Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 3, Part 2: Kickin’ it Old Skool, Gracious Superheros, and Snow in Central Florida

I forget exactly what made us leave Universal Studios and head over to Islands of Adventure next door. I think it was the prospect of finding Spider Man. And I think Aria wanted to meet him too.

Anyway, it worked out well, because we met Dora and Jimmy Neutron on the way out of Universal Studios:

We wandered into a section of Islands of Adventure where all of the characters from days gone by were hanging out, complaining about their gall bladders, and smoking Lucky Strikes. Just kidding. Aria had a great time, although I doubt she knew who many of the characters were. Like Woody Woodpecker:

Betty Boop:

And Popeye and Olive Oyl:

Ah, the good old days. I was more of a Tom and Jerry kid myself (which should explain a lot), but still…

So Carla and Aria stopped off at an arcade, and I went to find a place to regroup for a minute (no matter how much fun I’m having, prolonged exposure to theme parks and/or costumed characters makes me a little twitchy). I’m hiding in a recycling bin, singing the theme song from “Yentl”, when who do I see? Spider Man!

Now, dragging Aria out of an arcade is normally a task I wouldn’t undertake without shin guards and a sturdy helmet. But for Spider Man, I was willing to risk it.

Thankfully, she was more excited about meeting Spider Man than playing another round of Whack a Mole, so I escaped the situation unharmed (albeit with Barbra Streisand’s voice permanently wedged in my frontal lobe).

Here, I should mention just how great the Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure people were. When Spidey noticed that Aria was here on a Make A Wish trip, he arranged for us to meet all of the superheros there that day. We got to go backstage and meet Captain America, Rogue, Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm:

They were all wonderful to Aria, and took a lot of time out for her. It’s just amazing to see that much compassion from people who probably get pretty tired of dealing with kids day after day.

We ended the Islands of Adventure trip with a visit to Dr. Seuss-land, where aria got to play with all sorts of Dr. Seuss-like gadgets, and got to experience the book-turned-ride The Cat in The Hat (thankfully, without any references to Mike Myers).

Back at the GKTW village, we headed over to the ice cream shoppe, where Aria slathered herself with chocolate ice cream. This is the “before” shot, when her clothes were still clean and the sugar buzz was just beginning to set in:

Thursday was also the Christmas party at GKTW. Aria got to decorate gingerbread men, dance, and consume even more sugar. Then, Santa stopped her and asked her to ride in the carriage with him in the parade. Sorry, I’ve got video of that, but the video camera, the software, and I are still not getting along. Plus, I take lousy video.

Oh, and a snow maker on top of the theater made it seem like it was snowing during the parade. For the kids who had never seen snow, it was a pretty amazing experience. For us, it just made us glad we weren’t in Ohio. J

Ok, that’s enough blogging for the time being. Until next time…


Day 3, Part 1: The GKTW Villas, Universal Studios, and Donkey Snot

On Thursday, I finally had a chance to get some pictures of the Give Kids the World village. Here’s our villa, complete with the single most common rental car in central Florida, the white Chevy Impala:

The view down our street. Notice the lack of snow and frosted windshields:

The lake in the center of the village. The Gingerbread House, the ice cream shop, and the theater are in the distance:

Here’s the ice cream shop. The bananas on top are replaced daily by 50 foot tall monkeys (I’m told the bananas are grown in Texas. But then again, they claim pretty much everything that’s oversized):

This is the castle, located next to the ice cream shop. And yes, that’s a Texas mushroom:

On the ceiling inside the castle are stars with the names of each child that stays at the village. Aria’s star is in section 6B, Row 25, Star 21, so if you ever have a chance to visit, the kind folks at GKTW will gladly point it out for you.

Then it was time for me to tuck away my alter ego of Daddy, the Rogue Camera Nerd, so we all could head over to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. When we got there, we were greeted by Scooby Doo:

We moved on and took in a couple of… rides, I suppose you would call them. First up was Nicktoons Blast, where you get in a huge pod that shakes the east bejeezus out of you while you watch a movie screen sized cartoon. It’s a lot cooler than it sounds, because the whole premise is that you’re flying in one of Jimmy Neutron’s thingamacontraptions, chasing some evil alien that looks like the green Jell-o the lunch lady used to slop out for you in third grade. You’re trying to stop the evil alien from taking over the world, which is kinda like trying to keep the lunch lady’s Jell-o from taking over your intestines.

