Thursday, March 29, 2012
I met with two of Leo’s teachers and his school speech therapist yesterday for his parent teacher conference
The good news is, academics-wise, Leo is doing well. His handwriting is progressing. He’s an active, eager participant in class discussions as he’s always been. As I mentioned a few months ago, Leo now attends the learning disabled class for language arts and that is apparently going (mostly) swimmingly (he's not as cooperative or enthusiastic about math, which he also goes to this class for but hey, he comes by that honestly--I was a horror in math throughout all my school years). The class is comprised of children with various, minor “learning problems,” some are not quite reading at grade level, some have dyslexia. If you saw these kids in the hallway, you wouldn’t look twice but they’re in this class because they need just a little extra help.
The “learning problems” teacher (let’s call her Ms. F since that rolls off the tongue a bit more gracefully, don’t you think?) adores Leo. She said he’s a hard worker, loves to be involved in class discussions. Her kids have welcomed him into the class and seem to really enjoy his presence. The interesting thing about this group of kids is they all know they have a problem. They know they’re different, that they’re not good at something and they need help. I don’t know this for sure but I’m going to take a leap and say that I don’t think Leo gets this (about himself) right now. I actually hope he never does but at the same time I suppose it’s a double edged sword—don’t you have to be fairly intelligent to grasp something like that? And I know Leo is incredibly intelligent. One of the many signs of just how smart Leo is? He completely knows when you are pretending to understand him. Most times he's not satisfied you get what he's saying unless you repeat it back to him.
In the meantime, Mrs. F proclaimed Leo the best reader in her class (remember, he’s in second grade and there are third graders in this class). Now for the comic relief: There is much reading aloud in her room and the other day after Leo read his portion, one of the children who really struggles with reading took a deep breath, sat back and said “I think Leo’s a genius.”
Now for the not so cute. Speech. Leo is continues to be very, very difficult to understand. He’s been in private therapy (supplementing what he receives in school) since November and when I asked his school speech therapist if she’d seen any difference since then? She answered a resounding No. My heart sank a little. I wasn’t expecting a miracle, but I guess I was expecting something. A little glimmer of hope. A small bone. At the same time, I obviously want her to be honest. Stroking my parental ego does no one any favors.
It’s baffling to me. Leo says some words and phrases (“That’s boring!” and “Mommy, I’m still hungry!”) clear as a bell. Others (and there are many, many others) leave us scratching our heads. We get frustrated. He gets impatient and understandably frustrated. Of course he does. He’s trying to communicate. We, his family, and to some extent his teachers, get a lot of what he’s saying by context. But we can’t expect the rest of the world to know Leo’s context just to be able to have a conversation with him.
Leo is an ebullient, chatty presence everywhere he goes, including the daily “snack and conversation” held in Ms. F’s room. The other children are extremely patient and curious and include Leo fully. They are, according to Ms. F, just dying to know what Leo is saying. Join the club.
And speech is everything. Or, speech is his bridge to the rest of the world. And the thing is, it’s not like Leo doesn’t have things to day. He’s not speech delayed anymore by any stretch. In fact, he won’t shut up (never thought I’d say that!). He is so friendly and outgoing and interested in the world and people around him. I just worry about how long that openness will last if he’s constantly met with “What did you say? Huh? I’m sorry Leo, I can’t understand you.” I’m afraid if we can’t help him figure this speech thing out, at some point, he’s going to shut down, to not even try.
Both his school and private therapist agree that they want him to be checked by an ENT for something physical (inflamed sinuses? Tonsils? Perhaps a palate issue though wouldn’t this have been discovered already?)—something—anything that night explain why speech is so largely unintelligible. His ABR last summer was all clear so we know he can hear. I’m looking into apraxia but that’s something for a neurologist.
I just want to help him. He has SO much to say.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
What everyone is wearing this spring: Calves.
The first day of spring. After the winter that wasn't.
This picture reminded me a little of this one (scroll all the way to the bottom of that post to see photo I'm referring to). Hard to believe it's been almost a year. With the weather suddenly warmer, my thoughts turn to last year at this time. Huge, swollen, slightly miserable, itchy and only two kids to contend with. Life's a little different now.
