Suzanne Reardon-Mulhall -- June 2002 -- Walt Disney World (ASMoR, ASMuR)
June 16-22, 2002
Method of Travel: Car. I don't think a plane full of paying passengers wants my spirited kids on board with them!
Background - I'm an ASM (assistant store manager) for Disney Store, so I feel I should have 'product knowledge' to pass on to the guests. My family is all too happy to satisfy the urge to go to "the Mother Ship" and my mom and step father love the idea of us coming to visit twice a year, starting our WDW trips off with a day or two on the Gulf Coast.
On our last trip in late September, we had a rough go of it. Neil had been diagnosed ADHD, although we were sure there was more to his difficulties than that. Neil had numerous meltdowns and a stress filled trip, and we swore we'd never bring him back to WDW again. Over the winter, Neil's school felt there was more to Neil's behavior issues as well, and we went through the gamut of surveys and evaluations. In late April, we received the diagnosis - Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism marked by social interaction deficits, among other problems. This was a diagnosis we agreed with after looking over the Internet and various books. We learned a few coping tools to help Neil with his numerous meltdowns and are prepared to get a Guest Assistance Card, so that many of the things that trigger Neil's inappropriate behaviors can be avoided. This trip will be a learning experience for all of us. (Note: If you wish to learn more about Asperger's Syndrome, a website with a lot of information is: http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/.)
To help Neil with learning to interact with others, I decorated his birthday cake in April with a bunch of Toy Story pins, which he has expressed interest in trading. I also picked up a bunch of pins at work, things that we won't feel bad about parting with, as well as Virginia State pins. I figured since CM's will trade 'Mickey's Pins', it will be an easy way to get him started on trading, since he won't hear 'no' (that word can trigger numerous meltdowns, more than with the average child!)
The other thing we've done differently is that I purchased a refrigerated cooler at Wal-Mart, the kind you can plug into the cigarette lighter or a wall outlet. I figured since we'd be spending $70 to rent a refrigerator, we should spend $80 and have it for future trips. We fill it for the trip south with Gatorade, water, yogurt and fruit. We also prepared by getting Goldfish, Ritz crackers, Fig Newtons and Doritos. We find the lack of non-soda choices in the parks a little frustrating, so we'll be bringing in the Gatorade, which we usually water down with the bottled water.
Thursday, June 13th
I had to work, and we planned to get on the road directly from my job, rather than have me spend 45 minutes to an hour driving north, only to head back south! Ed and the boys pick me up from work and we're on the road at 4:30pm, with the goal of arriving at Fayetteville, NC by 11:30 or midnight.
We stop north of Richmond for a Mickey D's dinner (there was very little fast food this trip, for a change) and spend $13.62 for two value meals and two kids meals. We usually buy the boys the two-cheeseburger value meal to share, but I'm in a good mood, so they get the Pleakley toy tonight.
We stop in Gaston, NC (yes, goofy me singing the song as we drive through) and spend $20.18 for gas and two sodas... the kids still full from dinner. At this point, my husband does something he rarely does and turns the driving over to me. He's got the macho impression that he's the best driver on the planet and readily admits that this is probably not true. Mind you, it's a little strange, I'm used to driving the Saturn SC2, which is smaller and has a 5 speed. I spend the first hour or so flailing my right arm for the stick!
At about 11pm, Kevin starts protesting LOUDLY to go home, so we stop in Dillon, SC - further than we'd originally targeted, but I could've driven for another hour or so. Once I checked us in (Super 8 $45/night), we discover that his diaper is full - no wonder he wanted to get out of his seat (note - as soon as we returned from this trip, Kevin announced he wanted Buzz underwear, so the next trip will be diaper less). The hotel is clean and comfortable and offers a continental breakfast, which wasn't much of anything.
Friday, June 14th
Plan: To get to St. Pete Beach, FL by 7pm, check into a hotel and let the boys run off some steam after being cooped up in the car.
We're on the road by 8:50. We stop in Yemmassee, SC for gas ($18.00) and snacks ($6.00). We realize in retrospect that we should have done our stop at the Sabatier Knife Outlet, something we always do on the way home.
We hit the Florida line at 1:30pm. Why is it that every time we drive into Florida the sky is bright blue with puffy, cotton candy clouds? We head Southwest, on I 10 and then 301. We stop for lunch in Starke, FL at Krystal. If you've never had, they're just like White Castle, with mustard on the burgers. $16.00 gets all of us lunch, although I probably should've only ordered 3 Krystals with cheese and shared the boys fries - we threw a lot of fries away!
We get to Ocala, hop on I 75 and stop at the Disney Visitor Center. Wow, what a great gift shop. The boys loved the movie, even though we see the same thing on the TV in our room - I guess the idea of being so close makes it great. I was able to use my CM id for a few purchases: cars for the boys, some Tink stickers for a few of my CM's, and a lanyard for Neil's pins.
We got to St. Pete Beach at 7pm, after driving through a very heavy rainstorm, foreshadowing the week ahead. Unfortunately, the hotel we'd wanted to stay at was full. I'd spent $30 less a night than the web site rate the last time we stayed there, so I was willing to chance it. We went back up towards S. Pasadena and checked into a place I'd scoped out on the Internet. Good deal, we got an efficiency for $45 a night and beach access, too.
I called my Mom to let her know we were in town, and she insisted we head over. She had corned beef and cabbage in the oven, yippee! Spent a few hours over there and headed back to the hotel at about 11. Stopped and picked up a bottle of Southern Comfort, after all it is a vacation. Get the boys into bed and Ed and I enjoy a 'lovely beverage'.
Saturday, June 15th
We wake up around 9:30 (very comfy beds) and quickly get dressed. The boys ate yogurt, then we walk over to the beach. This is Kevin's first trip to the beach where he didn't just look at the water (We usually go to Jones Beach on LI when visiting our families, but typically it's not beach weather). We spend about an hour and a half in the water (even got rained on), then another 45 minutes or so in the pool. Then back to the room for showers and off for some lunch at a local luncheonette. I get a great Gyro (the place is owned by a Greek family, so it's the real deal!) and Ed gets a patty melt. The kid's meals were huge!
We spend most of the day with Mom and Bill. She's fighting a nasty cold. When Bill hears that Kevin is into trains, he pulls out a few model-railroading videos that were a big hit with both boys! (He's retired from the railroad.) We go to one of Mom's favorite local hangouts for dinner, right on the water and enjoy watching the para sails, boats, jet skis and sunset. Back to Mom's community, where we sit down by the water for a while and relax. We head back to the room by 10.
Sunday, June 16th (Father's Day)
Plan- Check into All Star Movies, Meet up with Donna (Duck), Dinner at Chef Mickey's and probably MK
We head to breakfast at the Hurricane in St. Pete Beach, and then stop by Mom's for an hour or so. She's happy, she got to see 'her boys' three days in a row - just enough time that they don't wear out their welcome at Granny's. We head up to Tampa, then across I 4, through some rain and onto WDW property by 2pm. We check in and find that we're staying in Toy Story, building 10. When we booked, we were asked if we wanted Fantasia, and I said yes. When Donna booked her room, she also asked for Fantasia. I'd faxed the room assignor on Thursday and asked for nearby rooms, non-smoking. At first we're disappointed, because we were looking forward to being close to the pool, but when you're all Toy Story fans, no one is disappointed for long. Also, Donna is given the room next to us. Last trip, we were in Toy Story and she was in Love Bug, a little bit of a hike.
Our priority seating at Chef Mickey's is for 5:30 and we wait for Donna to show up, getting settled in our room. At 4:45, I call the front desk to see if she'd checked in. She hasn't, we leave a message and head over to the Contemporary (or Temporary, as the boys call it). This time, we opt for the Valet parking. We check in at the desk and have our picture taken and are seated before 5:30. When I booked the PS, I mentioned that we'd be celebrating Kevin's birthday a little early (there is no way we'll be there in July, LOL!). I thought I'd also mentioned celebrating Father's Day, but I guess I didn't. Kevin gets a birthday pin and the cupcake to celebrate after the meal.
We hit the buffet for the kids first, Ed getting Neil his food, and I make the trip to get Kevin's plate. The usual kid's fare is there - Mickey Macs and cheese, mini hot dogs, pizza and a few other items. I get these items and some fruit off the salad bar; Kevin is a big fruit fan. Ed gets his food, then it's my turn. Ooh, Prime Rib, garlic mashed potatoes, squash medley, and lots of other yummy treats. I was a little piggy and got a second slice of that prime rib-this time, there's a row of end pieces on the carving board and another guest and I joke about who'd want to ruin a nice prime rib by eating it well done?
We get great interaction with the characters. When we came into the waiting area after having the picture taken, Kevin nearly knocks Donald Duck over. The pictures are priceless, he's so happy to see Donald! Kevin's really into it this time, and it evens out all the pictures we have of Neil with the characters from previous trips. This is a great kick off to the vacation, and the great food is just icing on the cake for us. We've made this our traditional first meal, and then we get on the monorail. We stop to use a house phone and find that Donna has checked in - she thought dinner was at 7. We make plans for her to call us as soon as she's freshened up, and she'll call us to find out which park to meet us in.
Woo hoo, we get the front of the monorail, and once inside ask ourselves "Epcot or MK?" We decide on the Magic Kingdom, and head through the gates. We're passing under the train station when the phone rings. I tell Donna we're at MK, and to call as she comes up on the Contemporary, that I'll come get her within 5 minutes.
Next stop, City Hall. I'm prepared to go into a long explanation of why we're requesting the Guest Assistance Card for Neil, but the CM helping us is great and quickly takes care of the card. Sometimes you're asked to present proof of disability, but we never even were asked. The card is good for the length of our visit and may be used to use alternate entrances or Fastpass entrances.
We walk down Main Street and decide to hit Tomorrowland. We cut through the Plaza walkway and head towards Space Mountain, which Neil says he wants to ride. He thinks he rode it last year when the cm at the entrance waved him through, but the cm measuring him up top deemed him too short! He chickens out right before we go on, so instead we go on TTA. At the top of the ramp, my phone rings - its Donna. I tell her I'll meet her in about ten minutes. We all enjoy the ride, and Ed waits with the boys while I go back to the entrance. I exit, then go over to the Cast Member entrance to bring Donna in - this trip is the last time that Kevin doesn't count towards my three-person allowance on my Silver Pass, as he'll be three next month. She was prepared to buy a ticket, and didn't realize that I'd be getting her into the park.
Donna and I catch up on things as we head back to Tomorrowland to meet the men. The rain starts on our way back to Tomorrowland (boy, it feels good). Hugs all around when we meet with Ed and the boys, Kevin's happy to see his buddy Donna Duck again (he gave her the nickname). We get some drinks, then head onto Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. This is great; the kids love it and don't care about the scores. Meanwhile, I score 133,700 because I nailed the Rockem Sockem robot (but the other 100,000 target I used to hit is gone). We head onto the TTA again, sticking with things the boys love. While on the TTA, we see that the Astro Orbiter is running, so we decide to head over to it. We haven't been on it in the past few trips (my last time on it was '84), so we head up-sans Neil and Donna. At the top, the CM running the ride is funny, stating that now that this has become a water attraction, no running will be tolerated, etc. Kevin loves it, as I let him have the controls. The view of Tomorrowland at night is great, and I also take a picture of the Contemporary lit up. It feels really good to have the wind whipping by after the hot, sticky day!
Once we come down the elevators, Neil decided he wanted to go on the ride, too. This is very common for him - fear of new things drives a lot of Neil's behavior, then he is afraid of missing something that everyone else did. I take him up for a spin and he enjoys it and asks to go on again - a theme for this trip. Kids with Asperger's frequently are reluctant to try new things, but thrive on repetition, hence his need to go on things over and over! Once he gets over the hump of trying something different, you then have a completely different issue - telling Neil that he can't do whatever that new thing is all day!
Kevin asks for the speedway, and we head over to appease the gear head in training (he's so like his daddy!). Neil was determined to go on Space Mountain now, so we split up - Ed, Donna and Kevin to the Indy Speedway and Suzanne and Neil to Space Mountain. Space has a 45-minute wait posted, but it's more like a 10-minute wait. We get to the front of the line, and Neil wants the front seat. I decide that it's not a good idea, since I'm not sure how he'll react to the ride. He loves coasters, but the dark ride aspect might be a little too much for him. We take seats 5 and 6, and prepare for lift off. Lift off doesn't occur until 30 minutes later, due to technical difficulties. Fortunately, we had a CM posted at our vehicle and the lights were turned on while we waited for the all clear signal. Everyone in our car was jovial about the wait, and endured Neil's questions and comments with lots of humor. The guy in the very front even took pictures of Neil! We get to ride and it's a huge hit with Neil, so much of a hit that he decides to take the second ride we were offered while waiting on the track.
We take this trip in the front two seats and exit Space Mountain at 10:35! I think the FRS walkie-talkies are looking like a good idea, since we didn't both have our cell phones tonight. Fortunately, Ed finds out what happened from people exiting the ride, so they wait and let Kevin splash in the puddles while watching the fireworks. We walk out of a nearly empty park and take the monorail over to the Contemporary and get to our car right at 11:00! We get back to our rooms and have some lovely beverages and snacks. I'd picked up a Donald Duck plush at my store before the trip to give to "Donna Duck". He'd been keeping our Stitch company.
Monday, June 16th
Plan: Park until 2pm, then Hoop Dee Doo at 5pm.
We got off to a decent start, with breakfast at the Food Court. We let Donna choose the park, since she doesn't get to the parks much (she just joins us for a day when we visit). She hasn't been to MGM in a while, so off we go in the heat! We get in the gates after a long security bag check, the longest one all week. We head right over to Al's Toy Barn, since we missed it last time. We meet Jessie, then get in line for Buzz and Woody. It is hot and sticky, and even I'm sweating profusely (I think Ed was convinced I don't sweat). We followed Brian's chart for most of the week, and it was accurate - this park wasn't too busy.
