Friday, June 5, 2015

Disneyland 2015!!!

Several months prior to actually visiting Disneyland, I remember sitting at dinner with Tom and Rachael.  We were spending date night (which are increasingly rare these days) together and discussing ways we could get the families together more often.  We always feel so good around Tom and Rachael - through the years, despite growing families and distance, we've remained close friends.  Somehow the idea came up that we ought to plan a trip to Disneyland for both families to go together.  From that dinner conversation began a flourish of phone calls and texts, and before we knew it, we were all headed to California.

Tom and Rachael brought 4 of their six daughters with them, leaving behind the 15-year-old (who already had a Disneyland trip planned with her choir group) and the two-year-old (who would have more fun with Grandparents).  We decided asking Cael to endure 10 hour car rides, long lines, and massive crowds was too much and opted to leave him with Grandma.  It was hard to be away from him, but ultimately, I think we made the right choice.
Needless to say, Disneyland was a lot of fun!  The girls seem to all be just the right ages for it.  Since the Liddle girls are all similar ages, everyone had a buddy to pal around with.  Having four adults provided a nice way to divide up younger kids so that everyone got to enjoy all the rides. 
The weather was a bit on the chilly side, but preferable to the blistering heat we endured during our last visit.  I had neglected to pack the girls jackets, however, and ended up buying them each a hooded sweatshirt at the nearby CVS.  Beyond that, everything went smoothly.
The long car ride had me worried about our ability to endure, and due to that, I way over-prepared, but the girls didn't complain! They had plenty to do with their coloring books, movies, snacks, and games.
We had worked extremely hard to make the trip a surprise for the girls.  The day before we left, we presented them each with a Frozen tote bag filled with a few surprises (a Frozen shirt, water bottle, snacks, and art projects), then we asked if they could guess what giving them the tote bags might indicate.  Right away, they realized we were going somewhere and it didn't take long for them to figure out that somewhere was Disneyland!
They eagerly helped us pack up the car and agreed to wake up super early so we could get going as soon as possible.  As worried as I was about the long car ride, it was unnecessary.  The girls did awesome!  They were patient and content for the entire trip!  That same tenor lasted through our entire vacation.  They all had so much fun, they got along great, and had smiles that lasted even through the long ride back home.
A few highlights:
Adell tried the Tower of Terror once again.  She survived it, but had absolutely no desire to ever do it again.  She claimed she overcame her fear, but didn't like the ride.  At least she didn't end up pale and shaky like last time!
One of Mia's favorite rides was Small World.  I took her on it three times.  The final time, she belted the song as loud as she could through the entire ride.  She didn't know the words, so she just made them up ("there's a girl over there, and a boy over there...").  Much to the amusement of the other people in the boat with us.
They all loved the Bug's Life rides in California Adventure!  We probably could have spent the entire day there.

Hannah's favorite ride was Star Tours, which really surprised everyone given her more timid nature.  For whatever reason, she absolutely loved it.
All of the girls loved Pirates of the Caribbean, and continually asked to return to it.
Hannah hated Splash Mountain, and refused to even fathom going on it again.  She was apparently surprised that the ride involved getting really wet, despite the fact we had all warned her.  She was still shocked to find herself soaked.
Despite the chilly weather, we still ventured out to Corona Del Mar Beach on the final afternoon.  We were so glad we decided to try it.  The girls loved searching for sea shells, digging in the sand, and running from the waves.  The sun even granted us a short visit.

We got to dine with the Disney princesses.  It was a pleasant luncheon indeed.  We got to meet Cinderella, Rapunzel, Tiana, Belle, and Ariel!  We also were able to get autographs and pictures with the princesses.

One of the best parts was attending the Frozen sing along.  We were able to sing all our favorite Frozen tunes.  Hannah, in particular, was delighted.  At the end of the show, Elsa even made it snow!

It's hard to see a good trip come to an end, but eventually we had to return home.  The trip home was smooth, but felt much longer than the drive there.  Cael had a wonderful time staying with Grandma.  We were a little unsure of how he would react to seeing us again.  He was definitely angry with us.  He loved being with Grandma, but clearly he was struggling with a lot of strong emotions.  It took him most of the weekend to fully forgive us.  Mostly he was angry with me.  He forgave Dad and the girls fairly easily, but took more time to grant the same forgiveness to me.  Eventually, he decided to forgive.  I was feeling pretty sad for a couple days, however.  It's hard to watch my kids struggle with difficult emotions!  When he is older, we will definitely take him with us to Disneyland!
We were pretty happy to get home!  We missed our friends, school, and our own beds!  We look forward to another Disneyland trip in the future. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Little Angel Baby

