May 25, 2016

A Wallflower

Yesterday, it got to me.

The stares.

All 283 of them.

I am not hypersensitive.  This is not the paranoia of a teen that thinks every one is looking at them, when in fact they are not. This is not an exaggeration. This is just a post driven by a weak moment of Special fatigue.

And staring is a reality in Special.

When new caregivers take Bridger for an outing and return home, the first thing they report to me is how they felt so stared at.

In a store, when my husband or other children are at the handlebars of Bridger's wheelchair and I am down the aisle blending in anonymously with other other shoppers, I watch others stare at him.

I have written about this before.

A comment I received was, "Why do I let it bother me."

My answer, I don't.

Nearly all of the time, I don't.

Except yesterday.  I did.

It just got old.

I was in the grocery store and from the minute I began lowering his chair down the lift from our van, the stares began.

Some stares are steady.  I stare back.  They smile warmly.  I smile warmly back.

Other stares were full on rubberneckers.  I rubbernecked back.

One man was staring so intently that he didn't watch where he was going and bumped into the stacks of wine bottles and caught the Chardonnay just before it crashed to the ground.

"Serves you right for staring," I whispered as I walked passed.

For the record, I don't care if children stare. They are curious.  They are absorbing something new.

It is the adults -- the ones that should have learned by now, that it is not polite.

It got to me yesterday.  I was tired of the stares.

Sometimes, I just want him to be a wallflower.

Because, to me, he blends in perfectly.

A great read to living the public life with a child in a wheelchair:

May 17, 2016

This is How we Roll

Every year for 5 years I have entered our family in the lottery for White House Easter Egg Roll tickets.  

No luck.

This year we didn't have to hope for a lucky lottery draw, we got lucky with some amazing friends, Jennie and Alan {same name, different husband}.  We were lucky to become friends with them 8 years ago when she became Bridger's vision specialist in Early Intervention services.  We were, again, lucky when she then became Bridger's first Special Ed preschool teacher.  We have been extra lucky to know her son, Max, who, among other challenges, was born without eyes.  We absolutely won the friend lottery with them.

They have been involved with an amazing organization that makes Easter egg hunts possible for visually impaired children.  That organization, Audible Eggs, was founded by elite military bomb technicians who utilized the same technology in creating the large beeping eggs.  Audible Egg partnered with the White House to provide this opportunity so that visually impaired children could also attend the historic annual White House Easter Egg Roll event.

Our friends called us and told us they had passes for our entire family to join the fun.

Lucky us!

It turned out to be the most glorious spring afternoon.  I had the kids skip school and Alan walked down from his work to meet us at the White House gate.

I could tell it was going to be a fun afternoon when we were greeted at the gate by Shaquille O'Neal, who stopped and bent over. . . reeeeally bending over to wheelchair height, to chat with Bridger and then graciously obliged us for a photo.

To give some perspective on size -- I am 5'9", Alan is 6'2". Sadie, who is standing to the left of Shaquille, wears a size 9 women's shoe.  They look like toothpicks compared to his big lug of leather.

We ventured inside, escorted by the one of the Audible Egg founders from the Virginia Beach Bomb Squad.  We watched the performances on the stage, had some delicious healthy snack offerings {all in harmony with Michelle Obama's "Get Moving" platform for children.} Then we looked towards the south lawn of the White House and saw the line of children serpentining around the entire expanse of lawn waiting for their turn in the small area where they have timed entrances to hunt eggs.  I shuddered at the sight of the line.  There was not a chance Bridger would tolerate that line to wait for his turn to hunt. Little did I know, that wasn't in the plan anyway.  

Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that Bridger's new way to protest pictures being taken is to shove his fingers up his nose?  
 Alas, every White House group shot.

