Monday, June 7, 2010

WDW Family Trip, December 2008, Pre-Trip

So….here we are in spring of 2008.  We had a fantastic vacation last December, and we were all ready to be back.  This December, however, was going to be a little more difficult because, for the first time, we have a child in school.  The job outlook for me was not looking good in early 2008 because, for the first time in ten years, the Econ department at Illinois State University looked to be fully staffed.  I had a good prospective job opening up at the community college that I teach at, though it wasn’t technically for an econ position.  They needed to fill both a business and an econ line…the search was for the business position (or so we thought…more on this later).  In the off-chance that they didn’t have a good pool of business candidates, there was a possibility that they could switch and go for the econ line.  I threw my application together and didn’t make it past the first cut as they had a good pool of business folks.


No job at ISU.  My best chance at a full time job in a looooong time just fell through.  I needed to find something, so I called up someone over in the Finance and Planning area, and, luckily, they had a project that could get me through the summer with a small stipend.  Still, things were looking bleak for a trip in December as we figured we wouldn’t have a lot of income to play around with.  No planning took place when we typically started planning (February-March…I’m an anal, consummate planner, remember?).

Then the sun started shining down on me.  We had a resignation at ISU, and the chair asked if I’d be willing to teach two courses.  Before he could finish the sentence, I screamed YES at him.  It wasn’t entirely for sure if it would be a half-time or full-time appointment, but it’s better than nothing.

WOOHOO!!!  We can pla…..wait.  There’s that little thing called a dissertation hanging over my head and at the point where I simply lost the internal motivation to work on it with all the frustration.  I even tried to get my chair to threaten to drop me to provide a little external motivation, but he’s just not the kind of guy to issue ultimatums.  Sheri wants this thing done AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!!!!  I do too, but it’s not something that I can just wave a magic wand at and POOF, it’s done.  I think I’m not too bad at teaching and doing the behind-the-scenes research.  I just can’t write worth a crap.  I was able to do my Master’s thesis in no time, but the expectations were very low, relative to a dissertation.

Wait, we’re supposed to be talking about Disney, aren’t we?!

With a job at ISU and some moderate progress on the dissertation, Sheri agreed that we can start planning a trip in December, hopefully as a graduation present.  We had started helping people all around us planning trips (one family went in mid-May, while our daycare provider was interested in going in mid-December), so the trip bug was biting.

I called AAA and talked to a new rep…the agent we had used before had moved up to the Chicago area.  I loved working with her because she knew what we wanted, and we knew what she needed (the fact that she was drop-dead gorgeous didn’t hurt, either).  I took a chance and gave the new agent the specifics.  She called back with pricing and a promise to kiss me for making it so easy for her. 

Why didn’t the previous agent offer that?  Did I mention that she was drop-dead gorgeous?

We got the pricing, all the while helping our daycare provider get set up with AAA and getting their package set up.  The agent assigned to them left a lot to be desired, and they were getting frustrated at everything.

We started looking for airfare rates as soon as AirTran released the December dates.  We toyed around with a number of possible alternatives and came up with a short 4 day trip.  Better than nothing.

Then a really good reduction in airfares popped up just before we booked, which actually made it cheaper to add an additional day of hotel/dining plan/theme park tickets to get a much lower rate.  Wow, this is going to be our longest trip.

We hadn’t told our daycare provider that we were looking yet, especially since it was going to be the exact same time they were going to be down there.  I had a little fun…I was able to quote her airfare prices and schedule from memory for the days that she was looking for, and she was floored (and a little scared) that I knew them, not knowing that we were flying the same time frame.  She started asking questions about everything (she had never flown, never really been on a vacation with their family, never stayed on site at Disney, only had been to WDW once, etc).  They decided on staying at All-Star Movies (same as us).  It was then that I couldn’t do it anymore and told them that we’d be there the same time.

She almost screamed and immediately said that we’d have to get a few drinks together down there.  She has never seen Sheri drunk and thinks that my wife is this sweet, innocent girl (much like some of you on here think of her).  They wanted to do Hoop-dee-Doo with us, but they couldn’t get a reservation for their party-size.

Things are looking good in August.  We got all of our dining reservations that we wanted.  We had a rough sketch of what parks we wanted to hit on what days.  I found out that I was going to be considered full-time at ISU (I verified this three times with the department).  I had no desk in my office at ISU as they lost a tenured person’s desk and I let them have mine.  I got the desk on a Wednesday in late September, and I was overjoyed.  I ran into the office to thank them, and the secretary said that I must not have read my e-mail yet.

