Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Difference a Year Makes

There is a hint of sleep regression in the Keller household this summer.  It has struck both Isabella and AJ at various times.  While some things may change, clearly others remain the same:).

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Pinterest for the Win

Pinterest gets a bad rap a lot.  I was once told by someone that my house reminded them of Pinterest.  It did not feel like a compliment (this was back when I had both the time and energy to decorate the house seasonally).  I could see where if you were obsessed with multiple areas and they had to look JUST right then yes Pinterest could be problematic, but fortunately I come at it from more of a type B approach so putting it simply Pinterest has saved my butt this summer.

I have asked my mom more than once (who stayed at home until my younger sister started school) how she kept us busy when we were little.  She doesn't remember, but I have no idea how she did it without help.  By help I mean ideas.  By ideas I mean Pinterest.

Where else can I steal or get inspiration to take random crap from my house and keep tiny children entertained?!? 

Some are winners:

Ok only the 2 year old really got it, but the materials kept the other two entertained for a while so it still counts as a win.

This random assortment of items kept Isabella occupied for like 20 minutes.

Some not so much:

"Uh, we can't make a mess with this, what gives?!?!"  They abandoned ship in like a minute.

Most of the splotches on the paper are ones I made:/.

Yep, that is my child who climbed on the table.  Needless to say my classroom management ego took a hit that day.

So I don't care what anybody says Pinterest comes to the rescue more days than not.  Honestly don't know what I would do without it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer Field Trips

I feel like all I have done for the last couple of months is moan and groan, but in reality things have not been all bad:).

In fact we have been pretty busy enjoying lots of fun things that help get us out of the house and keeps Isabella busy and smiling--win, win!

As an added bonus, as much as I love A.J., it is getting tricker to take he and Isabella on field trips together.  His family's schedule has been crazy over the last two months and they usually don't remember to let me know until the last minute so there have been a number of times I have gotten paid for watching my own kid--win, win, win!

We are very fortunate to have an amazing local library system.  There is a HUGE children's library downtown and then each of the regional libraries have an awesome children's section with puzzles and wooden toys.  Since it has been ridiculously hot we have taken full advantage of these indoor spaces.

We also have lots of great public parks to choose from.  I am lucky in that Isabella is super mobile and adventurous so even if a park's equipment is geared for 5 year olds and up we are usually able to at least eek out 15-20 minutes of entertainment.  Again with the weather, these outings have been more sporadic and early in the morning before the sun melts us.

The splash pad has been an outdoor option that provides some relief from the heat.  While I think Isabella prefers the pool, I'm kind of partial to the splash pad as it involves less effort on my part:).

Our last favorite spot this summer has been the local children's museum.  It is right up the road and when she turned one (when we had to start paying for her) we got a year family membership with a guest pass.  So when we go as a family we have not issue stopping in for 30 minutes because there's no guilt for not getting our money's worth.  Also like today we went with my friend Amy and her girls and only spent $8.  That membership has been worth it's weight in gold and will definitely become a yearly thing until either we move or Isabella ages out! 

Our other field trips usually involve some variation of Target, the grocery store, or a consignment store, but no matter the destination it is nice to have the freedom to come and go as we please.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mental Upgrade

What began as a joke--a brain upgrade--transformed into a project!  While of course I cannot physically change my brain I became intrigued with the idea of taking steps to improve its function.  The current drag isn't emotional, it isn't spiritual, it isn't physical, it is 100% mental so it is only from that angle that any progress would be felt. 

The phone analogy was an interesting one because it got me thinking about the two functions of my brain that are being hit the hardest:  the amount of information it is trying to hold (storage space) and the speed with which it is being taken care of (processing speed).  So I did a quick search in coping with information overload.  Forbes had a good article the first step of which was a brain dump.  So I went old school, took out a paper and some markers and went to town.

I laid out every thought that seems to play on a continual loop in brain--there was a LOT of stuff rattling around up there.  And when you consider that each and every one of those things requires decisions, supporting thoughts and actions -holy crap no wonder it's been struggling!  The next step of the article talked about taking the items from your brain dump and putting them into one of four categories:  do it, delegate it, defer it, and drop it.  Unfortunately none of this items is actually droppable:(.  Also at first blush none of them seemed able to be delegated or able to be deffered, so feeling a bit defeated I made a three column chart and left it on the counter next to the brain dump.  

Over the course of the day I slowly but surely DID find items that I was able to defer (yes those three publications will definitely help my resume BUT not taking care of my child is NOT an option sooo those publications got put on the defer it list).  I also figured out items that I could, in a way, delegate.  For example, friendships.  I often take the lead or at least get the ball rolling for getting together so I am, for the foreseeable future, allowing others the opportunity to do so (they just don't know it;).   

By the end of the day everything from the brain dump had a category and my shoulders (and more importantly my brain) felt lighter!  

