Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 7, Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig!

Wow, another long day.  Up at the crack of toodamnearly.  Gina gave packing a good try last night, but she was just too out of it to do any good.  If you saw yesterday's blog post before my editing job, you probably know that I wasn't in any better shape.

Saturday is horse day!  We stopped and took some laps on the way to breakfast and again on the way back.  We checked out a little before 11:00, and then hung out at the Amberville Station, checked out the chapel we had somehow missed all week, then had some going-away ice cream.  Gina had wanted to do some shopping, but by the time we tore ourselves away from GKTW, we only had about 20 minutes to spare.  Instead of Downtown Disney, or even the Disney Outlet, it was the Disney Shop at the Walmart on the corner.  They see a lot of this sort of thing there, I'm sure.  Grab some t-shirts that might fit someone you know and get thee to yonder airport.

By now I have learned to turn off the GPS and follow the signs.  We get to the airport half an hour past our appointment to turn in the van because I missed a left turn.  It was TomTom's fault, I swear.  We follow the herd to security and take our time getting through.  We have more than an hour before they start priority boarding so we don't need to hurry or risk losing a child.  Make it to the gate, gate-check the chair and it's time for lunch.

Kayla enjoys flying
The flight is just a flight except it was a little bit bumpy.  Not that we noticed.  I woke up briefly when they started the takeoff roll, Gina woke up when Jason spilled his drink, Jason and Emily played together well (!) and Kayla didn't sleep at all the whole day.  Smiles and activity from start to finish.  It's 11:00 and I can hear her up in her room now.  She may be glad to be home....

During the flight, one of the flight attendants gave the kids candy bars, which was nice of her.  Treats like that are not part of the usual air fare!  On landing, we were last to get off because of the aisle chair and all that, and J &E sat quietly waiting our turn.  Good on them, because it takes a little while to vacate a 737, and they were hyped up to be home again.  I had just reached up to get our carry-on bags out when the same attendant approached and said these magic words:

"Who wants to see the cockpit?"


"Dad!!"  If they think I'm embarrassing now, just wait until they're teenagers.

Jason explains things to the flight engineer.
So J & E got a tour of the surprisingly small cockpit and I did my best to use Kayla as an excuse to get in there myself.  I don't see how 3 grown men fit in that space, but somehow it works.  They both got to wear crew hats and pretend they were flying.  I couldn't hold Kayla much longer and her chair was at the ramp so we headed out.  Then the attendants brought all our bags to us!  While I got that all sorted out, the kids finished their tour and Jason comes out holding the captains hat.  No, it was not given to him; he was looking for the captain to give it back.  The captain was still on the plane, looking for his hat.

Not one person ever asked if they like gladiator movies.  What a missed opportunity that was.

We gather our gear and our wits, head out to get our bags, and completely miss the limo driver.  We took an elevator when he was looking for us at the escalator.  Add to that the extra time it took to get off the plane and I was a little worried he'd given up and gone home.  He found us in just a few minutes though, and we got loaded in and headed home.

Our photos from this trip come from5 sources - my phone, Gina's phone, our camera, GKTW photographers, and the Disney PhotoPass.  We have nearly 1,000 images and they take more than 2G of space on my hard drive.  Mom wants every last one for the scrapbook.  It will look like a set of encyclopedias.

Nearly everyone we met at GKTW is a volunteer.  I had a chance this morning to ask an actual employee how they recruit and retain volunteers.  Many of them are from the local area, retirees who are keeping busy and doing good.  They have one guy there now who is serving for a year as part of Germany's mandatory military service.  They get high school kids because of a community service requirement.  Word of mouth has resulted in church groups from everywhere and college students on alternative spring breaks.  Wish families come back and volunteer.

Running the Village is a lot like any other hospitality resort with the noticeable difference that the front line staff is all volunteer.  Everyone you encounter on a day to day basis is there because they want to be there and it shows.  While I certainly appreciate all the work the employees do, it is impossible to do what they do without the vols.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Disney corporation is a huge part of the success here, too.  They could provide just the tickets and we'd all be grateful to have that, but they encourage the employees to volunteer.  They devote the characters on a weekly schedule.  The attention we got at the parks was phenomenal and made us feel like VIPs.  Even when Kayla slept through an encounter, the characters still paid attention to her and interacted with her siblings.  The selection and training for these people must be rigorous, I'm sure.

We had a great time, but are certainly glad to be sleeping in our own beds with nothing on the books for tomorrow but a trip to the grocery store.


  1. GOOD times. Glad you're home safe. What great memories for the kids!

  2. Glad you had a great time!

    I live in NYState, but volunteer at GKTW every January. HOnestly, we volunteers GET so much more than we give. One of my friends was so excited by his volunteer experience he goes down for two months, annually and volunteers 3 shirts a day!

    You guys have no idea how precious you are to the volunteers!

    Fairy Grandma Linda

  3. Love your writing! We leave for our trip on October 1st and it was great to have an idea of what to expect.

    How did Kayla's Wish Star help you in terms of getting through the lines quicker?

  4. There are so many options available you can't possibly do everything. Even if you have the energy, the parks close at night! You'll have fun anyway.

    The GKTW badge will get you straight to the front at character meets, and on fastpass rides there's no need to get the fastpass and go back later. Everything else we used the wheelchair entrance anyway, so kind of skipped the wait regardless of the badge I think. If you don't need the wheelchair access for a chair, the badge takes it's place so you can use that entrance.

  5. Linda, thanks for volunteering. I know from experience how tough it is to find and retain vols and the fact that GKTW does so well at it speaks volumes for them and the vols.

    Thanks again!