Tuesday, October 28, 2014

the best moments...

She clutches my right index finger, her little left hand tightly clasped closed, her eyes darting from side to side, watching for cars.

She's afraid of cars, their noises, their speed.  And she gets nervous when she crosses the street, even when she's right next to me.

But she's walking. And that makes me happy. Very happy. Because, as recently as two weeks ago, I'd have to scoop her up into my arms every time we crossed a street.

We reach the car and, here, I pick her up to get ready to open the door, to get her buckled into her car seat.

We never get that far.

I notice her looking past me, intently staring at something. We're right next to the vehicle, doors still shut, so what could it be?

It's her.

She's looking at her reflection in the tinted window, smiling at herself.

I turn around completely and she's now smiling at both of us.

She leans in and squishes her cheek to my cheek, making a smushy face.

And grins at our reflection.

Mommy loves you, I say.

She signs it back.

And then signs "friends."


We had a little electrical issue in our house Sunday evening. So the kitchen went dark, very dark, just as the kids finished their homework. Millie got scared, whimpered, and I scooped her up, waiting for Ray to get the lights back on.

She's afraid of the dark, of the things she can't see. Even in my arms, she was anxious. 

I softly started singing, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," to calm her down.

Instinctively, her head dropped to my shoulder, her body went limp and we swayed.

It used to be our bedtime routine. Every night. Twice through, every time, in the middle of her bedroom, the lights dimmed to low.

It was one of the few things we lost as we transitioned this summer to room-sharing for the girls. No more lullabies for Millie, who wanted then to be a big kid just like Lola. No, now they cuddle up side by side and giggle themselves to sleep, sharing stories and games that no one but them can understand.

But for one tiny moment, in the too-dark kitchen, she was my tiny little toddler girl.

My big girl, yes, but always my baby.
- Bethany 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

picture post

I've said before that life has been busy here (as I know it is for most everyone...) but I figured I'd offer a few brief updates, based on the photos I just took off my cell phone...

Lola was sick in the middle of September. Nothing too terrible, just two days of fevered fatigue. But she did have to miss Picture Day at school and that was soul-crushing for her.

Fortunately, she had Mustang to keep her company. (I love how the "Mustang" blanket just happens to be in the background here too.)

 Then, Millie got sick about a week later.

Again, it didn't seem to be any too serious -- until we heard her wheezing and struggling to catch her breath. Her temp was above 104, so one trip to urgent care later, she was diagnosed with pneumonia.

And we took out the ol' nebulizer.
Which she still hates.

Luckily, she has a big sister who was more than willing to help in any way she could.

(And a dog that is constantly watching over the kiddos, mainly Millie. He things he's her unofficial therapy dog, I think.)


Our first concern, obviously, was Millie's health. But once she got on meds, she improved almost immediately.

Yet, it did give me pause, as we were supposed to visit the Cities a few days later to see Ray's family and to send him off to a Vikings game.

Fortunately, Millie continued to get better and we were able to make the trip, having a very special time with the Wesleys (a super special one for the girls, but more on that later...) and the guys had a great time at a great football game.

And, as an added bonus, we were able to surprise my Mom at work on her birthday (it just so happened Lola didn't have school that Monday).
Everyone now seems to be quite healthy (yay!)

So we're getting back to our routines and having some fun.

 Lola's not-quite-daily stretching...

 Lola at her first visit to the paint-your-own-ceramics here in town.

And school, of course, too.

Life has been a bit crazy lately -- but we're loving it. 

- Bethany

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hair today, gone tomorrow...

Friday night. The girls and I were going stir-crazy. And Millie has been trying to see through her too-long bangs for about a month now. So, I packed up the girls and headed to the quickee hair salon.

Millie was called first. So I went with her and tried to get her settled down (she wasn't upset, but apprehensive). She kept trying to answer the hair stylist - by signing. With her hands underneath the apron thing. So I ended up staying with her long than I'd anticipated, repeatedly lifting the apron to translate for her.
Meanwhile, Lola, who loves getting her hair done now, was happily escorted to her seat.

Millie's lady asked me what I wanted done. I said, "Trim her bangs, clean it up, just an overall trim."

Lola's lady asked me what I wanted done. I said, "Trim her bangs, clean it up, just an overall trim." And then added that she does usually get some longer layers thrown in there too, to lighten the overall dense-ness of her mane.

If I had been paying close enough attention, I would have picked up on the very slight hesitation,
"You want the bangs to her eyebrows?" (Well, yeah, where else would you put them to? I wondered, to myself, before answering nicely that that would be just fine.)

It wasn't until we were in the car, on the way home, that I noticed how different Lola looked.

And then Lola giggled and said her hair tickled her forehead.

And I remembered: We've been growing her bangs out for the last two years.

Well, pooey. Nothing I can do about it now.

Fortunately, Lola loves them.

The real test will come tomorrow, though, when it's time for gymnastics. And she won't be able to tie them back off her forehead, like usual.

I did give a test yesterday, when Lola and I went for our first-ever mommy-daughter run.

She wore a headband, like me, to keep her hair out of her face. Great idea, right? Yeah, I thought so too. Until the headband was discovered missing seven minutes in. (Fortunately, we got really lucky on the way home and found it about 5 blocks from the house.) Bobby pins might be in the very near future.

Still, she seems to really like her bangs. This morning, she woke up asking for the hairbrush so she could brush them out before school.

So, we'll see...

But I still feel like a numbskull. Sheesh.
- Bethany

Friday, October 10, 2014

AAC Month (a Millie update)

Millie was asking for muffins.

