It's the most... wonderful tiiiiiime of the year! No, really. Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. This might surprise some, who knew me as that sort of goth kid in high school and college. Not Halloween? Don't worry, the hubby still burns the torch for Halloween. Nope, for me it is all about this stretch of time between Thanksgiving and New Year's, and it always has been. When I was young, of course, I loved getting presents, but the real draw was that it was the only time of year that I was guaranteed to see all of my extended family. 

As I got older, my reason for loving the Christmas holiday evolved into the joy of giving.  There's something so infectious about the way (most) people go out of their way to be nicer during this time, and I get no greater thrill than from showing my admiration to the people in my life who've mattered to me.  Honestly, if I got no presents it wouldn't matter, because getting to watch gifts that I've picked out be well-received gives me a high that I selfishly wish I could hold onto the whole year. 

Becoming a parent has led to much thought on how to share this joy with my kid.  Sure, she gets lots of presents, but I desperately want to teach her how much more gratifying it is to make others happy as well.  In the years since Daphne's birth, I've started branching out to find ways to share Christmas with others.  Two years ago I was inspired by the 26 Acts movement to share gifts with, mostly, people whose faces I never saw. Last year, with D still too small to go on adventures with me on the scale of 26 Acts, I chose to play secret Santa for a few people's holiday layaways at Toys R Us and make a donation of goods to Harbor House. 

I've started a new ritual with my kid: every day I look her in the eyes and say, "I love you so much. Thank you for coming into my life. You make me happy every day." She does, even on the worst days, I'm happier than I'd ever be without her here. 

In that spirit I feel like my kid is finally old enough to start planting the seed of giving and being thankful in her brain.  I don't know how I would explain to her something like working in a soup kitchen, so I go back to the beginning: the holidays are about showing the people who matter to you that you appreciate them. We've got gifts for our family and friends, but there's "someone" else who has been a huge part of our lives this year, bringing us more good memories and joy than, perhaps, any other single entity...

Sure, the Disney Parks have been receiving appreciation from us all year by means of meals, parking, special event tickets, monthly passholder payments, etc. So I'm not talking about thanking "Disney" as a whole, but more specifically the individuals at the park who have brought so much joy to my kid (ok, and me) this year.

Most of my own personal Disney Princess aspirations don't come from a desire to BE a princess, but to get to bring joy to little kids faces all day long. When you think about it, it's like Christmas every day at WDW. I am fortunate that I have photos to commemorate every precious character meeting memory, but do these actors? So an idea was born: Project Thank You Walt Disney World. (#ProjectTY_WDW). Daphne can give a little gift to say "Thank You" to some of her new "friends" at WDW from the past year. I printed out copies of my favorite shots of D with characters, wrote "Thank you and Happy Holidays" on the back, stuck a little bow on it, and have struck out on a mission of gratitude with my kid for the coming holiday season.   

"Thank You, and Happy Holidays. <3 Daphne"

"Thank You, and Happy Holidays. <3 Daphne"

There are, of course, some logistical issues: there are dozens of people playing these roles every day, and we won't always be able to find the specific actor. There's also no way of knowing who's in that Mickey suit. So I asked myself, if I was in there, would it matter to me? Chances are with the number of kids Mickey meets every day, he doesn't remember every one.  The spirit of the gift was to show that particular cast member that they bring joy to my kid, and we are grateful. We'll just go to Disney as much as we can between now and New Year's, and I'll try to show my kid the joy of giving during the holidays. 

Don't worry, I'm still planning to play layaway Santa and donate, this is just a special project for my toddler. I'll be posting accounts of our progress below (by date), as well as updating the photo gallery (also below).  If you'd like to follow along with us on Instagram, you can add @MinkFlamingos and/or check out the hashtag #ProjectTY_WDW

ProjectTY_WDW 11.23.14