Magic and Misery

I’ve been wanting to fill you in on our recent trip to Florida for our first Disney cruise but I’m still recovering…from the depression.

Forgive the length of this post.  It’s part travel diary, part Disney Cruise review, part True Larrick Fashion of luck and life.

There were some very wonderful and magical memories made on the trip, but unfortunately it ended badly and I am still coming to terms with it after 10 months of planning and anticipation.

Before I can begin with the magical portion of the trip, there are some miserable precursors you should know about. Dave was struggling for weeks from a gout attack that left him in a lot of pain and prevented him from walking normally. He finally got the treatment he needed (after three weeks of pain) on the Monday before our flight to Orlando.

While Dave began to feel better, I came down with a lovely stomach virus on Tuesday. I couldn’t pack or even move out of bed the entire day so we moved our flights from 7am the next morning to 1:30pm to give us time to recover (and hope no one else got sick) and pack. This move worked wonders and the four of us, plus my mom, were able to get on the plane the next day. Whew!

Day One–Wednesday


Day Two-Magic Begins!

We stayed two nights before our cruise at a Marriott Vacation Club. We stayed here two years ago and loved it. We had as much fun this time! The weather was magical as well! We played miniature golf, swam and sat on the balcony while our MD friends were suffering through below freezing temperature highs.


  
  
We also visited Disney Springs and were able to soak up some Disney Magic, a delicious dinner, and some shopping.  It was wonderful and even brought me to tears.


  
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that health has not been on our side. We have had a lot of illnesses this school year on top of our daily struggles. I also asked Santa to bring us a year of health and happiness. So far, that has not happened. When Dave was suffering and I was straddling the porcelain goddess, I prayed harder than I have in a long time. I prayed for health and joy. Our family needed joy so badly. Health and joy. Joy and health. Please, please, please.

So walking that evening in Disney Springs with smiles on my family’s faces, with music playing and the sun setting, I felt joy and couldn’t help but cry and be thankful.

Day Three

The next morning, we drove an hour to Port Canaveral to board The Disney Dream. The whole check-in process was seamless…a bit crazy…but seamless. By the time we got a picture with Mickey, it was time to get on the ship.


I had done a TON of research and knew that for our family, our best bet was to go to the Enchanted Garden Restaurant. The drinks started to flow, the service was excellent (despite being a buffet, I never had to get out of my seat!), and we were feeling good!


  
We had to kill another half hour or so before our room would be available, so we checked out the kid’s club (Oceaneers Club and Lab) and the It’s a Small World Nursery. We were very impressed and excited about all we had heard and read about these kids areas, and Disney did not disappoint.

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Flying the Millennium Falcon
One of her favorite toys from home! Score!


Next we headed to our rooms and they were ready! And they, too, did not disappoint. I was worried about storage, the space between kids’ sleeping areas and ours, and all the things that make life functional on a vacation. We had two connecting “Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms with Verandahs” and there was plenty of room for suitcases, all of our toiletries, and even our gargantuan double stroller (God Bless it).

The next couple of hours included a nap for Kelsey, some touring of the ship, an emergency drill (which we thought would be the worst part of the trip), and a sail away party! For those reading for your own planning purposes, I recommend changing/freshening up before the emergency drill. I didn’t and regretted it because after the drill, the fun just continued with lots of photo ops and no stops.


  

Ben was SO excited to be tall enough for the water slide! I wish I had my camera out when he measured himself and raised his arms in delight! It was great. He is short and often too short to ride, but not this time! So he rode and rode and rode.


  
After the fun, we fed the kids dinner and got ready for a fancy, adults-only dinner at Remy. Remy is a rat in Ratatouille, the Disney movie if you’ve never seen it. Remy the restaurant is an indulgent, over-the-top French restaurant that doesn’t hold back a thing. There’s an extra charge to dine, but I thought it’d be something Dave, my mom and I would enjoy. And we did!!! I won’t need to go again, but it was a lovely evening and a great way to relax and begin our cruise after all the travel and kid schlepping.


  

The stool provided for my purse

  

Un, deux, trois!


