September 30, 2014

Favorite Thing

I thought we were about do for a little commercial break
 from the regularly scheduled blog
 to bring you another little introduction of my latest favorite thing. . .

Have I walked past you lately?  Did you inhale deeply as I did and think, "Wowza, she smells good!"

Don't answer that question.

But if so, it is because of this. . .

My newest favoritest thing eVeR!  I have never been a big perfume-y kind of girl.  I get a signature bottle every now and then, wear it twice and then it goes to the perfume graveyard in the bottom drawer of my bathroom vanity.  When you are barely getting to brushing your teeth and your entire makeup routine is forced to be done in 90 seconds or less, it makes perfume feel a little overkill -- kind of like wearing diamond earrings while grooving it in your 3 year old Walmart mom jeans.  They just don't sync. {insert I love my 3 year old Walmart mom jeans.} 

But this little joy goes with every outfit, even my favorite capri sweats, t-shirt and chapstick look.  (Think what you may - my cupboard has no room for fashion plates.)  My little Hawaiian Ruby Guava stick is not overwhelming and hardly noticeable - but I notice it and it just makes me feel a little more put together.  On those nights when I have gotten all of 45 minutes of sleep because I have been caring for a sick Bridger for the 10th night in a row -- I need all the put-togetherness I can muster!

Go ahead, go out to Ulta and treat yourself to a little perfume stick and see if it doesn't just put a little bounce in your step every day.  Next time I walk past you, take a deep inhale - you will like me even more. . . unless I am walking past in my tennis skirt with racquet in hand -- just hold your breath then.

 Life is powered by simple pleasures and this is one of mine!

September 27, 2014

Me and My Brilliant Ideas

Usually I will say such a phrase dripping with sarcasm.  But once in a while, in all seriousness, I am brilliant.

Does that sound self-inflated?  Well, I am. . .brilliant, that is. . .or at least was. . . those couple of times.

This special journey has sent me summoning every ounce of creativity I can muster from the deepest, dustiest parts of my brain.  I am constantly looking at every element of life for a therapeutic quality that I could bring into Bridger's world.  For quality of life for Bridger, as well as the rest of us, I am constantly viewing life through the lens of adapting and modifying which has become an everyday necessity. 

I chew on and stew over every twisted creative thought.  When I attempt to bring those thoughts into fruition, it often sends Alan crossing his eyes and slapping his palm to his forehead, wondering what he got himself into by marrying me.  Every once in a while, however, he looks at my creative genius and simply marvels at the brain patterns of his amazing wife.

My latest idea. . . a Dinosaur Dig.

We love Disney and experienced a little miracle there a few years ago.  At the time, Bridger could not sit.  Sand has a therapeutic quality that anchors the body as it surrounds it and causes the core (however little core there may be) to engage and allows children the ability to sit who otherwise can't.  BUT, sand also produces extreme sensory aversions so it is not an option for many kiddos - including Bridger, who would vomit quickly and profusely at the touch of sand.

That is where Disney World, once again, lives up to its label as "magical".  

At the Animal Kingdom park of Disney World there is a gigantic sand pit they call their Boneyard.  Buried fossils keep the kids dumping and digging for hours.  However, it is not sand that they are dumping and digging.  It is like sand, but slightly larger smooth granite pebbles the size of a pencil tip.  They roll right off your hands.  Children lay on their bellies and dig up to their armpits and stand up perfectly clean.  On our first experience there with Bridger several years ago we sat him into the sand-like granite pebbles and he proceeded to sit (SIT!!) on his own for over an hour (without falling over) perfectly anchored in his core.  He enjoyed playing around the other children and he looked and felt typical in every way.  When we returned home from Florida we showed the video of him sitting perfectly upright in the Boneyard to his physical therapist.  "You HAVE to get that material for Bridger," she said.

That launched me into a 3 year search.  I studied every website, called manufacturers and suppliers, read every thread of every discussion group and this material was not to be found anywhere.  I could find material slightly larger, but what made this sand pit so cool and inviting for play was how minuscule these little smooth pieces of grit were.  This summer I thought to email a friend who works for Disney on the political side here in DC. Within 24 hours he sent me a chain of forwarded emails with the final stop being the actual supplier of the material to Disney World.

Fast forward to a month later as we had 3 tons of Animal Kingdom Fossil Yard grit shipped up from Florida delivered to our driveway.  We hired some men to excavate a large and deep hole in our backyard.  We lined the hole with playground timbers on 3 sides and a zero-depth entry on the 4th.  Alan and I shoveled for hours carrying the material from our driveway to fill the hole.

752 shovels loads into the project, Alan still wasn't so sure of my idea.

We buried "fossils" and parked me an oversize Adirondack chair in front of it and set Bridger in.  No child could resist the Dinosaur Dig and Bridger was soon surrounded by siblings and friends where he played for HOURS!  Let me explain another miracle, Bridger doesn't engage in any activity longer than 15 minutes.  There are a LOT of 15 minute chunks in a day and that equals lots of activities for me to come up with that he can and will do to fill the day.  So to kill off 2 hours in our Dig during which time I sat and sipped lemonade and didn't break a sweat -- Holy Delightfulness!!

