Friday, June 29, 2012

sea world

*this is so long over due but had to finish up our wonderful trip!

our final day in florida was jam packed, of course.  we started the morning off with breakfast then the "closing service" for the weekend.  Deric, the director of IOH and husband to founder Kristen, took time to honor the volunteers.  These folks paid their own way to spend 4 days with families in need and care for us and our kids.  they pushed wheelchairs or strollers, carried backpacks, helped feed kids, waited in line, took pictures, watched our kids while we were in meetings, and sacrificially gave of their time and money to be there.  they were all so nice.  i'm partial to our friend, Jessica.  she was fabulous.  so on this morning after recognizing the volunteers Deric told us how they'd been working hard making something for us.  each volunteer then brought their family a photo album they made.  they didn't just throw some pictures in a book.  although, if they had i would not complain.  it was a scrapbook with paper and scripture and pictures.  in 20 pictures it told the story of our two previous days.  i totally cried.  see, i knew jessica was taking pictures and we'd get them.  but i was thinking we'd get a disc.  i had no idea we'd get hard copies of pictures.  i would have gotten the disc, uploaded them and that would have been it.  instead, i have a fun scrapbook album plus about 40 other pictures i put in another album.  i miss pictures.  and now we can look through our albums any time.  it was such a gift.  that morning we also heard from Kristen.  her story is incredible as she seems to be defying what the doctors tell her.  this is her dream and it's an amazing dream.  she is passionate about leaving a legacy for her 3 children and sharing that passion with us.  you can go to the IOH website and see her video and read more about her story.  Deric and Kristen are being used by God to love families who are facing some scary stuff...terminal illness and death.  yet, they share a story of legacy and hope to these families.   what they've created with these retreats is simply amazing.  not only is it a family vacation for families who would otherwise not be able to have such a vacation.  but it's a chance to connect with other families in similar circumstances and gives them the space to talk about the hard stuff.  as well as making a legacy video and an opportunity to either begin or continue conversations with kids.  we are so thankful we had the chance to go on this trip.  it was just what we needed.

after the closing service we headed to Sea World.  i was most excited about seeing dolphins.  i love love love dolphins.  clearly, a dream of mine is to swim with them.  maybe one day.  we were on our own today without jessica, so she could have a much needed break.  we had less steam than the other days and the sky threatened rain.  but we had another day to enjoy, so we got started.  our first stop was this 3D Turtle movie.  before we saw the movie we got to see Manetee and Sea Turtles.  Manetee are HUGE.  i mean, there was this one that was just so big.  he just hung out there while a smaller (more fit one) swam by.  i was amazed at their size.  the movie was really was showing the life of a sea turtle from egg to old age.  we jumped a few times at the 3 D creatures, especially the crab (or spider as Charis calls it) that attacked the baby turtle.  after this we got seats for the Dolphin show.  it was so so cool.  dolphins are AHmazing.  they were doing all sorts of crazy tricks with the people.  i was fascinated and just took tons of pictures of them leaping out of the water and doing tricks.  i bet the feeling of riding on one of them is just incredible.  after the show we looked into a Dolphin experience thing where you can feed and touch the dolphins, but we didn't have time for me to do it.  so we walked around looking for rides for charis...and found a small kiddie section.  she and adam rode a ride similar to the tea cups and she clearly didn't like the spinning.  at some point her head just lolled back as she spun.  the only other options was a splash park and she had a blast here, running through the water, watching other kids and spraying them.  it is always fun to watch her play.  i mean, who can't find joy in kids playing!?  i love it...the laughter and squealing and pure joy.  after this we didn't have much time so we got some ice cream and a suvenier including a photo booth picture.  i love photo booth pictures.  and literally as we left the park the sky opened and it downpoured.  off to the airport.  i feel like we could have done and seen more at Sea World but we were just spent.  seeing the dolphins was surely a thrill.  i have no regrets. 

look how big that sucker is!

pure excitement.  i love it!

there were birds in the dolphin show and landed right next to charis

dolphin flying...everything about them is cool

this guy is doing some fancy dolphin trick

grand finale with all the dolphins. yay!!

sea world carousel with sea creatures!!

you can see her head lolling back...poor thing :)

splash time=fun time

cuddle with daddy
 the trip home was smooth and we made it by 9pm.   we were all so exhausted.  in fact, just over a month later (as i finally finish this) i barely remember the details.  i cannot say enough how good this trip was for our family.  not just the parks but all the other stuff.  we are big fans of IOH and totally believe in their mission and what they are doing. 

