This post is full of details, mostly so I will remember them.
Feel free to skip it if you get bored.
We had a fantastic, albeit complex, family vacation!
We all left for the States on Thursday night, December 3rd, and everyone but my eldest just returned late last night, Sunday, December 20th.
We got back later than expected because of a snowstorm; our flight was delayed for FOUR HOUR. Good fortune prevailed, and strong tailwinds shaved off two of those hours from our flight time.
Our eldest was with us for the first week, but left on Sunday morning, December 13th, so she could attend final rehearsals for the upcoming production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance; she is in the chorus. (For those planning to attend the show, she will be in the yellow and purple costume.)
My parents joined us for our second week in Orlando. They wanted to come earlier, to spend more time with all of us, before our eldest left; but my dad had a professional convention at the same time, so he had to attend that.
We all overlapped for one Shabbat, which was wonderful and one of the highlights of our trip.
During the week with just our immediate family, we played for one day in all of the major Disney and Universal theme parks. We spent Sunday through Friday, as follows: Hollywood Studios Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Animal Kingdom. My parents, who had one less "play day" to begin with, chose to pass on both Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom and spend an extra day at Epcot.
Since Universal is closer to the airport, we went there on Sunday (after spending the morning in the airport, making sure our daughter was secure on her first solo flight across the world). Then we spent Monday through Wednesday at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Islands of Adventure, respectively. For our last day, we went, again, to Epcot. That night, while still at Epcot, our kids had several hours of "alone time" to play with their grandparents.
Moshe and I left early to see La Nouba, Cirque du Soleil, a spectacular show combining acrobatics, juggling, clowning, and dance.
All in all, we were in Orlando from Friday, the 4th, through Friday, the 18th, spending a total of 7 days in Disney parks (1 day each in Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, 2 days at Magic Kingdom, and 3 days at Epcot) and 4 days in Universal parks (2 each at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure).
On Friday, December 18th, my parents flew home to Arizona and we flew to New Jersey.
I stayed up all of Thursday night, with my mom, packing and tidying up.
At 4:30 am, I woke up Moshe and the kids; I was still rushing about, trying to finish up! We got out later than we had planned, but we got to the airport in time to make our flight.... almost.
I had packed food to eat while we were waiting. Though it became obvious that we would not have time to eat at the airport, I forgot that I had packed liquids (drinks, yoghurts, etc.). Ridding us of all our liquids caused enough of a delay at Homeland Security that we got to the gate just as the plane was pulling away.
Ironically, we spent several hours at the airport waiting for the next available flight, during which time we could have enjoyed our food and drink! Oh well. We were grateful to catch another flight and get to Teaneck before Shabbat!
We spent Shabbat with very close friends of ours, who used to live in Jerusalem.
During the afternoon, my grandfather and his partner came to visit, as did a few other courageous friends, who braved the snow! The visits were short, as I did not have a lot of energy and needed to rest. (I still had at least 8 hours of sleep to catch up on!)
Based on Friday's weather reports, we thought our flight would be cancelled and we would "win" another day or two with our friends. But, after Shabbat, our plane was still "on schedule."
The airline actually started the boarding process on time, until it became clear that de-icing the plane would be more complicated and the delay would be extensive. People actually de-boarded the plane, which is very unusual.
The airline ended up moving the de-icing station to the start of the runway, so the plane could take off as soon as they completed the de-icing process.
A few hours later, the airport cancelled all flights. By that point, we were well on our way home.
When we finally walked into our own doors, I was so incredibly grateful to be home!