Friday, July 30, 2010

Hospital - Day 4

Thursday morning brought a brightness to Ronnie's eyes that I hadn't seen in a while. He was looking much better, and I began to question when he could move out of intensive care.

He still can't eat or drink, and that is really starting to bother him. His digestive system hasn't quite 'woken up' yet, and until it does, the only thing he gets is the IV. He also has a tube in his nose leading to his stomach. That helps him to not get sick, because vomiting would not be a good thing considering the long incision on his belly.

Early in the afternoon, he actually got up to sit in his wheelchair. The nurses had to lift him, and that part was pretty painful, but he really liked being out of the bed. Unfortunately, soon after that, the doctors came to change his bandages, and that was also really painful.

Cranky was the word of the afternoon, and seeing all the doctors again and hearing that the nose tube couldn't yet be removed, was just the icing on the bad cake. So Chip, Corey and I called it a night so Ronnie could go to sleep. He was falling asleep before we had picked up our things to leave.

If he could have slept all night, that would have been wonderful. But at 2am, the nurse called to tell me they were moving Ronnie from the ICU to the regular pediatric floor. I'm glad he's out of ICU, but 2am in the morning??? Really, it couldn't have waited a couple more hours...???

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hospital - Day 3

Ronnie looked so much better this morning. The groggy eyes from the night after surgery were gone, and his smile was just a tiny bit bigger. He kept telling all of us to not laugh though because his belly hurts a lot when he laughs.

Chip had brought a bunch of DVDs, including his favorite, the Cosby Show. But Ronnie said he couldn't watch that because it would make him laugh.

He still can't eat or drink anything, and he keeps saying he is so thirsty. The nurse will put one of those little sponge lollipop things soaked in water in his mouth, and he almost sucks the color out of the sponge trying to get the water! The doctors have said that as soon as his bowels 'wake up', he can start to drink.

So our mission this afternoon was to find the sign for 'fart'. Surprisingly, none of us knew it. If only Ashley had been there, she probably could have told us what it was :)

We finally found the sign, told Ronnie he had to start *insert fart sign here* and then he could start drinking. I'll bet it's going to be a fun night!

He's running a bit of a fever, but the doctors aren't too worried about that. And, his blood pressure is high but the doctors decided to give him some IV meds for that.

So, all in all, not too bad a day. With a little luck, he will be moved out of ICU tomorrow into the PCU (Progressive Care Unit), and we can start the countdown to coming home.

Special Exposure Wednesday

The first morning in the brave boy looks really, really good...considering...

Be sure to check out all the other Special Exposure Wednesday shots at 5 Minutes For Special Needs!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hospital - Day 2

Long, long, long day today.

Ronnie was taken back to surgery at 7am...and didn't arrive to the ICU until 7:30 pm.

He looked pretty good considering..He squeezed my hand really tightly and I got a couple of half smiles out of him. He will be in the ICU for a couple of days, and then will be moved back to the regular hospital floor for a stay of about 10 days.

I'm already sick of the hospital food and the chairs are extremely uncomfortable in the rooms. But none of that matters when I see that dear boy smile!

Gotta get some sleep...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hospital - Day 1

I was pleasantly surprised with many things at the hospital today. My experiences in the past at this huge teaching hospital have not always been pleasant. For example, when Ashley got her G-tube 13 years ago, I ended up in the hospital administrator's office threatening to go to the press if things weren't changed.

But today, I didn't complain much at all :)

We arrived just after 8am, and I was expecting a long wait to get through admissions and actually arrive at a room. The wait was only about 10 minutes and within 15 minutes, we had a room.

The room was a semi-private, but I asked for a private one considering the surgery prep procedures Ronnie would have to endure. Surprisingly, within 10 minutes, we were in a private room.

The nurses were wonderful even though they did forget a few little things. But, because there are so many little things with Ronnie, I understand, and I really didn't mind reminding the nurses several times.

As with any teaching hospital, there were many doctor visits, and although most of them had a poor bedside manner, I hope my response to them help to 'educate'. As I'm sure many of you parents of children with complex medical needs have experienced, the doctors really don't always know everything and do need a little education now and then!

It wasn't long after our arrival before Ronnie was hooked up to his GoLightly drip, and as anyone who has ever had that stuff, 'GoLightly' is definitely not the correct descriptive term.

We had a few issues with interpreters and the DeafTalk device, but thankfully Ronnie's interpreter today was someone who has worked with our family before, and she was as strong an advocate as I. Because the staff was unable to get DeafTalk hooked up and working, Ronnie will have round-the-clock interpreters until they do!!

