Wednesday, October 30, 2013

That's my Lola.

Sunday morning, getting ready for church.

She wanted to wear a super fancy party dress.

I said no.

She wanted to wear a (dress-up) Princess dress.

I said no.

She said I never let her wear what she wants to wear.

So I said, Fine. You pick out whatever you want to wear, just not those two (aforementioned) choices.

Leopard-print tights.

Pink polka-dot skirt.

Blue floral (summertime) top.

Multicolored fake hair braid.

Silver dress shoes.

That's my Lola.

- Bethany :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

imperfect perfection

Eight months and 65 pages later, I finished my Disney World scrapbook this past weekend.

I am far, very far, from being any kind of gifted scrapbooker, but I took my time with it and thoroughly enjoyed reliving each day of our trip.

It's done.

And I love it.

Of course, as I approached what would become the final 4-5 pages, I was super psyched and excited, and I couldn't quite mkae it until the girls' bedtimes before I started working on it.

So, while Millie napped Saturday and Sunday, Lola got to pick out her own pages, her own photographs, her own stickers.

And she did a two-page spread herself while I put the finishing touches on my album, perfectly lining up this page with that, figuring out the image for the cover, making sure everything was right, just the way I pictured it.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I mean, I have a lot of clothes, but each one hangs in a specific direction in a very specific location. If you asked me to go outside, removed an article of clothing from my closet, and then asked me to name it, I could. I'm that specific.

The same goes for my shoe collection, the girls' clothes, their shoes, our cabinets, etc., etc., etc.

Everything has a spot, a perfect order.

So, when I have an image in my mind of how things are going to be finished, chances are they will end up that way.

Until you add in children.

I finished my scrapbook Sunday, placing the pages in their plastic sleeves as Lola watched.

It wasn't until I got really close toward the end that I noticed Lola's expression changing more and more from excitement to confusion to bordering on sadness.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

I mean, she outnumbers her sister about 10-to-1 in the scrapbook photos so I know that wasn't it. And she loved the entire trip, regardless of her Tower of Terror experience.

She looked down at the table, fingering the borders of her own pages.

"Aren't you going to put mine in the scrapbook too?" she said, quietly.

Oh.

Crap.

I looked again at her pages, two carefully constructed pages highlighting the memories she wanted included: pictures of herself and a Princess, her and Daddy, Millie smiling and laughing.

She'd taken the sparkly letters herself and spelled out Lola, Mom, Dad and Amelia.

She'd taken her pen and very slowly, steadily wrote out at the top of each page, what she said to Mickey after she gave him a hug, "Thank you for letting us come play."

So, in the end, yes, we finished our Disney scrapbook this past weekend.

Eight months and 67 pages later.

- Bethany :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

celebrating success

We're in the process of reviewing Millie's Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), when we work with the school district to identify goals for the coming year.

Part of that process is to very specifically go through her routine, from getting her up in the morning to putting her down at bedtime. By doing this, her "team" helps me identify struggles that I perhaps hadn't previously considered.

I remember last year, going through the minute details, such as how we dressed her, how we fed her, when we fed her, how often we fed her, etc.

It's intimidating! You lay out all your parenting choices before someone else, a professional, and wait for them to make recommendations for improvements.

Today, I did it again, as we prepare to revise her IFSP. This time, a little comfortable with the people and the process, I wasn't as nervous or anything, but I still felt so naked, laying out in front of them the ways we do struggle with Millie and how we try to cope.

Obviously, the big focus for us, for her, is communication. But there are other areas that we'd like to address as well.

For example, I've been struggling a lot with Millie at mealtimes. I don't know if she is just simply stating her independence or if it a communication breakdown but she refuses to eat what I give her. Constantly.

So I'm explaining this, in great detail, to her team today, but at one point, I realized this is a great problem to have!

At this time last year, the poor kid only was able to consume thickened milk, that chalky, icky thickened milk.

At least now I'm able to give her options! Sure, she rejects about 90 percent of them, but at least they're even a possibility!

As we continue to talk this out, we're also focusing a lot on her communication skills (verbalization and signing), and I realized, too, that she really is doing quite great in this area as well.

No, she's not really speaking a lot of "real" words, but she's able to express to us most of what she wants and needs. Yeah, it might take me 5-7 minutes to get there, but I (usually) do.