So then I started thinking about how I might could help my brain process more effectively.  Side note you can tell I have spent almost half my life living in the south when terms like "might could" flow from my subconscious ramblings--yikes before too long I'll be telling people to "cut off the lights" and that "I'm fixing" to do something!  But I digress...

After doing some research I'm going to start popping some of J.T's fish oil (why does it seem that fish oil is the answer to EVERYTHING?!?!).  Then later today Isabella and I are going to take a field trip to the Vitamin Store for some Ginko Biloba.  I may also be the only stay at home mom I know who needs to consider upping her caffeine intake.  Since I don't do coffee I only consume, at most, 70 mg a day by way of the 1-2 diet Cokes I drink.  I was going to try to shoot for 200, but began to feel a little loopy after 2 diet cokes and an iced caramel mocha so currently going to shoot for 100 and see what happens:).

What began as a joke may actual be the thing that saves the day--here's to hoping!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Where'd I Put My Get Up and Go?

Cause it's clearly gotten up, gone away and doesn't appear to be resurfacing anytime soon!

I have a dissertation proposal that needs revising, three in progress publications that need attention, a house that is in desperate need of some deep cleaning, and a yard that is in danger of being overtaken by weeds.  I have zero desire to even touch any of these endeavors.

I am in much better shape than I was two weeks ago (mentally and physically), but I am still struggling with feeling "normal".

I am getting a decent amount of sleep, eating pretty well, and exercising.  I went to the doctor a few weeks ago for a thyroid checkup.  All is well on that front and he tested my iron which looked good too.

After giving it some thought I think the issue is my brain.  After a semester that kicked my ass new stressors keep popping up that require my immediate attention-cancer...resolution in being a family of three...breaking up with our adoption agency...home repairs...speech disorders.  This is on top of ya know regular life stuff-taking care of little people....taking care of dogs...maintaining relationships...keeping up with regular housework...

It's like my brain is currently processing like an iPhone 4 but my life requires more of an iPhone 8.  My brain is moving at a glacial pace and the storage is full even though new apps are needed ASAP!

Not quite sure how to get a brain upgrade, but I feel like this would help:).

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Speech Update

As I mentioned earlier Isabella qualified for Early Intervention services in early May under the category of Speech/Language.  In late May a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) conducted a more comprehensive Speech/Language assessment.  This assessment gave us more information as it showed us that our 13 month little girl only had the mastery of skills of a typically developing 9 month child for speech and language.  This was important information as it gave us a place to start working.  The SLP also gave what turned out to be an incredibly valuable resource in the form of a website and podcast.  It is hosted by an early childhood SLP who works specifically with late talking toddlers.

It was here that I learned there were in fact ELEVEN skills a toddler needed to have before they could even begin to demonstrate the ability to communicate verbally with words-who knew?!?! 

Some of them she had already mastered such as reacts to events in her environment, plays with a variety of toys appropriately, vocalizes, initiates interactions with others, responding to others and follows simple directions.  So we were more than half way there! 

Over the next few weeks I worked with her on the ones for which were emerging such as those related to attention span (the child has a typical toddler attention span for anything physical but try to get her to sit for more than a minute to do anything else? Forget it!) and imitation.  During this time her receptive language skills seemed to really blossom.  She could go and get just about anything I asked her to and when I told her it was time to eat, go outside, go the car, etc. she would go to the exact right spot.  Her ability to understand what we were saying was becoming very evident which was super exciting and made me hopeful that our "late talker" would begin talking soon.  A.J. calls me Mama (though I always try to redirect him to attempt to say Beth), so I would love to hear my own kiddo call me Mama too:). 

Imitation was interesting because it began with purposeful imitation with objects and then body movements.  The first we had done some, but as soon as we began to be more deliberate with it things really took off and the same was true about body movements.  She could now wave and clap consistently.  She could also spin, do some yoga pose J.T. does to stretch his back, and dance to music.  The next level of imitation involves imitating sound effect like sounds (beep, whee!, animal noises, etc.).  This is where we hit a roadblock.  This roadblock was more telling than we realized.

During Isabella's speech assessment in May we signed up for Speech once a month.  This involves an SLP coming to the house once a month for an hour primarily to check progress and provide me with new strategies.  Our first session was on Thursday and in it we got more information than we bargained for.

