hiding from irene, griswold style


Well hello there, beautiful you. How are you? I pray that if you’re in Irene’s path you’ve managed to stay safe. That storm has wreaked havoc with everyone, but I’ll be damned if our kids haven’t gotten the worst of it.

From turbo-charged anxiety to hypersensitivity to changes in pressure, our poor kiddos take a beating when any major weather system moves through – whatever it might be. Add in a lack of power (which is barely explainable at best to kids with difficulty processing abstract concepts) and throw a monkey wrench into our coveted routines and well, it’s just hours of fun for everyone ain’t it?

Since we are right on Irene’s projected route, we decided to get the heck out of dodge. We had booked a trip to Disney World months ago. We decided this year to replace our annual summer visit to Nantucket with a trip to the Mouse’s House. Although Orlando in August sounded somewhat suicidal, we thought perhaps the parks would be less crowded this time of year. (We were wrong, but that’s what we thought.)

I won’t go into the long version of why we decided to hit Disney this year. Suffice to say that the timing seemed right for the little one and the big one thankfully is not yet too cool to hop on board. (Pun not intended but works well given her current situation.)

The plan was to leave on Sunday (yesterday) and stay in Orlando until Friday. It was perfectly planned to allow us (read me) plenty of time to shop for last-minute items and to pack for the girls and me at my leisure.

And then came Irene. Who apparently couldn’t give a rat’s arse about my leisure. Go figure.

By Friday morning, Sunday’s flights were already being cancelled out of both New York and Boston. We were fairly certain that by Sunday, there would be no way out. We could only imagine the chaos that would follow as airlines resumed service today and tomorrow. As it turns out autism + “I’m really not sure when we’re going to be able to leave, honey” = a fairly combustible combination.

I called our travel agent and found myself at #482 on his list of people scrambling to beat the storm. I told him that as much as I felt for the other 481, we could really use some help.

While we waited to hear back from the agent, Luau took the girls out to rent a wheelchair for Katie, who you may remember was then just two days into her broken foot and sportin’ a nifty cast. Oh yeah, good times.

By Friday afternoon, our plans were reconfirmed. We would leave on a 9:30 flight that same evening, arriving in Orlando at 12:30 in the morning. So much for time to shop, pack or breathe. As I raced home from work at 5pm, I told Luau to warn the girls – When Mama gets home, stand back or expect to get packed into a bag.

By the time we hit the hotel in Orlando, Brooke was a certifiable hot mess. From the flight – oh dear Lord the flight – to the not so magical Disney Magical Express bus ride to the hotel – oh dear Lord the bus ride – to the wait at the front desk at 2 am as we checked into the hotel – oh dear Lord the wait – we sure did our part to spread autism awareness on our way here. My sincerest apologies to all we encountered that night, but most of all to my sweet girl. I am so sorry, my love. Nothing should have to be so hard.

On Saturday morning, the whole family slept late – our internal clocks completely upside down. We let most of a lovely day pass by as we tried to get our bearings. By the time we herded the wet cats – er, got our crew down to breakfast – it was nearly eleven.

While we waited to get into the restaurant, Brooke spotted a young girl in a Cinderella dress. She couldn’t have been more than ten. Brooke walked around her slowly. A little too close, she peered under her chin, then up at her blond hair, then stopped to inspect her dress. I waited to see if I should intervene, but the girl was smiling sweetly, apparently delighted by the attention.

Brooke’s eyes went wide as she put the pieces together in her head. She lifted an arm and waved. Then she yelled to the girl standing right in front of her, “Hi, Cinderella!”

The girl offered a very princess-y wave in return. Brooke was thrilled and I was wondering if perhaps we could have saved a boatload of money on this trip.

Later, when we finally arrived at the Magic Kingdom, the girls were nearly vibrating with excitement. Brooke pulled me toward the gates, but we had some quick business to attend to first. We had to activate our park passes at will-call and see guest services to get not one, but two disability passes.

Brooke immediately began to pace the perimeter of the waiting area. I tried everything I had to will the process to go faster. This poor kid had waited long enough.

But something was wrong. They couldn’t find the record of our passes. The numbers didn’t match. The Disney Cast Member at the counter was lovely and assured us that she’d figure it out somehow, but the travel agent had apparently screwed up royally. Luau tried to call the agent directly. Their offices had closed due to the hurricane. They wouldn’t reopen until Monday.

Brooke was pacing a rut into the ground. She was barely with me and not responding when I called her. I got panicky about the implications of her not responding and told her that I needed to give her a special tattoo on her arm. I wrote ‘IF LOST” and our cell phone number in Sharpie. She was not happy. She wanted the tattoo OFF. She began to yell. And cry.

Good times, my friends. Good times.

I wrangled the girls – well, ok the one in the wheelchair didn’t really need to be wrangled – and brought them over to a tree that I thought Brooke might like. She climbed it like a little monkey and for the first time in an hour, smiled. Which is of course when the very nice Disney security guard came over to tell her she needed to get down. “Don’t want you to get hurt, princess!”


As we walked back up to check in with Luau and to see if he’d gotten any closer to getting us in, we heard the first one. Katie and I looked at each other, confirming – that was no roller coaster off in the distance. It was thunder. Really loud thunder. By the time the second one rolled in, the sky had gone dark. When the third one came, it brought the rain.

