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Making Happy Memories With My Daughter During Hard Times

Walt Disney World Resort disclosure

Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

You will never have this day with your child again.

The days are long, but the years are short.

These phrases are so true it hurts and they can infuse so much pain and guilt when you’re doing the best you can as a mom and you feel like drowning in your own emotions. Many times, being a mom is all about doing really hard things so your children can enjoy a happy childhood. 

Don’t get me wrong, though. My child’s happiness is not entirely my responsibility and, as much as I tried in my first years of motherhood, I realized I can’t protect my child from every adversity.

Eliana has had a very hard last year. I have cried so many tears and prayed so many prayers, trying to figure out how to help her cope with understanding her father is not the hero she wanted him to be, with her mom and dad being separated, and with her father stopping all contact with her in pursuit of his addictions.

I’ve been down this road with Elisha and Elyssa. They grew up fatherless and I was equally depressed for most of it, but I still managed to make sure they had great experiences, childhood wonder, and happy memories to look back on.

I have found peace in the discovery that unhappy times, and even an unhappy mom, don’t necessarily equal an unhappy child.

They will tell you that you must be a happy mom to have happy children. A good mom is not a sad, overwhelmed, sometimes lying-in-bed-unable-to-function mom. A good mom is a happy mom. A good mom is always ready, excited, and equipped to put her child first.

They lied. You go through enough and to place that guilt on you is more than unfair. You are entitled to feel your feelings, to grieve, to deal with depression, to rest from your exhaustion, and to prioritize your sanity when you need to.

But… they do only get one childhood, right? Well, it’s not an all-or-nothing kind of life. Your child does not need you twenty-four-hours-a-day and even if you were there, you can’t assure that they won’t experience sadness, failure, and disappointment. Drop the cape, for goodness’ sake.

Research shows that your role as a mom can be more important than the events in their lives. This can sound like pressure, but it really is good news, because you love your child and you will love your child harder in hard times, so your kid won’t feel lonely, unloved, and neglected.

You can do that. You will do that – no matter how hard it is.

Even though we are feeling more peace at home after the much due separation and feeling immense joy with the anticipation of our new baby, the transition has been brutal and, at times, it feels like we’re surviving each day.

Every time Eliana mentioned she would soon turn 6 and what she wanted her birthday party to be like, I felt overwhelmed. Party-planning has never been my thing, especially not now

Each child is different. I didn’t have a birthday celebration for Elisha and Elyssa until they were 9 and 10, but Eliana really loves to celebrate her new milestone with vegan cake, friends, and a Disney theme.

Thankfully, I was selected by Walt Disney World Resort to host a Disney Playdate, and I felt a huge relief when they provided me with a party kit and a plethora of ideas to make the process go smoothly and feel less intimidating.

Disney Parks sent us a box full of magical surprises so we could host our Disney Playdate and the magic started for Eliana while she did her unboxing.

Eliana loves Walt Disney World Resort and hosting our Disney Playdate is a unique experience to bring a little extra magic into our home, while remembering the wonderful times we’ve had visiting the parks and building anticipation for our next trip to The Most Magical Place On Earth.

I’m excited to share my Disney Party hosting prep with you so you can make great memories too and with minimum effort.

Yes, you heard that right. I know Pinterest is all the rave, but I see it as an album of unattainable images of parental perfection.

I’m a mom and I can do hard things for my child, but I don’t have to succumb to parenting perfectionism while doing it. I won’t compare my Disney party to anyone else’s and I won’t feel pressured to spend more than my budget allows right now.

Our children don’t care about elaborate plans or small details. Our kids want to play with their friends, eat, be free, be creative, and have fun being kids, so as long as we facilitate that, we don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone. You’ve got this!

Eliana’s Disney Playdate Party – Fun Easy Affordable Tips

I’m not going to give you the typical advice: plan your menu, plan your activities, decide how many guests you’ll have, plan your location, plan your food, plan your decoration, create a program, send out invitations with plenty of notice…

I’m going to prove that creating a magic-filled Disney playdate doesn’t have to be stressful, expensive, or complicated!

