Saturday, June 30, 2012

Our adventures with TSA...the trip home to Phoenix

Coming home from Texas didn't go quite as smoothly as traveling there.  If you remember my previous post about traveling to Texas, I mentioned how smoothly it went going through security and getting to our gate.  Not in Austin.

Let me just say that I am not against TSA.  I understand the need for airport security and I appreciate their efforts at keeping us safe when we fly.  However, I think they are poorly run, understaffed, and very inconsistent.  And now I am adding to that list bad at communicating.  Here's what happened...

We got to the podium where the lady checks our boarding passes and things (this was the first failed opportunity for communication) and that's where things first were weird, but we didn't think anything of it.  The lady looked at our IDs, made us look at her, then asked us both to say our first and last names out loud.  I thought that was a little strange, and I looked to the podium next to us to see if that lady was also doing the same thing.  I just wrote it off as that this lady takes her job seriously and whatever.

So, then we start unpacking all our carry-ons.  We took out our computers, drank our water, tried to find someone to tell that Sadie's bag has liquid medicine and pureed food in it (unfortunately there was NOBODY... which was also strange).  We put all our stuff in separate bins and took off our shoes.  Brian is told he has to take off his hat, and we prepare to go through the scanners as all our stuff is neatly taken through on the conveyor belt.

Now, here's missed opportunity #2 to communicate with us.  There is one (very old) TSA guy standing at the scanners guiding people through.  Like most airports now, there are 2 scanners, the old ones, and the new ones.  I'm not convinced that the new ones are safe when you're pregnant due to the radiation they emit, so I refuse to go through the new ones while pregnant, because the goal is to NOT have another child with special needs.  So I stood their with Brian and Sadie in the wheelchair and waited to go through the old one.  The (very old) TSA guy was helping some kids go through and he was asking their age.  The first one said he is 12 and the guy told him he didn't need to take off his shoes.  Then the second one also said he's 12, so the (very old) TSA guy directed them through the old-type scanner.  Well, the first kid beeped, so then there was a whole big discussion about his shoes having metal zippers.  So, he did have to take off his shoes after all.  Meanwhile, the line behind us is getting longer and longer because for some reason nobody can go through either scanner without the (very old) TSA guy's help.  We just stood there patiently and waited, knowing the wheelchair would require special assistance anyway.

As the (very old) TSA guy was finishing up with the kids, he directed me to the new scanners.  I told him I'm pregnant and would like to go through the old one instead.  He asked me to wait with Brian and Sadie for the wheelchair assistance/pat-down/whatever they were going to do to determine we didn't have a bomb.  But I insisted that I needed to go through because my stuff was down there waiting for me.  He finally shook his head like he just couldn't deal with the complexity of my request and told me to go through.  This was where it would have been helpful to explain to me why I needed to wait with Brian, because already at this point they knew, but we didn't, that they'd severely inconvenienced us.

I went through, packed up all my stuff again (which wasn't an easy task as everything had a specific place so that it all fit perfectly back into our back pack).  My mother in law was there with her stuff and ours and I asked if they needed to check Sadie's medicine, because they usually want to, and she said no, nobody said anything.  So, we moved out of the way and waited for Brian and Sadie, who were just now coming through and being led to the pat down area.

I set down the heavy stuff and then went to stand near, but far enough away that they wouldn't think I was a threat, Brian and Sadie.  The guy who brought them over looked at me and asked if we were all together.  Initially I said no, because I didn't need to be patted down, I had already gone through security.  Then we were like, "well, technically, yes, we're traveling together..."  The TSA guy started to get a little flustered and said like he was irritated, "I'm asking the questions, just please answer them...are you all together?"  I repeated myself that yes, we were a family traveling together, but I had already gone through security.  He looked at me and said, "I'm gonna need to search your bags."  I asked him why since I'd already gone through security and packed everything back up, and he FLEW.OFF.THE.HANDLE.  He was like, "you know what?  That's it!"  Then I tried to calmly explain that I just wanted to know why he needed to check me again when I had already been to security.  He kept interrupting me, he was yelling in my face telling me procedures had changed recently, he told me I was giving him attitude, and that he was going to call his manager to deal with it. I continued to tell him as calmly as I could, which was not very calmly at that point (why do people get so upset when you just want an explanation?!!), that he asked his question, now I wanted to ask one of my own and why wasn't that okay?  But he was so upset that he was not willing to listen to me at all.  He was full on yelling at me all because I just wanted to know why I needed to be checked again after I had already gone through security.  He was saying something about a security exception and procedures had changed (apparently just in the week since we had flown to Texas), but couldn't just answer my question.  And I kept trying to explain that I'd already been through security and that it was only Brian and Sadie that needed to be checked, because I thought maybe he didn't understand.

