The Next Phase

Another day, another adventure! Today we start Speech Therapy. Her new therapist should be here in minutes, and I am both anxious and excited.

These days, Abby is almost totally typical for a 20 month old (20 months!!!! Holy cow!!!!). She is no longer waddling, or even walking. She is RUNNING and laughing and discovering the world around her. She is an absolute champ when it comes to eating.

She is growing like a weed! She is over 30 inches tall and weighs more than 23 pounds. Wearing 2T with no baggy shirts or too-long pants, and her hair is now long enough to put into pigtails!

20120130-104813.jpg

But the one thing she can’t do is talk. No, wait. I take that back. She “talks” more than I do! But she doesn’t speak. We had a speech evaluation 2 weeks ago and she failed it. According to that test, she had ZERO words. Now, that is not entirely true. She says hi and bye consistently, she just wouldn’t do it for a stranger. And she said “ball” for the evaluator, but she wasn’t playing with a ball at the time. She calls all toys ball. So that doesn’t count. And she knows names, like Mommy, Daddy, Nana, Teta… She almost had Poppi down, too. She attempts Tia, Jido, and even Elissa! And that one is hard! But the bottom line is that by her age, she should have close to 20 words that are NOT names down cold. By her corrected age (16 months) she should have no less than 10. For the first time EVER we are behind her corrected age. Boo.

Insert speech therapy. While I struggled with all of the “failing” the eval and being labeled “delayed”, I have to admit that I am happy we are moving forward with this. Abby is not one of those late bloomer types. Some people who hear we are doing speech therapy at this age think we just haven’t given her enough time to get the hang of it. But anyone who spends half an hour with her can tell… Something is off. You can tell she understands. You can tell she is trying to say things. And you can tell she is frustrated that it just isn’t working.

I’m reminded of when her brain was trying to tell her arm to move to get a toy, and it would take all of her concentration and energy just to get her arm to do something… Anything! But it was rarely in the right direction. It’s the same thing now. You can tell that her brain speaks English. But her mouth speaks Klingon or something. And it makes her mad. She knows that what came out of her mouth is not what she wanted to say. And she throws fits on the floor with a red face and crocodile tears almost every time it happens.

I’m so done with the fits.

So I’m looking forward to this phase. All micro preemies need it at some point. I’ve talked to a few micro moms about it and all have said this therapy helped immensely on all levels. Of course, it takes time and patience and more hard work from all of us to help her. But we’ve been doing that from day one, so I feel ready for that.

So say a prayer that she tackles this hurtle the same way she has faced them all: head on and with stellar success!

In the meantime, enjoy a few recent photos! I’ll keep you all posted in her progress.

20120130-110959.jpg

20120130-111052.jpg

20120130-111120.jpg

20120130-111152.jpg

20120130-111214.jpg

Advertisements

Friday, I was Thankful For my Mom, and my hairdresser

As you will see below, this post is mostly about Abigail’s first hair cut. BUT I had to give a shout out to my Mom. As most of you know, my Mom (along with my Dad) watches Abby for me while I work during the afternoons at Charming. She and my Dad are amazing. They have sacrificed so much to help me (and Anthony) keep Abigail in a safe and happy environment. And they LOVE their job as grandparents/primary care givers. But what puts them over the top as shoe-ins for the grandparents of the year award are all the extras they do. It’s as if 20+ hours isn’t enough for them. Because on top of those hours, plus their jobs, plus their lives, they still manage to come through for me in a pinch.

I’ll be honest. I have a LOT of “New Mom” moments. Like, A. LOT. I’m pulling the “Still Learning” card here and saying that being a new Mom is pretty tough. And sometimes, what I think is a GREAT idea really actually sucks. Insert my sucky great idea: get my own hair cut at the same time as Abby. We’ll go together, make it one trip, and it will be all good! Hahahaha… yea. Didn’t think about a rowdy, energetic, MOBILE toddler in an area that is wonderful for adults but downright dangerous for kids. Go me. Mom to the rescue! Offered to help with Abby (i.e. sit in the car with said rowdy and energetic toddler for an hour) while I got my hair cut, and then come in and take pictures for me to remember the whole experience. Did I mention this was on her day off from Abby duty? A day that she had several appointments already scheduled? A day that this was probably going to be more of a headache than a leisure trip? But there she was, waiting for me in the parking lot, none the less. And the pictures (below) were great! Yup. Grandma of the year.

