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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Florida - Part 1

Wow, only 2 months since the last entry! Life sure does get away from you sometimes, doesn't it?!

Florida was so much fun, and it was this amazing trip that our family desperately needed. I'm so glad that we got the opportunity to go. Thank you, Make-A-Wish! Since we got back, things have continued to be insanely crazy in our house. I still struggle with my illness (for those of you reading who don't know me personally, I lost the baby in May, and the miscarriage triggered a catastrophe in my body. On Memorial Day weekend, I was diagnosed with a condition called Pseudotumor Cerebri, and it took months for the pain in my head to recede and for my eyesight to become livable. I have good days and bad days. That's why I don't blog like I used to. I hope to do better soon. I hope to feel better soon! It's slow progress, but I'm thankful for my doctors). But now that I'm not working anymore (I was laid off August 10th), and the kids have started school, things seem to be mellowing out a bit.

Matthew goes to preschool now, just up the street from us. He loves it, so far! It's called Little School Preschool, and he talks about it a lot. Alaina is driving out to West Valley to Hunter High so she can finish her senior year at the same school. Allison and Mikey have started their new schools here in Stansbury, and seem to be adjusting nicely. I'm working on getting myself enrolled in school, too. I'll know more by November. It's funny. I was reading some old blog entries today. Back to the beginning, kind of a thing. I read a statement from myself that I don't know how pediatric oncology nurses can do a job like they do, because I never could, but I'm grateful someone can. Turns out I think I can. That's what I plan to go to school for. Maybe not pediatric, but I want to be a chemo nurse. It's amazing, the things that can change in a single year.

But I digress. I wanted to talk about our trip to Florida! This trip was just what our whole family needed. It injected joy and hope into our lives, which had gotten pretty dark and sad for a while. I'm just going to give a play-by-play, to the best that my memory will provide.

We left for our trip on a plane from Salt Lake to Minneapolis at 6 am on July 9th. I always heard you should arrive at the airport 2 hours before your flight is scheduled to leave so you'll have plenty of time to get through your baggage check and security. FYI, at 4am in the SLC airport (yes, we did that...) the only employees on the clock are the ones buffing the floors. We waited in line to check our baggage for 1 hour, when they finally started accepting baggage at 5am. They promptly told us we had done it wrong and we needed to go get a paper from a machine over there and then wait in line again. By now, the line was very long, and I was not happy. But we did what they said, and the line moved quickly, and all was well in our very tired world. I was so nervous about getting through security because of Allison's braces, Matthew's port, Matthew's medicine, etc... but it was a piece of cake. It actually went so fast that I had to grab my shoes and get out of everyone's way to put them back on.

Then, we found our gate and waited. When they started seating people, we had no clue what they were talking about, so we stood in line with all the first class folks, looking silly. We were in the last group to board the plane, so we continued to look silly until they let us on the plane. Matthew got the window seat on one row, and Mikey got it on the other. The flight to Minneapolis was uneventful, but it became clear that I am much more afraid to fly than I used to be, and Alaina hates it. Also, Matthew thinks it's "like a ride." Especially if there's turbulence. I always tell him what a superhero he is, to fight cancer so bravely, and he thinks I'm weird. But come on... a 4 year old who thinks turbulence is fun? (says the lady whose knuckles turn white from holding the chair so tight if it even gets a little bit bumpy...)

So, we landed in Minneapolis (which is really pretty from the air! Very green and lots of lakes), and we thought an hour delay would be long. Turns out, not really. By the time we found our gate, it was time for the first groups to start boarding. This time we knew our place and boarded the plan at the appropriate time. This time the girls got window seats. This flight would connect us to our destination - Orlando. The flight was a lot more bumpy. A lot. I noticed that after we took off, it took a while for the plane to even out and fly smoothly. About 45 minutes before we landed, the captain got on the loudspeaker and told us that we were going to be making a "code yellow" emergency landing. The plane has 3 hydraulic systems, and one of them had leaked out all of its fluid, so they would be relying on a backup system to land. It was no big deal, he assured us. This is the kind of thing they are trained for. But just in case, the flight attendants were going to finish the in-flight service early so they could strap themselves in tight for the landing. Oh, also, they couldn't land the plane too close to the airport, so we would be way out at the edge of the landing strips, and there would be an emergency crew waiting there for us. You know, like a firetruck, ambulance... etc. But it was no big deal, he assured us again. A few times. Once they had checked us all out, there would be a little truck, called a tug, that would pull the plane closer to the airport so we could exit the airplane.

All jesting aside, I have to give the crew of that plane some credit. It really was no big deal. They took their precautions, and the landing was fine, the tug pulled us in, and all was well. We were just about an hour late.

There was someone from Give Kids The World waiting at the airport for us. She helped us get our rental car, and gave us directions to Give Kids The World. By the time we got there and checked in, we were all exhausted. Before you get any tickets to the theme parks, you have to attend an orientation class at Give Kids The World. There was one scheduled for roughly 2 hours after we arrived. So, we decided to rest a little bit, leading up to that. Then we'd hang around the village, and go to our first park in the morning.


I'm lame, and I slept through it. I was super tired. So, then it delayed our start the next morning. We had breakfast, and then they all had to wait for me to attend the class before we could leave for the day. Luckily my kids are amazing, and on that first day, when we were so exhausted, the girls took Matthew out to play while Justin, Mikey and I snoozed.

Here are some pictures of Give Kids The World, and our amazing Villa:

 This garbage can has vacuum power, so if you hold a napkin or paper up to it, it sucks it in. Matthew would HUNT for things to put in there!

 This train drives all around the village looking for people walking somewhere. If they see you walking, they stop and offer you a ride, wherever you're going.

This is the Ice Cream Palace. I think this was the one place ALL my kids liked the most. Some days, they ate ice cream 3 times, just because they could.

 This was a HUGE pool, and none of it was deeper than 3 1/2 feet. It was such a fun place to hang out with the family. There is a splash pad there, too, but it's behind the picture.

Here we are, outside of our Villa, just as we arrived.

This is the bedroom the boys slept in.

And the living room. That couch becomes a queen sized bed, which the girls shared. This way, they could stay up and watch TV, if they wanted to. Turns out they really just wanted to sleep, so they had to kick us all out at night.

The full kitchen, which was nice because we had dinner in the Villa most nights, out of sheer exhaustion.

The master bedroom.

With a nice view (if you can see past that funny looking lady!)

Okay, so just this much of the trip has become a HUGE blog entry, and my kids are feeling neglected. So, I think I'll make this a two-part deal. Either later tonight, or tomorrow, I will move on and talk about the theme parks.

I did say a few months back that I was just as excited about Give Kids the World as I was about Disney World, and I have to say, they did not disappoint. They treated us with so much kindness, and catered to our every whim while we were there. Whatever it took to make this a dream family vacation. If I lived in Florida, I'd find a way to volunteer there, because there is such an amazing spirit there, where they are granting the wishes of so many special children. I've never been somewhere that was more geared towards children. I felt like I hardly had to watch Matthew when we were there, because he couldn't possibly do any damage. This place was made for kids like him.

More to come...