Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sensory Processing

{whew, i knew it had been a while since i wrote - but 3+ months??  since it's been so long, this one covers quite a lot - just forewarning you!!}



So, where we apparently last left off, I was explaining about Harper (you can read the first post here).  I received so many kind comments from that, both here and in real life, that I just wanted to say thank you!  and also provide a little follow up.  I know I tend to be a sharer, and many people have asked how she's doing - so this is an easy way to update all in a more coherent way than I am usually able to produce when someone asks me in real life. 

But here's the thing...  When Harper was born with clubfoot, I readily blogged about it, and those posts have helped so many and have generated great conversations among the community of clubfoot parents.  I'm so glad I wrote all that!  Yet clubfoot was an easy thing to pin down - it's a foot, you do xyz to fix it, add in time and boom - problem solved.  I assume and hope Harper will never be embarrassed or ashamed of this part of her story - there's no reason to be.  It happened.  It's (almost!) done.  

Yet this complicated, messy business we are beginning to unwrap now isn't as black and white.  It's very much gray.  There aren't steps or specifics or even answers right now, and that's a little scary.  This is likely something that will follow her for all of her life, even if we do find strategies to manage it fully to where it's just a background issue.  And the trouble lies there - I'm not sure I really want to write all about it since it's her struggle - her story.  I know I've read a lot of other blog posts about mamas who are hesitant to write about their kids as they get older.  The internet lives forever, presumably, and will Harper want her highschool boyfriend (ah!) to read all about the challenges of her youth? (ok, I know that's drastic, but you get the idea).  I love writing and sharing and pouring out emotions through the keys in a way I cannot process verbally.  But who is this serving?  I don't know.  Either way, I'm going to write about it today, but I'm unsure how much I will write in the future. 


ANYWAY! 

So, back to Harper. 



Back in January, as I wrote, we had seen one of the PA's at our pediatrician practice for her 2.5 year check up.  I brought up the concerns school had outlined as part of this routine visit.  She suggested we do speech therapy and see a developmental pediatrician.  She did listen to me and was very empathetic, yet in a way I felt a bit let down that I didn't get any sort of hint at a diagnosis or direction or anything - just a 'go see someone else.'  It was all so much to take in that I just didn't know how to really talk with her in the productive way I wanted to. 

So despite my positivity in that last post - I doubted.  I just wasn't sure what to do.  I just felt out of balance, uncertain without a direction to lean.  We did start speech therapy with a wonderful woman Jan who does it privately out of her home.  She came highly recommended, has worked in the schools for years, and goes to our church.  She is hands down - amazing.  I love her so much, as does Harper.  We've been going weekly since February.  



The progress Harper has made since then is astounding!  Granted, maturity and natural development probably has helped, but I know the sessions are working.  She went from speaking in mostly vocab words (nouns, non-phrases) to full out sentences with descriptors and pronouns and fun stuff like that.  We noticed very quickly how being able to better communicate cut down on some of her meltdowns.  She didn't jump to immediate rage or despair if she could tell us a little bit better what she needed or wanted.  

The 30 minutes we spend with Jan are very productive, but honestly I think the most helpful thing has been me modeling the way Jan speaks with Harper (and she predicted as much).  I started imitating how she spoke and phrased things and how she asked for more from Harper, and naturally since I spend most of my time with her, I know that's helped immensely.  (So, if I'm talking to you and say "Wahh-ter" instead of "water" like a normal person, that's why).  




So speech has worked out really well.  The other part of the PA's recommendation was to see a developmental pediatrician.  If you've ever traveled down that road, you will know that they are few and far between.  There are 3 that we could find, all in Atlanta, and exactly none of them took our insurance (we have a major carrier, no weird restrictions or anything, but still no).  (Oh, and did I mention we did speech privately because our insurance doesn't cover that either??).

One doctor, the one I thought looked best, has a private practice where you just pay out of pocket, no insurance accepted.  It was going to be $1,500 just for the one-time evaluation alone.  That's a ton of money, but we would absolutely have paid it if we needed to.  It wouldn't have been a second thought. Insert in here too calls to insurance and doctors and etc. etc. etc. It just seemed like a lot.  A lot of money, a lot of time invested, a lot of fuss  - and I just wasn't sure any of it was needed at all.  

