Monday, August 16, 2010

Mushfam Disney Family Vacation, June 2010; Pre-trip

For those new to the Mushfam Trip Reports, a little introduction is in order, here:


Mush: author of this mess, 37 years old. Podcast freak. Disney Freak. Geeky college professor of economics. Freak. Known by Wifey (below) under several different disparaging names.

Wifey: aka "Sheri", sweet and innocent on the outside, pure evil on the inside. "younger than Mush." The "glue" that keeps the family together (so she says).

Aaron: 7-year old kid of Wifey. Doesn't look a thing like Mush – he still has his concerns about the UPS guy. Kid genius who likes things his way.

Eric: 5-year clown and student of drama. Antagonizer of Aaron. Occasional insomniac. Also looks nothing like Mush.


You'll meet more on the way, but those are the main players.



After December of 2008 (our last trip), we reached somewhat of a dilemma. We absolutely loved going to WDW in December, but we now have children that are school-aged. Being married, Sheri and I disagreed on taking the kids out of school for a vacation. The odd thing – me, being the educator, fell on the side of taking them out (this early in their education…the week before Christmas break…they're smart…etc.). Sheri, however, held her ground on the side of not taking them out of school. Still, I completely understand the argument for not doing it, and I (painfully) put away the thoughts of another December trip with lower crowds, perfect weather, lower prices, friends usually there the same time frame. (sniff, sniff)


This meant that the summer was going to be our time to go, along with the about 93% of the rest of the United States. We made the mistake of visiting the Doorway to Dreams store in Chicago's Woodfield Mall a couple of times and, after seeing the model room for Kidani Village, I started running the numbers to see if it were feasible to become a DVC member. While doing that, I looked at the possibility of doing an annual pass (with the $100 DVC discount) and getting 2 trips in every AP year (e.g. do a trip in mid-June in 2009 and another trip the first week in June in 2010). Ultimately, we chose not to buy into DVC (YET), but going through this exercise put early June in my mind as the "best of the worst" times to go in the summer.


We weren't going to set up a vacation in June of 2009…the finances and timing just weren't there. The next possible option was June of 2010. As we started pricing lodging, we then realized how much cheaper it was to stay in mid-December. UGH! I started pricing right after New Year's for a really short trip, and the timing with the school schedule didn't work out. Okay, we're going to suck up the higher prices and just do the June trip.


It was around the fall of '09 that I made a post over on Facebook about the lodging, and someone suggested looking at renting points from DVC members to stay there. I knew the basic going price for renting points, but I figured the number of points needed would make it too expensive. When looking at the prices in the summer, however, I realized that the gap between a hotel stay and a DVC unit stay was much smaller; in fact, it appeared that, in many cases, it was cheaper to go the DVC rental route.


The next issue…finding someone who had points and was willing to rent them. I wasn't going to go to Disboards to find a renter (too many issues with them, and I have several good friends and former Disboards admins who have been treated horribly by other admins…I'll just continue to lurk over there on the rare occasion). I knew and trusted the vast majority of the members on Lodgeboards (the online community that I called home for several years), and it seemed that the vast majority of the members on the Lodge were also DVC members. I put out an inquiry to see if anyone was willing/able to rent points to us, and a couple of members immediately replied. A few private messages/texts later, one of our friends (Brian) agreed to rent to us. We worked together well and ultimately had a savannah view studio at Kidani village booked for our stay.




Considering we've only stayed at All-Star Movies and at Pop, this was going to be a little different (that's an understatement if I've ever heard one!). We were excited, to say the least. We knew the boys were going to love it too, especially since we think Aaron secretly wants to marry Bindi Irwin and live at the Australia Zoo with her.


This led us to another decision to make – when do we tell the boys? We could let them in, but they would be impossible to live with for the next several months. On the other hand, we could hang Disney over their head if they didn't behave ("if you don't eat your peas, we're not going to Disney World"). We decided to hold off on telling them for a while, though this became an issue of contention as the trip got nearer.


