Sep 28, 2015


Last week some friends and I were talking. One lamented how she'd hoped during the summer to get things done but that the days passed too quickly and that she hoped it would get easier when her kids were back in school. I had the same experience and agreed! But very quickly after school started I was reminded what it's like when the kids are in school:  the deluge of school paperwork that comes home, homework to manage, projects, carpool and driving to after school activities. Now I remember why it's also a challenge to get things done during the school year. But I'm trying. I am eager for a fresh start and to get back to business. I'm hearing from other moms that they are too.

In my last post I talked about how I wish they taught time management in school. Well low and behold as I finally made my way through the contents of my children's backpacks reviewing schoolwork from the year before (not my favorite task) I realized they DID. Although I knew they'd read 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey at school I didn't quite realize the amount of time they spent on this unit. I also learned some interesting things about Evie and Adrian from reviewing their work that I will make a mental note about, such as how they feel their life has been affected by having a medically complex sibling with special needs. A subject for another post.

I believe a top priority of my job as a parent is to prepare my kids, as best I can, for life as adults so I love it that the school is helping out by teaching them life skills, beyond math, English and science etc. Learning how to manage time, set goals, and knowing what makes ourselves happy and what doesn't are all such important life skills! I wish they'd had a unit of study like this when I was in school! Last year when they brought home a sheet listing the 7 Habits I liked it so much I found a tree graphic for it on the Internet and copied the detailed habits onto it for an awesome visual to display above our family schedule. Honestly it's as much of a reminder to me as it is to the kids. I'm attaching it here for any of you who might want it for your home.

The habits I'm focusing on right now 1, 2 & 3. They are, not coincidentally, the ROOTS of the tree because, of course, you must have strong roots to have a healthy tree. Although in principle it's simple enough the part I struggle with is deciding what is most important when it's not obvious. Dinner, chores, homework are first things first and it's clear (even though I do often struggle to get dinner on the table on time). But what about when you are trying to decide whether to weed the yard because it's long overdue, or clean off your desk because it's been driving you crazy for months? What about managing your pictures because although they are important to you, they are not more important than say editing your child's communication device or revising her home therapy schedule and yet they aren't unimportant. Or "self care/me time. It's that stuff, the stuff that can be pushed off but is still important that is tricky to prioritize and include in our busy schedules. 

This is essentially why it is September and there has still been no blog post about our summer vacation. Blog posts often get pushed. I did pull out some photos while I was programming Ainsley's AAC device with pictures (so she could talk to friends at school about her summer). I was ready to blog but then life happened and once again I am in the position of saying I hope to have that post together for you sometime soon. 

I got roped back into being school Photographer for Adrian's school which I had deliberated NOT signed up to chair because I was going to try this new thing of putting my needs first. ie. saving my photographic time and energy for my own pictures. Then it turned into a bit of an emergency because the all school overnight camp was so early in the year and the leads they had didn't work out. Although these people who signed up were willing to do some photography they weren't willing to do the whole thing (imagine that) and they weren't available for camp. So instead of doing what I'd planned I had to rush off to camp and spent 10 hours shooting over two days, then I had to edit them, post them to the share site, and get the site up and running for the year. Thankfully this time goes toward the required parent volunteer hours which I will have no trouble meeting. Although I am helping in this capacity this year I made my terms clear, that I will be sharing the photography with others and will act primarily as coordinator. I'm trying to be better about knowing my limits.

In addition to the usual stuff and the photography volunteering our washing machine broke. It's had problems since we moved in but I'd always been able to fix it. After hours of messing with it it was clear we needed a new washer and since our dryer had been pinching our clothes and damaging them we needed a set. Our laundry was OF COURSE piled up and Steve was headed to California on business and Adrian off to camp. This was Labor Day weekend when we should have been having fun. We'd hoped to be able to go buy machines bring them home and do laundry. This is life. Of course in my life there is always a complication and nothing is simple. Our machines sit on a built in pedestal with another cabinet overhead. So there was one set, in all the stores, that would fit the space and it had to be special ordered. Instead we decided to check, Steve removed the overhead cabinet and was able to cut it down with a Skil-saw and reinstall it to give us an extra inch. We pick machines we like instead now that our options were more open. The delivery was scheduled. We wait. We are excited. But when they show up the washer is damaged and they don't leave it with us. We then have to wait until the following week. Why is life like this?!

So now we are broke since this was ill timed following our family vacation. These new machines are so much more complicated than they need to be but at least I can do laundry again. Never thought I'd be happy to say that! We survived 2 weeks by dragging all our clothes to the laudromat but by this point last week of course we had a bunch of laundry to do. It was a lesson in how something you take for granted can all of a sudden be taken away and mess up your life in a big way. The good thing is that these new machines are HUGE and I swear they can do nearly twice the laundry in a single load. Nice! And if things are going to go wrong it could be something worse.

With the return to school comes the need for a revised family schedule. I worked on this awhile. It's discouraging how little time there is when you look at it this way. We let things go more than we should have over the summer and I am glad to have school help provide structure to our days and keep the kids from spending too many hours in front of a screen and also get them back to being active. This year Adrian decide not to do soccer and is taking dance instead. This actually makes our schedule less crazy than in the past since I was able to get him into classes at the same time as Evie. I'm looking forward to seeing him perform in the recital and won't miss rainy soccer games.