The Positive Mom check

I decided that weekdays are perfect because most people have plans on the weekends during Summer Vacation. I chose a duration of 2 hours so we could pack all the fun and our little preschoolers wouldn’t ever be bored.

The Positive Mom check

We used assorted colors and garlands for decor, but I didn’t use balloons because they are hard for me. 

The Positive Mom check

We simplified our theme to “All Things Disney” and encouraged our guests to wear Disney t-shirts and costumes, and discouraged bringing presents.

The Positive Mom check

I skipped printed invitations and designed my own e-vites and created a Facebook event with the date, time, and location. I sent invitations last minute because life … and college. This ended up being a blessing because I knew exactly who was coming and we had an amazing turn out. 

To minimize the stress, the girls and I moved most of the living room furniture into my room so the kids could be kids, without worrying about touching or breaking something. I also kept the decor to a minimum and invested in what could be fun for the kiddos, instead.

I try to stay away from disposables, but they are a must for these cases. Disney-themed tablecloths, napkins, cups, cutlery, bowls, and plates saved the day and saved us from doing dishes afterward.

I involved the kids in every stage: brainstorming ideas, food prepping, decoration, games, and set up. They can help no matter what age!

The Positive Mom check

We had a fun table with all sorts of goodies laid out – Disney themed water bottles (I just put a sticker on them!), GoGo squeeZ and a fun Elena of Avalor piñata that was included in our Disney Playdate host kit. We love our powerful and brave Latina princess! 

We made “Minnie” PB & J sandwiches and used a cookie cutter we already had. All foods are way more fun when they’re Mickey-shaped and have a Disney character-inspired name (like Goofy’s Grapes or “Fairytale Fruit”). 

This is a great way to inspire them to eat their fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks! 

We must document our childhood memories with photos – or it didn’t happen! I bought 3 yards of Mickey fabric to use as a backdrop and brought down all our Disney-themed props, ring light, and Disney Parks ears to set up our photo booth.

This was the ideal place for the kids to let their inner Princess, Pirate, Hero, or Heroine out! Eliana was wearing an Ariel costume that matched with her JAKKS Pacific doll and we had other costumes on a clothing rack so the kids could play dress up.

I didn’t have to bake or buy a cake (I dread it!) thanks to Popped Passion. Guests of all ages loved the popcorn cake. I think we’re going to need two next time!

Both parents and kids loved the vegan “Hot Diggity banana Dogs.” Topped with strawberries, peanut butter, jelly, and a drizzle of chocolate syrup, this banana on a hot dog bun is the perfect snack or dessert! What would you add to yours? I love sprinkling crushed nuts on mine! 

Eliana shares the recipe on her YouTube channel. 

Isn’t that just darling?

We set up a “Mouseketeer Coloring Station” using a Japanese table we had in the garage and laying out Pillow Pets as comfy seating for the kids as they colored in beloved Disney characters and made their own masterpieces with Eliana’s used crayons. Click to download the Fortune Tellers and Match Game we played.

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique was a spot all the girls and boys loved. Each girl was crowned princess with an Elena of Avalor paper tiara and each boy became a Sorcerer’s Apprentice with their Mickey Fantasia-inspired cone hats! Elisha and Elyssa painted nails, did hairdo’s and did a lot of face painting using makeup we already had.

The kids got to visit our Make A Forky Workshop and put their own special flair into making this awesome Toy Story 4 toy. 

To make your own Forky, you will just need white modeling clay, plastic sporks (or spoons and forks), red chenille stems, popsicle sticks, “googly eyes,” blue glue, scissors, and glue sticks

Kids don’t need complex activities – simple and easy “Make and Take” crafts are the best.

We had Disney songs playing in the background and the kids sung and danced. You can download the music of a Disney Vacation with over 30 different playlists by going to apple.co/disneyparks.

We used a popcorn tin can we got when we went to see Toy Story 4 at the movie theater as a trash can for our coloring station. The kids thought it was amazing!

