May 31, 2015

The Cats Were Away

When each of my children turn 8, 12 and 16, they get an "alone trip" with mom and/or dad (usually an "or" because it is next to impossible to coordinate an "and").

Bridger turned 8 back in March.  I had thought about a birthday trip for him. . . then dismissed it, feeling somewhat guilty about doing so, but justifying it by reminding myself that Bridger prefers the company of his siblings and thinking we could just do a family trip later on in the spring.

However, his brother didn't dismiss Bridger's significant birthday opportunity.  Lance went to Alan to remind him that Bridger needed a special trip and actually had an idea of what Bridger should do.  Lance thought that his brother should do what he had done when he turned 8 and have a extra special, slightly modified, cabin trip.  Lance also thought he should accompany Bridger on his trip:)

I know that Lance would give anything to have a typical brother to enjoy all his outdoor experiences with, but he acts like his time with Bridger is the best time ever.  For that reason and more, I think he is a champion.

Bridger was beyond excited with anticipation all week.  He went to bed every night babbling about his trip itinerary and Alan and I woke up every morning to the same excited dialogue.

The boys took off on Friday night and began Bridger's 8th birthday adventure.

It might seem overly simple and down right unexciting to others, but to Bridger, it was all of his favorite things.

They first stopped at Cracker Barrel that is near the cabin for dinner.  Bridger loooooves Cracker Barrel.  Behind Cracker Barrel is the other love of Bridger's life - Walmart.  He picked out some stickers for himself, then he reached for another pack and explained to Alan that they were "for Baby" (Eliza).  I love that he looks out for her even when he is not with her. Lance chose some foam swords and shields for an epic brother battle later.

After Walmart they stopped at the local gas station to pick up some little homemade pies that one of the local residents bakes every day and sells there by the register.  Love those country stores.

Bridger had never been willing to try pie before that night.

He must have been feeling adventurous!

The next day they went fishing.  Bridger thinks it is hilarious when the fish pull on the line.  His favorite part is flapping his hand around the shallow bucket of water and watching the newly caught fish flop.  {insert ew}  He even caught one more than his brother!

They each caught some big ones.  They returned to the cabin and Alan cleaned them out and Lance cooked them up for dinner.

The brothers had their sword fight until they were both out of breath, then they tucked Bridger into bed and Alan and Lance went upstairs and watched some boy movies and drank rootbeer straight out of the bottle - accompanied by the mutual feeling that, sometimes, life is really really good.

The following day they went into town and attended church.  We call it the "cabin church" and Lance really loves to go there now that he is starting to make some friends there. They are truly the kindest and sweetest people to Bridger.  I will always have a tender spot in my heart for some of the most heart warming and genuine acts of kindness they have shown to Bridger when we have attended.

The most fun part of the trip was when they returned home.  There is something completely addictive about Bridger's little soul.  Even though it is wonderful to have some respite from caring for him 24/7, I miss him something terrible when he is away -- and he really misses mom too.  He gives me the best welcome home hugs.

I am so grateful for a brother who wanted to make sure that his little brother didn't miss out on his special time.  I am so grateful for a husband who summons the energy of Hercules to do such a trip.

I am grateful for those 3 cool cats.

May 30, 2015

The Mice Play

Those crazy cats were away last weekend, so the mice played.

Oh, how I love being the mice!

Alan took Bridger away last weekend for his special birthday getaway and Lance accompanied to be an extra helper (and to be part of the fun)  More on that tomorrow.

So the girls left at home played!

Having the home be a place of peace and quiet is a rare treat and we wanted to savor every minute of that.  We started off by cleaning the house. . . . because, everyone knows that is how you really kick off a great party, right? (at least I do and am trying to convince my girls as well)  I had bought a couple fun new card games at the hobby shop that day so after the girls and I finished our cleaning we had ourselves a relaxing and hysterical game night.  Adding a 5 year old player to any game not intended for an under 10 population always adds the hysterical element.   After we finished playing I tucked Eliza into bed and the older two and I cuddled in my bed and watched Shark Tank.  We are all addicted.

