May 10, 2015

1 : 1

One on one.

It is not a ratio I am able to experience very often.

Still, it is one of the most important things that Alan and I make time for with our children.

You would think that with five children that each would receive approximately 20% of their parents' undivided attention.

Not when you have a Side of Special.

Bridger consumes 96% of our attention (that is being conservative, I really think it is 99.9%).  That leaves our remaining 4% divided between the other children.  That is not a healthy percentage.

We have had a Behavioral Psychologist working with us in our home with some of Bridger's undesirable behaviors.  At the end of the visit, she was talking with us and hit the nail on the head when, after observing his random screaming, obsessive behaviors and uncontrollable outbursts,  she sympathetically said, "he is essentially holding you all hostage in your home."

We all nodded as we digested the perfect description she assigned to what we often feel.

With this special lifestyle, Alan and I have made it a priority to make sure that each child receives critical 1:1 time whenever we can spare the time -- part of that alone time includes taking each child on a trip when they turn 8, 12 and 16.

Oh, how I look forward to those birthdays for them.  Alan or I need that trip with them as much as they need it with us.

Evie turns 12 in two months.  She wanted a trip to Florida.  You can't pay me to go to Florida in July - Virginia humidity is already suffocating enough.  So I asked her if she would object to celebrating her birthday trip a couple months early.  As anticipated, she didn't have a problem with that.  It was made only more convenient by the fact that Alan had a work retreat in Orlando so we were able to take advantage of the free digs at the beautiful resort he was staying in.

A week ago last Wednesday, we hopped on that plane bound for Disney.  We even received a water gun salute by a couple fire trucks that we taxied out under in honor of a beautiful child receiving his Make-a-Wish on our flight.  I might have cried a little bit for that.

Oh, the joy and ease in traveling with one child!  Oh, the pain and stress of managing the details for the care of the others in my absence.  Luckily, a wonderful friend and super caregiver plugged the holes in my care schedule - along with a well timed stay for Bridger at his awesome weekend respite lodge, Jill's House.  It had been 7 long months since his last stay so he was beyond excited to spend the weekend there - which made it all the more comforting for me to swallow the angst of leaving him for so long.

When we landed, Evie and I jumped in our rental car and headed to her Priority #1 of the trip -- not Magic Kingdom, not Epcot. . . the girl's most passionate request was to walk around Downtown Disney and shop.  Even just window shop.  I found that request interesting.  We frequent Magic Kingdom with Bridger.  He loves Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom loves him.  The other children enjoy the "perks" that he comes with there. Consequently, we love it too and we experience everything possible there with him. However, we have very limited ability when it comes to Downtown Disney, and much to the dismay of the other children, our visits there have always been very brief.  Bridger isn't content strolling around, we can't take our time in shops.  He obsesses over things he sees and wants and ends up screaming often and for long uncontrollable periods of time. When we dine at Downtown Disney, one of us has to walk around with him trying to manage the behavior while the remaining parent snarfs down the meal in 4 minutes flat with the others.

So. very. not. fun.  But we try to make the most of it for the other children to have the experience.

It wasn't entirely surprising when Evie said that her greatest wish in Orlando was to just walk around Downtown Disney.

Once we parked at Downtown Disney, I presented her with a Disney Gift Card to start off her shopping spree.  I will never forget her face.  We enjoyed all of the things we could do, because our usual life is filled with so many things we can't do.

We dined at her choice of the Rainforest Cafe and took as long as we wanted to eat - -because we could.  Then we strolled along the walk, browsing the shops for as long as she wanted -- because we could.  We eventually settled at the Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop and she ordered whatever she wanted with the amazingly liberating joy -- she didn't have to share it with a sibling!  WoW! Unheard of with our pack.

Traveling with one child, I discovered, is also very CHEAP!  Stopping for a overpriced Disney snack for our family of 7 can easily cost us fifty bucks a pop.  We feel like we bleed $20's all over Disney.  One child - wow! What a deal!  We stopped everywhere she wanted to have a little treat that she and I would split for the whopping total of $4.95!

After our initial romp through Downtown Disney, we headed for our hotel in Universal Studios.  I choose that hotel for the on-site benefit of the "Fast Pass" entry to the rides at the park the next day for us.  Again, what an amazing delight!  To stay on site at a property is a rare treat.  When traveling with our crew, there isn't on-site lodging that can accommodate our family and/or Bridger's special requirements for sleeping. We didn't have to stay in the large 3-bedroom hotel miles away, but merely a few hundred yards from the park entrance.  We played in the pool that night, had a ping pong tournament and ate our dinner poolside as we snuggled in a pile of pool towels and watch Harry Potter on a screen hanging over the pool into the late night hours -- because we could.

The next morning we took a beautiful stroll along the path that led the park entrance and the adventure for the day began. 

We started in the amazing Diagon Alley of Harry Potter, browsed the shops and rode the new ride a couple times and filled our day with fun.

We ended the day with the Simpsons.  The Simpson's ride nearly did us both in -- perhaps it was the fact that the ride was preceded by the consumption of a ginormous Lard Lad donut that Bart enticed us to buy.  {insert retching sound}

We walked back to our hotel and fell into the car and went to join Alan who had just arrived in Orlando and checked into his hotel.

While Alan was busy in his meetings the next day, Evie and I hit Magic Kingdom.  I had made arrangements to eat at Belle's castle at Be Our Guest Restaurant for a reservation time just slightly after the park opened, which allowed us entry into the park before the general public.  We enjoyed strolling along the main street and snapping pictures with hardly anyone around.  This gave us quick access to the Snow White and the Dwarfs Mine Train ride, which they opened before the park gates to the general public and gave us the first ride of the day, allowing us to avoid 2+ hour wait time that ride usually demands.  I love me some park strategizing -- that makes ALL the difference in the experience.  My Side of Special has made me an expert strategizer.

We enjoyed our delicious breakfast and they set about out to thoroughly exhaust ourselves until 11:00pm, squeezing in the Spirit of Aloha dinner show at the Polynesian  -- because we could.

Phew.  I was wiped out!

Our last day in Orlando was extra special -- we went from 1:1 to 2:1.  Alan ditched his "work" obligations (I use the finger quotes loosely around that word because his "work" was a backstage tour of Disney, or parachuting, or zip lining over a alligator swamp, etc. Tough stuff.)  For Evie to have time by herself with both her parents was a rare treat.  We wandered the Disney Boardwalk and she picked out special treats that we never buy -- because we could. . .

we went shopping again, ate at the T-Rex Cafe -- because we could. . .

(Does it look like we ate a lot on this trip?  We did.)

and played a round of pitch and putt on the green out back of our resort.  We discovered that Evie has some real golf skills with that 7 iron.

She was absolutely glowing during the trip -- basking in her solo presence with both of her parents' undivided attention.  It was so wonderful to spend that long weekend oozing out my vocal adoration for her and to fill up her well of confidence overflowing as I shared with her every wonderful trait and talent that I see in her.

Sadly, the trip had to end.  In addition to leaving the trip with some amazing memories of our time together, I also left with our traditional souvenirs.  With all of our trips and family vacations we always purchase a Christmas ornament for our tree, and a magnet for our magnet board that reminds us of the fun memories we have made.

What will I remember every time I look at our magnet??

Ohhh, that Lard Lad.  {insert retching sound}