Sunday, July 14, 2019

Apraxia Kids National Conference

As you may have seen on my Instagram, I was recently extremely lucky to be able to attend the Apraxia Kids National Conference. And I don’t even like or use this word but I’m going to say it was a blessing because I can’t think of a better word. It was an incredible opportunity, provided for us by some amazing grandparents, and Instagram.

All the parents put their child's picture on their badge!

Let’s back up. As a “wear my heart on my sleeve” type, I’ve been all over social media once our middle child received a diagnosis of CAS, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, this past spring. An Instagram friend reached out and suggested I follow a friend of hers, Monique, who posts beautifully about her 5 year old son with CAS. I immediately followed and went FULL STALKER MODE. Like that person who suddenly starts following you and writes a long comment on a post from 3 months ago. I was just so excited to see things like another little kid using an iPad with the same program Royce uses.

Monique and I started chatting through DMs and she told me about the Apraxia Kids organization, and the upcoming national conference. Tickets weren’t cheap, so I thought it was something to keep on our radar for maybe 2 years from now, once I’d been back at work awhile. But it was in Pittsburgh this year, which is less than four hours away from us. The idea kept nagging at me of trying to attend this year, when it was so close, and this diagnosis was so new and confusing and overwhelming.

Somehow it all came together. My father was extremely generous and got us a conference ticket for “Royce’s” birthday (I mean, if you can’t get away with that at age 3, when can you? Plus we don’t need more toys like so so do not need more toys). My mom and stepfather and inlaws helped us out with hotel, gas, and food. Royce is truly so lucky to have all of his grandparents so devoted to helping him, even if he’s clueless about it right now and just thinks they are fun people to FaceTime and play with.

Hotel room view!

Not even 3 months after the diagnosis, we descended on Pittsburgh to learn all we could about it! I must say, living in Baltimore for the past 14 years, I was led to believe Pittsburgh is a horrendous place, never to be visited. That couldn’t be further from the truth! It was such a lovely, fun city.

Let’s do some Q&A! Thanks to Goldthings for every single question.

Who was the conference for? Parents, and Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs). It was about 50/50, with sessions specific to both parties. It was not designed for children – in fact, our kids did not even set foot in the hotel hosting the conference. It was a typical conference format of sessions in conference rooms with power point presentations about a variety of topics, so not exactly something a three year old would be interested in.

So what did you do with the kids? The conference actually allowed couples to share an entry. We took turns attending sessions/hanging with the kids. Our hotel was about a mile away, so this meant we missed all the networking/session break stuff, because whoever was at the conference would walk back, hand off the ID badge, and the other person would book it back to the next session. Not a perfectly ideal situation, but we still got a ton out of it.

Were there any A-HA moments for you? Honestly, I’m not sure yet. It was information overload. In a good way, but still, wow. We haven’t even finished sharing with each other everything we’ve learned from the sessions yet. It was also a lot to take in emotionally. Basically two days straight of focusing on this huge source of stress and worry in my life. One of my big fears was confirmed – statistically, children with CAS do poorly in reading. Which is kind of dumb for me to be upset about. I know how reading is taught, and I know what Royce struggles with. I guess it was just one of those trying to stick my head in the sand situations trying to pretend I don’t see the obvious.

That was kind of negative. I don’t mean it to be. We learned a ton of helpful stuff. But things also weren’t sugarcoated. I feel like sometimes I can come off like rah rah Apraxia cheerleader, but the fact is, it’s a disability, it sucks, and I would give anything to magically make it go away tomorrow. That’s not going to happen, but we now are armed with so much new information to help navigate through it.

Like this handy infographic!

Did you learn about any new technologies? Yes! One of the ways they sometimes help children in therapy is by using an ultrasound. I’m going to do a terrible job describing this but they design a special mouthpiece to be worn by the child, it connects to a laptop, and a computer program allows them to see the movements their tongue makes so they can adjust as needed. How cool is that? This is, of course, for much older children, like teenagers, but I got to see a video of a girl using it and it was really interesting.

In terms of more relevant learning, I attended a session that gave an overview of the most common, research based therapy methods for children with CAS. Because children with CAS struggle to use their brain to create a motor plan with their mouth for what they want to say, a lot of therapy is designed to create muscle memory for words. This is very different from traditional therapy (I have no idea what tradition speech therapy looks like, but after the conference I know it’s different than CAS therapy). One presenter gave the example of learning to tie your shoes. Initially, it requires a lot of thought, focus, jerky movements as it’s new and different. Now, most adults can probably tie their shoes in the dark while carrying on a conversation, because the muscle memory is there after doing it countless times. That’s what therapy aims to do with speech, because forming words feels like that awkward and challenging initial shoe tying.

Was the conference solely for Childhood Apraxia of Speech? Yep! It is extremely common for children with this diagnosis to have other diagnoses as well, such as other motor planning struggles, like being slower to learn to walk, go up stairs, etc. However, this conference was focused on issues pertaining to CAS.

