Friday, June 12, 2015

Welcome Summer!

This week Elena and Vivian had their last day of Fourth grade and Kindergarten, respectively.  Both are ready for summer!

Welcome Home for Summer!

This year has been HUGE for both kids.  Vivian loves school, and was totally ready for full school days.  Halfway through the year, I let her join an after school activity (tap dancing). She is very bright, is a voracious reader, is a quick math study and loves to play with friends. She has grown leaps and bounds socially. My only concern for her is that first grade will not be challenging (we are pursing options about that).

Elena had a banner year. Fourth grade means real grades, not just a number system for effort and mastery. Elena struggled with math at the beginning of the year. She studied and practiced hard, and with the help of her Math Coach, she ended up finishing this year with straight As!  THAT IS HUGE. She worked through lots of knee pain. She auditioned for and won the lead in the school musical and was AMAZING. We had more playdates than ever. She passed all her SOL tests--for the first time EVER! She has grown more responsible, more mature, more accountable, and more social.

Both girls are healthy and happy, enjoyed school--but very ready for a well-deserved break!  Every year I make them a chalk welcome on our driveway. They enjoyed running all over it. We've made our Summer Bucket List, and we're ready to start checking them off!

Chalk Work under fire

Water Fight

Water Fight

Left Out

It happens.

Unfortunately for Elena, she has experienced two in-your-face episodes in the last month. The first was a birthday party at our local pool; E was there swimming, basically walking in on the party prep and realized she wasn't invited. Jason packed them up and left before the party started. Hearing "I guess I forgot to invite you" was a crushing blow for E. She spent a lot of the day crying, despite my best efforts.

I know it happens. I know this family, and they are nice people. I know everyone can't be invited to every party. And I know that the birthday girl and Elena are not particularly close. The sting was very painful though, and as a parent, it is hard to see your child hurt.

And I know it's not unique to Elena. I feel like it will happen more for her--but I could be wrong.

The second, she was invited to a birthday party with lots of classmates.  Another pool party, which for Elena is not a great fit. I decided not to bring her swim vest, as I thought it would alienate her even more. The water was ice cold, and kids weren't in there very long. Elena stayed in the shallows with one or two other people, and the rest of the kids were in and out of the deep end.

During pizza time, I carried E's pizza and silently followed her to where she decided to sit. Most of the party were sitting at a picnic table, laughing and eating. Elena walked to the corner of the table and asked to sit where there were a pile of towels on the table. Two girls near her end turned to acknowledge her, looked at her, and then turned their backs to her and ignored her. Didn't move anything so she could sit. Elena looked at their backs for a second, put her head down, and walked away.


I have never seen this before. It was so...mean. I just followed her lead--she walked to a chair where another girl was sitting and asked to sit with her. I put her pizza down and walked to a table where a few parents were sitting (yes, they saw the whole thing). Soon, E and the other girl were eating and laughing. I sat in silence. So did the other parents, for a while. Then one said "maybe the girls didn't know who those things belonged to", which I snapped wasn't the case (I tried not to be negative, but I couldn't help it). I took a deep breath and made small talk.

Look, I know it takes effort to include Elena in something like a pool party. I can see that not coming naturally to some of these other kids. I actually think it's a big deal for someone to decide to change their manner of playing so Elena can take part, or be part of the group--it's not instinctive. But it took actual effort to be mean to her in this case. And that just plain sucks, and it's the first time I've actually witnessed it.

I got up to move the car (it was down the hill, and I didn't realize there was a handicapped space closer to the pool--and with my knee, it was going to take a while) in case Elena wanted to leave the party early (I know I did). When I got back, the kids were eating ice cream, at one table, including E (there were a few chairs pulled up to the table) and they were laughing and happy.  I don't know who orchestrated it, probably the other grown ups. We ended up staying late.

Later that day, I had a discussion about friendship with Elena. Did she think the girls at the pizza table were treating her like a friend? Did she consider them friends? Sometimes I worry that she doesn't know what a friendship should feel like. I guess this is a process that a lot of kids go through, which is comforting in its typicality but burns all the same. Elena had some great insight during our conversation, where she told me the girls who were mean were not in her class, so she does not know them as well and does not hang out with them at school. I guess that explains a little. There was also an older girl (sibling?) who obviously was someone to impress--the social hierarchy was very easy to witness developing, for anyone who remotely cares about that sort of thing. Some kids at this age care a lot, some not at all. It doesn't bother Elena much, which is to our advantage. For now, anyway.

Pre-Summer Recap, Part II

Renaissance Faire

The kids have been enjoying the movie "A Knight's Tale", so I decided to see if there were any festivals around--and we found one, less than an hour's drive! The reviews stated it was a family friendly event with affordable admission. I emailed the festival director and asked about the terrain for Elena and myself; they said it was in a large field, on a hill (they weren't kidding) but they gave us directions and offered a golf cart ride back to the car if we needed it (we didn't).

Welcome Lords and Ladies!
We had such a great time! The girls saw jousting (with a lady knight, very empowering!), jugglers, entertainers, singers, beautiful crafts, a blacksmith, knife/axe throwers, archers, and lots and lots of people in costumes.

Cheering on Lady Anne at the Queen's Joust
One of the reviews I read mentioned how the costumed individuals are very welcoming to children--were they right! The girls were repeatedly bowed to, addressed as "my lady", and asked questions like "are you a princess?" and things like that. They were tickled.

Talking to a Lady before Court
To my surprise, both kids loved the Queen's Court. There were seats in the shade (the day was HOT! I can't imagine how hot the people were in mail and armor) and they had front-row seats to watch people bring gifts, read poetry, make jokes and otherwise entertain the Queen.

Girls being offered a front-row seat at Court
 The girls also were knighted by the Queen! They were cheered by the Court (Huzzah!) and received a certificate. Both girls brought their certificate to school for show-and-share.

Lady Vivian leaving Her Grace's Court
The Knighting of Lady Vivian
We had an awesome time. The Ladies were tired after our day at the Faire. If you are around Lake Anna Winery, you should definitely cheek it out!

Bonus Moi

Quest Fest

 There is an end-of-the-year showcase at school where students' prominent works are on display. I had both Elena and Vivian take me on a tour of the school and show me their work. My favorites are shown below.

E with her word portrait and sock puppet

Homemade Circuit Board Quiz!

Vivian with her "Seasons"
 One thing that continually amazes me is the variety of work Elena does in the fourth grade, and how well integrated she is with her classmates. School helps put her on peer level better than anything else right now. It's wonderful to see.

Climbing Study

Elena was asked to take part in a climbing study. The objective is to see if rock climbing can be used as an effective PT tool. Elena is monitored via motion-capture technology on her first and last sessions; in-between, she climbs and hopefully improves her motion. We can come as often as we like. Right now, it's once a week.

E getting set up by Mr. John and Mr. Eric

Elena has been climbing before, and typically is willing to try anything--even if it's scary. She doesn't seem to be afraid, even after losing her footing--she trusts Mr. Eric on belay.

Mr. John giving instruction
E taking instruction

 First they had Elena climb as she pleased, while they got the idea of her comfort level and movement abilities. The second time, John gave her instructions of where to place her feet and hands, trying to stretch her range or use right vs. left extremities. In general, Elena leads with her left leg. Her hands are not particularly strong, and she relies on her left leg for strength and stability (no surprises here). Important to note, this is the first time she has ever used a half-harness (waist only); every other rock climbing experience (three, I think) she has been in a full-body harness (I wasn't sure if she could right herself if she lost her footing--now I know she can).

We've been a few times--Elena enjoys it much more without the time taken to attach all the motion sensors. I can see definitely improvement in hand strength, using her right side, and her weight distribution on the decent (trying to get her feet flat on the wall, while leaning back in an attempt to repel down the climbing face). Vivian is allowed to try too, although she is more of a one-and-done climber.

I'm looking forward to the report at the end of the summer!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pre-Summer Recap, Part I

We've had a lot going on here.  Kids are busy; the biggest difference is my difficulty with my knee, which is painful and time/energy consuming. I just looked back at the blog, and my goodness there's a lot missing! I'll try to put it back in order.

A New Arrival

The girls finally got to meet their new baby cousin!  Vivian has never met a baby this young. Elena loves babies, and couldn't get enough of G.

Viv attempting to hold G
E holding G

Fun Run

Every year there is a fun run for our school. It is very hilly, and typically on a hot day. This year it was sweltering hot. Elena and Vivian both wanted to run--Viv did the 50 and 100 yard dash, and Elena ran the half mile.
Run Vivian!
The half mile/mile course is no joke. I had a rough time getting around the 'flat' parts, given my injured knee. I knew Elena could handle the terrain, but I wasn't sure she could finish the course given the heat and crouch issues. She wanted to run, and so it was. She started with her classmates--she was left behind in all of 10 seconds. Jason was with her, in case she got too tired or fell in a ditch (she didn't).

Most kids finished the course by the time she was 1/4 through. Vivian and I kept cheering. As she passed the other parents hanging out by the course, they started cheering too.

And then something happened. I couldn't really see it, b/c it was out of my range-but the kids who had finished (and their siblings and friends and parents) started to congregate near the finish. I finally walked to the finish line and saw all these people, mostly Elena's schoolmates, walking with her, cheering her on, clapping the whole way to the end. It was beautiful.

Strong Finish!

Strawberry Season!

We went picking this year-Elena did a great job with one crutch. We even had enough to make jam!

Sisters at the Orchard
A Fine Specimen

Later on the kids hosed off in the sprinkler. A great way to usher in the season!

Sprinkler Time