Hunter's Wish: Orlando, Florida

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May 3, The Day Before

I am getting so excited to leave tomorrow morning! As of right now, we have to get up in 6 hours. I am totally stoked, I've had a blast at our hotel in Des Moines, and that's just a slice of what's to come this week. So, here's a little recap of the day (you can see most of these pics on Instagram, my main social media).

First we had to drop Willy off with my grandma, and then we went to go eat at the Machine Shed in Des Moines. There were some geese with adorable babies we saw hanging out!

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Our flight leaves at six, so we got to stay in a hotel for the night.

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Like I said, we have to get up EARLY. 3 am early. But that doesn't stop us from swimming and playing basketball in the pool!

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Kind of anxious to fly! Technically I've flown before, but I don't know how young I was and don't remember a darn thing. And it's Hunter's first time too... Stay tuned for more pics!


May 4, Arrival

Today is a flying day! I am nervous but also excited. We had an awesome experience at the airport. We had to get up at three thirty, and we took a shuttle over to the airport. Security was fairly easy, and then we just had to wait. Then Hunter got a present from them, met the pilots, and got to go into the cockpit!

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Then it was time to get down to business. Despite my face in the picture, I was pretty anxiety filled.

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Turns out I am a person who LOVES to fly! One of these days I want to fly at night and see the lights.

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We had a three hour layover in Chicago, and the view coming in for landing was incredible!

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Even went over Lake Michigan!

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During the layover, I began "Chasing Sunsets" by Karen Kingsbury (which I've been reading every night and as soon as I finish this I am going to keep reading). It consisted mainly of reading, playing games on my phone, stretching legs on the awesome moving sidewalks *insert what they're really called* and then we ate as well.

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And round 2 begins!

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Once we arrived in Orlando, we had to go pick up our checked bags and get the rental car, which was a bit of a hassle. Then trying to get to the hotel... Let's just say know where you're going, have a GPS ready when you're on the Orlando freeways, hang on, and get ready for some explicit language.

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We had some issues with the hotel and Hunter's vest that kind of got us stressed out unfortunately. They all got worked out, though, and then later that night we headed outside to the pool. I am in love with Florida's palm trees. I need to figure out how to get some on the plane.

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We went swimming a little bit at night - it was awesome!

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Other random things that occurred: We were all shot and took a nap before we went swimming. Then we ate Pizza Hut from the hotel. Then...

What I don't have pictures of is our crazy little ride through Orlando trying to find a Walmart. Ugh. Good times. You haven't lived until you've done that. Poor dad had to drive with everyone frantically shouting random directions. And the GPS ended up being right. One point for technology. Honestly, we could have died! First because you take a chance every time you get in a car, but then add super busy traffic, pitch darkness, a confused GPS and ramblings from everyone else... Like one time we came to a split between an exit and the interstate, and we drove right off one into another. You had to be there. It was scary. A ride all by itself.

The good news was that we finally found Walmart and got our crap (er, helpful stuff, but that's what it looked like to me when you practically throw up in your own car just to get STUFF) so yeah. I was freezing, too. I still had my swimsuit on underneath my clothes, and my hair was a tangled wet mess. And who knew Walmarts could be so busy at ten p.m. on a Monday night?! I hope they didn't risk their life trying to get *helpful stuff*...

Thankfully everyone learned to trust the GPS. She took us right back to our hotel, and we saw some pretty cool scenery. I think my only prayer when we got back to the hotel was thank you God for life...

It ended up being okay, but it was one frantic day! Here is my little tip if you're going to visit Orlando: 1) don't go anywhere you don't know at night, 2) if you're the driver: wear earplugs, and put the GPS out of your family's site, and 3) use your dang seat belts because good stinking riddance. Orlando traffic is intense.

Well good night America!


May 5, Discovery Cove

The main thing of Hunter's wish was to swim with dolphins. In Orlando, there is a park owned by SeaWorld called Discovery Cove. It is a pure tropical paradise. I would go back in a heartbeat. I could even live there!

Anyway, so we drove over there (which was much easier and simpler and SAFER than Walmart) and right from the start it was pretty cool.

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We got checked in and all that good stuff, and then we went to eat breakfast. You don't have to pay anything for the food or snacks during the day, because you pay for all of that when checking in. We did not have to pay for anything, though, because Make-A-Wish covers that. The food was pretty good!

