First of all, I should let you know that we are actually home from our trip now, but as you will see by reading the blog, we were a bit too busy to give me time to blog when we were away. *Warning….these posts could get a little long!!!*
Last night, Jesse and I treated the family to a sleep-over at the hotel at our local airport. We did this for three reasons. Firstly, I am a chronic over-packer. If you leave me with too much time on my hands, I’ll just keep packing, and packing, and packing! Because we had such a busy week before we left, I knew I wouldn’t have too much time to pack on Friday, so forcing me to get out of the house early was one way to ensure we minimized our packing a bit.
The second reason we decided to book a hotel was simply that it was an opportunity to start vacation mode a half day early. We had been freakishly busy with doctor’s appointments and such in July, so we were ready to have some fun! This gave us an opportunity to take the kids for a nice swim the day before and enjoy a hotel right in our own city (the hotel was gorgeous by the way – with tonnes of interesting nooks and spaces to explore).
Finally, we had to be at the airport by about 5:15 a.m., and I was worried that I would be the first person on the planet to miss their Wish Trip because they slept in! So, we minimized the possibility of that with two wake up phone calls, and a quick walk next door without even having to go outside. How awesome is that!!!
We managed to get through security and customs fairly quickly on the morning of our trip. I laughed to myself as I watched Jesse have to take his sandals off and walk through security barefoot. He’s got some weird phobias about getting diseases in airports. I had encouraged him to wear sandals on the plane despite his protests about getting strange feet diseases. I totally forgot he would have to take his shoes off at the airport! Toe STD’s…here we come! He trudged through security with a look of disgust on his face.
We still had quite some time to wait at the gate. We were all feeling quite sleepy (Jesse and I hadn’t slept well), so nobody really felt up to breakfast yet. The kids and Jesse had a booster juice, and I had a coffee from Starbucks. Finally, it was time to board the plane. When we got on the flight, the Delta flight attendants were aware (based on a letter from Rainbow Society) that this was Benjamin’s Wish Trip. They were incredibly kind to us. The captain called both kids up to the cockpit (it was awesome that they called Hannah up too…she is often the ‘invisible child), and showed them around. He asked Ben if he wanted to make an announcement over the mic and Ben was definitely not interested in doing that. The kids each got pilot’s wings and scurried happily back to their seats. The captain made an announcement on the plane thanking Hannah and Ben, his pre-flight check crew, for all their help and wished them a happy special holiday. The passengers (who I don’t really think knew what was going on) applauded, which I thought was pretty awesome too! Thanks Delta!!!
We landed in Minneapolis, but it was a quick turn-around by the time we went to the bathroom, found our gate, and got settled. We were hungry by this time and wanted to order food, but didn’t think we had enough time before boarding our next plane. So off we went up in the air. The three hour flight seemed to tick by slowly, but then when we were just about there the captain came over the speakers and told us there was a thunderstorm over the airport, so we had to fly around in circles for a while until it moved on and it was safe for us to land. By this time, it was about 4:30 p.m. in Florida. We flew in circles for about an hour or so, then the captain said we had to fly over to Tampa as we were running low on fuel. We landed in Tampa, and there was still no sign of the thunderstorm in Orlando moving on. They finally allowed us off the plane for about an hour in Tampa to stretch our legs. I called Give Kids the World office from Tampa to let them know what was going on. All the passengers arrived back to the plane on time, so we were able to take off again fairly promptly to attempt to land once again in Orlando. Yay! The captain told us it was only about a half hour flying time, so we were eager to set off. And it was only about a half an hour, but, I guess with the storm we weren’t the only ones to be converging on the airport at once. We waited our turn to land, then sat on the tarmac for about an hour and a half waiting for our turn to get to a gate. We got off the plane about 10:30 p.m. or so.
We found our way through the terminal and took a tram to the main terminal. Once there we were greeted by a volunteer Eric who was an amazing person and volunteer from Give Kids the World. He was the first of the many outstandingly kind and generous people we would meet this week. He was holding up a banner with Benjamin’s name on it. He welcomed us warmly and handed the kids a bag of waters, treats, and crackers to keep them busy while he helped Jesse and I find our luggage. Once we had our luggage, he escorted us to the bus counter and arranged all our transportation to get to the Give Kids the World Village. He had also called ahead to the village to make sure someone had saved some supper for us. He was just what we needed. We enjoyed chatting with him and learned he was an accountant and CFO of a large real estate corporation. We couldn’t thank him enough. He told us that GKTW greets about 20-25 families per day at the airport (we were the last to arrive that day). He said he had never seen the airport this busy, and he had helped almost 200 families get settled in there since he had begun volunteering. He warned us that if we were doing anything “that looks like work this week”, to “stop it…we will do it for you”. He waited with us until we were all settled on the bus. We said our goodbyes and headed on our way. The bus ride to the Village was about an hour or so.
Once on the bus, Ben immediately fell asleep. Hannah, Jesse, and I enjoyed looking at the sights around us. We were super interested in anything that looked Disney. We arrived at Give Kids the World in Kissimmee around midnight…we were pretty exhausted to say the least. Penelope from GKTW met us on our bus and said “Welcome! We are so happy you are here! She asked the bus driver to take us to our villa, and she followed in a golf cart. She led us into a beautiful looking little house. We were surprised at how hot it was outside still…26 celcius. She told the kids the gift fairy had come and left some gifts for them. She also told them (much to their interest) that the gift fairy comes every day at the village. She also handed us a bag with a great big dinner for us: chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni, green beans, you name it. She taught us a bit about the resort and told me to go to orientation the next day. She then went on her way so we could get to bed. We ate some supper and took a few minutes to look around our place. The biggest bedroom and master bathroom were for the kids – it was abundantly clear that they were the most important people here. We barely got the kids dressed for bed before they fell asleep. It was about 1:00 a.m. Here at last!