So I'm still working on getting some of the prized video from my parents' cameras, but otherwise, I think I'm ready to begin this particular travel-blog. If history holds, I will get close to the end of the trip and then get distracted, and you will never know whether we made it home safely.
So often, the best beginnings start with a departure.
Hmm... that sounds wise and metaphorical.
But in this case, we just boarded a plane.
Our not-too-early morning flight was direct to Orlando. (Praise the flight schedule!) Bridgette threw no fits of temper or exhaustion, though it was devilishly hard to keep her seated for four hours.
She liked the overhead buttons (lights, fans, flight attendant) and wanted to but was prevented from pushing them. She liked sliding the window covers up and down and up and down. She liked playing with her seat belt. She liked opening and closing the tray on the back of the seat in front of us.
We had an older woman in the trio spot of our over-wing row. We chatted in typical small-talk fashion for a few moments. She had children and grandchildren, for which I was grateful. And if she was annoyed by us, she certainly didn't show it. She slept, mostly.
Bridgette had gotten sick one day (one day!) before we traveled. I wasn't sure whether we were going to have to cancel our vacation altogether. But May 3rd dawned healthy, so we only had the illness aftermath with which to wrestle -- trying to get the bowels back on-line.
That explains why she doesn't like to sit too... besides normal 2-year-old restlessness, her bum hurts her all the time.
She required 8 diaper changes on the plane. Since planes are not equipped for diaper changing, they were all done in the confines of her seat and my lap. However, all in all, not a bad flight. I even managed to read a whopping 2 pages of the book I brought along.
Once we reached the Orlando airport, the trip was immediately worth it. They had an indoor fountain just outside security, and while I regrouped, B stretched her legs. She ran around and around and was quite excited by the changing water patterns.
*(Many of these shots were produced with my cell phone, the lens on which was sometimes mucked and blurry. The other photos were taken with my small camera or with others' cameras. I did not take my nice camera to FL with me.)
This moment was captured immediately before she stuck her hat in the stream of water and soaked it to unwearability.
Hi, Mom! I'm so excited!
We had an automatic bag transfer and check-in with Disney Express (thanks to the efforts of my dear mother who did a lot -- well, basically everything -- to plan this trip). So we took a plane to get to a tram to get to a bus to get to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Now *that* is an exciting day for a two-year-old.
Here's B on the bus, obviously tired (note the deep-set eyes) but refusing to sleep because there was so much to do and see. They had started some old Disney cartoons on the bus ride from the airport, and Bridgette was giggly and charming.
And *here* is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Nice, no? It reminded me of the computer game Myst. If you look mid-photo, you can even see a wood suspension bridge that spans the lobby.
That's B in her stroller above. The previous photo and most of the following were taken on different days, but they seemed appropriate to include in the first-day post.
This odd decoration was near the hall where we entered the lobby from our suite of rooms. Every morning when we rounded the corner and saw it, Bridge said, "Ooooh!"
I never did go investigate its meaning. But we liked it.
OK, so the Animal Kingdom Lodge is called thus because it is near the Animal Kingdom and one may lodge there. Also, surrounding the lodge are a series of savannahs where wild antelope roam.
Other animals roam there too.
You can watch them graze from the relaxing vantage of your veranda.
Miss B kept telling me she saw a cat. I never did see it, but I'm hesitant to discount her visual acuity and observation skills. She very often one-ups me in both departments. And I *did* find a rabbit hopping among the grasses once... a rabbit that was *not* on the official list of animals we might see on the savannah.
We also walked past a window showing *this* everyday -- the "swim pooh!" as B liked to say. I learned to distract her as we walked by or she would get very sad that we weren't going swimming at that very instant.
She did get to swim, but only for a few minutes, twice. There was so much else to do.
If you're wondering why everything is so beautiful, it's because Disney puts a great deal of effort into making it that way. Everything is well-tended, nicely-portioned, and precisely-placed.
The book I took with me (and am still reading) is a historical recounting by Erik Larson of events during and leading up to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, and all the ways those events changed American history. It's quite fascinating.