Recently I was watching Bubble Guppies with Isabella and there was a horse saying neigh.  I said neigh and asked if Isabella could say neigh.  She was sitting on my lap so I couldn't see her face, but I could feel her body stiffen as she strained to try to imitate the sound.  After much effort the only thing to come out was some type of guttural sound I couldn't replicate to save my life.  She didn't seem upset or frustrated but it was the first time I wondered if it wasn't that she wasn't ready to imitate sounds, but rather maybe she COULDN'T physically imitate sounds.  So my first question for the SLP was whether or not there was any type of issue that involves an inability to reproduce sounds.  The answer is yes and after working with Isabella for a little bit it became clear to the SLP that it may be what we are dealing with.  It is called Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

Apraxia is not usually diagnosed until a child is closer to three, but one of the tell tale signs is apparently what is called "groping".  This is the clinical term for what I was hearing Isabella do when she was trying to imitate a sound.  For the first time I saw her face when she was trying to imitate a sound the SLP was making.  It made me want to cry.  Isabella's eyes were fixed on the SLP's mouth, her jaw was jutted out the way it does when she is concentrating really hard, and you could tell she REALLY wanted to make the sound but no sound would come out.  It didn't seem to upset her, but to see her physically unable to do something she really wanted to do hurt my heart:(.

Like most disorders there is a continuum.  The fact that Isabella can make sounds (and boy can she make a LOT of them!) is very promising as severely Apraxic children often make few if any sounds at all at this age.  There is also a physical component that will be assessed by an Occupational Therapist at the beginning of August.  So as we continue to collect more information our current goals are to continue to encourage sounds, ramp up our use and teaching of sign language, and encourage imitation of the use of open vowel sounds as word approximations (for example uh for up or oh for go).   The fact that we know what we may be working with is very helpful, though it is taking some time to process that what we are working with may be less temporary than we thought.

At the end of the day however our little girl has been fearfully and wonderfully made to do great things and we have been blessed with the resources to help her achieve every last one of them even if the road we take is, as usual, the road less traveled. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Early to bed, way too early to rise!

Isabella began sleeping through the night last fall.  She had two sleep regressions the last being around Christmas.  She is super easy to put to bed and once in bed stays put until morning.  Morning is where the trouble still lies as her definition of morning and mine differ at times. 

There were times earlier in the year when she would wake up between 3-5am.  When she was still taking a bottle I would feed her and then put her in bed with me.  She would usually fall back to sleep within about 45 minutes (even sooner on good days!) and sleep for at least another hour.  These episodes were random and manageable.

Then about the time we kicked the bottle and switched to milk (late March) the 3-5 am wake ups became an almost daily occurrence and she wanted to go downstairs and start the day.  She would not drink her milk upstairs.  She would not lay with me in the glider or bed.  She would only calm down once we were downstairs where it was pitch black outside and no one else in their right mind would be up for hours.

I am all for the early bird catching the work, but anything before 5 is still NIGHT time in my book.

In searching for help I found that cutting back or even down on her naps might help.  It would help for a couple of days and then we would be right back to it.  We made sure she ate a good dinner and moved bedtime back some so that her tummy was full later.  Changing her bedtime did nothing.  We tried earlier and we tried later and still the results were the same.  Eventually if she woke up before 5 I just let her cry:(.  It was always just a whiny cry but not the way either one of wanted to start the day.  It helped some in that after about 5 minutes of crying she would lay back down.  She would lay back down for like 10 minutes and then try again.  Rinse and repeat until 5 am.

Over time the formula seems to be 2 naps (each one can last no longer than 90 minutes), peanut butter and banana smoothie and a walk before bed followed by a 7/7:15 bed time.  There is still the occasional 4:30/4:45 wake up (this was the case twice this week), but most days she gets up between 5-5:30. 

My dream is that as she gets older and we cut the morning nap she will sleep until 6.  I don't know the likelihood since she has been waking up around 5:30 since birth, but a girl can dream right?!?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July

This is not generally the space for which I share my thoughts on things political, but given the day and the times I will for just today.

While there is much that frustrates me about the direction our leaders are trying to take our nation, I am equally hopeful given the increasing energy of those including myself who feel this direction does not speak to democracy or, more importantly, the message the Lord gave to us through Jesus Christ and are actively working toward change.  

Cheers to Independence Day and the ideology it represents!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Umm, what's that?

This was my question to J.T. on Saturday as I was unpacking from the beach and he and Isabella were playing in our bedroom.  Burgeoning from the wall was a bubble of paint about the size of a hoagie roll (sub roll if you grew up somewhere other than PA).  We also saw a lovely stain on the ceiling above the bubble.  Ugh, water damage of some way shape or form:(.

J.T. punctured the bubble and it was cold and clear so if we were going to hope for anything we put our hope in HVAC ($$)  issues instead of roof ($$$$!).  Turns out we were right and that there was a clog in the condensation pipe from algae.  Apparently we were supposed to be running a bleach mixture through  it a couple of times a year-who knew?  As a side note, what else are we supposed to be doing to maintain our home that we don't know-yikes!.

