Sunday, May 10, 2015

Good-Byes Are So Hard... (Day Ten)

On Sunday, we were anticipating 15 hours of travel time.  Oh yay.  Better on the way home than the way there, I guess.  And, worth it for being able to fly into and out of Eugene with cheaper tickets.  But, it was something we weren't exactly excited about.  The good news, though, was that we didn't need to leave for the airport until 10am - which was huge.  Our family had a super smooth time packing up without having to wake up at the crack of dawn.  John and Mikayla even went out and got me some mini chocolate doughnuts for Mother's Day (and Therma-Care patches as my headache wasn't doing so well at that point). 

With all of us having to depart on our own and turn in rental cars, it's always a nice relief when we all arrive at the waiting area at the gate together. 

We killed some time with selfies. 

And, Whitley decided to give everyone a subdued performance of "Let It Go". 

That little guy in her hand is "Gilbert".  She was letting him get a chance to experience the fun of flight.  =) 

We touched down in Boston knowing a very special person was waiting on the other side of the gate. 


This gal actually went as far to purchase a refundable ticket to Chicago so that should could get beyond security and meet up with us during our layover.  Originally, the layover was supposed to be longer, but Delta moved back our departure time from Orlando, so we only had about 90 minutes to spend with her.

But, 90 minutes was way better than nothing - and clearly, as Whitley is demonstrating, we EMBRACED every moment of it.  =)

I love it that she's only seen Heather on a few occasions since Heather left this time last year, but Whitley remembers her and loves her so much. 

I love Heather so much too. 

We decided to take over GATE 11 and turn it into our own personal picnic areas as we partook in Wendy's for lunch. 

And, we did our best to gleam every piece of "new" news from Heather as we sat there.  And, then, we got everybody set to take some pictures. 

Since we hadn't taken a group photo that successfully in Disneyworld, we asked if Heather would do the honors for us. 

Maybe this one's the best?  It's always hard to determine....

Talk about making the most of a long travel day.  I can't imagine the kind of sadness we'd all be feeling with such a long, discouraging travel day if it wasn't split up by the presence of this amazing gal.  We all care about her so much.   What a blessing that Delta put our layover in Boston - and how incredible of her to make the drive and take such an effort (and potential financial risk if it didn't work) to see us! 

Our next layover was in Salt Lake City.  Beautiful, huh?  It was supposed to be a tight connection to start, but we lost some time in our take-off from Boston.  It felt like "Amazing Race" as we were literally running - clear across the airport to the area where you have to walk outside to board the itty-bitty airplanes.   I was so impressed with Steph's stamina as she ran while carrying Whitley through the airport (Travis was detained trying to secure their stroller that was gate-checked).  She even had to take the time to change her in the restroom.  It was tight.  The Schillings and Rileys all got aboard.  Then Steph.  Then Mom and Dad (who were seated in the rear of the previous flight).  Finally, Travis stepped through the door onto the plane and our whole group (which felt like half the plane full), cheered loudly.   We were airborne soon after.

What an incredible flyer Whitley turned out to be.  I slept on every leg - I was not doing well with my headache and was keeping afloat only by alternating some pretty heavy pain-killers just to keep above the nausea or any other symptoms that would make flying purely miserable.  But, Whitley, she barely slept at all - but, was so good on board. 

And, that's it of the pictures.  We arrived in our airport by about 10:30pm and were actually home by 11pm.  (Again, we love that Eugene airport!). 

It wasn't until the afternoon of the next day, when I found myself alone, shopping at Fred Meyer, that I got really sad.  Tears were barely kept at bay as I loaded items in my cart - and struck up a conversation with the cashier about our trip.  Once I got back into the car - oh sheesh.  What a mess.  We were all feeling it - well, most of us - maybe not the guys so much...  But, at different moments, it all hit that we were no longer a floor apart (Michele's room was literally on top of ours), down the hall (Mom and Dad) or even a door apart as was the case with the Whites. 

Ultimately, I think Whitley phrased it best when she said the next day, "I miss 'my people' - I miss my 'everybody!'".  Seriously, Whitley, that was the bottom line for me too.  Beyond the rides, thrills, atmosphere or experiences, it was being with my "everybody" that made it so special.  Thank God this "everybody" is part of each others' lives more than just once every five years...


