If you know me at all, you know that I take scads of pictures. I’m no talented photographer like my sister, but if you are at the same event or outing as me, you can rest assured that my face will be behind my little old 6.1 MP digital camera*. It’s great for documenting family history, but I often find myself reflecting, as I’m snapping pictures, on the fact that having my face behind a camera so often really does take the focus (no pun intended) away from truly enjoying that moment with my family. It’s almost like I’m momentarily an outsider, looking in.

There is no greater example of this very situation than the Walt Disney World trip we took in 1997, when the boys were five and two. We were very, very excited to go for the obvious reasons, but that year was the 25th birthday of WDW, and the Cinderella Castle had been renovated for the celebration year to look like a big pink birthday cake. (Mags from Ms. Maggie Moo Talks 2 U was working there as a Disney cast member at the time…I may have met her in person back then!)

I was in the throes of my scrapbooking craze. I attended “crops” semi-regularly and thought that by the time my kids were teens, I’d have each and every photo in our collection placed in colorful books on extraordinary layouts with stickers, paper borders, and other page embellishments. Boy was I wrong. But I digress.

An idea that had come up among my scrapbooking group was to do an “A B C” scrapbook. The page layouts all correspond with each letter. When we started planning our Disney trip, I thought, “WOW! What a great idea, to do an ABC album of our vacation!”

And then my head exploded.

Alright, not really. But can you imagine what an idea like that can do to somebody like me, who is crafty, obsessive, AND a list-maker?

I started making my list ahead of the trip (of course) so I’d know what to look for. (M = Mickey, Minnie, Monorail, MGM Studios, Mexico {EPCOT}, Morocco {EPCOT}, Magic Kingdom, Mary Poppins, Main Street…) Also, there was that scavenger hunt quality to this plan; I could check things off as I took photos. This was way before I owned a digital camera, so there wasn’t any way to keep track of my photos anyway, besides writing things down.

We finally arrived at the Magic Kingdom and boy, did we have a great time. I was snapping photos right and left. I remember when I accidentally found an Upside-down cake for my “U” page: it was SUCH a big thrill, because I didn’t have many photos for “U”.

One day, we were taking a little rest in Adventureland, right outside the Swiss Family Treehouse. I looked at Jim, who was drinking a bottle of water, and exclaimed, “Yes! Zephyrhills Water! That’ll be great for my “Z” page! And so, like the amazingly patient-with-his-obviously-clinically-insane-wife kind of man that he is, he posed with the bottle of water, label facing the camera.

Are you pitying me yet? Just wait. It gets better. And by better, I mean worse.

I know for a fact that we had fun on that trip. My pictures indicate it. Do you want to know what memory stands out in my mind (and, unfortunately, Jim’s) about that trip?

Dumbo. (D)

This was our first trip to Disney World with the kids. What is the quintessential activity (okay, there are lots. but humor me) that you do with little kids at Disney World?? You ride Dumbo, and you photograph it for future warm and fuzzies, that’s what! In fact, you can find evidence of how fun this is on youtube: here, here, here…do I need to go on? I thought not.

I got my camera ready as we got in line to ride. How exciting this would be! Finally, I’d get a photo of my kids’ happy little faces as they rode Dumbo!

But the line was long.

And the kids grew tired of waiting. Finally, the older boy said, “I don’t think I want to ride Dumbo anymore.”


And then the younger one, in all of his toddler glory, agreed.


Jim looked at me. “They don’t want to ride.”

Halfway out of my mind at the thought of not getting the photo I so desperately wanted (Sadly, the choice of words right there was totally intentional. Are ya getting the flavor of this moment?), I tried my best to talk the boys into *wanting* to wait for Dumbo.

No dice.

And right then, my friends, is when I totally lost my mind.

I had a temper tantrum. Full blown.

Over Dumbo.

I was spouting lots of things, but the one thing I remember saying, which is ironic in all kinds of ways, is this:

“You are going to do fun things here, and have fun…or else!!!”

That, right there, just might be the lowest moment I’ve ever had, as a Mom. Ever. Twelve years later, the subject of Dumbo still comes up, and the shame washes over me like a tidal wave.

Not that I ruined the trip, mind you. As I said, we had a great time. That was just a little “bump” on that particular day. There would be no Dumbo photo. Ever. But I learned a valuable lesson. Had I not been so completely obsessed with getting the right photo, had I not been directing the trip in such a way to make this–if I do say so myself–gorgeous album that we have now, I could have spent that time living in the moment with my family just a little bit more fully. And maybe avoided yelling at my kids for something completely ridiculous.

The Disney ABC album was my first, and my last. Though my intense pre-trip-planning methods are still a normal thing for us, when it’s time for fun, I do try to recognize a little more when it’s time to put down the camera–just for a while–and back away slowly.

Unfortunately, my album is something like 12″ X 18″ and way too big for my scanner, so you’ll have to suffer with photographs I just took of some of the pages. And yes, I made the castle right there on my cover page. Isn’t it lovely?

*The camera that Jim now calls a “brick” due to it’s bulky nature compared to the new models. The one that has literally taken thousands of photos around here, in Europe, in New York, everywhere. The one that once dropped onto a New York City sidewalk, giving me a mini heart attack in the process, but kept on working like it never happened. The one that has lost two side screws, forcing me to put hot pink duct tape on it, to keep things together.