The night is going to be a long one for my sweet boy because he has a second gallon of GoLightly to work his way through, but I am praying for at least some sleep for him - and happy dreams to go along with the sleep.

Since surgery is an all day affair tomorrow (he goes in at 6:30 am and ends up in the ICU around 7pm), I may not be able to post tomorrow. But please keep my dear son in your thoughts and prayers.

And for everyone who is offering support, THANK YOU! That means you - Amy, Sara, Mary, Cindy, Jane, Lymmette and Mia.

It's Time

Today Ronnie gets admitted to the hospital. Surgery is tomorrow, but prep is today...and he isn't going to like the prep.

I really hope things go smoothly, and that he understands that there are no choices - the surgery must happen.

My posting schedule this week may be erratic, but please keep my dear son in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, July 23, 2010

There is Hope

I witnessed something yesterday at the baseball game that really warmed my heart – and it needed warming.

In the same little ‘handicapped seating’ area where we were, there were also 3 adult men with significant and severe disabilities. With them were their caregivers, one for each gentleman. They appeared to be group home residents, but I don’t know what group home or what company runs the group home. But I wish I had asked.

Based on my own experience with group home staff, and based on what I have seen in my community, the people that get hired to support our most fragile family members are usually not well trained, and not very caring. The three ladies with the gentlemen were exceptions to that in a big way.

There were little things. The ladies would wash their hands with hand sanitizer between caring for or feeding each of the men. The men were all on pureed foods, most of which seemed about the same beige color. But the ladies told the men what they were eating and asked them if they liked it. The women chatted with the men during their meal even though none of the men could chat back. They made sure the men were clean after eating and would straighten their clothes, push hair out of their faces, all those little things that a person does for a loved one who needs assistance. The ladies made sure that the men’s wheelchairs were positioned both the keep the men out of the sun and to make sure they had a good view of the baseball game. They sang the ballpark songs and yelled ‘Charge’ when the rest of the stadium did. About half way through the game, they surprised the men with ice cream served in little baseball helmets.

There were also big things. One of the gentlemen was having a birthday yesterday. His nurse kept talking to him about that, singing the happy birthday song to him, and promised him she would try to catch a foul ball for him. A glimmer of a smile crossed his crooked face. My boys had seen a foul ball land just outside the ball park. They couldn’t go get it because they would not be allowed to re-enter the park. So we stopped a park employee, asked him to get the ball, and he agreed! The birthday fellow got his baseball, and his nurse wrote the date and ‘Happy Birthday’ on it for him. His glimmer of a smile got even bigger.

These were women who cared about their charges. They were professional and loving at the same time. There were respectful and obviously valued the men’s dignity. They had pet names for the gentleman, and were constantly patting an arm, squeezing a hand, and other little things to let the men know that they were there for them. In short, they were doing more than just a job – they were lovely, caring people and I was proud to have spent time with them and with the three gentleman.

Bravo, Ladies, bravo!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

To take everyone's mind off Ronnie's upcoming surgery, I decided to play hooky from work and take the boys to a local baseball game.

The temperatures were sweltering, and the accommodations at the ball park for people with disabilities were dismal, but we all refused to let that diminish our fun. We stocked up on water and sunscreen, and had a blast watching the Richmond Flying Squirrels (really, that is the team name) win over the Trenton Thunder.

Afterwards we went to Dave and Busters, and all three boys said they had a great day!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Special Exposure Wednesday

Ronnie had a light wand that he was twirling around in circles - Chip set the camera for a long exposure - and voila - a cool picture!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The group home in which Jessica lives is dark. The draperies are usually closed – the furnishings are dark and heavy – even the air inside the home seems oppressive.

The day support program she attends is in a one-story cinderblock building. The walls are institutional green – the adornments on the walls are posters about CPR and behavior management – the furniture is old and mismatched and lost its original color years ago.

The school classroom to which Jessica is assigned is in the basement of the school building. It too is dark and joyless. Again, the walls are institutional colors, and many of the lights are burned out. There are no windows and whole feeling is one of gloominess.

The descriptions above are not the exception. Jessica used to attend a different day support program, and it was worse than her current program. And the other two group homes in which she has lived were also dark, gloomy, and drab.


