November 25, 2004 - Thanksgiving (in Disney :)
We are thankful for so much. Life, family, good friends and a God who loves us.
What else needs to be said?
Tom, Jennifer and the boys.
November 23, 2004 - Snow in Orlando?
All is well here in the Magic Kingdom - it is great to enjoy time like this! It even snowed last night while we enjoyed Christmas lights at Disney's MGM Studios - real snow! It was a little strange walking around in shorts with temperatures in the 70's watching the white stuff fly :)
Ben is doing remarkably well. It is hard to believe that a less than 2 weeks ago there was concern that we may not make it through this trip. We carry a DNR certificate (Do Not Rescitate), medical records and the like along with the names of doctors here on the ground in Orlando - yet Ben seems to feel like a normal two year old. We understand that with most cancer, especially brain cancer, looks can be very deceiving. Still, he is laughing and playing - and has handled this trip with no problems. Even one of our friends that was here with us last week commented on how Ben was doing better than all of the other children who came with us. No fussing, no crying - only smiles. I still think he knows something we don't.
Eli is loving this - it is great to see him get to have so much fun (without interruption). He has been through so much... If only we can keep away from those princesses (his face can only tolerate so much lipstick:)
We really are enjoying ourselves - but with a heavy heart. I can not go down that path right now... but it is at times very challenging. Please continue to pray for us.
David and Tammy (Hanna's parents) joined us the other day - it is great to have them here with us! They felt like this is the place Hanna had so much fun that they wanted to celebrate her life here. We know it is hard though, please continue to support and encourage them at www.caringbridge.com/ms/hanna .
We ran into another of our St. Jude friends here (on his wish trip) - Aaron. He is not doing well. Time appears to be very limited. Please visit his website and encourage he and his mommy... www.caringbridge.com/il/aarondhunter .
Off to the parks... but not till after a quick wrestling match with the boys... talk to you later!
PS - A GREAT , BIG hello to all of our Disney friends - especially those in Guest Services. You guys are making this trip incredible! Thanks, Aaron for sharing Robin with us - she is awesome!
November 20, 2004 - Each Day is a Gift.
More to come later... but we want to take an extra minute to remember Hanna today. She would have turned 4 today. We know that it has been especially difficult on her parents lately - please remember them in your prayers. Hanna went to be with Jesus on August 9, 2004 after a long battle with brain cancer.
Visit her website and sign her guestbook at www.caringbridge.com/ms/hanna .
November 19, 2004 - All smiles...
Ben is all smiles... he really likes meeting all of the characters! His face lights up like nothing we have seen when a Disney character approaches him - priceless! Mickey is definately a favorite, but yesterday Bullseye (from Toy Story) really charmed Ben. Eli loves them all - especially the princesses (he gets all of those kisses ;)
The friends that joined us on the way down are returning home early Saturday so we will have to finish the trip all by ourself. Rough, I know :) Our family photographer (and very good friend) joined us last night and will be here a few days capturing these very special moments... thanks Sarah!
Last night, we took a very nice birthday cruise on the Disney Seven Seas Lagoon to watch the fireworks from a beautiful perspective. It was a private cruise with our friends - what a time! Happy Birthday (again), Big Ben.
We want to take a moment to remind David and Tammy that we love them dearly - tomorrow is Hanna's birthday (she would have been four). We have something very special planned here at Disney to honor her life - more to come. Please take a minute to encourage them by visiting Hanna's website at www.caringbridge.com/ms/hanna .
Thank you all for continuing to encourage us and pray for us through this time... still believing... Tom, Jennifer, Eli and Ben.
November 16, 2004 - WOW and more WOW!
We are certainly having the time of our lives! Ben is having fun with his family and friends meeting characters, visiting the attractions and living LARGE. The Disney Cast are making our time here incredible. Ben is truly VIP at Disney - and we are going along for the ride :)
Monday, we had a blast at the Animal Kingdom. We spent some time with the cast of the Festival of the Lion King... we were all impressed with their kindness.
Today, Ben spent time with Mickey and his friends backstage - before things even opened - and loved every minute! One of his favorite moments was meeting Bear from Bear in the Big Blue House (Playhouse Disney kids TV show). Bear took time (once again) backstage to love on Ben one-on-one.
Our Disney Guest Service Guide, Robin is making our life much easier. She handles all of the details of our trip (including private transportation for all of us)... what a blessing!
Manny, a manager at the Magic Kingdom, has become especially close with our family (and friends). He has made so much happen for Ben - something that we will never forget. He goes out of his way to make sure every detail is just right for Ben and our family.
Needless to say, we are really enjoying ourselves. Jennifer and I are really relaxing and savoring every moment with the boys. Thanks for praying for this very special time for our family - God is answering those prayers!
Good night... and still believing,
Tom, Jennifer, Eli and Ben.
November 14, 2004 - BEN'S BIRTHDAY!
I am not sure that Mr. Eisner is treated this well :) Ben has received the ultimate VIP treatment here at Disney - absolutely unbelievable!
Saturday morning we flew out on a private jet with some of our very best friends - and enjoyed a brief, smooth flight to the Magic Kingdom. All of the kids were showered with gifts from some kind folks at the Disney Store in Memphis and FedEx. We were greeted on the tarmac by kind folks serving refreshments and handling our luggage. WOW!
Our room is in the beautiful and extravagant Grand Floridian Resort and Spa on Disney property - with a beautiful view of the Castle in the Magic Kingdom. The staff at the resort and on the ground in the parks are extraordinary. We have a Disney Guest Services coordinator handling our itinerary - so we can sit back and relax the whole time.
Today, Ben celebrated his birthday with VIP access to attractions and shows - even met the entire Surprise Celebration cast back stage - something that rarely happens for anyone. Ben and his entire "crew" were given the royal treatment.
We are making some wonderful new friends here at Disney - in addition to Mickey and the gang. Manny and his team have been great making extra-special things happen in the parks for Ben. Katie, Jessica and Ellen have worked hard to make everything at the resort and all around Disney just right. Ginny and her team at the Disney Store in Memphis went the extra mile to make sure we made the right connections. Thanks to each of you!
Ben is feeling great - lots of smiles all day! Only a few brief naps to recover from all of the excitement. Eli is mostly jaw-dropped with all of the characters giving he and Ben the extra lovin'. Jennifer and I are really excited to have an opportunity like this... if you were in our shoes, what would you think? We are certainly blessed.
Some pictures from Saturday and Sunday follow. Please pray that the constant "lump" in our throat eases as we enjoy time with our family.
As I leave you this evening, I want to say a special thanks to the Petrina and the kids and the many friends of Matthew who really reached out to us and helped make this happen. Petrina lost her husband at the WTC and our lives intersected shortly thereafter. She and her kids offered up their trip to Disney so that we could be here this week. As difficult as parts of this is, I find great encouragement to see that a family can not only live through the death of someone so dear, but be able to reach "through" it and help others. I found her husband one week after the attack - and prayed for she and the kids. Little did I know that this kind family would be an anchor point in my family's life. Evidence that our story is bigger than all of this "stuff" we call life. Truly, God is good.
Petrina, Anthony, Matthew and Francesca - God bless each of you. I hope people learn from our stories...
Good night from the Magic Kingdom,
Tom, Jennifer, Eli and Big Ben.