Well, of course I couldn’t read my e-mail!!! My computer was missing cables and couldn’t be set up in my office!  (No, I’m not making any of this part up!)

I pulled out my laptop, hooked up to a wired connection, and nearly suffered an aneurysm as the contract I had signed not 2 weeks prior (they were over a month late in getting the contracts to us because of a signature issue on their form) was incorrect and that I has only to be half-time.  Plus, I had to pay back the over-pay.  Plus I lost accumulated benefits.  Plus my insurance premiums would likely increase and additional $500/month or so starting in January.  Plus I lost 50% of my tuition coverage benefits.  Plus.  Plus.  Plus.

Of course, I had decided not to pursue a couple of job opportunities because of the assumed full-time status.

I’ll get back to Disney in time…my therapist tells me that this is part of the healing process.

I talked to the community college to see if I could add courses for the spring and to put feelers out for a possible job search for an econ line.  She had just received word from the Dean/Board that the line they filled last spring (when they filled the business line) was actually the econ one and that they were not going to fill econ with a tenured line for the foreseeable future.

Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey.

@#%*#&@#$!%*(&#@!!!!!  That’s about the only way we could look at it.  In the grand scheme of things, we’ve still got a lot going for us (health, family, happy).  But geez…this is gonna hurt.

Sheri’s entrenched in her job…almost too entrenched.  She’s filling in temporarily in a position that should be paying a significant amount more than she’s currently earning, and they extended the timeframe by another year.  She’s got tons more stress than the position she’s supposed to be in.

We had already told the boys that we were going by now…they even made a countdown chain to mark the progress.  Sheri’s stressed out like crazy.  I’m about to tell everyone I work for where to stick it.  The dissertation is completely stalled by now as I focused on survival (I was teaching 2 new courses to me…one I never even took as a student, so I had to learn the stuff before I taught it…double the work for half the pay.  Again, better than nothing, but ARGH).  We probably shouldn’t go do Disney, but darn it, we need the break.  Plus, we just got wind that they were going to offer dining for free, so that saved us around $500.  Screw it…let’s just go as it may be the last time we can make it in December with the boys in school.  Yeah, we were also feeling guilty about taking Aaron out of school for a vacation.

Screw it…we’re going!

And then the van started falling apart.

OH COME ON!!!!!!!!

We got to under a month, and, as expected, the excitement level started increasing exponentially.  Granted, it was around this time that our daycare provider and her husband were about to kill each other (and I don’t mean that figuratively…they had just about cancelled the trip and had one of them move out a couple of times).  Sheri had already packed and repacked and made a list and checked it twice (no word on who was naughty or nice).  I had a Disney CD in the car that we listened to, and the boys actually made parts for the songs.  Aaron would sing the male part to A Whole New World as best as he could, and Eric would intentionally screech the female part.  Sometimes, out of nowhere, Eric would stop in the middle of what he was doing in the living room and start going “Hakuna….matata…hakuna…..matata.”  Aaron would (at the exact right time) chime in as an adult Simba, “It MEANS no worries….for the rest of your days.”   I’ll spare you the details on how they acted out other parts, including Pumba’s aroma lacking a certain appeal.  We’re ready to go!!!!!

20 days.





15  Go for auto sequence start









Main engine start



At 6 days out, I come down with a monster cold, right as I’m finishing grading exams and preparing for finals week.  No prob…it hit now, so I’ll be okay.

T-minus 6 days and counting….




(I’m not feeling any better)



(I’m done with finals week and feel like crap)

Hold for a minute.

I receive word that our great-grandmother had passed away at the age of 97.  She was an absolutely amazing woman who I doubt missed a single Sunday of Church.  I don’t think she had any enemies anywhere.  She was a school teacher…was married 71 years to the same person (he passed away a little over a year before).  You could tell that she was saying goodbye to everyone at Thanksgiving.  It was expected by most of us but still sad to see such a wonderful person who touched so many lives leave us.

T-minus 24 hours and counting…the day before we leave.

The morning starts with the boys being well before the butt-crack of dawn.  I hopped online to watch the flight that our daycare provider was going to be on.  She was a nervous wreck about flying…so nervous in fact that I actually typed up a 9 page document on what to expect from when they get to the entrance of the airport until they get to their first theme park.  She and her husband were speaking to each other again, so the trip was on.  I was a little worried about her connection in Atlanta as they only had a 30 minute layover.  I was beyond relieved to see that their connecting gate was the immediate next gate to where they were arriving.  I was hoping that they’d call and give an update, but I think she kind of had her hands full with 6 kids (I’m counting her husband now as a kid because he had no part in the planning and wasn’t helping a ton with the kids).  I warned her that the first day they were there (a Saturday…at Magic Kingdom…arriving in the afternoon…one of the few days that didn’t have a Christmas party) was going to be the busiest day they’d have down there.

