Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The teacher becomes the student

Over the last four months, we have been pursuing Early Intervention Services for Benny.  It started with a suspicion raised after a playdate with a couple of above-average talkers.  It lead us into the world of case management, only this time, from a client's perspective.  From there, we've been linked to different therapists for evaluations.  Ultimately, he was referred for speech therapy, and after a bumpy start with a less-than-stellar professional, we've met our person.  Her name is Karen.  She is magical.  Like, rides a unicorn to work and performs miracles-type magical.  She is Ben's speech-language pathologist and over the last month, has gotten more progress out of Ben than we were able to all summer long.  Maybe it has less to do with the unicorn and more to do with the advanced degree, but nonetheless, we are keeping her.

Ben started therapy about a month ago.  It's a strange feeling to observe a session between a client and a therapist as the mother.  I don't go back to the office to type a note about it.  I don't file the claim, and I don't meet with my supervisor about it.  I observe my son, and his proverbial wheels turning as he figures out the task at hand.  I have an amazing sense of pride when I see the activity click and hear a new word come out of his mouth.  Even if it's just an approximation, it's magic.  And a much different feeling from the frustration I've carried for months now.  And I see it in Ben too.  I see the weight slowly lifting from his shoulders every time he learns something new.  And when Karen rides off into the sunset on her unicorn, he and I are communicating just a little bit easier than we did the day before.

We're probably in the 30 word vocabulary range.  Up from about 7 or 8 words in July.  Including signs.  He is willing to try most new sounds and one or two syllable words.  And since therapy started, he's even started some spontaneous conversation.  Meaning, he'll initiate by observing something in his environment and saying it out loud.  Something we completely skipped at around 12 months when he should have been pointing at things, but wasn't.  A point, at anything, whether it be a plane in the sky or a cookie he wants, counts as a "word".  The pointing thing never came together for Ben, and he seems to be skipping over it completely.  Instead, he names the item he observes.  Most notably, "Ti-ti" (any cat, squirrel, or small mammal) and "ball" which refers to anything sphere shaped.  For example, the sun is a ball, and an egg is a ball.  I'll take the overgeneralizations, we're labeling things!  Another super cute generalization he's made is toward food.  When he sees a fast food sign, or a commercial for anything food related, he says "Mmm, yum" in a very matter-of-fact way.  Today, while driving to the friendly neighborhood McDonald's, he spontaneously said "Happy!".  I'm guessing this is in reference to a Happy Meal.  Or how he felt about the situation.  Either way, it was completely awesome.  A seemingly mundane detail that makes me as proud as if he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, because I know where we started just a few months ago.

We've been working hard on the alphabet.  He digs the song.  Most of his musical toys sing it.  Not sure what the alphabet has to do with his Fisher Price barn, but whatever.  It's not a new one for him.  Coincidentally, he has lots of farm-themed toys.  So Old MacDonald is also pretty familiar.  When we run through the alphabet, letter for letter, he's pretty awesome at it.  As in, "Say A!" "Say B!" etc.  He'll go "Aaaaaaaa, Beeeeeeee" and be so proud.  And when his favorite game show, Wheel of Fortune is on, he will gladly help the contestants.  "I'll take an R, Pat!"  "Aurrrrrrrr!".  Pretty cute.  When we sing Old MacDonald had a farm, he supplies the "E-I-E-I-O" although it's more like "di-I-di-I-YO!".  But when we sing the alphabet and I give him the "A-B-C-D" and try to get him to finish, he adds the "di-I-di-I-YO!" and claps for himself.  It's adorable.  Incorrect, but adorable!

Related to that, he's been really into singing.  He's always been a dancer, but has recently added the song part to his performance.  He sings the Yo Gabba Gabba songs while he dances them, and is a major Justin Bieber fan.  Our friend Justin won several awards on the AMA's the other night, and Ben, aka, Justin's biggest fan, couldn't have been more thrilled.  While Justin approached the stage to accept award after award, they played his super annoying hit, "Baby", which prompted Ben to booty dance and go "baby baby baby OHHHH!" over and over again.  And all of this super cute behavior wasn't even on the map a month ago.

Can you tell I'm a proud Mama?  I used to reject praise when people would tell me how amazing I am for "teaching" people activities of daily living and other basic skills.  I still maintain that they were teaching me WAY more than I could ever teach them.  And here I am, years later, learning life lessons from a 2 year old.  MY 2 year old.  I'm in awe at his progress and determination, hopeful for his future, and a tiny bit more understanding of what other mamas like me have gone through.  Thanks to Ben, his support team, and a lovely lady that rides a unicorn.

