Monday, September 12, 2016

Happy Birthday Cody!

Happy 2nd Birthday to our little man Cody! He is such an adventuresome, independent, determined and "mostly" happy little boy and we are so thankful for all of the ways that he completes our family! He has changed so much recently with how much he is doing and saying and he makes us laugh all of the time! We love you so much Cody!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

1st Day of School

Today was our first day back to school and to our normal routines again and I think overall the day went as smoothly as it could go. For Colin and Kailey, we had prepared for this day for awhile by talking about it a lot. Colin is dependent on and feels most comfortable when he knows what is coming next and what to anticipate. To help with our morning routine and transition, I created a visual schedule for both Colin and Kailey so they knew what Chris and I expected of them when they got up in the morning. They both followed them really well and enjoyed taking the cards off (they are velcroed on) as they completed each task.

Cody, on the other hand, struggled a bit more. I don't think he was quite ready to get up (he had been up at 5 and we got him back asleep in our bed) but with all the chaos in getting ready, he woke up as well. It took him awhile before he would even crack a smile but once we got him going, he slowly came around a bit.  

Kailey was the most excited and she couldn't wait to get walking to the bus stop and head to school. I could tell that Colin was happy and ready to go, but he also had his "nervous face" (his lips get tight and he almost looks like he's going to cry) and was especially irritable at times (more when the rest of us weren't doing things EXACTLY how he wanted us to).

We  made sure we had everyone organized earlier than needed so that we could take some pictures outside and get to the bus stop with plenty of time. The bus stop is a new routine for us so we also had to do some talking about this as well.

We were really happy with the bus driver as she was really nice and had remembered seeing Colin in the past. She helped ease our worries with Colin's transition (which went great!). We had a whole plan in place that included the kids sitting together and that didn't happen either way which also meant that both Colin and Kailey were comfortable with that. We are also incredibly lucky this year because one of our neighbors and friends from church will be getting Colin and Kailey off of the bus every day so now they will just be able to be home and relax until I get home every day. It is such a nice relief to have that opportunity for them!

We are happy with our first day and all were exhausted so hoping for a continuation through the rest of the week! 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Back to School

Tonight I am ending my 2 month break from blogging on the eve of our first day back to school and to our normal routines. For as much as we all enjoyed our summer, this structure is necessary for everyone. We had lots and lots of adventures, spent a lot of time at the beach, and grew (physically and metaphorically) in many ways. I am excited to see what this year is going to bring everyone and how they are all going to continue to change.

Colin has done so much growing this summer and has really matured a lot. He has really impressed us with how well he listened and complied with most tasks. Things that were always super challenging like cleaning up around the house,  getting dressed, handing over the ipad, etc. have really gone pretty smoothly. That's not to say there haven't been "moments", but those were also handled differently than they had been in the past. While we still always have to anticipate "what's next", I feel that I have been able to relax a tiny bit because for the most part, he's just been so good. We had a tutor for him this summer so I feel as though it took away some of the stress and worry that always accompanies the feeling of "are we doing enough?". He has really made progress and so we are thankful for the teacher that worked with him.

Colin will be starting in a regular first grade class with the same para as last year and the same special education teacher he had 2 years ago. Although this is where we want him, this placement is because he is currently in "stay put" as we await our trial that will begin in October (we have 4 court dates set). Last year was really such a great and positive year that we are cautiously optimistic that this will be the same. We really feel that last year "set the tone" in the sense that inclusion can be successful for him in his homeschool so we are hoping that his teachers going forward embrace him in their classrooms the same way his Kindergarten teacher last year did. New this year will be his transition to the regular public transport bus; he will now have a bus stop with Kailey and they will be riding together. After his success last year, we believe that this placement is the best one for him to reach his potential. We have learned to take each day one step at a time though as this is a fluid process and is ever changing.

Kailey is so ready for her transition to Kindergarten. In all honesty, this summer has been the most difficult with her because she has just been so emotional and in a lot of respects, not as compliant as she had been in the past. We think a lot of this is due to the transition taking place but it has been hard learning how to handle all of this appropriately. I also think that in her mind, she's growing up faster than her physical age of 5 so this has been tough for her. However, she has also really grown and matured a lot. She is so helpful with Cody and is really gentle and loving with him. She often takes on a "Mommy" role with him which is sometimes met with resistance (Mr. Independent). She will be starting Kindergarten in the same school that Colin currently attends on the same bus. To say she is excited is an understatement and we know that she is absolutely going to soar this year.

And lastly, there's Cody. He has been physically exhausting this summer because he is 100% all boy. He feels it is absolutely necessary to keep up with and do everything that Colin and Kailey are doing. He has a great personality and is always making us laugh but we have spent a lot of time working through typical toddler behaviors. We are currently dealing with difficulties in getting him to bed but we are REALLY hoping this will all get worked out with the onset of school. He will be returning to the daycare he was at last year with the same teacher he ended with. I think he's going to have a harder time than anyone but I also know that he will get there, no matter how long it takes.  

Here's to a great school year for the 2016-2017 year!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

An End and A Beginning

I dusted off the keys tonight to write an overdue blog post that has been on my mind since the ending of school but I was never quite able to sit down and write it out. The ending of this school year was incredibly emotional for me for many reasons because it came off of a year that really went incredibly well.