We slept in until 8:00 the next morning.  Hello, luxury.  We did some morning service projects for Alan's birthday on Monday by doing a super duty cleaning of his car and organizing his den.  Evie then went to the American Girl store with a friend to celebrate her friend's birthday while Sadie and Eliza packed up a picnic lunch, pumped up our tires and went for a bike ride.   This was my first time biking with Eliza attached on the one wheel tandem bike.  Usually, I am just pulling a flat, steady and heavy loaded trailer with Bridger aboard.  The one wheel tandem with Eliza made me fear for my life.  Every time Eliza would throw her weight to the right or left as she enthusiastically pedaled my whole center of gravity would be thrown and my core would panic and self-correct -- every single pedal rotation.  This made for a very long few miles of biking.

We finally arrived at our picnic spot and enjoyed the carbo-liciousness that Eliza had lovingly packed.

We rode home, grabbed Evie and then drove off for our next adventure.

I had booked us a Mommy/Daughter cooking slot at Dinners Done -- one of those self assembly dinner kitchens.  My girls love to cook - especially Sadie who wants to be a chef when she grows up.  She has the most refined palate of anyone I have ever met (but won't eat that darn baked ziti).  Sadie was over the moon.

We donned our aprons and I gave the girls our requested menus and off they went to the stations to prepare our meals.  No help needed!  Even Eliza could hold her own.  Midway through the experience, Sadie came over to me with her noodle body way of expressing her absolute thrill and just exclaimed, "THIS is a MUST DO AGAIN!"

We sipped some soda and had some finger treats and packed up our basket of 12 deliciously healthy meals and capped off our evening over dinner at Cafe Rio.  It was the most gorgeous evening for dining outside and we lingered long with unhurried contentment.

The next morning we were way too lazy and had to scramble to get to church on time.  It was nice to enjoy the service and actually hear it.  I usually can't tell you more than 5 words that might have been said when Bridger is by my side on our other Sundays.

After church the party ended.  We knew we had to scramble to get the house cleaned up and dinner ready for the boys return.  When Bridger is home, life and all its good intentions comes to a halt.  The cats came home and we closed the door to our little mouse hole until next time.

The girls are still talking about last weekend.  I am too.  I adore my daughters more than blog words can express.  For all those ways that motherhood didn't quite turn out like I thought it would, it is countered by my relationship with my daughters - which is more wonderful than I dreamed it could ever be.

May 29, 2015

Ordinary Miracle Today

Yesterday Evie sincerely inquired of me the question I often ask her, "What did you do today?"

I couldn't quite answer her with anything substantive.  There is not a sound bite that can sum up my day.

As I went to bed last night I was thinking of the beautiful lyrics to the song by Sarah McLachlan, Ordinary Miracle.  That was my answer to her question, I just had some "ordinary miracles." I am grateful for those days.  I have plenty of days that are extraordinary and many that are down right crazy.  My special ordinary days are every bit as miraculous to me.  I thought I would leave my blog open all day long and come in to the computer every hour or so and jot down my doings, as a record for the next time Evie asks.  Luckily, today was an easy day.  It was completely ordinary.  My kind of ordinary, a special ordinary. 

*          *          *          *          *          *

Insomnia from 2-5:45am.  I finally pull my groggy face out of bed at 6:20.

Go into #4's room and do his morning stretches, change a very robust diaper and dress the big boy - threading his legs awkwardly into his shorts and holding his body up and attempt to put on his shirt as his body flops back down.  Lucky start - no screaming yet.

Clean around g-tube.  This one has been leakier than others. Check volume of g-tube balloon and add additional fluid since it is low.

Apply cream to his athletes foot in between his toes.  (a common side effect of wearing non-breathable plastic orthotics with no friction or movement in his feet because he doesn't walk)

Get #3 and #1 up for school.

Make fancy breakfast because #3 is sure her teacher told her to have a 3-course breakfast that morning to be in prime form for her SOL testing.

Transfer #4 to wheelchair.  Fit him with his orthotics.  Scrub down his glasses.

Feed #4 his breakfast one bite at a time while reading "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" over and over again at his insisting, blinded by the morning sun coming in the back windows.

Pack lunches for #1-3, remembering who will eat what fruit.

Feed dog.

Wake up #2.

Load up #4's backpack with changing supplies and two formulas for mid-day sustenance.

Wheel #4 out to his bus.

Sign forms for #3.

Hug for her and send her off to the bus.

Eat breakfast with #1.

Fill out more forms.

Send #1 and 2 back upstairs to brush their teeth.

Welcome sleepy #5 to the kitchen chaos with a big Good Morning hug.

Send #1-2 off to the bus.

Visit with husband and #5 as they eat their oatmeal together.

Check emails, respond to a few regarding end of year party and teacher gifts.

Kiss hubs off to work.

Write letter for #3's time capsule (that was supposed to be send in at the beginning of the year inside the time capsule but wasn't so teacher can sneak it in before she opens it)

Call (4th attempt) to the office that manages #4's disability benefits on a point of confusion.  Finally get a hold of the person that realizes there was a "filing error" and confusion is finally cleared and the annual administrative threat of losing all of #4's benefits is now dissolved until next year's same annual event.

Call pediatrician to make some appointments and follow up on a medical form for #4.

Rotate laundry.

Answer call from pharmacy telling me they still can't locate from their supplier an essential medication for #4 that he has been taking for over a year.

Call ortho for post mri followup for the broken foot of #2.

Poll Special Needs moms for specialist preferences for #4's hip problems and spinal followup.

Play hair and makeup with #5.

Do my Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 dvd.

Gasping for breath, limp depleted to shower.

Renew car registration.

Run dog to his doggy neighbor for some play time.

Walk #5 to bus.

5 minute visit with another mom.

Pay doc's office for form fee (#4 comes with 6000 annual forms.  I think I fund their annual Holiday party with all of his form fees)

Take a friend to lunch for her birthday.

Do church-related visit.

Sit with another friend in her car and enjoy a blissful 10 minutes of girl talk with her.

Super fast grocery run.

Run into Hobby Lobby for some project supplies for girls.

Get homemade soup in the crockpot.

Realize I don't have critical ingredient for soup and put that in the fridge to continue tomorrow.

Throw together a quick baked ziti to cook tonight.

Call chiropractor for my back.  (I swore I would never go that route.  I'm clearly desperate now)

Email two potential caregivers for #4.

Make arrangements for driving van to Pennsylvania this weekend for repair. 

Pay bills.

Go through music options for cello duets I am performing with #3 in a few weeks.

Begin to transpose music options.

Give up on transposing effort that is taking too long.

Get muffin makings ready for after school snack (by promise to #4 to get him out the door without a major tantrum)

Email wheelchair equipment guy about brake problems with new wheelchair and discuss new shower chair since #4 just outgrew old one.

Call ortho who won popular vote above and wait on hold for 30 mins to make appointment.

Exchange texts with tennis partner about playing tomorrow in preparation for our tournament on Monday.

Deliver extremely overdue Time Capsule letter to teacher's mailbox at school.  She'll never know.

Chat with another special mom I pass in the parking lot as I leave.

Take dog out of kennel and potty him so he is ready to greet #4 when the bus comes.

Welcome #4 off the bus, take off sweaty orthotics and stretch smelly toes.

Welcome #3 and 5 off the bus with hugs.

Wash hands.

Change a large oversoaked diaper.

Wash hands again.

Have #4 make his requested muffins himself to get his home Occupational Therapy for the day.

Have #3 and 5 make some cranberry oatmeal cookies for a bribery, er, uh, positive reinforcement for the 3/5 of my children that hate baked ziti.  (really? how can anyone not like baked ziti?)

Clean up the explosion from the above two items.

Feed kids muffins for after school snack.

Empty dishwasher.

