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Category Archives: Celebration

Mothering – the ultimate challenge and the ultimate joy

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Today, I blogged about Motherhood on CherishWords – my other blog.  Normally, I write about the Bean here, but for some reason – maybe because it is Mother’s Day, this one ended up there.  So, if you’d like to read it, you can get to it here.  Just so this page is less boring, here are some recent pictures of the Bean.

Reaching up to feel the needles on a tree.

Reaching up to feel the needles on a tree.

Bean painted her own kitty face.

Bean painted her own kitty face.

Exploring her new toy cubbies.

Exploring her new toy cubbies.

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Things the Bean Does That Bug the Heck Out of Me!

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ladybugEvery parent has certain buttons that their kids push quite easily.  No matter how much we adore our kids, we don’t always love all the little annoying things they do. So, in the spirit of documentation, I give you “Things the Bean Does That Bug the Heck Out of Me!”

Pinching – The Bean doesn’t pinch in a mean way.  She’s not upset or mad; it’s something she does when she’s cuddly or when she’s trying to get my attention…and I can’t stand it!  She grabs tiny sections of skin in the most sensitive places and pinches, sometimes gently and persistently, and sometimes really hard.  I’ve tried to just tolerate it and see if it stops on it’s own, but I just can’t.  I tap her hand and say “no pinching”, I squeeze her hand, I pinch her back – all to no avail.

Throat punch – this is another one that she’s not doing with the purpose of hurting anyone, but it really sucks.  It almost seems like an uncontrolled movement, except that her aim is exceptional.  Sometimes she does it with the tips of her fingers; this is a self defense technique we learned in Taekwondo, and it’s very effective.  Other times it’s a back fist to the throat when we’re lying down, or with the heel of her hand as she leans the full weight of her body on her hand trying to get up.fly

The Elbow Lean – This is almost as painful as the throat punch.  The Bean tends to tends to lean on my chest with her elbows, once again putting her full weight into the experience.  I’m surprised my chest isn’t black and blue.

Shrieking in the Car – I think every child goes through a stage where they’re learning how to regulate their volume, and for a time, loud seems to be the only option.  Whether she’s happy or upset, the Bean can get shockingly loud in the car, and I’m trapped in my seat belt on the freeway yelling at her to stop yelling…oh the irony.

angry-butterfly-14083658Temper Temper – Because of her speech delays, at 4-years-old the Bean often doesn’t have the words or the patience to tell me what she needs or wants.  She does try sometimes, which can be frustrating for both of us because she’s saying a word out of context without much for consonants.  When many of her words sound the same, it’s a guessing game, and as she gets older her wants and needs are becoming more complex.  This is all par for the course.

The part that bugs me is when she doesn’t even try to communicate, just breaks down in tears or a tantrum for no obvious reason.  I haven’t even had the chance to say no before she’s having a tantrum about it.  Figuring out what she wants AND trying to teach her nicer ways to ask for what she wants become mutually exclusive tasks because the more upset she is, the less she can listen or talk to me.   I’m learning to wait it out: to tell her that I can’t understand her when she’s crying/whining and when she’s ready to tell me what she wants, I will do my best to understand her.  It sometimes takes a while.

013Everything in the mouth – Most kids grow out of this phase when they’re three – at least I assume so because all those toys and games with small pieces are labelled 3+.  The Bean, however, still explores a lot of things with her mouth: stones from the driveway, small pieces from toys, large pieces from toys, blocks, anything from her toy kitchen, the water and bubbles from her bath, finger paint, playdoh, as much dirt and sand as she can get away with before I freak out, and even her own poop from time to time.

Mamaaaaahhhh – I waited for what seemed like forever for the Bean to be able to say “Mama”.  Now, it comes out of her mouth in rapid succession, often in a whiny tone, and for an extended period of time.  In the car: “Mamaaaahh”; when I’m making dinner: “Mamaaaahh”; when I’m trying to have a conversation with a friend: “Mamaaaahh”; when my Sweetie is taking her off my hands for a few minutes, but I’m still around: “Mamaaaaah”.  It’s annoying to even write it.  I am thrilled to be “Mama”, but I don’t really want to be “Mamaaaaahhh”!