Alan saw the light.  This was worth all of the blood, sweat, tears and dollars (it unfortunately wasn't a cheap brilliant idea - I reserved sharing that information until Alan had seen the brilliance of the plan.)

Life with Bridger is a big guessing game.  We are learning as we go and 99 times out of every 100 I usually guess wrong.  The creation of the Great Larson Dinosaur Dig was that other 1.  It was like striking gold.

"Me and my brilliant ideas!" I say, as I now sit in the sun, sipping my refreshment and watch the delight of Bridger digging to his heart's content as he is secretly getting some physical therapy without realizing it.  Just look at that core!  Low tone as he may be, he has some muscles working in there somewhere!  

Ahh, what will I think of next?

September 25, 2014


I made up the age and she is making up every rule that accompanies it.

Exhibit A:

Notice anything wrong with this picture?

Did you notice the little strap by her shoulder.  Yep.  That would be a bra.

She is five -- many, many years away from even a whisper of a need for one.  That doesn't matter to her.

We were shopping recently and as she was walking her confident, swanky strut in front of me I looked down at her and noticed her t-shirt slipping to the side of her shoulder, revealing a little strap.  I did a double take.  Was I seeing what I thought I was seeing?  I stopped her and quietly had to ask, "Eliza, are you. . . are you wearing a. . . a bra?"

"YUP!" (at her usual volume of 100) "I got it from Eva's drawer and put it on last night before I went to bed." Said as just as matter of fact as you can get.

"Oh," {turn head and surpress laughter} "ok." If she was confident in her decision to dress herself, then I was not going to burst her bubble -- at least not at that moment.

Oye.  What am I going to with this little girl that uses her headband as a nostril strap?

Luckily, the answer is easy. Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Not when she has the love of 100 children all crammed into her little bra covered heart. 

September 23, 2014

The Master of Multiplication

Once upon a time, I thought I was busy.  I shudder to think of the naivete I had at that time to think such a thing.  I know now what "busy" really feels like.  At that time, I had four children under 5 years of age, a husband whose work schedule had him gone before the kids woke up and returning long after they had gone to bed.  We were juggling extensive commitments outside of our home.  I was busy.  Or so I thought.

People would see the fullness of our plates and ask how we had time to do it all.  My mantra at that time came from the teaching in chapter 14 of Matthew in the New Testament and I would continually say to myself, "He multiplied the loaves and the fishes, surely He can do so with our minutes and our hours."

I believed that to the core of me and every day we had enough time to do what we needed to do and we always had time for everything that was important.

Fast forward a few years and add to that a fifth child, and a diagnosis of that 4th child that would leave us adding dozens and dozens of hours every month to doctor's appointments, consecutive night after night without sleep, the demands of the older children in their activities and such, mounds of administrative paperwork for insurance, IEP and equipment matters and such, a husband whose job is just as demanding as it ever was. . . you get the picture.  I am safely labeling myself as "busy" now.

It exhausts me to even think about it.  I don't know how I manage each day and if I were to look at the future I would surely shrink into a hole and wave my white flag of surrender.  I don't have what it takes.

I still have faith that my minutes are multiplied, just as the loaves.

But that miracle has extended beyond my time.  Every single way that I have felt inadequate and insufficient for the demands before me has been multiplied.  My energy has been multiplied, my nickels have been multiplied, my patience has been multiplied, my gratitude has been multiplied as has my love.

The disciples set forth to feed the 5,000 knowing that what they had in their basket was not enough.  They fed the multitude not just some scant scraps, but each until they were filled and returned with their baskets full.

Do you ever wonder the mechanics of such a miracle?  Did the bread continue to grow in the basket?  Did angels come and refill the basket without being seen?  How did it happen?

These past few weeks I have felt that my basket was empty and that this time I did not have enough left to "feed" others and do the daunting tasks of my week that lay before me.  I knelt down and prayed for what little energy I had to be multiplied.

In my case, angels that were seen came and refilled my basket.  A plate of brownies appeared on my doorstep that afternoon.  A slew of emails appeared within a couple hours of my prayer, thanking me for some inspiration or example I had been to them.  I received a couple texts from sweet friends checking on me. The next day a basket appeared on my doorstep, full of yummy spa products as encouragement from a sister-in-law.  Another package came with an inspirational pillow from a new friend and supporter in this journey. One morning I heard some banging around from the kitchen downstairs.  It was 5:30 in the morning.  I thought my house must be in the process of being robbed.  I didn't even care and laid there listening to what I thought were robbers ransacking my kitchen.  It turned out to be my 12 year old son who had set his alarm for 5:00 on a school morning to make a big breakfast for the entire family.  I came down to the table meticulously set and a spread of pancakes.  He smiled big and said that after the couple hard days he had watched me have with Bridger that he thought I could benefit from getting this day off to a good start.  What 12 year old does that?!? I just hugged him.  

