Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas 2010: The Video

For anyone that would like to view all of our family's holiday photos while listening to several classic holiday tunes, check out this video. You can change the settings to view it in HD if viewing it full screen through You Tube. Enjoy!

Christmas 2010: The Good and the Bad, the Happy and the Sad


Christmas 2010 was unlike any Christmas we've ever celebrated before, for both good and bad reasons. I will probably remember this one as bittersweet, because there were moments of true joy, but for me there was some sadness too.

The holiday season started off right. We got the tree at Lowe's, and had a blast decorating it. For the first time Emily was also allowed to help put up ornaments, although she had more fun standing back and watching Nora and I trim the tree. Ryan hooked up his old i-pod in the living room so there was a good three week period in which our favorite Christmas songs filled the air along with the scent of pine.

As Christmas day approached, I began to stress out more than in the past, and unfortunately this quelled some of the excitement I had been feeling earlier in the month. First, work became a nightmare. I'll leave it at that for now, but don't be surprised in the next few months if there's a post about how (1) I've run away to become a farmer or (2) I've found a new job.

Second, this was the first year where I really felt I had to make sure Nora got what her heart was set upon. You see, last year Santa failed to bring her a pillow pet, and she was really down and out about that for the last 12 months. I had a heart to heart with Santa and asked him to please make sure she didn't have to feel like that again! Santa secured a pillow pet in early October (smart move Santa!!!) but failed to realize that Zhu Zhu Pet Princess accessories were going to be impossible to find. After many many trips to the store, Santa's elves managed to score both a Zhu Zhu Princess Palace and a beauty salon around December 22nd. Phew!!!! But also Wow!! I never imagined myself to be one of those moms who could get hung up over a toy!

My stress levels, and excitement levels, really started to rise as the day approached. I was so excited because for the first time in Emily's life, I was hosting Christmas dinner. When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was spent with family feasting on seafood, and on Christmas day we went to my Grandma Esther's house for even more amazing food. As we got older, that tradition changed. I spent Christmas Eve with Ryan's family, and my sister began hosting Christmas day. This has always been fun in the past, but as the family is growing and changing, I felt it was really important for Nora and Emily to celebrate some of the holidays in their home with both sides of the family present. That's what we planned for this year. I was so excited to see everyone, Ryan was excited I was making Chicken Stew (not quite the Italian feast but dang its dairy-licious). The kids were just excited, and continued to run around the house singing Jingle Bells.

And then my kids got sick with the snot-nosed virus of 2010. You all know what I'm talking about, the cold where everyone's head was filled with boogers. What a nasty nasty bug. It took whole family with it, draining us of energy and probably brain matter too with the amount of nose blowing that occurred.

The major fallout of this was that my mom, who is still undergoing chemo, couldn't come to the Christmas celebration. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Then Xander got sick with the aforementioned snot-nosed virus, so he and his dad couldn't come either. So there were some moments of disappointment from my point of view. It wasn't the Christmas I had planned, and I must have been more attached to those plans than I realized, because for the first time in my life, I cried--aka freaked out--on Christmas day.

Luckily for all of us, the freak out didn't start on Christmas Eve, didn't delay Santa's visit, and didn't affect those who were able to make it to our home. And it did turn out to be a lovely holiday. We had some laughs too because

---I forgot to defrost Christmas Eve dinner so we had to order take out sushi. Or maybe I forgot on purpose, because I'm always looking for an excuse to order Fushi Yami!

---Nora chided me for not wrapping my gift to her (I redecorated her room! How the heck was I going to wrap a bedroom??? Goof!)

---On Christmas morning, Ryan and I awoke to the sound of feet thundering from the girls room to the tree. One could tell a plan was being hatched by the continued sound of feet, and then Emily entered our room. After telling me a bunch of nonsense, she took a deep breath and said in a hushed voice, "presents!!!!". When I asked if Santa came, she said just as seriously, "Yes". Wow!!! Emily understood Santa! Best present ever.

---Santa was so silly. He hid the pillow pets in the TV cabinet! Nora didn't discover them right away, what a wonderful surprise!

---I discovered on Christmas Eve that I donated all of my Christmas dining stuff to charity at some point in my life I no longer remember; so I set the table with a beautiful new gold tablecloth and paper plates.

---My Dad played trivial pursuit on the i-phone. (This is funny if you know how tech literate my dad is).

---Dinner wasn't funny but it tasted great!

---I left Stephanie and Jessie's presents under the tree, so they drove for hours and hours and didn't even get a gift! Then I thought I saw Jessie wearing the gloves we bought her, so I returned them only to find out on NYE she still wanted them. Ah well!!!

Happy Holidays 2010. Thank you for the good memories, thanks for the not so good ones too. Life isn't ever going to go according to plan, thanks for the reminder! But all that really matters is that Nora and Emily had a magical two days of gifts and family and great food, and hopefully they will remember the moments that mattered with fondness as they grow up.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nora's 6th Birthday Bash

When I started making plans for Nora's birthday, she still had a cast on her arm, and the doctor said it would be there until the end of the year. Being worried about a second broken bone, I tried to come up with a plan in which a number of 5 and 6 year old children could gather without a lot of commotion. I asked Nora if she would like to bring some friends to the movie, and she thought that was a fine idea. Especially since Disney, on the heels of the success of the Princess and the Frog, decided to release another princess movie. So Nora invited her friends to see Tangled, starring Princess Rapunzel. She was very VERY excited.

In order to make it a proper birthday party, I went and got the Tangled invitations, stickers, napkins, plates, cake, etc. It seemed like all was in order...all except when the party was actually gonna happen. What I didn't foresee when I hatched this plan, and what could have ruined the whole thing, is that theaters don't really release what time the different movies are playing until a few days before. So when Nora handed out the invitations, there was a note to the parents to call me to see what show we were going to attend. The problem? No one called. This was an even bigger problem because Nora assumed everyone that was invited was going to be thrilled to show up to her birthday.

Luckily, the party was saved from certain failure because Nora's two best friends, Miles and Ian, happen to have very cool moms whom I consider friends, and they made sure their sons would be here for Nora's day. Thank goodness they did, because I couldn't bear the idea of telling her the party was cancelled. The morning of her party, she did seem slightly disappointed that some of the girls from her class and her cousin weren't going to make it, but as soon as she had her dress on, along with her Tangled birthday ribbon, she was as happy as any other little girl on her birthday. Both Miles and Ian showed up, and off to the theater we went.

It was also a special day for Emily, because it was Emily's first ever trip to the movies. I am glad to report everyone, boys and girls alike, enjoyed the film. Even though it had a princess it was anything but a sissy movie. There was action, adventure, and silly songs (in addition to the lovey dovey kissing stuff, which made Ian smack his forehead in disgust. So funny, exactly what you'd expect from a 5 year old boy!) My favorite part was actually during a scary scene, because Emily climbed over all the other kids to sit in my lap. The ending is a tear jerker, and Nora began to cry a little, but luckily there was a happily ever after so we could go home and actually enjoy the cake and presents.

All in all, it was a successful birthday. I was happy because Nora got to feel special, she got to see a movie she now loves, and she spent several quality hours playing with her two best friends. Because there wasn't a house full of people, they kids never got overwhelmed and I felt they all behaved really well considering I fed them tons of sugar and junk food. The adults had a great visit too, and that's really nice when you can take a breather and enjoy the company of your peers! I would definitely like to do this again, but with the lack of turnout for this year, I might not be able to do so. Oh well, that's ok. I have 11 months to think of something else!

Nora's 6th Birthday Party

Random Silly Pics


Well, there are a number of headings one could write for this photo. All I can say is I'll bet Steve Jobs did not envision the i-pod as a potty training device. I like to think of it as the "i-pood". Feel free to include your own inappropriate jokes in the comments.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jingle Bells Video



The girls REALLY got into the Christmas spirit after we put up our tree. Here is just a little sample of how they acted for the majority of December!

And if you're wondering, yes this video is on its side. I just got this phone for my birthday, and I was holding it, well like a phone rather than a camera. I'm learning, give me a break!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blink


Oops, I did blink, and there went the rest of December!

My effort to have an unbusy 2010 was, I can now say with some certainty, unsuccessful. However, since the many disasters of the last post, I can also say with even more certainty that things are improving, and will hopefully continue to improve until the next set of disasters!

