Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Universal Studios, Island of Adventure....Day 4

The next morning we woke up and stuff over selves with a huge breakfast at the Gingerbread House. When I mean huge, I mean things like waffles with all the toppings, cold cereal, donuts, eggs, bacon, potatoes, fruit, biscuits & gravy, yes....every single morning. It was crazy and good too! The only thing was, Jeffrey hated the jello covered bananas that James made him try. Look at this face...Serious nastiness! After getting that look off of his face, we all loaded up into the van and headed to Universal Studios Island of Adventure. This park is quite a bit smaller but has some amazing roller coaster rides. I was nervous because we had had such a great experience so far with Disney, I wondered if the customer service would equal. For the most part, it did. Although the kids didn't hear the words, "You're money is no good here" anywhere in this park as well. We walked in and decided to head over to the Seuss Landing. Julie was in heaven because she is quite the Dr Seuss fan. We went on a few of the smaller rides in that area and then headed to The High in the Sky, Seuss Trolley Train Ride. This ride takes you over the Seuss Landing on a roller coaster high up on a track in the sky. We took an elevator up to where you have to get on the ride. Here we met another fantastic young man who worked on the ride. He made sure we had cart with a wider opening so James could put Jeffrey in easier. He made sure the kids knew what fun stuff to look out for on the ride, he even went so far as to ask us if when we got done, we wanted to switch sides on the ride to make sure we got the full effect. We declined, but it was so nice. We seriously felt like celebrities! Jeffrey loved the ride and Julie couldn't stop smiling. It was wonderful!
We get off the ride and who should pop out, THE CAT IN THE HAT himself! We were all so excited. He came over and let Jeffrey rub his fur and posed for pictures and suddenly we were joined by...THE GRINCH! If you have ever called our house and listened closely to our answering machine, you know how big of a fan James is of the Grinch. In fact, we often tease James that he is a lot like the Grinch in the fact that he doesn't like to "feel" things. After James wiped the silly smile off his face, we headed over to a experience called Poseidon's Fury. You go and stand in an enormous building and this explorer comes in and tells you that the place has had bad things happen in there but to just wait for the professor and he would lead us out. At this point, the lights go off and you are off on a journey to get out of the building alive. You walk through rooms while there is a lights, lasers, fires, holograms, and special effects that are truly impressive. You could feel this fire on your face and the water would splash and land on your arms. While we all that it was pretty cool, Julie was freaked out and couldn't wait to get out of there. That is one of the only things she hated about the entire trip. Here is part of the building as we are walking out. >Just as we walked around the bend, into view popped the magical world of Harry Potter. Look at the buildings behind this picture and you can see what an incredible job they did on recreating this magical world. The Harry Potter Series is one of the only sets of books that James has shown any interest in reading since we have been married. He read one book, I believe, and then listened to the others on CD. While we are not psycho crazy fans, we do love the books and movies. The only problem with this part of Universal was, it was PACKED with crazy fans. The line to get into Ollivanders wand store was a 45 minute get into the store and shop. No joke! To really put this into perspective, you have to realize that we were in Orlando during one of the slowest times of the year. It is crazy nuts! Needless to say, we didn't go in. We did go get in line for the Dragon Challenge. Once again, we were the recipients of some great customer service. As we walked in, the cast member who was showing us where to go asked us which dragon we wanted to go on. She explained that the ride is 2 different roller coasters: the Chinese Fireball or red dragon OR the Hungarian Horntail or blue dragon. James asked her which one was more exciting, she smiled and said, "You are going on the Chinese Fireball, you are going to love it!" The only glitch was that Jeffrey and Jackson couldn't go on the ride and Jackson was NOT happy about this. But like the trooper he is, he didn't complain too much. When Julie and I went to get on the ride, the cast member asked us which sets we wanted. When I said I didn't care, he smiled and put us in the front row. Our feet were dangling in the wind as we went on one of the best rides we experienced in Orlando! At one point, it felt like you were going to crash into the blue roller coaster. It was really neat and we loved it. In fact, Julie was lucky enough to be able to go again with James in