Adoption Interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day of Firsts

Today was a day of firsts. I took my first trip to IKEA and I was amazed. Unfortunately the snowstorm that was supposed to hit New England tomorrow arrived early and we had to leave before fully exploring all the store had to offer. Hannah loved the awesome kid's play area and was doing cannon balls into the HUGE ball pit they have. She apparently even played with some kids that she met while she was in there. When we picked her up she said, "Daddy, there was a boy with an orange shirt in the play place and he was my friend and we played." Later at the restaurant (I can't believe they have a restaurant too!) she pointed him out to us while we were in line. Way to go Hannah! Preschool has been SOOOOOO good for her. I'm totally going back there again with her someday to explore the store some more since she was so willing to hang out in the kid's area.

When we got home there was quite a bit of snow on the ground (it took us 3 hours to drive 40 miles because of a huge traffic back up that we were never able to deduce what the root cause of was) so Kyle and Hannah bundled up to go outside to play (well Kyle was technically shoveling). Hannah caught sight of the neighbor girls who were outside playing in their yard and had to go over to see them. They invited us to go sledding in their backyard since they have a really steep hill. So, Hannah was able to sled for the first time. She loved it. She even went down on her own several times. I took pictures, but it was getting so dark (since it is dark around 4pm these days!) that the shutter speed had to be too slow to get enough light for me to be able to get any good shots handholding the camera. :( Too bad, I would have loved to have some shots of her first experience sledding. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised when I upload them.

Then, before bedtime Hannah was working on her Christmas thank you cards. I usually write out the phrases "Thank You" and "Love, Hannah" for her to copy in the appropriate places on the cards so that I don't have to spell each word aloud for every single card and she can just move at her own pace independently. Today when I went to set the phrase card out of her to copy she said, "No Mommy! I can do it on my own." I tried to get her to take the example card, but she was not having it. Eventually I consented and boy did she show me. She wrote from memory "Thank You" and "Love Hannah" legibly, spelled correctly, and in the right place on all 12 cards! I had no idea she knew how to spell "thank you." "Love," I could believe since it was one of the first words she learned to read as a sight word after her own name, but "thank you" just blew me away. I knew she could read those words, but it's a much bigger deal in my opinion to pull the spelling out of your head and put it down on paper. That's my girl! She's such a smarty.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas on the East Coast

Well, we survived our first Christmas here on the East Coast. It was fairly uneventful and much more quiet than we are used to. Since getting married Kyle and I have had a constant stream of family in and out of our house on Christmas day and at least a dozen other family Christmas obligations to attend throughout the month of December and early January. Add any Christmas parties thrown by friends or employers and you have a recipe for holiday meltdown. Once Hannah was born it seemed as if the holiday crush became almost unmanageable. This year was almost the opposite of unmanageable, though the actual month flew by, Christmas Day and the days since have crept by as if in slow motion. We wanted to scale back this year because last year was just too much for Hannah and consequently us too and we definitely got our wish. Seems like I just can't be satisfied though because this year has left me wishing for a happy medium for next year. Maybe just a visitor or two on Christmas Day and one or two family or friend holiday engagements in the days prior too or just after the big day? Surely that would do it?

All complaining aside, we did have a very nice Christmas together as a family. Hannah was totally into Christmas this year. She visited (and even sat on his lap!) Santa several times and asked for a new piggy bank (she broke her old one earlier in the year, sorry Mamaw but it was fragile). Both Santa and Mommy and Daddy came through with the piggy bank. I had bought her a (plastic) Sleeping Beauty bank back in October to save for a Christmas present. I thought it would really make her happy. Sure enough, when we started asking her what she would like for Christmas she indicated she wanted a new bank. With each successive visit to the man in red, as she warmed up to him, she started getting more and more specific in her request. She eventually specified that she wanted an actual "piggy" bank that was not breakable. Since I didn't want to take the Aurora bank back to the Disney Store, I started scouting out places to buy an actual piggy bank that was made of plastic rather than ceramic. I finally found one at Toys R Us of all places. It's actually pretty cute. Growing up, Santa always left my sister and I one unwrapped gift inside our bedroom. I remember being amazed that Santa had actually entered my room and I hadn't heard the stairs creak. This year since Hannah was so into Santa I decided to start the same tradition with her. Before going to bed I snuck the piggy bank into her room and put it just inside her door so that she'd find it when she got up and knocked on her door. As fate would have it, Hannah was so keyed up with Christmas excitement that she was up several times that night. At around 2am she found her piggy bank and you can surely imagine the havoc that caused. It was practically impossible to get her back to sleep after that. I eventually tucked her back into bed clutching her new piggy bank. She might have slept for a half hour or so, but then was up again at 3am and read in her room until 5am when I finally went back in and rocked her in her chair until she fell asleep. We snuggled like that until 7am when we finally got up. After checking out our stockings and opening a few gifts, Hannah became pretty disinterested in opening any more gifts. She just wanted to play with the few she had already opened. We struggled until lunchtime to get her to open up her presents then had brunch and spent the rest of the day hanging out and playing in our PJs.

Less than a week after returning from our Thanksgiving trip Kyle had surgery on his wrist (more on that fiasco in a minute). He expected to be off work for about two weeks, possibly less, but because what the surgeons found inside when they started exploring, he ended up being casted and put on light duty for his wrist (no typing or writing which is pretty much all an engineer does!) until January 12th! So, Kyle was off work for two weeks for vacation, back to work for 4 days, had surgery, and then will be off for at least a month after the surgery before they take the cast off and reevaluate! When it's all said and done Kyle will have been off work for almost 2 months. Hannah (and me too for that matter) is getting quite used to her Daddy being home. She's actually stopped mentioning him going back to work which is a bad sign. This has become her new normal and I'm worried it's going to be rough for her to adjust when Kyle goes back to work. Change is never easy for Hannah so I'm not looking forward to this change in routine that will probably happen in a few weeks. Wish me luck and pray that I'll have patience with her certain increase in defiant behavior.

