Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just Keep Swimming...

I have actually tried to update the blog since we got home, but just as I hit the "Publish Post" button, my computer hiccuped and it disappeared.  That happened at least twice, so, the slow learner that I am, I will click that little save button a few times as I type so maybe, just maybe, this post will actually make it to the cyber world.  :)

The trip home was fairly smooth.  We stood in line in Miami waiting to check our bags and our cooler of remaining IV supplies.  I was armed with letters from Dr. T and documentation from the IV company, but we did not need any of it.   We did realize that our seat assignments for the second leg of the flight had each of us with a window seat...which means that we were scattered throughout the plane, and no two of us were sitting together.  That's manageable for Andrew and Chris and maybe even Will, but for the littles?  Um, I don't think so. 

I kind of expected Miami security to be a challenge...but it really wasn't.  It took forever, and they scanned my carry on three times.  The whole stethoscope and bp cuff  thing drove them nuts.  Will of course had to be patted down since he was on an IV, but the agent was fabulous.  He chatted with Will the whole time and basically explained what he was doing, but he distracted Will with conversation.  When he finished and I finally gathered all of our stuff, he gently shook my hand and quietly whispered that he wished us well and that Will was a cool kid.  He did not have to be so gracious with Will, but he was.  And Ben and Caroline were both teasingly asked for their driver's licenses by TSA agents, so they thought the whole process was hilarious.

We grabbed lunch, flew from Miami to Atlanta, and arrived in Atlanta early.  But we sat on the plane.  And were detoured to a different gate.  And we sat on the plane.  And when we finally arrived at the new gate, it was closer to our next gate, but the hour we were supposed to be laid over was disappearing rapidly.  Billy was toward the front of the plane, so he headed to the new gate to try to get better seating assignments for us and the littles.  Caroline would be okay sitting next to a stranger, but the stranger might be ready to mutiny by the time his ear has been talked off and he finally arrived in Richmond...

Those of us in the very back of the plane finally disembarked and raced to the next gate...where Billy was still waiting for an agent to appear.  He then headed to Starbucks for me (cold, caffeinated, and caloric were the requirements) while I stood in line to manage the seating issues.  For the first time in all four flights...we ended up together.  Literally.  She maneuvered us to the very back of the plane where we had all of one row and the three seats behind.

The flights were otherwise unremarkable, and we safely arrived in Richmond where we were met by the same limo driver.  The drive home was slow due to traffic, but he regaled us with stories of his other job in law enforcement.  I asked the kids what their favorite activities were...Will answered snorkeling, Billy loved kayaking, and Caroline loved swimming.  Andrew, of course, has a need for speed and totally loved the Wave Runners, while Chris was still complaining that I was trying to dump him off of my Wave Runner.   Everyone enjoyed the trip, which was a blessing of immense proportions.

Will did, unfortunately, become ill not long after we arrived home, as did Caroline, so we have spent the last two weeks trying to get him back to baseline.  Tonight, he is sick again, so tomorrow (Thursday) we will either be at MCV or back at the pediatrician. He technically should have been in the hospital when he initially got sick, but he begged me to not take him.  If I had, he probably would have recovered much faster, but I understand his not wanting to be there.  But soon we won't have that option; he is really struggling.

So here's the rundown on all of our warped Coleman fun:

We had a blast in Florida.  We came home.  Will got sick.  Billy got sick.  Caroline's gut decided to not function, so we had to deal with that.   Caroline broke her arm falling off her bike.  Caroline caught a stomach virus.  Will is still sick...and now on his second antibiotic.  Will is sick...still...and may need IV antibiotics and a stay in our favorite suite at MCV.  Oh, and Ben broke his toe at a swim meet.   We Colemans know how to entertain the medical community!  We really should have an emergency department room dedicated to us. 