Both of my parents really are wonderful, for so many reasons. But on Friday, I was particularly thankful for my Mom. Thank you, Mama… for all you do. You’re the best.

Ok! On to the pictures! On Friday, I was also very thankful for the skills of my hairdresser, Lynn Hayes. She’s been cutting my hair, (plus my Mom’s, my Sister’s, my Sister-In-law’s, and my best friend’s hair) for years. She is VERY good, and it shows. Plus, she has extensive experience working with kids. So it was obvious who we chose to cut Abby’s hair for the first time.

Abby didn’t like it. She was confused as to who this stranger was touching her head. But she only cried a little, and was totally distracted by me singing her favorite tunes: The ABC’s, Twinkle Twinkle, Itsy Bisty Spider, and of course – The Hot Dog Dance!

When all was said and done, she did really well, and now her hair is cute and even and out of her eyes! Yippie! I’m thankful for the experienced hands of my hairdresser!

Getting Ready!Combing the hair out to see how long it really is.

Wet hair and the protective cape. We gave her the brush as a distraction.

Getting ready to make the first cut.

Snip snip!

High Five for Lynn after we were all done!

New Do’s! Ready for the holidays!

-Jen

Gone, Baby. Gone.

Take a look at this picture. Can you see it? My Baby girl is gone.

That is 100% “little girl.” I’m not sure of precisely when it happened. It was gradual, which is probably why I didn’t notice. But she’s just… gone. The chubby, rolly-polly, needy, little baby I could cradle in one arm has dissolved and morphed into this beautiful child who can walk and talk and eat all on her own. She is an independent girl. Smart and charismatic, she can tell me what she wants and what she is thinking.

I called her “the baby” the other day, and it felt wrong for the first time, ever. The “Little One” or “The Princess” still fit, but baby just isn’t true anymore. It is an odd feeling, as a Mom, to come to that realization. It isn’t a bad thing by any means. It is just the next phase. And the truth is that I’m enjoying this stage to the fullest extent. Abby can walk! And wants to. It’s a choice she makes. She comes when she is called, follows people around (especially her cousins), and stands up after a tumble like nothing happened.

But that doesn’t change that there is this sadness inside me. I am sad that she is no longer this helpless blob that needs me for every little thing. Yes, she needs me still. Heck, I’m almost 30 and I totally still NEED my own Mommy. But she doesn’t need me to figure it all out for her anymore. It used to be that I had to play that “What is it” game, where I had to guess what she was trying to tell me. Now, she just tells me. Outright. She points, and uses what words she does have to make it more than apparent about what she wants and needs from me. And when she communicates well and we understand each other, she gets this huge grin on her face, and she claps! It is so cute. And that sadness sort of melts away because of how cool it all is.

Everyone who sees her is amazed at what she is doing these days. She says a word here or there that is abundantly clear and everyone goes, “Whoa! She just said ____!” And seeing her adorable little walk for the first time brings huge smiles to everyone’s face. She is in the stage where she has firm footing and good balance, but her legs and hips haven’t straightened out just yet, so her walk looks like she just dismounted a horse. It’s so cute. And wobbly! And she has no spacial awareness yet. She bumps into walls, and trips on pretty much ANYTHING that is in her path. But it doesn’t phase her one bit. She just keeps going. And going. And going.