Our escort took us to the back of the egg hunt area where we were greeted like VIP's. They had a scheduled entrance time allotment for Audible Egg participants and they closed off one of the two sections to be only for our children hunting eggs.  The children were given baskets and skipped off to find eggs.  Some chickens were really working overtime the past several weeks as I saw tens of thousands of egg cartons stacked in a tent. Eggs were hidden in hay for the older children, obvious ones for Eliza, and large beeping plastic ones for Bridger.  A minute later I heard cheering at the fence next to us. I looked up to see Beyonce, Jay Z and Ivy Blue walking in towards us.  Eliza ran around with Ivy Blue pouncing on eggs and for a brief moment it was just our family and theirs hunting eggs together privately in our little area with crowds cheering at the fence surrounding us.  Unbeknownst to me, the White House staff approached Beyonce and Jay Z shortly after they entered and told them that the area was reserved for our family and told them that they would have to leave.  

That would have explained why Jay Z came up to Alan and I and told us that he thought he probably should be taking our picture.  

When we finished our hunt, the White House Staff came up to us offering the sincerest apology to that disturbance to our egg hunt time.  I looked at the staffer to make sure I was understanding her and asked, 

"You are apologizing to me for allowing Beyonce and Jay Z to hunt eggs with us?"

"Yes," she said, "you are VIP's, too."

"Um. . . apology accepted?" I said, as I laughed.

The kids were presented with darling Lands End commemorative totes and moved on to enjoy the other activities.

The White House has timed group entries for the groups of the day, with the a period between each group that the event is emptied.  It is during this time that we were enjoying all of the fun of the activities without the presence of the crowds.

Bridger and Eliza were excited to have a lawn full of characters all to themselves waiting with their arms outstretched.

I was thoroughly impressed that the White House even provided an accessible lane for the Easter egg roll.  While the other kids raced their rolling eggs down the grass, Bridger had a picket lane to get his chair and egg moving on.

After enjoying some entertainment in a quiet corner for Bridger, we became the entertainment for the White House security.  Specifically, Eliza.

Not content to sit still in the shade like her brother, she skipped around the grass and set off infrared security alarms.  We had a machine gun armed Secret Service officer tucked discreetly in the trees, standing watch over her the entire time we were there. He came out of the trees to us and we had a laugh that we were more nervous of him than he was of Eliza.  We were glad to test out the White House security system that afternoon and find that it was working properly. Can you spy the armed officer and the shadow of his machine gun hidden there watching us?

We also saw security working in force again when the White House was suddenly put on lock down just as we were trying to leave.  There had been a shooting at the Capitol Building and the White House lawn was put on lock down as a precaution.  We found it amusing that we were locked IN the White House.  I claimed dibs on the Lincoln Bedroom should we have to spend the night.

While Alan was wondering around with the other children to kill time on lock down, I found a shady spot for Bridger.  It turned out to be a lucky shady spot, because towards us came the White House canine caretaker walking the First Dog, Bo.  The caretaker brought Bo over to Bridger and they enjoyed getting to know each other for a few minutes before he walked him back into the White House.

We reconnected with Jennie, Alan and Max and exchanged stories of the luck of our day.  The kids said goodbye their dad - including Bridger who always wants to give out lots of love when he is happy.

Alan trotted back up the street to work and the kids and I hopped on the metro back home giggling over the interesting adventures of our day.

For all of the hard things we endure, sometimes we get a really lucky day.  And a lucky day here or there makes all of the hard things worth it.

That's just how we roll. 

For more on the Audible Egg, check out this clip from CNN.

May 16, 2016


I love girlfriends.  

I love girlfriends that know your weaknesses and quirks, and love you just the same.  

I love girlfriends that can make you bust a gut laughing about the negative in life - which then turns those negatives into positives because those negative events now evoke so much humor, thanks to your girlfirends.  

I love girlfriends that are positive people, loyal and kind.  

I love my girlfriends, because they are just that type of people.

Not only do I love my girlfriends, but I love my girlfriend time even more.