We appreciate the lovely thoughts and well wishes as we headed to Florida, and we are grateful that the trip went as smoothly as it did.  We are glad to be home, and are grateful that if Will did have to become ill, at least it was at home and not on the trip.  We are supposed to head to the beach on Friday, which we hopefully will be able to still do.  We'll know tomorrow...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 4...Kayaking, Wave Runners, Swimming...and Key West

We are so gonna need a few days to recover from this trip.

This morning, we had reservations to kayak at 11.  We had long discussed how to manage the kayaks...we decided that if we used 4 doubles, then neither Will nor the littles would need to kayak alone.  So we teamed up Andrew with William (He has the most muscle so if he had to paddle alone then he was best equipped to handle Will.), Chris with Benjamin, Billy with Camden, and I had Caroline.

Justin, the watersports manager, had an amazingn sense of humor and entertained the kids while he was fitting us with life jackets.  He recommended that we head south first since the wind was light.  We did...and it was way too easy.  Of course, that meant that we were paddling with the current first...which is never my first choice.  We made it down to the 7 Mile Bridge, and I had the brilliant idea of going around the bridge piling to turn around and head back. 

That defines blonde moments. The 7 Mile Bridge is where the Atlantic and the Gulf meet at the end of Marathon Island.  That means that you have currents colliding...and since the tide was going out, the current was pulling us into the Atlantic...provided we didn't hit the bridge piling.

I was able to let Andrew and Chris know to turn around, but Billy chose to pass under the bridge to turn around.  I was way too busy trying to avoid the piling and attempting to make forward progress...I was paddling for all I was worth, but I was going  literally nowhere.

Someone mentioned today that maybe me and tidal waters should not be mixed. :)  Caroline was totally wigging, and I was just totally focused on getting us out of the situation I had unwittingly created.  Fortunately, the boys had enough upper body strength and were not as close to the piling as I was, so they were able to get clear a little faster.  It took a lot of muscle and sheer grit and determination, but we made it.  I was really glad that I had not gone for my run this morning.  I needed all the energy I could muster.  I think it is time to seriously hit the gym and build some of that upper body strength before I decide to take on tidal waters again.

When we returned, we told Justin about where we went, and he said, "You aren't supposed to go to the bridge.  The current there is too strong."  Really?  We hadn't noticed.  :)

The kids were starving, so Billy ran to the grocery store for some more lunch materials, we made sandwiches, and hung out at the pool.  About 3 this afternoon, Billy went back to the water sports tent and rented 3 wave runners which are like jet skis on steroids.  3 people can ride each one.  So, Andrew took Ben and Will, I had Caroline and Chris, and Billy took Camden with him and we had an absolute blast.  There is nothing quite like skimming the water at 50 mph. 

About 4:30 we decided that heading to Key West might not be a bad idea.  When you are all of an hour from the southernmost point in the continental US, then maybe you should go...and go in time for the sunset.  So we dashed through showers and headed out.

Wow.  It was crazy.  This is considered off season down here, and if this is off season, I have no desire to find out what it is like in prime season.  There were people everywhere!  However, the sunset was spectacular, the entertainment at Mallory Square was fabulous, and the evening was memorable.  We stopped at Amigos Tortilla Bar for dinner.  It was crazy loud and unbelievably busy, but the food was way too voluminous and it was amazingly good.  Oh, and their margarita was fabulous.

We did find the monument for the southernmost point, took a picture, and are now headed back to Marathon with some incredibly exhausted children.  I am utilizing my phone as a hot spot because as soon as I get Will's IV going, I would love to be asleep.  Tomorrow we plan to hang out at the pool with the kids and pack in preparation for returning home on Monday.

Day 3, Theater of the Sea

The travel of Wednesday, the snorkeling of Thursday, and their required wake up calls proved exhausting for all of us.  So Friday morning we let everyone sleep til they woke up, except for Chris and Will whom we had to wake up at 9.  The tropical wave that had been tormenting our weather had finally moved off and blue sky and insane humidity remained.  The blue sky we were grateful for.  Not so much the humidity, especially since we were going to be walking around an outdoor marine animal park.