Back to Kyle's surgery fiasco. The surgery was on a Friday which is a school day for Hannah. The surgery was set for 10:45am and was to be done outpatient. Hannah needed to be picked up no later than 5:30pm. 6 hours should have been plenty of time for a one hour surgery and outpatient recovery time. It would be no problem to pick Hannah up from school after getting Kyle settled in at home after the surgery. I was mildly concerned about caring for Kyle after the surgery while also caring for Hannah with no support network to help me out or keep Hannah occupied and from crawling all over Kyle, but I knew it would work out somehow. When we arrived at the hospital it became apparent that they were running behind schedule, but by the time they finally took Kyle back for surgery there was still plenty of time for everything to go as planned. The surgery took longer than expected, but still when the surgeon came out to tell me had made it through fine and was in recovery there was still time. Things were getting closer, but there was still time. As the minutes and then hours ticked by and I had still not been allowed back to the recovery room to see Kyle I started to get anxious. I was worried about why I was not able to see him and I was nervous about how I was going to get back to pick up Hannah in time. Finally, around 4:45pm, I was allowed back to see Kyle and he was still on his gurney and obviously in a lot more pain than was expected. The nurse told me there was no way he would be ready to be discharged in time for me to get Hannah at 5:30 because he wasn't even able to sit up yet. She told me to leave him there and go get Hannah. The catch was that because of strict flu season rules Hannah was not allowed inside the hospital (no one under 18 that was not a patient was allowed at the hospital) and they were also unsure as to when Kyle would actually be allowed to leave. How on earth was I supposed to pick Kyle up without taking Hannah into the hospital (was I going to leave her alone in the vestibule or out in the van?!?) and what if they discharged him after Hannah's bedtime? This is where the realization of exactly how hard it is to be so far away from all our family and friends set in. We have no friends here in Rhode Island and don't have a babysitter. Kyle and I haven't gone anywhere without Hannah (except when she's been in school) since we moved to Rhode Island 10 months ago. I had no idea where to turn. All I knew was that I had to take care of Hannah and I had to get Kyle from the hospital somehow and we didn't have friends or family that could easily be counted on to do either. The closer it got to Hannah's bedtime and Kyle was still being held hostage in the recovery room, the closer I came to deciding that it would be easier to find someone to potentially come stay at the house after I put Hannah to bed while I went to get Kyle than it would be for me to try to find someone to go pick up Kyle. The catch again was that I had no idea what time I would be allowed to go get Kyle. Finally I broke down and called one of our neighbors (the only one of the neighbors that I know their last name and phone number!) who has been friendly in the past and practically begged her to do me a huge favor. She quickly agreed and while she had always seemed nice I really didn't know her well, not well enough that I would normally allow a person to watch my daughter (what if she turned out to be a child molester!) and I was also concerned for her if Hannah were to wake up. She can be quite agitated and disoriented if she wakes in the night (and she does frequently) and has been known to get aggressive during night wakings. Even if she woke up and was fine, I worried about Stephany having to entertain Hannah with little to no experience interacting with Hannah and no knowledge of where things are in our house or the house rules. Still, I was in a bind and I had NO WHERE else to turn. I took the chance and prayed that everything would go smoothly. I was finally allowed to pick up Kyle at 9:30pm. It was probably around 11:30pm before we got home. Thankfully, Hannah stayed asleep the entire time and Stephany only had to spend 2 hours away from her husband and pet our geriatric beagle while I was gone! It's emergencies (even minor ones like this one) that make you realize how important it is to have that support network around you. Unfortunately, when you move far away it takes time to build up that network and emergencies can strike at any time. I wish I were more social and outgoing because that would make it easier for me to at least make acquaintances that might be able to be called on in a pinch.

For Christmas, Santa went a little crazy with the books. I have always been a voracious reader and Hannah has followed in my (and Kyle's) footsteps. For Christmas each year my dad would always give my sister and I a card that stated he would take us shopping every week at the local bookstore so that we could pick out a book. I LOVED doing that. It was one of my favorite times of each week. Needless to say I have lots of children's picture books and chapter books, but what I don't have are many early reader type books for Hannah to read by herself. We have a second hand store in town that has a section for books and every book is 69 cents and the books are also buy 4, get the 5th free. Many kids must not be as avid of readers as I was as a child and as Hannah is because the number of high quality and barely read children's books at this store is unbelievable. I find tons of books that look as if they have never even been opened and certainly haven't been handled by a child or read more than once. I specifically find lots of these early readers. Instead of paying $4 at the bookstore for each of these books, I can get 5 basically brand new (or at worst gently used) for well under what I would pay for one book at the bookstore. Like I said, Santa went a little crazy. I just couldn't resist all those great, cheap books. Consequently we've been doing a lot of reading lately, even more reading than usual, and what I've been seeing (and hearing) from Hannah has once again amazed me. She manages to read word after word that I am prepared to tell her what it is more quickly than I can get the word out of my mouth. She self corrects when she reads a word incorrectly and realizes it doesn't make sense. She reads without having to point at each word as she says it, in fact she reads so quickly and fluently now that pointing to the words actually messes her up because she can't move her fingers that fast. She's definitely reading at first grade level now and I have to constantly remind myself that she won't even turn 3 1/2 years old for another week and a half! I was an early reader myself, but she's more than an early reader. She's moved into territory where I can no longer say, "yeah, she's smart, but I was able to do that too and I didn't turn out to be an extraordinarily intelligent person." It's so hard to keep my expectations for her reasonable because her development is so uneven. She's so crazy ahead in some areas and quite behind in others and then totally typical for a 3 year old in yet others. Truly I don't even know what normal expectations to have for a 3 year old are because she's never followed a normal path. I often expect the kids in her class to be able to do things just because Hannah's been able to do them for ages and get surprised when I see that they can't do them at all and that they aren't even really supposed to be able to do them yet. I also get surprised when I see how confidently they interact with each other and get a punch in the gut when I realize that Hannah (despite the drastic improvements she's made since starting school) is nowhere near being able to do that. It's all very confusing and I'm afraid that's not going to change much in the years to come. Hannah's probably always going to have uneven skill development so I suppose I should just get used to not comparing her to her peers now and make things easier for myself down the road.