The adults were a tad nervous to leave the kids on our first night at their respective hang-outs, but I had read and researched so much that I was confident they would be okay. I figured that 1) Disney hires the best of the best. 2) Kelsey had an iPad for Elmo, her paci, her lovely, tons of toys and a crib. And 3) Ben had R2-D2.

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Our dinner ran late, which in our kids’ world is very late.  We didn’t get to pick them up until 9:30pm.  Both kids were still raging and ready to go.  We couldn’t peel Ben away from his club.  He had just been appointed Darth Vader and was learning “how to use the force.”  I mean…come on!  So the kids went to bed late and then Dave and I watched the moon descend on the horizon with a glass of vino on the verandah.  Perfection.

Day Four

Day Four was the most magical day of all.  We woke up (no one slept well on the trip because of all the skipped naps, late bedtimes and close quarters, but that’s neither here, nor there) and went to a yummy breakfast at The Royal Palace.

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Then we went to drop Kelsey back off at the nursery (bad Mommy) so we could have some QT with Ben (good Mommy).  She didn’t seem to mind, though. She loved being able to do her normal thing…crawl and play…in a different setting.  And the staff always said how well she did and how happy she was (YAYAYAYAYAY!).

This day on the ship was technically a day we could get off and explore Nassau, Bahamas.  But, on such a short cruise (with no days at sea), I thought we’d be better to stay on the ship and explore with less crowds.  We weren’t the only ones with this idea, but it all worked out fine.  Dave and Ben waited (for a lengthy period) for the AquaDuck.  This is a water slide/roller coaster of-sorts that circles the whole ship.  It’s awesome.  I think if the wait were shorter, they would have gone more than once, but they liked it, nevertheless!

 

After the AquaDuck, a dip in the pool, and a couple more rounds on the regular water slide, Ben was starting to fade and get cranky.  “Woulllld ya want to go to the Kids’ Club????” brought an immediate “YES!”  We could barely keep up with him because he couldn’t get there fast enough! And, get this, they feed them!  So while Ben went on his way and Kelsey was having a ball (and being fed too!), the adults went up to one of the multiple adults-only decks.  Mom-Mom granted us permission to stay up there all afternoon while the kids napped and had fun!  Sweet freedom! We lounged, drank, ate, drank some more and counted our blessings.

Then it was time to gussy up and prepare for some character greetings and pirate night!  We were bummed we were too late to enter Kelsey in “Jack-Jack’s Incredible Diaper Derby” (a race to see who was the fastest crawler on the ship!).  There were SO many activities for everyone.  And Disney has an online app that makes it really easy to know what’s going on when and where.

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As mentioned, the ship hosts a Pirates of the Caribbean night.  We were prepared and brought costumes and accessories with us to join in the fun.

We had dinner, this evening, at Animator’s Palate.  We were excited to experience what I thought might be Urban Legend when I started planning this trip.  The waiters and waitresses DO, in fact cut your kids’ food and even feed them for you!  HA!

Kelsey preferred Daddy’s help.  She LOVED the soups the ship had to offer!

After dinner, we danced our way up to the Pirate Party!  Note: Ben’s costume was a little small.  Oops!

More fun was to be had after dark!

After dancing our butts off, we all turned into bed, exhausted after a long day of fun.

Day Five-Misery Ensues

On the morning of Day Five, my mom knocked on our connecting door to tell me Ben was sick and wanted me.  He can easily be thrown off by rich foods and an interrupted schedule so I hoped it was that.  I was wrong.  It quickly became clear that Ben had a stomach virus. His second in two months.  On a ship.  In a now-what-seemed very small cabin.  Because he was sick, we understood that we could no longer go ashore where our ship was now docked–Castaway Cay, Disney’s Private Island in The Bahamas.  Insert many tears.

So here’s, as you can assume, why I’m still depressed about this trip.  Even though everything leading up to it was great, we had to miss a day of our short, three day cruise.  We spent it taking turns nursing Ben and exploring more of the ship.  But no matter what we still did and still saw, the day and trip had a dark cloud hanging over it.

