Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Loving a Person

"Loving a person just the way they are; it's no small thing." - Sara Groves, "Loving a Person"

I met all three of my children the same way... Or three ways.  The first time on a positive test, then on a sonogram screen, then in the sterility of an operating room.  Two of them were born in exactly the same hospital, OR, and even the same room for the rest of our stay. Ryan was, of course, the wild card.  

When I took that first pregnancy test, I didn't hope to be a special needs mom.  I didn't sit in my childbirth class and daydream of therapy sessions while I kept my husband from barfing at the thought of an epidural.  And I certainly didn't hold my perfect newborn and dream of him pummeling his own head with a balled up fist at nine years old.  I didn't rock him for hours on end in those first few months and hope for ARD meetings galore with a team of people trying to figure out how to best educate, figure out, and all-around help this kid.  

But I did, on that first night of his life especially, pray.  As the rain hit the windows on that dark May night, I found myself worried.  All of my life, I knew I wanted to be a mom, and now was my chance. In typical Crystal style, I was afraid of messing up.  Terrified of screwing this kid up in the worst ways imaginable.  

So I prayed.  

I didn't so much pray as much as beg God to make me the mother Ryan needed.  I had no idea what I was getting into, as most parents will tell you.  So in the middle of the night, with my husband snoring on the hospital cot at the foot of my bed, I did what I knew to do with fear.  Ryan's sweet, round, baby face nuzzled close, and he was absolutely breathtaking to behold in the dim light.   

From that moment, life with Ryan has been an adventure.  It has held devastating lows and dizzying highs.  I've prayed since then, of course.  But over the years my prayers have evolved somewhat.  I prayed for him as a mother usually prays for her baby.  Then I started to pray that he would meet the next milestone in those cutesy little emails.  

Then I started to pray that he'd talk.  Or at least get the words back that he had. 

Then I started to pray that the speech therapist we found would realize that he is NORMAL. 

Then I started to pray that he would just not scream when they showed up at the house. 

Then I started to pray that they were wrong.  He couldn't be on the autism spectrum.  Pervasive Developmental Disorder was beginning to sound right.  Yeah.  That had to be it.  

Then I started to pray for high-functioning autism.  Or that it wouldn't be autism at all.  Just one breakthrough.  Come on, buddy.  

By the time he was five, I was praying for answers.  Help.  Relief.  

When the diagnosis came, he was five.  We started this process at two.  Three years of struggle, meetings, no talking, little help from the world.  Lots of lonely.  Lots of apology for his behavior.  Lots of crying.  Lots of begging for any shred of help.  

In the time between our hint at autism and his diagnosis, his brother and sister were born.  After all this, I still wanted a big family.  Honestly, if I hadn't had a horrible time with his sister's birth we'd have had at least one more.  Ever had a spinal headache? Postpartum depression and anxiety? Not for the faint of heart. 

Anyway, the next two babies came along, and I you know what? I don't recall ever praying they didn't have autism.  They were vaccinated according to schedule just like Ryan.  I fed them pretty much like I did Ryan.  I talked to them just like I did Ryan.  There was the stress of dealing with him while I had them, yes.  They have grown up with him and all he entails.  And you know what? 

They have no problem with him.  

For the most part, there is no more problem with them living with Ryan than there is with any other big brother and little siblings.  He is just Ryan.  He is their big brother and they love him.  

They came into that relationship with no expectations.  No strings.  No preconceived notions.  He was just Ryan.  He still is.  

Daddy and I are the ones that have problems. We are the ones who worry and have a hard time accepting.  Being patient.  Accepting.  

The adults are the ones who have trouble.  The younger ones... The ones who have twenty-five plus less years life experience are the ones who show us what love is.  They love him without question.  They cover their ears when he screams.  A two year old Maelynn even approached her hitting-and-screaming brother on her toddling legs and patted him, teliing him it's okay.  Richie, at six, grabs his hand and leads him back to the family when he wanders in public. They both laugh with him at silly things.  They repeat after him when he wants them to chant something.  They run behind him when those places in his favorite movies crop up and he needs to run around the room in circles.  