But ultimately the complications and hassle are what slowed me down a bit to reflect.  I was so torn - I wanted to be sure to take this seriously, to not ignore something that could be best treated early.  But I didn't want to just rush headlong into this big complicated pricey difficult thing if it wasn't truly needed - and honestly I just wasn't sure if it was.  I couldn't help but wonder if it really was all tied to speech, or if she just needed time to mature, or something else... I just felt so uneasy about it all, in limbo afraid to set out in any direction.  I wanted to trust my mom instinct, and I just felt like we should wait.  Regardless of my desire to find quick answers, I knew that ultimately, she's 2 1/2.  There's plenty of time to take a moment's rest and yet still address it in a timely way.  So we waited.




Speech was going so well, as I said, but we were still seeing so many of the same issues at home.  Improved speech wasn't changing the meltdowns or the quirky things she did or the crazy mood swings.  About 2 months after our initial conversation, I asked her school director for another sit-down to get a status update of sorts.

She was wonderful and outlined in detail what they were (still) seeing at school - all of the things I was seeing at home, but as an educator with years of experience, she was able to communicate this collection of behaviors into cohesive statements that I could take to the pediatrician.  



To give you an idea of what we're talking about here, here are some of the issues we have: - inability to focus on one task for long at all (outside of the normal realm of two year old crazy!) 
-mouthing of objects (her fingers, everything else that exists) 
-swings from rage to joy
-very difficult to settle her back to normal after these swings 
-difficulty with transitions
-constantly in motion, vibrating
-unaware of where her body is compared to objects and other kids

It goes on...  Basically, everything we were still seeing at home, they were still seeing at school. And while speech was improving, it was not solving bigger issues.  Something else was going on. 

Our first meeting, when she first alerted me to all of this, was such a lead weight in my heart - but this meeting left me feeling so hopeful.  I felt like I finally had a direction.  My doubts about possibly waiting it out and waiting for her to mature were gone.  I knew it was something we needed to address.  I was so glad I had waited a few months to let the dust settle, so that with this new information I could feel confident moving forward, not just sped in one questionable direction.  I decided to book a consultation appointment with the pediatrician we usually see who I feel very comfortable with.  This way the entire time would be devoted to this conversation, not just tacked on to the end of a regular visit.



Naturally, from the time of that first meeting with the school director, I had been doing some unhealthy Googling.  How could you not??  I had a hunch that we were seeing some sort of sensory processing issues going on.  Our speech therapist and the school director agreed.  I didn't dive too deep, though, because I didn't want to start rationalizing something that might not be there.  I stressed about the upcoming meeting with the doctor, torn between making sure to be the advocate I needed to be for my daughter, while also not coming across as knowing more than the trained professional, just because I had searched a few things.  

And labels.  Oh labels.  Anyone in an education field knows all about them - the good, the bad... I had learned so much about them in my grad courses.  On one hand, I worried about putting a label on something that could just be immaturity or just a difference in personality or behavior.  Why go about with the intention of labeling your child as different, just to ease your own mind??  But I also desperately wanted the doctor to give us a label - to put a name on this collection of differences that would help us have a direction to go in.  How can you work on helping something if it's so ambiguous and amorphous?  A diagnosis would reassure Tony and I that yes, something was going on, and yes, something could be done. Otherwise, we would just have these random things occurring with no clear path.  I worried too that the doctor would simply repeat that we should see the developmental pediatrician.  



So I worked myself all up and we went to the appointment and our doctor was fantastic.  She listened.  She understood.  She gave me answers as best she could.  She agreed with Dr. Google that indeed Harper was showing signs of a sensory processing issue.  

{{{side note here - I'm totally in the very infant stages of researching all of this.  I don't really know what I'm talking about at all.  So take everything here with that bucket of salt}}}

As I already knew, there is a HUGE spectrum of how these sensory issues manifest.  Kids can range from hypersensitive (where the stimuli they receive from the environment is too much) to hyposensitive (where they don't get the right amount of input that their brain needs to process external stimuli) (this is where Harper falls).  Most kids have certain issues with sensory areas at some point in their lives, but some kids have lots that add up to Sensory Processing Disorder.  