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After we ate, one of the things we wanted to do before we got our wetsuits and vests on was a room full of birds. We got bird food, and one of the birds landed on my arm and ate out of my food cup! It was pretty cool. It took awhile for us to finally get our stuff on before heading to do something, but finally we arrived at the Grand Reef. This was a really cool snorkeling place! Lots of beautiful, vibrant fish and stingrays floated under you! It started out shallow and then got deep. And by the way, the stingrays were harmless. I needed reassurance on that one too.

We got our snorkels and headed into the water, only to freeze. It was cold and full of salt for the animals. I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately I don't have any pics yet, but Hunter had a waterproof disposable camera that had some, so we'll see when we can get those off. The snorkels were a pain in the butt at first. My dad finally got the hang of it and showed us all, and once you learn how it's really fun. My dad and I went to the deeper part of the water, and Dad took Hunter's camera to get some pics. It was hilarious because two good sized stingrays were swimming right below us while Dad was taking pics, so the camera was making a noise... Well, I thought that was the vibration of their stingers, and I got freaked out... Hahaha. I wish we would have done more of this since there were sharks in a tank we missed, but it was so cold in that water. 

Then we had our scheduled dolphin interaction to report to! It was amazing! The water was also freezing, but you got used to it. The trainers showed my family and two other couples in our group some really cool things the dolphins can do! Then each of us held out a signal, and the dolphin would put her face in our hands so we could give her a kiss! Then we got our picture with her.

Also, look how pale we all are! It's hilarious - our skin tones match her belly!

Then we swam out aways for the dolphin swim! We had a choice between deep or shallow; Dad and I did deep and Hunter and Mom shallow.

Afterwards we ate, explored a little more, and then Hunter wanted to see the otters. Along the way we found a really cool tropical area with multiple lazy rivers. I could have floated in those rivers all day.

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It was one of the best days ever. Later on at the hotel, we went by the swimming pool at night again, but we were swimmed out. I took the palm trees on a little photoshoot. We stayed at the Marriott: Residence Inn by SeaWorld just for the record. Over all, that was a pretty dang awesome hotel. I needed to take the bed home with me.

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So excited for SeaWorld tomorrow!


May 6, SeaWorld VIP Tour

We had to be up nice and early again since we had a VIP tour at SeaWorld waiting for us, thanks to Make-A-Wish! It was funny because as we were checking in, one of the ladies came up to us, and we won a VIP tour. In the end we decided to stick with the original one because it offered more, but it was pretty ironic.

At first I was kind of stressed and vowed to myself I wasn't going on any rides. A few hours later, I found myself high atop the Kraken. We'll get to that later. It was so hot, and I get pretty faint easily during the heat, so I wasn't feeling too good and just wanted to get the tour started with. However sick I may have felt in the morning, the afternoon made up for it. It was an amazing day, and shout outs to our tour guide Fabian. He did his job perfectly, and I think without the tour we wouldn't have got a nearly as amazing experience. He also helped convince me to get on the Kraken. Actually, he told me to get on the Kraken! He was all like, "Okay so you two *points to Mom and Hunter* can go check out blah blah blah and now you two come with me for the Kraken." I'm like, seriously... But again more details to come because I actually owe him big for that.

Okay, time for picture overload!

We ate breakfast at the hotel, and then thank the Lord for shuttles. We took one of those over, although I'm sure we would have been fine driving. The sign was literally right down the road.

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By the entrance with Mom and Dad.

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Then we had some time to explore before we had to meet up with Fabian. At the time, we didn't know he was our guide yet.

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Fabian was great. From the first attraction we visited, we already felt like it was going to be a great day and that he knew what he was doing. First stop was the aquarium.

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Fascinating octopus.

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Can you guess what this is?! It's a seahorse!!! That looks like a plant! There's a name for it that Fabian told us, but I can't remember it off the top of my head. He gave us these cool trading cards with info so we won't forget.

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The aquarium was absolutely beautiful!

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After the aquarium we went to feed the sea lions, and then we went to one of their many shows, Sea Lion High. It was a hilarious and overall awesome show!

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Then we went straight over to One Ocean, the show featuring the killer whales Shamu and her friends. Pretty amazing!

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After those shows it was time for a lunch break. Fabian went off to do what he needed to do, and we went to go find one of the restaurants. The food was pretty good, and afterwards we had about forty minutes left before we went back to meet up with Fabian. We went on the Sky Tower, a slow enclosed "ride" that turned gently and gave you a birds eye view of the entire park. We got a really good picture of Kraken!