- Gathering everyone in the airport as a family one more time before we left (selfies and solos). 

- Walking out of the gate in Boston and embracing Heather. 

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Magic Kingdom Marathon (Day Nine)

Mom and Dad's final full day in Orlando was spent on the road to, and in, St. Petersburg.   Actually, it began with a visit to the captain of the bass fishing expedition they went on Tuesday - Mom had offered to work on his knees and help with an injury his granddaughter had experienced.   Both of them reported to feeling much better after her session with them.  How very cool that they had created such a friendship on that fishing trip that it would follow up in such a way.  (And, next time they are in Orlando, the captain promised the fishing trip was on him)!

Back in Orlando - the Rileys, Schillings, and Whites were preparing for one very long day in the Magic Kingdom.  We all knew it would be our last day, so none of us wanted to waste a single second. 

After quickly concluding that we had not gotten in fast enough to hop on the "Mine Train" (without a 60 minute wait), we took a detour to the "Astro Orbiters".  This was a ride Whitley saw all the time during her waits for us at "Space Mountain" or near "Buzz", so she really wanted to ride it.  But, it's not a Fast Pass ride, so the lines tend to be very long (as it is very poorly queued).  We ended up being the first riders of the day.

Well most of us were.  These two opted not to do a ride that twirled you in circles.   Yes, they were posing.  =)

You had to ride an elevator to get to the platform. 

Certainly, this ride offers a gorgeous way to view the park at 8am!

I think it's safe to say this ride lived up to Whitley's expectations...

From Tomorrowland, we ventured over to Adventureland.  The "Jungle Cruise" ride re-opened on this day, and we wanted to hop on before the rest of the park figured that out. 

We ended up with a captain that was from the University of Oregon - so when she saw the "O" on Travis' shirt, it made her day. 

Again, Whitley was all about sitting with Traig.  =)

Next up, "Aladdin's Flying Carpets".   Whitley flipped allegiances and went with Aunt Chele. 

Ellie and Travis rode together.  She did her best to get him wet from the "Spitting Camel". 

And then we were the "Steph Squared" carpet.  =)

And then, (due to Fast Pass times) back to "Tomorrowland" - for "Buzz" and "Space Mountain". 


This picture has significance.  John rode solo on this one.  Wouldn't you know it, but the ride stalled for a bit - at exactly the point that John could hit a target that gave you 100,000 points a bulls-eye.  He maxed out his gun, but then realized he had another gun to work with and maxed that one out too.  Well done, John - well done!

One ride we had not yet done, but I had promised Whitley I'd take her on was the carousel.  Given our experience in Salem, I was hopeful to be next to her when she victoriously conquered this ride. 

And she did!  Way to go Whitley! 

This pic was meant to be viewed through the mirror...

We all got a little worn out at this point.   By the time the day was through, we'd even hopped on "The Little Mermaid Ride", "Mickey's Philharmagic", and a few others that we normally wouldn't have done if we didn't have all day to be there. 

So, we mixed it up and headed over to "Tom Sawyer's Island".  John, Mikayla, and I ended up at a nice little sitting area in the shade with a Diet Coke - but, the Schillings adopted Brayden and took him for an adventure. 

Whitley, in the meantime, got a little love from Dale.  =)

Finally, we ended up congregated on Main Street, waiting to be brought inside to the air conditioned atmosphere of the "Plaza Inn".  It was a bit of a tiring wait - and this was by far the hottest day we'd faced (but, still tame compared to what Orlando could be). 

Our faces say it all during this wait. 

But, then, we got seated - ordered - and ice cream goodness during dessert made everything okay. 


During lunch, we had discussed the "Sword in the Stone" attraction.  Apparently, a select few people are able to lift it out - we all guessed at how they pick that person and what kind of lever they switch to free the stone from a distance.  We were hoping it would be one of us (and kept trying thinking someone watching would pick our "cute family" to be the one!). 

This pic - you've got Brayden's muscles working so hard - and then Whitley so intent underneath him...

Michele took Brayden back to Tom Sawyer Island - while John, Mikayla and I cruised Main Street for some souvenirs. 

