Monday, October 29, 2018

Super Tessie's Super Progress

Tessie has a new word. 

She has learned to finish whatever she's doing very quickly, usually a puzzle or game of some sort and when she does she slams down the last little piece in place and says "done!" to announce that she has finished her work and is ready to go and play. 

One of her therapists told me about it earlier in the week and her speech therapist confirmed that she definitely said it during speech therapy after quickly putting together a puzzle. 

I believe that means she has "mama," "da," "down," "go," "did it," and "done," now for a grand total of seven words. 

I'm 99% sure that the "did it" is echolalia, or Tessie repeating something that she hears often (basically adults saying "you did it!" to her) but I'm still totally counting it.

I have to say that I'm rather proud of her rushing through her work to go play. Or at least I could relate to it.  It reminds me of my kindergarten report cards that informed my parents that I rushed through my work and wasn't at all careful at anything, so that I could be finished without whatever it was that we were doing and be the first one to go play.

When Tessie is at school she's asked to do about four things, that take about thirty seconds, in between playing. They are usually some of her favorite things, like stacking things, or putting together puzzles, or putting things in other things, which are all things she likes to do at home for fun.

Her OT and speech therapist visited her school a couple of weeks ago and told me that they were amazed when they watched her work because she was so speedy, which both surprises me a bit and not at all. 

This weekend she suddenly decided she wanted to make eye contact with me. Constantly.

She kept catching my eye and grinning hugely.

It was brand new and shocking and amazing.

And she apparently also thought it was highly amusing because after locking eyes for a few moments she would giggle like she'd just heard the funniest joke.

I was inspired by one of my favorite autism channels to make Tessie a sensory bin from Dollar Tree.

And while I knew there were a lot of neat sensory toys at Dollar Tree I did not expect it to be the smashing success that it was with every single one of our children.

They all loved it.

They all want one of their own now.

I think I have to hurry and make Patch one before his birthday in a few days because he was that excited when he saw Tessie's and played alongside her with it.

Even as an adult, I have to admit that when I was making ,it was a lot of fun!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Onion Ring Victory by Millimeters

A certain mermaid had a minimum day the other day, which meant that the school bus dropped her off in front of our house at lunch time.

It also meant that we were off schedule.

Being off schedule is perilous.

Maggie adores her routine. She loves structure.

And not knowing exactly what is going to happen next is her idea of an extremely stressful situation. Even if I've explained in detail exactly what is going to happen next.

This time, because I'm not new at this, I'd explained that when she got home from school she and I were going to go out on a date, just the two of us, and that the date was going to involve a milk shake.

We pulled into A&W and picked a booth as far from any other person as physically possible, which at that moment was quite far. And I ordered a shake and burger for Maggie and a grilled cheese for myself and an order of onion rings for the two of us to split.

What happened next was a hilarious dance in which she kept subtly shifting the onion rings closer and closer to her side of the table, while not actually taking them because we'd talked about sharing them.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed by her self control, although the onion rings did ultimately end up in front of her.

I'm calling it a victory because it took an entire half an hour before the plate was shifted that far by millimeters and she didn't ever actually protest me taking any of our shared side.

And then came the best part.

After her brothers and sisters got home we went to Nani and Bopa's house and she got to try out the rope swing for the very first time ever.

And it was amazing.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Beer, Milkshakes, and an End to Migraines

On Tuesday there was a copy of the latest edition of the magazine The Week sitting on the coffee table at my parents' house.

Maggie swooped down upon it and before I could say a word she had ripped off the back cover and was proudly clutching it in her hand.

"Oh it's fine, it's just a Sam Adam's ad." Bopa said as I asked Maggie for the fifth time to put the magazine down. She listened, retreating with her ad still clutched in her hand, gazing lovingly at it. I tried to see what was so interesting. There was a bright blue backdrop, with what looked like a tree, and I thought maybe there was a moon on it, which would definitely catch her attention.

"Why did you want that one?" I asked.

"Milk shake!" She said, pointing at the beer.

"Oh, she thinks the Sam Adams is a milk shake." I explained to my dad.

And that was the end of it.

Or so I thought.

The next morning she came downstairs dressed for school, rocking her blue doughnut high tops, and stood in the kitchen doorway.

"Soup for lunch please?"

"It's already in your lunch box. See." I showed her the can of ravioli that I had packed for her to take for dinner at therapy.

"Put in beer please?"

"Did you just... What? Did you ask for a beer for lunch?"

