A Journey with Love and Laughter

Read about our family as we journey through life as a family, with siblings, school and spina bifida, and lots of fun and laughter along the way!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ready for school

This is it.
The last week before life changes forever. Well, someone in our house's life changes forever.
The first day of school - next week.

We had a trial of school when Katheryn went away for zoo camp in the beginning of the month. School hours, away from parents, taking her own lunch, being independent and making friends.

She did so well.

I have discussed that in Ontario we are participating in their full-day kindergarten program. So once she enters that school on the first day, that is it. School for the next 14 years (at least - and if she is anything like her mom then just add another 10 years on top of that!)
No more pj days, sleeping in, playing all day, no more going out for lunch just because, scheduling things after school...
This is it.

I think I'm handling it pretty well.
Because Katheryn will have no problems adjusting. We already know she will know 2 other kids in her class. And the program is all about play-based learning. So I'm not worried about her.

Nick is going to be in for a shock. But we've talked about it. And that he will be going to school next year with her. So far Nickolas seems accepting about all of this. And he's excited we'll be walking to the bus stop every day.

I have absolutely no idea what Katheryn is going to need for school. What do you need for kindergarten? Backpack, lunch bag, shoes, labels. Shopping done.

T minus 7 days

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Talk

In all the excitement before our vacation I forgot to blog about our speech reassessment.

Nickolas did great!!!
We played bunny bowling - which he loved, of course!
And he talked and talked and talked.

Even his pronunciation right now is good. We just have to continue to work with him on the things we are working with Katheryn. Only Nickolas is age appropriate to be working on it (Katheryn is not).
Speech with Nickolas is one thing right now that I feel we have a good handle on.

He was not discharged at this time from speech. But maybe in 6 months when he is reassessed? He'll age out in 18 months anyways (like Katheryn is going to do within the year).

Sabrina (our S/L) didn't re-test him, she said that if he did the exact same as he did on his test last time he would still be age appropriate!
If I had heard this one year ago I'm not sure I would have believed it!
How fast he has caught up with his speech.
Every day he is still come up with more and more words and phrases. I'm still sometimes shocked with the knowledge and awareness that comes out of his mouth. And he is always saying things to make people smile.

My newest favorite words to hear from Nickolas?
I love you
Nickolas is a very loving child. Nick right now is on a "I love you" kick. Every night before bed, "I love you mommy, I love you daddy, I love you katara (Katheryn), I love you hammie (Sammie - our dog)". Katheryn was never this expressive with her 'I love you'.

It melts my heart.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Water, water, everywhere!

Our vacation is almost done.

In total, between my camera (460pics), Kyle's phone (20 pics) and a waterproof camera (27 pics) I took over 500 pictures in these 4 days! Uploading the pictures onto my blog took time becuase first I had to edit out what wasn't good, or doubles, or blurry (got down to 320 pictures). I played around with most of the water camera pics becaue I realized half way through the film that it was 800-speed, so they are really dark. 
I went through all the pictures again to pick out of those what ones I wanted to share, to tell our story. I realized very quickly that there was no way to do one post for the whole trip, I couldn't even do 1 post per day!
Today we tried to take it easy. Check-out time was 11am.
There was some kid activities in the morning, but we couldn't even think about getting up and going. So next time we'll have to remember about them. We were out of the room at 1059, and ready for another full day at the waterpark. We were able to stay there until the park closed, but we also knew that we would be driving home sometime later too.

The kids said good-bye to the bunkbed.
I made sure that we had Nick's walker, because this is what I was waiting for. I don't want Nickolas to be dependant on me for moving around the waterpark. I wanted him to have the freedom to play! To splash! To be independent!

But Nickolas was tired and cranky and clingy and didn't want to be anywhere away from me. He wanted to be carried everywhere. Half the time he didn't even want in the water!

Until we got him in and then he had fun. He actually really liked just floating. He would almost fall asleep.

And once he started swimming and kick, kick, kick! He was having fun!

We were trying to get Katheryn to see that Nick is kicking and swimming (and she should try it too). But it didn't work. Katheryn liked playing in the water and splashing in the water.

We tried to get her to go down one of the kiddie water slides, but she absolutely refused. No Way!
Nickolas did go down yesterday. Once. That was enough for him, I was able to carry him up and put him on the slide, with a little push and then Kyle was on the bottom to pick him up. He said he didn't have fun - with a big smile on his face - but didn't want to go again.
This picture (with my water camera - no flash) was in front of the small water slides.

The kids didn't like water falling. In the waterpark there is a tree-fort kind of area with all kinds of water buckets and water guns and playing. Katheryn went up yesterday, but today when we tried to get her up and exploring she said that there were 'water booby-traps' and she didn't want to.
So we didn't try to make either kid do something they didn't want to do. We were tired too. But we also wanted them to get a whole day out of the park today before we left.

Kyle and I did have a little bit of relaxing time.

And Katheryn loved the basket balls! She made herself in charge of distrubuting all of the balls to kids who didn't have them.

But she took take for splashing!

Nick was fighting us some of the time, not wanting to do anything different. BUT I brought that walker all the way here, just for him to play in the water! SO he was going to playin the water!!

In my head I imagined him playing and walking around with his walker. Having Fun! I made sure to ask before going if it was safe for the walker to get wet. Really wet. I got the A-OK for our equipment guy.

And Nick eventually agreed wit him.

Evenually Nickolas let go of our hands and wanted to try to move around himself.

It was actually pretty good physio for him to navigate and move where he wanted to. There was a slope into the pool, and so he had to go down the slop a bit, but also learn how to stop himself from going too fast (but leaning backwards). He mastered it in no time.

We stayed in the park until about 2pm, then ate lunch and were on our way!

 We had a 2 hour drive ahead of us (at least with rush hour on a Friday afternoon). We knew it was time when the kids started getting really grumpy!

The kids slept all the way home.


Always a sign of a good vacation!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hoooowling good time!

To end off our vacation we decided to do something really special for the kids!
We booked a 1 night stay at Great Wolf Lodge.

It was very expensive (it took up half of our budget), and we didn't get anything close to a deal (in fact the price went up by $60 in the time I was looking to when I actually booked.) I hate not getting a good deal, but I have heard great things about the resort, so we booked it to finish off our vacation.

What we went for mainly, was the waterpark. The waterpark is only for hotel guests, and for one night of stay you get access to 2 days of waterpark. The kids were ecstatic! They love playing in the water.

I packed a whole bag of waterpark stuff separately so we had everything grab-able until check-in time. We had access to the waterpark from 1pm, even though check-in was 4pm.
So out came the life jackets and bathing suits!!!

The place is big and we didn't get a chance to see alot of it. The kids found what they liked. A shallow pool with basketball net, as well as the wave pool. We dragged the kids to explore the rest of what they had, but they knew what they wanted.
We didn't bring Nick's walker in (trying to keep the bulk down) but I brought it just for the water park (more about it in tomorrow's post).
For now Nick was good in his 'water AFOs' and his crocs.

We dried off in time for dinner and to check out our suite!
We have been talking about this suite and upgraded so that Katheryn could have her BUNK BED!! But a bunk bed in a seperate area with its own tv.

Katheryn 'called' the top bunk, but that's where both of them played from the time we came into the suite. We stayed in the KidKamp suite.

The kids loved the suite! It was definitely worth the upgrade.

They played reasonably well together. They both said that they wanted to sleep on the top bunk, but Nick slept on the bottom bunk for only the time he was asleep and then it was back up top!

Great Wolf Lodge has a number of things beyond the waterpark and the bunk beds.
We weren`t there long enough to check out everything. Next time we go i want to definitely stay for 2 nights. They had a midway, spa, exercise room, mini golf and a interactive magic game for older kids. They also have characters that walk around, but with Nick`s experience with mascots, we stayed clear. There was also a choice of places to eat, and it`s own cafe. There were also 2 gift shops, including 1 in the waterpark for water needs.

Everywhere you go in the hotel there is something to do. The lobby has a number of interactive displays with some animals and a big tree, all of which talk.

There are hand prints everywhere to touch and make the characters talk. Katheryn thought it was great! (Nick got scared by them).

Each of us have wrist bands that show we are guests, get us into our room and let us charge things to the room. (Kyle and I only activated that on our bands). The kids also got a second wrist band that says what slides they are allowed to go on.

For dinner we sat so we could see the waterpark. They had a great buffet that had something for everyone.

After dinner they have story time for the kids in the main lobby. Nickolas was so exhausted, he was in going out. So he stayed in the suite with Kyle while Katheryn and I went for the show and story.

Katheryn had her pj's, Tinkerbell (her doll) and her new wolf slippers.
We picked them up because Katheryn had originally gone for story time in bare feet, but part of it was outside. Before we even got to the cash register we had people asking about those slippers (we got the last pair). She loves them - and they even howl.

This is part of the show. All of the characters have parts, tell jokes and move.
Katheryn couldn't take her eyes off the show.

The last part of the show was outside under the stars.
They read Mortimer by one of our favorite Canadian authors; Robert Munsch.

Clang, clang, rattle-bing-bang 
Gonna make my noise all day!
Both kids slept well their last night, exhaustion from too much fun!
One day left to go, we head home tomorrow after a whole day in the water!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Niagara Falls - Animal Encounters

Today was the day that we FINALLY got to go to Marine Land!
This is the day that started our whole maybe we should go on vacation idea last month.
Everyone was so excited for today. Every time any of the Marine Land Ads came on the TV Katheryn will jump up and down and say "This is my favorite song!" And I was saying "This is my favorite song too!" And Nickolas says "This is mommy and Katheryn's favorite song!"
We talked about the rides, the animals and the shows. And we were up ready for some fun first thing in the morning. I had heard that the line ups got long.
We got a special wrist band for Nick. Marine Land has a accessibility feature that lets you go in the back line of the rides which is wheelchair accessible. Our plan was for one of us to go through the front of the line with Katheryn, and the other will meet up with Nick.
But Katheryn took one look at the rides...
And said NO WAY!

So Nick and I went on  2 of the rides together.

I had researched (of course) all of the rides and the height requirements so that I knew exactly all the ones each kid could go on. I even got everyone's height before we left!
We were so excited to get the kids on their first amusement park rides!
Of course (as we'll learn I'm sure over the years) kids will sometimes have their own ideas of what they do and don't want to do.

But Nick was still willing to try out 2 of the rides.

I think I did get some dirty looks from people who were waiting in line and we got ahead of them. I felt like I needed a sign attached to the wheelchair that said "I do it to jump line"

Katheryn and Kyle just sat and watched us!

Katheryn was holding out for the teacup ride, but we couldn't find it.

So we gave up on the rides and went to look at some animals.
We found some beluga's and killer wales.

Nickolas couldn't take his eyes off of them underwater!

Katheryn really, really didn't want to have her picture taken. Even though she was having alot of fun
And Nick just loved doing everything!
And getting up really close
So we thought, hey this is going well. Lets wait in a couple of lines for an hour so we can actually go and touch a beluga! The kids would love that! Right?
Well, someone LOVED touching a beluga (which feels like over-cooked hard boiled egg) and feeding him/her.
Notice how impressed Katheryn is, and how far Nick is trying to get from the whale?! (hiding behind the trainer-guy)

But we did get one family picture, and I picked the one where Nick is not crying. Afterwards Nick told us that the "whale scared me"

So we finished with the touch a beluga, and I got to feed it fish too. We go out of the area and  wash our hands (apparently this was much more fun than actually touching a whale). Katheryn starts crying, "I wanted to feed the whale". No Katheryn, we just did that, you did not want to touch the whale, or get close to it. That  was your chance to touch the whale. "NO! I want to feed the whale".
Katheryn did not get a time-out, but she also did not get to touch the whale. I guess that is what it means to be 4.

We were able to distract them by watching this ride in the middle of the park called the Sky Screamer, where everyone goes up, up, up and then down, down, down. Really fast. Defiantly not a mommy ride.

We did find my favorite ride!
And Katheryn's favorite ride too.
We found the tea-cups!

And we went around, and around, and around in them!

Katheryn was just tall enough for them. So Kyle and Nick sat at the sidelines and watched us (and took some pictures)

Because Katheryn and I went through the ride 4 times!

Katheryn would have gone on that ride all day! But the day wasn't over yet! We still had lots more things to do!

Including meeting some black bears (? I have no idea what bears have to do with marine land - but they were there. Nick thought they were great!)

And they have a deer petting zoo (again deer - marine ?? I don't know)

Kyle and I both have heard the stories (and seen the pictures) from the deer feeding when we were kids and visited Marine Land. Including a deer trying to steal my blankie, and deers swarming Kyle and his brother.
So we were all prepared for the kids to be afraid or overwhelmed and that they might not like it
Wrong again!
Nick thought they were great, but they were a little uneasy about his chair. And Katheryn was very gentle and would try to get them to eat out of her hand.

No stealing, no swarming.

Then we had to rush, rush, rush for our last part of the day!

The show.

They LOVED it!

I loved watching the look of awe on their faces as they watched the marine animals swim and jump around.
I might have been watching the kids more than I watched the show!

Then it was time to check out the gift shop (and of course get something) and we were all ready for an early night!
Everyone had fun at Marine Land!

Because the fun isn't over yet! We have more planned for tomorrow!