Jackson Hole, WY

If you haven’t read our last vacation re-cap, you can read it by clicking here. That was only three weeks ago, and I’m thinking it was our worst family vacation to date, but here we are facing all our fears again, and traveling even farther with Reagan. It’s amazing we were able to muster up excitement for another trip after our last one.

This time we brought Lauren, our first nanny, who has loved on our family for the last three years and traveled with us to California two years ago to see my family. Lauren is now a speech therapist and has amazing patience, and is loving and firm with Reagan. With her on this trip, surely Reagan will be a complete angel.

Unfortunately that theory was disproven on the plane, before we even left the ground.

I know many of you who read this blog know me well; but even if you don’t know me well, I think you probably know that I don’t hold back. This is especially true in confined airplanes when my child is acting up and I am on the receiving end of dirty looks, nods of disapproval and long stares. So when the woman in first class sitting caddy-corner to me gave a minimum of seven lengthy stares and head shakes at me, I said, “DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION?” I said it with the flight attendant standing in between us, who has obviously dealt with lots of different people, families, kids, disabilities, etc. She was un-phased. I said it loud enough for the rows in front and behind us to hear and staring someone in the eyeballs makes them uncomfortable, not me.

I was so upset. I have a screaming child, who’s pulling hair, trying to bite and I have to discipline her in a 3’ aisle with 150 people listening, watching and this lady, openly judging. We are doing our best, I promise you we are doing our best. I can’t always control my child because she’s her own human being, with her own feelings and emotions and personality. Did you know her name (Reagan Elle) means little king? And she really embodies that meaning, don’t you think?

For the duration of the flight, I had Bloody Mary’s, and had one too many. Our plane was an hour late to take off, they were screwing things on and off right by our row, and adding extra gas that they forgot was needed. Our connection was only 45 minutes to begin with, so we had all resigned ourselves to the fact that we’d miss our flight, we’d rent a car in Salt Lake and drive five hours to Jackson Hole. Rob even received an update from Delta that they re-booked us while we were in the air to a flight the next day at 11 a.m.

So many things out of our control. I had my mom and a few friends praying we would make our connection. In the air though, I thought it was an impossibility. I didn’t even pray it would happen.

But…when we landed at 8:01 p.m., and the flight attendant opened the doors at 8:07 p.m. and our flight was boarding one terminal over, we made a last minute decision that I would run and try to hold the plane. I never regretted that extra Bloody Mary (or two) more than in that moment.

As I ran off the plane I was asking the gate attendant who was running in front of me if she could help. She said yes and hopped in front of her computer, I told her, “We’re on flight 965, can you hold it?”

She said: “I can’t hold it. It’s boarding now; your best bet is to run.”

As I started running, I heard on the overhead speakers: “Final boarding for Delta flight 965. All passengers please proceed to gate F-3 now.”

I ran. I had so many bags. I had so much tomato juice and vodka in me. I don’t work out. And every time I had to walk, I felt like I was failing my family. I have to make it. Failure is NOT an option. I kept repeating to myself, ”You have to make it! YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT!

I saw the gate and I breathlessly and pathetically asked: “Did I make it? Can we get on this plane? I have to get on this plane and my child has special needs and I will die if we can’t get on this plane.”

The gate behind where you walk onto the gangway was closed. But was the plane door closed? It was not. A guy called from across the terminal, “Are you flying to Jackson Hole?”

“YES!!”

And when I looked up, Lauren was running with all the rolling suitcases behind her. And then I saw Rob briskly walking with Reagan. Rob told me he ran with Reagan, carrying her all through the airport while she said, “I’m tired, Daddy. Daddy my legs are tired. Daddy, you’re tired.”

We made our flight. We sat down, buckled up and they pushed back. Our flight to Salt Lake was 34 minutes and I feel like that’s how long it took me to catch my breath.

Jackson Hole is beautiful. I am so thankful to have an extra set of hands here so we can try to enjoy ourselves — it helps so much. It allows Rob and I to reset, take a break, be a couple and then be better at parenting Reagan. Gosh, we need that so much. Having an extra person who knows Reagan and our family so well allows us margin.

Margin is so crucial in life, even more so with families who have children with special needs. And I think that is what bothered me so much about the mean looks from the lady on the plane. She has no idea. None. I typed up something on my phone that I wanted to write down and hand to her that gave an explanation as to what she was witnessing, which was only a snippet of our life. She has no idea that the fact that we go on vacation is a miracle in and of itself. I wanted to explain. I wanted to educate, but I didn’t. Instead, I tried to think of her as someone’s mom or grandmother who just doesn’t understand.

And Reagan calmed down and was a dream the rest of the flight, because we made the decision that Rob would sit next to her, in the middle seat. Rob was so uncomfortable and hot, but Reagan was perfect. And Lauren became our bartender.

This flight is one of our greatest memories and stories from a vacation ever. Every time we think about it we can’t stop laughing.

