LESSONS TO LIVE BY

This past weekend provided my children with a chance to see what life was like for my generation when we were their age. Although they didn’t travel back in time to the ‘70s and early ‘80s, they were able to partake of some of the activities that we did as kids and find that things could be simple to have fun.

Friday night Joel slept over his best friend’s house and spent most of the day Saturday playing with him at his house. Ryan went to see the play his fellow classmates were performing at the High School. It is nice to know that it is relatively safe to let your teen attend a function at school without you being present. I feel much more at ease doing this living in the suburbs as opposed to if we lived in a city.

I had read earlier in the week that a movie theatre we had never gone to was featuring free cartoon movies, one of which was Candy Land. Chad has a video which has an advertisement for this movie, but it was released in 1995. Whenever he sees the ad, he asks why I never bought that for him, and every time I tell him because that was a year BEFORE I had any children (Ryan was born in 1996). I’ve looked online, but have never been able to locate it for him. We even had Santa try with no dice. Because of all this, when I saw the ad in the newspaper, I thought it would be a fun thing to do.

Chad woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, ready to head off to see his movie. He helped with the few chores that needed to be done “so we won’t be late, because they don’t wait movies.” He helped look for the landmarks from our directions, and we did fine until we actually reached our destination. The directions said it was on the opposite side of the street from the actual location. We drove right past, because believe it or not, it wasn’t a big, huge complex which we are now used to. It was located in the middle of a strip mall, as I remember from my childhood. We turned around, and on the way back we spotted it. Everything was newly renovated, but it had the feel of attending the movies as I remember when I was a kid. I had as much fun as Chad.

That night, the boys attended a Scout function with Jim. They cooked their dinner over open fires, watched a movie outdoors, and had the option of camping out. They decided to come home instead, but had enjoyed all the other activities.

Chad had had such a good time at the movies on Saturday that he asked if he could go see the movie playing that morning. Jim took both Chad and Joel, which is something that he often doesn’t get the chance to do. Ryan, on the other hand didn’t have as much fun, but still was able to experience something from our pasts. Jim would often times as a kid go door to door offering his services to do seasonal yard work as a way to earn spending money. Ryan did this Sunday with the members of the Crew Team. They did yard work for homeowners around town, and in return, the homeowner would make a donation to support the Crew Team. He was pleased with the amount of money they earned, because the work had been a difficult task.

Chad spent the afternoon Sunday at a friend’s birthday party. His classmate had just wanted a few friends over to play. It was refreshing to see them have fun the old fashioned way, by getting dirty as boys should when playing outside. They played party games, including breaking a piñata, and wrapped it up with birthday cake and ice cream. Jim was a hit when he went to pick up Chad in the John Deere Gator, and took all the party guests for rides on the Gator through the woods. The kids were able to see you can have fun just being together, and you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to celebrate at a facility.

Not once did anyone play with a Gameboy, Play Station, Wii, watch a DVD or VHS tape, use the computer for games (Ryan did use it for homework purposes), or listen to an IPod. It was very refreshing to not have modern technology infringe on how simple life used to be. Now, back to the reality of the present.

MOTHER’S INSTINCT

Last month the marking period closed for the semester in our elementary school. Joel must have thought I wouldn’t know this fact, because he “forgot” to give me his report card. His grades were above average, it was the comments of his not working to his fullest capabilities that were the issue. I guess he figures I wouldn’t remember that conferences were held in conjunction with the close of grades for that term, and hence the issuing of report cards. He has had repeated issues throughout the year, with the basis of these issues being that he hurries to complete the work, and it is sloppy and has mistakes that would be caught if he would edit his work. I have at times stepped in and spoken to his teacher about this, and we continue to work towards changing his work habits both at home and at school.

Recently grades closed for the semester at the high school, and I once again intervened, this time for Ryan. He had missed a few days of school when we went to WDW with the Baileys, and he was out sick for two days last week. Daily I have his grades emailed to me, and I had consistently asked him about the zeros which were the missing assignments. It is my feeling that everything became out of control for him what with being out sick, missing additional work as a result, and grades closing. He had more than one class now with zeros for assignment grades, and his final grades were suffering as a result. I called to speak with his guidance counselor, and reminded him that Ryan has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). He said he could talk with another staff member about Ryan, and see if they could come up with a plan to help him with his classes. I agreed that this would be helpful, and am in the process of finding another doctor to manage Ryan’s ADD, since the doctor he had been seeing is no longer in practice.

