When I last wrote about my health, I was dehydrated and had spent the better part of a week sicker than a dog. One morning in the treatment center with fluids dripping into my veins and I was a new woman. Restored. Reinvigorated. Re-hydrated. I was ready.
That night (Monday) I packed a bag for us (both of us packed into an average size bag, a first for me, chronic over-packer than I am). Sofie packed her toy bag and we were good to go. Our friends Nancy Frank and her wonderful daughter Rosalie had been with us the past week, helping me when I was so sick I could not get out of bed. Now we were all going to have the times of our lives!
Tuesday, April 10th
Up early and off to the airport to catch our Southwest flight to Orlando! Jamie arrived right on schedule and we loaded up the car (tight with five of us) and headed out. After a solid night's sleep, I felt ready to go. I was taking my newest anti-nausea drug, Marinol, with me. Marinol is essentially pot in a pill and the way they say to do it is to keep taking it to keep the levels up. So I take one little pill every six hours. And so far, it is working just great.
We arrive in Orlando and take a taxi to the (cheap) Travelodge. First sign as we pull in, the front entrance is closed (due to construction) and we enter from the back! Was this a sign of things to come? We did not expect a lot for $69.99 per night, (plus tax). We registered, and were told that indeed we had adjoining rooms as we requested, non-smoking and "pool view". Which was good, because it appeared the alternative was "construction view".
The shuttle schedule was presented to us and that was our first clue that things were not going to be what they had sounded like on the phone or on the net. We were SOL on the shuttle going anywhere near Disney, it left at 9 AM and again at around 11 AM.
The room had that funky smell, a mixture of old smoke (there were ashtrays, albeit clean ones, in both of the rooms), but opening the balcony sliding doors helped air it out. The old smoke smell mingled with dirty carpet smell, chemical carpet cleaner smell and the general smell of musty wet swimwear. Lovely. But hey, we weren't going to spend much time in these rooms anyway.
After putting our stuff away, we started to get annoyed that the hotel had misrepresented the shuttle schedule. It had been a question I asked each place, and they had misled me. They would not send or fax the schedule in advance, even though I had asked for a copy. They did give us one at check in, but they had said they had a shuttle with "many options". Since when is many defined as two in the AM and two in the PM? And the ones in the PM were before the fireworks, something I had specifically asked about. I had been reassured that we would be able to get the shuttle up to an hour post the Epcot show at 9. They lied.
It was nearly 1:30 so Nancy decided to ask the hotel to "make good" on what we were told and pay for our transportation that day. Somehow, with her excellent negotiating (I was too pissed to be nice at that point) they agreed and we departed in the van shortly thereafter.
Did I mention it was raining, pretty much all day? Drizzle, then rain, then moisture of undetermined nature, then more rain.
We went directly to Epcot, where I rented a scooter to conserve energy. We started in the more "science" part, going to the all-Nemo, all the time undersea adventure. Then we saw Ellen DeGeneres (she is everywhere) doing a presentation on energy that had dinosaurs in it (the reason for the interest for the kids). We wandered around a view more things, then had some food. Kids have to eat, you know. And they wanted sugar, so they had to have lunch first.
Ah, the Disney food. It is not bad, actually the burgers they have were more than OK, and the kids meals are served with choices of carrots, grapes and/or applesauce and are only $3.99 with a small beverage. Nancy and I had discussed previously that we were going to attempt to make "healthy" food choices the whole time at Disneyworld. We watched ourselves break that intention the first time the kids chose the restaurant. Burgers. Fries. Pretty much the way the next four days would go! Round that out with pizza, chicken fingers and mac and cheese and you have a kids dream meal plan.
We went to the "international" side of Epcot, where the most compelling country is Norway because they have hands down, the best ride. Every kid I have known loves it. We had to go twice. We visited a bunch of other pavilions (like those at the World's Fair I remember going to as a young person). Mexico was the one that (always) gets to me, it presents it as spotlessly clean, with happy, happy little people singing their hearts out. No illegal immigration, no fences or police presence. No poverty. No lack of resources. It is a Disney Mexico, after all. The mercado (market) they had set up was kind of cool, for browsing around. Even the restaurant, the sit down one, where they make it look like the night sky, looked appealing. But it was almost time for fireworks and their light show.
Besides getting into rides or attractions without the longer lines, the scooter was a blessing. It carried the water bottles, the jackets, the backpack. I got pretty good at maneuvering it around the tight curves of the entrance ramps. Sofie wanted to ride with me (she was pretty upset that for the first time at Disney, she was *not* getting a stroller). The Disney folks are very strict about no riders, no kids on the scooters. I am sure it is all a liability for them. Sofie tried my lap one time and there was a Disney cast member chiding me within sixty seconds!!!
But people in wheelchairs and scooters and their friends get to go in the disabled section to view the fireworks!!! This almost made the cost of the scooter seem like a good investment. The rain had abated and we got to see the Illuminations show in all it's glory.