From what I've gathered, the full disorder is fairly disruptive to the child's daily life.  I'm not sure at this point if Harper does indeed have the full disorder or if she simply has sensory processing challenges.  My uninformed opinion is that she does not have what would qualify as the full disorder, but simply the challenges.  Our doctor believes that Occupational Therapy would help Harper greatly.  She officially diagnosed her with SPD and Developmental Coordination Disorder, but she did caution that she used the more extreme diagnoses, since often for insurance to cover OT, these diagnoses must be present.  And to my relief, the doctor said that she doesn't believe we need to go through the whole process of seeing a developmental pediatrician at this time.  She wants us to give OT a try for a while, and if we aren't seeing improvement after that, then it would be time to take it higher up the ladder.  I trust in her confidence on this one.

I was telling some friends about all of this, and one said "it sounds made up."  She didn't mean it maliciously, and it's so true.  It does sound made up.  To someone on the outside it seems like a modern made-up thing because we are all so overly concerned about everything.  I keep thinking in my head of an analogy with it and a gluten intolerance.  'Oh, you're gluten intolerant?? You and everyone else in the American middle class all of the sudden.'  Until you actually eliminate wheat and realize that you truly feel better... and then it doesn't seem so made up anymore.  (ok, stupid analogy I know, but hopefully that kind of helps?)

I found a sensory processing checklist on the website for the facility where we will be doing OT.  It may as well have had a little picture of Harper's face next to every. single. bullet point.  The checklist was describing her.  From pushes too hard with crayons, to "walking doesn't work," to clumsy, to too rough - it was her.  And the more I look into it, the more I am convinced that we are on the right track.



So, your proprioceptive system is a system of your body that takes in stimuli from the outside world as a way to orient your body in space.  It helps us know how to walk through doors and not trip on things and leave space between ourselves and others - all without us having to think consciously about it.  Kids with sensory processing issues relating to the proprioceptive system don't get these clues as readily.  As a result, they are usually always moving, touching, chewing, all as a way to try to get those signals their brains need.  

Harper breaks all of our crayons while coloring (and eats them).  She has always been too rough with Quinn or the pets, even when she's being nice.  She is always the loudest kid around.  She touches everything.  She's almost three, but I have to constantly take things out of her mouth, things she should know not to eat (I can't leave rubberbands in her hair during naps or she will eat them/choke on them).  She loves making messes, squishing yogurt between her fingers or pouring water all over everything.  She literally vibrates when she's excited or upset.  She has sucked on her fingers since the day she was born and it's much, much more than a comfort habit.  She falls down - a lot! (the bruises, oh the bruises!) She is often bumping into other kids or getting too close.  She can't focus long enough to do independent tasks like brush her teeth or dress herself.  She has to touch everything at the store, making it nearly impossible to let her just walk, without us going crazy trying to keep her from wrecking the place.  Transitions from one activity to the next, especially leaving a place or saying goodbye to anyone, has always been extremely difficult.


As you can see, all of the above could easily fall into "behavior" issues.  As a society, we place expectations on our kids to walk quietly, not touch, be gentle, keep dirty things out of their mouths, and not make too big of a mess.  Kids who do otherwise are seen as acting naughty - or more so, their parents are bad parents who lack discipline or attention.  You can see how these sorts of issues complicate the life of a toddler, but you can really see how they can complicate the life of a kid in a normal school setting who is working on learning in class, making friends, and all of the other nuances of growing up.

I don't want to give any indication that Tony and I are perfect parents, but we certainly are trying our very best.  Even in my deepest mom-guilt moments, I know I am doing the best I can with the knowledge and tools that I have at this moment.  As much as it's hard to separate these issues from behavior issues, it just has to be done.  Typical parenting solutions to "fix" behavior problems haven't worked.  And now we know why.

Tony and I have talked about how we want to just shout out to all of the people staring at our kid having a meltdown in some public place - It's NOT us!  It's NOT her!  She cannot help it!!   It's one of those invisible things.

We had lunch on Mother's Day at a very kid-friendly pizza place, but there was a big family without kids sitting near us.  When we went to leave, Harper threw her expected and unfortunately quite common fit about not wanting to go.  She threw herself to the booth, kicking and screaming.  Tony picked her up and took her out while I packed up our stuff and Quinn.  I caught the table staring at us, as a hush fell over their conversations... I just wanted to turn to them and shout - you don't understand!  save your judgement! Let me take 10 minutes to explain this complicated business to you so you will be more empathetic... And I just hate it.  

Selfishly I hate the judgement, but less selfishly I just want to wrap Harper up in my arms and block out everything but us.  I don't want her to be judged or misunderstood or made fun of or shunned or whatever nastiness the world out there has for her.  An ugly part of me wants her to be 'normal,' not for my sake or normal's sake, but just so it will be easier.  It's heartbreaking and frustrating.

Anyway, back to the doctor. She prescribed Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy.  We got the PT evaluation, and she did wonderfully.  So no need for PT.  The reason she struggles to do some things has nothing to do with her body being physically able to do it.  Instead, it's the much trickier brain/body connection.  Sensory issues are often seen in children with autism, but our doctor did not see signs of that.  Sensory issues can and do exist independently.  As I've said, there's a huge range of how these issues present themselves, which sense they affect, and how severely.  I'm thanking God daily that it seems like we are on the lower end of severity and only certain senses seem to be affected.  There are certainly much more challenging things.

Our next step is to start Occupational Therapy, which is the method of choice for helping kids with sensory issues.  At this early stage, I'm not even sure how exactly they do it.  I do know it involves play and movement in a way that helps reset the brain.  Things like spinning and hanging upside down and brushing the skin and deep pressure hugs.  I'm just not sure at this point.

We are on the wait list at a local place that comes highly recommended - my hope is we will start in June.  Somehow, this is actually covered by our insurance (but still likely won't be cheap!).   I'm mostly so excited for a professional to evaluate Harper individually, and be able to let me know exactly what she struggles with and how we can begin helping her specifically.  I've felt a bit guilty lately about not doing more research on my own.  Shouldn't I be out there scouring everything there is to read about SPD and implementing my own therapy at home while we wait?  But the problem is, there's so much variation.  There's no how-to blanket guide.  Many of the sites out there focus on the full disorder, and often on the hypersensitive kids, not the hypo ones.  I need to keep looking.  But mostly I just want a more customized evaluation before I start down those trails.  Thank goodness for qualified, kind professionals.

While all of this may seem a bit negative, we really do have a positive attitude about the whole thing.  We have a direction to go in.  We might not have all of the answers, but we're working on it.  I'm trying my hardest to not see this as a problem in need of fixing, and instead see it as part of her unique and perfect self.  



We are going to get her the help she needs to make life a little bit easier, but I don't want her to ever think we resent the fact that her brain works a little differently.  As I said last time, for all of the negatives this seems to be causing, it's also created her BIG personality that I just love so very much.  Harper's never met a stranger.  She's boisterous and FUN and gets carried away laughing.  She loves getting tickles and wrestling and giving hard hugs.  She is the "classroom greeter" of all the kids at school - and even knows who their mommas are when they come to pick them up.  She loves so deeply and she is so stinking smart.  I wouldn't ever change a single thing about her.  God created this perfectly unique child just for us, and we are learning and growing every day because of her.  She is making us better parents, better people.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Big Personality

{so, i wrote a lot of this post over a month ago, then let it sit, unfinished.  i just wasn't sure where i was going with it... then some things have happened since that i wanted to write about, so here you have it, a frankenstein mashed up post that hopefully makes some semblance of sense...}

Our Harper has a BIG personality.  (I know you could state that fact about most 2 year olds, and it would be true.  Yet, while I've only raised one 2 year old so far, I've seen some others, and I think her's is definitely 'bigger' than many).

She is extremely joyful.  She loves deeply, gets super excited about almost anything, and is so quick to give a hug or a "hi" and has never met a stranger.  She is LOUD!  Seriously, loudest kid on the playground.  When I pick her up from school and the kids are all out playing, many kids are crying or screaming but hers can be heard above all others.  Her whisper is hilariously loud; she practically has one volume.  She's crazy and will dance in the middle of a restaurant or babble nonstop to herself in the car.  She seems to have friends wherever she goes - at school or at church, adults who don't even work directly with her seem to constantly be saying hi to her by name in the hallway.  She oh so very loudly screams "byyyyyyyeeeeee" to anyone we meet - grocery store clerk, people walking past in a parking lot, anyone.  This used to bring a meltdown (every.time.) but now it's more so desperate, excited hollering.

Everyone knows Harper.  I think this is a good thing...

Yet by the same token, this BIG personality (that's the best way to describe it, I think...) brings big lows too.  Her terrible twos have been happening since she was about one and a half.  I hate to use that phrase, since it just brings so much negativity, but I just have to tell myself it's a normal, developmental phase and she will grow out of it... someday, or I might not make it through.  She is opinionated, like most toddlers, and will screech and throw a fit the moment she doesn't get her way.  She cries, oh so very loudly, about anything, saving her best performance for when we're in public.  She can get so sad too.  It's a rollercoaster.

