Monday, June 27, 2016

A Mid-Summer Snapshot

We have really tried to work on relaxing and decompressing this summer...but with the whirlwind of appointments, court dates, and visitations, we've been incredibly busy!

In fact - we've only made it away from the house for one overnight stay...and that may be all of the traveling we do until fall. We have some "Stay-cation" musts that we want to do before school starts, though, and I think we will get to several more before vacation time is completely over.

Patrick is THRILLED to be starting a new job next year. He taught for many years at his previous school, and really, really needed to move on. Thankfully, his new position is actually as a teacher in the school Eli will attend for Kindergarten....and is also the school that Patrick (and his older brother) attended when they were kids!  He's going to begin working on lesson plans, classroom ideas, and paperwork soon...but in the meantime, it's a wonderful feeling to know that he has some great opportunities in the new school.

There's really not a whole lot to say as far as I'm concerned...other than the fact that I got into some type of fleas or mites in the woods, and have been dealing with an EXTREMELY large number of EXTREMELY itchy bites...though not as itchy as chiggers, I'll admit. I have had a chance to do a little bit of reading, which I didn't do nearly enough of throughout the school year.  Most of what I've tackled has been light pop fiction, though I've also enjoyed a book or two from favorite authors (Orson Scott Card and Madeline L'Engle), and I have some "heavier" books on my list that I'm looking forward to...I may have to share some of the titles I've come across if they are as exciting as I've been told : ).

I am happy to say that the kids have been doing great this summer - for the most part. While we've had our share (and sometimes more than our share) of tantrums, arguments, and time outs - including one that resulted in leaving a restaurant before a waitress ever had time to greet us - the kids have been good overall.
The kids - peaceably playing in Itty Bitty's sandbox
Eli braving a GIGANTIC inflatable slide

Eli is participating in the library's summer reading project. He's 13 books into a 20 book project, and is doing GREAT!  At the end of summer, I'll share some of the details of the books he far, it's been a wide variety of both fiction and non fiction. He participated in our church's VBS, and had a FANTASTIC time...and was thrilled to be called a "Kindergartner" for the first time. He had some major behavioral issues that have surfaced this summer - most of which I think are due to the stress of the previous year and some developmental leaps that he's experiencing - but these seem to finally be improving. BUT...he's also wrestling with some big ideas and HUGE emotions. He's talking about it, though, and asking questions. As long as he's open with us about how he is feeling, and allows us to help him deal with his feelings, I think he'll be alright. On a lighter note, aside from some of the heavy thinking he's been doing, he's also spent a lot of time practicing piano...and has now begun to learn violin. He's also gotten back into working in the Life of Fred books (we picked back up with "Dogs"), and frequently begs to work on math problems. Everything from multiplication, so addition/subtraction (including carrying/borrowing), to very simple fractions and an introduction to functions have been sources of fascination to him. He's also found time to work on puzzles most days and to watch more than enough TV/movies (we're acutally watching a movie a day). It's been so hot, we've not gotten outside to play a lot this week, but hopefully, we'll have a break in the 100-degree weather soon!!
Sunny - Learning the Balance Bike

Sunny has begun to visit with her family each week, and will soon be able to visit more than once a week. She is the first child I've seen that, at her very young age, verbally blames herself for some of the things that have happened to her. We have been gently correcting her, and pointing out that it was the adults in her life that made mistakes, that she is important, and needs to be safe and healthy. She sometimes struggles with change, but as the summer has progressed, she has relaxed and her demeanor is much more open and cheerful. She seems lost or frustrated sometimes when encouraged to play on her own, but is really, really learning to entertain herself or to play with Eli. She has begun working on learning the balance bike with a lot more determination and confidence than we saw just two weeks ago. We've also been taking her to the pool, and she's really gaining a lot of confidence in the water (hooray for puddle jumper-style floaties!). She too, is participating in the library's summer reading project, though all of her books are being read aloud to her. We are really working with her on being able to pay attention to a short story and to understand very simple plots. For a child who is extremely verbal, her ability to concentrate and comprehend stories (either read to her or watched on TV) is very  limited. We THINK we have her ready to go watch her first movie at the movie we'll make an attempt soon.  In the meantime, we are going to continue to work with her on self-confidence and self-esteem. She is still somewhat afraid to ask for things that she needs (like a drink of water or help accomplishing a task), and often whispers so quietly that it's quite impossible to hear her.
Itty Bitty - hanging out and enjoying the afternoon

Itty Bitty is still the sweetest little baby, though he's definitely going through some seperation anxiety that takes the form of devastated howling and angry, frantic shrieking if we're out of sight for more than a split second. Hopefully, this too shall pass...right? He does now have a formal diagnoses of mild-moderate cerebral palsy. If someone had told me this in October, I'd have thought they were joking...but I've learned a LOT and wish now that I'd recognized his subtler symptoms earlier than I did. But...neither of his caseworkers, pediatrician, foster care worker, or daycare provider recognized them either, so I'm trying not to be hard on myself. He recently underwent an MRI, and will undergo a swallow study soon. He will continue to receive OT, and will also begin receiving PT and Speech (for both language and feeding). We've registered at our local play therapy group, too, so he will receive services from them starting this fall. But, of course, Itty Bitty is always full of surprises.  This week, he began saying his first word..."mama" (he sometimes does say "oma" too). Then a couple days ago, he accidentally got yogurt on his hands, and began to lick them...and discovered self-feeding. Today, he even managed to feed himself quite a few "baby puffs". Next, as if that wasn't enough, he laid another surprise on, out of the clear blue, he pushed himself up onto his hands and knees...and began to crawl!!  The absolutely cutest part is that a couple of the times he crawled were so that he could get close to the kitty (Sadie) to touch her. At this point, he can only go very short distances, and he has obvious struggles with his coordination, he is definitely crawling on hands and knees, and he will probably get stronger very quickly. This is the same child who has screamed and cried in OT when the therapist has been trying to get him to even ATTEMPT movement on his tummy (other than pivoting).  In a legal update, there's absolutely no new news in his case...we are still in limbo, and will be for a least another month (probably two or three).

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Itty Bitty is ONE!!

I can't believe Itty Bitty is ONE!! In a few days, we will also celebrate the one year anniversary of his arrival in our home from the NICU. It's been a very rocky year; we love Itty Bitty so much, but his permanent home is, unfortunately up in the air. It's been a very emotional roller coaster  as his case has been playing out in court.

Patrick and I want very much to be able to adopt Itty Bitty...but his case is complicated, and I'm not allowed to share details online. Hopefully, permanency will be decided soon...and we are still prayerful that we will be blessed to call him our second son. We thought recently that we would get a final ruling - one way or another - at the end of June. But, while the court date is still in place, it is looking less likely that this will be decision day for his case.

In the meantime, I thought I'd do a 1 - year snapshot.

Itty Bitty has benefitted greatly from occupational therapy. He will be visiting some specialist doctors soon to begin to get a better picture of what his short and long term needs will be.  We are definitely hoping for an increase in therapy. He likely has some form of cerebral palsy, though it is mild. He still also has problems with reflux, and there are now concerns that he may be having difficulty swallowing and using the muscles of his mouth.

He is learning how to sit up from a lying down position and is consistently rolling back-to-front. He can sit and play really well, and can now play with toys easily while lying on his tummy. He can clap his hands freely, and can bang toys together. He reaches for things he wants and squeals for attention when he needs help. He can stand with help, and is trying to take a few stiff-legged steps while holding onto our hands, though he still cannot crawl at all (or even maintain a crawling position for very long). He is just beginning to babble a little, and has made up his own sign for when he wants us to turn on the ceiling fan (he gets our attention and then waves at the ceiling in a circular motion). He's beginning to figure out how some toys work, and it's a lot of fun to see him learn new things. He got a Daniel Tiger trolley for his birthday, and while he mostly prefers to bang all of his toys together, he has definitely figured out how to drop Daniel in the trolley...and how to dump/shake him out again.

He loves to eat, and will frequently refuse baby food in favor of whatever the rest of the family is eating...especially if he can smell my cooking! What can I say...he'll eat anything from Thai food (including curries), to Korean food (yes, including kim chi), to Mexican food  (not too spicy), to Italian food, to virtually any sea food (crab is a particular fav).

He adores being read to, and will sit for very long periods of time for a story. His favorite bedtime stories right now are "One Fish, Two Fish" and "Llama, Llama, Nighty-Night."

He absolutely adores Eli. He loves any/all attention from Eli, and seemingly craves his companionship.  Returning from a doctor's visit one day, when he'd been cranky and unsettled all day, we picked Eli up from school...and from the moment Eli smiled at him, Itty Bitty was beside himself with joy.

Finally, he HATES it when I put him down. He really wants me to carry/hold him everywhere at every moment...and will sometimes even decline to be held by Patrick.  We're actually having him attend daycare twice a week or so over the summer for this reason...otherwise, when summer break is over, returning to daycare would be that much more difficult. At least if he goes occasionally, he'll remember who his "teacher" and "classmates" are. We're also having him attend daycare because his occupational therapist prefers to see him there.  We tried having her work with him at home...but he spent his entire therapy session crying for me to hold him, so not much got done. Oops. Oh well - at least we tried. Here's hoping to more great gains in the next few months...the specialists that we are going to may well order more intense therapy for him (I hope so!); I think, in his case anyway, this will be necessary for him to reach his potential for stable movement.