Were any adults there with CAS? Yes! One of the board members was diagnosed with CAS in the 90s as a child. There was also a specific panel of teenagers and even younger children with CAS speaking. We did not attend this – while it sounds amazing, it feels just SO far from where we are right now, I’m just not ready. I hope in a few years to feel differently.

What sessions did you attend? I’ll paraphrase titles to give the general idea.
Apraxia 101
Encouraging risk taking in children with speech disorders
Eric went to a father’s only luncheon and informed me very proudly he is in a dad facebook support group with his new friends now
Advocating for your child’s IEP
An overview of the types of research based therapies for CAS
How to help siblings of a child with CAS

What’d the person not attending the session do with the kids?
Two words: hotel pool. That killed a lot of time. The conference was also across the river, so we walked to the bridge to meet Eric one time to switch off. The boys loved seeing the river but they walked a good two miles round trip! Dalton even said his feet hurt from walking.

After the first conference day, we walked to Primanti Bros to get delicious sandwiches, and ate them outside at this big lighted splash pad thing while the kids ran through the water. They were in heaven.

While this is definitely what many of my friends would consider a nightmare, all five of us stayed in one hotel room and it worked great for us. Our kids basically always want a parent in close proximity when they sleep, so having both of them in the very same room was their dream and they slept pretty well. We just played super loud white noise. I actually almost was late to the conference on day 2 because I woke up at 7:15 and it started at 8! No one else was up! I hadn’t set an alarm because our kids are always up long before 7am.

What's your travel situation with kids? Is 5 in one hotel room your nightmare?

Monday, May 20, 2019

May updates

Well my last post is old news by now and it was a bit heavy and Debbie Downer-ish. So let's do some lighthearted updates!


In case anyone currently resides under a rock, Hamilton is an amazing musical that's super popular right now. My mom and stepfather won tickets recently and got to see it in my hometown, in upstate NY. In fact, they saw it on the night of the Battle of Winterfell so I cannot even imagine what an emotional undertaking that must have been.

And again, in case you reside under a rock, the Battle of Winterfell was on a Sunday. The next day, Monday, around 8pm I was chatting with my mom on the phone and she mentioned they were seeing Hamilton again...the very next night. They had won tickets again and she just mentioned all casually "oh yeah we're going to Hamilton again tomorrow" like it's NBD.

I was like oh. hell. no. My sister, brother, and brother in law were going the following week, and I was like I am not going to be the only one in the family left with only listening to the soundtrack on spotify like some kind of loser while you all see it twice in 48 hours.

At first, I was half joking. I live about 350 miles away, and thought...Hamilton can't be that good can it? A 700 mile round trip as the only adult with 3 kids under the age of 5 good?

I texted my friend with 3 kids who lives in the same area and had just seen Hamilton the night before my mom did. She confirmed: yep. It's that good.

I asked a few other friends and responses ranged from immediate yes to why would you even ask me that question instead of packing right now?

Also, during this time Eric was seeing the Avengers so I couldn't get any input from the one person who actually knows the kids as well as I do.

I called my mom back and told her my half joking was now 90% serious and that I would sleep on it and confirm in the morning. Then my sister texted me and offered to go to my mom's house with my stepfather during the show to help with the kids, which eased my anxiety because even at 11 months I still get really anxious about leaving Remi. But with her aunt as a designated one on one baby cuddler, it was on. I put the tablet on the charger (possibly the most important road trip with kids prep, although one could argue it's snacks).

Eric was a little confused in the morning with an Avengers hangover while trying to get ready for work but I think he got the basic idea. While 350 miles can be driven in about 6 hours, those with small children know that it takes a bit longer, to say the least. Not to mention my super independent thinks he's potty trained but he's not really middle kid slammed the diaper drawer shut when Eric tried to put a diaper on him and got underwear out and defiantly put those on instead. The show was at 7:30pm that evening so there was no time to lose.

I figured it would either be amazing or horrible. It went pretty smoothly! The boys mostly watched shows on the tablet, Remi slept, ate snacks, looked out the window, and overall didn't hate life! Of course, we took a lot of nice long breaks, but we made it by show time.

My anxiety was still on high at the beginning of the show. We hadn't even gotten to the end of the American Revolution before my sister texted me a picture of Remi peacefully passed out and I was able to relax and enjoy the rest. We stayed another 3 days and Dalton has asked to return literally every single day since. These kids love their cousin time.

2. Birthday month

Royce turned 3 on May 6!

We celebrated by meeting friends in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Of course, despite being at one of the best museums in the world, the main attraction for the kids was the trains.

The 7am train, followed by 2 different metros, with 4 small kids and two infants between just two moms...piece of cake. Or something. Whatever, no kids were lost. It was insane but it made Royce's birthday really special. 