The nice lady at the desk never found the reservation for the park passes. After nearly an hour of trying, she took mercy on us and wrote out complimentary tickets for the day, leaving us to work things out with the travel agency on our own.

As we walked in, the skies opened and the rain came down hard. Families all around us scrambled for cover. Brooke yelped. Irene laughed. And I did everything I could not to cry.

Welcome to Disney World, kids. Happiest place on Earth.


Ed note: That was Friday. I won’t say that the Saturday and Sunday were easy, but they were definitely better. We have had moments of pure magic that have made it all worthwhile. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. We’re having fun. I think. I’m pretty sure. Right? Yeah. We are. Really.

21 thoughts on “hiding from irene, griswold style

  1. You’re doing great!! Haven’t lost your sense of humor yet, that’s a good sign!! Hope the good times are a plenty!!

  2. Orlando in August means rain- every day at some point- as I’m sure you’re discovering. And rain, as in “turn the faucet on”, rain. It’s why they have the huge gullys along the roads. And then… it stops and the sun comes out and the humidity is back up again- and all is well again.

    It’s a bit like autism. 🙂


  3. oh I feel for you. several years ago we tromped through WDW with our kids (Daniel is autistic) during a tropical storm. I have never seen rain like that. The kid who freaks when a cloud is gray for fear it will rain, stomped through that park like a trouper determinded to do everything. To this day when we talk about it, neither boy remembers the rain. They remember the Disney attractions. amazing

  4. Oh my!!! I am so proud of you! I think I would have gone up the tree with Brooke and just hidden from it all. You are one strong mama.
    All you needed was grandma standing next to you saying The Pledge as the blessing, and a drum roll and sigh when you were supposed to be presented the tickets and they were not there. Yes, you are surely on a Griswald vacation! Thinking of you!

  5. …And this is where I just start laughing (hysterically)!I am amazed every day when I read your post at how well you incorporate your human-ness and your humor so well into some very soul-revealing reading. Some days it’s like we live in the same house! Thank goodness I found “a Diary of a Mom”.

  6. It is almost like you are traveling with me and my family.

    I am so sorry the start of your trip was so hard. I am sending all my wishes that the rest of it is easier.

  7. You get stars in your crown for this. Truly. This will be the one you’ll all laugh at.

    Twenty years down the line.

    And you posted this from your phone? Impressive!

  8. So proud of you guys for trying! Sounds like one of those times when I glance up to the heavens and say “Really, that’s all you got? Broken bones and hurricanes?” HA! (I have to feign strength to overcome).
    A few tips from the battlefield….1. Room service for breakfast=no crowds and every princess really shoud have breakfast in bed. 2. um…sedatives? I mean for Mommy of course, I have fragile nerves at this point and a glass of wine with my Mickey shaped dinner really makes it all a little softer around the edges :)).

  9. Hope that you enjoy the rest of your vacation!

    A couple little hints:

    The food tips may or may not be a part of the food dining plan, but if you need a little break from the crowd, they are very worthwhile…

    If you are looking for a place to eat at Epcot…back where the France exhibit is, there is a walk up cafe that sits way back from the fancier French restaurant. You do not need reservations there. one of you would have to go thru the food line in the cafe while the other one would sit with the girls in the cafe seating area in the room beyond the food line. The cafe sitting area sits back beyond the cafe area. It is a nice place to go if you need a break from the crowds in the restaurants or if for some reason, you don’t have reservations in the restaurants.
    If you are looking for a place to eat at Magic Kingdom, there is a place over from where the Aladdin’s magic carpet camel ride is that people do not realize is a place to eat. It is generally quiet and does not require reservations.
    It sits right next to the Moroccan shopping area and does not look like much as you are walking by…but that is a good thing, as people walk right by and do not pop in all that often to eat there.
    Each park has different hours of operation. There is generally one park that has what they call Extra Magic Hours. These hours are either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. the ones first thing in the morning can be fun, as it gets you in the park before the general public arrives. Not everything is open during this time in the a.m. though, but it is a good time to get a feel for the park and to grab fast passes for later in the day. We only live an hour away so we normally just get Florida annual passes…we only stay at the resorts on off season for an occasion like the boys birthday, etc. so we normally don’t do the Extra Magic Hours, but just FYI…

    Have a great vacation!

    🙂 Colleen

  10. Our family vacation mantra is that everyone will have fun at some point – we may not all be having fun at the same exact time but fun will eventually be had by all. Best of luck with the rest of your trip – enjoy the magical moments and roll with the magical meltdowns.

  11. hope you continue to make magical memories. That trip down was the stinker of all stinkers. Sending oodles of love. XO R

  12. I hope things are getting more magical every day. A few weeks before we took our kids to WDW I woke from a dream where my daughter had broken her leg just before the trip and we had to manage with her in a cast and on crutches. The actual trip went perfectly but she did end up with her foot in a cast and on crutches a few weeks after we got home. I hope Katie is having fun even with a cast.

  13. I hope that the magical memories are piling up to push out the craptastic trip down. And I sure as heck hope the travel agent fixes his screw-up and makes things right. Sending oodles of magic fairy dust wishes down south for you all!

  14. Pingback: Camping, OC Style

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