Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Field Trip to Ronald's House
When I dropped Madi off at preschool yesterday morning, the Director, Peggie Nasin, had lined up the five large canisters of pop-tabs that had been collected throughout the school year. It was a pretty amazing sight and turned out to be a pretty emotional morning for me seeing that so many families had participated, all in Daniel's memory.
After school, I picked up Madi and girlfriends Olivia, Ruby, and Lauren, and we loaded up our delivery. I asked the girls if they knew where we were going, to which one of the girls shouted, "McDonalds!" Oh boy...I had to burst their bubbles right away, and explain more about our mission. Not only were were venturing out on a 40-minute car ride, but there wasn't going to be any food at the end of this rainbow!
I had turned the seats around in the van so they could all face each other and do what little girls do best--talk. It was pretty hilarious to hear them chatting up a storm. I wanted to chime in more than a few times, but I bit my lip and tried to just enjoy the opportunity to be that "fly on the wall". Though we had stayed at the Miami location last year, I decided that the Fort Lauderdale location would be a better choice for a carload of small, impatient girls. Thank goodness I was thinking. The girls started the ole "How much longer?" routine shortly into our ride. That was almost immediately followed up, in typical fickle-fashion, by "I'm thirsty!" Of course, then every one of these divas-in-the-making were thirsty. I doled out their cups from their lunchboxes, but unfortunately a couple of them didn't have a drink. I promised them we would get a drink when we arrived.
The girls were very excited as we got closer and arrived at the property. They were anxious to get in the front gate as we waited to be buzzed into the courtyard. We took a minute to take some pictures with Ronald (ceramic--the real Ronald needs to be reserved months in advance) and our pop-tab collection. After our photo shoot, we went into the office and met Miss Silvana, who would be taking us on our tour. The facility is really nice. Built in 2004, it is a very comfortable, clean and modern place where families can rest their heads while their loved ones are in medical care at the hospital next door. We first visited a beautifully decorated playroom and media room. Of course, the girls loved these rooms the best and wasted no time running over to plop down on the sofa. We loved the "Quilt of Hope" shown in the photo, which was made by children and their families staying at the house. One of the girls asked for a bathroom break, and the rest followed suit. Off they marched, one by one.
We went back into the courtyard, and Miss Silvana asked if anyone had questions. One of our girls coyly asks, "Um...are those stairs?" and points to a staircase. It is so funny what intrigues little people. I am now feeling my mother's pain as she dragged me through museums while all I wanted to know about was the vending machines or the gift shop. I was right in the middle of the same experience. We promised the girls that we would take the beloved stairs once we were done seeing the rest of the bottom floor. The kitchen was very clean and modern. The girls went crazy opening up the cupboards to see what goodies were being stored by some of the families. We explained how the families were assigned a space for their groceries so they wouldn't have to eat at restaurants every night. They appeared to be absorbing the information...until they spotted the vending machine, and what d'ya know--they all remembered that they were thirsty. The water was sold out, but fortunately, Miss Silvana had a private stash. I purchased two waters for the girls to share, and they made sure I was painfully precise in my rationing.
We then moved on to the patio area, which would be my area of choice. Lots of fresh air and open space with teak patio tables and chairs on a paver patio. The girls made a beeline for the play area, which had a couple of play houses. I think they would have liked to spend more time there. They played for a few minutes, and grabbed some of the rubber mulch to keep as a souvenir (it's the little things...).
We finally made our way up the stairs to view one of the guestrooms. It was interesting to the girls that the rooms do not have televisions so the families can spend time talking and decompressing in their rooms. They liked the rooms and liked that there was extra space for wheelchairs and cribs. We took the elevator back down (just because I knew that was next on their list). Our tour had concluded and Miss Silvana asked, once again, if there were any questions. "Um...does that other staircase go somewhere else?"
We thanked Miss Silvana for taking time to show us around and teach us about their good work, and we got back in the van to head back north and go for ice cream, as I'd promised. It wasn't long before we were back on the highway and the girls were once again asking, "How much longer?" Grrrr...I was having fun but this was starting to feel like Groundhog Day. About 20 minutes into our ride, one of the girls announced that she had to go potty. My bad--I shamefully forgot to empty their bladders before we departed. Because I wasn't so familiar with this little friend's ability to hold her liquid, I decided it best to pull off the highway and head to the closest, cleanest place I knew of--Panera Bread. We walked in like a mother duck followed by four little ducklings walking at a very quick pace. By now, they all had to go potty, so we took care of business.
We got back in the car and head up the road. "How much longer?" they chimed. I replied, "Girls, it might be dinner time by the time we get ice cream. They all moaned and someone pleaded, "Awww, but can we still get ice cream?" They squealed with delight with my answer. I explained that the red lights were holding us up, so they began chanting, "NO MORE RED LIGHTS! NO MORE RED LIGHTS!" The funny part was that it worked! Two times in a row! I pointed this out to them and their voices escalated. They chanted for five miles. It was about all I could take, so I told them their mission was complete and thanked them for getting us there quicker.
We arrived at the ice cream shop, where they collectively proceeded to the restroom a couple more times. Though there were about ten choices of ice cream, their choice was easy because they all gravitated to the first flavor, cotton candy, and they all wanted the same thing. Little followers--or more appropriately, little friends--who all just want to be alike and to be liked.
It really was a fun afternoon. Exhausting nonetheless, but fun. The girls were troopers and despite the comedic tone of my post, I do believe they understand the good work done by the Ronald McDonald House, and how collecting pop-tabs is helping their cause. I hope that these kids continue to collect pop-tabs forever. I wish we would all remember to collect pop-tabs forever--in memory of our sweet Daniel. May you rest in peace my son.
For more info, please visit: http://rmhcsouthflorida.org/