The multiplying list goes on.  All throughout the week my basket was continually filled.  In my case, the miracle came from angels around me, quietly slipping extra loaves and fishes in my basket.

One thing I know with a certainty, God gave me Bridger, He will not forsake me now.

That point has been taken to task many times and for every single thing I have gone on my knees and made a request to Him for has been granted.  Every.  Single.  Time.  I use that power carefully and am certain and sure of the need of what I am asking for.  With being given the stewardship of care for His most special and delicate child has come an assurance that I will be cared for in the process.

I still don't know how I still have enough energy, patience, time, money, etc. for all that I have to do -- and have my basket still be full at the end of each day.  But I do, and am so grateful for each and every angel that has been a facilitator to that miracle.

He has multiplied the loaves and fishes.  He can do so with every aspect of our lives, both tangible and not.

September 11, 2014

Death by Paper Cuts

Have you wondered where I have been?  Have you missed me?

Almost didn't make it back. Nearly mortally wounded was I.

DEATH BY PAPER CUTS.  That's what the Coroner's report would have said.  Would anyone have believed that cause of death?  Probably not.  Most people don't understand how dangerous a stack of paper can be.

This is just under half of the amount of documents that I have been going through -- page by page, word by word, over the last 2 months.

I have dubbed it, "IEPmageddon."  It was a battle that I do not care ever to repeat.  I do believe I came off the victor.

IEP's for neurotypical children -- I can spit those out in my sleep.  IEP's for complex children -- that requires an extra hemisphere in a brain.

IEP's are made much more difficult when you have some members of the "team" that don't think they need to perform as the IEP dictates.  I was suspicious of missteps, mistakes that were being swept under the rug, nonperformance and a host of other problems from our IEP of last year.  The joke of the proposed IEP that was placed before me in May for this upcoming school year only served as the icing on a very disgusting cake.

IEPmageddon commenced.

It started with me asserting a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act request (FERPA) that required all of Bridger's academic records, including any correspondence, emails, notes, memos, and such sent between anyone in the school system that referenced Bridger be provided to me.  I had the privilege of spending the end of my summer going through every single page of that stack.  Most were uninteresting.  Some were very painfully revealing. It was interesting to see when a IEP team member would selectively withdraw an email they didn't want seen, but the beauty of that is the recipient of that not-so-great email still included that email in the materials that were given to me per my FERPA request.

Mistakes, both intentional and not were flushed out by the dozens.  Not just trivial typos and such, but intentional disregard to Bridger's educational requirements that will have a significant impact on his life.  One team member had solicited ideas for IEP goals from me, then proceeded to email around the team and reference my suggestions as "mom's laundry list."  As I was laying the ground rules and expectations to the team at the most recent IEP meeting, I couldn't help but add a little sarcasm to her newly flushed out statement and assured the team that laundry is a whole separate problem I have at home with 5 young children, not to be confused with Bridger's IEP and that laundry issues and Bridger's goals had nothing to do with each other.  Most, sans one, nervously laughed at the table.

We hired a highly feared respected advocate to stand by our side and guide us in Bridger's legal educational rights and help us sort out the mess that had been created by people that felt it not necessary to do their job.  I could have, and would have much rather, bought an entire wardrobe for the next couple years with the fees I paid for an advocate. But her help and knowledge was priceless and an appropriate education for Bridger is worth every cent.

Intermingled in those meetings came my request to the state for mediation to rectify the disregarded elements of Bridger's previous IEP.  The director of Special Education for our county stepped in and, after a lovely meeting with her, state mediation was able to be avoided.  The Special Education director made right again all the wrongs that were done.

Many more IEP meetings, lots more paper produced, lots of anxiety, lost sleep, time and money was poured into making it right again for Bridger.  As I was driving home from one such angst-inducing meeting that I had held my head high and spoke with firm authority over Bridger's best interests I found myself in my car with my eyes welling up with tears. Alone in the car, speaking to myself I said, "I am proud of me."  The self acknowledgement of that feeling - an acknowledgement no one else could offer because they have no idea what is involved in the educational side of this journey, moved me to more tears.  I will protect this child, I  will advocate with every fiber of my being for this child, I will even fight for this child and did so graciously and firmly.  I was proud of me.

I had heard through the grapevine that a meeting attendee once said that it was "tough".   Appropriately, I capped off our final meeting with some oversize homemade chocolate chip cookies, wrapped in cute yellow bags, sealed with a "One Tough Cookie" label.  

I can laugh at myself too.

The weight is off my chest for the next 11 months.  Bridger has an amazing IEP in place, an amazing refreshed team in place and he will achieve what he is capable of achieving , because I took my 6000 paper cuts like the champ that I am and kept pushing through the pain of it all. 

"I think future IEP meetings will go a little differently from now on," said the mother with a little chocolate cookie crumb on the side of her satisfied smirk.

But if not, I have my Bandaids ready.