Our Unconventional Thanksgiving

In 2009, we did Thanksgiving on our own.

My family had their festivities earlier, and Rob’s parents were staying in Florida.  So we went to the home up north, where we always had the feast, and tried our best to prepare one of our own.

The spread was beautiful, albeit smaller than what we were used to, but something about it was still incredibly depressing.  Because it wasn’t the food that made Thanksgiving what it was.  It was the fun of having everyone there, and all the memories of the goofiness from the past.

So you can imagine how I felt when I realized we would be doing Thanksgiving on our own this year.

A little research, though, and a little willingness to continue to break from tradition, helped us to create a new tradition.  We found a Yogi Bear campground in the San Antonio area, where we could rent a cabin, take Beanie to numerous Thanksgiving activities, and even attend a potluck feast at the end of our stay.

This would be our first trip out of Houston, other than the drives up to Michigan.  We were excited about the prospect of spending a week in a small house, with real beds, a full-sized kitchen, and our own bathroom.  And getting out of the city would be fun too.

So, over the river and through to woods, to Canyon Lake we went!

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To spend a week at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park!

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We love to pack light on most trips, when we’re taking the long drive to Michigan and bouncing around from here to there.  But we carried the majority of our earthly possessions with us this time.  We were staying in one place for a week, and we wanted to get the most out of our luxurious, spacious get-away.

Here’s our cabin:

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Rob brought his tall bike along.

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And, sure enough, we enjoyed snuggling up in real beds!

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I did our Thanksgiving cooking in a real kitchen.

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There were plenty of fun activities to keep the Bean occupied.  She got up bright and early to meet Yogi Bear…

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Took lots of nature walks…

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Visited the playground and game room…

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Frequented the jumping pillow across from our cabin…

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Took a “hey hey” ride in the afternoon…

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And many at night!

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S’more after the hay ride…

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And a visit from a friend…

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Beanie’s favorite activity by far, however, was arts and crafts.

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With Ranger Ana, her best buddy!

With Ranger Ana, her best buddy!

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All in all, it was a great new tradition, and anything but depressing.  We loved our week away, and were also very happy to return home.

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How was your Thankgiving week?

First Day of School

The first week of school is akin to crashing a boat into a dock.  It’s filled with new routines, new problem-solving, meetings, and a general re-organizing of our time.

It is also a time of new beginnings, of possibility.  For that reason, I’ve often written about how much I love the fall.

This fall, there are no changing leaves, no sweaters, no mornings where you can see your breath, no crisp, dry breezes.  It was a humid, rainy day (that later gave way to sunshine) when Beanie boarded to air-conditioned bus that took her to kindergarten.

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Beanie looked very intimidated when she first saw the large bus, and she quietly sat in the front seat.  When she came home, however, she bounced off with a grin, and proclaimed, “Kindergarten is fun!”

Her and the bus driver now are buddies, and she has a “best friend” from the apartment complex, who sits by her.

Do you have a little one who is returning to school?   How has the transition gone for you?

Hospital Story #2

Yesterday I told you about Beanie’s first hospital stay. Her second came the following March, as we were weaning her off of her reflux medications (she was not able to be weaned off at that time, by the way–we didn’t have success with that until we started eating a low-glycemic diet).

There was an awful, multi-day stomach bug going around, and I knew where we would end up if the Bean caught it. And sure enough she did. After a day of keeping nothing down, began to wonder if we should take her in. The on-call pediatrician couldn’t really give me an answer. But at 10 p.m., when she cried with no tears, we decided it was time.

A new company was staffing the ER, and they had installed flatscreen televisions, which amused us a bit. Not that we got to hang out for long. They got straight down to business, letting us know that Beanie would be getting an IV, before they had even run any tests. Beanie got a stomach x-ray, and we overheard a brawl taking place in the waiting room, while we were in radiology. (Security finally broke it up). They poked and prodded her, taking lots of blood for tests the pediatrician had ordered over the phone.

Finally, it was time to do the deed. This time around, I sat with her in the bed and held her while they put in the IV. Beanie kept removing it, so they had to use extra tape to make it inaccessible. She would not keep her bracelet on, so they taped it to the foot of her bed.

