This vacation was ours entirely, and we decided to go to Orlando. It's hard not to say Disney. We went to Disney. But really it was Orlando, and Disney was to be the centerpiece. It's like people who become geographically confused regarding which is the state, Philadelphia or Pennsylvania. Orlando is not Disney...Disney is not Orlando. But yeah, a vacation to Disney...in Orlando.
At least that's how it started out.
But more on that later.
I have a really hard time even starting blog posts about huge events because I have trouble encapsulating the hugeness into bite size (post size) chunks, and when I start to contemplate the sheer 'muchness' that I need to cover...I get a little overwhelmed and just...don't write it. I feel like I need to write this though, because it's big and more or less awesome and incorporates a bunch of firsts not just for Lily, but for Emma, and for Leslie and I. So I'll cut the steak into bite sized chunks and feed it to you by the forkful. Medium rare.
It all starts with the stress of air travel.
I am a reluctant flyer. I hate the lines and the airport and the waiting, but I'm not autistic. As much as I hate it...I can deal with it. I can make sense of it. So knowing what I know about the process of air travel (if not the actual terror I have of the flying itself) and knowing what I know about how tolerant Lily is of waiting in lines, remaining seated, being afraid of things (wasn't sure how she'd handle the jet noise or the take off/landing or the turbulence), confined spaces with crowds of people...I was absolutely dreading this trip.
And by that I mean the travel part of the trip, not the actual vacation itself.
So we arrived at the airport and we used the "connector" with Lily just to keep her near us so we didn't stress about her wandering into crowds. The connector (I'd mockingly referred to it as "the Freedom Tether") was like a mountain climbing rope with two belts. The the rope itself was moderately elastic, and was attached to each belt via a carabiner. The idea was that Lily would encounter resistance and become acclimatized to maintaining a certain distance from whomever she was connected and eventually settle into a blissful state of equilibrium, where she didn't struggle against the rope, but accepted it and began keeping step with us effortlessly. The first time we'd discussed it I'd been...hostile. I was still more than skeptical but reluctantly agreed that it made sense from a safety standpoint regardless of how it looked, and it even worked a little before Lily decided she's had enough and it stopped being a good fit for the adventure. At one point I had it on in the airport McDonald's and she got the tether wrapped around her neck (not dangerously so) and I got freaked out and pissed off simultaneously...and my stress level ratcheted up yet another notch...but that comes later.
First was check in. We'd been warned that Air Tran would strictly enforce the 50 pound bag limit. much thought had been given to the selection of our luggage. I took a scale up into our bathroom strictly to remove articles from one bag and pack them in another to balance out so that we'd have a 5 or 10 pound grace in each bag before getting to the airport. We packed heavy items in the carry on. We wore heavy shoes and packed light ones.
They began checking us in. I waited with a sick sense of foreboding. They didn't weight bags. They just put them on the fucking belt. I very nearly stopped the lady and actually did say,"don't you need to w-...nevermind," before coming to my senses. Like really??? Come ON!
Bags safely checked and on the flight, we were ready to tackle the next hurdle...security.
Leslie walked ahead to the TSA agent and after a brief huddled discussion, waved to us to follow her. There was no line. There was no wait. An agent was dispatched to walk with us, helping us carry bags. She stopped the security line at one point and waived us through the X-ray-mahjigger so we could all get through together...and then we were done. And I was like...huh? That was awesome!
Where things got less awesome was at the gate. Waiting for boarding. Trying to keep Lily busy/happy. Getting the kids fed. Getting ourselves fed. Snapping at each other. The aforementioned tether/connector 'incident'.
We thought we had the right plan. One of us would board early and get everything on the plane. Then we'd follow with Lily at the absolute last minute so there was less time on the plane. But in reality, Lily was melting down just outside the plane, slapping, pulling hair, trying to bite...and I felt so bad for her. When she eventually did board, she was more or less fine. And although she bounced back against the seat more than she kicked the seat in front of her (we bought seats so that Emma and I were sitting in front of Leslie and Lily for this very reason)...ultimately she quieted down nicely once we boarded and she was buckled in.
|Emma got a treat|
When we landed things went smoothly. My sister flew down to join us and provide us with some support, and we had to wait at the airport so we could share the minivan ride to the house we rented. That seemed like more waiting...and more potential for trouble, but Lily loved the escalators, and the car rental place let me stuff all our luggage in the car so basically we just took turns showing Lily all the escalators. She liked riding them up and down. And Emma played Minecraft, but complained that her ears were hurting.
My sister showed up, and after picking up her baggage, we all piled into the minivan and headed to the house.
Leaving the Orlando airport you have to pay tolls. I knew this only because I'd had a project meeting there once, and had brought no cash (pretty typical for me, really) and had to stop at each toll plaza in order to fill out a form indicating I'd be responsible for sending the money or I could be arrested. They don't take credit cards. We brought cash. We found ourselves and our home via three simultaneous smart phone searches and drove to the house to the competing voices of three separate GPS apps.
Continued in "Part 2".