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Old 08-26-2010, 10:18 PM   #1
amypoppins
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We put the fun in dsyfunctional...even at WDW

I recently found my way to the boards via my sister and decided to join the fray. I've been to WDW many times, including 3 with my twin sons, who also happen to be autistic. I decided to post on the chance that perhaps another Disney lover might be considering a trip, or took a trip, with some challenging kids and they might find some useful information embedded in the details. Ahhh yes, but which details are the most useful? And entertaining? That is the question. It's what separates the Christmas letters that we make fun of from the Christmas letters we look forward to actually reading.
I will try for an entertaining Christmas letter. (You do make fun of Christmas letters, right? Otherwise we may have started out on the wrong foot…)

To begin our tale you need an introduction to the characters. As I understand it this is standard format. So there is me, amypoppins, your trip report reporter, as it were. I’ve been to WDW many times and truly love it. There is something in the air there, something that lingers over everything, that makes me feel younger and brighter and lighter from the moment I arrive. I might call it pixie dust, if I were so inclined. But that would be cliché. And I’m only allotted three cliché 's per trip report, and it’s kinda early to use one up. So if you’re still with me I’ll just assume you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The next cast member to join this party is my sister. There is a gap of several years between us, so I was already in college when my family first started going to WDW and she was a little girl. But she fell in love with it too, and shares the same (if not more) enthusiasm for the place as me. This trip report is from last August, 2009, and it was in my sister’s honor that we went. She had graduated from law school in May, and was getting married in August, and the WDW trip was her graduation/ wedding gift from our parents.
The summer before she had announced that she wanted to get married in Florida and immediately my mind had raced ahead, (“Oh my, God! They can get married in Disney World! This will be fantastic! I mean, I always wanted to get married in Disney and this is like the next best thing and it will be AMAZING! You can do that thing where you get Cinderella’s carriage and even get characters to come to the ceremony and then…”)

“…and we’ve decided on Sanibel Island.”
“I’m sorry, what’s that? “
“Sanibel Island. It’s really beautiful.”
“Um, is that a new resort at WDW?”
“No.”

Alas, there was to be no Disney World wedding. But seeing as how we would be in the same state and all, it seemed a shame to waste the trip. And it was a tradition to visit WDW when in Florida, besides. (We’ve heard there are some other parks and activities in nearby areas, but that’s “Off-property”. Once our mother made us give up a day in the parks to go down to Cape Canaveral and she still can’t speak of the day without rolling her eyes in disgust at us)

So it was decided that we would spend a few days in WDW before driving on down to Sanibel for the wedding. Also, it was my twin sons birthday right before the trip, so we would throw that into the celebration mix as well.

So it only seems logical to introduce my sons next, we’ll call them Chip and Dale. I know that most people identify with the DS tag for a son, but with twins, and the various issues, I think it might get confusing. (Fun Fact! Do you know how to tell Chip n Dale apart? The real ones, not my sons. Chip’s nose is brown, like a chocolate chip.) My personal Chip and Dale come with some special accessories. They are autistic, specifically Asperger’s, so it makes a trip to WDW challenging. What it means in practical terms is preparing in specific ways, overpreparing in fact, and then being ready to go with the flow.

The next cast member is my mother. My mother. My mother who has marked her love for my sister and I by the many miles she has logged walking around parks that she really has little interest in seeing. Who loves the ocean and the beach and has forsaken them time and again so that we might smell black asphalt baking in the sun instead of the sea. She does not ride many of the rides, she finds a bench and vaguely waves us off in the direction of the attractions and says she will wait. She says it is enough that it makes us happy. This is the love of a mother.

The final cast member along on this adventure was my father. It is common knowledge and standard practice that he must be fed and rested regularly on family vacations. If this does not occur there are consequences. There was a notable incident in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant in the Lake of the Ozarks in 1988. Some families are uncomfortable with conflict and strife on vacation. I never truly feel like it’s a vacation until someone is yelling in a parking lot.

