I am going to warn you.. this will get long... it's a recap of my last 9 months and my new outlook on family vacations...
These 4 right here are my life! God Blessed me so much with each of these kiddos, and surprisingly enough they are SO different in every way... I am sure some of my clients know about my journey, but not all of you so today I am going to share with you... I am going to get personal, and I am sorry I love to ramble and talk so this will get long.
To start off a little background, My Son Jaylin who is now 17 is special needs, he was born with out the center part of his brain. He also has several other disorders, and genetic defects. When they first diagnosed him I was a single mom, 20 and scared as ever when the dr came in and talked for maybe 5 mins on what was wrong with him, and told me by the age of 3 I would no longer be able to take care of him. But being the STUBBORN person I am, I was not going to let that happen! I was going to raise my boy! Long story short with lots of work, and therapies over the years this boy is still at home! At the end of this blog I will share our caring bridge page so you can read his journey. As Jaylin grew these 3 beautiful girls came along, who love their "special" big brother with all their hearts, Has it been easy for them? no, but they are troopers and deal with everything that goes with having a special need sibling with grace!
Now obviously I am in the travel industry so I felt family vacation were important because it was my business, but after our last family vacation and what it did for our family, I have a whole new outlook... Just because you do family vacations doesn't mean you are rich or lucky, or you can afford it, but it means you are RICH in culture, love, and history, you are LUCKY you have a family to spend time with, and how can you NOT AFFORD to spend time with your family, your kids, before you know it they will be gone. I am reminded that Jaylin is 17, Next year he's an adult! And Summer man she's 13 so young, but this also means I have only 4 summers left to spend with her, before college! FOUR!!! Where does this time go! None of us are promised tomorrow, Money can always return, your time can't...
So in early in 2018 we decided after several DR appts that Jaylin needed to have surgery on his legs, the way he was walking was burning so much energy that he was getting so thin, and tired so easy, we were at the point of needed a wheelchair most long distances. This surgery was a big one, and I won't go through all the details of this as most of it is in his caring bridge page, but it ended up being just short of 8 hours in surgery and almost 4 foot of incisions from his hips down.. We knew we were going to end up in a rehab facility for several months after too.. this was going to be VERY hard on our family.
So in May, I decided our family needed something "fun"in this stressful time. And I needed a travel agent! Lol planning my own trips is always the hardest as I know all the options and I can never decide! Lol so I reached out one of the agents in my office and said I was struggling, I needed an idea! Candy came to the rescue and I feel picked the best vacation ever for us!
Was the timing perfect for this vacation? NO
Did I have all the money saved up like I wanted? NO
Did I have a million things to do at work and home? YES
Did my kids miss activities and practices? YES
Do I regret doing it during this imperfect time? NOT AT ALL
You see it will NEVER be the perfect time, you will never have the "extra" money (until your kids are gone) but let me tell you, your only regret will be NOT DOING IT!
This is how our vacation started... Yes that is my 5 year old pouting... YES I KNOW MY KIDS ARE NOT PERFECT!! lol!
They fight, they are NAUGHTY but they still love each other! I think?!?! haha This was right before we headed to the ship, and for a minute I thought what did I get myself in too.. As we boarded the ship though the kiddos were all excited, For Reese and Autumn this was their first cruise, they had no clue what to expect! As we were pulling away from the dock and in to the ocean, Reese (the youngest) starts bawling begging to go home, screaming and shaking, we are like what is wrong... about 10 mins of this going on she finally says to us "I don't want the SHARKS to get me!" haha... we all busted up laughing and calmed her down by telling her they can't get this big boat... she was not sure she believed me, but after a while she calmed down! haha
As you can see from the pictures above we had a great time, it wasn't just about the fun and games to forget about the stress in our lives, If you look deeper you see my kids mingling with people of different cultures, learning about their homes, their families and their lives, the learned so much more about this world then they ever would by opening a book (now don't get me wrong, I am not saying reading is bad, but real life experiences are something they will remember for life).
Touring Dominican Republic and seeing all the "huts' that people live in, or the damage by the hurricane, the small street markets, the vehicles people drive, and how their struggles and life are so much harder than what we are going through. My kids were very humbled by how others lived. They KNEW that they were beyond spoiled to have a roof over their heads and simple things like electricity and air conditioning! My girls made such good friends with Rosey in the Dominican, as she was our tour guide! She even invited us back to stay for a week instead of just a day stop! Still to this day our girls ask, when can we go see Rosey!
