March 30, 2015

Guest Post

My blog has been hijacked by my husband.  He has begged me in the past to let him do a guest post.  His thoughts that he has been wanting to publish on my blog have to do with his recipes for ammunition for his reloading hobby.

Um, yeah, no.  Not quite what this is about.

My blog, however, is about being a record of the happenings and goings on of our life for my children.  My husband came to me a couple weeks ago and told me that he had written a blog post he would like to sneak in here.  When I read it and saw that it was about a fun memory he shares with the children, and that it had nothing to do with hunting, guns or ammunition, I gave him my consent, just this once.

It has been hanging out in my drafts folder and I thought it was about time to publish it. So, I now turn this page over to my guest author, who happens to also be the best dad out there, Alan.

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For St. Patrick's Day I planned a little surprise for the kids.  In keeping with the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, the surprise had to be green.  I decided to order a case of Green River soda and have Green River floats for the kids as a St. Paddy's Day treat.

Never heard of Green River?  Well, you are missing out.

Green River soda holds great and wonderful childhood memories for me.  When I was 9 years old I lived in Alaska.  It was the childhood every boy dreams of - spending my summer weekends with my father, younger brother and sister on overnight fishing and camping trips in the great Alaska Wild.  Each trip began, on our way out of town, with a stop at the grocery store to outfit ourselves with our food for the trip.  One particular trip my father spotted an unusual looking can of soda in the store.  Excitedly he said to us, “Look at this!  Green River pop!!"  We had no frame of reference from which to share his excitement and thought nothing of the six pack he purchased and excitedly talked about on our way to our camping spot.  After we unpacked and began our supper, we each popped open a can and guzzled the green bubbly goodness.  Thus began my lifelong love affair with Green River soda.  From that point on, whenever we went on a fishing or camping trip, a six pack of Green River would join us on the passenger seat next to me and would lay in the stream where we placed it to chill as we fished.

Green River reminds me of those carefree days of my youth fishing in Alaska.

Unfortunately, when we moved away from Alaska, I never saw Green River soda again.

That is, until a very lucky day in 2012.   I was walking through a local drug when I saw an display at the end of an aisle of bottles of Green River soda.  I could not believe my eyes.  I recognized the label of the moon shining over a palm on the river immediately.

Of course, I had to buy some and couldn't wait to tell my father about it.

That weekend I went with my kids to our cabin with the Green River occupying the passenger seat next to them.  The kids loved it as much as I did. 

I later returned to the drug store and bought out all that they had and kept it stored away for special occasions, like special dad dates to the cabin.

My instinct to hoard away the green gold proved lucky, as the drug store soon stopped selling it.

I asked my dad why he got so excited when he first saw those cans of Green River in that store 35 years ago in Alaska.  He told me that he had first tried it as a young man living in Kansas City back in the 1940’s.  One day after going on a hike with his scout troop, the scoutmaster stopped in at a drugstore and bought all the boys a Green River soda.  Being a child of the depression, soda was not something he had often had.  His memory of that Green River purchased back in the 1940’s came sharply back to him as he saw the cans in that grocery store in Alaska in the early 80’s.

I recently discovered a midwest beverage corporation that you can still purchase Green River from through the mail.  I ordered a case at about the same time I found a cool circa 1950's wooden soda crate on Ebay.  My little 5 year old discovered my purchases and I told her it was our little secret until St. Patrick's day.  She agreed to that.  She was elated to be "in the know" - a foreign position to the child in the youngest position and she let her siblings know (again and again) that she knew about a secret. For the weeks and days coming up to St. Patrick's Day she would run and whisper to me about the secret she was so excited to be keeping.  Not even her mom could get the secret out of her tight lips.

The night before St. Patrick's Day she and I opened up the case of soda and the wood crate.  I had to smile as her little hands gently picked up each bottle and carefully placed it in the crate, which we then placed on the kitchen table.

This is what the older children came downstairs to on Tuesday morning. . . 

Eliza announced that it was a gift left to them by the leprechaun.  Where she got that from, I have no idea, but it made me laugh.

For my dad, Green River represents a scout hike and a treat in a simpler time.  

For me, it is a reminder of the many fun fishing and camping adventures I had as a carefree kid.  

For my kids, Green River will hopefully be a memory they will store away of fun cabin trips with their dad. 

