Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A fun family filled weekend

We enjoyed a nice, relaxing weekend as a family. So needed! I much prefer this type of weekend over the last few, where Brandon has been working quite a bit, and the actual weekend has felt more like an extension of our week days. Fist bump to some good quality family time!

We kicked off Saturday morning by all heading out to Clara's OT session. Clara's OT, Ms. Brittany (who started this journey with us when Clara was 7-8 months old) has agreed to see Clara on Saturdays because she is an angel straight from heaven. When we decided to pursue Clara's full time ABA school, we knew keeping her private therapy schedule would be challenging. There is no way we could expect Clara to attend school 8:30am-3:00pm and then continue with private speech/OT after an already full day. Enter Ms. Brittany who saved the day and casually offered "I am happy to see Clara on the weekend(s) and just open up my practice to your family." See. . . angel from heaven.

Both girls had an absolute BLAST. Ms. Brittany recently broke off from her former practice to open up her very own place. It. Is. Amazing. Clara (and Camille) were in OT heaven! Rock wall, crash pads, huge swing, ball pit, roller coaster, slide, trampoline and more. If any local parents are needing an OT recommendation, I can not say enough good things about Ms. Brittany.

"Do you think I can jump from here into the ball pit, mommy??" Um no, no you cannot. . .

Girlfriend is a brave one and wanted to ride the roller coaster solo. . . Please just say a prayer for us mmmmmkay?

Camille was so sweet and was trying to help swing Clara. . .

Clara has become very consistent in signing "more" spontaneously when she wants more of something and also when we give her a verbal prompt. Her version of "more" looks like a clap. Here she is mid-sign.

Her expression. . . best ever!

A little sensory input on the trampoline. . .

Camille was fully enjoying the ball pit. Does it seem as if she assumed she owned the place? :)

And later. . . bath time. The girls love bath time together. Despite having to clean half of the water off the floor after the fact, it is a really fun time of day! 

I have to tell Camille "Please sit on your bottom," approximately 455x a bath. . . 

She is still fine tuning her listening skills. . .

We also enjoyed the sunshine and played outside quite a bit. . .

I made the mistake of letting Camille swing in Clara's green swing while Clara is away at school. Not a good move, mommy. Now whenever we are all home, and Camille has to get into her blue swing, she sports some attitude. Please see below. . .

"No, I will not look at you and smile."

No attitude for Ms. Clara. . . here she is again signing "more". . .

On Sunday evening we visited our friends Matt & Jenna, who just welcomed their new baby girl. Their oldest, Parker, is SUCH a sweet friend to our Clara. He always talks to her and loves on her. He was so dear to want to swing her while they were playing outside. Melts my heart!

Parker and his cool shades. . .

Camille kept trying to crawl in baby Molly's bouncer. It may or may not be because she slept in this exact same contraception until she was far too old. :)

Camille trying to pat the baby. . . For one second I was able to get a glimpse into my life come August. Go ahead and just say a little prayer about that as well.

Wonderful weekend. . . now on to tackle this week! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

One post you don't want to miss. . . Weekend Link (just one!) 3/13/15

Things have been rather quiet on the blog for the past few weeks. Sick kids + a sick mommy + cousins in town for spring break + not much speaking to me in terms of writing topics = a quiet little blog. Which is always ok, in my opinion. Blogging to me is about writing and encouraging and sharing fun and realness all at the same time, never about holding up to some standard of perfection. So much freedom in that.

While I haven't been writing I have been reading and goodness, this post right here. . . read it. So powerful to anyone out there regardless of life status, but especially powerful and eyeopening to those of us with a special needs child.

If You Build It, They Will Come

I read this and had tears rolling down my face because hope. . . so much hope in this message and in what these people are doing.

How amazingly cool would it be if Clara were able to attend some type of program like this some day? I cannot even adequately express the excitement I feel when pondering such an opportunity.

Read the post, will you? And maybe even join in the effort?

 . . .

And my sick little Clara on Monday evening. Had to keep her home from school that day. . . Thankful she is feeling much better now!

Have a great day! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Weekend Links 3/6/15

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Jilly's Hospital Stay - I cannot imagine. Love this blog and their family even though I do not know them. Will you please pray for them?
6 Ways to Banish FOMO
Kids Aren't Expensive, But That Other Thing Sure Is
Your Child Doesn't Need Me, He Needs You (follow up to the post above)
Are we growing a generation of people addicted to screen time?

Special Needs
Only One Shoe
Oral Fixation in Children 
Chewy Tubes 
What is the R-word?

Clara running around in the gym after church last Sunday. . . Her expressions were cracking us up!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Weekend Links 2/27/15

Owning Our Gifts - a friend posted this article on FB this week and I really love the message.

Special Needs
My child chews on everything!
How To Help Your Student With an Auditory Processing Disorder
When It Comes to Her Daughter's Future, One Aging Mom Is Learning to Let Go - would be lying if I said I/we haven't already discussed the issues brought up in this article. Sigh. But we do trust that God will provide and make clear the long term path for Clara. 

Playing in a balloon pit at a little friends one year old birthday party last weekend. It was such a hit with all the kids! Camille got to sneak in when the big kids decided to take a break. . .

And this girl is obsessed with straws and adult size cups. I'm pretty sure she drank half my water the other day (Yes, I'm boring and get flavored water at Sonic).

The nightly scene at our house from 6:00-6:30pm. We watch a show and cuddle on the floor before bed. Both girls are going to bed around 6:30pm. . . Clara because she doesn't get more than a 30 min nap at school and cannot last any longer. . . Camille because I have had to push her to one nap (due to timing of Clara's school pick up) and thus she is waking up earlier in the day and, like Clara, cannot last any longer. I love how they each want to cuddle up on one leg and we all just sit together.
Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

To the anonymous donor who shocked us on Monday

On Monday I received an email from the billing department at Clara's new therapy school stating the following:

Hi Brittnie, I wanted to let you know that someone has donated $900 towards Clara’s expenses at the Children’s Center for Autism. The donor would like to remain anonymous . This donation will be applied towards Clara’s services for 2015. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

I read the above and then sat there in shock for a good ten minutes. Not responding. Not picking up the phone to call Brandon. Just sat, with jaw open, in pure, utter shock and thankfulness, for this beyond generous gift. 

As any parent of a special needs child knows, medical and therapy related bills add up, and for certain children, like our Clara, these bills will most likely be a long term, as opposed to other situations where increased medial expenses come for only a shorter season of life. 

We have no idea if this gift comes from family, friends, or a combination of one or both, but please know that whoever you are, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Words cannot adequately express our gratitude. I am in awe of the kindness and selflessness show to us by this donation. While it is true that there is so much bad and hate and cruelness in our world, there is also still so much good. So much good. And so much kindness and love and joy and tender spirits that are willing to look around and spread a little cheer. The email above is proof of that.

So thank you, anonymous donor. Thank you and praise God for you! You've pretty much made our year. May we take the joy we feel right now, and continue to pay it forward. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Weekend Links 2/20/15

Always Inconvenient 
How Making Time for YOU Can Make You an Even Better Mom (podcast) - Amen and Amen

Special Needs
The Ins and Outs of Toddler Therapy 
5 Important Things About Autism I Wish Someone Had Told Me 
Someone Asked My Son With Autism Why Eye Contact Is Hard. This Was His Answer. 

Camille waiting outside Clara's OT office on Valentines Day. She was loving walking/running up and down the walkway. (Clara's private OT has agreed to see her on Saturdays once or twice a month, bless her heart. This is so amazing because I am just not sure how we would pull off private OT with Clara's new full day school schedule.)

And you guys. . . Clara comes home SO tired. I really cannot emphasize how tired she is at the end of her day. I literally have to start dinner at 4:50pm, in order for her to stay awake to eat, and even then it is a struggle. See the look? She is clearly not amused. . .

Last night. . . fell asleep at 5:05pm mid hotdog/avocado eating. She may or may not have started snoring. . .

And then she is in bed, and OUT, by 6:30pm on weekdays. And she sleeps SOLID until 7am or so, which gives us a little over an hour before we have to leave the house. I typically still have to wake her up in the morning. Bless her little heart. . . 

We are excited for some family time this weekend (Brandon has been working quite late and getting home after Clara is in bed) and also celebrating a little friend turning one!! Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Baby B #3, Q&A

A little Q&A about Baby B #3 . . . 

Q: Any fertility treatments involved?
A: None!

Q: Was baby #3 planned?
A: Nope!

