Special Edition: Ella Joy’s Make-A-Wish & Give Kids the World trip to Disney

Ella Joy’s Make-A-Wish & Give Kids The World Trip to Disney World!

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9/21/14 – 9/27/14

In preparation for this very special once in a lifetime trip, I did a lot of research online. I was looking for a blog with helpful advice on what I should bring and tips for a successful trip. Since it was hard to come across a page like this, I wanted to make one that would be helpful for others after me who would be going on a wish trip to Disney, and also to share with others about our trip, so here we go … One thing that was extremely helpful was checking out the undercover tourist crowd calendar: https://www.undercovertourist.com/orlando/crowd-calendar/ It tells you the best days to go to each park and it served as a guide for me when we were planning our trip. There are so many activities and events at GKTW village, that it would be a mistake to only plan for the WDW parks without seeing the GKTW schedule. We had earlier scheduled with MAW to go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This was the only night we did not go back to GKTW village for dinner and events. One of the best tips I read online and did not regret doing was packing a carry on suitcase inside a large suitcase. The huge suitcase alone was needful for all the gifts GKTW gave us on our table each night. A limo picked us up from our home and drove us to the airport. We had someone escort us to a special no wait line where we went through security and went straight to our terminal. The escort handed Ella Joy a goody bag and it was a great start to our MAW trip! When we got on the plane the kids got to sit in the captain’s chair.

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The flight to Orlando was great except for the fact that a woman who was drugged and drowsy fell asleep and spilled her coke all over Mike. When we got to Orlando, we expected to be met with a GKTW volunteer holding up a sign that said “Ella Joy.” He came late, but better late than never!

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Once we got to GKTW village, we had a talk with a volunteer and then we rode golf carts to see our rooms (which were re-modeled by Extreme Make-Over!)

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I started to feel a headache and I was feeling cold chills. I couldn’t even check out the rooms or sit up on the way back on our golf cart. I needed to rest in the room, but we had orientation soon, so Mike and the kids ate lunch while I rested on a blue concrete semi-circle bench outside. Ants were crawling on my hair, but I felt so ill, and my body was so fatigued, I could not do anything! I finally got into the mini van rental and laid down on the floor. After taking 2 extra strength Tylenol, I felt groggy but better after napping for a while. I started unpacking our suitcases. Mike explored GKTW with the kids. Taking a train ride, checking out Amberville, and even swimming. The orientation was very helpful. We got our 3-day hopper passes to WDW as well as 2 day passes to Universal Studios/ Islands of Adventure and Seaworld. We also got certificates for the children to make pillows at the owl’s tree as well as a star for Ella Joy to put in the treasure chest. The star fairy then takes the star and hangs it in the ceiling where it stays forever! It was so special to see all the stars that were already hanging in the Castle of Miracles! It reminded me of Genesis 22:17   “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.”

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That first night, the kids got to play the world’s largest Candy Land Game at Matthew’s Boundless Playground.

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The first morning Monday, we had to go to of course where else?  Magic Kingdom!

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It was as magical as we thought it would be! With our Genie Pass and MAW and GKTW buttons, cast members rolled out the red carpet for our family. Not to mention that I forced everyone everyday to wear our blue MAW shirts. Mike was not thrilled about it, but he did do the laundry every night! We got to go to the front of the line for every single character meet and greet as well as fast pass line for all rides. We went back to the village for Mayor Clayton’s Hare-raising Halloween party. The second day Tuesday, we wanted to take it easy in the morning, so we went to a nearby Green Meadows Petting Farm. It was wet from the rain the night before, so we put plastic bags over our shoes and tried catching chickens and fed goats. We got to pet lots of animals and ended the visit with a tractor hay ride and a train ride. We rested up at GKTW village because we were powering up for MNSSHP!