After meeting with our heroes, we need to cool down, so we take in Muppet Vision 3D. I've never seen it before, because I have vision difficulties and most 3D movies don't work for me. This attraction was great, loved having Statler, Waldorf, and Sweetums be actual characters. It's not so entrenched in Muppet Show history that Neil and Kevin wouldn't understand what was happening, they enjoyed it. All of us were trying to catch those bubbles. (Side note-Muppet Movie is now out on DVD. I saw it at Costco today and must buy it!) Ed and I are both thrilled that the 3D effects worked for us (astigmatism for him and major blind spot in one eye for me).
We go to the Pizza Planet Arcade, where Kevin runs off from me after not playing the game he asked for! He thinks this is great fun, but I don't. Then Neil and Donna play Skee Ball. She's a natural, but that's because she played Skee Ball when she ditched French in high school! The a/c feels really good.
The Great Movie Ride is next, where we get the cowboy, mainly because the CM manning the loading area overheard me saying I've never had the cowboy! Mary Poppins makes an appearance, so I'm happy. We come out of the ride to find that it has rained while we were inside. We grab a pretzel for the boys to share, then head over to the Animator's Tour. The CM's are shuttling us through the queue, which is not what we're used to. This is because they want you to come meet Lilo and Stitch! They had the courtyard set up with a Hawaiian backdrop and Lilo was playing Elvis records on her turntable...they were adorable. When it was our turn, I got to dance to 'Burning Love' with Stitch; after all, he and Lilo kept taking dance breaks. We got some great pictures and kisses from both Lilo and Stitch.
While waiting to meet our new friends, it was raining cats and dogs. This provided entertainment for Kevin, as he kept running out into the rain, and then under the covered queue area, and back again. Neil pin traded with the CM with Lilo and Stitch, his first trade. We got into line for the Animator's tour (rain always brings in a crowd for this) and Neil decided he'd had enough and did not want to wait the 20 minutes. We decided to head back to the resort.
The walk back to the bus stop was a long and wet journey. Kevin falls asleep on me in the bus. We get in our seats and got dripped on the whole way to the resort. Back to the rooms, we veg out for a while, and change into dry clothes. We watch TV for a while, and a promo we see results in Neil asking to go to 'Nahtazu' for the rest of the week!
We head over to Fort Wilderness by car, then take a bus down to Pioneer Hall and I go to get our tickets for Hoop Dee Doo. This is where we discover a major snafu. The CRO rep had told me that we'd be receiving a 20% cast member discount off the meal, but the discount wasn't available. The manager came out and offered us VIP seats for the 9:30 showing (the show that I can get a discount for). Unfortunately, I didn't think the boys could wait that long. If we'd planned for a show that late, it would have been a different story. We end up eating at Trail's End and were a little dejected after expecting Hoop Dee Doo.
Afterwards, we head off property to the new Winn Dixie on 535. It was time to stock up on snacks, fruit, yogurt and wine. The prices were great, but the selection wasn't. I usually shop at the Super Wal-Mart on 192 the first night in town, and I guess I'm spoiled by their selection. I found no Danish, bagels or assortment of the brand of yogurt we like. I settle on GoGurts for the boys. I will go back to Winn Dixie, but I'll stock up on our brand of yogurt before we leave St. Pete Beach next time. Thanks to the people on the Disboards that posted info about this supermarket - it was much closer than the Super Wal-Mart!
After the brief shopping trip, we went back to the rooms and snacked and watched a little tube. We had an early PS in the morning, so lights out came at around 11:30 for the grown-ups.
Tuesday, June 18th
This morning we have a 7:50 PS at 1900 Park Fare. I want to see my favorite, Mary Poppins. My influence on my sons shows, they're in love with her, too. I'd heard this breakfast is top notch, now we were going to see for ourselves. The five of us drive over to the Grand Floridian and self park, then schlep all the way over to the hotel. Gee, two days on property and I'm already spoiled and don't want to walk that far to a hotel!
We check in, then wait in line to meet Mary, who is dressed in her white dress and bonnet. She is most wonderful and we would love to spend all day with her. Mary indulges us for a few minutes and then we head inside.
Once we're seated and our drink orders are taken, Donna and I head to the buffet and I prepare plates for both of the boys. There is an excellent variety here, and it's very easy to find food for both boys. Then again, they'd eat breakfast three meals a day if I would let them. The eggs look great, even to this non-egg eating person, so I make sure that Neil gets some.
I get back to the table and get the boys situated while Ed gets his plate. He's a light eater today after the two bowls of Chili with dinner last night! Then I make up for his light appetite by getting waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, fruit, lots of bacon and some fresh fruit. The reports were accurate - this food is wonderful. None of us took advantage of the omelets made to order, but what I saw coming out on plates did look good.
This morning, we meet with Pooh, Eeyore, Alice and the Mad Hatter. Pooh is my other favorite, and he gives hugs. I give Eeyore a big hug and tell him it's from one of my CM's at my store. This earns me a kiss! I have a soft spot for him as well, as Ed is my own Eeyore.
After this yummy meal, we head back to All-Star Movies to see Donna off. We then decide to spend a few hours at the pool in the light rain. I get Kevin a life jacket and he even wants to wear it while playing on the whale in the kiddie pool area. This was a nice relaxing morning, and I think it really helped Neil to keep his temper in check for much longer than normal. Both boys still talk about the pool and I'm figuring we'll be polar bears at our next visit in January!
We get a light snack, then go over to Epcot in the drizzle. Got a pair of strollers and made our way to Spaceship Earth (one of Neil's favorites) and find that it is temporarily closed. What else is there to do, but to head to Ice Station Cool and check out Beverly (not!)? We use our resort mugs to get some watermelon soda, which gets no complaints from the CM manning the machines. Hey, we're helping the environment by not using 15 cups! Note to those who wonder about Beverly, which I did sip this time - It tastes exactly like Tussi-Organidin, a cough medicine used to treat Bronchitis! Yuck!
We come outside to dryness and celebrate by going to see Figment. YAY, he's back! We love Figment and are so happy to see the show. It is a five-minute wait, which is not bad, as we saw a lot of people outside and thought it was much busier. Eric Idle was a nice addition, and the story was cute. I'm glad that the song "One little Spark" is back, even with the new lyrics. We play in the Imaginarium after the ride and email some pictures to family. We also provide a couple of training scenarios to a new CM by presenting a CM id for a purchase, and by using Disney Dollars. Kevin gets a Figment light up ball, I get film and Ed gets a Figment towel and pin. What happened to the upstairs part of the building? Ed and I both wondered about that. No rainbow tunnel?