I have NO IDEA how many times I have walked through my house in the last two weeks. But it is in the hundreds without even breaking a sweat. We go from play room to entry way to living room to dining room to kitchen and back around to play room again. Over and over. Sometimes we break it up and go in the opposite direction – but still, one big circle. And occasionally we stop the repetitive loop to do the Hot Dog Dance when Mickey Mouse and the Clubhouse gang are on the TV. She points to the TV and screams, ‘Yay!!!!” and claps her hands. She even dances! It is more of a bobbing up and down with some crazy arm waving thrown in, but to her, that is totally busting a move. Just another sign that Abby has moved on to Toddler-dom. Is that even a word?

She is also starting to realize who people are to her. If you ask her where “Mommy” or “Daddy” are, she can point to us, or look at us. When you ask her, “Who is that?” to any of our immediate family members she gets it right more than half of the time. Names are becoming clearer with each passing day. Poppi is no longer “FiFi.” It is now “Pa.” Nana and Teta are very clear. I am most often Mama, but the occasional ‘Mommy” or “MiMi” peek through. At least it is clear that she is talking to me! ๐Ÿ˜‰ And my FAVORITE thing she says is “Yup!” She cant’ say Yes. But I love that she doesn’t say “Yea.” She answers almost all questions with a resounding “Yup!” Too cute.

*SIGH* The baby is gone. The Toddler is here. Bittersweet, but oh-so-fun!

-Jen

One More Milestone

Today is Monday the 22nd. Last year, the 22nd was on a Sunday. And no one will remember this except for me and Anthony, but I refused to talk to ANYONE that day. I wasn’t taking calls. I was only answering my own Mother’s texts. I was far too busy praying.

On the 18th of August, 2010 I wrote this post about how the NICU was a roller coaster. I was in a terrible place, emotionally, about this journey and was having a very hard time coping with the strain. My NICU Friend, Janelle, and I had “just kidding, but not really” conversations about how we were going to unplug our baby girls and run for the hills!

But the next day (when I actually posted that blog) I was singing a different tune. It was the first time that Dr. Mah said to me, “I think we can send you all home soon.” Angels sang. No joke, I heard heavenly music coming from somewhere and I’m pretty sure the whole freaking world could hear it with me. I asked how soon was “soon”. He said, “Maye Monday. Maybe Tuesday. We’ll see.”

I gagged on the air I was breathing. Monday? Tuesday? Dr. Mah – are you sure? That is LESS THAN A WEEK FROM NOW! I actually asked him if he was messing with me. He assured me he was not. He even said that while they have no problems telling insurance companies to hold their horses, this time he was not surprised when they got the phone call from our company asking why Abigail was still admitted. She was doing THAT well.

I still didn’t hold my breath. I knew, all to well, how quickly good news turned to bad in that place. I knew that at a moment’s notice Dr. Mah could change his mind. But 2 more days passed and he still kept saying “Monday or Tuesday.”

We didn’t tell ANYONE. We didn’t even tell our parents until a couple of days before. We didn’t want to jinx it. We knew we were getting final word from Dr. Mah when we went in on Sunday, and we spent most of that morning in silence. We didn’t want to get our hopes up. We didn’t want to experience yet another crash and burn. As always, we braced ourselves for the worst. But we went in and Dr. Mah was smiling. He told me to “Get Ready” because we were going to start preparing for discharge on Monday and actually discharging on Tuesday. I honestly think he held it out a day longer than needed just so he could be there to see us out. He wasn’t going to be in on Monday. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Monday we did all the prep work. We submitted the prescriptions we need to bring home with us, we started to take blankets and clothes and belongings home, and we made sure we had a picture of Abby with every last one of her Nurses and RTs.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, it was too early. We were scheduled to go through Portable Monitor Training at 10 and there was no sense in getting there any earlier. It would just be torture. But it was torture anyway. Minutes were going backwards on my clock! Or at least it felt that way. I shut my eyes tight, willing myself to go back to sleep, cursing the existence of 6am. No use. We both got up, dressed, ate, and sat there… staring into space. 9:00am finally rolled around and we couldn’t take it anymore. We went in early. Bernie, one of her Primaries, was on duty that day, and she got to discharge us. That was wonderful. But walking into the NICU, I felt like I was going to vomit. I just knew that Bernie was going to look at me and say she had an episode during the night and we had to wait another 5 days…

But she didn’t say that. She was smiling. I knew it then – we were home free.