In my limited experience, age 3 is when kids start to anticipate their birthdays. I didn't want to miss out on sharing Royce's excitement. A few weeks prior to his birthday, I talked to his private speech therapist about it and she created a planning sheet and worked with him in therapy on all his birthday preferences. Per his request, the five of us had pizza, blue and black balloons, and vanilla cake with purple icing. He had specifically requested a Team Umizoomi cake, which is his favorite show. To quote a meme: I'm an Amazon mom, not a Pinterest mom. He helped me bake and decorate his cake after nap time, which we always do on birthdays. Then I asked him to go outside and get Eric and Dalton who were next door chatting with our neighbor. When he left, I put a bunch of Team Umizoomi charms I had gotten from amazon on the cake. He came back in and was so thrilled and surprised to see his Team Umizoomi cake.

And of course, to open his gift from us. 

Royce was born at 6:51pm, and I swear by bedtime that very evening, he started acting extremely three. If you know what I mean.

And Remington turns one this week. Fastest year of my life. We're having a party that I've done nothing to prepare for, aside from my huge win of finding the first birthday onesie that Royce wore. I booked a pavillion near a huge playground way back in the winter, so as long as it doesn't rain I think things will be fine. 

3. The hair

Yep. We've gone from the most glorious, beautiful, glossy, perfectly shaped curls ever...

to nothing.

And you know what, I'm not going to pretend I like it. I loved those curls. But here's what happened. Dalton and Remi were playing really nicely upstairs for a few minutes while Royce napped and I had the audacity to sit down by myself and eat a sandwich. This turned out to be a huge mistake. 

I went upstairs after eating and immediately noticed Dalton had tiny hairs all over his face. 

"What's all over your face?"
...nervous laughter...

I looked more closely and realized the front of his hair was buzzed. And there was a huge pile of hair next to him. He told me he had used Eric's beard trimmer. 

I wasn't panicking at all yet. I was upset, but honestly he has so much hair you could barely even tell anything happened and it would have been easy to work around.

I asked him why he did it. He said he wanted short hair like daddy and didn't want to have to comb his hair anymore. That's when my heart really started to sink as I realized this wasn't just a random impulsive thing but something he had actually thought about and really wanted. When I texted Eric, he said he had been mentioning wanting short hair for a few weeks. When Eric got home, it was time. I won't say I was completely sober or dry eyed, but I tried to put on a brave face for the sake of my son.

I know I could have technically said no, but we've been telling him "your body your choice" since practically birth. I had to put my money where my mouth was. It turns out that children are not just ornamental and they are actually living beings with feelings and independent thoughts, so while I was really, really tempted, it would have been a pretty big asshole move to make him keep his hair long (especially going in to the heat of summer!) just so I could enjoy how pretty it was. 

I just don't understand why he had to choose this week to do it, when I was already suffering emotionally from the loss of Game of Thrones and my last baby rudely about to turn one. 

He wanted to ride his bike when the haircut was done and it was crazy how much I had to tighten his helmet!

4. Race training/running

The Baltimore Ten Miler is in just 12 days! I'm about as ready as I'll ever be. My training buddy Jackie and I have completed a 10 mile run. More importantly, we've done almost every long run in hilly areas, since this race is known for having killer hills.

My return to running after giving birth has been very slow this time. Remington was born May 25, 2018, and on May 1, 2019, I went for a 3 mile run and was just so excited that it felt normal. Not in terms of recovery or my c section scar, because that's felt fine since about 6 months postpartum. More in terms of feeling like the runner I used to be. Now, I am still nowhere near the fitness levels I once had and don't plan to ever be there again, because those required a time commitment to training that's just not a possibility right now. But running felt good, and doable, and normal. I ran 3 miles and never once felt like I needed a walk break for one of the first times since she was born. Maybe even the first time.

Instagram gets in my head, and I know tons of people are way more physically fit after having a baby and it can be a little embarrassing to be so far on the other end of the spectrum. The transition to three kids was extremely overwhelming for me and I had absolutely nothing left to give mentally to training or exercise. I did get some exercise, but I did not have it in me to care about pushing myself or trying to improve my fitness.

Anyway, that's where I'm at, not so much a #beast #motherrunner, more like just a regular mom who tries to do some exercise sometimes.

And that's that! Please share any and all traumatizing kids haircuts experiences. Please also share alllll the Game of Thrones thoughts. Spoiler alerts because sorry, it's been nearly 24 hours, why haven't you watched yet?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Childhood Apraxia of Speech

I’m writing today about information I haven’t even yet fully processed, in an effort to process it. It’s around 2:30 pm, and here’s a bunch of verbal diarrhea, some of it written through tears. At 10am today, my almost 3yo son’s SLP told me sort of off the record that she believes he has Apraxia, or more specifically, Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). It’s not in his medical file, but after working with him for months, she feels comfortable using that term to describe him.