Now I totally get that these are things that all parents go through with their young kids.  But parents of typical kids typically don’t deal with these for the duration of time that parents of special needs kids do.  It’s pretty exhausting to still be dealing with a toddler at 4 years.

DSC00675Even so, I’m super proud of how much the Bean has learned in the last year. At three-years-old, she was just beginning toddler-hood.  Now she’s a mix between toddler and pre-schooler, and she learns and grows more every day. Her vocabulary is increasing, she is able to do more things on her own, she’s starting to play independently, and she’s got this great attitude about life in general.

DSC00665I’m pretty sure that one day she won’t be beating me up on a regular basis.  Not all special needs parents can say that.  I’m also pretty sure that her vocabulary and speaking skills will improve, and one day I’ll be able to understand her a lot more clearly.  I have confidence that eventually she will be potty trained and I won’t be racing to get her diaper changed before she manages to get the poop into her mouth.

So while I don’t think I’m going to be able to “enjoy EVERY moment” of these early years, as encouraged to by parents whose kids grew up too fast, I certainly have a lot to be grateful for now, and a lot to look forward to in the future.

Health Update after ER Visit

Helping Mama with the laundry is one of the Bean's favourite chores.

Healthy and helping with the laundry.

Well, the Bean seems totally back to normal today. I kept her home just to be on the safe side, but she’s her usual talkative, active, hungry self. After our follow-up visit with her pediatrician yesterday we went for another round of blood tests, which really knocked her out for the rest of the afternoon.

Her tests all came back normal this time. No more high white blood cell count; no more low platelet count; hydration is fine. We’re still waiting for the blood and urine cultures to come back, to see if there is a deeper reason why she would have passed out the way she did. We also have a brain scan scheduled for July 9 to make sure she didn’t have an unusual type of seizure.

However, her doctor theorizes that what happened was pretty common among young children: she tried to throw up but the vomit hit her vocal chords and shut them tight, causing her to stop breathing. Apparently vocal cords are wired to do that, but it doesn’t last long enough to cause damage – hence the recovery after about 20 seconds. It doesn’t really explain why she passed out at the same time, though. He was surprised that there was no gasping for breath – just gagging and then passed out and no breathing.

Snacking in the sun

Snacking in the sun

Since that happened, every time I go into our bathroom, my mind goes back to the Bean lying limp in my arms, and then me leaning over her on the floor trying to bring her back.  In the moment, I was all calm business, but thinking back on it makes me want to sob.  I’m so grateful that we didn’t lose our little girl.  She is so precious to us, and this experience has really put into perspective all the times when I get frustrated or overwhelmed by her Bean-ness.  She is such a happy, friendly, spirited, smart kid, and I can’t imagine life without her.

While it’s possible that we were never actually in danger of losing our Bean on Monday night, the effects of that trauma and the gratitude I have over a happy ending will be with me for a very long time. Today I am making sure to enjoy all the kisses, cuteness, songs, snuggles, humourous moments, and even the challenges.

Leaps and Bounds

image011 (1)My Bean is growing in every way all of a sudden.  She has moved up a size in clothes, which is super exciting for me because I was getting tired of dressing her in her 12 month stuff.  For those not familiar with the Bean, she’s tiny – 3 3/4 years old and now wearing 18 – 24 month clothes.  What mom doesn’t love new clothes, even if they’re for her child and not for herself?

Walking is the Bean’s favourite hobby.  She toddles around everywhere, dancing if there is music and running (sort of) if she’s super excited.  She sure keeps me hopping when we’re in public – her curiosity knows no bounds, so she’s off the second I put her down. A whole new world has opened up to her and it is so much fun to help her explore and discover new things.

