Saturday, July 16, 2011

Eye Checkup and Playgrounds

Elena just had an eye checkup. While things haven't changed a lot, we did get some news. Elena's eyes still "drift". They have since birth, despite interventions (glasses, 3 surgeries). The good news--and the original goal of her surgeries--is that she has excellent vision in both eyes. Unfortunately, they do not work together consistently, so Elena's binocular vision/depth perception is unknown.

I asked our doctor--how would I know if Elena would benefit from another procedure? How can I tell that her vision is affecting her balance? He said if Elena had consistent problems clearing steps (which she kind of does, but I think it's more of a muscle coordination thing) or rounding corners (nope) or getting food on a utensil and into her mouth (nope), grabbing toys or pencils or cups (nope) . I said I didn't think her vision was the big problem with her balance, and Dr. P agreed with me. My hope (now that E's eyes are confirmed to be healthy individually) is that she will be able to read without too much fatigue or pain from using her eyes together. So far, this hasn't seemed to be a problem.

For right now, E will keep her same prescription in her glasses. She may have another surgery to try to straighten her eyes--but the gains from this potential procedure would most likely be minimal optically, and more for cosmetic reasons.

After our appointment, I took the girls to a well-loved playground. I've filmed E here before. It's covered in small pebbles, and the wooden play structure has lots of holes, large steps, and ladders to climb on. I've had to guard Elena very closely in the past. E is taller and stronger now--but also just better able to use her body. Look at her go!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Here come the KiddieGaits

Elena got a new pair of braces!

These are called KiddieGaits. They are new to us. Our orthotist thinks they will be great for Elena, b/c they are supposed to encourage a few things that her regular DAFOs do not:

1. Pressure is on the shin, encouraging a straight-leg posture (rather than a crouch, which is a problem for E)
2. While still a rigid brace, there is a little room for movement of the foot (a small amount of dorsiflexion, plantarflexion, inversion and eversion of the foot hopefully means a stronger ankle for Elena)
3. This brace is COOLER--not suffocating plastic
4. Elena can wear short socks!! (check out these pompoms!)

These are also in 'standard sizes', meaning that they are not custom-made. I assume this means they are cheaper to manufacture, and are more easily transferable/reusable for another child.


Elena's reaction to them were that they felt "different" but she liked them. The weird feeling she got was due to the pressure on the shin. She did say immediately that they were cooler to wear (it was nearly 100 degrees outside). I noticed two things right away:

1. While her legs are definitely straighter, instead of crouching, she "bends over" at the waist slightly. My guess is this is b/c her hip flexors are tight? I figure with more experience in these braces, this will be less noticeable.

2. She stands more obviously on her dominant (left) leg, and positions herself with her right leg behind her (straight leg, but with only the right toe resting on the ground). We've seen this many a time with the DAFOs, but her weight-bearing preference is very apparent. I also think this will get better, but we'll have to work on it A LOT (weight bearing on the right). She can do it, but it's not her natural stance.

Peach Picking

Grandma and Grandpa came to visit--so we went Peach Picking at an orchard close by.

They had a ladder; both Elena and Vivian scaled up to pick peaches. Vivian, mainly, wanted to run around and kept asking me if she could eat one (they were pretty rock solid). I finally told her she could. She ate into a baseball of a peach, and LOVED IT.

Viv running--man, I never get tired of seeing this.

Wagon ride!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summertime at the pool, with some independence

It was a gorgeous day today, so we all went to the pool! I brought a camera this time, to try to capture some of Elena's progress at the water's edge.

She can get into the pool by herself! Another Goal reached!

When it comes to getting out of the pool, though, Elena is very hesistant to take the last step onto the deck (and off the handrail). That's pretty understandable, given the lack of support, a cold, shivering body, stepping up, and hard concrete. But I'm sure we'll get there.

I called early in the summer about swim lessons. Ideally, I'd love Elena to take group lessons, b/c she loves peers and learns well from other kids as an example. Unfortunately, there are very few instructors here that are comfortable with E in their group class, as she is very unsafe around the pool (meaning, little confidence she can ambulate to the edge, stop, sit, etc) and they don't typically allow floatation devices during lessons (of course). I was a little disappointed, but not offended. This summer we're going to focus on fun, friends, and familiarity with the pool, and I'm going to look into private lessons at the indoor warm water pool later in the year.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend at Lake Louisa

Happy 4th!

We started off our long weekend with an invite to a family friend's lake house. I wasn't sure what to expect...there was supposed to be games (all on the beach), swimming, heat, sun, boating?, and hopefully Vivian taking a nap so we could enjoy the lake for a whole day.

We had a great time. It was a (relatively) relaxing time for Jason and I, which we rarely have.

Elena and Vivian both took part in a few games--but there were lots of (able-bodied) kids, and the games mainly were race/speed oriented. In one game, the coordinator was gracious enough to include E in the 5-yr old category (there were only a total of three kids) in a dress-up race. Elena needed help, and she hadn't gotten dressed (everyone had some help with the grass skirts) by the time everyone had finished. But you know what? When she was walking (no braces, swim shoes, and holding Jason's hand) EVERYONE was cheering and clapping. And we were all proud. And E got a medal, which she was very happy about. No one at the event knew us, and everyone was very supportive, including all the kids.

We played and swam on the beach, which the kids loved and I did not (I do not particularly like swimming in lakes). They found snails and we made sandcastles.

We ate a great lunch, and both Vivian and Elena (and Jason and Grandpa) took naps. Then we went on a BOAT. Vivian was SO EXCITED!! But not about the lifejackets...

E loved going FAST!

Viv preferred cruising in the front

Captain Gerry taking us on a cruise

Elena "chillin' out"

My girls before/at dinner: they helped shuck corn, and were excited to "eat on the couch" (b/c that's not allowed at home)

The day was lovely. Thank you so much to our hosts, Gerry and Arlene. Our whole family loved the adventure, the lounge time, the food, and the hospitality!