It’s not an out of left field diagnosis. Since last summer, SLPs have indicated that R has a oral motor planning disorder. Everyone who worked with him seemed to be in strong agreement with that. A few months ago, I finally asked N, his private SLP, if there are other oral motor planning disorders, she said no. “Sooo...everyone is pretty much saying without saying he has apraxia then?” “Yes”.

At that time I started to look into it a bit, joined a Facebook support group, but in the absence of an official diagnosis, it was hard to ignore that nagging part of me that said “maybe he doesn’t have it!”. So I hid the support group from my feed, stopped googling, and kept on keeping on. Both his therapy and the work we do at home is based on how he presents, and was and is consistent with therapy for CAS. Therefore, a diagnosis was more for me than for him at that point. N also told me that there has recently been a problem with inaccurately diagnosing CAS in young children, causing SLPs to be more hesitant.

While it is still not a part of his medical records, my conversation with N this morning was enough to push me over the edge from “but there’s still hope he doesn’t have it!” to “he has it, hop on board”. Which sounds a little more depressing than it is. I mean, he’s not speaking. It’s not like if he didn’t have it, things were fine. I guess, as much as I told myself I knew better, deep down some little part of me hoped he would just bust out with a sentence one day. He won’t, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to work our asses off in therapy so he can work his way slowly but surely to using sentences one day.

I’m told CAS is rare, making it likely that many people reading this don’t even know what I’m talking about! As a teacher married to a teacher, I didn’t know what it was until I started googling very recently. From :

Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult for children to speak. Children with the diagnosis of apraxia of speech generally have a good understanding of language and know what they want to say. However, they have difficulty learning or carrying out the complex sequenced movements that are necessary for intelligible speech.

Essentially, it’s not a physical problem. He can understand everything others say, and he knows what he wants to say, but his brain can’t get his mouth to do it.

The part that’s a really tough pill for me to swallow is that CAS is a neurological disorder. It’s not a developmental delay that he will outgrow, which I assumed it was when he initially seemed behind in his speech. Everyone assumed that, because that’s what happens with most kids who have speech issues! Including our older son! Having to shift my thinking to accept that this will be a lifelong struggle for him is hard. It’s very easy for me to begin to ruminate and go down the rabbit hole of fears.

 “Kids will make fun of him in school.”
“His teachers will ignore him because he can’t speak to answer questions in class.”
“People will treat him like he’s stupid because his speech will be different.”
“He won’t be able to make friends.”

I know the advice I would give to a friend in this position would be to just take things one day at a time and not borrow trouble and that’s what I’m trying to do. One of the most comforting sentiments came from my friend Emma. I would consider Emma a good friend, but I’ve never once spoken to her, or even met her. She’s an internet friend. One of my many internet friends, and one who lives too far to easily meet in person. And she simply reminded me that we have become good friends without ever needing to speak! Something that’s even more prevalent for the younger generation. I’m now the only parent I know who is excited for my kid to grow up in the social media era. Whether or not R is able to use speech as his primary communication tool...there’s a whole social world at his fingertips that he will not have any disadvantage in.

On that note, his case manager has reached out to Assistive Technology and he will likely be using an iPad or some sort of device to communicate in the near future.

Some common questions people have:

Does he have autism?” No, autism has been ruled out by his evaluators and service providers.

Does he have low tone/muscle problems?” Nope, same as above, ruled out by an occupational therapist.

Will you teach him sign language?” No, many children with CAS are able to speak with the help of speech therapy and that is our focus right now. Teaching a 2 year old another language that requires a lot of fine motor skills would be a bit of an either/or thing, and there is no reason to give up on speech at this time.

Does he have other delays?” He does not. He recently did standardized testing to determine if he qualifies for an IEP. In every area aside from expressive speech, he was on or above his age level. His receptive speech is exactly where it should be (aka he understands everything that is said as much as any child his age), which is easily observable if you know him. He scored slightly above his age level for cognitive, gross, and fine motor skills.

Is he making progress?” YES!

  • Over the summer, just after he turned two, he began to imitate the initial sound of words after we modeled it. For example, he would point to a banana, we would say b, he would imitate the b sound.
  • In the early fall, he began to be able to imitate two sounds, for example b followed by the short a sound for “banana”, although he could not combine them smoothly. By late fall, he was starting to be able to combine them, so one smooth ba instead of two separate sounds.
  • I was thrilled to record his first word, “yes” in his baby book this past February! I didn't record it until he had consistently and daily used it correctly for about 6 weeks, because he has "said words" before but they haven't stuck.
  • He now consistently uses “mama” and “dada” to speak to us (music to my ears!).
  • He is just now beginning to say words he knows independently, without us first modeling them. For example, he called “mama!” when we pulled up at his brother’s school, and when I asked what he needed, he said “out”. This is HUGE deal for him to answer a question verbally without prompting. Probably 95% of his speech is still prompted at this point but the fact that he’s doing anything unprompted is massive progress.

A hallmark of CAS, the one that we feel best fits R, is that imitation is extremely difficult. So while he’s been babbling mama and dada easily since infancy, he never copied when we demonstrated how to use it to refer to us. This is why we’ve had to work on building words one sound at a time. It’s also why traditional speech therapy techniques, like naming familiar objects, doesn’t work. R couldn’t imitate an entire word and didn’t try because it was so far out of his abilities. Now, he CAN imitate a lot of words, particularly cv (consonant vowel) or vc combinations, like “go”, and he will attempt even if the word is unfamiliar. We are working on adding the final sound to cvc words such as “bus” and adding on to words he is already familiar with. For example, he can easily say mama and dada now, so we push him to add on the reason he is calling us, such as “mama look” or “mama help”.

As you can see, he's working extremely hard and making phenomenal progress. I won't pretend it doesn't hurt that Remi's peers will be speaking well before he will. Every parent hurts at the thought of their child struggling in life, and it can feel unfair that something that comes so easily to almost every child is going to be hard for ours. Forever. However, there are also tons of positives to our situation (no other delays, the fact that it's 2019 and technology is amazing for communication, our insurance covering some private therapy, to name just a few). 

One thing I did that I know would never even occur to my husband was click on the section about “why” this happens, with my heart pounding, terrified of finding out that something I did during pregnancy caused this. Because that’s what we as mothers do. We always wonder if there was some way we could have made our children’s lives easier, better, MORE. I am extremely lucky to constantly have friends and family working to lift me up, telling me I’m a good mother because I take R to therapy, work with him, fight for services. And I appreciate it so, so much. I would absolutely tell someone else that and mean it so hard. But it all rings false to me. I’m never going to feel like I’ve done enough until R can tell me that himself.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

That SAHM life

I'm creeping towards the halfway point of my break from the rat race! I'm on a leave of absence from teaching for two years, and the first school year is nearly 75% complete. This seems like enough time to share some reflections. I've actually been off work since about a week before I delivered. My last day of work was May 15, 2018, so it's been nearly a year of being a lady who lunches!

The number one comment/question I get asked is "How do you go so many places?". I'll approach it from two directions. The first being; how do we do it in terms of energy?

Look, I get it. There are kids out there who will sit quietly and color, play with their toys, even watch tv. But these kids are not my kids. My kids are active. Of course, all small children are active and high energy. But my kids don't sit and watch tv. You know how people talk about giving their kids screen time limits? I wish they would watch enough that I would actually have to cut them off at some point.

They are feral.

I tried to get them to watch a ten minute show while I dealt with the mile high pile of dishes in the sink the other day. Ten. Minutes. I got about one dish washed before all the cushions were on the floor and they boys were deep into building a fort. Meanwhile, Remi was unloading the dishwasher faster than I could load it. And hey, I'm all for fort building! But the problem is, it inevitably turns into an argument over a pillow, or a blanket, or a speck of dust. Then they want to leap from the highest point in the room onto the fort. And my patience for arguing over literal trash and injuries sustained because they insist on parkour-ing across the freaking room instead of just walking is shot by 8am.

I would really prefer to take them some place like a playground designed for jumping, running, and flinging themselves from great heights where they can get all their psycho energy out and as a bonus, I can chit chat with an adult as long as we don't mind constant "mommy look at me!" interruptions.

Or a 20 foot rock wall to climb. Whatever.

The second: cost! How do we afford all these activities, especially on one income?

Basically - we don't! We spend very little on activities. Here's how:

  • Memberships. We have very generous grandparents and aunts/uncles who always want to get birthday gifts for the kids. We always ask for memberships. A science center or zoo membership for the full year gets used so much more than any toy!
Rocking the cutest outfit ever at the Science Center
  • Friends. At the beginning of the school year, I met some of my people that I now hang out with near daily and have saved me from a complete mental breakdown more than once and made this SAHM life a billion times more fun. We all have kids around the same age and made a little facebook group ( I think ten of us). We figured out who had memberships to what and plan activities where whoever has the memberships gets everyone else in free.

  • Free. There are so many free activities. Libraries, nature centers, free forest school hikes, the list goes on. I'm lucky we live in a big urban area where there are just tons of free kid activities available. 
  • Cheap. There are also tons of deals and ways to save. We keep an eye out for groupons. Museums and nature centers often have activities for very little. For example, today we went to the Baltimore Museum of Industry for "Wee Workers" where the kids learned about safety with books, crafts, and a tour of the museum. $5/family. 

  • Packing lunches. It's a pain, but on the bright side I do the inevitable work in the morning before my coffee wears off (ok let's get real....before my first coffee wears off since I double down after lunch). It's so tempting to just grab something while we are out but it also adds up like crazy so we pack lunches the majority of the time. Exceptions are Chick Fil A, because playplace, and because it's Chick Fil A. 
In all honestly if I actually had to stay home with the kids I would lose my mind. Even two days in a row of that sounds awful. We meet up with friends almost every day for playdates and it's a glorious existence. 

