April 26, 2016


Magic Kingdom.

Our Magic Place.


It has been in the past, at least.

Bridger's greatest love in his life is Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Our greatest love is watching Bridger's unfiltered expressions of joy radiate out of every muscle fiber of his body while at the Magic Kingdom.

The five children and I took Bridger's service dog, Ty, to board at the Canine Companion for Independence Orlando regional center and to have himself a doggy vacation romping and playing with a few dozen other identical super amazing golden labs and off we went to continue our adventures a la Disney.

Magic Kingdom was different this time.

We hadn't been there for two years.  And in those two years Bridger had gained 30 pounds and 9 inches.  That makes a very big difference.

Most all of the rides at Magic Kingdom require transferring out of your wheelchair and a 81 pound, 55" rag doll with spindly legs prone to tangling presents a challenge.  Further complicated by the fact that I was still recovering from major surgery with restrictions not to lift and the recommendation from my doctor that I not even be going on this vacation for at least another month.

Calling upon the help of my 14 year old son, he and I awkwardly threaded Bridger's body in and out of Dumbo, the Honey Pot, the Mine Train. . . 

We were completely exhausted within an hour of being there.

Also changed from our last visit was Bridger's sensory system.

It is much more rigid now.  We had lots of "chewy" time.

He did not want to go on most of the rides that he previously loved.  Being the wonderful mom I am, I forced him.  I was sure that if I forced him that he just might like it a little bit.  And though I was completely wrong each time, that didn't stop me from trying again.  Oddly enough, although we would put him kicking and screaming on the ride, and burrow his head into my chest and simultaneously cover his ears during the ride, those were the rides that he talked obsessively and excitedly talked about the rest of the day (and beyond) -- still claiming, however, that he still did not like them and didn't want to go on them again.  Go figure.

He is so not happy here.

Holding him upright so he doesn't fly out, while covering his ears and maintain my posture as it is being whipped around turn after turn is actually quite difficult.  

To the other children, it was fabulously fun.  We had bought one of every fun treat that caught our eye and split it 6 ways (and then split Bridger's 1/6th between us one he decided to refuse it or gag and retch on his attempt to try it) and sampled our way through the park.  Lunch time, however, is my most efficient moment.  We have learned from past experience that the crowded eateries are no place for our large footprint and Bridger's strained sensory system.  Sights, smells and sounds do him in.  Under the wheelchair we have tucked a small cooler and the kids line up in a row while I kneel at the head and chuck Lunchables, yogurts and water bottles down the assembly line.  We have the art of easy lunching down pat. And before anyone has time to detect their tire feet, we are on the move again.

The characters were always the highlight to Bridger, and Bridger was a highlight to them.  Mickey was especially magically motivation, as Bridger rose out of his chair and walked to Mickey - one slow unstable step at a time.  Mickey kept telling Bridger how proud he was of Bridger and that night as he went to bed, Bridger reminded us over and over that Mickey was proud of him.

They even seek him out in the parade.

I have learned to be careful as the characters always go immediately towards Bridger who dominates the time with them while everyone stands behind him and observes the interaction.  I often times hold Bridger back, much to the confusion of the Cast member ushering us forward, and have Eliza go ahead and have her special time with the character first before her brother enters the scene and dominates the attention.

The scariest moments of our day came when we let Eliza and Bridger drive their own cars.  I don't know which was scarier -- having this beside me. . .

Or having this little face barely peeking over his steering wheel from behind me. . .

Everyone left happy, but Lance and I left a little less happy.  I don't want to be a Debbie Downer about Disney, but an 80 pound 55" inch rag doll had made it lose some it its magic.  We were beyond exhausted from the physical, and also the emotional care for Bridger that day.  I left with the firm conviction that we would never be back.

And that made me sad.

Disney and the beach -- our only two vacations we have found that are not only accessible-ish, but also ones that the completely exhaustive nature of managing Bridger on a vacation is almost balanced by the joy that is yielded from such.

Luckily, time has a way of erasing the less than pleasant memories and making everything wonderful -- and looking through the pictures of our fun day, it feels magical still.