Michele then took her family captive encouraged her family to join her at "The Country Bear Jamboree".  Apparently, this was a nostalgic favorite of hers from the days she'd have to wait out of "Splash Mountain" in Disneyland with a "too little Ellie" - and this was the attraction they could do during the wait.  Hmmmm.  What a bummer we were caught up shopping on Main Street to miss this. 

Brayden's thinking, "Why didn't I just go with Mom and Dad?"  ;)

We convened again in Frontierland.  Definitely our favorite part of Magic Kingdom. 

And, surprise - we rode "Splash".  Mikayla and I took this selfie and I put up and Instagram of the one we'd taken just like it five years earlier. 

Hey there, Traig and John! 

The Whites were wearing thin at this point.  Travis was literally near the exits to depart when he begged Whitley to give "Dumbo" one more whirl.   It was getting to the very sad part.

This was our conversation via FB Messenger at that time:

Me:  "These final hours are like a drawn out torture- we are all so tired, our beds would be so much more comfortable, but nobody has the heart to leave the park...just one more ride, one more hour, another memory to bittersweet."

Travis:  "Oh I'm with you, we were 100 feet from the exit and I convinced Whitley she needed one more Dumbo emoticon"

And then the Whites left the park.  And the rest of us knew it was getting real. 

Well, except for Ellie and Brayden.  They were in a blissed-out state playing with their foam swords we let them purchase while in line at "Pirates of the Carribean".   (Yes, they are 12 and 16....)

However, Nati, Michele, Mikayla, and myself were not feeling the same level of enthusiasm.  In fact, things had taken a turn for the melancholy.  If you go back and look at the "Splash Mountain" pic, you'll notice Nati not looking very happy.  At first, we thought it was because Michael squished her out to sit between her and Michele, but in reality, she was the first to succumb to tears - and Michele quickly followed - all while standing in line at "Pirates".  Mikayla was the next to lose it and then I lost it.

There was a woman (probably mid 50's), who in clothing and appearance looked to be from India, along with her grown daughter that were positioned next to us in line.  I watched her looking on when Michele and Nati started shedding tears - and she looked very concerned.  When Mikayla and I started in, she seemed to be even more upset on our behalf.  I thought I should relieve her that no one was in trouble, no one was dying - we were just sad to be at the end of our magical vacation.  I was laughing through teary eyes as I told her that it means you've had a very blessed and incredible vacation when you are crying because its over - so really, its a good thing.  She agreed, but I think she still thought we were a bit crazy!

Us girls bonded with a five-way fist pump - showing off the Magic Bands that served us so well for nine days. 

After our cry session, we re-grouped and headed to "Gastons" for some infamous cinnamon rolls. 

We made everyone wait to dig in until they'd arrived for all nine of us.  Yes, they were delicious. 

This side of Magic Kingdom amidst the fairy tale "kingdoms" really is very enchanting. 

Our final hour was spent picking out some items to have shipped to us from the Christmas shop (Michele broke a snow globe while in the shop - THAT was embarrassing!).   Our family did a final run on "Splash" before deciding to depart.  Sadly, we thought we'd beat the parade/fireworks congestion by riding on the train - but, wouldn't you know it, it dumped is out at the furthest point from the exit in Fantasy Land!!!  At this point, Mikayla had been crying non-stop since the beginning of "Splash" - she was soooo sad.  When we had to get off the train and fight the crowds - she said, "This is TORTURE!!" and refused to look back at the castle.  Painful.  Truly painful. 

Mikayla put this on her SnapChat - but I think the majority of our group agreed with its sentiments.  It wouldn't be hard to leave if it hadn't been SOOOO GOOOD! 

Just to lighten the mood at the end of this post - after the fact, the Whites showed us these pics of Whitley "helping" out while packing that evening.  

That expression says it all about having to pack up to leave!


- Riding the carousel with Whitley and knowing how far she'd come in her courageousness!

- The "Five Years Later" selfie pic with Mikayla at the height of "Splash Mountain".

- Ending up in a tear filled, snot running mess with the other girls in the line at "Pirates".  So bittersweet, but as we are all laughing at ourselves - you knew it was a priceless moment to treasure, even in the sadness.