Of course, like anything, there are pros and cons. 

The pros:
  • It eliminates the constant feeling of "jack of all trades, master of none". Get the kids up, rush to work, try to be hyper efficient at work so I can leave as soon as possible, rush to get the kids, playdinnerbathbedtime, try to prep everything for the next day, attempt to hang out with my husband or have a little me time, rush to bed, rinse, repeat. It's exhausting. 
  • Mornings are one billion times better. It's so freaking stressful trying to get two small children out the door for daycare and not be late to work, I can't even imagine 3. If I wanted to do anything besides attempt to look not homeless and get the kids in the car (for example, work out, put dinner in the crock pot, clean last nights dishes, etc) I had to be up by 5am. 
  • There's no need for a panic attack when a kid gets sick. You just...take care of that kid. There's no frantic comparing calendars, trying to figure out who's taking off, attempting to comfort the kid while emailing coworkers where your emergency sub plans are, intense guilt...none of that. 
  • When the kids or baby or all 3 have a rough night, it's not as bad. Sure, having sleep interrupted still sucks, but it doesn't cause that soul wrenching fear of "how am I going to do my job well when I'm so exhausted?". 
One time I thought babies slept like this. All night. During naps.

Then I became a parent and learned how babies really sleep.

  • It's just more fun. Sorry not sorry, it's called "work" and you get a paycheck for a reason. The phrase TGIF exists for a reason. Being home, getting to do what you want to do when you want to do it is amazing.

  • What I originally thought was the biggest pro - NO PUMPING. Seriously my pump has dust on it. Breastfeeding is indescribably easier when you just...breastfeed as needed. Who knew? Oh right, every other industrialized country that offers actual maternity leave knew. 
  • The actual number one pro - I can do SO much more for Royce without having to schedule around a full time job. It sucks but having a child with special needs and two working parents is a disadvantage. Right now he is in an hour a week of private speech at one of the top children's hospitals, and he simply would not have this opportunity if I were working. It's at 9am on Thursdays. When he turns 3, he will begin a public preschool program 2 afternoons a week. The parent has to remain in the building for students to attend (and provide transportation). Another opportunity he wouldn't have with two working parents. Eric and I have tossed around the idea of me going back next year (instead of in 2020) and while we are both open to it, we just feel we can't seriously consider it because it would eliminate so many opportunities for Royce at a young age when it's so crucial to intervene. 

The cons:
  • Yeah that whole "jack of all trades master of none" thing...well I certainly haven't become a "master" on the other hand. While I wish I could say otherwise, the fact is I have less patience for the kids being with them all day every day. I can't truly compare I guess since I've never been working with all three kids, but I'm pretty sure it's true. It's weird, since at my job I also need a ton of patience dealing with sixth graders, but it's different struggles, different children, and I think doing anything all the time will burn a person out more than mixing it up. 
  • I'm getting dumber. Yeah. While I sure as hell don't miss observations, standardized tests, and the like, and maybe "miss" is a strong word but - I like having professional challenges in my life. 
  • When we were both working full time, I could say without hesitation there was no "primary parent". Now, we would both agree I'm the primary parent. I have all the mental load of juggling doctors appointments, keeping the kids in clothes that fit, potty training, nap schedules, and all Royce's therapies and IEP stuff. And I'm not complaining! That's the beauty of a stay at home parent. No one has to miss work for all that. But it has changed the dynamic, and we both agree we liked things the way they were before. 

  • I thought the house would be cleaner. The daily struggle of when the kids nap, do I rest/chill/waste my life on instagram, or clean? I'm writing this blog post now so, I bet you can see where I end up 90% of the time.
  • Money. The most obvious. Not working = less money. While I'm clearly not chomping at the bit for the 2020-2021 school year when I'll be back, I do look forward to having two incomes again. And also, can we all agree to just stop saying "well with 3 kids in daycare it's not even worth it for the mother to work". Daycare benefits both parents, so it should be seen as a percentage of the total income, not just the mother's. A woman with children can work even if she doesn't make more than the cost of daycare. Daycare is a few years. A career is forever (and I'm very thankful mine offers the leave of absence option because I have no intention of giving it up). It's not the 50s. *steps off soapbox*

The end! Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

Thursday, February 28, 2019

All the words for very basic updates

Life updates!!

It's been awhile!

The usual thing is happening where I think of all these things I want to write on my blog in my head at various times but never actually do it. Whenever I have down time when the kids are asleep or playing with Eric or whatever when I could blog I'm usually reading or scrolling through Reddit eating peanut butter cups in bed and can't be bothered to sit upright at a computer. This mom of 3 thing is pretty exhausting and just intense and I feel like I have nothing left to give once the kids are in bed. Like I can be a mom of 3, and do it, and love it, and do a pretty good job (interspersed with moments of losing my temper and self doubt and crying because I'm the worst mom ever). But then I just have nothing left to be a wife, friend, daughter, sister, aunt...anything else. There's no way I would be functioning as an employee so thank goodness I have some more leave time to get myself together before I have to worry about that. But...yeah. That's where I'm at.