The pipe repair was relatively inexpensive...relative to the water damage that is!  There is damage to the attic, master bedroom (ceiling, wall and subfloor), as well as the ceiling of the playroom below.   The plumber suggested that we might be able to have the repairs covered through our home owners insurance.  Thankfully God was using him as a messenger as neither J.T. nor I would have thought of that on our own. 

The good news is our insurance company accepted the claim so we only have to pay our deductible-yay!  The bad news is the repair work is no small task.  Drying it out took holes cut into our ceiling and walls and giant fans running for 72 hours straight.  Fortunately, with Isabella's sound machine her sleeping was not disturbed.  Unfortunately the same could not be said for the rest of us.

Repairing the walls and the ceiling is the next step which is more involved.  Even though the hole in the ceiling is only about 10 inches in diameter they have to re-do the entire ceiling in the playroom AND the foyer as it is one continuous piece of ceiling.  Scheduling that should be fun considering the fact the playroom is where we spend most of our lives Monday-Friday.  Not  sure how I'm going to entertain three toddlers safely in the other rooms of our home, but guess we will cross that bridge when we get to is never dull around here these days...

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Beach Bums

I was a little nervous about our trip to the beach.  Well not so much the beach itself, rather the drive TO the beach.  It is a 5.5 hour car ride and the last time Isabella was in the car for any length of time longer than like 45 minutes was when she was 8 months old.   Ya know PW (pre-walking).  I used my best teacher brain, did some research, and set up a game plan.  J.T. couldn't go with us as he has to save his vacation days for his procedure and recovery (Cancer blows, man).  So I was able to get me brother to make the drive with us.  We left at morning nap time and drove to Chapel Hill where we visited the University of North Carolina Tar Heel Hall of Fame and stopped at a brewery for lunch (for my brother).  Then we stopped at a playground for Isabella.


To this point the trip was a success (ok we were only half way through but I was feeling good about things!), but things started taking a turn when my brother decided he needed to make a pit stop before leaving town.  Maybe because it is a college town, but we could not find a gas station with a public restroom to save our lives!  We eventually stopped at a Walgreens which was a double edged sword since Isabella LOVES taking things off the shelves and putting them back on them.  Girlfriend was majorly ticked off when we only stayed a few minutes and left.  By this point she was overdue for her afternoon nap so after some crying fell asleep but only for about 30 minutes.  We then broke out the emergency entertainment kit which was comprised of snacks and random crap from the dollar store (bendable hair rollers, a box of bandaids, a stuffed turtle, etc.).  My brother would chuck something back about every 10 minutes.  It got us within 30 minutes of the beach house before it lost its appeal as we ran out of new stuff to throw at her.  This just meant I needed a bigger arsenal for the return trip!

The house my parents rented was perfect.  It was two stories so Isabella and I claimed the bottom floor so when she woke up at the crack of dawn she wouldn't wake anyone and when people wanted to stay up past our bedtime they could do so without disturbing us.  We decided 8am was a reasonable time to come upstairs so that gave Isabella and I about 2.5 hours to kill in the mornings.  Each morning we took a walk/run and went to the grocery store.  Isabella slept very well.  Though she did prove to everyone what I've been trying to tell them.  Even if I keep her up later she STILL wakes up between 5-5:30 she can just be more cranky because she got LESS sleep.  Our room had a walk in closet where I kept the pack and play.  This would be Isabella's second trip where she slept in a closet.  It works, I swear!


 She did a great job on the beach.  I already knew she LOVES sand, but wasn't sure how she would feel about the water.  She loved it too!  We could only spend about an hour at a time at the beach because the photo above on the left is the ONLY time she sat still the entire week and after an hour of chasing a toddler around the beach this mama was TIRED!  Our house had a pool so we would go back and swim there too.

Toward the end of the week we broke up all that water with a trip to the aquarium which was a hit.  I know that most aquariums do not feature dinosaurs but I'm glad this one does because it allowed Isabella to show off the only animal sound she knows.  "Isabella, what does a dinosaur say?"  "Roooar!"
Ever since I was in elementary school my family has always gone with a group of my parents friends to the beach and this was the first time in a long time our family trip was able to be scheduled at the same time.  It was nice seeing people I had not seen in ages though with Isabella's schedule I did not get to visit very much.  It has been a tradition for decades that Thursday night is Kite Flying and Awards night.  It was too windy for kites but they still did awards for the kids.  Isabella is receiving her "Newbie at the Beach" award in the top left photo.  A new tradition that began in more recent years is apparently beer pong (though it is played with water in the cups), so yes the other picture is in fact me holding my toddler, playing "beer" pong with my mother as my teammate:).

Fortunately the trip home was more smooth than to the trip there.  Same game plan (leave for morning nap, extended stop, continue driving for afternoon nap, arsenal of Dollar Store crap), but without the bathroom scavenger hunt we hit the afternoon nap time better and didn't even have to use all of the Dollar Store items for entertainment.  The picture above was taken at an awesome kids museum we stopped at during our mid day stop in Raleigh.

