Sunday, September 29, 2013

Birthday Traditions : When Nickelodeon disappoints

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Ian!
Happy birthday to you!

Today was Ian's seventh birthday. It was soooooo much better than his sixth. If you ask Isabel, this was probably his best birthday ever! I don't know if he would agree, but who knows?

Last year, he died a week before his birthday. We had already gone through the choices for his birthday. Disney? Universal? Legoland?

He picked The Nick Hotel.

We asked Isabel if she still wanted to go and celebrate his birthday. She did. So we went.

It was quite possibly the worst decision I could have made. I stood in the Nick Hotel lobby and cried as I looked at the cartoon characters gracing the walls and ceiling. He would have been sooooo excited! We hated it! The hotel room was not...good. It felt perpetually moist. The slime was a let down. The food was terrible.

This year, Isabel asked "Do we have to go there again?"
I replied "absolutely NOT! I never want to go there again! It sucks!"
She mimicked me "Yeah! It sucked"
<dirty look from Chris for this use of language>

I asked her where she wanted to go, and she suggested Legoland, because Ian wanted to go there. 

I explained to her that we should go somewhere SHE wants to go, since Ian isn't here.

So this year, we chose Discovery Cove by Sea World. I tried really, really hard to convince her to go to Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival. I even told her I would get her a special card that allows her to buy any desert she could desire. No go..(sad Lisa)

So I bit the bullet, booked the tickets, and we scraped ourselves out of bed at 8:00 this morning.

Let me tell you this. This park is worth every penny! The tickets are highly priced, but everything is all inclusive (except dolphin photos and gift shop). There are two meals and unlimited snacks and drinks (alcoholic too!).
>>>She is trying to eat EVERYTHING!!!

While checking in, the receptionist asked if we were celebrating a birthday. I briefly explained that we were celebrating our deceased son's birthday today. She was very excited to hear this and put a birthday lanyard around Isabel's neck. I explained to Isabel to let people wish her a happy birthday, because we know who it's for. 
>>>Birthday Lanyard

We only had one situation were an employee asked Isabel if it was her birthday. She quietly replied "It's my brother's birthday." I explained that we were celebrating her brother's birthday who passed away last year. The employee "secretly" told Isabel about finding Sting Ray teeth in the snorkel pool.
Sting Ray teeth>>>

Isabel fell in love with the The Grand Reef. She pet the sting rays and followed the fish. She didn't want to get out. Ever.

The landscaping is similar and just as good as the Disney water parks. There are limited things to do, but they kept us busy and not overtaxed. The tickets also include a 30 minute dolphin interaction.

I would have had a picture with the dolphin, except I refused to buy anything with my hair looking like this:

Isabel also loved the aviary. Many of the birds would fly onto your hand so that you can feed them. There were many, many different species. All colorful and cool!

We stayed until closing time and then headed to my favorite restaurant Pho Hoa. This restaurant deserves it's own blog post, so I won't go into details today, but it was a great ending to a great day.

I am not able to erase the birthday trip we had last year for Ian. I am not even sure if my emotions tainted/skewed the opinion of the Nick Hotel. It probably did. 

What I do know, is, this year's birthday celebration was a good memory. A good tribute to our son. He would loved it there. We loved it there.  I wish he could have been there, but I am OK with what I have and what a good day we had together.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Are You an Organ Donor?

Are you an organ donor? What a stupid question. You are not. I promise. It has nothing to do with you...

My son, Ian, was sick when he was born. It took a year to figure out why he couldn't breathe. It was a very trepiditious year. No one knew if he would survive. No one knew what was wrong with him. He just continued to thrive.

After his first birthday he was big enough for his bronchoscopy. Trachea and Bronchial Malacia. A weakness in the cartilage in the airway. Very mild case.

Still scary.

Every cold necessitated a hospital visit, hard-core antibiotics, and worry. We weren't sure if he would survive. 

We made a game plan. What were our wishes? What would we do if...?

We never imagined that he would have an accident. We presumed if he died, it would be due to his condition. He was doing so great after his last surgery. He was growing, gaining weight, getting more stamina, keeping up with the other kids.

When we realized he was brain dead, it wasn't his decision, but ours. Our ONLY hope. We wanted as many organs to be donated as possible. I like to say to people who ccommed our decision, that it was our one SELFISH decision. It was what WE wanted.

Who knew how complicated organ donation is? There are different types of donation:
1) Live Donation = heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, and corneas
2) After Death Donation = Within 5 minutes of expiration. Liver, kidneys, pancreas, corneas

We wanted the best outcome for others. We wanted him to save as many people as possible. Even if that meant he would be wheeled off to a operating room. Leaving us.

Brain death is also complicated in legal terms. Brain death must show lack of blood flow to the brain. Ian was tested twice for this. Both times he had blood flow. That didn't change his prognosis... It just meant it was more complicated to donate.