On the last day of school, I sobbed as Colin's bus pulled away for the last time this year much in the same way as I did on the first day albeit for much different reasons. The beginning of the year brought with it so much fear because of how the previous year had ended but with the end of this year I felt so much joy because of how grateful I was that Colin had such a dedicated general education teacher, special education teacher and paraprofessional who worked so hard, evidenced by Colin's great progress this year.

I was also emotional as Kailey's time at a daycare we have truly loved also came to an end now that she is headed to Kindergarten next year (although we are grateful Cody will still be there!). Her year ended with a graduation show that was wonderful and on her last day, I also sobbed as I was thankful for all that her teachers have done to allow her to grow in so many ways. Between Kailey and Colin this year, I have felt that all of those that played a part in affecting their lives this year did all they could and made a huge impact. It was sad to see it all end for that very reason.

Our transition to summer, despite being incredibly excited for it to start, was very challenging as we all had difficulty adjusting to a far less scheduled and routine day to day existence. We are starting to get into a groove right now but it has taken some time. I still see the impact on Colin as he asks an incredible amount of times each day "where are we going?". I think this change so far has been the hardest on him.

There have been so many incredible things that have happened so far this summer that I can't wait to talk about in future blog posts but one thing that sort of "knocked us down" a bit was our court appearance this past week on behalf of Colin and his placement for 1st grade at a settlement conference. Despite a year in which Colin has made incredible progress, we are still facing a district who believes children like Colin should be educated in a much more restrictive setting than the one he has been in for the past 2 years. After hearing comments from both attorneys, the judge decided that a settlement would not be reached and that we would need to have a trial in order for another judge to make a decision. As I reflected back on a year in photos and videos in preparation for what lies ahead, I couldn't help but  be grateful for all of the ways in which Colin has grown this year much because of where he has spent his time being educated. Much as we do all year, we are continuing day by day.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

2016 Special Olympics New Jersey Summer Games

"For if you seek joy, come see the athletes of Special Olympics! If you seek peace and understanding, come see the athletes of Special Olympics! If you seek courage or strength or skill, come see the athletes of Special Olympics!"
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver

This weekend was our 5th year participating in the Special Olympics New Jersey Summer Games held at The College of New Jersey each year. This year was bittersweet for us as it was Colin's last year participating as a member of the Young Athlete Program. This has been such a big part of our life since before he was walking (he was 2 when he started!) and it's sad to see this chapter of Colin's involvement in the Special Olympics come to an end. We have seen this program really evolve and grow since we first started and we have been so proud of Colin for being such an active participant.

The program wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for some really special people that make it what it is and have given it the nurturing it needed to continue to grow into this really amazing place for children to work on sport specific skills AND a very important piece in socialization. It has been a place for parents to come together and share stories as well as the joys that you can only experience as a part of Special Olympics.

Andrea, this program is what it is because of YOU and we are so thankful for all of your hard work to make it such an awesome and successful program for all of our "young athletes". Coach Greg, Megan and have been such a part of Colin's life at Special Olympics and we are SO THANKFUL for all you have done!

The day was an all around great experience. At check-in, each young athlete was given baseball cards designed just for them with their stats and picture on them that they were encouraged to trade them with other athletes (that was a fun experience in itself!). There were many stations set up and the kids could wander to any activity they wanted. There were many volunteers on the field to assist and help with the athletes (who were awesome) and they also had a home run derby set up on the infield.

Afterwards, the kids got lined up for the "Future Stars" race (Colin's favorite part of the day) and ran their hardest.

We are so proud of Colin for doing his very best and for Kailey (and Cody too) for being such a supportive brother and sister. Kailey loves being Colin's cheerleader (she cheered with posters that were made for Colin by his classmates at school) and we caught a few moments where she went up to Colin, hugged him and told him how proud she was of him for doing a good job.

Later in the day, Colin participated in a baseball "bonanza" and he loved every minute of it!

There really is nothing like the Summer Games and we are so proud and thankful to get to be a part of it....

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dance Recital (and another example of Inclusion!)

Last year was Kailey's first year of dance and she really loved it. With Chris' work schedule the way it was last year, I hardly had to bring Colin or Cody with me or Chris would just take her. When asked, she wanted to do it again this year so I signed her up. However, the schedule for the class had changed to an earlier time so I rarely had help on dance days and had to bring everyone to class each week.

Colin was so interested to watch class and it was really hard keeping him out of the room because he wanted to participate as well. After about 2 months of this, one day Kailey's teacher Mr. Richard (one of the owners of the business that he's had for many years) asked Colin if he wanted to join the class for the day. I was a little hesitant at first, but he loved it and Mr. Richard and his wife Denise told me afterwards how well he did. He asked and invited him to join the  next week and after another great class we decided to sign him up as well. It took me some time to let go of the guilty feeling for taking away something that was just Kailey's but we did take some time to ask her and she didn't seem to think anything of it.

Dancing and singing has always been something that both kids have really enjoyed, so it has only seemed natural to have them in dance class together. This has been another great example of inclusion in our community as Mr. Richard and Miss Denise have welcomed Colin into their class with open arms and have treated him just like they treat all of the other kids in the class. We are so thankful that Colin was given this opportunity to participate in an activity he really likes and even more thankful for his classmates, sister and teachers who treat him no differently than other student in class.

I am so proud of both Colin and Kailey for working hard and for putting on a great show!