Tuesday, November 10, 2009
First, let me introduce you to "The Cast"
Me (Age: 34.995)
Sheri (Age: 3_.923…and the most loved member of the family by most)
Aaron (Age: 4.983)
Eric (Age: 2.96)
Yes, all four of us have birthdays within four weeks of each other. March must be a particularly fertile month for our heritage.
As soon as we decided to take Aaron for a trip to Walt Disney World when he turned three, we immediately knew the first question everybody would ask us would be, "So are you going to take Eric for his own trip when he turns three?" Initially, I thought it to be fair, but that was for just a fleeting moment. First, I didn't want to be the one to tell Aaron, "Sorry, bud, but it's Eric's turn." We might as well have just said, "You see, Eric is actually our favorite child…you were the practice child, and we perfected it with him, so he gets to go himself." Second, Sheri and I are both first-born children, and we know just how hellacious that position is.
"There's only one kid around, so it must have been you."
"Your sister/brother said that because they heard YOU say it!"
"You're old enough to know better…they aren't!"
Nope, if we go, it's the entire family going.
2007 was an odd year for vacations for us. We had one trip planned…our ten-year anniversary trip to WDW in May (sans kids). Spring Break rolls around, and the stress levels in the family were getting a little out of whack. We decided that we needed to get out of the house and go somewhere, even if for a couple of days. We looked for something open in Chicago on short notice but found nothing. We started looking at Wyndham resorts in Wisconsin Dells…nothing. Nashville? Nope. Branson? Well, yes, but what the Hell is there to do in Branson with kids? They won't get Jim Stafford's jokes (Sheri doesn't even get Jim Stafford's jokes).
Branson it is! We get away for a few days and come back kind of refreshed. It was a relatively inexpensive trip, but more importantly, we survived a trip together as a family with relatively few death threats. We already had the May trip pretty much paid for. We decided to see if WDW would guide us (while we were down there) on whether to make the trip in December or not.
For those who read the May trip report, y'all know that we had a marvelous time together and absolutely loved Epcot. We did the best we could to just tell the boys (Aaron mainly) that we were going on vacation. He figured it out the day we got back but wasn't upset at all. He was nonchalant about it…surprisingly. We did some number-crunching and decided that we could probably swing another trip in December so long as we didn't go crazy with other spending and didn't do any other trips for a while (a special thanks needs to go out to about 70 "Moose-meeters"…@#$#$^!$# enablers!!!). We booked this trip in early June…just before the 180 day mark so we could get our dining reservations in. We decided not to tell the boys this time and surprise them the day of the trip to see what would happen.
We go through July and August and realize that perhaps we may have overextended ourselves a bit as one of my fairly good paying part-time positions at school ended. Also, the Economics department was finally having some success at hiring and retaining faculty, which means that my non-tenure-track teaching position may no longer be needed after this year. At the same time, Sheri ended up getting temporarily (1-year, but I still think they'll try to keep her there) placed in a different supervisory position with more responsibility and stress. To make things even more interesting, I was in an accident that totaled our low-mileage-excellent-condition Elantra in late August. Needless to say, the stress levels were ratcheting up again.
I knew when it was, and I knew that it just wasn't going to work out (school, finances, no way we were doing THREE (?!?) trips in one year, etc).
That goes to show you how much I know.
On a whim, I looked at staying at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek resort, using part of an unused 5-day hopper pass, and just renting a car down there. I priced a bunch of other things and found that the two of us could realistically do this entire trip for $350 ($218 for just me). I drafted up a 2-page document on how this all could work…as we duked it out, airfares went up some, but we bit the bullet and went down for the Meet for a total span of about 48 hours.
Of course, Aaron surmised that we were down at Disney World again…
…and this time he wasn't as forgiving.
"I WANNA GO! WHEN CAN WE GO?!"
He's doing this almost every day. Remember that we can't tell him because it's all a surprise. So we start making up things...
"We were just there a couple of years ago."
"We'll go sometime…it'll be a while, but sometime."
"It costs a lot of money to go there."
"You are no longer our favorite child…get over it!"
Halloween rolls around, and Sheri decides to start packing.
