Monday, October 15, 2018

My Poor Baby (Please send wine!)

Apparently Isabella's teeth are firm believers in the buddy system-they only come in groups!  At the rate we were going (stuck at 8 since like March) I assumed as her peers were getting visits from the tooth fairy, Isabella would still be waiting on a full set.  Over the last couple of weeks we have had between four and six teeth entering the scene (including two upper molars). 

If knowing how many teeth your kid has is part of the criteria for mother of the year then I'm out.  Her mouth is tiny, she doesn't like to open it and even when we do the turn her upside down trick I STILL can't seem to get a good look.  However, I know for sure that two bottom teeth are almost fully in place and I saw at least one corner of those gigantic molars on each side.  I also feel like I see something near the front of the top, but don't know for sure.  Combined with occasional bouts of extreme fussiness without other cause I feel like I can say with great certainty she is teething.  The request for wine are what I am sure are doctor's orders;).

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Bartering in 2018

I love to see when my friends post professional pictures.  Be it wedding, baby, family.  I enjoy looking at the glimpses the photographer is able to capture that most of us miss.  Well-full disclosure-there are some often used newborn poses that creep me out, but I assume I am alone on this front so will blow right past those.  Beyond that I love the smiles, laughter and lighting a professional photoshoot provides.   All of that said, I am unfortunately cheap.  Cheap + the cost of professional pictures=a drought of professional photos in our lives.

The only time I have regretted this was for our wedding.  We paid for the bulk of our wedding ourselves and there were many, many things I wanted to lay out $2K for before paying a professional photographer.  So a friend took photos. Unfortunately the friend's camera had a chip in the lens of which she was not aware.  As a result all of the photos she took has this blurry dot:(.  The good news is that even in 2010 there were lots of good shots taken by several guests using cameras and fancy phones so after the initial disappointment wore off we were able to assemble a nice wedding album at no cost.

The only time we have had professional photos taken was for our adoption photo book.  It was a requirement from the wonderful people at Lifetime.  I was able to find a photographer who was willing to do a minishoot at a discount so we had professional photos taken on our fifth wedding anniversary.  There was one we really liked.  The rest? Eh.  The photographer had a great portfolio, so I can only assume we the subjects were the problem.

When Isabella came on the horizon we used our camera (a nice Christmas gift from J.T.'s mom a few years ago) for baby announcement photos and maternity shots.  Got some good ones.  Then when Isabella was born we used the camera again for her newborn pictures.  The good news?  We got some good ones of her.  The not so great news?  The only "good" photo of the three of us is right after delivery catching a glimpse of the top of my head.  To be fair it was months before a "good photo" of me was taken so that may have all been for the best!

My sister-in-law has served as a good reminder to make sure we take regular family photos so we have a good one from 5 months and 11 months.  However, none catch that special family look the professionals get.

What does any of this have to do with bartering you ask.  Well let me tell you. 

A neighbor I have never met recently lost her 102 year old grandfather and the family wished to to do a photo slideshow at his celebration of life ceremony later this month.  She did an all call for help.  I enjoy putting these things together so I volunteered.  I hadn't considered charging until she made me an offer.  Turns out she is a professional photographer and offered to do a photoshoot in exchange for the slideshow.  It was a done deal.  This is what bartering of services looks like in 2018.  I like it. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

This Was a Drill...It was Only a Drill

J.T. has accepted the new job.  Even when the new job is something you want and by all appearances seems very promising, change is never easy and brings with it a unique kind of stress.   The reality of such must of hit home because as our baby items were being purchased at the yard sale I circled back to some of his recent comments in that department  While I don't remember his exact words the message was clear.   He is still processing our family of three himself, but ultimately our triangle family status is exactly as it should be.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Community Yard Sale

Last semester during one of my parents visits we put all of the larger baby toys and equipment that was no longer needed for Isabella in a storage space above the garage.  It's a very large space, but a HUGE pain to get to.  As a result I was only planning on lugging it all back down when we needed it again for the baby I was sure was awaiting us in the near future.  As we all would come to find out there was no such baby, so when they began to advertise for our community yard sale I knew it was time to bring that stuff down and make room for whatever opportunities await us in the future.

While I have truly made peace with Isabella as our one and only, I can't say there wasn't a tear or two as we brought down each of the items I had painstakingly covered and protected so Isabella's younger brother or sister wouldn't be shortchanged as they used her "hand-me-downs". 

