Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nora's 5th Birthday

Nora has been waiting for her birthday party since last June, and the day finally arrived. Her first ever friend party at McDonald's, complete with Hello Kitty invitations and a new pair of pink metallic shoes. She was excited, to be sure, but I think her excitement had kept her from a good night's sleep, so she was also a bit touchy.

We got to the restaurant a minute or two late, so everyone else was already there. (We had forgotten Nora's present at home, so we had to turn back to retrieve it). Nora seemed a bit overwhelmed; everywhere she turned she saw someone she knew. The party hostesses there to help us suggested we let the kids run off some steam in the Playland, which we did. Excellent suggestion.

From the kid's point of view, the party was awesome. That was my intention; I did it all for them. Nora had a great time running around with Ivan, Illiana, Isabella, and Keiyona from school. Her best friend Miles and cousin Layla also joined in for the fun. The kids got along great, except for the fact that Ivan was not too pleased to learn that Nora's best-friend was a boy. When I tried to introduce Ivan to Miles, Ivan dryly informed me, "Nora already told me about HIM". They ran, they got painted tattoos, they ate a lot of chicken nuggets and fries, they played pin the potato. There was an awful lot of energy and yelling and all-around merriment from the kids. Nora did, however, pout when she was told she had to wait to open presents.

The grown-ups must have been pretty bored waiting for the ice-cream and cake portion of the party, but they were good sports, sitting amid the mayhem. We sang to her, and she seemed a bit dazed, then she and Illiana blew out the candles. The cake was delicious, its too bad so much of it ended up on the floor! Thanks goodness it wasn't my dining room floor. And then came the presents.

Watching Nora open her presents was like watching a tornado destroy a small town. There was just a flurry of wrappings and envelopes and presents going everywhere. At her prior parties, I have always asked her to say thank you and hug the giver of each present after she opened it to instill a sense of gratitude, but there was no way that could have happened. There was a partition wall separating the adults from the kids, we were all very crowded, and her friends kept asking, "What did you get???" and urging her to "Open another! Open more!". It took 2 minutes to open up a mountain of gifts. The only things I think she even noticed were the new mermaid costume and a big Princess colorform book. Then, just a quickly as it had started, her McDonald's party was over.

Since so many family members had driven out for the party, I invited them back to the house for party part deux. Nora, Emily, Miles, and Layla ran around. I picked up some pizza, we had some beer on tap, and the adults relaxed as much as you can when kids are running off a sugar buzz. Its too bad everyone left when they did; we lit a fire in the fireplace after the kids went to bed and it was really really cozy to sit between the Christmas tree and the fire, sipping on an Imperial Stout.

To see more photos from Nora's party, click this link:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Sing Thing

It has been crazy around here the past few days. I've barely had a chance to breathe, let alone think! Daisy meetings, Christmas programs, birthday parties, colds. This combined with lots of snow and the regular hub-bub of the season has left us all breathless. The poor coffee pot has been in overdrive since last Thursday. After school, Nora had her second Daisy's meeting. After Daisy's, we had a delicious dinner at McDonald's followed by the McIndigestion. Ugh. I wish I could eat something other than Fillet o'Fish!

We then headed back to Nora's school for the fourth time in one day to watch Nora sing in her Christmas program. I asked her, "Is it a program? A pageant? A play?" She had no idea what it was called, so we began calling it the sing thing. It seemed appropriate; she has been singing Frosty the Snowman for a month now. The number of songs she learned amazed me. I was certain that she must have been practicing some of the older kid portions. (I was wrong; they are all just brilliant kids).

Rachel met us at the school. To say it was crowded is an understatement. I am surprised the fire commissioner himself didn't turn us out. We managed to get seats...little tiny seats designed for preschoolers...but that was actually part of the charm! It is fun to sit at those little tables too. Anyways, Emily started freaking out even before the program started, so Ryan and Emily ended up watching from the rear of the room. Rachel and I had great seats. The older children went first, bowling over the room with their cuteness. Even their stage fright was adorable.