"Yes please. Beer please?"

"Because you think beer is a type of milkshakes?" I stood up and stared at her.

"Yes please?"

"No. Beer isn't a kid drink. Beer is not a milkshake." I glanced at the Sam Adams ad clutched in her hand and was certain she would be taking it to school with her since it had suddenly become her favorite item in the entire world.

Maybe I should email her teacher once she was out the door, I thought, and then promptly forgot in the rush of getting Tessie to school and doing all the other things on my check list for the day.

But this definitely proves something.

That child can read.

Because beer is something rarely purchased around here, and I'm 100% sure that she didn't know that that's what was on the ad when she tore it off since she was saying "milkshake" when she told me about it the first time.

And so her third big demonstration of her reading skills involves asking for a beer at lunch, thinking it's another name for a beautiful golden milkshake.

Hopefully she didn't try to ask for it again at school.


In totally unrelated news, after two decades of migraines, I haven't had a migraine in over two months now. And it is amazing. And I stumbled into this personal "migraine cure" of sorts totally by accident. 

I have no idea how it's working (and I'm sort of impatient for my next neurology appointment) but basically I was donating plasma twice a week, and realized, after a month, that my weekly migraines (that are knocked down to once a week with preventative migraine meds) were totally and completely gone. 

I have no idea if it's the tiny amount of blood thinner they use, or the actual process of removing that much plasma, or what, but I know that I've had headaches since I was eight and many migraines a month since I hit puberty and that this is amazing. 

I made a video telling the whole story, but that, in a nutshell is how it happened, for anyone short on time who was curious. 

And I finally shared this fun day of getting to go on a field trip with James' class to the pumpkin patch.

I absolutely love how many fun farms there are to visit in our area!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Struggle to Find the Perfect Costume When You Aren't Small Anymore

It was not easy finding a costume for our oldest

I snapped these pictures the day that Sadie's costume arrived in the mail.

She wanted something very specific. It had to be very pink. She wanted to be a fairy. Preferably a fairy butterfly. 

But when we went to the various stores for Halloween costumes she would have really settled for anything fluffy and gorgeous. 

Every time we passed a beautiful little girl princess dress she asked "is that in my size?"

And of course it wasn't. At just about five feet tall, she is one size away from juniors in the kids clothes section. The biggest princess dresses were eights or maybe 8-10s.

So we headed over to look at the juniors costumes and she was completely unimpressed.

I pointed out one dress that was made to look like the Big Bad Wolf, that would match Tessie's Little Red costume and she rolled her eyes at me as she headed to another part of the store sighing "MOM!" under her breath in true tween form.

The other kids picked out there costumes, with Maggie latching on to her doughnut in .5 seconds, and Patch grabbing his Catboy of the wall less than 1 second after that, and after thirty minutes of searching for something that was pink or princess-y enough and failing, we headed home to the internet.

And we found it.

Of course Tessie was a bit disappointed she didn't have her Big Bad Wolf to go with her.

And when it arrived everyone but the Pink Doughnut tried on their costumes.

I was a little nervous about what this meant about Halloween.

Was Maggie over Halloween?

Last year she loved it.

But when it came time to go to the zoo I simply said, "Trick or Treat" and she slipped into her doughnut costume before ten seconds had passed and was clinging to Paul's hand ready to get some candy.

She just wasn't ready for a photo op.

The girl doesn't get dressed up for no reason.

Pretty sure Tessie was of the same opinion when they took her school pictures.

Not sure this picture I snapped of her school picture (since kids who only managed to sit still for one photo don't get the "buy the download option" or I would have jumped at that chance) captures it, but Tessie's eyes are totally furious in this at having to sit still for one second while they snapped this.

Now I understand why they only got one photo of her.

She was obviously in a mood about picture day.

But her curls looked great.


I was a teensy bit nervous about talking about this, because people love to hate ADHD (or say it doesn't exist) but as it looks like I'll be taking another kid in for an evaluation in the coming months (although I didn't know that when I made this video) the timing of this video is sort of perfect:

And here is a much shorter fun video of taking the kids out into the fall woods behind Nani and Bopa's house in their costumes the very first time they tried them on. I love seeing James the Dragon zoom around on the rope swing!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Video Evidence of the Mermaid and the Penguins and a Very Happy Maggie

Was there video footage, you might have wondered, of the mermaid incident, with the penguins?

Well, not of the mermaid flying through the air.

But yes. There was immediately afterwards.

