Sunday, December 29, 2013

End of year family photos

Behind a camera lens I feel at home.  But in front of a camera?  Not a bit.  It just doesn't feel natural to me to be in front of the camera.  In order to ensure the girls know I was not only "taking" their photos but also there "participating" in the everyday and events that I found worth photographing, I've made an effort to make sure I'm in more photos in 2013 than in years past.  And I'm glad I did!

Sometimes the photos were taken by others or by Julia who is showing quite a bit of interest and promise in photography.  Other times I just put the camera on self-timer and had it snap away.  If Emma was in any of those self-timer shots she would go into fits of laughter.  I love when she has fits of laughter so I did that lots!

Christmas morning we took our annual photo after the opening of the presents.  It's a little top centered (because I had limited time for the girls to stay put before playing with their new presents) but I love it.  I love seeing the progression year over year of the girls under the tree and am glad Chris and I are in the photo.  Taking our family "fresh off opening presents moment" photo is a Christmas morning tradition I treasure.

This year we had our family photo taken at a photo studio.  It's been a few years since we had our family portrait taken and it felt like the time was right.  The girls had a lot of fun, but BOY is it stressful getting everyone up and ready and to the studio to have the photo taken.  Now I remember why it had been so many years between photos :-)

And this year I had our Christmas card include a photo of all of us together.  Here is the photo from that card.  I tried to scan the card and post here but it doesn't come out nicely so you are getting the card photo and just imagine the peace, love & joy message printed across it.

And there is a snapshot of how my efforts of documenting our family presence this Christmas season worked out.  I think it's going well and I expect to continue my efforts into 2014.  Life goes by so very quickly and it's nice to see photos of us all together throughout the years.  Plus, I'm not getting any younger and might as well get photos in before all my wrinkles start to show :-)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Cheer

Our holiday season has been moving at a nice pace this year.  We have little planned on the calendar and that is leaving us plenty of free time to slow down.  I'm not sure how that happened this year but it's a welcome feeling!

Julia had her winter concert (1st and 2nd graders) at school last week.  The music director does such a fantastic job with the children and it is a highlight of the season for me.  It's so fun to see the children on stage - wiggly ones, smiley ones, shy ones, waving to the family ones, finger in the mouth ones, full of expressions ones.  This year there was a song Rose, Up She Rises and there is a little Irish music in it so Julia did an Irish dance to it for a set of 8 beats and then her classmates joined in with their own version of Irish dancing for the next 8 beats.  It was adorable!  And the children had so much fun with it!  For as shy as Julia is she sure loves a stage.  And she loves to Irish dance so the match up of dancing on the stage was a great fit for her.

We also attended a holiday party with the family outreach program that we had swim lessons with in the Fall.  It was our first holiday party there and we are so glad we attended.  Another local family we met through this blog was there and it was nice to catch up with them.  We also met some new families and enjoyed the crafts, music, cheer and a super special visit from Santa!  My girls love Santa and we hadn't visited him yet this year so it was nice to see him and we were shocked to receive a gift from Santa.  Emma wasn't so interested in helping to open the gift because she couldn't take her eyes off of Santa.  She sat there the entire time he was giving out presents to the children and started and smiled and giggled and I can safely say that her love affair with the jolly old man is still going strong this year.  Julia was more than ready to tear into the gift and was overjoyed to see it was an Elf on the Shelf - which Julia has wanted for a while.  Her name is Makenzie and she seems to get into mischief rather than just sitting on a shelf and that is the source for a lot of amusement in our house each morning.

There were a lot of crafts, too.  Julia loves crafting and had so much fun going to the various stations and creating masterpieces.  We moved Emma from station to station and tried to get her to participate but she was more interested in just looking at everything going on around her instead of looking at us and the craft we were trying to help her complete.  So, basically, both girls behaved true to form :-)

Saturday, December 14, 2013


I have two girls.  One hates to shop while the other loves to shop.  She considers it a great opportunity to people watch and soak up all the attention people throw her way.  Can you guess which one is my shopper?

