Sunday, October 26, 2014

Celebration of life...

We are home from an AMAZING family vacation and are continuing to try to adjust back to reality.  Here is an overview of what we've been up to the past 3 weeks...

I had a week long work meeting in Las Vegas.  I got home late on Friday night and we left for our family vacation early Saturday morning.  Thank you for your prayers, the kids handled my being out of town as best as possible (still some tears and Andrew kept saying "Mommy promised the time would go fast and it's NOT going fast enough."); the excitement and promise (Lord willing of course) that we would get to spend a week of uninterrupted family time when I returned gave them just enough hope to hold on to.  Our flight to California was uneventful, the big kids always LOVE going on an airplane, and Grace not so much, in fact as we walked onto the plan she was pointing to the exit saying "NOOOOOOO!"  Once we got settled on the plane and she got to meet a new friend that was sitting in the seat next to her (the seat that we had to pay for that her booty only occupied for a total of 10 minutes max), she was back to her happy self.

Once we arrived in California, our trip hit a few snags shortly after touching down in California...  it took over 30 minutes for our car rental company to get us a car.  In an effort to save money we rented a full size car, so once we got what they consider full size, David began playing Tetris trying to get 5 suitcases and car seats situated... Phew!  it was done and we were off to enjoy the California (no humidity) sun... not so much!  Before driving off we noticed a nail in the tire, so they said it wasn't safe to take that car and we had to change cars...  time to unload all of David's hard work and do it all over again in a car that was not as nice (didn't have a keyless remote, so we would have to go old school and actually use a key), but we happily took the manual enter option, so that we could be on our way.  We were off... by this time we were starving, so we drove to meet my Mom for lunch.  Once we got to the restaurant and got our food ordered David went to our car to get Grace's pediasure out of Grace's diaper bag and wouldn't you know, THE KEY WOULDN'T OPEN THE DOOR!  We tried everything we could think of with no luck, so the car rental company had to call a tow truck to come unlock the car and that's when the person I was speaking with made the mistake of saying to this already hot and frustrated momma "after the tow truck gets there, you can just come back to the airport to get another car."  That would be car #3 since we landed just a few hours ago!  This was one of those situations where I knew the kids were watching my reaction closely because it was clear that they too were hot, tired, and ready to get to our hotel.  As they asked questions, trying to figure what in the world was going on and appeared frustrated, we talked about how we were on this vacation to celebrate Grace's life and God's faithfulness and that we were going to practice fighting for joy and maintaining a God honoring attitude despite how we feel.  I'm so grateful that the Lord allowed me to put this teachable moment above my feelings because my old self would have taken this opportunity to let the person on the other end of the phone HAVE IT!  Don't get me wrong, I was in no way righteous in my explanation to the car rental person that we would not be coming back to the airport for a third car with three young children in tow, but instead they were going to deliver us the car to our hotel (I only knew this was an option because one of my best friends worked in the car rental business for a number of years and made me aware of the possibilities), but I did my best to be as God honoring as possible and I know it was a good lesson to the kiddos and set the tone for the trip that no matter what happens, we will choose joy!  They ended up delivering us a new car about 4 hours later, but it was a nicer car than the previous two and the company ended up giving us a pretty great discount, so the inconvenience and life lesson was worth it :-).  I thought that our car rental debacle would prevent us from meeting our friends for dinner that night, but the car arrived just as we had to leave for dinner.  It was the best way to end our first day in California!

-The next day we met a number of David and I's friends at a super fun park where one of our friends was kind and thoughtful enough to rent a bounce house for the kids so that the grown ups could visit without too much distraction (way to go and thanks MJ!).  The kids literally bounced for 5 hours straight, so we got lots of time with special friends and the kids wore themselves out.

I'm so bummed that I didn't think to take a picture until most people had left, but here are the people that helped close down our little get together.

That afternoon we checked into...

This is the headboard at the hotel, they are fireworks that act as the perfect nightlight...

 ... and the magic and sparkle dust was in full effect!  When we checked in they asked us if we were celebrating anything (I'm sure they meant birthdays, anniversaries, etc), but David and I looked at each other and at the same time said "yes!"  We are celebrating Grace's life and God's goodness.  David briefly explained that Grace has had 5 open heart surgeries and a year ago we thought we might lose her.  The lady checking us in said "that's certainly worth celebrating, we would like to comp your valet parking for your entire stay with us."  We were so caught off guard by her kindness, we almost didn't really understand exactly what she was saying.  Then, later that night, shortly after putting the kids down, someone called up to our room and asked if they could bring something up for the kids.  I'm thinking, how nice they are going to deliver some cookies or something (I was even thinking that they will probably be tasty cookies because they are magical cookies since they come from Disneyland :-).  The lady that came to the door blew my cookie vision out of the water... they sent up a stuffed Mickey for Andrew, Minnie for Abigail, and a baby Minnie for Grace (with the kids names written pretty on the tag), along with a precious card that said, they were inspired by our story and hoped the kids enjoyed the toys and a bunch of the staff had signed it.  I seriously cried at their thoughtfulness and generosity.  The magical Disney dust began to over flow in our hearts, what a special way to start off our trip.

-We went by where I use to live in Newport Beach... so many GREAT memories there!

...and then went to the beach and ate at one of my favorite restaurants, Ruby's at the end of the pier, where we saw dolphins!

That night we had dinner with the characters and this is what Grace thought about the characters...

...the rest of us had a great time though :-)

-The next day we went to Disneyland and California Adventure, I got to catch up with a precious friend from high school, which was SUCH a treat!  (((hugs))) and much appreciation to you, Linda and Carlos!

We met some of our friends that moved from Texas back to California earlier this year.  Damian is one of Abigail and Andrew's favorite friends and they have missed him a bunch since they moved, so it was SO fun to get to spend the day with Damian, Lina (his mom), and grandma and grandpa (we missed you Joe)!

-The next day we spent another 12 hour day at Disneyland and California Adventure, but this time there were 12 of us!  I wasn't sure how it would work out with 12 of us trying not to lose one another, everyone getting to do what they wanted to do, kids needing naps, etc, but I should have known that when in the presence of three best friends a girl could ask for (for 15+ years), it was going to be SUPER easy, fun, and blessed!  These girls (and their families) are always a great example to me of what a servant's heart looks like as they know just how to make us feel SO loved when we come to California.  The only down side is that when I get so much time with them, they make it really hard to leave.

I was so proud of the big kids, they went on space mountain and all the other big kid rides, and Grace LOVED Small World and the parades.  She loved watching the characters in the parade, but didn't want them to come anywhere near her.  Once, when she was sleeping in the stroller, Mickey came up and was stroking her head, which was so sweet, but I was seriously worried that if she woke up during that time, she might have a heart attack or something!

This is Grace's new "happy face"...

This is David and Grace doing her "happy face"...

This is our bob sledding team... 

-The next day we tried to recover from two 12 hour days at Disney, so we went to a place that had go karts that the kids could drive themselves and they thought that was the coolest thing ever!

We checked into our hotel in Arcadia (where I'm from) and had dinner with our Aunt and Uncle (Kathy and Cec).  It had been 4.5 years since we had seen them, so it was a special time to get to catch up at one of our favorite California restaurants, Claim Jumper.  I wish we had more time with them, but we are grateful that they came to see us and we had the time we did!  I wish I had a picture, but I totally forgot to take one :-(.

-Our last day in California we went to lunch with one of my best friends from high school and his wife.  Another situation where I could have used 5 more hours with them, but I treasure the time we had together.  Again, I forgot to take a picture :-(.  Next we went to the Santa Anita Race Track and the kids loved watching the horse races.  They even picked some winning horses!

WINNERS!  Thanks for advice, Kyle :-)

We got to meet the horse that played "Seabiscuit" in the movie...

Grace selecting her horse... that won!

Later, we went to a Fall Festival where I got to see another one of my best friends from high school, Bunny, and got to catch up with some other friends there too!  The kids loved all of the rides and games.

-After one last visit with Nana Lu Lu, we left to come home last Sunday...
The kids, once again, did great on the airplane.  Grace slept the whole way home!  We didn't get home until late Sunday night and it was back to the grind on Monday.

*There are SOOOOO many other special people that I would have LOVED to see while we were in California and believe me, I was trying to find ways the whole week where we could squeeze in any additional visits or get togethers, but we ran out of time.  Next time we are in town, I promise we will make a way to get to see more of our Village!

-Since being home, Grace had a cardiology appointment.  The gradient across her special valve has gone up by a couple points, which is to be expected, as we get closer to needing to have it dilated in Boston.  We have no idea when she will need it dilated via heart catheter (not open heart surgery, Lord willing), but for now we don't have to go back to the cardiologist for 3 months (that's the longest we've ever gone).  Praising the Lord for a good report overall!
Also, Grace's liver enzymes are back within normal range!  Another huge praise!

There is more that I want to share with y'all, but I'm sure your eyes are sore and your brain is fried after my detailed explanation of our trip, so I'll let you off the hook and save it for another post :-).  If you have stuck with me thus far, thank you, you get the VIP Village Member Award :-)!

Love you, Village and happy Fall!