Why don’t people with disabilities deserve lightness, bright rooms, cheery kitchens and the occasional barbecue outside? Why can’t they assist in planting flowers and a vegetable garden at their group homes? Why can’t the draperies be opened more frequently and why can’t pleasant music be playing in the background rather than the constant din of the television?

How can we expect children with disabilities to be excited about going to school when the being there provides nothing visually stimulating? Do school districts think our students with disabilities will learn more if there is nothing but plain green walls to distract them? Why aren't there 'spirit' posters and announcements of school dances in the 'special education' hall? In fact, why is there even a 'special education' hall?

How can we expect our children with disabilities to learn and grow at their day support programs when they dread going there? Why can’t there be celebrations and joy in the places they spend the majority of their day - maybe ice cream sundaes and cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles? Why can't the staff smile more - do they really hate their jobs as much as their faces seem to say? Why must their lives be filled with darkness and gloom? Again, a little paint would go a long way to improving everyone’s moods.

I wish I had the time and money to paint, refurnish, and refurbish these places. I’m convinced that we would see improved moods and improved behaviors if environments were improved first.

Monday, July 19, 2010


If I had $150,000 and could fly to New Zealand, I would definitely get one of these for Ronnie! (See the video after the text).

The news release from states:

"New Zealand isn't exactly known for being a hotbed of tech innovation, but this set of bionic legs might just realign that perception a little bit. The product of seven years of development work, the Rex exoskeleton is capable of supporting the full weight of a person -- making it suitable for paraplegics -- and moving him or her around in a familiar bipedal fashion. It's operated using a joystick and control pad and is simple enough for handicapped users to self-transfer in and out of. The best news, perhaps, is that it's about to go on sale in its home country this year, with an international launch following in 2011. The worst news? Probably the $150,000 (US) initial asking price, but then we'd hardly say we're qualified to judge the value of being able to walk again."

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Wonderful Change!

Today’s blog is about a very rare subject – at least in my life and Ashley’s life. I’m so pleased with the bus staff for this Summer’s ESY, and I feel compelled to state that publicly.


Yes, that would be me. In fact, here are links to some of my past school bus rants – July 2009, April 2009, June 2008, September 2007, July 2007, and again July 2007.

I’m not naïve enough to think my school district transportation services have suddenly healed themselves, but Ashley’s services during ESY this Summer have been stellar.

The driver that picks Ashley up in the morning has met her in the past. He actually remembered her and remembered some of her little quirks, especially the ones that keep her happy during the bus ride. He remembered about her seizures. And most importantly, he seems to genuinely like Ashley.

The aide is new, and perhaps she is taking her cue from the driver, but she also is very pleasant and seems to enjoying Ashley’s presence.

But the thing that ensured these two a spot in the Ashley Hall of Fame is the way they ‘took on’ the teacher when they felt the teacher wasn’t treating Ashley the way they wanted her treated.

They spoke up – they demanded changes – and the changes happened!

Now Ashley skips out to the bus each morning with a big smile on her face, and seems equally happy on the bus trip home. Life is good with this Summer’s transportation, and for just a little while, I’m not going to worry about transportation woes for the upcoming school year.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summertime, and the Living is (not) Easy

I’m exhausted and it’s all Summer’s fault. Don’t get me wrong – I love Summer – but the vision of relaxing on the veranda, the pace of life slowed down, is all a myth – at least in my family.

Summer brings lots and lots of yard work to do. The flowers I planted are beautiful, but they need tending and watering and weeding. That’s not an issue in the Winter.

Summer brings double the loads of laundry – piles of wet swimsuits and towels, sweaty clothes from playing outside.

Summer brings lots more opportunities for activities – playing in the neighborhood pool EVERY day, baseball games, trips to the beach and the park, daytrips to the mountains that snow makes inaccessible in the Winter, museums and other learning opportunities to keep the children’s minds from turning to mush, trips to theme parks and water parks, and visits with friends and family that often don’t happen in the dead of Winter.

Summer brings sand in the car to vacuum out, pollen on the windowsills to dust, floors and carpets to clean constantly because the dirty foot traffic is multiplied exponentially.

Summer also brings lots and lots of doctor visits, hospitalizations, and medical procedures – all those things I put off during the school year to minimize the time away from class.

The stress of summer may be a little greater this year because I have tried to pack 3 months worth of sun and fun into a month and a half. Ronnie’s surgery will put us all pretty much out of commission starting August 1st.

I really, really do love Summer. In fact, one of the reasons I like living in Virginia is because the seasons do change. About the time I am getting tired of Summer, Autumn rolls around. When I am sick of cold weather, viruses and snow, Spring arrives.