Get #3 and 5 going on their chores.

Rotate laundry, fold and put away.

Write letter of medical necessity for assistive technology items for #4.

Update electronic forms for #4's respite lodge profile.

Email respite lodge about pending form needed by today for next weekend's stay.

Look online again at music and purchase music that is cello-ready. Download and print 57 pages.

Change #4's bed sheets and empty his diaper trash to try to eliminate horrible odor detected earlier.


Correctly identify source of smell and unclog #1's toilet.

Fielded three robocalls reminding me of different doctor appointments next week.

Go to bus stop and pick up #2 from stop so she doesn't have to hobble home on crutches.

Snack and chat about day with #1 and 2.

Get #1 and 2 doing their chores.

Get #3 practicing her piano.

Care for #4.

Call new pharmacy and wait on hold for 15 minutes to see if they have one of #4's meds that other pharmacy's supplier can no longer get.

Tend to a screaming melt down of #4.

Still tending and trying to get him to play with something.

Still tending.

Put casserole in the oven.

Get #2 on the piano to practice.

Change another large diaper.

Helped #1 with some indexing (transcription of images of genealogical records into a database)

Gathered kiddos for dinner.

Tried to convince #4 the baked ziti was just like pizza.

Perform finger sweep of his mouth to eliminate all traces as he retches.

Throw away magazine that was in front of him that took a direct hit.

Ignore #4 as he implodes into out of control tantrum about not being allowed a dessert.

Put his brakes on as he tries to flip his chair in tantrum.

Continue chatting to the others about their day as we eat and 2 diners mostly stare and fork around their food.

Excuse myself from the table and take the out of control screaming #4 upstairs to bed when all of us have matching jugulars popping out of our necks from the sheer volume.

#1 comes to help be my "getting ready for bed" assistant to #4.  (when he is like this, it takes two)

Tuck #4 into bed and lock up his bed gates and give him his ipad to sooth himself.

Text #1's friend's mom to see if he can join #1 at the hobby shop game night tonight.

Put #1 back on computer indexing and return to the table to encourage #3 to finish her dreaded ziti.  She has to reheat her plate because it is taking her so long to gag down each bite -- all 10 bites I gave her to begin with.

Spoke again with the pharmacy about #4's critical medication. Apparently the patent expired so it only comes in generic now and no longer from original manufacturer. Generic dropped the liquid form and only comes in pill.  Pills don't go down g-tubes. Pharmacist has to call corporate offices to get legal permission to compound the pill into a liquid so it can go down g-tube.  Will repeat this conversation on Monday.  Looking forward to it.

Left with #1 to pick up his friend and drop them at the hobby shop.

Came home and cleaned up dinner.

Checked on #4 who is quietly babbling -- the mode he uses to self soothe.

Cozied on the couch with #2, 3 and 5 with our usual Friday night weekend welcome of a Tetris tournament. (for the record, I am Tetris Queen, but they inherited my mad Tetris skills so there is some tough competition)

Ate cookies they made.

Prep birthday presents for back to back parties for #4 and 5 tomorrow.

Make treats for church potluck tomorrow.

Call husband and tell him to pick up #1 and his friend from the hobby shop on the way home from work.

Husband comes home from work for a quick hello to the other kids before they go to bed. He turns around to pick up #1 and friend. 

Read some Mary Poppins to the girls, have family prayer and tuck them into bed.

Rotate laundry and out of the wet load of whites find a peach glove entirely filled with tiny gravel bits, less the few hundred bits that were laying on the inner floor of the washer.  Left those until the next load.

Return to #4's room and play the maddening "I want that book" game -- he knows exactly what book he wants but you can't figure out what he is requesting to save your life so he just gets more and more upset.  Walked out before I peeled my eyeballs out.  Sent in Evie to be the cavalry.  She found the book.

Send #1 up to his room to get ready for bed and read for a while.

Went for a late night walk with husband and the dog.

I sit and chat as he reheats his dinner.

He eats without complaint.  That makes 3 today.

