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Our Preschooler! First Day of School Today!

October 18, 2010 by Victoria Strong

Gwendolyn is going to preschool. Shes going to preschool. PRESCHOOL! Today is the big day! Her very first day of school. Can you believe it?

So the logistics.

I am going with her. Its funny because this is never something Bill and I talked about. We never asked permission from anyone. We both just knew I had to be with Gwendolyn to give her this experience. And boy does she want this experience.

Gwendolyn is a social butterfly. Yes, I birthed a party girl. She loves other children more than anything. Her favorite day of the week is on Friday when we have a playdate with her buddies (and I get wine with my buddies smile). Weve been doing this for over a year and I have the most amazing friends to include us, be so mindful of illness, and so thoughtful about creating such a loving and accepting environment for all of us. Gwendolyn cant run with her pals or do all of the things they are doing, but she can watch, she can hear them, we can create experiences for them all to play together, and at some point they always stop for a minute, give her a high five, sing her a song, give her a sticker, or hold her hand -- and those are the moments that she just lights up. She will give up a princess movie to spend time with friends -- wow, I know!

In California, the county education office takes over special education services at three. In fact, we are graduating from many of the therapists and services weve received since she was six months old (I call it breaking up -- thats what it feels like). So, weve been preparing for everything to change all summer long. Weve had meetings upon meetings about it all and when it came to next steps for Gwendolyn, well, it was pretty clear to everyone that Little Miss Social would get so much out of being in the preschool setting -- and she so wants to be there. When we went to tour schools and think about this option, she couldnt get through the doors fast enough.

This comes with risks. Believe me, we know. And sending Gwendolyn to preschool is not something we came to without a lot of weighing. Germs are the most immediate concern. But, as fun as I think I am, Gwendolyn thinks being around children her age is more exciting. So... we're going. We will wipe her down constantly. We will take precautions. But, we allow her to connect with others because that is what she wants out of her life. And we are pretty excited about seeing her so happy! (As a side note, we are in no way saying this is the right choice for all SMA children. Nor are we passing judgement on home-schooling or other alternatives. This is simply about Gwendolyn.)

We have had a bit of a negotiation navigating the appropriate place for Gwendolyn and have been sorting that out for months. But it seems we have found the perfect setting -- on so many levels. Our biggest challenge was finding a school with lots of open space. Since Gwendolyn cant walk, her spacial requirements and for her to feel successful (and dare I dream -- independent) are much more than the average 3 year old. Really, you have to think of her in her chair, including her 400 pound power chair... so technically I have a 400 pound child -- and a 400 pound child requires room to move smile The next thing I love is that her school is a co-op, meaning each childs parent has to work at the school at least once a week. This is great for a lot of reasons: 1) Parents can get to know Gwendolyn to better navigate their childrens questions about her and I hope encourage relationships with her, 2) less sick kids being dropped off, and 3) I wont be the only parent there. It has a pretty small enrollment and we already have two friends who attend. And, although I hope we never need it, the icing on the cake is that a fire station is across the street, so we can create an emergency plan to get Gwendolyn help as quickly as possible if anything should arise.

Last week the teacher read all the children this story I wrote to introduce them to Gwendolyn. And all the parents received this email from us. And while I so wish I didn't have to write these, and it was difficult to do so, the bigger picture is Gwendolyn is having an experience, a wonderful opportunity, that Bill and I thought would never happen for our little girl. And so today my baby is going to preschool. Shes going to preschool. PRESCHOOL!!! And we are so proud of her.