Again, I know this is typical 2 behavior.  It's funny, my two sisters and I pretty much fit the stereotypical birth order personalities perfectly.  I'm the oldest, and very much introverted, shy, rule-follower, quiet time kind of person.  I don't think I'm quite prepared for my rambunctious firstborn who completely bucks all of the trends.  We laugh that we are going to be perfectly perfect parents to Quinn when she's older, since we will have learned so much with Harper.

I like to think we don't baby her or give in to her demands when they are unreasonable. I know as parents it's very important that we help her work through this phase and overcome it, as opposed to just saying "oh, that's just a two year old for you" and ignoring it all.  We've run the gamut of trying different 'discipline' approaches.  I won't get into that here - it's not really the point of this.

The point is, I don't want to wish this time away.  I don't want my personality, my tendency towards shyness, to ever lead me to stifle her.  I LOVE her big personality.  It's trying sometimes, but I love it for her.  I want her to be loud and fun and crazy and happy and never doubt for a second that she's anything but exactly who she's meant to be.  I want her to have all of the things in life that I was too shy or scared to reach for.  I want her to be bold in herself, overflowing with confidence.  I don't want to mess that up.

Right before Christmas, we went to Walmart (don't ask me why) and it was packed.  We were pushing two carts, since Quinn's carrier takes up almost the whole thing.  Harper was probably overwhelmed by all of the noise and stuff and Tony and I were overwhelmed ourselves.  She was done being strapped in and was making her case to get out, quite loudly of course.  This isn't unusual, but this time it was super loud and I was pretty much at my breaking point.  I was parked with the two carts in the middle of the aisle trying to stay out of the way while Tony grabbed something and Harper was screaming as loud as she could.  Quinn was probably crying, I don't remember, I might have blacked out a little bit.  But this very kind older woman went out of her way to walk over to us.  She had on a festive Christmas sweater.  She lightly touched Harper's crazy curls and smiled at me and said "I have a granddaughter who looks just like this, with beautiful curls.  And I'll tell you, she acts this very same way.  Don't let it get you down." (I'm paraphrasing, but that's what I remember).  It was just what I needed to hear in a moment like that.

So much over the past 6 months or so, Tony and I both, but especially me, have felt like parental failures.  I feel like I'm not doing enough, perhaps I should be doing those activities I see on Pinterest or making her more active or not feeding her gluten or etc.  Especially with the first child, it's so challenging to know what to do, what's right...  You can't really tell what's normal and what's not.  You can read all of the books and ask for all kinds of advice, but ultimately, each kid is their own unique little ball of crazy, and there's just not a right answer.  Sometimes I would wonder if we were just underestimating the fortitude it takes to raise a toddler and just weren't measuring up.

I try to trust my mom instincts, but more often than not, I'm doubting.  I'm notorious for falling into the parenting comparison trap.  I will see what other kids are doing and compare and I absolutely hate it.  For what it's worth, never once do I compare in a way like "oh my kid isn't doing that so she's not good and I wish she would keep up so she (and I) can look better" but instead more of a "oh my gosh I am failing as a mom because I'm clearly not doing something right or she would be able to do that by now."  Either type is damaging.  How am I going to encourage Harper to be confident and bold if I myself can't even show her my confidence in myself at this point in life as a mom?  How can I be a strong mama if I've got a constant loop of criticism and self-doubt playing through my head?

Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago, the wonderful director of Harper's school (a children's morning out deal) asked to speak to me after dropoff.  She let me know about some things they had noticed about Harper in class.  She was so very kind about it all, and just said that they like to point these things out to parents sometimes since they have the unique perspective of seeing her interact with peers in a controlled setting, something I never see.  In no way was her information judgmental or "you need to fix this" but was more so just letting me know some things so I could talk with her pediatrician about it.

Basically, Harper isn't keeping up developmentally in many areas in the way her classmates are, when she's actually one of the older kids in her class.  She is very distracted and can't stay focused on any task, has major mood swings from joy to rage, and is unable to express herself verbally or control her body physically (she does what we've always called "The Hulk" where she clenches her fists and shakes when she's really excited and she's pretty clumsy).  The director said they love her so much and just wanted me to know they can help in any way if needed.

Ugh.  I totally cried in the car on the way home.  None of this was news to me.  We had seen all of these things at home.  We knew it was a nightmare to go anywhere with her because she doesn't listen or throws fits or screams.  We knew she wasn't talking much (ok, she talks constantly, but not in a very complex way).  We knew she was a ball of crazy physical energy.  We just didn't know the biggest part - that no, this wasn't typical 2 year old behavior, at least not to the degree she does it.

But I was so sad.  Again, not because I have some lofty standards that I'm pushing her to keep up with, but because no parent wants their kid to have a hard time with anything.  I know she's only 2 and she doesn't know the difference at all now, but one day she will know, and I can't imagine the heartbreak in a classmate looking at her funny because she's different or something like that.  I don't want her to have to work harder than most to just sit still in class.  One day this kind of stuff will matter.  I just keep going back to my hope for her to have the confidence I never had, and I don't want anything to stand in the way.  I thought back to how I felt after the clubfoot diagnosis had set it.  I knew it was treatable and ultimately, she would be completely fine.  And she is!  But your heart still breaks for any challenge like that for your child.  I know that with whatever is going on with her right now, 5 years from now, she will be fine.  She's going to be a happy, thriving kid no matter what.  But still... that parental heartache that just can't be reasoned with...

And if I'm being honest, part of me was relieved.  I was glad to hear that we weren't just wimps or something in what we could "handle" from our kids.  Turns out, most kids aren't like this.  It's not just us not being strong enough to cope with it or something.  That sounds wrong, but I felt it. 

Sure enough, her pediatrician this week confirmed that she is indeed pretty behind in verbal development.  She thinks that perhaps this is a key to all of the other behavioral stuff.  Harper struggles to communicate her needs and wants, and since she's a toddler, her next logical step is a tantrum or disinterest or distraction.  It's funny, I think she understands so much.  We can tell her to do things or explain things and she gets it, so easily.  This is the kid whose favorite toys are BOOKS.  All books all the time.  All I do all day is read aloud to her.  She will sit for 30 minutes straight "reading" books by herself in her room. She knows the titles of all of them on her bookshelf.  So to me, I think of it as a scale that's totally out of balance.  She can understand and receive very much, but when it's her turn to get it out, she's unable, making her extremely frustrated.  I would be too.

The pediatrician didn't want to make any sort of judgement as to whether all of the things we are seeing are "something" or not.  She said it could just be a lack of maturity.  However, she did take the concerns seriously (which I was so grateful for) and recommended we see a speech therapist first, to help work on that component, and see a developmental pediatrician, who could determine if it was "something."  I'm still working on researching all that, but at least we have next steps.

Anyway, part of me wants to believe that it's just simply a maturity thing.  Some kids just take longer to develop.  Harper was always very much behind on all of the baby milestones, so who's to say it won't be the same here.  I thought she would never walk, but look at her now! I hope I will be saying that about all of this in the near future.

But, nonetheless, if it is something, I want to take it seriously.  The great part about it is that she's been going to school from such a young age, so they can make these observations now and correct anything that needs to be corrected now while she's young and it's easy and neither she nor her classmates know the difference.  I'm immensely grateful we have insurance and financial resources and time to be able to cover all of our bases.  Maybe it's nothing.  Maybe it's something.  Either way, we can rest assured we've looked into it and can proceed with confidence.


All of this has been heavy on my mind.  Again, my rational brain knows she will be ok.  Perhaps she will have to do xyz to be ok, but that's fine!  We will do it and she will be absolutely, totally fine.  I get that.  But I still have that crazy, irrational part of my brain that develops after a woman births a child.  You worry and doubt and feel like a failure.  You're unsure of what the right path is.  You question your choices and worry about the future.  I am trying very hard to push my mom guilt down and focus on what matters.  She will get any help she needs.  She is so full of joy and love and has the chance to do or be anything she wants to be.  My goal is to keep focusing on the extreme positives of her big personality - her love, her spirit, her confidence.  We will all be ok - more than ok.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 in Review

Y'all.  I blogged 33 times this year.  That's well over 50 less times than in years past, and over 130 less than my peak year (0'11 what what!).

