A Fall Filled With Adventure!

Back in Michigan, fall was always a time of adventure for us.  Our last year there, we took a cruise on the S.S. Badger for my birthday, then went camping for Halloween (and first started discussing living aboard–we thought we would move to Lake Michigan in 2 years!).  In Texas, however, daily life has been adventure enough.  We’ve been learning our way around Houston, and getting settled into a succession of new homes.  Our only trip was visiting the cabin at Canyon Lake for Thanksgiving (which we will do again this year!).

But now that we’re living comfortably on the S/V Morning Mist, the adventure bug is biting us once again.  Until recently, it had been 3 years since we’d cruised.  We’re all thinking that it’s time to make life interesting again!

And interesting it will be.  We have so much planned for October and November, that I’ve had to set up a Google calendar!  We’re visiting San Antonio next weekend, and a highlight of our trip will be a special needs amusement park.  After that, Rob and I are attending a moped rally in New Orleans.  The week after Halloween, Beanie will have her first competitive cheer competition!  And then it’s off to Canyon Lake two weeks later!

And all that excitement is in addition to our adventures this weekend and last weekend.

“Rockstars!  Rockstars!  Rah Rah Rah!”


Living in an urban area has had many advantages for us, and one of these advantages has been the number of “mommies'” groups available to join.  I joined Moms of Galveston Country, which lead me to two other special needs groups on Facebook.  It was through these groups that I first heard about Rockstar “Special Stars” Cheer.


Beanie has always had kind of a “cheerleader” personality, especially with her pigtails!  So a free, special needs competitive cheer group seemed to be right up her ally.  The group has kids ranging from age 8 to high school, so the older kids help keep an eye on their younger “buddies.”


From her first rehearsal, Beanie was in love!  The parents get to watch the practices on monitors in the waiting room, and it is a delight to watch, as I get to know the other mommies.  And don’t let the “special needs” part fool you–there are some talented tumblers in this group!


Beanie’s first performance with the Rockstars was last weekend, at the Down Syndrome walk in our town.  They don’t have their uniforms yet, but their t-shirts coordinated.


The fun began with dancing, and of course Beanie attracted attention!


She immediately fell in with some local junior high cheerleaders.


Who let her borrow their pom poms!


Finally, the Rockstars had the stage.


Beanie gains some altitude as a part of their routine!


And this is my favorite picture of her cheering!  It’s definitely a fun, low-pressure group, with some talented athletes!

Setting Sail Once Again

Grandma and Grandpa took Beanie home from the cheering event, and Rob and I headed over to the S/V Reprieve, three slips down from us.


My friend, Deanna, greeted me with a birthday bouquet.  We piled onto their boat with two other couples.





We rounded Clear Lake Shores island.



And then the reason for my flowers was revealed, as we made our departure, past the Kemah Boardwalk.







The whole “flock” of sailboats was out on Galveston bay!











We were quite well-fed on our journey!




I was a little exhausted…


And while I was getting sunburned, this is what passed us…







Meanwhile, this is why I have blisters on my back…


And then I woke up in Galveston!





We arrived in Galveston in time for dinner (it was a 6-hour nap…I mean sail!).  The marina we stayed at was near the Strand, which is the shopping/tourist district.  So we walked into town, hit the shops (the three of us ladies bought $10 dresses!) and enjoyed dinner at a shrimp restaurant.  Two of us had been wearing our bathing suits under our clothes, so we spontaneously jumped into the marina pool, before retiring to our various beds on the boat.

In the morning, we had some company in the marina.





We headed out at a leisurely pace, stopping for lunch and swimming at Red Fish Island.













Underway once again, there was no wind, so we motored back toward the bridge that led the way home.






It was a fun, wonderful trip, and now we’re eager to get our boat up and running, so that we can cruise next summer!

The Cardboard Challenge

This weekend, it was all about cardboard.  Beanie had the opportunity to create something out of garbage, for her school’s “Cardboard Challenge.”  She eagerly went to work on a Pokemon stage, which she displayed at school this morning.






Of course, Beanie’s favorite part was exploring the other creations!  She spent a lot of time in the Tardis.



















October has been a great month so far, and we look forward to sharing our upcoming fall adventures with you!


Ready, Set, Go!

We’re determined not to overbook our Jelly Bean.