Q: Ok, but were you preventing pregnancy? (can't tell you how many people ask me this question, so since it seems to be a common "concern" among many. . . )
A: No (was not on birth control)

Q: But weren't you guys only planning on two kids?
A: Yes, but apparently God doesn't work from our plans. . . imagine that. 

Q: Ok, but then why weren't you preventing pregnancy? (again, common question)
A: After YEARS of having out of whack hormones, due to previous eating related issues, and after YEARS of working to get my body back in 100% working order, on its own, I did not love the idea of putting artificial hormones back into my body. I wanted to see if and when my body could figure out its natural cycle, and function normally for a solid chunk of time before reintroducing birth control. Turns out I had one complete cycle in October 2014, and then in November would have had another, but ovulated at a different time than expected, and thus, baby #3 came to be! 

Q: Are you guys excited, scared, nervous, over the moon, etc?
A: Yes, all the emotions! We are thrilled and feel completely blessed to be welcoming another baby into our family. We cannot thank and praise God enough for this little (ok, big) surprise. After undergoing constant fertility treatments from May 2010 - September 2011 in order to conceive Clara, we do not take this gift for granted for one second. Not one second. God has now gifted us THREE times over. Are we nervous? Yes, absolutely. I fully expect that adding another child will shake up the dynamic of our home for a good, long while, but eventually, just as we did after welcoming Camille, we will find our way and adjust and all will feel normal again.

Q: Where will the baby sleep? Your house is only three bedrooms, correct?
A: Correct. At this point, it looks like our third child will be blessed with a nursery in our master closet. I am 100% serious. If I was a hashtag person this is where I would type #Thirdchildproblems.

Q: But what about the seven remaining embryos at the fertility clinic?
A: That is something we are constantly revisiting, and fervently praying about, more than you know. We hope to meet with our former fertility Dr sometime later this year, to discuss our options more in depth, since we are not sure how our options change due to the genetic condition of Cohen Syndrome (1 in 4 chance that any child born to us will be affected by Cohens). We obviously did not know about Cohens, until Clara was born and developing a-typically. 

Q: Any predictions on pink vs. blue?
A: Brandon is convinced it is a boy. I am leaning more towards girl, but really don't have a gut feeling at this point. 

Q: How far along and due date?
A: I'm 14 weeks. Due early August 2015. My actual due date is August 15, yet I will have to have a repeat C-Section (had one with Camille b/c she was breech), and this can be done no later than 38-39 weeks, due to hospital policy. 

Thank you all so much for your excitement regarding baby #3, and sharing in our joy. We feel blessed beyond words. And while our house is small and no, there is no room at the inn, we have so much more love to share that goes well beyond these walls. Even if baby is sleeping in a closet. :) :) :)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Weekend Links 2/13/15

Sometimes it really is as simple as cake 
"Me Too": The Humbling Moments of Parenthood 
4 Things We Can Do in Our Pain, to Help Others and Our Neighbors
Dear Moms: Let's Stop Judging Each Other and Start Seeing Each Other 

Special Needs
My little boat - This post comes so timely for me . . . the image of the ship in the harbor. . . exactly. 

Thank you all for your love and encouragement regarding Clara's new schooling adventure. The texts and emails and phone calls and blog comments have been so uplifting! It has been a hard week for sure, but God is working (as He always does) and for that we are very thankful!

And this girl hopes you have a very happy weekend . . . :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

On letting go

Today is day two of Clara's new adventure. . . 

Swinging = Clara's happy place

I haven't talked about it much here, well, ok . . . I haven't talked about it at all. So here it goes. Because all of these feeling have got to come out or I just might burst.

You see back in August of last year we took a tour and met with the Program Manager of an ABA therapy school.  We were not sure what Clara's needs would be as she moved closer to age three, but we knew we needed to explore all options, get on wait lists, so that our bases were covered regardless of her needs. Thus, the meeting with the ABA school was scheduled. {At this time, she was still involved with ECI, Early Childhood Intervention several times per week (last summer is when private insurance cut us off, so Clara then began receiving therapy via this state program. Then at the start of this year, we were able to begin using private therapy again as well)}. Once a child ages out of ECI, typically they transition into PPCD, Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities. This has always been an option for Clara, and is offered via the public school system for free, until she turns five.

