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. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Clubfoot Files: How You Can Help

Welcome to another edition of The Clubfoot Files!  It's been awhile!




Clubfoot is a very small part of our lives now.  Harper wears her brace at night, but putting it on is such an ingrained part of our nightly routine that I don't even think of it.  I don't think of Harper as a "kid with clubfoot" like I used to.  And rightfully so - she's been cured, and our current setup is simply prevention of recurrence.  She was fully healed, thanks to a fairly easy, fairly painless, and fairly inexpensive treatment process (ok, it wasn't always easy, painfree, or cheap, but compared to many other birth defects, it's easy!).  

Harper at 2 years old showing you can still be sassy in your brace shoes.

The Ponseti method of casting and bracing allowed her to have a fully-functioning foot by the time she needed to use it to crawl and walk and run and dance and jump (ok, she's not really jumping yet - her jump is a hilarious yet unsuccessful attempt to leave the ground.  but that's just lack of coordination.)  

You can also have a nice bedtime snack of cucumber and corn while wearing your special shoes.
   
Yet there are children all over the world who are born with clubfoot and do not get the chance to be so easily healed.  They live in areas where, due to lack of resources, education, and support, they never receive treatment.  They grow up with a debilitating physical impairment that causes them physical and mental suffering.  They cannot work, they are ostracized, they cannot walk without pain.  Considering how relatively easy it is to cure clubfoot, it's a terrible shame that so many children grow up without the chance to be healed.


Although clubfoot is so common, treating it is not a cause that is widely recognized or supported by the masses.  There are many great organizations that work to help those affected, but they simply aren't commonly known outside of the clubfoot community.  In a world where there are so many causes pulling at our hearts and our wallets, it's hard for clubfoot treatment to compete.

I've mentioned here before about Miraclefeet.  I have nothing to do with this nonprofit beyond the fact that I follow the work they do to help treat clubfoot worldwide and I like what I see.  When Harper outgrows her braces, I send them to Miraclefeet so they can recycle them and give them to kids who cannot afford them otherwise.  They are a small, relatively new charity in the world of charities, but I know they are making great strides to helping kids worldwide get a new chance at life.  They are growing and reach out to 12 different coutries currently.  They empower local health workers to practice the Ponseti method, which has an exponential effect on the number of children who can be helped.  They have even worked to develop a new brace that costs only $20! and can be mass produced (so awesome) for use in many of the impoverished countries they work in.


I really encourage you to go to their website to learn more about their work.  (Again, I have no affiliation with them, I'm just encouraged by their work!  I know there are many groups out there working to help clubfoot, and I think those are great too!  I just happen to have more personal experience with Miraclefeet.)


What's great about clubfoot is how treatable it is - and how relatively inexpensive it is to treat.  Often, plaster casts and braces are all you need, which is easily implemented in countries with few resources - no fancy surgeries or medicines needed.  


Through Miraclefeet, a $250 donation will pay for the COMPLETE Ponseti treatment for one child.  This includes the casting, the braces, and even transportation to the clinic where treatment will occur (undoubtedly a big obstacle for many families).  We've easily spent thousands more than that on Harper's treatment, as we are lucky enough to be able to see specialists and buy new braces and fancy socks.  


It's somewhat mind-blowing to me that a child's entire life can be turned around for the cost of part of our grocery budget for a month or less than what we'll spend on electronics that will be discarded in a year or two.  A sweet little baby who happened to be born with a little crooked foot in a country where treatment is just not a readily-available option can have the chance to walk with no pain and avoid a lifetime of burden associated with clubfoot.  Yes, $250 is a lot of money, but when you think about the entire life-changing power it has, it's really a very small cost. 


We have been blessed with much.  No, not much compared to the ideals in our country, but so very much compared to most of the world.  I am so glad we were able to donate to Miraclefeet this year, changing one child's life, a child we will never know or meet, forever.  I cannot wait to help more children next year.  It's a cause that is near and dear to my heart and I am so glad to pay it forward.  I want to make it a priority.


I write this not to pat myself on the back, because man I wish we could donate more and more!  Our donation is small.  But I'm hoping I can use this blog as a platform to reach other clubfoot parents who are as extremely blessed as we are.  We have had the opportunity to treat our children in top quality hospitals with brand new braces and even cute cast covers. We didn't have to worry about our safety in traveling to the doctor.  We didn't have to worry about our child being shunned in a world that doesn't understand why her foot just happened to be a little crooked when she was born.  We don't have to fear for our child's future.


I'm hoping if you are a clubfoot family and have room in your budget this year, you will consider also paying it forward and helping another little baby have a better life, just like you helped your own baby.
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