See what I mean?  Miscommunication.

So, then the cop that was standing behind the pat-down area stepped in and explained that the manager had been called and would deal with the situation.  He was calm and nice, so I was able to calm down and I told him there wasn't a situation, I just wanted to know why and that guy started yelling at me!  Needless to say, that was missed communication opportunity #3...but if someone had explained to us the procedural change even as far back as at the podium, we would have been prepared and could have avoided the whole "situation."

The manager finally comes up and asks what happened.  Brian says that the guy told us I needed to be searched and we told him no, because I had already gone through security.  I cut in and said, "I asked him why I needed to be re-searched and he started yelling at me."  The manager goes, "did you tell him no, or did you ask him why?"  We never told him no, and I explained that I just don't want to unpack everything that I already unpacked and repacked when I already did it once, so I just wanted a good reason.  He said I wasn't going to need to unpack everything, that they just needed to swab inside our carry-ons, and swab our hands because we have a child with us who couldn't walk through security by herself.  So, I went to get our carry-ons that were sitting over by my mother in law, and gave them to the new guy, who proceeded to UNPACK.EVERYTHING. and swab it all.  (Oh, I should mention that while I was standing talking to the manager, another passenger came over and told him they had been waiting a half hour to get their stroller through security.  Again, that guy would have probably not been so upset had ANYBODY in his journey through TSA explained to him why they needed to wait. Even the manager standing next to me just told him to keep waiting and they were dealing with our situation right now, when he could have just told him briefly that they needed to go through checking the stroller a certain way and right now they were checking ours.)

Meanwhile, they patted Brian down, examined Sadie and her wheelchair, and swabbed all of our hands, and Sadie's feet, as well as unpacked my entire carry-on bag that I had already repacked painstakingly.  I asked about repacking it and made it clear that I'd like to repack it myself because everything has a specific place so that it will all fit and nothing will get smushed or ruined.  And while we were standing there watching the guy swab everything, I asked the manager what the first (angry) guy meant when he said procedures had changed.  He told me that they had to make a security exception for our family because we have a child under 12 in a wheelchair, which meant that we had to be re-examined, along with all our property.  I said, "why couldn't the first guy just tell me that instead of getting all angry and yelling at me?"  He said, "well, I'll obviously need to have a talk with him."  I wanted to say, "how about tell him that just because he has a blue shirt that says TSA doesn't mean he can demand respect without respecting others?  How about tell him that he needs to stop acting like he's better than other people, especially me, just because he works for TSA?  How about telling him that offering up a little communication can go a long way, especially when you're demanding that somebody do something that they think they've already done?"  This would have been opportunity #4 to explain to me what exactly was going on...which I thought he did explain, but later I found out, even the manager didn't tell me exactly why we had to be rechecked after I had already gone through security.  As they were finishing, I'm pretty sure I muttered (loud enough for the manager and the cop to hear) that because we have a child with special needs, we get flagged as a security threat.  I was feeling a little discriminated against, obviously.  They both ignored me.

While we were doing this, my mother in law, who has experience talking to law enforcement, and can get information calmly and without involving emotions, got our answers.  I heard her talking to them while we were all being swabbed, so when we were all done and seated at our gate, I asked her what they said.  Here's the real story, and what I would have been perfectly fine knowing at any stage in the process.  Apparently TSA has gotten flack about patting down children under 12 (which is why the (very old) TSA guy was asking those kids how old they were and sending them through the old scanner), so now when they have a child under 12 who needs to be patted down (ie. in a wheelchair), they have to assume that the parents, or whoever is with the child, is using the situation to smuggle explosives through security.  So they had to recheck our bags due to their vulnerability in a situation like this (hence all the swabbing).  So, because of their vulnerability, we were inconvenienced.  And I think the reason we avoided this situation in Phoenix when we left is because they let us carry Sadie through the scanner...there wasn't even mention of that in Austin.

All in all, I understand the situation, but I definitely think it could have been handled better.  A simple 2 sentences from the lady at the podium, "just so you know, it'll probably be easier if you're both patted down instead of going through the scanners.  And we'll also have to swab all your belongings to double check for explosives because we can't scan the wheelchair."  That probably could have prevented the whole situation.  I also think a little sensitivity toward a family who has a child with special needs could have gone a long way.  Just because you have a blue shirt on that says TSA does NOT mean you're better than me, and humbling yourself in the face of a mother who already has it rough might have meant a lot.  Some people just don't get it.  In fact, I might write a little letter to the Austin TSA manager just to remind him of how this situation could have been avoided and to remember that everybody deserves respect, and a blue TSA shirt doesn't mean you deserve more.

