Is This The Real Life Or Just Fantasy?

There’s something that happens to me when I travel, and I always wonder if other people experience it too.

Disney World

I disappear. Just a bit.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I don’t even know the origin. Maybe it was my missing father. Or being the middle child of five kids? 1,000 things. I think it’s all part of me feeling invisible every now and then. Which if that sounds absurd to you, by all means, tell me. Sometimes I can see I’m wrong, but mostly I need to be shown I’m wrong, even if I have to show myself. I show it to myself in vivid color.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

There’s just something about being away. Maybe it’s about not having all of your right things in all of their right places. Maybe it’s about balancing the needs of parents and siblings, and later on in life, of spouses and children. Maybe it’s about compromising and losing your already low voice against the high pitches of the rest. Maybe it’s about humidity and different water and how your hair never looks as good when you’re on vacation, does it? Unless you’re in California, of course.

I suppose glowing skin and a David Bowie shirt don’t hurt either. I credit breastfeeding a newborn. In California

After our snack we dropped in on Mandy and Steve, our old dry cleaners.  They were so happy to see us.   This was a very emotional reunion.

This is another tale to tell, though, of a two hour flight rather than a six hour one. This story is about Florida and beaches (still to come on that one) and Harry Potter land and going through “It’s a Small World” at least twice. Maybe three times.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

It’s very calming. And how about the Country Bear Jamboree? We’re all aware by now that it’s completely full of sexual jokes, right? I can’t believe I didn’t catch on as a kid, but I suppose furry singing bears don’t seem so suspect at first glance.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Until you read between the lines. I’m not good at that, but there are some treasures to find.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

And you know about the anxiety I can have? Well you may or may not be surprised to find out that it was nonexistent at Disney World, even for 13 hours among zillions of people. And crowded, smelly monorails. Did I mention that kids (not mine) puke at theme parks? And the loud noises and lack of being able to escape. You’d think I’d have been shaking in a corner, but my anxiety has no interest in Disney World. It rather likes the cool breezes (in January, anyway) and the soothing train rides.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

It was gone. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t gone at all. I didn’t disappear.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I never thought I’d go to Disney World as an adult. I don’t love crowds or fake dreams. Only, they’re not so fake after all. You know what I do love? Happy and healthy kids. The ones I carry away from their schools, in my arms, on the day before vacation. It’s true that I remember my childhood best friend being whisked away from school and onward to Disney World via Newark Airport in a stretch limo. I always thought that was the jackpot of all winter Northeast childhood experiences. Only, maybe it’s about style and substance. It’s the way I whisked Scarlet away and she got to say profuse goodbyes to her teachers and friends. We walked away, in our victory march, to a chorus of, “Bye, Scarlet! We’ll miss you, Scarlet! Say hi to Mickey for me, Scarlet! Don’t forget the princesses, Scarlet! You’re lucky, Scarlet! Lucky.” I don’t think she’ll ever forget that.

I suspect I won’t either.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

That’s really what it’s about sometimes. Whatever you dream about – princesses and dragons, warm and sunny beaches, or the wizarding world of Harry Potter. For me? It’s all of the above. Plus a LOT more. And I felt very lucky for our trip.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Who doesn’t go to Disney World and not feel a little weird/gassy/nostalgic/irritated/something? The bottom line is that you feel something. I felt so much. And the people who work at Disney World are PROS. They will single you out. They will single your kid out. They will make you feel like the only person out of thousands. This is planned but it is magic. Planned magic.

Below: Merida looked right at Scarlet, made the “I see you” signs, and then shot a fake arrow at Scarlet’s heart.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

In college, I did a 12 page paper on Walt Disney’s life and vision for my Film Genres class. I wrote it the morning it was due and got an A+. I was so immersed in the research leading up to the due date and the day I actually wrote the paper, and the reading was weeks-long. I think Disney’s original vision was stunning, and I understand it, as a lost girl. He was a lost boy searching for a perfect world. You can’t get that in this world of darkness and light, but darnit, you can make a theme park.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

And you can attend that theme park. Or you don’t have to either if it’s not your bag, baby! I seriously never thought I would, but here I am with a two-year-old, a five-year-old, and a slew of generous relatives who have made all of this possible for us.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

To go to this totally strange world of winter warmth and made up stories and never knowing what to tell her about it all. Princesses are real. Bad guys are not? That doesn’t seem right. I want to tell her more than this. About how it’s not black and white, and that we all contain some dark, and we all contain some light, and somehow it meets in the middle.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

