Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Quick Hello!

I am here, I promise! We are in the midst of our big move and I am busy unpacking boxes and feathering my nest. But I will be back! Soon!

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Expectations, Entitlement, and a mom named Grumpy.

The Triplets' Epic Senior Trip has continued to Orlando and Walt Disney World. And in our state of utter exhaustion -- I mean we have moved our belongings across country, lived out of a bare-bones-air-mattress-filled-house for two weeks and graduated our three amazing teenagers from high school before spending several days in Disneyland -- we have emotions flying all over the place.

The airline damaged Benjamin's wheelchair. It is working now but we lost an hour and a half in the airport dealing with the paperwork involved in reporting the damage. And could lose more time if the airline requires the necessary repairs to be made here. Sigh.

When the triplets were little, we stayed at Port Orleans Riverside during our Disney visits. When we began planning this trip, Benjamin asked that for nostalgia purposes we spend the first part of our trip at Port Orleans. So we planned accordingly. Unfortunately, the resort did not plan as well as we did. The rooms were not located anywhere near each other. And so after the airport, we spent another hour and a half dealing with the front desk and the manager that had to finally get involved to try and sort things out -- she didn't until the next day by the way. But it was close to midnight and we had to get supper still and get luggage and get four overtired kiddos and two half-crazed parents to bed!

We are trying to save the magic -- Mason looked at me Saturday morning and asked, "Mom, why do you think those Vacation movies are so popular?? Vacations are hard. They don't always go as planned!"

Ah, he is absolutely right. Things go wrong. They do. And today, a couple days later sitting in a hotel room next door to my other reserved room, it does seem a bit funny. But the reality is the Griswolds did not have to battle special needs. Things can be a bit harder to laugh it off when special needs are involved.

Standing on the jet way watching the airline agent deliver a wheelchair that from my end of the jet way looked like it was falling apart, I almost lost it. I could not stop my mouth from spouting everything my brain was thinking:  "These agents should have to spend time with a child that can only enjoy a vacation if the airlines take incredible care of the wheelchair."  "They should be limited to a wheelchair all week -- one that they handled on a flight."

I was so mad. I was so scared that this big huge celebratory trip would go down the toilet if Benjamin had to ride in a manual chair the entire trip. I was so sad that we couldn't just walk off the stupid airplane and get our luggage.

That grumpy spirit is fighting for control of my attitude. I won't lie. I gave in to it several times today. And then tonight, we darted in to a line at the last minute to meet Tinker Bell. We hadn't planned that, but the line was unusually short and we decided it was a great time for Little Red to pose with one of her favorites. As we stood waiting, an official Disney tour guide (as in paid tour guide) escorted a man, a woman and a little girl no older than three past us for VIP access. I wondered what that little girl was learning about instant gratification in that moment. What kind of adult will she grow up to be if she feels entitled to special treatment that prevents her from standing in a 10 minute line?

Not all Grumpy...a highlight of today was watching the parade in the exact location we did when the triplets were 4....

A half hour later we were waiting in the bus queue for our resort. When the driver lowered the ramp for Benjamin and Mason, he spoke harshly to the girls and I about waiting to board. I was furious. Loading the buses is my least favorite part of our Disney experience. We have to go first so the wheelchair can be fastened down. We are often sighed at by bus drivers who don't want to make the effort and by other guests who hate waiting for us. It is my inclination to dart on as fast as I can and get out of "sight" of the waiting line. In my anger/embarrassment, I realized I might be battling some entitlement issues of my own.

So help me here. Really, is it an issue of feeling entitled when you expect the airline to treat the equipment your child requires gently? We do pay the airline a hefty fare for the right to fly. So, IS that an area where we are entitled to know, entitled?

My family trying to help me find my happy place by riding my favorite ride -- DUMBO!

Tomorrow I will work on my bus loading etiquette. I should not feel the need to dart on the bus -- I can wait. While my son should be loaded first, I do not require that same service and should not expect it.

Little Red wants Dumbo to fly higher!!

Perhaps as parents, we look at entitlement differently. I don't feel I deserve special treatment, but man, I think my children overcome enough obstacles every day to warrant some. Sheesh. I want them to learn the value of delayed gratification. I want them to understand that things worth having are worth working hard to obtain. And yet, I also want to pave the road a bit, make life a tad bit easier.

It is a fine line. And I am the first to admit that I don't always get it right. But tomorrow, I pray I won't be harsh to judge others but just diligently attend to my own heart, my own attitude and get about the business of banishing grumpy! My job is not to teach others how to parent. Or bus drivers how to load. My job is to ensure my children's needs are being met -- from wheelchairs to attitudes -- and the best way to do that is to model a good attitude myself.

But just in case....if you see a crazy-eyed woman who refuses to get off of'll know it is going to take me a few more days...

My Dumbo buddy -- Mason!

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Let the Magic Begin

The day started out super special -- the Shrader family was invited to "open" Disneyland complete with early entrance, getting the cherished entrance photo before anyone else was in the park, and our little crew shouting "Let the Magic Begin" before the first guest was allowed to pass through the turn stile. No doubt our cheesy matching t-shirts had drawn some attention. No doubt the fact that we were clearly one family with two wheelchairs had drawn some attention.

My brain immediately flashed back to an encounter last month where two of the boys closest friends noticed -- and made jokes -- about the fact that the boys often get special attention at some places (i.e. Star Wars Conventions, Disneyland). Benjamin thought it was a funny joke. Mason was inclined to laugh as well. I was hurt. And in true Mama-bear fashion, attempted to explain how to these young men that while they, both amazing thespians, can run, jump and even flip onto stage in a performance, Benjamin and Mason never will. While they can walk, jog or dance to any and every place they desire to go, Benjamin and Mason can not. One friend nodded in somewhat understanding and then said, "So, getting special treatment balances things out."

At which point my head spun right off my body, exploding in the room and leaving all manner of emotional mess. Sigh.

Yesterday brought all those emotions rushing back. Yes, we received some special attention for about five minutes at our happy place. But can I tell you about the next couple of hours:

We headed immediately to Matterhorn -- hoping to get a chance to ride the roller-coaster before the line was too long. We already knew that Benjamin and I would sit out however. The vehicle for Matterhorn does not accommodate Benjamin well and the ride it self is super hard on him because it is so jerky. Since his spine fusion, he has to pass on this one.

The line was already too long -- navigating crowds with six people, two in wheelchairs isn't a fast process, even if you are first through the gate.

We then went to ride Space Mountain. Disneyland has the best loading for Space -- the track actually moves a vehicle aside so that we can load at our leisure and then it slides us back to the track. Still, Wade lifts Benjamin, while I guide B's legs into the ride, while the girls are helping Mason out of his wheelchair and making sure his power sticks are securely put away. After the ride, we do this all in reverse. Me helping Wade lift B, before I turn to help Mason while Claire and Cate are grabbing the wheelchairs and bringing them forward to us.

Deep breath and we are off to ride number two. Yesterday, we decided to try Alice's Wonderland Ride -- only certain rides are available during early entry. Once again, Wade lifted Benjamin out of his chair and into the cart. Mason climbed aboard too while the girls and I moved wheelchairs.

After Alice we rode the teacups where it takes both Wade and I to get Benjamin through the narrow teacup door and seated somewhat securely. It is my turn to hold him stable. Mason, Claire and Cate share a teacup and delightedly make it spin faster and faster. Wade, B, and I were happy to sit and just ride for bit. Actually we did take two turns -- special treatment, again, right? -- before unloading in reverse.

The next ride was Storybook Boats. The kids only ride that one for me. It makes me smile so big to ride through Monstro's mouth and into the Storybook land. But today it was hard. We had not ridden in years, and had forgotten why. I loaded the boat and Wade handed Benjamin down to me. The bench was not a height that really allowed him to stabilize himself, so he basically laid on me for stability the entire ride. So not only was I balancing myself, I was balancing him. Unloading was just as tricky as the cast member kept talking about  balancing the boat so it didn't overturn. Oh my goodness, that is exactly what I needed to happen!

I say all of this to say that by 9:30, we were all tired and grumpy and had lost a bit of our magic. (Of course in our matching t-shirts people kept stopping to talk to us about opening the park....) We finally just pulled over and circled up as a family to decompress a bit, to admit that it is hard sometimes, to grieve the fact that Mama can not lift Benjamin as high as I could when he was little so that makes it harder, and to determine that yes, we still have fun here and yes, we want to go on having fun.

And in my head, I was thanking God for the "special treatment" we had received early that morning. But I was also wishing I could help my sons' friends understand. The special treatment did not balance the hard stuff out; the special treatment did not make the muscles any less tired after a full day of lifting in and out of rides and wheelchairs. No, instead the treatment speaks to us, it says, "Hey, we see you. We see how amazing your children are and we see that perhaps maybe this is a little bit harder for you than the average family. Let us make it a trip to remember."

And that little bit of understanding is where the magic really begins.

Carol - The Blessings Counter