These items had been preserved with such hope.  Hope that has become acceptance of what is.  Acceptance that is still awaiting the light of joy that I know will come.  It's coming. I know it is.  But for now I wait.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

I Never Did Like Math

The One and Done:  Not by Choice group was really starting to weigh on me, but I still felt like I needed a similar community with whom to relate.  That led to my joining a new One and Done group that was a mix of those who were there as the result of both choice and circumstance.   Someone posted a question what led to people becoming a one and done family.  Here was my response:

Hadn't thought of it that way before I typed that response.  But numbers (and possibly little things you know like God's plan for our lives) are ultimately what has led to our status as a triangle family.

Time.  Money.  Statistics.  These are the primary barriers to us not being like many other couples I know that begin to discuss the possibility of another when their child starts inching their way to that second birth day.  I had made my peace with our family of three.  Turns out someone else maybe has not.

About a month ago I had mentioned that a teacher I used to work with and who had also struggled to start a family had just taken on their first foster care placement-a six month old.  Later this led to a discussion about what fostering might look like for us.  I had looked at foster to adopt before we signed on with Lifetime and had been living under the information I found then.  At that time my research had led me to believe that there were virtually no paths for foster to adopt in our state.  Reunification was paramount.   That shut down further conversation because we would only be interested in a foster to adopt scenario.

Fast forward to our trip this past weekend.  I don't remember exactly how it came up, but mention was made that due to a raise at work and a job offer on the horizon that was quite promising that another attempt at IVF with donor eggs might be feasible.  Caught off guard I was quick to explain that our 50/50 shot was asleep in the next room (ok, the closet in the next room) and that I wasn't willing to go through it again with those statistics.  That is where the discussion ended.  The discussion, but not my brain.

What is going on here?  What happened to my staunch supporter of the only child?  Has he had a change of heart? 

Clearly these are questions I need to be asking HIM; however, more than a little bit of me is fearful for hope to once again bubble to the surface.  I am finally at PEACE with our one and only.  Why, NOW?

Well, why not now?  

I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
I am who You say I am

Lord Lead.  I will follow.  I think I am finally getting the hang of how it is done.

Oh and if you are not familiar with those lyrics check this out:

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Family Get Away

For the first time in our family's short history we took a trip just the three of us.  We took a weekend trip to the mountains and it was pretty close to perfect.  Well as perfect as any trip can be with a temperamental toddler:).

Due to said toddler's sleep schedule we wanted a place that would allow us big people to not be on lockdown while her highness was getting her beauty rest.  I first looked into suites as we were looking to do a Saturday to Sunday but soon found out that Airbnb was answer that made more sense financially.  Since they require a two night minimum stay we left Friday night around bedtime.

Isabella fell asleep shortly after leaving and slept for the duration of the trip.  Upon arrival, it was a pleasant surprise to find that the bedroom had a walk in closet.  I love putting Isabella in a walk in closet when take trips.  Is that bad?  It is less of a visual distraction if she wakes up so she is less disturbed about being somewhere else.  It insulates sound so we don't have to worry as much about waking her up.  A little bit of light doesn't startle her awake in the shared space.  The list goes on...

She went back to sleep in her closet immediately.  Saturday was mostly toddler-centric (gym class, playground, nature reserve, and indoor play spot-the first and last we do not have anything like it locally that I have seen!) but we did a brewery for lunch and dinner for the grown ups.  Sunday we got rained out for the apple orchard I was hoping we could visit, but all in all it was a great trip!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Feel Your Feelings

I feel like we have covered ad nauesum my inability to process feelings in a manner that would be considered average, but haven't dived to deeply into why this may be the case.

As my mom likes to say I am my father's daughter.  My father was raised in a home with two parents who loved and took care of him and his siblings but for whom displays of emotions simply did not happen.  In the 26 years I knew my paternal grandparents I saw never a trace of sadness nor anger.  There were some laughs and smiles on occasion (mostly from my grandfather), but the epitome of their emotional IQ can be summarized in the moment when my little sister attempted to give my grandmother a hug and received a gentle, but firm "We don't do hug." in response.  Never once for a second have I ever questioned the love or care that my dad or his parents have/had for me, it just wasn't something that was really ever expressed.  Though my dad made a concerted effort to become more of a hugger and says I love you during good byes after my brother passed away.