So Summer, I’m not blaming you, really, but could you slow down for just a day or so? And while you are at it, make sure the wine is chilled and the steaks are on the grill.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Special Exposure Wednesday

For a long time, I've been wanting to try one of the butterfly growing kits seen in educational toy stores. We finally decided this was the Summer to give it a try.

You buy the kit and send in a card to get your caterpillars delivered. You can even say the exact date you would like them to arrive. Then plop the catepillars in the little butterfly house and watch as they weave and wrap themselves in a cocoon. After about a week in their cocoons, the butterflies start to emerge.

I had my doubts but it really did work! It was an amazing summer science lesson that held everyone's interest for several weeks. Then it was time to release them outside. They flew away one by one, and the last one stopped and landed on a plant just long enough to wiggle his wings in goodbye!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Time Draws Nigh

The surgery date is getting closer. We have met with the doctors and gotten instructions for the week leading up to surgery. It’s impossible for me to ignore and relegate it to ‘the future’. It is two weeks away…

Ronnie and I met with his urologist and surgeon this past week. He will be admitted to the hospital a day before his surgery for final preparations, and will stay approximately 10 days after his surgery.

There will be needles and tubes and invasions to both his body and his privacy. Because the hospital is a teaching hospital, there will be doctor students in and out all day – or at least until I put a stop to it and call for a reduction in visits.

There will be times without sign language support – even though I am doing everything I possibly can to forestall that. I know it will happen – it always does.

There will be sleepless nights and uncomfortable chairs. There will be strangers in the bed on the other side of the room, doubling the number of doctors, nurses and other visitors.

There will be fear in Ronnie’s eyes, as well as in mine.

But when all it said and done, Ronnie will be on his way to a healthier, happier future. I have to believe this, or neither one of us would be able to make it through the frightening ordeal.

Monday, July 12, 2010

His Brother and Sister

Ronnie's siblings visited this past Saturday. They are 10 year old twins - a boy and a girl - and they are absolutely beautiful children. Thier adoptive family was on the way to an Orlando vacation and agreed to stop by.

Ronnie had not seen his siblings for quite a while, and we just last week got the Skype session going so he could see them on the computer. That left a lot to be desired, so I was ecstatic that a visit was arranged.

As soon as they came in, they flanked Ronnie on the couch, so close to him that it seemed they were super-glued together. They don't know sign language but their eyes and their lips said how much they had missed him and how glad they were to see him. It didn't take long before they were all checking out Ronnie's bedroom and the other areas that make up Ronnie's new home. Ronnie's brother even came out and whispered in his adoptive mother's ear, "Ronnie likes the Redskins just like me!"

Their family could only stay a short while. They were facing a 16 hour drive to Florida, and it was already almost 4pm in the afternoon. There were many hugs and kisses, and promises to visit again soon. I hope those promises are kept.

I know that there were many reasons why Ronnie and his siblings couldn't be placed in the same adoptive home, but my heart was sad to see the joy, the closeness of the moments ending as everyone walked out the door. Ronnie has not seemed overly upset about the separation - perhaps he is used to it. But, I sure do wish all three of them could have been a part of our family.

I will, however, do everything I can to ensure that they are a part of our extended family. Thank you, Nadine, for the visit and the chanced to meet the siblings and the rest of your lovely family!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Winner and A Loser

First the winner! The winner of the caption contest is Janet with her suggestion of "No mom, I DON'T have to use the bathroom!". I'm positive that any mothers that read this blog can identify with that caption :)

So Janet, email me with your contact information and I will get the Target $25 gift card sent to you posthaste!

Now the loser. A baby bluejay fell out of its nest in the big maple tree in our front yard, and was immediately attacked by a larger brownish bird. There was so much commotion between the two that I was unable to identify the type of bird that attacked.

But look at this face...We tried to help the little one, but he/she just kept trying to fly away. Since it wasn't able to fly, I was afraid it would hurt itself more by trying. We gave it some space and will check again soon...

What is Your Virtue of Choice?

Are there certain qualities you hope your children will have as they grow up? As parents of special needs children, I think we all hope our children will become good self-advocates. But what else? What other virtues do you hope to instill in your children as you raise them?

(pictured right is the statue titled "Personification of Virtue" (Greek ἀρετή) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey)

I did a little research on the topic of virtues.

