Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Happiest Place! (Last Day)

Saturday was all about Disneyland.

Saturday was also redemption day.

I had learned enough in the last two days that I knew, no matter what, Brother and I would be sticking with Debi and Abby... no matter what. I had discussed that with them too. So, bless their hearts, they completely planned everything around us and what would make Brother the happiest. They had arranged to meet up with a dear friend at lunch so they even made sure to have Miss Menlove in on the plan so that she knew what to do for us while they were gone. We told Brother the plan and even the part where Debi and Abby wouldn't be with us for a little bit and Brother seemed to be OK with the whole thing.

I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best... or at least better than yesterday.

Brother's demeanor leaving the hotel lobby that morning was so much more cheerful as we walked with all the team. You would never have ever guessed that just the day before was such a stark contrast. I mean he was even happy to get a picture with Coach Debi and the tiniest little palm tree we've ever seen!

The whole walk Brother was smiling and cheerful and I was thankful for every step that was enjoyed.

On the walk there I was working on my phone cropping the picture of Brother's Disneyland ticket that I had asked Gray to send me from her phone. I just wanted to make it as easy as possible to read for the ticket taker because Thursday night the ticket lady looking at Brother's ticket on Gray's phone struggled a tad and we had to enlarge it and turn it and shield it from the glares so that it could be read... so I was just trying to make life easier for the Disneyland worker we would be cheerfully greeted by at the entrance of the park. (Remember this little tidbit of info for reference in the next few paragraphs.)

We were all going to meet for the team picture in front of the Disneyland Castle so we were hoping to get everyone there at the same time and soon because everyone was also antsy to split into their groups and jump into their plans for the day. For that reason we all spread out into different lines so we could get through about the same time.

Alas, we ended up in the unhappiest line in the happiest place... yep... that's how I roll... nothing can ever be easy... ever!

So I just happened to choose the line that was being run by, I swear, the real and over-grown version of Grumpy, so that will be how I refer to our ticket-taker from here on out.

I approach Grumpy and he does not break character, "Hello," I grin at him and then leaning in I explain to him that my son standing next to me (who is bouncing and waving with pure excitement, shouting out happy phrases of joy to all as he watches his teammates and coaches entering the park) has special needs and that he lost his ticket but that I had a picture of his ticket on my phone, "What do you want me to do with that? I can't do anything with that. Where's his ticket?" he states and asks with wrinkled forehead and furrowed brow.

Still smiling, thinking maybe he misunderstood, I explain to him again the situation.

"Where's his picture? He has no picture. He has no ticket. I can't help you." He states with an astonishingly perfect impression of Grumpy during the part when Snow White tries to get him to dance.

I am confused at this point. "What picture?" I'm thinking to myself, "what is he talking about?"

Then I remember, "Oh ya, the lady on the California Adventure side Thursday night did take my picture, but didn't take Brother's."

"Um, we used this same picture of his ticket to get into the park two nights ago and there was no problem and she did not take a picture of him when she checked his ticket on his friend's phone," I calmly and kindly explained to him.

I wasn't calm to try to be nice to Grumpy, I was trying to stay calm because Brother was ready to explode. I wanted to step on Grumpy's toe and poke his eye! Brother was beginning to lean into me and growl and show his frustration at what I had caused. This was beginning to cause a little bit of a scene and the people behind us in line were getting ornery and anxious and Brother was sensing it.

"We came in with an entire cheer team on Thursday and they just handed all of our tickets to us and then they let us all in. No photos were taken. None of us have photos with our tickets, they didn't take photos," one of the Cheer moms that was in the line next to us explained to Grumpy. I thought for sure that would be the ticket to the ticket in... she was forthright and I am a pushover.

Grumpy didn't care.

Grumpy then grumbled at Brother and me to step aside so that me and my son wouldn't hold up the line any longer and let another few people in, then pauses and announces that there is nothing he can do and that he can't accept the ticket on the phone. I explain again that I was able to get back into the park Thursday night without any issues and asking him kindly because at this point Brother is starting to yell at me and we are becoming quite the the center of attention. Grumpy the ticket-taker was now frustrated with me trying to get in and was getting annoyed by Brother yelling at me in various moments and sometimes repeatedly one after the other, "Nana's little girl!!!!! Judy's little girl! This is your fault missy!" Brother would push me slightly and show me his mad face while lookers on walked through the ticket gate disgusted with the fact that they had to walk past us to get in.