And that we still can find romantic love, and it’s a messy kind of love, and you can be in love more than once. You can be in love more than once, at the same time. Messy, messy. And through beauties and beasts, and beastly beauties, and beautiful beasts, somewhere, somehow, it’s a bit astounding what’s real and what’s in front of you. Better than this, for sure:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

It’s a bit funny having her believe that she could go into the water and wind up with fins. It’s a bit funny, but that’s life with a five-year-old. There are so many stories and some of them.. are ridiculous. And one day she’ll know she won’t grow fins.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Or learn to fly with pixie dust. (sob)

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

And it’s TOTALLY weird that she believes that villains are real, and somehow they’re in Orlando, Florida right with us and somehow we let her go to a place that has Maleficent and we’re all smiling and laughing as if we’re all safe. Because we are.


Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug


Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

In this story. In these stories.

In my fairy tale, I let go of my anxiety and I feel like I’m flying. I stand back just to enjoy the kids’ enjoyment, but I also remember to put down the camera, my shield, and to step into the bright light and let what will come… just come.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug


You wanna know what’s really magical? This is only a small fraction of my Disney World photos. Stay tuned!

About Tamara

Tamara is a professional photographer at, a mama of two, a writer/blogger at and a nearly professional cookie taster. She has been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. She is a very proud contributor to the book, The Mother Of All Meltdowns. After two cross country moves, due to her intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter and son in glorious western Massachusetts.


Is This The Real Life Or Just Fantasy? — 115 Comments

  1. Can I just tell you how excited I got seeing these photos as I know we have almost 6 months to go, but I am as bad as the girls and just can’t wait now!! Seriously, your photos tonight gave me such hope for our own trip. Thank you my friend ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Eeee so much fun! I can’t wait to be there next month. I don’t care for crowds either, but I can handle it at Disney. I think all the cupcakes help.

    Love the David Bowie shirt too.

  3. Oh those pictures!! I love love love how you presented them… with your T twist! I’m thrilled that you were able to embrace all the magic and wonder of it all… through your camera and your ‘true lens’…

    You have such a way with words… no one quite like you, my friend.

    What a blessing this was for you and for the kids and Cassidy! Oh, how I love that this took you AWAY from winter, from colds, from anxiety, from blahs…

    • Well that really means a lot, because the low light was a real challenge. And a bigger challenge was too much light at the parade. So your comment meant more than you know!

  4. No matter how old I ever get I will never tire of Disney. The floats, the magic, the beauty, the treasures, the wonder…and most of all the escape to Never Land! I love it. I too will use my camera to “hide” sometimes, Tamara. Yet, oddly enough, I can get really uneasy using it in restaurants even when I’ve been given permission by the manager to take the photos and write a review! Sending you warm thoughts and btw…David Bowie rocks!! I can play Rebel Rebel, Let’s Dance, Modern Love and especially Under Pressure (all 4) on a continuous loop allllll day long ๐Ÿ™‚

    • We had “modern love” play at our wedding! I’ll never forget my father-in-law jamming to it. It’s funny how cameras let us hide sometimes. Sometimes it’s the opposite.

      I feel you on never getting tired of Disney!

  5. You certainly captured the Magic of Disney World, Tamara! We captured the magic of your Magical Way With Words. Your photos in all their clarity and living color invite us to walk right into them and join the fun and afventure with you and your family. And you’re not finished yet! Thank you for explaining Mr. Disney’s vision and how you understood his vision too. I love how you ended this World Of Magic And Fantasy blog, and I’m already looking forward to going back there!

    • Yes, I’m not finished! I have so many more photos but I just ran out of time.
      I love all of the color and all of the fanfare. I couldn’t live my life with it all of the time, but it sure is special against all this white cold here!

  6. I remember leaving school a little early one day on 4th grade and being whisked off to Newark Airport to fly down to Disney World. Granted, it wasn’t in a limo, but it was still so much fun to get to go to the parks and miss a few days of school. I think no matter what age, there is something incredibly magical about Disney World. If anything it’s the fact that they are able to sustain that magical feeling knowing that behind that facade it’s just regular people dressed up. To stay in character like that and make everything look so perfect is magic in and of itself! I’m glad to hear you had such a great time and the anxiety didn’t travel with you.

    • I think my anxiety is lazy!
      I love that you also had that experience as a kid. It’s why I never go to Disney World in the summer, although the intense heat is what really keeps me away. It’s also that there’s something magical about leaving this behind.
      I know you know! If the weather was better, we’d be hanging out today!