My mom is the more emotional parent, and from her parents I saw more displays of a range of emotions.  Though that said, my mom does not like it when other people are upset.  Be it with her or in general she is very sensitive and sympathetic and struggles when others are unhappy.  As a result she puts a lot of effort into making those around her feel better.  This is a very commendable and much appreciated trait, but for someone who already innately struggled to express emotions it seemed easier to keep them buried then to drag someone else into the muck of my feelings.

So while I feel much of my inability to express feelings is genetic (if that is possible), there were also dynamics at play that made expressing them even more difficult.  I suspect there were times during my teenage years that my mom in particular might contradict this account though from what I remember I was much more of a sulker and martyr than a rebel or yeller:).  But the bottom line is emotional reactions don't seem to be in natural wheelhouse.

As I have been working through the spectrum of emotions that as a toddler Isabella displays each and every day, I have come to one important conclusion.  I need to let this child feel her feelings.  If she is upset I have to give her a chance to "let it out".  I need to do my best not to swoop in to distract or try to make things better.  I need to help her learn to name her feelings, ensure she does not act in a manner that is unsafe or disrespectful to others when feeling those feelings, and give her space to work through them.  It has been both liberating and terrifying to come to this conclusion.  I have almost an aversion to fussing, crying, and other related emotional responses, and usually have trouble knowing the right thing to do or say.  Maybe letting Isabella feel those feelings will teach me a thing or two as well.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Aftermath

Hurricane Florence has come and gone.  It rained...and it rained...and it rained some more.  However, there were only a few pockets of heavy downpours in our neck of the woods.  We were lucky. 

As Isabella and I went for a run this morning and I surveyed the "damage" in our area.  What I saw appeared to be the result of any weekend long bout of rain.  There were lots of fallen leaves, limbs, and puddles.  But for the most part our neighborhood looks much the same as it did before. 

Of course that is not true for all NC residents.  Wilmington has become an island for the time being.  Flooding is still an issue in various areas around the state.  The death toll (though minor compared to what it could have been) continues to slowly creep upwards.  Lives have been changed.  Even if I don't see it--I know. 

As we were in the final stretch on the way home, the sun started peeking out behind the clouds.  A new day was dawning.  Things had changed, but we would continue to move forward much as we had before.

The same could be said for the aftermath of my family "bombshell".  The weekend continued with little mention of this new-to-some-of-us revelation.  We enjoyed games, food and laughter and things continued forward much as they had before.

The bottom line is this:  Decisions were made using the information at hand and using what was felt to be sound judgement in the best interest of those involved.  What's done is done.  It cannot be undone.  There is nothing that can be changed no matter how many times I swirl it around my brain. 

So with God's help I let it go and, while the things I know to be true have changed, I will continue to move forward much as I had before.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hurricane Florence and Family Secrets

Leave it to my parents to be some of the only people headed to the Carolinas right now.  As Hurricane Florence whips around in the Atlantic moving at turtle's speed, they came down for a weekend as had been planned for weeks.

They came a day early to avoid the impending storm.  They came with the items left behind by Isabella and I during our August visit.   They also down ready to share a family secret that had been hidden for a very long time.

Parentage has become an interesting concept to me.  This is especially true now that I have successfully given birth to an amazing, living child yet have no biological children.  Despite reading the blogs of other women in my position who seem to magically forget this fact, I don't.  It doesn't diminish the love I have for my beautiful daughter nor does it change the fact that she is exactly who God designed to complete our family.  It is just something I don't forget.   

Well as it turns out Isabella is not the only member of my family tree to whom there is not a genetic link.

There is another member of my family tree whom I grew up thinking I was biologically related only to find out after my nearly four decades this was, in fact, not the case.

This family member was born to a mother and a father who were married to one another.  At the time of his birth only the mother was aware that the father who was present, the father whose name was entered onto the birth certificate may not be the biological father of this family member.  For reasons that may seem obvious but are truly clear only to her, the mother kept this piece of information to herself for some time.  She kept this information to herself until three years later when she and her husband were determining whether or not there was hope for their crumbling marriage.   She chose that moment to divulge her secret.  The marriage did not survive.  The secret did.

The secret lived on for decades.  The secret lived on until medical needs have arisen in the next generation which have necessitated opening the circle of secret holders just a bit.  The secret lived on even after the family member whom it most impacted had gone.  He died never knowing the truth.

