Showing posts with label living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label living. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kindergarten

I suppose I should start off with excuses about this blog being dead (oops). I don't have much. My laptop was dying a slow death and I have a new one now.

Kingsley has been in school for a month and a half now. I was very anxious about kindergarten. In Ontario, kids start Junior Kindergarten the year they turn four, followed by Senior Kindergarten the year they turn five. Both are optional and both are full days, all day. The majority of kids go.

We had a few preliminary meetings with the school through the spring. I was feeling pretty confident right up until the week before school when I discovered that staff had been shuffled and Kingsley would be having new teachers we did not know, a new principal we had not met, a new ECE we didn't know and whether he'd have an EA in the classroom and how much and who it would be was all unknown also. And new secretaries who would not tell me anything.

I may have panicked.

A lot.

Thankfully, the school VP stepped in and we were able to see the classroom, meet the teachers and get names for everyone else before the big day.

The Tuesday after Labour Day, I dropped Kingsley off for his first day of school. He was beyond excited. Like, angry-at-me-for-taking-so-many-stinkin-pictures excited. Begging-to-go-RIGHT-NOW excited. "See ya, Mom" and not-looking-back excited. He was just so ready for it.


The girls also had great first days. They were more anxious about who their teachers were and who would be in their classes, whether they'd be with friends. It all worked out!


Amazingly, there have been very few blips. He LOVES school. He is so disappointed by weekends, asks every morning if he can go to school. He loves to be there, loves his friends, loves the playtime. He doesn't love the school work part, his pre-printing skills are feeble attempts at best. Whether this is a lack of interest or a long history of taking his time to develop skills, I'm not sure.

As with preschool, Kingsley is blending in like every other kid. I went in and spoke to the class about spina bifida and Kingsley's wheelchair in the first week. They were completely unfazed, mostly wanting to discuss their various scars or differences. I also sent a letter home for all of the parents explaining briefly that Kingsley has spina bifida, what it is, that he is paralyzed but otherwise just like their kids. It went over really well with the families I have since spoken to.

So, things are going well here. School is a piece of cake! Who would've thought?

 he's SO MAD that I stopped them for one more picture!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Schmanniversary

It was Groundhog Day for about 19 hours before I realized that Groundhog Day was an anniversary for Kingsley. It's been three years since his tethered cord surgery (surgery #4 for him). I probably wouldn't have remembered at all except that when I told King we had to go to the doctor tomorrow he said he didn't want to have another surgery.

It happened last week also. And the whole week after his birthday. It's not that I forgot that these dates were big deals in Kingsley's life once, but just that I didn't remember. I didn't remember the anniversary of the first day I held him. The day he got his shunt (surgery #2 - I remembered the next day). The day he moved out of the PCCU. The day Jeff first held him. The day we brought him home.

For his first three birthdays, the events were burned into my head. There were a few days leading up to his birth, then the eleven days afterward, I would relive the moments in my head as the anniversaries rolled by. I remember the dates of his surgeries. The anniversaries of the days he came home, every time. I wondered if I would always remember them... I guess not.

His first year seems a long time ago now. Life rolls on. Things just get better. :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Max and Ruby

A few weeks ago I entered a random contest on Facebook through Koba Entertainment and ended up winning four tickets to see Max and Ruby live along with a meet n' greet. I enter random things like that all the time, so I wasn't really expecting to win. When I did win, I had that moment of panic though: can I accept this? I emailed them back right away and asked about accessibility. You just never know. The PR person was great, said she'd notified the venue about our needs.

Kingsley is a huge Max and Ruby fan. Anyone who has seen the show seems to either love it or hate it. Simply put: children love it, parents hate it. I actually don't mind it that much. It makes Kingsley laugh. I kind of admire Ruby's patience with Max. And Grandma reminds me of Jeff's mom.


The kids were incredibly excited to go, all three of them. They were bouncing off the walls as we got ready to leave. Jeff had no desire to come had to work late, so it was just me and the three monkeys. We arrived early and picked up our tickets. As soon as we handed them over at the gate, the nice man there informed me that we didn't have a wheelchair seat and immediately went back to the ticket area to fix that. The Meet n Greet people had also not been prepared for a wheelchair backstage, but they figured out a solution quickly. Very nice people.

I tried very hard to prepare King for what he was about to meet. Little animated characters are one thing, ginormous costumed adults are something entirely different. I couldn't prep him enough. We went through the door and Kingsley just froze. Wide eyed, mute. He wouldn't high five, he wouldn't wave, he wouldn't do so much as a thumbs up in their direction. Cordelia also froze. Rachel acted as though Max and Ruby were her long lost BFF's. I could only stand by and laugh.


