Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Birthday Letter to My Easy Child.

Dear Jenna,

You celebrated your 7th birthday on May 11th and couldn't have been more excited.  You had an extensive countdown starting from a month out, picked out your birthday outfit a week in advance, and on Monday told us, "I wish it was Wednesday so my birthday would be the day after tomorrow."  When your birthday morning finally came, you stomped happily into our room at 6am and smiled broadly at us: your big day was finally here and you were going to enjoy every minute of it.

We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast, you got dressed in your carefully planned outfit (white t shirt, white, pink and blue floral patterned skirt, white capri leggings, high jaunty ponytail) and headed off to school.  I came in at 10:30am, armed with your cupcakes decorated per your detailed instructions, and took pictures of the whole event.  You got picked up at school by Daddy, who had taken the day off, and then I brought you to yoga, which you adore.  You chose to have tacos for dinner, your favorite, and then we headed over to Gammie and PopPop's to open presents and have cake and ice cream.  All in all, a perfect day.

You had a great year, blooming in school and church into a more confident, outgoing girl.  You were by far my easiest child this year, always flying under the radar, rarely requiring any extra attention as we navigated through Alec's therapies and Michaela's impending tween-dom.  And thank goodness for that- you were just easy, smiling, growing (and growing and growing), doing your own thing and only reminding us occasionally that you needed a little extra love.

And usually that was at bedtime.  Bedtime is your Daily Challenge: you resist getting ready for bed, resist picking out pj's, resist brushing teeth, resist going potty, resist the whole darn thing.  Unfortunately, as you can imagine, and as I have told you dozens of times, bedtime is not my Strongest Parenting Time and I am frankly just worn out from the day.  I am trying to get this done and you in turn are trying to draw it out as long as possible.  So there we are, opposing strong forces, having our nightly showdown.  Luckily, I am The Mom, so I always win.  (And that's one of the very best things about being The Mom.)

You still love playing with your dolls for hours and hours in your room, spreading them all out, playing teacher with them, dressing and undressing them, and doing their hair.  You have let most of your baby dolls fall to the wayside, except for one here and there, and mostly just play with your American Girl dolls.  You got Marie Grace for Christmas this year and asked for Cecile, her best friend, for your birthday, which we happily gave you.  You love to dump out your Polly Pockets and play and then leave the dozens of Pollys and their funny little rubber clothes all over your floor.  A neat freak you are most definitely not.

You enjoyed lots of playdates this year with your good friends (who all seem to be named Emma) and made some great new friends in your class.  You liked your teacher and gave us faithful updates on her growing, pregnant belly.  Sometime around Christmas you told me that my stomach was just about the size of Mrs. Casey's, and I defensively told you that "Mommy is working on it!"  and that "Mommy had three babies, you know!"  and you seemed a little perplexed at why I reacted so strongly.  You did great in school, except for those darned timed Mad Math Minutes, which goes against every fiber of your mosey-ing personality.  But eventually it all clicked and now you even have those licked.  You became a Girl Scout and enjoyed every minute of being with your friends, doing projects and even marched in our town's Memorial Day Parade.  You have become fascinated with names and writing and I find slips of paper all over that has each family member's first, middle and last names written out, as well as your own name printed and in cursive.

Subtext is your strong point.  You have an amazing ability to ask around situations, looking for what is behind the obvious.  You are smart and quick and deep.  Very, very, very deep.  Your have a great sense of humor and it is truly a joy to watch you learn and grow.

So, my Easy Child, happy birthday.  We love you, as you like to say, "all the way to the sun and back a thousand times".  Thank you for being easy this year. 

Love, Mommy

Monday, May 14, 2012

Alec's Early Intervention Meeting.

We passed a milestone last Thursday when we finished our first 6 months of therapy for Alec and had a team meeting to review his progress and current needs.  Both his Speech and Special Ed teachers gave reports and a Service Coordinator from the County was there, as well as my friend Judy, who served as moral support for me and another set of ears to hear everything.  The therapists gave me their reports ahead of time, which was really helpful, and Dan and I had reviewed them before the meeting. 

The upshot of the meeting was that Alec is going to continue with speech twice per week, drop the visits from the Special Ed teacher to once per week, and we are going to get an OT eval done fro him for some sensory issues that Alec seems to have.  Certain sensations/stimulation seems to just totally freak him out, and we are trying to determine whether this is a clinical/treatable issue or just something that makes Alec who he is.  And we all know he's pretty quirky.  Should he scream and physically bend over when you try to gently brush his hair?  Probably not, but it is a clinical issue?  One that needs intervention of some kind?  I just don't have enough experience to know.  He has lots of these sensory quirks- getting his hair washed, brushing his teeth, putting on lotion, wearing different types of pants, wearing different types of shoes, covering his ears when he hears loud noises, shying away from bright lights, that kind of thing.  So rather than waffle back and forth, we are going to get an eval done and see if he qualifies.

I was really happy with the meeting and thought that what they reported was accurate and a good reflection of what he is and is not able to do.  His receptive language skills are much better than his expressive and he is in the normal range for receptive.  When it comes to expressive language use, though, he is far behind- like almost a full year, which is what I had estimated.  Both the speech and special ed teacher find that his brain misfires at times and he does not seem to understand what they are asking of him.  His use of eye contact is shady at best and particularly goes downhill if he is challenged in the speech department.

So what does all of this mean?  We're not sure.  I have had several long talks with his special ed teacher and it is just not clear what his global issue is.  He could be autistic- somewhere on the spectrum- and certainly fits many of the characteristics of that diagnosis.  Another friend of mine is familiar with PDD and suggested that Alec may fit into that category.  The special ed teacher said that if we really want to get a diagnosis, we could bring him to a developmental pediatrician  and they can tease all of this info out.  Dan and I have decided not to do that right now, as we are already treating all of his "symptoms" and having a diagnosis would not change anything at this point.  We are trying to remain realistic about what his abilities are and help him progress as completely and quickly as possible.  I know that I am not in any way ready to pursue anything else or hear from someone that he is diagnose-able.  He has so many wonderful gifts and talents and quirks and moments when he is just completely normal and happy- I am not ready (if there even is something that can be diagnosed) to look at him through that type of lens.  Everyone agrees that he has made tremendous progress in the last six months and we expect that to continue.  I think also that seeing how tricky and withdrawn Jenna was at this age, and comparing it to how much she has blossomed and developed makes me think that this just may be the way my kids are wired and maybe he just has to grow into himself like Jenna did.  So we are watching ans waiting and treating and working.

We had a fun visit to the preschool he is going to attend in the fall, the same one the girls went to, and he did great.  Loved the toys, loved the teacher, held her hand and even hugged her goodbye when we left.  He was pretty disinterested in most of the kids in the room, which I expected, and we will be closely monitoring his social interactions and how they develop.  He can be treated there in the school for speech and special ed which can help grease the social wheels for him should he need help.

Meanwhile, we love this little boy to pieces who just has the sweetest personality and disposition... who loves Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder and "mowing" the lawn with his daddy... who snuggles up tight with me at least several times a day and wants to fall asleep every night laying face down on my chest... who insists on eating his mini muffins out of my gravy boat which is stored in a cabinet in our living room... who calls his sneaks his "Pump it Louder" shoes because he is obsessed with the Just Dance 3 video game rendition of the Black Eyed Peas song "Pump it Louder" and the man in the dance video wears sneakers that I guess Alec thinks looks like his... who can now tell you his name is Alec and he is 2... who can navigate through Netflix, iPhones and iPads like a pro... who calls the gel-filled wrist support for the computer his "Bob the Builder belt"... who loves chocolate and M&Ms just like his mama... who loves music and rhythm. 

We love him and cherish him and help him in any way to be the best person he can be.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

It's May? Already??

So here's what shakin' at the Libutti House as of late:

Softball is back! Michaela is playing and we are close to convincing Jenna to try it out next spring.  Michaela has great coaches, a good friend on her team, and has had some good solid offensive and defensive plays.  And we've attended only one game that I didn't have to wear my winter coat.

It is May 7th and I am still afraid to wash and put away the winter coats and hats and gloves.  Pathetic.  Last week was overcast, wet, and in the 40's most of the time.  Gross.

Sunday was my last regular Daisy Girl Scout Meeting for Jenna's troop.  We have had such a fun year doing all kinds of great stuff, and we earned all our petals.  Next month is the Bridging to Brownies Ceremony, complete with certificates and cake and photo opportunities.  The girls in the troop are awesome.