They do all this with joy.  

They don't complain that it's hard or different than how they thought.  They don't complain about how people look at us in public.  Yes, sometimes he does something that bothers them, such as wiping off the train table when Richie had build something.  Or playing with Maelynn's toy computer when she wanted to play with it.  But they always understand quickly and come back to remembering him and who he is.  

In all this, I have to say that Ryan is Ryan.  Autism is the name they give to his set of, or lack of, behaviors, but he is as God made him.  Anytime I think that maybe I should pray that God will take autism away from Ryan, I'm taken aback.  Autism is part of Ryan, in my mind, as my brown hair and eyes and inability to sit still for long, love for all things musical, and frustration with social interaction in large groups.  One of us happens to fit into society easier.  One of us has a harder time.  

While I'm tempted to look at the meltdowns and the hitting and the bad stuff and pray that autism would be, in some way, cured... I have to stop.  God made Ryan the way he is.  No matter what others say, he is who he is by God's divine providence.  Who am I to tell God how to make people? 

In the end, God has answered my first prayer.  I am not the best parent in the world, but I am being made who Ryan, Richie, and Maelynn need.  I have my own meltdowns.  I have my own problems and inconsistencies.  And they all love me.  

"Loving a person just the way they are; it's no small thing. It's the whole thing." -Sara Groves, "Loving a Person"

Thanks be to God for a love that knows no bounds... the love that gave us our savior. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Where have you been?

Right here… where have you been?

Okay, so mostly somewhere between working, cooking spaghetti (again… it's easy and they like it) and reheating Ryan's pizzas, having sleepy tea parties with Mae, playing video games with Richie, tickling Ryan, giving baths, reading stories, and falling asleep on the couch at 8:30 PM. But that's really kind of a cop-out too, although it's likely the truest of concrete answers.

The real reason I haven't been here in a while is that it felt stale.  Was I doing anyone any good, or was I just typing along in some kind of odd ego trip?   And it is really easy to not worry with it.  These things don't write themselves, although the hammering out of my days and worries and joys and fears on the keyboard is quite cathartic.

The more I thought, the more we all have issues.  My problems are not necessarily larger or more important than yours, so what gives me the right to make mine known?  Why would reading about my day help any of you at all?  Worse, what if you're all out there lurking behind the masquerade of a pseudonym, ready to tell me how completely ridiculous I am?  And why do I get so hurt by the thought of how ridiculous you think I am?

But that's just it.  I am pretty ridiculous.  I giggle at the wrong things, mama-bear at the slightest look-crooked at my family, and have an odd distraction with proving that I've made a good choice by going back to work/staying home for ten years/choosing to vaccinate/choosing to let my kids play video games… you can fill in the blank.  The list goes on. I get angry at stupid things.  I choose too often to react instead of respond.  I ignore the wrong things and magnify the wrong things.  And sometimes, I do a pretty darn good job at what I do, both at home and at work.

After hearing from some of you over the last few months, every  now and again, and not in droves… I don't want to give the impression that people are begging me to start this again… it dawned on me that the whole reason I started this was to share so that even one of you might not feel so alone.   This blog was started out of a heart of exhausted desperation to do something.  I couldn't seem to help my own child, so I wanted to help you.  Any of you.  I just wanted to do some good.

Over the years, I started to hear my own voice as a clanging cymbal.  The same drone over and over.  It's hard, it's worth it.  It's exhausting, but it's exhilarating.  It's infuriating at times, but it's also a source of crazy great joy.  There are only so many ways you can repackage the same message.

It's true.  It is the same message.  I love him because I am loved.  He shows me more about God's love every day.  But the telling of the message changes every day.

Somewhere along the way I lost the reason I started.  The message in a bottle to you who need to hear that yes, my child yells at the top of his lungs and beats his head with his fists.  Yes, we go through the ARD meetings and the therapy sessions with a 45 minute drive one way and the missed school/work for this, that, and the other.  Yes, our two younger kids are best friends… but they also fight at times with a ferocity that would frighten Chuck Norris.  We fight.  We argue and say cutting words to each other and then come back and have to repair it… and sometimes it doesn't happen until morning and another couple hours of discussion.

In the beginning, I promised myself (and by extension you) authenticity.  This is how it really is.  A true picture of our life.  Appreciation that your trip isn't the same as mine.  Somewhere along the way, I forgot that every painting is made of brushstrokes.  Every tapestry of stitches.  Every book of words.

Not every one of them is going to be earth shattering to everyone, but one of them might be just what someone needs to put one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes I need to see it all in print so that I can put one foot in front of the other.  It's not a sacrifice or a grand gesture.  It's just some words on a screen similar to the ones that gave me the courage to call it what it is.

It's life.  Sometimes it's hard.  Sometimes it's easy.  And sometimes it's both in the same minute.  Sometimes the trip between easy and hard is nauseatingly fast… and sometimes the easy is so quick after the hard that we're not ready for it.

The mundane… the clanging cymbal… is what I have.  It's what you have.  It's days that make up years.  It's the doing of the laundry AGAIN that clothes us.  The cooking of the food AGAIN that feeds us.  The shopping for the food AGAIN that fills the fridge.  The rehearsals and doing it over and over AGAIN that make the concert.

It's the telling of the same old story on a different day in a different way over and over that paints the picture of our lives.  And whether it's a bestselling book or a blog post with five views, it's a part of what I do.

So get ready to see stories of what we're doing again, and how each day reminds us in different ways of who holds us in His hands.

And to those of you who have so kindly appreciated this little corner of the internet and expressed that to me, thanks for saying something.  I'm so grateful.

Now for baths, bedtime, and to restart the ol' hamster wheel of a weekday.

Thanks be to God for the same-old, long days that make up the years that seem to be going by so very quickly.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


This morning, amid the usual morning struggle to get dressed, get the kids dressed, fed, lunches packed, and out, I heard the pocket door rattle open as I got out my makeup kit.

There she stood, the most amazing little person imaginable.  Her sleep bun dripping fuzzy down her back, wallowed to a golden-brown frizzy twist, she gazed at me from her heart-covered gown and said something I longed to hear for a long time.

I don't think I knew I longed for it.  I don't recall completing that thought in my head.  But as far back as I can remember, it's just not a word those closer to me have used to describe me.  Smart, maybe... but not likely.  Nice, sure.  But seldom and from few did I hear that word.  Not really until my husband came around, and even he doesn't use the term that often, though I know he thinks I am.

She called me something that seems to anger some.  That maybe if that's what you call me, it's all that I am.  That it's degrading to a point.  I'd have to agree that I want to be thought of as more than that... don't we all?  I'm pretty protective of my career and my ability therein, that's for sure.

When she called me what she did, the seven year old being put on the scale as soon as she arrived at her father's house for a six-monthly visit wanted to cry.  The one hearing that everyone would call her two-ton-tillie if she didn't lay off the candy...

...that if I'd let her do so-and-so to my face and my hair or lose fifteen pounds or try this new color of hair or this new cut or if I'd just TRY...

... the one who walked in just in time to hear the stepmother's friend comment, then hear "we just wish she'd lose the weight"...

... the one who sat crying in the department store dressing room as she listened to her father apologize for her figure to the lady helping her try on dresses...

...the one who endured the family jokes about how enormous her posterior was...

...that little girl, that awkward high school girl, that still-awkward college girl... the graduate who listened to the jokes about "putting an ad in the paper for a husband"...

... she's a mom now.

She has a little girl.

Parts of that scare her to death.

So when so many people come out with the "don't tell girls they're pretty" argument, part of me shrivels further into the corner.  Taking this without a healthy grain of salt is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

No, do not tell your daughter that all her worth lies in her beauty.  But don't refuse to compliment her, either.