I asked many.. many...many questions all of which were answered.  As the next generation searches for information from the newly discovered branch of the family there was another significant piece of information.  You see my family member died of a condition similar to one that killed a half-sibling he never knew he had over a decade before.  This led to the one question that got to the tip of my tongue and stopped,  "What if he had known of his half-sibling?  Could that have changed...".

No, can't go there.  Can't be the only one to have thought that.  Can't change what was.  Can't change what is.

While I am quick to digest information, my emotions seem to process at a glacial pace.    So as Hurricane Florence continues to loom I am fervently praying this bombshell of family history is the most dramatic part of my weekend.  My emotions and the storm moving side by side at that same glacial pace.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

By Jove, I Think She's Got it!

I was so excited to watch her take her steps and start walking.

I love hearing her sweet voice call me Mama.

I am continually amazed at the heights she can climb.

But the most satisfying milestone to date HAS to be her newfound ability to regularly sleep past-wait for it...

Game. Changer.

Transition to one nap was helpful in that it reassured me she was not getting too much daytime sleep.  The girl can only sleep at most between 13-14 hours a day and two 90 minute naps (one hour would just make her cranky) was leaving us about 10 hours of nighttime sleep.  But now with this one nap business (usually lasting about 2 hours or so) I felt confident she could handle another hour of nighttime sleep, I just had to convince HER she needed it.

Found the answer in this article:

So starting last Tuesday when she woke up before 6:00am, I just went in her room, told her it wasn't time to get up yet (miraculously she just laid back down!) and put the blanket we use for nap time on her.  After about two days she just.kept.sleeping.  Monday I even had to WAKE HER UP at 6:50 so we could go to the store before the other kids arrived.  Wow!

Now J.T. gets up between 5-5:30 each weekday morning so I still get up, but it is REMARKABLE the amount of stuff you can get down when you don't have a toddler ankle weight!    Tuesday I got ALL of my housework for the day done before she woke up.  I almost cried from sheer joy.

It's the little things, people.  The little things.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Unexpected Blessings

I joined a One and Done:  Not By Choice Facebook group earlier this summer.  I'm going to be honest--for the most part it is relatively depressing.  Most of the posts are from individuals who seem to be going through secondary infertility and as a result many of their (very justified!) laments remind me of my days on infertility message boards once upon a time.  There are however several very positive reasons I stay.

First, these women have children of all ages and have opened my eyes to only child experiences I likely would not have considered.  For instance if your family of three goes on a vacation you may consider bringing along a friend otherwise you the parents may become pretty haggard from serving as playmate for days on end.  Also, (even though I was probably guilty of it myself) I failed to realize how often being an only child is brought up by teachers and other caregivers as a reason behind (mostly negative) behaviors.

There is also one unexpected, but amazing blessing I have gotten from this group and it is this:

Given that many of these women have experienced secondary infertility they have spent years of their only child's young life focused on providing a sibling for that child.  They of course loved their child and gave them as much of their attention as they could, BUT given what I know the absolute mindf*&% (sorry there is no other word that comes to mind) infertility of any kind can be I could very easily see how distracted one could be during this time even with their most precious loved one.

Also, these poor, unsuspecting women acknowledge assuming they would have more than one opportunity to experience babyhood, toddlerhood, starting school, and the like and openly acknowledge their regret for not savoring these moments as they could have if they knew they would only get one shot.

When my sweet girl calls me mama using her still small voice--I know.

When she wakes up early from a nap and I get to hold her while she continues to sleep--I know.

When she hits a new milestone--I know.

When she goes to preschool--I know.

And the list goes on and on.  I know.  And what a blessing that is.

Monday, August 27, 2018

First Day of School and (self-inflicted) Stress

Last year I have a vague recollection of the first day of school, and discovering that North Carolina Public Schools could in fact start a school year without me:).  But since I was covered in babies, toddlers and doctoral classwork it kind of came and went mostly undetected.  This year however I got to enjoy the many (many, many) first day of school and preschool pictures posted by friends and it hit me:  I have been a stressed out fool (mostly) of my own making.

Well I mean I did not bring Cancer and speech delays into my home intentionally, but these unforeseeable stressors were layered upon a huge mountain of stress I pretty much built myself.