Perhaps for Eliza, it will be a happy secret she once shared with me.

written by Alan Larson

March 29, 2015

The Gap

Ever wonder why the long gap between blog posts sometimes?

I will tell you.

I am tired.

So very, very tired.

Years ago I had season passes to a county park that included an archaic carousel.  I'm not sure when the last time that thing was inspected because it went about 40 mph.  I dreaded taking my kids on the carousel because the excessive speed combined with the blazing sun would leave me nearly puking by the end.  But, the good news is, the ride always ended.

That is the only way I can describe this special journey.  It feels like you are on that carousel, going way too fast and you can't slow it down, you can't make it stop and you can't get off.  Ever.

Centripetal force is not my friend.

I am wiped out.

And it doesn't matter.

March 13, 2015

Back in Business

Love. Hate. Love. Hate. Love. Hate. Love. Hate. Love. Hate. Love. Hate. Love. Hate. 

That about summarizes my relationship with my big black beastly buggy.

I was out with Lance the other day in my "little zippy" car (still seats 8 - "little" is a relative word) and as we pulled into a parking lot and swiftly pulled into the first open parking space we saw he couldn't help but remark, "Wow, that was sure easy.  Usually we have to drive around for 20 minutes to find a parking space we can fit in." (referring to when I don't have Bridger with me and therefore don't have the convenience of a handicap parking space to park our humongo van in.)

That would be an example of Hate.  But those traumatic parking experiences are always followed by a Love, so it balances.

This winter we have been a bit out of balance.  Wheelchairs and snow don't mix, nor do big extended vans and ice.  Add to that the broken 32" high dev tv (that is usually a huge Love that makes the accomplishment of any errand possible with Bridger) and that would be the combined reason that the van has been spending a bit of time in a cold slumber in our driveway.

I am proud to announce that with the snow gone and an successful appointment with the audio/video shop this last week that our big black beast is back in business!

We celebrated its post-winter rebirth with a voyage to get some ice cream with the kids.  Since going inside stores is rarely a pleasant experience, the kids enjoyed their ice cream with a Tom and Jerry movie party in the back while mom and dad slowly ate our ice cream and talked about our day together in the front seat.   

And it is nothing but Love Love Love!

I have missed that thing.  And I will think such positive thoughts until I have to drive to Costco tomorrow, a Saturday, without Bridger in tow, and find a parking space.  Then the emotional cycle will resume. 

Hug tight to your yellow lines folks - my mom bus is back on the road!

March 11, 2015

Celebrating with Favorites

"Yes'm old friends is always best, 'less you can catch a new one that's fit to make an old one out of."
Sarah Orne Jewett

The special journey has taught me of the value of friends.

It has been an interesting observation over the course of becoming special.

Some friends have dropped out of my life, obviously uncomfortable with my new special world.

Some friends put themselves at a safe arms length, perhaps the distance created to not be close enough to involve themselves in the specialness, but close enough to watch.  They may not realize the obviousness of their position.  Ask anyone in the special club - it is a known fact of life for us and we all share this all-too-common friendship phenomenon.  It is quite obvious to us.

A few handful of friends, the "for better or worse" loyal kind have stuck by my side and jumped in with both feet.  They have accepted the changed me, supported me as I teeter across the fine line of trying to be a friend while fighting circumstances that suck every ounce of my time and energy to be such.  They will never know how many prayers I have said expressing gratitude for them.

The last category, is a rare gem.  They are the friends that only knew me as special, they saw my life, the crazy unbalanced complicated taxing life that it is, and they jumped in to be a part.  They never knew the fun person that I used to be.  They only know me as the one with the permanent worry wrinkle fixed between my brows.  They took me as I am and called me friend.  They have helped and supported me, laughed and cried with me.

I love my old friends and have clung to them as I would my last breath.  But I have been so grateful to catch a few new ones that are fit to make an old one out of.

One such friend is Danielle.

And she just happened to have a birthday that ends in a big fat 0 this past weekend.

Not one to let a reason for some serious celebration pass me by, I kidnapped her and took off to celebrate accordingly.

I dubbed our getaway - Our Favorite Things.

She hates surprises.  I told her tough beans.  With a getaway title such as that, how can you be nervous?