We want our children to find their worth in something much larger.  Something much deeper-seeded than a photo, makeup technique, hair styling, dress size... or in making first chair, winning the game, getting the scholarship, making the team, making all-state, or a test score.  They are not any of those things.

They are good enough because they are ours.

They are good enough for the same reason we are... they are covered by the love, grace, and mercy of Christ... and they are amazing.

They mess up.  They make messes.  They break things.  They annoy the heck out of us at times.  But they are ours, and they are loved.  There is nothing they lack that will make us say, "if you would... then you'd be enough."

Knowing I couldn't compete in the area of looks, I went for being good.  My grades were pretty marginal, athletics were abysmal.  Band, on the other hand... I could totally do.  In my mind, if I made the all-state band, I'd finally be okay.  I'd be worth it.  It didn't happen.  It took several tries over almost twenty years to get it into my head that none of that will make me okay.  Still trying to get it, actually.

So please, please, please... don't buy too into that "don't tell girls they're pretty" thing.  Or into the other end.  Join me in trying to find a way to encourage them to be all they can be without placing too much worth one place or the other.  It's much more than telling girls they're pretty or smart.  It's about a love that can't be shaken by a trip into the principal's office or a lost game or a bad grade.  If they're smart, tell them that.  If they've done a great job, tell them that.  If they're handsome or pretty, tell them that.  But also tell them something positive when they haven't.  Or when they aren't.  Remind them that you mess up too.

What nearly brought me to tears this morning?

She said, "Mommy, you're beautiful."  And she was serious.

Thanks be to God for making me enough... and for the ways I'm still realizing he's what makes me enough.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Crazy Honest

As I visited with a friend about the start of school, I could hear him starting to have trouble.  It's not a single-sense recognition.  When he hits, yells, cries... when he's losing control... it hurts us too.

Quickly excusing myself and taking a deep breath, I hurried down the short hall to his side.  Squatting down at the table, patting his back a bit with my hand, I heard he was having trouble getting used to a change in transition.  I thanked someone I consider one of THEE most amazing people I've ever encountered for being who he needs, and started to try to help him.  

Remember, I usually can't stop these things.  Usually, I can just stay by him, speaking in a calm voice, using few words.  Or that's the aim anyway.  I'd be lying if I said I'm a champ at dealing with meltdowns. 

Normally when this happens, whoever is around just kind of either carries on, not judging or bothering us.  Some will carry on but keep an eye on us, staying in earshot in case I need help.  Both are invaluable reactions.  

One little boy in his class approached us.  With wide eyes and the sweetest, most innocent demeanor, he said "I've been in his class before.  He gets CRAZY!"  


I smiled, unsure what else to do or say, and said simply (and as kindly as I could muster), "I know."  

Because I do know. 

As I made my way to the service, all I could do was fight with the temptation to be devastated.  He called my kid crazy.  He called my kid CRAZY!  

But you know what?  Yeah.  He used the word "crazy."  But he didn't say Ryan IS crazy.  He simply walked up to me, not knowing I was Ryan's mom, and said something he thought would make me okay with what was going on.  And let's not forget that this is a little boy we're talking about here.  

Once the initial emotional ouchie of hearing "crazy" used to describe Ryan's behavior, my mind scrambled with the thought that I missed a teachable moment with that child.  What could I have said to help him understand?  

Then it hit me.  I can't explain it.  Yes, I can give the clinical reasons why I THINK he hits.  I can give all kinds of perspectives from blogs and books and doctors and therapists.  I can tell you how it feels for me to watch and hear it, and I can tell you what his chest looks like at the end of the day when he's had a rough one.  But do I really know WHY?  And why would I act like it's no big deal when this is one of the most if not the most frustrating, painful, potentially crippling part of autism for us?  

As it stands, I'm glad my response was what it was.  Not too much, not too little.  And as this child (hopefully) continues to grow alongside Ryan and our family, he will maybe not be afraid to come to me with questions.  He's obviously not afraid to get too close to Ryan, because he had to get pretty close to be able to speak to me.  

