If you're unfamiliar with our story, it has been 2 years since our move to the sunshine state. Well, actually at the time of the "surprise of the short man's lifetime", it was 1 year and 359 days since Bashful had been "home".
Since Bashful's enrollment at "camp" last October, he comes home to us every six weeks for 5 days for what camp calls home visits. Home visits are intended to help the boys meet goals for reunification and restoration with family or friends, and to accomplish some fun activity during the visit. At our house, home visits usually go the same way. The day of pick up, Bashful is excited, and ready for the comforts of home and is calm and quiet and relaxes on the big comfy couch and watches some television in the air conditioning. As the weekend wears on we all start to fall into bad habits and patterns of behavior that end up frustrating us each for various reasons. In part due to the good reports we have been getting from the staff at camp and because of the length of time since Bashful has seen family, three months ago, the Prince and I decided to mix it up for Bashful and surprise him during his June home visit with a trip to PA.
While the Prince and I and all the dwarfs have had one or more chances to "go home" to visit friends and family since our move 1100 miles south on June 15, 2014, Bashful has not been with us for any of them.
In preparation for this weekend of Bashful and I spending a large amount of one on one time together, which typically does not go well for he or I, I did a bit of planning to keep the weekend exciting and fresh for him, while at the same time attempting to create some opportunities for great memories that he could hold on to while he continued at camp doing hard things, six weeks at a time.
To start the trip, six weeks ago, I plotted with the staff at camp to have him ready for pick up early, showered and dressed in some non- woodsy clothing by 9AM. (Yes I am that mom... I snuck clothing socks and shoes to camp office during drop off, for the occasion.) After he got ready for pick up, the boys at camp all thought he was dressed for a day on the golf course, and were trying to guess what his surprise was going to be! When I picked him up I could tell he was a good mix of excitement and anxiety, but he sure looked handsome!
The day of pick up was a horribly rainy day courtesy of TS Collin, who was clearly upset about being down graded, and was just being a nuisance, drenching us in tons of rain... I arrived at camp and as I stated, Bashful was ready to go. After our goodbye's we ran to the car dodging puddles and even with our umbrella, were unable to get to the car without being completely soaked! Bashful still does not know what his surprise is, and frankly in all my other plans I forgot to figure out how the great unveiling of the surprise would go. (So much for greatest mom of the year award! Everyone knows a surprise is only as good as the unveiling.)
As I was "killing" time, trying to think of how to share the news, I asked him to pull our his goal sheet for the home visit and start reading them to me.
Well his first goal on his goal sheet was, " work on rebuilding my relationship with my mom". I think there may have been a thunderbolt as he read this out loud because clearly it was a perfect segue way for the upcoming weekend's activities!
Now because my technology skills are not so great, there is a video clip of him receiving the news of spending the weekend with me, but I could not get it posted here. I will say that initially he seemed less than thrilled by the news of spending the whole weekend with his momma, but quickly things turned around as he figured out that we were headed to PA on a plane (of which he has never flown on) and he rallied his attitude and enthusiasm.
We had some time prior to our departure. Since he has begun to show some interest in cars over the last several months, and older ones at that, I figured we could kill some time adventuring at the Muscle Car City a fantastic little museum in Punta Gorda! What a great find! We spent about two hours just taking photos, talking about cars, and enjoying the collection! So much that we lost track of time and really had to get a move on to grab a bite to eat and a few items we forgot to pack for the trip.
Navigating the parking lot in the rain, the shuttle and the airport seemed to make Bashful a bit anxious, however, he did a great job listening, and doing exactly what I told him to do. Because he was a minor he did not have to take off his jacket or shoes, so that made things smoother for at least one of us. Additionally, our airport was super compact and user friendly!
Even better, was Bashful turning the corner after coming out of security and seeing a familiar face! All of Bashful's anxiety seemed to slip away when he saw one of his chiefs sitting in the waiting area, for the same flight as ours! God's perfect timing as I was flustered after realizing I lost my photo id, and was struggling to organize my stuff that I had anticipated organizing in the parking lot prior to going in. I never considered it would not stop raining this day! So Chief was a great distraction for Bashful and I both.
When I booked the flight, I wanted it to be really special for Bashful since it would be the first time he had ever flown... Front row, first seat by the window! Even by his smile you could see he was a bit concerned about all the rain outside and wrapping his head around the actual flying part! As we settled in, I tried to answer his questions, and distract him and by the time we were ready to take off, he was ready to look out the window and watch the ground beneath him disappear!