Calm After the Storm

Beckett at 5 weeks: An impromptu photoshoot on a lazy fall afternoon


Can't turn down an opportunity for a good babyfeet shot:

We've survived the first 2 months!  And what's that at the end of the tunnel?  Light?  Holy cow, it is!  Those first few weeks are rough, y'all.  Either my bird brain blocked it all out from the first go-around at motherhood, or Ben came out of the womb sleeping through the night.  Can't quite remember, but it's all fresh on the brain right now.  And hopefully another memory to get fuzzier and fuzzier as Beckett settles into a proper routine.  His acid reflux seems to be calmed by his uber-doses of medicine, and he seems to finally understand the concept of sleeping at night.  We've had a few good weeks of sleeping soundly, only to wake up briefly for midnight, 2 am, 4 am and 6 am feedings.  Sometimes just a 4 am and 6 am if we're lucky.  So that's been nice.  We may have given in to his insatiable desire for tummy time, day and night, despite the whole "back to sleep" campaign.  We are co-sleepers.  I've finally convinced Jacob that this is an OK concept, so Beckett snuggles in bed with us.  On his tummy.  Right under my nose so that Mama's intuition can kick in if anything goes awry in this position.  And don't worry naysayers, it's been pediatrician approved.  I fought it at first, with tight swaddles, singing songs, white noise machines.  He wanted none of it if it meant he had to be on his back.  And if he did manage to fall asleep this way, he'd wheeze and choke all night, waking himself, and of course, us up.  Over and over.  There were a few weeks there where I was convinced we needed a Shark Steam Cleaner for all of our linens and Time Life's Sounds of the 70's box set because I watched the infomercials all night long.  But since I turned him on his tummy, I haven't seen any television programming past Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  Praise Jesus.

Ready for bed:

In our recent doctor visits, Beckett has weighed in and measured under the curve, in true Turner Baby fashion.  At his 1 month appointment, he was right at 10 pounds, 21 inches.  At 2 months, he was 12 pounds, 22.5 inches.  Officially in the 41st percentile for weight, and 15th for height.  But with deceptively chubby cheeks and thighs that makes you think otherwise.  His vertical challenge makes that 41st percentile look more like the 95th.  Sorry Beckett, you get it from your Mama!

Other happenings include adorable cooing and laughing at faces.  He is very aware of his environment and audience and knows exactly when he needs to work it for flattery and laughs.  His smile is officially intentional, and will absolutely light up a room.  He puts his whole face into it - his eyes smile and he opens his mouth to show that he's nothing but gums in there.  It's precious.  He still has his moments where he cries after all of his needs have been met, but they are very few and far between, and much shorter lived.  His brother has really started to respond to him, too.  When Beckett is crying, Ben will rush to his side and attempt to make him happy.  Today, he cried in his carseat after we returned from the park, so Ben found his blankie and draped it over him to comfort him.  He stopped crying immediately, but it was likely because Ben draped the blanket over his whole body, including his face.  But he meant well!  He even got a good petting from his big brother afterward.

The proudest big brother there is:

Hugs to the sleeping baby:

Two peas in a pod:

Beckett celebrated his first holiday, Halloween, by letting his mama dress him up like a baby cow.  Beckett and The Turners took on Downtown Hendersonville for some trick-or-treating and dancing in the street, and as expected, Beckett slept the whole time.  And came home and slept more.  And pretty much slept all through the next day, Ben's birthday party.  Turns out he was sick.  But nonetheless, an adorable baby cow.  And in related news, at 9+ weeks, Beckett is still nursing exclusively, and like a champ.  Go us!

 Mama cow and her baby calf, post milking:

Obligatory smooshy baby face:

November has brought us the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.  Things are starting to fall into place, Mama's hormones are slowly regulating, and baby is beginning to find his place in the Turner family.  We're on borrowed time, weather wise, seeing how it is late November and we're still enjoying mild temperatures most days.  Mama and her ducklings have traveled to the park nearly every day for a walk and some fresh air, which is nature's antidepressant.  It's really helped keep me out of a rubber room, and tuckers the babies out so that they are both nap-ready when we get home.  Double awesome.  That combined with a lot of extra sleep every night has given me a brand new outlook on life as a mom to two very little ones.  And hopefully that extra 20 pounds that wasn't Beckett, a placenta, or water weight will fall off in the process of pushing a double stroller.  But if the winter is as cold as the summer was hot, we might just put that plan on hold until spring.

Mama and Baby share a moment:

November Leaves.  Happy Beckett.

It doesn't get any better than this:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two years and counting...

Two years ago today, I met Ben.  I'm not gonna lie, I was really drugged up.  But the one memory that stands out from that day was the overwhelming feeling of love I had for that beautiful baby boy.  8 pounds and 11 ounces of pure perfection.  In some ways I feel like I blinked and was teleported to his 2nd birthday party, and in other ways, I feel like he's always been here.  He's my little buddy, and I can't believe he's two!