I do worry what Ryan heard and how he processed it.  But that's another reason why I'm glad I didn't make a big deal of it.  I'm definitely not suggesting that it's okay for adults to walk up to someone struggling in that way and say anything other than, "what can I do?"  This was a child, expressing to an adult what he has witnessed.  I choose to believe that he was being honest.  I choose to let go of the right to be upset that the c-word was used in reference to any part of my kiddo.  

You know what else?  I'm thankful that I can do that now.  That after years of being stared at, glared at,  and having the occasional rude comments and the more common whispers, my security in who I and who Ryan is in the eyes of God can overcome the need to defend. 

There have been times all too recently when I was half afraid to leave the house, and more afraid to be around people.  Too afraid of the pain of stares and insensitive, ignorant comments to step out and try anything.  And that still lingers in many ways.  But there is hope and comfort in realizing that my best is all I can do, and Ryan's best is all he can do.  

Thanks be to God for holding my tongue and comforting my heart, and for allowing me to see the honesty in a young boy's eyes... and that, for that moment, I experienced the most honest, pure form of empathy imaginable.

And don't you worry, church friend-parents who are reading this... I have no clue who this kid is or who he belongs to.   But I do know that he was a sweetheart.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Universal Studios

The day after we finished at Disney, we had a day at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.  Eric and I had been here on our honeymoon for just a day, and I had been here on a different band trip.  Both of us were a bit apprehensive about this one, just because we hadn't come as parents before and weren't sure there would be much for our kids to do. 

We had nothing to worry about! 

Now, remember... this isn't Disney.  There are different characters, different rides, yes.  But there is just a different feel of every amusement park, and this one isn't Disney.  But it's still very cool and worth it! 

Daddy and Richie at lunch in Circus McGurkus
 I gotta tell you... our best story about this park has nothing to do with this particular trip.  On our honeymoon, just before we were to leave to make our flight back to Texas, we found out the hard way that Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barge Adventure really will get you wet! It's not one of those rides where they say you'll get soaked then you're dry except for the seat of your pants.  This one will drench you to the skin!  So save yourself the trouble, unless you just really want to be wet.  It is a cool ride!

Ryan and Richie in the Carou-seuss-el... look at mommy, boys!  Eh, never mind.

Here's the guyzos and I on the One Fish, Two Fish ride.  I think it was easily their favorite!  It's similar to the rockets at the Magic Kingdom except you're riding in... you guessed it... a fish.  The arms go up and down, and here's where the twist comes in.  There are fish on poles that spit water as you go by!  Another one where you're going to get at least a little wet.  The guys loved it!

Then there was the Harry Potter area of the park.  

WOW.  Just wow.  This part of the park (and some good-natured shaming from my middle school band kids) prompted my reading all the Harry Potter series this summer.  What?  I hadn't read Harry Potter?  Yeah, one of the weird Crystal-things is that I just don't generally jump on the bandwagon of what everyone else seems to be doing.  I'm kinda strange like that.   

Anyway...  we took this picture because the kids are train-crazy.  Then after we read the first book with the kids, this became their favorite picture from this day.  

Richie turns out to be quite the coaster head!  I never would have thought that about him, but he loves them.  So Daddy and Mommy took turns riding coasters with Richie.  Maelynn just didn't care for them, or doesn't yet, anyway.  Ryan loves them, but wants to watch and not ride.  So there you go.  The smaller HP coaster was perfect for Richie.  Here's he and Daddy after riding that one.

Waiting to ride the train around Seuss land!

So all in all, I'd say Universal has a lot to offer, especially if you're more into coasters than shows and ambience.  As for the disability pass, theirs is (they say) accidentally just like Disney's.  You get a card to present to the ride attendant at the beginning of the line, who then writes a time to return after.  It's just like a fast pass, and was again quite helpful! 