The show was very entertaining. The kids loved it, we had great seats. No, their parents weren't there. ;)

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Little Bull

It started with Cordelia. She and Kingsley like to play. She's a bit of a rough-and-tumble kid, so she appealed to King's daredevil side and started tossing his wheelchair around. She'd push him, he'd go flying down the hallway, hands raised and a big scream flying out. It evolved into him spinning around and chasing back after her for more, then just him chasing her down. Somewhere along the line, he started running into her. At first she thought it was funny. It's not funny anymore.

I first realized it was a problem when he almost took out an 18 month old at preschool pick up. He had that gleeful look in his eye that he gets when he and Cordelia are playing. Cordelia and Kingsley and I have had many talks since then about not running into people and not enticing anyone to run into them.

It's not working.

Two days ago, he plowed into Cordelia unprovoked and when she fell down, he attempted to roll on over her. Ughhhhh...

he always looks so innocent...

Let me tell you something: it is really awkward disciplining a child on wheels. When I put Cor or Rach in a time out and they didn't want to be there (shocker) it was very easy to pick them up and plop them back into their spot. It feels wrong to put King's brakes on and park him in a corner. It felt more wrong to put the brakes on his stander, because he can't take those brakes off. I could also put him on his bed, his booster at the kitchen table, his carseat and he wouldn't be able to go anywhere (but I don't). It's strange having so much control over a child his age. It's creepy. Until he started seeing everyone as his personal matador, I haven't had to discipline King much at all. He's a pretty easy going kid whose biggest offense was trying to speed down ramps. This is going to take some figuring out for both of us.

In the meantime, please keep all red capes away from him, okay? Or just watch your back.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rockstar Milestones

Kingsley has hit another milestone. This one is so... strange. New-normal-strange. 

He moves his legs. With his hands. 

It's a pretty big milestone, if you think about it. He's going to have to move his legs around to get dressed on his own, transfer himself from his chair to wherever, and I don't even know what else. 

It's been so strange watching him come to this realization. The first time I saw it was when he was sitting and he had moved, which traps one leg underneath him - he leaned back and then pushed his foot forward with his hand to get back into a crossed-legged position. Prior to this, I had always had to adjust his legs for him. The next thing I noticed was in the van, in his carseat. Apparently he has a preference for how his legs dangle, so he moved them. 


Before now, his legs have just been there. He touches them, he knows what they are and that they're his, he'll move what he can if you tell him to, but that's about it. Now, he'll lay on his back, lift from the hips and ask me to help him pull his legs up with his hands, tucking his knees to his chest. 

Something so simple. I'm guessing there are a whole bunch of these milestones that he will hit that I'm completely oblivious to right now. I can't think of what they would be, but he will. 


That's pretty freakin cool. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Talking to YOUR Kids

The little boy peeked around his mom's leg with wide eyes.
"Mom, what happened to him?" he whispered.
She looked over at us with equally wide eyes and quickly shushed her son.
"But, why is he in that?" he persisted.
"You can't ask that," she hissed, as she pushed him behind her leg again and continued to watch the show.
The boy peered out again and I caught his eye this time, as his mom looked over at me and made an embarrassed gesture.
"It's okay," I assured her, then crouched down beside Kingsley so that I was eye level with both boys, "He was born this way."
"Do his legs work?"
"Nope, that's why he has a wheelchair."
"Can he feel them?"
"Nope. It's kind of like if your foot fell asleep and you couldn't feel it."
He smiled up at his mom and then turned back to watch the show. Kingsley continued watching, oblivious to the conversation.

~

"That's Rachel's brother!"
"Ask her! Ask her!"
"Rachel! Why does your brother have a wheelchair? Hey, Rachel! What happened to your brother? Rachel!"
Rachel chatted on with her girlfriends, oblivious to the small group of boys behind her, pointing to Kingsley. At the same moment, two of them glanced up and saw me watching them. Their mouths snapped shut, but their eyes were wavering between curiosity and guilt. One bravely stammered: "Did he get hurt?"
"No, this is just how he was born."
"Do his legs hurt?"
"Not at all."
"Oh," they looked at each other and one shrugged before they turned away and carried on with their First Day of School reunions.

