NYC part I: The Megabus

Matt and I just returned from our first trip to New York City sans kids. We had a phenomenal time! I’m planning on sharing all of the fun details this week for those who want to live vicariously through us!!!

The first part of our trip was…horrible. We had a limited budget and didn’t want to spend the majority of it on travel expenses…and we wanted to be able to spend more time in NYC…soooooooo…we decided to take the Megabus. The images online looked great…comfy, plush seats that recline, tables in between the sets of seats to use for eating or whatever and free wifi! It only cost $120 for both of us to go to NYC and back! We could watch movies, play cards, sleep and relax and it would only take us two hours longer than driving ourselves!

We should have known better.

Our bus from Toledo departed at 5:30 a.m. When we got on the bus, we couldn’t find any seats because people were taking up two seats each. The bus attendant finally got some people to move their stuff, but Matt and I still didn’t get to sit together. The seats were very small…think coach airline seats with very little headroom…and they barely reclined. My knees were pressed up against the seat in front of me. It was hot. There was no wifi. It was bad. But that wasn’t the worst part.

The clientele was…less than desirable, let’s say. The driver looked like they just picked him up on Toledo’s scariest corner, gave him a blue Megabus shirt and let him take the wheel. The “assistant” to the driver was worse. When we stopped at our first stop in Cleveland, the police were there to search the bus. We still have no idea why, but they were searching the bus for a person. Like I said, the clientele was…questionable. From Cleveland to our next stop, we heard a man downstairs scream “WAKE UP!! I’M ALREADY GOING TO A FUNERAL, I DON’T WANT IT TO BE MINE TOO!” Apparently our driver had nodded off. However, Matt and I were able to switch seats and sit next to teach other. I almost forgot! Matt saw most of the men from our bus in the gas station bathroom “showering” in the sink! The next leg of the trip to NYC was pretty uneventful until we got to the Lincoln Tunnel. A sketchy looking man, who hadn’t moved the whole trip, suddenly woke up, arranged his bag on his lap and took out two cell phones and turned them on. Let me say…there is absolutely no security on these buses. They didn’t know who was on the bus, what was in our luggage, nothing. All of a sudden, Matt and I felt very panicky about being in the Lincoln Tunnel and the possibility of a bomb detonation. Thankfully, we arrived in NYC safe and sound and so happy to be off the death trap of a bus.

I immediately started looking up flights home or rental cars. Matt and I decided, as awful as the experience was, we just couldn’t justify spending between $300 and $600 just to get home. Luckily, we had a week of bliss before we had to head back. The return trip was slightly better. We got seats together on the bottom of the bus which was slightly roomier. The clientele was a little less scary. The drivers were still scary as shit. The second driver left his microphone on and used f-bombs galore while trying to figure out HOW TO DRIVE THE BUS! He said things such as “What does this button do? Why is this light on? How do I turn that on?” There were super loud children in front of us and super chatty annoying women behind us. We were relieved when they got off at the first stop only to be replaced by a woman hacking up a lung and a man who wouldn’t stop talking to the adorable college girl who had the bad luck to sit next to him. Neither of us could sleep on the bus, so when we arrived home at 4:30 a.m. after traveling all night, we were beyond exhausted.

I would say the Megabus would be OK for short trips…like between 2 and 4 hours. But even then, I’m not sure I’d risk it again. I felt very unsafe and uncomfortable and unhappy.

To amuse ourselves, Matt and I thought of alternate slogans for Megabus to use in their advertising:

My favorite, from me: MEGABUS! It will cure your fear of flying!

From Matt:

Megabus: When you like cuddling with strangers.
Megabus: Winner of the prestigious “Most Misleading Pictures on a Website” award.
Megabus: We now offer free WiFi on all routes….just kidding!
Megabus: Third world country experience right here in the u s of a! I may abandon this bus if anyone gets on with a chicken, pig or goat.

It was an experience to say the least…one we will not be repeating! We had a wonderful time other than our travel…check back for more NYC posts this week!

Have you ever used Megabus? How was it for you?

Happy This Week

It’s so easy to find happy in the summer, isn’t it?

Manicure week!

We went camping for three days and had a blast. I read three books (reviews to come) and we swam and hiked. There was a river that went through the campground and we floated down the river on tubes! It was sooooo fun!

My friend, Amy, and I took the kids to a water park on Thursday. It was a wonderful day!

I had a girls’ night out with three wonderful friends. It’s always so nice to catch up and laugh!

Chinese food and a movie with Matt! We watched “This is 40″ for the second time…I think it was even funnier the second time around!

Jimmy Fallon!!! I am so bummed we didn’t get tickets to his show when we are in NYC…

NEXT WEEK I’LL BE IN NYC!!!

What made you happy this week?

The Care Package

***Linking up with MamaKat today with a Flashback post: Write about a time you took a chance.***

Click here for a fun flashback post about when I took a chance on love…

Happy This Week

My friend was inspired by me to treat herself to a manicure…that made my day!

I went for a bike ride with my 17-year-old niece and my 20-year-old nephew. I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like…it was so nice to just hang out and catch up!