Before I log off here, one final story to make you smile from my Little Miss Literal. For Christmas, Santa brought Hannah 4 (35 cent after Halloween clearance!) foam animal face masks. Hannah has really enjoyed donning the masks and pretending to be the various animals. One of the masks happens to be a dog and the other day Hannah had on the mask and was wanting Kyle to pretend to be her owner and take her for walks and do other dog/owner activities. Eventually Kyle starts giving dog commands like sit, lay down, stay, roll over, etc. It was pretty comical to see Hannah's version of all of these dog tricks, but when Kyle followed the command of lay down with the command of shake I knew immediately that result was going to be funny. I was wrong, it wasn't funny, it was absolutely hysterical! Hannah's version of lay down was flat on her back and when Kyle switched to shake instead of sitting up and offering her hand/paw to shake she started flopping all over the floor and twitching her limbs. I laughed so hard I had trouble breathing. Of course she WOULD shake like that because that's how Hannah operates. If there is ever two different ways of taking a statement, Hannah will always interpret it the most literal way possible.

PS. Aren't the Thanksgiving turkeys Hannah and I made adorable? :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Trip

Ok, so I know it's almost Christmas and I'm just now writing about our Thanksgiving Trip back to the Midwest, but we've been busy and December just kinda got away from me. The trip out was awful .We had rain and fog the whole way and Hannah barely slept at all. We had a HUGE meltdown at a gas station in the middle of the night that lasted almost a half hour which seemed like an eternity closed up in the van. Once arriving at our first destination, Pap and Mindy's house, things got much better. Kyle and I slept and Hannah hung out with Pap playing, raking leaves, and carrying pumpkins all over the yard. Can you say heavy work!?! Hannah did well the whole time we were in Ohio although she was definitely overtired most of the time because of bedtimes stretched hours past normal. Our next stop was Mamaw and Papaw's house. Hannah was in heaven. She got to feed the horses, play with our dog Ella, climb on the swing set Papaw made, and get spoiled rotten with candy by Mamaw. While in Indiana we also visited with Hannah's birthmother, Tiffany, and her twins. We spent the day with them at the Children's Museum and had a blast. Hannah loved hanging out with her sister Kayla and Kayla and Chase really got into their roles as a big sister and brother. Hannah also finally warmed up to Donna, Tiffany's mom, and that was awesome to see. Up until now, Hannah has refused to really go near Donna for some reason. I think it broke Donna's heart although she'd never say that. This visit was different for some reason. When we prompted Hannah to give Grandma Donna a hug she practically threw herself onto her lap. The look of shock on Donna's face was priceless. After staying at Mamaw and Papaw's house, we headed back to West Lafayette to visit with friends. We stayed with Hannah's bestest friend Evelyn. The two of them were so cute together. It was so awesome to see Hannah finally playing independently with her and returning some of the affection Evelyn has always lavished on her. Those two still really know how to push each other's buttons. Even after not seeing each other for 6 months they were still able to do it instantly and push away they did! It was just like they were sisters! After Evelyn's house we headed to my sister's for a few days before starting the drive back to Rhode Island. We got to hang out and meet her new (to us) boyfriend, have dinner with Grandpa, and pick up Abby our other dog. We left bright and early Saturday morning and planned on driving straight through, but the weather again had it in for us and we ran into a snowstorm in the mountains of Pennsylvania and we decided to stop for the night after seeing several cars off in the ditch. It was an ordeal to find a hotel with rooms available that was also willing to take in a geriatric beagle pup. We eventually found a place to stay after I gave my sob story and a hotel that doesn't allow pets decided to make an exception for us. We got a good night's sleep and made it home in one piece the next day. How's that for the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of our two week trip?

Approximately 40+ hours in the car during our trip did have one perk. We were able to hear some awfully funny things come out of Hannah's mouth, all totally unexpected and unprompted. Here they are for your reading pleasure.

On the way out we stopped at a McDonalds for breakfast very early in the morning in the heart of Amish Country in PA. Though I grew up in a community known for a fairly large Amish population, Hannah had never met or even seen someone dressed in traditional Amish attire. Throughout the month of November Hannah and I had been reading books about the first Thanksgiving and been looking at pictures of Pilgrims and Native Americans. When Hannah caught sight of the large group of Amish in the restaurant (the only other customers in the restaurant besides us mind you) she pointed straight at the nearest group of young women in bonnets and shouted, "Mom! Look! Native Americans!" She was so proud of herself and I about died. I immediately knew what she meant and that fact didn't make me any less embarrassed. Poor Hannah had confused Pilgrims and Native Americans and she was quite certain that she was staring at a real live Pilgrim even if she had her terms incorrect! I quietly tried to shush her and explain that no, they weren't Native Americans, that she meant Pilgrims, but they weren't Pilgrims either, they were Amish and they were dressed that way because of the church they belonged to. UGH! I never saw that coming and had no prepared answer for reminding my daughter not to shout "Look Ma! Indians!" at poor unsuspecting Amish just out enjoying their Micky D's! I guess 3 year olds don't care much about political correctness!

A second McDonald's story occurred somewhere in CT. Because Rhode Island seems to have something against the indoor playplace in fast food restaurants, we happen to know the location of every one of them within a 30 minute drive from our house. Through trial and error (and a badly in need of updating McDonald's website) Hannah has learned how to tell if a McDonald's once had an outdoor playground that has now been converted into an outdoor dining area. The reason for getting rid of the playground we've explained to Hannah is that it was old and unsafe and they had to take it out. When pulling into the above mentioned McDonald's in CT Hannah immediately spotted the tell-tale "astro turf" and fence around the front of the restaurant and matter-of-factly informed me, "That playplace was old so they took it out just like Grandpa's teeth." I about peed my pants I laughed so hard. Someone's gotta teach that girl not to do that to a person badly in need of a bathroom break after many hours on the road!

Now for 3 completely random statements that we heard from the backseat of the van, in no particular order.

"Mom! When I grow up I'm going to be a truck driver." Do truck drivers wear tutus? What do you think?

"Don't call me baby (Kyle had just referred to her as baby). I don't like it. (at least she can use her words to tell us what she does and doesn't like!) Call me walnut. Mommy, you can call me acorn. Wait! I'll give you choices. You can pick acorn, apple, or pear." Seriously, where DOES she come up with these things? At least I got choices. Did you notice how Kyle didn't even get choices!?!

"When I grow up, I hope I get a baby in my tummy." How's that for a line that's sure to give a daddy a heart attack?

And then later the same day, "When I grow up I want to be a mommy and have six babies in my tummy and have a husband." Not an impossible goal I suppose in this day and age with reproductive technology and all, but I would have liked for the statement about a husband to come BEFORE the proclamation about the babies in her tummy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Whoop! There it Is!

I apologize for the recent quietness on the blog, but we've been under the weather here at the Spontak house-for about six weeks. It started with Hannah and a moderate cold, or so we thought, that turned into pneumonia. Surprise, surprise! Then I became sick with a cold and then a nasty cough that increased in severity and never let up. Then Kyle got sick and ended up with a cough too. Of course Hannah had a cough too. We were a fine bunch to listen to-still are in fact since we still haven't stopped hacking and barking away. Turns out what we thought was just a cold was not an innocent cold virus, but instead Pertussis or better known as Whooping Cough. Leave it to us to come down with another archaic disease straight out of Oregon Trail. Last year was Scarlet Fever. This year Whooping Cough. Now all we need is Typhoid Fever and we'll have survived the Oregon Trail trifecta! For those of you not familiar with the computer game Oregon Trail. It became popular back in the 80's. I used to play it back in the day on the old Apple IIe's with the black and green screens. It was loads of fun. Those of you who grew up in the 80s or who had children who did probably know this game intimately! Apparently Whooping Cough is making a come back due to under vaccination and since your protection from the vaccine wanes after 10 years or so after your last dose (around 4 years old) you become susceptible again to anyone infected with the disease. So, Hannah who hasn't had her full round of vaccinations for it yet caught it and then passed it on to Kyle and I with our diminished protection since we're a bit past 14 years old. Fortunately since we all have at least some protection the disease is milder than it might otherwise have been for all 3 of us, but it's still mighty uncomfortable and definitely annoying. According to the doctor it could take up to 3 months for us to fully recover. I'm praying it doesn't take that long. I could certainly use a good night's sleep well before then.

Hannah continues to thrive at preschool and is permanently going full day now. I feel so blessed that we were able to find this preschool that is so sensitive to her needs and also doesn't put up with any crap from her either. They seem to know exactly how much to push and when to lay low. Hannah is making friends and has several little boys that she is particularly fond of. She always was one to prefer men! She also has one little girl who seems to be her partner in crime. It's so good to walk into the classroom and see her interacting without adult prompting or facilitation with her peers. Unfortunately her new found social skills at school don't seem to be transferring to other places. In fact, I would venture to say that she's become even more fearful and reluctant to play with or interact with other kids outside of school. It's to the point at the play place that she won't even go up into the play structure and play by herself if there are other kids around. That's quite frustrating, but at least I know she's getting social practice at school. I just wish we could find some way to generalize those skills to other situations.

We are preparing for a two week trip, starting next week, back home to Indiana and Ohio for Thanksgiving and Hannah is seriously pumped. She can't wait to go back to Indiana. She's especially excited to see her friend Evelyn and meet Evelyn's new baby sister Vivian. It should be a whirlwind trip with little time for relaxation so I pray we all handle it well. We plan to visit with all the grandparents and some of the great grandparents, aunts and uncles, Hannah's birth family, and some friends. I hope we can squeeze it all in there. People have a tendency to get mad if they get left out, but we can't be two places at once and we only have so much time. Really we will probably be over extending ourselves as it is, but we still won't be able to make everyone happy. :(

The other day Hannah surprised me by demonstrating that she knows her ordinal numbers (at least up to the fifth place). She told me she was going to tell me five stories and then as she told me each one she said things like, "The first one is about. . . Here is the second story. . . Next is the third story. . ." and so on. I had no idea she knew those. I've never explicitly taught her them. It must either be something they learned at school or that she just picked up. She's always amazing me by the things that she just absorbs when we aren't looking. I'm sure it helps that she's got a mind like a steel trap and NEVER forgets anything. I can't remember exactly what it was, but just the other day she recounted for me with pin point accuracy something that happened last February that I'm pretty sure we hadn't discussed since it happened (or at least not recently)! I was completely shocked of course.