We make sure she eats her meals at home, has lots of time to play, and doesn’t get overstressed.  She is at a school that doesn’t assign homework in first grade, so she has plenty of time for just being a kid.

However, we jumped at the chance to sign her up for piano lessons in the fall, and this was something she caught onto very quickly.  It seems that she takes after her mother’s side of the family:

And today, Beanie discovered a new hobby.

Daddy was very excited when the flier came home from school, about the “Stampede” race at the school carnival.  Everyone on Rob’s side of the family runs, and Rob still enters 5K’s. 

And so today was the big day…



Time for some stretching…




Soon it was time to line up…


More stretching…

And then they’re off!  Beanie quickly pulled away from the pack (and left Daddy in the dust!)

Beanie stayed well ahead of the pack and ran most of the half mile around the school.  And she finished well ahead of the other first graders!



Time for some orange juice while she waited for everyone else to finish…


And then the Bean received her first medal!




It was a tiring race, but she did save some energy for jumping around…



And of course the day wouldn’t have been complete without getting a green star painted in her hair!



Beanie is very proud of herself and can’t stop talking about her medal and how she “beat most of the kids.”  She is a competitive little buddy!  We found some racing shoes for her at Goodwill, and she and Daddy are going to start training at the gym.

First Day of School,Take II

School has always been something Beanie has loved, even with the number of times she has been the “new kid.”  She has always gotten excited about going, and she has always chattered endlessly about her friends and about science class.

But this year, something changed.


Beanie has always gotten into mischief, but she started getting bad reports daily.  And her behaviors went from “normal” trouble-maker limit-testing, to hitting and screaming.  Instead of talking about her friends, she made up a bunch of imaginary friends.  She still enjoyed doing her homework and going to piano lessons, but she began throwing tantrums when it was time for school.

With her ARD meeting coming up (those are called IEP meetings in the other 49 states), I had a lot of correspondence with her case manager.  I learned that Beanie was screaming in class nearly everyday, in spite of the added supports and sensory diet they had her on.  She was needing an aide 4 hours out of the day, instead of the 30 minutes she had needed before.  And the kids were less interested in hanging out with her, due to her screaming.  And all of this was affecting her academically–her reading level dropped from a level F to a level B.

I have to admit I was nervous.  I knew that this was not the best situation for my daughter, but what would be? She really wouldn’t benefit from a resource room, where she would go for smaller reading, writing, and math classes.  She’s not very far behind academically, and this wouldn’t solve the problem of The Rest of The Day.

And she really didn’t belong in a life skills program, which would be a special class just for kids with autism, where she would learn cooking and other independent living skills.  This wasn’t the place for a kid with above average intelligence.

And she certainly wasn’t going into a behavioral program, where she would copy the misbehaviors of her classmates.

Those were the three options I was familiar with.  And I knew that the resource room was the only  one I would be willing to entertain at all.


So I was worried, but not surprised, when her principal called me.  She took a long time preparing me, which only increased my nervousness and defensiveness (which I suppressed quite well!).  So imagine my surprise when she told me about a program I had never heard of!  Their district has a self-contained classroom for kids who have severe speech and language disorders.  Beanie would be in a class with no more than 5 kids, would get lots of one-on-one time with her teacher, would learn her academics but really focus on getting caught up with her speech, and would be worked back into general education classes, until she would eventually be ready to return to her neighborhood school.

All of my defensiveness was replaced with the question, “How soon can we start?”


Beanie was hesitant to visit the classroom, but once she saw the puppets in the “break” area and the stretchy therapy swing, she was sold.  Since Beanie is above grade level in math and science, she would be in a general education class, with support, for those subjects.  She would also go to P.E., music, and art with her general education class.  She would work on speech,  reading, writing, and social studies with her special education class.  The speech therapist would come into the room to work with her and the other students, and the class would visit the large motor lab on a regular basis.

Beanie met her special ed teacher, her aide, her general education teacher, and her speech therapist.  She then led everyone on a search to find and meet the principal.  And she charmed every one of them.

Beanie rides the bus to her new school, but it gets her home in time to make it to her piano lesson on her old school on Wednesdays.

So how did her first day of school go?  Beanie came home with a very good report and a smile on her face.  She couldn’t wait to tell us about her new friend in her class, and she was eager to go back.


And thus, the charmed life of the Bean continues.













First Day Excitement!

The first day of school has always been exciting for Beanie!  Even though she’s done it four times now.