My friend, Kelley, had us over to swim on Monday. We had a blast! In fact, we’re going back today!

The boys and I had a fun week while Olivia was at day camp. We went to the movies (Maleficent—awesome!), went out to lunch, went to my school for a bit, played basketball, soccer, made balloon powered Lego cars, baked and went swimming. It was a wonderful week for the three of us!

When I stopped by school, one of my former students was in the gum playing basketball and he ran out and gave me a hug and chatted with me for a bit. Very few things make you feel as good as when you’re almost-15-year-old student who is now 6 feet tall runs up and gives you a hug and is genuinely glad to see you!

My mom moved into her new house!

Realizing how lucky I am to have the best family and friends a girl could ask for!

What made you happy this week?

Summer Reads II

***Linking up with MamaKat today: Books you’ve read!***

I went through a week there where I started and stopped four new books because I couldn’t get into them…here are the ones that finally kept me reading!

Defending Jacob by William Landay

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I pinned it a while ago and finally got around to reading it. (Sidenote: isn’t it funny how we use “pinned” as a verb for Pinterest now and everyone knows what we mean?) The local district attorney’s son, Jacob, is accused of killing a classmate. Jacob’s parents are convinced of his innocence and will stop at nothing to prove it. Oh, and did I forget to mention, Jacob comes from a long line of murderers? Is it genetic? Did he do it? There’s not much more I can tell you without giving too much away. It’s an awesome page-turner!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

This is also one of my favorite books that I’ve read recently. It was so unique! Told from the daughter, Bee’s, point of view, it’s truly the story of Bernadette, her mother. Bernadette is “lost” in two ways: the first is her mind, the second is she is truly missing. Bernadette was a famous Macarthur-grant winning architect when she was young before she had Bee. Something terrible happened to her professionally and she…lost her mind. She then struggled with infertility before she finally had Bee which just added to her mental health issues. She finally disappears on a long-awaited trip to Anarctica and Bee will stop at nothing to find her. I couldn’t put it down…loved it!

Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo

This is the fourth in the Amish murder mystery series featuring Detective Kate Burkholder. I love this series. It’s particularly fun because the books are set in Ohio, near where I live. Kate is investigating a hit and run accident involving a truck and an Amish buggy. The accident killed one adult and two children and left one child struggling for life in the hospital. When Kate realizes it wasn’t an accident, she is frantically trying to find out who did it. It was an excellent read! I highly recommend this series if you like murder mysteries.

Right now I’m finishing up Goldfinch by Donna Tartt…more on that soon! What are you reading this summer?

Why Awareness is Important

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Last week at Matthew’s baseball game, I was pushing Olivia in her stroller/wheelchair around the corner to get situated at the game. The previous game was just getting over and the boys were milling around getting medals and pictures as it was the last game of the season. Catching me completely off guard, a boy pointed at Olivia in front of all of his teammates and their parents and shouted “OH MY GOD! LOOK AT HER!” and then laughed. The boys joined in.

I couldn’t believe it.

I gave him a death glare and shouted back “WELL, THAT WAS RUDE!” and got us situated. The boys and their families were still milling around and not one of the parents said a word to that boy or to me. I was so angry I was seeing red and shaking. I said to Olivia, very loudly: “Look at you! Can you believe how beautiful my girl is?” Because you know what? She can hear and she has feelings.

Honestly, I was devastated. My heart hurt. Thank God this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. But the stares happen constantly. And that is exactly why it’s important to spread awareness.

People need to know that those with disabilities are just…people. Different isn’t bad. Different is beautiful and sweet and funny and kind and the purest soul you’ll ever meet. Different is the best damn girl you’ll ever have the privilege to know. When we spread awareness, we hopefully help people realize all of these things.

I sometimes feel like I don’t do enough to spread awareness. But I do what I can. I’m having my 6th annual golf outing on August 10th for Olivia and Cri du Chat Syndrome. If you would be interested in helping in any way, please let me know! And if you can spread awareness in your own way, please do!

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Relaxing Isn’t Easy

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For those of you who have the summer “off” and by “off” I mean you’re at home with children all day, do you sometimes look around on July 14th and think to yourself “I haven’t done a thing on my summer to-do/bucket list!”?

I did. At first I got angry. I haven’t done much on my to-do list. I’ve been feeding children, driving them around to camps and activities and…hanging out with them doing fun things. So why am I so angry about my stupid to-do list? I am having a wonderful time just being with my children. Before I know it, I won’t even see them in the summer and I’m upset because I’m not getting to my stupid to-do list? Give me a break!

The kitchen can go without a new coat of paint. The scrapbooks can remain out of date. My book and this blog can wait. My house can be messy. My lesson plans can wait. My children can’t.