Night time potty training is finally going well. We had a few months of accidents almost every other day and I was starting to regret my decision to ditch the pull ups at bedtime, but all of a sudden she seems to be doing ok and we've had 20 days with only 1 accident! It's been so nice to not be washing urine soaked bedding every single day. That was getting really old. We are still getting her up when we go to bed to potty one last time for the night, but that's not too bad. I can handle that if it means no more diapers and no more (or at least very few) accidents.

Hannah seems to be adjusting well to her braces. She doesn't seem to mind wearing them at all (at least no more than she minds wearing socks in general.) The one thing she doesn't particularly care for about them is walking long distances in them. She will start saying her feet hurt. I can't really say that I blame her. After all her foot isn't on a cushy insole anymore, but instead on hard plastic. The orthotic technician that made her brace was able to trim it down significantly so that it's very unobtrusive. He cut it so her toes can hang over the end and was able to trim the top down so that it ends just above her ankle bones instead of mid shin. I am extremely grateful for that. I think that makes them much more comfortable for Hannah and she doesn't stand out wearing them. In fact you really don't notice them at all unless you look for them because they sit mostly inside her shoes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Auditory Sensitivities

It's interesting how when you are consciously thinking about something you notice that thing everywhere. Of course, whatever it is, it was always there in the same amounts, but you just didn't see it.  Like how a woman who desperately wants to get pregnant or who has recently had a miscarriage notices pregnant women everywhere. Or, how when we first started suspecting Hannah had Asperger's I started seeing people on the spectrum everywhere I looked.  Well, the past few weeks as I've been thinking about SPD and all the strategies we use to help Hannah overcome it's challenges I've been noticing others out in the community who probably also have SPD or at least show marked sensory sensitivities in one area or another.  For example, the other day at the mall we were walking along behind a family of 3-a mom and a dad and a son around age 10.  The mom and dad walked hand and hand together while the boy walked several feet ahead of his parents running his fingers along the walls and store windows.  He was aware of his parents though because he periodically checked over his shoulder at them and when they stopped, he stopped or at least slowed his pace.  The besides the sensory seeking of touching the wall, the other noticeable thing about this boy was that he wore sound canceling headphones-the kind you see people at racetracks wear.  He wasn't wearing your garden variety earphones in his I-pod. These headphones had one purpose and one purpose only-to block out sound. It appears they were doing their job well because the mall was quite loud and he seemed perfectly content to cruise around with his parents.  Then, today we were at McDonald's and a young woman and her parents sat down at the table next to us.  Besides obvious physical disabilities (she was in a wheelchair and had limited use of one of her hands), it was clear to me that she too had some auditory sensitivities because she spent much of the time during the meal with her fingers in her ears.  She would take a bite or a drink and then immediately place her fingers back in her ears.  She wore an almost pained look on her face and you could tell the whole experience was quite stressful for her.  While I didn't consider the restaurant terribly loud, at least not the way McDonald's can get on a Saturday at lunchtime, because I have been thinking about sensory sensitivities lately I stopped and listened for all the things I DIDN'T hear. Then, I heard it-the ice machine clunking, the lights humming, the chairs scraping, the crackle of wrappers, the hum of conversations, the occasional baby or toddler shrieking. It was all there and no doubt it was quite overwhelming to her.  Hannah was fine with the main restaurant, but I knew our time was about to come because we planned to visit the play place.  It was raining and yucky outside so the play place was packed.  As soon as we walked through the door the chaos and noise hit us.  Hannah stiffened and I knew we wouldn't be there long.  The poor thing tried to tough it out because she absolutely did not want to go back home and nap, but there was no playing going on and she was clearly uncomfortable so we left quickly.  It was interesting to me how there were two people with auditory sensitivities right next to each other, but the noises that were bothersome to them were quite different for each of them. That just illustrates how individual SPD can be and why it can be so hard for teachers, family members, and strangers to understand what our kids struggle with even if they already know someone else who has SPD. I guess that's why awareness is so important. Each new person we make aware is one more person who will hopefully be more understanding the next time they notice puzzling behavior by someone they think is inappropriate or overreactive.


Hannah had her first visit with the orthopedist here in Rhode Island. If you've followed this blog for awhile you may remember that Hannah is extremely flexible and has loose, hypermobile joints.  Last year at the orthopedist in Indiana he recommended a watch and see approach and that we have her reevaluated in a year.  Well, we couldn't really go back to that same doc so we got referred to a new one here.  I really liked the guy. He was patient, took the time to explain to me what he was doing, why, and what it all meant, and he was funny to boot.  Hannah liked him because he gave her a sucker. Never discount bribery when it comes to a 3 year old's affections.  The results of this appointment were that Hannah's wrists are quite bad. They easily dislocate, but it causes Hannah no pain when they do! I knew they were wiggly, but I didn't realize they were actually dislocating.  The rest of her joints are very loose, but on the extreme end of normal for the moment except for her ankles.  She overpronates a lot which causes her to fall often and run funny.  She also has flat feet which isn't really a problem in and of itself except for the fact that it points to the underlying problem of loose ligaments.  Because her feet roll in so badly Hannah has begun to compensate by turning her knees in and getting her hips out of alignment.  In an attempt to prevent the foot rolling from causing a domino effect up the rest of her body that will eventually lead to pain and other bones being out of alignment, the orthopedist has recommended we place Hannah in foot and ankle braces for the next year.  After a year we will see if her ligaments have tightened up enough to prevent her feet from rolling excessively.  If they've tightened then no more braces and Hannah is considered at the extreme end of normal for joint stability and we don't have to worry too much.  If they haven't tightened or if they seem worse or if other joints seem to be less stable then the doctor will be evaluating her for something called Ehlers Danlos syndrome.  Please wish us luck that Hannah will tolerate the braces since she doesn't much care for shoes or socks! Also, pray that after a year all systems will be a go to remove the braces and be done with the orthopedist. 