Talk About It

OMG Victoria & Bill! This brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my heart! What an INCREDIBLE milestone for Miss Gwendolyn, how so very exciting, and how scary for you too, I can't even imagine. SO MANY PRAYERS your way that everything goes smoothly. Can't wait to read all about her preschool experiences. WOW! WOW! By the way, last month I explained to my niece Emma why I was running the 50 miler and who I was dedicating it to. Talked to her about SMA, Owen Simmons, Owen Shuler, and of course Miss Gwendolyn. Showed her my "warrior bracelets" and what each of them represents. Well, this weekend I took her with me to Syracuse for her baby bro's 4th birhday party, and wouldn't you know, Emma pointed to my green GSF bracelet and asked me, "Tia Magda, how is the little girl doing?" So I told her all about Gwendolyn's milestone birthday and trip to Disney, and showed her the pics on Facebook. She was SO excited for Gwendolyn (Emma is also a lover of Princesses!) and thought it was SO COOL that she got to go Disney!! OMG I was all aglow talking to Em about it!! (Posted a pic on FB on Saturday too of Em going through FB) So incredible, although they've never met, Gwendolyn has already impacted Emma's life too. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I'll forever cherish that Saturday morning I spent with Emma talking about SMA & your baby girl who's already OFF TO PRESCHOOL, WOW!!! Thinking of you all! Hugs, Magda
Posted by Magda on 2010-10-18 09:27:13
So happy for MIss G!!!! YAY!!!! She is going to have a blast and I can just see her beautiful eyes taking it all in!!! You have to make the best decision you think is best for your child . . . noone else can make that for you. We used to think we would never send Stella to school but we have decided otherwise and will in the spring. smile Sending you hugs and love, Sarah and Stella
Posted by Sarah Turnbull on 2010-10-18 09:34:55
What a BIG girl! So many adventures to be made at preschool. I know everyone will love you. I think your horsey dress is the perfect first day outfit. Have fun Gwendolyn! Love the story about Gwendolyn. That is a fantastic idea. Your email for the parents was put so well. I've wondered how to explain washing Haydens hands after someone has touched them. But at the same time Hayden wants to touch the other children. Well done!
Posted by Jennifer Calafiore on 2010-10-18 09:37:45
How very exciting for Miss Gwendolyn!! I cannot wait to read about her adventures in Preschool, and I know she is going to love every one of them!
Posted by Kim on 2010-10-18 09:39:04
Where to begin?First,how much we love your little girl.We think she is amazing and beautiful and just know that she will soak in school,the environment and most especially the children. And the children,they will fall instantly in love with Gwendolyn.We just know it. The book was incredible and your letter,equally so and how lucky they all are to have you BOTH in their classroom.I adore her outfit.Perfect for the pony loving girl.Cannot wait to hear all about school and see picture of your latest adventure. So today we send our very special friend off, with an abundance of love and wishes that it may hold al that you dreamed it would. Much love from Camarilo.
Posted by Zoey's mom on 2010-10-18 10:12:45
I just told Mike that Gwendolyn was going to preschool and I choked up! We are so, so , so thrilled for all of you but just so excited for Miss Gwendolyn. Can't wait to hear all about it! ((((HUGS))))
Posted by Kristen on 2010-10-18 10:16:47
As usual, you three amaze me. What a beautiful way to introduce Gwendolyn to the children and families. Also such an great opportunity for everyone. I cannot wait to see all her fun adventures unfold! Big hugs! Shannon, Dave and Colin
Posted by Shannon Miles on 2010-10-18 12:34:19
Yah, this choked me up! I know Gwendolyn is going to love being with all the other children, what an experience. I know it is met with excitement and apprehension but knowing how much joy you will bring to G's life must make it all worthwhile! I loved the book you made for the kids, explaining so many of the questions they will have but letting them know that Gwendolyn is so excited to be there friend. I know the other parents will love meeting Gwendolyn and having you in the classroom will only be an added bonus! Can't wait to hear all about the first day, hugs, Em
Posted by Emma on 2010-10-18 12:52:35
WOW! How exciting!! I cant wait until Aubriana turns three and we get to go school! We think that is so awesome that she is going and she gets to have her Mommy right there during all the excitement! I love her horsy outfit! Looking forward to reading her updates!