wiped out

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dr Seuss

we all know dr seuss and have read his imaginative and strange books.  sometimes i'm not sure about cat in the hat, but if we miss curious george in the morning it's what the little lady watches so one of us can shower.  take a right into Universal Islands of Adventure and you are transported into your very own dr. seuss book of Seussland.  i have to say i'm very thankful for this little section of the park.

sleepy time on the bus

ready for the ride!! i am.
charis and dollie on the carousal
Monday was our second park day, but 3rd official day in Florida (w/o a nap).  Charis dragged out of bed like a teenager and declared she wanted to stay and sleep.  but we had to keep going.  this was our family vacation.  the bus held two irritated parents, a tired little girl and a loving ready to serve volunteer friend.  the sky threatened rain from the very beginning.  day 2 was not looking good.  walking into the park the excitement from the day before was noticibly lacking.  charis was being a tired 2 1/2 year old...yes i want to ride, no i want to lay with dollie, no i don't, yes i get the picture.  for adam and i we had already had a pretty full morning in our group session.  we weren't prepared to handle all of this.  and it all came boiling over at once...our mini family meltdown.  sweet jessica gave us space as we faltered and cried and got mad.  then it was done.  and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish awaited us.  the three of us got into our "go straight to the front no waiting line" and piled into a purple fish.  and we laughed.  we laughed as it went around and each time adam lowered our fish it was directly into the water spray.  it made us scream and laugh more.  it was just what we needed.  Seussland had everything we needed...a funky creature carousal, a train ride and this ride.  i wouldn't recommend the cat in the hat ride.  as charis says, "it spins around and we don't like that."  then the rain came and we took cover.  charis cuddled in her stroller with blankie and dollie.  when it let up we ran over to Spiderman so adam could ride it, it's his favorite.  then we walked around the park to explore.  we got to see a dinosaur in jurassic park.  we drank (well, they) butter beer in harry potter land.  then we decided to head back to the hotel early.  it was a good call.  we just vegged out and ate goldfish.

making hilarious faces...this makes me laugh every time
the rain!
cuddled up in stroller
eek! a dinosaur!
something to do with Harry Potter
butter beer mustache
tonight was a special night.  these folks have thought of everything.  it was "kids night out" which really meant date night for us.  but before we left we had the opportunity to meet with one of the child counselors and make our Legacy video.  we had planned to go to dinner with my brother and his family, who drove in from Tampa.  since it had been such a "rough" day we requested Charis go to bed after dinner at a normal time.  and our sweet friend did just that and apparently Charis was wiped.  they stayed in our room until we got back from our date.  Seeing my brother, John, and his family was great.  they've been away (overseas) for a lot of the past 10 years, so having them closer is great.  and i have to say that we've grown even closer these past couple years.  see, he's almost 10 years older than me.  and i was a little 7 year old when he left home to join the Army.  now we are adults with families and getting to know each other.  i know they love me and my family.  and i love them too.  we had a yummy dinner and a great night out.  what a gift that was to us.

post feast!
2 very good looking couples
sadly, i can't remember what each group session was.  but this morning we heard from Angela.  Angela works for IOH and has a sweet story to share with parents.  her daddy was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was five and died when she was 10.   she talks about those 5 years and the way her daddy was intentional with her to make memories she'd remember.  she also told us about a notebook he kept with notes and letters to her both serious and funny that her mother found after he died.  she talked about how this tangible item has meant so much to her throughout the years.  she talked about how this is the story God wrote for her, and it included losing her dad as a child.  she is the woman, wife, daughter, mother, and friend she is today in part because of the pain of losing her daddy as a little girl.  she spoke of her capacity for joy is so much greater because of her experience with pain.  i get this.   i loved hearing her story.  because one day that could be Charis.  i realize that this isn't just about me, or adam and i.  it's about all of us.  God loves Charis more than i could ever imagine and i trust Him with her.  whether i live or die, she will be uniquely her because of the joy and the pain of this trial.  i am thankful for the gift of Angela's story.  and you can imagine why it was hard to jump right into Seussland after a morning like this.  yet, it was so well orchestrated.   we laughed a lot.  laughing is so good.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bisney World!

