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Selling Our House For A School We're Not Attending (The Final Kindergarten Decision)

This post is one of the more difficult posts I've written. Not because the news is going to knock the earth off it's axis, but because I feel like there isn't a good way to write it without sounding like I'm ungrateful for the people who have taught Kinsley up to this point. I also feel like I've been complaining about her school situations since before preschool started. The truth is, I know everyone involved in special education has a hard job. I know that there is never a perfect solution that will adequately meet all the needs and desires of both the parents and the special education team, but I still deeply feel like there is a beautiful middle ground that we just haven't been able to get to yet, and my hopes and dreams are that at some point we can feel like we've gotten to that place. 

I loved Kinsley's preschool experience the first year that she was in there. I felt like she'd overcome a ton of social anxiety, made awesome PT progression, and made some academic progress that seemed promising. Heading into her second year though, it seemed like academic progress had become stagnate, she wasn't being provided opportunities to use her walker in the classroom, and all of a sudden she was having fits about going to school which isn't something we'd experienced the year before. I felt like everyday I was going into school and having to fight for something for her. And towards the end of the school year her teacher told me, "it's the near the end of the year and she only knows two letters, she seems like she's incapable of learning..." That moment lit a fire in Derek and I to 1) prove them wrong, and 2) make sure that they had nothing to do with her education moving forward. It was as though they'd checked out on her for basically an entire year. A year we can never get back. We got to work and now just a few months after that "incapable of learning" comment, she knows about 22/26 letters, talks up a storm, and is using her walker with very little assistance.

Our only options with the current school district were to put her into a random classroom 5 miles away from our home, with no guarantee that Kyle would get a variance into that school, or she could do a third year of preschool, but it was only 2 days a week instead of the 5 she was getting, and the district would take away all of her special education services, so no PT/OT/Speech, etc... Neither option felt right to us and so we moved to plan B. 

We applied to the lottery for a special autism charter school 20 miles south of where we were living. We'd heard amazing things about it and decided to throw her name in and see what happens. And she got in. The problem was that it was 20 miles away from our house, and so there was no way I could get Kyle to his school, and Kinsley to her school each morning. We tried getting Kyle into any of the surrounding schools, but had no luck, and so our only option to make it work was to sell our house, rent in the same town as Kinsley's new school, and then have Kyle go to whatever our zoned public school was. So that's what we did. 

One of the things that we really liked about the autism charter school was that even though Kinsley does not have autism, the teachers are all specialized in dealing with special needs, and so we thought it would be a great option to have her in an environment where she would be challenged to excel, and have more inclusion opportunities with gen-ed peers. Another thing I really liked was that they had full day kindergarten and Derek and I thought that would be really amazing for her as well. 

So we put our house on the market, got an offer, and then all the things with Kinsley's new school started going south. The state cut funding on the full day kindergarten so only the gen-ed class would be full day, and then functional skills (kids with more involved disabilities) class would be full day, but the in-between class for kids that aren't quite gen-ed, but not quite functional skills, was going to be half day. That was the first blow. 

The second blow was that Kinsley went in for an evaluation and they wanted to stick her in the functional skills class the second they saw her walker, despite the fact that her IEP from her previous district said that she should be placed in the middle of the road class. So while it would have been great to have full day, I wasn't going to put her in a class that wasn't going to be challenging enough for her. The school year hadn't even started, and I was already having to fight to get her where she needed to be. I couldn't think about the new school without the next thought that floated through my mind being, "you'll go here for two weeks and then homeschool her". I knew deep down that it wasn't the right fit. 

But right as all of this was happening, our house was under contract, and there was no way to back out of the sale without losing thousands of dollars, and so our only option was to just stick it out, and just wait to see what would happen. 

Even though the house we were moving to was in the same school district as our old house, there are tons and tons of different elementary schools in the district, so whatever Kinsley's school assignment was going to be in our old house, we knew it wasn't going to be that same school in the new house. I had no intention of sending her to school in our district, but I just had this feeling that I needed to call them and tell them we were moving to see what our new school placement was going to be, and so I did, and they said we'd get a letter in the mail in a few weeks telling us the new assignment. 

Backing up for just a second. We're renting a house on the east side of our new town, but when we go to buy a house again, we'd buy on the west side. Knowing that, as soon as our house went on the market, we applied for Kyle to get a variance for the school on the west side of town because 1) it was 100 feet away from Kinsley's autism charter school, so it would make school mornings really easy to have them in schools right next to each other instead of 5-6 miles apart from each other. 2) we wouldn't want him to have to go to a new school on the east side of town this year for second grade, and then switch schools again when we bought a house on the west side when he's in third grade. So if his variance got approved he'd go to the school on the west side for second grade, and then get to stay there when we bought a house again when he's in third grade. By doing this we felt like we were limiting a certain amount of trauma for him. 

Last week we got a letter from our school district in the mail, and it said that if Kinsley did Kindergarten with the district in the fall, she would be zoned for the exact school on the west side that we already had a variance in for Kyle. This also meant that Kyle's variance got approved, and he was able to go to the exact school that we had been trying to get him into in the first place. The second I opened that letter and read the school name, I instantly felt peace. I knew that it was the right decision for both of our kids.

There have been so many negative feelings with this entire kindergarten situation for next year, and when I opened that letter I knew that it was a message from God saying, "I see you, I hear you, and this is the path you need to take." It felt like an entire year of tears, worry, and fear were melted away in 60 seconds. 

When we were in the middle of all of this, it really shook me. I constantly felt myself questioning, where is God? Why is it this hard? What is the point of doing all the small and simple things if He is no where to be found. To be entirely honest, I felt like this entire last year had really shook me in a hard way and like we'd somehow been abandoned to figure out this mess on our own. 

The reality is this neighborhood on the west side of town has been on our radar since we moved to Utah almost two years ago since it's 10 minutes from Derek's job. Subsequently, this school has been on our radar as well since it's always been on our mind to possibly move there/go there. It's also the French Immersion school for our district, which means Kyle will get to learn French, and Derek speaks fluent French, so it's an added bonus.

Ultimately I really believe that Heavenly Father knew where Kinsley needed to be for Kindegarten the entire time. But since we were living 20 miles north, there is no way Kinsley ever would have been assigned for that school. So we had to apply to the lottery for the autism charter school to get us to move down here. Once we were down here, it allowed the opportunity for her to be placed in the school we'd had our eyes on the entire time, since it's the only school in our town that offers the "social communication kindergarten class" that the district wanted her to attend. 

We've seen the school, we've seen the teacher, and for the first time I can think about Kinsley's school situation without getting a lump in my throat and making homeschool plans. There is no way to describe any of this situation, except for that it is all from God. A blessing beyond measure after what felt like an eternity without direction. We're grateful and know that this is what is best for both of our children, and can't wait to see what's in store for them this year. 

The Mind Shift I've Made With Buying Clothes

Purchasing clothes and having a lot of clothes used to be a large part of my life. I remember working every summer in high school and saving a thousand dollars over the entire summer and blowing it all in one swoop at the mall before school started on a new wardrobe. Literal summer tradition every year. Hopefully I can instill in my children a better sense for saving money, but needless to say, having a closet stuffed with loads and loads of clothing was always the number one goal. 

Fast forward to the last several years where I've really minimized my life, including my wardrobe. I tried doing capsule wardrobes, but I found myself purchasing items to "fill the gaps" of what the internet and other bloggers told me that I needed in a capsule wardrobe, instead of actually being really thoughtful about my own personal needs and lifestyle, and what I actually like in my clothing. 

At the beginning of the summer I knew I wanted very few new pieces for my closet, so I bought six shirts of varying styles, one pair of shorts, and one dress, and called it good. I thought I had done so well in being minimal, and to be honest, there are only about 15 pieces total hanging in my closet, but I found myself still only drawn to wearing the same 3-4 pieces in my closet, and then not really bothering to wear some of the new pieces I just bought. 

A huge problem I have with clothing is being small enough to fit into an XS width wise, but they always fall short on the length. Instead of exchanging pieces for a bigger size, I keep them, and tell myself I'll make it work, and then those pieces die in my closet and never get worn. 

This has taught me a few things. One, online shopping might not be the best for me, because making returns is not my strong suit, and so as much as I loathe going to the mall, shopping in person and getting something I know I'll love before I get it home might help me make more intentional purchases. 

Two, I've learned that I actually only need 3-4 awesome shirts in my closet to feel good about myself and to feel content with the clothing that I own. Getting ready each day isn't a huge priority to me. Give me a pair of joggers, an old race t-shirt, a windbreaker, and a baseball hat and I'm ready for 90% of my life. So having a closet filled to the brim with pieces I'm not wearing is really impractical to me. 

Heading into the fall I want to make a list of what pieces I know that I'll need for my lifestyle, not what other bloggers tell me I need, and then shop based on those needs. I currently have zero pairs of jeans (tried cutting them into shorts and failed hard), so I know that is something I'll be purchasing. Other than that, I have a few shirts from last fall that I still love, so I might add one really great quality cardigan, a new pair of joggers, 1-2 new shirts, and a pair of rain boots to replace the ones I finally passed on to goodwill and call it good. 

Being able to identify what my real needs are, and to identity where I lack in my shopping habits I think will help me to be able to curate pieces that I really love this fall, without being wasteful with my purchases. Hopefully I'll be able to document this in another post in the future, but thought I would share this part of my minimalist journey with you as in unfolds, in hopes of it being helpful for someone else too. 

My Thoughts on Menu Plans We've Tried

Over the years I have used many different methods for weekly menu planning. There have been times where I've made my own menus based off of meals from Pinterest that I want to try, times where I've kept it simple and rotated through the same few recipes every single week, and other times where I've shelled out money to other bloggers and influencers to do the work for me. I feel like I've used enough different menu plans by now that I know what I do and don't like, and thought I'd share that wisdom with you. 

Why I like menu plans:
I like menu plans because it takes the guess work out of what my meals will look like. A lot of people use meal plans for weight loss, but that really is never the goal for me. I want simple and nutritious meals, with micronutrient dense foods. If left to my own devices I'll have cereal for breakfast, nothing for lunch, and then five servings of whatever I make for dinner. Menu plans are great for me because they actually get me to eat all my vegetables which I likely wouldn't do on my own. 

A general review of what I've tried:
I've tried several menu plans in the past including Fitness Carli, Clean Simple Eats, Six Sister's Stuff, and currently Skinny Taste. The Fitness Carli menu plan was easy and light on the cooking, but I also felt like it was an easy way to develop an eating disorder if you followed the plan exactly. Basically everyone doing the plan is living off of roughly 1200 calories, it's not kid and family friendly, so you're basically cooking all your food, and then cooking for your family too. So not much ease and simplicity. 

Clean Simple eats was great, the meals were great, but it's really heavy on the cooking side. Like Fitness Carli, it provides three meals a day, and the dinners are large enough to feed the entire family, but the cooking eventually burned me out a few weeks in. I also don't love that it promotes ingredients with artificial sweeteners like zero calorie salad dressings and syrups. These could obviously be subbed out for better ingredients, but just something that generally turned me off. 

Six Sister's Stuff was great and we did that for a solid six months last year. The only thing I didn't necessarily love was that although we signed up for the "healthy" plan, there were occasionally ingredients that I didn't consider healthy, like cream of whatever soup and processed things like that. Six Sister's Stuff provided only dinner options as well, which meant I was on my own for the rest of the day. 

Currently we're three weeks into doing the Skinny Taste menu plan. I like this because it's FREE (all the other ones mentioned above you pay for). She posts new plans on her site each week, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. The breakfast and lunches feed one person, and the dinners feed 4 people. On the weekends, all the meals feed 4 people, which is really nice. The main thing that I like about this is that so far, I feel like it's mostly whole foods, with no processed ingredients, and the meals have been very simple to make with not a lot of prep work involved. It's based off the weight watchers program so the meals add up to about 1,000 calories a day, and then I guess you're supposed to get the rest of your calories from a list of "zero point foods". I don't do this, I just eat candy, soda, and a granola bar or whatever the heck I want and live my best life knowing I ate all my vegetables that day. 

How to do a menu plan without hurting your wallet:
When doing menu plans, especially Skinny Taste or Clean Simple Eats, it feels like there are literally 1,000 items on the grocery list each week, and then all of a sudden your grocery budget is $50-$100 more than it normally is. One thing I started doing was actually going through all of the recipes and eliminating the ingredients off the list I knew my family wouldn't eat. 

Fish tacos with purple cabbage on top? No thanks to the purple cabbage, we'll stick with the lettuce and other toppings that can go on them that we're already buying this week for other meals. A watermelon and feta salad? Nope, we'll just eat the watermelon as the side with that meal. Asparagus wrapped in proscitto? Nope, just cook the asparagus in oil, salt, and pepper and call it good. If I'm going to make food, I want it to be food my family will eat. 

By simplifying the meals and sides when possible, you save a ton of money on ingredients that will likely rot and get wasted in your fridge anyways. 

Let's wrap it up:
At the end of the day there probably isn't one perfect menu plan or solution that will work for every family. I love menu plans though because it simply saves me the time and energy of coming up with the food on my own. Just because one plan didn't work for our family, doesn't mean that it won't work for you. If you tried a menu plan that you've loved, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. 

Our Summer Morning Routine

This post was sponsored by General Mills, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Summer is my very favorite season of the year. Derek has more time off work, we take family trips, and we don't have a busy schedule where we're constantly running from one thing to the next. Even though the kids aren't in school, I like to stick to a very solid morning routine so that the kids know what they can expect for the most part, and it helps to get our day off on the right start. 

8:00AM: The kids wake up. Kyle comes into my room already dressed for the day to tell me good morning, and then goes into the living room to read until I make my way out of my room. Kinsley wakes up and she plays with some toys until I come in to let her out. I look through my emails and text messages to make sure there isn't anything pressing that needs to be done right away, and then I make my way into my bathroom to get dressed, comb my hair, wash my face, and brush my teeth. 

8:15AM: I head into Kinsley's room and get her ready for the day. I change her diaper, get her dressed, fix her hair, and put her leg braces on. I also take this time while we're in her room to go over her alphabet flashcards. I hold them up one by one and she says which letter it is. The ones she gets wrong, I lay out in front of her and say, "can you show me the... 'R'?" and she'll pick through the remaining ones she missed the first time around. 

8:45AM: The kids finally sit down for breakfast. We almost always have cereal in the morning. Since it's summer, we decided to add in the NEW Drumstick Cereals from Walmart into our morning lineup. I love that I can get it both in-store or online with grocery pickup, and that it is a fun summer themed cereal that helps make breakfast time just a little more exciting. Our kids are huge fans of the Drumstick Cereal Classic Vanilla Flavor, but I also really love the Drumstick Cereal Mint Chocolate variety as well! If you're looking for some fun options to have a great summer breakfast for your kids, definitely add these NEW Drumstick Cereals from General Mills into your summer rotation! 

9:15AM: Once we're done eating breakfast, we clean up our messes and start working on chores. Kyle goes and cleans his room, makes his bed, and puts any and all dirty clothes into the laundry. Kinsley cleans up her toys in her living room and bedroom while I make her bed. While they clean I go ahead and wipe down the kitchen, and clean my room before going into Kinsley's room to help her. 