First, to start at where I left off, Ryan did purchase a new car. I am now the proud owner of a new-to-me 2007 Mazda Five. It is not quite a car and not quite a van...its a "sports wagon". To call it a station wagon is not cool I suppose, but you know, a rose is a rose is a rose. And this ride is sweet. Did I mention its PURPLE!?!? So Ryan came home with a highly rated, safe family vehicle AND its pretty! I've been driving it for a few weeks now, and while I'm still not quite used to its smooth handling and zoom zoom, I must say I like this so-called sports wagon. I like it a lot. I've named her Violet. She is my third car, after Lil' the Escort and the Mom Van. Nora and Emily also approve, because (1) their windows fully open and (2) it has a sun roof and (3) it has a DVD player with headphones for the kiddos. So now on the long ride to Grandma's house they can watch movies, and I am saved from endless choruses of "are we there yet?". Oh Violet, you're the best!

Since I've posted last, Nora also had her Christmas sing at school. She has been practicing the songs for a few weeks now (including Jingle Bells. Those of you on Facebook have seen the video; will post her shortly). The morning of the Christmas sing she was very very excited, but when she came home that afternoon she began to get nervous. She was actually acting more like a young adult than a little girl, and I admit I was really surprised at how much thought she had put into her case of nerves. She was worried she had nothing to wear, she was worried because she didn't know where her Bump-it hair piece was, she was worried about remembering her lines, she was nervous we would be late, she was nervous to be singing in front of a group of strangers! My goodness that is a lot of worry for a 5 year old, and she ended up sick in the bathroom.

I did my best to calm her down. I gave her the birthday outfit I had purchased for her early so she would have new clothes, I found the Bump-It and curled her hair, we practiced her lines over and over, and I distracted her from thinking about the crowd by wrapping Christmas presents. It seemed to work well, although once in car ***pardon me sports wagon*** I had to shush Ryan from mentioning the masses of parents we were about to encounter because Nora was still sick to her stomach. But, like a true performer, once the show started you couldn't tell she had been queasy. Her lines actually opened the program, and while it was hard to make out what she was saying into the mic, she did a good job. She stood next to her best friend at school Ian for the singing portion, and had a lot of cookies afterwards because she was feeling better. I was so proud of her! She looked beautiful and she sang her heart out.

The following day was the last day of school for the three of us prior to Christmas break. Well, its been a break for them...I've had more work than ever! Stay tuned.

And for those of you that are wondering, yes, I took the title Blink from my favorite episode of Dr. Who.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A note for Nora on her 6th Birthday

Wow. Six years. Where did the time go? And yet its like it didn't go anywhere at all, because Nora is such a part of this family I can hardly remember what it is like to not have her with us. Nora was born three weeks after we moved into our house, so basically began our lives as adults with Nora's birth. There are times in life when you can look back and realize that a moment changed everything; one of those moments was when Dr. Cathy handed me a tiny, red, screaming little girl. It was the most amazing thing I ever saw.

************************************************************************************************

Nora, you are without a doubt, the most beautiful and intelligent six year old I've ever met. Our house is a home because you are with us. Your dad and I didn't really become a family until the day you were born. As you've grown, we've grown into strong and loving family. And we will continue to grow, and you especially will thrive, may even more than the average child. I think a lot of people will agree with me when I say that you will have the smarts and the drive to do whatever you want to do with your life. Your interests are so varied, I think if you have any trouble at all it will be simply choosing a few things to focus on...after all, you're already a fantastic artist/super model/scientist/mathematician/author/comedienne. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, there's so much for you to still discover!

I think the best part about seeing you go from a baby to a six year old girl has been watching your personality grow. You are so funny! And you never ever ever stop talking. Ever! Ah, the apple doesn't fall to far from the tree. You are such a girlie girl too, and I revel in watching you dress in head to toe pink and purple, in watching you dance around in tiaras and gowns, and how much enjoyment you get from fairy tales where everyone lives happily ever after. Just yesterday I was listening to you sing the love songs from Beauty and the Beast. And you weren't just singing, you were so there in that poor provincial town. You had no idea that anyone else was around! I have to apologize though, sweetie, I think you got my singing voice, so a record deal may not be in the future.

I am so excited, and quite honestly, honored to spend this time of your life with you. Six is so much fun! The little girl in you is ready to shine, and I will help you do that to the best of my ability. Now is the time of your life where you can hang out with me and its still cool; and I want to do arts and crafts and tea parties and dress-up. I like helping out with your homework, and this is the year we will be able to start reading chapter books together. There are so many new worlds to discover and literary friends to meet...Laura Ingalls, Ramona Quimby, and of course we will continue to follow Jack and Annie in their adventures through time.

Happy Birthday Nora! I love you so much. Thank you for letting me be your Momma.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Update: Comedy of Errors

Went to the doctor today and yep! I had a cyst, it really did burst, and its infected. I'm on antibiotics now, but if it doesn't clear itself up, I will have to have what is left of the cyst removed surgically. The area between my skin and my muscle will also have to be cleaned. Eeeww. But I'm on the road to getting better.

Ryan did get the van rolling; today the temps are above freezing. He is at the car dealer now and I'm waiting for him to come back. I couldn't go with him to help choose a vehicle since Nora is still so sick, and besides, my driver's license expired a few weeks ago and I haven't had a chance to update it. I can't test drive anything. That's ok though, I trust his judgment. I tend to gravitate towards cars that are pretty rather than reliable. It will be very interesting to see what he drives home!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Comedy of Errors...

This week has been like no other. It seems like every time I turn around, something else is wrong. But, on the positive side, we have burned up a lot, I mean a LOT of bad karma, so its got to get better. Right?

Right...as I'm typing this I can hear Ryan trying in vain to get the van out of the driveway. But from the sound of it, he's just burning up the tires. I'll get to that in a moment.

MONDAY: On Monday Emily decided she wanted to regress to babyhood. I'm really not sure what is going on; its bizarre to say the least. She has been wearing underwear during the day with a pretty good success rate, but she peed her pants 4 times and took a number 2 to boot. The kicker was each accident happened within 10 minutes of me putting her on the potty! Even stranger, she decided she wasn't going to drink from a cup, and has been asking for bottles. Finally I gave in on Thursday because she was getting dehydrated. Honestly, I don't know what to make of it.

TUESDAY: I woke up with a raging fever on Tuesday morning. I don't know how high my fever got in the middle of the night, but I do remember floating over my body at one point. So my day wasn't great, but the worst part about it was lying there while Ryan ran around getting everyone ready for school. Mornings are pretty hectic since the girls go to separate schools. I usually get Emily ready for the bus, while Ryan gets Nora ready, and then he drives her to school. Somehow, though the miracle of coffee, he managed to get Nora to school early so he could be back here to put Emily on the bus. At that point he ran to work, but was on call in case I got worse. Home at noon, he was, to get Emily off the bus. Back to work, then back here again at 2pm with Nora. Then of course he had to get dinner ready after work (ok actually he drove to Burger King to get chicken fingers) because I was still weak to stand. So it was bad day, but Ryan racked up major brownie points in my eyes.

WEDNESDAY: All was going well on Wednesday! Woke up feeling much better. There wasn't much food in the house, so I decided to do a little light grocery shopping after school. The trip to Walmart was like any other until it was time to go. I couldn't get the van to move further than an inch or two at a time. Something went pop! and it was like the wheels broke. UGH. Keep in mind I was feverish less than 24 hours prior, and I've got two tired kids with me. After debating what to do, I called on Tim and Rachel, who came to our rescue. At first we thought perhaps it just needed transmission fluid, which had been seen on the driveway this week. Long story short; tried that to no avail. Tranny fluid doesn't fix a bad bearing. Anyways, Tim drove us home, and we've started car shopping online. The plan is to buy a new to us vehicle ASAP...maybe tomorrow.

THURSDAY: Over the past week I've noticed some changes in a cyst I've had for several years. Its always been small, round, and without change. No problem! Nothing to worry about. Well, to my surprise, the damn thing burst. I felt a pop, the bump was gone, and then there was pain. I don't know if you've ever had this experience before, and I hope you don't. Did I mention pain? I'm swollen, and am worried that it might actually be infected. (It is getting bigger, redder, and ouchier with each passing hour). If I can get the van to move I will have the doctor check it out tomorrow prior to purchasing a car. Because I didn't have enough lined up this week.

FRIDAY: Driving the van to work...a joke. Getting Emily to school and realizing she didn't have shoes, her water cup, or nap blankets...a joke. Having to show movies instead of lecturing because I can't stand for long periods of time due to cyst...a joke. Nora barfing her head off like never before in her life...no joke. Apparently the health department contacted the schools today to alert everyone that a stomach flu is going around. Guess who got it first?