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The one thing I discovered is that even though Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party officially starts at 7pm, you can enter the park as early as 4pm! That is exactly what we did, and that way we did not have to use our hopper pass for that day. We got rained on for our MNSSHP, but it was fun to see all the elaborate costumes everyone was wearing. We did not get a chance to trick-or-treat much because the kids were basically in their stroller under a garbage bag for most of the night. However, the highlight of the night was the Mickey’s Boo to you parade, as well as seeing the castle change colors with a show and fireworks.

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One thing I was debating was whether or not to bring a stroller from home, rent one from GKTW, or rent from WDW parks. We were so thankful that we went with the second option of renting from GKTW. It was in our room on arrival and it was a double stroller. When it rained at the parks Mike used the plastic bag that the car seats came in to cover the children. There was enough storage for our snacks and backpack, and Mike always tied our big carry-all bag to the handle of the stroller. There was only one cup holder on the actual stroller, but if you bring a 31 tote, you can have up to 7 cup holders using a single bag! At every single park, the rental strollers were small, hard, and had almost no storage at all. Sometimes people steal the park rental strollers because they all look alike. Attaching something colorful and bright to the stroller can make it easier to find and less appealing for people to steal. At Camp Hozhoni, we made these “warm fuzzies” which are basically huge pom pom yarn balls. I tied three of them to our stroller and never had a problem finding it. I saw another family who tied one of their little girl’s colorful tights to the handle. On Wednesday, we started the morning at Keaton’s Korral for horseback riding! The kids even got cowboy hats after their rides.

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We then went to Universal Studios and Epcot.

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Thursday, we went to Seaworld and got to feed fish to the dolphins!

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After Seaworld, we went back to GKTW village for a winter wonderland and visit with Santa Claus!

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Friday we went to Legoland. We then came back to the village for a pirates and princesses party with Shamu and friends.

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The last day we ventured Hollywood Studios and then ended the night with a last party at GKTW village.

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There was a huge merry-go-round that Ella Joy and Asaph never tired of riding everyday at GKTW!  I loved how the roosters had double seats!

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The wishing well in the Castle of Miracles was a whole lot of fun. Every time you drop a penny in it, you could hear someone making a noise, like a burp or a cat’s meow.

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There was a kid’s spa in the Castle of Miracles that the kids went to a few times. They offered manicures, face-painting, air brush tattoos, and hand massages! Ella Joy felt like a little princess at this spa!

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Every night, the kids have the option of having Mayor Clayton or Ms. Merry tucking the kids in for the night!

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Another tip is to take as many pictures and use the park photographers every opportunity you can! At the end of the trip, all pictures were available through Disney’s PhotoPass. Universal Studios’ special pass came in a plastic casing with lanyard. I put the PhotoPass card in that plastic casing so it was convenient at all times. The Guest Services at each park were helpful to visit if you need things like pins for birthdays, anniversaries, or even “first time at Disney.” For families who have children who need wheelchairs but are using a stroller instead, there are also tags available for eligible families. On the super hot days, it was helpful to freeze water bottles the night before so it would be perfect for drinking when at the parks. The mist/fan bottles were helpful for the kids too. I found a couple on sale at Meijer for $5.00 on sale! It rained on and off several days on our trip. Ponchos and umbrellas were needful especially for the rainstorms we encountered. If your children cannot swim, puddle jumpers or swim vests should definitely be on your to bring list! We wore our MAW shirts every single day, so I would suggest bringing very a minimal amount of clothes. They have a washer/dryer in each villa. There were plenty of photo opportunities at GKTW village:

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At GKTW, we usually ate in the Gingerbread House where friendly servers would carry our trays to the tables for us! There was also Katie’s Kitchen where you could take out Boston Market meals. If that wasn’t enough, you could also order pizza and request a cookie cart to visit your villa.  And of course we frequented the Ice Cream Parlor where kids have been known to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! (not mine, of course) Due to the FAA fire in Aurora, many flights right before ours were either cancelled or delayed. So, ours was delayed 2 hours, and then on our way to the airport, we got a call that it was bumped up an hour.  At this point, we were late! Our luggage never make it to Chicago. Mike had to go back to Midway the next day to pick up the luggage. Altogether, this trip was so amazing for our family! We are incredibly thankful to Make-A-Wish as well as to Give Kids the World Village for giving our family such a special vacation!  We cannot thank God enough for protecting Ella Joy’s body throughout the entire trip!  Thank you for praying for Ella Joy to be well enough to enjoy this wish trip!  I am so very thankful it was me getting sick on that first day rather than Ella Joy!  We had such a wonderful trip with fantastic memories for our family!

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undignified white-hot worship

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8-4-14

So excited that Ella Joy’s ANC was high enough to start up chemotherapy again! After a month of having low ANC (at times as low as 100) and no home pills or chemo except for Bactrim, we are so thankful to God that she is on schedule again with an ANC of 3, 491! Thank you so much to everyone who was faithfully praying for Ella Joy!  Praise the Lord for Mr. Schrieber who gave us a ride to RMH again this week! And also I am so grateful for Sunny and Charles who helped us at Luries watching Asaph! He never fails to provide the most amazing people to help us! “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8. Dr. Morgan checked Ella Joy’s neck and told us she did not feel any enlarged lymph nodes! We were so happy to hear this because Mike and I both at different occasions thought we saw lumps on her neck. I asked Dr. Morgan about her stomach and leg pains. This was very concerning because before she was diagnosed with stage 4 non-hodgkins lymphoma cancer, she had complained about stomach pains and our pediatrician at the time told me that she was just crying for attention and completely dismissed her stomach pains. Turns out she had enlarged lymph nodes exactly where she pointed out the pains, as well as all over her entire body! We will be keeping records of periods of times she cannot walk because of leg pains as well as when she has stomach pains. There was something alarming that Dr. Morgan brought up. She said that as a result of the blood test to see if her body was metabolizing the 6mp chemotherapy pills correctly, Ella Joy was at risk for damage to the liver, or hepatitis. As a result, the dosages of her chemotherapy drugs have changed since she first started the maintenance phase of chemotherapy. Instead of 6 methotrexate pills weekly, she will be taking 3 all at once. Instead of different dosages of 6mp each day, she will be taking only 1 6mp pill everyday. The prednisone and the Bactrim remain the same. Please pray that God would protect Ella Joy’s liver from effects of the chemotherapy treatment she is getting. Please pray her body would be protected from hepatitis and any damage to her liver. It was extremely difficult to get chemo drugs from the pharmacy, and we ended up waiting about 4 hours to get our medications for Ella Joy! Please pray that Ella Joy would be able to continue to take her chemotherapy medications and that God would protect her from germs and illnesses from other students at school. Her next clinic visit to Luries is on Oct. 2nd. Please pray for Ella Joy on that day that the spinal tap and Vincristine push would go smoothly and that her ANC would continue to be high enough for chemo. Despite a few setbacks, we are extremely thankful to God for miraculously allowing her ANC to rise up to over 3, 000! Knowing what could happen to Ella Joy without chemotherapy for a long period of time, I cannot tell you how excited I was to hear that her ANC was finally high enough for her to start chemo again! In 2 Samuel, when the ark was brought to Jerusalem, King David was leaping and dancing before the Lord. In David’s own words, he described it as “Undignified!” 2 Samuel 6:22. John Piper once said, ““All of history is moving toward one great goal, the white-hot worship of God and His Son among all the peoples of the earth.” Maddie’s dancing in Sia’s music video for Chandelier is the closest to intriguing, weird, and phenomenal undignified dancing I have seen in some time. I hope and pray that even in the most challenging times in my life I can learn to give God the “white-hot worship” that He is worthy of, and praise Him with undignified dancing for an audience of One. I’ll close this post with some undignified dancing. A huge thank you to Jeannie for this footage: