The title is a description of my old life...but these days I ramble on about widowhood, homeschooling, single parenting, adoption, special-needs parenting, & living a life I never planned for or expected - a life that God, thankfully, continues to strengthen & equip me for daily...
Thursday, April 2, 2015
April 2, 2015
"Florida Report" doesn't sound like
something fun to read - more like something cranked out by a consulting firm
for some need or other! But I don't feel
right entitling this "My Super Duper fun Vacation," either, because
I went for Ben. And I don't regret that one bit. He had an absolute blast. With all he's endured in his lifetime, I'm
very grateful I was able to give this experience to him.
The trip to and from Florida was arduous, to
say the least. Florida is a LONG ways
away from Iowa. Our charter bus was
old. They had a coffin-like appendage
hanging down in the front of the bus covering the first 4 or so seats so that
everyone had to hunch over to get to and from the entrance. It was
a bed for the drivers to take turns using as they drove through the night. Who thought of this set-up? The seats were cramped. I did a lot of reading. I worked a bit on an article I'm writing that
I have to have turned in by April 22. I
stared out the window quite a bit. Now that
I found it amusing to look down into people's
cars as we went by and into semi-truck cabs.
What was NOT amusing was the number of people - including semi-drivers -
who were scrolling through Facebook or texting as they drove. You hear about this kind of stuff on the
news, but until you see it like I did, you don't realize how dangerous
it really is out there on the road! One
semi-driver I saw had a book propped up against the steering wheel. Should I give him props for being a
reader? It's amazing more of us aren't
dead right now.
Attempting to sleep on the bus for two nights
was beyond horrible. Two Advil PMs were
not enough to make it work for me. I
tossed and turned and I couldn't stretch out and I got rug burns on my elbows
from repeatedly scraping the seat cushions.
I got kinks in my back and neck.
This may be an old lady problem; I don't know. The two teenagers to our left dozed almost
day Thursday. They were part of the
school group that returned from a trip to Belize at 11 pm the night before and
had to be at the school by 6 am to load up for the Orlando trip.
I'm not sure where to stick this in where it
will flow well, so I'll just do it here: Leggings. Leggings, ladies and gentlemen, are NOT
pants. But nobody seems aware of
this. I had the foresight to dress Ben
and myself in sweats for the trip down thinking we'd want to be comfortable
sitting for a 24 hour shot. Now, I like
leggings, actually. Lizzie has several
pairs and underneath a short dress or a long top, they're really cute. But I think every high school girl on this
trip dressed in leggings but they didn't pair them with a long top! They are a very unforgiving garment. Nothing is hidden when you encase your rear
end in a pair of skin tight leggings.
Even the foreign exchange, Muslim, girl that went on the trip wore her
leggings. She was careful to only wear
long sleeves and had all her hair covered at all times - even at the
beach. But she also wore leggings the
entire trip and they showed off things that I'm fairly certain would be
offensive to Muslim dictates. Maybe? Or am I just showing my age? I don't know.
We made it down to Orlando Friday morning and
were immediately taken to the first Disney Park - Hollywood Studios. I wasn't all that impressed. Ben wanted to ride roller coasters. I've never been overly fond of fast moving
rides, but who else was going to ride with him?
We had fast passes (Disney allows you to sign up in advance for three
rides/shows a day where you get to go through the "fast" lane rather
than waiting in the regular lane from anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours,
depending on the popularity of the attraction) for three. We used two.
When Ben figured out that we'd have to go clear to one end of the park
and then back to the other end for another ride, he wasn't interested and I
It was really humid on Friday and my hair was
going crazy. Fortunately, I had a
headband with me and was able to slick back most of the frizz with it. We left the park around 3 and were
immediately taken to Disney Downtown, which is this huge shopping area.
Expensive shopping area. Everything at Disney is expensive.
By this time it was raining. One of the best purchases I made in
anticipation of this trip was a $40 LL Bean lightweight backpack. I carried that thing everywhere and it came in
so handy. I was able to whip out two
umbrellas for Ben and me. Unfortunately,
we discovered that neither one worked well.
We got wet. After awhile we just
found some chairs under a canopy at a restaurant and sat for a long time. Then, we were herded to a Cirque du Soleil
This was really impressive. I had no idea what Cirque du Soleil was. It's circus acts minus any animals. It's a lot of acrobatic stunts and
comedy. I was so exhausted I kept
falling asleep during the performance and then I would feel guilty because I
knew I will probably never again in my life see these performers again. And the performers are - amazing.
Then, we finally got to go to our hotel. I was in charge of 8 other girls on my
floor. All that meant was they had to
periodically check in with me and I had to make sure they were in their beds at
curfew. By the end of the trip, some of
them were coming to me with problems.
One teenager got a severe sunburn at the beach and wondered what to do
about her bra. I told her to just skip
the thing. She didn't want to do
that. I remembered I had a sports bra I
had brought along for sleeping so I offered that to her. She was so grateful. I also tracked down some sunburn spray for
her. I bit my tongue. All of the chaperones warned the kids quite
strongly about the dangers of the sun.
But I remember being 16, too. I
probably wouldn't have listened all that well, either.
The next morning we returned to Cirque du
Soleil. I guess this was the
"educational" portion of the trip.
We got a backstage tour of the circus where the guide would hyperventilate
if anyone breathed on anything they were not supposed to. I found it annoying and the whole thing
boring. We didn't even get to meet the
performers - just saw where they worked and how some of the stunts were put
Then, we went to Cocoa Beach. This was probably my favorite part of the
trip. It was cool that day. When we pulled into the beach, a nearby bank
sign informed us it was 65 degrees. And
there was a good wind from time to time.
So, I rented beach chairs for Ben and myself (where they required my
driver's license and a deposit - how valuable are these chairs, anyway?) and
plopped down in the sand. I already had
my suit on and I swapped out my shirt for my beach cover-up. And I never took it off. It was too cold!
But again, I am an old lady. As soon as those teenagers hit the sand, they
were pulling off their t-shirts and running into the surf in their little bitty
bikinis. They're the ones that got
sunburned. I was very careful to use my
sunscreen but my scalp got burned. Right
where I part my hair, my head is still pink!
It was relaxing. Eventually, all the teachers on the trip
rented chairs too and placed them near mine.
I had some nice conversations that day with them. One of the teachers has taught both Will and
Ben. He told me "your boys have
changed our school!" He said that
Will is one of those rare students that he felt taught him more than he was
able to teach Will. We had a great
conversations about homeschooling and special needs children and other things. We even talked about Christianity, which I
One of the teachers reiterated to me how much
Ben is loved by his fellow students. He
commented that he thought if some teacher were ever to give Ben a hard time
about anything, the other students would immediately rise up in his
defense. I saw this affection on the
trip that the kids have for Ben. They
genuinely like him and are not put off by his quirks. At one point Ben was doing his little
"gallop" thing that has always irritated me and I've always attempted
to stop when I see him doing. But his
music teacher laughed and said, "Oh, I love it when Ben does that - that
means he's excited!" Would this
have happened in any other school district?
I don't know. I know it sure
didn't when Ben was in kindergarten up in the Missouri Valley school. I think of all the things that transpired
that eventually led to Ben attending Pleasantville and it makes me think that
God must have had His hand in every
little event, knowing where Ben needed to be.
That evening we were back at the hotel
earlier, which I appreciated. Ben
discovered a hot tub and I was able to relax for awhile in my room. The girls called me and then Will did,
too. I felt much better after talking to
all of them. I kind of forgot about Ben
being down in the hot tub until one of the teachers delivered a dripping boy to
my door. He said that Ben couldn't
remember his room number, so they had the concierge look it up and make a key
for him. I felt like not-such-a-good mom
at that moment.
Sunday we did both Animal Kingdom and
Epcot. It was a still a cooler day,
which I appreciated. We saw a Lion King
show at Animal Kingdom that was very well done.
Actually, everything Disney does is top rate. That said, we were on two different rides
that broke down at different times and another ride at the Magic Kingdom that
we had fast passes for had to be delayed until they got it running again.
I was impressed by Epcot. It's HUGE, though - so much walking. Our tour coordinator had a fit bit and she
visited the parks along with us, although probably did not do nearly as much
walking as most of us did. Sunday
evening she said her fitbit was registering that she had walked just under 10
miles that day. No wonder I got a
blister on one of my feet! But God bless
Clark sandals...they were the best thing I could have bought for this trip.
One of the neatest rides we did at Epcot was
called "Soarin'." I really
enjoyed this. There are a number of rows
and the rows slowly rotate upwards, downwards, and back and forth. Meanwhile, you are viewing this wrap-around
screen of scenery - all kinds - deserts, golf courses, rapids, plains. It was so realistic that I found myself
lifting my feet as we would approach banks of trees, so that I wouldn't hit
them! It must be something like what
hangliders experience, only without the danger.
I would gladly do that ride again.
I can't say the same for the bone-jarring roller coasters Ben preferred.
Half of Epcot is divided up into
"countries." You'll find
restaurants and shops designed to give you an experience as though you just
stepped into one of these actual countries.
It was really cool. Ben and I
spent quite a few hours in that section.
It was as we were walking through Germany, I believe, that I heard Ben
chuckling to himself. I asked him what
was so funny and he replied, "Nothing - I'm just so happy!" I knew in that moment I would do this all
over again. We had our choice of
countries for supper and settled on eating in "America." There was no
question in Ben's mind of where we should go!
I have raised these kids right! Unfortunately, I was served raw steak in
America, after being assurred it would be well cooked.
That evening we all met together again and
watched a fireworks show they do over the water. I've seen fireworks before, so I wasn't all
that blown away. Plus, I was tired!
Monday we did the Magic Kingdom. I never want to go there again. It was crowded. I don't know how anyone dealing with obesity,
a stroller, or scooter even survived. It
was so crowded you sometimes came to a complete standstill waiting for others
to get out of your way. Not my idea of a
good time! It's billed as the
"happiest place on earth" but I sure saw a lot of unhappy children
and parents. It was a hot again that
day, too. But Ben enjoyed it. We took one ride just to sit down that
basically circulated over the majority of the park, pointing out different
attractions. It was from there that Ben
saw a racetrack where he could drive. He
wanted to do that. So, we waited in line
for 40 minutes and he got to drive. He
That evening we loaded up onto our bus and
headed northward. We got home at 7:00
Tuesday night, 2 1/2 hours ahead of schedule.
I wasn't about to complain about that!
I was SO happy to be home!
Ben loved the trip. I'm so thankful that
it was everything he was hoping for. I
did it for him and I would do it again.
But I wouldn't do it for me.
I really struggled during the trip with grief
over Paul. That surprised me. I also missed the rest of my kids
tremendously. I kept noticing these
families at the parks and I felt sad that it was just Ben and me. I think a lot of it was that I remember past
family vacations when we were all together - not that we ever went to Disney -
and I wanted that happiness back. I am
convinced now that it's not so much where you vacation, but it's the act of
being on an adventure together. I am
anxious to take my kids back to Silver Dollar City and the Wisconsin Dells
because we had some wonderful family trips there in the past. It's not so much the locations themselves as
it was the fact that we were together.
I don't think we'll ever be together at
Disney, though. I honestly have no
desire to go back. Florida has rotten
weather - a brutal sun and some real humidity. I also got my first insect bites
of the season - something that would never happen this early in the year in the
midwest. I figured up that for our
family to do everything we did on this trip, I would be looking at a minimum of
spending $5000. And it would probably be
closer to $6 or 7000 by the time you add in food and travel. That's a chunk of change!
The food and souvenier prices at Disney are
very, very high. The cheapest meal Ben
and I ever had was about $14 a person - for a hamburger, fries, and drink. Disney does allow you to bring food into the
park but there's only so much you want to carry around on your back, too.
I'm sure there are plenty of people out there
who will disagree with everything I've written.
They'll point to their own Disney experiences and say it was the
greatest trip of their lifetime. And
maybe it was. If Paul and I had gone
with the kids at some point we might have said the same thing, too.
But I don't regret going. Ben has some awesome memories he will carry
around the rest of his life.
I haven't written about the best part of my
trip yet. It happened yesterday
morning. I went over to Jenn's to pick
up the girls. I couldn't drive fast
enough. I walked in the door and Ellie
spied me first. She ran to me and jumped
into my arms, burrowing her head into my chest.
She clung so tightly I thought she was going to bruise me. We sat there for the longest time, me
crouched on my knees and she with her entire body pressed against mine. And then Lizzie saw me and ran over too. She actually knocked me backwards.
held her little braided head and I knew I was right where I belong.