On a related note, the worm composting project we did for Girl Scouts was a huge success.  I loved taking care of the little red wrigglers and watching them munch on the fruit scraps I put into their neat and clean bucket.  But alas, all good things come to an end and the worms and their beautiful rich poop were buried into the ground with the flowers we planted at the church where we meet for Daisies.

Thursday is the 6 month follow up meeting for Alec's therapy.  I have been thoroughly prepped by both the special Ed teacher and the speech therapist.  They finished up their evaluations last week and the service coordinator will determine with us what level of services will continue.  I am nervous about the meeting and hoping that there are no surprises.  I am at such a better place emotionally about the whole thing than I was a few short months ago... what a tremendous growing experience this has been for both Alec and me.  I am amazed at how much time and attention and love and work these therapists pour into my Alec every session.  I will be sure to report what happens.

Jenna's birthday is this Friday and she has had her birthday outfit picked out since last week.  I will be going in on Friday to school with yellow cake cupcakes topped with white and chocolate frosting.  The white frosting will have pink sprinkles on it and the chocolate frosting will have purple sprinkles on it per my almost-7-year-old's instructions.  She chose to have her friend birthday party at Pottery Place again this year, which was fine with me- they were awesome last year.

Our new sectional arrived a few weeks ago and we all really like it.

Our laundry room project is all done except for one picture that has to be hung up.  It went from looking like this:

To looking like this...

We are thrilled with how it turned out and feel like it makes a huge difference in the room.  I almost enjoy doing laundry in there now.  Well, almost.  I am so happy to have it done- the countertop took three tries to be made correctly for a grand total of nine trips to the store.  A Lowe's manager told Dan that this was a "highly custom piece of countertop" when it was done incorrectly for the second time and we had send it back once again.  I will never, ever, ever even consider having a big box store redo my kitchen or bathroom.  Good lesson learned. 

I am thrilled that Mad Men is back on the air, and breathlessly await every Sunday night.

Alec and I are going to visit his (future) preschool tomorrow.  I am super excited and curious to see how he reacts to being in a room with all those other kids his age.  Every time I try to talk up how FUN school is going to be in the fall, he looks at me like I'm nuts so I thought a visit might help him with the concept.

Only about five more weeks until school is out for the summer.  Not sure if I am happy or terrified.

I announced to Michaela and Jenna that we will be doing book reports over the summer- a few each month- to keep up their writing skills over the summer.  Michaela was FURIOUS about this, and argued about it with me for the rest of the evening.  "You are RUINING MY SUMMER VACATION!!" said she.  Jenna, on the other hand, whispered to me, "I think doing book reports will be fun" as I tucked her into bed that night.  Another sharp contrast between them emerges.

Happy Spring.

Monday, May 7, 2012

This is Jenna.

If anyone ever asks me what Jenna is like, a story emerged over the weekend that captures her perfectly.

I was invited weeks ago to go on Sunday to a baby shower for a relative of mine.  I was happy to be going for a multitude of reasons: I love seeing my family, I love baby showers, I love oogling all the sweet little clothes, I love seeing what the latest gadgets are for moms, I love knowing that my days of fussy infants are over and I can just enjoy everyone else's. 

So I was getting ready to leave on Sunday and Jenna is pacing around the bathroom, chit-chatting with me about lots of things.  I am trying to concentrate and get myself together while keeping an eye on the clock.

After a short pause, Jenna says to me, "If you are invited to a baby shower, do you HAVE TO go?"

So I immediately answer, "No, you don't have to go... but they are fun and I enjoy getting a present for someone to help them celebrate their baby.  I LIKE to go to them."

"But you don't HAVE TO, do you?"

"Well, no, I guess not" I answer, a little confused and then it dawns on me what is going on.  Jenna is feeling me out and letting me know that she is not happy with my decision to go to this baby shower.  She wants me to stay home, and in her VERY Jenna way, is meandering around the subject about four layers below the surface. 

Michaela, my text book first born, tells me everything flat out and to my face.  "I don't want you to go," she would say. "Stay home."  She is a force of energy always coming at me, clear and pure and open as the day is long.

But Jenna operates in a totally different way... she is subtle and deep and thoughtful and asks around what she is really after.

Michaela requires more attention and energy, but it's Jenna that I'm always a little afraid of.

That is my Jenna.