That seemed like kind of a depressing start. But I don't feel like life sucks or anything. Quite the opposite! I would say it's more like amazing filled with love and chaos and complete insanity and fun and adorableness 80% of the time and then total meltdown everyone crying everyone hates everything the other 20%. I feel like I want to do a whole other post on my mental state but this much simpler one has already been like a week in the making, so don't hold your breath.

So, what are we up to?

Dalton: Not much to report! Learning, growing, playing. Amazing me every day with his genius level smarts (I guess it's possible I'm biased by love and he's actually just average but it seems amazing because I've never had a kid this age before). He melts my heart when I tell him he can come upstairs each day. He runs up screaming Remi's up, Remi's up and gives her hugs and kisses. He sings her twinkle twinkle little star when she cries. When he gets a treat or a sticker or anything special (like when he went to work with Eric and Eric gave him his own composition book), he immediately asks if there is one for Royce. He's like my coparent during the daytime and I love having him as my partner in crime. Honestly he's the more responsible one and is constantly reminding me not to forget stuff we need, checking if I strapped his brother and sister correctly into their carseats, basically running the show.

His current favorite imagination game: baby class. They are the teachers.

He's also rapidly approaching 4.5 and my theory is the half ages suck and he is once again proving me right. Everything is an argument, a refusal, a manipulation, or just straight out defiance. I try to tell myself over and over and OVER that a strong will is a good thing in life. It just might kill me trying to parent my 4yo right now. It doesn't help that he is really smart and I am really dumb right now (not being self-deprecating it's just fact that lack of sleep/putting all my energy into tiny humans/not working has reduced my intelligence for the moment). So he often will suggest a different way of doing something than I told him and it will actually be a better or more efficient plan. And then it's like....what, am I supposed to go with my own dumb plan just to show him I'm the boss? Except then it's the if I give him an inch he takes a mile situation and an hour later he's sobbing on the kitchen floor because I told him to eat his grated cheese on a plate instead of out of a bowl and I wouldn't budge on that one because the last freaking thing I need is an extra dish in my life right now.

Good thing he's cute.

Long story short, age 4.5 is fun, helpful, snuggly, adorable, sweet, hilarious, and makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a rusty fork but only sometimes.

All proud of himself for matching all the upper and lower case letters (and his favorite color is pink).

Delving DEEP into boring SAHM mommy diaries, he switched preschool classes this month. The cutoff for kindergarten in Maryland is 9/1, and his birthday is 9/23. So he will always be one of the oldest kids in his class. When he started preschool this year, he entered the 3 year old class, and turned 4 about a week after starting. His teachers recently suggested he move up to the four year old class for the remainder of the year. I was hesitant at first since he will always be the oldest and he just has to get used to it, but this is preschool and that class just happened to be a young 3 class, so by February most of them haven't turned 4 yet while Dalton is almost 4.5, and of course that's a huge difference at this age. So we moved him and he's loving his new class. Selfishly it's a pain in my ass, because it's 3 days a week vs. 2, and we had a really good play date schedule going. Now I feel like we can barely do anything. Preschool is only 2.5 hours, so you can't do much in that time period, and that's MWF, speech is Thursday, and I kind of signed up for this year off work to have FUN, not just constantly drive kids to various educational opportunities.

Chick Fil A playgroup Valentine exchange!

But school ends in mid May so then I can go back to a more relaxed schedule. I did warn you that this was an extreme SAHM first world pain paragraph.

Royce: He is so funny. I feel like going from age 2 to age 3 (he turns 3 in May) brings them from toddler to KID. Now he's this hilarious little boy with an actual personality. He's also the sweetest and is always taking care of his brother and sister as well. He idolizes Dalton and wants to be just like him. Every time we are at a park or playplace he has other parents gasping with fright at his American Ninja Warrior antics. He has a mind of his own (don't they all). He is extremely TWO and testing allllllll the boundaries.

For example, instead of napping he put on baby rainbow leg warmers and did acrobatics.

The big change is his communication book, or flip and talk. His SLP at Kennedy Krieger said recently "I know I'm a broken record but I'm just so impressed how well he is using it and remembering where words are!" in a way that felt genuine and not just the usual praise given to everyone. He uses it for humor, purposely answering things wrong and then giving the cutest mischievous grin. There have been a bunch of times where he's been able to use it to tell us something he never would have been able to without it. For example, telling us his spinach at dinner felt cold. Such a minor thing, right? But one that his impressive array of pointing, miming, and showing wouldn't have allowed him to communicate. It makes me so happy when those moments happen.

