Saturday, November 8, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Of the Birthday Girl

Hello all!  This weekend is Sunshine's birthday, so today's quick takes are all dedicated to her!

A very brief birth story: we got pregnant with Sunshine almost exactly two years after I became a woman on wheels. Because of my paralysis, I was automatically considered high risk, and saw both my regular OB and maternal-fetal medicine the entire pregnancy. Because of risks that I could go into labor undetected, and an unattended delivery could become a serious emergency, our plan was always an induction at 39 weeks, with immediate epidural to avoid the complication of autonomic dysreflexia. Pretty much from the beginning, she measured small, but was growing steadily. At about 35 1/2 weeks, literally the day after our baby shower, it was discovered on ultrasound that she was now "too small", and MFM recommended moving up delivery day to 37 weeks. Two days later, though, it was discovered that I had large amounts of protein in my urine, and as my blood pressure was also elevated I was admitted straight to the medical obstetric unit due to pre-eclampsia. The doctors took that afternoon and the next day to stabilize my condition and monitor Sunshine, and we induced on Friday morning. We started at 8:30am and Sunshine slid her way into the world - without a single push from me and almost before the doctor was ready - at 2:56pm. She was 4lb 12oz and 18 inches long, so quite tiny for a 36w baby, but perfectly healthy. She roomed in with me, and we only stayed one extra night for some temperature regulation issues she had before bringing our little sack of sugar home.

We had just started building our house when we found out I was pregnant. We had hoped to be in the house by the time she was born, but we were doing all the interior work ourselves, and VASTLY underestimated the time involved. The day after we brought her home, we received a certified letter saying that the mobile home park we were living in was shutting down. Since we had the house under construction, we opted to sell the trailer and let them move it, rather than moving it ourselves, and moved in with my sister for eight months. We then stayed in a studio for about 4mo until the house was complete. Our first night sleeping here was Christmas Eve, when she was 13 months old.

As a baby and toddler she was the type of kid who made this whole parenting gig look easy. It was clear she had a lot to say from the beginning; I can remember her at 5mo old, sitting with me babbling intensely and energetically, as if telling me a story. Her first word was "mama" at nine months, and she had about half a dozen words by her first birthday. I tried to keep up with her words until she was about 18mo; at that point she started gaining words so fast I couldn't keep up! By her second birthday she was already speaking in 5-6 work sentences! She was very compliant as a 2yo, and never really went through the terrible twos; looking back this was probably an early sign of asynchronous development, which often accompanies giftedness.

Most of her defiance and testing limits came from ages 3-5. Over the last year things have really improved, though she still feels emotion very intensely. Not in a bipolar way, just that the peaks of her highs and lows are more extreme than most people. This can be challenging when they are feelings of anger, sadness, fear, or frustration; but it also makes her feelings of joy, happiness, and excitement that much sweeter. Not many turning-seven year olds I know still stop what they're doing and run outside to see an airplane or helicopter fly overhead! She struggles with frustration and perfectionism, but is also very helpful, compassionate, and giving. And I don't think she's ever met a stranger; she manages to find a friend everywhere she goes!

By her second birthday she knew all her letters, basic colors, and basic shapes. I started suspecting her giftedness around her third birthday. She had an intense ability to concentrate; she would sit and play with puzzles, little people, or look at books for hours at a time! I vividly recall a conversation around that time, one day after preschool as we were eating a snack of teddy grahams and yogurt. I commented that our snack of "bears" started with the letter B, and she then embarked on an hour long conversation of "what else starts with B?" All her teachers commented how quickly she picked up new information, the complexity of tasks she could handle, even the way she could engage adults in conversations. We considered trying to put her into kindergarten "early", still the fall that she turned five but her birthday came about six weeks after the cutoff. We discovered that our school district doesn't even consider it, so we left her in preschool while we assessed our educational options. We loved the parochial school we visited but it was well out of our budget, and we just had a nagging feeling that while we both did fine in public school, it just didn't seem like the best fit for her. I did some research about home schooling, and brought up the issue to Papa Bear. He was a bit skeptical of how we would do with it, but agreed to let us give it a shot for kindergarten; we surmised that she was so far ahead, even if my attempt to homeschool was an abysmal failure she wouldn't be behind if we put her in school for first grade. We made the decision in late February, and despite still being in preschool, she wanted to start right away! So we started part-time right before Easter of 2013.

Here we are about 19 months later, and it has gone much better than any of us thought. She has completed kindergarten, first grade, and we are now working on second grade (at a minimum). We haven't had much opportunity to be active with our local homeschool group, but she's involved in a homeschool gymnastics class, Girl Scouts, our church children's choir, as well as CCD classes to help her maintain the skill of appropriate classroom behavior. She also spends lots of time playing with neighborhood kids of many ages, so she certainly isn't missing out on opportunities for social time!  Her favorite things in school are reading, logic puzzles, science and art projects, and world geography. To help me make sure I incorporate lots of hands-on activities for her, I have signed her up on the DIY website, where she can explore skill building activities in artistic, scientific, and athletic areas.  We also use the Little Passports mail subscription to give us a jumping-off point for our geography exploration, and incorporate reading, art, cooking, and even TV programs. (She loves Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern!)

Other Aubrey favorites & fun facts:
Colors - pink and purple, also anything red white & blue;
Foods - aside from the usual kid stuff, she loves salad (I used to pack it in her preschool lunch box!), hummus, and sushi;
Sports - she only does gymnastics, but likes to watch baseball and football with us. Some time in the coming year she wants to try out a team sport, maybe soccer
Books - she is currently working on the Castle Glower series by Jessica Day George
TV shows - Full House, Wild Kratts, Tanked, Treehouse Masters, Bizarre Foods
Activities - Reading, riding her bike, creating art projects, singing
Toys - Lego Friends, American Girl, Barbies
Future aspirations - a mommy, a religious sister (gonna have to pick one way or the other on those two!), a fireman, "someone who teaches people to drive with their hands" (aka an OT who specializes in hand control driver training), a teacher, "a tv person who gets to travel the world"

I couldn't be more proud of the sweet kid she has become. I'm so glad I get to spend my days exploring the world with her, and can't wait to see what paths life takes her on.  Happy birthday, sweet girl!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, November 3, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Of Stay-cation & Education, Ghouls & Souls

Better late than never, right? Welcome to

Papa Bear has still been on stay-cation this past week. I've tried not to hit him with much on the honey-do list, so that he could recover from the crazy schedule he worked, well, pretty much from mid-spring to now! (Not that there aren't big things I need done, but the man deserves a break!) It's just plain been nice having him around, and having an extra pair of hands to help with the kids. After two weeks of having him at home, I've been spoiled!

With Papa Bear around, we were able to move Fidget's bi-weekly ABA clinical meeting to the office instead of in home, which was helpful since this was one of the weeks that his clinical supervisor is also in with us. As usual, everyone is impressed by his progress! We discussed a few problem issues we were experiencing, evaluating what skills he has mastered, and setting updated goals. Since we were at the office with Dr. C, I was also able to ask her about something that had been kicking around in the back of my brain for awhile: the potential that Fidget may be 2e (aka twice exceptional, in this case both autistic and intellectually gifted). I was a gifted child, there are others in my side of the family who are, and Sunshine is presumed to be so. I know it is typically said that siblings fall fairly close to each other in IQ, and that autism and giftedness are not unusual combinations, given that both are just diagnoses where the brain is uniquely wired and the person thinks about things differently than most others. Literally everyone who has worked with Fidget has commented how smart he is, and how quickly he picks up new skills, so that made me curious. Dr. C said it is a bit early to speculate, but is something to be on the lookout for, and that probably in about one more year we could take him in for IQ evaluation. Upon telling this story to our new OT/special instructor from early intervention, who teaches the special ed class at our local elementary, she said she was glad to hear we are planning to homeschool him along with Sunshine because especially if he is indeed 2e then she isn't very confident how well the school system would be able to meet his needs. They would want to put him in either special ed or gifted, and likely wouldn't know how to handle a kid needing both!

Speaking of Fidget's educational path, I spoke last week with the director at our parish preschool, which Sunshine attended for three years. The ABA team feels that the best setting for him for the preschool years would be a neurotypical classroom, with a shadow which they can provide. Public schools can be funny about letting in an outside shadow, plus the only class they offer at 3yo would be special ed, so it was suggested we look for a private preschool. The director at our church preschool said they've never had a full time shadow like that, but that they do have speech or occupational therapists from time to time, so she didn't see where it would be a problem. Such a relief! Our hope is to start him next summer part time, mostly to help improve his social skills, and that likely he will be able to learn so much through imitation that by the time he is kindergarten age we can bring him into our home school and just address further social development through extracurriculars such as scouts and sports.

The four of us had a fun evening trick-or-treating in my mom's neighborhood on Halloween. Sunshine dressed up as an EMT, we made a fire truck costume for my wheelchair, Papa Bear wore a fire department shirt (he was gong to wear his bunker pants at least, but he was worried about possibly having to run after Fidget). And as for Fidget, he was supposed to be a fireman, but the little stinker refused to wear even a SINGLE piece of his costume! So he just wore jeans and a t-shirt that does at least have a fire truck, police car, and helicopter on it. Oh well, at least it is big enough that he can wear it again next year, and then we'll know to spend some time acclimating to wearing it before Halloween night!

Fidget is still trying to adjust to a recent increase in ABA therapy hours, so we kept it pretty low key over the weekend. We caught up on some chores Saturday, and that evening met my cousin and his wife for dinner. They were in from out of town, and it was her birthday, so we were glad to get together. (Their daughter is Evan's Godmother, so we're always excited to see her too!)

Sunday of course was All Souls Day in the Catholic Church. I hated that we never made it to mass for All Saints Day, but I woke up with a nasty ear ache, so we missed both mass and the All Souls memorial service for all our parishioners who have passed in the last year. We did at least make it to blessing of the graves, though. It was my first time visiting since Daddy's grave marker was put in place. Bittersweet. The deacon who married us and baptized Fidget came over to bless Daddy's grave. Deacon P is a veteran himself, plus the personal relationship we have with him, so that was extra sweet of him. Such a kind man.

Oh, not to be left out, we had a new addition to our family last week!!!  No, not expecting a baby, but rather a four-legged addition! A stray cat wandered into our yard and was lingering around. We made certain no one knew him, then we took him to the vet who confirmed that he is healthy and doesn't have a microchip with owner information. So now Tuxedo Man (aka Tux for short) is all ours! Our other cat, Boots, still isn't keen on him, but I'm sure she will adjust soon.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!