Either way, we made it home safely.  Our flight was pretty smooth despite a little bit of screaming and being upset from Sadie.  She did sit in her car seat for take off and landing this time, like a big girl.  And we are all happy to be sleeping in our own beds.  (Sadie is especially happy to be back in her Chill Out Chair!!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

The San Antonio Zoo

our family at the zoo!

This was Sadie's first visit to the zoo.  Well, she's been to the Phoenix Zoo, but not to visit the animals...

Unfortunately, while we were in San Antonio, they were experiencing record high temperatures.  So, it was hot hot hot!  But they had enough indoor exhibits that we were able to take breaks and cool off periodically.  She had had a rough night the night before, but she wasn't fussy at all while we were at the zoo.  She was obviously tired (and hot), but she did such a good job enjoying the animals!

We tried to hold Sadie up to look at as many animals as possible.  I think she enjoyed it.  Check out the pictures below...

Sadie and the Komodo Dragon

big huge scary birds
Okay, seriously, I thought the zoo should have been called the San Antonio Bird zoo.  There were so many birds.  And birds freak me out a little bit.  This giant bird was so scary...and right after I took this picture, HE FLEW!!!!  I don't think I've ever flinched so much in my life!!

Sadie saying hello to a reptile that lives in Australia...he has a blue tongue!  Too bad she wasn't allowed to touch him.

Sadie looking at the fishes

I wish I could have captured the big smile on her face as she looked at this giant snake.

Sadie and the giant alligator/crocodile

Sadie and the elephant
I think that Sadie really enjoyed the zoo and I'm curious if we can also enjoy our local zoo here in Phoenix...maybe after the weather cools off!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bump Watch - 25 Weeks

The weird thing about my (pregnancy) body is that if I wear the right shirt, you can hardly tell I'm pregnant from the front.  I look a little thick around the middle, but let's face it, nobody is examining my body as closely as I am anyway, right?  So, on the airplane on the way to Texas, I was up and headed for the bathroom at the back of the plane.  I was about 2 rows from the back (you know, where it opens up into that mini cafe and jump seats for the flight attendants) and one of the flight attendants looked right at me and was determined NOT to wait until I took 4-6 more steps and one of us could move out of the way.  I figured she probably had no idea how big I really am.  When she got to me, I didn't move.  She said excuse me, I turned sideways, and she realized she had LESS room than if I faced her! That didn't matter, she squeezed by me anyway, bumping me and forcing me to buckle a little and stick my butt in someone's face.

I'm officially wider if I turn sideways than if I stay's the curse of the Williams hips!!

How far along?  25 weeks...and we start our descent toward 30!!

Weight Gain?  I didn't weigh myself because we were in Texas, and our resort didn't come equipped with a scale in the bathroom!!! haha  But seriously, we did so much walking the the sweaty heat that I probably didn't gain much, if at all!

What's up with my Body?  Well, like I said, I'm growing front ways, not side ways.  This is probably due to what a doctor once referred to as my "snake hips."  My cousins have pretty narrow hips as well, they make for nice small butts!!

My body is feeling pretty good.  I find that I sort of have a blood sugar crash around 10:00-10:30.  If I don't eat and drink plenty by then, I'm miserable.  It's like morning sickness all over again.  However, if I get to that point, usually some water (okay, LOTS of water) and a protein bar or some cheese or even something like Fig Newtons helps a lot.  It also helps a lot that when this happens I'm not in a car driving through windy back roads in Texas's hill country.

Eating better is definitely helping my energy level, as well as my feeling hungry... if I eat good things, I tend to eat less.  But I'm still enjoying some chocolate and the occasional potato chip!  However, I'm finding that the sugary popsicles tend to give me heartburn, which is still my biggest pregnancy complaint!

Sleeping: It's getting harder and harder to sleep all night, which is tough when you're on vacation and there's not a lot to do if you get up early...because there's no internet!!  It seems like my body is done after 5-6 hours...but then I crash around 4:00 in the afternoon.  If I can take a nap, I'm totally taking advantage, even if it's just while we make that hour-long trip back to hill country from "the city."

Movement? I've noticed this week, since we've been doing a lot more walking that during the day (while I'm out and moving around) the baby doesn't move as much...I must be rocking him to sleep with my gait!  Either that or I am just too distracted/busy to notice it much.  But then as soon as I sit down, or if I lay down to go to bed in the evening, he's like a little gymnast in there!!

Gender? It's a boy!  You can read about our ultrasound appointment and see pictures if you go to this post here.

