Dora was at the McWane Center so we decided to pay her a visit. We arrived around 1pm and since Dora wasn't going to make her grand appearance until 2pm we decided to enjoy the other floors first. Mary Ella loved the aquarium, the water table and especially the big piano. She also loved the Itty Bitty Magic City, which is a kid play area full of pretend things like a grocery store, putt-putt course, cars to "drive," and fun tunnels and slides. When it was finally time to see Dora we realized the line was incredibly long. I thought about just letting her see Dora from a distance then leaving, but as soon as she laid eyes on her she was determined to give her a hug. "Hug! Hug" she kept saying over and over. So we go to the end of the line and had to wait about 45 minutes; my child did NOT like waiting in line and could not understand why I wouldn't put her down. ( I prefer not to take a stroller to this place; since she walks now it's better just to follow her around.) So yes, I had to HOLD my child for 45 minutes. Which wouldn't be such a big deal if she weren't 27 lbs and if I weren't 7 months pregnant. Needless to say I was hot and tired and embarassed because she CRIED the entire time we were in line! It was horrible. I am sure all the other parents thought I was forcing my child to have her picture made with this cartoon character, but that wasn't the case at al! She WANTED to see Dora; she just didn't want to stand in line! But finally we made it to the front and she was happy as a lark. She crawled right up onto the park bench with Dora and said, "Hi, Dora! Hi Boots! Swiper??" and proceeded to look around for the sly fox. He was nowhere to be found. All of the museum employees were laughing at her. She went from being so upset to being the happiest child there in a matter of seconds. I was proud of her for not backing out at the last minute. And I was proud of myself for not losing my patience with her and embarassing her in line by spanking her or reprimanding her. I just tried to comfort her and tell her that we'd be seeing Dora soon enough and that it would be so much fun.
I have to attribute my patience to something I read a couple nights ago on a blog that most of you have probably been reading - the Layla Grace blog. I have known about the blog and the general situation for a while - it's been all over FaceBook and Twitter and many celebrities have even gotten involved in supporting this family in their journey with their little girl and her battle with cancer. I had refused to let myself read it (because I knew I would just cry all the time, and because she was so close to Mary Ella's age when she was diagnosed.) But for those that don't know her situation you can go here to read their story. Layla Grace was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma (a horribly painful and very aggresive form of cancer) shortly before her 2nd birthday and one week ago she lost the battle and went to be with Jesus. Her parents had to watch her suffer and pass away in their home, and I can't imagine what that was like; I don't want to think about it. But here is something that I read on their blog when I finally decided to read it 2 nights ago. This is an excerpt written by Layla's mom; it is from a few weeks ago, before Layla Grace passed away, and it had a profound impact on me...
"Towards the end of a pregnancy, a mother will wake up to go to the bathroom every few hours. I think this is the body’s way of preparing you for a newborn and the sleepless nights that come along with it. Layla now spends most of her days sleeping. 30-45 minutes after she wakes up, she is ready to lay down and sleep again. Is this God’s way of preparing me for all the quiet time that is coming soon? The house is quiet. I am able to go through the motions of laundry, dishes, cooking and picking up without interruptions. But I WANT interruptions. I WANT Layla to be under my feet asking for cookies. I WANT to hear her playing with her toys. I WANT to take 45 minutes to unload the dishwasher because she keeps trying to help. For every time I uttered the words “I just can’t get anything done with these kids under my feet all day” I am eternally regretful. The days that I looked forward to naptime so I could get a grocery list made, or finally fold all the piles of laundry…I regret those days too. If I could do it all again, I’d enjoy EVERY SINGLE WAKING MOMENT I had with her. I would never wish for her to sit still or take a nap or go to bed early. I would never look forward to the days when she could sit through an entire episode of Dora silently. I would treasure every second with her."
I can't tell you how much I identify with her in a lot of ways... and not ways I am proud of; I catch myself rushing through bath time, through story time, looking forward to nap time so that I can clean my house or make lists or pay bills... and when I read this, it sent chills down my spine. And as I stood in that long line today and heard nothing but the sound of my toddler wailing, for no other reason than that she wasn't getting her way, I felt a strange calm come over me. The calm that, I believe, can only come from the Holy Spirit. I felt a sense of peace and a voice that simply told me to be patient. To love. To comfort her. (Although everything in me wanted to be ugly.) And I thought about Layla Grace's mom, and how she'll never hear her daughter cry or scream or pitch fits anymore, and how she would probably give anything in the world to be in my place at that moment. I just stood there as Mary Ella cried, thinking about them, and tears filled my eyes; I wanted to bury my head in my little girl's curls so that no one would see me.
I haven't been able to quit thinking about Layla Grace and her family, and I am just so thankful that God allowed me to read that post written by her mother, if for no other reason than to remind me again that I am so, so fortunate to have a healthy, thriving, baby girl who is able to run around and play and climb and slide and throw temper tantrums. I want to cherish every single moment with her and soak up all these blessings. We don't know what tomorrow brings. And I don't want to have any regrets.
Hope everyone has a wonderful rest of the week and weekend! We are headed to Florence to see my parents. Hopefully Chad will catch a mount-worthy bass when he goes fishing with my Dad on Friday. (No, we will not be adding it to our aquarium; nor will we be mounting it in a highly-trafficked area of my house... ha)