Sunday, November 30, 2008

Make-A-Wish Day 1

Today Max’s Make-A-Wish trip started pretty magically although bleary eyed. Tracy stressed herself out enough to get sick last night as happens before every vacation so she and Bob were up until 1 am. Alarms started going off at 5:15 AM and by 5:45 AM, Tracy, Max and Bob had showered and Gwendolyn and Olivia were awake and dressed. Nighttime accoutrements were stowed in a carryon bag and a small scramble to figure out what had been forgotten was started. Bob venture outside at 6:10 am to make sure that our driver would have no problem finding the house and was surprised to find a white stretch limo with driver, Arlan, waiting at the end of the driveway in a lightly falling snow. It was just like out of a movie. Max was called outside to see what would be his first limousine. Max played about inside the car while the girls finished primping and Bob brought the bags and stroller out to Arlan.

By the time the limo was loaded with bags and passengers nearly a half an inch of snow had blanketed the street, grass, and cars. That along with the few that had deployed their Christmas decorations over the Thanksgiving Weekend made for a very pretty departure. On the ride, the snow turned to a heavy, wet snow and then to rain so that by the time we got to Newark it was simply a rainy city. Traffic at the airport at 7:15 am on a Sunday was about what you’d expect for one of the most traveled days of the year – absolutely packed!. It took about 10 minutes to get the limo up to the curb through all the traffic but only a minute or so to unload to the curb. It was nice not having to park the car and take the air train around. Getting the bags checked didn’t take long at all and for a change we did not get pulled out for special screening at security. In fact, we got to start our line without having to tell anyone Max was on a wish trip. We were early enough that we were able to get McDonalds at a table and relax before heading to the gate. While the girls took a bathroom break Max and Bob watched out the window and saw all 4 suit cases get onto the plane. We either missed the stroller or it has received some special attention … time will tell.

We did learn when we boarded the plane that we should’ve told the gate attendant that Max is traveling courtesy of Make-A-Wish as the would’ve let him tour the cockpit and meet the crew prior to boarding the other passengers. We’ll do that on the way home. We got situated and pulled away from the gate on time but waited in the big queue of planes for about 45 minutes. We’re now airborne and south of Dover Delaware and expect to arrive in Orlando on time.

Well, we ended up getting to Orlando a little late but nothing too bad. The flight was uneventful aside from mild turbulence for most of the trip. Gwendolyn was able to complete her reading assignment on the way and is now officially done with homework until December 8! Because of weather in the area we did take a while to land but we were in row 8 so we got off the plane very quickly. As is our normal routine, (since Bob had the misfortune of being with Max in the plane commode just prior to descent when we hit some wicked turbulence and scared Max so badly that he won’t go on the plane short of a dire emergency) we stopped at the restrooms near our gate. The girls went first and quickly. I headed in with Max but he has to wait for a stall rather than use a urinal so Bob was finished well in advance of Max. After cleaning up, Bob looked around and saw that Max was trying to peer between the cracks of a handicap stall :( The bathroom was packed with people, some equally shocked by what Max was doing, so one failed attempt to put an end to his behavior was enough and they left with Max’s bladder still full. On the walk to the next restroom Bob tried to explain to Max that looking through the cracks like that was a huge invasion of someone’s personal space but he was stuck on the thought that the stall was unoccupied but locked. We settled on a rule of “It is okay to push the door gently but if it doesn’t move, that is the end of testing because it is either occupied or broken.” I’m pretty certain he still does not understand because he immediately looked between the cracks in the next restroom but that one was completely unoccupied. Note to Bob: figure something out before Max gets hurt by someone that doesn’t find that at all amusing.

As we walked to the baggage claim area Bob noticed that he had a backpack, a car seat and a rolling carryon, Gwendolyn had a rolling carryon and a smaller cooler, and Tracy had a bag and the hands of Max and Olivia (Max will leave the party as soon as something new and shiny comes along while Olivia will just leave without any provocation). Doing the math of 4 new and much larger bags about to join our party along with a stroller that would need pushing, it didn’t take much work to realize there might be trouble ahead. Well I only wish that I had gotten our saviors name. He showed up with a huge sky cap cart that held everything but the stroller and new exactly where AVIS was located. Bob was able to use the escalator and go ahead to do the paperwork while savior and Tracy took the elevators. I’ve never seen any airport rental car location so unbusy. Truly remarkable as there were 3 attendants and no other clients. Max informed them that he was there on his wish and all 3 women thought he was great. They didn’t even try to sell us the insurance, just told Bob to initial here to decline it all! We were done by the time the bags came off the elevator so we all headed to the minivan where savior loaded everything into the back and Bob got the car seat installed. We’re pretty certain that from baggage claim to leaving the airport took all of 20 minutes – a clear record for traveling with a family and well faster than anything Bob has done solo.

