Saturday, March 31, 2012

Let's go Ride a Bike

Several things came together in the Fall that opened the door to regular family bicycle rides.

  1. Julia learned how to ride her bicycle without training wheels making it possible for her to go long distances in a short amount of time
  2. Emma's birthday present from us was the special tomato sitter (which we bought so she could join us at the table for dinner)
  3. A friend gave us a bicycle trailer that can be used with the special tomato sitter making it possible for Emma to join us on long rides
  4. We now live in an area with great bicycle trails less than 30 minutes away
Friday was a gorgeous day and the last day of Chris' spring break vacation so we decided to take an afternoon bike ride on Kelly Drive.  Chris selected the trail thinking I would love to take some photos with the trees in full bloom.  He was right - just one of the many reasons why I love him!

I was so glad I had my camera along because we caught some really great photos.  Here are two of my favorites:

After our ride along the river we rode to the front of the Art Museum to run up the steps like Rocky!  The girls loved it.  Julia gave me a Rocky pose even though she has no idea about Rocky Balboa.  I'll have to add it to the list of movies for our family movie night - but it will be a few years before the girls are at an appropriate age to watch it.

I'm so excited for spring and warmer weather so we can add bike rides to our regular activities again!  We are looking forward to exploring other areas of the city by bike.

Friday, March 30, 2012

New York City!

Julia was on spring break this week and we decided to do some special one-on-one activities with her.  Wednesday was her Daddy/Daughter date.  Chris gave Julia a lot of choices on where she wanted to go and decided on bowling followed by lunch at IHOP.  Julia still loves her pancakes ;-)  After lunch they went to the pet store to pick up some things for our goldfish and because Julia loves to look around the pet stores at all the pets.  We could really while away a good portion of an afternoon in one!  She was excited that she got to pet a ferret.  The store they went to didn't have any cats or dogs, but did have fish and apparently had ferrets.  It was a great Daddy/Daughter date and I'm so glad that they get to spend so much quality time together.

Thursday was my day with Julia.  It was a special day for us and one that has been in the works more or less for a few months.  I've been thinking of taking her to New York City since Christmas but kept putting it off because that city just exhausts me.  Last week we talked about everything we could do during spring break and we decided it was time for a Mommy/Daughter day to the big apple!  We booked tickets on the Megabus - a low cost bus service that runs between various cities.  I was a bit worried about it because the reviews were pretty widespread between just awful experiences and pretty uneventful experiences.  I am so happy we had a pleasant journey on Megabus and I think it was a great way to go.  I know I was really excited to sit back and relax after our day on the town and let the driver navigate us home.  I think it would have been a really exhausting day for me if I drove up and back in the same day, plus with the gas, tolls and parking in NYC it was likely a lot cheaper for us to take the bus.  And the fact that Julia thought the bus was an exciting part of our trip is a huge bonus.

Our first stop was the American Girl Place store on 5th Avenue.  Let me just say - My, oh my!  They must be selling a LOT of those dolls to have such a large piece of real estate on 5th Ave. in NYC.  Julia loved the store and wandered all around it taking her time in deciding which outfit she wanted to get for her doll.  She oohed and aahed over all the puppies that you could get to go with the dolls, completely fell in love with the horses, checked out the wardrobes, beds, and camping ensembles they sell and finally decided on the perfect outfit and book to take home.  I have to admit that I loved every minute of watching Julia flitter around the store and when she found out she could get an outfit and a book, well, she was overjoyed!  She picked a beautiful blue and white silk-ish dress that came with blue shoes and a white flower headband and the book she chose is about an American Girl who decided to raise a service dog.  She chose the book because there is a puppy on the front and I was so happy when I read the blurb on the back about the story.  I think we'll really enjoy reading the book together!  It was a lot of fun to browse the store especially since there were only about 20 people in it when we were there.  I hear this is rare, though, and that it is usually very crowded so I'm happy we went at an off-peak time since I am not fond of crowds.

We left American Girl and headed towards 3rd Ave. and 60th St. to visit Dylan's Candy Bar.  Julia wanted pizza for lunch so we stopped at a place on the way and she ate the entire huge slice of NYC pizza.  All that shopping must have really worked up her appetite!  We passed the store with the Soup Nazi who is famous from the Seinfeld episode and I had her stand by the cardboard guy so I could take a photo.  I think she was wondering if I lost my marbles because she couldn't figure out why in the world I would want a photo of her with the cardboard person.  She was a great sport and stood there anyway and then we headed to the candy store.  The store has a cafe and bar on the third floor so we went there first and had some dessert.  The major attraction of this cafe was the fun lights and the cupcake shaped booths that brought a megawatt smile to Julia's face.  Oh, how I enjoyed watching her enjoy her slurpee while sitting in the cupcake booth!  Julia has been wanting a slurpee for ages and she finally got to try her first one there.  After about three tastes she was done and decided she would save the rest for the bus ride home.  Needless to say I was not walking all over NYC with a blue slurpee (!) saved for the bus ride home so we said farewell to it in the cafe before we looked around for some souvenirs.  We found little candy holders that say Julia's Candy and Emma's Candy and put them in our basket.  Julia was so excited to find them and wondered if Aunt Trish had called ahead to tell them Julia and Emma's names so they would have them for us and I told her it is possible she did just that - so cute!  We also found a tin of strong mints with Chris' name on it and picked them up for him and rounded out our purchase with a peanut butter carmel flavor chocolate bar for the bus ride home.

