Disney Vacation, Down Syndrome, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World

The Day I Met A Hero On Rockin’ Rollin Coaster

hope disney

What mom in her right mind takes her two special needs kiddos to Walt Disney World during the Christmas holidays?  I mean, wait times are longer than the summer tent revival altar call … and people are more wound up than the church lady who received a dose of the Holy Spirit during that tent revival meeting.  But my kiddos are suckers for Goofy in a Santa suit, and I am too.  So off we went.

Due to the throngs of Disney fans (short for fanatics for a very good reason), the Disability Access system was on overload and crashed.  As a result, for two days in a row, in order to get the much needed paper version of the disability pass, Hopey and I stood in line at Guest Relations for forty-five minutes.  The sole intention of the pass, mind you, is to avoid long lines.  Go figure.

In typical Hopey fashion, as we waited our turn in the queue, she tried her darnedest to make friends with everyone around her the only way she knows how.  She hooked her hands into the pockets of the man in front of her and yanked hard … nearly pulled the man’s britches clear to his knees.  I honestly did get a shot of his white skivvies.  He turned around and glared at me as if I was supposed to know she was going to pants him.  He’d been defenseless, poor guy, but he wasn’t her only target.  She grabbed a boob or two, pinched a teenage boy so hard he yelped, turned flips over the queue line chains, and kissed about a half dozen strangers.  By the time we reached the counter on both days, the Disney attendant was very pleased to hand me a pass and scoot us out the door and on our way.

We rode Everest, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Slinky Dog Dash, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Test Track and Tower of Terror.  While Hopey enjoys Dumbo, Pooh, Small World, and the Peter Pan ride … she lives for the thrill rides.  Each line though, even with the Disability Access Pass, was terribly long.  And in each line, I worked as diligently to manage her as she worked to “make friends”.

By the time we hit Rockin’ Roller Coaster, I was exhausted.  She looked up at me with that mischievous twinkle in her eyes, and I begged her to just stand in line patiently like everyone else.  I would’ve had better luck getting an oak tree to dance the Vietnamese Waltz.  With a tummy full of Mickey Bars, the sugar high was real.

As we waited, Hopey couldn’t help but stretch her arms out and touch anyone she could reach.  Every fiber of her being longed to share her excitement with the people around her.  Her face beamed with the biggest smile.  I imagine she wanted to tell everyone how thrilled she was to be at the most magical place on earth, but with no words, the best she could do was to tap the person next to her, in front of her, and behind her.  “We’re all riding this together, and it’s gonna be awesome!” is what she wanted to say.  But to many people in the line, she was an aggravation.  Eyes rolled.  People turned their backs to her.  And some even shot me the angry eyes.

I apologized to several people, and I actually hate when I do that.  What’s there to apologize for?  My daughter is filled to the brim and overflowing with unbridled and uninhibited joy,  but she’s unable to verbalize what she’s feeling.  What else can she do but to try to pull those around her into her world.  “Look at me!  See?  I’m just as happy as you are to ride this ride!”  She speaks the only way she can … with facial expressions, actions, and behavior.

We eventually made our way into the holding room for the pre-show, the one where Steven Tyler gives all the Disney fans  fanatics backstage passes and a limo ride, and Hopey and I ended up in front of the room right next to the door.  But when the door opened up to allow guests to ride the ride, everyone pushed in front of her.  They acted like they didn’t see her and shoved right past her.  In response, I held her close to me and told her to hold on, that we’d wait and be the last in line.

And that’s when it happened.

This man suddenly appeared in front of us, and shouted:  “This is unbelievable!”  He then jumped in front of everyone who was moving forward ahead of us, threw his arms wide open, and continued:  “Everybody stop and let this young lady get out to the ride.  She’s at the front, you’re all cutting in front of her, and it’s rude!”

A young guy tried to dart around him, but he put his hand out in front of the guy.  “That’s not gonna happen!” he stated flatly.  “It’s this angel’s turn.”

And just like that, he’d made a way for us to go in.

You might not know this, but every special needs mom is given a sixth sense.  It comes with the territory and is a not so subtle bead on the heart of people toward the special needs community at large, but especially toward her own child who has special needs.  Within seconds of meeting someone, for instance, I can tell whether the person is accepting (or not) of my two children who sport an extra chromosome.  In the special needs world, people are either all in or all out.  There’s no middle ground.  Even family members and long time friends will sometimes drop out of your life and forget your kiddo.  Being a special needs mom … and being an individual who is differently abled … is not for the faint of heart.

There are those, however, who are all in, and let me tell you, those people glow with a brightness that outshines the sun on its best day.  They dig their heels in deep and embrace that you are the ringleader of a circus where your child is the clown, the juggler, the knife thrower, the trapeze artist, the escape artist, and sometimes the ferocious lion … all rolled up into one.  But mostly our kiddos are the cute clown, eager to be funny, to charm and to make others happy.  And oh, how those amazing saints love our little clowns.  They choose mercy, grace, love, and acceptance.  They laugh when they could judge.  They press in when they could pull away.  They choose to be there.  No excuses.  No matter what.

This complete stranger was one of them.  He was all in.

It’s in moments like that when I get an extraordinary glimpse behind the veil to see what God sees.  The best in humanity.   No one else in that line or in that holding room saw Hopey.  I mean, yes, they looked at her.  But they didn’t really SEE her.  This man, however, grinned when he saw her hands flapping with enthusiasm.  He allowed her to reach out and touch his arm, made eye contact with her, and spoke to her.  Then he took a giant leap further when he publicly acknowledged her and defended her.

But most important of all, the stranger ended up making a difference.