Alan and I have to divide and conquer a lot.  We have to divide to get things done, including to fill our individual cups as they get depleted in this Special life.  We would love to do it together - to go off on some fantastic date every week, we would love to escape for a weekend here and there, but that is nearly impossible.  In the slim chance that it becomes possible, it is still classified as nearly impossible because the effort that it takes to execute such plans and meet the caretaking demands of Bridger, often negates the benefit.  We learned early on that self maintenance of sanity requires us to split.  I will take care of Bridger and the other kids while he seeks out some time away for a carefree moment, and visa versa.

In my sanity seeking moments, I have loved opportunities to get away with my girlfriends, and to take off my mom hats, including my tightly fitting Special hat, and just be a girlfriend.

I love my time with them because they let me talk Special all that I need to, and their ears don't wilt off.  I love my time with them because they help me forget that I am Special, and help me find that piece of me that I lost nine years ago.  They help me laugh and laugh until I am transported back to a carefree state of mind.

So when the past few months have been particularly challenging with Bridger, or we have had 30 days of consecutive rain. . . or in the current case -- BOTH, I have treasured my girlfriend time.

I had two of my favorite girlfriends from college fly into town and we played "tourist" in DC.  Being from DC, pathetically, I have not been a tourist of the city nearly as often as I should.

We began our weekend together at a hockey game, ended it with a Segway tour of the all the signature DC sights, and had some great restaurants, a bunch of museums, food trucks and a couple lusciously decadent long nights of sleep at a beautifully historic hotel in DC in between. The tides of time are something that make our friendship run so deep.  We began with the most carefree life, living in the mountains together during our college summer, and since then has included life events that none of us could imagine were part of our future, including one dear friend burying a her beautiful child. We laughed together, shed a few tears together, then laughed some more.

The next weekend I went up with some of my favorite girlfriends to my cabin.  There is nothing to report of this.  There are no pictures.  Because what happens at the cabin, stays at the cabin.  I will just say that it was so good that it ended with all of us still in our pajamas eating breakfast inside the local gas station making sound effects as we ate because it was so delicious.

Lastly, I enjoyed a good ol' fashioned girlfriend adventure a few weeks ago.   We went up to Pennsylvania to visit Longwood Gardens.  Thousands of acres of the most exquisite gardens you have ever seen, surrounded by old oaks that have been growing for hundreds of years and are so big you can't wrap your arms around them.  In between the oaks were several treehouses, designed and built by Mr. Treehouse Master himself, Pete Nelson.

We snuck up the night before and drove to Pennsylvania and had a cozy Italian dinner by the fire in a little town in the middle of nowhere before we settled into our hotel.  The next morning, after we had just enjoyed a week of beautiful spring weather, we woke up stunned at the sight of snowflakes falling.  That wasn't going to deter us from our visit. My gas-station breakfast obsessed friend treated us to the finest that Wawa had to offer and off we went.

We had the thousands of acres nearly to ourselves.  It was beautifully still and quiet.  We climbed into one of the treehouses and all proclaimed we would like to live there.  And we almost had our chance as the groundskeeper started shutting down the treehouse while we were in it.  They were closing many exterior features of Longwood for safety precautions with the snow.  

Snow didn't stop us.  Or at least, it didn't stop one of us.  The definition of "wild and crazy" changes once you become a middle aged mom and the adrenaline rush of nearly illegal activity was upon my friend as she jumped the barricade to one of the other treehouses that was shut down because she desperately wanted to see inside.  The rest of stood nervously stood on the lookout for the garden guards. A renegade disguised in mom jeans, she is.

We trekked on, following the same friend who claimed she knew how to lead us around using her very soggy map.  After being lost in the woods a few times, dutifully following all the way, we were grateful to find civilization in the form of the original house of Mr. DuPont, the owner of Longwood Gardens before he donated it.  We toured the home and then proceeded to tour the stunning indoor gardens.  

Words cannot describe the beauty of the indoor gardens combined with the cocktail of aromatic bliss that hit you as you walked in.  We filled our camera's memories with a thousand or so pictures and then decided we needed to make a visit to Longwood a quarterly event together to enjoy the ever changing beauty that it offered during every season.