Names? I have decided what name I like best and I'm calling the baby that sort of as a joke...mostly I just say it in front of Brian because I want him to like the name too.  He isn't crazy about it, but I told him that I'm gonna keep calling him that until he gives me a better alternative...which he hasn't yet!!  So far he's come up with Yuri, Yevghani, and Farcy!!

Best moment of the week: Taking Sadie to the zoo.  We actually tried to help her see the animals and interact with them.  It was her first time, and I think she had fun!

What I'm looking forward to: The Olympics! ha!  We don't have TV at our house, so while on vacation we've been watching the Olympic fun.  I love the excitement of watching a competition between people who have worked their whole life for this!  I can't wait for the Olympics to start!

How baby's growing: My baby is the weight of a rutabaga!!  He's starting to fatten up, and he's growing hair!!  ...I wonder if it'll be red like Sadie's?  And curly?  Or if it'll be brown?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Visiting San Antonio

Of course the first place we had to go in San Antonio was the Alamo.  And like I said before, I knew barely anything about Texas before we came.  I understood that the story of what happened at the Alamo was one of the little guy defeated the masses, but I didn't understand why it was so important.  I got some education while in San Antonio!  (however, I still don't totally understand it well enough that I could recount the events to you here)

We went fairly early in the day, so it wasn't totally hot yet.  And inside the chapel (behind us in the picture) is air conditioned.  However, most of the Alamo is courtyard, which was still pretty pleasant in the shade.

We took a break to feed Sadie out in the courtyard in the shade.  I remember thinking that it was actually quite pleasant out there... but it got hotter as the day went on!

After we left the Alamo, we walked down to the River Walk.  It was a little cooler down there, much more scenic, but kind of a pain with a wheelchair.  We found an elevator and got ourselves down, and then it was time to find somewhere for lunch.  We were hungry and weren't familiar with the River Walk, so we agreed to the first Mexican restaurant we came to... unfortunately it had stairs.  Apparently, all the buildings on the River Walk are historic, so they don't have to comply with ADA.  It wasn't too many stairs though, and we were hungry, so I carried Sadie while Pam and Brian carried the wheelchair.

The next day, when we went back down to the River Walk looking for lunch, we ended up at the Rainforest Cafe (not our first choice since it is a chain restaurant) only because they had a ramp and an elevator.  Win for the Rainforest Cafe!

While down on the River Walk, we decided we should do a little boat tour.  It was good timing because Sadie was feeling like she needed to be held (by Mama, of course), so we got to sit for a while and learn a little about the area.  Plus it was a nice way to see the whole River Walk without walking it...which we did anyway.  More on that later.

When we were done with our tour, we thought it was about time to start heading back to the car (which we parked at the mall at one end of the River Walk).  Since the mall happened to be one of the last things we saw on our boat tour, we thought we knew right where we were going.  

But first we had to stop at the Chocolate Factory and buy some yummies.  It just isn't a vacation without some fudge!!

Even though Brian didn't say anything about me buying chocolate (secretly he wanted some too...I shared), I could tell he didn't really want to stop.  But I WORKED for those chocolates, let me tell you!!

We ended up not knowing as well as we thought where we were on the River Walk and probably ended up walking 2+ extra miles out of our way.  Brian, who thought it was a better idea to walk the River Walk than take the boat tour, got his way because we saw THE.WHOLE.THING!!

We finally made it back to the car with achy feet and sweaty everything.  We were tired and ready for that chocolate!  San Antonio was nice.  We came back and spent some time at the mall the next day, then we went to the zoo the day after that.  There were more things we could have done had it not been 107 degrees outside, because most of their tourist activities were outdoors.  I was sad that we didn't get to visit Morgan's Wonderland (the special needs theme park) or Sea World...but it was pretty miserable and I didn't want to be in the heat anymore than anybody else!!

Maybe someday we'll go back when it's not so hot and we'll get to do more things.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

All about Austin

Since we stayed in Hill Country, which lacked the resources to blog regularly while on vacation, I thought I'd combine some of our experiences into one post all about Austin.  Austin is a straight-up college town, and since I grew up in a college town, I immediately recognized the characteristics... more things to entertain 20-year-olds than 5-year-olds, hippies, and lots of trees.  Okay, so maybe the trees thing isn't so much a college town characteristic, but I liked it!