Before you get too excited about what the rest of the post will entail, let me preface by saying that we are two very worn out moms with 9 kids between us.  It takes very little to make a celebration for us - heck, folding a load of laundry when you don't find a tube of strawberry Chapstick melted every where is a celebration.  A kid making it to the toilet to vomit is a celebration.  Finding matches for 80% of the sock pile is a huge celebration, as is when the child you are holding sneezes at point blank while he is eating Ritz crackers and you manage to turn your head just in time.  Simple pleasures - remember?

With that said, Our Favorite Things began with a movie about her favorite subject - running, and we viewed it in my favorite theater with the amazing reclining theater seats that put me to sleep every time.  (Seen McFarland USA yet? Highly recommend. Very uplifting.)  We followed that with another Favorite Thing for her, healthy eating, and enjoyed the yummiest salad ever.  We each share the Favorite Thing of home organization, so Container Store was next on the list of favs and we browsed for a bit before we headed over to my favoritest of favorites - a massage.  Danielle's most favorite thing that I have come to know of is ice cream.  So after our massages we went over for some Ben and Jerry's where I had another one of her favorite things waiting for her - her sister from Maryland.  After our ice cream we headed over to a local hotel for the night (what mom doesn't have a favorite thing of a good night sleep?!) and perused a stack of fresh mindless women's magazines.  We slept in (for us that means 7:00am) and passed up on the rest of the list of favorites for the morning and enjoyed a leisure morning hanging out in our pj's on our hotel cozy beds for 4 hours. Oh, the bliss of getting to just be still sometimes.  We enjoyed ourselves a fluffy omelet for breakfast and returned to our most Favorite Things, our families.

My friend Danielle, she is one of my favorite things too.  She is amazing.  She is doing what is most important, and doing it wonderfully well.  I hope she knows that.

Happy 40th Friend!

Oh, did I just type your age on my blog for all to see.  Shoot, sorry about that.

March 10, 2015

Snow Soup

When life gives you snow. . . 

Make Snow Soup!

That is not at all how the saying goes, but that is how our saying goes.

Snow days are different in life when you have a Side of Special.

How do you play in the snow when you can't move a wheelchair through it, when you don't have the strength to scoot through it, and when you can't touch the snow because doing so will make you instantly vomit from sensory overload?

You don't.

So, then, how do the siblings have the fun family snow days and hit the hills with their sleds like their friends are?

They don't.

It saddens me that it is another loss they have in this special journey.

Someone recently remarked to me that Bridger's siblings don't know a life that is any different, so therefore they aren't aware of the hardships, challenges and things they are missing out on - that only I was aware of such.  I nearly choked.  

Let me quickly dispel any myth of the sort.  

Bridger, perhaps, doesn't know all that he is missing out on because of his cognitive limitations, but his siblings know and feel every loss.  Every. Single. One.  They have eyes, they have ears, they have friends.  They see their friend's parents at their sports games and miss their own.  They see other families at restaurants that don't have to leave half way through the meal every time.  They know of the other playdates their friends are having that they aren't because their brother is always sick or that extra time is gone because their parents are cramming 15 hours of medical appointments in each week. They know that it is not normal to take 20 minutes to get in or out of the car in the pouring rain.  They hear of all of the vacations that other people take that we cannot because it is not possible with their brother.  They see parks and playgrounds as we drive by that other children are scampering about on and feel the hurt that they can't play there too.  They hear events advertised at the school and church they cannot attend because it is impossible to do so with their brother and their parents can only divide and conquer so much.  Their friends tell them about the fun times sledding they had in the recent snow and know that with their dad at work and their mom home with Bridger who can't go out in the snow, that sledding is only a dream to them.  To mention the losses to them might cause their eyes to well over instantly with tears that they are stoically holding back because they know they have no other choice.  They endure with grace - but don't ever diminish them by saying they don't feel this. I could go on and on. . . but I just promised to quickly end that myth.  So that is my quick response.

During the storm of this past week, Alan was able to stay home from work to take them sledding for the first time ever.  The expressions on their faces would be something similar to someone experiencing the ocean for the first time.  Alan didn't snap any pictures of the excursion, but he hasn't stopped talking about the looks on their faces all week.

While he was away sledding with them, I took another opportunity to try to get Bridger and the snow to be better friends.

