9:41 AM Maybe the third time is the charm--this is my third attempt at posting an update, the previous two were lost when my browser crashed. Of course, there was lots and lots of interesting things that are now gone forever, but I will try to hit the highlights.
We're back, and we're all healthy, for the most part. Elisabeth still has a nasty cough, Susan coughs every now and then, and Sophie seems much, much better. We only had one "scare" with Sophie when she started vomiting one night before bedtime. Pretty much everything since lunch came back up. She was better in the morning, however, so we kept on going!
Our friends, Howard and Allison Smith were in Orlando, too (their daughter, Madison, is a leukemia survivor and went on her Wish trip to Disney in 2004). It was great having another family to pal around with, and Elisabeth and Madi are turning into pretty good friends (although we think it makes Sophie a little jealous). Having another pair of adults made it easier to trade off riding rides with Elisabeth (since Sophie was not tall enough or not brave enough to ride everything).
We stayed at Give Kids the World, which is a 70-acre, theme-park styled village of about 300 units especially for families with children on a wish trip. Give Kids the World (GKTW) was an amazing place to stay at, particularly for the girls, because of all the special things they had going on. GKTW has its own carousel, theatre, arcade, miniature golf, ice cream parlor, and gingerbread house cafeteria. The girls also got to go on a carriage ride, ride horses and ponies, and go for a swim--Sophie got to swim for the first time since she was diagnosed nearly two years ago. That was probably the most magical thing that happened the whole week. She loved it. I wish I had a video of how happy she was in the pool!
We spent three days at Walt Disney World, two at Magic Kingdom and one at Disney/MGM studios. I was a little concerned at first that Sophie was not going to enjoy the experience when she refused to enter the turnstile on the first day--she was too scared. She eventually went intside the park, but refused to ride the rides (too scary). The Mad Tea Party (the teacup ride) broke the ice, although we were not allowed to spin the teacup. From then on, nearly any ride that did not leave the ground was acceptable, although she eventually got over that phobia. By the end of the week, she rode on the Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster, but that was a bit much for her. I think Sophie's favorite ride was probably the Haunted Mansion (!), but maybe the Winnie-the-Pooh ride is a close second. Elisabeth's favorite (and mine) was Space Mountain.
Because we were on a wish trip, Sophie wore a GKTW button, which meant we got preferential treatment on the rides (Fast Pass access, for those in the know), but we also got special treatment when it came to meeting the characters and getting their autographs. Sophie and Elisabeth got to personally greet tons of characters, and got something like 35 autographs from characters like Peter Pan and Wendy, all of the Princesses, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Stitch, Tigger, Pooh, and so forth. You can also check out some of the photographs from Disney's photographers at the following URL:
These pictures are only available for the next 30 days, after which they will turn into pixie dust, so view them while you can!
We probably could have spent more time at Disney than we did (never did get to Epcot, for example), but we decided that we'll have to save that all until next time, whenever that will be, hopefully soon!
Sea World was a bit of a bust, probably because it was too hot, or too crowded, or we were too cranky from a full day at Disney the day before. Or, maybe, as Allison put it, everything pales in comparison to the Magic Kingdom, which I think is true. The girls had a good time, though, got to see Shamu. Elisabeth wanted to sit in the "splash zone" until she noticed the vendors selling towels and ponchos and until Susan pointed out the kids directly in front of them were soaked through and through from the previous show. When Elisabeth decided that maybe she would rather sit with the rest of us (well out of the splash zone, thank you), Susan was quick to jump on that idea. Our favorite show was not Shamu, but the dolphin and whale show, because it had great live performers (almost like a circus) and birds that flew around the stadium.
We also spent one day at Universal Studios, which we liked a lot. There was an entire Seuss-themed area in one of the parks that was a big hit with everyone. We could have spent even more time at Universal, but there will be a next time. In fact, we had two-day passes to Universal and since we only used the first day, the passes are still good for another day and don't expire for another year. Maybe we'll have to get back in the next twelve months!
Our Wish trip was altogether special. Everything was planned for us and everything was made very, very easy for us. We felt a little guilty receiving preferential treatment, but remembering all that we have been through, the hospitalizations, the trauma, the chemotherapy, and all that is still going on (the threat of relapse that we just recently had to confront), it was nice being treated special. Sophie is special, and we're glad that she got to experience this trip--so many other children never get their final wish.
Coincidentally, tomorrow is the date for Pennies from Heaven, an annual fundraiser for Make-a-Wish of Eastern North Carolina (the agency that granted Sophie's wish). G105, a local radio station is working with this fundraiser and more information can be found on their website at:
All in all, we had a fantastic experience, thanks to the folks at Make-A-Wish and Give Kids the World. Thanks also to our friends who have supported us, our community that has done so much for us, our church that let me go for a week to do this with my family, and all of you, who keep up with us regularly and check in from time to time.