At 180 days, we got everything we wanted in terms of dining options. We were going to try several new places this time, including the Coral Reef, Sanaa, Biergarten, Ohana (breakfast), and 50s Prime Time Café. Things were coming together fairly well for everything. Sheri, of course, started packing about 2.5 months out. She'd set up clandestine missions to pull down suitcases from storage, pack a little, and put them back. I asked her if she wanted to wear some of my camouflage pants from when I was in the Air Force (she already had the camo on her face…oh, wait…that's her normal make-up). Several times, we considered just telling the boys as it was going to be easier with the packing and logistics. Every time, however, we decided to keep it a secret.


In April, a couple of curve balls got thrown at us (literally). I was asked to be the head coach for Eric's t-ball team, and the season (of course) partially fell while we were to be on vacation. I offered to do it with the caveat that I had an assistant who could take over for those days we'd be gone. They agreed, and I agreed. Also, to aid in my dissertation progress, my committee chair advised that I take an online course over the summer. I agreed. Also, Heartland Community College asked if I would be willing to teach the 4-week online courses of Micro/Macro that I created last year again this summer. SURE! I guess this means I'll be taking the laptop down with us, but it can be done.


Another curve ball…one of our cats (Mac) had developed some health issues. In the summer of 2009, I noticed a few things with him (he was about 19 lbs…had been for years) that gave me a little cause for concern. To avoid potential kidney issues, I decided to switch him (and Murphy…our other cat) from a 100% dry food diet to a majority-canned diet. Sure enough, he started losing weight and back down to where he should have been within about 5-6 months. He was back to his normal self – active, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, etc. The problem was that he kept on losing weight, despite letting him have as much food as he wanted. I ended up taking him to a good friend of ours (Steve, a veterinarian who went to my church and, along with his wife, graduated the same class as Sheri) for a check-up, and we found one major issue: he was diabetic. Okay…so that means we'll be giving him insulin twice a day every day.


Uh oh…we're going to need to find someone who's willing to do it while we're gone. The ones who often help out with our cats were also going to be gone for much of the time we were going to be on vacation. We decided to look at boarding the cats, but the cats don't take to change too well, and we didn't think that was the best scenario. On a follow-up visit to Steve, we saw that we needed to increase the insulin even more and, unfortunately, an x-ray showed possible masses on both the liver and the pancreas. It could have been slow (been there for years), or it could be aggressive. The primary goal, though, was to get the diabetes under control, so we agreed on a regimen of insulin. After about a week of the prescribed dosage, I didn't notice any improvement, so we upped it a bit more, and we saw what seemed to be a marked improvement to him. He was getting back to his normal self, though with some hind leg issues (which is common with diabetic cats, though it can be reversed possibly once the blood sugar gets regulated). We decided to keep the cats at home and have a neighbor give the shots.


Okay…cats are taken care of. Baseball is taken care of. Classes are taken care of. Dining/flights/lodging is taken care of. Sheri and I did have a talk about what to buy in the form of tickets. Since the two of us were going to be coming back to Disney World in January for the half-marathon (I'm still well-short of my goal for donations…hint, hint), we crunched numbers and decided that the best way to go would be the annual pass. Kewl!!!!! We're going to be AP holders. Of course, this opened up a whole bunch of new possibilities – mainly comparing the Dining Plan (which we were set up to do) to the Tables in Wonderland. After a bunch of spreadsheet manipulation that would have our friend Tricia proud, we decided to stick with the DDP. Tickets are now taken care of.


Of course, the camera that we had been using for a couple of years was starting to lock up, so, about 2 weeks before we were to leave, we started looking into purchasing a video camera that also took pictures. I usually research this for a week or two before purchasing, but there just wasn't enough time. Luckily, several people who work at our local Best Buy were students of mine in the past, and they actually didn't hate me too much as a teacher. We walked in, and, sure enough, one of the two I was hoping would be there was there. He saw me and made a beeline right over to us. After about 10 minutes of Q/A and looking at the models, we decided on one to buy. The video it took was AWESOME; the pictures, however, were not much better than VGA quality. We decided to take both of the cameras and hope that the older one would hold up.