At 3:30, we head into the Land and promptly go over to the boat ride. Standby was especially long (55 minutes), which seems to be the case every time we have been here! We ride and Neil wants to go right back on it. A meltdown is diverted when I explain that we can only go through the Fastpass once. It took a few minutes of redirecting, but I get through to him. I try distracting him by offering to go on Spaceship Earth - this works.
We line up for Spaceship Earth, the first time I can ever remember having to wait to go on it! It's moving and ten minutes later, we're in our vehicle. We play with one of the story time rooms at the end of the ride (getting dated) and then we stop in Art of Disney (you'll notice a pattern). Got a pair of Toy Story lithographs and a Monorail poster, which are sent back to the room. We lose Kevin to the land of slumber (he can sleep anywhere). Neil wants to go on Test Track, and we stop for an ice cream break (Mickey Bar for Ed, Ice Cream Sandwich for Neil and 100 years chocolate and caramel for me - $8).
Test Track time! As Neil is still eating, I opt for Test Track's single rider line, figuring that Ed and Neil can use the GAC afterwards. A lesson is learned - take both phones and turn them on! I went in without mine and the ride was shut down briefly and I spent an hour in the single rider's queue. Then the announcements start "We have approaching inclement weather and may have to shut the ride down". I held my breath that I'd get on, and when I got to the front of the single rider line, the cars were coming in with wet windshields. Oh no! I got on the ride and really enjoyed it, five years after I expected to get to go on it! Now, hopefully, I could send the two of them in and they would ride before it shut down.
Neil and Ed go in and then Kevin wakes up - he is HUNGRY! Since Ed and Neil have just left, I take Kevin over to the Electric Umbrella, where he chooses nuggets and fries (great fries, btw). We high tail it back in the drizzle and are glad that the other stroller is holding our place under the canopy, so that we can stay dry. Ten minutes later, Ed and Neil return and were able to ride - whew! It would have been REALLY bad if I had gone on and they didn't! This is now on Neil's favorites list. Four more inches for Kevin, he's the car nut and will absolutely love this ride.
By now, the rest of us are getting hungry and we head over to the World Showcase. We ride Rio Del Tiempo and Neil wants to ride again, so Kevin and I wait outside. We went and stood in line to see if we could get a table at San Angel Inn. The Molé Chicken was calling Ed, and I think I would have had the Chicken with habaneros and cheese. I overheard someone saying it was a half-hour-not too bad, but Kevin kept chanting 'me want outside', so that answered that for me, even though both boys would have eaten here. We collect Neil and Ed at the ride exit and head back outside, where it is drizzling once again. The 7:45 Tapestry of Dreams parade is about to begin, but as we walk it is announced that it has been cancelled due to weather. We decide to eat in Germany.
The Biergarten is a new meal for all of us, and it was an excellent buffet. Kevin didn't eat a lot, due to that nugget meal, but he's two, so it wasn't a big deal (no charge for kids under 3). Neil loves bratwurst, so he ate those and a frankfurter. I think the cherry on top was about ten minutes after we sat down, and the band started to play. Big hit with the boys! Ed and I were able to eat with the boys otherwise distracted, and we imbibed in some Spätlese. I only wish I had taken some more of the pork loin, it was incredible. The sauerbraten was delicious, and I loved the red cabbage. Ed ate two helpings of the red cabbage, which he normally doesn't like. He thinks it may be a Florida thing, because the only other time he liked it was at Mom's last fall! Desserts were great, too, but I concentrated on one thing - the Black Forest Cake! It's my favorite cake, but where we live, you need a liquor license to make it, as it has Cherry Kirsch (brandy) in it! As a result, I only seem to get it when we visit Long Island.
The music gets to Kevin, and he wants to go out on the dance floor with me for the Chicken Dance. However, he wants me to hold him (which was a constant all week), so we didn't get the full effect of the song, but we had fun dancing anyway! Parents, this is a great family friendly eating experience and there were plenty of menu items for even the pickiest eaters. I'm pretty sure this will become a regular stop, if we can coordinate meals close to show times! We all had fun listening to the music and I had fun singing the songs I actually knew from my choir days. The only thing we won't do again is to order a $36 bottle of wine! Ouch - that really blew the budget!
We leave the restaurant full to the gills, and find that the sky is clear and Illuminations had started 10 minutes earlier. We planned on coming back, so we walked back to the front of the park, knowing we're going to get stuck in the crowds. Boy, there were crowds! We duck into Mouseworks for a brief spell and then head over to the bus. Twenty minutes later, we get onto a full bus and back to the room and we head to bed relatively quickly. Stitch has decided he wants to hang out in our front window on a piece of rolling luggage.
Wednesday, June 20th
This is a no alarm morning. A massive leg cramp woke me at 6:30, but I got it under control and went back to sleep. Ed decided to tickle Neil awake at about 9am. Today is our Magic Kingdom day, and we get to the bus stop at 10:15. Oops, an empty bus pulls away just as we get to the stop!
As soon as we get into the park, we get strollers and head to Art of Disney. Do you see a pattern here? We have Disney all through our house and can't resist looking for more artwork. We then head into the Emporium, as Ed has burned his scalp and decided to wear a hat (too lazy to put on sunscreen!). Neil sees Dad getting a hat and decides that he would like one, too. This is the boy that usually can't be bothered with one - Kevin's our hat fan! Ed gets an orange to black fade Mickey cap, and Neil takes the other one Ed was looking at - Space Mountain (at 6, he's already got an adult size noggin!). That hat was worn for the remainder of the trip and shows up in nearly every picture of Neil from then on!
Next stop, Adventureland and a pair of pineapple Dole Whips. I haven't had one in years, I thought they were a shake type thing. Kevin doesn't want to share with me; he likes it too much!
We go on Magic Carpets of Aladdin. The wait time posted, 30 minutes, was accurate, as we wait 28 minutes. I get a picture of Kevin begging me to pick him up, which was constant this trip (and part of the leg cramp problem!). Neil is controlling the height and we were squirted by the camel a couple of times, but usually we are too low to take advantage -of this heat-buster.
Ed wants to do the Tiki Room, but the boys want Jungle Cruise. We head over to the JC and the Fastpass line. While waiting, the tarantula in the cage startled Kevin and the CM manning the queue plays well with the audience of Neil and Kevin. The same jokes as always, but still a cute ride. Our skipper, Kat, maintained character much better then our skipper last September!
After the ride, we take potty breaks, and head to Pecos Bill's for lunch. Another lesson is learned here - we should have each been carrying our cell phones (score two for those walkie-talkies). I told Ed to find a table with the boys while I got the food and it took me 20 minutes to find them. We didn't get any toppings on our burgers, so we missed the whole idea of going there. Oh well, next time we'll have loaded burgers!
Neil asked for Splash Mountain, one of his favorites, so we head over that way. Kevin and I head over to the Laughing Place play area while Ed and Neil go on. Kevin is a hit with his curls and flirts with a couple of the moms. I utilize the break to do some updating (no laptop, just my trusty daytimer) and chat with one of the moms.