Onto the bus for Head Start when she was 4…

Now'r School 069


In Grand Haven the weekend before she boarded the Head Start bus once again when she was 5…



Getting ready to ride a bigger bus to kindergarten, when we lived in our apartment in Clear Lake…



This year, however, there were some changes!  Beanie would not be riding the bus through Clear Lake Shores

Somebody's excited!

Somebody’s excited!









Don't worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

Don’t worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!












It’s only a couple blocks (less than a mile) from our marina to the school, and we thought bicycling would be easier and quicker than riding the bus or dropping her off by car.  When we get a dinghy, there is a canal that ends across the street from the school, so she will probably arrive by boat then.

Beanie had an excellent first day.  This year, she is in a co-taught class, like she was in preschool.  In kindergarten, she was in a general education class, with an aide who came to work with her for 30 minutes each day.  Her teacher and case manager recommended inclusion for her this year, so that a special education teacher or aide would always be in the room, though not specifically to work with Beanie.  That way, Beanie could get the one-on-one time she required, without being stuck with a certain time period where she got the extra support.  So she is in a general education classroom, with the same expectations as the other kids, but there is also a special education teacher in the room.  (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but I spend the majority of my day co-teaching as a special education teacher at the intermediate level).  She will also continue to get OT and speech.  I think this will be perfect for her!

As for Beanie’s opinion?   I think her joyful rendition of the school song spoke volumes.

The Quest for the Chickenpox Shot


The week before school starts is a crazy time.  I’ve been getting back into the routine of waking up and leaving every morning, packing my lunch, attending training sessions, looking at my caseload, preparing lessons, meeting with co-teachers, and setting up a classroom. It’s definitely a time when I write fewer blog posts and rarely check in on Facebook!

And then, on Wednesday, it occurred to me that I am not the only one in my family who will be going back to school.

Sure, I took Beanie’s IEP over to her new school, as soon as their office opened.  And I wrote their special education department head a lengthy e-mail, explaining all of Beanie’s idiosyncrasies.  But I hadn’t bought a single school supply.  And I hadn’t taken her to get her booster shots.

Vaccines are complicated for us.  When she was 13 months old, Beanie ended up in the hospital with a reaction, after getting the MMR, Chickenpox, and three other shots.  After that, we decided (with our new doctor’s blessing) to only give her one shot at a time, and to space them at least a month apart.

This plan worked well.  She got a slight fever for a few days after her MMR booster, but nothing as serious as what we had encountered the previous time.  Everything went wonderfully until only the Polio and Chickenpox vaccines were remaining.  When we showed up at the doctor’s office to get these, they were out of both.

They continued to be out of both everytime we came in, for a year.


When we moved to Houston, I forgot about getting the boosters, until it was mentioned when I signed Beanie up for school this year.  Students can be sent home on the first day if they are not up to date on their shots, so I wanted to take care of this right away.

The first issue was getting ahold of Beanie’s shot records.  We had lost our copy in the move, and her school records were in limbo for some time.  On Thursday, I called and learned that they had arrived at our new school, so I came in and got a copy.  After working until 6:00, doing home visits, I rushed home and scooped up Beanie, life jacket and all, and drove her to the clinic, which closes at 8:00 on Thursdays.

We made excellent time, arriving at 7:30.  On the way there, Beanie found her smelly markers in the car and gave herself a cat face.  She decided that she was Meowth, the Pokemon.

I darted into the clinic, with Meowth still wearing her life jacket, and handed the receptionist our shot records.  She eyeballed us skeptically, then said that those two shots were the only two they didn’t have in stock. Frustrated, I asked if there was anywhere we could go, and she produced a list of clinics in the area that would accept our insurance.

One clinic was nearby, so we drove to the high rise building that housed it.  Beanie squealed in excitement, and whispered, “It’s a hospital!”  It’s been a few years since her frequent hospital visits, but Beanie still remembers how much she loved that place.

We ran into the building, only to find that the clinic was closed.  As we made our way across the parking lot, and into the neighboring CVS store, Beanie yelled, “I need to go to the hospital!”

CVS had neither shot in stock, but the pharmacist recommended Walmart and Walgreen’s.  The Walmart was a block away, so I plopped Meowth (still wearing her life jacket) into a cart and ran inside.  After a long wait, the pharmacist said they were out of the shots until the next afternoon.