As we waited the last few minutes for the ride, several of the people who’d been in line with us, those who’d previously ignored Hope, smiled at her.  A couple of people asked me if she was excited.  One guy gave her a high five.  I’d like to think they finally saw what they’d missed before and wanted to make up for it.  It didn’t matter to Hopey.  She was happy to share in the excitement with whoever would allow it.

To the ordinary heroes who choose to “see” what others miss.  Thank you.

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” — Zeus (Hercules)

hope and minnie mouse

Just my thoughts,

Mel

 

 

 

 

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Disney Vacation, Summer Style, Vacation

Where To Stay & How To Play On Your Summer Disney Vacay!

The kiddos and I just returned from the most magical place on earth.  While my tattered and worn-out body is back home, I think my heart stayed behind at Cinderella’s castle.  If you are a Disney fanatic like I am, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Gaaaaaah, why didn’t I just push that freezer full of Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bars back home?

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In the past, out of necessity, my family has opted for two or three bedroom suites at Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and the Tree Houses.  With Hope and Charlie, my two youngest who have Down syndrome, we’ve always needed those extra rooms.  Up until fairly recently, both battled major sleep issues.  Especially Charlie.  So if I wanted any sleep at all after walking 15,000+ steps a day at the parks, I had to have some separation from them at night.  A door to close.  A reliable lock.  And my own bed.

Things in the sleeping department are finally looking up with the little hooligans, though … Praise Jesus!!!  So this time, my crew stepped out of our comfort zone and visited Port Orleans Riverside.  It was finally our time to be close to all the action, so I requested that we be put in the middle of it all.  And let me tell you, the action was awesome!

Steps away from our room was:

  • a huge swimming pool with a slide
  • an excellent food court that serves create your own pasta, burgers, salads, and ice cream sundaes
  • a nice sit down restaurant with live entertainment
  • a General Store that has everything from aspirin and peanut butter to flips flops and jewelry
  • a water taxi that sails regularly to Disney Springs
  • and a running/walking path

If we’d had more time, we could’ve roasted marshmallows over an open fire while catching a movie on the expansive lawn.  Again, only steps away from our room.  The downside to our stay, of course, is that we didn’t have as much space.  But who goes to Disney to stay in a room?  The price difference?  $250.00 vs. $700.00 per night.  Let me tell you, the savings is still feeling really good.

As annual pass holders, we go to Disney at least three to four times a year.  It’s like our second home … the one I love far more than my primary home.   I couldn’t count the number of times we’ve been even if I tried to piece it together.  As a result, people are always asking me for Disney advice.  And since it’s one of my favorite subjects to talk about, I’m more than happy to oblige.

Summer, because kiddos aren’t in school, is typically known as the time of year when the parks are the busiest.  However, from my experience, the parks are always hopping no matter the season.  By following some simple tips, though, Walt Disney World can be thoroughly enjoyed without a lot of stress and anxiety.  So put on your mouse ears and listen up:

  1. Pack light
  2. Wear comfy shoes
  3. Visit every park and thoughtfully take in all the nuances that make each one unique
  4. Say no to the dining plan unless your family, as a group, eats a whole heckuva lot
  5. Learn to use the Fast Pass system and stay on schedule
  6. Reserve your spot at a Disney Resort — the benefits are worth the extra $$$
  7. Utilize every single extra magic hour
  8. Go to the pool during the heat of the day while everyone else is melting in the parks
  9. If your child has special needs, get a Disability Access Pass
  10. Opt for the magic band and load a credit card on it to save time
  11. Eat at the resort … snack at the parks
  12. Bring a back pack into the parks to carry bottled water and snacks
  13. It’s worth the wait to visit the characters
  14. The fireworks, shows, and parades are a must
  15. Ride every ride at least one time, except Mission: SPACE  (you’d have to be crazy to ride that ride!)
  16. Eat the Mickey Ice Cream Bar
  17. Leave your troubles behind and allow yourself to escape to another world … Walt Disney World!

What shoes to wear?

In warmer months, I wear these Taos sandals to Disney.  True to form, I wore them this last trip.  In three days, I walked nearly 50,000 steps and my feet didn’t bother me once.  Some people refuse to pay $100.00 for a pair of sandals, but for the sake of your feet, it’s at least something to consider.  This is my second pair of these exact same sandals, by the way.  In the summer, they are my go-to when walking long distances.  They come in multiple colors, but I prefer the pewter color because they match everything:

disney 80What clothes to wear?

Shorts, of course …  OR.  YOU.  WILL.  DIE!!!  Seriously, ladies, you’ll die.

As for shirts, I pack tops that don’t require a bra.  haha.  But that’s how I roll.  For me, less is more when the temperature is reaching for that one-hundred degree mark.  American Eagle has a conservative version of the tube top right now.  They are super soft, priced right, and fit perfectly.  I’ve purchased two so far (see photos below).  I wore them for hours at Disney.  Stayed cool.  And didn’t have to tug at them once.   All of my clothes on this trip were from American Eagle:

As for the kiddos,  I pack a very good fitting pair of sneakers for each and loose clothing.  In addition, I throw an extra set of clothes into the backpack for Hope and Charlie, just in case they need to change in the parks.  You never know.  Big spills happen.  Most important is the obvious:  hydrate, hydrate, and keep hydrating is the key with children during the summer.  Florida sunshine, concrete, big crowds, and long lines mean you heat up fast.

In three days, we rode every ride on our list while still spending a couple of hours at the pool each day.  It’s possible if you utilize the extra magic hours, the Fast Pass system, and stay on schedule.  Also, to make the most of our time, we ate every meal at our resort.  The food was so yummy.  To top it all, even though we ended each night by dividing a ginormous triple scoop ice cream sundae, I still lost two pounds.  Walt Disney World truly is a magical place!

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

Just my thoughts,

Melanie