I will make two quick notes here…I’m divorced, so I guess you could say I have a D”Was”band. So that’s why they’ll be no mention of Chip n Dale’s dad in our tales. And my sister’s husband-then fiancée-well, he is not a lover of amusement parks. Thus I suspect the reason for my heartbreak over no WDW wedding, but so be it. So he was not along on that portion of the trip, we met up with him and his family on Sanibel Island.
(“So, Sanibel is not a part of the property at all?? Not even like on the edge? So there’s no way to even get like a secondary character to the ceremony—like Lumiere or Briar Fox??”
“No.” )

So now you’ve met everybody. We packed up one minivan and one extended cab pick-up and set off for Florida. (Flying was out of the question…there were dresses, suits, wedding favors, welcome bags for 60 guests, centerpieces, and a million other things needed to pull off a wedding. But hey, a destination wedding is great. You just show up and you’re good to go. Just ask my sister.)

Considering the length of this, I think I’ll stop here for now. So now you know what kind of Christmas letter this will be. If you decide to read more, great. If not, I understand. They don’t all make it up on the fridge, some just wind up as coasters. For the record I do want to say one thing in all seriousness… I may exaggerate a bit here and there, and I might fill in a bit on a detail, but pinky swear these are the true life adventures of my family in Walt Disney World. Dysfunction and all. I certainly lie about my weight, but I would never lie about a trip.
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Old 08-26-2010, 10:53 PM   #2
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Oh I am so in. this is a Christmas letter that I would not make fun of.
I think this is going to be major fun and I can't wait.

Ty
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Old 08-28-2010, 08:10 AM   #3
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Fun/Dys Pt 2

Here we go, into the wild blue yonder….

At last, one year after the planning began, we were off to Walt Disney World and then on to the little matter of my sister’s wedding.

We took 2 days to drive to Florida, everybody does it at their own pace. Day 2 dawned bright and beautiful and we got up and on our way, and after a few hours we were close to the Georgia/Florida state line. We started singing songs from Aladdin and Lion King—we were almost in the same state as WDW! We were just a few short hours away! My sister started talking about possibly hitting a park that evening—Downtown Disney at the least. And then my mother spotted signs for an outlet mall. Now, my mother loves 2 things-bargains, and Easy Spirit shoes. To be fair she has some physical issues with her feet that make Easy Spirits better for her. But of particular issue at this point was the fact that she did not have shoes to wear to the wedding. Yet. The one that was in a week. Her daughter’s wedding. She also has some issues making decisions.

So, it was decided that we would make quick pitstop at the outlet mall. With the Easy Spirit outlet store. The caravan pulled in, my mother jumped out, and we all just parked the cars and waited. Ten minutes, she said. At about the fifteen minute mark my sister impatiently hopped out and went inside. Within a minute or two I had a text from her. It was not going well inside the Easy Spirit store. Minutes ticked by, and my sister sent a text ordering me into the store. She came out, passed me the baton, and in I went. I have to say that upon walking into the Easy Spirit store I was struck by the sight of my mother, surrounded by shoe boxes, and giggling like a school girl. Needless to say, a considerable amount of time passed. I split my time between texting my sister reassuring her that we were wrapping things up, and running up and down the aisles frantically checking shoe sizes on boxes.

Finally, about an hour after disappearing through the doors-my mother exited them. I mention this because it was at this point that our vacation began. You see, my mother was standing on the sidewalk, and my sister was in the van—and a heated exchange began about getting to Disney too late to do anything and then some things about an ungrateful daughter. Myself, I got into the driver’s seat and sighed. Sometimes it’s not until day 4 or 5 that we get a parking lot moment, but look at us-Day 2. My dad was in his truck with my sons-eating. So everyone got settled back in their vehicles, and we got back on the yellow brick road. A few hours later, and after the sun had set, we were officially “On Property”. Ah, let the fun begin.
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Old 08-30-2010, 08:03 PM   #4
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Before we have our bags checked at the gates of Disney Studios, the first park, a word about being at Disney World with Chip and Dale (mine, not the stars of Tale Spin).