BTW Ryan came back inside. The van is stuck in the driveway. We will have to wait for tomorrow when the temperature rises to see if we can move it again. We have to move it, I need to get to the doctor and we need to trade that lemon in before the real cold hits. Oh geez. Coffee can't fix this one.

I try not to be a complainer, but had to get this off my chest!!! To end this on a positive note, because you never know what's gonna happen next, I'd like to share some words that keep me going during weeks like this:

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.
-- Buddha

Well, I'm not dead yet! And I always learn a lot from my girls. Even through her pain and fever, even with her head in the toilet, Nora was singing the Sponge Bob theme song till she passed out. If that's not a lesson in keeping spirits up, I don't know what is.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

100th Post!!!

Wow!!! Welcome to the 100th post! That's a pretty major milestone. I guess this calls for a celebration.

Well, it just so happens that today was the first major snowfall of the year. What better way to celebrate than to don the snow pants and moon-boots and go outside? We did, and it was fun. Nora is actually still outside as I write this; I spent a little extra money on ski-mittens for her hands, and the investment is paying off. Emily had to come inside because her little hands were so cold and so red. She's all wrapped up in her purple stripped blanket, as happy as can be.

Winter is here, the holidays are just around the corner. So is the end of the semester. Thank goodness! This is my favorite time of the year.

Here are the pictures from our adventure outside. You might want to make yourself some cocoa.

First Snow 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whoa...don't take my gluten!!!!

Ummm...yeah.

We are still in the midst of experimenting with our diets around here to figure out a way to get the family healthy but happy with what's on their plate. Of course we're also trying to get Emily talking a little more, and running into walls a little less. This is no small task.

Let's start with the good news. Ryan and the kids are doing great with a dairy free life. I'm finding recipes that seem to agree with everyone at least part of the time. I'm still enjoying my Starbuck lattes and cheesy meals when out with my friends. (And my best friend Rachel gave me some goat cheese for my birthday...best present ever!) Nora can even have a little pizza as long as she takes a lactaid pill. I couldn't be happier with this outcome. We've adjusted.

However, about two weeks ago, Emily broke out with a bad case of eczema. It was all over her back, and the bumps on her rear end returned. This, coupled with a lot of loose bowels, led me to foray into the world of gluten free cooking. All I can say is what a disaster! For those of you that aren't familiar with gluten, its a very long and complex protein found in wheat and barley. It is difficult to break down, and the theory amongst many autism advocates is that kids like Emily can't fully digest the gluten. So these kids need to avoid any and all wheat products. Think about that for a second...that means no bread in most of its forms (bread, bagels, English muffins, buns) no pancakes or waffles, no doughnuts, no pasta, no meat-free substitutes, no crackers, and of course no cheese...oh my god we are going to starve.

I tried, I really did. But so far its just not working. Its been a few weeks and we haven't gone more than a day and a half fully gluten free. Taking away animal crackers is akin to taking away her oxygen supply, and I just can't handle the tears. "Momma...Momma...Momma...Animal cracker. An-i-mal CRAK-er. Momma...Momma..." You get the drift. I even started cooking meat in the attempt to make this diet work. I made the best looking schnitzel this side of the pond with gluten free flour and margarine instead of butter. Emily didn't even touch it, and I was sick to my stomach for nearly 3 days. So we can safely add pork to the no-go list. (Editor's Note: Nora doth protest. She declared schnitzel and potato pancakes the most delicious dinner ever).

Anyways, we reached the breaking point.

Yesterday for dinner Emily ate rice with ketchup.

This is ridiculous. White rice and organic ketchup is not a healthy meal.

So its back to the drawing board. Over lunch Ryan and I had a long conversation, focusing on the literature I've been reading. The theory, the one that we feel pertains to Emily, is that her body has been overloaded with a lot of toxins. Any additional toxins (like peptides created from undigested dairy and gluten) are overloading an already stressed brain and immune system. We decided we are going to go after the toxins in her body first.

Removing the toxins is going to have to be done in two main ways. First, we need to remove the crap that is already inside of her. We are going the all natural route, starting with glutathione (an amino acid) as well as medicinal clay, garlic, onion, and cilantro. I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to get all these tinctures and pills into her, but hopefully it will be a funny story you can all read in the coming weeks. Secondly, we need to avoid putting more crap into Emily (and Nora and the rest of the world!). It is my intention to switch to all organic/natural products by the end of the year. This obviously means food, but also toothpaste, soaps, and household cleaning products. We will also have to think twice about the types of household repairs we do; many items from the hardware store from paints to plywood to carpets "off-gas", so if we are working in this old house, Emily needs to be somewhere else.

I don't know if this is going to work, but it can't hurt. And certainly being more green is best for everyone, so these are changes I'd like to see become permanent fixtures around here.

As I busy myself with my plans to save Emily and then the world, you can find Emily and Nora enjoying animal crackers and cherry juice, with a side of apple sauce.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nora's X-Rays

 
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Here is a copy of the x-ray image of her arm from the day of the fall. The doctor said that the angle it has moved is between 10 and 12 percent.

Nora's Broken Arm

 I suppose this was the universe's way of telling me letting the kids play hookey from school for the day wasn't the best idea I've ever had. But it sounded like so much fun...

And the beginning of the day was fun. I planned an afternoon with my mom, who was home recovering from a chemo treatment. (As many of you know my mom is currently fighting breast cancer. I don't really write about it here in the blog because I feel that its her story to share, not mine). Anyhow, we went to the store for some delicious chocolate almond milk, got a picinic lunch to boot, then headed over to my mom's house on one of those beautiful fall days that looks like a postcard. Blue skies, the trees in every shade of red and yellow you can imagine, and the long grasses were brown and rustlng in the wind. Who'd want to go to school?

We visited with my mom for a bit, but the kids were getting antsy and my mom was looking tired, so we headed to the park. Since it was only 2pm, the other kids weren't home from school yet and we had the place to ourselves. Emily loves the slide there. I like the swings because my feet don't drag on the ground. Nora was excited to try a new set of monkey bars. We were all having a good time. I was on the swing, watching Nora when she jumped to reach the monkey bars and missed. She grabbed at the air as she fell, and she hit the ground hard.

My mom alarm went off. She didn't get up, and the cry got stuck in her throat. It only took me 2 or 3 seconds to reach her, but oh my god it felt like eons. I reached her little crumpled body on the mulchly ground, and for a second I wasn't even looking at Nora. I was looking at me, and I was 11 years old crumpled on the ground one block over from that very park, with a broken arm. I knew that arm was broken without even looking at her.

The walk home was just awful. No kidding. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can't win. Since we hadn't been at the park all that long, Emily wasn't ready to go. When I said, "Nora's hurt! Time to go!" she started screaming. I had to carry her to mom's, and she kicked and screamed most of the way. Since I had one writhing toddler in my arms, there was no way I could carry Nora too. She had to walk next to me, and she was crying and said, "Mom!!! You're going too fast. Every time I step it HURTTTTSSSS....". That walk home took forever, and the park is only 4 doors down.

I laid Nora on the couch, and she didn't move. Her little wrist was so swollen. I drove like a maniac to the store to get her some pain killers, because past experience from my broken arm taught me that sports creme is not an effecive cure-all. Once I got the meds in her, I made arrangements to drop Emily at home with Ryan while I took Nora to the clinic. Another long drive...75 miles in fact between mom's and the docs. But we missed rush hour and made it safe.

Once at the clinic, Nora was a star patient. I couldn't have been prouder! She listened to all of the instructions when her x-rays were taken. She sat as calm as could be waiting for Dr. Patel, who was a very nice and very funny doctor. She was brave when they put on the temporary cast, and managed to eat every last bite of her Happy Meal. She even went to school the next day. Since then, she has been to the orthopedic doctor twice. They've moved her into a permanent cast, which is the brighest pink you can imagine. She will probably be in the cast for 3 months. So far she has adjusted to life with the cast. The only thing she misses are her long baths with Emily. Obviously the cast can't get wet, so she has to sit by herself with no bath toys. She also misses the park, and continues to ask me if we can go and play when the weather is nice. It's good to know that even after such a big fall, she's ready and willing to get right back up.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Waiting waiting waiting....(Part 2)

Another day has passed, still no news on Emily's appointment, although the nurse I spoke to said don't be surprised if our appointment is scheduled for next MARCH. Umm...okay. Well, I can still do some reading; after all, being informed can't hurt. So here's the second installment of what's on my mind concerning Emily.