I get ready for bed and turn on some mind numbing HGTV.

Read for a bit.

Wrap up this blog for the night.

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This might seem like an incredibly dreary, ho-hum or otherwise exhausting day, (and it is!)  Everything that happened today is a beautiful, however ordinary, miracle to me.


It's not that unusual
When everything is beautiful
It's just another
Ordinary miracle today

The sky knows when it's time to snow
Don't need to teach a seed to grow
It's just another
Ordinary miracle today

Life is like a gift, they say
Wrapped up for you everyday
Open up, and find a way
To give some of your own

Isn't it remarkable?
Like every time a raindrop falls
It's just another
Ordinary miracle today

The birds in winter have their fling
And always make it home by spring
It's just another
Ordinary miracle today

When you wake up everyday
Please don't throw your dreams away
Hold them close to your heart
'Cause we are all a part

Of the ordinary miracle

Ordinary miracle

Do you want to see a miracle

It seems so exceptional
That things work out after all
It's just another
Ordinary miracle today

The sun comes out and shines so bright
And disappears again at night
It's just another
Ordinary miracle today

It's just another
Ordinary miracle today

Savor the ordinary.

May 28, 2015

The Deleted Scenes

Crawling to the finish line as I am smothered with the final field days, field trips, spring concerts, finals, SOL testing, more teacher appreciation moments, school projects, class parties, tournament games and more volunteer "opportunities" than I can shake a stick at.

All the while staying one step ahead of the Truant Officer {barely}.  If Eliza doesn't get into college she can refer back to this post and blame the 3 dozen tardies from her kindergarten year.

Summer.  I need you now.

Until then, I thought that short video in my previous post needed some broadening.

Let's talk about some of the scenes that didn't make the final cut.

One of the questions Alan and I were asked was what makes us most uncomfortable in this special journey.  In unison he and I both replied, "The Stares!"

The interviewer was shocked.  "People really stare?!"

Absolutely, unequivocally, resoundingly, YES!

Remember when you were a insecure adolescent in high school and you thought everyone was staring at you and they really weren't?

Yeah, this isn't like that at all.

They really are staring. 

Every time I look up, someone is staring right back at us him. When I am away from Bridger and someone else is pushing him and I look like a regular person in the crowd, I watch the people stare.  Sometimes they stare blatantly and openly and other times they turn their head to stare once Bridger was wheeled past.  When I have caregivers take Bridger into public they have all returned and told me that they were shocked at how stared at they were.

We get used to it, but it never feels comfortable.

Gone are my wallflower days.

The children were outside playing when Alan and I were being interviewed and out of earshot of our answers.  When they were brought in and plopped on the couch they were then asked the same question.  Alan and I were curious what they each would respond to the questions.

"What makes them most uncomfortable and do they wish they could change in this journey?" the interviewer asked.

Without a breath of hesitation and all four children in complete unison, "THE STARING!"

Alan and I were both so shocked and intrigued by their answer.  We hadn't known that they were so aware of it too.  They went on to describe many of the times they had noticed it, and even some actions they had taken to counter their discomfort with it.

A while back I came across a little sign in a boutique.  It spoke to me and so I promptly purchased it and gave place on an end table in my home.  It reads:

Hearing their responses made me especially glad of this daily reminder they have and how to find their comfortable place with it.

I came across the most eloquently written blog post on the subject.  It is written by another special mother and this post has circulated around my special sorority because it resonates with all of us -- it perfectly sums up the public experience we all have.  Read the link below, because not only is it very very true, it is also very amusing.

May 19, 2015

Quiet on the Set

Recently, I had a little taste of Hollywood.

Jill's House, Bridger's respite lodge, wanted to make a feature video about our family to promote the book soon to be released in which our family members are the featured characters.

We had hours of footage taken of us, a camera following me around, microphones hung just above our foreheads and some bright lights on either side of our faces with the instructions to "just relax and act natural".