Hoping we can get a new ride in 2014 so we can transport her power wheelchair around and she can learn to navigate her way around in public.  Until then, her adventures will stay with the manual wheeled variety :-)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snow day and Eco2 internet access

Today was a snow day.  Horray!  Except that snow days are a lot of work for parents.  Maybe a bit more work for parents of special little ones like Emma.

We did have a lot of fun today, though.  The kids played outside for a while - lots longer than it took me to get them all bundled up in their snow gear.  That's progress I tell you!  Chris built Emma a seat out of the snow and she did well in it before she started sliding out and I started to worry she would be cold.  Once that happened I decided to bring out the KidWalk and get Emma upright in the snow.  She loved it and moved her little legs all around and we helped her move since her braces don't fit in her snow boots.  When it was time to come in the children piled into the house for some hot cocoa, playing and eventually watched a Christmas movie while I baked a few Christmas cookies and Chris set about making dinner.  It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

I was able to get some more adorable snow photos today.  I even took a few family photos and one was selected for our Christmas card.  I ordered the cards but it seems they might take until Dec. 24th to arrive so they could be {un}fashionably late this year.  Hey, at least I pulled it together to order the cards and that's more than I thought might happen this year.

Since Emma was home with her talker we configured it to play some online games.  She received money for her birthday so we purchased the computer portion of the talker (insurance requires it to ship without the computer activated if they purchase it so there is a fee if we want to be able to use it as a computer to connect to the internet) and I was anxious to figure out how to get it working.  I'm part of an online Facebook group of parents whose children use Minspeak - the language of Emma's Eco2 talker - and they gave me lots of tips on how to get it to work and we eventually got it up and running.  Emma was able to play a game on Helpkidzlearn.com before bed and she seemed to really like it.  I also downloaded and installed the trial version of Look to Learn for her to try based on another Mom's suggestion.  I gave it a shot and it worked well and I'm excited to introduce it to Emma this week.  We have the option to activate the WiFi part of the computer for another fee but we wanted to make sure we could get the computer part to work before we spent that money so for now we are using it wired.  I forgot how unportable and annoying it is to not be able to move around with an electronic device!  I think we might consider WiFi during the holiday and use the remainder of her birthday money to active it if Emma enjoys playing with the internet.  I expect she might like the games and watching some YouTube videos and interacting with those using her eyegaze should help her get more accurate with eyegaze access for her communication.  I expect Emma will make a lot of progress with her device for communication in 2014 but it will take a lot of work from her and us to get there.  Please pray for her communication if you are so inclined.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hodgepodge and SNOW!

Emma is making real progress in her Powerchair and I hope to get a video up soon.  The problem is she won't move when she sees me start to take a video, so that's making it hard for me to post something.  Hopefully the weather will be nice out this weekend and she can practice driving a bit and I can try and be a bit stealth in taking the video.

I'm still behind on thank-yous.  It's looking like Christmas cards could be a no-go this year.  That would be a first for me.  There is still time, so I might get them out.  We'll see if I get injected with a bit of umph!

We've had a bit of snow around here.  The girls loved it yesterday and even ventured out in it - for about 15 minutes.  It takes forever to put on all the snow gear but each year they tend to stay out a bit longer than the previous year.  When I got all the gear together we found out Julia outgrew her snow boots and so did Emma.  They are both about 2 or 3 sizes too small....it's been a while since we've had a good bit of snow around here!  Good news is Emma fit into Julia's old boots and I was able to pick Julia up a new pair today.  So we are now all ready for the snow that is supposed to arrive tomorrow....but since we're ready I'm betting a warm front comes on in and brings bathing suit weather :-)

Here are a few photos I snapped in the snow yesterday.  It was a great day for us to play in the snow, drink homemade hot chocolate with whipped cream, listen to Christmas tunes and decorate our Christmas tree.  It was one of those days that just felt right and festive.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Halloween and some new gear

I'm behind on just about everything lately (including sending out thank you notes for Emma's birthday  so if you're wondering where they are know I'm working...or at least thinking of working on them), so it's no surprise that I'm behind in posting Halloween photos.

