Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pepsi10K/2Miler for Special Olympics

E and I had the opportunity to take part in the Pepsi10K/2mile event for Special Olympics.  We chose the 2 mile walk option, with the intention of running as much of it as possible.  Elena and I were excited, but I knew 2 miles would be a lot for her.

It was crowded.  All sorts of people--fast runners, slower runners, walkers, families.  We felt very welcome.  Vivian and Jason were going to be our cheerleaders!

Ready to go

My runner girl

E started running right from the start.  She looked GREAT, and we hung with the pack (of walkers) for a while.  Elena's pace started to ease up at about 3/4 mile, when she started to walk more.  No biggie.

We had tons of encouragement along the way.  It was a down-and-back course (the runners intially went another way, but caught up to us by the time Elena started to walk more) and the "final stretch" runners cheered and yelled Elena's name.  She beamed each time.  It was pretty awesome.


Elena got really tired after rounding the first mile.  We were the last of the walkers (which we don't mind) and E said that she "couldn't feel her hands".  WHAT? She's never complained about that before.  I understand that the pressure of her loftstrands could hurt, but she's walked a lot more than this and never mentioned it.  I asked if she wanted to sit on my knee and rest, she adamantly refused.  So I asked if we could hold hands instead of her using her crutches, which she obliged--for about two minutes.  She asked for her crutches back, and we went walking on our way.  I offered to carry her, or have her rest, and she would not accept that kind of help.

She found a new burst of energy when Jason and Vivian found us along the route and walked with us. Then, we rounded the last corner, and E finished the last two hundred feet or so at a run.  It was pretty great!  Then, it was off to enjoy some food, running company, and some playground swingtime.


I worry/wonder about her hands on her crutches.  I understand it can be uncomfortable, but she didn't complain at Disney, or at Busch Gardens, or on long walks or hikes.  Maybe she was leaning a lot because she wanted to go fast?  We have little neoprene "sleeves" that offer some squishy padding for her hands, but Elena doesn't like them.  Maybe we'll have to look into something else like that for her running events, if she chooses to do more (there are two more on the schedule for 2013).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Our New Stable

Elena was making progress becoming an independent pony rider at the end of her time with our Hippotherapy program.  Brenda, our therapist, recommended that we consider another riding place, which she'd be happy to pre-approve for us (that's great, b/c we live in horse country and I don't know a thing about horses or what would best suit Elena's needs).  The reason was that Brenda thought that Elena could take typical riding lessons (I consider them "riding-lite"), and that was not her specialty.  Our last hippotherapy session was July.  

We now go to Fairhunt Farm to ride.  It's a lovely place, and Susan is very patient.  Elena rides Starlight, nicknamed "Teacup" because her hooves are so tiny.  Teacup is an tiny old mare who is well trained and very patient.  Elena loves her. 

Elena is learning horsemanship, so she helps care for Teacup before and after riding.  I didn't see much of a physical gain in it as much as relationship-building with the pony--but I was wrong.  One time, after riding (when Elena typically has "jelly legs") she was brushing Teacup with very straight legs and not leaning on her at all--that almost never happens.  Teacup even moved towards E a little, which would have sent E flying if she was leaning on her--but it was fine b/c Elena was in control, in her own space.  That's pretty huge!

"Painting" Teacup's hooves to prevent cracks

Saddling up

 I am typically a side walker.  I have to confess that when I see E in the saddle, I'm very proud of her--and afraid half the time she's going to fall off.  Not b/c she's going too fast, but because she's expected to do so much more balancing than she's used to, and since our riding time is after school, she is quite tired.  To me, E seems to have a hard time focusing on Susan's instruction right now.  I think that will change--she's still getting used to her school schedule, for one.  Elena also originally arrived at Fairhunt feeling pretty confident of her skills, and I believe is realizing she has a whole lot to learn.  Maybe it's a bit overwhelming, and that contributes to the lack of focus sometimes?  We'll see.


Side View

Trot Action, #1

Trot Action, #2

Elena loves to talk to Susan and enjoys steering and walking.  She leans forward a lot right now when executing movements, but she is getting better at her posture and that awareness is exactly what I want for her.  I think that Elena's riding will improve quickly.  Susan's voice is gentle and she is a different type of instructor--I worry that my presence of being a helper isn't the best fit.  I try to be quiet and defer to Susan as much as possible.  