After Longwood we drifted down to Intercourse, PA, to enjoy some Amish treats and shopping.  Armed with "the best of" from TripAdvisor on our phones, a girlfriend found the most delicious Amish pretzel store.  We filled our arms with more pretzel varieties than we could carry then sat in the car and had a sampling between us of the most delicious pretzels I have ever tasted.  After we grew our curly tails and started oinking, we did some shopping, hit an Amish market and started for home.

After insisting the whole trip, despite our laughing, that there was such a thing called an Amish Log, she finally found it!

No girlfriend collage would be complete if you didn't have one in the bunch that liked to eat at the grossest, hole-in-the-wall type of restaurants.  At her insistence, we stopped at one of those for dinner and she laughed her way through watching me wiping down the community salsa bottle and washing my mouth out with hand sanitizer when we finished the dinner.  I was pretty sure that none of us were going to make it home healthy.  So when she started getting sick on the way home, it only became a source of laughter for the rest of us.  Remember how good girlfriends will find laughter in every negative?  Mine do, even when one wants to throw up.

Despite the gloomy rain and disheartening challenges of Bridger's medical and educational management the past few months, I still have a bounce to my step and in a quiet moment of my day can still find myself in laughter from just a memory, thanks to my girlfriends.

This is a blog about life with a special needs child.  What does that have to do with girlfriends, you ask?


Girlfriends are needed in Life with a Side of Special.

May 09, 2016

When Jealousy Strikes

Eliza began her life being taken to the hospital to me every 3 hours so I could nurse her during the many times I was in the hospital with Bridger.  She wouldn't take a bottle.  I suppose it was her way of ensuring, even as an infant, that she could still have time with me.  That was a frequent occurrence during her first year.

Since then, she has spent her entire life being carted around from medical appointment to medical appointment for her brother.

Some medical appointments are painfully boring.  We sit in exam rooms for hours on end waiting for overdue doctors.  She plays "I spy" more than any child ever wishes to.

Other medical appointments are painfully fun.  Fun for Bridger, and painful for Eliza.  Those are the Physical therapy appointments where Eliza walks into rooms full of fun swings, mats, balls.  They are the Occupational therapy appointments that Eliza sits and watches Bridger play with fun stamps, chalks and toys.  They are the painful Speech Therapy appointments that Eliza sees Bridger playing fun games -- all while being told, "Don't Touch", "Play on my Ipad", or "Let's go wait in the foyer and play I Spy."

After 6 3/4 years, it gets old for her. As good natured, go-with-the-flow and patient as she is, sometimes she gets jealous.  I don't blame her.

After being carted around to too many appointments last week, during our final appointment with Bridger at the optometrist getting fitted for his very special looking glasses, she broke.  Jealously struck hard. She wanted glasses.  My heart felt for her little body that should be out playing soccer with a team, or home playing with her friends, but instead she was sitting and waiting for the umpteenth hour that week.

I whispered to the Optometrist, asking if they ever have frames that are discontinued that they discard of.

He answered that they did.

I asked him if they could discard them our direction towards a certain, desperately jealous little girl.

He nodded.

At the conclusion of Bridger's appointment he came to Eliza with a handful of frames, ranging from neon pink to peace signs.  Her eyes lit up.  He then proceeded to do a "mock" exam on Eliza as she finally declared that the flower pair of frames helped her see the most clear.  He went and cut custom clear lenses to fit into the flower frames, even applying the anti-glare finish to them and returned with a large pink heart shaped case.

Eliza grew 6 inches that day.

She has been wearing them every day for the past week.  Miraculously, the glasses even seem to help her in her reading.

I am so grateful to that Optometrist that made a little girl feel just as special as her special little brother.

Every one needs to feel special here in our Life with a Side of Special.

May 05, 2016


Some things just go together.

Peanut butter and chocolate,

Road trips and Twizzlers,

Rainy days and fuzzy socks,

Peanut butter and chocolate.

And some things don't go together at all.

Drinking orange juice after you brush your teeth,

Shaving your legs and going in the ocean,

Children and Sharpie markers.