This is probably the one item of Will's wish that I really didn't research much so we really didn.t know what to expect.  When we arrived (yes, the kids were about to revolt at spending another hour in the van.), we entered through the gift shop and followed directions to the desk for special programs.  The woman was very gracious, handed us a map, and told us the bottomless boat ride was about to leave.  We head out to get in line.

It doesn't take long for Will to look alarmingly unwell.  Billy gets him a bottle of water, and we go ahead on the boat ride, knowing that we may indeed leave as soon as it is over.  It only lasted 6 minutes, but it was really fun.  The dolphins swim alongside the boat doing tricks, and even swim inside the boat, which sounds weird, but remember it is bottomless.  The center of the boat is open, and the passengers sit along the outside edge looking over a short wall to the center of the boat. 

We fed everyone a quick lunch, then headed for a short walk around the outside exhibits.  There was a stream running through the park with fish of the area and a couple of really large turtles.  Then we got to the birds.  Ben stood in front of a parrot and bobbed his head.  Then the parrot bobbed his head.  Then Ben, then the parrot.  He stood there for forever just hanging out with this blue parrot.  Will is really looking rough, but he doesn't want to leave yet, so we head to the dolphin show with a couple of Powerades. 

The dolphin show was fabulous.  Not only did the trainer show what the dolphins, Twister and Sherman,  were capable of doing, but she discussed how they trained them.  We were sitting under a tent and there were fans, so Will was tolerating the heat a little better.

We then walked around the corner to the sea lion show.  Again, the trainer explained how they trained the sea lions. Wilbur, the sea lion for this show, was hilarious.  He smiled, waved, pretended to be a shark, and went down a slide.  When it came time to select people from the audience to toss a ring for Wilbur to catch, Ben was one chosen.  The girl handing out the rings stated that he deserved one because he was laughing so hard.

Due to the heat and fatigue, we opted to leave after the sea lion show.  We headed back to the resort where the kids thoroughly enjoyed the pool.  

For dinner...we headed to Keys Fisheries.  A couple of the kids are not huge fans of seafood, but I refused to allow them to order burgers.  At Keys Fisheries, you stand in line to order...there is a sign that says, "If you were at Disney, it would be 2 hours.  Here, it is 15 minutes."  All but one enjoyed the fish, the key lime pie was lovely,  but the best part was the employees who were not only helpful but actually had a sense of humor.  When your order is ready, they call out your favorite sports team....I blurted out Redskins, and they were like, "Who?"  Um, really?

It was a full day...the boys chose to watch a movie last night, but after connecting Will to his lifeline, I crawled into bed and fell asleep in seconds. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 2, Happy Snorkeling Birthday, Camden!

Leaving home by 630 am two days in a row is a record for a couple of our kids.  Being awake at 630 am two days in a row is a record for a couple of our kids.  So despite whining and gnashing of teeth, we were indeed once again in the car at 630 am heading toward a new adventure.  After another hour and a half in the car, we arrived at Pinnekamp State Park.

There was a long line of people registering for today's snorkeling trip, but we made it through, received our equipment, and headed to the boat.  The sky was anything but blue and sunny, so it was pretty much expected that we were going to get wet...long before we jumped in the water.

We arrived at Grecian Rock.  William had borrowed an underwater video camera from some friends, so he headed off to explore.  Andrew grabbed Ben and they headed off to explore.  Chris headed off to explore.  Cam crashed and burned.  His snorkel was not a good fit, so he was taking on water which makes breathing a little challenging.  He has no gills, so he ended up back on the boat.  Caroline was refitted with a life vest and a new, smaller snorkel, and she waited for me.  I, without thinking, did the incredibly not bright move of jumping in without my mask.  Um, yeah.  Back to the ladder I go.  It is really the first time I have been in tidal water since I was rescued from a riptide last summer, so it unexpectedly took me a few minutes to adjust.  Once I did, I was fine.  Caroline was then handed into the water near me so I could supervise her.  Billy has no desire to be in water over his head, so he stayed on the boat with the incredibly kind and patient captain and dive master.