And life's about to get different again. After almost a year home, I'm going back to work next week. I cannot believe nearly a year has gone by. I've been in a baby bubble, a twin time warp. Pick your cliche. I'm excited. I'm nervous. Suddenly all the things that have driven me batty about being home (the endless, relentless laundry, the screeching babies, the whining big kids) leave me shrugging. Eh. I can handle it. But of course, it's also bittersweet. I won't be taking care of babies all day every day (relief!) but also? I won't be taking care of babies all day every day. The grass is always greener, and all of that.
In case you haven't noticed, I don't handle change all that well. I'm getting better, and I have tools to handle things better than I used to but I'm prepared for some bumps. It's been my experience that kids and babies are fairly adaptable--usually way more so than grown-ups who tend to over think things. "I find the anticipation of change much more challenging than the change itself," --words from a wise friend--is my mantra these days.
Good thing I have such a great little crew at home to cheer me on.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
In spite of how it looks here, we did not plan on color coordinating our outfits with Tigger and Pooh.
When Erin announced, right after the holidays that she wanted us to go to Disneyworld, my reaction was simple.
Are you crazy?
But somehow, through her magical and mysterious ways, I was convinced. And I admit. I was skeptical. Two little kids, one with a predeliction for wandering off? Twin babies? On an airplane to Florida and all of us, loose in a giant theme park? How were we going to pull this off?
And when I told people we were going to Disneyworld? All of us? Everyone had the same reaction.
Are you crazy?
Well. We have four kids. Clearly we are crazy.
But we did it. We went to Disneyworld.
And I'll tell you right now. I'm a believer. I get it. The Disney magic? I bought into it all.
I don't even know where to begin. I've spent the last seventy two hours gazing at pictures, still on a vacation buzz. Dreams do come true.
We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge which was perfect for us, lovers of the pacific northwest. And the fact that we could get to the Magic Kingdom via boat in less than thirty minutes (including wait time for said boat) wasn't bad either.
I'll preface all of this by saying our expectations for this trip were low. We didn't want to try to plan too much or try to do too much. I told Erin I would be ecstatic if we all just got home safely (i.e. no lost children at the Magic Kingdom). What can I say? I'm a worrier. We weren't even sure if the kids could handle two days at the Magic Kingdom and we went back and forth over whether we should try to do another park too (Epcot? Universal Orlando? Sea World?).
We thought it best to go with the flow and the flow ended up being, two days at the Magic Kingdom with a day of rest in between (that's where the fabulous poolside mai tais came in).
One day, a few weeks before we left for the trip when I was on the phone with someone at Disneyworld for the ninety seventh time (OK I lied, I am a little bit of a planner), the Disney cast member was checking on something for me. "Hakuna Matata," she said. I paused for a moment, confused. Then I realized, she was quoting "The Lion King." Of course she was. No worries. Of course! And that became our mantra for the trip. Whenever Erin and I sensed the other was getting stressed out or bunchy, it was "Hakuna Matata!" And I'm not embarrassed to say that it worked.
Our first day at the Magic Kingdom we had one goal. Tinkerbell. For Ellie.
Ellie was nervous. Tinkerbell has surpassed Princesses for Ellie (thank goodness--there is something way less annoying and almost empowering about the fairies--OK that's probably going a little far but you know what I mean--but I do like that Tink is a "Can Do" kind of gal). I don't think Ellie could quite believe she was going to actually meet Tinkerbell.
Not the world's best picture, but I had to include it. Tink gave Leo and Ellie fairy dust and here they are showing it off. In the end, Ellie was disappointed that she hadn't been able to fly with Tinkerbell.
For Leo, the goals were Woody and Buzz.
Check (with bonus Jessie).
And Check again.
Ride-wise, two of the biggest hits were Peter Pan's Flightand It's a Small World (which will always remain close to my heart since I loved it as a child and it was the only ride that all of us (even the babies!) were able to ride together). Ellie kept asking why the dolls weren't waving back at her. Sometimes I really do forget that she's four.
Leo also loved the Tomorrowland Speedway.
Here he's showing off his "license."
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin was another favorite.