You know what else doesn't go together?

Wheelchairs and vomit.

Nope.  Not compatible in the least.

Our special life is 1 part wheelchair and 10 parts vomit, and they don't pair well.

Bridger is currently suffering from bad seasonal allergies from all of the beautiful blossoming greenery here in Virginia.  Unlike normal allergy sufferers that can sniff, blow their nose, cough or even hack a time or two, Bridger can't manage his secretions, and so he vomits.

I tried to count how many nooks and crannies, cracks and crevices his wheelchair has that vomit can find its way into.  I stopped counting at 156.

This morning's vomit led to an afternoon date for me with the power tools to disassemble Bridger's wheelchair to gain access to all those spaces to clean it.  After I finished with the disassembly, I put away the power tools and pulled out the best cleaning tool ever - the toothpick.  Reassembling the chair requires a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.  I consider myself lucky every time I can put it back together without any leftover parts.

I will likely have the same thrill tomorrow.

Time to wash my hands a half dozen times and end the evening with a big chocolate chip cookie and milk.

Because those pair together quite perfectly.

May 04, 2016

Bon Voyage

When one door closes another opens.

New twist to our attempts to photograph Bridger -- when he objects to pictures being taken, he shoves his fingers up his nose and if you try to get him to stop, he just crams them up higher.  Good times, good times.

Having left Disney World with a slightly sad heart, convinced that we could never go back after experiencing how difficult it was for and with Bridger, we embarked on the final leg of our vacation.

I was apprehensive to say the least.

New experiences can go either way in the land of Special.  And if things go south, we can often "abort mission" on whatever it is we are attempting to do with Bridger.  This time, however, we would be stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean.

We were heading out to experience Disney on the High Seas.

Months ago I had attended the Abilities Expo and overheard the seminar they were presenting on Special Needs Travel.  The presenter said that the top vacation for special needs was cruises.


Until that point you couldn't have paid me to get on a boat with Bridger.  I could have listed to you the 200 things that could go wrong without having even stepping on the boat with him.

Feeling a good dose of cabin fever in my system after my surgery and his hospitalizations this winter, however, I was in need of a getaway.  I learned that Disney even had pediatric beach wheelchairs on their private island, Castaway Cay. Our beach wheelchair is critical to any sandy destination, but is too bulky to lug anywhere beyond our local beach.  Once I learned this, I was swayed to put down our deposit on a short and safe 4 day/3 night cruise.

I did my homework.  I had worked with his doctors to clear the liver-processed anti-nausea drugs and cross check for any inferences with other meds.  I worked with the wonderful Disney service agents for Guests with Disabilities and provided all information to them that they would use to educate their childcare staff before we boarded so that we could leave Bridger in the Kid's Club if we so desired during portions of our cruise.  We confirmed what the standard availability of the pediatric beach wheelchair was, what support straps it was equipped with so we knew what of our own we needed to add to it, and we even made friends with a wonderful Front Desk agent on the cruise that gave us hints and tips as to the most shaded area of Castaway Cay so we could keep Bridger seizure-free and enjoy the entire day on their island.

We boarded the boat later in the day, advised to do so as arriving at the very end of the boarding process would allow us to avoid the crowds and noise that would launch Bridger into sensory hysteria.  Embarkation went smoothly, until we joined the thousands of other people that were already on the boat.  Trying to move around the crowded ship with his wheelchair and get lunch was a sensory nightmare for Bridger.  

We went to the Kid's Club to have our kids check it out.  The Club hadn't received any of the information on Bridger that the Disney Disability Rep had requested we provide.  They suggested we just leave him.  Um. . . a kind thought, but leaving a medically fragile, non-ambulatory, seizure prone, g-tube, semi-verbal, visually impaired, sensory integration challenged little boy with you and just walk out and say, "See ya later" -- yeah, no.  The suggestion of such conflicted so deeply with my moral obligation as his mother that it nearly caused my eye balls to pop out of my head.