Poor, poor Ben (who spent his last vacation over New Year’s sick with a stomach virus, as well) had to stay in bed all day.  He didn’t complain.  He didn’t know what he was missing and he felt terrible.  When you feel that badly, all you want to do is rest anyway.

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Despite the cabin being small, it did offer round-the-clock room service.  As well as any Disney movie on-demand, at any time.  We weren’t told to stay in our cabin, but there was really no choice for him anyway.  At this point I was glad we were getting off the ship the next day, at least to be able to “escape.”

Ben was a trooper…much more than the rest of us.  Until, that is, when my mom and I went to take Kelsey to dinner.  He complimented Kelsey on her cute dress, as he often does as such a sweet older brother, and then as we said good-bye, he said, “No! Wait for me!”  We told him he couldn’t go and would have to stay in the room.  That’s when he lost it.  He burst into tears and was hysterical.  He was okay all day, but then, I think as he started to feel better, he wanted to go.  :((((  It was so sad.  He (besides me) was most-excited about “da cruze.”  He got the joy I was praying for, but it came to a screeching halt, a day too soon.

We missed out on the private island and all it had to offer.  I had been so excited for Ben (and Kelsey) to be able to swim in an ocean without rough waves.  I was excited for the water playgrounds to be experienced both in the ocean and on the shore.  I was excited for Ben and Dave to feed the stingrays.  And I was excited to eat, shop and play with all the things I had been reading about…in lovely weather, nonetheless.  Instead we visited the spa (I know…woe is me, but it was super sad and not relaxing, albeit expensive), did a beer tasting, ate, shopped and drank our woes away.

Day Six-Disembarkation

With Ben feeling much better and sleeping all night, we packed up and headed to breakfast before disembarking.  This part is tough because your bags have to be packed the night before, except for what you carry.  I have some tips for anyone planning a trip like this but I’ll save the rest of you from those details.

While at breakfast,  I “thanked God” that Dave had changed our flight from the original 5:30pm to 1pm the day before when Ben was in bed.  We suddenly needed to get home faster and waiting around in an airport did not sound desirable.  Plus when Dave originally booked our flights, I don’t think either of us realized how early you disembark (8am). Literally, the second after I made that proclamation, Dave checked his phone to find out that our flight had been CANCELED due to an impending ice storm due to hit Baltimore around the same time we would land.  I did not believe Dave.  It took him about three times to convince me he wasn’t pulling my leg.  It could not be possible…a stomach bug, a changed flight…only to be canceled! But it was.

So that brought breakfast to an abrupt stop.  Dave then spent the next 45 minutes on hold with Southwest while hundreds of other people were trying to find a way home.  No people we could see, though.  The cruise, no matter stomach bug or canceled flight has a air of merriment and joy (go figure).  A good southern woman commented to me (with a scowl on my face) while waiting in line for the bathroom, “Did y’all have fun!?  Isn’t it just the best!?” Needless to say we weren’t feeling joy and fun as much as bitterness and irritation.

After waiting on hold, doing research and much discussion, we decided to drive (the estimated 13 hours) home.  There wouldn’t be any flights available until Wednesday and we were probably better off to just drive.

So drove, we did.  In a rented Toyota Sienna with snacks, phones, pacifiers, laptops, loveys, a Nintendo DS and not-much patience, we drove.  We made it to North Carolina before the weather reports we were hearing encouraged us to stop for the night.  Right about that time Dave was bit by the stomach bug.  It was close, but we just made it to the Marriott in Fayetteville, NC.

Dave took one room, and my mom and I and the kids took another.  We settled into bed, thinking the misery was almost over.  But…in true Larrick fashion (thanks, friend, who coined this new favorite phrase of mine) the fire alarms in the hotel went off.  It scared all of us, but Kelsey was inconsolable for the better part of an hour when they sounded three more times.  I sat, rocking her, in pure disbelief.  Numb.