~

"How old is he?"
The little boy was standing with me just behind Kingsley, watching as he giggled and tapped the soccer players on the computer screen.
"He's three."
"That's like me!" he said delightedly, "E'cept I'm four."
I nodded, smiling.
"Can he stand up?"
"No."
"Can his legs work at all?"
"No, not really."
The boy thought for a second, then asked with a horrified expression, "But how does he PEE??"
I sat back on my heels, for once stunned by a child's question and unsure how to answer. Who was this kid and what in the world made him know to ask that? "Um... just like you..."
"E'cept sitting down?"
OH. Right.
"Yeah."
He slid in next to Kingsley and they kept playing together until it was time for us to leave.

~

The girls eyes followed us as we entered the room and sat down. Their table was not far away from us, so I heard as she turned to her mom and asked, "Mom... why can't he walk? Why is that boy in a wheelchair?"
Her mom glanced up casually at us and looked at Kingsley wheeling along behind his sisters.
"Well, some kids are just born that way. Their body can't tell their legs to move," she watched a second longer and then added, "His wheels light up, did you see that? Pretty cool."
As her daughter turned back to her ice cream, the woman glanced up at me, as if to gauge my reaction.  I smiled and gave a small nod.


Kids ask me about Kingsley all the time. Kids are naturally curious about the people and things around them. I am sure that adults are equally curious, but we have been taught to squash the urge to ask (or if that hasn't happened, we have a tendency to ask in incredibly awkward ways).

Kingsley is three. His speech is not entirely clear, when he chooses to acknowledge strangers at all. He doesn't respond or appear to care when people ask questions about him, so for now it's up to me to field the questions and I don't mind at all. I don't know if King will want to answer these questions or if he'll one day wish everyone would just shut up and leave him alone. Because of this, I feel a little bit inadequate as to what the universal 'right' way to deal with inquisitive children/people, but in my experience, most parents of children with a disability or adults with a disability would prefer you let your children ask, respectfully, and answer them as frankly and calmly as you can.

Here are a couple great tips on talking to your children about disabilities:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/02/disability-awareness-parents-teach-kids_n_3696279.html
http://crippledgirl.com/2011/03/tips-for-talking-to-your-kids-about-disabilities/

There was also an episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood this past week that addressed a lot of the common questions I get about Kingsley when he makes friends with a girl who uses leg braces and crutches. It would make a great ice breaker for kids to get talking about disabilities: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqjBSulEqYU


It's important to talk to them. To break down the fears of disabilities, differences, diagnoses, and equipment, we have to let children know that they're all okay. Wheelchairs are a wonderful thing. Communication aids are phenomenal. Hearing aids are fantastic. Feeding tubes are divine. They aren't scary, they aren't contagious, they just let kids be kids.


I talk to Rachel and Cordelia (and Kingsley) about differences and disabilities all the time. We recently read a couple of books about kids who use wheelchairs who are bullied (WHY OH WHY are all 'wheelchair' books about this?) because the other kids think they're different. They were flabbergasted. They literally could not understand why these fictitious kids could not see past the wheelchair and realize that the wheeler was just a normal kid. I love them for that and I so desperately wish that other kids felt the same way.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Six Questions

I was tagged by Mary Evelyn over at What Do You Do Dear, which means that I have no choice but to answer six questions about myself, because her and her little boy Simeon are so cute and I would hate to see them cry. No one wants to be the reason a little boy is crying. And Cassie did it, so that means all the cool kids are involved. [insert sheep noises]

Here are my six.

1. Is this how you imagined your life would be?

Yes, exactly. Only in the sense that I never really imagined what life would be. Thinking too far ahead gives me anxiety, so I had vague plans about having a partner (but no dream wedding plans whatsoever), I definitely wanted kids, and assumed I'd be brilliantly educated and working with children with special needs of some kind. So, check, check, check, and check. Yep, livin' the dream! ;)


2. What's your drink of choice when out with girlfriends?

I almost feel like I should act like this doesn't happen that often, but... I do really like white wine. Pinot is my preference, but I won't turn down a gross bar white. I prefer to think of it as not being pretentious. I also like Pomtini's. And Palm Bay's.

3. What hobbies do you have that you don't mention in your blog?

This is dreadfully boring, which is probably why I don't mention it in my blog. I like to read, but I go in spurts with it. I love yoga, but sadly don't do enough of it. I took up running, then soccer which ended both my running and my soccer days. Now I've gone back to swimming, which I haven't done in about 15 years but turns out I'm still pretty good at. I also spend a lot of time online reading blogs, research articles (aka Facebook links), and self improvement websites (aka Pinterest). There is also the occasional Mensa-level, brain challenge (aka Candy Crush).