We then departed with two very tired girls, back in our paid in advance van, back to the hotel.
Nancy, who speaks pretty good Spanish, cut a deal with the driver for future transportation. We were good to go. We would spend some extra cash on vans, but we would have our flexibility.
Sofie protested she was not sleepy, but she was out the moment her head touched the pillow.
Sweet, happy little snores.
Wednesday, April 11th
Nancy and Rosie are later sleepers than we are. We decided to let the girls go swimming before we left the hotel. They were very happy campers on that front.
We headed to MGM Studios, as that was the location of something rather important: The High School Musical "Pep Rally". For those of you who don't have a clue about why this is significant, High School Musical is a movie for the tween set that is a must see, with cute boys, perky girls and a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney kind of "let's put on a show" feel. I actually rented it in anticipation of the Disney visit. Sofie seemed to like it and she is far from a tweener!
The movie set special effects presentation as well as others were fun for all. We tried to get into Epcot that evening, but found out that the type of ticket we had been convinced to buy would not get us into two parks in the same day, despite what the seller of the pass had told us. We just went back to the hotel, and agreed that the day had been kind of fun, even with that disappointment.
Thursday, April 12th
Today we planned to leave kind of early and hit Magic Kingdom. We went a bit ride crazy, I went on the easy and non-centrifugal force rides, (which did not include roller coasters OR those darn teacups). Rosie was great and took Sofie on the roller coaster and the teacup ride. I got dizzy from those teacups even when I was not on chemo!!!
Magic Kingdom is all about the rides. And the Princess obsession that most girls seem to have. But Rosalie is too old and Sofie could care less! They did pose with Pooh and Tigger, but it was hardly a big deal for either of them.
So it was all about the rides. Being in the scooter got us access faster to some of them, so I got to go on Aladdin, Dumbo, Splash Mountain, and yes, even It's A Small World. I usually dread that one, because the song gets stuck in your head and you cannot get it out for four days. I hummed "Ave Maria" under my breath the whole time and lo and behold, it worked! Nothing stayed in my head from Small World.
We climbed up the Swiss Family Treehouse. It was fun, especially the part where we noticed that some of the trees were real, but seemed to have creative "extensions" on them to give them more of an island look. Kind of like hair extensions for trees. Use your imagination, I cannot really describe it any better! The treehouse was pretty darn fancy, it certainly would give our motel a run for the money.
We did a lot of rides, the girls were on at least 11 of them. Then we boarded the monorail and headed to Epcot (this time we had passes to "park hop"). Big highlight of this was that both girls got to ride in the very front of the car for the monorail with the conductor. A very big deal,only a few kids fit at a time. We got there and did a bit of walking about in the nations area, and saw the light show again. Then our very tired girls headed back for a good solid night's sleep.
Friday, the 13th
Not an unlucky day! But it was our last day to play. We headed to Animal Kingdom, one of my favorites, since I love all things African. And they do a pretty good job. We went to see Festival of the Lion King and got seats in the first row of the Lion section. This is significant, as the acrobats and characters come and shake your hands, and that thrilled Sofie. I will try to post the really good photo of all of us that we got someone to take. The show was entertaining, not the stage show of Broadway fame, but fun. Sofie talked me into buying her two stuffed little lions, baby Simba and baby Nala. I am such a pushover.
We then headed out for some of the cooler rides, as we only had half a day in this park. We went on the Safari ride and then headed to the newest ride, "Expedition Everest- Legend of the Forbidden Mountain". This is another roller coaster, so I passed. Rosalie and Sofie waited 40 minutes in line to do this ride. I headed out to find food for our drive to Tampa.
The ride, according to Sofie, was "really scary" because it went backwards. She said she almost cried, but was glad she did it. Sadly, it was our last ride there, because we had to drive the rental car to Tampa to fly back to our respective homes.
While getting the food, one of those incredible things happened. I had been trying for two days to hook up with my friend Kathy who is a producer at Disney. She was actually showing family around and although on Wednesday we both had spent hours in Magic Kingdom, we never were on the same side of the park at the same time! But while standing in the line for food, there she was, one line over. It was a short visit, but fun that it happened at all.
We drove from the park to Tampa, where we said a sad goodbye to Nancy and Rosie. It was really fun spending time with them, and Sofie looked up to Rosie a lot, like a big sister thing. Nancy about saved my life by taking over Sofie care when I was sick (before we left for the Disney trip) and I am very grateful to her. It really was a wonderful visit.
Disneyworld is a fun short trip for us and I imagine we will be back a number of times. We aren't one of those crazy Disney families, but it is a great and entertaining way to spend part of Spring break!
We were picked up at RDU by Jamie, who took Sofie to her condo for the weekend. I realized, alone in my house, it was the first time in literally months that I had the place to myself for a few days in a row. It was heaven. I read a book for over an hour in the morning over coffee. I cleaned a closet or two. I did a bit of nothing. Ahhhhh.