Okay. So the good parts. I have finally recovered.
The funny part of this is that everyone else recovered the first day having returned home. I wrote the Part 1 post and 2 days later Ethan read it. His response: "Wow. That was pretty harsh. It was pretty fun."
My first reaction was: "Did you go on the same vacation I did?" or "Did I invent the conversations that included 'we will never come back'?"
At first this really upset me.
And now I've decided that if he forgot the bad parts that quickly, then the kids probably did, too. And if they forgot all the bad parts which reduced them to crying and complaining, then they only remember the good parts. Which as we all know as parents, that is the best part of memories...the good stuff.
So. The good stuff.
As I had mentioned previously, the Universal Studios really went out of their way to help us out. They had us go through different lines, let us sit in areas and put us in a "time queue" kind of situation so we didn't have to stand for a million hours with an emotionally distraught Elise. Before we went, we were told that Universal did not have a special needs pass or support system. Half the park believed this too, but then we ran into someone who knew that they did, and got us hooked up..2 days into it...but this was after they had already proved that they didn't need a piece of paper to make a difference in someone's vacation.
The most special part was when we were in the Marvel Superheroes downtown area and Captain America, Wolverine, Cyclops, Spiderman, Storm, and Rogue roared up on motorcycles and 4-wheelers leapt off right next to us and proceeded to greet some of the bystanders...Elise positively glowed with excitement...they were supposed to fight Dr. Doom and his minions, triumph, and race off to a back lot...Ethan noticed a employee standing near us, and asked approximately where the fight would result, so we could position Elise and the rest of the kids so that they could see it...and she proceeds to tell us that she can do one better...and takes us to the back lot where they would end up. And we got pictures and got to talk to all of the heroes and take pictures...for at least 20 minutes...alone with them. Seriously cool. Gabriel grew up on these guys, so even at 13, he wasn't too cool to be visibly thrilled with this VIP treatment. Amelia had never seen any of them, but was so taken with Storm and Rogue that she can't get enough of X-men since then...and is planning to be Storm for Halloween. These were the ONLY characters on the entire trip that did not give Charlotte an ulcer and produce a conniption fit. And Elise was so very ecstatic with meeting these characters. I did not realize that she was so taken with superheroes...one of the flaws with being non-verbal...and it was probably her high point of the week...
We had a lot of fun in Harry Potter World. Gabriel's high point by far. He got a wand. The Elder Wand in case you know what that means. ;) The food was delicious. Charlotte didn't break out from any of it. The rides were great, and the girls all enjoyed it, too. Their only disappointment was not getting to meet Harry in person...which despite me telling them for a week wouldn't happen, was still a let-down.
Hollywood Studios at Disney was cool, the rides were great. While Gabriel and I got monsoon-ed, Ethan and the girls got to see Beauty and the Beast. They were entranced, and even Ethan was pretty taken with it...
Animal Kingdom at Disney is like the zoo on crack. I'd been told not to go, that it was no fun, by many sources, but it turned out to be the best experience of the batch at Disney. The Nemo musical show was spectacular, and the kids all loved it. (I knew at that point just how jipped Gabriel and I were to have missed Beauty and the Beast!!) And the Simba's Musical Safari was absolutely stupendous. Absolutely amazing. Amelia got to be in the little procession and looooved that, but refused to smile. The actual safari was so very cool...and Charlotte got to show off and lecture the girls next to us that "That's an OKAPI!!"..and was right, blowing their little tweeny bopper minds.
I think the funniest part was that we were forced to ride on every teacup ride there was. In every park. Multiple times. Elise looved it, Amelia LOOOved it, and Charlotte LOOOOOOVED it!!! Ethan, Gabriel, and I mostly just got sick and took turns. :)
We also discovered that Amelia is a rollercoaster junkie. Her FIRST rollercoaster, before even the little kid training rollercoasters was Space Mountain. I was terrified that she would have a kitten and be reduced to petrified jelly of fear...but when I looked into her seat at the completion of the ride, she looked up with shining eyes with dandelion hair on staticky end and says "That was FANTASTIC!!! I LOVED that!!! I want to ride another!!!!" And so we rode everything she was tall enough for.
SO, while there was a lot that went badly, there were some really cool parts, too. Not that I'll go back before Charlotte is tall enough to ride everything...and requests to go...but I have some really fond memories, too.