I knew she was asking for another muffin because I could see her, from my peripheral vision. She was making our made-up muffin sign. Repeatedly.

I wasn't immediately responding (bad Mommy). I was distracted by making dinner and she'd already had her one after-school snack, to tide her over 'til dinnertime.

But Millie is persistent when it comes her muffins. There is nothing she likes better.

So, as I now turned my full attention to the stove, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a determined 3-year-old child as she climbed on top of the kitchen table.

I whipped around to find her on all fours, reaching for her "talker."

I just watched, quietly. To see what she'd do.

She grabbed hold, pulled it back to her, stood on the bench (at least she wasn't standing on the table!) and hit the button she so desperately wanted.

"Muffin," the machine spoke.





"More. Muffin."

And then she grinned at me, expectantly.


We're continuing to work hard to transition Millie to using her "talker" more and more these days. It's the best option right now for being able to build her vocabulary and increase her communication abilities in a range of settings, such as preschool.

Millie uses her talker so much these days, indicating what she wants to play with, what she wants to eat, what she wants to drink.

But it still takes a concerted effort on our part to use it. She isn't instinctively reaching for the device, still preferring to sign for those immediate wants and needs.

Yet, as you can (hopefully?) tell from the above mini-story, that is very quickly changing.

In one of her speech therapies this week, Millie was using her talker to communicate during an art session.

What continues to amaze me the most is how the "talker" does speak for her, but it actually encourages her to speak for herself. Which is, of course, our ultimate goal with any assisted communication strategy.

In this therapy session, Millie was supposed to hit the buttons for each color she wanted, each art supply, etc.

But the longer she used the talker and interacted with her therapist, the more she was actually verbalizing.

At one point, she actually spoke (verbally) a three-word sentence, "Me do it."

It came out as approximations of course, more along the lines of "Eee-oo-eh" but if you were listening carefully (as we most definitely were!), you could hear it.

These are the very beginnings of early speech. So priceless. So encouraging. For all of us, Millie especially. She is always so proud of herself, when we hear her, when we understand her.

And the talker is helping. In so many ways.

- Bethany 

Monday, October 6, 2014

busy. busy...

We've been crazy busy here lately, between the start of the school year (a month ago), therapies (a while ago), the start of extra-curriculars (three weeks ago), illnesses (a couple of weeks ago), and house projects.

After more than four years of debating whether the previous homeowners tiled around the bathroom vanity or under it, Ray about two weeks ago broke out the drill and answered the question once and for all. He happily discovered that the tile does in fact extend under the vanity to the wall -- and that prompted an almost immediate decision to finally  redo the upstairs bathroom.

I don't have pictures of the "before" bathroom, from when we've lived in the house. Probably because it was rather unattractive (though I'm sure it looked quite lovely in its day, with its pale yellow walls...).

This is the only image I could find, taken in February 2010 during our viewing tour, before we decided to pursue purchasing the "pink house," as it was then known.

That has now, thanks to Ray's incredible hard work!, become this:

It is gorgeous. I love it. It feels bigger, cleaner and so much less gross.

It isn't 100 percent done-done yet. We still need to put some finishing touches on it, like decor. And because the vanity itself is smaller than what was there before (in a very good way -- this current layout so much spacier!), we did order a cabinet for more storage.

But it looks great. And I couldn't be happier with it.

When Ray was ripping down the old stuff -- the mirror, the medicine cabinet, the vanity, etc. -- I went and "rescued" two pieces from the dump pile: the mirror and the bathroom medicine cabinet thing that hung on the wall above the potty.

The mirror is a TBD piece, but for the medicine cabinet, I had big plans. 

I have long wanted to transition from my tired ol' jewelry armoire to something smaller that would hang on the wall. And I thought the cabinet would be a great way to do that.

I didn't think to get a "before" photo (mainly because I don't know how thrilled Ray was with my plans -- I get a lot of "ideas" that don't seem to go anywhere and I think he was afraid this would become that.)

But it looks something kind of like this, but older, less polished, in fake oak, with a wooden bar that hangs below it for, presumably, a hand towel or something.
Really, mine was in nowhere near as good shape as the one above. Mine came off the wall looking like this:

So I got to work. I knew I wanted it to hang on the bedroom wall, so I painted it the same brown that we have for trim and accents. And then went and got the leftover wall paint for front accents.

What I couldn't figure out though was what to do with the backing. It is a heavy cardboard thing covered with a fake wood laminate front. And I couldn't paint on the laminate thing. (Trust me, I tried. And then I tried to rip it off which made it the whole situation a whole lot worse.)

Ben Franklin to the rescue! I found oversized decor papers in colors that I hoped would match the bedroom and I modge-podged them to the backing.

It turned out quite great, even if I do say so myself.

I purchased shiny new knobs and a couple of hooks for the side. 

I had previously stumbled on a blog that showed how to use chain links to hang earrings, so I bought some of those too.

Totally functional! And any worries I had that the patterned paper wouldn't match the wall was for naught -- because it really does look quite lovely.

All I had to do was transfer everything over and into place...

For what is probably the first time ever, my project came out exactly like I'd hoped it would, though I do think that in the days to come I might add two or three hooks to the top as well, since there is plenty of room.

But everything I do have looks quite lovely.

Best yet, it matches the bedroom perfectly.  I thought about painting the stripes on the front orange, but since "we" (Ray) just recently painted the dresser, I thought that might be orange overkill.

Now, I just have to figure out how to transform this...
... into something usable.

- Bethany :)