Next was Shrek’s 4D something or other. Similar concept, only with a big rubbery ogre and a pair of 3D glasses I haven’t seen since I was nine. You’re chasing the ghost of Lord Faarquad through some pretty zippy scenery, trying to rescue Princess Fiona once again. The 3D effects were actually pretty cool, not like those lame-o 3D movies from my childhood where you had to by a 6-gallon Mega Slurpee from the local 7-11 to get the glasses, and then all the sugar from the Slurpee shook your brain hard enough that you actually believed you were seeing things in 3D.

Oh yeah… and the Shrek thing had lots of scenes where someone sneezed or squirted something, and every time that happened, you’d get spritzed with water from some unknown source, so you could really feel what it was like to be splattered with donkey mucous.

I’ve always wondered what the 4th dimension really was – I thought it was “time”, but I see I was mistaken.. Now I know all 4 dimensions: Height, Width, Depth, and Snot.

I leave you with this shot of the family with Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey. The donkey is rather lucky I don’t believe in cruelty to animals – he called me “Moby” while we were getting ready for the picture (Carla pointed out that I’ve been told I look like Moby before, so I couldn’t get too worked up about it):

More Day 3 blogging to come…


Friday, December 7, 2007

Day 2, Part 2: A Royal Feast, a Tree Lighting Ceremony, and Gravity Defying Acrobats

So after the glamorous photo shoot and autograph session, we headed over to the World Showcase, where you can sample the cultures of many different countries. Aria, fancying the prospect of being a seasoned world traveler, was quite taken with the concept – I wonder if she’ll be a bit dismayed later in life to find out that China and Italy are not actually within walking distance…

First off was Mexico, where we ran into Donald Duck, who was apparently on his way to audition for a Mariachi band.

From there, we walked over to Norway. We toured the shops and looked at the Viking ships while we waited for Aria’s big surprise of the day.

By this time, I had reached critical mass. I was tired, hungry, and beginning to get a little weary of feeling like I was in a day-long traffic jam. Aria was getting a little tired, too, so she was starting to get a little edgy, thus adding to my general grumpiness.

Anyway, in Norway, we attended a feast with the Disney Princesses. And although the menu was an unabashed meat-a-thon, my figurative hat goes off to Chef Tony, who came out to the table after the server discovered that I’m a vegetarian, to see what sort of culinary creation he might prepare for me. The result was an egg noodle dish with beet au jus (didn’t know you could do that) and root vegetables – quite a spectacular dish.

So Aria got autographs and photos with the Disney Princesses A good time was had by all, and we were ready to move on to our world tour.

Next up was China, where we watched acrobats perform feats that defied several physical laws. Newton, you’re just going to have to deal.

Aria seemed particularly enthralled with the China exhibit. She insisted that we go in to watch a movie about China's history. She's a nerd just like her parents :-)
On our way back from China, we ran into Dopey...

After that, we headed back to the entrance, where the Disney gang lit the gigantic Christmas tree. By this time, we were all pretty tapped out, so we headed back to GKTW for a bit of rest and blogging.

Thus ends Day 2 of the Make A Wish extravaganza. Stay tuned for scenes from Day 3, which will be another exciting and fun filled adventure (though we haven’t decided where we’re headed yet).

Live life now. Be the small bookcase.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Day 2, Part 1: Shakin' it with Blue, a Carousel Ride, and Lots of Photo Ops

Whew. Lots of catching up to do.
First, I should explain that instead of staying on the Disney hotels, Most of the Make A Wish kids and their families stay in a village called Give Kids The World in Kissimmee. This village contains villas and is set up like a little town. A little town that just happens to have a putt putt course, a carousel, an ice cream shop, and a bunny for a mayor.
Anyway, there's lots of fun to be had right here in the village. Last night, Blue from Blue's Clues stopped by to put on a show. And don't you know who ended up on stage?

This morning, after breakfast, we took a quick ride on the carousel before taking off for the parks...

