Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 1

Exhausted, we woke up at 4:30am. Rick and I hadn't gone to sleep until 1:00am the night before. It was actually New Year's Eve, which Rick celebrated in Walmart, and I celebrated packing last minute stuff, and going over the lists I had made. The kids woke up easily though, they were all freshly bathed from the night before, and knew exactly what clothes they were wearing. We ate breakfast, and waited on the limo to pick us up. We had been told there would be a limo coming to get us, and it actually turned out to be a bus. Apparently 9 people and the stuff needed for a week for 9 people is too much for a limo.

The bus passed by our house 3 or 4 times. Then Rick flagged it down. The kids were all so excited, and Andrew talked the whole 45 minutes it took to get to the airport. I mean, he didn't even stop for a breath. And Jake sang. The rest of the kids were quiet and tired. But in good moods, and happy spirits.

Our Bus Ride:

It was dark, and I was trying to go over in my head all of my lists, and anything we may have forgotten. So, I didn't take many pics.

We arrived at the airport, where the driver was nice enough to take a couple pics of us:

Our experience in the airport seemed so organized. You would think that we were seasoned travelers. The kids listened to every word, and followed every direction that we gave them. Security was a hassle, with having to take off all of our jackets, and shoes, but we got through in no time. I thought that our Make-a-Wish pins would be a problem going through security, but they were no problem at all. As I was putting my shoes on, one of the security guards mentioned to me that she had told the kids to go ahead and move on, and they had replied "But Mom said to stay right here." She laughed and told them that if Mom had said it, then they better stay right there. She was very impressed with the organization and herding of 7 kids, as were a few of the other passengers who made comments to me.

We made it through security, and found our gate. We had a little time to spare, so while we were waiting, I ran to a souvenir shop to look for a gift for my Grand-mother who lives in Orlando, and the ever important gum to help with ears popping. The kids took it all in, and looked out the windows at the upfront view of the planes out the window.

Seeing Rick take that pic., A kind woman stopped and offered to take one so that we could all be in it:

When it came time to board the plane, we heard the best thing possible. The ticket checker made an announcement that the plane was only about 40% full, and that it would be great to spread out and evenly distribute the weight. YAY!!! The kids got to move around, and most of them had window seats, and we had so much room. It was great! We bought drinks for all the kids, and a kind steward took an interest in us, and brought us some of the best cookies ever. The ride was an hour and a half, but seemed to all of us like 20 minutes.

Some pics the kids took on the plane:

Kyley looks so sad? Scared?

But I don't! Also, check out my new haircolor.

When we got off the plane, we were met by the first of many GKTW volunteers who touched our lives this week. GKTW has over 5000 volunteers a year, who run things with kindness and compassion, who truly want to be there, and who spoil the children like they have never been spoiled in their lives. We were met outside the gate by a wonderful woman, holding a welcome Andrew sign. She showed through the maze that is Orlando International Airport, and brouhgt us to our rental car, provided by Make-A-Wish. She then gave us step-by-step directions to the GKTW Village.

Me and the kids waiting on Rick to get the rental car:

The wonderful woman who met us outside of our gate:

We followed the directions to the Village, and excitedly went in to check-in. Our Villa wasn't ready yet, so we ran around exploring everything that we could. What a feast for the eyes! We were in kid heaven! everywhere you looked was something else. Something amazing. There were trash cans that talked to you, sculptures to climb on, and amazing things to do and see. Every corner, every inch of this place has a surprise, a special detail.

The welcome signs:

The House of Hearts:

The Welcome center:

The ceiling inside:

Exploring The Village:

These things were placed sporadically through the village. Of course, no quarters needed. Like everything else at the village, money is useless here.

This is one of the talking trash cans. It sucked trash up his nose, while saying thank-you. He also asked for trash every time you walked by. The kids all mentioned that the world would be a much cleaner place if all trash cans talked to you. This was definately true, as mine went around searching for trash, and kept it in their pockets just so that they could feed it to these guys.