Walgreen’s was across the street, and they had the Polio but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  However, their pharmacist told us that we needed a prescription to get shots from a drug store.

So, admitting defeat, we headed home.

As I drove past Beanie’s school, I slowed down and considered stopping to find out who her teacher was.  I decided against this, as it was 9:00 and we needed to be getting home.  However, my pause attracted the attention of the police officer in the parking lot, and he pulled out behind me and followed me to the marina.  As soon as we were in the gates, he turned on his lights.

The very polite officer introduced himself and, after verifying that I wasn’t a criminal, wrote me a warning for a tail light being out.  This made Beanie’s day, and she couldn’t stop talking about the police officer who “rescued” us!

So back to the drawing board.


On Friday, I made my way down the list of clinics.  The clinic in the “hospital,” had the Polio shot but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  The health departments on the list did not accept private insurance, but they recommended the Redi Clinics that happen to be located in HEB grocery stores.

I Googled Redi Clinics and made my way down that list.  After encountering a few that did not have the Chickenpox vaccine, I found one that was getting a new shipment that afternoon.  I figured we were golden!

I got home at 5:00 and promptly called that clinic.  They were out already!  I was finally able to locate a clinic two suburbs over, that had both shots.  Scooping up the life jacket-clad friend (no cat face this time!), we pointed our Volvo toward Friendswood.

Beanie was fascinated to see a doctor’s office in the middle of a grocery store, and she anxiously awaited her shots.  (She had been practicing with her Doc McStuffins doctor kit).  We were in good company–the waiting area was overrun with kids waiting to get shots.  We bought a soda from the nearby check-out and enjoyed it until we were called.

Beanie was beginning to lose heart, when the nurse finally called her name.  While she eagerly took her place on the examining table, and readied her leg, the doctor showed me Beanie’s shot record, as well as the immunization requirements for Texas schools.  It turns out that Beanie does not even require anymore Chickenpox boosters!  After all that….but I was relieved, since she had a reaction last time.

After learning that Beanie was tipping the scales at a whopping 41 pounds, it was finally time.  Beanie got the shot in her leg, since she’s still so tiny.  She gritted her teeth, then smiled when she got her band-aid and a sucker from the “big girl” box.

As we were leaving, she yelled out to the doctor and nurse, “Thank you for the shot and band-aid!”



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.




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?

Pessimism vs. Realism

We’re often reminded to “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” The thinking is, that, with that kind of mindset, we can only be pleasantly surprised, not disappointed. We call this a “realistic” mindset.

But is it? And does it really do us any good?

When we prepare for the worst, and view the worst case scenario as being realistic, we accept it before it really happens. Whether it comes to be or not, we experience it.

We’re not blindsided everytime something bad has the potential to happen, because the bad thing often does not happen. And being blindsided occasionally is much better than experiencing the worst case scenario everytime.

Case in point: My daughter’s IEP meeting was today. Last fall, I had requested that she be tested for autism spectrum disorder. I thought I was addressing the elephant in the room. I thought I was seeing her fall further and further behind–because I was prepared for the worst, I only saw the worst. I saw her challenges, magnified.

This led to stress in our family, to needless worrying, and to fear. I blamed myself, because I was in the car accident while pregnant, the delivery was difficult, and I am not the perfect mother. When she played with other children, I only saw how different she was, from them.

Realistic? Partially. Only partially. And today I got a good dose of reality. Real, true reality.

It began with the speech report. Last time she was tested, she was 3 years old and functioning at a 15 month old level, across the board. Now she is up to grade level in a few areas, and only slightly below in most others. Her intelligence and academic skills are above average. Her fine motor and sensory needs have improved significantly. She has a number of social skills deficits, but they are all things that can be taught.

The Bean does not have autism. There never was any elephant in the room.

Next year, she will get visuals in the classroom, as well as speech, OT, a sensory diet, and social worker services. She is expected to “catch up” completely, in due time.

So, did accepting the worst case scenario benefit me? Not really. It was nice to be surprised today, but my negative perspective was not realistic at all. I saw only Beanie’s challenges, not her growth. I saw only one side of the coin.

And I believe that I suffered at least as much as I would have been, had I expected the best outcome, and gotten blindsided today.

Pessimism is not realism. The worst case scenario is not the realistic scenario. Having a pessimistic perspective is akin to worrying–it causes us needless anxiety, that is much worse than the event itself.

