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My First Public(ish) Speaking Engagement about Special Needs

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A few weeks ago, along with a good friend of mine, I spoke at my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting about raising Special Needs kids.  We both told brief versions of our journeys, and then talked a little about how our Typical Mom friends can relate to us, include us, and otherwise support us.  It was an emotional and positive experience.  We were surrounded by much love and encouragement, and there were tears happening all over the room. Below, I’ve included my talk.  Of course, it came out a little different than this.  I had my friend record video of the first part of my talk – the part about Jenna’s story.  Then she joined me for the part about how our friends can help, so that part is only in written form.

To watch the video, go here.  To read the second part of the presentation, go here.


Jenna - 1 day old in the NICU

Jenna – 1 day old in the NICU

Jenna was two days old when we found out that she has Partial Trisomy 22 – a very rare duplication of genetic material in her 22nd chromosome.  We knew something was wrong when she wasn’t growing properly in the womb, and knew she would be admitted to the NICU immediately after she was born.  We were expecting her to be tiny, and she was: 3lbs, 13oz and 17 inches long. We were expecting her size to have something to do with the placenta, or her ability to absorb nutrients…we weren’t expecting a genetic condition that, as we soon discovered, meant that our little girl would have severe global developmental delays.  We also later discovered that she has a hole in her heart – an Atrial Septal Defect.

Big yawn for a tiny tyke.

Big yawn for a tiny tyke.

The three weeks we spent in the NICU were enough to teach her to drink breast milk from a bottle and start gaining weight.  I would visit the hospital twice a day to bring my expressed milk, practice nursing, and bond with this tiny human that was my daughter.  I had to re-learn how to change diapers and wash a baby, despite years of babysitting, because I had just never handled a baby this small.  Family and friends visited, we asked a lot of questions of the nurses, we had regular meetings with her doctor to discuss her various tests, and finally, we took our tiny infant home.

Two days later, a moving truck came to pack up all our belongings, and my husband, Devin moved to California because early in my pregnancy, he had accepted a job down here.  Jenna and I moved into my parents house for three weeks to complete the sale of our house, get Jenna’s passport and complete the post-discharge medical appointments.  It was extremely stressful to be apart from Devin, and to have so many important things to take care of  while also getting used to being a Mom, and trying to nourish our tiny baby.

To say that starting life as a new mother with a Special Needs baby was a little scary is putting it mildly.  To start that life hundreds of miles away from any friends, family, familiar medical system and citizenship was overwhelming.  But we knew we had made the right decision to move to California, so we asked a lot of questions, and then trusted that everything would be okay.

Over the next three years, my life was filled with appointments: with pediatricians, neurologists, cardiologists, opthamologists, hearing specialists, speech therapists, physical therapists, oral motor therapists, and Early Interventionists (EI).

Jenna's tongue was out like this a lot - a common problem with kids with low tone.

Jenna’s tongue was out like this a lot – a common problem with kids with low tone.

Mealtimes were painful.  At first, it would take Jenna an hour to drink 4 oz of milk from a bottle – she never did learn to nurse.  When she started on solid foods, her therapists taught me special ways to feed her with a spoon to help with her various oral motor issues. Most of her food ended up on her clothes thanks to a tongue thrusting motion that is common in Special Needs kids. It took a long time for her to start feeding herself even with her hands, since her pincer grasp was so late to develop.  For the first two years of her life, I dreaded feeding my child because it was a long and frustrating task.  Every morsel of food was a therapy tool. However every success was met with a major celebration.

Physical and EI Therapy sessions were just as frustrating.  At first, Jenna refused to pay any attention to the toys we were using to teach her to reach for things, or roll over, or grasp, or whatever the task was at the time.  She did a lot of crying during therapy sessions.  It was heartbreaking.  We persevered and got creative with new ways of getting her attention and finally started to make some very slow progress.