My slightly wet husband and son come back, and now it's my turn to ride with Neil. As soon as we get into the log, Neil gives me the exact play by play of the ride (this is normal for Asperger's) and won't let me sing along :(! I agree with Uncle Remus and have many "Zip A Dee Doo Dah" days. I absolutely love the theming on this ride, and it always tortures me, because I have a 6th generation copy of "Song of the South", when what I really want is a Disney released DVD. I bought a laser disc player several months ago with the plan of getting a laser disc copy of Song of the South, but I'm not shelling out $200 for it. Neil and I thoroughly enjoy Splash...I could go on this one all day!
We plan to back track and go to Tiki Room, but the path is cordoned off for the parade, so we go over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Kevin and I stake out a spot on the second launch to Tom Sawyer Island while Ed and Neil go on. We view the 'bubbles' as he called the globes and we can see some of the other characters in the parade. He's more interested in the duck that's in the water in front of us. Neil gets a second go round on BTMRR with me. This ride is very bouncy and made me realize a headache was coming on (I'm prone to heat headaches), so I pop some Aleve as soon as we get off the ride.
We head through Liberty Square and over to the Haunted Mansion. Neil begins to freak out about it being scary, but this is the kid who rode it twice back to back in September! I coach him about it (that he's done this before and really liked it, etc.) and sure enough he's fine and is giggling like a nut through the whole ride, until they stop the ride right in front of one of the ghouls that jumps out from a grave! I held his face into my shoulder so he didn't have to look at it. Once off it, he asks to go back on!
This opens a dialogue about the GAC. I explain that if all of us go on the ride, than he can only ride once. If it's a ride that he has to go on with Mom or Dad, then and only then does he get to ride it twice. Neil's taking a lot of this in stride-he has really worked on the things he can control this trip. Granted, there are things he can't control, but we just have to accept them.
It is really hot, so we move over into Fantasyland and Ed and the boys want Ice Cream, so we wait in line and get a Mickey Bar for Ed and two Itzakadoozies. Neil really shouldn't have it, he's got a yellow dye allergy, but he's begging for it. I know we'll pay for it with his temper later. I just wish WDW would sell dye free frozen treats (and that he could get dye free Icees, his other banned treat). While they eat their snacks, I get a cool wrap from the cart next door and go activate it. I had one years ago and found that it worked great. It worked like a charm, but what happens when you buy something to cool yourself off in the heat? The rain should start in roughly an hour now!
While we're standing there cooling off, Ed realizes that people are walking up the walkway to the old skyway and finds out that Snow White is up there meeting people. We head up to meet her, and while we're waiting in line, I explain to Neil that he can ask her what her favorite color is so she can sign the autograph book with it. (We carry a little bag of gel pens to occupy the boys while waiting for food in restaurants and are using it for colorful autographs). There's his cue, he asks her questions and we get some very nice pictures. It's good to see a face character once in a while; they're always patient with Neil's end of the conversation. BTW, her favorite color is blue.
Next stop was a ride none of us had been on before - Peter Pan's Flight. This was fantastic - it really feels like you're flying. We all enjoyed the theming, and Kevin was excited that it was Peter Pan! Then it was over to It's a Small World, where Neil wanted to get right back on! We pass the barricades that now have a sign for Mickey's Philharmagic. We hope it will be open when we return in January. We hop onto the Carousel, and the thunder claps and the rain comes down while we ride. This closes Dumbo, so we miss it this trip. We take a round of bathroom breaks and then go on Snow White's Scary Adventures. Fortunately, they're not too scary. The scary part is the gridlock at the exit to the ride with everyone taking their time putting on those ponchos before going out into the rain! Don't mind us, we brought ponchos that we never used - we prefer splashing in the puddles! Kevin is very happy to do this on the way back to the stroller, giggling like a chuckle patch!
Now it's time for Pooh - wasn't Mr. Toad on the same track going in the other direction? The story is appropriate for the weather (the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down) and the air conditioning feels great on us wet people.
Our next ride is the Teacups, where we got amusement of a different sort. Ed points out this couple in a cup across from us. They were obviously foreign and had really dour looks on their faces, hands at their sides. I guess they were annoyed that their cup wasn't moving, not realizing that they had to spin it by turning the wheel. Neil provided just enough spinning action for us. I've been coping with vertigo for about a year and a half now, and I'm hoping one of these spins will knock everything back into place!
Toontown is a pass for us - I want to see Disneyland's, because I hear it is so much better. Due to the drought, I know Donald's boat isn't operational, but we're already playing in the rain, so it's off to Tomorrowland for us. This is the second time this trip, second time in the rain, LOL!
We notice that Carousel of Progress is open, and convince Neil and Kevin that we should ride this before the TTA. We're worried that it might close soon and want to make sure we get on, as we didn't the last trip. Once again, the ride breaks mid transfer, so we saw the opening set for 1 3/4 times. As much as I love CoP, I think the reduced hours have a lot to do with those breakdowns. I hope it stays forever.
Back to Space Mountain, and Ed and Neil go on, while Kevin and I wait in the arcade. Kevin decides to 'ride' every motorcycle game in the place, and I plop a few quarters in the Harley ride for him. Fortunately, the world's safe for another 14 years! Ed and Neil return and we swap. The whole way up the ramp, Neil keeps telling me we're going on the rocket on the right side (it's a ritual thing with the Asperger's). We're shuttled to the left and Neil loudly protests to me that he wanted to go on the right. As I'm explaining to him that we can't always get what we want, a CM in the queue area says, "follow me" and takes us around and to the front of the line on the right side. Neil is jumping up and down and thanking her the whole time - okay! the manners drills are paying off! Neil insists on the front, and that's fine with me. He gets his two rides, so the ritual needs are satisfied.
We go over to the Indy Speedway, and I let Kevin drive. He asks for the Blue car and the CM obliges. Kevin's a racing fan already, but his driving skills need work. We get thrown around a bit on this one, but my macho guy (again, like his Daddy) insists on doing the driving all by himself!
We notice that Timekeeper is open, which hasn't been the previous two trips, so we get in line. The show was really cute (I just love Robin Williams) and was very enjoyable for all of us, though it was a little sad to see the Twin Towers in the NY skyline footage.
No trip to MK is complete without a spin on Buzz Lightyear, not with two Buzz fans. We ride again, and I missed the sweet spot on the Rockem Sockem and end up with 56,000. We decide to head out of the park at 8:30 and are on a bus back to the hotel before the parade even starts. Kevin again falls asleep on me in the bus. We grab food in the food court (Quesadilla, Meatball Sub and kids meal) and eat in the room. It was a long, wet and productive day. We missed Tiki Room, Dumbo, and the Railroad, but once we got home we realized we committed a major faux pas - WE DIDN'T GO ON PIRATES?!? That is sacrilege! At work, when I need a park fix before or after hours, listening to "A Pirate's Life for Me" is the quick fix!
