Sunday, April 7, 2013

Disney Land 2013

Holy cow, I can't believe that it is already April!! Was it only a year ago that I randomly looked online, found a job opening for a year round camp in Utah, applied, interviewed, and accepted the job. I am astonished at the lessons I have learned in the past year, but that is another post for another day. I had a BUSY March, full of fun memories, lots of laughter, and a reminder of how special those I work with are to our loving Heavenly Father.

The first big trip of the month was to Disneyland!!! Although I have had a hard time giving up working with babies everyday in Ohio, this trip to Disneyland was exactly what I needed to remind me that I am in the right place, at the right job. This was only the second time our company has taken people to Disneyland, and I was excited for the opportunity to go, considering the fact that the last time I was in this magical place was when I was 8 years old (See picture below... SO glad I grew out of the thick bangs, with character shirts and colored spandex shorts.)
 I spent months and months planning this trip for 10 campers with cognitive and physical disabilities, and 3 other staff. I organized the hotel rooms, the plane tickets, the meals, the transportation, and the itinerary. Trust me, it would be no small feat organizing a trip for 14 people without disabilities, but add on lack of impulse control, medical complexities, developmental delays, and you have a trip that requires more planning and patience than should be required from anybody. However out of all of my travels to Hawaii, China, Washington D.C., and Ohio,  this was, by far the best trip I have ever been on. Disney truly is such a magical place. They do an amazing job at making the atmosphere very kid and disability friendly. We received easy access passes which allowed us to jump to the front of any line (trust me this is the way to go!) We were able to ride all the rides we wanted to without having to wait in lines for hours and hours. I challenged myself to go on all most of the rides, despite my fear of falling (the only ride I didn't go on was the one that does a little curly q, I don't go upside down on the roller coasters). We spent one day at California Adventure, and one day at Disneyland. The first day was a little rough, we had 2 boy staff and 2 girl staff, none of which who had worked together before, and me who is still trying to figure out what my role is when I am a supervisor and a staff. Plus it was cold a raining, courtesy of a pacific storm that rolled in the night before. There were some high emotions, and stressful moments, but my staff are so amazing that we were able to take everything that didn't work and change it so that Saturday in Disneyland was AMAZING. Words can't describe how peaceful and satisfying it was to be able to go on every ride, buy every souvenir, and see every site that all the campers wanted to see (which is pretty impressive for having 5 different people wanting to do 5 different things.)
Here are some of my favorite memories: **Just as a disclaimer: I know that it looks like I am narcissistic but I can't post pictures of any of the campers.**

1. The rides were pretty fun and not as scary as I originally thought.... all of the rides except the swinging Ferris wheel that is. . I really enjoyed the Tower of Terror (despite my screaming "I'M DONE, I'M FINISHED" half way through.) I REALLY enjoyed Soarin' Over California, where they make you feel like you are in a plane flying over California. I enjoyed Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indian Jones. but I DID NOT like the swinging Ferris Wheel. Here are a couple pictures to describe how much I liked it:

**Unfortunately I can't share the video that one of the campers snapped during the event.  It is truly a gem.**

2. I absolutely LOVED the light shows. Friday we stayed to watch the World of Color light/water show. AMAZING, doesn't even begin to cover it. Videos and pictures won't do it justice. They went through different scenes from the Disney movies and projected them onto the water, then choreographed the water and lights to music. During Pirate's of the Caribbean they actually shot out fire (see picture below). I loved seeing how much the participants enjoyed it. At one point when the the cute down syndrome boy that was standing next to me realized that the music belonged to Pocahontas, he opened up his arms really wide and exclaimed, "It's my people.... no really I am part Indian". He was HILARIOUS. Saturday we stayed for the fireworks and Fantasia light show (I felt like such a bad leader Saturday, I feed everyone lunch at 3pm and dinner at 8pm and then kept them out until 1am... shhh.. don't tell anyone). The fireworks were amazing and the light show was ok (at least compared to the World of Color). Overall it was just so magical!
3. I absolutely loved working with the four people below. During the day we split into 2 different groups. Aaron (the boy in blue) and myself took 5 people while the other 2 staff, Phil and Rachel, took the other 5. I loved our group, we had a good mix of cognitive and physical abilities. We had a few down's syndrome individuals, a TBI, and a girl who had pretty severe CP, and celiac's disease. Aaron I became so good at transferring her in and out of the rides, and I became one of the only ones who could understand her and translate for her. All of them were so funny, and willing to go on ANY ride. Like I mentioned earlier California Adventure was a little rough, partly because of the weather, but mostly because we were just learning how to work with each other. Which made Saturday in Disneyland so much better. One of my favorite pictures comes for Splash Mountain. They cute people in my group thought it would be so funny to put me in the front, they really wanted to see me get wet. Little did they know they would get a wonderful picture from it was well.... I hope you enjoy the face! Aaron was such a trooper and while he would have preferred to go to Space Mountain, he stopped to let us girls see the princesses!! Thanks Aaron!!

4. I have never laughed so much in my life. These campers that I work with are HILARIOUS. While I can't recount every memory that makes me laugh, I would like to share this one. There were two down syndrome boys, we will call one Bob and one Jack. Bob (who happens to be the one who made me laugh at the world of color light show) was flirting with me, so Jack says, "Bob, stop flirting with the counselors" When I told Jack I heard he was a ladies man he goes, "Yes, but I don't puff up my masculinity for them. I just be myself. All you need is appropriate social skills." I then told him that he needs to come and talk to my guy friends, he says, "It's amazing how those without disabilites still need to work on the same things that those with disabilities do."

Overall it was a much needed trip. I needed to feel that unconditional love I often don't get from my family. I needed the opportunity to act silly in public and not care what anybody thought of me. I needed a reminder of how damn good I am at my job, and how much I can make a difference, even if I am not holding babies everyday. I have one of the best jobs in the world and these pictures prove it!