We had to make the decision. It wasn't the doctors. It wasn't the legal system. It was Chris and ME.

I never thought that it would be an issue, making medical decisions. I felt that it was really MY choice. Not everyone felt that way. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has emotions. Many people inserted themselves into what Chris and I felt was a private decision. The most important important decision of our life.

We chose to disconnect his life support.

We were with him when he died. I still feel that it was one of the most important things I could have done. Bear witness to his death. It was horrible.

That night they harvested his two little kidneys, HUGE liver, and 4 heart valves. Everything looked healthy to the doctors and nurses. Hope...

The decision or question "Are you an organ donor" has nothing to do with you. It is not your decision. It is your loved one's decision. It is your wife, mother, ffather, children's decision. Not yours.

What is most important is that the conversation HAPPENS. You must talk to your family about your wishes. You must have someone you trust in charge of your medical decisions. You must speak with your spouse about the worse case scenario, so these decisions are not made under pressure.

I am so proud of what we did and the success of our decision.

Ian's liver recipient decided to write to me on Christmas 2012. I received the letter in February 2013. I cried. I celebrated. I cried again. I hold hope that his other organs are also helping others. He didn't die and go away. He saved others. What a blessing.

<<<<<<<<My Baby is in there!!!!

One year later! Success!!!>>>>>>

Monday, September 23, 2013

Homeschooling for Dummies: Introducing my New Child

I'm not sure if I qualify as a dummy, since I am a teacher, but BOY, it is scary to attempt this! Many have asked, "What is Isabel going to do for school?"

I am homeschooling. (Oh my God! Did I just say that out loud?)

I have met with the teacher and Isabel is ahead of pace in reading/writing/math. We are pretty confident that we can continue that pace. Also, we need to address social studies and science...

This year in third grade social studies, they need to cover maps. Maps!?! Check!

In science, I am following the curriculum for the state of Florida. The Scientific Method, Matter, and Energy.

Here is a peek at the standards. I kept it realllllly small so you wont be freaked out by the craziness of this list:


The big issue... Cursive! 

Isabel has dug in her heels and refused!

I even went to Millers School Supplies and bought some awesome workbooks!!!

No Go...

Sooooo... On to my other child.

Some of you may know, but I will also have an awesome helper on our trips this year. Cici!

Cici has agreed to take off her eighth grade year and accompany us around the world. We are really excited to have her along! We were concerned about Isabel being lonely. Also, sometimes, Chris and I may actually want a couple minutes to have a quiet dinner together (I am imagining a lovely cafe downstairs in Paris)

While she is with us she will be attending Florida Virtual School, my old employer. She will take the full course load for eighth grade and be ready for high school come August.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Problems With Florida #firstworldproblems

"Mommy! Daddy! It is 10:30! Wake up!"

I know, I know... I have nothing to complain about when our wake-up call is at 10:30. It was only a few short years ago that we would find ourselves passed out on the couch at 6:30 a.m., trying to prevent poisonings and house fires as the toddlers started their day.

Nowadays, it has been several years since Isabel learned to read the clock and knows when it is ok to wake us up. Even she wakes up a little later each year. She gets up around 8:00 now.

"What are we doing today for fun?" She asks.

The possibilities are endless in this town we call Orlando. I find it funny that we complain so much about this state, but we really have amazing opportunities with children!

She wants Wet 'n Wild. "Florida residents are half price Mommy!"

If I am getting stuck with Wet 'n Wild, I want to shop at the outlets and send Chris with Isabel. Chris vetoes my shopping trip.

How about the beach? It will probably be the last beach trip for the year.

In unison "I DON'T LIKE SAND!!!" says Chris and Isabel.

"What about Blue Springs?" I suggest tentatively. "Daddy hasn't gone swimming there yet."

Chris expresses that he isn't really interested in getting wet today. WHAT!?! We override that preference and head out the Blue Springs for the day.

We parked our car pretty far from the swimming area and walked our way across the park. We stopped at the Thursby House for a family pic.

 We strolled along the boardwalk, peeking into the water. We noticed these ENORMOUS Gar fish.
By the time the got to the next dock, Isabel was crying. Chris didn't realize that informing Isabel of the existence of teeth in the Gar's mouth had terrified her and she clutched his back until he could get her out of the water.

Web pic of Gar

Here are some more pictures of the day:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Home Depot: Crying Like a Kardashian

Today, I finally decided to replace the refrigerator. I have been putting it off, even though I love appliances.

I am putting it off because my refrigerator looks like this:

See all of those missing shelves? Ian. He liked to pull up INTO the fridge to get whatever he was after. One by one, he broke them all. We would glue them, but they would break again.