Around 7:30 am, Sheri heads down, and we have breakfast.  I’m still feeling like crap decide that, since it has been 6-7 days and hasn’t cleared up yet, I’d better head to the doctor’s just in case it’s bacterial.  Sheri calls me a moron for doing this the day before we leave.

As Sheri and I fight the way we do most of our awake lives, Aaron says that his stomach doesn’t feel very good…

…right before he barfs.


No fever.  Nothing else wrong…just barfing.

Sheri and I decide to quit fighting for a bit to see what we can do with Aaron.

Now, for those keeping track, I should have seen that somebody’s telling us NOT to go to Disney World tomorrow.  This is becoming the pre-trip from the Seventh Circle of Hell!

I go to the Doctor’s, and, of course he tells me that he’s not sure if it’s bacterial or not.  So…..what do I do?  He was leaning towards “no” but wasn’t 100%.  He gave a prescription for antibiotics to take with me just in case I needed to have it filled down in Florida if it hadn’t cleared up in another 2-3 days (apparently colds last around 10 days on average).  I left the office, and, on the way to the car, started implementing the discipline in which I teach.  Let’s see here…if I choose to fill the prescription here, the marginal benefit is huge, while the marginal cost is just the time needed to fill the prescription plus the co-pay.  If I wait, there’s a chance that I may not need to fill it; if I do however, the marginal benefit will be lower than the original marginal benefit, and the marginal cost would be considerable.  I drew a graph, performed a couple of regressions, and decided that I’m filling the prescription here, regardless of what the doctor said.

I’ll probably go to medical school after I finish the Ph.D. and figured I’d get a jump start on the diagnosis/treatment section of the medical boards.  I just hope I get the M.D. soon enough so I could start Law School before I turn 55 years old.  Can you tell I’m ready to be done with school?

I called Sheri while waiting for the prescription.  She gave me and update on Aaron (calm…barfed a second time though).  She agreed with Dr. Mush’s plan of attack (and disagreed with my Dr. Love impersonation that I tried on her over the phone).

Got home and did the waiting game…will Aaron be okay?  I was guessing that he was like me at that age and got so excited before something that I would occasionally yak.  I was like clockwork whenever we were going to a show in the mushroom (what I called Assembly Hall in Urbana/Champaign…where the Illini play)…20 minutes before we left.

We're-packed (I lost count how many times we’ve done this by now…ran out of fingers).  The weather is looking to be warmer than expected, so we swapped out a pair of jeans for a pair of shorts.  We throw the yellow Magical Express tags on the bags and wait.  Aaron keeps on barfing, and the pessimist in me is screaming, “DON’T GO, YOU MORON!!!!!”(See…even my conscience calls me a moron).  The barfing is becoming less common, and he stopped around 6:30 that evening.

I’m drinking decongestant like it’s Diet Coke and wondering if there were any tricks on clearing the ears when they were clogged up.  I half-way contemplated talking to a friend of mine on Facebook who was a pilot for American Eagle but worried that he’d tell me to stay grounded for risk of blowing out my eardrums.

We get the kids to bed (they were too excited to sleep, as you could imagine) and put the trademark large pink bowl next to Aaron’s bed in the off-chance he’ll need it to blow chunks into.  After they go to sleep, we start getting the toiletries put together, and I take bags out to the van.

Then I bring one back in for Sheri to change something out.

Then I take it back out.

…and bring another one in for something else.

It’s at about this time I threaten to go on strike and refuse to do any more baggage handling.

After about the fourth switch-a-roo, we think we’re done and try to figure out what to do before going to sleep.

This is unfamiliar territory now.  We’re used to going to bed around 11 pm, getting very little sleep as we do the “we’re too excited” commercial about 157 times, getting up at the crack of dawn (around 4 am), and taking the first flight that leaves Bloomington .  This trip, we’re taking an 11 am flight, so there’s no need to panic and get to bed early.

We try to figure out a movie to watch…don’t think we found one.  So we resorted to what most couples do when there’s spare time and the kids are asleep.

We played a computer game.

Such an exciting life we live, eh?  Oh to be in my 20s again (she actually talked to me back then).

We get to bed a little before midnight, with every part of our body crossed that Aaron will be okay to go.

A Dream is a Wiiiissshhh….your heaarrrrrrt makes…

Day 1 HERE

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