A lot of the info I've come across has discussed that in addition to the problem of autism or allergies or ADHD, a lot of the kids presenting with these disorders also have stomach and digestion problems. Many moms, including me, think that the link between the two is more than coincidence.

I know my kids have tummy troubles. They are plugged up like, oh I don't know, something with a cork. Anyways, since neither one of them has ever had runny poop, I didn't think they had an issue. Well wasn't I wrong. After doing some reading I decided to talk to Nora about her potty habits, since she can talk, and her diapers were always similar to Emily's. (A good mom knows everything about her babies). Nora informed me that she didn't go potty everyday, and when she did it hurt. I started timing her, from the time she first felt like she needed to go to the time the cork popped, so to speak. Sometimes it would take her 24 hours to make one BM. Oh my goodness, that is just terrible.

To save you all from unnecessary details, take my word for it that Emily has the same problem. And so now for the solution. Coincidently, step one of project "Save Emily from the Short Bus" is also helpful for Nora, who I believe is lactose intolerant, like her dad.

STEP ONE: REMOVE DAIRY FROM THE HOUSE.

Read that again carefully: I removed dairy from the house. No more ice-cream, yogurt, or milk. No more mac and cheese or Goldfish. No more bread made with milk, no more fake meat products since many of them have caesin or whey, a milk derivative. No more eating like I know it.

It's been two full weeks since I've had the kids off the big D completely. They are adjusting, thankfully, better than I. The first few days were really rough. Both girls refused to drink the almond milk, and were literally hanging from my legs crying for ice-cream. Emily started to have these bizarre hyper-active fits, in which she'd kick her legs for an hour at a time. She couldn't be still to save her life. She is still having those fits, although they have lessened in frequency and duration.

As far as stomach pains go, the kids are doing great. Ryan said he hasn't felt better in years. Me? Well, I think I'm having the hardest time with this because dairy doesn't make me feel sick, it makes me feel full. And soy milk, well it doesn't sit so well with me. I've increased my Starbucks latte intake to make-up for the lack of milk at home. Its not what I planned to do at all. I wanted to stand by the kids and go dairy free with them, but I actually felt so hungry without dairy I couldn't sleep. After a week of being awoken by my growling stomach, I had to concede defeat and purchase a latte with milk. (Irony? Yes, that I'd need coffee to sleep does seem backwards).

So that is the happy medium we've achieved thus far. These changes are hard, but we are getting used to them. I imagine in another week or two going diary free will be as natural as being a vegetarian has become. Once we hit that point, we will initiate phase two, which is to remove gluten from our diet. I haven't quite figured that out yet, since the literature states you cannot be meat free and gluten free. So we've got some choices to make around here, but whatever we decide, it will be with Emily's best interest in heart.

For further reading on the links between developmental delays, autism, and diet, please check out the following sites:

Talk About Curing Autism: http://www.talkaboutcuringautism.org/index.php

Generation Rescue: http://www.generationrescue.org/home

Do Toxins Cause Autism?: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/opinion/25kristof.html?_r=1

Monday, October 25, 2010

Waiting waiting waiting for bad news (Part I)

Its been awhile since I've updated, but as always, I simply can't keep up with everything that is going on. Broken bones, doctor's offices that don't call back, homework, and family members in the hospital have kept me busy.

Where to begin? I suppose where I left off. In the last post, I noted that Emily's therapists hoped to have her evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. I contacted our new (wonderful) pediatrician at the beginning of the school year to see if he agreed, which he did. He gave me a referral to a doctor at Children's Memorial Hospital. I contacted them over the phone and must have passed the oral screening, since I received a big fat packet in the mail days later asking for Emily's medical history. I filled it out to the best of my ability, and as I did my heart began to break. On paper, Emily looks and sounds autistic.

How can a child, who is obviously lovable and likable and friendly as can be, be, well, autistic? I still can't believe it, and of course maybe its not true since I haven't been to the specialist yet. But it sure didn't help when Dr. Phillips said, "Well I just don't know what to say about her delays...she very well could have autism or Asperger's.". Part of me just can't believe it. Wow, did I cry, and cry, and cried some more. Then I got irritated. Why not me? Really, why my daughter? But then, I suppose, every mom and dad probably thinks the same thing when they get bad news from the doc.

So now I'm just waiting. And waiting. But I'm not the kind of person to sit around and twiddle my thumbs, so as I wait for the phone call that seems like it will never come, I've started reading. It's almost like being back in grad school, the gusto with which I've started reading about what are popularly called the "new childhood diseases" of autism, allergies, ADD, and ADHD. In typical Ivy fashion, I've tended to be drawn to more of the out of the box approaches to these issues. The tomes written by doctors and the experts haven't appealed to me nearly as much as the books written by the moms that have stood by their kids and pulled them back from the nightmare world of a child that can't function in our society. But I guess I'm getting ahead of myself here.

First, let me give you a breakdown of what the experts look for in autistic children. The following information came from http://www.everydayhealth.com/autism/recognizing-symptoms.aspx?ipc=B00448:

1. Difficulty communicating. This can present itself in a number of different ways. For instance, some autistic children are uncomfortable carrying on a conversation. Others don't use words and instead will rely on hand gestures. Here are some other communication warning signs of autism:

-Language milestones that are delayed or not met
-Frequent rhyming that doesn’t make sense
-Repetitive sounds, words, or phrases, possibly from a TV show or a book
-References to self in the incorrect person — calling himself "you" instead of "I”
-Not looking at things that are the topic of conversation or that others focus on; for instance, if you’re talking about a car, the child won't turn to look at the car.

2. Difficulty interacting socially. Children with autism often show unusual symptoms or act uncomfortable in social situations. This can include:

-Acting isolated or withdrawn
-Inability to express empathy for others
-Frequently playing alone instead of interacting with other people
-Difficulty making friends
-Avoiding eye contact
-Ignoring friendly advances, including smiling
-Problems playing games or just interacting with others during play

3. Sensitivity to sensory stimulation. Autistic children have unusual reactions to sensory stimulation — either no reaction at all or an over-sensitive reaction. Here are some autism symptoms relating to the senses:

-High tolerance for pain or, conversely, a very low threshold for pain
-Unusual sensitivity or very low sensitivity to taste, sights, sounds, smells, and touch
-Unusual responses to regular noises such as covering the ears or saying that the noise hurts
-No interest in physical contact
-Frequent physical contact with objects — uses taste, touch, and smell to better investigate objects

4. Behavioral problems. Children with autism may experience a wide variation of behavioral problems, including:

-Very aggressive behaviors
-Repetitive motions like rocking and twirling
-Interest in only a few activities or games played often
-Resistance to change or new activities
-Difficulty paying attention
-Either demonstrating withdrawn, quiet behavior or being extremely active
-Acting out with severe temper tantrums
-Inability to move beyond one activity or problem

I would add a number 5: An inability to wait in line, especially at birthday parties and in the grocery story!

It would actually be quicker for me to list the items above that do NOT apply to Em rather than the other way around. As far as the communication problems go, that list above describes her to a T. The second list of symptoms, which are associated with social interactions, don't apply as well to Emily simply because she has been in therapy for 9 months to increase her sociability. Unfortunately she still doesn't have any friends, but she does parallel play. As far as sensitivity goes, there may be a reason why I can't keep her in clothes, even when she's freezing. That would also explain her love of eating hot sauce and soap. And I'm blessed and fortunate that the behavior problems have lessened, again due to nine months of non-stop therapy. That didn't, however, stop her yesterday from beaning Nora square in the head with a shoe.

Well, I've had my cry. I've put off telling people long enough that bad news is probably around the corner. Now its time to act. Because sitting around feeling sorry for myself and my kid is not doing anybody any good. From what I've read, many moms and innovative doctors think this plague of childhood diseases is caused by the fact we are poisoning our bodies and poisoning our world with chemicals and other nasty stuff. (Mr. Karma plays a big role too, in my opinion). So now its time for me to act. Its time to save my kid from riding the short bus for the rest of her life. And I will do whatever it takes. Because she's no dummy, that Emily. If you believe my dad she is, in fact, the next Albert Einstein. She's also sweet, funny, and good-spirited. She says please and thank-you. She loves her family. And even if she gets stuck with the label autism now, you damn-better be sure I'm gonna make that label disappear.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Saying good-bye to Speech and OT

I will start by saying this post is INCREDIBLY behind the times in many respects. Emily finished speech and OT at the end of August. But, as I mentioned in several prior posts, leaving two of the most helpful people in Emily's life was really difficult. I felt like I was taking away Emily's life-boat, her means of learning and progressing and expressing herself! Since therapy has ended and school has started, I've seen that this isn't in fact the case. Emily can survive in the school system; indeed, she is thriving, but we both still miss Shelly and Sue terribly.

