Remember when you were little and summers consisted of playing outside from dawn until the street lights turned on? I used to LOVE summers. My best friend Amber moved in across the street from us when I was in the third grade and it was the single best thing that could have happened to the eight year old me. My sister-in-law was saying last week that she hadn't seen my niece Mikayla basically since school had gotten out, that she was gone daily with friends. I told her---that is the definition of summer vacation!
The greatest part of Amber living across the street was our sleepovers. I swear, during summer, either I was sleeping at her house or she was sleeping at mine. I became that annoying neighbor girl that they just couldn't shake. I was CONSTANTLY around, invited or not. But, it was the same at our house as well. We were notorious for putting our parents on the spot and inviting each other over for dinner, to sleep over, or to go on vacations. I may or may not have invited myself everywhere they went. Including Disneyland.
My parents had taken Noelle and I to Disneyland a couple of times when were young, but it was really with Amber's family that I fell in love with the place. It was like the ultimate road trip with a perfect stopping spot. Joe, Amber's Dad, used to have a work van that did not have anything in the back of it and he would take a twin mattress off one of the girls' bed and throw it in the back of the van and we would hang out and sing to Wilson Phillips or New Kids on the Block for six hours straight. One of my most favorite memories was when Don McLean's American Pie song came on and Amber's parents screamed and cranked up the radio. For eight minutes and thirty seconds, Staci, Amber and I sat in complete silence and listened to them sing every word to this song and we thought they were absolutely crazy. It was somewhere over the Grapevine that I knew it would be my life's goal to learn that entire song. And I have. It is one of my all time favorite songs and I sang the entire thing the other day in the car and after, Matt turned to me and said..."That was longest song ever!" I smiled and said..."I dare you to learn it." Challenge accepted!
Anyway...again, it was through my trips with the Lee family that I grew to love Disneyland. When Matt was ten months old, we took him for the first time. It exceeded all of our expectations on how he would react, behave, and enjoy his time there. And I am pretty sure that was the trip that hooked Rich and the rest is history. People immediately assume that my love for Disneyland is the reason we go so frequently. Truth is...Rich is a bigger fan now than me. He is a walking Disney App and because of that, I knew he would love Father's Day this year when his wife outdid herself on his gifts.
I may have forgotten to mention that Amber's dad Joe is an amazing artist. He has been drawing, painting, sculpting for as long as I have known him. He is beyond talented. So, a couple of months ago when I saw a sketch that he had done of a little girl with Dumbo sitting on her shoulder...it got me thinking. I contacted him and told him Rich's love of Disneyland and asked if it was possible if he could create something for me. I had something in mind and didn't know if it was possible, but wanted to give it a shot. He got right back to me and said absolutely.
Side note---I should also mention that Rich and I rarely exchange gifts. There is never any surprise at holidays or birthdays because we usually just look at each other and say--What do we need? And then go and get it. I was already ahead of the game this year because friends of ours went to the Aulani in March and I had them pick up the one shirt he wanted that they didn't have in his size when we were there two years ago. I was already so proud of myself because I knew he would LOVE the shirt and that alone would make his day.
When Joe sent me the first look at his sketch, I was speechless. I loved it. It was everything I wanted and imagined and I knew Rich would love it. The problem was, the pictures I had sent to Joe did not have detailed face shots and he said he really needed them. Trying to be as nonchalant as I could, I told Rich and the boys I needed profile shots and to not ask any questions, just do it and forget we ever did this. The boys went crazy, asking all of these questions and I was completely honest with them and told them that I absolutely did not trust them for a red hot minute and that I would not tell them because it was too big of a secret to have any part of it revealed.
On Father's Day morning, I could not wait to give Rich his gift. And he was shocked. I gave him the shirt first, and then gave him the picture. He said..."The shirt was a definite surprise. But the picture is..." That was a good sign. Speechless is always a good reaction.
It is hanging right next to the bed on his side. I thought it would be cool out in the living room. But, it was hung up within five minutes of opening it and so I guess that's its new home.