It was an interesting interview and many of the unexpected, awkward, embarrassing, tender and beautiful experiences in our special journey were shared.  The most interesting part was listening to my children be interviewed and what they said.  Most of the footage will forever be housed in the Hollywood vaults labeled "deleted scenes".  

All of those hours of filming had to be condensed down into a 4 minute production.  I think the production team did a beautiful job capturing our journey in a just a few sound bites.

Here is your sneak peak into our Life with a Side of Special. . .

May 15, 2015

Did I Really Just Have to Say That?

There are moments in my life that things come out of my mouth that I can't believe I really have to say.

"Do NOT bring that frog in the house!"

Said yesterday,

as she attempted to dare cross the threshold,

was one of those moments.

May 13, 2015

Hot Wheels

Growth in the land of Special doesn't just mean having to buy new pants and shoes.  It means having to buy new equipment.  Unfortunately, a new wardrobe for a growing child is pennies compared to equipment.  Whenever you see a piece of adaptive equipment, guess how much you think it costs, triple that guess and then put a zero at the end and you have the right answer.

Special moms have a love/hate relationship with new equipment.  We are beyond giddy at the thought of a new piece of equipment that will possibly make life a little easier or more comfortable for our child.  We stew over the possibilities of adaptive equipment for new features, new modifications we can add to promote new skills and independence, and, everyone loves a fresh shiny set of wheels after the numerous scratch and dents of their old model.  Love all that.

We don't love the months and months of paperwork, insurance back and forths, appeals, doctor's letters and visits that it takes to get such.  Each new piece of equipment equals hundreds of hours of administrative work and averages 6-8 months of time to acquire. Sometimes, we have already outgrown the new equipment by the time we receive it because the process took so long.

We also don't love one more thing -- the equipment.  It might sound confusing - we worked so hard for it but then we don't like it?  Don't get me wrong - finally receiving the equipment is the equivalent of Christmas Day.  Our heartbeat is quickened at the very sight of the rehabilitative equipment specialist just carrying that new piece of adaptive equipment off his truck.  But then it comes into your house, and your immediate first thought is, "THAT is HUGE!"

And that is when the sting hits.

The boy is growing.  A little itty bitty wheelchair for a three year old was much cuter. The bigger the equipment gets, the more the angst builds about the future.  Bigger equipment is a reminder that the future will be much harder than the present.

So with each shiny new piece of equipment, there is a piece of us that is ecstatic, and a piece of us that is crumbling inside at the same time.

I will focus on the ecstatic piece for now.  Because, how could you not with this new set of Hot Wheels?!

7 months in the making.  So many dozens of features that the untrained eye can't even detect.  Swing away footplates so he can learn to transfer in and out of his chair unobstructed with an angled footplate to match the angle of his restricted foot in its orthotic.  A custom seat back to promote better posture and hopefully stop the progressing curve forming in his spine, a custom seat cushion with individual air chambers that form to every curve of his bottom after you seal the valve once he compresses them with his weight and prevent the sores on his bottom from sitting in a chair all day, brake extensions so that he can reach his brakes better and use with less effort, special hand holds for his independently getting in and out of his chair, larger tires which equals less effort to propel so he doesn't fatigue as easily, rim grips for tactile support. . . the list goes on.

My favorite part was the part that Bridger played.  HE selected his chair color and hot wheels.  The boy has great taste!  I showed him the options for the spoke protectors and after he went back and forth for quite some time between the ones with beagles printed all over, the ones with monsters, and the green swirls, he finally settled on the green swirls.  Add to that his rubber light up casters and he has pimped his ride!  After a couple hours of some onsite adjustments, the boy gave it two thumbs up!

Bridger let me know approximately 200 times within the first hour of receiving this chair that he was most certainly going to take it to school the next day.  When I wheeled him into school, a 4th grade class was outside.  A bunch of boys shouted a 'hello' to Bridger and then immediately noticed his chair and started complimenting him.  Bridger's face swelled with his signature look of satisfaction and happiness.  They all slapped him a "High 5" as he wheeled past and for the first time ever in his life, he felt cool.

