Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday Night 12/1/09
So, we’re here!!! We’re settled into Give Kids The World, we’re well fed, and I even got a shush (shower) in before sitting down to write this. Oh, but I absolutely MUST back up a few days…Did I mention that Saturday was a very bad day? Well, I went and did what I told everyone else not to do. I started to despair. We’ve since had three very good days in a row and I need to remember that there will be both good and bad days from here on out and I will try my best to practice what I preach.

I might double up on some of what Rachel said so please bear with me.Sunday morning was kind of a bear only because Charlotte woke up so early. It was no wonder since she went to bed so early Saturday night. I got up with her and we had fun watching videos and stuff On Demand. I also got to indulge my pyromaniac tendencies and got the fireplace going.We originally said we’d try to leave for Baltimore by about 6 or 7am but when Rachel came down at about 5am with no real drive to keep that schedule, I went back upstairs to catch a little more sleep (another hour or so). That seemed to be all I needed. I think we got out by about 8:30 which was great.
The trip was ok, feuding co-pilots notwithstanding (“What road are you taking?” “I’m heading up 95.” “Well you should take 295.” “Where is the exit for 295?” “You just passed it!” you know, typical husband and wife stuff) and we got to Baltimore before 11.

We parked downtown, paid their exorbitant parking rates (thanks, Network!), and then headed into the most-awesome National Aquarium. The VIP passes we were given got us in no problem and we spent a good deal of time walking around and looking at all the cool animals. I learned several new things and got to see the jellyfish that light up in the deep. I’d never seen that before. Very cool.

CJ also made me laugh out loud. I was changing her diaper and I tickled her bellybutton while making a “chicka-chicka” sound. I did that two or three times and then as I was closing things up, CJ made the same sound and “tickled” herself by sticking her finger into her own bellybutton. I found it immensely amusing. She made me laugh even harder later on when we were leaving. As we were packing up, Rachel was having trouble folding up the new stroller (it’s really odd and I have trouble with it too). She was getting frustrated and asked why it so hard for her get it. In an attempt to be funny, I said it was, “because you SUCK!” (really, it was funny). I was putting CJ in her car seat and when I said that, she just nodded her head and said “Mmmm hmmm” in agreement. I just about fell down. Mommy had to sacrifice herself for the laugh but it was totally worth it.

Then we decided we had gotten enough out of the Aquarium and headed to the hotel. Holy Moly! The suite was larger than our house in Boone, NC. And add to that the extra bedroom for CJ’s Devon and we were seriously stylin’! We chilled out there for a bit until Devon and her brother, Patrick, arrived. Then Patrick and I went over to the tailgating area to soak it all in.I thoroughly enjoyed myself and even went around to see the other setups. Some were quite extensive. One group had several vehicles and after talking to the ringleader for a bit, he offered me a shot of Jeagermeister (sp?) and who was I to refuse his hospitality?

After a bit, I met up with “the girls” and Rachel, CJ (who was fast asleep although I can’t figure out how), and I headed into the stadium. The place was kind of a madhouse and not necessarily a place for kids. Many of the Ravens fans showed typical football fan class by sporting shirts or holding towels with the most graphic obscenities aimed at the Steelers. There were also plenty of “F Bombs” floating around including one guy in the row behind who obviously had been drinking too much and proceeded to cuss out his wife in front of everyone so vividly that the rest of the row basically had him booted out of the stands. CJ (who woke up just as kickoff was happening) heard it all. I don’t think it phased her much.

Charlotte was a dream most of the game. She really wasn’t interested in the game but she was a trooper and downed more than her share of two tubs of popcorn. Rachel and I took turns holding her in our laps but she was no trouble at all. Quite the snuggle bunny, in fact. And a chatterbox off and on; spouting random bits of plot point from every tv show or book she’s ever seen.

She was getting plenty of attention for the folks around us and everywhere we walked, the little pink schmear got doubletakes. I think Rachel had it right when she said that you don’t see many little kids at night NFL games and fewer still in the amount pink she was wearing. She was wrapped up in her new pink Princess throw and since it really wasn’t that cool out, she was very comfortable.

We made it through the end of the 3rd quarter and then headed back to the hotel. It was a great, hard-hitting game and no one was leaving any time soon so we were out of there in record time. We got back in time to see the rest of the 4th quarter and overtime. Charlotte had slept from 5-8pm or so and was up all night. Rachel took the first shift and I took over about 3am when Rachel couldn’t hardly keep her eyes open. (kind of like me right now!) CJ finally drifted off around 5:30. Man! Her sleep rhythms are so off!
The next morning, we packed up and headed back down to Richmond. We had an appointment at “Indulgence” in Ashland to get Charlotte’s fingernails and toenails “done” before our Disney trip. Wyatt’s mommy, Heather, works there and they all wanted to do something for CJ. Little did I know how much they were going to do!
But that’s a post for a more awake Roger. Tomorrow, I tell of our travel adventures!

Wednesday 12/2/09
So where was I?

Oh yeah, right. Indulgence. So we got to Ashland from Baltimore pretty easily (the flyover from 495 to 95 and the Springfield area are always a pain but it could have been much worse) and when we got to Indulgence, the first thing we noticed was the sign. We got pics of it somewhere but I believe it read “Welcome Princess Charlotte.” “Miss Headuh” was waiting for us and it seemed like the store was our personal spa. When we walked in, a big Frosty The Snowman poster was standing in the lobby and the children of the Ashland Community Preschool had all put pink and purple handprints all over his belly. Then we were ushered back to the manicure room where an elaborate catered lunch from Homemades By Suzanne was laid out.
Slight tangent: I’ve mentioned before that Ashland is home to some pretty good places to eat and Homemades By Suzanne is one of them. It’s actually one of the better places in the Richmond area (in my humble opinion) to get gourmet deli food. They employ many locals, contribute mightily to the community, and have mighty good catering services. They did not pay me to say that.

Back on task…We ate well and everyone in the place seemed to be waiting on us hand and foot (literally). CJ might love her daddy but she won’t let me touch her toenails. In fact, the only person she’ll let do most anything to her hands and feet is “Wyatt’s Heather.” This has been from very early on and has only been concentrated since CJ’s diagnosis in January. Heather has also been something of an advocate/interference runner for us in the Ashland community and I’d like to make sure she gets her proper kudos. She’s definitely been one of Charlotte’s 10 or so other moms. Miss Heather helped get CJ situated and then proceeded to clip, file, seal, polish, whatever else women do to their nails, and paint her finger nails pink and purple (alternating colors). All the while, Heather was talking to her and amazing me with the way Charlotte was just LETTING her do it! Again, we have pictures somewhere but you should have seen the look of complete adoration on CJ’s face. Heather could have given her a root canal with no Novocain.
After the manicure came the pedicure. CJ was too short to sit in the chair and reach the footbath so she sat on the outside with Heather and dangled her feet in from the other side. Her toes ended up with the same color scheme. Somewhere in all this, she got “makeup” in the form of a glittery butterfly on one cheek and painted-on glittery “earrings.” It was very cute.
We also found out that the spa treatments weren’t just for Charlotte. While we waited for CJ to finish lunch, Rachel was whisked away to get her hair washed and styled ( I understand the hairstylists came in special on their day off!) and both of us got 30 minute massages. There were lots of other presents from staff and well-wishers from the community as well. It was very enjoyable and we are very appreciative of everyone at Indulgence for taking such good care of us.

So now we’re heading into Monday evening and we need to pack for our Make-A-Wish trip. I started working on that and Rachel got a lot of last-minute stuff done, including Romp n’ Roll payroll (and all the employees said “WOOHOO!”) in spite of temperamental computers and dodgy internet connections. We can now leave for Florida and not have those things hanging over us.

The weather was very nice Sunday after many days of goo but it turned cold and damp again which made it easy to get ready for Florida (forecasted to be in the mid 70s to low 80s). By the time the early morning hours rolled around, we had put our lives into one large suitcase, three smaller bags, CJ’s new Tinkerbell backpack, and a tote. We also had to think about the car seat and the new stroller but we were confident that we would have help most of the way.