We had waited in that line right in front of Grumpy for at least 15 minutes while he let others in and continued to explain he couldn't do anything about it all while not directly looking at us, yet giving us dirty looks. Finally Grumpy relented to, at least, get a manager or something to that effect and that if I was lucky enough they might be able to let Brother in, but he doubted it. I again tried to explain Brother's situation and asked why they couldn't just let us into the park.

I honestly thought that Brother and I were not going to be let into the park. I was picturing a day like yesterday and was already trying to plan out in my head how we were going to walk back to the hotel without a fiasco... or even going to buy another ticket to get in...

All because Disneyland employees all along the way didn't follow protocol I was now facing the Protocol King with a side of Evil Queen. From what I understand you are supposed to get your picture taken when you very first show your ticket and then after that when you show your ticket your photo then comes up on their screens so they can make sure you are being truthful or that someone didn't just take your ticket. I get it, I really do, it's ingenious really, but Grumpy had taken it too far and his tone toward my son with special needs was spreading through the line of vacationers. I really wish there would have been some one nice who would have talked nicer, acted nicer and tried to help Brother feel a little more safe and not so targeted and as if he had done something wrong.

I was also realizing at this point that we were the only ones left in line from the cheer team.

Brother pushed me a few more times and yelled a lot more times and finally our heroin arrived! She was an older lady...well, maybe my age (ha ha), but she was so nice and it took her only 5 minutes to remedy our situation, get Brother's picture taken and let us through. By this time the cheer mom who had seen what had happened to us had gone on ahead and told Abby and Debbi and they had just arrived in time to see us get through. It was so cute because Debi said it was a good thing that we'd gotten through when we did because she was about to start a ruckus (I know she would have done it in the cutest way, though.)

On our way in I saw Ariel and there really wasn't much of a line so I decided to get a photo with her so that I could keep my tears at bay. I also thought it might get Brother's mind off of what had just transpired... nope.

"It's all your fault! Judy's little girl!" he yelled as he marched past me.

The character handlers offered to take the picture for me, but I really wanted to take a selfie... I mean how often do you get to take a selfie with a Disney Princess right after a run-in with Grumpy?!

Brother got so incredibly excited when he saw Goofy, but was too nervous to stand in the long line for a picture so I told him I'd get a picture for him. I really to wish Brother and Goofy could have met--they have the same laugh!

One of my Disney bucket list pictures is me with the famous statue of Walt Disney and Mickey in front of the castle! But it is made even better by the pink blossoms fitting me with a beautiful spring hat!

Brother and Abby (his Disney Team)
We had missed being part of the team picture in front of the castle because we'd been held up for so long. I was bummed about that and so was Brother, but it was quickly forgotten when it was decided that we would be going through Sleeping Beauty's Castle!

He wasn't thrilled about the picture only because he was so excited to go inside and he didn't want to wait another second to get in there. Thank goodness he'll do anything for Coach Debi!

Oh he couldn't have been more excited and intrigued as we walked through the entire story and he would gasp at all his favorite scenes. This time I was tearing up because he was so happy and I was just so thankful that this day was going to be the best day after all.

And it really was. I mean, it was almost eerie how perfect it was for Brother, seriously. You will be shocked and amazed at how epic it all was. I'm going to mostly post pictures now and let you take in the happiness and excitement on Brother's face.

I had NO idea that there was a sword in the stone at Disney land! I can't even tell you how excited I was to give it a try. The Disney nostalgia was all just so exciting for me and I could hardly handle the beauty of it all! I felt like a kid again!
Miss Menlove and Brother give it a try

It's all magic!