Off we went...and got halfway to Grecian Rock when Caroline just wigged.  Completely.  She tried to breathe through her nose, couldn't, panicked, and ripped off her mask.  Okay...I try to calm her down, get her mask back on her, and realize that we just need to head back to the boat.  So she keeps her eyes closed, I convince her to at least kick so I am not doing all the work for both of us, and I tow her back to the boat. 

They get her straightened out again...While they are working on her, Billy convinces me to head back toward the reef and come back and let Caroline know how cool it is, and maybe we can convince her to try again.  I do.  It is very cool, and then I head back to once again retrieve Caroline...but Andrew is swimming near the boat and apparently has already agreed to take her so I can actually SEE the coral reef.  I am very grateful, but that makes the third time I have swum against the current to arrive at the reef.  I swim around for a while, but the lungs are getting unhappy, so I head back to the boat and my inhaler.  All of the other kids arrive one by one, and everyone has enjoyed themselves...and are now starving.

We had encountered rain while on the boat headed to Grecian Rock, and as we were headed back to shore, it rained again.  We rinsed off, got back in the car, and headed for food.  The dive master told me about The Fish House, so we headed there.  What a great choice.

Andrew wanted one of everything on the menu, Chris decided a burger was safe, Will and Cam chose safety with the fish and chips, and Ben and Caroline decided to split a full Caesar salad and a half pound burger with fries.  (Billy was convinced there would be leftovers, but nope.  No leftovers at all.)  The food was amazing and really reasonably priced for what we received.  I asked if we could return there tomorrow, but I was voted down since it is over an hour from our resort.

The server asked if we wanted dessert, and I jumped right in and said, "Of course we want key lime pie!"  Like anyone in my family doubted that I would order that.  I looked at Cam and told him he could choose his own dessert since it was his birthday...and he chose key lime pie.  Good boy...knows a good dessert when he sees one.

Well, to everyone's surprise, the server wished Camden a happy birthday in a way none of us ever expected.

Yes, that is a fresh yellow tail snapper with a candle in it.  We are at the Fish House which purchases all of its fish whole from local fishermen and filets them on the premises.  What else would they put a candle in to sing Happy Birthday to someone?

We returned ever so slowly to the resort due to road work, and then the tropical wave that has been causing lots of unsettled weather hit with a fury.  The lightning and thunder hit just as I was heading to take Caroline to the pool, so we went to plan C.  Billy headed to the grocery store and the Redbox while I updated the blog.  The kids have been swimming, are now showering, and Chinese food has been ordered.  A nice, quiet evening with a movie and Chinese food, and hopefully a pillow not long thereafter is exactly what we need. 

I know everyone is worried about William.  Tuesday night he slept with an IV  and we continued with another IV all day while we traveled.  By last night, he looked truly awful and I was extremely concerned.  Today he looks better, but he needs another IV tonight.  The activity level is much higher than he is accustomed to, but so far, he is doing better than I feared.  I brought enough fluids to run two IV's every day, but so far, we have only needed one.  He may crash yet, but so far he is holding his own. 

Day 1...And They're Off!

I may have only gotten 3.5 hours of sleep before we left, but when we all got up yesterday morning, everything was packed and ready to go.  All we had to do was shower, dress, eat breakfast, and put a million bags of IV fluids and blue ice in our cooler with wheels and duct tape the cooler lid closed.

The limo and a Ford Explorer arrived literally on the stroke of 630.  They loaded up all of our luggage and the insanely heavy cooler, and then loaded us...after we took a picture.

So we headed to the airport in style.  Andrew played with all the gadgetry, and we all played the game "Discover the Pattern."  Caroline managed to stump the boys who were thinking way too hard for 630 am.

