We woke up this morning and got ready. We were going to Animal Kingdom today – something that we had all been anticipating! First off, we ordered the breakfast cart to come to our villa. It was encouraged, and we thought the kids would think it was neat. A little golf cart came rumbling up the street and parked right in front. The volunteer told us to take whatever we wanted…”take it all if you’d like”! The kids each picked their continental style breakfast and went into the villa to eat it. After breakfast was done, the House of Hearts called to let us know that there were horses brought into the village and if the kids wanted they could go for a horseback ride. We walked down to Keaton’s Korral where we were met by a tonne of volunteers to help us go for a ride. Hannah has been riding before, but Benjamin hadn’t ever. These people were fully trained to handle of variety of mobility issues to make horseback riding accessible for all guests. I write this with tears in my eyes because this is truly a gift to some of these kiddos. Even kids with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (also called brittle bone disease) had a chance to ride – imagine a child with the bone strength of an eggshell and you will have a better understanding of this condition. How touching and amazing is that! We have met many wonderful people with O.I. through Ben.
We called our cab to take us to Animal Kingdom. So far, every experience we had at Disney had been incredibly positive. However, Animal Kingdom staff were even more gracious to us (if that is possible). I started the day stopping by customer relations to see if they had a hearing device for shows. I have to be honest, I don’t even know how these work, but I thought I could find a way to plug the sound right in Ben’s ears, he might hear some things better. They had never seen a system like ours, so we weren’t really sure. I felt like I might have been able to get it to work, but I didn’t have a cord with me that I thought I might need. I told them that it was no big deal…he will be fine. Anyways, another lady chased us down and asked if she could put a tag on our stroller which would allow us wheelchair access to any rides. I told her that it was totally ok – Ben could walk just fine, but she insisted just in case he became tired (we would be grateful for this later).
Animal Kingdom is probably the most beautiful of all the theme parks. It is filled with trees and rain forests that are absolutely breathtaking! There is beauty everywhere. Our ride strategy “nothing with a back/neck warning” became problematic at Animal Kingdom. It seemed that most of the rides here had a back and neck warning, even the tour safaris. Jesse and I talked and we were sure that he would be fine on a ride like a safari tour. As we were talking (analyzing risk), we discovered that one of the rides we had been on the previous day ‘Star Tours’ also had a warning that we were unaware of. We decided to continue to be cautious, but we were willing to try a few rides we felt might be ok.
Our first ride of the day was the Kilamanjaro Safaris. This was an amazing way to watch animals in a natural environment. The kids got to see all sorts of amazing animals including giraffes, zebras, lions, elephants, hippopotamus, and more…it was amazing. I think the neck/back warning might have been because it was bumpy at times, but it was no problem at all for Ben. We then went through Gorilla Falls, which was also a zoo-like area (that didn’t feel like a zoo-like area) where we walked through a tropical forest and got to see all kinds of birds, fish, hippos, gorillas, etc. The kids loved it. After that, we went to the Lion King show, which was AMAZING!!! It was singing and dancing magic – impossible not to feel exhilarated through it! Our kids (amongst other kids as well) were invited up to dance and sing with the entertainers at the end. It was an inspiring and amazing performance.
After the show, we headed over to their new area ‘Pandora’. We first went on a 3D ride – Avatar – Flight of Passage. I was a bit nervous about this one as it had a warning and Ben was barely the right height, but knowing it was a 3D ride made me feel more comfortable. We first tried him in the seat at the front entrance (as it is a bit restrictive) to see if he would even be comfortable. After he said he was, we took him to the front to get measured. I knew he was exactly the height he needed to be, but if they said “no” we would not argue. He knew this was a possibility. The first girl who measured him had me help ‘straighten him up’ because his neck is crooked. He could do it with me helping him, but it was questionable whether that was ok. She called a supervisor who also measured him. She told me that he had to do it himself, which he managed to. Anyways, he did pass the height requirements on his own with barely a mm to spare. The supervisor called up to the front of the ride to let them know that she would be accountable for the measurement, so we wouldn’t be inconvenienced again. It turned out to be just fine. Ben was well supported and it was like riding a motorcycle in the air that kind of went back and forth and up and down. It was amazing how realistic the ride was for a fantasy ride. As I am hugely afraid of heights, I often had to shut my eyes and ground myself mentally. It totally worked. Ben loved the ride, as did Hannah. I pretended to know what they were talking about afterwards, but I missed a lot having my eyes shut. Afterwards we went on the Na’vi River Journey, which was a bit more my style. It was like a beautiful, calm Pirates of the Caribbean type ride (without the plunge). This ride did not have a warning on it.
From there we went for lunch to the Rainforest Cafe. This was technically off Disney property, but the kids enjoyed the rain forest ambiance. After lunch we went to the ‘It’s Tough to be a Bug” show, which was a fun, interactive 3D movie. The kids enjoyed it immensely – especially the gross parts. After that we headed to Asia so Hannah and Dad could go on Expedition Everest, which looked pretty scary to me and Ben. It was a no-brainer for us that this was not a ride for Ben because it had that roller coaster type force behind it. Ben and I waited and had a drink. Afterwards, we all met up and decided (after a bit of discussion and some trepidation) that we would let Ben go on the Kali River Rapids. This was sort of a river raft raft through the rapids of the Kali River. I was a bit worried, but it went well. I took all of Ben’s hearing equipment off and put it in my fanny pack (in a baggie). He was ok with that. He loved the ride and we all got wet, but it was fun (and refreshing) for all of us. We then headed to Dino Land to hang out. Hannah and Dad wanted to go on the Primeval Whirl, while Ben and I were planning to go on the Triceratop Spin. Just as Ben and I got to the front of the line up, it started to rain….and by rain I mean firehose pouring down your head rain!!! It also started to lightning. We ran under a shelter and waited. Jesse and Hannah showed up too. We waited…and waited….and waited…and there was no sign of it letting up. Everything was shut down. I think it was almost an hour and a half that we stood there under the shelter shivering.
Finally, it started to let up, but it was still lightning. We decided to make a break for it. Ben seemed quite cold and not really himself. We decided that we wouldn’t go to the Rivers of Light night show, even though we had all been looking forward to it, and headed towards the exit. We stopped to shop/warm up for a little while. I was looking for a blanket or something to wrap around Ben. I was worried that he had caught a chill in the rainstorm. Anyways, by the time we got out of the shops, it was starting to get nice again. The night show wasn’t too far away, so we decided maybe we should go for it. We made our way back towards Asia, grabbed a quick snack then went to the show. The show was visually stunning, and we were so glad we went!
Afterwards, we noticed that Ben really wasn’t himself. It’s easy to tell if he is off because he is such a good-natured little boy all of the time. He became quiet and withdrawn. I felt his forehead, and it felt hot to me. We tried to get out of there as quickly as we could. I tucked him into the stroller with the new Star Wars blanket we bought to keep him bundled up. We called our cab and were home by 11:00, but we decided we might need to rethink our plans for the next day. We were supposed to go to Universal Studios – something everyone was looking forward to. We decided this:
Plan A – if everybody is up and feeling well, we all go to Universal.
Plan B – if Ben is still asleep in the morning, we will let him sleep in and Jesse and Hannah can go to Universal and do as many crazy rides as they can without us. Ben and I will come by when he is up and feeling well rested.
Plan C – if Ben is still not feeling well, he and I can stay at the resort and have a quiet day and Hannah and Jesse can go to Universal.
We would see what tomorrow would bring.