Sheri's job was getting a little more intense, and, after realizing that she hadn't taken more than 3 days off in a row for over a year, she was READY to get on this trip. We were counting down the seconds for a couple of weeks! It was still a secret with the boys, somehow…this wasn't easy because we were helping several others plan upcoming trips, and we had to be careful not to talk about our trip (or pretend we were talking about their trip when it was ours actually).


Finally…the week before the trip!!! One of our traditions is to talk about what we would be doing "this time next week." We love that tradition! Ohhh, but the pitcher that is life threw us a couple more curve balls. AirTran changes our schedule for the 5th time, with several notifications of changes the 3 days before we were to leave. This time it actually was to our advantage. Actually, we did have one where a schedule change allowed us to rebook at no cost to a better schedule – it allowed us an extra 2 hours in the parks on the last day. I was a little worried about that, but everything worked out.


I kept trying to think of a way to spring the surprise on the boys, but nothing was coming to me. A week or two before we were to leave, Lou Mongello announced that his monthly meet-up in the parks would be at the same park we'd be at on that day. It took a couple of days to come up with this, but I decided I'd see if perhaps Lou could help with the surprise. Since I do my podcast updates on the blog, I have the iPod running constantly while we're in the car, and the boys consider some of the people on the podcasts to be relatives (as much as they hear them). Aaron's a big fan of Mongello, and Eric recognizes WDW Today…Mike Newell, specifically. With only a couple of days before we were to leave, I fully expected that the recording schedule wouldn't allow it (plus, were I in their shoes, I'd be concerned about a precedent…would others inundate them with requests to do something similar?). I sent out a message to Lou and, a bit later, to Mike.



I always find a way to make sure I'm not 100% before a trip…now, 99 times out of 100, I'm battling some sort of sickness. That's because it's usually winter time. This is summer, so I should be out of the woods with regard to sickness. I'm feeling great, even the day before we're to leave, so I'm confident I won't be sick!


I'm proud to say that I was not sick at all when we left.



I'm not proud to say, however, that I still wasn't 100%.



The day before we were to leave, I headed into ISU to do the incoming freshman orientation. It was hot and cloudy, with a good chance of rain. I pulled into the parking lot, got out of the car and, at the last minute, reached in to grab my umbrella. When I went to close the door, my hand slipped a bit…


Guess where my thumb was located as the door was closing at a decent rate?



It closed so hard that the door was actually latched and locked, with my thumb still in there. I unlocked it and opened it back up (quickly, I might add), and ascertained the damage.


Yeah…it's not in good shape. Within 5 seconds, the entire nail was completely black. It was starting to swell, and (Mr. Obvious, here) it was throbbing with pain. I walk the ten minutes to my office and start throwing cold water on it and compressing it. Luckily, nobody showed up for the orientation. I contemplated heading over to get x-rays on it, but there just wasn't time because Aaron had a game that evening in a town a few miles away. Sheri's exhausted, Eric's whiny, Aaron has a game, and I'm injured…AND WE'RE ONLY 12 @#%)%^!#@$!@#$ HOURS AWAY FROM OUR TRIP!!!


I had ice on my thumb on the way to the game, and, while I'm usually behind home plate shagging passed balls and helping with batting stances, one of the other coaches offered to switch with me, so I did first base. While I could get my glove on, I couldn't squeeze it shut. Plus, the leather was rubbing the thumb raw. (how many readers will I lose with that statement?).


We get back home from the game, throw the kids in the shower and somehow get them to bed. I heard back from Mike that they would love to help out and had something planned for the recording that night.


We got the last-minute items packed…triple –checked all the info, and went to bed for the night with three alarms set for 3:45 am. I simply can't go to sleep because my thumb is absolutely throbbing. It probably takes me a good 45 minutes to actually crash.


Yeah…we're looking forward to a relaxing vacation…we know how to relax in Disney World……………….

Continue on to Day 1 HERE

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