Discharge took hours. It started with training and then collecting the prescriptions and having several doctors check them to make sure they were correct. It was packing the remainder of her belongings, and dressing her, disconnected from the hospital wall for the first time. It was hugs and tears and more pictures, and then finally waving good-bye. 83 days of a crazy roller coaster ride was finally over.

Anthony took pictures of us in the wheel chair in the elevator. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. It was like I was meeting her for the very first time. We got her into the car, and felt like real parents for the first time… fumbling with the buckle and worrying about whether or not we did it right. Questioning each other about if she was comfortable. Anthony drove and I sat in the back with her. She slept the whole way home. I remember texting my Mom, saying something to the effect of, “We’ve got her! She’s ours! They can’t take her back now! We are going HOME!”

We got home and starting the second part of this journey. The part that has encompassed the last year with just as many ups and downs as the NICU presented, including illnesses, another hospital visit, her first vacations, weekly therapy sessions, her amazing milestones, her first birthday, all of her first holidays, her set backs, her amazing personality, and so much more.

On Wednesday, August 24th, Abigail will have been home for 1 full year. At 1:30pm, no less. A year ago, she weighed 4 pounds, 7 ounces. Today she weighs over 21 pounds. A year ago, she slept 18-22 hours out of every 24 hour period. Today, I’m lucky to get her to take ONE 2-hour nap per day. A year ago, she was nothing but a baby blob. And today she is an almost walking, almost talking, almost toddler miracle child.

I’m so blessed. It’s really crazy how fortunate I am! I didn’t think that much fortune should ever belong to one family, but I’m never going to question it, that’s for sure! We aren’t doing anything special for this milestone, other than recognizing it. Because if we threw a party for every milestone she hit, she’d think parties were an every day thing. But as I remember this week last year, and how low I was, I can’t help but smile at the year we have and how the past 365 days have utterly stomped out those 83. They are gone. I can finally say they are nothing but a memory. A memory I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Happy 1 year Home, Abby! And cheers to decades more. I love you!

-Jen

I Speak “Abby”

I am totally and utterly consumed with how much I love my kid. It’s SO clichรฉ, but the idea that you just have no clue how much you can love someone until you have a child is beyond true. And when you try to describe it, you sound ridiculous because there are no words that encompass it. There is just this physical pressure you feel swelling in your chest when something new happens that makes you love them MORE (right, cause that’s possible…)

I seem to think that a lot lately – how could I possible love her more? I’m pretty sure I’m at capacity, and then Abigail does something new and exciting that makes me so proud and so in awe of her progress that I just have to realize that I’m NEVER going to reach the limit. Because there isn’t one.

Anywho – I’m gushing because I have had that familiar chest-swell several times over the last week, almost all of which were caused by a new word Abby learned to say. This girl is TALKING. Ok, let me be clear – she is talking at the level any other one year old can do… the words are hardly audible or consistent, and you can tell that sometimes she says something and has no clue as to what she is saying. BUT she is speaking words. Words that Anthony and I can understand.

Have you ever tried to understand a toddler and asked them multiple times to repeat themselves only to realize you have NO CLUE what they are trying to tell you? And then their parent swoops in and translates in 2 seconds, as if it was totally obvious that they were asking for another piece of Chicken, please! (because you know you distinctly heard them say, “novpea chi mmmmmm, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvvvvv”). Well, at least they said, please! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Well I’ve just become that parent.

I’m totally guilty. My 3-year-old niece and my 2-year-old nephew speak volumes more than Abby, but there are times when repeating themselves 5 times does absolutely nothing to help them get what they want out of me. But when Abby utters a “Aaaan oooooo” I know she just said Thank you. When she says “Ta ta ta ta” she is saying “Teta” (her Grandmother, Anthony’s Mom). Ma’am is Mom. DaDaDaDddd is Dad. Those are easy. “Eah” is Yes. Thank Heaven she doesn’t know “No” yet!