Our first morning in Texas, we drove to Austin to meet a childhood friend of Brian's and her husband and 2-year-old (exactly 2 weeks younger than Sadie) for brunch.  We went to Stubbs's Gospel Brunch. We had many email conversations about the appropriateness of this venue.  Since it included live music, we were worried it would overstimulate Sadie.  But when Mindy called to make reservations, they said they'd put us upstairs where we could hear the music, but we wouldn't be so close to it.  This was good, because it also allowed us to have a conversation with each other comfortably.
They were really nice there and the food was overpriced good.  But the most impressive part was when I needed to take Sadie to the bathroom...which was downstairs near the main stage.  They provided us with an escort, who took us down the elevator, which was one of those after-market dealiebobs that is like a big box with no ceiling on a hydrolic lift.  When we walked through the main stage area, I realized that it was VERY loud down there and I am glad we weren't seated down there.  Once we were done, we were escorted back up to our table.

After brunch we tried to go to the special needs playground.  I say tried to, because it was hot.  Whenever I'd complain I was told, "but you live in Phoenix!!"  True, but I don't leave the house!!  Pretty much the only thing Sadie could participate in was the swings, but they weren't shaded, so they were too hot to sit on.  So, we tried the wheelchair swing, but that erupted into a meltdown and a tube feeding and a suck-nap in the air conditioned car.

Sadie "enjoying" the wheelchair swing.
 We came back to Austin later in the week (but it was still hot), and took a Duck Tour.  This vehicle is amphibious, and the tour was unique in that we got to drive right into Lake Austin and then float around!  We learned a lot about the famous people who live there, what restaurants to eat at, and which movies were filmed in Austin.

And then we got off and took a walk to visit the capitol.

They aren't kidding when they say everything is bigger in Texas.  Even the capitol building was made to be taller than our nation's capitol building in Washington DC!!  And they are very proud to be Texans.  I found it a little strange...but I live in a city where 80% of the population is from somewhere else.  People in Arizona don't brag about their ancestors living in the same state for many generations.  And, even though I've lived in Arizona for 6 years, I have never seen the capitol, even though I live in the same city!

When we arrived in Texas, I knew hardly anything about Texas.  I mean, I can find it on a map (that's saying a lot, right?), and I knew the Alamo was important (more about that when I write about San Antonio), but honestly, I didn't know why it was important.  I didn't even know Austin was the capitol!!  Kind of sad, I know.  But I learned a lot while in Texas.  I learned that Texas has been under 6 governments, these are referred to as the "6 flags of Texas" (I'm guessing this is where the theme park got its name, but nobody ever really confirmed that for me) and Texans are so proud of them they are on the front of the capitol as well as on the floor under the rotunda.  They are Spain, France, Mexico, The Confederacy, The Republic of Texas, and The United States.

Even though we were on vacation and out and about each day, we still tried to stick to Sadie's eating and medicine schedule as closely as we could.  Sometimes that meant feeding her in less than ideal situations and places.  This is what feeding Sadie looked like after a long day in the Austin heat (not to mention she was teething and in pain most of the day).

And this is what it looks like after a long day in the Austin heat and a full tummy.  Sadie was so cute just sitting there leaning on Daddy while he ate his dinner.  She was so tired!

Finally, our last day we spent just a little time in Austin...mostly because we had to check out at 10:00 in the morning, but our flights were after 4:00 in the afternoon!  We decided to try to go somewhere "uniquely Austin" for lunch.  We saw this place, The Hula Hut, from the lake portion of our Duck Tour, so we decided to go there.  It was busy, but we didn't have to wait long.  The food was good and the view was amazing (although we were sitting at a table without a view).  I would recommend it to anyone who is planning to visit Austin.

Overall we enjoyed Austin.  I think we might have enjoyed it more if we didn't have kids and could drink and bar hop all night to hear the live music on 6th street.  But, we still enjoyed learning about the city, seeing different sights, and touring the capitol!  But I think we might have enjoyed it more if it were 10-20 degrees cooler!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mommy & Me # 7 - Go Diamondbacks!

Last week we took Sadie to her first Diamondbacks baseball game.  I would call this "Sadie's first baseball game"...but it's not.  She joined us at a Mariners game in May 2011 when we visited Seattle.

We bought tickets to the game as part of a teacher appreciation promo for my school.  $2 tickets were too good to pass up.  However, even after calling and inquiring about wheelchair accessibility, and returning the ticket order form with specific instructions for a wheelchair need, we still got the wrong seats.  I think we spent 1.5 innings just trying to get to a seat that was wheelchair accessible.  But the guest services department was nice and quickly changed our seating to accommodate Sadie.

We had a good time, although, it was sort of loud.  Sadie did well.  We left at the bottom of the 8th inning (it was 7-1) because it was way past her bedtime, but it was a good experience.  I'm glad we went!