I had a feeling that it would be a matter of time before the ADD would once again affect his ability to learn. Ryan finds he is at times very distracted, making it difficult to read and write. The majority of his classes now require both skills, and lots of them. Ryan has learned to compensate for his inabilities, and has done quite well for the most part. It is hard to know when to step back and let them handle the situation, and when to intervene. I’ve had to do this on more than one occasion for the ADD. In order to have him diagnosed, we had to undergo numerous assessments which took course over an entire school year in elementary school. I’ve also had to intervene when he had his allergy to dairy if I felt it wasn’t being handled appropriately.

This time he sees what I’ve been saying all year; if you have trouble keeping up, things will quickly fall apart in all of your classes. Trying to GET back on track is often times harder than just staying there in the first place. Sometimes, mother does know best.

IT’S ALL HOW YOU LOOK AT IT

Yesterday I was sitting at a stop light, and I noticed a truck at the intersection waiting to turn onto the road I was traveling. In big letters the side panel said “NEDC”. Of course it got my attention because to me NEDC stands for National Embryo Donation Center. In this instance, NEDC stood for New England Door Closers. As I proceeded on my way, I had the following thought:

It is ironic not only that I had spotted the truck (I never heard of this company prior to this) but that part of their company name is Door Closers. To me as well as to many others, NEDC (as we refer to National Embryo Donation Center) is a Door Opener. For a few years before Jim and I actually contacted them, we were unsure what we would do with the remaining embryos we had. We just kept paying to store them for the time being, but we knew we couldn’t do that indefinitely. I had never heard of NEDC until I contacted my infertility doctor’s office to see what my options were. Once I contacted them, I realized this was the answer to our question, hence a door opening. I’m sure this must be how many couples feel when they hear of embryo adoption as an option which is possibly available to them, or in other words, an answer for their struggles with infertility.

I never could have imagined the lasting impact this one important decision would have on our lives. At the time, I felt the most important thing was that both Jim and I were ready to say yes, our family was complete, and we were in fact ready and willing to help another couple to complete theirs. The next hurdle was to be matched with another family. Who could have ever imagined all the “prizes” waiting behind the “door” we selected. Once this door was opened to us, we knew we had made the right choice by choosing to donate.

I guess what they say about opportunity is true, when one door closes, another one opens.

THE LAST TWO DAYS WITH THE CASSIDYS

The next to last day at Disney we went to Magic Kingdom again and got to ride all the rides we did not get to the first time around. Cathy, Patty’s sister, joined us again. I was just exhausted by lunch and did not see how I could go on! But as Patty said, lunch revived me. The weather was beautiful and very warm. It would have also been a great day for a water park!

The twins just love the Cassidy boys and refer to them as their “friends.” The boys are so good with them and always impress me with their manners and loving demeanor. It is so nice how Patty and her whole family have just taken us all in as family too! I am not sure what our relationship will look like in ten or twenty years, but I know with God at the wheel, it will be more beautiful than I can imagine. If it is up to Brian and Ryan we will all be living in Orlando in five years. I am not sure if this is God’s plan, but I will just have to wait and see.

It was hard leaving the last day. I was tired, from being at Disney till midnight, but the twins at least were not as tired since Patty took the smaller kids back to the hotel after dinner. It was nice that the last night we got to eat with Cathy and her husband Scott. I think we all could have stayed another week in our hearts, but our bodies were all worn out from such long days.