We left the candy store and took the subway to the American Museum of Natural History.  Julia took the map and decided we needed to see the Ocean Life exhibit and then proceeded to direct me there.  My girl sure does love her maps!  She loved it and I was happy to see they had an elevator in that hall since it was a two floor exhibit (just in case we bring Emma next time).  We also enjoyed the universe exhibit and were thrilled my friend Trish could meet us at the museum.  Overall, though, I found that there were many exhibits closed for special events - either members only parties or office/weddings? - and the museum was not very easy to navigate even for us seasoned museum-goers who can usually find our way around fairly easily.  I made a mental note, too, of some possible accessibility hassles.  One whole section of elevators was not working due to renovations and this caused very long lines for the elevators that were working.  Again, we didn't need to use the elevators at all (and, I didn't see anyone in line in a wheelchair!) but it is something I will keep in mind should we decide to bring Emma for a tour.  I'll definitely call ahead to find out the status of the elevators.

On the bus ride home we talked about our next visit to NYC and how we would want to come as a family the next time and maybe even stay the night.  Julia also asked me about how I remember some things from when I was younger and I told her that she is now 6 and I think she will remember our trip to NYC for a long time now that she is "older".  I love making special (and not-so-special) memories with my girls.  What a wonderful day!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

All in green and looking oh so grown up on St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Zoo Ramblings

Last week Emma had a few days off from school and we had ourself a great old time!  Our activities included a trip to the zoo with some great friends, a visit to Julia's classroom to share our Irish heritage, an Irish dance show at the local school and some swimming.  And all that was before the weekend happened!  

We were lucky to have some friends join us at the zoo and the weather was unseasonably beautiful.  Emma was so happy to see her friends and I was glad to have a companion that chatted back with me since Emma generally ignores all my chatter when we are in public places and there are lots of children to watch.  It is really nice to socialize with another family who is so very similar to us - a family that is out and about living our lives in our community with our children that happen to have special needs.  It felt really good to meander around the zoo at a relaxing pace without feeling like I was holding up anyone else because a trip to the zoo with our little ones is a little less hectic than when Julia and her friends are with me!  A huge bonus on this trip to the zoo is Emma seemed interested in the animals when I pointed them out to her.  They held her interest for a few minutes, anyway, and I consider that huge progress.  This was especially true for the big cats and monkeys that were full of activity and pretty interesting to watch.

Emma was so happy to see her friends!  We definitely think the girls recognize each other and are happy to hang out together.  At one point when we sat them next to each other it almost looked like Emma was reaching her hand out to hold hands.  I think it is just as important for our children to have friends in a similar situation to them as it is for us parents.  

We had so much fun I was sad to see Emma go back to school today.  But I needn't worry because the one thing I've learned about Emma's preschool schedule is that there is a LOT of time off.  The next few weeks will be so very busy with Julia's spring break of 2 weeks followed by Emma's spring break of 2 weeks.  Yes, just to keep our life interesting their spring breaks do not overlap at all.  I'm sure we'll be able to find some time for them to take off during each other's breaks because life is too short to not spend at least a couple of days during break with your sister!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Parade

Today we kicked off our week long St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

It started with breakfast when I sprinkled some shamrock mix onto Julia's cream cheese bagel and applesauce.  And, although she turned down my green smoothie offer, she was so happy to see the sprinkles on her food and dug right in!

After breakfast we got ready for the St. Patrick's Day parade.  Julia participated in the parade with her Irish dance class whose colors are red and black, so she was all decked out in those colors.  The rest of us wore green and us girls used the face paint to add a shamrock to our cheek.  It turned out to be lots of fun and the atmosphere was really festive!  Unfortunately Julia's dance school was #185 in line of about 190 and the parade seemed to run late....which meant we were waiting at our line-up area for about 2.5 hours until we finally started to move.  The girls were amazingly patient waiting their turn and the parents were well prepared with snacks but I sure do hope that next year we are earlier in the parade or waiting in a sunny, warm spot!

Michael and Brianna came down to watch the parade and Chris and Emma joined them on the Parkway.  Emma loved the parade and their seats were great since most of the dance groups performed right in front of them.  When everything was over we went to dinner at TGI Friday's since all the Irish restaurants in town were standing room only.