An early smile - 4 months old

An early smile – 4 months old

Jenna smiled for the first time at 12 weeks – from 8 weeks (typical smiling age) until she finally smiled I was terrified that she never would.  She sat on her own at 12 months, cut her first tooth at 14 months, scooted around on her bum for a couple of years, pulled up to standing at 2.5 years old, and finally started walking with a walker at 3 years old.  Needless to say, I threw out all the books that tell you “What to Expect” from your child.

We joined a Mother’s club shortly after moving here, and made some very sweet friends.  But I was the only one in my group with a special needs child, and it was lonely having the only child who didn’t react to tickling.  Then it was lonely sitting with Jenna in the sandbox while all the other parents were helping their kids on the play structure.  And then it was lonely being on the play structure with Jenna when all the other moms were sitting around chatting, because their kids could navigate the play structure alone.

We didn’t go to baby gymnastics, music classes, playtime at the library, or any of those other programs that my friends were doing with their kids, because we had therapy 5 days a week.  For an extravert like me, all that loneliness was devastating and I eventually figured out that I had fallen into depression.  Even so, I made friends and started creating a support network in the Bay Area.  Jenna’s therapists became my therapists, and I know I talked their ears off.  I still do.

My Mom was here for the first few days of Jenna's 2nd hospitalization.

My Mom was here for the first few days of Jenna’s 2nd hospitalization.

One of our most trying times in her early years was just before she turned one.  She was hospitalized twice in two months for RSV and Pneunomia, the first time for 5 days, and the second for 2 weeks.  It was a scary time because the hole in her heart added extra risk, and it was tough to handle without family around.  But our friends stepped up to the plate like champs and fed us and walked our dog and sent us encouraging notes.  They were wonderful.

When Jenna turned 3, she graduated out of the therapy program supported by the Golden Gate Regional Center, and entered preschool in the county program at Marindale in Terra Linda. Some Moms cry when their kids start school.  When I dropped Jenna off at school the first day, she was fine, and I skipped down the hall singing “Freedom is Coming”.

After three years of non-stop therapy, full-time care, and dragging (actually carrying) her with me everywhere I went, I finally had some “me” time. She started getting all her therapies at school and I was no longer involved in most of her sessions.  Having 4-hour chunks of time in which to get things done around the house, or take a nap, or run an errand without a child along were pure paradise.  I know you all know what I’m talking about here.

First nap in her toddler bed.

First nap in her toddler bed.

Sleep was always an issue.  I wasn’t able to sleep train Jenna at the ideal time because she was so small that feedings in the night had to continue until she was 6 months old.  I’m not sure it would have helped, though.  I’m such a softie and can’t handle just letting her cry.  I can count on two hands the number of times in her life that she has slept through the night: She’s 5.  So sleep deprivation has been a major challenge for me since the beginning and still continues. We gave up on sleep training after 3 years of trying out of desperation for some sleep for ourselves, and I started sleeping with Jenna in the spare room when she got up in the night.

Our biggest challenges after school started were the arrival of some pretty epic temper tantrums.  She is a very strong-willed child, which will serve her well, but it makes for some trying times coupled with her challenges with communication. She developed some annoying (sometimes infuriating) habits like kicking me in her sleep, pinching me to comfort herself or get my attention, and digging in her diaper and smearing the contents all over whatever room she is in.  Mostly normal behaviours for kids at some point in their development, but when it lasts for years instead of months, it’s hard to accept.  She is also very loud – she has two volumes: silent and deafening.  Learning the concept of quiet is slow going.

Cool chick!

Cool chick!

Now, Jenna is 5.  She walks and runs and is starting to jump even though her first Physical Therapist later admitted that she wasn’t sure any of those things would ever happen.  It’s still difficult to understand what she says most of the time, but her speech is getting clearer and she’s trying to copy everything we say.  It is so much fun to see her growing and learning, and becoming a little girl. She was a baby for so long, we both have some habits to break.  She’s not potty trained, and I still end up sleeping with her for part of most nights.  She often cries when she wants something before remembering that she can use her words to ask for it.  For my part, it takes concentration to let her do things for herself instead of stepping in to help every time.  But her independence is growing.  She’s a happy, goofy, active child, and everyone who meets her falls in love immediately.  For that, we feel so blessed.