When Brian and I got on the bus to go to the airport Jim and the older boys helped us with the twins and the baggage. Once all our stuff was on the bus, I turned to Ryan to get Natalie. Jim said, “Ryan, you are going to have to give her back now, we cannot keep her.” That was heartbreaking for me to hear, I just cannot imagine how it must feel. It was such a sacrifice for them to donate their embryos and I imagine they will always feel that a part of them is in Tennessee. But I also know if they had chosen not to do anything with them, they would not know the love that Natalie and Julian now bring to their lives as well as ours! God has truly blessed us both with their decision to donate embryos.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON DISNEY

I had all intentions of blogging every night from Disney, but didn’t know that I couldn’t send the blogs because the resort we were staying at didn’t have wireless service. The one blog I did post was written the afternoon that I took Chad back to the resort because he wasn’t feeling well while everyone else remained behind in Epcot. I don’t think he missed out on much in retrospect. Epcot isn’t one of his favorites, and there isn’t much he likes to do there, except eat! We usually eat our way through the Country Showcases, between snacks and meals. Sometimes we try to time it where we have two meals, different countries of course. The only thing that we missed out on that I would have like to have done was eat at Rose & Crown with everyone, as well as tour the Country Showcases. We’ve never eaten there on past trips, and I really enjoyed dinner time for some quiet, quality time with all the kids. It was a great opportunity to talk about what we had already done and what was planned next. I think Jim was more upset than I was that we would miss the reservation. In the end, as long as I eat dinner I’m happy.

This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my dinner that night. I think I had the best seat in the house with the best company. After all, I dined with a very handsome Prince Charming, but don’t tell Jim! Chad had laid down when we returned to the room, and watched some of his favorite shows on PBS. I know, we plan a great trip to Disney, and he’s watching TV. I really didn’t care, because he needed the rest, and despite the fact he didn’t sleep, he was refreshed enough to want to eat dinner. We had already missed the dinner reservation, so we called to see what everyone else was up to, and when they planned to return to the resort. They were heading back to the bus stop, so Chad and I decided to get takeout from the resort and dine on our balcony. We ordered pizza and salad, which surprisingly was quite good, and just enjoyed the lovely evening. I realized that Chad is at the age where dinner on the balcony can still be special, almost like an adventure. I don’t know that Joel or Ryan would have been as excited by it. Chad was in rare form, his usual funny self, which was great because he had been so quiet all day because he wasn’t feeling well.

Now that we have been home for a week and have slipped back into our routines, I realize that some of the best memories were the simple things, like breakfast in the room, swimming in the pool, walking in the parks, even waiting in line. Our two families just enjoyed spending time together. It didn’t matter where we were, or even what we were doing, we always had fun. Some people that I’ve talked with since we’re back were amazed that we stayed in the same room. I told them we intentionally did this, because we weren’t sure how much time we would spend there. I was concerned that Natalie and Julian would be exhausted and need to go to bed early, but they were real troopers. They kept up with us, or napped in their strollers. My response to people who were surprised about our hotel arrangements was that we didn’t plan this trip to spend evenings apart, but to spend as much time as possible together. Our families have blended together so well in such a short period of time. Our times together really are “Magical.”

MAGIC KINGDOM DAY THREE

Last Saturday morning, we were at the Palace Castle eating breakfast with Pooh Bear and his friends by 8:30am. The breakfast was just delicious, with Mickey Mouse chocolate waffles and French toast that just melted in your mouth. It was an experience I’m glad we did not miss. Brian and I were excited about getting our photos with the characters; I am not so sure how excited the kids were.

Once we ate we were off to It’s a Small World, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain as well as The Haunted Mansion. The twins were only able to join us for The Haunted Mansion, which scared Natalie so much we had to change her diaper after the ride. She had an “explosion” which is why she then sported Julian’s red shorts. It took both Patty and I to change her in a bathroom without a changing table! I could not believe they would even have bathrooms in Disney without changing tables!

Patty and I took the twins and Chad to ride the Merry-Go-Round then Brian, Jim, Ryan and the twins and I rode Pirates of the Caribbean. Brian and I then took the twins to ride the Magic Carpet and then we got to have our picture taken with Aladdin and his friends. Then we met up with the Cassidy’s again and they had gotten a snack waiting for us to get done with Aladdin. They gave Chad a bit of ice cream while he was asleep and he ate it. That was so funny!

When Julian saw Joel with a cup of ice cream he asked for some and he did not just want a bite, he wanted it all. Joel was the most gentlemanly man I have ever met at his age. He just gave Julian his ice cream without a fuss!! I asked him later if Julian ate it and he told me yes, he ate it all. I have made a mental note, that next time I see Joel I will be giving him a carton of ice cream all his own!
We were then off again to the other side of the park and Brian was in such a rush he would not let us stop and see the show that was going on at Cinderella’s Castle. But then right after we passed the Castle we saw the plane writing about God’s love in the sky. Patty said if we had stopped for the show, we would not have seen the writing in the sky! “Things always happen for a reason,” which is the motto of her life and now mine too.

