Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 5 Emily's Trip

Emily’s Wish Day 5
A conversation with Aimee this morning:
“What are we wearing today?”
“We’re just staying here at the village, it’s a choice day.”
“Wait, let me check my list.”

So it was a choice day for me, but everyone else had an assigned outfit. We were scheduled to do Sea World, but my nausea is really becoming an issue, Drew’s ear was still unresolved, and Carter has been crankier than normal and was sick on the flight, and he tends to be carsick more when he has an ear infection… So we called the urgent care down the street to see if our insurance was accepted (it was) and we went to breakfast at the Gingerbread House after a quick visit with Scooby Doo in the Castle of Miracles.

After breakfast, the boys and I were off to urgent care from 9:30 until 11:15, when the desk clerk told us it was silly to wait in the lobby, the Doctor couldn’t see us until 1:30. She suggested we should go get some lunch. I had a few suggestions for her, too, but I kept them to myself.

While we were out, Emily and Brenna went to the Twinkle Hope’s La-Ti-Da Royal Spa for their scheduled manicures, made their pillows in the castle of miracles, visited the Train Station /arcade and enjoyed some late-morning ice cream.

We shared a light lunch then the boys and I went back to urgent care and then to get prescriptions for each of us at Walmart. We finally made it back at 3:45 and the boys finally could join the girls on Matthew’s Boundless Playground in the beautiful weather (72 and clear)!

We all made our way down for a train ride, games, and a huge train set with individual buttons the kids could press to make the different trains and animated features go.

Carter was so excited when looking at the trains that there were audible bangs twice when he pushed his head forward to look at the trains. Perhaps they keep the glass too clean around here, because he kept ramming into it!

Drew also got to try some remote control boats and some old school video games. For the record, Aimee’s score on Ms. PacMan was higher than mine but she will only play games she is good at, so I think we can assume I would have whooped her in Joust, PaperBoy, and NBA Jam…

Since Emily was fussing a bit and I didn’t really want to eat, I brought her back to the villa and relaxed while Aimee took Drew, Carter, and Brenna to dinner at the Gingerbread house. When they returned, we headed over to the pool area for the Pirates and Princesses Party. Our girls dressed like Sleeping Beauty and were given tiaras and makeup, while Carter and Drew received inflatable pirate swords, mustaches, and tattoos. After all the standard festivities, they started passing out hats, light sticks, noisemakers, and cups of sparking apple cider.

Carter liked it a LOT.

He then showed us what too much cider will do to you.

Then, he said he didn’t want anymore, but in proper three-year-old behavior, he changed his mind, threw his light stick and started crying on my shoulder. Beware future college buddies of Carter; 2am isn’t going to be pretty…

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 4 -WOW!

Emily’s Wish Day 4 It’s hard to believe that our day was filled with even more magic. Our slumber was uninterrupted last night and Drew was miraculously feeling much better (although he knew Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter might be put on the back burner in favor of going to the Doctor) but we decided to have breakfast in the village prior to deciding.

This was the first “meal” we ate at the village that wasn’t delivered due to our schedule and illnesses and we couldn’t have been more impressed. Not only was it a high quality meal served cafeteria style with hot and cold buffets and servers at each station, but volunteers throughout to assist who even carried our trays to the tables for us. An interesting note, GKTW does have some employees, but so many activities and services are provided by volunteers. I spoke with a server in the hot food line, who was here with her husband and daughter and told me that when they come down from Wisconsin to visit her father, they always spend a day here to volunteer! She also told me that many of the young volunteers that were here today are from church youth group that drove down from Georgia!

After breakfast, we went to the Safari Theatre to meet Mickey and Minnie who come to the village twice every week to give guests the chance to interact with them. We were able to take lots of pictures and share some moments in our special outfits that we were going to wear to meet those special mice on Tuesday had we not been interrupted by Emily’s sudden illness. (Yes, Aimee was washing and ironing late into the night.) Brenna and Minnie compared dresses and everyone enjoyed the special attention.

The big surprise was when we returned to the vestibule, Belle was waiting and RECOGNIZED us from yesterday. This time she wasn’t wearing her Christmas dress, but her more familiar blue and white and gave all our gang the attention they wanted. First Brenna asked for a kiss. After Belle obliged, Carter said, ”I want a kiss too!” Belle granted our handsome blue eyed prince his wish only to see Drew sidestep closely toward Belle with a sheepish grin. I’ll let the photos tells the rest of the story!

When we stepped outside, Goofy and Pluto were also available for some autographs and photos.

At this point since Drew was feeling ok and we expected the crowds at Universal would be crazier or New Years Eve, we decided to make an attempt at getting a wand at Olivanders and a Chocolate Frog at Honeydukes for Drew. COSTUME CHANGE! We were “allowed” to wear Philadelphia Eagles gear for our trip to Universal!