9:45AM: I sit down at the table to and start working for the day... Whether that be on the blog, school work, or getting things done for The Bamboo Brace. I get a solid couple hours of work in while the kids play with toys, or read books before the entire afternoon routine starts... but that's a post for another day ;)

5 Ways to Manage Back Pain and Keep Doing What You Love

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SunbeamTargetedHeat #CollectiveBias 

Back pain is something that I've struggled with for most of my life. It started very early in high school as I was running track while going through huge growth spurts and dealing with scoliosis, and has transitioned into my adult life with carrying Kinsley around constantly due to her disabilities, training for races and being very active, and just the day to day life of being a mother. While I would love nothing more than for Derek to give me back massages 24/7, that is not his idea of a good time, so I've found five thing that work well for me to keep pain at a manageable level so that I can keep doing the things I love. 

Heating Pads: 
I love nothing more than curling up in bed with a good heating pad, but sometimes they can be super awkward and don't stay in place right where you need them. I have been loving the new Sunbeam® Renue® Contoured Back Heating Pad because it straps around your body and stays in place, which means that I can work at my desk, or read a book on the couch without having to worry about adjusting every five minutes. 

The Sunbeam® Renue® Contoured Back Heating Pad provides targeted heat therapy that is clinically proven to relieve pain associated with muscle tension and stress. The pad’s contoured design is shaped specifically to fit the #1 area of pain for heating pad users, the lower back. The integrated waist strap helps keep the pad in place for hands-free, high-level heat therapy. I also love that it has 4 heat settings with a 2-hour auto shut off, the entire pad is machine washable, and that it's made with soft Micromink fabric for added comfort. 

Epsom Salt Baths: 
I used to be religious about taking ice baths when training for an upcoming race, but I've learned that my body personally responds better to heat therapy as opposed to cold. I love taking epsom salt baths because they're proved to help reduce pain and swelling, aid exercise performance and recovery, and promote sleep and stress reduction!

Core Exercises: 
When I was training for my marathon last year, I was constantly in pain and having to see my chiropractor every two weeks. Since then I've learned that if I stay on top of my core exercises, my pain decreases and my performance significantly improves. I try to do 500 reps each day, which takes me about 10 minutes, and I divide it up with the following exercises: 100 flutter kicks, 100 leg raises, 100 bicycle crunches, 100 V-Crunches, 100 plank shoulder taps. If you're unfamiliar with these movements, I recommend looking them up so you can try them yourself! 

Stretching Daily: 
I can tell a huge difference in my daily pain levels when I'm stretching everyday versus when I'm not. I don't go too extreme with this, but if I remember to stretch my legs out with some good hamstring stretches, this usually helps to relieve some tension in my lower back!

Chiropractic Care: 
While at home pain management is always my first line of defense, I do love visiting my chiropractor for occasional tune ups as well. I actually have a leg that is slightly shorter than the other one by about 4mm, so I like to go and get everything readjusted from time to time to make sure that I'm performing as best as I possibly can. The three minute massage that happens in these visits never hurts either ;) 

What are some ways that you manage pain at home? Do you love heating pads as much as I do? Be sure to shop for the new Sunbeam® Renue® Contoured Back Heating Pad at Walmart and walmart.com! #NewellHomeRefresh

RV Pony Express Deluxe Cabin Tour

As of Thursday at 5pm, Derek and I sold our house. I feel like I never did a great job at explaining this move, or why we were doing it, but the short answer is that Kinsley got into a new school for next year, 20 miles south of us, in the same town Derek was already working, so it just made sense for us to all be down there instead of commuting each day from our old home. 