I waited much too long to connect with other Moms of Special Needs kids.  With such a rare condition, I didn’t think Moms dealing with other diagnoses would have much to offer me.  I was so wrong.  Now that I have friends in the Special Needs community, I no longer feel so lonely.  And it’s not that my “Typical Mom” friends aren’t there for me.  They are amazing!  YOU are amazing.  But you don’t know what I’m going through because you haven’t experienced it.  It’s not your fault.

 

To read the tips we gave to our friends in the meeting about how to relate to us and be sensitive to people dealing with special needs, go here.

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Long night in the ER with the Bean

The Bean and her pediatrician (not a photo from the hospital last night)

The Bean and her pediatrician (not a photo from the hospital last night)

The Bean was restless last night, waking up several times in a row. Sometime around 1:30am, she coughed and cried out, and wouldn’t settle back down. I picked her up to bring her to our bed thinking she just needed to be snuggled, and she was struggling with me a little. Suddenly, she started to throw up, but then just gagged. I sat down with her on the toilet seat to give her space to throw up if she needed to, and she just gagged again and then passed out. She was totally limp and it seemed like she wasn’t breathing. So scary!

I put her on the bathmat to give her a breath and check for stuff in her throat while my Sweetie called 911. By the time he was giving them our info, about 20 seconds later, she was breathing again and crying. Within 5 minutes, the house was full of rescue people (4 firemen, 2 paramedics and a sheriff). Since she was breathing again, they just asked questions while I comforted the Bean, and then to be on the safe side we went in the ambulance to the hospital. The Bean proceeded to vomit up her dinner all over me and herself (lovely), over the course of a couple of hours. They did an EKG first, which was a challenge because the machine decided to play games with us. They then had to catheterize my poor Bean to get a urine sample. That was awful. She fought tooth and nail and they had to get two nurses plus me to hold her down so the third nurse could get the catheter in.

It took a while for the lab tech to come to draw blood, and in the meantime, Bean had fallen asleep.  She was woken up by a crowd of nurses hovering, ready to help hold her down, and hold her down was what they had to do.  We had a break then while the lab processed the tests and she snoozed again.  The nurse came back with the news that the Bean was very dehydrated and that her white blood cell count was high.  They were going to have to put an IV in her arm to take more blood and give her some fluids. Poor Bean – she was already terrified every time a nurse popped in for any reason because she associates them with pain.  It was quite a job getting the IV in.  I didn’t watch, but there was a fair amount of blood spilled in the process, and she wailed and struggled the whole time.

An hour later, enough of the tests had come back to show that she wasn’t in any immediate danger.  She doesn’t have an infection like they originally suspected.  They theorized that she had eaten something that disagreed with her, choked on her vomit and passed out in the process.  She did ingest some of her diaper contents earlier in the evening, but they didn’t think that had anything to do with it.  We have a follow-up appointment with her pediatrician later today to go over the rest of the test results.  One odd thing is that her platelets have been decreasing over the past few months, affecting her blood’s ability to clot.  We don’t know why right now, but hopefully the doctor will have some info for us this afternoon.

So, we’ve collected another hospital bracelet.

One thing I have to say, though, despite my exhaustion from not having slept at all last night, is that every person we encountered last night was wonderful.  The paramedic has a 4-year-old daughter, and he was so great with the Bean.  He presented her with a cute stuffed bunny, and at the hospital obtained a second id bracelet and attached it around the bunny’s leg.  She was so much more interested in the bunny after that.

The main nurse in charge of the Bean’s case also has a 3-year-old son who has medical special needs.  He was just as wonderful, despite the many challenges in dealing with the Bean’s tests.  We chatted about our kids while he filled out paperwork.  All the assisting nurses were so sweet and helpful.  The doctor was a gentle giant: tall, muscular and extremely kind and soft-spoken.

I certainly didn’t like having to be in the ER overnight, but we had such kindness and support surrounding us that it made the whole experience manageable.  Here’s hoping we all get some sleep today.

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.

image033

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!

Freedom, oh Freedom!

(courtesy of englishwithjo.com)

I just dropped the Bean off at Daycare for the very first time and then took a very deep breath.  She watched me leave without any anxiety, and I knew this was going to be awesome.

I was a little concerned about bringing her to daycare this morning because she was extremely cranky and had been coughing in the night.  Nothing I could do would console her.  However, when Daddy got a hold of her, she calmed right down, so I decided the problem had to be me.  I woke up feeling pretty crappy this morning, myself.  The Bean had me up twice, and then when I pulled her into bed with us at 4:30 I didn’t sleep very soundly for the next hour and a half.  I’m pretty sure I’m PMSing, and I suspect that the Bean can sense when I’m hormonal and reflects it back to me.  So, for my own sanity, and for hers, off we went to daycare.

My plan is this:

  1. Finish this blog post (15 minutes)
  2. Clean the kitchen (45 minutes)
  3. Sweep the floors (45 minutes)
  4. Shower (10 minutes)
  5. Go get a mani/pedi as a reward for all my hard work.

The Bean will be so tired from her morning of hardcore playing that she’ll fall asleep in the stroller on the way home, and then I can nap too.   That’s the plan, anyway.  I have a feeling I’m going to LOVE Mondays.

Another First!

Standing tall

Today, while the Bean’s babysitter was rooting around in her drawers to find something for her to wear, our little girl was busy taking another big baby step.  She pulled herself up to standing from sitting on the floor.  She’s been able to pull herself up from being seated on a chair or on my lap, but this is the first time she’s managed to get from the floor to standing all by herself!  Yesterday, she pulled herself up to kneeling beside the tub while I was having a shower, and I think she was trying to stand up when she fell over backward and bonked her head on the tile floor. (ouch).  So I guess she just needed one more day to figure it out. 

Congratulations to the Bean!  And I’m going to have to be that much more vigilant in keeping an eye on her.

Birthday Bash

cake

She ate every bit of her cupcake

Yesterday was the Bean’s postponed birthday party.  We had to push the party back because we were all sick on the weekend of her birthday.  I was worried that people wouldn’t come because of the change of date.  As the week wore on, more and more people were changing their RSVPs to ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’.  We also had a couple of changes from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’, but they were far outnumbered by the former.  I was disappointed, but not really all that surprised.  These things happen. 

Other things happen too, like a power outage in the neighbourhood that shut off the electronic entry system for the community room where we were holding the party an hour before the party was to start.  I managed to get into the building because a woman who was working out in the gym heard me knocking on the window.  A bunch of time was wasted figuring out what to do, which meant I wasn’t actually properly set up for the party at 3pm.  Luckily, no one was on time. 

By the time the party started we were expecting 10 guests (6 parents and 4 kids).  An hour and a half into the two hour party, only two families had arrived and the rental of our community room was feeling a little ridiculous.  But then the other two families showed up and the party really got started.  Thank goodness there was no one scheduled to use the room after us because we partied well past the 5pm end of our rental time.  The kids and dads played hard, and the moms got a chance to chat.  It turned out four kids at a two-year-old’s birthday party is just about perfect.  They all had room to run around, and they all got along really well. 

Ducky sandwiches

Ducky sandwiches

I was pretty proud of my rubber duck/bath time theme.  There were duck-shaped sandwiches and white chocolate ducks on top of blue cream cheese frosted lemon cupcakes.  There was a “bathtub” (baby pool) ball pit with white balloons representing bubble bath.  A tent held all of the Beans bath toys, including her good sized collection of rubber duckies.  I also set up a station with a bunch of percussion instruments for the kids to play with, since music is one of the Bean’s other favourite things.  All three stations got used a lot, and the kids really had a great time.  One mom even said her daughter hadn’t had that much fun with a group of kids in a long time.  Score one for Mommy!

ball pit

The bathtub with balloon bubble bath

The goodie bags each had a Birthday Party rubber ducky, two Easter eggs filled with homemade playdough (thanks Mom), and an animal-shaped cookie cutter – for use with the playdough or for making fun-shaped sandwiches. 

