Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Making Memories...the reason I take Cade to Disney

Being divorced, I quickly realized that making traditions and memories would have to be VERY intentional. Something that just comes naturally and inevitably in a traditional family setting, doesn't come in a divorced setting. There's too much back and forth and change from year to year. No holiday looks the same, no birthday or graduation comes easy or is predictable. The only tradition in divorce seems to be that there is no tradition.

So after year one, I decided as a mom, I would work at making memories...Cade and I would experience adventures together, and that our tradition would be, we travel and go have a blast experiencing this world together. 

It's been the best decision I've made. Memories are something we have, and traveling together is something that builds trust, cultivates love and friendship, confidence and bravery, and it opens up your imagination and soul to a bigger world, so when your world gets very small and sad and dark, you remember there's more out there and it's awaiting you to come and rediscover it once again.

I truly believe God uses traveling to remind us how BIG HE is, that the world doesn't revolve around us, and there's a bigger story and to never be afraid to go out and find it.

It all started the year after my mom's death. It was the summer after my divorce, and my dad took me and Cade to Hawaii. I saved my money to take Cade and me to swim with the dolphins. Seeing his smile and hearing the laughter sealed the deal for me. My money and resources would go to making memories...of creating moments of extreme laughter, wonder, and awe.

Cade's 4th grade year was a Spring Break that I had him. He and I road tripped across Texas; touring Blue Bell, watching jousting (and other questionable "shows" at Sherwood Forest), ice skating at the Galleria, and singing at the top of our lungs with the windows down.

And this will be year 3 of Cade receiving plane tickets and Disney gift cards for Christmas. In the grand scheme of things, I'm not a big Disney person. I don't want a Goofy t-shirt nor a Toy Story pencil...now Mickey ears ice cream is another story, but that has more to do with the ice cream than the shape it is found in.

This tradition...hey, look at what God can do, divorced families can have traditions, that's called grace Shelly, right there, that's grace... it all started when Cade was entering 5th grade. Being a 5th grade teacher, I'd hear numerous stories of parents and grandparents taking their children on trips commemorating the end of Grammar school...and then of course I had read Bob Goff's book and he does 10 year old adventures, and though I was not able to take my child to an obscure mountain range in Asia or even the Empire State building in New York, me and my travel bug knew I could do something adventurous with Cade.

I was secretly hoping he'd choose the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because that's where my 10 year old (or 35 year old) self wanted to go. I may have even been playing a loop of "you want to go see Harry Potter and shop eat at the Three Broomsticks..." as he slept, but I had decided that wherever he chose (within reason), we'd try and make happen.

My secret scheming worked, because he exclaimed, "Harry Potter World!" WOOHOO!

He and I saved for nearly a year and it was so fun anticipating the trip. At Christmas, we opened Disney gift cards and Universal Studio ones. We kept our monies in a special box and we'd label what we'd use it for. We had wand savings, Mickey Mouse ice cream funds, and visions of riding Thunder Mountain Railroad until midnight.

Planning, anticipating, and going on that trip with Cade was one of the best decisions I've made as a mom, and I decided I'd keep making that one each year.

And though my experience told me I it was the best thing for me to do as a mom, one of my 5th graders taught me just how true that was.

One thing I do as a teacher is have my students create thankful lists in their Bible journals. We write 6 each day, and each child accumulates 50 - 100 items depending on the year and how many days I have them do it before Christmas. Everyday we do it, I have each child share one they wrote that day. We each get to hear what others have reflected on being thankful for. It's terrific! I love it every time!

Two years ago, the same year of our first Disney adventure, one of my students shared the most profound one that truly solidified in me that what God had led me to do with Cade, was something I needed to keep as a priority in my life. I can't thank Connor enough for teaching me that what I do as a mom matters...matters more than I'd realized.

Here's the letter I sent out to the 5th grade parents reminding them and encouraging them that what they do matters too...my prayer is that it would encourage you too.

I'm not sure how it is already December 22nd, but it is. No matter if it feels like it should be or not, the calendar overrules all feelings and tells us Christmas 2015 is just 3 days away.
Over these last few weeks, as the students filled their Bible journals with 100's of things they were thankful for, I was always impressed with the wisdom and simplicity many expressed through their gratitude: Family, friends, a warm and safe home, cozy slippers, loving parents, God's word, Jesus dying on the cross, forgiveness, and much more. It's always a blessing to see into their worlds through the lead of their pencils as they share their thoughts.

One year as I did this, a particular "thankful item" was especially poignant.

The student wrote, "I am thankful for memories."

This one stood out to me because I had lost my mom 5 years prior, so at times, I live on memories. In fact, memories can be what carry me through quiet holidays. 

But, I love how God's grace gives us the chance to make new memories everyday. We are capable of creating moments that can last a lifetime in a child's heart.

As a teacher, one of my main goals is to have a year the students remember, one filled with incredible memories. I want it to be a year that challenged them, stretched them and matured them, but also one filled with more fun than a school year is supposed to contain. I want them leaving saying, "Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!" J

That's why muffin mountains and a week with daily sugar cookies and classrooms filled with dancing are worth the craziness that can follow. Those days are filled with laughter, they bring joy to a sad soul, and give us something to remember.

God is the best memory maker, and He continuously tells us, "Remember, remember, remember."

I pray this Christmas is one of remembering what God has done for us and in us.

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

He came down to be with you and me. May it be fresh in our hearts and remind us all that we are loved and valued beyond comprehension.

If this holiday season is tough for you and your family, my prayer is that your home will be overwhelmed by God's peace, that the grace of Emmanuel will ignite a hope that would otherwise be absent.

The next day, the student shared one more, "I'm grateful for parents who make memories with me."   -what a beautiful picture of family, of God's grace in our lives.

May 2016 be the year we intentionally create incredible moments for our families that will be remembered for a lifetime and can even carry them through hard times if and when they come.

Merry Christmas!

Shelly Vaughn

Last year's trip included a night of rain, pouring down drenching rain. There wasn't lightning, so Disney continued on, and as I debated on whether or not I could continue in the rain, I remembered Connor's profound words and Cade and I rode Thunder Mountain Railroad 23 times that day. We were completely soaked, but had never laughed so hard as we watched the fireworks over head and had the sensation of riding a roller coaster through a swimming pool. We made a memory that I will treasure forever.