She keeps herself busy while I’m working in the kitchen by removing plastic containers from the cupboard and distributing them around the house.  She loves to “help” me wash dishes, standing on a chair at the second sink with her own bowl of sudsy water.  While it makes a huge puddle on the floor, and she keeps stealing the clean dishes from the rack and putting them back in my dishwater, it can be tremendous fun.  I still eventually get the dishes done.

Laundry is a similarly fascinating chore.  Bean likes to push the buttons on the washer and dryer, so after we load them, she closes the door and gets them started.  She recently started taking clean clothes out of the laundry basket and putting them away in her drawer. As long as I’m one step ahead of her, she manages to put the right things away in the right places and I don’t have to reorganize when she’s done.

023The challenge of communicating with the Bean is starting to get a little easier.  She attempts to copy everything we say, and it’s been a blast finally being able to teach her new words and have her respond.  With Christmas coming up in a few days, we were thrilled that she has learned to recognize and sort of say “Santa”.  We’re still working on “Baby Jesus”.  She had a Santa cupcake at her Christmas party, and since she associates cupcakes with birthdays, she wanted to blow out a candle.  I used that opportunity to remind her that it is Baby Jesus’ birthday, and we sang and pretended to blow out a birthday candle.  So cute.  However, the fact is that Santa is a much more compelling symbol for a toddler – bright colours, concrete concepts, and presents…the importance of the birth of Jesus is a little too abstract for her yet.

My favourite part of parenthood these days is playing with the Bean.  She has a great imagination and loves to make jokes and laugh.  Her jokes usually involve some sort of slap-stick comedy, and she giggles uncontrollably at her own antics.  She loves to be tickled and startled, asking for “moh” (more) over and over again.  At the playground, she enjoys climbing the structure and sliding with me down the big-kid slide.  When we get to the bottom, she pretends to be a chicken as she waddles back to the stairs again, flapping her wings and clucking, “buh, buh, buh”.

128Preschool continues to be an awesome experience for the Bean.  Her teacher is on maternity leave, but they’ve had a string of wonderful substitutes in the meantime, and the teacher’s assistants are a stable presence for the kids in their teacher’s absence.  Bean is apparently the “angel” of the class – the sweetest and least disruptive.  Of course she is – she’s her mother’s daughter!  But seriously, I feel very fortunate that her diagnosis doesn’t come with an expectation of major behavioral challenges.  She certainly gets frustrated and can be persistent about having things her way, but unlike some of the other kids in her class, she doesn’t tend to lash out physically or flop down on the ground in protest.  At her most aggressive, she’s just really loud and squirmy.  I get more resistance from her at home than they do at school, I think, but that’s pretty normal for most kids.

014Mostly, these days, she feels like a delightful 2-year-old.  It seems appropriate to me that her mental age seems to fit her physical age, even if they don’t correspond with her chronological age exactly.  She’s starting to get interested in dolls and playing dress-up.  If they didn’t make her also do other activities, she would be a permanent fixture in the play kitchen at school.  At home she loves to build with and knock down blocks, pull stickers off their sheets and stick them everywhere, have tea parties with Elmo, and get dirty in her sandbox.  When I’m digging around in the garden, she joins me, although a lot of soil still goes in her mouth.

Our biggest challenge with the Bean continues to be her sleep habits.  Currently, she mostly sleeps with us in our bed.  She won’t settle and fall asleep at night time without one of us lying beside her.  If we do put her in her own bed, she wakes up an hour later and we have to do it again.  She still takes naps but if she sleeps for more than an hour in the afternoon, she’s up until 9 or 10 pm, which means that my Sweetie and I don’t get much of an evening together.  We’re working on some strategies to get her sleeping consistently in her own bed.  She is too persistent at this point for the Cry-It-Out method, and frankly, I’m too soft-hearted to be able to stand it.  I think part of it is that she’s just a very physically affectionate child.  She needs the reassurance and comfort of a snuggle – I say there are worse things in this world than that, for sure.

Potty training is in the concept stage right now.  She’s starting to make it known when she needs a diaper change.  We’re working on recognizing when she’s actually going so we can start to preempt it and get her to the toilet.  But she doesn’t like sitting on the potty or on her little toilet seat, so we’re trying to get her used to that first.  As with most things in the Bean’s life, it will take a lot more time than it does for most other kids.  That’s just the way it is for us.  And in the meantime we’re helping to keep Pampers and Tide in business.

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I predict that the coming year will be one of even bigger leaps and more impressive bounds.  Our Bean will be turning 4 in March – it’s surreal to think about.  I feel like I’m finally coming into my own as a mother.  The extended infant stage was not my ideal situation…as much as I love babies, having one for 3 years while all the other kids are changing rapidly was a little disheartening and quite difficult for me.  As always, though, when I look for the silver lining it’s there.  Most mothers mourn the speedy passing of the infant stage.  I got to coddle and snuggle and baby my little one a whole lot longer than most moms before she became a wriggly wild thing.  Every milestone reached tastes that much sweeter because of the struggle it took to get there.  I don’t take anything about the Bean for granted.  I marvel at how far she’s come in the last year and I feel grateful for all the help we have along the way.

What a blessed life we live!

A Bean Update

I feel like I’m not doing a very thorough job of keeping record of the Bean’s life so far.  She’s been growing in leaps and bounds lately and I can barely keep up.  So, in the interest of just getting it down so I don’t forget, here is a list.

Language

  1. She recently started using a 4 word sentence: “I wah moh ee” (I want more please).  When I try to coach her to say I want _____ please (like park or outside or down), she always says “moh” with utmost pride at being able to fill in the blank.
  2. She sings a lot, and more and more often I can recognize the tune.
  3. She can approximate most of the letters of the alphabet, and one of her favourite games is to sort through a pile of wooden letter magnets and guess what letter each is.
  4. She tries to count when she puts things in her bowl or when we’re reading books.  Usually, she starts with “nye” (nine) unless prompted to say “wuh” (one)
  5. She sometimes gets frustrated and just starts screaming and crying when she wants something.  When that happens, she’s almost always hungry or tired. It feels good to have figured that out.
  6. She understands so much of what we say to her.  I think once her mouth figures out how to do the talking, she will astound us with what she knows.

Her first big “boo boo”.

Physical Development

  1. She can climb to the top of the play structure at the elementary school by herself.   At preschool, she can climb to the top of their smaller structure and slide down the slide on her own.
  2. She can navigate almost any surface with her walker, and she’s starting to experiment with balancing on her own and taking a couple tiny fast steps with no help. She’ll start Physical Therapy again next week, so I expect this will start to explode for her.
  3. She recently fell down and scraped her face up pretty badly.  It was swollen for the first 24 hours, and the scabs looked terrible for a few days, but she was a champ and healed up really quickly.  Right after I cleaned up her fresh wound, tears still streaming down her face, she wanted to get back into her walker and go see the pigs we were  headed toward at the farm we were visiting.
  4. She loves to bop to music and she’s starting to do this standing up as well.  She’s been dancing sitting down for a while already.

General Development

  1. She’s doing a lot more independent play.   She loves to play with her doll house in the kitchen while I make dinner.
  2. She wants to help with the laundry, dishes and food prep.  She stands on a kitchen chair at the sink and plays in a bowl of cold water that I’ve placed in the second sink for her.  But her hands and the clean dishes often end up back in the hot soapy water, which means a lot of extra rinsing for me.  It’s still fun to be able to do dishes with her instead of fighting for some time on my own to do them.
  3. The Bean loved having her hair blow dried.

    We got her hair cut for the first time recently.  She did great in the hairdresser’s chair and wanted “moe” when the hairdresser blow dried her hair.