And that's wonderful.

Last year, I was, quite honestly, in the dark, just guessing. Now, I have direction!

So, yeah, as we look forward, we can always find room for improvement (this goes for everyone, from the dumb dog to Lola to myself), but perspective is always good.

We've all come a long ways in 12 months.

Perhaps most of all, Millie.

And that makes me happy.

Happy weekend.
- Bethany :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Princess pumpkins!

So it's the first Halloween after your first family trip to Disney World and your older daughter is dead-set on dressing up as Cinderella Getting Married for trick-or-treating.

What do you carve in your pumpkins?

Princesses of course!

Sunday afternoon, without a Vikings game dictating our schedule, Lola (at my urging) suggested to Ray that we carve pumpkins. We previously had made a spur-of-the-moment princess-pumpkin-carving set purchase and had already gotten a few pumpkins, so we were ready to go, whenever he was ready to do the work (because, yeah, this Mommy really doesn't like to get her hands dirty with those icky pumpkin guts).

Honestly, I don't know how unlike me Lola really was in this regard.

At first, she dove right in.

But she was soon asking for a washcloth.

Nonetheless, she stuck with it and helped Ray as they hollowed out our three pumpkins.

Originally, it had been our plan to carve just two pumpkins, one for each girl, and then have the pair of them paint their own pumpkin while Ray did the carving.

Lola, however, did not like that idea at all, insisting that she get to do the carving.

Meanwhile, Millie was just content to be a part of it all.







Though she soon got bored and had a snack. And a washcloth to play with.

But that didn't last long either and I had to break out the paints.

Meanwhile, Ray and Lola moved on to the next step, where you take the Princess pattern, tape it to the pumpkin and poke tiny dots along the lines to give you the outline.

Lola, our super-colorer, was a natural.

She was very good at it, patient (for the most part) and precise.

 Ray then did the sawing...

... and ...

We had our first Princess pumpkin.

Princess Tiana.





By the end, we had Princess Tiana, Princess Aurora and, of course, Cinderella and her Castle (chosen in honor of our Disney visit).

I think they turned out wonderfully.

Happy (early) Halloween.
- Bethany :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

a true winner

Saturday was a day to remember.

It was Lola's first-ever gymnastics show, the "Olympics," and as a wee little one, she basically had a one-hour show with similarly aged gymnasts to show off their skills to family and friends through an obstacle course a few events, like the beam and "vault" (springboard, in their case).

Now I'm her mom so I'm totally and completely biased. But Lola's been doing great at gymnastics, both at home and in class. She even has been working on teaching herself to flip.

Sure, I expected a few nerves, some initial reluctance to actually perform.

I did not, however, expect that she would cry for the first 40 minutes and insist that the teacher hold her hand through each and every event.



After about 5-7 minutes of feeling disappointed, Ray and I kind of whispered about it and came to a consensus: Yes, she was the only kid out there crying, and yes, she was the only kid out there who was insisting on getting her teachers' help.

But she was out there.

It really wasn't that long ago that she would have just refused to do it at all.

This time, at least, she was doing it.

I was genuinely proud of her for fighting her way through her nerves, in whatever way she could.


As we cheered her on and let her know that we were happy with how she was doing, that we were proud of her no matter what, she slowly but surely came out of her shell.

And actually seemed to enjoy herself.




When her name was called to receive her Gold Medal, she practically ran to the podium.

We were all so proud.

And perhaps even more importantly, she was proud of herself.
- Bethany :)

P.S. As for her flips, check this out. She's getting so close!

video

Thursday, October 17, 2013

optimistic acceptance

I've had this (irrational?) fear for a while now.

That I've been somehow exaggerating Millie's troubles or somehow advocating for all sorts of unnecessary tests and procedures.

But now, seeing as though there is nothing new on the horizon and we're giving her a much-needed and much-deserved break, I'm adjusting to our new normal.

A few therapies here, a few more there. Nothing major and nothing too difficult to juggle for me with my work schedule (knock on wood).

Today, I hit a personal "mommy" milestone.

I hate clutter and will, on occasion, go on a de-cluttering mission throughout the house. A random closet here, a kitchen drawer there, etc.

Today, I de-cluttered my work desk.

And I paused at the Post-it that I've long kept taped right next to my keyboard, the one I've used to track every therapy session, every evaluation.


Can you read it?

It starts with where we started: May 25 (2012), when Millie had her first developmental evaluation with a pediatric physical therapist.

It goes on from there.

To date, she's had 72 physical therapy appointments, 40 OT appointments, 50 speech (or feeding) therapy appointments, and 30 visits with a school district therapist.

I threw it out.

Not because I don't kind of, sort of want to know.

But because it really doesn't matter, the number.

As our pediatrician told us well over a year ago, as we first were referred to a pediatric neurologist: She is who is, and sometimes you just have to wait until the kid is 4 to see what she'll be doing when she's 4. And wait until she's 8 and see what's doing when she's 8.

We'll give her all the help, encouragement and love that we possibly can.

And we'll be there every step of the way, on her side, cheering her on.

It's a new normal for me, kind of.

I call it optimistic acceptance: She is who she is.

And that's perfect.
- Bethany :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

just life

Nothing new, really, to report.

So I thought I'd simply share some random-ness of our lives from this past weekend.

1. Sisters.

Millie wants to do everything that Lola does.

And it was so cute watching them together. Lola would lift her bowl to drink her milk and Millie would do the same. But Millie didn't have milk in her bowl, just dry cereal, so it would all fall to the ground, much to Mustang's delight.

It was so cute though. I couldn't bring myself to tell her to stop.

***
2. Millie got a haircut.

She didn't like it.


I gave Lola the camera both because she loves to take pictures and I didn't want to be "that" mom photographing her kids unremarkable third haircut. (Yes, I keep count. Lola has had eight haircuts, not counting the terrible at-home bang trims I gave her for her first two years of life. And I'm kidding. I totally made up that number. But it was Millie's third haircut.)

***
3. Fall Festival.

Lola and I went to her school's fall festival together. We went on a horse-drawn wagon ride, decorated a pumpkin and she had her face painted. We didn't stay too long, as we wanted to get home and get organized for the week ahead (or, at least I did), but we had a nice time while we were there.


 ***
4. Playtime.

As almost always, we had the most fun playing at home, enjoying what is sure to be one of the last remaining outside play days. Winter is coming soon enough. 

Lola ran around with the neighborhood kids (which is big progress for her socially speaking) while Millie explored the playset.






Fun times.

- Bethany :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

memories...

It was Wednesday night at home and, within just minutes of getting home, we were already bickering, this time about what to eat - or not eat - for dinner.

I'd worked late Tuesday so I didn't see my family much, and I'd been looking forward all work day Wednesday to family time, when we could all be together again.

It was not going as imagined.

So I left.

For just a second. I went and got the mail. Took a breath.

We started over.

I made dinner (just pancakes, ha, don't judge - it was easy and everyone was happy, which was really the only goal at that point).

Afterward, Ray and Millie stayed behind to eat some more while Lola and I went to have some fun and work on some gymnastics skills.

First, we stretched. I've been trying to get Lola to become a wee bit more limber but she hates stretching ("It's boring!") so we made it into a reading game, too, working on spelling and letter sounds.

Soon, we moved onto somersaults and headstands.

And then handstands.

We did push-ups, wheelbarrows and bridges.

We were laughing, playing together, sharing, talking, just enjoying each one another's company.

So it wasn't surprising when Millie toddled on in to join us.

Millie dove right in, tickling and chasing us around, soon doing her own somersaults. It was hysterical.

Ray eventually joined in as well and the whole family played together for about an hour, the adults chasing after kids who were chasing after the dog, who was chasing after the cat, who was simply trying to hide for all of us.

One of the nice thing about having two kids is we easily pair off - one adult working with one kid for a while until one daughter tires of one adult and then we switch. Over and over again.

By the end, Lola and I had developed a new way of working on some of her gymnastics skills. I'd kneel and she'd run at me, jumping toward me and I tossed her  high up into the air. She thought it was a game, trying to freeze her body as her feet returned to the ground.

In between Lola's turns, Millie would run over to play as well, so I would "throw" her up too (but not release), and she'd think she was playing like a big girl too, and she'd laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.

I was sweating, my arms hurt.

My cheeks hurt from laughing.

We soon quieted things down, reading books and getting kids ready for bed.

But it was a great night, one of those special nights you just don't want to forget, but you also don't want to grab a camera for, in fear of altering the energy or taking yourself out of the fun.