After Thanksgiving, Sheri and I really start ramping up the Disney stuff. We've got CDs in our vehicles with movie songs that we play when they're in there. We ask the boys what their favorite characters are and what their favorite movies are. We ask Aaron what rides he liked the best when we took him back when he was our test child. We start "strongly recommending" certain Disney DVDs when they fight over what to watch.
By the way, that last item was more difficult to do than you may think. Until May of this year, these boys were the only grandchildren on all sides of the family, and the grandparents spent more on these two than a small country's Gross Domestic Product for the entire year.
Don't believe me? Here are a few shots of our video cabinet showing the side with the kids' movies:
Imagine, if you would, wifey and I going to the cabinet to pick a movie to get the kids to stop fighting. Now imagine wifey and I fighting over which movie to pick in order to get the kids to stop fighting. It usually ended with the boys coming in, pushing their way between us to the cabinet, and grabbing a Disney movie to watch while Sheri and I continued our argument.
So far, the secret was still intact...but barely. I'll admit that Aaron thought I was nuts when I opened up two strollers down in the basement and asked him to jump in to see if he could fit. We have a double-stroller, but one of the rear wheels has taken a liking to falling off on occasion. Plus, I was dreading trying to haul that puppy onto the Disney Transportation System.
The week before the trip was nerve-wracking to say the least. Sheri had to deal with a number of issues at work, and I was to be in the middle of finals week. My mother called to tell me that my Grandmother was likely not going to make it much longer. We celebrated the boys' birthdays together the week before the trip. Of course, a major ice storm was brewing and was scheduled to hit us about the time the party started. The university already had contingency plans in case it had to close Monday (during finals week…they would give finals the following Monday…while we were to be in Florida!). The surprise was nearly ruined several times by family members not talking in code around the kids the day of the party. We decided to stay the night at Sheri's folks and wait out the ice storm. Sunday rolls around, and the ice is falling! My cell phone doesn't get that good of reception over there, and I missed a phone call from my mother. I called her back using another phone and got the news that my Grandmother had passed away. I was starting to figure out if there was any way I'd be able to make it down for the funeral, but she told me there wasn't going to be one. Then my phone rings again, and I can't hear anything on the other end. I looked up the area code in the phone book map and surmised that it was eastern Pennsylvania. Ten minutes later it dawns on me that it was probably Mel (a friend heading down to WDW just before us) trying to call. I grab Sheri's cell phone and try to call them back...to no avail.
We made it home, and the University was open for finals on Monday, so I wouldn't have to deal with that. I kept checking the weather for Bloomington, Atlanta, and Orlando. An impending snowstorm was making its way over towards New England the night before we were to leave, so I started figuring out where all of our planes would be originating from. Our flight from BMI to ATL originates out of ATL, and that's a hub, so operations can redirect planes in the event of cancellations. The one from ATL to MCO originates from Houston, which will have come from Atlanta the night before, which is in the clear. Whew. The weather in Orlando was to be unseasonably hot the first part of our trip, and unseasonably cold the last part. I got the final out of the way on Monday and only had to deal with the final the day before we left. My teaching assistant was around and helped out more than I ever could have imagined! I spent most of Thursday entering grades and dealing with students begging me to give them a higher grade so as not to ruin their college careers and ultimately their lives.
I called the school as I was picking Aaron up the last day so the teachers wouldn't be tempted to tell him to "Have a good trip!"
We get the kids to bed a bit earlier than usual as we were going to be waking them up around 4 am. As they're dreaming of sugar plums, I'm hauling down what seemed like 100 pieces of luggage, which, by the way, were hidden like Christmas presents. We make sure everything is set, and I load up the van with all but one bag (for our toiletries). I then looked around at the documents, realized that I hadn't put on the Magical Express tags, cursed, and went back to the van to put those on.
10:00 rolls around, and we head upstairs to bed. Normally I'm up until midnight or 1 am, but I was so tired I couldn't even do the "we're too excited to sleep" bit I always do the night before we leave. I collapse on the bed and am snoring in no time (but not after making sure we had 3 alarms set). I know that we'll be awake in just a few hours.