Two hours and 20 minutes later when we arrived at our home airport, we were greeted by Bashful's cousins and Aunt, who made a sign to welcome him home! We spent the evening with those cousins and more, having dinner with grandparents and his 92 year old great grandmother.
Friday, the official start of the weekend, we spent a great part of the day at Hershey Park, getting our Hershey Park happy on! We rode about all the coasters we could find, and the boys had a great time on some twirling rides that this 'ol stomach can no longer handle! Everyone had great attitudes and did not seem to mind the heat, or standing in line waiting to ride the rides. For one ride in particular, we stood in line an additional 20 minutes to get the front row!! (As you can see below, the boys were having fun... me well I was having fun on the inside!!) Dipp'in Dots, soda, French fries... what boy could complain?
Friday night came to a close, just having dinner and hanging out with grandparents and cousins in the yard. More fun times on the trampoline, and just running and playing and being boys.
Saturday dawned as the day I was most excited about. The plan was to get Bashful together with some of his friends from home. We got up early and went to buy donuts and fruit, juice and arrived at the park in our former neighborhood. I think he was pleased by the turn out if his smile is any indication! We had about 9 boys show up and a few special adults too!
We added some other small stops into the morning and early afternoon, and then ended up the day by hanging with another friend was on home visit from a sister camp in PA. To say that a good time was had by all would be an understatement, swimming, basketball, video games, and a run... rounded out the day. I think we both slept great that night!
We knew departure day was looming, and we woke up Sunday and followed our "old" Sunday tradition of stopping at Sheetz for coffee and for Bashful a western omelet wrap. Off to Sunday school and church to hug necks of some more treasured friends and family, worship with our former church and out to lunch with the great grandmother who conveniently needed a ride home from church that day!
We met up with another set of grandparents mid afternoon for a ride to the airport, and to bring that grandmother home to Florida for a long visit. If there were not memories made this weekend, well it was not for lack of trying!
Here we are set to head back to Florida!
The rest of our family was missing us and could not wait to hear about our adventure!
I will say that sometimes it is great to mix things up a bit! Bashful was surprised, and had a grateful heart. He was on his best trip behavior. He was helpful, seemed to engage with everyone at appropriate levels and really enjoyed his time in PA. It was our goal, that we would be able to encourage him, and provide him with some great opportunities to make memories to hold close in his heart and mind as he headed back to camp to finish the journey he is on.
How is he doing at camp? Great! Everyone that saw him over the weekend say that noticed a great change in Bashful! Besides how tall he has gotten, he has matured, and did conduct himself different from what they remembered two years prior. In the mixing it up, while I saw that there has been growth and maturity on his part, I also learned that once back on common ground, in a setting he was familiar with, we still have some work to do.
If you are inclined to pray for Bashful (and us), our hearts prayer is that he would be able to do the hard things he does at camp; lead, encourage others, and work hard, here in the kingdom. At this stage of the game, progress is there, the hope is there, but here in the comfort of home, bad habits abd being around siblings, we find that old habits die hard, bad attitudes (his and ours) often take over in the midst of struggles and interactions with others, which lead to hurt, and unmet expectations. For me personally it leaves me occasionally shaking my head.
None of this process is going to be easy. Bashful has to work hard, but so do the Prince and I. So do we all. Mixing things up, escaping from the hard things, is fun. At the end of the day however we have to remember we are all broken cracked pots. Not perfect, far from it. Because of the love modeled to us by our heavenly father, we continue to pour into his life, grace, mercy and unconditional love with the hope that someday there will be a permanent and positive change in his life that will take him from ordinary to exceptional. Bashful's footprint is huge (well it is a size 12 already) but what I mean is the place that he comes from, his story, the journey could potentially impact the lives of others in such a big way, it really is my desire for him to be able to use all of his life's experiences to change the world around him. But even if God's plan for Bashful is less grandiose than mine, I want him to know that in all things he is loved. Cherished. Born from the heart not the womb. Wanted. Special.
You Really Can't Make this Stuff UP! Get out there and mix it up a bit!
A special thanks to the staff at Gator Wilderness for their efforts in helping pull this off for Bashful. More over for picking up the pieces this week during that transition back to the world of doing hard things. For their patience and diligence in not only working with my dwarf, but so many others like him. We are exceptionally grateful for the sacrifices you make each day, we are aware of some of them but I know there are many that go unnoticed. Your making a difference. Our lives are richer because of your service to our family and Bashful!