Hannah has been doing very well at school.  In fact, she's done so well that we are doing a trial run to see how she does going full day!  So far, so good!  The other day when I went to pick her up they were out on the playground and she was pushing another kid in the swing and then later (I stood and watched for awhile before she noticed me) she called out to one of her friends and said, "Antonio, chase me!" and he did!  She didn't just play when approached by another, she actually initiated the play!  I was so thrilled!!!!! These social skills aren't transferring yet to people she's not comfortable with, but it's a very big start I think.

Lately Hannah and I have been doing a lot of scrapbooking together.  I've really been enjoying it. Even before Hannah was born I dreamed about someday being able to scrapbook with her and I prayed it would be something she liked doing.  So far I don't have to worry. She loves to cut, paste, and punch out shapes from paper. She's actually quite good at using scissors and is very creative when it comes to designing her pages.  Then there are times when she's just content  to sit and punch out her shapes. It's good fine motor heavy work so that makes me happy too. It's a win win!

In addition to all the advances Hannah has made in her reading skills recently, she's also acquired some mad counting skills too.  So far she can count by 1s to 100, 2s to 20, and 10s to 100.  She's working on learning how to count by 5s, but for some reason they are proving trickier for her than by 2s. She's really good at patterns so I'm a bit confused about why she can't quite see this pattern, but it'll come. She's only 3 after all!

This past week was an awesome week for Hannah. It was probably the best week she's had since we moved to Rhode Island 8 months ago.  There have been a lot fewer time outs than normal, less sass, and some amazing social interactions with peers. We've revamped her sensory diet significantly and brought in two more swings for the basement (Hannah's trapeze bar/rings from her swing set outside and Kyle also made her a platform swing like the one she uses at OT) and I'm positive that's had something to do with it. Today was a little more rocky than the rest of the week, but then we were more lax about the sensory diet and her days aren't nearly as structured on the weekends as they are during the week. So, we'll see how next week goes to see if we can keep this good momentum going. 

The other day Hannah and I were having a conversation about a friend who had a baby last month.  That got Hannah thinking about babies and how they are born and parents in general.  Hannah knows she was adopted. She knows her birthparents and knows that she grew in Tiffany's belly and not mine.  What I didn't realize is that she didn't understand that not everyone has two sets of parents.  She was confused to learn that our friend Sarah was both the Mommy and birthmother to Hannah's friend Evelyn and Evelyn's new little sister Vivian.  We then went through many of the people we know and Hannah asked who each person's Mommy and birthmother was.  By the end of the conversation I think she was still a bit astonished that so many people she knew had only one set of parents!  It complicates things a bit since Hannah's brother and sister were not adopted. Tiffany chose to parent her twins, but chose to place Hannah.  Knowing that Tiffany is Kayla and Chase's Mommy and birthmother, but only Hannah's birthmother was very head scratching for her.  I think this is the beginning of Hannah starting to realize that being adopted means that she came into our family in a different way than most people come into families.  We'll just keep on having these types of conversations so that she understands as much as she's developmentally able to get and that she feels comfortable with her status as an adoptee. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

What DO princes do?

Before I get into my SPD part of the post I have several fun Hannah stories I want to share. Princess mania is still rampant in our house. Hannah loves anything princess related and doesn't stick completely with the Disney Princesses although she certainly knows them well. I had no idea how much she had internalized the "princess persona" until last month when my dad came to visit. During his visit, Hannah asked him to play princess with her. She said that she would be the princess and he could be the prince. Grandpa asked her how you play "princess" and she replied, "I'll just lay down and then you kiss me." She then proceeded to lay on the floor (in full princess dress-tiara and all!) and close her eyes and wait to be kissed. When my dad grabbed her hand to kiss it he was reprimanded and told, "No, not on my hand! You kiss me on my lips." OH MY GOSH! What is Disney teaching my daughter? Her main objective as a princess is to be kissed by the prince. As if that wasn't bad enough, when asked what a prince does she replied that princes kiss the princess, help her up, and dance with her. At first I was appalled at her over simplification of the role of prince until I thought about it from her limited perspective-Disney. What do the princes in Disney do? They kiss the princess and wake them up from sleeping, they help them, and they always, always dance with the princess. For pete's sake, the princes of Disney don't even have names! Well, except for Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty. He has a bit more of an active role than the other princes. That same day that Hannah was conning Grandpa into playing princess with her, she began calling her daddy her Royal Prince which quickly morphed into Royal Daddy. Daddy gets Royal Daddy and I get, "Mommy, you can be the girl prince and kiss me because I'm the princess."

Ok, enough about royalty. Here are some other random "kids say the darnedest things" snippets. One day before church we realized that Hannah had outgrown her dress shoes so I pulled out a pair of shoes in the next size up that I had bought from a yard sale last summer. These new shoes had very small square heels on them. She was so proud of her new shoes and how they clacked on the wood floor when she walked. She excitedly exclaimed, "Look Mommy! I have up heels!" Any guesses as to what she meant? I burst out laughing at my poor girly daughter trying to gain feminine knowledge from her non girly mother and getting so horribly mixed up. :)

Here's another preschooler observation for you. Hannah called to me from the bathroom one day and I asked her what she needed. She replied, "Mommy, pee is like a shower from my butt." That it is sweetheart, that it is!

