Note: This post took a long time to get to mostly because I struggled with how much honesty I should express. This blog is our family journal and with it there are ups and downs, but mostly ups in the end.
We took a vacation, or so we thought we would be doing. It turned out to be more of a lesson on 'blessings in sacrifice'. The actual vacationing came later.
We originally had hoped to do Disneyland for the first time, but with Elias' birth we thought we do something 'low key' and dished out for a 7 day cruise to Cabo San Lucus and Puerto Vallarta. We drove out a day early and enjoyed some time in Irvine. I had a chance to meet up with an old college friend and caught up with nearly fourteen years of news. The kids were tired though and the excitement of the cruise ship was rather overwhelming. I suppose a child's view of heaven is endless Fruit Loops and ice cream cones at any time of day. Sleep was difficult for them and made them rather clingy. This was especially true for Keila. We had hoped Camp Carnival (a play camp designed for kids) would be our ticket to some time off from the older two but we found ourselves answering a Camp Carnival issued cell phone to come and comfort Keila nearly every fifteen minutes.
A look in the Camp Carnival room for 2-5 year olds. They had time for babies early in the morning so even Elias could enjoy some of the toys there. Isaac it LOVE IT!!! He made his own friends and would run around saying hi to them whenever he saw them. Keila liked it so long as Kent and I were there. She and I had fun jam session on our instruments, "Rockin' it OUT!" as she would say.
Our difficulties were compounded by Elias' response to the new environment. EVERYTHING was too much. The LSD inspired patterns on the walls and the lights made the poor kid cry (i swear you could hear the colors around you!) let alone the music or people who tried to get my son's attention. A quick side note, making the noises you make to a dog or a bird is not the most flattering thing you could do to a baby - he's a human folks, talk to him like one! its common for children with DS to be more sensitive to stimuli and since he is not one to cry too much we knew he was truly distressed. The best time to be out with him was the early morning and anything beyond a half hour was too much unless he fell into oblivion while I carried him in the baby carrier. We took to staying in the cabin from lunchtime and on.
The only thing that Kent and I had really wanted was a little time to ourselves and to savor our meals in the dinning room in the evening. I concocted a plan to give us a little of what we had hoped for. The senior matrie'd gave permission for our dining room meals to be served to us in our cabin. So once Isaac and Keila were asleep in the cabin across the hall, Kent and I could finally enjoy our meal and some quiet time.
But until we made this arrangement I was in despair. I literally cried the second night of the cruise, more stressed with trying to help everyone adjust and calm down while irritated that we might have spent a fortune just to throw everyone off schedule! It was the first time I truly resented having a child with DS. Along with that was a flood of guilt for even having such feelings and thoughts. Frankly I was overwhelmed from doctor visits for both Elias and Isaac (Elias needing to get established with specialists and Isaac with his major allergies and ADHD), to the self biting and scratching Keila was exhibiting as she struggle to adjust to the lack of attention, let alone the day to day work of maintaining a home and family.
In my rather melodramatic fashion I began envisioning life much the same way I was stuck in our cabin - with only a window to view the world. Looking back I know it wasn't reasonable to think that way but I was in a selfish sort of way and couldn't see past what I so desperately wanted - freedom from needs I was incapable of meeting and the guilt that accompanied it.
I took to reading a book that Gina from Sharing Down Syndrome of AZ gave when she came to visit so many months ago. At that time I had devoured every factual book she gave on DS, but had left "Gifts" by the side. It was a collection of essays from mothers with children with DS. I didn't need warm and fuzzy, I need facts and information I was too busy for something insubstantial. What a silly judgement to pass. Now I was grateful that I brought it on a whim, it was exactly the nourishment I needed.
I savoured each story as women share their raw emotions before, during and after the births of their children. The massive guilt I found weighing on me lessened as I realized that I wasn't alone in being overwhelmed by needs. No I would not be able to do everything but somehow everything will be alright and better than I imagined. In the lines from a popular song , "I gotta have Faith!" (Sorry to all those who now have George Micheal running through their heads!)
The women spoke of how their worlds had been turned upside down and yet they ended up with greater gifts then they could have ever imagined for themselves. No, they did not have perfect homes, orderly children or even a sense of being 'on top of it' but they had Better things. They had learned to slow down, enjoy the small things of life, their children learned sacrafice, strength and love, their family was closer. In the end that's what matters most.
We paid for a shore excursion from Puerto Vallarta to Las Calletas, a 45 min boat ride to a much more remote beach. Absolutely gorgeous clear waters, so clear we could easily see the tropical fish swimming beneath our boat.
So by day three I let go of my expectations and just went with it. Elias still woke extra early in the morning so I began ordering an early breakfast from room service and we went for walks on the deck enjoying the sunrise. Keila and I spent time in the cabin playing games or watching movies, getting in some much need snuggle time. I enjoyed watching Isaac drop on to the deck out of the blue and make water angels. Our shore excursions went well, particularly Puerto Vallarta and we had fun. The vacation wasn't waht I planned for, or what I'd imagined but it was still good.
The jungle was beautiful! It was an area so untouched and I was surprised to see bamboo in patches all around. There was a kids area where they could zip-line through the foliage. The beach area had kayaks, snorkling equipment and flatboards for you to play with. It was all included in the cost, nothing for those super serious into the sports, but perfect for a family who just wanted to try things out. Kent did the flatboard and kayaked with the kiddos. Wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but they have the memories.
The fun towel animals that were made for the kiddos. My personal favorite is the gorilla. It was so cute to see the kids rush in to see the latest 'gift'. At first they couldn't find the gorilla and Keila was so sad, "He forgot ...." but she turned around and looked up and squealled with delight.
So it was fun after all, just very different from what we were hoping. And while we didn't get to spend the time together that we wanted, both Kent and I were able to enjoy the kids and their wonder and excitement that we would have missed otherwise. It was also a chance for me to 'breath and grieve' if you will. I know I started the post with saying it was a lesson on sacrafice, but in the end, the things I felt like I was sacraficing weren't really things that matter in the end. The dancing, the meals or shows are nothing in comparision to my husband and children. I wouldn't change having Elias for anything because everything pales in comparison. Mind you if you ask Kent and I when our next cruise is, we'll smile and laugh a little ,"probably not for many years from now"!