the front seats once again! I highly recommend it. Then we went and got in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. There are signs all over this ride saying that if you got motion sickness, to not ride this ride. James DOES get motion sickness but wouldn't have skipped out on this for anything. We were to the point where we were getting on the ride and the ride broke down. Yep...once again! We waited for awhile hoping that the ride would start back up again. While we stood there we became friends with a set of twins from Brooklyn who were celebrating their 23rd birthday. They were really cute and it was fun talking with them, especially since their accent reminded us so much of James' little twins brothers accent. After deciding that we would come back later, we headed to the Jurassic Park area and ate some way overpriced and waited too long for hamburgers and fries. It was nice to sit for a minute though. As we left, Jackson REALLY wanted to go on the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Here's the deal, there was a good chance that we would get wet. James and Julie really didn't want to get wet so they took Jeffrey to change his diaper and Jackson and I went on the ride. (I felt bad that he didn't get to go on the Harry Potter ride. I didn't really want to get wet either.) The way they seated us, Jackson couldn't see a single thing on the ride and didn't get wet so he was still bummed. Poor kid! Then we still had a few minutes before we had to meet with the other 3 so we went on the Pteranodon Flyers. Which was a fun ride for littler kids but it is way too short. We met up with the rest of the family and then Julie and James went on the ride. At this point, we decided to head back to the Harry Potter ride. This time, in the line, they split us up. James, Jeffrey and Julie went and got on the ride at a different point than we did. Jackson and I went on first and during the ride, I felt like we had made the biggest mistake ever on letting Jeffrey go on this ride. You flip around, make sudden movements, and it is intense. Pair that with the fact that spiders are spitting water at you, snakes and hissing in your face, and Deatheaters are breathing cold fog in your face and I was sure bad things were going to be happening for Jeffrey at the end of the ride. I seriously was praying he would be alright. It was a very true rendition of the books and I loved the ride itself but Jackson closed his eyes halfway through because it was a little too much. And Jackson doesn't usually get scared. We got off the ride and there was 2 girls throwing up in garbage bags. That set off my worry meter even more because I thought, "Great, now James will be throwing up and Jeffrey will be in a full on seizure!" We ran to meet them and I was shocked to see Jeffrey laughing and clapping with Julie in his lap. I was so relieved! James, on the other hand, looked really white. He said it did a number to him but is glad he went. After that we headed down to another area and once again, Jackson wanted to go on another water ride. James and Jeffrey opted out (it gave his stomach some time to settle down) and Julie and I went unwillingly on Popeye and Plutos Bilge Rat Barges. He really had to talk us into going on this ride. It was a fun ride, very similar to Rattlesnake Rapids at Lagoon. The only problem was that we got SOAKED! We got off the ride and Julie was showing James how wet she was when Jackson leaned over and said to both her and I, "You're Welcome!" with a huge grin on his face. Little Stinker! We explored the comic book area of the park and loved all the little places for photo opportunities. As we headed to the superhero area of the park, who do we see....Wolverine! When we got up to see him, he noticed James hat and said, "What's up Brigham Young?" James was thrilled but shocked because the entire vacation people had been asking us where we were from. When we said Utah most of the looks we got were confusion because they didn't know where that was! One lady even asked Julie and Julie told her we were by Wyoming. She knew where Wyoming was though....shesh! It was exciting that Wolverine not only knew where Utah was, but he knew about BYU. As we walked away, Jackson noticed Spiderman! We asked him if he wanted to go see him and in an excited voice he answered yes and then stopped. He said, "I don't want to have to make everyone else wait because I want to see Spiderman. This trip is for Jeffrey." I love this little guy, he melts my heart. We assured him it was alright when a worker stopped us and said that if we would follow him and wait 10 minutes, we would be in for a treat. So we followed him to this back area of the park and waited. 