Sleeping

  1. We’re finally starting to get some sleep at night.  She resists going to bed, so I often have to take her for a walk or a drive in the car to get her to sleep.  We’ve also been giving her melatonin some nights if it seems like she’s going to be wired for sound all evening.  She wakes up in the middle of the night (the time varies greatly) at which point we just pull her into bed with us.  Then she sleeps until at least 7am, which means her parents also get to sleep.  It’s been wonderful to get more than 5 hours of sleep on a consistent basis, and while it’s not ideal to have her in our bed, it’s working for us right now.
  2. She often falls asleep in the bus on her way home from school, although lately that’s happening less often.  Recently, I started trying to have her down for her nap between 1:30 and 2pm, and only let her sleep about an hour.  This seems to be helping with the going to bed end of things.

School

  1. The Bean LOVES school!  She has so much fun playing with the other kids and doing all the activities.  I currently drop her off at school in the morning, and then she takes the bus home.  They have 5-point harnesses built into some of the bus seats, and she really enjoys taking the bus like a big girl.
  2. We signed up for summer school, and a good friend of ours is going to be one of her teacher’s assistants for a couple weeks in the summer semester.  The Bean is going to be so surprised on Monday when she sees her there.

Social

  1. She is starting to get excited to see her favourite friends.  It’s cute to see all the kids get excited to see her when she gets to school or daycare.  A couple of her classmates regularly give her a hug when she gets to school.  She’s starting to let them hug her – at first she resisted a little.
  2. We’ve been getting together with a couple of friends weekly.  The Bean is learning to share her toys and ask nicely when she wants something her friend is playing with.  This is a process, and we’re just at the beginning.

Three is a really fun age.  It’s fun to see how the Bean is keeping up with her peers, and also interesting to see where she still needs to catch up.  Right now, she feels like a 18-24 month old in many areas.  And yet she also feels like a baby a lot of the time.  We haven’t started potty training yet, and she still needs help with a lot of things, but she is so independent about other things.  She hates it when I try to help her with something that she wants to figure out for herself.  Our life is an exaggerated example of how every child develops on their own schedule, regardless of the average.  And it’s “awedome” (awesome).

A Letter to my Daughter

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Dear Bean,

Today is Mother’s Day.  This day is important because you exist.  Without you, I am not a mother.  And I LOVE being your mother. 

You’re not old enough to understand this yet, but when you arrived just over two years ago, you changed the world and gave me the most important gift of my life.  We didn’t know, then, what challenges you would have, but it didn’t change anything about the way your Dad and I feel about you.  You are the most precious person in the world to us.

You have recently become very good at being two years old.  It doesn’t matter that you can’t keep up with your friends physically.  You are bright and happy, opinionated and determined, energetic and more than a little nuts at times.  In other words, you are a toddler – you just get around a little differently than other kids your age. 

Feeding yourself a whole banana for the first time.

I love watching you learn new things.  Yesterday you figured out how to turn the knob on your toy so that the lion pops up.  It turns out you just needed to use both hands.  After you made that little discovery, you practiced it over and over again, as if to imprint the technique in your mind.  All week, you’ve been surprising me with the new signs and words you’re picking up.  You’ve also been using two-word sentences a whole lot more.  A few days ago, you used your signs to ask me for “cheese, please” – totally out of the blue while you were watching Sesame Street.  You knew you were hungry, you knew what you wanted to eat, and you knew how to ask for it politely.  I am so proud of you.

Sure, I get annoyed  and angry sometimes.   I know I’m not always as calm and collected as I’d like to be when you are asserting your new-found independence or needing more attention from me than usual.  (Odd how those two opposites can happen together.)  I know that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and even if there were, I wouldn’t fit the mold.  But I will do my best to teach you, and guide you, and play with you, and laugh with you, and acknowledge your feelings, and rejoice at your accomplishments.  There will be many moments in our lives when I will need to apologize to you.  I hope you will learn to forgive me quickly, because I never want to do anything that hurts you. 