The Positive Mom check

We reused Eliana’s circus tent and Ball Toss carnival game and all the kids loved playing this one, as well as taking a Dumbo sippy cup as a souvenir. 

Every child got their own Celebration Bag. Loot bags can be a bit controversial, but when you fill them with educational toys, you’re good to go. Eliana loves the kazoos the best! What would you add?

I know Eliana will look back on this day and feel warm fuzzies because her family showed up. Yes, her family has changed, but the love, trust, support, reassurance, and comfort remain. She’s cherished and her desires matter.


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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) can be traumatic and scarring, but these happy memories can provide the emotional support they need to overcome hardship and develop resilience.

Making happy memories with your child doesn’t have to be extravagant or exhausting. You could take a moment magical by simply paying attention to your child’s feelings. Share their joy and their sorrows, listen to them, and celebrate them.

A happy childhood memory is not one where the child is happy and the mom is depleted. Making happy memories with your child means you get to forget the drama and the chaos of life for a while and just be present with your child, enjoying the magic. Those moments of deep connection are the ones that shape our lives.

Yes, making happy memories when you’re not happy is hard. Making happy memories when times are hard can seem daunting. Inviting people over when all you want to do is withdraw from it all, lay in bed and cry may feel like torture (especially when you feel your house is a mess and you know your lawn is a disaster).

But you are a mom, and you can do it… I did it…

And I got in the pictures. I used to care what I looked like or what I was wearing, but it really doesn’t matter as long as I’m there. With her. I want her to remember. I want to remember.

The truth is that our children often save us from ourselves. I love that my daughters invite me to live an enchanted fairy tale with them and I admit that I need it. 

Whether we’re visiting Walt Disney World or bringing the wonder of Disney Parks into our home, my children don’t want me to stress out planning, organizing, and attempting perfection. They want me to join in the fun, live the magic, and enjoy the simple things, just like they do.

When the party was over, there were no feelings of inadequacy, no guilt, and no giant mess. Having all those sweet kiddos over, seeing Eliana happy, feeling accomplished but not overextended, was healing to me. It was a magical celebration filled with fun and laughter for all of us.

Neuroscientists assure that we can help our kids learn lessons through their challenges by providing positive experiences to pad around them, teaching them to savor these happy times, and emphasizing the positive emotions that accompany them.

My daughters and I are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Walt Disney World to host our Disney Playdate, as well as for the party favors, decorations, games, and more! To share some of the goodness with you, I am hosting a giveaway for a Free Michael Angelo’s meal coupon. Be sure to enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What’s your best tip for making happy memories? Share your birthday party or playdate ideas and easy party planning tips with us in the comments below and follow #NowMoreThanEver  @DisneyParks and @DisneyMoms for all the latest Disney magic.

Elayna is a single mom of 4, an award-winning Storyteller, Story Strategist, and Student of Pain. She’s a bestselling author, internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, and 4x TEDx speaker. Founder of the Positive MOM® and creator of the S.T.O.R.Y. System: a blueprint to craft and share powerful stories that will transform your results, so you can have the wealth, opportunities, and freedom you deserve. Connect with Elayna Fernández at thepositivemom.com/keynote-speaker and follow @thepositivemom. To receive a gift from Elayna, click HERE.

Be Positive and You Will Be Powerful ~ Elayna FernandBe Positive and You Will Be Powerful ~ Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOMez ~ The Positive MOM
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Thursday 15th of August 2019

How cute is this?! You’re so strong,, and oh so creative!

big daddy's orlando

Saturday 10th of August 2019

Very energetic post, I loved that bit. Will there be a part 2?

Juliee Fitze

Thursday 8th of August 2019

Love to have one of these parties for my granddaughter.We could have so much fun together.

wendy hutton

Tuesday 6th of August 2019

beautiful writeup, looks like an amazing party


Monday 5th of August 2019

I love you and your family so much. I'm so happy you got to spread some special happiness and pixie dust for Eliana!