To back up, the last 6 weeks have been lots of fun, and full of transitions.  Ben welcomed his baby brother, Beckett into the family, and has changed his mind on how he feels about him a few times.  I think he's finally settled into the idea of having a baby brother, and has even been sweet with him a time or two.  Though these moments are short lived, I'm happy to witness the beginnings of a hopefully awesome relationship.  Ben has been so sweet and wonderful through the transition.  He continues to amaze me every day with his unbelievable patience and independence.  For being so young, he has done such an awesome job at handling the fact that Mama's attention is suddenly split between two babies.  And sometimes one demands more than the other.  I've been incredibly lucky in that respect.

Ben admires his little brother in a wagon:

Exhausted, but sticking it out:

Minutes later, calm and cool:

Giving hugs to an unsuspecting napper:

We haven't done too much in the last few weeks.  Having a newborn in the house makes travel, even to the grocery store, nearly impossible.  We've done a lot of cartoon watching, playing with toys, and keeping Beckett quiet and happy.  He's benefited from tons of visits from Grammie and Grandpa over the weeks, and has even visited with Auntie M a couple times.  This has been a real treat, and he's always sad to see them go.  He's developed a habit of blocking the door from his visitors leaving if he really disagrees with their departures.  But will always see his guests out and will say goodbye properly with either the traditional "buh-bye" or his newest send-off, "Bahhhh!".  He picked that one up from his more southern family members. We traveled to the mountain house for a weekend in early October to celebrate Aunt Nette's birthday and to share Beckett with family.  Ben enjoyed playing with his Mimi and aunties, and was happy to get back up there after being away for a couple months.  

He also got the surprise of his life and traveled to Charlotte to see Yo Gabba Gabba live and schmooze with the cast members after the show!  He was in such shock, he couldn't even smile through the show.  He just stood there, wide-eyed and with his mouth half open.  Afterward, he sat in a small circle, just a few feet away from DJ Lance Rock as he read them a story, and got to meet all the Gabbas including his favorite, Foofa.  She blew him a kiss and he smiled from ear to ear.  It was awesome!   

The magical moment:

Close to home, he's enjoyed a few trips to the local parks and even went on a hike with Mama and Daddy a couple weekends ago.  He rode in his carrier for the first time in months, and seemed to enjoy hitching a hands-free ride through the forest.  

A hike through Bent Creek Experimental Forest:

We've seen lots of new development from Ben over the last few months.  Physically, he's hit a growth spurt and put on a pound and an inch or two.  He's still wearing most of the clothes he wore this time last year (bonus for us, we get to reuse his winter clothes!), but we've added some bigger sizes with the hope that he'll grow into them before the season is through.  He's also really blossomed socially.  He is definitely more eager to play with others, and has ditched parallel play for more interactive fun.  Levi has been over a time or two, and they've met in various places for playtime which has been so good for Ben.  Not only does he love to see his best friend, but he learns a lot when they are together.  And Levi is so patient and sweet with Ben.  They truly have a special relationship.  Ben's verbal communication is really taking off.  His vocabulary is now more like 20 or 30 words, and he is usually willing to try new words.  Sometimes he'll even try a two-word sequence, which is brand new and really impressive!  And his Mimi worked hard on teaching him gesturing.  This is a developmental milestone that he pretty much skipped a year ago, and is apparently an important one.  So we've really encouraged him to point out things like body parts, pictures in books, etc.  And he does this very willingly now.  We still haven't started with speech therapy, but this should be coming together in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, we're working hard at home, and watching his expressive communication blossom.

So back to his birthday celebrations.  Ben's birthday weekend fell on Halloween again.  So being half thrifty and half lazy, we decided to throw another Halloween-themed birthday party for him.  The night before his party, we all went to downtown Hendersonville for a bit of trick-or-treating and a dance party.   We even coached him on saying "trick or treat", which he rehearsed pretty well, but forgot to say every time he presented his bag for some candy.  Ben dressed up as his hero, DJ Lance Rock.

Ben as DJ Lance and Beckett as a little calf - downtown Hendersonville:

The next afternoon, we had a very small celebration at our house attended by just family and our besties.  It was small but fun, and Ben ended up with lots of cool presents and a nice stash to put away for his college fund.  He partied hard, ate way too much candy and junk food, and squirmed at cake time again.  He did, however, eat a slice of cake with icing.

Ben and a little help from his friends:

Today was his actual birthday.  We hung out around the house and detoxed from the weekend's festivities.  He played with the toys he scored yesterday, watched his new DVDs, and hung out with Grammie and Grandpa for most of the afternoon.  Tonight, we went to Cracker Barrel for dinner and Ben had a big birthday pancake.  He didn't even melt down at the restaurant like he's been known to do. We came home and ate more birthday cake, icing and all, and had a really nice day.  For me, it's been a day of reflection over the last two years.  It didn't hit me when Ben turned 1 that he wasn't a baby anymore.  It's hit me hard tonight.  Maybe because I have a newborn in the house, and can look at him and clearly remember Ben at that age like it was yesterday.  He is such an amazing little guy, and we've had so much fun over the last two years.  Looking forward to many, many more!