Of course there was. Because I was taking little videos of the Halloween Zoo fun and there was no point in the night when she was having more fun then when she had safely delivered her pink mermaid doll in to the penguin water.

See that smile:

I think the only fleeting moment of unhappiness was when she realized that she was going to have to leave to go and do something else, because she would have like to stay there with her face pressed up against the glass forever, loving watching the mermaid yarn hair float amid the rocks, at least until closing time.

But it was time for the tractor ride, and to report her mermaid flinging crime to the docents.

There never was a happier pink doughnut in all the world than our pink doughnut that night.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Mermaid Swimming with the Penguins?

Last night we went to a special autism event at our local zoo. The zoo is amazing in that it has monthly autism events that are always great.

There are two every year that we really don't want to miss, and one is the winter lights event, and the other is the Halloween event that they had last night.

The regular Halloween event is on the weekends and is always jam packed with people. And in the past that's what we've gone to. This time though, we actually signed up for the autism day, which seemed like something we needed a bit more this year although I think we were all wondering if it was a good idea when we drove up to the city and the sky opened up and began to pour.

But by the time we got there the rain had turned into a misty sort of drizzle that was fine to walk around in, and the night was definitely a success with our kids.

Especially a certain mermaid, for whom the highlight of the night wasn't the candy or the games, or the doughnuts and cider. It wasn't even the snow leopard that had come down from her perch and was sitting on a rock right next to the edge of her enclosure, or the tamarins, who she loves, who had had their babies.

The high point of Maggie's night was when she was holding hands with her dad and she used her left hand to launch her mermaid doll high up into the sky. It flew up and up and up, over the glass of the penguin enclosure, and over the rocks and landed floating in the water.

Her face lit up. She giggled. She glowed. It was clearly the best thing that had happened to her since two years ago when I was changing four day old Tessie into her baptismal gown the day after we left the hospital, and she managed to sneak two tiny mermaid dolls into the giant baptismal font at our parish without anyone noticing (all while holding hands with someone who was making sure she wasn't climbing in... she is fast and sneaky!).

We went and explained it to a docent. We didn't need the mermaid back... but we thought they should know... in case a penguin tried to eat the pink yarn hair or something like that.

When we came back from the tractor hay ride there was a soaking wet pink mermaid doll waiting for our giggling pink doughnut, who was still on cloud nine from her penguin pool victory.

She was thrilled to see her doll, back from it's penguin adventure.

Zero lessons learned I'm pretty sure, even though the doll is not yet back in her hands, as it's in the washing machine.

The other highlight of the night was when she saw a boy from her school. Both of their face lit up. He came right over with his therapist. Neither of them had any words to say but they happily looked at each others costumes and touched hands, before moving on with their nights to separate activities. It was very neat to see them acknowledge each other so happily though.


Tessie has a favorite word and she is using it very, very effectively to let us know what she wants. 

When Maggie was tiny she used "come on" for everything. Tessie uses "go."

The other day I set my camera down when we were playing outside on the swings and started to swing with Tessie on my lap. Then I'd stop the swing and say "ready, set..." and I would wait for her to say "go." 

She immediately caught on about what I was waiting for and I am so excited to share this little two minute video of Tessie saying her favorite word! 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Tessie and All The Awesome Things She's Doing

Earlier this week I watched as Tessie threw a ball to Sadie and then ran over to her sister and tackled her in a hug. After a few moments of cuddling she stood back up and ran a few steps away so that they could play catch again.

I frantically texted her therapist. "She's playing catch with her sister!!!!!" 

I could hardly believe it as they passed the ball back and forth between the two of them, both missing it more often than not, but still thoroughly enjoying the game.

Then later in the week, Tessie, who knows that the word "Dance Party" means to move her body all around even if there isn't any music, because they have "practice parties" frequently to learn how to act at birthday parties and other social events, grabbed my hand and started to twirl around like a tiny ballerina, which was quite possibly the best part thing that happened all week long.

 Fridays are my favorite days of the week, though, because as much as I love seeing Tessie's progress from school, I love that both she and James are home on Friday's with me and that the only thing that I have to do is take her into town for a combination hour of speech and occupational therapy, where every week her therapist's talk about how much more she can do than she did the week before.

It's a pretty exciting time.

Perhaps the most helpful thing is that now when I'm getting her dressed she actually helps me push her arms and legs into her pants and shirts instead of acting like she's being attacked by the clothes and is frantically trying to get away from them.

That is huge. Especially with winter rapidly approaching.