Finally, Hannah made her first real joke the other day. We were driving by a large hotel near our house that has a huge lawn that they often rent out for various events. Several times over the summer right after we moved into our house the hotel hosted dog shows. So often in fact, that Hannah started calling the hotel the dog show even when there was no dog show going on. On this particular evening as we were driving by the hotel there was a huge flock of Canadian Geese on the front lawn. Hannah noticed the geese first and exclaimed, "Look! There are geese at the dog show. It's a Geese Show!" Then she burst out laughing, knowing that she had just said something funny.

Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled programming, SPD Awareness Month. Hannah has an oral fixation and almost always has something in her mouth. When she is anxious or scared she will gnaw on whatever is available. This chewing is calming for her so we try not to discourage her because we like it that she has discovered a technique that helps her self regulate. Unfortunately, the things that are most readily available to chew on are her hair, clothes, or even her hands. Besides being unsanitary, soaking wet hair and clothes are just gross. We started thinking about what we could use as a substitute that would satisfy her need to chew. The first thing we found that worked well were simple teethers. At home Hannah still uses them, but the problem was that they weren't practical when we were out places because they were easily lost and they were quite noticeable. Because Hannah looks older than she is due to her size, she draws stares when others see her chewing on a baby teether because they think they are seeing a 5 year old chomping away. We didn't have any other alternatives until we moved here to Rhode Island and her OT suggested that we make her a bracelet that she could always wear that she could also chew on. She took a length of medical tubing and cut it to length to fit Hannah's wrist and tied some knots in it and Viola! We had a winner. Hannah's chewy bracelet has been a life-saver. We rarely go anywhere without it anymore and Hannah has it with her so it eliminates the need for her to have to ask for her biter. She can just start chewing away any time she feels nervous. I'm really hoping that this will help save her hands this winter because last winter she went through a period where she was particularly anxious and the combination of her chewing on her hands and the cold weather led to raw, red, bleeding hands.

Hannah's tactile sensitivity has seemed to be increasing lately. Well, we think it's increasing, but the reality could very well be that her ability to tune into her own body and communicate what she is feeling is getting better. Besides picking at her toes until they bleed, Hannah has started complaining that her socks and her coat hurt her. She has also started to say at times that tickling hurts her. The sock problem I've pinned down to the seams inside the toe. I've managed to solve this problem by letting her wear them wrong side out. The coat problem has been harder. I'm not exactly sure what it is that is bothering her. Her spring coat didn't seem to bother her and this is the same winter coat she had last year and we didn't have a problem last winter. It's a bit of a mystery and she can't really seem to tell me what she doesn't like about it, only that it hurts. The worst by far of her tactile sensitivity issues though is when she goes to the bathroom. Every single time she goes to the bathroom she either tries to wipe her labia raw or as soon as she pulls up her pants she starts crying that she's having an accident when she's not. I've tried doing the wiping, but it doesn't seem to matter how much I wipe. It's never enough. I've felt her to see if she really is having an accident or if there is still moisture, but I can't feel ANY moisture at all. The screaming and the meltdowns that occur after bathroom trips are awful. Not only is it upsetting for Hannah, but it can make it really hard to get out the door since she will insist she is having an accident and want to get back up on the toilet again, and again, and again with no results each time and no actual accident. UGH!

To close, here are some links to some of my favorite SPD bloggers. Enjoy!

Hartley's Life with 3 Boys

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sensory Play Room Take 2

Before moving to Rhode Island we had turned our spare bedroom into a sensory playroom for Hannah. While living in our temporary apartment when we first moved we really missed all of the tools we had developed to help Hannah regulate herself. Finally, after almost 5 months in our new house, we have a sensory playroom for Hannah again. We have some of the same elements that we had back in Indiana while others had to be revised because of the space we had to work with. Some things are much much nicer than we had before, while other aspects of her old playroom we really miss. Before I go into what her old room was like and what we've done with the new room, I'll fill in those who are new here about what sort of sensory problems Hannah has.

Most people are very familiar with the "5 senses," sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. What many people don't know is that there are two more senses often described as the invisible senses, proprioceptive and vestibular. The vestibular sense I had at least heard of before. When someone feels vertigo or has an inner ear infection, the vestibular sense is involved. Your vestibular system controls balance, senses movement, and helps with spatial orientation. Hannah's vestibular system is not as sensitive as it should be. As a result she craves excess movement such as spinning, jumping, swinging, etc. She almost NEVER gets dizzy and we can't swing or spin her high or fast enough. She has poor balance (although it is improving) for her age, but she still takes excessive risks in order to get her vestibular "fix." It's almost like she's a drug addict in that her little body compels her to do whatever it takes to get the sensations that her body craves that the rest of us feel just by living our lives and take for granted. When she doesn't have enough vestibular input she is wild, overly anxious, defiant, withdrawn in overstimulating situations, and less willing to interact with peers. She basically doesn't feel right in her own skin, but doesn't know what to do about it. The proprioceptive system tells your brain where all of your body parts are in relation to each other. When someone is asked to take a field sobriety test and close their eyes and touch their finger to their nose the officer is testing their proprioceptive sense because intoxication impairs your sense of proprioception. One of the most common visible signs of proprioceptive problems is clumsiness. Hannah's proprioceptive system is also under reactive. She is extremely clumsy. She trips often, misses her chair when sitting down, and is constantly falling or bumping into things. She has trouble judging pressure so she often hugs too hard, pats too hard, and purposely crashes into people and things so that she can feel where all her body parts are. She doesn't just know where they are so she instinctively craves pressure and input from outside her body to replace the sensations that are not being transmitted properly within her body. Besides problems with proprioception and her vestibular system, Hannah is also over sensitive to smells, sounds, and touch.