You see when I started my doctoral program I had a pretty fantastic course that set a great foundation for being successful in the program and as a part of that course I mapped out my proposed schedule for the program.  I had a three year version and a four-five year version.  The three year version was chock full, but ultimately would save time and money and would obviously allow me to enter the job market earlier.  The four-five year version allowed me to go to school full time for the first two-three years (good use of time and money), but the final years were weird given that several course and comps are only available in the spring.  To me this meant spending tuition money unnecessarily to stay at least part time each semester (which is required) and dragging things out needlessly (or so I thought at the time). 

Despite the professor's very clear and confident recommendation that it would be in my best interest to take the longer road I dove into the fast track headfirst.  At the end of the day I don't completely regret my decision.  Yes, last year was SOOOO stressful (and the year before that sooooo busy).  BUT given the activity levels of the kids now and the fact that if they are awake I cannot maintain focus on an assignment long enough to do anything of value it is likely a good thing that I knocked it out when I was pregnant and they were tiny as I could type/read while they played on the floor/activity mats. 

Speaking of the kids (plural) that's another potential for stress that is of my own choosing.  Starting around the New Year J.T. began to say very clearly there was not a need for me to continue with the "daycare" if I didn't want to.  He then proceeded to get a raise in the spring which prompted him to again remind me that the "daycare" was not a necessity.  While what he was saying was true from a financial perspective now that I knew that our baby girl was going to be our one and only I NEEDED her to have kids to play with regularly.  Not only is she super interested in hanging out with other kids but it is important to me that she spends time learning to get along with other kids in a pseudo-sibling way. 

While each of the reasons behind me taking on these self-inflicted stressors continue to remain valid I NEED to remember that the stress that comes with them are born out of CHOICES I have made.  Given the fact they are choices I can make (responsible) CHANGES to them at anytime.  So if I graduate next summer (or December) instead of May so be it.  That is a choice I will make if the need arises.  I choose to have AJ and Andi come to our home and at any time I can choose to let their family's know they need to find other arrangements. 

It is amazing the freedom and breathing room CHOICES can provide.  It is a privilege I will not regard lightly again.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Leap #10 in the House

Not a perfect science but Wonder Weeks has been eerily in the ballpark for Isabella.  It dawned on me after several days of fussiness and a lot of "stop" from me that something was up.  I thought briefly it was a tooth (we have been stuck at 8 forever), but after checking the app come to find out it's the 10th and final leap.

As per usual it made me feel somewhat better that there was a (semi) justifiable reason for the whining, tears, and meltdowns.  It also allowed me to review several things I could be doing proactively to head some of the "stop"s off at the pass.   Usually a scenario that ends with "stop" plays out like this:

Isabella:  (grabs something she shouldn't have)
Me:  That is mommy's/daddy's/doggies'.  I need that please.
Isabella:  (meltdown that involves a death grip on said object and requires the jaws of life to extract it from her very tiny, but very-vice like hands!)
Me:  Stoooop (but imagine a very exacerbated, dramatic stop usually accompanied by an eye roll, and the desire to cry)

When I write it out it seems minor but when it happens like 50 times a day it makes you want to stick something sharp into your eye.  So during nap time I Isabella-proofed every room except for hers and took care of that once she got up and she hung out with Daddy.  Our home is of course baby proofed (gates, socket protectors, door knob covers, etc.), but Isabella proofing requires a different lens.  To Isabella-proof one must look at a room and ask:

1.  What can I climb?
2.  What buttons can be pressed?
3.  What has a cord?
4.  What belongs to a four legged friend?

The playroom is already Isabella-proofed and even includes an end table-couch combo that has been padded with cushioning to allow for safe climbing, so of course she wants to spend as little time as possible there.  That left four other rooms and a sunporch to tackle.  Basically that was taking anything on a surface a finding it a hidden away home, and taking every chair/stool/similar object that provided access to higher elevations and finding it a new home in the garage.  The bathrooms and J.T.'s office now have doors shut 90% of the time and each room has a fun box of toys or other safe to play with objects (that have yet to be touched!). 