And as you can probably tell from these pictures she's all set for Halloween this year. She's going as Little Red Riding Hood. She has been obsessed with Goldie and Bear, basically since she was born.

I think it's the song at the beginning, and when you have older siblings you sometimes get to be in a room with kids TV that's on as an infant, but basically any time it came on from zero months onward she was gleeful when that particular song would play, which was not a reaction that we saw very often, since she was so often totally silent and not very responsive to anything.

And she still loves Goldie and Bear now!

We didn't see any Goldie costumes, but when I saw a Little Red Riding Hood costume I knew that it would be perfect!

And here is a much bigger update about all the awesome things that our tiniest bunny is doing:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

James' 4th Birthday: A Festival, A Train Ride, and a PJ Masks Party

I went a little overboard, documenting James' birthday.

But it was so much fun and he was so excited about every moment of it.

And everyone else was having so much fun too. 

That's why this is my favorite time of year. It isn't yet so incredibly cold that we're all cooped up inside most of the time, and it isn't so hot and humid that it's miserable to be out for too long, and I love autumn so much that I'm trying to squeeze every last moment out of October that I can, even as each day gets a little colder than the one before it. 

There were so many choices for activities for his birthday that picking what we were going to do was the hardest part.

We finally settled on the Tecumseh Appleumpkin Festival.

The main reason that we decided on this particular festival for James' big day was because they have a train and we could rent the caboose on this particular train.

We weren't quite sure how the girls, especially how a particular eight year old, was going to do stuck in a crowded train car for an hour. It might go splendidly.

But what if it didn't?

So the caboose was the perfect solution.

We needn't have worried.

She adored every, single, moment of the ride.

As did the littlest member of our family, especially once the train got rolling:

Once the train ride was over we went back to the festival, went on the fair rides (discovered the Maggie loves the Scrambler), and then headed home, where there were presents and cake.

And where one very happy four year old ended a very exciting, exhausting day.

A day that I split into not one but three videos, because it really was that big.

I'm so glad to have these already.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Grumpy Baby Turns Four

Yesterday James turned four.

He woke up and asked if it was really and truly actually his birthday and if he was really actually four years old and I told him that he was. 

We had a big day planned and the least exciting part of that big day was probably the cake, because the day started with driving out to a festival, and riding on a train in his own caboose, and then going on rides at a fair (and there will be more on that later in another post). 

And then, when everyone was tired out from all the fun, we came home and threw the decoration into place, and had cake. And after the cake there was pizza. Which was the perfect order for a fourth birthday party.

And because I'm sentimental I just had to look back over the years at how our big boy has gotten so big.

Because it doesn't seem like that long ago I was cracking jokes about our "Grumpy Baby."

For anyone who hasn't been around all that long, our smiley three turned four year old boy, was an easy going baby with a quick frown.

Who turned into an easy going toddler, with an even quicker scowl. 

He's the first one to ham it up for the camera these days (although in the picture below he and his brother were watching a particularly frightening episode of... Shimmer and Shine) but it wasn't always that way. 

Helpful readers used to suggest that it was because I was using a flash and the flash bothered him.

But I never used a flash. He would just quietly seemed to regard the world around him with a certain level of quiet suspicion when he was a tiny floppy baby (he had low tone and hyperflexibility and the one thing he probably did hold against me was the hours and hours of tummy time and PT practice it took for him to finally sit up at close to a year old).

I did put some of my favorite Grumpy Pics down below. Because they're still some of my favorites.

And he loves to come up with stories about why he was so grumpy in them.

He'll tell me that he didn't like the shirt I had put him in, or the jacket. 

In one particular photo at a farm he told me he was certain I was going to abandon him there (What?!?!?! At that point the child had never even left my side!)! 

So these days he has quite a few theories about his frowns, and loves looking at them (I'm frowning there because it's too yellow, he'll say).

I guess no one can really blame him for this particular expression of disgust:

And so Grumpy Baby is now four and not nearly so grumpy.

He's still pretty cuddly and cute.

And bossy with his littlest sister.

He loves saying "No Tess no!' 

Because of course he does.

And she's become pretty gleeful about finding ways to annoy him, particularly when she's sitting in her car seat and tries to put her foot on top of his leg.

Because she's his little sister.

Happy Birthday James! We're so lucky you're our Grumpy/Smiley Boy! 

And because I've been busy these past few days and haven't share the pre-birthday fun:

And one video about how we're attempting to see if decorations and Maggie are a possibility: