Adjusting to school

It has surprised me (though I’m not sure why I didn’t consider this before) that this whole “school every day” business has left us struggling to adjust.

This past summer was something of a free-for-all as we let bed times slide (reaaaally slide) and slept in, taking mornings late and slow for the most part. And I had every intention of beginning to set a new routine with earlier bedtimes, but then Brenna’s surgery issues and hospitalization stole most of our August, and we were thrown into the school year.

Being up by 7, and out the door at 7:45, every single morning has been a little struggle for the kids now, especially one particular little night owl (not naming names) (rhymes with Jenna). A week into it, and we’re starting to see some meltdowns and erratic behavior due, I’m sure, to this new schedule and tiredness. It’s not particularly early, I know, and people do the every day thing all the time, but it’s new to us, and we’re still figuring it out as we attempt to move bedtime up a little earlier each night.

But schedule struggles aside, school has been such a welcome change this season. Brenna is still working on separating calmly from me at drop-off, but we’ll get there. And one of our favorite parts of the day is meeting Connor’s bus at the corner of our street.

Connor bounded in yesterday afternoon, and the first thing out of his mouth was: “I really LOVE school!”

He is telling me more abut his days now – various art projects, how far he ran in P.E., what he had for lunch, whose name he learned. He was proud to get to check a book out of the school library himself. He even found one of Brenna’s former classmates and friend (the one who proclaimed his love for Brenna :) ) to sit by on the bus, even though they aren’t even in the same Kindergarten class and had never met before.

And as for my youngest, every day I pick her up, her aide raves about what a good day she had and how much more independent she is compared to last year. Brenna is jumping in much more quickly this time around and has been reporting on who she played with and what she had for a snack (it’s usually all about the food with this one!) She recently came home with a stained purple face after a birthday celebration at school, which was a highlight of her week!

Enjoying school and learning is one of my greatest desires for my kids, and these early weeks of making new friends and learning have been a joy to see unfold.

As we move into fall (please, Fall Weather, come quickly), I know we need to strive to be more diligent about a better schedule and most of all, more sleep. Hopefully Labor Day weekend will be the ideal break to catch up on some rest, and we can look forward to so many exciting things coming up in this new season – the first of which is celebrating Connor’s 6th birthday next weekend!

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The Way We Use Everyday Toys to Build Motor Skills

When I first began working with Step2 a couple of years ago, I thought it would be so much fun to get a few new toys to try out, and over time, I also fell in love with the company and their values, particularly their focus on families and inclusion of all kinds of differences within our children.

What I didn’t expect, however, was how much Brenna’s fine and gross motor skills would improve by simply playing with all of the Step2 products and how much her therapists were able to incorporate our toys into her therapy sessions.

Brenna, frankly, would tend to not want to participate in therapy exercises that looked like a lot of work. She seemed to get intimidated by some of the activities that her therapists would bring in. Thankfully, though, we had some fantastic therapists through the Early Intervention program who were willing to adapt to what she would want to do but still challenge her and work on mobility without her even realizing we were “working.”

Brenna’s fine and gross motor skills have been very developmentally behind because of the restrictions of her tight and dry skin, as well as her small stature and size. The arthritis in her fingers have also presented a lot of problems with development.

But using our Step2 toys has brought huge strides in Brenna’s development over the last couple of years…

We use our Lil Chef’s Gourmet Kitchen a lot for physical therapy! Brenna has practiced opening and closing the cabinets, and we’ll purposely place some dishes or food in the upper cabinets to challenge her to reach up, and to push up and balance on her toes. The fridge and microwave continue to prove perfect practice for finger and arm strength, especially because each of them have varying levels of difficult opening.

She even figured out how to pull up a “stool” to reach something using her play kitchen!

Learning to stand at the kitchen, before she could even walk.cIMG_1247

I’ll be the first to admit that I originally viewed Step2’s Up and Down Roller Coaster as having a short shelf life for entertainment. I thought after a few tries riding it, the kids would move on and not touch it again. I was so very wrong. This toy has been a HUGE hit, not only with every little visitor who comes into our home to play, but still with my kids, almost a year later. When they’re not riding it, they incorporate it into creative play – it has been a roller coaster for stuffed animals at the theme park, and it has been a water slide when we played “water park.”

And, to my surprise, it has been fantastic for Brenna’s gross motor skills. We take off the roller coaster car, and we practice walking up and down. She is not a fan of transitions – walking on varying heights, or stepping off a curb, or stepping over thresholds – and being able to walk up and down on the roller coaster has built up her confidence and gross motor skills immensely.004

Another surprising favorite is Brenna’s Ford-150 Raptor truck… she LOVES it. Last fall, we spent several therapy sessions solely using this truck, because she only wanted to play with it, and her physical therapist was so accommodating about using whatever Brenna was interested in and challenging her with it. This truck was a great tool for working on different ways to sit down or get into something – whether she stepped into it, pulling herself forward, or whether she sat backwards on it and then pushed herself back into her seat (which was the same kind of movement she needs to learn in order to scoot backward onto a toilet, for example.)

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And lastly, this fall, Step2 released the WonderBall Fun House. This has been a fantastic new toy that has encouraged Brenna to work on reaching up and extending her arms above head, using her toes to elevate herself to reach the top, and grasping balls. Grasping items has been such a work in progress for Brenna, both because her arthritis has decreased her finger strength and also because her fingers are shortened. Seeing her grab the balls to toss around the WonderBall Fun House has been very exciting!001

Play time can easily be turned into work time to practice fine and gross motor skills without kids even realizing it simply by using some of their favorite toys and pushing them outside of their comfort zones a bit to try new motions or reaching higher/further! I’ve been amazed at the way our Step2 toys not only engage and entertain our kids, but have actually increased Brenna’s fine and gross motor skills by leaps and bounds.002

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Back to school for Brenna

Even though it has taken a while for Brenna’s incision to heal, she has thankfully felt like her old self ever since coming home from the hospital.

And finally, over the past weekend, her incision took a huge turn for the better!

With Brenna on the mend, we were so glad that she was able to start her new school year on time.

Yesterday morning, I dropped my two kids off together at school…
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There were tears again from the little one, but she gets over me leaving quickly. Her teachers report that she had a good day, and she came home telling me all about some new friends and how she loved playing at the “housekeeping” station – by far her favorite with the play kitchen.

And Connor started up full days of Kindergarten this week after two half days last week and tells me more every day about his class and his day. He absolutely loves it.cIMG_1799

And how am I doing? Oh, just fine :) Truthfully, I’m looking forward to adapting to this new schedule of school every single day.  For the first time in a very long time, I’m getting some space in my days just for me, to pursue some new interests and projects, and just let my brain rest and wander and create. And oh yeah, I’ve got that book to write too!

I’m so excited for this new change in all of our lives, and I can’t wait to see how Connor and Brenna thrive as they learn and grow at school every day.

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