While her IV ran, the ER doctor said that they were waiting to hear back from the pediatrician, to give the okay for him to send us home. The okay didn’t come, however, and we were taken up to the pediatric ward once again.

Beanie was zonked, so she nursed to sleep, and I was able to lay her in the baby cage. Rob and I both slept in the regular bed. We were woken up in the morning, when KER-CHUNK!–the side of the crib went down for vital signs time. They still couldn’t let a sleeping baby lie.

I got her to fall back asleep, and Rob left the room in search of coffee. He overheard the nurses talking, “Oh, my, did you see her? She is SO CUTE!” Yeah, that’s my Bean. At shift change, I overheard the conversation–every kid there had GERD.

On her IV, the Bean felt pretty good. So we took a walk. With me pushing her IV pole, and her gown opening in the back to reveal her diaper, we did laps around the nurses’ station, where Rob kept the coffee pot going all day. Beanie loved the nurses, who constantly fussed over her. It was really a good time.

The doctor came in, and informed us that we would be staying another night, and probably going home after that. This came as a surprise, but made me feel better, knowing that they were watching her so closely.

I remember feeling a little off, as I went into work to get my lesson plans ready for the sub the next day. I brushed it off and enjoyed my hospital dinner, complete with apple pie.

An hour later, the apple pie came back up. Beanie had shared the love–and the germs–with me. I was constantly running to the bathroom, getting sick. Soon Rob was, as well. I wished that I could have an IV too.

Beanie and I didn’t sleep in the baby cage that night. We slept in the regular bed, and with nowhere else to go, Rob climbed into the crib. I was obviously miserable, so I’m glad nobody said anything about the Bean sleeping in the bed. Leaving me alone about it was probably in their best interest.

We all felt better the next day, and in the evening a volunteer showed up, with a tiny wheelchair. We were free to go! Beanie said her “good-bye’s” and we took our little buddy home.

P.S. It seems that the Bean just has a touch of the flu right now. She’s been relaxing and watching lots of cartoons.

Sick Kid and Hospital Story #1

Beanie is sick. She started with a fever last night–we don’t know how high, because the batteries in our thermometer died. But her hands were hot, which is definitely the sign of a fever with her. She watched cartoons in the evening, and fell asleep on the Fouton, where she spent the night, waking up occasionally (so her mommy has been very tired and rather out of sorts today). Today she stayed home from school, and watched cartoons all day (thankfully, we have a projector and a Roku!). Rob kept her hydrated, and this evening she’s very hungry. She’s enjoyed fake crab and pizza so far. Her fever is gone, but she seems to have muscle aches, so we’ve given her some Motrin (we didn’t give it to her until the fever was gone–we only give her medicine for a fever if we’re about to take her into the ER and that might prevent it).

We’re very cautious when the Bean gets sick, because our little buddy has been hospitalized more than both of us! (And there have been other misadventures as well, such as the time I missed a staff meeting because Rob called and said that Beanie was unable to breathe…Luckily her Xopenex treatment fixed things well enough that we could do an evening doctor’s appointment). Little girls with GERD get dehydrated very easily and don’t fight off infections very well when they are on meds (Beanie no longer is–we now treat it with diet).

So, today I thought I would tell you about Beanie’s two hospital stays.

Hospital Stay #1: The Post-Vaccine Ordeal

When Beanie went in for her 12-month check-up, at 13 months (we were a little late!), all heck broke loose. First, she weighed in at 18 pounds, which was the first time she dropped off the chart. Our pediatrician lectured us about her food intake (she was still mainly nursing), told us to give her Pediasure, and ordered us to bring her in to be weighed again, in 3 months. This led to a horrible time of force-feeding, which led to her throwing up more frequently, and requiring an additional reflux medication and breathing treatments due to acid aspiration. But that was further down the road.

Furthermore, she was scheduled to get 10 vaccines at this appointment. Before I could protest, our doctor said that she would only be getting 5: chickenpox, MMR, Prevnar, polio, and hepatitus. Before giving the shots, the nurse warned me that two of these were live virus, and might cause reactions, even though Beanie has not had reactions to vaccines in the past.

