Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fall Fun

I know I'm leaving you in suspense for Julia's first day and week in kindergarten.  I could tell you all about how she loves school, thinks her music teacher is so funny, mastered the monkey bars in only a couple of days.  But, that will have to wait for another post because I have to show you how much FUN we had today.

We have an annual tradition of going to a local apple orchard every fall with the girls and getting their photos taken atop a barrel of pumpkins.  The orchard is a super popular destination in the Fall and the crowds are really hard to navigate come October so we have taken to visiting in September.  Beautiful weather, same attractions, smaller crowds.

We arrived and headed to the pumpkins for some photos.  Truthfully, this tradition is one of my favorites and I look forward to taking the same photos every year and comparing them to previous years to see how much the girls have grown and matured.  

Full disclosure: This morning we were all ready to go when I saw that Julia's black shirt with orange sequined pumpkin had a huge white spot all over it.  I found out that the culprit was toothpaste and I know that doesn't come out easily and my heart sunk a bit.  I quickly realized I had to relinquish my desire to have her dressed in fall clothes and let her pick out a clean outfit. I think the photos look great anyway so I was a bit upset for no reason at all.

This year we did two things that really made it a fun trip.  We brought Emma's wagon instead of using her wheelchair or stroller.  It's just more FUN to go around an orchard in a wagon and it's super easy for me and Chris to move her in and out of the wagon.  It was a great decision.  The second thing we did was Pick Your Own apples.  We had not done that at this orchard before for various reasons and felt this was the year to check it out.  Oh, how we had fun picking apples!

Emma was all smiles and ready for the apple picking action.  Julia was worried about stepping in the mud or rotten apples and getting her hands dirty.  We jokingly were calling her a diva and she most certainly DOES NOT like being called a diva..but she pretty much is a bit of one.  I love that about her :-)  Emma is all about dirt and fun and loved getting right into the center of the action.  I love how their personalities are so different and special.  The best part of picking apples was tasting their sweet, juicy goodness right there in the field.  Yummy!

We had a {relaxing} picnic lunch with the music festival band playing on stage and watching all the children running around in the playground.  Julia was finished her lunch in the blink of an eye and ready for the playground and kept asking us to hurry up - she is sometimes not all that thrilled that Emma takes a bit more time to eat.  While waiting she burned off some energy by running circles around the wagon.  Julia really loves to run around and I think someday she might take up running with Chris.  Anyway, once our lunch was finished we hit the playground for some fun.

Julia showed me how she can now do the monkey bars.  This is a new skill since starting kindergarten.  My jaw might still be hanging open from how she went from not able to inch herself along the bar to swinging through the entire set of monkey bars without so much as a hiccup.  Amazingly wonderful.  I'm so proud of her!  

Emma is a slide-a-holic and so Chris and I tag teamed to let her do the slides by herself for a while.  On of us places Emma on the slide at the top while the other waits at the bottom to catch her and listen to her ridiculously cute and emphatic giggles.  With all the children running around it is sometimes challenging to do our hand-off and also to keep Emma's rightful spot in line but she managed to go down the straight slide, curvy slide and tunnel slides a few dozen times each.  Happy girl!  Julia loves going down the slides, too, and especially loves taking Emma down with her.  Emma thinks it's a hoot to slide with Julia, and so they went down the non-tunnel slides together a few times.  

Each time we were moving between the play sets we placed Emma in her wagon seat and she pitched a fit.  She does this all the time when it comes to taking a break at the playground - she just loves playing at them so much!  I have a dream that some day there will be adapted slides for children in wheelchairs.  I have never seen one but I can tell you that my back would really appreciate one.  I also wonder what ever we will do as Emma gets bigger and heavier and needs her slide fix.  

But today I choose to live in the moment so I will set that worry aside for another day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Last day of Summer

Tomorrow is a pretty big deal in our house.  It's such a big deal that Julia is having a hard time getting to sleep tonight.  All the excitement is over Julia's first day of kindergarten tomorrow!  It's time for her to start her journey into lifelong learning and navigating her way a bit on her own.  Not too much on her own - not just yet.  She will go to the school where Chris works and right now that is very exciting to her.  I imagine that as she gets older it might be less exciting....I'm thinking it might not be such a selling point to her come the teenage years.  But for now, now the idea of riding into school with her Daddy is EXCITING!

To celebrate her last days of summer we went on a Mommy Daughter date last night.  Julia chose to go to Friendly's for ice cream.  Mint chocolate chip ice cream with m&m's please, Mom.  After ice cream we walked around the local mall.  It was our first time there since we moved and we were happy to see it has some of our favorite stores.  In a strange turn of events Julia was happy to walk around the mall and browse a little and was so excited to find a little area rug for her new bedroom.  I was excited to find it on clearance along with one for Emma's room.  It was a great way to spend some quality time together and it was much needed.  It can be hard to be the "typical" sister and it's nice when you get some time alone with your parent where the focus is 100% on you!

Today we celebrated by making it a national Julia day.  From the time she woke up until late this afternoon our day's happenings went along with Julia's ideas.  There was a half hour of tv in the morning and then we headed upstairs for a while.  Julia made Emma's bed - something she enjoys! - while Emma cheered her on and then I helped Julia make her own bed.  After that she decided she needed to clean up her closet, line up her shoes on the floor and then select an extra change of clothes and blanket to pack for school.  Finally, the real fun began.  Barbies, barbies and more barbies were on the play agenda today.  I love Julia's imagination and found myself in awe as she paints the different scenarios we should play with her barbies.  The way Julia can express herself is not something I take for granted - ever!  