No more so than this passage:
"Eighteen ninety-two broke cold, with six inches of snow on the ground and temperatures falling to ten degrees below zero, certainly not the coldest weather Chicago had ever experienced but cold enough to clot the valves of all three of the city water system's intake valves and temporarily halt the flow of Chicago's drinking water.
"Despite the weather, work at Jackson Park progressed. Workers erected a heated movable shelter that allowed them to apply staff to the exterior of the Mines Building no matter what temperature. The Woman's Building was nearly finished, all its scaffolding gone; the giant Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building had begun rising above its foundation.
"In all, the workforce in the park numbered four thousand.
"The ranks included a carpenter and furniture-maker named Elias Disney, who in coming years would tell many stories about the construction of this magical realm beside the lake. His son Walt would take note."
As Larson first began to describe the set-up and pioneering architecture of the park grounds in Chicago, with lagoons, a center island, and surrounding buildings featuring various cultures, countries, and displays, I kept thinking, "My! But doesn't that sound like Epcot!"
I was pleased and therefore only somewhat surprised to find out that Walt Disney's father was a part of the 1893 Chicago construction team.
Without the World's Fair, we might have no Disney World or Disneyland or anything else Disney for that matter! Not even a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse closing credits song... and it's so darn catchy.
In a sense, Elias imparted the dream to his son to create a "never-ending" World's Fair, a place pointing towards progress and with the capacity to draw large crowds of paying visitors from all over the world -- crowds of visitors, every day, for a hundred years or more. That's quite a visionary undertaking.
And here we are! One adorable family of paying visitors!
This was taken early in the trip in the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby.
Sadly, it is blurry. But let's face it, we prolly look better this way.
Above (L to R-ish): Grampa Hoose, Bridgette, Kelly, Scott, Emma, Evan, baby James, Julianne, Jon, Christina, Gramma Hoose.
(You might have noticed the distinct lack of a Jeffrey in this shot. Bridgette and I missed his presence very much and wished he had been able to join us.)
(He is also noticeably missing because he is so tall and broad, and my family is... not so much. When he's in our photos, he really stands out.)
*And here we come to the coolest part of the first day!*
Roughly one month before Bridgette's birth day, an infant named Isabella was born far across the country, in Florida.
She was diagnosed with Hirschsprung Disease.
About a month later, Bridgette was born, and I was scrambling for information and support to help me deal with a whole host of things about which I was totally clueless. I joined a support group on Facebook and was linked, one by one, to a variety of individuals worldwide who have, or whose children have, Hirschsprung Disease.
Isabella's mom, Angela, and I "met" there. I think our connection was so instant because HD is so rare in girls. Not only did we both have HD girls, but they were so close in age.
In July 2009, we were both in the hospital at the same time (us in Salt Lake City, them in Orlando) for our girls' pull-thru surgeries. Our hospital stays only overlapped by a day or two (they were heading out about the time we were heading in), but it was comforting to know someone else was out there who really, truly understood our emotional and physical pains.
We were so pleased to meet in person the night we arrived in Florida! They came to eat with us at Boma, the restaurant at the lodge.
It was late. We had traveled non-stop for many, many hours, and their kids (three, with one on the way) were up way past bedtime. But despite the crankies that came with the circumstances, it was so nice to physically greet some of the people who have given us support over and over and over again.
Normally Bridgette is pretty reserved with new people, but she didn't seem particularly shy that evening! We introduced the two girls and they immediately clasped hands. I have to say, it was pretty adorable.
My mom snapped this picture right as they were letting go.
I'm afraid Bridgette was a bit overwhelming for Isabella, and I even caught B stabbing her with a fork. (Not nice.) But given their mutual 2-year-old status, I think they got on quite well. Hopefully one day, they can keep in touch with each other themselves.
For the time being, Angela and I will continue to correspond by the wonder and blessing that is Facebook.
Here are our families! Sans Jeff, of course.
(Bridgette has started sticking her finger up her nose in an effort to avoid having her picture taken. The result? We have a number of photos with her finger up her nose.)
After they left, B and I took a moment to follow the lady playing the bongos. She was kind enough to offer one to Bridgette who then (suddenly) became shy of playing. So, we did a little tandem beating to warm her up.
B has long enjoyed drumming and has fair natural rhythm. Don't tell her, but she's getting some real drums for her birthday. :)