Once we made it to the other side of the park, we rode Patty’s favorite ride, which is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. It was like a movie theater that would move you from one point to the next. You were to stay seated and Natalie kept getting up. An announcement was made to remind everyone to stay in their seat and then we had to hear one of the sections a second time. Near the end of it, Brian looked over at me and said, so we are hearing this again! I had to laugh, the rest of us knew we were hearing this a second time the first minute into the show. It had been a long day. We also got to ride Buzz Light Year, which Natalie loved and wanted to ride again even though she did not score any points.

Then we went to ride something else when we realized it was time for our dinner reservations. So we had to leave that ride and go to Liberty Tree Tavern. We thought they would have Mickey Mouse and the gang there since that had been the case when Brian and I went a few years ago when we were childless. I was a bit disappointed because I passed on some opportunities to see the characters throughout the day since I thought they would see them that night. But, I have to say, I think I was the only one that was disappointed. The dinner was good, with all you could eat thanksgiving type meal, but I would not do it again without Mickey and the gang.

By the time we got out it was time for the fireworks which we saw a bit of and then were off to ride The Many Adventures of Pooh, then Patty and I took the twins and Chad to ride Dumbo and then we met the boys at Splash Mountain to ride again as well then Space Mountain and then ended the night at Tomorrowland Speedway.

What a wonderful day we had, there were things we did not get to do, but we stayed until midnight and were so tired I am not sure how we all made it back to our room. That night I wrote a blog about our first day then fell into bed. I just wished I could have called my Mom to tell her about our day, she would have loved to hear about it all and then reminisce about the time she took me there as well. Then I thought that when Natalie and Julian take their children to Disney, I hope I will be able to join them!

DAY 1 @WDW

We set off bright and early for the airport on Tuesday morning. We left our house at 4am, and Chad kept insisting that it must still be nighttime because the moon was out. All of the boys had anxiously been awaiting this trip, but no one was awake enough at that hour to show it, myself included. We made it to the airport and through the check-in process relatively smoothly. The only hitch was that one of our boarding passes had printed the wrong name, and we didn’t notice it until we were in line for security. Once Jim went back to correct this we went through security fairly quickly, and were headed to the gate to await the arrival of our plane.

Our flight time was estimated at being 2 1/2 hours, but we made it to Orlando in a little over 2 hrs. Marti and her family arrived about the same time, and we met up. It was so good to see them. It has been almost a year since their visit to our house, and when we see them, it is like we just pick up where we left off as if it was only yesterday. What amazes me the most is that Natalie and Julian are so receptive, and are so comfortable with us. I always anticipate them being shy with us because we don’t see them often, but that hasn’t happened yet.

We headed to the Disney Resort Saratoga Springs that we are staying at and checked in. It was approximately 11am, but our room was ready and available to us. We headed to it, dropped off our bags, changed into our swimsuits and were in the pool by noontime. We enjoyed a swim, relaxed while we ate our lunch poolside, and finished up with a soak in the hot tub, giving a new meaning to the phrase liquid lunch!

We headed over to Downtown Disney late afternoon to browse before dinner at Raglan Road, which is like an Irish Pub. My sister and brother in law, Cathy and Scott, met us for dinner, and over beer samplers, good food and company, we enjoyed our meal and ourselves. Chad, Natalie and Julian were exhausted at this point from being up so early, so they all fell asleep, Natalie and Julian on the way over in the stroller, and Chad at the dinner table! I wonder if he fell asleep from the company present or if he had a beer sampler of his own.

After dinner, we went to see Cirque De Soleil La Nouba, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We’ve seen it three times on past trips, but it never gets old. There is so much to see during the performance, all of it amazing. This was the Baileys’ first time, and they loved it as well. Afterwards we strolled through Downtown Disney and walked back to our resort. At that point we got the kids ready for bed, exchanged a few presents, and called it a night. Our trip is off to a great start.

Tomorrow we are headed to Epcot.