One of the trolleys. These ran all over the village, taking people to eat, to the playgrounds, or just for a tour. Jake thought it was so cool that he could stop these trolleys, driven by volunteers, simply by putting up one hand. Unfortunately, he loved to do this, whether we were actually planning on taking a trolley or not. More than once we had to apologize to the trolley driver for Jake stopping it. He always just laughed and waved as he continued on his volunteer route.


When you walk into Amberville, the first thing that you notice is the incredible trainset village that they have set up.:

This thing was amazing. They had it rigged so that the buttons you could push outside of the glass, worked all these different parts of the town.

After playing with the trainset, Amberville was also home to two game rooms, with all types of games. No money needed, of course.

After running around and playing all the games, we explored some more, and found these great motor boats that you could control from inside:

Believe it or not, Amberville has another purpose. It is also a real trainstation! This is JJ! And he is run by different volunteers, who take the kids for a ride whenever they request one.

After riding JJ the train twice, we ran over to the Castle Of Miracles. This was probably the kids favorite place at the village. This was also where Rick and I were stopped in our tracks. The ceiling of the castle is covered with stars that the wish children who have stayed at GKTW wrote their names on. There were thousands of stars, and we stood there staring at them. I wondered how many of the children who had a star up there were still alive.

But back to the amazing Castle. The Merry-Go-Round is located here, which the kids rode every day after they ate breakfast. Also, so much excitement inside.

A view of the castle and attached Merry-Go-Round:

The front door of the Castle:

Rusty. This was the talking Knight who welcomed you into the Castle:

I'm not sure how to describe this. It was a huge climbing structure with a slide, but it was also home to many surprises and sounds. There were little doors in this thing that the knomes live in. It was awesome.

Rainia and Josh as King and Queen

These cupboards and drawers were so funny. When you open them, some of them were full of toys or art supplies, but others made loud noises. You never knew what you were going to get. A toy? or a lound Boing? Hysterical.

The magic Wishing Well. This had a large bucket of pennies for the kids to dig into. The catch was, when they threw in their penny to make a wish, The well answered with different sounds. Amazing! You might get a splash, a moo, or even a belch. There were all kinds of sounds coming out of this thing, and the kids loved dropping in the pennies.

The Pillow Machine. We got a certificate for 7 pillows, which we made on another night. Lots of buttons and knobs to make the pillow of your dreams.

A Magic mirror. In this picture, you can see what the children see when they look into it. They become a King or Queen. However, if an adult looks into the mirror, nothing happens...?

This clock went off whenever he felt like it. Not on the hour or half hour, just whenever he felt like talking and singing he would!!!

The playroom inside the Castle of Miracles.

The ceiling of the playroom

The kids loved playing in here. There were tons of toys, dollhouses, electronics, and dress-up clothes.

We were starving by this time, and off for lunch we went. Lunch is in the ice-cream palace, also home to all you can eat, anytime you want ice-cream.

After lunch, all you can eat hotdogs, any type of sandwiches, pasta salad, chips, and drinks, we had ice-cream of course. Any flavor you can imagine, any topping, including banana splits and milkshakes. All courtesy of Friendly's.

This wall mural is a GKTW version of CandyLand

After lunch, we went to check on the status of our villa, and it was ready! We received our welcome packages, which included our Bunny Book. This was the guide to the village. It included maps, schedules, and directions to all the theme parks in Orlando. The kids received stuffed animals, and t-shirts. Andrew got his GKTW pin, which was our key, and they explained that he was the boss, every wish he desired, that button would grant. We headed to our villa, which was actually two villas, because of our large family.

In each villa, there was a full kitchen, living room, and patio. There was a laundry room, and two bedrooms. Being child heaven, the kid-decorated bedroom was the master. It was huge, with an incredible master bathroom with jacuzzi tub and a seperate shower. The "adult" bathroom was just a regular one. So having two full villa's, we had two master bedrms and baths.

We decided to split the two houses into a "girls" house and a "boys" house. So in one villa was the 4 girls, and in the other were Rick and I and the 3 boys. They were connected by one of those suite doors that you have to open from the inside of each house. This door stayed open all the time, to the girls dismay.

Inside the villa was yet another surprise. A bag full of gifts for the kids. toys and coloring books, reading books, and stuffed animals. Our kitchens were stocked with snacks and drinks. Absolutely amazing!