What follows are excerpts from the discharge reports detailing Emily's progress to date (August 2010) and what type of goals her future teachers should think about. If you go back and read the reports about Emily's behaviors from the beginning of the year, the progress she has made is just amazing. Go Miss Em!

Speech Discharge Report:

"Emily initiates communication frequently at this point, using many single words, frequent two-word combos, and some longer 3-4 word utterances (eg I like it puzzle). She still has difficulty processing what people say to her; she does not answer questions beyond "Do you want..?" and she has difficulty following directions. Her attention at times appears to be hyper-focused on an item or activity and its is difficult to redirect her attention or to wait and take turns. Pictures are still very important to help her understand schedules and routines.

She seeks sensory input, has a high need for activity, has a need for order, and is highly distracted. She has difficulty regulating her emotions and needs her blanket and cup to help calm herself.

Goals include (1) Producing a sentence with a person's name + verb or noun + verb (2) Follow novel commands (eg put the cup on your head) (3) ID objects by function."

OT Discharge Report:

"Emily made great gains in OT in the last 5 months. Initally she demonstrated difficulty regulating herself in a large open space; however, she is now able to particpate in activites in large spaces without fleeting from activity to activity. Emily also demonstrated an improved ability to initiate play schemes, tolerate mixed toy themes, and request her blanket or drink when overwhelmed.

Emily is an adorable child who has demonstrated improved self-regulation and play since beginning OT. She is a child who benefits from visual supports with schedules and novel situations; however, once she gains an understanding of the situation the supports can be removed. Emily benefits from the cue "listen" to get her auditory attention to a situation or task as her visual system is presently stornger than her language processing system. Emily regulates herself with a blanket and a drink and will request or seek out those items when stressed.

A medical diagnostic evaluation is recommended to assist Emily and her family to determine any medical reason for Emily's speech/language delay and difference in self-regulation."

Despite the fact that Emily is behind her peers in terms of language and expressive play, I am so proud of the gains she has made. In the next month I will be attending parent-teacher conferences, and should be able to report on her progress with the new therapists. We are also waiting to find out if Emily will be seen by a developmental pediatrician (something easier said than done) to determine what other medical factors are involved in her developmental delays. I've been doing a lot of reading on the role of diet and development, and will have more on that topic in the coming weeks.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Random Silly Pics

 


Lately Nora has been working on a portfolio of self-portraits...this is one of my favorites! I laugh every time I download the pics off the camera, because I never know what I'm gonna find.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 1, 2010

Kids Say the Darnest Things

Welcome to what may or may not be a regular feature of the blog. It's continued sucess will depend on Nora's burgeoning sense of humor.

As you all know, I'm a teacher. Sometimes I talk about work and my students at the dinner table. I recently had a guy that missed the first exam, and I said to Ryan, "I just don't believe I should give him a make-up, not for a party! I know that's mean, but come on..."

Without missing a beat, Nora nodded her head in agreement. "Yea, that's crazy! What kind of boy needs make-up anyways? Boys don't wear make-up!"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Switch-a-roo

In the past few months, little visitors have entered my bedroom in the middle of the night. Sometimes they just stare at me from across the room, sometimes they poke at my face with their fingers, and sometimes they push me out of the way and steal my precious pillows and blankets, leaving me cold, cramped, and uncomfortable.

Those little visitors are Nora and Emily.

I'd have to say that, when Nora was born 5 1/2 years ago, I knew my sleep schedule was going to be interruped by midnight feedings and the occassional bad dream. I had NO IDEA that this many years on, I would be getting up regularly in the middle of the night. Not every night, but a lot of nights. No wonder I've accquired quite the caffeine habit. Something, Ryan and I decided, needed to be done.

Last winter we played around with the idea of moving the girls into one bedroom and converting the other bedroom into a toy room. I was worried this wouldn't work, seeing that the only experience I had ever heard of involving sisters sharing a room was nothing short of a disaster (yes Aunt Jessica and Aunt Stephanie, I am referring to you). Besides, Nora would never want to leave her beautiful princess bedroom.

Or so I thought. As the months have been going by, the midnight visits have increased steadily. Our sleep, not just the grown-ups sleep but the kids sleep, was suffering. One morning I found Emily asleep on my wooden floor. She was too tired, apparently, to make it all the way over to our bed. That was the final straw.

A few weeks back Ryan and I used our muscles to move furniture and toys and we created two new spaces in our home. Emily's room, which is slightly larger and painted in a lovely shade of calming pink, was chosen as the new bedroom. Nora's huge bed clashes terribly with Emily's daybed, but at the moment I don't care. Really, its more important for them to feel like they have someone, that they're not alone, and that bed is the place for rest.

Nora's purple Princess palace was chosen to be the toyroom. With a minimum of investment (because hey we still don't know if this is really going to work!) we set up the room like a little girl's dream. There are now two toy boxes, two cubed shelves, and an armoire filled with dress-up clothes. The rule is no toys outside of the toyroom. This is designed to help keep the house from looking like a tornado went through it, but more importantly, its to keep the girls from having any distractions that might tempt them out of bed.

So far the switch-a-roo is working! The girls still get out of bed, for sure. But the number of noctural shenanigns are down significantly. And, usually, if one kid gets out of bed, the other follows. I only need to get up once from my chair to put them back to bed!!! This actually does make a difference!

If the switch-a-roo is going to be permanent, I plan on redecorating the girls bedroom for Christmas. Until then I will share pics of the new playroom. Note there is room on the wall for a flat screen TV. I think, personally, that putting a flat screen TV in there is the worst idea ever. They will never play in the yard again as long as they live. But the whole keep the toys in the playroom rule isn't going as well as hoped, so I have to keep my options open.

New Playroom

Saturday, September 25, 2010

School Daze

Is it possible that Emily has been in school for FOUR weeks already??? Is it true that Nora, after only three weeks of school, is reading 32 page books out loud? No wonder I haven't had anytime to post!

My initial blissed out, nothing-to-do state of mind has been replaced by a very busy schooling schedule. Busy yes, but totally rewarding. Emily, Nora, and Momma are loving the fall semester.

Emily is still ga-ga with the school bus. She might not be too keen on finishing her juice or getting dressed in the morning, but when I tell her the school bus is coming, she gets ready as fast as a flash. Teeth brushed, hair combed, shoes on, and out the door. My favorite part of the morning is waving good-bye to her, and sometimes she even smiles back at me! She returns home every day with a note from the teacher letting us know how her day went. Those teachers, they think of everything! One of my biggest worries about sending Emily off was that I would lose those hours of her life; after all, there is no way for her to tell me about her day. She still can't talk about anything but the present moment. But I suppose the other kids in her class are the same way, so they have a worksheet that is sent home with all the information about the day's activities. I can find out the name of the songs they sang and the stories they read, it tells me what snack was offered and if Emily ate it, and if she had any additional services like speech or OT. Its great. Emily always comes home with a big smile, and she proudly hangs her artwork on the fridge. In Em's words, "I love it I love it I love it!"

Nora is also in love with school, although getting my little fashionista out the door can be quite the challenge on most mornings. She spends time with her friends Illiana (another fashionista) and Ian (the only boy that can give Miles a run for his money) in between some serious study time. Her ability to read has just flourished over the past three weeks. I swear her sight words have doubled, and she can read long stories like Courdory and Elmo's ABCs with a minimal amount of help. She continues to work on her math skills as well; no kidding, she's learning fractions. At this rate her mathematical prowess will surpass my own by second grade. I wish I had more to say, but I have to rely on Nora to tell me about her day. For whatever reason, she usually "can't remember". Can't remember, or perhaps she's already too cool to want to talk to mom? Sometimes I swear she's already 13. Lucky for me Ian is a talker, and his mom can keep me up-to-date on the kindergarten social scene!