This year Julia decided she wanted to be an Angel and Emma was agreeable to wear the bunny rabbit costume Julia wore when she was in Kindergarten.  They looked so cute together - my Angel and Bunny.  I love how they are still into innocent costumes and I'm hoping they stay that way for another year or two.  

Julia brought her Trick or Treat for Unicef box again this year.  People must have remembered from last year because many people had some change ready to share.  She did much better this year than last year and was so proud that she could help other children by collecting spare change.

We used Emma's iPad to help her navigate Trick or Treating again.  I set up the Yes/No Answers app with two options for Emma:   Trick or Treat and Thank You.  She loved hitting the buttons and our neighbors all seemed thrilled to have her use it.  Julia helped Emma a lot by asking for her candy at the houses where steps were a barrier.  This year Emma kept good tabs on her Trick or Treat bag and was happy when she saw/heard the candy plop in it.

Speaking of candy - we have lots!  The chocolate was the first to go since we all pick at it.  Julia seems to love the lollipops, starburst and skittles the best and with the amount we have she currently has about a year supply so if you are in our neck of the woods and need  a sugar fix come on over!

Halloween was also the day that we picked up Emma's brand new power wheelchair!!!!!!!!  If you've been following along with our story you know we have been in appeals with our insurance company over this chair for about a year.  It was a frustrating process but that's all behind us now because IT'S HERE!!!!  and it was SOOO WORTH THE FIGHT!!!!!  Emma has taken to it wonderfully and is now navigating about our driveway on her own.  We do have a kill switch to keep her from danger but we are using it less and less as she is learning the ropes of safe driving.  I can't believe how quickly she is learning.  She is also going to school in it most days and learning how to navigate it inside school.  She is still very much a beginner but I'm excited about the opportunity for independence this will give Emma.  Already she has found power in her new mobility - using it to follow after her friends and to drive in the wrong direction on purpose when I tell her it's time to go inside the house.

Her chair is an Invacare TDX Spree and the color she chose is Bubble Gum.  She controls it with her head array that is made by ASL.  I think her head array is the curved.  The team wanted to get her a smaller one but I wanted this one because I found it kept her CIs on her head the best.  Trust me, keeping the CI magnet on Emma's head is a full time job some days so when you find something that doesn't knock them off you stick with it!  There are proximity switches in the head array and it's set up to go forward when she leans her head back on the switch, go right when she leans her head on the right switch and left when she leans on the left switch.  There are areas in the headrest that don't have a switch, too, and Emma quickly figured out where she can rest her head when she wants to relax and not move.  It's so amazing and humbling to see how quickly she is learning to navigate in her new chair.

The TDX Spree has the ability to tilt back in space which is how Emma prefers to sit so she can better control the head array.  The seat can also be raised ~5" so she can reach sinks and other places that are at a higher height.  We call her new chair "THE BEAST" because it truly is a beast sitting at about 400 lbs.  It has 4 programs - one is slow for indoor use, and the other 3 are increasingly faster speeds.  Emma LOVES the faster speeds so I usually put her on program 3 which is set at 40% of maximum speed.  I think it equates to almost 3 mph which doesn't sound fast until you realize she isn't the best at controlling herself in it yet.  We are thankful that it has a kill switch for us to remotely stop her from getting into a bad situation (can you believe insurance gave us a lot of hassle over adding this????  I mean, she was 5 years old when we ordered it for crying out loud!!!).

Emma's favorite thing to do in the chair right now is to drive over to people to give them a "High 5".  She really is a very social girl!  I can't believe she has only had this chair for about 3 weeks considering how good she is with it now.  We have to work on her stamina to drive long distances and to stop being such a busybody and resting every-single-time she sees something (which is pretty much everything!) that interests her otherwise it will take us a week to walk around the block!!!  But, I believe that everything will come together in time.

I am so very, very thankful that Emma has her new wheels.  I'm also very thankful that she has already left her mark on it through scrapes, which means to me that she is starting to spread her wings because she is READY!  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Emma turned 6!

