Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Spectrum

Last summer when we were at Shelby's regular check-up with the neurologist, Dr. Poplawski suggested that we have Shelby evaluated by a developmental pediatrician for Autism. I thought this was ridiculous--Shelby did NOT have autism. The nerve of Dr. P! He spends about ten minutes with my daughter every 6 months, how dare he even bring this up! Dr. P told us that kids who have neurological issues are actually more likely to have Autism. I left the doctor's office angry--Shelby has plenty of behavior peculiarities, but I have always chalked them up to her cortical visual impairment, sensory issues, or the fact that her brain processes information differently because of the damage that was done to into when she had a humongous brain hemorrhage before she was born. Autism was never on my radar.

After much discussion, Trip and I made the developmental appointment. We figured that if nothing else, it was an opportunity to learn more about Shelby and to get some advice on potty training issues. Our appointment was the day before Thanksgiving. Dr. Sheppard's office was huge. One half of it was a play room and the other half of it contained a desk and chairs. I sat down across from Dr. Sheppard and Trip helped Shelby locate a familiar toy to play with before joining us. I quickly informed Dr. Sheppard that I did not want her to spend ten minutes with my daughter who is terrified of doctors (for good reason) and then diagnose her with Autism.

We were in Dr. Sheppard's office for two hours. Shelby played and we told the doctor about our daughter and answered multiple questions. At the end of the appointment, Dr. Sheppard was incredibly kind--and she told us that Shelby has Autism. She had been observing Shelby and interacting with her and taking in what we had said. She informed us that though some of Shelby's behaviors could be explained by her other disabilities, she still felt that Shelby was on the spectrum. She then gave us a ton of brochures about the many Autism resources in our community.

So where do we go from here? I've been around the block long enough to know that a diagnosis does not define my child and that Shelby is the same person today that she was before I found out she had Autism. I am also incredibly overwhelmed. I have a child with multiple disabilities--she sees a speech therapist, a physical therapist, a vision teacher, an exceptional-ed teacher and two occupational therapists every week. I do not spend enough time working with her as it is, and now we've got another diagnosis to consider. I feel like most of the things I read about Autism are not helpful for Shelby, in light of her other disabilities.

We have an appointment scheduled for next year with a doctor that specializes in Autism and I plan to bring this up with him. In the meantime, we're going to look at Shelby's IEP again and see if anything needs to be tweaked. We'll continue to do what we've always done--love her and do the best we can.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekend Fun and Monday Appointments

1) We had two house showings this weekend....let's hope this trend continues (and that someone wants to buy it soon.....)

2) We told Harding we'd have some fun this weekend now that the house is finally listed.Our Friday night family fun consisted of Putt Putt with the Moss family.

I took this photo when Harding got a hole in one. Good times. :)
3) Landen spent the night with us for the first time Saturday night and it was surprisingly easy and really fun!

He wants to do everything Harding does....bubble beard and all.

Landen seemed to have the best attention span of the family for bedtime stories. Shelby was bouncing and Harding was in vampire mode.

4) We had a very busy Monday with three appointments after school/work today.

Harding has been seeing the orthodontist for a year now and Dr. Ryan has been "watching" the progression of his teeth and how they grow. The deal is that Harding has lots of teeth and not much space for them to come in. He's going to have four teeth pulled by the dentist next month and hopefully that will help the space situation. I have a feeling we will be getting to know Dr. Ryan real well ($$$)!

We left the orthodontist and headed to the allergist for Harding's biweekly shots, then went home for Shelby's first appointment with her new OT. This went surprisingly well! I am feeling good about Liz...she interacted well with Shelby and had some really good ideas. She seems so knowledgeable when it comes to sensory stuff. It is hard making a therapist change and we'll certainly miss Adam, but I am looking forward to working with Liz and seeing what happens.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

2013 Asheville Citizen-Times City Half Marathon

I ran my fourth half marathon yesterday morning and it was great! I've been training with a group of women since July, and I was completely prepared for this race--despite having not run much during the week since school started. My long runs on Saturdays with these women have made up the majority of my self-care and social time this fall and it has been a wonderful outlet for me during a very stressful semester. This year, I was lucky to have my sister Chris and my neighbor Michelle join our training group and I loved having them there and getting the opportunity to bond with some other women during our long runs too. I'm thankful for my friend Julie who organized all our weekend training routes and got the group together in the first place, and I was bummed that some nasty shin splints kept her from running with us on race day. I finished 544th overall with a time of 2:05:03 and felt great throughout the entire 13 miles. I am still hoping to run a half marathon in under two hours at some point, but this year was more about enjoying myself as I trained and ran the race. Maybe the fifth time's the charm? We'll see next time!