It sure was a great kick-off to this year's St. Patrick's celebrations!  Let the party continue!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Shooting stars

Julia is very inquisitive these days.  There seems to be no subject she doesn't want to discuss.  She likes to make funny sentences - anything that includes the word underwear or fart sends her into fits of laughter, don't ask me why but I'm hoping it's just a phase.  She also likes to talk more seriously - Mommy, what did they do before there were any houses?  Where did everyone live?  Was there always grass around?  What was around before the grass?  She tends to think about the beginning of time a lot and I'm trying my best to answer her thousands of questions without saying "Go ask your Dad."

The other day she asked about stars and shooting stars and Chris jumped right into the conversation.  He was telling Julia how we saw a shooting star on our honeymoon.  We had and it was a bit magical.  We were walking on a beach in Hawaii, the moon was up and provided enough light to guide our way while casting a beautiful light on the ocean.  There were plush lounge chairs out front of the Ritz Carlton hotel and we decided to take a break and rest together.  When we laid back and looked up at the sky we saw a shooting star.  We stayed there for a while looking for another shooting star but we didn't see anymore on our honeymoon.

We both always remember that moment - when we finally relaxed after all the flurry of activity of the wedding and getting to Hawaii and finding our lost luggage.  It was the first time we sat down and caught our breath.  And it felt a bit magical to be newlyweds sitting on a plush lounge chair in Hawaii looking at the sky and seeing a shooting start.

I love when our conversations with Julia lead us to share glimpses of our life before children.  It feels good to remember special moments in the past and it feels even better to share that part of our life with her and Emma.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Wheels!!!

Emma picked up her new wheels today.  She is one happy camper!

And, my goodness, doesn't she look like such a BIG girl???!!!!  She was ready to move on up from her adapted stroller. The Kids Up FAST served her well for the last 3 years, but she had outgrown it about six months ago.  We ordered the Zippie GS with a custom seating system about 4.5 months ago and have been *not-so-patiently* waiting for the insurance approvals then the order lead times before we were able to finally pick it up today.

Emma chose the bright yellow color.  She kept picking yellow when I showed her the many, many choices.  I wasn't sure how the yellow would look, but I think Emma was totally spot-on with her choice!  It gives her chair a nice pop of color to offset all the black components.

Side view.  Note:  Anti-tip bars are removed for right now.
This chair has some great features which we didn't know about when we ordered it.  To be honest we didn't know all the much about the chair when we ordered it because so much of it was custom that we didn't get a trial run before today.  Such is the way of custom order durable medical equipment.  

Here are a few of the things we explored today that got us excited:
  • The arm rests easily raise or lower so Emma can relax her arms without accidentally hitting the larger wheels. 
  • The side supports swing open so Emma can get in the chair easily and they also adjust width-wise with the touch of a button to adjust for added bulk of a coat or less bulk without a coat.   
  • It is SUPER light.  I don't know for sure how much it weighs, but I'm thinking no more than 30 lbs. - obviously, without Emma in it ;-)  We ordered the folding chair, the non-folding chair is supposed to be even 1-2 lbs. lighter.  
  • It came with an additional seat cover.  Perfect for our current potty training mode.  And the cover can go in the washer and then hang dry.
  • The large wheels up front pop on and off with the touch of a button if you need to make it smaller to transport.  
  • The total size of the chair from front wheel to back handle is much smaller than the previous chair.  I love that I can push Emma and not feel like I am so far away.  Actually, I can push her really easily by walking next to her and putting my arm on the handle behind her.  So cool!
But the single coolest feature of this chair, and the main reason why we selected this make/model is:

Emma can reach the big wheels.  She will be able to move the chair if she wants!  And she has already realized there is power in those big wheels.  She is interested in putting her hands on the wheels and is trying to figure out how to move them.  And we've only had the chair for a few hours!  Imagine what she might be able to do with those wheels when we've had it for a year...two years...three years!  

It is our understanding that this chair works best for children who will mostly be pushed by a caregiver but might like the chance to self-propel a bit, not for children who would mostly be self-propelled (for example:  children with spina bifida).  We configured the chair with larger wheels in the front and smaller wheels in the back.  This is because Emma's tone in her arms would not really allow for her to reach behind her to try and move the wheels.  With the large wheels up front it is more of a front-wheel drive chair.  The front-wheel drive coupled with a super responsive chair means that it can fishtail pretty easily - making Emma a super happy camper when we spin her around quickly and it mimics the tilt-a-whirl ride!   I think we'll adjust pretty quickly to the front-wheel drive, but imagine we will still give Emma the tilt-a-whirl ride effect once in a while.  After all, who could resist her giggle!

A super-special thanks to our wheelchair clinic!  We are so lucky to have a great team that knows Emma's strengths and weaknesses and was able to help us pick the best chair for her that gives her room to grow herself and her skills.  Plus, they always make Emma feel like a superstar!  We truly are blessed!