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Traveling to Texas

Traveling with Sadie is not always easy...and it seems like it's getting harder the bigger she gets.  It requires a lot of planning and a big, long "don't forget this" list.  Yesterday, I'm glad our plan didn't leave until noon, because then we had until 9:30 in the morning to get everything we needed packed and ready to go...especially the stuff that was still being used overnight.  It took careful planning.  And by 9:30 I was already exhausted.  I laid on the couch and quizzed myself... "do I have the pump?  Yes. Do I have diapers and extra clothes for the plane?  Yes.  Did I pack all that frozen food I made?  yes.  The sound screen?  Yes."  etc. etc. etc.  I was pretty confident I had it all by the time our ride to the airport arrived.

The airport went pretty smoothly.  We didn't check in early online because our plan was to get a disabled pre-boarding pass and get on the plane first anyway.  And even if they didn't let us have one (we brought the handicapped parking pass just in case), we could still board with families.  Brian flies a lot, so we got to go in the short line to the check-in counter.  Then, we got to go in the short line to security.  So that was nice.

Security was our first big obstacle.  I find that TSA is very inconsistent; not just from airport to airport, but from day to day.  Sometimes they tell us Sadie has to come out of her chair, sometimes they wand her while still in it. Yesterday, they asked us to carry her through.  I refused (since I'm already carrying a baby), but Brian did it.  We declared the medicine and the food, they wanted to look at it, but said it was no big deal.  They didn't even blink at my knitting needles.  We did everything right and there was no scene and it went smoothly, which was so nice.  We got to the gate in record time, I swear.  Considering by the time we got there I had already gone to the bathroom 3 times, we had wrangled our way through security, and we were doing it all with a special needs 2-year-old.

We were flying with my in-laws, who were coming from New Mexico (I know, weird, they came from NM to Phoenix on their way to TX).  We thought they'd be on the plan already and were expecting the plane to land, everybody to get off, then we'd get on...and they'd just stay on the plane.  But it didn't work that way, and as we got up to get in the pre-boarding line, I turned around and there was Grammy standing there!!

Sadie on the airplane being a big girl and sitting in her car seat
This was our first time flying with a car seat so we were a little nervous about getting it installed and having Sadie strapped in for take off and landing.  That's another reason why we wanted to make sure we could pre-board.  Luckily, the flight attendant was really nice and helped us get the car seat strapped in and secure.  Unfortunately, Sadie didn't want to be in the car seat, let alone strapped in!  So, for most of the flight, she was a lap child.  Eventually, she calmed down enough that we were able to sit her in there for part of the flight, but not strap her in.

Sadie's generally been a good flier and we've never really had a lot of problems with her on airplanes, so we knew we'd be fine.  We managed to feed her (thank goodness we didn't have to change her!)  and before we knew it we were descending...and she decided it was time to take a nap.  She got a good 10 minute snooze in before we landed, and luckily nobody cared that she wasn't buckled into her car seat during landing.  That 10 minutes was enough to improve her attitude and she was a gem the rest of the day...which included an hour + car ride to the resort!

Sadie is teething, so she wants to bite and then suck on a rag, which sometimes helps her relax enough to fall asleep
Remember how Sadie used to scream in the car?  Well, luckily she doesn't do that anymore, because where we're staying is at least an hour from anywhere we'll be going on a daily basis.  We're basically in the middle of nowhere, Canyon Lake, TX.  Texas hill country.  Our resort condo/suite reminds us of the Bear Country Jamboree at Disneyland.  It's beautiful here...but there's no internet and barely any phone reception!!  We are right on a lake...but we can't see it from where we're staying.

There is plenty of room to spread out our Sadie's crap, and we have a King size bed, so all 3 of us can fit comfortably!  Our big garden tub has jets and there's a full kitchen in the condo (so Brian and his mom made a grocery store run).  It's comfortable and we made it safely and we're looking forward to a good (but hot) week!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer School for Parents - Part 2

Earlier this month I wrote about a class/seminar I took about transitioning your special needs toddler to Preschool.  I also went into detail about what that means for us.  Well, that same day, I also attended a class about IEP (Individualized Education Plan) Basics.  So, here's what I learned in that class...

An Individualized Education Plan is a legal document drawn up by parents and teachers of a special needs child and basically outlines the things that this child needs, that are outside the usual educational day, in order to progress in their learning (I made that definition up myself, are you proud?).  The law requires that each child in the special education program receive the support they need.  Therefore an IEP is a very important tool for your special needs child and something, as a parent, you should be very involved in.

As a teacher, I am familiar with IEPs.  However, I am not a special education teacher, so I don't know the ins and outs of putting together an IEP.  I have been to a number of IEP meetings, and sadly, parents don't always show up.  I will NOT be that parent.