That is the part that made the stress of the equipment buying process and the anxiety of seeing ginormous oversized equipment melt away.

Bridger felt cool.

The story doesn't end there.  As with most new equipment, there is a whole additional process of adjusting and correcting once it is received.  I am off to Alexandria for 5 hours of my day tomorrow to take Bridger's chair to the wheelchair "body shop" for some custom tweaking.

Then there is the realization that this new bigger chair no longer fits in my car.  Do I get a new set of hot wheels then too??

To be continued. . .

May 10, 2015

1 : 1

One on one.

It is not a ratio I am able to experience very often.

Still, it is one of the most important things that Alan and I make time for with our children.

You would think that with five children that each would receive approximately 20% of their parents' undivided attention.

Not when you have a Side of Special.

Bridger consumes 96% of our attention (that is being conservative, I really think it is 99.9%).  That leaves our remaining 4% divided between the other children.  That is not a healthy percentage.

We have had a Behavioral Psychologist working with us in our home with some of Bridger's undesirable behaviors.  At the end of the visit, she was talking with us and hit the nail on the head when, after observing his random screaming, obsessive behaviors and uncontrollable outbursts,  she sympathetically said, "he is essentially holding you all hostage in your home."

We all nodded as we digested the perfect description she assigned to what we often feel.

With this special lifestyle, Alan and I have made it a priority to make sure that each child receives critical 1:1 time whenever we can spare the time -- part of that alone time includes taking each child on a trip when they turn 8, 12 and 16.

Oh, how I look forward to those birthdays for them.  Alan or I need that trip with them as much as they need it with us.

Evie turns 12 in two months.  She wanted a trip to Florida.  You can't pay me to go to Florida in July - Virginia humidity is already suffocating enough.  So I asked her if she would object to celebrating her birthday trip a couple months early.  As anticipated, she didn't have a problem with that.  It was made only more convenient by the fact that Alan had a work retreat in Orlando so we were able to take advantage of the free digs at the beautiful resort he was staying in.

A week ago last Wednesday, we hopped on that plane bound for Disney.  We even received a water gun salute by a couple fire trucks that we taxied out under in honor of a beautiful child receiving his Make-a-Wish on our flight.  I might have cried a little bit for that.

Oh, the joy and ease in traveling with one child!  Oh, the pain and stress of managing the details for the care of the others in my absence.  Luckily, a wonderful friend and super caregiver plugged the holes in my care schedule - along with a well timed stay for Bridger at his awesome weekend respite lodge, Jill's House.  It had been 7 long months since his last stay so he was beyond excited to spend the weekend there - which made it all the more comforting for me to swallow the angst of leaving him for so long.

When we landed, Evie and I jumped in our rental car and headed to her Priority #1 of the trip -- not Magic Kingdom, not Epcot. . . the girl's most passionate request was to walk around Downtown Disney and shop.  Even just window shop.  I found that request interesting.  We frequent Magic Kingdom with Bridger.  He loves Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom loves him.  The other children enjoy the "perks" that he comes with there. Consequently, we love it too and we experience everything possible there with him. However, we have very limited ability when it comes to Downtown Disney, and much to the dismay of the other children, our visits there have always been very brief.  Bridger isn't content strolling around, we can't take our time in shops.  He obsesses over things he sees and wants and ends up screaming often and for long uncontrollable periods of time. When we dine at Downtown Disney, one of us has to walk around with him trying to manage the behavior while the remaining parent snarfs down the meal in 4 minutes flat with the others.

So. very. not. fun.  But we try to make the most of it for the other children to have the experience.

It wasn't entirely surprising when Evie said that her greatest wish in Orlando was to just walk around Downtown Disney.

Once we parked at Downtown Disney, I presented her with a Disney Gift Card to start off her shopping spree.  I will never forget her face.  We enjoyed all of the things we could do, because our usual life is filled with so many things we can't do.