My mom took this one of us after the the way, Chris finished in 2:55!!!!
Chris and I posing with Michelle and her sister Jenny before the race--at 5:40 in the morning.
Our cute fan club: Harding and Isaac immediately took over our medals and told everyone that they won the race.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

For Sale!!!!

Our house is officially listed, and what a job it has been to get it ready! It feels like we have done nothing lately but eat, sleep, work, and work on the house once we get home. We've renovated a bathroom, tiled the kitchen, painted, replaced carpet, majorly de-cluttered, and hauled multiple loads of stuff to Goodwill. We're looking forward to relaxing a little bit (in between keeping our home spotless and ready to show). Check out the pictures of our house on the MLS listing if you're looks pretty darn good. I'm trying to be patient with this process and am reminding myself that it will happen when it is supposed to. Meanwhile, we're about to start finalizing house plans with a builder. This is such an exciting time....cross your fingers for us!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Goodbye and Thanks

Shelby's beloved OT, Adam is moving. We had our last session with him on Friday and we're incredibly sad to see him go. But we're grateful for the time that he spent with us. Trip and I have been reminiscing about all the major milestones in Shelby's life that he has been there for (and helped her get to). Adam's stubbornness has matched Shelby's and he has been unwavering in his high expectations for her, while at the same time making therapy truly fun. Adam practically lived with us for three weeks of constraint induced therapy, working with Shelby as much as three times a day during that period. Adam was there when Shelby took her first steps--a moment that will forever be etched in my mind (the video is somewhere on this blog). He has touched our hearts and we wish him the very best. Here's hoping we cross paths again someday! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Budding artist?

Drawing is Harding's favorite activity these days, and he's getting pretty good at it. He will literally sit and draw quietly for hours. This is one of his most recent masterpieces:

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A visit from the Wades

Our friends Graham and Blair came to town last weekend and we had the best visit! They love to do things outdoors, so after Blair and I went running together Saturday morning, we decided to do a float trip down the French Broad River while my parents watched the kids. The weather was just beautiful--for once no rain, and we enjoyed the scenery, a picnic lunch, and some cold beverages while we went down the river--a perfect outing!

Our flotilla
View of the river from our take-out point at the Bywater bar

What a life, being pulled down the river while the wives do all the paddling. :)

Back to School, IEP review, one day at a time...

We've successfully made it through the first couple weeks of school. It has been a tough transition for Trip and me, but the kids are doing great! It is hard to believe that Harding is in 1st grade. It is very different from Kindergarten, with much less free play time scheduled into the day and more homework as well. Harding was super excited that Carlitos (one of his favorite buddies from his class last year) was also in Mrs. Braxton's class. He's also happy that he gets to get hugs from his kindergarten teacher, Mrs. McClure every day during lunch time.

Harding at "Meet the Teacher" with his teacher, Mrs. Braxton and her assistant, Ms. Lassiter (and a random girl in the background who I could not get to move out of the way)