Our waiter at supper every night was Alexander! This was seriously the highlight of the kids day was going to supper! He cut their food, made jokes, and told them about his family, which he hasn't seen in almost 9 months (this made the girls sad) . Each night at Supper, especially Jaylin they would try foods they normally wouldn't eat or even find here in SD it was such a neat experience and something they will never ever forget!
Interacting with the locals had to be one of their favorite things!
See the picture of Jaylin sitting in the window? That probably has to be my biggest regret is not getting a balcony! The first thing he did when we got in the room was sit in that window... he did it all week, but his legs would get sore, so his sister made him a "chair" in the window so he could see out! Still to this day this picture makes me smile! in fact thinking back ALL these pictures made me smile! I gave my kids an experience they will not soon forget!
Remember when I told you Reese was scared of the Sharks? Well by the end of the cruise she was crying that she didn't want to go home, well unless our waiter Alexander came with us! haha! She even was refusing to pack her bag up at the end thinking she could just stay!
What did I learn this trip?
--My kids DO really love each other!! They bonded in such a neat way.
I was able to catch this sweet picture while these two were napping :)
-To Travel is to learn, my kids learned more about life and other cultures in a week they they would have any other way!
-Kids won't be kids forever... they are growing so fast every day..strengthen those relationships for life.
-Rest and recharge, self care is very important (I snuck away to the spa for a few hours! lol)
-and you can always make more money, but you can't make more time!
I know as bad as some of you want to do a vacation with your family sometimes you feel the money just isn't there! Well I want to share what my family has done, to prepare for these trips and how we "save" that money...
--Trip Jar - Any loose change we have goes in to a trip jar, now instead of stealing the coins around the house the kids are throwing it in the trip jar! Its surprising if you don't spend your change how fast that adds up with out you knowing it..
--Rummage Sale- Every year sometimes a couple times a year we go through our house and pick things we don't need. We do a rummage and the kids help, 100% of the money goes in to our trip fund!
--Delta Credit Card- I have the Delta Credit Card that we put any of our spending on, and we earn miles, for our last tip I paid $11.20 per ticket to fly! We also go free bags for each of us which was a $200 Savings!
--Stop doing gifts!!- We stopped doing Christmas and birthday gifts, the amount we would spend on those every year for JUNK they didn't need or would forget about a year later really added up! 4 kidsX $200 for Christmas Gifts = $800, 4 kids x $100 Birthday gifts =$400 we easily saved $1200 a year doing this! And guess what??
The KIDS DON'T MISS THEM!
--Find other ways to save- Things like one less coffee a week, or one less meal out a week can add up fast! Maybe take a $5 bill a week and put in the trip jar, be creative, its surprising how many fun things you can do as a family to save and a little here and there can add up quickly! The saving together is also a great bonding experience and learning experience for our kids... Today I feel so many families live paycheck to paycheck and its hard to save, but those little things add up in a BIG way!
ANYONE CAN AFFORD TO TRAVEL. If you did one less night out/or supper out a week, One less coffee a week and Put $5 a week in your trip Jar you could have close to $3000 saved in a year! Add in the money saved on gifts and you could easily have $4200 a year for a family trip! Something they won't forget!!
On Sept 25th Jaylin had surgery at Gillettes Children's in Minnesota,
We spent a week there and then we moved him to lifescape in Sioux Falls, for 6 weeks he was none weight bearing and had to wear this "wedge" for that entire time. It was a LONG 6 weeks, I stayed with him the whole time, after the 6 weeks he moved to rehab, we didn't come home until the first week in December. I only saw the rest of the family on the weekends.. It was HARD, but I don't regret it! We had so much love and support from our family and friends. My son is a rock star!! He's been through so much and yet still always works to make others smile!
I cherish the memories we spend together as a family... Work, life, friends, and money will always be there, but there are times you just need to slow down and enjoy your family! Everyday I remind myself life could always be tougher, and I am so blessed!
Look at those LEGS!!! The first picture was on our Cruise in August, just a little over a month before surgery! The Second pic was just a few weeks ago! I have to say GOD IS GOOD!