Every year I make a birthday video for the girls using photos taken over the year.  It's my solution to no scrapbooking time and the girls LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their videos.  They watch them over and over and over during the year.  I'm so glad I started this tradition because it always reminds me of how much life we pack into a year.

Today I'm ready to share Emma's 6th Birthday video.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Proof my kids were here

Julia was here

Emma was here

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eulogy for my Dad

For Dad's celebration of life I had the honor of giving his eulogy.  It's the first eulogy I've ever given and I have to say it was a daunting task (and I'm not very easily daunted).  I would gladly stand up in front of hundreds of people and read it, but first I had to write it and the task of trying to put into words how much Dad meant to our family was quite overwhelming.

I managed to put something to paper and practiced it a few times until I was pretty comfortable that I would be able to maintain my composure enough to get through it at Church.  However, that was before the actual day.  On the day of his service we had a viewing and immediately following the viewing was the mass.  The eulogy was given after we said goodbye to Dad and closed the casket but before the mass started.  What was I thinking?  Such a profoundly sad moment in my life and then right on the heels of it - literally less than a minute later! - I was tasked to deliver the eulogy before I even had a moment to gather my composure.  Let me just say that I think the timing required by the Church was much less than ideal and it should have come towards the end of the service.

I've been told that I gathered myself together quite well, but I don't know.  The only thing I know is that I tried my best to hold it together and honor my Dad.  

Here is what I had to say about my sweetheart of a Dad:

Good morning. 

I think most of you here know me but for those that don’t, I am fortunate enough to call Chris my Dad and I stand before you today not to mourn Dad’s passing, but rather to celebrate his life.  Dad packed a lot of living into the 83 years he was here and he touched so many people’s lives for the better.   The fact that so may of you are here today to say goodbye speaks volumes about his character. 

Many of you know him as the laid-back Irishman who always had a ready smile and a willingness to help a friend in need.   Dad was a man who loved his family, his home country of Ireland, a home cooked meal, a good party and the 4:30pm Saturday night mass.

Dad was a hard worker.  I have never met a person who worked harder than him and I’m pretty sure I never will.  I don’t recall him ever calling out of work sick even though there were times he should have, but I do recall his reaction when I was a teenager and decided to call out of work sick to go to a party.  Let’s just say I wound up going into work that day. 

Dad was a family man.  He had a soft heart and Maura and I quickly realized that if we wanted anything to ask Dad instead of Mom.  You see, Dad pretty much never said no to us.  Especially when we asked while cuddled up in his lap and his lap was my favorite place to sit when I was little.  Eventually, though, Dad started telling us to “go ask Mom” when we wanted something because he knew he couldn’t really say no to his girls.  And then he became a PopPop and it seems that he became even more soft-hearted when dealing with his grandchildren.  When I asked my daughter Julia if she thought I should say anything in particular about PopPop she asked me to tell everyone that he was the Best Pop Pop Ever and I think all his grandkids would agree with her.

Dad was a jack of all trades- I guess that’s to be expected since he was born and raised on a farm.  He could and did fix pretty much anything.  We didn’t always appreciate that about him for sometimes we were looking to get something new rather than mend the old, but once we bought a house my sister and I quickly realized what an asset it was to have a handyman Dad.  He was always ready and willing to come over and lend a hand to fix what was broken whether it was a washing machine, an electric outlet or an overflowing hot water heater we knew we could count on Dad.  Just recently he replaced a side view mirror on my car after someone tore it off.  The dealership wanted a small fortune to replace it but Dad came right over, found a barely used one at a junkyard in town and fixed it up good as new.

Dad was a good storyteller.  He loved to tell stories about when he was little and walked miles to school and church uphill both directions without any shoes.  He loved to recount how he single handedly built Heathrow airport during the time he lived in England.  He loved to tell how he would go to the Irish dances and that is where he met many of his friends here in the States.  I remember laughing a lot at the dinner table growing up for it was often there where he shared these experiences.  Dad was great at sharing his life stories with us and I wish now that I had gotten some of them down on video like I always meant to so my children could hear him tell the stories in his own voice. 

Dad showed his love freely.  He kissed us good night and said I love you before ending any phone conversation.  He taught us to pray, that it’s ok to make mistakes and to try and not take life too seriously.  After retirement he took over some household duties such as scrubbing the floor and helping with the dishes to give Mom a break. 

Before you think he was perfect I should say that Dad also had some quirks.  He loved to look at his reflection in the mirror, was immensely proud of the fact that most of his teeth were original issue and left all the packing and unpacking for overnight trips to Mom – something I don’t think is too bad considering Dad loved to match plaid with plaid. 

Dad set the bar high for he is the standard upon which I measure men.   Thank you, Dad, for loving us and for setting such a wonderful example of how to life a full and happy life.    I love you. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I just read my last blog post and am amazed at how little time has gone by since I last posted and yet so much has happened.

We celebrated Emma's birthday with an at-home party on October 12th and mostly everyone invited came.  Emma loves to be surrounded by people so we planned for a large party this year and were happy that the weather cooperated.  My Dad hadn't been out in about a month since he was recovering from a hospital stay and we were so happy that he was finally turning the corner and feeling good enough to come out.

I compiled the annual birthday video and once it was turned on all the children piled into the living room to watch and were thrilled to find that many of them were in at least one photo in the video.  They then went on to watch every annual video I've made for each of the girls and several other home movies including one of Finnegan when she was a puppy.  Who knew home videos would be such a draw?  Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time and the birthday girl loved all the extra attention.  Her favorite part of her birthday - or any birthday for that matter - is singing and the cake.  I love watching the joy in her face when everyone sings the Happy Birthday song.  It never gets old for me to see her so happy.

It's seems hard to believe that less than a week after Emma's birthday party my Dad fell and wound up in the hospital.  We thought it would be a few days in to heal and then he would head home, but that was not to be.  He was in the hospital for two weeks and during that time he contracted pneumonia and a staph infection and wound up in the ICU.  He fought so, so hard to beat it and I've never been more in awe of my Dad's strength than in those two weeks.  But in the end it was just too much and we said our final goodbye to Dad on November 2nd - All Souls Day - and the priest that came to bless him commented that if he had to go it was a blessed day to pick.

It's still hard to believe that we said goodbye to the first man I've ever loved.  It's hard to believe he won't be sitting in his recliner and ready for a chat when I go home to visit.  It's hard to believe Mom won't have her constant companion by her side for all the adventures they had.  I'm sure it will sink in eventually but it hasn't yet.

Dad had a wonderful, full life.  We had sunny day for his beautiful service and luncheon.  He would have LOVED it!  I think he was looking down from above and smiling.

Here is my favorite photo of me and Dad from my wedding.  I can't help but smile every time I look at it:

Thank you to everyone who came to Dad's service and shared in the celebration of his life and to those who were not there but showed their love and support in other ways.  It has certainly made this sad time a bit easier.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Unexpected Blessings

"Having a baby changes everything" says a baby commercial and there is so much truth in that statement.

When we first found out that Emma would have some differences the news pretty much rocked our world.  It put us in a spot that was uncomfortable and very much unwelcome.  Our future was unknown.  The only thing we knew was the life we knew and expected would change forever.  For the first year each specialist appointment brought us new information and more and more differences were discovered.  It was a gut wrenching year and some days it felt so lonely.  It was then that I learned about blogs and chat groups and I started to reach out to others.

I remember early on people would share their stories with us.  People with children that have differences - from down syndrome to a mild hearing loss and everything in between.  We didn't know anyone with a child with cerebral palsy until probably a few years into this journey.  But the people we did know seemed to pass along a common message of hope and blessing.  At the time I really thought they were crazy.  How could all these differences be a blessing?  How could having a child that would struggle for even the most minor physical achievement be a blessing?  I didn't understand.  I was angry.  So very, very angry.  At God.  At our circumstance.  With the news that each doctor appointment brought.  With the intrusion from all the therapy appointments that seemed to dictate our daily schedule.  With the stories from people about how X, Y, Z, Q, R, S kids had early intervention and it worked and they were caught up by school years.  I knew that wouldn't be the case for my girl and hearing these stories did not help at all.

Little peanut getting stretched
The early years were hard.  And while each day I fell more and more in love with both my children, I did not see Emma's differences as a blessing.  Nope not even one little bit.  I was angry that my child that I loved more than life itself would have to struggle through her life.  I was angry that Julia wouldn't have the typical sister bond with Emma.  I was angry when we met families with children that had a terminal diagnosis because they shouldn't have to go through the loss of a child.

And after a long time with the anger I finally had to let it go.  I had to move on.  Each day I was seeing this beautiful life unfold before me and there was no time or energy left for anger.  

Walking around the playground
And somehow, sometime in the last six years something changed in me.  I started seeing Emma's differences as a blessing.  I feel blessed to be so lucky to have both my children with all their unique characteristics.  I started to wish everyone had an Emma in their life and I thought of all the people in the world that will never know how totally amazing it is to live our life.  And I mean that - our life is better than anything I could have dreamed.  It might be harder and more physically exhausting (and seriously, I could do without all the health insurance issues!) than I imagined but it is so full of LIFE.  It is so fully of HAPPY.  It is full of friends old and new.  It is a much fuller life than I think we ever would have experienced had Emma not taken us on this journey.

Little girls playing peek-a-boo at the children's museum

I see people looking at us everywhere we go.  Yes, it might have something to do with the fact that we pimp out Emma's wheelchair for all occasions at her insistence - this girl loves attention - but it doesn't always.  Sometimes it's people staring and pitying us and our life.  To them I say, we are not to be pitied.  We are having the time of our life - come and join us!

It's all about the boas, baby!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Back to school and other musings

The end of summer flew by and we've been busy ever since.

These walls are so FUN to touch!!!!
I was happy to get in a few final field trips with the girls - it was our very last Field Trip Friday until next summer.  Our girls Field Trip Fridays started about 4 years ago and consisted of me and the girls exploring our community.  We visited places big and small - anything from visiting museums and parks to walking around our neighborhood looking for different types of leaves.  These days were the highlight of my week where I just had fun with the girls and let the housework and laundry pile up.  Emma had off on Fridays in pre-school so our tradition continued while Julia was in school, but this year Emma will be in school full-time Monday-Friday so our Field Trip Friday will take a hiatus for the school year.  

Look at me!!

A brief rest
Since it was our last Field Trip Friday we made it a super cool field trip and visited the Magic Gardens where everything is covered in mosaics.  It isn't fully wheelchair accessible but we were able to make it work for us since Emma is still so little.  She loved touching the walls and the mosaics and the artist even stopped over to say hello to her and thank her for visiting.  I had no idea he was the artist at the time, though, so I didn't get a photo but I'll try and get one next time if he is there.  Afterwards we visited Chris at work and Julia took a peek at her 2nd grade classroom and got really excited for the start of the school year.  It was a perfect Field Trip Friday!

Julia is such a good photographer
We finalized Emma's initial IEP and placement.  Our district has half-day Kindergarten and we decided to send her for a full day instead of only the 1/2 day that she would normally attend. She will be in a Multiple Disabilities classroom (MDS) - I want to go on record that I HATE THAT NAME!!!! - for the morning and will receive all her therapies during that time and will attend the mainstream afternoon Kindergarten class with her one-on-one aide.  She gets many therapies - PT, OT, Speech, Hearing, and Vision and fitting all them in during the regular 2.5 hour Kinder class would be too much interruption in my opinion.  Emma doesn't like to get pulled out or work with therapists when her friends are around!  So we decided to give this set-up a try for her first year at elementary school and see how it goes.  

The feedback so far is that she is doing really well and LOVES the mainstream Kindergarten class!  She appears to be keeping up with her classmates and is fitting in just fine.  The pace of the class seems to hold her attention better and she is less distracted than in the MDS classroom.  Wow!  That is a pleasant surprise!  I went in to talk to the class for 10 min. one day about all things Emma and to answer any questions they had and I was told "I think Emma is so cool!" and "Emma is my best friend!"  sprinkled among the many questions they had so I think she is fitting in just fine with the children!  And, the other day I picked her up from school (she typically takes the bus to/from school) and when her class walked by for dismissal I heard so many of them say "Hi, Mrs. White."  It really caught me off guard because I still forget that I'm Mrs. White {most of the girl's friends call me Ms. Kristina} and I'm not used to Emma's classmates actually talking.  It was such an eye-opening and wonderful experience for me.  So many things about Emma in the mainstream classroom have shown me the positive impact inclusion in our schools makes to our community.  The last few weeks have made it crystal clear to me that we made the right choice for Emma's kindergarten year and all the work we are putting into the mainstream setting is completely worth it!

You're new.  Let me check you out.  Ok, we're friends.  Did you know the bus ride is my favorite part of the day??!!
I'm ready to go.  Don't worry about me, Mommy.  I'm not a bit afraid and don't need to give you a second glance :-)
Julia started back to school and is now a 2nd grader.  How these girls are growing so quickly is beyond me!  I love to watch her grow and mature and I love hanging out with her.  She is just so amazing!  I love the way she is connecting her world together and the conversations we have at bedtime.  The time when the girls arrive home from school is my favorite part of the day with bedtime cuddles and chats with Julia a close second.

A friend I met through this blog - LOVE how this blog has introduced us to so many wonderful families! - told us about some local swim classes for children and siblings.  It's held in a heated pool at a semi-local facility/house for adults with cerebral palsy and it's something our children can do together and they really love it when they can take classes together.  This summer Emma made huge gains in swimming with a float ring (the $1 floats you can get at the drug store) around her body and she loves to swim "laps" in the pool.  So we figured it is a good time to start lessons again.  Julia is a strong swimmer and has been for a while but she loves swim lessons so we enrolled her to work on her technique a bit.  Both girls love the lessons but I think they enjoy the last 5 min. in the hot tub more :-)  Who wouldn't want to end a swim lesson with a soak in the hot tub?  I just might sign myself up for the next session...just kidding.


Here is a photo I just have to include.  I took it on Back to School night.  Emma's artwork is circled in yellow here.  I just LOVED seeing her art alongside her classmate's work.  Such a proud moment for me!
Emma's artwork hanging outside her classroom.  She said "I hope that I learn to read" when asked what she wanted to learn in kindergarten.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Endless summer fun

It's unheard of that we would get a 3 week stretch of temperatures in the the 80s in August but it is happening!  So, while we have it we're taking full advantage by hitting a lot of fun outdoor events.  It feels strange to be able to do so many outdoor activities in August.  Emma doesn't tolerate the heat too well so we usually wind up finding indoor fun options in July and August.

We continued our field trip fun week with a tour of the Herr's potato chip factory.  This place is actually farther away from my house than I expected.  And we hit more construction delays and traffic than I expected.  So I wasn't surprised when we showed up at 10:10 for our 9:50 appointment and didn't see any of our friends there.

When we went to the registration desk after much discussion and flipping through papers I found out that my girlfriend had, indeed, changed the tour from Tues. to Wed. due to the crazy rain we had but I somehow missed the message that our tour time was changed as well.  I thought we were too late to enjoy the tour when, in fact, we were about 1.5 hours too early!  What to do, what to do?  I haven't really ever had this problem before as we tend to run on the late side of things.  The factory is in the middle of what appears to me to be nowhere although I'm sure the people that live there would be able to set me straight.  I was banking on that when I asked the girl behind the counter if there is anything to do while we wait.  The one girl was clearly too young so she just laughed at me - I immediately disliked her.  The other girl - God bless her - suggested we check out a park down the road and off we went with a stash of potato chips bought at the factory store.  We found the park easily and were really excited to see that it was actually a HUGE, fantastic park and a great place to visit in and of itself let alone as a time-killer before an appointment.  The girls played and snacked and I snapped a few photos before we headed back for the tour that included a short video, a walk through the pretzel and potato chip operation, and snacks.  We even were able to try hot potato chips right off the production line, which was big hit with all the children.

The park would have been better with our jogging stroller instead of the wheelchair.

I sure would have loved exploring the trails a bit more, but the wheels weren't suitable for it.  Emma didn't mind!

A few of the crew that toured.  The rest headed to the great park before heading home so I missed snapping a complete group photo.

We ended our field trip fun week with a trip to a local garden estate for some Friday fun.  We became members in June and are hoping that the wide paths will be a great place for Emma to practice driving her power wheelchair.  We are ever hopeful even though we are still in appeals on the denial.  Still, it's a great place to explore and since lots of our friends have memberships it's a good meet-up destination.

We have 2 more full weeks of summer vacation.  I wonder what we'll do next???  We have a few more fun adventures planned so stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Local summer adventures

This summer we had a list of things we wanted to do.  There is still about 3 weeks left to our summer and we are working on completing most of them.  I posted closer to the beginning of summer that showed we started it off with a bang and have done some dribs and drabs posts since then.

Now that our summer camps are over, we reclaimed the month of August for family fun!  Horray - that's my favorite kind of fun!  I seriously can't get enough of hanging out with my little ones and I feel like they are growing so quickly.

Last week we went to the science museum.  I am a scientist by training and I really miss playing with things in the lab.  Hanging out there made me realize just how much I miss it and I wonder if there is a chance I might be able to find some part-time work that is only during the school year (lots of us stay at home Mom's dream about this perfect schedule) that includes getting my hands dirty in a science lab.  Doubtful, but I'll look into it.  I might just have to rely on our yearly membership to the museum to fulfill my science side :-)

GLOW was the special exhibit geared to hands on exploration.  There was a section with costumes and you could dress up as fireflies and jellyfish.  We decided to forgo the costumes and stand in the firefly capture jar to check out the view - this made the girls all giggly!
Butterfly room is always a favorite stop for me.  Julia finds it a bit warm but was up for it and Emma is happy to check it out as long as there are other people in the room she can watch.
Digging for dinosaur bones
Fossil Prep lab had a learning session.  They told us about a dinosaur they are currently working on that was found in MT.  How did we never see the fossil prep lab before on all our visits?
Panning for shark teeth.  Cut out for a wheelchair is quite nice, but it falls short in being truly accessible unless you have super long arms.  
Starring in their own dinosaur movie.  

This week we took advantage of the *slightly* cooler weather to visit a park we'd never been to before.  I had won tickets to the carousel and mini-golf at the silent auction fundraiser at Julia's school so Chris met us there the other day after work for some Monday evening fun.  It was a fun place to visit.

The park had the oldest remaining original fountain in the city was up and running, a small-ish playground with an accessible swing and monkey bars, a snack shack, a carousel and mini-golf.  The park is in the historic district so everything was USA themed.  The carousel even had a bald eagle instead of a horse in one slot and that is what Emma rode.  Julia rode a dolphin, although I'm not exactly sure how that made it's way onto the national themed carousel?  The mini-golf had obstacles made out of local historic landmarks and I just loved it!  I have a feeling we'll be back.

When did you get SOOOO BIG???!!!!  Emma is staring right though me to the campers running all over the place!
Sisters swinging next to each other.  Melts my heart they can swing next to each other and it's not something we take for granted!  Emma is also much stronger this summer because she was never able to sit in these swings before without added attachments.  Both girls are nosy as ever and watching the campers again!
Such a cutie pie!  This girl melts my heart.   
Is that a hole in one?????
Emma was interested in mini-golf for about 3 holes.  She reached out for the club and even helped swing and hit the ball.  Surprisingly, she did quite well!  Then she decided she had enough and wanted to people watch everyone on the course that did NOT include anyone in her family.  Her stroller was thus positioned for optimal non-family people watching and she was smiles the rest of the night.  Silly girl!
Girls Rule!
Boys....need we say more??!!!
Wildlife in the city.

We have about 3 weeks before the start of school.  The fun will continue.  How blessed and lucky our family is!!!!