Then came the "It's a Small World" ride.
I have heard nightmare stories about this ride and jokes that seem to give an accurate description...
I was so amazed and intrigued thinking of Walt Disney and all of his ideas and dreams and how he pioneered so many things, just because he dreamed and made them come true. For me, "Small World" made me feel like Walt Disney was up in heaven enjoying our complete and total excitement. Brother would get excited right along with me.
In true Disney fashion everything is a treat even when you are waiting in line. There were even ornate animal-shaped topiaries of which the horse was Brother's favorite of course. 

Neither of us could contain ourselves as we entered Small World. It took me back to all the Sunday nights as a kid when Disney would have their family special on TV. My whole family gathered around on those special nights each week and that is when I became so intrigued with all that Disney did. They typically started the show with a previous/re-run introduction from Walt Disney or Roy Disney or the then CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner. Oh the good old days when families gathered around a small, squared, box-like television and ate homemade goodies and air-popped popcorn while we piled on blankets in our front room. That's why Walt Disney was such an intriguing man to me; because of him I have tender memories like that and I never even had the chance to go to Disneyland. I just felt the magic at the movies! (And yes, for those of you who might ask---I watched TV in color!) 
After the Small World ride we headed over to the Buzz Lightyear ride. Of course we are always on the lookout for characters and Brother was not going to let this storm trooper pass without giving him a piece of his mind about "being a stinker!"

Oh, Brother was giving him what-for and was quite relentless as you'll see over the course of the next few pictures...

I have it on video too, but eventually we had to pull him away so as not to get too annoying.
I did laugh though when the storm trooper said, "Someone needs to take care of these civilians!"

They may have been in a store window, but Brother was happy to get his photo op with these two.
(Side note: I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole Disney-Star Wars thing... it just doesn't seem... "Disney" to me, but I'm just a purist, I guess...)

Our pics from the rides: Brother and Abby

The lone star, Miss Menlove

Debi and me... if you've checked the scores you'll notice that me and Brother were still figuring things out...

Then the infamous Dole Whip. Honestly, I am not sure what the big deal is about getting a Dole Whip.
Don't get me wrong, I L.O.V.E. Dole Whip, but I've had it all kinds of places so
I wasn't sure why I had to have a Disney Dole Whip. I took the commemorative photo to document,
and trust me, it was absolutely worth every penny, but the best part was about to come.

The TIKI Room!!! Oh my Disney fan heart was leaping out of my chest!! Walt Disney magic untouched and just like it was when he dreamed it up. The only feature at Disneyland that is still the way he created it! I was so happy and giddy like a little kid watching all that happened in the show. I loved it! Especially thinking back to when Walt actually brought this all together how incredibly magical it must have been to the people who watched it before our lives were crowded with incredible special effects at every corner. Oh, it was magical!

Brother was so happy, he never stopped grinning. He loved watching the whole room come to life piece by piece! He could hardly contain himself when the flowers started to sing!

Then the highly anticipated (by me) Haunted Mansion! Here is Brother being freaked out by the mirrors in the entrance of the waiting area for the ride. He was being so brave and I was so proud of him for facing fears and enjoying the Disney Magic. His favorite part of the ride was the ghosts dancing in the ballroom. And it was, indeed, magical to watch. Brother could have sat and watch them waltz all night! I loved hearing him two seats away yelling to me everything he loved about the ride. He may have been sitting with Abby, but he was so excited to tell me everything that brought him joy... that's my reminder that I am special to him. I love those times.
Then it was time for Debi and Abby to meet up with their friend for lunch so Miss Menlove and I made sure he was OK with the transition by getting some amazing Disneyland beignets. I should have gotten two bags because Brother got to enjoy most of them... we all laughed at each other with our powders sugar mustaches and sprinkled clothing!

He might not look too thrilled in this picture, but it's only because he is totally into it.

But when we got him a Mickey Mouse pretzel we couldn't get the smile off his face. It was truly one of his big highlights.
 The next big highlight came when we were on our way to see one of his bucket list characters, Minnie Mouse, and we noticed that Mickey's Magic Map show was about to begin.

Debi and Abby had told Miss Menlove and I that if we had time for it that Brother would LOVE this show, so we figured, "what the heck" and waited in line.

Twenty minutes later and magic was happening... with the stage, but Brother too! I'm going to have get a YouTube video up of his complete and utter happiness and excitement as each character appeared on stage, but for now you will just have to use your imagination while you look at the still pictures.