First, I wanted a good definition of the word virtue. Here is what I found:

Virtue (Latin virtus; Greek ἀρετή) is moral excellence. A virtue is a character trait or quality valued as being always good in and of itself. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting individual and collective well being.

I like that one, especially the part about promoting individual and collective well being.

I was already familiar with the Catholic definition of virtue given my upbringing in the church. The church defines seven virtues, and the one that is most important to me is humility. The Catholic Catechism defines humility as “Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. The courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. Reverence for those who have wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one's own self. Being faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they may be. Refraining from despair and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation. “

That definitely summed up what I hope to instill in my children.

A little more research led me to Benjamin Franklin and his list of 13 virtues. His original list only included 12 virtues, but he was led to add a 13th – humility:

"My list of virtues contain'd at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride show'd itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of which he convinc'd me by mentioning several instances; I determined endeavouring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest, and I added Humility to my list."

Then I found one more definition that I liked the most:

Being humble is considering others as important as yourself. You are thoughtful of their needs and willing to be of service. You don’t expect others or yourself to be perfect. You learn from your mistakes. When you do great things, humility reminds you to be thankful instead of boastful.

Yes, I feel I will have done a good job as a parent if humility is a virtue my children learn to practice and cherish. And while this statement may not reflect humility on my part, I believe I am well on my way at instilling that virtue in my children’s lives.

I am proud of what they have become and look forward to what they will still accomplish.

What about you? What virtues are important to you, especially for instilling in your children?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Special Exposoure Wednesday

I've never been one to believe that my children can't do something. But, I must admit, I never thought Ronnie would be able to ride a foot pedal bicycle. In fact, I had already been researching hand-driven bikes for him.

But last week in physical therapy, the therapist suggested Ronnie try one of the bikes they have. It was amazing! It seemed like he had been riding a bike his entire life, and the therapist had to keep telling him to slow down!

Keep in mind, Ronnie is paralyzed from the waist down due to his spina bifida.

What an amazing kid!!!

Be sure to check out all the other Special Exposure Wednesday shots at 5 Minutes For Special Needs!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Subjective Comparison

We have an older gas barbecue grill that has served us well over the years. But for the Fourth of July this year, I wanted food cooked on a charcoal grill. I know it is more work to light the charcoal, wait for it to get ready and then cook as compared to the gas grill which would light with the push of a button. But the taste is very different. So off we went, all the kids and I, in search of a Weber barbecue grill.

In my town, there are two large hardware stores - Lowes and Home Depot. There are also some smaller stores, but usually their prices are higher. We decided to try Lowes first since it was closer to home.

We arrived in our tank of a van, unloaded wheelchairs and headed to the entrance where grills were on display. Apparently most people want gas because I saw no charcoal grills. We went into the store, and there stood a gentleman who appeared to be directing people to where they needed to go.

I asked where the Weber grills were, and he pointed me to an indoor display of gas grills. I politely said "No, I want a charcoal grill." He said, "I don't think we have any of those", and then he moved on to the next group entering the store.

As you might be able to imagine, as a group my family is hard to ignore. It is also pretty difficult for us to maneuver through a store with 2 wheelchairs and several people in tow. But because the gentleman told us there were no charcoal grills inside, we went back outside to check. Lo and behold, there was a Weber grill, just like we wanted.

We went back in the store, approached the gentleman again, and said, "We saw a Weber grill outside, and the tag said it was in location C29." He said, "Over there" and pointed to his left. We found the grill, in its box, stacked high above our heads. When we asked for help, he said it would be a while.

We left the store and decided to head to Home Depot.

The experience at Home Depot was completely different. This wasn't the first time I had noticed this, but everytime a Home Depot associate walks past you, they say hello and ask if you need help.

We found the exact grill we wanted - same price as Lowe's - got it loaded into a cart and headed to check out. The checkout person was very helpful, and said he could get the bar code without lifting the box. While paying, the associate spoke to Ashley and once we finished and were heading out, he said, "Thanks for shopping with Home Depot, and have a great holiday."

I realize that this was only one outing, and making a comparison between the two stores based on that is probably not fair. It's very subjective, but based on this one visit, you can probably guess where I will shop in the future.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Celebrating the Red, Pink and Blue

Due to a little laundry snafu, our tie-dye red, white and blue shirts turned red, pink and blue! But we didn't let that put a damper on our celebrating!

The weather was sweltering and I had to get creative to keep the kids standing still for pictures. A flower from my garden did the least until Ashley ate it!

In the picture below you can see Ashley's little hand reaching to snag the flower from Chip!

