A Journey with Love and Laughter

Read about our family as we journey through life as a family, with siblings, school and spina bifida, and lots of fun and laughter along the way!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Epcot, princesses and pirate ships ... day 2

The kids were missing some things at school. Yes some school work, but also some fun days. One of the days was Crazy Hair Day! So I came prepared with some hair chalk and we got crazy! We even added some purple to Grandma's hair! (And packed it in my toiletry bag, so we actually had it... still no luggage... and no more clean clothes)

We told Katheryn about her surprise... Lunch with Princesses, and so she wore the princess dress she got yesterday (and of course her mouse ears) and Nick wore his Prince outfit too (we left the sword at home).

Epcot wasn't that busy. We went early, we were going to have a late night so I wanted time to go back to the hotel for a siesta.

We did the Finding Nemo ride first. It was cute, but the kids liked the aquarium and information area. I got to be eaten by the shark while they were exploring.

The gardens are very bright and fun, Katheryn and Papa were pretending to be fishes!

Another ride that came highly recommended was the Soaring ride. I totally agree! It was amazing, it is a ride simulation of flying over California (I think, I forget...) and the kids all loved it! It is high on the list of our favorite things.
Then we went on another ride (that I thought we had time for) that was a boat ride that took 25 minutes! 25 minutes that we did not have because then we had to race through half of Epcot to make our lunch reservations for noon.

It was at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, in Norway, where there princesses will come to visit your table and mingle with you. I was a little worried about the traditional Norway food. But everything was excellent! (Except maybe the price, but hey, we got to eat with Princesses!)
I highly recommend the meatballs

When we came in, we got to have a picture taken with Belle and have her sign our autograph books. But she wasn't actually in the dining hall. While we were seated each princess came to visit our table, talk with the kids and sign autographs.

There was Snow White, Jasmine, Ariel, and Cinderella.
Ariel was the favorite! She got right down on level with Katheryn and Nick and interacted with them. They also each had princess voices, Ariel had a funny bubbly voice.

Katheryn loved it! Nick really enjoyed it too!
There were lots of kids there, and so many girls had princess dresses on that I was so glad that Katheryn bought one and she could wear it.

We knew ahead of time which princesses were going to be at the lunch, and Katheryn's favorite (Aurora) wasn't going to be there. So after our excellent lunch we headed off to France to meat Aurora.

We got there just as she was finishing. And they said they would be back in 30 minutes (each princess has a handler that talks to you). So instead of going anywhere else, we decided to just set up camp where we were and then we would be first in line.

It got really hot, and the original line was all in the sun, but on the other side of a little garden area she would be in, it was all shade. Since we were the first in line, we just went in the shade on the other side, and people started lining up behind us.
Papa and Nick took a little break in the shade, and Katheryn made a new friend while we waited.

Then Katheryn got to meet her favorite princess! Aurora, who is better known as Sleeping Beauty. Katheryn was so excited that they had matching dresses

And Nick was very shy around her as well, but she got right down to talk to Nick in his wheelchair.

After meeting Aurora, Katheryn was ready to take off her heavy dress! I can imagine why the Princesses need to take breaks through the day, just to get out of the heat!

In Epcot, France is the opposite side of the entrance. Pretty much the farthest away from the entrance. We did have a FastPass for another ride, and we missed our time.
But we took our time to walk back. There is a Garden Show at Epcot through the month and they had lots of characters made out of bushes.

We did find some places for some photos too!

We stopped in some shops on the way back. I found this little British store that was full of Dr Who stuff! Of course I bought something (only a Who-geek like me would understand), and the bonus is that it meant I actually had a clean shirt I could wear

Katheryn got a matching Princess shield and grown and sword to Nick. So that meant we had everything we needed for some knight-flights!

We went back to the hotel early because  we still had a busy night ahead of us!
We had a couple of more rides that were on our wish-list, but we decided that a rest was more important (we also missed the crepes in France that were on my wish list as well, but we still full from lunch).

When I was doing all of my research about Disney, I thought that it was very girl-oriented and I wanted something for boys. I found a blog post about a pirate ship adventure called Pirate and Pals Firework Voyage. I found that it was a bit difficult to find on the Disney website, but when I found it I had to call Disney directly to book.
I think I made these reservations in February. It was only available a couple of nights, and they assured me that the boat was accessible (and it was). Nick went in walker and was fine.

I was worried about being there on time, and it was at one of the Disney Hotels. So we got there super early and ate dinner in their cafeteria, and then played with some of their decorations while we waited.

Because it was a fireworks show, it didn't start until late.
Everyone got a pirate bandanna while we waited and they had some activities and colouring to do.

In one of the rooms they had a desert party, with pirate songs (from Jake and the Neverland Pirates) and 2 special guests. Captain Hook and Smee!

Nick said that he didn't want to see Captain Hook, but eventually, with Katheryn by his side he did see Captain Hook and Smee and got their autograph

Everyone was divided up into 2 different boats (Captain Hook boat and Smee boat) and then headed out to the dock.
Each boat had a guide and ours was great! He was so entertaining for the trip and talked to every family. Nick and I sat at the back, in a raised area that his walker could go on. We actually had the best seats in the house... or boat!

The fireworks were great! I am not sure what the show is like if you are in the park, but this was fantastic (another favorite of the trip), it wasn't just fireworks, but it was a whole show with music and everything.

And we were far enough away that it wasn't too loud for Nick. He really, really enjoyed it. And the 2 of us cuddled and listened to Disney and watched a beautiful show in the sky and it was perfect.

After the show was done the boat took us back to the dock, we played some quiz games on the way back and Katheryn won a pirate ducky, and every kid got something from the treasure chest.
When we got to the dock there was someone special waiting for us! Peter Pan!

We got to wait (in line of course) for a chance to see Peter Pan (because we had Nick in his walker we were at the end of the line). I hadn't brought any of the line-waiting stuff I had in my Disney bag, but all the kids at the end of the line entertained themselves.

Nick asked Peter Pan how he got rid of Captain Hook, Peter Pan told Nick about how he tricked Hook by hiding treasure on Skull Rock and then taking his ship with all their treasure.

The kids really liked Peter, and he was very fun, cheerful and child-like. He told the kids stories about how he would trick Captain Hook and Smee.

It was a perfect day!
Except of course for the luggage situation.

When we got back to the Hotel around 11pm I really hoped that our luggage would be there! It had been 48 hours by this time.  We had over-reached all of the clothing we had with us, and I did not pack any bathing suits in our carry on.
Katheryn was very upset and cried that she wouldn't be able to go swimming!
Needless to say, when I got back to our room and still had no luggage, I was back on the phone and leaving another unanswered message and then online chatting with someone who said it was in transit and they would call me back. After 45 minutes of waiting, with everyone else asleep, I went to bed.
Hopefully we would have luggage in the morning.
I did leave a message with the front desk that we did not want anything to be delivered to our room in the middle of the night.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Magic Kingdom ... Day 1

We woke up in Florida!!
Now it was time to follow my schedule!
... I mean, Now it is time for some fun!

I did a lot of preparation before we came. I joined a Tips for Special Needs at Disney facebook group and reviewed the Disney World Disability page, we had a 2015 Disney vacation book, I pinned lots of stuff on Pinterest and talked to people about their experiences. I researched what to do in Florida, what activities we can do and where we can stay.

When we woke up in Florida we had a little bit of time to explore the hotel and eat before going out.

I brought a surprise for everyone (and luckily didn't pack it in my luggage, which still hadn't arrived) and we all had some mouse ears! We looked around the hotel a bit and went for breakfast, before heading out to Disney World!

One of the things that I was worried about was the Disability Access Pass. This pass allows the holder (the one with the disability) to get a time to return and go through the Fast Pass line. This means if the wait for a ride (or character greeting) is 1 hour, you get a time 1 hour later (they write it on a booklet they give you, but I have heard that as of April 30 it is now all on your Disney pass now, and the DAS link is from April 30), and you can only have one time at a time.

But I have heard of kids who were not accepted for the pass. So I was worried about that, yes Nick uses a wheelchair and it is difficult for 2 kids to wait in a line but they would have to just do it... (unlike someone with Autism for example where they are not able to wait). After talking to other parents they talked about stuff like medication (and overheating), bathroom issues and wheelchair accessibility that is just normal life for us, but still impacts the ability to wait in line.
Of course all that worry, my father went to Guest Relations with Nick in his chair and they took Nick's picture and gave him a card and we were on our way

I followed all of the tips for what to pack in your Disney bag, including entertainment, change of clothes (which was out actual clothes), bubbles, markers and notebooks, games and activity packs and food and water. And it made a very heavy bag. I also had a portable charger, because my phone was actually my camera and I wanted to get pictures of everything! Disney world has free wifi, so I had internet while there too (otherwise my phone was on airplane mode).

When we first arrived the first thing we did was wait in line of a couple of people, for a princess. There weren't that many people in the line and thought sure! We didn't know that some of the line was on the other side of the gate. But they closed the gate and took a quick break when we were at the front, but that meant when the princess came back we were first! We only waited about 30 minutes in total.

The kids each got to try out their own autograph books (which I made, with Katheryn's covered in Disney princesses, and Nick's was covered in Ninja turtles). The autograph books were photo albums that I covered, and it had cue cards that could be signed. So when we get home one side can have the picture with the princess and the other side is the signature.

