Monday, August 17, 2015

Ella Goes to School

Last week was the start of another official 'first day of school.' Now is the time of year I would typically write a post sobbing about how hard it is to let these kids go and grow up, how much I miss them and summer, and how quiet the days are now.
WAAAAHHHHH!!!! Okay.. got that over with.
But this year was a little different. This year I wasn't just letting my older boys go.
This year was Ella's first day of school too. 

For Ella's first day there was so much more to plan for. So much more to prepare for. I had a hard time letting the boys go to preschool when they were 4. (Let's face it.. I still have a hard time letting them go at 9 & 7) but this was much more than buying them a new backpack and pulling out my hair trying to locate the extra large 12 count triangle tip box of Crayolas on their back to school list while navigating the crammed-with-people-because-its-tax-free-weekend-way-too-narrow-Target aisle with 5 kids in tow. This was much more than a stereotypical emotional 'how did my babies grow up so fast' morning. This required months of planning. Therapy sessions, IEP meetings, conversations with other special needs parents, transportation negotiations, piles of paperwork, and sleepless nights worrying. How would she do at school? Would she be scared? Would she cry and wonder where I was? Would the other kids accept her? Would she make friends? Would her teacher be able to help her? Would it be too overwhelming? Would it be worth it?

My very top concern was who her aide would be. 
Fortunately we had a plan.

And this is where the story goes completely wrong.

We planned to have an aide hired last spring. She could attend her IEP meeting and learn all about CdLS. I made a sign language book to give her with all of the signs Ella knows so she would have time to learn her language. We scheduled dates for summer visits so Ella would be comfortable with her at school. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and I almost hugged her at our first meeting because I was just so relieved to know the person the school had hired was kind and calm and loving. That all started out smoothly enough. Until the aide backed out halfway through the summer. Mere weeks before school another aide was hired. We were able to meet with her a few times, but oh wait--she wouldn't be there the first day of school. That's okay--the preschool room aide who Ella was semi-comfortable with would fill in. Oh wait.. nope. Two days before school started I found out she resigned as well. So the very first day of school left us showing up having absolutely no clue who I was turning my child over to. My precious girl, who only last year started allowing other people to look in her general direction without screaming bloody murder, was now to be left in the hands of a complete stranger. 

Ella knew something was up from the very start of the day. Why is mom fussing with my hair? Why are we rushing through breakfast? Why is that crazy lady taking all these pictures? We've visited the school many times to get Ella comfortable there and every time she LOVES it. She knows her brothers and grandma are there, so I really wasn't all that worried that she would be scared. I mean.. we planned for this. Except when we got to the school Ella refused to get out of the car. And when I finally did pry her out she refused to walk, which motivated Hudson to also decide his legs wouldn't work either. *sigh... Once in the room it took awhile for Ella to warm up to her surroundings and her temporary aide who is now going to be the preschool aide who was filling in for Ella's real aide who was unable to be an aide that day. Understand why Ella might have been confused?

Anyways.. I ended up staying in the room with her for about an hour while Hudson played and Levi slept in his carseat in the corner. (Thank you God for a baby who is still content to sleep a lot!!) When their class went down to an assembly and I peeked in to see Ella sitting alongside her classmates with her aide by her side I snuck out. I worried about her all morning, but when I showed up to pick her up at noon she was walking down the hall, hand in hand with her aide. When she saw me her eyes lit up and she reached for my face and said "Mom!" in the sweetest little voice. She then proceeded to walk down the hall blowing kisses to everyone we passed. She was SO proud of herself and had the biggest smile. She was ready for this.

However, I couldn't breathe too big of a sigh of relief yet. I knew we still had a big hurdle ahead of us. Transportation. The first day of school I drove the kids the almost 15 miles to school and picked them up again. The rest of the days the older boys would get on the bus at 7:00 and Ella's aide would pick her up separately around 7:45. We had it all planned out. Until this morning rolled around bringing with it a giant thunderstorm. Because of course.. Rain was pounding down, lightning was flashing all around us.. I ended up driving the boys to the end of the lane right before 7:00 so they didn't have to dodge the lightning bolts on their walk down and we waited. And waited. And waited. And no bus showed up. Eventually we drove back to the house and sprinted back in the door, soaking wet, only to call the bus barn and find out they changed the bus route and the boys would now be getting picked up about a half hour later. Oh. Would have been nice to know.. By the time we got that all figured out it was almost 7:30 and I had only just started getting Ella ready. So we hurriedly got dressed and ate breakfast. You guys.. it's day 3 of school and already my plans of providing the kids with a healthy breakfast to fuel their day have been ruined. White bread with butter and cinnamon/sugar. Because you know.. breakfast of champions right there. Due to our little construction project going on here, we had to walk up the hill behind our house to meet her aide because every time it rains there is no place to drive remotely close to our house. Pretty much every direction 50 yards out from our house looks like this.

  and this

and this..

As we walked to the car Ella's aide stepped out to greet her. And I see she's wearing a dark rain jacket with her hood pulled up over her head. Uh oh.  Ella is terrified of that look. For all the planning we did, for all the scenarios we tried to envision, for all the possible situations we tried to foresee happening, we neglected to include this obviously important piece of information in her IEP: 
'Please don't come to our house Grimm Reaper style asking for our daughter.' 
Side note: Ella's aide was wonderful and went and sat back in the car and took her rain coat off after realizing it was scaring her. She also rode home with her when Ella was scared of her afternoon driver so she would feel safe. THANK YOU!

So for all our planning.. pretty much nothing went as planned. Did I mention we all started to come down with colds this weekend? Nothing says back to school like a bunch of crabby snot nosed germ kids. However, Ella had a great day at school again today and I think this is going to be a really really good thing for her. I already love reading the notes from the teacher about how well she does following her classmates and participating in all the activities. I love seeing her face light up when I ask her questions about her day or mention things they say she did at school. I can tell she is proud of herself and after our start to today, things can only get better, right??