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We’ve had a few really rough “being Olivia’s family” days this past week. We’ve all had a little slump to our shoulders and hurt in our heart. It’s ok, it’s normal, it happens. Some days are easier than others. But we needed something to get us out of our slump. My wonderful friend, Kelley, invited us to go swimming at her pool yesterday. Olivia was at camp so the boys and I headed over. We laughed, we played, we talked, we relaxed. It was one of the best days we’ve had all summer, maybe even ever. The boys didn’t want to leave so I picked Olivia up from camp and we went back for another hour or so. She was happy as can be. I watched her swim, delighted in her energy and beautiful smile and…just soaked it all up. I sat there thinking “this is what it’s all about”. I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m not “doing” anything because I’m doing the best thing. I’m being with and truly enjoying my children.

On the way home from the pool, I stopped for slushies. They boys both said “You are seriously the best Mom ever. You always do fun stuff with us and take us for slushies!” Matthew said “When I have kids, they are going to be the luckiest kids ever because you are the best Mom ever which means you’ll be the most awesome grandma ever!”

That’s a win, wouldn’t you say? Screw the to-do list. I’m going to see a movie today.

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Happy This Week

Olivia and Matthew have been at day camp all week so it’s been Gabe and Mom week! We saw a movie (Tammy, hilarious), went shopping, baked, went swimming at the quarry and worked out together. It was awesome!

When Gabe and I were working out together, we were laughing so hard we were crying! It was one of those “we will both remember this forever” moments.

When we went to the quarry, Gabe took a friend. They swam and I got to lay in the sun and read! I never get to do that! It was wonderful!

My best friend and I went to a charity dinner together. It’s called Chicks for Charity and her Mom is really involved. For the last two years, they’ve been raising money for an art studio where all of the artists have special needs. It’s really an amazing group!

I had a fundraiser 31 party for Olivia’s Open and many of my friends came. We chatted, drank cocktails and shopped! I feel so blessed to have wonderful friends!

I finished more amazing books! New post on those next week, I promise.

I’m babysitting one of my dear friend’s baby today! He is 8 months old and delicious!

Last but not least, my amazing friend, Kim, had her baby this week! She had a little girl! Welcome to the world, Elise! She’s perfect! I can’t wait to hold her!

What made you happy this week?

One of the Hardest Parts

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When you are a parent of a child with special needs, many things about day-to-day life are difficult. They just are. Yesterday, Matt spent two hours reconstructing Olivia’s bed so he could bolt it to the wall so she can’t move it across her room and scratch her floor, get into her closet or hurt herself. Then he strapped her mattresses together, and to the bed, so she can’t take her mattresses off her bed either. Her closet has a lock on it and we have many other reinforcements throughout our house for her safety.

But that is nothing.

One of the hardest parts of being a parent of a child with special needs is when you have to make them do things that terrify them (and you) even if they’re just normal, every day things. Olivia is attending day camp this week and next week. She has a hard time going places without me, especially new places. But we make her go. Because it’s good for her. They provide transportation to and from camp. I knew that would be hard for her, even more difficult than just going to camp, but Matt convinced me that we needed to make her do it. She has to do things to increase her independence, he said. She has to get used to doing things without us, he said.

But it’s not easy.

I put her on that bus and I know she’s scared and nervous and would much rather have me take her. She’d much rather be at home, in her pjs, watching T.V. than go to camp. But it’s important that we make her do these things to help her grow. Somehow it’s easier to let the boys do these things. They can express their fears, they know everything will be OK, they’re just naturally more independent. But she’s not. She’s getting better about telling me she’s scared, or nervous, or whatever she’s feeling, but it’s still difficult for her to express her feelings. She also has a difficult time with time. I don’t think she has any concept of the difference between five minutes or six hours. I think when she’s away from me, it feels like an eternity. So when I say it will be fun, you will make new friends, and I will be back in six hours, she only knows I’m leaving her someplace new.

It’s so hard to leave her.

These are the moments that therapists and doctors and intervention specialists can’t possibly prepare you for. You know therapy, doctor’s appointments, making friends, walking, talking, communicating, using the bathroom, getting dressed and a host of other tasks will be difficult. But dropping her off at camp or making her take the bus? That sort of blindsides you. But it’s something you have to do as a parent if you want your child to grow. You must. It would be so much easier to keep her home all day in her pjs and let her watch T.V. It would be so much easier to never leave her to always keep her comfortable. But isn’t that how we all grow? By doing things out of our comfort zone? It’s just so much harder to do with your child with special needs.

But it’s amazing to watch her gain independence and grow! I take so much inspiration from her, watching her get out of her comfort zone and do things that scare her anyway, and watching her gain confidence and independence. She encourages me every day. Isn’t that an amazing gift?

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Happy This Week

I’m a day late…the Fourth of July messed me up!

Manicure! Purple with sparkles!

Working out with my best friend…it goes so much faster with a buddy, doesn’t it?

I finished an awesome book…more on that later!

Having friends from work over for dinner to celebrate a baby on the way! I love my work friends!

A pedicure with a wonderful friend right before she has her second baby! Any day now! (For the record…lime green with sparkles!)

Hanging out with my best friend and her family and watching fireworks!

Watching all of our kids play harmoniously and having the time of their life! We said it was one of those nights they’ll remember forever!

Having family over for a cookout on the fourth. Yummy food and great company!

What made you happy this week?