The biggest shout-out I'd like to give is for their park security and medical/first aid staff.  Richie had a first-time reaction to something (after much testing we think it was a kind of fish) we ate for dinner, and it reached its worst when we got back to the van.  Mom ran and got a security guard in the parking garage, who then called their medical staff.  They were there within five minutes, and within another ten, Richie and I were aboard an ambulance bound for the hospital. They were caring and helpful, and went above and beyond in making sure Mom knew how to get to the hospital, since she had Ryan and Maelynn in tow while I went with Richie. 

So began our adventurous trip home.  Such a wonderful time! 

Thanks be to God for keeping little Richie safe, and for the guys who helped so much that day!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Disney Day 3

All you bloggers... if you get out of the habit of posting a few times a week, it's hard to get back in it.  Argh.  

So here we are at the Magic Kingdom.  In case you've noticed (or haven't) we don't often manage to get all three kids in a picture.  I know so many of you are nodding and amen-ing... it's hard to get three kids, special needs or no, to even stand still at the same time much less smile.  Or look the same direction.  Or look at all.  

Here's Richie all captured with the evil emperor Zurg.  He was all excited to shoot the aliens with Buzz in our first ride that day!  Great place to start.  Ryan liked the "shell rides" the most, even though he didn't wear 3D glasses or do any shooting.

Then it was off to the rockets, Richie's choice.  Here are Maelynn and Daddy under the Rockets... so cool how everything is put together at Disney!

Ready to blast off!  Richie the astronaut ready to go!

And sister's turn.  Okay, well... Ryan's turn too.  He loves carousels, and this was something he looked forward to every day of the trip.  We heard "You will ride the carouseeeeel!" about a hundred times a day, even after we rode it.  

There are some things he's so eager for, then still there are elements he can't do right away, as evidenced by his ears covered above.  Sister, on the other hand, just wanted to be able to see!

Here's the happy rider!  

After the carousel, it was time to do a bit of window shopping.  Not the boys' favorite thing... okay, not Ryan's favorite thing... but we got a sort-of shot with Minnie for the biggest fan in the family. 

Then we stepped outside to Mama's favorite view...

As I've told you before, I have a ridiculous crush on all things Cinderella's castle.  I know, I know.  But  you have to admit it's cool!

Then it was time for sister's big birthday present.  One more last hug and thank-you for Daddy, then we headed into the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  

Turns out our fairy godmother, Morgan Honey, was from the fairest kingdom in all the land... Texas!  She and Maelynn chatted as they worked.  This is where the day went wonky.  My phone died. No problem, I'll just get out the portable charger Eric sent with me.  

Imagine my frustration as I reached for the plug for my iPhone 4... and it was a charger for an iPhone 5.  So all I could do was ask around, and of course no one had one.  Thankfully there was a photo package included, so there was a photographer there getting some shots of the fun.  Here's the last pic I got with my dying phone...

This experience was great.  They really go out of their way to make the girls feel special.  The best part of the whole thing was when Maelynn started to nod off!  It had been such a great day, and this was the thing she'd looked forward to the very most, and even with me tickling her, she fell asleep.  She did wake back up, but it took awhile!

After this, we went to her little photo shoot that was also included in her package, me asking the whole time if anyone had a charger.  No dice.  Then the moment came that I dreaded.  No way to get hooked back up with the rest of the family!  We wandered a bit, then when I realized how crazy it was to expect us to find them in this huge place, I looked at the dream-come-true at the end of my arm and decided that we'd just have fun and they'd find us eventually.  

A few minutes later, I found myself beside my beautiful daughter, riding the carousel in the Magic Kingdom.  The sunlight sparkled on the glittery, soft blue dress, with her sweet, soft hands clutching her magic wand and the horse's pole, and I started to get upset that I couldn't capture this moment.  Stupid phone.  

But wait... I have this treasure.  I have it in my heart.  So I took the time to drink in her beauty and wonder, to sear this memory on my heart.  She giggled and pointed at things she wanted me to see; I acknowledged them and talked with her and kissed her forehead, amazed at the goodness of God.  