And here he is during drop-off on his first day of first grade. 
 We were disappointed (okay maybe even devastated) to find out that one of Shelby's excellent teachers from last year, Ms. Kathy (who was also a certified teacher of the vision impaired) had been assigned to a different school this year because of budgeting and reorganization of the special education preschool program in our county. They replaced Ms. Kathy in the classroom with a Head Start teacher assistant. Trip and I immediately requested an IEP review meeting because even though there are 3 adults in the classroom, like last year, Shelby would no longer have a special ed teacher with VI certification with her on a daily basis. Shelby's vision impairment affects every part of her learning and development, so Trip and I were concerned and eager to adjust Shelby's IEP and clearly define how she would receive VI and Special Education services with this reorganization. The meeting was on Wednesday afternoon and was incredibly stressful for us. However, we argued our case and came up with a compromise that will be okay. We increased the required VI time on Shelby's IEP and we also increased her Special Education time. So now Shelby will have a vision teacher in the classroom to work with her and the teachers twice a week for about 30 minutes and she'll have a special education preschool teacher in the classroom with her twice a week for another 30 minutes. This is not as ideal a situation as she had last year, but I think it will work. The good news is that her other teacher from last year, Ms. Rebecca is still with her, as well as the teacher assistant from last year, Ms. Maria. Trip and I just really want Shelby to continue to make gains this school year so that she will be as prepared for kindergarten next year as possible. Advocating for services for your child is a tricky thing, but I think we handled it well and we're glad the IEP team was responsive to making changes.

Shelby with Ms. Rebecca on the first day of school
And I'm back to school now as well. This is an interesting school year for me. I have moved to 8th grade social studies and am learning a new curriculum. So far, this has been a very positive change, and the Political Science major in me is very excited to be teaching U.S. History. I'm also taking two classes for my school counseling graduate program. One of them is my practicum class, where I work in a school one day a week. I am so excited to have the opportunity to do this at Harding and Shelby's school! Even though I am busy all day there, I get to bring them to school on that day and it just feels good being in the same building with them. I'm also taking group counseling and will be leading a group of 5th graders in October for this class. Both these classes are experiential in nature and very intense. I've quit Facebook to help myself stay focused and am just taking it one day at a time. As always, I couldn't do it without my husband, who happens to be a rock star father. We're all very glad that I am getting closer finishing my master's degree!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gwynn's Island

Oh how I love this place.....we left D.C. and headed to my Aunt Dearing's house on the Chesapeake Bay. I feel like I began to relax as we crossed the bridge to the island. This is such a peaceful and beautiful spot.

We ate dinner with Dearing on our first night and then immediately headed out to the beach. Thinking we would just walk along the shore, none of us took the time to change to our bathing suits. I should have known better....within minutes my water loving children were in the bay splashing around and playing in the sand--wearing nothing but their birthday suits and it was completely okay. That's how laid back things are at Gwynn's Island!

My parents, Stephen and Cambridge, my cousins Samuel and Kate and Kate's daughter Allie Grace (and assorted family dogs) all joined us later in the weekend for "Island Week". Watching my children play with Allie Grace of course reminded me of playing with my cousins when we would visit them at the Bay growing up.

The uniform at Gwynn's Island during the summer time is pajamas or bathing suits...I have no idea why I bothered to pack clothes for my kids. Here is a general schedule or how our days went: Wake up (watch gorgeous sunrise depending on the time), Eat a leisurely breakfast, Go for a walk, run, or bike ride if feeling motivated, Change to bathing suits, Play with assorted water toys (sea kayaks, bike boat, water floats), Eat lunch and put kids down for nap (and possibly take a nap yourself), Go back to the beach when kiddos wake up and play some more, Take an outdoor shower and change to pajamas, Eat a yummy dinner, Go out to the pier and fish while watching the gorgeous sunset, Go to sleep, Repeat.

BeBe and Harding with Joey

The croaker fish were biting and we caught enough to have a big fish fry one night and then fish tacos another. 

Harding "helping" Papa reel one in while DD laughs

This is what our beach setup looked like....something for everyone. 

The girls splashing around. 

It's hard to see what toys they are playing with but Shelby has a vintage "quint" baby and Harding and Allie Grace are playing with the horses that go into this stable.....endless entertainment here!

Allie Grace chasing H with seaweed while Shelby bounces and splashes and laughs. (Check out AG's hair braid done by yours truly.)

I had the best time with Harding on the seacycle.....Harding was taking me to the place where he and Aunt Cambridge saw the dolphins, but they had moved on by the time we got there. 

Biking on the island....pine trees everywhere providing plenty of shade. Love this old time feeling place. 

Out to lunch at Southwind Pizza for Trip's 35th birthday.