The first time we brought them was in 2000, and they were 2. We didn't know yet what issues were at play with them, and attributed many behaviors to the fact that they were boys, and twins.

They were overwhelmed by things in terms of sensory issues, but of course I didn't even know what those were yet.

They hated the costumed characters. I mean, they HATED the characters. I kept trying, though! I felt sure that the next time it would be fine!

"Look, there's Goofy!" Scream.
"Look, sweetie--Winnie the Pooh! Your favorite!" Scream.
"Chip and Dale! We have to get a picture!" Scream. Scream.

The piece de resistance was the Liberty Tree Tavern character lunch. When Minnie appeared in her revolutionary era dress, it was earsplitting. We have the evidence of this debacle. It's a series of pictures in which each boy is lunging in the opposite direction from Minnie, abject terror on their faces. I can't really know what scars they bear from this, I suppose I can read about it in their future autobiography they will eventually write- "We Are Not Chip and Dale". (They don’t offer this character meal anymore, so it would be special to have the photos of this. Photos that don’t have terrified children staring out from them, of course) Of course many children are frightened by the characters, but they can be particularly disturbing to autistic children.

What did they boys enjoy? Well, they loved, loved the play area Donald’s Boat in Toontown Fair-----and they played in the water fountains for nearly 2 hours there. And their favorite ride? The one they giggled and clapped and grinned from ear to ear on, from stop to start? Why, the parking lot trams.
So to sum up-we travelled 1300 miles for them to be traumatized by the park's signature characters and to enjoy playing in fancy sprinklers and riding around parking lots.

We went back in 2005. By then I was fully aware of what was going on with them, and did my best to accommodate. The characters? Well, I still wasn't prepared to abandon ship just yet. However, an incident early the first day in Magic Kingdom involving the Peter Pan characters, and I was good.
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Old 08-30-2010, 08:19 PM   #5
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just have to say i love this trip report. i will follow along. you need to write a book!
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Old 08-31-2010, 06:33 PM   #6
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Ladies and Gentleman,

Welcome to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, formerly known as MGM Studios. Despite this change we still just refer to the park as “MGM”. We’d like to review a few of the safety guidelines before we enter the park:

There will be no stopping to do character greets. In fact, if a character is spotted it is best for all parties to cross to the other side of the street and proceed with caution.

There will be no purchasing of toys, souvenirs, and merchandise that bangs, spins, lights up, whirls, projects out more than 3 inches, whistles, and comes in boxes larger than 2 feet.

No hat may be purchased that is made of heat collecting material that will become too hot for the wearer and be forced into the hands of a nearby adult.

No items AT ALL from Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular may be purchased up to and including: whips, pistols, swords of various sizes, heavy costumes, and large prop boulders.

Upon exiting the Star Wars ride and shop--please see the Indiana Jones guideline.

It is not recommended that you attempt a viewing of Fantasmic this evening unless you want to ruin a perfectly good day. Yes, it’s a great show. However, the early arrival required for seating, the large crowds, the evening showtime combined with the loud special effects and lights will send members of your party into meltdowns. It will also require the purchase of plastic things that light up and cost $27 each. Know your limits.

Thank you, and please enjoy your stay.
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Old 09-01-2010, 09:31 PM   #7
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3 Days, 4 Parks – No Prisoners

Walt Disney World has become a mind-boggling, multi-acre sprawling, bohemoth of a destination. It requires days, even weeks, to peruse and enjoy all the World has to offer. This trip we had 3 days.

Three days. This meant hitting all our personal high points, largely ignoring parades, and skipping shows. You have to factor in the fact that it was August, and the heat will slow you down exponentially. Ok, it’s not the heat-it’s the humidity. In August the Florida humidity doesn’t hang in the air-it bears down on you like a weight. You wear it like a coat. This means that you factor in moving slower and the afternoon break back at the hotel is non-negotiable. Especially for my father. Also, Chip and Dale do much better taking the parks in smaller increments. There is no “Dumbo or Die” in a day touring plan from the Unofficial Guide with them.