Then the flower became a snack....

Our celebrations continued with a fabulous dinner on the grill (cooked by Chip), a selection of summer fruits and vegetables, a patriotic dessert of frosted Rice Krispie treats (again cooked by Chip), and finally, fireworks on TV!

A very good day! Happy Birthday, America!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Baltimore - Day 3

As day three of our long weekend dawned, we all slowly got up and enjoyed the free breakfast at the Homewood Suites hotel in which we spent the night. All you can eat, free breakfasts is great when you are traveling with three teenage boys!

We were all pretty worn out but decided to stop by Ikea on the way home. We had never been to Ikea, but I have heard so many good things that I was anxious to check it out. It didn’t disappoint!

I found about a 100 things that I loved, but only a few that I decided to buy. I did see some chairs that I like, but I will need to take the van back up there to get them. One of my favorite areas was their little food section. Lots of Swedish delicacies were available, and we stocked up on cookies, blueberry jam and pear soda.

After Ikea, we opted for lunch at Famous Dave’s Barbecue. The food was great but the facilities were not. The tables were so close together that it was almost impossible to get Ronnie’s wheelchair to our table. He finally decided to transfer to a regular chair and asked the waiter to store his wheelchair somewhere out of the way. That worked and we all enjoyed our last meal of the mini-vacation.

I enjoyed the trip tremendously but getting home was wonderful also. I was seriously in need of some Ashley-time, and although the hotel beds were great, they just couldn’t compare to my own bed.

Bedtime came early as did time to go to work the next morning. I am now looking forward to this coming long holiday weekend and a little more rest at home!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Baltimore - Day 2

Day two in Baltimore saw us checking out of the marvelous Hilton Hotel after one of the best buffet breakfasts I’ve ever seen (I don’t think I have ever had a better croissant in my life!) Oh, how I didn’t want to leave the air conditioning for the 100 + degrees of heat, but we did and headed to Camden yards for a tour. For a mere $9 per person, we and approximately 10 other people were lead through the bowels of the stadium, stopping to ooh and ahh over the press box, the party rooms, and the private boxes.

The boys got to sit in the dugout. We learned all the ins and outs of the stadium design. We heard how delicate the turf is and how water will seep right through it, thus keeping the need to cover the field during rain showers to a minimum. We saw the double decker warm up areas (I know there is a more technical name for this, but I forget what it is), and saw the turf farm area, a place where replacement grass grows to fix divots in the field.

We learned that ALL the seats in the stadium are power washed TWICE after each game. Do you know why? Because of all the peanut shells. Peanut shells, we were told, are the hardest things to clean up. It made me a little guilty about eating peanuts at the game later that day.

We saw the television studios and the miles and miles of HD cables. We learned that only special mud from a secret place in Georgia is used to rough up the baseballs, and we saw the World Series trophies that the Orioles had won.

The list just goes on and on, and now you may understand why $9 per person seems like a great deal, at least to people who are baseball-obsessed like my family.

After the tour, we had a few hours to kill, and did so by going to the Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. Rooms full of very old comic books – toys from the early 1900’s – TV shows like I Love Lucy and Howdy Doody – and of course, the newer things like Iron Man, Superman, and other super heroes. I love the museum – we had been there the year before also – but I always leave feeling a tad bit older because I recognize, and in some instances, even played with things similar to what is displayed in the their ‘old’ toy room.

After the museum, we stood in line waiting for the gates to Camden yard to open – just us and 40,000 of our closest friends. By the time we finally got to our seats, I think at least 15% of my body mass had melted from the heat. But not to worry, we quickly replenished with hots dogs, fries, ice cream, and lots and lots of beverages. We were also quite blessed to have our seats in the shade, even though shade when the temperature is 102 and the humidity is 98% doesn’t make a huge difference.

One really positive thing about Camden Yards is that they do not isolate people with disabilities. Our local baseball stadium, for example, has a disabled section. It is the only place wheelchairs can go. At Camden yards, the wheelchair seats are fully integrated with the regular seats. Kudos to the stadium designers for that!

The game was long but very good. The Nationals led for a while and then the Orioles made a comeback. There was enough action for fans of both teams. After the game, we made our way to the car and through the traffic and headed back to the Virginia side of the beltway battle.

Just as dark settled in, we checked into the Alexandria Homewood Suites, into a room that was the size of a small apartment, and just took it easy until bedtime. Day three had us heading home, but with a quick stop at Ikea first. More on that tomorrow….