Friday, June 24, 2016

A St. Louis Getaway

Even before Grace was diagnosed with INAD, Kyle and I wanted Grace to have as many awesome life experiences as possible. Some were simple things, like a trip to the pumpkin patch or the zoo. Others were things we did in our childhood that we really enjoyed.  I think both of us have really great memories of attending St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, and Grace has gotten to go each summer.

But, this year, she got a special treat. One of the Lincolnwood volleyball families, the Gerlachs, called Kyle this spring to tell him about a trip to the ballpark. They had been telling Angie's brother about Grace, and he asked if she liked the Cardinals. His company, Republic Services in St. Louis, wanted to offer us some tickets to a ballgame. We were thrilled.

Fredbird brought Grace a new Cardinals bear.
Angie asked Kyle if Sunday, June 19 would work for us.  Usually, Sundays are a hard day for us to plan something like that because of work, but this time, because of the family trip to Branson, we had already taken that day off. It seemed like it was meant to be.

All smiles for Fredbird!
She loved when Fredbird gave her a kiss!
Later that week, Kyle got an e-mail about the game. They were providing us four tickets in an accessible area of the ballpark so we could take Grace's stroller in with us.They also arranged a special visit with Fredbird just for Grace, as well as a hotel room that night at the River City Casino and Hotel. Talk about feeling spoiled!

The day of the game arrived, and despite our best laid plans we still ended up a bit late to the ballpark. Kyle was a little disappointed not to get the bright blue Cardinals socks that were the giveaway that day, but it was okay. We made our way through the gates and to our seats, and I was a little worried about the sun and the heat. When we got there, our seats were in the sun, but it didn't take long for the shade to overtake our area along the third base line, which was a great place to watch the game.

All smiles with mommy!!
Since we had gotten four tickets, we invited Kyle's brother, Shane, to go with us. He arrived shortly after we did, and it was fun to watch the game together. About mid-way through the game, one of the Cards employees came over and asked me about Grace. He said Fredbird would be coming to visit her soon. And it was definitely the highlight of the game for us. Although it took Grace a few minutes to warm up to him, Fredbird never gave up trying to get her to smile. He even brought her a Cardinals bear from the Build-A-Bear store and signed her stuffed Fredbird. We got some awesome photos, and I think Grace really enjoyed it.

Our special package also included a gift card for food in the ballpark, and Shane and I headed out to find some.  We even got some Dippin' Dots ice cream for Grace, which was also a big hit. I picked out the kind that came in the mini Cards helmet, so we can play with it at bathtime. 

Being silly with Uncle Shane and Daddy.
All too soon, the game was over, and even though the Cards lost, we had a wonderful afternoon. We said our goodbyes to Shane, and headed for the River City Casino and Hotel.  Neither Kyle or I had been there before, but it was really easy to find, and not very far from the ballpark.

Check out our great view for the game!
We arrived at registration, and everyone was so friendly and helpful. But the real treat started when we got to our room on the seventh floor. Hotel staff had written a beautiful card for Grace and left a HUGE basket of Cardinals goodies and souvenirs for us. I laid Grace on the bed next to it, and she just grinned, somehow knowing it was just for her. The basket included a new tiger stuffed animal with a tiara, a St. Louis Cardinals beanie baby, a blanket, apparel, cups and even fuzzy bunny slippers!  We felt so spoiled!

The pampered princess enjoying her hotel room.
As we started to put some of Grace's drinks in the refrigerator, we found a tray of cookies and three bottles of milk (vanilla, strawberry and chocolate) just waiting for us. I set Grace on my lap, and she drank a whole glass of chocolate milk and ate half of one of the cookies, which were delicious!

Sweet snuggles with Gracie Lou!
Kyle came out of the bathroom to tell me there was a TV in the mirror. He also discovered a button that opened and closed the room's curtains, as well as a digital "do not disturb" thing in the door. Needless to say, we were quite impressed by the amenities in the room, as well as the kindness and caring of the staff.

After we cooled off from the ballgame, we took Grace down to walk around the hotel, which kind of resembled one of the casinos in Las Vegas. We decided to order pizza in the room and just relax that night together, and it was amazing.

The next morning, we were trying to decide what to do, and Kyle looked up taking a tour of Busch Stadium. With the great experience we had the day before, we thought it might be fun to get a behind-the-scenes tour, and it was!  The tour included a stop in the dugout, Cardinals Club, Redbird Club and the Champions Room, where we got to see four of their World Series trophies.

Hanging out in the Cards dugout!!!
After the hour-long tour, we bought a really cool photo package and headed to Ballpark VIllage for lunch. Our tour tickets also included a stop at the Cardinals Hall of Fame, which Kyle had been wanting to do anyways. So, we ate a quick bite and headed that way.  It was neat to read the history of the Cardinals and the three ballparks, as well as see so much memorabilia from our favorite team.

Kyle and Grace in the Champions Club.
One of the highlights of the museum stop was when one of the volunteers asked if Grace wanted to hold a Cardinals bat. You could pick from several Cardinals, and actually hold a bat they used when they played. We picked Stan Musial, and with plastic gloves on, I helped Grace to hold it. The volunteer showed us several nails where Mr. Musial had fixed the bat when it broke. She also had the chance to try on two World Series rings, which was awesome. The Cards won the World Series in 2011, just weeks after she was born, and we can remember watching those games together. It was neat for her to have a chance to try on the ring from that series.

Grace stepped up to the plate to hold Stan Musial's bat!
She also got to try on a World Series ring from 2011!
Before heading out, we stopped to see a small section, dedicated to the soccer games that have been played at Busch Stadium, which was also really neat. All in all, the museum was really well done with interactive exhibits as well as lots of information about the history of the Cardinals and Busch Stadium. And we hope to go back someday soon.

One last stop by the Arkansas Travelers display!!
Then it was time for vacation to be over and to head back to Hillsboro. We loaded up the van, and prepared to go home. Although it was a quick trip, it's one that we will always remember, as an awesome chance to make more memories on this Grace-Filled Journey.


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