  7. Wonderful photos and family ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree with you, to have happy and healthy children is most important!!! Have a beautiful day and I hope you’ll have soon spring time!

    • Thank you!
      Last year we didn’t see any parades. This parade was during the day, before the show on the stage at the castle. And then there was the electrical Parade at night. I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid. I’m talking 20 years ago. I will have pictures of that next. It was incredible.

  8. I am happy that your anxiety didn’t take over on this trip! Love the pictures–love the Disney parades, every element is always so beautiful! You got a great spot too!!

    • I can’t wait to share the rest! Especially when I get such awesome comments like this.
      It was a really great spot. I’m sad that they’re not in the pictures, but a really beautiful family made room for us next to them. It was awesome.

  9. Oh I just can’t get over your photos. You truly did have a magical time here and as for you anxiety, I’m glad it disappeared while you were there as well. I’m so looking forward to my own trip this summer which will be Madison’s first. Here’s to more magical memories.

  10. It takes me a while to come back to reality after a vacation and sometimes coming back to my normal place isn’t so fun….. Especially in the dead of winter. My kids and I looked at all of your pictures while we ate breakfast! Awesome, now we want to go!

    • Coming back to reality is very hard! Unless your reality is that you live in San Diego. Although where you guys live is pretty awesome!
      Promise me you’ll show the kids my next compilation of Disney photos. It might be a few weeks, because there are so many things I agreed to do for other people on my blog.

  11. There is simply nothing more magical than seeing the wonder of a child in It’s a Small World. The whole time you are thinking this is so lame, then you see the absolute beauty of your child’s smile and awe. That trumps anxiety monster every time!

    • You’re right! I couldn’t think of it as lame. I was surprised that there was a wait for it. It’s dated, and this was early in the morning and during the dead season, and we still had to wait on line!
      Actually it makes me very happy that the ride holds up for people.

  12. Sigh. I love all of these pictures. It looks as though you had a beautiful time on your trip, and that the whole family did as well. I’m immensely happy that the anxiety dissipated for you too, among the throngs and the smells and the pukey piles. You held up better than I think I would have ๐Ÿ™‚

    Uhm, that’s kind of hysterical about the Country Bears. I never knew!

    Awww, to see the kids that happy, huh? Beautiful. XOXO

  13. That looks amazing! I haven’t been to Disney World but have been to Disneyland a few times (though not with kids). It really is a magical place, and I can imagine if a kid has seen these movies, it’s even more surreal to see the characters come to life. It’s a Small World is also one of my favorite rides!

  14. I love these pictures! And I’m so glad you had such an amazing time!

    The one thing I really love about Disney World is that it’s still fun to go there as an adult and let yourself believe in magic. As a kid, it’s so easy to believe in magic and all those wonderful things. But as adults, we start to lose that wonder and that awe. Disney allows us to get it back, even if it’s just for a few hours.

  15. Ugh so many images I love, let’s start with the first B&W one of Des.. so cute!! The dragon the llama!! I’m dying, I’ve never been but definitely want to go at least once in my life. ๐Ÿ™‚ I feel there’s nothing wrong with trying to create the perfect world, esp considering how scary and evil the one we’re in can be. All this real world stuff can really induce a panic attack so I tend to dodge it; I let the bf fill me in when pertinent information comes down the pike. Can’t wait to see more images!! How do you make the images black & white is that with Photoshop? Happy Hump Day Tamara! -Iva

    • I think you said it really perfectly. There’s nothing wrong with trying to create the perfect world. It’s not possible on a grand scale, but this little world is pretty grand.
      As for black-and-white photos, you can shoot them right in the camera. There’s a setting that will do it. However, sometimes you want to up the contrast and sharpening in post-processing.

      • I love it when you talk photography, talk dirty to me! Lol. Awesome, need to find that setting, if it’s available on my new jam. The world is very bland and not all black and white.. mostly gray and many times horrific! I block it out because isn’t a Disney world much more beautiful? Lol.

        • Haha!! This is the best kind of talk dirty talk there is.
          If you don’t have that setting, and many don’t, you just convert in processing! Then you have the option either way.

  16. Loving all the beautiful colorful photos! That parade has changed quite a bit since the last time I saw it – still magical, even through the computer screen. So true about love, but we have to have dreams and I love the feeling of (day) dreaming. Keep those photos coming. Makes me want to go to Disneyland soon.