Speaking of stage fright, Nora got a really bad case! I was shocked, as were the teachers, that the loudest singer didn't want to do the program. She kept running out of the room they were waiting in, looking for me. She wanted me to hold her hand the entire time! Luckily, Miss Iris gave her a pep talk and a hug that seemed to do the trick.

Her grade performed in the second half of the program. They sang Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, and Here Comes Santa Claus. Nora sang, although she looked slightly nervous. During Jingle Bells, she was chosen to jingle actual bells, and she seemed pleased. Sadly, her friend Illiana, who was standing next to her, did not get a bell and so she ran to her mom and cried during that portion of the show! I felt really bad for her, she was truly disappointed. During the Jingle Bell Rock Nora said something to the teacher, than ran off from the performance. Rachel and I exchanged glances---what the heck? I wove my way through about a hundred people and made it to the back. Nora emerged a minute later from the bathroom, breathlessly telling me, "I had to pee!!" She ran back up and finished the song. After that she really got into the performance, obviously feeling better. It never occurred to me that being nervous would make her need to go! Ah well, you live you learn. Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our first meet and greet with the Speech Therapist...

...and the social worker and the state employee coordinator and the behavioral therapist who recommended a meeting with an occupational therapist. Whoa! What is going on? For the first time in a while, I feel really overwhelmed.

Let's go back to the beginning. Over the past few months, Emily has developed the terrifying habit of slamming her head into the floor and walls when she doesn't get what she wants. Sometimes she only hits herself enough to make a bang noise, sometimes she leaves red marks. Needless to say, this habit is very upsetting for me to watch. This, combined with her unwillingness or inability to speak at an appropriate level for her age compelled Emily's doctor to recommend intervention services. These are provided by the State of Illinois.

In order to determine what kind of services Emily would benefit from, they sent all of the aforementioned people here to interview me and observe Emily. They were all very nice, very professional, and very helpful. Although, I must admit, it was really embarrassing for me to let her have her tantrums in front of an audience of strangers. When the series of interviews had finished on Tuesday, they made preliminary reports, and came back on Wednesday to tell me their results.

I was pretty surprised at what they'd determined. Emily's "quirks" are a little more complicated than that. I am trying to take a pragmatic approach; there is a problem and so let's fix it. But that is so hard when its your BABY. My baby, that is. The good news is that her motor skills are spot on; she can climb and jump with the best of them. Her cognitive skills are only slightly behind. She can sort colors and count to five, which makes me so proud! They determined that she should be pretend playing now, and she's not, so that is one thing that needs to be worked on. The biggest problem though, was her speech. Emily is only communicating at the level of a 14 to 19 month old. That is over a 50 percent delay. I was really sad to find this out. We need to start right away.

Team Therapy agreed, and so in January Emily will begin a very busy, but hopefully very helpful, routine. She is going to have speech therapy at a clinic just east of here. In addition, she'll have weekly group therapy with a bunch of kids her age to help her work on her social skills and also become more imaginative. We also begin the process of getting her into preschool at our school district. Since Emily is going to go to the local elementary school for that, it is very likely that we will pull Nora from the Montessori so they are at school together. (Not the last I will say on this; I hate to take Nora away from that environment. But we only have one vehicle).

So that's where we are at the moment. Very hopeful to get Emily on track, feeling guilty like I'm admitting I'm a parenting failure, but doing it all out of love. If it works wonderful! If it doesn't, its not like we will stop loving her. Because in my eyes she is perfect.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nora's First Trip to the Movies

Do you remember the first time you went to the movies? I remember my first two movies actually; the first time I went to the theater my mom and dad took me to see the Muppet Movie. That was released in 1979 (I think; that's what Dr. Who said), which would have made me two. I remember being in awe of the big screen, I also remember getting reprimanded to stay in my seat!

The second movie I saw was Cinderella. I must have been about 4, so I recall that experience more clearly. I held my Grandma Esther's hand as we walked on the sidewalk towards the theater and I kept asking her, "What is the movie called again?" Cinderella was such a long hard word. I remember sitting in the theater in disbelief as the evil stepsisters tore up Cinderella's dress. My little mind couldn't wrap itself around the concept that anyone could be so mean. I think I even cried. But then the fairy godmother came! And I loved the song, and the dress! Oh I knew Cinderella's name after that. When we got home I borrowed one of my mom's white heels and hid it around the living room, pretending that I was Cinderella. My ball gown was a lovely blanket tied around my waist. I was sold on Disney after that.