10 minutes later on 4-wheelers pull in, Spiderman, Captain American, Cyclops, Rogue, Storm, and Wolverine! They jumped off their 4-wheelers in true superhero fashion and came over to us. Captain America grabbed Jeffrey's wheelchair and started playing with him, without any hesitation. He gave him his shield and let Jeffrey play with it while he wheeled him around. Rogue and Storm had Julie to one side telling her how much they loved her hair and playing with her. Spiderman had Jackson practicing his web throwing abilities. Cyclops and Wolverine were talking with James about something, it was a moment in time I will never forget. These wonderful people made my family feel so special and comfortable. It was something out of a dream and Jeffrey loved that shield. They were honestly bigger superheros because of their personalities rather than their costumes.>After this experience, we headed over to the Spiderman ride. This was definitely a favorite for the entire family! It is a 3D action ride that takes you on twists and turns with Spiderman as he battles all of is different nemeisis. The car you are in shakes, rattles, and rolls with different villians attacking you along the way. Jeffrey laughed the entire ride! It was great fun! We had heard a lot about the ride, The Hulk. People kept saying how we had to go on it and we would love it! When we went to get on the ride, we noticed that once again, Jackson wasn't tall enough so he and Jeffrey couldn't ride. Julie looked at me and said, "Mom, this trip is about Jeffrey and making him happy. Maybe we shouldn't go on it and do something Jeffrey can do." I held back the tears of gratitude for such a great daughter and James told her that we were so glad that she was aware of that and grateful that she would be willing to give up a ride she was anxious to go on. BUT, we were going because Mom and Dad wanted to. And we did! It was really fun but honestly, we liked a few of the other coasters on we went during our stay in Orlando better. At this point, Jackson saw another spinning ride called the Storm Force Acceleration ride which is a faster version of the teacups at Magic Kingdom. James was still feeling yucky from the Harry Potter Ride, Julie said the Hulk made her tummy feel weird and didn't want to go on it, and Jeffrey doesn't do well on spinning things. Even though at this point my stomach wasn't 100% either, I couldn't let him down and we went and spun and spun and spun around making my stomach feel even less wonderful but the smile on Jacksons face was worth it. At this point, we had done what we wanted to so we headed home. First we purchased the kids these great shirts that say Thing 1 for Jeffrey, Thing 2 for Julie, and Thing 3 for Jackson, in reference to Dr Seuss' The Cat in the Hat. It was getting late and so we ordered dinner from a place in Give Kids the World called Katie's Kitchen. They provide you with food, right to your villa, from Bostons Market. We had roasted chicken, meatloaf, potatoes, green beans, cornbread, and it was all so good. After that, we went straight to bed because we knew we had a lot of walking in store at Epcot the next day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Disney a Hurricane? Day 3

The next morning we woke up and listened to the news. Rain, and a lot of it, was in the forecast. Knowing that we were heading to Florida, James (Mr Smarty Pants), went to Walmart and bought 5 of the cheap emergency ponchos for a $1.25 each. Rain wasn't going to ruin our once-in-a-lifetime vacation! The rain wasn't scheduled to start until later in the morning so we hurried and got ready and ran to get breakfast. After breakfast, we went down to the theater to meet Mickey and Minnie! They come and spend special time with all the of kids at Give Kids the World each week. On our way into the theater, Goofy, Pluto and Mary Poppins came walking out! Holy Smokes did we have some excited kids! They visited with us and took pictures. It was so much fun and they were so nice. Mary Poppins even gave us a challenge to find the purple horse at Disney Studios. The kids and I couldn't find it but James said he did....RIGHT! After that, we went in and had an amazing experience visiting with Mickey and Minnie. Once again, I cried. It is just so humbling and emotional seeing so much attention brought to Jeffrey. For people to hear his "voice" and recognize how special he is was so great. I love it when people can look beyond the physical state of his body and realize what a treasure lies just under the surface. After leaving there, we drove to Disney Studios. By the time we got there, it was raining...hard! There was even a moment of "Do we really want to do this?" BUT we unloaded and made it and ran into the park. At this point I was once again grateful for the methodical thinking James always does before we travel. The Disney ponchos were $7.50 a piece! Money well spent if you didn't have any cover. We went in and tried to find something fun to do that had a covering. We all decided to go watch the Beauty and the Beast play. We seriously were on the front seats...and it was great! If you ever need to entertain some silly children while waiting for a play to start, give them your camera. I think that all the people around us were laughing just as hard as Julie and Jackson at the faces they were pulling.
