Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Universal Studios

The day after we finished at Disney, we had a day at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.  Eric and I had been here on our honeymoon for just a day, and I had been here on a different band trip.  Both of us were a bit apprehensive about this one, just because we hadn't come as parents before and weren't sure there would be much for our kids to do. 

We had nothing to worry about! 

Now, remember... this isn't Disney.  There are different characters, different rides, yes.  But there is just a different feel of every amusement park, and this one isn't Disney.  But it's still very cool and worth it! 

Daddy and Richie at lunch in Circus McGurkus
 I gotta tell you... our best story about this park has nothing to do with this particular trip.  On our honeymoon, just before we were to leave to make our flight back to Texas, we found out the hard way that Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barge Adventure really will get you wet! It's not one of those rides where they say you'll get soaked then you're dry except for the seat of your pants.  This one will drench you to the skin!  So save yourself the trouble, unless you just really want to be wet.  It is a cool ride!

Ryan and Richie in the Carou-seuss-el... look at mommy, boys!  Eh, never mind.

Here's the guyzos and I on the One Fish, Two Fish ride.  I think it was easily their favorite!  It's similar to the rockets at the Magic Kingdom except you're riding in... you guessed it... a fish.  The arms go up and down, and here's where the twist comes in.  There are fish on poles that spit water as you go by!  Another one where you're going to get at least a little wet.  The guys loved it!

Then there was the Harry Potter area of the park.  

WOW.  Just wow.  This part of the park (and some good-natured shaming from my middle school band kids) prompted my reading all the Harry Potter series this summer.  What?  I hadn't read Harry Potter?  Yeah, one of the weird Crystal-things is that I just don't generally jump on the bandwagon of what everyone else seems to be doing.  I'm kinda strange like that.   

Anyway...  we took this picture because the kids are train-crazy.  Then after we read the first book with the kids, this became their favorite picture from this day.  

Richie turns out to be quite the coaster head!  I never would have thought that about him, but he loves them.  So Daddy and Mommy took turns riding coasters with Richie.  Maelynn just didn't care for them, or doesn't yet, anyway.  Ryan loves them, but wants to watch and not ride.  So there you go.  The smaller HP coaster was perfect for Richie.  Here's he and Daddy after riding that one.

Waiting to ride the train around Seuss land!

So all in all, I'd say Universal has a lot to offer, especially if you're more into coasters than shows and ambience.  As for the disability pass, theirs is (they say) accidentally just like Disney's.  You get a card to present to the ride attendant at the beginning of the line, who then writes a time to return after.  It's just like a fast pass, and was again quite helpful! 

The biggest shout-out I'd like to give is for their park security and medical/first aid staff.  Richie had a first-time reaction to something (after much testing we think it was a kind of fish) we ate for dinner, and it reached its worst when we got back to the van.  Mom ran and got a security guard in the parking garage, who then called their medical staff.  They were there within five minutes, and within another ten, Richie and I were aboard an ambulance bound for the hospital. They were caring and helpful, and went above and beyond in making sure Mom knew how to get to the hospital, since she had Ryan and Maelynn in tow while I went with Richie. 

So began our adventurous trip home.  Such a wonderful time! 

Thanks be to God for keeping little Richie safe, and for the guys who helped so much that day!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Disney Day 3

All you bloggers... if you get out of the habit of posting a few times a week, it's hard to get back in it.  Argh.  

So here we are at the Magic Kingdom.  In case you've noticed (or haven't) we don't often manage to get all three kids in a picture.  I know so many of you are nodding and amen-ing... it's hard to get three kids, special needs or no, to even stand still at the same time much less smile.  Or look the same direction.  Or look at all.  

Here's Richie all captured with the evil emperor Zurg.  He was all excited to shoot the aliens with Buzz in our first ride that day!  Great place to start.  Ryan liked the "shell rides" the most, even though he didn't wear 3D glasses or do any shooting.

Then it was off to the rockets, Richie's choice.  Here are Maelynn and Daddy under the Rockets... so cool how everything is put together at Disney!

Ready to blast off!  Richie the astronaut ready to go!

And sister's turn.  Okay, well... Ryan's turn too.  He loves carousels, and this was something he looked forward to every day of the trip.  We heard "You will ride the carouseeeeel!" about a hundred times a day, even after we rode it.  

There are some things he's so eager for, then still there are elements he can't do right away, as evidenced by his ears covered above.  Sister, on the other hand, just wanted to be able to see!

Here's the happy rider!  

After the carousel, it was time to do a bit of window shopping.  Not the boys' favorite thing... okay, not Ryan's favorite thing... but we got a sort-of shot with Minnie for the biggest fan in the family. 

Then we stepped outside to Mama's favorite view...

As I've told you before, I have a ridiculous crush on all things Cinderella's castle.  I know, I know.  But  you have to admit it's cool!

Then it was time for sister's big birthday present.  One more last hug and thank-you for Daddy, then we headed into the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  

Turns out our fairy godmother, Morgan Honey, was from the fairest kingdom in all the land... Texas!  She and Maelynn chatted as they worked.  This is where the day went wonky.  My phone died. No problem, I'll just get out the portable charger Eric sent with me.  