As it turns out, we’ll likely not find out if the crowds are crazier tomorrow, but the roads were crazy and the sign as we entered made both Aimee’s and my heart sink: “Islands of Adventure is at Capacity.” This is, of course, where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located. We persevered, figuring at some point someone would leave, and they’d reopen. We parked, entered and had to go into the stand by line for a few minutes until an alert attendant saw Emily’s GKTW button and welcomed us to the entry gate right away! We entered and started to weave our way around the park to find Ollivander’s wand shop, noting the crowds were getting thicker the further we ventured. Emily briefly spit up and had to change her shirt (Aarrrgh! my one oufit choice!), but I forgive her, Seussland is indeed a little too much to handle on a sensitive tummy!

As we reached Hogsmeade, the potential for fulfilling Drew’s dream was starting to fade, as the lines were long and wide. It didn’t seem realistic that our trio of three-year-olds would be able to relax in line for over an hour, or for Aimee to navigate the double stroller and Emily’s Kid Cart through the park if I remained with Drew. I asked the line attendant about the length of the wait, because I couldn’t even see the end of the line. He said we’d have to leave the double stroller up front while waiting in line, because it couldn’t make the turns, and used the word, queue, which was entertaining, because even though I knew the word, and knew this guy was from the UK, for a brief moment I was completely lost. Ask Aimee, it was pretty funny… The happy ending is that while we discussed Emily’s Kid Cart, he noticed her GKTW button, and said we didn’t need to wait in the “queue” at all; we should stand to the side and we could participate in the next show. We waited a grand total of two minutes until we were escorted in towards the right while everyone else filed in towards the right. I’ll let the video tell the rest of the tale…

Please do me a favor and even if you don’t normally comment, please leave a comment about how cool that experience was for Drew and how lucky he is. Aunt Mary sent me a text message after I told her and he was tickled by her reaction. Thanks in advance… : )

After Ollivander’s, we were off to search for chocolate frogs that come with wizard and witch cards, just like in the book. The coolest part of the Harry Potter experience is that I read the first Harry Potter book before the craze took off, and even read it with my students in the Challenge Program in Galloway all those years ago. Then, this July I relived the magic one chapter at a time reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone aloud with Drew at bedtime. We even watched the first movie after we finished. We agreed to wait until next summer for the next installment, but I think that may happen sooner. We found his Frog (His card was Rowena Ravenclaw) and he was thrilled. Aimee and I were equally thrilled when we got in the butterbeer line and finally were able to enjoy the coolest treat available to Muggles…

We landed back in Seussland and went on the Caro-Seuss-el where Emily’s cart was able to be rolled on and latched down, and we all rode together. They told us we could all stay on and ride a second time, but Emily slept through it and, besides, we had more plans for today.

Aimee found “Thing 1”, “Thing 2”, and “Thing 3” t-shirts for our trio and we were on our way back home in no time.

When we arrived back at the villa we rested a bit and COSTUME CHANGE! Thursday night is Christmas every week at GKTW. We dressed in festive colors and went to dinner, where Elaine sat with our kids while Aimee and I stood in line for turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

After we finished dinner, we went back to the Safari Theatre, which was newly decorated in a Christmas theme and Santa himself was there for photos. Afterward, each of the children were allowed to select a gift, which was exciting for all. We then watched a choir sing some carols. They invited Brenna (and Carter and Drew) to join in the bell ringing and got a fan for life. She stayed with them for most of the performance…
Then we enjoyed ice cream cones and waited for the parade. Then it was time to join the parade at the end in singing, dancing and a with a “snow” machine.

Everyone says that Disney is magical and I know I’ve spoken about how wonderful Give Kids the World Village and Universal Studios have been, and even wrote about the “pixie dust” from the Dis-Boutiquers. The one constant here is the kindness of others. The Make a Wish Foundation, GKTW, and other charitable organizations that send people here do it with donations from companies and individuals, and the volunteer hours from so many people. In addition, we had some friends and family bless us with gift cards and gifts to help us really enjoy ourselves on this trip. I want to thank you all for letting me “let go” and allow the kids to pick a souvenir when they wanted it and not scoff at the price. To not have to plan out a picnic lunch because park prices are ridiculous, or get upset that we bought diapers (insert shudder here) without a coupon. For one week, we were able to say “yes” to all our kids and allow them the freedom to feel like any dream could come true and that nothing was out of reach. And Aimee had a week without me complaining about the cost of gas or the need to wait for things to be on sale. This trip has been so incredible and honestly, I had no idea it would be as emotional and invigorating as it has been. I’ll end this post with, Merry Christmas, because it’s Thursday, and at Give Kids the World, that means it is indeed, Christmas.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Emily's trip Day 3