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When we met back up with Fabian, we still had one more show to see. First, we got to go feed the stingrays! (And yes, they did not have their stingers.) At first, I was so freaked out to feed them. This little huge pool that wasn't even a foot tall had practically no openings. Stingrays filled up the majority of it. We had to find an opening, get the headless fish between our fingers, stick it deep down, and they'd slurp it up like we would spaghetti. I was so hesitant at first but finally took the plunge, and it was awesome! It was such a weird yet fascinating feeling. We got to touch the stingrays too, and they felt like pure rubber. Honestly, they are incredible creatures.

Fabian also showed us what their stinger looks like, it was in a box type thing and had come off of a stingray. They look like glass with spikes. Ouch! I also learned it's kind of like when a bee stings. They want to avoid it at all costs because once they sting it breaks, and it takes a year for a new stinger to grow back. Fabian said the most common place to get stung was your foot because they would be underneath the sand on beaches *or something like that*, and you could accidentally step on one and it would be their reaction. If you did a special shuffle they'd feel your vibration though and swim out. I'd do the shuffle. Those stingers don't look like something you want in your foot.

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The next show we saw involved dolphins and acrobats. I think it was honestly my favorite.

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After the show, we went to see a 3D show about turtles called TurtleTrek. It was so cool! Before we got to take a look at some sea turtles and manatees.

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This would be the gap where I was forced upon the Kraken. The good news was that since we had Fabian to lead us up, we got on right away which meant I didn't have time to stress. I put my sliders in a cubby so I was barefoot, which felt really nice in the hot weather. We were in the second row (I was not too happy about that at first), and then it was time to pull our blue whatever the heck they're called's on. And this time I did not scream that I didn't get it the first try.*
*If you want to read about that embarrassing fiasco go here and see #3.

We descended and began to climb a huge hill, but it wasn't straight up or anything so I could handle that. I would later find out this is the tallest coaster in Orlando. Then we went down a pretty steep hill (I did not know about) and went up and down and all around and over 600 loops, and it was amazing. I ended up liking it more than my dad, who literally had begged me to go on it the whole dang day. It gave my dad a headache, but it just made me crave more adrenaline rushes. Best ride ever. I would've rode it again.

Afterwards we went on a cool simple ride in a section called Antarctica with all the penguins! It was almost like sitting in a bumper car that spun in a circle and rocked back and forth. The actual room with the penguins was COLD! But you're gonna want to appreciate that on a day as hot as it was.

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We wrapped things up looking at some sharks and other fish, and then the tour was already over! Fabian did an amazing job and truly helped enhance our day. I'll never forget it.

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Tomorrow = Disney parks! We're going to hang out at Animal Kingdom. Can't wait!

P.S. A picture when I was feeding the birds at Discovery Cove!

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May 7, Disney Parks

Today was a day we got to go to any of these four Disney parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Our main thing was Animal Kingdom, but Dad was dying to go in a haunted house, so we went to Hollywood Studios next. I know they don't have a haunted house, but I'll give more details later.

First, the day was already off to a good start with this cute little card, but it was already hotter than the day before.

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I saw some beautiful flowers and ducks, plus this awesome tree they made and carved into true brilliance! It was honestly the coolest thing. Then we used a quick pass to go on a safari we really wanted to do.

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These were some of the highlights from the safari, we saw many great animals:

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This was known as the Upside Down Tree... Can you tell?

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Dad and I rode a really cool ride called Everest, and it wasn't nearly as extreme as the Kraken. I loved it and so did Dad, it took place in this mountain structure with Yeti and all that. It didn't go upside down or anything. It was cool.

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Then we went over to Dinoland at Hunter's request and Hunter (who is terrified of roller coasters) wanted to go on the Primeval something or other. Hunter loved the ride, and we were so proud he did it, but Dad and I HATED it. Talk about rough! It had the most abrupt turns! I would NOT go on it again, but I'm glad Hunter liked it.

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We finished up after that. I enjoyed Animal Kingdom, my whole family did, but we preferred SeaWorld. It wasn't just because of our VIP tour, either. The Disney parks (including Hollywood Studios) were jammed pack and WAY overpriced! We then went to Hollywood Studios and ate before we did anything, and a simple meal that wasn't that great came to forty-five bucks! ABSURD! My dad wanted me to go on the Tower of Terror with him, and I reluctantly said yes. This ride was like the Space Shot except enclosed with four rows and a seatbelt. 