I anticipated a few issues checking the medical supplies.  Last time, I had to show documentation as to why we were carrying IV fluid.  But this time was a piece of cake.  He didn't even bat an eye at the Cooler Of Insanely Heavy Weight.  He just tagged it and sent it on its way down the conveyer belt.  Caroline thought it was so cool how the baggage all went down a really steep hill.  I just cringed, wondering if the wheels were gonna survive the trip, knowing that carrying it through the airport to the car in Miami would be enough to cause Andrew and Chris to mutiny.

The first flight was seamless.  Camden was a nervous wreck, but settled down about 30 minutes into the flight.  This was the first commercial flight for four of the kids...Then we got to Atlanta.  Caroline was desperate for a restroom, so she and I headed there while waiting for Billy to exit from the very the back of the plane.  We then walked as fast as possible to the next terminal, arriving at the gate just as they announced, "Last call for Coleman, party of 8, before we give away your seats."  Phew.  We literally just made it.  We had not previously received seat assignments, so as we are walking onto the plane we are trying to determine who is sitting with whom.  We are scattered all over the plane in 2's, so it was a little stressful.  But, it all worked out and we arrived safely in Miami which was the goal.

The condensed version from here to Marathon is:  We did get a rental van with no problems, drove around Miami looking for food and finally settled on a Wendy's cause we just wanted to get to the resort, stopped at Walmart for Will's required Powerade, water, and snack foods, then drove forever to Marathon, arriving at 730 last night.

When we walked into the resort office and gave them Will's name and the info from MAW, they were waiting for us.  The manager had apparently called and wanted to remind them to take a picture...they were so excited.  They told us they had a surprise in the unit for us and that there was more where that came from, and then they laughed and apologized to Billy and me.  Ruh Roh.  What exactly are we walking in to?

Well, they obviously have chatted with folks at MAW because once again, all of Will's favorite junk foods were waiting for him...the kitchen counter was covered with Sun Chips, 3 Muskateer Bars, Skittles, Mentos, Mentos Gum, a kite, a beach ball, and a pool noodle.  Wow.  The kids waited for me to take a picture then dove in. 

It had been a long day.  We did unpack, prepared for Thursday's snorkeling trip, and collapsed into bed.  The kids are not thrilled with another 530 am wake up call, but hey, they get to snorkel so no whining is allowed.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Snorkeling, Kayaking, and Limos...Oh My!

Will and I arrived home Wednesday afternoon in time to pick up the littles, head home, unpack, shower and change, and head to Richmond for his Make-A-Wish reveal party. 

And what a party it was.  Jervetta had outdone herself.  The table was totally decorated with a beach theme, and she had amazingly appropriate gifts for a sand pail full of Skittles, Mentoes, and 3 Musketeers (his  favorite candies).  Then there was the bag of goodies for the beach, and a Make-A-Wish bear for all the kids, including Andrew.  Of course, Caroline's bear was white with pink lace.  :)

So over the course of the evening, Jervetta and Tammy went through the itinerary of how/when we were going to accomplish Will's wish of snorkeling and kayaking.  Make-A-Wish does not miss a beat.  As soon as Ben heard the "A limo will pick you up at 630 am" he just about swooned and totally stopped listening.  A limo?   Are you serious?  Unbelievable.

So, the limo takes us to the airport on Wednesday and we spend the majority of the day getting to the Keys, Thursday we snorkel, Friday we kayak, Saturday we visit Theater of the Sea, and Sunday is the free day.  Monday we head back and the limo will meet us at the airport and take us home.

So how is Will gonna handle all of this?  Not so sure, to be honest.  He now has a cold, which is an energy challenge, all of the activities are energy challenges, and it's going to be hot which is yet another energy challenge.  I have ordered enough IV supplies and fluids for two IV's a day, but that is really all I can do at this point.  I know where the hospital on the island is, I know what to do, but I just pray that he does well.  He knows he will have to travel on the Iv and every night he'll sleep with one.  Whether that is sufficient to prevent a massive crash I don't know...but I hope and pray it does!  Mostly, I hope he has the opportunity to be a 14 yo boy and can enjoy the time and experiences for which he wished...

I promise to blog and keep you up to date on how things are going.  :)