It was one of those moments when the realization hits that you're truly given what you desire most.

The rest of the day, we did more fun stuff.  We rode the Ariel ride, and every other little thing we could find the kids would like.  Then we staked out our spot for fireworks.  

It had been the third in a string of long days, and the kids were exhausted.  We sat with both the double strollers (one for Ryan, one for the littles) and enjoyed the light parade.  Then the fireworks started.  This is one of my very favorite things about Disney.  

Daddy held his baby girl, and I held Richie on my shoulders, and we watched in exhausted amazement at not just the fireworks, nor the music... but the fact that we were THERE.  We were doing something we didn't think we'd be able to do.  We didn't see the way.  As a matter of fact, in about Louisiana, when Ryan had been screaming for over an hour from the back of the van, I stopped and got him out in a parking lot to calm down.  I called Eric, almost in tears, and told him that I might have to turn back and go home.  This trip was a major challenge, and I was scared.  But Ryan calmed after about ten minutes, and we finished the nine-hour drive of the day toward Disney.  

And I'm so glad.

We now feel ten feet tall and bulletproof.  Okay, maybe just in comparison with how scared we were to do even the most simple of trips with all three kids before.  We had read all the reviews of how bad people thought the new disability pass was, and how it ruined their ability to go to Disney with their families.  Everything that could have made us second guess our decision to take the kids this time was conquered either by realizing the truth or just perseverance.  No, by stepping out and trying... testing our wings and trusting that God would like for us to enjoy life.

After the fireworks, Eric had to head back to meet the band.  Mom and I stayed with the kids to wait for the crowds to die down, and of course had to get a Dole whip float.  MMMMMMM.

Yep, that's me.  What's a trip to Disney without an ear hat, y'all?!

On the way back to the front of the park, Ryan kept yelling, "No boat!" at random.  The only problem was that the line for the bus back to parking was about a mile long, but the ferry line was incredibly short.  So I looked at my sweet son, and told him we'd get on the water bus.

Thank the Lord, it worked.  Once he was on the ferry water bus, he hopped off the bench when he heard the horn and exclaimed, "Ahoy, mateys!"

Needless to say, it was not a problem.  He enjoyed the water bus.

And here's the shadow of a happy family sans Daddy (who was also happy, but had to be with the band on the bus).

So much wonder packed into such a short time.  Then there's the jolt back to reality.  

This was one of my dearest shots.  Exhausted, living the dream, happy, and ready to sleep, looking for the hotel room door.

It was a great trip.  Truly a blessing and a fabulous experience all around.  If there's one thing I'd say about it, it would be to try it.  If you really want it, try it.  Be smart, be ready to roll with whatever happens, try to go in with few expectations.  But try.  Step out and give it a shot. 

The disability pass does help.  It's like having the ability to have two fast passes running concurrently.  As someone who firmly believes in teaching kids to wait, that life isn't fair, and that's just how it is, having that ability did make it easier to do the trip.  I wouldn't have wanted to go straight to the front of the line like I've heard the old pass worked.  This way we were given the little boost we needed to level the playing field, and that is what it's all supposed to be about.  

And yes, we're currently saving to go as a family.  All the kids loved it, and Ryan even asks when we're going again. 

If there was one thing I'd say I learned from this trip, it's to do the hard things.  Yes, sometimes we need to go easy on ourselves.  Give ourselves grace, rest, and not go too crazy.  But to never do things because they might go badly?  We're getting better about that.  And this trip was a huge lesson in how great things can go.

Thanks be to God for true courage.  The kind only he gives.  The kind you don't know you have till you look back and say, "Holy cheese, WE DID IT."  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Disney Day 2

Day one was nothing short of greatness.  Not once, I forgot to mention, did Ryan or either of the littles even remotely begin to request any of the three i-devices I brought in my giant mommy-sherpa-backpack.  Do you realize how huge that is?  Ryan lives around three things: YouTube on the TV, Thomas the Tank Engine and ALL (and I mean ALL) his friends, and i-device time.