    • Scarlet has been asking to go to Disneyland. I’m very intrigued by it because I’ve never been there. And it has some rides that we don’t have over here anymore.

  17. Loving all the amazing Disney pics. I really need to go this year. It’s been a while. I can understand how you don’t have anxiety at Disney. It’s magical there. Oh and yes I agree, my hair never looks good on vacation!!

  18. All wonderful!! And very magical too. I also hate crowds and I’m not sure I can survive Disney like you did. I probably will — with all the beautiful things to see. I’m just glad you didn’t have anxiety attack during your trip and you just enjoyed it as much as you can. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you! I think zero anxiety attacks is wondrous.
      I was just surprised. I was a bit worried about this trip because I didn’t know if I could handle it, and I handled it a lot better than real life!

  19. can I just say those bears actually creep me out – lol I think I only went in that one once when I was like 8 yrs old – ha-ha

    Glad you didn’t have any anxiety there – those parades actually give me anxiety. Last time I went it was so crowded and my kids could barely even see the parade… oops this sounds like a bummer comment…Love all your pictures though xoxoxo

    • The Bears are very creepy! And very horny.

      It’s really not a bummer comment. I really get it. It’s so much. I have very young children, and I think that’s the balm that keeps it all okay for me.

  20. Disney’s strange for me. It’s against me in a way, but the boy in me would like it. It’s like being a Republican during a Democratic presidency, or the other way around. You know where your vote would be, but when you’re there, you must revere the commander in chief, no matter what.

    Disney feels like a magic I’ve not delivered to my kids, one not at all, two not since they were tiny. Non-Disney dads must look for magic elsewhere, and that’s OK.

    Because how non-Disney can a dad be when he sees his first crush, Cinderella, and still sighs?

  21. Looks like you had great weather & a great time and happy to hear that you were able to be present for it :). The kids bring that out in us, huh? And you’re right, vacation hair is never as good as normal hair (unless you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, yay for good hormones :P).

    • I miss those good hormones. I think it’s funny that vacation hair is a thing. It’s just never as good! Unless you’re somewhere where the water is wonderful. Lake Tahoe.

  22. Keep them coming! I’m always astounded by the parade pics – even my amateur ones. The colors are so vibrant; it really is magical. Did I tell you my kids had to think a moment when I gave them the choice (but not really) between Italy and Disney?

    • That’s funny. I can’t lie that I might have to think for a minute. Just because of the ease of going to Disney World. No passports for toddlers and no flying over the Atlantic!

  23. I actually really don’t get anxiety except…. When I go to amusement parks…. IT HAPPENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or maybe I just get pissy because I am a “princess” and I don’t want to wait in lines…. And I am sweaty and hot and don’t wanna carry a back pack?! BAHHHH HA HA HA HA HA AH AH AHA H! Okay, okay I am really not that snooty, PROMISE! If you came to Los Angeles for Disneyland, I would make it the most magical time of your life, HA HA! Cause I know how to cut lines like a BOSS!

  24. This is my favorite post of yours EVER. We can never truly escape the darkness in the world – but we can go to Disney and get caught up in the joy and the color and the magic. So glad your anxiety didn’t flare up on your trip. Travelling is one of the few times I never have anxiety – I’m weird. Your pictures are beautiful and made me smile!

  25. As the oldest of a family of five, I never got to disappear. I was always on babysitting/diaper change/Kimberly where did so and so run off to? duty ๐Ÿ™‚
    I had Pamela Anderson boobs when I was breastfeeding. Apparently that was a bad thing. My intake nurse yelled at me because they were actually engorged. I ended up getting stretch marks on them. Now they’re like a very sad A cup. Like two raisins on a bread board.
    Disney – you almost have me sold on it but if you show me the bill, I will probably go back to not wanting to ever go. It’s the crowds. Sweet lord. The fact that you were able to enjoy it though, that makes my heart happy. Being present? Even happier. Taking pictures of dirty bears? Even happier. You’re a pervert. and I love you. xoxo

    • I am a pervert and I do love you.
      I remember those Pamela Anderson days. I have a very small frame so big on me is a D cup. And I realize for many people it’s something like a Z cup. But on this small frame, that was temporarily fun.

  26. I’ve never seen the Country Bears Jamboree, but now I’m a liitle scared to take my kids. I’m sure they probably wouldn’t understand, but I try to avoid situations that lead to hard questions.
    Looking forward to seeing more vacation pictures.