I look at the fridge like I look at the scratch on my car. Marks of Ian. Slowly, the marks go away and get phased out. When we came home from the hospital without him, all of his clothes had been lovingly washed and put away by my friend.

I lost his scent.

When we had a housekeeper come over, she washed the walls.

I lost his handprints.

It must be everyone's fear, when they lose someone, that eventually they will lose all of the reminders. I feel it very deeply as I shop for a new fridge.

I also made it a priority today to buy the Rubbermaid containers for all of Ian's stuff. I haven't touched his room yet. I have taken all of the things throughout the house  that were his, and relocated them there. I can't leave his room as a mausoleum. I don't want to be THAT weird lady.

So I am at Home Depot, being ignored by the appliance guy who is working with another couple. I decide I will order the microwave online and head to the storage area.

I am then facing a large wall of Rubbermaid containers. I start to cry. Not little-bit cry, but like, big, sloppy tears. Some look just like caskets. Some are too small. How many do I need to pack away my baby?

Is this enough?

So here I am. Trying to hide my tears, since someone will ask what is wrong.

By the way, NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT DEAD CHILDREN! It is uncomfortable for me, and I think, even more uncomfortable for the listener.

I quickly slip on my huge sunglasses. Inside the store! (This is the Kardashian part) I quickly head for the register. I pick the one register manned by an older gentleman. They never ask questions. He didn't. I hauled them into my trunk and start sobbing.

Here are my purchases today. Appliance Direct was an easier experience.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Passport Time!

I have already gotten my passport. I went on an epic cruise with my best friend Mandi Ilene in June. We went to Jamaica, Haiti, and Mexico. It was awesome!

Now it was time to get Chris and Isabel's passport. No biggie, right? HA!

I explain to hubby that he needs to fill out the paperwork and print it at work, so we can go in the morning. I call my Dad, who also wants a passport and let him know we are picking him up in the morning. He is all set and ready. 

Chris comes home. No papers. "I ran out of time. I will get it done tomorrow" he explains. 

"We are going in the morning. Isabel has PE in the morning on Wednesday, so it is better to take her tomorrow." I rolled my eyes so hard, I'm amazing they didn't get stuck that way.

It was about 7:45 at night when I realized we didn't have pictures yet. The last time I went, we needed pictures. We head to Walgreen, at Isabel's bedtime, to get the pictures we will stare at for all of eternity. Isabel is tired and wearing a tank top shirt. Chris knows that I don't allow Isabel to wear tank tops out of the house. He explains to me that she forced him to check the width of the straps before she headed to school that morning. "It has to be two finger lengths wide Daddy" she tells him. He fell for it, hook, line and sinker, and let her go to school in the banned tank top. -sigh-

We get the pictures taken. !!!$24!!!! for 4 dinky pictures. I accuse the Walgreen's employee of having a racket going here. I don't think he understood me...

Chris took Isabel home and put her to bed while I waited for the pictures to develop.

I headed out after that to Kerryman's to hang out a chill for little bit, when who surprises me, but many members of the Orlando People Painters!  In walks 10 people, unexpectedly painted, after a class they just attended. Many of them have been reading my blog and had all types of questions and advice to give.

I was certainly impressed when a friend of mine Daniella Koontz shows me her iPhone. She has an icon for my blog! Very cool!

We wake up at the time that people should be sleeping. Well, at least people like me. I had to get up at 7:15!!! For a virtual school teacher, anything before 9:00 is cruelty!

We head to the office I applied for my passport and of course it doesn't open until 9:00. It said 8:15 on the website. We hit the Einstein Bagels and return.

As we enter, the sign says PASSPORTS: BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.

The man at the counter starts off very friendly "Hi! Do you have an appointment?"

"No. We didn't need one last time."

"We have required appointments since May"

"I got one in April"

"Well, I have an appointment at 10:15 available."

At this point, I just get a little rude. I stand there with my family shuffling nervously behind me and start filling out paperwork. The poor man keeps stuttering about appointments and whether people will arrive on time. I continue filling out papers. After standing there for five minutes and not moving, he concedes.

"Maybe I can fit you in between appointments"


40 minutes and all three passports applied for. Whew! See my man muggin' in the background. I think it might have been his first passport helper photo!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sweet Endings

Please Subscribe To My Blog

It seems that the end of my job is ending so quickly! I wrote an email to my students and parents yesterday to inform them that they will be transferred to other teachers next week. I explained my reasons.

Most of my students and families are not aware of what happened last year. Many of them are new this year or came to me after the accident. So many parents were shocked to hear that I kept working and never stopped. I found solace in my job. I enjoyed talking with my students. I was relieved to have something to do.