So you can imagine how excited I was to take Nora to see a brand new Disney Princess movie, the Princess and the Frog. I was definitely anticipating this more than she was, in part because she had partied too much at Grandma Geier's house the day before. She was excited though, because she got dressed up and wore some of Grandma's lipstick. We got to the theater and I splurged on a popcorn and Icee for Nora. She could barely hold her food and her blanket as we walked into the theater. She looked around in awe; it must have seemed really huge to her. We sat down and her little legs just dangled off of the edge of her chair. It was so cute.

The previews started, and Nora told me and her aunties to stop talking (those are the rules, after all). Then the movie started. I watched Nora as much as I watched the screen. (Spoiler alert!) She lit up when Tiana sang, she hid when the bad guy sang his voodoo song, she was just as surprised as I was when Tiana also got turned into a frog. Seriously, I didn't see that coming. And we cried when Ray the fire fly died, and we cried more when Tiana thought the Prince didn't love her, and finished crying over the happy ending. Oh my God, it was such a great movie. Disney at its best. It was beautiful to look at, the music was outstanding, and there were good jokes for the kids and grown-ups. I want to see it again.

When it was over, I asked Nora if she liked the movie. She said yes, but not much more than that. Maybe she was overwhelmed? I'm not sure. I couldn't stop humming "I'm Almost There". But this morning when I woke up, I heard Nora playing movie theater, so I'm thinking she liked the movie after all. I guess if I see her kissing Ryan's old toy frog I'll know for sure.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Momma's Day Off

I hardly know where to begin. Christmas came early for everyone. Yesterday my mother-in-law took the girls for the day so Ryan and I could go downtown. It was wonderful!!

The girls had a great time with their grandparents, making glitter crafts (and a glitter dog too...poor Lacey sparkles like a vampire). They ate all their favorite foods, made cookies with their aunt Jessie, and avoided napping at all costs. Emily fell asleep during dinner and slept straight through the night. They woke up to strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast by the way. Yum.

Ryan and I went to Chicago for the day. We took the train in so we didn't need to fight traffic. The walk to the Art Insitute was actually pleasant, something I wasn't expecting on a 28 degree day. The sun was shining, and we were bundled up so there wasn't anything not to enjoy. It was the first time we used my AIC membership, and we took the opportunity to go into the areas of the museum I usually don't see. We stopped in the reading room and peeked around, and spent a good deal of time in the new south Asian corridor. We also visited the Arts and Crafts temporary exhibit. It was fantasic, but of course it made us want to redecorate our 80 year old house.

Ryan had never been to the Christkindlmart in front of the Daily Center, so that was our next stop. It was really getting cold by that time, but we had so much fun it didn't matter. There were little booths set up just like in a market in Germany or Austria, with vendors from Eastern Europe selling Christmas ornaments and other decorations. The air smelled of pretzles and roasted nuts...delicious. We had a few boots of gluwein in the beer tent to help warm our fingers, and we listened to a lone guy on the street corner play Christmas tunes on his sax. (Oompha music would have been more appropriate but that's ok).

We ended the evening at the Berghof, one of those places Ryan and I have always wanted to visit but just haven't yet. It is one of the oldest restaurants in Chicago; it is known for its delicious Berghof beer. The Berghof brewery closed a while back, so we didn't know if the beer was going to be as good as it used to be. We didn't have ANYTHING to worry about! The seasonal was very fine, but after the gluwein I could only have one because I still had to get home on the train. We did make it home on the last express, and spent an enjoyable evening with the in-laws chit chatting over cups of tea.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Halloween in Photos...beter late than never!