  27. I absolutely love love love Disney world, makes me feel like a kid all over again and that anything is possible. I have so many memories of It’s a Small World, and it was so special to go on that ride with Bodhi and Lily, I can’t wait to take Freya! and what’s up with the message from the country bears?!? lol

  28. I’ve only been once and I was already an adult. I’d like to go again on my own terms when the kids are just a little older. I don’t think Ben will remember much, if anything, from our previous trip. Then there were the in-law issues…I shouldn’t say anymore than that!

    • I really want you to say more than that! Maybe in one of our epic message chats.
      I know that my little one won’t remember the past two trips! We do plan on going yearly, though.

  29. Wow – your pictures are so incredible I almost feel like I just experienced the quiet version of the parade!!!
    I think it’s the perfect mix of real life and fantasy!

  30. Oh Tamara. I love this. Your photos and your words. I totally get that sense of disappearing and then this crazy mix of real and fantasy. I was never really into Disney until we took the boys there for the first time and oh my. The magic and wonder in their eyes. Worth it just for that. So glad that your anxiety was nonexistent.

  31. Ahh, i get those same feelings at Disney World. Your words and pictures express it so well. We went there a few times when my kids were small, and some of my extended family just didn’t understand it at all. I miss the fantasy, and yes, the magic. My 24 year old son just mentioned yesterday that he’d love to go back! I think he was 12 the last time we were there. (I’m with you, though–we only go when it’s NOT as crowded!) Wonderful photos!

    • Haha!! It doesn’t smell like puke at all. They get rid of it so fast, that you barely know it happened. It’s really funny. It’s like 10 second radar!

      The parade was awesome. Stay tuned because there was an electrical Parade at night!

  32. I know exactly how you felt, because I felt the same way when I was there. Although, to be completely honest I did get anxious once or twice over the 4 days there. Your pictures are beautiful I want to go back. ::whines::

  33. So very happy to hear that you had such an anxiety-free trip. That story about Merida just made my heart totally melt. And all those vibrant colorsโ€ฆitโ€™s just making me wish we could go to Disney tomorrow!

    • It’s so true. My anxiety didn’t have a good time! Good riddance.
      If you are going during September or January or the first part of February, that’s the off-season. Then it gets crazy.

  34. I am sad that I have not gone to Disney as an adult. ๐Ÿ™
    But, I do believe in fairies – I do, I do.
    You just gotta hold onto your happy thought, not matter what.

  35. Okay, so much to say. One, sorry I am comment so late โ€“ catching up on all my Blog Lovin feeds. Second, I LOVE the way my hair is in California. What is that? Third, I love the way I feel on vacation โ€“ itโ€™s why I head out on the road every summer. I feel FREE. Fourth, I felt tremendous anxiety in WDW (the heat, the crowds, the expense, the lines). Finally, oh, the feelings that our trip to WDW produced. It was wild. We were on the bus(we stayed at the Dolphin), and approaching the park, when I was overcome with nostalgia. I started crying and Rich gave me a look โ€“ but not the look youโ€™d expect from him when Iโ€™m emotional at an inopportune moment. The look told me, he got it. The last time Iโ€™d been to Disney, was with my family, the one of my childhood, the one that is gone. And here we were, with our little family โ€“ and I was the mom! AND, everything thing in the park is exactly as I remembered, yet it still looked brand new. It was amazing. Okay โ€“ Iโ€™m out of here๏Š. Sorry for the long comment. BTW โ€“ AMZING pictures.

    • I love long comments! I love that Rich gave you a look to tell you that he knew. I think it’s very common for meltdowns or tears to happen with adults and kids alike!

      As for the hair, they don’t have the humidity we have. So that could be one reason. And even when I lived in the city, our water came from Lake Tahoe.

  36. It feels so good catching up and reading your posts!!! I’m glad you invited me to dinner. I literally laughed out loud when I read the “gassy” line hahaha!! So funny how you threw that in lol lol I’m definitely the type to disappear…any big event or too much socializing in groups drains me and I wander off. I used to feel bad about it, like how rude am I…but now I feel entitled to protect my energy and recharge. Something about getting older makes me less apologetic for being myself. I love the Walt Disney paper you wrote same day and ACED! That must’ve been so fun writing.

    • Was really fun to write but I can’t believe I did it the morning it was due. I was such a procrastinator in college. I guess I probably still am.
      I definitely threw in the gassy line for Eagle eyed readers like you!

Leave a Reply