Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer Roundup, beginning of school

This has been an eventful month.  It continues to be (more on that later), so this recap will have to be relatively brief if I ever have the hope of "catching up".

After we got back from our beach trip (end of July) we decided to get new kittens.  We've had this as part of our plan since the beginning of this year.  The pictures we have of our new additions seem ancient now, as they grow so fast.

Vivan reading to Shirley

Both Shirley and Temple are loving, playful, patient, mischievous felines.  They enjoy playing with the kids, and have integrated themselves perfectly into the family.

I was fortunate to take a day off work so SW and I could take the kids to Busch Gardens with our family friends, the Rs.  SW and I talked about how we would get around the park this year; we all decided that we would attempt the entire day on foot (our double stroller was in the car trunk if we had to go back for it).  The Rs were game, and helped work some long-range transport (skytram, park train) into our day.  Elena is a thrill-seeker, and enjoys roller coasters and other big kid/grown up rides (Viv not so much) and we all had a great time.  The weather was perfect (unlike last year, where it was unbearably hot) and the park wasn't super crowded.

Elena and Vivian take on Busch Gardens

Elena got some stares, that's nothing new.  We got lots of smiles too; strangers proud of Elena for going the distance.  I was too...she lasted ALL DAY.  As in, until the park closed.  She never fell.  We ended up being in the kid area at closing time, which happened to be at the farthest point from the park entrance.  She tried to walk back, but ran out of energy; SW and I gave Vivian and Elena piggyback rides to the car.

In "Italy"

Carousel Kids
Ring toss, team-style
E rode kiddie rides with Viv

We went camping with some friends.  Elena LOVES camping (I do not)--which I feel might be the worst fit for a kid with cerebral palsy, but we always have a good time--even in heavy rain, even in a leaky tent, even with large bears (that was last year, but I feel like I still have to mention it).  Big thanks to the R-S family, who continue to invite us even though I am always a camping novice and have no idea what I am doing out there!

Walking by the lake

At the dock

Some baseball before the rain

E pitching

Swing Batter!

Jason's pillow during the rain.  Note the Sleepian, oblivious to her non-resting parents

Elena sleeping.  That's my drenched pillow next to her.

And even though I will write a post about it separately, here is E on her first day of 3rd grade!

Looking good, girl

Modeling the homemade backpack strap that keeps her bag from slipping down her shoulders

More on Third Grade up next!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Perfect Polo Sunday

Every Sunday from Memorial Day until Labor Day (weather permitting), there is a free polo match at the beautiful King Family Vineyards.  People come from all over, bring picnics, drink wine, see family and friends, and watch the match in a gorgeous field just below the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We love coming here.  We've seen Elena become more independent, as there are no hand holds in this giant field. We bring activities for the kids, and invite other children to join us.

The horses frequently come quite close, even jumping the fence, as they play.  Apparently that was not exciting enough for Vivian.

A ribbon is all you need
View a the Polo Grounds

Vivian was hot.  After cooling off with this fan, she was drenched.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch, and between chukkers, walked onto the field for playtime.  We brought a frisbee this time--one of my year's goals was to have Elena catch a frisbee (ideally, 'on the fly').  This was her first time trying it, and she really impressed us!

I put a few more videos on her YouTube page.  Some great stops here on the grass!  Super proud of E--especially since she's had trouble stopping since our "time off" during our Beach Vacation (it's taken her approximately three weeks to get back to her 'pre-vacation' stability).  Looking good, girl!

Summer Adventures

I've tried to keep the kids busy this summer.  I've scheduled a few playdates (not as many as I'd like), we've made some art projects, and we have our garden going (not much produce, but at least the deer haven't eaten anything...yet).  E and Viv go to the library about once a week, and to our local Whole Foods weekly for a little cooking program.  They've had camps (Elena did two computer camps, which she loved!) and Vivian did one at our favorite play studio (Explorations Play Studio) about night creatures.  We've been lucky to have our Fantastic Nanny Annette and our summer helper SW, so the girls can do separate activities as needed.  And of course, there's therapies for E:  PT, Feldenkrais, hippotherapy, etc.--so, we've been busy.

I decided to schedule a few other things--some events, farther away.  Things I wanted to do with the kids, but realistically couldn't with my work/home life.  As it turned out, everyone had an awesome time.

I sent everyone on a Blackberry Picking Mission at Grelen Farm.  They had a nice special where you pay for 10 pints, get 10 pints free.  I had called the farm beforehand (since I hadn't ever been there) and asked about the terrain.  They were very helpful and confident the girls would be successful.  The weather was absolutely perfect, too!

Viv filling her pints

Viv at the farm

Elena used one crutch for stability, and picked berries with the other.  SW helped hold the basket.

E finding the best berries
Berry action

Viv sampling

Picnic lunch after picking

Later on the next day, we made some blackberry jelly with half of the berry haul.  E and Viv were great berry chefs, and the jelly is DELICIOUS!

Berry Inspectors, take 1
Berry Inspectors, take 2

The ladies went mini golfing in town.  We wanted to do this during our beach vacation, but we were worried about the long lines (in extreme heat), and the fact that those courses tend to be extreme in the terrain (hills, steps, dips, etc.).  Turns out, this little town golf course is perfect for E--challenging, but she could still be successful.

SW is ready to help E if she loses balance

I had SW and Annette figure out what kind of stance would be better for Elena.  Ideally, I want her to use both hands on one club, without crutches.  Mostly because it forces her to use her legs more (standing tall), but also because I thought she would hit the ball more reproducibly if both hands were on the club (not sure about that, though).  She tried putting with one crutch, but preferred to use both hands.

Pretty good form!

Walking on the course

Vivian misses

Elena's greatest difficulty was stopping along the course to putt the ball when walking without her crutches (no surprise there).  But what a great opportunity to practice!  We will definitely be back.

A tired Vivian seeking shade

The ladies also went bowling, but there was no room on the camera once they got there.  Annette knows a lot of people at the bowling alley, so the kids got some VIP treatment!  E and Viv had been bowling only once before (at the Great Wolf Lodge, kid sized alley) and have never used a standard bowling ball of any size.  The smallest ones here are 6-lb balls; too big for the kids to carry and roll, so Annette had the kids use the track (handicap track) to bowl.  Both E and Vivian got a spare!  Maybe next time we'll try a small ball, and have them roll it "granny-style" down the lane.

Bonus picture:  E at her last hippo session, with her doll "Penny" riding too!