I really need to get that video done... it is pure joy! Oh and I didn't even tell you about the moment he had with Merida from Brave. He wanted so badly to meet her earlier that day when we saw her before our Small World ride, but he was too nervous to stand in line so he looked on longingly as he slowly walked by and Merida looked up from the crowd of children she had in front of her and in her awesome accent asked, "Hello boy! Have you lost your horse?" And then Brother began talking to her in his accent... which wasn't Scottish, but his British accent was fantastic and caught the attention of everyone around. We couldn't stop laughing at how adorable the whole interaction was. Brother was in heaven that he got to talk to Merida in "her own language!" But I only got the last few seconds on video and no pictures. So imagine it...

Anyway, now we're on our way to see Minnie.

This is how wanted to get a photo with Goofy because he didn't want to wait to get in line...

He made me take this one for Sister
 We finally made it to Minnie's house. She was indeed there and was in her back yard taking pictures with guests under the arbor and Brother was already yelling her name and waving like Kermit the Frog to get her attention. He was so excited! I just wasn't quite sure how he'd do waiting in a line that we were told would take 35 minutes to get through to get a photo with her, but we made it... not without any hitch, at least they weren't big hitches!

We had to take a picture of us at the doorway to Minnies house just because it was such an epic feat just getting to that point after 30 minutes.

Brother kept himself happy and busy comparing how big he was compared to Minnie's house and her furniture

He giggled to see that he was as tall as her doorway

and she had a picture from one of his favorite Disney shows, Fantasia.
He could't have been prouder of her choice in artwork.

He kept saying, "Oh! This is quite cute actually." It was hilarious. He loved her tiny fridge and  even had to open it up to see what was inside. When he did open he matter fo factly said, "Well, she has quite the selection!" Miss Menlove and I busted up laughing but also got curious and took a look inside...

He was right, there was quite the selection... of cheeses!

He entertained himself in the kitchen a few more minutes before it was his chance to get a photo with Minnie
Then it finally came time for Brother to get a photo with Minnie! I'll just say that he was hesitant at first and then he just "warmed" right up! Miss Menlove was a big help with that!

Look how tight he has his arms around Minnie's waist! He was hugging her tight.

He told her he loved her and she kissed him. This is the shot milli-seconds after that because I didn't have my camera up and ready. He kept saying, "She bumped me with her nose!"

After he was done I snuck in a selfie of my own...

We were starting to leave, but he just couldn't say goodbye so he lingered on to tell her he loved her
Minnie responded by drawing a heart in the air and then pointing to him. He could hardly handle it, he was so ecstatic!

Then she "fainted" because she was so smitten by him. (We couldn't stop laughing with pure joy!)

Here she is sending love to me. She gave me many hugs and seemed so genuinely grateful that we were there.

His final "I love you's"

I warned him not to bump his head on Chip and Dale's doorway, but it did no good...

Miss Menlove and Brother enjoying the tree house from the top
All of us squished in their tree house

Then we stopped for a late lunch and I got myself the infamous Disneyland corn dog!
And I must say it totally lived up to the hype. Sorry mom, but it was even better than yours...
really I'm sorry... I should have just lied to you and not even brought it up at all...
Of course I was excited to get another picture with Walt!

Then to my surprise along comes a bus and the newsies hop off and start performing! I was so excited!
I felt like I was in Disneyland!!! ... Oh. Wait. Ha! I was!!

Then Brother excitedly interrupted my delight over Newsies pointing in the opposite direction and started squealing about Daisy and Donald Duck and "we need to do this for Sister!" determination. We all looked where he was pointing and then all of sudden we realized that the characters had just arrived and we had the chance to get right in the line that was already starting.

Brother couldn't contain his excitement as we made our approach to Daisy and Donald. I had to keep trying to calm him down a little so that he wouldn't scare any of the other guests from the line to much.

Daisy was his other bucket list character.

Once we got to her Brother jumped in and gave Daisy such a big hug that he lifted Daisy right of the ground! We couldn't believe it. The handlers there with the characters didn't know what to do either until Abby let them know his situation and that he meant no harm.