Thursday, June 20th
Planned: Neil tapes "Animal Jam", 7:50 PS at Rose and Crown
The plan was to have an easy morning, then Ed and Neil would go over to MGM to have Neil participate in a taping of "Animal Jam", a Jim Henson program that will be airing on TLC sometime this fall. While they were gone, I was going to get some laundry done, then run some errands while I dropped Kevin at Kindercare for an hour. Ed and Neil leave at 10:15 to grab breakfast and head over to MGM. Kevin and I lounged for a bit, he gets a TV fix while I update the report a bit. I loaded the big suitcase with our dirty clothes and we went down to the laundry and grabbed some lunch from the food court (Kevin deciding he wants my chicken strips instead of the requested PBJ).
We're in the laundry room, switching our clothes to the dryer when Ed and Neil walk in. Neil decided he didn't want to do the show, after they'd checked in. Ed gave him ample opportunity to change his mind, but he insisted that he didn't want to do it, so they got on the bus back to the resort. Apparently, Ed tried calling me, but my cell phone was back in the room charging (score three for the walkie-talkies!).
Once they got back to the room, they realized that Kevin and I were down in the laundry room. They grab their swimsuits and come down to meet us. Kevin's not in his suit, but the shorts he's wearing are swimsuit material, so the three of them play in the water while I finish up folding the laundry.
It starts to rain, and I go back to the room to get Kevin some dry shorts, and return. I then realize I forgot a diaper (oops!), so back to the room I go! I finally get back and get Kevin in a dry diaper and shorts and we head back to the room. Once back there, we had two whiny kids who didn't want to do anything - gee... this has been a really fun day so far! However, it took nearly a week for them to get this whiny!
We load them up into the car anyway, and head backstage to run my errands. I stop at a cast only shop, and the boys sleep in the car. We then go the Credit Union so I can deposit the checks that are paying for this trip! My final stop is Disney University for a different cast shop, where I get a pair of Lilo and Stitch shirts for Ed and I. All the while, it is pouring rain!
After these stops were done, we leave backstage and try to figure out our dining options. As we're passing the Polynesian, Ed asks if I'd like to eat at 'Ohana and I reply that it's supposed to be expensive. His reply is that it can't be more expensive than the Biergarten! Okay, I can't fight that logic, so we turn around and head over to the Poly. No one checked us in - guess they're inside because of the rain. Ed tries to drop us off at the covered entrance, but it's filled with Shuttles and Limos. We did find nearby parking in self park (Tiki M, which gets a song from me "In the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki M....". We get under the covered walkway, and even in the rain, the entrance to the Poly is beautiful. We walked around the first level and looked down the path to the pool (again, very pretty in the rain). We take the elevator up to the second floor and walk over to the host stand at 'Ohana. It's only a 10-minute wait, even with being a walk in. We later found out that the restaurant opened at 5, and we were there at 5:10.
We take some seats in the lounge and Ed gets us some 'lovely beverages' (thanks, Alton Brown, the term is so appropriate) and our 'cousin' quickly comes and takes us to our table overlooking the lagoon. We can barely see the castle in the heavy rain, but it still is a nice view.
Less than a minute later, our 'cousin' Heckeke greets us and brings appetizers - good thing, too, because Kevin claimed the bread as his! The appetizers are Teriyaki Chicken Wings, String Beans, and Salad Greens in a citrus dressing, Fried Rice (sans egg), Shrimp Wontons and some dipping sauces for the meats-Peanut Sauce; a sweet teriyaki based sauce and a Pineapple chutney.
This is going to work out great, the boys get Wontons, which Heckeke then puts some 'fireworks' on (a drink decoration, but the boys carried them around for days). Neil asks for some of the wings, and he gets a couple, which he even eats. I had to take the meat off for him, though. Ed and I divide the salad and veggies, since we know the boys won't eat them and we all have some of the rice. We love the dressing on the salad, and now we know we can call or email for the recipe!
Then Heckeke and Aziz bring the skewers of meat. First the chicken, we all have some. We're instructed that the pineapple chutney is to be served with this, so we try it - yummy. The chicken also tastes great in the peanut sauce. Then came the pork and shrimp. Both boys love shrimp, but Neil's not in a shrimp - eating mood (check him for fever, please!). The pork is tender and moist, and tastes great in all three sauces. Then beef, which looks like filet mignons on a skewer and turkey. We concentrate on the beef, we skip the turkey, and I end up feeding Neil half of one of my pieces of beef. He absolutely loved it. What is in that marinade? This child never wants steak! The chicken was prepared the way we usually do, so I wasn't surprised that he liked it. I explained to Neil that the steak is the same steak we have at home and he says he'll try it next time. I think if we had been presented with another skewer of steak, I could have given a piece to Neil and he would have eaten it by himself.
We'd been smart, not stuffing ourselves to the gills, because I'd heard the pineapple with caramel sauce was delicious. Once Ed found out that we would receive a CM discount, he decided that he wanted the Triple Chocolate Mousse. A word of warning is in order for the weak willed - the hosts will walk you by the kitchen and the dessert display to tempt you before you get to your seats!
Ed also enjoyed a cup of the Kona coffee, and shared his dessert with us. We all enjoyed the pineapple and wished for more.
The activities during the meal were great fun as well. Neil participated in the coconut races and got gummy worms - he thought he won! Later, they had hula-hoops for the kids. The first go round, Neil did it, but Kevin was antsy to try. The second round, mom held up the hoop for Kevin, while he ran around inside it. I wish I'd been able to get a picture of that! It was hilarious. He was giggling uncontrollably and loving every second of it.
During our meal, the rain slowed, then stopped, so we decided that we'd take the monorail around the resorts. While en route, I asked to go to Epcot, so we spent an hour and a half there. Neil had a meltdown while we waited for Ed to return from the bathroom as soon as we got in the park, but decorum ruled. Neil asked for Test Track, then changed his mind. We wanted to ride Maelstrom, but Neil freaked out about the evil eye. Ed rode next to him, saying, "It's just a stupid light bulb!"
I wanted to go to France for "Impressions Du France", but realized that by the time we got there, it would be 9:00 and we wouldn't get on it, so we decided to park in front of Norway and wait the 25 minutes for Illuminations. Ed treks over to Germany for another bottle of the Graff Spätlese we had Tuesday and gets back just before the show starts.
As we're waiting, Kevin asks me "Mommy, are these Mickey's fireworks?" I explain that Mickey's fireworks are at MGM (Fantasmic). Once again, it was awesome and I tear up during "We Go On". I have the CD, and it is a frequent after-hours disc at work. Heading out afterwards, we realize that the park was at about 1/3 of the capacity the night before - I guess the heavy rain from 1 till 7:30 scared most people away. We're strange; we love Epcot in the rain, although we spent the least amount of time in this, our favorite park.
We'd returned the strollers and were headed to the monorail when the lights went out for a few seconds. It was enough to fry the monorail (I'd heard someone say that lightning had struck the track) and after waiting for 15 minutes, we decide we'll take the bus over instead. Some people are probably laughing at this, but we walked down to the bus stops to discover - THERE ARE NO BUSES to monorail resorts! Shoot me, I've never stayed in one, so I didn't know. We walk back, decide to sit on a bench under the monorail station (where it's dry) and wait for the crowds to thin out a bit.