Vivian and Leonard

Vivian comes to Fairhunt with us, of course.  She really wants to ride a pony, but somewhere in her almost 5-yr old mind she knows this is Elena's lesson.  She is allowed to explore the farm, including goats, barn cats, dogs, and chickens.  She likes to pretend she's a pony and run around the ring.  She occasionally gets to brush and even ride Teacup for a short while--she's so happy to do what her big sister does, it's adorable!  (Hopefully I'll get a good pic of Viv on Teacup soon!)

Labor Day Weekend at the Lake

We were invited to a family friend's Lake House over Labor Day weekend.  The girls LOVE Captain Gerry and Ms. Arlene!  It was a beautiful day--perfect weather, great company, delicious food, fun times.

E and Viv love the windy ride

Captain and the crew

Viv in front

E hanging out

The girls were different on the water this year.  Vivian was not so timid, and Elena was more stable.  I think a lot of that was because both are bigger than last year.  Elena also seems to be understanding that when her feet are flat on the ground, it improves her balance foundation.  That's especially important here, as she is moving around mostly in bare feet/water shoes.

Dad was allowed to drive the boat...fast!

After our boat ride, the girls wanted to swim in the lake.  The water was cool, but the weather was hot--very refreshing!

Pink Dolphins waiting to take the plunge

"Swim School"

Sisters swimming

We tried a new thing this year...tubing!  We saw lots of other people on the water, so this year we decided to try it.  I wasn't worried about Captain Gerry driving too fast, and I wasn't worried about the kids in their floatation vests having trouble if the tube capsized for any reason.  I was worried about possibly getting caught up in a deflating tube, or just the kids being scared in general.  I went with one child at a time.

Our first try, the tube ended up not being properly plugged after inflating, so Elena and I had to "abandon tube" a few minutes into our ride.  Elena and I laughed the whole time, it was a very funny situation--especially since I felt prepared for it.  We got back on the boat, fixed the tube, and tried again.

Mom and Viv tubing!  

Mom and E tubing!

Vivian preferred a calm tow, while Elena liked being fast and going over bumpy waves.  We weren't the only ones who had a new water adventure...Jason went water skiing too!  My pictures/movies are mostly of him wiping out (my camera got full) but he was successful and managed to get up on his skis!  I didn't try...I have been water skiing only once, and I don't think contact lens wearers make great novice skiers.

We adjourned into the house for a delicious meal.  We were all exhausted from such a fun, stimulating adventurous day.  Thank you so much, T family--what a way to celebrate Labor Day!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Elena's A-maize-ing Race

*This was from August 2013*

There is a farm about 30 minutes away that has a 5K race through a corn maze.

Elena's longest race has been one mile.  We were looking for a new challenge...but 5K (3.1 miles) is too long for E right now.  There was a walk option, so I emailed the farm and asked how long that portion would be.

They said it was about a mile, but that's if you explored every part of the maze.  That option was mainly for little kids, and more of a maze exploration feature than a race.

We were a little bit bummed...Elena wanted to race, not explore.

So, I explained our situation and I asked if there was a way to have us exit the race portion of the maze somewhere close to a mile.  They agreed--and asked if we wanted to come out and check out the terrain some weekend before the race to make sure it was a good fit.

My thoughts on the maze were several fold; one, we had to be in the last wave of runners, b/c the maze can fit maybe two runners side-by-side, and I didn't want anyone passing Elena and clipping her crutches.  Two, I didn't expect the path to be smooth--but it was pretty rough.  And there were considerable hills, too.  Farmers Kent and Evie tried to assure us that we could figure out where we were in the maze by the shape of our running path--no way.  I wondered if we should tether a balloon to us so they could see where we were...they promised they wouldn't let us get lost.

The day before the race it rained.  A LOT.  But we were committed, mud or no mud.

Ready to Race!

Running up the hill

We didn't have any runners around us--we were passed right from the start (in the last wave of runners).  But that was okay.  Our goals were to have fun, try to run as much as we could, while being safe.