It makes me a bit sad.  But, it is what it is.  I don't want my blog to fizzle or die a slow death.  Hopefully that's not what's happening.  I love it for the sheer power of being a time capsule of our lives.  It's my journal.  It's my scrapbook.  It's my digital memory filling in the blanks where my real memory has failed me.  It's a snapshot in time, of a feeling, of a thought - that just can't be replicated later.  I love it for all of these reasons.  I will keep at it, even if that does mean fewer and fewer posts.  I want to keep it alive.

Anyway, I like to do a recap post at the end of each year, with the highlights of my blogging for the past 12 months.  It's always pretty labor intensive, but I love the summary it provides.  This year should be pretty easy. :)

January

I made some 2014 goals (guess I should update on how I did with those!)


February



I talked about Harper at 18 months (complete with black eye!).  She had just started walking at 17 months, so it was a perfect time to write about her.




I spilled the big news that Harper was going to be a big sister!  (Taking deep, don't you dare throw up, breaths while doing so!)

March



We found out Baby #2 was a girl




I mused on beauty in sickness and other motherhood surprises.




I shared our new beadboard in the kitchen!  (It looks so different now in that room!)



I shared a Clubfoot Files post about our nightly routine putting her shoes on (and I had that awkward, newly pregnant belly going on!)

April 



We celebrated Easter.  Harper ate chocolate.



I tried to capture the delicate, contradictory feelings of frustration and overwhelming love of a fiesty little one. (Ahh, those feelings still persist)

May

May was allll about the back yard redo!  It was a TON of work (and $!) but it was great to have a happy, usable space come summer.  We were out there a lot.  Well.worth.it.

Here are my updates, 



Parts One



Two



and Three (I miss you, summer!)




We picked berries (and ate them).




We enjoyed the beginning of summer. Harper wore my pregnant self out tearing through the playground.

June



We went to the beach!  Harper was mildly cooperative.

I got (gestational) diabetes.  Boo.

July 


We did summery stuff.



My belly kept expanding.



Harper celebrated her birthday - luau style! 

August



Our sweet second daughter Quinn made her way into the world, three days past due! 

September

More Quinn posts followed, as I ...



...shared her birth story....



...and posted about her nursery....



... and shared her newborn photos (oh, the good old days when she had hair on her head)

October



We went to the lake! and a pumpkin patch! with great friends! all in one! 


November 



We dressed up for Halloween.

December



I shared our cards.  Christmas happened too - but that has yet to be posted :)


*********************************

It has been quite a year!  Our family grew from three to four, and we watched both of our daughters grow so quickly before our eyes.  This life - such a blessing.  Can't wait for the next year! 

Happy New Year! 


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Merry!

Here are our sweet little munchkins via Christmas card (front and back).



It should be noted that it's near impossible to make my tornado of a toddler cooperate for a photo shoot, thus the smooshed baby photo won.  I compensated by putting a more realistic (smiling!) Quinn on the back.  I figured Harper's already had two years of card stardom, so she wouldn't care.

Also of note:
- Major credit to Emily for the idea to use the wagon!  (and to even get the wagon in the first place, when Harper was a new walker!)
- I took these photos in manual in our backyard!!!  This is important, because I've had my Canon Rebel for 3 years and never learned anything but auto.  I always wanted to, but was mostly lazy.  I know there are tutorials out there, but I could just never focus enough.  SO on Black Friday I bought the intro class on ShootFlyShoot (Kevin of The Lettered Cottage fame) for half off.  I haven't even finished all of the videos but have the basics down!  It's been great to have a "class" that keeps me focused.  Worth the $ for sure!  
- I also edited it in Photoshop Elements, which I've had for a year and barely know how to use.  The photos aren't great, but it's a huge improvement over what I used to be able to do, so I'm pretty proud!  I just have to keep practicing - too bad my subjects are so wiggly.
- We tried to keep the wagon from rolling using a rock. That didn't work.  However, the rock stayed, looking like poop under the wagon.  My infantile photoshopping skills were unable to remove it.

And for funsies, some outtakes (I only took 180 pictures, don't worry...) (Tony hates me.)




And the cards from the past two years, starring my crazy first born:

2013:


2012:



(I need to take more photos like this of Quinn!  She chews her fist in the exact same way)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

At a Glimpse

So, I discovered yesterday it's been over a month since I last blogged.  I knew it had been a while, but not that long! No need to waste sentences explaining why the absence or bemoaning the loss of the community of blogging, etc. but I do miss it!

Life has continued on.  Here's a glimpse.

















Maybe I'll get around to writing again one day. :)
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