Here is a picture of us outside of our villa, taken by our guide. (Another amazing volunteer.)

This is villa 113, we also had #114. Notice the Mcqueen sign.

At this point, Rick and I were absolutely exhausted, and HAD to take a nap. He layed down while I took the kids to the movie rental store, no money needed of course. We rented two movies, and took them back to the villa. This was our only down-time for the whole trip. By the time I got back with the kids, Rick was already asleep, and I quickly joined him.

After a quick, refreshing, much needed nap, we were awakened by the telephone. My mom was in town visiting my Grand-mother, and they were coming over, joined by my Uncle, who also lives in the Orlando area. Although they both live in the area, neither one of them had heard of Give Kids The World, and were excited to come check it out. It was also time for orientation. They only needed one adult at orientation, and Rick said that I was more of an adult than him, so I went to orientation while he visited with the family.

Orientation lasted about an hour, and I got the tickets and details of all the theme parks and other stuff we could do if we had time (yeah right). After orientation, we had Christmas with my Grandma (Nanny), and then it was off to show them all around the village.

Every Thursday night is Christmas at the village, and we got tipped off while showing the family the Castle of Miracles that a line always forms to see Santa after dinner, so maybe we should do that before we ate. Yes, Santa is at the village, every Thursday night! We said goodbye to the family, and ran down to Julie's Safari Theater to see him.

The amazing thing that you can't see in the picture, is that after you visit with Santa, There is a HUGE shelving unit with hundreds of toys on it. The kids all got to pick one. Jake got a star-wars action-figure set, Andrew and Josh chose footballs, Rainia got a fur-real kitten, and the three older girls all got tiny MP3 players. Incredible!

It was time for us to eat dinner, and our first time inside the Gingerbread house. Dinner is an all-you-can-eat buffet. Two buffets actually, the "kids", and the regular buffet. On the kids buffet was hot-dogs and hamburgers, french-fries, macaroni & Cheese, and spagetti. The regular buffet had different family-style meals each night. This was Thursday, so it was Christmas dinner. Delicious. All the food is served by volunteers, and they wont let you carry anything yourself. They carry your tray to the table for you, and clean up after you as well.

The memorable thing about this dinner, was Josh asking for dessert. Yes, as if an ice-cream palace wasn't enough, they also have a dessert bar every night. Anyway, Josh asked for dessert, and he hadn't eaten all of his food. Rick told him to finish his dinner, which is what we always do, and then it hit us both at the same time. Rick turned back to Josh and said "Never mind about that boy. If you want dessert, go and get some." It hit us that this was the kids week. Here we were in kid heaven, and for this trip, probably the only time in their lives, all the rules were gone. Dessert before dinner? Sure. You would rather have soda than milk? Absolutely. You want to carry your new toys everywhere with you? Including to the dinner table I hope. Clothing? Whatever you want of course. And we weren't the only one's with this philosophy. Everywhere you looked were girls in princess dresses, boys in wizard hats, and toys, and smiles, and laughter. So much laughter.

To top off our night, we went outside, for the village Christmas parade, which was actually more of a dance party. It was incredible, awesome, I just don't even have words to describe it.

This is Murphy:

Patches, The kids favorite character. (And a great dance partner for Brooke):

And Mike:

And Penguin. (He's Shy):

The Boss of GKTW Village, Mayor Clayton:

And his girlfriend, Miss Merry:

These are Mayor Clayton's and Miss Merry's convertibles. This is how they get around the village. lol.

Also some random kid.

After this incredible day, we went back to our villa for some much needed sleep. Only one last surprise for the kids before bed, Their share of the money Make-A-wish gave us for the trip. They got $100 a piece spending money. They screamed, and cheered. What an amazing day. And as the kids went to bed, I know they were exhausted, but thinking about all of the excitement they had already had, and all that was to come.

1 comment:

Kristine said...

Oh. My. Goodness. What an incredibly fantasticly amazing day! And there is more to come?! I was tearing up with joy for you all through out the whole post. Seriously, must stop reading at work:-)