I love planning parties.  And I managed to do this one without spending a ton of money.  Some of the plans didn’t work out.  I wanted to make a duck-shaped cake and have more ducky decorations.  But the cake disintegrated when I took it out of the pan, and the helium balloons that we decorated with were highly popular with the kiddies.  I don’t think anyone missed out, except maybe the people who couldn’t come. 

I had a lot of fun, and I know the Bean did too, and that’s what really counts, right?

Two Years Old Already!

The Bean is 2 years old now.  It’s odd to think of her as two – she’s still such a baby in so many ways.  She scoots around on her bum, but doesn’t crawl or walk.  She’s only just starting to learn how to feed herself with a spoon.  She doesn’t speak more than one or two words at a time and only has about 30 words/signs to choose from, most of which she still doesn’t use consistently.  When we hang out with other kids her age I feel like we’re out of place – we’d fit better with a group of one-year-olds…except that the Bean is right on track socially, and definitely has ideas and opinions that outstrip that of a one-year-old.  It’s a weird conglomeration of developmental stages that can be confusing to deal with.  In terms of standing and walking, her 7.5 month-old cousin is way ahead of her.  And yet when they play together, it’s obvious that she’s older and wiser, and more in control of her body in general. 

We recently had the Bean’s semi-annual review with her therapy providers.  They were able to put a developmental age to each of the categories that they test: gross motor, fine motor, receptive language, expressive language, and visual reception.  In general, even though she’s about the size of a one-year-old, she’s tracking at about 18 months for most things – except gross motor, of course, since she doesn’t even pull up to standing on her own yet. 

Some might find it painful or silly or uncomfortable to put an age to her achievements, since her journey is her journey, not to be compared to anyone else’s.  But for me, it helps to know what approximate age to think of her as in my mind.  It helps me be less frustrated when we’re doing things that her peers have long left behind.  It helps me to decide which toys will be appropriate for her abilities, and which skills we might want to work on next.  It’s also encouraging for me to see that in the past 6 months, she has improved by 6 months worth.  At 18 months, she was assessed at a 12-month developmental age.   She’s not lagging further behind, but is keeping up with the tasks we set before her.   

Sometimes I wonder if maybe the Bean has lived a few lives before this one.   At times she gets so serious and looks straight into my face with such wisdom in her eyes, and it feels like she’s the one teaching me, not the other way around.  (Actually, she does teach me things every day.)  The tenderness she uses to express her love for someone is so sweet and endearing, and full of something deeper than I’d expect from a 2-year-old.  She’s an old soul, and I think that will serve her well as she continues to be challenged by the consequences of her extra genetic material.

 I’m reading a book right now called “Choosing to Smile”, in which three cancer survivors talk about their journeys.  One of the ladies, Glenda, gives birth to her second son after losing her leg, hip and part of her pelvis to cancer.  One day, her 4-year-old son says to her, “Do you know why I chose you to be my mommy?”  When she encourages him to continue, he tells her that when he was in heaven, before he was born, he knew that she would need him to push her in the wheelchair when he grew up, and that he had wanted to be there to help her.   The story brought up an interesting idea.  Maybe children choose their parents.  Maybe the Bean chose me to be her mommy because she knew I had things I needed to learn from the challenge of raising a child with special needs.  And maybe she knew that I would love her unconditionally, no matter how hard it was to learn those lessons.  Certainly God knew those things. 

Okay, now I’m crying, so I’ll stop there for today. 

Reasons to Celebrate

  • Yesterday, the Bean said “wawa” for the first time referring to needing a drink of water.  She also used the sign right afterward, which is why I realized that she had actually meant what she said.
  • Today, she put 4/5 of her blocks into the shape sorter without my help.  I just showed her which hole to put it in.  The one she couldn’t quite figure out?  The triangle.