I am happy to recall that Halloween this year was one of the most fun we've had in a while. Last year, Emily fell asleep and never made it to the trick-or-treat portion of the evening. This year, since Halloween was on Saturday, we got to go trick-or-treating twice! And it was even more fun because my mom (aka Nonnie), my dad (aka Poppa) and Grandma Esther joined us. In the afternoon Ryan and I dressed up, and took Nora to the businesses in downtown D-town for their annual candy give-a-way. After dinner, Ryan and I changed so we could chase Emily as we went around the block. Both trips resulted in a fair amount of chocolate goodies for everyone. That evening, Nora hung out with her best friend and boyfriend, Miles. The candy must have gone to their heads; they got in trouble for kissing on the lips later that evening. I know I should be upset but its kinda cute.

We Killed our TV!!!

I know I have always been the odd-ball in my family (well, my husband is an odd-ball too, but we're a pair and we go together). We're the only Buddhists, the only vegetarians, the only ones who relish living in an old house with crooked walls because they have character. But this time, I am even surprised at how radical Ryan and I can be.

We killed our TV.

Most of you probably are probably sitting there going, huh?? Killed the TV? you can get a newer one! A bigger one! One of those fancy flat ones!


The TV is currently in the basement, and I don't have any plans of ever using it again. We put it down there a week ago for a number of reasons, most of which are outlined at this website:

Now, this blog is meant to be about the kids, so I won't go into the political and social stuff outlined in this link. Feel free to read it if you're interested in the reasons we chose to kill the boob tube, skip it if its not up your alley.

Ryan and I decided to say goodbye to the box during the kids nap last Sunday. While they were sleeping (a rare event in and of itself might I add), we took it out of the big cabinet and hid it in the basement. The DVD's went into the office with the computer. We felt we shouldn't take the movies and Blue's Clues DVD's away from the kids, but they would no longer function as my free babysitting service. Rather, the kids would do chores to earn show time.

When the kids woke up, they had a snack and we explained what happened. Nora thought it was a big joke, until I walked over to the cabinet, opened it, and displayed its empty contents. She did a double take, probably the first of her life, and demanded to know where the TV had gone. Emily, bless her heart, also did a double take. She does this little knee-bend thing when she wants a better look at something. Knee-bend, knee-bend, knee-bend! She turned around, cocked her head, and looked at us. "OH NO! OH NO! OH NO! Where did it go?" Ryan and I laughed till we cried with joy...Emily's first sentence!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My girls and I return to the blogosphere

Well wasn't I surprised to realize I haven't posted since September, and its now DECEMBER!!! So much for keeping a blog to track our memories! In my defense, at the beginning of September, I was offered the chance to create an online art appreciation course for college freshman, and well, guess what I've been doing in my free time? Not blogging, because blogging doesn't really pay. The class is complete, the check is in the mail, and I'm ready to get back to writing about something that is important.

I guess this post is about catching up with the good things that have occurred over the past months (because unfortunately a lot of bad things happened too that also kept me from writing).

Miss Nora Grace is thriving in school. She loves Miss Iris, her lessons, and her classmates. She has made very good friends with Keiyona (her little friend from an earlier post), Makiera, Illiana, and Hailey. She loves math, and can count to some unheard of number like 2500. (How many 4 year olds come to the realization that numbers never end?) She sings, she dances, she reads some words although, like her dad, she has a hard time with phonics. Its easier for her to memorize words. Needless to say, she loves school and is the teacher's pet.

Miss Emily Dianne is adjusting to life at home with mom. We sorta have a routine, but she still isn't talking so I have a hard time trying to understand what she thinks and what she wants. I discovered Emily is my best friend when it comes to the outdoors. She is happy as can be in the yard and taking walks. Inside its harder, in part because she has tantrums to go out. But its December, and its just too cold to be out all day. She has discovered a love of puzzles, and we play with the wooden Thomas trains every day. She loves to derail them and yell, "OH NO! OH NO! OH NOOOO!!!!"

So that's a summary of October and November. I will post some Halloween pics and you all can probably fill in the details. We missed Thanksgiving because we were all sick. Some of the other changes around here are ongoing, and will be featured in the posts to come. So you can all look forward to hearing about Emily's speech therapy when it starts, our Christmas tree, and the biggest change of all--the death of the TV. Love and hugs to my three readers---its good to be back.