Yet both Brandon and I had this strong gut feeling that she needed more than PPCD. Something more intense. Something more one on one, to teach her the skills she is currently lacking. I will be the first to admit she has come so very far since we started therapy at age 7 months. Sitting up? Check. Pulling to stand and crawling? Check. Walking? Check. Thank you, God. Yet despite all of these amazing accomplishments, we still have a long road ahead, if she is going to be ready for special education at a typical elementary school by age five. 

Strawberry picking last Saturday

Currently, at age 33 months, just three months shy of her 3rd birthday, she still doesn't usually respond to her name. Little response when given directives or when presented with requests. Eye contact is lacking. Social interaction with peers and adults is not where it should be. We have not yet heard her babble or speak a word. So you see . . . we still have a long road ahead. 

So back to last August . . .

We took a tour, met with the Program Manager to discuss the ins and outs of the program, and knew in our hearts, most likely, this was the direction our Clara was headed. So we filled out an initial application and got on the wait list. Which is forever long. I was not expecting Clara to score a spot until at least another year, if that. 

Fast forward a few months to October and a Behavior Analyst via ECI started coming to our home two-three times per week to work with Clara. And y'all . . . she started responding. Tears are flowing just typing these words. Within a few short weeks she was giving high fives when prompted, clapping when prompted, and following through with a few like tasks. The BA even helped her learn how to "clean up," which literally blew me away. Our family will be forever grateful for this therapist, and the confirmation we received that yes, our gut feeling was right and we were on the right path. 

This same therapist encouraged me to call the ABA school in December just to see where we were on the wait list. And the sweet lady on the phone replied "Clara is next on the list for enrollment! I was actually going to call you soon to discuss your interest and if you wanted to pursue admission." 

Blown away. Thank you, God. All glory and honor to you for opening up this door for our baby girl. 

The head of enrollment encouraged us to start figuring out our payment plan. Here is a little hint. . . ABA therapy is not cheap & most private insurance plans do not cover it. Those in the special needs world know this tidbit. It is not hundreds of dollars a month, but several thousands per month. And since there is no money tree growing in our backyard, we knew we needed to come up with a plan ASAP. And we did, thanks to an additional health plan we were able to purchase for Clara that covers a large portion of the cost. We still have to pay a pretty penny. But not thousands. Again, thank you, God. Are you sensing a theme here? Not enough words of thanks and praise. 

At church last Sunday

So today is day two of Clara's new adventure. She is now receiving ABA therapy Monday - Friday 8:30am - 3:00pm. But let's rewind to day one for a moment. Lots of tears, both from Clara and myself. She was crying when I left her classroom yesterday and she was holding onto my legs as if to say "Don't leave me momma." Break my heart. I held it together until I turned the corner to leave and then completely lost it. Tears. Lots and lots of tears. And the tears lasted all day. Not because I am not 100% peaceful about this decision. I am. So is Brandon. We feel fully confident this is where she needs to be. It was time for a more structured learning experience to help catch her up. But change. The letting go. Goodness, it is not easy. It downright stinks.

The fleshly part of me wants to throw a big fat pity party and ask God "Why us? Why Clara? Why do I have to send my 2.5 year old out unto the world now? It's not fair. Other mommas have more time. For the love, she is only 2.5." 

But then I hear God whispering back "Life isn't about being fair. And that's ok. This is your journey. Your story. Not anyone else's. So don't compare your situation to your other momma friends. In time you will understand." 

And I know it is so true. In time it will all come together. It will all be made new. Everything will make sense. Maybe not today, tomorrow, or next year, or even while I am alive on this earth. But someday when I stand in God's presence He won't have to explain a thing. It will all make sense. 

So the letting go piece. . . Yeah, it's hard. I know in time this new adventure will become routine. Our new normal. And someday I will look back and wonder why I even cried my eyes out on day one. But the cool thing about letting go? I am not only releasing her into the hands of a new school and a new therapist, I am releasing her fully into God's care. He's got her. He's not going to let her fall. Hard days ahead in her learning? Sure thing. But He won't leave her there. He will pick her back up. And with that visual and constant reassurance, the letting go becomes just a little bit easier. 

This was yesterday at 3pm. She feel asleep at the end of the school day. Slept all the way to the car and until we got home. Sweet girl was wiped out. :)