Here is my letter:

 Dear Parents and Student,
Many of you are not aware, but last September my family suffered a tragedy. My five-year-old son, Ian, fell from a diving board during lessons and did not survive. 
I did not take any time off of work, because I wasn't sure what to do after he died. I worked everyday and didn't take a vacation until this summer. This job and my students saved my sanity. I was so happy to talk to you, help you with math, and the myriad of other things that kept me busy. You guys kept me going!

Now that it has been a year, my family has decided to make a bold move. I resigned from FLVS, effective September 27th, 2013. My husband is also resigning his job in the computer industry. 
We are going to see the world! My husband, daughter, and I have decided to take this year to travel and spend time together. We will be headed to New England, Canada, Asia, and Europe. We are very scared and excited!
I wanted to let you know so that you wouldn't be shocked when you are transferred to another wonderful teacher on the 23rd and 24th. They are great teachers and will take care of you! Make sure you give them a call when you are assigned to their class so they can let you know any differences in their classes. 
I will miss you! Make me proud... and THANK YOU!

 I wasn't sure what the reaction would be. I am overwhelmed by the support! Here are a few responses:

"Dear Mrs. Freeman, I am so terribly sorry for your loss, I cannot begin to imagine how hard the last year must
have been for your and your family. I wish you and your husband and daughter a wonderful time in your travels,
may your new journey be one of healing, strength and new adventures. May every day bring you a new blessing
and laughter be abundant.
You have always been so kind and attentive, I want to thank you for your help to my daughter Emily these last two months,your patience and constant enthusiasm. You are a terrific professional and while I understand that the job helped you too,your attitude is remarkable and students would be lucky to have you back teaching when you return from your trip if you choose to do so.

God bless you and make you happy.
warm regards"

"We are sorry for your loss. We will keep you and your family in our prayers as you guys begin this new new chapter in your lives. God has a way of healing those areas in our lives that need that special touch from Him.

We are sorry we didn't get a chance to work with you longer. You were very nice to work with the short time we did.

Be safe and enjoy this new chapter!!"

"Wow, Mrs. Freeman, we had no idea! We are so very sorry to hear about your terrible loss... You have been a wonderful teacher and I'm very glad to hear you're finally going to take the time out to travel the world, as a  family... You will make memories to last a lifetime and I'm sure Ian will be right there with you in spirit, delighting in every moment...

 May God be with you and your family always!
 God Bless"

"Dear Mrs. Freeman,
I am at a loss for words. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to have something so precious taken away so early. Our thoughts and prayers for you and your family. It is wonderful that you can take this time to be together and your daughter is blessed to have this time with you. We hope you enjoy your adventures. Ian may not be with you physically. He is definitely with you in spirit.
God Bless you and your family"

"I am so sorry for your loss. I couldn't imagine. I think it's awesome that your family is doing that. I hope you all have a great time! I know after a tragedy that it will pull you closer together or farther apart. I'm glad you are doing what you can to pull together."

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Backstory - Once Upon a Time

Please subscribe to this blog!

Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl. They fell in love at the young age of 18 and quickly married two years later. The girl became a teacher, the boy a network administrator. They had two children, a boy and a girl. They were very happy.

On September 11th, 2012, tragedy struck. The boy, Ian, fell from a high diving board during diving lessons and died ten days later. His Mommy and Daddy and Sister were horrified. Never did they see this part of the fairy tale.

Over the past year, we have continued to work. Continued to live. Continued to breathe. 

Now we are ready. Ready to take off time from the daily grind. Time to re-bond and create a new fairy tale.

We are excited to leave in 4 weeks for New England. 

Here is our plan:
Leave Orlando
Stop in Charleston, SC - 2 nights
Stop in Williamsburg - 2 nights
Stop in Manassas VA to visit D.C. with brother's family - 4 nights
Stop in Philadelphia, PA - 2 nights
Stop in NYC - 2 nights
Stop in Leominster, MA - 21 nights
Stop in NYC - Macy Day Parade - 3 nights

So this is our first trip. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions? Must Do's? I am open to all suggestions! Please sign up as a follower of my blog and write a comment if you have ideas. We are very interested in history and food!

I will give you the next update as it comes!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Kicking it off!

Happy birthday to me!

Yesterday was a pretty kick-ass 33rd birthday. I awoke to several cups of Jello Cook and Serve Chocolate Jello in the fridge. This was followed by a quick waking ritual: Sunkist, cigarette, Candy Crush. Next on the schedule. Live Lessons! Two hours of exciting and creative online instruction to several thirteen year old in my Pre-Algebra class.

Then it happened! The phone call from the lawyer. Insurance has agreed to settle! YAY! Game on!

Chris and I decided that we would resign our employment the moment we got word. It was time to travel. This will be the year of seeing the world!

So, here is the plan! We have approximately 11 months to see as much of the world as we can. I plan of blogging this experience throughout the trip, not only for family, but for a permanent record of our experiences.

First things first! Passports!

Today, Isabel painted our faces.