And it was still hard and it required pushing through a really horrible previous vacation and a rough take off, but this memory, it is one of my absolute favorites. It hasn’t been smooth this entire time, but is anything ever smooth and perfect? No. But I’m so glad to be here with Rob and Reagan and Lauren, and my California family.

Bonding with a Feral Child

God has been working with me to process our recent family trip to Washington, DC. It was a tough trip. There were beautiful moments and memories, clouded with really tough behaviors from our girl. The stroke and brain damage she had five years ago still lives with us every single day.

The part of our brains that allows us to control our impulses was damaged in Reagan’s brain. Because of that, it makes processing normal things very hard for Reagan. As an example, being told her shoes are on the wrong feet, might make her scream at the top of her lungs, clench her teeth and storm off. Transitioning from one thing to another, could result in a 15-45 minute meltdown, complete with screaming, hitting and saying things like: “That’s rude, Mommy! You’re a mean mommy.”

Our first night in our hotel had me in tears. I tried for an hour to get my overly tired and extremely strong willed child to go to sleep. It was 10:30 p.m. and no matter what, she wouldn’t listen, talked back and hit me. I hate writing this. I cried so hard, in front of her, and my sobs is what finally put her to sleep and me into a state of shock.

The next morning we walked to Nordstrom Rack to reward myself with a new pair of shoes for keeping my cool the night before, even if I was in tears.

Parenting a child with complex special needs is so hard. It’s rewarding and heartbreaking, amazing and terrible, hopeful and hopeless — all at the same time. I’m amazed that Reagan can say, “you’re a mean mommy” but sad that those are the words she chooses when I have to correct her behavior. I know, parents all over the world have heard these words, we’re no different, except that we are walking against the crowd.

On July 4th, I was walking on Pennsylvania Ave outside our hotel with Reagan screaming in her stroller. Everyone was walking toward the parade that was about to start, and we were walking in the opposite direction and I couldn’t help but think this is our life, upstream, away from the cool parade, distant from the traditional path. It made me sad, but I also know God set us apart for something different.

While reading in 1 Kings 17, Elijah (yeah the guy who doesn’t die) has some bleak things he’s dealing with. First of all, God’s directed him to drink from a tiny brook that’s about to dry up, and also, God said that the ravens will be bringing him food. Cool cool cool…yeah, just up in this deserted place with barely any water and the birds bringing me food, this is exactly how I pictured life. Then the brook runs dry and God’s like go to this new place and you’ll find a widow who can help. The widow is literally gathering sticks to cook her last meal for her and her son and tells Elijah after their meal she expects they will die because they have nothing else left. (You truly should read this story, it’s CRAZY and amazing).

Elijah, the ever so kind gentleman, says, “Go home and do what you said, but first, make a small loaf of bread for me, then bring it to me, then make something for you and your son.”

If this is all Elijah said can you imagine the look of shock the woman would have had plastered all over her face? But he continues, “For this is what the Lord the God of Israel says: ‘ The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.'”

The woman had scraps, and God made her scraps last three years.

Can I tell you that the days and nights before this photo was taken I had nothing in me? Can I share that we were about to enter The White House and I was freaking out that she would scream and secret service would ask us to leave? And true story, one minute from getting inside The White House, Reagan said she had to pee. There are no bathrooms. Guys we are parenting on FUMES!

What I am continually learning is that even when what is visible seems like there’s no way out, that it’s too much to bear or that circumstances are impossible, there’s more on the other side that I can’t see. And the same goes for how things look on social media. I didn’t post a lot of our awesome and beautiful vacation photos because the story behind them was not was was pictured. Behind every great picture we took, was a frustrated mom and dad trying to get their kid to listen, eat, not hit us and go to bed at a reasonable hour.

I can either look at my current situation, with Reagan not listening to me, hitting me and scratching me and think, “Well, this is our life, and how it will always be, and there’s nothing more that God has.” OR I an look at my current position through the lens of God who has unfailing love for me. I can stand firm in the fact that either God knows what he’s doing or he doesn’t. And he for sure does know what he’s doing. And he for sure knows more than I do. And I can FOR SURE trust him.

It’s taken me several days to recover from the rollercoaster that was our DC family vacation. And I’ve come to the conclusion that some kids are feral, they are wild, they beat to their own drum that isn’t sold on regular store shelves, it’s in the beyond, section. We’re good parents, and her behavior isn’t an indication of our parenting skills. Oh my gosh, PLEASE remember this when you see a feral kid in public doing a crazy dance, making dinosaur sounds and yelling at their parents. They are FERAL. They are WILD and God made them to be a loud drum, with startling cymbals and a lot of BASS. I don’t know what God knows about our feral child, but he made her and I’ve got to trust that he knows what he’s doing.

Also shout out to friends who love us, and still want to hang out, and plan future vacations with us, even if Reagan pulls their kid’s hair.