Posted by Shellie Lopes on 2010-10-18 14:25:52
Hope the first day of school was amazing!
Posted by Holly on 2010-10-18 16:33:23
Yeah Gwendolyn! We are so excited for you. And great job on the story book for her new friends.
Posted by Kim S on 2010-10-18 16:50:21
Love your outfit Gwendolyn. Hope you and Mommy had a great first day at pre-school.
Posted by Carol on 2010-10-18 17:08:44
I read this and happy tears were falling down my happy smiling cheeks. I am so exited for Gwedolyn (and you too Victoria). What memories she is going to make with be priceless. I love her outfit and I hope there will be pictures coming of her first day (you need to get the horse skirt to wear when she wears her horse dress:) --Mari
Posted by Mari aka "Thorney" on 2010-10-18 18:30:36
yay! Glad to hear this is your first day and hope you had so much fun. Sending hugs & healing energy your way sweetie rest well and enjoy being a big girl in school. <3 <3 <3
Posted by Moon on 2010-10-18 18:52:18
Hello Victoria, I came to know about SMA by meeting Magda. And I am blessed to now know you and your family, especially Gwendolyn smile Going to Preschool! Wow!! That is a HUGE mile stone. And I could imagine how Gwendolyn is excited to attend school smile Being around friends and teachers. Sometimes, I look at my kids and feel that kids are much more stronger than we think they are....they are more brave than we think they are.... They are strong....and they give me and most of us, parents, more power to go forward and hope for the better days.... smile Children are such blessing from God! I am looking forward to learning more about SMA and how Gwendolyn is doing at school smile Thank you so much for sharing your life with us all smile God bless you!
Posted by Yoko on 2010-10-18 19:00:50
Reading this brings tears to my eyes. You are such a wonderful mom and I commend you on your decision to put Gwendolyn in preschool. You, Bill and, of course, Gwendolyn give us so much hope. Thank you for sharing this:) TJ
Posted by TJ Grindle on 2010-10-18 19:40:45
You are all so brave. I hope Gwendolyn has a wonderful time at school. Much love
Posted by MT Grandma on 2010-10-18 20:02:17
I'm so exited for you! This is a big milestone. What a great experience for Gwendolyn! You did a very good job on the presentation of Gwendolyn for the kids and the parents. I wish the story for the kids could be published like a book!
Posted by Cecille Manson on 2010-10-18 21:35:03
Yay Gwendolyn!! How exciting, for you and Bill to experience this wonderful milestone with your precious girl! Have fun at school with her! Emily is starting her 3rd year of school, kindergarten now, and I have been with her every single day that she has gone. I love getting to see and be a part of her experiences. So I know you will love it too! How exciting!
Posted by Diana Lee on 2010-10-18 22:22:04
OMG this is great news!!! I hope Gwendolyn had a great day at school!!!
Posted by Jenn on 2010-10-18 22:49:14
Congrats Miss G! Hope you LOVE your new school!
Posted by Jennifer on 2010-10-18 23:41:31
Victoria and Bill ~ As always, there are not enough superlatives to describe the kind of parents you are. I am so thrilled that Gwendolyn is going to have this fabulous experience that she will love so much, and the book and email are perfect!!! Not only is this an important grownth and learning experience for her, but it will be so valuable for her classmates as well. She looks adorable - I love her hair long! - and she'll just be a sponge soaking up every second of her days at school. I can't wait to hear about them!!
Posted by Sheri on 2010-10-19 13:10:16
Yeah Gwendolyn!!!! You guys are just such amazing parents! You inspire me to do more and be more to my own children!
Posted by Misty on 2010-10-20 10:28:06
I'm so behind in responding, Miss G may be ready for high school by now smile I can't wait to hear that the experience was even more terrific than you and Gwendolyn imagined!!! What a treat for ALL in her class.... 'Lucy'
Posted by Helen on 2010-10-20 12:31:54
yeah!!! can't wait to hear all about it smile
Posted by marlene on 2010-10-20 23:19:39
I am a little late in reading this post...but how exciting for little miss Gwendolyn!!! I love the book you made for the kids to get to know her better, it was beautifully done. How wonderful for her to be with kiddos her age every day.
Posted by Jessica on 2010-10-28 14:43:37
Congratulations!
Posted by emma on 2010-10-31 14:50:38

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