So, our first day dawned bright and beautiful. Chip and Dale wake up every day generally by 6:30, so this is literally the only place on the planet that I find that particular trait useful. One short bus ride later and we were in the Studios.

We had 2 spots of business to take care of before heading up Hollywood Boulevard. The first matter was acquiring our “Guests with Disabilities” passes. These passes are what actually make visiting WDW even possible for us. Chip and Dale can’t wait in long lines. I don’t mean they don’t like to, or they whine and complain. I mean they CAN’T. They become overwhelmed by the crowds and the noise, and they are physically unable to stay in the line. Sometimes this creates some resentment from other park guests that see us using the passes with children that have no obvious physical disability. I learned that little fact when an incident occurred at the Haunted Mansion 2 days later. But back to the Studios.

Our second business transaction was to get ourselves some “Celebration” buttons. This was our first trip to WDW since the launching of the whole “What are you celebrating?” campaign. Well, there was plenty to celebrate! Chip and Dale just turned 11! My sister graduated from law school! My sister was getting married in a week! My sister had just taken the bar exam! (Yes, you read that correctly. My sister took the bar exam 2 weeks before her wedding. Her destination wedding 4 states away. But it’s no problem, really. When you have a destination wedding you just show up and they do everything. No problem. Just ask her.)

So we all got buttons. Mom, Dad, and I got generic Celebration buttons. Chip and Dale got Happy Birthday buttons, and my sister got a Just Married button, which the lovely CM changed by using a Sharpie and writing “About” above the Just and Married. Very nice.

A word, however, about these buttons. You see, one of the issues that crops up in autism is the need for things to be fixed and regimented. So, let’s say you get a button on your very first day at a park, as does everyone else in your family. These buttons become a permanent part of your clothing, now. That means that there is nothing more valuable on the planet than these buttons. NO ONE GOES TO BED WITHOUT A BUTTON ACCOUNTED FOR, AND NO ONE LEAVES THE HOTEL ROOM WITHOUT A BUTTON. NO BUTTON CAN BE LOST, MISPLACED, OR OTHERWISE UNACCOUNTED FOR IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM. Now, let’s Celebrate!
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Old 09-01-2010, 09:54 PM   #8
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Oh, this is good. I though my family was the only family with parking lot fights! Subbing for more!
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Old 09-02-2010, 08:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by disneyaddicted View Post
Oh I am so in. this is a Christmas letter that I would not make fun of.
I think this is going to be major fun and I can't wait.

Ty
thank you so much! I really appreciate that.
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Old 09-02-2010, 08:20 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elizabethswan View Post
just have to say i love this trip report. i will follow along. you need to write a book!
thanks for the kind words! I'm glad you like it!
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Old 09-02-2010, 08:22 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cherry Limeade View Post
Oh, this is good. I though my family was the only family with parking lot fights! Subbing for more!
thank you! and no, you are definitely not the only family with parking lot fights. We had a really good one at a Holiday Inn Sunspree in Fort Lauderdale I could write a whole trip report on. thanks again for coming along!
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Old 09-02-2010, 01:53 PM   #12
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one Christmas letter i definately want to read!! you have a fantastic writing style, can't wait to hear more
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Old 09-02-2010, 02:34 PM   #13
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Great trip report! I can't wait to read more.
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Old 09-02-2010, 08:06 PM   #14
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The Studios

So, armed with our park maps and buttons we marched down Hollywood Boulevard and made a right, heading directly for Tower of Terror. On the way my sister let out a yell and said “Sunscreen!” to which we all stopped and looked at her.

You see, my sister’s wedding dress was strapless. That meant that if she acquired even the faintest trace of sunburn or strap lines, it would be visible for all eternity courtesy of her expensive professional photos. So she bought strapless shirts specifically to wear in WDW in order to prevent lines—but she needed to be coated in sunscreen regularly to prevent burning. My family is not a people that takes to the sun in the summertime. We burn, peel, and then burn again. There’s no in between for us.

So, we stopped and liberally applied sunscreen to her. Off to the side, out of the flow of traffic, of course. Is there anything more annoying than a big group globbed up in the center of one of the main thoroughfares?? To the side, people! To the side!