Corn Star

The course was difficult!  Very hilly, a little slippery, and it seemed to take forever.  E slipped and fell once--and by the tracks we saw, she wasn't the only one.  I knew E wouldn't be able to keep her normal pace, but I didn't realize how much harder this field would be to run than on smooth pavement.  It was a LOT harder. We walked a few times, and had a few water breaks.


We finished in about 36 minutes.  Our portion of the course was 1.1 miles, E's longest to date.

Arial Maze shot

The 5K race course--we exited at the bottom of the lower left balloon (near the maze entrance/exit)

E and Farmer Kent

At the end of the race, there was an awards ceremony where the fastest runners from each age category received a medal. or special shirt, or special pear gourd.  But before any of that, Elena actually got a special award from Kent and Evie.  They presented her with an apple gourd, for being the "most inspiring runner"!  

Proud Apple Girl

Huge thanks to Liberty Mills Farm, and Evie and Kent and their family for helping us have a successful race and a really fun time around the farm.  We'll be back for the Fall Festival!  

Welcome to Third Grade

Even though things are going well right now, I can't help but have concerns about third grade.

Before I go into this, let me sum up my concerns regarding Elena in previous years:

Public Pre-K:  Will Elena be accepted by her peers?  YES.  Will her teachers be able to handle integrating her in the classroom/playground?  YES.  Will she be able to keep up academically (if you can say that, in pre-K) with her peers?  YES.  Will Elena realize she is different?  YES.

Kindergarten:  Will Elena be accepted by her peers?  YES.  Will she be able to navigate her new surroundings?  YES.  Will she enjoy the bus?  YES.  Will she fit in socially, as the kids grow older?  YES.  Will others tease her? NO.  Will she keep up academically?  YES.

First Grade:  Will Elena be accepted by her peers?  YES.  Will she be able to navigate her new surroundings?  YES.  Will she fit in socially, as the kids grow older?  YES.  Will others tease her? NO.  Will she keep up academically?  YES.

Second Grade:  Will Elena be accepted by her peers?  YES.  Will she be able to navigate her new surroundings?  YES.  Will she fit in socially, as the kids grow older?  YES.  Will others tease her? YES.  Will she be able to handle this?  YES.  Will she keep up academically?  MOSTLY.  

Elena had a great year in second grade, and I learned several important lessons.  One, she absolutely needs to be in a good seating arrangement to do her best work.  Her second grade classroom offered a lot of choices, one of them seating arrangements (kneeling, sitting, standing) and she almost always chose kneeling--and her kneel was an awkward side-kneel-slouch position where she was struggling to be comfortable and unable to use her hands to her best advantage.  Neither her teacher, nor aide,  nor I ever realized how important this was to her work at a tabletop until the end of the year.  Another deficit, if I can call it that, was she was behind in her math concepts.  They teach 'number sense' rather than rote math (how I learned it)--it's more a global approach to numbers and how they relate to each other, and I think it's absolutely a better way of learning math--provided the child can see the whole 'number sense' picture before the end of the year.  Elena had pieces, but couldn't grasp the entire concept...and Jason and I were at a loss of how to help.  We didn't want to confuse her by teaching her "our way" of doing math, so we got a tutor (Elena prefers the term "Math Coach") and having him over the summer helped IMMENSELY.  

My biggest apprehension regarding third grade is the testing.  There are more standardized tests in third grade than fourth and fifth--either b/c they are getting the kids used to it, or they are trying out new ways of testing.  Either way, Elena's few test experiences weren't all that great.  Not because her scores were terrible (they were not great), but because she thought she did fantastically, and that "it was easy".    We nodded our heads and left it at that, hoping that as the concepts (specifically, math) sunk in more her realization of her testing performance would become more accurate.  Let's hope so, anyway.

Regardless of how I might be nervous about third grade, the most important part is that Elena is enjoying learning--which she is.  She is more independent than ever, uses her crutches less than ever (only to lunch, PE, and recess), and enjoys her teacher, her subjects, and her classmates.  Her educators have always been, and continue to be, approachable and willing to work with me/her aide/her IEP/her PTs/etc. to help her succeed and integrate as seamlessly as possible.

I don't expect Third Grade to be a breeze...but there's a lot to celebrate as we approach this new challenge.

Let's do this!