Since coming home, one of the most important things to me is that people hear a few messages from me about our Make a Wish trip/my family and our experience. First and foremost, I want you to hear of the incredible gift that we received and the foundations that give these gifts to so many families. However, that said, I need you to hear and understand that even while receiving a magical gift, that the struggles of raising my 3 boys is intense at times and that this trip was no different than other times in our lives. It is only by sharing the story of my family that people can understand what makes children with special needs different, and this trip for us was an amazingly highlighted week of the ups and downs of life with the Bloom boys!
Even today as I shared our story and my worries and sadness over some of the experiences that I will share, I heard from many, "all kids struggle at Disney World" and "Disney brings out the worst and the best in all kids". This I am certain is true. For all kids there is the hype and excitement about being at the parks, and the go, go, go speed of a vacation like Disney. However, when you bring a child with special needs, there is all of the typical challenges and then other challenges that go with the territory. For each of my boys, their struggles were magnified by being at the parks. That said, I have to also share that as much as their struggles were magnified, so were the the things about them that make them sweet and special.
On our first day in Orlando we went to Universal Studios. As part of David's Make a Wish Package, he was given passes for 2 days at Universal Studios, 3 days at any of the Disney Parks, and a day at Sea World. In addition, Give Kids the World has passes for Legoland and other parks available and I really wanted to make sure that David saw Legoland. In order to do this and get David to all of the Disney parks, the plan was to go to Universal Studios first and see if the boys would need 1 or 2 days to see all that they wanted to see at Universal Studios.
Upon entering Universal Studios I quickly realized that this was going to be one heck of a trip.....keeping track of all of the boys, and watching them as they saw everything for the first time was going to be so much fun! David heard that there was a train that he could ride from one part of the park to the other and so for David his focus was intently on finding the train. Unfortunately, the train was halfway through Islands of Adventure, and so while David was intent on finding the train, there was A LOT for us to see before we got there!
It turns out that Jacob is a total thrill seeker.....one of the perks of being with a Make a Wish child is that you get a pass for each park that gets you to either the front of the Fastpass line, or the ability to enter the ride through the exit. For Jacob, this was a HUGE PERK, because the bigger the ride the longer the lines, and the ability to skip these lines was huge! He and I immediately went on a free fall ride called Fear Fall, and Jacob was HOOKED! From that moment on, it was Jacob's mission to go from big ride to big ride often riding a fun ride more than once and he never wanted to look back.
The more big kid rides that Jacob rode the more that Matthew was intrigued and preparing himself to go on the bigger rides as well. It took some time before Matthew was ready to tackle something as big as the Free Fall, but not as long as I would have thought.
I took the boys on the Spiderman Ride and this was where we introduced David to the fun and craziness of a 3D thrill ride. While David was a good sport, I think that he came off of Spiderman really trying to like it, but totally convinced that he had signed on for more than he expected.
On this trip, there were many times that David would be stuck and only say the same thing over and over again. This was around the time that all David would say to me is "where is the train?" It was impossible to walk Jacob past the rides and try to get David to the train, plus it just didn't make sense to go out of order, so as we walked I did my best to keep David focused on the rides around him so that he would stop asking about the train. This was a huge job as I was trying to engage David and he was only engaged in wanting to know where the train was!
One of the highlights for me was when we went through the Jurassic Park Zone and we saw a long line of people but we were totally unsure what they were in line for. When we heard that it was a photo opportunity, I happily encouraged us to all get in line. Little did I know that it was an opportunity to meet the Dinosaur from Jurassic World! By skipping the line, we had NO IDEA what we were about to see........this is easily one of my favorite pictures from Universal- I love the look of fear on David's face, the look of awe on Jacob's face and the "don't mess with me" look from Matthew!
After seeing the Dinosaur, we wandered past the train- yes, that took some fast talking from me and my mom......and towards the Dr Seuss zone....I figured I might only get to Universal Studios once, and I had to at least see Dr Seussland! After riding the Trolley Train Ride, it was decided that we were all hot and hungry and that Dr Seuss land was a little on the young side for most of us, so we headed off to find some lunch.