We couldn't move into our new house until July 3rd at the earliest, so we had a few days of staying here at this cabin, and then going to Idaho to spend time with Derek's family as well. When traveling with our kids, if possible, I like to have a separate space for the kids to sleep. Kinsley is such a light sleeper that if nothing else, she needs her own space to get a good night's sleep. Often this looks like her sleeping on an air mattress on the floor of the living room in a hotel suite, and Kyle is in the bedroom with Derek and I.

When we were looking for places to stay in Salt Lake for a couple days this week, we came across the RV Pony Express Resort. This place has RV parking camping spots, along with cabins of varying sizes and amenities. We went for the deluxe cabin since it had a bunk bed room for the kids, a bedroom for Derek and I, a living room, and a full working kitchen. This made traveling super easy, limited eating out, and the kids had their own spaces for sleeping. 

One thing to note about the cabin is that the website said that it came with no linens on the beds, or towels, so we brought all of our own stuff, and it turns out all the beds were made when we got here, and we were stocked with towels as well. It also said you had to pay to rent the bikes, and those were free. If you have any questions about what the website says before you book a stay, I would call ahead of time to confirm. 

We also stayed here because it was pet friendly. We brought our dog at no extra cost, and they even had a dog park for him to run around and play. Other amenities that we loved were swimming at the pool in the evening, riding a family surrey bike, and playing with the large chess set and checker board. It was honestly a super fun trip for the entire family and the kids loved staying here. Want to hear the best part. $80/night. Yep, we got all of these amenities for $160 total, which makes it not only a super affordable place to stay in Salt Lake City, but an amazing "Staycation" for local residents as well. 

One thing that was a let down, the free WIFI is awful, so I did spend $10 for 3 days of upgraded wifi, which didn't work well the first night we were here, but was totally worth it and worked well the rest of the time.

I can totally see us making it a summer tradition to do a night or two here each year because it was just so fun. If you're interested in RV camping, Acess RV is located right next to the property, where you can also rent an RV and they'll pull it into the property for you! So many fun options, you totally need to give it a try. 

This post was not sponsored, Derek and I funded our own stay with our own money. 

Why We Love Inclusive Playgrounds

This post was sponsored by Landscape Structures as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

I love taking my kids to play at the playground, but it hasn't always been that way. When Kinsley was younger, and before we knew about accessible playgrounds, it was hard to find places that developed imagination, creativity, and adventure for both of our kids. We're lucky now to live in an area where there are so many Landscape Structures Playgrounds, that it seems like there are limitless options for play available to us. 

Landscape Structure Playgrounds design better playgrounds that welcome all ages and abilities. They are the signature gathering spaces for communities and offer the most innovative play experiences. So while they have plenty of things that Kinsley can play with right now in her current ability, there is also a wide range of equipment that is challenging for both her and Kyle, and stretches Kinsley to reach new milestones, get stronger, and progress in her goals toward independent walking. 

During the summer months Kinsley's physical therapist loves to hold our therapy sessions at various Landscape Structure Playgrounds in our area. Not only does it provide a learning environment that is more fun and engaging than a clinic or inside our home, but it gives her the chance to mimic the things she is learning in a real world application. It also does a little bit better of a job at masking the fact that she has to work hard in her therapy sessions. Swings, slides, and jungle gyms are a lot more fun than bolsters, gym mats, and other therapy equipment (you heard that first here), so it helps to keep the work fun and exciting. Landscape structures Playgrounds give kids the freedom to play and gain confidence through mastery and self-discovery and instill lifelong skills.

The best part about inclusive play spaces is that it gives Kinsley an opportunity to play with kids of all abilities. Studies show that inclusion is just as beneficial for children with disabilities as it is for kids without. As a mother of a child with a disability, there is nothing more heartwarming to me when other children take the time to play and chat with Kinsley at the playground. It helps to not only develop social skills between children, but to break down the walls that can often feel like barriers between us. I'm grateful for the barriers that Landscape Structures Playgrounds work to break down within our lives and in our communities.