Overall Isabella's first trip to the beach was a raging success.  I really wish J.T. could have been there and my nephew and sister-in-law's absences were also felt (he just graduated high school and was on a senior week beach trip and my sister-in-law had to work), but it was a lot of fun and look forward to doing it again next year when hopefully EVERYONE will be there:).

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Big 4-0

I used to be the queen of "to do" lists.  Personal, professional, you name it and I had a list for it.  Over this past year my only formalized to do lists revolved around my assignment calendar.  Earlier this week I tried to remember how I had been keeping my list of to do stuff organized and I couldn't ("Mommy brain" and my increasingly horrible memory will be a topic for a different day).

As a result I started from scratch.  I looked at bullet journals, but paper and I are not BFFs.  So I needed something electronic.  Sometimes I just have my phone.  Other times I couldn't tell you where I set my phone (see above) and my computer is easier since it is usually in the same place.  So I landed on Google Keep.

So far so good.  Nothing like a little check mark motivation to get me moving on things that have been occupying brains space for months.  You know like thank you cards for Isabella's first birthday that got mailed out almost two months after her party.  Forget better late than never here!

Speaking of list we did do another list earlier this year...bucket lists.  They are a list of things we want to do over the next 10 years.  Which I failed to recognize at the time will pretty much encapsulate my 40s.  40.  Dang that sounds old!

The 40 I picture in my head is old, but I am not old soooo time to to revise that image.  I had no qualms about turning 30 and have no qualms about turning 40.  23 now that was a different story.  Random I know.  I think it had something to do with becoming a full fledged adult.  I digress...

Back to the bucket lists.  We each made a personal one and then a collective one which is mostly comprised of places to which we would like to travel.   Here's what we've got.

The tiny creatures around me are getting restless so will share in more detail tomorrow...stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Counting Every Blessing

So I won't bore you with the details of them all today.  Rather I want to share two which I believe were delivered directly by the big guy upstairs at exactly the right time.

In all the cluster that was this past spring I held things together relatively well (on the outside at least!), but one area I pretty much just gave up was tracking my spending to stay in budget.  As a result we hemorrhaged money in 2018. 

This overage took a hit on our savings to which I honestly had not paid much attention to since I automated all of our payments back in January.  Actually had J.T. not asked last week what was going on with our savings account I would probably still be on budgeting autopilot and none the wiser.

This discovery led to our Saturday couch date night transforming into a State of the Keller Family Budget meeting.

Woo-hoo do we know how to have fun;).

Obviously it was not fun, but it was enlightening in more ways than one.

When we looked at J.T.'s medical expenses we figured out the amount that is needed to meet his deductible.   It is not a small figure and given the fact we were already concerned about our financial situation we were more than a little nervous.

Well wouldn't you know? The total is covered almost exactly by the tax refund we got at the end of April and hadn't touched.  It is no happy accident that the timing of its deposit into our savings account coincides directly with the discovery of the kidney stone and tumor.

When we looked at the spending over the last few months we figured out the amount that was used from our savings.  Again, no small figure.  Again it was covered.  This time it was covered almost exactly by the money we had saved for the legal and travel expenses for our anticipated but never meant to be adoption the door to which we officially closed the morning of the day J.T. noticed something was up with our savings.

Though I have always been a Christian I also used to believe there were coincidences.

Now I see them for what they are-God's handiwork.

Despite all of my many failings God has my back every. single. time.  For this I count EVERY blessing.

"I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Letting go and trusting when I cannot see
I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Surely every season You are good to me."

Sunday, June 10, 2018

One and that your final answer? Yes.

I got married when I was 30.  We started trying to start a family exactly one year later.  

When I was young I wanted 6 kids (Brady Bunch influence maybe?).  As I got older that number started to seem far too ambitious and so I settled on four.  My parents had four kids, so could I.  Then I met my husband who had been perfectly content as an only child and had spent no time around kids.  His party line was let’s start with one and take it from there.  I just knew he would be good with two and felt confident I could persuade him to have third when the time came.   

Then my thirties became one big run on sentence of chasing that very first kid and the possibility of an elusive second.    We tried for a year, then we visited a Fertility specialist, we tried IUIs, when faced with IVF or adoption we chose adoption, we waited years without success, we revisited assisted reproduction options, waffled back and forth between donor embryos or donor eggs, had success out of the gate with IVF using donor eggs, our miracle baby is born, turn back to adoption for #2, wait longer without success, my biological clock screamed “mercy” long ago, feel like we used our 50/50 shot to get our beautiful daughter so another $30k for a repeat seems like a long shot, 40 in a few months, nearly a decade revolved around family planning, time to make room for the next phase in life, finally accept the conclusion we are one and done.