Day Seven (One day longer than our trip was planned to be)

We made it through the night, and with Dave feeling better in the morning, we continued along towards Maryland.  After leaving Orlando at 9am on Monday and after many, many pit stops and one over-nighter, we arrived back home in Mt. Airy at 4:30pm on Tuesday.  Home, sweet home.

A Week Later

I’m still in disbelief.  Well, not really.  As another friend said, “If you didn’t have bad luck, you’d have no luck at all.”  I believe this is our story.  Our story is always like this.  Bad with the good.  Good with the bad.  But I really, really wanted a trip with Joy and Health (and no ‘bad’) to help lift all of our spirits.  It did in some ways, but the scar on the trip will bum me out for a long time.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get Dave on a cruise again.  He wasn’t a big fan of the idea to begin with.  While it was magical, I thought for sure he’d go for it again, but now, I’m not so sure.

As I’ve moped around the last week, I came to the realization that I’m always a little sad after a trip is over.  You plan and prepare and get excited for so long, that once it’s done, there’s some sadness.  So I’m sure it’s that too.  Disney Depression.  But the sad ending to our trip definitely isn’t helping.  I’m not the only one either.  We’ve all had trouble with “re-entry” into the real world.

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Thanks for listening to me vent.  We really are lucky to be able to go on trips like this and I know that.  We’ll march on.  And we’ll HOPE for better LUCK in the future.

 

P. S.  Feel free to ask ANYTHING about the cruise, itself!  I would still highly recommend it to anyone looking for a little magic and joy.

Perspectacles

Do you read Glennon over at Momastery?  You should.  She’s so good.  She taught me to use my Perspectacles, even though I am still so bad at doing so.  She says “when I feel (something) lacking- I don’t need new things, I need new eyes with which to see the things I already have.”

I, personally, am usually only focused on my own situation.  How hard I have it.  How tough our circumstances are.  But wearing one’s perspectacles can really help when you’re feeling low.

I’ve been feeling low for awhile.  January did not help.  A blizzard did not help.  Some best friends and neighbors moving did not help. Sicknesses did NOT help. (Stomach viruses! Strep! Fevers! Gout! Colds!). But after a really low week…ah-hem, thanks a lot, Jonas…I feel better.  And part of what’s helped is my perspectacles.

Today was a perfect example.  Today is Wednesday.  Wednesday is speech therapy day.  Kelsey and I like Wednesdays.  That’s because we L.O.V.E. her speech therapist, Julie.  She really was a gift delivered at just the right time.  This angel-on-Earth was Ben’s therapist when he was two, also.  And we loved her just as much then.  But Ben is pretty easy to love.  Kelsey is a tougher cookie to crack.  But Julie is her biggest fan.  Literally.  Julie sees things in Kelsey that even I don’t see.  She “gets” her.  But enough gushing on her.  We don’t need perspectacles to know we love Julie.  That is clear as day!

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Kelsey, in her spectacles, meeting Julie for the first time.  An instant connection.

——Pardon Me.  I interrupt this pleasant rant for a certain someone who just yelled “Mommy!  I threw up,” from his bedroom after tucking the kids into bed a whole five minutes ago.  Entire dinner cleaned up off the floor and out of the drain in the sink it wouldn’t go down.  Sheets changed.  Outfit changed.  Empty bucket that was two feet away moved closer to bed.  Laundry started.  Big Gulp of Cabernet poured.  Don’t worry…it was just a cough induced (that he’s had since September) puke. Where’s the sobbing emoji when I need it, WordPress!?!?——

So.  Where were we? Oh yes.  Wednesdays.  We love Wednesdays.  We really love Wednesdays that don’t involve barfing 8 year olds, but that’s neither here nor there.  I like Wednesdays because I know there will be positive things said about my daughter.  She will show growth from the following week.  She will be happy and learning.  And, quite frankly, I don’t hate that Julie scoops Kelsey up for 50 minutes and I sit in the waiting room reading, checking Facebook, and catching up on emails.