The Teacups (with Grandma Jerry, to boot!) were also memorable.
And me? Fruitball that I am, lover of "Glee" (the old Glee, not so much this season) and Broadway musicals, I LOVED the "Celebrate a Dream" parade (that's us, above, waiting for it to start).
I loved it SO much, I forced everyone to watch the parade twice (not in the same day, don't worry). Just watch that snippet and see the hug Leo received and just try not to feel like the world is a wonderful place. Or at the very least, that Disneyworld is a wonderful place.
The kids loved the parade too. What's not to love? It was the most perfect, awesome Disney mash-up. All the characters! All the princesses! Together! Coupled with a catchy little song that is still in my brain five days later!
You just don't get smiles bigger than that, anywhere.
Those babies were there too.
Harry, aka Shameless, who tries to steal everything and anything from Lucy, even her bottle, when she's sleeping. Seriously Harry, how low can you go?
I like to call this one "Mission Accomplished." Finally napping.
Trying to find the quickest way to Splash Mountain. Shockingly enough the babies were not much help.
Back at the hotel we swam (did I mention Ellie can officially swim?). I mean, she's been taking lessons but I hadn't really seen her in action.
Side note about the pool: I have never felt so safe at a pool with kids. At one point I asked the lifeguard a question and he said he could not turn to look at me because he had to keep his eyes on the pool at all times. Another time Leo wouldn't leave the pool when both Erin and I had to get out with the babies who both got cold and tired of swimming at the same time. The lifeguard told me not to worry, that Leo was fine, that "no one was going to drown."
I enjoyed the break from cooking and cleaning up the kitchen approximately seventy-nine times a day. It was also heavenly to come back to a clean hotel room every night. Daily housekeeping? I could get used to that.
Wash cloths and hand towels on the bed at our hotel. No detail is too small for Disney.
This trip did wonders for my confidence as the mother of four (cough, cough I am still not used to saying that). And as a family of six (again I am coughing). For a while I was terrified that Life As We Knew It was over. That we'd never do fun stuff again (well, I knew we'd do it again, I just thought it would be a long while). I'm not going to say it was easy or that there weren't a few moments of What Were We Thinking? But I have to say those moments were fewer and farther between than I expected.
We concluded our first day at the Magic Kingdom with the fabulous "Wishes" fireworks spectacular. It has it all, wonderfully cheesy Disney music with a montage of Disney quotes about wishes ("I wish I could be part of that world" (Little Mermaid); "I wish I could go to the ball," (Cinderella); "I wish we'd never have to grow up" (Peter Pan).
I never realized the thread that ties so many (all?) of the Disney movies together: wishes.
Star bright, star light, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish, I wish tonight, we make a wish as dreamers do and all our wishes will come true.
We didn't lose any children. We didn't go crazy (well, any crazier than we already are). We drank mai tais (yes I'm still thinking about those mai tais) and juice boxes poolside, hugged fairies and Tigger and Pooh (and many, many more). At least one baby slept through the night in the hotel room.
Some wishes do come true.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Nine weeks old
Nine months old.
I think it's safe to say we've come a long way, babies!
On Friday Leo was part of the second grade's "wax museum" to honor famous and accomplished African Americans (for Black History Month). Each student studied, wrote about and dressed as a famous person--Leo was George Washington Carver, a scientist, botanist and inventor who reputedly developed 300 uses for peanuts (ah, the things you learn in second grade).
I totally see a resemblance, don't you?
Leo took this project very seriously. He loves dressing in a costume and was very good about practicing his "speech" every night. It was a sweet concept. We walked into the classroom and there were thirty children all dressed in character. You pressed a red button (seen above, bottom right) and the children "came alive" and read a short paragraph about their accomplishments.
It never ceases to amaze me what a different person Leo is at school. I think that's all kids really. But look at him! So poised and earnest, his little hands resting on the chair, waiting for someone to push his button so he could give his speech. At the end of his talk he held up his two "props," a bag of peanuts and a jar of peanut butter. I had a coming attraction for this at home when, at the end of practicing his speech he spent several minutes with his head in the refrigerator searching and searching for...peanut butter. Of course.