Remember when I talked about the timeline in my transition post?  I mentioned that after we hold our transition meeting, the school district has 60 days to then schedule an MET.  MET stands for Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team.  Within those 60 days they are supposed to review existing data about Sadie's special needs/disability, do any tests that may need to be done to establish her learning or physical abilities, and come up with a report that describes what she knows and what she can do developmentally and functionally.  They are also required to establish eligibility for special education at this meeting.  Out of the 11 qualifying disability classifications for special education, Sadie is eligible in 6 areas (traumatic brain injury, speech and language impairment, orthopedic impairment, visual impairment, multiple disabilities, and intellectual disability).  This is the meeting we are going to try to move up because of the baby's due date, if you remember.

After we have the MET, the school district has another 30 days to schedule and hold her IEP meeting.  This meeting should include a general education teacher, a special education teacher, a school psychologist, and an administrator, in addition to Sadie and us.  we also plan to include an outside person (a special education teacher who I work with and trust) to attend with us to make sure we are receiving fair services.  The IEP meeting is different than the MET, which only requires the school psychologist and possibly a special education teacher in attendance.

An IEP will include a PLAAFP (present levels of academic achievement and functional performance), goals written measurably, accommodations or modifications to the curriculum or environment to provide for Sadie's optimal learning opportunity, related services, placement, and transition.

The PLAAFP includes Sadie's strengths and educational needs, what helps her learn, what limits or interferes with her learning, objective data from current evaluations, and how her disability afects her ability to be involved and progress in the general curriculum.  The PLAAFP is usually what I'm involved in as a general education teacher when I go to IEP meetings.

Sadie's goals in her IEP need to be written so that they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-limited.  And example of this might be "After one year of specialized instruction, Megan will be able to decode words at the 25th percentile level as measured by the decoding score of the Gray Oral Reading Test."

Accommodations change HOW Sadie will demonstrate learning or proficiency.  In other words, she may still learn to count to 10 or be required to know her alphabet, however, because she doesn't speak, the way she shows that she knows this information may be different.  She won't be required to recite her ABCs or to write her name, but she may still be required to show that she has learned this information in a different way.

A Modification changes WHAT Sadie is expected to learn and/or demonstrate.  This is where Sadie may not be expected to be learning 2nd grade material when she's in 2nd grade, because she may not have shown yet that she's learned 1st grade material.  And it's not fair to move her on until she can do the 1st grade stuff.  So, while other kids might be learning double-digit addition, Sadie might still be learning single-digit addition.  Therefore, her curriculum is modified.

The related services that will probably be written into Sadie's IEP will include therapies, and tube feeding, as well as some sort of adaptive PE to make sure she can still participate and get her physical education.  It will be important that I make sure Sadie is receiving these services each week, because this stuff can sometimes get overlooked.  It's also important that I make sure there is a plan in place in case of a school emergency in order to keep Sadie safe.

Another thing that will be decided at an IEP meeting is placement.  Ideally, a child in special education should be placed in the least restrictive environment.  This means that if they can be placed in a general education classroom, they will be.  This is where my decision to keep Sadie in the school district for preschool (this decision isn't set in stone or finalized in any way yet) is important.  Our school district practices a special education model called "inclusion" in preschool, which means that there are both special needs children and typical children together in the classroom.

I feel much more prepared for Sadie's IEP meeting having gone to this class.  I feel like I am ready to work with her educational team to provide for Sadie what she needs and I am really excited to see her learn and grow and progress!!

I will be updating you as we attend each of these meetings in the transition process, but for now, while we're still preparing, I want to know what you think, what you've experienced, what advice you'd offer as we get ready to team up with the school for Sadie IEP???

Friday, June 22, 2012

Our 5th Anniversary - at The Melting Pot

Today is our 5th anniversary.  It's funny because neither of us can remember when our anniversary is each year.  We have this plate that everybody signed at our wedding and it hangs on our wall...but since we moved we haven't put stuff up on the walls yet.  So, I had to text my mother in law actually to find out when my anniversary is!!  I think what messes me up is that my dad and stepmom's anniversary is the day after ours, and I can never remember which one is ours and which one is theirs.

the plate from our wedding
We don't ever do anything fancy or buy presents for our anniversary.  I mean, our first anniversary we went camping with friends, and usually every year our vacation plans fall somewhere near our anniversary.  Like this year...we are leaving on our vacation tomorrow.  That's why we chose to celebrate our anniversary 2 weeks ago.

We went to The Melting Pot.  Neither of us had been to this fancy fondue restaurant, but I realized there is one very close to our house and there was a Groupon (actually Deal Chicken) for $25 that we could use as a $50 gift certificate.  Even with that it was still expensive.  But it was fun.

dipping my asparagus!
dipping a mushroom
We had to make sure we had dessert!!  Oye!
It's fun to have a reason to go out and buy an expensive dinner...but honestly, our anniversary isn't that big of a deal.  In fact, last night Brian said to me, "tomorrow's our anniversary, right?"  (He only knows this because I've been telling him for the last 3 weeks)

I said, "yes."

He goes, "I just want you to know that I didn't get you anything."

I said, "that's okay I didn't get you anything either."

He just laughed and goes, "I love you, Christie."

We're made for each other.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bump Watch - 24 weeks

We met again for our Family Circle group Prenatal appointment.  Then I got a mini-lecture from Brian about my weight and my eating habits.  So, yesterday I started eating better...more protein, less salt and carbs (even though they are so yummy!) and more fruit.  I'll admit I do feel better and have more energy.  It just takes more work to prepare eggs or oatmeal for breakfast than to have a bowl of cereal!

We played this "game" at our meeting where there were a bunch of cups with pregnancy ailments written on them, then we grabbed some beads and put beads into the cups of the things we're experiencing.  There were quite a few, things like vericose veins, constipation, extra peeing, extra tiredness, swelling, bleeding gums, etc.  Brian looks at them all and goes, "Man!  You guys go through a lot of shit being pregnant!!"  It felt good to have him acknowledge that it's not that easy to grow a baby! haha.

How far along?  24 weeks...I am the baby of our Family Circle.  I'm so afraid we're going to have that last meeting and they're all going to have their babies and I'm still going to be pregnant!!

Weight Gain?  I'm at about +35 pounds.  I'd like to weigh in at our next Family Circle and have gained 5 lbs or less.

What's up with my Body?  I'm pretty sure I pulled a rib out of place.  This could be pregnancy related, sadie-lifting related, or just a random thing that happened.  I've done it before, so I know how it feels.  It hurts and is hard to get in a comfortable position.  I'm seeing the chiropractor today, so it'll hopefully be better soon and not return on our vacation!  

I'm also excited to see the chiropractor because she's certified in prenatal chiropractic (I actually found her when I was pregnant the first time!) and she'll stretch my round ligaments and other things that have shifted and are uncomfortable.  My round ligaments officially hurt.  It feels good to get in the pool and be weightless and stretch things out, so I've been trying to do that Sadie LOVES to swim!

Sleeping: Sleeping is starting to go downhill.  I'm not bothered by getting up to pee multiple times a night, because I did that anyway when I wasn't pregnant.  It's more about just laying there awake and hot and uncomfortable.  It might be almost time to start getting all the pillows!

Movement? Sometimes when I'm sitting here with my computer resting on my belly and it'll bounce.  So funny.  

Gender? It's a boy!  You can read about our ultrasound appointment and see pictures if you go to this post here.

Names? I have it narrowed down to 3... Brian is not that helpful.  I spent a lot of time last week just throwing names at him to see which would stick.  Unfortunately, the ones he liked ended up being too popular (Ethan) or a Twilight name (Jasper)...which I had no idea because I know nothing about Twilight, but I can see them becoming more popular as baby names.

Best moment of the week: We got Sadie's new bed on Sunday!!  And it wasn't so much about the bed that made it the best moment, we bought it from friends who have a little boy with special needs that is almost exactly 6 months older than Sadie.  I like being around this family.  We get to bounce ideas off each other and compare and contrast our kiddos.  My friend (the mom) told me that she really felt like Sadie is all there mentally, and she can tell by how she interacts with her surroundings.  That made me feel good.  Then she texted me this morning and told me that her husband can't stop talking about how cute Sadie is and that they decided that Sadie and Seth (their son with special needs) should be boyfriend and girlfriend!!  That warmed my heart...I know, it has nothing to do with being pregnant! haha

What I'm looking forward to: We're leaving for Texas on Saturday.  I'm excited to be at a resort/hotel with a pool we can go in everyday.  I'm also excited for a change of scenery and to see things I've never seen before.  I'm excited to get to spend some time with my cousin and meet her "other half" as well as see Brian's childhood friend who I was acquaintances with in college, but never really considered a friend.  They have a son who is literally 2 weeks younger than Sadie.  I'm also excited to go to Sea World.  If we do nothing else while we're in Texas, I at least want to go to Sea World!!

How baby's growing: My baby weighs just over a pound and is about a foot long.  He is started to fill out and gain weight.  His brain is growing quickly, his taste buds are developing, and his lungs are continuing to get ready to breathe air.  Soon, his skin will start to change from translucent to opaque.