I was so scared! I'm not a fan of scary movies or any of that, much less haunted houses. When you first enter it's a spooky hotel, okay. Then when boarding, you go into this room that was honestly the scariest part! The lights just shut out and lightning flashes, and then the TV comes on... Then you finally board the elevator. Lucky me was in the first row! Great! That meant if something popped up I would die of a heart attack! 

For awhile it's basically things out of The Twilight Zone that didn't scare me. What scared me was the suspense of something popping up. *SPOILER ALERT* Nothing does. So if you are freaked out like me about that, maybe you will just relax and enjoy the ride. I did! The ride itself was awesome! It shoots you up, drops you, repeat. At the top, a window opens so you can see the park. It's not a terrific view, but it's something.

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We ended with a Star Wars ride. Remember how Hunter is terrified of roller coasters? Even though the sign recommended FOR KIDS and Star Wars is his favorite movie, he literally had so much anxiety over going on this. Just Dad and me went at first. The ride was so cool and simple! Hunter had nothing to worry about. Oh my gosh, he literally threw a fit! Not like hitting or anything, but he refused to go on it! At this point things were getting a little ridiculous, and my parents are NOT bad parents for doing this: it's something called tough love. If you went on this ride and then saw Hunter, it would be pretty bad. It's not like we'd recommend something for him he couldn't handle. I told him he'd hate the Kraken.

Okay, so tough love, I don't wanna go's the whole way, ten minutes later: THAT WAS THE BEST RIDE EVER!

My dad had a little talk with him about anxiety and trust, and I hope he learned a valuable lesson that day. Anyway, we got on our shuttle to go back and called it a day. I loved the Disney parks, don't get me wrong, but I definitely prefer SeaWorld's parks. Disney fell kind of flat and like I said: was packed and overpriced. 

It was a great day though! Tomorrow we're trying something a little different...


May 8, Port Canaveral Fishing Trip

Today was our free day and we had scheduled a full day fishing trip out by Port Canaveral. The waves were really high for awhile though so our trip got pushed back a little. So Hunter and I went swimming for the first time during the day!

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We saw this in the sky from an airplane! It said Praise Jesus and You + God = :)

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Then good news! We could go out earlier than planned! We got everything ready and were on our way - DRIVING. It was a pretty simple route, BUT the GPS did not know the specific location we needed to be at in Port Canaveral, only how to get to Port Canaveral itself. So we did that and paid five million tolls. We saw just a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean and huge cruise ships!

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After that we used directions from his website. That's right! We didn't use the GPS for once, and we made it! Basically, it was amazing seeing the ocean, and Tony and Garrett were great to us. The fishing was pretty much horrible, but it was a great experience. We all enjoyed it - even my mom who wasn't feeling so good after she went in the small bathroom. Here are some pics my dad and I took:

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These pics are hilarious! I was asked to take a picture of the boys, and it took 3 times to finally get it right! In the first pic, Dad looks hilarious and in the second pic, Hunter. Then we finally figured it out.

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These were honestly some of my favorite pictures...

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We made it back fine too, thank you. The GPS recognized the hotel, so it took us straight there. It was a great night. God's beauty is majestic. On the way home we talked about all the memories made. So thankful. I don't wanna go home...


May 9, Depart

This was not too much of an interesting day since all we did was fly out. I figured I'd blog about it anyway. We drove to the airport, and the GPS worked again. We dropped off our rental car and went over to the airport. We had a bit of a wait, and there was free internet! Oh, and a McDonald's. I love my happy meals.

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We had another layover in Chicago, but it wasn't nearly as long as the first.

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I love Southwest Airlines because they let you sit wherever you want (unless the plane is full), and they give you free food!

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On the way into Des Moines, I saw Blank Children's Hospital (the blue building) and the blue bridges over the interstates! Hunter and Dad even saw our HOUSE! Not fair.

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What can I say? The trip was amazing. It was our first real family vacation, and it makes me want to travel more. There's something about staying a week in somewhere other than your house that really makes you appreciate life. And I do. I am so thankful for this week of memories. The purpose of Make-A-Wish is to offer hope to kids with life threatening diseases. And it did that. I am so thankful to God for this life. Because it's a good one, even despite the obstacles like driving to Walmart in Orlando. Thanks for tuning in.