Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Our Summer Vacation...

It is very difficult to choose the perfect vacation when you believe it is likely your last as a family of four.

We weren't planning on going on vacation this summer, it was just too expensive. We thought we might drive to the zoo in Omaha for a weekend.

Once Braden received the diagnosis of mds and the news that he had several weeks to a few months to live, a vacation to make memories seemed pressing.  And that is when people from all over the world jumped in to help.

Two friends of ours set up a fund online for our vacation. We had no idea they were doing this, and I think they may have been a little nervous about doing it...they were determined and we were very grateful.

That fund raised over $20,000 and we were able to go pretty much anywhere we wanted. We thought about things that Braden loves and that Zach would enjoy too...and we took climate and temperatures into consideration.

We arrived at a decision to go to, not to gamble the fund double or nothing...for one reason see the water fountain at the Bellagio. One of Braden's most favorite things in the world is fountains...he calls them "pretty water".  Then we would go to DisneyLand in Anaheim and see the World of Color water feature...lastly to San Diego to see Sea World and the ocean and take a boat ride on the water.

And that is just what we did. However, the story doesn't end there.

It's really just the beginning.

As if anything could really top hundreds of people giving up over $20,000 for a vacation and to pay medical bills which is EXTREMELY useful. It's amazing how those mount up even with great insurance.

That gift is beyond description...thank you to EVERYONE who helped!

As I said, the story only begins there....

Before we left, I had a lot of texts, emails, phone calls, and help from many people to make this as special as possible for Braden.

First, a very sweet friend helped set up a room at the Bellagio that had a fountain view. We could watch the fountains from our room and the first time he saw them, he flipped!! That was during daylight hours, and at night, he fought sleep so he could stay up to see it one more time.

The look on his face was the best.

And that evening, Las Vegas had a thunderstorm.


Flooding, lightning, wind, the whole works. AND...a rainbow.

Thank you Miranda Grace.

We then picked up our rental was supposed to be a Chevy...we freaked out when a brand new Mercedes Benz SUV was waiting in our spot!!  We double checked to be sure it was ours and then we made a break for it before they realized the mistake! :) LOL!!


We drove across the desert to Braden's delight..he loves cactus...and arrived in California to the Grand Californian Hotel...AWESOMENESS!!

We were once again showered with the VIP treatment thanks to a friend who helped us get that room with a view of California Adventure Park that was amazing. The roller coasters were right outside our room and we had a small view of the World of Color show from our balcony as well! :)

 Then we met this beautiful lady...the sister-in-law of Braden's preschool's teacher's friends.  Yes...follow that...point is that our new friend, Lisa, organized something we could never have dreamed of for Braden the next day.

Lisa is the Lead for the parade at DisneyLand and she got us a private meeting with Mickey Mouse!! UNREAL!!! THEN, she took us on a boat ride in DisneyLand on our own boat...very special. She left us and told us when to show up for the parade (and another show) where she had seats organized for us...

We showed up for the parade and Lisa was was her day off!! Again, unreal!! She handed us this card that had the signatures of all of the characters in the parade!!

And as the parade proceeded, we got lots of waves and a few hugs from several of the characters!! Braden was full on freaking OUT during the parade. Screaming at the top of his lungs at each character, "IT'S ME...BRADEN!!  HI GOOFY, HI DONALD DUCK!!!!" and on and on and on.  He REALLY liked Donald Duck.

We left Lisa and rode a bunch of rides...the boys' favorites were the Buzz Lightyear Ride and the Star Wars Simulator (which we did SEVERAL times).

I got a text from Lisa telling me that something very special was being planned for Braden during the fireworks show that night...for which she had again organized VIP seating.

As we waited on the bench for the fireworks, a group approached up and told us that 12 special fireworks had been placed on the castle JUST for Braden. The actual fireworks had Braden's name written on them and they were not usually fired off...they were specially choreographed in just for him.