We need to realize that reality does involve a bit of sunshine.

Sunshine : Sunny Sunshine

Reality Jolt

I haven’t announced it, but I have been taking a very intentional break from the digital world. It was going well, and I was getting to enjoy some time without thinking much, enjoying my family.

And I was doing well. Taking a break was a positive, positive experience.

Then today happened. And I need, NEED to write about it.

Today was Beanie’s parent-teacher conference. Which was great, because I scheduled it during my lunch/prep period, and didn’t need to use a personal day. Last year’s conference, as well as her last two IEP meetings (for those of you who don’t live in the US, and IEP is the document that allows a student to receive special education services–we have a meeting every year and re-evaluate every three years. They basically comprise my working life, and now I’ve signed on the “parent” line as well) were exceedingly positive–she’s made a LOT of progress and is adorable and charming, destined to a perfect life, of course…

In May, she turns 6. That means that she MUST start kindergarten in the fall, and begin her public school career (unless we homeschool, and we do work with her a great deal at home, but we’re choosing to outsource her education). So it’s coming up. She can’t stay in Head Start forever.

I thought we had time, though. It’s only December. But, after going through the positives–and there were a LOT of them; she’s met most of her objectives already–her special ed teacher said, “Beanie is due for testing this spring. Is there anything, besides speech and occupational therapy, that you want?”

You may or may not realize that there has been an elephant in the room.

Here’s some background: I led the team that helped the first student with ASD to go through our building, when I was in the middle school. I went through numerous autism trainings, and was the go-to person, for quite some time.

So I knew a duck, when I saw one.

I took charge, just like I do for the students on my caseload. I kept the same distance, even though it was breaking my heart. “I’ve been wondering about ASD testing,” I said. “What are your thoughts on that?”

Of course, she agreed. It was the elephant, and it long has been. She agreed with me, that having the ASD classification would get Beanie the supports she needs. And she said the Bean would definitely qualify. It’s her language, social skills (she’s 5-going-on-3), and fine motor skills that stand in her way.

I made it clear that I want Beanie educated inclusively, and that I defintely don’t want her placed on a lower track academically. Her teacher said that she will definitely be able to graduate, with the Michigan standards (which require Algebra II, amongst other things), because she is quite advanced, academically. I said that I want her teachers to try accommodations in the general education setting first, although I will be open to other options, if that doesn’t work. Peer supports would probably also work well for her, and I’ve already discussed that with her potential team members.

So, there’s that. Then the next thing. We want to send the Bean to the school district in which I work, even though we live in a different district. The time for me to start with the groundwork for that–especially since Beanie will be a special education student–is today. I went straight to the superintendent’s office, after school, and shamelessly burst into tears in front of the secretary, who will set up an appointment for me, with the elementary principal. Not every district will take a school-of-choice special education student, so we’re hoping for the best. (All right, we will rent an apartment in district if need be!).

But here I am. Today I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a parent, even with the knowledge I have about the issue. I can not imagine what other parents–the parents of my students, on my caseload–, who don’t have that background, go through.

From now on, I can give the gift of empathy.

Zoo Trip!

Today, Beanie’s class went to the Saginaw Children’s Zoo. I used a personal day and joined them!

It was fun to see the Bean in her “natural habitat,” with her classmates. She was immediately called over to sit by two girls on the bus, and she mingled with all the kids (and adults!). She knows the other kids with disabilities quite well, since they do morning circle time together, but she has just as many friends without disabilities. It was a fun day!

Looking at the prairie dog

With her Head Start teacher

I forgot my camera and had to use the iPad, which over exposed a number of pictures, like this one. But this is, indeed, a "Mama Llama!"

With one of her classroom aides

With her special ed teacher

The peacocks (who were running loose) were the Bean's favorite attraction!

Lunch time!

Over the wobbly, floating bridge. Good thing Beanie has good sea legs!

Yup, this was a personal day well spent!

Whatcha Gonna Do?

I’ve always said that Beanie got an extra helping of personality.

And this was written in her school-to-home notebook today:

“When asked to eat a bean before getting more of her preferred food, she took the fork which held the bean she was asked to eat and looked at the teacher as she held it over the floor and dropped it. When she was then asked to finish lunch with her spoon because her fork was dirty, she cried and tantrummed for the rest of lunch.”

I swear, I am going to save that notebook for blackmail, when she starts dating…

You won't see Beanie doing this!