I am also having a pretty good semester. Teaching three classes is a lot of work, but its fun. While the girls are at school Monday through Thursday, I grade and write lectures and upload info to my online course website. While I miss working in the yard, and being in front of a screen for 5 or more hours a day can be torture, having a little extra money roll in is nice. And having a captive audience listen to my tales of the wonders of Ancient Greece and the piety of the Middle Ages isn't too bad either.

We've established a nice routine around here. I don't want to get to attached to it, since these things are always changing, but for now its pretty darn nice.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The New Design...

Welcome to the new layout of Momma Needs another Cup of Coffee! Thanks so much to Ryan for helping me with some html code to make the blog look a little more professional. I'm also very pleased to introduce the slide show, and will be adding more photos to that over the coming weeks. Hope you enjoy the updated formatting, and if all goes according to plan, I should have some more entries about the girls schooling sooner than later. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kindergarten and other new beginnings...


The summer days are getting shorter, the first leaves are beginning to drop, and its the beginning of another school year. Its funny in a way that it is another full-time school year for Nora, considering she's only just begun kindergarten. Because her birthday is in December, she wasn't eligible to officially start kg last year, but she basically received that level of education from the Montessori school she attends.

Nora's first day was the Tuesday after Labor Day. That was a long long wait in her eyes, since Emily had begun school the week before. Every day she asked, is it a school day? I'd tell her no, and she would work on math problems here instead, pretending that she was at school. When the day finally arrived, she popped out of bed at 6am, and was dressed in head-to-toe pink, promptly, by 6:03 am. I didn't think the hands on the clock would move fast enough, but they did. We had a nice breakfast, and then she was gone. This was the first year that I didn't bring her to school on the first day. Ryan wanted to be the one to drop her off, since I'm usually the one playing chauffeur. I'm not complaining though; the benefit of being the driver is that you get to witness all of those great moments that define childhood, and parenthood too. I'm glad Ryan had the opportunity to be the one to bring her to the first day kindergarten at her "new-well not so new anymore-school".

So off they went, then Emily rode off on the bus 30 minutes later, and it hit me. I AM ALONE IN THIS HOUSE. The possibilities are endless...I can do anything or nothing. A smile spread across my face from one ear to the other...I felt like I'd just graduated to the next phase of my life, and you know what, that is a good feeling!

And the best part is, that in those few hours of silence, I can recharge my batteries and greet those girls with open arms, and more importantly, an open heart, when they come home. The girls did come home, with big smiles on their faces. We are a happy bunch! Emily presented me with the artwork she completed that day, and Nora told me all about her new classroom, her new teacher Miss Kim, and how she was so excited to see Illiana and Ivan and Ian. She was a little confused, since some of the kids from last year were gone, but every indication is that all lights are green and Nora is ready to take on that school with all she's got. Now I've got to go and help her with her reading homework...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Random Silly Pics

Ok, I couldn't pick just one! Well, when it comes to flower power, more is better.






Nora modeling her Candies sunglasses and Hello Kitty jewelry. She's 5 going on 13...




Everytime I see Emily in this outfit, I think Janis Joplin has been reincarnated...and we do know that Emily loves to rock!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Emily's First Day of School

I am jumping the gun here with this post. I haven't written yet about Emily's last day of speech and OT, but that was really kinda depressing and her first day of school really helped beat the blues around here. So on to our new adventure first...

In true Momma fashion, the story of Emily's first day of school starts with our misadventures the night before. In my rush to get us back from Grandma's house so Emily could have a good night's sleep, I inadvertently left the house key with Grandma. Yes, we were locked out of the house. So, at 8:30 at night, I was on the phone trying to find someone with a spare key to let us inside. Emily and her Dad played bouncy ball in the drive, while Nora and Lacey looked at me with eyes that said, "Oh my God woman I need to go to BED". Eventually we did get in (thanks Rach) but the kids weren't in bed until well after 9 pm. Whoops.

The morning started off on the same note. Late to bed = no one was up at 7:30. And the bus comes at 8:30, so I had to rouse the troops. My girls do not like to be woken up, and it took several attempts to get Emily out of bed. I explained to her she was going to school just like Blue, and she just looked at me. I showed her pictures of Mrs. Mack, and she just looked at me. I got her dressed, hair combed, back-pack in place, and guess what she did.

She didn't seem to get excited until we went out the front door and waited for the bus. We have never, as a family, stood in front of the house before and Emily thought that was really funny. We waited and waited, and when she began to get bored, the school bus turned onto our street. Now those of you that know Emily know she loves all kinds of vehicles, cars and trucks and trains and school buses. She'd never seen a school bus up close, so you can imagine how excited she was when it turned into our driveway! I think she was actually shocked when the door opened up and we put her inside. She had this huge smile on her face, and her eyes were like saucers. I wish I knew what she was thinking at that moment! I'm sure it was the ride of her life.

What she was feeling was probably the opposite of what I was feeling. As the bus pulled away and drove off, the tears welled up in my eyes. I looked down at Nora, who was also crying but for different reasons. And then there was Ryan, who looked at us like we were nuts. So much for my mantra of not taking anything too seriously! I really cried. And in trying to figure out why I was crying, I could only determine that I really was nuts, considering all I had done to get her in school in the first place. As Emily would say, "Sill-wee Mommy".

Emily came home at noon, and she was full of things to say. I don't know exactly what it was she was saying, but among all of the babble was one word that got repeated again and again, and that was "school bus". I could be wrong, but I think I have another star student on my hands. I also had a tired student. Emily napped for 3 hours and went to bed an hour early.

Emily's 1st Day of School 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Emily's First Bike

Here are two short videos of Emily's inaugural ride on her very first bike. When her Daddy gave her the Radio Flyer tricycle a few weeks ago, we asked her if she liked it. She responded, "I love it, I love it, I love my bike! Pink! Bike!". As you will see, she's pretty good on it too, although when she needs to go fast, watch out! Nora wasn't left out either. Note that big sister is sporting her new purple helmet. A few days later she also got a pair of pink biking gloves.



Saturday, August 14, 2010

Music Therapy Comes to an End


Once again my blog is becoming woefully behind-the-times. I've been on the computer non-stop for several weeks now updating my online art appreciation course; how I wish I were writing about my beautiful girls instead!

There's a lot to say about what has been going on with Miss Emily lately. As of next week I will find out about her school schedule. Little Miss will be starting preschool this fall. I'm both anxious and excited to find out if she will be accepted into the district's special education program. I believe in my heart these services will be of great benefit to her; both Ryan and I are keeping our fingers crossed that we will get good news.

As this door opens, of course other doors must close. And so, writing this entry is a little bitter sweet. Several weeks ago, Emily had her last session with her music therapist/group therapist Miss Angie. I had hoped to write several posts on her progress, and then this farewell, but here is everything at once.

As I've mentioned in prior posts, Emily attended Miss Angie's sessions weekly from the beginning of the year to her third birthday, at which point she aged out of the Early Childhood Intervention program. When these sessions started, Emily was for all intents and purposes non-verbal, and had a hard time interacting with the other kids. As the weeks turned into months, the change in Em was just phenomenal. She began singing many of the silly little songs at home. In the last month to 6 weeks of the sessions, Emily began singing the songs in front of the other children. Huge step people, huge! You see, she almost never talks to anyone outside of our immediate family, so to have her singing in front of children (some of whom were newer) was just incredible. The pride and joy I felt hearing her sing and strum the guitar can't be measured. Her ability to show compassion and interact with other children increased due to Miss Angie's guidance. But, by far, the most important thing to come out of these sessions was discovering Emily's love of music. She loves songs, she loves instruments, and as soon as she's old enough I am going to have Aunt Rachel teach her how to play the drums.

I did say this post was bittersweet for me to write, however, because we no longer attend these group sessions. Emily hasn't asked for Miss Angie by name, so I wonder if she misses her. As time goes by, though, I've noticed Emily has started singing some of the songs from the sessions without being cued. Whenever she washes her hands, now, she sings the "Scrub your hands" tune. When we leave a place, she sings the "Bye-bye" song. And I've noticed she plays with our percussion instruments more as of late. But she can't really tell me what she is thinking, so I am left to wonder.

I just want to close by saying Thank You to Miss Angie. I don't know if you will read this or not, but you've done so much for my little girl.

From Music/Group Therapy

Friday, August 13, 2010

Random Silly Pics

The "Silly Pic of the Week" feature at Momma's blog has been renamed "Random Silly Pics", seeing I haven't posted one in the last six months, and the likely-hood that I will be able to post to this blog twice a week in the comings months is in doubt. But I have a ton of great shots of the girls to share. Hope you enjoy!!!