Well, lifting up Daisy didn't make Donald too happy and he was ready to fight Brother for her... Brother was so sassy and was not going to let Donald get the best of him!
Daisy chose brother in the end for our group photo... poor Donald.

Then with adrenaline still rushing we were on to new adventures.

He was very excited to see Malifacent even if she was only 5 inches tall

Then he saw Mulan on the wall and had to get a picture with her too...
I think he was just happy to not have to wait in line for photos.

Brother didn't care for Gru much at all... especially since he hadn't been able to go on the ride two nights before due to his fears... but after seeing him he started conversation with Abby about how this time he was going to do it.
(More on that later)
We then were off to Cars Land. I think it was about 4 or 5 when we got there and we actually got on the ride just a hair after sunset... Wow!!! That was a LOOONG line. In fact, it was so long that I was able to witness several things of interest... One was a father and his son weaving past us in line with an empty soda bottle to which I was thinking what a good example he was of putting litter in a waste basket and not just leaving it on the ground. Then my opinion changed when the same two males weaved back through, but this time the soda bottle was full to the top with yellow liquid... um... now I was thinking that bathrooms would have been a good thing to have along the lines to these rides... and why was he walking back with it... was there no trash can a long the way? Ick. I don't want to know. I also learned that Brighton is totally capable of waiting in long lines as long as his "friends" are with him. I was seeing him do many things that I hadn't seen him do before and I was so proud of him and also slightly jealous that it wasn't me who motivated him.

The Cars ride was amazing and I loved every minute of it... even the parts where I felt a tad queasy. When we got off the ride we had many people comment on how much fun we were to watch...

pure fear on mine and Brother's faces

Lightening McQueen was out and about so Brother had to get a cameo with him.

Then we went to Belle's Library which, if you ever go to Disneyland that is a place you should go. It seems to be a bit undiscovered, but was such a gem of a place. Brighton loved this storybook where Lumiere would tell you what Disney character you would be!

Ha! Hook! He was slightly disappointed. I got Alice in Wonderland... which I would never have guessed... but, hey, I never though of Brother as a nasty pirate either!
A few years ago I had the amazing opportunity to be in a play at the SCERA Shell, Mary Poppins. I met many dear friends while in that play and one of them as Disney Dreamer and Artist, Hayden. He works at Disneyland as the skipper on the Jungle Cruise. I had arranged with him to be there when he was working so that we could enjoy his tour and give him big hugs.

We felt like movie stars as they led us through the back way to avoid the line and get right on to Hayden's boat where he was waiting for us. It was crazy to boot, when another fellow cast member from Mary Poppins was just getting off the ride with Hayden! How cool was that to be surprised by him too... although, I have to admit a funny misunderstanding. Earlier that day I had sent a text to Hayden asking him if he knew if Hercules would be anywhere in the park because Brother wanted to meet him. He replied that he didn't know if Hercules was even in the park at all anymore, but then quickly responded with, "I have word that Woody will be at the park today." I was like, "oh cool, not exactly Hercules, but we love 'Toy Story' ... " Brother doesn't have him on the list of Disney characters to meet, but I'm sure he'll still be happy to see him. I kept an eye out for Woody at the park, but never did see him. It wasn't until I ran into our fellow castmate named Woody that I finally realized what Hayden had meant. Ha ha ha ha!!

The ride was amazing and Brother was enthralled with the whole thing, but was especially impressed with Hayden's humor and charm while giving us the jungle tour! Brother couldn't stop smiling. Literally. He still smiles when you bring up Hayden and says, "He's such a good guy!"

A big thanks to Hayden for helping end our amazing day at Disneyland on a high note. I have no idea, and really highly doubt that you'd get a raise because some random blog mom of kids with Fragile X Syndrome sang your praises, but I'll say it anyway, just in case (wink).

We couldn't stop smiling because we were so happy to see each other, but we also couldn't stop laughing at Brother's excitement and humorous comments.