4. Name one thing about yourself that has surprised you.

I don't have control over my facial expressions. If I'm not making eye contact with you it's because I'm thinking something I don't want you to know and so I'm hiding it. This was awful when I was working and was something I would constantly be working on. Dead pan, non-judgmental expressions are hard. Shock. Horror. Amusement. Anger. Disbelief. Confusion. I used to think I was good at this, but turns out I'm not. At least I know now and can try to hide it.

5. How did your blog come about?

OK, so total giveaway question. When I was pregnant with Kingsley we read a lot of blogs and Jeff told me I should start one also. I didn't actually start four years ago, I started after he was born and then back dated stuff I had written in other places. Scandalous.

6. If money were no issue, I'd purchase...

Holy blaze, there's a lot of things I would purchase. I'd do that third-wish-for-more-wishes thing and purchase a huge, jackpot-winning lottery ticket. But if money were no issue, perhaps I would have already won the lotto and this would be overkill. Is it wrong to say a Cure? I'm not sure what for though. Can you purchase a long and happy life for yourself and your family? That's what I'd buy.

OK, now it's your turn. I'm supposed to tag people and taunt them with threats to continue the trend, so Kristin, Amanda, Laura, you're up!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

If I Had Known

If I had known what life was going to be like right now, four years after we were told about Kingsley's diagnosis, I wonder if I would have reacted differently. Would I have gotten so upset if I knew how much he would laugh? If I had known how little his sisters would care about any of it, would I have worried so much? If I had known about the surgeries and the wheelchair, would it have made me feel worse? Maybe the way he loves to snuggle and his incredible independence would have negated some of the ache.

Jeff said today that this wasn't the kind of anniversary he remembered. I told him it's not the kind of anniversary I can forget.


But if I had known about how strong he hugs;

about how sweet his breath still smells, even though he's not a baby anymore;

about how funny he thinks he is;

about how much attitude he can give you when he's mad;

about how sweet his little voice is;

about how much he loves being read to;

about how much he loves trains and buses and trucks;

about how deep his belly laugh is;

about how he knows everything a 3 year old is supposed to know;

about how our life is still pretty awesome;

about how much we don't care about his wheelchair or any of it.


If we had known how much we would love him, anyway, in spite of it, because of it, regardless of it, not thinking about it, not caring about it, when we're immersed in it, when we don't even think about it... I think it would have been easier. It was easy to look at those doctors and tell them we didn't care, to walk out of there, to not look back. It was not easy to keep breathing after that. Had I known, it would've been.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Bog

In my search to find places I can take all three kids to hang out, my friend recommended the Sifton Bog. I've been there exactly once in my life and it was with a client way pre-kids. I had completely forgotten about this little gem!

It was a nice, sunny day today and we had nothing to do, so I dragged the kids into the van and off we went. Let me tell you, it was a hard sell. When I explained it, Rachel and Cordelia kept repeating: "But that's it?? Just walking? Nothing else? But what else do we do there? That's it?..." and on and on.

The Bog is basically just a boardwalk. It starts with a stretch of gravel, which was well groved and impossible for King to push himself along. Short trip, then it was wood planks.



It's nice, even planks, very easy for Kingsley to go down. The only trouble was that it dropped off on either side, as in - one wrong wheel and King would've face planted down a foot or so into the dirt and trees. I didn't worry about the girls, but Kingsley loves to watch his wheels light up when he goes very fast (his preferred speed) and that means he doesn't look where he's going. I just held his handle the whole walk and it was all fine.

The boardwalk leads to:


There were a bunch of tween-ish boys when we got there, which ended up being awesome. They had nets and were getting right in where they shouldn't have been (so glad I'm not their mother!) pulling out turtles, tadpoles, and frogs and attracting fish for my kids to watch.


All three were in heaven. We stayed on that dock for nearly an hour, just watching and exploring.


I didn't get any pictures of Kingsley because I either had a death grip on his wheelchair to make sure he didn't wheel himself over the edge or later crawl over the edge when he was lying on the dock, dangling over so he could play with the water.

I will admit, I am not a fan of all of natures creatures. They're all fine from a distance, so it took a lot of effort not to shudder and run away when these boys were running over with turtles and frogs to show Kingsley. At one point, two dragonflies landed on my shirt. I know, dragonflies are all cool and pretty and whatever, but seriously, it took all of my energy to force a smile and not scream as Rachel took this picture. She was thrilled. I was paralyzed with fear.

GET. OFF. ME.

All in all, a gold star trip. Thumbs up for the bog, we'll be back! (with bug repellent)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Little Fish

Jeff and I met as lifeguards, have I mentioned that? We both grew up in water. I did swimming, he did diving and waterpolo. We both love being in the water and are completely comfortable there.

Rach is reenacting our lifeguarding days

Having a child who can't use his lower body stumped me. How in the world would he fit in our family? How would he go to swimming lessons? How would we take him to the beach? What in the world would he do in our backyard pool??


I started taking Kingsley swimming when he was a baby at our Centre which has a very, very warm little therapy pool. At the time we moved into this house last spring, I'd say Kinger was the most comfortable in the water of the three of them. He didn't panic when he was dunked (though he didn't like it either), he could float almost on his own on his back, and he really loved just hanging out in the water.


Through sheer exposure to water, the girls have magically learned to swim this summer. It's truly blown my mind. Rachel has gone from a timid floater to swimming in the deep end all day, every day. Cordelia isn't comfortable in the deep end yet, but she's gone from freaking out if her face got splashed to swimming underwater.


Kingsley is finding his way. He wears a puddle jumper in the water, which is a fabulous invention, in my opinion. In June, I had to be thisclose to him to make sure he didn't tip over and get a big mouthful of water. He didn't know what to do with his arms, couldn't stay level, and only went where we took him. I predicted the most boring summer in the world, having to stand in the shallow end keeping him from drowning while everyone else got to actually swim.

workin' on the chest muscles

Fortunately, I was totally wrong. King is a little fish! I don't even have to be near him, he just swims around using his arms. If his face goes in now, it's because he wanted it to (or because Jeff dunked him). He likes to hang out on the stairs and play with his trains (aka bath toys), take the dog for a walk (aka hang onto the tube for the automatic pool vacuum), do push ups on the lane rope, and ride on my back as I swim around. He's also good at jumping in (aka sitting on the edge and throwing himself into the pool).


I don't know what the future holds for him in the pool. I know there is a place I can access for 1:1 swimming lessons that I'm going to tap in to soon and see if they can teach him to swim without his legs. I'm confident that he'll find his way.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Four Eyes

Remember last year when Kingsley went cross-eyed and scared the pants off of us thinking there was something major going on and it turned out to be a random thing that corrected itself?


We went to the eye doctor today and turns out he's still doing great, his vision is great, his eyes are healthy, everything is fine still. Same with the girls, 3 kids with 6 healthy, perfectly working eyes. Unfortunate, kind of, since they are so ridiculously cute in glasses...


I wasn't so lucky! It's funny how a lot of people don't know that I wear contacts, considering how bad my eyesight is (-7.00 and -8.00 for real). Sadly, I rarely ever wear glasses. The ones I have are from before I even got pregnant with Rachel, so, I was a bit overdue for a new pair. As always, I have big ambitions to actually wear my new glasses in public. We'll see. ;)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Cuz's

July has been a super busy month, due mostly to my sister visiting with her crew. They live way across the country, so we don't get to see them that often. Fortunately, when she does come, I steal her camera card and take all of her pictures so that I suddenly seem way more adept at photography than I really am.

 at the drive-in, while King was trying to escape and roam free in the weeds

 don't you sometimes wish you could still sit at the kid table? 

 I love how this shows their growth with their legs

 movie night!

this picture just makes me laugh, from cross-eyed Rachel to Kamille's gansta face

summer is not complete without a lemonade stand 

I love how these 5 get along like they're always together, they just gel. Something about their ages this visit was just perfect - they never fought. Can't get better than cousin besties. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#Pinterest #Win

Way back last year sometime when I first fell in love with the insanity that is Pinterest, I stumbled upon an upcycled crib that got me giddy. Let me just explain why this is beyond awesome.

First, drop-side cribs that are pretty standard are now banned in Canada. If you have one, you can't sell it and you aren't supposed to use it unless the manufacturers sent you the kit that makes it no longer a drop-side crib, just a giant jail cell with four nailed-in walls. This recall/ban happened when King was a baby sometime and did not phase me in the slightest. For starters - our crib broke the night I put it together when I was pregnant with Rachel (Picture this:  there is a hockey game on TV. A 7-month-humongously pregnant woman is putting together a crib. She asks her heavily distracted husband to just hold the board while she screws in the four screws. He agrees. She screws in one side. Someone scores. He lets go. The board splits. The woman cries. Then the woman calls her dad. He glues it back together. It holds three children because Dad is awesome) so, there was no expectation that we would be able to sell this crib either way. However, there's also no chance of hanging on to the crib for future generations since it's already obsolete. I was just thrilled to have ANYTHING to do with this crib other than the dump.


Another reason this crib was so awesome was that it was turned into a desk that could be set at basically any level. We have such trouble finding tables and desks that are the right height for King. Adult-sized are too high, child-sized are too low for his wheels. At one point, we had even considered having a table custom made for him, just to have one. Colouring, playdough, trains, cars, puzzles, snacks, tea parties - there are so many reasons a child needs a table that they can access. Kinger has become an expert at siding up next to things, but most of the time he just gets frustrated and gives up instead.

Sooo... for the last few weeks my sister has been visiting from BC and her husband came along. The man (thankfully) is incapable of relaxing and vacationing. Instead, he scrubbed windows, cleaned out window wells, mowed the lawn, fixed our gate, and then did the grunt work on this upcycle. The original upcycle had some extra board put over and edging or something... mine is not so fancy. Kevin sanded, primed, and then painted the original board with chalkboard paint. It looks awesome. Today, I put the pieces together and held my breath. There are three levels the board could be at, or there was the option of just breaking out some nails and setting it wherever I want. By some total miracle, the highest level was perfect!

PERFECT height in his stander! 

I don't think this could be a more perfect height for his wheelchair

the girls got super excited when they saw the new desk 

the perfect, accessible tabletop for trains! 

This may be my favourite Pin ever. I am so glad that I held on to it and made this happen. So, parents, hang on to those cribs and give your kids a free desk. Brilliant! 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A King Lives Here Part 2

Very exciting news: as of this week, our outside is officially finished! Unfortunately, it now suffers the same fate of the inside in that it requires some fancy decorating/landscaping and looks a little bare in the meantime. Not that anyone actually cares except me ;) 

The first and most important part of the outdoor design was making all three entries accessible. As with everything else, we didn't want it to scream WHEELCHAIR USER LIVES HERE. We chose to do everything outside in concrete because it could be a smooth ride for King and could be uniform in all areas. They worked with the grading of our lot so that we wouldn't have to use railings or ramps of any kinds in the front yard. The front door area is covered, the pathway from the driveway to the front door is slightly inclined, but King can easily manage it even now. 

pretend you don't see the garden of weeds begging for attention

The garage is the second entryway that we have made accessible. From the driveway, through the garage and right into the mudroom is a slightly inclined but easily manageable pathway without any stairs. 

On the other side of the garage is a pathway to the backyard. It is 4 feet wide because of a few areas where things jut out and would interfere with the required 3 feet to make it an accessible pathway. There is a door from the garage to this path on the side of the house that has a step down. We couldn't make that accessible, but figure it won't be a big deal. 

 you can see on the fence post there my dad and Jeff tried to make a little string King could use to open the gate since the latch is too high up for him to reach. we'll have to figure that out as he gets older.

At the end of the pathway to the backyard is a junction where you either go down a couple steps to the grass or go to the patio on the left. We mostly just block off this area right now until King is old enough to understand why going down stairs in a wheelchair is a bad idea. 

this is the view looking from the front yard and then looking forward from the backyard. we had to use retaining wall there to keep the pathway level. Eventually, that blank space will be landscaped into something pretty. 

The back patio is my favourite place right now. It has our third accessible entry for Kingsley that leads into our kitchen.  The patio is also concrete and obviously level with the main floor. They had to put a foundation under it to hold the weight of the concrete and use a lot of fancy stones to secure certain parts. I have no idea what the size is, but it's big enough for lots of playing, eating, entertaining, and lounging.


To get off the patio, I had to cave and allow them to put in a ramp. Again, they played with the grading of the lot a bit so that we wouldn't have to put in railings along it, instead, just some decorative rocks and that's it. For those of us who can use them, there are also stairs. The top of the stairs doesn't have a gate and that's something we are debating as Kingsley has made it perfectly clear that it is his greatest ambition to fly off the patio down the stairs. For now, we push the kids picnic table to the top of the stairs as a barrier. The ramp gives Kingsley access to the grass area where one day we will have the sandbox and
my vegetable garden. Both the stairs and ramp finish at the same point - the gate to the pool.


Here is my lousy photo editing to show the whole back entry, patio, ramp, and all that. I probably should've cleaned up, but I didn't. Sorry about that.  


The last part of our accessible yard is the pool. We hemmed and hawed over this for ages. In the end, there were just a few things we did for Kingsley. The first was putting a 3 foot perimetre of concrete, past the edging. The pool cover rolls into the ground, so it's not impeding him in any way. Lastly, we put stairs at both ends as we figured these would one day be something he would be able to get up or down, unlike a ladder. We considered a lift, but had a few adults who use wheelchairs tell us it wouldn't get used. We can add it later if we need to. We also fenced the pool separately, which is something I feel strongly about. The pool gate locks and the kids have had it drilled into them that Rule #1 is that they cannot be within the pool fence without an adult.


 in the picture on the right you can see the white strip on the ground where the pool cover hides. that's the deep end, the other pictures are the stairs in the shallow end. 

And that's it! Just when I thought I couldn't love my house anymore, I totally do. The kids are so in love with the backyard also, they spend every sunny minute outside now. It is AMAZING to be able to just let King outside with the girls on the patio and know that he can just play and be wherever they are, doing whatever they're doing.  I am so happy that we have this house for them to grow up in. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

What's a Kid to Do?

The past year or so has been quite educational as far as what is accessible for children in our city. Kingsley has now had his wheelchair for 16 months and in that time I have been endlessly brainstorming about ways to keep him busy. Some places have been awesome. Some are total flops. There are so many things to do, places to go when you have children. So many places that you take for granted. You might notice how hard it is to maneuver a stroller through Gymboree, how inaccessible shopping is downtown, and even get irritated when the automatic door buttons are broken, but until you have an independently wheeling child, those annoyances suddenly become barriers in the most real sense.

Here is my run-down on the places in our 'hood that people hang out with kids:

1. Parks: there are designated parks in London that are meant to be more accessible and disability-friendly. It's a bunch of hooey. These parks usually include a play structure with a single ramp that Kingsley can roll up and hang out on a platform that then has steps up or down to get to the action. Sometimes there might be a bubble thing for him to look through. Wow. They also have dips in the concrete pathways that lead down to wood chips, I assume so that he can roll down into the wood chips? Brilliant. Unfortunately, the wood chips aren't usually topped up, so no matter where you're rolling into this section, you're dropping off a curb to get there. Into wood chips.

 yay! woodchips!!

wow! a ramp to stairs and a drop in the curb to roll on into those fun woodchips

There is usually a swing there that is for people with physical disabilities, in that it's a huge chair with a bars that come over your shoulders and connect between your legs, kind of like on a rollercoaster. They're adult sized. I read the fine print on the swing once, just trying to find out it's purpose as it is so big it fits two of my children at once. It says there are additional straps to support smaller people. The straps are not there.


There is ONE park we have found and - gloriously - it's the one closest to our new house! It has three whole ramps for King and each ramp leads to an actual activity, a piano, a finger maze, and I forget the other thing. Kingsley loves it. There are still wood chips, but (at least last summer) they were topped up to curb level and he loved to sit and play in them. It's a big playground with a lot of paths. It's not perfect, but it is somewhere that we can all go and have fun.


the school playground is also partially accessible

2. StoryBook Gardens: this is a big thing in our city and kids love it. I LOVED it when I was a kid, though it's changed a lot since then. When Kingsley was a baby, this was a great place to take the kids. Kingsley would nap, nurse, people watch, play in the huge sand pit, and have a great ol' time while the girls played. Now, not so much. The park itself is accessible and has lovely paths, but none of the structures, rides, or activities are wheelchair friendly. Kingsley is no longer content to sit and watch, so this place is out. Sadly.

3. Children's Museum: another huge thing for kids in our city and was when I was a kid as well. This place is accessible, has an elevator and ramps, activities at his level and that he can access, lots of fun. However, the museum has HUGE safety hazards in the form of big wide open stairwells on the upper levels. They are central stairs, right in the middle of the action and there is nothing to stop Kingsley from flying right down them or have another kid bump him in that direction. I am shuddering even typing that. There is also a big wide open stairwell down to a mermaid sand pit, where of course King loves to play. It gives me nightmares. It's on my to-do list to email them and tell them to put in some flippin posts at the top of the stairs, for Pete's sake. Until that happens (and I'm not holding my breath), we can't hang out there unless I'm one on one with King.

4. Indoor Playlands: there are basically three in this category - Adventures on Wonderland, Kidscape, and McDonald's. McDonald's is pretty much the same everywhere and they aren't accessible, not even remotely. And it's McDonald's. Kidscape and AOW have the same problem, being that they aren't accessible. They are big places with different spaces within them, lots of kids running here, there, and everywhere, back and forth. He can get in. He can sit and watch. As a baby, there were big mat areas where he could play, but that got old when the only thing I could do with him was PT exercises. Boring mommy ;)

5. Skating Arenas: they are accessible! We haven't been able to go this year, since my PT laughed at me when I asked if I could skate with a torn ACL, but last year we went and King had his borrowed sledge and did great. I have heard that you can even borrow sledges if you call ahead, but I don't know if that's true. The change rooms are just benches, like any skating place, I suppose. I'm not sure I've ever seen a change table, nevermind an accessible change table. We don't hang out long though, so have never needed one.