Imagine my frustration as I reached for the plug for my iPhone 4... and it was a charger for an iPhone 5.  So all I could do was ask around, and of course no one had one.  Thankfully there was a photo package included, so there was a photographer there getting some shots of the fun.  Here's the last pic I got with my dying phone...

This experience was great.  They really go out of their way to make the girls feel special.  The best part of the whole thing was when Maelynn started to nod off!  It had been such a great day, and this was the thing she'd looked forward to the very most, and even with me tickling her, she fell asleep.  She did wake back up, but it took awhile!

After this, we went to her little photo shoot that was also included in her package, me asking the whole time if anyone had a charger.  No dice.  Then the moment came that I dreaded.  No way to get hooked back up with the rest of the family!  We wandered a bit, then when I realized how crazy it was to expect us to find them in this huge place, I looked at the dream-come-true at the end of my arm and decided that we'd just have fun and they'd find us eventually.  

A few minutes later, I found myself beside my beautiful daughter, riding the carousel in the Magic Kingdom.  The sunlight sparkled on the glittery, soft blue dress, with her sweet, soft hands clutching her magic wand and the horse's pole, and I started to get upset that I couldn't capture this moment.  Stupid phone.  

But wait... I have this treasure.  I have it in my heart.  So I took the time to drink in her beauty and wonder, to sear this memory on my heart.  She giggled and pointed at things she wanted me to see; I acknowledged them and talked with her and kissed her forehead, amazed at the goodness of God.  

It was one of those moments when the realization hits that you're truly given what you desire most.

The rest of the day, we did more fun stuff.  We rode the Ariel ride, and every other little thing we could find the kids would like.  Then we staked out our spot for fireworks.  

It had been the third in a string of long days, and the kids were exhausted.  We sat with both the double strollers (one for Ryan, one for the littles) and enjoyed the light parade.  Then the fireworks started.  This is one of my very favorite things about Disney.  

Daddy held his baby girl, and I held Richie on my shoulders, and we watched in exhausted amazement at not just the fireworks, nor the music... but the fact that we were THERE.  We were doing something we didn't think we'd be able to do.  We didn't see the way.  As a matter of fact, in about Louisiana, when Ryan had been screaming for over an hour from the back of the van, I stopped and got him out in a parking lot to calm down.  I called Eric, almost in tears, and told him that I might have to turn back and go home.  This trip was a major challenge, and I was scared.  But Ryan calmed after about ten minutes, and we finished the nine-hour drive of the day toward Disney.  

And I'm so glad.

We now feel ten feet tall and bulletproof.  Okay, maybe just in comparison with how scared we were to do even the most simple of trips with all three kids before.  We had read all the reviews of how bad people thought the new disability pass was, and how it ruined their ability to go to Disney with their families.  Everything that could have made us second guess our decision to take the kids this time was conquered either by realizing the truth or just perseverance.  No, by stepping out and trying... testing our wings and trusting that God would like for us to enjoy life.

After the fireworks, Eric had to head back to meet the band.  Mom and I stayed with the kids to wait for the crowds to die down, and of course had to get a Dole whip float.  MMMMMMM.

Yep, that's me.  What's a trip to Disney without an ear hat, y'all?!

On the way back to the front of the park, Ryan kept yelling, "No boat!" at random.  The only problem was that the line for the bus back to parking was about a mile long, but the ferry line was incredibly short.  So I looked at my sweet son, and told him we'd get on the water bus.

Thank the Lord, it worked.  Once he was on the ferry water bus, he hopped off the bench when he heard the horn and exclaimed, "Ahoy, mateys!"

Needless to say, it was not a problem.  He enjoyed the water bus.

And here's the shadow of a happy family sans Daddy (who was also happy, but had to be with the band on the bus).

So much wonder packed into such a short time.  Then there's the jolt back to reality.  

This was one of my dearest shots.  Exhausted, living the dream, happy, and ready to sleep, looking for the hotel room door.

It was a great trip.  Truly a blessing and a fabulous experience all around.  If there's one thing I'd say about it, it would be to try it.  If you really want it, try it.  Be smart, be ready to roll with whatever happens, try to go in with few expectations.  But try.  Step out and give it a shot. 

The disability pass does help.  It's like having the ability to have two fast passes running concurrently.  As someone who firmly believes in teaching kids to wait, that life isn't fair, and that's just how it is, having that ability did make it easier to do the trip.  I wouldn't have wanted to go straight to the front of the line like I've heard the old pass worked.  This way we were given the little boost we needed to level the playing field, and that is what it's all supposed to be about.  

And yes, we're currently saving to go as a family.  All the kids loved it, and Ryan even asks when we're going again. 

If there was one thing I'd say I learned from this trip, it's to do the hard things.  Yes, sometimes we need to go easy on ourselves.  Give ourselves grace, rest, and not go too crazy.  But to never do things because they might go badly?  We're getting better about that.  And this trip was a huge lesson in how great things can go.

Thanks be to God for true courage.  The kind only he gives.  The kind you don't know you have till you look back and say, "Holy cheese, WE DID IT."  

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