We get on the monorail, and decide to walk to the Poly from the TTC with an extremely tired Kevin. We get back to the room around 11, and I make arrangements for a wake up call for 7:30.
Friday, June 21
The phone rings at 7:30 and Ed expects Mickey to wake him up. Instead, he's awoken by Stitch! "Hello, this is Stitch. Come visit me at MGM and see my movie. It opens TODAY, ha ha ha"! This was not what he expected, but it was great! We spent the next two hours packing and preparing our bags for the transfer over to AS Music and bringing the big bags and purchases to the car. Once luggage services are arranged, we drove over to AS Music and I checked us in. We get our room keys and a card with a number to call later for the room number.
We're off to Animal Kingdom (or Nahtahzu, as Neil now calls it) and Kevin's requested tram ride! It was sunny and hot, which was unusual for this week. Once in the park, we head for the section we didn't do last May, Dinoland USA. Hunger pangs strike, and we stop at Flame Tree BBQ. Note to other parents - the Franks and Beans is a bowl of baked beans with cut up hot dogs in it. Ed ended up eating the boys' two bowls of franks and beans, Neil polished off Ed's pork barbecue sandwich and Kevin ate his cookie. I got the ribs on the meal coupon program, which is definitely worth it - it's better than the CM discount! They're excellent ribs, dry rub, with a good sauce available to dip in and the beans were just like Bush's, so I ate them for a change.
After lunch, we head over to Dinosaur, which Neil keeps saying he wants to go on - it's one of his favorite movies. Then he sees the Triceratops Spin, and would rather go on that. We had a 'carnotaur' character run at us, growling, which Kevin loved. Then Neil had the worst melt down of the trip about going on Dinosaur. I ended up walking him all the way back to Discovery Island before we got it under control. Then we walked back to Ed and Kevin, stopping along the way to pin trade with a CM to get back into the calmed down mode. We went through the Fastpass entrance, and Kevin and I were pulled out (oh well, the kid who was dying to go on has to grow another three inches - a good excuse to get him to eat more veggies!) and Ed and Neil went on. It ends up Neil really liked it, but not enough to get back on with me - love those baby swaps. Kevin and I waited at the ride exit and kept looking at the monitors with the guy from "Veronica's Closet" and Aladar. It sure amused Kevin. Now it's my turn, and I thought it was a fantastic dark ride, they did a great job with this one. Funny thing is that I was not phased at all by the carnotaur, so my picture looked like I was bored! After I got off the ride, Neil asked for the first of many times that day "Did you capture the Aladar?".
Next up was the Triceratops Spin and a great CM was handling the queue area. Susan assisted us, then as soon as she had us on the ride, another family came up and she was quick to help them-very friendly and professional, which was very appreciated. If you haven't done Triceratops, you have if you've been on Aladdin! It was cute, loud music and the kids got the controls.
We soon discovered why we bypassed Dinoland the last time in the park - there is not much to do. It looks out of place with the rest of the park. I did like the tacky tourist trap theme, but it did not fit with the rest of the park. The whole point of the rest of the park is to try to have a natural looking environment, and this looks cheesy. We had to bypass Primeval Whirl (48" height requirement.), but it looks like a neat little coaster. We are not midway gamers - last picked for every sport except soccer and hockey should tell you my hand/eye skills!
The next stop was the Boneyard, which both boys loved. I gave Ed a break for a few minutes - BIG mistake. Kevin quickly ran off and I spent a couple of minutes trying to find him. I was very happy to find there is only one exit (Which Ed was camped out by), so I then let Neil feel a little independent and ran after Kevin as he explored (ran) all over. The dig site did not interest him at all, but just about everything else was fair game. It took him a while to work up the gumption to go down those slides, because he couldn't see where they ended, plus he's got a fear of heights. Picture a not small woman trying to go down those slides to keep up with her 21/2 -year old! We spent about 45 minutes running around and the best way to get Neil out was to keep mentioning Kali River Rapids!
We walked over to Kali River Rapids and found a place to park the strollers. All of us went through the ride queue and then Ed and Kevin were directed over to the bridge (more on that later). Neil and I were prepared this time - last time on the ride, we were the ones going down backwards and both got totally drenched, shoes included. This time, as soon as we got on we took the shoes and socks off and put them in the center bin. We got squirted by the geysers, and were relatively unscathed by that wall of water that came up. Felt great on a hot afternoon!
We got to the end and those elephants squirted us, which we soon found out was Kevin's amusement while we were on the ride. Ed would tell him when a raft was coming and he'd push the button to squirt the elephants. Poor unsuspecting folks would think they were home free, then Kevin got them. He thought it was a riot!
After the KRR, we decided on some snacks. Neil finally got his Simba's paw, Kevin got a Mickey Bar (truly his father's son!) and Ed got a Ice Cream Sandwich. I got a Frozen Banana and Coke with my coupons. We snacked and watched the simians above, then made our way to the exit - we had a date to meet Stitch.
Once at the car, I was happy for the fact that we'd put the big luggage in the trunk since we'd changed resorts. I was able to pull clean clothes out for Kevin, as he'd become chocolate coated while eating that Mickey bar. Once we got to the car, the rain started. We got moving and within 2 minutes, Kevin was asleep. Slight change in plans - now we'd go over to Music, find our room and give Kevin a little nap.
We drove over and parked in the lot closest to our building, then went into Melody Hall to use the house phone and got our room number. Ed decided to take a little nap along with Kevin, so Neil and I went to the arcade to let him blow off a little steam. We passed our luggage (on its' way to our room) on the way into Cinema Hall and then spent a half-hour playing games, picking a few prizes when we were done. We went back to the room and collected Ed and Kevin, then drove over to MGM with about 20 minutes to spare for the parade. The sun decided to come out and things were drying off.
We found a great spot for the parade about 100 feet from the backstage gate, facing the entrance to the park. The parade started and there was Stitch! We all were yelling and cheering, and the boys got lots of high fives from the characters. We all screamed for Sweetums (we love him) and he came over and was kind enough to pose for a picture, then kissed my hand! Some of the face characters looked familiar from previous trips, and Mary was the same one we'd seen a few days before at 1900 Park Fare - she waved down at the boys. All in all, very happy with the parade viewing this trip. We'd seen it Oct 1st, the kickoff of the 100 years celebration and stood facing the hat, the sun in our eyes. We noticed Atlantis was not in the parade and saw Mike and Sulley this trip.
Parade over, we headed over to the Animator's Tour - always love to see that! This time, we got a demo of Stitch and we lingered through the gallery and shop. The wallet is safe this trip - we spent so much on meals this trip that I did not get a sericel, but nothing leapt out at me this time (except the $1000+ ones of course!) The two 50's style attraction posters will be our mementos from this trip.