We dined at her choice of the Rainforest Cafe and took as long as we wanted to eat - -because we could.  Then we strolled along the walk, browsing the shops for as long as she wanted -- because we could.  We eventually settled at the Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop and she ordered whatever she wanted with the amazingly liberating joy -- she didn't have to share it with a sibling!  WoW! Unheard of with our pack.

Traveling with one child, I discovered, is also very CHEAP!  Stopping for a overpriced Disney snack for our family of 7 can easily cost us fifty bucks a pop.  We feel like we bleed $20's all over Disney.  One child - wow! What a deal!  We stopped everywhere she wanted to have a little treat that she and I would split for the whopping total of $4.95!

After our initial romp through Downtown Disney, we headed for our hotel in Universal Studios.  I choose that hotel for the on-site benefit of the "Fast Pass" entry to the rides at the park the next day for us.  Again, what an amazing delight!  To stay on site at a property is a rare treat.  When traveling with our crew, there isn't on-site lodging that can accommodate our family and/or Bridger's special requirements for sleeping. We didn't have to stay in the large 3-bedroom hotel miles away, but merely a few hundred yards from the park entrance.  We played in the pool that night, had a ping pong tournament and ate our dinner poolside as we snuggled in a pile of pool towels and watch Harry Potter on a screen hanging over the pool into the late night hours -- because we could.

The next morning we took a beautiful stroll along the path that led the park entrance and the adventure for the day began. 

We started in the amazing Diagon Alley of Harry Potter, browsed the shops and rode the new ride a couple times and filled our day with fun.

We ended the day with the Simpsons.  The Simpson's ride nearly did us both in -- perhaps it was the fact that the ride was preceded by the consumption of a ginormous Lard Lad donut that Bart enticed us to buy.  {insert retching sound}

We walked back to our hotel and fell into the car and went to join Alan who had just arrived in Orlando and checked into his hotel.

While Alan was busy in his meetings the next day, Evie and I hit Magic Kingdom.  I had made arrangements to eat at Belle's castle at Be Our Guest Restaurant for a reservation time just slightly after the park opened, which allowed us entry into the park before the general public.  We enjoyed strolling along the main street and snapping pictures with hardly anyone around.  This gave us quick access to the Snow White and the Dwarfs Mine Train ride, which they opened before the park gates to the general public and gave us the first ride of the day, allowing us to avoid 2+ hour wait time that ride usually demands.  I love me some park strategizing -- that makes ALL the difference in the experience.  My Side of Special has made me an expert strategizer.

We enjoyed our delicious breakfast and they set about out to thoroughly exhaust ourselves until 11:00pm, squeezing in the Spirit of Aloha dinner show at the Polynesian  -- because we could.

Phew.  I was wiped out!

Our last day in Orlando was extra special -- we went from 1:1 to 2:1.  Alan ditched his "work" obligations (I use the finger quotes loosely around that word because his "work" was a backstage tour of Disney, or parachuting, or zip lining over a alligator swamp, etc. Tough stuff.)  For Evie to have time by herself with both her parents was a rare treat.  We wandered the Disney Boardwalk and she picked out special treats that we never buy -- because we could. . .

we went shopping again, ate at the T-Rex Cafe -- because we could. . .

(Does it look like we ate a lot on this trip?  We did.)

and played a round of pitch and putt on the green out back of our resort.  We discovered that Evie has some real golf skills with that 7 iron.

She was absolutely glowing during the trip -- basking in her solo presence with both of her parents' undivided attention.  It was so wonderful to spend that long weekend oozing out my vocal adoration for her and to fill up her well of confidence overflowing as I shared with her every wonderful trait and talent that I see in her.

Sadly, the trip had to end.  In addition to leaving the trip with some amazing memories of our time together, I also left with our traditional souvenirs.  With all of our trips and family vacations we always purchase a Christmas ornament for our tree, and a magnet for our magnet board that reminds us of the fun memories we have made.

What will I remember every time I look at our magnet??

Ohhh, that Lard Lad.  {insert retching sound}