6. City Swimming Pools: they're kinda iffy. I mean, they are accessible, but not overly. A couple of them have lifts or ramps, but the city-run pools don't really have accessible change tables or spaces to change King other than a bench. It's fine now, at this age and with his abilities, but I know others have had issues with this. It's part of why we've put in a pool at our new house.

7. YMCA: oh, boy, I had high hopes for this place. ;) Fortunately, they have not let me down again! It's great. The change room is great, the pool has a ramp and a lift (though not to the shallow end, but this doesn't bother us right now). The gym, the playrooms, the activities for kids, and the whole place is very inclusive. Kingsley can go anywhere and do (almost) anything. They have a Treehouse room with a structure similar to the indoor playlands, but different in that there are things on ground level that King can wheel into/under. I've only gone to the one in the north end, but I hear the other Y's are also good.

8. Libraries: I can't say enough about how much I love our public libraries. We've been to a handful now, and not one has disappointed us. They all have train tables, books (obviously!), computers, tables at Kingsley's height, toys, floor space to sit and hang out... they're just awesome. We go weekly, sometimes more, all year round. All three kids love them. I love them. We love them. Except the family bathroom in the Westmount one has a hugely heavy door that does not have a button to open it. It's ridiculous. But other than that, love. ;)


9. Movies: Jeff and I have always been drive-in people. We used to drive his half-dead car with the dead stereo to the outskirts of the city and listen to the movies on a beat up old ghettoblaster that ate batteries for breakfast. It was cheap and we could bring our own snacks. Anyway, it's also a great place to bring babies because you can roll up the window or strap them in a wrap and go for a walk if they started to cry. Now, the kids understand what 'adult movie - go to bed' means so we wait until the first movie is a family movie and pack up the kids. The location itself is not accessible, not the bathrooms (unless there's separate one I've never noticed?),  not the gravel paths, nor the playground. But, we can all go and hang out by the van and play, get comfy in chairs and make it work for now.


We took Kingsley to his first movie theatre a week ago! It was great and he did surprisingly well, quite surprisingly considering how big and loud the theatre is. The only issue is that the wheelchair spaces are all down in front and the good theatres are the really big ones which means you'd have to be looking up to watch the movie. Not my favourite place to sit. We parked his wheels and he sat on my lap, which is where he wanted to be anyway.

10. Other People's Houses: this is one that is starting to become a problem and I don't see that changing. He's outgrowing his Bumbobile. His little bum and skinny legs fit in the seat just fine, but it's low to the ground and at his age, kids start to stand up more. To be at the level of his peers/sisters, he prefers his wheelchair or stander. Unfortunately, people's homes are not generally designed to be accessible so his big wheels don't fit and kids don't stay put. They run upstairs to show you their room, run downstairs to grab more toys, want to play outside... And Kingsley is left there with me and the other mom. I am getting better at inviting people to our house to play, since it's pretty kid friendly and King can obviously get anywhere. Even going downstairs, other kids are very eager to wait for Kingsley since it means they get to ride the elevator. This is one hurdle that won't get any easier as he grows up, but I'm not dwelling on it yet. We will tackle it as it comes.

11. Bowling: this is one rare gem that we've stumbled upon. There's a cool place here called the Palasad where you can play arcade games, bowl, eat, and a bunch of other stuff. There was one right by our old house that underwent big renovations and one of the things they did was make it completely accessible! I took the kids to a birthday party there recently, full of anxiety, and as soon as I walked in the door a staff member appeared out of thin air asking if King was going to bowl and they had a ramp there before we even got to the alley. I haven't been to the other big bowling-fun place here, Fleetway, but I'm told they are connected with an organization for adults with disabilities and have made sure it's accessible for everyone.



That's about all that I've found. The malls are also all accessible, but Kingsley's not a huge fan of shopping without an ice cream bribe. Fortunately right now we are surrounded by construction, which is still endlessly entertaining for Kingsley. When we get really bored, we walk up the street to the end of the subdivision where they are preparing the next field for an apartment building. There are a lot of diggers and dump trucks, cement trucks, and cranes around here. The construction crews are so friendly to Kingsley, waving and honking their horns. He loves it.

If there are more places to go that I don't know about, let me know! It's going to be a long summer. :)
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