Hunger sets in and I think that the counter over by the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" play area has hot dogs and other light fare. Wrong! Just snacks...So much for a light meal and "One Man's Dream". On the way over, we see a poster in front of one of the studios for "Animal Jam" and point it out to Neil. Too bad we didn't come this way on Monday; we would've had something concrete for him to visualize!
When did they make it so you can pass over to Washington Square from the Back lot area? That used to be my big complaint. We walk down to the Commissary, the kids insist on Pizza Planet (Non NY pizza? No thanks!), so we adults get food from the commissary and bring it over to Pizza Planet and get the boys each a cheese pizza. If I'd known that PP had Greek salads, I'd have skipped my fish and chips. Good fish, soggy tempura and limp fries. Ed's Yakitori was okay, and the boys liked their pizzas.
By this time it's 8:15, so we start heading over to Fantasmic and get seats in Jafar. Ed was ahead of me in the mob, and talks to a CM about seating. Because of Neil's GAC, we're able to sit in the reserved section, but because his disability isn't visible, a lot of people try to sit down right after we did... the poor CM was shooing people out of the seats for another 10 minutes. The days rain cooled things off rather nicely; it was a comfortable wait. I updated the trip report and the boys really got into the wave!
The show was great, and we all enjoyed, although Kevin was scared in some parts this time around. During the performance, we could see Illuminations going on - clear night! After the show, I REALLY had to use the bathroom, so we decided that I'd take Neil and Ed would take Kevin and we'd meet at the car. Neil and I cut across the rows, instead of trying to go with the mob up top. Neil and I make it to the rest room, but afterwards have difficulty finding a way out, due to the next showing of Fantasmic! We end up going down the long pathway, that I will try to avoid again, since it really is just circling back to the entrance of the arena. We make our way back to the entrance, see a tram and rush for it - and end up in the same one as Ed and Kev. Wait a minute - Ed's been suckered! He couldn't resist Kevin's very polite "Please?" and got him a light chaser and a cool one at that - this one changes colors! Back to the car and to AS Music.
Neil had kept asking all day for a swim, so we get back and change into our suits and over to the pool we go. I go get a life vest for Kevin and some snacks for us in Melody Hall. We spent an hour or so enjoying the pool. The only strange thing was this teenager was swimming underwater (while I had Kevin in my arms) and grabbed my ankle twice. The second time, he nearly got a kick in the face! When he came up for air, he realized that I wasn't his intended victim, but he didn't apologize, either. We headed back to the room and within an hour we were all asleep.
Saturday, June 22
Woke this morning around 8 am and gathered all our belongings. We were in much better shape, due to the car already being half packed yesterday. We got the express checkout envelope, saving the trip to the front desk. By 10 am, we were all in the car and stopped at Melody Hall to drop off the lifejacket. Next stop, Downtown Disney.
So, it's 10:30 on a Saturday morning, where do we eat? We'd parked over on West Side and there is nothing cheap over on that side! We ate at Bongo's, and I expected flavorful Cuban food. What I got was good (steak Cuban), but not a bit of seasoning on it at all. Be warned-the drinks are almost as expensive as the sandwiches. $40.00 for two sandwiches, two kids meals, two Cokes and two kid's milks, ey yi yi!
Next stop, Virgin Megastore. We haven't got one near us back home, and the prices are great. Ed asks me to spot him 15 minutes, but I know better. About an hour later, we walked out. We bought some rare Prog CD's for Ed, an Israel Kamakawo'ole CD for me (think eToys commercial), a real book for Neil (no pictures! He read it a few times on the drive home), and a DVD that I can't have until my birthday (insert pout here - I've only wanted Real Genius on DVD since I got the player!).
It is at this time that Neil asks to go to his "Animal Jam" taping. I had to explain that it was a one shot deal and we wouldn't be doing a show. He was fine with this answer. Dodged a bullet, there!
We move the car over to the Marketplace and do World of Disney, and Art of Disney. We actually went through a couple of shops without spending anything, visions of all the food we ate dancing in my head! I pick up some magnets for my CM's, a couple of requested items and we buy the DVD of 100 Years/Walt - One Man's Dream. Then a Tomorrowland poster at Art of Disney, and we head to the car, and promptly get drenched! It is now pouring outside and we take refuge under the awning at World of Disney. After 20 minutes of monsoon, I run for the car and come back to get the men. Ed's glasses got soaked and he wouldn't be able to see to drive. Within minutes, we're off the Disney property and on I4. Traffic is nasty, and it takes us an hour and a half to get to the other side of Orlando.
The rain follows us to and up I 95. We see a nasty tractor trailer wreck in Georgia, north of Brunswick. At 9, we stop for dinner in South Carolina (Ruby Tuesday's in Walterboro - VERY good) and pack it in for the night at nearly midnight, stopping at the same Super 8 that we stayed in a week ago, in Dillon, SC. This time, the room isn't as nice and we have to schlep the kids up to the second floor. Lesson learned - ask for the first floor when you've got kids.
Sunday, June 23
We're up and out by 10am, and Kevin's first request once we get on the road is to eat at Pizza Planet! We're on the road for about an hour and get breakfast at Shoney's - yummy. Shoney's always reminds me of vacations with my dad and sister! We make minimal stops after that, and get home by 5:15. Back to the real world tomorrow.
Monday, June 24
Back to work, and a nice pleasant surprise. While I was on vacation, it was Spirit Week at Disney Store. I was nominated by many in my store and was a recipient of the 2002 award. If you shop in your local Disney Store, you may see a CM wearing a circle pin with Mickey's smiling face on it...that's the pin that's awarded to 1% of the cast each year. Thanks, team, you made coming back feel good, too!
We prepared for this trip to be different from our previous ones, and it most definitely was. We were pleasantly surprised at the minimal drama and tantrums that we experienced, and I'm thankful that we have a diagnosis for Neil. Knowing what you're dealing with is half the battle. As such, we took a much more laid back approach, even though I still had that nagging thought that we were missing things. I'm learning to get into the 'we'll get to it next time' tack. Our plan of trips to Disney every 6 - 8 months makes it much easier to handle.
I'm a relentless planner, so there was a lot of research into this trip and into how we could make it enjoyable for all of us. Learning about the GAC from the Disboards really was a lifesaver for us. Neil had constant activity, instead of hours in lines, so he kept control so much better. We are learning to read his cues and which battles are worth fighting - we can't approach him with the "I'm the parent, so what I say goes" mentality.
We had a lot of things that were great, and very few negatives.
Things we loved:
If you're still reading, I commend you! I'm a detail-oriented person, so I tend to get long winded. The beauty of summarizing like this is that the photo album now has a play by play to go along with those pictures.
We're tentatively scheduled to return over Martin Luther King weekend. Neil's school tacks on some Teacher seminars to make it a five day weekend, so he'll only miss a couple of days of school. After Christmas season, it's nice to take a week and relax at the Happiest Place on Earth! Look for our trip report in February!