There were probably about 10 more of these... your welcome... I picked the 3 best

Brother's last photo op with the Disneyland Castle.
I seriously thought this was our goodby to Disneyland, but I was quickly informed that Brother and Abby were excited to take their moms (Debi and me) on the Guardians of the Galaxy ride! Well, this was a surprise to me... did everyone remember the sheer panic attack he had just walking up to the entrance of the ride? The one we didn't go on because I was calming him down outside the ride, confirming it was OK...

I admired Brother's determination to go on the ride that everyone else had and wanted to conquer his fear. I knew there was no way I was going to go on it, so I obliged to go knowing that Brother would back out and I would just go with him...

I never learn.

Long story short we get through the line to get to the beginning of the other wait in line and Brother has already been sweating with cold, clammy hands since the movie screens where he had bailed out before. He was continually saying out loud to me, "I can do this. This isn't scary. I'm so brave."

There were a few pre-show things that made him laugh and helped him forget how scared he was, but then we came to the stairs.

There were a lot of stairs.

It was very dark and very industrial looking with lots of noise and sparks as if we were underneath a space ship that was being repaired.

Brother, Abby, Debi and I were continuously reassuring Brother that he was brave.

But after seeing him shake and his face going pale I was really concerned about him and could see that he was not going to back down no matter how scared he was.

I was in awe at his resolve to do this just because he wanted to conquer his fear and be like his friends, but I was also holding back tears watching his body literally try to stop his mind from his goal.

I didn't know what to do. I had learned yesterday that Brother does not do well with my authority and that me telling him to not go and that I would leave with him would actually make things worse and may put us in danger on these multiple stairways to the entry of the ride. I kept saying, "You are so brave to have even come to this point, you really don't have to do this, you're already so brave." I was screaming in my mind that he just had to turn around, but on the outside I was calmly allowing him to make his own choice.

We came to the platform to enter the pod of the ship (ride) and Brother's chin began to shake and chatter. He could hardly get the phrase out, "I'm so brave," because of the shaking his nerves were debuting. Sweat was glistening on his brow with every blink of the red light from the ship's hull and he couldn't hold on to anything because his hands were drenched in fear.

I was doing everything I could think of to make it his idea to leave and not go on the ride and to say that what he had done was completely enough.

I was now starting to panic. I'd never seen Brother quite this way, this scared and yet, this determined. I didn't know what to do. I honestly pictured in my mind the worst scenarios like him fainting on the ride or worse even lashing out and hurting himself or someone else because he might go into complete hysteria all while being enclosed in this small space.

My tears were coming. My breath was quickening. I was getting myself physically ready to carry Brother from the ride to save him from his fear and anxiety.

"I can't. I just can't do this. I thought I could, but I just can't. I'm sorry, I just can't do this. Brother, will you come with me? I don't want to leave on my own. Will you help me get back safely?"

Those words were as if they were spoken by an angel. Brother's face immediately flushed back color and his chin was down to a slight wavering, "Well of course Miss Debi!" he exclaimed with complete confidence knowing that he would do anything for his coach.

I looked at Debi and we gave each other that "mom" exchange and I knew that she knew what I was dealing with and that it couldn't be me to say, "no."

She had given up her time with her daughter to help Brother stay safe and give me peace in my heart.

I watched the angel and Brother leave for the safety of the outside world and sighed in relief.

I turned and looked at Abby and it dawned on me then, "Wait!! Wait!! I didn't want to go on this ride in the first place. I was only going to help with Brother." Now it was just me. I was the only mom there and I didn't want to leave Abby alone when her own mother had just made a sacrifice to help me. If Debi can do hard things like sacrificing her time with her own daughter for my son, then I would do the same.

The doors opened and we walked in.

I had no idea what I was in for.

Extreme ups and downs that made me cry out in complete and total fear. I was freaking out! I think it took me a good 3 hours to calm my nerves after I got off that ride.

I was glad that I was able to make it more enjoyable for everyone else in my pod. While I was screaming my head off and begging the higher ups to make it end, they were all having a great laugh!

When we came out the exit doors, there were Brother and Debi filling us with compliments of how brave we were. Brother was so proud of me... and himself. His jacket and shirt were still damp from his panic sweating, but his color was back, the glisten on his brow was gone, and his real smile was making his eyes smile.

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