I cried.  And as we waited for them to start the show, they presented special "cast only" pins to the boys, balloons, and so many other special things!!

The fireworks were phone battery had died so I don't have pics but Brian does on his phone.  It was AMAZING!!!

But wait...there's more.

After the show, they swooped us off to a special room where we opened our eyes and right there, in front of us was...Donald Duck!!!

Not even kidding!!

And the room was FILLED with special mementoes from the gang at DisneyLand.  They had a photographer there and the next day we picked up a whole packet of photos they made for us!! It was UNBELIEVABLE!!!

We could honestly have never dreamed something this amazing.  Thank you Lisa!! It was a magical day!!

The next day we went to California Adventure Park and it was also wonderful...and the World of Color show is beyond explanation!! I felt that same way watching that as I did the first time I watched a Cirque show.  I highly recommend it!

Then off to San Diego where another friend got us a great deal on a room at Seaport Village with an amazing view!  We started at Sea World. More special surprises were waiting for us there as a friend has a friend who trains whales and dolphins there.  Pretty sure that is the coolest job EVER!!

Well...Wendy gave us a behind the scenes tour of the Dolphin Show and we got to meet them and touch them...and feed them!! SOO cool!! Wendy even organized it so that we got to go backstage at the Clyde and Seymore Show (sea lions and otters) to meet them as well! I really cannot tell you how amazing that was!! Touching and feeding dolphin, pilot whales, sea lions, and otters....WOW!!!! Everything I have of the boys touching and feeding them is video and that won't upload here.  Rats!

The next day we were off to LegoLand but FIRST, we got to meet up with some of our friends who moved out there (and who are now luckily moving back home!)  They gave us LegoLand tickets and lots of hugs!! SO much fun!! And we had a blast at LegoLand as well!!

Braden was getting a little worn out on crowds and no routine so we decided to do some things that had fewer crowds and required less "come on...we need to go now" stuff.  So we went to see the Midway ship which was right outside our hotel and went for a cruise on a boat...that was AWESOME!! He loved seeing the wake behind the boat!! And the Captain even let him drive!! 

The next day we did some small detours like Balboa park where we actually PLAYED at a park!! :)  And then we drove along the highway and found the beach. It was a real detour...we hadn't planned it but it was there so we stopped and did the Kansas Kids version of the beach without swim suits. :)

I took this picture of Braden and later saw that he has two shadows in it. For me, it was a sign. There is one shadow that is weak and wobbly and one that is strong and straight...I see it as the two sides of Braden...the one that is sick and the one that is strong...and the strong side wins.

I don't know if he wins on Earth or in Heaven but I know which way I'm voting!! :)

We flew to Phoenix from San Diego and on our two hour layover, we got to see Brian's parents...the boys were THRILLED to see Grandma and Poppy!! :)

And when we landed in KC from Phoenix, we had a very special surprise waiting for us.  KCI Airport, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and SouthWest Airlines organized a very special treat for Braden because he likes water features so much.

They did a water salute to him...lined two airport firetrucks on the runway and sprayed the plane with a heart shaped arch of water. B was THRILLED!!!  This is a very rare thing...reserved only for retiring pilots, and war meaningful and so beautiful.

I fought tears to tape it from inside the plane. I have attached a news story from KSHB 41 as well as video that KCI shot of the water salute. We simply cannot thank everyone who made this happen enough. Mark Williams, a parent of a BVSW softball player, is responsible for organizing this. We have never met him!! Simply remarkable!!

Here is the news story from JiaoJiao Shen who is a reporter who does so much for our children with cancer!! :) (and Braden LOVES her)

And here is the YouTube Video that KCI's amazing!!

It was a vacation that was beyond our biggest dreams and we cannot ever thank everyone enough!!


Tomorrow reality hits again...we go to clinic to have his bone marrow aspirates and biopsy as well as begin his shots that arrived the day after we did.

cAncer hasn't gone away...but we sure got a nice break from it before we start the real battle!!