Feb 17, 2014

Happiest Place on Earth

A long time ago, I went to college with a girl named Riccinni.  She and I were in the Young Ambassadors (a singing/dancing group).  We hadn't seen each other since.  (Let's just say ... more than 20 years.)  But with the advent of Facebook, we have reconnected.  I feel like I know her.  I get to see her life and her marathons and her kids growing up.  Anyway, her husband Lesz works for Disney. 

They contacted me the other day to see if we wanted to go to Disney World?  Well, what she didn't know is ... 3 days earlier Manny had been begging me to go to Disney.  I told him to pray about it ... and he did. 

Jacob (age 15) has been twice ... once at age 1 1/2 and once at about 4).  Kaley (age 14) was there at 8 months.  The rest of the kids - Sam 12, Luke 10, Zoe 8 and Manny 4 - have never been.  Sad considering we only live an hour or so away. 

Well, Sunday February 9th was the date. I told none of the kids where we were going, just "Somewhere special."  As we drove to the exit, it says "Disney World" and everyone but Manny figured out what was going on. 

He figured it out once we hit THIS sign. 

At that point, his eyes just widened. 

This is Manny on the monorail headed from the parking lot.  (Sam in the background just has on his "tweenager" face ... he says he was having a great time.)

For a short time, the monorail stopped.  And we looked over and saw this train.  I know it's almost impossible to see but it's some of the characters. Specifically ... Tiana, Chip and Dale, Stitch and Mary Poppins.  Manny went NUTS because he ADORES Chip and Dale!  He started then asking to see them.  I figured this would be the closest we would be all day. 

And as we moved on, we saw the first car of the train ... It had a few of the characters from Snow White and Mickey Mouse.  (For the record, it was the only time we saw him all day.)

Just as we hit the front entrance, there was Minnie Mouse.  The line was too long to stay and see her but we were very close and it was good enough for Manny. 

Riccinni took our family photo in front of Cinderella's castle.  (The sun was a bit bright so ignore some of the "sour" looking faces. Ha!)

And of course, had to take a picture with Riccinni.  (I will not post a picture from 20 plus years ago ... let's just say we look the same and leave it at that!)  We were smiling because I am quite tall.  She is, uh ... not.  So I was bending way down.  She was standing on her tip toes. 


Next we were off to the Jungle Cruise.  I remember riding it as a child.  (Disney opened the summer I turned 3 and we were there that Fall.  I still have a Winnie the Pooh from that trip.)  He was THRILLED that he could stay in the safety of his wheelchair.  When he's in his wheelchair, he feels safest.  He can see better.  He can sit better.  We can take him out, of course, but he has a hard time sitting well or even holding his head up.  It's awkward trying to hold him in a way that he can see.  Plus he's hooked up to his TPN bag all the time ... all in all, a very difficult task. 

But in the middle of his wheelchair, he is king.  And he got to ride that way. 

I'm not really good at taking pictures DURING rides because I'm too caught up in the moment of enjoying it and helping the kids experience it.  So this picture is of when the others were still loading onto our boat.  Daddy held his hand the whole way. 

They dragged Zoe into dancing several dances right in front of the Country Bear Jamboree. 

Something not quite right about that bear.  Ha

This was the Hokey Pokey and she was turning her self right about. 

Next we found Woody and Jessie! The only thing he wanted to know was "Where is Buzz?" But he is is in a different part of the park and we never saw him.  They were really sweet with him.  Only the girls wanted to be in the picture. 

And then it happened!  We couldn't believe it.  Right in front of our very eyes ... CHIP AND DALE

All morning since seeing them on the train, he said he wanted to find them and feed them a nut.  Well, we didn't happen to plan ahead.  So as we stood in line, Kaley was looking through the grass for something akin to a nut.  He was satisfied that a bright red leaf would be close enough.  That's what's in his left hand. 

And here is Dale's reaction to when we told him about the gift. 

This is Dale handing the prized leaf to Chip and his reaction.  Saying he "Loved it"

And again, only the girls wanted to pose.  The boys were helping take pictures.  I was amazed at how friendly all the characters were.  They had such patience and just knew how to make a kid feel special.  Like Dale is holding Manny's hand.  So sweet. 

Anyone recognize this clock? 

It opened right as we were standing there waiting for the accessibility boat.  Again, Manny got to stay in his wheelchair.  It was totally unexpected that he could do that on so many rides.  Again, we could have held him in our laps but it's much more difficult on all of us to do it that way. 

I only remembered to catch one (blurry) picture of him on here.  His eyes were darting everywhere.  He was commenting on things he saw.  So sweet. 

On the exit, we just happened to see the Chinese "Good bye" sign. It's right in the middle but tiny so you'll just have to believe me.  It says, "Zai Jian"

While the kids rode space mountain, we got to meet Stitch.  It was funny because we were next in line when they said Stitch had to run for just a second and he'd be back in 2-3 minutes.  It was more like 15 and he was quite a bit shorter when he came back.  Ha. 

Again, it's cool how the characters get right in there with the kids.  I've discovered that most people feel very awkward around wheelchairs but they didn't.  See, one of his hands is holding Manny's hand and the other is on his wheelchair handle. 

The kids said Space Mountain was the best ride of the day.  They loved it. 

I found a cool spot to sit while they were still in line and he wanted to play cars.  I cracked up as he did this:

And then we discovered he was able to ride the speedway racers.  He was thrilled.  I did have to transfer him but that's OK.  This picture makes me look worried but really it was just a matter of sun in eyes, trying to push the gas pedal with my left foot, hold Manny with my left arm and steer with my right knee and hold the camera for a selfie with my right hand.  I discovered I'm not that talented! Ha

Then we found Goofy.  Manny happened to have a small Goofy with him and he was holding him.  Goofy's reaction to me showing him. "It's MEEE?" 

And again, as you can see the theme ... girls only in the picture.  I love Manny's reaction as he wouldn't stop looking at Goofy!

Finally we got to hug Donald Duck. 

I was amazed at how many grown ups were in line (sans kids) to hug Donald!

Before we knew it, the day was over.  Our feet were tired.  Our tummies hungry for non-park food.  But before we left, Manny had one more request ... to ride the train.  We didn't know how feasible it was but said we could at least try.  So off we walked towards the train station.  As we approached, we heard the train arrive.  We knew that we would either JUST make it or barely miss it. 

But in true Manny favor from God form, we got there, just in time to get right on to the train.  Dan sat with Manny in the wheelchair row.  And the row right behind was completely open.  Manny was giddy.  We didn't get any pictures of this as both of our phones had died by then by taking so many pictures and videos of the day.  But just picture his big satisfied grin.  By this time, the sun had set and the neon lights were aglow through the park.  We loved seeing the transformation. 

We had considered staying for the firework display but then remembered his HORRIBLE reaction to the New Year's one in our neighborhood.  (Complete meltdown).  So we ventured home. 

As I write this last piece, it's been over a week.  Manny DAILY asks when we can go back.  He's convinced we can just go any day we want. 

Thanks again, Riccinni and Lesz!  Memories made. 

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