Day two started with the addition of a stroller.  If you remember in Day One we chose just the one industrial-sized rented stroller.  The day we went to Epcot, we got two.  And oh boy, was that a great thing.  Made a world and a half of distance.  We've noticed that if Ryan is expected to walk, he wants to do just that... walk.  Perpetual motion in its most persistent form.  But if he has a rolling place to sit, we are able to stop and enjoy a few things without near as much complaint.

It's also important to remember what "complaint" means.  It's not whining or "gee mom, can't we keep going" it's a serious amount of hitting, screaming, and fighting against having to stay put.  It's hard to describe unless you've been there.  Once you experience it, there's no need for words.  Ya just know.

The day started like this...

Because Eric and I are firm believers in ear hats.  Richie loved watching the embroidery machine put his name on his completely traditional black Mickey ears, and Maelynn was enjoying all the other options, though she chose nearly as traditional as her big brother... a nice, pink one.  

Then there was Ryan.  He got a blue baby-boyish ear hat when he was two, but had no interest in one at 8.  *le sigh* 

But he did jump up and proclaim, "MY HAT!" just like Woody as he grabbed himself a Toy Story sheriff's hat.  

Once we were all sufficiently capped, we found Test Track and all of us loved it!  Richie especially.  He's turned into quite the coaster head since that trip!

After a couple of random other rides and things, then some lunch, we headed for the Monorail.  Daddy had band stuff to do for the afternoon, so we thought we'd hop a ride on this and make Ryan's day.  Which it did. 

After a nice, relaxing ride, we got back to Epcot and walked around a bit, then looked down and this is what I saw in the littles' stroller. 

So we parked, and made this kid real happy with a nice big cup of brown ice cream!

Then it was princess time.  Maelynn was super stoked about meeting princesses.  I may have been too.  

Our first stop was with Belle, with whom Maelynn had a great talk about reading and brothers and stuff.  The next stop was Aurora, who was just down the way a bit.  

Y'all, say what you will about Disney and its cast members... this  was amazing to me.  These princesses have learned their characters so well that they sound like them.  It was nuts.  And although it was hot and there was a line of sweaty preschoolers lined up to hug her neck, Aurora took time to learn some dance steps Maelynn wanted to share.  

Isn't that just precious?  And they talked and hugged and I cried.  And it was awesome.  

That night, Eric and I took the plunge and chose to get reservations at the Garden Grill.  Richie and Maelynn REALLY dug getting to play with all the characters.  Chip and Dale were hilarious, with Dale trying to eat Maelynn's ponytail, and Pluto was super cool.  

After dinner, we pretty much ran to the lagoon so that we could watch Illuminations, and this is pretty much the gist of the trip.  WOW.  

Then it was time to head out.  On the way out, I had to turn around and snap this, because Spaceship Earth is the coolest... even though it wasn't on the list of things we rode.  And I'm a Disney geek.

Back at the hotel, we all pretty much crashed.  And again, no one asked for an i-device.  The whole day.  Even when it was hot and they were tired, nope.  We rode and rode, and walked and walked, and waited and waited.  And this was the result.

The thing you can't see in the pictures is the work that went behind the smiles.  The brothers were very cranky that we were waiting for princesses, but there was nothing we could really ride without Daddy.  They did pretty well while we waited for Belle, but the whole time Maelynn played with Aurora, Ryan screamed.  

Sometimes there are things that require us to take one for the team, and there are times the team takes one for us.  There are times when those happen at the same time.  This day, this trip, was not easy.  But it was worth it.  Such is life.  Life isn't just the happy faces in the pictures.  Real life is the work and drive and faith behind them.  

More on the Magic Kingdom, phone charger failure, roller coasters, and princesses tomorrow... and at the end, our take on the new disability pass system.  

Thanks be to God for the patience and endurance, and sometimes... for the trusty clicking along of the clock, for there are times it's our rest.

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