I was beginning to think that doing this cruise was going to prove to be a very expensive mistake.

Bridger was fully losing it at this point so we retreated to check out our rooms.

That is when our lemons started turning into lemonade.

We had an adjoining accessible and non-accessible balcony stateroom.

What a contrast.

The accessible state room was HUGE!  The usual claustrophobia that accompanies our hotel stays was absent. We could set up his special needs bed, park his wheelchair and not be stubbing our toes on it every time we moved.

Most importantly, it was QUIET.

Bridger was so excited.  He wanted to be plunked right in the middle of the bed and play his I-pad and have the Disney cartoons that play 24/7 on the tv turned on.

He was in heaven.

As were the rest of us.

We went out on the balcony and watched the dock disappear.  This was going to be a great vacation.

I went down to the service desk to see how we could fix the Kid's Club situation for Bridger.  That is where I made my favorite Disney cruise friend, the Guest Services agent, Nikko.  Nikko even came to our room that night to give Bridger a special gift, and was even kind enough to think about bringing a little something for the other children as well, Disney sticker calendars that Bridger soon took into his possession too.  Surrender your calendar or have Bridger turn into a screaming hot mess for hours? The kids chose the former.

That evening I had the head of the Children's Services call me and arrange a private meeting for the following morning.  We spoke on the phone and she gathered all necessary information to train and prepare her staff on the attention and care needed for Bridger to enjoy the Kid's Club.  After that, Bridger was able to go to the Kid's Club for an hour or two during our cruise -- which was all Alan and I needed to catch our breath.

That evening we arrived at our selected restaurant for the night, with Bridger rolling in with his noise-canceling headphones on.  We had a table that was specially selected for the ease of getting a wheelchair to it and a space was already cleared for Bridger's chair.  **note, it is such a little thing but one that is so welcoming.  The juggle of rearranging the table and chairs wherever we go is one of those things I could do without.

We met our servers and drooled over the menu.  Dining on the cruise turned out to be our favorite part of our vacation.  I was so proud of Lance for being the brave palate of the bunch.  Duck confit and Tuna Tartar were a few of his favorites.  Sadie, who already has a mature palate was in heaven at the culinary offerings.  Bridger was as well.  His eye was single to a specific menu option, mac and cheese.  Our waiter even sat there and fed Bridger for us so Alan and I could enjoy our food.  We just looked at each other, giggling with delight, as we were enjoying a dinner together.  We have never done that.  One of us is always feeding Bridger while the other snarfs their food to take over the duty so the other can eat.  We were both eating at the same time.   Amazing.

Desserts. . . ahhh.  Rich, delicious desserts -- and unlimited Mickey Bars.  

Bridger's favorite was the Mickey waffles each morning.

Just in case we didn't eat enough, we could have warm cookies and milk delivered to our room every night at bedtime.  Which we did.

When the ship landed in its first port of call in Nassau, we were one of the few who stayed on the boat.  We knew that Nassau had nothing for Bridger and likely would be very handicap non-accessible.  

From what I was told, we made a very good call.  We used that afternoon to enjoy the ship's amenities without the crowds present.  The littles loved Nemo's splash area.  

The kids were also able to enjoy all of the rides on the Aqua-Duck (the tube slide that ran the circumference of the ship) that they wished. 

Even Bridger.

To access the Aqua-Duck you had to walk up a flight of stairs.  I wheeled Bridger over to the base and unbuckled him from his wheelchair.  The lifeguards stopped me and said that even though Bridger met the height requirement, that he could only ride the slide if he could walk up the stairs himself.  Knowing how badly Bridger wanted to ride that slide, I looked at the lifeguards square on and said, "He can."

"He can walk up those stairs?" Looking at us, they had cause to doubt.

"Yes." I answered, slightly choking.  And up we went.

I whispered a little pep talk in Bridger's ear with the lifeguards watching from below and his shaky, spindly legs advanced one slow stair at a time.  Ten minutes later, as Bridger finally made it to the top of the flight of stairs, I turned my head to the left and realized the stairs went up for 3 more flights.

