any time spent when it’s just two of us.

Growing up I got to take a few one-on-one trips with either my Mom or my Dad and it was always really special to have that time. I have a brother who is 15 months younger and a sister who is 4 years younger. Two trips that stand out include a trip to Hawaii with my Mom and Grandma and a trip to Japan with my Dad on a business trip when I was a freshman in high school.

This was Simon’s second time at Disneyland.


This time it was all about Star Tours and Cars Land.

He’s a major fan.

We were there for two days and purchased Park Hopper passes so we could go back and forth between the parks. And as you’ll see below, Aaron and his oldest son met us down there to help celebrate Simon’s birthday trip. They were a great match in terms of interest and pace and they did some things on their own and we did some things on our own.


This was Simon’s first time on the Cars ride and he was so, so excited. If you haven’t had a chance to ride this one yet it’s just so fun but the line is really long. We were able to get a Fast Pass on the first day to come back later in the evening and that made the line significantly shorter.


Then we discovered the awesomeness that is the Single Rider line which enabled us to ride a bunch of times in a row. With the single rider line there’s definitely the chance that you won’t ride together (we ended up in the same car with me in the back and Simon in the front a couple times and once in separate cars) but it makes it so you can get in more rides vs. waiting an hour in line (or more) for the ride.


Because we stayed at one of the Disney hotels we were able to enter Disneyland an hour early one of the mornings. A bunch of the characters were available right at the entrance when we came in and Simon wanted a photo with each. Loved having them all in one place like that.





I didn’t take too many photos this time. I did take my big camera but I mainly just used my phone to catch shots here and there.


The warm temperatures and the blue sky was an awesome change from the grey and fog we’ve been having here in Oregon.


And because it’s California he got to swim at night.


Love you Simon! So happy to celebrate you and all your awesomeness. Thanks for loving the magic too.

And just in case you are wondering, Anna stayed with Katie during this adventure. They had their own special one-on-one time that included a lot of playing “hair salon” and testing out make-up. Those two were kindreds from day one. She’ll get her own one-on-one adventure in the future. 


  • 1.
    A. Sanborn said…

    What a memorable “tween” Cake N’ Candle Day, Simon!

    Wishing you all the best and many more one on one memories ahead!


  • 2.
    Silvia said…

    I remember you posting about the birthday surprise on Instagram, the night before. I wondered all day what his reaction would. Such a great surprise to wake up to. I remember holidays with my mom, and outings with my dad. It was always so fun to spent one-on-one time with them. It still is!

    Have a lovely week!

  • 3.
    Paula said…

    What a special time together! I did the same with my son when he was in middle school, and this spring will go to Disney Hollywood Studios & Magic Kingdom with my daughter. You just convinced me to not give her the dates in advance and make it a surprise! Also, there is a new Disney hotel here in Florida that has a Cars theme in some of its rooms and in the court yard – it’s called Art of Animation Resort – check it out :)

  • 4.
    laura g. said…

    that is sooooo awesome!! Simon will remember this forever!

  • 5.
    P.J. said…

    What a HAPPY birthday with Mom! He’ll remember this trip forever.

  • 6.
    michelle t said…

    I was so hoping you’d post about your adventure with Simon was wondering what you had planned. Loved seeing the photos. Looks like such an awesome time. Thanks for sharing your day. Michelle t

  • 7.
    Angie Hall said…

    This, my first read of the morning, made me smile! Happy birthday, Simon! You are blessed to have such a wonderful family.

  • 8.
    kelsey said…

    Man, he is getting tall. My son turned 12 yesterday. Missed doing something special this year but maybe next year for being a teen. Thanks for the idea!

    Happy belated birthday, Simon.

  • 9.
    Michelle L said…

    Happy Birthday Simon!

    OUr one on one trips are usually for lunch or movies or something but this would be great!

    The first thing I noticed was Simon is taller than some of the characters! He is gonna be one tall handsome fella when he grows up! =)

  • 10.
    Lida said…

    The Best!

  • 11.
    Jo-Anne said…

    Ah WOW looks like you had an AWESOME trip!

    Here’s to many many many more fun, exciting trips in the future. Cheers:-))

  • 12.
    Ruth G said…

    How awesome was that?! Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve got tears in my eyes!
    Our last Disney vacation was not so great, especially for my autistic son. He was having a very hard time with the crowds, getting touched all the time. It’s so nice that Simon had a great time for his birthday!

  • 13.
    Ellie said…

    oh ali. i know this story is about simon, but your face in that last photo…that’s the most genuine, playful, happy smile I’ve seen from you in a while. definitely a sign of thriving through play <3

  • 14.
    J Allen said…

    My my Simon looks more and more like his Dad! Handsome boy ;) In about 6 weeks I will have my own 12 year old! yikes…

  • 15.
    Nadine said…

    OK, a couple thoughts here.