The Bean had no immediate reaction to the shots, but less than a week later, blisters (that looked exactly like chickenpox) appeared on her legs. The CDC sheet said that 1 out of 10 kids got chickenpox from the shot, so I wasn’t worried. The pox are nothing to lose sleep over.

Then came the fever. It spiked to 105 during a visit with my parents. A fine rash (that looked a lot like the measels) covered her torso. She refused to nurse. We took her to the ER that night.

At the ER, they did all kinds of tests, for mono and other serious problems. They found nothing. When I told the doctor that she had recently had vaccines, he said she definitely had the chickenpox. They gave her an antibiotic and sent us home with directions to see her doctor the next day.

Which we did, even though the nurse questioned our decision to bring her in, after we had already been at the ER. The pediatrician looked Beanie over, then said, “She needs IV fluids.” It turns out that the ER staff had documented that the Bean was dehydrated, but did not admit her, which caused the problem to be worse that morning. We waited while the doctor booked us a room, then we were sent straight to the hospital (home was 40 minutes away, so we didn’t stop there).

My cell phone battery had died, so I could not get ahold of Rob. Beanie and I were immediately taken to a room, waiting to be interviewed by the staff. The nurse came in, and while I was explaining Beanie’s GERD to her, the Bean did a demonstration and threw up all over my clothes. She said that the supervisor would be putting in the Bean’s IV, and that they were more comfortable with parents being out of the room when they did it. We changed Beanie into a tiny hospital gown. Then, I was given some baby shampoo, a towel, and some scrubs to change into, and sent to a shower down the hallway.

Yeah, I had seen Beanie in the worst pain she had ever experienced, already, so being there for the IV would have been a cinch. But, I humored them and enjoyed my shower. I changed my clothes, and felt like I was wearing pajamas, which was weird but nice. I used the nurses’ phone to call Rob, who would join us in the evening, with some clothes for me.

The shower felt great. Then, I returned to the room and comforted the furious Bean. She was now hooked to an IV, with a machine that frequently hung up, displaying “Downward Occlusion.” We’d straighten out the line, hold her arm up, and have some success. Sometimes we had to call the nurse, who would show up with some coffee for me. Finally, Beanie nursed to sleep and I laid her down in the “baby cage,” hospital crib. And I enjoyed some time in the computer room. The lab staff wanted to draw more blood, but the nurses kept them away while she was sleeping.

I came back into the room, and ordered our meals, with the help of the overly-enthusiatic food service representative. Our hospital is small, but it does have excellent food, better than you would expect. I made sure to order a lot, in case Rob showed up, and I got us the cherry cheese cake for dessert.

Rob showed up and ate Beanie’s pizza, since she wasn’t hungry. She was co-sleeping fulltime then, so I knew where I would be sleeping. I climbed into the “baby cage,” while Rob got the other bed in the room. At 6:00 a.m., KER-CHUNK, the side of the crib came down, and the nurses expressed confusion at seeing me there, in scrubs. Beanie quickly awoke, so they could poke and prod her.

Luckily, by the next day she was rehydrated, and her blood sugar was normal, so she was good to go home. Her test for hand, foot, and mouth disease had come back negative, so her pediatrician decided that her bumps were bug bites. Yeah! Her current doctor just documents that she has had a vaccine reaction and supports our decision to vaccinate selectively. We don’t even have to fill out a waiver for school.

Tomorrow, you will learn about her second visit.

Quotes from the Bean

It’s been just over two years since Beanie started therapy. Back then, she was barely verbal at all. A year later, when she started school therapy, she tested at 15 months.

Now, I’m happy to say, we’ve had some interesting conversations with our little pal. Here are a few of them:

Beanie: (looking at Popcorn, our tabby cat) That[‘s] Stripes Cat.
Daddy: What color is she?
Beanie: Grey, black, grey, black.

(At the table, after dropping her fork) “Aw, crap!”

(Outside, in the recent weather): “That[‘s] wind. Wonderful wind!”

(Before bed)
Me: What song do you want next?
Beanie: Good night.
Me: Are you ready for me to say “Good night”?
Beanie: Yes.
Me: Good night, Jelly Bean. I love you!
Beanie: Go away.