Petting a horse's nose at the petting zoo.

You are such an amazing little person already.  When you smile, I can’t help but smile back.  When you giggle, my whole day gets better.  You are so curious and silly.  You’re starting to get into everything, and you really check things out to see how they work.  You adore reading as much as I do.  You enjoy it when we read together, but you also like to page through books on your own.  You love music and dancing, and lately you’ve been singing a lot more.  Singing makes you happy.  You lift your chin and open your mouth wide when you sing, and then you grin really big when you’re done.  The other day, you were singing a song you made up – “Dada, Dada, Mama, Mama”.  I loved hearing that. 

My favourite thing about you right now, though, is how affectionate you are.  You give the best hugs and kisses, and you love to snuggle.  It’s so adorable when you put your hands on either side of my face, and pull me in for a smooch.  And when you spontaneously throw your arms around my neck in a hug, it melts my heart. 

So, my darling girl, I hope you continue to be curious. I hope you always feel free to sing and dance.  I hope your smile always lights up your face as easily as it does now.  I hope you always have good friends who look out for you.  I hope you feel special every day of your life.  I hope you never forget how much I love you. 

With all my love,

From Your Mommy

Baby Steps

She's driving already!

I had a dream last week that the Bean suddenly started walking.  The dream was triggered by my excitement about some of her recent new developments.

The most exciting for me was that on Friday, during her physical therapy session, she took her first couple of steps while holding onto her therapist’s fingers.  I was so elated I had to blink back the tears of joy.  My girl hasn’t even wanted to try taking steps until now.  She’s been perfectly happy to stand holding on to something or sit and scoot around.  She can also stand for about 3 seconds without support if she tries really hard, although that’s not consistent yet.  I think the time she spent with other kids (playdates and lots of birthday parties) in the last few weeks may have tipped the balance on her desire to try it.  It’s got to be frustrating to her 2-year-old mind to have all these kids running around when she’s stuck on the ground.  Not a bad use of peer pressure, I’d say. 

The Bean has also been learning a lot more about language lately. 

  • She suddenly started saying “wawa” for water.  I know it’s not just a coincidence, because she already has a sign for water, and she used that right after she said “wawa” and then guzzled a bunch of it down. 
  • I was telling our dog, Sakari, to get off the back of the seat in the car.  The command is “off”, and we have to say it quite loudly and assertively for her to pay any attention.  As I was yelling at the dog and trying to drive, I suddenly heard my daughter say “aw, aw” (sounds like off without the ff).  She’s done that a couple of times now.  So cute.
  • Her new favourite game is to point out the eyes on every person, animal or stuffed toy she can get her hands on.  “Ah, ah” (eye), she says.
  • She spontaneously used the sign for “please” in the appropriate context.  I was ignoring her pleas for “dar” (animated Youtube videos of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) because she’d already had too much computer time that morning.  But when I glanced at her, I saw that she was signing “please” (flat hand rubbed in a circular pattern over your chest).  A TWO WORD SENTENCE, albeit in two different languages.  And an understanding that when you want something, you say “Please”!  Wow!  And today, when she was demanding “dar” again, I reminded her that she had to say “please”, and she did it again. 

The third really cool thing that happened in the past couple of weeks is that her ability to copy gestures has suddenly improved.  She waves her arms in circles slowly through the air when watching the ballerinas dance in the Wiggles “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” video.  Last week she tried to sign “stand” when I showed it to her, and is picking up new signs all the time.  She copies every cute silly thing that her Dada tries to teach her. 

It’s crazy exciting to have our Bean finally learning words at a rate faster than one a month.  It’s so much fun to know that we’re teaching her things daily, and that she understands a whole lot more than we think she does.  We recently split her Oral Motor/Speech therapy session into two separate one-hour sessions so that we’re focusing a lot more on Speech.  I can’t wait to see how the extra therapy time helps to speed up this process.