Dale wants no part of the Tower, nor does my mother. Those two sat it out and the rest of us went. We really like to start the day at the Studios with the Tower. Every park has some signature rides and when you’re on them—you know where you are every second that you’re on them. So with the Tower you get the long walk, the library and tv/Twilight zone moment, and then the basement. The basement has its own smell, and banging sounds, and you can always spot the first-timers in the crowd. Then the ride itself—there’s nothing like The Drop. Dale rode ToT in 2005 and Chip had refused. But now Chip was determined not to miss it, and of course Dale has sworn it off for life. After the ride I asked Chip about riding it again and his response then, and now, is the same “Too scary! I’d only ride it again if I had to!” I’d like to live in a world where the things that we’re forced to do all hinge on amusement park rides. I think I’d be more productive.

Since we were on a tight schedule this trip, there was no lingering. After Tower it was straight over to Rockin’ Roller Coaster. I sat this one out with Dale and my mother. We spent our time perusing the giant sorcerer’s hat-which happens to have a shop conveniently located below it. (Can I have a sorcerer’s hat? No. Can I have a magic wand? No. Can I have a sorcerer’s robe? No.)

My mom calls over to Dale-“Hey look! A parade!”

It was the High School Musical parade. He watched for a few minutes, but there’s only so much of the WildCat cheerleaders any one person can take, unless you’re a 15 year old girl.

“Can I have a sorcerer’s hat?” “No.”

My dad, sister, and Chip met back up with us and we were debating which-

“Sunscreen!”
“Oh. Really? Because it hasn’t been that long since-“
“Sunscreen!”
“Ok.”

So, after the sunscreen we had all met back up and were debating which-

“Do we have lunch reservations somewhere?” My dad asked.
“No, but it’s only 10:45.”
“Right. So what are we doing for lunch?”

Now, for past trips we have created elaborate itineraries with a reservation for every meal, every break, and every activity. We didn’t, however, have a single reservation headed into this trip.

There were a lot of reasons for this, actually. Since Chip and Dale don’t care for the characters there’s no point spending the money for the character meals so that we can eat in the same room with Mickey and Goofy-but frantically wave them away from the table when they get close.

Also, Chip and Dale are very picky eaters. This is pretty common with autism-you’ve got texture issues, heat issues, taste is the least of it. But, even if we ignored the PTSFC (Post Traumatic Stress From Characters) issue, and even if a sit-down restaurant served something they would eat, the biggest hurdle is the fact that they can eat a full meal in 3 minutes flat. Really. 3 minutes. At Thanksgiving and Christmas we arrange the seating for them on the outside because they’re finished before the sweet potatoes have made it all the way around table.

So counter service is just the best bet all the way around for them. No waiting for food, or for the adults still eating.

The other reason there were no reservations and only a skeleton of an itinerary, was that frankly, things were a bit hairy leading up to this trip. There my sister was in Chicago, (did I mention that we were in 2 different cities?) I was in St. Louis, and in the weeks leading up to departure things were on the hectic side. We had so many boxes, bins, and containers to take that I literally had a notebook with an inventory. I am a cake decorator, so naturally I made the wedding cake. But that meant making sure every single solitary thing I would need was packed-because we were going to an island. An ISLAND. So if it didn’t go-I wouldn’t have it. (No,seriously. When you have a destination wedding you just book the site and you’re done! Like-poof! Magic. Just ask my sister.)

So we decided to hit Pixar Place and try Toy Story Mania, and then we could go to Pizza Planet for lunch. They boys will generally eat pepperoni pizza. Dale, however, prefers to dip his in ranch dressing. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, to be exact. Since Disney does not provide Hidden Valley Ranch dressing with your pizza, it could get dicey. ( I always take whatever ranch dressing a place has, but he of course knows it’s not Hidden Valley and will give me The Look after taking a bite.)
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:36 PM   #15
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Great Christmas letter so far! Can't wait for more How was Pizza Planet? We have never eaten there.
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