“Books! I like book! My favorite!”

And tonight, in the car…
(crying) “I wanna go back–to Moonraker!”

You and me both, kid.

Saturday Simple Playtime: 5 Family Activities That You’ll Enjoy Too

Sometimes you don’t have to choose between doing an activity that your little one will like, or choosing an activity that you will enjoy. Here are 5 activities that will make everyone happy!

1. Go on a hike. The kids will love exploring the woods and having a chance to run around, and the adults can take in the scenery and get some exercise in the process. Be sure to bring a picnic lunch!

2. Grab the Burley trailer (if you don’t have one, you really need one) and head to a bike trail. The kids will have fun playing in the trailer and enjoying the ride, and, again you get some exercise and scenery.

3. Play miniature golf. The adults can have a little friendly competition, and the kids can just have fun.

4. After playing golf, head to the go-carts (if the kids are tall enough). Who wouldn’t have fun with that?

5. It’s fall, so find yourselves a corn maze. You’ll all have fun getting lost together.

What activities do you enjoy doing as a family?

Saturday Simple Playtime: Having Fun With Dinner

Going back to work, I notice that I don’t have as much time to play with Beanie as I would like. I try to fit in activities (at least 20 minutes worth a day) from each of her therapies: fine motor, gross motor, speech, and sensory. That could potentially leave me with little time to do the housework, cook the meals, spend time with Rob, and relax.

But it’s really just a matter of working smarter, not harder. Play can be mixed in with daily routines quite easily. Here are some ways to make dinner a fun and educational part of you day:

–Have your little one set the table. This is a great exercise in following directions (eventually multi-step–I hand Beanie all the spoons and tell her to put them where they go).

–Involve your little one in the cooking, as much as you can. This is a great time for direction following, fine motor practice, and even some sensory input (baking bread is a great sensory activity!). I have Beanie pour ingredients in and stir. Basically, she helps with anything that doesn’t use the stove.

–If you don’t eat together, you should! It’s a great opportunity for conversation, direction following (table manners), and just a great chance to catch up.

–When you eat Asian food, use chopsticks for some fine motor fun!

–Go outside and have a picnic sometimes. It can be out on the deck, or at the park.

–In the winter, have a picnic on the floor!

The possibilities are really as endless as your creativity. Bon appetit!

Landlubber Beanie

So, it’s been 15 days since we drove away from Moonraker, still in Grand Haven. I’ve told you about the challenges I have had with re-entry (and, surprisingly, it hasn’t gotten any easier!), but today I would like to talk about the Bean.

A number of our friends have wondered how Beanie did on the boat. And the truth is that, while she did get stir crazy when we were underway, life on Moonraker really agreed with her. When we got home, she was excited to see all of her toys, but she got bored after the first day. She kept opening the door and saying “playground,” expecting a park full of kids to be right outside our house. She had more difficulty sleeping than she has had in a long time, probably from the lack of vestibular input. She did a lot better when we went up north for Labor Day weekend, and she was able to play on the beach and visit the nearby playground full of kids. But, at home, she didn’t get a good night’s sleep until school (which she loves, but really tires her out) started.

In therapy, she made huge gains all across the board, while living on Moonraker. She has improved her jumping ability, her ability to follow multiple-step directions, and her ability to answer questions and make requests. She used to look a lot like a kid with autism, playing in her own world and making sound effects more than talking, but now she seems much more “present.” We stopped at a busy playground when we went grocery shopping (a 40 minute drive from our house!), and Beanie actually talked to the other kids. She used her favorite phrases, but in a way that made sense. She now enjoys riding her tricycle down the street.

Beanie was very excited about going back to school. Her teachers were impressed with her improved play skills (her pretend play has become much more sophisticated) and her direction-following ability.

Over the summer, the Bean began recruiting our attention while she plays. She will now bring up “Hi-Ho Cherry-O” and ask us to play it with her. As a result, I have to plan on blogging and completing paperwork while she is busy doing other things (or asleep!).

Beanie loves her pirate book and CD that we bought her in Pentwater. She will dance to the song and always asks us to play it. At the end of the book, she can identify the “moonraker,” “mast,” “crow’s nest,” “rudder,” and “wheel” of the pirate ship.

