For three days during our Disney trip, we went to bed late enjoying the late closing times at the Disney World parks and woke up early to snag the early opening hours. The extended morning and night hours are only for people who stay in Disney resorts. We love riding the rides with shorter lines and smaller crowds. It makes us happy.
One of those days started with us opening up Animal Kingdom. We love it best for the Expedition Everest ride and the animal safari. This year was the first time Jordan was tall enough to ride it. She was nervous before this ride… but was giggling and happy by the end of every time we rode it. All three times. (Yup. Getting to the park early makes it super easy to ride roller coasters a lot.) Jordan was so brave, we got her a stuffed Yeti. The safari in the morning is also always awesome. Add in the Lion King show and we were feeling like our Animal Kingdom experience was perfect.
But then it got even better.
On our way out of the park, I needed to grab a couple of things for a friend at one of the stores. I couldn’t find what I wanted to buy, so we kept looking. We ended up in a store where a resident artist was working on her woodwork. Judy Derench of The Global Gecko is an artist in residence at Disney eight months of the year. The rest of the year, she works out of Niantic, CT. The kids and I were admiring her work. She has all kinds of animal pieces of art that are all carved out of local wood.
As we looked through the work, the kids noticed small dolphins on a shelf. There were a few of them. Each cost $5 and I was totally willing to let the kids get one. Heck, we were days away from meeting Winter the Dolphin and her friends at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Cameron asked Derench if she had ever carved a dolphin without a tail. She told him that she had done it once and gave the artwork to the Clearwater aquarium. The kids thought that was really cool. I was in the process of buying the two dolphins when Cam asked Derench if she would consider taking the tail off of his $5 dolphin. I’m not exactly sure what he said, but she agreed. Each kid watched her work with care as she artfully removed the dolphin’s tail, smoothed it out and then lovingly packed each dolphin individually in wrap to keep them protected in its travels home. Jordan was so interested in watching Derench work.
I was honored to see her put this much care into a small $5 piece of wo0dwork. The kids have each of their dolphins displayed proudly in their bedrooms. Derench signed each piece of wood and wrote a bit about the wood she used for the art in a small pamphlet she included with each dolphin. The dolphins are made out of crocodile wood. She writes it’s a “naturally light colored wood. The bark of the tree looks just like crocodile scales.” Pretty cool and a moment worth remembering from our Disney trip.