After the play ended (2 thumbs way up!) we headed over to Tower of Terror. Julie was scared, of course, but Jeffrey thought it was great! After that we headed over to the Rock N Rollin Rollercoaster, with music from Aerosmith. James and I LOVE Aerosmith (not as much as Tim but still)and this ride did not disappoint. I have to say, this was the first ride we did not let Jeffrey go on because it had inverted twists and so forth. So we did the wonderful child swap. Jackson and I went first and then Julie and James went. We loved this ride! We decided to sugar ourselves up instead of eating lunch (yes, we win the parents of the year award) and got special treats at this little shop. I remembered Tami Burgess telling me about Tigger tales and I will say, they lived up to the hype. Jackson had a sugar cookie and Julie, James and Jeffrey each had a special treat. I think someone had a massive rice crispy treat but I can't remember. Sugar overload! Next we headed over to see a Little Mermaid play done with water, lasers, and actors. It was very well done but with a really choppy script. Most people know the story of the Little Mermaid so it really didn't matter though. When we exited that building we found a little nook that you could go into a building and meet a bunch of the characters! We saw Mr Incredible and Frozone, Sorcerer Mickey, Handy Manny, Lotso Bear (his place even smelled like strawberries), Leo and Annie from the Little Einsteins (Jackson refused to be in this picture because he isn't involved in baby shows), and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum! One of the cast members pulled me aside and said, "Come back around 4pm" and was so sweet to us. (I wish I would have carried around Thank You cards or treats for all the cast members who helped make this experience so great!) While we were leaving the kids saw a huge mural of the girl and lizard from Tangled and the kids wanted their pictures taken with it since they both loved the movie. Next we headed over to the Toy Story Mania ride. We were so excited about this because we loved the Buzz Lightyear ride so much. Our neighbors gave us the game for the Wii a little over a year ago but we thought it was cool that we had the video game that is now a ride! We were only on for about 30 seconds when all of the sudden, the ride broke down. We were evacuated off the ride but the cast member told us that it would more than likely be back up later in the day. At this point, we were heading in an area when the Monsters from Monsters Inc came out. They pulled our kids to the front of the line and Jeffrey kept trying to pull Sulleys fur. After we left there, we ran into Tater and Lightening McQueen where the kids had their pictures taken again. We made a turn and there it was...the Star Wars section of Disney Studios (insert Star Wars theme here). Jackson eyes lit up like fireworks on the 4th of July! (Name that movie) We watched the Jedi Training and while Jackson didn't get picked to be on stage, he stood in the back and did all of the training moves along with the Master Jedi. It was so cute! After posing for a few more pictures, he was satisfied and we were able to leave and go watch a 3D Muppet Movie. This was not my favorite thing. After that we decided to head back to where are all the characters were. Our friendly cast member did not disappoint in her advice because as soon as we walked in, we saw Aladdin and Genie. Next was Captain Hook and Mr Smee. Chip and Dale and with these characters we learned two things 1) James didn't know how to tell the chipmunks apart so they showed him the secret, do you know it? 2) Jeffrey LOVES to feel the characters noses! In fact, he loves them so much that he almost pulls their heads off. Yes, it came close. (Can you imagine the therapy sessions?) We also saw Pocahontas and Meeko and then Goofy! Again, we were scared for Goofy's nose but we managed to not traumatize all the children. After that we went back to the Toy Story Mania ride and succeeding in having a great time hitting the targets while riding this ride. It was about this time we decided to call it a night. It was getting cold and for some reason, the kids had it in their heads that as soon as we got back to GKTW, they were going to go swimming. So we drove back and had dinner at the Gingerbread House. Then James, Julie, and Jackson got into their swimsuits and went swimming in a semi-heated pool in 62 degree temperatures. It was way too cold but they loved it so? When we got back to our room, a special version of GKTW the Candyland game was waiting for us on our table. It's really neat. At this point, I about passed out along with the whole gang. It was definitely time for bed!

Magic Kingdom or Bust ... Day 2

We woke up excited and ready to start our adventures! After a HUGE breakfast at the Gingerbread house, we drove to the Magic Kingdom. James had told the kids about the "Your Money's No Good Here" button and they were disappointed when the lady at the parking station didn't say those exact words but James and I were thrilled that we didn't have to pay the $14 parking fee regardless of anything she said! We rode the ferry across the lake and the excitement just grew when the Magic Kingdom came into view. We walked into the park and sure enough, the first thing we saw was a photographer so we had our pictures taken and decided that Adventureland would be our first stop.Jackson noticed the Swiss Family Treehouse and insisted that he and James go explore while Julie noticed Ariel! So Jeffrey, Julie and I went and met Ariel while the boys went exploring. When we were all done, we all headed to Aladdins Magic Carpet Ride...our first ride! We went to get into line and the cast member told us to go to the exit line. As we did, the gentleman working the ride apologized to us for not being able to get us on the next ride but would that be alright? WHAT! Of course! Then he said that if we wanted to ride more than once, to just let him know. REALLY? Ok... We were shocked at the customer service we were receiving and thrilled!!!! Jeffrey rode with me and he LOVED it. The smiles, laughter, and "ya ya ya-ing" that was going on was exactly what I had imagined. It was starting out to be a great day. We explored Adventureland and rode all the rides and then headed over to Frontierland. Guess who we met on the way....Jesse and Woody!!! The kids were so excited and I will be completely honest in saying, I was too! Once again, the worker noticed Jeffrey's badge and pushed us to the front of the line. Jesse made a big deal about how cute Julies hair was and then went over and played with Jeffrey for a minute. Woody was keeping Jackson and James entertained and then Jesse leaned over to me and whispered..."He's special". Oh my heart just melted! I know Jeffrey is special but I love it when others are in tune enough to recognize that quality in him as well.We took pictures and I stopped crying and we went on our way but that moment was one that I will always remember. We went on Big Thunder Mountain and the reaction was always the same...our oldest loves him so thrill rides. I wonder where he gets that from? :)Next we headed to Fantasyland! We noticed Winnie the Pooh and Tigger and I couldn't resist. When Jeffrey was a preemie in the hospital the Kenny Loggins version of the Winnie the Pooh theme song came out and when my little guy was in his isolate and so upset about the pain or something else we would play that song and for some reason, it would calm him down. We bought him a stuffed Pooh Bear and to this day when I see that toy, it makes me emotional (surprise I know). We didn't pass up on the opportunity to see 2 characters that mean a lot to our little family, even though Julie and Jackson weren't so thrilled. Next we went on the Winnie the Pooh ride! Let me just say this, Disney does a great job at making sure that even if I line is long, they keep you entertained. In this ride, they had huge touch screens that have honey oozing down them. You were able to take your hand and wipe the honey away to reveal hidden images behind the honey. It was way fun!!!! (Julie and Jackson wanted to ride this ride with Jeffrey and James and I sat behind them. This scene ALMOST brought me to tears. I love the fact that they love their brother SO much!) After this cute ride was over, we ran into the Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit. The Queen of Hearts insisted that we shouldn't be scared of her but with the idea of losing our heads we didn't stay too long.We even convinced James to go on the teacup rides but we weren't allowed to spin too fast. We then went to a fantastic 3D show called Mickey's Philharmagic. It was great and the kids loved it. Then we headed to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe to eat. Yes, eating in Disneyworld is expensive! And these burgers were alright but really for $50 you would expect something out of this world (pun on words....did you catch it! :P) We headed into Tomorrowland and went on the Buzz Lightyear Ride. So much fun for the entire family and afterwards, we saw Buzz!!! We then went to the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor. Alright, this is one of the most fun things to do in Disneyworld if you like laughing. Every show is different and I don't know if we laughed that hard any other time the entire trip! Check it out! Jackson was SO excited to drive the cars on the Speedway but was sorely disappointed when he couldn't be the driver because he was too short. So he was left to steer while I did the pedals while Julie drove her own car. He was SO jealous! James rode with Jeffrey and let Jeffrey drive. The first thing he said when we got done was, "Don't ever let the blind kid drive!" Duly noted. We then moved onto Toon Town. While we were in Orlando they made the big announcement about expanding Fantasyland and getting rid of Toon Town. While I totally agree that Toon Town isn't the biggest attraction, and Fantasyland does need to be larger, it makes me sad. I love glimpsing into Mickey and Minnie's house and the bigger than life animated world. Anyway! We went into this little store and were able to go though the lines to see Tinkerbell, and 2 other fairies! They paid such special attention to Jeffrey and the rest of the kids. Rosetta especially seemed to get a kick out of trying to get a rise out of Jackson by placing her forearms on his head and twirling his hair. He had no idea what to do but just stand there! It was so funny and she gave Jeffrey a kiss with her lipstick that lasted the rest of the night.
All the fairies called Jeffrey's wheelchair a flying machine which Julie thought was hilarious. It was really fun and then we went to see Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Belle. Oh my goodness did we have a happy girl on our hands! Julie still loves her some Cinderella and Cinderella was kind enough to take pictures with just Julie. She even taught Julie a princess pose! It was a great way to end the day. We called Give Kids the World as we were leaving the park and they had pizza and drinks waiting for us at our villa when we got back. (On a side note, everytime you come back to the village, you have to go through a security gate. They always say "Welcome Home" ... and they meant it!) Also, waiting on the table was more PRESENTS! Does it get any better than that? I don't think so! We ate and promptly went to bed, exhausted.

*I know this is a long post and there are a ton of pictures BUT while I enjoy sharing with all of you what is going on in our lives, in the end, this is a journal for my family so I really want to include everything. I apologize!