i am so excited to tell you about our trip to Disney World (or Bisney World as Charis calls it).  it was such an amazing trip and there is so much to tell you.  plus i honestly don't want to tell the same stuff, although fun to talk about, over and over because that is very exhausting to me.   my hope is everyone will read this and be able to imagine the amazing trip we had.  of course i'm going to have to split this up into multiple posts.
kisses on the plane

first i want to tell you how we were able to go on this trip.  there is no way we could ever afford to take such a trip.  in comes Inheritance of Hope (IOH) and my friend and IOH Counselor, Meredith McDaniel who encouraged me to apply.  i encourage you to go to their site and read all about it.  it started 5 years ago by Kristen Milligan, who is living with Liver Cancer.  it was her vision to give families with a terminally ill parent the opportunity to take a family vacation.  but not just any vacation.  this vision includes sharing stories with other families, time with counselors, focus on sharing your news and all that is going on with your children, children having time with counselors, space to be sad, space to experience joy, space to soak up, a volunteer assigned to your family to serve and care for your family the whole time, eating meals together, tools to help walk this road as a family, a date night, an opportunity to leave a legacy video for your children, tools and encouragement on leaving a legacy for your kids and so much more.  so, yeah, not your ordinary family vacay.  it is the most amazing experience ever!!  this trip was an all expense paid vacation for us...the hotel, the parks, food, date night, everything.  there are gracious folks out there that make it possible for families like us to go on this trip and not worry about a thing.  in fact, part of that is the volunteers and staff.  they blew me away.  our volunteer, Jessica, was incredible.  she's been volunteering with IOH for 3 years.  she loved and served us in HUGE ways...loving on charis while we were in our meetings, carrying stuff for us at the park, hanging with charis while we went on Space Mountain and other rides, hanging with our stuff while we took charis on rides, taking tons of pictures, making a photo scrapbook of our time together and just loving us so well.  i mean, who wants to trudge through a Disney Park just to help a family?!  She does!  the whole experience was amazing.  i know we will tell you more about it.

we needed this trip.  the weeks prior have been shitty.  first the hospital then just a hard week.  we needed this time away.  and it included time to have immense fun, to be sad, to share, to watch charis, and to be together as a family.  God knew we needed this and it came at a perfect time.
"who's ready for bisney world?" "I AM!"

first pic outside park!
meeting Mickey at our hotel, what a treat!

checking things out with daddy
Loving Dumbo!
first of many Carousal rides
watching parade with daddy
our first day on Sunday was Magic Kingdom.  after a full morning we headed to the park.  i couldn't wait to see Charis' face.  i had told her as much as i could about it; the characters she'd see and the rides she'd ride.  it was sunny and crowded.  we got our special pass which literally let us go straight to the front of the line.  no waiting.  none.  only on a few rides whose wait time was less than 20 min.  now i'm spoiled b/c it's the only way to experience it. :)  we saw a small parade shortly after we arrived with most of the characters.  i then thought they'd be out and about to get autographs and pics.  they weren't so we headed to our first ride.  the race cars.  i got to drive but it was too loud for charis.  she said she didn't like it but i said she'd probably talk about it most.  and she did.  we did some other fun rides...Dumbo, Pooh's Hunny Pots, the Carousal, Peter Pan, Aladdin's Magic Carpet.  she loved them all.  watching her and adam on dumbo almost made me cry.  i had this incredible feeling of joy and sadness colliding as i watched them grinning together, realizing why we were on this trip.  it was a sweet moment that i'm so thankful for.   i was getting worried that we hadn't seen any characters and it was all i really told her about.  we were there for a long time and never saw a character in the park.  i was pissed.  then i got some "schedule" and it turns out they are mostly inside and you have to go wait in line to see them.  others "may" be out "intermentantly."  what?!  that sucks!  i had the idea they'd be out and charis could run up and hold their hand, get their autograph and a picture.  so, we found where Mickey & Minnie were and went to them.  i was afraid it was just Mickey so when i saw Minnie I squealed with joy.  this was my only disappointment about the experience...not seeing the characters out and about.  i mean, they were on the float parade like every hour.  anyway.  i'm over it now.  she doesn't know any different.  we didn't leave until around 9pm so it was a long no nap kind of day.  she crashed as soon as we gave her a bath and put her to bed.  and she slept til 8am, barely wanting to go the next day. 

We really had an amazing time.  I can't wait tell you about the rest of the trip.  but it has to come in stages.  Don't want to overwhelm. :)  Hope you enjoy the pics.  There are so many to choose from.

peeking at mickey & minnie
holding their hands and cuddling them

getting ready for a magic carpet ride!

on a magic carpet ride
one last pic before we headed out