The limo was scheduled to be at the house no later than 6:45am and the instructions said that if
the driver hadn’t shown up by 6:50 then to call. Well, 6:45 comes with no sign of the limo. At 6:50, Rachel called the number the MAW folks gave us and waddaya know! They have no record of our reservation. A couple more calls and we realize we will have to get to the airport on our own. So much for the cool ride in the limo. It actually wasn’t that big of a deal except that I had taken the car seat out and we had piled everything by the street so we could load up quickly. We were more amused that it had happened than anything. If that was the worst thing that happened on these two weeks, we could count ourselves lucky. It is a free trip after all.
We left the car at the park-n-go and the wonderful Horn family agreed to go get it so it wouldn’t sit there for two weeks. Uncle Kolbey has been left in charge of driving the cars occasionally while we’re gone.

I’m going to say, the service all down the line has been stellar. From the park-n-go bus driver who got all our bags loaded before I could even get the car seat out, to the skycap (is that still the word?) guy who not only loaded up everything and took it to the check-in desk, but actually checked us in too, to the security screener who carried all of our bins to what I call the “reassembly area,” to Jorge, our Give Kids The World contact who greeted us as we came out of the gate area and schlepped our bags over to the rental car desk in the garage and then helped us load up the van we got.

I’ve seen a lot of great work ethic lately and for some weird reason, it encourages me. The flights were great as well.

The van we got is very nice and has that “new car” smell. As soon as we got everything loaded and Jorge took his leave, CJ did her best to ruin it. I’m talking a massive, smelly, near-apocalyptic BM! We had to change her right there in the van in the parking garage (which is undergoing extensive repair it seemed). Charlotte felt much better afterward, that’s for sure! Finally, it was time to get out of there and onto the road to the resort. One problem…the keys were very odd looking and neither of us could figure out how to use them! It actually looked like, as an anti-theft measure, they had disassembled the keys and it was quite the monkey puzzle that both of us failed. I had to go back to the desk and ask. Turns out, the stubby, non-key-looking part was, indeed the key and the other part that actually looked like a key is just for the doors or something. Soon we were off.

We were kind of hungry so we stopped off at a McDonalds which is where we saw the little pink Christmas tree. That pretty much put a cap on the travel adventure which we found mostly amusing. Not nearly as stressful as it might have been.

It didn’t take us long to get to Give Kids The World and as soon as we got here, they enveloped us. The very first thing they did was reach into a cabinet and pull out a big Mickey Mouse doll for CJ. Then, while Rachel attended the orientation, I followed “Bobbie” to our apt. I took quite a few pics and some video of the duplex units they have here. Lots of whimsical architecture.

Bobbie showed me around and revealed all the cool things about the unit including the fridge stocked with soda, water, and brownie bites! There was a bag of goodies for Charlotte on the kitchen table and a couple of stuffed animals. Just what we need. More stuff. AND Bobbi said a similar gift will be showing up every day! Also, the kids’ bathroom is huge and equipped with a Jacuzzi while the grownups have to slog it out with a small, normal bathroom. The only oddly amusing thing about the tour was that when I saw the kids bathroom, I jokingly said, “Maybe this will have to turn into the grownups’ bathroom,” and Bobbie became kind of stern and said, No, this is Give KIDS The World.” You can tell they are trained to remind the parents who all this is for.

Got all settled in and when Rachel made her way to the apt., we went for a walk to explore. We are on the same street as the giant Candy Land game so we stopped off there first. Very fun. We also got ice cream and met up with our friend and RNR member Beth who will be taking pictures of everything the next few days.

CJ has been pretty adorable the whole time even if she did wake up at 1:30am this morning asking for chocolate milk and mac n’ cheese. Mommy got up with her but sent me to (shudder) Walmart to get those essentials at about 3:30am. I’ve been up with her since I got back. Our princess lunch at Cinderella’s Castle is at 1:30 so I hope she gets a little nap before then.
Another novel and still I’m not done yakkin’. Have to wait.

Love from Florida.

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