This took me about 2-3 hours total time, but I am pretty sure I tacked 2-3 years back on to my life as my stress level has diminished significantly.  Girlfriend still has some leap/toddler related fussiness going on, but the amount of toddler on mommy "combat" has reduced drastically.  Counting this as a win--for now!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

First (time) in Flight

I am good at going to sleep at night but will occasionally wake up throughout the night and have trouble going back to sleep.  Often times it is just general racing thoughts that won't hush up.  However, last Thursday when I woke up at 2am unable to fall back to sleep there was only one thought keeping me awake:

I was flying to PA...

with a toddler...


2 1/2 hours in the air seemed way preferable to to 8 hours on the road when I booked the flight to see my family last month especially since Isabella flies free given the reasonably short flights--one 90 minute and one 60 minute--would allow for her to just sit in my lap.

However, that morning I woke up with a huge knot in my stomach. 

What if Isabella decided to be THAT kid?  The kid who scream cries at take off and continues until we land.   I have never personally been on a flight with THAT kid but have heard horror stories.  I did not want to be on the receiving end of death stares even though the trips would be reasonably short.  I suspect death stares double or triple the perceived flying time!

What if I couldn't keep Isabella entertained in the airport?  If I'm chasing her around then I can't keep an eye on our bags and you KNOW leaving what they say about leaving your bag unattended.

What if I forget to pack something imperative?  I'm super cheap and without looking into booked the least expensive flight.  Turns out basic economy doesn't include a carry on.  Say what?!?  Didn't even know that was possible.  Found out a personal item could be a backpack and that a diaper back doesn't count as anything so....challenge accepted!  I packed for us using just a backpack and diaper bag (diapers and other bulky items to be purchased in PA and brought back with my parents the next time they come to visit).  I was now having second doubts about my packing ability especially since it would be just the two of us en route.

Then there are the various and sundry issues that come with plane travel.   Missed connection, stuck on the runway for hours on end, plane falls out of the sky...ya know the standard concerns.

Lots of prayers and 9.5 hours later we landed at our hometown regional airport after a successful trip!

Two tips from a friend (board last and seat by a window) coupled with (what will probably be the last) the use of the Baby Bjorn, a couple downloaded episodes of the Bubble Guppies and a sticker book helped turn our seatmates nervous glances to compliments by the time we landed. 

There was one touch and go moment on the second flight when the puddle jumper started down the runway.  Isabella started crying (loudly!) but fell asleep before we were in the air (phew!).

Our return trip was equally uneventful (though the regional flight was replaced with a three hour car ride to Baltimore since I'm a dummy and booked the flights too close together and enter basic economy requires the purchase of a brand new ticket-smh) and we had lots of fun with family in between. 

We may have to try this whole toddler flying thing at would be the same, right;)?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

15 Month Appointment

"Help me doctor--she needs to sleep!!!"

Maybe not verbatim, but that was pretty much my only question/concern when asked.  Honestly my sleep isn't even all that effected.  Now that she's not waking up during the night I am still getting a (mostly) full night of sleep.  The problem is--she's not!  She's not falling asleep until 8 and then still getting up around 5.  This girl does not do well on 9 hours of night time sleep.  And unfortunately her daytime sleep isn't making up the difference.

Her naps have also become a source of stress as she's only sleep about an hour each time and waking up a bear  Something needs to change.

Doctor's advice? 

Let her self-sooth to sleep (that's my nice way of saying cry it out--which I do not have any problems with but wanted a clean bill of health and assurance that there were not teeth in sight before proceeding.  Honestly it hadn't even dawned on me for some reason and it felt like I got the permission I didn't realize I was looking for!).


Make the transition to one nap a day

Even though we are traveling tomorrow I went ahead and started on the first point tonight.  She cried for about 20-30 minutes (on and off) before going to sleep around 7:45 so already we are on track to getting her a little more sleep:).

She continues to be a big, strong girl and is consistently 85th percentile across the board for height, weight and head.

I also rectified my brief stint as an "Anti-Vax" Mama:).  At the 12 month appointment I decided I wanted more time to figure out whether the chicken pox vaccine was necessary.  Because clearly I am going to be a doctor so I'm wiser than the CDC, AAP, and a host of others (insert eye roll).  After doing a little digging even though I had the chicken pox and survived (which is always a sound argument:/) there are a host of other issues that can arise so girlfriend is now up to date with all of her vaccines and will get to avoid missing a week of school and some itching when she hits elementary school.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Girls "Weekend"

Since graduating from college I have been blessed to spend a weekend each year (there may have been some exceptions here or there) with my college roommates.  We live in four different states so we rotate.  It's a great chance to get away and catch up.  This year's trip was in West Virginia and was my first time so far away from AND for 36 hours away from AND with J.T. as sole caregiver overnight (and throughout the day but that part's not a first).

It was all around a success!  Had a good time, good food, and good wine with friends. 

With the wonders of technology when I missed Isabella I would pull up a photo or video which helped.  I didn't have to listen to Raffi ad nauseum, in fact, didn't have to listen to him at all and sang along with a bunch of songs that didn't include farm animals, motions or even rhyme.  J.T. and Isabella did well on their end.  Only a stray "mama?" here and there.  They visited a couple of different playgrounds and Chick-Fil-A.  J.T. admitted he was nervous to take her anywhere else because he's not comfortable dealing with a meltdown in public.  They don't happen often but this girl knows what she wants and can become shall we testy.

I think a night away from my girl is all I can handle at this point, but I am super happy that it is possible.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

There Goes Bedtime

Hoping this is the 18 month sleep regression striking early, but what is happening?!?!

Since she was about 4 months old going to sleep at bedtime has pretty much been standard.  Walk (if the weather allows), bath, jammies, bottle while she still took one and then bed. 

Now out of the blue Isabella has decided to that she's too cool for bedtime.

We have tried adjusting the time.  We have tried making the routine longer and added books and other quiet activities.   We held her for a couple of nights but that didn't seem sustainable (or wise!) so tried just sitting in her room.  That worked well, but we need those 30-45 minutes (until she's conked out enough for us to tip toe out without her noticing) to DO things. 

As an added bonus, she also reverted back to waking up through the night.  In an effort to have sleep all around I have started leaving couch cushions outside of her door and sacking out on those.  She falls back to sleep relatively quickly (though there have been a couple of nights when she has been up for like 45 minutes and one sad night when it was two hours!).  She doesn't seem to WANT to be up she just can't go back to sleep.  She just "swims".

There has also been some "swimming" randomly on the floor during the day so we visited the pediatrician who brought Nexium back into our lives.  Fortunately insurance must have changed because we are now paying $1 per daily dose instead of $3 (score!).  It has definitely made a difference for the land "swimming" and nighttime wake ups, but bedtime continues to be a point of contention. 

I started sitting outside of her door on the aforementioned couch cushions as a compromise with the hopes of eventually weaning her without all the drama (fingers crossed).   There are only a limited amount of things I can do while staying in eyesight of the crib that do not make noise.  Did I mention I have things to do?!?!

Friday, July 27, 2018

And we have "Mama"!

Well this little turkey made a liar out of her mama, but I am sooo glad she did!

My parents were in town for a long weekend so they watched Isabella while we went to the gym.  While we were gone they said she would go back and forth from the bottom of the steps to the garage door saying "Mama?".  When I got back she continued to say mama looking right at me and has continued to acknowledge that I am Mama ever since:). 

So the good news is we are not looking at Apraxia (kind of jumped the gun on that one--oops!).  Will still continue with the monthly speech, but am super relieved that we are just looking at a delay.  Phew...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

The time when you were getting your child ready for bed on your bed and she attempts to scamper off and you are a second too slow:(.

Of course she fell off the opposite side of the bed so don't know if she hit with her head or her back first but it didn't sound great.

A visit to the children's emergency room gave us a clean bill of health but I still feel awful.

Clearly the floor is our best bet for changing moving forward.  Lesson learned.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Bu-bye Big C

Having a husband with Cancer is a surreal experience.  On the one hand it's Cancer so it's so very scary.  On the other hand it was blessfully caught super early and no one on the medical front seems to be in much of a rush to do anything about it.   

I spent several days pestering the doctor's office and the best I got was he was fifth on the list to schedule and we were likely looking at September.  J.T. started searching for another doctor and scheduled an appointment at Duke to see if they would move any faster.  Not sure which of these was the trigger, but J.T.'s current doctor reached out to see if he wanted a date that just opened within the week.  I grabbed it and after confirming with J.T. it would work we were good to go.

The procedure was yesterday and J.T.'s mom came out to take care of Isabella so I could be at the hospital.  It was out patient and took about an hour.  They felt they got it, so using this information I giving Cancer the big heave out of our lives.  He goes for a follow up at the 6 month mark which I am praying confirms it is in fact gone forever.

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:).