We made our annual favorite - Snow Soup.  He uses his spoons (since he cannot touch the snow without gagging) and he transferred the snow from bucket to bucket (huge fine motor skills here!) He would laugh and feed an eager Ty his soup.  Occasionally I would push his sensory system by "accidentally" having the snow touch his cheek, then lips. . . then . . . he would retch. . . and I would promptly back away again.  We had a grand time making our snow soup for Ty to eat.

Some things never change.

This is Bridger in 2010.  

He is sitting in a homemade supportive seating device, since he could not maintain a sitting position on his own, and I am teaching him how to make Snow Soup.  Back then, just like today, the sight of snow would make him gag and the very touch of it, indeed, did make him vomit.  Snow Soup sounds like it may be a game - but it is really occupational therapy in disguise.

To overcome the sensory challenges and touch the posing threat, often times children with special needs will use an intermediate object to safely provide the interference for them.  Bridger will "touch" the snow through the protection of a long spoon.

And because making snow soup with Ty was just too much fun not to share - I can't hold back from sharing a still frame sequence of just how grand of a time those two had.

The grand success of our playtime was our last game.  My goal in our play was to get Bridger to overcome his sensory aversions and touch snow with his hands.  That takes some incredible motivation to achieve.  We found that motivation in a game of "hide and seek".  Bridger would excitedly bury one of Ty's toys deep in the bowl of snow with his bare hands and pack it down, then on command Ty would enthusiastically find it - repeated over and over. See that blur of the tail? Wagging so hard because it was just as motivating for Ty as it was for Bridger.  It was a sensory success!

It was a super souper snowy day!

My enthusiasm for the snow is now officially depleted. It was a balmy 60 degrees yesterday and I even put on flip flops for a very brief moment.

I try to convincingly tell myself that the snow is done for the season. But if not, I will have my soup pot and long handled spoons ready and try to convince the others that they don't know what they are missing . . . because they really do.

March 04, 2015


Her name is Tara.

She is the pharmacist at Walgreens.

When I pull in the drive thru we instantly launch into conversation like old friends.

She tells me that she misses me when she hasn't seen me for a week.

We chat about her pregnancy and birth of her first child.  I always ask about his latest development and sleeping schedule.  Golly, he is growing like a weed!

She always compliments when I have a new hair-do (i.e.  I showered).

She notices when we are all dressed up and comments on our attire. I roll down the window behind me and she will make a fuss over Bridger's cuteness.

I bring the whole family by every now and then.  They are excited to greet her too.  She knows them all by name.

I guess when you spend thousands of dollars each month at the pharmacy at Walgreens they give you the red carpet treatment.

She's got my back.

When the insurance company is giving us grief and denying a life sustaining medication for the 8th consecutive month that Bridger has been taking for 8 consecutive years, Tara goes to bat for us and fights the same redundant fight with United Healthcare the insurance company.

Pretty sure we are going to exchange Christmas gifts next year.

She is my bestie alright.

Everyone needs a Tara in their life.

March 01, 2015

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

I left Bridger by himself to play in his room -- well, I wish he would play.  More appropriately said, I left him alone in his room in front of some buckets of toys.

Independent play still isn't a *skill* he has gained yet.  We are having to teach Bridger how to initiate and play with toys.  I hope he learns soon, because to tend to him 24/7 is exhausting and unnatural.  You tend to babies every minute of the day (luckily, they nap, so that provides a break.)  Young toddlers -- they start to have 10-15 minutes here and there that they will occupy themselves.  By the time my kids were 4 and 5, leave them with a room full of toys and you wouldn't hear a peep for hours.  To have a nearly 8 year old still needing me every minute is not my preference.  

We are teaching him how to have an interest in that bucket of Duplos - which he can't quite stack.  We are teaching him to maneuver those Fisher Price Little People - which he can't make stand up with his shaky hands. We are teaching him how to look through a picture book - even though he can't really turn the pages.

Sometimes, I just have to step away and leave him to reconcile his own boredom {manifest as screaming} so I can go face that ever mounting pile of laundry.

Which I did on Friday.

I returned to his unnaturally quiet room to find this. . .

I guess if you can't play with toys and you don't have the ability to climb into your bed, you find the next best thing.

What is good enough for his dog is apparently good enough for him.

I tiptoed out and let the sleeping dog lie and conquered that laundry pile.