Emma loved watching all the silly situations the barbies managed to get into and pretty much laughed all day.  In addition to barbies, we had a fun-filled game of hide and seek, a picnic on the floor, some swing time in the wingbo and finished the afternoon off with a show.  All in all it was a wonderful way to wrap up Julia's time at home before she embarks on her full day, full week kindergarten adventures.  I truly have cherished the time I've had staying home with her and love seeing the confident, caring, curious little girl emerge from my precious baby.

Julia tells me "Don't worry Mommy, you will have me on holidays and weekends and Daddy will have me for school."  Sniff, sniff.  Emma and I really will miss you but are so excited for your new kindergarten adventure!   Enjoy your time in school, my sweet Julia.  We know you are going to love it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Suggestions needed

Mom, I'm way too cute and can get everything I need with my smile.  Trust me!
 As part of Emma's aural rehabilitation and really just as part of being teaching my little one, I'm constantly talking to Emma, naming things, "narrating my day", etc.  It's clear to me that Emma knows and understands us and I've been trying to take it to the next level of her communicating back to us.  Her main form of communication is currently smiles, laughs, whines, cries and vocalizations.  She also uses her eye gaze quite effectively.

Previously, we've worked with picture cards with Emma but she had very little interest in using the cards after a few weeks.  We've worked with the iPad - mostly the Yes/No and Proloquo2go apps.  She definitely is interested in the iPad but has a very short attention span for communicating on it so it's rather hit or miss with her.  I'm trying to build her vocabulary and prompt her to communicate more and was looking to use both high tech (iPad) and low tech (picture cards, buttons, switches, etc.) to keep her interested.  When I came across a blog post on Adapting Creatively that showed how to turn a swim noodle into a card holder I thought this would be perfect for us!  You can see the original post here.  I bought a pool noodle on clearance for $0.75 and set about making the card holder in various lengths.

We've been doing same and different matching with Emma.  Her SLP gave me the cards for Brown Bear, Brown Bear and we have her match the photos in the book to the matching card.  Emma loved this game and was very in tune with the cards and picking the "same" card as the picture in the book.  She would pick correctly about 90% of the time and we implemented this game for the Goodnight Moon book.  Then, she decided she didn't really like this game after all and found anything she could to distract herself from what we were trying to play with her.  Suddenly, the lights, a spot on the floor, her fingers, anything was more exciting than playing the matching game.  This is pretty much how Emma operates in her speech and hearing formal and informal sessions - she prefers not to participate.  So, we stopped playing that game for more than a month to see if her interest would be sparked again after a long break.

When I saw the noodle card holder I thought it might be a good time to re-introduce the book matching game.  Originally we would show her the book and then prop it up and hold the two card choices for her - one in each hand, but using the noodle card holder would make this game easier to play and allow us to increase the level of difficulty by using 3 or more card choices for her to pick from (this would be difficult if I could only hold them in my hand).  I was so excited to start playing this game again and try out the noodle but, sadly, Emma wasn't interested in playing with me.  After several attempts over a couple of days to play with Emma refusing to play along I decided to try something else.

I took the flash cards we have and placed them in the noodle and made a big fuss and tried to have Emma pick between two flash cards.  She was very happy to sit in the play room and have me talk all about the cards and make noises and talk them up and put them in the noodle for her to pick between the two while she completely ignored me.  And, it was a lot of work for her to ignore me - I wasn't making it easy on her!  Often I find she works so hard to ignore when it would be lots easier to just give in and play and I just don't get it.

I'm looking for any ideas or suggestions on how to get Emma to take an interest in communicating.  If you've been there, done that before I'm open to all ideas.  Please, please share them with me.

Here are a few photos I took when it was obvious I had an unwilling partner in my game.  Enjoy the serious cuteness of Emma!

There is NO WAY I am going to look at these flash cards.  No way, no how.
Horray!  She is ending this torture session.  No, onto more important things like cuddling with Finnegan.

A view from the back.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ireland: The Hayshed

The farm in Ireland has a hay shed behind the house, just up a couple of steps into the "back" yard.  This is where the hay was kept while my uncles lived there and after they passed away it was full of hay.  Over the years the hay has deteriorated (and rotted a bit) and the stack has gotten smaller, but there is still enough left for the kids to climb, sit, relax and play around.  In fact, it is very easy for the kids to lose a couple of hours after they go back to check out the hayshed.  

One afternoon the kids decided to play in the hay.  There was a lot of laughing going on and silly poses happening and I managed to find my Mom's camera and take a lot of photos (I didn't, however, download said photos to my computer yet!).  It was one of those days where the sun was shining, most of our "work" around the farm was done and everyone was caught up in fun.  My oldest niece and nephew took turns overseeing all things Emma so she could hang out with the kids without a parent in tow - something she LOVES to do and it's much easier when Rebecca and Christopher are around!  They had so much fun that they wound up in the hay several more times before the end of the vacation and I was able to snap a few photos with my camera.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

I remember playing around the hayshed as a child.  There is a giant tree next to the area and my uncles would hang a tire from the tree when they knew we were visiting so we would have a swing.  I'll have to dig up a few old photos of me and my sister on the tire swing and do a scrapbook page on it.  There was always an adventure waiting for us at the farm - whether it was the tire swing, a donkey ride, a trip to the bog for turf, gathering the eggs from the chickens or milking the cows it was all very exciting to us born and raised city girls!  My sister and I loved hanging out at the farm and all the adventures it entailed and it's nice to see our children love the farm, too.  While their experience is undoubtedly different from ours it remains full of fun and adventure.  And smiles.  Lots and lots of smiles!