    First, love Anna’s look of excitement as you’re lighting the candles for Simon’s cake!

    I remember how you surprised your children for their first trip to Disneyland with their cousins . . . so happy you could do it again with Simon. I am a big supporter of surprise visits, parties, etc. and think spur-of-the-moment fun is so awesome.

    My sister Chelle lives outside LA. I live in Ohio and my other sister is in Chicago. We want to surprise Chelle and end up on her doorstep for her 50th birthday – maybe a trip to Disneyland would be a cool event, even for us “old ladies”!

    Finally, Ali, so happy Aaron was able to join you with his son. Looks like you all have memories to treasure for years to come.

    Happy Birthday, Simon!!

  • 16.
    Debbie said…


    You are the coolest mom!!! Seeing you experience this with Simon makes me want to plan a surprise trip for my daughter! Love the photos of you in the car!!!

  • 17.
    Rosa said…

    Ali- that is AWESOME!! Happy birthday to Simon! You are a fabulous mom! I so wish we lived semi-close to a Disney! Living in New England means having to fly anywhere… is it sad that my kids haven’t been to Disney yet? :(

  • 18.
    Cynthia H said…

    So, so fun. Love it.

  • 19.
    Marie-Pierre said…

    This post gave me chills. It’s all I can say. I’m happy for you too and I’m personally looking forward for more fun times with my girls. Working on being hands free more often.

  • 20.
    Jenni Hufford said…

    what a fabulous trip!!! The ride photos are hysterical! love all the faces!

  • 21.
    Praisley said…

    Parenting is such an artform requiring wisdom and a delicate balance. It wasn’t until my daughter moved out and my son was grown that we got to spend one on one time together…but it was treasured even the more. Can’t believe Simon is 12 years old…already. And Disneyland is always a winner!!! Looking forward to Anna’s trip as well. PS: Wow, Ali. You are so very loved by so many people. Thanks for sharing…and may the Lord continue to pour out His many wonderful blessings upon your heart and upon your life!!!

  • 22.
    Erika Beckwith said…

    What a great way to celebrate Simon’s 12th birthday! Looks like you both had an awesome time.

  • 23.
    grace said…

    What fun! He has grown so much. Grace

  • 24.
    Debbie said…


  • 25.
    Marcia Soto Pirani said…

    Loved this post Ali! You are glowing, so truly happy to see you shine!

  • 26.
    sa said…

    This is an awesome way to celebrate that particular birthday! I still remember the ‘special’ birthdays that my mother made for me.

  • 27.
    Kathy P. said…

    How wonderful to have that one on one time together. This is something Simon will always remember.

  • 28.
    Donna M said…

    What an awesome thing to have been able to do with Simon:)

  • 29.

    He’s going to remember this trip for the rest of his life :)
    Great job Mumma – way to go in creating some amazing memories.
    Taking my daughter and husband to Disneyworld is on my bucket list, and because we’re on the other side of the world, it’s probably going to be a once in a lifetime trip. I’m lucky to have experienced the magic of Disney when l was 16. It’s hard to explain to them what all the fuss is about !! :)

  • 30.
    debi said…

    What an awesome adventure! Happy Birthday Simon!

  • 31.
    Carolyn HP said…

    What an awesome adventure! So happy for such special celebrations that you & Simon will never forget! Loved travelling when I was young no matter how short the trip! Happy belated birthday dear Simon! Enjoy 12!

  • 32.
    J3SS1C4 said…

    I have to say this is awesome! What a great surprise to wake Simon up to! I hope he had an awesome birthday :)

  • 33.
    Jennifer said…

    Amazing. I can’t believe how big he’s gotten. What a special trip for you guys. He’ll have such great memories!

  • 34.
    Jana Oliveira said…

    Happy Birthday to Simon it’s been amazing to believe he already 12 and we follow this blog and saw him so young.

  • 35.
    cindy b said…

    AWESOME Ali… that one on one time is definitely something special.. I wish my mom would have done that with me. Trying my best to do with my own kids!!

  • 36.
    sharon said…

    What a special treat for Simon! Certainly a birthday he’ll always remember. I was at the Play! event and loved what a beautiful day we all had at Disneyland. So glad you “thunk it over” and decided to return to PLAY again but this time with your very own special person – makes it all that much more fun seeing it through the eyes of a child. After seeing your pictures, though, I know I’ll never ride that Cars ride. :)

  • 37.
    Cassie said…

    How perfect! Thanks for sharing!!

  • 38.
    Sarah said…

    You are an awesome mum!!

  • 39.
    Kirsty said…

    What a beautiful surprise and so special ..

  • 40.
    kat-in-texas said…

    Happy Birthday Simon!!! Hope y’all had a BLAST in Disney!!!

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