She has said Peh Peh Phy which I translate to Poppi (her grandpa, my dad) and NeNeNan which is Nana (her grandmother, my mom). And she will at least attempt to mimic whatever you say when you ask her “Can you say….” That is how I got the Thank you! On top of all of that, she just talks. All day. Sometimes she even sings. It’s nonsense, but she still manages to communicate nonetheless. She points to things and squeals. She says, “Bah! Bah! Bah!” about a gazillion times a day, which to her I’m sure means something very significant. I just have yet to figure out what it is.

So, there it is. Every day there is a new sound that sounds too similar to the appropriate word to be a coincidence. She’s talking. And learning at an alarming pace. And if that darn chest-swelling thing doesn’t figure out how to control itself soon, I’m going to need a whole new set of tops! Because it happens every time I feel this crazy affectionate pride every time she learns something new.

-Jen

Adventures in Food

Feeding Abby has been an adventure all on its own. I’m sure it is that way for most babies. But, as most things are with Abby, ours just seems to be slightly more amplified. As many of my avid readers know, we started to feed her “solids” (which just meant something other than formula – because there was nothing solid about that oatmeal…) at 6 months old. She was a corrected age of 3 months – really early by any other standard. But Dr. S and her therapist were insistent – if we want to avoid a texture aversion in her mouth, startย  feeding her NOW.

We did, and she really enjoyed it. We fed her home-made oatmeal for a little over 2 months and nothing else. The point wasn’t to make her full, so much as to help her figure out how to eat. When she turned 6 months corrected (so 8 or 9 months old – ish) a whole new world opened up to us. The world of pureed food. I made all of Abigail’s food from scratch. It was nowhere near as difficult as people had warned me it would be. But it was immensely time-consuming. I would therefore make several weeks worth of food for her at a time and freeze it so I wasn’t “slaving over a hot blender” all day every day.

Her favorites were easily Carrots and Sweet Potatoes. Soon after, we added Mangos and that quickly became the number one thing she wanted to eat. She has her mother’s aversion to eating anything that is green. Didn’t like avocado, spinach, peas, or brocoli. But she loves fruit. Pears, Apples, Bananas… But the Bananas stopped her up pretty bad, so we had to ban those for a while. I was pretty happy with her eating habits – she liked more foods than I do! I followed recipes from baby cook books by Annabel Karmel (click to go to her Amazon page). Top 100 Baby Purees and First Meals were my bibles for several months. Once she really started to get some teeth, we started to move into learning how to chew. For Abby, it only sort-of came naturally. Just like she had to learn how to suck-swallow-breathe, she now had to figure out how to chew… the mechanics were there, we just had to get them to work properly. We started out with Gerber products. Biter Biscuits and Puffs (things that dissolve with water) so she wouldn’t choke. These new textured foods went over pretty well but we encountered a whole lot of choking.

This all started only a few weeks before her birthday. I was so afraid she was going to choke on her birthday cake! But she didn’t. She loved it! And of course, she made a mess!

Fast forward to the present (only two months after this picture was taken) and she is an eating machine! Purees don’t really interest her anymore. She’ll eat them if she’s really hungry, but she’d rather eat what is on my plate that something mushy. I’m now packing a small cooler full of little containers of food to bring to my Mom’s house every day, and constantly thinking about what Anthony and I eat in terms of what she can have with us. Eating dinner now happens at the table. She sits and eats with us every night, and really enjoys herself, especially on nights she gets to try something new.

