Yesterday was the last day of one of the most unpredictable, challenging and one of a kind years we’ve experienced in a very long time.
With all that 2020 brought, it led us to prioritizing our time, efforts, energy and support, and took us off our blog and frequency with social media. We have tried to update our loyal supporters where we could, but wanted to reflect on this past year with all of you now that we have rung in the new year.
2020 brought not only challenges, but many wonderful experiences and successes too.
Last year at this time our family visited Great Wolf Lodge for New Year’s Eve. It was a wonderful experience as both Madison and Jack LOVE the water. They also both have the beat of music in their souls and miss the late night pj dance parties and sing alongs. One of our biggest hopes looking ahead to 2021 is the opportunity to safely explore new places again as a family.
January and February were full of hockey playing, swimming, in person therapies, birthday parties, skiing, piano classes, Girl Guides, playdates and family time. It brought us up to Mark & Nadia’s cottage for the first time and gave Jack the gift of sleep and good health after his tonsils and adenoids were removed. Madison lost her first tooth and got her new “big kid” bike. Jack had his first “friends” birthday party at Sky Zone with super heroes as his theme. This was also the time we learned of Madison’s binocular vision disorder and started our journey towards proper glasses and vision therapy.
And then March hit….hello Covid and homeschool. Honestly, March through June was a huge blur. Teaching and working from home while homeschooling both Madison and Jack was one of the hardest things we have ever done. We are so blessed to have a huge village of support with our family and friends, and when Covid hit – it was safer for our village to stay home. We are very thankful for everyone who sent messages, facetimed or phoned during those months to keep the kids entertained for hours on end. Madison was lucky to be able to continue some of her therapies online and we committed to daily walks or bikes as a way to keep her moving. Jack was able to continue his music classes online and played lots in our backyard – also a gift we are very thankful for – lots of outdoor space!! The kids became tech wizards during this time – zooming on their own, learning to send messages or texts to chat with friends and learned about time management and independence. We also became masters of Covid celebration parades and virtual dance parties. Madison and Jack have always been besties, but during the first Covid lockdown – their bond grew even tighter and it was amazing to watch. Another gift that Covid brought was Madison’s independence. With nowhere to go, no time limits etc. Madison blossomed. She learned to dress herself, shower herself and her walking took off! She made more gains in her walking through April-July then she has in a very long time. We will always be grateful for that gift of time. Once the good weather arrived and school let out, they spent most of their time in the pool or up north in the lake.
Summer is usually full of extra therapy with the gift of time. It looked very different this year. Lots of meetings with therapists outdoors or on Zoom. Madison got her new braces and tools for alignment and her walking took off further. Jack learned to ride his bike and also became a fish in the water. Although most of our campsites got cancelled, we were able to go camping twice which was nice to have a change of scenery from our house. Our bubble also expanded by spending a lot of time up north at the Gregoire cottage which was a blast and we have so many new traditions and amazing memories.
The summer then came to an end with many mixed feelings as we anticipated the return to school for the first time in 6 months. Madison unfortunately got sick which led to a hospital visit that opened the door to many other challenges. She was presenting with many of the symptoms of Covid and due to her medical history required an absorbent amount of tests to later uncover a bacterial infection in her kidney. It was treated with simple meds and resolved quickly, but the impact on her mental health was lasting. Her school team and new teacher did an excellent job helping her transition back to school. Their strong communication and caring approach allowed Madison to build her confidence and experience success in areas of her learning that have been a struggle – math, writing and her self management and attention skills. Jack started his first year of school in JK and made a very smooth transition. He loves to learn and make new friends and had a great start. He loves learning his letters and the sounds they make, doing hands on math activities and loves running around playing super hero games at recess.
Looking back, we now see Madison’s summer hospital visit as the event that was the tipping point for her current mental health challenges. Madison has always been a worrier, always very attentive to so many details in life that most children aren’t attentive to. From the day she left the hospital in August until mid November she was consumed by her worries and fears around being sick. She tried her best to hold it together at school and around most people, but her anxiety took over her day to day activities and life. This has been a part of Madison’s journey that we haven’t been as public about, to give us the space and time to figure out the best way forward for her. After many consultations and referrals, we are now working with a psychiatrist out of the Shoniker Clinic who specializes in mental health challenges in children, specifically anxiety related to illness. Madison has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety and PTSD. She is accessing weekly CBT sessions partnered with her sessions with her psychiatrist and has had a successful medication trial. The balance between therapy and medication has been the best approach for us that has given us back our happy Madison. Thank you for everyone’s support during this difficult time.
The last few months of 2020 forced us to think outside the box and be creative on how to celebrate what is important to us and live life as consistently and “normal” as we could. Madison and Jack were able to continue taking piano classes online and they are enjoying it and doing very well. Madison had her advancement to Brownies and was able to have a few meetings outdoors before the cold weather came. Jack was able to continue with his skating lessons for a few months and both kids loved swimming each weekend at Variety Village. Most of Madison’s therapies continued online, but she was able to go weekly for physio at VV which was a huge win and massage therapy when we could get her there. Madison also participated in 10 weeks of vision therapy which really improved her eye teaming abilities. Madison’s “social life” has also exploded….daily messaging and video calls with friends is the new thing around our house and it’s so funny, but special to see. Jack usually makes many appearances on these calls too.
Madison said her favourite memory from the last couple of months was her covid style 7th birthday party in our backyard. Jack said his favourite memory from the last couple months was playing outside at the golf tournament with his cousins. Thank you to all the supporters of the Mike Gregoire Memorial Golf Tournament again this year. Your support continues to provide Madison with amazing opportunities and access to therapies to help with her daily life and independence. Once we are out of lockdown Madison will be returning to horseback riding therapy, swimming, physio, vision therapy and our fingers are crossed that skiing will get the green light.
This year we celebrated the holidays by attending many drive thru light shows, Zoom calls with friends and family and a virtual Santa visit. Madison and Jack took part in their first ever virtual Christmas concert and performed their songs in sign language as they are not allowed to sing at school. Their elves came and went and our holiday has been filled with Christmas movie marathons, baking, dance parties and time as a family.
Thank you for continuing to support our family and be by our side on this crazy, but incredible journey. I’m sure many moments from our past year reflection were missed, but we’re just happy 2020 is behind us and we have big hopes for 2021!
As we are not on our blog often, please feel free to follow us through daily photos on instagram @ mamaofcrazzies or through Madi Moves Ahead on Facebook.
Happy New Year!
Katherine and The Ambos Crew