I don't have a good picture so here he is playing with his friends. 

That said - I had a bit of rose colored glasses on about it. It's still a huge learning process and requires a ton of work for the whole family. The big thing is for us to model it, and when it's just me all day, trying to juggle a baby, two kids, and use a book to demonstrate how to communicate with it - it's hard. Unlike speaking, I have to be looking over his shoulder to see what he's saying. So if I'm in the middle of something, which I basically always am, his pointing to something doesn't really facilitate communication any better until I can stop and go look. And I think the biggest thing I didn't quite understand was that it's purpose is functional communication. It's not designed to have a conversation with. I see all these cute things other two year olds are saying and it breaks my heart a bit that I will never get to know what funny, silly thoughts Royce is having at age two. But we still have tons of funny and silly moments together and I have to just appreciate those.

He wanted to touch the flag. So 

Just recently (like in the past week!), he's made massive improvements in his verbalization. He has four words he consistently says! Go, yes, car, and mama! This is just beyond incredible, I honestly haven't fully believed it yet. For 2.75 years of his life, he didn't have a single word. I'm doing my best to accept he's on his own path, but it can be hard to hear children much younger than him speaking, and kids his age using complete sentences. And it feels a little awkward sharing this milestone when people normally reach it so much earlier. But he has worked so, so hard to get here and to say we are proud of him is a huge understatement. He's also attempting speech so much more. Over the summer, he would very rarely even attempt to imitate the initial sound of a word. Now he tries to imitate us saying words all day long. Major progress!


Taken at 4 months old for her calendar! Photo: Vince (grandpa)

9 months old and the happiest little baby! Such a delight. I really love how babies don't have attitudes yet (and she never will, right?). We had several weeks where she would just sit happily and watch everything around her and coo adorably. Then she realized the world was just way too exciting and started army crawling which rapidly developed into regular crawling and now she's crawling and pulling up on everything! Instead of going to sleep at bedtime she would just stick her little head up, smile excitedly, and start crawling around. Is there anything cuter than a little crawling baby bum?

Always standing!

She loves food! Even when not eating, she loves sitting in her high chair while we sit around the table playing a game or play doh or whatever. Otherwise, she's happily crawling around and taking everything out of cabinets or drawers. We nurse on demand but she's definitely stretching out the time in between. She even took a few ounces from bottles recently!

Typical. Always on the move. To eat things. 

Sleep is confusing. I'm still not checking the clock at night so all I know is she wakes and nurses several times. When we are home, she normally takes her morning nap in her crib and I put her in awake. If we are out, she naps in the car. In the afternoon it's more hit or miss. Sometimes she goes down in the minicrib in our bedroom awake, other times she struggles and I nurse her to sleep and lie with her (DARN WHAT A SACRIFICE). At night she acts like the crib is hot lava so we still bedshare and that's working well for us. I almost always nurse her to sleep at bedtime. She's doing pretty well on a 2/3/4 schedule, which means morning nap two hours after waking, afternoon nap three hours after waking from morning nap, and bedtime four hours after waking from the afternoon nap. Sounds confusing but I swear it's not when you are IN IT. One year from now I will have no clue what any of this means.

Me: Still training for the Baltimore Ten Miler! At this point I've forgotten half my workouts but I've met or exceeded my weekly goal of one weekday run, one other workout, and one weekend "long" run. I've included enough that I've been sore a lot, like a Body Pump class, a core bootcamp, lifting heavy weights with Eric (he always is pushing for high weights low reps on the rare occasions we exercise together).

I have that same feeling of my running improvements not being valid because they have happened so much slower than the insta world. Comparison is the thief of joy and all that. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled with them, it just feels awkward to type them out to share with the internets. I see all these people doing fast, long runs before their baby is even out of the fourth trimester. And then over here - it's taken me 9 months to feel like I can comfortably run 4 miles without taking significant walk breaks.

Except when I have to push this behemoth. Then it's alllllll the walk breaks. 

I guess I expected to bounce back a little faster. Right before getting pregnant, I completed an 8 week track series that focused on speedwork and I've never done anything like that. It was so hard, but I feel like my fitness improved quite a bit from it. I ran a 20 mile race and felt good just 3 days before finding out I was pregnant. And I don't mean this as a complaint AT ALL because I'm beyond grateful for that pregnancy that brought my beautiful daughter into this world! But it can be a tough pill to swallow that it truly means all those fitness gains are gone. Maybe that wouldn't be the case if I had worked out more during pregnancy but we will never know. Sometimes it just feels a tad unfair that Eric gets to keep his body intact through all this childbearing while I have to forgo all fitness, live with a csection shelf, giant feet, devil horn hair for like a get the idea.

Anyway. Whining aside. Training is going well and I have seen fitness gains and now that all my childbearing is done, I can just keep improving slowly but surely.

I think I'm done word vomiting. For now.