Once again our Make a Wish pass came in very handy because David has seizures that are triggered by intense heat and it was becoming ridiculously hot. A hot, hungry David is a REALLY bad combination, and so we went to eat at Mythos Restaurant, and with our pass we only had a 20 minute wait. Unfortunately, upon sitting down for lunch I realized I had a hungry, hot David and the restaurant did not serve Mac and Cheese- it took some quick thinking, but I realized that as long as the waitress could be convinced to call "Pasta Alfredo" by it's more child friendly name "Mac and Cheese" then we might be able to save lunch without too many things being thrown by David. Thankfully, the waitress was amazing.....and she had a brother with autism, and quickly understood that by hyping up the Mac and Cheese, she could help calm David down, and we could have a nice lunch. This waitress was by far the best our whole trip. She totally understood all 3 of my boys, and she was able to meet all of their needs while my mom and I were able to cool off and plan for the afternoon.
After lunch it was time to hit the train! Of course before David got on the train, Jacob convinced him to try the Harry Potter Ride- we rode another 3D thrill ride, and again David got off trying to figure out why any human would ride something like that voluntarily.
Finally.....it was time for the train and while I think David enjoyed it, there was no way that after wanting to do something for 5 hours that it was going to meet his expectations! Essentially the train became the pathway towards David's next "want/obsession". From the moment we got off the train, David saw a sign for the Simpson's Ride- David has wanted a Simpson's lego set of a grocery store for almost 2 years so in David's mind if he could get to the Simpson's ride, then he would also get to the Simpson's lego set.....unfortunately, he would quickly learn that there was no lego set at Universal Studio. David was stuck.....all he wanted was the lego set, and the lego set didn't exist. I reminded him that we would be going to Legoland....I told him of the Lego store in Downtown Disney, but eventually I had to just pick him up to keep him moving. Carrying a 12 year old, even a small 12 year old, through a theme park is not easy, but at times for David it is the only way to help him get past being stuck.
On the World Expo part of Universal Studios there are many of the 3D rides and rides with lots of lights and motion.....the more of these that we rode, the more overwhelmed David's brain became, while at the same time making Jacob's brain amazingly happy! We were at a cross roads....it seemed that David could really only handle a few of these types of rides at one time, but Jacob was desperate for them.....how do you help 1 child go past these rides when it is a once in a lifetime opportunity, while helping your other child who is quickly becoming overwhelmed by all of the stimulation to his brain? There is no magical answer for which child's lead you follow, so my mom and I did our best to balance the needs of both boys.
Luckily, an easy balance came when it was time to meet characters....all of the boys fell in love with meeting Patrick from Sponge Bob Square Pants! It is a riot to see Matthew, who goes from Ultra cool 14 year old, who made sure that he had sunglasses with him everyday to wear at the parks, to little boy when he meets any character. He is still not certain whether these characters are real or if they are costumes with people inside!
Finally, our bodies were becoming exhausted and the park was gearing up to close, and Jacob saw 1 more ride that he HAD TO DO! The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit was the Mecca of rollercoasters for Jacob. I was certain he would chicken out, and he was just as certain that he had found the promised land! Faster than I have ever seen him move, Jacob ran off, ready to tackle the Rockit! I chased after him, ready to reassure him that it was ok to skip such a big ride. I got to the entry of the coaster in time to see Jacob talk to the ride operator and take his seat in the front row......I had hoped he was too small......certain he would chicken out.....positive he would NEVER sit in the front row....instead, he fist bumped his riding partner, and off they went! No sooner than he finished his first ride, than he jumped back in line, and hopped right back in the front seat for a second ride on the Rockit! True Crazy Insanity!!!! Matthew stood there watching him the whole time...desperate to get on the Rockit and petrified all at the same time.....it would be another day before Matthew would jump on the big coasters with his brother, and he did a great job cheering Jacob on and watching him ride.
As we walked back down from the Rockit my mom and David were having a blast- you see the sun had gone down, David was cooler, and he was hitting his stride. He thought that knowing his brother was on this insane coaster was the funniest thing EVER! He laughed and laughed at the idea of Jacob being up in the air, over his head. The entire time Jacob rode this coaster David kept my mom chuckling by asking what in the world Jacob was thinking!
Finally, with laughter and the conquering of the Rockit, my mom and I were beat and it was time to head home to our villa, and prepare ourselves for Tuesday at The Magic Kingdom. To Jacob's great excitement upon returning to the villa we ordered pizza at 9:30 at night, proving that dreams really do come true! Finally around 10:30 we got the boys into bed, and my mom and I set out to pack and plan for our day with Mickey Mouse!