Ainsley's having a fantastic school year so far. Her one-on-one aide is committed to working her hard which I love. She's at a great point developmentally. I feel like she is at the perfect stage to learn. Her handwriting (tracing) has improved immensely. She's starting to draw pictures. She's memorized more of the letters and numbers. She's got a great attention span for books. She seems to be able to navigate her AAC device (which was switched to word based for sentence building, last year) more easily. Since her trach stoma was closed up she seems to be building more lung endurance and she's getting physically stronger. She is doing a lot of walking at school and using a stander we built at home. Today in PT at school she walked a 65 foot distance using forearm crutches with minimal support! In this picture she matched up all the opposites cards by herself! Ainsley turns 9 in October and I am hoping we can meet some milestones this year before she turns 10.  I'm anticipating great things for Miss A!

I've tried to put some skill building into the schedule for Evie and Adrian too. For awhile on Wednesdays we've been having mommy and me cooking classes. This week they made Vegetarian Orca Bean Chili with cornbread muffins.

Homework. The face says it all. This is one habit that is hard to get back into for everyone. 
I hate being the homework police.

But with the return to school comes social opportunities like Homecoming. Evie looked absolutely beautiful and so grown up for fourteen. She had only a couple friends from her middle school go to her same high school. She fanagled a way for her friend (who is at another high school) to come along as another friend's +one. Hopefully things will get less complicated in the future now that they understand high school is not middle school. Her special friend who is a boy is taking Evie to his school's Homecoming dance this weekend. My life right now feels like it revolves around planning Miss Evelyn's social calendar.

The thing I'm trying to keep in mind is that these years fly by quickly. The volunteering tapers off in high school and that time is soon for Adrian. Evie will be an adult in less than 4 years. I don't have too much time left with these kids. Ainsley is another story. I want to make sure I do this parenting thing to the best of my ability. I love them too much to do anything else. Luckily loving them is another top priority of my job as a parent and I think I've got that one covered. 

Sep 1, 2015

Back to School

All three kids went back to school today. It's always a bittersweet time. As a stay at home mom I am grateful to reclaim time to get things done, guilt free. When the kids are at home the days pass very quickly and when I look back I wonder what the heck I've been doing. This happens every summer so this time I had good intentions to spend August (our June/July was pretty full) doing a bunch of things I never get to with the kids: Playdoh, Monopoly (don't you remember loving it when your parents would play that with you as a kid, that game lasts hours), use our craft kits, lounge under the pergola etc. None of that happened. What I did do: Cleaning (how is it that 3 kids can make such a mess all the time?!), AAC programming (some really good changes I think), doctor and dentist appointments, shopping for school/art supplies and clothes. It is easy to fill up the days with necessary chores so I really did my best to try to find balance in the days of the last weeks of summer. I wasn't very successful.

Yesterday the kids said they wanted to watch a movie together in the middle of the day. We never do that and it was the last day of summer so we did. Adrian, knowing I might not agree, suggested The Princess and the Frog, stating that it was the perfect back to school movie because of it's theme "that you have to work for what you want". A good lesson, and yet it is not just about working hard but also about remembering what's most important, the people we love. The perfect movie for the last day of summer. Agreed!

Speaking of back to school don't you wish they would teach time management as a subject in school?! I certainly do! I think most of us fumble around a bit as young adults and then as parents before we (hopefully) eventually figure out a way to get through our days with some success. I don't know anyone who says "I have plenty of time to do all the things that are important to me."  Heck if they had classes that taught that I would definitely go back to school!

Ainsley had an awesome first day! Ainsley has the same para-educator and she is awesome and very excited to attend school with Ainsley! She has two enthusiastic teachers (Gen-ed and Spec-ed) and I think this is going to be a fantastic year for Ainsley! Especially having her trach stoma closed! (Having a clean neck is oh so awesome!) We were thrilled to get Gene back as our bus driver. 

Evie had an awesome first day in HIGH SCHOOL! Despite going from a school of 90 kids to 1800 kids, she seems to be adjusting well, if she can only get herself to class on time. Knew that one was going to be a challenge for her. It's a BIG school.

Adrian is super excited about the school year and his new guild advisor who happens to be a man. Although Evie has moved on and is no longer there he seems just fine, which is a relief. I think he's trying to earn the best dressed award this year. I think it's great and I'm glad he's at a school where he can express himself.

I always try to make a special dinner and have cake to celebrate the first day of school. 
This year we had Shepherd's Pie (Cottage really) and a store bought Lemon Boston Creme cake.

Hopefully now that the kids are back to school I will get a chance to get go through our Disney World pictures for a post. I went through them a bit to create an "about summer" page for Ainsley's communication device. I have SO many great pictures to share! You also may have noticed I've been in the process of redesigning the blog over the summer. I hope you like the new design and with any luck I will get to updating the pages soon, now that the kids are back in school.  I'm looking forward to a fantastic year!!!

Aug 10, 2015

2 Weeks Post Stoma Closure - In the Swimming Pool!

After nearly 9 years today was the first time Ainsley has ever been able to dunk her neck in water. Yes, she's been in the pool with a life vest and floaty (to ensure her neck stayed above water) and yes, she's been in the bath tub, but again NEVER with her neck submerged and always with CAUTION.

The surgeon said 2 weeks and so 2 weeks we've waited.

Ainsley was SO EXCITED! I am hopeful that when she gets more comfortable she might even try holding her breath and dunking her head, who knows, maybe she can learn to swim but baby steps for now. Of course we will still be careful so don't worry.