We found her a large dry erase board, and she loves to draw seascapes. She starts with a sailboat (complete with dinghy in tow!), adds waves (large ones–she must be thinking of the trip to Manitou…), then draws any number of sea creatures underneath. The whole while we were on the boat, she was convinced that there was an octopus in Lake Huron and a shark in Michigan. She will then add the hill and “letters” from Grand Haven. And, of course, the sun is always shining in the sky.

So, we’re all adapting. It’s a change, and it’s been an adjustment. And, I have to tell you, I’m glad that it has affected Beanie, and that life on board has been something that she’s enjoyed so much.

Decluttering Lessons: Getting the Kids’ Rooms Under Control

After I finished with the clothing, I ventured into Beanie’s room. This was not too difficult, for a couple reasons.

First, we keep most of her toys in the basement. This keeps her room from being too cluttered and eliminates the temptation for her to play after bedtime. We will be changing this when we move her room upstairs, so we will have to deal with that challenge when the time comes. For now, the only toys in her room were the Legos, a toy truck, her balance board, a scooter, lots of stuffed animals, a toy piano, her trampoline, her vacuum and broom, and a crazy amount of books.

Second, we declutter this room a lot, so it never really gets out of control. In fact, I thought it was perfect when we left. But after living on Moonraker, I could definitely see room for improvement.

So how did I declutter Beanie’s room? Here’s how:

1. I did the wardrobe first, so that part of the closet was all set.

2. I pared down the books. I love books, and Beanie loves being read to. But, she had so many that we rarely made it through them all. I wanted to get us down to 20, but I settled on 35. They fit on the shelf in her closet now, and aren’t on top of one another. I think we’ll be able to pare down more after we institute a weekly library date. Beanie has her familiar favorites, which we kept, and a few more because she loves novelty. Eventually, library books will fulfil her desire for something new.

3. As I worked on the books, Beanie played with her stuffed animals. We kept the ones she used, but I was able to eliminate half of the animals (the ones that weren’t used!) without her noticing or caring.

4. The Legos were kicked out of the room. We have an area in the basement for “therapy toys” for guided play. We only get out one of these at a time. Since the Legos always end up spilled all over the floor, it was time for them to join this area. Sorting toys this way really helps cut down on the toy mess.

5. The stuffed animals were moved to the train table, rather than on the bed, so that they wouldn’t end up under the bed every morning.

The end result? A calmer room and a happy Jelly Bean!

DVD’s (because there actually is a place for them!)

We’ve recently returned from a road trip, which was followed by lots of waiting room sits, which will be followed by another road trip. The iPad kept Beanie busy on these trips, as did her alphabet blocks, dolls, and toy animals (she calls them “ah-nee-molls.”). However, eventually, we got out the portable DVD player. We allow her very little of this passive form of entertainment, but it does have its place. She definitely prefers certain shows–they always have plot lines (rather than being variety-style shows), they usually have great music, and they often have (to my delight!) strong female heroines. Here are some of Beanie’s classics (other than Fiddler):

1. Pingu. This Swiss cartoon features a family of penguins who speak “Pingish,” which is a gibberish language, so that it can be sold in different countries. The stop-action animation is adorable, and the plot line is wholesome. Beanie loves shows without words, because she will take it upon herself to narrate them.

2. Shawn the Sheep. Like Pingu, this is a non-verbal stop-action cartoon. This features sheep on a farm, led by a skinny sheep, Shawn, who is obviously smarter than the rest. Adults, as well as kids, will find this to be hilarious.

3. Kipper. This is a simple, very British cartoon about a dog and his friends. Kipper is very understated, and the subtleties in this series will have Mom and Dad laughing as well.

4. Fraggle Rock. Do you remember this? The plot lines are quite deep, for being a kids’ show, and the music is awesome, and catching. Beanie has long enjoyed this show.

5. Care Bears (the old movies, from the 80’s). The animation is horrible and the plot is filled with the pop psychology of the time. But they do cuddle and love each other. And the villains always become their friends. The music is catchy, and good.

So, when you need a screen to allow you to take a road trip…or a shower…hopefully these suggestions will help you out!