Fixing AG's hair was so much fun!!!

I have been trying to capture this for over a year. It is something Shelby only does with me to make me laugh....she will suddenly jerk her head to the side with a big smile on her face when I'm rocking her or snuggling her before bed and then laugh hysterically....silly girl!

Glorious Gwynn's Island Sunset
We were at Gwynn's Island through Thursday and then I went back to work on Friday. This vacation was absolutely had everything we need to carry us through what is surely to be a hectic school year: Family, Saltwater, Relaxation, and Laughter. Gwynn's Island....see you next summer! Thanks so much for having us Dearing!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Washington D.C. (Day 2)

Trip's Uncle and Aunt live in Manassas, VA--not far outside DC, so we spent Thursday night with them. They fed us really well Thursday night and Friday morning and we enjoyed catching up with them before heading back into the city on Friday. We had a loose agenda for the day with plans to eat dinner with my cousin and her husband in the city that evening while the traffic died down. We arrived at the mall and immediately found a great parking space at the WWII memorial. It was HOT and crowded at the Lincoln Memorial, but the view from was great and Harding had been interested in Abraham Lincoln. We walked alongside the reflection pool to find a great picnic spot in the shade. After that, we checked out the WWII Memorial and then saw the Washington Monument and the White House (from afar). We had plans to go to the Natural History Museum in the afternoon, but the kids started having meltdowns and Trip and I realized at 2:00 that if we wanted to leave the city, it needed to be immediately in order to beat the Friday afternoon traffic. We decided to quit while we were ahead and hit the road before the good day turned bad. Both kids were exhausted and napped in the car as we headed out. 

Obligatory Photo-op in front of the White House...they don't let you get as close as they used to. 

Harding and Me from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial...the reflection pool is behind us and Harding was disappointed that it wasn't a pool you can swim in. 

Hey there, President Lincoln!

Finally a pool he was allowed to wade in....this is at the WWII Memorial
I loved going to DC with Harding and seeing all the sights with him....I'll be excited to bring him back when he's a bit older. Its nice that we have family in the area to help us make that possible. Next time we will not go in August and the kids will have the attention spans for even more sight seeing. All in all, it was a great couple days!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Touring DC (Day 1)

Trip and I were so excited to take Harding to DC(and Harding has been pumped about it all summer long). But we were realistic about planning this trip....we knew that it would be extremely hot in August--and crowded. And we knew that we couldn't plan too much with a four and six-year-old in tow. My sister and Grant were kind enough to lend us their BOB stroller, which made it much better for Shelby and everyone else. On day one, we sat in a ton of construction traffic on I-95, but finally made it to Arlington National Cemetery around lunch time. My children are usually troopers in the car and this trip has been no exception (thankfully). 
We tried to prepare Harding for all the walking he was going to do--it was still tough for him in the heat, but his whining was minimal. 
This photo was taken in front of Arlington House...we loved this view of DC and the mall. 

Harding was completely mesmerized by the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was impressed at how he managed to stay quiet (of course it helped that a soldier with a gun had demanded silence before the ceremony began). 
The highlight of the trip for me was visiting my grandfather's grave at Arlington and showing it to Harding and Trip. 

President Kennedy's grave. Harding actually got "talked to" by a guard for not keeping his voice down here on this hallowed ground. 
We left Arlington around 2:30 and were really glad to get back into our air conditioned car. Our next stop was the Air and Space museum at Dulles. Harding LOVED this museum and literally bounced around talking a mile a minute the entire time we were in there. 

Love this picture of my "little tourists" going into the Air and Space museum together. 

Harding was immediately blown away by this view as we walked in!

Dave Matthews lyrics running through anyone's head here? 
The Shuttle Discovery....SO COOL (and so big)!

Standing under the Space Shuttle Discovery
Shelby--clearly unimpressed by space shuttles! This stroller REALLY helped. Thanks Moss family!

We chose not to talk with Harding about this part of American time.

I was impressed by the Tomcat....loved the movie Top Gun. 

Trip couldn't stop singing "My Way To The Danger Zone" here. I made Harding take a picture of me with my Maverick. :)