Our first Princess was Merida the princess from Brave.

She was great, and got right down in the ground to be on level with Nick. The kids both thought that it was great that they got to meet a princess

Then we headed to our favorite ride!
The tea cups!
With Nick is his wheelchair we didn't wait in the regular line, but waited at the exit and went on the next round of rides (there was a short wait for this ride). They offered a special seat to get Nick transferred from his chair into the cup, but we didn't need it.

Katheryn is pretending to be afraid before the ride starts, but really it was Nick who was nervous.

Katheryn got right into it once the ride started. And the kids liked it best when Papa made the teacup go "backwards". Not really sure what the difference was, but it got them laughing and laughing! Nick said he had fun, but didn't want to do it again.

We did a couple of Fast Passes, which means that you get to pick 3 rides that you get skip the line for at certain times that are booked 30 days ahead of time.
I had booked a FastPass for the Toy Story game in Tomorrowland (which is one of the areas of the park). The Toy Story ride lets you shoot the aliens and fight with Buzz Lightyear.

Papa and Nick rode in one car, it was dark and a little noisy (so Nick didn't like it that much). You could also turn your car around in circles (and hope it doesn't make Grandma sick).

It was pouring rain, so the rain coats came out of the bag for a while. We didn't do any of the other rides in Tomorrow Land, something about riding in metal rides during a rain storm didn't seem like a good idea.

We went to the Dumbo ride, which was on Katheryn's ride list. Nick waited in line with us (5 minute wait), and then at the last minute said he was afraid to go up on the ride. I was hesitant to make him go on the ride (even though it is pretty low-key).

So Grandma and Nick went shopping under the Big Top and Katheryn and I went on the ride over and over again!

Nick didn't mind missing the ride, he was happy that he got a big lollipop!

And he made sure he got one for Katheryn as well.

We found a slower ride for Nick to ride. The carousal. He was nervous about getting on one of the horses, so Nick went in the sleigh with Papa. (Nick is a very cautious boy, in case the last 5 years didn't teach us that)

The rest of us each got a horse, Katheryn said her horse was chasing and trying to bite everyone elses. Grandma and I each got a horse next to each other, and took some pictures.

We still had lots to do. We had enough time with the Fast Passes and the rain that we could get on the smaller rides without problem. And we still had time for everyone to rest when we wanted to. Some of the Fast Passes that I picked had wait lines of only 10-20 minutes.

We did the Philharmagic Show. It was a 4D music show with Mickey and characters. It was a fun show and had music from most of the Disney shows. We sat in the very back (with the wheelchair), Nick wasn't very happy when he got splashed by water, but it was a great show (one of the highlights of the day)

One of the things I was excited for the kids was the Enchanted Tales with Belle. It wasn't it ride, it wasn't a play but it was somewhere in between.

The characters all moved and talked and were part of the story. And the plan was the put on a play for Belle who was coming to the castle. Kids got to play parts in the play, and all of the kids got to be a part as well (Nick was a picture frame and Katheryn was a plate).

I had read that you had to volunteer to be part of the play to meet Belle. And at the end, all of the kids got to meet Belle. It was really fun and interactive for the kids (see Lumière in the background? he moves and talks and is part of the story)

We had all of the Fast Passes done and went on some other rides. There is a way to use the FastPasses and Disability Pass and get extra FastPasses, but we weren't that organized. We looked for lines that were short, and then used the Disability Pass for long line ups.
We used out first Disability time for the Peter Pan ride. It had an hour wait, so we went to the Fast Pass line up, asked for a time and they wrote it down in our book. So we could come back after at least 1 hour, and explore, eat or go on some shorter rides.

We went on It's a Small World (it had a 10 minute wait). The kids thought it was fun, with the puppets and colours and catchy song (la la la la la, la la la la la). Of course it is an old one with puppets, nothing too dark or loud. Lots of bright and moving puppets.

And the kids liked the song of course ( Katheryn was very interested that we were floating in the water (and had to be told not to put her hands in the water and splash people)

With all of the rides we said Nick could get out of his chair and we would carry him on the ride. The Peter Pan ride is one that says you must be able to ambulate. They told us that was because in an emergency you would have to go up and down a ladder. (You fly through the air in a boat and watch scenes from Peter Pan below).

We were all Magic Kingdomed out for the day and it was time to head back to the hotel.

Before it was time to go we had to stop in at a dress shop (Katheryn had a surprise for lunch tomorrow and her 2 princess dresses were lost in transit).
So Katheryn spent her birthday money on a Princess Aurora dress

And Nick sweet-talked his way into a prince costume!

We got a family picture in front of the castle before we left

14,000 steps for the day, and Grandma and Papa survived!