Leaving the airport we found that it was raining. Driving a little ways we realized it was, in fact, down pouring! Honestly, Bob had driven in rain like that less than a dozen times in his life. It was crazy how hard it was raining. At one point we had to stop and glide through a 2 and a half foot ‘puddle’ in the left lane of the highway that Bob thought certain would foul the brakes or stall the car but all was well. With the only real commitment of a 5:00 pm reservation at the Hoop Dee Doo Review there was no rush so we were all able to enjoy the insane rain. By the time we got to the hotel it had mostly stopped and had completely let up when we had to unpack so things really have been going well. The only hitch so far has been that the two rooms that we have do not have connecting doors. A bit of a pain but the rooms are large enough, have a safe large enough to accommodate the laptop and other electronics, and two large dorm fridges (one each) so we have plenty of cooling. Bob and Gwendolyn are sharing a king bed while Tracy and Olivia share a double in a room where Max has his own double. That will probably change when Max wakes at 3 tomorrow morning and Tracy wakes the hotel in frustration but for now Bob intends on sleeping well for at least one night.

Not having been to the Hoop Dee Doo Review ever before as a family and not for Bob since he was 13, we left plenty of time to get there. We met a very friendly guard named Kevin (I’m paying very close attention to names this week in an attempt to capture everything for Max and those that help with his wish – normally I’m beyond terrible with names) (… now that I write that Kevin might have been the guy at the ticket window – damn it) Anyway, the very friendly guard, who from this day forth shall be known only as Kevin, told Bob that he had taken the wrong entrance, needed to go a shade further and park close to an RV that was visible from their current location. He also said that a bus would be needed to get to Pioneer Hall (home of the Hoop Dee Doo Review) but that all three lines would go to Settlers. He did recommend Pierre as the fastest driver but wasn’t sure if Pierre was working today. Max and Olivia liked the bus ride a lot – they are very sheltered children living within walking distance of their own school. We drove through the Fort Wilderness cabins and saw that some folks had decorated for the holidays. It was cute. We got to Pioneer Hall and learned that we had about an hour before someone would come out to greet the crowd so we headed to the Trading Post to get Max a snack as he had refused the turkey sandwich that Continental had provided on the grounds that it was not 1) yogurt, or 2) grapes, or 3) a bagel. We found some BBQ chips, apple juice, and water and headed to the front porch of the Arcade where there were rocking chairs, blocks, dominoes, and a large chess set.

Bob learned that Gwendolyn had already finished a chess class at school so they played a game which Bob only narrowly won but drew quite a crowd. We messed around a little more looking at campers that had decorated their campsites for Christmas – one such camper had easily 3 dozen large inflatable decorations. As only Bob had been to dinner here before no one knew what to expect so when Allen sat us and said to study the menu as there would be a quiz, Max and Gwendolyn got to it. We got to talk to Tom from Camden as he was the chef and would be making sure that Gwendolyn did not have dairy or peanuts in her meal. He put everyone at ease and then Arvyn started bringing food to the table. The corn bread was to die for but after only a nibble Max was on his way to falling asleep at the table. At a loss for how to keep him awake Bob blurted out, “Come on, this show is all about bad jokes and you love bad jokes. But these are funny bad jokes I promise. In fact, if you don’t laugh at the show, I’ll pay you $20 when we’re done.” Max tried to work out an agreement where he could laugh but still get money but Bob could see that he was fully awake and working overtime to figure out how to get the money. The show was great and everyone, yes even Tracy, laughed and laughed. The food was great, Arvyn was great and the show really was a superb display of corny humor (where Roy Clark went wrong with Hee Haw I will never know ). Max attempted to renegotiate several times after small fits of laughter but during the Hokie Pokie when the red head (yeah, didn’t get those names at all) swung her hips and knocked a pan off the wall he completely lost it and just asked if he could still have the money :)

We made a stop at Super Target and Publix on the way back to the hotel and got in a little before 9 pm. The kids were in bed with most stuff unpacked by 10 pm. Tomorrow we’re heading to the Magic Kingdom for a very full day with an open of 9 am and a close of 8 pm. I have read that Max might be able to rest in the first aid room if needed but we meet with Guest Relations first to over things. We’ll certainly have more to report tomorrow.