OK, back to the playroom. Hannah's sensory playroom almost exclusively focuses on her vestibular and proprioceptive challenges because those are the most prominent and hard to deal with. The two things that I miss the most about her old playroom are a chin up bar that Kyle mounted to the closet door frame low enough for Hannah to grab it and swing and flip on it. This chin up bar worked both Hannah's proprioceptive and vestibular systems and she LOVED it. The other thing I miss is her hammock. We put an old queen sized mattress on the floor and mounted a hammock to the wall. We would swing her vigorously in the swing and also flip her out of the hammock onto the mattress. The hammock was also awesome because it worked her vestibular system and gave her deep pressure (proprioceptive system) which she craved. In her new playroom we have room for her to use her hop ball (works both vestibular and proprioceptive systems) in the house, there is a pole for her to spin around (vestibular), and (my favorite addition) a crash pit which works her proprioceptive system. For the crash pit I got a cheap blow up swimming pool (only $8 off season) and filled it full of pillows, blankets, and her stuffed animals. Hannah runs across the room and jumps into the pit giving her body the input it craves. Then when she is tired of crashing she burrows down into the stuff in the pit and just relaxes and watches a movie. All those pillows give her deep pressure that is calming for her. In her playroom we also have a mini trampoline, a disc swing, an exercise ball, weighted medicine balls, and a child sized shopping cart and lots of bags, baskets, and buckets for carrying and pushing heavy things around. Most of the things in Hannah's playroom are also at her OT's office, but the OT's equivalents are very expensive to buy. There is no way we could possibly afford to outfit a playroom for Hannah with all the features we wanted if we had to pay what things cost in the therapy catalogs. However, it's possible to make a fully functional playroom for not much money. The most expensive thing in Hannah's entire playroom was her mini trampoline and it cost $60. If you have an older child (Hannah was only 2 and was not very coordinated when we got it) you could get one much cheaper at Walmart, but we wanted one with handles since Hannah did not have good balance.

Here are some past posts that mention various aspects of Hannah's sensory difficulties.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month

October is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Awareness month. Until Hannah's developmental therapist first mentioned SPD over a year ago, I had never even heard of it. Kimberly (Hannah's DT at the time) started throwing around words like proprioceptive input and vestibular system. I felt confused and a bit overwhelmed. She stated that Hannah would need a sensory diet and I immediately worried about my ability to deal with any sort of specialized diet since I'm not much of a cook. It turns out a sensory diet isn't food at all (well it can be, but that's another story!), but is instead a list of activities that meet various sensory needs. We would soon find out that a sensory diet for Hannah would turn all of our lives around. Throughout this month I'm going to try to post some information about SPD in general as well as how SPD affects Hannah and what we've found helps her manage it. I'll also be linking to previous blog posts where I touch upon SPD issues as well as linking to other blogs written by parents with children with SPD.

I'll start by detailing what exactly SPD is. According to the SPD Foundation,

"Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively. "

According to their website SPD can look like,

"SPD can affect people in only one sense–for example, just touch or just sight or just movement–or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold. In children whose sensory processing of messages from the muscles and joints is impaired, posture and motor skills can be affected. These are the "floppy babies" who worry new parents and the kids who get called "klutz" and "spaz" on the playground. Still other children exhibit an appetite for sensation that is in perpetual overdrive. These kids often are misdiagnosed - and inappropriately medicated - for ADHD."

For more information on signs and symptoms of the various sensory systems that may be affected check out the Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center.

Finally, for those of you who aren't familiar with Hannah's story, here is a link to the post I wrote last year for SPD Month.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The sass that is uttered in this house is unbelievable. I never thought I'd deal with this kind of thing until much later on. If it didn't wait until the teen years, I at least thought I had until Hannah hit elementary school before I had to listen to it! Apparently not. Here is just a smattering of what I've heard over the past week in case you are curious what kind of sass a 3 year old could possibly dish out. Of course there is the ever popular, "I won't do it!" in all its many forms: "I'm NOT going to sit on my bottom!" "I TOLD you I'm not going to put my leggings on!" "I said NO!" "I absolutely WON'T put on my shoes because I'm NOT going to go to school!" "It's NOT cold outside (even though she's not even been out of the house!) so I'm NOT going to wear those socks!" The list goes on and on. There's the slightly more sophisticated, "You can't make me!" in it's various forms: "I'm not finishing my lunch! I'll hide under the table instead!" "I'll splash water on you if you do!" (trying to rinse shampoo from her hair) "If you put my hair tie in I'll smack you!" (I did, and she did!) "I hate these socks. I'm not wearing any!" "I'm NOT going to sleep! I'm okay with only having 2 books." (resisting nap time and letting me know that she doesn't care about a loss of privilege) Then there is my personal favorite, The world revolves around me. Here's how that one sounds: "I want my milk NOW! I will not be PATIENT!" "I already waited!" "Mom, MOM, M-O-M! Answer me!" "I said you can't answer the phone!" Finally, some miscellaneous sass for your reading pleasure: "I told you NOT to wear that shirt" (she thinks she has the right to choose MY outfits!) "Do NOT go to the bathroom Mom! Don't do it! I said NO!" (like she can control my bladder?) "I already told you I don't want that! I'm not eating it!" "I HATE school!" She even slams doors. If that doesn't scream teen attitude then I don't know what does!

I know three year olds are supposed to be full of defiance so maybe this is all normal. Maybe all 3 year olds sass like this. Since Hannah's my only child I'm a newbie at this so anything's possible I guess. Maybe it's just that all 3 year olds aren't quite as articulate and don't have as developed of vocabulary as my little darling does to torment their mother's with. Maybe. . . . But if this is what she can come up with now, what on earth is in store for her angst filled teenage years?!? Lord help me now!