Today marks what would have been my angel baby's 8th birthday.  I've been contemplating, and perhaps, even dreading this day.  Although it doesn't change anything to focus on "what if's," on days like today, I just can't help it.  I begin to imagine all the "what if's."  What if John was still here with us?  What would our family be like?  What would he be like?  Would we have been preparing for his baptism this morning, instead of visiting his grave?  What if...
When I reflect on our experience with John, I feel grateful that I'm able to now obtain a sense of peace.  There were many times, especially at the beginning, I wasn't sure I would ever feel that again.  With peace, however, there's also still those feelings of sorrow and grief.  I don't expect that I'll ever be free from that, and that is alright.  I know my heart will always ache for my little boy. There are times that still catch me off guard.  The mention of his name sends those familiar sensations, my chest tightens, tears sting my eyes, and I feel like I cannot catch my breath. I see his tiny face in my mind, and I think, "what if..."
Along with a sense of peace, I can also truly say that in some ways I find I'm grateful for my experience with John.  I certainly wish he was here, and going through the grief was the most difficult thing I've ever done, but I recognize that the experience shaped and helped me, and many others, grow in ways that I don't think I would have otherwise been able.  The tender mercies that God granted to us during such a difficult time were sweet and undeniable.  The family support and love that was extended to us demonstrated what incredible people I have in my life.
There have been times that I have felt John's presence in my life.  There are also incredibly sweet moments when I've witnessed that presence in the lives of my children, especially Adell.  Despite never knowing her brother, she has been able to forge a unique and very real relationship with John.  Those sweet moments, most too sacred to share, reaffirm my belief that John really is part of our Eternal family.  He is still here, and is as much a part of our family as anything.  He touches our lives in unexpected ways, and watches as we strive to grow and progress.
Today, I indulge in my "what if" scenarios.  As a mother, I can't help but grief for those lost possibilities, but as I reflect on the Lord's tender mercies, and I remember that my little angel baby is here in our lives, I see can see past the "what if's" and look forward to the "what's coming."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Remembering Lynzee

"I'm a Dog, too!"

Remembering Lynzee
By, Kari Gardiner

"If being a dog means you're like (Lynzee), who never turns her back on you, and who's always there to pick you up when you fall, and loves you no matter how many times you mess up; if that's what it means to be a dog, then, yeah, I'm a dog, too!" - Quote from Mr. Peabody and Sherman (altered slightly).

For nearly 14 years I've had a loyal companion, always quietly there in the background of my life. If only people could more accurately emmulate the unfailing qualities of a dog. The world would certainly be a better place. Lynzee had all of those qualities and more. She was everything that made up a fabulous dog. She was loyal, good natured, patient, extending her love unconditionally, always there for me when I needed her, and perhaps her most endearing quality - she was pocket-sized.

Saying good-bye to my unfailing friend is one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. Since I turned 18, she's been a major part of my life. It astounds me to think of all the major life changing events Lynzee has been witness to in my life. She meet my future husband on our first date, she watched our relationship progress, and then came with us when we got married. She was there when I was a newlywed, trying to figure things out. She watched me become a mother - she greeted my children with that same unconditional love she always gave to me. She served as a comforter when I lost my son - patiently letting me cry and stroke her in my lap. She endured moving many times - happy, as long as she had a place to sprawl out in the sunlight. She watched me grow and change, she watched the family grow and change. And through all the changes, she remained my faithful, loyal pet.

I realized that part of the reason it was so difficult for me to let her go is because she has been there through virtually all of my adult life. She is as much a part of me as anything could possibly be. Losing her, it really feels like losing a part of myself. It's impossible for me to imagine life without her. The house seems unbearably empty without her. I think it may be quite some time before I stop looking for her - expecting her to be there. It's hard for me to accept that she's gone. I simply cannot picture it. For now, and for a good while, the household will be missing something vital. It has only been these last few years, when she really started to slow down, that I've stopped taking her everywhere I went. It was hard when I had to start leaving her behind. It was hard to admit she was growing older, and she wouldn't be around forever.

It's always amazing to me that in this world of constant change, we still tend to resist profound changes. We know things cannot possibly stay the same forever, but we still cling to the hope that they might, or perhaps that we won't have to face difficult changes. Months ago, I knew Lynzee was slowing down, and I suspected she might be in pain, but I didn't want to think about the decisions I might have to make regarding her decline. I put it off as long as I could. The fact that I didn't want her to suffer, or endure a long difficult death, lead me to understand that I needed to let her go. She wanted to be free. I could provide her this kindness. I pray she will understand that I acted out of love.

Dogs really are extraordinary creatures. So giving, so trusting, so kind, so gentle. I wish I could be more like that. If I can live my life loving others the way Lynzee loved me, then I will feel I have lived a successful life. If I can teach that concept to my children, then I've taught them all they need to know.

How I will miss that eager little body, shaking with excitement as I walk in the door. I'll miss the little noises she made in her sleep. I'll miss stroking her soft cotton fur. I'll miss those big eyes, gazing at me with unfathamoble trust. I'll miss the way she warmed my lap. I'll miss how gentle she was with my children. I'll miss watching her chase after the birds in the springtime. I'll miss watching her soak up the warm sun by the window. I'll miss her tiny bark of excitement when she'd play.

I'll miss my friend. It's so hard to say goodbye. I cling to the belief that someday, somehow, I will see my little friend once again.

Goodbye, Lynzee. Thank you for everything.