"Momma...do you think this mascara brings out my eyes?"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Potty Training Update

Potty training continues here in Momma's household.

It hasn't been an easy task, but I've now accepted that the potty training in one day method isn't going to work for my daughter. I hoped, I mean REALLY believed it was the answer I searched in vain for, but like most made-for-tv offers, it didn't live up to its promises.

Potty training started in earnest two Saturdays ago (or is it three? I'll have to check the date on the last post. Time is slipping away so quickly....). Emily woke up dry; I took it as an omen that she was going to be fully trained by that evening. I brought her into the bathroom and asked her to sit down on the training potty. Earlier I moved her potty so it faced the wall, which was decorated with a new poster I made using a number of PECS images. Usually the PECS images are black and white, but I colored in the most important one, if you know what I mean. Used bowl if you don't.

Anyways, I sat Emily down and explained the pictures to her. She looked at them with interest as she nibbled on the candy I provided to make potty time party time. She sat for a while calmly; then suddenly, she wanted to bolt. Keeping in mind she still hadn't gone potty for the morning, I sat her back down. She started shaking her head no; her body language was that of fear. "Yellow blankie! Pink blankie!" she cried. I gave her the blankets, her bunny, her juice, and then held her in a tight hug to imitate swaddling. And then it happened.

Emily made her first ever Pee Pee on the Potty!!! My initial exhilaration was quickly hampered by the fact Emily, as she went, kept saying, "Oh no! Oh no! Pee pee, oh oh!". Oh no is right! She thought she was going to the bathroom in the wrong place, and she was so upset and embarrassed. I had to act quick to set it right. I got up and started dancing and singing, Nora came running and joined in, and soon it was a potty party. Popsicles for breakfast didn't hurt to promote using the pot either. She was then placed in a very pretty, very purple, pair of Dora the Explorer underwear.

Training continued for the rest of the weekend with some notable successes and failures. Emily hid behind the compost bin to pee outside, poor purple Dora panties. She used the toilet of 3 times on Saturday and three times on Sunday. She has woken up dry every single morning since we started.

The failures, however, were even bigger. On Monday Emily started to have many more accidents in the house, probably because Ryan wasn't here to help me keep an eye on her. On Tuesday, when we went to sit down first thing in the morning, Emily refused. She pointed to the potty and said in a deep, serious voice, "Terrible". Oh my, for someone who doesn't speak much that said volumes. I didn't push the issue. The following day, I found her in the corner squatting. I put her on the potty, and she bit me. She left teeth marks in my arm.

Emily's therapists advised me to stop potty training and start again when the time seemed right. After another week of just watching her behavior, its become apparent that she doesn't want to eliminate when anyone is the in room with her. So that is where we are at now. I almost never ask her if she needs to use the bathroom, and I wait for her to tell me. Sometimes I find the evidence that she has used the potty and then did a bad job cleaning up after herself, which is almost worse than diapers, but this is the path we've started on and I'm not going back.

In the last seven days, I would say on average she continues to use the potty 2 to 3 times a day, and always when she wakes up. Just today I started again asking her if she needs to use the bathroom, to mixed results. When asked, she still gets angry. But, when I found her in the bathroom having trouble trying to sit on the big potty, I helped her up and guess what!! Today Emily took her first deuce and it was the first time she used the big potty! A number two two-fer!!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cousins Come to Visit


While this post is incredibly late, I still wanted to get these pictures out there because they're so darn cute!

My sister came to visit shortly after we returned from Florida. It was a nice opportunity for Renee and I to catch up and talk about life after Grandma and Grandpa, but more importantly, the cousins got to have a long overdue play-date. Nora was sooo excited to have someone to dress up with, and Emily even joined in the fun. For Emily to put on clothes, rather than take them off, is noteworthy in and of itself! My nephew Xander was also very well behaved, and we all sat on the floor and played with blocks. It made me very happy to see how well all of the kids got along. That's what the summer is about. Well that and Ollie's!!!

The best part of the day (besides the girls finding out that the TV was back) was taking my niece Layla for her first ever Ollie's Custard Cone. See, where I live, Ollie's is a right of passage. You can't actually live in this town and not be crazy about this custard. I've been to Italy several times and I can tell you Ollie's is just as delicious as any gelato I've had, and believe me, I've had a lot. To share it with someone that's never had Ollie's is special indeed. I hope you enjoyed it Layla! I know my Raspberry Truffle was delicious.

I think in this instance, the pictures actually do a better job of telling the story than I can, so please check out the link below.

Cousins go to Ollies

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Box is Back...

This is what it looks like to win the lottery.

Of course Nora and Emily didn't win the lottery, but as far as they are concerned, something just as wonderful happened. Ryan and I allowed the TV back into our home. While they were sleeping, he placed it back into the empty cabinet. It stayed their all the next day, unnoticed. Then my niece Layla, who was over for a visit, asked us, "Where is your TV?" Nora replied that we didn't have one. "Oh really?" I asked. "Nora, why don't you go and open the doors..." It was even better than winning a golden ticket. As long as I live I will never forget the smiles and jumps of joy.

In retrospect, the act of taking it away for 6 months and then returning it has been a positive step. I simply had to let go of the idea that we HAD to live without the TV, that I can be a good mom and let them have a little entertainment now and then. What choice did I have, really? With the onset of summer vacation, and the increase in my work schedule, I had to find an activity that both girls could enjoy when its too hot to play in the yard (or when I have to shower, for that matter).

I should clarify something at this point, the box is back but not the TV. Basically what the girls have access to at this point are DVDs that I've screened for content. I'm still very fussy about what they watch and how much they watch. I will not expose them to countless acts of violence, endless commercials, and plot lines that focus on self-centered motivations. Everything they see is designed to teach good morals, has an educational value, and is filled with music to help Emily learn to speak.

They are also, for the most part, on a timed viewing schedule. No more days filled with TV from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. Officially TV time is from 3 until 5 pm, although on occasion it has been from 9 until 11 if something is scheduled for the afternoon. No one is allowed to eat in front of the TV, and even though it could be visible from the dining room, it must be turned off for meals. Because it was gone for so long, I almost never get an argument from either girl about these rules. They accept it as the way it goes, at least so far.

The best part of all is that unlike in the past, the TV is helping Emily gain some new verbal skills. All of the shows she likes, from Dora the Explorer to Little Einsteins, have a number of songs that repeat in every episode. Emily has learned the words to most of the songs, and those words are beginning to pop up in conversation. Instead of simply asking for toothpaste, for example, she asks for Dora Dora Dora the Explorer paste. When I go to drive off in the van, she and Nora yell, "Blast-off!" Just today she pointed at my coffee mug, which has a picture of a mountain, and said, "Look...mountain!"

I don't mind the girls watching their two hours of TV a day, especially since they are both up for 12 to 14 hours at at time. There is still plenty of time for running, for reading, and for play. Once school starts, I may feel differently, and put it back in the basement for another retirement period. But, in the meantime, I too think I might take advantage of having the box. While I haven't done so yet, I'm sure there's a movie or two Ryan and I would like to watch after the girls go to bed. Twilight, anyone?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Somethings gonna give...

Oh please don't let it be my sanity! Wait a minute, its 10:36 pm and Emily just busted into the office. One moment please while I put my child to bed...

10:37 and Emily is back in bed. Let's see how long this lasts.

This wasn't how I planned on starting this post, but its a perfect summation of the past few days. As I look around the house, I see laundry and dishes piled up everywhere, children sitting mindlessly in front of the TV, ungraded papers taunting me, meditation cushion collecting dust. Don't even get me started on the bathroom remodel and the garden.

I wonder where and when did I go wrong? What was the straw that broke my back? And how am I going to get back to good? (Well, listening to Matchbox 20 is a start). But all jokes aside, I am really feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps the reality of being a working-mom with no daycare and a special needs child living in an 80 year old house is starting to catch up with me.

10:46 Emily is out of bed again, if you'll excuse me.

Now its 10:48 pm, and I suppose I need a plan. Because feeling like this isn't accomplishing anything. And the plan???

Ummm

Well

Let's see...

10:49 I suppose I'll start by putting Emily back to bed.

And if you're wondering, its now 11:02 and I've put Emily to bed three times in the past 12 minutes and changed her diaper.