I was exhausted.  I was still on lifting restrictions from my surgery and my body hurt.  I would not be able to support Bridger's fatiguing body for much longer.  I called for Alan, but he was long since out of ear shot.  

No place to go but up.

Bridger's determined and completely tired little body kept advancing a stair at a time.  I kept ushering the people behind us to go ahead and pass us.

When we finally arrived at the bottom of the last flight of stairs, one of the dads that had passed us came down and told me that all of the people that had passed us were at the top of the stairs and had all agreed that they should wait and let us go.  When Bridger was stepping up on those final stairs, he was greeted by a dozen people that were cheering him on.

Readers, how well do you all know me by now?  Yep, I cried.

I was so moved by such a unified act of kindness from those beautiful strangers.

When Bridger and I, completely exhausted, arrived at the top stair to get on our raft, Bridger started screaming that he no longer wanted to go on.

After I let out the biggest sigh my breathless body could muster, I didn't offer him a choice and plopped his body, kicking and screaming, on the raft, positioned myself behind him, hung onto him as tight as I could and we disappeared into the tube.

Within seconds he was loving it (as I knew he would).

Unlike his sisters, one time, thankfully, was all he wanted, so we spent the rest of the afternoon cuddling while he let his body shut down from that sensory overload.

Alan and Eliza enjoyed the endless ice cream cones, Lance disappeared to his Teen Club that he LOVED and the girls ran around enjoying their pick of pools.

Also included in our cruise bliss were tips from our travel agent as to how to keep ourselves organized.  OCD me loves a neat and tidy cabin, so our over the door shoe holder/turned toiletry holder to keep ponytails, sunscreens and sundries for 7 in place and some suction cup hooks to hang wet swimsuits were little touches that made a big difference for our traveling circus.  Speaking of big differences -- look how big the accessible bathroom was!  It was so. . . accessible!!!

The next day we docked at Disney's island.  We were first off the ship (as advised by my friend, Nikko) and Lance ran the Disney 5k on the island.  While he ran, we used our treasure map to find the location Nikko said would be best for us to spend the day.  

We parked Bridger under a set of shade palms while he fixated on what became his object of obsession for the entire cruise -- the Disney sticker calendar (all 5 of them) and the rest of us geared up for the day -- which included fun frosty drinks with umbrellas in Olaf cups, snorkeling and tubing.

Bridger was excited to have some beach fun too.

One of my favorite things in his life is the tracks he makes.  I love looking at the tracks his wheelchair makes in the snow next to the prints of clunky boots of others. Even more than that, I love the tracks he makes as he bums scoots in the sand.  These are Bridger's signature "footprints" and it makes me smile when I look at the tracks our family makes to get down to the beach.  That takes some seriously strength to do. He enjoyed the water gently rolling over his body as he ecstatically played with his new bucket.

We returned to the ship feeling overwhelmed with delight that we had found a new vacation possibility for our family.

After playing some evening shuffleboard, we returned to our room to see an invitation pinned to our door.  It was an invite to a private meeting with all of the Disney characters that evening.  

The kids were so excited!  We hadn't been able to meet any of the characters because the lines were just too long for Bridger's extremely limited tolerance of such.

Late in the evening, we went to the art gallery where a Disney guest escorted us into a room to be greeted by every character that had their arms outstretched waiting to greet us.  We were enveloped in a big Disney hug and we hugged them right back.  

Oh, how our love for Disney was rekindled on this cruise. 4 months later, Bridger is still talking about the cruise.  He chatters about it during the middle of the night while he is awake in his odd sleep cycle.  He asks every day to go back.  Lance does too.  A vacation that can not only meet the needs for, but delight a little boy with special needs and his typical 14 year old teenager brother at the same time -- and leaves mom and dad relaxed with a fair amount of sanity in tact when it is over?  I think we have found a winner!

In our Special opinion, my crew gives a Disney cruise 14 thumbs up!