Emily’s Wish Day 3
Well, the laundry is still being completed more often than we’d like, but you have to keep your perspective. Our kids get sick every year, this year they are being sick at the happiest place on Earth.
Emily woke us at 3:30 with another round of dirtying sheets and blankets. Not cool, but she was able to settle down and sleep the rest of the morning. I gradually felt better throughout the day, and the weather warmed up a bit, although still a bit too cold for Emily.
Drew came in to get us this morning already wearing his Epcot shirt. –Here might be a good place to tell our readers about the “DisBoutiquers”. This is a large group of INCREDIBLY TALENTED and EXTREMELY GENEROUS ladies who met Aimee on a Disney board when we first learned about Emily’s trip. Starting in the middle of November, we received gifts in the mail (Referred to as THE BIG GIVE) nearly every other day or so up until we left. In all we received between 20-25 packages in the mail. Each package was a true gift from the heart, either handmade or purchased with our trip in mind. Hats, bows, dresses, shirts, pajamas, personalized ornaments, things to keep the kids busy, and even gift cards to use at the park is just the beginning of the list. The kind notes sent along with the gifts often touched our hearts as it really is just absolute kindness in the greatest form. The Gives really excited the kids and pumped them up for what a great experience we’re having. So outside of my fear of being “that guy” we’ve been wearing thematic matching outfits to each park and did actually have a costume change today. We look really great in our well-planned combinations, despite my original nightmares of my family showing up in matching newsboy hats and argyle Disney sweaters at the next family gathering(they've been know to mock our Christmas outfits) to mock us. It will have been worth the mockery, as the oohs and ahs from the passersby who asked Aimee if she made the outfi€ts and we told them about these sweet ladies who still believe in the spirit of giving. All the advice and support they’ve given Aimee in planning this trip has really been a blessing. I hope they know just how much it meant to us. – Anyway… Drew came in to get us this morning already wearing his Epcot shirt. He was so excited, and we did get off to a faster start. We were on the road by 9am. We had originally planned to go to EPCOT this morning and then go to Animal Kingdom in the afternoon, but we instead went to Hollywood Studios, so we could see the things we planned to see yesterday.
We went to EPCOT today because of the surprise Aimee had planned – a reservation in Norway at Akershus, for brunch and a photo with Belle. Because we were early, we stopped in Mexico and went on a real gem that we didn’t really remember, but that Emily and the rest of the kids enjoyed. The Three Caballeros was a boat ride similar to It’s a Small World.

When we arrived in Norway, Emily was really upset by the cold and we were worried she would be sick again. You see, she was wearing her beautiful handmade Cinderella Dress and we couldn’t possibly allow her to be sad and sick when meeting the princesses! Brenna was wearing her handmade Belle dress and Carter was wearing his Prince shirt my Aunt Sue made for him. Our gang was getting a lot of second looks as we strolled through the park in such super cute outfits. Anyway, I brought Emily inside while Aimee waited outside with the rest of the kids and Em calmed down after a few minutes. She did, however, start crying immediately when we were invited to get her picture taken with Belle and briefly spit up on her matching bib but the photo turned out nice, despite the drama. Belle was very convincing and sweet with all the kids.

The brunch was good and included visits from Snow White, Jasmine, Mulan, and Mary Poppins. Mulan spent plenty of time at our table, clearly pausing for photos and making a memorable experience for us and Mary Poppins paraded around the room not once, but twice with Carter and Brenna in each hand. This personalized experience was very special and will be remembered fondly.

After the brunch we visited Journey Into Imagination, starring Figment(Who Aimee defends furiously to the non-believers) where Em didn’t love the ride, but didn’t get sick either. Otherwise, the kids loved the cheap jokes and gags, especially the skunk spray.
Next, we entered The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Turtle Talk with Crush which was enjoyed by everyone. We briefly visited the Siemens VIP lounge (by special invitation) where we had some time to clean Emily and decide on our gameplan. Since everyone seemed up to it, we ventured to Hollywood Studios.
Our first stop was an early dinner at Backlot Express which overlooked the Jedi Training show. Drew wanted to do it, but the time invested wasn’t fair for everyone, especially since we already saw the show, so he settled for a souvenir from the Tatooine gift shop. We found Mater and McQueen from Cars, which was Carter’s big plan for the whole trip.

Right before we saw Muppets 3-D, because I love the Muppets, Drew told Aimee that his ear hurt. By the time the show was over he was wincing about it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t leave until Emily could see the Osbornes Light Spectacular. Drew tried to be patient but was starting to cry because he really was hurting. Emily did enjoy the light show and was still awake the whole ride home, although Drew was asleep inside of 90 seconds, and Carter was out in five minutes. It would have been nice to stay and see the show a second time, but it was wonderful to see her truly enjoying the lights at all.

We decided that we’ll likely alter our plans again for tomorrow, and we’ll likely stay at the village and participate in some of the events offered on site and determine if Drew needs to see a Doctor or not.
For now, I’ll have to check with our costume coordinator to see what we’ll be wearing tomorrow…