I'll open the floor to comments here at 11:03. Seriously. There has got to be someone out there that knows what they're doing. That person is NOT me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Potty Training Blues

I try really really hard to be as laid back as an over-worked, over-caffeinated mom of two kids can be. Life isn't about being serious. If you're not having fun you're not doing it right.

But I have to be honest. I am NOT having fun when it comes to potty training. In fact, its been the complete opposite. I've been reduced to tears over the past few weeks as the diapers and the wet sheets and the poo-poo on the floor continues to pile up. Literally. I'm at the end of my rope, I'm down to the last resort, and if it doesn't work I really don't know what to do.

Emily began to show an aversion to wet diapers prior to her second birthday. She was probably 19 or 20 months old when she started chucking her poop diapers onto the hallway floor. At first I read this as a good sign, that she would be potty trained by her second birthday. I pulled out the training potty, the book that has a sound-effect flush button, and some high expectations. Those of you that follow this blog know none of this worked.

Emily understands that dirty diapers are yucky, and so she simply takes them off. Its worked in the past, why change the routine? At one point in the year I started dumping the poop out of the diaper into the toilet to illustrate where it actually goes. This resulted in a VERY GROSS month long period in which Emily would also dump the diaper into the toilet. It was gross because if she missed, she scooped them up with her hands. How we didn't have any trips to the hospital for E coli poisoning ins anyone's guess.

I kept the potty out but didn't push the issue, following the old adage that they'll go when they're ready. Well an entire year has passed and I'm still cleaning accidents. I decided a few weeks ago to try the potty training in one day method, which involves allowing the child to run around in the yard in nothing but a T-shirt for the entire day. Mom feeds the child lots of salty snacks and juice to really get things flowing. The child is supposed to have an accident or two, freak out, and then use the potty which is conveniently located near the juice and snacks.

The plan sounded perfect, and all was in order to proceed, when the torrential rains and 60 mph winds rolled in. Not a problem, I thought. I'll simply keep her in the kitchen. She can't possibly get into that much trouble. I got her to sit on the potty many many times, but had no luck. I turned around to pour a cup of coffee when she had the first accident. I was making peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches when she had the second accident. She pooped on the floor behind my back when I was cleaning up mess number two. And then I ran out of paper towels, and it was only 11:30 am. UGH.

That was a few weeks ago. We are going to try again this weekend. I figure our schedule is working for the most part, so maybe potty training will too. I have a few things going for me that I didn't have last time. (1) The weather is looking good (2) Ryan is going to be home to take care of Nora and make all of the food so I will not need to turn my back from Emily (3) I have stocked up on paper towels and (4) Per Shelly and Sue's advice, I am going to make a picture book of how and when to use the potty with photos from our home.

Point number four seems really gross to me. I will have to invest in a color ink cartridge because I will die at my own hand before I have a picture of a used toilet bowl printed at Walgreens. However, PECS has worked in the past to teach her words, so there is no reason to think it won't work in this instance. Oh my goodness, the things we must do for our children.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Speech Therapy: An Overview


Now that Emily is three years old, there are going to be some major changes to her therapy routine. Since her birthday is in the summer, however, we won't begin to see those changes until the fall. Why? Well, even though Emily has officially "aged-out" of the Illinois Early Intervention system, she can continue the same services through private insurance. While this costs a lot more for us in terms of having a weekly co-pay, it is worth every penny. I can't even begin to quantify the number of positive changes I see in my daughter because of the love and one-on-one attention provided by Shelly, Sue, and Angie.

One thing I have wanted to do, as the weeks of therapy have turned into months, is to keep a weekly record of her progress here on the blog. As you know, this never happened. What can I say? I'm a busy lady. So, what I've decided to do instead is to write three separate entries that provide an overview of the progress she has made and continues to make. This week will focus on speech.

Emily continues to see Miss Shelly for speech once a week for 30 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of combined Speech and OT. For the past few weeks, Shelly has been training Miss Kate, who joins in on the sessions. Here's a sampling of what they have all done together:

February 18: Verbalized "Ready, set go!" sounded like "Webby-de-doe!" using a See-and-Say.

March 11: New words in her vocabulary include "Orange, cookie, cracker, want ball, thank you, down, up, in, ring" (all thanks to PECS, the once hated now loved communication device).

March 25: Words used while playing with a tow-truck included "uh-oh, oh-no, stop, and again". (Boy toys like cars and trucks continue to fascinate her).

April 8: Spontaneous sentences while playing with a race-car ramp and Little People barn including, "How about cars? Where is cow? Get the barn". (Again these are pretty hard to understand. Shelly and I hear it but I wonder who else would?)

April 22: Starting to learn colors! (Mom is thrilled. This is black coffee, Emily. This is light brown chai tea latte. Mmmmm....)

May 5: Played with wind up toys. Able to name animals on request including dog, cat, frog, butterfly, caterpillar, lady bug, and dinosaur. Even said, "Dog, please" and a few other two word combos. Working hard at home on the word please. Other words at home include, "I like ice-cream!" and "Stuck!". (Everything that doesn't bow to her command is stuck).

May 19: Emily had a hard time being evaluated. Spontaneous language included, "Ok ma", "Right down there", "Baba drink", and "On top".

June 9: While playing barnyard bingo and Nerf rockets, Emily said, "Reach!", "It's my turn", "Look I picked yellow!", "Kate turn", "Ouch!", "There it is", "Oh look!!! A cow!". Can count to 9.

When we started with Shelly in January, Emily had a total of 15 to 20 words in her vocabulary. She barely used those. Today, the difference is amazing. She knows the names of toys, animals, and colors. She can make requests using both please and thank-you. She can tell you her opinion, as "like" and "yuck" are also mainstays of her vocabulary. Everyday she is beginning to use more sentences and less one-word requests. Pretty soon I am going to have not one, but two VERY chatty little girls!

To see more images from Emily's time with Shelly, Sue, and Kate please click on the image below.
Emily's Speech/OT Therapy

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Redefining Normal

We have been back from Florida for several weeks now, and its been nothing short of mayhem. The excitement of enjoying our free time quickly dissolved as I realized I had no idea what to do with these girls. All three of us are creatures of habit, and the onset of summer vacation for Nora, coupled with my new teaching schedule, has left the house and its inhabitants feeling upside down. The influx of stuff, from jewelry to dresses to bone china teacups, hasn't helped anyone feel better either.

I spent the first week back unpacking, reliving memories, and trying to get the girls back on track. The first week failed. Its hard to recreate a sense of flowing from one activity to the next when everyone has a different idea about when to eat, sleep, play, etc. Even now, it seems like everyone is on a different schedule, but starting today I decided to break rule #1: Never wake the sleeping children up. I don't think I have a choice. Emily gets up at 6:45, while Nora sleeps until 8:45. How can I make breakfast and have us eat as a family with a two hour time difference? That two hours throws off the rest of the day, as tummies get hungry for snack and meals at different times. Plus, by the time Nora finally wakes up and is alert, Emily is ready for a nap. I can't win.

Since we are creatures of habit, I've decided to take a cue from Nora's school and from Miss Shelly's speech sessions. I am making a daily schedule. I have a daily routine broken down by time, and then there will be pictures of the activities that the girls can pick from taken from the PECS book. Instead of shopping in the PECS book for whatever whenever, there will be two options for the girls to pick from at any given time. This should eliminate my two biggest problems at the moment, being (1) Boredom/restlessness and (2) Never-ending snacks.

Here is the routine I came up with for Monday through Friday. Let's see if it works.

7:00 - 8:00 Breakfast
8:00 - 9:30 Free time with small toys (Little People for example)
9:30 -10:30 Take a walk; play in backyard
10:30-10:45 Fresh fruit/veggie snack
10:45-12:00 Yard chores
12:00-12:30 Lunch
12:30- 1:00 Clean-up lunch, make bed, other cleaning
1:00 -2:00 Art and Music and Dress-up Play
2:00 -3:00 Free time with larger toys (Kitchen, tent, trips to playground)
3:00 -5:00 Movie time/computer games
5:00 -6:00 Dinner and clean-up chores
6:00 -7:00 Time with Dad
7:00 -8:00 Bath and bed time routine
8:00 Stories then lights out

The block of time from 1:00 to 3:00 can also serve as my errand running time, if need be. Sometimes we will go to the park; sometimes we'll go to the store. But I figure if I keep running around to the same time, it will be easier to Emily to transition from one activity to another.

WISH ME LUCK!!! Because this is going to require some discipline on my part as well.