The waiting room is where I saw the need for perspectacles.  There when we arrived was a grandfather and his grandson (4?) and granddaughter (15 months?).  They have been in the waiting room with me for the last month or so and I enjoy their company.  I’m always amazed by highly involved grandfathers.  They aren’t as rare as you may think either.  Just yesterday I saw another grandfather and his granddaughter at our physical therapy appointment.  My children’s grandfather is highly involved and has taken his grandson to therapy as well!  We love you Dad-Dad!

Anyway, I enjoy watching this “Pop,” as he is called, play with his kiddos.  He’s not on his phone or even reading a book. He plays with them every week and watches them and interacts a lot with them.  And, usually, he really seems to like it.  I wonder if he watches these kids everyday?  Or just a couple times a week?  I wonder a lot about other families at therapy appointments.  I’m sure they do the same of us.

So today, I could tell things were a little off.  His tolerance seemed lower.  The grandson was adorably trying to get my attention and show me toys.  This annoyed Pop.  The granddaughter was being “mischievous.”  Pop said that many times.  He told a story, more than once, about how the girl was provoking her brother, and then the dog, yesterday.  He was bothered when the girl put the puzzle in the wrong spot.  He was bothered when the girl was taking all the toys out of the bin.  I could just tell that he was having a rough day and he wasn’t in the mood for toddlers and preschoolers.  Hey, we can ALL relate to that one, right!?! Some times you are just not in the mood for their adorable quirks and behaviors.

But what I saw was a girl, who was probably just one year old who was walking, climbing, running, just like she should be.  Just like Kelsey should be.  She was following directions, putting puzzles together, and mimicking her grandfather.  Just like she should be.  Just like Kelsey should be.  She was pointing, waving and repeating her play. Just like she should be.  Just like Kelsey should be.  This girl, who is likely half of Kelsey’s age was doing so many things that I pray for everyday.  And these things were annoying her grandfather.  I so wanted to hand him some perspectacles to see.  That so many people are wishing for what you have…people two feet away from you…are wishing for what’s annoying you.

So then I turned that around.  There are plenty of families with Menkes, hypotonia, hydrocephalus, epilepsy and strabismus who were praying for the results we got.  There are families with situations totally different from ours who envy our “luck.”  But that is so hard to see when you’re in the thick of things.  Whether it be carpet-cleaning the puke up or nursing a child who just had brain surgery back to health.  It’s often so hard to use those perspectacles when things are hard…but it can be so helpful for survival and happiness.

I heard a story today on the news about a girl who was murdered by students from Virginia Tech.  This girl had overcome so many odds including multiple bouts with cancer.  And she was murdered.  By two college-educated scum bags.  All I could think of was her mother.  I know this woman.  I don’t, but I can feel her pain so deeply.  This woman cried, sobbed, prayed, loved, wept, prayed, begged, asked why, cried again, worked, prayed, hoped, had to put on her perspectacles so many times, and nursed her baby to health who had a terrible disease ravage her body.  She did all this and her daughter was healthy.  She had “beat” cancer.  And then.  She was murdered.  All that heartache and victory only to have the absolute worst outcome.  It’s beyond heart wrenching and incomprehensible.

And there’s another story about a very local five year old girl who died, tragically, in a sledding accident last week.  A five year old.  Playing.  At her house.  And now she’s gone. And her family is broken, forevermore.

There are countless stories like this.  Countless families who are suffering, wishing and praying.  And then there are families who are in a waiting room on a Wednesday and irritated with their children who are doing exactly what another family is wishing for.

The cliche’s are so cliche when you’re a special needs parent.  “It could be worse.  The grass is greener on the other side. You’re so strong.  I couldn’t do what you do.”  Blah, blah, blah.  I hate the cliches. I also don’t like to be made to feel guilty when I’m also feeling sad.  It all matters.  It’s all hard.

It could be worse, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. 

But perspectacles help.  They help with another cliche.  “Enjoy it now!  It doesn’t last!  They grow up so fast!”  Perspectacles definitely help to see the good, even if they don’t make the hurt any easier.

So I’ll take it.  I’ll take the puking eight year old who has been coughing for a semester.  I’ll take the snotty, clingy toddler who just got over a cold.  My perspectacles are helping me to see clearly this week.  And I’ll take it.

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