If that period could convey the weight of my emotions in its placement it would need to be the size of a bowling ball.  We are one and done, but in my case it is not by choice.  My friends who have struggled with infertility fall in one of two categories.  Either they found success and completed their family through IVF, adoption or eventually naturally conceived or they are still fighting for #1.  When I look at the first group I am green with envy and when I look at the second I am wracked with guilt for not being 100% content with the beautiful and amazing gift we have been given already.

That’s the danger in looking side to side rather than looking forward. No good feelings ever come out of comparing our circumstances with anyone else’s.  So I’m
praying each morning for God to guide me through this and looking forward.

I just finished this book:

It provided great insight into the blessing of only childhood—both as a blessing to the
parents and to the child.  It provided a lot of excellent evidence that refuted my concerns (primarily a life of loneliness for Isabella as a child and a life of burden as we age in her adulthood and not being able to recreate the love and camaraderie my parents did for myself and my own much smaller family).

However even with the logical part of my brain satisfied their still remains a tiny grain of discontent which the author summarized perfectly:

"It’s an emotional struggle that, it turns out, no set of numbers and analysis can erase."

I am 99% at peace with being one and done but I am currently indulging that tiny 1%.  I’m giving myself a week to feel my feelings, seek out others who are one and done not by choice and then I am respecting the period at the end of our very long run on sentence and joyfully moving forward into the next phase of life as a family of three.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Well finally found resolution on one front.  Hit my breaking point with the adoption agency.  Below you will see our final exchange.  After which I blocked all email addresses from the company and am working through the steps of my first break up of a long term "relationship" in about two decades.

Hi Beth,

I’m not sure how to answer what Land of Cricket’s success rate is.  You may think it is an easy answer, but it is not.  For instance, this week, we had a birth mother go into labor and choose a family on the same day.  The family had not updated their home study, and sadly could not move forward with the situation. Similarly last month, we had a mom due in about four weeks choose a family who had a trip abroad scheduled during that time and opted to pass.  How do we factor those into any type of success rate?? 

Similarly, we have families like yours, who we anticipated being able to present you to the many requests we get for couples without children. You were blessed with a beautiful baby, and this affects the opportunities we anticipated we would have for you. Or a family who narrows to Caucasian only, or no on visits, or any other preference narrowing. How do we factor this into the success rate?

And then there are families who simply don’t get chosen by a birth mother.  Would you suggest we force a woman to select a family she doesn’t want to pick?  We do call families who are not getting picked when a birth mother declines to choose, but even if she declines to choose, she often has requests, such as race, religion, location, or size of family that we need to honor.

And, what does “success” mean when we have families who don’t take our advice on the profiles, who don’t update photos, who don’t keep a home study current? 

I realize you haven’t adopted, and therefore don’t see a success for you.  I understand that.  And we are doing everything within our power to present you to birth mothers who have requested families like yours.  But there isn’t an easy answer to the success rate.  In the last year, we have been extremely busy, in fact in our recent audit in Florida the auditor noted that we are the only agency she has seen with an increase in adoptions.  But whatever that looks like, it hasn’t resulted in a baby for you – I understand that.


"How do we factor these into a success rate?  Let us offer our thoughts...

The first two you count as success because you offered them a match.  

You don't consider us a success because as you and P both fail to acknowledge it's not a though interest in our family suddenly dried up because we had a baby.  There was never interest in our family, so you can count us with families for whom no birth parent shows interest.  This group makes up your unsuccessful group.

We find it highly unlikely that families that narrow their preferences make up much of a statistically significant group, so feel free not to include those individuals in your rate.  Also feel free to discount families who have major illness and decide they no longer wish to adopt, divorce and no longer wish to adopt and/or have chosen they no longer wish to adopt for some other personal.  

So you take the total number of families, minus the third group, divide the number of families offered a match by that number and you have a success rate.

However, we all know that such a number makes it less likely for families to pay Land of Crickets tens of thousands of dollars for your "service" so this formula nor any other will be utilized to determine whether or not Lifetime is a successful or not.  Though messages like the one delivered in the FAQ that started this entire line of questioning sends a message that your success rate is higher than others are in fact false since you and P both claim to not know how to develop such a thing.

Yes, in Florida families have been very successful.  Living in the Southeast region we followed the website diligently and celebrated each family's success.  North Carolina was mostly stagnant for 2015-2016 though 2017 saw an uptick for which we were again pleased for these families.  

While we are happy for these families, it goes without saying, we have not been pleased with our experience with Land of Crickets.  As a result we are making the difficult choice to no longer live our lives in limbo.  Our contract ends June 12.  We are not requesting an extension.  We are done.

We understand you will send a letter for us to sign.  Save the postage.  We will not sign it.  We have done all the work we will ever do for Land of Crickets."

Anger and sadness are the current status post breakup...hoping that peace begins to enter the scene very soon...  

Friday, May 18, 2018

Summer Break, huh?

Honestly I feel like all I have done in 2018 is try to survive.  I know that sounds super dramatic, but I was so looking forward to the end of the semester in hopes of getting a break from the stress and here we are and I feel almost as stressed as before!

Classes, comps, and the first three chapters of my dissertation (in draft form) are complete, but replacing them are now health issues (cancer plus Isabella has been sick on and off since the middle of April), overwhelming frustration with our adoption agency (they can't seem to answer even basic questions now like what is your success rate? and often like to remind us that Isabella's birth is what has led it to be more difficult for us to adopt--sweet people aren't they), and the stress of coming fully to terms with having only one child. 

Some of these things have got to get better.  The good news with a small tumor is that it is not life threatening at the moment.  The bad news is that it seems to mean that getting it taken care of is not a top priority.  J.T. finally got he kidney stone taken care of and we met the doctor about the tumor.  It looks like he will need 4-6 weeks to recover, but they can't seem to commit to when the procedure will take place (apparently it could be months away rather than weeks).  J.T.'s anxiety level is super high because he just wants it out!

I keep emailing back and forth with the adoption people though they keep putting off my questions.  Our contract ends on June 12.  I know J.T. just wants to be done, but I keep trying to figure out how to make peace with a group of people who aren't all bad (they are successful for many of the people they serve), but use a hard sell that makes it seem that as long as you follow their strategy you will be successful.  That is not the case as three years and $20,000 later we have come to learn the hard way.  I just want to find a way to help others not get taken for the same ride we and our friends have.

I am trying to find some ways to reduce my stress level.  Started Couch to 5K again.  Making sure to get sleep.  Listening to some faith based podcasts.  Praying.  Hoping these things will help me get my mind right cuz right now it's a mess...

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Early Intervention

Isabella has been walking for months, can climb just about anything, tries to carry things bigger than she is, babbles from sun up to sun down BUT girlfriend has yet to utter even one intentional word used in context.  No Mama (in reference to me), No Dada (when referring to J.T.).    Though she can babble mamamama,  dadadada with the best of them!

So a few weeks ago I took a minute and looked up Early Intervention for our county.  One of the milestones they listed was 1-3 words by 12 months, so I decided to give them a call and see what was up.  They said they would come to the house and conduct a screening (free of charge).  J.T. wasn't super excited when I told him about it (this was before all of the health issues cropped up), but didn't want to stop getting Isabella help if she needed it.

So on Tuesday they came out and gave her a screening.  Not surprisingly she was above average in motor skills, average in cognitive and life skills, and qualified for services and additional testing for both receptive and expressive language skills as they noted she had a slight delay in both areas:(.

I took her for a vision and hearing screening today both of which she passed with flying colors.  BTW I was very curious as to what a hearing screening for a one year old would look like, but once we did it was super impressed with the work Birth-3 educators do to ensure even the littlest ones get the help they need.  What is even more amazing is that all of these screenings, assessments and plan development are free.  It is only once you get to the need for additional services that there is a charge on a sliding fee scale.

Two members of the team from Tuesday came back out today and we developed a plan for Isabella.  The process totally feels like the IEP process but for babies and toddlers!  Thank goodness I had been on the other side of the table before because had I not, even though they talked us through everything, seeing it through J.T.s eyes showed me just how intimidating this process can be.

So her goals currently revolve around increasing her attention span so she begin to acquire and then use more language, and then of course to begin to express wants/needs using gestures and label basic objects using words.  A speech language pathologist will also come out later this month to do a more in depth evaluation.  The plan lasts for 6 months and they provided some great suggestions for me to incorporate right now.

I am not SUPER concerned that there is a huge issue at hand, rather I just want to ensure I am doing everything I can to ensure Isabella can express herself.  Having worked with so many children the inability to effectively say what you want or need can be so frustrating and I was out of tricks so am super glad to have some more resources.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Just Keep Swimming

Took J.T. to the emergency room on Sunday for a kidney stone.  Left with more than we bargained for.  The ER doctor didn't mince words when she told him in addition to the stone the CT scan also showed a malignant tumor on his kidney and masses in his lungs.

After a few days of additional tests he has been diagnosed with Stage I Renal Cancer.

They caught it SUPER early so we may be the only people ever who feel that a kidney stone was a blessing!

Well, to be fair, J.T. maybe doesn't feel totally blessed at the moment because the stupid stone doesn't seem to want to pass.  He may have to have a procedure that breaks it up in order to get it out.  After that they will begin to discuss the process for getting rid of the tumor.

The lungs currently appear to be nothing other than some remnants from pneumonia.  They also saw a lesion on his liver that was found to be beignine.

Fortunately his mom came out for a day or so to help get him to doctor's appointments (he can't drive with the pain meds he's taking) and my parents will be here next week.

While J.T.'s health is our top priority at the moment I almost can't process it with everything else I was already trying to cope with.  This line keeps playing over and over again in my head:

So that's what I am doing...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

One and Done?

Despite everything that is going on there are still some brain cells that seem assigned (or maybe obsessed) with whether or not we will be able to have a sibling for Isabella.

Nothing has changed on the adoption front and there is nothing that leads up to believe it ever will.

Isabella is the upside of a 50/50 chance we took in using IVF with Donor Eggs.  It feels like tempting fate even if we could scrape together another $30k to give it another shot.  Donor Embryos comes with a smaller price tag, but the same if not less successful odds.  Also, if I'm being completely honest, even though I was thrilled to learn my body can carry a pregnancy effectively the c-section and recovery part is not something I would look forward to again. 

Over the last few months I have begun coming to terms with the possibility of being one and done.  I am now praying for God to lead me.  I am also beginning to look for resources about only childhood.  J.T. has no complaints about being an only child.  He actually seems to have preferred it.  However, my grandmother was an only child and used to talk about how lonely it was for her.  I also am worried about all the pressure that will be on J.T. (and by extension our family) as his mom ages and eventually will need assistance.  My parents each had siblings to help them through the process and J.T. (and as things currently look Isabella) will not have that added support.  It makes me worried:(.

I just want to be sure that we are making the right decision for Isabella.  However, it may just be that God is making the decision for us.  As such it absolutely IS the right decision for Isabella and our family.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Happy Birthday Isabella!

This funny, smart, beautiful, amazing little girl is officially a toddler!  This first year was filled with so many wonderful firsts.  It has been such a blessing to watch our baby grow into her own.  She is soooo active and sooo loving (we have to limit her to one hug for her buddy A who is not quite so touchy feely!).  She has little to no fear and is fiercely independent.  We are so blessed to be her parents and are excited to see what the next year brings.

We celebrated her birthday with a small party at home with family and friends.  We have her a smash cupcake which she tried but seemed to be able to take it or leave it (pretty impressive for the offspring of two reforming sugar addicts!).  She loves her Glow worm, doll baby, doctor kit, and books.  The party had a touch of an Alice in Wonderland theme (side effect of hitting the wall was I got the invitations sent out in time but the party wasn't planned until the day before!) and so we borrowed a croquet set.  J.T's 92 year old stepgrandmother whipped everyone and came out the victor.  I can only pray to have half of that woman's energy at that age.

Isabella will help keep me young I'm sure.  Looking forward to our second year together!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Hitting the Wall

"What do you do?"  People ask from time to time.  Well that is a bit of a loaded question these days.  I usually respond with some variation of a stay at home mom who watches kids in my home OR full time student.  It feels like too long of a response to include it all in one answer for some reason.  But in actuality my full response would be something like:

"I am the primary caregiver to an extremely active almost toddler.  In addition to this crazy girl I also watch a 10 month old who is going through a spell of separation anxiety and since he things he has two moms he clings to my leg hardcore.  There is also a near two year old who has decided to enter the "terrible twos" early who on the regular full on tantrums if the other kids even look at her and has decided hitting is tots cool if she's mad.  Finally there is a preschooler who comes from time to time who's tag lines are 'I'm bored' and 'Will you play with me?' (he's so sweet I hate telling him no!).

I also told my husband that if I stayed at home with our daughter I would take on all household chores and responsibilities (since I clearly thought I would have oodles of time-smh!).

On top of all of this I decided to fast track my way through a doctoral program taking four classes a semester this year which includes writing the first half of my dissertation and taking my comprehensive exams (three 15 pages composed over the course of a single week).  All of this while monitoring three tiny people who are like moths to a flame to the computer or seem to need my attention every few minutes if I use my standing desk."

On paper this plan seemed like a great idea.  Stay home with my daughter, make a little extra money by providing her with some playmates, maximize the tuition payment by taking as many courses as I could at a time.  In reality turns out it was not my brightest idea and maybe one of my worst:(.

From 5am (or sometimes before) until 9/9:30 at night I am going full throttle.  I refuse to stay up any later because the only thing sustaining this pace is a decent night's sleep (along with prayer and wine of course).  However, after a couple of months of this I. have. hit. the. wall.

There are 7 weeks left in the semester.  My parents were already planning to come down for a week around Isabella's birthday and I've asked them to come down for one more week at some point before the end of the semester.  I truly do not know if I'm going to make it...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

11 Months

"I do like these hair bows mama.  It just might be in a different way than you do!"

This baby has such sensitive skin.  Her own drool can irritate it sometimes when she naps:(.

This is 11 months.  

Hard to believe in one month this baby girl will be ONE!