Then, it was off to Epcot Center. We had been told that Aria wouldn't be all that into it, but we had something special scheduled there early afternoon, so we thought we'd give it a try.

We went through this Nemo thing that Aria loved, but it was rather dark inside the ride, so my pics for that were pants. Sorry.
From there, Aria got to meet some of her favorite Disney characters. The Make A Wish badges were fantastic, because Aria got to go straight to the front of the lines to get pics and autographs.

I'm still sorting through pics, so hopefully I'll get the rest of today's pics posted tomorrow. But I'll give you a hint - there was a reason Aria was wearing the Snow White costume...
Right now, I'm about to run out of battery power on the laptop (not to mention I'm about to run out of steam in general), so thus ends this post. Let it suffice to say that everyone had a blast today, and we're ready to get some rest so we can do this all again tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

And, we're off!

So this morning started out with the arrival of a limo to take us to the airport:

A very cool way to start out this trip, and Aria was very excited about the fiber optic strip lights and other shiny gewgaws inside the limo. She was decidedly less enthusiastic about being shuffled through airport security and being told, "Go. Stop. Take your shoes off. Put your shoes on. Do the Hokey Pokey."Still, even the TSA people were decidely less grumpy with her around than they were the last time Carla and I came stumbling back from Vegas.

Our flight boards in about 10 minutes. Aria has been watching planes take off and land for about an hour now, so I think she's ready to go find out what this flying thing is all about.

So we're off to Charlotte, then Orlando.

That reminds me of a funny story that Carla probably doesn't want me to tell. Years ago, when Carla and I first got married, we had a connecting flight in Charlotte on the way to Ft. Lauderdale. We were sitting in the Columbus airport, when Carla pulled out the tickets, then looked at me a bit puzzled and said, "Why is my mom's name on these tickets?!" (ETA: Carla's Mom's name is Charlotte.)

Good times :-)

Ok, time to go... more updates and nonsense later!


Monday, December 3, 2007

Prologue, or prequel, or... well, the introductory stuff, you know...

So, there was a girl named Aria, and she had a wish. If you hadn't figured that out from the title of the blog (^^look up^^), then I'm not sure what we're going to do with you. Maybe we'll put you on mess duty. Or you can cross your arms, squint one eye, and go "ARRRRRRR" at people as they travel past this blog. But I digress...

Um. So anyway, back to the girl and the wish.

One evening, We filled out an online form for an organization you might have heard of - the Make A Wish Foundation. We weren't sure, but we thought this little girl might be granted her wish of going to Disney World. And hey, I'm a sucker for online forms, so I figured it was going to work out either way.

The wonderful people at Make A Wish moved heaven, earth, and probably a couple of Hondas to make Aria's wish came true. And so tomorrow, we embark upon a week long journey through all things Disney, and a heck of a lot more to boot.

"Wait!" You say. (Yes you did. I heard you.) "Why does Aria get a wish? Why don't I get a wish?!"

Well, you can. Just not this particular one. At least not traveling with us. (I' m told I snore to the tune of Sid Barrett-era Pink Floyd songs, so you wouldn't have much fun anyway.)

Anyway, here's why.

Aria, in her almost 5 years, has dealt with all of the various trials, tribulations, and really bad stuff that goes along with Alagille's Syndrome. Multiple heart surgeries, icky medicines, an ileostomy bag (try running around all day with a Ziplock bag glued to your stomach), pokes, prods, weird looks, and a predisposition for the color mauve. She's been through more in her short years than most of us go through in a lifetime, and she's still smiling.

So the Make A Wish folks smiled upon us, and coordinated a fantastic trip full of cartoon characters, ice cream, and Princesses. We're inexpressably grateful for this trip, and thought this blog might be a nice way to show everyone how much joy this experience will bring to Aria's life. It's also a good place for me to ramble incessantly while Carla shakes her head in mock exasperation, so just smile and nod. It will pass.

Now then.

Our journey begins tomorrow at 7:30 AM. We will post as often as we can, with pics and (if one of us can figure it out) maybe even some video. So save this in your Favorites folder and check back often. It's going to be a fantastic trip!



You did save this in you Favorites, right?

That's what we thought.

Until next time,


ETA: Comments! We want comments, folks! We're comment fiends, after all. So tell us what you think!