New textures usually mean that she’ll choke a few times before getting the hang of it, but she pushes through every time. It’s fascinating to watch her thinking through how she eats. She is starting (only barely) to understand that the plate (or bowl) I put in front of her is meant to stay there and shouldn’t end up on the floor. But, while we are learning, the dog is enjoying himself immensely because she drops more than his fair share of scraps. All of a sudden, he seems to like her a little more than he used to. Hmmm… curious. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here is the list of things (so far) that she loves to eat:
1) Bananas (they are back on the list in strict moderation)

2) Mozzarella Cheese! (she can eat that stuff by the fist full)

3) Rice Krispies (can’t eat the treats yet, tho – not quite there)

4) Pasta! (A girl after my own heart – she loves it with butter and a little bit of Parmesan! And she likes Mac and Cheese, too!)

5) Veggie sticks (the ones from Costco)

6) Cheese cake! (Yummy!)

7) Crackers with Cream Cheese (an idea our therapist gave us to ensure she gets protien)

8) Chicken! She actually likes chicken! In tiny little shreds, of course.

9) Yogurt. She’ll eat yogurt till the cows come home.

10) French Fries (we discovered this on vacation. She likes regular and the sweet potato variety equally)

11) Waffles! (The frozen kind, thawed, not cooked, cut into sticks)

12) Pretzel sticks, bread sticks, pretty much anything in stick form!

13) Rice. She seemed to like the Pilaf kind, and tonight she ate quite a lot of steamed white rice.

The list grows as the days go by. Every few days we find something new, and we find that when we retry a food she couldn’t eat a week ago, she can eat it now. We are so excited that she only has a few more months of formula left and then we can really open up the world of food to her. Exciting stuff!

What foods did your (almost) toddlers like to eat?

-Jen

Abby’s learning curve

Abby discovered, today, that her ability to crawl truly means the ability to travel. I’m in BIG trouble now.

Crawling over the last week has simply meant “moving faster” to get the toy I want. That’s it. Simple and uncomplicated. But, as of late, we have started to see the typical separation anxiety that 9 month olds experience start to kick in. Once I am out of view, and out of ear shot, Abby is fine with (literally) whoever I decide to leave her with. But the leaving part is getting hard. Distraction tactics are in full force for drop offs at Nana’s or leaving her at home with someone else (which currently includes Daddy). So, today when I asked my MIL (Teta as we call her) to watch Abby for me while I went into the kitchen to make some lunch, Little Miss crABBY Pants McGee over there threw a fit and tried, for the first time, to follow me.

We are so lucky – we have this amazing play room/den where all of her toys live, and were we spend easily 80% of our playtime. Until today it has never occurred to her to leave this happy place. Truth be told, I don’t think she understood that she could leave it without assistance. But today, with tears streaming down her chubby little cheeks, she made a break for it. She moved passed the carpet and placed one tiny hand on cold tile flooring. She stopped dead in her tracks. Everything – no more tears, no more cries, and no more movement. Just stunned silence. The change in texture was so shocking that it distracted her completely. She didn’t like it. She retreated back into the den.

I, however, stayed in the kitchen. And over the next 20 minutes, Abby tried over and over again to cross that line from carpet to tile. The first few tries only got one hand out. After a while, she got both hands out. She was pleased with herself and tried one knee. NOPE. That didn’t work. Back to the den she went. Over and over she tried to be okay with the change she was feeling underneath her. And, as all of the learning curves seem to go with her, it was only a matter of time. Eventually we had all for limbs on tile. And she could now see me from the entryway floor. She still didn’t like the tile, but she wasn’t going to let that deter her. She scooted on her butt several feet before I gave in and picked her up. I figured she’d earned the assistance after all that.

As a result, Abby played on the kitchen floor for the first time today, too. She seemed happy as long as she could see me. Little girl is growing up right before my eyes.

So, it looks like Anthony and I will need to make that very first “baby proofing” trip to Babies R Us on Saturday. Joy of Joys. Baby gates, table bumpers, outlet covers, and cabinet door locks are all in our VERY near future. Because, as her therapist predicted, we can already tell the crawling phase won’t last long. Just over one week into crawling for real and she is doing her darndest to stand. We are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from a full-blown TODDLER!!! I’m beside myself with pride and an ever so slight amount of fear and apprehension.

Wish us luck, everyone! I promise to keep the video camera charged!

-Jen