These are the moments I don't want to forget.

These are the days, weeks, months I don't want to forget.




- Bethany :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lola's new trick

The live version.

video

Love it.
- Bethany :)

Monday, October 7, 2013

life lessons

(Also titled, Random thoughts from Bethany...)

5.  I'm 33 years old. I'm not 23, and I really need to remember that, lest I pull another muscle teaching Lola how to do cartwheels in the backyard. That said, I'm 33 years old and still capable of actually doing cartwheels. That's worth something, right?

4. I taught Lola yesterday how to do a backwards flip on the trapeze bar on the playset. (Which meant I, myself, had to do one -- see above.) Anyhow, it took Lola about 30 attempts to gain enough confidence to do it on her own, but she got there. The first time she did it, she even shocked herself a bit. She was so proud. And so was I.

3. While Lola and I were at Sunday School, Ray was picking up the house and making dinner; while Ray mowed that afternoon, I played with the girls; that night, while Ray washed the girls' hair, I cleaned the house; while I gave them baths, he got the laundry done; while the girls played in the tub, I scrubbed the bathroom and he did the dishes. Life is much easier when we're all in it together.

2. Small miracles will lead to big ones. Millie is talking again. It's hard to explain, unless you see the differences from day to day, but about a month ago, give or take, she started babbling a lot. Then, a couple of weeks ago, she began tossing out a few very random words (one at a time, every 3-4 days). This weekend, we heard a whole bunch. And this morning, she handed a ball to her therapist and said, "Here, ball." Clear as day.

1. I got the answer I was hoping for in regards to Millie's kidneys. Nothing to worry about. It's something to monitor perhaps, but the geneticist does not find her lack of kidney growth alarming.  So no pediatric nephrologist at this point. I suggested that we just do another ultrasound in six months and the geneticist said we should just wait a year, that we have to give enough time for Millie herself to grow before we can expect too much kidney growth.

Lots of good news here.

Lots of celebrations.

Lots of laughs.

What more could you want?
- Bethany :)

P.S. I ordered Christmas cards this past weekend. And purchased our first two Christmas gifts. Both on Oct. 5, my earliest start ever to the holiday season. Woohoo!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Prayers...

She prays.

Or, more accurately, she prompts us to pray.

We sit down at the table, ready to shove forks full of food into our mouths.

And out of the corner of my eye, I see her sitting quietly in her booster chair, her hands clasped together, watching me silently, patiently waiting.

We stop.

We pray.

She smiles.

She stretches her left arm out toward me.

Again, waiting.

I take hold of her left hand with my right hand, offering Ray my left.

He similarly takes Lola's right hand with his left.

And we sing...

Oh the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord...

***

It started, like so many things, by accident.

After praying at dinner time one day, many months ago, I told Lola that when Mommy was a little girl, we used to occasionally sing our prayers, the Johnny Appleseed song.

Her eyes grew so wide as I started signing, Oh the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord...

"We sing that before lunch at my (pre)school!" she shouted.

And so, on occasion, we began signing our dinnertime prayers.

A couple of weeks ago, we recited our usual prayer. Lola, though, then asked if we could sing the Appleseed song too. So we did.

And Millie, who loves all things music, latched on.

Now, every family dinner night, she clasps her hands, always prompting first our spoken prayer.

And then she reaches out, waiting for the music to begin.

***

Ironic, isn't it?

How the kid that doesn't really speak much at all, has so much to say?

And she's usually right...

- Bethany :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

growing up...

Bye-bye crib.

Hello big-girl bed!

This past weekend, I casually mentioned to Ray that we should probably begin thinking about transitioning Millie to a toddler bed.

That somehow turned into a decision to, that night, deconstruct the crib.

She was not exactly thrilled at first. She whimpered.

But big sisters are fantastic at showing little sisters how to jump on mattresses.


And once Millie figured she could get on (and off of) her bed at her own leisure, she was thrilled.

That first night (Saturday), she was less than excited about actually sleeping there. She cried. A lot.

But I found her like this Sunday morning...


.
... and all was well.

Next up: potty-training.

(Some day...)

What a sweetheart.

Two sweethearts.

(She asked for "hoops" in her pigtails. I still don't know what she meant, 
but figured I'd just loop them through so they seemed shorter? No idea...)



- Bethany :)