On Friday, we went to Disney Animal Kingdom. The medieval Popes commissioned great works of art in their day, and I guess in our day it’s Disney. That enormous Tree of Life in the center of the park is amazing, covered with a huge frieze of carved animals. The animal exhibits are artistically incorporated into the attractions and themes of the park, with a terrific African safari to show off the animals of the serengeti, and the tigers and komodo dragon displayed within the ruins of a maharaja’s beautiful palace. The park was crowded even in October, but the weather was perfect, and if you remember to get your disabilities pass, the lines will be much less of an obstacle.
On Saturday, we went to Sea World. Be sure to get your pass straight away when you enter, because this place is spread out and enormous. I had to jog several miles back from Shamu’s village to the entrance to get our pass from Guest Services and then back again, and prayed the whole time that Peter’s teenage cousin Nicholas would be okay watching him. Peter was a good sport about watching the Nautilus and Shamu stadium shows, and we ended with the Dinosaur area rides. He wanted to try a roller coaster, but ran away right as we approached the front of the line. Lukie did not like that after waiting, especially as Peter wanted to go right back to try the roller coaster again. But he understood when I explained it was now Lukie’s turn to choose. So Peter patiently endured the Triceratops spinning ride, and then raced back to try the roller coaster again right before it closed. We did make it, although Lukie complained the whole time that it would be too scary. In the end, both kids loved it and agreed it was their favorite ride of the day. I even got Luke to thank Peter for being brave and having us all try it!
On Sunday, we went to Epcot. Great Mission to Mars ride. A rare opportunity to explain to your child what the “earth” is when you see a globe. Terrific “Use of the Land” boatride viewing creative agricultural methods- another good educational opportunity. Of course, the “Soaring” ride over California is the best- pure Disney magic!
On Monday, we went to an amazing place called Discovery Cove. The noisy waterfalls are problematic if your child has hyperacuesis. Peter tried to hold himself together, as he understand he couldn’t wear his noise cancellation headphones in the water, but finally burst into tears because of the loudness. But as a credit to his fortitude and will power, when I brought out the headphones in a zip lock bag, he only put them on in the shallow water for a minute, and then determinedly put them back into the ziplock. He wanted to enjoy the water! Later, right before our dolphin appointment, a man accidentally shoved Peter with his elbow so that Peter’s snorkel poked his eye, and it hurt so much that Peter dissolved in tears. However again, he pulled himself together, and ran into the water to meet his dolphin. Peter is so brave. He loved the dolphin and even gave it a quick kiss! He let go when the dolphin tried to give him a ride, and that terrific dolphin then turned around to go back to get him!
The last day was arguably the best. We went on the St. John River Cruise, a 2 hour (quiet) boat ride on the emerald waters of this beautiful river, lined with graceful cypress dressed picturesquely in draping Spanish moss, spying alligators, osprey, ibises, and great blue herons. Suddenly we came upon two big gray boulders, with a smaller gray boulder next to them. Then appeared two big pairs of lips and a smaller pair, and down went several clumps of sea lettuce, into the tummies of a pair of manatees and their baby! These gentle, slow, curious and peaceful big guys get to weigh 3500 lbs, and love the warm waters of St. John because of the natural hot springs at the headwaters. At the end of the tour, the captain pointed out the direction of downtown Orlando and downtown Disney. As he put it, “But I want you to realize, that now you have seen the real Florida.” So true. Nothing compares with God’s natural creation. The wetlands of Florida are truly beautiful.
On the plane back to LA, Peter and I talked the whole time about our adventures. I went through the photos we took on my cell phone, and we wrote little journal stories about each day. For example, we would put a big picture title like “What I Saw at Disney Animal Kingdom” and Peter would fill in the three animals he like the best on a simple writing template I scribbled in his journaling spiral bound notebook. He would end by drawing in happy faces, rating the day with the number of them he put down. We wrote some short social stories about the benefits of having fortitude with the waterfalls, being patient at the roller coaster, and being fair and taking turns at the triceratops ride. I had him fill in the blanks on a “when, who, what, where, why” table I made of one of our outings. More details on how these in my book… (see latest post on my publishing woes)
So that’s Orlando for you through the eyes of this family. The best part of course is to see beloved family, doing well, and looking well. We are so grateful and full of joy that our own Peter manatee was so full of curiosity and had the courage and fortitude to enjoy all the new sights and make it through all the new sounds. If you go to Florida, October is a great month to visit.